Hanukkah Eats, Part 3: I’m Running out of Juice. And I Need Some Juice.

Dear readers, I am afraid that I have let you down.

This week, my diet has, quite literally, consisted of lakes, leftover lakes, a jar of kimchi, and endless seltzer. I have just been in a Hanukkah frying haze. 20141217_133419

Though, truth be told, I was tempted by the lovely Ruinart champagne bar at The Nutcracker.

I have nothing to show you.

And yes, I hang my head in shame.

However, I do offer you this article – curated by yours truly and featuring some of the neatest Hanukkah dishes I’ve ever seen. Come on, dessert latkes?!

I’m taking the next 2 days to…I don’t know…eat kale and visit a sauna in hopes of overcoming this oil-laden few days.

OH…and follow my brand new Instagram account  (@fritosnfoie) where you can see all of the latke, latke, latke goodness for yourself!

See you on Monday when I’m back in the game!

Yes, Another Hanukkah Post

What my family will be eating this Hanukkah:

Kimchi Latkes

Brisket

Doughnuts

I know that I should throw a salad in here somewhere, but there just isn’t any room. Aah, well,

Happy second night of Hanukkah, all.

What to Eat Before Hanukkah

What you should be eating today, before what is sure to be an onslaught of latkes, Christmas cookies, and alcoholic beverages of all sorts.

20141207_152950 Quinoa salad from Three of Tarts

A wholesome, tasty lunch or side dish. Red quinoa that’s a little underdressed, but a quick douse of apple cider vinegar at home remedies that. The asparagus is crunchy and verdant, the roasted tomatoes are soft and juicy with olive oil, and even the corn manages to somehow be sweet. Red quinoa is a slightly more toothsome and hearty than yellow quinoa – give it a chance.
20141212_204612 Buttercup Bakeshop carrot cake cupcake

Buttercup never lets me down, least of all with this rendition of my all time favorite cake flavor. The carrot cake itself is moist and fluffy, with a bouncy but not dense crumb. It’s loaded with fragrant nutmeg and the carrot shreds are not overly discernible. Nothing worse than big ole strings of carrots ruining the cupcake’s texture. The cream cheese frosting is damned near addictive. Smooth, creamy, tangy, sweet, dense…yeah, it’s absolutely addictive.

And that’s all I’ve eaten recently, besides bagels with Barney Greengrass whitefish salad.

How about you?

Happy Birthday Mom

Today is my mom’s birthday.

I know you might think that this may not mean a lot to you, but it does.

I mean, you are reading this blog, right? You are hopefully making some recipes and visiting some restaurants, right?

You are doing that because of my mom.

My mom taught me everything about food.

She was the first person who bought me a sushi roll when I was 7 years old. I remember sitting in that tiny restaurant in a Southern California suburb, with a cylinder of  concentric circles of black, white, and red, and thinking…”tekka WHAT?! Raw fish is amazing!”

She made me bone marrow, promising me that it looked gross but would taste amazing. It was rainy and gray outside and she spread a quivering, murky colored blob onto a piece of sourdough baguette and sprinkled it with sea salt. I’ve never looked back.

She took me down to Olvera Street and bought me my very first taquito – she promised that I would like it. Obvi, she was right.

She never made me eat anything I didn’t like – because, the one time she did, the cheese was actually spoiled and rancid, and she never got over the guilt. AWESOME for me!

She talked me out of trying deviled ham and canned clam dip, which I was obsessed with after reading a children’s book. I can’t even imagine the years of harm that meal would have caused.

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She bought me my very first food book – the inimitable What’s for Lunch Charlie? – and read it to me over and over and over, and then made me lunch whenever I invariably got hungry. Usually it was something awesome, like grilled cheese.

She made me chile rellenos before grad night at Disneyland. 

When I was in high school, she would let me bring over 20 people after play rehearsal and, on a whim, magically whipped up her special spaghetti. She never asked for prior notice or reimbursement for feeding a huge cast and crew. She invented that spaghetti because it was so easy to make and she could buy all of the ingredients at Costco.

Speaking of casts and crews, when I was in college, she made pans and pans of matzah candy when we opened a show. She made maybe 15 trays and would send them overnight express, wrapped in bubble wrap and at least 25 lbs. heavy. The pans were always decimated an hour after I brought them to the theater, and when my mom showed up tot he theater, the cast always fought to get to her first to hug her and beg her for the recipe.

She used to let me eat that cheapo creamy chicken ramen when I was sick. I would stay up late and watch I Dream of Jeannie with her and eat that ramen, which explains why, to this day, it’s my favorite food to eat when I’m sick.

She sat with me for hours as I agonized over which restaurants to visit during our family vacations. She always let me take the lead and was perhaps the only person who ever adhered to my eating schedule (egg whites and an apple ONLY on the day of an important dining reservation!)

