Category Archives: Main Dish

The Newest Year

Happy Inauguration Day! It feels like New Year’s Day, for real this time. This is the newest year we’ve had in a decade, maybe more. So in honor of this fresh start, I cooked up a quick (gotta have time to watch all the coverage) and cheap (economy won’t recover overnight) meal full of luck-bringing foods.

This quick semi-stir-fry has all the beans, greens, and pork of a traditional New Year’s feast, and using dried chickpeas and frozen spinach makes it affordable and healthy – not to mention delicious.

What are you up to on this historic day?

Inauguration Beans

  • 1 small Mexican chorizo, (about 3oz) casing removed, crumbled
  • 1 cup chickpeas, cooked and drained (canned is ok)
  • 1 cup frozen chopped spinach (or fresh if it’s handy)
  • 1 Tbs snipped fresh basil

Sautee the chorizo over medium high heat about 4 minutes. Drain as much of the fat as you can, probably about 2 Tbs. Stir in the chickpeas and cook 3 minutes. Add the spinach and cook a few more minutes, until heated all the way through. Turn off the heat. Snip the basil over the spinach and stir in. Serves 2 as a side, can be multiplied indefinitely.

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Cheater’s Pizza

There’s been some talk on the internet about what it takes to make great pizza at home, and all the fussy preparation it entails. I’m here to tell you that great pizza takes about an hour and as much effort as you can spare between reading blogs and posting photos. You just need dough ingredients, toppings you like and have on hand, and about an hour of non-consecutive prep time. Some might consider this cheating, but I think that makes it all the more exciting. After all, it’s food, not taxes, so the important point is that you enjoy the end result. No one’s going to judge you for what you cook and devour late at night, honest.

Cheater’s Pizza - Serves 1

  • 1 cup flour (I mixed bread flour and AP)
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp yeast
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 c water
  • Toppings

Put everything except water in a medium bowl – I’m pretty good at eyeballing amounts, so the only thing I measured was the yeast. Measure everything if you need to, there’s no shame.  Add half the water and stir with a wooden spoon, adding more water as needed. The dough should be soft and stick to the sides of the bowl, but it shouldn’t puddle. If it gets too thin, add a bit more flour. Stir until the dough is stretchy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover, and walk away. You probably have to organize iTunes or something.

In about 15 minutes, preheat the oven to 450 F. Put the bowl on top of the oven to speed proofing. Take a 10 minute break to check your newsfeeds.

When you get back to the kitchen, make sure the oven is up to temperature. Then put a baking sheet in the oven while you prep your toppings. I used olive oil, 2 Tbsp minced onion, and 2 oz goat cheese, so I just got those things out. I also trimmed my basil windowbox (the one in my header – it’s grown so much since then!) and got about 2 Tbsp for the pizza. This would also be great with tomato sauce, bits of pre-cooked meat and vegetable, or whatever you have on hand.

Flour your counter and scrape the dough out of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Dust the dough with flour and using a rolling pin, get it as thin as you can. Take the baking sheet out of the oven, transfer the dough to it. Cover the dough with toppings and return to the oven as quickly as you can. Bake 10-15 minutes, until risen and golden. Update your Facebook status while you’re waiting, so all your friends know you’re making super easy pizza from scratch.

Remove from oven, and immediately place basil leaves on top and drizzle with a bit more olive oil. Let cool as long as it takes to load a DVD, eat with your hands.

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Getting with the Program

I’ve been more than a little zoned-out lately, and even though I’ve been cooking, I haven’t had the drive to publish photos and recipes. (Like that’s never happened to you.) I spend long hours at work, and by the time I’m home at night (after a yoga class if I’m lucky) I’m totally uninterested in anything else that takes mental or physical energy. (Cry me a river, right?) Most of the food I’ve made in the past few months has been very simple – the kind of thing that I think doesn’t merit measurement or recording – and I’ve been eating more prepared foods, both good and bad (Sabra hummus, Luna bars, street meat and Rainbow falafel) than ever before.

