Entries Tagged as 'Travel'

Where to Eat in NYC: A Family Guide

December 23rd, 2013 · 15 Comments · Birthdays, Holidays, Celebrations, Travel

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It occurred to me a few weeks ago that every time we go on a trip — whether it’s Santa Fe, Austin, San Francisco, Paris — we tell you what we’ve done, where we’ve eaten, what our kids loved the most. And yet, in the four years we’ve been writing this blog, we’ve given you hints and peeks into Our New York, but have yet to deliver a family dining guide to the city that never fails to surprise, enrage, delight, and charm us on an hourly basis…especially during the holidays. So what follows is just that: Where to Eat in New York with the Kids. But because it’s NYC, we didn’t want to just write a few bullet points. We wanted to go big. So we enlisted the help of some of our favorite parents-about-town for their favorites spots, too. I’m glad it’s almost vacation — you’ll need a little time for this one. Happy Holidays everyone!

Our Distguished Panel: Deb Perelman, blogger, cookbook author, Smitten KitchenSam Sifton, editor, columnist, former restaurant critic New York Times; Caroline Campion, cookbook author, Devil and EggJoanna Goddard, lifestyle blogger Cup of Jo; husband-and-wife team Devin Friedman, director editorial projects GQ & Danielle Pergament, frequent contributor to Travel section of New York Times; Yolanda Edwards, deputy editor Conde Nast Traveler;  Christine Muhlke, deputy editor, Bon AppetitCarla Lalli Music, food and features editor Bon AppetitJenny Rosenstrach, blogger, DALS; Andy Ward, intern, Dinner: A Love Story

Favorite Pizza

Arturos on West Houston Street in Manhattan. Old-school coal oven pizza, dense and chewy and saucy with a crust that bears a light sheen of olive oil. There are many delicious newfangled fetishistic pizza places (Co. is great). But the pizza here is insanely good and it’s extremely laid back and it still attracts the kinds of pasty, grumpy Village characters that can’t afford to live here any more. (The awesome bartender looks like Columbo). –Devin Friedman & Danielle Pergament

Patsy’s Pizzeria BUT it has to be the original one in East Harlem on First Avenue, not one of the other ones downtown. Hands-down the best slice in NYC. Maybe go in the daytime if you’re a tourist. — Caroline Campion

Otto We celebrated Abby’s eighth birthday here (Otto? Eight? Get it?) but the truth is, I can’t think of any scenario when it wouldn’t be a good choice for families. It’s loud enough (read: huge enough) to absorb even the most maniacal toddler, and the Batali-Bastianich menu is appealing to all ages. — Jenny R

Co. Pizza (shown above) My husband always argues that NYC pizza is overrated and tastes like cardboard. But! Jim Lahey’s pizza spot in Chelsea creates airy, chewy crusts that taste like olive oil and butter and all things good and true. Our favorite pie is the Popeye, which is basically a warm spinach salad on a pizza. The communal tables are friendly and boisterous, and they have high chairs for little dudes. — Joanna Goddard

What Joanna said. — Andy Ward

Favorite Burgers, Fries, Steaks

When Phoebe was five hours old and Jenny was deep in a Percocet haze, I left the hospital and walked over J.G. Melon for some dinner. I remember that weird mixture of total euphoria and total exhaustion, of not knowing what day it was or how long ago we’d arrived at the hospital, or even knowing if any of this was real. I was also starving. It was about 7pm, and I ordered a couple of Tanqueray and tonics and savored every bit of that burger, and the old-school, tin-ceilinged atmosphere of the place, one of the great underrated burger joints in the city. Is it the best burger in New York? Who knows. It’s arguable. Have I ever had a better burger in my life? No. – Andy

If we go looking for a Miracle on 34th Street moment and take in the Macy’s windows, we end up with a cozy dinner at Keen’s (it’s just a block away!) and sit in the pub area up front. — Yolanda Edwards

A cheeseburger with everything and fries at the Burger Joint inside the lobby of Le Parker Meridien Hotel on West 56th. (Part of the pleasure is actually finding it…look for the curtain). — Caroline Campion

Favorite Caffeine Hit

Smith Canteen, Yes, they have Counter Culture coffee and skilled esspressonators to brew it up (plus awesome muffins and sandwiches and salads by the geniuses who also own Seersucker down the street). But it’s more about it being a neighborhood place you want to hang out. Because for me, the coffee shop is as much a refuge as it is a place to take the most important drug of the day. –  Devin Friedman

When people ask me how long commute is, I tell them an hour and ten minutes. Which is a lie. In fact, it’s an hour. But I walk ten minutes in the wrong direction every morning just to get my medium house blend from Joe the Art of Coffee. The 45 productive and hope-filled minutes between taking that first sip (more…)

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Vacation Dinner Highlight Reel

August 21st, 2013 · 12 Comments · Dinner, Grilling, Organizing, Strategizing, Planning, Rituals, Sides, Salads, Soup, Travel

I can’t promise you this will be a very usable guide to exciting eating. As you know, on vacation, you can toast a pop tart for dinner and it will make you as happy as a four-course meal at Cafe Boulud. (In fact, maybe we’ll try that tonight.) But, as you can imagine, we are getting seriously into our South Carolina vacation dining, doing our best to adhere to the 50 Rules, outlined so dutifully last week so we don’t lose total control. Herewith our top six dinner moments this side of the Mason-Dixon line…

1. Shrimp Cocktail. I once read that if you’re not going to eat shrimp right off the boat in Southeastern US, you might as well always buy it in the freezer aisle — there’s pretty much no such thing as fresh, flavorful shrimp outside of this region. I think that’s why whenever we are down here, we eat shrimp like we’re never going to eat shrimp again. The run-up so far: Shrimp cocktail before dinner as often as possible (chilled with cocktail sauce, natch), grilled shrimp in salads at lunch; shrimp salad rolls for dinner.

