Friday, December 24, 2010

Out to Eat: NIOS Restaurant

The cards for free wine flights from NIOS Restaurant at the Muse Hotel had been sitting on my desk since the NYC Wine & Food Festival just waiting to be used. After not spending any one-on-one time with my good friend Katie for a while I suggested we use the wine flights and check out some of Chef Massimo De Francesca's culinary creations. I made a reservation for 2 in the bar at 9:00pm for Friday night. 

Expecting only to have share some appetizers and the wine flights I came to NIOS hungry but not expecting to take on a three-course meal. We were offered the Pre-Theatre Prix Fixe Menu and while we were debating sharing some of the appetizers from cleverly named "Act I" of the menu Katie and I decided too many things sounded delicious so we went for the $42 Prix Fixe. Katie chose the Smoked Duck for her starter and I selected the Calamari. 

The calamari was inventively coated with cornmeal as opposed to breadcrumbs served with a subtle yuzu aioli. Perfectly fried to be golden but not brown, tender on the inside, the tentacles were particularly delectable. My appetizer was crunchy counterbalanced by the silky aioli and served at the perfect temperature.
Katie's smoked duck came served with frisée, figs, wild mushrooms and thinly sliced manchego cheese. I was lucky enough to be able to taste some of the duck from her plate-- of course you would expect me to try the duck! Delicately cured by smoking, the duck breast had that creamy layer of preservative fat. The finely cut duck looked like turkey bacon but had much more complex flavors than anything out of a Jennie-O package! I can just imagine what all the elements on her plate would have tasted like together. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Locavores' Dilemma: A discussion about what to eat.

Thanks to my avid reading and tweeting on Twitter I found out about the event at the New York Public Library (NYPLI attended Thursday October 21, 2010 from @SlowFoodUSA.

The Locavores' Dilemma brought in former Cullman Center Fellow Melanie Rehak, author of Eating for Beginners, Chef David Shea of applewood Restaurant in Park Slope, and Steve Jenkins of Fairway Market; the discussion was moderated by another former Cullman Center Fellow Patrick Radden Keefe journalist and author of The Snakehead.  Odds are unless you're a New Yorker you might not have heard of any of these people (yet). I recognized Fairway, of  course, and had seen Melanie Rehak's book cover but did not really know much about any of the participants or what they do. Jean Strouse, director of the Cullman Center, gave thorough introductions for each participant (a recipe of hers is included in Eating for Beginners, which Patrick Keefe drew attention to due to her memorable instruction to "add a stick of butter" to a dish of brussel sprouts- and Strouse added joyfully "and bacon!").

So how do these people fit together to make for a discussion about locavory? Rehak lives in Park Slope just blocks away from applewood restaurant (small "a" intended). She is a locavore and spent time working in the applewood kitchen to write her book; she also follows the food the restaurant uses back to  its sources; spending time making cheese, picking greens, and even out on the ocean to catch the restaurant's seafood. Chef David Shea is a consistent voice and presence in Rehak's memoir. During her time working at applewood he encourages her to believe in herself and in her abilities in the kitchen. Steve Jenkins is a mainstay in the New York grocery scene and brought insight to the more commercial side of local sourcing and eating.

Friday, November 26, 2010


Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving Feast! Enjoy eating your leftovers and getting creative for ways to reuse turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and those leftover veggies. I am thinking of concocting some sort of Turkey BBQ with shredded turkey heated up in a slathering of barbecue sauce served over mashed potatoes... mmmm....

I made this Pumpkin Cheesecake recipe from Martha Stewart for dessert-- it was a big hit! Try it for yourself: Pumpkin Cheesecake

I also made Colicchio & Sons version of the Parker House Roll which after a bit of stress over non-foaming yeast which took three tries to get right-- the rolls ended up coming out so delicious even my picky sister loved them! The recipe is very easy and requires very few ingredients BUT allow plenty of time for the dough to rise, about 4 total hours. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

"Fly By The Seat of Your Pants" Chili - a Chili Recipe for a Chilly Evening

This morning I walked out of my apartment and into some bits of hail spitting down on my purple leaf patterned umbrella. From the response on Facebook I learned that there had been snow in Manhattan and snow on and off all day in Albany. With this harbinger in mind and a post from Bethenny about tailgating tips I got hungry for some warm, seasoned comfort food: chili! I had a busy day at work which didn't leave much time for poking around to find a quick recipe that wouldn't yield too much food for one. After some pondering and chatting with my friend Ann about her chili cooking tips I headed to the store with an idea of what I would do to satisfy my craving. 

Salsa is one of the ingredients I think has great unrealized potential. Walking about the very poorly laid out Food Emporium with a can of crushed tomatoes in my hand I meandered back to the Mexican food section to switch it out for a jar of Frontera (read: Chef Rick Bayless) Jalepeño Cilantro salsa. Some Stew Leonard's sliders were in my freezer, tomato paste in the pantry, onions I always have on hand, and the spices were all set too; just needed some cheese, black beans, the salsa, and some flour tortillas. 

The chili came together quickly and with ease- the pay off was hot, spicy, thick, cheesy and just what I was thinking.

