Posts Tagged ‘NYT’

I Would, But The Recession…..

February 13, 2009

Have you busted out with the recession/economy excuse yet?  The New York Times reports on the apparent upside of a shitty economy:

“Lavish anniversary dinners, the destination weddings of second-tier friends, costly gifts for children, and, yes, obligations to nannies — so often we go along, even when, deep down, we would do anything to get out of them. Now, even if we can still afford such occasional obligations, the recession has provided something of a get-out-of-jail-free card: it’s an excuse with which few would argue.”

– NYT

Personally, each time I’ve recently used lack of money as an excuse, it actually WAS a lack of money, not a “get-out-of-jail-free card.”  Not that I begrudge rich Manhattanites their right to passive-aggressively fire their nannies.

Diversity Is Not A Public Relations Issue

January 19, 2009

Photo: New York Times

Same song, different verse.

I cannot seem to escape the discussions centering around race, affirmative action, discrimination, socio-economics, etc. that have become more and more prevalent as we come closer to the inauguration of Barack Obama.

On NPR this afternoon, there was a somewhat heated discussion around affirmative action, most notably in academia.  The New York Times ran an article asserting that, yes, it is okay to talk about race (thanks to Obama, naturally).  Even over at Jezebel, a discussion around the next “wave” of feminism had me thinking, I don’t even want to talk about feminism any longer without at least acknowledging the filter of race.

However, it was a NYT Style piece that really had me engrossed.  The article, detailing the lack of diversity on the Milan runways, read like silly, elitist and disconnected rambling.  Not on part of the author, but his subjects:

“’Maybe they think it’s too obvious’ to feature an ethnically inclusive runway casting in the week of Barak Obama’s inauguration, Franca Sozzani, the Vogue Italia editor, said of designers. ‘It has nothing to do with a racist attitude,’ the editor insisted moments before the start of a Gucci show in which, as it happened, all of the models were white.

Frida Giannini, the Gucci designer, said after the show, ‘I think it would be great if there was an industry initiative on this issue, because I am always looking for black models, or even Chinese or whatever, for the shows.’

‘I’m after a specific kind of look,’ she added, ‘and I request the agencies — I asked last season — to send me someone interesting. But they never send me anyone very new.’

– NYT

Too obvious?  It’s fashion, everything is “obvious.”  And even so, who cares?  As for Giannini…..lord, the woman has talent but she sounds like an absolute moron.  I am highly curious of the “look” she requested from the agencies, because this is the kind of subtle exclusion of POC that happens, even unconsciously.  I can hear the conversation at the agency:

“Frida is looking for Palm Beach Socialite.”

“How about Hye Park?”

“No, I don’t think she’s quite right.”

Over at Style.com, Jourdan Dunn’s profile excerpt reads: “Note to casting agents: Dunn is on the record as saying that she’d be happy to share the spotlight with other black models.”

I long for the day when a Black, Japanese or Indian model is not looked at as a brokering chip or a PR pawn.  Take, for example, the introductory paragraph of the Times piece:

“’Black Fever!’ the cover line reads on Urban, a tabloid giveaway being passed out at this week’s men’s wear shows. ‘From politics to fashion, photography to art,’ the editors of Urban assert, black is the color du jour.”

Also, is it just me, or is the ad shown below for Epson totally offensive?

11 Healthy Foods You May Not Be Eating

January 7, 2009

I’m a bit late with this, but was intrigued nonetheless.  Last summer, the New York Times asked nutritionist and author Jonny Bowden to share 11 of the most readily available and healthy foods we should all incorporate into our diets.  Read on to see how your diet measures up.

BEETS

Why: Beets are a rich source of folate as well as natural red pigments that may be cancer fighters.

How To Eat: Fresh, raw and grated to make a salad. Heating decreases the antioxidant power.

How I Measure Up: I like beets, and eat them occasionally while they are in season.  Although, I never eat them raw, preferring to roast, peel and section for salads.  I am intrigued by the idea of grating raw into a salad.  I think I might try this before the end of this summer.  I have some time!

CABBAGE

Why: Loaded with nutrients like sulforaphane, a chemical said to boost cancer-fighting enzymes.

