I’m a crumb topping addict. Crumb bars? Yes! Crumb cake? Please! Crumb covered pie? Heck yeah! Over the past 3 years I’ve tried a substantial portion of Four & Twenty Blackbirds’ menu, but the other day I noticed a pie that was new-to-me: Rosemary Shoo-fly. Naturally I had to give it a try . . .
I first fell in love with Shoo-fly Pie on a trip to Amish country when I was seven. For years I’ve had an unrequited love affair with Pecan Pie. But with a nut allergy, actually tasting a slice is unfortunately not in the cards. Though Shoo-fly Pie isn’t quite a direct substitute, this crumb topped, sweet yet earthy, molasses-filled pie is a mighty good option in my book.
I learned to make Shoo-fly at home from my Mennonite college roommate, who shared her family recipe with me. Traditional and easy-to-make, it’s comfort food pure and simple . . . leave it to the Elsen sisters to kick it up a level. I’ll admit I would have never thought of adding rosemary to shoo-fly, but it works. It really does. That little bit of savory balances out the sweetness of the pie perfectly. I'd like another slice...like right now...please.
The menu at Four & Twenty is seasonal, so Rosemary Shoo-fly won't be available once spring rolls around, so get your fix now!
Four & Twenty Blackbirds
439 Third Ave. at 8th St,
Brooklyn, NY 11215
Hours: Monday to Friday: 8am - 7pm
Saturday: 9am - 7pm
Sunday: 10am - 6pm jump
Eggs and cheese go together like peas and carrots where, yes, you can sometimes throw bacon into the mix and the sum is greater than the parts, especially when you're hungover. But just an egg and cheese on its very own makes me happy. Throw it on slightly toasted hearty bread and make the cheese Beecher's Flagship one and you got yourself a brunch sandwich.
I stopped by the New York outpost of Seattle's great cheese store, Beecher's, yesterday for one of my many side projects in an absolutely famished state. Hangry, crazy hangry is more like it. I thought I'd get a grilled cheese, but I felt I needed something more. The Caprese with basil and tomato? No. The Turkey with much needed after-run protein? No. Then I spied that you could get their breakfast sandwich all day long. The scrambled egg was spot-on--cooked just to firm with little barely runny spots. The mild cheese was melty goodness. The bread was toasted, but not over-toasted (and from Hot Bread Kitchen to boot). All that was really missing was a nice thick slab or two of bacon. And for $7, it should maybe at least have that option.
Unless you want to wait forever, Chinese New Year ranks up there with Mother’s Day as the worst times to go for dim sum or out to any good Chinese restaurant for that matter--believe me, been there, done that on both occasions. So what's a girl to do when her FB and twitter feed starts bursting with Instagrams of homemade dumplings and Chinese New Year preparations? Well, fortunately this girl just had to invite her brother-in-law to dinner after stocking up on supplies to make our own feast of homemade Dan Dan Noodles, Twice-Cooked Pork and Scallion Pancakes...
The Twice-Cooked Pork was good. The Scallion Pancakes were great, but the night belonged to the Dan Dan Noodles...
There's no denying that Dan Dan Noodles are among my favorite noodle dishes. We had our first taste of Dan Dan at Spicy Tasty in Flushing and for years they made my favorite rendition of them in the city. Then I discovered the Dan Dan at Lan Sheng in midtown, which due to accessibility and sheer fiery tastiness quickly eclipsed my love for noodles at Spicy Tasty. Lawman-in-law discovered this recipe online and I'll admit it makes some mighty fine, restaurant quality noodles. For the recipe I used ground pork in place of ground beef but kept everything else the same. Seriously, if you love Dan Dan Noodles, flag this recipe then get yourself to Chinatown to pick up some supplies stat. You'll thank me later.
