Sunday, December 28, 2014

Curried Butternut Squash Soup: That'll do

It's amazing how quickly the switch flips. When I swatted the sleep out of my eyes on Friday morning, my head still hazy from perhaps one too many glasses of red wine the night prior, I couldn't even contemplate eating a radish.

It was a grand departure from the days proceeding it when I had feasted on Butterscotch Cashew Bars and Christmas Cocoa Cookies and Walnut Sea Salt Caramels as though they were the building blocks of a healthy, balanced diet. My five-a-days, if you will. (I most certainly did will.)

In the moment it seemed impossible to stop this no-holds-barred style of eating and drinking for the monotony of regular food that doesn't come dusted with powdered sugar or dipped in chocolate. Yet, as soon as December 25th gave way to December 26th, my desire for sugar-driven sustenance gave with it, as though my body was finally putting up a Babe-esque protest.

"That'll do, Pig. That'll do."

As I slugged out of bed, I wanted nothing to do with the batches of cookies that still lingered, uneaten, on the kitchen countertops nor my favorite dark chocolate turtles, a gift from my dad. The hours that followed seemed marked by a resistance to anything edible. A half-hearted bowl of Greek yogurt with banana, raspberries, and a scant amount of almonds after a long, purging run by the beach, then nothing until nearly 3 pm when my mom and I decided, reluctantly, that food was probably a necessary order of business.

And so there was soup.

A cinnamon and cumin-scented butternut squash puree from our favorite local haunt, Zinc Cafe, that was everything we wanted in that precise moment. Soothing, delicately-spiced without edging into the territory of over-eventful, and satisfying enough that hunger wouldn't nag our consciousness again until dinner.

A re-creation at home was an inevitability.

The soup you'll find here is far from a consolation prize during a period that, for many, becomes an exercise in self-flagellation. Instead, it feels like an appropriate and welcome interlude to transition from a place of gluttony to one of, well, less gluttony. The curry-flavored butternut squash puree gets further heft from the addition of blended chickpeas, and a silkening ribbon of light coconut milk melds everything together just as the soup is about to be doled out into bowls.

With two sturdy slices of Clark Street Bread's Danish Rye (startling even in its unfettered, unbuttered state), this is holiday rehab at its finest. It'll do. It'll do perfectly fine.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup
Serves 4-6

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium white or brown onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon tumeric
6 cups cubed butternut squash
1 16-ounce can chickpeas, drained
5 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup - 3/4 cup light coconut milk

Heat olive oil in the base of large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the onion and sauté over medium heat for 7-10 minutes while breaking down your squash. Stir from time to time to ensure the onions don't burn, turning down the heat, as needed.

Reduce heat to low, stir in the spices, and cook for 1 minute.

Add the squash, chickpeas and chicken broth, and bring to a low boil. Simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, or until squash is completely tender. Remove from the stove.

Using either a blender, or immersion blender (which will make this task far easier), blend the squash, chickpeas and broth together until smooth. If using an immersion blender, you can do this right in the pot you cooked the soup in, but if using a blender, you'll need to work in batches.

Once completely smooth, transfer the soup back to the stove to re-warm. Stir in the coconut milk, starting with half a cup, and adding more if you prefer a thinner soup. (Note: The soup will get thicker as it sits, so hold on to that extra coconut milk to thin out the leftovers.)

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Dirt Behind My Worst Instagram Moments of the Year

There's a fairly good reason why platforms like Iconosquare don't offer to curate a video montage of one's worst Instagram moments of the year. Most people don't like to advertise their failures, particularly in a space that's supposed to only show the sanitized, shiny version of real life.

I mean how else are we supposed to shame our former high school frenemies who are eating ugly dinners while we eat caviar, and are fighting the crowds at Walmart while we're by the pool in Palm Springs, if not through social media?

Obviously, I'm not very good at this game because I have no qualms about telling people when I've just spilled wine all over my dress, burned my kitchen floor with a hot pan, or tripped over the sidewalk and fractured my finger. In many ways, I feel more comfortable airing details about my screw-ups than I do about my supposed successes.

So, of course, it would follow that the second I finished my "Best Moments of Instagram" post yesterday, I immediately regretted that I hadn't shared my "Worst Moments" instead. Clearly, this situation needed to be rectified with a counter post today.

Whether because of their content, photo quality, or my overexposed and chipped fingernails, these photos were the least liked of my year.  Which kind of makes me like them even more. #sorrynotsorrry #noreallynotsorry #seriouslynotsorry

#5 - Close-up of Green Juice from Whole Foods. (14 likes)
Caption: "Diana is feeling…"
I thought I was super clever with this one. It was New Year's Day, and I was, as my caption would suggest, feeling green after indulging in more Champagne than was necessary the night before. Maybe no one was paying attention to Instagram because they were also feeling, well, green, or maybe everyone was just appalled that I would dare post a picture of my unkempt fingernail still sporting the residual sparkly nail polish from a two-week-old manicure. Maybe let's go with the former?

#5 - Two Striped Black & White Dresses Hanging in a Nordstrom's Dressing Room. (14 likes)
Caption: Fetish
2014 was the year of the horizontal striped dress for me. I bought no fewer than seven, including both of these black & white numbers in an exercise of complete redundancy. Juxtaposed against the textured white and black wall of a Nordstrom dressing room, I thought I had a really compelling scene going on here. I mean, I didn't even need the Inkwell filter, guys! Or perhaps that's where I went wrong?

#4 - Windmills in the Distance Near Palm Springs. (13 likes)
Caption: Where am I, LA?
I snapped this shot during the home stretch of a six-hour car ride back from Phoenix with my parents over Thanksgiving weekend. At this juncture in the trip, I'd already read all four of my magazines, nearly expired the battery on my iPod shuffle, and was reaching the point of AREWETHEREYET WHYARENTWETHEREYET, SERIOUSLYWEARENTHEREYET?! I should have just posted another shot like….


#3 - Iced Tea from Seventh Tea Bar at the OC Mix. (11 likes)
Caption: Matches to a…tea.
Again, I thought I was supes clever with the caption here. I mean c'mon people, "Matches to a… tea"?! Clearly, I totally underestimated the interest level in cups of things that are not alcohol (yet again). Does it make it more interesting if I tell you I drank this after getting my taxes done? No?

