Skip to content

Archive for

L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon

, one of a gazillion Cirque de Soleil shows playing in Las Vegas, was a no go as all tickets had been sold. I was secretly relieved because, frankly, that overwrought French-Canadian shit scares me almost as much as Celine Dion. But the box office happened to be bizarrely next to the dueling Joël Robuchon restaurants, L’Atelier and The Mansion, so we decided to take our money elsewhere and try for same day reservations at his more casual but by no means thrifty option. Plus, it was in our hotel and it seemed crazy to ignore an acclaimed option practically staring in our faces. 9pm wasn’t a problem, though I felt kind of bad for having to cancel my plans at Lotus of Siam, Vegas’s acclaimed Thai restaurant (we’d already had lunch there the day before and ultimately had lunch again two days later on our way out of town).

Joel_robuchon_seatingIt turned out that when we arrived later that evening, we had bar seating. Duh, I know that informal bar-style seating is their trademark, but our chairs faced the back of the room so we couldn’t see all the theatrical prep occurring in the heart of the room. We had a perfectly fine evening, regardless, but when you’re blowing $400+ on a meal, it’s something to think about.

The bar seats three so we were placed next to this single, empowered female HBO exec who was nice enough (I was surprised when James struck up a conversation with her. He can be totally anti-social and Asperger’s at times so I’m kind of awed when he’s convincingly warm and animated. I get reminded of my first chatty–and unfortunately, gay–impression over eight years ago) and became chattier as her bottle of wine emptied.  She was pamper-crazed, eager-to-impress, very L.A. I overheard (it’s not really eavesdropping when only a few feet from someone—it’s nearly impossible to not have shared conversations) our server telling her that he thought you should really be told when you’re reserving that you’ll be seated at the bar, so clearly she had the same issue we did. I’m not smooth at handling these service-quirk situations—how do the seasoned command primo seats without resorting to this type of food blog nonsense?

When wonderful sounding dishes are described as being a few bites yet cost $29 (I don’t think that acclaimed eel dish was on the Vegas menu) the $135 tasting menu seems like a wise choice. I enjoy the fanfare and procession that comes with this style of dining anyway. There’s nothing workaday about it. Our fellow diner was one step ahead of us so we got previews of everything about fifteen minutes before it was our turn.

Boning up on wine knowledge (along with eating more Japanese food—which reminds me, there were quite a few Japanese diners in the place, one family with two young children, one a boy who needed his pricey steak cut for him. Those were some lucky well-behaved brats. If my family brought me to Vegas as a wee one, which they wouldn’t have, Denny’s most certainly would’ve been as good as it got) is one of my New Year’s resolutions. I’m no oenophile. So we had an unremarkable Sauvignon Blanc that likely pegged us as amateurish but there’s something about Vegas that doesn’t compel you to follow the rules like ordering an expensive bottle of wine to accompany a tasting menu. Our server was talking about how not all of the high rollers who dominate at The Mansion next door like having $5,000 bottles of wine pushed on them. Many settle for vintages in the $3,500 range. Fuck that, I wasn’t going to feel chintzy about our $65 choice.

On to the food. I’m including their literal menu descriptions for the sake of accuracy. Thank god for the internet because there’s no way I’d remember it all, even with photos for memory-jogging.

L’AMUSE-BOUCHE: Le concombre en gelée, à l’estragon et son yaourt au cumin. Cucumber gelée tarragon cream, cumin yogurt.

Very cumin-y with a distinct hint of licorice. As good as anything to start with but not mind-blowing.

LE THON ROUGE: Cru mariné à l’huile tomatée et à la fleur de sel. Bluefin tuna with tomato infused olive oil.

Nice seems like a cop out adjective but raw bluefin tuna is incredibly nice and soft. The tomato essence was sweet and akin to sun-dried tomatoes. I made mine last five bites. You have to pace yourself with these things, though it would be kind of hilarious to scarf everything down as fast as it comes, then declare that you’re still starving.

LA SAINT-JACQUES: La noix cuite en coquille au beurre d’algues acidulé. Fresh scallops cooked in the shell with seaweed infused butter.

