Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Lessons from a visiting Quinologist

Please pardon my brief absence from the blogisphere -- I have been digesting...


1. habitual eating to excess
2. eating to excess (personified as one of the deadly sins)

see also: depictions of gluttony in art

It all began fairly innocently with a visit from my dear friend, the Quinologist. Our intention was to do some cooking together and tour the city's notable culinary hot spots. What ensued was an unrivaled and oft epic culinary trek to the boundaries of human consumption.....

Day One: A Dairy Queen's Delight

The Egg: quite possibly Nature's perfect food, and also a choice eatery in Brooklyn. So, it was apt that we began the day here and with this: Deviled Egg Salad and Country Ham Biscuit. If you look closely you can see the layers of sharp cheddar cheese and fig jam co-existing in perfect harmony.

We traveled on... and though not having fully digested breakfast, we could not resist one of Manhattan's finest cheese emporiums. While there we picked up a mini jar of white cow yogurt, sweetened only with honey and vanilla beans. Tart and tangy with the smoothness of natural honey, this protein lift prepared us for what was next...

The apothecary! Seriously. Shelf after shelf of herbs, spices and other aromatics... which was perfect because we had already begun to assemble our menu for the coming days... that, and I had ground my very last peppercorn the previous night.

"The Re-Animator"
What can I say. ..Quin/quichology is exhausting... and we needed a pick me up. And we weren't too proud to step into quite possibly the cheesiest bar in the west village. Desperate times my friend. However, the Quinologist is a braver soul than I. Only the universe can know for sure what was in that cocktail but it cannot be argued - whatever it was provided the essential fuel to steamroll ahead.

This is where things started to get ugly. Not only did we wait in line for a cupcake, we did so with gusto and only narrowly avoided an altercation with a like-minded cupcake seeker. Clearly others were harried in their way out the door because we spotted this!

(The shot above depicts the gruesome aftermath of a take away cupcake's fate on the mean streets of Manhattan. Let this be a lesson to you folks -- they give you the box for a reason. Cupcakes are meant to be savored while standing still, not gobbled on the go)

This is "The Map." Few possess the ability to navigate the map, but those that have this rare gift are able to unlock the secrets of the west village. That is all I will say.

After a day of thorough culinary investigation, we met up with the Sous Chef and had some of the best burgers in the city. The photo depicts all that was left the moment we remembered to document dinner. We were too wrapped up with the eating of the burgers to actually take a decent photo. Just imagine a flame broiled burger with cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion on a bun. Simple, sublime. But, we were still hungry....

We returned to Brooklyn and made a pit stop at the local cheese emporium -- which is far stinkier than the Manhattan equivalent and therefore better, in my humble opinion. We stocked up as if there were no tomorrow. Lucky for us there was a tomorrow and it included french toast stuffed with what else! Cheese!

Day Two: In the Market for Astronomically-Priced Vegetation

Industrious that we are, we let the baguette sit in a heavenly bath of sweet custard overnight in order to assemble a most-delicious baked french toast, stuffed with mascarpone cheese and strawberries. Made even more perfect with a Bellini.

Russ & Daughters is quite possibly the best place in the city for smoked fish and appetizing. Not only is it family-owned and pristine, it has the finest selection of smoked salmon I have seen. We picked up gravlax and and irish smoked, some whitefish salad and a tin of smoked trout for the Sous Chef for kindly depositing us in the LES. It should be noted that we stopped at R&D after consuming breakfast only to obtain breakfast for the following day. See: industrious.

I am not ashamed to admit that lunch took place almost immediately after breakfast and consisted of pommes frites with pesto mayo and mexican ketchup dipping sauces. The mystery container in the top right corner was also delicious, however shall remain our gluttonous little New York secret.

I talk about the farmers market a lot. It is by far my favorite place in Manhattan. I try to go every Saturday morning and let the market decide what's for dinner. What better way to educate the Quinologist on the delights of big city cooking than at the market... With a feast in mind we obtained lamb chops from a Pennsylvania farmer, beautiful shallots, fresh herbs and the most expensive bag of chard in the history of vegetables, see below:

I will not tell you how much this bag of organic baby rainbow chard cost. I will tell you however, that every stalk was exquisite and hand selected.

