Thursday, November 29, 2007

Thanksgiving Postpartum and its Amazing Cure

Thanksgiving 2007 was a hit. After days and days of planning and prep the food came out without any hitches and Abraham and I not only managed to feed close to thirty people, we successfully over- fed them.
The space was just amazing, and Margeaux's handsome looking piñata had a political slant that help people let loose with out guilt.

Guests helped out in the kitchen,
they talked,
they ate and they sang, and even made out. But most importantly they danced.

What am I talking about, you ask. You see every year, after planning, prepping, and putting out dinner, my spirits swell, and then almost immediately shrink as I come to terms with the fact that one more Thanksgiving day celebration has passed me by (much of my time spent in the kitchen and not with my guests). As I look around the room at everyone drunk, merry, and fat, I always wonder, is it worth it? It is always the dancing footage that answers that question, Yes! It is worth it when you have a slew of friends that are willing to humiliate themselves in front of a camera in order to show their love, appreciation, or in order to demonstrate their uninhibited nature and swanky dance moves. Regardless of their motives it is the process of going over this footage in the days following Thanksgiving that helps pull me out of my postpartum lull. And so without further ado I present to you my number one reason for being Thankful,

Monday, November 19, 2007

An Impossible Decision

For those of us who work in the restaurant business, the week before Thanksgiving can be awfully bleak. While may people are fasting in preparations for massive amounts of gorging, others are drowning there sorrows over having to go home to deal with their dysfunctional families. Then there are the ones who are entirely consumed with planning, ah um! Either way none of them are thinking very much about splurging on extravagant dinners out and that is why my fellow employees and I got to playing a little game to pass the time.

It was slow and the night that dragged on in such a way that it actually seemed as though the clock was moving backwards, that was, until Guy, the restaurant host, asked the question that would torment me for the rest of the evening. "If you could only have two seasonings for the rest of your life, which two would you choose?" It seemed a simple question, and at first many of my favorite seasonings came easily to mind: Cardamom, Cinnamon, Vanilla, etc. It goes with out saying that one of the two would have to be salt, where would we be without salt for heavens sake..."don't forget that onions and garlic fall into the category of seasoning," Guy said interrupting my train of thought. Instantly my blood ran cold. "You mean I have to choose between onions and garlic?" I called out in dismay, "But, How? It's so cruel." Guy smirked, "Yeah I know, its like Sofie's Choice..." It was a disturbing analogy, and though it was not altogether appropriate (choosing hypothetically between onions and garlic can hardly be compared to choosing between ones children), it was, none the less, a horrific choice to consider making. After many a hour of internal bickering and torment I came to my decision, "Salt and onions" I boldly announced. "Are you sure?" Guy asked sniffing out my feigned confidence. " No, okay! I'm not sure... salt and garlic then.... no... oh never mind."
I never did choose between the two, and every day since I thank God or whoever that I haven't had to make the tough decision between these two 'unbearable options ".

On The Subject of Swine

Saturday morning Abraham and I found ourselves frying up nearly two pounds of bacon. Why we were tackling such a large sum of bacon for the moment must remain a secret . What I can tell you is that after about ten minutes of frying, the wafting smell of smoky pork fat drew my roommate from the comforts of her bad and deposited her on a chair in the kitchen where, like a cat, she waited patiently for us to throw her a scrap. In the meantime, Abraham and I learned a great many things about her own theories on Pork. After I laid down a large brick of hickory smoked bacon on the counter before her, she told me that, "You can tell by looking at that slab of bacon that was a very happy pig." She said this with great certainty and I gazed down at the alternating ripples of meat and fat and wondered what made her so sure. Regardless, it was a comforting idea and make my bacon frying all the more merrier.
Eventually my roommate's diligence paid off when we came across a slice of bacon too thick for our secret bacon project.
As she examined the hunk of meat she enlightened us further on the subject of swine, " You know that pigs are incredibly inelegant animals." Now I'm not trying to say that my roommate is not a morally conscious person however, a speech on animal rights seemed way out of character and I could not help wonder where the discussion was headed. "Its true" she said obviously sensing my hesitation. "They are smarter than dogs," she continued " and that means that when you consume pork you imbibe a sum of that inelegance." Wow! This Saturday morning bacon fry turned out to be way much more illuminating than I anticipated and after putting away three slices of bacon I must say I do feel a little bit more clever.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Thanksgiving Evolved

With friends visiting every week for out of town my life has been one grand carnival of eating out and partying late into the night. Needles to say, I have had precious little time to spend in my tiny yet beloved kitchen and when yesterday I began the process of making chicken stock in preparation for Thanksgiving I felt like I had been reunited with an old childhood friend- a friend with whom I will be spending plenty of time with over the next week.

