German Pancakes: Comforting Kummerspeck, or “Grief Bacon”

A few months ago, I came across a term that intrigued me: Kummerspeck.

The German word means “grief bacon” (and we all know how much I love bacon). Despite its bacon reference though, the word has a rather negative connotation — it refers to weight put on due to emotional overeating.

Nonetheless, the word fascinated me — and the Let’s Lunch crew, as it turned out. So off we went, dreaming up ideas for the perfect kummerspeck …

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Bacon Grease Cake: Resuscitating an Oldie

The same problem arises in my kitchen just a little too often: After a few days of intense bacon activity, what to do with the cup or so of grease sitting on the counter?

For years, my go-to use for this grease has been Swedish ginger cookies — a recipe from New York Times fashion critic Cathy Horyn that is fool-proof. (If this sounds insane to you, bacon grease actually works very well in spicy sweets — the smokiness of the fat is a nice foil for the tastes of cinnamon, cloves etc. Just ask Modern Woman magazine, which listed it as one of 10 ways to use bacon fat in 1943.)

One can only eat so many bacon-fat ginger cookies, however. And when I started itching for something else, a little poking around online unearthed an old recipe for an intriguing blackberry jam cake …

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Pier 23 Cafe (San Francisco): Bacon, Oysters and A Beer

If you, like me, head to the Ferry Building each time you come to San Francisco, you’ll know the problem that lies ahead.

After all the honey sniffing, cheese poking and book browsing you’ve done, a question inevitably arises: Where to get a lovely drink and nibble with a sweeping view of the water and Bay Bridge?

If it’s anytime after 4:30 p.m. or so and you’d like a comfy spot in the Ferry Building — good luck. Some of the places there have such terrific happy hours that you’ll be battling swarms of commuters and tourists all looking to belly up.

On a recent visit, however, my friend Matt had a better plan. Outside, on the Embarcadero, he started going north, pushing head-on into thick gales determined to blow us back. After a few minutes, our struggles were over when we came upon a little shack of a building.

From the palm trees plastered on its side and the kitschy neon sign that said “Pier 23,” I knew this would be the perfect spot …

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Mama’s (San Francisco): Eggs Worth The Odyssey

I have been called “the world’s most easily bored person.” By someone who knows me well, too. (And yes, despite such insensitive name-calling, we remain married.)

And so there are very few meals for which I would happily line up more than an hour — if I’m going to subject myself to all that boredom, the food had better be nothing short of earth-shattering.

In San Francisco, the one place that commands a wait of at least 90 minutes on most days and still has my devotion is a little corner restaurant on Washington Square Park called Mama’s …

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Bacon-Kimchi Fried Rice: Smoky, Fiery, Sweet & Salty

Among the amazing food discoveries of my recent life, this one is certainly up there: A little grocery store very near me in Brooklyn sells kimchi. Lots of it.

It’s the good stuff, too –pungent, spicy, tart and tangy. But what this means is that the sous chef and I have been eating a fair bit of the stuff.

What to do with kimchi? We ran through the obvious in the first several meals — kimchi omelets, scrambles, kimchi with rice, porridge. You name the easy, we tried it.

Kimchi fried rice, however, was daunting to me. Fried rice was the very first Asian dish I tried to make — and if you’ve read A Tiger in the Kitchen, well, you might recall the outcome of my first attempt.

When I read about New York chef David Chang’s fervent belief in bacon and kimchi being made for each other, though — and how he uses it in fried rice — I was sold.

The past was the past, I decided. With a little research into kimchi fried rice, out came my wok and I was ready to give this a try …

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Thistle (McMinnville, Oregon): The Best of Oregon

There have been many questions since the return to New York following a short book tour and road trip, idyllic and beautiful, along the lush green coast of the Pacific Northwest.

The burning question hasn’t been, “How did your readings go?” Mind you. Rather, the first question that slips out as soon as politely possible is: “OK, where did you eat?”

