Jenny Famewhore

Thursday in the Heights: Tasting El Salvador

Posted in Recipes, Travel by Jenny Famewhore on January 29, 2010

By Jenny Liu

Published: Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I am walking into Arbol del Dios, past a gallery devoted to El Salvador’s most celebrated resident artist, Fernando Llort. My mind absorbs the bright colors and bold outlines from my peripherals, but my feet keep me moving past the paintings, scenes of village life, courtyard, and sunlit emerald facade. Despite the vibrant colors and the view of paradise, I do not pause until I am in the restaurant, pointing at food and muttering my heart’s desires in fragmented Spanish.

workers at Tipicos Margoth, making pupusas

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St. Marks’ love letter

Posted in New York by Jenny Famewhore on January 21, 2010

In the brief two weeks flailing about New York City, preceding mi vuelo a Central America, Eric and I did a little, informal St. Marks Roundabout pre- and post- beating our livers into submission at divey LES bars.

I made a stylistic choice to bold “St. Marks Roundabout” because it is a noun that denotes the coming of age for any young NYC foodie and a crucial transition for out-of-towners attempting to assimilate into a ~relevant~ culture. It is V. V. important. (For those of y’all who are still stuck in the fundamentals, I leave you in the competent hands of this wikipedia article) It is a hallowed tradition that requires a stomach of steely stamina and appetite of unwavering fortitude–  restaurant/food-cart hopping around St. Marks Place, moving as much food down your esophagus until either your body gives or you mentally cannot withstand the fact that there are still. more. restaurants. to eat through.

In 2005, I experienced my first St. Mark’s Roundabout, under the tutelage of Eric, whose area-navigation know-how (where the best burger is, the best waffle fries, the best egg cream, and so on) was passed on from John. But since then, St. Marks’ has been like looking through a kaleidoscope while tripping on acid, with the comings and goings of little stores and restaurants that thematically lacks cohesiveness. One day, there will be futuristic Canadian vending machines spitting out grilled cheese and fries when fed money, the next minute, it will have been replaced by a yuppie fro-yo shop. All of these new-comers shifting in and out between the main fixtures.

You can get an “Alpine Burger” at Pauls’, the neighborhood burger joint, or a crispy takoyaki from Otafuku that had liquidated the insides of my mouth one too many times, and then walk by Kenka, the oldest Japanese restaurant on the block that doesn’t card if you’re “with the band.” You can order delectable bull penis complete with chewy foreskin. During peak hours, you’d have to wait next to a large porcelain bear with strobing red eyes, in front of the velvet ropes guarded by a bouncer with the taiyou bandana wrapped around his forehead like a bullet-wound on the verge of engulfing his face. And watch the broadcasts of German cartoon pornography with Belgium subtitles and Nazi propaganda films on the window of Search and Destroy above Kenka. And get $2 shots from Continental and then empty the contents later on the sidewalks of Union Square. Maybe hang around St. Marks’ hotel, which is frequented by callgirls  in need of extra cash to pay for college and the fly life. And then drink a lot of recession special wine at a wine bar, which leads to poor decisions afterwards like frolicking in Central Park at 2AM and receiving citations from cranky po-pos.

But there are some newly discovered places that I would love to include into my permanent memories of St. Marks’ Place and perhaps even into the sacred Roundabout. Like Spot Dessert Bar, where Pichet Ong draws inspiration from the “street sweets of Asia as well as classic American dessert,” for a White Miso Semifreddo, Ovaltine and Kabocha Roll, and Chocolate Banana Pudding. All highly recommended except for the Ovaltine ice cream that was much too salty and was left unfinished—disturbingly breaching my number one rule.

Secondly, for midnight snacking and some soju as a night-cap, Boka, where one can strip the dense, tender meat and crispy skin off the bone, picked from a platter of infamous Bonchon Korean fried chicken. I don’t care if those chicken hormones cause gigantism.

