Happy Friday!

Me and some maple cotton candy from Liddabit Sweets

Just a quick post to say hello and give you some links you might like. Eat well, my loves.

This weekend is the Big Apple BBQ Festival in NYC! If you’re in town, check it out at Madison Square Park from 11AM – 6PM on Saturday and Sunday. There’s no entry fee, you just pay for food as you go. It’s the best BBQ you’ll have in New York, I promise.

Do you Tweet? I do. I say lots of funny things, too.

In my day job I’m lucky enough to work on this book by Kelly Jaggers called Not-So-Humble Pies. Does apple and brie tart with bacon crumble strike you? How about orange and dark chocolate cheese pie? Healthy, these are not. But who cares?

I don’t have kids yet but this post was so completely inspiring and informational that I almost want to buy the book now. It’s called French Kids Eat Everything and I’d read it wearing a beret. For authenticity, of course.

My birthday is a month away and I’ve decided that what I really want to do is bake myself this cake and drink champagne at a rooftop bar somewhere. Maybe wearing this. I don’t even know.

Have a fabulous weekend!

xoxo Lauren E.

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Mediterranean Chicken Salad

I love to cook (…duh) but sometimes weeknight meals feel like a chore to come up with. The BF and I do our weekly grocery shopping on Sundays and sometimes I just can’t think past Sunday night as far as meals go. “Are you sick of penne vodka?” I always ask, staring down at the shopping list with the same twenty items as last week and the week before.

If you’re like me, and you often run out of ideas, there’s a savior: Epicurious Weekday Meal Planner. It’s literally a meal for every night of the week. Not just an entree, not just a soup or a sandwich, a whole meal: salad, entree, and even a dessert suggestion. Epicurious even offers up suggestions on what to do with leftovers (for example, 2 cups of rice made on Monday could serve as the base for Tuesday’s soup). And the best part? Most meals are working-girl/guy friendly. You won’t find any four-hour-long roasting menus or Thanksgiving-sized turkey dinners. If you’re ever stuck for a meal idea, you gotta check it out.

The below meal comes straight from Epicurious’ Weekday Meal Planner and it exceeded my expectations. And I love that it makes enough leftovers for my lunch tomorrow and The BF’s dinner on Thursday.

On the menu:
Mediterranean chicken salad
Serves 5
Adapted from Epicurious.com 

4 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 Tbsp dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
3 cups cooked, diced chicken

1 cup orzo
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1 6-oz. jar of artichoke hearts, drained
2 Tbsp capers, drained
3 cups mixed greens
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup cucumbers, diced

In a small bowl combined oil, vinegar, tarragon, lemon juice, and mustard, and whisk together until combined. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss the chicken with 1/4 cup dressing until coated.

Cook orzo as directed and once drained, toss cooked orzo with the remainder of the dressing. Add chicken to the orzo, then add the cranberries, artichoke hearts, and capers.* Plate mixed greens and then chicken salad on top of the greens. Add tomatoes and cucumbers on the side (or on top if the mood strikes you).

*This salad is “supposed” to be served cold (I don’t really do a lot of things I’m supposed to when it comes to cooking) but I looooved the flavor of the balsamic vinegar when the chicken and orzo warmed it up, so feel free to serve it warm or at room temperature.

Note: I warmed up some naan and served it alongside the salad. It was the cherry on the sundae… and yes. Afterward I ate a sundae.

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Hot Dog Crawl

Have you ever been like, “Man, I could really go for a hot dog” but you have this weird hang up about all the weird bacteria that might be floating in the street carts? I know. I’ve been there. I feel your pain.

What you might not know is that there are tons options in New York City for “gourmet” hot dogs – and by “gourmet” I mean prepared in a real kitchen and served with top notch ingredients. Below are three of the stand out options, all within walking distance of the others. So… you know, should you choose to do a “hot dog crawl,” you could hit all 3 in one shot. But let me warn you, 3 hot dogs in one sitting is a lot. Some might call it too much. Not that I would know from personal experience… I’m just saying.

