Saturday, June 26, 2010

Burning Down the House

I've always joked that I'm so dangerous in the kitchen that I might burn down the house. But I never thought that my cleaning could be hazardous.

Yesterday evening as I was running a bath for the girls, I started to smell smoke. It had the distinct smell of a campfire, but as far as I could tell, there was no campfire in our apartment.

"I smell smoke," said Jesse as she came out of the bathroom.

"Me too," I said.

"Look, mom! There's smoke by the lights in the kitchen."

Indeed, a layer of smoke covered the kitchen ceiling.

"It's coming from there!" Jesse exclaimed, pointing at the microwave.

"The sponges! The sponges must be on fire!"

I opened the microwave to find one sponge smoldering and the other a burnt ember. I tossed them in the sink and doused them with running water.

"Guess four minutes was too long," I told Jesse.

The day before Avo had told me that he saw something on TV about sterilizing sponges once a week by putting them in the microwave for two minutes. He tried it and it seemed to work.

After scrubbing the bathroom, I wanted to sterilize the sponges. I figured for two sponges, I'd add an extra minute. Seemed reasonable to me.

When Avo walked in the door, he immediately said, "It smells like smoke in here." Jesse excitedly recounted the dramatic tale of the fire. Of course, she was a hero for pinpointing the source of the smoke.

Amazingly, the microwave survived the ordeal. But the whole experience has put me off cleaning. Not sure when I'll be ready to face a sponge again. You never know when I might accidentally set it on fire.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The 5th Annual Brooklyn Blogfest

The Blogfest Backlash is in full gear as critics snipe that this was the year the gathering of Brooklyn bloggers sold out to Absolut Vodka, the event's sponsor.

Controversy aside, for a first-time attendee like myself, it was an opportunity to meet fellow bloggers and to be inspired by the community. Sure, Spike Lee's chat made it clear he was there to shill Absolut Brooklyn, the new vodka blend "inspired" by Brooklyn. And it was also painfully apparent that he knew nothing about blogging or the purpose of the event. Still, I appreciated the fact that Spike Lee attracted a more diverse audience to the blogfest.

And, to be honest, I also appreciated the free entry fee, vodka, and food (and no, I didn't get a flip camera or a bottle of vodka to take home). Producing an event like this isn't cheap. Kudos to blogger/Blogfest founder Louise Crawford for helping to make it accessible to all.

Ultimately, the cocktails were not as memorable as the conversations. During the "Blogs of a Feather" sessions where bloggers broke up by subject matter, I got to know fellow food and home bloggers, including:

Carolina Capehart of Historic Cookery, who cooks over an open fire, using the equipment,the ingredients, and the receipts (recipes) of the early 19th Century.

Phyllis Bobb of Reclaimed Home, who blogs about low impact housing and renovations options for thrifty New Yorkers.

Heather Johnston of, which features videos about wine and food for the home cook.

Susan LaRosa of A Cake Bakes in Brooklyn, who revisits American home cooking in the era before convenience foods became popular. LaRosa bakes and cooks from old cookbooks and recipe cards of home cooks purchased at estate sales in Akron, Ohio, and other "exotic" locations.

Chattting about the state of blogging in Brooklyn was fun, but the highlight of the night was when I stumbled upon an inflatable couch on the sidewalk outside the Brooklyn Lyceum.

It was after 11 pm and the man reclining on the couch was handing out free cookies.

"Want a cookie?" he asked.

I eyed him suspiciously. My mom always warned me about taking cookies from strangers, but it was a homemade orange chocolate chip cookie and he assured me that not only was it safe, but it was gluten free. I couldn't resist. It was delicious.

He handed me his card. Turns out the cookie man's name is Scott Alexander. Apparently, he's a musician who makes friends and contacts by setting up his couch and handing out cookies. He's got a 24-hour Free Cookie Hotline, 347-829-4YUM and a web site, FreeCookies.Net.

Scintillating conversation with old friends and new, strong cocktails and free cookies. I couldn't ask for much more in an evening out in Brooklyn.

Photo: Hugh Crawford/

Monday, June 7, 2010

My Friend, She's Fried

My best friend Dori was a foodie before being a foodie was cool. She is the sort of person who phones just to tell you she made the most fabulous Potatoes Au Gratin with Gruyere that you just have to try. When we eat out, she knows where to go and exactly what to order (not to mention how it should be cooked).

