Redemption in Coastal Kitchen at the Beard House and Remembering Matt Haley

 

From Infinity and Beyond!

From Infinity and Beyond!

Chef: “Hey Dining with Outlaws!”

Me: “Hey chefs! Did we meet before?”

Chef: “Yes the first time we cooked here in 2014.”

Me: “Wait- Doug? Yes that’s me! OMG! Hey!”

It feels really great when the chefs remember you, and it’s especially great when you just vibe with them in the kitchen. The energy flows as it should when you’re having a good time anywhere in life. I looked through the photos of that dinner and realized that was one of my first photography assignments at the Beard House. Oh my, my photos have come a long way since. I’ve been using lighting equipment and props since a few months ago and it’s really taken me to the next level of where I’ve wanted to go creatively.

I’ve been practicing interviewing the chefs in the kitchen since that first day I started taking photos. Now I’m gearing up to start shooting videos, documentary film style and I’m playing around with my shooting style at the moment. Which brings me to wanting to travel to see the chefs in action and spend more time with them, maybe a few days at a time to really document their process. I was intrigued to hear so many chefs if not all from last night’s dinner describe Matt Haley as an extraordinary humanitarian, not just for his contribution to the endless non profit organizations, but for bringing them up, one stepping stone at a time. They all told me the same thing: I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for that guy.

Matt Haley was James Beard Foundation’s 2014 Humanitarian of the Year Award Recipient. Once upon a time, he was once a bad guy, or more of a broken guy. He knew the streets and the streets knew him as well. He was a broken human being, who perhaps through self reflection, pain, sorrow and getting in some trouble, found himself in life and found his true calling. He vowed in his life to make a positive change for others and spent it dedicating his time, energy, and money to help those who are struggling. He helped the poor, he helped the hungry, he helped immigrants, he helped the children who were given up by their parents.

One of the chefs told me he spent his entire life getting in trouble until he met Matt. His mother carried a long unresolved trauma of rejection for the man she married. I don’t know what happened inside their family dynamics but I can only imagine it was very difficult not to have the family support you need and want. We connected through our mutual Korean heritage and the fact we both love Kimchi. Who doesn’t love Kimchi? Everyone should love Kimchi.

When I heard of Matt’s passing away last night, I felt somber and I felt chills. I also felt this was a human we need to talk about and I want to know more about his life and his journey in transforming himself and others. I wish I had the chance to meet this great person, but in a way- that nostalgia of never seeing him or knowing him will inspire me to tell a better story of his legacy. Great people are worth remembering. Matt Haley was James Beard Foundation’s 2014 Humanitarian of the Year Award Recipient. Thanks for being you, and for raising such outstanding chefs! Cheers to you big buy wherever you are!

And the dinner was the Bomb! I didn’t get to eat the dessert, ran out of time! It gives me a good excuse to visit all the chefs!

For more infö about SoDel Concepts and the many restaurants started by Matt Haley, click here.

For the full James Beard Foundation dinner information, click here:

  • Remembering Matt Haley and his Redemption Mission at the James Beard House
  • Devilved Egg
  • Lobster
  • I need to get the name of this dish
  • Sommelier in action
  • Chilled Lewes Dairy Buttermilk Soup with Smoked Virginia Oysters, Bay Water Greens Herbs, Cucumber, and Matt’s Curry Spice
  • Chef Douglas Rouley
  • Seared Dayboat Scallops with Chesterfield Heirlooms Tomato Water, Summer Squash Agnolotti, Basil, and Flowers
  • Milk-Fried Softshell Crab with Magee Farms Sweet Corn Butter, Spicy Chowchow, Pork Fat Dijonnaise, and Old Bay
  • Rockfish au Poivre with Cauliflower, Charred Wild Carrots, and Onion Rings
  • Warm Bennett Orchards Peach Upside-Down Cake with Frozen Peach–Thyme Yogurt, Cracked Pepper Honey, and Maple–Peach Caramel
  • When the dinner is finished...chefs party like it's 1999

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September 16, 2017 · 11:49 pm

Pimms Cup Cocktail Recipe

Pimms Cup-2web
Are you planning a Weekend Social? Or a nice picnic style outdoor brunch,, a polo game? I sampled this cocktail for the first time a few years ago at a polo launch party at Alton Lane. My friend, who’s a fabulous producer Matt Paco invited me to his friends store where they were celebrating another year of polo. I don’t play or ride horses, but I sure do admire drawing them. And I have a soft spot for preppy boys.

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I had crushes on so many during my teenage years- until I went to art school and I started liking artsy types. There’s a classic allure to a man wearing a felt 150% wool blazer, pink chinos, and pocket square. If he knows about the arts and fashion, and food…I’m all ears.

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Muddled Strawberry Pimms Cup Recipe

INGREDIENTS

Yields 4 Cocktails

  • 1 1/2 cups Pimm’s No. 1
  • 8-10 mint leaves
  • 1 lemon, cut crosswise into thin slices
  • 3/4 cup muddled fresh strawberries
  • 1 1/2 cups cold ginger ale or lemon lime soda
  • 1 strawberry, stem removed
  • About 3 cups ice
How to make this recipe
  1. In a large pitcher, combine the Pimm’s, the strawberry and lemon juice, and mint. Chill for about 10 minutes. Stir in the ginger ale.
  2. Prepare four 1-pint glasses. Fill halfway with ice. Pour in the Pimm’s mixture.

