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You know enough is enough when even Evite gets into the food blogging business. Um, but that doesn’t mean I won’t click on photos of bright red, white and blue cocktails. And sweet jesus, imagine my surprise when I found out the classy beverages didn’t just include Snapple, Gatorade and Alize, but Roland wildberry cherries, too.


Every time I’m at the Shop Rite in Linden, NJ (which is more often than I’d care to admit) I ogle all the neon hued jarred cherries above the ice cream freezer. Finally, I broke down a few months ago and bought the damn blue ones because I’m soft-minded when it comes to edibles in abnormal colors. It’s not like I’ve eaten any—they’re just sitting on a makeshift bar waiting for the opportunity.

I’ve been dying to try Rothman & Winter’s sort of recently released Crème de Violette, primarily so I can make an aviation and then sully the lavender beauty with a turquoise cherry. In the mean time I might have to settle for the Big Blue Buzz. Aw, who needs homemade sarsaparilla and artisanal tonic water, anyway? The whole neo-pre-prohibition era cocktail trend is so 2007. Evite knows 2008 is about food coloring and artificial flavors.


Suburban excursions are not always blissful. I couldn’t bear attempting a Swedish meatball combo plate at a busier-than-expected Ikea on Martin Luther King Day. I know better than to patronize the always under stocked Elizabeth, NJ location and don’t even want to ponder the potential beastliness of the soon-to-open walking distance Red Hook branch. Part of me even hopes the neighborhood Trader Joe’s never happens.

Breakfast for lunch (no, not brunch) at Staten Island’s IHOP (contrary to popular belief, there are IHOPS in NYC, six in total randomly scattered throughout four boroughs) was far less life changing than I’d hoped for.


The commercials always entice me with fluff, sweetness and starchy goodness but my stuffed french toast was a waste of fat and calories. The syrupy strawberries were sweet and that’s where all flavor ceased to exist. I don’t know how it’s possible to make grilled egg-coated bread and cream cheese filling taste like chewy nothingness but they did it. I requested no whipped cream and I don’t imagine the non-dairy spray topping could’ve helped matters any.



The eggs and bacon that made up the Stuffed French Toast Combo (I have enough making my mouth say Sammie—there’s no way I’m ordering the Rooty Tooty Fresh ‘n Fruity) were adequate (more like adequite, if you ask me) yet the hash browns fell into the potatoes stripped of all potato-ness category.


I was more interested in the disproportionately Italian desserts being advertised. I can’t imagine all menus in the U.S. have tartufo, spumoni, cannoli and neopolitan ice cream. There’s no mention of any of these treats on their website. I guess if Brooklyn Applebee’s can serve Cakeman Raven red velvet cake, the Staten Island IHOP shouldn’t shy away from micro-regional tastes either. I would definitely take the red velvet cake over any of IHOP’s goodies, though in my opinion blue velvet cake is prettier in its garishness.

IHOP * 935 Richmond Ave., Staten Island, NY


As much as a complain about Manhattan, I do appreciate that it’s business as usual on Sunday nights. The last time I attempted going out after 9pm on a three-day weekend Sunday was in Toronto, and it was a complete ghost town. Boqueria (as well as Olive Garden) was almost at capacity the night before Martin Luther King Day.

I was determined to have creative Spanish food after getting hopped on Tapas: a Taste of Spain in America, but deciding where to go was no easy task. Spending more than you’d expect on small dishes was a given; value wasn’t my concern as much as agreeable food and atmosphere. I’d already been to Tia Pol (too far) Ostia (too average) and Pamplona (good but I wanted something new). Everything I read about Mercat said it was loud and oversalted, Casa Mono seemed tiny and irritating, ditto for Quinto Pino but probably not so irritating. I’d been to the old Suba a few times and wasn’t inspired to try the newest incarnation. Boqueria was all that was left.


