Italian BLT: Pancetta e Lattuga e Pomodoro

Question:  What is the best meal for parents of a six-month-old?  Answer:  Anything fast and easy.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, complicated weeknight dinners are out the window for me lately, as a full day’s work and the brief window of time I get to spend with the baby now eat up a large portion of my time.  That means dinner is often not even started until around 7:30 p.m. and we’re usually making meal decisions based on ease of preparation.

And yet, when the rather pedestrian idea of making a BLT came up, I decided that the least I could do was spiff it up a bit with some Italian flair.  The result was a tasty meal that wasn’t much more difficult than your run of the mill cold cut sandwich.

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Beer > Wine

Anyone worth their fleur de sel knows that wine is the proper drink to accompany good food.  It’s time-honored, suitably French (therefore snooty) and an excellent way to blow a whole lot of money to impress your date.

But what if there was another beverage?  One which offered just as much flavor, went just as well with your meal and wouldn’t break the bank?  Is that something you would be interested in?

As I made my way around town during my second annual Philly Beer Week Pub Crawl, it occurred to me that — in so many ways — beer is superior to wine.  It’s sacrilege to say this, I know, and it would certainly not have been true twenty years ago, in the days before the craft beer revolution.  But in 2011, the flavors, experiences and overall vibrant culture attached to beer appreciation offers a more dynamic experience to a larger audience than wine does.

How so?  Well…

1. It’s Cheaper than Wine. Think of the best wine in the world.  Then think about how much it would cost for a glass of it.  The mind reels.  I had what I believe to be the best beer in the world — Russian River’s Pliny the Younger — and it was about $10 for an eight ounce pour.  While frugality isn’t the main thing you want to strive for when you’re talking about booze, just think about how quickly you can develop your palate and learn to enjoy the “big boys” when you only have to lay out single digits for the privilege.

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Be on the Lookout: Douchemobile

I know that it’s bad karma to make fun of the misfortunes of others, but…

Someone stole Guy Fieri’s $200,000 Lamborghini!  And this is not one of your run of the mill smash-and-grab jobs, either.  This was a full-on Mission: Impossible operation

Police say a thief using climbing gear rappelled into a San Francisco exotic car dealership and stole television celebrity chef Guy Fieri’s $200,000-plus Lamborghini sports car. The bright yellow Gallardo owned by the star of the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” was taken Tuesday.

So, whose fault is this?  Blaming the criminal himself seems unfair, especially after he exhibited some serious ingenuity.  Maybe it was the fault of the dealer and his failure to mountainclimber-proof his shop.

No.  I’m going to blame you, the American Public, for somehow making this knucklehead rich and famous enough to be able to afford a car worth almost a quarter of a million dollars.

(Photo: Kiki Maraschino)

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Building a Better Eater

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As you may know, we recently had a new addition to the TVFF household. She’s a bundle of joy and all that good stuff, but I have to admit that I haven’t been too impressed with her one-ingredient diet. It’s not quite the wide-ranging palate that I had hoped for from my offspring.

OK…I understand that we’re doing the best thing possible for her health by feeding her exclusively breast milk. To tide myself over, I’m already dreaming up combinations of pureed goodies that I’ll be making in lieu of buying those jars of baby food. But isn’t there anything that I can be doing now to turn my kid into a gourmand?

Apparently, according to What to Expect the First Year, there just may be…

Because what you eat affects the taste and smell of your breast milk, your breastfed baby is exposed to different flavors well before he or she is ready to sit down at the dinner table, which may help shape future eating habits.

It goes on to theorize that spicy foods like salsas and curries eaten by the mother may help young children be better able to handle those sorts of bold flavors once it’s time for him or her to move on to solid foods. Needless to say, that meant that the nightly dinner menu has been significantly revamped to include a wide variety of Italian, Mexican, Chinese, Thai, Indian, Malaysian and Polish items.

How effective will this be? Who knows. But I’d be interested if anyone out there has seen any kind of evidence — anecdotal or scientific — that supports the fact that I can be doing something now that will result in not having to find “chicken nuggets” on the menu every time I take my kid out with us for dinner.

