Archives for category: Drinking

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.

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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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Well I’m finally back in New York where it is freezing but at least feels like Christmas time. In retrospect my week in Miami was one big blur, but there were a few food items that stood out in my mind. I already told you (about five times) about my salmon-pop encounter and subsequent love affair, but here are the rest of my favorite food moments from the trip:

1. Rock candy coffee stirrers in the UBS Lounge at Art Basel Miami Beach Not only was the food delicious and the service impeccable, but the details in the UBS lounge were also luxurious enough to make VIP patrons feel spoiled. People who would not dream of dumping a packet of real sugar into their skinny lattes happily swirled rock candy  sticks in their mugs while chatting with friends about that piece at Gagosian that would be perfect for the Hamptons house. Sometimes at Art Basel Miami Beach there is so much talk about getting into VIP areas that we forget to appreciate them once we’re in. So thank you, UBS, for reminding me of life’s smaller luxuries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. The dessert spread at the Art Basel Miami Beach Farewell Dinner The Farewell Dinner for exhibitors had pretty impressive spreads all around, including a shrimp cocktail bar, sushi bar, and blini caviar bar. But the best had to be the dessert bar. There were mini pumpkin pies, mini key lime pies, hazelnut macarons, coconut chocolate marshmallows, and about a million other things I can’t remember. Luckily there were many lounge chairs available because I ate so much I couldn’t stand and needed about an hour to recover.

3. Girls with Champagne Drinks flow like water during the art fair, but the best aspect of drinking in Miami during the first week of December is that you don’t have to get drinks for yourself. Beautiful but forgettable girls walk around with standard issue smiles and trays of champagne so you never see the bottom of a flute. It is sort of appalling how quickly we get used to this service. By the time we leave Miami we fully expect a fleet of flute-bearing girls to greet us at the airport and I feel lopsided and unbalanced without a glass of Veuve Clicquot carelessly bubbling away in my hand.

4. Binge eating at Joe’s Stone Crab post-art fair After a week of 16-hour schmooze-fests, everyone needs a break. Which is why we headed to Joe’s Stone Crab on Monday night for dinner. The primary restaurant does not accept reservations and we do not accept one-hour wait times, so we headed next door to the take-out section. Groggy and exhausted, we ordered a horrifying mountain of foods and proceeded to vacuum it into our bodies with reckless gusto. It really could have passed for a piece of performance art as we shoveled unbelievable volumes of food into our mouths. My tempura fried cod with Asian slaw was great, as was the mind-blowing Key Lime Pie we shared afterwards. If you are in Miami I would highly recommend a visit.

It was a week of decadence and, in many ways, part of an alternate reality of the wealthy and pampered. Now it’s back to my small apartment in frigid New York with no VIP lounge, not bottomless Champagne flutes, and no all-you-can-eat caviar bars. Art Basel Miami Beach is nothing if not an orgy of the luxurious and the opulent, and such orgies, while titillating, are ultimately exhausting and cannot last forever. So it’s back to normal in New York to hibernate until the conspicuous pop of a champagne bottle rouses us once again from our humble slumber.

I love entertaining. I especially love entertaining now that my apartment is larger than a shoebox (sorry, Easton) and I can do things like have multiple people over for dinner. Having done this a few times now, I have discovered an surprise secondary benefit to having people over for dinner: sometimes they invite you over to their apartment in return.

This exact series of events happened with Nick’s friend Alex, who conveniently lives about four blocks away from us. She joined us for Sunday Family Dinner one weekend when all four of us were crawling out of the same pile of hangover and then very kindly invited Nick, Becca, and me over to her apartment for dinner. So last Friday the three of us from Apartment 320 trekked over to Alex and Jane’s apartment for a scrumptious feast.

They served a huge pile of delicious, succulent chicken from a recipe that Alex just pulled out of her imagination. It involved onions and oranges and some other things that resulted in beautiful, mouthwatering chicken. In addition to the bird, Alex and Jane also served huge platters of sweet potato with yogurt sauce. We may have eaten most of the potato before the chicken was ready, which I instantly regretted because 1) I had less room for chicken and 2) I liked eating them together, but I am nothing if not impulsive, so I suppose it was inevitable.

For dessert, Jane had also prepared a large vat of pumpkin-chocolate-chip cookies, making this the most brilliant cookie idea I have ever heard of. She fired up the oven and threw in the first batch, which were baked for the recommended amount of time and looked and tasted like conventional (and extremely delicious) cookies. At this point I should probably admit that we were pouring wine down our throats the whole time, because by the time we finished the first round, we decided that we absolutely could not wait any longer and had to take out the second batch immediately. This time we got lucky and the resulting product still resembled a cookie, maybe just a little bit softer. However, if you have ever been kind of drunk and forced to wait for cookies, you can probably guess what happened next. We consumed each round faster than the last and still insisted on taking the next batch out of the oven as soon as we finished the previous one. Soon we were shoveling spoonfuls of warm cookie dough into our mouths. Although this was not the most dignified moment of the evening, I will say that the only thing better than Jane’s pumpkin-chocolate-chip cookies is Jane’s cookie dough heated in the oven and eaten with a spoon.

