The winning cookie

In college, my roommates and I would often sit around, usually under the influence of something or other, and ask ourselves some really hard-hitting, soul-searching questions.

“You guys, what would you do if there was a gorilla running around outside right now?” Or the time we went camping and someone asked, “What if an axe wielding murderer ran out of the woods and started chasing us?” And then there was the one that really made me pause, look inward and reflect on what kind of person I was, “What one specific food would you choose for an all-you-can-eat contest?”

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This rosemary shortbread’s a golden beaut of a cookie, no?

Ask me today and my answer would be the rosemary shortbread cookies at Lilia. I’m fairly confident that I could eat a horrifying amount of those cookies, an amount that would not win me any friends and certainly not any boyfriends, but dammit, it would crush my competition and win me that contest!

Shortbread doesn’t even do it for me, not with its usual dry, crumbly texture  and bland flavor. But this cookie, this gloriously sweet and buttery, rosemary flecked and sea salt sprinkled, palm-sized cookie, wasn’t dry or tough like its brethren. It still retained some of the coarseness that would make it ideal for dipping in a hot cup of tea while also being subtly soft, the kind of cookie that dissolves into pure deliciousness when it hits your tongue.

Not too sweet, nor too savory, just absolutely perfect in flavor and consistency, I’m pretty sure me and Lilia’s rosemary shortbread are gonna be a winning team.

Good to the bone and straight to The Marrow

Even though I’ll still only be a subway (or two) rides away from the West Village, these are the last few days that I’ll actually be a resident of the neighborhood where I’ve spent the last two eventful years. I’ve had some great times and some not so great times here, everything from career changes to heartbreak, to the many friends who’ve crashed on my couch to getting both locked out and locked in my apartment, to laughing to crying and to everything in between. As a final hurrah and farewell, I decided to have one last big meal out in the neighborhood (though I don’t doubt I’ll be back for more soon enough) at The Marrow, Harold Dieterle’s new restaurant.

Paying homage to both the German and Italian parts of his family, Harold Dieterle has another awesome restaurant on his hands (I’m a big Kin Shop fan) that instead of mixing the two cuisines, features them separately on the menu, like different branches of a family tree. Below, how my friend Stas and I celebrated my move across the East River with one more great meal in the West Village.

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Bone Marrow… c’mon, you know we had to

First out was the restaurant’s namesake, the bone marrow, from the Famiglia Chiarelli branch of the starters section. One giant bone halved and filled with a hearty mix of sea urchin, fried potatoes and meyer lemon aioli, with crunchy toast to spread it all on. The sea urchin was not what I was expecting, with a creamy consistency and sort of neutral flavor.

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Prosciutto wrapped dates

From the meat plates portion of the menu, we picked the dangerously tasty prosciutto wrapped dates with gorgonzola. Plump, tender and crazy flavorful, I could, no lie, throw back a dozen of these. Seriously, these guys could get me in a lot of trouble.

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Duck schnitzel

Moving on to main courses, we first picked from the Familie Dieterle branch and ordered the pan-friend duck schnitzel with a nutty spaetzle of hazelnuts and quark (a dairy product of sorts) with cucumbers and stewed wolfberries, which looked kind of like small red beans but tasted like sweet, cooked raisins. (I love beans and raisins so I was totally on board.)

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Stone Bass “Vitello tonnato”

Then crossing back over to the Italian side of the menu, we chose the sautéed stone bass with fingerling potatoes, cippolini onions, briny olives, a creamy tuna belly sauce and what turned out to be my favorite part of the dish, juicy, fried sweetbreads. Usually I feel just lukewarm about sweetbreads but these were tender and delicious, with a nice breaded coating.

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Chocolate budino

Finally, we were faced with a difficult decision: dessert. Everything sounded great, and while the waiter tried pretty hard to sell us on the ginger stout cake (he said it was far and away the most popular dessert), we were both in a chocolate mood and went with the budino with hazelnut brittle and mascarpone. Chocolate pudding can do no wrong in my eyes and this one, with it’s dense creaminess, was just about perfect. This is in no way a complaint, but the thing to note about this dessert is that it’s a pretty hearty serving of chocolate. The two of us, ardent chocoholics, split this and felt pretty satisfied with the amount we each got. (No fighting necessary.)

Like so many other meals I’ve had in the West Village, I walked out happy and stuffed. Which is basically how I’ll be leaving the West Village in general, happy and stuffed full of memories. Brooklyn, here I come.

