A Decadent Post-Show Brunch (Stuffed French Toast) + Lazy Sunday Songs

THE DISH
Champagne-dipped Challah French toast stuffed with mascarpone, chocolate and banana (Recipe and photos here)


There’s nothing I love more than waking up after a big night out and cooking up a huge brunch with the people I was out with. It was the morning after the final LCD Soundsystem show at Madison Square Garden, and my friends and I decided to spend the morning/afternoon cooking and eating entirely too much food. Tony and Paul made a huge batch of biscuits and sausage gravy, we ate a bunch of cheese Tony bought at Murray’s Cheese Shop, and I took on the most amazing, decadent breakfast dish I have ever made. I never order this stuff when I’m at a restaurant — I always stick to the egg dishes — but my roomie Petra sparked the mascarpone idea and I went with it. I should also give props to James, who had the brilliant idea to add champagne to the egg mixture, which makes it a bit lighter and fluffier than normal French toast. This stuff was so amazing that Missy told me it ruined French toast for her — because now any time she eats it, she will only be thinking of this. (Photos: Thank you Joe and James, although I’m not sure who took what!)

A LAZY SUNDAY PLAYLIST
http://listen.grooveshark.com/widget.swf

Read More »

Drinking Tunes: Spring Beer + Music


(Jessica Lea Mayfield at Glasslands in Brooklyn, March 30, 2011)

Earlier this week it was in the 30s. It’s still in the 30s-to-40s and the next couple of days are going to be rainy and gross. So this post, like this week’s recipe, is some wishful thinking: Maybe drinking enough springy beers will make the cold go away?

I wrote a few words about five songs that get me in the mood for spring, and my friend Bret Stetka, who writes about food and drinks for Time Out New York, Metromix and MSN.com (he also has a doughnut blog — yes, a doughnut blog), paired them each with a beer that complements the music and the mood, and explained why they work together.



http://listen.grooveshark.com/songWidget.swf
THE SONG: Jessica Lea Mayfield, “Blue Skies Again”
21-year-old Ohioan Jessica Lea Mayfield made one of my favorite albums so far this year (Tell Me, released on Nonesuch and produced by the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach), and this is one of its best tracks. It’s about getting over heartbreak in the context of the seasons changing from winter to spring.
Key lyrics: “This heart of mine/ Is ready for the spring/ Open up my window/ Winter bird, take wing”

THE BEER: Saison de Lente (The Bruery; Placentia, CA)
Saisons are made for spring, literally. They were first brewed by Belgian farmers in the winter for spring and summer consumption, and they’re far and away my favorite style of beer. They tend to be light and refreshing, yet spicy and full of flavor and Jessica Lea Mayfield’s ode to spring calls for the The Bruery’s Californian twist on the style (complete with a pink psychedelic Easter egg on the label). The beer starts with a somber sour foundation, much like the song’s moody intro. Then it blows wide open — a crisp, effervescent refresher perfect for Mayfield’s breezy, springy chorus: “Suddenly I can see blue skies again.”


http://listen.grooveshark.com/songWidget.swf
THE SONG: Big Star, “In The Street”
Most of Big Star’s music feels best during the warmer seasons, but “In The Street” in particular perfectly embodies spring, with lyrics about hanging out with friends and driving around aimlessly with no worries.

THE BEER: Estate Homegrown Ale (Sierra Nevada; Chico, CA)
This song calls for a big, bold West Coast IPA — something with energy and intensity, but also a drinkable, major-key disposition. Sierra’s Estate Ale is aggressively hoppy and pleasantly bitter, the beery equivalent of Alex Chilton’s awesomely squawky screech. And the simple, nectary fruitiness holding it all together? Cowbell!


http://listen.grooveshark.com/songWidget.swf
THE SONG: The National, “Apartment Story”
The National have never been known for their happy-go-lucky disposition. This one is about sinking into a winter depression with the idea that once it hits spring, everything might get a bit better.
Key lyrics: “Tired and wired we ruin too easy/ Sleep in our clothes and wait for winter to leave.”

THE BEER: Arabier (De Dolle; Esen, Belgium)
The National require something a bit darker and moodier than the usual spring sippers. Something brooding but slightly optimistic. De Dolle’s Arabier is a strong pale ale with an earthy, funky dark side and a dreary, rainy day haziness. But loads of bubbly carbonation and a bright citrus flavor hint at sandals and sunlight.


http://listen.grooveshark.com/songWidget.swf
THE SONG: The New Pornographers, “The Crash Years”
The New Pornographers are the quintessential sunny-day band, thanks to A.C. Newman’s affinity for bright, multi-voiced choruses and Neko Case’s reedy wail. “The Crash Years” takes the cake, though, mostly because of its umbrella-filled music video. Directed by Sammy Rawal, it shows an aerial view of meticulously-choreographed pedestrians walking through a cobblestone courtyard pushing strollers, riding bikes, carrying ladders and walking under umbrellas.

