Last Saturday night we were invited out by our very dear friends for dinner at Palma on Cornelia Street in the West Village. Our friends have excellent taste in restaurants so in no way did I question their choice.
When we arrived we also realized that it was directly across from one of my absolute favorite restaurants in NYC, Po, once owned by Chef Mario Batali. I have been going there literally since I was a kid. Their white bean bruschetta is a dish I have been trying to recreate for 10 years. I have never been able to get it quite right.
We had a 9:45 pm reservation and we were joined by our friends at 9:50 pm. Don’t blame them - they are Persian. They operate on a completely different time frame than most people.
At 9:50 another group of 4 arrived in popped collars and J.Crew skirts. They told the hostess “we have a 10:00 pm reservation.” My husband and I kept our eye on them, noticing the arrogant, entitled attitude of people who did not deem themselves worthy of waiting for a table like us mere common folk.
And lo and behold, when a 4 top opened up, the UES preppy foursome was seated by the hostess, while the same hostess came over and told us a manager would come see us shortly. Um, what!?
When the manager came over he said we would be seated in about 5 minutes. Ok, not much to complain about. But when 10 minutes passed without being seated (oh yeah, shocked), we were all a little annoyed.
I asked the hostess, “excuse me - why was that other party of 4 seated before us when they had a 10:00 pm reservation?” To which she replied, “oh, I don’t know - they must have spoken with a different hostess.”
What do I look like, bitch - an idiot?! They spoke to you. Thanks for lying to me.
In the end, the meal was entirely mediocre, so much so that when they brought over my husband’s pasta dish, which had bread baked right over the top, they admitted it wasn’t right, but didn’t ever offer to bring another. Between so-so food and the lying hostess, well you can bet I will not be going back.
But really what I want to say about this is: while a foursome of UES prepsters may give you a good tip tonight, a bunch of food-blogging fat kids like me will keep coming back and tell their friends and maybe tweet, instgram and blog - whether good or bad.
So thanks Palma - I will be sticking with Po, where the food is always plentiful, the waitstaff always helpful and the reservations are respected.
My other favorite NYC Italian pick - Celeste on the UWS. Cash only, super affordable price for NYC and always satisfying. You WILL wait awhile for a table there, but it’s all part of the charm. If Gian Garlo the manager recommends a dish, listen to him and try it.
And don’t bother with Palma, unless you make sure you look like you just stepped off your yacht.
This year it’s been 15 years since my mom passed away from Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and I think this past year has actually been one of the most difficult without her.
When my mom first died, some people warned me how difficult it would be not to have her down the road, especially during lifecycle events such as weddings, children and other moments of joy. Well, they were right.
It’s been a blessing to bring a daughter of my own into the world. But I have also missed having a mom to think about me and take care of me these past two years. You see, moms just know what you need - like care packages, one of my mom’s specialties. Like a home-cooked meal. Like mix tapes. Yes, my mom made me mix tapes. Or a conversation that is about ME (yes me! I am still a person over here!)
I have also missed asking all those questions about what I was like as a baby, what decisions my mom made and why. My dad is great at lots of things but his memory is not super sharp. Maybe it has something to do with his hippie ways?! Hmmmm.
But I digress.
This year, while I celebrate and give thanks for my brilliant, bright, beautiful, healthy little girl, I also experience sadness - sadness for the things I will never do with my mother; the conversations I will never have; and the grandmother my daughter will never meet. My mom was so silly and fun and interactive - I wish so badly that Ella could sit at my mom’s feet while she plays Debussy, taking a book of Monet art off the shelf and explaining dramatically, “THIS is your inspiration!” as she did with me. At the time I thought she was crazy, but now I am just proud of the uber-nerd legacy I was born into.
Now when Ella and I ride the rocking horse at Gymboree, I sing the William Tell Overture and talk about why Rossini was not well regarded for his music and was considered the Britney Spears of his time. I am ok if the other parents think I am nuts because they don’t even know what Rossini is. It’s likely Ella won’t know who Britney Spears is either, but I am ok with that.
I am plagued with an irrational fear that I will be taken away from my family too soon. Will people say nice things about me? (Hope so) Will they tell my daughter I was a crazy, bulldozing bitch? (Hope not) I think about this perhaps more than I care to admit.
There is one conversation in particular on the topic of motherhood that has stuck with me since my mom got sick.
