Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Art of the Staycation

    Are you broke? Do you ever get back from vacation and feel like you need to take a few more days off to recuperate? Take a staycation instead of going away!
    There are a few important rules to staycationing:
1. Focus on what you like to do. While it seems like a great chance to do spring cleaning, don't waste this precious time on boring tasks.
2. Remember that you are probably the only person who has a week to do anything you want. Your friends and family are not going to be at your disposal. You may have to do things on your own (or in my case with your retired crazy dad).
3. A staycation is like a mental cleanse. On your first day, do nothing. It sets a great tone for the rest of the time.

My staycation photo itinerary:

DAY 1: NOTHING. Movies. Tacos. Nap.
DAY 2: Dumbo Art Opening. Olympic Hockey Final Game. Dinner at Five Leaves. Everything about this restaurant is perfect. Great atmosphere, awesome cocktails, good music and insanely delicious food. We had: cheese board, raw oysters, duck confit risotto, truffle fries and brussels sprouts.
DAY 3Coney Island!

DAY 4: Buffet Indian lunch at Dhaba. (Thanks for this recommendation Laptop Chronicles!) Spices from Kalustyans. Some thrift store shopping (I should have got that watercolor bunny painting!) and of course perusing Fishes Eddy, my favorite store ever.
DAY 5: Spa Castle, Sushi Yasu. Bliss plus bliss.
DAY 6: More nothing. Cello Wine Bar.
DAY 7: Belmont, Little Italy in the Bronx. Arthur Ave Retail Market, where you can get the best produce, awesome sammies, and anything Italian. Borgatti's Ravioli and Egg Noodle Store, where I found truffle salt, balsamic creme and squid ink linguini. Lunch at Giantina with Rocco. We both had our favorite gnocchi dish. Let's not forget the espresso!

DAY 8: Greenpoint Farmer's Market. Split Thy Skull Barley Wine Tasting at Mugs. Family and Friends Party at the now open Paulie Gee's Pizzeria in Greenpoint. Arica's Birthday Party/ Bitch's Banana Bread Bake-Off! You have to be in it to win it, and I was!
DAY 9: Sunday dinner at Nonna's: Rocco's pasta with kholrabi, broccoli rabe, Nonna's stuffed artichokes.

Staycations rule!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Edible Queens: check out my photos!

      The latest Edible Queens issue is out and guess who took some photos for it? I didn't make the cover (above) but I did a cool shoot (below) for a story about the cuisine of the Burmese community in my native borough. Not only did I meet some of the most wonderful people during this experience, they fed me! Double awesome.
      I went on two shoots, one at a church in Elmhurst where they serve a huge lunch for the entire congregation every Sunday. Too bad I can't understand the language or I would have signed up on the spot to become a member. What a great way to keep people coming to church! Oh yeah, I guess God and fear of damnation are good reasons, too. It reminded me of coffee hour at the Maspeth United Methodist Church, where I used to go when I was a kid. I would sit in the pew and couldn't wait for the service to be over so I could eat bundt cake and drink sweet tea with honey.
     The next stop was this cool boutique in Sunnyside that also serves home cooked dishes to-go. "This purse and some fish curry. And can you wrap that?" I was honored to have a lunch feast with the shopkeeper after our shoot. She was a doll and her spread was incredible. If Nonna was Burmese, its what her food would taste like. Just like home.
     I am really excited I had this great opportunity to shoot for Edible Queens. Please go get an issue! ITS FREE!