THE BEER: Bräu Weisse (Ayinger; Aying, Germany)
Here I think we need something crisp, upbeat and approachable to match the band’s sharply-written indie pop. There also needs to be big payoff in terms of flavor, and despite that aggressive umlaut over the “a,” this bubbly hefeweizen is Pornographers-perfect. It’s light, citrusy and super spicy. Plus the idyllic German cottage on the bottle seems like a relaxing place to stay come spring.


http://listen.grooveshark.com/songWidget.swf
THE SONG: Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, “Walking To Do”
This song is, in part, about making things happen on your own instead of waiting for religion to provide all the answers, but it’s also simply about living life and working through whatever gets thrown your way — which is a perfect attitude to have at the start of a new season. It’s also about walking, which is a lot easier to do after snow is gone! It’s one of my favorite Ted Leo songs, and one of his most energizing.
Key lyrics: “And if we stay on our feet, we’ll make it in our own time/ And though the road has got some steep climbs, I believe we’ll be fine”

THE BEER: Jack D’Or (Pretty Things; Cambridge, MA)
Ted Leo’s brand of straight-ahead indie rock, with its sharp Elvis Costello confidence, generally puts me in a good mood. As does Jack D’or, another perfectly springy saison. It’s dry and crispwith big spice, just like Leo’s high-energy treble-rich tune.

Spring Galettes + Songs for the Season

It’s the end of March and it’s 30-some degrees outside. This is not how I’d like New York to feel right now, and it’s not what I consider to be spring — so let’s call this week’s posts wishful thinking, since they are both meant to celebrate the new season that hasn’t arrived quite yet.

The dish — two kinds of galettes (a pie-like tart), one sweet and one savory — is very springy; the playlist is some recently released (and a couple soon-to-be-released) songs I’m into, that I’ll likely be listening to well into the season.

THE DISH
Galettes are pie-like tarts, and my friend Sarah and I made two different kinds: Half with asparagus, mushrooms and Fontina cheese, and the other half with blueberries, raspberries, fresh mint and mascarpone cheese. The asparagus and blueberries are the most spring-inspired ingredients, and both of these were super tasty. Recipes at the bottom.

THE PLAYLIST
http://listen.grooveshark.com/widget.swf

Read More »

Beet-Avocado “Tartare” and a California playlist

THE DISH
Beet-avocado “tartare”

THE INSPIRATION
At the end of February I took my first trip to Los Angeles, to visit my cousins for a week. I did lots of yoga, went hiking, saw a not-so-hilarious improv show, played with puppies, and wandered around Santa Monica. I also ate lots of awesome food, like spinach and corn tamales from Hugo’s Tacos, a lemon bar from Big Sugar Bakeshop, an insanely fresh egg salad sandwich with avocado at The Trails in Griffith Park, and a huge veggie plate at Border Grill.

My most memorable meal, though, came from Madeleine Bistro, a fancy vegan place in Tarzana (run by Chef Dave Anderson) where I ate with my cousin, my yoga teacher and her daughters. I didn’t actually have a choice in what I was ordering — the girls just told me, “OK, you’re getting the beet tartare and the bigger mac.” The bigger mac is like a vegan version of a McDonald’s Big Mac, and it was awesome, but the beet tartare was gorgeous and something totally different (beats over a tofu “cheese crouton” with cucumbers, some kind of sauce and a balsamic).

This dish is inspired by that (a photo of the real thing at the bottom of the post — mine pales in comparison, but I am not a chef so I guess that’s OK! I also wasn’t trying to recreate exactly the same thing…), and also the other foods I ate on my trip: perfectly-ripe avocado, alfalfa sprouts, tangelos, and blood orange balsamic vinegar (the latter two I brought back to Brooklyn with me). And it’s vegan because hoooly smokes were there a lot of veggie/vegan restaurants there! (Not a complaint.) Anyway, I need to make this again and make it better because it’s not totally amazing, but it was yummy.

THE PLAYLIST
I spent a lot of time driving around with my cousin, which meant plenty of time to share music. These are some songs that were significant to my trip for various reasons — some are obvious/cliché California jams, some are songs my cousin and I both love, and others just found themselves running around my head while I was there.

http://listen.grooveshark.com/widget.swf

Read More »

One-Pot Black Bean Dip + a few kitchen songs

THE DISH
One-pot black bean dip (recipe at the bottom)

THE INSPIRATION
I’ve mentioned this before but my last two years in college, I lived in a housing cooperative with about 13 other students. We had a massive kitchen — industrial-sized stove, a three-part sink, walk-in pantry, a huge island counter in the middle — and it was pretty common for five or six of us to be in there making food at the same time. This is a slight variation on a dish introduced to me by my old housemate Rachel, and I don’t even know how many times I cooked it when we lived together. It’s delicious and so easy to make, and it gets eaten SO quickly.