2. Oyster Sliders at The Ordinary. We’ve gone out to dinner a few nice places, but so far the winner has been The Ordinary — perhaps a tip-off was the fact that Bon Appetit nominated it for one of the country’s 50 best new restaurants this year. Or perhaps it was the oyster sliders with the crazy coconut action that Abby ordered and which put the rest of our meal to shame. And that’s saying something because the rest of the meal — lobster rolls, pickled shrimp, John Dory schnitzel — was pretty damn tasty.

3. Beet & Carrot Slaw Our CSA pick-up was the day before driving from New York to South Carolina, so what were we going to do, give our neighbor that week’s share? I don’t think so. Not when, among other things, heirloom tomatoes and cylindra beets were in the box. We packed all our produce in a cooler and tended to the bundle like it was a third child. The love and care paid off because on our first night cooking we made some flounder and, not wanting to turn on the oven (Rule 45!), I shredded those beets on a box grater with some carrots, tossed in rice wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, cilantro and mint. (Full disclosure: There was no mint, but there should’ve been.)

4. Phoebe’s Crostini You’re looking at grilled tuna (that Andy had spackled in mayo before throwing on the Weber) a very JV succotash made with butter beans, corn, red peppers, onion, sauteed in a little bacon fat (apologies to real southerners) and Phoebe’s crostini. At camp, Phoebe learned that if you toss chopped fresh tomatoes, fresh peaches, corn kernels, a drizzle of balsamic and some Parm, and put the whole thing on baguette toasts, then very delicious things ensue. “It’s like summer in a bowl,” she announced when she put together the topping. I’ll take it!

4. Roast Carrots with Garam-Masala Yogurt Sauce. OK, so fine, I confess: we turned on the oven once. Or twice. But the cause was a noble one — carrots, cut on the bias, tossed with a little chopped onion, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roasted at 425°F for about 30 minutes (keep an eye on them). While they roasted, I whisked together about 3/4 cup plain yogurt with a teaspoon garam masala, lime juice, olive oil, chopped cilantro and mint. I’m not going to go so far to say it was the best thing on the plate — that’s an impossible honor when a grilled burger with special sauce is in the mix — but it was a clear leader in the side dish department this summer.

6. Beach Picnic The homemade pizza with fresh tomatoes was pretty good. So was the asparagus that Andy quickly sauteed in olive oil, salt, and pepper during the 30 minute stretch that the girls were totally, absolutely, relentlessly begging for a beach picnic. You promised! It’s so easy! I’ll help pack everything! Come on it’s vacation! Be fun! What parents know but kids don’t yet is that beach picnics are one of those things that always sound really fun, but are actually kind of a nightmare. Especially if you don’t have any of the right gear (see baking pan cum nonbreakable tray above) and especially if you try to take photos showing how ideal the night is (full moon, clear sky, silky calm ocean, etc), then get sand in your fancy camera making things a thousand times more stressful. So why is this even on my highlight reel? Because after dinner was over, we all jumped in the ocean. And there’s very little that beats a post-dinner sunset swim.

For more real-time dinner highlights, follow us on instagram: andyward15 and dinneralovestory.

