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Archive for the ‘Eats’ Category

If you’ve been following either CNBC or “The Daily Show” — or basically if you’ve turned on your TV at all this week — then you know that Jim Cramer is in a sort of televised brawl with Jon Stewart. It all began with this “Daily Show” clip.

Cramer, in contrast to his sometimes tough and angry “Mad Money” persona, is actually quite a sensitive man, and he didn’t appreciate the criticism. A weeklong back-and-forth has ensued. It’s all pretty ridiculous (and entertaining), and I honestly don’t know how seriously Cramer is taking it. I have to imagine that he understands that by putting himself out there the way he does, he leaves himself open to criticism. And I have to assume that Jon Stewart gives him the benefit of the doubt, because no one, not even the financial experts, knew quite what the market was capable of before the market punched us all in the face with it.

It all comes to a head tonight with Cramer’s appearance on “The Daily Show,” and along with the rest of America, I will be watching.

What I take issue with is this. Gawker has chosen to bring Erin Burnett into this mess and lump her together with all of the other CNBC pundits when she quite clearly is in a class of her own. For example, today on “Morning Joe,” Erin was caught off-guard having a breakfast of Cheetos. It is the latest in a long list of adorable and charming things Erin has been filmed doing and saying.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images North America

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images North America

She handled herself capably on the Bill Maher show. She does her job in defending Cramer, and she does it as adorably as she does everything else. There is nothing loathsome about it. And Gawker failed to mention that on Monday’s “Stop Trading!” segment (the wrapup of which I write every day for work), Erin put up a good fight against Mr. Cramer, proving she is far from the network pawn Gawker would make her out to be.

Gawker also recently deigned to mock Ms. Burnett for this gem, a perfect example of why she deserves recognition as business news television’s Cutest Little Button. I have yet to verify her claim that the chocolate chip cookie was invented during the Great Depression, but just watch the way she throws back her head when Matt Lauer pokes some harmless fun at her!

And honestly, where would the world be without the chocolate chip cookie? You tell me! I know where I wouldn’t have been last week at this time: in my kitchen making chocolate chip cookies! And I know what wouldn’t be in my freezer right now: two batches of frozen leftover chocolate-chip-cookie dough!

Also, for the record, I have spent a full day in front of CNBC every weekday for the better part of two and a half years, and I’m here to tell you that it’s not that bad. And it’s not just because Erin Burnett’s so impossibly adorable.

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Let them eat pasta!

I love pasta.

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I just made the trek to a gourmet market to procure nine lemons and a big bottle of grade B maple syrup. You’d think that not eating for a few days would save me money, but that syrup is pricey!  This bottle put me back about $27.

For those of you intrested in jumping on the Master Cleanse bandwagon, the magic recipe is:

During the Day

  • 10 tablespoons grade B maple syrup
  • 10 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • cayenne pepper to taste
  • mixed with as much water as you need

“Dinner”

  • 2 tablespoons syrup
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • cayenne pepper to taste
  • less water (chug it!)
  • 1 cup senna laxative tea

The true Cleanse also involves a daily salt-water flush, which I tried last time I did this thing, but it made me feel so ill, and I really don’t see the benefits of flushing my system in such a drastic way when I’m already not eating and drinking laxative tea (which is delicious and has a relatively mild effect several hours later).

As with my previous Cleanse, Day 2 is pretty easy.  I’m not registering hunger as hunger but rather a dull tingling sort of feeling.  As a result, I’m drinking much less of my syrup and lemon juice than I did yesterday.  Cravings are mild, as demonstrated by my easy resistance to the otherwise oh-so-tempting fettucine with pesto cream sauce in the buffet at the market.

Tomorrow, if it’s anything like my first Cleanse, will be very difficult.  Our plan is to have soup tomorrow night, but we might decide to extend this for another day if we feel up to the challenge.  Chris is on soup duty since I have to tutor tomorrow night, and as mild as my cravings might be, I’m looking very forward to coming home tomorrow to the scent of pureed cauliflower and red pepper bubbling on the stove!

