"" What's She Eating Now?: October 2009

Friday, October 30, 2009

5 "Candies" I Hope You Don't Get in Your Treat Basket

Halloween is upon us and while many adults get excited about going out and seeing the costumes (which as we grow older inevitably get less clever and more slutty), I still get excited about the candy. Every opportunity to collect little sugary treats widens my eyes and I hope hard as I peer into the bowl that it contains bite size Snickers. And if not that, then at least mini Kit-Kats. Those are my two favorite Halloween confections. I hope just as hard not to get some of the infamous duds. You know, those candies that you were as excited to get as a child as a urine sample. So I hope by laying them out here it will put a Halloween hex out there and keep them out of your Trick or Treat future.

I think it goes without saying that we all hope to not get someone's leftover bachelorette party candy. This is a family website so I'll spare the details of the various edible anatomical rings, necklaces and suckers that usually go hand in hand with finding the man of your dreams. But I will provide you a photo and brief description of the other top 5 offenders so you can easily recognize them as rogue "candy" if you see them and demand a suitable replacement treat. 

#1) Dad's Root Beer Barrels. Whoever thought to call this candy, or even flavored like root beer, is one twisted son of a bitch. This sucking candy will not only leave your tongue black, it will also turn it numb to the point that you cannot taste the much more delicious candy you have worked hard to collect. If you catch this fish, throw it back.

#2) Circus Peanuts. When I ask people what scares them most, the most popular response is "clowns." You know who eats circus peanuts? Clowns. You want to go to sleep with a demented remix of the Ringling Brothers theme in your head? Then eat these. Otherwise skip these freakish little things.

#3) The Candy Hamburger. This is just gross for fairly obvious reasons. What about a candy roast pork bun? Or a candy beef empanada? Not appealing to you? Let's leave the meat to the savory folks and everything will be OK.

#4) Juicyfruit Gum. While in the same kingdom, gum does not even share the same phylum with candy. This is not an acceptable Halloween treat. If you're going to ruin your dental work at least do it on something you can swallow and won't get stuck to a pair of shoes, or the wig from your Rapunzel costume.

#5) Raisins or an Apple. Truth be told when I was little I didn't mind the raisins that much, though I was completely misguided and should have. I was, however, always sensible enough to know that a mealy red delicious apple was not adequate compensation for climbing a flight of brownstone steps in roller skates and looking completely adorable. Thinking back on it, it is possible the Garden of Eden story is actually the first known Halloween parable, and look what a mess eating that apple got us into.

Happy Halloween, readers. I bid you good candy, a whole reusable green shopping bag full!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Airport Dining Worth Flying For

A guest post by friend of the blog, Eddie Jacobs. Without further ado...
I'd like to thank the humble editor for giving me a tiny bit of real estate on this blog. I am someone who travels for pleasure quite frequently and when I travel I like to eat. I choose destinations for a variety of reasons but none more important than exotic (or not exotic) foods and dining experiences. I have fond memories from great trips with friends and for one reason or another they all seem to take place at a table or in some way in front of a meal. Butter Chicken in Delhi after 24 hours of travel, tasty street noodles in Bangkok after a tuk-tuk ride gone wrong, a Melon's burger on just about any trip back home, and so on. That said, I find it almost frustrating how difficult it is to get a decent meal while in transit.
Why is it that TCBY, a failure in nearly every strip mall, has had a rebirth in airports nationwide? Sbarro and Chili's rake in the bucks. And perhaps the most egregious airport dining option, Famiglia Pizzeria at Newark Airport, pounds that cash register as it besmirches the good image of New York pizza for all. While airport dining is a challenge, and one that seldom comes cheap ($4 for bottled Dasani water, really?), I am submitting this brief list of restaurants and airport dishes that are hidden gems in a sea of overpriced disappointing options. If I can sway just one person in the right direction I will feel this effort was well worth it.

