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.
Yet, to my surprise, the Q and then the B got me to Midwood Brooklyn in a jiffy. My second, happier, surprise was to find myself in the middle of Slavic Brooklyn, stumbling upon Russian Domino Supermarket and an authentic Georgian bakery two blocks from the clinic, Taste of Georgia Brick Oven Bread. I texted the bakery photo to my sister, Carol, knowledgeable in all things Slavic. She texted back, “Khachapuri!!”
One evening when leaving the main branch of the New York Public Library I was peckish. Passing the food booths at the Bryant Park Holiday Market. I looked for a little something to hold me, and I found not just one but three little somethings at the Arancini Brotherspop-up shop. Arancini are Sicilian fried rice balls, named for the oranges they resemble.