Cooking in the Time of COVID – National Hamburger Day

Instagram Post 5/28/2020

👨‍🍳 Cooking in the Time of COVID 👨‍🍳

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It’s National Hamburger Day and you know what that means: if I don’t post a photo of a home cooked burger, I can’t be one of the cool kids. So, succumbing to peer pressure and not wanting to disappoint, here ya go.

Of course, I kicked it up with herbs and spices native to the cuisine of the country whose flag bedecks the bun; obviously, that says it all so I won’t bore you with ingredient details.
Stay safe, be well, and eat whatever it takes. ❤️

Cooking in the Time of COVID – Pizza-ish

Instagram Post 5/11/2020

👨‍🍳 Cooking in the Time of COVID 👨‍🍳

Today’s adventure in Polish sausage swap-ins (see my last post) was this:

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Looks a lot like pizza, doesn’t it? I already had mozzarella, mushrooms, and homemade tomato sauce, but I wasn’t about to invest energy in making pizza dough (quarantining is frustrating enough), so I resorted to my package of trusty, versatile flour tortillas.

I sprinkled some corn meal onto a jelly roll pan and laid in a tortilla, topped it with the thinnest possible layer of mozzarella, and sandwiched that with another tortilla. The idea behind this experiment was that the mozz would act like a laminating glue to yield a base with enough heft to support the toppings. Stuck it into a hot oven to melt the cheese – essentially to see if the theory would work.

Added sauce…


…and mushrooms.

Sautéed some country style kielbasa wiejska, tossed in a little fennel seed to trick it into thinking it was Italian sausage and topped this doppelganger with a sprinkle of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and a drizzle of trompe l’olive oeil. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

To give you an idea of the thickness of the “crust”:

In its native habitat.

Stay safe, be well, and eat whatever it takes. ❤️

Heros & Villains

Instagram Post 3/5/2020

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Sometimes you just want a big ol’ sammich and nothing else will do, and I found a number of likely candidates while prowling around Essex Market (88 Essex St) on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. I spied this over-the-top example at Heros & Villains, stall 41, called The Big Kahuna: dry-aged beef from neighboring Essex Street Shambles (shambles being an archaic term for an open-air slaughterhouse and meat market) onions, peppers, pickles, aioli, cheese sauce, spicy ketchup, lettuce and tomato. Happily, you could still taste that the meat was of good quality even through the agreeable jumble of sauces (all made from scratch). Craving satisfied.

Chicago’s Pizza With-A-Twist

Instagram Post 2/28/2020

If pizza is a romance between Italian and American cuisines, then I guess that would make Indian Pizza a ménage a trois. And, yes, it’s a thing in India too. (Indian pizza, that is.) Chicago’s Pizza With-A-Twist is a franchise with at least 45 locations in the US, one of which is 259-07 Hillside Ave in Floral Park, the focus of this post.

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You’re looking at a half Butter Chicken, half Tandoori Paneer model; other toppings include Paneer Tikka Masala, Curry Paneer, Aloo Chaat, and Palak Paneer (with pesto sauce, of course) among many more.

Isolating a slice of each (chicken left, paneer right) reveals a disappointing similarity that I had tried to avoid though considerable deliberation when we were ordering; I don’t know if alternative choices would have mattered. The dominance of red onion, garlic, ginger, cilantro, and tomato overwhelmed any subtleties that the two mild sauces and toppings might have brought to these slices. Don’t get me wrong; it wasn’t bad at all, I was just after a little more variety at the time.

(I do know about Korean pizza and other international suitors, but that’s a story for another day. 😉)

Brooklyn’s Homeslice Pizzeria

Instagram Post 1/30/2020

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Having gone to college in New Haven, I admit to harboring a wee bit of prejudice regarding pizza (you might hear “ah-BEETS”) since there are none better. Anywhere. But sometimes you just can’t travel two hours to stanch a craving. Of course, I also know that there’s some fine pizza to be had in Brooklyn (and if any Queenza aficionados want to hang out sometime and introduce me to their faves, I’m totally game). Which leaves us to consider the local neighborhood pizza joint, you know, the one you sail past on the way home, some of which are, um, less than stellar.

But others of that ilk have a signature move that, if not unique, give their handiwork a bit of an edge. And indeed, it’s the edge of this pie from Brooklyn’s Homeslice Pizzeria at 567 Vanderbilt Ave that grabbed my attention. Those are panko crumbs and they provide a crispy crunch that succeeds in making this slice a cut above.

With its thin, flavorful crust, easily folded over on itself (as pizza is meant to be consumed), a slender but sufficient layer of cheese (the kind you used to peel back as a kid) and a naturally sweet and tasty tomato sauce, some would identify this as classic New York Style (but I’ve heard enough definitions for that phrase that I’m not going anywhere near it. Even if I agree. 😉)

And yes, I’ll be back to try the toppings (I always go plain for the maiden voyage). Besides, Ample Hills Creamery is less than three blocks away. Win-win.

Lower East Side Pickle Day

Instagram Post 10/13/2019

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Scenes from Manhattan’s Lower East Side Pickle Day (October 6 this year) on Orchard Street. From a distance, it looked like some sort of contest involving an ice sculpture of a high heel shoe, albeit huge. Huge all the same, but luge was the game; the Brine Brothers would send a shot of their drinkable pickle brine from the apex zipping down the slope to be dispatched by an eager enthusiast stationed at the finish line.