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50 Rules of Vacation

August 13th, 2013 · 38 Comments · Rituals, Travel

  1. You can never, ever pack too many bathing suits.
  2. Make a pot of really good coffee before bed, pour immediately into glass pitcher, put said pitcher into the refrigerator, and — voila —  you have a steady supply of high-test iced coffee for the next morning. This could not be more crucial in re vacation happiness.
  3. Exercise first thing in the morning, and shower at night.
  4. Jumping in the pool counts as a shower.
  5. Dudes over forty should do everyone a favor and run with a shirt on.
  6. Everything tastes better on vacation.
  7. Always assume the worst about the beach rental’s utensil drawer. BYO knives.
  8. Fifty-one weeks of the year: ballet pink for the pedicure. This week: Neon tangerine.
  9. Fifty-one weeks of the year: milk or water with lunch. This week: Ice cold Coke.
  10. Fifty-one weeks of the year: Cocktail hour at 6:00. This week: Cocktail hour at 6:00.
  11. (It’s the one thing keeping us from spiraling into total chaos.)
  12. If key lime pie is local, order the key lime pie. If key lime pie isn’t local, order the key lime pie.
  13. Never drive by the farmer’s market without stopping to see what’s local.
  14. Unless that farmer’s market is located just off route 95, in North Carolina, and is selling “local peach wine” — in which case, drive the f*ck on!
  15. Don’t wait for the last fifteen minutes of an 800-mile drive to discover that the AC/DC Pandora station is the one you should’ve been listening to all along.
  16. Best road-trip movies for kids (or at least the ones in our back seat right now): Monsters Inc, Life of PiTootsie*, The Lovebug (original, non-Lohan version), Ironman, Coraline, Dumb and DumberThe Incredibles. (*there is light sex talk, and a bunch of s-bombs, but when Sydney Pollak is saying them it almost doesn’t matter.)
  17. Burn a copy of the Johnny Cash children’s album for the drive, and you will never be sorry.
  18. Ice cream, in some form, every day.
  19. Good Humor bars, in descending order of deliciousness: toasted almond, strawberry shortcake, chocolate eclair.
  20. Sunscreen before the beach.
  21. Better yet, Roxy surf shirts.
  22. And speaking of swimwear, dads can (and should) get away with these, from Olasul.
  23. There is nothing as nasty, when you really think about it, as the fully-loaded swimmy diaper.
  24. We have been vacationing in the same house for many years and in this house is an unironic boom box with an actual, functioning cassette player. Next to this cassette player is a tray of old cassette tapes, featuring Kenny Loggins, Billy Joel’s 52nd Street, late-vinatage Neville Brothers, Steve Winwood, the sountrack to Working Girl… and Darkness on the Edge of Town. It could be that it’s the only gem among sad old rocks, but is there a better album to cook to on vacation than Darkness on the Edge of Town?
  25. The post-beach nap is best taken on a screened porch, or face down — bathing suit still on, flip-fops hanging off — on the guest room bed.
  26. The gin and tonic is King of Vacation Cocktails.
  27. If you’re roadtripping, and if your kids in any way resemble our chip-eating, juice-spilling, crumb-shedding children, remember a garbage bag for the backseat.
  28. The minute you arrive, you must throw out the grocery shopping rule book. First thing in the cart for us: Cinnamon Pop-Tarts.
  29. If you have to eat out every single meal, it stops being special. Which is why we always try to stay in a place with a kitchen.
  30. But having a kitchen doesn’t mean skip the restaurant. Pick one or two spots you want to hit and book your reservations before you leave. (This was our most recent choice.)
  31. One night, burgers with potato salad. One night, grilled fish with salsa verde. One night, yogurt marinated something with a good, fresh slaw.
  32. Every night: cobbler.
  33. On the night you have burgers, you shall have them on Martin’s potato rolls, with crunchy lettuce, fresh tomato, American cheese, and MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL: special sauce.
  34. As much as we like you, we don’t care about your golf round.
  35. Book a house with a washer-dryer. It means less luggage, and it means your bathing suit will always be dry.
  36. If you’re a dad, this is your one chance to grow a mustache. Use it wisely.
  37. Be flexible about the kids’ bedtime. Unless Breaking Bad is on, in which case, get them in bed as soon as dinner is done.
  38. Two words for a hungry person on the road: Waffle House.
  39. For the first three days of vacation, the fact that this will all soon come to an end might be felt, but it must never be acknowledged.
  40. For the last three days of vacation, pass the hemlock.
  41. Start your own Polar Bear Club. Set an alarm one morning and do a sunrise swim with the kids in the nearest lake, ocean, swimming pool.
  42. Learning to ride a bike for the first time is twice as nice when it happens on vacation — and twice as easy.
  43. Carve out an hour or two of post-lunch quiet time every day. Make it sacred.
  44. What “quiet time” actually means: Everybody’s free to do whatever activity they want, as long as it doesn’t bother anyone else. And doesn’t require parental supervision.
  45. The oven should never be set higher than zero degrees. Vacations are what grills are for.
  46. Non-vacation food emergency: No ketchup in the fridge. Vacation food emergency: No sugar cones, charcoal, Gatorade.
  47. Non-vacation to-do list: Dry-cleaner, tires fixed, post office. Vacation to-do list:_______.
  48. If there is a choice between coming home on Saturday or Sunday, suck it up and choose Saturday so you have that 24-hour buffer zone between vacation and pool-less, beach-less, happiness-destroying reality.
  49. It’s OK to take it out on the rental car.

50. There are fewer more noble pursuits than perfecting a handstand on the beach.
Jenny & Andy

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Ode to the New Mexico Breakfast

July 15th, 2013 · 30 Comments · Posts by Andy, Travel

We went to Santa Fe last week, thinking we would enjoy some clear blue skies and some beautiful hikes and some of those 20-mile vistas you just can’t get on the East Coast. What we didn’t bargain for is that the highlight of our trip would be the breakfast table. It was like our world had suddenly flipped and — what the? — the morning meal became the thing we looked forward to. I realize a statement like this is going to make some people upset, but I think New Mexico might be — apologies to San Francisco, Austin, Portland, etc. — the Greatest Breakfast Place on Earth. (Also, relatedly, Home to the Greatest Hangover Food on Earth.) Every morning, we’d go out hard and ingest a terrifying amount of food — enough food to power us through the day and make lunch a moot point. Enough eggs and cheese to make my arteries groan. Enough green chiles to make me wonder why we don’t have green chiles every morning.  The winner of the week? A very close call, but if we had to pick, we’ll go with this griddled polenta with fresh corn, crumbled chorizo, scrambled eggs, cilantro, and red chiles, from Pasqual’s on Water Street. (The closest thing we could find to a recipe was here.) Santa Fe, we miss you already. – Andy

Always a good sign when you see Tapatio on the breakfast table. (Yellow mustard, though? That’s a real puzzler.) This was at the Tune-up Cafe on Hickox, owned, we were told, by someone from El Salvador. We ate their twice, and would have eaten there every morning if there weren’t SO DAMNED MANY GOOD BREAKFAST OPTIONS IN THIS CITY.

Tecolote (on Cerrillos Rd.) was strenuously recommended to us by a New Mexican friend and, boy, did it ever deliver. A little outside of town, almost diner-style, with a world-class slogan: Great Breakfast, No Toast. I mean, come on! That alone would have been enough. What you’re looking at here is Jenny’s breakfast burrito, topped with cheddar and green chiles, with a side of beans. Looking at this now, I am weeping. We also ordered the Carne y Huevos, which consisted of two eggs, over easy, served on pork that had been cooked for hours (days?) in red chiles — spicy and incredibly delicious.

