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Social media is a bizarre world full of picture posting, “me me me”-ing and so much content that it’s hard to absorb even a fraction of the messages. But, I will say, that if you choose your battles and dedicate your time to one channel, the payoff is great. I’ve gravitated towards Instagram as my channel of choice for a number of reasons – the food community is bar none, inspiration in the form of jaw-droppingly beautiful images is aplenty, and no less important – it serves as a laboratory for future food posts.

I’ve had people ask me how I develop content for the site and the answer is twofold: often a story worth telling pops into my head and I reverse engineer a food connection from that starting point (e.g. “Valentine’s Day and other tragedies“). But I also use Instagram as a way to test the popularity of certain dishes. If I notice that people really love eggs, “Green Shakshuka” will show up on the blog.

Today, the show is all about cocktails, which just so happens to be an Instagram-driven topic. A few months ago I started posting a regular Friday night cocktail, and noticed a trend. Every time I post my Friday night cocktail:

1. I immediately lose followers, which suggests that I’ve somehow attracted a large percentage of a) teetotalers and/or b) people who don’t like to have a good time. So if you would include yourself in one or more of those categories, I’ll clarify: You will see booze on this site. Lots of it. I sometimes mix myself a lunch cocktail and once drank red wine at breakfast. [sneeze]Forbreakfast.
2. Of those who do leave comments, the response is overwhelmingly positive. A few of my favorites:

  • Whoa, check this out! [tags friend]
  • [tags friend] lets get that party on the books!
  • I think I’m in love….shhh don’t tell my husband and my personal favorite:
  • Fååårk det lyder perfekt! (which I imagine to mean “f*** this looks perfect!”….but maybe it’s really “far from perfect!” or “for your diet this is perfect!”
     
    If anyone can answer this question, I’ll send you a Bloody Mary. Or at least a recipe for a Bloody Mary.)

You can see that a lot of friend tagging happens when I post a cocktail picture. I get it; people are excited for the weekend. They’re eager to discuss where the night will start. And this, by the way, makes me incredibly happy. I love knowing that I have some infinitesimally small part in kick-starting people’s weekends. Where they take it from there (raging hangover, walk of shame in fishnets and a borrowed boyfriend T.) is up to them.

I also find this second point interesting because I never get the same kind of reaction with my food pics. It’s not that my food images are unloved, it’s just that people are far more vocal when meals are posted in liquid form.

Which…suggests one thing: People aren’t making fancy cocktails at home.

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Am I right?

I see a few obstacles in the making of cocktails at home.

Please answer the following questions honestly:

  1. When you’re at a bar and order a Gin & Tonic or a Vodka soda and the bartender asks for your liquor preference, do you panic? Furthermore:
    1. Do you squeak out the word “Belvedere” not sure whether you’ve dropped the name of a gin or vodka brand?
    2. Or do you just casually say “whatever you’ve got on hand”, attempting to seem low key when really your booze game is weak?
  2. Could you spot a jigger out of a bar tools lineup? A muddler? How about a Hawthorne strainer?
  3. Do you have the right barware above your fully-stocked bar? (brandy snifters, champagne flutes, highball glasses, rocks glasses, copper mugs for Moscow mules, etc.?)
  4. Do you even have a bar? (translation: counter that holds at least three bottles of hard alcohol)

 

If your answers were Yes, Yes, Yes, No, No, No then count yourself amongst the majority.

Because mixing a cocktail is intimidating. And if you don’t do it correctly, your drink will be a total failure.

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All roads lead to Foragers Market….

Or so the story goes, at least in my world where a humble little grocery store went into an abandoned art space on the corner of 8th Avenue and 22nd street in Chelsea and changed my world forever.

Maybe I’m being overly dramatic, but really, this place….my love for it runs deep.

Although it’s only been in the neighborhood for a few years, I can hardly remember a time when I didn’t shop there once (if not twice) a day.

It’s my primary destination for produce, bread, yogurt, heritage pork shops and all manner of fancy cheese. Dram Apothecary bitters, Jacobsen salt, Mina harissa, they’ve got it all. Name the latest chef obsession, and you’re just about guaranteed to find it there. They even sell kombucha on tap. (can you sense my silent tear of gratitude?)

The icing on the cake is that the back seating area morphs into one of the best and most affordably-priced restaurants in the city for weeknight dinners and weekend brunches. Chef Nickolas Martinez trained under Alain Ducasse and Joel Robuchon and sources his ingredients from Foragers’ own farm in Upstate New York. That single tear of gratitude occasionally turns into a stream.