How To Eat: Asian-style slaw or as a crunchy topping on burgers and sandwiches.

How I Measure Up: I actually really dig cabbage, and I didn’t realize it was so healthy.  I suppose I lumped it in with the nutrition-lacking iceberg lettuce.  I usually incorporate cabbage into soups and stir fries.  The one downside: it gives you gas.

SWISS CHARD

Why: It’s packed with carotenoids that protect aging eyes.

How To Eat: Sautéed in olive oil.

How I Measure Up: I use Swiss Chard whenever I can, as well as Collards and Kale.  I like to use the beautiful leaves in arrangements and then eat.  Usually I sauté, stir fry or add to soups or pastas

CINNAMON

Why: May help control blood sugar and cholesterol.

How To Eat: On coffee or oatmeal.

How I Measure Up: I always add cinnamon to my cappuccinos (okay, I also sometimes add whipped cream).  If I still ate oatmeal, I would add it to that as well.  I do like cinnamon, and we have 2-3 jars of it in our kitchen.

POMEGRANATE JUICE

Why: Appears to lower blood pressure and loaded with antioxidants.

How To Eat: Drink it.

How I Measure Up: The only time I’ve had pomegranate juice is in a cocktail or muhammara.

DRIED PLUMS

Why: They are packed with antioxidants.

How To Eat: Wrapped in prosciutto and baked.

How I Measure Up: Prunes!  I love prunes.  They are my favorite dried fruit and I often keep a bag at my desk.  Forget the prosciutto, eat them plain.

PUMPKIN SEEDS

Why: They are packed with magnesium; high levels of the mineral are associated with lower risk for early death.

How To Eat: Roasted as a snack, or sprinkled on salad.

How I Measure Up: I like roasted pumpkin seeds, but I only eat them after carving my Halloween pumpkin.

SARDINES

Why: They are high in omega-3’s, contain virtually no mercury and are loaded with calcium. They also contain iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese as well as a full complement of B vitamins.

How To Eat: Choose sardines packed in olive or sardine oil. Eat plain, mixed with salad, on toast, or mashed with dijon mustard and onions as a spread.

How I Measure Up: No way, no how.  I hate sardines.  And anchovies.  Which makes me a horrible Italian.  I will stick with salmon for my omega-3’s.

TUMERIC

Why: The “superstar of spices,” it may have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.

How To Eat: Mix with scrambled eggs or in any vegetable dish.

How I Measure Up: Not well.  In fact, I am not entirely sure which cuisines use this spice liberally.  I will need to research this.

FROZEN BLUEBERRIES

Why: They are associated with better memory.

How To Eat: Blended with yogurt or chocolate soy milk and sprinkled with crushed almonds.

How I Measure Up: I don’t really care for blueberries.  In fact, I much prefer vegetables to fruit.  My memory is crap anyhow, and I don’t think a few frozen berries will help.

CANNED PUMPKIN

Why: Low in calories and high in fiber and immune-stimulating vitamin A; fills you up on very few calories.

How To Eat: Mix with a little butter, cinnamon and nutmeg.

How I Measure Up: I prefer to avoid canned or frozen vegetables (with the exception of edamame), opting for fresh, seasonal produce.  Anyhow, what is the point of a low calorie snack when you eat it with butter?  I’d rather eat my butter on bread.

Source: NYT

I didn’t fare too badly, how about you?  Do you have other healthy foods that you recommend?

Can You Host A Dinner Party For Under One Hundred Bucks?

December 31, 2008

Carly, aprés dinner, kicking ass at Trivial Pursuit.  Photo: Penny

Of course you can, I suppose.  However, how nice of a dinner can you host for under $100?  And for how many people?  I decided to find out.

Hot on the heels of the New York Times and Bon Appetit budget-friendly write-ups on holiday entertaining, I thought I might take a stab at a similar challenge.

David and I have people over a lot. It’s often the only time we can see friends and I love to cook. Unfortunately, as anyone who entertains is aware, the cost can add up, and fast. Buying food is just the beginning; soon you find yourself in need of a roasting pan for that turkey you want to make, or you don’t have enough glassware for all of your guests. And then, of course, there’s the alcohol.