Our second morning at Pasqual’s, we decided to try something different. I got the smoked trout on a gruyere potato pancake with two poached eggs and a side of tomatillo salsa. Jenny got the homemade granola. The kids each got papas fritas — spicy, roasted, cripsy potatoes, garnished with jack cheese, sour cream, and chives, and served with two warm tortillas and some green chiles on the side. Nobody said we ate healthy. But if this meal took a day off my life, I am good with that.

Our last breakfast, we went back to the Tune Up Cafe, which was walking distance from where we were staying. (A huge thank you to our spirit guides, Toni and David.) You can sit outside, and eat on picnic tables covered with bright, floral-printed oilcloth. Seriously could not be better. Second time, I ordered the Huevos Salvadorenos, which I’d never heard of before, and which is always a reason to give something a shot. Eggs with scallions and tomatoes, fried bananas — not plantains — with crema, a warm flour tortilla, and the creamiest refried beans in human history. Coffee and watermelon agua fresca. And we’re still standing.

P.S. Not pictured here: SO MUCH STUFF.

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36-Hour Austin Whirlwind

June 17th, 2013 · 18 Comments · Rituals, Travel

A few years ago, when I was working full-time and the girls were 3 and 4, a dad-friend of ours invited Andy, Phoebe, and Abby up north to his ski-house for some winter wonderlanding. Just dads and kids. No moms. I should’ve been offended, but I wasn’t. Almost as soon as Andy told me about the invitation I started making a mental map of all of the ways in which I would abuse my roughly 36 hours of alone time. There would be late sleep-ins, and long newspaper reading sessions by the fire, maybe an afternoon nap, maybe, if I was feeling ambitious, a really girly movie — get this — in an actual movie theater. In short, do nothing and embrace doing nothing. I was about 37, and 37 years are a lot of years in which one might get to know oneself and remember that…I’m not so good at doing nothing. I am almost too embarrassed to tell you (almost) how much got packed into those 36 hours, but let me just say that out-of-state zip codes were involved, the freezer was packed with different portion sizes of Chicken and Orzo soup (page 290, my book), and at midnight I was sipping a bourbon while assembling a newly-purchased Ikea chair. Every minute I wasn’t taking advantage of  the fact that a kid was not climbing on top of me, brought on a wave of guilt.

Aren’t you glad you’re not married to me?

I bring this up because I was in total 36-hour-whirlwind-mode last week when I flew to Austin to speak at BlogherFood. I knew I’d be hanging around the conference for at least a good part of Friday morning, and then after that — I’d be free to explore if I wanted to. In fact, it looked like I had enough time for two dinners, one lunch, one breakfast, and a pretty solid chunk of afternoon time in there, too. Even better, I had convinced an old friend to tag along with me — Lia, my Time for Dinner editor and, as luck would have it, we picked up a new friend/old hero of mine along the way — Molly, one of the originals, creator of Orangette. Molly spoke on my panel (topic: storytelling) and won my heart (again) when she said about food-writing, “This is my first trip away from my 9-month-old daughter, and to me, sitting at a bar alone with a margarita, and how that feels is so much more interesting to me than whatever food I’m going to be eating.”

That doesn’t mean we didn’t eat good food. We were in Austin for crying out loud, and oh my goodness, I must say, we did right by Texas. My plan (more…)

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Come Say Hello

January 28th, 2013 · 8 Comments · Dinner: A Love Story, the Book, Travel

 

Very excited to let you know about two book-related events in the next month.

Wednesday, FEBRUARY 6
6:00-7:30
Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture
Pocantico Hills, NY 

For locals and Tri-Staters and food-lovers who, like me, look for any excuse to patronize Stone Barns, please come visit me there on Wednesday, February 6 at 6:00. They’ve chosen Dinner: A Love Story as the book to launch their very promising Cookbook Club Program. If you’d like to register (or even if you are just reading Dinner: A Love Story with your own book club) you can download a discussion guide on my Book page. Or you can just show up and eat! (There will be samples of something from my book.) I’ll also give a short talk loosely titled “Five Steps to Kickstart Family Dinner.” (The first rule — “Don’t go to readings smack in the middle of dinnertime” — will go into effect the day after the reading.) To register, please head to their website.

Saturday, MARCH 2
4:00-5:00
Powerhouse on 8th
Park Slope, Brooklyn

So odd that I’ve done events in LA, San Francisco, Connecticut, Boston, and all around Westchester, but I haven’t hit the good old 718 yet. Until now! I am so incredibly psyched to hang out at Powerhouse on 8th in Park Slope with my friend Melissa, who will be signing her book, The New Brooklyn Cookbook, but will be preparing and handing out Mexican chocolate icebox cookies and cups of butternut squash soup from my book. (That’s what you call a good friend!) I’ll just be signing — no reading — so even if you only have five minutes, please stop by.

If you are interested in holding a Dinner: A Love Story event, please get in touch: IHaveNoShame@dinneralovestory.com — sorry, I mean jenny@dinneralovestory.com.

Hope to see you!
JR

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LA Recap

November 16th, 2012 · 9 Comments · Dinner: A Love Story, the Book, Travel

What is my statute of limitations on blaming Sandy, the Election, Halloween, and Thanksgiving coverage for my delinquency on…everything? I am a terrible person for not expressing sufficient gratitude to my LA Team on the Ground until now. If you recall, I was heading out West for some business and decided to use it as an excuse to try to connect with my California readers. When I asked you guys here on DALS what to do and where I should go, I received some of the most generous invitations — even to people’s homes and book club meetings — and wound up having a little coffee talk at Thyme Cafe & Market in Santa Monica. (It’s shown above and is the kind of warm, bustling center-of-the-neighborhood place I walk into and think “Why can’t I have one of these on my block?”) A big thanks to Maire Byrne, the owner, who provided muffins and long tables, and especially Clare, my conduit who put the whole thing together. I handed Maire a stack of “Make Dinner Not War” bumper stickers and signed bookplates, so if you live in the area, and are looking for a place to buy Dinner: A Love Story for your two dozen (three dozen?) best friends this holiday, I’d head over there. Bumper stickers are free with purchase.

