Tag Archives: bon appetit

Green Globe Trekker: Caribbean Goes Organic

This popular post has moved to my new blog PoptimisticCLICK HERE to be taken directly to Caribbean Goes Organic.

Please join me at my new blog Poptimistic—the fresh, frank, fun outlook on life. Like Oprah, my life has grown from a single TV show into an entire network.  Thanks to the success of Alphabet City, my award-winning humorous book and blog about my sitcom life, I’m thrilled to launch a new online network called Poptimisitic.  With that charming gay Mary Tyler Moore spirit you know and love, Poptimistic has even more room to explore a fun, fresh, frank approach to life.  So check out my line-up of shows about relationships, food, travel and culture, and start living a Poptimisitic life!



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Spit List Recap: Charlie Sheen, Taylor Swift and Recreational Drug Use

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul’s top moments of the 11th Annual Thanksgiving Spit List.

My post-turkey daze ritual is always the same: first, from my kitchen blackboard, I take down and pack away holiday recipes snipped from the pages of Bon Appétit—this year’s Malt-Beer-Brined Turkey with Malt Glaze will go in the fan-favorite file along with 2003’s Sweet Potato Brulee and 2001’s Spiced Cranberry Sauce with Zinfandel.  Then, I can settle in for one more sip of coffee as I reflect on the dinner conversation provided by The Spit List.  Even in the 11th year of the game, the debate was wildly controversial. Here’s a recap of the proceedings.

The Launch.  As tradition holds, I threw out the first pitch: Rupert Murdoch, for using his media empire to advance a debilitating Republican agenda and fanning the flames of the Tea Party insanity.  For background: I launched a quiet protest a few months ago by boycotting the mogul’s media properties.  Honestly, I’d never been a big reader of WSJ so that was easy.  And Fox News?  Please.  What channel is that anyway?  But the New York Post was more complicated—leaving behind PageSix was hard enough (I’m a bold-faced name there after all), but not getting my Michael Reidel Broadway gossip fix was excruciating.  So, I decided I could read that online—for free.  When I fretted to Chef that I felt like I was cheating since I love Fox TV’s Glee, he helpfully suggested that I just not frequent the advertisers for that show.  Since I don’t use Dove hair care products, that sounded like a plan I could get behind.

Pop-Culture.  Speaking of Glee, that phenomenon surfaced multiple times in the always sure to provoke incredulous protests: the Pop-Culture Category.  Scott wanted to spit on Glee’s Rachel and Fin for promoting “too much of a wholesome, all-American image.”  While Jimmy from Madison Facebooked (yes, I did, I made it a verb) in his nomination of Artie—Glee’s differently enabled character, “his character is way too white and geeky to be singing all the cool male vocals.  And, for God’s sake, get him some new glasses and stop wearing those ugly sweaters!”  The table nearly came unglued, until I read Jimmy’s other nomination—Taylor Swift.  Everyone agreed with Jimmy’s assessment, “she can’t sing live if her life depended on it.”  My own nomination of Dancing with the Stars—for giving ridiculous individuals like Bristol Palin some kind of platform—was followed up more specifically by Scott who objected to Jennifer Grey and her nose.  Darrell chimed in with Charlie Sheen, not because he’s just generally out-of-control, but for his unnecessary use of the N** word.  Mike took Charlie’s actions a step further expressing frustration with a class of people who mistreat sex workers.

Social Network.  Nobody at the table seemed to understand my distaste for Kanye West’s Tweets and the ridiculous amount of media attention it has generated.  Really New York Magazine?  So I was happy when Aimee Skyped in from Kabul (she didn’t really, she emailed from Afghanistan, but I just wanted to be Oprah for a second) with her unhappiness for the person responsible for Sarah Palin’s blog who wrote something like, “I hope we drove Democrats crazy by having Bristol as a final contestant on Dancing with the Stars!!”  Damn, there’s that show again.  As Aimee said the woman is crazy not only for dedicating her life to that “whack-a-doo” but also for “thinking that a lame e-list celebrity dancing show will have serious political ramifications.  Dumb-ass.”

