Posts tagged celebrity chefs

A Day at Citi Field

Last weekend Jim and I hopped on the 7 train to Citi Field to watch the New York Mets duke it out with Jim’s beloved Pittsburgh Pirates. The Mets destroyed the Pirates by a score of 10 to 1, but it didn’t bother me. Baseball, shmaseball. I was there for the food.

In case you haven’t heard, Citi Field is the brand-spanking new stadium for the Mets in Flushing, Queens. Ever since it opened in April, the revamped food court has been garnering as many headlines as the Mets’s inconsistent onfield performance. As soon as our tickets were scanned and we entered the pink-hued behemoth, I was on the prowl for lunch.

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My first stop was at Catch of the Day, chef Dave Pasternack’s seafood stand. Among the many options from Esca’s head chef are grilled shrimp po’ boy sandwiches and fried calamari, but I couldn’t resist the lobster roll ($17). I waited to the side of the cashier for my freshly-prepared sandwich, practically jumping in the air with excitement. I couldn’t help it; I love lobster rolls. However, I almost cried foul when the cashier handed the roll to me, as there was less lobster meat than I expected on the bun. But I’d like to give Catch of the Day the benefit of the doubt: Perhaps the Pasternack crew was trying to ration out the lobster meat so that they wouldn’t run out before the end of the game. As for the sandwich itself—which I ate in four quick bites—it was fine overall. The meat was lightly dressed with mayonnaise and was obviously very fresh. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), I was still hungry by the time I joined Jim and our friends on line at Shake Shack.

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Danny Meyer’s two Shake Shack locations in Manhattan have attracted crowds for their burgers, hot dogs, and fries for as long as they’ve been in business. The lines at Citi Field are fairly long as well, but they move quickly. Also, since Shake Shack anchors the Taste of the City food court near left center field, you can actually watch the game while you wait on line. (If you’re into that sort of thing.) My Single Shack ShackBurger—a single beef patty topped with American cheese, crisp green leaf lettuce, juicy plum tomatoes, and Meyer’s Shack sauce—was compact, smoky, and just a little bit messy ($5.75). Served in a simple wax paper bag, it was the perfect baseball food in taste and spirit. The fries were crispy and deliciously salty ($6). Jim and our friend Diego indulged in Shack-Cago dogs, a riff on Chicago’s famous hot dogs but with some New York-produced ingredients such as Rick’s Picks relish ($5.75). As predicted, our food from Shake Shack was a home run.

Also included in the Taste of the City food court are Blue Smoke for barbeque options like pulled pork sliders and chipotle chicken wings; El Verano Taqueria for carnitas and tacos; and Box Frites for Belgian fries. I’ve read that favorite vendors from the old stadium like Daruma of Tokyo and Mama’s of Corona have also made the move to the new stadium, so I’ll have to check in on them next time.

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As you can tell by now, at Citi Field you’ll find more than typical, pre-frozen, stadium junk food. Sure, there are still Cracker Jack and beer, but there’s also a new focus on good, fresh ingredients, infused with a bit of baseball spirit. Food this fun can only be good for the game.

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A Look at Jamie Magazine

As many of you know, I consider myself a huge fan of Jamie Oliver. I’ve written about his recipestelevision shows, and cookbooks multiple times. I have enjoyed his recent focus on seasonal cooking, and I admire the positive work he has done with school lunches in England and his chain of restaurants called Fifteen. I’ve even become an official fan of his on Facebook. If that doesn’t prove my devotion to this man, I don’t know what else I can do.

My husband Jim is fully aware of my Jamie Oliver love and is not intimidated by it at all. In fact, while walking through the Heathrow airport on his way home from our trip to Prague, he noticed my favorite chef’s face on the inaugural cover of Jamie Magazine. He picked it up, brought it home, and promptly bought me a subscription for Christmas. Now every two months I get an up-to-date dose of Jamie Oliver, delivered straight to my door from the U.K. Unfortunately the magazine isn’t available on newsstands in the U.S.

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As I eagerly flipped through the pages of the launch issue, I encountered many of my favorite Jamie Oliver trademarks. The photography is just as beautiful as in his cookbooks, and the magazine is printed on a gorgeous uncoated paper stock. Oliver’s words are predictably light and goofy, and the design is clean and quirky. As expected, Jamie Magazine is a visual delight.

The content is varied and should interest all types of food lovers. Travel pieces, such as a lovingly photographed piece on Stockholm, alternate with more recipe-based articles. Also included are shorter columns on wine, cookbooks, and harmless celebrity Q&As. (Brad Pitt and Ricky Gervais have appeared so far.) I have always loved Oliver’s recipes, so I tend to pay the most attention to these sections of the magazine. In the first issue, I appreciated the simple tutorial on omelets. The second issue, which I received last week, includes many budget-friendly recipes, as seen in features about one-pot Greek dinners and cheaper cuts of pork. The only problem for me is that the ingredients are listed in grams—I might finally need to buy a scale so that I can make these recipes at home. I also enjoy the special pull-out poster illustrating meal ideas for next two months. 

