Tuesday, September 25, 2012

If You Shit You Don't See Rainbows And Other Lessons From Laguna Beach

Lesson #1: Work equals no whales.

It was our first morning in Laguna Beach.

"Is that a whale?" Jon asked.
"It is!" I screamed.
"Oh, Chris is going to be so mad, "Arica said, "Everyone that visits us sees a whale. We have been here a year and Chris hasn't seen one whale!"

Lesson #2: Paella Party

That night Arica and Chris' neighbors visited for Chris' famous paella. While slaving away I said to Chris, "This isn't a good dish to make when you have guests. You're stuck in the kitchen and you can't hang out with them."
"That is why I make it," he said as he pushed me out.

The Dutch doctor and the French actress arrived while I was inhaling cheese. 
"Here try this," the actress said handing me a glass of red wine, "It goes good with that cheese."
How did she know what cheese I was eating?
"I like white wine with creamy cheese," I said.
"Well I am french," she said.

To ameliorate the mutual bitchiness the Dutch doctor handed me a 400 year old bottle of wine hand selected from his wine cellar.
"Why don't you open this?"
"Don't mind if I do. Wax on or wax off?"
"The corkscrew will go right through it."

It went through it all right. I destroyed the cork.

I looked over at Chris who was cleaning the calamari.
"This isn't working," I said.
Chris got one look at the wine bottle and gave me the biggest eye roll, "Just stop! Give it to him."

The Dutch doctor's surgeon hands saved the bottle.

"Let's go look at the wine cellar!" Arica said.

A tour of the wine cellar turned into a tour of the entire house and we ended up in the gym looking at a machine that "does the work for you." After the actress turned it became clear that it was a giant vibrator.

I threw a leg on machine, in a lunge position to test it out.
"No sit on it!" Arica ordered. She was bouncing on a work-out ball.

So I sat right in the middle of it and had an all over body (and brain) orgasm.

"Ha-ave - you-ooh - guy-ays - fu-ucked - on-on- thi-is- thi-ing ye-et?" was all I could muster.

Lesson #3 Medical Marijuana

Since moving to California Arica got her medical marijuana card for her "insomnia" and aside from buying huge quantities of pot she gets all sorts of baked goods. On her father's recent trip she offered him a piece of pot fudge. The 3 inch square had 30 servings in it and the math in her head worked out to giving her Dad half the square.

After they had to carry him to the bedroom, he called out, "This is the cheesiest way to die!"

After hearing the story I went rifling through the refrigerator and found it. 
Chris begged me not to do it.

I broke off chunks and handed them around the table. 
"Arica doesn't get any," Chris said and popped a chunk.
"No thanks," said the Dutch doctor politely.
"I don't do pot," said the french actress with a pruney face, "my sister was a drug addict."
"So what? My brother was a dick, it doesn't stop me from being a dick," Jon said.

Lesson #4: Don't drink Scotch then fall asleep on the couch

Out came the Scotch and down went Jon and out came Arica's butt on my boyfriend's face.

"Hold on. Do it again. I have to get my camera," I said. 

Arica's leg muscles gave out and she sat on Jon's face.

"Is he dead?" she asked
"No he is just asleep," I said.

The neighbors disappeared. 

Next morning we woke up and Jon said "A rainbow!"
It stretched across the sky.

"Chris, Chris, come look, it's a huge rainbow!" Arica said.

Lesson #5: If you take shits, you don't see rainbows.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

SEO, Monetization and Blog Birthday Invitation! (Chocolate Stout Cake and $2 Beers)

