Tiny Finds

April 22, 2014

Yes, the food in San Francisco is good. There are some excellent spots with truly delicious things to eat. Yet, there are a lot of things about New York restaurants that I miss–namely tiny little spots that are perfect for a Wednesday night dinner. We had our favorites–Mercadito, Westville, John’s of 12th Street, Snack Taverna, Bar Pitti– places that got crowded, but you could always almost get in without waiting for a table and have a really good meal that wasn’t too expensive. They are restaurants that aren’t buzzy anymore, there was no thing about them, they were just good, and in little ways, the same way that everyone has their own personal New York, they were ours. Here, it feels like all of the places that we like–Frances, Flour + Water, of course Delfina, Bar Jules, Domo– are all the places that everyone else likes, too. And some are huge, like Nopa, and they don’t have that quick, mid-week dinner vibe. Maybe we just haven’t been here long enough to find them. (Also, why is there no San Francisco Westville? It’s sad, and should be remedied).

All of this is to explain why I was so excited to find Pizzetta 211. Someone had recommended it to me months ago, and it took being in the Richmond around dinner time, and not in the mood for Pho or dumplings to land there, and I’m so glad that we did.

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It’s just a few tables, maybe six two tops, and a few seats at the counter, which divides the small kitchen (really a metro rack, a few pizza ovens and one work space where the pizzas were assembled) from the dining room. The pizza was great (mine was a chewy crust bursting with Spring– asparagus, mint, peas, arugula, and an assertive drizzle of Calabrian chili oil), and more than anything it felt like those small spots in New York that we left behind. It was tiny, there was no thing, there was no wait, the whole thing took forty-five minutes and less than $40 and it was perfect. Oh, and there was some style there, too, a nice aesthetic going on, but that’s a subject for a different post.

Side Note: Speaking of little perfect gems, today seems to be the day that everyone’s talking about Buvette–an amazing little spot in the West Village. Read about it here, and here, and here. If someone wanted to send me Jody Williams new book, I wouldn’t be sad about it.

Hot in the Kitchen

July 8, 2013

Where have I been for the last seven months? It’s okay for you to ask. My husband does, along with some friends and many members of my family. I’ve been working the line at Delfina. I was ready to let go of this blog to eventually start another, refocused one, and so I haven’t even really looked at in months, until just now when I glanced back to look something up and realized that the last time I wrote was just before I started working on the line. Feels like I should fill you in.

So where have I been? Busy, and hot, and learning, and stressed, and on the clock, and sublimely happy. I spent the last seven months working from 1.30pm to about midnight, sometimes later, trying to see Scott, keep in touch with people and slowly nurture friendships that barely started forming in the short time between arriving in California and what I think I’ll call the Delfina time warp. After starting as an intern at the end of August, I moved from the safety of relatively pressure-free prepping to working the guarde-manger station at the end of November. A while later I moved from making cold appetizers and plating desserts to the wood-burning oven station (hot first courses, some sides and an entree), and then to the grill (which is also kind of the saute station at other restaurants). Every day has its arc. I’ve always loved restaurants before they open, where there’s a certain kind of quiet, and also the energy of getting ready, of possibility. Each day at Delfina starts much earlier than when the cooks get there (more on that later), and picks up speed after lunch when we all arrive. Chef coat on, apron, knives, spoons, and spatulas gathered. Spaces are cleared, ingredients are procured, menus are doled out and prep lists are penned down on scraps of paper from the ticket machine. Then it’s a race to 4.45pm. In that time so many things are chopped, blanched, roasted, emulsified, gathered. Everything is put into order, a grid of delicious things that could become salmon with summer succotash and basil aioli, or fried, stuffed squash blossoms,  clams al forno with tomato sauce, or the best spaghetti you’ve ever tasted. At 4.45pm we take a break (hopefully), take a deep breath, eat some food, get ready for dinner service. We come back, put up dishes for line up to make sure they’re spot on, and then, very often it feels like all of a sudden, guests are in the dining room, menus are open in front of them, and just after, tickets start buzzing through the machine and it’s (usually) constant movement and plating and cooking and spooning and saucing until the last guest has ordered the last thing they’re going to eat.

