Tuesday, March 31, 2009

We need your help

Read this. Donate here. Hunger is unacceptable. Please help now. The Hostess thanks you in advance for getting involved.

Feedback please

Morning, Pals.

I have a number of emails now which request I include the approximate cost of the dishes
on the site for an easy reference in these difficult times. I will try to increase to this level of detail. Keep in mind this is only a general estimate and the difficulty will be in representing
the cost of bulk purchased pantry items, but I will try to get as close as I can.

Be well,
The Hostess

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Be courageous and brave

I know the posts are sparse these days. No excuses, that is the way it has to be for a bit. The pendulum will swing again, not to worry.

Before you feign allergy or claim to detest beets, these innocent root vegetables, I beg of you to listen to reason: It was the vegetable boiling cooks who were wrong, and the beet greens, come to think of it. But not the beets. They wanted to ascend to their moment of greatness. They were cheated by hordes of boil-and-butter talentless hacks, okay? That is neither you or I and we should aim to put this fine root back in the good graces of all comers: Both brilliant and suave people like you and I and talentless hacks, as we should always aim to be charitable and patient with beet-defaming ignoramuses.

Herewith, a recipe of charity for the beetless masses. Fair beets, your moment of greatness awaits.

Beet and goat cheese salad with lemon vinaigrette
Serves 4

This is a great, visually appealing, make-ahead salad if you need it to be. I often double or triple the dressing recipe as I use it constantly and it keeps beautifully. I have tried this salad with the cooked beets from the produce section of the store and found the salad became abysmal. You really must get the freshest beets you can and deal with them yourself, short cuts will be fatal.

3 pounds red or golden beets, greens and stems removed
1 recipe Lemon Vinaigrette (follows), used over beets to taste
2 ounces good quality goat cheese, crumbled
Pine nuts, dry roasted for garnish

I have two methods for cooking beets, use the one you find agreeable:

1. Place the stemmed unpeeled beets in a large sauce pan, cover with water, and boil half an hour or until a fork inserted in the largest part of the beet enters easily.
2. Place the stemmed unpeeled beets in a baking dish, add enough olive oil to coat
and roll them to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Roast at 400 degrees half an hour or until a fork inserted in the largest part of the beet enters easily.

When beets are cooked, remove them from the boiling water or the oven and set them on a plate to cool. When you can handle them, remove the bulb-end with a knife and then peel the beets. Cut into slices 1/3 inch thick or so and lay decoratively on a rimmed serving dish. Set aside while you make the dressing.

Lemon Vinaigrette
3/4 cup or 6 servings

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1 teaspoon Country Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar (or cider in a pinch)
1/2 cup good olive oil
1 teaspoon honey, more to taste
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine the lemon juice, mustard, and vinegar in a bowl and whisk vigorously. Add the olive oil in a small amounts whisking thoroughly all the while adding. When it is combine/emulsified, add the honey and whisk to combine. Add the salt and pepper. Taste and adjust honey, salt, and pepper as you wish.

Assemble the salad: Spoon dressing gently over the cold beets. Refrigerate for at least one hour or as long as overnight. When you are ready to serve, garnish with crumbled goat cheese and toasted pine nuts.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


I know. It looks kind of dreamy. All soft vanilla buttercream and alluring devils food cake. That is the trouble with food photography, it can be a deceiving art. The only unimpeachable teller of truth in this food journalism thing is the mouth.

In the case of a touted recipe for Charleston Devils (miniature devils food cakes), from the first and arguably greatest junior league cookbook of all time, Charleston Receipts, my mouth wishes to advise you it was less than beguiled with these devils. In fact, it wishes you to know that unless you wish to while away the dessert course on tasteless, dry, cardboard one might skip this recipe or else alter it until it is hardly recognizable.

The book was published in 1959. Where chocolate cake is concerned, we've come a long way since. But it sure sits pretty for its close up.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Reckless natives

( The famed Sunnyfield Farm, Bedford, New York, a favorite subject of Slim Aarons photos... while it looks tranquil, it is located on an insanely trafficked double yellow in the village... )

Don't get the idea that this entire corner of Westchester is rural and sparsely populated. On the contrary, Bedford is, I assure you, quite obnoxiously overpopulated and just chock full angst and traffic. Which is why, when the neighbor does stuff like this, (I think to make readers around the world think that this is some sort of quaint, tranquil suburban paradise of gentlemen farmers and old-school Wasps) it makes me laugh just a little. In reality, when the town began to approve any old structure to be built on just a thumb size lot, and pitched that silly five-acre zoning thing, the place just went straight to hell in many ways: The first was the quiet of our old roads which run concurrently in many spots with our bridle trails. The second was appreciation for anonymity and grace.

