He won’t ever admit it publicly, but food writer JJ Goode has what basically amounts to a dream job: As a cookbook writer — you could call him a ghostwriter — he spends a bulk of his time hanging out with the country’s best chefs, alone, while they cook him amazing meals — chefs like April Bloomfield (Goode co-wrote her first book; the duo is at work on a second) and Pok Pok’s Andy Ricker, whose first book will come out next year. “Usually I’m writing in my coffee shop,” he tells us. “But it’s funny, you caught me on a week where I had more meetings than usual.” We know Goode, and we also know that he says this every time we talk about his job. So why won’t he just admit that it’s a great gig? “Okay, it is pretty awesome. Just the fact that I get to spend two hours watching April make fresh pasta — it’s amazing.” To read about that pasta, impromptu picnics, and one ill-advised octopus breakfast, continue on in this week’s New York Diet.
Friday, May 18
I had an iced espresso at Bittersweet, the coffee shop near my apartment I go to just about every morning. I’ve been going to this coffee shop to work since they opened, like, five years ago. The same people come in every day, so I get to say hi and chat a bit, like I’m in an office. Otherwise, freelancing would be really lonely.
I almost always get iced espresso. I think it’s probably heretical or something, but I really like cold coffee. Winter, summer, whenever.
I have a bad habit of not eating anything until noon, when I feel like I’m going to pass out. But since I had a meeting at one, I decided to go home at 10:30 and make myself an atypically early lunch: pasta with anchovies, lemon, and some arugula and asparagus that were slowing dying in my fridge. I used whole-wheat spiral pasta. Spiral because it’s the best pasta shape ever and whole wheat because it’s part of my wishy-washy attempt at healthy eating.
I’m starting to help someone with a cookbook (I signed a contract promising I wouldn’t reveal who — that’s a first!), so we met at her apartment and I watched her cook. The first thing she made was really tasty: roasted asparagus with soft-boiled eggs and a spicy, yogurty sauce. I had a big serving with some bread, then I ate another soft-boiled egg, because we’d made a bunch of them to test the timing. We made some other stuff, including a few breakfast smoothies, too, so I guzzled a couple of glassfuls of a banana one and then one with papaya and blackberries.
My father-in-law and his wife were in from Philly, so for dinner we went to Fonda in Brooklyn. I worked with the chef, Roberto, on a cookbook, and he’s one of my favorite people in the world. We shared tasty things — a braised duck enchilada-like thing with a creamy habanero sauce; little tacos, with fried fish that gets chopped up and tossed with cilantro, onions, and olive oil; fish with achiote butter and pickled red onions, which was awesome; and I kept stealing bites of my sis-in-law’s enchiladas in mole negro, because it’s sooooo good. Because it was Friday, I had several margaritas. Desserts (avocado cheesecake!), tequila, sleep.
Saturday, May 19
Iced espresso at Bittersweet with wifey, then to the Fort Greene farmers’ market. As usual, by the time I got home I was all jittery. I had some chorizo in my freezer, so I cooked a link and heated up some tortillas from Hot Bread Kitchen and made three little tacos with leftover salsa verde.
My father-in-law was so excited that I got to help with April Bloomfield’s cookbook and really wanted to try one of her restaurants. But for several reasons, going to the Spotted Pig or the Breslin on a Saturday night would have been too much. So I decided to have everyone over to my apartment and cook a bunch of stuff from her cookbook. I get overexcited when people come for dinner and cook, like, three too many dishes, messing two of them up entirely and serving dinner at eleven o’clock. Today, though, I decided to start cooking early, at like two-ish. While I cooked, wifey made me a little bowl of these tasty, tiny cucumbers with Greek yogurt and salt. So good! I had some iced ITO EN green tea from a giant jug, which is my favorite drink ever.
Somehow I got everything ready(ish) only half an hour after everyone got to my place: I made smooshed chicken liver on toast; carrot, avocado, and orange salad with cilantro; lamb meatballs with tomato sauce that has coriander and cumin and mint and yogurt all up in there. I also made potatoes fried in duck fat, but I tried using these awesome potatoes from the farmers’ market, assuming that because the potatoes were tastier the result would be better, too. For some reason they weren’t quite as good as usual. Still, duck fat potatoes!
We drank really good wine with dinner. I know nothing about wine except that I love red wine that smells like manure and white wine that smells plastic-y, like a freshly opened Ninja Turtle action figure.
