Category Archives: Travel

Floral bliss

I spent a really wonderful few days in NYC last week, socializing like mad and soaking in my beloved old neighborhood. Bridge just moved 1 block away from my old Boerum Hill place, and it was amazing to see how the area has changed in three years! We ate a fantastic dinner at Char No. 4, and sucked down craft cocktails (virgin, in my case) at Clover Club while gobbling their amazing homemade chips. We also had a great girl’s night, and I spent a great afternoon with Grace—and even introduced her to the wonders of my beloved Trader Joe’s!

Before heading to LI for a family party, I spent much of drizzly Friday with the lovely Amy, who (among her many, many projects) works at Saipua, a gorgeous floral shop in Red Hook. Owner Sarah was kind enough to let me tag along for the morning, and since it was a busy day I got to help out with a bunch of small arrangements. All in all I did four tiny nosegays and four medium arrangements, all while reveling in the luxury of actually having my choice of flowers and filler to work with. Pretty different from my usual “stick a bunch of TJ’s tulips in a vase” approach! If only there were a wholesale flower market in Boston where the public was allowed to shop…

Anyway, in honor of the gorgeous spring sunshine that is finally shining down (my office smells like wet wood from the leaking window catastrophe of this flooded weekend), photos of pretty, pretty flowers:

Literal buckets of flowers to work with:


Two of my nosegays:



One of the medium arrangements:




The day’s work:



Amy made this totally amazing centerpiece (my nosegays were going to accompany it, in awe at their bigger sibling!). You can actually see where it started in the first photo of all the flowers in the shop–it’s built in that silver footed bowl with the floral foam in it! Excuse the iPhone pics.





So cool! For contrast, here’s my current home masterpiece, pretty in its own way but awfully simple!

Ruffly tulips

I have to say, I’ve finally gotten fully on board with living in Boston (well, Cambridge!), and when I’m back in NY it feels really dirty and annoyingly difficult to get in and out of. But I sure miss the social side of my life there. I need to make a concerted effort to limit my hermit-like tendencies; I felt like a new person after a few days of seeing old and new friends and wandering around shops. I also have to say how thankful I am for the blog community, which has connected me with awesome people like Amy and Grace. It’s just really amazing to meet like-minded folk, especially those whose paths would never otherwise have crossed mine. It makes me schmoopy.

Ahem. Back to food someday soon. I have thrilling photos of nachos for you.

Serious Pie

I just haven’t been cooking, guys. Ben has been super busy and we haven’t had a lot of dinners at home, and when we have I’m afraid I’ve been doing a lot of pizzas (built on crusts from WF, agh) and salads. I keep going to iPhoto looking for something to upload and blog but I’m running on empty, here! (Literally. I think the nutritional balance of the Flaim household has dropped significantly over the past month or two.)

I truly, truly hope to get things back on track soon, but meanwhile how about a slice of pie, made by the genius pie fairies at the Agawam Diner in Rowley, MA up on the North Shore:

Coconut Cream Pie

Oooooh yeah. That’s coconut cream pie, homemade, and the size of my head. Other options included, on Sunday, custard, chocolate cream, chocolate mousse (more like a cake), “squash”, banana cream, apple, strawberry-rhubarb, and enough others that once I’d fixed on coconut cream I sort of tuned out. In the past the crust has been so-so, but this time it was great.

The Agawam Diner is our favorite mid-ramble lunch spot–it’s a classic 50s shiny metal diner with classic diner food (Ben most recently had chicken salad on a buttered and grilled NE-style hot dog bun), service that varies from lovingly gruff to surly, and amazing prices. And pie. Michael Stern reviewed it for Road Food a couple years ago.

Highly recommended.

How not to make carbonara, in 12 steps

Do you ever have a moment of insanity where you think, “I should make ___, but I think I will change the formula in these 6 ways and also not look at any recipes,” and then when you do exactly that you’re shocked when the results are less than perfect? Yeah, me too. Last night, for instance. Here’s how this went:

1. While reading last month’s Real Simple, notice a 1-line “recipe” suggesting a pasta dish with shredded brussels sprouts sautéed in butter and combined with fettucine and bacon.

2. Remember the stalk of brussels sprouts aging in the fridge; think you can probably make things more interesting than just combining the pasta with the sprouts and bacon.