Show Stumpers.  Aimee contributed Diandra Douglas to this category reserved for nominations that need added explanation.  Most at the table needed me to explain the background on Michael Douglas’ wife filing a financial compensation lawsuit long after her divorce was finalized—while her son was going to prison, and Michael was off to chemo.  I’m sure she’ll be a contestant on DWTS soon—and then everyone will agree.  Also in this section, Werner nominated Porsche.  Not the car—or a misspelling of Ellen’s wife—but the Fire Island/Key West drag queen songstress.  To be fair, Werner asked for a rule clarification if Porsche would be considered famous enough for the Spit List.  I reluctantly allowed it only because she was briefly Wanda Sykes’ side kick on the comedian’s brief talk show foray.  Porsche’s offense?  Squandering her talent evidently—Werner objects to her deteriorating Ice Palace performance from Friday night to Sunday afternoon.  Gay boys can be tough, I’m telling you.

Show Stoppers.  This is like the Best Picture Oscar—it’s the big kahuna.  The nomination that stops conversation cold.  It was inaugurated several years back when Angela nominated Trig Palin, Sarah’s down syndrome child.  She didn’t like the child being used as a prop—and she also didn’t necessarily believe the child was Sarah’s.  Well, stone cold silence at the table.  Last year, Scott won this category with Rihanna—in the midst of her Chris Brown beating controversy.  He didn’t like her haircut, but still, spitting on a gal when she’s down is pretty strong.  But he stood by it.  This year, hands down, the Show Stopper award goes to Chef for his nomination of a class known as “Recreational Drug Users.”  With a table full of gay boys, including me, who have partied their way around the globe—from Sydney’s Mardi Gras to Montreal’s Black and Blue—you could have heard a pin drop.  But Chef soldiered on, “Believe me, I’m all for legalizing drugs.  But that’s not going to happen here.  And in the meantime, drug use in America is ravaging my home country of Mexico.  It’s tearing it apart.  So every time someone takes a sniff or pops a pill, you are killing someone back in Mexico.”  We all paused for a second to take that in.  Then someone asked, “Could you wait until after New Year’s maybe?”  And then someone else started in on Gwyneth Paltrow and of course we were back to Glee.

But I looked across the table at Chef and smiled.  Proud that he had spoken up and taken an important stand.  We might have been laughingly playing The Spit List, but for a brief moment, the game provided a reminder of the relative comfort and safety we enjoy in America—and that it comes with a privilege.  A duty to say “thanks.”  It’s our freedom that allows us to even have something like The Spit List.  Who knew that 11 years ago, Chloe Sevigny and Scarlett Johansson would lead to this?

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Tex and the City: Lela & BA Café

Today on Alphabet City: When a friend’s mom visits NYC, Tex and the City helps out with a visit to the BA Café.  Guest star: MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts.

Susan, JP, Shannon, Thomas, Marc

When my mother from Texas makes the trek to the Big Apple, I’m always in a panic about how to fill her dance card.  Too much two-stepping together time can get us into trouble, which means that I’m always pressing into service others around me to relieve some of the burden.  So I immediately RSVP’d yes when my friend Sam—the graphic design whiz responsible for the cover of Alphabet City and also an art director at Bon Appétit magazine—sent out an invite to a little get together with his mom visiting from Iowa.  The request had me intrigued on multiple levels:

  • His mother’s name “Lela” is the same as my very fancy next door neighbor growing up—the one whose husband at their annual Christmas party put out an automatically opening and closing mirrored treasure chest that displayed an expensive piece of jewelry he gave to his wife that year.  Classy.
  • Lela was coming with her friend Gayle—as Sam said, “that’s right, just like Oprah!”  Maybe a trip to Australia was in my future.
  • It was all going down at the BA Café—a pop-up dining spot in Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall next to the NY Fashion Week tents.

Even though I think Lincoln Center is a bit of a cold mess, when I do visit I am warmed remembering All My Children’s Erica Kane prancing about the fountain in the ‘70s shooting a fashion portfolio.  Next to Mary Tyler Moore, that scene is one of the reasons I moved to NYC.  So how great that the BA Café has a view of that esplanade, as well as the fashion tents across the way.  Who needs a ticket inside for the runway when you can watch the free parade of fashionistas and Euro tourists from a banquette while sipping a Terrazas Malbec?  Even better, you can do all that and snack on Daniel Boulud’s terrines or Mario Batali’s cheese plate?  During the day, the BA Café serves a fuller menu of breakfast and lunch items—today’s the last day, though.

Sam standing, Lela on his left, Gayle on his right

Lela and Gayle were, of course, a delight—dishing on how a certain actress was fumbling lines in the matinee of A Little Night Music.  But who cares?  Gayle and Bernadette share a hairdresser it turns out—they both went to the same spot when Bernadette was traveling through the Midwest!