Jersey’s Finest at Crif Dogs

Crif Dogs, 113 Saint Marks Place (Between 1st Ave and Ave A), New York, NY. Crif Dogs is a tiny, hole in the wall place that you might walk right by were it not for the GIANT hot dog hanging outside the door. Take a walk down the steps and into hipster heaven: if there was any doubt, a note on the register tells you that they accept tips in the form of Tim and Eric quotes. I knew this was my kind of place. I ordered a PBR and a dog called Jersey’s Finest: taylor ham wrapped house dog smothered in mustard, onions & a secret chili sauce*. This was PERFECTION and my favorite hot dog of the three restaurants. It was a total guilty pleasure and probably had a bajillion calories, but who cares? A hot dog wrapped in ham topped with more meat? Ok!

Sidney at AsiaDog

AsiaDog, 66 Kenmare Street (Between Mulberry St and Mott St), New York, NY. I tasted an AsiaDog when they had a small stall at Madison Square Eats, a gathering of specialty food stalls in Madison Square Park. The line was epic, but I waited 45 minutes because first of all, I wanted that dog and second of all, everyone kept raving about how amazing they were. I purchased a Sidney: a beef hot dog with Thai mango relish (cilantro, red onion, and cucumber) and crushed peanuts, and a sparkling limeade. If a hot dog can be refreshing, this one was. The topping was super fresh and crunchy, and the peanuts added an entirely different element that I wasn’t expecting. I love, love, love foods with drastically different textures and this hot dog was one of the best textured dishes I’ve ever had. Well done meals from high end retailers… in hot dog form? I’m telling you kids, it can be done.

Terimayo at JapaDog

JapaDog, 30 Saint Marks Place (Between 2nd Ave and 3rd Ave), New York, NY. This was the last stop on my hot dog tour and I have to believe it had something to do with the fact that it was my least favorite. I ordered the Terimayo: a beef frank with teriyaki sauce, mayo, and seaweed. I scraped off all the seaweed because it reminded me too much of sushi (raw fish and hot dogs just don’t mix, you know?) and then it was pretty good, but nothing crazy or special. The hot dog did not have that crispy skin that I love and the bun was mediocre.

Overall, my hot dog crawl left me feeling full and like I didn’t want to see another hot dog for quite some time. So while I may not recommend hitting all three of these spots at once, I definitely recommend one (or two…) for a cheapo meal any hour of the day.

*For some reason, this item has disappeared from Crif Dogs’ online menu but you can custom build it if you want. I highly recommend that you do.

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Roasted Shrimp with Tomatoes, Capers and Feta


I have a small collection of cookbooks, and truth be told, they serve more as kitchen decoration than anything else. I decided it’s because cooking from a cookbook is a gamble: you really have to trust the cookbook editor and publisher in order to guarantee a great recipe. I made some mediocre apple muffins a couple weeks ago from a cookbook, and I guarantee that if I had searched for the exact recipe online I would’ve found one with tons of notes in the comments and helpful tips on how to make those muffins stellar.

I do, however, have a cookbook that I know is incredible (I used to work for the publisher heeeeeey) and all about roasting: literally called All About Roasting. My hesitation in using it is that roasting, to me, seems super involved and time consuming. But I read through it slowly one blissful warm Saturday morning with a hot cup of coffee and found this incredible shrimp recipe. Turns out roasting doesn’t always mean 4 hours in the oven.

On the menu:
Roasted shrimp with tomatoes, capers and feta
Serves 2

1/2 pound jumbo shrimp
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp vodka
Salt
One 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes, or 1 3/4 cups of peeled, seeded, and diced fresh tomatoes
2 Tbsp capers, drained
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a large bowl, toss the shrimp with 2 Tbsp of olive oil, garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, vodka, and a pinch of salt. Toss and coat and let marinade for 30 minutes at room temperature.

Spread the tomatoes in a shallow baking dish (I used a 8″ x 10″ Pyrex dish), drizzle with remaining Tbsp of olive oil, and sprinkle with capers. Arrange the shrimp on top of the tomatoes and pour extra marinade over the top.