3. Carbonara!

4. Don’t look up a recipe from carbonara, except to see that one online says “beaten eggs” and one in a cookbook says “egg yolks.” Do not read any of the rest of either recipe. Just start cooking, even though the one other time you made carbonara (following a recipe to the letter) you got it wrong and the eggs scrambled.

5. Proceed smugly, shredding the sprouts, cutting bacon into lardons and frying them, cooking the sprouts, separating eggs, cooking spaghetti.



6. Frantically call husband into kitchen to grate parmesan as the pasta finishes cooking; combine sprouts/bacon with pasta; assume the pasta is cooling down too much, dump eggs into pasta in a panic.

7. Pasta and pan are still too hot. Eggs sort of scramble.

8. Fling pot holder on the floor, while cursing.

9. Rip off apron and fling it against a cupboard, while cursing.

10. Storm out of the kitchen in a cursing, flinging fit.

11. Return to kitchen and mumble profanities while seasoning the pasta, meanwhile breaking it into smaller and smaller strands while husband silently pours large glasses of wine.

12. Eat giant mounded bowl of pasta (plus seconds), which looks horrible but tastes pretty damn good. Say a silent thanks for candlelight. Drink wine.


Lessons learned:

— For the LOVE, make sure the pasta is hot enough but not too hot when mixing in the egg.

— Keep in mind that things can only go so badly when the ingredients involved are: Bacon, brussels sprouts, parmesan, garlic, pasta.


I’m in a panic about cocktail party for 40 tomorrow night. It is sleeting and I need to grocery shop but I feel like I don’t have a very solid menu. Wish me luck, please! And if you’re feeling upset by that sad pasta up, let me offer you the following condolence prize:

I visited Bridge in NYC this weekend, and we celebrated her boyfriend Matt’s birthday at the unbelievably awesome Fette Sau (“fat pig”) in Williamsburg. Witness the glory of the Tray Of Meat:

9:29 p.m.
Weekend in NYC

9:55 p.m.
Weekend in NYC

We also drank cider and beer out of half-gallon jugs:
Weekend in NYC

It was a good weekend for food. We ate at Perbacco and had mince-meat-stuffed deep-fried cerignola olives (!!) (Bridge saw them on the menu and just looked at me, all “wow, they know your soft underbelly…”), and we visited my favorite bodega tacqueria on 10th Avenue. We spent an afternoon in my beloved old neighborhood, saw great apartments, and spent a lovely time with friends. Good times and at least a five-pound weight gain, I’m guessing.

Fall on Cape Cod

A non-food post, but I have to share a few photos with you… Last weekend we joined Ben’s aunt/uncle/cousins/mom/brother/etc. on Cape Cod for the weekend, breathing in big lung-fulls of cool air and leaving just into time for the Nor’Easter on Sunday. I spent a very happy two hours bundled up on Saturday, tramping up and down the beach and gathering up the fantastic hunks of granite and quartz that had washed up in the recent storms.

I’ve never outgrown my beachcombing urge, and any time I’m on the Ocean I spend as much time as possible staring at the sand, looking for treasures. Every few minutes I stand up straight and gaze out at the ocean, get all dwarfed-feeling thinking about the vastness of it all, and then turn back to the stones and shell shards at my feet.

I have a project in mind, which prompted me to haul an embarrassing heap of big stones back with me. I left the many huge “dinosaur eggs” of granite behind, since I don’t have a yard in which to build a nest. More to come! (And more photos here, if you’re so inclined.)

Birthday Bonanza, Part 2

[Hello, lovely visitors from An Apple a Day! I was touched to see Amy’s post when I got back from a long weekend in NH, and I hope you like what you see and stay a while.]

When last we met, I’d told you all about Ben’s birthday dinner. The next day was my birthday, and he had planned a secret excursion. All I knew was that I needed my swimsuit and that we were packing a picnic. We used up the leftover meat from the night before in tempting steak sandwiches, hopped in the car, and headed north.

First stop: Ben had found a promising-looking farm online, and we stopped in to buy treats for our picnic. I picked out a handful of jewel-like little red plums, as well as a bigger yellow-blush one and a couple donut peaches. Ben got blueberries.


We arrived at a little state park in NH, where the lake edge was dotted with picnic tables and shallow sandy entrances into the water.

We ate (Ben snuck a box of cupcakes into the car!) and swam and swam and ate and I discovered the world’s smallest fruiting wild blueberry bush:

When we eventually rolled away from the lake, we drove to a nearby town to go to a jazz concert on the green. On the way there we spotted this big tortoise, sitting still in the middle of the road, and stopped to urge it back into the woods:

Fables aside, that guy could move. He didn’t like the look of me, I guess!

