Your Worst Meal Ever

I was in fourth grade, and we were visiting Walt Disney World's then-newish Epcot Center. I was young and a sucker and really did believe in the animitronic magic of the place. Epcot center had an international gallery of plazas pretending to be other countries--Germany, England, China, etc. One night we ate dinner in a fake Aztec temple in fake Mexico, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. The following night my parents made a dinner reservation for the restaurant in fake Morocco. The restaurant was brand-new, nearly empty, and totally screwed up. We waited two hours for food I was not interested in at all in the first place. I fell asleep with my head in my mother's lap, more out of boredom than fatigue. I awoke to a dry, bland mess of couscous. It was midnight by the time we got out of there. The only redeeming quality of fake Morocco was the belly dancer.

Leftover White Bread

It depends on the kind of white bread you have. Whait sandwich bread does not hold up as well in many of the following applications, but bread pudding, croutons, and bread salad all will work. If it's crusty white bread, like a country loaf, then the world is your oyster. Here's a list of ideas, Google away. Oh, and I do realize this post is one day too late, but oh well.

-bread pudding, sweet or savory

-bread salad, a.k.a. panzanella

-big-ass croutons to top a salad or plop in brothy soup

...or, whatever the bread, you can always make it into fresh breadcrumbs to top macaroni and cheese, or a cassoulet-type assemblage of beans, garlic, tomatoes, and the charcuterie of your choice. Or use the breadcrumbs to bread a chicken, pork, or veal cutlet, or even a catfish fillet. Saute it, squeeze lemon over the works, and there you go!

The Best Bagel in New York City

I fear I will sound like a ninny saying this, but I'm fond of Brooklyn Bagel Company in Astoria on Broadway. Why is it called Brooklyn Bagel Company when the place is in Queens? Are there more Brooklyn Bagel Companies in Brooklyn? I don't know. But I like their bagels a lot.

Mini bagels are the size that regular bagles used to be. Mini bagels are the way to go, because you get a bigger ratio of chewy exterior to bready interior. Having just moved from California, most any New York bagel is better than what I'm used to.

vitello tonnato

Hi, Vicky. I haven't made vitello tonnato in quite a while--like, 7 years--but I'll comb through some cookbooks and see what I can do.

For Sale: Eating Pleasure. Price: $2

Casa del Pan (probalby one of a thousand similarly named Casa del Pans in the NY metro area) in Astoria on Broadway and 38th Street has these great beef empanadas for $1.25. It's a rich, rich beef filling encased in a substantial yet flaky dough. Casa del Pan is open 24 hours, and these savory little beef empanadas have sated my drunken hunger on a few late nights. I had one for lunch today, in fact (my first sober daylight empanada) and it was surprisingly filling. I paired it with their passion fruit drink for a vaguely Papaya King-esque taste sensation.

Delicious for a Dollar?

Alas, if only a cream puff at Beard Papa were not $1.25!

Where do you find great wings?

Dinosaur best in the city? It's good, but please tell me there's something better. The sauce is way too sweet, cloyingly so.

Is a Fancy-Pants Burger A Contradiction in Terms?

The best burger I ever had was at Manka's Inverness Lodge in Inverness, CA--they used to have a weekly burger night, but they unwisely did away with it a number of years ago. Anyway, the burger was stupendous--juicy with flavorful char. Manka's takes pains to squeeze as many food pedigrees onto their menu as possible, and the Hobb's Bacon, etc. put the fancy pants on this burger.

Still, I like me an In-N'-Out sometimes. Sizzler does a pretty decent burger, and it's in the "gray zone" of burger snobbism--not fast food, not white tablecloth.

Folks, if you eat something and it tastes good, be happy. Some of us might not be down with dropping $20 on a burger, but is anyone making you? It is not ideologically flawed to hang with both fancypants and fast-food.

Why do most birthday cakes suck?

As a poor person, I usually offer to make birthday cakes for friends. Everyone wins--I don't have to run all over town searching for a meaningful gift, and the friend gets a homemade cake. Chocolate with 7-minute icing or yellow cake with chocolate buttercream are always big hits, but a dense Queen of Sheba torte is actually easier to make, and it serves hundereds of people because it's so rich. But really, who has time to make a cake?

