Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Foodiness

Archive for the month “January, 2012”

Eat This, Not That: An Ode to Dave Zinczenko

Cover of "Eat This, Not That! Thousands o...

Cover via Amazon

While I’m somewhat of a foodie, in my day-to-day life I do try to keep a heavy emphasis on nutrition, but I’m not a dieter. I simply try to lead a healthy lifestyle, eating the healthiest foods I can and making healthy swaps, like the ones frequently highlighted in Eat This, Not That.

Eat This, Not That is the brainchild of the editor-in-chief of Men’s Health and Women’s Health, Dave Zinczenko. In addition to the Web site, Zinczenko has written several books, as well as multiple variations including Cook This, Not That and Drink This, Not That.

Zinczenko takes an unconventional, but simple approach to weight loss and healthy eating:

” Smart weight loss isn’t about starving yourself, or eating only grapefruit and tofu, or running everything you eat through a juicer (which really ruins the pizza experience, by the way). The smart path to weight loss is about smart choices—choices you make every day. With Eat This, Not That!, those choices just got easier…

A diet only works if you have control over what, how, and when you’re eating. And as you well know, most of the time, you don’t have control. Sure, you can cook your own dinner. You can brown-bag your own lunch. You can spoon yourself some yogurt in the morning and eat a healthy snack before bedtime. (And yes, there ARE healthy and delicious snacks to eat before bedtime.) But you can’t control what’s on offer at the office cafeteria (unless you own the company), or what’s being served at Mom’s house for Thanksgiving (unless you’re Mom). And you can’t stand in the kitchen at Olive Garden or Mickey D’s and tell the chef to go easier on the vegetable oil, either.”

Eat This, Not That offers food and beverage swaps for restaurant chains all over the country to help provide healthier eating options without complete deprivation. It is the self-proclaimed “No-diet diet,” and that sounds good to me.

I’m somewhat in love with Eat This, Not That and its variations, and I read Zinczenko’s tips by the Twitter feed-full. Besides the basic swaps, he offers health and nutrition advice, like the more broad, lifestyle-driven “20 Habits Skinny People Live By” and its counterpart, “20 Habits That Make You Fat.” While I don’t agree with everything he says, (for instance, skinny habit number three is to “eat a boring diet,” but I wholeheartedly believe healthy does not have to equal boring. After all, variety is the spice of life.) his overall advice is great and focuses more on small, manageable lifestyle changes rather than strict, impossible-to-stick-to diets. He takes the healthier, more long-lasting approach of eating an overall (relatively) healthy diet rather than get-thin-quick fad diets.

Besides, any “diet” than encourages eating dessert is a-O.K. in my book.

Zinczenko acknowledges that one habit that promotes weight loss is regularly reading nutrition and fitness tips. So follow him on Twitter and follow Eat This, Not That. Consider that step one. That was easy.

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Eataly: An Italian Food Mecca

Eataly NYC inside banner sign

First off, I want to apologize for the long wait between posts. I wrote this whole post, and then WordPress lost it, and it took a few days to get it all back together. Moving on…

Earlier this week, my boyfriend Kevin and I went to New York City and to the most glorious home of Italian food: Eataly NY. Eataly is not just a market and not just a restaurant; it is a combination of market, cooking school and 12 different eateries. The collaborative project of Oscar Farinetti, Mario Batali and Lidia and Joe Bastianich, Eataly NY at 200 Fifth Ave. at 23rd St.  is the only U.S. location of the culinary collective. Before New York City, Eataly opened seven locations in Italy and six in Japan.

Now, Eataly is not for the light of heart. This is not your average, run-of-the-mill market. It’s massive, and encompasses everything from fresh exotic produces and full butcher counters to beer, wine and caviar. It has aisles upon aisles devoted to olive oils and pestos and balsamic vinegars behind lock and key. Shelves of spices from all over the world line the walls, surrounding bakery counters, fresh and dried pastas, and, of course, all those restaurants.

Shelves of spices from all over the world lined the aisles

Red, pink and black salts. Yes, a shelf just for salts, and there wasn't just one.

