the grub street diet

SNL’s Heidi Gardner Tries a New Cereal Each Week

“We’ve done all the monster ones: Count Chocula, Boo Berry, and Frankenberry.”

Heidi Gardner in the land of gummies. Illustration: Margalit Cutler
Heidi Gardner in the land of gummies. Illustration: Margalit Cutler

Since joining SNL three years ago, Heidi Gardner has developed, as our friends at Vulture put it, “a growing list of unforgettable characters” like teen movie critic Bailey Gismert. She was also given a bigger stage during this past season, after being promoted to repertory player. Now, while sheltering in place, the actress and comedian has found herself cooking for entertainment, trying to re-create dishes she loves, like Jon & Vinny’s vodka fusilli, and participating in weekly rituals like Saturday morning cereal. In her first week since the season ended, she also made Ina Garten recipes for lemon cake and teriyaki chicken, continued her exploration of the “pros’” salads, and realized that smoothies are her culinary white whale.

Thursday, May 14
This morning, I made the most perfect breakfast loaf in the world. It was a lemon cake, and I’m still in awe of how good it tasted. So moist, so lemony. One of my favorite things I’ve made.

No. 1, it looked beautiful. It kind of transported me to another world, I felt like maybe I was in England or something, because it was yellow and the crust was golden-brown and I made it in this ceramic white loaf pan. So probably the setting, just the mood of the loaf itself, was amazing.

I feel like I see loaves at Starbucks, like a slice of coffee cake or pumpkin bread, and they’re good because they have a lot of sugar in them. But you’re kind of just like, “Yeah, this is just sweet?” And in this lemon loaf, there was so much lemon zest and fresh lemon juice that I felt like, “Oh, this has depth.” Also the actual cake part of it looked like a cake should look, like Great British Bake Off-style. I think maybe I was really enthusiastic about a perfect bake.

Also, I make a cappuccino every morning. Quad shot of espresso with a little bit of foamed heavy cream.

I should also add that I made one of my cats, Tweaky, a slice of bacon for her birthday. Usually she gets a Twinkie — not a whole Twinkie. She just bites into it. She really likes the cream, which we realized one time when Zeb had a Twinkie and she just attacked it. She’s not one of those cats that likes human food.

For lunch, I had some coconut yogurt with lots of toppings. I’m talking goji berries, coconut flakes, bee pollen, cacao nibs, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and blueberries. I drank some mountain blackberry Clearly Canadian. Yep, the delicious sparkling water from the ’90s. You can order it on Amazon. It good.

Dinner was a green salad I re-created from the West Village restaurant Via Carota. It requires A LOT of lettuce washing. And it’s worth it! So much crunch. The recipe was on the Times website. I had never had it. I can’t wait to be able to actually go to the restaurant and actually have their version. I’m sure it’s so much better. I don’t know, I find that it is actually kind of tough to make a good salad, a really satisfying salad. I was just searching for “best salads ever,” and so I found that one. Earlier in the month, I made Nancy Silverton’s chopped salad. I’m trying to find the pro versions of salad and give them my best shot.

I also made teriyaki salmon. The teriyaki wasn’t overly sweet. It was a nice glaze with lots of ginger. And some white rice, too. If you put the sauce on the rice, it was killer. That was another Barefoot Contessa recipe. I was just on her site, trying to find good entrée ideas, and that one was so good.

I feel like I’ve gone through so many stages during this. Almost just cooking for pure entertainment. So I’ll definitely think of something I had and be like, “Oh, is that recipe online?” Like Jon & Vinny’s fusilli alla vodka, I made that and anything I remembered really liking from childhood. I’ve been having Cream of Wheat. We have all this time to sit and think, so I’m just like, what did I like? What did I used to be into? We just bought a box of Hamburger Helper, because I was like, “That stuff was good.” So I’m going to try that at some point, just to be entertained.
 
Friday, May 15
Slice of lemon cake for breakfast because I’m obsessed with my own creation. It’s actually another Barefoot Contessa recipe that my friend Paula gave me. I’m a distant cousin on this loaf. I haven’t cooked a lot of her recipes, but as I was making some of her stuff, I had a memory of probably 12 years ago making a meatloaf of hers. But I think I botched it and was like, “I’m not at the Barefoot Contessa level.”

