Stories

On Food Writing and Interviews with Chefs Masaharu Morimoto, Amanda Cohen and Will Horowitz

copyright Brent Herrig

Chatting with Chef Morimoto at his new Tribeca Canvas, copyright Brent Herrig

I’ve been having a crisis of faith, recently.

Not about this week, with Passover and Easter coming – though there is some angst there that is in tomorrow’s post (lucky you!)

But about the value in what I do.

I write, mostly about food. I interview people and build recipes and am a part of the pop culture world that partly gives me the willies. I was never the one to know what restaurant was hot and worth going to. I’m still not, really, other than that I now know about 50 chefs who are creating amazing food. I don’t like going out to eat to be seen. And did you know that chef groupies are a thing now? Quelle horreur!

I want the work I do to have value. I want to be a part of something because it contributes, because it helps give our world shape, and because it connects people on a visceral level. And while food does that in intimate and beautiful ways, it’s also become such an eye-rolling point of focus in New York that I want to yawn and pour a whiskey and watch Frasier or something.

That is, until I actually sit down and work.

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Why are Women the Gluten-Free Gladiators?

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Why are Women the Gluten-Free Gladiators?

This is a question I’ve asked myself many times while researching or calling in products, or scanning a list of ingredients at my grocer’s.

I interview high-profile chefs weekly for my Serious Eats column, and there I have to conscientiously focus on bringing more women into the mix; there are plenty of incredible female chefs out there, but the majority of the chefs owning and running high-end kitchens in New York are still men.

Yet when I scan my mental list of bloggers, writers, editors, developers, PR representatives and producers in the gluten-free field, the steep majority of them are women: editors Silvana Nardone and Alice Woodward at Easy Eats and Living Without; writers/bloggers/developers Amy Green, Nicole Hunn, Shauna James Ahern, and Karina Allrich; producers Pamela’s Products, Jules Gluten-Free, Better Batter… I could show you my address book and guarantee that at least 85% of those in the gluten-free world are women.

Alex Thomopoulos has an incredible blog and a web show on Hungry - Gluten-Free With Alex T - that I'm addicted to

Alex Thomopoulos has a beautiful blog and an insanely amusing web show on Hungry – Gluten-Free With Alex T – that I’m addicted to.

As someone who hasn’t eaten gluten-containing products in almost 20 years (minus an incredibly unhealthy and disastrous period in college), I’m mesmerized by how grandly the food world has changed, and the gluten-free food world has developed from a few ingredients and progressive health food stores to the insane trend – yes, trend – that it is now. This community basically made me a food writer, as other ambitions melted away when people around me wanted to know more about how to eat on an adapted diet.

I, personally, am probably not the best advocate for this way of eating.

When someone mentions to me that they’re cutting out out gluten and expects me to be excited and supportive, my response is always, “why?” I have a very specific illness that makes gluten dangerous to my health when eaten with any sort of regularity. It doesn’t stop with gluten, and two-thirds of my life I’ve spent having the same conversation with waiters, relatives and new friends about what I can’t and why I can’t eat certain things. Those with Celiac Disease have it even worse than I, and in support of them (and for many other reasons) I think those who can digest gluten should digest gluten. Yes, eating less simple carbohydrates and more healthy vegetables and proteins in general is better for everyone, and even more so for those with health conditions. But if I could enjoy the crackle of a crusty piece of bread or a slice of pizza, you can be damned sure I would.

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Australian Food Is About More Than Tim Tams

TheDustyBaker-Aussie Foodie Lunch-3

“When do u think they will send us to do a real-life review of the food scene?”

Lauren from Keep It Sweet Desserts tweeted this to Audra (The Baker Chick), Joanne (Eats Well With Others) and myself after we’d rolled our way out of a luncheon hosted by Tourism Australia.

Our collective knowledge about the food and wine scene in Australia had been quite abysmal; Audra admitted to Bloomin Onions, some guy at the next table threw out the “shrimp on the barbie” line, and all I could come up with (other than the little lamb chops I love to rub in olive oil and sear to a quick crisp) was the Tim Tam Slam, which I have never personally experienced but remembered having been introduced to by an Australian acquaintance years ago, and which I mentally bookmarked so I could one day get my hands on some and replicate the little cookies for gluten- and dairy-free eaters (more on that later).

We’d been pulled together at the Sunburnt Calf on the Upper West Side at noon on a Tuesday to be treated to some tasty plates and an education on Australian food and wine. Yes, food bloggers and writers really do have rough lives. And as I sipped away my exhaustion with some pretty stellar Chardonnay and put faces and voices to avatars and URLs, we became enamored by the island that is so far, far away.