If any of you have a suggestion as to where to get proper noodles for Dan Dan, lay it on me. The ones that Lawman picked up in Chinatown weren't quite the right thickness (though the price was certainly right at 99 cents for a giant package).jump
Now that I've gotten my fill of pizza and spaghetti (the two things I always end up missing), I've been keeping my eye out for Mexican restaurants that actually serve good Mexican food. Things that remind me of that warm night where my friends and I did shots of smoky mezcal out of earthen bowls while overlooking Santo Domingo de Guzmán. One such winner of a restaurant has been on my radar for forever, yet never got a visit: Mercadito.
Eating in Mexico was a funny thing--we ate a lot on the go. Rushed breakfasts in hotel dining rooms, bags of junk food on buses, picking from stalls in markets, missed meals entirely, but we did get a couple of fancier delicious meals in. None of those meals involved flautas, and if it had involved ones like these with a black bean hash, tomatillo salsa, and a healthy serving of crema fresca, the empty plate would have been sent back within minutes for a round of seconds and thirds.
The meal involved a couple of rounds of tacos including these Estilo Baja ones: battered fish tacos with coleslaw and chipotle aioli. They reminded me of other warm times I've been think about fondly in these bitter winds--and using as motivation for running--pre-beach lunches at Rockaway Taco, sheltered from the hot sun, and telling my boos the goings-on of the past week. I also got a round of the Hongos tacos since my dining companion had never tried huitlacoche. It's a fungus that grows on corn, you can get it fresh in Mexico, but only canned in America. It has a similar taste to mushrooms and is paired with wild mushrooms in the tacos. I've had it out on Roosevelt Ave where they're obviously not as done up as the ones here.
Elotes are the Mexican corn phenomena that everyone knows about and absolutely loves. Except for me. My aversion to corn on the cob runs deep, way deep. Mercadito doesn't bring the elotes to the table with a thick layer of mayo topped with a ridiculous amount of Cotija cheese which I really appreciated, plus the plump and firm corn was slightly roasted--all bonus in my book and I would have eaten more, if I liked corn on the cob. Another even more ubiquitous Mexican delicacy that they do wonderfully was the guacamole. We tried all three, and all were splendid, but the toreado was my clear favorite. I like the spice from the sautéed chile serrano added in, it was the perfect touch to make the guacamole stand out, but wasn't so hot I couldn't keep eating it.
Another favorite was the Coles de Bruselas--Brussels sprouts with chorizo, roasted tomato salsa, and crema fresca. Why had I never roasted my sprouts with chorizo?! I might have to make this for Thanksgiving this year.
By the time dessert came around, my pants were asking me to stop the nonsense. But I had to have the Torrejas de Bolillo. The bottom piece is a slab of Mexican bread that's been soaked with creme anglaise and then (I believe) torched to give it a creme brulee like crunchy shell. On top of that is cajeta (goat's milk caramel) sauce and plain vanilla ice cream. It was pure delight and entirely refreshing for me to have a dessert that hasn't been done 5,000 times over.
By the way, I hear the Mercadito Avenue B is now open for lunch and I spy a torta that needs to be tried on their menu.
100 7th Avenue South @ Grove Street
*Full disclosure* I was invited to come eat at Mercadito right after returning from Mexico. I only accepted this meal because A) I did want to try out their food after missing numerous friends' dinners there over the past years and B) I'm a broke grad student. Don't judge unless you want to contribute to my tuition. Yes, this dinner was gratis, but it doesn't affect my opinion and I'd happily get a meal there again.jump
Murray's Cheese is undoubtedly a landmark for New York City, so it was understandable when everyone got excited about their new cheese bar just a few doors down the block (towards Morton Street). Until this very weekend, you could only stop by during the evening for a cheeseboard or mac and cheese or a grilled cheese or the warm burrata. In other words, they weren't open for brunch. But starting tomorrow they are.
(pulling this in closer so you can fully appreciate the delicious)
Of course we said yes when they asked if we wanted to stop by for a press preview the other day. I abhor the scourge of modern New York life that is the brunch wait, but that does not mean I do not love brunch. One quick look at the menu and I sort of knew I had to get the Super Sticky Bun Style French Toast. Pullman bread stuffed with cream cheese and topped with cinnamon toffee sauce and toasted pecans, pretty much the perfect decadent breakfast that requires an afternoon nap. I will say my favorite part was the sauce--I almost asked to take some home to pour over ice cream or use as a topping for doughnut bread pudding. Or just eat it by the spoonful as I caught up on my shows.