From standard regulation garden variety pickles as far as the eye could see…

…to creative novelties like this tres leches cake with pickled pineapple, it’s a unique street festival with a sense of humor and that alone makes it worth the trip to this annual event.


Instagram Post 10/1/2019

I enjoyed a busman’s holiday recently at Mekelburg’s, the eatery/craft beer/specialty food shop at 293 Grand Ave in Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill. Two dear friends chose the restaurant and deliberated over the menu selections; my job was to enjoy the delightful company and conversation.

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Sambal Butter Roasted Oysters was probably the best item we tasted and it was seriously delicious. But what’s a holiday without a you-had-to-be-there story? So….

The only hitch was that somewhere along the route from kitchen to table, a considerable quantity of that tasty butter spilled, engulfing the mountain of rock salt upon which the oysters had been perched, effectively camouflaging it. Of course, I had no idea what lay at the bottom of the pool until I tasted an unfortunate mouthful of what I thought was provided as an accompanying condiment. Shoulda known better. And a regrettable waste of delectable sambal butter to boot. Fortunately, there was still plenty remaining on top of the oysters, all covered with sauce.

Wild Dandelion Greens Salad with white anchovies and parmigiana cheese bathed in a lemony dressing.

Ducka Ducka Banh Mi – a successful cross-cultural combo: Peking duck and duck rillettes, carrots and cucumber with sambal hoisin mayo.

Roasted Bone Marrow with rosemary grapefruit marmalade and crispy toasted slices of French baguette.

Salt Baked Potato with smoked black cod, crème fraîche, and caviar.

Sounds like holiday food to me!

More 2019 World’s Fare Vendors

Instagram Post 6/3 and 6/5/2019

Four more vendors from the 2019 World’s Fare that took place recently at Citi Field in Flushing.

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Duck Season brought out their 10% duck fat burger, duck fat fries, and Brooklyn poutine with duck bacon, cheese sauce and gravy; shown here is their BBQ rub smoked duck sandwich on a brioche. Wabbit Season was nowhere to be found but you can find Duck Season’s whereabouts by following them @duckseasonnyc on Facebook or Instagram.

Brooklyn’s Korzo Restaurant (667 5th Ave in Park Slope) offered up their Slovak halušky. Residing somewhere along the gnocchi<–>dumpling continuum, these little hand-cut pillows are made from flour/potato dough and served with a tangy bryndza cheese sauce topped with bacon and chives. Central European comfort food.

Alexandra Dettori (AD) Catering and Events brought their 🇪🇷 Eritrean tacos to the party. If you’ve enjoyed dining at any Ethiopian/Eritrean restaurant, you’re familiar with injera, the spongy flatbread that serves as the foundation for dishes like wot, the region’s emblematic dense stew. AD’s fusion concept is the Eri-Taco – mini injera, in this case supporting a spicy diced beef wot. Follow them on Facebook or Instagram @adcateringandevents.

Nansense featured their Mantu, first-rate dumplings from Afghanistan packed with savory beef and onion, slathered with garlicky yogurt and tomatoey split peas, and hit with dried mint and cilantro. Often a fixture at Smorgasburg, follow them @nansensenyc on Instagram or Facebook to be certain of their whereabouts. Comfort food that’s delicious 🇦🇫 (or as the emoji appears on some platforms, AF). 😉


Black Label Donuts

Instagram Post 6/1/2019

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Winner Winner, Donut Dinner! Okay, maybe not dinner, but deliciously filling and definitely a winner. More specifically, the winner of the “Best in Show: Sweet” category at the recent World’s Fare 2019.
There are two elements that make Black Label Donuts so special. The champions (IMHO) start with a 24 hour cold fermented brioche dough (Richard Eng, the culinary master behind these creations, knows his carbs) and the ever-changing gourmet flavors that are uniquely creative like matcha crème brûlée, rosemary lemon/olive oil curd, lavender blueberry, azuki ichigo (red bean/strawberry) and sake kasu cherry. Shown here are the Japanese Elvis – banana brioche, torched bananas, and smoked bacon with a peanut butter-miso glaze – and the Kalamansi Buttermilk Lime. Both were outstanding.
Currently, they’re only available in pop-up format, so follow them on Instagram @blacklabeldonuts and on And wherever they are, get there early, because they sell out fast!

Janie’s Pie Crust Cookies

Instagram Post 5/31/2019

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Every now and then, some genius comes up with a brilliant idea for combining two beloved baked goods into a single treat, a portmanteau of pastry if you will. The cronut comes to mind. That marriage often begets lesser, more commercialized offspring which will remain nameless here. But sometimes a star is born unto this hallowed union and it is this miracle of which I bring good tidings.
Okay, so I got a little carried away. But that’s what happened at the press event for 2019’s Queens Night Market when I tasted Janie’s Pie Crust Cookies. Resting on a foundation of flaky pie crust, topped with buttery, crumbly, caramelized streusel and filled with just the right amount of gooey pecan magic to balance it off (cherry and chocolate pecan are available too), Janie’s cookies comprise the best parts of the pie and they’re heavenly. (Oops, there I go again.)
Janie’s personal story is the stuff of which legends are made; visit her website to learn more or follow her on Instagram @janiebakescakes, but even better – taste for yourself. You can find her and her life-changing cookies (there’s a poignant reason they’re called that) at the Queens Night Market: head to the New York Hall of Science in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Saturdays from 5pm to midnight until August 17 and again from September 28 to October 26.
Say Hallelujah! 😇