PS: Antica Pizzeria in Marina Del Rey is on the list…I can vouch for that. AMAZING!
Reading and eating are two of my favorite things in the world. So, when I came across the perfect union of the two on a recent trip to Washington D.C., I was almost overwhelmed with excitement. I think I literally let a squeak come out of my mouth.
Kramerbooks & Afterwords: Bookstore and Cafe on 1517 Connecticut Avenue Northwest, is a wonderful experience: you can read a book and eat brunch all in the same establishment! Eureka! The Saturday we dined there was an uncomfortably windy day, where finding refuge from the elements was our only option. The good friends who were sightseeing with us recommended Kramer’s food. What a good recommendation it was.
My brie omelet was great: not too oily, not too dry (just right), the brie, although not as much as I would have want, was melted and danced well with the spinach. My husband, Francesco, tried the Cuban sandwich, a mighty looking concoction with various cold cuts, grilled onions and spices.
Next up: Dinner. There are so many choices in D.C. Our groups of friends thought it would be fun to hang out in a pizzeria (with Francesco and I being Italian and all…..). We took a cab from our hotel and stopped at Sette Osteria, also on Connecticut Avenue. I tend to cringe at the mention of Italian pizza, or Italian restaurants. I know, sounds snobby, but when I am presented with Angel Hair pasta with Alfredo sauce, what am I supposed to say? (Alfredo sauce does not exist in Italy…in fact, I discovered it one day while I was out shopping for groceries. Yeah, I tasted it and yes, I hate it.)
But I was pleasantly surprised! The Regina, with San Marzano tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella and basil, was the right balance of crispy and juicy.
(Here is a profile of Melissa from C-VILLE Weekly).
*José Andrés, for minibar by José Andrés, Washington, D.C. – Outstanding Chef. He is a favorite of mine (although I have never tried his dishes). Must be his accent (I have one, too), the love for his country, and his Made in Spain TV series that was broadcast on public television.
*Kevin Gillespie, Woodfire Grill, Atlanta – Rising Star Chef. Two words: Top Chef. Who could resist that beard? And the pig tattooed on his arm? And you’ve got to love someone who would splurge on olive oil, as he told iVillage FOOD.
*April Bloomfield, The Spotted Pig, NYC – Best Chef, New York City. Gotta love a girl who would sacrifice her body for food (and impressed Mario Batali).
*Marco Canora, Hearth, NYC – Best Chef, New York City. Thanks to The Next Iron Chef, Canora’s genius was highlighted in between a meltdown and a perfect pasta dish.
*Girl & the Goat in Chicago – Stephanie Izard‘s restaurant, the only female to have won Top Chef – for Best New Restaurant. Coolest logo/concept ever!
Yes, I am obsessed with Top Chef. And yes, I’ll keep watching even without Fabio. Sad, but I’ll keep watching in the hopes that either Carla or Richard will score big.
I seem to be late on every celebration-related post. My apologies. I tend to eat as quickly as I cook.
The day of LOVE. What better way to celebrate it than with a Bacio? My favorite chocolate treats are the Baci Perugina, literally a kiss of dark chocolate with crunchy hazelnut.
But for this Valentine’s Day, I ventured into uncharted territory. I left my comfort zone (mainly the apple cake, carrot muffin, chocolate chip pancakes zone) and dove into the red velvet universe. Before falling head of heels for the red velvet cupcakes at Cappellino’s Crazy Cakes in Charlottesville, I had never even seen a red cake. Mind you, purist has been my approach to food until now, but I am ready and willing to try new things. (And if red velvet turns out to be the favorite of husband, well, that makes a pretty compelling reason to try it).
I browsed the web and looked for a recipe that didn’t call for mountains of butter – I cook with olive oil. Butter is sort of foreign…- So I found it at Sprinkle Bakes, a baker’s fantasy blog. I did make a slight adjustment to the recipe: Instead of 1 cup of butter, I used 1/2 cup, you know, to stay healthy and stuff.
I had quite a bit of fun mixing the cocoa powder with red food coloring… in fact, I think I went a bit too far with it. The recipe called for 1 1/2 Tablespoons of coloring, but I went for a whole 2 Tablespoons.
And look at that color! The dough took on a life of its own! The dough was thick and creamy, thanks to the buttermilk and a hint of apple cider vinegar.
I was happy with how the cake turned out. Valentine’s Day success! I decided to make a Chantilly cream using a recipe by Ms. Baking herself, Martha Stewart.
I love The New Yorker. It’s as simple as that. But when the Food Issue comes around, I get giddy like a 10-year-old schoolgirl … butterfly in my stomach and the whole nine yards. Yes, I am a little late to the party…considering the latest food-related issue come out last November. Nevertheless, good writing never gets old.
My favorite piece is the profile of April Bloomfield, chef and co-owner of New York’s The Spotted Pig. Bloomfield is fierce and fearless, unapologetic and kick-ass. In Burger Queen, Lauren Collins captures the chef’s eclectic career and uncompromising confidence: burgers in her restaurant are only made one way, her way – “char-grilled, on a brioche bun, topped with crumbled Roquefort.” Who can say no to that? Apparently, only Lou Reed, the sole customer who has it his way (and not per Bloomfield’s choice). In the end, I love a good story.