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Food Styling and Photography

I always get asked: How did you become a food photographer by aspiring Culinary Students. It’s refreshing to meet the babies of the culinary world who are not yet jaded, or haven’t experienced showing up to work a few hours early because it’s prep day for the holidays and you know you’ll need the extra three hours to break down all the lamb chops, make all your sauces, prep the vegetable mise en place, and all the hot soups- in addition to your normal prep list for the day. Culinary students are still dreaming of becoming the Next Food Network Star or a contestant on Chopped. They are as I was- eager to get into the Food Network Kitchens. Oh how fate has taken me elsewhere! – We’ll get back to that later on…

While earning my 600 hour Grand Diplome in Classic Culinary Arts from the then French Culinary Institute, I started trailing and assisting a few food stylists. I introduced myself to the right people who connected me to my first job. She was really good and had a solid list of bookings. I didn’t get paid for many jobs before I got my first paycheck. You have to earn that first check. I’ve met some stylists along the way that barely cooked while volunteers and assistants prepped and cooked. The food stylist finished the job by assembling the plates. I was told by my first mentor- I needed one year of restaurant cooking experience. I needed this year in order to rotate all the stations, pick up speed, and most importantly to become disciplined.

I spent my first year after graduating working at a restaurant group in Midtown. Do I have to mention which one? You could ask my coworkers. We’re still friends in Social Media. Once you cook together, you always cook together- unless it’s that shady dude who stole your mise en place because he was lazy. I’ve never heard of him since I left the restaurant and ended up working as an editorial assistant for Saveur Magazine. I learned how to work around an editorial calendar and edit my stories. I learned how to research, even for a small paragraph in the printed version. I learned how to work with digital deadlines vs print deadlines. There is a difference. It’s YUGE! I also started developing recipes for Food2 and learned how to photograph food one recipe at a time. I experimented, I bought props, I collected dozens and dozens of props. My house is filled with props. One version of  everything. I learned how to make your own props- these steps are mostly skipped by regular food stylists since they only cook and style the food.

It wasn’t until I met my real mentor, Francesco Tonelli who works with high end restaurants and chefs- that I really learned my craft. Actually it was the beginning of learning the right way. Before Tonelli- I was studying different styling methods. Yes there is such a thing. Tonelli was different. He had extra layers of experience. He used to teach at the CIA. Before that, he worked at La Cucina Italiana, before that- he worked in restaurant kitchens for 20 years! And he was Italian and who doesn’t love an Italian chef with an accent who loves food? Tonelli was better than all the others before him, because he had the experience of working as an executive chef and you could just tell from the lingo. I almost wanted to call him chef- and we ran his small studio like one. He also cared about feeding his staff. I didn’t realize until recently how important it is to feed others. Even if your boss is a mean boss who snaps at you all the time- if they love to feed you because you work for them- that means they care about your wellness, so you can perform better. Only a chef would call meals, family meal. We didn’t just eat a sandwich or a plated protein, carb, veg combo. We had courses of food. The first time I worked with Francesco- we had pasta, salad, fruit for dessert, with wine during lunch. This seemed like an oddity until I went to Italy and consumed all my meals this way that I realized it was a way of eating everyday- that I hadn’t experienced before.

I never stopped working as a weekly contributor to Food Network’s sister site, Food2. This relationship went on for over a year. I began during my time as a culinary student. I learned how to cook vegetables. I learned how to eat vegetables and I learned how to research, find, and write about vegetables. After Food2 got shuttered, I received a call from one of the department executives who hired me at Cooking Channel. I worked on the migration and relaunch project. I did everything they asked me to do and a little bit more. I went to Korea for a week during the Sandy Storm, and while I was enjoying my days tasting my heart away- I set the alarm for conference calls at 1:00am S. Korea time, 11:00 or 12:00pm NY time. I went into my hotel room after the end of the tour day photographing thousands of Korean food photos, uploaded my files and switched over to work on my computer programming work for the Cooking Channel. Yeah- that’s like being on Chopped! LOL…

When I came back from Korea, I went to bed for about four hours and had coffee to go back to programming. No seriously- this is what it’s like when you really want something. During the programming- I was asked to curate food photos. We curated food photos along with all that happy content you see in the front page and back page, and bio page, and recipe page, and oops you’re on the wrong page, pages. We programmed photo galleries, promo pages, banners, recipes, etc, etc, anything with words and photos got programmed. Then came videos, they too get programmed into the website, and then when you think you’re almost done- your boss tells you there’s a problem with the images. They don’t fit into the box. So they need to be fixed. After running through some workarounds and samples- you figure out what’s wrong and how to fix the issue (okay someone else did this job). I ended up looking at thousands and thousands of food images for a few weeks. I’ll recognize any visual content on Cookingchanneltv.com from launch date-2012. I performed similar duties for the Food Network site and looked at those food images for over a year

By the time I left Food Network, I decided I wanted to pursue food photography full time, and lucky me! I ended up working as a volunteer for the James Beard Foundation, covering their tasting dinners. Eating this type of food on a regular basis. My palette is refined. It’s forever changed. I’m a bit damaged now- as I could never go back to eating mediocre food for the rest of my life. I can tell when the food is not properly executed. I can tell when the food is too cold. I can tell when the food is missing something, like salt or butter, or a drop of acid. I can tell when the food was cooked by an angry person. You can feel it in the uneven knife cuts. You can see the mood of the cooks when it’s undercooked or imagine the cook had a busy or bad day when it’s overcooked. When it’s not seasoned properly or not seasoned at all- you wonder what else are they forgetting? I’ve picked up a ton of cooking tips from all the chefs that I met at the James Beard House. I watched the way they sauteed their meats, or scallops, or how long the meat rested on the cutting board. I watched chefs use the one minute microwave tricks. I know who has OCD like me in the kitchen. I know who loves listening to upbeat songs while they cook like me. I took photos of their mise en place. I took ntes with my camera. It’s a very intimate experience and not everyone gets to see what chefs do in the kitchens. Btw- if you go online- you can watch all the archived JBF dinner videos with the sound on.

