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Happy Purim!

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Purim starts tomorrow, and I just wanted everyone to know that I was into Purim before it was cool.

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Me, rocking Purim, on the front page of the Ottawa Citizen
with my mouth full of food.

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Big Dirt Candy is Coming in 2014!

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Last night I met with Community Board 3 and they’ve chosen to send my liquor license application on to the State Liquor Authority, and so I’m finally able to sign my lease and announce: a new Dirt Candy is coming!

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For the next year, Little Dirt Candy will continue to operate as usual, although you may notice that everyone there has an extra spring in their step. Then, in Fall 2014, Big Dirt Candy will open at 86 Allen Street, right on the border of the Lower East Side and Chinatown. The company that was there before us was a Chinatown Bus Tour Agency, and they weren’t big on flashy decor, so we’ve got a lot of work to do.

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What will happen to Little Dirt Candy? I’m not sure yet, but I’d love to hear your ideas.

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What will happen at Big Dirt Candy? It’ll be Dirt Candy, only bigger! There will be a bar where you can wait for your table! There will be ice! No more two month wait for tables! There will be more than one non-alcoholic drink on the menu! The chairs will have four legs! Most importantly, everything I’m doing, from the design, to the menu, to the kitchen layout, is being built to preserve the best things about Little Dirt Candy. Sure, this restaurant is tiny, but there’s a fun atmosphere here where the line between the kitchen and the dining room is gone and where you don’t feel like a bunch of isolated tables scattered across the floor of an eat-a-torium where no one cares about you, but where, on its best nights, it feels like you’re all guests in my house having a party. That’s what makes Dirt Candy special, and that’s what’s it’s still going to be, whether it’s Little or Big.

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More than anything, I’m building Big Dirt Candy for you guys. You’ve been awesome to know for the past five years, and I think you’ve all earned an upgrade!

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Happy 5th Birthday, Dirt Candy!

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Five years ago today, Dirt Candy opened to the public. I was terrified. I’d come out of some not-great restaurants where I’d learned a lot about all the things that can go wrong. I had money riding on this. I had my future riding on this. And I was at a severe disadvantage. I was a woman in a field where men got most of the press attention. I was cooking vegetables in a world where the height of wit was considered a t-shirt that read, “Mmmm…bacon…” I was cooking with electricity because my contractor had screwed me and I had no gas service. And, like every chef opening a restaurant, I was worried I wasn’t good enough or, even worse, I would be good enough but through some cruel twist of fate on the part of the New York City Restaurant Gods I wouldn’t find customers.

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Five years later, Dirt Candy is thriving. It’s done so much better than I ever could have dreamed. My crew and I have won awards, cooked at major events, published a comic book cookbook, and gotten more press attention than what is technically legal. The issue of women getting less press coverage has gone from something not mentioned very often to a topic that comes up regularly in interviews with chefs and editors, and I’d like to claim some of the credit for that (a tiny, tiny bit). And apparently vegetables are “hip” and “sexy” and “moving to the center of the plate.” So yay! First!

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But in reality, all of this is thanks to you. Sure, my chefs and I built this crazy camper van, but you’re the ones who took the steering wheel and drove it so far. You’re the men and women who spent your hard-earned money at Dirt Candy, who Tweeted its name far and wide, who recommended us to your friends, and who bought my cookbook. You’re the people who made Dirt Candy successful, and so on reaching our fifth birthday I want to say “Thank you.” This could have gone the other way, but you didn’t let that happen. And I am nothing but deeply grateful to all of you for making my restaurant a success. I’d never have gotten this far without you.

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There will be a celebration of Dirt Candy’s Fifth Birthday, so keep your eyes on this blog later this week when I’ll announce the details. But for now I hope it’s enough to say, “Thank you!” I think it’s fair to say that, without exception, Dirt Candy customers are the most awesome people on the planet. You guys ride to work on unicorns, you dress like royalty, you dance like rock stars, and when you sneeze you sneeze glitter rainbows.

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Best of the Blog: Great Moments in History

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Over the course of the 600 posts on my blog, I’ve covered some of the great historical moments of our times. Digging through the Dirt Candy blog I’ve discovered a play-by-play of the epic, era-defining events that shaped our lives.

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Read the rest of this entry »


Happy Birthday, Dirt Candy Cookbook!

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Last week on August 21, the Dirt Candy Cookbook turned one year old! Drawn by the amazing and talented Ryan Dunlavey (Action Philosophers) it’s the first graphic novel cookbook, and it’s already in its third printing. Celebrate by ordering it from Amazon! Or order it from Barnes & Noble! Or order a signed copy from me!

