The white stuff will kill you.

bread
I went to my doctor’s office a few weeks ago, just for my annual checkup.

I’m sitting there, unclothed and shivering in my flimsy gown on the crinkly piece of protective paper. The usual awkward, sterile experience. All of a sudden, my doctor rushes into the room in a gust of hostile energy. “I’m sick and tired of everyone becoming borderline diabetic,” she rants. “We’ve got to eat better! It’s the white stuff that’s going to kill us!” Continue reading

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The analysis paralysis of eating.

The Internet is good for so many things. News. Information. Connection. But some days, the Internet is evil. Access to so much information can give you just … too much information, you know? At least that’s where I am this week. I’ve read no fewer than five articles lamenting the health or safety of more than 18 foods I eat. So now what do I do?

Here are some of the things I’ve learned:

Now, you may scoff at any of these statements, and the articles I’ve sourced, and totally dismiss them as fear-mongering  But I’m concerned. It scares me that it’s cheaper to eat a fast-food hamburger meal with a large soda or a microwave frozen pizza than it is to buy a pint of fresh blueberries. Clearly our food system is broken, and we’re making ourselves sick with the food we choose. But I’m busy like the rest of us and can’t live beyond my means, so I fall down on the job and eat something cheap, plastic and disgusting when I’m in a pinch. It’s easier. I certainly notice that I feel better when I eat better, though. 

veggies

The only thing I can think to do is follow Michael Pollan’s mantra. I haven’t read any of his books, but I really want to — well, I need to. He says:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

That sounds like a decent start.

So, this week, ladies and gentlemen, I’m a vegetarian. Well, most of the time.

Also this week, I discovered Lisa Leake’s blog, “100 Days of Real Food.” I don’t know where I’ve been, since she’s really popular and right here in my own hometown. But I’m encouraged by her philosophy and dedication — and her family is following the same path.

I think it’s going to be okay, since I actually really like vegetables, and I’m already on the organic, locally-sourced bandwagon.

We’ll see, kids.

A culinary tour of NYC, Part III.

Believe it or not, I saved the best for last. Don’t miss Part I and Part II.

Shake Shack — Madison Square Park/Flatiron (multiple locations)

There used to be only one Shake Shack location. I think it was also only open for certain months, and it was so popular that you could easily wait an hour or more in line for its legendary burgers, fries and milkshakes. I attempted that line once or twice, but I just never made it through. Now, there’s a Shake Shake on every corner in NYC. I’ve even heard they’re expanding to locations in London.

At the close of another full day of eating, we ended up at the original Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. The line was short, and there were tables aplenty. Perfect. Except that it was slightly north of freezing — a bit chilly for eating outside. I was quite happy, though, to tuck into a classic cheeseburger with ShackSauce and crinkle-cut french fries doused in this light, creamy cheese sauce. None of that neon-orange, gloopy, chain/stadium-style stuff here. Shake Shack’s selling point is quality — and you can taste it in the freshly ground meat and homemade sauces. My only regret is that it was too cold outside and I didn’t fell well enough to order a milkshake. So, guess I’ll have to go back. Poor me.

After so many years of waiting, I’m glad to report that Shake Shack lived up to the hype. It was dee-licious.

shakeshack

burger

Continue reading

A culinary tour of NYC, Part I.

Last October, I was able to sneak away for a weekend in New York City. It was my first trip there in two and a half years, and I went with grand plans for great adventures. I returned excited to tell you all about it. Then a little storm system called Sandy hit. It was heartbreaking, and I just had trouble reconciling the city I know with the devastation I saw on the news. Suddenly, talking about all the fun I had just seemed wrong.

So, rather than chronicling every spare second as I am wont to do, I instead offer a much condensed version of my trip.

During my tenure as a New Yorker, I reveled in the food scene. My friends and I tried out all the top restaurants as soon as we could get a reservation — brunch at Sarabeth’s or Balthazar, dinner at Butter, Pastis, Spice Market, Eleven Madison Park, Aquavit, the Rainbow Room, Gramercy Tavern. (The “hot spots” circa 2005.) Exciting trends in food are usually born in or come to the U.S. through New York first. Within 20 minutes, I could sample a Magnolia cupcake, a Jacques Torres hot chocolate or a Serendipity3 ice cream sundae.

My worst realization, coming a couple of months into building my new life down south, was that the food scene moved on quite easily without me. As I left, Pinkberry was becoming all the rage, as was Momofuku. I tried but never had time to wait in the mile-long line for Shake Shack, and Eataly opened several years later. As time approached for this trip, I had built up quite a list of things and places to eat … my own culinary tour of the city, you could say.

Takahachi — East Village

First stop was this little sushi joint (really, it’s tiny) in the East Village. Takahachi was the first place I ever ate sushi, back in 2000. We just stumbled on it one Sunday afternoon after wandering most of lower Manhattan. That meal was spectacular, and I was hooked (har har.) I ate there again several times, and it never disappointed. Until now. Continue reading

Guess who’s coming to dinner.

Sometimes I wish I was Italian. Maybe it’s because I want to be Giada de Laurentiis when I grow up, or that I love wine and food, that the countryside seems breathtakingly beautiful, or that I think they’ve got the right idea of living and celebrating “la dolce vita.” Or maybe it’s because I haven’t yet found an Italian dish that I don’t love.

Pasta, garlic, tomatoes, olives … all right up my alley.

That’s why I was so excited for the cooking marathon this past weekend. A few weeks ago, my stepmother went to visit her Italian aunt in upstate New York and brought back an old-world Italian recipe for tomato sauce (“gravy”) with a variety of meats. She did a dry run-through last weekend, and my dad requested that she make tons of sauce to freeze for later. The idea was to prepare and cook all day so there would be leftovers … until my stepmother invited everyone she knew to dinner. Keep reading »

Culinary Bucket List: Durian

I’m sure we all have a bucket list — whether on paper or just in our heads — and it contains a variety of important items. (Actually, I hate the term “bucket list” but I use it for lack of another. It’s the “things to do before you kick it” list.)

I have several lists … one for travel, books to read, general life accomplishments. But I also have one for culinary adventures. Things I have to eat before I go. Keep reading »