Thursday, February 25, 2010

Bitten by Bittman

It was bound to happen. My love affair with Mark Bittman was destined to end at some point.

I could accept the fact that I was only one of many Bittman lovers out there. I didn't even mind that his recipes often don't specify exact measurements. But when he bashed Tilapia, I had to step back and reconsider our relationship.

Here's what happened. Yesterday, on a whim, I purchased two Tilapia filets at United Meat Market, the excellent Windsor Terrace butcher, with no specific plans about what to do with them. (If you haven't been there, by the way, you need to high tail it over to the market, which has been operating since the early 80s and is a real slice of 'old Brooklyn.').

I assumed that Mark Bittman would have an idea of how I should cook my Tilapia. But when I checked my well-worn copy of Bittman's Bible How to Cook Everything, I was shocked and disappointed. Not only does Bittman not feature any Tilapia recipes, but he's got a paragraph (highlighted in red, no less) about "Why I'm not Crazy About Tilapia."

Bittman writes:

Framed tilapia has become extremely popular and readily available over the last few years, in large part becasue it's so easy to raise. (You, personally, could probably dig a hole in the ground, fill it with water, and become a tilapia farmer tomorrow.) But I'm not taking the bait. To me, tilapia is bland tasting (or worse: muddy) with a mealy texture that disintegrates into shreds within a few minutes of cooking. If you disagree, by all means use it in any of the recipes that call for thin fish fillets.

Pretty harsh, if you ask me. And to be honest, I don't think I have it in me to farm my own tilapia in a ditch in our backyard.

Determined to show Bittman that tilapia can be tasty, I came up with my own recipe:

1. Roast Brussels Sprouts and garlic (with olive oil, salt and pepper) at 450 degrees.

2. Coat Tilapia fillets with sesame oil, salt and pepper, soy sauce, and sesame seeds and toss on the pan with the Brussels Sprouts.

After about 10 minutes, take them out.

That's it! Once the Brussels Sprouts are done (about 35 minutes later), serve with the Tilapia and couscous. Or you can time it better so that the Tilapia is done at the same time as the sprouts, but I couldn't get it together.

Roasting is my new favorite way of cooking. Put anything on a pan and coat with some sort of oil and salt and pepper and it tastes great -- even Tilapia.

For the record, Mr. Bittman, my Tilapia did not disintegrated into shreds within a few minutes of cooking (or at all), as you predicted.

"It's not as good as Chilean sea bass, but it's pretty yummy. And not at all muddy," said Avo.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Bake Sale Buzz Kill

My timing couldn't have been worse. Now that I finally know how to bake sweet treats from scratch, New York City is voting today on whether to amend the pre-existing ban on selling homemade goodies at school "bake" sales.

According to yesterday's New York Times' "City Room" blog:

The new regulation is meant as a compromise between the city’s concerns about childhood obesity— which they cite as the reason for the restrictions — and the fund-raising needs of student and parent groups, some of which are struggling amid difficult economic times, especially after losing one of their most lucrative sources of revenue.

Under the new rules, students may sell fresh fruits and vegetables, or one of 27 specific packaged items that have been approved for sales in city vending machines, between the start of school and 6 p.m. on weekdays. The same goes for parent groups, except for an exception carved out for one no-brownies-barred Parent Teacher Association bake sale during the school day per month.

No homemade or unpackaged items are on the list of “approved” foods because “it’s impossible to know what the content is, or what the portion size is,” said Kathleen Grimm, the deputy chancellor for infrastructure and portfolio planning, who oversees the regulation.

As a mom of two school-age children, I'm all for limiting the sweets intake. But I don't see how packaged items such as Dorito's and Pop-Tarts (both of which are on the list of approved items) are healthier than my homemade brownies.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Clever Household Hints

Apparently, this list has been circulating on the internet for some time, but it just recently arrived in my in box. In case your mom already forwarded it to you, I thought you should check it out:

Clever Ideas Worth Knowing

1. Take your bananas apart when you get home from the store. If you leave them connected at the stem, they ripen faster.

2. Store your opened chunks of cheese in aluminum foil. It will stay fresh much longer and not mold!

3. Peppers with 3 bumps on the bottom are sweeter and better for eating. Peppers with 4 bumps on the bottom are firmer and better for cooking.

