Presenting The Faux Gourmet!

The Faux Gourmet has been on hiatus for a while. I began this blog as a creative outlet during law school. After law school, I started other blogs on other topics and no longer needed this as a creative outlet, not to mention my diminishing free time.

But I kept cooking, kept taking food pictures and garden pictures, kept wanting to share the little tidbits of what I'd made. I occasionally did this on my personal blog (to which, I'm sure, people yawned and wondered when I'd post another cat picture). But I started to miss this space. Of all the blogs I have, this format, culled over several dedicated years and incorporating that adorable illustration by Sam Wedelich (see info the left) is by far my favorite.

So I'm back!

Expect short and sweet posts. Less food porn, more recipes and tips. If you want food porn you can look at any of the 5000 million existing food blogs. I don't have good lighting in my apartment and don't have time to style plates. I just want to make something yummy and eat it. If that sounds ok with you, stick around.

Looking forward to being back in touch!


The Faux Gourmet

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    Saturday, February 27, 2010

    An Angeleño Eats in Brooklyn, vol I: RBC Coffee

    The Slayer Does its Job & Then Some

    Taste & See: Caveat--little of this series is actually based in Brooklyn. While the Angeleño in question did spend most of his NYC visit in Brooklyn, I admit we did quite a bit of Manhattan eating--but that doesn't mean Brooklyn food isn't better! But if you get the reference, and perhaps even if you don't, "An Angeleño Eats in Manhattan" lacks a certain charm. So there you have it--no truth in advertising.

    But I digress. When an Angeleño was stranded in our fine city due to inclement weather, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to show off the food we have to offer. Sure, we may lack taco trucks and the dizzying array of "grown in my backyard" fresh produce, but what we do have is pretty great. His week to kill before his plane could depart was the perfect opportunity for the Angeleño & me to embark on a little culinary adventure, tasting our way through some of my favorite spots.

    One of our first hits was RBC, a new cafe in Tribeca. I confess I didn't go to RBC for the location, the atmosphere, the menu, or any of the other reasons one might choose to while away a caffeinated afternoon. No, I came to RBC for the Slayer.

    I'd just read on Tasting Table about a beautiful espresso machine made in my beloved Seattle, selling for about $18,000 a pop. Apparently there are about 20 cafes in the world that have them. This fun video was all it took to convince a coffee lover (me) & a tech lover--that is to say, a man--to check it out. It is worth watching to the end to see the espresso dripping like pudding and the coffee grounds packed like thick molasses biscuits.

    So through the snow we trekked, on a pilgrimage to see this fantastical machine for ourselves. Upon entering RBC it seemed appropriate to approach the sleek beast hushed and on tiptoe. The baristas couldn't have been kinder, welcoming us behind the scenes to view the nifty mirrors tilting up to allow a glimpse of the dripping espresso.

    I had a Macchiato, an espresso with but a touch of milk, to better appreciate the power of the Slayer on raw espresso. It was intense, green, almost springy, a little more acidic than my latte-drinking self could fully enjoy, but I could tell an espresso aficionado would be blow away. I could only appreciate its greatness vicariously, like those critic-adored indie indie bands that you shamefully must admit you don't actually enjoy listening to.

    The Angeleño had a Cortado, an espresso with a bit more milk, too strong for him but perfect for me. Both drinks were a wonder to behold, thick with power and crema.

    RBC also has, in its favor, charming little cookies, a Vietnamese latte (bringing back fond memories of Barefoot Coffee, of which I've written before & one of my favorite haunts during my California days), and guest-bartenders who appear at set times like coffee rock starts to whip up specialty drinks for the adoring fans. So far, so good.

    Now I'd like to go back and see what the Slayer can do with different beans, with different proportions of milk--with a Macchiato, the Slayer was a bit too aptly named for me.

    Do it yourself:

    RBC | | Twitter
    71 Worth Street, Manhattan (@ Church/Broadway)
    7-7 M-F; 9-7 S & S

    Friday, February 26, 2010


    A cozy treat to warm up winter.