Also thanks to Courtney and Elizabeth who pointed me in the direction of Chevalier’s, where I signed later on the afternoon. That charming little bookstore in the middle of the very Mayberry-ish Larchmont village, is also in possession of a stack of autographed copies. Please support them!

While I was in LA, I was lucky enough to stay with my childhood friend Laurie (for book owners, this is Chicken-Pot-Pie Laurie) who, among other things, outfitted me with her clothes for all my various meetings and appearances, treated me to what I think may be Breakfast of the Year (Farmshop at the Brentwood Country Mart), and let me crash her insanely rad Santa Monica bungalow for three days. If that wasn’t enough, each morning, she revved up the Hurom and made me one of these….

…which was comprised of ALL of this…

!!!!!!!!!!! I don’t know what I liked better — the green drink or the idea of the green drink — but I do know that as soon as I had one sip, my trip to California felt complete. (For juicer owners, Laurie basically just added what you see above: one apple, one carrot, one stalk of celery, 1/2 lemon, one bunch kale, a 1-inch-ish piece of peeled ginger, one banana.) Another benefit? When I started the day with a green drink, I had no guilt at all when I finished the day with an Umami Burger.

Have a good weekend.

 

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Away We Go

August 19th, 2012 · 18 Comments · Domestic Affairs, Kitchenlightenment, Travel

This picture was taken in Shek O, off the southeastern coast of Hong Kong Island where we’ve been visiting Andy’s brother and family for the past seven days. That’s Phoebe, jumping — after much prodding and negotiation — off the roof of a junk, and plunging into the South China Sea. A good reminder of how big and beautiful this world is, and how full of things to see. We hope you’re doing some of that, too, this summer.

See you in a week or so.

Jenny & Andy

PPS: Ten Things to Hold You Over Until We’re Back

1. Chicken-Apricot Skewers This one for me is all about that drizzling sauce with coconut milk and peanut butter. (From Bon Appetit)

2. Steamed Clams with Shallots and Wine. Serve with crusty bread and a fresh green salad for a 15-minute dinner. And secure the freshest clams you can find.

3. Baby Back Ribs with Mustardy-Potato Salad and Fennel Slaw. A perfect summer menu, best enjoyed wearing flip-flops.

4. Grilled Shrimp Tacos With or without homemade tortillas.

 

5. Green Papaya Salad with Shrimp (above) which we ate for dinner beachside in Koh Samui, watching a sunset, Chang beer in hand, toes wiggling in the sand. I don’t hold out hope I’ll be replicating a night like this again any time soon, but I can at least try to replicate the dish. I think I’ll start here.

6. Grilled Fish Tacos with Pineapple Salsa (page 236, Dinner: A Love Story)

7. Lamb Sliders (p. 206, Dinner: A Love Story) with Chick Pea Fries (p. 210) Bon Appetit served the fries as hors d’oeuvres at the DALS book party and they rocked. I’m resolved to serve them in my house with marinara instead of ketchup this year.

8. Cold “Peanut Butter Noodles” (page 261, Dinner: A Love Story) This is such a good one for easy entertaining. Can be made a day in advance — then all you have to do is set out toppings.

9. Summer Ginger-Peach Galette If you’ve chosen Dinner: A Love Story for your next book club selection, or even if you haven’t actually, there’s a reading guide (plus a recipe for this beautiful galette to serve if you are hosting) right here.

10. Tomato Caprese Salad You shouldn’t go a day without this on your table in some form between now and Labor Day.

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San Francisco: My 10 Favorite Food Moments

August 2nd, 2012 · 14 Comments · Rituals, Travel

You know how everyone says San Francisco is so low-key and relaxed? How you people out there are all about the lifestyle? Well, I think I might have shown up in the wrong city when we headed there last week for a few work-related events — including that visit to Pixar and a Dinner: A Love Story reading at Omnivore. Because our four-and-a-half day trip seemed to be the opposite of laid-back. Do not take this to mean that I didn’t have the best time ever — all I’m saying is that in a town like SF, there is so much pressure to eat well, that every mediocre bite of food felt like some sort of colossal failure on my end. I had a long list of you-must-go-here directives in my inbox and on facebook, and, perhaps most exciting, a customized San Francisco itinerary for my family from Yolanda Edwards of Travels with Clara. (You know by now: When Yolanda talks, people listen.) So the long weekend was spent, doing what this neurotic New Yorker does every other day of her life: Crossing things off lists. And then, of course, making one of her own. Now that I think about it, maybe the problem is not with San Francisco? Anyway, here are my top 10 favorite food moments from the weekend.

(Picture Above: One of those quizzes turned keepsakes that I made with the girls on the plane home.)

#1. Smitten Ice Cream. There were warring emails about Bi-Rite vs. Smitten, but it just so happened we were in the neighborhood so stopped by Smitten. They use liquid nitrogen to custom-blend each bowl in front of your eyes. Because the ice cream has no time to melt and then refreeze, this means there is not a single ice crystal to be found, resulting in the creamiest mint chip I’ve ever eaten. Abby was wary (ice cream shop or witches lab?) until she tried a bite.

