Oatmeal will make it all better

Seriously, when it rains, it pours… and if you’re me it sometimes also turns into a God-forsaken “wintry mix” and then you get locked INSIDE your apartment (yes, it’s totally possible and yes, it’s a COMPLETE fire hazard) and then everything’s broken and nothing’s fine and you end up crying alone in your apartment stomping your feet on the ground and pouting about the world sucking. So, uhm, yea, that was my Monday.

Which is why today absolutely called for something happy, fun, and comforting, and because I’m obviously talking about food, tasty too. Enter OatMeals, a cute little Greenwich Village shop specializing in jazzed up oatmeal, both sweet and savory (which I’d never heard of) and lots of toppings and ingredients to choose from.

Looks like dessert but really it's fig and Gorgonzola oatmeal

Looks like dessert but really it’s fig and Gorgonzola oatmeal

I, for one, love a good bowl of oatmeal. There’s something about soft, warm food that just soothes me, and after the harrowing Monday I had, calming comfort was right up my alley. (I’ll psycho-analyze myself here and say this is probably some deep-seated association going back to baby food. What do you think?) At OatMeals you can have a water base or a milk base, you can go the traditional route with something like brown sugar and cinnamon or fruity with something like pineapple and mango topped oatmeal in coconut milk, you can call it dessert with graham crackers, dulce de leche and whipped cream or make it a meal with something savory, which is exactly what I did.

This beats the hell out of the instant stuff I usually make at home.

This beats the hell out of the instant stuff I usually make at home.

With ingredients like bacon, manchego, and truffle oil, all of the savory options seemed good, but I went with the Fig & Gorgonzola oatmeal in the Mama Bear size. (How adorable is that? Instead of small, medium and large, they have baby bear, mama bear and papa bear.) My creamy milk-based oatmeal was covered in a chunky layer of Gorgonzola crumbles, dried figs and a thick swirl of syrupy balsamic vinegar. It definitely wasn’t the peaches and cream or brown sugar and bananas I’m used to, but I liked it. The Gorgonzola gave it a salty, cheesy flavor and the figs and balsamic glaze added a tangy, sweetness that wasn’t too sugary or dessert-like but reminded me of risotto almost.

Did it fix the crapfest that was Monday? No, not really, but it was a tasty distraction and just the right, subtle reminder I needed that everything wasn’t actually broken.  Just some days require a little bit of oatmeal and a cathartic cry, that’s all. Bring on the rest of the week.

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Gelato, that’s amore!

I just came back from Italy, where I spent a week in and around Florence with my boyfriend, visiting his family and friends, taking daytrips, carboloading and through it all… SWEATING, cause dear sweet Madonna and Child, it was HOT. Like, really hot. Like, totally socially acceptable to eat gelato every day, sometimes twice, kind of hot.

Below, the highlights reel of my love fest with gelato, which I thank for saving me from heat stroke:

Il Sorriso

Outside of Florence’s tourist-clogged center was Il Sorriso, where the BF and I stopped one day on our way to lunch at his sister’s house. Because we really were on our way to eat lunch, he suggested we split a cup instead of each getting our own. I relented, though I’m not usually into this kind of thing. We got stracciatella, probably the best I ever had, with thick, chunky pieces of chocolate throughout it,  and cremino alla Nutella, which was a creamy, chocolate, Nutella swirled bunch of awesomeness.


On a different day we went to one of Flaneur’s old favorites, also outside of the center, called Badiani. Though it’s a gelateria/ pasticceria combo with some pretty amazing looking baked treats, their main draw is the gelato, especially the Buontalenti flavor which they hold a registered trademark for. On the left is my cup of Millefoglie gelato (named after the Italian pastries made with dozens of layers of delicate, crispy thin layers of dough and thick, custardy pastry cream) and more cremino (this time without Nutella, but still chocolatey and rich). On the right is the BF’s cup of pistachio (a nutty, creamy blend) and the house star, Buontalenti, a buttery, rich mixture of cream, custard, and all that is good in this world.

Gelateria dei Neri

While strolling around downtown in Florence’s historic center one day (and by strolling you should know that I mean wondering at what point the skin on my body was going to start bubbling and blistering from the unbearable heat) we stopped at Gelateria dei Neri (no website, because that kind of technological nonsense just hasn’t fully caught on yet in Italy).  They had a big selection, with lots of really refreshing looking fruit choices, but I’m always a cream/chocolate girl, so I went with cassata siciliana (a traditional Sicilian dessert cake made with candied fruits and nuts, and a mix of sweet ricotta and the heaven they stuff cannoli with) and a ricotta and figs blend, which was velvety and sweet, with jammy chunks of figs swirled in. The beau got an always delicious combination of rich, bittersweet dark chocolate  and bright, creamy coconut.