I grew up in the midwest, which has no Carvel. Now we live about a block away from a Carvel, and while I'm underwhelmed with their ice cream, I'm curious about this Fudgie the Whale cake. Is it any good if you're not a little kid or an adult with Carvel nostalgia?

Does a BLT Need the L?

I'm a fan of the L. The crisp edges of a toasted pullman loaf (or toasted ciabatta, or challah, whatever the bread vehicle) are dry and pointy, while the crispness of lettuce is cool and soothing. So you get two kinds of crispness.

I know iceberg lettuce is held in distain in it's not in a wedge smothered in blue cheese, but I quite fancy it on burgers, tuna sandwiches, and BLTs. It's all about texture, not flavor.

Serious Eats Rorschach, Day 2

*Thin crust--a no-brainer.

*Wings. Much more fun (messy) to eat, and so savory with all of that gelatin.

*Um, I like Pringles. Sick. Those are more like potato crisps than chips.

*A good hot dog bun should awlays be toasted. Or at least warmed in some manner.

*I wish there were a Mounds-Almond Joy hybrid, with almonds and dark chocolate. It could be called Almond Joy Dark.

First Annual Serious Eats Food Rorschach Test

Haggen Dasz....Vanilla goes with evrything

Skippy....As long as it's Crunchy


Regular Cream Cheese....Used sparingly, only if there's lox involved

Sauerkraut....Relish is too sweet

Dark Chocolate....My favorite is Scharffen Berger 70% Bittersweet

Sweet Butter....For baking and cooking--I don't butter toast


French Fries


Crispy....Crispy, not petrified

Dark Meat...White meat is for wussies.

Ed's Soapbox

Hmm. I disagree with the sentiment that "most humans can't afford to sustain life on a vegan diet." No, I'm not a vegan, but we eat our share of meatless meals, and it's pretty cheap to center your meals around legumes, grains, and vegetables--way cheaper than buying meat every day. What are not cheap are those many vegan specialty products, cookies and soy ice cream treats and frozen fake chicken nuggets and such. Those can get expensive, but a nice bowl of black beans and rice with a side of grilled veggies is both inexpense and much tastier than your average tofu hot dog--or even a boneless, skinless chicken breast. I think they key is to be a good planner and to have good ingredients on hand. And when we eat meat, we eat good meat.

Oh, that Whole Foods lobster-liberation business? What a bunch of hooey!

Papaya King

I can't decided if I prefer Gray's or Papaya King. Papaya King is cleaner and brighter, and I feel their hot dogs are assembled with more care. But Gray's is cheaper--a plus--and their more slovenly dogs somehow seem in keeping with the wonderfully hurried spirit of hot dog connisseurship.

Levee House Rolls

My first restaurant job was at the Levee House Café in Marietta, Ohio. I got all of my best restaurant insanity stories from that place, partially because of characters who worked there, and partially because I was volatile and young at the time. I broke their refrigerator once because I had a fit and kicked it. This says a lot about both my temper and the state of the refrigerator.

The Levee House is still there, and they are still serving the wonderful bran rolls that keep locals returning. They’re soft and tender and lightly studded with bran. Levee House roll fan Pete Hoffman asked me for the recipe months ago, but it was only now that I made a batch and wrote down the measurements, which, true to restaurant style, were previously vagaries like “fill this pot to here with water” and “get a big blob of Crisco…”


  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup wheat bran
  • 6 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more or less


1. Bring the water to a boil. In a large bowl, use a sturdy wooden spoon to beat the shortening with the sugar and salt until combined. Pour the boiling water over the shortening mixture and stir until the shortening melts.

2. Sprinkle the yeast over the water. Let sit until the yeast becomes foamy and creamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in 4 cups flour, then the bran. Add the eggs, one at a time. Continue stirring in flour, one cup at a time, until you have a sticky, slightly loose dough. Knead with your hands for about three minutes. Dust the top of the dough with flour, cover with a towel, and set aside to rise until the dough doubles, about 2 hours.

3. Heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet. To shape the rolls, gather a blob of dough in floured hands. Flatten it into a rough disc shape. Making a circle with your thumb and first finger, squeeze the disc of dough through this, and pinch it off when you have a ball about the size of a small lemon (2-1/2 to 3 ounces of dough). Repeat with remaining dough, placing rolls on the baking sheet about two inches apart.

4. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside until doubled in volume, about an hour. Bake until lightly browned on top, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool slightly and serve. These are heavenly when consumed shortly after they are baked, with a little butter. Makes about 2 dozen. Note: You can either space the rolls a few inches apart so they bake separately, or closer together so they bake like money bread and you have to tear them apart. Both are nice, but if you like crust, choose the former. Also, if you are not a big fan of shortening, substitute a stick of unsalted butter.

Cherry Clafoutis recipe

Cherry Clafoutis, in the pan and out of the oven. Try the recipe "here": (and maybe you'll have better luck photographing your results).

Rediscovered Recipe: Beer + Ham = ?

There are two kinds of recipes: makers and readers. A maker is a recipe that you intend to make, while a reader is one you probably never will. You read it simply for the voyeuristic thrill—the imagined gastronomical delights or, perhaps, horrors.

The following recipe—Ham Baked in Beer—is, for me, a reader. Making it would be wonderful, as it combines three foodstuffs I have great affection for: ham, beer, and cinnamon red hots. Every Easter my husband and I have ham baked in Coca-Cola, and even though we throw ourselves into ham consumption with a ferocious intensity, leftovers persist in lurking for up to a month. Our move across the country is a handful of weeks away, and we cannot commit to a month-long extravaganza of creative ham consumption.

Even so, a girl can dream. The aforementioned Ham Baked in Beer that caught my eye appears in “Recipes & Menus,” a spiral-bound cookbook put out by the Storz Brewing Company of Omaha, Nebraska. Alas, Storz Brewing is no longer with us, but its legacy marches on in a number of the book’s beer-centric dishes; the copy that we have is the revised edition, which appeared in 1949. Here is the recipe exactly as it appears in the book.

"Take a 14 or 16 lb. ham, score the fat diagonally across the ham about half way through the depth of the fat. Make your scoring about an inch and a half apart and cut diagonally across the ham both ways. Stick cloves on all cross lines and red hot cinnamon candy in all scored fat lines. Put ham in a deep roasting pan, add 1 quart of Storz Beer, place in a 350 degree oven and bake at the rate of 12 minutes per pound of ham. Mix 1 cup corn syrup and 2 cups brown sugar and warm and mix in a saucepan. Pour half of this mixture over the ham about 20 minutes before it is done. Then pour the other half over the ham, shut off the flame and allow the ham to remain in the oven for another 10 to 15 minutes with the heat turned off.

Important Note: To get the best results it is important that the ham be soaked out in a sugar and water mixture for at least 24 hours. 48 hours is better. Follow the directions under Storz Special Ham for this procedure."

Several aspects of this recipe make me wary. First of all, Storz brewed several types of beer, though the recipe does not specify the use of a particular one—perhaps they were all basically the same watery, interchangeable Americanized lager that’s so refreshing from a cold can on a summer day. I’d be curious about what ham baked in, say, dunkel would yield.

Secondly, this recipe calls for a lot of sugar—2 cups brown sugar plus 1 cup corn syrup. With this much sugar, does baking the ham in beer even make a difference? Why not water, or stock? I must admit that my beloved Ham Baked in Coca Cola is likewise bathed in soda-bound sugar/corn syrup, and the results are delicious—a perfect balance of porky richness and salty-sweetness. Sometimes dicey-sounding recipe will, when prepared faithfully, trump the expectations of skeptics. I suspect that Ham Baked in Beer may be one such recipe. Had I a Brady Bunch-sized family and a spare afternoon top baby-sit a baking ham, I’d be on this recipe in an instant. Any takers?

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