Tag Archives: cheese

Broadway Joe’s Pizza-Van Cortlandt Park/242nd Street

A$AP Rocky once said “Anything is better than that 1 train.” While we have all chanted this after the conductor announced the “train will be held momentarily” for the fourth time in ten minutes, we can all agree it holds a special place in the hearts of all Columbia students. After all, it grants us access to the world outside of the MoHi bubble. Commuting can be rough, especially when the train is not coming for 12 minutes, skipping the stop you need and the closest subway stop is a fifteen minute walk in -32° weather or a heat wave. In times like these (and quite honestly, anytime), there is nothing more convenient and comforting than a quick, cheap slice of pizza to sustain you. My mission for this semester is to explore the world along the 1 train through eating one of the foods that defines New York. The rules are simple: Take the 1 train, curse price hikes, get off, and look up the closest pizza joint. I am a firm believer that even bad pizza is good pizza, and the local joints that sustain New Yorkers throughout the city deserve recognition. This is an ode to the shops that are overlooked treasures as well as to those who may be mediocre but serve an essential role to the community of commuters.


My quest begins at the first stop on the 1 train- Van Cortlandt Park/242nd street. The trip was faster than I anticipated and in less than 30 minutes, I was breathing in the fresh air courtesy of Van Cortlandt Park’s 1146 acres. After walking thirty nine feet from the subway station, I arrived at Broadway Joe’s Pizza. At around 4:30pm, Broadway Joe’s had the universal afternoon pizza joint patrons of rowdy high school and middle school students. The design was straightforward, no frills. Close your eyes and imagine any pizza place anywhere in America, and that is Broadway Joe’s.


A plain slice cost the standard $2.50 and it was worth every cent. I ordered the second to last slice of plain pizza behind the display case. The pizza looked promising- the image does not do justice how much larger the slice was compared to the plate. The cheese glistened under the perfect amount of grease. I folded my slice and took my first bite. Not sure if this was beginner’s luck, but I hope every random, local pizza shop is as great as this one. The crust somehow had the perfect combination of crisp and chewiness. To confirm my observations from the initial taste, I took another bite and tested how far the cheese extended- perfectly elastic and bouncy. Lastly, the tomato sauce, while not a major player, passed the test of not being too sugary (a pitfall of many $1 pizza places) and if anything, approached the tangier side of the spectrum.

This will not be the last time I come here. The combination of Broadway Joe’s and the beauty of Van Cortlandt Park created a very convincing reason to ride the 1 train to the first stop to have a New York autumn picnic.



Cheap Eats NYC: How to keep your date (and wallet) happy

As learned from the women of Sex and the City, dating in New York City can be rough. It’s even rougher when you’re a college student, living on a college student budget. If your parents are anything like mine, they are reluctant to give you much “food money” because of the amount they’re already spending on your meal plan. With that being said, living in one of the most expensive cities in the country doesn’t help much either. No one wants to blow his or her entire weekly allowance on a first date. Unfortunately, this leaves little room for “wining and dining.”

Don’t worry, though, there is hope! Believe it or not, nice date spots that won’t break the bank exist. So, in an effort to ensure that you don’t disappoint your date and get to see them again, I’ve compiled a list of tasty (cheap!) spots.

CREAMLINE NYC in Chelsea Market


Chelsea Market is an experience in and of itself.  Inside its brick walls lie dozens of restaurants and shops. One of which, is the all-American restaurant, Creamline.  From peanut butter/jelly/banana sandwiches to grilled cheese fingers to fried oreos, Creamline NYC satisfies all of our childhood cravings.  Follow dinner with a walk on the High Line, which is right to the market. Trust me, you’ll need to walk off this meal.

P.S. DO NOT skip the malted milkshake. Worth every calorie.

Click for their menu. 