My friend Marc, who works at ABC News down the street, arrived with the impossibly handsome news anchor Thomas Roberts in-tow.  Now, Alphabet City readers might recognize Marc as the guy who brought Graham Norton to one of my East Village soirees, having been hoodwinked into believing from the invite that my apartment was actually the site of an underground nightclub.  Well, this time I had nothing to do with the fact that Marc thought the BA Café might be behind-the-scenes of one of the fashion tents.

The two got over their slight disappointment quickly and settled in with the crowd.  I gave Thomas some tips on his next day interview with ice skater Johnny Weir—I suggested he inquire about the truth behind the mysterious break-up with best friend Paris (don’t ask, I admit to watching his show on Sundance).  Thomas countered by showing us a picture he took of his Middle Eastern cab driver’s name—and I am NOT making this up—Ram Amandeep.

Even Lela and Gayle laughed at that one.

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Kitchen Knightmares: Plum Dessert

Today on Alphabet City: A Bon Appétit recipe helps Jon Paul recover from an altercation at the neighborhood CSA.

Bon Appétit's Vanilla-Scented Plums & Blackberries

Summer in the city is supposed to be more relaxing.  But by mid-June, I start to get anxiety over a Tuesday night routine—picking up goodies from our local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) that we’ve come to refer to as “The Share.”  For five years now, we’ve been trendy little urbanites buying into a program supporting Windflower Farms in upstate New York and marveling at whatever produce is on offer each week.  For several years, Chef has enjoyed his own “quick fire” challenge—what to make with all the root vegetables—while I am left to deal with a range of characters at The Share pick-up spot.

Each week, Chef blasts a medley of Cher songs on the iPod while I download him about my latest confrontation at what is supposed to be a lovely, neighborhood bonding ritual.  He rolls his eyes at my antics like he’s Ricky Ricardo to my Gay Love Lucy.  But I can’t help it.  Somehow The Share is never quite the calm experience I would like.  Last year, I wrote about my issue with parents letting their children finger vegetables with their germy hands.  This year, my problem is with line hijackers.  I’m always behind some earthy crunchy women who have decided to split their share—on the spot.  The discussions over who might enjoy more Bok Choy while the rest of us are waiting have become excruciating.

“Ladies, you’re going to need to speed this up!” I shouted from two spots back.

“We’re just discussing who might better put this to use.  See I’m leaving town in two days and not sure I can use it all,” one of them told me.

“And I don’t need to be held hostage by your decision making process.  Take it to the curb!” I huffed.

The ladies pretended they didn’t hear me, so I skipped ahead of them and gave them an evil eye.

I suppose my own tension is enhanced by the stressful new cooking duties I have assumed.  Since Chef often gets home later on Share evenings, I thought it might be nice if I tried my hand at the CSA Quick Fire Challenge.  The results have been, well, mediocre, at best.  I’m very good at whipping up a leafy green salad and roasting some kale.  But staring at just one garlic snape and two beets can flummox me.

Last week, though, I nearly peed my pants when the fruit takeaway was a cornucopia of plums!  The August issue of Bon Appétit had the perfect suggestion for a lazy unimaginative challenged home cook like myself—Vanilla-Scented Plums and Blackberries.  So easy—cut up some plums, add blackberries, 6 T of sugar, ½ vanilla bean split lengthwise and scrape in the seeds, stir and let stand for about an hour.  It makes this delicious topping that can be served over angel food cake.

Later on our patio, while Cher sang out Dark Lady, Chef and I enjoyed my new go-to light summer dessert.  And I made a mental note to consult the rules of CSA membership—I didn’t want to be evicted over poor behavior.  Food that tastes this fresh and delicious will pretty much make me put up with anything.

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Alphabet City’s (Re)Designing Women

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul’s pangs of self-doubt are eased by reconnecting with three friends.

Clouds of self-doubt would seep into my mind early every morning in Hollywood—like the June gloom enveloping the LA Temple outside my window.  My body wrestled with time zone confusion as my East Coast early-riser syndrome became certified West Coast insomnia.  Why am I here?  What am I accomplishing?  Is the exhaustion worth it?  Can I be successful and make a living as a writer by pursuing this new life storyline?  As the clouds quickly dispersed under the warm California sun, I became energized by reconnections with three friends (re)designing themselves on the West Coast.