In an effort to slow my simultaneous eventual downswing both into expensive just-ok convenience food and total thoughtlessness about said convenience food, I’m going to start posting some of the things I toss together when I’m home and have 15 minutes free. I’m also going to start a new category, Deskmates, to chronicle the little snacks, goodies, and concoctions that fuel my workday.

So. Here’s the first step back into the weblog program.

Tonight I was craving yogurt-marinated lamb with a pile of yieldingly soft braised nappa cabbage. But the nearest grocery store is almost a block away, so I decided to ignore my craving and make do with my admittedly ample pantry ingredients. It turned out to be much quicker and it allowed me to avoid putting on flip-flops and spending 10 minutes away from home. I know, it’s pretty sad. But at least if this trend continues, I’ll be able to make room  in my cupboards for more homemade jam and pickles.

So I rooted through a cupboard, and behind my spice grinder and a cardboard canister of rolled oats was a lonely can of tuna. I pulled that out, and remembered the shelled edamame in the freezer. Some shredded carrot and ginger, soy sauce and rice vinegar, rounded out the motley crew into a delicious asian-inspired salad. It turned out to be just what I needed, and all that fresh clean protein and vegetable matter gave me the energy to make a quick dessert, too (recipe to come). This is shaping up to be a program I think I can stick to – at least when it involves meals like this.

Tuna, Carrot, and Edamame Salad for a Lazy Sunday

  • 1 can of tuna packed in water, drained
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1/2 c frozen shelled edamame
  • 1/2-inch piece of ginger, grated on a microplane
  • 3 Tbs rice wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbs soy sauce ( I used wheat-free low-sodium tamari)
  • 1 Tbs sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp Korean red pepper flakes

Put a small pot with about 1 quart of water on to boil. Measure 1/2c frozen edamame and set aside. Grate the carrot into a medium bowl. Add the ginger, soy sauce, vinegar, oil and red pepper and stir with a fork. Scrape the tuna on top. When the water boils, add the edamame and cook until bright green and tender, about 4 minutes. Strain and dump into the bowl. Stir everything together and add more vinegar or soy sauce if you like. Eat with a fork while checking your RSS feeds for the first time in a week. Feel stronger.

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Filed under Main Dish, Meat & Fish, Pantry, Recipe, Vegetables

Mujadara

Tuesday it was about 95 degrees, and despite the heat, I was hungry. Rather than order takeout or eat raw seasonal vegetables like any sensible person, I ended up cooking the plainest of pantry staples. I don’t know why, exactly, but I was craving mujadara. It’s a mixture of rice, lentils and onion, and not much else besides a little salt and olive oil. It sounds dull at first, but the way the sweet caramelized onions slither amongst the rice and lentils melding the flavors, is nothing short of extraordinary. I’ve had versions of mujadara that involve herbs, spices, stock, and vegetables, but when I make it at home, I like to give the stage to the trio of rice, lentil, and onion. This version uses brown rice and red lentils because that’s what I happened to have on hand, but it would be equally delicious with the traditional long-grain white rice and brown lentils or any other rice or lentil you can find. The cooking times for each would just need to be adjusted.

My method of cooking red lentils is a little unorthodox, but it’s necessary for these delicate little lentils. If I cook them like other lentils, no matter how gently I simmer them they always seem to dissolve into a potful of mush. Sometimes that’s perfect, but for this recipe, they need to keep their structural integrity.

I’ve been having this for lunch all week, accompanied by watermelon, juicy apricots, and sunburn. It was totally worth the steamy evening in the kitchen.

Mujadara

For the lentils:

  • 1 1/4 c red lentils
  • 1 1/2 c water

For the rice:

  • 1 c brown rice
  • 1 1/2 c water

For the onions:

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c water (may not need all of it)
  • 2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil

Start with the lentils. Bring their 1 1/2 c water and 1/2 tsp salt to a rolling boil. Stir in the lentils and return to a boil for 2 minutes. Cover and remove from heat. Let stand 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring gently and re-covering after 30 minutes. The key is to let the lentils absorb water at their own pace. The salt toughens them just enough to let them hold their shape.

