Alton Brown is a man on a mission. “There’s a drink I developed that I call Brown’s Bitter Truth. It’s two-parts bourbon, one-part Campari, one-part sweet vermouth, a splash of Gran Marnier, and an orange twist,” he says. “I love this drink. I’m on a book tour right now” — in support of Good Eats 2: The Middle Years — “I’m going from city to city, and wherever I go, I teach the bartender how to make it.” The Atlanta-based Brown was in town last week largely for the New York City Wine and Food Festival, but he also paid a visit to the New York Academy of Medicine. “As it happens, they have a library with 10,000 culinary pieces, including what is considered to be one of the first cookbooks, the Roman Apicius, one copy of which is in the Vatican and one is here,” he explains. “I’m thinking about doing a project about the history of cookbooks. I’m fascinated by where we are in the culinary world, and how we got here, and I’m really interested in tracing that back to its genesis in books.” Find out what Alton ate last week in this edition of the New York Diet.
Tuesday, October 5
For breakfast, I had Wasa bread and two strawberries and coffee — the Wasa had nothing on it, and I was eating the high-fiber Wasa on top of that! I didn’t have anything to go on top — some peanut butter would have been nice, but I didn’t have any because I left my jar of it at home. The Standard Hotel, where I was staying, had sent me up a little fruit thing, so the strawberries came from that. I walked over to 9th Street Espresso, my favorite coffee place in New York, and I had an americano.
For lunch, I had a can of sardines in oil. Always in oil — in water it tastes like cat food. They were Crown Prince brand brisling sardines, that’s the small kind. And then I brushed my teeth.
I had an afternoon snack of a banana, also from the same fruit plate delivered by the hotel. Dinner was a handful of mixed nuts containing almonds, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and pecans. It’s a mix I make and I keep it with me when I travel, when I’m not going to get a meal. I was at a book signing down in Paramus, New Jersey, that night, and there wasn’t food.
Wednesday, October 6
I did Good Morning America that day and they had peanut butter! So I had peanut butter on a bagel with coffee. Then when I was doing my segment, I made avocado ice cream, so I had a couple of mouthfuls of my own ice cream. It was very cold, because I made it with liquid nitrogen. It’s so freaking cold, it’s 320 degrees below zero, so you can make ice cream in no time flat.
I spent my lunchtime at the New York Academy of Medicine, looking at ancient, very old, fifteenth-century cookbooks. They treated me to a lunch of grilled-shrimp salad, and they passed a platter of grilled vegetables: asparagus, zucchini, summer squash, and tomatoes.
I had a book signing at the Barnes & Noble in Union Square that night, and my agent took me out to dinner to ABC Kitchen, where I had the shrimp spaghetti with breadcrumbs, fluke sashimi, and a glass of a Belgian ale. And then during the book signing I had a shot of Hudson Rye Whiskey. It’s kind of a story: The event was moderated by my friend John Hodgman. I hadn’t seen him in a few years and we’d been griping about how we couldn’t get a drink. And we both had the same thought: He whipped out a bottle of whiskey, I whipped out a bottle of whiskey. He whipped out some glasses, I whipped out some glasses. We sent an audience member to get ice. He’d brought Basil Hayden’s bourbon, I brought the bottle of Hudson Rye, and we drank mine because when you’re in New York, you might as well drink local.
Thursday, October 7
My wife was in town, and she and I went to the café at the Standard Hotel for breakfast. We both had poached eggs with toast, sausage, and coffee. The eggs are very nice, done with olive oil and sea salt, and you spread it on this really nice sourdough toast, and there’s this great pork sausage.
Lunch that day was also at the Standard. I had the chopped-vegetable salad: a melange of greens with chickpeas, feta, and light vinaigrette. I drank water. I was a good boy.
Our Good Eats party was that night at Chelsea Market; it was the opening party for the New York City Wine and Food Festival. I had one of my own signature drinks, the Kentucky Pirate; it’s like a mojito, but with bourbon. We ran around at that party and signed books until midnight, and then we broke down the party and put it in a truck and sent it home. At that point I went to Pop Burger, where I had a box of Pop Burgers and half a chocolate shake — my wife had the other half. She deserved it, she worked hard.
Friday, October 8
I went to Hector’s! It’s this little dive where all the packing guys eat down on Washington Street. I had toast, two eggs over easy, and sausage, coffee.
Lunch I ate at Café Bari in Soho. My wife and I split the Mediterranean mix platter: hummus, baba ghanoush, matboukha — which is a spicy tomato thing — and pita. I had coffee.
That evening I did Jimmy Fallon’s show. I made beef jerky from scratch for him, so I ate a piece of beef jerky, and had a beer-chugging competition with some other guy. [Editor’s note: It was Fallon guest Nick Swardson; the chugalug is at 6:10 in this video.] I won, by the way. Then I took my entire crew to a party at Mesa Grill. There were nine of us, and Bobby [Flay] hooked us up with the entire menu. Really. I didn’t eat very much, but I did have two Herradura margaritas.
Saturday, October 9
I had the exact same breakfast as Thursday, except this time it was room service. The only addition was that they put home fries on the plate, even though I didn’t ask for them.
I did an 11 a.m. demo for the Wine and Food Festival. It was about bourbon. My first drink was a mint julep and I drank half of it.
That afternoon my wife and I — at the Standard again — split their spaghetti-and-roast-tomato appetizer. Then dinner was a massive sushi spread at Lure. I had one — one! — Hitachino white ale; it’s my favorite Japanese beer brand. And then I probably ate twelve pieces of sushi, mostly centered on mackerel and tuna sashimi.
Sunday, October 10
I flew home on Sunday. I didn’t have my airplane — I usually fly myself around — but because of bad weather, I had to fly commercial. I went to the airport very early in the morning and had a cup of coffee and another handful of those nuts.
Then when I came home to Atlanta, I went right home and I had collard greens with crowder peas and okra stewed with tomatoes. Oh my gosh, I had me a southern vegetable feast. And then I had the same thing for dinner. I had it again for dinner the next day — thank you, ladies and gentlemen! Three meals in a row!