Aimee at the Alphabet City book launch

First up, breakfast with Aimee.  Originally from Beverly Hills, Aimee walked onto the Alphabet City set about midway through its original run as Angela’s wisecracking buddy.  She was a terrific audience for my tales of celebrity foibles, always encouraging me to write down the tales.  This real life Funny Girl’s own storyline took a dramatic turn when she decided to follow her true passion for international relations and entered graduate school in Washington DC.  Honestly, the cast of Alphabet City wasn’t accustomed to characters taking such serious roles, and I wondered how it would all play out.

After an internship at the State Department, she began working for an organization that helps rebuild war torn countries and spent many months in Liberia, and now is stationed in Kabul.  Through it all, Aimee’s wit and humor comes through in every missive she sends from abroad—and she’s still a serious pop-culture scholar.  She’s the first to email me a guess on who’s the subject of the latest blind item in PageSix.  It was the makings of a “very special episode” when Aimee happened to be in LA during my book tour stop—she had some time off from Kabul before beginning her next project there.  Over breakfast, after she had presented me with outrageous gifts snagged from the bazaar in Afghanistan including the Funny Cock, I had an opportunity to tell her how inspiring it was to follow the journey of a friend who was taking big risks to follow her passion.  What I am most impressed with is that the work she is doing is so important and crucial, but Aimee does it with a genuine humbleness and a wry observation that will always make her a terrific guest star on Alphabet City.

Mila & Me at Dana's party

Next, lunch with a true designing woman, Mila.  In the tween prequel to Alphabet City set in a suburban prep school, Mila would definitely be the mysterious, artsy character with the enviable fashion flare.  Much like my friend Kathryn who I wrote previously about reconnecting with in DC, Mila and I weren’t close friends in high school but as in a small class, you pretty much know everyone and I like to think we respected each other’s artistic (dramatic?) sensibilities.  When she popped up on last season’s Project Runway, I was instantly intrigued by Mila’s story of using the show as a way to reconnect with her passion of designing clothes—basically reinventing herself as she was approaching 40.  Boy, did that sound familiar to my own journey.  What a treat then to spend time with Mila, see her holiday collection, and share our various paths.  Although we haven’t seen each in other in a decade (or two), we reconnected with the appreciation and understanding of the trials and tribulations that come with following a dream.  Mila is one talented, sincere and generous designing woman whom I can’t wait to have on future Alphabet City episodes.

Last, evening soiree hosted by Dana.  Alphabet City fans will recognize Dana for the critical role she plays in Episode 16—as a real estate impresario with a life-saving referral to therapy.  Dana’s advice, guidance, support and critical eye have played an integral role in the development of this memoir.  She has always encouraged me to be a writer giving me terrific assignments at Condé Nast Traveler and Bon Appétit.  After reading an early draft of Alphabet City I will never forget her telling me that my writing voice was so engaging, like chatting with a best friend.  It was that early encouragement that gave me the confidence to pursue my dream.   When Dana decided to push forward with her own goal of moving to the West Coast, I was quietly distraught but outwardly supportive.  While I would miss Dana’s companionship, I knew that she needed space to grow and LA was where she needed that to happen.  What a thrill then to see and experience and appreciate the beautiful life she has made for her family at the base of the Hollywood Hills.  Her friends turned out for some Alphabet City fun, and to see how an editor at Bon Appétit would entertain in style.

Sides made with Whole Foods 365 brand accompany whole roasted pig

Lucky me, she pulled out all the stops.  The centerpiece was a whole roasted pig—definitely a showstopper and crowd pleaser.  I snapped pictures and sent to Chef who was supremely jealous of the experience.  Dana took her inspiration for the serving of the meal from the serve yourself buffet at Whole Foods Market 3rd and Fairfax which provided some of the key ingredients.  Grab a Chinese food container—start with a cold soba noodle salad with peanut sauce (both can be made from the affordable WFM 365 brand), add in some of the pork, fresh cilantro—stir together and enjoy.  Dana paired with a crowd-pleasing Moscow Mule vodka concoction whose secret ingredient was fresh squeezed lemons and limes—organic from WFM, ‘natch.

After the guests departed, Dana and I laid down under the backyard lanterns laughing at her dogs desperate for a taste of pork.  And I realized that success of a journey shouldn’t just be measured in tangibles—like number of books sold and amount of money made—but from intangibles like quality connections with readers, and inspiring reconnections with friends.

