From a Concerned Food Blogger to Kim Kardashian: Please Help!

This may seem like a strange item to post on a food blog, but this blog is as much about food issues as it is about recipes and restaurants and body image often goes hand in hand with food, as I well know from my own personal journey.

Dear Kim Kardashian,

I love you! No, really I do. I actually love your whole family, though you’re my favorite (but don’t tell Kourt and Kim, ok?). I’ve defended you many times because I love how family oriented you are and I admire your work ethic, but when you burst on to the scene a few years ago I first loved you because you seemed to fully embrace who you were and how you look.

Now, I know that some people will read this and say, “Um it’s easy to embrace all of you when you look like Kim Kardashian,” and they’re right to some extent. I mean even the biggest Kardashian haters out there agree that you are truly stunning. Beautiful as you are though, when you and your gorgeous sisters entered the public view thier were few people in Hollywood who looked like the three of you. Where all we had was a sea of washed out bobbleheads, here you were with your knockout curves and jet black locks and you were proud.

I loved hearing you talk about your body with such acceptance, I applauded you when you proudly attributed your assets to your Armenian heritage and I delight in watching you on your show as you order sandwiches, soups and hearty salads rather than the macrobiotic lettuce leaf with a side of ice cubes that your contemporaries seem to subsist on. I thought then, as I still think now, that you could be a positive influence on young women who can’t see their own beauty just because they don’t look like the All-American ideal.

Last night I settled in to watch the latest episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians and be entertained by your boisterous family and their crazy antics. As usual the episode put a smile on my face. That is except for one scene that left me frustrated. As you, Rob and Scott looked at pictures of your vacation; you looked at a picture of yourself and declared, “I look so fat!”

No, Kim! No! There are young girls out there thinking, “Wow if Kim Kardashian is fat, I must be…” and, “Well if Kim criticizes her body, I guess it’s cool that I criticize mine.”

Of course you did not create this problem, Kim, it’s the way girl’s a socialized in our country. Do you remember the scene in Mean Girls where Cady witnesses  a ritual in which the girls stand in front of the mirror and make negative comments about their appearance and Cady is encouraged to join in? It struck a chord with me because I think most women in America have had a similar experience. Most of us, especially adults, don’t have Mean Girl friends, but even the nicest among us have engaged in body bashing with our friends (“My thighs are so fat.” “What you’re crazy! You’re perfect, but my nose is too but.” “Oh stop it, both of you are so hot and I would kill for your tiny waists, I’m so big in the middle“). It’s how young girls are taught to relate to each other in our culture and it extends in to adulthood.

And then there’s the media. Ugh! Forget about it! Young girls in this country are constantly bombarded by unnatural and unattainable images of what they’re supposed to look like. Body image for young women is truly a crisis in this country.

So no, you didn’t create the problem, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t be part of the solution! You have a public voice so use it the right way.

Though I adore you there are definitely a few things we disagree on like some of your endorsements and some of the language you and your sisters use when talking to each other (bitch, whore… I shudder), but for the most part I think you’re great and I think this is something we can come together on. So please, stop criticizing your body, it sends a terrible message.

Stop going through every picture of your gorgeous amazing self or looking in the mirror only to point out flaws. Appreciate how lucky you ate that the body you do have, even with imperfections, is a healthy one. Make sure your young fans know that you’re proud of yourself for your work ethic, for being a great friend/sister/daughter or being smart, funny, tenacious, kind or whatever it is that makes you most proud, so they know that way women look is only a fraction of who they are and there is so much more that makes a person beautiful.

Make a pledge today to start changing the conversation.

Thanks for listening.

Still a fan,
Alli

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Sweet Cheeks Q (Boston)

Barrrrbercuuuue!

Last week I had to be in Boston for work all week and conveniently one of my besties wedding showers was on Sunday so I stayed all through the weekend. It was an exhausting trip (though spending the weekend with some of my besties was awesome), but left me with some great food experiences because, as you may remember Massachusetts has awesome food allergy legislation that let’s me eat there with very little worry. Love!

My friend Nadira and I traveled to Boston together arriving around dinnertime on Monday. Having worked in the morning followed by a 4 hour train ride we were tired and hungry. We quickly dropped off our things and headed out to a nearby BBQ joint, Sweet Cheeks Q. The restaurant, which is fairly new, had been recommended by several people before our visit, but it wasn’t until we got there that I found out it was owned by Tiffani Faison, a finalist on Top Chef season one!