#2 Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes from Plow may not have been on the girls’ list, but they were right at the top of mine. Along with those potatoes fried in rice bran oil that Yolanda told us all about. We took advantage of our jetlag and showed up at the Potrero Hill spot almost as soon as they opened their doors. By the time we left around 8:15, there was a line around the corner.

#3. Miette I do not have girly girls, but even they could not resist the pull of pastels and polka dots at the famous temple of sweets. How could I get away with not going here a zillion times? My kids chose the sour patch stars one day and little candy covered chocolates the next. These are bags of mini cookies.

#4. As Yolanda said, March in Pacific Heights “is the kitchen store of all kitchen stores.” I agree and loved it even more when I saw that right next (more…)

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California Dreaming

July 27th, 2012 · 10 Comments · Travel, Uncategorized

I’m sorry to say that today is my last post for Dinner: A Love Story. This is because I visited Pixar Studios yesterday (the whole family did, actually) and if you were me, and got to see where and how these people work, you would drop everything to figure out a way that you could become a Pixar employee right exactly now. So I’m outta here — blogs and books and readings and this crazy nice review be damned! There will be a lot more on why we were at Pixar later (it’s pretty cool) but for now, I’d just like you to take in the lobby of building, where, yes, we saw staffers on scooters, ate from the legendary free cereal bar  (“The idea is that we’re all just grown-up kids,” explained one staffer), and around every corner, ran into a familiar friendly face like Woody, Buzz, Mike, Sully, Remi, Merida, and Wall-E . We didn’t doubt they were real for one second. We never have, actually.

If you are in San Francisco this weekend, please stop by my reading at Omnivore Books at 3:00 on Saturday, July 28. I’d love to say hello.

Have a great weekend.

P.S. You know I’m kidding about quitting, right?

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The Mix

June 20th, 2012 · 12 Comments · Dinner, Grilling, Travel

Along with gum wrappers and a zillion pennies, there is a pile of about twenty CDs in the armrest compartment of our family car.  Each one has been labeled by Andy with a black Sharpie using maddeningly unrevealing titles, like “November 2011″ or “Maine” or “Chatham” or “July 08″ so I never know exactly what I’m going to get when I slip one in the CD player. But they’re always curated with listeners big and small in mind, which is why we can go from the Drive-by Truckers’ Zip City (we have been strategically coughing over the s-bomb in the first stanza for almost two years now) right after a Miley Cyrus cover by Lauren Alaina, last year’s American Idol runner-up.  Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against Lauren Alaina (I’m still mad she didn’t beat Scotty McCreery) and the kids have no problem with the Truckers (they know their dad would disown them if they did), but when I was road-tripping yesterday to my reading in Boston, trying to figure out what I was going to talk about, it occurred to me that our mixes are a lot like our dinners. As I mentioned to the nice people of Brookline (thank you again Sara, Amy, Ingrid, Essie, Katharine, Sharon, Kelly, Carrie!), we made the most rockin’ dinner last weekend. I brought home a Hudson Valley duck breast from the farmer’s market which Andy grilled to perfection (see above photo). By chance, I had dried cherries macerating in red wine (I know, who writes a sentence like that with a straight face?) which I boiled down with peaches to serve on top of the duck; then we broke out the mandoline for our stand-by apple-fennel slaw. It was the first time we had ever served duck at our dinner table — though definitely not the first time the girls had eaten it; Devika, their first babysitter made a mean duck curry which they’d inhale — but when presented this simply, it wasn’t a hard sell. (Plus we had dinner rolls: The Great Equalizer.) Anyway, if that was our Drive-by Truckers dinner, the next night was our LMFAO dinner: Baked beans on toast, from the can. And just like with the “kids’” Adele song, I went back for seconds.

Grilled Duck Breast with Cherry-Peach Relish

Salt and pepper both sides of a 1 1/2 pound duck breast.

Make your fire. Put coals on one side of the grill and let them burn down to medium heat. Then cook the duck, skin side up for first 10 minutes, not directly over the coals, so you render some of the fat and it drips right off. (There is so much fat on the skin that you have to be careful it doesn’t start a fire and burn the duck to a crisp.) Then grill it skin-side down (again, not over the coals — over indirect heat, right next to the fire. You have to really stand over it and watch it. You do not want big flames) then keep flipping it, skin-side down, skin-side up, until it has a nice burnished (not burned) color on skin side. A total of 15 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes.

I soaked a half cup of dried pitted cherries (such as Montmorency cherries which they sell at Trader Joe’s for about half the price at Whole Foods) in just enough red wine to cover for a few days, but I don’t think you need to do it for more than 8 to 10 hours. Then I simmered the cherries in their wine with 2 peaches (peeled and chopped up), a little more than 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar, 2 teaspoons sugar, a squeeze of lemon juice, 1/4 cup water over low heat until liquid was thick and mostly gone. In total, it took about 12-15 minutes.

Fennel-Apple Slaw, please see page 243, Dinner: A Love Story.  The bread is Trader Joe’s par-baked dinner rolls, which Andy baked on a covered grill for about 8 minutes.

Summer Road Trip Mix
If I were to make a mix culled from Andy’s mixes, this is what it would look like. A little something for everybody.

It Ain’t Me Babe, Johnny Cash
Zip City, Drive-by Truckers (remember: he uses the word s#@t in first stanza)
Passenger Side, Jeff Tweedy
Someone Like You, Adele (cannot believe how fun this is to sing)
Edge of Glory, Lady Gaga
Wonderful World, Sam Cooke
You and I, Lady Gaga
Frankie’s Gun, Felice Brothers
Parted Ways, Heartless Bastards
Outta My System, My Morning Jacket
Boy Named Sue, Johnny Cash
The Waiting, Tom Petty
I Think I Lost it, Lucinda Williams
Long May You Run, Neil Young

Reminder: Tell me your favorite part of the book (not on the comment field of this post, but through the official contest survey) and be eligible to win some pretty awesome prizes. You have until July 9 to enter so get reading!