MIMI CHENG’S DUMPLINGS in the lower East


Treat yourself, and your date, to some mouthwatering dumplings at Mimi Cheng’s. My personal fave is the steamed ‘Reinvented Classic’ dumpling, made with pork and baby bok choy. The laid back environment is the perfect place to bring someone you’re just starting to get to know. For dessert, order the caramel apple pie dumplings- they are a must-have!!

Click for their menu. 

S’MAC in the East Village


S’Mac, aka Sarita’s Macaroni and Cheese, is basically every mac and cheese lover’s dream come true. They offer specialty mac and cheeses and made-to-order mac and cheeses. For me, the best option is the build your own mac and cheese. With 15 cheeses, 4 herbs, 12 veggies/condiments, and 6 proteins to choose from, there is something for everyone. It’ll be hard for your date not to be satisfied.  And, if you’re “of age,” follow dinner with drinks at one of the quirky bars that the East Village has to offer.

Click for their menu. 

Gaia Italian Cafe in the Lower East Side


As long as Gaia exists, there’s no need to spend $25 on a plate of pasta at some fancy Italian restaurant. This little hole in the wall serves up prime Italian food with rich flavors. My personal favorite is the spinach and ricotta gnocchi; it’s the perfect consistency! They also do daily pasta specials, which keeps things interesting (hopefully like your date).

Warning: they do close relatively early and fills up quickly, so plan ahead, and make a reservation!!

Click for their menu.

Happy eating, and happy dating!!

Fromage Frisk Down

There’s an expression in French to “en faire tout un fromage.” Essentially, it’s means you’ve made “a whole cheese of something” or that is, you’ve made a big deal of next to nothing. But this week I’m going to make a whole stinkin’ cheese about about French fromage because it’s my absolute favorite part of french cuisine!

Three years ago, I walked into my first French cheese shop and was mesmerized by the case filled with tiny sculptures of the most obscure shapes, gloriously moldy rinds, and multi colored morsels that simply blew me away. This wasn’t just the brie in aisle 9, but this – this was art. I wanted to try them all and yet had no idea where to start, especially as my French wasn’t too spiffy at the time. So in an act of faith, I asked the question got me started on it all: “Can you give me a soft cheese?” The fromager looked at me like I had six oh so very naive American heads, he had a case of almost hundred varieties of cheeses in his case and all I was giving him was “soft cheese” to work with!? I walked out that day with a dishearteningly average brie, and since then I’ve been on a mission to decode French fromage. During my time in Dijon, I lived for my family to bring out that oh so sacred cheese plate each night after dinner. In my free time I was absolutely obsessed, trying to manger my way through every cheese and region of France (no joke I had quite the cheese checklist agenda), which of course proved quite the daunting task. After all there are literally hundreds that even french expert Pierre Anrouët’s classic championing Guide du Fromage could never classify (in the 90’s the British cheese crusader Patrick Rance took a stab at 700 to give you a rough estimation!). Now, don’t worry – we won’t try and cover all of them or even guess the actual number today, because no matter how many have tried to round them all up, french cheese is in a constant state of flux and remains wonderfully unfathomably unaccountable. There are simply too many villages and regional variations to get them all down. So where are we ever to begin!? This week we’re breaking down French cheese into it’s essentials: what’s the big deal after all about a bunch of moldy, stinky cheese?

Here’s 4 basic tenets that help frisk down French cheese and just why I love making “tout un fromage” over it!



France vs. USA: Before we slice to deep though, let’s keep some key cultural distinctions in mind:

A. This ain’t no appetizer operation. Cheese in France constitutes its own course, that is typically served after dinner & before dessert. The “cheese plate” may come out every night at the family dinner table, or for special occasions (it depends on the family – I was lucky enough to live with a family that brough out the ritual plate every night!). And there’s never a cheese or dessert ultimatum: you can eat your fromage and desert if you like! In restaurants, the cheese course is treated with similar reverence. Here’s a photo to give you a look at the good ole days of true table cheese cart service: the worst part – I only could pick four!IMG_0948

B. Crackers Smackers. Remember, our big rant in The Search for a Good Baguette?  Keep in mind that cheese’s true lover is always bread. Trying to handle a Roquefort on a Stonywheat base just might be a little difficult…

On y va!

