Frontier Psychiatrist

Posts Tagged ‘Food

The Social Table, Rebecca Goldfarb

Rebecca Goldfarb of The Social Table

As an unabashed nerd, I’m proud to say that I love learning. While I know my way around a kitchen, I still love going to cooking classes.  Not all classes are equal, though, and over the past several years I’ve developed a major kitchen crush on The Social Table’s Rebecca Goldfarb and her teaching style.  Rebecca’s cooking classes are intimate, 8-person lessons with a pre-set menu and BYO policy that makes them very relaxed and, well, social.  I sat down with Rebecca to talk about her uber-popular business—it’s seriously competitive to get a spot in one of her classes—cooking, booze in the kitchen, and her upcoming move from New York to Chicago.

 FP: The Social Table is wildly successful.  You have achieved the elusive 5 star rating on Yelp.  What was your path to where you are now with the classes?

RG: I know!  It’s crazy.  We’re actually the first result that comes up when you search Yelp for “cooking class” in NYC.  My path to creating The Social Table was not exactly part of a plan.  It sort of just happened.  I grew up in California; went to WashU in St. Louis for college, where I studied Dutch 17th century art history (super practical!); then graduated and figured I could put off “real life” for a little longer if I went to culinary school.  I had spent some time during college working at a local community center with a culinary program, so it wasn’t out of the blue, but I wasn’t really sure where culinary school would lead me.  I’ve had a lot of gigs in the industry, from being a kitchen manager to a sous chef to teaching children’s cooking classes to managing restaurants.

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I present to you a perfect summer recipe, with just a single caveat: this is not a first date food.  Pesto is on a short list of dishes I can’t in good conscience recommend for times when you might perhaps want to feel and/or look sexy.  This list, for your consideration, includes: sushi (nothing sexier than realizing mid-bite that maybe that piece was a little too big for one mouthful), lobster (the bibs make me feel ridiculous, but, hey, if your first date includes lobster, this person is probably a keeper; I take it back), BBQ ribs, and corn on the cob (the latter two for the same obvious reason).  Pesto earns a spot on the list because it typically leaves me with a very green smile and some garlic breath.  Hot. Read the rest of this entry »

Gustavo Arellano, Taco USA, Mexico, Mexcian food
Gustavo Arellano, Taco USA

One of my favorite places to eat as a kid was a Mexican family restaurant off the Saw Mill River Parkway, 35 miles north of Manhattan. Since then, I’ve eaten Mexican food across the country: tacos in Brooklyn, Austin, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Denver, mission-style burritos in San Francisco, enchiladas at the 24-hour San Antonio landmark Mi Tierra, and nearly everything on the menu at Tacos El Pueblito in Nebraska City, where local cuisine also includes fried gizzards and runzas (American empanadas that taste more like Hot Pockets).  I also try my best to cook Mexican-style food and have picked up a few tricks: steeping red onions in red wine vinegar, marinating fish in lime and cilantro, slow-cooking pork for carnitas, and after slicing jalapeño or habanero peppers, not touching my eyes or my private parts.

I’m hardly the only gringo with these tastes. A new book, Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America reveals that salsa has displaced ketchup as the America’s top selling condiment, nachos are the third largest concession food after popcorn and soda, and the U.S. is the world’s largest consumer of tequila. And in case anyone thinks the taco truck is a hipster invention, in 1901 a L.A. police chief called the popular tamale wagons “a refuge for drunks who seeks the streets when the saloons are closed for the night.”

Taco USA tracks the tremendous popularity of Mexican cuisine and its spin-offs, including Tex-Mex, Cal-Mex, and West-Mex, which feature a bastardized version of Tater Tots. Author Gustavo Arellano (who writes the syndicated weekly column ¡Ask a Mexican!) offers a lively and entertaining gastronomical and historical tour, equal parts research, reportage, and riffs. While it certainly whets the reader’s appetite, Taco USA also aims at history buffs, and anyone intrigued by the paradoxical, parasitic, and symbiotic relationship between America and Mexico. Beneath its celebration of food, the book critiques culinary capitalism in a tale tinged with irony and prejudice.

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My ideal 4th of July consists of a long weekend filled with BBQs, picnics, and a cold beer or fruity sangria (or both (but not together, ew)).  Unfortunately, I’m no master brewer, so I won’t be teaching you how to make beer today, but I figured I’d equip you with the knowledge to conquer the other elements of a relaxing July 4th.  And should it be the case that you’re just getting started on your holiday plans right now, you’re in luck!  Neither of these recipes involves much forethought (though they both benefit from it), so you can be on your way to your BBQ/picnic/cookout/potluck in no time. Read the rest of this entry »

Homemade Granola with BerriesFor about a year I wrote for Mark Bittman, a culinary role model of mine.  I would cook and photograph a selection of his recipes each week and write about what happened in the kitchen, to make it easier for other non-professional home cooks to follow along.  If you don’t know Mark’s style, it’s very much about making cooking accessible.  Not boring and not dumbed down, but simple, delicious, and do-able.  And while the recipes are not all easy, per se, they encourage experimentation and exploration.  Most recipes have options.  Don’t have lemon?  Try lime.  Don’t have a clue what lacinato kale is or where to get it? Use spinach.  Don’t have time to fully caramelize onions?  Try this trick to speed it up. You can make it your own by trying out different flavor combinations and cooking methods.  You can almost always get creative with proportions.  The idea is that there’s no one right way to cook a dish.  Unless something gets set on fire.  That’s almost always the wrong way to cook.

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March has come in like a lamb and out like a lion, it seems.  I had to revive my gloves today!  Gloves!  The horror.  Thankfully, regardless of the irreverent spring weather, March means one thing for sure: Girl Scout cookie season.  Unfortunately, I don’t know any 8 year olds these days, and since I don’t work in a traditional office, I don’t have co-workers vying for my cookie purchases on behalf of their daughters.  This means that sometimes Girl Scout cookie season comes and goes before I have time to even register that I’m missing out.  This year, however, my connection to the food world has paid off in the form of one complimentary box of Savannah Smiles, the newest Girl Scout cookie, sent from the Girl Scouts of Nassau County,Long Island.  My status as a food blogger (and long time GS cookie connoisseur) qualifies me as an official cookie reviewer!  Score!

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In honor of Front Psych’s visit to SXSW, I thought it only appropriate to write my column Texas-style this week, i.e., about beef.  For about a year I traveled to Dallas for work on a nearly weekly basis.  I was introduced to traditional Dallas BBQ, excellent molé sauce, and 64oz Slurpees (everything’s bigger…).  And I can say with confidence that Texans really do love their beef.

If you’re familiar with the movie Food Inc., what I’m about to say will probably resonate with you.  The film takes a deep look at mass production of meat in this country, and ever since seeing it, I have been much choosier about where and when I eat meat.  I try to avoid it at restaurants unless I know they value high quality products or, even better, if they list the farms where their food comes from.  I’m not Portlandia-level crazy about it, but I do my best.

Anyway, despite Texas being the beef capital of America, I didn’t eat a whole lot of red meat.  However, getting flack from my male friends about my steak-free Texan diet, I decided to make the journey to Fort Worth, about an hour from my hotel, to get my hands on what I had heard was some seriously good steak at The Lonesome Dove.  This restaurant is known for sourcing local products and grass fed beef, and I figured it would be my best shot at satisfying my desire to try Texas steak without letting my values slip.  It was undeniably delicious (juicy, tender, buttery), and my first real glimpse at the difference between high quality meat and everything else.

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