food

I almost want to hide the fact that the theme of this post is “Gluten Free”

Let’s not get into a big debate about gluten hype. You all know I adore the stuff. But my daughter, who I love more than bread, has recently become (thanks to a nasty virus), gluten intolerant. We are all hoping it is temporary, but in the meantime, life, and a delicious one, must go on.

My baking adaptations have been…uneven. I have determined that the best two “all-purpose” gluten-free flours are Bob’s Red Mill BLUE LABEL (the red label one is pretty icky), and Maison Canelle All-Purpose.

So far, I can say that both flours can be used exactly as my regular wheat AP, and things turn out ok. Anything cakey is perfect the first day, but gets gritty if it sits around. Cookies are fine.

This week I have decided to make Gluten Free Hamentashen, Challah, and Sticky Toffee Cake. The cookies and cake are regular recipes, and the “Challah” is one specifically for Gluten Free flours.

I am intrigued to see how restaurants adapt to this food restriction. Whether it is to beat wheat bellies, or to accommodate true allergies and intolerances, many restaurants and bakeries are offering “glutard” options (no, it isn’t politically correct, but come on, it is kinda funny).  A few weekends ago in NYC, we noticed Les Halles offers a gluten-free (I will just use GF, ok?) menu. Great – we sat down, and looked at the breakfast selections. Eggs and toast. French toast. Um, server, are we missing something? “You can have a fruit cup”. NEXT…

Friedman’s Lunch (one in Chelsea Market and one on W. 31st.) does it right. Can you say chicken and waffles? Pancakes? GF reuben sandwich (yes, the toast did crumble).

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Want something a little less sinful? Bistango offers a full selection of Italian-esque GF deliciousness. Meatballs without breadcrumbs, great GF pastas, and yes, desserts. All choices were seriously good, on their own merits, and not just because they had GF options.

Perfect GF pasta

Perfect GF pasta

If budget is not a concern (to put it mildly) , 11 Madison Park (3 Michelin stars) makes GF adaptations of everything they serve.

One of these things is NOT like the other...

One of these things is NOT like the other…

my baking report: the hamentashen were ok, but not easy to fold. Nice thought, not worth redoing. Or taking a photo!

The sticky pudding cake recipe is a winner – gluten free or not. Here is the original recipe from Bonnie Stern:

STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING WITH BUTTERSCOTCH SAUCE

3/4 lb pitted dates (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 cups boiling water
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3  eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (regular or gluten-free)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Butterscotch sauce:

3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 1/4 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed

The recipe mentions serving it with additional whipped cream, but I never do!

Butter a 9″ springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper, or bake individual cakes in 12 muffin pans

  1. Combine dates and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Add baking soda and let rest 5 minutes. Puree. Let it cool.
  2. Cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Beat in eggs one at a time. Whisk flour with baking powder and salt. Gently fold into batter alternately with dates, starting and ending with the flour. Transfer to prepared pan.
  3. Bake in a preheated 350F/180C oven for 35 to 45 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean. (Muffin sized ones usually take about 25 -30 minutes.)
  4. Meanwhile, while cake is in the oven, make the sauce by combining sugar, cream and butter in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Simmer gently 5 minutes until slightly thickened.
  5. When the cake comes out of the oven, let it cool for a few minutes, then prick holes and drizzle half the sauce over the top
  6. When serving,  drizzle with remaining butterscotch sauce and if you want to, some whipped cream.

 

Makes 10 to 12 servings

and now…..

GLUTEN-FREE CHALLAH

The following recipe is courtesy of www.glutenfreegirls.blogspot.ca so thank you.

The Challah is worth tweaking – next time I will replace some of the sugar and water with honey, just so it tastes a bit more like my “standard”.  That said, it is probably the tastiest “white bread” I have eaten in a long time. It is delicious toasted, and incredibly, it is NOT crumbly!

seriously rising

seriously rising

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2 cups rice flour (I used almost half and half brown and white rice flours)

1 3/4 cups tapioca flour

1/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons sugar

3 teaspoons xanthan gum

1/2 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup lukewarm water

1 cup lukewarm water

1 1/2 tablespoons yeast

4 tablespoons melted butter

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

4 eggs

sesame seeds, poppy seeds or my favourite, pearl sugar (optional)

 

