Monthly Archives: July 2010

america’s next top food writer

I just sent an e-mail to two of our writers (out of like 20 or 30), telling them I appreciate their clear refreshing prose, and asking if they will write for us again. I spend so much time slogging through mediocre text that I needed to give props to the model citizens.

I have a test for whether I think a writer has talent- thought organization. Even if he or she has well-written individual phrases, if the overall narrative is all over the place, thoughts disorganized and confused, it tells me they don’t know what they are trying to say.

More important than anything else, the writer needs to know, and be confident in, their own voice. That can come with time and experience, and we have a handful of rough diamonds that I’ll keep my eye on. For the most part though, I’m still scouring the city for new talent.

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awash in marinara

I have not been purposely ignoring this blog, but I’m short on time at the moment. It’s crunch time for our Fall issue, which (thanks to a stroke of brilliance from SK) now has an overarching theme. I won’t reveal what the theme is yet, but take this photo from the pasta makers as a hint.
Photo credit: Daniel Krieger

I head to SF on Saturday and almost immediately, two interesting food things are happening. On Sunday, we’re going to see Frank Bruni, the legendary New York Times restaurant critic, do a reading at a foodie bookstore. I plan to give him a copy of Edible Queens.

Then on Tuesday, a former Australian soap opera star and two marketing people from this Aussie appliance company are coming to SK’s wee apartment to observe us making dinner. In return, we get $100 in groceries and a free Breville appliance. Very odd.

I will be reporting back on both events, when I can. Later eaters.

twenty dime

I was just involved in a kerfuffle with one of our writers, involving a professional food sculptor. I had commissioned the sculptor and the writer to find a pumpkin in summertime (no small feat), to design a piece for our Fall cover. They looked and looked, to no avail, so we started considering backup cover options. When the sculptor finally turned up a last-minute pumpkin, it was too late. We had already decided to put an Italian baker on the cover. Well the writer who had originally pitched me the story got upset, said I had led them on, made false promises, etc. I managed to contain the situation (with some gracious help from my boss), but it got me thinking- my life has changed so much in the past 12 months.

I consider “Last-summer Jesse,” and how woefully unenlightened he was about his immediate future. The idea that my biggest life conflict this July would involve a major pumpkin confrontation was unimaginable. Further, if you had told me I would edit a food magazine, give lectures on the food movement, write a piece for the Village Voice (with more to come!), and basically dive up to my neck in New York’s food scene, I would’ve said “Keep dreamin’ pal!” And yet.

I’m not much on advice-giving, but I would say this: as grim as things can look at times, as unpleasant as your near future can seem, you have absolutely no idea what lays around the corner. So…keep on trucking, chums. (maybe this is why I don’t give advice)

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to ride my bike to a fresh pasta company to pick up five of their products, which I will then bring to our recipe tester in Midtown. C’est la vie!

bay burst fatigue

Lazy 1-day staycation in Queens. I am listening to Sean Paul in my boxers, thinking about a beer. This morning I rode my bike to LIC for a powerhouse breakfast with James at the new Quebec diner. After stuffing myself on a hearty sausage sandwich (pictured above), a magical man appeared and said “You boys should try our frozen custard. It’s truly exquisite.” This man was built like a bouncer, and I noted that his word choice was rather dainty. Dainty like a fox! That banana custard was bombdiggetydooda, especially at 10am, dolloped on a slice of home-baked raspberry pie. James and I shared the dessert, like the gentlemen we aren’t.

After breakfast, I biked back to Astoria, where I had an Edible Queens interview with this roots rocker/mixologist at his apartment. Our photographer met me there and we spent the next hour shooting the breeze about music, Queens and booze, while the camera click click clicked around us. While we chatted, Joe invented a top-secret cocktail for the Fall magazine, which he is sipping here. Okay, one hint- butternut squash infusion.

After the interview, I can’t really remember what happened to the next four hours. On my to-do list was writing one last San Francisco post, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. The nutshell version: SK and I got Burmese food and cake for a picnic one night at an outdoor screening of Beetlejuice. Acquaintance-friends gave us more food and wine and we got overfed and distractable and decided to watch Beetlejuice at home instead. The end.