I hate to admit that my photos are even more off than usual. I was playing around with the white balance trying to counteract the dreaded candlelight and not only made everything washed out and fuzzy but somehow changed the height/width ratio. I don’t even know if I should be allowed to have a camera.


This was regular jamon Serrano, not the fabled Iberico ham. Nonetheless, it was still handsome and meaty. I hadn’t expected the jamon to come atop pa amb tomaquet, pan con tomate, Catalan, Spanish…however you like. I’m always surprised how tomato guts on toast can be so appealing.


“Why are there so many eggs on the menu?” asked the girl half of the couple next to us. I honestly hadn’t noticed the overabundance but yes, there is a soft-boiled one in this dish. She ordered it too. I love anything with chickpeas and morcilla. Garbanzos al Pinotxo are in the style of Barcelona’s Bar Pinotxo. I was very bummed that all the food biggies, including this stand in the Boqueria market, were closed the week I was there last summer.


Any iteration of dates, bacon and cheese (and sometimes almond) are a must. In this instance the cheese was valdeon, a blue. I’ve made these with manchego and think they would be perfect for a Super Bowl snack even though they seem kind of froufrou. I couldn't even snap this shot before one date went missing from the skewer.


Brandade is kind of like shrimp toast. Maybe the whipped salt cod and potatoes on bread were grilled not fried; they still had that oily unctuousness that goes down well but might cause trouble later.


As Americans we would’ve eaten cheese with everything else, but we obeyed its place on the desert menu. Idizabal came cubed and tossed with olives and the rosemary manchego was surrounded a few tiny squares of membrillo and filberts (wow, I tried to not say hazelnut but filbert just sounds backwoods even though that’s what I grew up with and oddly what I saw used in Toronto. Did you know that Oregon is the nation’s largest hazelnut producer?). Our two choices were enjoyed with a rose cava that James thought was like a wine cooler.

Boqueria * 53 W. 19th St., New York, NY

Filet O’Feline


As I’ve said many times before, the busted and chaotic Western Beef headquarters is one of my favorite grocery stores. While picking up Super Bowl provisions this weekend I came face to face with an exterior sign right next to the entrance that I’d never noticed before even though it clearly wasn’t new. The grocer sells plenty of weird bits: pig tails, fish heads and innards of all types, but cat was news to me.

Uncle Sammie Wants You!

Based upon causal Financial District observation, Quiznos’s Sammies are a freak hit. I usually wait until 2pm to eat because hate crowds and mobs wane by then, but at the Quiznos across the street from my office there was still a line well past normal lunch hour and every single person in it was ordering the damn Sammies.

Clearly, the $2, 200 calorie ad campaign is working. Quiznos only recently (reluctantly) started publishing nutrition information, which makes you wonder if they cooked up this product to counteract the frighteningly unhealthy bulk of their menu. Though it should be mentioned that only two of the six varieties are 200 calories.

The mini sandwiches are kind of perfect if you’re craving something junky and don’t want to completely ruin an eating or savings regimen. No, one won’t fill you up but it’s a inoffensive supplement to yogurt, fruit or granola bar, whatever you eat during the day (those are my typical daily bring alongs). For low impact fast food comparison, a McDonald’s cheeseburger is 300 calories and a plain Wendy’s baked potato is 310 calories.

I still have a tough time bringing myself to say Sammie, however. And weirdly, after looking at the photo I took of a Sammie in November I can say that the one I had today seemed larger, or maybe my hand was just really huge a few months ago.

Brunch Confessions: Time Cafe & Taco Chulo

For someone who couldn’t agree with this sentiment more, I’ve been doing an awful lot of brunching in the past week. I don’t know how I went from a few brunches a year to two in eight days. This does not bode well for 2008 and I’ll nip it in the bud pronto.

Last weekend I tried Astoria’s Time Café because I was assigned to review the restaurant. See? No say in the matter. I have no problem going to Astoria to dine, but I wouldn’t wake up early for the privilege. But the restaurant does seem like a welcome newish option for the neighborhood. Frankly, I was more interested in Issan Thai Poodam’s across the street.