#2 - Manhattan Cocktail and Glass of Champagne at Acabar. (11 likes)
Caption: Raising two glasses for this occasion… Happy Birthday, @kristasimmons!!!!
So, my whole logic that people like pictures of alcohol better than not alcohol goes completely out the window here, because… TIE GAME. I thought this shot was super artistic at the time with the candlelight shining through my cocktail glass, but I was also three deep by this juncture in the evening, so it's possible my judgement was... um... altered? Regardless, no regrets, people. None at all. And I still wish Krista Simmons a "Happy Birthday." 

#1 - Northwestern (NU) Reunion in San Diego Commemorated with Picture of our Feet in the Sand. (10 likes)
Caption: I (purple heart emoji) my college friends.
Solid proof that nobody cares where you went to school after you graduate. Also, feet are really really ugly, and no one should "heart" anything past the age of 12. (Unless, of course, you are double-tapping an Instagram photo. Like, um, this one. Cough. Cough. Help a girl out?)

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Story Behind the Food Porn

To judge by the current content on every news outlet, blog and social media platform, it's not possible to move forward into 2015 without first recapping 2014 through lists and more lists. Best songs ("Shake it Off?"), best movies, best new restaurants, best bites, best recipes made to solicit pins and repins on Pinterest, and, naturally, one's best moments on Instagram according to the number of likes received.

Iconosquare, a platform that analyzes Instagram account activity, conveniently packages these "moments" together in a short little video that users can then post and share to feel very special about all the accolades they received on the shot of their pedicured toes in the foreground of a beach setting, their avocado toast on an Anthropologie plate, and another shot of their toes with a different pedicure in a different beach setting.

Toes and toast are like so hot right now.

A product of my generation, I am, admittedly, equally narcissistic and obsessive about how many people like the image of my bowl of chia pudding. (#health #superfoods #mydayinla) I've even been late to work on more than one occasion this year because I had to "style" my breakfast for optimal Instagram engagement. You know, with a mismatched bowl and plate and one of those little tea towels "casually'' thrown to the side as though an afterthought. (It's never an afterthought.)

So, obviously I love all this Iconosquare analytical business and was quick to jump on the train to make my best Instagram moments of 2014 video. Yet, as I sat there all Gen Y-like watching my five "best" images fly by on the screen of my iPhone 6, it felt slightly depressing that my entire year was condensed into a 20-second video montage. While the cliche dictates that a picture tells 1,000 words, the inherent model of Instagram only shares a very small piece of the story behind each image.

While it's probably, again, narcissistic of me to assume that anyone would want to know the story behind a handful of food photos that supposedly were my "best moments" of the year, I feel inclined to say a bit more about each picture for my personal gratification. Not because I expect people to care, but because it's the holidays, and I'm feeling nostalgic about another year gone by… in an instant.

#5 - Heirloom tomato salad. (102 likes)  
As soon as summer hits LA, everyone starts going insane for heirloom tomatoes, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't similarly smitten. My ritualistic Sunday morning visits to the Melrose Place Farmers Market were always punctuated with a stop at the heirloom tomato vendor, a trip that was subsequently followed by the production of some form of salad that was basically an excuse for me to eat an entire gargantuan tomato in a single sitting.  This excuse, scattered with fresh shucked corn, slices of avocado, and copious amounts of basil and mint, was perhaps my favorite of the bunch. If summer could be summed up in a single dish, this would be that summation.

 #4 - Homemade English muffins with housemade cultured butter, sea salt, and rosemary. (103 likes)
Since I started working in restaurant public relations 3 1/2 years ago, I've maintained a strict no-fly-zone policy when it comes to mentioning clients in this space. Beyond the obvious (that whole conflict of interest thing), I've wanted to keep my identity as a publicist separate and distinct from my identity as a writer. It's often frustrating to keep that part of my life so carefully concealed, particularly as it occupies so much of my time, heart and headspace. The restaurants I'm privileged to work with come to feel like my children, and I get excited when they do great things and receive praise, and it all makes me want to go do weird things like brag about them on Facebook and affix their accolades to the bumper of my car. Instead, I just post pictures of their food to Instagram with lots of annoying hashtags. (#sorrynotsorry) These particular English muffins came from this incredibly talented chef at this new Manhattan Beach restaurant that opened this past November. And, yes, they are as good as they look.

#3 - Ricky's Fish Tacos. (109 likes)
My friend Sam Kim was one of the first people to respond to my often asinine tweets when I joined Twitter in 2009. I remember thinking, "Who is this @samkimsamkim person who keeps giving me advice on where to eat?" While not affiliated with the food industry in a professional capacity, Sam Kim (we always refer to him by his full name), has an incredible ability to bring like-minded people within the dining community around a table to enjoy a great meal. Likely, immediately followed by another great meal (and trip to the bakery around the corner to get cookies for later). He lives in New York City now, but whenever he's back in LA, he brings a laundry list of things/places he wants to eat while he's in town. Sarah and I were more than happy to help him check Ricky's Fish Tacos off the list during his most recent visit this fall. And because we were with Sam Kim, we went to Go Get 'em Tiger for coffee/tea after, where we snacked on the chocolate chip cookies he'd picked up at Gjusta earlier that day for later

#2 - Christmas Cocoa Cookies. (111 likes)
I wasn't sure I loved, let alone even liked, these cookies when I first tasted them this past Sunday after nearly three hours of mixing, rolling, baking, and glazing. I had bookmarked the recipe in Amanda Hesser's The Essential New York Times Cookbook years ago because they sounded like trail mix in chocolate cookie form, which is basically everything I love in the universe in one convenient Christmas… package. Naturally, I was a little confused when I took a bite (see: Diana Takes a Bite) and didn't immediately want to shove all 44 in the batch in my mouth. In spite of this initial hesitation, I've found myself continuing to sneak a cookie here and there over the past few days, each time liking the contrast of the tart lemon glaze against the spiced chocolate more and more. I'll save the rest of my words on the matter for when I actually share the recipe with you, but for now, know that these cookies are very much worthy of their #2 ranking on this list. 