1. A Bite of History: If there’s one food that in my opinion most characteristically express the soul of France in one bite, it’s le fromage. French cheese is history, culture, and first and foremost a proud expression of the unique land of each region. We’re talking centuries dating back to pre-Gallo Roman époque here people, a tradition steeped in cultural pride, once the work of the monks of the Benedictine Abbeys, and overall century old methods of craft and technique of regional and village traditions that are proudly protected by the AOC.  For example, in La Sainte Maure de Touraine, you’ll still find the medieval reed straw inserted through the tiny goat’s log that was originally used by producers to to repair broken cheese or consolidate them in 2015! AOC protected cheeses are named by the province/town it originated in and continue to preserve years old of quality production. Call me a romantic, but cheese for me has always been the most delicious escape into the past, and the best roadmap to all the regions of France!


                    St. Maure de Touraine (Note: we’d just removed the reeds here, but usually they’ll be deep brown in color)


All cheeses local to Provence always recognizable by their signature herb garnishes! 

2. Cheese is About Land People: “Terroir” is a word that, like “umami” carries a serious snob stigma with it today, especially when you’re rolling with the wine crowd. However, for all its hype, the term means a lot once we break it down because the taste of cheese starts with its terroir .“Terroir” is tricky in translation as at most basic level it means “dirt,” but in regards to cheese it’s easiest to understand the term as an expression of the land’s character. What’s land got to do with cheese..? The local plants and components of the land that the animal eats affects their milk. All these elements of the land later impact cheese’s final aromatic profiles later through ripening. Basically, good cheese depends heavily on what the animals are eating and when.  Androuët famous called cheese “the soul of the soil.” And to quote my favorite line Kathe Lison’s,  The Whole Fromage, “they’re not just cheese, they’re  living morsels of la campagne itself.” Terroir, for me, has always made a big difference in a cheese’s ability to project the smells, textures and flavors of its land: it sounds esoteric, but when it comes to FRENCH cheese it’s particularly important, as France is one of the most geographically diverse countries out there! Keep in mind, cheese is SEASONAL – it’s going to depend on what seasons the goats are grazing and when after ripening stages you should be looking for the freshest goat on the market (aka NOT January! Try May and April for happy kids instead!) When we bite into cheese, we want our taste buds to literally travel back and experience the sea salt of the Normandy coastline and we’re LOOKING FOR that unique “barnyard” smell – all the components of the land are what give cheese, and French cheese in particular, this extremely rich and unique character.


Banon, Goat wrapped in chestnut leaves, Banon, Provence: Now ça, is a truly stunning bite of la campange même! 

3. Cheese is ALIVE!: Sometimes we forget that cheese is alive. Cheeses breathe; they evolve, gain complexity in ripening; they peak. Affineurs in simple terms, are “cheese whispers” who have mastered the art of aging and ripening cheese to an art impeccable. They understand their individual cheeses and promote the best of them, knowing just when pluck the rounds at their peak stage of perfection for the case. In France, these affineurs go centuries back and speak every cheese language out there. Moreover, what I’ve always loved about French cheese in particular is that cheese in this country, like art itself, continues to expand its parameters without institutional regulation.

However scary it may seem to American counterparts, mold isn’t always a lethal sign in France, instead prolonged aging and growth of bacteria actually helps encourage a richer and complex flavor that often truly adds that final “kick” pasteurization cuts all the fun out of. In other words: don’t shy away, moldy cheese is full of uniquely curated flavor!


Speaking of Keeping Tradition Alive…Check out Jeanne’s Family’s Continuing Tradition of a “Garde Manger”: outside storage used for cold foods dating back to the good ole days of pre-refrigeration, and now the proud designated storage spot of her family’s cheese!