But first, a disclaimer or two. With the exception of #5 on the list, all are in frequently traveled US domestic airports. Also, I ignore all educated tips that advise travelers to refrain from greasy foods or alcohol. This, of course, is a meal recommendation, not lifestyle advice. Here we go:

#5) Bangkok Airways Finger Sandwiches, Bangkok Airways Lounge, Thailand
Prior to being diagnosed with Celiac's disease I could eat a sandwich or two. Come to think of eat, it may have been the 12 finger sandwich lunch that ultimately caused my gluten allergy. Regardless, they were very tasty. Here's the skinny: with the purchase of ANY ticket on Bangkok air you are granted entrance to the first-class lounge where unlimited gratis finger sandwiches (cucumber with cheese as well as a smoked salmon sandwich) can be enjoyed and washed down with orange (Tang-ish) drink and popcorn.

#4) Figs, Laguardia Airport, American Airlines Terminal
Todd English=failure in Manhattan. Todd English=Magic at Laguardia. Perhaps it's the lack of decent options at Laguardia (a Wendy's that has a 40 minute wait, always) but "Olivia's Chicken Salad," grilled chicken over mesclun greens followed by white bean soup, was a heck of a pre-flight meal. Not an awful place to watch sports, either, should you find yourself in need of a place to post-up for pre-flight viewing. 

#3) Legal Seafoods, Logan Airport, Boston
Say what you want about Legal's, it's pretty decent for airport food. The lobster salad is fresh, the bloody marys are damn good and the clam chowder is dependable. A rare concession from a New Yorker, but something good has come out of Boston.

#2) Phillips Seafood, Charlotte Airport, Concourse C/Islip Airport, Long Island
Two airport seafood restaurants in a row? Has he lost it? Phillips makes a whale of a crab cake (no whale), and the crab chowder is really solid too. 

#1) Paschal's Restaurant, Hartsfield Airport, Atlanta
Paschal's is an oasis amongst the crowded halls of AirTran's terminal in Atlanta. Blackeyed peas, yams, cornbread, collards, fried and baked chicken, sweet tea, and the best peach cobbler I've ever had. Great service. This was an easy choice. It seems like every flight goes through Atlanta and the food options are limited. Paschal's is the way to go. 

Eddie Jacobs is a native New Yorker and a fan of cuisines from around the world, so long as they don't contain toxic glutens.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hay Day

This may be lost on you city kids, but courtesy of Planet Oddity here are some fun things you can do with a lot of free time and some hay (that's the dry baled stuff livestock eat). Click through to see them all. Come back to comment and let us know which is your favorite!

Friday, October 23, 2009

It's Only a Matter of Time Before The 31 Scoop Cone

Last week I celebrated the marketing genius of Diet Coke executives who came up with the 11:01 meal to help sell more of their chemical laden soft drinks. Thinking they could not possibly be outdone in inane innovation, the folks at Baskin-Robbins have put them to shame: an ice cream cone that has two cavities so you don't have to make that difficult decision between soft serve and hard ice cream.

The press release clearly describes the Double Header as meant to house a duo of soft and hard ice cream but I think these marketers are selling this product short. What about two different soft flavors? Or two different hard flavors? Or one ice cream and one meatball? Maybe those marketing blitzes are still to come in a carefully plotted roll-out.

Certainly times are tough and selling more is harder than ever, but this Siamese cone contraption is not only silly, it's unappetizing. Perhaps they have chosen rainbow sherbert and vanilla soft serve in the beauty shot for the color contrast, but who wants to wash down their refreshing sherbert with a creamy soft serve or their creamy soft serve with a tart sherbert? And what right-minded individual would go back and forth between these juxtaposed flavors?

