Catching up on Culinary Cousins.

I’ve been cooking and baking and eating — even growing — and posting over at Culinary Cousins, I just haven’t had a spare second to tell you about it. So let’s play a little catch up:

I can’t explain how, but I grew some romaine lettuce. 

Read all about it: Tuesday Refreshment…
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Monday Musings: On Springing forward, Nutellagate and Gatsby.

Good Monday to you. Here are some of the random, wacky things on my mind this week:

nutella

Whew. I missed last week’s Monday Musings, something I swore to myself I wouldn’t do. But I was getting our new blog, Culinary Cousins, off the ground. If you haven’t, come visit us over there. I’d love to know what you think.

The time change last weekend wasn’t as painful as others I remember, though I dread any moment that wrests precious sleep from my cold, tired, weary hands. But with added sunlight comes the prospect of warmer weather — it was even in the upper 70s this weekend in North Carolina! Nothing like turning on both your heat and your air conditioning in the same week.

Did you hear about Nutellagate at Columbia University? Those student hoarders are after my own heart. Nutella is just about the best thing ever invented, so I don’t blame them one bit.

When I was in high school, I hated English class. That may be surprising given my love of words and reading. Mostly I hated the way we had to analyze and dissect everything to death. It totally took the fun out of it. One book to fall victim to that was The Great Gatsby. How I hated that book, with a passion. I thought the characters were annoying, and I couldn’t relate at all. Plus, my teacher insisted everything had to mean something — those eyeglasses on the billboard were looking down on everyone, or whatever. Can’t they just be eyeglasses on a billboard? Can’t I just read it to enjoy the story? Sheesh. Well, I read Gatsby again for one of my book clubs in anticipation of the movie’s release in May. This time, I couldn’t put it down and was captivated, especially since I didn’t remember what happened. My, what changes with age and experience.

You know, I often stare at my rasceta. And sometimes I use a zarf. I try to avoid snollygosters whenever possible. I bet you do too

Have a good week, all.

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

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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

Obsessions: Nutella

I totally forgot to mention that Saturday was World Nutella Day!

I’ve made no secret of my obsession with the smooth, chocolatey, hazelnutty goodness that is Nutella. And I actually commemorated this year’s anniversary quite by accident.

My obsession with Nutella goes pretty far back, to a holiday season years ago when my mom’s cousin used it to make her White Trash (a special recipe for another day!). At the time, Nutella had not yet gained its popularity stateside, and it was a hard-to-find, gourmet delicacy (moms also weren’t yet being encouraged to spread it on toast for their children’s “nutritious” breakfast. Do what?). In the ensuing years, many of us made Nutella memories while traipsing around Europe. Mine mostly involve obsessively sticking my spoon (okay, fingers) in the jar while driving on the wrong side of the road. It was totally worth the scary danger. Now Nutella is available to the masses — they even sell it at Wal-Mart, which I guess is how you know you’ve really arrived. Keep reading »

Recipe Roundup: Cookies, Shells and Stew

The latest issue of GOOP out this week highlights a top-10 list of favorite food bloggers. Thanks, Gwyneth! I’d already loaded my Google Reader with blogs of food writers and home cooks I found through word of mouth — they share their recipes, entertain me with their witticisms and give me inspiration for trying new foods or improving on my standards. After reading the GOOP list, I’ve tripled my blog reading list … which is going to reflect well on work productivity, I’m sure.

I’ve relied heavily on my regular food bloggers this week for ideas, so I need to highly recommend some new dishes to add to your repertoire. Keep reading »

Cooking Spree: Chocolate Banana Bread

I have a confession to make:  I’ve been on kind of a cooking spree.

Well, a baking spree. It’s what happens when I don’t cook for awhile. It all builds up and comes out in a binge.

I was visiting a friend in D.C. a couple of years ago, and she served this amazing banana bread with chocolate chips. A winning combo. I don’t make banana bread often, maybe once a year, but I had some leftover bananas just about to turn and a hankering to bake something. Plus I live and breathe for chocolate. Any kind, anywhere, anyhow. Keep reading »