The concert was amazing. The most ridiculously wholesome Americana you can imagine, with good music to boot! You can pretty much get the gist of it from the guys’ outfits:

There were also tons of things to see in the audience. I loved this distinguished sea captain type (note the fishing flies hooked to the band of his cap and old fishing vest, both of which suggest his captaining was actually in streams, not on the sea):

And I imagined the bigger girl here saying to the little one, “I told you, STAY over THERE.” She ran off within seconds of my taking this:

We wrapped up the day with margaritas and fish & chips at a restaurant on Newfound Lake. A sleepy drive home and the end to a perfect birthday!

(Sorry there wasn’t much food here, but there’s plenty of that to come. For now I have to go tend to tonight’s experimental dinner; I’m making up a recipe as I go along and should probably get focused. Poor Ben.)

Maine: Misty mornings and Whoopie Pie Genius

While my parents were here (“Back East,” as we always said when I was growing up) we spent two nights with my aunt and uncle at a lodge they were renting on Great Pond in Maine. The weather cleared for us and we got to splash around in the lake and eat on the porch, and my dad and uncle did quite a bit of fly-fishing from the old canoe. The lodge is affiliated with a venerable and very cool boy’s camp, Pine Island Camp, which my uncle and cousin both attended. We got to have lunch there and tour the island, and it made me hope that I have at least one son one day, so I can pack him off to a mosquito-free island in a Maine Lake to canoe and row and sail and play crazy games and do carpentry and otherwise step back in time. I liked that there seemed to be a lot of emphasis on artistic achievement–music, painting, carving–as well as sports. Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera that day, but Dad took a few shots. (The photo up top is of a group of boys rowing past our dock one morning.)

The campers still sleep in tents on platforms, just feet away from the lake.

(Photo by Dad)

Dad was smart enough to take a photo of an archival picture to show how little has changed in 100 years:

(Photo by Dad)

Other than that little trip, we mostly just cooked and ate and relaxed by the lake. We were visited by a distinctly un-shy loon:

Despite appearances, the green canoe was seaworthy:

Bug spray aside, this photo could have been taken 50 years ago:

And if this is basically my dad’s favorite kind of view (ok, he’d prefer a burbling trout stream, but framing anything with a fly rod helps):

I definitely captured his favorite way to shave!

Oh, and Mom and I cooked dinner one night!


After leaving the lake, we drove on back roads over to a resort in NH where my mom worked in High School. On our way there, we passed Douin’s Market, which looked like a convenience store, but sported a sign saying something like, “Home of the Brownie Whoopie Pie, STOP or you’ll regret it.” I yelled “STOP!” and everyone thought I was kidding. Once I made it clear that I take threats of brownie whoopie pie regret seriously, Dad and I ran in. He had the presence of mind to take an iPhone picture of a sign advertising the 10-lb Brownie Whoopie Pies Douin’s makes for parties:

We purchased the normal sized one (perched on the giant one in the previous photo), and devoured it with our picnic lunches. OMG, you guys. I like a whoopie pie as much as the next girl, but most of the time the cake seems to be sadly bland or dry. This subbed in the best brownie I’ve ever tasted–incredibly chewy and chocolatey and delicious. The market also makes a variety of normal whoopie pies, as well as some with peanut butter filling or pumpkin cake.

To die for. (Photo by Dad)

In case anyone will be in Maine soon, DO NOT MISS:
Douin’s Market, New Sharon, Maine
Home of the Brownie Whoopie Pie

Finally, on our way home Sunday we went to the very famous Polly’s Pancake Parlor in Sugar Hill, NH. We called ahead to get on the list, so we didn’t have to wait long. Polly’s is well-known for serving some of the best pancakes anywhere. Your server cooks them to order, and brings three at a time, then your next three, fresh and hot, when you’ve finished those. I chose a sampler so I could try a few of the many, many options–the best by a long shot were the cornmeal blueberry (the middle pancake in my stack, below).

The smoky, crisp bacon and the maple spread were my two favorite things, though! Also the placemats, maple leaf shapes cut out of red vinyl, and the mismatched chairs all painted bright red.

Great, now I kind of want bacon for dinner.