Sometimes it’s stressful. It’s almost always fun. Usually, by the end of each night you feel like you’ve been through something. Everything that was prepped out in the afternoon gets quarted up, turned off, taken apart, put back. It all gets scrubbed down with hot soapy water. As if it never happened, all to happen again the next day.

There’s the staff drink, sipped during break down, then the late night trip home (for many of the cooks there’s the transition to the bar). There’s the shower before bed, that to me often feels like the shower at the end of a day of moving, washing off something physical and consuming. I’m not sure what I expected, but I’ve definitely been consumed.

So why am I surfacing all of a sudden? I just started working with our insanely talented pastry chef. It’s challenging as well, but totally different, and the arc of the day goes from 7am to about 4pm. It means that I get to learn an entirely new skill set and get to have dinner with my husband. I don’t know how long it’s going to last (I’ll go back on the line eventually, splitting my time between the two), so in the meantime I’m savoring what feels like new found balance. And so here I am, that’s where I’ve been.

California

July 22, 2010

I was in California for the last week, mostly in Los Angeles visiting Marshall and then in San Francisco for the weekend visiting Lindsay. LA is always fun–laid back with good food, a lot of time outdoors hiking and running in Griffith Park. I got to see Marshall and Heather’s house for the first time. It was formerly owned by one of the members of the band 311 and they definitely had some whacky decor choices. I wish I had taken more pictures–for example–of the Little Mermaid Bathroom. A few steps down, every surface is covered in blue and turquoise glass tiles. Marshall and Heather have done an amazing job making it theirs, with a screening room, a bright kitchen, and a peaceful pool in the back.

We started off with a hike, and then later than night went to the Barnsdall Art Center for their weekly wine tasting. Marshall is now the co-president of Barnsdall, and he and his friend Avidan started and run the wine tastings. It was packed with families, all of whom brought elaborate picnics. The setting is beautiful and as we launch into wedding planning, I wish that there was someplace like that right in the middle of Manhattan.

If Cookie still existed and I still worked there, I would definitely include Barnsdall. It’s also such a nice community event. So much LA schmoozing. They also attract food carts–a great Vietnamese one and also Lets Be Frank, Alice Waters’ fearless hotdog truck.

Saturday morning I jetted to San Francisco to help Lindsay move. It’s been five years since I was there, and it was nice to be back and jog my memory again. I really feel like I should live there at some point in my life. Saturday night we hung out on the patio of Lindsay’s old apartment and then Sunday we got up and went for a run along the marina, to the farmer’s market for some breakfast, and then drove to Napa. We visited a few vineyards, and aside from being incredibly convenient and easy to get to, it was stunning. Breathtakingly gorgeous.

I already can’t wait to go back, ideally with a bicycle. The wine was great, too. Monday I went back to LA where Marshall picked me up and we went to a heavily Hispanic area where the tacos were UNBEATABLE. The salsas, red and green both, were perfectly fresh and spicy, the tortilla chips were just fried, the cojita cheese was salty. Everything about it was heavenly. It’s one thing we definitely don’t have here in New York.

To continue with the eating (there was running and insanely hard pilates in the middle) we had dinner on Tuesday night at a new restaurant owned by Ilan Hall (of Top Chef fame) called The Gorbals. The menu featured bacon-wrapped matzoh balls (as Marshall said and Scott added on “Bubbe’s Bacon Nightmare: A Hipster’s Revenge”). The food was mostly really good and the restaurant itself was in this whacky hotel/ballroom/apartment building/movie set hybrid space that was a little bit grand and a little bit rundown. On the way to the men’s room, Marshall discovered this television set. Creepy, no?

We rounded out our last day with a drive to Venice, a walk along Abbott Kinney, a stroll along the canals and a final stop at Watts Towers. Our detour almost made me miss my flight, but it was worth it.

Now, after a layover in Vegas and a pretty uneventful, if rather sleepless redeye back to New York, I’m home.

Brooklyn Flea

June 19, 2010

Scott and I had a really great Saturday. It’s the first time we’ve been in New York for a weekend in a long time and it was nice to be here, to be in our apartment, in this new neighborhood. I went for a run and while dodging strollers was pretty proud to live in a place that has so many cool restaurants I want to explore. It was a gorgeous, breezy, sunny day and it was just awesome to be outside.