Sunday, March 28, 2010


      I am not one to blindly follow recipes, although when I do I am often pleasantly surprised at all the wonderful new flavors that I discover are so easy to create. When I got another head of cabbage and a million dingy carrots from the latest winter share pick-up, I decided to make slaw. I didn't want to just make regular slaw, so I looked of all places in my Cuisinart cook book and there was a recipe for Asian Slaw with Peanut Dressing and I happened to have almost all of the ingredients on hand to make the dressing. Don't you just love that? No running out to the store.
     Anything that combines the flavors of raw garlic and ginger (especially during cold and flu season) is a keeper. It was super easy, and I basically created the peanutty sauce that goes on those Cold Sesame Noodles you get at the Chinese restaurant. Worlds opening up to me. Warning: this is a pungent sauce, so don't do what I did and only loosely cover it in your fridge. Or else whenever you open the door, you will be reminded of that peanut sauce you made. And don't stop at slaw with this sauce. The next day I slathered the sauce over Soba Noodles. It would be great on all types of meats, too, like chicken or shrimp satay. Its all about just finding a vehicle for this delicious peanut sauce.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Its not just a movie, its a movement. And to launch the movement there are tons of events around the city, like urban chicken farming, beer and chocolate, a lecture by Joel Salatin, Farm to Table dinners at a stellar list of restaurants and of course the screening of this very important film. I will be photographing lots of these events and writing about them. Please join me. Not only will they be informative, they will be delicious, local and sustainable.


Re: Curiosity

I got this email:
"hi, i'm filippo, italian of padua. your italian nickname is funny, i read casually an old post of yours about a chicken butchering story so i'm curious: are you able wringing chickens necks? ciao ciao"

Thanks filippo! I am respectfully posting your query, in no way to mock your near perfect and adorable English, but instead to make fun of the ridiculous ideas I write on this blog and how funny it is that people actually read them. To answer your question, I still haven't killed anything yet, even though I strongly believe if you eat it you should be able to kill it.

To that Fillipo wrote: 
"i think that a strong girl wringing a chicken's neck is cool, so i'd like to see you doing that..."

Now I need to find me a chicken. For Fillipo's sake!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Baaaaaaaack...Thanks, Sorry, Cheers!

    LA was awesome. Here's what went down: We worked in Malibu, stayed in Venice Beach, motorcycled to Santa Barbara, biked to Santa Monica then ran the marathon (and won!), sat in traffic, pet baby sea lions, watched NCAA basketball, got a quick face lift, starred in a commercial at the Bronson Caves, became official Scientologists, got a smog check, hung out with a whole bunch of cholos and got gang tattoos (on our necks), stalked Farmer's Markets, surfed with dolphins, and ate and drank at every stop along the way, of course.

Noteworthy places for food and drink in Los Angeles*:

Sunday Santa Monica's Farmer's Market (Ocean Park and Main St) Valet bike parking. Huge breakfast burritos. Fresh organic dates. Citrus everywhere. Cheese bread! The sweet smell of strawberries. A lawn for a picnic.
Father's Office - Thea's recommendation. Best burger maybe ever. Fries come in fry baskets with the most delicious herb mayo dipping sauce. NO KETCHUP! Gigantic "small" plate of cheese on the biggest plate ever. Duck Confit Salad with Figs and Hazelnuts which was sadly overshadowed by the burger. Classic Cocktails were on the money. The service was weird because you order at the bar and everything comes out at once, so next time we will order as we go.
The Rock Store - Greasy spoon on a winding canyon road in Malibu. Lots of bikers. Good french toast.
El Tarasco - Divey taco joint in Manhattan Beach with really awesome ground beef tacos.
Tasting Kitchen - Nice vibe. Great cocktails. Cheese plate! Sea urchin. OYSTERS! Wheat pasta with hedgehogs (mushrooms) and pork. Market plate. Best romaine salad with anchovies ever. No chopping, just full on romaine.
Urth Cafe - Always awesome for a great salad and looking at hot people. Fun celebrity sightings, too. The obscure kind, in which you are racking your brains all day going, "I know that person from some movie, but which one?!?!?" This can drive you crazy.
AXE - Market Plate. Cauliflower Gratin was heaven. Asparagus, Fried Egg, Chantarelles, Caper Brown Butter. Thats all we could stuff into our mouths. Great wine selections.
Cliff's Edge  - So this place is all about eating al fresco, underneath a gorgeous wide bowed tree that reaches into every romantic nook in the garden. The food was okay. We did eat snails (right off the tree), which was fun. The hostess was a straight up b%$*h and wanted us to eat inside but "no" is not in my vocabulary and I was able to look pathetic enough that the old man owner found us a table right away. I love old men! And how can I get a job (in Cali) where I am valued for always getting my way? I could really excel at that.
Big Foot Lodge - This is where Smokey the Bear drinks beer.
Silver Lake Lounge - This is where we met the cholos and got our gang tattoos. Don't go here if you don't like reggaetone music videos that put R.Kelly to shame in the objectification department, transvestites and Mexican gangsters plus some meringue for good measure. Those are all positives on my list so this place made the cut.