Bake for 8 minutes, or until the shrimp are mostly pink. Using tongs, flip shrimp and cover with feta cheese. Bake for another 8 – 10 minutes or until shrimp are cooked through completely. Feta will be slightly melted.

Note: I served this over buttered orzo and it made a lovely weeknight meal with minimal effort. #Win.

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Summer Means Lobster Rolls

We’ve had the wonkiest weather ever in New York for the past few months, and the warmer temperatures have definitely affected my appetite. Not affected as in like, I lost it (that is reserved only for the most traumatic of traumas, I assure you) but in the way that I’ve been craving summer foods before I’m supposed to. Case in point: the lobster roll. In the interest of full disclosure, I used to work very close to a little spot that sold lobster rolls for $10 and I used to go a sickening amount. Thank God I don’t work at that job anymore… my cholesterol can’t take it anymore.

Anyway, I was craving a lobster roll like I can’t even tell you, so I Googled “Best lobster rolls in NYC” and came up with the list of usuals: Luke’s Lobster, Red Hook Lobster, and one I’d never heard of: Ed’s Lobster Bar. I took a look at their menu… and I was sold. If you don’t like lobster or seafood in general, please don’t go to this place. You’ll simply clog it up for those of us who live for the stuff.

Ed’s Lobster Bar Annex, 25 Clinton Street (btwn Stanton St and E Houston St), New York, NY 10002. Ed McFarland, owner of Ed’s Lobster Bar, is a Staten Island Native who grew up in pizza parlors and later graduated from the French Culinary Institute. He worked all over, in esteemed kitchens throughout the city, until he opened up his own place. Ed’s Lobster Bar (the original) is located on Lafayette between Broome and Spring and offers a more refined menu of full lobster entrees. The Annex, where I dined last weekend, has more of a low-key, relaxed maritime vibe with menu offerings such as lobster meatball sliders, mini lobster thermidor pizzas, and shrimp tacos. During the summer months they have an outdoor patio where you can sit and sip a cold white wine with your seafood. Note: the annex only serves wine and beer.

On the menu:
Prosecco rose
Little Neck Clams
Lobster rolls with chips and housemade pickles

Verdict: Oooooh lobster lobster love of my life. This had to be one of the best, if not THE best lobster roll I have ever had. Three words: butter soaked bun. That’s right. Just in case you were thinking, “Oh no, where’s the butter to dip all the giant chunks of lobster in my lobster roll?” Ed’s has you covered. The bun is literally brushed and semi-soaked in butter. I had to stop myself from licking the plate. I could’ve even done without the fries… maybe substituted it with more lobster? And as a side note, they make their pickles on premises and they are spicy and sweet and I ate so many I burnt my tongue. …I’m not joking. In addition to the amazing food, the staff was super laid back, informed, and efficient. I’ll be back, Ed. I’ll be back.

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An Ode to Lauren Odes

I’ve had over 400 visitors to Food E. today, and thanks to WordPress stats I know why. When you go to Yahoo.com and do an image search for “Lauren Odes”, the busty blonde lady who made headlines today for being fired from her lingerie store gig for being too provocative, you get this:

Image

If you didn’t recognize them, SEVEN of those pictures are mine. So if you’ve stumbled upon this blog because you were creeping on this lovely lady, then welcome! I, too, am a lovely lady. But would probably never be fired from anything for being anywhere near too provocative. I make muffins to make up for my chesticular shortcomings. Enjoy!

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The Great Googa Mooga: An Opinion Piece


Ladies and gentlemen, if I could have your attention please. This is an opinion piece. It might offend some of you and you might take it as my bitterness, or my negativity, or my cynicism. But I think it’s my job as a food writer to give you honesty, and this piece is just one little bit of one person’s opinion. I’m giving you that warning in case you don’t want to read on. I’ll have a nice, safe, happy restaurant post later in the week to get you settled back into the rosy Food E. you have come to know and love. Stop laughing, mom.