We walked to the Brooklyn Flea Market in Fort Greene next. It’s half artisanal food–cheese, tacos, pastries, pork, bagels with lox. There was an article written about people who make treats for the flea markets out of their homes. I was impressed, and wished I could eat a little more than the hibiscus iced tea. The other half is jewelry, tee shirts, antiques, some junk, but mostly really cool stuff, well curated. Then the walk home, and a stop at the Cadman Plaza farmer’s market for more delicious, cheap blueberries and now out to dinner with Andrew and Amy.  Oh, and our apartment is now free of any stray boxes full of stuff.  Wahoo!

Musical Farming

June 18, 2010

Things have been quiet around here, hence the lack of posting. We’ve just been doing our thing, hanging out, watching the World Cup. I’ve been working on my profile of Vik Muniz, and am newly inspired by this week’s New Yorker issue on 20 writers under 40 to get writing.  At least I still have 12 (and a bit ) years to make it.

I did see the musical Hair with my mom on Wednesday night. I hadn’t seen any version of it since I was a little kid, and I don’t think I got all of it now. It’s interesting to see it forty years after it opened.  They address race, gender, and war/politics in important ways that I think people can’t anymore.  Everyone’s supposed to be past everything now, all of these things non-issues (maybe not the war part), but I think it would still be useful to include these things more often. The cast was extremely talented, with great voices and an amazing amount of energy. They all got naked at one point, which was also kind of interesting, and at the end they invited the whole audience up onto the stage and everyone danced together, letting the sun shine in…

I also would like to mention how smitten I am with the Borough Hall farmer’s market. I’m just getting used the fact that it’s going to be there every Tuesday and Thursday and I don’t have to rush to buy more arugula and blueberries than we’re ever going to eat.  It’s pretty awesome.

Tables and Eggs

June 7, 2010

I have no intention of turning this into a food blog, but I just made a lunch–baked eggs in tomato sauce and broccolini– that I would have paid eighteen dollars for at a restaurant. It was delicious, and made even better by the fact that our table just arrived, so I could sit and eat at a real table, with a placemat (thanks mom!) and a napkin and enjoy my meal.

Peanut Sauce

May 24, 2010

I’m still self-conscious about writing about food, but I have to talk about this peanut sauce.  Jenny, who used to be an editor at Cookie, and before that, Real Simple started a blog called Dinner: A Love Story. She writes it with her husband, who’s an editor at GQ, and they are a wonderful, smart, funny, cool family.

I made the peanut sauce on Saturday, when we had gone out to dinner too many nights in a row.  It came together in a couple of minutes (we happen to have everything that goes in there) and I spooned it over slightly wilted bok choi (which we had) and grilled tofu (which we also had– I bought it optimistically when we moved in since I’ve not really been eating meat.) It was delicious.  I just made pretty much the same dinner, sprinkling cilantro over the whole thing (since we had that in the fridge, too) and add some fresh cucumbers. So, so delicious.

I realize that I have been neglecting this blog.  For those of you who are still reading, I’ll keep writing. If there’s something you would like to see more of, let me know, or less of, let me know that, too.

Yesterday after catching up with Claire, then my dad, then my old boss, then my friend Suzie (it’s nice to have friends and other people in our lives), I went to a New York Historical Society lecture on how Greenwich Village came about, how it represented the art world and Bohemia in New York.  It was interesting to hear how the Sixth Avenue El train divided the tawdry, darker part of the city–with its own confusing grid–from the upscale Washington Square Park. About an hour ago I walked around that area with a slightly different view. It sad that so many of the beautiful buildings have been torn down.

As I was walking down said Sixth Avenue, a little higher up, in the low 20s, I walked past the old Limelight Club, which is now a super high-end sort of mall, an even fancier, more expensive Chelsea Market with food stalls, perfume boutiques, a Grimaldi’s coming soon, Petrossian. It’s sort of disgusting, and also fascinating how a church could become an ecstasy riddled nightclub which is later transformed into an overly precious bazar for over-priced cheese, gelato, soaps and bed linens.

Last Post from Brazil

March 29, 2010

This is the last post from Brazil.  I can’t believe that it’s time for me to go.  I felt like we were going to be here for forever, and it was even more reinforced when Scott left two weeks ago and I was still here.  Now it’s really time for me to go, too.  I’m trying to console myself by just saying over and over again that it’s just for now.  It’s time to go back to New York and get more training, to learn, and work hard.  Brazil will always be a part of our lives, I’m sure of it.  Paulo and Edite and Karen, Andre, Mark and Gi, Elen, Ricardo and Alan, Marjory and Eduardo and Rafa and Izabella are close family now, and it’s so important to me to keep the relationship going.