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I’m In the Kitchen with Alex Stupak

Empellon Push Project

My editor at Serious Eats warned me that Alex Stupak, the chef/owner of Empellon in NYC, could be a bit brusque in interviews. Instead, I found him to be incredibly articulate, respectful and humble. Since then I’ve interviewed Alex and his awesome wife/partner chef Lauren Resler on various other projects, and am continually delighted by how thoughtful, considerate people they are.

Oh, and their food is pretty incredible too. I’ve been to both of their restaurants several times and am consistently satiated by the time I leave.

I recently covered Alex’s second Push Project dinner, where be brings another chef into his kitchen for a 9-course joint tasting menu. For this incarnation he brought in Jordan Kahn from Red Medicine in L.A.

Alex let me hang in the kitchen. This is what I got to see happen:

I Chat With Chef Carmen Quagliata of Union Square Cafe

Chef Carmen at Union Square Cafe

Chef Carmen at Union Square Cafe, photo Brent Herrig Photography

Chef Carmen Quagliata is practically the quintessential Italian grandma. I experienced this first-hand when I showed up for a small private dinner and he’d made me an alternate menu sensitive to my allergies, one that was course-for-course on par with the other guests’ dishes. It wasn’t expected and hardly requested; he responded to my effusive thanks with a humble, “I just didn’t want you to feel left out.”

So begins my interview with Chef Carmen Quagliata of Union Square Cafe. I had gone there a few weeks before for a press dinner at the new chef’s table, where Chef Carmen does family-style dishes including whole fish and entire porchettas. To my surprise he had made me an entire five-course meal on par with the diners around me, from three kinds of gluten-free bread to nosh on in the beginning through to a goat-cheese cheesecake for dessert.

“I just didn’t want you to feel left out”, he said during our interview for Serious Eats. I almost cried.

Italian chefs quickly hit my heartstrings, and Chef Carmen had them dancing. Please check out the full interview on Serious Eats, drop him some love in the comments, and head to a stellar meal at Union Square Cafe very soon.

Kitch+Table Brownies with Dairy-Free Creme Anglaise – Gluten and Dairy Free!

Kitch+Table Gluten-Free Brownies, Dairy-free Creme Anglaise and Dairy-Free Fudge Sauce

Kitch+Table Gluten-Free Brownies, Dairy-free Creme Anglaise and Dairy-Free Fudge Sauce

There are moments here in New York City, when I feel like I’m living out a television episode or something. Yesterday, walking from Rockefeller Center to Times Square, I was hit in such a moment.

I’d just come from doing an infomercial at a salon a friend owns, three stories above where the big ol Christmas sits during the holidays. Now and then he treats me to a cut or color or, in this case, a treatment that makes my hair shiny and soft. It’s been just over a year since I’ve been on camera, and though I was put off at first by the much larger production scale than I’d expected (there’s money in beauty product advertising), I quickly fell back into the fun of it. And evidently the 4 years of drama school and 10 years of city living mean I actually can do what I’ve been trained to do, so it sorta kicked ass.

Me getting the treatment down two weeks ago or so.

Me getting the treatment down two weeks ago or so.

I then hoofed it to Times Square to pick up some tickets for my sister (the kitsch factor in that area is laughable now, and most readily avoided), and subway’d it down to Union Square. Being early for brunch with friends (2:30 is totally acceptable time for eggs on a Sunday), I sneaked into a single spot at the bar at Union Square Cafe and treated myself to half a dozen oysters and a killer Bloody Derby*.

Times Square hoofing.

Times Square hoofing.

There was something about the tone of my day – the color, the weather, the bustle of tourists, the quiet subway car, the packed bar, the good food – that reminded me why life in New York is so sweet, and generous, and rather sexy sometimes.

Brunch of Sexiness #1. Totally beat out Brunch #2

Brunch of Sexiness #1. Totally beat out Brunch #2

Now, I feel like this little ramble should connect to this recipe, because if I was a serious food blogger than all things in my daily life would connect to the things I bake and blog about, right? I’d have more of a shtick and more than 3 people who read this would know what a Bloody Derby** is because I’ve referenced it a few times now… I may have even recipe’d it.

Anyway, this recipe connects because my day yesterday and that gorgeous chocolatey thing above are both full of love and kismet… or something like that. The recipe came together because I got some samples in from Kitch+Table, who I’ve worked with for Easy Eats and wanted to try it out on non-gluten-freers my last week of private chef-ing. The adorably talented 13-year old in the family loves brownies, so I figured we might as well have some fun with them.