Don’t let that little one fool you, she is hot hot hot!

When we arrived all the tables were full, but the hostess informed us that we could sit at any of the counters along the window and would still get waiter service there. How cool! We chose seats, got comfortable and studied the menus as soon as our waiter handed them to us. Our waiter explained to us that Sweet Cheeks is a true Texas style BBQ which means everything is dry rubbed and you put the sauce on yourself. There were 3 sauces in front of us, Sweet Cheeks barbecue sauce, a HOT habenero sauce and a Carolina style vinegar based sauce.

House Bill 819, not your mama’s ice tea

Normally I’m not a big cocktail drinker, preferring beer or wine, but when the waiter recommended the House Bill 819, Nadira and I both decided to order one. The House Bill 819 is made from tea infuse whiskey with mint, lemon and simple syrup and, like all the drinks at Sweet Cheeks, are served in a mason jar. The drink was strong and delicious.

Pretty much a perfect meal

For our dinner Nadira and I both chose pulled pork on bulky rolls. For $6 more you can get one “cold scoop” side dish and one “hot scoop.” I went with the mac and cheese and sour cream potato salad and Nadira went with the potato salad as well and the barbecue baked beans. I had given the waiter my allergy card earlier and he went to check with the kitchen after I’d ordered. Our very sweet waiter returned to our table and told me that the kitchen wanted me to know that the food I ordered was safe, but since they do use a lot of the foods I’m allergic too they might be “in the air.” I politely replied, “But none of the things on my allergy card are in what I ordered and you segregate ingredients in your kitchen right? OK, than I’m good”

Mini-rant time: While I appreciate their vigilance let me clear up two misconceptions. 1. Reactions to airborne food allergies is extremely rare. Most of us with potentially life threatening food allergies can be near those foods with no problem, we just can’t eat them or touch them (and even touching them, if you immediately washed your hands would likely only trigger itching/swelling/hives and not anaphylaxis though I’m not picking up a handful of nuts anytime soon). 2. Again I truly appreciate that the restaurant is trying, but obviously if I’m eating at a restaurant, any restaurant, I already know that there are ingredients I can’t eat “in the air.”

A little while later our trays emerged from the kitchen and did not disappoint. O.M.G. I don’t even think I have the words to describe how good this was! The mac and cheese and potato salad were delish, but the pulled pork was the star of the show. It was everything you want in pulled pork; sloppy, juicy, meaty and slightly smokey. Nadira and I are both big fans of spicy food and the habenero sauce was not for the faint of heart. Neither of us had much interest in the Carolina style sauce instead dousing our sandwiches with the flavorful barbecue sauce which packed a little kick and then carefully adding a few drops of the habenero sauce (even for spicy food junkies this stuff was lethal!).

Heaven, otherwise known as butterscotch pudding

We both finished about half our trays and asked for the other half wrapped since we had a refrigerator where we stayed. We were stuffed yet somehow Nadira, who weighs approximately 15lbs, can somehow always find room for dessert. As you know I’m not a huge dessert person and even though when waiter described the butterscotch pudding with salted caramel top to Nadira it sounded like my perfect dessert I insisted I wasn’t having any. Then the waiter brought out the dessert and informed me that he’d double checked with the kitchen and it was safe for me and after that, and Nadira’s chiding me to split it, how could I resist?

The dessert came in a half sized mason jar which made it the perfect petite dessert to split. The pudding was smooth and creamy and not cloyingly sweet. The caramel on top was gooey, sticky perfection and the flex of sea salt played perfectly with its sweetness. I’d consider selling a kidney for that dessert. We left fat and happy with Nadira vowing she’d return on Thursday night before she left to go back to New York. Nadira does not make idle promises…

I forgot to take a picture before we dove in

On Thursday, after our day of meetings, Nadira headed back to Sweet Cheeks and Kate (yes vegetarians can sit in bbq joints) and I, who both had dinner plans later, joined her for a drink. Nadira ordered another pulled pork sandwich, Kate got the House Bill 819 and I went with a cocktail again, the Dollywood which was a mix of vodka, lemon cordial, lemon juice and sparkling wine. I forgot to take a picture of it, but I loved it even more than the House Bill. A few sips in Kate suggested she and I get a couple of biscuits with honey butter. The biscuits were enormous and neither of us could finish them which was sad because they were crazy amazing. A little crusty on the outside and buttery, soft and fluffy on the inside.