Lindsay and I had a few perfect days in Rio–it was a strong ending. Yesterday we moved hotels to a place over in Ipanema, and then took the bonde up to Santa Teresa.  We had lunch in the cool shade of Aprazivel, and then walked through the Centro a bit.  We took the subway back to the new station at Praca General Osorio, which I can’t believe is actually done and open(!) and hung out for a bit.  We had dinner at Zuka last night, my favorite restaurant probably in all of Brazil and I got to have my favorite things there one last time.  This morning we got up and went for a run, then had an acai and walked through the feira at the western edge of Ipanema.  After a couple of hours on the beach I realized that I had to deal with paying our last phone bill and suspending our accounts with Claro.  Entirely in Portuguese I explained all of this–it was a seamless interaction.  After paying the bills at the bank, Lindsay and I grabbed Koni for lunch, had some Mil Frutas, and then I was on my way to Galeao.

My taxi driver couldn’t believe that one person could have such heavy bags (although I’m happy to report I’m going home in the same two bags that I arrived in, just more books, which made them heavier) and we had a nice conversation (in Portuguese) about how I was living here and this was all my stuff for a year.  She asked how I liked Brazil and we talked about how these days everyone eats and drinks and texts and talks on the phone when they’re driving and that it’s very dangerous.  It was nice to chat with her.

Now I’ve made it through the airport, where the American Airlines people spoke unaccented English, and through immigration, which I’ll write more about from New York (just in case), and sitting at my gate, ridiculously early, just in case anything went wrong and I had to visit the Federal Police.

Brazil, I will miss you, but I’ll be back.

Bichinho

March 2, 2010

We just got back to Tiradentes from Bichinho–a small artist community about seven kilometers down a bumpy, stone-paved road.  We had lunch at Tempero da Angela, a small restaurant that was mentioned in the New York Times article (and is subsequently full of gringoes).  We parked behind a few other rental cars and walked into the cement patio where there were tables with bright table cloths.  Inside the kitchen there was a big wood-burning stove with a platter of pork, chicken stew with okra, rice, beans, a corn pudding type thing, potatoes, couvee, a Brazilian kale-like vegetable, and aipim.  We walked in and grabbed plates off the hutch to the right and silverware from the drawers.  There was a big bowl of crispy pork-rinds (something I NEVER thought I would eat or like, but they were kind of amazing), and a cart with desserts–white Minas cheese and homemade dulce de leche and goiaba paste.  It was all delicious and about $7 per person.  Here’s Scott’s plate.  It turns out that Minas is a place for eating.

Afterwards, we poked in and out of the artist studios and looked at the incredible wooden furniture that’s all over this area.  They’re mostly big, rustic pieces in gorgeous woods, and we’ve been trying to figure out if it’s worth the expense of shipping something home.  It would help if we knew where we were living next and what kind of space we would have.

Last night Scott and I went to the most impossibly perfect restaurant for our final dinner in Jericoacoara.  Worn wooden tables were set up in the sand, and everything–the lanterns and napkin holders, were kitchy (in a good way) and homemade.  They had specials, but the real treat was eating protein straight off the brick grill, with it’s whisper of smoke snaking to the starry sky–a whole fish that walked by us on it’s way to the fire, and perfectly crispy ribs.  We had arroz feijao and vinaigrette and pure mashed pumpkin, bright orange and fluffy.  It was blissful eating such clean foods by candle light with our feet in the cool sand.

We (sadly) left Jericoacoara this morning and after a full day of traveling, we’re back in Salvador.  We were here together in August of 2008, it was the first place I ever went to in Brazil, but it seems so different now, informed by our experience.  This time, on a quiet Sunday night after the craziness of carnaval, it seemed like a strange blend of Disney World and dangerous.  I’m excited to walk around the Pelhourinho tomorrow to get a better feel all over again.  Tomorrow afternoon we head to Morro de Sao Paulo…

We’ve been talking with Edite about going to Bom Retiro for a few weeks now, and after a cafezinho with her in her lovely breakfast room, with the parrot chirping in the background, she, Scott, Karen and I went to the wholesale neighborhood.  Bom Retiro, which translates literally to ‘good retreat’ is right next to the Estacao Luz and Pinacoteca (both of which I’ve written about in other posts), and it used to be the Jewish neighborhood, full of textile and wholesale clothing shops, and has now turned over to Korean immigrants.  Having Edite and Karen as our guides was amazing, as Edite grew up there (we saw her childhood home) and her family has owned various shops there since she was a little girl.  She knew all the streets and all of the history.

