Gift Guide 2020: Your Pie’s in the Mail

December 20, 2020

No, this is not a mail order pizza, but it’s the only photograph I had. And if you’ve got a pizza-lover on your list, they’ll be thrilled to know that they can get the near-legendary Di Fara’s pizza by mail.

If you’re a New Yorker, Di Fara Pizza has been a pilgrimage place for years, a small pizzeria deep in Brooklyn where you’d stand in line for hours. Somehow the Goldbelly people convinced the family to join their roster of regional foods available by mail.

I’ve been shopping with Goldbelly for a long time, seduced by their catalog of great foods from small special places. Their list of barbecue joints is especially impressive, and they have an awesome array of sweets. But the Covid pandemic was their moment: now you can get foods from big deal chefs like Wolfgang Puck and Daniel Boulud. And of course, Di Fara pizza, which can still arrive in time for Christmas.

Even if you’re not in the mood to order, just reading through the offerings is a reminder of the many great American foods out there. In a time when you can’t travel, it’s nice to know that they’ll travel to you.


Gift Guide: So Twenty Twenty

December 18, 2020

It’s too late to order anything and be sure it will arrive in time for Christmas. Not that I’m sure it much matters in this moment: time has become so elastic.

Still, I thought I’d suggest something small today. A stocking stuffer, if you will.

We’ve all become acquainted with hand sanitizers. Most, in fact, like those gigantic bottles in front of stores, are perfectly horrid. So finding one that you like so much you spray your hands for the pure pleasure of the scent seems fairly momentous.

That’s how I felt about this Coconut and Lemon hand sanitizer gel. I was so dismayed when my local store ran out that I searched for it on line. And discovered the even more appealing sanitizer spray.

It’s not much, but in this strange dark moment it would make a very thoughtful gift for just about anyone.

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Gift Guide 2020: Say Cheese

December 16, 2020

You don’t naturally think of cheese-makers as being restaurant-dependent, but they are. Restaurants at every level require vast amounts of cheese, from the mozzarella on the pizza to the cheddar in mac and cheese. As for the finest small farmstead cheeses, chefs are often the ones who introduce them to the public.

So cheese-makers are suffering in this pandemic. Many have pivoted to on-line offerings; Vermont’s Jasper Hill Farm, makers of fantastic cheeses like Moses Sleeper and Willoughby and is among my favorites. And if you’re going to order cheese as a way of helping out, you can’t do better than their Victory Box. It contains five cheeses from five small family farms.

Victory Cheese is a nationwide movement of dairy people and cheese-makers intent on preserving the American cheese industry. Conceived in the same spirit as the Victory Gardens of World War II, it’s a national movement of cheese-makers in every state. American cheese has come so far and changed so much over the past twenty years; we must preserve it.

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Gift Guide 2020: For Uni Addicts

December 15, 2020

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am complete and total uni addict. I even have a sea urchin cutter, imported from Japan, just in case I should be lucky enough to find a source for fresh urchins.

Sea urchins come in many flavors. Some favor the prized Hokkaido sea urchins from Japan. Some prefer the Atlantic urchins found off the coast of Maine. But for my money, you can’t beat the rich, sweet, buttery Santa Barbara sea urchin.

If you live in southern California, your best source is the wonderful  Stephanie Mutz, who plies her trade in Santa Barbara. These days Stephanie is selling up and down the California coast, but sadly she doesn’t ship. So I’ve been fueling my extremely expensive urchin addiction with occasional splurges at Regalis.

Beware: Regalis is an absolute encyclopedia of luxury foods, and therefore rather dangerous. They sell everything from truffles to high end meats like Iberico ham and exotic produce like fresh wasabi. If you’re in the market for a live 7 or 8 pound red crab from Norway, they will oblige.

And if you’re eager to cut your own sashimi, their  crown toro hamachi  is the easiest – and least expensive – option I’ve found.

If you have a friend who’s feeling deprived of the luxury foods found in restaurants, they’d be extremely pleased to get a gift from Regalis. And even if you don’t, on dreary afternoons I can think of few more pleasant ways to pass a few minutes than daydreaming at the Regalis Foods website.

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The Shrimp Noodles with XO Sauce Everyone is Asking For

December 14, 2020

This is a recipe I threw together with the two great new condiments I just got. This incredible oyster sauce:

and this superb XO Sauce

Basically I just scrounged around in my pantry to see what I had that might make a delicious dish.

I began with about half a pound of frozen shrimp. I defrosted them under cold running water, peeled them, dried them off and sprinkled them with salt and pepper.

I found a few carrots and some cabbage, so I shredded them. I cut 5 scallions, slicing the white parts and cutting the green into 2 inch sticks. I smashed a clove of garlic.

I cooked a handful of Chinese egg noodles (you could use any kind of noodle, from spaghetti to rice noodles) in boiling water until they were not quite cooked. I drained them, tossed them with peanut oil and set them aside.

I mixed a tablespoon or so of the oyster sauce with soy sauce and a couple tablespoons of the XO sauce.

I add some oil to a wok, quickly cooked the shrimp until just pink and removed them. I added a bit more oil, added the carrot, cabbage and garlic and stir-fried for a minute. I added the noodles, and tossed about for a few more minutes before adding the shrimp and scallion greens, along with the XO sauce mixture. I tossed that about a bit and ate it with great pleasure.

The leftovers were even better the next day (with some more XO sauce spooned on top).

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