Referenced Locations:

Pauls’ Burger
131 2nd Ave (St Marks Place)
New York, NY 10003
http://www.paulsburgers.com/
Otafuku
236 E 9th St
(between 2nd Ave & Stuyvesant St)
New York, NY 10003
(212) 353-8503
Kenka
25 Saint Mark’s Place
New York, NY 10003
(212) 254-6363
Spot
13 St. Mark’s Pl
(between 3rd Ave & Astor Pl)
Manhattan, NY 10003
(212) 677-5670
www.spotdessertbar.com
Boka
9 St. Marks Place
(between 2nd Ave & 3rd Ave)
New York, NY 10003
(212) 228-2887

… And we’re back!

Posted in Travel by Jenny Famewhore on January 16, 2010

Ahh, I sigh with a contentment that can only be brought about by sitting in a lounge chair in a string bikini, sipping on a sweating glass bottle of Coca Cola while the ocean spread out before me sprayed foaming thick waves like a frothy milkshake. Alternating my hand, I take a bite out of the Steak Pepito, lapping up the falling guacamole and bean spread that were being squished out from the edges of the sandwich. Yep, pinch me hard, I had made it to El Salvador.

clinking that vintage glass at Club Joya, private beach in El Salvador

Dropped off the face of the planet for a vicious, relentless holiday cycle of eating, no, gorging, free-falling into food comas and birthing food-tuplets, cooking a little, and resume eating some more. No respite for the wicked & gluttonous.

One foodie’s wishlist

Posted in Uncategorized by Jenny Famewhore on December 22, 2009

Jura-Capresso ® Electric Kettle

More agonizingly dull than watching paint dry is watching water boil. Now, a quicker solution.

Bodum New Kenya 12-Ounce Coffee Press, Black

To encourage my caffeine addiction.

Wüsthof Classic 6-Inch Cook’s Knife

So I won’t messily hurt myself with the dull blade I’ve been using. Mess. Don’t want.

Pink Rolling pin

Not that I do a lot of baking, but just because it’s pink.

CIA towels

“I’m on a mission to rid the world of pot holders; my mom couldn’t live without them but I think they’re evil; they belong on Courage the Cowardly Dog but not in my kitchen.  I use these great side towels that I once could only get when I visited the Culinary Institute of America” — Michael Ruhlman, author of Soul of a Chef

William & Sonoma Peppermint Bark

“Custom-blended Guittard premium chocolate and natural oil of peppermint that’s triple-distilled to extract the cool, clean flavor of fresh mint. Master candymakers pour melted semisweet chocolate onto a confectioner’s table, then add a layer of creamy white chocolate. The bark is finished with a snowfall of crisp handmade peppermint candy bits – an inspired contrast to the rich, velvety smoothness of the world-class chocolate.”

Exotic Ice Cream – Hautes Glaces

Naga Ice Cream: sweet Indian curry + fresh young coconut + creamy custard ice cream
“Sweet Indian curry is a mélange of turmeric, ginger, cumin, clove, chillies and more.”

And more cookbooks and gadgets on Amazon wishlist.

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Emerging from a brief hiatus,

Posted in Boston by Jenny Famewhore on December 14, 2009

Finals week for the college folks. Need brain food: baked butternut squash lightly coated with a brown-sugar glaze and a shrimp-tofu-broccoli-mushroom stir-fry in infamous Chinese “brown sauce.” That’s merely: oyster sauce + soy sauce, for those not clued in.

Other things to boost energy: brewing some Starbucks Christmas blend, and hitting the gym (favorite game = spot the anorexic). Until the 18th, babes.

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Qu’ils mangent de la brioche

Posted in New York by Jenny Famewhore on December 4, 2009

The Best Coconut Cake In The World

One dreamy Coconut Cake. If a Japanese otaku can marry his Nintendo avatar, I should be able to enjoy matrimonial festivities with this babe.

