Mama knows best

Earlier this week, when I opened the cupboard and found nothing but dust bunnies, and knew that the only thing in my fridge was a bottle of mustard and a root beer ice pop in the freezer, all I wanted was a plate of good food that tasted like home. Not a big going-out-to-eat ordeal with a hostess to walk us to our table, a long menu to sort through, and servers to listen to. I just wanted a good, simple home-cooked meal… from someone else’s kitchen. And because we recently sold our kitchen table (in preparation for moving), I also wanted to eat it at someone else’s table.

And for that, we went to Mama’s Food Shop. It certainly didn’t taste like anything my mama ever made (i.e. because it was actually de-friggin’-licious) but the slamming screen door, ceiling fan circulating warm air and the homey dishes our food was served on made it feel like I was over at someone’s home. Somewhere far away from the city, in the south maybe.

Mama’s is simple. You can have basics like chicken (roasted or fried), meatloaf, tilapia and pork shoulder. With that you get sides: collard greens, mashed potatos, corn bread, mac n’ cheese and potato salad to name a few. There’s no waitress. but it’s definitely not fast food either. You just order up at the front and take your plate to your table. It’s no frills and it’s great.

Fried chicken and macaroni and cheese

There were lots of veggie side options but I went in with the ol’ go-big-or-go-home mentality and got the  fried chicken and macaroni and cheese. I’m not a huge fried chicken fan in that I rarely order it and don’t even really crave it often but this fried chicken was incredible! I’m not only going to crave this from now on, I’m going to dream of it when I sleep and fantasize about eating buckets and buckets of it when I’m awake. (If my eyes are glazed over and I’m drooling, now you know what I’m thinking about.) The chicken meat (I went with white over dark) was tender and juicy, but what made this fried chicken phenomenal was hands down the thick, crunchy, batttered, seasoned-with-herbs-and spices fried skin. Not rubbery or fatty, just perfectly crisp with little bits of rosemary like I’ve never seen on fried chicken before. This was NOT the colonel’s recipe, that’s for sure. Continue reading

What would you do-oo-ooo?

“Oooh you know what I could really go for right now?” I asked Flaneur one day as we both sat on the couch, hunkering down in the comfort of our air-conditioned apartment as the world outside baked on another over-100-degree infernal summer day in the city.

“A Klondike bar,” I answered myself, closing my eyes and imagining the foil-wrapped, deliciously cold, chocolate-covered ice cream square resting between my fingers.

An ice cream classic: the Klondike bar

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In search of burgers and happiness

Cheddar cheeseburger and sweet potato fries

For me, the pursuit of the perfect hamburger is a lot like the pursuit of happiness. It’s a constant work in progress.  On any given day I might think I’ve found one or both, happiness and/or the perfect burger, but the search is never over. Just because you’ve found what makes you happy—maybe the love of your life or a great apartment or a dream job—doesn’t mean you stop, right?

Well same goes with burgers. Especially in New York. Why stop looking just because you’ve found the softest bun or the juiciest patty or the crispiest fries to complement your burger (because a burger with no fries just isn’t complete)? The burger with the tangiest pickles or the thickest melted cheese might still be waiting to be found. Continue reading

Summer party food

Last week, amidst a quarter-life crisis and doubts over whether I should even stay in New York, my friend invited me to a rooftop show and party at fancy pants Italian designer Isaia‘s store on the ritzy strip of Fifth Ave. where other fashion bigwigs like Louis Vuitton and Gucci call home. She had me at live music, rooftop party and free drinks, but when I got there and saw a huge table of one of my favorite Italian summertime eats, I knew coming would do wonders for my mood and pull me out of my funk.

Prosciutto and melon... my kinda party

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Arrivederci

My boyfriend is leaving. Back to Italy he goes and with him the home-cooked meals he whipped up in our miniature kitchen.

Mushroom risotto... mmm mmm mmm

While I wholeheartedly love eating, the chances that I’ll put the time and effort into making mushroom risotto, home made pesto or spaghetti alla carbonara for one… well, they’re slim to none.

Enjoying it while it lasts and bracing for the onslaught of Lean Cuisines in my near future…

Goodness gracious…

I’ve never been a big meatball fan. I never had a grandma with a secret recipe for them, never been one to order a meatball sub, and after a couple of years spent in Italy, the thought of spaghetti and meatballs together is almost sacrilegious. Yet last fall when I read about the opening of The Meatball Shop, a small Lower East Side restaurant centered solely around meatballs, I was intrigued. It’s been on my “list” ever since but it wasn’t until this weekend that I got around to finally going.