11082957_10206896543471322_289951612_n                                “Le Garde Fromage” Chez Jeanne

4. Perils of Pasteurization: Now don’t get too disheartened here, but  here’s the stinky truth about french cheese in the US: we’re sending back the the motherland herself. For the hard facts are that no matter what savvy monger’s may convince you of today, the USA’s pasteurization laws will  prevent you from ever experiencing époisse in all its unpasteurized fully flavorful glory. The lowdown: Pasteurization, basically consists of heating raw milk at a very high temperature to “zap” out all forms of future harmful bacteria in raw milk.  Raw milk and pure ingredients with no artificial additives, is the key to beautifully crafted artisanal cheese. However here’s the problem: when we pasteurize raw milk, we’re essentially “zapping” out all that beauteous expression of terroir. The US government bans all raw milk cheese imported or domestic, if they’re aged less than 60 days  (key 60 day problem here- you’re still safe on exported aged cheese like per-say an aged comté or gouda!). Point in case, the beautiful raw goats milk cheese of Loire Valley chevres or a real raw milk Camembert won’t be the real deal ever at any American cheese counter. Epoisse is going to lack it’s essential pleasantly pungent “kick,” and I often find pasteurized partners dishearteningly mediocre. Today because of pasteurization laws, market pressure continues to compromise much of the artisanal cheese heritage in France as producers begin to adapt 100 year old methods and pasteurize for larger export.


Just some colorful favorites from Provence to inspire your next visit back the motherland of dairy dreamland!


Roundup, The Hallmark ABC’s of Great Cheese:

  1. Purity of ingredients (raw milk nothing artificial)
  2. Expression of terroir – memorable aromas, textures and flavors
  3. Great cheese live and breath, evolve and grow

La Solution!? So what to do? Ever Since returning home to the US with a cheese addiction, I’ve been on the quest to recreate a dairy dream and search out my french classics in imported classics. Unfortunately though, after having had my fair share of ever middle of the road époisse, I learned the hard way that there’s no creating the real deal. In other words, yes I am a “pasteurization snob” and don’t believe imported french cheese do any real justice to their foreign counterparts. In actuality, I encourage people to buy local, American artisanal cheese in season, made by local producers. American producers today have made some amazing spins off french classic models that honestly will do your palette much better justice than many french imports today.


My List of Must Try Classics A Goûter When in France

 *Roquefort: (Sheep, Auvergne) One of the oldest blue cheeses in the world (despite England’s claims), after you taste Roquefort there’s no going back. Roquefort is arguably the strongest blue chese you’ll ever taste and a love or hate relationship. Classic pairing is always a sweet dessert wine like Sauternes

 *Vacherin du Haut Doubts (Mont D’Or): (Cow, Franche Comté) This is my own personal “holy grail” of French raw milk cheese. Packaged in special spruce casing, this ooey gooey delight is best served when heated for a few minutes to get it nice and runny and then let your baguette at it, no spoons or forks necessary! A truly festive favorite, look for Mont D’or from late October through mid March. Red mandatory!

 *Brillat Savarin,: (Cow,Normandy) My first bite of a this luscious buttery triple cream ( made with 75 % or more butterfat) turned me into the cheese fanatic I am today. Seriously, if you’re looking for a cheese to blow your mind, Brillat Savarin creates smooth, silky, and buttery texture unknown to man that is absolutely emblematic of everything to love about french cheese! Paris well always with Champange, letting the bubbly cut through and balance out its rich fat/creamy texture

*For all who love sweet creamy deliciousness, other hallmark favorites include: *Chaource, Sainte Félicien or Sainte Marcellin

*Ossau-Iraty Pardou Arriou: (Sheep, Pyrnées) Nothing beats a Basque Pyrenees sheeps milk, and this is possibly every cheese monger’s go to favorite for a good reason. Sheep’s milk is more concentrated is has a higher percentage of solids and thus particularly well suited for cheese making! Texture is queen here people. Think toasted hazelnuts, and buttery flavor, I always love this best with a good cider!