I’m lucky that my apartment in Brooklyn has a pretty huge kitchen (thank you, converted warehouse lofts!), but that’s definitely not the case for many of my friends in the city. Even though I’ve made this dish over and over in a kitchen big enough to fit the whole Duggar family, the beauty in it is that it’s all done in one pot and with very little equipment, so it’s perfect for even the least-experienced cooks and in the tiniest of kitchens.

THE SONGS
This recipe is mostly inspired by a lyric in the song “Cook For You” by Clare & the Reasons, but I threw in a few other songs that have something to do with kitchens.

Clare & the Reasons, “Cook For You”
This is a super-sweet love song that starts off with a line that instantly makes me think of the quirks that come with living in a cozy city apartment with a tiny kitchen: “I like to cook for you in my underwear/ ‘Cause our kitchen points to a wall.”
http://listen.grooveshark.com/songWidget.swf

Theresa Andersson, “Na Na Na”
“Na Na Na” itself actually has nothing to do with kitchens, but it’s here because it was recorded in one! I believe Andersson recorded most of her Hummingbird, Go! album in her modest-sized New Orleans kitchen, and the video of her playing this song there is awesome.

Those Darlins, “Keep My Skillet Good and Greasy”
The badass Tennessee gals Those Darlins didn’t write this song (I don’t think anyone knows who did?) but their take on it is awesome.
http://listen.grooveshark.com/songWidget.swf

Allo Darlin’, “Heartbeat Chilli”
I’ve already used this in a post, but it’s super sweet and part of it is about falling in love in the kitchen while making chili. It’s adorable.
http://listen.grooveshark.com/songWidget.swf

Read More »

Rockin’ Valentine’s Day Cookies, with help from a super-cute music-biz couple

THE DISH
Sugar cookies with buttercream and royal icing (Recipe below)

THE INSPIRATION
No CALL ME’s or HUGS & KISSES here! Each cookie has a different love-themed song title. I know they’re not all mushy love songs, but it’s more based on the titles than the lyrics…To make these even more precious, I had help from the cutest music-biz couple I know: Heidi Greenwood and Bryan Vaughan, who run Brooklyn’s Paper Garden Records. Paper Garden is home to one of my favorite discoveries of the past year, Peasant, as well as Danish up-and-comers Alcoholic Faith Mission, and several other acts. Heidi and Bryan were gracious enough to spend more than four hours with me on these … they are amazing and I can’t thank them enough! Enjoy some super-cute photos of them below.

THE PLAYLIST
Tracklisting is at bottom of the post.

http://listen.grooveshark.com/widget.swf
Read More »

Hippie hash and an ode to a summer in East Lansing, Michigan

THE DISH
Hippie hash — my take on the signature dish at Lansing, Michigan’s Fleetwood Diner

THE INSPIRATION
When I think of Fleetwood Diner, I think of summer 2009, my last three months before I moved to Brooklyn, during which I had two classes to finish, but few other responsibilities aside from a couple shifts a week at the newspaper, some freelance work, and planning my big move. That summer consisted of plenty of group trips to breakfast after late nights out at house parties or at our favorite bars — most of which ended in friends sleeping on my couch or floor, occasionally with Taco Bell wrappers on the floor next to them. By the time we’d meet up at Fleetwood in the morning, some of us were usually hungover, and all of us were always hungry.

Aside from post-party breakfasts, the whole summer was filled with great food. My friends and I started a restaurant club — a last chance at places we needed to try before leaving East Lansing (more great breakfast at Golden Harvest, Ethiopian at Altu’s, Mexican at Mango’s); we squeezed as many as six of us into my Oldsmobile grandpa car and drove 20 minutes to the most amazing produce market/grocery store, Horrocks; we took over the huge kitchen at my co-op house to cook big meals and have potlucks.

That summer, as well as the two years I lived in that house (with 13 other students) played a huge part in my love of cooking. There were so many times when at least five of us would be in the kitchen making dinner at the same time — we’d share cooking tips, try each other’s food, and eat together. In New York, the nights I’m usually happiest are when my closest friends in the city come over for what we call our “family dinners.” We pick a theme (sushi, dumplings, holiday cookies, soup), pitch in ingredients, maybe drink a little wine, and make a meal together. It’s the best.

I should also note that I made this for brunch with my friend Missy, one of my best friends and creative partners in crime, who made the move to New York just a few months after I did. (She definitely was not the one sleeping on my floor next to the Taco Bell wrappers. And that definitely did not happen two nights in a row.)

Anyway, this playlist is a bunch of songs my friends and I spent a lot of time with that summer — there’s nothing groundbreaking here, and any music nerds listening will not be impressed, but that’s not the point. Summer ’09 = great food + these songs. You can even listen as you make this dish. Enjoy!

THE PLAYLIST

http://listen.grooveshark.com/widget.swf

Read More »