    Taste & See:  Start with a dried ear of corn.  Oh, you don't have one of those?  Well, just go to the farmers' market and have a friendly man give you one for free.

    That's what I did, sometime last fall.  Just sauntered on by the booth selling expensive mushrooms at the Grand Army Plaza farmers' market and after exclaiming in only-partially-mock surprise at how much my little brow bag of chanterelles cost, the nice man with the beard and plaid shirt--not a hipster, an actual, "I do this for a living farmer"!--reached into a carton behind him and pulled out a maroon ear of corn, dry as a bone.  

    "Here," he said, "take this.  Just throw it in the microwave and make yourself some nice homemade popcorn.  Great for a crisp fall day."

    And it was a crisp fall day, a beautiful one.  Then it was a cold slushy winter day.  Then it was a cold slushy winter week.  And a cold slushy winter month.  Then I broke my arm and didn't go to work for three days.  Then I finally got ready to go to work, on a Friday, feeling grand after a week of downtime.  I walked 2 blocks, fell on my tush, checked my email to see work had been canceled, and promptly walked back.

    This, turns out, was the perfect, perfect day to make that popcorn.  I microwaved it about 5 minutes, on a plate covered in a big plastic bowl.  That was just about perfect; when I stripped the cob & tossed back in for another minute to get the straggling kernels, I filled the microwave, then the apartment, with smoke--but notably, the smoke alarm did not go off.  It goes off when I make toast. It goes off when I turn on the oven. But when I fill my microwave with thick brown clouds it is silent? WHAT?

    For your part, you can start with popcorn, however you choose to make it.   Then comes the fun part: caramel sauce. Yum.

    Caramel sauce comes in a jar, if you want to be supremely lazy, but even better, it comes in the form of butter & sugar & salt, swirled together over heat for about 10 minutes, or until it reaches about 300 on a candy thermometer.  I let it get to 310 on accident and it got pretty crunchy--which was great, on popcorn, but makes the leftovers a little harder to use.  But whatever you choose, do yourself a favor and use a thermometer; it isn't easy to eyeball bubbling sugar.

    Do it Yourself
    • Handful of nuts (I used cashews; pecans or walnuts would be lovely as well)
    • About 3 cups popcorn
    • 6 Tablespoons butter
    • 1.5 cups "sweet":
      I used about 1 cup raw sugar, 1/4 cup honey and 1/4 cup maple syrup because that's what I had on hand. 
      You could use all sugar, or for more maple flavor, you could use all maple syrup.
    • 2 tsp good sea salt


    • Make popcorn.
    • Melt butter.
    • Add the sweet and the salt and stir to combine, allowing to get hot & bubbly, up to 300 for a softer sauce or 310 for more crunchy.
    • Meanwhile, toast nuts in oven or on sauce pan til golden.  Once toasted, promptly remove from heat or they'll burn, you'll waste money, feel stupid, and perhaps even set off your fire alarm.  Not that I'd know.
    • Combine nuts, popcorn, and sauce to coat.  Break clumps into smaller pieces to make it easier to eat once caramel hardens.

    Thursday, February 25, 2010

    Browned Butter Braised Cauliflower

    Trust me. Browned butter even makes cauliflower tasty.

    Taste & See: I know, I know.  I had you right up until I said "Cauliflower."  Browned butter, yum.  Braised, good plan. But cauliflower? Really? That's like...bland. And mushy (or else too crunchy). And has that weird floret texture thing going on.  Really? Cauliflower?

    Yes. Trust me.  Cauliflower takes on a whole different feel under direct heat, whether "braised," as here, or roasted.  It gets soft & chewy, while still retaining some texture, and as the heat burns the tips of the florets, the natural sweetness shines through.  And oh yeah, the browned butter doesn't hurt either.  

    I like this dish because it is cheap--one head is about $2 and makes a side dish for 4.  It helps me get in some seasonal veggies even in the sparseness of winter.  And this dish requires very little prep: the head is thrown in whole and gets soft & tender deep inside as it is brushed with layers of brown butter as it cooks.  And you know, cauliflower may be a vanilla veggie, but dressed up like this it actually looks pretty darn good.