I found out I’d be attending The Great Googa Mooga Festival on a two day press pass. I looked over the schedule and decided that since the food vendors were the same both days, and I already had plans to eat lobster rolls on Saturday night, I’d skip out on Saturday and attend the festival on Sunday only. I’m glad I did. I read endless Facebook and Twitter posts about how unbelievably crowded it was on Saturday, how long the lines were, and how most vendors ran out of food by 3pm (Eater has a great roundup of angry Tweets here). This boggles my mind, since although admission was free, you had to register for tickets in advance and the event sold out. If the event staff knew how many people would be attending, how is it possible that they didn’t have enough food? The world may never know.

I left my apartment in Astoria at 11am, preparing to arrive at the festival at noon to catch a press conference at 12:15. Cut to me at 12:30, wandering around Prospect Park trying to find the media check-in tent. A few signs scattered around the park pointing people to various check-in points would’ve been a God send, as I overheard more than one person asking uninformed security, “Where do I go if I’m a volunteer?”

By the time I checked in and got my wristband, I was starving and thirsty. I entered the festival expecting super long lines, but to my surprise, there were none. That’s right. No. Lines. I was right in front of a beer tent so obviously my first purchase was alcoholic. I paid $7 for a Blue Moon – a bit steep, even for New York prices, but compared to the $12 beers at baseball games in the city it wasn’t that heart stopping. Besides, I’m not one of those people who likes to get hammered in the middle of the day just for the sake of getting hammered; I wanted a cold beer to add to the enjoyment of the day, not eight beers so I could throw up in front of hoards of people like one girl did (I’m not kidding… I read about it. Thank God I didn’t have to see it).

A Blue Moon and an iced coffee from Third Rail

In deciding where to eat, I figured I needed a strategy. I ran through the list of food vendors on the Googa Mooga map and immediately ruled out a few – I didn’t want to eat anywhere I’d already been (via food cart, festival vendor, or actual brick and mortar restaurant); I didn’t want to eat somewhere just because the place or the dish was trendy (this ruled out M. Wells’ horse bologna grilled cheese, and Do or Dine’s foie gras donuts… that’s right… I turned down a donut); and I didn’t want to eat anything that seemed boring (this eliminated dishes like pulled pork sandwiches and fried cheesecake balls).

My first food purchase fit all the criteria: a wild boar sloppy joe from Georgia’s East Side BBQ. I’ve definitely never had wild boar in any form, and I had never even heard of Georgia’s. If that sandwich is any indication of what the food at their restaurant is like, I’ll be a regular in two months flat. There wasn’t a single person in line and the meat was piping hot and only $7 for a giant meal (I should note that most dishes at the festival fell in the $7 – $10 range). The sandwich had the spicy, sweet flavor you associate with sloppy joes but with an added crunch from chopped onions and a hearty, slightly gamey flavor from the wild boar (I should also note that this sandwich is not on their regular menu, and that won me over, too: a dish prepared specially for the event). As I sat in a grassy field watching the Air Guitar Champion pretend to be a heavy metal superstar on the stage in front of me, soaking up the sun, sipping my cold beer, noshing on a saucy sandwich… I had to admit that Googa Mooga had already won me over.

Wild Boar Sloppy Joe from Georgia’s

I ate the entire sandwich, loose bits of fallen meat included (don’t worry, I wore a patterned outfit so no one would see the food stains), and ventured on to another area of the park for my next bite. I stumbled across the Coffee Experience sponsored by Lexus (which meant that in true Brooklyn, hippie festival style you could… sit in a luxury car?) and got myself a freshly brewed iced coffee, brought to festival goers from Third Rail coffee in New York.

I took a lap around the food vendors to check out which dishes were being offered, and shortly thereafter got in line at Red Rooster Harlem. I knew of the restaurant as famous chef Marcus Samuelsson’s spot featuring soul food with an Ethiopian twist. The line was comparatively long (I waited for around 10 minutes, a good indication of how sparse the crowd was around 1pm), no doubt owing to the chef’s celebrity status.

