Shakshuka – A Love Story

So the wife & I were staying at the SoHo Grand in New York one random time.
We went out for a breakfast/brunch with no specific destination in mind, except that we wanted to walk around, explore and end up at somewhere dope.
That can be a pretty rough way to find a spot, but in NY it’s one of, if not the best.
We stopped by a few ‘regular’ looking brunch spots
a couple hipster spots
a mexican spot my college roommate/BFF recommended.
Nothing looked ‘perfect’
An hour into this jaunt we were getting a little hungry (and snippy)
We were at the point where it’s like ‘if there’s a fucking Applebee’s around the corner, I’m fucking going. You can come in with me or not, I literally do not care.”
Lo and behold, we stumble upon a spot called 12 Chairs Cafe.
‘This looks cute,” my wife said.
(‘this looks cute’ is basically her code for ‘we’re going here’)
I’m like, “hmm humm oh umm let me look at the menu”
She walks right in and grabs a table
two of the 12 chairs, if you will.
There was one other couple there, it was a weekday.
The server comes up, welcomes us, tells us it’s Mediterranean
kebobs, hummus, lamb, “no seriously the best hummus”
and i was kinda like, “man i love this food but i really felt like a brunch type thing”
the server must have read my mind, literally says
“have you ever tried Shakshuka”
“umm, no.”
he explains that it’s tomatoes cooked down to spicy, sauce, with two egg cracked on top, which actually poach within the dish
i was like, “hmmm, sounds interesting but”
“it’s our speciality. it’s an Israeli speciality.”
i was like “let’s do it”
He comes out in a cast iron skillet with two perfectly orange egg yolks on top, cracked into this paprika-infused, bubbling tomato medley with an Israeli salad and pita on the side.
I abso freaking lutely fell in love with the dish.
photo courtesy of
Amazing. I still haven’t tried to make it, and i don’t know why, really
as i get it nearly every time i see it on a menu – breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner
ultimately my point is,
I saw this Eater piece today
and was like ‘Reseda, eh. . .Aroma Cafe, eh. . .let’s do it!!!!’

My Guiltiest Pleasures

I’m not talking the shaved frozen foie gras at Momofoku; I don’t mean the Spicy Pork Tacos from Kogi. I definitely am not referring to the “Coffee & Doughnuts” at The French Laundry. What I want here are your dirtiest, darkest, deepest desires that you’d ordinarily be embarrassed to discuss with your fellow gastronomes.

Here are mine, in no particular order because frankly – when the craving strikes, any one of these bad boys can vault to the top of my ‘must have NOW’ list:

*Jalapeño poppers from Jack in the Box w/ ‘house buttermilk sauce’ (aka Ranch).

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These fried bundles of joy brought me many smiles and more than a few pounds in college. I feel sorry for you east coasters that don’t know Jack, because this oddball gem – at least for a fast food menu – is quite literally the definition of a food that is disgustingly delicious. Oh yeah, I use THREE of the ‘buttermilk’ cups for a seven piece jalapeño.


*Reddi-Wip original cream, straight out of the can.

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My mom used to harangue me incessantly after catching me wrap my lips around the nozzle of this Thanksgiving pie-finisher. To this day, I keep a can in the fridge just to guide me through those tough days as an adult, if for only a moment to harken back to childhood.


*Reese’s peanut butter chips.

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The Pieces are great, the Cups are phenomenal, but these. . .these, allegedly, are for cooking. Too bad at my household they go straight into the freezer, only to be extracted by the handful when that late night hunger pang hits.


*Anchovy fillets in a tin.

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Kind of the oddball of the group, and mostly a guilty pleasure because of where they are consumed – at work. I keep a half dozen tins in my top drawer for those post-lunch protein swoons. If you wonder why the guilt, you can ask any of my coworkers, most of whom run for the conference room as soon as the lid is peeled back.

*Mocha Mix.

Again, blame my Mom. Despite her Mrs. Gooch’s shopping, margarine mandating, soy cheese buying dogma, she always had that big yellow carton in the house. Poured generously with coffee, forming a soup for various berries or splashing into cereal, the creamy richness of Mocha Mix was a true treat. And now it’s often in my house, consumed similarly. Or, if I’m feeling particularly mischievous, a small glass of pure, unglamorous, I-don’t-even-know-what-it’s-made-out-of Mocha Mix.


Can’t wait to hear yours. Off to the kitchen. . .


pic of Jack poppers courtesy of

Where’s Your Bread Buttered

This is the second of my *I can’t really prep or cook food right now because we’re renovating our kitchen* series.

Now I want to know about bread. What’s your ranking? With apologies to Baguettes, Matzo, Focaccia, Challah, Crepe, Ciabatta, Ezekiel, Banana Bread, French, Injera & plain white – here’s my list:
1) Tortilla – the ultimate vehicle. with butter, cheese, meat, vegetables, prepared or raw, a good tortilla is the perfect size (both diameter and thickness) to accompany the filling yet also provide sturdy smokey corn flavor. tortillas can also be re-prepared into some awesome dishes, eg nachos chilaquiles etc. gold medal winner for me.
image courtesy
2) Baguette – if it has that crispy crust, chewy dough and little middle spec of yeasty moisture, it’s perfect. with butter, with cheese, with charcuterie, with nothing at all but a ripped hunk in your mouth, this is the bescht for me.
3) Bagel – I mean super awesome, great texture (again, for me it’s heavily texture-based), perfect chewiness with a great crisp (toasted) so so good
4) Cornbread – even the fake stuff at El Torito. any bready, sweet corn – as long as it’s moist – is awesome with me. add butter or honey and i’m in heaven.
5) Biscuit – almost the same visceral pleasure as cornbread, but a little sturdier. kind of annoying that the perfect biscuits are so flaky that they make a mess so my OCD takes over, but man again butter or honey or just plain biscuits – or with gravy! – dude awesomeness
image courtesy made in our kitchen
6) Pita – best conduit for stuffing your face, and it can be packed into a no-mess pocket if the pita is prepared well enough. very convenient, very earthy taste with a subtle toughness, and when slightly warmed it becomes a comforting blanket for any ingredients.
7) French Roll – similar to the baguette but sans the subtle sour tanginess – in other words just the perfect sandwich medium, for which you can use literally any toppings. hell yeah.
image courtesy thebakingway
8) English Muffin – the OG Thomas version. i’m a sucker for these, and it may well be because my Mom had them in the house religiously while I was growing up.
9) Pan Dulce – probably the only bread for me that goes equally well for breakfast and dessert without any alteration. Definitely need a good coffee (breakfast) or milk (dessert) accompaniment, though.
image courtesy of house of lunit
10) Sourdough – unique and so damn enjoyable heated to a crisp and with butter or cheese. wow.
What breads satisfy your carb craving?