*Camembert de Normandie: (Cow, Normandy) Now you may have noticed Jeanne’s not exactly riding the stinky cheese train homage in this post, but for a staple favorite of luscious creamy mushroom overtones, her go to is an infallible Camembert

*Epoisse de Bourgogne: (Cow, Burgundy) Close to my Burgundian heart, this is the epitome of stinky cheese and my personal favorite. You’re never find the real deal in the US, but in France a good époisse is rich and creamy beneath a bloomy rind washed in a strong Poamce (brandy)

*Mimolette: (Cow, Lille)  Orange, cantaloupe shaped this is one of the intriguing cheeses you’ll have to try just because it’s one of the brightest of the bunch. Mimolette is similar to gouda with in my opinion, more sweet caramel overtones. It’s no hallmark of the big busters, but just one of those

*Sainte Maure de Touraine or Valency: (Goat, Loire Valley)  Two Loire valley goat staples that never disappoint. You can always recognize an AOC protected authentic Sainte Maure by the wooden stick found in the inside, a method used to hold the cheese together since its medieval origins! Always begin a board with a light goats & serve best with any white.

 ENFIN The New York Solution: A Murray’s Selection

 *Here’s a few of my favorite approved French recreations I’ve loved down at Murray’s this year. At Murray’s they have a unique import system and actually ripen the cheese upon arrival in their own NYC caves, which I wholeheartedly endorse!

Murray’s Cheese

254 Bleecker St. (Btwn 6th & 7th)

*Tips: Just keep in mind, the monger is your friend! The cheese counter can be intimidating, but also just be honest with your monger: ask for his seasonal selections, make sure you taste EVERYTHING before any decisions (never be afraid to go H.A.M and try as many as you’d like before making your final roundup!), and always make sure you get a good feel of your cheeses before letting your monger select (always check and see what they’ve got locked away in their cave if you’re not happy with the cases’ selection!).


*Murray’s Cavemaster Reserve Greensward: The best NYC recreation and delightful spin on Mont D’Or. Five stars and a must try!

*Murray’s Cavemaster Petite Brian: Aged for 10 years, this does do justice to the beauty of Pyrnées sheep milk!

*I really encourage you to actually not search for French cheese as often imports don’t do it justice. Instead ask your cheesemonger and let him fill you in on what some of the great American producers are doing out there! 







International Foods of NYC: Poutine, the greasy, Canadian staple

Poutine – the ultimate comfort food.

Instead of escaping to the sunny beach, I decided to venture to chilly Montreal during spring break. It is a relaxed city with a very fun nightlife, perfect for students. A Montreal staple is poutine, French fries covered with gravy and topped with cheese curds. The gravy gives the fries a soggy texture and the cheese curds add chewiness. It’s as gluttonous as it sounds.

Classic Poutine

A common tale about poutine’s origins tells the story of Fernand Lachance who asked for cheese curds on top of his fries, exclaiming how it would be such a mess. He called it a ‘poutine,’ which means mess in French. Gravy was later added to keep the fries warm. Eating poutine is truly a messy process so there definitely is a reason for its name.

‘Frites Alors!’ is a restaurant in Montreal that specializes in poutine, selling the classic along with several different variations. The most popular combination is the ‘Frites Alors!’ special which comes with sautéed onions, peppers, and mushrooms on top of the traditional toppings. It adds flavor to the rather bland mix. However, the lethargic and stuffed feeling that comes after eating poutine is inevitable, no matter what is put on top.



Frite Alors! Special

New York is the city with all kinds of food so surely there must be places that serve this not-so delicate delicacy. In fact, there are two rather popular Canadian restaurants that both reference the Mile End district of Montreal, the equivalent to New York’s Soho, in their title. Zagat has rated both these restaurants, ‘Mile End,’ located in Noho on Bond Street, and ‘Mile End Delicatessen,’ located in Brooklyn, amongst the best fries in New York City. They are both given very high ratings on Yelp, Google, and Zagat.

