Thursday, October 29, 2009

In Which I Eat My Way Through Manhattan

Before I left for New York I sent an e-mail to Molly Wizenberg asking if she could recommend a few places to eat there. Knowing that Molly is crazy-busy working alongside her husband Brandon at Delancey, I told her I wouldn't be offended if she didn't have time to reply but that I would really appreciate a name or two if she had a spare moment.
She gave me eight names.
I've been working my way down the list, and have covered two of her recommendations in the past 24 hours. Last night I went to Pearl Oyster Bar and had the Lobster Roll. I also saw John Slattery, who was sitting at the bar about six seats down from me.
This afternoon I went to John's of Bleecker St. and saw no one famous, but all the non-famous people in there were very nice.
I'll talk about the Lobster and the Pizza later.
The first place I went on Molly's List was a sandwich place in Brooklyn called Saltie. Small and unassuming, you could easily walk past it without noticing. But that would be a shame, because then you would miss the Longshoreman's Daughter. There are only six or seven sandwiches on the menu, but the theme of Saltie is definitely 'quality, not quantity.'
Piled on top of house-made focaccia, the Longshoreman's Daughter is a tower of mild and brine doing an amazing balancing act. I gave up any hope of staying clean during this experience, which was good because I sort of wallowed in the thing. From the bottom up, there was mayonnaise, tomato, hard-boiled egg, feta cheese, roasted peppers, and a salad of fresh kraut, parsley, capers and olives. I bit into it which immediately released a torrent of juices on the plate while the focaccia did an admirable job of absorbing a lot of the liquid. The flavor combination was unlike anything I've ever had before, acid from the kraut mellowed by the creaminess of the mayonnaise, the smoothness of the hard-boiled egg spiked perfectly with the brine from the capers, the tomatoes melting and mingling with the mayonnaise and all the while the bright tang of feta, and just when you think it needs a little something extra the sweet and smoke of the roasted peppers swoops in and woos you all over again..it was heavenly. My one and only criticism is that the olives were really very, very salty to the point of being bitter and I actually pulled them out. Any bite that had olive in it tasted of nothing else; it actually left a soap-like aftertaste in my mouth, but this was quickly remedied by taking another bite of sandwich. About halfway through I started to get the feeling that maybe there was a little too much bread involved so I started pulling pieces off and setting them aside on my plate. By the time I'd finished the sandwich proper, a lot of egg and kraut and other goodness had fallen out on the plate as well, casualties of my reveling. I used the extra bread, extra no longer but in fact now very necessary, to sop everything up and left my plate super clean. I licked my fingers. When I'd finished, I told the woman who owns Saltie that I'd come from Seattle to Brooklyn to eat that sandwich specifically, and she looked at me like I was just a tiny bit crazy but she seemed pleased nonetheless. She turned out to also be from Seattle, which made me a little bit sad that she had chosen to bring her Saltie magic to Brooklyn instead of where I'd have easy access to more of that sandwich.
I have so much more food loves to share, but I have to get ready for Blue Hill tonight and figure out how not to be a bumbling idiot in front of Eric Ripert tomorrow night. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

