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Fat Guy

eG Foodblog: Fat Guy - A Normal Week

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In selecting a week for an eG Foodblog, I agonized over finding a normal week during which to blog. You know, a week during which I’d be at home living my normal life, eating the way I normally eat, etc.

It was only after trying and failing so many times to schedule such a week that I had the realization: I don’t have any normal weeks. That’s the life my wife, Ellen, and I chose almost a decade ago when we got out of the corporate world (I was a lawyer at a big firm, she was a marketing manager at a big publishing company) and started careers as freelance journalists. Today, we both work at home or in whatever hotel, car or other person’s house we happen to find ourselves at any given time, and our schedules are quite flexible – some would say chaotic. At this point, with our baby only a year old, we’re not even bound by school schedules.

We were planning to be at home for the coming week, but a few days ago my sister called and invited us to stay with her at a place she’s renting in Wellfleet, MA, which for those of you who aren’t New Englanders is a vacation destination on (in?) Cape Cod. The place she rented for the last couple of weeks of August comes with a little guesthouse, to which we’ve been granted the rights for the coming week, though we may also, we are told, opt to stay in the main house. We’ll see.

So it looks like what we’ll be doing this week is a Cape Cod vacation blog. Then again, maybe not. We’ve got a situation with a very ill relative, and it’s possible that one day this eG Foodblog will just end without warning – if so, you’ll know what happened (or it could just be me having my much-anticipated nervous breakdown).

Anyway. I’ve packed my trusty old pre-exploding-batteries Dell Inspiron 8100 notebook computer, my cheapo Canon A620 digital camera (sorry, I’ll be doing the photography this week – Ellen deserves the vacation) and my Motorola V325 cell phone (the place we’re staying doesn’t even have a phone, so I’ll be connecting via the Verizon NationalAccess network, which is, on a good day, somewhat faster than dialup but nothing close to broadband), along with clothes and such, in the family Honda Odyssey minivan, so we’re good to go first thing in the morning.

The plan is, in rough outline, to depart for the Cape on Monday morning, stopping first in New Haven, CT, to visit the inlaws for the day and continuing the drive at night for a late arrival in Wellfleet. If all goes well, we’ll probably drive back on Friday night. Chances are, my main posts will come late at night each night, after everybody else goes to bed and I have time to write and upload photos. I’ll also try to check in each day a few times, when possible.

The cast of characters: our family consists of me, my wife Ellen, our one-year-old son PJ and our bulldog Momo; my sister’s family consists of my sister, her husband, her two teenage boys and their cockapoo (poodle-cocker hybrid). I don’t know yet how much they want to be involved in the blogging effort – this is all very last-minute, so maybe you’ll hear more about them or maybe you won’t.

I’m really not sure what we’ll be eating and doing. We’re going to bring some provisions with us, and maybe a few pieces of cooking equipment (vacation rental kitchens typically have awful equipment), but I don’t know if we’ll be dining out, cooking at home together, visiting other towns, staying close to our place or what. We’ll find out together during the coming week.

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So, tonight we had PJ’s birthday dinner at Tabla. It’s not PJ’s actual birthday (that was Thursday) but this was the first time we could get together with my mother and her, um, well, I don’t know exactly what to label my mother’s friend/companion/partner Nick. We just call him Nick. Tomorrow night we’ll probably have another birthday dinner, with Ellen’s side of the family in Connecticut. We’ll definitely have cake, which is the important thing. Maybe dinner too.

Tabla is divided into two restaurants. Upstairs is a fine-dining restaurant serving New American-influenced Indian cuisine (I try not to call it American Indian, because that confuses people). Downstairs is the more casual “Bread Bar,” so called because a lot of the dishes are organized around two tandoor ovens behind the bar. The food is much more along the lines of Indian home cooking, street food and the like, though the Bread Bar is quite elegant in its own right. The downstairs area is also just a lot more baby-appropriate than the upstairs, so that’s where we’ve mostly been eating over the past year (we go about once a month). Tabla is run by the same folks who run the famed Union Square Cafe and Gramercy Tavern, among others.

