Thursday, July 26, 2007


Jay and I have just been to the North Fork of Long Island tasting wine and I have fallen in love with the area. It reminds me of what summer felt like when I was a little girl. When we were at Bedell Cellars I asked John Levenberg, the winemaker, about local restaurants. He mentioned a few that he loves but said we should definitely not miss coffee at Aldo’s. On our way back to the ferry we stopped there.

Aldo’s reminds me of an old Italian coffee shop frequented by hippies in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco. Aldo, an eccentric character with a huge afro of white hair, was behind the counter manning the espresso machine. I ordered a cappuccino and Jay ordered a mocha. A mocha? Jay says he likes the caffeine buzz but the acid is hard on his stomach so the chocolate kind of smoothes things out. At least he didn’t ask for a frappe and get us thrown out.

My cappuccino came in a classic brown cup and saucer, not a paper cup, with just the right proportion of coffee to milk unlike most coffee bars where they load you up with too much milk. The coffee was strong and the cappuccino was the perfect temperature. I have to say this was the best cappuccino I’ve had in a long, long time. Jay’s mocha, which he found excellent, was made with real chocolate melted in the steamer attachment of Aldo’s machine.

I wanted to blog about this place because I’m still thinking about that cappuccino a day later and wish I could have another. If you find yourself in Greenport, Long Island you must stop by. I can’t wait to get back there to have another cappuccino and visit some of the local restaurants.

103-105 Front street
Greenport, LI

Sunday, July 22, 2007


I recently found myself in New York on a Sunday. I didn’t plan it that way, but that’s how it played out. So, being jet-lagged and facing an empty fridge, I decided to go out for… BRUNCH, a word and concept I despise. Here’s what I have against the b thing: it’s almost impossible to find a wine that matches well with eggs or French toast. I don’t drink bloody marys or mimosas, and though I like margaritas, they seem a bit much at midday. A major meal without a compatible wine is not much to look forward to in my book, but what, given this unpromising Sunday, was the alternative?

I do look forward to Cookshop, one of the two best things to happen to my Chelsea neighborhood in years, so that’s where I decided to go. The other great new thing is the Frank Gehry IAC building which makes me happy every time I look at it.

Anyway, on to Cookshop which is as close as we New Yorkers can get to Zuni, one of my favorite places in San Francisco. Cookshop makes their own great versions of all the classics. I ordered the huevos rancheros along with a glass of chinon rose. The wine was great and went horribly with the huevos, naturally. But let’s concentrate on the good part: The huevos rancheros were made with calypso beans, a nice touch. So, instead of mushy refried beans which I don’t like, I got whole cooked beans layered with eggs, bacon, Monterey jack cheese, a lime crème fraiche, red onion-jalapeno salsa, and grilled corn tortilla. This was really satisfying and not too heavy. My friend had the sunny side skillet eggs with Berkshire slab bacon and semolina raisin bread. You could tell the eggs were not from commercially raised chickens because the yolks were a deep, satisfying orange in color. I don’t eat doughnuts or beignets but when I saw someone eating buttermilk beignets with an orange-rhubarb compote, my mouth began to water. There are some other great brunch specials here too: a grass-fed burger with Vermont cheddar, twice smoked bacon, pickled red onion, chipotle ketchup, and fries; and buttermilk fried baby chicken with mixed greens, shaved radishes, green olives with a zinfandel vinaigrette. Oh, and they also have some intriguing drinks like the morning mojito, an elderflower cocktail, and a verbena Collins.

I love the way Cookshop gets better with each passing month. You can always count on amazing ingredients--organic, sustainable, seasonal. The wine list is amazing too, and the staff is friendly. Best of all if you sit outside, it’s a perfect place to bring your dog. When I sit down with my Jack Russell, Bessie, the waitress greets her by name and brings her a bowl of water. If you don’t like dogs, don’t worry, the place is big enough that you don’t have to sit near one. On your way out you can look up and see the Gehry building which makes a perfect conclusion to the meal.

156 10th avenue

The best of the summer

More often than not, it’s an ingredient that inspires me to cook rather than a recipe. Such was the case this 4th of July. I spent my fourth with friends in Northern California. One of the guests who came to our lunch brought white peaches from her farm. Her white peaches are legendary in Healdsburg where she and her family have an amazing farm and grow Muscat grapes to make a Beaume de Venise wine among many other things. She picked the peaches that morning and they were perfectly ripe.

The minute I saw the basket I was inspired to make one of my favorite summer desserts a peach galette. A galette is basically an open-faced fruit tart. It is the perfect vehicle for summer’s fruit. It’s not that I don’t like a pie, but I prefer a galette because of the balance of fruit to crust, it’s more equal and shows off the fruit more. I also like that you can roll out the dough and make it any shape you want, the more irregular the better, round, oblong, it doesn’t matter.

I used the Chez Panisse Fruit Cookbook recipe for the rhubarb tart and substituted with the peaches. There is nothing like a perfectly ripe peach and these were the best I’ve ever tasted. They were so easy to peel, the skin just came off, I didn’t need to blanch them to take the skin off. A secret tip, make the dough a day or so if you can because I find that it is lighter, flakier and tastes better.

