Guilty pleasures? None to speak of, but I have plenty of guilty displeasures. Topping that list is eating deep-fried brains in Budapest and reading The Fountainhead.
Describe your perfect meal. It may be trite, but I'm grateful for the meal that has real hooks in local culture, rather than in a "concept" or in immaculate cooking. This could be a pound of whole hog barbecue at Scott's in Hemingway, South Carolina. It could be a standing chaat session on a street in North India. It could be two bottles of rye vodka, preserved wild mushrooms, and salted hog fat on toast with a Russian bohemian in Petersburg who drunk-drives me home with his 12-year-old son in the backseat. It could even be Valentine's Day at White Castle. The meals that stick with me are the ones that change me. They show me how food lives and teaches me something about the way people connect with what's on their plate (or in their hands). The best part about this feeling is that there's always another perfect meal to be experienced.
What food won't you eat? Raw onions make me gag, as do most cheeses. I hate the former because it's a handicap on my ability to enjoy almost every cuisine in the world. I'm fine with the latter, because I've given up on understanding what makes women happy anyway!
Favorite food person? As far as writing goes, Calvin Trillin will always be my favorite food person. My favorite cook is the entire population of Mexico and Mexican-America. In terms of human ice cream cones, I doubt anyone can ever top Mr. Tastee.
When did you first realize you were a serious eater? After my first trip to the original location of Chef Edwards BBQ in Oakland (R.I.P.), the joint closed down for its move to a new location (also R.I.P.). I started checking Chowhound for news and making calls to the chef's answering machine every week, desperate for a Piggly Wiggly. I was a changed man.
What do your family and friends think of your food obsessions? Most people I care about are just as enthusiastic about food as I am. The only difficulty I've experienced is getting people to respect my love of the flavor purple.
Favorite food sites or blogs (besides SE)? I'm a Chowhound loyalist, though I'm mostly a lurker when it comes to posting on the CH boards. I've learned too much from that site to not recognize what a valuable and genuine resource it is for the curious eater.
Everyone has a go-to person they call for restaurant recommendations. Who's yours? Since I'm fairly active in the NYC blogosphere, my go-to panel for tips and recommendations is pretty extensive. My go-to people when it comes to talking about food are Zach Mann, my co-blogger at The Eaten Path, my good friend and epic eater David Boyk, and my girlfriend.
What is your favorite meal of the day and where do you get it? There is nothing better in my life than a solid all-day breakfast. In New York, my favorite place to have one is at Stage Restaurant in the East Village. Lately I've been digging the breakfast plates at Coppelia on 14th Street. My special occasion breakfast alternates between Shopsin's and Shopsin's. Breakfast is also what I cook most often when I'm at home.
Do you ever cook? What's the best dish you make? I try to cook as much as I'm able, which unfortunately isn't often. I'm a food coop member and a Californian, so my favorite dishes focus on a few ingredients and don't do much more than play on their strengths. Recently, I tossed baby brussel sprouts and chopped garlic in a cast-iron skillet had used to fry bacon bits, then added the bacon bits, along with freshly ground sea salt, black pepper, and olive oil, back into the skillet as it finished roasting in the oven. I served the brussels with roasted sweet potatoes and a kale quiche, which made for a great winter meal.
If you woke up tomorrow as a food, what would it be? God willing, a member of the Candy Kingdom.