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Johnson & Wales & Being All Distinguished

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About five million years ago (March) I went down to Johnson & Wales to be their Distinguished Visiting Chef and give some lectures, teach a class, and just generally lend the place some of my patented class (for example, falling down a lot; wearing dirty pants). I haven’t done any kind of round-up of what happened, and since nothing happened if it hasn’t been blogged about, it’s time I made things right.

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Read the rest of this entry »


Wielding a Wusthof

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Well, it happened. I sold out.

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Like Dionne Warwick and the Psychic Friends Network, like Mary J. Blige and Burger King’s crispy chicken wrap, or Claire Danes and the Latisse Eyelash Prescription Treatment System, I am endorsing a product. Which appeals deeply to my childhood self. I mean, I grew up seeing Bill Cosby eat Jell-o Pudding Pops and Michael J. Fox drink Pepsi, so joining their ranks (in some small way) kind of makes me want to jump through time and high-five my eleven-year-old self. The product?

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From now until infinity you will not be able to use a Wusthof knife without thinking of me.

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Do not attempt this at home unless you want to cut off your nose.

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You can see the entire campaign over on their Edge site.

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When they asked me to endorse them they sent me a nice chef’s knife in the mail, as well as a letter inviting me to be one of their spokespeople as well as a bunch of material outlining the campaign they were planning. I opened the package, took the knife (“Cool,” I remember thinking. “They sent me a knife because I’m a chef.”), glanced at the rest and thought, “Junk mail,” and tossed it in the trash. A week later someone from the agency putting the campaign together called.

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“Did you get the knife?” she asked.

Oh, great. Now she was going to try to sell me something. Well, ha, ha, sucker. I’ve got my knife and I don’t have to give it back.

“Yep, thanks. It’s nice.”

Now, just try to sell me more knives so I can refuse you.

“What did you think about it?”

What did I think about the knife? Well, it’s sharp and it cuts things? What does she mean? What is she talking about?

“Um…”

“You know, the proposal?”

The trash was long gone. What had I done? I tried to fake it.

“You know,” I said, “I thought it looked good, but why don’t you refresh me…”

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It’s amazing I’ve survived this long around so many sharp knives and so much fire, to be honest. But, ultimately the joke’s on Wusthof. What they don’t realize is that they didn’t need to pay me to endorse them. I was doing it a long time ago for free. Way back in 2004 I did my first ever interview as a chef. Ted Lee (of the Lee Bros. cookbook out now!) needed some chefs to talk about knives for a piece he was writing for the New York Times. He figured that I worked with vegetables so I’d have a different take on it. He’d talked to lots of chefs about their fancy Japanese knives, their hand forged custom steel, their ceramic knives built by robots. Me? I used a Wusthof.

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Amanda Cohen, a sous-chef at Pure Food and Wine in Manhattan, bought her less exalted Wüsthof chef’s knife at a Bed Bath & Beyond store in Manhattan. But she is every bit as sanguine as Mr. Heflin about its form and function.

“My knife fits my hand so perfectly,” Ms. Cohen said. “Every time I pick it up, it’s like, `Hello, old friend!’ “

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I’ve always used whatever knife I had lying around. I usually go for a Wusthof if I’m buying one, because I take my knives to hell and back and really beat the tar out of them so $900 knives that require constant maintenance are wasted on me. Later in the NY Times piece:

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“As long as you get the job done on time, a knife is a knife,” said Ms. Cohen, the sous-chef at Pure Food and Wine. “I see all these guys with their knives in fancy carrying cases, and I always want to ask them, `Does that make the food taste better?’”

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I’ve got a Wusthof tossed in my bag and that’s kind of all I need. Just the 6″ chef’s knife. From now until I go off a cliff, I’m Thelma and this is my Louise.

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2 gether 4 ever.

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So thanks, Wusthof, for putting a price tag on a relationship you didn’t even know already existed. And the campaign’s not just about me. Marc Vetri of Vetri in Philadelphia and Katherine Clapner the pastry chef who owns Dude, Sweet Chocolate in Dallas are both part of their campaign as well this year, so I’m in good company.

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And I got a free knife!

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I’m distinguished?!?

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As you can probably tell by my earlier posts on How to Be a Chef and Should You Go to Cooking School? I really believe that other people should be exposed to my opinions on a regular basis. And who better to beat over the head with my club-like wisdom than a bunch of bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, soft-skinned, hopeful cooking school students? Which is why I’m really excited that Johnson & Wales in Charlotte, NC has chosen me to be their Distinguished Visiting Chef this year.

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I’ll be down there from Saturday through Monday, March 23 – 25, to warp young minds, crush their hopes, and kill their dreams. I’ll also be doing cooking demos. They use a lot more diplomatic language than I do, so here’s what they say:

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The Distinguished Visiting Chef Program was established in 1979 to honor outstanding culinarians and to provide an expanded learning experience for culinary and pastry arts students. Each year the College of Culinary Arts of Johnson & Wales University honors experts in the field of culinary arts by inviting internationally recognized chefs from the United States and abroad to visit the University and share their knowledge with the students. Drawing on their expertise, these individuals pass on valuable information acquired over the years as they lecture and demonstrate to Johnson & Wales University students.