And something I didn’t know, she passed the Mario Batali test – Bloomfield has a missing fingernail, a sign of her disinterest in keeping a well manicured hand, and most importantly, a signifier of her willingness to go the distance with ingredients. Even Top Chef Host extraordinaire Tom Colicchio saw something in her, something humble and free of Page Six gossip. Well, that’s definitely an accomplishment in my book.
Because I am a history buff, I enjoyed reading Eleanor Roosevelt’s food misadventures in the White House. The First Kitchen is a snap shot at the politics of food, the good, the bad and the “abominable.”
And how about Family Dinners, a collection of essays and stories from the 2007 Food Issue. I told you, I go bananas for it. Among the many, Lunch, by Cristina Henriquez, is my favorite: a take on lunch as family dinner in Panama with a myriad of relatives and close-enough friends at grandma’s two kitchen tables.
I always go back to my personal stories of family dinners. What I love most about Italian cuisine is its social aspect. Since I can remember, every time I had a plate in front of me, I was surrounded by family, loud and mouthy. Growing up, my parents had one rule and one rule only: dinner was a family affair – every night, no matter how much fun I was having chasing lighting bugs in the fields, I had to come home for dinner. As an adult, it stuck with me: I would not have it any other way. Dinner was and still is a sacred time.
I am currently in a full-fledged food writing kick. I’ve always loved to eat and cook, but reading and writing about food is a totally different experience. I stop and think about foods’ flavors, textures, colors and smells in a way I did not know possible.
While browsing a used bookstore on Charlottesville’s historic Downtown Mall, I encountered a book I had been wanting to read for a while (per a friend’s recommendation): Kathleen Flinn‘s The Sharper Your Knife, the Less you Cry. Flinn recounts her trials and tribulations while pursuing a degree, and her ultimate dream, from the world-renowned Le Cordon Blue cooking school in Paris.
Haven’t started it yet, but by what I found on the first page I can tell we’ll be great friends:
“Cooking is like love, it should be entered into with abandon or not at all.”
Harriet Van Horne, ‘Vogue’ 10/1956
And speaking of a dream profession, after reading Ruth Reichl‘s life as the New York Times’ food critic, I, too, want to live for food. In Garlic and Sapphires, Reichl unabashedly moves from telling of her anxious and doubtful arrival to New York, to the glamorous life as the most revered critic in the city. Sure, quantifying the goodness of a chef’s hash browns, or potato-wrapped black bass in Barolo sauce or a chocolate souffle’ cake with whipped cream.
I, for one thing, would run out of friends to bring to fancy restaurants after a week, but not Reichl. She has an arsenal of amusing companions—in addition to her husband and son—and disguises (it includes one where she literally become her mother…wig, jewelry and all). At first, I couldn’t believe I was reading an autobiography. In fact, it’s hard to believe Hollywood hasn’t jumped on it: The richness of her family life, the frustration with being recognized by restaurateurs and chefs alike and the discovery of new flavors—Umami.
“Being a restaurant critic has its drawbacks: there are a lot of restaurant I haven’t yet eaten in,” reads the first sentence in one of her columns. “But it also has its advantages: there are a lot of restaurants where I am still not recognized.” Yes, I’d like to have that problem.
My husband and I visited my parents in Los Angeles for Christmas. I lived in L.A. on and off for 10 years, right before moving to Charlottesville. I love the metropolis for many reasons, but its culinary diversity definitely ranks at the top of the list. Looking for new, out-of-the-public-eye eateries in a land populated by close to 10 million people isn’t easy, and coupled with grad school, well, that became close to impossible.
I’ve tasted exquisite risotti in fancy Italian restaurants, solid lasagnas in mom-and-pop digs and everything in between, but when the perfect pizza comes from an unassuming warehouse turned into a restaurant in Gardena…that’s fate.
At Eatalian Cafe, the pizza is divine: thin, crispy, crunchy and juicy. With just one bite, I was transported back to S. Agata Martesana, my tiny home town – the not-so late nights on the back of my friends’ scooters, hair flipping in the warm summer air, anticipating the pizza and Coca Cola dinner only grownups were allowed to have. Those were the days!
The menu for their traditional pizza was impressive: quattro stagioni (four seasons), quattro formaggi (four cheeses), Margherita, Capricciosa, funghi porcini (Porcini mushrooms), Diavola. The choices were many and they all looked appetizing. I have my ritual when choosing the right pizza pie: read the whole menu from top to bottom; stop and think about what toppings seem to be calling my name and, finally, go with what will make your belly happy. A happy belly, a happy person.
The restaurant, housed in a large warehouse comfortably nested in Gardena, offers a few other gems. Their Eatalian pizzas have funny names: the Marlon Brando (the owner, Antonio Pellini told us that Brando’s son, a quasi-daily customer, has tried it); the Rock; the Pizman, and my favorite: the Calzone Roger (still wondering who this Roger is and what he could have accomplished to have a pizza named after himself). Roger Federer? (would Federer eat a calzone with mozzarella and prosciutto di Parma? Calories galore?) Roger Moore?
I went with the classic Prosciutto Crudo pizza with slices of delicious prosciutto di Parma, while my dad and brother devoured the Gibo, tomato sauce, mozzarella and Italian sausage.
Another great find was a quaint cafe’ on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica. Caffe Luxxe‘s coffee was hailed the best in Los Angeles by none other than Los Angeles Magazine. The decor was very minimal, gray tables, black and white photographs of Napoli, Italy and a small refrigerated display case filled with tortes, croissants and other chocolaty goodness. Oh, and they are geniuses in milk foam art.