Friday, August 20, 2010

It's here!

It's here, it's here, it's here! This has been in the works in my head for months, and managed to get down on paper, I mean screen, in just a couple days. Praise to Macs for being accessible and making it happen.

So we are now saying goodbye, farewell, and adieu to The Brooklyn Tart. Let's bring in a new and improved woman- one who is happier, positivier, and yes, even hungrier.

Ready? It's:

Did you all get that? Check it out. If you don't like it, not to worry. It will probably be a little different every time you visit. Comments welcome, emails too. Let's see where it goes.

I thank you all for reading, and look forward to getting to know you more at the new site. Here. See you all there!


Don't worry, I'm not gone for good! I've just been a little preoccupied with relocating my life from Brooklyn to the Bay Area. And .... I was computerless for a few months and phoneless for a few weeks. Things got complicated ...

The good news is I am working on a new project, since clearly I am no longer the Brooklyn Tart. I was hoping to just merge the old blog with the new, but I don't think it will be possible. Anyway, sometimes it's better to make a fresh start.

So hang on, as soon as I work out the kinks in my new URL, I will let you know the new location. The blog will be evolving into a full website that I've been able to design completely on my own (thank goodness for templates that make things simple even for the techno-challenged like myself). I would like it to open up more possibilities for readers to interact in a forum, but not as invasive as facebook, kind of setting.

Get ready! And even though my geography has changed, the spirit will be very much the same.

For more news on the cross-country odyssey, Sammy's freak outs along the way, my latest whereabouts, and the kick-off of the California adventure, stay tuned! It will all be revealed in the next blog.

As they say in California- later, dudes.

Friday, July 2, 2010

D-E-S-S-E-R-T-S, backwards?

There are days when your dog throws up on your bed, your car dies, and the only man you ever loved has married someone else. Thankfully, this is not that kind of day. But the adventure of moving cross country continues to keep me on my toes. My head has been full, my pen quiet- not the best combo for me.

I just got back from visiting family and friends scattered across the Midwest, and to buy a hot rod. I mean a car. I mean a hot rod. I'm never thought of myself as a cherry-red Pontiac Grand Am kind of girl, but after breaking down twice on the drive back to New York (once in Indiana, once in Ohio, three hours later), the red head and I are fully bonded. Ever notice how a car seems to work better once its identity is formed and gets lots of praise? All she needs now is a name.

Meanwhile, Sammy has come undone with the transition. I'm trying to tell him that life will be better in California- he will have an oceans for a pool, a yard to run in, months without rain, a doting grandfather and fewer stray cats to taunt him. He is not convinced. He sees boxes and change on the brink, and he hasn't finished punishing me for abandoning him last week. I worry he may never be the same.

I've decided that moving is the most stressful thing in your life you can do- regardless of if it's across town or across the country. My friend, Brandy, came over last night and helped me stay on task with packing without distractions, excuses, or the overwhelming task of sifting through the pile. I had thought in four years, I hadn't accumulated too much in the limited space capacity of my bedroom. I was wrong.

In addition to sorting, one can't help but look at the state of their life when going through a massive transition. I think of all the things I've done while living in New York, and depending on my mood it can amount to a whole lot or not even a hill of beans. Concerned friends pointed out last week that I'm not using my college degree. Helpful? Not really. Said with good intentions? Probably. Sending me into a panic about where the rest of my life is headed? Kind of.

A friend once said to me she could be happy anywhere, that home was just a place you carve out for yourself. I see were she's coming from. I used to agree. And now I kind of envy her because I'm not in that place anymore. I want life to feel simpler, to be closer to family, I want dry heat and local produce and a kitchen where I can make cookies without balancing sheet pans on the dish rack. Mostly, I want to be in a place that calms my heart and slows me down from the hectic, racing life that I lead.

All I have to do is pack another box and let Sammy know everything's going to be okay.

Monday, June 7, 2010

My Computer is Broken ....

... but a dear soul has lent me his spare computer till I get my external hard drive secured and a new computer to reboot. In the meantime, I'll be posting without pics, but stay with me and they'll re-appear shortly!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Girl Meets Grocery Store

Living in New York City, I've gotten used to seeing the same bags all the time. Macy's, Strawberry, Forever 21, Whole Foods, Trader Joes, M&M's World, and Zabars are the main ones. Some of them are places I shop at, too, but some of them I lump together as a spot on the tourist map (namely, M&M's World- since when did M&Ms become a hobby anyway?).

