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Cathy

Best Ginger Molasses cookies in NYC?

Breezy Hill, at the Union Square Greenmarket: huge, chewy, not too sweet, intensely ginger-y.

Sugar Rush: Tortino Di Zenzero at Grandaisy Bakery

Hi, wingding! I love this too; the rye is so distinctive, perfect against the ginger, and the texture is divine.

Wine Pairing: What to Drink with Parmesan Gougères

Thanks, Evan! I do love capers.

Wine Pairing: What to Drink with Parmesan Gougères

Evan, what would you drink with steak tartare? I'm thinking Chinon, or maybe a bubbly rosé.

Dorie Greenspan's Cookie Bar

Adorable photo of Dorie and Josh!

How to Spatchcock a Turkey

I've done this for years (although I like to cut through the backbone, using a cleaver and meat mallet). A rich mushroom/ricotta/parmesan mixture goes between the skin and the flesh, and I smoke the turkey at an average grill temperature of 350º.

Xie Xie: An Asian Sandwich Shop (What a Concept)

Oh man, I'm so embarrassed that I haven't been here yet. Angelo is a sweetheart and a seriously talented chef. Great photos, Robyn!

Smoked Fish, Eggs, and Onions

Ideal proportions, Ed. I consider the eggs and salmon a delivery system for the caramelized onions.

absentminded kitchen disasters

@PerkyMac - That's terrifying! Nothing scarier than a house fire.

absentminded kitchen disasters

@PerkyMac, feel free to laugh. I did too, until it started to hurt. ;-}

I might as well admit why the collapsible bowl is my largest. I had a huge plastic mixing bowl that I parked in the oven one morning because I was too lazy to put it away properly. When I got home that night, I started prepping dinner and turned on the oven...

Do you know what a huge plastic bowl looks like when it's melted? (I'm lucky the oven wasn't ruined.) That really made me laugh.

absentminded kitchen disasters

I'm feeling better about my latest mishap too. Three weeks ago I made a pot of really fine stock, and grabbed my largest bowl in which to strain it. The bowl is one of those collapsible silicone numbers. (You see where this is going, right?) The edge of the stockpot clipped the rim of the bowl, which of course collapsed, flooding my right leg with boiling stock. I immediately flushed it with cold water, but still ended up with second degree burns from groin to ankle. I have a fairly high pain threshold but man, did this hurt.

It's healing well. The boy cat has finally stopped sniffing my boiled leg and wondering if it's dinner. But I'm still sad about losing that stock.

What to eat with one hand?

Soups, stews, pasta, meatloaf, stir fries...

Black Garlic?

Black garlic is aged for a month under heat, which ferments it and turns the flavor sweet and rich - although you can still tell it's garlic.

Special Birthday Cake - need ideas please

My favorite birthday cake is Rose Beranbaum's Chocolate Oblivion Truffle Torte. Incredibly easy and incredibly delicious!

Turkey Carving Ritual

I butterfly it before cooking which makes carving a breeze - even after a few glasses of wine.

Boring, Bland Chicken. Help!

Try brining the chicken breasts before cooking: dissolve 1/4 cup kosher salt in a quart of cool water, add the chicken and refrigerate for an hour or so. It won't add much sodium, and the chicken will be juicier and more flavorful.

What's the restaurant in Mad Men?

Andre Soltner, who is now a dean at the French Culinary Institute.

Lutece was our special occasion place for years. I miss it.

How to cook a boston butt?

I don't foil either because I think the bark is the best part. And I agree with Markbb about putting the butt on the smoker cold for greater smoke penetration.

Anyone been to Matsugen?

I've been once, for lunch, and thought the food was very very good, especially the inaka soba and the bakudan. Nothing made my eyes roll back in my head, but I was happy with the clean flavors and interesting textures. If your husband likes authentic Japanese I think he'd be pleased.

Dinner Tonight: Shrimp Tacos with Pumpkin Seed Sauce

That looks perfect for a hot, humid August night!