Friday, October 29, 2010

New York City Wine & Food Festival Part 2: The Grand Tasting(s)! (aka the Rest of the Best Weekend Ever!)

After the demo my mom and I sauntered into the West Village for some truly delicious Manhattan brunch at Tartine. She had an omlette full of veggies and ham and cheese and I enjoyed eggs benedict (I can hardly resist-- i'm hooked on poached eggs!). If you have never been to Tartine and live in the city-- go ASAP! It is a teeny tiny restaurant with a short menu but everything you have will be delicious-- and you can bring your own wine! What could be better? Also their desserts/pastries are irresistible. 

During brunch my mom had a celeb chef sighting-- she saw Ming Tsai getting out of a car in front of the resto. Not sure where he was headed but he had a culinary demo about an hour before Alton's! (How cool is he? his website is

With happily full bellies we ventured into the Saturday afternoon madness of Chelsea Market-- always a little crazy on the weekends it was extra crazy due to the Festival. On the way we passed by the Cooking Channel ice cream truck which has been different places over the summer to promote the new programs and give out ice cream.

We headed into Chelsea Market and it was as insane as expected. Difficult to get through the door, people with wine glasses around their necks (from the Grand Tasting), tons of orange swag bags, and generally flocks of foodies going in all directions! As we entered, just past the newsstand at the front entrance I had my first dumbfounded brush with culinary celebrity.... 

I saw a large man with the clear coiled ear piece and I knew without thinking that he must be someone's bodyguard so I look just past him and see Rachel Ray wearing big sunglasses, flanked at the back by yet another security guard. I gawked at her while squeezing my mother's forearm and trying to whisper to her out of the side of my mouth... "Mooom..... Rachel Ray!!!" all the while my heart is racing and I feel utterly foolish. 

I completely realize that this makes me a little bit of a tool-- ESPECIALLY when you consider the fact that Rachel literally grew up about an hour away from where I did (She in Lake George, me in Albany). Maybe that just makes her more of an inspiration to me-- I never plan to have fame, let alone Rachel's, but success even half the size of hers would be nice. This had me feeling jittery, excited, and blushing in a little bit of culinary shame because I felt so starstruck by anyone throughout much of the afternoon. Moving on...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Destiny Calling. The New York City Wine & Food Festival Part I: Alton Brown's Cooking Demo

By bouts of good fortune I had one of the best weekends of my life this month during the New York City Wine & Food Festival October 7th through 10th. 

First and foremost my good friend Marlie of Marliese's Sweet Treats offered me the awesome opportunity to work the American Lamb Board table during the second session of Sunday's grand tasting and the opportunity to attend the first session on Sunday as a guest. The chance to participate in this important part of the festival got me throughly excited for the upcoming weekend! I was living in New York last year during the festival but since I did not have tickets to events I did not even think to go loiter around Chelsea Market (which I recommend you do with or without tickets during the Festival-- lots of activity and foodie celeb sightings!l!).

During the week leading up to the event my Twitter feed was a-buzz with #nycwff attached to all tweets about chef appearances, events, details, and the most fortunate tweets for me-- giveaways! My love of Twitter and Whole Foods combined to bring me what would become great fortune....

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Confection Collision: Cupcakes

My good friend Marlie of Marliese's Sweet Treats organized a cupcake tasting in Central Park this past Saturday for some of our girlfriends. Everyone brought four-six cupcakes from a different bakery-- bringing 2-3 of two different flavors (chocolate & vanilla or that bakeries signature flavors). 

We met in the Sheep's Meadow with cupcakes and wine in tow. Marlie brought judging sheets for everyone to take notes and rate each bakery's sweets. 

First up was Tu-Lu's Bakery which specializes in gluten-free sweets. We tasted Chocolate with Peanut Butter and Vanilla with Chocolate. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Welcome Autumn! Squash, pumpkin, and all things orange!

"When autumn comes, it doesnt ask. It just walks in, where it left you last." -John Mayer

Autumn is by and large my favorite season! I love all the colors, the crispness of the air, the smell of fallen leaves, and all the warm delicious food that comes back after a summer of cool foods and homes too hot to cook in. Many a harbinger signals the change of seasons before the equinox arrives; children head back to school, the temperatures start staying below 80*, Starbucks brings back my favorite drink- the Pumpkin Spice Latte, and you see the vibrant colors of the summer harvest mixing with the muted colors of fall-- dark green acorn squash, pale sandy colored butternut squash, bumpy gourds, bright orange pumpkins, light and dark green mini cabbage- brussel sprouts, flowers of deep burgandy, marigold yellow, and rich burnt orange. 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Locavore Limelight: Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal Vegetable Miracle"

Just finished "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life" by Barbara Kingsolver. This food/memoir/local eating guide follows Kingsolver, her husband, Steven Hopp, and two daughters, Camille and Lily, on their quest to eat local for a full calendar year-- producing much of their food from their own garden and animals. Their venture is very successful and Kingsolver's literary voice is a pleasure to hear from about this hot topic. 

