The Petite Sophisticate

by Sadie Stein

Posts tagged food

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A Good Thing

I try, consciously, to count my blessings.  Just as after illness one values the feeling of good health, depression makes one very aware of its absence.  I will sometimes tell myself “I am happy!” to imprint the feeling, and the memory, on my mind, and simply to revel in the normalcy of it all.  

But like everyone, I forget, and I grumble, and I feel sorry for myself, and I get weighed down with stupid things.  My friend Ciara somehow has a positive genius for intuiting these moods: as often as not when I get blue, there will be a note, or a postcard, or a thoughtful small gift to remind me of how fortunate I am in life generally and in good friends like her in particular.  I don’t know if she’s psychic or simply so generous that some of her gestures can’t help but fall on a bad patch, but it’s pretty incredible.  I was feeling drained after a long today today and when I came home, I found something: a copy of Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries, which I’d mentioned only last week was a little steep in dollars for me to consider. I wasn’t hinting - I swear! - but I certainly am excited, and I can’t think of anything  better to curl up with.  As I walked upstairs, I found myself thinking of the opening lines of Keats’s “When I Have Fears” although instead of glean’ing my teeming brain it was all mixed up with some idea of not appreciating what I have. Okay, basically, it has nothing to do with the poem, but it did come into my head, and I did count my blessings, and I do know how lucky I am to have such deeply nourishing people in my life. 

(Above is the book, with my glass of wine and snack.*)

The book is indeed great, I can already tell — his usual graceful, unfussy prose and genuine love to simple food — and you can’t help but feel inspired to keep some kind of journal yourself. (Of course, unlike whatever fabulous green curry he’s throwing together, I’m likely to be eating straight tomato paste, or Cheerios.)  In that spirit, I’ll share what we had, although I worn you, it’s nothing fancy.  I had some bacon to use up, and since our eggs weren’t fresh enough to make for a good frisée salad or carbonara, I whipped up a concoction that I learned from El: shell pasts tossed with crisp bacon, peas, plenty of ricotta, and lots of parmesan.  It’s as good a quick pasta as I know. 

*In case you’re wondering what my “snack” is, it’s the little savory pastries from Black Hound on 2nd Avenue.  Nothing is nicer as a nibble with wine especially if you’re as cheap a drink as I and don’t like to drink on an empty stomach. 

Filed under food books cookbooks nigel slater

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When I was two and a half, my father took me to see Mary Martin’s Peter Pan at the Museum of Television and Radio in midtown. About an hour in, as Hook and his men were engaging in their tenth Tarantella or whatever, I famously turned to my dad and said, firmly, “Too much pirates!” This early bit of film criticism has passed into family lore, but more to the point is a very useful shorthand for an over larding of any element in a movie.  

I had a definite “too much pirates” moment during Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a documentary about a master Tokyo sushi chef whose obsessive dedication to quality and perfection is increasingly rare in the modern world. I mean, we could only hear so many times about the master’s perfectionist tendencies, or watch so many loving slow-mo shots of glistening pieces of sashimi being assembled.  

But in the end, the experience of the film was both deeply moving and deeply sobering.  It’s a melancholy meditation not just on a changing world, but on the nature of fame and fatherhood, and it’s all refreshingly understated.  It is hard not to watch something like this and feel the lack of rigor in our own lives, not to mention romanticize it and envy it.  After all, how many of us will ever feel the absolute satisfaction the apprentice does when, after more than 250 batches of egg sushi that have been deemed sub-par, he’s finally give n the nod of approval?  

(On a much more prosaic level, it’s also hard to find sushi that measures up after watching it — even if, like us, you go somewhere good!)

Filed under movies reviews jiro dreams of sushi NYC food

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As anyone who bakes knows, being a regular baker has its pitfalls: when you know how easy it all is, well, when you crave a batch of lemon squares there’s nothing to stop you whipping it up. Example: me, last night.  (I like the Joy of Cooking’s ludicrously-named “Lemon Curd Bars Cockaigne" — halved — because they have the desired slight crust on top.) I justified this by telling myself (and a completely disinterested Slim) that I "had" to use the fresh eggs I brought from Long Island while they were still at their peak. We ate them while we watched a really good show on the Travel Channel: I think it was called "Fast Food Goes Global" or something and was all about how places like McDonald’s and KFC have adapted to international palates and standards.  While Subway looked uniformly and internationally repulsive, other stuff — the Israeli big Mac with fried onions; the "McFalafel"; the Indian rotis — looked so delicious that I immediately demanded to know why there isn’t some kind of McDonald’s flagship in which people can try all the world’s variations! (At least a pop-up…) But there’s a spoiled New Yorker for you; won’t even travel for my globalization. 

As anyone who bakes knows, being a regular baker has its pitfalls: when you know how easy it all is, well, when you crave a batch of lemon squares there’s nothing to stop you whipping it up. Example: me, last night.  (I like the Joy of Cooking’s ludicrously-named “Lemon Curd Bars Cockaigne" — halved — because they have the desired slight crust on top.) I justified this by telling myself (and a completely disinterested Slim) that I "had" to use the fresh eggs I brought from Long Island while they were still at their peak. We ate them while we watched a really good show on the Travel Channel: I think it was called "Fast Food Goes Global" or something and was all about how places like McDonald’s and KFC have adapted to international palates and standards.  While Subway looked uniformly and internationally repulsive, other stuff — the Israeli big Mac with fried onions; the "McFalafel"; the Indian rotis — looked so delicious that I immediately demanded to know why there isn’t some kind of McDonald’s flagship in which people can try all the world’s variations! (At least a pop-up…) But there’s a spoiled New Yorker for you; won’t even travel for my globalization. 