4. Add a teaspoon of water when frying ground beef. It will help pull the grease away from the meat while cooking.

5. To really make scrambled eggs or omelets rich, add a couple of
spoonfuls of sour cream, cream cheese, or heavy cream in and then beat them up.

6. For a cool brownie treat, make brownies as directed. Melt Andes mints in double broiler and pour over warm brownies. Let set for a wonderful minty frosting.

7. Add garlic immediately to a recipe if you want a light taste of garlic and at the end of the recipe if your want a stronger taste of garlic.

8. Leftover snickers bars from Halloween make a delicious dessert. Simply chop them up with the food chopper. Peel, core and slice a few apples. Place them in a baking dish and sprinkle the chopped candy bars over the apples. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes!!! Serve alone or with vanilla ice cream.

9. Heat up leftover pizza in a nonstick skillet on top of the stove, set heat to med-low and heat till warm. This keeps the crust crispy.

10. For Easy Deviled Eggs, put cooked egg yolks in a zip lock bag. Seal, mash till they are all broken up. Add remainder of ingredients, reseal, keep mashing it up mixing thoroughly, cut the tip of the baggy, squeeze mixture into egg. Just throw bag away when done. An easy clean up.

Dinner Party Guests

Word has apparently gotten out that I'm in need of dinner party guests.

This morning, a friend generously offered to supply me with a vetted crew of entertaining guests -- "insta-guests" guaranteed to have a good time.

"I've got a group of friends who get together for dinner parties already. I'm sure they'd be happy to come to yours," she said. "They're a fun bunch."

Although I'd love to meet her friends, I'm happy to announce that the folks on my list have re-adjusted their priorities (and rescheduled their manicure appointments for another night). On top of that, my daughters' music teacher Mr. Di Franco (and his significant other) has volunteered to be our not-so-mystery guest.

I'm excited about the eclectic mix of guests -- if everyone shows up, we'll have a professional photographer, a teacher/musician, a writer and cook, a blogger, a film critic, a web marketer and other interesting folks. Hopefully, they'll all get along -- and if they don't, that will be interesting too.

But now I have the opposite problem -- too many people are coming to my dinner party.

The idea was to host an intimate gathering of 8 (including me and Avo), which means six guests.

Since I panicked that nobody would come, I ended up inviting 10 people, rather than 6. Two people have declined the invitation, and I haven't yet heard from OTBKB's own Louise Crawford and her hubby. But at this point, the other 8 are planning to come. So it will be dinner for 10 -- or 12.

Unfortunately, even when it's folded out to its largest size, our dinner table only sits 8. So it will be a very intimate dinner indeed!

According to eHow, "a crowded, cluttered table takes away from the party experience, and can make guests feel uncomfortable."

Therefore, no more reservations are being accepted at Casa Undomesticated Me. I promise I'll have you over for dinner -- some other time.

In the meantime, does anybody know a place in the 'hood where I can rent a table for 12?

Friday, February 19, 2010

More Dinner Party Ideas

I love that friends -- near and far -- are getting into the spirit of my first-ever dinner party and are suggesting possible menus.

Hinda Bodinger, along with her husband and two kids, bought my childhood home when my parents retired more than a decade ago. Since then she and her family have welcomed me and my family to come and visit whenever we're in the neighborhood. She's also been a big supporter of my book and this blog.

This morning Hinda e-mailed with some dinner party ideas:

Your friend Pamela had excellent advice – do whatever you can in advance so you can actually ENJOY your guests. That is what makes Ina Garten’s recipes so good (and they are usually reliable too!)