In 2005, when Kingsolver and her clan were moving from their Arizona home back to their farm in Virginia to begin a life of locavore eating this way of life had yet to become popular yet. By the end of their year of food locavore was a buzz word and trying to eat closer and closer to home was trending. They are largely successful and this books give great insights into the trials and tribulations of feeding oneself off one's own land. 

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Culinary Destination: Portland, Maine

During my vacation in Albany I was fortunate enough to be able to accompany my dad on an overnight business trip to Portland, ME. I went to Maine as a child with my parents but they are not times I really remember. Recently my friend The Creative Culinarian moved from NYC to Portland so I also was able to see her briefly which was a real treat. 
 My day in downtown started at the Standard Baking Company, 75 Commercial Street. As per recommendation from Tiffany I enjoyed a ham & cheese croissant. Here they top these delightful French treats with sesame seeds adding a level of crunchy texture that pairs nicely with the pillowy texture of the croissant. The ham inside is meaty and hardly fatty as some sliced ham can be; the cheese is melted down to a sauce-like nature-- not hardened as some cheese croissants can get after sitting. All of this made for a warm delicious breakfast I paired with a fresh iced tea sweetened                                                                              with simple syrup.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Happy Bastille Day!!!

As most of you know francophilia runs deep in my blood. My love of the French, their language, and their culture-- food included! goes back probably to when my brother was in elementary school taking French and I thought it was super-cool and wanted to learn it for myself some day! Voila! Je parle le francais (avec le plus mauvaise grammaire de tout!).

In honor of Bastille Day I compiled a list of my favorite French cookbooks and some recipe highlights. I hope you are celebrating the day of French independence (from their corrupt monarchy, bien sur!) in a special way. VIVE LA FRANCE!!! VIVE LES MACARONS!!

La Grande Dame de la Cuisine Francaise
Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volumes 1 and 2
Julia Child
I have yet to cook a full recipe from these legendary volumes, but I use them as my go-to books for any questions when it comes to execution of any French recipe or how to cook certain French ingredients (did someone say magrets de canard? you know how I feel about duck...). Must-haves for any chef and any francophile, cook or not!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Notes on my Favorite Food Magazines

In light of some awesome June and July issues that are out on the stands now and this digital revival of Gourmet magazine it seems a good time to share with you my favorite magazines and why I love them.
Here are the food magazines I subscribe to and suggest that you should, too! 
If you like magazines but hesitate to make a commitment, remember it is always saves to subscribe!:
Okay I'm going to come right out there and declare Saveur my *favorite* food magazine! 
I didn't really know about it before I started watching Top Chef masters last year (Hi, James Oseland!) and I had not noticed it on newsstands until I moved to Manhattan and started shopping at Whole Foods. I bought my first issue this year and subscribed right away from one of the insert cards and have been salivating and learning every month since. 

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Brave New Kitchen

So after a bit of a whirlwind week of moving to my new apartment and travel to Vegas for business I am finally back in New York! 

Unfortunately I wasn't able to explore Vegas' culinary side due to long tiring days and a cold/sore throat that required nursing and created a limited appetite. I did have a crêpe at Paris Las Vegas-- the "Île Saint-Louis" (of course): ham, mozzarella and basil topped (not sure why..) with béchamel. Tasty, but not the best crêpe ever!

Tonight I enjoyed some simple but real cooking in my new kitchen. I've been hungry for a full-on breakfast and the baguette I bought yesterday was already stale -- voila! French toast! I like to have a little bit of everything especially if I do breakfast at dinnertime, so I also made scrambled eggs with a little colby jack cheese and some fresh red and green grapes on the side. 

My new kitchen presents some challenges and some definite benefits. The space is much smaller than my former kitchen and the my new counter is also the dining table. This will be the most challenging change for me. The oven is full size with a gas powered range, but one of the pilot on the front corner burner is out and is therefore unusable (for now)-- no biggie. My roommates provide great pots & pans at my disposal. Also, my mom got me two great all metal all-clad pans so now I can finally sear my meat and cook it off in the oven in the same pan retaining all those luscious drippings! 

Fortunately with the small kitchen my new roommates do not tend to cook! One of the many ways the three of us are a good fit. I hope they will enjoy my cooking! 

Back to work tomorrow and planning to hit the Union Square market on Saturday to get some good veggies. Any cooking suggestions for the coming week and weekend? 

I'm going to watch the True Blood premiere on Sunday evening and would love to bring something fun and vampire-y to share with my friends. Any ideas good enough to sink our fangs into? 

Also, who is enjoying the new Cooking Channel? I haven't watched it much yet (ridiculously limited channels at the hotel in LV!) but will start DVRing some shows. Open to suggestions! 

Glad to be back!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Longer You've Been Away, The More You Cry-- Reading Kat Flinn & Crying my eyes out

I just finished Kathleen Flinn's "The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry". Nothing I have read in the past year and a half since returning from studying abroad in Paris has conjured up so many memories of the City of Light or so many tears from my eyes.

