chilly weather cooking

bean stewIt's Fall today, and it's been chilly in the city overnight for the past few days. Sure it's supposed to hit 80 degrees here tomorrow, but I'm convinced it's time to go back to making soups, stews, and that kind of thing. So that makes it all the more funny that I made this dish back in late June when it was way too warm for slow cooking in my sunny, top-floor (aka hot!) apartment. I was cleaning through some old photos and realized I'd never posted anything about this dish. Now I wouldn't mind having a pot of it on the stovetop.bean stewThe other funny thing is that I can't remember where the recipe came from. I searched through all my books, but you know... it may have come from a web site, or maybe it came from a book I'm still editing like One-Pot Wonders by Clifford Wright which isn't due out for another five or six months. Does that ever happen to you? When you look through your old photos, you can't quite recall what the dish was or where you ate that meal? I need a new strategy -- maybe I'll take a snapshot of the recipe before I start cooking. Well, looking at the pot, it's easy enough. I see sausage, kidney beans, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers. With ingredients like those, I could just wing it, and that's one of the things I love best about cool-weather cooking. If it's not quite right, just cook it a bit longer to richen the flavors. Now I'm hungry. Happy Fall!

the party after the party

Chinatown, Flushing, QueensI just got back from my first food crawl. Yes, seriously, my first. Maggy of Three Many Cooks had invited me to the event, but it turned out she couldn't make it. Jessica, Amy and Liza were doing the planning, but even though I consider them all to be Twitter friends, I'd never met any of them in person before. So my choices were to get myself out of a recent funk and brave the slush in Flushing's Chinatown, or sit home and bake. Okay you're right, the baking option sounds pretty good too, but I decided to take the long ride on the 7 train instead. I turned out to be the first one there (or was that Kate) despite a little confusion about the name of the dim sum restaurant where we were meeting, and nearby Main Street being totally shut down for some kind of Con Ed emergency. About the food, no complaints of course. I always enjoy Sunday morning dim sum. Then we ended up at Flushing Mall to try Xi'an, but I go to their Manhattan outposts so often, the last time I stopped by the St. Marks location, the counter guy called out "Hi, Justin" as I walked in the door. We were supposed to go out for soup dumplings next, but the place was too mobbed for our big group to get table. So Jessica had to think on her feet, and this is when things got really good. It's too bad a bunch of the original food crawlers had already decided to head home by this buns in ChinatownI'm all about the street food. Slush or no slush, we were gonna make this work, fancy cameras in hand, weaving our way through the Flushing crowds. Duck buns for a dollar. I'll take two. Next time I hear someone raving about a fancy-shmancy pan-Asian joint in Manhattan that does any buns like this for $12 or more, I'm going to laugh to myself. These were downright perfect. Just don't ask me for the name of this place -- it's a small windowfront on Main Street, maybe a block south of the 7 train, and I think they only sell duck.sesame buns in ChinatownWe walked maybe half a block more and stopped at another window. Sorry this post is the worst travel guide ever, but I don't know what this place was called either. Heck, I'm not even sure what was inside these sesame buns, but they were soft, flakey, really satisfying, and dirt cheap. My kind of food.small buns in ChinatownAt this point I'd already decided that Jessica was an awesome tour guide and would have been satisfied heading home. We stepped up to a window on 41st Ave, about half a block west on Main Street. The menu looked familiar -- I've been to a lot of places like this in my life. We were advised to order the "small buns." Within seconds you're handed a container -- four for $1.25. After one bite, I turned into a salesman, insisting the foodie next to me try his buns immediately while they were still hot, and then offering some other new friends one of mine to sample. Crispy on the bottom, perfectly tender everywhere else, outrageously good pork filling. You should have seen us, the original group of thirty now dwindled down by about half, taking up the entire sidewalk. I won't post any group photos, because in every shot, someone's got a mouth stuffed with something. They're all new friends -- no need to make any enemies by posting unflattering, mid-bite photos. (Update: Marc took this group photo.) At this point, I'm pretty sure everyone was ecstatic about the small buns, a perfect end to the crawl. I met too many people to list them all or even remember some of their names, but I'll post links below to any other write-ups about the event if you send me a note. I'm sure any other blog posts will be more complete than mine, but I'm all about the party after the party.See Jessica's way more complete recap on Food Mayhem.See Allison's great photos from the crawl.