 

Next Post: A How to Guide for Detecting the Good, Bad, Great, and the Ugly Food Styling Work of a Stylist

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Coastal Florida Feast

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I’m happy to be celebrating the end of my second year working as a photographer for the James Beard Foundation and I’ll hopefully be back from taking a year long hiatus from this blog. You could say I spent the last year and a half brushing up my photography and eating skills at the James Beard House. So going forward I promise to post more often and you can surely bet the food photos will be spectacular. I hope you’re ready to feast with your eyes.

Here’s the menu of the recent Coastal Florida Feast event that took place yesterday, October 2, 2015.

  • Hors d’oeuvre
    • Rosy Tomorrows Heritage Farm Chicken Kromeskie > Chicken Pâté with Crispy Skin and Port Gelée
    • Florida Spiny Lobsters with Foie Gras and Murray River Salt Macaron
    • Sesame Cones with Red Wattle Pork Rillettes and Mascarpone Mousse
    • Florida Red Shrimp Spaghetti with Red Lettuce Purée and Sarasota Mote Sturgeon Caviar
    • MAURITSON ROCKPILE ROSÉ 2013
    • SWFL LYCHEE FIZZ > LYCHEE-INFUSED FINLANDIA VODKA
  • Dinner
    • Pan-Seared Black Grouper with Rosy Tomorrows Heritage Farm Everglades Tomatoes, Crispy Oyster, and Conch–Orange Butter
    • MAURITSON SAUVIGNON BLANC 2013
    • Free-Range Chicken–Stuffed Pine Island Octopus Ink Ravioli with White Truffles, Homemade Ricotta, Venus Clam Ragù, and Liquid Egg Yolk
    • CHATEAU MONTELENA CHARDONNAY 2012
    • Rosy Tomorrows Heritage Farm Red Wattle Pig Trio > Miso Belly with Radish d’Avignon, Mint Marigold–Tenderloin Saltimbocca, and Confit Shoulder with Butternut Squash
    • DOMAINE SERENE EVENSTAD RESERVE PINOT NOIR 2011
    • Jackman Wagyu Beef Cheeks with Barbecued Hearts of Palm, Charred Corn Cloud Esquites, Boniato, and Preserved Cabbage Leaves
    • CAL BLANCA TORO TEMPRANILLO 2011
    • Chilled Florida Strawberry Consommé with Crème Fraîche Panna Cotta and Lemon Basil Macaron Glacé
    • Bittersweet Chocolate and Tropical Experience
    • TENUTA DELL’ORNELLAIA LE SERRE NUOVE BOLGHERI 2012

I’ve graduated to eating this kind of food, because about a year ago I would’ve finished each and every bite. I’m a little older and wiser now- taking advise from the Matre ‘D who’s advised me to never finish eating this type of gourmet food. It is called a tasting menu for a reason.

Spiny Lobster with Foie Grais Macaron

Spiny Lobster with Foie Grais Macaron

I also made a bit of an err last night. One of the chefs, Fabrizio Aielli offered me a lobster macaron and I foolishly blurted out “No thanks, I’ve already had two of them”. I’m such a ditz. I can’t believe I said that. It’s like the time Daniel Boulud asked me if I wanted to be a chef or a journalist and I answered “Neither…I want to produce videos”. Well he pretty much black listed me right then, and hopefully Chef Fabrizio is more forgiving of my poor choice of words and rude mannerisms.

The lesson of the day is: “If a chef offers you something to eat in the kitchen he’s cooking in, gracefully accept it and eat it!”

Here are the drool worthy photographs of the food from last nights adventure:

The Cocktail served during the pre-dinner reception

The Cocktail served during the pre-dinner reception

Rosy Tomorrows Heritage Farm Chicken Kromeskie > Chicken Pâté with Crispy Skin and Port Gelée at the James Beard House

Chicken Pâté with Crispy Skin and Port Gelée

Sesame Cones with Red Wattle Pork Rillettes and Mascarpone Mousse

Sesame Cones with Red Wattle Pork Rillettes and Mascarpone Mousse

Sesame Cones with Red Wattle Pork Rillettes and Mascarpone Mousse

Sesame Cones with Red Wattle Pork Rillettes and Mascarpone Mousse

Florida Red Shrimp Spaghetti with Red Lettuce Purée and Sarasota Mote Sturgeon Caviar

Florida Red Shrimp Spaghetti with Red Lettuce Purée and Sarasota Mote Sturgeon Caviar

Bread

Bread

Pan-Seared Black Grouper with Rosy Tomorrows Heritage Farm Everglades Tomatoes, Crispy Oyster, and Conch–Orange Butter

Pan-Seared Black Grouper with Rosy Tomorrows Heritage Farm Everglades Tomatoes, Crispy Oyster, and Conch–Orange Butter

Free-Range Chicken–Stuffed Pine Island Octopus Ink Ravioli with White Truffles, Homemade Ricotta, Venus Clam Ragù, and Liquid Egg Yolk