While the lentils are soaking, get the rice going. Rinse the rice in a fine mesh sieve, then put in a small pot with the 1 1/2 c water. Cover and bring to a boil, which takes about 5 minutes. Reduce to low heat and simmer 30 minutes. Remove from heat, keeping covered, and let stand 15 minutes.

During that half-hour when the rice is cooking and the lentils soaking, start on the onions. Dice the onion (or slice into half-moons, but I prefer smaller pieces), making sure the pieces are all about the same size. Heat the ordinary olive oil in a large skillet and add the onions once the oil shimmers. Add the salt and stir, then reduce heat to medium. Stir ever two or three minutes until the onions lose most of their moisture. Then turn down the heat keep stirring at short intervals. Eventually, the sugar in the onions will begin to caramelize and stick to the pan. The darker they are, the more flavorful, but be careful not to burn them. Splash a tablespoon or two of water into the pan to deglaze it and pick up the fond (that sweet dark pan-crust). Keep stirring until your onions are a rick golden brown, about 25 minutes, then turn off the heat.

Stir the extra virgin olive oil into the onions. Fluff the rice with a fork and stir that into the pan of onions, too. (If your skillet is getting full, you can transfer the contents to a mixing bowl. Gently fold the lentils into the rice mixture, taste, and add more salt if needed.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Corn and Basil Chowder

fresh and clean summer soup

This is a variation on a corn, basil, and tomato salad that I made every week in August last year. The tomatoes are not quite worth their $4.50 a pound at the greenmarket, so my sweet corn and basil had to cosy up to some pimentòn de la vera instead. The barest hint of smoke and spice adds a bacon-esque richness to what is otherwise a very lean soup, and a squeeze of lime brightens the flavors. Making a stock from the cobs and basil stems gives the soup a little more depth. I made sure to keep boiling time to a minimum, since the entire point of summer cooking is to stay away from the stove whenever possible. We all know that time is better spent at the beach.

Corn and Basil Chowder

4 ears of sweet corn

4 c water

1/2 tsp salt

1 Tbs butter

2 cloves garlic

1/2 tsp Spanish smoked paprika (I used agridulce, but hot or sweet would also work)

1c basil leaves, lightly packed (reserve the stems)

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 lime

Using a sharp knife, slice the kernels of corn from the cob. Reserve corn, and place the cobs and basil stems in a large pot. Cover with the water, bring to a boil, then reduce to medium-low and simmer 15 minutes while you prep the other ingredients.

Chiffonade the basil leaves, set aside. Mince the garlic.

In a small skillet, heat the butter on medium-high until it foams. Stir in the garlic and cook 2 minutes or until fragrant.  Remove from heat. Stir in paprika and salt.

Turn off the simmering pot of cobs. Discard the basil stems. Lift the cobs out of the water with tongs and shake excess water into the pot. Transfer to a cutting board and hold with the tongs in one hand while you scrape the last bits of corn off with the back of your knife. Discard cobs, add corn scrapings to the pot.

Add garlic mixture, corn kernels, and basil to the pot of corn stock. Squeeze the lime half over the pot and add a few grinds of black pepper. Stir everything up and taste it. Add more salt or pepper if you like.

Serve warm, room-temperature, or cold. The flavors develop after a day or two in the refrigerator, and the soup keeps up to a week. Makes an excellent breakfast on days you don’t want to cook.

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Work n Roll

This evening I got out all my sushi-making supplies and made some rolls to get me through the working week. I used brown medium-grain rice (didn’t remember to get more sushi rice when out, didn’t want to go back out), and cooked it pretty much the way I cook sushi rice, but with more water and for a longer time. I filled the rolls with batons of pickled daikon, fresh cucumber, slender blanched asparagus, a sprinkling of sesame seeds and a streak of Sriracha. All my favorite sushi vegetables together in one roll, at long last.