When I first asked Lawman-in-law for food recs for my recent trip to Austin, Texas, the first thing he offered up was "you must go to Gordough's." For those unfamiliar with the Austin food truck scene, Gordough's is both a food truck and now a public house serving up ridiculous, freshly made doughnut creations. My brother-in-law knows me all too, well...
In fact, though I didn't know it, I've been dreaming of Gordough's myself for two years since Lawman-in-law texted me a photo of their Flying Pig, a maple frosted doughnut covered with bacon. Scrumptious bacon. I knew about the doughnut, but I never knew the name of the place. When I finally put two and two together, I knew that Gordough's was a must-visit spot for me.
With limited time, but a very obliging hostess. Instead of hitting the truck, we went straight to Gordough's Public House from the airport shortly after my arrival for a late night dinner. Their menu is chock-full of doughnutty goodness. Seriously, you'd be hard pressed to find something that didn't come with a doughnut. Their sandwiches and burgers are served on doughnuts, their salads come with a garlic doughnut on the side and then, of course, there are doughnuts for dessert.
For those who fear the doughnut burger (ahem, Lawman), the burgers at Gordough's come atop unsweetened doughnuts--it's more like a fried bread with a hole. Even a self-professed doughnut lover like me will admit that their Big Baller doughnut burger was pretty ridiculous. Burgers are great. Doughnuts are too. That doesn't necessarily mean that I need them together. Was it a fun indulgence? Sure. But not one that needs to be repeated in this lifetime. I'd rather save my artery clogging for dessert or breakfast.
Speaking of dessert, even though I'd had a burger-topped doughnut there was no was I was leaving Austin without trying one of their proper frosted doughnut delights. Though I spied the Flying Pig on the menu, I couldn't resist going for the Squealing Pig instead, a cream cheese frosted, strawberry jalapeño jelly topped confection covered with candied jalapeños and bacon. Oh, glory! Now this was the sort of doughnut indulgence that I save my calories for. After eating a good 3/4s of my burger, I couldn't manage more than a 1/4 of this doughnut. Seriously, they're huge, but what a wonderful 1/4 it was. Next time I'm in Austin I'm definitely making a trip to the truck to try their Dirty Berry, a fudge iced doughnut with grilled strawberries.
Hello, high season. There isn't just Beer Week and Choice Eats coming up. We've got a fundraiser for Slow Food NYC, a talk about one of the most influential food writers of all time, and a food culture conference. So let's get to it.
First, the evening of Thursday, April 11th, Slow Food NYC is throwing on their annual party, the (s)low down at Brooklyn's The Invisible Dog. This year part of the proceeds go to their Urban Harvest program which helps schools in the South Bronx, Harlem, the Lower East Side, and East New York, plus runs gardens in Brooklyn and South Africa. The guest of honor will be none other than the legendary--and honestly, one of the best guys in the industry--Bill Telepan. There's all sorts of delicious cocktails, food, and general hobnobbing. Tickets are a bit on the pricier side (for me at least, but then again, I'm a grad student) starting at $95.
If you don't know who Marion Cunningham is, you should stop right now, read this and then make some coffeecake. Yes, she only revised "The Fannie Farmer Cookbook." Here I am sometimes getting dismayed by my age in grad school (I'm surrounded by 20somethings) and she didn't start her professional career until 50! Judith Jones (another legend), Laura Shapiro, and James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Barbara Kafka are going to sit down this Thursday evening and discuss her career and influence as a part of The New School's Culinary Luminaries series. Tickets are $5 (or possibly free).