My advice too is to make lists – and then once you have your menu set, type it up, print it out and tape it to a kitchen cabinet. For one thing, it makes it much less overwhelming to see what you are doing, and what you have done and to get a good mental picture of it all. And for me, it insures that I remember to put everything out! I have had the experience of forgetting to serve an entire side dish.

I have a friend who, on the day of the party, puts out all of the serving dishes she is planning to use with little notes in each one of what goes it what. It saves her from searching for that perfect bowl at the last minute, or needing to WASH that perfect bowl at the last minute. I always thought that was a good idea. She also pairs them with serving utensils.

I recommend making Chicken Marbella, an impressive EASY recipe from back when The Silver Palate cookbooks were all the rage – you MUST prepare it in advance, and it is fine to serve at room temperature. Huge hit always. You could serve it with a nice rice dish.

Italian pasta dishes are also a great way to go – with a big salad and some crusty bread, usually everyone is quite happy. (unless they don’t eat cheese, in which case you would need to have something with just a red sauce to go along with it).

Good luck – have fun planning!

I also recently heard from my college friend Heidi, who has been living in Paris for years. Heidi has been watching my culinary progress with amazement since she remembers not so long ago when I told her I didn't know how to cut vegetables (for real!)

Eggplant parmigiana sounds like a good idea. The breading the eggplant probably needs some practice, but you could try a couple of times to get it down. Then when it's good, you know that you can prepare it in advance and just put it in the oven and be fresh and pretty for your guests. You could serve it with some great fresh Italian ingredients - simple food but excellent and full of love for your guests.

My mom is also pushing for an Italian meal.

She sent me an e-mail yesterday:

Maybe you should serve Lasagna with a salad, Italian bread and Tiramisu and make it an Italian night. You can even serve Chianti.

Have fun with the planning. That's the hard part. After that, it's a piece of cake.

Yum. A piece of cake sounds good about now. Meanwhile, keep the ideas coming!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Food Blogging Buddies

One of the fringe benefits of blogging that I hadn't counted on is getting to know a whole community of folks I might otherwise not have an opportunity to meet.

While I initially pooh-poohed twitter, I now view it as a way to find out what other food bloggers are thinking, talking and writing about.

As a newcomer to the food community, it's essential that I have an unofficial group of advisers to whom I can ask questions (on days when my mom isn't available).

When I asked my "computer friends" what to serve for dinner at my first-ever dinner party, one friendly food blogger, Pamela Goldsteen a.k.a. "perryarla", responded with this sage advice:

I think it's always best to serve something that you can make a day ahead. Stews are good for this, as they actually taste better the second day. (Carbonnade, anyone?) Short ribs are nice, or a brisket; this southwestern pulled brisket is my current favorite.

Soups are good this way too, but I don't like to serve soup at dinner parties, as it can be messy to serve, and eat.

At very least, something that doesn't require a lot of fussing at the stove. I like to keep it simple and down home. Roast chicken is always a good choice. If that seems too boring, I love, love, love Jamie Oliver's chicken in milk, which gives roast chicken a bit of a twist, and Oh My Lord, is it good.

I've served Ina Garten's Indonesian chicken to guests before; tasty, and easy.

I don't do a ton of courses; usually just appetizer, entree, dessert. Sometimes, I'll serve a slightly more substantial nibble with drinks, skip appetizer and go right to entree.

Do one more complicated course, and keep the other parts of the meal simple; if the entree is a little labor intensive, I do an easy roast vegetable rather than something that needs stove top treatment, and then, something from a bakery, or homemade brownies, or ice cream and nice cookie for dessert.

This is assuming you're serving omnivores, not vegetarians. For vegetarian meals, I go to casseroles, especially, baked pastas; I can give you some suggestions along those lines if you like.

Thanks for your helpful hints, Pamela. By the way, you've got the best bio:

Pamela Goldsteen is, among other things: a wife, mother, homemaker, yogi, blogger. In a previous incarnation, she was an art historian and a grant writer. She likes cream in her coffee, the Arctic Monkeys, and being upside down. She finds cilantro, Doo-Wop music, and cold, wet sponges extremely disagreeable.