It always seemed to me that people went abroad to their country of choice and had the time of their life-- making new friends from across the globe, travelling all around the region they are staying in, in Europe hoping from country to country every weekend, etc. Of course I figured it would be no different for me. I don't know if I had been more excited for anything as I was to leave for Paris. I decided I would go abroad late in the game, bored with my school and seeing the same people everyday on our campus of about 5,000. I was ready to change it up for my senior year so I didn't leave Geneseo bored and bitter. Plus I knew it was the best time to get away without being weighed down my bills, loans, rent, a job etc (all of which I have to deal with now!) and didn't want to let to opportunity pass. I applied in winter for the program, was accepted in early spring and had a long summer to work and prepare to leave in late September.

All summer long everything I said and did was about Paris. Paris came up to everyone who asked me about school; once I knew some of the people in my program we started e-mailing/IMing/facebooking; every other sentence from my mouth seemed to have Paris in it. I couldn't wait.

My trip really started with packing... packing too much! I worked at New York & Company the whole summer before leaving, so with my employee discount and their constant sales I amassed a whole new wardrobe which of course I felt I needed to bring with me! Bad idea.. should have saved my euros to get new clothes in Paris. So I set out to the airport with my parents and 3 ridiculously heavy suitcases which I think will be no problem because I am meeting our program director at the airport and we are being brought into the city on a tour bus.

We come into the city and I am eager to get to my foyer where I will be living for the next four months which is located on Ile St-Louis-- the smaller of the two Parisian islands located in the Seine. Unfortunately my quaint little island does not allow tour buses on it! This news is not good due to my heavy load to carry. I struggle across Pont de la Tournelle then a nice man offers to help me and I accept immediatement. I am surprised and delighted. I'm a little anxious so I don't let him walk all the way to Foyer la Vigie with me-- just in case.

The courtyard to the foyer is charming. The next challenge is getting my luggage up 6 flights of a worn down slippery spiral staircase up to my room. It works out well enough that I leave my open suitcase on the bottom and bring my things up seprately. Though I packed too much, I still packed smartly and used the large ziploc bags to put all my things in so this was easy.

By the time I'm done I try to set up the internet only to find there is no internet in my room (some say its because the buildings are too old and the walls to thick, i think its just because la vigie like to keep somethings un peu ancien). This led me, my overtired, hungry, jetlagged self to start the fountain of what would unfortunately be many tears falling Paris. 

So I was home sick nearly the whole first month of my stay; thought about seriously leaving within the first week. It was all ridiculous but I certainly grew (up) from it and do not regret how I spent Paris at all. It all boiled down to loneliness and fear which eased each day I was there. I got a good sense of a handful of areas in the city and cannot WAIT! to get back with my loved ones and be able to play tour guide. 

Paris continued and I began to see her beauties daily. In the patisseries the beauty came in the form of sugary confections and fresh baguettes and pain au chocolat; on the streets the beauty was in the old buildings, the street performers, school children running wild, and of course the lovers kissing on every bridges; indoors were the greatest beauties passed through the ages at the Louvre, the Musee d'Orsay, and even within each peek into Paris' many courtyards hidden by large metal doors which open up to reveal little oasis' at the center of apartment buildings. Paris is a place that has not left me and is forever in my heart. Flinn's wonderful descriptions rekindled many memories for me that I had nearly forgotten; for this I am very grateful. 

Reading "The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry" had me tearing up every couple pages and longing for Paris worse than before I left for the first time. Merci Meeze Fleen!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Become a Fan of the Culinary Librarian on Facebook!

I've made a Facebook page to quickly share links, photos, and musings longer than 140 characters! 
Feel free to "Like" me to be updated on all sorts of on-goings!

I've been considering doing a giveaway ... so maybe if I reach a certain number of followers on Facebook/Blogger/Twitter I will decide what to do! 

Hope you like the postings. Please feel free to upload links & photos you think your fellow readers would enjoy! 

Great resource for starting Culinary Research from NYPL's Rebecca Federman!

From the Cooked Books Blog
"A Guide to Culinary Research" by Rebecca Federman, the NYPL's culinary librarian. 
Follow her on Twitter! @cookedbooks

This information definitely would have helped me doing some research for college papers and will help me researching now! 

Her first point about the keyword "cookery" is very true even if it seems a little odd. 
Go get one of your cookbooks and look at the copyright page-- look all the way at the bottom of the page where the book is classified and... ta-da!:
I. Cookery
Usually listed first then further classified into a regional cuisine (many of my cookbooks say "Cookery, French"). Even some of your favorite food memoirs will have Cookery listed-- definitely the place to start!!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Food Rules: A review of Michael Pollan's guidebook on "What to Eat"

I've been hesitating to buy Michael Pollan's "Food Rules" because I have read "The Omnivore's Dilemma" as well as half of "In Defense of Food" and figured most of what he spells out in his set of 64 rules I would have already received from reading his two other most popularized books ("The Botany of Desire" is his other less discussed food related works). I had a little money left on a Barnes & Noble gift card I had from Christmas which was just enough to almost totally cover the cost of the little $11 volume-- so I picked it up Friday night and planned to read it sometime this weekend. I ended up finishing it in about an hour and 15 minutes on my bus ride home Saturday morning-- easy enough to read and valuable advice for anyone who does.