A benefit of having a store like Foragers in the neighborhood is that I’ve gotten to build relationships with some of the food makers themselves. Like microgreen grower Good Water Farms in Long Island, who I’ll talk more about in tomorrow’s post. And Siggi’s, one of the fastest growing yogurt brands in the US. One bite of their skyr (Icelandic strained yogurt) and you’ll never want to eat any other yogurt again.

At least according to yours truly. And my Dad, who ate a spoonful and promptly grabbed the container to inspect every inch of the packaging.

I was visiting Foragers Market in late November when I bumped into Yasaman Vojdani, co-founder of Oat My Goodness Craft Granola.

Yasaman was providing samples for her three lines of granola, and it was pure chance that I stopped to give them a try. I’ve always shied away from buying pre-packaged granola because previous versions have tasted dusty and old. Chewy when they should be crunchy. The flavors, meh. If I want crunchy flavorful granola packed with interesting ingredients, I’ll make it at home.

I politely declined her offer, and was about to move on when Yasaman urged me to try the Sunrise variety – “it has orange, coffee, mango and macadamia nuts”.

Hmmm. That does sound good. And odd flavor combinations are my Achilles heel; I squinted at the packaging, agreed to try it, and the rest is history. I’ve become the unlikeliest of granola promoters but it’s hard for me not to start my day with this kind of food.

It was my passion for their product that led to an organic relationship between the two of us: me, in the role of chief consumer (and photographer), and them as an upstart brand, building a business and taking the artisanal food market by storm. I signed on to develop a portfolio of Oat My Goodness product photography, and have been playing with granola ever since. I’ve baked with it, I’ve layered parfaits, I’ve even roasted fruit to accompany it. The best part? There is more to come. It’s the kind of work that breakfast dreams are made of.

I wanted to share some images from the past few months. I’ve never known the versatility of granola until this year, and it’s my hope that you’ll likewise be encouraged to play around with it as well.

You can find Oat My Goodness craft granola in several states or through their website. They sell it, of course, at Foragers Market, where you’re likely to spot me lurking by the refrigerated case, investigating the latest shipment of farm-fresh eggs.

And if you can’t get your hands on this particular brand of granola, I’ve got a recipe for butter pecan granola that you can use in a pinch.

If you’re interested in finding the recipes for the dishes below, check them out on the Oat My Goodness website. I’ve also copied the recipe for the granola chocolate chunk cookies below. They’re truly the best cookies I’ve ever made. Enjoy!

Sunrise:

Orange, coffee, mango and macadamia nuts

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I’ve been sitting here for the last 30 minutes, staring at my computer screen, wondering what to write. For the record, you’re more likely to spot Sasquatch than see me struggling for words. I usually have what amounts to some kind of brain purge syndrome where my posts fly from brain to fingertip in a matter of minutes, leaving me depleted, hungry, and questioning what country I’m in. 

Speaking of countries, the topic today is Greece. And the reason that I’m so confounded is that Greece should bring back memories galore. After all, I’ve been there not once, not twice, but thrice. I’m not liking that word, but I’m sticking with it. It’s like a combination of “throw” and “rice”. Which is what I did once in Greece. At a wedding. So maybe I’m getting somewhere with this Greek business after all.

Our visit to Greece was the first major trip that Rodney and I took as a couple back in 2001. We returned several years later to  re-visit Mykonos and Santoroni and tack on a few more islands (Rhodes, Corfu, Crete). We even did the completely optional/somewhat frightening several-day visit to Athens. Generally speaking, I should have Greek memories, and lots of them.

The problem with Greece – and perhaps it’s less of a “problem” than a “challenge”, is that much of your waking time is spent drinking Mythos (daytime) and Ouzo (nighttime). So what I do remember from our visits is patchy.

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There I am, bawling my way through the last few pages of War and Peace on Ornos beach. (My copy, for the record, is still buried there, unless the department of sanitation scooped my treasure out of the sand and hauled it off to the dump.)

There again you’ll spot us buying strappy leather sandals in a street market in Rhodes. I should say ME not WE; Don’t ask Rodney how he feels about man sandals. Or Tevas. Or short haircuts on women, which he thinks that women tell each other are “really cute” but men strongly do not prefer. (By the way, we argue about this point constantly; maybe I’ll cut my hair short one day just for spite.)

Oh look! Now we’re easing our way along busy roads on a moped in Santorini. On a mission to find the one winery on the island. Not an adventure for the faint of heart or anyone over the age of 25. Mum, I survived, please don’t worry about this anymore.

I do, however, have strong memories of the food. Whether we were sitting down to a fancy dinner in the heart of the Old Town in Mykonos, or beachside at a little taverna, I recall a freshness and simplicity that still influences my cooking today.

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With the exception of getting dumped on Valentine’s Day, I may win the title for V-Day disaster stories.