I know I have been missing, but I am not done on Morta Di Fame. I am not sure you are aware but I bought a blog! I know that sounds totally insane, and it's been a crazy but an amazing learning experience. It's called Greenpointers.com and it's doing really well. I live in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and the blog covers all happenings there. I have been super duper obsessed with SEO and monetization, reading a ton of books on blogging and how to make a living at it, because if I could blog full time (which I am already doing - plus my regular job), I would. That's the dream and I am slowly getting there.
Since I took over the website, we have taken on a huge number of local advertisers, who I am honored to personally know because they are small business owners and my neighbors. The website traffic is unbelievable. In one year it has grown from 4,000 unique visitors per month and around 14,000 page views to over 12,000 unique visitors per month and over 30,000 page views! Plus, I know my audience and meet them in real life. They aren't just numbers in google analytics.
It's been a year, and I want to continue sharing my food shoveling and crazy Sicilian family stories with you. I might not post every single day, but I am excited to be back! I still get tons of emails from readers and comments here, and permission to use food images, which gives me a giggle, because apparently I was pretty good at optimizing my images for search but I didn't event know it! Enough of the boring stuff. Party time!
When Morta Di Fame turned one year old, we had a rice ball and Nonna filled blog birthday in my little basement apartment in Queens. Next week, Greenpointers.com is also having a "one year since I took over birthday," at my favorite bar in the world - The Diamond. Plus Ovenly, a bakery that makes me drool just think about is baking us a cake! A Chocolate Stout Cake with Caramel Buttercream Frosting. If you are in the area, please come, I would love to meet you! Here is the video invitation.
Greenpointers.com Blawg Birthday
Friday September, 28, 2012 @ 9pm
The Diamond
(43 Franklin St)
$2 Beer from 9-10pm & (FREE) Cake!

RSVP on Facebook

Sunday, May 13, 2012


The best gifts are the ones when you hand them over to the giftee you want to retract your arm so you can keep it for yourself. That is the case with this sweet Milford, PA PTA Cookbook from 1970 that I am giving to my Mom. I found it in a cool Antique Bookstore in Hawley, PA, near my parents house in the Poconos! They have had the house since I'm 2 years old and Milford, PA was the halfway point. We would always stop at the Milford Diner and I would get a hot dog that was sliced down the middle with ketchup.
My Mom, Marcy was the ultimate PTA Cookbook Editor. I still refer to my PS49 cookbook and my church book book (both spiral bound) for old family recipes. I love that each recipes lists the person's name, like Mrs. DeSanto or Mrs. Rose.
This cookbook in particular is so awesomely designed. The art deco cover rules! Inside the chapters pages are made with a sharpie marker, and all the recipes inside are typed with a typewriter. I love the gourmet page that lists tacos, ragu and curry as gourmet food. Those Milford ladies were ahead of their time! Meanwhile, the good foodie stuff is in the Game section, with recipes for venison, moose and rabbit.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


Originally posted on Greenpointers.com
Do you get anxiety when you go into Bedford Cheese Shop? The amount of amazing cheese to chose from is extremely intimidating. My friend Tony gave me sound advice:you know everything is good, so just take whatever they give you. 
To ease into it I dilly dally near the front where all the jams and condiments live and once I have enough courage I just go for whatever says goat or sheep.
While pointing and drooling I saw a list of different types of ravioli from Pastosa. For the record, it’s not my favorite pasta because of all that runny ricotta, but the Asparagus Prosciutto and Mascarpone flavor won me over. When I got home, I stuck it in the freezer, figuring in a pinch I could just boil and butter them up.
Last weekend at the market I found gorgeous asparagus. I always go for the skinniest ones with the smallest tips (keep it clean!) I think they have the most flavor.
While buying cocktail umbrellas (you will see why next week) at The Brooklyn Kitchen, I spotted fiddlehead ferns! I grabbed a handful and rushed home to make this simple sauce to go with my ravioli.
This sauce was so easy and fast.
Fiddlehead Fern & Asparagus Ravioli
(Optionally) Cut a few slices of bacon into little cubes and fry until crisp. Remove and leave some of the fat.
Add some butter to the pan and sautee about a half a sliced onion or shallot, along with some peperoncino (hot chili flakes) and fresh sage. Salt and Pepper.
Add a bunch of asparagus tips and the fiddlehead ferns and sautee until cooked, but still crisp. Salt and Pepper.
The ravioli take 8-10 minutes to cook in a big boiling pot of salted water. After you drain them, melt a little butter on them, then add the sauce.
Top with grated pecorino romano or parmesian cheese and don’t forget that bacon you set aside!
I really like the Pastosa ravioli and am excited to try more flavors. They were huge and firm and they didn’t fall apart. The cheese wasn’t watery and the prosciutto gave the filling a nice sweet flavor. The ferns were funny, they are very earthy or grassy, with the texture and slight goo of okra, but very delicious parts that get caramelized in the pan are delicious.