Unlike our lady friend next to us, we’re not carb-phobic. If there was ever a substance crying out for a bread basket, it was the leftover pool of butter in the perfect scallop shell.

L’ŒUF: Cocotte et sa crème légère de champignons. Egg cocotte topped with a light mushroom cream.

This colorful concoction doesn’t translate in my picture. The bottom layer was a vivid color crayon green. You’re instructed to mix everything together and that’s when you realize there’s also a near neon, sunshine-orange orb floating in the glass. It ends up looking as rainbow pretty as it tastes.

LA CHATAIGNE: En fin velouté au fumet de céleri et au lard croustillant. Light chestnut velouté with caramelized foie gras and crispy bacon.

One of the best dishes in the bunch. Richness paired with more richness, all sweet, salty and fatty.

LE SAUMON: Mi-fumé aux croustilles de pommes de terre et pousses de cresson. Slightly smoked salmon served warm confit potatoes.

I never thought I’d say this, but this dish actually seemed too large. I was tired of the smoked flavors before getting to the end. I’m sure it was an amazing cut of salmon but it was filling.

LA CAILLE: Farcie de foie gras et caramélisée, purée de ratte truffée. Free-range quail stuffed with foie gras and served with truffled-mashed potatoes.

There were two entrees (yes, this was the main dish, so to speak) to choose from. James and I ordered different ones for variety. He had the hanger steak, which came with the most insane mashed potatoes ever. I don’t think there was any secret ingredient other than like nine parts butter to one part spud. Our fellow diner left half of hers (and the meat) behind in one of those inexplicable “too good” moves. She explained that she’s recently lost 20 pounds doing this and told James that I’d understand. Believe me, I do all too well. Sadly, portion control is the only way to slim down, but I can’t be lumped into that category of feminine craziness. I’m eating every last bite of luxury on my artfully arranged plate. In my world, foie gras and truffles are not getting left behind.

Addendum: I posted this Christmas Eve and forced myself to wait until the morning of the 25th to open presents. My sister had sent me a copy of British food magazine, Olive, and it contained a bit on the new Joel Robuchon outpost in London and declared the puree de pommes de terre/mashed potatoes their signature dish. They reported that the recipe involves pushing boiled potatoes through a food mill, then adding about half a pound of chilled butter and half a pint of warm milk for every two pounds of potatoes. That mix gets finely sieved. But being English, the writer had to go and describe the end result in unappetizing terms and compares the finished appearance to the smoothness of mayonnaise. Ew.

If I had known that these potatoes were so talked about, I would've taken a photo.

LA MANDARINE: Sur un lait caillé de brebis, infusion à la bergamote. Sheep’s milk yogurt panna cotta, mandarin confit, bergamot tea infusion.

The tea was only in the background. Orange definitely dominated this refreshing dessert.

LA POIRE: En sorbet, chocolat velouté caramélisé à la cannelle. Pear sorbet, meringue glacée, chocolate-caramelized cinnamon cream.

I was actually thankful there wasn’t a substantial dessert like cake. It’s hard to appreciate decadent sweets after a succession of plates. Light chocolate, pear and cinnamon perk up rather than weigh down. It was a welcome ending.

Latelier_de_joel_robuchonI hadn’t originally scheduled any high end meals into our weekend getaway, primarily because so many of the choices in this category already have New York City locations. It seems kind of silly to travel 2,500 miles to eat food you could have in your home town. But I’m glad we tried L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon on a whim. I hadn’t had much inclination to buy into the recent hype here in the same way that I’ve been holding off on Gordon Ramsey at The London. I fear attitude that’s refreshingly lacking in Las Vegas. How pretentious can one be when dining in sight of burbling slot machines?

L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon * 3799 Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas, NV

Congee Village

Congee_village_congeeI’m not sure why congee gets associated with health other than that it’s bland and not terribly caloric. Last year I went on a short-lived congee binge where I was convinced that if I ate porridge for dinner I’d shed a few pounds. It might’ve worked but I got bored after a few nights. A couple weeks ago a friend who’s not much of an adventurous eater asked if I’d been to Congee Village. I hadn’t, which seemed kind of criminal (I’m more of a New York Noodletown gal). I was trying to figure out how Congee Village had even gotten on her radar. It seems that through her massage therapy studies, she’d been reading up on Chinese medicine and congee was recommended somewhere in a text. It beats corn silk and pig pancreas, so I was game.