    Do it Yourself:
    • One head cauliflower
    • 6 Tablespoons butter
    • Salt & Pepper
    • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
    • Brown butter, preferably in a light-colored saute pan; allow to melt and swish back & forth until butter takes on nutty aroma and deep caramel color.  Remove from heat & pour into bowl.
    • Set cauliflower head in shallow pan and brush with one layer of butter.  Cover with foil and place in oven for about 45 minutes.
    • Every 15 minutes pull out and brush with another layer of butter.
    • After 45 minutes, remove foil and place in oven until tips brown, about 10 minutes more.  Brush with any last butter, salt & pepper. 

    Thursday, February 11, 2010

    And when I said Stir Fry

    in previous post: I meant Fried Rice. #Fail.

    Sorry folks, I really do know my generic Asian (American) dishes. :)

    Tuesday, February 9, 2010

    Victory Fried Rice

    Kim Chee FTW!

    Taste & See: Picture this scenario: A massive snowstorm is coming in. You're craving hot, cozy comfort food but you have almost nothing in the house except leftover spinach dip and even your frugal self can only eat so much of that. You scrounge the cupboards & fridge and find only the reliable staples. Yet you still whip together a tasty, healthy, easy, hot & spicy meal in a matter of minutes. VICTORY! You're so good!

    Well, no doubt you are. But to be fair, this recipe is *so* easy and hardly requires anything--it will make a chef of even the most take-out prone eaters. Those of you in Middle America might be confounded as to where to get kimchee, but I found mine in my ghetto neighborhood grocery stores...and I live in a historically Jamaican neighborhood. So give it a shot. Have some on hand and you've got yourself a meal. Many meals, actually, but tonight we're focusing on victory fried rice.

    This meal is truly a gem, not just for the ease and the fact that you can make it with so little on hand-it is really, really good. Maybe you think you don't like kimchee- it is too sour, too spicy, too weird. Not so here! The sour and spicy kimchee relaxes when pared with soy sauce & hot rice. It all blends together to make a big bowl of hot, mushy, yummy goodness. Victory!

    Do it Yourself: Victory will soon be yours, my friends.

    Leftover rice
    Soy sauce

    All things you should have on hand anyway. You want old rice because it is cold and hard and perfect for frying-steamy wet rice just gets clumpy. Bonus if you have sesame oil & some additive (ie, pieces of pork or frozen peas) to round out the fried rice.

    • Heat oil (approx 2 Tbsp canola & 1 Tbsp sesame for 3 cups rice) in wok til just smoking.
    • Add rice and stir to coat in oil and heat.
    • Dowse with soy sauce such that rice is brown but not soaked.
    • Add kimchee to taste (I added about 1/2 cup for 3 cups rice but no reason you can't add more or less) and any other flavorings (I added about 1/2 frozen peas).
    • Stir til combined.
    • Crack egg or two over the top and cover to hold in heat.

      Egg should begin to cook but it may not cook fully. That's ok. You can scrape the rice from the bottom (it can get stuck to pan and crispy but don't let it burn! Waste of good flavor!) over the egg to combine and let it cook.

    Thursday, February 4, 2010

    Restaurant Week Winter 2010: Del Posto

    Princess for a few hours

    Walking into Del Posto, Mario Batali's newish upscale Italian (what else!?) restaurant, you feel like you're entering the palatial receiving room of royalty, or at least ancient nobility. The service doesn't quite make you feel like you yourself are royalty, but it does at least feel as if you might be royalty's guest.

    For someone who usually eats lunch out of Tupperware at her desk, royalty's guest isn't half bad. It is true that no matter how much I may look like I fit in at restaurants that cater to...people who never eat lunch out of Tupperware at their desk, I know deep down inside I'm just a pretender. But once seated, sipping the gratis grapefruit juice bellinis served in champagne flutes to every table, some of the dis-ease slipped away and for a few hours, I did feel a little like a princess.

