Saturday, December 25, 2010

"I tried your Nonna's balls, they were pretty good..."

For Christmas, eating is the new form of torture. Forget about Abu Ghraib, spend the next three days with the Galatioto's. Not only does your stomach get overloaded with food, but the noise level and interrupting that happens is torturous. Among four people, seven conversations can be happening. Don't try to do the math or understand any of it. Marcy was trying to tell a story today during Christmas dinner, which started at 2pm this afternoon. Less than 24 hours before, we were shoveling tons of food in at my place for Christmas Eve. While she was making an earnest attempt to tell us a nice story about my Nonno, Rocco started complaining that its the first Christmas we aren't eating pasta! Not like we didn't have two vats of pasta last night. Marcy finally said, "Maybe I'll finish this story by next year." Don't count on it, Mom.
Among the crazy talk and food, there are always a lot of zingers. Last night, Nonna made real cassatelle and pignulata (honey balls) and Julie made the malafigura of bringing pignulata. Come on Jules, Nonna has got the honey balls covered. So Julie tried a ball and wins for the most demented line of the evening, "Jen, I tried your Nonna's balls, they were pretty good." Julie, this is why you are a welcomed member of this lunatic clan.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

HOUSEWARMING PART 1: PAELLA

 Arica and Chris put a capital D in dysfunctional, but also a capital L in LOVE! They are a testament to no matter how insane or screwed up things can get, love conquers all. Its truly inspirational in a demented way and I love them like my family.

When Arica is around be prepared to laugh until you pee yourself and be warned that if a bone isn't fractured, for sure something else will get broken. Most of the time she breaks your soul by embarrassing you in front of everyone with some small but private bit of information you begged her to keep her pie hole shut about. She justifies it by saying, "but its true!" And Chris reminds her that, "Arica, people don't want to hear the truth all the time!"
When Chris and Arica came over to make paella as a wonderful housewarming, Arica was already sporting a bright green cast after breaking her arm from punching her brother in the gut. Broken bone: check.

Chris is an awesome cook. Aside from the paella, I have tried his awesome lasagna, the most kick-ass enchiladas and the best BLTs ever. (I need that enchilada recipe, Chris!)

Arica, not so much a cook. Chris said she once melted a pot trying to boil water. She is an awesome baker and makes the best oatmeal cookies in the universe!
And even though her wrist is broken, she is really good at opening wine bottles and getting the party started. For paella, we needed some delicious wine, which we got over at Dandelion, the best wine shop in the hood.

Markus made "his famous" sunchoke bruschetta. I always call it "his" because I basically sit him down and make him peel all the little sunchokes, then chop all the garlic, then roast everything until perfection, then spread it on toast. He is just so good at it, even though he grunts and complains the entire time.

And while he got busy on that Chris started making his amazing paella. Earlier that day I got a list of things to have on hand. Of course I have bowls! Geez! But I didn't have the special paella pan, which Chris brought over along with all the seafood, merguez sausage, chicken, saffron and special paella rice.
With paella its all about layering the flavors, starting with the sausage. Any dish that starts with sausage is a good dish in my book. Chris even made his own fish stock with the shrimp tails and a sofrito of tomatoes and onions. Mouthwatering.
It takes a while, but we sure know how to kill the time, laughing and goofing off. Well at least Arica and I. Markus sits there and God only knows what he is thinking. And Chris rolls his eyes and scolds us the whole time. Well mostly he scolds Arica; I am just an innocent bystander.
There was some major embarrassing accomplished in the form of Arica reading a private letter with sensitive material out loud in a very non-senstive way to everyone. Embarrassment: Check!

Then we ate the delicious paella. I ate two bowls easily. It was perfect. The rice was done just right and all the seafood and the sausage were just so delicious together. Paella is one of those dishes when you see it in the restaurant is for 2 or for 4 only. I like a dish that is meant to be shared.
And then some damage to my belongings just had to happen. Damage to personal property: CHECK!
That day I happened to walk into La Perla sample sale and spoiled myself to some silky unmentionables including a gorgeous robe. I was showing off my new sexy things to Arica in my room while the boys were doing what they always do, make weird inaudible animal sounds. When we heard snoring, I threw the robe onto my bed and we went into the other room to wake the boys up. I looked back and my cat Bean was full on heaving puke all over my new robe! Bile puke no less. This is when Arica and I urinated on ourselves in pure laughter. And it was all over when Markus came in and applauded Bean, "when we were together it was only tee shirts and flannels in bed. Good job, Bean!"
But its not over. To "save" the robe, Arica grabbed it and put the entire thing into the shower!
A little puke might have been remedied with some dry cleaning, but water stains on silk begins the new life of the robe as a dish rag. A very expensive and beautiful dish rag!
Bean really had the last laugh that night when he scratched poor Markus right between the eyes as he was leaving. BODILY INURY: Check!
And this is just a glimpse into an evening with Arica and Chris. I LOVE YOU GUYS!

Chris's Paella Print Out
Notice there are no amounts (Chris is Sicilian) and there are a lot of bowls, set asides, 20 minutes and bullets. He means business! He made it look so easy. Chris, anytime you need to borrow my gas top for paella you are welcome to come over.

