Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Holy cow

When I was little, I lived in Dallas but had big dreams of living in New York City someday (too much Woody Allen and From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, I reckon), and my young parents indulged my non-Texan tastes. So, for instance, when the weather was warm and we wanted something sweet and cool, instead of going to local favorite Brahm's we went to the Haagen Dazs shop. So chic! But when I was nine we moved to Houston, and on my first day of fourth grade at a new school in a suburb that bordered the sticks (KIKK Country was the number-one radio station and nine year old boys were already dipping Skoal) my so-called fancy pants preferences just didn't fly. When we kids sat around in a circle and as a means of introduction said what our favorite ice cream was (because, you know, you are defined by what ice cream you favor), when I said Haagen Dazs Coffee, I was shunned until fifth grade.

I found my redemption with the natives, however, in a half-gallon tub of Blue Bell's Cookies and Cream. Man, that stuff was amazing. Vanilla so pure and smooth it felt like velvet. And mixed up in the vanilla were countless Oreos, so many that you mouth crunched when you ate this ice cream. Blue Bell is made in Brenham, a stone's throw from Houston. And you learn very early that Blue Bell is so delicious, even the cows in Brenham are happy. Well no wonder. Pints are for sissies. And coffee is for breakfast.

Today, R.W. Apple, a writer for the Times who has the best job in the world (all he does is travel the world and eat) waxes poetic about Blue Bell. I can't really add much to what he's already said, but note this: if you're ever in a place that sells the stuff, buy a big ol' tub and dig in--you won't be sorry. And for $4.99 a half-gallon (compared to $4.99 a pint for other company's ice cream), it's a summer time treat that can't be beat.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

My new hero

Here's a Q&A with Nina Planck, a controversial character in the NY market scene who's opening two new farmer's markets in NYC called Real Markets.

How can I not applaud someone who says, "Lard—you can’t seem to get enough of it... The thing about lard is that it’s mostly unsaturated fat, which nobody knows, and the monounsaturated fat in it is the same one in olive oil." She also admits: "I became a vegan and a vegetarian and my health suffered. I started eating beef and crème fraîche, eggs and raw-milk cheese, and my health improved." Right on! I've always believed as long as you eat whole, real foods, and achieve a proper balance of all the food groups, you'll be at your healthiest. Can't wait to check out these new markets. I'll bring my camera.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Meat of the matter

BBQ and NYC have never really gotten along. Perhaps it's the lack of space for a proper pit, or perhaps it's just this town's overpricing on subpar meat (Peter Luger or any other well-branded NY steakhouse, anyone?). Whatever the problem, I have never had anything that closely approximates the yummy cheap meats you can find down south.

Enter RUB. I live around the corner from this joint, dubiously named Righteous Urban Barbecue. I believe the pitmaster/owner hails from one of the Carolinas, which ordinarily--as a Texan--would not impress me. But this being NYC and all, a pitmaster from the South is better than one from say, Syracuse. (Not that I'm completely dissing Dinosaur BBQ because their meat is good, it's just not BBQ.) I tried RUB last summer, and was completely disappointed. My friend and I ordered a good portion of the menu, and the only thing that satisfied was the fried Oreos. But I hear rumors they've gotten their act together and are actually producing some decent 'cue. And every night, waves of sweet-smelling meat waft into my apartment (which is another reason why BBQ has never succeeded in NYC--apparently people complain (?!) about this delicious smell, which puts places out of business). So I may give them another try. If they taste as good as they smell, perhaps it ain't all bad. But if it still sucks, at least they've mastered the art of a fried cookie--a supremly unique delicacy I'd never tried and after one bite, wondered where it had been my whole life.