Hello and welcome one and all to another exciting edition of Fantastic Feasts and Where to Find Them! For those of you who are based in the NYC area, you might have noticed the sudden (terrible) flux between abnormally warm weather and now slightly normal, cooler weather. So now that it feels less like summer and more like proper end-of-autumn weather, what’s the best way to combat the oncoming onslaught of cold?
With warm food stuffs, of course!
So I heard you like lists, so I’m giving you all a list (Bloggers love lists). These are just a few quick and easy food ideas to keep the cold weather from getting to you:
1. Make some soup
There is nothing more filling and warming than a good old bowl of soup. Whether it is some elaborate creamy puree, or straight out of a con, with noodles, vegetables, and other fixings or a solid broth, there’s no way you can go wrong with soup. It warms from the inside out and it’s not too hard to come across a good bowl.
Around the city, ramen shops and diners, and even supermarkets, are gearing up to serve all sorts of seasonal soups and stews. For those of you in the East Village, definitely try out Ramen Takumi’s special Curry Ramen, which combines their already phenomenal ramen with a curry base to create a very filling, satisfying meal. St. Mark’s is also a heavy contender, with many Japanese restaurants and even a Pho and Chinese resto, the possibilities for finding a decently priced and delicious bowl of ramen are endless. Also, be sure check out local diners for Matzoh Ball soup; Cozy’s Soup and Kitchen happens to be my personal favorite for a Matzoh Ball splurge but Whole Foods has a pretty good version along with a decent soup bar if Matzoh isn’t your thing or you’re one of those lucky few who can get it homemade.
But for those of you cool kids who want to cook up something, here’s a really quick soup dish that is rather adaptable to what you might have on hand: oden!
Oden is a staple for Japanese convenience stores and street stalls during the winter months, bubbling away in a thick dashi-based stock, waiting for customers to come and scoop up hearty portions into takeaway cups. Of course, oden can be made at home as well, and is as far as I can tell, something rather convenient. A cursory search of other oden recipes can bring up so many possibilities, ranging in difficulty and in various additions; personally I feel I am not doing the dish justice and I do hope to write a more in-depth article on this brilliant soup dish…
… But this is a list, and we’re trying to give a taste of everything so let’s fast forward through my oden making process. Simply put, I bought an oden set at one of my local Asian groceries and followed the directions on the pack; I do hope to make a homemade dashi stock one day, but sometimes convenience food isn’t so bad either.
2. Eat something spicy
Now, you shouldn’t limit your spicy-food-eating-habits to any one season, but I feel that winter is the best time to splurge on the spicy foods. You can get your fix in so many different ways: there’s all sorts of curries, hot-pot, kimchee, chicken wings — the possible ways to add spice into your life are pretty endless.
I’d recommend Japanese curry, like oden it’s pretty adaptable to what you would like to have cooked up in the pot. All vegetables, maybe some chicken or pork, even hamburgers and eggs; most everything is open game. Curry comes in easy-to-make packets along with directions and – as you can see from the following pictures – is a pretty economical option, you get a lot of curry out of one box and combined with your desired toppings and fresh rice makes for a glorious, and generous meal. Curry also deserves a post in of itself, so I’m just going to leave you all with some
teasing example pictures of homemade curry deliciousness.
But, if you want to splurge a bit and are in the area, definitely check out Curry-Ya and treat yourself to delicious Japanese curry made right in front of you. And definitely go try their spicy curry, warms you right up without burning, it’s rather pleasant actually.
3. Drink something hot
By now you must have noticed that the sugary holiday flavors are back at your favorite coffee places; saccharine sweet offerings of “ginger bread” and “egg-nog” flavor syrups are back in vogue, along with the long lines at your corner Starbucks. But, there are better ways to get your warm, wintry drink fix by mixing up something for yourself.
And here is where we’ll get a little more creative; when winter rolls around I cannot help but think of two iconic drinks featured in some of my favorite literature: butterbeer and hot chocolate.
Now hot chocolate is rather common, featured in the journey on the Polar Express and an audience with the White Witch. A soothing, comforting drink — the only challenge is getting hot chocolate right, because it’s much more than hot water plus mix, or even steamed milk and a few shots of chocolate syrup. Hot chocolate can be elevated to decadence levels unheard of, all it takes is a few extra ingredients and a little bit of arm muscle, but the results are well worth it.
On the other hand, there’s butterbeer. Now I know Universal Studios has some sort of monopoly on “cold” butterbeer at their new Harry Potter-themed park. But, that to me, isn’t butterbeer; it should be served hot in generous, foaming tankards, the kind of drink that you and your mates at the Three Broomsticks chug down after trudging through the snow. I can’t say for sure what it should (or will) taste like, but the book conveyed something that has — to this day — made readers and fans of the book want to try butterbeer in real life.
Now, okay, before I go off on a tangent: why make such a big fuss about hot chocolate and butterbeer? Well, I cannot speak for everyone’s experiences with these books, and the reading experience in general, but I feel that words and feelings resonate. A poor author can say that their characters are having a grand feast, but a good author can describe the food, can make the reader want to try it for themselves; in short, that is exactly how I felt when reading through The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and Harry Potter as a child. Combined with an active imagination, one can only sit back and wonder, can only try to connect with the characters by asking: I wonder what that tastes like?
So readers, since one of the goals of Fantastic Feasts is to make the intangible tangible, what would you like to see first: Warm butterbeer brought to life, or a decadent cup of hot cocoa (With some Turkish Delight on the side)? Either way, we’re going to tackle both of these recipes, and hopefully bring to life that feeling of warmth that resonated within the books into a tangible, and tasty form.
Also, did you see the cool play on words to this awesome song? Yeah, didn’t think so.