Thursday, December 31, 2009

Holiday Cookies, Cookie Nostalgia, It’s a Small World After All, and In a Patisserie Long, Long Ago and Far, Far Away

Grab a glass of wine (or a cup of coffee, okay, or a cup of tea), sit back, put your feet up, relax. This is going to take a while.

It never fails. It is a rule of nature. As soon as you throw away something, or put it in the garage sale pile, or in the Goodwill box, you are going to want or need it. For years – for decades – I had a pile of little slips of paper with the beginnings of what I thought would make someday for brilliant (okay, clever) “social essays,” observations about everyday things we all experience – you know, like Jerry Seinfeld’s old stand-up routines. Finally, a few months ago I decided that surely, all the subjects are now obsolete. So I tossed them. And, of course, last night I tore the house apart looking for them. Well, for one in particular. The one about Madeline Lanciani and her mocha truffle pyramids or her chocolate mocha triangles or whatever the hell they were called. See, I can’t even remember without that little slip of paper. Never mind. Let’s move on.

Cookies seemed to loom larger this holiday season than years past. I think when times are difficult, small things – like comfort food, like cookies – take on additional significance. I baked a lot of cookies this year, including five new varieties. My friend Jane, who has spent many hours during the past year converting old family slides to digital format, piled on the nostalgia by reminiscing with her sister Susan, and then Susan on her blog, about the royal icing-decorated gingerbread cookies that a neighbor named Mrs. Schweer used to make for them when they were children back in the Midwest. Without the recipe, which Mrs. Schweer has apparently taken with her to her grave, Jane searched on the internet for recipes she thought would approximate the original and attempted to recreate both the cookies and the icing. That is a daunting task, believe me, and I have a great deal of respect for the fact that she would even give it a shot. I got caught up in it all and searched through all my cookbooks for what looked to me like the most traditional gingerbread recipes. I’m hoping “when things calm down,” Jane will try at least a couple of the recipes she’s garnered so I can taste them. I don’t particularly love gingerbread but now it’s the principle.

I have a small, cozy gathering of friends at my house each Christmas Eve and Jane’s partner, Gill, always mixes up a big batch of Nanny’s Nog, a good, old-fashioned, liquor-laden concoction that is very delicious and lasts long into the new year. This year, he also made his famous artichoke and cheese dip and something yummy called Opulent Chicken that was loaded with sherry and thus, the opulence. He came up in the afternoon of Christmas Eve day (oh yeah, I haven’t mentioned my trip to the Kula San emergency room – long story short, I had a horrid allergic reaction to shrimp – first time in 30 YEARS! – endured the night, was taken up to the ER by friend Geri, got a shot, bought some Benadryl, made it through Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Christmas Night, was forced to rest on Saturday and Sunday, saw my own doc on Monday, got another, much more powerful shot, took a few prescribed antihistamines and a.o.k.) to use the Kitchen Aid to whip the egg whites for the nog. I suggested that he take the bowl home with him instead of transferring the perfectly peaked whites to another bowl. No use tempting fallen egg white fate. Of course, he forgot to bring the bowl when he came for the party and, at the end of the night, he left a bunch of tea towels, pot holders, like that. Good thing we live only a gulch apart. Well, the weekend came and went (swollen and itchy). Monday there was no time to make the exchange. I knew I wouldn’t get home ‘til late in the evening Tuesday so I went over there Tuesday morning, figuring I’d also get a cappuccino out of the deal. Gill did realize “the onus was on him” to get the Kitchen Aid bowl back to me but what the heck, it’s the holidays. Jane had a tin of cookies Susan had sent her and, believing that I am something of a cookie expert, removed the top to reveal, truly, some of the most gorgeous Christmas cookies I have ever seen.

Believe me, the photos do the cookies no justice whatsoever. Jane confessed she’d already finished all the gingerbread. I ate a Christmas tree (cookie) – it was an absolutely delicious, classic sugar cookie. “Is it good?” Jane asked. “I don’t know, I read on their website they use all good ingredients, nothing artificial.” Definitely good, better than good. We discussed the pros and cons of different consistencies of royal icing – the one that decorated these cookies seemed pretty perfect to me. I looked at the top of the tin – Duane Park Patisserie on Duane St. in lower Manhattan. I’d never heard of it but made a mental note to go there – definitely – the next time I’m in town.

