Izzy (and Mama) Eat: The Gourmand Grows up...

Tales of Empty Nesting ...The Next Chapter

Sunday, August 15, 2010

ABC Kitchen: An Altogether Perfect Birthday

Pretzel-Dusted Calamari
Let's go back in time to June, when I set out to chronicle my birthday.... Yes, I managed to make it one more year and my darling friend L. helped me celebrate in style.

First, she took me to dine at ABC Kitchen and we both were bowled over by the entire experience. This restaurant promotes local, sustainable, organic ingredients and products, right down to the bathroom fittings. It is an airy space and our meal was superb. The menu was such that nearly every item was something we wanted to try.

We shared a few dishes, all of which were devoured with relish.  Some are chronicled here.

Wood-roasted Maine Lobster

The desserts were inventive and remarkably delicious.

Market Strawberries and Juice, Poppy Seed Sorbet

Sundae - Salted Caramel/Peanut Ice Cream, Candied Popcorn

Belated thanks, L. I could not have asked for a better birthday meal and I must get myself back to ABC Kitchen as fast as I can.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

La Festa Italiana 2010: The Tradition Lives On

Aunt Mary's rice balls are back at the Holy Rosary Church and Izzy and I walked over in the rain, post-fire, to grab a few for dinner the night of the disaster.  Somehow they had lost their allure.  Perhaps eating them on the couch, after the day's trauma didn't help.  Or perhaps just eating them away from the noise and lights of the feast didn't improve their flavor.  Whatever it was, I knew that when we returned for a feastly encore I would need to eat something else. 

Pure and Simple Flatbreads
I immediately zeroed in on something that I would have to try next time:  Pizza from a traveling wood-fired oven, something I have never encountered before.  The pizzas emerging from within looked awfully tempting.

When we returned to the Festa tonight I headed over for a closer look.  The kiosk for Pure and Simple Flatbreads (no website to be found) offers pizza and pizza alone.  The only accompaniment seemed to be large bunches of basil which were set out along the counter.  I watched as pie after pie emerged from the oven, looking slightly charred and inviting.  I ordered one for Izzy and me and was quite pleased to find pizza far better than any in Jersey City.  The $10 price tag might seem a bit steep for a personal-sized pizza but it was definitely worth it.

We took our pizza, along with my glass of peaches and wine and found a place to sit with our friends amidst the exceedingly large crowd of revelers behind the church.  Our friends were all about the rice balls which still seemed to delight them,  while Izzy ended up sharing pasta with his papa.  Dessert was also part of my agenda and I managed to find some just-filled cannoli and some chocolate cream pie.  The line was too long for Zeppole  which is a good thing since we already ate some on Thursday and I imagine one hunk of fried dough a year is probably sufficient. 

Grateful for the short time meeting up with friends (wished it had been longer) but by the time dessert was finished, the lights and noise had begun to overwhelm me.  So bellies filled, Izzy hopped on his papa's shoulders and we made our way home.  If you haven't made it over there, you still have tomorrow to try out that pizza.  In the meantime, I hope that pizza truck makes jersey city its permanent home. 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Things Can't Get Much Worse, Can They? Of Kitchen Fires and Other Calamities

I had been attempting to make today a "lazy day of summer". Izzy and I had no particular plans as we were recovering from an eventful though tiring day spent in the city. We finally got to experience Traveling the Silk Road, an exhibit at The Museum of Natural History (go now it closes Sunday) and today we were just going to take it easy.

We spent the morning reading and Isadore was still in his undies and a t-shirt when I put some frozen pizza (leftover from Di Fara) and some frozen Yonah Schimmel's knishes in the oven for our lunch. We were sitting in the living room reading and I was just getting to the end of The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews when Izzy said, "Mama, I smell something". "What ?" I asked. He just insisted it was "Something" and he looked uncomfortable about it so I ventured into the kitchen.

It was then I saw cascades of thick black smoke emerging from the oven. I just stared, then picked up the fire extinguisher, knowing full well that in my crazed state I would not have the wherewithal to use it.

I instructed Izzy to run outside and ring a neighbors doorbell as I, with extinguisher in hand, grabbed my phone and wallet and followed. I frantically dialed 911 and we stood waiting barefoot in the street. I accosted the first passerby (a young woman who I had never seen before) and asked her if she could operate the extinguisher. She said she would give it a try and entered the house. When she saw the smoke she thought better of it and we both went back outside. She looked at me a moment and then said, "I feel terrible. Can I give you a hug?" Of course she could and she did and went on her way.

Meanwhile, Izzy was hopping on his toes, frightened and nervous. The sirens began wailing and we knew the trucks weren't far behind. At least three trucks arrived and fireman began to flood the house. While they were inside dealing with the smoke, Izzy and I paced about, uncertain of where to go or what to do. Just then, Miss S. arrived to save the day. She is the Director of Izzy's school which is located just a stone's throw away. When the teachers noticed the commotion at our house, she immediately set out to rescue him. She asked if she could take him over to the school and she had him hop, barefoot, on her back and off they went. Never mind that he was still in his undies!

And what was the cause of this unexpected disaster? I had no idea until the firefighters presented the charred remains...which can be explained here.

A few days ago, A. had washed up some grilling utensils (tongs, spatula, etc.) and when I saw them dry in the drainboard I decided they needed a new home. I thought I had found the perfect spot. I placed them in the broiler drawer, not realizing that they weren't fireproof. Why would grilling tools not be fireproof? I haven't any idea. But I digress...

When the firefighters finished their job, I was left with a sooty, filthy kitchen. The white stove was blackened, the walls tinged with dirt and the floors muddied and wet. I didn't know where to turn. Just as I was pondering what to do, the phone rang. It was S., who has been helping us out since I haven't been well. I asked if she had some time to spare and she agreed to come over and help clean up. She scrubbed and mopped, mopped and scrubbed, pouring buckets upon buckets of sooty water down the drain. She took apart the stove, down to the knobs. I worked alongside her, doing the less gritty tasks of cleaning the counters and bric-a-brac. Without her, my kitchen would still be in disarray.

At around six-thirty, I went out to pick up Izzy from his friend I.'s house and to round up a few rice balls and zeppole from this year's Festa Italiana (more on that tomorrow). I walked carrying my money and iphone on a wristlet. When we returned with our spoils, S. was finishing up mopping the kitchen (which is now gleaming) and there was a large bucket of sooty water near the table. When I leaned over to put down the food, the wristlet slipped off and into the water, iphone and all. Just the icing on the cake of a most disastrous day.

And so, weary as I am, I am compelled to tell this tale, as my iphone sputters, soggy and most likely useless on my dressing table and Izzy sleeps peacefully beside me (the trauma of the day keeping him from his own room). May tomorrow bring a hint of sunshine our way.