Post-flight food

I know I’m not alone in craving vegetables or salad when I get back from a trip. Sunday night, when we returned home from my dear friend Rayne’s wedding in Aruba, we really needed vegetables. I scoured the fridge, found a fading bunch of arugula, and then we went to grab a few more elements for an easy meal.

I ended up with:
1 pint grape tomatoes
8 bocconcini (mozzarella balls)
The arugula from the fridge

I cut up the tomatoes and smushed them with my hands in a dressing of olive oil, salt, pepper and a splash each of red wine and cider vinegar (I’m out of sherry vinegar, which I prefer). Then I chopped the arugula finely and mixed that in, and let it sit for 20 minutes.

I oiled the bread and browned it in the toaster oven, then mashed the vegetables onto it, and topped with the mozzarella and a twist of prosciutto on each piece.

This isn’t really cooking—too simple. But it was one of the most enjoyable things I’ve eaten in a while. The vinegar gave a nice tang to complement the tomatoes and the peppery arugula, the cheese was creamy, and the prosciutto added salt and savory. Next time I’ll use regular tomatoes and chop them up smaller, to make it easier to eat.

Best of all there was just enough left over for me to eat for lunch on Monday!

As for the trip, here I am with the groom, quite overheated, at the reception:

We met in a high school journalism class 13 years ago–unbelievable!

And earlier with Ben:

The backdrop to the ceremony:

What’s for dinner: BLT Salad

Here’s what I’m actually cooking tonight, despite incredibly chilly weather that makes it a bit inappropriate. It’s also what I made the night we got back from Italy, which is why I haven’t yet found a homemade creamy dressing recipe I like, and am instead trying to use up a bottle of creamy parmesan dressing from Whole Foods.

Ahem. Anyway. Back in March I was in DC reporting a story and I had the pleasure of visiting with my friends Rachel and Jen. We ate dinner at Matchbox, and I basically bogarted the “Matchbox Chopped Salad,” a genius easy-to-eat BLT with pasta subbing in for bread. When I spotted a sale on grape tomatoes at Whole Foods in my post-flight stupor, I grabbed them and happily spent the next few days eating bowls of this salad. (See note at the end for instructions on making it last!)

Here’s the thing. I used a head of organic iceberg for this, and I really do think that crunch and ease-of-slicing is best. Tonight I have regular leaf lettuce or mesclun (from the 1st CSA box of the season!), but in general if you can find iceberg that is more green than white, it’s great here.

BLT Salad
4 servings

1 small head of good iceberg lettuce
1/4 red onion
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
1/2 lb. pasta, preferably a loose spiral or something (I used what I had on hand)
1/2-3/4 of a pound of good, thick-cut bacon (I used hickory-smoked, I think), cooked
Creamy dressing of your choice, to taste

I quartered the grape tomatoes and diced the red onion:

I cooked pasta and then rinsed it in cold water to cool it down, and added that in:

When you’re ready to serve, chop up the cooked bacon (I bake mine in a 400 degree oven until crispy, so it stays flat) and your lettuce, add them to the tomato mixture, and dress to taste. Hold back a few pieces of bacon to scatter on top. It doesn’t look like much but it is soooo good.

Note: To make this keep for a few lunches, as I did, only dress the portion you’re using the first night, using only that proportion of the lettuce and bacon. Store the pasta/tomato mixture in a tupperware and wrap the bacon and lettuce up separately; it takes 2 seconds to chop up some more lettuce and stir everything together with the dressing at lunch time.

(It really is cold out, though. Maybe I should do a absorption pasta with tomatoes and bacon and a salad on the side? Hmm. Oh! I think we got arugula from the CSA. I could stir that in at the end. But I’m craving the salad. Oh dear.)

Italy: Small bites

I love small foods. Tapas, appetizers, hors d’oeuvres. Anything that can be eaten in one to four bites, especially if I can make a whole meal out of little nibbles of this and that. What can I say? For all my love of food I can’t ever eat very much at once, and since I want to try as many things as possible I usually avoid entrees in favor of a couple appetizers. Here are a few of the little bites we enjoyed on our trip:

Cicheti are Venice’s famous bar snacks, and since I slavishly marked down a bunch of recommendations from the NYTimes before we left, we found our way to Enoteca Schiavi, a bacaro a few blocks from our B&B, soon after we arrived in Venice. We ordered spritz cocktails (prosecco with Campari, in this case) to go, along with a few of the little crostini from behind the counter. We didn’t really know what was in any of them so we picked the intriguing-looking ones, toted everything to the little piazza across the canal, and kicked back.

