Perhaps you have noticed that it’s been a little quiet on this blog recently. The igvoiding (a word my sister loves) hasn’t been intentional, I assure you.
Travels for A Tiger in the Kitchen have taken me around the country and across several oceans in recent months. And when I haven’t been on a plane, at an event, prepping for an event or trip or simply recuperating from jet lag, I’ve been taking it (relatively) easy. I’ve rediscovered the pleasure of slowly reading a book — two I recently finished and can’t recommend highly enough: the elegantly written and enchanting “The Manual of Detection” by Jedediah Berry and “Three Junes” by the charming Julia Glass, which I dearly loved and also won the National Book Award for fiction in 2002.
As you might imagine, I have also been eating — very well, in fact. And one of the highlights occurred in Portland, Ore., when a break in the Wordstock Festival gave me a chance to visit a brunch spot friends had been raving about for months: Tasty n Sons.
As hotel restaurants go, the shop at Andaz Fifth Avenue tries pretty hard.
Determined to cast itself as a New York restaurant, it likes to broadcast just how local it is. Its Web site rattles off a litany of New York purveyors — eggs hail from Feather Ridge Farm in the Hudson Valley; lox comes from Russ & Daughters on Manhattan's Lower East Side, which has been providing New Yorkers with smoked fish since 1914. And there's even a self-conscious little area that sells snacks made by small, lesser-known brands in New York.
This is all in line with the in-the-know feel that the hotel, part of Hyatt Hotels & Resorts' chain of boutique properties, tries to give off. It's a pretentiousness you can already sense from the fact that it is the shop — spelled all lowercase, the hotel insists — and not, well, The Shop. (You'll have to check out my review of the hotel in the New York Times Travel section for more on this Andaz.)
How would the food stack up against all this posing? We decided to find out …
Growing up in a Singapore, a country that follows the lunar as well as the Western calendar, celebrating two birthdays each year was always a given. Cake, flowers and presents are lovely for Western birthdays. But for lunar calendar birthdays — or Chinese birthdays, as my family calls them — things are several notches simpler. The star of this show is always a bowl of noodles, symbolic of longevity, a pair of hardboiled eggs, representing fertility or life. And all of this comes in a sugary soup — "so the whole year will be sweet," as my mother says.
For too many years in America, my Chinese birthday — which I'm fortunate to be able to remember easily because it falls on Diwali each year — passed with little fanfare. Sure, my parents would call New York to wish me well. But the noodles, the eggs and the sweet broth — that always seemed like just a little too much trouble.
This year, however, as Diwali began today, I found myself temporarily stranded in Singapore due to unforeseen circumstances. So for lunch, my mother had a little treat planned: birthday noodles. "You must eat this," she said. "For luck."
As much as I love Thanksgiving, I may adore the days after the holiday even more.
One word: Leftovers.
Sure turkey dinners with stuffing and corn pudding that have been doused in so much gravy that you have a thick, glistening brown moat on your plate are unbeatable. But this is also a great time to rev up your creativity in the kitchen.
What to do with your mounds of leftover turkey? Our Let’s Lunch bunch — a group of far-flung home cooks who have a monthly lunch date on Twitter — decided to tackle this question for December.
When I think of the family feasts of my Singapore girlhood, there’s always a duck in the picture.
To say that my people — that would be the Teochew ethnic group from Southern China — adore duck would be a major understatement. During a recent trip to Shantou, the area in China where my great-grandfather lived as a boy, duck and goose were inescapable at every dinner table.
So it’s more than slightly sacrilegious to say that I often avoid duck simply because it isn’t one of my favorites. (Hey, I’m a big hunk of red meat kind of gal – what can I say?)
I do make an exception for some versions, however — and Teochew-style braised duck is one of them.
While I’m really good at eating it, making it is another matter altogether. But this was something my Aunty Alice, the best cook among my mother and her sisters, was intent on fixing right away.
On a recent weekday, she arrived at my Singapore home armed with two ducks and a bag of ingredients and the tutorial began…
In every relationship, there inevitably is that one early thing that you disagree on.
Ours was pancakes.
Mike, he’ll eat them any and every day of the week for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner. Me, I love me my sweets but even at brunch, give me noodles or a hunk of red meat and eggs over pretty pancakes anytime.
You learn to compromise, of course. And so over the last eight years, Marion Cunningham and I have become well-acquainted.