Friday, July 22, 2011

Travels, part 1

The photo is of Di Fara Pizzeria in Brooklyn, New York, but this wireless connection is brought to you by the Dunkin' Donuts in Marion, Massachusetts. That's how far I've traveled and fallen behind.

 I don't know exactly when or why the idea was first planted in my head, but I have wanted to go to Di Fara for years. (And years.) On Saturday I collected Isabel from camp in NYC and she agreed to make an expedition to Di Fara. It took us an hour on the subway and when we got there at about 1 in the afternoon, the place was packed.  I ordered two cheese slices to go and assumed it would take 20 minutes. We waited an hour and a half.  An elderly man was making all the pizzas himself, very methodically, and people were taking pictures of him. I felt shy about doing that, but I did photograph his handiwork.  

I wouldn't wait 90 minutes for it again, but it was outstanding pizza. Thin crust. Lots of basil flavor. Oily. Delicious.

After our late lunch, Isabel wanted to go to Baked, the owners of which wrote two of her favorite cookbooks (Baked and Baked Explorations.) The bakery is also in Brooklyn, but very far away from Di Fara and there was no subway line in operation so we rode several crowded buses to get there. This ended up taking another hour and a half.
I'm so glad she's my daughter and enjoys riding public transportation in sweltering heat for many hours to visit farflung eating spots. I can't imagine a better vacation day or a better companion.

Sweet and salty is their thing.

At Baked, we ordered, clockwise from left, a peanut butter crunch bar, a sweet and salty brownie, and a sweet and salty cupcake. All was tasty, but we liked the peanut butter crunch bar best. In the end, we agreed that we wouldn't ride the bus for these treats again. Baked is a good neighborhood bakery, but you can bake like this at home, especially if you have the Baked cookbook.

On the other hand. . .

Midtown location
Sunday, we went to Momofuku Milk Bar and you can't really bake like this at home, unless you are a demented genius. Milk Bar was a 5 minute walk from where we were staying and there was no line, no wait, no bus ride. But I would ride buses and wait in line 1 1/2 hours to get treats from Milk Bar.
Cereal milk soft-serve
This stuff was not just delicious, it was crazy. We got crack pie, candy bar pie, cereal milk soft-serve, and a compost cookie which contained crushed potato chips and coffee grounds, among other weird ingredients, and was diabolical in its deliciousness. I wanted to go back the next morning and buy a black sesame croissant, but didn't have time.

Pizza people should go to Di Fara, lovers of the Baked cookbook should go to Baked, but everyone should go to Milk Bar.

On Monday morning, we rode the train to New England and are now staying at the beach house of my in laws, which is lovely and peaceful.

It's wicked humid here, but the views are pretty.
This morning my mother-in-law's sister, Meg, made johnnycake with special stone-ground white cornmeal. It's just this very wonderful cornmeal plus liquid, stirred into a paste and fried in butter. When she described it to me, I thought, okay, whatever, doesn't sound that great.
For the terrible picture hall of fame
But it is the best thing I've eaten since the compost cookie. Next week I'm going to the mill to buy some of this magic cornmeal and learn to make johnnycake myself.

On another subject, I have a story in Slate on the subject of food TV shows.


  1. Your daughter is so cute! I'm glad you are blogging during your travels. Keep'em coming!

  2. You made a mistake at DiFara's. You have to get the square pie. The round is decent, but not worth the wait. The square is somehow infinitely better. The first time we went for square slices, we ended up standing back in line for another hour to get a whole square pie.

  3. I was just curious, if you don't mind my asking.

    Did you leave Alton Brown's Good Eats out of the Slate article because he stopped producing new episodes this past May? It seemed like it related to what you were writing about, if it weren't for the fact that it's strictly re-runs from here on out.

  4. Dear Tipsy,
    It is great to read you again, thanks for posting during your trip. Slate article is very good although after reading your sharp, witty and insightful writing it is difficult to imagine you agog at Ms. Deen!

  5. As soon as I finished reading the Slate article, I thought, you should really have a link to all the recipes you put in your binder. THOSE are the recipes I want to know about. Then I realized I wasn't sure they're here, and am off to do a search. As for your assessments of the pizza and Baked, I think more food review/write ups should specify neighborhood or destination, and you did this perfectly. Thanks!

  6. We must be great mothers because my kids have trekked all over with me in the sweltering heat, and freezing cold (standing in line in 10F for ramen at Hakatabunko Ramen in Seoul). I love food-oriented travel ;) Loved your Slate article as well--Bobby Flay has always been a guilty pleasure of mine as well.

  7. Loved the story in Slate!

  8. Hey Jennifer. I had read the piece in Slate and liked it a lot. I did not know that you had written it until I read your latest post.


  9. Here's the my post about my food travels in NYC with Isabel, one week before Tipsy's travels:

    Isabel and I were staying in Chelsea, a block from Madison Square Park (if that's what it's called). In advance of getting lunch our first day, we asked Tipsy's sister -- an ex-New Yorker, like Tipsy -- for a tip in that neighborhood.

    She said to try the Shake Shack, but warned of a line. Choice Two was The City Bakery.

    Shake Shack is in a nice shack, right in the park. The line was, I dunno, 200 people deep? It looked like an hour plus. This was the case every time we walked past over the next couple days.

    So we went to The City Bakery. On our way to Shake Shack, we had seen Sofia Vergara (of Modern Family). On the way to City Bakery, we saw her again.

    City Bakery is a cafeteria-style place. It was set up to be inscrutable for newbies. Few price tags, no directions on how to proceed, mislabeled food stations. Isabel got a pizza and I got breaded catfish and pasta salad. It was all cold, and apparently, that's how it's supposed to be ("I can send it back to the kitchen to be warmed," offered the cashier.)
    I took a china plate from a stack for my catfish and salad. The cashier slid it off the plate and onto a paper plate.

    Anyway, the food was very good and the price not half-bad. There are free refills on the coffee (they put the cream/milk in for you), but the coffee doesn't taste good. That's a shrewd refill strategy.

    Part Two of our pre-Tipsy food travels will be posted a little later.

  10. I like the Slate piece. Bobby Flay's first Food Network show back in the late 90s is what got me interested in cooking and eating food beyond the six meals in my mother's repertoire. I have made some of his recipes, and they were all delicious - but all about 20 ingredients and 20 steps to the method.

    And I'm thinking you left Alton Brown out because all his recipes blow (but maybe that's just my opinion).

  11. Your travels look amazing.
    On the Slate article I would love to hear you review more PBS chefs.
    I am really looking forward to Jacques Pepin's fall slated show Essential Pepin. He is an A #1 food gangster!
    Or perhaps borrow some cooking shows from the library?
    I enjoyed the New Scandinavian Cooking with Tina Nordstrom.

  12. Johnnycakes! Just reading your post made my mouth water. My grandparents spent the last decades of their life perfecting their recipe. They came up with a 2-hour long process involving a whisk, churn, stove, griddle, and who-knows-what-else, and always served them stuffed with bacon and butter. I got the recipe before they died, but unfortunately they are hard for any reasonable person with a job (or any other obligations at all) to reproduce.

  13. See, I jettisoned Milk Bar from the schedule when I was in New York last year because I couldn't imagine it being worth the hype. But maybe I was wrong!

    And your Slate article is so great. I love your writing.