Monday, June 26, 2006

my old haunts

For the past six years, rehearsing different plays has been a way for me to spend concentrated time in different neighborhoods of New York City. The fall and winter of 2002-2003 were spent in the West village, and I got to know all of my favorite cafes and cheap eats. The winter of 2001 was spent in Soho and I came to love La Jumelle, the Soup guy attached to Fanelli, Gourmet Garage, and Pain Quotidien. Several springs were spent on way west 42nd street, and I got to know the 9th avenues treats very well.

This past week was spent rehearsing at Clemente Soto Velez on Suffolk and Rivington, a few short blocks from my old home(s), and I had the opportunity to go back to some old favorites and find a few new treats.

Highlights of the week included:
Sugar Sweet Sunshine, home of rich and delicious cupcakes, and—I found out—an excellent iced coffee.

The Dumpling House on Eldridge, of which I write about often. I introduced it to my castmates, who marveled at the goodness and the cheapness.

Tiny’s Giant Sandwich shop, which has expanded into a not-so-tiny-at all space, with excellent air conditioning and an amazing veggie burger.

Nicky’s Vietnamese sandwiches on 2nd street, home to some truly good banh mi, probably the only real deal banh mi above Houston street.

Frankie’s Spuntino on Clinton, a new place I mentioned in my previous post. Actually, it is an offshoot of the original Brooklyn Frankie’s, which a little researched revealed is only blocks from my apartment. Sometimes you have to travel “far” from home to find what’s right outside your door.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Favism

Hannibal Lecter enjoyed fava beans with roasted human flesh “and a nice Chianti,” understanding, I suppose, the importance of pairing wines appropriately with food. I haven’t had his dish, but I have spent the past 6 or so early summers eating as many fresh favas as I possibly can.

Known sometimes as broad beans, horse beans, Windsor beans or pigeon beans, favas are a little tricky to prepare but absolutely worth the effort. They are starchy and sweet, like peas, but larger and meatier, and hence, more satisfying. Apparently there is a disease called favism, which I assumed was what I am afflicted with: obsession to the point of mania. In fact, it is a potentially fatal response to fresh, raw fava beans that afflicts some people of Mediterranean descent. There are many possible preparations, some of which intrigue me, but I tend to gravitate towards the classic preparations. In the past month I have had several fava dishes that have made me extremely happy.

The first I had at Otto, Mario’s pizza place on 8th street and 5th avenue. He serves thinly sliced cured meat with a mound of favas in the center of the plate. From what I could discern, they were mixed with minced garlic, grated lemon zest, and minced pecorino. This dish was eaten by taking a slice of meat and grabbing a bit of fava, wrapping the meat around the beans, almost like eating Ethiopian food with injera.

The second was my own version of Mario’s. I sautéed favas with garlic and olive oil, then mixed them with halved grape tomatoes and minced grana padano (like parmiagianno reggiano but a little cheaper), and sprinkled with sea salt. It was incredible, if I do say so myself.

The third was the most simple and classic, at Frankie’s Spuntino on Clinton Street: sautéed favas, olive oil, shaved pecorino, and sea salt. I could have licked my plate clean, EASILY. In fact, the waitress tried to take the plate when there was still one bean on it, and like an alcoholic who freaks out when the bartender removes a glass with alcohol residue at the bottom, I lost my cool. Very embarrassing, but that’s what happens when you suffer from favism.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

reunion

The eyebrow ridge (minus eyebrows) crushing down on my brain. The parched tongue, the raspy throat. Hazy, sitting at breakfast alone in my small college town. The older couple next to me-- retired professors likely-- discuss housecleaning and later Hans Blix and Mozart's requiem. They know the waitress, know the proprietor, know every single person who passes by.

"This is not New York City," I think to myself. They order "the regular," as the entire young cast of "Peter Pan" sits down for brunch. I order a hangover cure: coffee, water, and sausage/egg/cheese on a bagel.

I had been nervous about coming here. 10 years it's been, and I feel lost, feel scared I have nothing to show for it. I bite into my breakfast sandwich, the cheese dripping grease onto my paper plate. I savor a sausage bite and try to remember if I was a vegetarian when I graduated. In NYC, I don't allow myself breakfasts like this; in NYC, I am never hungover like this.

Chewing slowly and enjoying the silent comraderie of this place, I become pensive, but also I ease up on myself, forgive myself for not knowing exactly where I am going, for having mixed feelings about where I have been. This town, this school, perhaps even this cast of "Peter Pan," they are forgiving and nurturing. They always focused on my best qualities, always encouraged a brand of self deprecation that says: hey, I may be screwing up right now, but I have brains and a lotta potential. These people, they take me as I am.

Hangover Cure

One toasted sesame bagel
2 breakfast sausage links
2 eggs
shredded yellow cheddar cheese

Fry up sausages in a pan, cutting them into pieces as you go
Lower the heat a little
Add two beaten eggs, and later, the handful of grated cheese
Stir slowly, until eggs start to come to the consistency you like
Scoop out onto toasted bagel
Cut in half with a big knife

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

nature's bounty

"But imagine for a moment if we once again knew, strictly as a matter of course, these few unremarkable things: What it is we're eating. Where it came from. How it found its way to our table. And what, in a true accounting, it really cost. We could then talk about some other things at dinner. For we would no longer need any reminding that however we choose to feed ourselves, we eat by the grace of nature, not industry, and what we're eating is never anything more or less than the body of the world."
--Michael Pollan, "The Omnivore's Dilemma"

May I recommend to you this beautiful, enlightening, and provocative book.
And may I recommend that you really chew on it, really let it get inside you (like a good meal).
And then may I recommend that you make a change, some small change or large,
in recognition of the fact that eating can be a political act.

Choose something whole instead of processed.
Read labels.
Eat organic.
Eat local.
Join a CSA.
Eat slowly.

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