The weather in New York is finally starting to turn and there are some days that truly feel like autumn. Colder temperatures always remind me of comfort food (or, okay, I am reminded of comfort food any time I am hungry, any day of the year, fine), I think because a lot of comfort foods take the warm and gooey approach to comfort.

But just because I want to cram seventeen triangles of grilled cheese (no crusts, please!) into my mouth doesn’t mean I can’t do it with a little sophistication. It’s times like these when Boyfriend turns out to be particularly useful, being a sommelier and whatnot. Listed below are four of my favorite comfort foods, as well as Boyfriend’s suggestions for wine pairings.

1. Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup

Who doesn’t love this combination? This is the first thing you can eat after you’ve been sick for a week. It’s the meal you go for on the second night of a snow storm when you’ve been stuck in your apartment and are running out of food and sanity. It’s the thing you can eat the day you move into a new apartment and can’t find any cooking utensils. This is not your favorite party dress; this is your favorite sweatshirt that you will wear and cherish until the threads literally fall off your body.

Personally, I am fond of Heinz’s Cream of Tomato Soup and the most basic grilled cheese available. I am all for upscale takes on comfort classics; Daniel Boulud, one of my culinary heroes, has arguably made a career out of this. But to me the wonderful thing about comfort foods is that they do not require creativity or sophistication to be satisfying. Butter up that Wonder Bread and layer on as many slices of Kraft American as you dare. Yum.

Boyfriend’s Pairing: I would have this with a demi-sec Vouvray.  Made from 100% Chenin Blanc and coming from France’s Loire valley, Vouvry’s are often made in an off dry style exhibit aromas of fresh orchard fruit, earthy wool, and honey.  This all underscored by a beautiful crisp acidity that keeps the wine refreshing rather than cloying.  I think it would cut through the heaviness of the cheese and highlight the sweetness of the tomatoes.
His pick? Huet ‘Le Mont’ Demi-Sec Vouvray, 2008

2. Mac & Cheese

I’m not going to dwell on this dish, since I just posted about a cheeseburger chili version of this comfort food staple. However, true to its comfort food classification, it’s hard to mess this one up. Cook some pasta (multiple shapes work!), throw some cheese in there, get it all melty, broil it for a bit to get that perfect crusty top layer, and voila.

Boyfriend’s Pairing: Why not turn to Italy for this delicious bastardization of their culture [editor’s note: What?? Mac and cheese is not a bastardization of anything. Anyway, carry on…].  I say go with a beautiful Gavi di Gavi.  Made from the Cortese grape and hailing from the north of Italy in Piedmont, these wines exhibit crisp citrus tones and enough weight to stand up to butter and cheese laden macaroni.
His pick? Broglia Gavi di Gavi 2009

3. Tuna Melt

Are you sensing a trend? Perhaps that melted cheese is the express lane to the well of happy, safe, loving feelings we constantly try to capture by stuffing our faces with food? Well anyway, I always make the tuna salad with extra mayo, relish, and diced red onion. I vary on the cheese, and have been known to dump something French and creamy such as Brie or Camembert on top, but similar to my feelings about grilled cheese, this is not a moment for food snobbery. Toss me that individually-wrapped Kraft single and I’ll be a happy camper.

Boyfriend’s Pairing: Here we turn to one of my favorites: Savagnin.  A grape cultivated in the Jura, usually in Arbois or L’Etoile, and, depending on the producer, made in an oxidative style.  If you find an oxidative one, you’re likely to be surprised by how salty it seems to taste.  These wines are big on chesnut and pinenut aromas with an almost salty taste, perfectly suited to a tuna melt.
His pick? Puffney Arbois 2005

4. PB & J

This is less one of my personal favorites (go ahead, I’m ready for backlash), but I recognize that for many people, it has powerful comfort food allure. Go classic with more Wonder Bread, JIF (creamy or crunch?), and Smucker’s strawberry jam. Dress it up with some whole grain or whole wheat bread, homemade peanut butter, and an unusual jam. Recently I made cherry-ginger jam and raspberry-basil jam. They both turned out pretty well; you want about a 1:2 sugar-to-fruit ratio by volume, plus whatever other little bits of flavor you want to throw in there.