Congee_village_chicken_black_mushroomI was just happy to be able to go to a restaurant we could mutually agree on because eating with vegetarians isn’t always a treat. Of course, congee is merely one part of the menu but it had to be tried. I went for a sweet and chewy squid and ginger sauce style while the friend opted for crab. This posed a problem because she’s one of those people who gets squeamish about eating creatures when you can tell where they come from (though it’s not nearly as bad as another friend who won’t eat chicken with bones in it). The crab came hacked up, shell-on, not pure meat nicely strewn throughout the porridge and this induced a little trauma. It was a good thing I didn’t order goose intestines, fish head or duck tongue if this caused balking.

Congee_village_bean_curd She proceeded to also order a braised tofu dish and I had steamed chicken with black mushroom. That sounds dull, but it was very flavorful (thanks to those pesky bones, I suspect) and also contained sweet, caramelized jujubes and other dried mushrooms, as well. The menu is fairly far reaching, it would take numerous visits to try everything that sounded good.

I’m afraid that all congee health benefits were canceled out by their $4 cocktails. After two whiskey sours there, I ended up on a near Lower East Side bender. I can’t do the six-drink weeknight thing as well as I used to, but I’m not ready to give up yet.

Congee Village * 100 Allen St., New York, NY

Fast Food, Slow Walkers

I missed my office holiday party on Friday, but luckily when you vaguely (and I do mean vaguely) work in media there are blogs that cover these troublesome events for you. Why fight the hideous hordes when you can read about it the next day online?

Instead of waiting in line for pigs in a blanket, I was busy waiting in line for…well, just about everything. Las Vegas was kind of what I had expected and only reinforced my phobia of most Americans and humankind in general. As much of an irritant as NYC is, I find that when I’m plopped elsewhere in the country for more than a few days I begin to appreciate the city. I’m wildly generalizing, but the average person is too damn slow, both physically and witted. They make small talk and ask a gazillion questions and waste everyone’s (ok, my) time. It shouldn’t take 15 minutes per person to check into the airport or check into the hotel or over an hour to line up for food (I had disgusting fantasies of buffet gorging and ended up bypassing the whole concept). See, I waste time in the privacy of my home or office finding hotel reservations, restaurant reservations and activities on the internet and booking them. Everyone else seems to just show up wherever and require explanations of what’s available to them: prices, room styles, amenities, things to do in the city, where to eat, how to catch a cab, how to ride the monorail and so on. I’m amazed that the bulk of humanity even makes it out of the house every day unassisted. I guess that’s called customer service and it’s expected. I’m all for a self-sufficiency/efficiency combo. The thing is, no one cares and I only cause internal aggravation by concerning myself with others.

Brimley On the up side, I do like leaving NYC if only so I don’t feel like the usual chunk than I am (there was a frightening middle aged male duo sitting across from us on the flight back. Both were the size and style of two Wilford Brimleys each and they had to get seatbelt extenders. Normally, I might feel bad but they were serious sons of bitches and about half way through the journey started making a stink, literally yelling about how HOT they were and had to be brought a pile of napkins to wipe their faces and heads with and then the whole plane got the heat turned off so that other passengers started complaining about being cold and this duo was still barking about how hot they were. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that being 350 pounds isn’t probably conducive for staying cool. Then they really started depressing me on the walk to the baggage claim when they couldn’t go more than 50 feet without having to take a break to catch their breath and rest their legs. Even weirder was the wiry female twosome sitting in front of us. They had that white trash style where they look like lesbians but are probably married [I know, because one married into my family]. One had a damaged permed mullet and the other had gray cropped hair with a rat-tail and they were all twitchy and giving everyone the evil eye, then practically cracking out their menthol cigarettes right in the baggage area. They also couldn’t walk more than few feet without having to gasp for air. I vowed to enact a strict health regimen the second I set foot back in Brooklyn).