Thanksgiving has always been something of a challenge, yet this year that challenge has evolved into something even greater. This year Charlotta, the owner of Chez Oskar and Chez Lola has agreed to let us have our annual shindig at Lola. There is a plus and minus side to this arrangement. The plus side being that I will be able to cook in a properly equipt kitchen and that Charlotta's guests will add some spice to the already peppery guest list. The minus side is that the guest list is much larger than years previous and still has the capacity to grow. Also, there happens to be three Restaurant owners on the list, two of whom have never celebrated this hedonistic American holiday. Does this make me nervous? Lets just say I have given up coffee this week for the benefit of my roommates and boyfriend. Mostly I am excited to see the evolution of Thanksgiving in action. We have come a fare way from the original Thanksgiving - a dinner party of six thrown in 1998.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Beloved Side Dish Redux

The days before Thanksgiving are grow fewer and fewer, and the number of guests rises and falls, as does my confidence. Not only is this holiday a heap of work the day of, but the entire week leading up to the festivities is crammed with back-breaking preparations: grocery shopping, decorations, soups need to be made, sauces concocted… Another thing to consider is time, not only is it a lot of work, but its an outrageous amount of hours, hours that I simply don’t have!*!@?!

You see, what these ‘festivities’ do to me? In order to alleviate some of the Thanksgiving stress I decided something had to be done! I reviewed the menu and came to the conclusion that I must scale down on some of the higher maintenance side dishes. Number one on the list, Brussels sprouts sautéed in a port Dijon reduction and garnished with rustic shards of Parmesan. They are a beloved dish and have been a Thanksgiving staple for years, but replacing them with a simpler dish would lighten my load and also free up valuable space on the stove top. Most everyone took the news well, all except for Aaron that is.

Aaron has been one of my oldest Thanksgiving devotees; he is also one of my favorite people to cook for on account of his spirited responses to each and every bite he takes. “Diggidy-Dog!he says shaking his head after a mouthful of soup. After a nibble of salad, he jumps from his seat gyrating and shrieking Eurika! like an epileptic Elvis. It would be inpossible for me to describe how he responds to freshly baked biscuits, or Turkey and Gravy. Lets just say that foods of all sorts have a profound impact on Aaron, but it is the Brussel sprout that that has inspired the most heartfelt response.

Many Thanksgivings ago, when I first mentioned to Aaron that I was thinking about making sprouts he was more than a little skeptical. You see Brussels sprouts have never been his favorite vegetable. In fact, I’d go as fare as saying that during his childhood, he had a damaging encounter with the unsuspecting sprout and was now, years later, still experiencing post-traumatic stress. Aaron has an adventurous spirit however, and is a good sport, “I’ll give them a try,” he told me as if he had agreed to eat an insect.

It is Aaron’s original response to this innocent side dish that makes his later response so astonishing. After his first bite, he became quite, tilted his head down as if in prayer, and sat that way for almost a minute. Then, out of nowhere, possessed by some external force - good or evil it was hard to decipher - he popped out of his seat and began to twist around as if experiencing both pleasure and pain. Everyone at the table sat quietly half expecting a miniature alien to burst from his stomach and dance across the table but no such entertainment was on the agenda. When he had completed the unscheduled performance, he sat back down and continued eating, hepping and hollering with every spoonful.

At first I was surprised with how well Aaron coped with the elimination of the notorious sprouts, “I understand,” he told me, “but only because I know you’re going to make them.” The certainty in his voice was chilling. “ They‘re just too much work, I don’t have the time,” I reiterated. But, with a sparkle in his eye, and with the grin of a car salesman, he grabbed my hand gently and in a comforting tone repeated, “ I get it, I do.” He took a deep breath, “But I know you're going to make them.” His certainty must have been less creepy this time because I instantly began reviewing the menu in my head one more time, trying as hard as I could to figure out how I could squeeze in the adored sprouts.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Rules of Das Boot

With my friend Kadie visiting from LA, I have been burning the candle at both ends trying to show her a good time while she is here - and selfishly aiming to convince her to move back to Brooklyn. There has been plenty of food, some good music, shopping, and a profuse amount of drinking. We have had Micheladas, tequila, and Tacos at Bonita in Fort Green, sampled various sangrias while listening to an incredible Puerto Rican Folk Jam session at Camaradas El Barrio in East Harlem, and have knocked back beers in many a New York Bar. But one of the highlights was German food and drink at Heidelberg Restaurant, introduced to us by Andrew.
Here is Andrew posing with Kadie,
The beer was good and the smoked Bratwurst was clearly the winner of the evening. The only thing that was missing was a list of house rules regarding Das Boot, an 80oz. glass boot of beer. Here are the list of rules Kadie and I came up with based on our experience with Das Boot.

Rules of Das Boot

1. When receiving Das Boot, please pay proper reverence.
2. Never lick Das Boot.
3. Always, and I mean always, hold on to Das Boot.
4. When drinking Das Boot, please remember to maintain proper, official, established, orthodox, and acceptable table manners.
5. Again, don't forget to hold on to Das Boot.
6. When you are finished with Das Boot please abstain from further drinking.
7. Never mix Das Boot.
( Thanks Abraham for giving us the example of what not to do when drinking Das Boot.)

Today is Kadie's last day here, and though I am very sad she has not decided to move back to New York, I am looking forward to a rest from all the partying. Adios Kadie, que nos vemos muy pronto!