  1. In mixer, combine the flours, 1/4 c sugar, xantham gum, and salt.
  2. Dissolve the 2 tsp sugar in the 2/3 cup of water and mix in the yeast. In a separate bowl combine the butter with the additional 1 cup water and vinegar.
  3. With mixer on low speed, blend the dry ingredients. Slowly add the butter/water mixture. Blend in the eggs, 1 at a time. The dough should feel slightly warm. Pour the yeast mixture into the ingredients in the bowl and beat at the highest speed for 2 minutes.
  4. Place the bowl in a warm spot, cover with greased plastic wrap and a towel, and let rise approximately 1 hour.
  5. Return the dough to the mixer and beat on high for 3 minutes. Spoon the dough into a greased, floured loaf pan. Fill 2/3 full, you may bake the remainder in greased muffin tins, etc. (or make all rolls~about 18). Sprinkle tops with sesame seeds. Let the dough rise until it is slightly above the tops of the pans, about 45-60 minutes.
  6. Preheat the oven to 400 F and bake the large loaf for approximately 1 hour. Bake the rolls 25 minutes.

Personally, I think the bigger loaves taste much better, but try it out and see!

 

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A few words about our escape to Nevis since it is minus a million degrees here today.

10,000 people and 11,000 monkeys. Countless goats, sheep, cows and donkeys.  What can be bad about an island with those stats?

Nevis is unlike any other Caribbean paradise. It is slower. Calmer. Less of a “scene”, which is much more my “scene”!

We spent a week at The Golden Rock Inn. It has figured out how to do the “boutique hotel” thing, beautifully. It is charming, and completely unpretentious, but understands the important things, like having great mattresses. Picturesque doesn’t begin to describe the setting. The food is really excellent – as I write I am craving a slice of pumpkin “sweet bread”. The facilities are well maintained, but if you are looking for a “resort”, this isn’t it. For me, that is a compliment. I am not a good resort “camper”.  A rental car is key, unless you are happy just hanging out. The staff is friendly, very attentive, and they really give each guest personal attention.

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A highlight for all of us was the “Source” hike. The trail begins at the hotel and goes through the rainforest to the source of water that established the island. It was a hot, steep hike that we will all remember. Maps are available at Golden Rock’s office. The hike takes a few hours. We ran out of time before we got to the more challenging Peak hike. Next time!

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Beaches on Nevis are nice. Not stellar, but nice. Some are on the Atlantic side, and some are on the Caribbean. The Atlantic beaches are beautiful, but were very windy when we were there. The Caribbean is protected and the water is warmer and calmer.

Bananas restaurant is a bit if an act of faith to find, but the food is delicious. Directions are pretty vague on the island, and little signs are key.

We found the Yachtsman to be the perfect beach hangout. We set ourselves up on their beach, drank and ate, and had a great time. Wine prices are surprisingly fabulous. Really. As in, at cost.

The Four Seasons looks nice, but it isn’t very welcoming to non-guests. Their golf course is magnificent and open to all. The course is challenging, and the many monkeys on the 14th green were kind enough to reserve comment on our game.

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My best guess at Banana’s Skinny Colada (I am not a fan of umbrella-drinks, but this was very yummy!)

• 2 oz.  Coconut Rum
• 5 oz. Coconut water
• 2 oz. Pineapple juice

Ting with a Sting

What makes Jamaica’s grapefruit soda better? a healthy shot of rum!

CSR (Cane Spirit Rothchild) is the rum of choice in Nevis, but I am guessing it will taste great with any white rum.

Directions? Pour some Ting in a glass with ice. Add rum. Stir and enjoy!

Combine ingredients and pour into a glass filled with ice. Close your eyes and imagine you are on a beach.

If tomatoes were lemons, I would be making lemonade

I would never have imagined, when I stood sweating in the garden last week, that there would be frost warnings this week. Seriously – it is the beginning of September. So, what to do?

HARVEST ALL THE TOMATOES.  THEN, PANIC.

Will they ripen on the counter? Maybe.  But I’m not a gambler, so I have done some canning (pickles), some freezing (green tomato salsa), and some discovering (read on).

Pickled Green Tomatoes
(these quantities make 1 quart, so double as needed.)

For every quart jar, you will need approximately 1 1/2 pounds of green cherry tomatoes.

Brine
1 cup white distilled vinegar (5% acidity)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon kosher salt

A few Options for flavouring your pickles:

No Garlic Pickling Spice:
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole allspice
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

Garlicky Dill Pickling Spice:
2 teaspoons dill seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
4 garlic cloves, peeled

optional: a few crushed chilis

Wash and halve tomatoes.

Bring all the brine ingredients to a gentle boil.

Fill hot, clean quart jars with the pickling spice mix. Add tomato halves and pack the jar tightly.