The little manual is a quick and enjoyable read filled with common sense and smart tips for simple ways to improve the way one eats. When I read "The Omnivore's Dilemma" I was entirely captivated through the first two-thirds of the book, then I began losing interest as his writing began to meander a bit. The conciseness of "Food Rules" makes it easy for Pollan to complete this tiny volume without ever seeming to be writing to fill publisher's space. The rules are sound and straightforward and easy to begin implementing immediately. 

Pollan's introduction hits on some of the points he makes in his two popular works which boils down to how capitalistic food has become and how that fact is generally bad for human health (but good for the economy). Healthy people make for reduced need for doctors, hospitals, medicine, diets, diet plans, etc. Capitalism may be killing us and Pollan's rules could help reverse some of the negative effects making food profitable has caused. The politics of food is a constantly ongoing conversation today, which I hope does not end up muddying why the exchange began and become about something different. 

I don't know that I can argue most Americans are aware of the effect processed food has on our health and general well-being but as a nation we are certainly making strides towards a holistic understanding thanks to things like PBS airing "Food Inc." on Earth Day and Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution receiving a primetime spot on network television. I believe in America and Americans and think that we can change the way we all eat and the way we relate to food. "Food Rules" would be a good place for anyone unfamiliar with the food revolution to start changing their eating habits with sensible advice. Without reading further into the elaborate system of food production set-up in this nation a reader of "Food Rules" can start implementing some of Pollan's rules and will see the effects without having to read about it. 

Here are a few of my favorites: 

Rule 12: "Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle" 
An easy way to change the way we shop and an eye-opener for someone who has never considered all the fresh food is kept on the outer edge of the grocery store. 

Rule 14: "Eat foods made from ingredients you can picture in their raw state or growing in nature" 
Simple enough right? But how often do we eat things we can't pronounce let alone picture? I've been trying it out this weekend and it really helps eliminate a lot of the highly manufactured foods we should be avoiding anyway. 

Rule 35: "Eat sweet foods as you would find them in nature" 
Pollan makes an excellent point about eating the way nature intended it. The planet was so perfectly created to be balanced that even the way we get foods that we find appealing i.e. sweets, in nature come paired with things to help us digest them and live best, i.e. fiber! 

Rule 39: "Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself"
This is one of my top favorites!! Living in Manhattan with the prevalence of sweet treats coming at me from every angle-- even in trucks! I think that this rule is one people could easily take the wrong way, but making your own treats is enjoyable, you know what goes into them, and you tend to not want to devour them as quickly after the work you put in them to make it. Maybe i'll bake myself some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies tomorrow? 

Rule 43: "Have a glass of wine with dinner" 
Certainly one most people can take to quickly! My friend Jocelin believes in having a drink a day and it seems she is right to believe in the benefits of it. Here Pollan discusses the French Paradox and how it is they seem to be so much healthier than us, and nods to the gentle consumption of wine with leisurely meals of small plates with friends is certainly one of the things they are doing right. The key here is balance and to not over do it and end up drunk at the end of dinner! 

Rule 44: "Pay more, eat less"
While I believe in this principle of this rule, it is hard for a single person on a budget to take up. The thing that I can do best for myself is to only buy food I know I will be able to consume/freeze before it goes bad and to generally not buy more than I need. Luckily vegetables (Following Pollan's main advice "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.") are not too expensive, especially if I get them at a farmer's market. 

I plan on trying to stick to some of Pollan's rules and see how easy they are to incorporate into my daily habits. I'll start by focusing on these favorites I've selected and gradually include more and do my best to update you in the blog or on twitter. 

Check Pollan's book out of your local library, take an hour to go read it in the store, or if you can afford its low price pick it up for yourself and make notes! Write about the foods you eat with ingredients you can't pronounce or picture, the junk you could make at home for yourself so it takes out a lot of the junk, write-up a cheat sheet for yourself when you go grocery shopping, photo copy some of the pages and post them on the fridge for your family to read without thinking about it and in turn start thinking about what they eat before they consume it. 

Start your own revolution! 

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day

Back in November I realized how little I had seen Thanksgiving as a major 'foodie' holiday even though the main thing about the holiday is a whole sharing a similarly huge meal, this to is true for Mother's Day. 

There is always the idea of breakfast in bed for Mom and a big brunch. The deeper fact of the matter is that the role of cook has historically been assigned to Mom. We expect to receive the best advice on how to live well from our mothers and our grandmothers and a lot of that advice is related to how we eat. We develop our habits in our upbringing and how we eat is nigh solely influenced by how we are fed as children. Mother's Day is for celebrating, honoring, and ensuring Mom knows how special she is-- which can best be shown by giving her a day off from the kitchen and pampering her for all the hard work she does throughout the year. 