By the time it gets to the week in between Christmas and New Year’s, I’m anxious for all the hoopla to be over. I spent a couple of days cleaning out the old, getting ready for the new in the office, enjoyed a couple of quiet, reflective dinners with friends, a movie. On Wednesday morning, I noticed a post-it note near the office computer that had the words “Duane Park Patisserie” written on it. I went to the website, looked at the luscious photo galleries, read a couple of press clips and then I saw it. Madeline Lanciani. Madeline Lanciani is the owner of Duane Park Patisserie. Yes, the same Madeline Lanciani.

Back in the early ‘80s I worked for Madeline Lanciani – and for her then-husband, Joe – when they owned Patisserie Lanciani around the corner from my West 12th St. apartment. It was a difficult time in my life. My mother had died not too long before, my financial situation was precarious, and…you get the idea. I loved walking over to that bakery in the wee hours of the cold morning, smelling the espresso the bakers were drinking and feeling the warmth of the ovens. And then, when the sun had been up for a couple of hours, Madeline would come swirling in and the most vivid recollection I have of her is waving around a ruler and screaming about how the mocha truffle pyramids (or whatever the hell they were called) had to be EXACTLY the same height “EVERY SINGLE TIME, EVERY SINGLE ONE. I INVENTED THEM,” she screamed. “THESE ARE MY MOCHA TRUFFLE PYRAMIDS (or whatever the hell they were called) AND I SAY HOW TALL THEY’RE GOING TO BE, EVERY SINGLE ONE, EVERY SINGLE TIME!” (Or something very much like that.)

In fairness, her then-husband had a not dissimilar demeanor. I remember him once flinging a sheet pan – filled with pastries – across the bakery. It was absolutely stunning! And in fairness, too, Ms. Lanciani has had an extremely successful culinary career – she was the first woman to work in the kitchen at the Plaza Hotel in NYC – and I’m absolutely sure she’s mellowed since those days way back more than two decades ago. She is an amazingly accomplished pastry chef/baker/businesswoman and, frankly, I wouldn’t mind running into her at Duane Park Patisserie when I go there next spring. As a matter of fact, I’m going to ask for her.

Okay, that’s it. That’s the end of the story.

You have, undoubtedly, had enough of end-of-the-year/end-of-the-decade lists and predictions – god knows I have – so I’m just going to send happy, healthy, prosperous, peaceful new year wishes across the waves (or across the gulch, as the case may be). And I predict it’s going to be a very, very good year for cookies.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

and finally...

...another perennial favorite, Gilded Chocolate Shortbread - full moons, crescent moons and stars. A little edible bling on each plate. Now, all that's left is the packing the tins that need to be mailing and plating the cookies for recipients here on Maui.

It's been fun...and, as my friend D.E. would say, tasty, too.

A nod to my own heritage

Interestingly enough, these Chocolate Rugelach are the most requested baked good in the assortment every year. The recipe comes from the December 1990 issue of Food & Wine magazine. I always double the recipe so I bake 96 rugelach in all. The dough is made with butter, cream cheese AND sour cream and the filling is chunks of chocolate - from JoMart, of course - currants, walnuts, cinammon and sugar. The recipe calls for apricot glaze both on the dough before the rugelach are rolled and also to be brushed on them before baking. I changed that up this year and used peach preserves. I wonder if anyone will notice.

Friday, December 18, 2009

I fear I baked far too few

These Pecan Shortbread Cookies look pretty gorgeous, don't they? Yield was less than recipe indicated and I baked one-and-a-half recipes. If I have all the ingredients, I may bake another batch-and-a-half. From a brand new book, by the way, The Craft of Baking by Karen DeMasco & Mindy Fox. A good choice if you're looking for a gift for the bakers on your list.

Gilded Chocolate Shortbread dough is in the fridge. Still have Chocolate Rugelach dough to make. But that's it - tomorrow should be easy.

You can never bake too many Truffle Cookies

This is another new addition to the holiday cookie repertoire - Truffle Cookies from The Gourmet Cookbook. I think I may have made them once before. If I did, I don't remember them being as delicious as they are. The recipe says it makes six dozen which is certainly plenty but at the very last second, I decided to make one-and-a-half recipes instead. I'm glad I did. If I do say so myself, they're outrageously good.

Okay, I'm battin' far. Onward...