Photo credit Kathy Schwartz for Kitch+Table

Photo credit Kathy Schwartz for Kitch+Table

First off, the brownies are delicious. I followed the very simply recipe on the bag to a T and was a bit wary when the batter was sticky and thick, but they baked up fudgey yet firm, rich yet not heavy. They have that signature crumb on top that many gluten-free brownie recipes miss. The boss family had no idea they were gluten-free, and the brownie aficionado ate the scraps around our little cut-out hearts with relish, going nuts for them. So stellar product to begin with (and I tried out two bags of this with equally stellar results). Go to Kitch+Table for purchasing or try my boozy Beer Brownies for something totally by scratch.

To spruce them up (this was the week after Valentines day) we used cookie-cutter hearts and layered them with thinly cut strawberries, some dairy-free fudge sauce leftover from my Chocolate Mallow Layer Cake and some dairy-free coconut Creme Anglaise, definitely two staple recipes to have in your pastry book.

Since leaving this job I’ve felt much emotionally calmer and steadier, and I know soon my body will catch up. And until then I’ll be thankful for the little moments, the big ones, the good things people are producing, and a little Creme Anglaise.

Brownie-Layer-Cakes---TheDustyBaker

Dairy-Free Creme Anglaise

This recipe sounds uber fancy but it’s relatively simple. Made with egg whites and just a little bit of sugar, it’s a delicately sweet addition for dressing up desserts.

1/4 cup egg whites
1/4 tsp cornstarch, tapioca starch or arrowroot starch
2 Tbsp white sugar
1 vanilla bean, de-beaned (slice the vanilla bean down lengthwise and use the back of the knife to scrape the beans out)
3/4 cup lite coconut milk

In a medium bowl, whisk egg whites and starch.

In a small pot, whisk together sugar, vanilla and milk. Whisk constantly over medium-ish heat until steaming. Pour over the egg mixture, whisking all the while, until thoroughly combined.

Pour back into pot and return to stove. Whisk constantly for 1-2 minutes, until slightly thick, coating the whisk.

Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a Pyrex measuring cup or small bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until cold.

*If you ever meet a guy in Denver with bright eyes who says he penned the name “Bloody Derby” for a Bloody Mary with bourbon in it, you have full permission to box his ears. I came up with it almost two years ago. This name has been pondered and considered. Do not trust this man. Then again, don’t box his ears, because he was in the army and is very able to kick your ass. Maybe just tickle him instead. I think he’s ticklish. Report back if you find out.

**The 4 of you who read this far down now know too. Between the 8 of us and the Denver guy and the guy I dated for five minutes when I came up with it and the bartender at the Ace hotel where we first ordered it I think we can make this Bloody Derby thing a thing. Just remember who started it. And I drank that Derby hours ago so there’s sadly not even a bourbon-infused reason for this rant.

60 More Miles to Beat Breast Cancer – And Pink Sweets to Come!

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My mother Doris and I in the Twin Cities in 2011.

I say the word “walk” a lot. To my dog, several times a day. To myself when I’m cranky at how slowly some people move on the streets of NYC. As a curse when my joints really hurt (yeah, this Nemo character isn’t helping today). And within my family as we talk about if we should do a “walk” or not this year.

The joy of the word and its meaning is not lost on me, since there was a time as a child Lyme Disease made it not possible for me to walk.

Over the past 20 years, this ability has ebbed and flowed in regards to ease. And in 2004 I first put my capabilities to the test in what was to be the last of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure New York City Breast Cancer 3-days. I walked 60 miles from Bear Mountain through the Bronx and on the Triboro into Queens, then again down into Brooklyn, over the Williamsburg Bridge into Manhattan, ferried it over to Staten Island, and then finished off the Bayone to Jersey. I made every step, and was so moved that I vowed to walk every city the Komen organization sponsor. I walked every step in 7 cities after that, recruiting family members and friends over the years. My illnesses challenged the “every mile” goal I’d had after I dealt with another bout of illness in 2008, but I still tackled two more cities in 2010 and 2011, first celebrating my father’s 60th birthday by walking with him in Phoenix and then with my mom and sisters in the Twin Cities.

My first walk, in 2004

My first walk, in 2004

This year my mother and I will once again walk, “60 Miles for 60 Years” being our motto as we celebrate her significant 60th birthday.

She’s the reason why I picked this walk. Seeing her support her friends and loved ones as they battled breast cancer over the years made me so thankful – both for my health and for the attention she’s given me as I’ve needed her support maybe more than most kids should. To this day she’s one of my strongest advocates, and walking with her is one of my greatest joys.