Our dinner: Prosciutto di Parma, Prosciutto san Danielle, Mortadella, Prosciutto Cotto, Speck and Salami with Ricotta, Parmigiano Reggiano, Cacio Marzolino, Taleggic and Gorgonzola. Condiment plate of honey, figs and candied citrus peel.

Yes, those restaurants. The various small eateries are interspersed throughout the space, each with its own niche of Italian cuisine. We stopped at La Piazza, a stand-up eatery right in the middle of the action. Literally, you stand at small, counter-like tables. The menu at La Piazza is antipasto-style, with mostly Italian meats and cheeses as well as selections of Italian wine and beer. As first-timers, we jumped right in with a meat and cheese sampler plate and a mozzarella classico with fresh basil.To complement, I had a lovely, medium-bodied glass Barbera d’ Albi and Kevin had an Italian golden ale.

While we were both familiar with the traditional cured prosciuttos, the prosciutto cotto, or uncured prosciutto, was new to us. While it wasn’t awful, it wasn’t necessarily something I’d return for. It seemed a bit reminiscent of deli ham, nothing special. I think I’ll keep taking my prosciutto cured.

The speck was the pleasant surprise of the night, though. Prosciutto is often compared to Spanish Serrano ham, though I think the speck is even more similar in flavor to the Serrano, but with a buttery, soft, melt-in-your mouth texture. It was like an elevated prosciutto.

For the most part, we both loved everything on the meat plate, except the mortadella. (I’ve never been a fan of mortadella–it reminds me of boiled ham.) Otherwise, an exciting culinary journey.

The cheeses were just as exciting. Parmigiano Reggiano, Ricotta and Gorgonzola were familiar, but I was new to the Cacio and Taleggic. I’m a big fan of the first three, particularly Gorgonzola, which paired deliciously with the figs and candied citrus peels from the condiment plate. The Taleggic, a semi-soft cow’s milk cheese, reminded me of a milder Brie. I enjoy Brie, but I generally find the rind too bitter and pungent, and too much can be overpowering. With the Taleggic, I ate it rind and all, and found the milder flavor welcoming. This too, like Brie, paired quite well with the sweet accoutrements. The Cacio Marzolino, a sheep’s milk cheese, had a nutty flavor, slightly reminiscent of a softer Parmesan. However, it was my least favorite of the cheeses and the only one we left unfinished.

The other part of dinner: Mozzarella Classico with basil

We are both longtime fans of mozzarella, so naturally, we enjoyed the classico thoroughly. Sometimes, I’m very easy to please: the freshest, most delicious mozzarella and fresh, snappy basil make me a very happy person. Add a glass of red wine (check) and I’m perfect.

My initial hope was that we would hop around from eatery to eatery, sampling some of the best Italy has to offer, but we filled up too much on meat, cheese, wine and beer. But, of course, we did leave room for dessert. Eataly houses all of its sweets, espressos and cheeses together, and we wasted no time exploring what may have been my favorite part of the store. In addition to freshly ground espresso, marscapone cheese and fruit preserves were several counters of delectable pastries, colorful chocolates and creamy gelato.

Kevin's dessert: Italian hot chocolate and tiramisu

Kevin got his favorite–tiramisu–and a rich Italian hot chocolate. But, this is no Swiss Miss. It is thick, rich and velvety, more like melted chocolate with a touch of milk than chocolate-flavored milk. The ever-so-slight bitterness of the dark chocolate prevented the hot chocolate from becoming overwhelmingly sweet.

My Lemon Baba (Limoncello-soaked cake filled with pastry cream, topped with a candied orange peel and raspberry)

As much of a chocolate-lover as I am, I was seeking something sweet and fruity to complement the meat and cheese I ate. I had a Lemon Baba, an Italian cake soaked in Limoncello, filled with pastry cream and topped off with a candied citrus peel and raspberry. (More of that citrus peel! I really did love them.) It was sweet and tangy, light and fruity, and the perfect way to finish off the meal. The tangy acidity cut through the richness of the meat and cheese. And of course, what better way to finish off the day then with a perfect, authentic Italian cappuccino? It brought me back to my days in Spain sipping cafe con leches on my way to class. (For those that don’t know, I studied in Valencia, Spain for six months. And, boy, did they know how to make a good cafe con leche. Even McDonald’s there had good coffee. But I digress.) Fewer things in the world make me happier than a great cup of coffee (even fresh mozzarella and good red wine.)