I’ve only made sushi once before, so the first roll of this batch was a little loose. But by the time I got to the last one, I was able to turn out a compact, even roll with all the vegetables nicely centered. I’m already thinking of all the things I’d like to roll up in rice and seaweed: avocado (note to self: buy one tomorrow so it will ripen by next week), kimchi, cooked & drained tatsoi, mango, chives, carrot, all kinds of pickles, pear, mushrooms, and watercress stems. What else should I try?

Though I think these rolls turned out well, there;s one thing I’ll do differently next time. I couldn’t find a recipe for brown sushi-style rice in under two minutes, so I made one up. The top half of the rice was perfect, but the bottom half was a little soggy. So I’ll reduce the water, and I’ve noted that change in the recipe below. I cut two rolls into eight pieces each and tucked them (minus the two slices I ate for quality conrol) into the bottom of my steel lunchbox. The other two I left whole and wrapped in plastic to keep them from drying out until I get to use them.

I’m so looking forward to lunch tomorrow.

Vegetable Sushi

For the rice:

  • 1 cup brown medium grain rice (or short-grain, if you can)
  • 1 1/2 c water, plus more for rinsing
  • 1 Tbs rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

Measure the rice into a bowl and cover with water. Stir with your hands, then drain the cloudy water – a fine-mesh strainer makes this foolproof. Repeat the rinsing and draining 3 times, then put the rice and 1 1/2 cup water in a small pot. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer 30 minutes, then remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes. (Don’t uncover the pot during these 40 minutes.) In the meantime, stir vinegar, sugar, and salt in a large bowl until sugar and salt dissolve. When the rice’s time is up, add it to the bowl and gently stir to coat each grain with the vinegar mixture. Spread the rice up the sides of the bowl and let cool to room temperature. Makes about 3 cups.

For the rolls:

  • 4 sheets nori
  • Sushi rice (above)
  • 4 spears asparagus, blanched (boil 1 minute, cool in ice water)
  • 4 batons pickled daikon (about 1/2-inch thick)
  • 4 batons cucumber (about 1/4-inch thich)
  • 2 tsp sesame seeds
  • Sriracha chili sauce, optional

Lay one sheet of nori on your sushi mat, shiny side down. Cover with 1/4 of the cooled sushi rice, leaving 1/2-inch bare at the side of the nori farthest from you. Wet your hands and rice paddle to make spreading easier. Sprinkle the rice with 1/2 tsp sesame seeds. Arrange 1 of each vegetable in the center of the roll, and squeeze a thin stripe of Sriracha alongside. Using your mat, bring the side of the rice-covered nori closest to you up and over the vegetables and press. Pull the mat away from you with one hand, keep the other on the sushi lump inside the mat, and roll all in one go, thinking cylindrical thoughts all the while. Unroll your mat and inspect your sushi log. If it seems a little loose, you can tighten it a bit with your mat. Making a good roll takes practice, and you’ll improve noticeably by your fourth try.

Slice each roll into eighths, and eat with soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger (all available at Asian grocery stores). Since they’re just vegetables and rice, these rolls will keep in the refrigerator 2 days when cut, and about a week uncut.

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The Long Goodbye, part 2

Last Saturday, some friends were visiting the city and charged me with making dinner plans . After they’d seen Rent, I met Elena and Kalyn outside the theaer and led them to Florent for dinner. I told them what I knew of the restaurant’s history and it’s foreshortened future on the way downtown. by the time we got to the West Village, Florent was packed and the maitre told us there’d be at least half an hour’s wait. I asked if we needed to put a name on a list, but he said, “No, I’ll remember who you are.” So we stood near the window and chatted, and soon enough he led us to a table. As we walked back, I noticed that all of the framed maps on the wall were marked “for sale on Ebay.” I was a bit conflicted about that, thinking at the same time, “It won’t be the same without the maps,” and “Maybe I should buy one.” (I didn’t win, though I bid on two.)

I finally got to try the boudin noir with apples and sautéed onions. I chose the appetizer size since I wasn’t very hungry, and it was just enough. I cut away the casing and scraped velvety bits of sausage onto the apple slices. This particular boudin was rich and flavorful without verging into fatty or gamy territory. Elena and Kalyn both had cheeseburgers, and proclaimed them delicious. They’re even thinking about making one more visit before Florent closes June 29th.