Does anybody really like Doo-Wop? I must say, however, that I'm surprised you don't like cilantro.

By the way, I'm already beginning to think I need to start hosting dinner regularly (maybe monthly?). If so, I'll have to invite you and some other blogger friends I've never met (such as dinner party expert Lisa Cericola) to the next one. Then again, perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dinner Party Update

It's been a couple of weeks since I decided to host my first-ever dinner party and already, I'm behind schedule.

All I have managed to do so far is set a date -- Saturday, March 6, 2010. I don't have a guest list and I certainly haven't gotten around to planning a menu.

Granted, I have been soliciting advice about the menu from none other than Martha Stewart, Giulia Melucci, and chef Sara Jenkins. Not to mention my friends and family. It seems everyone has an opinion about what I should serve, but I still can't decide.

The truth is that I can always come up with something to serve -- even if I take Martha Stewart's advice and order in. But the one thing I can't do without is guests.

Aside from Giulia Melucci and her new beau, nobody has agreed to come.

Then again, I haven't formally invited anyone. I made the mistake of e-mailing the date to a few folks asking if they might theoretically be available for the night of the 6th.

The response was lukewarm at best. People seemed downright disinterested. I thought friends would be vying for a spot at the table, not fabricating excuses.

"I'm a freelancer, so it's hard to commit," said my friend Ken.

"I've got co-op duty that night," said Dori.

"Who is going to babysit?" asked Kathryn.

Another friend just rescheduled her Belated Chinese New Year's party for the same night, which is sure to siphon off some potential guests.

"I feel dissed," I told Avo last night. "I finally get around to throwing a dinner party and nobody wants to come."

"People are busy with their own lives. Plus, it’s easy to ignore an e-mail invitation," he said. "You've got to go the whole nine yards and send out snail mail invites. Maybe even hire a calligrapher. Then people know you're serious about this."

Not sure about the calligrapher, but he's right about the handwritten invitations. In the age of Evite, nothing gets people's attention as quickly as an invitation sent via the good old U.S. mail.

"With a cocktail party, you just invite a bunch of people and see who shows up," said Avo. "There are no RSVPs. A dinner party is much more problematic."

You're telling me! So I went out and bought fancy letterpress invitations and addressed them myself. Maybe that extra effort will make all the difference.

"You have to invite a last minute mystery guest who changes the whole equation," said Avo. "Don't tell me about it."

What does he think this is? An Agatha Christie dinner party? I think we'll have enough mystery without this added element of intrigue -- especially since at the moment all of the guests are a mystery!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Random Undomesticated Me Tip

When defrosting fish in the fridge (or anywhere, for that matter), don't forget to put it on a plate. It seems obvious enough, but it didn't cross my mind. And now my fridge smells awfully fishy.

Get Organized!

Calling all school auctions!

My friend, Eleanor Traubman, professional organizer to busy Brooklyn moms, would like to donate her services to local school auctions (public or private).

Eleanor helps parents de-clutter and set up user-friendly organizing systems for home offices, filing cabinets, closets, children's rooms and more. Her motto: less clutter equals more room for you and your family!

Each donation will consist of a 2-hour consultation with Eleanor.

To contact Eleanor about her offer, please email and also visit her blog at

Please note: Eleanor will select 10 schools; after your initial email to her, she will contact you only if you fall within that 10.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Cooking Carbonade

My friend Katherine has taken it upon herself to teach me how to cook. Remember how she schooled me in the art of making burgers??

Last Thursday, before the double playdate planned with her kids, she texted me, "Do you want to help me cook beef stew?"

Of course, I responded "yes!"

I certainly wasn't going to pass up an opportunity to watch her at work in the kitchen. Since I've never made a beef stew (or cooked with beef at all aside from hamburgers), it was an especially appealing offer.

"Here's the deal," Katherine said when I arrived with the girls after-school.

