More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Ramen

Every so often the Apparently family hops on the 7 train into Manhattan with only a vague destination in mind. Last night we found ourselves aiming for Madison Square Park, because we thought the line at Shake Shack might not be so onerous at 4:30pm. We were mistaken. Even on a Saturday afternoon, everyone wants an upscale hot dog.

Several happy discoveries were made from this false start:

photo from madisonsquarepark.org

1. Cool yet disconcerting art by Jaume Plensa in Madison Square Park.

2. The recently-opened NYC outpost of Beecher's Handmade Cheese. If ever there were a yuppie cheese shop, this is it. Everything is minimally designed yet handsomely packaged, and you can buy several kinds of frozen mac & cheese starting at $8.75 a box. But oh, the selection of their own and other's cheeses, and oh, the farmhouse-table dark Cellar restaurant that just begs for a return visit. Those pictures don't do The Cellar justice - for a below-ground space, it's lovely.

3. Union Square Park Playground. We're behind the curve on this one, but this awesome playground is far superior to the generic Luna Park restaurant that preceded it. Apparently Jr loved the real rocks to climb and the secret path through greenery to the slide entrance; his parents loved the very enclosed nature of the whole playground and its slightly hipster attitude: really steep slides, plenty of stuff to climb and weird human-sized metal cattails.

We made our way to Vapiano, a very bizarre Italian cafeteria-style bar and restaurant that is absolutely perfect for people with kids and also probably a good place to meet a large group of friends. Each adult receives a chip card upon entering, and all purchases are scanned to the card; you pay when you leave. Vapiano's offerings include solid renditions of classic Italian staples: pizza, pastas, panini. The seating areas, full of wood tables with marble insets holding oils and pots of rosemary, has enough ambience for both adults and kids to feel they're at an actual restaurant, but is casual enough that a fidgety preschooler can take a walk without being given the stink-eye by other patrons. Apparently Jr is generally good at restaurants, and so it's amusing that Mr A and I like Vapiano for these particular reasons. We also like the food!

What does all this have to do with ramen, you may ask? This post is so much longer than I'd planned - you'll have to wait until the next post to find out! But muse on this: what would happen if David Chang, Tony Bourdain and McSweeney's had a love child? It would be a lucky little peach, wouldn't it?

Paradise Escapes Me

Bon Appetit magazine publishes a column called RSVP, where readers write in to rave about some fabulous dish they ordered at a restaurant and to ask the magazine to procure the recipe. I actually sent a request once, for the white bean soup with arugula and pumpkin oil from MOMA's Terrace 5, but as far as I know, it was never pursued or printed. I have a feeling that my next must-have recipe would go unnoticed as well.

The Apparently family has been to Woodstock, New York three times. First we spent a lovely babymoon in a charming house with an enormous bathtub. (Yes, that's the primary thing I remember. I was eight months pregnant, and it was February. I spent the long weekend in front of the fireplace and in the tub.) Last fall we enjoyed a delightful week at a house up on a hill, and it was on that trip that we discovered Sunfrost Farms, a local, independent market with excellent produce, a juice bar, a quirky selection of groceries, every spice you could require on a weeklong vacation, and most importantly, a little house-made treat called "Organic Chocolate and Raw Fruit Paradise." A package contains about 16 one-inch squares of chocolatey, nutty goodness, and I can't get enough of them.

Wait. Stop. Now I have to go eat one. Look at this picture while I go to the kitchen.

deliciousness.

When we returned from our trip, I scoured the web trying to find a recipe that approximates this deliciousness, but I came up empty-handed.

Last week we had the good fortune to visit with friends in upstate New York. We followed a roundabout and exploratory route back to the city, both for pure exploration and in an attempt to keep Apparently Jr asleep in the back seat for as long as possible. I drove, and Mr Apparently navigated. He may have had a plan, and I suspect it had to do with coffee and baked goods rather than vegan date bars. But when I realized we were driving down Tinker Street in Bearsville, I couldn't contain my excitement:

We have to stop at Sunfrost and buy the chocolate sunflower bars!

I sent Mr Apparently inside without clear directions, because although I secretly wanted him to purchase every package of organic fruit and nut paradise in the store, I didn't want to be responsible for the actual eating of that much chocolate. I mean, of course I did, but...you know exactly what I mean. So he returned to the car with two packages (one marked carob, if I recall correctly - that one is gone) and a week later, after much self-control on all of our parts, we are down to the last two squares.

I need to find a recipe.

These may be close:

1. Raw Vegan Mango, Date, and Sunflower Tropical Energy Balls

No chocolate, but the base of fruits sounds right

2. Chocolate Date Balls (no cook!)

Closer, closer...

3. Sunflower Coconut Balls

Perhaps if I swapped out chocolate for the peanut butter? But the peanut binder may be the binder in this recipe.

Is this ringing any sort of bell? I am so serious when I say that if you send me a recipe that makes these little bites of yumminess, I will send you the nicest thank-you present. Perhaps even a batch of your very own.

Cheese, Glorious Cheese

Hello, again. Let's not comment too much on my absence and just say that it takes a good seven days to recover from a twelve-day trip. I don't know where the other week went.

Our local farmer's market has been rather consistent over the past year. Except for Ballard's Honey, no new tents popped up when the market reopened in June. So it was with great delight that I noticed two or three new vendors this past Saturday. And I can't tell you who all of them were, because everyone else was overshadowed by the offerings of Ardith Mae Farm. Shereen and Todd Wilcox milk about 40 goats in Hallstead, Pennsylvania, and the resulting cheese is some of the best I've ever tasted from a sheep, goat or cow.

At this point I should note that the Apparently family doesn't know a great deal about some foodie topics that people really pride themselves for enjoying, like Burgundy vintages or heirloom beans or cacao percentages. But we know our cheese around here, and this is the good stuff.

We tried the chevre, which was a solid, delicious offering, but it was a single taste of a peppercorn pyramid that won me over. Mr Apparently and I tried to make this piece of cheese last for more than two meals, but it was simply impossible. With its subtle bloomy rind, spicy peppercorns and fluffy, chalky center, the half-pyramid that we purchased was devoured within 24 hours.

You can find places where one can purchase Ardith Mae Farmstead Goat Cheese here, or just head to the Sunnyside Greenmarket!

Also, thanks to the NY Department of Agriculture and Markets for rescinding their ridiculous decree handed down in June (or rather, suddenly enforced after 40 years on the books) that prohibited artisanal cheese vendors from slicing and packaging cheese to order at markets. Customers and headline writers are happy once again.

 

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