Pour the hot brine over the tomatoes, covering them completely and leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Use a chopstick, moving it around to release any trapped air bubbles.
Wipe the rim clean, seal with a lid and ring, and process in a boiling water bath. Time depends on altitude, so please check yours.  15 minutes is the minimum.

Remove from heat – your lids should suction as the jars cool.

Store jars in a cool, dark place. The tomatoes will be perfectly pickled in about three weeks.

Roasted Green Tomato Salsa (or Faux Salsa Verde)

3 lbs. green tomatoes (about 12)
2 onions, peeled and halved
3 hot peppers, seeded and halved
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup packed cilantro, chopped
1/3 cup lime juice
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Fresh ground pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 475°F.  Use convection if you can.

Wash the tomatoes and remove stems. Cut tomatoes in half. Place tomatoes cut side down on a parchment lined baking sheet brushed with olive oil. Brush outsides of tomatoes with a small amount of olive oil.

Place onions, garlic and hot peppers on a second roasting pan. Brush with olive oil.

Roast at 475°F until tomatoes, onions and hot peppers just begin to blacken, about 10-15 minutes. If you are not using a convection oven, switch oven to Broil for the last 5 minutes, or until slightly blackened.

Place tomatoes, onions, garlic and hot peppers in a food processor. Pulse until coarsely chopped.

If you like a thicker salsa do not use the liquid from the bottom of the roasting pan. If you like a thinner salsa, add it.

Pour salsa into a bowl and add chopped cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper.

This salsa can be easily frozen, but since it does not have a high acid content, do not preserve using a boiling bath canner.

Unscientific Oven Dried Green Cherry Tomatoes

Preheat oven to 300°F, or 275°F with convection.

Wash, dry then slice tomatoes in half. Toss in olive oil. Spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet cut side up. Sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 3 to 4 hours until most of the liquid has evaporated and tomatoes have begun to shrivel up.

If the tomatoes seem bitter, sprinkle a bit of sugar on top when you take them out of the oven.  That made my batch irresistible.

Keep in the fridge.

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And now, the BEST one so far, and it takes NO TIME…

Grilled Green Tomatoes

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

4 medium-size green tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 2 lb.)

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

fresh basil or oregano

Combine first 5 ingredients in a large zip-loc  bag; add tomatoes, seal, and slosh around to coat. Let sit for up to 1 hour.

Preheat grill to medium-high.

Remove tomatoes from marinade, reserving it to use as a dressing.

Grill tomatoes (covered with grill lid) 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until tender and grill marks appear.

Drizzle with reserved marinade; season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with basil or oregano.

I tossed in some red tomatoes, but wouldn't next time. The green ones are great on their own.

I tossed in some red tomatoes, but wouldn’t next time. The green ones are great on their own.

By the way, there was frost, so I’m glad I picked everything, and of course, it is now back up to a million degrees outside.

Magic, one drop at a time

What do cream cheese icing and strawberry jam have in common?

Normally, not much. But I have recently discovered Fiori di Sicilia! In English, the Italian “”fiori di Sicilia”” translates as flower of Sicily. While the flavor is pure creamsicle, it is actually a floral extract.  Added to either of the above-mentioned items (or sugar cookies, or pound cake, or, so my research has shown, soda water), my new discovery takes them to a new level. I found my little bottle of magic at King Arthur Flour, but it is available elsewhere.

A little dab will do you – I added too much to my batch of jam and have to recook it with another load of berries to dilute it.  But really, this bottle deserves a spot in every kitchen.

Challah-lew-ya

I’m not usually a “ritual” person. I like change and find routine boring. Except when it comes to making Challah on Friday.  I’m not religiously observant by any stretch of the imagination. But there is something that happens when I start my day making dough.  It just feels good, and it does set the day apart from the rest of the week.  I have come across several good recipes, but this one (posted previously) is my go- to favourite.  If it is hard to handle when you are mixing it, just let it sit for 15 – 20 minutes and then go back to it. It will have “relaxed” (hopefully, so will you).

This makes 2 HUGE breads, or 3 – 4 normal size loaves.

3 tbs.                    active dry yeast (instant or regular)

2 ¼ cups               warm water, divided

¾ tsp.                   sugar

5+1                       eggs (room temp. if possible)

1 1/3(ish) cups    clover or other light honey ( or you can substitute part with maple syrup)

¾ cup                    canola oil

2 ¼ tsp.                salt

10-12 cups          All-purpose flour ( I use organic unbleached, sometimes some bread flour…it really isn’t a finicky recipe)

Directions:

In a small bowl, stir together the yeast, 1 ½ cups of the water, and sugar. Let sit 10 minutes and make sure it proofs.

