Category Archives: Bargain Bin

Beating the Heat.

I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but New York is having a bit of a heat wave at the moment. My apartment wasn’t designed for maximum air-flow, and, as a result, it’s so stuffy in there that I’ve been eating most of my meals on a tray in the bedroom, as close to my sole window-unit as possible.

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The kitchen is the hottest room in the place, so I’ve obviously been doing as little cooking as humanly possible. (When that much sweat involved, it’s hard enough to motivate to eat, let alone turn on a couple of burners.) One can only stand so many makeshift meals, though, and a few nights ago I hit the tipping point. I wanted a real dinner, dammit.

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Brown-Bag Blessing.

Those of you who follow me on Instagram may have gotten the wrong impression. Sure, I’ve done the odd bit of grilling here and there, but with the exception of this salad awhile back, I have been eating horribly unseasonably for most of the summer. I have been to the farmers’ market zero times, I do not have a CSA membership, and my status at the co-op falls somewhere between “not allowed to shop” and “utterly disgraced.”

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After an especially brutal weekend—one filled with ghetto Chinese, pizza, and food poisoning from said pizza—I was perhaps particularly susceptible to the charms of a light, clean dish of unquestionable provenance, but I was still surprised when a friend’s tweet provoked an instantaneous craving for something simple, fresh, and homemade. Clearly, my body was trying to tell me that one cannot live on takeout, Sour Patch Kids and Nutty Bars alone.

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Smitten Solution.

I think you all know me well enough by now to agree that I’m not normally one for quick, decisive action, but these days, I seem to be categorically unable to carry out my preferred method of menu-planning; instead of sifting through back issues of Gourmet and long-neglected cookbooks to come up with a way-too-ambitious grocery list, I find myself flipping through my Evernote recipe collection, discouraged by all the clippings that require days of advanced planning and extensive legwork. I just don’t feel like doing any of it.

Completely uncreatively, I blame the heat. I want to make things that require as little work as possible—with one hand, preferably, so the other is free to reach for that icy-cold glass of lambrusco—so I was in the perfect frame of mind to receive yesterday’s Smitten Kitchen email. Chopped salad with feta, lime and mint. Just reading the name cooled me off a few degrees.

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Big Game, Bigger Burger.

For a fan of club soccer, summers can be misery. Even with the season’s bountiful warm-weather distractions, the months between when the Premiership ends in May and revs back up again in August can seem interminable: With no actual games to watch or performances to analyze, the papers are full of little but gossip and speculation. It’s a sad state of affairs when the odd newsy tidbit comes as a welcome relief.

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Every two years, though, there’s a respite from the mundane. In 2010, we had the World Cup; this summer, it’s the Euros. (The games might not be as thrilling, but hey, football is football.) As those of you who follow me on Twitter have surely discovered, I’ve been watching the tournament religiously— not, however, without a little bit of guilt over spending perfect June afternoons in a bar instead of in the sunshine. For the addicts among us, there are a few spots that strike a healthy balance between the two with outdoor screenings; last weekend, in lieu of making the trek to Astoria’s beer garden, I found myself in Williamsburg, pulling up a seat in Iona‘s backyard.

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On Travel Friends, and Nina.

We met Nina at the dock in Moyogalpa on Ometepe, seconds after I’d agreed that we’d use our cab driver’s friend on the other side of the ferry ride. It took the British woman two sentences for us to agree to abort our previous travel plans and join her on the chicken bus to San Juan Del Sur. All three of us were going to the same place; why pay extra for a cab? And so Nina joined us (or we joined her) and two became three for the next leg of the trip.

I don’t know how to say the following without writing in generalizations: Being far away from home makes it more natural to open up to strangers. We spent two days with Nina, this outrageous, striking, smart and dominant California transplant. It could have been one hundred. I felt like I thoroughly knew her by the time we parted ways.

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Run Reward.

Last Sunday, before I went for my first run in months, I pulled a few cookbooks off of my shelves, determined to finally make good on those damn New Year’s resolutions.

Though I’d acquired Andrew Carmellini’s Urban Italian during my last visit to Portland two years ago (!), I’d barely glanced at it since that first desultory perusal. That day, though, as I flipped through the pages, this rigatoni Pugliese practically demanded to be realized, and from that point on, it was game over.

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Friday Five: The Brooklyn Flea’s Winter Wares.

Jill: Brooklyn Flea: the weekly market that fittingly sells repurposed and crafty wares in a bank repurposed as a three-floor mall, filled to the brim with furniture, boots, hand towels and jewelry that we can only dream of owning and with people who are way cooler than you or I will ever be. Maya and I visited this past December with a mission: to visit as many of the basement food vendors as humanly possible. And although I became momentarily distracted and purchased a porcupine-screened tea towel, we completed our task with precision and professionalism. (Porcupines are obviously the new bacon-owl-mustache. Duh.)

Maya: Though the allure of the Flea has diminished for me (thanks both to the ubiquity of the mobile vendors and to my awareness of what vintage goods  bought at flea markets should cost), it was worth the trip just to introduce Jill to some of New York’s premiere food-truck players. Today’s Friday Five highlights some of the things we managed to stuff in our beaks.

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The Freelance Diet: How to Splurge.

When I started coming up with a list of topics for my Freelance Diet series, I never imagined that lobster would qualify for inclusion: That crustacean hasn’t screamed “budget cuisine” since the days when it was known as poverty food and only deemed suitable for prisoners and indentured servants.

To say things have changed would be an understatement, but fortunately for the modern-day lobster-lover, deals are still there if you know where to look—or even if you don’t. It’s not just $29 rolls (or even $14 rolls, for that matter) in this town.

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Pre-Damage Control.

When Jill and I are in each other’s company, the tiny bit of restraint we possess individually goes right out the window. (I shudder to think of the damage that would’ve been done had we known each other for more than a single semester in college.) Jill is joining me in New York tomorrow evening, so in preparation for her visit—and the reemergence of our not-so-hidden debaucherous tendencies—I decided that packing my lunches for the rest of the week might not be the worst idea in the world.

And considering the weekend’s eating agenda, making something cheap and healthy-ish seemed to be the way to go—it’s pretty much a given that nothing from either category will make an appearance on our plates once her plane lands.

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Beyond the Savings.

My opinions on restaurant week(s) are similar to those on Groupon and programs of similar ilk. While I enjoy the savings (and the special menus), I think it’s important to patronize the small businesses (and locally-owned restaurants) not only during great deals, but when they’re not offering deep discounts. Simple as that. Nonetheless, I do enjoy the dining programs, because they do give me an excuse to get out and enjoy some of my favorite restaurants during the week and because I get to see said restaurants busy on a Monday evening. Last night, a group of us headed over to DeepWood to experience their $20 three course Dine Originals Week menu. Below are a few pictures of what’s in store for folks who are tempted to do the same.

I chose the ravioli (filled with bacon and leeks) for my starter. The rich filling perfectly complemented the smoky tomato sauce.

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