Foodspotting Co-Founder Soraya Darabi Likes to Pick Food Off Other People’s Plates, Doesn’t Advocate Gummy Bears for Lunch
Soraya Darabi may have co-founded the food-snapshot website Foodspotting, but she swears she isn't one of those people who takes pictures of everything she eats. “I’m very careful to only take photos of what I think is good," she explains. "Because Foodspotting is a recommendation platform. That’s how we differentiate ourselves from others.” When she isn't shuttling around the city snapping pictures (or not), she’s ordering in or cooking with friends, or maybe nibbling on some of the staples she keeps at home: dried apricots, almonds, Persian pistachios, Ciao Bella sorbet, gummy bears, and “always, always string cheese.” See what else she ate, in this week’s Grub Street Diet.
Friday, February 18
I started eating right after my Muay Thai class. I take Thai boxing in the morning. I had a morning of agency meetings, so stopped at Balthazar and picked up a cappuccino to go. Extra frothy. I inherited that from my mother.
This is probably bad, but a lot of friends ask me if I gain a lot of weight at Foodspotting. But when you when work at a start-up, the start-up diet counteracts that because you’re constantly running around and forgetting to eat. I forgot to eat lunch that day, so I had red gummy bears at the office that afternoon, sort of like typical Soraya, which I do not advocate, but it’s the story of my life.
That night I had dinner at Belcourt on Second and 4th with the guys who started Village Vines — we went to college together. I ordered grilled octopus. It was actually grilled perfectly — I don’t like my seafood to be too charred. And it was very lightly seasoned. It was minimalist, because the octopus was very flavorful. I’m also a picker; I tend to pick off other people’s plates, which is not super polite, but I picked off my friend’s plate. He had the ratatouille.
Saturday, February 19
Taralucci e Vino in Flatiron is where I had breakfast, with my friend Chris Hughes. He’s probably best known for co-founding Facebook, but he’s also founder of Jumo, a nonprofit platform I really support and love. We split the fruit platter. We’re both sort of health nuts, and I knew I’d have a bigger meal later. I had a cappuccino there and a cappuccino to go. Cappuccinos are a big part of daily diet. They're my fuel.
My friend Matt and I went to Patsy’s for pizza. We split an extra-gooey cheese pizza with extra garlic, extra basil, and extra hot peppers for me. That was like a late afternoon lunch, somewhere between lunch and dinner. My meals never fall squarely three times a day. I eat well, but sporadically.
My friend Steve Greenwood came over just to say hi and hang out and we had some dried apricots, which are my favorite snack. If you come to my house there are always dried apricots. I like them unsweetened and from healthy bodegas. I probably go through one packaged container every few days.
I went to a party that night at a guy named Nick Gray’s house. Nick’s awesome; he throws great parties in Williamsburg, and it was my friend Chrysanthe’s birthday — she’s the community manager at Foursquare. Chrysanthe and I have a mutual friend named Cathy Erway, she wrote a book called The Art of Eating In. So for Chrysanthe’s birthday I brought green apples to help Nick make green-apple bellinis. And Chrysanthe’s a vegetarian, so Cathy Erway made vegetarian Greek snacks like spanikopita. And she made a really, really delicious puff pastry — also of phyllo — that had like, squash and coriander chutney. And I had the special green apple bellini that Nick made for Chrysanthe.
Sunday, February 20
I had a simple breakfast at home. I eat Kashi cereal a lot — the crunchy one. I had it with fresh blueberries and unsweetened almond milk. I drink almond milk instead of regular milk, usually.
I had a lunch with a friend who’s gluten-free and we went to a new 100 percent gluten-free and organic Thai restaurant in Gramercy Park. They only use local ingredients. I really like it. We split a fried Thai rice with shrimp. And I had Healthy Tea — I like their green tea a lot.
That night my friend Rachel Eackley came over for dinner and I ordered from Yama Sushi. Rachel’s sort of big on Tumblr and she’s getting her Ph.D. in nutritional psychology. Rachel and I spent a lot of time talking about nutrition; she’s inspiring me to become a pescatarian. We both ordered yellowtail jalapeño, mixed sashimi, miso soup. I ordered a sweet-potato roll with brown rice and a salmon roll. And then for dessert we had Ciao Bella sorbet. My favorite flavor is the passion fruit; I think it’s the tangiest and the most delicious. It’s a staple. In my house, there’s usually gelato or sorbet. And we split a bottle of Pinot Noir.
Monday, February 21
I had half of an Ess-a-bagel and a regular coffee with skim milk to go. I usually get a cinnamon-raisin bagel with cinnamon-raisin cream cheese. I probably only have a fourth of it; it’s like a really, really heavy bagel, but it’s good. I like sweets in the morning more than I like salty. In fact, they won’t even toast your bagel, which is part of the reason why I like them. They have such attitude about that.