Throwdown’s Toasted Coconut Cake with Coconut Filling and Coconut Buttercream recipe

I love brunch– for consuming ungodly amounts of calories in one combined breakfast-lunch meal, for the pretense of leisure, and for bonding with my lovely girlfriends. We enjoyed a meal that satisfied all those coveted qualities at Mesa Grill, founded by Bobby Flay of Food Network throwdown notoriety. The service was snappy and fun. It was like being served food at someone’s house rather than enduring the stiff formality of most restaurants in this price-class. Sometimes a girl just wants to wear a floral dress and eat with her fingers. The waitress was one stealthy ninja when it came to refilling waters; and charmingly convinced Lisa and I to invest our dollar bills in the Best Coconut Cake In This World (or anywhere in the universe where coconuts are grown). I haven’t been as enthused about a cake as much as I have this one in quite some time.

The Coconut cake is so flavor rich, yet light, with alternating layers of coconut cream as if it were architecturally crafted by Michelangelo’s cherubs. The cake is made from a silky cake flour, and the filling is of a custard composed of coconut milk and malibu rum. This gives the cake a wetter texture than most — almost like icecream. The airy feeling forced me to disbelieve that I am really eating it, if it weren’t for the toasted coconut shavings grounding it, forcing it back into a solid physical plane.

As luck would have it, the recipe is on the internets, and will certainly make a cameo in my kitchen.

Referenced Locations:
Mesa Grill
102 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10011
Tel. 212.807.7400
http://mesagrill.com

An empire state of mind

Posted in New York by Jenny Famewhore on November 22, 2009

Part two of New York, Je t’aime (Part I here)

These are the two places that would be found if I were to dissect the stomach of the greatest city in the world and peer straight into its folds:


BARNEY GREENGRASS

Sundays are brunch days: chefs with higher culinary aspirations relegated to arranging plates of fruit, yogurt and granola, scrambling eggs with deli-cuts and American cheese, manning the waffle iron, and assembling it all buffet-style- unloved by the creative and for the undiscerning masses (famished church-goers, children, and their assorted pets).

And somehow, there is a pleasing magic to this tradition. A tradition that is elevated to its lofty level in my heart by Barney Greengrass, on the Upper West Side. Barney Greengrass is so quintessentially New York, it’s a cliché. Diner coffee that is scalding hot, and made from a shitty powder mix. None of that premium, plucked by fair-trade-represented Colombian workers, double-roasted smoky elixirs. Just inelaborate, black joe best with a liberal full 4 second pour of room-temperature milk from that steel creamer that had been sitting there before you even got to the table, and several packets of dominos.  It cheaply offers the same satisfying caffeinated punch necessary for waking up at the ungodly early hours of noon.

The service is no-frills, abrupt, and efficient. Egos should be firmly grounded before venturing in– no diva behavior will be entertained. Servers offer their opinions, unrequested. It’s like going to lunch at your nosy grandmother’s. She will comment on what you’re eating, and she will openly judge you for your order (if your grandmother is anything like mine– she is paradoxical. She will also comment on why my figure is not that of a ballerina’s, while pressuring me to eat more of everything else). The food though, like at grandma’s, is freaking fantastic.

Barney Greengrass (alongside those other Famous Delis) is also responsible for elevating Jewish food to its distinctive culinary form in New York. Anthony Bourdain loves it, and that man has notorious good tastes (a 10,000$/hr brilliant, nationally televised palate). The sturgeon is king here– “regret” should not be a vocabulary in the following 24 hours post-consumption of BG’s godly trinity of sturgeon, smoked salmon, or Nova scrambled with eggs and onion.

Additionally, Eric and I ordered the triple decker sandwich of roast beef, chicken fat, chicken liver, turkey, cole slaw and russian dressing. One of the servers came around and said, “Good luck with that.” Then, on the way back, he repeated, “Again, good luck.” But his assessment was incorrect. False, sir. It wasn’t enough, because it was SO DELICIOUS (the nutty, graininess of the bread spread upon with smooth, savory liver paste, and ground turkey, skipping down my throat- gobble gobbledeedoo– wholly satisfying despite the bland adjective in caps), we wanted more of it. Even though chicken fat and chicken liver usually aren’t my thing– hahahaha, who am I kidding? Fat is always my thing.