Basin-Robbins marketing team, I know you mean well, but if I see a turkey-flavored ice cream in honor of Thanksgiving next month I'm taking the gloves off, especially if it's featured in a double cone with gravy soft serve.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

One to Watch... And Follow

Those of you who read this blog with any regularity can surely detect my reluctant embrace of the Internet. I am a bit of a Luddite, and while over time I have accepted that the Internet is here to stay, and even gets its own proper noun, I have been slow to join many online phenomena.

My most recent arm-twisted membership: Twitter (you can follow me @whatssheeating, btw). I signed up groaning audibly and assuming my association would be fruitless and permanently brand me as someone who spends her Saturday nights wearing chain mail and playing D&D. But I have been pleasantly surprised on many counts. Twitter has been great, among other things, to bring awesome food articles to my attention, alert me to must-attend events, and "meet" really interesting people. One of the most interesting people I have "met" on Twitter is Liza de Guia, the self-professed food addict and video storyteller also known as @SkeeterNYC. Liza and I are not friends in real life, though I confess I sometimes wonder what that would be like (Liza, I swear I'm normal and there is nothing of human origin in my freezer). Other than exchanging some tweets, however, I know very little about her, except that she makes really good short films about food.

Her most recent one is a seven minute video about SCRATCHbread and its founder Matthew Tilden. Tilden is a baker without a bakery. He works during the night in a closed pizzeria where he molds dough by hand and moves his floury creations around an ominous brick oven with a long wooden spatula. His story is an interesting one so I won't ruin it for you, watch the video. I also really enjoyed her piece about a Long Island oyster farmer and another about a guy who farms one lone acre all by himself.

So my point is two fold. One is that Liza's videos are really neat and worth checking out. The second is that Twitter is the new cool. There is no better way to be "in the scene" in whatever it is you are interested in than to get in the Twitterverse mix. Forget that you are called a "follower" for reading others' tweets; both its culty and lemming-like implications are misplaced. And forget that the verb "to tweet" when used for anything other than referring to bird-to-bird communication is painful to say, you'll get over it. Just get an ID, join the fray, and see how much you learn. And while you're at it, follow me. I don't make awesome videos, but I'll make sure you don't miss any.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

How Well Does Saveur Know You?

I just took this quiz on Saveur's site and it came back that my "foodie profile" is:

Classic & Comforting You learned to cook alongside your grandma, and still think her teachings are gospel. You believe the correct answer to the question of olive oil or butter is both. You're happiest around a chattering table, doling out heaping plates to crowds of friends. You just had your tattered, original copy of Joy of Cooking rebound. You're certain there's nothing that melted cheese can't make better.

I cringe at the term "foodie" and have been hard at work coming up with a workable replacement, but set that aside for the moment and let's see how good Saveur's gastronomic crystal ball is.

1) I learned to cook alongside my grandma. Not exactly true but I do make brisket every Passover like she did and when my older brother joins I make "Andrew potatoes," which are little red potatoes that I don't know if he loves or not, but he once told my grandmother he did so she named them after him.

2) Olive oil AND butter: Not true literally, but true conceptually. I don't believe in skimping on ingredients if it's going to have a negative impact on taste. Gluten free, fat free, taste free, happy free... not in my kitchen.

3)You're happiest around a chattering table, doling out heaping plates to crowds of friends. Absolutely true.

4) You just had your tattered, original copy of Joy of Cooking rebound. Truth be told I am not a power cookbook user but I do own a copy of Joy and sometimes take it out when I can't remember how to do something embarrassingly simple and dare not admit it to another living soul, or even the little green men who make the Internet work.

5) You're certain there's nothing that melted cheese can't make better. Melted cheese is a decent picker-upper but it's a gateway drug. You want real therapy? Want to go places cheese can't take you? Hit the sushi bar and hit it hard. Somehow even when my worries are financial, sushi gives me a mellow high all the lactose laden delicacies in the world can't.

Now your turn. Take the quiz and see what it says about you. Then let us know in the comments how close it came to describing your inner eateur (no? as I said, still working).