However, amidst my love for the magazine’s design and recipes, I do have one complaint about the content: the blatant, overwhelming amount of product placement. I guess it wasn’t enough to package the first issue of Jamie Magazine with a smaller catalogue for the Jme Collection, Oliver’s line of house wares. That article about aioli and beautiful wood serving pieces? It also functions as a plug for the chef’s line of all-natural boards and platters. The recipe for orrechiette with lamb ragu? Paired with an article about the designers for the Jme Collection, it’s yet another vehicle for endorsing the product line. And on and on it goes, every few pages containing a short article that also encourages the reader to invest in Oliver’s herbs, sauces, and house wares. I’m happy to say that the product placement in the second issue has been toned down a bit, but there’s no escaping some of the promotional propaganda. I doubt that a feature article on chef Adam Perry Lang, who is about to open a chain of barbecue restaurants with Oliver, would have been included otherwise.

Perhaps I should take a look at other celebrity-driven magazines, such as O, The Oprah Magazine, and Every Day with Rachel Ray, just to see how they compare in terms of self-promotion.  I understand that Jamie Magazine is driven by Jamie Oliver and is meant to capitalize on his name and personality, as well as to sell his brand. But as I turn the pages and see all of his products it tries to sell, I can’t help but feel uncomfortable. Don’t get me wrong, I will stick with my favorite chef and watch the magazine evolve over the next few months. I hope to see more great recipes and articles, and less product placement. Because that’s what true fans want from Jamie Oliver.

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Dinner at Tarry Lodge

On Saturday night Jim and I hopped in the car and headed out to Port Chester for dinner. What made us break our usual weekend pattern and leave Brooklyn for Port Chester? Well, a few months ago Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich—of Babbo, Esca, and Del Posto fame, to name a few of their many restaurants—brought their formidable talents to the suburbs and opened a casual Italian eatery called Tarry Lodge. We were celebrating my birthday, and knowing what a fan I am of Mario Batali’s cuisine, Jim had surprised me with the reservation.

We arrived at 6 pm for our 6:30 reservation. Tarry Lodge has been around for over 100 years in various incarnations, at one point even operating as a speakeasy. Each room of the massive, sub-divided space was already packed from wall to wall and from one end of the beautifully restored bar to the other. Although we were early, we were quickly seated in a warmly decorated room near the kitchen on the second floor.

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We made our selections from the traditional offerings of antipasti, pizza, pasta, and secondi, and noted signature Batali ingredients such as fennel pollen, chiles, and guanciale on the menu. To our disconcerted surprise, the appetizers arrived about three minutes after we placed our order. I turned first towards the marinated calamari, always one of my favorite dishes ($8). Mixed with small, pearl-shaped pasta, capers, tomatoes, and garlic, the squid exuded a refreshing lightness of flavor and texture. Soft chunks of fennel soaked in blood oranges were accompanied by briny olives and pomegranate seeds that popped with each bite ($5). Although obviously pre-made, both of these Mediterranean-infused dishes had me reaching for more. I looked for our waitress, as I wanted to ask her about the pasta used in the calamari salad. “Excuse me…” I began, as she rushed passed the table. A few minutes later she walked by again. “Excuse me…”

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Jim and I both decided to go with pasta for our main course. I settled on the linguine with clams, chiles, and pancetta ($17). To be fair, our waitress had warned me that the dish would be salty, but I was overwhelmed with its saltiness from the first bite. A brown broth mixed with the pasta was obviously contributing to the effect. As my waitress drew near, I loudly said, “Excuse me, I was wondering about this broth…” I almost felt the wind on my face as she breezed by without a second look.

Jim enjoyed his black fettuccine with lobster and chiles ($24), and a quick taste confirmed that it was a more gentle and luxurious pasta than mine. As I neared the end of my bowl, I suddenly realized that our artichokes with mint had never made it to the table ($7). Somehow we got our waitress’s attention and the artichokes arrived a few minutes later. From the first choke we could tell that they had been hurriedly thrown on the stove and then onto our table; they had absolutely no flavor whatsoever.

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By the time we ordered dessert—a decent if unremarkable chocolate cake with pistachio ice cream ($8)—it was obvious to both Jim and me that we were being rushed out of the restaurant. This was more than confirmed when our waitress took our check and ran to process it, not noticing that she had flung our credit card across the room in her haste. I scrambled after it and asked someone else to return it to our waitress. As expected, she was long gone.

I’m sure you can tell that at Tarry Lodge I was let down by both my meal and the service. I felt that the food was prepared in the simplest manner possible for maximum efficiency. Every effort seemed directed towards getting me out the door quickly so that the tables could turn over. Perhaps my expectations were too high: In this interview Joseph Bastianich states that Tarry Lodge is meant to be a spot for casual, trattoria-style dining in Westchester. If that’s indeed the goal, then the restaurant is fine and solid. But there are plenty of other Italian restaurants in Westchester filling a similar purpose. To me it seems like a lost opportunity that could have brought a special destination Italian restaurant—perhaps on the level of Blue Hill at Stone Barns—to the area. In any case, I expected more from one of my favorite chefs. I’ve never written a negative restaurant review on this blog before, and I’m sorry to do so now. I didn’t come close to sampling half the dishes on the menu, and I don’t think I ever will. I’ll return to Babbo one day, but for now, Tarry Lodge is off my list.

Tarry Lodge, 18 Mill Street, Port Chester, New York. T: 914-939-3111. Reservations are recommended but not required. 

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