Friday, April 6, 2012


I am teaching this class at Paulie Gee's! April 23, 2012 at 7pm. Come and make rice balls, then sit down to a rice ball supper. Includes wine and fun! More info here.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

When I was lucky enough to attend the Paulie Gee Christmas party and have dinner with the man himself, I was able to use the skills I learned in my interviewing class to find out how he made his delicious red pasta sauce. (note: this is not the sauce he uses on his pizza.)
“Oh man! This is so good. How do you make this?”
“It’s raw.”
“Are these San Marzano tomatoes?”
“I can’t tell you.”
“Paulie, Come on. I need to know what kind of tomatoes these are.”
“It’s a secret.”
“You have to tell me!”
(My interview method is called: The Whiny Interrogation.)
As I rolled my eyes and grumbled and complained, he explained the simple recipe. It was the easiest sauce I’ve ever made, and maybe one of the most delicious in its simplicity.
The key here is vidalia onions, the ones that look squashed. They are so sweet and mild you can eat them raw. (Paulie can’t.)
Sautee one chopped vidalia onion with a few cloves of garlic (Paulie doesn’t use garlic, I did.) in olive oil. (I added red chili flakes, too.) Transfer to a bowl. Over that add a generous amount of fresh basil leaves, which steam from the heat and release a lot of flavor. Then add your tomatoes – I used 2 cans of San Marzano whole tomatoes, which I find to be superior to other canned tomatoes found in the grocery store. I used a food mill to crush them and remove the seeds.
Leave the bowl covered on the counter overnight, and depending on whether you want the onion and basil in there, you can put it all through the food mill again before you make your pasta.
What I love about making this sauce is all the other dishes besides pasta I can make with it.
One of the most simple dishes I make is cauliflower stewed in tomato sauce. In a pot, saute garlic and olive oil and red pepper flakes. Add enough sauce to cover the bottom of the pot, then add pieces of cauliflower. Season with salt and pepper. Add some tomato sauce over the cauliflower and some water to the bottom of the pot. Cover and let it steam for 10 minutes or until the cauliflower is tender. At the end, add some grated Parmesan cheese. This can be eaten on its own or, if cooked down a lot, can be used atop pasta.
Another great way to use the sauce is to stew greens with beans. I love white beans with escarole and chick peas with spinach. I like to make this even more oniony, so I saute more onions with garlic and, of course, red pepper flakes. Then I add a can of beans. Once those cook down for a few minutes add your green. Season with salt and pepper. This is one of my accidentally vegan dishes. After I cook it, I say, “and it’s vegan, too!” I’m not vegan, but I have friends who are.
The next day I love to poach an egg in tomato sauce. This is so easy. In a small pot, pour in some sauce and let it heat up a bit. Crack an egg in, season the yolk with salt and pepper and cover. Lower the heat and after 5 minutes you have a warm delicious saucy egg that is great topped with cheese and served with Italian bread. You can poke it to see how runny or firm it is.
And if you do happen to use the food mill to remove the tomato seeds and the onions bits, you can use that to top pizza or bruschetta!  There are five ways to use the sauce right there!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Calyer, one of Greenpoint’s newest and most exciting restaurants, invited Greenpointers over for dinner. It was a cold and rainy evening, which meant taxi service, which meant I could wear my impracticably high heeled “date night” boots. (The only hobbling I can do in them is from a car to a chair.) Boots on, date on!
When we arrived I immediately began confusing the wait staff, “We have reservations. A table for 8, please.” (I meant 8pm.) The place was pretty full and the hostess looked worried but was a doll.
After sorting that out, Virginia, the lovely manager gave us a corner table from which we could see the whole restaurant and sit beside each other, which I call “french style.”
The interiors are done in that Brooklyn, this-place-has-been-here-forever but not contrived style. The low ceilings give the place a cozy, sailboat cabin feel. Cocktails please!
We ordered a Siren Song (Pisco, St. Germain, Cava, Bergamot) & La Bebida De Los Dioses(Herradura Antiguo Tequila, Lime, Maple, Syrup, Chili & Xocolatl Mole Bitters). Both were mixed and balanced beautifully.
If the cocktails sound inventive, with a spicy spanish twist, wait for the plates, which are served tapas style, perfect for my over-ordering tendencies.
It’s fun to dine at a place like Calyer with a taste hound like Jon, because there is always a hint of a surprising flavor that is hard to put your tongue on. Was it tarragon in the amuse bouche of Squash Jelly with Sunflower Seeds? It’s even better when the wait staff is patient and knowledgeable and eager to run back into the kitchen to find out from the chef: allepo pepper, cinnamon and star anise. Ah!
Aside from delicious plates, it was great chatting with our waitress Cara, who is part-Sicilian (which means she is admittedly half crazy like me) and has an awesome blog called Write By Hand dedicated to hand fonts. What makes Calyer a Greenpoint restaurant is that it embodies what Greenpoint is, a great place filled with great and creative people.
Calyer has the kind of menu from which you want to order every plate, and since they are meant for sharing, you can. What follows is a description of some of those delightful, unexpected and exceptional dishes.