•Simmer 8 C. fish stock with salt
•Clean shrimp, place in a bowl, set aside
•Add shrimp shells to stock
•Clean and slice calamari, place in a bowl, set aside
•Clean scallops, mussels and clams, set aside
•Toast saffron, set aside in mortar
•Strain shells from stock
•Crush saffron and add to stock

•While grating tomato, onion and poblano:
- saute merguez
- saute chicken with poblanom set aside
- saute shrimp, scallops and calamari, set aside
- deglaze with 1/2 C. white wine

•Reduce heat to medium-low, prepare soffrito, 20 min
•Add 1 tsp smoke paprika
•Add 2 C. rice, increase heat to medium high
•Add 7 C. stock (reserve 1/2 C.), bring to boil
•Arrange merguez, chicken, scallops, some calamari, mussels, clams and peas
•Do not stir, cook on medium high, rotating for about 20 min.
-optional: bake at 400 for 20 min.
•Reduce heat to medium low
•Simmer until al dente, adding stock if not done
•Arrange shrimp and remaining calamari
•Cover with aluminum foil, cook 2 min.
•Increase heat to medium high, cook 2 min socarrat (?)
•Remove from heat
•Let rest 5 min
•Serve with lemon wedges

Monday, December 20, 2010

Forking Tasty Supper Club in a Box

Forking Tasty Supper Club in a Box
I am a scrooge this Christmas, but if I were to shell out my hard earned cash for some supper club fanatic friend, it would be this. What a great idea! Supper Clubs are hard to get into, especially the good ones, so Forking Tasty is giving you the opportunity to have a DIY Supper Club. It all comes in this adorable box:
What you get:
10 gourmet cookies
10 menu/place cards
6 recipe cards
1 shopping list outlining the ingredients needed for the meal
1 pre-holiday movie short with a hidden holiday trivia game
10 clothes pins for assembly of the place cards
(Note: Food not included)
What you add:
Friends and family
Your magic touch
The food

Sunday, December 19, 2010

ALEXANDER!

AND HAMA!
There aren't many people in the world that get me as genuinely excited as Alexander. Take a cold shower; I don't mean it like that! He has that contagious fun energy that you don't come across in most people. When I see him I am instantly pumped and basically hug attack him screaming. 
Alexander MADE my water balloon birthday party this past summer. As best friend Arica walked into the backyard, all cute in her sun dress, he pelted her in the eye with a water balloon. She was visibly stunned and it takes a lot to catch that girl off guard. He then walked over to her, stuck out his hand and said, "I'm Alexander, nice to meet you." What a greeting! 
When you are super great, you tend to have super great friends. So when Alex invited me over to his place, I knew I was going to meet a lot of awesome peoples. A blast from the past, old friend from Ecko Unltd., Marz was there and I also got to meet Hama!, who is as amazingly awesome as Alexander, so its not surprising that they are roommates and great friends and we took to each other right away.
Hama and Alex are not only hospitable and generous with food and drink, but with the people around them, and that makes for a great party energy. They are friend sharers, if you will, the opposite of self monitors, who often compartmentalize friendships and relationships because they often act differently around different groups of friends. Alex and Hama are always stupendously great so no need to self monitor. A little friendly psychoanalysis never hurt anyone!
The theme of this dinner party was East Meets North: "a multi-cult-y dinner party" ... mixing "Japanese and Swedish pub-style food in a Swedanese Japstravaganza." Who could possibly say no to that?
Little place card all mixed up around the long table was a fun way to introduce everyone. Everyone was so friendly, positive and had interesting shit going on. Let's face it, at most parties, there is at least one dick in the room. But not at this party.
Hama was a busy bee in the hot open kitchen, but after all the hard work was done she just kicked it with everyone. What a down to earth chick with a genius head on her shoulders. Like Alexander, a special someone you don't meet everyday.
The food was absolutely divine and the mash of cultures well complemented one another. 
Hama made:
Linguini with shiso pesto topped with uni (sea urchin). (shiso is a japanese "basil", also known as perilla) - DROOLSEY! The pesto had this slightly sweet spicey aroma from the shiso and the texture of the sea urchin is so unique.

Inari zushi (fried tofu stuffed with sushi rice; topped with julienned egg crepes. sushi rice was mixed with Japanese rice vinegar, root veggies, and ground seasoned chicken) - What I adored about these babies was how gigantic they were and the perfect sweet sour flavor on the fried tofu skin. Scarf alert!
Alexander made yummy finger sammies with dill everywhere! The textures and flavors were bursting all over. Some people cook with passion, Alexander cooks with curious excitement. Can anything taste more kickass than Japanese mayo, potato, bacon, parm and radish? Answer = no.
Gravlax, dill, lemon, parsley, Japanese Kewpie Mayonaise, Radish 
Japanese Kewpie Mayonaise, Potato, Bacon, Parmesan, Radish
Butter, pressgurka (thinly sliced pickles), Pickled white wine herring, dill

Cod Roe Caviar, Egg, Dill on knäckebröd
Pickled beets, Radish (plus something I [Alexander] can't remember, maybe parsley?) 
All that sounds great, but it tasted divine. I did my usual food shoveling routine. Not one dish wasn't phenomenal. 
While photo swapping, I was honored to have an email exchange with Fanny, Alex's Mom. One way to understand why Alex is so superb is to know Ms. Fanny, whose emails back and forth culminated in this precious dialogue:
Fanny: "I think 'Sir Alex and Miss Fanny' sounds very Brittish Theater TV Movies. Miss Fanny is wearing a white cotton lace dress and a parasol. Sir Alex in a dapper riding suit comes up through the hedge on the way to the stables."
Me: "Can I adopt myself into you family and be on the television show?
I can be the weird neighbor who is always caught falling out of trees or ruining the hedges, trying to do some bird brain thing. Mostly I'm trying to spy on Ms. Fanny to see what she is making for dinner. Then I rudely invite myself over."
But for real, can I come over? And get adopted. You people are awesome. Hama and Alex, happy to know you and look forward to stuffing our faces together very soon! 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

TONIGHT! AT VERONICA PEOPLE'S!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Mini Food Cook-Off to support Greenpoint Open Studios!

     Another fabulous food competition to support Greenpoint Open Studios! This time, get creative and make a mini anything, sweet or savory! Free to enter. Winner get $100 gift certificate to Brooklyn Kitchen. $10 to judge, plus the chance to win about a billion raffles from awesome local businesses. And, Keep The Home Fires Burning Art ShowKeep it on the hush, but there may be mini rice balls in my future! WHAT?!?!? Bring on the mini!

Deets:
Friday, October 10, 2010
8pm-11pm
Fowler Arts Collective, 67 West Street, Greenpoint, Brooklyn
Facebook invite

Afterparty (of course!) at The Diamond (43 Franklin St.)

