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Posts Tagged ‘sarsaparilla’

No preliminaries from Little Miss Chatterbox this time. Let’s go:

1) Be skeptical of any dessert served with an amorphous heap on top—whipped cream, raspberry sauce, spark plugs, whatever. It usually means the kitchen is trying to distract you. Remember: if the dessert could stand on its own, it would.

2) Smile at your restaurant server even if he or she doesn’t smile back.

3) If you loved your meal, send your thanks to the kitchen. It’s not pretentious or old-fashioned; expressing appreciation will never be thus.

4) If your Filipino friend invites you to an authentic Filipino meal made by her mom, say yes.

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Lumpiang shanghai—homemade spring rolls filled with ground pork, carrots, and onions. Piping hot and crisp. I couldn’t stop eating them, which was rude because my hosts and friends kept trying to engage me in conversation, but I got a little delirious with these.

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This is is monggo, and lovely comfort food. Beans, broth, shrimp, and vegetables. Again, I needed to exercise better portion control and likely didn’t.

5) If a friend who grew up in Wisconsin tells you that a local ice cream place is fantastic, go.

6) Never refuse a cookie made from scratch.

7) When in a burger joint or chain restaurant, don’t order the pasta. Doesn’t matter if the place has an Italian-sounding name.

8) It’s okay to hate marshmallow Peeps and Cadbury Creme Eggs. Get in line with me. We’ll hang out.

9) Always pull over to buy lemonade from kids selling it in front of their houses.

10) When trying an exotic dish for the first time, make sure the people preparing it know it like they know how to inhale and exhale.

11) Own a copy of The Joy of Cooking. Every single standard dish is in there, and it’s plainly written.

12) Eat fruits and vegetables when they’re in season and you’ll find out how they’re really supposed to taste. Watermelon delivered to New Jersey in March is, for example, a disgrace. In August, purchased locally, it’s celestial.

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Organic Sugar Baby.

13) Shop at farmers’ markets. Ask questions. The guy behind the fold-out table most likely grew those sweet grilling peppers himself and loves talking about them.

14) Recognize that your tastes can change. Something you used to hate might taste very differently to you today—or you simply might learn that you hate broccoli when roasted, but love it when steamed.

15) Put your hands in soft bread dough at least once. Making bread is easy. Really really.

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Babka dough…on the rise.

16) Just because a recipe looks difficult to make doesn’t mean it is, or that you won’t enjoy every second of making it.

17) When traveling, eat where the locals eat for the best value and flavor. If you want fancy, ask a local butcher where to eat; he or she will know which restaurants buy the best cuts. If you want simple and hearty, ask a policeman where to eat.

18) Along the same lines, try foods that the place is known for. Taste an artichoke in Rome, heather honey in Scotland, flying fish on Barbados, sharp white cheddar in Vermont.

19) Go strawberry picking. Go anything picking. Wear decent shoes. Flip flops aren’t.

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20) Own a proper set of knives. They should be weighted evenly, with the metal running straight through the handle. I firmly maintain that if you own cooking equipment that you don’t have to fight, you’ll enjoy cooking far more.

21) On the other hand, don’t spend much for ordinary things. An aluminum muffin tin has a design that’s hard to foul up. I bought a few sets for something like $7 at an ex-boyfriend’s sister’s garage sale in 2006. I also bought a hand mixer for five bucks. Both were at least 10 years old when I got them and they’re still chugging along fine.

22) Try different ingredients together, different textures together. If you don’t like it, so what? You can always chuck it if it doesn’t work out. Or you might come up with something wildly groovy.

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This was a weirdo idea I had for a breakfast sandwich: roasted local peaches with my fresh ricotta, basil leaves, and a drizzle of honey. It was too sweet. Next time I’m going to try balsamic vinegar instead of the honey.

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My honeysuckle syrup. One to one with plain vodka over ice was OUT of this world.