"My husband is going out of town tomorrow morning and he asked me not to cook tonight. He wants to order in because he doesn’t want to come home tonight to find the place a mess and me stressed. But I promised that wouldn’t be the case. So we have to be neat and methodical.”

In other words, the pressure was on. It was the culinary version of "Mission Impossible."

"Basically, I'll need you to read the recipe to me and guide me through it. Cook’s Illustrated magazine is notoriously high maintenance and persnickety," said Katherine, referring to the winter 2010 issue of Cook's Illustrated and specifically, a recipe for:

Belgian Beef, Beer, and Onion Stew (Carbonnade a la Flamande)

The magazine recommends using Top blade steaks (also called blade or flatiron steaks), but said that any boneless roast from the chuck will work.

If you end up using a chuck roast, look for the chuck eye roast, an especially flavorful cut that can be easily trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces. Buttered egg noodles or mashed potatoes make excellent accompaniments to carbonnade.

As someone who has never cooked a steak and almost never cooked meat, I certainly don't know anything about cutting it.

"Meat has a grain and you want to cut with the grain," explained Katherine. "You can also get the butcher to do it for you."

I'll go for the second option.

"I’m pretty sure I’m cutting it wrong," said Katherine, who was using chuck eye roast rather than top blade steaks. "I'm trying to trim as much fat as I can without shredding the meat."

It was challenging enough for me to read and understand the recipe. I can't imagine actually trying to cook it myself.

I watched in awe as Katherine sliced the onions with machine-like precision.

Instead of using Chimay (the recipe's first pick for beer), Katherine settled on Guinness Extra Stout.

She would live to regret that decision.

Amazingly, she got the stew in the oven with more than enough time to neaten up before her hubby arrived home. What a domestic goddess!

The following morning, after school drop-off, Katherine invited me over to try some of the stew leftovers and to teach me how to chop onions.

We both agreed that the meat was tasty and tender, but the sauce was overpowered by the taste of Guinness.

Katherine suddenly remembered that she had never gotten around to teaching me how to chop an onion.

"Learning how to chop an onion is so essential," said Katherine. "If you are methodical, you will end up with uniform bits."

She set me up with an onion and a knife and told me to "Trust your instinct."

I nearly sliced off a finger. Who said I had any natural instincts when it comes to cooking?

"To keep the onion in place when cutting, don't forget to use the cutting board to steady the knife," she reminded me.

Okay, I'm starting to get the hang of it, but I'm not sure I can do it without Katherine standing next to me cheering me on.

Fully stuffed, we both headed off to a Pilates class to work off some of the carbonnade.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Brooklyn Foodies Rule

Slowly, but surely, I'm becoming a bonafide foodie. I can't pinpoint the precise moment of transformation, but I now care about where food comes from and my eyes no longer glaze over when someone tells me about what they cooked for dinner last night.

I might not have the proper credentials to be a foodie, but I've got the interest. In other words, I still can't properly identify radicchio (see photo) and I have no idea what to do with one, but I'm curious and I'm learning.

Brooklyn is clearly the right place at the right time for a newbie foodie like me. In addition to the exciting "New Brooklyn Cuisine" served at restaurants such as Applewood and al di la, there is also a loosely formed community of home cooks in Brooklyn.

I always thought of foodies as snobbish, but the food folks I'm getting to know have been generous about sharing their knowledge.

I'm inspired by Brooklynites like writer Cathy Erway, who chronicles her attempt to not eat out in New York in her aptly named blog Not Eating Out in New York (as well as the soon-to-be-released book The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove).

Erway occasionally teaches classes at The Brooklyn Kitchen, the Williamsburg-based kitchen supply store. Now that the G stops at 7th Avenue, I've got no excuse not to make the trip to The Meat Hook, where you can buy fresh made sausages daily.

Gowanus music venue The Bell House has also become an official meeting (and competing) place for the new Brooklyn food community. It makes sense then that Erway will be holding her book publication party there on February 18th. In addition to reading from her new book, Erway is also engineering a "Bruschetta Takedown." Can't wait to experience that firsthand.