For me, my Mom has been one of my greatest culinary influences. She is the one who first taught me the science of baking, the joys of trying different flavors, the techniques of food preparation and little tips and words of wisdom not easily found compiled in any one book. My family has been truly blessed to have a very talented mother in the kitchen. Dinner was always something different, always delicious, and usually somewhat extravagant on an every day basis. There was no reason for us not to have lobster or filet mignon -- or both together-- once in a while, especially when they were on sale. She also mastered more than the daily dinner routine in the baking department; just imagine the most beautiful and delicious birthday cake you have ever had for your special day-- then imagine getting it, whatever flavor you want (even just a super fancy cheesecake with writing baked into the top!) for each birthday of your childhood AND made by your own mother! How special! We always make a lot of Christmas cookies while singing all our favorite Christmas songs. 

My mom is really the person who established my relationship to food. There is always so much to learn and always so much I can learn from cooking with her or watching her cook. She usually never uses a recipe unless its something brand new she wants to try or she needs to know a ratio to get something to come out right. She truly cooks from her heart with an innate feeling for the kitchen. She is always willing hear about a new recipe I've tried or want to try; since fleeing the nest she is ALWAYS the person I call for quick answers to how-to questions (and even before I left! I remember making souffles for the first time and having no idea how to separate egg yolks from egg whites and I called her while she was out and she knew just what to do!). I couldn't imagine I would be quite the foodie I am today without my mother's influence! 

Here she is in our kitchen on Thanksgiving with me and maybe little chef Milana (my niece) to be!

So on this Mother's day I just wanted to share a little bit about my own Mommy who is a my very own culinary master. I hope you all honored your mother in a special & delicious way today and keep in mind what sort of person you might have become without her in your life! 

I love you, Mom! Thank you for everything you do for me always and all that you have taught me these past 23 years! Keep up the good work! 

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Moleksine Passions: RECIPE JOURNAL!

Successful day in the city-- my first Saturday in NYC since the beginning of April-- which didn't even count because I was entertaining my parents! I was determined to make the most out of today-- and so I did! 

Started out sleeping way to long after the amazing Hanson premiere performance of their new album "Shout It Out!" due out June 8th. Check it out! Then I went up to one of my very very favorite places in the city-- Kitchen Arts & Letters. I was browsing and on the table by the door where they feature what's new and I discovered the Moleksine Recipe Journal. It is perfect. Its compact, well laid out, comes with stickers for the blank sections and to qualify your recipes, even has additional templates available for printing online-- and my favorite part AN INDEX! It is the perfect start to writing your very own cookbook! 

I've been thinking about starting a recipe notebook but I really don't like starting new things if they'll be done haphazardly at the start because it makes it harder to organize later on. This Carnet Recettes is the perfect beginning and I think I will start using it today! 

After I went to Kitchen Arts & Letters (and then dropped off a stack of 15 CDs to the library!) I hopped on the 6 down to Union Square to check out the Green Market (another thing I can only do on the weekend and have not been able to being away). I was on a mission to find some farm fresh leeks-- just because-- but there were none today. Whole Foods was the answer-- I also picked up some fresh cherries (yum yum!) & saffron threads. I've never used saffron before but after reading the Saveur paella feature I've been wanting to. I think I'm going to do a risotto with saffron tonight (I've been looking for bomba or calasparra rice in the stores but have yet to find any). Also while in Union Square area I stopped by the Strand to pick up Chef Ludo Lefebvre's Crave: A Feast of the Five Senses which I currently have out of the library but didn't want to start cooking out of the libraries in case I wanted to make notes, etc in the book. The cover features a photo of Chef Ludo intensely looking at his readers with his brown eyes, how can anyone resist (see what I mean? owh-owh!)! Hoping to someday cook his "Lobster Poached in vanilla with melon, mango, papaya, avocado, and aged balsamic vinegar and honey vinaigrette." It looks/sounds insanely delicious but involves wayyy too many expensive ingredients for me to cook on a whim (vanilla bean, lobster, aged balsamic). 

Monday, April 19, 2010

Culinary Tweets

When I first started my own Twitter account back in the fall I really didn't know what to do with it. I thought Twitter was kind of pointless (due to facebook) and confusing (because I didn't get notified everytime anything happened by email, again due to facebook). I also was frustrated by the character limit and felt as if my thoughts were constantly being cut off.

It took me about a month to get the hang of it and realize just how useful 140 characters of microblogging can be-- especially for foodies! For one, tons of celebrity chefs, food critics, and respected foodies tweet many times a day, providing insights on a wide range of culinary areas. There are also plenty of restaurants/cafes/bakeries, grocery & specialty stores, food carts/trucks (especially helpful in NYC for the trucks who move daily and update their location on twitter), farmer's markets, foodie newletters, and culinary publications such as magazines & cookbooks who all provide insider tips, general information, event news, and promotional notifications. Twitter has become an excellent resource for me to find out about what is happening in the culinary world around me which is constantly changing. It is also an excellent forum for give-aways which I myself have been lucky enough to win (Gift Cards from Lenny's in NYC). The tweeters who win these give-aways are known as "Twinners" = Twitter + Winner. Some recent culinary give-aways include:
In all, whether you're looking to share information with others, post pictures of your latest gustation, tweet to your favorite chef about how much you love her/him, learn about all of @GaelGreene's latest thoughts about NYC Restaurants, or win something you've always wanted (i.e. a Kitchen Aid!) then Twitter is definitely worth trying out.
To follow me and check out some of my favorite culinary tweeters, check out my twitter page to the right or click here: @culinarylibrari.