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Top Five Movie Food Scenes

A reader named Allen recently posted a request for a list of the top movies about food. The Hungry Mouse beat me to it with a pretty exhaustive top 50 list, though I note the site's teetotalling omission of both Bottle Shock and Sideways, as well as its protest of people as an acceptable pastry filling with its exclusion of Sweeney Todd. And while I do love movies about food, some of the best gastronomic lines or scenes are actually contained in flicks about entirely different subjects and should not go unrecognized. Here are some of my favorites snippets from films not on Hungry Mouse's list, add yours to the comments section!

1) Its so hard to choose a favorite among the various food-related scenes in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The scene where Brad tells Arnold he can talk to Dennis Taylor to see if he can get him a job at All American Burger since 'everything went downhill at Bronco Burger ever since they started with the chicken mcnuggets'? How about when Stacy meets Ron Johnson, Audio Consultant, when she waits on him at Perry's? Or better yet, what about the one where Spicoli orders pizza to Mr. Hand's classroom? All good choices, but its hard for a scene from this movie to emerge as a favorite on any list when it doesn't involve Mike Damone. Take note of rule #4 in his 5 point plan:

2) An obvious choice but no food movie quote list would be complete with out this line from Silence of the Lambs:

3) Who could forget Ally Sheedy's mayo, Pixy Stix, and Cap'n Crunch sandwich from the lunch scene in The Breakfast Club?

4) This scene from Heat is not about food but does take place at a restaurant and has the historical significance of being the only scene Al Pacino and Robert De Niro had done together up to this point. Perhaps they should have left the collaboration at this one great scene instead of embarking on box office smellsation Righteous Kill with 50 Cent last year.

5)And perhaps my favorite food scene from a movie not actually about food? The prison scene from Goodfellas:

Monday, October 12, 2009

Cheesemaking 101

You can do it with your significant other. You can do it with friends. You can even do it by yourself. I am speaking of the racy activity of making cheese at home. Whipping up some tasty mozzarella is easier than you think, and fun! You can either start with cheese curd if you can get it or really make it from scratch by beginning with with milk and making the curd yourself. All you'll need to do this is some citric acid, rennet and salt which you can either buy separately or in one of these very handy cheese making kits available online or in stores such as Murray's Cheese. You can string it out and make a night of it or whiz through the process in 30 minutes, it's up to you!

Here are some basic directions and a link to great pictures of the whole process which also has a more detailed how-to if you need it:
  1. Put 1 gallon of milk on a pot on the stove (raw, un-homogenized cow's milk is best)
  2. Dilute 1 1/2 tsp of citric acid in water then add to the milk, slowly heat to 88-90 degrees
  3. Once heated to 88-90 degrees, remove from burner, add 1/4 tab (or 1/4 tsp) of rennet diluted in 1/4 cup of water to the pot and stir in, cover and leave for about 5 minutes (check the curd, it should have the consistency of thick custard when ready for the next step)
  4. Using a long knife cut the curd into 1 inch squares
  5. Put pot back on the heat until it reaches 105 degrees, stirring slowly. Once at 105 take it off again
  6. Stir 2-5 minutes off the heat
  7. Using a slatted spoon begin removing spoonfuls of curd into a colander (this will separate the whey from the curd).
  8. The easiest thing to do here is, eek, actually use the microwave. Drain off the whey and put the curd in a microwave safe bowl and heat for 1 minute on high. Again, drain off the curd and heat this time for 30 seconds.
  9. Knead the curd with your hands until it starts to become one smooth mass. The curd should be as hot as possible that you can still touch (if not, zap it again, just remember to drain any excess whey off and then knead again)
  10. Now you're ready for the stretching! Like you are letting out a hose make a long flattish piece and keep letting more out until its all very stretchy. Feel free to add some salt at this point.
  11. When you're ready to make a ball, form a C with one hand and with the other, push the mozzarella up through the C (think of a long water balloon and to make a short round one you squeeze it up though your hand)
  12. Eat right away or store in a salty solution. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Eating the Distance Part II