On Friday, after all of my meetings were over, my friend Heather picked me up so that I could stay with her and her husband Justin for the weekend. While we were talking I mentioned Sweet Cheeks which Heather and Justin hadn’t yet tried. We had tickets to a Sox game the next day and, after hearing my description, Heather requested that we go to Sweet Cheeks for lunch beforehand. That’s right people, I was there 3 times in one week! Does that say something about how amazing this place is? I didn’t bother with pictures at lunch, but I once again had the pulled pork with mac and cheese and this time coleslaw, Justin had the brisket on Texas toast with two sides and Heather had the ribs with two sides. Heather and Justin loved the food as much as I did and I made them promise me we could go back every time I’m in Boston.

The verdict:
Food rating: A+
Service/food allergy accommodations: A-
Overall rating: Made me want to lick my plate in public!

Colicchio and Sons Tap Room

I cannot believe how far behind I am on blogging! I ate at one of my favorite restaurants, Colicchio and Sons, two and a half weeks ago and I’ve only now had a chance to sit down and document it.

Colicchio and Sons is owned by one of my favorite celebrity chefs and host of Top Chef, Tom Colicchio. The restaurant itself is divided in to two parts, the formal Dining Room in the back and the less formal and less pricey Tap Room up front. I’ve eaten at the Tap Room 3 or 4 times and it never ever disappoints. Not only is the food amazing, the service is impeccable and it’s one of the restaurants that keeps my food allergies in their computer so I don’t have to go through the list every time I call and the wait staff is already prepped before I get there.

I had made plans with 3 friends who had never been there before and I was excited for them to have their first Tap Room experience. My friend Nadira and I work together so we travelled to the restaurant together to meet Janet and Paul who had arrived just a few minutes before us and were standing at the bar. I checked in with the hostess and headed to the bar to greet the rest of my crew when I did a double take in to the dining room because what to my wondering eyes should appear? My dad was having dinner there with a friend of his! Though my mom knew I’d be eating at the Tap Room that night she hadn’t mentioned it to my dad so it really was pure coincidence. My dad, who works in the city, had apparently called his friend Ed at 3pm and asked if he wanted to grab a bite and they picked the Tap Room.

We had a good laugh and then I went back to the hostess station to be seated and guess where our table was? Yup, you guessed it; right next to my dad and his friend. They were already being served appetizers when we sat down so we didn’t overlap with them for too long, but it was still a crazy funny coincidence.

To start, we shared a plate of raw oysters (yum!), but I forgot to take a picture. Upon my dad and personal wine guru’s suggestion we ordered the Andrew Will Cabernet Sauvignon for the table which did not disappoint.

When I’m on my death bed I’d like Tap Room bone marrow as one of my final meals. Please remember that.

I love bone marrow! It’s one of my absolute favorite foods and Tap Room probably makes the best I’ve ever had so I get it every time I’m there. I know some people think the idea of it is disgusting, but I can’t understand why eating muscle (ya know like what meat is) is any less gross than eating bone marrow. Bone marrow has a buttery texture and an earthy flavor and is heavenly. Tap Room used to make a version with “Drunken Onions,” but are now serving it with anchovies, another of my favorite foods. Nadira and I shared an order and we both went crazy for it in all it’s marrow-y perfection, but I do think I slightly prefer the older preperation. Either way though I was a happy happy girl!

You know you want me, you know I want you.

For my main course I ordered the ricotta cavatelli with short ribs with tons of ooey gooey cheese baked on top. Do I really have to tell you how that was? I mean come on it was like eating pure comfort! The weather that night was miserable and rainy and this dish was like being wrapped in a warm blanket. It was so hearty that I could only finish half and I intended to take the other half home, but I was having fun talking to my friends and I forgot to ask the waiter. I was so upset after we left and I realized I hadn’t asked for my left overs which just means I’ll have to go back soon!

As I’ve said before, I’m not a huge dessert person so I only get dessert when there’s something that I feel like I can’t live without so while the rest of my crew decided to partake in some sweets, which they raved about, I finished off with a cup of tea. Here is my only complaint, which is something I dislike in many restaurants, they bring your tea already steeped. I drink my tea very week so I prefer to make it myself because by the time it comes to me it’s usually already way too strong. Still it’s a minor complaint in an all around great experience.

The verdict:
Food rating: A
Service/food allergy accommodations: A
Overall rating: Made me want to lick my plate in public!

