Serious Eats mastermind Ed Levine jokes that his interest in food probably started because “when I came out of the womb I was hungry,” and Ruth Reichl once dubbed him “Missionary of the Delicious,” but Levine’s career didn’t always revolve around food. He wrote about jazz and pop from 1978 through 1986 for Rolling Stone and the Times, and in the early eighties did bookings for a club called Seventh Avenue South before beginning research on the guidebook New York Eats, his first foray into food writing. Today, Levine dedicates his time to extending the Serious Eats blog umbrella, which includes New York, Slice, A Hamburger Today, and dispatches from L.A., Chicago, and other cities Levine hopes will one day have their own URLs. With all the hands-on research that goes into canvassing the city for tasty bites, Levine decided earlier this year that he needed to shed some weight. In this week’s New York Diet, he navigates a week of what he refers to as “dangerous” food situations.
Saturday, November 8
Saturday morning I usually don’t eat much because I play squash. Then I’ll go to the Greenmarket and have an apple or a pear.
I stopped by Salumeria Rosi and Cesare Casella started having me try things — it’s always a dangerous thing when you’re on a diet. He’s so generous. So he’s like "oh, you have to try this, you have to try this. Oh, I’m going to send you home with this." And I’m like, "Dude, I’m on a diet," but I can’t tell him right. So I tried different prosciuttos and his different hams.
Then Saturday night we went out with some friends to West Branch, which I just reviewed and I had the Cuban sandwich. What I do is just eat half of what I order. I try everybody else’s, and my wife had the fish and chips and it was really good, and it was so annoying, it was so good. And one of my friends had the boneless trout. I also ordered the haricots verts salad and showed unusual restraint. The French fries were really good, and we shared the cookie plate: Mexican wedding, chocolate chip, peanut butter, and maybe ginger snaps, in a little basket. My wife’s a cookie freak. I tried them all and [shared] the tart Basque, like a slice of almost a caramel custard, for dessert. And what I’ve been doing, even though you get a lot of fluctuations, I force myself to weigh in every day, even though I only weigh in on the site on Fridays. I find it stops me from going crazy at every meal. It works for me — whether that works for anybody else, I don’t know.
When I got home, I didn’t have anything else. I’m actually really partial to Minute Maid diet limeade, it’s a little embarrassing. But I need things with flavor, so sometimes I’ll have a glass of that.
Sunday, November 9
I’m a really big toasted-bialy fan because they’re much lighter than bagels, so I usually have a toasted bialy for breakfast with maybe a little bit of whipped cream cheese and a banana. Bananas really are one of my keys to losing weight.
On Sunday afternoon I went on a bike ride and biked from my house up to Sal’s and Carmine’s and had a slice and a half of cheese pizza, because I’m very partial to their slices.
I also really like Zabar’s Café’s frozen yogurt: It’s tart, and I usually get [and had] a small half vanilla and half strawberry in a cup. They also have soft-serve ice cream, but I don’t allow myself to have that except when I taste it to post.
For dinner, I took the leftovers from all the stuff Cesare gave us. He had given us really good fried sweet sausage. I’m also very fond of Grandaisy’s cauliflower pizza. I had a slice of cauliflower and potato, so my wife and I shared those and a little bit of sausage. I also had bought a slice of pizza bianco, which is also one of my go-to foods. So I split it and put two slices of prosciutto di San Daniele in it, and then I put it in a toaster oven so it sort of becomes a faux panini. It was kind of an Italian small-plates dinner. I had diet limeade. The one good thing is, I really don’t like alcohol. Although I had a half a glass of wine and probably a couple sips of Moscato d’Asti, it probably added up to less than a glass altogether.
Monday, November 10
If I have time, I stop at this deli and get a Swiss cheese on toasted bialy and a banana and that breakfast of champions, Diet Coke. It’s one of these delis with the huge steam tables that I could never imagine eating from, but they have a pretty good sandwich counter.
Lunch, I had Song Kran on Eighth Avenue and 26th Street. It’s just a neighborhood Thai restaurant, but they have this thing called Sidewalks, a Thai street food, which is ground chicken and chilies and basil that they have as a lunch special, and they also put an over-easy fried egg on top and they give you brown rice for like $8 with a salad. That’s one of my go-to lunches.
At the office, we’re always tasting things. This week we tasted some toffee from Williams Sonoma. One of our interns just got back from London with all these different British candies, then we did a British-versus-American low-end-chocolate taste test like Cadbury’s milk made in England versus the one that’s made here. These are the kind of silly things we do — but we do them all the time. And then she brought a bunch of different British gummies to our staff meeting. She brought a lot of rosewater candies, which taste like a cross between soap and perfume. Also this week a blogger, Alex from Blondie and Brownie, brought over some Elvis cupcakes topped with bacon, peanut-butter frosting, and [they] were banana cupcakes — this is what I’m subjected to all the time. Again, I had like a quarter of one.
Monday night we just got a new refrigerator because our old one died. Everything was out and there was no place to cook anything, so I ended up ordering pizza from T&R.; That’s part of my diet regimen, I only have two slices. And then I always have a one-ounce box of golden raisins. And I had a few spoonfuls of black-bean soup from Fairway.
Tuesday, November 11
Tuesday morning I deviated from my norm. I had egg salad on toasted bialy from Brooklyn bagel company. Just like smear of egg salad if there is such a thing.
Lunch I went to Mooncake Foods. I had the steak platter with cilantro-ginger sauce on the side. It comes with a salad and brown rice.
Tuesday night I had the same pizza. I warm it up in the toaster oven, and it’s fine. Then I had my box of raisins.
Wednesday, November 12
I had my banana-and-bialy-and-Swiss-cheese breakfast.
For lunch, Joël Robuchon was actually cooking at his restaurant at the Four Seasons. Always a dangerous thing. It was a book party, but you know I’m finding it’s not that hard, especially with food like that. They were passing around something with foam. Sea urchin and lobster gélé topped with a cauliflower cream for the first course, then there was a crab ravioli with yuzu in a turnip velouté. Then caramelized quail stuffed with foie gras with his ridiculously rich potato purée, which is literally one part potato, one part cream, one part butter, all parts delicious. There were two desserts. I left after the first one: chocolate ganache, green-apple brunoise, and ginger ice cream. There were wines served, but I didn’t drink the wines.
And last night for dinner I had the last two slices of that sad pizza. And does anyone do this? I don’t put the pizza in the fridge so it stays out. It heats faster, and it’s not like it’s gonna spoil. So I had two slices and a very small bowl of black-bean soup and raisins. Raisins and bananas and yogurt are how I satisfy my sweet tooth when I’m losing weight.