Jicama is delicious cut into fat spears and sprinkled with lime juice, coarse salt and ground chipotle (or another hot red pepper). Nice as a chip alternative for salsa or guacamole too.

Market Scene: Tomatoes, Corn, and More at New York's Greenmarkets

Kernan had watermelon at the market on 77th & Columbus yesterday.

Blake, you didn't mention OKRA! Try Yuno's (my favorite), Cherry Lane and Berried Treasures.

What's your go-to dinner for one?

Roasted vegetables. In summer, that might be okra or cauliflower, or Delia Smith's oven-roasted ratatouille. In winter, squash, parsnips, carrots, cipollini and/or Jerusalem artichokes.

Corn on the Cob is best when ______

Oven-roasted and eaten with lime juice and ground chipotle.

Want to take a intense and short class for cooking?

The French Culinary Institute also has a number of intense programs for amateurs.

Making pickles question...ASAP help!

Slice off the flower end of the cukes before pickling; they'll stay crisper.

'cesca redux

Two early visits to ‘cesca disappointed, and the place fell off my radar until my friend Kevin Garcia took over the kitchen. He was the exec chef at Lucca, our restaurant at the Boca Raton Resort & Club, then cooked at Lupa for a while before he helped Batali open Del Posto (and decamped soon after). My husband and I went to ‘cesca last night.

The space is sprawling, low-ceilinged and dimly lit, with dark brown velvet banquettes that make it feel even darker and heavier. But the food is good enough to make up for the ambiance. Kevin has been here since May, and is still shaking down the kitchen crew and working on some consistency problems, but there’s a lot of promise here.

Amuse: Crostini of marinated eggplant, sprightly and lush, was a nice accompaniment to a glass of prosecco.

Apps: Sweet, creamy Tuscan mozzarella scattered with heirloom cherry tomatoes, excellent EVOO and basil was delicious. So were my zucchini blossoms, stuffed with mozzarella, lightly battered and flash fried, served with tomato coulis and wild arugula.

Midcourse: Kevin sent out some crudo – tuna and yellowtail (I think) – that was overwhelmed by lemon, and needed more crunch than the microgreen/chopped chive garnish provided.

Pasta: We split an order of braised duck ravioli. The filling was nicely flavored but pasty; leaving the duck in shreds would have improved the texture. The balsamico-laced sauce was a bit over-reduced.

Mains: Roy ordered the daily special of tagliata di manzo, slices of rare ribeye served with the meat juices and mixed greens - a good straightforward dish. My choice of scallops with capers, cauliflower and raisins bore little resemblance to Jean-George’s signature preparation, and it was brilliant. Four huge diver scallops, seared golden, surrounded a thick cross-section of cauliflower slowly caramelized on the stove and finished in the oven. Sultanas provided bursts of sweetness; capers and caperberries added briny crunch; bits of pancetta helped pull all the flavors together.

We were too full for dessert. The tab, including three glasses of wine, was $140 before tax and tip; rather high for a neighborhood restaurant, but Kevin’s cooking might make it a destination.

‘cesca, 164 W. 75th, 212-787-6300

Mezcal - the next big thing?

A tasting of Del Maguey single village mezcals boosted my respect and enthusiasm for this spirit. Mezcal production has not been industrialized as tequila has; the labor-intensive process has been much the same for 400 years. And mezcals now have their own standards for geographic origin and labeling. The worm-floating plonk that made you sick in college? Fuggedaboudit.

While tequila is associated with Jalisco, fine mezcal hails from Oaxacan villages in the south. Agave hearts are roasted over hot earth-covered stones, crushed by horse-powered stone wheels, naturally fermented in wood, and double-distilled in copper or clay stills. Del Maguey mezcals are bottled undiluted – analogous to cask-strength bourbons – and range from 92 to 98 proof.

The six bottles we sampled varied considerably in flavor, smokiness and smoothness, depending on the village’s elevation, the roasting process (some makers add earth from a prior roasting, others add palm leaves or the like), and the still material.

