The New York Diet

Aspiring Novelist Katie Lee Leaves No Carb Behind

Lee snacks on a croissant at Ballato.
Lee snacks on a croissant at Ballato. Photo: Melissa Hom

Katie Lee has been really into tacos lately. “I went to Mexico for a month earlier this year and ate all kinds of good food,” she says. “I make fish tacos now, and I’m all about the sauces.” The trip was research for her first novel, about a girl who falls in love with surfing and moves south of the border. “I always thought that if I wrote a novel, it would be about food,” Lee says. “Maybe a girl who works in a bakery, a cook, this or that. But then I started surfing last summer and I was like, I found my story!” But that doesn’t mean the book will be food-free. “Surf culture and street-food culture go hand-in-hand,” she points out. Now back in the States, find out what she ate this week in our latest New York Diet.

Friday, August 6
I usually do a segment on the Early Show every Wednesday, but this week was different and I was on Friday. I got up at 5:30, put on my sweats, and got to Roasting Plant Coffee at six o’clock when they open the door. I like their Ethiopian Harar, with some soy milk. At the studio, I had a fruit plate with some pineapple and melon. I had a couple of bites of the food from my segment. That was the week when [co-anchor Harry Smith] hurt himself during our segment, and that was painful to watch — that was just awful. I was so shaken up that I didn’t want much to eat. I did zucchini carpaccio, tomato-basil pasta, a corn salad, and some peaches with ice cream.

I went home, got my car out of the garage, and set off to drive to the Hamptons, and I stopped at the Bagel Café on 3rd and St. Marks on my way out. I got a whole-wheat bagel with cream cheese to eat in the car.

I got out to the Hamptons and had a handful of nuts, and then I went to Loaves and Fishes, which I love, and got a couple different things for lunch: lemon-basil chicken salad, broccoli salad. I stopped next door at Pike’s Farm Stand and got some corn on the cob and cherries. I had a some blueberries as a snack later that afternoon.

In the evening I went to the Scotto family’s house for dinner — that’s where the big binge started. I have never been to a better dinner party in my life! The food that they served was incredible and I ate everything. It was my No Carb Left Behind night. For appetizers, they had a couple of different thin-crust pizzas, the signature pizzas they do at the restaurant. There were a few different bruschettas, and homemade potato chips with melted Gorgonzola cheese. I had some pesto with fusilli, then meatballs, and then I had green salad, roasted cauliflower, artichoke salad, a potato casserole with four kinds of cheese — which I’ve literally fantasized about night every since — and roasted vegetables. Dessert was coconut cake, chocolate bread putting, homemade Oreos, and a berry salad. I tried everything. It was honestly the greatest dinner; it was all I could do not to ask for take-home leftovers. I was drinking rosé, which is my summer drink of choice. It’s Kool-Aid for grown-ups.

Saturday, August 7
I got up and made coffee with almond milk. I had Greek yogurt with blueberries and homemade granola. I make big batches of granola and store it: oatmeal, chopped dates, figs, almonds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, roasted soybeans, and I sweeten it with maple syrup. There’s only about a quarter-cup of canola oil in the whole batch, so it’s pretty low-fat.

At 11:15 it was snack time. I had about an ounce of Cheddar cheese and some fresh cherries. For lunch, I had some friends over. I went to Citarella and picked up their fried chicken, which has become my summer vice. They have this big banner outside that says “Fried Chicken” and it just gets me every time. I picked up corn at Pike’s and heirloom tomatoes from the Green Thumb farmers’ market and sliced those up for salad. It was snack time again at 4:15, and I had one of those little doughnut peaches.

I had another giant dinner at a friend’s house that night. It was Italian again. I had chicken Milanese with salsa verde, grilled peppers, and artichokes. There was farro that was cooked in balsamic with fresh ricotta, that was fabulous, and I had Caesar salad. I had a chocolate-chip cookie from Levain Bakery. Those are the best. They should be illegal.

Sunday, August 8
Coffee with almond milk in the morning, and I decided that I needed to detox a little so I made a green juice. I have a garden, and I grow chard, so I cut some and put it in my juicer with lemon and ginger. I try to have a green drink every day, but sometimes I miss it. I had more homemade granola and almond milk.

I made my farmstand run of the day — I went to Pike’s and to Foster Farm, where they were giving samples of their grandma’s chocolate-chip banana bread. I had a couple of samples. They also make the greatest homemade potato chips, which is a problem because they’re down the street from me and I really didn’t need to know they existed. I went home and made lunch: Pike’s salad greens, I picked some beets from my garden and shaved them, a Dijon vinaigrette, steamed corn on the cob, a salad out of Pike’s tomatoes and vidalia onions. My friend Claire Robinson came over and made a big pot of mussels — she did them kind of low fat, with less butter. She used part white wine and part water, which was really surprisingly good, with a lot of herbs, shallots, garlic — it was delicious. Mussels are one of my favorite foods.