At the office that day, Amy Cao — she is our social media director — ordered us lunch from Petit Abeille. I had half of what she ordered, which was a chicken-avocado sandwich. I had it open-faced because it was a big sandwich. I like splitting food and I’m big on eating off other people’s plates because I like to try four things at once. I also like it when other people order for me because I often forget to order at work, and Amy takes care of me.
At work every day we brew Bloomingdale’s coffee. They sell the most amazing hazelnut coffee blend that we just discovered about two weeks ago. Everyone at the office is caffeine-addicted because this coffee is really good, but it’s sort of untouched in New York because who would think Bloomingdale’s makes good coffee?
That night I had a friend over for dinner and we made Whole Foods fresh farmed salmon sautéed in a little bit of white wine and a big green leafy salad with homemade vinaigrette. The trick is adding extra anchovies — nobody likes anchovies in real life, but if you put it in salad dressing, it makes the salad dressing amazing. I usually put like, an aged mustard, but it’s all about having the best aged balsamic vinegar and the best extra-virgin olive oil. I get my olive oil from Sahadi’s in Brooklyn. My guest brought macarons from the macaron guy for dessert. He’s one of the better street vendors downtown, and he does Foodspotting. We drank white wine; I’m a big lush when it comes to wine. Went through a bottle — it was probably Grigio, but I’d have to double check.
Tuesday, February 22
I had the photo shoot for this at City Bakery. I go there a lot, but also this month is hot-chocolate month. Their hot chocolate is already off the hook. Every day they prepare it differently — one day it’s with ginger, one day with toasted marshmallows. But we happened to pick the day that fell on beer hot cocoa and I wasn’t adventurous enough to try it. It sounded kind of weird for nine-thirty in the morning. So I ended up just having a regular cup of coffee with soy milk and a pear-ginger-corn muffin that I split with my friend Meredith. We also ordered a pain au chocolat — we split that too.
I had lunch that day with my friend Alexandra Wilkis Wilson — she’s the co-founder of Gilt — and her assistant ordered us really yummy asparagus salad from Mangia, which is fun to say: Mangia. It had asparagus, peas, chickpeas, and spinach, and it reminded me a little bit of my Condé Nast days when I had a salad every day for lunch. We had that with water, nothing too fancy. I was obviously still hungry when I got back to my office, because I really do eat. And we had more Bloomingdale’s coffee at the office.
Then my father arrived from Iran. As gifts he brings me three things that I always ask for: Persian pistachios, saffron for my rice, and baklava. So we had that, and we made dinner at home: angel hair pasta for me with garlic and chicken and hot peppers, with broccoli and cauliflower on the side. And my father and sister had the vegetables on the side, with steak. With bread and salad. And fruit — grapes. There’s always fruit at my house. We always have tea when my dad’s here, so we had Persian tea. Persian tea is just black tea — it’s a very strong black tea. I don’t often drink it at night because it has a lot of caffeine. Some people put sugar in; we don’t. But you typically have the bitter tea with something very sweet. So for dessert we had baklava. Persian baklava is not like Greek baklava. It’s less sweet, and there are more spices in it, like cardamom or allspice. It’s a little heavier on the phyllo and less heavy on the honey.
Wednesday , February 23
I took my dad for an almond croissant and a cappuccino at Café Green in Gramercy Park. The owners are from Morocco, so my father instantly bonded with them — Middle Eastern connection. It’s mostly a macaron shop; they make nice coffee and have assorted sweets in the morning. I picked at his almond croissant, but I had a regular croissant myself.
Lunch was at my favorite place, Tablespoon. It’s really near my office. It’s like a cafeteria-style, sort of like comfort-food convenience. I normally order rice pilaf. You can choose fish, chicken, or steak — I had halibut. What I like about Tablespoon is they use grains that aren’t, like, traditional pasta, white rice. You can get stuff with quinoa there. You can get simple lunches that are proportional. For me, I like to eat everything I want, but portion is what I pay attention to, and the problem in the U.S. is portion sizes are way too big. What I like about Tablespoon is it’s always the exact portion I want for lunch.
Then, my dad’s 69th birthday dinner at Shun Lee. My father loves Chinese food more than anything; he left New York in the eighties or early nineties, when Chinese food was all the rage here, and he doesn’t realize that since then Chinese food has gone to shit in New York. So when he comes to town, he’s always like, “Let’s have Chinese!” and I say to him, “Daddy, there’s about two good Chinese restaurants left in the city.” I think Szechuan Gourmet is pretty great, on 39th Street. I like really spicy food and they get as spicy as I can go. Shun Lee’s good: Everything’s prepared nicely for your staple dishes. We had sesame noodles, tofu with scallions, spicy steamed dumplings, bok choy, spicy chicken with peanuts — traditional, traditional food. With Tsingtao beer and lots of Chinese tea.
You know, it’s actually not Chinese tradition to have oranges for dessert, but you never turn it down.