I could almost not hate the suffocating heat of summer if I had all this gelato to keep me going. Say what you will about Italians, but man, do they know what they’re doing with this stuff.

Ice cream for dinner and no one to stop me

I have a boyfriend who is constantly away, leaving me alone for weeks and months at a time. It’s been the nature of things since we first met almost five years ago (eek!) and while I hate it, there is one occasional upside to it. Being alone, like I am right now while he’s in Italy again, means getting to call the shots on dinner every night. No questions about where the protein is or if I have a veggie to go with my main dish or if I used the butter that “tastes like chemicals.” (I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter according to my butter connoisseur boyfriend.)

Ice cream: it’s what’s for dinner

It’s not that I eat like a pig every night (or else I’d become one of those tragic people who become fused to their couches and have to have walls removed in their homes to be taken out via crane) but every once in a while when the mood strikes, and because there’s no one to stop me, I say, ” You know what? I think I’ll have ice cream for dinner tonight. Nothing else. Just ice cream.”

Who says dessert can’t be dinner?

That was tonight’s train of thought, anyway. It was actually an attempt at being healthy though, that got me there. I had dropped by West Village health food market Health & Harmony in search of something to bring home when I wandered into the freezer section. And there I saw Laloo’s goat milk ice creams, in black mission fig, no less. As if the goat milk  part wasn’t intriguing enough, I was totally sold when I saw figs involved.

So I bought it, took it home, dug a spoon into it and plopped down on the couch where I polished off the whole pint while watching the latest episode of Gossip Girl. Extra creamy and soft like a velvety frozen yogurt, with the subtle tang of goat’s milk and the jammy sweetness of  juicy, ripe figs, it was a damn fine dinner if you ask me. And with an ocean between my boyfriend and me, there was no one to tell me otherwise.

Foodie/fatty accessories

Looking for a fast way to kill a couple of hours? One word: Etsy.

While I haven’t gone as far as actually buying anything from the online marketplace for vintage and handmade items including artwork, jewelry, clothing and everything else under the sun, I do love to while away the time going through the different vendors.

Today, for example, I came across this awesome vendor, who kind of randomly, makes food miniatures into jewelry and accessories. Thing is though, they’re really good! Like if I didn’t know they were itty bitty versions, I might think that half of these are the real thing. Check them out.  

Mini pancakes… for your ears!

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Interrupting the radio silence to bring you…deliciousness

Since my last post, which truth be told seems so very long ago, I waved adieu to September and the last vestiges of summer, turned another year older (and as the beau pointed out, got that much closer to 30), and ate a lot of really good food that I have regrettably not documented on this very blog. (Due to a bad combo of feeling lazy, unmotivated, and struck with mild writer’s block, in case you were wondering.)

A bad picture of a good dessert

But I decided to interrupt my current funk to dish on a really great dessert I had recently at  Otto, Mario Batali’s Greenwich Village pizzeria. Yes, there was pizza before the dessert, and yes, it was delicious, but the dessert… oh, that dessert, it stole the show.

The olive oil coppetta, captured rather horribly in the picture you see here (thanks again, cheap camera bought at a Mexican Office Depot), was not just delicious but interesting too. Really! Every spoonful was like peeling back a new layer, getting a new flavor or texture. There was the creamy, smooth and slightly savory olive oil gelato next to the icy, tart concord grape sorbetto, mixed in with citrusy bright orange curd, plump, juicy figs roasted in red wine and a licorice like sweetness and candy crunch from the fennel brittle.  So many flavors, so much sweet deliciousness, so good.

I mean really, so good! Enough of this and I might just feel like blogging about all the other great eats I’ve been having recently. I’ll keep you posted.

Sister, sister

DNA is about where the similarities end between my sister and me.  She’s loud and sassy. I’m quiet and sarcastic. She says I dress like Mr. Rogers. I say she dresses like a hoochie. She drives fast with the music up and the windows down. I prefer to walk.

We speak differently, live in different states, have different hobbies, listen to different music, date different types of guys, and don’t even look alike, if you ask me. (Further supporting my theory that I am, in fact, adopted.)