If you missed Part I about this competitive eating juggernaut, do not fear, you can scroll down to see the post with the intro segment or just watch this one, there is helpful information in this clip to bring you up to speed. Brad Sciullo, I am simultaneously amazed and grossed out by you, but I really can't wait to see you eat that shark. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Diet Coke Scrapes Barrel for New Sales, and Apprently Marketing Executives

In an effort to boost sales in this down economy the marketing masterminds at Diet Coke have created a whole new day part: the mid morning meal. I couldn't find the ad with a live link but I am just dying to to see what recipes they recommend for an 11:01 Diet Coke pairing. In the absence of being able to impart just how to make the most of your pre-lunch hour lunch hour, I will instead provide some commentary from No Happy Medium on what I am sure will be a dining trend to sweep the nation. Without further ado...

Grab a Straw (courtesy of No Happy Medium)
I’m a bit confused about this Diet Coke internet banner ad. Can we discus briefly? As far as I can tell it’s suggesting that:

a. You should eat some meal at 11:01. I have to assume that’s AM.

b. That meal should be smart and fresh, like a salad.

c. To accompany your post-breakfast, pre-noon salad you should down a Diet Coke.

I get the feeling that some time in the future people are going to look back at this the way we look back at Coke ads from the days when Coke actually contained coke.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

A Night at Aldea

New York is a busy place. In all the hustle and bustle of seemingly 27 hour days it’s easy to lose sight of things. Easy to let personal chores go unattended, easy to let personal relationships go un-nurtured. Every once in a while after Dan and I have been through a period where it seems like we have been all go-go-go, we pause and realize that while we have been around each other a lot, we are behind on our quality time so we plan a night to go on a date. After nearly five years this may sound silly, but I value these timeouts where we pick a special place, make a reservation, and look forward to a night where we stop to enjoy some good food and time together as we let New York just keep whizzing by us.

This past week we had a wonderful such date at Aldea. From the initial interaction with the reservationist all the way through the hostess bidding us good night, the experience was truly a pleasure. The restaurant is an oddly narrow space but the way it is laid out the tables seem almost private once you’re seated. Feng shui elements such as tree branches in the wall recesses provide a calmness and the music, set at an ideal volume and including the likes of the Ramones and the Clash, let you know right away the place is not stuffy.

Aldea is perfect for an intimate dinner, but once you see the menu you will wish you had ten friends with you so you could get one of everything. After much evaluation and debate, Dan and I started with 3 items off the “small bites” section of the menu and one appetizer. The little neck clams were small tastes of the ocean on the half shell. The briny-ness was not to Dan’s liking but as I enjoyed them I could hear waves crashing and seagulls flying overhead and I pictured for a moment that we were at this spectacularly beautiful beach we once visited in Portugal, coincidentally the ancestral country of Aldea’s chef, George Mendes. The manipulation was minimal but the flavor very distinct, a feat in my book.

Next was the Knollcrest Farm Egg which is essentially a very sophisticated scramble with bacalao, black olives and potato served in the egg’s shell with a small wooden spoon. It's a good collection of tastes and deceptively hearty for such a dainty presentation. I’ll come back to the last small bite and for the moment skip to the appetizer which was a baby cuttlefish with caramelized lychee, mentaiko (a type of fish roe) and squid ink. Sounds fussy but actually quite simple. The overall flavors of the dish were a little subtle but the caramelized lychees were beguiling. I expected overly sweet and goopy but the taste was the best essence of lychee and the texture was almost pillowy.