She introduced me to my first wiener schnitzel in Vienna, my first tapas in Spain, and my first afternoon tea in London.

She taught me how to pinch my fingers together to see if steak was done.

She helped me painstakingly make my first – and last – molten chocolate cake. 

She went to Trufflepalooza with me. Twice. 

She taught me that throwing a party is all about lots of food and a great theme. People forgive cheap booze and plastic cutlery when you transform the living room into a Moroccan palace.

She taught me how sour cream and Cool Ranch Doritos are an unbeatable, if embarrassing, flavor combination. 

She smuggled back some Scottish beef in her suitcase and we made the most incredible beef Stroganoff with it.

She took me out of gym class (let’s face it, I SUCKED at dodgeball anyway), brought me home, and taught me how to whip Hollandaise until it was thick and frothy, how to poach salmon until it was silky, and how to dice an onion to minuscule, uniform bits.

She took food writing classes with me and ditched them with me to go get lunch, because we aren’t really the follow the rules types, anyway.

She told me that recipes are for the birds…which really only works if you

She spent hours on the couch with me, silently watching Nigella and loudly deriding Sandra Lee.

No one has ever embraced a fast food burger or a blini with caviar with such equal fervor as my mom. She taught me to accept the Fritos and the foie, equally.

She came over and cooked with me every night for almost a year when I first started my blog, so I could have someone crush tomatoes when I photographed.

She is the best home cook I have ever known, the most voracious experiencer of life, and without her, I would probably be working at a job I hate, being a generally miserable person who never let myself stop to get a macaron in the middle of the day.

Happy birthday, mom. Make it a delicious one.

Weekend Eats: Girls Gone Calm Edition

Weekend eats, Girls Weekend: Girls Gone Calm Edition. 20141202_125634 Nanoush Labne Wrap

Meh…not my favorite Mediterranean spot on the planet. The restaurant is tiny and cramped, the service is slow and uneven, and the food is okay at best. The labne wrap was 1 part creamy, rich strained yogurt and 99 parts lettuce and tomato. Now, I like veggies as much as anyone, but if you are giving me a labne wrap, give me some labne! I can’t really recommend this for anything other than vegetarian sustenance when it’s too rainy to cross the couple of blocks to Maoz.

20141206_180948 Whirley Pop stovetop popcorn maker

This machine made a popcorn lover out of me! I was never one of those people who worshipped popcorn as food from the heavens. Give me potaot chiops, know what I mean? This stovetop pot is, however a game changer. It’s so easy and quick to use and the flavor combinations are ENDLESS. So far, I have used Reese’s Pieces, lime zest and togarashi, and truffle salt and butter. I could even see using the truffle version as pre-dinner nibbles for a nice dinner party.

20141206_161428 Sushi from Whole Foods

Because, at the end of the day, after all of my pastrami stuffed egg rolls and amazing French meals, I am such a basic you know what.

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I hate myself for liking this stuff, but the shrimp tempura roll is downright delicious. Apart from the somewhat gummy and overabundant rice, it’s actually perfect. Spicy, crunchy, and sweet.

The spicy tuna with brown rice is pretty healthy and no slouch either.

And this post is why Girls Gone Calm is a video series in which I could totally star. 

Quinoa Salad and the Secret to Great Cookies

To get straight to the point:

20141130_085812 Eggs Norwegian at Landmarc

Where else can you get a high end breakfast at 8 am? Silky salmon, lemony hollandaise, and some of the greatest hash browns in town – they are crispy-soft, buttery and well salted. Don’t miss the very tasty, coarsely ground pork sausage. It’s robust and juicy – more like full on burger than an anemic sausage.
20141201_124639 Quinoa salad at Spring Natural Kitchen

So tasty and wholesome that it tastes like something that I would make myself. I can’t give any higher praise. This is something that tastes like it was made with care and love. Crunchy cabbage, toasted cashews, chewy quinoa, and a bright, acidic vinaigrette. This is feel good food that fills you without weighing you down – I can’t imagine a better lunch option.

20141128_152831 The world’s greatest cookies

They are just the plain old recipe on the back of the box, with COPIOUS AMOUNTS of Reese’s Pieces and M&Ms added. I mean copious. Pretend that you are a toddler who adds cookie ingredients with abandon. Because that’s how glorious accidents happen…adults hand over the reins and toddlers add WAY too much candy. Or, you know, just enough to keep the dough moist and tender, making the ideal soft, barely under baked cookies that are chewy, chocolatey, and irresistible. 

Phoebe would be so proud:

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Happy Thanksgiving!

For all my American readers, Happy Thanksgiving!

For all of my readers from other countries, Happy Thursday!

And for everyone who works on a holiday when most people get off – thank you so much. Thank you for keeping our hospitals, our fire stations, our grocery stores, and so many other parts of society running while many of us enjoy time with friends and family.