A booze-fueled brunch with your two closest friends in LA is the best excuse to spontaneously cancel an appointment to get your car serviced. Who needs to get their tires rotated when there's smoked trout and avocado toast, French fries, vegetable and white bean soup, Moroccan eggs, and lots and lots of sparkling Rosé to be had? Of course, you can see all that from the photo above. Not pictured? How hard we laughed at everything and nothing at all for four hours.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Isn't it Romesco?

I'm trying to think back to whether there was specific instance that I can pinpoint as the start of it all. I'm sure it stemmed from some seminal restaurant experience, a sensory a-ha moment reserved for those of the food-oriented persuasion. There was likely a closed eye moment of revelation, followed by a cessation of vocal ability, and then, upon its return, audible groans of approval and something along the lines of….

"OMGsogood! Whysogood? O.M.G. sooooo gooood!" 

Judging by the trajectory of the past few years, the specific a-ha moment likely occurred somewhere circa 2009 when suddenly everyone realized that vegetables are demonstrably better when tossed in olive oil and roasted at a high temperature until they caramelize and become more like candy then, well, vegetables.

As someone who grew up on steamed broccoli and green beans, my mind was completely blown by this seemingly progressive preparation. Think lightening bolts firing off all over the sky above my head as if I were starring in my own food-centric cartoon (named "Diana Takes a Bite," obviously). Cue the subsequent demise of my beloved Crate & Barrel steamer (unnamed), and dramatic incline of my gas bills to cover what would soon become near nightly oven escapades with every vegetable suitable for a roasting pan.

One would think that this fetish would have waned some in the years that have followed, particularly given the prominence of these same dishes on every restaurant menu everywhere, regardless of the style and type of cuisine. Italian concept? Roasted cauliflower with capers. Mexican cantina? Roasted cauliflower with salsa verde. New French bistro? Roasted cauliflower and… butter.

Shockingly, this constant exposure did nothing to desensitize my palate to their allure. My default answer when it comes to all matters of vegetable things is still to torch them under the aggressive heat of a 400 degree oven - something that has been very frequently catalogued here.

It shouldn't be surprising then that over the course of my brother and sister-in-law's wedding of the century in Santa Ynez, a wedding weekend where we feasted on Los Alamos' iconic Full of Life Flatbread; sipped on craft cocktails curated by Red Clay and LA master bartender Michael Nemcik; and gorged on crispy pork belly skewers and a multi-coursed dinner from the epicurean geniuses behind Whoa Nelly Catering; I must regretfully admit that the thing that stands out the most in my mind was a platter of roasted vegetables. 

The platter in question was presented mid-way through the Full of Life-catered rehearsal dinner in the wine cave at Sunstone Winery, where this be-all, end-all wedding would take place the following afternoon. My heart nearly seized and collapsed with joy (joy!) when the servers paraded it down the linear space and deposited it directly in front of my place at the table. Heaped with cauliflower, sweet delicata squash, gooey strands of onions, still-in-season summer squash, and draped with a romesco sauce and a chiffonade of basil, it was a presentation that clearly indicated its purpose: This was a plate meant to be shared family-style. Perhaps even passed and moved up and down the table to the guests to my right and left.

Instead, it remained firmly planted in front of me for the duration of the evening. Spoonfuls were deposited on empty plates upon request, but by the end of the night, I'm confident that I consumed nearly a third of the beastly portion myself. 

Naturally, a recreation was inevitable upon my return home. Which brings me to tonight, and brings us to the sauce that sealed the deal on this particular iteration of roasted vegetables that caused a closed eye moment of revelation, temporary cessation of vocal ability, and audible groans of approval.


Isn't it romantic?

Romesco Sauce
Adapted from the NY Times
Yield: Approximately 1 cup

Notes: I'm tired now, so just know that I made a lot of changes, as per usual. The takeaway? If you want to see the original that doesn't have wheat germ, calls for more olive oil, features different proportions of ingredients, and has a completely alternative procedure of instructions, click the link up above. Gracias. 

1 red bell pepper, cored, de-seeded and sliced into chunks
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 plum tomato
3 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts, skins removed (see a handy method for that here)
2 tablespoons wheat germ (I'm weird sometimes)
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1/2 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
3/4 teaspoon hot paprika
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss red bell pepper pieces with one tablespoon olive oil and place in an oven-safe baking dish.  Roast for 30 minutes or until tender. Simultaneously roast tomato in a separate baking dish, while also roasting the garlic on a sheet of aluminum foil. Basically, you are going to do a lot of roasting until everything is tender and squishy enough to puree. So have fun with that.

Once red pepper, tomato, and garlic are all ready for action, remove the skin from the tomato and peel the garlic cloves.

In a food processor or blender (or using an immersion blender if that's your jam like it is mine), pulse skinless, toasted hazelnuts until finely ground (though not pureed to a paste). Add the tomato, red pepper chunks (some people might feel inclined to remove the skin - I did not), garlic, wheat germ, vinegar, pomegranate molasses, paprika, and salt. Puree until smooth.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge until ready for use, or apply immediately to a pile of roasted vegetables. And then eat too many of them. Because OMGsoooogoood.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Brown Sugar Rosemary Shortbread: Team Christmas

In case it hasn't been mentioned before, I am a big sucker for the Christmas.

Even amidst my loud protestations that it was absolutely, completely unacceptable that 103.5 KOST FM started playing holiday music before Thanksgiving this year, I would be lying if I said I wasn't the slightest bit excited to hear Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You" while it was still 80 degrees in Los Angeles. Nor was I all that appalled when my local CVS started peddling red & green M&Ms on November 1st. (They really are the best kind.)

This, the false protestations and lack of appallation*, may or may not have something to do with my not-so-secret desire to fast-forward through the whole Thanksgiving business that's clearly just a dress rehearsal for the main event. Cookies and peppermint hot chocolate and more cookies > brown-colored foods and dry birds and pie that is made from something that came in a can.

And that's before we even bring "Love Actually" and dead trees and glitter into consideration.