Here we are riding down to Tabla in a taxi.

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I should note that, in the spirit of blogging, I’m taking the photographs this week using my inferior point-and-shoot digital. Ellen, who is an actual photographer and has a real camera – you know, the kind with different lenses and such – is taking the week off. So, the reason the photos are kind of going to suck this week is that I’m taking them with my unsteady hand, astigmatism and artistic cluelessness. There may be a few good ones interspersed, however, because on occasion Ellen will, disgusted, grab the camera from me and take matters into her own hands.

This here architectural feature is called the “oculus” (which I guess is Latin for eye).

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When you sit downstairs in the Bread Bar, you can see the upstairs formal dining room through the oculus. When you’re upstairs, you can throw stuff down at the people below. Or, at least, you’ll be sorely tempted to do so.

This is PJ’s dinner.

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Tonight he had, in addition to bits and pieces of the adult food at the table, some sweet potato, some avocado, some bits of watermelon, some chopped up bits of braised brisket of beef, some really horrible-tasting organic, unsweetened, nothing-added, mixed-grain cereal, and some even more awful organic faux-Cheerios (in the pill bottle on the left). This is a fairly typical meal for PJ. He has never had any baby food from a jar. He eats a lot better than I do, that’s for sure.

This is the famed tamarind margarita served at the Bread Bar. It’s so good. I call this photo “out-of-focus tamarind margarita with overexposed lime (rocks no salt).”

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Here’s the first wave of actual food.

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That’s a couple of sourdough naan breads from the tandoor, the incredible, amazing Goan avocado salad (the brilliant Indian equivalent of guacamole), a dish of three condiments and some yogurt raita.

This is a great salad of chunks of greenmarket heirloom tomatoes, right a the peak of ripeness.

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Here’s PJ thoroughly enjoying the cheese kulcha (basically naan stuffed with cheddar cheese).

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Corn is also in season right now, and this dish of roasted corn with a really nice Indian spice mixture took full advantage of the sweetness of our local corn.

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This dish of monkfish and potatoes was my least favorite item of the evening. It just didn’t have a ton of flavor, and it also wasn’t interesting in any sort of subtle way. Nice fish, nice potatoes, but not a terrific dish. There’s some simple jasmine rice next to it – delicious, like an order of magnitude better than rice usually is.

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This is Ellen’s favorite item on the Bread Bar menu, and it’s a very popular signature item (one of the only things they never take off the menu). It’s a pulled lamb sandwich (“naanini”) with mustard mashed potatoes and a yogurt dipping sauce. It’s quite filling. Most normal people can’t finish all three sections. I can, but it’s definitely a substantial dish. You can also see, in the background, the slow-roasted baby lamb, wrapped in a banana leaf. There was also some lovely baby spinach somewhere on the table. I guess I didn't get a photo of it.

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This is the kitchen, behind the bar.

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We ordered the Bread Bar doughnut holes for dessert, sort of the Bread Bar’s equivalent of beignets. They’re served on this elaborate contraption, on a tray, on a banana leaf, in a basket lined with paper, accompanied by three dipping sauces.

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And for PJ’s birthday dessert we got the vanilla bean kulfi, which is a milk-based frozen dessert that, through long reduction, comes out very much like ice cream. With a candle in it, of course.

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After dinner Ellen took PJ home and I went to Fairway, one of the world’s greatest supermarkets, on the Upper West Side right near where my mother and Nick live. I did some shopping for the Cape Cod trip – mostly non-perishable items that are hard to get in Wellfleet or even at the big Stop-and-Shop half an hour away in Orleans, stuff like good vinegar, the baby cereal PJ eats, the Sabra brand hummus that Ellen favors, etc. I’d love to be able to show you some photos of Fairway but they go completely psycho if you take photos in there. I guess they’re afraid people will steal the idea of a store that sells food.

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Is it already PJ's 1st birthday?? Good Heavens, how time flies!