Lastly, over two days in April, a bunch of us academic food people who do scholarly things are going to nerd out at The New School on "Food and Immigrant Life: The Role of Food in Forced Migration, Migrant Labor, and Recreating Home," a topic that fits in perfectly with my class to Mexico. They're going to talk about all sorts of fun things: food scarcity's role in migration, climate change's role in migration, migrant women's labor(!). But most of you will probably be interested in Friday afternoon session where the panels will discuss "Re-creating Home in the United States" aka why the US has such a diverse medley of cuisines and why we can get near-authentic cuisine throughout the country.
The Social Research conference will be taking place at The New School on April 18th and 19th. It's $45 for the full conference, $15 for each session, and a bunch of different ways to go for free or just buy a transcript. More info on this here. jump
If you're like me you have an uncanny ability to crave a specific food on the days that its purveyor is shut. Well, pie lovers, the beginning of the work week is just a little bit sweeter...Four & Twenty Blackbirds, my go-to pie shop is now open on Mondays...
Perhaps while I'm there I'll also snag one of their awesome hummus sandwiches on crusty housemade country rolls. The sandwich is just the right size for pairing with pie without feeling overstuffed. With plenty of spicy pickled carrots, peppery daikon radish and a nice schmear of hummus, it feels like a virtuous sort of lunch that is deserving of dessert.
Four & Twenty Blackbirds
439 Third Ave. at 8th St,
Brooklyn, NY 11215
Hours: Monday to Friday: 8am - 7pm
Saturday: 9am - 7pm
Sunday: 10am - 6pm jump
I might be in love with Big Gay Ice Cream's new West Village shop. Besides being only a ten minute walk from campus, I can sit and relax while eating my weight in sprinkles. Plus now they have pastries from La Newyorkina *and* Dough doughnuts. If you follow Doug on Instagram, you can even see when he's doing fun things and luck out with a delicious special.
I put this picture on Instagram of the delicious doughnut sundae Doug made me a week or so ago. Yes, even though the doughnut was chocolate frosted with sprinkles, I wanted more. There are never enough sprinkles. The sundae's still being tweaked before it's readily available to the masses, but there's nothing stopping you from combining a doughnut and a cup of ice cream. And as for La Newyorkina's pastries? The one I tried--a guava and cream cheese empanada--was absolutely delicious. If I lived around there, I'd totally stop by and get one on my way to work since they open 7am.
Last week I shared some recent food truck adventures I had in Austin, Texas at The Mighty Cone and Hey Cupcake. But how could I go to Austin and only visit two food trucks? After hearing Lawman-in-law speak glowingly of G'Raj Mahal, there was no way I was leaving Austin without giving it a try. Fortunately, it was also one of my hostess' favorite trucks, too, and she already planned to take me there. Sweet!
G'Raj Mahal is an Indian food truck that's really more of a food truck complex--the cooking truck is surrounded by heated seating tents. The menu at G'Raj Mahal has an impressive array of Indian dishes to appeal to vegetarians and carnivores alike. We hit it up on a Saturday night so naturally there was a wait. I took the time to study the menu, but was getting no where. Everything looked so good. A frantic text to my brother-in-law yielded some guidance...go Goan! So I chose the Rechaad Masala with shrimp and a side of garlic naan on the side because you can never go wrong with garlic naan.
The plump shrimp were swimming in a fiery, sweet and tangy tomato sauce that had more than a hint of lemon. It was legitimately hot and awesome. I've never had Goan food, but I'd definitely be open to trying more if this sample of one dish is indicative of the cuisine.
Whenever I get Indian in the city I usually order family-style (and let's be honest, I usually get it with my family, so they have to put up with me stealing bites, it's part of being related). I was dining mostly with a primarily vegetarian crowd but the food was plentiful so I was able to get a few bites of both the chana masala and the mushroom masala.
As you'd expect, both were a good bit more mild than my dish, but delicious nonetheless. I'm a big chana masala fan--it's high on my list of things I want to learn to cook, especially since my husband recently bought two flats of chickpeas from Costco. This was my first time having mushroom masala and I have to say mushrooms plus curry is a genius combo. Mushrooms are perfect flavor sponges and masala sauce is was rich, creamy goodness. If you find yourself in Austin with a hankering for Indian food, definitely check G'Raj Mahal out.