Actually, this was worse than a breakup.

I waivered about whether to tell this gruesome tale, but in the effort to make this a full-disclosure website, it would be wrong not to tell.

How could I lyricize my love for Valentine’s Day when the mere mention of the name sends shivers down my newly limber spine. (thank you yoga)

It all began innocently enough….my brother-in-law and sister-in-law were in town for a few days last February. It’s rare to get the teams together, so when we do, there’s always cause for celebration. The morning of February 14 was glorious with fresh, still-white snowfall from the previous evening.

My sister-in-law had booked us a table at a new local restaurant. I’m reserving the details around when and where. That quaint little restaurant doesn’t need to get dragged through the mud.

Our plan was to meet Kelly and Keith first for a drink at their hotel. They were staying at the Soho House, a swank hotel located smack dab in the middle of the Meatpacking district. It’s the kind of place where your outfit is never respectable enough for the front desk crew. Somehow these gatekeepers are always several feet taller than me, giving them the advantage of what I’ll call “nose-peering”, making me feel infinitely smaller than my size would suggest.

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Where I come back in spades is my ability to orchestrate an immediate cocktailing session. Nobody gets down to business faster than I do. Thus, nobody can out-drink me in the first hour of an evening. Perhaps I could go toe-to-toe with the fictionalized James Frey, but aside from him (it?), the competitive landscape is pretty slim.

Fortunately, my second secret weapon is that after an hour, I swiftly dial back the drinking and enter a self-imposed maintenance mode where chatting becomes the priority, and booze is all but forgotten.

I wish that I could say that it’s intentional; I’d make a fortune peddling self-help books and safe consumption podcasts. The world would be a better place, filled with happy drunks and fewer injuries.

But something went terribly wrong last Valentine’s Day and my body’s normal tailoring response was nowhere to be found. Perhaps it was partying with the front desk crew.

I fault the Soho House for messing with my usual program.

This hotel knows how to ramp up the excitement for an evening. What other hotel sends you a bartender, plucked from America’s Next Top Model central casting, with a drink cart, straight to your room?. So while we were sitting there on velvet couches, surrounded by opulence and exposed brick, our very own She-Nymph was mixing up custom Moscow Mules. Right before she opened a bottle of champagne. Because hey! It’s Valentine’s Day! We’re all celebrating!

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I’m going to cop to a few facts here. These brownies:

  • with the exception of a few minor tweaks, are an exact replica of the recipe created Gaby Dalkin for her blog What’s Gaby Cooking. Don’t mess with perfection. Unless you’re adding espresso powder and swapping in bittersweet chocolate. 
  • were not meant to be eaten solely after winter sledding activities. Although this would make an optimal time for consumption.
  • are the tastiest baked good you’ve ever laid eyes on. Although if you’re one of those hedonists foolish/brilliant enough to wait 2 hours for a Dominque Ansel original cronut, you may have encountered a baking miracle a ½ notch above this.

Here’s another admission: these aren’t really called Sledding Brownies. Meander over to Gaby’s website looking for “Sledding Brownies” and you’ll get an ominous looking “NO RESULTS FOUND”. SO JUST BE AWARE OF THAT AND READ ON. I WILL ANSWER YOUR QUESTIONS IN DUE TIME. But do visit Gaby’s website for all manner of delicious food. Really, she has everything: gluttonous treats and healthy eats. Check out her roundup of 10 healthy dishes to start 2015 before you get into trouble with the molasses cookies and brown sugar blondies.

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I saw Gaby post these brownies a few months ago, and they’ve been a bee in my bonnet ever since. I hesitate to use that expression since my Dad’s ex girlfriend used it ad nauseum when she referred to a vexing list of nonessential needs. His bathroom needed fluffier towels!  The bedroom walls required a crisper shade of white! The masonry over the fireplace!!! Well, couldn’t you see that it wasn’t wide enough? So, with that…brownies, chocolate cookie layer, Oreo-stuffed. [bzzzz]

My parents were at the lake over Christmas, and every time my Mum comes to visit, she brings two bags of Oreo cookies. These aren’t just ordinary Oreo cookies. They’re Canadian Oreos. Made with different ingredients altogether. The center is creamier, the cookie layers, richer. If you don’t believe me, I urge you to write to Kraft or Mondelēz or whatever they’re calling themselves these days and ask them why the Canadian version is superior.

Or, if putting pen to paper seems like an arduous task, enlist your favorite Canadian friend/relative/Parliament Member to send you a box and conduct a taste test in the privacy of your own home.

That’s what we did. Double blind. Rodney + the kids acted as the official judging panel to ensure accuracy and more important, eat the leftovers. The Canadian Oreos won by a landslide.

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