DI FARA

the mushroom slice I regretted getting only one of

A New York adventure is not complete without New York pizza. I’ve had many an arguments with my once-upon-an-Italian-lover over the superiority of New York pizza to the traditional Italian slices. Sorry dude, despite how charming your accent was on your persuasive speech, taste experience trumps rhetoric. The same way America takes plain Japanese sushi and transforms it into the magical Dragon roll, New York just took Roma and Sicily to the playing field on pizza and dominated. It’s just the facts of evolution. Enters one of the evolutionee at the front of the pack, Di Fara (pizzeria), out on Avenue J in the abyss of Brooklyn. The crust is feather light (a distinguishing NY trait), made with pastry dough, San Marzano tomatoes basked and plucked from the sunshine of Italy, and basil from Israel. Locavores would sit in a corner and cry as they ate this pizza, moral fortitude crushed by the crispy foundation of dough with the fresh cheese and sweet tomatoes melted together into one tasty, gooey fresco. On our visit, an outspoken Italian Brooklynite, clearly a long-time user and accomplice of Di Fara’s, leaning casually (strategically) on the counter, was cajoling Eric, with his stuck-in-an-elevator pitch of the holy virginal birth of this pizza, egging him on to purchase and consume the last pricey 5$ slice. He looked at the guy, the slice, the guy (still whispering sweet nothings), back to the slice. 2 against 1; hardly a fair fight.

Referenced Locations:

Barney Greengrass
541 Amsterdam Avenue at 86th Street
New York, NY 10024
(212) 724-4707
http://www.barneygreengrass.com

Di Fara
1424 Ave J
Brooklyn, NY 11230
(718) 258-1367

Anxiety Baking

Posted in Recipes by Jenny Famewhore on November 18, 2009

(Delicious) Apricot-Oatmeal Bar

Crunchy, buttery, gooey reminder of summer all packed into self-defined bite size. For lovers of crusts, the slight tang of apricot, and those who are procrastinating on doing anything but what they’re supposed to, this apricot-oatmeal bar is quick and guiltless until you realize that half of it is gone; but by then, the sugar kick has already set in and back to work reinvigorated it is.

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Thursday in the Heights: Bar Lola

Posted in Boston by Jenny Famewhore on November 17, 2009

If there are any college students still dating, a tapas bar is the perfect date spot; and a social reflection of our comparison-shopping tendencies, truncated attention spans, and a life of overwhelming choices. The tapas bar is a restaurant manifestation of the non-exclusive standard of love. Eating many little meals means you never have to commit to only one– one dish, or one lover. If the date sucks, just huff up those tiny appetizer-sized plates and beg over that check.

I find the difficulties that Frank Bruni’s hyperbolic grousing about the “death of the entree” referred to (enduring 17 bites of one thing is a luxury for a food critic) hard to justify and a wee sanctimonious when juxtaposed against the rising global food insecurity. Let’s be optimistic. There are only three meals in a day, an infinity plus one array of food and ways to make them. I would probably never get around to 1/4 of all that exists even if I were to eat something different every day. For me, tapas are the perfect way to adventurously taste everything without resorting to, say, asking Andrew to awkwardly entreat his friend who works at Late Night at BC dining to sneak over a single fry, that’s all- just one, for me. Or having to look wide-eyed and innocent at my dining companions and cautiously (in a manner that doesn’t invoke a vision of an Orphan Oliver hover-crafting-over their food) beseech, “Are you going to finish that?”

One day, I may settle into the peaceful cradle of satiety- a truce with curiosity- and find my niche, like, on a dirty bar stool in the Lower East Side of New York with my 17 Coronas and 17 sliders, but until then, I will keep looking towards that horizon, wondering what’s on the other side, and rallying for those tapas to keep coming.

