Friday, February 13, 2009

Drive a Bit More to a Big Box Store

By Millicent K. Brody

I, being a lover of good things to eat, remarked to a rather trendy buddy that I really loved the coffee cake she served the other night. "I was impressed," I said, "The coffee cake was fresh and delicious."

"Oh," she responded without batting an eye, "I have this wonderful baker. He ALWAYS bakes everything fresh for me. I just call, and he’ll reserve my request."

Always on the trail for something delicious, I happened to marvel at the baked goods set out on the shelf at a local Target. "Wow," I said to myself, "that label looks familiar. Where have I seen it before?"

And then it occurred to me, That was the very same cake my friend told me her local bakery baked especially for HER.

So, now we know, you too can visit your local Target and treat yourself to a new tee shirt and jacket as well as any of their fresh bakery products.

Another tip: I’d promised friends I'd prepare glazed corned beef for Super Bowl Sunday, but I honestly couldn't find enough first cuts of corned beef to feed I revised the menu and opted for brisket.
Touring our local supermarkets and butcher shops only proved that this would be a very costly dinner. Recalling that I’d seen one of our most respected restauranteurs shopping for veal at Costco, I headed for my local big-box store.

For a mere $17, I purchased a first cut brisket that easily fed my friends. Another friend entertained her pals on a beef tenderloin costing practically ‘Nothing’. She butchered the meat into delicious filet mignons, and everyone was happy.

In this time of tight budgets, you really should not have to take a second mortgage to feed friends and family. Simply search for alternatives.

Rather than preparing roast chicken for a crowd, some shop BJ’s, Whole Foods, Kings, and Garden of Eden Gourmet at 226 Washington Street in Hoboken, and 1-7 South Orange Ave., in South Orange. I’ve been told by many kitchen gourmets that it’s really cheaper to outsource your dinner party. For sure it’s less fuss and mess then preparing it in the comforts of your own kitchen. Most often, these kind gentlemen and ladies will platter your food for serving.

$$$$: Avoid crowds by shopping during the week. Check prices in your local supermarkets before heading to big box stores. Target’s private label is called Archer Farms.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Happy Hour

By Maureen C. Petrosky

It’s here! The happiest hour of winter; that time between five and six p.m. when those of us who call the northeast home get daylight back for one more precious hour. I’m not disheartened that last week the groundhog saw his shadow and skittered back to his hole, warning us to hunker down for six more weeks of winter. It’s light out past four- thirty, and that means we’re at least half way through. That is reason to toast.

Since plenty of us don’t work a 9 to 5, we find our very own happy hours. I’m sure for stay- at -home moms and dads that precious hour when all the little ones are finally down for the night is happy hour in their houLinkse. Maybe in yours it kicks off at 9 p.m. when your husband finally gets in from the day’s commute, or perhaps your cocktail time only comes once a week on Friday night when you can finally celebrate the week’s end. This week mine is that one hour when the sunlight lingers just a little longer.

This Week’s Pick: Charles Krug 2006 Yountville- Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon, $27
It’s a red wine that when you sip you can’t help but say, “now that is good”. It’s a medium to full- bodied Cab with finesse. It’s layered with aromas of black cherry coffee and sweet clove. It goes down smooth and is perfect for toasting the end of a long day.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Reexamining the World’s Oldest Profession

By Brianne Harrison

Mrs. Warren’s Profession, currently onstage at Princeton’s Berlind Theater, is a play of surprises both for the audience and the characters. The characters, particularly Mrs. Warren’s cold, unsentimental, highly educated daughter, Vivie and her layabout suitor, Frank, are shocked to learn that Mrs. Warren’s fortune has been made through prostitution, a subject rarely onstage now, and one that was particularly taboo back when the play was written, in 1893.

That a play like this should have been written in the last gasp of the straitlaced Victorian era is one surprise for the audience. That it should be sympathetic to Mrs. Warren’s choice of profession, the plight of women at that time, and written by a man are three more. That man is George Bernard Shaw, one of the preeminent playwrites of his time.

Shaw is perhaps best known to today’s audiences for Pygmalion, which inspired My Fair Lady. With Mrs. Warren, Shaw takes one of the ideas developed in Pygmalion a bit further: it’s hard for a Victorian woman on her own. Even with her education and polish, Eliza Doolittle’s only real option is working in a flower shop—barely a step above peddling nosegays in Covent Garden. The young Mrs. Warren faced a similar problem. Women’s work at that time was low-paid, menial, and often dangerous (the character gives a vivid description of a sister who dies working in a lead factory). So, she used what she had to get by: a pretty face, which she eventually parlayed into a profitable franchise.

This play is not only about “the profession” (which is never mentioned by name), but also about the relationships between mother and daughter and the struggles women faced to achieve economic stability and be viewed by men as equals (a subject that many of us can connect with even today). Vivie, who stomps around and acts like a bratty teenager who naturally thinks she knows more than her mother throughout most of the first two acts, is a woman ahead of her time. Cambridge-educated, she has no use for romance and even comes across as quite masculine, with her hand-crushing handshake, love of mathematics (a pursuit which was essentially reserved for men at that time), and rejection of marriage and family life. Despite this, the men in the play view her as a child who needs protection. Her mother doesn’t fare much better, in their estimation. But these women clearly don’t need protecting—they’ve done just fine on their own. No fainting Angels of the Household here.

The play has its problems for sure (including a mixed-message ending) but it, like Vivie, was ahead of its time and deserves some notice because of that. Prostitution is still a subject that raises eyebrows and invokes stereotypes, but what Shaw understood was that for some women, it wasn’t a bad job at all. It’s certainly nothing to be ashamed of—it’s not a sin, it’s business. A profession, like any other.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Top Chef Tips

By Pat Tanner

In a recent e-letter from The Frog & The Peach in New Brunswick, executive chef Bruce Lefebvre offered this advice: “Bake cookies at 300 degrees despite what the recipe says, so that the center is cooked but the outside does not get too dark.” That prompted me to query other chefs for rules they flout. Mark Valenza, chef-owner of Za, a small, eclectic BYOB in Pennington, took my request in a slightly different direction, much to my delight, offering these top ten tips:

* SALT ALL FRIED FOOD Remember: like the potato chip, all fried foods are simply grease-and-salt delivery devices. Don’t ever serve me grease without my salt.

* IF YOU’VE NEVER MADE IT BEFORE try it out on the very young or the very old first. They’ll tell you the truth.

* WINE If it’s over ten years old, chances are you own a very expensive bottle of vinegar. Please don’t make your friends and family drink it. Admit its shortcomings and move on to the next bottle.

* VEGETABLES are marvelous, colorful, unique taste treats. Stop overcooking them.

* IF YOU’RE A RACHAEL RAY FAN C’mon, you already know how to eat cheap. Check out some old Julia Child shows and learn how to dine well.

* COOKING CLOTHES Get yourself a chef’s jacket; it will save your good sweater from grease stains and instill culinary confidence. No cute slogans printed on your jacket like “Kiss the Chef,” or “Grill Guy” - that will defeat the purpose.

* WHEN IN DOUBT add bacon.

* BONES Leave them in! Why do so many of us have an aversion to bones? We all know what we are eating, don’t we? Use bones; bones make food taste better.
* IF YOU HAVE VEGETARIAN OR VEGAN FRIENDS Serve them crudités. If they still insult the food you slaved over and like to eat, remember: it’s just that they’re hungry.

* DINING OUT Always dine at chef-owned BYOBs. The food is always better and you can save a lot of coin on wine and alcohol. Okay, so that was a little self-serving.