Dori always makes cooking seem effortless and fun. Somehow, she manages to whip up potato latkes for 50 with two kids underfoot while still looking as glamorous as a movie star (some see a resemblance to Meg Ryan). Not surprisingly, she has always been baffled – if not a bit irked – by my culinary ineptitude.

After years of feigning interest as she recounted her latest success in the kitchen, I finally have begun to pay attention. Now that I've begun to cook myself, I appreciate her passion for food and cooking even more. I'm lucky to have her on hand to (well, by phone or e-mail) to answer my questions about grilling, sauteing, steaming, and everything in between.

I'm proud to say that after years of dreaming about it, Dori has finally taken the leap and begun cooking school at the Institute for Culinary Education in Manhattan. She had taken recreational cooking classes there before, but this one is for pros. Of course, I thought Dori already knew everything there was to know, but I'm sure they can teach her a thing or two.

Dori is chronicling her journey on her blog, She's Fried, which, like Dori, is smart, witty, and always lively.

In her most recent post, Dori tells of how she took on a lobster -- and lost. Well, to be fair, she won (the lobster is dead), but she lost some blood in the process (don't worry, she's okay).

Check it out and see She's Fried for yourself.

Photo: Dori Fern

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Way We Eat: Issues at the Table

I can't wait for this event:

Readings On The 4th Floor

"The Way We Eat: Issues at the Table"
June 15 - 7:30-9:00 PM

Moderated by Michael Moss, PS 107 parent and 2010 Pulitzer Prize winner for his work in the New York Times on contaminated hamburger and other food safety issues. He just wrote an excellent story on the salt industry.


Janet Poppendieck, author "Free For All: Fixing School Food in America."

Traci Des Jardins, owner/chef of the acclaimed Jardiniere, in San Francsico; she has been named a James Beard “Rising Star of the Year” and she also appeared on “Iron Chef,” defeating Mario Batali.

Kim Severson, reporter with the dining section of the Times, and author of the just published "Spoon Fed: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life."

Buy Tickets Here

Hope you can make it!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Brooklyn Blogfest 2010

Fifth Annual Brooklyn Blogfest
Tuesday, June 8th, 2010 at 7:00 PM
The Brooklyn Lyceum
227 Fourth Avenue at President Street in Park Slope

It's free, but Pre-Register Here.


"Where better to take the pulse of this rapidly growing community of writers, thinkers and observers than the Brooklyn Blogfest?" ~ Sewell Chan, The New York Times

How many bloggers does it take to fill the Brooklyn Lyceum? Come find out on June 8 at 7:00 p.m. when the borough’s most opinionated and dedicated bloggers, Spike Lee and Lemon Anderson to sound off about how and why Brooklyn remains such a rich source of material and inspiration.

But forget about filling the room. Here’s the real question the Brooklyn Blogfest will answer: How many bloggers does it take to wrap their arms around New York’s most happening borough? So, whether you are a blogger, wannablogger, reader, or media maven, you’ll want to come see for yourself. And meet up with this year’s most tenaciously keen tribe of bloggers as they gather to celebrate all the reasons Brooklyn is such a potent source of runaway creativity.

Since it was founded in 2005, the Brooklyn Blogfest has established itself as the nexus of creativity, talent, and insight among the blogosphere’s brightest lights. This year will be no different as a panel of blogging's best disect the unique brand of entrepreneurial creativity flourishing here. Also on tap: a video tribute to Brooklyn's most visionary photo bloggers, special networking sessions for like-minded bloggers (i.e. Blogs of a Feather), the return of the ever-popular Shout-out, when bloggers are invited to share their blogs with the world, and a roof-raising after-party with ABSOLUT® VODKA cocktails, food and music.

"The borough of Brooklyn has always been front and center in the world of blogging," says Louise Crawford, founder of the Brooklyn Blogfest and “Whether you live by a blog, blog to live, or live to blog, you’ll want to come out on June 8.”

The Brooklyn Blogfest 2010 program featuures:

CREATE, INSPIRE, BLOG: a panel discussion moderated by WNYC's Andrea Bernstein
BLOGS-OF-A-FEATHER, special interest, small-group sessions led by notable bloggers
The SHOUT OUT, your chance to share your blog with the world
THE BIG PICTURE: a video tribute to Brooklyn's photo bloggers
Great opportunities for networking
Music, mingling, and general merriment at the after party

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010 at 7 PM at the Brooklyn Lyceum in Park Slope
Doors open at 6:30 PM

I'll be there!