Much love and thanks to all of you for keeping my blog alive :)

See y’all next week!

Rutt’s Hut – The Hot Dog That is My Exception

I have always preferred hamburgers to hot dogs.

That’s just the kind of gal I am.

However, there is an exception to every rule.

And my exception…the one place where I would rather have a hot dog than a hamburger anywhere else on earth…

20141122_122307 is Rutt’s Hut. This hot dog stand and restaurant in Clifton, New Jersey is a schlep from wherever you are. It’s off the highway and though it’s hard to miss, thanks to its tall, iconic signage, it doesn’t seem like a destination-worthy eatery.

It, like, totally is.
20141122_122420 One part of the restaurant is a counter where you walk in, give your order, stand and eat, then leave. I actually love eating here because it feels so grimy and authentic – I have, on more than one occasion, seen an older man wearing a diamond pinky ring, come in with his young chauffeur and eat 2 rippers (hot dogs, fried until they burst) without getting so much as a mustard stain on his Armani suit, then walking out to conduct his business for the day.  20141122_123019 Of course, I also love sitting in what can only be described as an Elks lodge, totally preserved from the time that it was built in 1928. Carved wooden panelling, flourescent lighting, kids having parties in the back room and grandparents out for their Sunday lunches in the main room.  20141122_125538 Hot dog platter

Now these are the rippers. You can order them cremated, when they are fried until their skin is blackened and the meat is shriveled, but I like them standard. They are…so, so good. I don’t know if they are beef or pork. I don’t know if they are uncased or have vegetarian casing. I don’t know who supplies them or how many spices are in them. All I know is that they are  delicious. Crispy on the outside and so soft and juicy on the inside. Meaty and a little sweet and a little spicy and a little savory.

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Slather it with spicy mustard and their signature relish and enter heaven. The relish is tart, tangy, and must have some turmeric in there somewhere – it’s so yellow! The bun isn’t toasted (my least fave part of the hot dog – give me a warm and toasted bun any day of the week), but it’s still a class act wiener.

To say nothing of the absolutely ethereal creamy potato salad served on the platter. Doused, of course, with more of that piquant relish.

20141122_125546 Fries and Onion Rings

Get the fries with cheese, but skip the salty gravy. Get the onion rings because they are perfect. Shatteringly thin, crispy breading on sweet, caramelized onion strands. I prefer them with ketchup but more of that cheese wouldn’t be awry either.

Rutt’s Hut is the real deal. It’s just a cheapo, grimy hot dog joint with questionable service and a middle of nowhere location, but it’s heaven to hot dog lovers. Get yourself a ripper and an order of onion rings and spend your afternoon in culinary bliss.

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Yes, Rutt’s Hut. Yes, you are.

It’s Almost Thanksgiving…

…so of course I’m thinking about how to best cope with most of my extended family in my house at the same time, while a turkey that nobody likes dries to sawdusty ash in the oven, and my sister Instagrams fun pictures from her festive and stress-free “friendsgiving” out of state.

That’s right, I’m thinking alcohol. Bloody Marys, to be exact, because they ae appropriate to drink at any time of day, ESPECIALLY before noon.

Which is especially when I’ll need that little helper.

Of course, you might want to eat while you drink. In that case, check out my latest article for Chow.com.

Or just indulge in a glass or 6 of the real stuff.

Happy weekend!

Two Hits and a Miss

20141113_090929 Honey Haus latte

This tiny East Village coffee shop looks ho-hum from the outside, but don’t judge a book by its cover. This is the finest latte I have ever had in NYC, with some of the friendliest service. Get it with whole milk and you will absolutely marvel at the complex taste of the espresso. Deep, earthy, spicy, a little sweet, and – shockingly – not at all bitter. Either they roast their beans expertly, pour just enough milk to counteract the burn of the espresso, or both. It’s creamy, warming, and so tasty that it requires no sugar. Grab one of the 2 seats at the wee little bar at the window if you can, and watch the parade of humanity as you sip. 
20141113_170703 Drugstore cornstarch substitution

Lots of savory recipes need cornstarch, especially when making beef with broccoli (a technique called velveting that makes the protein tender). However, when it’s cold and rainy and mama has had a long day…she ain’t schlepping through Trader Joe’s just for a tiny box of cornstarch. Luckily, your local drugstore probably has the substitute in the grocery section. Gravy packets might taste like nasty sodium bombs on their own, but it’s almost ENTIRELY cornstarch with some salt. So, use it to velvet your protein or thicken your sauce, reduce the salt, and voila…the joys of cornstarch with none of the grocery store hassle. 

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Momofuku cookbook fish sauce vinaigrette

One of my favorite cookbooks, one of the worst sauces I have ever put in my mouth. Honestly…vom. Like putrid, rotten anchovies with a hit of spice. That’s it. Yigghhh. I guess I’m not as authentically Vietnamese as I wish.