Happy Tweeting!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Conjuring my own memories --- Making Ratatouille

In the movie "Ratatouille" Remy makes the food critic Anton Ego a dish of ratatouille which quickly takes him back via taste memory to when he was a little boy, hurt himself and his mommy made him warm soothing vegetable stew. For me, the first time I had the dish was in Paris while staying at the Foyer la Vigie. The dinners we were served were always a bit questionable and sometimes just inedible, but we had enough to eat and got to see some French cuisine a la cafeteria. The ratatouille was just fine though! Remy's always looks so delicious and chic that I knew I would have to make it myself someday. Tonight I set out with zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, and red peppers in tow to make my first! There are a couple ways to make ratatouille. Most of them are just stewed stove-top which makes it a very easy dish for anyone to make. I consulted a couple recipes before deciding how to make it. I wanted to make a version that would turn out as decadent looking as Remy's and I found someone who claimed to be giving the "official" movie recipe online but it was far too involved and time consuming so I opted for a rustic stew version from Judith Jones' The Pleasures of Cooking for One. Mirelle Guillano's (the author of French Women Don't Get Fat) was a stove-top version, that used sliced vegetables instead of chunks. Her's said the vegetables had to cook for 2 hours compared to Jones' which took me about 40 minutes to make. The dish is very easy and enjoyable to make with superbly satisfying results!

The stew is very rich and quite delicious on its own. Best served with a chunk of fresh French bread with a bit of butter. I made enough for about three single servings so I froze two servings in sandwich bags. One serving I enjoyed with my friend Jocelin with herbes de provence roasted chicken breast and rice (since split in two would not be enough). The rice is definitely a goo choice to serve the stew over (and how I was served it at La Vigie). The third serving I enjoyed tonight with just a cut-up hot dog-- my way of celebrating the Yankees home opener!!
All in all ratatouille is delicious, easy to make, wonderful to enjoy, and great to share. Definitely going to be one I will make over and over again and perfect to my liking over the years.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

What came first: the chicken or the egg?! (the mushrooms!!)

After multiple sources of inspiration about poached eggs, I began to think of them as silky and appealing though I had yet to have them. The March MS Everyday Food "How To" is all about poaching eggs. One evening, watching some late night programming, dissatisfied with whatever I had (or had not) eaten for dinner I decided why not try to poach my first egg!
I did and the result was exactly the silken smooth goodness Julie Powell raved about after enjoying her FIRST egg ever -- prepared by poaching in red wine, a la Julia Child, of course.
The following evening I prepared a batch of duxelles to keep in the freezer, using Judith Jones' good advice, and decided to prepare some chicken legs (in the duxelles pan) and make a pan sauce with chicken stock and some of the mushrooms and serve it over some boston lettuce with a poached egg. Very satisfying!
The more I cook the more I learn. End results for a lot of food preparation seem so impressive that without ever knowing the technique they can be intimidating to even imagine cooking. Again, fearlessness in the kitchen is one of the best tools any chef can have! The worst that can happen usually won't and the worst that is likely to happen is that one prepares something inedible. Trial & error-- without fear!!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Busy night!: Roasted garlic, chopping veggies, BEST burger EVER!

I've begun preparing for my first 'real' dinner party at my apartment. The idea is a faux Seder (verrry faux)/Holy Thursday last supper. We have matzos and brisket and lots of wine on the way. Tonight was roasting the garlic to mix into the mashed potatoes, cleaning/peeling/chopping the veggies so they are ready to go Thursday night.

It was my first time roasting garlic and it worked out well for my needs, but I think I over roasted the cloves a little bit because they did not come out as full cloves only as roasted garlic paste. Since I'm going to be mixing them into the mashed potatoes its easier that I already have the paste set.
I peeled & chopped 3lbs of carrots which I am going to boil and toss with fresh parsley and butter to serve. Then I prepared a bunch of green beans by French-cutting them; this just means cutting them lengthwise. This is definitely my favorite way to have green beans (one of my top 5 favorite veggies!) and I've only ever had them this way from frozen. It is obviously easy to prepare them, just cutting-- its easiest to cut the green beans at an angle and then split them. Can't wait to have them at dinner!

After all this prep work I was HUNGRY! From reading NYT's Peter Meehan's T Magazine blog article "Homeburgers" ( I was inspired to get ground beef in my Fresh Direct this week and make some tasty beef burgers (instead of turkey, which I have been whenever I've made burgers for months lately). This burger ended up being the BEST burger I've ever made and maybe the best I've ever eaten!! Of course I topped it with bacon, american cheese (deli sliced-- way different than the packaged kind), a leaf of Boston lettuce, and bottomed my baguette roll with BUTTER (Meehan's suggestion from "How to cook everything's" Mark Bittman). It was royally delicious. I RARELY finish a whole homemade burger (btw, McDonalds does not count!). I ate every last bit of it! So so so delicious!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Bienvenue Printemps!: Pea Soup with Bacon & Irish Cheddar

Inspired by some pea soup my friend enjoyed this weekend in Central Park and the new Bon Appetit's suggestion for an Easter meal first course I decided making some fresh for myself would be a great rainy-day dinner tonight.
Unfortunately I already had frozen green peas and opted out of buying some freshly shelledpeas, even though the soup would have been fresher and more delicious. Instead of keeping it as basic as the BA recipe I decided to bump it up with some extra veggies and toppings.