In Which I Jog My Way Through Manhattan

So far, Manhattan is a complete success. In a departure from my usual habit when away from my kids, I'm actually sleeping well which makes everything better. Last night I slept especially deeply, although it took me a while to fall asleep after my little adventure on the subway...
Kayleigh had to meet a client last night, so I made plans to have dinner with Josh(we grew up next door to each other and now he lives in New York). I successfully navigated my way uptown and found the kosher restaurant Josh picked without any trouble. Getting home, however, was another story. Josh verified that my directions were accurate, so I felt confident I could manage even in the dark, when Manhattan becomes a different creature. It was also pouring rain and as a proud Seattle child I refused all offers of an umbrella. I had to make one transfer on my way back, so I made sure I got off at the right stop, walked to the correct platform and then waited for the B train which would take me to within two blocks of Kayleigh's apartment. I waited. And waited. The A and D trains came and left frequently, but no B train appeared. I checked the schedule to make sure there were no notices about the B train not running. I checked the schedule to make sure the B train did, in fact, run on weeknights. I double-checked what Google maps told me about where to transfer to the B train, which persisted in not showing up. After about 45 minutes, I realized it wasn't coming(tip for future subway experiences: if your train doesn't come in 8 minutes or less, it isn't coming). I checked to see which trains would take me where I wanted to go and plotted a different course home, then got on the next D train that showed up which claimed it would stop at the same station the B train was supposed to. At the next stop I panicked that I'd got on going the wrong direction and got off again and checked(note to NYC Transit: maps INSIDE the train would be helpful). The direction had been the right one, so I waited for another train. No D trains appeared. It seemed that any train I waited for was doomed never to materialize, so I changed routes again and hopped on the first F train that showed up. This finally worked, but resulted in emerging from the subway oriented in a different direction than I was used to. It was now about 12:15, pitch black and raining hard. It seemed like a bad plan to be hanging around on the sidewalk just then, so I decided the best strategy was to make a run for it. I figured if anyone was going to mug me, they might be discouraged by having to catch me first. My plan worked beautifully and I shot along the Manhattan sidewalk tearing my way through puddles and jaywalking like a native until I realized I was cruising along in the wrong direction. I reversed my course as casually as I could and shot down a dark side street which looked sketchy but actually took me where I wanted to go. I finally found myself on the brightly-lit street full of shops and late-night dog-walkers where Kayleigh lives, and was grateful that Kayleigh had thoughtfully given me keys to her apartment. She had to teach early this morning, so she had been passed out in bed since 10:30. Which was about two hours before I arrived home in a puddle of sodden glory.
I said a prayer of thanks to St. Christopher, put the kettle on and called Aaron to share my adventures. When I finally collapsed into bed beside Kayleigh I was so tired that I fell asleep no problem, and remained dead to the world until Kayleigh came back from teaching and woke me up for coffee. At 11 a.m.
On today's schedule: a lobster roll from Pearl Oyster Bar, Core Fusion Sport at 3:00, grocery shopping for dinner in preparation for my friend Iain's arrival from Boston, and not getting lost. Which might require some luck because I'm supposed to meet Kayleigh on the upper west side. And it's raining.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Another Milestone

Poor Matteas has a little diaper rash, so this morning I gave him a bath and then let him run around naked. This was apparently just what he needed to inspire him to finally use what he calls his "baby toilet," which has been sitting in the kitchen(tile floor=easy cleanup) for a few weeks collecting dust, not pee. For a while now he would ask to sit on it, so I'd take off his diaper and then he'd just sit there and giggle, no action.
See that look of satisfaction?
After we heard the tell-tale tinkling sound he grinned and shouted "I CAN pee!!!" I've thought he was ready to start potty training for a while now, as he has taken to announcing it to us whenever he has any sort of activity in his diaper. We hear a lot of "I peeing," and "I working(pooping)" but today, on Aaron's 31st birthday, he finally figured out how to do it on purpose. We made a big deal out of it and gave him some m&m's, which prompted him to pee three more times. On the baby toilet. We may have to get some more m&m's.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Big Apple

I finally did it: I bought a ticket to New York to visit Kayleigh. Since buying my ticket I have been obsessing over where we should eat; we'll most likely cook most meals at Kayleigh's, but there are a few places I feel I have to try. There are so many big food names in New York it's going to be really difficult to pare my list down to a reasonable few, but how to choose? I know I want to go to Craft, but beyond that it's nearly impossible to choose. I love Mario Batali, but which restaurant to try? He's got, like, five just in NY. Do I want to try family-style Italian or Spanish tapas? My first choice was Del Posto, but they require a reservation a month in advance. Once I think I've made up my mind, I start thinking of all the food I might miss; don't even get me started on trying to choose just one of Daniel Boulud's restaurants. It's kind of challenging to try deciding who's food I want to eat without ever having tasted it, but I feel like you can tell a lot about a chef by the way they talk about food and how they treat their ingredients. Part of me is a little anxious to try any of it; it would really rock my world if it turned out that the only talent with food Tom Calicchio has is talking about it. The thought has me so worried that I actually took my hands off the keyboard and held them over my mouth just now, as if to keep myself from saying something blasphemous. I also read some distressing reviews about Le Bernardin, Eric Ripert's restaurant. I'm thinking a good compromise will be to have lunch instead of dinner, which would be cheaper and that way I could try more places and spend the same amount of money. Anyone had any fabulous meals in NY?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Upswing