My favorite, the Chichicapa, is as bold and smoky as an Islay malt. Others were creamier, smoother and/or sweeter. The Tobala is made from wild agave, and has an appealingly earthy taste. Pechuga is the most intricate: double-distilled mezcal goes into a clay still with wild plums, apples and other fruits, and a skinless bone-in chicken breast is suspended above (to balance the fruit and gather impurities during the third distillation, we were told). The incredibly smooth result reminded me of an eau de vie.

These are all limited production. Retail prices range from $70 to $200 - not cheap, but not bad for a spirit as complex and fascinating as high-end cognac.

Nobu Fifty Seven

DISCLOSURE: I work for Drew Nieporent, and most of this dinner was comped.

My Nobu visits are usually downtown; although I admire David Rockwell's design uptown, the place is too noisy and claustrophobic for me. But the food last night was so spectacular it didn’t matter.

We were four, and opted for omakase. Our server’s offer to bring dishes new to us was eagerly accepted, with two requests: some uni for me, and the shrimp tempura in creamy spicy sauce for my husband, Mr. Meat ‘n’ Taters.

Sorry there are no pictures, because every course was visually stunning, but after giving Mr. M'n'T a hard time for using his cell phone, I couldn’t really whip out a camera.

Here’s what we ate:

  • Four perfect Kumamoto oysters nestled in crushed ice: two topped with Maui onion salsa, two with a tart lime sorbet and a bit of caviar. Mr. M'n'T doesn’t like raw oysters. He flipped over these.
  • Chutoro sashimi, three pieces with a light soy-based sauce and a pile of microgreens – celery, I believe. The vegetal greens were lovely against the medium-fatty fish.
  • Spanish mackerel jalapeño, in a fairly spicy vinaigrette: the fish had a sliver of black skin, unlike the pearly gray of saba, and the flesh was slightly opaque from a citrus bath.
  • An enormous square white platter bearing three treasures: 1) anago tempura, the first time I’ve eaten eel this way. Moist, flaky white meat, delicately crunchy crust, a pile of curry salt (made with sel gris, I think) for dipping; 2) quartered dayboat scallops, seared and set atop a bit of mayonnaise on a lotus root chip, garnished with pea shoots and bits of black hijiki; Washyu beef gyoza, so intensely beefy they tasted almost of aged cheese, with a sesame ponzu dipping sauce.
  • Rock shrimp tempura in creamy spicy sauce. I could happily eat this every day.
  • Seared salmon with heirloom tomatoes, the least exciting dish of the evening: the fish was fine, but the crisp skin was impossible to eat with chopsticks and the heirlooms were lacking in flavor.
  • Lamb chops with anticucho sauce: these were quite large and pleasantly gamy, more like mutton than lamb. The bones had been frenched and wrapped with a strip of pumpkin skin, which made it easy to pick up the chops and swipe them through the sauce. Carnivore’s delight.
  • Sushi: chutoro, baby yellowtail, fluke, salmon, and orange clam, each pristine, presented very simply with no garnish but the rice. I got another plate with three pieces of uni. Sigh...
  • A clear golden broth holding nuggets of lobster, kernels of sweet corn and chopped chives.
  • Desserts from pastry chef Gabriele Riva (an El Bulli alum) are precise and clean-flavored. Of the four, only two really sang to me: a bowl of chocolate “couscous,” softer in texture than cookie crumbs, with a soft saffron cream, a scoop of peanut butter ice cream and a cardamom tuile; and a dazzling coconut rice pudding, served in a small brazier with instructions to eat it when the pudding started to bubble. It was barely sweet, accompanied by an intense citrus mousse and a scattering of popped grains. There was a hint of pine in the flavor – an amazing dessert.

I prefer sake with this food but my uncle wanted wine. The Cakebread sauvignon blanc and Sequoia Grove cabernet he ordered worked surprisingly well.

Matt Hoyle, the chef, was second in command at Nobu London, and made us a marvelous lunch when we were there a few years ago. He's even better now.

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