The New York Diet

Food & Wine Editor Dana Cowin Makes Up for Light Lunches With Test-Kitchen Goodies

Cowin has dessert at ABC Kitchen.
Cowin has dessert at ABC Kitchen. Photo: Melissa Hom

Workplace snacking is an occupational hazard for Food & Wine’s Dana Cowin, whose magazine has an active test kitchen. “We have two or three people testing between one and four recipes each, per day,” she explains. As editor-in-chief, it’s Cowin’s job to taste pretty much everything: “You do it to have an idea what the food from a certain chef is like, or how a story’s going to turn out, or to make sure an issue is balanced.” A fan of work breakfasts and lunches, Cowin limits dinners out to two nights a week. “It’s a personal rule,” she says. “I have two little kids at home and if I didn’t do this, I’d never see them.” Another rule: Don’t eat at the same restaurant twice. “I’m always trying to catch what’s new,” Cowin says. “Sometimes it’s sad if I go to a restaurant and I really love it and I’m dying to go back — I can’t, unless it’s someone else’s choice to go there.” See her dining itinerary in this week’s New York Diet.

Friday, June 25
I went down to Pulino’s for breakfast with Frank Bruni. Frank is going to be interviewed for a story we’re doing on great Italian-Americans and their favorite food memories, and I chose Pulino’s because it’s great Italian food. I happen to have a thing for eggy breakfasts, but in particular eggs that are pretending to be other meals, so I had this incredible spinach, egg, and mozzarella pizza, like a breakfast pizza. Oh my gosh, it was so good. I had a water and a great fresh-squeezed orange juice. Sometimes people say it’s fresh-squeezed and they’re not entirely telling the truth; happily, in this case, they absolutely were.

I went to a meeting at the offices of Fast Company, and they served sort of a catered wrap-sandwich lunch and fruit. I ate fruit, because I’m not really a big fan of the wrap sandwich. I had five pieces of pineapple, three pieces of watermelon, two grapes, and a tomato.

I came back to the office, and happily there was so much food here. We’re testing a bunch of books in our test kitchen to be included in this annual cookbook we do called the Best of the Best Cookbook. I had a quinoa, feta, and herb salad from the book Gorgeous Vegetables, and I had this crazy amazing grilled-cauliflower steak with tahini sauce from Eat Local by Janet Fletcher — it was crazy because the cauliflower is sliced through like a steak, so it looks like you’re eating a tree, instead of broken-into florets. And we did a beef daube from Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table. So though I only had fruit at lunch, I did not suffer in any way at all.

I had a very light dinner. I went home and had a chicken leg that was sitting warming on the stove, and a little bit of a green salad. I ate standing up — there’s no romantic image of dinner there.

Saturday, June 26
I was up at my weekend house, which we call Independence Farm because we want our children, in particular, to act independently and not ask us to get them water every five seconds. In the morning, I made everybody oatmeal from scratch; it’s hard to do anything but make oatmeal from scratch. We had some great maple syrup that friends brought us from Vermont. I had a big hot tea, an Earl Grey, with a couple of squirts of agave.

We went to a town nearby where there’s a farmers’ market, and in order to prepare for the market I had brought a cooler and ice packs, because I knew we’d be gone pretty much all day, because we were going to the lake to go swimming. I’d packed the bare necessities — water, cheese sticks, some chips, and apples and oranges — and then we got the rest from the farmers’ market: bratwurst, frozen sweet Italian sausage, magnificent strawberries, and a bag of mixed snap peas and snow peas. I had mistakenly thought that there was actually a place you could buy a grilled hamburger by the lake, and when it turned out I was wrong about that, I sent my husband to go buy charcoal and lighter fluid, and I went and found sticks by the beach and under the trees, and we grilled brats on sticks and ate them under the trees. It was actually pretty great. We had no napkins; we had no plates — it was just us and these hot brats off the grill.

We bought some really beautiful local milk on our way home; I wasn’t really starving, but I really wanted to have that milk, so when we got home I had it with some muesli.

For dinner, we went to this wonderful restaurant that’s a mile from our house in Amenia, New York, called Serevan. The chef is Armenian-Iranian, and his food has a bit of a Middle Eastern sort of tilt to it. I had a spectacular trout over hummus served with whole chickpeas and a little green sauce, which was really just wonderful. I had a sparkling wine and my husband had a Chablis.

Sunday, June 27
I had the local milk and muesli again, with some of the strawberries that were left from our picnic the day before. I can assure you, there were not many strawberries left.

For lunch, I made a picnic again. It was totally, totally simple: just a basil-tomato salad, and then I sliced up some leftover lamb and packed some pasta that we had in the fridge. We had homemade iced tea — we do peppermint tea bags, mint from the garden, some lemon, and we let it sort of bake in the sun. It’s very straightforward, but nice.