91 Red River, Austin, TX
Tue/Wed/Thu/Sun: 5 PM - Midnight
Fri & Sat: 5 PM - 2 AM
Call ahead during extreme weather
New York City Brewers Guild has banded together for yet another New York City Beer Week! All the events kick off next Thursday, the 22nd with an opening night party at Galapagos in Brooklyn. Tickets are $45 and over 20 area breweries will be handing out samples of their brews. The beer love lasts throughout the following nine days mostly in the form of dinners all around the city, ending in one final porky beer fest.
The night of Saturday, March 2nd, Alewife NYC will play host to 'aPORKalypse Now,' a veritable orgy of beer and pork. Ten heritage pigs will be cooked up by some of the city's best chefs, and washed down with more of the newest brews. For $40, you get 10 tastings of pig and 10 tastings of beer. There will be afternoon and evening sessions, and with spring just around the corner, don't we all need to work on our day drinking?
Until last week, I'd never stopped by Sundaes and Cones. There were many times I had planned on stopping by and many times where I had passed by after already eating one too many desserts. But last week, I'd not eaten any dessert that day, a day that was going sour quick, and then I passed by Sundaes & Cones, and, well, hot fudge beckoned.
The previous weekend I had discussed this food writer dilemma (of not visiting a well-known ice cream shop) with Robyn Lee, who suggested I stop by as soon as possible. I stepped inside and became completely overwhelmed by the day's ice cream flavors. Then I spotted the waffle sundae options. For about $7, I could have a scoop of ice cream, two toppings, whipped cream, and a cherry on top of a fresh waffle. Boom. Mint chip (I needed comfort--it's nostalgic for me), hot fudge, and rainbow sprinkles. It hit every spot it was supposed to. Would I stop by again for delicious creamy black sesame ice cream when the craving calls? Yes. Was it one of the better hot fudges I've had in the city? Yes. I could have done without the waffle--I don't think it added much--but every other aspect of my sundae was perfect.
One of the fun things about the food truck scene in Austin is that many of their trucks are very cool retro Airstream trailers. I just love the aesthetic of an Airstream , they lack the harsh corners and edges that so many trucks have giving the impression of a giant silver Twinkie. In short, they just look friendly. And when you have an Airstream with a giant rotating pink-frosted cupcake on top like Hey Cupcake on South Congress how could you not be friendly?
Hey Cupcake in Austin serves up “Texas-sized” cupcakes. The cupcake are $3, but I’ve seen more expensive, much smaller cupcakes around these parts—I wonder how many quarter-sized $1 cupcakes you could fit in a Texas cupcake…). After a bit of deliberation I chose the Mint Rushmore because 1) the name is awesome and hilarious and 2) how could I resist peppermint buttercream on an Andes Mint chocolate cake. The truck offers a complimentary filler-up known as a “whipper snapper” and will fill your cupcake with fresh whipped cream on request. It sounded good to me but I knew that I wouldn’t be eating the cupcake until later and I wasn’t quite sure how the whipped cream would fare in the Texas heat.
The cupcake didn’t need it anyhow. The cake was super moist and chocolatey with a nice hint of mint and while the butter cream might not have been super fancy, it was minty and sweet and that’s fine by me!
After nine days in Puebla, my little group of scholarly scholars headed through the Sierra Madres to Oaxaca. Where we ate crickets, again. It's like popcorn in that it tastes more like what it's been roasted in than, well, crickets. Just be careful of getting a live one.
This half of the trip was significantly skewed to looking at agriculture in an arid location with worsening desertification. One place trying to educate locals on sustainable methods is Tierra del Sol, a permaculture farm outside of Oaxaca. The entire farm strives to be no-impact--we're talking composting everything, including toilets--and grows its own food.