My swiss cheese and tomato omelet didn’t blow me away but that’s the nature of brunch. It was satisfying. Who needs their mind blown before noon? Ok, 2pm. My egg dish plus vodka-heavy bloody mary and a basket of mini muffins was a fair deal for $12.

Today I ended up at Taco Chulo because I wanted to meet a friend’s half-sister visiting from Germany. It’s fun and informative to meet siblings of people you know. My sister will be here from England next month if anyone has the same curiosity. We are kind of opposites in that I’m brunette, brown-eyed while she’s blonde, blue-eyed, I love meat and she’s vegetarian (formerly vegan), she’s dog-crazy and I’m fond of cats, I hate nature and she’s outdoorsy, I generally loathe humans and she does social work. But other than those minor details, we’re very similar.


Huevos rancheros were ordered by four of my party of six, but I couldn’t resist the queso benedict. Who needs hollandaise when Velveeta sauce is more versatile. Swapping cornbread for english muffins was also not a bad idea. $5 two-for-one mimosas was an even better idea.

I promise to sleep in and only eat breakfast in the privacy of my home for the rest of the year. After all my boo hooing, I did get a small-squared waffle maker for Christmas.

Read my Time Cafe review for

Time Café * 44-18 Broadway, Astoria, NY
Taco Chulo * 318 Grand St., Brooklyn, NY

Nature’s Candy

I love this article, “The Myth of Fruit” from Wednesday’s Guardian. This quote sums up what I’ve thought for some time. And I can get all cranky on the subject and presumably not rile up freaks on the internet, assuming the public is less passionate about fruit than food allergies, their appearances on Jeopardy! and wine bars in Williamsburg (scroll to comments for warm fuzzy fun).

“If you believe the nutrition industry, every week produces some new superfood, often a fruit: blueberries, pomegranates, acai berries. The fact is that fruit consists of water, sugars (normally about 10%), some vitamin C, and some potassium (thought to be good for controlling blood pressure). And that’s kind of it.”

I’ve always hated fruit (though I love vegetables) and feel like it’s a chore to eat. The mandarin oranges (I can’t call them clementines—is this an East Coast thing?) Granny Smiths and bananas I’ve been lugging to work the past few months have been killing me.

Fruit juice feels like a total waste of calories and smoothies seem like a joke. Melon is flat-out disgusting and the only food in the entire universe that I won’t eat (well, there’s malta, but that’s a beverage). Minus melon, I don’t mind tropical fruit every now and then, but that’s all. And maybe my problem is that I was raised on bland grocery store produce, though I doubt it. People are always raving about Honeycrisp apples, but to me an apple is an apple and they’re boring.

If I want sweets, I would rather eat real desserts (poached pears and baked apples will not cut it). Nature just doesn’t make candy; that’s as sad as calling graham crackers cookies.

Bad fruit image from Lunacy Beads


Kom Jug Yuen

I can’t believe I forgot to mention “The Jug” (I don’t know that anyone actually calls it that but it sounds like a good stoner nickname) a.k.a. Toronto’s Kom Jug Yuen. I originally intended to try dim sum, perhaps at Lai Wah Heen, something a little higher end, but as it turned out I was invited to dim sum twice in January, a very strange thing since I’d only been asked to dim sum once in the entire five years prior.


I didn’t want to o.d. on yum cha, and by the time we settled into our weird pseudo-zen-like hotel (there were self-published looking new age guides instead of bibles in the drawers, cds of supposedly relaxing music and a choice of incense to permeate your room each day) that I only picked because it was centrally located minus outrageous prices or floral bedspreads and had a full kitchen, we were dead from waking up at 5am (I usually get up at 8:30am on weekdays, which might be late by most employed people’s standards).

