Cream-coloured ponies and crisp apple strudels,
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles…
What follows is a sample of sweet and savoury thoughts that routinely run through my mind: dream-worthy bites made possible by the professionals, as well as foods, drinks, and food-related miscellany that make my life delicious. It is a throwback to the days when chain emails, Facebook note autobiographies, and magazine quizzes were as in vogue as they likely will ever be, with a tasty twist.
Any chance to rhapsodize about food and drink,
I will RELISH:
Chinese, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern. My parents gave me the gift of a childhood redolent of Chinese comfort foods: Shanghai cài fàn (cooked until the qīng cài leaves have wilted, the là cháng sausage fat has rendered, and the rice at the base of the pot has formed a golden crust of guō bā, “pan adherents” well-worth the effort of scraping), Peking kǎo yā (roast duck with paper-thin skin that dissolves on your tongue), and Sichuan gàn biān sì jì dòu (dry-fried green beans spiced with chilies and peppercorns). While I dabble in recreating these dishes, my tastes tend toward the Mediterranean and the Middle East more than ever. I embrace the Italian culinary sensibility: focus each dish on a few seasonal ingredients, like spring peas and pancetta in risi e bisi, or basil leaves tucked between fresh tomato and mozzarella slices in insalata caprese. And whether I eat in or out, I turn to meze, featuring fat balls of falafel, tureens of tzatziki and hummus, and, when I can afford them, gold bars of fried halloumi garnished with mint.
METHOD OF COOKING:
Roasting. I am a baker by nature, after all. I love to olive oil up my produce and give them some lovin’ in the oven: roots, shoots, crucifers, and fruits ranging from tomatoes to strawberries.
Carrot cake with zesty citrus-chèvre glaze, made by me. Red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting, made by anyone who avoids the sin known as overbaking.
Chocolate chip cookies from Tate’s Bake Shop in Southampton, NY. Usually, I am an ardent member of Team Chewy (soft oatmeal raisin cookies are my jam), but these crispy cookies from Tate’s melt in your mouth like no other.
Hard: Gouda. Semi-Hard: Comté. Semi-Soft: Jarlsberg. Soft: Cambozola. But really, just about anything you can slice onto a water cracker or smear on a round of baguette. I grew up on cheese, albeit of the everyman’s American and cheddar varieties. Cheese was responsible for my rolls, which rivalled those of a sumo wrestler.
A tie between riso e cioccolato fondente from Giolitti in Rome and pistacchio from Gelateria La Carraia in Florence. Future trips and further taste tests may be required to break the tie.
Baked Alaska from Oleana in Cambridge. It inspired my pairing of pavlova with ice cream. And it motivated my baking of Baked Alaska brownie bites, delicious and safe for vegan and gluten-sensitive foodies, but still nowhere near as transcendent as that beautiful Baked Alaska, a mountain of meringue with burnished peaks, encasing coconut ice cream and macaroon, all encircled by a moat of passion fruit caramel.
Masala chai, purchased for a few rupees from street vendors in India. From Telangana to Rajasthan, the vessel is identical: a flimsy plastic cup barely bigger than a thimble. This size is ideal, since the tea is so hot and so sweet that I sip rather than swig it, until my fingertips are blistered and I am down to the last luscious drop. Earl Grey tea from Twinings, Gingerbread tea from Teavana, and Mexican hot chocolate made by my college freshman-year proctor also make the shortlist.
Pimm’s Cup. One of the best parts of London pub culture was the prevalence of pitchers of Pimm’s. White Russians, cava, and cider are also standbys. And I wouldn’t say no to a bottle of Ogden’s Old Firewhiskey.