Monday, November 29, 2010

"God I hate cooking with you!" Casatelle


How do you spell sweet fried cheesy goodness? Casatelle. Pronunciation: (cah - suh- tel - leh) Making casatelle is a BIG deal. Casatelle are little fried pasta dumplings stuffed with sweetened ricotta and chocolate bits. Nonna makes them especially special and they are among the many things that I can easily engorge on twenty too many. Rice balls is in that category for sure.
        When Melissa and I visited Sicily this summer (she is trying to forget about that trip), there were many casatelle to be consumed voraciously everywhere we turned. To be honest, I never tried one as good as Nonna's. They were all too puffy and soft. Nonna's achieves a crispy and fried sogginess that I encountered not once on our 10 day journey across the most insane island in the universe. I know that description does not sound good, but neither do many nostalgic dishes from our childhoods. Here's my motto: if it don't taste like Nonna's then it ain't good. This goes for sauce, lasagna, ziti, and pizza.
        So Melissa invited me over (always a mistake) to "help" her make casatelle as she remembered it. But I had one agenda: to make it taste like Nonna's. And this is where the little old Sicilian lady war ensued.
       Melissa and I always start out on a good foot ... sort of. I am always super overcharged excited at the idea of eating, and generally want to rush the process to satisfy my belly, whereas Melissa like to take her time and experiment and figure things out. Just get that fried sweet fried inside of my body!
        First step is a sweet pasta dough. I think Melissa got it right, but the perfectionist she is never thinks she does anything perfectly. She thinks she should have kneaded the dough longer, instead of adding more water because it got very glutenous and basically had a life of its own on the rolling board. When I tasted it, it really tasted like Nonna's and I think I proposed to her over the dough.
Next, sweeten the ricotta. Recipes call for marsala wine or orange liquor. I think a little vanilla and some orange zest do the trick.
      Then take that sweet ricotta and stuff it into the dough with chocolate bits and make little dumplings. This was very tricky and I think the point when Melissa yelled, "God I hate cooking with you!" She just can't accept that I know everything. Its a hard thing to grasp for most people. Those little f'ers were annoying and didn't want to stick together and were moving wherever they damn pleased. I was trying to get my paws in there and "help" but I was more there to just watch, she didn't really want my help or knowhow. Okay, maybe I am not a pastry chef like her, but I do have 29 years of eating casatelle under my belt which should hold a little weight, aside from on my ass.
       A few were done and it was fry time. I am ALL OVER frying. It really is a specialty of mine that I am proud of. The deep fryer and I have a sweet love affair. Melissa wanted to do them one at a time! Boring. Get those little aholes in there. The faster they get fried the faster I inhale them. No. No. No. We had to test them and figure out which way was which the way we stuffed this or rolled that. God, all I wanted to do was eat them! And this is when Melissa yelled at me and called me a child. So I was stamping my feet over the deep fryer and trying to toss in as many as I could in one batch. Childish is rather a harsh term. Desperate is probably more accurate.
So I ended up with one darn casatelle for the whole evening. But it was oh so good. I wanted them well done, really brown and soggy with olive oil, but Melissa wanted them the way she had them in Sicily, which is not the way Nonna makes them. In my opinion, starch plus cheese and chocolate deep fried is heaven no matter how long you fry it. Until we casatelle again.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

GGG Thanksgiving Potluck

Joann, my new neighbor and stalker organizes the Greenpoint Girls Group (GGG) and she had the best GGG Thanksgiving Potluck at Lauren's amazing house. Joann rocked and made the best turkey I have ever tasted. See the photo a few posts below. I don't have much to say except YUM!!! and the GGG girls are really cool peeps, so read what Joann had to say about her successful event at her blog UpDownAcross.

Read this blog instead of mine...

     On top of trying to keep up with my ninety others blogs, I am also transcribing the words of friend Pablo Airaldi, who is in Hudson Country Correctional Facility awaiting deportation. His blog is aptly named Dearly Deported. Hopefully he will come home soon to Brooklyn, and I won't have to write this blog for too long. While I have not known Pablo for very long, I can honestly say he is an intelligent, caring, interesting, passionate and talented human being, and does not deserve the treatment he is receiving from the US Federal Government.
     I met Pablo while working on the Greenpoint Open Studios. I was walking up and down Manhattan Avenue approaching local businesses for advertising donations for our booklet and walked into Pablo's bike shop, which had only been open a month. I told him about the GOS and within five minutes he handed me $100 over the handle bars of one of his custom made bikes I was riding around on in the shop. He trusted me and supported what we were doing for the art community and then put together an awesome exhibit for GOS called Bikes & Art (and whiskey...) His positive energy and enthusiasm helped make GOS a huge success for Greenpoint. Until his arrest he was working on building out the bike shop to include an art annex where local artists could rent affordable studios and he was a actively supporting a homeless shelter that was proposed to be built in the neighborhood that all the local business were firmly opposing. There is a petition to support Pablo's freedom in all the shops in GP, and ironically it is posted next to a petition against the homeless shelter.
     I visited him recently in prison (behind the bullet proof glass over the telephone, just like in the movies) and it was extremely sad to see a person with so much life and promise being held against his will as if he is some danger to society. Over a few rows down a man was singing over the telephone to the family member he was visiting. Many of the others being held for deportation are hard working family people with businesses in this country, just trying to live good lives and support their loved ones. What is wrong with that? It was good to see him, even though it was under such unfortunate circumstances. Today is Thanksgiving and I got to sit with my family and eat and laugh, while my friend Pablo sat in prison.
     Everyone looks at me suspiciously when I say my friend is in jail, as if I am some sort of moron for taking the time to be kind to such a person. What did he do? Why is he in there? Are you stupid? I don't need to justify my friendship with him and I honestly don't care what stupid thing he did to get himself into this situation. He is a good human being in trouble and I am just trying to help. If I were in such dire circumstances I hope someone would do the same for me. Please take the time to read his blog. The worst part of being in prison is he cannot communicate with his friends and family.
    Monday 11/29 at 9am, Pablo is having a Deportation and Removal Hearing at Immigration Court (201 Varick St. Room 1140). The more people who come from the community to show support, the better chance Pablo has to stay in the US, his home since he was six years old.