So, the Truffle Cookie dough went into the fridge at 9:00 a.m. where it needs to stay for at least two hours and the Pecan Shortbread Cookie dough went into the fridge at 10:00 a.m. where it needs to stay for at least one hour. You do the math. I've got a bit of time on my hands and I was ALMOST talked into going to the one of the first three showings here of Avatar. Until I remembered that all the kids are out of school and it's going to be a TEENAGE MOB SCENE. So, I'm going to pay a couple of bills, preheat the oven, bake off the two in the fridge, make the other two doughs - that also need to be chilled - and I'm right on track to have the Holiday Baking '09 completed by tomorrow afternoon. Which means I can deliver downtown on Monday and Tuesday and enjoy the week. There's a lot to be said for organization.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A new favorite

I'm always on the lookout for new recipes that incorporate lemon - juice, zest, even extract works. I think it's a flavor that just about everyone likes. Crisp, cool. These Lemon Thyme Olive Oil Cookies - courtesy George Duran of The Food Network - are amazing. So many layers of flavor - lemon, freshly chopped thyme leaves (I grew the thyme myself!), extra virgin olive oil, freshly ground black pepper. Crunchy at the edges and chewy in the center. I am SO glad I doubled this recipe!

That's it for today. Three down, four to go. Will get on it again early tomorrow morning.

Cookies - Take 2

Did I say Pecan Shortbread was up next? Silly me! I meant to say Toffee Pecan Drop Cookies. This recipe is in More from Magnolia (yes, that Magnolia, the one in the West Village NYC with the cupcakes...) Instead of using toffee pieces, I chopped up Heath Bars. These are making their debut this year and they are yummy. Well, of course I tasted one. Do you think I'd give them as gifts without tasting them?! And anyway, you how there's always one (at least one) misshapen cookie on every pan? Well, that's the one I et.

There WILL be cookies

Baking cookies, as my friends know, are a big deal for me all year long, most especially at holiday time. For the last dozen years or more, I have given gifts from my kitchen. We are all fortunate folks in my little circle and have no need for more "stuff." I buy pretty/funky/kitschy plates throughout the year from garage sales and thrift stores - some friends are on the lookout, as well - and the plate on which the cookies are arranged is part of each gift.

There have been years when I've gone nuts and baked more than 1000 cookies in nine or ten or eleven varieties, years when I thought I just didn't have it in me go do it all again and then enjoyed it when I got into the kitchen. This year, I've been looking forward for weeks to these next few days I'll spend in my kitchen.

Four or five varieties have become "must-bake" over the year - friends demand them. This year, all but two of them are gone. The Gilded Chocolate Shortbread and the Chocolate Rugelach are all that remain from holidays past. Five brand new cookies will make their debut this year. I think - I hope - they're going to be delicious. Most important, we'll enjoy them gathered together.

I'm going to "blog" the Baking Days this year. First up (see above) sugar cookies. I use the wonderfully easy recipe in The Gourmet Cookbook. I've tried at least half a dozen different sugar cookie recipes and to me, this one is by far the best.

Time for coffee while the butter softens for Pecan Shortbread Cookies.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Happiness is...

...opening the oven to bake pistachio biscotti and finding a whole pan of thick-cut white meat turkey slices left over from Thanksgiving dinner! Still delicious, yippee. Especially for those of us who got only dark meat leftovers that night - not that there's anything wrong with dark meat.

Thanksgiving is my favorite day/meal of the year. And while I do miss my family's Thanksgivings back in Brooklyn (now Long Island), my little "upcountry family" gathers at my house every year and every year, the day seems to get 1) easier to put together, 2) more pleasant, and 3) more delicious. I shopped on Monday. I made fresh cranberries with Mandarin oranges and walnuts on Monday night. I worked and went to the movies on Tuesday/Tuesday night. And on Wednesday, I made Spiced Pecans, Candied Espresso Walnuts, baked Pecan Pie Squares, prepped Spicy Crispy Garbanzo Beans with Pistachios and Fresh Thyme (I grew the thyme - can you believe that??!), did mise en place for Apple Pie (with 5 different varieties of apples - Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Fuji, Pacific Rose, and gorgeous little tart green apples from a tree on Irene's property that she and Henry picked especially for this pie), and Apple-Onion-Almond Stuffing. I cleaned out the fridge, cleared off all the counters, took down the glassware and plates, re-arranged the furniture to make room for the long table and set it.