Filed under food baking lemon squares lemon bars recipes

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My obsession with hot cross buns is well-known to all my friends.  (And now, I guess, my colleagues. Not that they aren’t friends too.) While working from home, my bun options were somewhat limited, even though Slim was always terribly sweet about bringing me home my favorite Bouchon Bakery specimen. But now that I am out and about in Manhattan, with the whole world of urban buns as my playground, well, I have gone completely wild.  
The greatest bun of all time, as my mother is always smugly telling me, was served by the now-defunct Manhattan Women’s Exchange in the late 1970s.  On details she is vague (I think citron may figure) but the bun’s superiority has passed into legend. My own personal lost chord takes the form of the late, lamented College Bakery of Carroll Gardens, which sold its squishy, fruit-filled specimen for under a dollar, alongside homemade donuts and shortening-iced cakes the likes of which used to populate every such neighborhood bakery.  Rather than lamenting the death of the business (now an extremely depressing spa covered in a sort of fake-rock facade) I tell myself that it is wonderful that I even had a passing acquaintance with something so wonderful.
Speaking of old-school bakeries, Glaser’s makes one, but it’s nothing to write home about. That’s true of most of the city’s modern buns, too. Some people love Amy’s, which I find too chewy and, well, artisanal; others praise Red Hen, which I find too austere.  In fact, despite its high price tag and the iconoclastic trace of cardamom in the icing, I like the Bouchon precisely because it is old-fashioned, and reminds me of that humble, $.50 College Bakery taste of the past.
(As usual, I will attempt baking them again this year; I’ve never really been satisfied, but maybe she who tried Tasha Tudor’s recipe gets what she deserves? Anyway, if you’ve got a hot tip, send it my way.) 

My obsession with hot cross buns is well-known to all my friends.  (And now, I guess, my colleagues. Not that they aren’t friends too.) While working from home, my bun options were somewhat limited, even though Slim was always terribly sweet about bringing me home my favorite Bouchon Bakery specimen. But now that I am out and about in Manhattan, with the whole world of urban buns as my playground, well, I have gone completely wild.  

The greatest bun of all time, as my mother is always smugly telling me, was served by the now-defunct Manhattan Women’s Exchange in the late 1970s.  On details she is vague (I think citron may figure) but the bun’s superiority has passed into legend. My own personal lost chord takes the form of the late, lamented College Bakery of Carroll Gardens, which sold its squishy, fruit-filled specimen for under a dollar, alongside homemade donuts and shortening-iced cakes the likes of which used to populate every such neighborhood bakery.  Rather than lamenting the death of the business (now an extremely depressing spa covered in a sort of fake-rock facade) I tell myself that it is wonderful that I even had a passing acquaintance with something so wonderful.

Speaking of old-school bakeries, Glaser’s makes one, but it’s nothing to write home about. That’s true of most of the city’s modern buns, too. Some people love Amy’s, which I find too chewy and, well, artisanal; others praise Red Hen, which I find too austere.  In fact, despite its high price tag and the iconoclastic trace of cardamom in the icing, I like the Bouchon precisely because it is old-fashioned, and reminds me of that humble, $.50 College Bakery taste of the past.

(As usual, I will attempt baking them again this year; I’ve never really been satisfied, but maybe she who tried Tasha Tudor’s recipe gets what she deserves? Anyway, if you’ve got a hot tip, send it my way.) 

Filed under hot cross buns food baked goods gluttony

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Last night I had a few friends over for wine and small bites. I didn’t cook; I gathered, this time from the wonderful Soho shop Despaña, which stocks all kinds of great Spanish products.  I told them I was serving fino sherry and Rioja (the only kind I could think of) and the folks there helped me put together a selection of cheeses (Tetilla and Idiazabal), jamon (Serrano), and conservas (lemon olives and preserved garlic cloves.) We listened to Spanish yé yé and then, this being me, I forced them to take some clothes, and overall I’d call it a lovely evening. 

Last night I had a few friends over for wine and small bites. I didn’t cook; I gathered, this time from the wonderful Soho shop Despaña, which stocks all kinds of great Spanish products.  I told them I was serving fino sherry and Rioja (the only kind I could think of) and the folks there helped me put together a selection of cheeses (Tetilla and Idiazabal), jamon (Serrano), and conservas (lemon olives and preserved garlic cloves.) We listened to Spanish yé yé and then, this being me, I forced them to take some clothes, and overall I’d call it a lovely evening. 

Filed under food entertaining Despana

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It is after lunch and I shall now describe the house. For lunch, I may say, I ate and greatly enjoyed the following: anchovy paste on hot buttered toast, then baked beans and kidney beans with chopped celery, tomatoes, lemon juice and olive oil. (Really good olive oil is essential, the kind with a taste, I have brought a supply from London.) Green peppers would have been a happy addition only the village shop (about two miles pleasant walk) could not provide them. (No one delivers to far-off Shruff End, so I fetch everything, including milk, from the village.) Then bananas and cream with white sugar. (Bananas should be cut, never mashed, and the cream should be thin.) The hard water-biscuits with New Zealand butter and Wensleydale cheese. Of course I never touch foreign cheeses. Our cheeses are the best in the world. With this feast I drank most of a bottle of Muscadet out of my modest "cellar." I ate and drank slowly as one should (cook fast, eat slowly) and without distractions such as (thank heavens) conversation or reading. Indeed eating is so pleasant one should even try to suppress thought. Of course reading and thinking are important but, my God, food is important too. How fortunate we are to be food consuming animals. Every meal should be a treat and one ought to bless every day which brings with it a good digestion and the precious gift of hunger.
Iris Murdoch, The Sea, The Sea

Filed under food quotes books iris murdoch the sea the sea