Bom Retiro is still a center for making and selling clothes.  Some of the streets have the latest fashions–samples hanging in the front and stacks of items tucked into floor to ceiling cubby holes in the back.  Almost all of the places require that you buy at least twelve pieces.  Karen said that buyers from both the stores in the malls and all over the country come here to buy shirts, dresses, pants, bags, in bulk.  On other streets there are factories where the clothes are made, and there are several shops that sell all the components of clothes–fabric, zippers, lace trim, buttons.  It feels like a cross between the Garment District and the Lower East Side, where the Jewish neighborhood was given over to Asians and now to hipsters.  The Jews here moved to Higienopolis, just like the Jews in New York moved to the Upper East and West sides.

I heard the story of how Paulo and Edite met–Edite’s mother knew Paulo and Edite went to the Purim Ball at Hebraica to scope him out, then one of her friends started dating one of his friends, and she had another friend who lived in the same building as his family.  We saw where Paulo had his first architecture office. After wandering in and out of a few stores we went to a synagogue where Edite’s father was one of the benefactors and played an instrumental role in the building’s refurbishment in the 1970s.  It was beautiful inside–all dark wood and dreamy blue light.  Karen hadn’t been there for thirty years and she said it looked exactly the same as she remembered from being a child.

Upstairs in the women’s section, we also found where Edite’s mother still has a seat with her name on it. Flank was her maiden name before she became a Traiman.

After the stop at the synagogue we went to a kind of galleria where upstairs there was a small, totally nondescript stand that apparently sells the best falafel in Sao Paulo.  It was.  We got plates with crispy, lemony falafel, tomato, cucumber, and onion salad, some pickled cabbage and fresh pitas.

Full and satisfied we went next to Unibes, an amazing NGO and community center that started out as just a Jewish-based organization (União Brasileiro-Israelita do Bem-Estar Social), but has expanded to become an entire community improvement operation, offering a wide array of services.  We first met Ida and Henrique, who showed us around.  They took us to the pharmacy, where doctors offices all over the city donate hundreds or maybe thousands of free sample drugs to Unibes.  Volunteers sort them by brand, kind, and expiration dates, and the result is shelves upon shelves of medicine that will be distributed to anyone who comes in with a prescription.  If the organization doesn’t have the right thing, they will buy it for the patient.  About 120 people come in per day with prescriptions to be filled for free. From there we went to the Bazar, through the back where we could see boxes and bags of clothes waiting to be sorted.  The bazar looked like the Salvation Army at home, with a combination of new clothes donated by stores and used clothes donated by individuals.  We crossed the street and went to the center for the elderly.  A young woman in jeans and a tee shirt was leading about fifteen or twenty older people in arm exercises while they all sat in a circle.  We saw their herb and vegetable garden in the back, and learned that a gardener comes every Thursday.  Each day each there’s a different activity for the old people, idosos.

From the center for the elderly we stopped at the bazar for non-clothing items, where lines of refrigerators and stoves and washing machines, all used, gave way to a room full of stools, chairs, tables, paintings, luggage, toys.  We went then to the kindergarten, where two hundred children are supposed to come tomorrow for the first day of school.  They are there from 7.30am until 5pm when their parents come pick them up and the school provides them with breakfast, lunch and dinner.  It was an extremely happy place, with teachers cutting name tags out of construction paper, and a sparkling clean kitchen waiting to turn out hundreds of meals over the next year.  There was a playground in the back and classrooms upstairs with miniature desks and chairs, small toilets and knee-high sinks.  In another part of the city the center offers professional training classes, teaching adults how to work as maids and house cleaners, cooking, computer programing and web design, typing and financial skills.  I was totally, utterly impressed and hope to go back to volunteer.  While we were waiting by the front for a taxi, a group of mentally disabled elderly were leaving to go on an excursion to the mall.  At the front of the line, there was a tall, skinny man holding hands with a woman.  Those two, Ida said, are a couple.  Whenever there’s a party and people dance, she always stands next to him and keeps hold of his arm. Keep your hands off her man.