Scallop Ceviche (Corn Nuts, Aji Amarillo, Crispy Corn)
Yeah we said corn nuts! Don’t even get us started on these salty-brain massages. The scallops were fresh and sweet and the dish was well-balanced with heat from the aji pepper, and tang from the red onions and lime. This dish went perfectly with our cocktails.

Duck Confit Terrine (Quail Egg, Yellow Plantains, Dandelion Greens)
“Why is this duck square?” Layers of juicy duck leg between layers of plantains was topped with a perfectly runny quail egg that made up for the dryness of the plantain. Jon talked about this dish all weekend. I think he might be falling in love with duck. Home run duck!
Chicharones (White Bean Puree, Brussels Sprouts Leaves, Anchovy Vinaigrette)
When this dish arrived I wanted to ask for a side of antacid. Giant pieces of deep fried pork skin in what reminded me of a citrusy rock shrimp batter. I didn’t get any of the anchovy flavor. Deep fried anything is my motto, but maybe better for a late night bar snack and not smack in the middle of dinner.

Grilled Mackerel (Sunchoke Puree, Sunchokes, Citrus Salad)
Perfectly cooked fish with subtle char flavor. Sunchokes plus sunchokes equals earthy crunchy awesomeness. The citrus salad gave the dish a fresh kick. We killed it.

Brussels Sprouts (Chicken Sausage, Garlic, Culantro)
My favorite dish of the night, hands down. I have a thing for cruciferous veggies but it was the chicken sausage that stole my heart. Chicken sausage is an idea I don’t normally like, but this sweet and spicy, softly caramelized chorizo flavored chicken with pimentón, or Spanish Paprika, made me rabid (in a good way). It reminded me of the chicken and rice my Puerto Rican Godmother makes, and what do you know? The chef, Gabriel Moya, is Puerto Rican. The culantro here is not the same as cilantro and it was an unexpectedly fragrant garnish for this dish.
During the meal we enjoyed deliciously recommended white wine, the Javier Sanz Rueda and a red, the Primitivo Quines “Cono 4.” Then desserts cocktails (of course!)
‘Little Fox’ Toddy (Old Overholt Rye, Snap Liquer, Cinnamon, Whisky Barrel Ages Bitters & Butter – ding, ding, ding! – A winning cocktail. It’s warm, it’s buttery, it’s spicy and it’s whiskey-ey. Did I mention the pat of butter that melts into the glass?
Northside (Whipper Snapper Whisky, Aperol, Antica Formula, Old Time Aromatic Biiters) – We don’t remember this being memorable, probably because the toddy stole the show. I had to swat Jon hands from grabbing my butter cocktail. Mine!
We had two choices for dessert, so we went with both obviously.
Deconstructed Apple Pie 
Self-explanatory: apples, pie crust, spiced walnuts. This would make a perfect apple pie but I wasn’t thrilled about eating the doughy pie chunks on their own. There wasn’t a crumb left.