I snacked on figs drenched in almond butter and strawberry/raspberry jam from Supermoon. I like figs now. I like figs more than dates. Are we still friends?

I feel like figs, prunes, and dates are, when you’re a kid, weird adult things. But then I feel like there was kind of a renaissance of dates in the last few years, so when I had a date for the first time, I was like, “This is great. Oh, this is one out of those three — figs, prunes, and dates — that is cool.” Figs and prunes still seemed intimidating. But then I bought some figs recently and was like, “These are better.” They’re hardier, more full of flavor, all of the seeds on the inside. Then I started wondering: Did I totally miss out on Fig Newtons? Anyway, I had a date after having a love affair with figs, and I was like, yeah, I don’t know that dates can do it for me anymore. They’re just kind of basic.

We ordered pizza from Speedy Romeo on the Lower East Side for dinner. I got their White Album pizza, which was super-flavorful. Zeb got their St. Lucali, which he thought looked like a Totino’s pizza, and that made him really happy, and he liked the taste. Zeb is definitely a pepperoni or sausage pizza person. I’ve always been, just from basic days of Pizza Hut, a cheese, thin-crust pizza. Maybe mushroom. I’ve just never liked meat on pizza very much, although a long time ago Pizza Hut had a barbecue chicken pizza that I thought was really good. When white pizzas got bigger, I was suddenly like, “These are fantastic; you don’t need sauce.”

We watched the movie Cliffhanger and split a Levain chocolate chip cookie with some Nancy’s Fancy gelato, Italian custard flavor.

Saturday, May 16
Breakfast was a bowl of Golden Grahams and then a bowl of Cocoa Pebbles. We have cereal on Saturday mornings and watch old Saturday morning cartoons. Those are Saturday rules. Zeb had Corn Pops and then Fruity Pebbles.

What’s been really cool is, we’ve been kind of trying out new cereals every week. We’ve done all the monster ones: Count Chocula, Boo Berry, and Frankenberry. Right at the beginning of quarantine, my dad sent me those three boxes. I had never even had those as a kid, but they were delicious. Then he sent me another box, which had Fruit Loops, Corn Pops, Frosted Flakes, Rice Krispies, and Apple Jacks.

Fruit Loops have traditionally been my favorite, and then last week when we were at the store we decided to get some more. Zeb was saying he remembers Golden Crisp being his favorite ever, and I was saying that I think I remember going through a Golden Grahams phase. So we got those just to see if they still got it, and they do still got it.

I made a shitty smoothie for lunch. EVERY smoothie I make is shitty. I quit. I added avocado to make it creamy, but it just gets nastier. I follow instructions, but I’m smoothie-cursed. And ya know what, I’m done. When I was maybe 18, I wasn’t making smoothies but it was probably when they were becoming cool. I remember saying smoothies would be my desert-island food. If I could have one thing, I’d pick smoothies, smoothies, smoothies. So, yeah, I’ve completely ruined them for myself. I’m like, “smoothies suck.” That’s my white whale.

Zeb made Nashville hot chicken. First try, and he killed it. He’s going to adjust the sauce a little for the next time. But just the fact that we can have hot chicken in our apartment is a Christmas presents–style high. I’ve experienced this high with a few other things. I made French toast sticks, like in the vein of the Burger King french toast sticks, so that felt really special.

I would say that, especially during this, I’ve been cooking a lot. I’ve probably been trying out more things in the kitchen, but then once a day, Zeb’ll just come in and dazzle with the hot chicken.

I was making a salad on the sidelines. It was the first time we were doing kind of a duet in the kitchen, and I thought, Oh, this is pretty cool in this little New York apartment. We’re coexisting in the kitchen. Felt like maybe we were in a movie like The Big Chill or something. So it doesn’t happen often.

Sunday, May 17
Brunch was a care package from Supermoon. The pastry edition. Some hot hits from it were a croissant with a dulce de leche filling, a hazelnut and praline Choux Bomb, and a white-chocolate macadamia cookie. Sunday is my favorite day of the week because of Supermoon. We get to have like an eight-course pastry tasting every week. It’s a delight!!!