Funny, the next morning, I opened my windows, and there was no June gloom in the sky, or in my head.


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Kitchen Knightmares: Green Day Edition

Today on Alphabet City: Kitchen Knightmares returns with a special “Green Day” edition of natural remedies. Special Guest Stars: VitaMix 5200, Coach Farm’s Probiotic Yo-Goat

Please pardon the previously unannounced hiatus of Kitchen Knightmares, the spin-off kitchen series about improving my efforts to cook for Chef.  While KK was “off the air,” one episode picked up quite a devoted following in the Middle East—so if you missed Moroccan Halibut with Carrots make sure to check out Kitchen Knightmares: Something Fishy

One of my excuses for falling down on the cooking job is I’ve been doing battle with a nasty bout of flu-cold-allergies-infections for nearly a month.  In my overly dramatic mind, I was convinced I had picked up some exotic bug while on assignment in the tropics for Bon Appétit.  It took several doctors, including my own father-in-law, to dissuade me of that notion.  But it’s taken a couple of all-natural remedies from my Whole Foods peeps Paige & Chef to speed me into recovery.

Whole Foods ingredients to get rid of the whole cough

First problem: chronic cough, often keeping me awake at night, and making me sound like Lauren Bacall.  My sister Paige stepped up with this all natural cough suppressant that works for my niece Hannah—and it did for me.  Who doesn’t love a recipe whose active ingredient is Cayenne Pepper?

Texas-Style Kickin’ the Cough Syrup

1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 TB honey
1 TB apple cider vinegar
2 TB water
**Take about one tsp at a time, but okay to start with 3 tsp. Take as often as needed.

The syrup was super-easy to make.  I accomplished the task even after taking an Ambien when I couldn’t sleep for 48 hours thanks to being hopped up on a dose of steroids.  I imagine it was like crystal meth minus the sex.

Part of the blender looks fresh from a porno

Second problem: struggling intestines after havoc wreaked on them by a couple of rounds of monstrously strong antibiotics.  Chef used my stomach issues as a teaching moment about the power of Probiotics using Coach Farm’s Yo-Goat Cultured Goat Milk.  Although hesitant because I rarely drink milk of any kind, I was encouraged by the May issue of Bon Appetit.  Check out p. 46 for a quick explanation of “good bacteria” that may help regulate lactose digestion (for some reason it’s not online).  Plus, the goat milk packaging was cute, and Chef insisted that I could make a tasty smoothie using, what else, the VitaMix 5200, our newly adopted kitchen child.

Chef Juan Pablo’s VitaMix5200 Probiotic Smoothie Operator

16 oz. Yo-Goat Cultured Goat Milk (strawberry flavored even though Jamie Oliver would have a cow)

1 pint fresh blackberries (or other berry fruit)

1 pint mango sorbet (Chef made some previously in the VitaMix 5200, you could use store bought)

Honey to sweeten if berries not enough

Pour cultured goat milk in first.  Then everything else.  Start VitaMix 5200 on low, gradually increase speed, using special utensil (which looks like a sex toy to me) to mash down.  If you must use a traditional blender, make sure the sorbet is soft or you’ll blow your motor.  Cue product placement commercial for VitaMix 5200 with harried home cook looking exasperated as smoke comes out of a blender with voice over: Are you tired of burning up blenders?

Nothing comes between Chef and his VitaMix

I’ve been enjoying the smoothie for 2 days after refrigerating the extra, and my tummy seems on the mend.  But not my feelings—during my lesson with Chef, I think I caught him rolling his eyes when I got flustered at the controls.  Then, he muscled in and basically took over, clearly worried I might cause injury to his new baby.  I even caught him double checking the gadget after I cleaned it.

That’s okay, because I got my revenge.  My news ears/nose/throat doctor diagnosed me with allergy-induced asthma that is causing my cough.

“Air conditioning is your friend!”  the doctor announced.

“I’m from Texas, you don’t to convince me!” I shrieked in excitement.

The doc explained that running an A/C in the bedroom at night helps filter out the pollen in the air.  I couldn’t have been more thrilled.  You see, Chef pretty much hates the A/C, something I can never understand since he’s from South of the Border.  It’s always a tense weekend in summer when I get out and install the window units.