After a day of such exploration we spent the rest of the afternoon at Karen’s, hanging out at the pool and doing research for a possible trip to Jericoacoara.  Our relaxing afternoon was offset just the tiniest bit by getting ensnared in Sao Paulo’s terrible traffic on the way home, and Scott just made bacon (which we had from making bacon and chili pepper tomato sauce from scratch last night), and sweet potato fries fried crispy golden in the remaining fat for his dinner…and now fried ravioli.  Adventures in bacon fat frying on Rua Bandeira Paulista.  He said he can’t believe how easy it is to make food taste good if you can use bacon fat.

Also, VOTE FOR MENINA NA RIO TO WIN! Right now I’m in third…

Tapas!

January 31, 2010

We had a really special night last night. I don’t know if it was special for our hosts, our Argentinean friends who live across the street and invited us over for a night of tapas, but we had a blast.  (Thank you Carina and Lisandro!!).  With our own adjustments to Brazil, it was nice to hear about other people’s experience living internationally, their adventures in Lima, Peru, Columbus, OH, and now Sao Paulo–it was illuminating.  Their eleven-year-old son was extremely charming, and totally, impressively fluent in three languages.

Scott and I needed to get out of our heads a little bit, and it was just great to have smart conversation about books and movies and our favorite television shows, the differences between Stewart and Colbert and the benefits of the iPad, or the shortcomings (turns out not everyone is as crazy about it as I am).  Where to travel and why most furniture should be bought at Ikea (what are the chances you’re going to like what you buy for longer than a couple of years? as Lisandro said, unless it’s a really special, iconic piece of furniture.)

And the food.  From the sangria (white and then red) to the cheese and bread, all the way to the end it was delicious.  Carina and Lisandro had just come back from Rio where they ate at our favorite Tapas restaurant on Rua Dias Ferreira, Venga!, and tried to recreate some of their meal there.  They made delicious stuffed peppers, cheesy and bubbling in homemade tomato sauce, and then the octopus dish from Venga! that was tender and had crispy potatoes.  I’m so impressed that they tackled making octopus.  I forget exactly what they said about how to prepare it, but it was something like, “you have to beat it and scare it.”  You literally have to beat it against the ground and then dip the tips of the tentacles in the boiling water so the muscles relax.  Wild.  It was awesome.  We ended the meal close to 1.30am with more laughter and chocolate mouse with olive oil and flaky salt.  Heavenly.  Just perfect.

I only wish our apartment was bigger so we could repay the hospitality and invite them over here as well.

Latkes

January 25, 2010

When I was growing up, my grandmother, my dad’s mom, used to make latkes for every high holiday–Rosh Hashana, Passover, all of them.  They were delicious–crispy and greasy, and we used to go into the kitchen while they were cooking and say hi to Marva, who became the latke master.  Grandma had skillets that were older than I was for sure, black and seasoned, and I think they must have held a little bit of the oil each time.  Her latkes were the best.

My grandparents were also of a certain generation that didn’t open windows or doors.  Everything was always locked, latched, the curtains stayed closed.  While those latkes were frying in the kitchen with its linoleum floor and formica table and chairs that had been there since the 1950s when they moved into the house on Concord Avenue, the air filled with the smell of oil.  My mother used to make sure she didn’t wear her good suits there, and she would put on clothes that she didn’t mind smelling like fried for a few days.  The smell would cling to our hair.

Scott’s mom brought us boxes of latke mix when his family came in December (thank you!) and we made one box last week and then Scott made the other box today.  Our little studio apartment smells like my grandma’s house.  It’s kind of comforting, if a little greasy.

One Step at a Time

January 24, 2010

We just discovered these One Step at a Time cookbooks here at our local bookstores.  We’re pretty wary of buying anything these days, especially physical objects that we’ll have to take home with us when we go, but they were just so beautiful and practical.  I guess Amazon doesn’t let you look inside, but I’m pretty excited about them.

We also bought some super cool prints the other day at Choque Cultural, a tiny little gallery in Pinheiros.  We had tried to find it with Robby when we were here in September, but got there too late after it was closed.  I’m glad we made it and the three hipsters who worked there made me want to go friend shopping again the way that I had wanted to in Vila Madelena.

