Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Times

These days the poor economy is on every one's mind--and with good reason. The economy plain and simply sucks. From everyday conversations, to actually feeling a bit of the struggle oneself, it is a constant reminder of how bad it really is. Even the media has restructured their strategy in order to reach us--their audience. No longer pretending that the world is fine (although we were slowly reaching bottom some time ago) we now hear ads that flat out say we are in a recession, even if they don't mention the R word.

As a loyal Food Network viewer, it's interesting to see how a lot of the shows are now themed on how low cost ingredients can come together to make delicious meals. Quite interesting to witness the change. There is no sense of shame with this concept. Rather, in so little words they are clearly admitting to the fact that we are in a recession. I must admit I prefer the new realistic approach. Everyone is trying pinch pennies one way or another. But what is equally emphasized is that our quality of life is important now more than ever. Months ago the emphasis was placed how bigger was better and fancy ingredients were all the hype and thus, in demand. But now we learn to reevaluate what is truly necessary.

Naturally, we all desperately await for the economy to bounce back--and the return to indulgences like caviar, specialty cheeses and foie gras for foodies like myself. Hopefully we will one day appreciate the time were we had no choice but to embrace inexpensive food items like iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli as opposed to frisee, heirloom tomatoes and broccoli rabe. And this will be remembered as a part of history where the times brought us all back to the basics.

Monday, March 23, 2009

West 4th for Foodies

Perhaps it was too cold to sit in the park and have a picnic. But it's late March and the desire for spring to come made us chance it anyway. Not knowing what to do this particular Saturday we decided to explore West 4th. For some time I have been wanting to explore the wonderful shops the location offered, so when my husband offered this as a suggestion it was perfect!

First stop Murray's Cheese. A space filled with cheeses, cured meats and wonderful little additions. I felt like a child in a candy store. Needless to say we got pretty excited shopping and ordered prosciutto, four different stinkingly delicious cheeses and marinated olives. We then hopped next door to Amy's Bread and got a baguette. All we needed was a small bottle of wine, but we washed it down with orange Pellegrinos instead. As we sat in the park and munched on our goodies we were reminded that it was a bit too cold to sit out for too long, but it also reminded us that the most simplest things made life worth while: Fresh, simple food, nature and wonderful company. We tried to stay in the moment for as long as we possibly could, but then thought it was best to head inside. Fortunately, we found warmth at Rocco's Pastry Shop where we helped ourselves to cappuccinos and shared a strawberry cheesecake. I must confess while I was certainly full, I was tempted by another diner and decided to grab a mini chocolate chip cannoli before heading out. Absolutely delicious!!! A very sweet ending to a wonderful food filled day. And while we we certainly pushing for spring, we did embrace fall, as we fell in love with a wonderful community that offered great shops worth stepping into which to our great fortune as New Yorkers is all accessible by train.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Otto This World!

Like a lot of New Yorkers I absolutely love pizza. It's cheesy, saucy, comforting, (ok fattening) but always reliable. At times I feel I could eat pizza every single day. Were it not for my loving husband, I probably would.

This weekend Alex and I went to Otto--the pizzeria in the West Village that is owned by the Iron Chef himself--Mario Batali. I was so excited to go! First, it was an excuse to eat one of my all time favorite comfort foods and two, it served as a perfect date night! There was a bit of a wait (which is fantastic, considering the economy), but fortunately you have the option of ordering a glass (or bottle!) of wine while you wait. Twenty minutes later and bingo, we were ready to be seated! At first glance there are only a few menu items, but the combinations of the ingredients definitely gain your interest. Truly it isn't your ordinary pizza shop! I ordered Pane Frattau--tomato, Pecorino and a sunny side egg. Alex, a more traditionalist, ordered Spaghetti Alla Carbonara. In a word--Amazing! For dessert, we couldn't refuse homemade gelato. Again wanting to try everything we ordered three flavors: Crème Fraiche, Hazelnut and Salty Caramel. All I can say is that we entered Otto's with high expectations and left with them met.

Recall that I said this "weekend" we went to Otto.....well, I truly meant it. We returned on Sunday-this time inviting my mother in law. To start we ordered a cheese platter. The cheeses were accompanied with 3 little plates each adorned with a delicious surprise: black cherries, poached apricots and lastly, a healthy sampling of clover honey with shaved truffles. Main course? Well considering that I have a hard time letting go of favorites--I ordered the same delicious pizza from the night before. Alex ordered Buccatini All'Gricia (pig cheeks) and Alex's mom the Margherita D.O.P pizza. All of us were completely satisfied with the simplicity and flavorfullness of the ingredients. Magically each ingredient complemented each other and together created a spectacular meal, especially when accompanied with a lovely bottle of red wine. Room for dessert??? But of course! Again longing to try even more flavors--we replaced the Crème Fraiche with Olive Oil (divine-!) and chocolate in place of the Salty Caramel, and good old reliable Hazelnut remained.

Both evenings were nothing short of perfect. I was able to share a great dining experience with people I love and had the opportunity to relive my love affair with pizza (twice in a row!) What more could a pizza lover possibly ask for!