That night I went to a screening of Eat Pray Love, and oh my God, I loved it. The way they shoot the food — you’ll want to make sure you have a reservation at an Italian restaurant afterward, you’ll want pastas so bad. I just snacked on pretzel rods. Then I went with a friend to Suki Zuki in Water Mill, my favorite Japanese spot on the East End. We shared agedashi tofu, edamame, stir-fried vegetables, oshitashi, and miso soup.

Monday, August 9
I do Meatless Mondays. I feel like it’s a chance to reset myself from the weekend — I try to eat a little healthier during the week, and Meatless Monday is a good way to start the week off, I think. I started with green juice, coffee, and more of that granola with almond milk.

For my 11 a.m. snack, like clockwork, I had carrots and hummus. For lunch I made myself a big salad with corn, blue cheese, cherry tomatoes, avocado, and smoked tofu.

That evening I sautéed eggplant from my garden with tomatoes and onions and garlic, and let it cook and get nice and thick and yummy. I tossed that with brown-rice pasta, which I really like. I don’t like whole-wheat pasta, but I’m obsessed with Tinkyada’s brown-rice pasta. I bought it as a fluke at the grocery store just to see what it tastes like, and it turns out it’s really good. I went to see The Kids Are All Right with a friend, and I had a couple handfuls of popcorn and a handful of Raisinets. My friend bought them, and I didn’t have the willpower to say no.

Tuesday, August 10
I started off with my coffee and then I made oatmeal. I put in flaked coconut, chopped dates, and cinnamon. Yummy.

I had almonds and carrot sticks for my 11 a.m. snack. For lunch, because I was leaving that day to go back to the city I wanted to use the vegetables that I had in the fridge. I chopped them all up and made a stir fry with ginger, orange juice, soy sauce, sesame oil, and a hot pepper.

For dinner, I met my dad and my friend Anne Thorton, a pastry chef who just got a show on Food Network. We’ve been friends since literally my first week of college. We all went to Ballato, which is my all-time favorite restaurant. I only go there maybe once a week, because I eat my face off when I’m there. I have to ration it out. It’s simple as can be, but it’s so good. The guy who owns it is named Emilio, and he’s like a big teddy bear. His food is so good, and he takes so much pride in everything that he makes. His focaccia is from heaven, it’s so good, and that day he took it and made some little pizzas for us when we got there. I ate more of the plain focaccia, and I got the arugula salad with oranges and fennel. I had the spaghetti pomodoro because it’s so perfect, he just does it right — he can take something that simple and make it a standout. I had a bite of one of Anne’s meatballs, and a bite of my dad’s chicken parm, and we shared a slice of ricotta cheesecake.

That place has always been so low-key, but more and more people are finding out about it — it was packed, and it was a Tuesday night … and then Rihanna came in! There were like twenty paparazzi guys outside, I saw all these flashes and was like “What’s going on?” She walked in, and I was like oh, I guess the restaurant is catching on! I didn’t see what she ordered, but if she was smart she got the spaghetti pomodoro or the meatballs, which are incredible.

When I got home, I had a bite of a strawberry-buttermilk cupcake that Anne had given me.

Wednesday, August 11
I was on the Early Show again, so I did my same routine of going to Roasting Plant at 6 a.m. I didn’t get any breakfast at the studio because I was kind of busy putting everything together, but then I went back to Ballato afterward and Emilio, who was a pastry chef before he started there, made me hot-out-of-the-oven croissants, and chocolate croissants where the chocolate inside was still melted. I had a delicious cappuccino, and I was just in heaven. It was amazing.

For lunch, my friend Anne came over and we went to Taim; it’s in my neighborhood and it’s one of my favorite lunch spots. It’s healthy and just really good food. I got a Greek salad, and hummus and a whole-wheat pita.

I went with a friend to the Standard Grill for dinner. We’d made plans to see each other but hadn’t reserved anywhere, since we always have a hard time deciding where to go, so we decided we’d just walk to meatpacking and see where we can get in. We went to Standard Grill to see what the probability of getting a table was, and it was just swamped. So many people! But the hostess said we could have a two-top outside if we could sit right then. We ordered a bottle of Albariño wine, and I got a Caesar salad. Though they don’t call it a Caesar salad; they call it like a baby romaine salad with garlic-anchovy-lemon dressing. I had the grilled trout with pine nut and currant relish, and we ordered these crispy potatoes with paprika aïoli that were heaven-sent. The waiter told us that when they first opened, they were giving them out for free, and I really understood that they were like crack — the restaurant was creating addicts. They’re so worth the six dollars.

Aspiring Novelist Katie Lee Leaves No Carb Behind