Editor's note: Please say hello to one of our newest all-star interns, Allison. She is already on fire, photographing and blogging. We are so happy to have her--especially when she picks up ice cream en route to work from the Bent Spoon in Princeton, New Jersey! Thanks again for that chocolate Earl Grey flavor, Allison!
Name: Allison Hemler
Location: Jersey City, New Jersey
Occupation: Caffeine supplier, cookbook cataloguer, intern at Serious Eats, and future library science student.
Favorite comfort food? Though it's cliche, my mom's homemade marinara sauce. There are times I don't even need to eat it, just existing in a room with the smell of canned tomatoes and Italian seasoning permeating the air is enough. Outside of the home, a baguette from Antique Bakery in Hoboken, toasted very dark, covered in butter, with grana padano, the poor man's Parmesan.
Guilty pleasures? Caramel corn, pommes frites with rosemary mayo, peanut butter M&Ms.
Describe your perfect meal. Perfection is when I cook a meal with someone, and we know exactly how we want the completed meal to taste. No one's yelling to chop the onions smaller or to use less salt. A restaurant meal cannot usually be perfect to me, because I haven't experienced the process of bringing it to my plate. I want to know exactly how it got there, which is usually impossible, even if I'm making a meal myself. All seriousness aside, and just about what my last meal on earth would be: buttermilk pancakes with maple syrup, fresh strawberries, and a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream (has to have vanilla bean specks!).
What food won't you eat? These days I'll try anything once, except for liver and onions--and though I hate to admit it, I won't eat clams or mussels because of horrible past experiences.
What would you like to try but haven't yet? I'd love to try just about everything I haven't had yet. I've never been adventurous with meat, so probably anything I didn't have growing up (all kinds of meat/poultry outside of beef, chicken, turkey, and veal). I'm behind the times and only recently ate duck--which was so unbelievably fantastic, it has spiked my interest in eating animals again.
Favorite food person? Alton Brown. Good Eats used to be the only show I'd watch on the Food Network, and I expected every show to be as entertaining and as catering to my nerdy side. Now everything that he represents is exactly what I look for in a potential mate. Thanks, Alton, for inspiring my food life as well as my love life.
When did you first realize you were a serious eater? My second year of college I realized how bored I was by the bland flavor of ramen and rice--and figured instead of spending tons of money going out drinking with my friends, I'd use that money towards the International foods section at Wegmans and see how many unpronounceable items I could keep in my pantry.
What do your family and friends think of your food obsessions? They laugh, make fun of me for being an ex-vegan/vegetarian, and tell me stories of when I would refuse to eat chicken broth and meatballs. Now they are occasionally disgusted when I tell them I just ate rabbit, and consumed hamburgers three days in a row.
Everyone has a go-to person they call for restaurant recommendations. Who's yours? My mom's best friend grew up in Brooklyn, and always knows exactly where to go. (Her husband also works at Williams-Sonoma, so you know where I go for Christmas presents.) Information gets filtered through my mom, who sometimes gets restaurant names wrong. I can't blame her.
And what's the best recommendation she's ever given you? We've been to some of the tastiest Italian restaurants on the Upper West Side in New York thanks to her--but it was a recent trip to Bar Pitti that did it for me. I must've burned so many calories from laughing with the servers and the specials were out-of-control good and fresh.
What is your favorite meal of the day and where do you get it? Dessert, by far. I'm usually on my feet whenever I eat dessert, and swear by the goat cheese cheesecake at the Dessert Truck The best sit-down, have with a huge cup of coffee dessert is the M&P Ice Cream Sundae for Two (Vanilla and Chocolate Gelato, Homemade Toffee, Belgian Chocolate Syrup, Whipped Cream) at Marco & Pepe in Jersey City.
Do you ever cook? What's the best dish you make? I cook every day, usually for myself, with plenty of leftovers. I make mean roasted potatoes, unbelievably creamy tomato paella, but bake even more frequently--I modify cookie recipes to suit whatever I have in my pantry. And I swear by my Silpats.
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