Not that I am one to complain about anything that necessitates a four-day weekend nor a reason to spend time with my family and a case of wine. It's just that deep down, underneath the two helpings of pumpkin bread pudding I consumed in far too rapid succession on Thanksgiving, I am team Christmas and everything it represents and inspires.

The true meaning, that is.

And all the jazz that comes along with it.

You will not be surprised to learn that as I'm typing this, perhaps a glass (or two) into a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc that has been hibernating in my fridge for the better part of three months, I have a batch of cookies in the oven and the Michael Bublé Christmas CD playing on my Spotify.

I will probably eat them before they've even cooled and maybe burn my mouth a little and not even care because… Christmas.

The best excuse to love each other a little bit more than usual, and to eat far more cookies than are acceptable any other time of year… starting with these buttery brown sugar rosemary shortbread wedges.

*A new word according to me. 

Brown Sugar Rosemary Shortbread

Adapted from Amanda Hesser's The Essential New York Times Cook Book
Makes 8 wedges

Notes: This recipe, courtesy of the Alice Waters, originally ran in the NY Times in 1986, which horrified me until I realized I was born in 1983 and obviously this recipe is still a spring chicken. I made a few adaptations - cutting the recipe in half to fit my single person needs, doubling the salt, adding in fresh rosemary for kicks, and finishing the whole thing off with turbinado sugar prior to popping in the oven. I also opted to bake this in a pie tin as opposed to free-flowing on a baking sheet, so do with that what you will. Perhaps take it as an analogy that this shortbread is easy as pie to make on a Wednesday night when you have nothing better to do but bake and listen to Michael Bublé's "White Christmas" on repeat.

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 packed light brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup toasted, unblanched almonds, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
Turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Butter a 9-inch pie dish.

Using an electric hand mixer (my method this evening) or a stand mixer outfitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter with the brown sugar until light and fluffy. (Approximately 4 minutes or so.) 

In a separate bowl, combine the flour and salt and whisk together with a fork to "lighten" the texture. Gingerly stir into the butter/brown sugar mixture with a spoon rather than electric means. Once incorporated, knead in the almonds and rosemary, and form into a flat, round disk (complementary with the shape of the pie dish). Let chill out in the fridge for a bit if it feels a bit sticky. Think 15-30 minutes - nothing like an hour or so, unless you are feeling really patient.

Gently press the shortbread dough into the 8'' round pie tin. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Using a knife or a pizza cutter like me, deeply score the disk into 8 wedges.

Bake for 30 minutes or until lightly browned and cooked through. Remove from oven and let cool completely on a wire rack.

Or not. You might be inclined to eat it straight from the pan.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Sound Bites: I kinda don't hate sorbet now edition

Because there's not always time for a full meal…

1.) Where I'm eating - Smoke.Oil.Salt. Somewhere between sucking the meat out of the langoustine-sized prawns, butchering the aromatic whole sea bass with the tongs of my fork, and spearing vinegary florets of wood-oven roasted cauliflower, I realized I was missing something. And it wasn't because of anything lacking in the dishes spread before me at Chef Perfecto Rocher's mid-city tribute to authentic Valencian cuisine. It was because I could see it. Coming out of the oven every two minutes, purposefully charred into caramelization before receiving a baptismal blanket of crushed tomatoes and their jus.

The Catalan Tomato Toast, or "Pa Amb Tomaca" as it reads on the menu, is exactly what you want to be eating the moment you sit down at the bar at Smoke.Oil.Salt. They'll ask if you want three or four pieces in your order, and you'll say, "Four" without hesitation. Even if it's just you. Even if you plan to order the smoked octopus, the wood-fired grilled quail, and fried potatoes. And you'll swear you won't finish the whole thing, but you will, and then immediately contemplate returning the next day to order just that alongside a glass of Tzakolina Rose. 7274 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046, (323) 930-7900,

2.) Current edible obsession - Talenti Alphonso Mango sorbet. I usually think horrible things about people who eat sorbet instead of ice cream, especially when I'm with a friend at an ice cream shop, and I'm like, "Hi, I'll have a scoop of the salted caramel AND double fudge chocolate," and she's like, "Excuse me, is it possible to get a child's size of the melon sorbet even if I'm a grown woman and not a child?" This sort of business will usually end the friendship right then and there.

Of course then I tried Talenti's Alphonso Mango sorbet and it basically ruined this whole anti-sorbet stance in one fell scoop (can't help myself). Intensely mango-flavored and supremely creamy in a way that's almost a little suspect (Seinfeld frozen yogurt episode anyone?), this sorbet seems like it was designed for the two-scoop ice cream set. Aka me. Aka you. Aka everybody who is not an adult woman posturing as a child.

3.) What I'm watching - A to Z. So this has nothing to do with food, unless you count the aforementioned sorbet that I may possibly sometimes eat while watching it, but everyone needs extracurricular activities and this is mine for the fall. If you watch Parenthood, set your DVR for half an hour earlier (that would be Thursday, 9:30 p.m.) to catch this adorable new comedy on NBC starring the mother from How I Met Your Mother and the guardian angel from Drop Dead Diva. (Stop judging me.)

To summarize the voiceover from Katey Segal (who is basically Allison Janney's voiceover doppelgänger), the show tells the entire story of Andrew (Ben Feldman) and Zelda's (Cristin Millioti) seven-month, two-week, two-day and one-hour relationship - "from A to Z." Get it? A to Z? And also their names? Andrew and Zelda? Too cute, right? Maybe for people without souls because it may or may not be cancelled after its 13-episode order. Which means you have seven episodes left to get on this train before it may or may not leave the station.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Miso Me? Tofu, Green Beans and Other Things

So naturally, after making a big fuss about spouting more on real life in this space, I went ahead and did none of the sort for two months.

Can I use the excuse that real life (har har) got in the way?  That I was too preoccupied with getting older (31!!!), "cutting a rug" (according to my dad) at my brother and stunning new sister-in-law's wedding in Santa Ynez, and planning my outfit for the Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Malibu?

Because obviously the latter (or lattest?) took me a whole two months of INTENSE contemplation. Or, you know, five minutes of standing in my closet looking for the dress with the fewest food stains on it.

