chocolate chip cookies

What’s Your Go-To Comfort Food?

by Anne Maxfield on July 27, 2015

Accidental Locavore Kerry's BookAfter thoroughly perusing Kerry Altiero’s new cookbook Adventures in Comfort Food, the Accidental Locavore started thinking about comfort food. While there are some foods that would be almost universal, on every list there are bound to be others that just don’t appeal. For me, chicken (or any other kind of) pot pies don’t even make the top 100 and there’s a reason for that. When we were kids and my parents went out we would get pot pies. Not the good ones (if there are such things), the frozen kind that were three-for-a-dollar. Play-Doh like crusts, requiring a jack-hammer to open them, revealing a sludgy beige mess with the occasional pea, carrot chunk and once in a blue moon, a horribly overcooked morsel of chicken.

Frank on the other hand, puts pot pies much higher in the ranking. “If it’s done well, it can be thoroughly enjoyable – a meal in itself.” Also on his list, meatloaf, liver with onions and bacon, chicken, mashed potatoes, pasta – especially spaghetti and meatballs and lasagna. He thinks some form of pasta is on almost everyone’s list.

Raw liver on wooden boardLike pot pies, liver would never be on my list of comfort foods. We agree on mashed potatoes, and spaghetti and meatballs. I’d have mac and cheese right up there – actually almost anything with cheese, or potatoes, or pasta. All that really-bad-for-you white food. Toast. A good roast chicken is a great meal, but I’m not sure it’s comfort food to me, but corn on the cob sure is (as are perfect tomatoes). Polenta?

Accidental Locavore Noshis BurgerAs much as we love a good burger (and fries), that doesn’t make the list either. Ditto pizza. Frank has a good point when he says that comfort food requires sitting down and enjoying it, however, there are lots of really memorable meals that we’ve sat down and enjoyed that were truly memorable but hardly comforting.

Don’t you think nostalgia plays a huge roll? I’d probably put apple sauce on my list because it was something we always got when we were sick. Not Jello – too artificial, but definitely ice cream cones, especially in silly flavors like peppermint stick or loaded with what we knew as jimmies (sprinkles to the rest of you). For many people, peanut butter fits that bill, but I’ve baited one too many mouse traps for it to have any appeal.

Comfort food is often food our mothers cooked well. Frank’s argument for liver is because it was one of the dishes his mother mastered. My mother cooked a lot of things well, but some of them, like her tiny noodle casseroles, just showed up on the plate one night too often.

Accidental Locavore CokeAnd beverages definitely fall into the comfort category. Besides hot chocolate, and maybe tea, the king of the comfort food drinks has to be what their competition calls “Big Red from Atlanta” a classic Coke, really cold, in a glass bottle.

Accidental Locavore Chocolate Chip Cookies IIWhat have I forgotten, or what do you want to defend? Chocolate chip cookies? Twinkies? Post a comment and let us know your list. Enjoy!




Maison Kayser Revisited, or a Great Lunch!

by Anne Maxfield on September 2, 2014

Accidental Locavore at Maison KayserSometimes it’s just great being the Accidental Locavore! As you know I’ve written a couple of times about Maison Kayser (it’s my favorite croissant in Manhattan). Their PR person, Janet Mick, invited me to lunch at their newest location on Third Avenue and 87th Street and I eagerly accepted!

It’s a nice, airy space, with a big seating area and a smaller take-out counter. If you’re seated in the right spot, you can watch the croissants going in and coming out of a stack of big ovens, and if you weren’t hungry before….

Accidental Locavore Tomatoes and BurattaIn the interest of trying as much of the menu as two people could, we started out with beautiful small heirloom tomatoes topped with burrata and pesto – a perfect August appetizer! Then, we added the fois gras torchons which came with their great bread toasted, and a cherry chutney. If you’re wondering how good they were, the fact that they were both pretty much demolished before I thought to take photos should be proof enough, right?

Accidental Locavore Fig TartineAfter that, I had a wonderful tartine with goat cheese, fresh figs and caramelized onions. It was a perfect blend of flavors (and looked great to boot). Janet had the salad d’Été—a big bowl full of fresh summer produce topped off with shrimp and a light lemon dressing.