As far as the search for the ultimate classic cocktail in Los Angeles, I couldn't hit up every place because that would be a check on the alcoholic checklist, but really it would mean sitting in too much traffic trying to find each place. So here is a list I think is helpful:

La Descarga
Comme Ca
The Hungry Cat
The Liquid Kitty
The Varnish
Seven Grand
The Edison
The Tasting Kitchen
Father's Office
Little Dom's

Here are LA Food Blogs I referenced:

Eating LA
LA Food Blogging
Low End Restaurants
LA Food Crazy
Edible LA

Thanks friends who helped recommend so many great places!
Double Thanks to Rocco for taking care of my gatitos lindos.

*Sorry for not more photos.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Going to California ... help!

Dear Cyber Friends,
     Most of you are likely other food bloggers, happily eating, photographing and writing about food somewhere on this planet. Isn't it nice that as far away as we might be we can still be friends? I am sure you like to travel. I am sure you have been to California. Maybe you live there. Please give me some insider advice.
    First, I need to know where to eat. I will be staying in Santa Monica but working in Malibu, but I have a car and am willing to travel for good grub. Anyone know of any cool underground supper clubs or fun speakeasy type bars to find a perfect cocktail after a long hard shoot? Best Mexican joint? Best pizza? Some fancy higher end places, too since I can expense a few meals here and there.
    I also need to know what to do. I hate touristy things. I like the great outdoors, hiking and fun active things. I love farmer's markets and to do things just a regular person in California would do. Besides drive all around and look hot. Hopefully, I get it together. ;-)
    Any advice would be a great help! And if you are ever in New York, you know who to ask.
Your friend,

Friday, March 12, 2010


Good thing Nonna doesn't understand the concept of the internet, because if there was any remote possibility that she could read what I am about to write I would think twice. My mom Marcy, who my father Rocco calls the "American woman," because she is the one who lended the normal non-Sicilain half of my DNA, makes sauce at the same level if not better than Nonna's time honored red tomato sauce. What? How can this be? Apparently you don't need to have Sicilian blood to make a killer tomato sauce. For a while I couldn't seem to get it right. But I called Mom at work and in about 5 minutes she gave me all the secrets. It turned out to be the best sauce I ever made. Aside from eating it with pasta, I used it to poach farm eggs for brunch, topped with a little cheese. It was fantastic!

Marcy's Red Tomato Sauce
1-1/1/2 large onions, roughly chopped
2 cans of peeled whole tomatoes
1-2 TBSP sugar
5-6 whole cloves of garlic
Bunch of fresh basil

Sautee the onions in olive oil. Add the tomatoes and season with salt and sugar. Bring to a boil then simmer for about a half an hour. Pass the sauce through a food mill and transfer to another pot. Addthe garlic and a generous bunch of basil leaves. Bring to a boil, then a simmer for about another 20-30 minutes. Take out the garlic and basil (optional). 