The Cool Hunter

January 16, 2010

I haven’t looked at this blog since I worked at Cookie, but I forgot how awesome The Cool Hunter is.  I was Googling a restaurant that Scott suggested for dinner (Kaa) and this came up.

We had sort of an up and down day.  My coffee date was great and I felt like there was some promise, some optimism.  I spent a huge part of the day researching online economics courses that I can take while I’m here to get ready for grad school, and then had a very disappointing, dehydrated run.  The saving grace?  Mark Bittman’s dal recipe from today’s New York Times. We just made it, and it was super easy, really cheap, and extremely delicious.  For me, it was a nostalgic experience, the aroma reminding me of my summer in Nepal, where we ate dal baht twice daily.  It tasted exactly right–complex, gingery, with some garlic and depth.  Scott said he had a party in his mouth.  It also made me realize how bland a lot of Brazilian food is (sorry Brazilians who read this).  They’re good at very salty and very sweet, but I hadn’t had these flavors in a long time.

Porcão

October 8, 2009

Scott, Robby and I went to Porcão last night for dinner.  Scott and Emily had thought about going last year, since it’s so famous, but when their cab pulled off the highway at the restaurant’s exit and the place was filled with tourists, they left.  In the few months that we’ve been here, we had been assured that it was amazing.  Brazilians vouched for it left and right.  We thought maybe it really was an experience not to be missed.

Nothing tasted bad, but it was awful–Scott and Emily were right the first time.  I never knew that such over the top gluttony could exist anywhere besides the United States.  It was a gigantic restaurant, packed with people with a wedding room and a kids playroom.  There was a huge buffet that looked like any kilo restaurant in town, ostrich meat sizzling by the door for a cooking demonstration, and waiters flying around with skewers of meats and eight inch knives.  The tourists in there were so clueless wandering back and forth to the buffet that it’s incredible more people haven’t gotten impaled.  There’s a fixed price per person, and they started bringing things to our table: rice, farofa, onion rings, french fries, cheese pastries, plus the whole buffet.  We had little cardboard rounds that looked like coasters. When it was flipped to the green side, it meant we wanted to be approached by the skewer guys for meat, flipped to red, we had had enough.  The dessert options were brought over as a tray of plastic models–glass dishes of plastic vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce, plastic mousse, plastic strawberries with cream.  As saturated fat clogged our arteries, we couldn’t get away fast enough.  In fact, I was in such a hurry that I ducked right in front of someone (maybe a tour guide?) giving a speech just as someone was taking a picture of him.  Oops.

São Paulo

October 6, 2009

After spending Friday afternoon at Copacabana, toes in the sand, watching the anticipation and then the revelry around us we had a Portuguese lesson, and then went out.  Thanks to Robby we discovered Casa Rosa, a sprawling villa in Larangeras that was a long-time brothel and is now a bar/club hybrid.  The huge patio was packed with college kids who constantly filled small cups with cold beers from the bar tender, like we were at a keg party.  The rooms branching off of the patio played different kinds of music with couples bouncing up and down and trancing out and sucking face (as Brazilian teenagers tend to do).  From there we jetted over to Lapa, which was more packed than we had ever seen it.  It seemed as if the whole city was out, whooping with joy.  After a late night stop at Carioca da Gema for a little samba we were Olympiced out.

Saturday morning we headed to São Paulo.  Scott and I have been bouncing around the idea of moving there (for job opportunities, a more cosmopolitan, culture-packed city) and we were excited to go explore it, walk its streets, and see if we could leave behind Rio’s beauty.  We wandered up Faria Lima and through Pinheiros with a sort of “are you my home?” attitude.  After parts that looked like the area around Penn Station with too many vendors and stores with bins of cheap clothes and sneakers, we found cute restaurants, a few cool galleries, an amazing looking cemetery and more music stores than I have ever seen.  We wandered past a Saturday flea market.  IMG_0191From there we went to Karen’s to say hello to the family.  Andre had gotten us tickets to the Corinthians game (thank you!), so the three of us headed with Andre, Mark, and a friend named Ricardo to Pacaembu stadium.  It was awesome, an amazing game with tons of energy.  The stadium was packed and fans in jerseys streamed toward the venue.  The bleachers were rowdy and catchy percussion chants echoed throughout.