I just wanted something simple, possibly soupy, like the New York Noodletown of Toronto. That was totally Kom Jug Yuen, except that I don’t think strangers were seated together at the same table—I told you Canadians are sensitive about their personal space.


I always order roast pork noodle soup at Noodletown, so I did the same here. That would’ve been plenty but the glossy, unnaturally red, roast meats being brought out in plastic tubs and hacked up at the front counter couldn’t be ignored either.


Choosing just one meat was impossible. Chicken, duck pork over rice was the only way. At least we had that kitchen with a usable refrigerator for leftovers (the last time we were in Canada, our frozen horsemeat unthawed in the minibar, drenching everything with blood and we got charged for every bottle and can we temporarily removed to scrub).

I'm not sure if it was the bone chilling weather, that I was starving by 4pm after throwing up the only thing I'd eaten all day, a LaGuardia donut ,or if the soup was really amazing. I like to believe that the rich broth transcended mere cold and hunger. 

Kom Jug Yuen * 371 Spadina Ave., Toronto, Canada

Sunday Night Special: Swiss Chard with Raisins and Pine Nuts & Flounder with Garlic Sauce

No matter how good they might taste, I have a knack for making my meals look sad and pathetic. This fish never stood a chance. 

This three-day weekend I finally got around to looking over a Christmas present, Jose Andres’s Tapas: a Taste of Spain in America. The same day I found a recipe in the new Gourmet that was very similar to one in the book I had my eye on. Synchronicity.

Jose Andres’s recipe used spinach, apples raisins and pine nuts while Gourmet’s version called for Swiss chard, raisins, onions and almonds. I love the Spanish use of nuts and raisins (especially with morcilla–which wasn’t called for in either of these—I’m just saying). I borrowed from both sources since I prefer heartier wilted greens to wet spinach and had a container of pine nuts that needed using up. Even though I liked the idea of adding a golden delicious and creating a pine nut praline, they didn’t make it into this version.

We already had a fish dish from Cooking Light (low fat isn’t exciting but I try to reign in my impulses during the week) on the roster that incorporated mayonnaise, so it was fortuitous that Gourmet paired their Spanish-influenced chard with a garlicky faux aioli topped halibut (strange, the way they've broken out the new; the chard recipe shows up on while the fish only appears on Epicurious). I had to use flimsy little flounder filets because that was what the original plan entailed.

I could’ve predicted that I’d like the sweet and oily Swiss chard more than the fish, but that’s mostly because I have a fear of mayonnaise even when I know rationally that it’s just eggs and oil. I think my perfect version of the vegetable dish would keep the chard, onions and smoked paprika I used in this one, add the apples and swap the pine nuts for almonds. Next time.

Knock it Off, Please

Thinking Twice About That $400 Handbag? Pshaw, hundreds are for
bourgeois losers; get back to me when you’ve made the leap into the

Actually, I contemplated that leap for about two minutes yesterday. I doubt I’ve ever spent more than $40 on a purse so it was a remarkable thing to realistically ponder. I do not covet expensive items (well, minus Richard Woods’s colorful block printed woodgrain furniture. I can’t conjure up any way to justify $5,500 for a plywood dresser at this point in my life) and have never understood followers of brands like Gucci and Louis Vuitton. I can’t think of anything less imaginative.

I don’t like aspirational status symbols.  But I do like these Richard Prince for Louis Vuitton bags. I don’t follow art and wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m a Richard Prince fan or else I would’ve gone to his Guggenheim retrospective that ended a few weeks ago. Yet, it was his ‘80s work, especially the joke paintings, tickled me as an art student in the early ‘90s. I wasn’t old enough to appreciate them during their heyday (though I imagine a young Manhattan teen might be so savvy or are Gossip Girl types a modern invention?)

Or at least I like the idea of these $2,000+ bags, which is why I will wait and see what the counterfeiters do with these designs. Isn’t buying a reproduction of an appropriation artist’s joke-themed “art” the ultimate joke?