I called on all my friends who were around and organized a dinner party basically for the galettes. The local grocery store had local halibut that the fisherman caught that morning so I decided to make fish tacos, my next best favorite thing to cook in the summer. I make them Baja style which means you make a mayonnaise which you put on the fish and serve them topped with chopped cabbage, cucumbers, radishes, avocados and cilantro.

The tacos were a huge hit and now it was time for dessert. I wanted to warm the galettes slightly and one of guests at dinner was Alice whose cookbook I used for the galette. She told me she likes to put the galette underneath the broiler for a minute or two so she took charge. It was actually another great tip I learned and will do from now on. It gave the crust a nice glaze and color and crisped it up. We served the galette with a scoop of Strauss Family Dairy’s vanilla ice cream which was insane. Needless to say everyone loved it and had seconds some would have had thirds if there was any leftover.

All I can say is the summer is not over and I will be making this dessert all summer long using what ever delicious fruit I can get my hands on wherever I am. If you don’t have access to delicious peaches or nectarines I suggest ordering from Frog Hollow Farms who ship right to your door.

Frog Hollow Farms

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Barcelona, La Boqueria

When I arrived in Barcelona at 7:30 in the morning my friend Armand told me that I could not go to the hotel and sleep for a few hours because I had to go to La Boqueria, a wonderful indoor/outdoor food market. Being a diligent food editor, I obeyed. He said that the market was at its best early Saturday morning and that we would start with breakfast at Pinotxo.

We arrived at the Pinotxo Bar and he immediately ordered a café con leche along with a chucho or in Catalan a xuxo from the wonderful character who runs the bar. Chucho is a deep fried pastry that when made properly is about the most decadent way to start the day. As we waited in front of the bar I noticed someone eating a plate of sausage with white beans. What the hell, I thought, let’s have that too. Armand said that coffee probably wouldn’t go well with the sausage and beens and suggested having a beer. I was all for it, and let me tell you, a beer is a great way to start the day if you’ve had no sleep.

The sausage was amazing--not fatty at all and not overly spicy. Just succulent sweet pork. The white beans were unbelievable--tender, cooked perfectly, and topped with a little parsley and garlic drizzled with olive oil. Armand also ordered Cigrons del Pinotxo or Pinotxo’s chickpeas, a secret recipe of chickpeas with blood sausage. Crazy delicious! Again, cooked perfectly, the blood sausage adding a wonderful allspice kind of flavor with onions, pignoli and some fresh herbs.

Now for the chucho. Fried and filled with a sort of farmer’s cheese, it was great. I’m not a fried doughnut person but I must say this melted in your mouth at first bite. The dough was light as air and the cheese filling was not too sweet and went perfectly with the warm dough.

The market was indeed bustling and a visual treat on every level. Stalls with hanging Pata Negra hams, marble slabs stacked with dried salt cod, pyramids of figs, fish mongers selling every kind of crustacean imaginable and wonderful tapas bars filled with people eating and drinking. This was truly a great way to start the day and begin my week in Barcelona.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Barcelona, Villa Viniteca

Anyone who knows me knows that I am completely obsessed with bellotta, the superb Spanish ham also known as Pata Negra. On my recent trip to Barcelona I set out to discover which variety of bellota was the best, something that occupied so much of my attention that my traveling companions began referring to me as Our Lady of the Bellota or Santa Maria del Bellota.

While scouting a wine store I noticed a high end food shop across the street with the same name. They were indeed related and as soon as I walked in, I saw some fine looking hams hanging there and a few inviting tables at the back. We discovered that they had a limited sampling menu of ham and cheeses, but I had no idea what I was actually in for until we sat down and wine was poured and some deliciously thick sliced bread rubbed with tomato and olive oil was laid before us. The tomato did not make the bread soggy and when I asked about what sort of tomatoes they used, they told me the tomato is called tomaquet de sucar, a special variety that is hung up for a few days before being smeared on bread. This is a Catalan specialty but it is better here than anywhere else we had it, maybe because it comes from a great little bakery across the street.

The wine was a red, 2003 Pittacun from the producer Biezro. It was made with a grape I never heard of, Mercia and it was fabulous, a little like a zinfandel but lighter; it was only 10 euros a bottle. Unbelievable.

Next came the bellotta. I asked for the best and they brought Joselito gran riserva. It was truly the best I’ve had-- rich and moist and sliced thicker than is customary. As I was enjoying it my friend Armand told me that bellota is actually good for you. Think of it as an olive tree with legs, he said. He was referring to the all acorn diet of the pata negra pigs that graze in the open and must each have 1000 square meters of land to themselves. I didn’t care if it was healthy or not, it was delicious. Next came trays of salami. At this point I was so excited I could barely contain myself. This is my favorite way to eat. I had a salami made from pata negra, one of the best salamis I’ve ever had. Another one that was stronger and also great was called lomo and is made from the loin of the bellota. There was also a moist, rich chorizo, a classic from this region.

This is the place to go if you want to experience the best hams and salami of Spain and drink some of the best Spanish wines. They also have a superb selection of cheeses, many of them local so you won’t find them elsewhere. Also, if you see something in the wine store that intrigues you, you can bring it to the food shop and they will pour it for you. Anything you want to buy and take with you is available and they have a machine to vacuum seal your meats. This was the best find of my trip and it will be definitely one of my stations of the cross next time I am there.

Vila Viniteca
Agullers 9
08003 Barcelona