The truth is, of course, far less interesting. Yes, preoccupied (you'll notice I did not use the word "busy"), but also, uninspired. By recipes. By the cookbooks that I keep buying and pouring over with grand ambitions and sticky tabs to bookmark all the things I fully intend to make some day, but not that day, because I really just want to eat braised kale and chickpeas topped with a fried egg. Again.

I suppose if I'm going to be completely honest about it, I've actually mostly felt uninspired by myself. There hasn't been something I've wanted to write about, and in the moments where I've felt the inklings of something that I might possibly want to construct a few sentences about, I haven't been able to get the words out of my head and into this text box.

I'm not sure how that happened. How I went from being the girl who could fill 20 pages for history term papers on the coffee trade in Brazil to someone who can't even eke out a measly 750 words on anything that has happened in her life since September 2nd. I say this fully knowing that most of the things that have happened are really not that interesting -- even to me. Do I really need to inform the universe that I've been on another bad date that felt more like a job interview? Or that my stupid heart always wants what it shouldn't want as evidenced by exhibit A, exhibit B and exhibit C? (This may also be a reference to, errr, chocolate.)

But the thing is, at age 31 (!!!), I feel like I've finally started to be slightly less hard on myself. Enough so that I don't care if no one cares that I haven't cared to write anything here as of late. And I'm okay with saying the things that are popping into my head as I sit here, legs mummified in a chunky knit mustard blanket, listening to the wind rustle the blinds. Not because I feel like they are all that particularly earth shattering, but because I finally have the motivation and clear head to say them.

The motivation partly came from reading Molly Wizenberg's second book, Delancey, which I finished earlier this week. Once again I was struck by her fearlessness in sharing the matters of her heart both big and small in a way that's so genuine and relatable that even if you can't personally relate you still kind of can because it's all so… human. I was equally struck by her presentation of the recipes that book-ended each chapter - less recipes and more descriptions of ingredients and processes that the reader might consider for a lazy Saturday or weeknight when the task of cooking feels as insurmountable as writing 750 words.

In a funny way, the "take me as I am" attitude that Molly projects throughout the book took the pressure off. Made me realize that it doesn't always have to be fireworks and giant vibrant rainbows or even a perfectly calibrated and choreographed recipe. So, here I am, sharing a dish that I made countless times over the summer because it's about damn time I stopped waiting for the perfect way to frame and present it.

It's a mishmash of ideas, but a good mishmash. The kind of thing I can enjoy in its simplest form of sauced up green beans and tofu, or embellished with whatever I can conjure up at the farmers' market - a few slices of raw radishes, maybe pickled red onions if I'm feeling particularly ambitious. Sometimes I serve it over just plain brown rice (Kokuho Rose is my favorite), or a combination of both rice and quinoa.

The only thing that's absolutely essential is using a liberal amount of fresh ginger. And the green beans, I suppose, since they are the namesake of the original recipe that spawned this whole thing to begin with. Though if they are already beginning to vacate your market, Brussels sprouts are a perfectly fine, possibly even superior, substitute. 

Green Beans and Ginger-Marinated Tofu with Walnut-Miso Sauce
Mashed together from Real Food Daily's Tofu via The Delicious Life (hi!) & Mark Bittman's Green Beans
Serves 4

Ginger Marinated Tofu (
10 ounces extra firm tofu, cut into cubes
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic (I use my microplane to grate it)
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger (I use my microplane again)

Arrange tofu in the base of an airtight container.

In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, and ginger. Pour over the tofu. Seal the container and shake until the marinade coats the tofu. Refrigerate and let marinade for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours. (I've found increasing it far beyond that will render it a bit salty, so would recommend using light soy sauce if you are planning to marinate over night).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Drain the tofu of most of the marinade, then arrange in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, stirring once, halfway through, or until the tofu is nicely browned. Remove from the oven.  (Note: You can combine this step with the roasting of the green beans below to simplify the process.)

Green Beans with Walnut-Miso Sauce (also adapted)
12 ounces green beans, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 red onion, sliced thin
1 inch-long piece ginger, grated with a microplane into ginger pulp
2 tablespoons white miso paste
1 1/2 tablespoons walnut oil
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon Sriracha (or to taste depending on your spice tolerance)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread green beans and red onions out onto the parchment paper and roast until tender (approximately 15-20 minutes). This is not a mistake - I do like to dry roast my veggies from time to time.

While beans are roasting, in a small bowl combine the ginger, miso, walnut oil, soy sauce, and Sriracha. Stir until smooth.

For Assembly:
Raw radishes, sliced thin
Toasted and chopped walnuts
Brown rice/quinoa

Toss tofu and green beans with walnut-miso sauce, Stir in walnuts and radishes. Divide brown rice/quinoa between bowls. Top with green beans & tofu.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Fig is Up


I've been playing it safe here the past few months. You know, actually writing about food like a proper food blogger as opposed to life, love (or lack thereof) and the new mint green blouse I just got on sale at Anthropologie.

It's been fine, I guess. Though if I'm going to be completely honest (major revelation coming!), writing about food in and of itself isn't necessarily all that interesting to me. At least not without the context of a restaurant experience or some sort of personal anecdote about, say, how this caramelized onion galette was something I ate every summer growing up, so now I make it every August as a nostalgic tribute to my childhood and those bygone days of yore.

Except it totally isn't, and then I'm left with, "I made this galette on a Saturday afternoon because I was bored and wanted to eat a caramelized onion galette for lunch so I could post a photo of it on Instagram."

Just kidding.


Granted, I do try to be somewhat more eloquent than that without resorting to words like, "delicious" and "yummy" and "moist." Because really that's the goal of any food-related post, isn't it? To get through without saying "delicious," and to presumably inspire the person reading said post ("Hi, Mom!") to want to make or eat it too?

Except that never really was the main priority for me. Sure, I like food (minor understatement), but what I really really like is the act of writing as a vehicle for self-expression - finding exactly the right words to convey the crazy things spinning around in my head in a way that someone else might find relatable. I'd secretly rather get a "Me too!!!" response than a pin on Pinterest or whatever that Stumble Upon thing is. (No clue.)

