the underbelly

The Incredible, Edible, Egg in an Egg
April 1, 2010, 12:59 pm
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This fairly normal-seeming if incredibly vividly yellow (iphone taken and edited photo…) item was my lunch last Tuesday. Looks like a normal omelet, right? Look closer. The dark yellow spilling out of the Hollandaise-topped egg-dish is not cheese – it’s egg yolk. Yes, folks. This is the illusive poached egg omelet: A three-egg omelet filled with Gruyere and a poached egg. It’s artery clogging and cholesterol raising just to look at this thing. Who has it? Why it can be seen in the…flesh? yolk? egginess? at the Roebling Tea Room in my home ‘hood of Williamsburg. Served with some sliced baguette and lightly dressed lettuce it is one of the most satisfying items I’ve ever eaten. An orgy of egg. I paired it with a large (double) bloody mary, which is what you should do. The Tea Room’s bloodies are just spicy enough and contain some excellently large and meaty olives. Bill Murray has been known to knock back a few. No lie.


March 16, 2010, 10:13 am
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On my seventh birthday I was bitten by a chinchilla. We had a woman over with her wild animal collection. There was a lynx. A tarantula. Snakes. But I was mauled by the puff ball. Ok, mauled is an exaggeration, but there definitely was blood. To be fair to the chinchilla, it wasn’t its fault. There was a hole in the cage, which it had chewed with is hacksaw-like teeth, and I stuck my finger in it to try to pet the little creature. It decided that wasn’t going to happen and retaliated.

It’s been eighteen years since that happened. In that time I’ve learned how to drive, how to analyze Tolstoy, how to navigate New York City and not to trust small, furry creatures. And while I still love a good animal, that theme on birthdays has been replaced with food. So when my grandparents told me to pick a restaurant for my birthday dinner I sprang at the chance to go to the restaurant that everyone seemed to be saying was where they ate their best meal in the past year: Marea. It was a bit of a risk as none of us had been before – a bit like reaching a finger into a hole in a cage. But no tiny metaphorical restaurant animal bit. It was delicious.

The Spaghettini with crab and a rich sea urchin sauce was creamy and addictive. The famed octopus and bone marrow Fusilli that my friend had was the definition of umami. My main dish was a fish soup, a sort of Italian bouillabaisse. It was like a treasure chest of seafood. Every piece was cooked to perfection, not at all overdone, which is a risk when making a soup like that. I ended with cheese and Sherry, an Amontillado (something that as a child I only knew of as a reason to trap some one inside of a wall if you live in an Edgar Allen Poe story). Not a bad way to ring in a quarter century.

Happy Chinese Presi-Valen-New-Tines Years Day!
February 16, 2010, 7:06 pm
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Valentine’s day for a single lady is usually a day full of wallowing and chocolate or other ladies and booze. Mine was neither. And it was awesome. I went to my favorite place on earth, Flushing, with two of my favorite people to nosh with. We spent the day eating in the Flushing Mall, wandering the streets, watching the many five person Chinese New Year parades (it was weird…just random dragons and some dudes with drums meandering around…Happy year of the tiger!!) and then finishing up at the now famed Xi’an Famous Foods for an entire other meal. Unfortunately in my eagerness to escape to Queens I forgot my camera. Luckily Larry was there with his giant camera to save the day and alienate the locals.

From the Flushing Mall food court. Stomach:

Yum. This being Flushing there wasn’t much in the way of English translation. I’m guessing this was cow stomach, though it could have been pig. Whatever it was it was delicious. It wasn’t chewy like stomach so often it. It was lightly springy but mostly tender and spiked with vinegar and spicy oil.

Next up was the spicy tendon.

Holy jeez so good. Again, tender and refreshing with spicy chillies, oil and a spike of vinegar and green onion. I could eat many plates of this. Hands down best tendon ever.

Also eaten in the mall: giant soup dumplings, den den mein, lamb dumplings and cold, sweet soy milk.

Then on to Xi’an Famous Foods, which is in the bowels of another mall on Main St. It’s cramped. It’s hot. It smells like stinky tofu. For me that’s heaven. We came in looking to eat one or two more dishes but instead were convinced to order a feast by the very amiable dude that was manning the counter. Pictures of him with Anthony Bourdain on the wall made it clear that we were in good hands.

We had the Spicy Tingly Lamb Face Salad:

I can only describe this as facey. It really had a very face-ish quality to it. And spicy/tingly it was.

Then we were told to get the Lamb Spine for good luck:

I can use all the luck I can get. If it means eating spectacular, gamey, rich, slow-cooked lamb meat then I am all for it. This dish was particularly hard to eat with chopsticks. I resorted to using my fingers by the end but if you wanted to get all the meat you probably would have to resign yourself to going caveman on its bony self.

We also at the lamb burger, cold skin noodles and tiger vegetable salad.

Thanks Genny and Larry for the best valentine’s a lady could ask for: one full of dangerously large amounts of overeating scrumptious Chinese food. And Happy New Year, kids.

When Celeb Chef Meets Food Truck
February 9, 2010, 12:49 am
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Today I ate out of a food truck. Two food trucks actually. But I wasn’t getting chicken and rice. I wasn’t getting a kati roll or a hot dog. I wasn’t even getting roasted chestnuts. I was eating food prepared by some very talented chefs.


Because NBC New York set up four of New York’s top chefs with four food trucks and four secret locations and times. Then they handed out virtual golden tickets. And a lucky few got to pimp their lunch hours. (Is that reference too old? Then call me retro and while you’re at it get jiggy with it.)

First up was Paul Liebrandt of Corton.

This was his truck.