When I mentioned that I wanted to have some friends over the week after Christmas, David moaned, “but I thought you were on a budget!?” I explained that I really wanted to try and host for under 100 bucks. “How about 50?” he responded.

I did get a lot of recommendations to have a potluck, but I was very focused on creating a sophisticated and somewhat gourmet meal on a budget. Apartment Therapy’s The Kitchn covered the NYT piece, and I was very intrigued that Joanna Goddard (the fiancée of the man who wrote the article) weighed in, commenting:

“I just want to point out: the $30/person was for wine, decor and a three-course dinner for a 5-hour party. and of course you can have a less expensive party–a party with beer is totally fun and fine! this story, however, was more about having a party that feels super swanky, totally over-the-top in a fun way–almost like a wedding–for less money than usual.”

Now, I am not competitive by nature, but I was convinced that I could do a multi-course dinner for 8 that felt “swanky” for far less than $250. Yes, that number included 6 bottles of Charles Shaw and decorations. However, $150 of the budget went toward decorations, something I think most of us could skip, or at least modify.

Photo: New York Times

In the end, we had 6 people over for a dinner (8 including David and I). Did we keep within the $100 budget? Read on to find out.

The Plan

Before planning the meal, I decided to lay out some ground-rules:

  1. The evening must cost under $100.
  2. Alcohol would be included.
  3. The meal would be simple but not exceedingly casual.
  4. Appetizers and dessert would be served.

The Setting

We decided on an early supper gathering on the eve of New Years Eve. One of my closest friends has a new baby and she and her husband needed to get out on the early side to put her down.  As it turns out, that friend canceled so we called in for some last-minute fill ins, David’s parents, who live close by.

General Parameters

  1. I did not include ingredients such as dried herbs and spices and small amounts of oil. Most people have these items in their pantries and I am to lazy to break it down into cost-per-use.
  2. I did not include any decorations.  Nor did I buy anything new. I have enough flatware, stemware and miscellaneous items to entertain a small army. But I have included some tips on how to serve/decorate on the cheap.

Money-Saving Tips

  1. Don’t ignore less popular (and far less expensive) cuts of meat. I don’t each much red meat, but I have read countless articles extolling the many virtues of slow-cooking budget cuts of meat. If you are a big red meat eater, this is a great option to keep in mind. Check out: braising, roasting.
  2. Flavor, flavor, flavor. When you begin to explore other cuisines, such as Indian or Vietnamese, your taste-buds are overwhelmed with new and exciting flavors. Make something spicy, use garlic liberally, try lemongrass or Thai basil. International markets are a great and economical resource.
  3. Substitute olive oil when you can. Butter and vegetable oil are just fine for the majority of dishes. Reserve the more expensive olive oil for dishes where its flavor will shine.
  4. Buy from bulk bins. Need crystallized ginger? An odd spice you’ve never heard of? Cashews? Seek out a market nearby that sells items in bulk, so you can purchase just the amount needed for your recipe.
  5. Grow your own vegetables or hit the farmer’s market.
  6. Don’t get too hung up on mismatched flatware, glassware and silverware. Run with it! Use Anthropolgie catalogs as inspiration for funky decorating.
  7. When all else fails, keep it simple and classic. A nice shrimp cocktail, homemade bread, roasted chicken; you can’t go wrong.

Menu

While planning the party menu, I focused on seasonal produce and really thought carefully about which proteins I wanted to serve. Meat, as we established, is often the most expensive element of a meal. As I am not much of a red meat eater, opting for pork, poultry or fish, I decided on the latter two.

Then, David threw a rather large wrench into my plan. The week before the dinner, he came home with a $25 hunk of beef.

“Prime rib was on sale! I thought we could make it for our dinner next week,” he said while tossing it in the freezer. Whatever his reservations were a few days prior, he had obviously gotten over them. Now he had purchased an item that would take up a full quarter of my budget. And I don’t even especially care for prime rib, nor had I ever cooked it.

No bother, I would adapt.

Final Menu

The Evening

I had to work during the day, so David was left to prepare, clean and do the last minute shopping.  He also made the dessert, a coffee/orange scented mousse that was lactose-free (two of the guests were lactose intolerant).