All the prep made Thursday a breeze - I even got to watch some of the Macy's Parade sitting down. And by the time 3:00 rolled around, T-Harry arrived to do his floral magic with the tropicals and foliage he gathered in his own yard. By 4:00, he and I were drinking the first of the white wine, waiting for the friends who began to arrive very shortly thereafter.

Gill with his magnificently browned, crispy-skinned, 20#-organic, fresh turkey, dry-brined and stuffed with citrus, Jane with her perfect (really) Green Bean Casserole - yes, the one with the cream of mushroom soup and onion crunchies on top that you gotta have in order for it to be a REAL Thanksgiving dinner. David with his famous mashed potatoes and Geri with her always luscious roasted red peppers and mushrooms and an extra treat, herbed, oven-roasted grape tomatoes - so good. Henry with his world-renowned sweet potatoes and a new addition this year, rice and sausage casserole - a family recipe from his native New Orleans - hot, spicy and oh, so delicious. He also brought the Roselani Hawaiian Vanilla Bean and Classic Mac Nut ice cream to top the pies. And finally, new members of the tribe, Rick with a platter of perfect asparagus with shaved fennel and Parmesan and Franscisco with the most stunning-looking and best-tasting pumpkin pie any of us had ever seen/tasted. He GREW the pumpkins and grated his own cinnamon from sticks. Now that's a serious baker.

We all commented during dinner how wonderful it is to gather with friends old and new and how interesting it was that every single person at the table is an excellent cook and/or baker. I hope things were as glorious at your house as they were at mine. And I hope you didn't forget the less fortunate in your community. We all brought donations for the Maui Food Bank which I'll deliver tomorrow morning on the way to work.

One last light note, the desserts were set on a table in the guest room awaiting their fate. Someone wandered in - I think it was T-Harry - and yelled "You two should have been on the TODAY show!" No greater compliment have two bakers ever received.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I know...

...the season of being especially thoughtful and thankful begins - officially and regardless of what the retail sector tries to make us believe - on Thursday. Which is not to say that we shouldn't be that way throughout the year. We just tend to be more conscious of being better human beings at this time of year. Human nature.

So there are a few, brief comments I need to make about some of the "news" of the last little while so that I can cook and bake and gather with good friends with a clean mind/heart slate, so to speak.

Oprah giving up her show almost TWO YEARS hence - buh-bye.
Sarah Palin and her magical mystery book tour - go away...NOW.
Adam Lambert (and ABC) trying to shock the world - not news, just trashy and boring.
The White House Exec Chef appearing on Iron Chef America in January - the line continues to blur.

What I hope for most as this bright season begins is that what is so obviously and truly important will actually become important in the hearts and minds of "important" people and that the rest of us do what we can to make that happen.

Enjoy your families, your friends, your lovingly prepared food. Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Best meal of the year

Periodically, a group of friends - sometimes eight, sometimes 10 or 12 - gathers at one of the Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar locations on Maui for a custom dinner prepared by Executive Chef Ivan Pahk.
Last Saturday night was one of those occasions. Our friend Gill Brooks is the official documentarian.
Guaranteed to make your mouth water.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Autumn in New York

This is it. The last post about/from my trip. It is fall foliage photos. And what is there to say after you say "fall foliage?" Is there anything in nature more sublime? I think not. The first three were taken in Central Park on October 21st. The other seven were taken in Brooklyn on October 25th. The first two are from Park Slope. And the last five were taken along Ocean Parkway. It's a wide boulevard that runs almost from one end of Brooklyn to the other. I've heard it called the Champs Elysee of Brooklyn. I wouldn't go that far but it is gorgeous. Enjoy...and happy what's-left-of-fall.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

More from NYC

I have two final posts from my NYC trip and I fear that if I don't just sit down and write them, they will disappear into the ozone. Okay then, get on with it.

Baked Goods. (one of my favorite subjects, okay, my favorite subject)
The photos are from Chinatown and I will get to them near the end of this post.