In a very large bowl beat the 5 eggs with the honey. Add remaining ¾ cups of water, oil and salt. Add the yeast mixture and mix well.

Add 5 cups of the flour and start mixer. (can add raisins now – 3 cups or so).  Keep adding flour until you have a shaggy mess. 2 options – keep adding flour and mix until you get a dough that is pretty stiff (almost done here) OR, you can let it sit now for 20 minutes – it makes the final knead really easy.

If you are hand kneading, do it now. Add enough flour to get a stiff but not dry dough. Think of “baby’s bum” as what you want here.  If you are machine kneading only, keep adding flour carefully until you get the right texture.

Let rise in a clean bowl, covered with damp towel for 2 – 4 hours. It is forgiving. OR let rise in fridge overnight.  If you refrigerate, it needs 4 – 6 hours to rise the next day)

When dough has risen, punch down and turn onto board.   Give it a good knead for 3-5 minutes Divide dough into a multiple of 4. (this recipe makes 3 -4-5 loaves) Roll each lump into a ball, then pull the ball onto itself, making a seam at the bottom (to develop surface tension). Let balls rest 10 minutes at least (cover if they seem like they will dry out)

Roll balls into sets of 4 ropes. Let ropes rest a few minutes (covered).  Add flour to roll the ropes if necessary to keep from sticking, but you still want the dough to feel soft.

Do a 4 rope braid:

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(Pinch ropes together.  Number them 1,2,3,4. Put 1 between 2and 3, put 3 where 1 was then take 4 and put it between 3 and 2, and take 2 and put it where 4 was. Continue and tuck the ends under the loaf. If you need to see it, there are you tube videos.

Put braided challahs on a cookie sheet with parchment. Cover with damp towel (or do egg wash, but don’t sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds) and let rise 45 mins – 1.5 hours.  Again, it is really forgiving. Just make sure it is puffy and doesn’t spring much when you press it.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Do the egg wash (maybe for a second time) and sprinkle seeds – sesame or poppy, or my kids’ fave, pasteurized or sparkle sugar.

Bake for approx. 45 minutes. You may need to cover loosely with foil if it browns too fast.  Test for doneness by tapping bottom of bread and listening for hollow sound.

I just wish I could somehow post the aroma.

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Oh, and you can use the same recipe to make a KILLER bubka.

Bubka

Bubka

So WHAT if I promised myself not to buy any more cookbooks? Clearly, this doesn’t count!

“Jerusalem by” Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi is FINALLY available. I’ve made almost every recipe in “Plenty”, Ottolenghi’s vegetarian book, and have been eagerly awaiting this new collection of yum.

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Ottolenghi and his partner (in food, not life, well, you know what I mean – food is life but anyhow) , return to their native city of Jerusalem and its unique culinary identity and roots to explore and expand on the magic that makes their recipes so revolutionary.

Jewish Ottolenghi and Palestinian Tamimi  shared a city but didn’t know each other until they met in London.   After they each (independently) left Jerusalem and lived in Tel Aviv for a bit,In 1997, both men moved to London—again, independently. Ottolenghi was planning to pursue a Ph.D., but before enrolling at university, he signed up for a course at Le Cordon Bleu just to prove to himself that he wasn’t cut out life as a chef.  He found a job as a pastry chef at Baker & Spice, where he met Tamimi. Tamimi was making a name for himself by adding a Middle Eastern spin to English standards. Perhaps it was their mutual ‘huh” over bland, beige food that helped them bond, but whatever it was, THANK YOU!

I had the pleasure of eating at Nopi, the fabulous Ottolenghi restaurant in London and delight in recreating some of the flavour profiles at home.

“Plenty” has been my favourite book for a while. It is rare that a few days go by without my flipping through the book and either craving something, or getting serious inspiration.

“Jerusalem” captures that city’s colours, smells and tastes. It features 120 recipes from their cross-cultural perspectives.

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From lamb-stuffed quince with pomegranate and cilantro to tonight’s dinner featuring swiss chard with tahini, yogourt and buttered pine nuts and sweet potatoes with fresh figs IT LOOKS GREAT and I can’t wait to work my way through it!

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Sweet Potatoes with Fresh Figs

This is Sami’s mom’s Fattouch recipe – enjoy!