From there we had a delicious picanha dinner with Andre and Karen, where marinated meat was brought with all of the sides to the table, along with a sizzling grill.  We followed dinner with a night out in Consolação.  Just on the other side of Avenida Paulista is a small, sloping neighborhood that’s supposed to be slightly dangerous.  It didn’t feel dangerous at all, and the club was totally outfitted with hipsters wearing skinny jeans and colorful sneakers.  A sea of plaid and retro glasses bobbed to popular music, and Scott and I were thrilled to take a break from samba and just hang out in a regular New York-style bar.  A few blocks away there were prostitutes hanging out on the corner, and a few more bars with throngs of people waiting outside.  It was a cool neighborhood with so much buzz on a Saturday night.

Sunday, Scott and I went for a run in Ibirapuera Park (totally packed) and tried to navigate the trails.  We had lunch at a great bistro in Jardims, and saw this plant covered house.  IMG_0193It’s hard to tell how cool it was in the picture.  The design was awesome, and just one of those things you don’t see everywhere.  We stopped in Livraria Cultura to see if the new Time Out guide for São Paulo was out yet, and then took the subway up to the Praça da Luz.  We stopped at the Memorial da Resistência, a well-designed museum that showed the anti-military movement that took place in Brazil in the 1980s.  We then went to the other Pinacoteca, where there was a Matisse exhibit on display.  There was also this exhibit with shallow pools of water with white bowls of different sizes that clinked together at random to create a sort of wind chime effect. IMG_0194Scott’s cousin Elen went to the very stylish opening of the exhibit and said that a woman fell into one of the pools and broke all of the bowls.  Pretty embarrassing.  We spent the rest of Sunday night in Vila Madelena, hanging out and watching the crowds ebb and flow through the bars on the hilly Silver Lake-like streets.

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Monday morning Scott and I tried to run ten miles around the city (a feat considering the condition my calf was in–it’s feeling great now).  In the bright sunshine we fought the city and it was a draw.  It was too hot, and we had to stop for traffic every few blocks.  Even running the perimeter of Ibirapuera was tricky and involved highways and getting stumped by dead ends.  Scott and I spent the rest of Monday wandering around Itaim Bibi and Vila Olympia, trying to figure out if we could live there.

Monday night we had dinner at D.O.M., which was number twenty-four on the S. Pellegrino list of the world’s 50 best restaurants.  We got the four course tasting menu (blind, we just told them our preferences and allergies, like at Blue Hill), and it was pretty extraordinary.  So interesting, in fact, that I was going to take pictures of each course, and then I forgot and only took two.  There was a palmito skin stretched out on a piece of slate, with scallop ceviche, some french herb, some basil, and slices of pear.  It was an amazing combination of flavors.  The next course was a fried oyster with marinated tapioca and salmon roe (not my favorite).  The third was an Amazonian fish, Pirarucu, with a salsa verde and a root vegetable called tucupi, and tapioca marinated in red wine and açaí.  The fourth was a soup that was presented as a rich veal stock with super crispy wild rice, topped table-side with a cream of mushroom foam.  The fouth/fifth course (which was like a bonus since we had technically had four courses already, but thought it would be odd to end with a soup before cheese and dessert) was crispy duck confit.  It was incredible.   IMG_0201

From there the cheese course was mashed potatoes with queijo minas and guyere that was brought out by a waiter juggling the starchy, cheesy mass stretched and twisted between two spoons.  He dropped a dollop onto each of our plates.  Our dessert was some kind of nut cake with whisky ice cream, chocolate sauce, and the whole thing was sprinkled with coarse sea salt, black pepper, and spicy curry.  It was delicious.  Scott’s nut-free dessert was stunning. It was milk pudding, with citrus gelee and banana ravioli (the middle thing that look like jelly fish) with a kind of candied shimeji mushrooms.  I was enthralled.  To top off our time in the big city before we left this morning we had a drink on the roof of the Unique Hotel (in the shape of a ship, or a concrete slice of watermelon).  It was a great way to end our high roller night.

Cluck Cluck

September 28, 2009

How did we miss the Fried Chicken Craze of 2009?

While you’re on the New York magazine website, check out their analysis of last night’s Mad Med episode.