The piece de resistance of the starters was the Sea Urchin Toast. I have seen critic Gael Green bristle at the $9 price tag for this “small bite” but it didn’t phase me. Uni is simply expensive and not only is it a decent portion as far as uni goes, but it is an innovative creation that includes cauliflower cream, sea lettuce, and lime according to the menu, but it really seems like there is more to it than that. In a perfect world uni would be cheap and I would be 5’ 11’’, but given that’s not the case, I think the price is fair and the dish one of the most wonderful things I have ever eaten. I even (half) joked with Dan that depending on the dessert options I may order another to finish the meal.

Second Course

I always manage expectations when it comes to entrees. They seldom are as good as the appetizers and they often make me wonder why restaurants don’t serve dinner backwards. Aldea, however, bucked this trend. I had the sea-salted Chatham cod with market cranberry and fava beans and a lemon-basil mussel broth. The fish was cooked perfectly and was plated with colors and shapes and lines that made it beautiful and interesting without overdoing it. The beans were almost like a side of stew with mussels and was so good I didn’t even bother to try and figure out how they made it, I just enjoyed it.

Dan had the lamb. There are few things I enjoy more than uni but I must say I liked the lamb even more. The loin cut of meat had a just-so hint of gaminess and everything on the plate was deliberate and necessary. Small flecks of goat cheese, a half a fig, some root vegetables. It was complex in its preparation but somehow simple in that it all made so much sense. Its appearance, smell, and taste are all still with me.

Along with our meal we had some really nice wines. When presented with the list upon being seated, we were delighted to see a bevy of good options by the glass priced very attractively and a nice selection of bottles that were equally approachable. We started with two glasses of white (a Verdejo and a Viognier, $10 each) and then shared a 2006 Porca de Murça ($36) which was lovely and did the challenging job of pairing well with the fish and the lamb. The mark-up is in there for sure but I nonetheless applaud the artfully compiled wine list that has many gently priced good quality selections, ensuring that every diner, no matter their budget, can find something perfect to accompany their meal.

And Then Dessert

Dan usually starts losing his attention span after the entrées but I told him before we left the house that we would be ordering dessert and he was not to ask for the check as he usually does the moment he finishes his entrée. After the delight he experienced at Aldea, he may forever change his ways. The Chevre Cheese Parfait with poached plums, nectarines, and honey ice

cream was exceptional. The parfait had the appearance of a marshmallow turned on its side and tasted wonderful on its own, but even better when combined with all the carefully thought out elements on the plate. It was an original dessert in every aspect from ingredients to textures to visual appeal but sticking to the basics, it was just really good.

In addition to the meal I enjoyed watching Chef George Mendes and his team working in their open kitchen. When I say open kitchen I don’t just mean there is a counter over which you can see into the kitchen, I mean the kitchen is set up almost like a performance space. You’re meant to watch. And like the food and the dining room and everything else about Aldea, the movements about the kitchen are clever and purposeful but with a wonderful air of calm. And how much, you are wondering, does this transportation to a place and time where worry and disappointing food does not exist? Our experience tallied about $90 per person with tip. Aspirational, yet attainable and a good value for such an outstanding show.

Aldea is a great restaurant for many reasons. The food is nothing short of remarkable, but more than that the experience is savor worthy. To me it’s a comfortable version of fine dining where you can enjoy real culinary delights but in a relaxed setting where you don’t feel self-conscious about sitting up straight and being on your best behavior. And what may just make a regular out of me is that Aldea is special, but not the kind of special that one waits for an anniversary or a promotion to visit. It’s the kind of special you go to when you need a break from tough, indifferent New York. When just what you need is some welcoming hospitality, superb plates and a check that lets you also give your nerves the night off.

31 West 17th Street
212- 675-7223
Lunch: Mon - Fri (11:30am - 2:00pm)
Dinner: Mon - Thu (5:30pm - 11:00pm) Fri & Sat (5:30pm - 12:00am)

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Brad Sciullo Story

I am a big fan of The Colbert Report, but missed this one. Thanks to Eat Me Daily for bringing it to my attention, I just enjoyed 5 minutes of hilarity about this competitive eating titan. Enjoy!