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Na’ama’s Fattoush

SERVES 6

scant 1 cup / 200 g Greek yogurt and ¾ cup plus 2 tbsp / 200 ml whole milk, or 1 2/3 cups / 400 ml buttermilk (replacing both yogurt and milk)

2 large stale Turkish flatbread or naan (9 oz /250 g in total)

3 large tomatoes (13 oz /380 g in total), cut into 2/3-inch / 1.5cm dice

3 oz / 100 g radishes, thinly sliced

3 Lebanese or mini cucumbers (9 oz / 250 g in total), peeled and chopped into 2/3-inch / 1.5cm dice

2 green onions, thinly sliced

½ oz / 15 g fresh mint

scant 1 oz / 25 g flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

1 tbsp dried mint

2 cloves garlic, crushed

3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 cup / 60 ml olive oil, plus extra to drizzle

2 tbsp cider or white wine vinegar

¾ tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp sumac or more to taste, to garnish

Arab salad, chopped salad, Israeli salad—whatever you choose to call it, there is no escaping it. Wherever you go in the city, at any time of the day, a Jerusalemite is most likely to have a plate of freshly chopped vegetables—tomato, cucumber, and onion, dressed with olive oil and lemon juice—served next to whatever else they are having. It’s a local affliction, quite seriously. Friends visiting us in London always complain of feeling they ate “unhealthily” because there wasn’t a fresh salad served with every meal.

There are plenty of unique variations on the chopped salad but one of the most popular is fattoush, an Arab salad that uses grilled or fried leftover pita. Other possible additions include peppers, radishes, lettuce, chile, mint, parsley, cilantro, allspice, cinnamon, and sumac. Each cook, each family, each community has their own variation. A small bone of contention is the size of the dice. Some advocate the tiniest of pieces, only inch / 3 mm wide, others like them coarser, up to ¾ inch / 2 cm wide. The one thing that there is no arguing over is that the key lies in the quality of the vegetables. They must be fresh, ripe, and flavorsome, with many hours in the sun behind them.

This fabulous salad is probably Sami’s mother’s creation; Sami can’t recall anyone else in the neighborhood making it. She called it fattoush, which is only true to the extent that it includes chopped vegetables and bread. She added a kind of homemade buttermilk and didn’t fry her bread, which makes it terribly comforting.

Try to get small cucumbers for this as for any other fresh salad. They are worlds apart from the large ones we normally get in most supermarkets. You can skip the fermentation stage and use only buttermilk instead of the combination of milk and yogurt.

If using yogurt and milk, start at least 3 hours and up to a day in advance by placing both in a bowl. Whisk well and leave in a cool place or in the fridge until bubbles form on the surface. What you get is a kind of homemade buttermilk, but less sour.

Tear the bread into bite-size pieces and place in a large mixing bowl. Add your fermented yogurt mixture or commercial buttermilk, followed by the rest of the ingredients, mix well, and leave for 10 minutes for all the flavors to combine.

Spoon the fattoush into serving bowls, drizzle with some olive oil, and garnish generously with sumac.

Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi; Hardcover, 320 pages. Ten Speed Press (October 16, 2012),

ISBN-10: 1607743949.

New York City: What I “get” vs. “huh?”

I Get:

  • The Yonah Shimmel Knishery  on the lower east side is still here, and busy, and delicious. So what if the guy serving never heard of “schmaltz” (rendered chicken fat that is the magic ingredient) before working here.

Yonah Shimmer Knish Bakery

  • The crazy woman carrying 6 bags up the middle of the street yelling in a Chinese dialect may or may not have a phone up to her ear, and there may or may not be someone on the other end.
  • It is normal to walk 20 blocks in 4″ heels.
  • “Ling Kee” ONLY sells jerky, it won’t kill you, and is delicious.

Really, they only sell one thing. Jerky.

  • If you whisper “Hermes” or “Coach” on Canal Street, you get swarmed with offers to visit an alley to buy watches and purses.
  • The traffic.
  • That some street vendors make hotdogs into flowers and other weird and wonderful things on sticks.

    Putting the standard wiener vendor to shame.

  • That it is normal for my daughter to say “oh, there’s a rat” as we drive at night.
  • Even that Dean and Deluca manages to charge $2 bucks a rugelach. Singular. More to follow on that topic in another post.

    Why are these rugelach SO good?

Now for the “Huh”

What is with New York’s preoccupation with brunch on the weekend?

Sunday I can understand walking blocks and only seeing menus for that wonderful lazy meal. French toast, eggs, pancakes. The morning-after-drinking-far-too-much food. But folks, you pride yourself on being THE city, and every decent foodie haunt below 20th street is lined up for AT LEAST an hour for eggs? Isn’t everyone in a RUSH here? I have shopping to do, and people to watch. I need downtown lunch, now! No dessert, thanks. I won’t make it 10 feet without a store, cart or truck selling cupcakes.

Move over chestnut man and pretzel guy, this is the “new” thing

But that is a whole other silly story.