When I saw Zabars bags, I thought the same thing. A New York kosher grocery store, but not much more than that.

Boy, was I wrong. So wrong.

I went there for the first time on Tuesday and my mouth dropped open. My pulse raced and I felt giddy. I suddenly had the urge to call every girlfriend in my address book and make them guess where I was. It was the food version of meeting that special someone. I am still smiling, just thinking about it.

To give you an illustration, here is a shot of their cheese department, or a sliver of it:

That's probably only about 15% of just the cheese department. My heart.

Upstairs are kitchen tools and gizmos in a space the size of a city block. Thank goodness I am moving and left my credit card at home.

If my pride didn't get the best of me while I was trying to maintain decorum, I would have taken more photos. Instead, I ran around drooling over everything and trying not to touch anything I wasn't serious about buying. (My fave thing is poking soft cheese through the saran wrap, trying to imagine how much oozier it will get at room temp.)

And look! A little bit of heaven from home- Point Reyes' Cowgirl Creamery.

I'm glad I've learned to never again judge a bag by its cover. But visitors, please skip M&M's World and just go here instead!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Tribute to June Brides

It kills me when Sammy plays with my curtains. Kills me.

Want to know why?

Because of this:

And this:

That is all.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Chicken, Waffles, and Heaven on Earth

Friends who truly know and love you will often know and love your favorite food. Last week, two of Brooklyn's newest tenants took me out in their new neighborhood of Carroll Gardens.

Two words: Buttermilk Channel.

I'm a beer girl, but the guys had a Westlake and a Fair Harbor. And then the food started coming.

Melt in your mouth popovers:

Grilled flatbread:

Green tomato soup with grilled cheese:

And my entree, fried chicken with cheddar waffles. Oh my goodness.

Dandelion salad:

Abe got the veggie waffle plate:

May I please have an extra tub of syrup?

No, really.

When I'm with these boys, there's always room for dessert. Even when there isn't.

I'm not really sure what was in front of me, I just ate it. Caramelized banana bread pudding.

I will house-sit for these boys any day or night to be this close to perfect chicken.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Brooklyn Surprise 30th

My friend needed a hand throwing a surprise party for her boyfriend's 30th.

He's a metal dude, so crepe paper just wouldn't do.

A lot can be done with a ball of twine and a few bags of empty beer cans.

Brandy did everything else, including food fixin's for 35.

30 seconds in ... watch it vanish.


Cheeseballs, a staple at our venue, the Levee.
Drinking the Levee's signature "Henley"- a spinoff of the Tequila Sunrise. Handle with care.

Hostess with the mostess. Gorgeous AND generous. Basically, girlfriend of the year.

And your can gets served in a beer cozy. Brooklyn thinks of everything.

Monday, May 31, 2010

In the Lap of Luxury

I'm back in Jersey City for Memorial Day weekend, trying to earn a few extra bones dogsitting.

It's been really nice, having time alone in a comfortable (grown-up) apartment, soaking up the gorgeous weather, and enjoying the breathtaking views of the city.

And of this lovely lady:

(The photo is an old one from when I took the tour with my dad a couple years ago, but you get the idea.)
Some of you may remember Max and Stanley, who are now like nephews to me. I agreed to sit for them even before I brought Sammy home. Still, I'm feeling a bit guilty this weekend going back and forth between Brooklyn and Jersey.

Do dogs consider sleeping in another dog's house cheating?

If only Sammy were here, he and the guys would be full-on buds.

And meeting this guy at the park made my day ( not a great phone pic, but note the swimsuit and socks combo).

Happy Memorial Day!

Big news, drumroll please ...

The following news should not be too much of a shock to most of you, but to me it is still raw and scary.

I'm moving back to California.

After four influential years trying to find my place in New York, my restless heart can no longer ignore the pull of the West Coast. I have wrestled with this decision for over a year, all the while wrestling with my love/hate relationship with Brooklyn.

This blog has made me truly appreciate Brooklyn for all that it is and all the challenges life in New York City brings. I have been kicked down. I have been blessed. I have grown. I have lived here, in one place, longer than anywhere else since high school.