This was his menu. Cod croquettes with homemade potato chips.

This was him with his cones of food. It was a bit early – 11am and keep in mind yesterday was the Superbowl or as I like to call it the Beer Extravaganza so it felt earlier – and I was not at my perkiest. He made fun of me because I was a bit overwhelmed and a tad in awe (he’s a bit of a big deal) and called me shy. So I blushed and giggled and took a cone.

Here’s a cone closeup. The croquettes were crunchy and bursting with fishy saltiness. They reminded me a bit of baccala. The chips were delicate and crispy, like thin potato petals.

Here is a closeup of Chef Liebrandt. Can you see why I giggled a bit?

After a bit of digesting it was off to another secret location to see the great Alain Ducasse whose resume is far too long to put into one sentence. Suffice it to say, the man can cook.

Chef Ducasse’s truck. It quite crowded. People who walked by without golden e-tickets glared at us with both jealousy and annoyance because New Yorkers do not like it when people are eating lunch in their paths of progress.

Here is Chef Ducasse dishing out his food looking like the professional that he is.

Here he is making a funny face.

Here is proof of how crowded it was. I could not get a clear shot of the menu as there was never a break in the line. But I will summarize. He was serving a tarte flambée, choucroute and a meringue for dessert.

Mmmm choucroute. Delicious boudin blanc, a spicy sausage and thick slices of ham all on top of scrumptiously tangy sauerkraut.

Meringue, I found out, is not very photogenic. It mostly just looks like a baguette. But it was very sweet and melted in your mouth (not in your hand – the retro referencer strikes again!).

All in all a good lunch hour, I’d say.

Luncheon in a Dungeon
February 1, 2010, 1:05 pm
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The other day I had lunch in a dungeon. This is not where I sat:

Neither was this:

They were just decor. For now. I don’t know what happened in them after I left.

Why was I in a dungeon? For a book release party for Whip Smart by Melissa Febos which is a memoir about her time as a Dominatrix in New York. Coincidentally her Domme alias was Justine (my name). So that’s been a fun read. But anyway. While wandering around the Chinese torture room as speculating on the mural of the heavily pierced, leather-clad babes leaning against a giant…johnson….in a toxic wasteland (serious art, people) we munched on a light lunch and sipped Moscato D’Asti.

What do you eat in a dungeon?

Veggie sushi of course.

And cheese. Because cheese is appropriate at any occasion in any venue.

The worst torture device of all?

AHHH an ugly couch!!! The pain!!!

January 19, 2010, 5:27 pm
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Best Cellars is not one to throw money at its employees. They use their money wisely by buying delicious yet economically sound bottles to sell to loyal customers. But when we throw a party we throw it right. With two giant bottles of bubbly:

You can’t tell. But that thing is huge. It’s about the size of my leg. And while I have short legs for a person of 5′ 6”, that is still an impressive size. It fits the equivalent of 12 bottles of wine.

Oh, and you’ll have to forgive the photography. I have been playing with my new camera and teaching myself Adobe Photoshop so things may look a little…well…self indulgent some times. Bear with me.

Our fearless leader, Alex, easing the slightly larger than average cork out of bottle number two (it only took us a bit over an hour to take care of bottle number one).

He managed to open it up with only the slightest hiss of release from the bottle.

Also, being a giant, Alex was able to pour the bottle all by himself. Ta da! Yes, we poured it into a pitcher. It looked like beer.

The cups we used didn’t help. But us Best Cellars kids aren’t pretentious. We’re happy to drink our Champagne out of plastic cups. Actually, we’re happy to drink most things out of plastic cups.

Wild Meats
January 4, 2010, 12:27 pm
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When people think of Sonoma County they think wine country. They think rolling hills of Pinot Noir and a sophisticated country people who sip Chardonnay while staring off into the sunset as a red-tailed hawk screeches across the rosy sky. And, in some ways, they’d be right. But at it’s heart Sonoma County is still a rural, country county where people drive rusted out trucks, wear cowboy hats and boots and buy their meat at stores decorated with the heads of the animals whose meat they are selling. Like Bud’s:

Bud’s is a butcher in Pengrove. To get to it you have to go down about five different dirt roads following signs that you begin to doubt as you head further into the middle of nowhere. But then there is it!

Bud’s has every meat you could reasonably desire (meaning no rattle snake, no bear, no endangered wild cat). But there are homemade sausages (see above, she’s cutting links), amazing looking cuts of beef (including Wagyu), elk, boar, ostrich (including ostrich fan, which I had never seen before), and more, as well as the usual pork and chicken and other fowl.

Awesome looking bloody elk chops. But we were there to buy venison for a chili I had planned. How to make venison chili? Take a recipe for beef chili and then just keep it cooking for about six times as long. It was delicious but not very photogenic – hence no post. But while we were there we also picked up some wild boar chops for dinner that night as well as a venison sausage….like a summer sausage I guess…kind of similar to ring bologna, which I dream of nightly now that I am back in New York and it is out of reach. But anyway back to the boar chops:

I used a recipe from The Silver Spoon for pork chops, because they’re roughly the same save for a bit of a difference in terms of fat content. But this recipe involved lots of butter so I wasn’t worried. I also marinated the chops ahead of time in some olive oil, sage and lemon juice.

The best part of the dish was the crispy bits of fried sage. But the meat was a tasty component as well, especially when doused with a bit of the lightly browned butter. Ah, meat. So good, particularly¬† when purchased from a place that reveres it as much as Bud’s. If you ever find yourself in Pengrove, which I will admit is unlikely, stop on by and grab some venison jerky, some sausage, and a big hung of ostrich fan for the road.