From Tierra del Sol we traveled to visit Mitla, stopping for lunch somewhere. By this point in the trip, each and every one of us was craving vegetables, any kind of vegetable. And preferably without any queso. The town's market could only satiate the vegetable craving with these pizzas. The base is cracker-thin tortilla, a layer of beans, and Oaxaca cheese topped with squash blossoms, avocados, and tomatoes.
But it was outside I found *the* *best* *thing* EVER! Mordisko Kroc.
Yes, it's half a crunchy chocolate-covered ice cream bar, half ice cream sandwich. And 100% the best industrial ice cream treat I've ever had in my life. I completely did a "eat one half, then the other" move (ice cream bar first), then spent the next few days looking for another. Then I would have been able to tell you what eating both sides *AT ONCE* would be like.
Another aspect of the Mexican market we looked into was the organic coffee industry via CEPCO, a grassroots coffee cooperative. The day even involved hiking through a two acre coffee farm on the side of a mountain. Supporting their sustainable coffee industry gives their farmers a way to support themselves, their families, and their communities, without migrating to America.
But they still have to deal with Mexican corporations infiltrating their diet with processed junk food. On our way out of the village, we caught the Bimbo truck making its deliveries.
All of this travelling out of town meant barely anytime to explore the food scene in Oaxaca. Though we did find one place to stop by: Lobo Azul Cafe. It showcases local artists, organic coffee, and an Americanized menu including burritos. I still got chilaquiles, but when you're homesick in a foreign country, it's nice to know where to pick up some comfort food. Which I may need when I find myself wandering through Oaxaca again--something I'm already looking into.
When I first saw The Mighty Cone listed as a must-visit food truck in Austin I was convinced that it was an ice cream truck. It’s an easy mistake to make…you hear cone, you know it’s a truck, it’s a fairly logical leap that they’d serve ice cream. I’m here to tell you that while you can’t get ice cream from the Mighty Cone you can get mighty, mighty good fries….
The bulk of the menu ink at the Cone is spent on their other savories like fried chicken, avocado and shrimp coated in their crunchy almond, sesame seed, cornflake and chili crust then served in a tortilla cone. But it was the chili-dusted fries with homemade roasted red pepper ketchup that captured my fancy.
At $1.25 for a cone it was some of the best money I spent in Austin. The fries were nice and crispy on the outside with a lovely dusting of chili powder, best of all (at least from my perspective) they were perfectly salted. I like to hit my fries with a little sodium-lovin’ but often times only the ones on top get any of the salt. Mmmm…crispy, spicy, salty fries. In addition to their homemade ketchup I also tried their jalapeño ranch dipping sauce—I’m not a ranch dressing kind of gal, I didn’t grow up eating it and frankly, it tastes a bit gross to me, but the addition of jalapeño gave it just the right amount of kick to mask any serious ranchyness. Thumbs up as well to their garlic aioli which looked and tasted like it had maybe a touch of mustard.
The cones aren’t huge. I shared mine with my lovely hostess, but they don’t need to be huge, in fact I’m all for smaller more manageable servings (that are co-measurately less expensive, don’t give me a tiny portion and still charge me $5!). With the smaller serving I had the chance to try other nearby trucks (more on them soon!) and in my book, more food truck variety is a big win!
When I visited they were on S. Congress Avenue, but as of this week they’ve move to Rio Rancho Eatery on 26th and Rio Grande! Congrats on the move guys! Looking forward to visiting you on my next trip to Texas.
Less than an hour before last night series finale for 30 Rock (epic sad face at its ending), Jerry of Ben & Jerry's announced their latest flavor, one made in honor of 30 Rock's demise. And it didn't involve muffin tops.
Keeping with their push to increase the new Greek Frozen Yogurt line--pints of which I personally enjoy every now and then--the new flavor is Liz Lemon. The lemon yogurt is tangy in a good way, not pucker face, but a little zesty. It's evened out with the sweet and savory aspects from the blueberry and lavender swirl. I kept thinking how this would be a great spring and summer flavor, for when it's getting hot out, but you don't want that "blah" heavy feeling that can happen after an entire pint a small serving of ice cream. jump