This is a subject about which I could go on for days. I'll be as brief as possible - I will not be THAT brief - about a tiny slice of what is available in this food category in NY. We start with bagels, bialys, onion rolls, challah These are all related. Because the dough is the thing with all of them. Therefore, the water used to make the dough is critical. In the case of the bagels, the water used to boil the bagels is also important. Oh, you didn't know bagels are boiled? Yes they are. The best ones. NYC has the best tap water in the world - look it up - and that's one of the reasons all the aforementioned "breads" are so good there. Also because New Yorkers are aficionados of these particular baked goods and they would never accept inferior product. What you put on these doughs is strictly a matter of taste. Whipped cream cheese -maybe a little lox and/or a slice of tomato - on the bagel, good, sweet butter on the bialy and/or the onion roll, farmer cheese - or cream cheese - on the challah or, of course, you could use a nice thick slice of challah to wipe up the brisket gravy. The pizza dough? Well, just go to Di Fara's or Totonno's or Keste or even Ray's or wherever and then please try to restrain yourself. Tomato sauce, mozzarrella, fresh basil, plenty of Parm. A little sausage or green bell pepper if you must but really, try to stick to the basics and let the dough speak for itself.

A pound of assorted Italian cookies - you know the ones, with lots of butter, some have jam on top or sandwiched in between two cookies, some are chocolate-dipped at one end, some are chocolate-dipped AND have sprinkles. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you need to go to an Italian bakery and there will be a glass showcase or shelves full of them.

A pound of assorted William J. Greenberg cookies. And a BIG black & white. And that is all you need to know. This NYC institution makes the best cookies in the city. Better to just go get some than to argue. I think you can order them online. They will be good but they will not be perfect as they are when you get them at the bakery.

Chinatown. There are a gazillion bakeries in Chinatown - okay, dozens. The photo of the cakes is from QQ Bakery. It has one of the biggest selections of all sorts of baked goods. I bought delicious nut-encrusted cookies there but couldn't really get a good photo because all the cookies are pre-packed in plastic containers.
The other photo is what we call manapua and they call steamed pork bun. It was huge and tasted amazing - the bun and the char siu were both melt-in-your-mouth light and sweet. I can't remember the name of the place where I got it. I do remember that it was 80 cents. I had a fabulous egg custard tart from yet another bakery - called, oddly enough, Natalie. It was warm, the custard consistency was perfect, the dough was flaky. And it was 90 cents.
I'm ending this here and now. I have got to get the Autumn in New York post and the foliage photos up...before the snow flies.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween at Tom's Mini-Mart

As if the amazing shave ice and 'ono local food weren't reasons enough to go to the shiny little store on Waiehu Beach Rd. on Maui, Tom's Halloween decorations are fantastic and cram every nook and cranny of the store. There's still!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Cousins' Dinner

My auntie is a GREAT home cook and since my uncle died three years ago, she doesn't really need to cook as often as she'd like. She LOVES to be in the kitchen. So when I come to visit, I am the grateful benficiary of her labor of love.

She and I have breakfast together every morning - the table is laden with a veritable buffet of foods including but not limited to orange juice, challah or bialys or bagels or onion rolls or ALL of those, farmer cheese, whipped cream cheese, whipped butter, a selection of hard cheeses, whitefish salad, herring, good, strong coffee (see a previous post for photos). We talk, we laugh, we eat, we have a second cup of coffee and we are ready to attack our respective days.

We always have at least one dinner - just the two of us. She has taken to enjoying a glass of wine and a pupu or two before dinner. She cooks my favorite things - meatballs, chicken cutlets, lots of salads and fresh vegetables. It is a joy for me to share meals with her.

And then, at least once during my visit, she invites The Cousins to dinner. And she spends the day in the kitchen making "crumby chicken" - her version of fried chicken only better - her famous meatballs, salads, a starch - in this case my kid cousin made the amazing potato knishes - an apple pie for dessert. This was the scene before - and after - The Cousins assembled at the table. That's auntie second from the left.

I am extraordinarily lucky to be able to travel to my hometown, sometimes two or three times a year, and indulge in meals in all manner of restaurants - from holes-in-the-wall in Chinatown to the domains of celebrity chefs in the neighborhood of the month. But the best meals I have are at my auntie's dining room table in Brooklyn. We have only a few members of our family left. We all love each other very much. And we look forward to The Cousins dinner because we reminisce, we talk, we yell, we LAUGH very hard, and we auntie's delicious food.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Celeb sightings

Whenever I'm in NYC, I always make believe I'm my friend Wayne Harada the recently retired, LONG-TIME FABULOUS Entertainment Editor at The Honolulu Advertiser. So I keep my "eagle eyes" (his words) on the lookout for celebrities. Here's the results of the celeb watch from this trip:

-Tilda Swinton looking eccentric/lovely, gallery hopping in Chelsea
-Joan Rivers still able to stop traffic on Broadway - she's TINY and was wearing a fabulous black coat with white piping
-Mary Tyler Moore - wearing jeans and a sweater and sans make-up - having breakfast with her doc husband at E.A.T., Eli Zabar's gourmet food shop/cafe on the Upper East Side

and BEST OF ALL...

