Sunday, July 27, 2008

thunderstorms, gazpacho, free pudding

Thunderstorms! Rain is teeming down here, lightning flashing on this dark and stormy Brooklyn afternoon. It's peaceful, actually, since I haven't heard rain in the summertime for a while. K. doesn't want to leave the house while it's pouring, so we're browsing through the Times, doing the crossword, eating microwaved chocolate-chip cookies (since her oven doesn't really work, and I'd made the cookie dough before realizing this) and contemplating take-out vietnamese noodles. But if the rain stops, it's onto the R train to see the new film of Brideshead Revisited, since it would take more than a little rain to stand between me and dissipated, self-torturing English types in 1920s haircuts. Not that anything could really beat the 1980s BBC miniseries (Jeremy Irons! Anthony Andrews with a teddy bear! Nude sunbathing, in Venice!)

Pizza at Grimaldi's was, as usual, exactly the right thing, eaten elbow-to-elbow off red-checked vinyl tablecloths. Before seeing Laurie Anderson's show at the gorgeous Rose concert hall (part of Lincoln Center, in the fancy slate-gray mall that is the Time-Warner Center), we tried to have dinner at Jack the Horse, a nice bar and restaurant on a leafy stretch of Hicks St. Except that after waiting in vain for our dinners for 30 minutes, we finally tracked down the waiter, who blithely informed us that our order had been lost--in a place where maybe 6 tables were occupied, the chef was chatting with the table next to ours, and half the wait and kitchen staff were standing around with nothing to do. So we split, grabbed a sandwich at the deli on the corner, and ran for the subway. And now this place will forever be known to us as Jack the Ass. After the show, we stopped in at Epices du Traiteur, off Columbus, for a big golden fan of brik (fried phyllo, stuffed with egg and tuna), peach gazpacho, and chopped mediterranean salad.

On Saturday, we took a breezy spin around the East River on the Pioneer, a 1880s ship turned schooner. Very peaceful to be out on the river with nothing but the splash of waves and the slap and creak of billowing canvas sails overhead. Best part: going right under the Brooklyn Bridge, so that we could look up and see the underside of the bridge--a rare perspective. Then, in keeping with the maritime theme, I dragged K. up to The Mermaid Inn, a favorite little seafood joint on 2nd Ave, which takes its theme seriously--goldfish crackers on the bar, fish-info placemats, little mermaids on the matches. Keeping with the fruit-gazpacho theme of the weekend (hey, it's 89 degrees, with humidity!), I got the watermelon gazpacho, which was a little too sweet, but had cute tiny watermelon balls and lots of lovely blue crab. Then fab fresh sardine filets, sans the usual head, tail, and backbone, with pineapple bits, a mango-ish sauce (I think) and thinly sliced cukes, radishes, and onions with vinegar, reminiscent of what NYC delis used to call "health salad". To save on table-malingerers, Mermaid doesn't offer dessert. Instead, you get a demitasse of free chocolate pudding to send you on your way.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Tea Time--NOT!

UPDATE: Well, that was a bust! I schlepped over the river and down to Union Square in my cute pink dress, only to find a dark, empty bar with cavernous scaffolding outside, a couple of women with a blender filling tiny plastic cups with tea smoothies, a guy on the corner handing out free tea, and nothing else. Even the PR flack there admitted there was nothing for me to do. So after several conference calls with Lipton and Ogilvy being briefed about the product, about a million emails, and too many minutes on the hell-hot platforms of the 2 and 4 trains, I flipped around on my kitten heel and left. What a giant waste of time! So, skip this, and hey, make your own iced tea. Much better, cheaper, and less sweet. Save your sugar for PIE! And note to self, and all others: don't shill for a fat corporation unless they're paying you real cash.


Want to meet the Pie Queen? And quench your thirst with some nice chilly iced tea on this hot summer afternoon? I'll be at the Union Bar at 200 Park Avenue South near 17th St just off Union Square, in Manhattan today, from around 11am to 3pm. There's a promotion going on for Lipton's new Pure Leaf bottled iced teas, so there will be free tea samples and tea smoothies and tea cocktails, all kinds of tea-related festivities going on. Not to mention the usual farmers' market around the corner.

Why will the PQ be there? Because someone at Lipton (owned by corp giant Unilever) via ad agency Ogilvy thought it would be a snappy marketing idea to get some of those kooky bloggers the kids like so much to do some promoting--for free!--of their product. Yup, they did send me (via K.) 54 bottles (4 1/2 cases! sheesh! luckily K. has an elevator to her fifth-floor apt) of tea for sampling and recipe-testing, but otherwise PQ's not getting paid.

Which, in retrospect, seems a little dumb. Why would I want to promote a corporate product for anything but cash? (Ok, I do repeatedly sing the praises of the microplane grater and the jam-jar lifter here for free. But that's evangelism, and better kitchen living through invention, not shilling.)

However, K.'s been enjoying the tea, and she's a tried-and-true, Southern-born sweet tea lover. So far her favorite is the red fruit-flavored rooibos tea, followed by the white tea with tangerine. Also in the line-up: plain old black tea that's unsweetened, thank you, which is a hard, hard type of cold tea to find, as all of us unsweet-tea lovers know. As far as I've ever been able to find, Tejava is the only fairly common unsweetened tea out there, and it's more health-food store than kwiki-mart. What else? Green tea with honey, and a sweetened black tea with lemon.

All of these, except the unsweetened black tea, are sweetened with sugar (cane and beet) not the usual h/f corn syrup, and don't have any weird chemicals in them. Interestingly, you might think the redbush (rooibos) tea is extra-healthy for you, what with the blueberry & pomegranate touted on the label. But nope, as the bottle will tell you if you look hard, there's no actual blueberry and pomegranate juice in the tea, just "natural fruit flavors." Thanks, New Jersey!