So together we’ll walk Seattle this coming September, with my siblings all on various crew teams in celebration. We’ll walk in laughter and tears for those we’ve loved, those we’ve lost, and those we’re walking to save before they need saving. We’ll celebrate her birthday, our friendship, and the thousands of people we’ll walk with. I’ll make as many steps as I can, and be cheering for her as she pounds miles I can’t. We’ll keep working hard to raise more than money – to raise awareness, unity, and solidarity.

I so can’t wait to walk.

If you feel so moved, please donate to help us achieve the $2,300 fundraising minimum we need to meet on top of our own personal travel funds to get to the starting line by clicking HERE or on the widget to the right. And check out our website, Walking for Udders, to see pictures and read stories from our last 9 walks.

And expect lots of pink sweet things to come in the next 7 months.

Happy Friday, stay warm east coasters,

– Jacqueline

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cherry Chip Loaf – Baked with Love

Cherry Chocolate Chip Bread

Cherry Chocolate Chip Bread

* Note: This post is sponsored by King Arthur Flour and Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs for their “Baking with Love” Pinterest contest! Details on this below!

——————

I feel fortunate to get to do so much of what I love. And this week am even more amply blessed.

I don’t bring this up much anymore because I consider myself somewhat “retired”, but I got my degree in stage acting, and for all of my twenties it was my main focus in regards to work. Looking at my resume you could even say I was rather successful at it. But my body couldn’t keep up with the crazy schedules and multiple jobs it took to stay afloat, and writing seemed a healthier career choice. While I don’t regret a minute I spent pursuing or taking the stage or my decision to focus elsewhere… I do really miss going from one creative project to another sometimes, and the sense of teamwork and community that goes into a production.

So I was honored when asked to perform again as Bird in Thin Air in the last year of the Universal Theatre Festival in Provincetown on the end of Cape Cod.

As Bird in 2006 at StageWorks/Hudson and then warming up last weekend in Provincetown.

As Bird in 2006 at StageWorks/Hudson and then warming up last weekend in Provincetown.

Bird and I go way back: I did the premiere of the piece at StageWorks up in Hudson, New York at the delightful age of 25 (along with four other parts). It’s a 16-minute solo short piece about a tightrope walker who’s trying to gather the courage to walk the wire after having lost her partner/husband only days before. There’s no way I could fully explain how much this piece has meant over the course of these 6 years as I’ve performed it in 5 productions: it’s the kind of piece that an actor rarely gets to call their own, and Bird grows with every year and every hundreds of experiences I go through as a person. By the end of those 16 minutes I’ve gone through a delicious range of emotions and am spent, sometimes to the point of near vomiting.

I could say it’s nerve-wracking to be on a small platform alone without an actor to share the performance with. But the older I get the less I worry about a memorable performance or “wowing” anyone. I care more about connecting with the words, the character, the writer, my director and the joy that is many eyes upon me as I step onto that platform alone and just talk. I’m completely unable to see the audience in front of me because of the blast of the spotlight a foot away. But I can sense them, and hear their reaction to points of humor or sarcasm or… at the end… my complete terror and anguish. And I could never describe my gratitude at the sighs, applause, “bravos” and – once – “hurrah” that comes when that spotlight goes down.

There’s really nothing like it. I love those opportunities. And I am so thankful that now and then I get to live them.

I spent this past weekend far from my kitchen at work, my kitchen at home, my dog and (for the most part) a computer. I stretched, I slept, I worked with my much-loved director, I dissected pages of text and made sure my body could keep up with the story while on stage looking out, blinded by light.

Clockwise from top left: sign at the beach, tech rehearsal, the view from my room, the empty streets after the last show closed, the farewell season banner, bouys in the cold.

Clockwise from top left: sign at the beach, tech rehearsal, the view from my room, the empty streets after the last show closed, the farewell season banner, bouys in the cold.

Pinterest Contest – Baking with Love

This post is a little late, because while I had planned to pen it over the weekend on my luxuriously quiet days before the shows, I came down with an upper respiratory infection and had to put all focus on muscling through the performances and my drive home. So this is a little late, but still full of love.

Screen shot 2013-01-23 at 1.38.08 PMI don’t normally do sponsored posts. But I actually like and use both of these products, so when asked to do a post with King Arthur Flour and Pete and Gerry’s eggs, I said “yes” with confidence. I love Pete and Gerry’s eggs because they’re free-range, organic, from somewhat nearby and rather affordable. Though I don’t often use flour blends King Arthur is my go-to gluten-full flour. And when it comes to using a blend, I love that there’s does not include xanthan gum – which is a plus in my book.

So we’re all coming together for a contest on Pinterest where pinners can pin their loving baked treats up until February 14th and win up to $250 in King Arthur products! Click here or on the image above to learn more (and click HERE to join me on Pinterest!).