Lately, I've been caught in this struggle - thinking that I aught to keep all that deep ooey gooey stuff buried beneath a sea of pretty pictures and censored proclamations, while secretly wanting to tell you about the guy who I went on seven whole dates with this spring and how I knew it was over the second I had enough faith in it to mention it to MY BROTHER. Because isn't that how it always goes? You give it no credence until you, well, do and then it comes crashing down around you because you dared to say it out loud.

Even if it was just a whisper after too many glasses just the right amount of wine.

I've wanted to tell you other things too.

Some of it good, some of it bad, some of it weird, and some of it just plain and ordinary - the little brush strokes that have colored my spring and summer into a full and vibrant picture. Instead, there's been chia pudding and farro salad and white beans and a recap of my trip to New York that said nothing of how scared I was to go on a trip by myself and how empowered I felt during and after it. 

Because the thing is, even though a picture supposedly is worth a thousand words, there's always more to the story than what the retouched, styled photo reveals. It shows the neat and shiny version of life - not the dirty dishes that are stacked up in the sink nor the countertops that are strewn with bread crumbs and something… sticky. You know, "the good stuff," at least according to Robin Williams' character in Good Will Hunting. (Seriously, best movie and scene EVER.)

So maybe, there's more of this to come. More dirt. More mess.  

More real life.

Juxtaposed against the glossy image of a delicious chia yogurt pudding, topped with moist figs and yummy slivered almonds.  

Vanilla Chia Pudding with Figs and Almonds
Serves 1

Notes: Make this now - before the last gasp of summer steals all those fresh figs away. The below features quantities appropriate for a "hearty" breakfast, which suits me well since I'm typically ravenous after my early morning workouts. If you are more of a "dainty" breakfast eater, adjust as you see fit. 

1 6-ounce container of vanilla Greek yogurt (I prefer Fage fruyo)
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1/4 - 1/3 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
4 fresh figs, chopped
1-2 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted (I usually use closer to 2)

Combine yogurt, chia seeds and almond milk. Stir until well-combined, then store, in an air-tight container, or bowl covered with plastic wrap, in the fridge overnight (if planning to eat for breakfast that is - I imagine just a couple hours of fridge time is fine if you eating this as a snack or dessert).

The next morning, remove the pudding from the fridge, adding additional almond milk to thin, as needed. Top with chopped figs and slivered almonds. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Savory Caramelized Onion Galette

There are certain things that are ill-advised activities to do during the summer. Things like going for a run at noon in an unshaded area, planning a vacation to Phoenix (oops?), and turning on the oven to spend an afternoon making a caramelized onion galette.

Normal people don't endeavor such absurdities. They go to the pool. An air-conditioned theater to watch other people cook food. Or give up hope of any functionality at all and eat a quart of ice cream. (I very much like these people.)

As much as I appreciate these very reasonable activities, at some juncture my logical side always surrenders to my compulsive side, and I decide that rather than scoop my way to sweet relief via a carton of Madagascar Vanilla, I have to make some seasonally inappropriate dish in my air-conditionless kitchen instead.

This insanity would be far more excusable if I were using some precious summer ingredient that is only available for a few weeks of time rather than onions, which are pretty much available always - even during the final half hour of a farmer's market when it's been scavenged down to one hard lemon and a wilted bunch of kale. As stray bags float down the center of the deserted aisle like tumbleweeds, there will still be a heap of onions piled up, regardless of the month. The same could not be said of heirloom tomatoes, corn or peaches.

If this were a galette involving any of those things, it could all be forgiven. I would be completely exonerated for cranking up the oven and dusting down my counter tops, my hair tied up in a sticky, frenzied mess with sweat beading at my temples.

Naturally, I had considered an alternative filling for this savory tart. I briefly marinated over the possibility of oven-roasted tomatoes and paper-thin zucchini slivers only to quickly dismiss them in favor of what I actually wanted. A sticky, frenzied mess of caramelized onions clinging to an indecently buttery crust that is the opposite of what one should be eating during "bikini season."

As for those far more appropriate heirloom tomatoes?  They found their place on the side, served up in thick colorful slabs without considerable embellishment. Exactly as and where they should be.

Savory Caramelized Onion Galette
Serves 4-6

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 brown or yellow onions, sliced into thin rings
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 disk of galette dough (recipe below)

Galette Dough
From White on Rice Couple
Makes 2 disks

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick (very cold) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 egg
1/4 cup (very cold) water
Heavy cream or melted butter for brushing the crush

For the onions:
Heat large nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the onions and push around with a spoon to make sure all the rings are separated and lightly coated with oil. Cook, stirring occasionally to ensure they aren't sticking to the bottom of the pan, for 10 minutes. Season with salt and the sugar, and continue cooking, stirring every now and again to ensure even browning. Keep cooking at least 30 minutes or so, or until deeply caramelized. Turn off the heat, add the balsamic vinegar to de-glaze the pan, scraping up any bits that have adhered to the base of the pan. Set aside to cool.

For the dough:
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.  In a separate small bowl, whisk together the egg and water. Set in the fridge to keep cold. Add the butter cubes to the flour/salt mixture and use your hands to work the butter into the flour, until the butter pieces are no larger than a pea. Add the egg/water mixture and use your hands to gently knead the batter together into a dough. Divide into two flat disks and wrap with saran wrap or other non-stick wrap. Set in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill.

For the galette assembly:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Lightly dust flour over a flat surface (whether a clean countertop or cutting board). Use a rolling pin to roll one of the galettes into a 10-inch diameter circle. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spread onion mixture evenly in the center, leaving an inch or so of dough around the edges uncovered. Fold edges over the filling. Glaze the crust with heavy cream or melted butter, then bake approximately 35 minutes or until golden brown.

Let cool 5 minutes before slicing, then serve in wedges with seasoned heirloom tomatoes on the side. (You can also try topping the galette with dollops of goat cheese - I highly recommend this trying.)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Chocolate & Cherry Chia Pudding: Breakfast of ch-ch-ch-chiampions

I've been having a fierce debate in my head about how to tell you this. Do I pretend like it's nothing? Just come out with it without even addressing the elephant in the room that may or may not double as a decorative planter?  Or admit straight-out that this is weird and now I'm weird, but then again I always was weird, so it's really not that shocking that I've become...

a chia seed-eater.

