5 Ridiculous Kitchen Essentials to Be Thankful For

Most of us have learned by now that the original Thanksgiving table did not feature turkey, but more likely venison, eel, and perhaps a dried gooseberry or two. A bird with an injectable marinade was probably not on the menu. Also lacking at that first harvest celebration was a non-stick roasting pan and other kitchen essentials that we have come to believe are necessary to pull off a holiday meal. So let’s be thankful that we are blessed with about 50,000 more kitchen unitaskers than those poor pilgrims. Here are our top picks for culinary inventions that may (or may not) make our Thanksgiving preparations easier, but at least they encourage us to be thankful for our uniquely inventive spirit.

1. Talking Thermometer

The age-old struggle of moist (salmonella anyone?) versus safe (how about 12 pounds of turkey jerky?) can be resolved with a device that will tell you to pull out before irreversible damage is done.

2.  The Homo Sapien

Bone china in the shape of a peeled potato can help you accomplish such mammoth kitchen tasks as crushing garlic or fresh herbs. Or you can use it to pummel that annoying cousin who always makes fart jokes.

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Bustin’ a Move With Jamaican Jerk Kale Chips

photo: Matthew Wexler

For me, in the battle of savory versus sweet, a bag of chips will trump a pint of ice cream any day. But a recent annual check-up revealed a cholesterol level inching toward the danger zone. While I like to think that I have a sophisticated palette, I’m not beyond polishing off an order of chicken wings during an episode of Dancing with the Stars. (It’s either that or jump out of my 3rd floor window in sheer sequined horror.)

So in an effort to kick off a healthy start to the holidays, I’ve been baking kale chips at home. Kale chips satisfy my savory cravings and are an incredible source of vitamins A, C and K—ack! Vitamin K? This underdog vitamin is important for blood-clotting and bone strength. Two important things for when I’m dancing around my apartment to the monotone musings of Brooke Burke.

Now, we’ve had our fair share of problems mastering kale chips here on ES, so please pay attention.

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My Shit Don’t Stink: Five Observations on a Vegan Diet

Charcuterie from the Downtown Grocery

Salad greens from Coger's Sugarhouse












I grew up in a meat and potatoes household. My father was (and still is) the type that had strong feelings about what went on the dinner plate, and if it didn’t moo or cluck it was considered a side dish. So imagine my culinary bafflement as I have undertaken a two-week chef gig to cook for a yoga teacher training at Good Commons, a boutique retreat center nestled in the rolling hills of Vermont.

Three meals a day and not an animal in sight. Not only are these yogis avoiding meat, but also dairy, soy and gluten. And I thought downward dog was tough.

It’s not that I don’t have experience or interest in cooking vegetarian dishes. I love connecting with the local farmers and menu planning based on what is coming out of the ground. But how much roughage can a person take? The answer—plenty.

I should qualify… I could easily be sneaking off to the local pizza joint for “Instructor Wings,” a winning combination of hot wings and barbecue sauce named after a special request from the snowboarders who work at Okemo Valley during ski season. Better yet, a mosey to The Downtown Grocery in Ludlow, where chef Rogan Lechthaler is doing some amazing charcuterie. But I’ve been feeling a bit too much junk in the trunk and thought a two-week meat sabbatical might do me well. So here’s what I’ve learned so far.

 Top 5 Observations on a Vegan Diet

5. It’s more fun to chew a perfectly marbled strip steak than bite into a piece of “extra firm” tofu, no matter how well it’s seasoned or seared.

4. Kale is brilliant: it keeps for almost a week in the fridge and can be eaten raw, blanched, sautéed or even creamed with a vegan béchamel, which I made with Earth Balance (soy, I know!), gluten-free flour, almond milk and plenty of salt and pepper.

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Top 10 Things to Eat Before the End of the World

It’s no secret that May 21, 2011 is Judgment Day—the end of the world—as so eloquently articulated (or do we mean ridiculously predicted?) by Family Radio Worldwide’s Harold Camping. Here at ES, we think the best solution to eminent annihilation is to indulge at one of our favorite foodie destinations. And if some of us survive, at least it’ll be easier to get a reservation.

10. English Pudding All Night

The stickiest way to finish up your time on Earth is at the  Three Ways House Hotel in Gloucestershire, England, where they have created the Pudding Club, an “end of the world” experience where you can indulge in a tasting of no less than seven puddings, from oriental ginger to jam roly-poly, and even stay the night in a pudding-themed bedroom. Talk about going out with a bang.

9. Salt-Baked Fingerling Potatoes with Bacon Butter and Anchovy Mayo

Chef Megan Johnson at Elsewhere Restaurant in New York City has created a deceptively simple dish combining the best of all things fatty, starchy, salty and creamy—all the palette pleasers you’ll miss when forced to live on dirt and ants if you’re lucky enough to survive.