Photo from Thursday
We are officially on the mend. Today was our first full day of no fever for both boys. They both have stuffy noses and coughs, but are spending less and less time on the couch and more and more time playing/fighting/getting into things. I think we'll all stay home from church even though they're feeling better; they're still coughing a lot and there are new babies at church. Aaron had to work part of the day today, so it will be great to have a day for some family downtime. This has been an incredibly long week. I haven't felt this isolated in a long, long time. Most of my friends have young kids, so having anyone over to visit was out of the question. By the time Aaron got home from work I was too exhausted to go anywhere, and when it was time for bed I would lie there in the dark listening to make sure everyone was breathing. We had Jack sleep in our room for two nights until the inflammation in his airway went down, and anytime someone coughed or fidgeted I'd have a rush of adrenaline that lasted for hours. Most nights I haven't fallen asleep before 2 a.m. Luckily, the boys have needed extra sleep so no one wakes up until nine, but I don't like how that schedule feels. The boys wanted lots of snuggling, so I got very little else done. Taking care of them was the most important thing so I didn't stress about it, but I am starting to feel a little cabin fever. I missed my workout with my trainer, and canceled the babysitter for my afternoon run. I spent a lot of time on the couch, and a lot of time cleaning up immediate messes. For me, worry is the hardest part of motherhood. Sometimes it can be so painful to love someone as much as mothers love their children, but of course I wouldn't have it any other way. Thankfully, things are getting back to normal around here. I actually cooked dinner tonight, and did the dishes. Tomorrow we may even make it out of the house :)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rough