After dinner, I went to the bathroom, and when I came back Elena presented me with my very own Florent t-shirt. “Because you love this place and it’s closing,” she said. And it was the one I’d been secretly planning to get for myself! I love Florent’s cheeky designs – there’s been a stomach postcard on my wall for a few years now.

So I have about a month left to get back and try the paté and maybe something from the breakfast or daily special menus. I’ll report back.

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Pink Pink Pink

Hi there. This site is about a month old now, and I think we’re entering a new stage of its development. When I first started writing here, I had a million ideas in my head of things I could cook, photograph, review, taste. I still do, only all those things have taken a backseat to working most of the time and sleeping when I’m done. I’ve been trying to cook and shop and photograph like I usually do, but since I started this new job (a good opportunity, just with so much catch-up work to do), I haven’t had time for cooking. Unless you count the rice and greens I’ve been making in large batches to bring in for lunch, or the oatmeal with leftover rhubarb compote I have for breakfast.

But maybe I’m finally getting the rhythm of my new schedule, or adjusting to the reduced amount of free time, because tonight, I wanted to cook something new and exciting, despite getting in after 8pm. On the way to the office this morning, I walked through the Union Square Greenmarket and practically pounced on the sweet New Jersey strawberries the vendors were just putting out. The little green basket sat on my desk all day, smelling sweet and no doubt ripening further.

It’s always a special treat for me, the first really good strawberry of summer. A few weeks ago I saw the little pale berries at the market, but they weren’t ready. Now we’re only a week away from a mid-season glut of berries. When the time comes, I’ve already decided to buy enough to make a big batch of jam, maybe with a sprinkling of pink peppercorns.

So when I finally arrived home with my basket of berries, I needed some protein and minerals, and I wanted to let the strawberries in on the dinner fun. Luckily, I had some salmon in the refrigerator and pink mustard greens from a previous greenmarket run. I made some of the strawberries into salsa, wilted the greens with olive oil and garlic, and served that with pistachio and pink peppercorn-crusted salmon. The combination of the pink and green tastes is fresh and warm and summery, with the peppercorns picking up the fruity taste of the strawberries and the floral notes in the greens. The salmon’s briny, oily, rich taste complements the fresh berries and greens, and the toasty pistachio crust. I always feel like I should pair ingredients that look alike, have the same shape or color, and in this instance, it works out perfectly. Now that I’ve had this dinner, I’m energized enough to put in a day of work tomorrow, and maybe even cook dinner again.

This trio of pinks is headed off to Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week at Wandering Chopsticks.

Pink Peppercorn and Pistachio-Crusted Salmon with Strawberry Salsa and Pink Mustard Greens

For the salsa:

  • 1/2 c strawberries, rinsed and hulled
  • 1 small red hot pepper
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • pinch of salt
  • Juice of 1/4 lime

Mince the pepper and garlic. Mice the strawberries, mix with pepper, garlic, lime juice, and salt. Transfer to small bowl to macerate.

For the greens:

  • 3 cups pink mustard greens, loosely packed, chopped
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced

Heat the oil on medium, add garlic and cook 1 minute while stirring. Stir in the greens a handful at a time, then cook just until wilted.

For the salmon

  • 2 Tbs pistachios
  • 1 tsp pink peppercorns
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 8-oz salmon fillet
  • Juice of 1/4 lime
  • 1 Tbs olive oil

Rub both sides of the salmon with lime juice. Grind the pistachios and peppercorns in a spice grinder. Mix with salt and sprinkle half on the flatter side of the salmon fillet. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium, then place the salmon in the skillet, crust side down. Sprinkle other side with remaining crust mixture. Cook 4 mintues, then turn and cook 4 minutes more. Cook up to 2 more minutes per side if you like your salmon well-done. Cut in half and serve each on a bed of mustard greens and topped with salsa.

