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Bad Wraps

April 16, 2014

“I eat my lunch with my hands /
From food trucks not hotdog stands /
But greasy diners and dives and cockroach traps /
All have one thing in common [insert beatbox] bad wraps /
Word.”

- The Profussor

Sorry. I couldn’t resist starting of today’s post with a bad rap. Groan all you like. But I thought it was good to try and lighten the mood a bit, because today I’m really going to let my fussy flag fly.

Somehow in all of these years of writing the FLB, I’ve never taken on the subject of wraps. Let’s not mince words. I’ve never had one that I liked. They are an insult to sandwiches everywhere. And their growing ubiquity has me greatly concerned for America’s culinary future. In my heart of hearts I know they weren’t put on this planet to punish me. But sometimes it feels that way. Why? WHY!

Okay. Deep breaths. Let’s break this down.

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D, Doing Dishes

April 15, 2014

Maurice Sendak was a genius. To prove the point, consider the following:

A, Alligators all around.
B, Bursting balloons.
C, Catching colds.
D, Doing dishes.

Okay, maybe “genius” is a bit strong. But doing dishes is an important part of everyday life. Me? I’m not one of those people who will prattle on about the meditative joys of hand washing. Honestly, I can’t imagine life without a kickass dishwasher.

The specific source escapes me, but I recall some chef saying that if you teach kids to cook, and don’t teach them how to clean up after themselves, all you’ve done is provided them with a novel way to make a mess.

Cooking is cleaning. And I try to cook clean the best I can. I say all of this because last night after the multi-course meal for seven, I wouldn’t let anyone in my kitchen despite their efforts to help with the dishes.

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Gorge on Grains

April 14, 2014

Grains are one of my great loves. I’ll take them hot in a bowl when I wake up or distilled in a glass at the end of the day, and anywhere in between. As a result, I approach this upcoming week of Passover with more than a little bit of dread.

There are a few key ways I’ve found to survive the holiday.

1) Change the rules – Don’t avoid all grains, just the expressly forbidden ones
2) Keep the spirit alive – Kosher for Passover versions of non kosher foods are cheating
3) Remember thou art mortal – Mistakes happen, pick yourself up and start again
4) Eat lots of fiber – All that matzoh is terribly binding
5) Gorge on grains before the seder – It will give you something to hold onto

That said, despite my small apartment kitchen being pushed to its capacity in order to create a family seder, I’m going to take some time later to make one of my favorite soul satisfying meals. It’s comfort food, so it’s nothing fancy. But I thought I would share.

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Bring Your Own

April 11, 2014

It’s not every day that you get to spend quality time with distilling pioneers. But yesterday I dropped by Jersey Artisan Distilling and got to talk at length with Brant Braue and Krista Haley. They are the founders of New Jersey’s first distillery to open since prohibition, and are making some very interesting rums.

After the distillery I swung by Pizza Town USA for a deep fried cheese calzone and a slice. Memories of this lunch will need to sustain me through the week of Passover.

Anyhow, there will be a bigger story coming on the distillery down the road. I also bought a bottle of their dark rum, which will hopefully help me make it through the holiday where rye and wheat are forbidden.

Over the course of my visit, the conversation drifted to a handful of related topics. One of these is the peculiarities of liquor laws from state to state. I got to share some of the weirdness we have in New York. For example, Albany Distilling Company can’t sample their rum at the distillery and liquor stores aren’t allowed to sell cocktail bitters.

In turn, Brant explained to me why there are so many BYO establishments in New Jersey and why that’s a problem. Excuse me, I thought I heard you say “problem.”

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Passover Before You Know It

April 10, 2014

The joy of spring is about to get crushed by the burden of Passover. Yay.

This is an early warning. Over the next several days you will probably hear more complaining from me than usual. Part of this is because I love bread, pastry and pasta. They are some of my favorite things on this planet. Pizza? I’m going to go a week without pizza? And Hoagie Haven is off limits? Egads.

What am I supposed to eat? Matzoh. Which you may remember is endearingly called “The Bread of Affliction” amongst my people. And honestly, the first day it’s not so bad. The second day is fine too. By day three it starts to get tedious and you realize how much of Passover is still ahead. The last couple of days are pure torture.

Around the world, this celebration begins at sundown on Monday night. And despite all of the awfulness that’s involved in the holiday it is in fact a celebration. If that doesn’t make any sense, please allow me to explain.

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A Dosa by Any Other Name

April 9, 2014

Hand holding is a valuable thing. Yes, you can watch videos of how to cook certain dishes on the internet. You can read all kinds of books. But there is an extra burst of confidence that comes from working beside someone who has mastered a technique.

This is what happened when I learned to make baba ganoush back in the fall. And this is what happened when I went to a dosa making class last weekend.

I left the class inspired, and set out shortly thereafter to my teacher’s preferred Indian market. Wow. This blew the doors off the small little shops I’d been picking up beans, spices, and cans of mango puree for the past few months. Anyhow, I needed to get ingredients to make a coconut chutney. This was especially important because I wanted to test the adai batter I took home from the class, and it wouldn’t be the same without this classic accompaniment.

Seriously, once you have the ingredients, you won’t believe how easy this is.

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No Regrets Regret

April 8, 2014

Why would anyone write about eggnog in the beginning of April? Well, would you believe that one of my greatest regrets of this sabbatical in Princeton has to do with this yuletide drink? It’s true.

What can I say? I’m a very lucky guy. Also, I’m very comfortable with the decisions I make and almost never look back and second guess what could have been.

Well, except for this one time back in January when I stopped into Halo Farm. If you recall, this is the dairy right outside Princeton that makes something that approaches my ideal ice cream. It’s closer than anything else that I’ve ever had. And while I’ve never had Jeni’s, my ideal ice cream doesn’t have tapioca starch in it. Ever.

But this isn’t about ice cream, it’s about eggnog. On that fateful visit, Halo Farm had what I expected to be their last eggnog of the season for sale. And it looked amazing. On the strength of their ice cream and the promise of no junk in the carton, I had high hopes that this eggnog would be some truly special stuff.

However, I had just recently turned to some new healthier eating habits that did not include eggnog. To make matters worse, Halo only sells fluid dairy in half gallon containers. And this half gallon of eggnog was set to expire on the very next day. Given how much I would have to drink in such a short time to avoid waste, I declined. At the time, I knew full well that since we would be moving back to Albany in July, I would probably never again have the chance to try this special stuff.

Regret washed over me. For months. Until the strangest thing happened.

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