Really looking forward to this. Will there be a pizza pilgrimage in New Haven? I do know you all love a good pizza... :biggrin:

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There will likely be no pizza pilgrimage. Sally's is closed on Mondays (we could go to Pepe's or Modern, but that would be taking a foodblog-as-reality-TV approach, where we do something we wouldn't normally do but pretend we're really like that), as are a couple of our other favorite New Haven restaurants. We'll likely have dinner at Ellen's family's home.

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I am loving this already! Your child is the cutest kid, I found myself just staring at the pictures of him. I bet all eyes are on him in person, too. I had my eyes on the food at Tabla also. Now I'm going to have to make a stop at a small restaurant at Daytona Beach that has good naan breads.

Thanks for putting a smile on my face this morning, and thank Ellen and PJ too. I hope you enjoy your week.

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thanks so much for the info on Tabla...I'm heading to NYC in a couple of weeks and was considering stopping in...now I am really intrigued

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What goes into the Goan salad besides avocado?

this could be his avatar for when he grows up and joins eGullet :smile:

speaking of avatars.. is the dog in your avatar, yours and will he/she be appearing in the blog?

Looking forward to this week!


Edited by Chufi (log)

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I’m taking the photographs this week using my inferior point-and-shoot digital.

HEY. -I- use the A620. It rulez. Just learn to use the manual and program modes a bit.

It looks like you are doing an excellent job with it, however.

One of the ways I am able to improve food photos with that camera is setting it to flower mode and then flash off (pushing down on the control ring in the back, then up on the control ring) control knob to Program mode (P), setting the white balance to custom and taking a shot of the white on the napkin, setting ISO 400 (if at night or in a dark room).


Edited by Jason Perlow (log)

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What goes into the Goan salad besides avocado?

Toasted cumin, lime juice and extra virgin olive oil. There may be more, but those are the main flavors. There's a Tabla cookbook coming out in October, so we can get a more detailed recipe then.

speaking of avatars.. is the dog in your avatar, yours and will he/she be appearing in the blog?

Yes.

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I bet all eyes are on him in person, too.

It's awful. The other day we were at Sarabeth's, one of the better restaurants within a block of my house, and we were all having a conversation when suddenly we realized that half the restaurant was waving at PJ. He had managed to engage the population of an entire wall of banquettes.

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I’d love to be able to show you some photos of Fairway but they go completely psycho if you take photos in there.

Exactly! I've thought about taking some Fairway pictures for the various foodblogs I've done, but managed to restrain myself by imagining a headline in the Post that said, "Stupid Foodie Beaten to Death by 80 Year Old Jewish Ladies in 74th Street Fairway." It's hard enough to elbow those senior citizens out of the way when I'm reaching for a number at the appetizing counter, never mind standing around trying to frame a shot.

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I've been through, but not to, Wellfleet. If you're driving from Boston to the Cape, you must pass through Wellfleet to get to Provincetown; Truro separates the two. (Of course, the nicest way to get from Boston to P'town is to take one of the Bay State ferries in season--it's also faster than taking Routes 3 and 6. A quick glimpse at a map of Massachusetts should indicate why.)

I realize that the main purpose of the foodblog is to chronicle our lives through what we cook and eat, but I always love sense-of-place stuff--the chance to indulge my inner hhlodesign. If you could get a little of the atmosphere of Wellfleet into your chronicle, I'd appreciate it.

Looking forward to this themeless themed blog. It's off to a nice start already.

P.S. I haven't been up to New York recently, so I'm still holding on to those Starwich coupons.

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Ooooh, Steven, that pulled lamb sandwich does look mighty tasty.

Have a good drive...can't wait to see all the fun frozen treats you'll be consuming on the Cape!

And PJ...oof, is he adorable or what? Look at those eyes!

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What do you do for car food for the little one? If you're like me, you want something that doesn't require a serious vaccuuming of the car...

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PJ is adorable. I see why the whole room was smiling at him.

Your meal at Tabla looks absolutely delicious. Needless to say I love Indian food.

You're off to a good start.