Free-Range Chicken–Stuffed Pine Island Octopus Ink Ravioli with White Truffles, Homemade Ricotta, Venus Clam Ragù, and Liquid Egg Yolk

Rosy Tomorrows Heritage Farm Red Wattle Pig Trio > Miso Belly with Radish d’Avignon, Mint Marigold–Tenderloin Saltimbocca, and Confit Shoulder with Butternut Squash

Rosy Tomorrows Heritage Farm Red Wattle Pig Trio > Miso Belly with Radish d’Avignon, Mint Marigold–Tenderloin Saltimbocca, and Confit Shoulder with Butternut Squash

Jackman Wagyu Beef Cheeks with Barbecued Hearts of Palm, Charred Corn Cloud Esquites, Boniato, and Preserved Cabbage Leaves

Jackman Wagyu Beef Cheeks with Barbecued Hearts of Palm, Charred Corn Cloud Esquites, Boniato, and Preserved Cabbage Leaves

Chilled Florida Strawberry Consommé with Crème Fraîche Panna Cotta and Lemon Basil Macaron Glacé

Chilled Florida Strawberry Consommé with Crème Fraîche Panna Cotta and Lemon Basil Macaron Glacé

Bittersweet Chocolate and Tropical Experience

Bittersweet Chocolate and Tropical Experience

Wine

The Wine we drank with our dinner

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Filed under Food Porn, The James Beard Foundation, Uncategorized

Ask Gael Greene Where to Dine Out and Get One of Her Vintage Bags

Rina-Oh-with-Gael-Greene-Vintage-Art-Deco-Clutch-Bag-WEB

I made this collage to give Gael’s followers a clear visual on how to wear her vintage Art Deco Embossed leather clutch bag. Click on the photo to visit Gael’s Vintage Bag Collection via TheAccidentalBagLady on Etsy.com

Red Farm was named by Gael as one of the 12 picks for where she likes to frequent in NYC’s dining scene for Foodie.com. I’ve been to three other places with her and sampled her usual. We visited Ed’s Chowderhouse on Thanksgiving Eve, sampling the clam chowder of course and some amazing vegetable sides. Followed by a fabulous 40 x 2 celebration at Stella 34 Trattoria in midtown for her landmark birthday and Wong for delectable Asian fusion style foodstuff that IS “so right” according to Gael.

I’ld figured- if anyone ought to know where to go for dinner next, it should be she who has bestowed NYC with her insatiable appetite for the last four decades. After all she is credited as coining the popular term “foodie” and really being the first to post food photos of her whereabouts starting a trend that resulted into a multi billion dollar industry. Who knew 40+ years ago that food + women + taking photos of the food + posting them into + internet space would generate billions upon billions.

She will never fail at suggesting where you ought to go- but what about what to wear and who’s dining out tonight? What to wear when dining out is equally as important as what you’re eating, where you’re eating, and relevant to who you’re dining with. You heard me: who is the final determining factor in what you should wear. Am I the only person who bothers to ask when calling for a reservation what the dress attire is? I bet that if every establishment, and food writer actually mentioned this to the masses- that we’ld seldom see incorrectly dressed buffoons and gals wouldn’t be wearing their Jimmy Choo’s to a fucking dive bar-restaurant-pub. How many of you have accidentally stood out in the crowd by wearing your dressed down work clothes to Tao? Khakis and JCrew oxford shirt with loafers. When I googled the restaurant, no one mentioned dress like a Bond Girl or that it’s okay to show boobs because all the cocktail waitresses  have hiked up micro minis with their boobs out. Also don’t bring your date here if you want all eyes on you (if you’re heterosexual). Girlfriends and gay besties are on the other hand, totally welcomed.

I’ve been meaning to visit Red Farm since meeting Chef Joe Ng two years ago. We sampled dim sum at a Chinatown restaurant where he was working on menu consulting.

Torn by Ronny Kobo Coco Dress

SS2014 Torn by Ronny Kobo Coco Dress

For my Red Farm adventure- I’m going to wear this casual ribbed dress by Torn and my new favorite Jeffrey Campbell Draco boots. Dessert is always optional. If you have an extra hour to spare after eating your heart out with gal pals- then I’ld say go for it and walk it off in the park for after hours girl talk or you can run it off in the morning, or spend the night dancing away.

Jeffrey Campbell Draco Studded Boots

Jeffrey Campbell Draco Studded Boots

Don’t forget about the purse as the purse is what people will likely stare at second to the shoes you’re wearing. May I entice you to try a vintage piece or two from Gael Greene’s private collection sold via TheAccidentalBagLady on Etsy.com? If you’ve never owned a vintage piece before- you probably should experiment sooner than later…and for any true food connoisseur- what wouldn’t be more collectable than a bag formerly belonging to the most erotic food writer we know?

Gael Greene's Vintage Art Deco Embossed Leather Clutch Bag

Gael Greene’s Vintage Art Deco Embossed Leather Clutch Bag

I imagine every one of these bags once carried a set of keys,  rogue lipstick, and a notebook where Gael may have scribbled a page of notes about the restaurant of the week. She may have also scribbled a few lines of hatred towards some unnamed chefs (too many to list here) about their unappetizing foodstuffs. I would love to get a copy of some of those notes!- Followed by an evening of hot passionate sex with the flavor of the week- (4 star Chef? Porn star? Elvis?) we have a few names, thanks to her recent memoir Insatiable. So WHERE is the Elvis purse???