I’m not complaining, just observing. I had fun once I learned to tolerate large groups. There was also a cheerleading convention in our hotel so the entire weekend you couldn’t step foot out of your room without being mobbed by squealing girls (as young as six or so—I didn’t realize they started so young, very Jon Benet) in athletically slutty uniforms and those squishy twisty hair curlers that I hadn’t seen since the ‘80s (ok, technically Soft Spikes were invented in ’96 but I know there was a bendable precursor). Which reminds me of another unfortunate trend that’s been practiced so long it might as well be a standard: the trashy suburban tendency for females to wear pajamas in public and sweats like they’re clothing. I don’t mean velour tracksuits, which I also got a million eyefuls of, but cotton-poly baggy crap plastered with school logos or Looney Tunes characters, paired with white tennis shoes or flip-flops. My stepsister and step-mom dressed (or still do for all I know) in this manner and it always made me wonder if they just couldn’t find tailored pants to accommodate their asses. Really, I know that’s not the case because my blood relatives aren’t exactly svelte (though thankfully, we’re not squat) and yet they manage to find clothing with buttons and zippers.

PeppermillfiresideloungeWhen asked what I did in Vegas, I’m at a mild loss because I didn’t do a whole lot. I did win an impressive $1.25 with a $14 outlay. It almost paid for half of the cheapest cocktail I found, a $3 drink at old school casino, The Four Queens (so cheap their website doesn’t seem to be working).  It was my great-grandma’s haunt many decades ago so it was a must-do. Peppermill’s Fireside Lounge was a whole different breed of old school, pure unadulterated seventies. With lots of neon, brass rails and flame-topped Jacuzzi, it was dazzling but sadly 2006 cocktail prices prevailed.

Because it was such a weirdo novelty, we chose a PT Cruiser at the Thrifty lot. Those cars are so silly/strange to me, I’d never own one in a million years and you never see them around here. The bizarre thing was that in Vegas every ten cars seemed to be a PT Cruiser—whether or not they’re all rentals, I’m not sure. As they say, what happens in Vegas, you know, stays there. No one ever needs to know that I actually drove one of these mobiles around.

Past2 Most of my brief stay involved eating, window shopping (my only purchases were some L’Occitane items for my mom, a DKNY top on sale at Macy’s because I under packed, dried chiles and pastries at Mariana’s, an amazing Mexican mega grocery store of the ilk that just doesn’t exist around these parts, lime leaves at Ranch 99 which is of  NYC ilk—we just don’t have the same access to produce like fresh galangal, Thai eggplants, ube and said leaves, and a $1.99 personalized magnet for my sister (even though it sounds common, it seems that Krista still hasn’t become standard enough to warrant off the rack products. Kris, Kristen and Kristy but never Krista. This used to bug me as a kid. The name peaked in the ‘80s, so I’m surprised there aren’t demanding twentysomethings clamoring for personalized crap.) at Bonanza, which claims to be the world’s largest gift store.

I do love all of the west coast fast food that we lack in NYC. Places I’d never even heard of like Del Taco and Wing Street (attached to Pizza Hut), and those I’m familiar with like Jack in the Box, In-N-Out Burger and Carl’s Jr. I never eat fast food here anyway because I feel too guilty, but there’s something about ordering it from a PT Cruiser that seems to make it OK. Nothing makes me happier than foreign chains. I didn’t realize there was such a substantial Filipino community in Las Vegas so I was excited to see a Goldilocks in person. I didn’t see any Jollibees, unfortunately.

For full photo commentary, look here.

Nevada Bound

So, I’m up and off bright and early tomorrow for Las Vegas. I was really only half-serious when I mentioned it in passing last week. I do like that if I suggest something moderately realistic out of the blue, James will usually agree to it. I could probably take advantage of this loophole more than I do. A few New Year’s Eves ago I told him to “pick up a bottle of champagne, nothing expensive” and he thought I said something expensive, like I’d ever demand such a thing, but he did it which I thought was strange. My expectations must suck because I usually assume that if I ask for something I’ll be told no. Maybe I should start being really ballsy and demanding.