And now, because life’s dealt her a particularly bad hand, we don’t even eat the same. Because of a serious health problem she’s developed in recent years, my sister— brace yourself cause it’s ugly —is on a sugar-free, fat-free, wheat-free, gluten-free, vegan diet.

I kid you not, folks. My heart breaks a thousand times for her. No sugar, fat, wheat or dairy. That leaves what, air??

This presented major food problems for my visit to Miami. We’d be going to eat but where the heck could we both go?

“Don’t worry,” she said drearily. ” I can usually find white rice and grilled chicken on any menu.”

Uhm. No. Not happening. Not on my watch.

I turned to my vegan and vegetarian friends in Miami, and found just the place: Metro Organic Bistro.

With the beau and our mother also with us, we set out for the design district eatery that boasted lots of fresh, organic, healthy and vegetarian friendly options.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a tad bit skeptical. I can’t help it. It’s the sugar-crazed, fat-loving carnivore in me. But Metro Organic Bistro, I’m happy to say, completely floored me. If this is what being super healthy was like, sign. Me. UP.

Dinner went like this:

Entree 1: my mom’s

My mom ordered the braised chicken (free range and natural, thank you very much) with truffled polenta and organic green beans. The polenta wasn’t as creamy as I like it, but the truffle flavor made it buttery and smooth.

Entree 2: my sister’s (not vegan)

My sister ordered the tuna Nicoise, though not a vegan option (hey, she’s new to the game). Fat, juicy hunks of yellowfish tuna came on a bed of organic greens, potatoes, tomatoes, green beans, boiled eggs, onions, Nicoise olives and anchovies. She doesn’t like anchovies but I do, so guess where those little guys wound up?

Entree 3: Mine

I went for the Mahi-Mahi, a tender, juicy, lemony, grilled (and wild caught) steak topped with shaved fennel and watercress, topped with a zesty cilantro drizzle. Everything was organic, but more than that, everything was vibrant, colorful and crazy delicious.

Entree 4: the non-De Angelis at the table

Last but not least was Flaneur’s. He opted for one of the specials not listed on the menu: a plump and wonderfully juicy and smooth piece of salmon, so perfect it seemed to just melt on your tongue. Underneath it was a mound of red quinoa and broccoli florets, to lend it an earthy, veggie goodness.

Dessert 1

And because no meal, healthy or otherwise, is every complete without dessert, we got two to share amongst the four of us, though I’m pretty sure the boy and I did most of the damage. First was the chocolate bouchon a la mode, a warm chocolate lava-cake paired with a creamy scoop of vanilla ice cream and topped with some of the fattest blackberries I’ve ever seen. When the gooey, warm chocolate inside poured out, it was like dying and going to healthy food heaven.

Dessert 2

Our other dessert was another special not on the menu: a fig tart with mascarpone and more juicy blackberries. The tart was sweet and nutty, with a taste reminiscent of roasted chestnuts, and fat little chunks of figs throughout. Being the fig-fiend that I am, this was perfect.

In the end, there was no pork belly or lard, nothing deep fried or oozing with cheese, but everything was delicious, clean and healthy. And that’s something my sister and I, different as we are, both agreed on.

Ripe for the picking

A fig practically shouting to be eaten

I’m obsessed with figs. Usually, I only see them in little plastic crates at the supermarket, but during my recent trip to Italy, I saw them fat and ripe, hanging from a tree in my boyfriend’s yard. In the case of the one pictured above, it was so ripe and ready to be eaten, that it simply couldn’t take it anymore and literally burst open, showing off its ruby colored pulp to the world. This wouldn’t of happened if it was my fig tree. That’s all I’m saying.

Morning at the farmers market

The Ferry Building is fast becoming one of my favorite places to hang out in San Francisco. With all the great food and interesting places to eat and shop, all under one roof, I have yet to get tired of going. Since I’ve been here I’ve gone at least once a week, sometimes twice. When I woke up yesterday morning, I knew that’s where I’d be heading first during my Saturday wanderings around town. The reason: Saturday’s Farmers Market.

I originally went for something specific, but when I got there it turned out the vendor I was looking for wasn’t there this week. At first I was upset because I’d walked all the way over there for nothing but once I started looking around at all the other stuff there I was glad I came. Fresh produce, baked goods, cheese and meat products—everything regional, straight from the farm, and most of it organic.

Everything looked incredible but I was particularly blown away by the fruits and vegetables. It was like I was seeing them for the first time. Had peaches always been this big and round, the color of a fiery sunset? Definitely not the tough, dinky ones I bought at shitty supermarkets in New York.