Sunday, May 20
Bittersweet, iced espresso, and a few bites of scone. Around noon, my friend who works at the coffee shop handed me a little cheddar cheese snack. Score!
I got jittery, so I headed toward home. On the way, I passed by Roman’s and I don’t know why I pretended I was going home and not going in to sit at the bar. I’m not a big breakfast-food person, so I love how they don’t serve omelettes and French toast. Instead they just do really good food that occasionally has a poached egg on top. I managed to not order the carbonara (because of my increasing roundness). I’m also trying to eat less meat or at least be more thoughtful about it, so I ordered the “wild greens and polenta soup,” which the waiter then informed me contained bits of oxtail and short rib. It was delicious.
I had an impromptu early picnic dinner in Fort Greene Park with wife and my lovely coffee-shop-worker friend. Leftover lamb meatballs, bread, feta-pinenut spread from Brooklyn Larder (a.k.a. the Happiest Place on Earth), arugula salad with carrots and radishes, strawberries with crème fraiche. And a beer. When I got home, it was this amazing British sitcom Peep Show and some gin with lime and seltzer. My wife is obsessed with her seltzer-making machine, so I’m always putting seltzer in stuff. I really want to try carbonating my iced green tea, but (a) she won’t let me and (b) it does actually sound kind of gross.
Monday, May 21
It was raining hard, so I was lazy and got to the shop at nine-ish and had my iced espresso. Jitters a few hours later, then home. I had finished all my lamb meatballs yesterday, but I had a bunch of sauciness left over, so I was dying to make pasta for the sauce. But my stove wouldn’t turn on! Why?!
I ended up microwaving the lamby tomato sauce and toasting some of a baguette (ok, like, two-thirds of a baguette). I also had some smooshed chicken liver left over, so I had a shmear of that on bread, too.
I made myself a smoothie with yogurt and frozen berries and flax seeds, which have antioxidants or something healthy in them and are actually kind of fun to nibble on once they’re busted up.
I had an early dinner because I had an indoor soccer game (fighting roundness!) and made spaghetti with asparagus and breadcrumbs, which I had leftover from meatball cooking. And I found some corn from last summer in the freezer (I was so proud of myself for thinking to freeze it, but then I forgot to eat it all winter) and added some shallots and some droopy old herbs.
Tuesday, May 22
Early iced espresso. I had a meeting near Koreatown, so I went into the city and got breakfast first. I popped into a place at random (New Wonjo) and ate bibimbap with octopus and of course picked from the little dishes Korean restaurants give you for free, including green beans with tiny anchovies and what tasted like steamed parsley (is that a thing?). Oof, turned out not to be the best idea for breakfast. Stomach hurting. I pounded an iced green tea.
Next meeting was a cooking session with my asparagus-and-soft-boiled-egg chef and we made some simple dishes, including an awesome kale and kumquat salad and a tuna and white bean salad that tasted healthy, but in a good way.
Still not that hungry around dinnertime. But I had bought some stinging nettles on Saturday and was determined to use them. I made a little sauté with mushrooms. It was okay, not particularly good. I had it with some bread spread with leftover crème fraiche (argh, roundness!), then a bit later, I felt like having something comfy, which meant two nice Hot Bread Kitchen tortillas with lime and salt.
Wednesday, May 23
Iced espresso. Two rugelach. No octopus.
I was super-excited because I had a cooking session with April, for her next cookbook. We met at the Spotted Pig and I watched her make fresh pasta for a couple hours, which made me feel like the luckiest person in the world. By the time she cut tagliatelle, we were both starving. While I was waiting for the water to boil, I had a slice from a giant ham someone gave her. Then she tossed the pasta with asparagus and crème fraiche and Parmesan and I had a big bowl. So good. Even she had a whole bowl, and she’s usually too disappointed in her own food — even when I think it’s phenomenal — to eat more than a bite or two. She’s funny like that.
Rarely do I have two cooking sessions in a day, but after April rolled out an easy tart dough for us to cook the next day, I took off to meet my soft-boiled-egg chef and she made a truly awesome roast chicken (I gobbled a leg and the tasty tail/butt thingie). I drank some smoothie and had a bite or two of a tasty shellfish-and-cauliflower dish.
That night, I had soccer again at a weird time, so I rushed home and ate a slice of pizza from the place across the street. After soccer, I had a bowl of leftover asparagus and breadcrumb pasta with some of the corn all mixed up.