My mom was a very talented classical pianist and yet I could not understand why she didn’t pursue more grandiose performance and teaching opportunities.
She gently explained, “When you are a mom you will understand.” At the time I was like, “um whatever, you’re nuts. I am going to be on Broadway and I am definitely not letting kids get in my way.”
When she got sick and eventually passed, and much of the care for my siblings fell onto my shoulders, I started to understand. And having my own daughter makes the conversation even more real, more relatable.
I still hope to achieve great things, to achieve my full potential. But like my mom, I know the greatest accomplishment I will boast one day will be raising children who are good people; people who are reaching their full potential out in the world, whether that’s parenthood, music or gd forbid, law or finance.
I hope my mom is proud of me and my siblings. And I hope I can live up to the example she provided of a tough, loving, silly mom who always expected us to do out best.
Mom, I’m trying.
One of my favorite dinners growing up was taco night, which didn’t happen weekly, but probably happened around every 3 weeks. Which simply wasn’t frequent enough for me.
My mom would buy those El Paso hard-shell tacos and seasoning mix. Gd only knows what was in those packets - probably a combination of salt, MSG and some other cancer-causing ingredient that tastes like heaven.
She would set the table with a spread of items to add to the tacos, and she had this special serving platter with 5 openings which would be filled with: chopped raw onion, chopped tomatoes, shredded lettuce, shredded cheddar cheese and in the middle, salsa. And of course, she would saute some beef with the packet of El Paso seasoning mix, and I loved it. My brother, who still doesn’t eat anything except chicken fingers and pizza, hated this night. I don’t even remember what my mom would make him instead.
To koser-ize this childhood favorite, I made my own seasoning: 2 tsp cumin, 1 tsp chili powder, pinch of red chili flakes, 1 tsp dried oregano and salt and pepper. I sauteed half an onion diced, 1 garlic clove minced and 1/2 red bell pepper, toasting the spice mix with the veggies in about 2 Tbsp olive oil. Next I added 1 pound of chopped beef and sauteed until cooked.
No sour cream of cheese for these tacos, but I kept the raw onion, tomatoes, lettuce and added some avocado, black beans and cilantro. I also swapped out the hard shell tacos for some small, soft tacos.
The combo really takes me back to my childhood. And next day? I made myself a nice big taco salad. Thanks for bringing us taco night, mom.
When did digging out the inside of a bagel become the only acceptable way for Jewish/Manhattan/annoying women to eat the beloved breakfast treat? For me, eating the chewy part of the bagel is just as important as eating the crusty outside. Furthermore, I just love bagels. Great with cream cheese, piled high with lox and tomato, great for a tuna melt, and perhaps my most favorite of all - the pizza bagel!! The bagel truly provides endless possibilities.
But let’s get back to crazy women and carbs for a moment.
I was in a meeting the other day and a colleague was discussing the menu for an upcoming event. “No, no. no,” she said, “none of these women eat carbs.”
Remember in Devil Wears Prada, where Emily Blunt’s character says to Anne Hathaways character, “you eat carbs for god’s sake!”
What is the big fear, ladies??? Carbs will give you cellulite? You are probably going to get it anyways. If you eat carbs you will be too fat to get married? Wrong again.
Maybe it’s because I am a curvy girl who doesn’t give a sh*t and who lives to bake, but every time I hear one of these skinny bitches order a “dug out bagel” or talking about how they don’t eat carbs, well I want to drag them by the hair to the bakery department at Whole Foods and shove bread in their mouth until they finally cave. They would cry, “ok, ok - I don’t really like dug-out bagels! I just did it because I was told to! It was the other skinny bitches” My own form of fat kid water-boarding.
Sometimes in these moments I pause and wonder, “am I really that fat?” or “will carbs shorten my lifespan?” But mostly, I feel bad for these people (it’s men too, not just women) who care more about what they look like and what other people think than to just allow themselves the occasional treat of eating the inside of a bagel.
And for you people with celiac or other conditions that require you to eat a gluten-free diet, well, this does not apply to you. Your life just objectively sucks.
One of my favorites dinners my mom would make was tortelini alfredo. She liked to make it with ham and peas, but those were my least favorite parts and I would simply eat around them. So she would often make the dish sans ham and peas just for me. Thanks mom, that was nice.
Since I am slightly more grown-up, as I recreated this childhood favorite last night I decided better put the peas in. Veggies cancel out alfredo sauce, right?!