And, guys, it's not even because I'm an ignorant hipster who also happens to order her decaf cappuccinos with almond milk, or because I am fixated on how it's going to make my skin all glowy or tighten things up so I look better in my new denim shorts (50% off, bitches!).

It's because I actually like them.

Chia seeds!

The things that grow the ch-ch-ch-chia pets that my brothers and I used to mock and threaten to give each other for Christmas whenever the commercial came on the TV while we watched "Saved by the Bell" and "Full House" re-runs.

It wasn't an immediate like, of course. There were some failed attempts, some sad bowls of gelatinous fruit-topped goop that were consumed with the same level of enthusiasm I reserve for dentist appointments. I ate these experimental breakfasts hoping, but not really hoping, that I would begin to understand "the fuss."  The why behind the #chiaseed #superfood #omgyum Instagram photos that have been clogging my feed.

And while we're on the subject, kind of looked like feed.

So naturally I was shocked when I inadvertently stumbled upon a way to make them - the ch-ch-ch-chia seeds - not only palatable, but enjoyable! The breakfast that has been propelling me through my early morning workouts for the past three days as a genuinely perceived "reward" for my effort.

Obviously, it involves chocolate. And fruit - banana that's pureed and combined with the chia seeds to counterbalance the gelatinous texture, as well as cherries that are judiciously layered over the top. And lest we stop there, at a point where it's already far past the point of acceptability, toasted walnuts that bring further textural contrast into the picture.

So, basically, dessert. That you get to call a healthy breakfast. Maybe even the breakfast of ch-ch-ch-chiampions.

Chocolate & Cherry Chia Pudding
Serves 1

1 ripe banana
1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla-flavored almond milk
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Ghiradelli)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
6-8 ripe cherries, pitted and cut into quarters
2 tablespoons toasted walnuts

Using an immersion blender or blender, blend the banana with the almond milk until smooth. Transfer to a bowl or container that can be fitted and sealed tight with a cover. Stir in the chia seeds, the cocoa powder and vanilla. Seal and refrigerate overnight.

The following morning, remove the chia pudding from the fridge. Serve topped with the chopped cherries and toasted walnuts.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Charlie Bird's Farro: Reset, revisit

I've come to the conclusion that going on vacation is the worst possible thing that anyone can do ever. Particularly when it's someplace so far removed from your daily life that you forget that work and responsibility and laundry and things that are not pizza & ice cream even exist. They are the song you skip on Pandora, the garnish in your cocktail that you toss aside, the commercials you fast-forward through when catching up on "Mad Men" "The Bachelorette." 

Unnecessary interruptions to the life you actually want to be living.

So when you arrive home with a suitcase haphazardly stuffed with dirty clothes that you now have to unpack and wash, and are faced with things like the gym and your Outlook inbox after five days out of the office (!!!), returning to normal feels impossible. 

"You mean I can't just go eat doughnuts now?" You think when confronted with your first work crisis -- a mere hour into your Monday morning.

Because on vacation, there are no problems.

There are doughnuts.

I realize that doughnuts are not exclusive to one specific city or region, and, in fact, are perhaps more prevalent in Los Angeles than elsewhere, but "doughnuts" as an idea feels less accessible after a trip that revolved around what could be entangled on the tines of your fork.

By nature, that moment seems reserved for adding insult to the injury of your return -- a post-vacation "detox" whereby you are supposed to eat "clean" and "vegan" or whatever form of self-flagellation you're inclined to employ when hitting the reset button.

Perhaps it's a three-day juice cleanse. Maybe it's gulping down sparkling grapefruit Perrier instead of sparkling wine.

And maybe, it's a farro salad inspired by one of your favorite meals during your vacation. Wholesome without edging into the punishment territory, and a reminder of a brief period of time when you experienced a world without responsibility. 

Charlie Bird's Farro with Pistachios, Mint and Parmesan
Adapted from the NY Times
Serves 4

Notes: The original version of this salad contained fava beans, but as these are now a scarce commodity in Los Angeles, I opted for shelled edamame to no adverse effects. I also omitted the tomatoes (mostly because I am loathe to buy them at the grocery store and couldn't make it to the farmer's market that day), and added in some thinly sliced fennel for kicks rather than the arugula requested. (Yes, I do realize I get "kicks" from weird things.) Finally, I was a bit less liberal with the salt and application of olive oil, and a bit more liberal with the thinly sliced radishes, as this salad was meant to help me recalibrate after a trip filled with all the things you'll find documented here.

1 cup semi-pearled farro, rinsed well
1 cup apple cider
1 teaspoon salt
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup parmesan, shaved with a vegetable peeler
1/2 cup roasted pistachio nut meats
1 cup basil leaves, torn
1 cup mint leaves
1 medium fennel bulb, sliced into thin ribbons
1/2 cup thinly sliced radish
1 1/2 cups shelled edamame, cooked
Freshly ground pepper, salt, to taste

In a medium pot, bring the apple cider and 2 cups water to a boil. Add the farro, salt and bay leaves, and simmer, uncovered, until the farro is tender (approximately 30 minutes) and the liquid evaporates. I found that the liquid actually evaporated before the farro was tender, so I added a bit more water as it was cooking along.

While the farro is doing its thing, combine the olive oil, lemon juice and a pinch of salt in a large salad bowl. Add the warm farro and then let cool to room temperature if serving immediately. If not, refrigerate until ready to use. (Just be sure to let it come back to room temperature prior to serving - it's best when not too cold or too warm. Like Goldilocks.)

Just before you're ready to serve, toss the farro with the herbs, radish, fennel, edamame, parmesan, and pistachios. Season with freshly ground pepper. Add additional salt if needed.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

25 Things to Do When Traveling Solo to NYC

1. Use airbnb to find a spare bedroom in an apartment with an insane view in your desired neighborhood destination, and spend the week (or 3 days) playing, the "I live in NYC" game, whereby you abide in extremely close quarters with a stranger, who could very well be your best friend, or just that person who you pass, blurry-eyed, in the living room on your way to bed after drinking too much Rosé during happy hour at the wine bar at Punch across the street.

