review Archive

“Dirt Candy: A Cookbook” Reviewed


All art by Ryan Dunlavey

Although I’ve only eaten at Dirt Candy twice, I feel a real affection for the restaurant. I fell in love with their stone ground grits on my first visit, and I have kept up with all of the doings related to the restaurant. After we wrote about the restaurant in 2009 we got an email from Chef/Owner Amanda Cohen, and we wrote back and forth a few times. All these years later I got an email from Cohen asking if I wanted an advance copy of their new cookbook, due out this week from Clarkson Potter. I knew the cookbook was coming, and I knew that it was in graphic novel form with art by Ryan Dunlavey (illustrator of The Comic Book History of Comics and others), and of course I gratefully accepted my free advance copy.

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Born Round, by Frank Bruni — Advance Review

Note: This review is based on an advanced, uncorrected copy of the book, so if there are any major changes between now and the official publication I can’t account for them. Slight spoilers will follow, so if you want to read the book unsullied but still care what I think of it, you can skip down to the italicized text at the bottom of this article.

When I read any biography or memoir, I’m hoping to read a story so unique or interesting that the story had to be told. Failing that, a slice-of-life bio can be compelling as long as it’s well written, especially insightful, or just plain funny. Unfortunately Frank Bruni’s Born Round fails on all fronts, despite the fact that he has what many people would consider a dream job for the past few years. In fact, he doesn’t even accept the job as restaurant critic for the NY Times until page 272 of my copy (the book is just over 350 pages), not counting the introduction.

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The Soul Spot

I was cat sitting for a friend over on Atlantic Ave, and at first I got my fill of banh mi from both Nicky’s and Hanco’s. Then I started to look for something else. I had passed by The Soul Spot a few times, and although vegetarians sometimes have a hard time eating at soul food places I noticed that they offered a vegetarian plate, made up of your choice of four side dishes and served with a piece of cornbread.

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Christmas Dinner at Rosa Mexicano

I know the tradition for Jews is to eat Chinese food on Christmas, and I’ve done that before, but this year I didn’t have any plans. My friend Jeff and I were trying to find out what restaurants were open and had tables available, so we used Open Table to find out. There were only a few dozen restaurants with tables available, and most were restaurants we had never heard of. Only one appealed to me — Rosa Mexicano. I know it’s a chain, and that they overcharge for what is, at heart, Tex-Mex food, but I had heard great things about the pomegranate margaritas and the guacamole made table-side. Jeff agreed — margaritas seemed just right for Christmas dinner.

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Barbounia

Sometimes I think I’m kind of a grouch when it comes to eating. Why can’t I just enjoy a meal, especially when it’s free (as my meal at Barbounia was)? I think i often set my expectations too high. I wasn’t anticipating much when I first saw the menu at Barbounia, but then I read Frank Bruni’s one star review and I thought maybe there was hope for the meal after all. Unfortunately, the bread and olives brought out at the beginning of the lunch were the best parts. The bread was still warm from the oven, and crusted with sea salt and rosemary, and they brought out plenty more at our request. Look at those greedy hands reaching for the bread!

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Lan Cafe

I was speaking to my sister about her visit to Minneapolis when she mentioned she’d eaten vegetarian pho. I instantly became jealous — how come she could find vegetarian pho in Minnesota, while I live in freakin’ New York City and had never seen such a thing? I googled vegetarian pho in NYC and up came Lan Cafe, a vegetarian Vietnamese restaurant located a block away from where I used to live in the East Village (it turns out that Lan Cafe opened after I moved out of that apartment, so I didn’t miss it while I lived there). I made it my mission to visit Lan Cafe as soon as possible.

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Al Di La

After trying a bite of the ricotta pound cake (with cranberries and orange whipped cream), Donny remarked that he thought it was “good, not great.” Although I liked this dessert a lot, “good, not great” pretty much summed up our entire dinner at Al Di La, a Park Slope neighborhood favorite.

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