The Clam (New York): Feasting in Fashion

Clam stuffiesThe early chilly days of fall always have me nostalgic for the summer feasts of very recent memory.

Which is how I found myself thinking about one of the most perfect lunches I’ve had this year — one that happened during New York fashion week, no less, a time that tends to be focused on fitting into clothes than eating any food.

On the last day of this season’s shows, my very dear friend Clifford Pugh, editor-in-chief of Houston’s CultureMap magazine, called, wanting to toast the end of the week after Ralph Lauren and said, Let’s eat.

Well, you don’t have to ask me twice, which is how we ended up having the loveliest lunch at a little place called The Clam …

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Mile End Delicatessen (Brooklyn, N.Y.): Poutine Paradise

PoutineAs you might imagine, I have a gigantic soft spot for fries, gravy, meat and cheese.

Separately, each of these rocks my world. Faced with them together? I get instantly weak-kneed.

Recently, I’ve had the extremely good fortune of living near Mile End Delicatessen, a little New York City mini chain that specializes in poutine, that scrumptious Canadian dish that combines fries with cheese curds and meat gravy.

And so, on a recent Sunday, I just happened to wander over …

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John Searles' Lentil Soup: A Toast to "Help For The Haunted"

Few things make me happier than tasting my friends’ cooking — especially if it’s a situation in which I had absolutely no idea that they knew how to cook.

Recently, I had the pleasure of making one such discovery about a dear friend of mine, a person I adore and whom I know mostly as a writer (certainly not a cook) — the novelist John Searles.

I made this discovery one chilly evening this spring when John’s partner, Thomas (the chef in that family), wasn’t around. Instead of ordering in, John decided to cook up some soup instead. I remain grateful for this decision as this meant that I got to taste his lentil soup, which turned out to be so hearty and tasty that I distinctly remember the delicious sensation of its earthy goodness warming me up from within.

So when fall and all its coolness arrived last week, this soup immediately came to mind.

Besides, I had a very special reason to toast John this month — his third novel, a gripping literary thriller titled “Help For The Haunted” just hit book stores! It’s only been out for a week and it’s already gotten rave reviews everywhere — both Amazon and USA Today just named it one of the month’s best books.

So cheers to the book and to my dear friend John. And of course, let’s not forget his lovely lentil soup …

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Belle Harbor Steak House (Rockaway Park, N.Y.): Back to the Basics

There’s something to be said for a solid, old-school meal.

What this means varies, of course, depending on where you are. In the U.S., I’ve always relished the mom-and-pop low-key restaurants that still roll out unfussy, decades-old standbys — hot turkey platters, melts, meatloaf and more. (If you’ve read “A Tiger in the Kitchen,” you’ll know what a meatloaf obsessive I am.)

I find myself craving these meals when it gets a little chilly. And so on a recent rainy day, we found ourselves heading over to a little restaurant called Belle Harbor Steak House in Rockaway Park, New York.

I’d caught a glimpse of the menu a few days before and it seemed like just the place to warm you up on a cold drizzly afternoon …

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Thai Rock (Rockaway Beach, N.Y.): Sweet-Tooth "Thai"

Every few days or so, a craving will kick in.

If I haven’t been cooking or if I’ve been on the road, unless I’m in Asia, I’ll start to really need the taste of Asian food of some sort. So, after a few days of lovely fish sandwiches and hot dogs at Rockaway Beach, I started sniffing around for something a little closer to home.

And then I remembered a sign on a building by the water: “Thai Rock.” And off we went …

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