I added some carrot and red pepper to the mix and opted for fresh (Italian/Flat leaf, of course!) parsley over any other herbs. And I believe most savory things are better with BACON! so I crisped up some cut-up bacon in the soup pot before adding the butter and topped the soup with the crumbles to serve.
As usual I used a shallot, not an onion. I'm big on scent memory and am beginning to think that the scent of shallots softening in melted butter will take me back to this very kitchen on the UES. I guess I'll have to wait to see what the future will hold for me and my shallots! I let the pepper and carrot cook together before adding the frozen (unthawed peas). I used chicken stock instead of a vegetable broth for the same reason as bacon-- extra flavor! Never will I be a vegetarian!! I had to remove a little bit of the broth before I pureed the soup with my immersion blender so it would be thick (I'm not into 'soupy' soups, very much into thick-French style soups). The outcome was most delicious! The Irish cheddar and bacon really brought the fresh veggie flavor to a deeper taste level.


Food & Film: A study in sensual cooking

Film is a highly expressive medium which allows life's breath to be blown into one's thoughts, visions, remembrances, and above all emotions. Food is also an expressive medium; creating a meal can change the course of your day-- making something comforting can lift ones spirits up from as low down as they could be. Between written food literature and cinematic literature, the sensuality of food is conjured up in each of our senses without any tactile food around. (Just a note: All these movies in their exploration of the sensuality of food all coincide with the sensuality of lovers, as well-- yet another medium that goes well with food-- lovemaking!)

Here is a list of some of my favorite Food Films/Novels:

Like Water For Chocolate By Laura Esquivel, adapted into film
"Whether to the table or to bed, you must come when you are bid"
This is one of the most erotic food films I've seen. Tita, one of three sisters living with her mother, falls in love with Pedro who ends up marrying her sister because Tita's mother insists she not marry to stay and take care of her in her old age. Tita's strong emotions are converted into amazing culinary creations which are often shared with her whole family. The novel/film's magical realism entirely surrounds food, eating, and tasting. The sensuality of eating is shown in every scene of the story. Tita and Pedro's relations are primary cause of her highly emotional cooking. From a wedding cake made of gut-wrentching sobs to a final scene with ingested candle wax this is one of the best "foodie" movies around.

Simply Irresistible Starring Sarah Michele Geller and Sean Patrick Flanery

"I love dessert. It's the whole point of the meal"

Similarly to LWFC, the protagonist of this film, chef Amanda played by Geller, is able to transfer her emotional state onto the plate and into the spirits of those whom eat her food. Amanda owns "Southern Cross" a ficticious restaurant in lower Manhattan. Her business is floundering because she is an awful cook, her mother was the real chef and she took over after she passed away. One day at the Union Square market a peculiar man sells her a basket of crabs which change her culinary ability from awful to amazing. Her emotional highs and lows go into everything she whips up and culminates in a party scene for the opening of a restaurant in Henri Bendel. The love story of Tom and Amanda dominates her powerful cooking and the foodie spirit of the film. A modern Manhattan culinary love story.

Big Night Starring Stanley Tucci

"Sometimes spaghetti likes to be alone"
Another faltering restaurant, this time owned by two Italian brothers (Primo & Secondo) trying to make a living in America by bringing authentic Italian cuisine to the table. Far less sensual than the rest of my list, Big Night has a masculine focus and we spend time primarily with two male characters instead of with a female protagonist and the thoughts of and moments with her love interest. The film culminates on the "big night" set out to save the restaurant with a multi-course feast that stirs up wildness in all the evening's guests. Definitely a must-see.

Chocolat By Joanne Harris (French foodie novelist extraordinaire), adapted to film starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp

"Roux: I should probably warn ya: you make friends with us, you make enemies with everyone else.
Vianne Rocher: Is that a promise?
Roux: It's a guarantee."

Chocolat is probably the best known of these four movies. Set in a beautiful little French village and following the lives of nomadic and beautiful Vianne played by Juliette Binoche, the food focus is chocolate! When I was in middle school my science teacher recommended we go see this movie, and to see it at the independent movie theatre in Albany, The Spectrum, so we could watch all the luscious scenes of melted chocolate being stirred, molded, poured and tasted while enjoying one of the brownies the theatre sells. I enjoy watching this movie around Easter because the struggle with Vianne's new chocolate shop comes mainly from the fact that she opens it at the beginning of lent, so maybe a good place to begin watching right now. The music is excellent and the decadence of the chocolate is mouth-watering.

I encourage you all to check these out and comment back-- or if you have already seen them to let me know your thoughts about and perhaps cravings from/for them (I know I could eat a dozen caramel éclairs after watching Simply Irresistible --every time!)