mac and cheese

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!

 

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Sweet Comfort Food

by Anne Maxfield on March 30, 2015

Accidental Locavore CaramelsDon’t you, like the Accidental Locavore, generally think of comfort food as being savory? Mac and cheese, pot pies and meatloaf are some of the usual suspects, but a case can also be made for sweet comfort foods—caramels for example.

The biggest treat for us as kids was at Christmas when a box of my grandmother’s caramels would make its annual appearance. It was strictly forbidden to open it before Christmas and even then they were carefully doled out one at a time. Soft and buttery, they were simple and delicious.

I was reminded of them recently when I met Michèle from la Petite Occasion at a networking event put on by the Specialty Food Association. She slipped me a bag of her caramels, an assortment of vanilla, bacon bourbon, salted dark chocolate and chocolate Grand Marnier. They were all fabulous! The vanilla immediately took me back to my grandmother’s, with the same soft, buttery goodness. I wasn’t sure I was going to like the bacon ones, but the bacon adds more of a textural interest to the caramels, with a hint of smokiness from it and the bourbon. Thankfully, it’s not intent on making a big “look at me I’m bacon” statement and ditto for the bourbon.

Accidental Locavore Box of CaramelsThanks to Michèle, I now have a much bigger appreciation for chocolate caramels. Her salted dark chocolate ones were my second favorite after the vanilla. Again, a hint of salt played well with the deep chocolate taste and since you have three of what I consider the basic food groups—chocolate, butter and salt, what’s not to like? The chocolate Grand Marnier caramels had the orange flavor of Grand Marnier, but again, without a big boozy flavor.

Besides the caramels, there is also a dark chocolate toffee which looks amazing. She’s selling to some retailers in the Westchester area, or you can do what I did and order directly from the website.

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Accidental Locavore Marcus Samuelsson

The Red Rooster, Marcus Samuelsson’s newest restaurant was host to a great party last week. When the Accidental Locavore got the invitation from Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, I jumped at the chance. How often do you get to try one of New York’s hottest restaurants early on, at a private party or get bankers to feed you? And since I’ve never tasted Marcus Samuelsson’s food, I was curious. Who wouldn’t be? After all, he is the winner of the most recent Top Chef Masters, and you know you wouldn’t turn down the chance for (good) free food, would you?

What I was drinking: Paul Jaboulet Parallele 45 Cote de Rhone. This seems to be the inexpensive Cote de Rhone of the moment, Paula at Fish Tag turned me onto it a few weeks ago.

What I was eating: small chunks of a pretty spicy fried chicken. Pulled pork sliders (am I the only slob in who thinks slider should be banned at cocktail parties? They’re usually too big to eat in one bite, and if you can’t eat them in a single bite. they slide…all over you), what they were calling mac and greens, which was orecchiette pasta with cheese and greens, good, but not mac and cheese. A very nice thin crust pizza, lovely home cured salmon, corn bread which my friend from the South, said was too sweet, and Helga’s meatballs (made with fish too, so kind of a weird surprise).  So what was my favorite? The fish tacos by a landslide. They were on the most amazing tiny corn taco shells, about 4″ in diameter, and so thin you couldn’t imagine how they could make them without breaking them. I’d love to know how they do them, or who they get them from.

Accidental Locavore Clarence JonesWho I was meeting: not Marcus unfortunately, he was busy seeing to the smooth transition of food and wine, and even though he made some remarks and took photos near our table, he was way to busy to work the room. Al, at the bar pointed out several former Knicks, from the glory days when they used to win…Sitting next to me was Clarence Jones, who was Martin Luther King’s lawyer, and helped draft the “I Have a Dream” speech. Strange coincidence, yesterday at a seminar on Design the Life You Love, I saw an old photo of Dr. King and with him was Clarence. Thanks to Sandra Richards head of diversity for Morgan Stanley for putting together a fun event!

What I thought of the Red Rooster: to be fair, a big party is not the way to judge a restaurant. The room is lovely, and it’s really easy to get there by subway (just upstairs from the 2/3 train at 125th St.), however dinner there is currently booked for the month of March. I would go for lunch to meet friends who live uptown, and would wait for it to calm down before I attempted dinner there. In place of a goody bag, we were all given a copy of Marcus’ book New American Table, so check out Friday’s Cook-Along and see what I decided to make from it, OK?

And thanks to my friend Lisa for the helpful edit!

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