Necessary sidebar #1: The Mint Julep. As cool and refreshing as the brisk clip of a thoroughbred on a dewy Kentucky morning, or the familiar waft of a breezy spring afternoon in Bushwick, Brooklyn. You pick.

Necessary sidebar #2. Quinoa. Pronounced (keen-wa)... This was part of our dinner. Not the photo above, but the grain itself. Admittedly, I had a bit of a mental block with this newcomer to my kitchen. However, thanks to the visiting Quinologist, all was made clear and this protein-packed grain made a welcome accompaniment to the rest of the dinner pictured below.

Quinoa Uncut: An Interview with the visiting Quinologist.

Q: Please tell us a little about yourself.

A: Well, I met the Quichologist in junior high school, where we bonded
over our mutual love of translating epic novels from the Latin, as
well as our mutual loathing of the small cow towns we grew up in.
Years later, on a trip to Greece, we found ourselves collectively
swooning over a crepe stand in Rhodes, and our pursuit of gastronomic
greatness began. Today, we are the best of buddies, and though we
sadly live too far apart to cook together frequently, we oft share our
stories of our culinary triumphs and failures in our own respective

Q: What the hell is quinoa?

A: I have always known quinoa (prounounced keen-wah) as an 'alternative'
grain, although a quick search of Wikipedia over the weekend, when I
was heatedly defending my choice of side dish to the hotly doubting
Quichologist, revealed that it is not a true cereal since it does not
come from a grass. Rather, quinoa is the seeds of a plant called
goosefoot. Who knew?

Q: How did you become an expert on this elusive super-grain?

A: I happen to be an acupuncturist by vocation (so not only were my
gracious hosts subjected to my cooking of hippie food over the
weekend, both the Quichologist and Sous Chef were newly exposed to the
wonderful world of needle treatment as well). From a holistic
nutrition perspective, quinoa is often touted as one of the world's
perfect foods. It is high in protein, gluten-free, and has a lower
glycemic index than most cereal grains, as well as packing a
respectable amino acid balance. And, as the Quichologist learned,
despite her initial misgivings ... it tastes darn good.

Q: What is your favorite quinoa recipe?

A: I've never really cooked quinoa from a recipe ... usually I just cook
it and throw in whatever I have in the kitchen that sounds good at the
time, occasionally despite the disgruntled mumblings of my doubtful
but loving friends (ehem). It is very good with any kind of chopped
dried fruit, such as raisins or apricots, toasted nuts, and a little
fruit juice or wine. I also like it plain with nothing more than
butter, parmesan cheese, and maybe a little salt and pepper. This
time I dry toasted the seeds before boiling them, which really brought
out the nutty flavor of the grain.

Q: What coping mechanisms or treatments do you recommend for one who is

A: A good swift kick in the pants by a crunchy new-age holism-promoting
friend. I am available for consultations and pro-quinoa admonitions
by phone for a small fee.

Q: What do you think quinoa can offer the 2008 Democratic Presidential nominee?

A: Clearly, a sense of being reconnected to the earth from which these
plants sprout forth to nourish us. And, as quinoa has been an
important staple in South America for thousands of years, and is still
produced there in large quantities, public displays of affection for
quinoa can also promote positive foreign relations. Not that I can
imagine why our country would need a boost in the foreign relations
department ....

Thank you Quinologist for that thought-provoking inside look into the oft overlooked underbelly of quinoa. -QIM

Organic Pennsylvania lamb chops with a dried cherry and port wine reduction. Served with a sauteed rainbow chard and roasted beet salad and caramelized onion and white wine quinoa.

Lavender-infused chocolate honey tart. Served with Port. Divine.

Day Three: Quattro de Bagel?

I have a soft spot for a true New Yorker's breakfast. Smoked salmon, gravlax, tomato, onion, capers, cream cheese and fresh bagels. Maybe it's the water as they say... or maybe it was the hard earned trek through the bowels of Manhattan to obtain our gorgeous spread. Either way, this breakfast always wins my heart. Maybe it's genetic :)

So we were a day shy of Cinco de Mayo... it was still an occasion worthy of festivity. Homemade guacamole, homemade tortilla chips and a peach-nectar salsa accompanied a garlic and cilantro marinated steak and my queso blanco grilled corn-on-the-cob.

And thus concluded our three day tour of plenty. With weary feet and expanding waistlines we surrendered our forks...

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