Thanks for time!

On this blessed turkey day, aside from food and family and friends (blah! blah! blah!) I would like to give thanks to time. Good old time. We think of time as present, past and future. Bear with me, I know this isn't a kindergarten class. And a Buddhist would say that suffering focuses on the latter two, regret over the past and worry about the future. How did those Buddhists get so damn smart? Its all about the moment baby! But a bit of reflection either backwards or forwards can be a good thing, too.
What about that simple smell that really takes you back? My brother Mike was over and was, "all bugged out" because it smelled like Grandma's house. "Jen, what is that?" It was Grandma's dining room table, the one thing I really wanted after Grandma Isabel passed. Its just the smell of old wood, but for us, it smells like our childhood afternoon lunches eating Campbell's Chicken and Stars Soup with Weiss Original Potato Chips soaking up the sodium water. What Sicilian? That is a true American meal.
And trying to get that table into my new place was a near impossible feat. The movers gave up and explained in Chinese that it wasn't going to fit. Good thing I had no idea what they were saying. My fingers nearly froze as I relentlessly tried every possible way my minuscule brain could think of to disassemble the 100 year old table and make it fit through the door. "Boy you are so stubborn, Jen," my Mom said, "Look at that thing. At this point, you're keeping it just for the sentimental value." In defense of the table, the aging on it is so superb, but I have to admit, I did almost cry (suffering) at the thought of putting it in storage not because it looks so awesome, but I wanted to have that warm Grandma's house smell with me. My tears fueled me to figure it out, and I am sitting here right now, writing this post on that very table that we had so many awesome Thanksgiving dinners together as a family at my Grandma's house. And I think my brain is maybe a little bit bigger from all that curbside problem solving in the cold.
And looking forward doesn't always have to be anxiety ridden either. A very special friend is going through a very difficult breakup right now. Her present sucks! Buddhists, what do you have to say about that? This is where looking forward really rocks. Sitting on her couch, covered in snots, puffy eyed, drinking wine that has become tasteless because of her stuffed up sniffling nose and hating her life and feeling alone is not fun. We have all been there. As my Mom would put it, "its the pits!" But thats where time can be a better friend than me. There is nothing that I can say to maker her feel better except that each day is going to get a little bit better. Thinking of a bright future can really be better than a back rub. In reality, you only have so many tears and so many snots inside. The misery does subside if not because you feel better, but because your body just can't physically handle it after a while. It just has to get better! And a few months from now, she is going to be a totally new person, super happy and better than ever. Wow, time is really super awesomely transformative. Thank you time.
So kid's what did we learn in class today? Time is cool. Buddhists are dumb smart. You can get that table in if you try. Boys are definitely dumb, at least present ones. Future boys are better. And because of time, its all good.
Happy Thanksgiving family and friends!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sunday Supper at Veronica People's 11/21

Dear friends,

Sorry I have been majorly sucking on Morta Di Fame. My piggy ways will bring me back very soon. I put on a BEAR SHOW for Bushwick Beta Spaces and I moved to Greenpoint! Excuses, excuses, but now that the show is over I am going into hibernation mode. Get it? For the past few weeks the entire contents of my kitchen has been in bins, but I finally built my pantry last night. I stripped all the screws and majorly gashed my hand, but the doors actually open. Closing is another story. I am trying to cook at home as much as possible, although its hard with such delicious drinks and dinners a hop and skip away. A real pleasure is the quick Saturday morning walk to the McCarren Park Farmer's Market.
I would like to invite you to an amazing dinner this coming up Sunday, 11/21 @7pm until the food is finished!
My virtual husband, Jeremy Parker, with whom I record our fucked up and ridiculous married comedy routine Carol and Jason, is curating a Sunday Dinner at Veronica People's, with great friend and mixologist Maura McThrill taking care of your cocktail needs.

For $20 you get everything on this menu! Cannot beat it! See you there!

Always hungry and becoming agoraphobic and living off of frozen red sauce in Brooklyn,
Jen

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Oh Queens how I love thee, but I'm over you, too!

     So, your loyal Queen's girl is moving to Brooklyn. I feel slightly guilty because I have been here my whole life! I know, big deal, I'm moving like 5 miles away to Brooklyn, but mentally its a big move for me.
   Sigh of relief from all my Brooklyn amigos who never wanted to visit me in Queens. I get it. Don't worry I kept a list of who actually made the trek (points if you took the M train!). I'm taking after my dear Aunt Angelina, who on her death bead kept a written list of who came to visit her in the hospital. The purpose of the list wasn't to hold close those who visited, but rather hold a grudge against those who didn't visit. Even until the last moment a crazy old Sicilian woman can't let go!
    But I am letting go and making my life easier by moving to the Brooklyn borough, even if I am moving to Bedbug City! (Check out the Bed Bug Registry. NUTS!) Which is I guess the reason my crazy Sicilian family moved to Brooklyn in the first place, (not because of bedbugs) but to make life easier. Sicily wasn't good to them anymore, even though they held onto their traditions, like traditional Sunday dinners!
    Queens HAS NOT been good to me in the past months. My bike got stolen from right in front of my house! Okay I didn't lock it up, but still. And I got pickpocketed on the R train the other night! Julie, my wife, also born and raised in this great city scoffed at me, "A New Yorker, pickpocketed! Shame on you!"
     I didn't make it hard for them sitting there with my wallet so easily stealable in the huge open side flap pocket of my big green jacket. I was also comatose. "Them" was a talented troop of breakdancing hoodlems, doing crazy flips, nearly kicking everyone in the face while dazzling us all at the same time. If I could chose anyone to steal my wallet, it would have been them. They at least entertained me. The kicker is I gave them $1, too! After complimenting my hair and inviting all the "ladies" to their house for free cable and a king size water bed (I almost bit), they snidely said, "if anyone wants to pay us twice," then chuckled and left the train with my wallet.
     Jokes on them because I didn't have any cash in there and they tried to take $500 from my credit card like 10 times, but American Express, the biggest credit thieves in the world, protected me.
     So after my 25 minute wait for the bus today, in the rain, with no umbrella, I am happy that in a week or so I am going to be crossing a big dirty body of water, the Newtown Creek, and am going to make my life easier (quicker commute, close to my friends, close to 5 Leaves), like my grandparents did ever so long ago over the Atlantic Ocean. Brooklyn here I come! And I will make all my lovelies, especially the ones who came and visited me in Queens, a BIG HUGE SICILIAN SUNDAY DINNER! Sorry Aunt Angelina, a few generations has taken the gift of the eternal grudge out of my half Sicilian soul.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