Never fear- I visit SF again in two weeks!!!

bay bursts 5

Fridays were my date nights with SK (in hindsight, many of our nights were date nights; this one was just official). Like the hippies we aren’t, we made a freeform plan on the first Friday. After a quick stop-in at an “underground farmer’s market,” supposedly illegal because none of the vendors had permits, we headed up to Bernal Heights to see what struck our fancy.

This wee neighborhood exists way up in the hills of San Francisco. Far from the heart of the city, Bernal Heights has hints of a Sicilian mountain village, with winding, narrow streets, cute shops and restaurants, and stunning views for miles around. The illusion of faraway-ness is so complete that it’s jarring to see a city bus lumbering through the toy streets.

Photo from NYTimes.com

After a hike around Bernal Park (at left), we hit Cortland Ave., the main drag. We looked at several places before settling on Little Nepal. Articles in the window said it was the best Nepalese restaurant in SF, not to mention the only one. Rare food adventure? Sold.

We ordered the National Nepalese Bhojan for 2, which included Momo, Samosa, Chhoila, Alu Tama Bodi, Sizzling Kukhura and more. Unsure what most of those things are? Us too! We didn’t have time to distinguish between the different dishes, as they briskly brought out plate after plate after plate of spicy mystery food, with potato cubes in one sauce, lentils in another, fried chunklets of something-or-other (see why I’m a food writer?), rice, paan, chicken, and on and on. I complemented my dinner with a bottle of Indian beer called Kingfisher, literally the size of a wine bottle. By dinner’s end, I was stuffed like Augustus Gloop, but managed to find room for a wee dessert of rice in sweetened milk. And after all our copious consumption, we still had tons of leftovers to take home for my Saturday breakfast.

End of date night? Oh no, only the best for my lady. I insisted on a whiskey digestif after the meal and after rejecting a couple of bars (too fashionable, too dangerous), we ended up in…a lesbian dog bar. Country music. Free popcorn. Big dogs. Big flirting. I thought it was awesome. SK? Sometimes our tastes stray.

bay bursts 4

We ate one of our top five brunches EVER in a surprisingly low-fi, uncrowded little nook. The restaurant is called Pomelo and their tagline is “refreshingly global,” which immediately irritated me. It conjures up images of long-haired white guys playing Nepalese mountain music while eating goji berries under a vast open sky. Sick.

At the very least, it sounds like “fusion cuisine,” a laughably overplayed concept. Every Asian restaurant in Queens says they are fusion, because like, they use garlic in their egg rolls. I digress.

The cool thing about Pomelo is that they don’t try to merge disparate cuisines. Rather, their menu has a host of distinctive items from many parts of the world, each one indicating it’s place of origin, using whatever produce is local and in-season. And not just “everything from Colombian to Argentinian” either. This was true diversity.

SK ordered the Eastlake, billed as a Seattle food, which was smoked trout and red potato hash with wild rice and horseradish cream, two poached eggs and “artisinal pugliese toast” (whatever that means). I got the Altamira, a Caracas specialty, which was three crispy white corn buns, one filled with egg, one filled with potato, tomato, and queso fresco, one filled with beef mechada, black beans, fried plantains and grated cheese, served with a spicy avocado salsa.

Our two dishes couldn’t have been more different, but they were equally amazing. This restaurant is a must-try if you visit or live in SF. HOWEVER, only go there for brunch. We were muy disappointed when we returned for dinner several days later.

bay burst 3

SK and I made* a couple of extra-tasty dinners. One was the de rigeur Cali staple, fish tacos. We beer-battered and deep fried some rock cod (I love the name of that fish) which I purchased from an Asian seafood shop in the Mission, then put it in corn tortillas with avocado, cabbage, homemade pico (chopped tomatoes, onions, cilantro and jalapeno), topped with spicy cherry pepper/lime yogurt sauce. I ate 14 tacos and drank 100 beers!

The other home-cooked meal came from SK’s fave food blog, Smitten Kitchen. We made a shaved asparagus white pizza, with mozzarella and copious parmesan, olive oil, green garlic, chili flakes and two baked cage-free eggs! We got the dough at Safeway: it was cheap chemical-laden Pillsbury from a tube. The dough’s crappiness couldn’t overpower the flavor power of all the other ingredients though. I ate half the pizza that night, then brought the rest to work. I think SK got a bite.

* When I say we made a meal, my role is often limited to critical support services, such as vegetable washing, music selection, and kitty petting.