In general, I’m a diehard croissant fan. Gotta be really flaky, gotta be really buttery. And I have a controversial opinion that we, as Americans, tried to match the French as far as a great croissant, and I think we did. I think there are some places in L.A. that actually have the best croissant and that France got lazy. When I went to Paris, I was expecting to have the best croissant, and I was like, “I don’t think they got it.”

For lunch, I walked to the B Cup Cafe on Avenue B and 13th and got an iced chai latte and a sweet brie sandwich. It was brie, honey and Granny Smith apples on a baguette. A lovely lunch that I had to take a lovely walk to get. Well worth it. 

I made a classic whiskey sour for my in-home happy hour. I even used an egg white. And fancy cherries. And I shook the damn thing. I’m becoming — I don’t know what I’m becoming but there’s no doubt I’m becoming.

This is definitely a “stuck at home” thing. I’ve never been a person who made a drink after work or even really poured a glass of wine. But on Cinco de Mayo, I was making tacos and wanted to have a Margarita. So I looked up a basic, not-too-sweet Margarita — I just wanted to find something without a mix.

I did that and was like, “Oh, that’s good, I can’t believe I had that at home —what other cocktails do I want?” It really made me feel like not a drinker, because I did not know. So I remembered taking a sip once of a whiskey sour that had the egg white foam on it, my friend had ordered it, and I’ve always been someone who doesn’t love whiskey. But I thought that was really good, I’m going to try that. And now I think that might be my cocktail. I might order it out in the real world after all this, and like it?

I had a slice of Prince Street Pizza for dinner. I don’t even like pepperoni pizza, but Prince Street is by far the best pizza on the planet. I can’t get over how great that pizza is, and those pepperonis are so good. I’m completely blown away. I do that gross thing where I moan and groan and comment after every bite about how good it is. It’s the Krispy Kreme glazed donut of pizza. Like, at this point, it’s its own thing that can’t compare to its modern-day counterparts. And like I said, I’m not a pepperoni girl. I’m a classically trained cheese pizza girl occasionally venturing out to a white pizza. That’s who I am. But Prince Street is my secret-identity pizza girl.

Watched the finale of The Last Dance and made some bomb stovetop popcorn. I loved Last Dance. I thought it was the perfect time for it to come out because there is no basketball and there’s been such a debate the past few years: is MJ the GOAT? Is Lebron James the GOAT? I’m a huge Lebron James fan. I would be switching and saying, “I think Lebron James is the GOAT,” and then this documentary comes out and you’re reminded that Michael Jordan is a God of basketball, and there’s no one like him, no one that plays like him. I know that we got to know Michael Jordan in a curated way, but I just thought it was so cool to get in the mind of a champion and how unfiltered and honest he was. At the end of it, I was like, “I’m so sad I can’t have more Michael Jordan.”
 
Monday, May 18
Breakfast was a slice of sourdough from Supermoon, toasted in butter and then smothered in their white peach and strawberry jam. A true taste sensation.

Lunch was Cream of Wheat with dates. There weren’t enough lumps in the Cream of Wheat. Delicious but not bumpy, and that needs to be fixed.

I’m trying to figure out the proper ratio of bumpy to not-bumpy. I’m requesting, demanding lumps and bumps, but I’m realizing because something Zeb has been making the Cream of Wheat, and when I was little my mom made it. His Cream of Wheat has been supersmooth, and my mom’s was always bumpy, and in my head I’m thinking, I guess she wasn’t adding as much water? Or over time it gets clumps or something? But I really have no right to critique anybody’s. I don’t think I’ve ever even made it. I don’t know how to do it, I don’t know if it’s a magical thing, but I do know I posted a picture of it and a friend of mine asked, “Where are the lumps?” So I know it’s a thing.

We ordered Ivan Ramen for dinner. The Chicken Paitan. The broth has so much depth. Like how do you get that “deep” with food?? I think it was my first time having it. I’ve had Ivan Ramen before, but when I had my first taste of that one, the broth took me back so much that I was like, “It’s a flavor and richness I’ve never had before.” Then I had my second taste, and I was like, “Oh, this is the best taste ever.” So it definitely blew my mind and opened my eyes.

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The Grub Street Diet of SNL’s Heidi Gardner