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

USA vs. CANADA: they couldn't throw punches so we did

      My favorite friends are those who pull no punches, even if it leaves me with a major shiner. It almost came to that recently when Melissa told me to down my glass of Maker's then stumble up to her apartment and help her make cupcakes. I ruined the ganache, I tripped and spilled a gallon of cocoa powder all over the kitchen and into the nooks and crannies of Paul's prized record collection, then at the bar I insensitively tried to force feed a recovering alcoholic her whiskey laden cupcakes. (I still think if you are at a bar its safe to assume you can eat a freakin' cupcake!)
      All the while Melissa and I were fighting like two crazy old Sicilian ladies. Her kitchen control freak tendencies and my "its fine, who cares, they're just cupcakes?" mentality is a recipe for disaster. Why we don't have a cooking show together is beyond me? Its probably because they wouldn't be able to afford the insurance.
     So when we went to Daddy's Bar to watch the USA vs. Olympic Hockey game and Melissa asked me to help her make cupcakes again (chocolate hockey pucks), we were not surprised at our respective BF's eye-rolling and looks of concern.
     We left them to watch the game, knowing that in one way or another some craziness was about to ensue.
     I really was well-behaved. I kept my little paws in my pockets, so I couldn't mess anything up. And Melissa was her darling self, doling out expert baking advise while just throwing everything together, while I listened like a sweet wide-eyed hungry drooling puppy. What was wrong with us? This was not going to work.
     So we decided to play a little trick on the boys. The story: I was bitching to Melissa about something, not listening to her direction and saying, "Yeah I know how to do it," when I don't and in my clumsiness dropped an entire tray of cupcakes on the floor. (entirely believable). Melissa, losing her cool, then proceeds to punch me smack in the eye (scary, but also believable).
     Convenient that Melissa is also a trained make-up artist. Doesn't this look like a real shiner?
    I ran downstairs, and walked into the bar covering my eye, trying to look shocked. To conceal my laughter I nuzzled myself into Markus' shoulder and told the boys that Melissa hit me.
    Paul ran out of the bar pissed. When he got up to their place, Melissa played it off like a star and when he came back he said, "She did hit you!" He took another look, "Is that make-up?" then, "If I missed a goal I would have punched both of you in the faces!"
      Classic! And the cupcakes were as usual awesome. Thanks Melissa!

Thursday, March 4, 2010


    So the cat is out the bag: Paulie Gee's, the new Greenpoint Pizza Joint, is opening on Tuesday March 9th! Check out the article on Slice. (and check out the byline for the photo.) I have had the honor of tasting Paulie's signature pizza and it is not to be missed. 
    Greenpointers should feel lucky that this gem is opening up in their hood. Not only will they enjoy excellent pizza, but the space is phenomenal. The giant barn-like doors on Greenpoint Ave open up to a breathtaking space, the interiors redone with reclaimed materials by the same designers who did the Manhattan Inn. When you enter you are greeted by a gorgeous bar and are drawn in by the warmth of that custom wood burning oven and Paulie creating delicious pies in the back. Go see for yourself!
     But wait, another cat is crawling out of the bag. Yours truly has partnered with Paulie Gee in this pizza joint. After Paulie so graciously invited me to his home in New Jersey for a pizza tasting, I was sold not only by the the mouthwatering pizza but I truly believe in Paulie's vision. His enthusiasm and skill are truly inspiring and when I was given the opportunity to invest, I jumped on board. So don't blame me for blatantly and shamelessly promoting the restaurant. (Note: I wouldn't have put my money where my mouth is unless my mouth was happy with those pies. And it sure is!)       Its been really amazing to get a behind the scenes peek at all the giant strides Paulie has taken to get where he is now. Each time I visited, the place was transformed.  I was there when the first pie came out of the oven and then again when he was testing his first batch of dough. What an honor to be able to share in these pivotal moments.
     I am so excited Paulie Gee's is opening on Tuesday. I know its going to be the best pizza place in the city. So patronize, patronize, patronize! 60 Greenpoint Ave, Brooklyn.