(This is the main street in Bedford Village, one of the three Bedford hamlets. Once a quiet small town street, it is now plagued with traffic back ups morning and evening. )

Anyway, all that amounts to a lot of fiercely unpleasant stuff: Our old cemetery in which so many local family members are buried being photographed to commercialize Halloween by the same offender, and an ugly lawsuit (which I never truly understood entirely) that polarized just everyone in these parts and sparked literal protests in town (with canape service, naturally).

I only mention all this because the riding-my-horse-to-breakfast-at Richard-Gere's-new-restaurant thing still cracks me up. I mean, this isn't pastoral Kentucky here, Pals, this is a human-jammed corner of the metro New York City region. And trust me, having grown up on those trails, this was an ill-advised and perilious adventure.

Okay, I just needed to get that out there because it has been making me itchy.

On the upside though, we went down the road here to Bedford Post, that new restaurant - on my "horse" - also known as a Volvo SUV which I nicknamed Sea Biscuit II for the occasion- and had brunch there. "The Barn" as they call it, is a cafe where they serve all manner of casually attired types breakfast and lunch and have a sort-of takeout cafe at the same time:

Honestly, for all the chatter and jive about the place, it is really no better for dining hereabouts as any of it's competitors and frankly, the staff seems completely stumped about where to go and what to do with regard to this mystifying food-service scenario they find themselves in. But my food - poached artichoke and egg on crispy polenta cakes with chimichurri sauce - was table-slapping good (no, I totally did not, but I wanted to), while Josh's "eggs benny," (annoying) was just a middle-of-the-roader:

Which is, coincidentally, also where you can find the kooky neighbors riding their steeds on any given day...

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Memo to Bobby Flay

To: Bobby Flay, Chef-partner Bar Americain, Midtown West, NYC
From: Blushing (and might I add, Disgusted) Hostess
Re: Sommelier and hand washing procedures

Chef, this is not the sort of thing I would expect or excuse more from an employee of a burger joint in a truck stop off 95. In fact, I like to think, having a bit of experience in this area, that the one thing all food purveyors have in common at the end of the day is their commitment to a sanitary environment.

I said I like to think that, but the New York City Board of Health is forever setting me straight: Why, as recently as a few months ago Mario Batali's Del Posto was temporarily shuttered for pest violations: They could minimize their carbon footprint but apparently could not force their bug collection to do the same. So, I don't go there anymore: Marked once and for all in my mind as filthy, no matter what the BOH assures in the papers.

I suppose it was lucky then, that on this past Wednesday night when my Husband and I ducked into Bar Americain, that soaring luxe jewel in your crown, that it was after dinner when I went to the ladies room and there encountered the sommelier leaving the loo. She stood right next to me as I scrubbed at my hands with soap. She rubbed at her eye makeup with her fingers, adjusted her hair, and left never having washed her hands.

I was disgusted but not altogether surprised. She had been at our table and offered to help with the wine but, as BH readers will remember, I had a baby only ten days before and was finally able to have a cocktail (Champagne) and an after dinner drink (Brandy Alexander - which, Chef, I prefer creamy). My husband is a single malt drinker. Consequently, we declined her offer choosing instead to pick a by the glass selection of red wine for the main course: I had the Malbec which was very nice and a suggestion of our waiters, and Josh had the Cab which was, for our taste, weapons-grade swill.

The food was great but there was very little of it: About a tablespoon of food arrived for my Crispy Squash Blossoms, granted they are out of season in New York so the flight costs must be staggering! But we enjoyed the tuna tartare and green tomato and fava beam salad; the steak was just okay which is disappointing when one considers the cost. But the real charmer turned out to be the horseradish steak sauce which was rich and piquant. It will linger in my memory.

For years I worked in this neighborhood, one block away. If I were still toiling away at 53rd and Seventh, I would have enjoyed bringing vendors and colleagues there. And since it is so well located for the theaters, which I have long complained had strictly pedestrian quality restaurants, it would be a great destination before a show as it was for us on our way to see Will Ferrell.

But for naught. I cannot, will not abide by unsanitary conditions, especially when returning home to a two week old child who is just building a store of immunities great enough to fight off the inexcuseably poor hygenics of irresponsible restaurant employees.

And a note to the sommelier: You never know who is at the sink next to you, could be the health inspector...