That night, after a crazy day of activities of all kinds, I made some pasta with a quick, fresh tomato sauce and a salad with herbs chopped from the garden. And then we went out for soft-serve. This is completely my weakness. I happen to love it. I always try to convince a child to get soft-serve so I can have some of it, but they’re very, very reluctant because they think I’m going to take over their ice cream, so this time I got my own. It was vanilla — I would never have any soft-serve that wasn’t vanilla. I can’t see my way to any other flavor. I also really like the dopey, crunchy cones — exactly the way I had it when I was 8 years old.

Monday, June 28
Back in New York, I met someone for breakfast to talk about future stories for the magazine. We went to DB Bistro Moderne, insanely conveniently located right across the street from the office. I had the most completely delicious baby madeleines. They’re tiny, the size of my little finger, so you think you can eat lots of them — and you can — but they’re quite filling. I also had oeufs à la française, scrambled eggs with a little cast-iron pot of spinach cooked with chunks of ham and strands of Gruyère, and then a latte.

I’d had such a great breakfast that I wasn’t really desperate for lunch after that, so I had a rice triangle from Kinokuniya, a Japanese place near here that’s really a bookstore, but on the second floor they have rice triangles stuffed with umebashi plum and wrapped up in seaweed. It was a modest lunch, but then it was a really good food day from the kitchen: We had another Dorie Greenspan dish, a warm-weather pot au feau, and a really cool confit of peppers with coriander from a book Joan Nathan has coming up called Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous. It was a perfect balance: a little meat and a little vegetable.

For dinner, I was doing an interview with a journalist and we met at Terroir Tribeca. It’s so much fun, but it was too loud for recording, so we went right next door to the Harrison and had a great meal. I had octopus and fingerling potatoes followed by calf’s liver. I love calf’s liver, and this was definitely not adapted to summertime, which is particularly great for someone like me who likes to have calf’s liver with mashed potatoes and greens. That was a total water night — speaking with a journalist, water seems like the way to go.

Tuesday, June 29
I totally skipped breakfast, and when I came into the office I had an Earl Grey tea. There was a half-bagel sitting around in our kitchen, and we always have peanut butter here, so I basically had a half-bagel and peanut butter.

For lunch, I went to Esca. I started with a corn and chanterelle salad — it was the first of the corn, which was great, and I love chanterelles — and then I had the squid-ink pasta. For dessert, I had the fior di latte, which is essentially a really beautiful ice cream. It’s very milky and comes with some berries. Oh my gosh, it was a beautiful way to end the meal. And I shared an affogato, the caramel ice cream with espresso poured on top.

When I got back to the office, here were these amazing roasted vegetables in the kitchen with pecans and Parmesan. We have been tasting Thanksgiving, and I had this amazing curry-braised turkey osso bucco, which was one of the most amazing Thanksgiving things I’ve ever tried.

For dinner, I had a Greek yogurt with some really delicious homemade raspberry jam. Homemade by others — definitely not homemade by me. I’d like to cross over to jam-making, but I haven’t done it yet. I’d rather just have the fresh fruit and eat it than make jam and have it turn out not so great. I had a handful of prunes, dried apricots, and some nuts, and a piece of Muenster cheese.

Wednesday, June 30
I skipped breakfast. I had tea when I came into the office.

I went to ABC Kitchen for lunch with Jordan Salcito and Kate Krader. I did not eat all of any of these, but we shared everything: There was a really fantastic pea soup that had nice crusty croutons, big whole peas, and dill; an amazing heirloom-tomato toast where the tomatoes are three colors right next to each other, red, yellow, and green, on great bread; a peekytoe-crab toast, which was delicious; a marinated mackerel; and a turkey sandwich. A tomato and mozzarella salad, which was great because the tomatoes were so beautiful. And then the roasted-carrot dish there that’s made of carrots that are thin and long and perfectly roasted, so they’re creamy and delicious. For dessert, I had these magnificent strawberries that had tiny piped, hard meringues with sort of an ice cream on top that melts when you pour a syrup over it, so you’re having strawberry and ice cream with basil soup. And I had a cappuccino. We skipped some of the menu: We didn’t have any pizzas, and as I was walking away leaving lunch I was like, Oh, why didn’t I have a pizza? That looks so good! Not that I was at all hungry or anything.

From the office kitchen, I had this amazing red-wine-braised boneless short rib from a pairing story we’re doing in October. These short ribs were completely delicious.

I wasn’t planning really on having dinner out, but at the last minute I had a meeting with my contractor, so we met at Fatty Crab, where I had this amazing deep-fried soft-shell crab curry with fantastic rice. And of course I also had the pork buns, chicken wings, a green salad. Happily, at that restaurant there is no dessert.

Food & Wine Editor Dana Cowin Makes Up for Light Lunches With