Sultry Atmosphere And Tiny Bites At Boston’s Bar Lola


bar lola

Published in the November 12, 2009 Edition of the Heights

My friend and I were to have dinner one night, and she left me the exquisite burden of choosing the restaurant, along with a few footnotes: classy, but not overly extravagant; conducive to a long gossip session; and adventurous. It was like seeking the necessary characteristics in a perfect partner, but I only needed this place for a few magical hours. (I’ll let you in on a trade secret – Menupages and Chowhound is the foodie version of Craigslist.) So it was with these parameters in mind that I came upon Bar Lola, a tapas bar a short four blocks from Copley Station, on a corner of a tree-lined street flanked by colonial brownstones.

At Bar Lola, we were faced with a formidable menu spanning upwards of 40 dishes, ranging from tapas frias, or cold plates, with classics such as the Tortilla Espanola and Manchego y Serranno, and tapas calientes, or hot plates, with anything from fried calamari to sea scallops to roasted duckling to rabbit.

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Mac and Cheese takedown taken-down

Posted in Boston, Recipes by Jenny Famewhore on November 15, 2009
Mac and Cheese throwdown prize

a hastily written sign, and three boxes of 'good tastes' mac

Cooked, went, distributed, and conquered the Mac and Cheese takedown today (Nov. 15) at Great Scott, and here’s a one giant, self-congratulatory, spoiler about the conclusion: My Mac and Cheese-hurriedly-entitled, “Jenny’s Mac and Cheese: Asian invasion,” won 2nd place people’s choice!!!

IMG_5024

At the Great Scott: a sold out event

It was my first time ever entering a food competition (and my fourth time ever making legitimate Mac and Cheese, including the practice batch made yesterday) and aside from the prize of three boxes of Good tastes’ Four Cheese, Mediterranean, and Brie & Fig Mac & Cheese, I also gained a plump blister on my index finger from chopping onions all morning, the wicked pleasure of hearing my name announced with gusto and then followed by an explosive applause (I wish I could get a video of that to replay during moments of low-confidence,) and met some fantastic cooks in the Boston area– fierce, tingly delicious, and creative competition.

I thank my academy of people: Anna, for introducing me to the Thrillist mailing list where I discovered this chance; friends who were present last night at Larissa’s wine party, who were subjected to the delights of being my guinea pig control group for the test batch; Erin, for opening my cans when I was rushing around and freaking out a la Alice in Wonderland’s White Rabbit; Kristen, for driving me to Great Scott; and to all the people who courageously ate my Mac & Cheese and voted for it.

Of approximately 20 entrants, other great Mac and Cheese contenders included: lobster mac and cheese (to my left;) Mac and cheese of Doom with peppers, whole wheat pasta (to my right;)  truffle and thyme mac and cheese with sea salt sprinkled on top; Gorgonzola mac and cheese with crushed walnuts; bacon mac and cheese with homemade BBQ sauce (the boy had a clever t-shirt exclaiming, “Basically like God .. on a plate.. with bacon;”) and a judge’s choice first place winner, double-baked taters with chives, sour-cream, and bacon Mac and Cheese. Nom nom, that was delicious and appealed to my taste buds in a comforting, extremely satisfying way.

IMG_4985

The final product-- a pan-asian experiment

I’ll let you in on a dirty, behind the scenes secret: I hadn’t a clue how my Asian Invasion Mac and Cheese tasted when I served it– it was my first time making it with all the recipe edits and augmentations. I woke up late and ran out of time making it, so I covered it immediately out of the oven, and booked it to the venue. Then I stood there and served it to 200 people behind the hot, sweaty lines on an adrenaline high of having subsisted on nothing but Dunkin’ Donut coffee with a turbo shot, and a pint of Strongbow, semi-consciously hoping that no food or taste poisoning occurs. Victory tastes sweetest when least expected.

Making-of and recipe follows.

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