So, “hey, we should go to Las Vegas next weekend” garnered an easy, “okay.” I don’t know shit about Vegas (I have been to Nevada, maybe twice, possibly three times but I only faintly recall any of it because I was under four. Both my grandma, great-grandma [pronounced gramma–I recently got made fun of for saying grampa. That’s just the way it is, grandfather looks correct on paper but it doesn’t sound right coming out of my mouth] and aunt who was barely a teen, resided in a Dayton mobile home park in the early ‘70s. My undeniably spotty Nevada memories only include: people driving in golf carts to get the mail, a Siamese cat named Telstar, thinking that Truckee River was the most hysterical geographic name I’d ever heard [clearly, I wasn’t aware of Boring, Oregon yet], seeing hummingbirds furiously flapping their wings into a blur, driving L.C.  [Little Cat] the black and white family feline we had for nearly another decade back home to Burlingame, CA, and getting freaked out by my great-grandma Weaver’s husband’s fake shiny leg you could see between his pant hem and sock top. I swear I saw it propped up against a bedroom wall but I might be false wishful remembering).

Las Vegas is just a random something to do and kind of a consolation because every year I sulk about doing nothing on Christmas, so in a way I’m trying to trick myself into having fun this weekend so by the 25th I’ll have mellowed out on my holiday annoyance. I don’t really gamble, I just want to drink and drive around (maybe not in that order) and eat buffet food and In N Out Burgers. If I come back proclaiming that Beatles/Cirque du Soleil coupling as genius, you’re welcome to beat me with a poorly made prosthetic leg.

Sunday Night Special: Rabbit Etouffée & Cheese Grits

RabbitIt’s a two-fer. Man cannot live on pie alone so there had to be prequel to the baked apple dessert. Around Thanksgiving I was surprised to see rabbit prominently displayed on an end shelf in the walk-in meat locker at Western Beef. I don’t recall seeing it there before, but really, I’ve never looked. Rabbit’s a weirdo meat (though hardly in the realm of pony flesh) that I’d order in a restaurant but don’t consider cooking at home. But I think that’s just because it’s not typically in stores (I thought I was remembering incorrectly, but I could’ve sworn being mesmerized by a tidy box labeled Pel-Freez Rabbit in the lean-over not stand-and-face freezer case when I was a kid. I used to wonder if it was really rabbit or a misnomer like Welsh rabbit. I’m thrilled to see that this product is real) that I patronize.

Presented with the opportunity, we had to snatch a plastic-wrapped hare up to freeze for later. Later came last night when we decided to give it the etouffée treatment. Many rabbit recipes could be interchangeable with chicken. Matched with the recommended cheese grits, this was a rich, Cajun-ish (I won’t say Creole since that’s become hotly debated in the past month) stew that seemed just right for rabbit. Of course, practically any protein would taste good smothered in buttery bacon laced gravy. I didn’t notice until after starting the recipe that it was from Jacques-Imo’s (their website hasn’t been updated in eons and was as such pre-Katrina) a New Orleans restaurant that cooks incredibly creamy, sauced and decadent dishes like alligator cheesecake. I knew the rabbit etoufeée would be good based on its roots alone.

EtouffeeNot only have I never made rabbit, I’ve never had a grit set foot in my house either. This recipe combines a pot of quick cooked grains with two types of cheese (I broke down and bought some six-year-aged Quebec white cheddar [there was also a 3 ½ year version and I was torn] instead of going for the cheapo Tropical brand like I might normally do because I don’t eat cheddar with any frequency. That makes no sense, right? My new thing is that if I buy something rarely I can justify spending more on it. Like I don’t eat eggs often so I bought the pricier brown organic ones. I’m still not clear on why brown equals healthier to consumers, though) milk and eggs and gets baked until semi-firm and browned. Grits purists might object, but it was a nice treatment of ground corn.

This very second I’m working the night shift and eating a dreaded grapefruit (yes, I brought other things to snack on—I’m not a total citrus martyr). All I can think about is getting home for a post-midnight snack of grits and rabbit.

Sunday Night Special: Apple Pie

I hate (well, don’t love) fruit in general, but I hate waste even more so I’ve been trying to come up with uses for the unwelcome 15-pound bag of grapefruit and 10-pound sack of red apples that were recently brought into my house. I ate a grapefruit for breakfast last week and brought apples to work a couple of times but that’s enough. An apple pie seemed like the perfect solution to this un-tasty dilemma. The grapefruit, I’m still thinking on.