It is the perfect place for antsy spirits. It has tried my patience, kept me on my toes, filled me with surprises and unpredictability, all the while forcing me to look inward and continue searching for what it is I really want.

And in that search, I have known deep down that I am a California girl, pasty white skin, neuroses and all.

As I work out the details of extricating myself from the city and starting my life over 3,000 miles away, I am saying my goodbyes to this wonderful, crazy place.

And trying not to freak out.

And though in two months, I will no longer be a Brooklyn tart, I will still be chowing down regardless and writing to tell you about it.

A new website to chronicle the next chapter of the adventure is coming soon! This site will now take a turn to honor the precious time left in New York City.

Store is Open for Business!

At last, I figured out how to set up my Etsy account. I'm inspired by the Renegade Craft Fair coming up in Brooklyn next weekend.

Click here.

More to come, including crocheted coasters and campy pottery. Take a peek and check out other talented crafters, artists and jewelry makers.

Word up to the handmade maidens and mates!

More info for the Brooklyn-specific fair:

Friday, May 28, 2010

Cooking with Sammy

Sammy isn't used to being fancy.

Or being dressed up.

Or homemade dinners and dog biscuits.

But he's trying to take it all in stride.

And I think he's happy to be a part of it all. Even if all I'm doing is making macaroni and cheese.

He may even like that more than being fancy.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Un-Fried Chicken

I think some people are born with a friend chicken gene. I sure wasn't raised on it, but boy, has it had a force in my adult life. I'm sure many of you feel the same.

But what do we do when we have an inkling and the best chicken and biscuits place is closed (or in my case, two subway rides away and behind bullet-proof glass)?

Bake it!

Stay with me here, for those who haven't already left in search of a deep fat fryer.

This is super easy for meager kitchens. I used breadcrumbs and crackers for the breading, and yogurt with seasoning for the batter (buttermilk is best, but I thinned the yogurt out with a splash of milk). After marinading in the batter for at least an hour in the fridge, coat in flour, then egg, then bread crumbs. Give it a quick sear in a frying pan and bake at 375 for 35-45 minutes (keep checking, it really depends on the oven, the pan, and the chicken you use).

This is an easy thing to make for one person, though leftovers are great for mixing into salads and pasta.

I had mine with a spinach salad with goat cheese and goddess dressing. Sorry, Colonel, you're not invited to this one.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Time and Tempeh

I have way too many vegetarians in my life. I love every stinking last one of them, but they are a pain and they make me want to go on rabid meat binges after we finish meals. (I mean, how do they ever get full?)

Since I can't do without the meat and I can't do without them, I stay on the lookout for alternatives. Fake meat. It's just another unfamiliar and challenging ingredient, really. I hope it makes me a better person.

Voila, tempeh tacos!

I don't totally get what tempeh is. I had to google it, like so many things in my life (a few months ago I even had to google Lady Gaga). It's a soy product fermented into a cake form, but you can crumble it up and pretend it's ground beef, which I did. (Incidentally, tempeh is sometimes referred to as a "meat analogue," which I find funny. It puts a little more distance between the meat than to call it a substitute.)

Would you believe tempeh has its own website? There is even a recipe to make your own tempeh, but I'll have to wait and try that when I am really trying to put off doing something important.

No offense, I have the utmost respect for the convictions of vegetarians and health-buffs- I simply don't have the discipline for that kind of lifestyle. I applaud you if you can stick to it and find balance with a diet that doesn't include meat. I simply couldn't do it.

I cook tempeh in a skillet just like ground beef, but I keep adding a few tablespoons of water at a time to soften it up. It actually does work as a pretty good substitute and can help you out in a pinch when you are cooking for someone who is a vegetarian with a wheat and dairy allergy (one step away from being a vegan).

It's actually pretty darn good when cooked with the right amount of seasoning. Okay, I'll keep working with it and stop grumbling when I have to skip meat now and then. Really, though, can we stop referring to it as an analogue and call a spade a spade? It's a substitute.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Give Cheese a Chance

Last Wednesday, I stumbled upon this article about raw milk sales being legalized in Wisconsin.

So what?