SHAME SHAME SHAME and a secret bar!

     All I have been doing is eating out. Shame on me! I secretly don't feel bad. Its a combination of a tough schedule, being far from home and feeling like, "I worked hard! I deserve a fancy cocktail and a great meal!" Normally my brain goes, "Jen, you should go home and eat all those fresh veggies that are spilling out of your fridge." But lately there is another voice outside my head, the voice of a Saint, that encourages this irresponsible spending/eating behavior. I thought that gluttony was a sin but meet St. Martin. (he just started a blog....TODAY. he is an awesome writer and super funny. this is the plug for his blog: read it.) The Life of St. Martin Blog.
    I met Martin because I bought a painting from him, (he is also an amazing artist) and he tirelessly helped me put together the art shows for the Greenpoint Open Studios.  He is one of the nuttiest people I have ever met in my life and after a long day of studio visits he is the first to suggest we blow a whole bunch of dough on a "spoilio," as he puts it, meal. And don't forget the cocktails and the secret bar!

I normally don't do restaurant reviews on Morta Di Fame, but I have a few things to say...(sorry there are no photos!)

Rye. The cocktail geniuses here are the best and most consistent in all of NYC. Get the Old Fashioned with the giant hand carved ice cube. Stay for dinner. Duck leg confit!
I finally went for brunch... twice. It was a great brunch but the returning factor was the Retox cocktail, which is fresh chilies, maple syrup, lime juice and soda. "Two more please. And we will be back next weekend!"
To be honest, I really don't remember the actual meal. There were eggs and bacons. Goodnesses. One lovely details is they pour your coffee out of the fanciest-ever antique coffee pourer(?). The dainty visual of it makes it just taste better!

Mrs. Kim's. Brunch here with Jules and Martin was really lovely. Outdoor seating, great company and another great brunch cocktail. I am noticing a theme here. The Flavio (I love that name!) is jalapeno infused hornitos reposado, ilegal joven mescal, cilantro and lime.
Dinner was also lovely. A $30 jug of wine: gruner veltliner 98, zum martin sepp. Somebody thinks they should be canonized for real.
The fava beans, grilled in their husks were fabulous. The duck dumplings and the pork buns were succulent, and the watermelon salad for dessert was divine. Mrs. Kim, who is always there and super smiley really knows how to work fresh herbs into her dishes.

5 Leaves. After the water balloon fight we went here with a bunch of peeps. It was Brook's, (The Pizza Commander), first time trying oysters. Very exciting. You can't go wrong with anything on the menu. The grass-fed burger, the ricotta, the fresh fish special. All cooked to perfection. And the cocktails. Let's talk about the cocktails. The Bee's Knees (Hendrick's Gin, honey syrup and fresh squeezed lemon juice) and the Corpse Reviver (gin, lillet blanc, fresh squeezed lemon juice and absinthe) are old delicious friends. 
Julie and I did a VIP girlie brunch there that sadly and embarrassingly I was too hung over to enjoy. She got a BLAT! BLT with avocado. Anytime with my wife is perfect time, sick or not.
And there was an "in between" dinner right before the big show at Paulie Gee's. Bee's Knee's please!
And more night caps, Devil's on Horseback and truffle fries late night action.
A lot of people complain about the service, but to be fair they are always very polite considering how constantly slammed the place is, and if they screw up, like the time I got my cocktail at dessert time, they give it to you for free. Sweet!

EAT. I love the theory behind this place. And the owner Jordan is awesome. Only local and all vegan is his motto. But, I can do local vegan much better. Nothing is cooked through enough to have much flavor and every dish falls flat in the all-the-ingredients-just-don't-get-married department. So I'm eating kale and farro and mint. Well you might as well put them on three separate plates because thats how it tastes. The desserts are usually great. Also, there is no music and zero atmosphere. And I think its intentional.

The only way to remedy a disappointing (but at least healthy) meal is fancy cocktails at Manhattan Inn, where if I could remember how many cocktails I have had there in the last month I would remember. And since it is always a night cap destination, dinner there is always an afterthought. Never ate a lick of food there. I always get the bicycle cocktail. It has some french name I am never interested in trying to pronounce. Sit in the back at a fancy table and enjoy the piano music. The waiters at the bar in front are paid to be douche bags. Good job, guys.


Diner. Always awesome. But no brunch cocktails. Perfect situation is cocktails from Rye and food from Diner. The sausages at breakfast sausage specials at Rye are consistently surprising and amazing and the staff there is always friendly.

Roebling Tea Room. Old favorite that always surprises me with their ever changing seasonal menu. We had a delicious heirloom tomato salad over toast and some type of delicious ravioli topped with caviar. This is the place that if you are going to be boring and get the chicken you will be blown away. I think it involved dark chicken meatballs. Did you say meatballs? Honored to enjoy our meal with Caroline, amazing photographer and art consultant.

Paulie's Gee's. Greenpointer Pizza (Top 10 in Time Out) and Gragniano, a fizzy red wine, plus a nice chat with Mary Ann and Paulie. Doesn't get much better than that.