-Philip Seymour Hoffman looking, well, exactly like Philip Seymour Hoffman, at The Shake Shack in Madison Square Park

chefs are celebrities, too, right?

-Todd English (Olives, etc.) having a late afternoon repast - and talking business it looked like at an outdoor cafe in Chelsea
-Brad Farmerie - one of the Next Iron Chef contestants - incognito at Double Crown (kinda funny 'cause it's one of HIS OWN restaurants!) - update - he was booted off NIC - too bad, Brad
-Michael Lomonaco at his gorgeous Porter House New York in the Time Warner Center - food is absolutely fabulous and he is a very gracious man

Back in the saddle again

Back on Maui, safe and sound, easy flights, everything at home in order, unpacked, laundry done, at my desk in the office before 7:30 a.m. - think there's a crash coming soon??

Okay, out of chronological order yet again but there are a few more NYC posts to post. Next...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Read My Pins (then have a steak)

In the days long, long, long before the Time Warner Center and the rest of the glitz, I loved the old "lollipop" building at Columbus Circle. I remember going to a Salvador Dali exhibit there several times during the course of its run - I was awestruck by it. The building had fallen into disrepair and, I believe, stood abandoned for quite a number of years. It was finally renovated and recently re-opened as The Museum of Arts and Design. The permanent collection - glassware, textiles, three-dimensional objects useful and decorative, jewelry - is a good one. Two current exhibitions are fantastic. Slash - paper under the knife shows what can be done with paper of every variety and cardboard in the hands of extreme creative types. Reason enough to go, though, is Read My Pins, a masterfully installed exhibit of dozens and dozens of Madeleine Albright's pins. They became her trademark accessory when she was Ambassador to the UN and then Secretary of State. There are photos of her wearing many of them with statements about what they mean to her. The stories range from the hysterical to the heart-breaking.
and here are a couple of good articles about the building

A dear, old friend from NJ came into town to go to the exhibit with me and to have lunch. I was hoping to finally try Five Napkin Burger but we opted for Porter House New York in the Time Warner Center. When I saw Chef Michael Lomonaco's name, I knew it would be good but it was FAR BEYOND good and although a beautifully appointed steak house where you would expect the menu to be very pricey, the folks in charge are obviously aware that there's a recession out there. We each had a three-course $24 prix fixe. I assumed the portions would be tasting-sized. Wrong. Full-sized portions of absolutely perfectly prepared and perfectly served steak house classics were what we got. My charcoal-grilled steak was the best steak I've had in years. The chef was in the dining room and he could not have been more gracious and attentive when we gave him our compliments. So refreshing for a very, very well-known NY chef. Classy, classy guy.

I'll post something about last night's dinner and show and also a wrap-up of Manhattan celebrity sightings later or tomorrow. I'm packin' up the laptop and heading back out to the wilds of Brooklyn. My auntie is having all the cousins over for dinner tonight. And she's serving her own classics. Arriverderci Manhattan...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


The last two days - both of which were absolutely spectacular with temperatures reaching almost SEVENTY degrees today! - have been crazy fun from morning 'til night.

Tuesday (yesterday) - breakfast with a friend from Maui/points East at City Bakery home of NY's best hot chocolate and delicious baked goods. (A post dedicated entirely to Baked Goods to some point.) A little shopping in Union Square which yielded some fun/funky/extremely cheapo earrings and a pair of black cashmere gloves, all on sale, of course. A long and winding walk through Chinatown and a bunch of stops for $1 or less snacks. Fried-to-order pork and chive-filled dumplings - FIVE for ONE DOLLAR - at Prosperity Dumpling. Definitely the best I've ever tasted. Unbelievable steamed pork bun (yes, what we call manapua) for EIGHTY CENTS at Lucky King. Light-as-air egg custard in flaky pastry at Natalie Bakery - NINETY CENTS. Cookies of every description at QQ Bakery and a splurge (seven bucks) for amazing Hong Kong-style snacks - similar to our crackseed only more exotic and many more varieties - at Aji Ichiban. A stop at a restaurant supply store, of course, for a new silicon pastry brush, squeeze bottles, spatula, like that. Just enough time to go back to the apt., clean up, and meet Linda Cabasin, my editor at Fodor's for a glass of wine at Serafina, then on to meet Marcia at Kaskaval for wine, small plates of delicious goodies like roasted cauliflower, beets, spicy walnut dip, turkey meatballs. And n to the Jacobs Theater for "God of Carnage." Good - not as incredible as I thought/expected/hoped - but Marcia Gay Harden stole the show as far as I'm concerned and I love, love, love James Gandolfini. A nightcap at Gaby and home. Whew!