April Showers Bring Delicious Pasta and Jersey Housewives

After a series of absolutely beautiful spring days, Mother Nature gave us New Yorkers a bitch slap this past Sunday. Luckily I had all that I needed for a rainy day; The Real Housewives of New Jersey season premier and some great ingredients (or ingredientses as Real Housewife Teresa Guidice would say).

Prep work

I am a total Farmer’s Market addict. I just love strolling to the different booths and seeing all the beautiful, fresh, local harvest. Since it’s only April it’s still a bit of slim pickins’ out there, but the first Spring vegetables are starting to pop up. So, on my last trip to the market I picked up some (more) ramps and asparagus as well as creme fraiche from my favorite local dairy. All I needed was some pasta and organic lemons to make a fantastic meal.

If you’ve never had creme fraiche you must try it. Imagine if Butter and Sour Cream met, fell madly in love and decided to have a baby; that beautiful baby would be Creme Fraiche. It’s like the Shiloh Jolie-Pitt of dairy products.

I also decided to drizzle the pasta with a balsamic reduction which sent this dish right over the top on the deliciousness charts.

April Pasta

For the pasta:

  • 12 oz Penne or other small pasta
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 large bunch Asparagus; woody ends removed, chopped in to bite size pieces
  • 1 large bunch Ramps; white part separated from green, white chopped in to chunks, leaves chopped finely
  • Zest of 2 small organic lemons
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Large pinch Red Pepper Flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cups Creme Fraiche
  • 1/2 cup Reserved pasta water
  • Balsamic drizzle (see recipe below)

    Sautéing the veggies

Bring large pot of water to boil.

Heat olive in large sauté pan. Add asparagus and cook 3-4 minutes. When asparagus has just barely begun to soften add white part of ramps and cook 5 more minutes. Add ramp leaves and cook until wilted and asparagus and ramp bulbs are fork tender , about 5 more minutes. Stir in lemon zest, juice, red pepper flakes salt and pepper and cook for one more minute.

Meanwhile cook pasta in salted water, one minute less than the package instructs. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Toss pasta in vegetable mix and cook for another minute or two until pasta is cooked through.

Transfer pasta and vegetables to a large bowl (or just use the pot you cooked the pasta in like I did). Fold in creme fraiche and half of the reserved pasta cooking water. If sauce seems too thick add more of the water, otherwise discard.

Serve pasta with balsamic reduction drizzled over the top.

For Balsamic drizzle:

  • 1 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 small bay leaf (or a bay leaf torn in half- I probably use 3/4 of a medium leaf)

Mix all ingredients in small sauce pan and bring to a gently boil. Turn down heat to the barest simmer and cook until mixture has reduced by a third and has a thick syrupy consistency. Once mixture has cooled eat a few spoonfuls straight out of the pot because it’s just so delicious you can’t wait store in airtight container. Balsamic reduction will keep indefinitely in the refrigerator.

Enjoy with a glass of wine and some trashy reality TV

Did you guys watch the RHNJ season premier? What did you think?I am so Team Manzo and Team Gorga. Can you believe that Teresa told Joe that Melissa would leave him for a richer man!? What an insecure jerk she’s making herself out to be.

Restaurant Marc Forgione

Last night my parents and I went out to celebrate my mom’s birthday. At the birthday girl’s request we dined at Restaurant Marc Forgione. I had already set my mind to blogging about the experience and so took pictures of every course however, I didn’t pull out a pad and take notes instead choosing to enjoy the meal and my parents company.

To that end I’m realizing that my restaurant reviews are going to be mostly lots of pictures and one or two sentences about my overall experience because I’d rather enjoy my meal while I’m eating it.

Our meal at Restaurant Marc Forgione was amazing from start to finish. When we sat down our waitress simply offered us ice water which leads me to believe that they only offer bottled water upon special request. As I am fiercely opposed to bottled water so this immediately scored points in my book.

I’d called ahead, as anyone with food allergies should do, and told them about my dietary restrictions so the waitress was already aware of my needs when we walked in and assured me that the kitchen would take good care of me.

Perfect dinner roll type bread; crunchy on the outside, soft and doughy on the inside served with caramelized onion butter.

After we placed our order we were given an amuse bouche. Mine was different from what my parents were offered since there’s had something in it that was unsafe or me (it looked like maybe poppy). I was given a ceramic spoon with a “One Bite Caesar Salad,” which involved molecular gastronomy too complicated to explain and literally burst in your mouth, next to a bite sized burnt orange square that was some heavenly spicy/sweet carrot creation. unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture.