Boyfriend’s Pairing:Boal Madeira is one of the sweeter grapes used in the production of Madeira, but it’s not over the top.  Boal madeira’s tend to be off dry with nutty elements to them and hints of baked fruit.  A perfect pairing for a PB&J.
His pick? D’Oliveiras Boal Madeira 1977

So go forth and pair your comfort foods with confidence! You’ll likely be saving money on the food, so go ahead and splurge on the wine. Hint: if you’re looking for a particular bottle, check out websites like Wine Searcher to locate a store.

The title of this post is pretty vague and quite expansive. My kitchen wish list involves things like a giant kitchen with a skylight, a professional-style walk-in refrigerator, and a set of every single Le Creuset product in Dijon. Such things are clearly not in my immediate future (one day! right?).

But anyway, here is my list of kitcheny desires for the near, tangible future.

1. Chinois This is an underrated utensil, and for that reason tops my wish list. A chinois is a conical, fine-mesh sieve. This doesn’t sound that useful or glamorous, but it can be used to strain custards, purees (I’m sure Joel has a chinois for every day of the week), soups, and sauces. We also know that food is as much about texture as it is about flavor, and a chinois is a handy tool for making your smooth things smoother. For the suburban kitchen version pictured above, visit Williams-Sonoma. For a more industrial version, visit Bowery Kitchen.

2. Giant Stock Pot I have some large pots and a 7 quart dutch oven that all work pretty well for my large pot needs, such as they are. But whenever I make a stock, I have problems. I have to make stock in multiple pots, which doesn’t really hurt the stock, but it annoying from an efficiency and clean-up perspective. Therefore, before my stock-making weekend in October, I want to get a GIANT stock pot (or two? I need beef AND chicken stock. And maybe goat stock? Duck stock?). This, again, is a job for Bowery Kitchen.

3. Standardized Herb Jars The spice rack is a delicate subject for anyone who cooks often and has even the faintest of feelings about organization. I have fifteen different brands of spices, Ziploc bags of various chili peppers, and larger jars of fancy salts. I want them all to fit in the same space in some sort of intelligent, organized way, but instead it is chaos. I love the idea I saw on A Cozy Kitchen to get a bunch of little jars and chalkboard paint. A Cozy Kitchen painted the jar tops and neatly labelled all her herbs and spices. Jars available at The Container Store.

4. More Mixing Bowls I currently have two junky plastic mixing bows. They accomplish most activities, but I often find that during the course of cooking a dinner, I need to wash and re-use the bowls a few times. Right now I’m lusting after a nesting set of glass or metal bowls like this 10-piece set from Williams-Sonoma.

My kitchen is a constant work-in-progress, whether it’s keeping it clean, trying to cook new things, or acquiring more cooking toys. What’s on your kitchen wish list right now?

As you may or may not know, I am in a writing workshop group that meets every three weeks. Sometimes we do writerly things, but these gatherings are often also dinner parties. It was my turn to host this week and I was searching for something I could make easily in the hour between getting home from work and the start of the workshop, and something that I could easily scale up to feed 9 hungry writers. Obviously I chose Cheeseburger Chili Mac & Cheese.

The recipe is very easy and I actually followed it, for the most part. I used regular pasta instead of whole wheat, and at the end when it says to top the chili and pasta with cheese, I mixed some in as well. I also did not think that the addition of beef stock to the chili was really necessary. By the time I reached that step, my chili was already liquid-y enough. Unfortunately, I am out of my own beef stock, so I had to use store-bought. In the future, I would use home-made and reduce it on its own for a bit first, thereby reducing the volume of liquid while still adding a little more depth of flavor to the dish. I already have a weekend in October blocked off for stock-making, so I’ll be fully stocked (anyone?) again soon.

Lamentably, everyone ate all of it before I take any pictures. Seconds and thirds were had, and I packed everyone off into the night stuffed full of meat, cheese, and pasta. I am very exciting for Fall weather to begin, and mac & cheese, though delectable year-round, is a great base for hearty Fall meals. What are your favorite mac & cheese variations?