I’ll have “Every Thing On It”

(Photo courtesy of Amazon)

Growing up, Shel Silverstein was one of my favorite writers, and even now when I see his books, especially his collections of poetry like A Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends, I always stop and pick them up. Shel died in 1999, but his family just released a new book with 145 previously unpublished poems and drawings called Every Thing On It.

If there was any doubt in my mind that this collection would be great, and of course there wasn’t, the poem below would have changed my mind. His writing spoke to me as a kid, and clearly, still does today.

Italian Food

Oh, how I love Italian food.
I eat it all the time,
Not just ’cause how good it tastes
But ’cause how good it rhymes.
Minestrone, cannelloni,
Macaroni, rigatoni,
Spaghettini, scallopini,
Escarole, braciole,
Insalata, cremolata, manicotti,
Marinara, carbonara,
Shrimp francese, Bolognese,
Ravioli, mostaccioli,
Mozzarella, tagliatelle,
Fried zucchini, rollatini,
Fettuccine, green linguine,
Tortellini, Tetrazzini,
Oops—I think I split my jeani.

Read more about it on NPR.

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…

Food reads

For the educated glutton

It took me forever to finish, but I finally did it. I finished John Dickie’s “Delizia! The Epic History of the Italians and Their Food.” Normally I breeze through books (the ones I like anyway) but this one was so detailed in its historical account of Italian food that I had to make my way through it a little more carefully, a little more slowly.

The book starts in Medieval Italy (which wasn’t actually Italy back then) and works its way through the Renaissance, papal scandals (yes, they’ve always existed), the official establishment of Italy as the country we know today, the late 19th century and early 20th century flood of Italian emigrants, the first World War, the rise and fall of Mussolini and the second World War, and finally through the second half of last century and into the current one.

It was intense in its attention to historical detail but definitely a good read. I’m not a huge history buff, but history told through food? Well, that’s more my style.

I have seen the promised land

Going to BuonItalia, the italian food market in pricey, trendy, gourmet Chelsea Market, had long been on my list of things to do. I had been to Chelsea Market before but didn’t go in to BuonItalia because stores that claim to specialize in italian food usually disappoint me. They inevitably just make me miss real, authentic italian food, and then that leads to lots of moping around and being whiney.

But recently, when I went on an online search for a place in New York that sold stracchino (a soft white cheese that I love with every fiber of my being) I came back to BuonItalia, which said they had it, both on their website and when I called to ask. (You can never be too sure.)

So Flaneur and I headed west to buy the cheese for part of dinner at our apartment on Friday night. I went with the intention of just getting the cheese. I wasn’t expecting anything else. Just the stracchino. But the second I walked in and took a look around, I knew I had reached the promise land. The land of milk and honey. Make that cheese and honey. I had found everything I had been looking for.

This place had e-ve-ry-thing. EVERYTHING. Their cheese section was amazing! They had stracchino and so much more: burrata, pecorino, squaquarone, mozzarella di buffalo, and so many more. I wanted to rip them all open and go on a fiendish cheese eating binge. But I held back.

So much wonderful cheese!

A huge ceramic bowl filled with huge balls of mozzarella gave me a great idea for my next birthday party: instead of bobbing for apples, I want to bob for mozzarella. And if other people are weirded out by that, I’ll play by myself. Practically glowing in their milky bath, those mozzarella balls were begging to be eaten.

Fist-size balls of mozzarella

The refrigerated meat case was just like being back in Italy, ordering a sandwich at my favorite shop (which by the way, in case anyone’s interested, is Antico Noè in Florence). All my old friends were there: porchetta, salame, speck, prosciutto, and others.

Carnivore wonderland

Then as I worked my way through the dry foods section, I ran into all the cookies that I had always seen in the supermarkets in Italy. It really was like running into someone you haven’t seen in a long time. Someone you like. They had the chocolate pan di stelle (a classic among Italian children) and baiochi, the little round cookies with chocolate cream on the inside.

Cookies galore

But really, they had it all: olive oil, fresh pasta, spices, chocolates, Easter confections, grissini  (super thin crunchy bread sticks), jams, olives, coffee, and even imported gelato. I was in heaven. Italian food heaven.

Needless to say, I was completely unable to leave the store with just the cheese I had come for. This was not the place to put my self-control to the test, so I didn’t even bother.