Le Gamin. I think this is where Joann started her espresso addiction. Boy was that a scary week. Great monkfish and snails. And, after the Nuit Blanch light fest, the closest place to rest my weary feet was there and I had a delicious Nicoise Salad with seared tuna and the steak frites were to die for with that big pat of herby butter! It was one of those plates that after Martin ordered it I wanted to be like, "oh did I forget to mention that we are sharing." They have a garden, but its really nice and cozy inside.

Northeast Kingdom.  The considerate St. Martin complained when a couple beat us to the door and took the only available seating for 2. But that only meant fancy cocktails in the den downstairs, two of my favorite things, while we waited. We sat at the bar and ate one of the best meals out of all the above mentioned. Really. Eat could learn a thing or two about vegan yumminess. The cauliflower, red quinoa salad with toasted chili and garlic vinaigrette was so happy! So was the pulled pork sandwich and the amazing duck breast special. It was very fitting that on the last night of Greenpoint Open Studios we ate in Bushwick, because the next show, THE BEAR SHOW! is going to be a part of the Bushwick Beta Spaces! 
     And the night cap that night was very peculiar. St. Martin was wearing the most ridiculous orange coat that he stole from who I won't say, because the person who he stole it from is a reader of this blog. And he wanted to bum a cigarette, but in desolate Bushwick another human on a rainy Sunday night is not easy to come by, especially one with a smoke. But I spotted a lone stranger, an artist in fact, Andrew Ohanesian, and he invited us into a gallery where he had an installation.
       From the outside it looked like two doors side by side. There were a few other friendly people there and he asked them to go into one door. While waiting for St. Martin, who was finishing his smoke, I was getting a little impatient, like let's get this art installation thing over with. Andrew asked me to go into the other door. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, which turned out to be a bar called Mandie's inside a closet and directly across from me, separated by a beer tap and a few feet were the other two people.
       Now I usually know no awkard situation, and I was definitely caught off guard with this, which right there makes it an awesome work of art. We were literally all squeezed in there, across from strangers, nice ones, drinking Bud and smoking cigs (the closet/bar was even outfitted with smoking ventilation). He even let us carve our initials into his beautiful wood walls. Great experience and awesome way to kick-off the next show!
      Now go read The Life of St. Martin.

Monday, October 18, 2010

GOS VOLUNTEER DINNER

    
    One thing Mommy always taught me was finish what you started. Follow-through! One last item on my million mile long Greenpoint Open Studios to-do list was to make a dinner for all of the volunteers who generously gave their time to help and I was happy to do it!
 Brouwerij Lane, my favorite beer spot, donated the space and provided the delicious beers. 
    We couldn't have filled 8 bazillion water balloons and given out 90 katrillion fliers and sharpened 4 zakillion pencils without lots of help. The only way I know how to say "Thank You!," is with a mouthful of food. And I promised rice balls and I made 'em, along with some broccoli rabe and penne with fresh pesto. To complete our delicious meal, Ms. Joann made the scrumptous sweet carrots with pecans and a kick-ass apple pie!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Redefining what "off the boat" means in Sicily...

     My dad Rocco is "off the boat," as the saying goes. When he was twelve, my grandfather Nonno lost his job as a cooper, a wine barrel maker, to mechanization. For Rocco that meant no more climbing olive trees and swimming in the Mediterranean. You can imagine the homesickness that set in soon after he recovered from the seasickness he suffered from traveling to AMERICA on a boat filled with crazy Sicilian immigrants.  
    For me the mechanization of wine barrel making meant I would be born! Sweet. Aside from all the wonderful traits I inherited from my dad, I have been officially cursed whit his seasickness! I deny this affliction, but when I look at my track record, I have gotten that icky-hung-over-I-want-to-vomit-but-can't feeling every time: Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Halloween Booze Cruise, etc, etc. Imagine me in a white furry Easter Bunny zombie costume and woozy.
    The best beaches in Sicily are accessible only by boat. Best because they are desolate and not packed to the brim with yelling, smoking and eating Sicilians. I had to see the best beaches, so I got on the boat packed to the brim with yelling, smoking and eating Sicilians. In Sicily, even if you don't know it, you know someone with a boat, and they are actually happy about taking you out. And, the minute I got on board my cousin's wife's dad's friend's fishing boat, I felt it; the inevitable queasy feeling. 
    Seasickness is like a slow creeping snake, but once it takes hold you cannot escape. They hadn't cut the engine and anchored yet, but I had to do something to shake that horrible feeling. There was only one option. 
    "Captain, can I jump off the boat?"
     I was practically overboard when someone yelled, "No, la medusa!" 
    " WTF is a medusa?" Splash.
     Oh, just a gigantic jelly fish? Anything was better than seasickness. The water was smooth and buttery, warm and perfect. Feeling like a millions bucks I climbed aboard, but there it was again, that gripping feeling. Into the sea again, this time I swam to shore. 
     The rocks on shore were jagged, but they weren't moving. A chivalrous sun bather helped me onto solid ground. I found shady spot and planted myself on the rocks. Looking back at the boat, I resolved that there was no way in hell I would swim back, no matter how bad ass the captain was. 
      I was in self-preservation mode and my plan was to climb up the mountain without shoes, water and sunblock (remember that this beach is accessible only by boat), find a road and hitchhike back to town. My dear Aunt Grace, god rest her soul was an infamous hitchhiker in Sicily, so what's the worst that could happen? Dehydration? Torn up feet? Severe sunburn? Kidnapped by the mafia!? Anything was better than getting on that boat.
      All the while I was on shore, I had left my dear friend Melissa back on that boat which was filled with my crazy Sicilian family and they were frantically concerned about me, even though I was happy as a clam on my cozy rock perch. 
     "Jen, que cazzo fai?" they were yelling. (Jen, wtf are you doing?!)
     "Call my mom and tell her pick me up on the road up there!" Looking back I saw steep mountain terrain, and looking down I saw no shoes on the palest of feet and I was thirsty.
     There was a lot of commotion on board, like a disturbed and worried hive of bees with crazy flailing arms. Then Melissa jumped off the boat ... with a giant yellow blow-up donut.
    She would later say that she swam across the Mediterranean to get save me. More likely she couldn't take the crazy that was happening on the boat. I don't blame her.
    "Jen, what the hell are you doing? You left me on the boat and I don't know what anyone is talking about. They are all freaking out. You can't just swim away to shore like this!"
   "Just call my mom and tell her to pick me up. Or I can totally get a ride from someone."
   "That's ridiculous. What am I going to say to your Mom? We left Jen on some beach. Pick her up at a road that doesn't even exist. You are crazy."
   "Melissa, I am not getting on that boat."
   So she swam back. Another man overboard: my cousin's brother in law-ish, who happens to be a hot Sicilian soccer player-ish, to the rescue! I explained to him my plan and in his Sicilian English-ish he said, "But Jen, you are crazy!"
    When a Sicilian person calls you crazy, its time to reexamine your life. He had a better plan. So I jumped back in the water and swam  to a small speed boat that would safely return me to town along with my shoes, water and sunblock. And a killer view. I am not talking about the mountains.
    Hot. Sicilian. Hero. Times 2!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