8. Mexican-Style Street Corn with Cotija Cheese and Ancho Chile Powder

Austin’s La Condesa restaurant not only serves up more than 100 varieties of blue agave tequila (an essential for pre-Judgment Day partying), but also offers this signature south-of-the-border street corn side dish. If the world really were ending soon, we’d start covering every vegetable we eat in cotija cheese and chili. (Photo: Shelly Roche)

7. East Mountain Pork Live Paté

A beautifully decadent house-made paté is accompanied by onion confit and rye toast at Mezze, a classic bistro and bar nestled in the Berkshires with views straight to heaven. (Photo: Gregory Nesbit)

6. 1949 Chevalier-Montrachet Maison Leroy

Our bomb shelter of choice would have to be the St. Regis Deer Valley’s wine vault, stocked with more than 1,000 different rare labels. Acclaimed sommelier Mark Eberwein recommends popping one of these 60-year-old whites for your last night on earth. (Photo: My Wines and More)

Next: Top 5 Things to Eat Before the End of the World

Choice (M)Eats and Other Options

My heart is still pumping out massive amounts of saturated fat coursing through my veins after sampling food from more than ninety restaurants and food vendors at The Village Voice’s 4th Annual Choice Eats in New York City.

Did I have to try every skewered, fried, seared, poached, pickled, baked or broiled piece of flesh that came my way? No, but it would have been a great disservice to my inner meat addict to leave those morsels behind. Props go to The Village Voice staff for managing to keep the crowds under control—even at the evening’s peak, I never felt as if I was going to get trampled in order for some map-wielding foodie to make her way to the Del Posto booth (although, believe me, people had done their homework and showed up with highlighted ground plans of their most desired destinations).

Of course, the evening wasn’t all meat. I think I noticed some abandoned broccoli at one point and savored the fruity deliciousness of a Calvados “French Margarita,” which I counted as a daily serving of fruit since it had lemon juice in it and at least tasted like apples.

Since spring is around the corner (and I’ve got a suit to fit into for my nephew’s Bar Mitzvah) here’s shout-outs to those daring restaurateurs who are featuring some fresh, spring seasonal vegetarian dishes. Check out this top five and go out and eat something green:

The Fat Radish

Chef and restaurateur Ben Towill and his business partner Philip Wisner have created a trendy downtown vibe that still pays homage to London’s original Convent Garden marketplace. Go for the celery root pot pie with black garlic and Gruyère cheese.
(Photo: Scenologist)

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50 Ways to Feed Your Lover

Here at ES we know it’s not always just about what you eat — it’s how you eat it, too. And never is that more important than on Valentine’s Day. So we’re embracing our inner love child and suggesting 50 ways (some naughty, some nice) to feed your lover this V-Day.

From breakfast in bed to beer in your bosom, enjoy our most loving countdown to date — and click on the photos for fuller explanations.

50. Giant Gummy Bear on a Stick
Practicing your oral skills has never been so sweet.

49. Electric Cookie Press
With one-hand operation and consistent flow of icing every time, the possibilities are endless.

48. Bialetti Pizza Chopper
Works great for slicing thin crust, deep dish, or unfaithful lovers. “Simply grasp the handle at opposite ends and rock the blade back and forth to create portions in the desired size.”

47. Hillary Clinton Nutcracker
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is busting more than balls in Washington these days. See what she can do with a pecan.

46. Jigsaw Cookie Cutter
Sometimes love is complicated, but isn’t it great when it feels like a perfect fit?

45. Musical Cake Slice
Dream of being serenaded by your loved one? You can have your cake and eat it, too, while listening to an electronic version of “The Wedding March” or other tunes.

44. Rooster Apron
This not-so-subtle kitchen frock is sure to send the message of what’s for dessert.

43. Nun Salt & Pepper Shakers
Don’t let that Catholic guilt get you down. Shake out your sexual repression at your next meal.

42. The Ex – Unique Knife Holder
Re-enact Fatal Attraction in the comfort of your own home.

41. Rainbow Kitchen Utensils
We love our gays more than the U.S. military, and what better way to represent pride than with rainbow kitchen utensils?

40. Flask Bra
For the girl on the go.

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What to Drink on New Year's Eve? Make it Rare

mcf2 mcf1 mcfwine3

We”re not usually huge wine snobs here at ES, but New Year”s Eve is that one night when you can”t show up to the party with a jug of Carlo Rossi and expect everyone to cheer. And sometimes even Champagne in a can isn”t enough to impress. So we”ve asked a genuine vino expert to share some tips on how to kick your NYE wine selection up just a little bit.

I recently stumbled across MCF Rare Wine, Ltd., a bespoke wine shop in Manhattan”s West Village offering a carefully chosen collection of wines and an unapologetic attitude that emphasizes old-fashioned customer service and honesty. You won’t find a bottle of Sutter Home or Yellow Tail here, nor the obligatory hard liquor mini-bottles for your next flight. What you will witness is owner Matt Franco researching the next great find, unpacking a delivery, printing shelf labels, sweeping the front stoop—and if you’re really lucky—offering his soft-spoken but decidedly opinionated take on any of the eighty or so wines that adorn the tiny shop. Matt offers ES-ers an inside track for that perfect New Year’s bottle that will ensure 2011 is a year to remember:

ES: Last year everyone recognized my cheap bottle of Prosecco, in spite of the foil bag and curly ribbon. Their reaction—“Oh, I’ve had that before (sigh).” Thoughts for a special bubbly that won’t break the bank?
MCF: Domaine Taille aux Loups Montlouis Petillant “Triple Zero” NV $25
Winemaker Jacky Blot does some amazing stuff in the Loire Valley in France and this is one of his most interesting creations. Made from fully ripe Chenin Blanc grapes, the “Triple Zero” refers to the fact that there is no sugar added at any of the three traditional times during production. Crisp, aromatic and expressive, this is more interesting than Prosecco and more wallet-friendly than Champagne.

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