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Forward March! Andy, My Drill Sergeant of Leisure

May 29th, 2012 · 24 Comments · Dinner, Grilling, Travel

We are officially T-1 week for Publication Date of Dinner: A Love Story, and T-3 weeks til school’s out, so I thought I’d share a section from the book that is one of my favorites. It’s about the transformation my husband undergoes when we are on vacation.

When I was growing up, we never took typical family vacations. We never booked a house on the Cape for a week or went to Fort Myers in February; we never sat at the kitchen table with a map of the country circling national parks we wanted to visit like I imagined most families doing. Part of the reason for this was that my mother, once she found her calling as an attorney, turned into a workaholic— today, at seventy-five, as partner in her own law firm, she still works harder than all of her children combined—and, like all workaholics, she derives pleasure from work, thereby rendering the need to get pleasure elsewhere useless. (I’ve always gotten the feeling that she finds vacation from reading ninety-five-page contracts a whole lot more stressful than reading those ninety-five-page contracts.)

Another reason we never went on typical vacations was that my sister, Lynn, was a nationally ranked tennis player who competed in tournaments all over the country. Naturally, we’d all tag along with her on all of these trips no matter where they were—Charlestown, West Virginia, Raleigh, North Carolina, Indianapolis. They were always during July and August, and the organizers seemed to find some sick pleasure in selecting venues where the average temperature was a hundred degrees in the shade and never ever near a water park with one of those long, twisty mountain slides. But the truth was, I didn’t mind. I was ten, eleven, twelve years old. All I needed was a hotel pool to be happy.

But now that I am not a kid—now that I am a grown-up and I have kids of my own—vacation is a different story altogether. I need the pool, yes, but I also need a whole lot more. Most of the time I need a kitchen. I need a grill. I need to go to a place with lots to do. In fact, from the moment we arrive at wherever we happen to be vacationing, Andy and I are crafting ways to make sure we are squeezing the maximum amount of pleasure out of every moment of our waking hours. We take our vacations seriously. Before we have finished our morning coffee we have a plan for the day, one that usually includes exercise for the grown-ups (we usually tag-team our runs while the kids watch their morning TV), a large chunk of time in or near a pool or beach, some sort of afternoon adventure that involves exploring the local terrain (like a road trip or a hike or a bike ride), and of course, shopping for dinner that we will make in our own kitchen while drinking gin and tonics.

One morning when we were on vacation in South Carolina (where Andy’s parents have a house near the beach), the girls were finishing up watching an episode of The Backyardigans, and Andy looked at the clock.

“It’s ten o’clock in the morning and we still don’t have a plan,” he said.

“It’s only ten in the morning,” I said, taking a sip of my iced coffee that Andy had prepared the night before so it would be ready for us when we woke up.

“Yes, but we have a lot to do today.”

“We do?” I asked. The way he said it made it sound as if we were on deadline for something serious. “Like what?” (more…)

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Happier Meals

April 27th, 2012 · 14 Comments · Sides, Salads, Soup, Travel, Vegetarian

Twice a year, every year, for the past ten years, we drive 850 miles from New York to South Carolina to spend a week at the beach. It’s a long drive. With two kids in the back, singing Adele a capella, it’s a really long drive. We try to do it in one shot with just one stop: Sally Bell’s Kitchen, two minutes off the highway in Richmond, Virginia. Their famous lunchboxes, which they’ve been packing since the ’50s, are almost worth the trip alone. We buy four, then walk to a park nearby to sit in the sun, stretch our legs a bit, and eat.

Inside each box is a happy meal from another, better time: a Smithfield ham-and-iceberg sandwich on a roll, a paprika-dusted deviled egg wrapped in parchment paper, a two-bite cupcake (You get three choices: chocolate, almond, or caramel) that is frosted on three sides, a cheese crisp, a packet of Duke’s mayonnaise and, best of all, a small paper cup filled with super-eggy potato salad and topped with a lone sweet pickle chip. Hot damn!

While the girls love the salty ham with mayo and the novelty of a cupcake that’s more frosting than it is cake, it’s the whole package—and the act of unwrapping of it—that blows their small minds. The white cardboard boxes, tied with bakery twine and lined with checkerboard tissue paper, are prizes they’ve earned by enduring four hundred miles lashed to their booster seats, watching I-95 roll by, and being force-fed Dad’s music. The food is real and great and they love it, but they also love what it represents: the trip is halfway done, and the next time we stop, they’ll be in vacation land, with all its attendant promise.

Occasionally, we try to replicate the lunchbox at home. The tangy potato salad in particular is a mainstay at our summer barbecues, and goes perfectly with a well-cooked burger and a salad. The kids eat up a (slightly less eggy) version as eagerly as ever. For them, it’s a little taste of vacation — but from the comfort of their own home

This is our “Providers” column from the May 2012 issue (The Travel Issue!) of Bon Appetit — on newsstands today. Please head over to their site for the Eggy Potato Salad with Pickles recipe and to access the entire Providers Archive. Photo by the amazing Marcus Nilsson for BonApp.