Chocolate-Cherry-Bread1

Now I had intended to do something pink and heart-full and sweet for this contest, and I may do another by the due date, but performing and cold and what-not had me doing something simple and rich and warming. There’s something I adore about a quick-bread recipe. The fact that it’s two bowls and no electronics. The fact that a basic ratio is endlessly adaptable. The fact that it can be a loaf or a muffin. I love quick-breads. And this one tastes even better on day two, and day three.

And now, to quote Meg Ryan (who looked way more adorable with her cold in You’ve Got Mail than I do right now), “my head is getting fuzzy”. Back to the couch.

Lots of love,

– Jacqueline

Chocolate-Cherry-Bread2

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cherry Chip Loaf

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup / 8oz King Arthur Gluten-Free Flour Blend
  • 3/4 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/2 cup (4oz) white sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 large Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs, beaten
  • 8oz milk (I used unsweetened almond), warmed
  • 1/2 cup (4oz, 1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tsp lemon juice or white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried cherries
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup chocolate chips or chunks

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease a loaf or muffin pans.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, gum, powder, soda, sugar and salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk eggs thoroughly. Add milk and butter and whisk thoroughly to combine.

Whisk dry ingredients into wet. Fold in cherries and chocolate chips.

Pour into greased pans and bake 40 minutes for a loaf or 18-22 minutes for muffins.

I Chat With… NYC’s Finest Tastemakers

At the table with Executive Chef April Bloomfield, photo Brent Herrig

At the table with Executive Chef April Bloomfield, photo Brent Herrig

I get all reflective around the holidays.

My birthday, too, when I come to think of it.

As the year comes to a close my current focus is on my health – following your passion into the kitchen and on the city streets as a writer puts a lot of stress on a body with a chronic illness. I love my jobs. Cooking, nourishing, interviewing, covering events, working on building up Easy Eats Magazine… they really fulfill me. But sometimes I let the balance tip too far towards overworking and too far from sustaining my health. As proven by having to take a day completely off of work this week – literally, calling in sick which I never do – because of back pain limiting my capability to cook.

But while my health is wavering, reflecting on the beautiful things I’ve gotten to accomplish this year is so satisfying.

One is the insane amount of talent I’ve gotten to sit from across a table, as I’ve interviewed chefs, restauranteurs, writers and mixologists/sommeliers. I’m blown away by who I’ve gotten to speak with.

The faces below are my most recent – taken before, during and after Hurricane Sandy ravaged my city. I have interviews on the calendar through January and am excited by the endless list of tastemakers to speak with.

For my entire gallery, visit my I Chat With… page. And for links to all the interviews, including the most recent ones pictured here, check out my page on Serious Eats.

Happy Friday,

– Jacqueline

Rise Up, New York. (and Big Apple Cupcakes)

My friend Robbie…

There’s something about when the lights go out in New York City.

When restaurants are closed, Broadway stages are dark, and bridges and tunnels flooded.

I’m incredibly fortunate. Washington Heights is called the Heights for a reason in that we’re elevated, so my neighborhood wasn’t in danger of flooding – though ten blocks away and the highway below me got wiped. We passed a relatively uneventful night, the howling outside and occasional crash of something flying and falling a soundtrack to the news we couldn’t look away from and the movies we eventually distracted ourselves with. Eerily, the streets were empty. But, though it flickered, we never lost our electricity. We woke to quiet.

Everyone I know is safe, though many are still without power and a few have flooded homes.

I am very fortunate.

Anytime something strikes NYC – a madman with a gun, a massive transportation strike, a blackout, a hurricane – I become even more in love with where I live. I truly love New York City. I love the community, the diversity, the possibility. Yes, it takes energy to live here, but it gives me energy as well. It doesn’t feel like a big city at all. It just feels like… home.

So, thank you to those who are working to repair our home. To those who helped evacuated the hospitals without power and on fire. To the emergency responders who helped people out of collapsed homes, evacuated the areas in danger of being crushed by a falling crane, who worked to put out fires through floods and who are still working in teams to bring help to those in need. Thanks to those hauling away debris, washing muddy roads, pumping out the subway tunnels and working to get the millions of us without power back into the light.

My heart is downtown…

…and for all those who have made sure we’re safe and sent loving energy from Toronto, Cape Town, Denver, Tampa, California… please hug someone you love.

Because hugging is awesome. And we should do more of it.

For a NYC-inspired recipe and more blubbering about why I love my city so much, check out my Big Apple Cupcakes with NY Cheesecake Frosting.

– Jacqueline

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