Also, in a side note, last night’s “Bachelor” finale was terribly anticlimactic.  History repeats itself, I guess, and Jason turns out to be as big of a douche to Melissa as DeAnna was to him.  Though I hesitate to place too much blame on him, since I finally wised up last night to the fact that Melissa was way too young and way too Dallas Cheerleady to be The One.

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Day 1.

So Day 1 of the cleanse is coming to a close.  I’ve done OK.  I’ve had some hunger pangs, but I know from experience that I don’t have to pay attention to them.  I drank my dinner and am about to have my special tea.

Things I have craved today include:

  • pizza
  • ants on a log
  • pasta with butter and cheese
  • the red-pepper gnocchi with goat cheese cream sauce that I had for dinner on Saturday
  • Big Mac (Chris’s suggestion)
  • soup!

The final item is a good craving, because that is the first thing I will eat when I come off this stupid thing.  Last time we made an amazing cauliflower-red-pepper soup.  We might have to repeat that one!  I remember that the Saltines we had with it tasted better than anything I’d ever eaten before.  You forget about foods like Saltines when you’re eating whatever you want.  Sometimes the simplest foods taste the best!

We’re shooting for two more days, with a celebratory post-bowling soup on Wednesday.  We can do it!

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Tomorrow Chris and I start another abbreviated round of the Master Cleanse.  We did four days in early January, and Chris had done it a couple of times before that for a week to 10 days.  We might just do two this time, depending on what our week looks like as we get into it.

Pretty much, it’s a fast.  You eat nothing but lemon juice mixed with maple syrup and cayenne pepper.  I know it sounds crazy, and I used to think that myself.  But it’s a good reminder of what our bodies don’t need.  We can say no to that extra cookie, or the larger helping, or the snack we aren’t really hungry for.  And we can say no to other unnecessary or unhealthy things in our lives, too!

That said, last time, my will power lasted for about a day after the cleanse was over, and then I pretty quickly returned to my old habits.  I’m going to try to do better this time.  I’ll spare you the glory details, but be warned that I might talk about food in my next few blog posts.  Last time I did this, I spent all of my free time looking up recipes online and dreaming about how good food was going to taste when I got to eat it again.

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Last week, TheStreet.com Ratings upgraded Vina Concha y Toro (VCO) from hold to buy. I have no idea how to read its wacky chart, but I can vouch for its wine: It’s cheap and Chilean. That’s all I need to know.

When I order wine at a restaurant, I first look for Washington wines, of course (and if there are none, I make a point of mentioning how much I would have loved to order one, fulfilling my unofficial role as Walla Walla’s East Coast PR rep). Then I look for cheap wines. Then I look for Chilean wines. Any intersection — which means either Washington and cheap or Chilean and cheap, since as far as I know there are no wines that are from both Washington and Chile — is good enough for me. Usually it’s the Chilean wine that’s cheap (the Washington wines that NYC restaurants carry, if they carry them at all, tend to be out of my budget), and often that wine is from Concha y Toro.

It should be obvious why I like the Washington wines (hint: It has to do with the 18 years I spent in Walla Walla). You probably also know that I spent a year in Chile, and while I was there, I drank a fair amount of Chilean wine, though mostly that was Gato Negro in a box. As for the cheap thing, well, let’s just say that my student loans recently kicked in, and my rent doubled at around the same time. And I live in New York.

My mother told me that NPR recently did a bit on best-value wines, and Concha y Toro’s Casillero del Diablo was one of them. I drink this all the time. It costs $9.99 at the liquor store around the corner, and it tastes like wine (which is really all I ask, that it taste like wine and not wine with a bunch of water in it or or wine with a bunch of fruit punch in it). Chris’s dad also serves this wine all the time, and he has good taste in many things, so if you don’t want to take my word for it, I’m sure he’ll back me up.

I usually drink the cabernet sauvignon, but here’s a good plug for the merlot. I don’t know about the plums and pencil lead that reviewer finds on the nose — as I said, it tastes like wine to me — but I have always liked to chew on pencils, which encourages the release of the pencil smell, which I suppose I also enjoy. Back when I used pencils, I probably wasn’t thinking about whether I’d like that scent to carry over to the copious alcoholic beverages I’d start to consume 10 years down the road, but I gnawed on them something fierce.