As always, recipe after the jump.

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Dearest readers,

I promise that I have not forgotten about you. I have been busy and lazy and the summer just kind of dragged on and I never posted. Anyway, now, for the hundredth time, I am back.

Perhaps because I still think in terms of school years, I have always felt the urge to make resolutions after Labor Day, rather than after New Years. The summer is over, the weather turns, and everyone buckles down to business once again. This year, I am focusing on the things I usually try to avoid: working out, cleaning my apartment, generally becoming more of an adult.

Part of this campaign involves bringing my own lunch to work more often. In terms of both health and finances, I think it’s the better choice, even if it takes a little forethought. For example, I just made a big pan of baked oatmeal (recipe after the jump!) and some hardboiled eggs in anticipation of bringing them for lunches. As I was cooking, I realized that I would get more excited about making lunch if I had a cool grown-up lunchbox to pack everything into. Here are some of the ones I found; what do you think?

Built’s Gourmet Getaway Lunch Tote Graphic and practical, these neoprene lunchboxes are insulated and machine-washable. I am partial to the “city grid” print.

Vivo Square Bento Box Conveniently stackable, these tins provide an easy-to-clean lunchbox option. Plus, the colors make me smile every time I look at them.

Graze Organic Reusable Food Bags I love organizing things and finding a special place for everything, so I love the idea of a little reusable, labeled bag for all my different lunch foods.

Artifact Olive Lunch Tote This is the grown up waxed-cotton version of the classic brown paper lunch bag. I like the leather strap detail and the simple concept.

Do you bring your lunch? Do you have a favorite lunchbox? Am I the only person with a lunchbox wish list? Let me know, and recipe for baked oatmeal after the jump.

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As promised, The Infinite Table is back in business and cooking up a storm. To kick things off again, I thought I would share one of my favorite summer meals: spaghetti alla carbonara and Champagne. Carbonara is one of my favorite classic pasta presentations. The egg and cheese makes for a rich, creamy sauce, and the bacon always makes my mouth water. I usually add some sauteed scallions or leeks as well to add a little brightness to the dish.


At this point, I need to introduce a new Infinite Table character: Boyfriend. Boyfriend is great. He drinks wine for a living and we can talk to each other in flavors alone. AND he is super useful, as you can see in the picture below. Say hello:

Anyway, carbonara is delightfully easy: saute up your bacon, garlic, and scallions in one pan, cook up your spaghetti (the carbonara pasta of choice and tradition) in a pot, and whisk together egg and cheese in a bowl. When all the respective parts are complete, mix them together. The heat from the pasta and bacon should cook up the egg and you’re ready to eat. Have Boyfriend or your resident sommelier pop open a bottle of Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve and you have a simple, delicious summer dinner.

  

As always, full recipe after the jump.

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Hello everyone,

Clearly The Infinite Table has been taking a little break from life. It’s coming back soon though, so stay tuned for posts summer staples like salmon sandwiches, portobello burgers, and refreshing gin-gin mules. We’re also freshly infatuated with making our own condiments and ingredients: mayo, creme fraiche, vanilla extract, ketchup, etc., so recipes for those will be on the way as well.

So, sorry for the silence, but now we’re back!

Sunday was the perfect end-of-winter day in New York: sunny, 50 degrees F, gorgeous. I dragged my lazy Sunday bones out of bed, hopped on a 3 train, and expressed it all the way up to 125th Street. Since I was going to be in the neighborhood, I stopped by the Studio Museum for a look around. I know it’s not food, but I have to stop for a moment to plug the Studio Museum. It’s off the beaten museum path and it’s not an enormous museum, but they always have great stuff on display and their gift shop also has a fantastic selection of cookbooks. My favorites from last weekend: Cauleen Smith’s The Changing Same, Dawoud Bey’s Harlem U.S.A., and Tanea Richardson’s He’s Actually Very Intelligent.

But onto the food: the true object of my trip to Harlem was two blocks away, tucked neatly in the bottom of a residential building. Tonnie’s Minis reached out to me on Twitter last week and I promised them I’d stop in on Sunday, partly because I love being contacted on Twitter and partly because cupcakes are one of the most efficient ways to bribe me.

