Friday, August 6, 2010


So, yes, I abandoned this Web estate for several months. Why? Well, in honesty, because I lost focus and understanding of why I started this blog. And, truthfully, I was burned out with work, uninspired, and simply searching. I took a vacation. I'm back and always searching—rediscovering?—but energized and, frankly, hungry.

I was combing through my saved entries, started but never finished. I came upon this one, which I began in spring of 2009. (Yes, spring of 2009.) Perhaps it will inspire your own gastro-journey to Chinatown.

Please return for fresh commentary. I invite you again to the table.

Vanessa's Dumpling House
New York City

Cravings at times catch me off-guard. Usually, pizza's a given, Indian, eggs—chocolate, duh. But my dumpling craving, it seems, I reserve for New York. (When you're home, you crave the stuff of home.) New York City does dumplings, those meaty (even when they're meatless), flavorful, tender pillows of heaven—fried, steamed, boiled—presented preciously in bamboo baskets or haphazardly on plastic, and served with briny soy and five-alarm Sriracha. When I was in New York a few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of introduction to Vanessa's Dumplings in the heart of Chinatown. Loud, small, crowded, and completely addictive. The energy of the place and the incomparable cuisine come from a hive of white-capped Chinese women, abuzz behind the joint's long counter, furiously molding, frying, boiling, yelling, scribbling, and laughing. You can't help but stand in awe of their yin and yang: part chaos, part brilliance—and wholly delicious.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Sweets are my favorite foods, aside from savories. (I am my mother's daughter.) (I love you, Mom!) It's true however that there are some sugary yummies that steal me more than others. I have to admit, dear Flourless Chocolate Cake of my heart, you have depth and quite a look about you—a richness that's hard to resist—but I can't help it. You aren't the one. That distinction belongs to Homemade Cinnamon Roll.

The weekend looked bleak. Saturday was a mess of 'teen-temps, ice, and annoying fuzzy rain. It was a day for indoor activities, and, because it's been so long since the kitchen's had my company, I devoted my time to whipping up a couple of complex (read, time-involved) goodies. I've been sitting on a recipe for scratch-made cinnamon rolls for more than a year and decided it was the perfect day for such a venture. Good call.

The recipe, though time-consuming, is well worth the effort and ingredients. I made rolls with and without pecans, and can assert that the ones with the nuts win. If you decide to make these, be prepared to devote an afternoon (or long morning or late evening). But, I have to say, they are the absolute perfect antidote to wintry Saturdays, which perhaps exist solely for the lives of Homemade Cinnamon Rolls. Ooey-gooey cinnamon-y sweet yeasty perfection. It's love.

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls
(Courtesy of Ms. Deen, naturally)


1/4-ounce package yeast

1/2 cup warm water

1/2 cup scalded milk

1/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup butter or shortening

1 teaspoon salt

1 egg

3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour


1/2 cup melted butter, plus more for pan

3/4 cup sugar, plus more for pan

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

3/4 cup raisins, walnuts, or pecans, optional


4 tablespoons butter

2 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 to 6 tablespoons hot water

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water and set aside. In a large bowl mix milk, sugar, melted butter, salt, and egg. Add 2 cups of flour and mix until smooth. Add yeast mixture. Mix in remaining flour until dough is easy to handle. Knead dough on lightly floured surface for 5 to 10 minutes. Place in well-greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubled in size, usually 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

When doubled in size, punch down dough. Roll out on a floured surface into a 15-by-9-inch rectangle. Spread melted butter all over dough. Mix sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over buttered dough. Sprinkle with walnuts, pecans, or raisins if desired. Beginning at the 15-inch side, role up dough, and pinch edge together to seal. Cut into 12 to 15 slices.

Coat the bottom of baking pan with butter and sprinkle with sugar. Place cinnamon roll slices close together in the pan and let rise until dough is doubled, about 45 minutes. Bake for about 30 minutes or until nicely browned.

Meanwhile, mix butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Add hot water 1 tablespoon at a time until the glaze reaches desired consistency. Spread over slightly cooled rolls.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Losing my religion

I have a confession.

I'm reevaluating, readjusting my food life. Not accepting it at face value, not acting on faith alone. I'm reading.

Reading and watching and listening to others—food journalists, farmers, and friends—who've gone before.

I'm breaking from tradition, away from sliding doors, aisles of corn products and rows of flavorless produce. I'm ready to embrace something new.

My friends, Romans, and all country and city folk, now hear this: I'm going local. Livin' la vida locavore.

This pilgrim is searching and will surely trip. But I've found the road at last.

And I'm not turning back.