But this year, Christmas in July comes a couple of months early—courtesy of a doctor’s note.

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Lost in Translation

Today on Alphabet City: Chef’s portrayal in the book causes trouble when his parents visit for Holy Week.

My partner, Chef, was racing around the house two days ago “straightening” up.  He picked through a stack of magazines leaving several issues of Bon Appétit but trashing some copies of Next, New York’s weekly pub about gay nightlife  featuring a couple of shirtless  guys.  He tucked away a couple of DVDs we watch occasionally to spice up our 10 year relationship.  And then raced to pull down from high on a bookshelf a questionable faux flower arrangement given to me by his mother a few years ago.

“Woah, woah, woah.  What’s going on here?  You’re in some kind of panic,” I worried.

“It’s Holy Week!  My parent’s are coming!” he replied nervously.

Typically, I am the one whose agitation level gets set to threat level Red at the thought of my Mexican in-laws annual two week visit to our house.  But after a few years of therapy dealing with my own family issues, I was feeling relaxed—dare I say—excited about their visit.  So Chef’s nervous energy surprised me.  I probed a little deeper and he confessed.

“They told that when they get here, they want to read Alphabet City,” Chef said sheepishly.

“How sweet!”

“But that means they’re going to read that part.”

That part.  That part.  That sweet chapter about how kismet brought us together—online—because I loved the way Chef described himself in cyberspace as a “happy soul, well endowed.”  Before the book was published, we had many talks about if Chef was okay with that chapter.  While he mostly worried about what his friends would say—they’ve been teasing him mercilessly—it hadn’t dawned on him that his parents might read it.  I wanted to make some cheeky comment about how no Dad would be ashamed of a son for that, but instead decided to take the higher ground.

“From my experience, parents will read into it what they want.  They love you.  It will be fine.  Besides, it probably won’t even translate.”

We were both right.  That night, upon their late arrival, his parents made a huge deal out of my book—insisting I sign a copy for each of them.  His Dad told me he would be start reading it before bedtime.  Chef fidgeted restlessly in bed all night and then left early, leaving me to face the music on my own the next morning.  And it was worse than expected—starting with the title.

“What does it mean ‘sitcom?’” my mother-in-law asked.  I made a note to change the subtitle to ‘my telenovela life’ in Spanish.

“Why are you around all the celebrities?  I don’t understand this job,” my father-in-law questioned.  This time, the “even Jesus had a publicist” line of reasoning seemed in bad taste, especially so close to Easter.

“And there’s a part about my son,” papa-in-law continued.  Now I was fidgeting with my coffee, not sure at all how this was about to go down.

“When he tells you…the name he is giving to the dog—Frida Carlota Xocitil Amarilla Buchmeyer Chavez!  So funny!”

On cue, little Frida came racing into the dining room, demanding to sit in her grandpa’s lap.  He evidently had skipped right over the problematic part, and delved into the chapter about his son and I becoming a family.  Ten years ago, when I first met his parents over a similar awkward breakfast, I never would have imagined this conversation.  But here we were, sharing a moment, my in-laws truly proud of my accomplishment, and loving me like a real part of the clan.

While I’m not sure they understand everything that’s in the book, I’m fine with that.  And so is Chef.  Some things are better left lost in translation.

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Bon Appétit Austin!

Check out my piece in the February issue of Bon Appétit magazine—a round up of Austin, TX restaurants featuring farm-to-table ingredients.   CLICK HERE to enjoy!

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Kitchen Knightmares: Boyfriend Trouble

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul’s crush on dancer Jakob causes problems in his cooking for Juan Pablo.

I’ve decided to forgive myself for mistakenly substituting Sunchokes (a.k.a. Jerusalem Artichokes) for Parsnips in this week’s challenge: Greek-Style Penne with Lamb, Parsnips, Tomatoes, and Cinnamon from Bon Appetit’s November 2009 issue.  The fact is I wasn’t paying attention while shopping because I’ve been distracted by a boy.

Jakob, the object of my schoolgirl affection

On Tuesday, for the first time ever, I actually called in to vote for a contestant on a TV competition.  I’m a late convert to So You Think You Can Dance but have quickly developed an enormous crush on Jakob (how cute is it that he spells it with a “k”?).  My Dancetestant Boyfriend is terrifically talented, cute, and humble.  I know, I have a schoolgirl crush, and I can’t help it.