Meat eaters won't want to miss The BROOKLYN BEEFSTEAK on March 21st at The Bell House. What's exactly is The Brooklyn Beefsteak, you ask? Picture endless pitchers of McSorley's Light and Dark Ale on every table, mountains of choice steak cuts, and absolutely no utensils. Now that sounds like a good time!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread

How could I have missed World Nutella Day?

Apparently, it was on February 5th. I can't believe I didn't hold a Nutella party or even eat Nutella to commemorate the day!

If you aren't familiar with it, Nutella is the dangerously addictive chocolate hazelnut spread that has been a staple of the European diet forever -- or at least since the 1940s when Mr. Pietro Ferrero, a pastry maker and founder of the Ferrero company, concocted it.

At the time, there was very little chocolate because cocoa was in short supply due to World War II rationing. So Mr. Ferrero used hazelnuts, which are plentiful in the Piedmont region of Italy (northwest), to extend the chocolate supply.

Today in Europe, Nutella is more common than peanut butter. And depending on the peanut butter, it's just about as healthy (those hazelnuts pack protein). It's only caught on stateside fairly recently (it's now manufactured in America and available just about everywhere).

According to the Nutella Day web site:

Nutella is more than just a “chocolaty hazelnut spread,” it is a way of life.

From childhood memories to oozing hot crepes, from breakfasts on vacation to free-spooning sessions on the couch, Nutella is prominent in the memories of many children and grown-up children in the world.

If you're a Nutella fan (or if you're curious about the sweet treat), check out the Nutella Day web site for links to Nutella-based recipes such as Nutella & Mascarpone Cream Chocolate Tarts and Banana Nutella Brownies.

If you want to take it one step further, try making a homemade version.

Pastry chef, author and all-around chocolate expert David Lebovitz posts a recipe for Chocolate-Hazelnut spread on his blog.

How I would love to attend Lebovitz's Paris Chocolate Exploration Tour from May 2-8!

Not surprisingly, it is already booked. And even if it wasn't, there's no way I could afford to fly to Paris and indulge in my love of all things chocolate. But a girl can dream, can't she?

Meanwhile, I'm counting the days until February 5, 2011 -- the next World Nutella Day.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Martha Stewart's Advice

Martha Stewart told me to order take-out for my first-ever dinner party. It's pretty pathetic when the Doyenne of Domesticity thinks you're a lost cause!

Yesterday, Elyse (on the left) and I were on "The Martha Stewart Show" for her special "Twin Show." Also featured were hunky Italian twin chefs Fabrizio and Nicola Carro from Miami's Quattro Restaurant, as well as twin expert Dr. Nancy Segal (thanks for the photo).

Fabrizio and Nicola prepared a classic Italian eggplant parmigiana and rigatoni with eggplant, tomato, basil, and cheese. Looked yummy!

I only wish they had let the audience sample some of the food since Elyse and I could hear our tummies grumbling. Maybe I'll have to try making eggplant parmigiana on my own. Believe it or not, I've never cooked with eggplant before.

Not surprisingly, Martha made the expected comments like "I feel like I'm seeing double" when she surveyed the audience of twins dressed in matching outfits. She even joked that she was wearing a twin set. I should note that -- perhaps because we didn't grow up together and weren't used to matching ensembles -- Elyse and I were the only twins in the audience not dressed identically (although we both wore dark colored turtle necks).

Martha asked Elyse and I what it was like to learn, at age 35, that we had an identical twin.

Of course, there was no way we could adequately answer in two minutes, but we managed to satisfy Martha's curiosity for the moment. Fortunately, Random House was generous enough to donate copies of our book, "Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited" to the audience so they can read the whole crazy story themselves!

During a commercial break, Martha fielded questions from the audience.

My hand shot up. "I'm very undomesticated and I'm hosting my first-ever dinner party. What would you recommend that I make?"

"Order take out," Martha suggested.

Very funny, but I wanted a serious answer.

"Any other advice?"

"Make something simple. Maybe a soup, a salad and crunchy bread."

