When we arrived to our cozy cottage in Keene, New York, right smack in the center of the Adirondacks High Peaks, I found myself at a loss of words. The silence was not from the sheer beauty of the place (it was plain, but cute and cozy, serving our hiking needs perfectly) but due to the size of the kitchen. I never really thought of myself as a kitchen snob, but somehow in that moment, knowing I’d be here for a week, it all became clear. I guess you can say I have certain standards. I would gladly trade in my queen sized pillow-top bed for a generic branded air mattress every night for the opportunity to cook in a chef’s kitchen daily. It also makes me wonder if my snobbishness has anything to do with our 3-year quest to find a suitable apartment. Maybe just a tiny bit…
I’m not sure I fully understood and appreciated real barbeque until I moved to Brooklyn. Growing up, I thought of barbeque more as a cook out. Friends and family would come over, and we’d grill hotdogs and hamburgers, maybe some steaks if we were being really fancy. I knew of pulled pork and ribs and brisket, and sure I had them a few times, but never really craved them. My first real barbeque joint in Brooklyn was Fette Sau. If you’ve never been, you are truly missing out. Don’t expect fancy. Fette Sau in Williamsburg is a renovated garage that dishes out trays of the most delicious smoked, braised meats you could imagine. Dining is communal, picnic tables inside and out stacked with rolls of paper towels. On a Friday or Saturday night you can spot the place from the huge line that forms outside. Meat is ordered by the pound, slapped on a tray and served with as many slider buns as you can handle. Line two offers local craft beers served in mason jars, of if you have a crowd, by the gallon. Yes it’s a bit gritty but that’s what barbeque should be.
Squash might very well be one of my favorite vegetables. I’ve never heard a person say, “I don’t like squash.” There are so many varieties, saying you dislike squash is like saying you don’t like herbs. It’s hard to generalize. I’m not a huge fan of spaghetti squash. Perhaps it’s because I don’t quite “get it”. But shying away from that one variety isn’t going to put me off squash for life. In the summer, I love zucchini, bright yellow summer squash and all the mini variations that come with it. Winter warms me to butternut squash, acorn squash and pumpkin (yes, pumpkin is a squash too!). I put up both summer and winter varieties, shredded or chopped in the summer, pureed in the winter so I’m never without.
I don’t generally eat at Italian restaurants. It’s not that I don’t like Italian food–it’s one of my favorites actually–but I find most Italian restaurants to be disappointing. Hardly any place makes their own pasta. The best pasta I know of is from Petit Oven, a tiny French restaurant with a Polish chef. If I wanted undercooked (or overcooked) boxed pasta, I could do it myself, thank you very much. However, on the rare occasions that I find myself at an Italian restaurant, I opt for either spaghetti carbonara or pasta with vodka sauce. Carbonara I’ve made plenty, but vodka sauce always seemed to exotic and difficult. It only recently occurred to me the vodka sauce is literally vodka, cream and tomato sauce. Who knew?
Who doesn’t love tacos. If you tell me you don’t I already know you’re lying. And we don’t want to start this relationship based on lies do we? So, I’ll just move forward with the assumption that you’re as big a taco lover as I am.
For most of a life, my tacos came out of an Orega or El Paso box—there was a Taco Bell branded kit period, but I don’t think it lasted. Of course, the actual tacos didn’t come out of the box, but the magical sauces and powders to make them did. Brown the beef (or chicken), add some water, powder and cook it up. The first taco shack I went to in Philly was truly a college student’s dream. Cheap, with raw walls and tables made of old Pac-Man games (still playable for a quarter!). These tacos were magic. Sadly it closed a few months before I left Philly. I think it was in mourning that I was leaving. I’ve encountered many imposters and replicas ever since, some okay, some outstanding. But my boxed taco mix could never match any of these tacos and I never really thought about why that was.