More On Kids’ Eating:
Feeding Monsters
Why America Eats Shit
Kids Are People Too

(Photo: The Adventures of Kristin & Adam)

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Ten Worst (Foodie) Things About Being Knocked Up

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(Actual TVFF Jr. ultrasound…the embellishments are artistic license)

No, I’m not pregnant. But Mrs. TVFF is, so I’ve become hyper-aware of dietary restrictions placed on women when they’re expecting. It’s amazing how much you can’t/shouldn’t eat. God forbid that something on the no-fly list make its way into your diet, and don’t even try to talk about it on those baby discussion boards, where you’ll be immediately branded an unfit mother if you so much as suggest that “sunny side up” is a valid option for your breakfast table.

So, since I’m at least somewhat responsible for Mrs. TVFF’s current condition, I thought it would be a good idea to solicit her thoughts on what she’s been missing the most during the first 36 weeks and share it with you. Obvious disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, so please don’t take this as medical advice.

10. Booze

Who doesn’t like a good stiff drink at the end of a hard day’s work? Well, let me tell you this: Nobody could use a double martini more than a woman who has been dragging around an extra 25 pounds all day. Later in the pregnancy, it’s apparently kosher for you to have a half glass of wine with dinner, but that’s cold comfort for someone who would benefit from a bender.

9. Undercooked eggs

This one should come as no surprise to ES-ers, but we like a nice runny egg once in a while in the TVFF household. And we both love spaghetti carbonara (even if it doesn’t turn out perfectly), so it’s a minor tragedy that this one has been off the menu since May.  Also, having to portion the scrambled eggs in the pan and scoop out my share invariably leads to a messy countertop and overcooked eggs in the end. Can’t wait until we can go back to playing salmonella roulette on a regular basis!

8. Sushi

This is the one area where I’ve decided to show some solidarity with the wife. I’ve gone 36 weeks without raw fish, and it’s starting to get really annoying. She knew better than to ask me to give up drinking for nine months.  I love her and all, but let’s be real. To tide us over, she opts for the California roll from the her usual NYC lunch spot and I’ve relegated myself to a somewhat palatable Trader Joe’s faux-sushi, but it only makes us want the real stuff that much more.

7. Rare Meat

Some women profess a craving for meat during pregnancy, though Mrs. TVFF was much more interested in fresh fruit. Regardless, the done-ness of the meat that we are eating has proven to be an issue. She has steered (no pun intended) away from overly rare steaks and burgers, but the big headache has been chicken. Look, I’m not suggesting you eat your chicken at anything less than “done,” but I don’t like that I’ve been turned into an obsessive food safety inspector due to my zeal to prevent any kind of infection.

6. Caffeine

This poor woman can hardly keep her eyes open past 10:00 p.m. and yet she’s forced to studiously consult Starbucks’ Web site to make sure she isn’t going a few milligrams above her daily allotment.

Next: Top 5 Worst (Foodie) Things About Being Knocked Up

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¡Chilaquiles!

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I know I’ve mentioned it once or twice before, but I seemingly fall in love with a new dish every time I go on vacation or take a business trip somewhere new.  It’s only natural, then, that I want to come home and relive a little bit of the memories.

Sometimes, this leads me to an ambitious desire to create perfectly-crafted plates of spaghetti carbonara or a top-notch French press café au lait, knowing that it’s worth the effort if I can just recreate a bit of that greatness.  And then, sometimes, I’m just willing to raid my pantry for a cheap imitation.

The gears started turning for me a few weeks back when gansie shared her experience pairing a fried egg and some potato chips (hat tip Monica Bhide).  That took me back to my honeymoon in Mexico and my first exposure to chilaquiles.  In case you’re not familiar with the dish, it’s the ultimate hangover breakfast food:  leftover fried tortillas simmered in salsa and topped with whatever else you may have laying around.  And if one of those things happens to be an egg, all the better.

It’s a wonderful dish because it’s filling, it’s fried and it’s scalable, meaning you can include as much or as little above and beyond the basic ingredients of tortillas and salsa.  If you happen to have some pulled chicken or carnitas around, it’s a perfect way to take a snack or breakfast dish and turn it into a dinner entrée.

The preparation below is certainly geared to a non-Mexican kitchen, so please don’t trash me in the comments for being inauthentic.  I’m sure your abuela’s version is vastly superior.  I’m looking for something easy that I can assemble while nursing a pounding headache.

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