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I am over the moon that you and Ellen are blogging! I was especially pleased to see that you have PJ started with a program to get him used to French food early. Great job. :laugh:

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PJ is adorable! I think he may steal the show on your blog. In fact, I think he already did!

Have a good trip to the Cape. Have a lobster roll for me...

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I've been through, but not to, Wellfleet.  If you're driving from Boston to the Cape, you must pass through Wellfleet to get to Provincetown; Truro separates the two.  (Of course, the nicest way to get from Boston to P'town is to take one of the Bay State ferries in season--it's also faster than taking Routes 3 and 6.  A quick glimpse at a map of Massachusetts should indicate why.)

I realize that the main purpose of the foodblog is to chronicle our lives through what we cook and eat, but I always love sense-of-place stuff--the chance to indulge my inner hhlodesign.  If you could get a little of the atmosphere of Wellfleet into your chronicle, I'd appreciate it.

I was just in Wellfleet, staying in a rented house in the woods. While, I agree that the ferry is a good option in terms of speed, the problem is that unless you are planning on ONLY being in Provincetown you need a car on the Cape.

There are great ponds in the area for swimming. The water is warm and there tend to be shallow spots for little ones to jump around and splash. I seem to remember the beach at Gull Pond as being particularly kid friendly.

To bring this back around to a food-related post, if it rains one day or your are tired of being outside and need to shop for porvisions to take home, people rave about the Atlantic Spice Company in Truro. I didn't go but some in the party I was with went and thought the quality and pricing was very good.

Looking forward to seeing the photos of what you find to cook and eat out on the Cape.

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We just returned from a week's vacation in N. Eastham, not far from the Wellfleet drive-in. It was a gorgeous week, and we had lots of fun. After pretty extensive research, I can say with absolute certainty that Arnold's (on rte 6 in Eastham) has the best fried clams on the Cape. Better than Mac's in Wellfleet.

You may be surprised to see the changes at the Stop & Shop in Orleans -- it's been completely redone and they have seriously upgraded their stock of everything. Produce is extensive, they have lots of natural/organic food in stock, their butcher department is extremely accomodating and the staff provides amazing service. Definitely worth a stop to pick up perisahbles on your way in.

Although Coast Guard beach, at the beginning of the National Seashore, will be a bit of a drive from Wellfleet, it's a great beach for kids at low tide. There are lots of sandbars (a little to the right from the beach walkway) which create "baby oceans" of warmer water and provide lots of opportunities for splashing and playing in the mud.

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As a birthday present to PJ, I couldn't resist making his picture look a little more avatarical, since Ellen's on vacation.

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I'll have one of those naanini, please.

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There will likely be no pizza pilgrimage. Sally's is closed on Mondays (we could go to Pepe's or Modern, but that would be taking a foodblog-as-reality-TV approach, where we do something we wouldn't normally do but pretend we're really like that)...

:cool: I once lived across the street and apparently belonged to the same minority. What made you loyal to Sally's?

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I bet all eyes are on him in person, too.

It's awful. The other day we were at Sarabeth's, one of the better restaurants within a block of my house, and we were all having a conversation when suddenly we realized that half the restaurant was waving at PJ. He had managed to engage the population of an entire wall of banquettes.

You're just jealous because you aren't at the center of attention anymore with your colorful chef's pants :raz: ...but PJ sure is a cutie-pie!

I can't believe a year has gone by already. How I miss New York and even the Upper East Side!

Nice to see you blogging FG, please pass on my hello to Ellen if she remembers meeting me.

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There will likely be no pizza pilgrimage. Sally's is closed on Mondays (we could go to Pepe's or Modern, but that would be taking a foodblog-as-reality-TV approach, where we do something we wouldn't normally do but pretend we're really like that)...

:cool: I once lived across the street and apparently belonged to the same minority. What made you loyal to Sally's?

Ellen's family developed the loyalty long before I came into the picture! I do think the pizza at Sally's is better than the pizza at Pepe's, though, with the exception of Pepe's clam pie which is definitive.

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