Oddities and Obsessions

chef jeff blandIn celebration of National Tartan Day (yep, there is such a thing), we are sharing an amazing recipe by Scottish Chef Jeff Bland to help capture the spirit and character of Scottish Americans and recognize their many contributions to our culture and our way of life. Personally we with we were in Scotland eating this at his Michelin-starred restaurant, but this should be the next best thing.


Loin of Perthshire Venison with Wild Mushrooms, Creamed Potatoes and Chestnuts.

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ImageMy favorite sandwich as a child was a Grilled Cheese. It still is today. I'm continually amazed at how something so basic – bread and cheese – becomes something so sublime. I think I could eat one everyday and never get tired of it. Especially considering all the bread and cheese choices out there. It boggles the mind and whets my appetite. Want something more substantial add a little ham to it. Now, it's a real meal and even more delightful.

Until two years ago, I never imagined this classic pairing could be improved upon.  And certainly not with something so ordinary as an egg. Sometimes food takes you by surprise, though I find this happening less and less as I get older. I was wary of ordering my favorite sandwich, with a fried egg on top– a concoction that was called a Croque Madame – but I was trying to branch out and it was my birthday, so I figured what the hell.

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twinkies.jpghallie ephronImagine life without Twinkies? A year ago Hostess Brands went into bankruptcy. This week, in the wake of a labor strike, it sounds as if they may be winding down operations permanently.

I've never been a Twinkies fan, but I love the word. Just for example, from a Seinfeld show, Jerry describes Newman: "He's a mystery wrapped in a Twinkie." It doesn't even have to make sense to be funny.

And in Blue Man Group, the blue men watch intently as a volunteer from the audience tries to eat a Twinkie with a knife and fork. Do not ask me why this is hilarious. It just is.

And even though I may have eaten four of them in my entire life, just say the word and I can smell those sugary vapors that escape when you tear open the package. I remember what it's like to bite the yellow sponge-rubbery cushions of cake and into white filling with the resistance of shaving cream. I can feel the oleaginous residue left (for hours) on the roof of the mouth.

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tooth.jpgOn the way back to the car after some lunchtime phở, we stepped into a bird store to say a quick what’s up to the caged canaries and parrots. In the middle of the store, I sneezed and my temporary front tooth flew onto the floor. I picked up the tooth, shrugged at the puzzled proprietors and parrots, and drove to my dentist to have it reattached.

The dentist said this might happen. Cautioned me not to eat anything sticky or chewy. I gazed longingly at caramel apples at Farmer’s Market last week, and had to eat my grilled cheese from Phil’s with a fork and knife. That’s the result of deciding to replace my cracked front tooth with a porcelain crown, and having this temporary plastic piece stand in while the crown’s manufactured. It’s no fun.

I’m used to eating anything I want. Cutlery is never a concern. And now, for three weeks, I’m relegated to eating only that which can be cut into small pieces. I feel like a toddler getting his pizza slice diced into manageable bites. Child’s play.

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miracle-berry-fruit.jpgLast summer, New York City rooftops teemed with people sucking on lemons and downing shots of vinegar. For about a month, in its characteristic tendency towards cult like obsession, everyone was talking about the magic berries that made all things acidic and sour taste sweet, and about the ‘flavortripping’ parties where people experimented with them. I, however, was in East Africa all summer on a strict diet of rice and beans sans utensils, and I missed the craze.

Somehow, it seems like Angelinos never got the Magic Berry memo. I was thrilled to find that upon my West Coast relocation I was in the company of people who had not yet ‘flavortripped’. When I learned that a friend of mine had twenty berries chilling in his freezer just WAITING for a throng of curious flavortrippers, I begged to be included. Last Sunday it finally happened. With a tub of olives from the Whole Foods olive bar, I walked into a room of energized people and bowls of lemons, grapefruit, limes, tomatoes, carrots, bok choy, cheeses, jalapeños, radish, and asparagus.  The liquids selection was even more obscure, with red and white wines, tequilas, vinegars, hot sauces, and beer.

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