    The bellinis were a lovely touch. I wouldn't have ordered a drink--not only because it was lunch & I had to get back to work. Remember, I'm Tupperware girl. But it felt very chic (and perhaps, princessy?) to have a pink glass on my table.

    The wait staff was kind enough, but it felt, just a little, like we weren't quite as important as other tables. Perhaps I'm projecting my slight sense of feeling out of place onto what was, in reality, perfectly good service, but at times it felt like the smiles and banter directed to the wealthy Cuban couple to the right, the overwhelming attentiveness to the elderly couple to the left were superb, whereas we were simply seen to.

    I was especially taken aback when my dining partner's pork was quite underdone, and rather than spring to attention to rectify the situation, two waiters simply stood by our table, confused. (Though they eventually replaced the pork with another main).

    But take this minor complaint in stride. The overall experience was a delight; I left feeling pampered,
    like I'd spent much more on the experience than the $24.07 (+ tax & tip) it actually cost. The ambiance is stately but not staid. And the food? Well. The food was GOOD. Real, real good.

    Taste & See: The bread was warm and served with a small dishes of delicious butter (we were informed of the cow's geographic origins) and aged balsamic.

    First courses:

    Winter roasted vegetables with dandelion greens, truffled hazelnut dressing, and an "Sformato" (unformed- that is, loose, not molded or shaped) robiola, a soft Italian cheese made of the milk of cow, goat and sheep. It was very satisfying and the texture of the vegetables was excellent.

    Warm Cotechino, a house-made sausage made of pork with an Umbrian lentil vinaigrette and dried fruit "mostarda," or mustard. The sausage was very flavorful, despite it's pale hue, but it was the dried fruit mostarda that stood out; I could have eaten a whole pot of it. The lentils provided a nice, earthy contrast--though I may have preferred that flavor in something without so much texture.

    We did not try Pasta e Fagioli, described as "a hearty soup of white beans, pasta & breadcrumbs, and Tuscan cabbage marmellata."

    Main courses:

    Slow roasted Pork (Heritage USA loin of Berkshire pork), served with a sunchoke puree, grilled prosciutto and lambrusco conserva. This was simply fantastic. The pork itself was done beautifully (except for my friend's little undercooked problem)-tender, moist. A dusting of sesame seeds provided a nice crunchy contrast. Just as with the fruit mostarda/lentils, the earthy sunchoke puree (how'd they think of *that*?) was, strangely, amazing, full of life, and a beautiful contrast to the sweet & acidic lambrusco--an Italian red wine grape--conserva.

    Garganelli al Ragu Bolognese, hand made quill-shaped spinach pasta with what the menu proclaims to be Mario's favorite sauce, a stew of veal and pork, finished with tomato & Parmagiano-Reggiano. The pasta was light and had just the right amount of chewiness. The subtle spinach flavor was a great base for the depths of flavor in the sauce. Taking a bite felt like sitting by a fireside in a cottage somewhere in the Italian countryside on a winter's night.

    We didn't order the seared filet of organic salmon with watercress salad, sauteed shallots, chestnuts, truffles and trumpets.


    Against our waiter's recommendation, we both ordered the tartufo al caffe, a dark chocolate orb with Sant'Eustachio coffee and candied lemon. The lemon brightened the whole affair; it's slightly acidic pop really highlighted the sultry chocolate and coffee.

    Delicious, but our waiter was disappointed we didn't try the Butterscotch semifreddo served with sour melon, blood orange and milk jam. Also available, a spina rossa polenta budino with huckleberry marmellata and vanilla gelato.

    Wine pairings available for a further $24.07; Monday through Friday, year round, a three course prix-fixe lunch is available for $29.

    After paying a mere $24.07 for our feast, we swept up our things and headed towards the door, only to be chased down by the hostess, who pressed the customary truffles into our hands. She turned my friend who'd had the undercooked meat, handing her another box: "Two for you, we're so sorry for your troubles."

    Do it Yourself:

    Del Posto is at 85 10th Ave; (212) 497-8090

    We didn't have reservations; there were a fair number of tables for 2 open for lunch but reservations are otherwise recommended.