a little more San Francisco love

Justin SchwartzNow for part-two of my San Francisco round-up. That's me on Lombard Street with all the other tourists, wondering if my SF friends are going to laugh at me when they see this photo.  I know it's a little cheesy, but it's fun being a tourist for the day.  If this post and the last one seem long, you'd laugh if you knew how much more food than this we really ate. I not even mentioning Pagolac, Saigon Sandwich, Out the Door, Katana-Ya, Amber, and oops! Well, I'm not sharing photos from those places because, believe it or not, I do put my camera down sometimes. So just the highlights now...Heaven's Dog, San FranciscoAfter an astounding meal at Amber with Shauna, Danny, Lu, Allison, Aran, Molly, Jennifer, Dianne, and Penny, Diane and Todd invited me and Jen to come out with them for cocktails and snacks over at Heaven's Dog. The drinks were a treat, but getting to know White on Rice Couple in person was even better. I'm not even sure how it happened, but we ended up going with Diane and Todd again the next night, for more late cocktails and snacks at Absinthe. I've got so many great memories from those two nights. Why do they have to live so far away?sf3Ferry Building Farmers Market, San FranciscoFerry Building Farmers Market, San FranciscoFerry Building Farmers Market, San FranciscoFerry Building Farmers Market, San FranciscoBack to the food. This is all a bit of a blur now because I was also having fun at Blogher Food 2010, but on Saturday we ended up at the Farmers Market again.  Amazing produce, great people, artisanal foods, and more. I could spend all day here.Namu, San FranciscoWe made it back to the Namu booth. I guess you could say this was a Korean-inspired poutine, sans the gravy, with bulgogi and hot sauce on top. (Or was that meat more like galbi?) Either way, damn, that was tasty.Tartine, San FranciscoOf course we visited Tartine, but what else can I say about it that I haven't said before?Bakeries just don't get much better than Tartine. I still gotta check out their new book.Bi-Rite, San FranciscoThen I stopped by Bi-Rite to pick up a bag of those awesome 4505 chicarrones. Does anyone in NYC sell them?Humphry Slocombe, San Francisco How did I not visit Humphry Slocombe the last time I was in San Francisco? Definitely worth the hype. New Yorkers are pretty lucky when it comes to ice cream, but San Francisco really knows its stuff.La Palma papitas fritasPlease tell me you've tried the potato chips from La Palma? I know they don't always have them available for purchase because they sell out, but that's no excuse for not visiting. So amazing.The Jelly Donut, San FranciscoAfter that failed trip to Dynamo, we popped into The Jelly Donut. I always love old-fashioned style donuts like these, and the countergirl gets serious brownie points for giving me two free donuts because it was late in the day and they were closing soon. Seriously, two free donuts!Little Bird Coffeehouse, San FranciscoNo joke, I don't even like coffee. Maybe it's because I don't have a Little Bird Coffeehouse nearby me, because this was dreamy. And could the people working there be any nicer? No, I don't think it's possible.Bob's Donuts, San FranciscoUmm, OMG! Bob's Donuts!!! Seriously, I've been to San Francisco a fair number of times, like five or six, and no one has ever told me about Bob's?! Tough call on this one, but it's the only place I know of that can come even close to Donut Dip in West Springfield, Mass. If I ever move to San Francisco, I'll need to live within a block of Bob's.  P.S. That photo above is one of my favorites of all time.In-N-Out BurgerI had to do the In-N-Out Burger thing again (only my second visit, ever) because this time I knew how to really order. I got these "animal style" and felt all cool saying that. Yeesh, I'm such a food dork.XOX Truffles, San FranciscoXOX Truffles is probably a total tourist spot, right, with the cable cars rolling by? Eh, it didn't bother me because these were such a treat. If it wasn't so hot that day, I probably would have gotten a box to go.Namu, San FranciscoNamu San FranciscoNamu, San FranciscoWe decided to have our final meal of the trip at the actual Namu restaurant in Inner Richmond, since we'd had so much fun trying their food at the Farmers Market. What a great meal. Everything was so interesting. I guess it's Korean-inspired, but they've got some distinctly Japanese dishes too. Don't let the classification worry you though. This is a really nice spot for a romantic dinner. I'm guessing some locals will think this was a weird choice with all the legendary chefs in San Francisco, but we loved our meal. What a great night (even with the most obnoxious guy on Earth sitting so close by).Union Square Park, San FranciscoAnd did I mention the warm weather? (Yes.) At least a couple of our nights were spent just strolling around and sitting in the park. (In New York City, most public parks are a little dicey after dark.)  Plus it's well into Fall, so it was really nice being able to sit out at night and enjoy the city like that, without the usual crowds around Union Square. I'm told the weather was a bit of a fluke, so I'll consider myself lucky to have been there for it. In fact by the time we left, I could have easily been wearing shorts and flip flops. I want that weather back. I want San Francisco back.