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Paris with Kids: Our List

August 28th, 2011 · 11 Comments · Kitchenlightenment, Rituals, Travel

I’d like to begin by saying that is by no means a definitive list of everything one should do with one’s kids in Paris, nor is it a comprehensive one. You will not, for example, find any museum here. That’s because a) you don’t need me to tell you about the Louvre or the Musée D’Orsay and b) because the day we decided to spend more of our time wandering in neighborhoods and less time standing in line crossing our fingers that the girls (ages 7 and 9) would be able to appreciate whatever it was we were waiting to see, was the day we found our vacation rhythm. So this compilation of 26 moments, walks, restaurants, bakeries, shops, cafes, strategies, and parks is merely our list. But I will say that we ended every day exhausted, satisfied, and stuffed. Don’t you think that says a lot?

1. Breakfast in the Gardens. We like routines in our house and perhaps sadly, this extends to vacation. This is how we ended up hiking up rue Monsieur Le Prince from our apartment right near the Odeon Metro station, and stopping by a small local (reasonably priced) boulanger for croissants and caffe crèmes, then heading up to the oleander-ringed fountain in Jardins Luxembourg and eating breakfast. I would say there is no more perfect way to start a day. (more…)

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What is All That Stuff?

August 24th, 2011 · 10 Comments · Dinner, Seafood, Travel

At the end of an eight-hour Paris wander session that began in Luxembourg Gardens, took us down rue Mouffetard, and ended up in the Marais, I collapsed on our sofa and began to scroll through the photos on my camera. There’s Abby feeding the remains of last night’s baguette to the ducks. There’s Phoebe gaping at the 6-month-old monkey at the zoo at Jardins des Plantes, there’s Andy drinking a Kronenbourg at a cafe one block from Place des Vosges, there’s….my dog in New York. It was like the screeching of a record player seeing that image — which was part of a video that doesn’t automatically download with still images. You know it’s a successful vacation when you are looking at photos of your house and you have to struggle to remember what it feels like to be standing in your own kitchen. I played the video and looked around at all the stuff that was littering the counter — bottles of vinegars and bowls and knives and spice jars and…what is all that stuff? What was I making? We had become so used to cooking in our French kitchen with the bare minimum that I thought Maybe I should just throw everything away when I get home. That night I picked up sole (aka, the most family-friendly fish there is) from the fish guy at the Marche Saint-Germain, Andy made a simple salad with peas, butter lettuce, and tomatoes, and we sliced up a baguette. Making sure we saved a little of the bread for next morning’s ducks. (more…)

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Better on Vacation

August 22nd, 2011 · 17 Comments · Dinner, Pork and Beef, Posts by Andy, Quick, Travel

I remember, as a kid, thinking that food tasted better on vacation. I don’t mean this in the figurative sense, either. I mean that when my brother and I would come back to the house after four hours on the beach in South Carolina — my tawny brother coated in Coppertone Deep Tanning oil, with his Terminator glasses perched on his head, and me, with my zinc-ed nose and plaid Jams — we would have lunch on the screened porch, under a whirring ceiling fan, and marvel, as much as boys marvel, at the beauty of it all. This Boar’s Head turkey and Swiss: it was different, right? The Pepperidge Farm sandwich bread, toasted, the Utz potato chips: just a little fresher, a little more crisp. A tall glass, filled with tons of ice and a fizzy Coke: why didn’t soda taste this good at home? Not that we would have ever put it like this, but it was like our senses were heightened when we were away from home, and every Cheet-o, every Pecan Sandie, every drop of French’s mustard, every bread-and-butter pickle was that much more tasty, that much more special. This was discussed as an actual phenomenon, nothing imagined about it: it was different on vacation. We knew this to be true.

Turns out, we were just hungry. Food is food, of course, and it only tasted better because we were kids and we imagined that potato chips could somehow sense when we were on vacation and, in response, decide to make themselves just a little more delicious.

Yet another example, for the record, of the way adulthood sometimes seems to exist to crush dreams.

This past week, though, we’re beginning to reconsider the cold logic of…reality. We spent eight unreal days in Paris, and we cooked in five of those nights* and while I’m aware of how this will sound, each of those meals was better than anything (more…)

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Strawberry Pie

April 20th, 2011 · 20 Comments · Baking and Sweets, Travel

How great is vacation? How great is the idea of having an entire afternoon dedicated to tracking down shrimp in a 200-year-old Spanish-moss draped Lowcountry town on the Edisto River? Only to discover that the dock is closed for business on Mondays so could you come back tomorrow? The thing is, we can! (What else is there to do?) And Monday’s pursuit of shrimp ended up detouring left, down a dirt road, around the rickety fence, following hand-written U-Pick signs to 10 acres and seemingly millions of strawberry bushes begging to be harvested. So what was going to be shrimp and grits or easy shrimp tacos with some lime and jalapeno ended up here, at strawberry pie. And I can’t say that anyone complained.

Jackpot! Would you look at this place. An entire farm to ourselves.

Now that’s a strawberry. (more…)

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Road Tripping

April 18th, 2011 · 14 Comments · Kitchenlightenment, Rituals, Travel

Now that the girls are getting older and relatively self-sufficient (minus the shoe-tying! Kills me!) it’s easy for me to romanticize the early years. I got a little teary the other day when Andy erased all 3,000 Backyardigans episodes on the DVR to make room for iCarly and American Idol. And carrying Phoebe’s little art table and chairs to the curb outside my house nearly brought me to my knees. But I can tell you one thing I’ll never be sentimental about – traveling with them as babies when they required bottles and pack-n-plays, and snap-n-gos , and breast pumps, and carseats, and crayons and pacifiers that would inevitably get lost or dropped on the airport’s bathroom floor. Traveling has gotten so much easier with the girls — even our bi-annual 13-hour road trip to South Carolina. Thirteen hours! I can’t believe I’m saying this, but packing the car has actually become fun. Here’s what we lined up for the trip. (more…)

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