When I arrived home, I hit our backyard to pull some greens from our mess of a garden and find some cool stuff to create a centerpiece for the table.  I found a tree with some purple-colored berries and pulled some pretty dried maple leaves off the ground.  I also found some fallen tree branches.  I have a small vase with floral foam that I reuse.  I stuck the berries into the foam and added the leaves around the edge.  I positioned the vase at the center of the table and scattered the leaves along either side.  I placed the tree branches (twigs, more like) on top of the leaves and threw out a few votives.

Photo: Penny

Photo: Penny

David was busy preparing the meat so I made the mashed potatoes, prepared the salad and blanched the green beans.  I set out the appetizer, got the music going and decanted the red wine.

If anything can elevate a $3 bottle of wine, it’s a decanter.  Photo: Penny

Our DJ for the evening.  Photo: Penny

When the meat came out, I put in the mashed potatoes that I had prepared earlier and transferred to a dutch oven.  I started the green beans while David worked on the sauce to accompany the prime rib.

Photos: Penny

We decided to plate each dish and serve the salad after dinner.

The photo is straight out of I Like You, Middle-America kitsch.  Photo: Penny

The final plate.  Photo: Penny

After dinner we cleaned up and prepared the dessert.

Photo: Penny

Enjoying dessert:  Photo: Penny

Final Cost Breakdown

Prime Rib – $25.00
Salami – $5.99
Lettuce – Garden
Walnuts – $1.50
Garlic – $3.00
Potatoes – $4.98
Apples – $0.50
Parsley – $0.50
Onions – $0.50
Green Onions – $0.48
Baguette – $2.29
Unsalted Butter – $0.68
Whipping Cream – $2.09
Orange – $0.30
Green Beans – $2.30
Carrot – $0.22
Silken Tofu – $2.98
Lemon – $0.50
Beef Broth – $0.49
Powdered Sugar – $0.99
Brie – $3.49
Parmesan – $1.99
Wine (4 Bottles) – $11.97
Organic Baking Cocoa – $0.99
Chocolate Chips – $0.50
Whole Milk – $0.99

Total – $75.22

I would say that we used about $10 (absolute MAX) on items such as oil, mustard, dill, salt and pepper, etc.  Items that we did not buy but had in the house.  That still leaves us $15 under $100!

We received two addition bottles of wine from guests.

More Tips

  • “Borrow” is not a dirty word. Need a hand mixer? Matching plates? For God’s sake, borrow them from someone! A friend, family member, neighbor….anyone. People are usually very cool about lending things out.
  • Plan ahead. If you know you’ll be making a soup for a starter, roast a chicken the week before so you can make homemade stock to freeze. Keep your eyes peeled for sales. The week before our dinner, I checked out sales at the grocery store and scored a huge bag of frozen shrimp for $10, nearly 50% off.  Perfect for shrimp cocktail!
  • Keep it seasonal. Fish and produce in season will taste better AND be cheaper.
  • Don’t get hung up on your menu. Be flexible. When you hit the store, ask your fishmonger or butcher what is fresh. Better to buy some good looking salmon than settle for gross, frozen scallops because you are hell-bent on making a particular recipe.
  • Don’t worry too much about appetizers or starters. Keep these simple. Your guests will be more interested in getting a drink in their hands and catching up, and they won’t fill up before dinner.
  • Substitute if necessary. Want to try a recipe but it calls for 2 tablespoons of brandy (that you don’t have)? You can usually find SOME kind of substitute for an ingredient. Do a search online and explore a bit before committing to a recipe. You can start here.
  • Vegetarians among your guests? Don’t worry about creating a dish just for them. Provide a hearty side (a risotto or pasta with plenty of vegetables, for example) that can be eaten as a main or side dish. Just remember to substitute chicken stock with vegetable stock.
  • Use nature as an inspiration. You don’t need to buy anything for your table centerpiece. Go out and collect leaves to scatter across the center of the table. Find some cool fallen tree branches and add to a tall vase. Look for a rosemary bush, or an orange tree – anything that looks beautiful. In the past I have created arrangements using large chard and kale leaves. Bonus: You can eat them after the party!
  • Dim the lights and throw out some votive candles. If you don’t have candle holders, use leaves, flat rocks, small glasses….anything you have around.