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You Can Keep Your Home-Cooked Food
Feb 28th, 2012 by donuts4dinner

As a general rule, I don’t cook. Not only do I live in the food capital of the U.S. (and arguably the world), but my boyfriend weirdly doesn’t like to eat food not cooked by either his mom or some complete stranger in a restaurant. There are 343 restaurants that deliver to his apartment for free and 87 that deliver to mine on Seamless.com alone, so we have no shortage of new and interesting, non-home-cooked foods to try.

Except bánh mì. There is no bánh mì.

But I bought a slow-cooker recently. As a person who has an inkling of desire to cook but is supremely lazy, the appeal of the one-pot meal is immense. And morally, I’m very much in favor of home cooking. Not only am I learning a new skill, but I’m getting closer to my food. I know exactly what went into the dish I made and also where those ingredients came from. I took a seven-pound pork butt that was covered in fat and skin and hair (hair!) and labored over it and let it nourish me. It’s kind of romantic, right?

pork butt

The thing is–as righteous as I feel about cooking for myself and as well as I think my pork butt turned out, it still didn’t satisfy me the way a non-home-cooked meal would’ve. It filled me but didn’t fulfill me, you know? And that has to be a social construct, right? I know a lot of people say they don’t even like eating out. That they get sick of it. That they think their home-cooked food tastes better. But I never have. I see nasty, greasy, fatty, salty, not-even-made-with-natural-ingredients food as a treat. I guess because I was raised on my family farm’s own beef and pork and the vegetables from our garden. And also because nasty, greasy, fatty, salty, not-even-made-with-natural-ingredients food is meant to be addictive, and I am a weak, weak person.

I loved my mom’s cooking, sure, and I look forward to holidays with my family where I get to eat those special once-a-year dishes my stepmom, aunts, and grandmother make. But for the most part, I don’t want to eat your home cooking. I appreciate your inviting me over to your house and taking your time to cook for me, but . . . can we just order Pizza Hut instead?

Fix me!

How Interesterfying
Sep 21st, 2011 by donuts4dinner

I mean, nobody likes boring ingredients, but I didn’t know that my tortilla company was specifically interesterfying my soybean oil:

Freaky.

Look Hotter and Get a Better Table
Oct 1st, 2010 by plumpdumpling

I saw a great Q&A on Chow.com today entitled “Too Frumpy for the Good Seats?” in which a woman asked if she and her friend were relegated to the old people’s section of a restaurant’s dining room because she wasn’t dressed like a tramp.

This is something I wonder to myself allllllllllllll of the time, because while my boyfriend always pairs snazzy blazers with cute t-shirts and sweater vests and looks better than anyone else everywhere we go, you’ll never see me in a cocktail dress and stilettos. I would hope I still look nice, but my style trends more toward granny-in-pearls than hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold.

So when we got seated in no man’s land at Fig & Olive, for instance, I had to wonder if it was because they were keeping their more drunk, less taking-photos-of-their-food patrons in the front where the expansive windows were. And now I know I was right.

The only time I think I’ve ever asked to be moved was when they tried to seat my friend and me directly in front of the kitchen doorway at Serendipity 3, and even then, I barely cared. If I have a specific seat in mind, I’ll always note it in my OpenTable reservation, or I’ll just put something general like, “It’s my birthday, and I don’t want anyone watching as I consume an entire ice cream cake by myself, so please seat us somewhere private!”

I’ll tell you what, though–I feel pret-ty hot now about the fact that Nougatine put us right in front of their big windows facing Central Park the other night.

Proud to Be Part of the Food Paparazzi
Jun 15th, 2010 by plumpdumpling

A couple of weeks ago, I received an e-mail from a journalist who was working on a piece for NPR about food bloggers–or “food paparazzi”–and whether their photos and reviews were helpful or hurtful to restaurants, if their shots are “sleek and beautiful” or “harmful and amateur”. And then she asked if she could use some of my pictures from Colicchio & Sons.

I wrote back and said, “I have to laugh, knowing that you’re asking because those photos in particular are the exact opposite of sleek and beautiful.” She replied, “We do want to show a range of photos, of all qualities, so I’m glad that my request seems transparent.”

I bragged to everyone that NPR was going to make fun of my photos, because like they say, all press is good press. And in actuality, I was excited about the piece, because I have no idea why food bloggers are getting such a bad rap lately. Suddenly, I see articles everywhere about diners setting up tripods and lights, standing on their chairs to get better angles, and letting their food get cold while they take the perfect shot. Obviously my boyfriend and I eat out a lot–literally more than anyone else I know–and I’ve never EVER seen someone use a tripod, extra lights, or their chairs as stepstools.

Anyway, despite showcasing two of my photos, the the NPR article totally disappointed me. I guess the author wanted to take an unbiased stance, but I know I couldn’t have helped but rip into her when the VP of Operations and New Projects at Craft Restaurants said “she doesn’t want amateur food writers influencing people’s dining decisions”.

The same woman also said, “When you feel like they’re having that influence without really knowing what they’re talking about, it’s very frustrating.” Sorry, not really knowing what we’re talking about? Because to enjoy or not enjoy food, you must have endured hours of classical training? Well, I’ve endured years of classical eating, bitch.

I’m sort of just kidding about that, but the thing is: my photos show what the food REALLY looks like under the ACTUAL restaurant lighting. In fact, if I’ve Photoshopped my pictures, then the food looks BETTER than it did in the restaurant.