GOS PIE BAKE-OFF

   Aside from the crazy wild water balloon fight, we had a pie bake-off to raise money for the Greenpoint Open Studios. You know how priests marry the church? Well somehow I ran off to Vegas and eloped with the GOS, and its been my life for the past two months!
   Joann, the Queen of all things bringing crazy food lovers together gets full credit for making the Pie Bake-Off a gigantic success. We had a it at Diamond Bar and there were over 35! pies and each baker had to bring 2 pies each to serve the 100 plus guests who attended the fundraiser. The Diamond, while an awesome bar, is not the biggest venue and thank god it was an evening and we were able to set up the pie derby in the backyard.
    As an organizer, I was busy running around and uh... organizing, which means being a lunatic on a bull horn! Nothing is more giant a-hole than screaming at people on a bull horn, but I had to remind everyone there was a Silent Art Auction going on, too. Lesson learned: nothing competes with food.
   "Please, please please go and bid on the amazing artwork we have for auction."


    But I looked around at all the happy chewing faces and I knew the bullhorn was not working! So I gave up and just stuffed my own face with pie. Maneuvering around the yard was not easy, the place was packed, but I did manage to try a lot of pies. Among my favorites were the Mexican Vegan Mincemeat from Electric Blue Baking, Kimchi Spanakopita from Banchan Terroir, and a frozen Peanut Butter and Concord Grape Mousse pie from Laurel Randolph. And let us not forget about Brooks' Jones' Pizza Commander pie, which he brought in a pizza box. A pie is a pie is a pie is a pizza pie! Check out the GOS blog for the full list of pies. They are out of this world!
   These pie bakers came with a major force. They were in it to win it! And the prize was a coveted dinner for two at the infamous underground Brooklyn Edible Social Club. I find it hilarious that Jerry and Bonnie, two friends of mine, were the winners with their Vermont Death Pie, which was a Bacon Maple Praline Apple Pie. It was delicious, but they were conspicuously close to the ballot box.
   All the guests stayed around for the raffle drawing, too, which was made up of amazing donations from local businesses. Among the foodies prizes were gift certificates to Paulie Gee's, EAT, Scott's Pizza Tours, Champion Coffee, Cafecita Bogota, Dandelion Wine, Brouwerij Lane, Van Leeuwen Ice Cream and subscriptions to Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan.
Until the next pie bake-off!
All photos courtesy of Marcinjm.com

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

DON'T YOU DIE ON ME!

    So this blog is called Morta Di Fame, which means dying of hunger, but I never meant for it to actually die, so hold tight because its not dead yet. Before I resume my writing here, I have one single person to blame for my shameful neglect of this blog, not to mention my complete loss of mental stability, and if thats not bad I now have to wear a diaper! Thanks Joann!
    It all started on one innocent August evening. I had my water balloon birthday in July, but Joann forgot about it (thanks!) and invited me over for a "BIZ meeting/plan to take over the world dinner" to discuss a water balloon block party in Brooklyn to raise money for GOS. WTF is GOS? I didn't know at that point. I was going there to talk BIZ about a completely different "take over the world" project called the Brooklyn Cook Book Project. I didn't know that Joann's plan was to suck me in and take over my life. Good work, Joann. You succeeded.
    So Joann is basically the mayor of Greenpoint. They probably have another Polish mayor, but Joann is a little rusty on her Polish. She runs the Greenpoint Food Market, which was the best place to find awesome homemade foodie goods in NY, but it got harshly and suddenly shut down. Thats a story for another post. And she single handedly organized the Greenpoint Open Studios (GOS) last year, when all the artist's in Greenpoint open up their studios to the public. Its super fun and Joann knew that dangling a water balloon fight in front of my face was all she needed to get me on board to help her organize the GOS.
    "I'm off to Sicily. I probably won't have much time to help plan the water balloon fight and probably can't do much for GOS, since I live in Queens," I said to Joann.
    "Blah blah blah blah, I will be your slave for the next two months and dedicate all of my free time to making the GOS happen," is what she heard.
    This conversation over a delicious dinner, which I will take full credit for bringing ALL the ingredients and preparing with the help of Martin and after all that we cleaned the whole place up! Joann sure knows how to find us suckers!
    I don't invite myself over for dinner and come empty handed. I even brought over a fancy menu, titled "BIZ MEETING DINNER":
Peach Boats (a peach halved, filled with bleu cheese, topped with an almond and drizzled with balsamic creme)
Summer Squash Pasta with a side of Balsamic Glazed Mission Fig and Roasted Beat Salad over Arugula
Dark Chocolate Chevre Bites (dark chocolate, goat chevre topped with cinnamon sugar and hot chili flakes)
     Dinner was a success. The GOS was a major success. Morta Di Fame is limping but still alive. And my brain is in shambles because I am now moving to Greenpoint by the end of the month to be closer to my slave driver Joann, who would only let me get sick for three hours last month or threatened to fire me, and I have no time to even go to the bathroom so thank God for Depends!