Wednesday (today) - Breakfast with Marcia and her friend Michael Gilbert at E.A.T. They cut the bagels into FOUR even slices, toast them slightly and serve the cream cheese on the side. So smart, so how it should be. On to The Met for the Robert Frank photography show - all his photos from "The Americans" in the same order as the book, plus "Black/White/Things" also in the same order as that book plus "Looking In" plus letters, contact sheets, a home video, and more. Absolutely thrilling! Plus a nice long, close look at Vermeer's masterpiece, "The Milkmaid." Mind-blowing color and detail. A walk across Central Park. Lunch at Fatty Crab (go to their website for a treat!) and gelato at Grom, the same Grom we frequented this summer in Venice. A walk on The Highline - a fantastic public park where an old elevated train used to be that shows what can be done when the government of the people and for the people works as it should. A cappuccino in Chelsea. A trip downtown for a cocktail with cousins David & Heidi at Von (I LOVE that bar!) and then dinner at Double Crown - creative, delicious food. Chef is Brad Farmerie of Public, also a competitor on the current "The Next Iron Chef" series on The Food Network. He was there - not working, not cooking, not talking to customers.

Are you as tired reading this as I am having lived it for two days??

Another big day tomorrow...starting with (ta-da) an exhibit of Madeline Albright's pins at the new Museum of Arts & Design - yippee!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Dinner tonight?

Chinese takeout - delivered, of course - waddyat'ink??!!
Good-night New York and from New York.

Okay, back to today

I had lunch today with a friend/college roommate/sorority sister I haven't seen in more than THIRTY-FIVE years. Come to think of it, we just got back in touch via e-mail and phone less than a year ago. What a trip! She looks great, has done great things with both her professional and personal "lives," and there wasn't a moment's lull in the conversation during a 2+-hour lunch at Tabla. Just goes to show that when you're REALLY friends and you have history, it doesn't matter how long you haven't been in touch.

The day, as I've already mentioned, was a Perfect 10 in terms of weather and general city vibe. I spent some time in Madison Square Park, just across the street from the restaurant. First time I've ever seen the Shake Shack with NO line! Amazing...

I got some good photos today which will make lovely gallery when I get home. Okay, here's one...

A few Sunday photos

Yes, out of chronological order, I know but I thought you'd enjoy these photos from the Guggenheim - photos allowed ONLY from the ground floor. And where else but New York would people stand in line in the rain to get into a museum (okay, maybe Paris...)

A Perfect 10

This is the color of the sky on a PERFECT 10 fall day in NYC.
(It's a photo, folks. Seriously!)

Food and Art Sunday

Sunday in NYC is Brunchday. The Sears-Smiths and I indulged at Penelope Cafe. (Our friend Bill, alas, was already back in the wilds of New Jersey prepping for a very busy work week.) Timing WAS everything - we arrived early (by NY standards 10:00 a.m. is the crack of dawn) and by the time we left, the wait was ONE HOUR. Can you imagine waiting in line in the rain for ONE HOUR for waffles. Granted, the pumpkin waffles WERE delicious - as were the scrambled eggs with Feta and asparagus and Mabel's homemade granola - but really...

Sufficiently fueled against the cold and and the wet we made our way uptown to the Guggenheim for what is certainly one of the most spectacular shows of the year - Kandinksy. The first retrospective of his work in almost 30 years and, I believe, the first one ever in NY, the venue couldn't be more appropriate. Solomon Guggenheim was one of Kandinsky's first collectors and the iconic Frank Lloyd Wright building has been seriously buffed out for its 50th Anniversary this year. There are more than one hundred works in this show and it is truly astonishing to watch the way the work evolved over Kandinsky's long career. From an almost primitive style when he first started painting in his native Moscow to the extreme precision of his Bauhaus years and, finally, the soft side of him in his twilight years in France. See it if you can, it's on view at Guggenheim here through the middle of January 2010. And if you go, be sure to get the audio tour.