With our stomachs filled and our taste buds satisfied, we returned to our browsing. It’s pretty much impossible to walk out of a place like this empty-handed, but since we did have a whole train ride back to New Jersey to deal with, we limited ourselves to one loaf of bread each. We each went for a soft and crusty rustic bread, Kevin an Italian rye and me a raisin. I still have about half the loaf left. The tangy sourdough flavor and the sweet raisins have made for some delicious breakfasts.

One of the walls of the wine shop

In addition to the main space, there is also an entire separate wine shop next door. I went to seek out a bottle of the Barbera d’Albi I drank with dinner, but sadly, they were out. Otherwise I would have had one more purchase to add to my list.

All in all, Eataly was a fantastic experience. But, I barely scratched the surface of what it has to offer, so I’ll just have to return. It’s produce-driven eatery, Le Verdure, tops my list of must-trys, as does its aplty-named La Pasta and La Pizza. Perhaps one of the most intriguing draws of Eataly is its rooftop restaurant, Birreria.

But one of the best things about Eataly is probably its mission: Eat Better, Cook Simpler. They work on the practice of cooking what they sell and selling what they cook, with a real focus in high-quality, natural ingredients. However, they don’t do it without a bit of cheekiness. Their “policy” states that 1. The customer is not always right. 2. Eataly is not always right. 3. Through our differences, we create harmony.Eat Better Cook Simpler banner

If you’re ever in New York City (or not, but want to–and should–be) and love all things Italian, head over to Fifth Ave. and immerse yourself in the culinary haven that is Eataly. I promise, you won’t be disappointed as it quite literally has something for everyone.

Oh, and if you do find yourself there, please, let me know what you thought of it, what you did, what you ate, etc.! I’d love to hear about other people’s experiences there.

A few more shots from the Eataly market:

Fresh octopus

Some of the priciest selections, champagne and caviar, behind a locked display case

A selection of focaccias at the bread counter

Butcher counter

Colorful chocolates in the dessert section

The Big Waste

English: The logo of Food Network.

Image via Wikipedia

The other night, the Food Network aired a one-hour documentary/cooking competition called “The Big Waste.” It pitted two pairs of top Food Network chefs against each other to create a full meal for 100 people using only food that is typically wasted. While the competitive aspect was there, the thing that most drew me in was how much food is wasted on a daily basis. I’m not just talking about what we throw away day-to-day, but large-scale waste.

Farms, markets, restaurants, suppliers and more get rid of literally tons of food every single day. Whether because food is “imperfect” (bruised, spotted, etc.) or because it is nearing its sell-by date, enormous amounts of food are thrown away, and it’s a huge shame. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this food; it’s perfectly healthy to eat, and probably even tastes delicious, but consumers and suppliers want perfection. So, when those slightly bruised peaches go unpicked from the grocery store produce pile, or a restaurant slices a prosciutto past the perfect marbling ratio, or a chicken has torn skin and broken wings, the remains are discarded.

At one point in the program, a farmer took one of the chefs out to a compost pile, and she was moved by the fact that the compost pile was as lovely and colorful as the farm itself, and it was. It was piled high with tomatoes, melons and other bright produce. It brought such awareness to how much is truly wasted.

The program was an incredible eye-opener for me. There are thousands of poor, hungry people in this country, and this wasted food could feed so many.

Therefore, this writer is making a resolution. From now on, when I’m shopping, I won’t automatically look past the apple with a small bruise, or ignore the slightly spotted snow peas. And I’m asking you to do the same. It doesn’t seem like much, but each little step we collectively take can help to reduce the amount of food waste in the world ad hopefully feed others. (And I promise, that little brown spot won’t kill you–you can even cut it off!)

According to the Food Network Web site, “The Big Waste” will re-air on January 14 at 4 p.m. Eastern and Pacific time and on January 15 at 5 p.m.

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