This being a somewhat book-centric trip — thank you Seattle and Portland for organizing such lovely A Tiger in the Kitchen soirees! — the time for restaurant-hopping wasn’t plenty. Among the several restaurants I did sample, though, one firmly sunk its chompers in me and hasn’t let go: Thistle, a deliciously charming little spot in McMinnville, Oregon, that manages to out-Brooklyn the wave of recent trendy Brooklyn restaurants branding themselves as farm-to-table havens.

After raving like a lunatic about this Oregon restaurant that that serves up amazing hyper-locavore Americana — all made with ingredients from neighboring farms (and a co-owner’s mom’s garden sometimes) — that could put many of its big-city counterparts to shame, I felt a little vindicated yesterday when I learned that The Oregonian had named Thistle its 2011 Restaurant of the Year (in the entire state of Oregon) this week. As soon as the smug joy subsided, however, I needed a Thistle fix.

So, out came the photos and the reverie began…

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Miso-Bacon-Corn Chowder: An Umami-Packed Liquid Lunch

The recipes, of course, have been lovely. As have the beautiful photos of creative dishes ranging from BLTs to kitchen-sink concoctions.

But in the close to two years that I’ve had a monthly virtual lunchdate with food bloggers spread out from California to Paris, the thing I’ve most adored is the friendships that have formed, firmly sealed via a shared love for cooking.

Over Let’s Lunch dates and regular Tweets, this trusty band of bloggers has gotten rather fond of one another. So when our dear Karen mentioned that she couldn’t join us for lunch in May because of a strict liquid diet due to cancer surgery, our decision was clear. If Karen had to have liquid lunches in May, then well, so would we.

What to make for lunch? After regretfully dispelling the idea of martinis — delicious, though probably not the most healthy — a filling, hearty chowder came to mind …

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Kitchen-Sink Stir-Fry: Spring Cleaning Your Fridge


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It’s hard to think about spring when there’s still snow on the ground in New York. But one must be optimistic — which we are over here in the Let’s Lunch crowd.

Fresh off our breathless postings on aphrodisiac-laced dishes in February, our thoughts immediately turned to warmer times as we debated what to make next for our monthly virtual lunch date.

How about “spring cleaning (the fridge?)” Stephanie over at The Cosmic Cowgirl suggested.

And so, kitchen-sink recipes to help you springclean your fridge it was.

Now, since I have several solid grocers (and one neat butcher) within a 2-minute walk of my Brooklyn apartment, I tend to buy as I cook. (I’ve never really been one to stock up my fridge like there’s no tomorrow, anyhow.)

Nonetheless, there are a few basics that I must always have in my fridge: Bacon, tofu and some sort of ground meat, usually pork or beef.

Bacon is a wonder that must be consumed on its own, in my book. (Or, in a bacon explosion. Or a BLT. Or … I digress.)

But what to do with tofu and ground pork? The possibilities are endless …

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Spiced Oatmeal: Edible Morning Mush


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I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but I’ve had some pretty decadent meals recently.

(And you haven’t even heard about the roasted foie gras with a candied almond crust or the pasta tossed with truffle oil and topped with Oscietra caviar I recently devoured at Gunther’s in Singapore.)

My own kitchen, however, is where I can right some of these delectable wrongs.

And I’ve chosen to start with breakfast, a meal that I usually skip. Well, unless it involves eggs and super-crispy bacon. And perhaps a stack of pancakes. But I digress …

Now, having read about the virtues of oatmeal as a cholesterol and fat fighter, I decided to put aside my years-long aversion to the morning mush and take the plunge.

But how to make it palatable? That was the trick.

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Terzo Piano: Where Chicago Is The Art


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Terzo Piano is a restaurant that literally makes your heart skip a beat the moment you walk in.

With its high ceilings, crisp, white furniture, spare decor
and wall of glass windows providing a sweeping view of Chicago old and
new, it’s the embodiment and reflection of the city’s stunning Mies van der Rohe-infused skyline.

On a clear day, when light is pouring in, sending angular shadows shooting across the pristine, gleaming furniture, the space is just breath-taking. This restaurant, which just opened in the Art Institute of Chicago’s modern wing in May, truly does the city justice.

All of this, of course, combines to set some incredibly high expectations for the food itself.

But that, it turns out, is another story.

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