It's been a rough week. We got back from Canada Sunday afternoon, which was a great trip but unpacking is always an ordeal. So I haven't done it yet. I've been too busy going from crisis to crisis to even think about things like unpacking. Someone has peed someone's bed every day, so there's been a lot of sheet-washing. My kitchen was a disaster. I hadn't showered in three days. It was bad. For starters, I came down with a nasty head cold Sunday afternoon, luckily not until after we'd finished visiting the Vancouver aquarium(which I have some good pictures of for later). By the time we got home I was pretty much non-functional. Monday we took a sick day, the boys and I staying in our pajamas all day long. Early Tuesday morning, Jack's cold took a turn for the worse. He'd crawled into our bead around five, burning up and coughing. I gave him Motrin, plugged in the humidifier and tried to fall back asleep. No luck. By 7:30, Jack was whimpering in pain. Aaron had already gone to work, so I called him to see if he could come home to be with Matteas while I took Jack to the walk-in clinic. They open at nine, and we got there by 9:10. There were already eleven other people waiting. My concern was, we've been here before. I'd prefer to spend three hours in the waiting room(which we did) in the morning than drive to the ER in the middle of night, and my hope was to leave with some medicine which we could have on hand just in case. We did, but it was the wrong kind of medicine. The Dr. prescribed albuterol, which is really more of an asthma-type medication and didn't do anything to help Jack's croup. I decided to sleep with Jack so I could hear how he was breathing, so I made us a cozy bed in the basement. He fell asleep but his breathing was pretty labored, and I felt on edge. I could tell we were walking the line between ok and not ok, and things were going to go one way or the other pretty fast. I'd opened the windows and turned on the fan to get the air nice and cool, I'd given him Motrin and Tylenol, but it wasn't enough. He woke up in a panic at 4 a.m. crying "I don't feel good, I don't feel good," and I knew it was time. I woke Aaron up and told him I was taking Jack to the ER, threw some shoes on and headed out. On the two-minute drive there, Jack coughed so much he barfed all over himself. I hadn't brought extra clothes, and for once in my life since having children I didn't have any wipes in the car. I did have a pair of dirty socks, so I did the best I could with those but he was still kind of stinky. Just like last time, we were immediately walked into a room. We had the same nurse even, who was kind of condescending and administered chewable medication to Jack with her bare hands without washing them first. Then she gave him a shot, again without washing her hands or wearing gloves. Seriously? I was not comforted to note that a used tourniquet was on the floor next to Jack's bed. Steven's is pretty ghetto when it comes to their ER, but they're close and they got the job done. We got home around 7 a.m. and I got a few hours of sleep before Matteas woke up. Jack slept until almost noon, and woke up breathing normally and feeling much better. He must have been a little out of it though, because somehow he managed to poop in his nighttime diaper(which he never, ever does) and then neglect to tell me about it until he got into the bath with poop all over himself. He reported that there was a "poo smudge" in the bath. That was a lie. There was a gigantic turd smeared all over him, the bath, the garbage can, and the couch where he'd been sitting before the bath. Again I avoided unpacking, and the rest of the afternoon went pretty much like that, one disaster after another. I put on a movie for the boys, then went downstairs for some recovery time. I came up 30 minutes later to find the boys "cooking" with my Gene Juarez hair gel, toothpaste, deodorant, milk and tampons. All over the living room. I kind of lost it and commanded the boys not to make one more mess or produce one more bodily fluid for the rest of the day, to which Matteas responded(I am not making this up) "Take it easy." I didn't even know he knew what that meant. It all worked out. I cleaned up the barf. I did laundry. I cleaned the kitchen. I asked Aaron to pick up takeout on his way home from work so the kitchen would actually stay clean. I read to the boys. Then, of his own accord, Jack went to sleep on the couch at 7 p.m. I carried him to bed(which now had clean sheets on it) and came out of his room to find Matteas passed out on the floor of the hallway, so now they are both sleeping. Time to drink wine with my husband and catch my breath. I'll unpack tomorrow. Or not.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Canadian Bacon

We spent the weekend in Canada. Aaron's cousin Amanda got married on Saturday, so we drove up to Vancouver Friday afternoon and enjoyed festivities all weekend(Taking pictures at the wedding made me realize that I would hate to be a professional photographer; I suck at getting formal moments and much prefer the candid shots of the everyday.). The boys were amazing on the drive; they both took little naps but were awake for the majority of the three-hour drive and really cheerful for most of it. We got into Vancouver just in time to hit some fantastic rush-hour traffic and the last leg of the drive got a little tedious, but I packed lots of books so I read for as long as I could without getting carsick. When we finally arrived at our hotel the boys were ready to run a marathon they were so pent up; fortunately, just outside of our room was a big open courtyard which was an ideal spot for working out excess energy. There was a little fish pond which Matteas was continually trying to climb into; he's always had a love of fish and I think he was under the impression that all that driving bad been for the sole purpose of uniting him with the little orange fish in the courtyard fountain. In his opinion, it was worth it. Aunt Sandy was ridiculously thoughtful. Lots of relatives converged on the hotel in Vancouver from various parts of Canada and the U.S. and she made personalized gift bags for every single child there, which were then hand-delivered by the older kids during the reception so the little ones had something to do during the toasts. She also made enough food to feed an army for a week, including homemade pumpkin pies. Who makes pies in the middle of wedding craziness? Aunt Sandy does. The boys both napped after the wedding, so we took them to the beach so they'd still be tired for bed(someday). When we got back, Sonia took the boys and we went out. The guy in the green sweater is Aaron's cousin Avi, who I've actually met once before but he doesn't remember. The hot blond next to him is his wife Wendy, who I met for the first time that weekend. The five of us went out for dinner and then hung out at the hotel until the wee hours, which resulted in me getting very little sleep but was totally worth it. Which brings me to my next point: You(Canadian cousins) need to start blogs, or at least e-mail me. That way when we see each other every three years for a wedding or a funeral, I'll know what you've been doing out in the frozen prairies. Every time we see you guys I wish we lived closer to each other, but until you guys decide to stop freezing your ass off while pursuing brilliant academic careers far away from your family blogging will have to do. And now, time to make soup. Aaron has had a cold for about a week and after missing out on a lot of sleep this weekend I finally have it. The boys(also sick) are watching cartoons and I'm drinking pumpkin spice tea and debating if it's really worth the energy to do the dishes. I'm thinking it would be a much better use of my time if I just crawled back into the the flannel sheets and passed out until I can breathe through my nose again, but that would hardly be responsible parenting. Also, I have to mention how pleased I am about Jack's discriminating palate: he noted while munching on French fries that "this ketchup tastes like sugar." Canadian ketchup is sweeter than American ketchup. It was a proud moment for me :)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sushi Anyone?