Before the appetizers were served the waitress came to ask me if I could have soy sauce. I told her that I couldn’t, but I’d happily choose another appetizer. The waitress told me not to worry, the kitchen was happy to leave the soy sauce out and this was my reward:

Chili Lobster. Chunks of perfectly cooked lobster in spicy broth with buttery toased bread to soak it all up.

I ordered the filet mignon and short rib combo for my entrée. The picture came out a bit dark, but it was cooked to a perfect medium rare which is the most cooked that I will ever eat my meat. My theory is if it’s not mooing it’s time to eat.

Filet mignon, short ribs, bread pudding. The steak just melted in your mouth.

Along with our meal we sipped on a delicious Syrah.

2009 Domaine Yves Cuilleron St. Joseph Les Pierres Seches

I’m not usually that much of a dessert eater. I mean I like a sweet now and then, but I’m more of a savory kinda gal. Sometimes though, I have a dessert that makes me rethink my position on sweets and this was one of those times.

In addition to not having much of a sweet tooth, desserts can be difficult with my food allergies so I was thrilled when the waitress brought us our dessert menus and told me she’d already checked with the pastry chef and listed which desserts would be safe for me. Of the desserts she named, she recommended the S’mores tart telling me it was her favorite. I took her advice and man am I glad I did because it was amazing!

S’mores Tart with Toasted Marshmallow ice cream. Chewy/gooey/sticky texture. Pretty much perfect.

The verdict:
Food rating: A+
Service/food allergy accommodations: A
Overall rating: OMG

A is for… Albania: More Than Just Mob Wives

Albanian flag

I love me some trashy reality TV! Seriously, right now everyone who knows me is shocked that I didn’t choose Armenia for the letter A because in my mind the Kardashian sisters and I are best friends 4-eva (I wish I was kidding, but I’m not). Alas, I think it’s best that I save my first foray in to Armenian cooking for the day that me, Kourtney, Kim and Khloe are side by side in Kris Jenner’s beautiful kitchen talking about boys and braiding each others hair and stuff.

I will cut a bitch, but first let me get this lamb in the oven.

Instead I’m honoring the heritage of another reality star. Surprisingly  I’ve never actually watched VH1’s Mob Wives. However, due to the fact that my brain in a storing house for completely useless and nonsensical information that will never help me in any aspect of my life, I happen to know that Mob Wife Drita D’Avanzo is of Albanian decent. So in honor of my love of trashy reality TV (or because of my love of both lamb and yogurt) I decided to make a dish from Albania.

Tave Kosi, according to the website where I found the recipe, is Albanian comfort food. Chunks of lamb are browned and then placed in a baking dish and covered with a yogurt sauce and baked. With 4 cups of yogurt, 5 eggs and a stick of butter this isn’t exactly low cal heart healthy cusine, but whatever, I never promised healthy recipes.

Tave Kosi 

  • 1.5lbs lamb stew meat
  • 3 tablespoons white rice
  • 32 ounces plain greek yogurt at room temerature
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • olive oil or butter for browning meat
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • salt and pepper to taste

Roll meat in flour seasoned with salt and pepper. Heat butter or olive oil  in heavy bottom pan and add meat chunks, turning each over as to brown meat on  each side. Low-medium flame, be careful not to burn.

Once browned, add 1/2 cup water and let simmer, covered, for 20 minutes  until tender.

Remove meat and place chunks 1-2 inches apart in a roasting pan.

Beat eggs.

In a medium pot (off heat), stir yogurt together with flour, rice  and salt and pepper to  taste. Add eggs. Stir until smooth.

Heat mixture on low-medium flame, stiring constantly, until mixture begins  to thicken. Approximately 5-10 minutes. Do not boil.

Pour thickened yogurt over the meat that is already in the pan. Cut butter  into small pieces and spread evenly over top of yogurt mixture.

Bake at about 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes. Yogurt will firm up  and yellow, like a quiche.

My Tave Kosi just out of the oven

FINAL VERDICT: C+

I totally get why this is comfort food, as the texture of the  yogurt sauce once baked becomes airy and custard like, but I think it would’ve benefited from more seasonings. Also, as much I loved the texture of the yogurt custard their was just way too much custard to lamb ratio and also not enough rice. I’d consider making this again, but I’d increase the lamb to 2 pounds, add some garlic and maybe some other spices and double the rice.

My dinner


Ju bëftë mirë!