It seems ironic that the best croissant I’ve had in recent memory comes from a British chain sporting a French name. Pret a Manger (Ready to Eat) or “Pret” as the Brits call it is a 350-store chain that opened a franchise in our Morningside Heights neighbourhood, much to my chagrin, at first.
It’s the end of February and thank goodness. Cold, bleak, February is the “hump month” of winter. All the more reason to find occasions for joy during it, as we did when, once again, we embarked on an ethnic snack journey to celebrate my sister Carol’s birthday--this time to Indonesian Elmhurst.
This past Friday I’d had a productive writing session at the green table, swam forty laps at my health club, and I felt I deserved to treat myself to a take-in dinner for a date night with myself. I decided on Mama's Too the new Sicilian pizza spot everyone on the upper Upper West Side (above 96th st.) has been raving about.
Perhaps because she was alarmed at the pictures of my lumpen breadsticks, but also because I was so insistent on wanting to learn how to make the ultimate in cheese puffery--the pão de queijo, Tina Luisa extended an invitation to learn in her home just a block from Scandinavia House, an hour before our meeting. I readily agreed, so taken, again, with the gemütlichkeit of our group, that a virtual stranger would invite me over to cook in her kitchen.
So when the chef passed a plate with two plump chicken livers, each the size of a large Medjool date, and said, “you’re not going to eat these tomorrow, are you?” gesturing toward the garbage bin, I said, "I sure am!" Ever one to take up a challenge, I told him I would put them in a "perfect sandwich." "Why not with hard-boiled egg?" he offered. Cheep + Cheep = Very Cheap indeed.
The eponymous Lillo is an unkempt bearded bear of a man who speaks English haltingly but manages to convey his absolute pride in his cooking and love of Italia at the same time that he exudes utter nonchalance. My paisa panino ($9.95) with tuna, EVOO and artichoke hearts was the kind of perfect sandwich to which I aspire in my own kitchen
Every year since they were in grade school, the Chef and I have taken our two kids up to New York City’s largest park, Pelham Bay Park, for a bracing hike on New Year's Day and a warming lunch at the City Island Diner afterwards. Even as they have become college students who are increasingly hard to rouse and likely hung over on New Year's Day, amazingly, they still come with us, and for that I am so grateful.
Like Fang Gourmet Tea, Tianjin Dumpling House is located in one of those mysterious Flushing mini-malls in which you enter from the bustling street into a warren of food stands, cleaners or shops selling ground up deer-antler aphrodisiacs. Immediately upon entering The Golden Mall we watched a magic act: a man pulling a thick rope of dough through his hands over and over until he had transformed it into a pile of spaghetti-thin noodles.