Anya came down with a scary and horrible stomach virus over the weekend that took us completely by surprise. Despite our best efforts to keep her fluid intake up (we have a delightful recipe for Pedialyte JELL-O if you're interested), she steadfastly refused any of it, and we ended up bringing her to the emergency room today to be treated for dehydration. Anya's spending the night in the hospital, and we're hoping she'll recover very quickly and return home soon. Expect posting to be light to nonexistent while she gets her noodle-eating groove back.
Update (2/1/07): After two nights in the hospital, Anya was finally released yesterday. She's on the mend and is quickly returning to her former self. Thanks for all the comments and emails wishing her a speedy recovery. The Food Section will be back with regular posting next week.
The recent descent from our unseasonably balmy winter into the current bone-chilling weather inspired an almost instinctual craving for soup -- namely, pho. After searching the boards of Chowhound, we ended up at Pho Bang, opposite Pho Bac in the Elmhurst strip mall formerly home to Joe's Shanghai (there's a healthy debate online over which restaurant is better: Pho Bang or Pho Bac. In the end, the consensus seemed to lean towards Pho Bang).
The pho didn't disappoint. The humongous bowl of broth and rice noodles draped with thin slices of beef was the warm and soothing antidote to the deep-freeze I was looking for. But, something else caught my eye (and palate): the pork chops my wife ordered. Though they were a little fatty, the sweet and tangy flavor was irresistable. And, soon enough, I had a new craving the next day to make them at home.Read More >
Navarra Gastronomic Week
From Saturday, January 27, through Sunday, February 4, restaurants participating in this week-long event will feature menus highlighting traditional dishes and local wines from Spain's Navarra region. The gastronomic celebration includes a series of culinary demonstrations, wine seminars, and tastings, along with a dinner in collaboration with the American Institute of Wine & Food. Visit navarragastronomy.com for more information.
To honor the Year of the Pig, the Chinese government has printed a series of scratch-and-sniff postal stamps that smell and taste like sweet and sour pork (more info here). Poke around eBay, and you should be able to find some for sale.
As you may have heard, the third annual edition of Chez Pim's online fundraising campaign, A Menu For Hope raised a staggering $60,925.12 in contributions to support the United Nations World Food Programme, the food aid arm of the UN.
Chez Pim has posted a list of all of the winners of the raffle. So, if you contributed towards one of the prizes, check to see if you might have won.
The Food Section auctioned off a copy of the Oxford Companion to Food, generously donated by Oxford University Press, and I'm pleased to announce that Simona Tal is the winner.
Congratulations to Simona, who will be receiving her prize shortly, and thanks to all those who made a gift to support the campaign.
Fans of Pocky, the Japanese chocolate-dipped snack, can now wear their alimentary allegiance with a Pocky Cellphone Strap. The device, which doubles as a key ring "mascot," plays the official Pocky theme song and comes in all 10 Pocky flavors (including Men's Pocky, the world's only gendered snack). $4.37 at strapya-world.com. [via Gizmodo]
Winter Restaurant Week
Participating New York restaurants will serve three-course prix fixe lunches for $24.07 and three-course prix fixe dinners for $35.00 from Monday, January 22, through Friday, January 26, and Monday, January 29, through Friday, February 2. Reserve online at opentable.com.
Earlier, when I was back in Milan, I mentioned the restaurant La Latteria San Marco (Via San Marco 24) in the Brera neighborhood. Maria presides over the restaurant -- taking orders, seating guests, and managing the small crowd that inevitably forms outside the doors of the tiny nine-table eatery In a combination of broken English and Italian, I asked her about the restaurant and found out that it had been in operation for 40 years and that the menu, which changes daily, combines cuisine from Sicily, where she was raised, and from Tuscany, where her husband Arturo comes from. Due to the language problem, this was about as far as I got.
The food is amazing and simple -- dishes like polpettine al limone (slightly flattened meatballs oozing with cheese and doused with a lemony sauce) and contorni like a simple mash of squash. The crumbly crostata served for dessert was baked by Maria at home and filled with what tasted like creme fraiche and topped with orange marmalade.
But, one of the best things I had, and truly one of the simplest, was a first course of farro with mozzarella di bufala and cherry tomatoes. It was nothing more than the farro -- the barley-shaped ancient grain -- boiled in salted water and served warm and topped on one side with the tomatoes and the other with cheese. Maria dropped a bottle of extra virgin olive oil off at the table for dressing the dish as you might dress a salad table-side. The farro had a chewy texture and nutty flavor. You might think that this sounds like an ascetic dish. Boiled grains? But, the olive oil and creamy mozzarella offered some richness, and the tomatoes provided a fresh and juicy textural contrast. It was excellent, healthful, and very easy to replicate at home. Some recipes will tell you to soak and cook the farro for hours, but for this dish, I found that boiling the grains in salted water for 15 to 20 minutes (before draining them) yielded just the right consistency.
A cursory search for information online about farro will tell you that the grain is simply Italian for spelt, or the opposite: a grain that is similar, but something else entirely. If you know more, please fill us in below in the comments. You can find farro at gustiamo.com, Chefshop.com, and Ditalia.com, among other purveyors.
Are you down with PTZ? That's the "Perfect Temperature Zone," according to the makers of the Brugo travel mug.
As you tip the thermal mug, hot coffee is released into a small chamber at the top where it cools down before reaching PTZ. $19.95 in multiple colors at Brugo.
The Art of the Braise
The French Institute Alliance Française will present a discussion by chef Daniel Boulud on braising techniques from his new book, Braise: A Journey Through International Cuisine. Sissy Biggers will interview Chef Boulud, followed by a Q&A and food sampling. The event will take place on Monday, January 15, 7:00 p.m., at Florence Gould Hall, 55 East 59th Street. $25/person (212.307. 4100).