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Which basically means: warp, crush, kill.

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Actually, I’m kind of excited. I feel like a lot of kids are coming out of cooking school the way I did: totally unprepared for the real world. I’m hoping that by vaccinating them with a little bit of reality poison now, they’ll be better able to resist its corrosive effects in the future. Also, they set up a scholarship in my name, which is kind of nice except that I can’t apply for it. Which is too bad, because with my name on it, I thought I’d be a shoo-in to win. Instead, someone named Brandon Lopez got the scholarship, to which I say: Congratulations, Brandon. And you owe me a 20% kickback.

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I had no idea Johnson & Wales looked like Mordor.

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So when you’re going about your day on March 24 and 25 just realize that I’ll be down in North Carolina, attending a fancy dress party in my own honor, killing the weak, and luring the strong into being my future employees. Thanks, Johnson & Wales!

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America’s Test Kitchen (with me!) now online

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I think by now I’ve talked about being on America’s Test Kitchen for longer than it took to actually film the episode. That’s okay! I can talk about being on my favorite cooking show until I turn blue in the face and fall over dead. The episode is called “Simple and Satisfying Vegetable Mains” and it’s airing all over the place depending on when ACT airs on your local PBS station, but if you’re like me and you want to put it on a loop and watch it over and over again in the comfort of your own home, you can find the entire episode online!

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Thank you, internets!

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Sandy Update

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(Update: as of Tuesday, November 6, Dirt Candy has re-opened! Seriously. We’re open. You can eat here! People have been confused, so be confused no longer!)

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I’m in the middle of re-opening Dirt Candy and so far the biggest problem (besides having to remake everything from scratch, all at once) is that my internet service is out. Verizon told me, “We don’t know why it’s out, we don’t know when it will be back, and it may never be back.” As you might imagine, these are not the words I wanted to hear. The biggest thing I need internet access for are Open Table reservations. To their credit, Open Table is being really great about this (a huge improvement over my last interaction with them) but for now, if you want a reservation (or need to cancel a reservation, or change a reservation) please call the restaurant (212-228-7732). I’m really sorry for the inconvenience, but just imagine: it’s only a single phone call for you, but I’ll be answering the phone all day long.

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Then there’s storage. Dirt Candy has off-site storage over on Avenue D, right in the middle of the flood zone. My storage unit: in the basement. This is what it looks like.

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My husband was over there yesterday and today digging it out, and what really sucks is that insurance doesn’t cover this loss. The policy I had through the storage place doesn’t cover water damage, and the coverage I have through my home owner’s policy doesn’t cover this particular location for flooding (because it’s in a flood plain). This was all news to me!

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Want to buy a Dirt Candy Cookbook: Special Superstorm Sandy Edition?

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The store is still open, and we’re still selling stuff, but we have no more men’s t-shirts (unless you’d like to buy a wet, mildewy one saturated in heating oil and raw sewage) and I won’t be able to ship any book orders until this weekend. I’ll keep you posted on developments.

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menu


Menu

Snack

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Jalapeno Hush Puppies $6
served with maple butter
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Appetizers

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Mushroom $13
portobello mousse, truffled toast
pear & fennel compote

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Cucumber $12
roasted cucumber hot and sour soup,
black sesame, garlic chili oil, wood ear
mushroom, cucumber jelly

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Tomato $13
tomato cake with smoked feta,
yellow tomato leather, herb puree

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Potato $12
warm potato salad, crispy Japanese
yams, grilled sweet potato, olives,
bitter greens, apples

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Entrees

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Beets $20
salt-roasted beets, thai green curry,
beet gnocchi, whipped coconut galangal cream

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Pepper $18
fennel & pepper tofu,
parsley spaetzle, grilled
yellow pepper broth,
mustard crumbs

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Broccoli $21
smoked broccoli dogs,
broccoli kraut, salt &
vinegar broccoli rabe

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Corn $19
stone ground grits, corn cream,
pickled shiitakes, huitlacoche,
tempura poached egg

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- everything on the menu can be made vegan on request.

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Dessert

Rosemary Eggplant Tiramisu $12
grilled eggplant, rosemary cotton
candy, mascarpone

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Ice Cream Nanaimo Bar$11
sweet pea, mint, chocolate

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Popcorn Pudding$11
salted caramel corn

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Celery Cheesecake Roll$10
celeriac ice cream, peanut filling,

& candied grapes

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- vegan dessert selection changes regularly, please ask your server.

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Our wine list (and other beverages)

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Gift Certificates

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