As I have raised our two boys, I have often been grateful for the fact that I grew up with five brothers. I feel that I'm better able to understand my boys and all the disgusting stuff they find fascinating. Also, my Dad always had us watch a lot of National Geographic, so I kind of got used to watching animals eat other animals. Even still, this video still makes me shudder just a little bit. It's not quite as intense as the one of me and Matteas feeding a crane fly to a large and leggy spider, but that video is too long for blogger to upload. You're welcome. video

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Sound Bites

Matteas just informed me that the reason I can't clean the poop in his diaper is "because it's on fire!" *** The boys are playing in Jack's room. Jack: Here's your baby Matteas. Matteas: 'hank you Jackie. Jack: Take care of her; don't poke her in the eyeball.

A Slow Start

A hazard of living with a contractor :)
Our day, that is. Lately the boys seem to be determined to make as many messes in as short a time as possible, usually while I'm trying to get something necessary done. This morning alone has been a parade of messes, and it's not even noon. The weather started out cloudy, but as the sun emerged I started making plans for a hike in the woods, maybe a little leaf gathering with the boys. I decided to make squash pancakes and bacon so everyone would be fortified for our adventure, but I was thwarted at every turn. While cooking the pancakes Jack found and unraveled a coil of nails(doesn't everyone have those lying around their kitchen? No? Just me?) in the living room. He followed this up with crumbling some beauty bark(also in the kitchen for some reason) all over the love seat. I directed him in cleaning it up and got the pancakes and bacon on the table. During breakfast Jack spilled his entire cup of grape juice all over the floor and his pants. He went to change while I mopped up the juice. Before I was finished, Matteas choked on a piece of bacon and barfed grape juice all over his pancake. After I cleaned that up, Jack came prancing out of his room and declared himself dressed for the day: he was wearing a (too small) pair of pajama shorts and absolutely nothing else. Before all the juice disasters I'd unloaded the dishwasher and left it open with the intention of loading up all the dirty dishes. Matteas saw an opportunity and pulled out the lower dish rack, pushing it around the kitchen floor and making race car noises. In a moment of indiscretion I'd called Briana and invited her and the kids along for our hike in the woods, and she just called and said they're on their way. Time to do something about all the people in my house still wearing pajamas. Hopefully we can get dressed without somebody topping off the morning by pooping on the rug.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Eggs Florentine Revisited