Along with all this great food, Marine, the manager of this location, made sure we had the full selection of the breads Maison Kayser is famous for. Because I’ve had nut allergies, we had to skip the wonderful looking turmeric bread with nuts, but she made up for it with their amazing light rye with lemon zest (can’t wait to take some of that home and toast it!), a fig bread that would be perfect with a nice chèvre, whole grain, seeded (poppy and sesame) and white breads, any of which would be great to have around the house.

Accidental Locavore Dessert TrioWe couldn’t leave without at least a little taste of one of their incredible pastries, so Marine went off to surprise us. She came back with a trio of desserts, ranging from a dense dark chocolate tart, the Adagio with a passion fruit center and a chocolate glaze, a trio of bite-sized raspberry tarts (proving, as my husband always says, “the French really understand raspberries!’) and my favorite, the Saint-Honoré, three small cream puffs resting on a pastry base with caramel whipped cream. The crunch of the caramel glaze along with the cream and the pastry was just spectacular!

Accidental Locavore Maison Kayser GoodiesPart of what makes everything so good is that each location bakes everything from scratch, every day. The croissants are made hourly, to ensure that they’re always fresh. I mentioned to Marine that I was going to grab a couple to take to my cousin’s (where I was spending the night). She said she’d put together a few things for me to take home and I left lugging a huge shopping bag. There were croissants, plain and a giant chocolate one, fabulous chocolate chip cookies, a flakey palmier and a sweet bun, so we feasted through the night and had a fabulous breakfast the next morning!

If you’ve had your fill of that other French place, definitely check out Maison Kayser. This time I was their guest, but when I’ve been there on my own, the food has been consistently delicious, more interesting and the service better. There are now five of them in Manhattan, with a sixth opening in time for pre-marathon carbo-loading on the Upper West Side.




Birth of a Range – Some Assembly Required

by Anne Maxfield on November 18, 2013

Accidental Locavore BlueStar DemoIf you’ve ever watched an episode of How it’s Made, you, like the Accidental Locavore, would have jumped at the chance to go down to the BlueStar  factory in Pennsylvania to have lunch, tour the factory and drool over these impressive ranges. In this hyper-automated age, there is a definite cool factor in watching the manufacturing process and meeting the people involved in producing a product – in this case, professional-grade ranges.

One of the things about spending thousands on a BlueStar is that you have the ability to customize it, choosing burner configuration and BTUs, something I would love to do (and then I would definitely want another trip to watch it come together!), but if that’s not as important to you they can also match grannie’s heirloom tablecloth, with their 750 color choices.

Accidental Locavore Chicken PaillardBecause most of these ranges are essentially made-to-order, each range is built individually. While panels may be stamped out by a machine, how often do you get to see someone hand-spraying the interior dappling for an oven panel? It takes a surprising amount of finesse, similar to watching a great graffiti artist.  We were joking about getting your initials dappled into the oven, but I’m sure it’s possible. And, while we’re on the topic, do you know why they dapple the insides of ovens? It’s to make it easier to see what’s going on in there.

Speaking of ovens, out of the demo oven came the best part of lunch, absolutely the greatest chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever eaten! I’m not sure if it was because they were made in a superior (to mine, certainly) PowR oven, or just used really good ingredients, but they were fabulous. I’m working on the recipe, but haven’t gotten it as good as theirs (yet).

Accidental Locavore the Best Chocolate Chip CookiesWe were lucky enough to have Chef Paul Marshall preparing a lovely lunch for us. There was a beautifully cooked chicken paillard with asparagus and an arugula salad. Before that, he made a shrimp and corn chowder, which was perfect on a brisk fall day. Dessert was chocolate-covered strawberries and the aforementioned incredible cookies.

Afterwards, we went downstairs to watch the final testing and finishing of the ranges. Interestingly, most of this work is done by women. Wonder why? One of the ranges, a big one, was in a baby blue with copper accents – an unusual combination that just goes to show you the almost limitless combinations possible. Accidental Locavore Blue Star ColorsWhile I can’t imagine cooking so much that I would need a 60” range (huge) or a ten-foot hood (even bigger), it’s nice to know they’re available and in 750 colors.

Thanks to BlueStar for another fun outing and a chance to dream about what my perfect range would be!



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