There are tons of variations on alfredo sauce - with garlic, with cheese, without either. The version my mom made was pretty simple so I am sticking with that.
Tortellini Alfredo with Peas
1 package store-bought cheese tortelini
3 Tbsp butter
3/4 cup heavy cream of half n half
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup frozen or fresh peas
reserved pasta water
salt and pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of water to boil, add salt and a drop of olive oil.
In the meantime, heat butter in saucepan until almost melted. Add cream and parmesan in three batches and whisk until smooth. If using frozen peas, defrost first then add to sauce. Add a few Tbsp pasta cooking water and whisk until desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Cook tortellini according to directions, approximately 3-5 minutes depending on variety.
Using a spider or large slotted spoon, scoop tortellini out of water and straight into sauce. Coat pasta with sauce. Add more pasta water if necessary.
Sprinkle with extra grated parmesan and serve with LARGE glass of white wine.
April is the saddest month of my year. My mom died on April 26th, a beautiful sunny Spring day, and so I can’t help but become overcome with a sense of loneliness and sadness on bright, sunny Spring days. I know that may seem strange to some people, but each of our pasts shapes our perspective, and this is mine.
There’s a Martina McBride song that always reminded me of the day my mom died:
"I remember where I was
when the word came about you
it was a day just like today
the sky was bright and wide and blue
and I wonder where you are?
and if the pain ends when you die?”
The husband has been encouraging me to try and reclaim, so to speak, the month of April and try to do positive things in order to overcome my sadness. I am so lucky that in addition to managing a business, my husband is a lawyer, architect AND therapist in his free time.
But, he is right. So this year I’ve decided to take the month of April and make some of my mom’s classic dinners. I will say quite clearly: while my mom was a great baker, a great cook she was not. Or perhaps more accurately, her meals were delicious and crowd-pleasers but hardly gourmet. And since my ass doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anyways, we might as well share some memories of my mom through her indulgent food like tortellini alfredo with peas, eggplant parm, mexican lasagna and fried ravioli.
So, here we go. Happy month of April.
Jersey City has some truly amazing culinary options including Thirty Acres, a James Beard-award winning restaurant; Brownstone Diner, which was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives; and Torico’s Homemade Ice Cream, offering so many delicious flavors it’s hard to choose.
And in the past few months, we’ve had an explosion of new pizza options in the neighborhood.
First to open its doors was a new location of the Two Boots chain, located on Newark Avenue just a few blocks from the PATH station.
Next to open: Roman Nose featuring a simple, authentic menu of pasta, pizza, meatballs and salads. My favorite pick? The white zucchini pizza. I also enjoyed the Spaghetti al Pomodoro - light, flavorful and simple.
And the most recent to open is Razza, from the same folks of Arturo’s fame. If Roman Nose’s menu is simple, I don’t even know what the word would be for Razza’s basic menu. Though it may be limited in variety, it’s quality doesn’t disappoint. I loved their kale caesar salad and their simple but perfect pizza bianco.
Ugh, Passover. Why are Jews so damn annoying about this holiday!?
I will never understand the jelly rings, matzah meal or obsession with making things like kosher-for-Passover cupcakes. Cupcakes shouldn’t and cannot be KP. Just deal without a cupcake for a week and eat some berries.
The husband and I have what we now consider our tried-and-true Passover Seder menu that is simple, classic and really delicious. We don’t try to make anything that needs too many Passover substitutes or alterations.
And each year I love to try a few new things during the week to add to my repertoire of Passover foods that don’t suck.
This year I’ll be making my NEW Sweet Potato Pie with Macaroon Crust which is a light n sweet slice of Passover dessert heaven. I will also be working on a version of Rachel Khoo’s Cheese and Potato Nests, just sans the bacon. This recipe looks like an indulgent, cheesy baked latke. And I can’t think of anything better to serve alongside some salad and a piece of pan seared salmon.
So what else is on the menu?!
Sarna-Goldberg Passover Menu 2013
Roasted Marrow Bones with matzah
Chicken Soup with Dill Matzah Balls
Tuscan-style Chopped Liver
Uncle David’s Brisket
Roasted Chickens with Citrus and Herbs
Quinoa with Mixed Mushrooms
Chocolate Dipped Macaroons
This is what crazy #bakers do for their husband at 1 am: @momomilkbar bday #cake w white #frosting & candy buttons
Another #cookie shot: salty dark chocolate PB cookie