 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Great Paulie Gee Video

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

ART EXHIBIT AT PAULIE GEE'S!

The one and only Paulie Gee is so generous to donate his amazing restaurant for a group exhibit during Greenpoint Open Studios, presented by The Ugly Art Room.

As part of the Greenpoint Open Studios (October 1-3rd), The Ugly Art Room proudly presents A Cinderella Story: From a Bomb to a Bombshell

Opening Reception: Friday, October 1, 2010 @ 11pm

Ugly Art Room Hours:
Saturday and Sunday, October 2nd & 3rd
Noon to 6pm.
*Paulie Gee's
60 Greenpoint Ave, Brooklyn

*Note: there will be no pizza served during the opening and gallery hours, but come earlier than the opening for pizza on Friday and stay for the party! And stay after the gallery hours on Saturday and Sunday and enjoy a pie!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Pie Bake-Off in Grub Street!

Check out the awesome press and bring on the pies!

NY MAG GRUB STREET

PIE BAKE OFF!!!

    My ladies have been working so hard to put this awesome event together. Its a pie bake off! to benefit the Greenpoint Open Studios! Thursday September 23rd at The Diamond (43 Franklin). Plus raffles and a silent art auction! COME!!! And bring a ton of pie freaks! RSVP on Facebook. Read more about the shows I am putting together at The Ugly Art Room.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

WINNER'S DINNER

     You have to be in it to win it! Markus spends hours on end in his garage working on his vintage race bike and just making it to the race and getting the engine to start is a gigantic feat. So when he came in second place he deserved a winner's dinner!
     We both get CSAs and we both get so sick of certain vegetables that come in week after week. Like zucchini. I had to reinvent zucchini a million ways this summer. This time I made Zucchini Potato Pancakes with Trader Joe's dill yogurt dip. These were fried and yummy. Just shred zucchini with potatoes and onion. Make a batter with some egg and form into patties and fry. Easy!

Another fruit that has been haunting our fruit share is peaches! I made peach boats again! Peach, blue cheese, an almond and balsamic creme. No complaints. And of course, the Hitachini!!! Such a great Japanese import. And I love repeating it over and over. Hitachini! Hitachini!
        I made my roasted eggplant and pepper dip and put it on a panini with mozzarella. I am never disappointed when I dust off the panini press.
      And again with the zucchini! Zucchini Carpaccio, a dish I discovered at a tapas bar in Amagansett this summer called Exile. Sliced very thinly zucchini drizzle in olive oil, roasted pine nuts and parmesan cheese. Some parsley and a little balsamic creme is nice here, too.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

TRADER JOE'S RICE BALLS REVIEW

   It is nothing short of complete blasphemy to buy rice balls out of the freezer section at Trader Joe's, but when I picked up the box, Rocco assured me, "that the shit." Rocco learned a lot of slang from us Queen's kids, and he just can't shake it. I was skeptical, especially since in Rocco's eyes Trader Joe's can do no wrong, but had to try them.
    It could be that it was 3am when I decided to test these Arancini Bites that made them so delectable, or maybe it was my expert preparation.
Anything from a package tastes good baked rather than nuked. Duh. But after I baked these they were rather dry, so I gave them a quick nuking to soften them up. They became the perfect crispy on the outside and nice and gooey fontina cheesy on the inside. They needed a sauce, and I had some red sauce in the fridge. Perfect. They had nice flavor and didn't taste like they came out of a box. A perfect 3am snack. In no way do they compare to Nonna's Sicilian homemade recipe, but they don't give arancini a bad name.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

he's baaack....

Una Pizza Napoletana lives again! When am I booking my tix to SF is the next question?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Mark wanted a drink...

...So I made him a drink.
     Mark (Mike) my brother (Nonna for some reason writes Mark on his Xmas cards), was over talking about our modest plans to take over the universe, and looked at my alcoholic cabinet and said, "Jen, I know what you need to do for your blog. You need to be more spontaneous! Look at all these bottles of alcohol, look at those peaches, those tomatoes, make me a drink! Make a me a hipster drink!" (I don't know what a "hipster drink" means.)
     To look at the Queen of impulse and fast decisions and challenge me to a contest of spontaneity was ballsey, but Mark is more impulsive than I can ever be. 
     So here it is: "The Froydian Markel":  Overholt Rye Whiskey, Muddled Peach & Mint, Elderflower Berry, Rosewater, Triple Sec, Angostura Bitters
     And since that was so good, I made a "The Hipster Assassinator": Jim Beam, Muddled Peach and Basil, Elderflower Berry, Orange Blossom Water, Triple Sec and Peach Bitters.
     Both were badass, subtle in flavor, strong in liquor, not too sweet and elegantly perfumey. Don't challenge me. I will deliver. Always.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Uncle George

     Uncle George paid us a short but sweet visit. Uncle George is Marcy's brother who lives in Pennsylvania Dutch Country and deals in awesome antiques and plays banjo in a cool blue grass band. Since we don't see Uncle George often, a feast was in order. So Mommy made her special chicken cutlets, which are the bestest everest. I made some simple caprese salad, rice, my peach boats, a garden salad, and we had some nice wine, great conversation and good music.
      When my brother Joe and Uncle George are together all they talk about is music. It made me think about riding out to Grandma's house out on Long Island with my Mom, Uncle George and my brother's all packed into the chocolate brown Caprice Classic. When my brother's weren't torturing me in the back seat, we were all singing songs together. You'd think after all that practice I'd be able to carry a tune today.      
       Music has always been in our family and it stuck to some better than others. My brother Joe is a really amazing musician and in so many Uncle George gave him the gift of music with mpromptu banjo lessons, showing him blues chords and giving him cool hard to find records. When Uncle George's house on Penn's Creek flooded over and my uncle lost every earthly possession, my brother Joe gave him a guitar. I know I'm getting all mushy, but the gift of music is a beautiful thing.