"Okay, thanks."

I can handle a soup, a salad and crunchy bread, but won't my guests go home hungry and disgruntled? If so, I can always tell them it was Martha's idea!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Martha, Martha, Martha

What a wild week! On Saturday night, I got an insider's look at The Food Network Kitchen. As if that wasn't exciting enough, tomorrow I'm going to be on "The Martha Stewart Show."

No, I'm not going to be talking about Undomesticated Me or getting a lesson in entertaining from the domestic diva herself.

Instead, in honor of Martha's "Twin Show," I'll be appearing with my long-lost identical twin sister and co-author, Elyse Schein.

Surrounded by an audience of fellow twins (in matching outfits, of course!), we'll be plugging our book "Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited."

Of course, I'm secretly hoping that I'll get a chance to ask Martha advise about what to serve at my first-ever dinner party. Do you think Martha will be patient and generous with little old Undomesticated Me? I'll report back.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Food Network Heaven

On Saturday night, I lived out my fantasy of setting foot in The Food Network Kitchen. No, I am not starring in a spin-off of "America's Worst Cooks."

To gain entry to the hallowed ground, all I had to do was fork over $50 for a good cause -- my kids' school, P.S. 107. The school's Wellness Committee, which is working to improve the school lunch program, held their first-ever cocktail party at The Food Network Kitchen in Chelsea Market.

Lucky guests got the chance to sample an assortment of appetizers created by local chefs from The Farm on Adderley, Egg, Palo Santo and Porchetta.

PS 107 parent Jill Novatt, who has the super-cool title of executive culinary producer at The Food Network, pitched the idea of the party to her boss, who gave her the thumb's up.

The evening wouldn't have happened without PR/event maven and P.S. 107 parent Jane Walsh, who helped secure vendor donations and NBC Universal's Randi Roberts, who helped pull the whole thing together.

Meanwhile, fellow P.S. 107 parents (and friends of mine) Melissa Vaughn, a recipe developer, and Carol Diuguid, an editor at Zagat, helped land the distinguished roster of chefs.

Along with her husband, GQ editor Brendan Vaughan, Melissa is writing "The New Brooklyn Cookbook," a collection of stories, recipes, and resources from Brooklyn's dining revolution (to be published by William Morrow in October 2010). Can't wait to read it!

I started tearing up when I took a bite of the delectable ceviche from Palo Santo.

“I should put up a warning sign on the green mango with pickled habenero,” said Chef Jacques Gautier.

"No problem. I'm crying because it's so good," I told him.

In fact, Gautier's pinto beans sopa with mole de Hongos was my favorite dish of the night.

Egg’s pimento cheese toast was also a big hit.

“It’s a no-lose proposition,” said Egg’s Chef George Weld.

Porchetta, the only Manhattan eatery represented served – what else? – porchetta, plus pizza from sister restaurant Veloce Pizzeria. I asked Porchetta chef Sara Jenkins what I should cook for my first-ever dinner party and she said “Keep it simple. Roast chicken, potatoes, and salad.”

Sounds good to me. Now if only she can come and help me out in the kitchen.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Robo Maid

Ever wish you had a robot who could do your housework? Well, your wish may come true.

Scientists in South Korea have invented a robot that can tidy up your house, dust, do laundry, and even heat up meals in the microwave.

Apparently, the walking robot maid has a rotating head with a three-dimensional sensor so it can figure out what work you need it to do. With a human-like body over 4 feet tall, the robot weighs 121 pounds and can supposedly recognize people.

The robot's head, arms, and legs rotate and its six fingers allow it to pick up sandwiches, cups, or any other rubbish lying around the house. There's no guarantee, of course, that it won't mistake Little Jimmy for garbage.

Sorta creepy if you ask me. Check it out yourself here.

It won't be available to the public for some time. Would you be interested in purchasing one if it sold for a reasonable price?

Personally, I wouldn't mind a robot who could cook dinner from scratch on nights when I don't have my act together.