I waited with excruciating anticipation until the show’s host announced the phone lines were open for voting.  And then dialed 1-888-TEMPO-10 and then panicked.  Was that Jakob’s number?  I scanned the DVR back and melted all over again as my beloved looked right into my eyes and held up all his fingers.  I punched my phone again, and voted not once, but three times.

Then a flash of shame took hold and I stopped myself from hitting the redial button to vote again.  What was I doing?  How did I become this person?  I had officially jumped the shark and become a crazed fan.

And so on Wednesday, I raced through the aisles of Whole Foods Chelsea desperately trying to round up my ingredients.  I needed to get home to watch the results show before cooking for Chef Juan Pablo.  And that’s how I was taken in by the Sunchokes Switcheroo.

Definitely add the fresh parsley as a garnish, unless you're SJP

Turns out, the little tubers are a pretty good substitute for parsnips (confirmed by Chef).  And, my passion for Jakob helped him advance to the Final 8.  When he makes it back to NYC, I’ll invite him over to celebrate.

Recipe Reaction: Easy and delicious recipe to make.  Next time I’d add a little bit more cinnamon than recipe calls for to punch up that flavor.  FYI, when shopping at Whole Foods, ground lamb is usually found already packaged—not behind the butcher counter.

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Charlie Brown Thanksgiving: A Kitchen Knightmares Special

Today on Alphabet City: Overshadowed by Juan Pablo on Thanksgiving, Jon Paul feels like Charlie Brown.

In the debut posting of the series Kitchen Knightmares, I acknowledged that no one wants to hear me whine about being married to a chef.  But I really get worked up about the issue when Thanksgiving approaches because none of my guests ever give me any credit for cooking the meal.  Since Chef Juan Pablo hails from Mexico City, I usually bar him from the kitchen claiming that only an American can appreciate the meal’s historical underpinnings.  I’m not interested in his South of the Border suggestion to add chipotles to my green bean concoction.  Usually, he’s happy to escape the kitchen, and always willing to accept the compliments when our friends remark year after year, “Chef’s done it again!”

I’m like the Charlie Brown of Thanksgiving.  Try as I might, I just can’t get through to our friends that I spend days preparing our annual spread.  While fellow Texan Angela gets kudos for her trio of pies, I get nada from friends for my buffet of casseroles and cranberries.  It’s odd that Chef gets all credit for the food, because in the beginning my dishes were straight-up white-trash—not at all things they’d expect from Juan Pablo.

“My goodness, everything sure is brown.  And starchy,” observed my Australian friend Rebecca when she first joined us about eight years ago.

Rebecca worked for the UN and was accustomed to more exotic flavors it seemed.  She had a difficult time distinguishing between the line-up of Pyrex dishes offering down home casseroles made with Cream of Mushroom soup: broccoli-rice, green bean, and potato.  Later, she tried to hide the sour look on her face when she reluctantly tasted a frothy pistachio green concoction known ominously as Watergate Salad.  At that point, I made a vow to break from my Texas ways and embrace some more “elegant” Yankee traditions.

That’s when I turned to Bon Appétit for help.  Over time, their November issue has provided easy-to-make upscale suggestions, many of which have become part of my repertoire.  No more canned cranberries—my crowd-pleasing recipe: Spiced Cranberry Sauce with Zinfandel, my stained page torn out from BA, Nov. 2001.  After years of therapy, I’m adding an interpretation of a vegetable that I’ve hated for decades: brussels sprouts—the unpleasant smell of which I associate with my sister Paige’s after-school snack doused in vinegar.  BA’s advice?  Make them into a slaw—Brussels Sprout Slaw with Mustard Dressing and Maple Glazed Pecans!

This year, we celebrate a very special moment at the table—it will be Chef’s first Thanksgiving as a certified United States citizen.  In honor, I’m tearing down my wall and am allowing him into the kitchen on this holiday.  His first suggestion?  Spice up the turkey and gravy.  At first I was suspect.  But then while I was flipping through an old BA, just a few pages down from my cranberry specialty, I spotted a recipe for a Citrus-Glazed Turkey with Chipotle Gravy.  A little immigrant influence never hurt anyone—why that’s what has made this country great!  Viva America!

The only downside?  A jazzed-up turkey is exactly the kind of food our guests expect from Chef, not me.  And that means no one will ever give me my hard-earned kitchen credit.  Good grief, a Charlie Brown Kitchen Knightmare for sure.

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