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Turkey Meatballs

Sometimes I crave spicy Italian sausage. And in the interest of full disclosure, “sometimes” means at least once a week. But I can rarely bring myself to gamble the high caloric intake and possible fat-ingestion bellyache for the elusive rewards of sausage. Especially if I happen to choose a sausage that’s just ok, but not mind-alteringly delicious. Then I’m feeling heavy and disappointed, which I can’t recommend to anyone.

Thank goodness for ground turkey. I just get a pound of it, season it with lots of fennel, red pepper, rosemary, and garlic, and form it into little balls. I usually brown the meatballs then simmer them gently in sauce to finish cooking. This whole meal takes less than an hour to make and eat, which is perfect for the middle of a workweek. Ian and I made these a few days ago to go with our pasta and garlic bread, and we’ve been taking the leftovers to work ever since. I can’t say they satisfied my spicy sausage craving, exactly, because (again, full disclosure) when I know they’re waiting in the fridge, I want them even more.

Turkey Meatballs with Pasta and Sauce (and garlic – basil bread!):

  • 1 pound ground turkey (if you can only find the pre-packaged 1.3 pound turkey, just use the whole thing.)
  • 6 small garlic cloves
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds, ground
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp ground oregano
  • 1 tsp ground sage
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbs oil (for browning)

Basil-Garlic Bread

  • 1/2 loaf Italian Bread
  • 4 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1/4 c basil leaves
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 Tbs olive oil

Pasta and Sauce

  • 1 pound pasta (we used fusilli)
  • 1 jar tomato sauce (we used 365 Organic Tomato & Basil – it was just ok, so we added basil leaves and chopped garlic)

Mix meat and spices thoroughly but gently with your hands. If you over mix, your meatballs will be tough. Roll into 24 balls.

Preheat oven or toaster oven to 350. Slice Italian loaf in half, then split lengthwise (like you would if you were making a sub). Drizzle olive oil all over the inside. Spread garlic on one half, sprinkle with salt, and cover with basil leaves. Close bread, wrap in foil, and put into the oven for 15-20 minutes, until warm and fragrant.

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta. Put the sauce in a medium pot and heat on low. Heat 1 Tbs oil in a large skillet on medium. Brown the balls in two batches, 2 minutes per side, turning so three sides are browned. Once browned, add the meatballs to the tomato sauce. When the pasta water boils, add the pasta and cook until al dente, usually 10-13 minutes. Drain the pasta, but not too thoroughly. You need a little bit of water clinging to the strands to help distribute the sauce. Mix pasta, meatballs, and sauce, and serve with warm garlic bread.

I’m sending this post to this week’s Presto Pasta Night, hosted by Ruth of Once Upon a Feast.

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The Long Goodbye

Florent will only be around another month. Yes, it’s been all over the news lately, deservedly, because it’s been as much a cultural asset as a culinary one. Ian and I went there last week just to make sure we made it in to say goodbye before they close. We both had the excellent burger (on an english muffin!), and I need to go back at least twice before they close so I can try the boudin noir and pâté, maybe even the mussels. I’ve always thought about ordering those, but I end up with the burger every time. It’s just so satisfying to have a simple meal that’s made with care – familiar and unassuming, but special because of the feeling that goes into it. And that’s how I’d sum up the entire restaurant, if I had to. But I’m glad I don’t have to, because Florent is more than that sum. Everything in it – from the maps on the wall to the chilled beer glasses to the nubby rounds of butter – is done with taste, precision, and a sense of humor.

The staff go out of their way to make diners feel welcome. When Ian and I were there last week, we opted to sit at the counter rather than hold out for a table. The waiter brought us kid’s menus and a cup of crayons to share with the couple next to us. We were delighted – it’s not often a restaurant encourages play.

Since that dinner last week, I’ve been trying to write about Florent, but I can’t seem to do it without sounding sentimental (neither can any of the writers, either). So I’m just going to let it stand, this sentimental post. There’s a mystery about this place, I think, and it can’t be figured out even with repeat visits. But until it’s gone, I’ll keep going back to say goodbye.

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