Each booth at the festival had only one or two offerings, and Red Rooster Harlem’s signature dish was one of the most notable and generous: Berbere chicken with macaroni and greens and cornbread. You could get the “small” plate (2 pieces of chicken, ½ cup mac and greens, one piece of cornbread) for $7, or the large plate with bigger helpings of each for $11. The small was perfect for me because I’m not a huge eater (again… stop laughing, mom) but the food was so incredibly delicious, I almost forced myself to finish it. The chicken was juicy with a spicy, crispy skin coated in Berbere: an Ethiopian spice blend. The mac and greens were cheesy, a bit crunchy, and perfectly salted. The corn bread? A little Madeleine-shaped corn cake with Indian spices baked in. The dish was the standout of the festival, and it’s on the menu at the restaurant up in Harlem.

Berbere chicken, mac and greens, and cornbread from Red Rooster Harlem

At this point, I knew I was done with main dishes and I wanted something sweet. I saw a mention on Twitter of maple cotton candy, and the Adirondack girl in me begged for it. I found the cotton candy stand and forked over 5 bucks for the sweet treat… that’s right, $5. It was by far the most outrageously priced thing I paid for, but I have to admit, I’m glad I got it. It was delicious. And anyone who can make cotton candy feel gourmet is alright in my book. The dish was prepared by Liddabit Sweets.

Maple cotton candy with a pretzel rod from Liddabit Sweets

I had one more dish in me, and from the looks of the crowd, it was a good time to get going. As the clock neared 2:30PM the crowds were noticeably larger and the lines were visibly longer. My jaw dropped when I saw the nearly 100 people in line for Luke’s Lobster Rolls (side note, people: Luke’s Lobster Truck is everywhere and they even have a stand alone restaurant in Manhattan… you could’ve walked there and back in the time you waited in line). I kept seeing people with frosty ice cream covered in fruit and I was practically dying for it. Wooly’s ice was right next to Big Gay Ice Cream – I had to make a decision. I’d always wanted to try Big Gay Ice Cream but figured, they attend a lot of festivals, they have a truck, and a shop; there would be plenty of future opportunities for me to eat there. Wooly’s it was. I’m glad I picked Wooly’s because after 5 minutes of waiting in line, Big Gay Ice Cream announced they were out of… ice cream. That’s right, at 2:30PM, with five hours left to go in the festival, they were out of ice cream. All this on a day that wasn’t nearly as crowded as the day before.

Mango Tango shaved ice from Wooly’s

I got my cup of ice (which I realized was literally a cup of shaved ice with strawberry syrup and chunks of fruit) and happily exited the park as hoards of people were entering. I was lightly sunburned, pleasantly full, and ready for a nap.

Overall, the festival was a pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon, but I have to say: if you wanted to really soak up the experience (rubbing elbows with celebrity chefs, dancing at the Big Gay Ice Cream disco party, sitting even remotely close to the big music stage, and catching even a glimpse of Anthony Bourdain) you had to fork over $250 for the VIP Extra Mooga package. I understand that to a lot of people $250 is not a huge expense and for all the extras included it might be worth it. But to me, it added an exclusive element to a festival that felt otherwise very communal. Food lovers filled the park talking about the multitude of offerings, speaking intelligibly about chefs and ingredients, and yet there was a velvet rope cordoning off those chefs and keeping the full experience at arm’s length. We were forced to watch from the other side as the “big names” hung out in some kind of elitist gang while we waited in hour-long lines for just a taste of what those big names’ culinary genius had to offer. I wanted to eat at Red Rooster Harlem but I also hoped that Marcus Samuelsson might be slinging chicken for an hour or so with his staff. I was happy to see a sausage making demonstration at the Just Food tent but how cool and grass roots would it have been to have Anthony Bourdain cranking the meat grinder handle? The well-known chefs were the ones who conceived the event, and yet their company was only available to the big spenders. It was a festival in two tiers: the everyman and the elitist. And to me, that’s just not what food is about.

I’ll probably attend Googa Mooga again next year, but I’ll show up at 11AM and I’ll bring ripe tomatoes to chuck across that velvet rope.

Oh… and Coolio was there, promoting Cookin’ with Coolio and Soul Rolls. I don’t actually know what either of those are.

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