On our way downtown, we stopped at E.A.T. for a light repast before the Sears-Smiths had to pack up and get back to DC. Always so great to see them. We'll do it again soon, my friends.

Food and Art Saturday

NJNN Reunion Weekend - many of you know that I get together with friends I worked with at PBS whenever I come to NYC. Three of the five made it this year.

The Sears-Smiths arrived from DC before noon and we were off and running, in spite of the cold and threat of rain (it never did rain on Saturday OR Saturday night, by the way). Lunch at Trestle on Tenth recommended by Nation's Restaurant News editor Bret Thorn - delicious food, lovely civilized atmosphere. The perfect start to our Chelsea adventure. The renovated spaces along 24th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues are now fabulous galleries. They're huge and can house the most massive contemporary works. Will post photos in a web gallery when I get home (thanks, Gill!).

Carl broke away to spend some time with a friend uptown. Sheila and I continued on to Chelsea Market. What a fantastic place! A big indoor space - ala Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia, Faneuil Hall in Boston, etc - filled with restaurants, cafes, shops, and it was decorated for fall/Halloween. Lots of big smiles all afternoon.

It wasn't really Highline weather but we did go up there to look around a bit. Even past its peak in terms of gardens, it's as fabulous as everyone told me. Will try to get back up there again now that the weather has turned warmer and sunnier. Oh, and if you don't know what The Highline is, check it out here...

By the time we looked at our watches and called our friend Bill who was on his way in from New Jersey, we realized we had only minutes to shift gears and get downtown. Met at Art Bar - a funky, wunky, wonderful place for a drink and then on to HOME restaurant in our old stomping grounds of the West Village. It was also highly recommended and it did not disappoint. Market to Table/Farm to Table is still happening here and more and more chefs are heeding the call. We even had a bottle of Long Island wine which was very nice, indeed.

Yes, I have at least a few photos from the day and will post them, too. Just not here.

Days behind...again - Brooklyn Day 3

My auntie takes her French toast VERY seriously. The result is unbelievably delicious.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Came into Manhattan this a.m., had some time with Michael before he left for the weekend, unpacked, went to a movie - "New York, I Love You," a series of vignettes by different directors with different incredible casts, love postcards to NYC, really - then to Tocaro for fresh baby mozzarrella, a hunk of Piave, dense sesame Italian bread, caponata, Genoa salami, fruit, fresh veggies, to the wine store for a bottle of Pinot Grigio, and to Clover Deli for bagels and cream cheese and yogurt for tomorrow morning and, of course, I couldn't leave without a little bag of their amazing Italian butter cookies. I'm all set for the Yankees playoff game! Have I mentioned that I LOVE NEW YORK!

Friends from DC get here tomorrow a.m. - museums? shopping? lunch? and from NJ tomorrow evening. Drinks and dinner in the Village.

By the way, I LOVE NEW YORK!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What the f*** is up with this WEATHER??!!

It's been frickin' cold, rainy, gray, windy, cold, rainy, all day and night, all the leaves will probably blow off the frickin' trees before they even have a CHANCE to change color...ugh!

BUT, it was nice and warm and cozy and delicious at JoMart Chocolates today where my cousin Michael cooked caramel, made patties and, with staffer Rose, made pecan rolls. Yum, yum, and more yum.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I (do) did not like rice pudding

My friend Cheryl Tsutsumi is writing a book of rice recipes. She assumed, because I have a pastry cook certification that I would have at least one great rice dessert recipe. Alas, I do not like rice desserts BUT my auntie has a fantastic rice pudding recipe which I did submit to Cheryl for the book. My auntie and I talked about it today and when I got home from dinner tonight, there it was on the kitchen counter and it looked so good, I had to taste it. It's absolutely delicious and much more like cake than pudding. Now I'm glad I have the recipe and I'll make it at home. Even though I know it won't be as good as hers.

Timing is everything

Okay, so 8:30 p.m. or thereabouts on a weeknight is, apparently, the best time to go to Di Fara's. We got our pie very, very quickly, at least by Di Fara standards - about 30 minutes or so. See 1/2 the leftovers above - the other 1/2 went to another house. Yes, THE best pizza...anywhere.

Brooklyn food 1 - photos