And let me tell you, I should have made going (again and again and again) a top priority.

There are a few ways you can have your meatballs, but the best and easiest, what Flaneur and I went with for our Saturday night dinner there, was the a la carte option. You pick what kind of meatball you want, what sauce you want on chosen meatballs, and finally what side you want either with or under them.

Spicy pork meatballs with spicy meat sauce on polenta

Meatball choices were classic beef, spicy pork, veggie, chicken and the week’s special: buffalo chicken wing. As curious as I was about a ball of chicken wing, I went with spicy pork instead. Then from my choices of classic tomato, mushroom gravy, spicy meat sauce and parmesan cream, I went again with the spicy one. Sides were divided into two categories: “stick to your bones” and “greenmarket.” Stick to your bones sides were risotto, spaghetti, rigatoni, polenta, mashed potatoes and white beans, while greenmarket, as the name might suggest, were different salad options and steamed, sauteed and roasted veggies. The logical choice for me, the one that jumped out at me when I first picked up the menu, was polenta, which I asked for underneath my meatballs.

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It’s the time of the season

Since fresh figs disappeared from the supermarket produce section and fruit vendor carts last fall, I’ve eagerly been awaiting their return. I love figs. My sister can attest to this. When she came to visit me last summer, I stopped at any fruit vendor I saw who sold figs. Either the green ones or the purple ones (not sure what their real names are), it doesn’t matter. I love them all. My sister, as it usually goes, thought I was weird and thought the figs were weird too.

Yesterday, while bumming around the supermarket in search of something to make for dinner, there they were, the long awaited figs!

Figs! So many figs!

Unfortunately, I have to say they weren’t the most delicious figs in the world. They could’ve been a little sweeter, a little juicier in the middle. Definitely not bad, but not fantastic either. (I’m chalking it up to my crappy neighborhood supermarket.) But hey, I’m just glad they’re here!

The inside of a plump little fig

Say cheese!

For the past couple of weeks, all I’ve wanted to eat is cheese. Just huge chunks, wedges, slices, globs of it. While I always love cheese, the reason I’ve been craving it like a junkie as of lately is because of the book I just finished. Immortal Milk, by Eric LeMay is all about cheese, but not in a boring  reference book kind of way. You wouldn’t read Immortal Milk to look up what makes Gorgonzola so funky or cheddar so orange. You’d read it, like I did, to follow someone else’s adventures, explorations, musings about cheese.

Immortal Milk is at times funny, educational, entertaining, and throughout, appetizing. Reading it before bed inevitably made me get up and rummage through the fridge, hoping to find some hunk of pecorino or Gouda or Camembert that I knew damn well I didn’t have, but oh hey, will you look at that, was somehow just magically there. (Note: no such luck. Never any magic cheese.)

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A new M&M

The newest M&M's: pretzel

For someone who ocassionally struggles with decision-making (I’m always the person at the restaurant asking the waitress for “just a couple more minutes”) I really do love having a wide variety of choices. When I lived in Italy, choices were limited when it came to candy, M&M’s in particular. I could have regular, peanut or sometimes crunchy if the store in question was well stocked. But here, in America, the land of endless possibilities, M&M’s just keep adding to their collection, and I for one, am all about it.

Up close and personal with a blue pretzel M&M

In addition to regular, peanut, crunchy, peanut butter, walnut, coconut, dark chocolate and the unfortunately short lived dulce-de-leche varieties, M&M recently added pretzel to their list of dangerously-easy-to-eat-100-of candies.

For the time being (i.e. until I buy another bag) I have mixed feelings about the new M&M’s. The round, chocolate and candy coated pretzel balls were good, but I wasn’t crazy about them. They were almost too crunchy for my taste and just slightly on the dry side. On the other hand, these new M&M’s only  have 150 calories per bag, while regular milk chocolate M&M’s have 210 and peanut M&M’s have 250. For someone who eats candy in large quantities (but doesn’t aspire to wear elastic waistband pants), this is a good thing. They weren’t my favorite (I think those might be peanut butter M&M’s) but I’d definitely eat them again.

It’s called comfort food for a reason

Spaghetti and tomato sauce... it's like a hug in food form

A good bowl of pasta definitely can’t fix very many problems (well except for temporary hunger) but it sure helps you forget about them for a while. Seriously, some spaghetti, tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and pepperoncino go a long way when put together in just the right way. Yesterday was a long day but sitting down with this spicy yet subtly sweet, deliciously rich and thick pasta made perfectly yet seemingly effortlessly by my own in-house Italian, well that just was all the comforting I needed.