If you're asking that question, perhaps you have never been exposed to the world of raw milk cheese. In that case, yeah, big deal.

For the die-hard cheese heads and dairy enthusiasts out there, this is really good news. It means we are one step closer to legalized production and sales of raw milk cheese. I'm not clear what the phobia of unpasteurized milk is- there have only been two reported deaths in ten years as a result. With cheese production, unsafe milk with the wrong bacteria won't coagulate properly anyway, which is easier to identify when the milk is unpasteurized and in its natural state. It also has far more nutrients than pasteurized.

As far as unpasteurized cheese goes, there are simply no words. It just tastes a zillion light years beyond what you can get in the store. I still dream about unpasteurized Camembert I ate in Brittany, which would often become the main part of my meal.

Hope this spreads to the coasts soon. Leave our milk alone!

Again, find the yahoo article here.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Kindred Spirits are Awesome

Is it May already? What? When? How? I've been eating dust the last couple weeks while chasing after Sammy. I know there were blossoms all over in McCarren Park in Greenpoint, but it's kind of a blur.

I'm just coming out of hiding from the weekend. I've been busy. Reading. A lot.

The author's name is Georgia Pellegrini, she calls herself the Girl Hunter ... and she's awesome. In a shrinking world oversaturated with blogs, it is amazing to find fresh, edgy food writing with a philosophy behind it that I completely agree with.

She's a cute blond with a shotgun and she's not afraid to use it- only her blog is not about being a blood-thirsty carnivore, but about taking an honest approach to food.

"Hunting is not about male bonding in the woods anymore… it’s about understanding how to participate in nature, how to hunt for food, take only what you can eat, use every part of the animal and treat it with respect all the way to the plate," as she explains in my favorite post of hers here. (Though I'm still making my way through them all- hence, my absence.)

"Women are the cooks in the world, despite what you see on cooking shows. So why shouldn’t they be the hunter/gatherers as well? And understand that ingredients come from nature, not a Styrofoam wrapped package in the meat section of the grocery store."

It's all good stuff, but I don't want to cut and paste the whole thing. Finish reading it! And for more awesome stuff, here's her food philosophy.

I found out about her from a post she wrote on the first great chef I worked for when I lived in California and the organic farm he and his wife lovingly tend (Zin Restaurant and Eastside Farms for those of you lucky enough to find yourselves in Healdsburg). She totally gets them. I totally get her.

Georgia travels the globe covering food adventurers and pioneers in the slow food movement. She also shares a lot of kitchen wisdom with her adorable Italian grandmother. And she has a hunting/cooking show on ESPN. She's awesome. Did I already mention that?

Check her out. If you follow me, you should definitely follow her. If you don't follow me, then do that, too.

It's nice to know there's a no-fluff, real-deal food bloggess out there. Thanks for keeping it real, GP!

Friday, April 30, 2010

A Night at the Opera

Even die hard fans of holes-in-the-wall and dive bars need a little culture now and then. So I went to the opera this week.

Actually, I'm a huge opera fan. I went to about a dozen performances last season- this year has been slow and I've only been to three. I feel guilty about it because I'm such a nerd.

Quality over quantity. For all of you out there, opera fans or not, you simply must put a visit to the Metropolitan Opera on your list of things you need to do. It is one of the most incredible opera houses in the world (renowned for its elaborate set design and effects) and every production is fantastic. Acoustically speaking, there isn't a bad seat in the house and the cheap seats are only 20 bucks. Last year, they were $15, a little more than the price of a movie ticket.

I was lucky enough to snag an affordable ticket to Bizet's Carmen about 5 months ago. Some productions sell out almost immediately, and Carmen is one of the most popular operas out there. The music is easy to recognize and the storyline has a bit more complexity than the usual couple-fall-in-love-at-first-site formula. I highly recommend it as a gateway opera for first timers. Other great operas for those new to the scene:

-I Pagliacci/Caverilla Rusticana (both are short and usually performed together)
-The Barber of Seville
-La Boheme
-Madame Butterfly
-La Traviata
-anything by Mozart

I wouldn't recommend delving into modern 20th Century, Wagner, or atonal operas until you become a fan. Wonderful as it is, opera is an acquired taste.