I don’t think I’ve ever made an apple pie. Baking has never done much for me, somehow it feels more like drudgery than cooking. Usually, I turn to the web for inspiration but with something so straightforward as an apple pie, I thought I’d paw through my cookbook standards that rarely get used because I’ve outgrown them.

The New Basics Cookbook seemed like a good pie recipe candidate. It was one of the first non-used cookbooks I bought for myself, probably when I was nineteen or so. At the time, I didn’t want traditional like Joy of Cooking (though the new release is on my Christmas wish list) or pathetic like but I was looking for standards and explanations. The soft cover, 849-paged, The New Basics fit my criteria, plus I thought it was terribly sophisticated. Now it reads kind of like a time capsule.

Published in ’89 and purchased in ’91, I probably haven’t cracked it open in a decade (except for the instructions on how to poach a chicken breast). It was written by New York caterers (I just saw Silver Palate jarred sauce at Fairway on Friday so I guess they’re still cashing in) so there is a bent towards entertaining and presentation. The recipes include lots of fruity vinaigrettes, pestos, high-end pizzas (very Wolfgang Puck) and twists like using Asian pears in a waldorf salad and. I wasn’t even familiar with things like kohlrabi, celeriac or sorrel (and I’ve still never cooked with any of those items).

Something that stands out was an hors d'oeuvre called beggars purses, which was essentially a crepe filled with caviar and crème fraiche and bundled up like a mini bag and tied with a chive. I hadn’t given this finger food any thought until the early ‘00s when an old college friend of James’s mentioned that she’d just attended the wedding of a mutual friend who’d married some old rich restaurateur and that they served beggars purses at the reception. This was relayed kind of mockingly like “how ‘80s.” The critical detail that I’m fuzzy on was whether or not the groom was the inventor of beggars purses, which I swear was what this woman said. If so, that’s amusing to me because the recipe in The New Basics was titled Barry Wine’s Beggar’s Purses and the headnote reads, “Barry and Susan Wine have one of the most stunning restaurants in the country, New York’s Quilted Giraffe.” This was a big deal place two decades ago, not that I would know first hand, I was just reading about it in The United States of Arugula. Did this girl marry Barry Wine? Ha, I think she did. I don’t know her name, but Johns Hopkins was the common denominator among this group of people and the Catskills is ringing a bell.

Wow, enough unnecessary asides. (Is not being able to focus on one topic for any length of time and constantly being distracted by unimportant bits an affliction that can be cured with pharmaceuticals? I would be a much more productive person if I could stay on track. And I don’t mean A.D.D., which I definitely don’t have despite hating to wait and take turns and feeling restless—who doesn’t?) I just wanted to make a pie, not a boring pie, and be done with it so I could eat the damn thing. With the addition of grated cheddar and a touch of dry mustard in the crust, the Apple of Her Eye Pie sounded interesting (the name is mildly retarded but many of the recipes in this book are kind of cutesy) without being over the top.


I ultimately had trouble with the crust. It fell apart a little and I had to do some dough spackling on the top so it’s not picture perfect. I must’ve done something wrong because it wouldn’t hold together when I cut it either. Of course none of these cosmetic traumas affected the taste. The overall flavor was sweet and more vanilla-y and candied than I would’ve expected. I suspect sharper green apples (which I do like) would’ve been more fitting but it was lame red delicious that needed using up.

I was excited to be able to get rid of eight apples but it turned out that my pie plates were 9” rather than the 10” called for in the recipe so I had filling overload. I only managed to squeeze in about five apples and now am faced with a plastic container jammed with leftover sweet-spiced fruit.

Apple of Her Eye Pie

3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
Pinch of salt
8 tablespoon unsalted butter, cold (1 stick)
1/3 cup shortening, cold
3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
6-8 tablespoons ice water

8 tart apples
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoons sugar
Pinch of cinnamon

1. Prepare the pastry dough: Combine the flour, sugar, mustard & salt in a mixing bowl & toss well to blend. Using a pastry blender, 2 knives or your fingertips, cut in the butter & shortening until the mixture forms small clumps. Then add the cheese & work it in until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

2. Sprinkle the water, 2 tablespoons at a time, over the mixture & toss with a fork until the mixture can be gathered into a ball. Knead it once or twice in the bowl and divide it into slightly unequal halves. Wrap both halves & chill in the fridge for 45 min.