The store itself is cute and cozy, with a long, glass-paneled counter through which you can watch your cupcake be constructed. There are also a few tables in case you want to order a coffee and hang out or, as I obviously did, shovel your cupcakes into your face as fast as possible. Everyone working at the bakery was super friendly and jovial, happy to make recommendations, and handing out the cutest mini-cupcake samples.

Coming, as I do, from the South, I of course ordered a red velvet cupcake and also snagged a sample of the carrot cake cupcake. The great thing about Tonnie’s Minis is that they put the icing on your cupcake when you order it, so your icing is still rich and moist and creamy. I’m very particular about my cream cheese icing and I’m happy to declare that Tonnie’s passed my test. I’m also a pretty big fan of carrot cake and my mini cupcake was also delicious.

Bottom line: Tonnie’s Mini’s is worth the trip to Harlem. They also do large orders, custom orders, and cakes, so be sure to check out their website and follow them on Twitter!

Hey there Cookie Crumbles, sorry I’ve been really lazy about posting recently. The good news is that I’ve been spending my time eating and cooking, so I have lots of foodie fairy tales to share with you.

Last week I had the good luck to attend the launch party for the brand spankin’ new Michelin Green Guide Taiwan. Hosted by the Taipei Economic and Culture Office in Midtown East, the event celebrated both Taiwanese culture and Michelin’s standard of excellence. Let me begin by admitting that I was raised on Michelin travel guides, am an unusually rabid fan, and was very impressed with the Michelin representatives’ ability to handle my unbridled enthusiasm for their product. I went on to guzzle several flutes’ worth of Veuve and stuff my face with five different kinds of dumplings, pictured below. It was a great night.

Though Green Guides focus on the cultural, historical, and tourist attractions (rather than the restaurant and hotel focus of their sister Red Guides), there is a section in every Green Guide about the cuisine of the region in question. So I got extra titillated when I read “The people of Taiwan have a fascination with food. People today will greet each other by saying Chi bao le mei or ‘Have you eaten?’ as often as they will say Ni hao or ‘How are you?'” These sound like my kind of people.

Taiwanese cuisine, according to Michelin, represents culinary traditions from all across China, as well as Korea, Japan, and the West. Here are my favorite bits about Taiwanese food that I gleaned from the guide:

Sausage Bun Sausage Let’s be honest: Any dish that uses the word “sausage” twice must be pretty tasty. Literally translated as “big sausage wraps small sausage,” this street-food favorite is a sticky-rice sausage sliced open length-wise with a grilled pork sausage, also sliced open length-wise, placed inside. This can be dressed in a number of different ways, but the most common toppings are garlic, chilies, and fresh basil. Forget the disgusting and dilettante-ish Double Down from KFC. Taiwan has known for ages that the fastest way to our gluttonous hearts is to replace carbs with meat. Yumm-o!!

Hakka Food This is the rustic home-style cooking of Taiwan and it excites the very nerdiest foodie living deep within my soul. From the cucina povera of Italy and la Cuisine de Misère of France to the Hakka food of Taiwan, every culture in the history of the world has come up with a particular cuisine and style of cooking that is more economical, more humble, and, in many cases, more satisfying than formal cooking traditions.. I love exploring these cuisines because they remind me that even in the hardest of times, people do not forget the power of a thoughtful meal. To taste this particular breed of comfort food created by relocated Han Chinese centuries ago, head southwest of Taipei to the county of Hsinchu. Here will you find the best examples of the salty and sour stews and creative uses of pork and preserved vegetables that are the hallmarks of Hakka food.

Night Markets Taiwan is known for its night markets and many tourists view them as one of the main attractions of the island. Stalls sell everything from light snacks to full meals, desserts, fruits, vegetables, and various proteins. Street food excites me personally because of its varnish of authenticity and New York is already ripe with food trucks, so I would love to go shovel all kinds of bizarre street foods into my mouth in Taiwan. The Green Guide also points out that night markets serve as social epicenters, particularly for Taiwan’s younger population.