 

 

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Filed under April 2014, Fork and Scissors New Food + Fashion Site Coming, The Accidental Bag Lady, Uncategorized

The Two Little Bakers Web Series Kicks Off with a Halloween Special and Special Guest Appearance by Jacques Torres

We had  a blast celebrating Halloween this year. From the chocolate-chocolate tea party, to getting a chocolate making tutorial from Master Chef Jacques Torres. You can read about how Alex and Daniel made the Chocolate Pumpkins and get the recipes here.

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The boys went trick or treating after a delicious Halloween themed tea party.

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Daniel meets the electrified ghost.

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This dude had three heads and made us laugh.

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A great candy alternative is offering popcorn to the trick or treaters.

The Two Little Bakers Halloween

Our evening ended with this. Back at home, Daniel was being Daniel…and he looks like the cutest Emo Vampire! We hope you had fun with yours! I hope you’re ready for the next big holiday….Thanksgiving here we come!

Get your assortment of chocolate delights at the Jacques Torres Flagship Store on Hudson Street:

Jacques Torres is located 350 Hudson at King Street (1 block South of Houston), New York, NY 10014.

Store hours are:
Monday – Friday 8:30 am – 7 pm

Saturday 9:00 am – 7 pm

Sunday 10:30 am – 6:30 pm

Phone: (212) 414-2462

http://www.mrchocolate.com

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Filed under Dining with Outlaws, Favorite Moments, Food for Kids, Halloween, Holidays, October 2013, The Two Little Bakers, Uncategorized

Dinner Parties: Namaste, An Indian Summer Soiree hosted by Pooja Kharbanda and Rina Oh

Dining with Outlaws dinner parties

Pooja Kharbanda chatting up Gael Greene, Rina Oh to the right.

Welcome to the first installment of fabulous dinner parties I’ll be hosting with my Out-Laws. Just in case you haven’t figured it out, Dining with Out-Laws is a site dedicated to my culinary family- one I created in my home away from home. My Out-Laws represent everything I dream my actual family could be- a metamorphosis of taste buds, changing as the seasons change. Sometimes on trend, often times a little risky and dangerously curious- just like me! Unfortunately, my everyday life back at home is filled with the enslavement of making food that other people actually crave, it’s not the omakase style kitchen I’ve dreamt about where family members just eat and don’t ask or complain.

Sitar Players at dinner party hosted by Rina Oh and Pooja Kharbanda

The Sitar Players at Namaste.

In this episode of Dining with Out-Laws, my friend Pooja and I co-hosted an Indian Summer Soiree at her place in Soho. Welcome to Namaste: some people say hello, we chose to feed them as an intro. I’ve debuted a few recipes at the fashion event. When you have a room full of designers, editors, writers, stylists, producers, and icons: I’ld call that a fashion event, wouldn’t you? When friends inquired about our party after receiving their Namaste evite: I informed them it will be an “eventful fashionable dinner party”, so please come in your stylish garbs. The Sitar players filled the atmosphere with tranquil and exotic tones, perfect for our exotic Indian Summer Soiree.

Namaste Menu

Namaste Menu

Pooja’s mom and I tag-teamed the dinner menu, which looked something like this:

Butternut Squash Shorba Soup.

Butternut Squash Shorba Soup.

The starters: I made a Shorba Butternut Squash Soup.

Paneer Salad.

Paneer Salad.

Pooja’s mom made this fabulous appetizer.

Mango Lassi.

Mango Lassi.

Mango Lassi anyone?

Tamarind Goat Curry.

Tamarind Goat Curry.

We ordered this goat curry from our favorite Indian restaurant, Tamarind.

Rina Oh's Farro Salad, perfect for the Fashion crowd.

Rina Oh’s Farro Salad, perfect for the Fashion crowd.

My Summer Farro Salad with coconut chips, cranberries, and a spiced cilantro dressing. All the fashion folks raved about my bird food. They chanted for a recipe. Soon my little swans, I promise.

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Pooja’s mom made this delish chick pea curry above.

Chicken Curry.

Chicken Curry.

Another delicious curry by Pooja’s mom. I am getting a one-on-one cooking lesson from Pooja’s mom you guys.

This looks like a scene from a fashion forward 70's funk movie doesn't it?

This looks like a scene from a fashion forward 70’s funk movie doesn’t it?

Pooja Kharbanda and the designers from FFS.

Pooja Kharbanda and the designers from FFS.

Our fabulous hostess Pooja Kharbanda with the designers from FFS.

Rina Oh with the designers from FFS.

Rina Oh with the designers from FFS.

Here I am with the fabulous FFS sisters

Gael Greene, our most critical judge loved Namaste and we love her!

Gael Greene, our most critical judge loved Namaste and we love her!

The godmother of food critics and writers everywhere. This was a scene I saw repeated several times during the week, first at the Citymeals Chefs Tribute where Gael Greene was greeted by every culinary icon and their offspring at the event. Now she’s greeted in the same nature by the fashion folks, just like they do it in the movies. I love it!

Rina Oh's Basil Seed and Poha Rice Pudding with Candied Ginger and Mango.

Rina Oh’s Basil Seed and Poha Rice Pudding with Candied Ginger and Mango.