3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

4. Prepare the filling: Peel, core and halve the apples; cut them into 1" chunks. Combine the apples & melted butter in a large bowl. Add the remaining filling ingredients and toss until the apples are evenly coated.

5. Roll the smaller portion of the chilled dough out on a lightly floured surface to form a 12" circle. Transfer it to a 10" pie plate & press it into the bottom and sides of the plate. Trim the dough, leaving a 1" overhang. Reserve any excess dough.

6. Roll the larger portion of dough out to form a slightly larger circle.

7. Fill the pie plate with the apple mixture, mounding it slightly. Brush the edge of the bottom crust with water, then transfer the top crust over the apples, tucking it slightly inside the rim. Trim off any excess, allowing a 1" overhang again. Seal the edges of the crusts together with a fork & crimp decoratively. Trim away any remaining excess pastry.

8. Prepare the Topping: Mix together the sugar & cinnamon. Prick the top crust with a fork in several places & cut a small vent in the center. Brush the top lightly with water & sprinkle it with the cinnamon sugar. If you like, cut out shapes, such as leaves or apples, from the dough trimmings & decorate the top crust with them.

9. Bake until the filling is bubbling and the top is golden, about 1-1/4 hours.

Borrowed from The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins. Workman Publishing, 1989.


This was an opportunity to crack out the good china, ok, it was just the $16.99 Tord Boontje for Target dessert plates. I think that was a brilliant choice of designer for Christmas, considering how his style is so naturally wintery. I almost broke down and bought some of his “real” dishes last year. Do you think Target could commission a budget version of this $33,500 chandelier?

The only danger of baking is that if I make a pie, I will eat a pie. I was horrified a few episodes ago on Heroes when The Cheerleader and her mom threw away a batch of cupcakes because they were “too good.” What the fuck? There’s no such thing. And I’m assuming that’s why I don’t have a cheerleader figure. Is that how people (women) live? I’m going ten steps the other direction and plan on using the extra apple filling to make fritters later in the week. I’ve pretty much given up any attempts at health for December. With three weeks left in the year, I’m going to be carefree (or careless, depending on your temperament).

Waterfront Ale House

1/2 I wasn’t going to mention this restaurant from last week because I didn’t have anything remarkable to say, but then I realized that it’s rare that I do so why not. There’s something about the end of the week that makes me uninspired and lazy (which would be today). Rather than vague adventure, I often don’t feel like leaving the neighborhood once I get home and am fine with things like burgers and fries. Waterfront Ale House fits that description, I’d never been, plus they supposedly make great eggnog. Yes, I love eggnog (and fruitcake, as well). And in case you were wondering, it's not on the water, though it's vaguely near the East River.

It’s a packed place, part pub with small tables filling half of the space. There was a wait for seating. By pure happenstance, we got one of the two roomy booths. That never works in my favor so it warmed me a bit. Our timing must’ve been just right because minutes after we were seated and throughout the rest of our meal there was an enormous crowd waiting for seats with antsy folks practically hanging over you or at least salivating over your spot. I didn’t take any photos because it’s like freaking’ Schiller’s or Freeman’s or whatever inexplicably cramped Lower East Side nonsense in there. I just wanted to make sure we were out by 11pm when live jazz was scheduled. Live jazz is rarely a good thing.

My jack cheese burger was so-so, nothing remarkable. The fries were fine. I was more impressed with the large amount of sauces perched on the ledge of our booth. There wasn’t just HP sauce but HP fruity sauce and squeeze curry sauce for chicken (which also worked well with fries), three mustards, a house hot sauce and something strange, peppery and sherry-based from Jamaica but not this brand.

So, if you want to play with sauces and drink a variety of beer, this is your place. If you want to relax and savor a burger or nurse an eggnog, coming back on a weeknight is probably wiser.

Waterfront Ale House * 155 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn, NY