(Did you notice how I said “on the nose” before? I think that means the way a wine smells. I love the funny ways people talk about wine almost as much as I love wine!)

The funny thing about Concha y Toro wine is the word “concha.” In Spanish, that means “shell,” which is all fine and good. But as anyone who’s spent time in various Spanish-speaking countries surely knows, a Spanish word might mean one thing to this person and something entirely different to that person. (For example, “guagua” means truck in the Dominican Republic; to Chileans, it’s a baby. I think both meanings must originate from the sounds those things make. I can easily imagine a truck’s horn sounding a bit like “gua-gua,” and in Chile, the word’s often pronounced with a very soft, almost absent “g,” much like the “wah-wah” of a baby’s cry.)

In Chile, I think “concha” can still mean “shell,” but I only ever heard it used to mean, as crudely as possible, “vagina.” Most memorable was the time when I was walking down the street and a man stared intently at my friend’s crotch and said, “Tremenda concha!” which I roughly interpreted to mean, “What a great vagina!” The popular Chilean insult “concha tu madre,” which is akin to “son of a bitch,” comes from “concha de tu madre,” which literally means, as far as I can tell, “your mother’s vagina.”

Do with that what you will. As for the stock, VCO closed down 1.6% today at $34.51. So what’s the better investment: a share of Vina Concha y Toro or three bottles of Casillero del Diablo?

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I had a truly lovely Valentine’s Day. As you all know, I love chain restaurants and have long thought that my favorite was the Olive Garden, in spite of having only been once before and of being served a wilted salad. But those pastas! All those pastas! And their cream sauces! And unlimited breadsticks! Isn’t there even a bottomless pasta bowl deal?

There was certainly no bottomless pasta bowl deal at the Olive Garden on 6th Avenue that Chris and I went to for the Early Bird Special on Saturday. We thought arriving at 4:15 would beat the crowds (not that there would be crowds at the Olive Garden in New York City, with so many other restaurants to choose from!), but that place was packed. There was a 40-minute wait, so we walked around and stopped in the Container Store, which is an incredible and way-too-expensive store. It’s one of my favorites, and I love to imagine the organizational system I’d choose for my walk-in closet, were I to have a walk-in closet or be able to afford such a system.

It turns out that not only is the Manhattan Olive Garden a popular spot, but it, like the Container Store, is Way Too Expensive! Entrees started at about $18. What? And, as I mentioned, no bottomless pasta bowl. I guess the unlimited salad is only for the basic salad, not the Caesar, which is what I wanted. There were unlimited breadsticks, but while they were delicious with all the butter and salt and garlic slathered on top, they weren’t really breadsticks, more like big puffy loaves.

We got the calamari and beef ravioli appetizers. Both were pretty bad. I love fried calamari, and this was some of the worst calamari I’ve ever had. I’ve had better for a few bucks at a bar. The Caesar salad was overly dressed with watery, bland dressing that only hinted at Caesar. Chris got some Italian sampler with lasagna (actually not bad), chicken parm (I couldn’t even finish one bite) and fettuccine alfredo (admittedly delicious).

I got the chicken and broccoli with garlic-cream sauce, which I’d been daydreaming about since I saw it on the online menu last week. Alas, the chicken was unnecessarily breaded, the broccoli was merely steamed (I’ve recently developed a killer recipe for broccoli, and this fell way short, though, let’s be honest, broccoli is delicious no matter what you do with it), and the cream sauce, like the salad dressing, was watery and bland. The dish’s saving grace was that it used orecchiette pasta, the little ear-shaped guys, which is probably the trendiest pasta out there right now. The Olive Garden’s hip to pasta trends, at least, and it really was a good choice. The sauce, too watery to really stick to the noodles, was able to nestle itself into the cup of each little ear and thus deliver as much of its muted flavor as possible.

Everything was better as leftovers, of course, and no matter that this was my worst meal in New York. It was also utterly hilarious, and I shared it with one of the best things (people) New York’s got going for it. Thank you, Chris, for a wonderful second Valentine’s Day celebration.

Best part: We made it home by 6:30, just in time to watch several hours of TV!

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