My happy conclusion is that entertaining is one of the best parts of my adult life. I love throwing big parties like our housewarming party on Saturday. I love cooking a simple meal for just a few friends. And then every so often something else wonderful happens like being invited over for a dinner party at a friend’s apartment.

“His life was chiefly made up of dinners, of journeys to and from dinners, of talks about past dinners, and of speculations upon future dinners.”

– Hesketh Pearson, ‘The Smith of Smiths’ (1934)

Editor’s Note: I apologize for the lack of pictures in recent posts. I am getting frustrated with the poor quality of images from my point-and-shoot camera. Will work on using my SLR and actually getting film developed, if anyone will still do that for me.

Thanksgiving dinner has to be one of the best meals of the year: the mountains of food, the copious amounts of wine, the trips home to see family. But as wonderful as all those things are, I often find myself thankful for my friends on this particular day of reflection. With similar thoughts in mind, my friend Alice and her roommate Meg came up with a brilliant plan to host an early Thanksgiving dinner so we could celebrate the holiday with our friends.

(Image courtesy of Nick Northrup)

So this past Saturday I woke up, made some cranberry sauce, and hauled myself out to Bushwick. Guests brought a variety of cheeses, crackers, and wines, some much better than others (I brought a few bottles of Asti Spumante, which Alice promptly guzzled). We encountered the very real and daunting fear that we would become too full on cheese and not have enough room for the actual dinner, but being the motivated and ambitious individuals we are, we somehow persevered.

The chosen bird, fondly referred to as Hugo, was delicious. Meg, Alice, and Rob slaved over Hugo the whole day, carefully dressing him, stuffing him, and basting him. Once finished, the spread was impressive: turkey, stuffing, tomato potatoes (ask Rob, I prefer to lather my potatoes in butter and cream), cranberry sauce, kale salad, sweet potato casserole, yams, and possibly other delicious dishes that I then forgot during my subsequent food coma.

After dinner the night unraveled into a wine- and gravy-soaked bacchanal, but I remain impressed by dinner. Growing up, I always assumed that at some point between college and the real world, I would suddenly inherit Adult Knowledge. Things like using a real estate broker or building a stock portfolio or, in this case, making an entire Thanksgiving dinner. Over the past two years, I have realized that becoming an adult is a much different kind of process. You don’t take a class to learn how to make Thanksgiving dinner. One day you just have to wake up and do it. Although this particular dinner was a group effort (that I personally did not put that much effort into, if we’re being honest), it was still a more delicious meal knowing that we made it ourselves. When I go home in a few weeks, my parents’ turkey will taste even better because I’ll be at home and it will actually be Thanksgiving and, well, it was cooked by my family. All the same, I applaud Alice and Meg for being delightful hostesses who took the plunge and gave us our first taste of Thanksgiving adulthood.

Okay, remember the other day when I was cheerfully saying things like, “One of the fantastic things about living (and drinking) in New York is all the wonderful food you can consume late at night“? Well I forgot to mention that this can come back to bite you in the ass. I generally frown upon moderation, but there are definitely times when New York is the ultimate enabler of over-indulgence.

For example, last night I met my dear friend Alice for a few post-work drinks at Barrimundi in the LES. After several rounds of absurdly cheap happy hour drinks, we ventured out to find some food. Even though I was drooling over Falai‘s menu, we decided to pass in search of somewhat cheaper eats. Eventually we arrived at Tiny’s Giant Sandwich Shop, where I stuffed an open-faced tuna melt in my face and Alice finally got the grilled cheese she wanted.

This is where the evening should have ended. But the most dangerous part of going to Tiny’s Giant Sandwich Shop is that Schiller’s is right across the street. Schiller’s always elicits a complicated emotional reaction from me. I feel obligated to dislike it on the grounds that Keith McNally is kind of irritating to me, but in reality, I love Schiller’s. I mean love. Everything from the drinks to the food to the decor to the DJ playing Depeche Mode all night.

Last night I discovered a new dimension to my love: the sticky toffee pudding. When I wasn’t bouncing in my seat to the music or pouring a bellini into my mouth, I was stealing tastes of Alice’s pudding. I got the caramelized banana split myself, but was already so full of food and liquid that I was barely interested (and actually, in the interests of full disclosure, I should mention that we also split an order of French fries when we arrived as well). Luckily New York Magazine put together a handy blog post about how to make Schiller’s sticky toffee pudding, so I will probably be trying that soon. But not before I nurse myself out of this stupor caused by caloric over-indulgence. Damn you, New York.