Last but not least, the Basil-Seed, Poha Rice Pudding filled with candied ginger bits and fresh mango for dessert. We had a blast. The best part of the evening was getting a beautiful kaftan designed by our Indian Goddess Pooja from her line, 6Shoreroad. Till soon, I’ll see you at the next dinner party…

 

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Filed under Dining with Outlaws, Dinner Parties, Fashion, Indian, June 2013, Uncategorized

Restaurant Openings: Casimir, another French eatery in the UES

Zarela Martinez dines out at Casimir with friends, Ethnojunkie, Insatiable-Critic Gael Greene, and Rina Oh, Diningwithoutlaws

Cookbook author Zarela Martinez at Casimir

I should’ve listened to my gut after reading the blurb Matt Gross wrote about Casimir in the LES in New York Magazine. Quoting him:

“The bistro that helped launch Alphabet City’s own French Revolution a few years back has, sadly, become just another steak-frites factory. And a factory on the skids, at that. Chicken with mashed potatoes is certainly enjoyable, but the overall rush—the distracted waiter, the haphazard arrival of dishes, the neglected water glasses and bread basket—gives you the sense that, in the end, you are nothing more than a cog on an assembly line, to be turned this way and that, tweaked with benign indifference, until you can be ushered back out onto Avenue B, ready, finally, to find your fun elsewhere.” — Matt Gross, NY Mag

Well- I thought they might have learned a thing or two since that was written,  after all the new joint opened [two weeks ago] way north, in a more critical neighborhood- the Upper East Side. Should I’ve expected disappointment here too? It IS the neighborhood where restaurants often times get away with charging $55 for an undercooked skate fish (Le Cirque). Then again if the neighbors in this hood are accustomed to paying $55 for mediocre skate fish- then I could’ve been slightly out of my element.

Branzino at Casimir NYC

Branzino at Casimir, it seemed dry and bored without a sauce.

The small chalkboard menu seemed charming, except they only offered one per table and made it impossible for our party of four to truly dissect its contents before being rushed to place an order- appetizer and entrée per guest as customary in French dining.

Our server was too nice to be a hipster though the staff in general were very carefree at Casimir. He was rather French (happy and carefree), which is pretty similar to hipster (whose motto reflect: it’s cooler to purposely not care) minus the mean attitude.

Cocktail at Casimir NYC

A French cocktail made with rum.

We were literally given a minute to study the non-existent cocktail menu before being rushed to order a drink. When I inquired about cocktails- our French native quickly slurred a few things and mentioned rum, vodka, and gin. I inquired about the red drink in a martini glass I noticed two men were sipping by the bar but he didn’t seem to know what they were. So I ordered what he suggested instead, the drink with the rum.

According to our server- this was a French drink. I couldn’t make out his accent long enough to write down the name, but it was delicious.

Starters at Casimir.

French starters at Casimir.

Our dining partners that evening included the insatiable-critic (who was spotted again by the chef with a casual walk through x2 not before taking a triple glance at Gael Greene, then crawling back into his kitchen), ethnojunkie, and our favorite Mexican chef/ author and newly indicted into the JBF’s Who’s Who, Zarela Martinez. We all agreed the service was subpar. In fact Gael had to repeatedly instruct the server and bus persons to clear our table and bring more water. We asked for more bread (about four, five times). I watched our server remember he owed us the bread basket when the busser returned and almost gave ours away to our neighbors.

Charcuterie at Casimir

Charcuterie at Casimir

The charcuterie was acceptable, however nothing spectacular. I can’t seem to really enjoy charcuterie these days without being overtly critical. Does anyone make their own cornishons anywhere? I bet not in New York. I have proof it all comes from a can.

Confit Duck at Casimir in NYC.

Confit Duck was pleasantly nice.

Gael and Zarela both seemed to enjoy the quaint French bistro. They can always use another French restaurant uptown. For me- it’s a different story. I’m a classically trained French cook, and I may never be satisfied at this point- except for that magnificent food adventure at Le Bernardin a few years ago- I could never forget about that experience. Once you go there, you cannot stop being this critical about French food.

Esgargots at Casimir.

Esgargots at Casimir.

Though the food and service was subpar at Casimir- we did enjoy ourselves as it was the first sidewalk café installment of the season. That extra half hour wait (we had reservations for 7:30) was worth it to sit outdoors. The outdoor seating nearly triples the amount of guests at Casimir- so perhaps that could give reason why they weren’t prepared. Either that or the management is completely bonkers opening up a restaurant in the UES with no good experience in running a restaurant, in the exact location where Gael Greene has witnessed 16 places get shuttered. Clearing dirty dishes and water refills should be second nature- if you’re charging $25 for a piece of steamed fish with a handful of haricot verts (French green beans), water and bread shouldn’t be a problem no? Were we asking for too much?

I don’t think I’ld go back, if I wanted subpar service with mediocre French bistro food- I’ld rather go to Pastis. At least they get extra points for people watching and they have more room.

Matt Gross- you were right. We should’ve listened to you.

Casimir

1022 Lexington Avenue at 73rd Street

New York, NY 10021

Tel: (212) 879-6190

 

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Ode to Kissena Blvd.

Lao Dong Bei girl

I was mesmerized by this cute girl the whole time we were there (from the moment I peered in)

My first dinner with the Insatiable Critic took place at Legend, a few blocks away from the bustling Chelsea Market. Although I’ve frequented many Chinese restaurants, I was no way whatsoever a pro at identifying any typical dishes. That was until I’ve befriended EthnoJunkie and Ling Tan.

Ling has taken me to a handful of dim sum and Malaysian restaurants in Chinatown. I owe my minute knowledge of dim sum to Ling, Szechuan to Gael Greene and Rich Sanders.