If you are a music or architecture lover, it is well worth a visit for the venue and Swarovski crystal light fixtures- I'm going to get a couple for a my next apartment.

Thanks to the emotionally-charged soldiers, bullfighters, and cigarette-smoking hussies for inspiring such a passionate Wednesday night.

Love, the girl in the cheap seats.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

City of Endangered Languages

I just read a fascinating article about dying languages in New York City. I'm posting it, not only because of the dire importance of cultural preservation, but as a pause to honor life in the most ethnically diverse place in the world. If you have an extra minute, read the Times article here.

It is so easy to fall into the grind of routine. I've been guilty of this- caught up in micro details of life to appreciate that I hear at least 5 languages when I step out of my apartment, without even leaving my neighborhood. I am too often so engrossed in my book on the subway that I don't notice the pot of cultural soup I'm in or the world's interconnectedness squished into a train car.

One of the remarkable things about language is that it is always changing. Old tongues die out, new ones are formed, words and phrases become archaic as soon as new colloquialisms pepper our speech. In many places, even the native language is under threat.

Thank goodness for New York. It may be a tough place to make it, have intense weather and little patience for the weak, but culture, culture it is always kind to. Language can flourish here, and even have a shot at getting off the endangered list.

Next time I rush to work with my headphones on, or feel like scowling at chatty commuters while I'm reading, I will instead put my book down, mute my ipod, and listen. And be grateful to live free in a place where every corner of the world meets.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fetch and Release

I'm trying to teach Sammy to fetch. So far it's not going that well. Maybe I'm being too hard on him. Maybe he can't handle the pressure. Maybe he's an idiot.

Personally, I think he's faking it. I suspect he's actually a smart dog and is just dumbing down out of convenience, like Jessica Simpson.

Either way, he's much more content chewing up a ball than bringing it back to me.

At least now he's showing interest in the ball instead of watching it roll away while looking at me like I have three heads. I guess that means we're half way there.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Solder Me

This weekend, I was lucky enough to go to a plumbing workshop offered to grads of the NEW program I finished in February. With a joyful heart, I made my way to UA Local 1's education facility in Long Island City to learn some plumbing basics with a group of strong women.

Happiness, thy name is soldering. I can't explain what is it about pipes I find intriguing and wonderful- to me, they just are. For those of you who know me, my interest in plumbing may seem out of left field. I became interested in it about seven years ago when I worked at a school with old pipes. The complexity of joining new pipes with an older system fascinated me, and I was ready to jump in if I wasn't limited by my ignorance. Unlike some maintenance projects, plumbing is tough to navigate on your own through trial and error. So here I am, ready to take the mystery out of drains, heavy toolbelts and stereotyped buttcracks.

For my first plumbing project, I got to measure, cut and join copper pipe with fittings. And then learn to solder! I'm very comfortable with a blow torch- I knew my days as a pastry chef would shape me to be compatible in other areas.

Here's a close up of my joint- not gorgeous, I know, but I picked an ambitious fitting for my first try.

I loved prepping the pipe by cleaning, applying flux and joining the fittings. What can I say? I'm a crafty girl.

After soldering, we learned about the inner workings of toilets. Is it weird that I found this mesmerizing? I mean, plumbing has been around since ancient times! I was always the counselor at camp who could unclog any toilet. Okay, it is kind of weird.
Then we used snap cutters to cut 3" cast iron pipes. Aligning the chain tightly around the pipe was the trickiest part.

A good trick is putting a hammer inside the pipe to prevent it from shooting across the room. Here are two cutters lined up and ready to go.

This was tough, but as much fun as soldering.

The essence of my being is finding how things in life are randomly linked, be it through people or experiences. I was surprised to realize that so much of trade work lines up with similar traits from the food world. (For example, the repetition and use of blow torches and heat lamps.) On my way to the classroom, the hallways were decorated with student projects showcasing "rigging" and demonstrating the different knots for lifting pipes. I instantly linked this affinity with all the knots I've learned through rock climbing, and also my draw to sailing (one of the next hobbies on my list). I'm convinced that everything is connected and nothing is random.
Next weekend I'm attending an electrical workshop, since wiring was a major struggle for me in class. Can't wait, but I know I'll be dreaming about pipes the whole time, wishing I was back in Long Island City with a blow torch in my hand.