Note, while eating poutine, it’s important not to be self-aware. Or else you begin to freak out about the high calories and total lack of nutrients that you’re consuming. Thus, it’s the perfect late night food that warms you and puts you to sleep. I can see why it is such a staple in Quebec given the cold and wintery climate.


Boulud Brunches: Bar Boulud vs. db Bistro Moderne

Chef Daniel Boulud is nothing if not a culinary icon; a chef known for his extreme work ethic and his intense partying (after he won a James Beard award for Daniel, he apparently danced on tables all night).

I’ve now brunched at two: db Bistro Moderne and Bar Boulud, and thought a comparison might be fitting.

I went to db Bistro Moderne with my parents and a friend, for only one dish, the burger:

Sirloin Burger filled with
Braised Short Ribs
Foie Gras and Black Truffle
Served on a Parmesan Bun
with Pommes Frites

Yes, this exists. I’d joked with the chef at the restaurant I work with about the “$40 burger,” but when the opportunity arose to actually eat it, of course I was going to.

We started with the Viennoiserie Basket, which was good—nothing particularly special. The croissant was delicious, the brioche a bit too charred for my liking.


My mom got poached eggs with quinoa, charred tomatoes and scallions, swiss chard, and manchego cheese. I’m not a quinoa person, but I thought this was a particularly beautiful dish.


My dad got the mushroom omelette, with gruyère, wild mushrooms, and French mâche. I didn’t try any of these dishes (save the pastries), so unfortunately I can’t report on taste.


My friend got the croque monsieur…


And the famed burger:


It was excellent, though perhaps not as mind-blowing as a burger stuffed with short rib and foie gras ought to be.

I was impressed that, despite the fact that Daniel Boulud has a ton of restaurants and it’s completely unrealistic to imagine that he actually spends extended amounts of time in his kitchens (especially this one), the care taken to the food was great – one can tell simply by looking at the cheese on the omelette, or the whiteness of the eggs, or the perfect crispiness of the french fries.

Bar Boulud, on the other hand, is a different story. Eat the croque madame here if you want the cheesiest, richest sandwich you’ll ever eat.



I first had this sandwich almost four years ago, when I came to the city for a weekend with my father. I don’t think I ate cheese for a month. This sandwich has smoky, delicious ham, creamy béchamel (THE mother sauce), and more gruyere cheese than is imaginable. Topped with a farm egg, it is a wonder to behold. Somehow (I honestly don’t know) I managed to finish it this time.

We also got a side of super green spinach. Sounds healthy, right? It’s not. It’s basically wilted spinach with butter and cream – and it may be the most delicious spinach ever.


So, overall, if you want a nice brunch? Go to Bar Boulud. It’s closer, and you won’t need to eat for a week.


(Though it is kind of hard to argue with this burger.)

db Bistro Moderne:

City Club Hotel, 55 W 44th St #1; (212) 391-2400

Atmosphere: It feels like a restaurant in a hotel, which is what it is.

Sound Level: Medium.

Recommended Dishes: the original db burger.

Price Range: $$$; depends what you eat, but I’d say at least $40 per person.

Hours: 7 am-10 pm Monday, 7 am-11 pm Tues-Fri, 8 am-11 pm Sat, 8 am-10 pm Sunday

Reservations: OpenTable.

Bar Boulud:

1900 Broadway; (212) 595-0303

Atmosphere: Light wood; incredibly interesting wine storage downstairs; nice lighting.

Sound Level: Moderate.

Recommended Dishes: croque madame, super green spinach, charcuterie

Price Range: $$$; depends what you eat, but I’d say at least $50 per person.

Hours: 11:30-11 Mon-Thurs, 11:30-12, Fri-Sat, 11-10, Sunday

Reservations: OpenTable.