Since last year, I’ve gone to not one, or two, or three- but at least a dozen places with Gael. We were joined by TV/Film critics, book authors, and Citymeals patrons (you know- the ones with lots of mullah). I’ve played my part in the restaurant hopping adventures- taking everyone to my favorite Korean places scattered throughout NY (but that’s another story- I’ll write about the Korean stuff later on).

Our first Flushing adventure took place last year and we were led by none other than Rich Sanders who goes by the name: EthnoJunkie. He’s a fellow multi-tasker who’s a former music critic, a composer, holds a degree from Yale, and speaks about a dozen ethnic food languages. In other words- he may not be fluent in the language- but when it comes to food, he can get away with ordering what he wants, finding obscure ingredients in ethnic hoods, and can probably read the recipes in those foreign languages.

We visited the strip mall that used to be called Busy Bee’s back in the old days in Flushing and tasted what resembled large hand cut noodles immersed in cumin and lamb. Rich raved about this dish so much so- that I could’ve tasted the cumin all the way from New Jersey. I was underwhelmed (sorry Rich). The cumin got stuck somewhere in the back of my throat and I remember coughing some pepper and a noodle. I couldn’t stop overlooking to my right- where the Chinese vendors were hand -pulling noodles. I wanted to taste some of that- but we left all too soon- all underwhelmed.

Dining with Outlaws, Ethno Junkie, and Insatiable Critic Gael Greene with her posse of hot heads during our second Flushing dining adventure.

Dining with Outlaws (not pictured), EthnoJunkie, and Insatiable Critic Gael Greene with her posse of hot heads during our second Flushing adventure.

We discussed returning to Flushing many times after that first visit and alas the date finally arrived. I wished I drove a black SUV with tinted black windows (the ones where celebrities and politicians ride)- it would be so much cooler than the silver crossover Chrysler (a nice ride nonetheless). I didn’t expect what we were about to encounter, having been underwhelmed the week before at the China Café, MSG with sticky tables and all. How good can Flushing be? Is this worth the trip? I was skeptical too.

I do have a bit of a soft spot for Kissena Blvd. That’s the old route I used to take when I walked home from my elementary school down the block. As we pulled up to the locale- I scanned the area and got a severe case of flashback memories. It’s amazing how much one can remember from their childhood. Kissena Blvd means a lot more to me than a good meal (one that concludes what Szechuan food should really taste like no less).

Dear Kissena Blvd:

I love you and I hate you.

You helped me discover endless amounts of 25 cent wise potato chips, the deli ham and cheese on a roll with mayo, and dollar pizza when Italians were still rolling the dough. With five years of fifty cent Italian ices and juju candy from Walgreens I consumed instead of real food, not once- not until now did I discover what you truly have to offer.

I love you because you helped me discover American food, that includes everything that’s good and equally as bad. I hate you because I gained some massive weight (fifteen pounds = death to a teenage girl) as a result of eating those processed foods. I was naïve, I was young, and I trusted those packaged foods not only tasted great- but that they were actually good for you. Because of you Kissena Blvd., I spent an entire decade trying to undue what was done in just five short years living near you. I gave up meat during this time not knowing there are consequenses for doing that if you don’t know your body’s missing proteins. I hate you because I loved those processed foods so much that I couldn’t resist the urge to binge every weekend in my room full of junk food. I called myself a vegetarian without really eating any vegetables because they were simply too heavy and made me feel bloated. I was again naïve and none of it made any sense except that the forbidden foods made me feel weird. So Kissena Blvd., thank you for just being you. You didn’t know any better and neither did I. If it weren’t for you- I would’ve never discovered vegetables later on (with the help of the vegetarian haters I met at culinary school and the irony of becoming a vegetarian blogger for a year helped me with this process). I now love vegetables, so much so that I’m growing a garden full of my favorite ones.

It actually took about twenty years to undue (ten to undue/ ten to re-learn) what I discovered in flushing, on Kissena Blvd.

I recollect all the months I spent in our tiny Colden Street apartment where I cautiously experimented with ramen. Deconstructing the thing, crumbling its dry mixture, then mixing scrambled eggs, adding dried vegetables, sometimes cooking it once and often times twice to blanche out the oil. I eventually graduated by making ramen and rice balls finished off in the oven. Ramen was the first thing I ever cooked. That’s how I spent my days after school. An immigrant with working parents, alone in the kitchen, experimenting with what we had (not much of anything). I was eight years old and learned how to cook by experimenting.

A lifetime later- I can say my diet has come to a full circle. No more wise potato chips, occasional pizza and lots and lots of good ethnic food.

My parents eventually gave me twenty dollars to buy a cookbook. I didn’t know any good bookstores at that time so I got mine from Walgreens. By then I was 13, an eighth grader with a copy of Betty Crocker’s cookbook making my first Thanksgiving meal for our extended family.

We left Flushing shortly after that and I haven’t visited Kissena Blvd since. It’s amazing how fast 20 years can go by.