2. Share a gene pool with someone who has airline points growing on his trees and get "magically" upgraded to first class, because going to New York all by yourself is "sad face." Drink lots of champagne and eat excessive amounts of the warm, salty, roasted cashews & almonds to make yourself feel less "sad face." Flying alone is hard.

3. While you're waiting for your luggage to arrive (you obviously packed ALL your shoes & special normal-sized beauty products since no one was around to complain), download the HopStop app on your iPhone to map out the best subway routes to get to your destinations restaurants while you're in town.

4. Once your suitcase is in hand, make a beeline for the taxi line. Direct the driver to take you to "Manhattan, please," all suave-like, and then totally flub up your super awesome, totally-with-it, fake New Yorker persona by leaving your black sweater in the back seat. Momentarily wonder if you can call Yellow Cab to get it back, and then picture the actually super-awesome, totally-with-it real New Yorker laughing in your face. Your very sad sad face. 

5. After checking out your vacay digs (and securing the Wi-Fi password), head out to nab a seat at the bar at one of the best new restaurants in the city, because when it's 10 pm and just you, getting into Estela is like #NBD. Order the mussels escabeche and eat it like a savage beastly human, with vinegar and mussel juices dripping down your chin. No date, no shame.

6. Since you are in NYC (!!!) and are feeling excited noises (!!!), walk back to your airbnb trying not to be the out-of-towner who looks up at all the buildings. Get smacked on the butt by a 20-something riding by on his bike and feel simultaneously violated and impressed by his audacity/strategy.

7. Even though you barely slept your first night in town (still too excited noises!!!), wake up the next morning to go for a run in Central Park. Accidentally stop your supposed "6-mile loop" at West 72nd instead of East 72nd, but figure out how to get back to your temporary home anyway, because HopStop saves the day!

8. Since you went running and obviously need to do some reverse carboloading now, find you way to the L train to Brooklyn for lunch at Roberta's (off the Morgan Avenue stop). Pony up to the bar, order a PBR, because when in Rome, and even if it's not on the menu, ask for the Bee Sting Pizza. Initially think it's far too big for one person, but after eating four slices of what is probably the best pizza you've had in your life, insist that the two hipsters sitting next to you finish the rest.

9. Feeling virtuous because you only ate four slices as opposed to six (bravo, you!), reward yourself with ice cream. Take the L train back into the City, get off at 3rd Avenue, and head to Momofuku Milk Bar to try the Cereal Milk Soft Serve (add the crunchy cereal bits for the extra .75 cents), and both the Compost and Confetti cookies for, uh, later.

10. A few licks into the Cereal Milk Soft Serve, decide that now that you've tried breakfast fro-yo, you're obviously ready to graduate to Brunch Ice Cream. Walk to Davey's and order a scoop (in a cup or their housemade waffle cones), and make the astute conclusion that you prefer cinnamony French toast chunks (!!!) and caramelized nubs of bacon better than cereal in your frozen, err, rewards.

11. Since you have 3 1/2 hours until you're going to be rewarding yourself with libations (see Punch), continue walking through the city, weaving your way down 5th Avenue to see if the Anthropologie in New York is different than Anthropologie in Orange County, Los Angeles, Carmel, Phoenix, Washington DC, Chicago…

12. Continue your solo dining adventures at Charlie Bird in the South Village. Fill up on the salted Grissini, because, obviously, but still finish your Octopus with Crispy Pancetta & Chickpeas; and Farro with Pistachios, Mint and Parmesan, because, obviously. Make friends with your neighbor who ordered the Roast Chicken. Or just make friends with the chicken.

13. Compost your Momofuku cookie in bed. 

14. Bypass the cronut line outside Dominique Ansel because you (or your savvy New York friend) had the foresight to place a pre-order for the coveted croissant-doughnut hybrid at 11 a.m. EST on a Monday precisely two weeks prior to the week of your visit. Order the kouign amann in real time, because you had the foresight to be…fat.

15. Put your sugar high to good use by taking a Bar Method class at the studio down the street. $37 a class is a small price to pay for… absolutely nothing.

16. Go sight-seeing in Greenwich Village.

17. Decide to give your body a break from the pastry-composting and stop at Hu Kitchen (the place on 5th Avenue with the giant black & white sign that says "Food for Humans") for quinoa & lentils and green juice. You know, food for gerbils. 

18. Bring your recovery lunch, sunscreen and a blanket to Washington Square Park, and take pictures of your outstretched legs & feet while you pretend to read your book. Aaaah, vacation.

19. Drink prosecco or a Sbagliato cocktail at the bar at Bar Primi while waiting for your party of five (or zero) to arrive. Order the burrata anchovy bruschetta, stuffed meatballs and spaghetti clams casino. Giggle at the visual of a casino filled with clams. Drink more prosecco.

20. Refuel with more ice cream at Morgenstern's. Mostly because you want to take an overhead shot of your salted caramel pretzel and chocolate oat scoops with the black and white tile in the background for Instagram. #sugar #dessert #payattentiontome

21. Have a nightcap at Eleven Madison Park. Do not take any photos for Instagram.

22. Pay $7 for a piece of smashed avocado toast with curry oil, lime and mustard seeds at The Butcher's Daughter for a wholesome breakfast. Decide it's the best thing since… sliced bread.

23. Pop into Ladurée in SoHo to pick up macaron souvenirs for your friends. Document the entire experience so they understand how expensive special and French these macarons are.

24. Eat the caramel with salted butter macaron you bought for yourself on a bench in Washington Square Park to savor one last bite in NYC before you leave on an Amtrack train. Try to look really pensive in case Brandon Stanton from HONY is there taking your picture. 

25. Hustle to Penn Station and have a minor panic attack trying to get through the bottleneck at the escalator after the track for your train posts on the schedule. When you finally get through and secure a window seat next to the outlets for your laptop/iPhone, comfort yourself with your Momofuku Confetti cookie. Congratulations, you've survived a trip to NYC alone!

Previously: 25 Things to Do When Traveling to NYC