(Yes, PQ grew up in Jersey. Which meant high school chemistry class involved mixing things in test tubes to make liquids that smelled exactly like banana, or grape, or sour-apple chewing gum. That's my home state, providing better living through chemistry, candy-aisle division.)

Well, how do they taste? Well, K. says they're pleasant and refreshing, without that weird puckery too-much-citric acid flavor that mars most bottled tea. Even without the corn syrup, though, they're plenty sweet for a non-soda-drinker like moi. There's about 27 grams of sugar per 16-oz bottle, or a little over 6 teaspoons. Probably more than you'd put in your own made-from-scratch tea, but less than a can of soda, which have about 38-48 grams per 12-oz can, on average.

Anyway, much as I like a nice iced tea, I can't really drink it, since the caffeine gives me a debilitating rebound headache the next day. Much better: iced peppermint tea, watermelon agua fresca, or limeade with mint (what Valencia Street's Luna Park dubs a 'nojito'), especially with a little salt added, Vietnamese-style.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

no sleep til brooklyn

Humidity, thunderstorms, Grimaldi's pizza: all on the horizon! Yes, I'm making a flying visit back to Brooklyn come tomorrow. And while I'm there, I'll be doing this crazy thing, this thing that earned K. a delivery of 54 bottles of iced tea...this thing that makes ex-NYTimer Regina Schrambling (she of the many, many murky blind items hating on just about everyone in the food industry) think I'm a desperate bottom-feeding fame whore. Or not even a whore, since whores, by definition, get paid!

But more on that later...right now, many deadlines, and 1/2 a flat of lovely Albion strawberries to turn into jam, or at least something jam=like that can be put into the freezer until my return.

To look forward to, though: homemade ricotta from Salvatore Bklyn, the view from the Promenade at night, outdoor movies in Dumbo, not having to wearing a (fake) fur coat in July, lemon italian ice from Court St Pastry, croissants from Almondine, lunch with my old pal Lily B., coffee with B., saying hi to the folks at Hudson Valley Farm over at their Greenmarket stand (where I sold biodynamic sauerkraut and organic cheese in the snow last winter), and of course time with K., now a full-fledged New York working stiff, Blackberry, Brooks Bros. shirts and all.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Kitchen Stupidity, Vol. II

Welcome back, folks, to this week's installment of Kitchen Stupidity! Today's guest, two-time winner of the Burnt Potholder Award: PQ, again, and her brand-new kitchen scale. Oh, she's so excited, 'cause weighing ingredients is so much more accurate than measuring them, especially when your kitchen only has a 1/2 cup measure so every time you need a cup of flour, you have to measure it twice.

Boy, I was going to be great, weighing out my perfect 10 oz of flour for my nice lattice-crust peach pie. Except that for some reason, I ever-so-carefully weighed out 16 oz of flour, yes, a full pound, which is more like 3 cups than the 2 cups I needed. But, natch, I was still imagining that I was dealing with 2 cups, so I blithely mixed in proportions of butter, salt, and ice water that were all wrong (as in, way too tiny.) This is when you should listen to the little voice of experience inside your head. The one saying, Why does this dough need so much extra water? Why is it sitting there like a lump of granite on the counter after chilling? Why is it so dense and heavy? Why did a mere 2 cups of flour (or so I thought) make so much dough?

Because I am an idiot. Of course, I did not have the wrong-measurement epiphany until the pie was in the oven. I could have whipped it out, scraped all the fruit and goo out into a bowl, scrapped the dough, and started again. But I didn't, and I'm just hoping that somehow, even not-buttery-enough crust will be redeemed by really good fruit (frog hollow, yippee) and LOTS of ice cream. Embarrassing, though...some pie queen I am.

The proportions, as they should have been:
10 oz flour (2 cups)
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
13 tb butter
5-6 tb ice water

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Bake them pies!

You know how much the PQ loves a pie social, and here's one that'll use your pie-baking powers for good. At the Women's Building (18th and Guerrero, in SF) this Sunday, July 13th, two nice folks named David and Colleen are baking up a storm for a Pie Social fund-raiser for Equality California, and you can, too!

They're raising money to help defeat the mean-spirited Prop. 8 that's on the ballot for November. You know, the one that wants to prevent gay people from getting matching napkins and towels as wedding gifts. The deal here: you come, you give them money ($20-$50, sliding scale), they give your money to Equality California, and in exchange, you get all the pie you can eat, baked by your friends and neighbors. If you bake and bring a pie, entrance to this pie-filled wonderland is just $12 (although you can, of course, give more).

That Obama bake sale in Bernal raised a whole lotta cash, so high hopes for this one, too. I wish it could be outside--in Dolores Park, say--to get the walk-by traffic like the ever-fabulous Brooklyn Pie Social, but do your best. Pies for social change, si!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

shake your peaches

Ran into the (vegetarian-but-persuadable) Red Meat Ranger and her consort, Papa Sueno, at the farmers' market this morning, and they had fabulous news. Not just that RMR was making dinner for Shar and Jackie, and that I could join them, provided I showed up with a homemade pie made with my Frog Hollow Farm Suncrest peach bounty, but that RMR's cabaret-performance trio, Pussy Tourette, would be reuniting for (at least) one fantastic performance, on the main stage at this year's Folsom Street Fair.

If you were trashy enough in the mid-90s to see them, you know what I mean. If not, watch and be amazed. Lyrics definitely NSFW, so use the headphones.

Very exciting! And to follow, peach pie photos!