Lemon Curd (Almond Crust, Pickled Kiwi & Kumquats, Kefir)
Lemon desserts are not what I normally order but this has become a new addition to my crave list. The sweet smooth of the lemon curd was well matched with the sour fruits and creamy kefir, all on a chunky almond crust. Outstanding.
We loved Calyer and talked about all the fun flavors we discovered well after our meal. The food, aside from delicious and inventive, was gorgeously plated and fun to photograph. The atmosphere was friendly and cozy. A perfect date place with great cocktails. I hope to return for brunch when that dreamy chicken sausage takes sandwich form!
92 Calyer St.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Originally posted for Greenpointers.com:
Greenpoint’s favorite beer store had a barley wine tasting. What a perfectly snowy weekend to drink strong beer by a wood burning stove. Learning and drinking are two activities I enjoy and combining them is even more fun, although retention can be a challenge. To be honest, I don’t know shit about beer.
Good thing Erik and Frances, the beer geniuses who work at Brouwerij Lane, and my man Jon, who is a home brewer, were there to school me. I was so sorry when I asked, “Do you think there are more wine makers or beer makers?” After an in-depth discussion (I wasn’t even listening) the final answer was, “Who cares, beer is better anyway!” I was bound to learn something from this bunch of beer nerds.
We were served a flight of 5 barley wines (totaling 40 oz!) on a laminated guide detailing each brew. If you don’t know what Barley Wines are, I can tell you one thing: they are knock you on your butt strong. It is a type of beer that is “brewed to match the strength of wine,” about 12% or more alcohol, according to our handy placemat. They are nice and sweet and very easy to drink. It was wise that we shared the 40 oz. flight.
We tasted the following:
Pretty Things Finest Regards, The Bruery Cuir, Firestone Walker XV, Avery Hog Heaven, and BFM & Terrapin Spike & Jeromes.
Between each flight we drank a lot of water, because the barley wine leaves such a lasting flavor in your mouth. The flavors and colors between each varied very much. This is my first session of really trying to understand the flavors happening in my mouth, instead of just mindlessly chugging.
“Coconuts!” I kept getting the taste of coconuts and I liked it. Frances didn’t believe until he sipped and agreed. Erik explained that Barley wines are aged in oak barrels, which accounts for what is more likely vanilla rather than a pina colada flavor, like the Cuir which is aged in bourbon barrels. Or the XV, which is blended with Stout so it was chocolatey, too.
Ever drink with a beer snob and they are like, “this is really hoppy” or “this is really malty” and you are like “what is this guy talking about”? I better learn if I want to hang with this crowd.
According to Jon, hops are a flower, which contribute bitterness to balance the sweetness in beer. They give flavor and aroma to a beer which can range from fresh cut grass to pine needles to citrus to herbal earthiness. How lovely! A good example from the barley wines we tasted was the Hog Heaven, in which you could smell the pungent hops before even tasting it, which were piney and citrusy.
Jon explains that malt is the sugar that ferments in beer to make alcohol and carbonation, but some sugar remains and that residual sugar is what gives beer it’s sweet flavor and “mouth feel,” which is how thick or watery the beer is in your mouth. Malt flavors can be a basic sweetness or can taste roasted, or like coffee or chocolate or caramel. Our Finest Regards was very malty and the best example of a traditional English Barley Wine and our favorite of the flight.
Sign up for Brouwerij Lane’s mailing list to find out about other beer nerd events, like Kelso Night with Kelso of Brookyn’s Kelly Taylor this coming Thursday 1/26.
Brouwerij Lane
78 Greenpoint Ave