Let’s see. The upper left and lower right are both mozzarella rolled around fillings: Spicy chili paste with julienned zucchini on the left, salmon (lox-like) and arugula on the right. On the lower left is my favorite by a long shot, though I’m not really sure what it is. The base is some sort of meat–I’d assume a head-cheese type pork product? (Appetizing, I know!) It is topped with a puree of artichoke, and maybe a bit of eggplant? Amazing. I should have gotten a few more of those! I didn’t get a taste of the one on the upper right, but I know it was ricotta with some sort of topping and random kiwi slice.

Ben *HATED* the Campari. I forgot to warn him about the flavor, which I like, but even I thought this was a bit strong. I think there was about a tablespoon of prosecco in with that very healthy slug of Campari! (Sorry about the close-up of my thumb.)

Ben had to jog back across the canal to the gelato place next door for a bit of flavor correction in the form of chocolate gelato.

The next day we made a lunch of various options from a different bacaro, where a crowd of old men standing around the counter slugging back little glasses of wine (it was not quite noon) drew us in.

The three crostini are topped with a black olive spread, an artichoke spread, and one made from radicchio (upper right). I loved the radicchio one but when I asked about how it’s made it turned out to be from a jar. Worth experimenting, though. That little pizzetta in the corner was excellent.


“Panini piccole,” little panini. Those were eat about four inches wide, I’d guess? We shared the salami one and each had one with ham.

Oh, and wee little gelato for dessert.

San Gimignano
(Please excuse the astonishingly ugly photos you’re about to see. The light was unspeakably bad and I could barely hold the camera steady.)

From the bread basket at Le Vecchie Mura, on the walls of San Gimignano, a simple but delicious hard-toasted bread that had been rubbed with tomato and herbs before baking:

And our appetizer of lardo bruschetta:


I am a strong believer in lardo (why mess around, let’s get straight to the pure fat!), but the seasoning here was very different from what I’ve had before. It was almost sweet; I think there was some spice like nutmeg used in the cure?

At an amazing lunch at the Antinori family’s Tignanello estate the next day, we ate a prototypical Tuscan meal (about which, much more later), beginning with the most famous crostini of all, chicken liver. Also delicious little tomato tartlets. Both were packed with flavor and definitely made me wish I could quiz the kitchen staff.

Finally, when you’re in Rome during a heat wave you need as many cooling snacks as possible. One of the best we had was a granita di café con panna (panna=whipped cream) from the famous Tazza d’Oro coffee shop. The photo tells the story, I think.


This would be easy to do at home, too. The granita is very, very sweet, while the cream is completely unsweetened. I would sweeten the coffee less and use more of the granita with less of the cream for a summer dessert.

Still to come: Produce Porn from markets in Venice and Rome, the highlights of our actual meals on the road, plus a bit of home cooking (best salad ever!). I’m back on the road starting tomorrow, until early next week, but will do my best to post while I’m away. Thanks to everyone who has given me feedback re. what they like on the blog and what they’d like to see more of; please keep it coming!

Also, the title of this post makes me think of Italy in Small Bites, one of my all-time-favorite cookbooks for reading during an after school snack. Our dining room table at home was always next to my mom’s bookcase of cookbooks, so I would grab one and read a few chapters while I ate, and Italy in Small Bites and the China Moon Cookbook were the best. I need to get my own copy! It has recipes for all the snack foods, flatbreads, fried nibbles and other little delights that you actually want to reproduce at home. Plus it’s a very good read.

Make me a water bottle*

Our last night in Italy I fell so much in love with the bottle from our mineral water that I actually packed it in my suitcase and brought it home with me. I also discovered that photographing clear glass is incredibly tricky.

Once we got home I soaked off the small label that was on the bottom section of the bottle, and I will use it as a water carafe this summer. Those embossed raindrops kill me—so simple and great. Is it weird that I brought back a mineral water bottle as my favorite souvenir?


On a completely different topic, I am thinking a lot about my goals and wishes for this blog, and trying to figure out which direction to go with it. If you have time, do you mind telling me what you’d like to see more of, or what you enjoy reading about? CSA season starts in about 10 days, so I will have lots of produce to write about, and I’m considering a few more ambitious projects, as well. I would love your input.

*I am sad that Salome was kicked off Make me a Super Model while we were gone.