When it comes to reviewing, I don’t order things I don’t expect to like, and I have a very open mind. If your dish doesn’t delight me, there’s something wrong with it. I’m aware of my biases against seafood, tomatoes, mushrooms, and desserts that don’t fill me up to the point of puking, and I make sure my readers are aware of that bias, too, so they can tailor my reviews to their needs accordingly.

And the idea that restaurants could possibly hate being written about blows my mind. How many times have I gone somewhere (Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s restaurant, The Mark, most recently) just because I wanted to argue with someone else’s (the New York Times) negative review of it?

Restaurants should be taking advantage of food bloggers, not poo-pooing us.

Enjoying a Diet Coke After a Meal Does Not Make Me Lowbrow
May 17th, 2010 by plumpdumpling

My boyfriend and I had just finished a 3-hour, 9-course meal at Seäsonal. He had ordered a coffee, and I had ordered a Diet Coke, and our food was quietly digesting as we discussed what I should do with my life.

The table next to us, which was approximately six inches from ours in true NYC fashion, had been mostly well-behaved all night. Two of the four people seemed to be dating, and the guy had brought along a British friend who was new to the city, so the girl had brought along a friend for him. One of the girls had graduated from culinary school, but she wasn’t being obnoxious about it. They seemed like not-horrible human beings.

But then two more friends arrived. The girl had a Latina-Jersey accent, and though I originally thought she was dating the guy she came with, she was soon working all of the men at the table. The guy was just generally loud and annoyingly thought it was appropriate for him to go over the success of their dinner’s wine pairings with their waiter. The final decision: not successful.

I could deal with all of that, though. What I couldn’t deal with was the way he then started in on the girls at the table for drinking coffee with their desserts. He chided them for not being as sophisticated as he was with his red wine, and then he added, “But the worst is people who drink Coke at nice restaurants. This isn’t McDonald’s.

Naturally I took a sip of my drink at that moment and said, “Mmm, this Diet Coke is delicious,” but he didn’t pay any attention.

Ahhhh, the Age-Old Tipping Debate
May 10th, 2010 by plumpdumpling

I noticed on Facebook the other day that one of my friends joined a group called If you can’t afford a 20% tip, don’t go out to eat.

I think I’m going to start my own Facebook group, and I’m going to call it If You Expect Me to Tip You 20%, Don’t Take 20 Minutes to Bring Me My Bill Because You’re Too Busy Flirting with the Old Rich Dude at the Table Next to Me.

Or, better yet, I’ll call it If You Actually Expect a $55 Tip on a $275 Meal, You Sure as Hell Better Not Scowl When I Decline to Order Another of Your $17 Cocktails.

I still love you, restaurant industry.

Douchebags at Dinner
Feb 17th, 2010 by plumpdumpling

Let me make it clear that I’ve only been eating at gourmet, celebrity-cheffed, critically-beloved restaurants for a couple of years now. Before I met my boyfriend, I enjoyed a lot of macaroni and cheese at home, and the most extravagant restaurant item I allowed myself to splurge on was the $14 guacamole at Rosa Mexicano.

So what I’m saying is–I don’t think I’m better than anyone else, really. But on Saturday night, my boyfriend and I were at Colicchio & Sons enjoying a lavish dinner when the table next to us was seated with douchebags. We were able to immediately recognize them as douchebags by the way two of them sat down, spread their knees about eight feet apart, and put their elbows up on the back of their booth while they surveyed the place. I wasn’t able to see the legs of the third one, and his chair wouldn’t allow him to put his elbows up on its back, but I knew he was a douchebag by association.

The first thing out of the mouth of the one next to me upon looking at the menu was, “Oh, sweetbreads. I love sweetbreads.” First of all, NO. No, you don’t. Nobody loves sweetbreads. They are cow pancreas, and they are not delicious. And second of all, you are a douchebag.

The thing is–I wouldn’t say I dislike sweetbreads. I think they’re interesting. I think it’s interesting that chefs are using them, and I think it’s interesting that we pay money for them, and I think it’s interesting that a really good chef can make them not-gross enough that we don’t feel stupid paying money for them.

But you know that’s not what this guy meant. What he meant was, “I’m trying to impress you by pretending I have some super-advanced palate that picks up the sweet delicate nuances of organ meats.” I hate eating next to people who are there to enjoy their status more than the food.

I know that once you get to a certain price point, the only people who can afford to eat at those restaurants are douchebags. (Except for my boyfriend, who worked hard and got his PhD and deserves what he has.) Everyone else is mostly finance types, you know, who got bachelor’s degrees and got to work making $100k their first year. And I know that a big part of being a douchebag is keeping up with and outdoing your douchebaggy friends. But still.

I expect to feel out of place at almost every restaurant we go to, but these guys looked at us so hard while I took pictures of my food and then passed my camera across the table to my boyfriend so he could take pictures of his for me. And then–AND THEN

They had the audacity to order the gnocchi. And they pronounced it NO-key. Please do not judge me for being a food blogger and then kill simple Italian pronunciations, thanks. I know how to pronounce orecchiette, too, ya jerks.

When we left the restaurant, I immediately went on a tirade about how much I hate it when fellow diners make me feel stupid about how much I’m enjoying a meal, especially when they’re cultureless a-holes. I said, “I know I’m new money, too, but . . .,” and my boyfriend said, “The worst part is that you’re snobby new money.”

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