23) Eat with your hands. Not at a posh spot with your district manager, but as often as you can. It will taste differently. It’s grounding.

24) Find out what’s growing wild in your backyard, research it, and be clear on it. I’d bet there’s something edible there you can throw into your salad.

25) Eat good-quality chocolate, pure maple syrup (Grade B!), fresh garlic. Spread Irish butter on your English muffin. (Sure, they’ll be fighting in spirit, but in your mouth it’ll be divine.)

26) Try making pumpkin muffins with fresh-baked pumpkin at least once.

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Above: Cinderella pumpkins; below, cheese pumpkins. Highly recommended.

27) When at a Jewish deli, order the hot pastrami sandwich.

28) If you ever come across a cold bottle of sarsaparilla, try it.

29) Ditto for homemade hot chocolate. Ix-nay on the blue packets.

30) Adding a little sprinkle of sea salt to the top of homemade brownies, truffles, chocolate-dipped figs, and peanut butter fudge gives them a happy little punch.

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“There’s a Jazz Festival at Governors Island in late August,” my sister said.

All right.

“Oh, and there’s going to be a major food event at the New Amsterdam Market—something like a dozen vendors will be bringing their homemade ice cream for public tasting.”

You guys know me by now, right? Show of hands—who thinks I went?

I put on a thirties-style dress and matching jacket, white gloves, and a wide-brimmed hat. When my sister, brother-in-law and I got to the Market, a guy stopped me and told me I looked like I just got off the Titanic. Which really doesn’t makes sense, seeing as no one got off the Titanic.

But there was food to be eaten. I didn’t argue with him, and instead did the intelligent thing: I took off to buy a fruit tart.

Ahoy.

Pie Corps is a one of the nicest ideas I’ve ever heard of: from-scratch pies, tarts and hand pies, and a dizzying selection on their one little stand. The below knocked me out. It’s a s’more baked as a tart, with a graham-cracker crust, a layer of ganache (a chocolate/cream icing) and toasted marshmallow fluff bruleed on top. Killed me that I didn’t try it, but it was giant and I wanted to save my dessert appetite for ice cream.

Guess what's inside?

Instead I got the below, an Eccles tart, named after a city in England. It’s a wonderfully flaky crust filled with raisins, brandy, nuts and other things that taste Christmasy together. I know, I should have had lunch first. But one of the best things about being a grownup is that no one makes you.

Next stop was to Hudson Valley Duck Farm’s stand, behind which stood a smiling guy. Well, he sells duck salami. Rich, gamey, salty, tender. Prettiness on a stick.

Jewel-like heirloom cherry tomatoes.

Okay, okay, time for actual lunch. Worth the wait when it’s Luke’s Lobster’s half crab sandwich: bun spread with melted butter, doctored-up mayonnaise, and cold, shredded sweet crab. Oh heaven.

Couldn’t believe it—they were selling sarsaparilla! If you’ve never had it, this comes from a root, like root beer does. (Really? What gave it away?) and it tastes like a lighter version of root beer. Awesome, kicky, bubbly—not syrupy or too sweet. I pronounce it sass-pa-RILL-a, the way the voice-over guy from Schoolhouse Rock did back in the ’70s when he sang about pronouns: “Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla.”

So here’s how the ice cream thing went: You buy a bunch of tickets, and one ticket gets you one little baby ice cream. Most of the flavors were made with locally-sourced ingredients, which always makes me happy. It’s an all-around win: the farmers and purveyors don’t have to go far, the produce can be picked at its most delectable ripeness, and we get to taste, and can take pride in, what we grow right at home. We ate ice cream made with wild beach plums from south Jersey,  from sweet corn grown in Flemington, from homegrown chocolate-mint.

We smiled all the way home.

Rapidly-melting ice cream shot with my sticky fingers.

Two happy customers.

bent spoon (Princeton). I loved their salted caramel.

Beach plum ice cream--tart and yummy.

Buttermilk-espresso cookie ice cream.


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