Waffle Creations

Have you made waffles in the dining halls recently? I know I haven’t, and if you haven’t either, I don’t blame you. Most of the time, it just doesn’t seem worth it. Why would you fiddle with the waffle iron and then wait around for two minutes for the timer to go off just to have the regular old waffles with syrup again? Ain’t nobody got time for that!
What we need is some new ideas about how we can spice up our dining hall waffle experience. With these waffle creation recipes, making waffles will totally be worth it!

Waffle Breakfast Sandwich:

Waffles + Eggs + Cheese + Sausage + Bacon = Breakfast of Champions

  1. Ask for two fried eggs with cheese at the omelette bar.
  2. Time for some serious multitasking: While eggs are cooking, prepare waffle. Bounce back and forth between the omelette bar and waffle iron to make sure no one is messing with your unattended goods.
  3. Once waffles and eggs are ready, cut waffle in half and place eggs on one piece
  4. Add sausage and bacon and put the other waffle piece on top. Finished product is featured in the picture above in all its glory.

Waffle Ice Cream Sandwich:
Waffles + ice cream = OMG delicious

  1. Cut waffle into two pieces about the size of a Samsung Galaxy #productplacement
  2. Place two scoops of your favorite ice cream flavor onto one of the waffle pieces. Watch as the hot waffle slowly melts the cold ice cream. Aw man, this is gonna be good.
  3. Squish other waffle piece on top and eat up!

Fancy Mac and Cheese

You can call it a Gruyere Alfredo, but I prefer my name

I’m dedicating this recipe to midterms. In my opinion, there are few other organized institutions so well designed to make victims feel like they’ve lost control of their lives. I stumbled through a particularly fun one the other day, and like Stu Pickles, felt the need to stress-cook my way out of sobbing uncontrollably at my professor’s office hours.


I knew that I needed to create something extravagant, something to let The Man know that he can’t kill my vibe. And I find few things more satisfying to make than a velvety smooth cheese-like sauce (seriously, it’ll make you feel like a superhero). So I checked out some recipes online and found this one, which gave me a good start. I threw in some classy veggies, and in the name of extravagant and defiant cheese sauces, I created my masterpiece of love and joy and self-esteem, this “Fancy Mac and Cheese.”

It took quite a while, but by Alma, it let me taste the sweet flavor of achievement again.

Ingredients (This fed 6 hungry people):

1 medium/large white onion, chopped roughly

3 cloves garlic, diced

~1 cup asparagus tips

1/3 cup dry white wine or water

1 tbsp flour

1 cup whole milk

8 oz Brie cheese (or a similar variety), rind removed

5 oz Gruyere cheese (or a similar variety), shredded

1 lb dry pasta (I like using shells with creamy sauces)

salt and pepper

olive oil

~1/4 cup breadcrumbs (optional)

shredded cheese of your choosing (optional)


1) Caramelize the onions. This takes a while, but is very much worth it. Put the onions in a skillet with a bit of olive oil over low heat, and stir them while they do their thing. The trick is to hit the (literal) sweet spot between translucent and burnt. Here is a mouth-watering tutorial.

2) Boil the pasta al dente.

3) Preheat the oven to 350 F.

4) Cook the garlic in olive oil over a skillet on medium heat for just a minute or so. Add the asparagus, and cook for another few minutes, until the asparagus starts to get a bit tender. Add the white wine or water, salt and pepper, and cook for another 3 minutes or so. Remove the asparagus from the pan, leaving the wine mixture. Turn the heat to low.

5) Add the flour to the garlic pan. The consistency we’re looking for is similar to hair conditioner or a little bit thinner. If it is too dry, add a little bit of milk at a time until it gets to the correct texture. Once it’s there, add the rest of the milk and stir until combined. Turn the heat to medium and cook while stirring until the mixture begins to thicken.

6) Remove the milk pan from heat and add the cheeses, a loose handful at a time and stirring well after each handful. Add salt and pepper to taste.

7) Put it all together in a bowl, stir well, and scoop it into an appropriate-sized baking pan (I used a 10-inch pie dish). Sprinkle breadcrumbs and the extra shredded cheese on top.