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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

The BEST mac & cheese of all time

Skillets full of cheese and happiness.

Most of my italian friends would be horrified if they knew just how much I love macaroni and cheese. They would snub their big aquiline noses at this beloved comfort food of mine and scoff, “You Americans. You just don’t know how to eat.”

But if any of them, if any single one of those pasta-snob Italians on that whole peninsula, ate just one forkful of the mac and cheese that I had the great pleasure of eating this weekend, they would never, ever say another bad thing about it ever again. “America, you win this time,” they would say.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love Italian pasta (above all other ethnic foods in fact), and on most days I even love most of the Italians I know. So this is nothing against them. But the mac and cheese I had Saturday night at S’MAC in the East Village deserves worldwide recognition. Its praises deserve to be sung from rooftops around the globe. So I’m starting here.

At S’MAC its all macaroni and cheese and not much else. The macs, made with either regular, whole wheat or glutten free noodles, all come in cast iron skillets ranging from the small “nosh” to the humongous “partay!” and can be topped with breadcrumbs or without. The menu lists 12 different variations or the option of building your own from their wide selection of cheeses (gruyere, manchego and pecorino to name a few) and “mix-ins” such as Andouille sausages, roasted tomatoes and kalamata olives.

A forkful of AWESOME

While indecision usually strikes me at moments like these, I knew right away what I wanted when I read the description: the Parisienne. “Mac-n-Cheese for the ‘upper crust’. Creamy Brie, roasted figs, roasted shiitake mushrooms & fresh rosemary.” SOLD.

When it came to the table, the “major munch” I had ordered was a lot bigger than I had expected. The skillet, filled to the very brim with the most beautifully baked-to-a-bubbly-warm-brown crispy gold crust, was big enough to easily feed two people. This was exciting. I knew I would eat every last noodle in that skillet and scrape off every last bit of melted cheese if it took me all night.

This mac and cheese smelled incredible, like a cheese-a-holic’s wildest fantasy, but maddening as it was, that smell didn’t even hold a candle to the taste of that first bite. Thick, creamy, ooey gooey cheesy Brie amazingness seemed to melt in my mouth and into my very heart. It was one of those bites that makes you close your eyes for a second and try and memorize everything about the moment.

Dear God if I had to relive one moment for all of eternity, THIS would be it.

I dug my fork into the cheese-filled skillet, poking through the thick, chewy top crust and resurfacing with dangling noodles covered in creamy gold cheese, peppered with bits of fresh rosemary and the smooth, roasted shiitake mushrooms that tangled themselves amongst the macaroni. I was in heaven. So much so that as I happily chomped along, I completely forgot there were figs inside. (A note about figs: I am obsessed with them. Last summer, any corner fruit vendor that had them got my business and any dish or dessert that includes them is usually ordered my way. When I left Italy and moved to the city, one of the things I brought with me was a small jar of fig preserves to go with the wedge of pecorino I brought my roommate.) When I took another heaping forkful and bit down on a soft chunk of that oh-so-sweet familiar fruit, I seriously almost lost it.

“Oh! A fig! Oh my God, a fig! Oh, I think this might be the best thing I’ve ever eaten. Seriously.”

Flaneur just smiled at me. He knows when to let me just enjoy the moment.

I could eat an Olympic-sized pool full of this stuff.

The mushrooms were laced throughout the mac and cheese but the figs were less frequent, which in my opinion was a great thing. They were so sweet that each bite turned into a deliciously fun game of anticipation. Will this one have it? How ’bout this one? Oh wait, there it is! And just like that, it was a sugary sweet explosion of taste mixing in with the cheese, mushrooms and rosemary. Any more figs would have been overpowering. These were the exact perfect amount.

But like I said, the “major munch” size was massive and after a certain point, beyond the point of my stomach feeling like it was about to burst and my jeans feeling like they were ready to give out on me, I had to stop. I couldn’t go on. They say you should stop eating when you feel feel full and for me that had been about 8 huge forkfuls ago. So I asked for a to-go box (which they had a million of, because I guess lots of people find themselves in my predicament) and packed the last of my delicious mac and cheese to take home with me.

We hadn’t even been home for half an hour when I said, “Oh screw it. I can’t wait till tomorrow. I wanna finish my mac and cheese.” And even at room temperature (because I hadn’t even put it in the fridge yet) and eaten out of a styrofoam container, it was the best damn macaroni and cheese I have ever had.