Dining with Outlaws loves the Green Bean Jelly Noodles with Bean Sprouts at Lao Dong Bei in Flushing NY

Green Bean Jelly Noodles with Bean Sprouts at Lao Dong Bei

While I was slurping through the Green Bean Jelly Noodles with Cucumbers and Bean Sprouts, I couldn’t help dissect the ingredients for a recipe. Luckily for me, our companion Ling served as the perfect translator and got Chef Li to spill out the recipe (at least most of it). Chef Li is an amazing man. He barely spoke any English- but his food spoke to us in our universal tongues: our stomachs. Our stomachs welcomed Chef Li. For me, this dish encompasses everything a noodle dish could be. It’s delicious, it’s refreshing, it’s not that heavy, and it’s very good for you except for the MSG that they put in there. In my perfect world, this green bean starch jelly noodle dish is my ramen reincarnated from a distant childhood. The chef and his wife duo are angels from my diet heaven who are now giving me answers to the ramen mysteries.

Dining with Outlaws tastes the Chinese Banchan at Lao Dong Bei

Radish and Hot Pepper starter (reminds me of Banchan)

They’ve also concluded that Flushing should not be a place where one discovers processed foods, but on the contrary- it’s rich diverse immigrant community has jewels to offer if you know where to look. The Szechuan food we had not only tasted great- but it was probably somewhat good for us too. If I could go back in time, I’ld explore Flushing’s immigrant establishments instead of the corner deli. I’ld trade in my juju candy for the lamb cumin that was cooked perfectly, as cumin on lamb should never be delivered in it’s fine ground form. It (seeds) should be perfectly toasted in a pan, married with black mustard seeds for a perfectly balanced bite. At least that’s the advise I got from Chef Barry Wine when I told him about our Flushing adventure.

I’ve got the recipe ingredient list for that noodle dish. I’ll be spending the next couple of weeks testing it in my home kitchen. And before you know it, EthnoJunkie and I will be making it for our friends at an upcoming dinner party and guess who we’ll be making it for? Here’s a hint: some critical folks. So stay tuned….this adventure is not over yet.

If you’ld like to read Gael Greene’s review of Lao Dong Bei click here for the full monty.

Lao Dong Bei

44-09 Kissena Boulevard (Cherry Avenue)

Flushing, Queens

(718) 539-4100

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Fork and Scissors: A Sneak Preview of COREY and Northern Indian Delights at Tamarind

Corey: Corey Lynn Calter FW13

My picks from the Corey presentation at the Jane Hotel in NYC for the FW13 collection

I love the 60′s and 70′s. Anything that reminds me of that era in time, whether it’s the music, the iconic styles, everything from paisley prints to laced collar silk blouses- I dig. Corey reminds me of my fave era. The new line by designer Corey Lynn Calter exudes everything I love at the moment: gold buttons, check; paisley, check; fedora hats, check; make me look rich silk jumpsuits, check, check, check. I can’t wait to see what Corey conjures up next season- but at least for the rest of 2013- we’ll know what to wear.

Corey FW13 Presentation at the Jane Hotel in NYC

Shag-a-delic and very wearable.

The collection was presented at the Jane Hotel, a hipster- boutique hotel neatly tucked away at the end of Jane Street in the West Village. No- sorry folks, it’s not typically open to the public. You kinda have to know the right people to get in- or at least look the part, or be somebody. Lucky for me, I knew someone who sent me an invite to preview the new collection last night. I gasped at the first sight of Corey’s paisley prints. After all, it was only a week ago that I rummaged through an old lady’s fabric closet, in an undisclosed location (since I’m not sharing my source of goodness, for the time being) and brought home an array of vintage paisley silk fabrics. Yards and yards of the goodies.

Silk Dyed Easter Eggs by Dining with Outlaws

My Silk Dyed Eggs from Easter

I used some of mine to make these wonderful easter eggs. Silk printed paisley eggs finished with gold leaf. Not too shabby egh?

Our wonderful evening ended with this amazing dish at Tamarind, my all time favorite Indian restaurant in NYC. I haven’t stopped thinking about this dish since my first time having it. All night- that’s all I talked about at the fashion show. I’ve probably convinced People magazine’s style director to try it out sometime- she would’ve come with- but had to retreat home. Oh well- it was her loss, and more food for me! The Raj Khatori is priced appropriately at $8.00, it’s meant to be shared by two lovers. In my case- it was shared by two BFF’s. It’s spicy, it’s sweet, a bit of yogurt with chick peas welcome your taste buds as you neatly deconstruct the poofy fried bread. Ours disappeared within minutes. (Yes, we can turn into savages when food’s this good, and nevermind that I was dressed to the nines in a silver brocade jacket by Moschino, beaded skirt by Elie Tahari, sequined sweat shirt by Forever 21, Alice and Olivia maryjane platforms).

Raj Khatori at Tamarind

The Raj Khatori at Tamarind

Tamarind has two installments of their signature Northern Indian Restaurants in NYC, both by the same ownership. Located in the Flatiron district and Tribeca. It’s a bit pricier than your usual Little India (on 6th Street) restaurants and unless you’ve frequented a bunch of the sitar playing traditional joints- you may not appreciate the superb quality and flavorings Tamarind has to offer. You’ll find a glassy window displayed right in the middle of the Flatiron locale, along with two tandoori ovens accompanied by a chef making naan and grilling (is it called grilling?) some meat on the skewers. We ordered the Raj Khatori, Chicken Tikka Masala (are you surprised?), Vegetable Pillau- a mixed vegetable basmati rice, and the Tandoori Mixed Grill. If Koreans are making soju cocktails with asian pears, don’t be surprised to see Northen Indians making theirs with a bit of Tamarind and fennel. Delish, delish, delish. I can’t wait to go back again.

Tarmarind
41-43 E 22nd St
New York
(212) 674-7400

99 Hudson St
New York
(212) 775-9000

 

 

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