8) Bake for 20 minutes.


Georgian Cuisine

Oda House interior

New York is unique in many ways, but  the diversity of its residents may be one of the most important ways. This city has drawn immigrants from all over the world for centuries, and one of the lasting legacies of this is the immense diversity of the city’s food scene. One example of this unparalleled variety is located on the corner of avenue B and 5th street. Oda House is one of a very small number of Georgian restaurants, and I think it’s best to clarify that I am referring to the county located in the Caucasus and not the American state of the same name.

Khinkali - beef and pork dumplings

Georgian cuisine, while relatively unknown in the United States, has a considerable reputation elsewhere in the world. In Russia and other countries with closer contact with Georgia there is great respect and admiration for Georgian food and Georgian wines, which are often considered luxury items. My friends and I tried to order several appetizers and different entrees in order to best sample the sort of food offered at Oda House. For appetizers we ordered Qindzmari, boiled catfish in a cilantro, garlic, and vinegar sauce which was very flavorful and hearty; Khinkali, beef & pork dumplings which were well seasoned and very elegant; and also Megruli, a sort of cheese bread that looked a lot like a personal pizza and consisted of a mixture of Georgian cheeses. For entrees the party ordered Chashushuli (veal in a vegetable sauce), Chakapuli (seared lamb also In a vegetable sauce), and finally Chanakhi (lamb in a sauce of several herbs).

Megruli - cheese bread

Each dish was very sharable, presented on separate plates and with serving spoons, making the restaurant a good location for a group of friends. The restaurant has a pleasant atmosphere, its lively but was not overly crowded on a Friday night, and possesses minimal decorations to remind you that you are in a non-western restaurant. Most dishes have meat, and many also have nuts, but there is sufficient variety to meet most dietary restrictions and still enjoy the unique flavors. The restaurant was reasonably prices with entrees about $20 and well portioned appetizers about $10 a piece. Overall I would recommend the restaurant to anyone who is interested in experience the somewhat uncommon, but not particularly unusual and highly diverse and rich cuisine of Georgia.

Leek and Gruyere Tart

Photo Credit: Pippa Biddle

I was perusing West Side Market and was sadly not being inspired by any of the vegetables on offer and then I saw these huge scallion things. They looked familiar but I was completely blank on what they were or what I could use them for. Pulling out my handy phone I gave my resident culinary genius (my mother) a call and was told that what I was staring at were nothing other than leeks!

A leek are is like an onions nicer cousin. Leeks are harvested in the autumn but certain types are also harvestable in the summer and spring. They are a year-round crop! While leeks are often used for adding flavor to stock they are also sauteed and used in quiches, tarts, and other yummy goodies. A fun fact is that dried specimens have been found in archaeological sites in ancient Egypt that point to them being a part of the diet starting in the second millennium BCE.

This tart is perfect for a light vegetarian dinner or can be cut into smaller pieces and used as an “on the go” lunch. I served it with roasted sweet potato with a browned butter vinagrette. Continue reading Leek and Gruyere Tart

Sweet Potato and Pancetta Gratin


Photo Credit: Pippa Biddle

Pippa returns for the ultimate comfort food: potatoes and cheese.  Yum!  She dresses them up with pork chops and apple cider.  Warning: do not read on an empty stomach–growling may occur.

As I write this the smell of melted cheese and salty pork is flowing out of my oven. It is super distracting. These personal gratins are yummy and totally adorable. If you are having a dinner party make 2 per person and serve with pork chops and apple cider. Personally, I keep them all to myself and reheat them one at a time in the microwave for a quick lunch.

The key to a good gratin is to take the time to slice the potatoes evenly. If the slices vary too much some will dissolved from being over cooked while others will barely even soften. Other then that it is really just about layering. The best thing about a gratin is that it is easy to pull off in a hurry. While it does need time in the oven you can throw it together, pop it in, set a timer, and move on to something else.

Continue reading Sweet Potato and Pancetta Gratin