Some things about Taiwanese cuisine are less exciting to my palate (such as the “signature dish” oyster omelet and the infamous stinky tofu), but after reading the Green Guide my mouth is watering and my imagination is running wild. For the past week I’ve spent much of my free time obsessively researching flights from JFK to Taipei International. So on April 16 pop out there and pick up a copy of the guide; if you weren’t planning on visiting Taiwan, I promise that you’ll want to after flipping through this book.

Welcome Readers! This is The Infinite Table’s very first guest post and I could not be more excited about it. So read this post and love it!

Gabriel Kussin lives and works in Durham, North Carolina. He is the Membership Coordinator at El Centro Hispano, a Latino advocacy organization and is always searching for new and exciting recipes.


I recently started working at a Latino advocacy organization and the first two questions that my colleagues asked when they discovered my Puerto Rican heritage were, “What can you cook?” and “When will you cook for us?” There was an automatic assumption amongst these Ecuadorians, Mexicans and Colombians that not only could I cook, but I could cook well.

The connection between being Boricua (the indigenous Taino name for Puerto Rico and its inhabitants) and Puerto Rican food is representative of the rich diversity of the Caribbean island. Our music, our people, our landmarks and our food are mixtures of African, Spanish, Taino and, more recently, American influences. In Spanish, Puerto Ricans refer to their cuisine as comida criolla, or literally “Creolefood.” While each Latin American country possesses its own distinct culinary flavor, Puerto Rican food has the greatest range of tastes, styles, ingredients and dishes. Yet even if you are eating chicharronde pollo (a breaded, garlic chicken) or a traditional Puerto Rican Octopus Salad there is something that reminds you of La Isla. You may not be able to describe it, but it will leave you wanting more.

In an attempt to represent that diversity of flavor as well as experimentation that is quintessential to Puerto Rican food and culture as a whole, I decided to make several trademark Puerto Rican dishes withsome small twists: salmon filled pastelillos, or miniaturized empanadas, fried plantains and asopao, a Puerto Rican gumbo.

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I know, it’s a day late. Traditionally, I hate this holiday. However, as I’ve become older and wiser and better at buying wine, I’ve come to realize that Valentine’s Day is a very important holiday for a girl and her most favorite bottle of sparkling Rose. I hope all of you, dearest readers, celebrated in whatever manner you see fit.

A few pieces of information:

1. Last week was Social Media Week, and I love social media. I had the good fortune to go to two of the week’s events, both about food. On Friday morning, I attended the panel discussion “Almost Good Enough to Eat: Food Communities and Social Media, Presented by AOL” featuring:

I’m not sure how interesting this session would have been for those of you not obsessed with food AND social media, but the panelists were all great food personalities. I would encourage everyone to check out their websites and Twitter feeds. In the afternoon I attended another panel discussion “The New Open Kitchen. Panel & Happy Hour hosted by Zagat and Edelman” with the panelists:

Oleg Voss was quiet, but hilarious and I cannot wait until his West Village brick and mortar opens. Amanda and Jake provided great insight from both the restaurant and social media platform perspectives. Soraya might have been my favorite panelist of the day. I have checked out foodspotting.com a lot, but sadly can’t use it because I’m still waiting for the Blackberry app. However, I was highly impressed with her penetrating industry vision in both the food and web worlds. If you haven’t checked out FoodSpotting I strongly recommend it. If you like Food Porn Daily and drooling into your keyboard, you will love it.

2. I have very exciting news for everyone: tomorrow will feature a guest post by the fabulous Mr. Gabriel Kussin. A Brown University alumnus, Gabe and I have been friends for many years and shared a passion for food and all of it’s culinary and cultural features. I recently invited him to write a guest post and he kindly obliged. His post has a lot more substance than mine usually do (so they don’t consist of me says “I ate something and it was delicious yum!”), so be sure to tune in tomorrow and check it out.

3. Not getting enough of The Infinite Kitchen? Just a reminder to check out our Tumblr, join our freshly pressed Facebook Page (image coming soon, I promise), and follow me on Twitter!

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