It started with last weeks' Top Chef, when the chefs were challenged to deconstruct a classic dish and make it their own. In culinary terms, to "deconstruct" means to take apart the basic components of a dish and rework them in a way which results in a totally different presentation and composition but keeps the same flavor profile. The idea is that you might not know what you're eating until each of the components is assembled on your fork and you taste them all together, resulting in a kind of lightbulb moment. Deconstructing food is something that is sometimes used to keep the familiar flavors of a classic dish while cleaning it up and modernizing it, sometimes making it healthier and sometimes just making it new. One of the chefs was assigned Eggs Florentine, which he had never heard of(it's Eggs Benedict with wilted spinach added or used as a substitute for the ham or bacon). He presented a sad little plate of wilted kale and a fried egg. He wasn't sent home for it, but he certainly didn't win either. Aaron asked me how I thought I'd fare as a Top Chef contestant and I replied that I'd probably panic and pee my pants; most of my recipes evolve over time as I make a dish over and over, gradually tweaking flavors and preparations. That being said, I've been obsessing over Eggs Florentine for a good week now. This is quickly becoming my favorite lunch; I made a simple arugula salad with lemon juice, salt and pepper, then topped it with cubed ham and a poached egg. This is the kind of food I love to eat; clean, simple, and using just a few good-quality ingredients. When you're only working with 3-4 ingredients, quality is going to make or break the dish. Wilted greens, reconstituted meats, or flavorless eggs would all spell disaster for something like this. It was amazing just the way I made it, but then I saw Jack's leftover peaches from breakfast sitting on the table. I added a chunk of peach to one bite and was instantly converted; it tasted like a crazy combination of Eggs Benedict and Hawaiian pizza. I once heard a chef describe the perfect dish as one that includes something salty, something sweet, something crunchy and something smooth. This salad is it. Salty ham, sweet peaches, smooth egg yolk and crunchy arugula, all brought to life and tied together with a gentle kick in the pants from the lemon juice. Aaron does not approve of me mixing fruit with savory dishes, but I loved it. Eggs Florentine Salad with Peaches A handful of baby arugula, washed and dried 1/3 cup cubed ham 1-2 eggs 1/2 ripe peach, cut into hunks Lemon juice Salt and pepper Throw the arugula on a plate and sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Slice a wedge off a lemon, remove the seeds(if any) and squeeze the lemon wedge over the arugula. Toss to coat. Cube the ham. You can put it directly in the salad cold, but I really like heating it in a frying pan just until the edges brown a little. If heating the ham, set it aside until the eggs are done and plate them with the salad all together(too much heat too soon will wilt the greens too much). Fill a small pot with water and heat it to a bare simmer. While you're waiting for the water to come up, cut the peach and add it to the arugula(please, for the love of food, do NOT use canned peaches). Crack eggs, one at a time, into a small bowl and pour carefully(again one at a time) into the simmering water. Cook 3-5 minutes, until whites are set but yolks are still soft. Use a slotted spoon to scoop up the eggs and gently poke them with your finger until desired firmness is reached. Immediately place on top of arugula. This would also be delicious with bacon.

I Don't Usually Do This

Decorate, that is. It's strictly a seasonal thing for me and while I don't usually like stuff cluttering up my mantle, I get it all dressed up for Fall and Christmas.
From the garden...
...to the kitchen...
...to the table, all in the same morning. I have to say, growing and roasting your own pumpkin and then making pie with it makes it taste a thousand times better. The pumpkin tastes light, creamy and nutty, with none of that metalic canned flavor. I've made lots of pies from canned pumpkin and will probably make lots more of them when my own pumpkins are gone, but for me this pie sets the bar for what pumpkin pie should be. The smell of roasting pumpkin is pretty amazing; warm, buttery and rich. As opposed to the smell of a freshly-opened can o' pumpkin, which has sometimes prompted Aaron to ask if the baby has a dirty diaper. Somehow, both of our boys have a love of pumpkin pie. I cannot remember liking it as a child and it doesn't really strike me as a kid type of dessert, but they put this stuff away like nobody's business. When we make our own and I know exactly what's in it, I even let them have it for breakfast. I'd do it just for the flavor factor, but I also love what growing our own food has taught the boys about being good stewards. They are legitimately concerned about how we treat what we usually think of as our lowliest commodity, or something we wipe off of our feet and clean off of our hands before we eat: dirt. It's important stuff. The saying goes "You are what you eat," but it's actually a little further back than that: you are what your food ate. In the case of fruits and vegetables, that means the dirt. It's kind of funny to think about keeping dirt "clean," but I've thought about it a lot since having kids. For one thing, they eat a lot of it directly. Straight, no chaser. Okay maybe some rocks. But since we've started to do so much gardening, the quality of our dirt is a big deal to me. I don't want crap in there because eventually I'm going to feed what comes out of there to my kids. I think if everyone grew their own food, even just one or two vegetables, it would radically change the way we think about pollution.