Reading Donna Bell’s Bake Shop Cookbook inspires me to share my New York origin story – or more importantly how I met Darren Greenblatt – one of the writers and co-owners of the eponymous bakery. My older sister’s best friend went to FIT with Darren so he was one of the first people I met when I moved up here to go to school – not that I think I made much of an impression. I was too intimidated by their hard won city cool acquired over the 4 whole years they’d lived there before me.
Part cookbook and part memoir, DBBSC is all about first meetings as it tracks the friendship history between Darren and his partners Pauley Perrette and Matthew Sandusky. It’s very much about being young and new in a city and the families you form. If they get along with your parents (and everyone gets along with the Greenblatts), then they’ll always know where you’re coming from. If they help you build a bakery to honor your mother (Donna Bell’s is named after Pauley’s mother who was a wonderful southern cook) then you’ll always have something in common. Read more
A few years ago, I found myself climbing El Cuauhcalli, an Aztec Temple of Eagle and Jaguar Warriors. They called it a pyramid but it was really a series of narrow steps and terraces carved into the mountainside built on the Cerro de los Idolos’ ceremonial – now archeological – site in Malinalco, a small town southwest of Mexico City. The security guard at the entrance swore it would take a brisk 2o minutes to climb the 400+ steps. I still don’t know why he lied to us. We’d arrived late and the ferocity of the midday sun almost stopped us before we began, until we saw a group of pilgrims, dressed completely in white, who were doing the same hike, singing and blissfully barefoot. There was no turning back – we followed the ghosts.
I find an excuse to visit the Publix near my mother’s house almost every day that I’m in Miami. And it’s not for the daily free chocolate chip cookie their Danish bakery has for every child (and shameless adult) who asks – though that doesn’t hurt. When every recipe I attempt in New York turns into a scavenger hunt or compromise, I love the everydayness of seeing these things in a large chain grocery store. Most markets have strong Caribbean or Central American sections, but only in Miami do you see Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru and the West Indies represented as well. It’s like shopping in the a pan-Latin future as imagined by dancing dolls of It’s a Small World. Read more
Film was my first love but it was never an easy relationship. Early prep days were always my favorite time, when you were crewing up and you could anticipate any and all problems – or not. No one ever sets out to make a less than perfect movie but there are so many elements that can get away from you that it can be a heartbreaking process. It’s lovely to see good work rewarded and I’m excited to see friends making movies being honored this weekend. What’s isn’t so great is not seeing it recognized, and it was equally disappointing to see so many frozen out this year. Read more
I can’t decide if this post is too early or too late for Mardi Gras. I’ve always associated bread pudding with Lent for some reason although there is nothing ascetic about pudding drowning in butter and bourbon. While friends’ feeds filled with street scenes from the parades, I spent Sunday morning, on what felt like the coldest day in Brooklyn, standing over an enormous of red beans with smoked sausage and filling an enormous pan with bread pudding. Read more
Winter may feel endless just now but the season for red pomelos is way too short. Only a few markets in my neighborhood carry them and I all but missed them last year. Sweeter than other varieties with a thick white pitch or albedo, pomelos are perfect for making dulce de toronja and I‘d been waiting all year for them to come back around. Read more
A couple of months ago, I was asked to do a small write up on Felipe Rojas-Lombardi for the launch of the Celebrity Chef stamps series. I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t know very much about him when I started. Though he was famous for his work with James Beard, was the founding chef of Dean & Deluca, and introduced countless Spanish and Latin American food traditions to New York’s culinary scene at his Chelsea restaurant The Ballroom (tapas for a start and quinoa no less), his career predated the chef as celebrity phenomenon and it was sometimes hard to pull up information. Still when I did find articles, some scanned into pre-Google archives, I found some answers to things I’d always wondered about. For one, it explained why gourmet prepared food counters (like the one he developed for Dean & Deluca) are essentially Peruvian though they would never fall into the “ethnic” food category (he predated those facile distinctions as well). Read more