This week it's a look at why we buy. What drives us to purchase nonsense, even when we're watching every penny? Branding consultant Martin Lindstrom examined this behavior with neuroscientists at Oxford University. The findings convinced him that mysterious forces we aren't even aware of propel us to open our wallets for things we don't need or want. His book is Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy.
The Sterns have been wandering the Louisiana bayous, where they found great eats at Mosca's, a vintage Italian roadhouse in Avondale.
Wine maverick Josh Wesson gives American Riesling its due. It's the perfect wine for how we eat today.
We check in with Chef Gabrielle Hamilton at Prune in New York City. She shines at her restaurant stove, but feeding two toddlers at home is another story.
Then it's to the opposite coast and Portland, Oregon where little money gets you brilliant feasting at the city's food carts; and New York Times reporter Julia Moskin reveals the hottest new cooking tool you'll never find on the equipment sites and in the cookware stores.
Garlic, greens, onions and grapes are spread on puff pastry and gilded with cheese and cream. It's an idea borrowed from France but garners applause anywhere. Get the full recipe
This scramble of mild flavors, soft textures and small bites is toddler friendly. Grown-ups have been known to enjoy it, too. Get the full recipe
Although it's not far from New Orleans, the highway that takes you to Mosca's also takes you deep into the swamps at the back of beyond. You're guaranteed to think you're lost, and when you finally pull into the dimly lit gravel parking lot you might hesitate to go inside. The place is old and looks dark and sinister. Rumor says for many years it was the hangout of the area's Mafioso. But step out of your car and the scent of garlic pulls you through the door. Once you're seated, get set for some of the best Italian-American food in the country. The menu warns that all dishes take 50 minutes to cook (and they're heavy on the garlic), so settle in, relax, and know the wait will be worth it.
The Chicken a la Grande, bathed in rosemary-scented wine and whole cloves of garlic, is so tender it's nearly falling off the bone. Spaghetti Bordelaise is pure simplicity thin noodles tossed with olive oil, butter, and lots of garlic. Oysters Mosca, a signature dish, marries a generous portion of fresh shucked oysters with olive oil, garlic, bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. So good. Then there's the Louisiana shrimp and the crabmeat salad you must try. Top it all off with the retro Pineapple Fluff: pineapple chunks folded into whipped cream and melted marshmallows and dusted with graham cracker crumbs.
4137 Highway 90 West
Chef Gabrielle Hamilton commands the stove at Prune Restaurant in New York City. Visit www.prunerestaurant.com for menus and directions then stop in when you're in the Big Apple. You won't be disappointed.
54 East 1st Street
(Between 1st and 2nd Avenues)
New York, NY
We call Joshua Wesson a wine maverick, not out of a lack of respect, but just the opposite. He isn't one of those guys in the business who goes with the notion that if a wine isn't esoteric, hard to get and expensive it isn't worth drinking. Josh has the background to pass those judgments and came to the conclusion that wine is for everyday pleasure and good inexpensive wine can be found.
Here he gives Riesling its due. While snubbed for years, it's a delicious wine whose time has come and it's just right with the foods we eat today. Look for these picks:
Portland, Oregon is a great food town and the city's street carts play a big part. For little money you'll get brilliant feasting. You can sample a huge variety of cuisines and interesting dishes with little damage to your wallet.
For more information visit www.foodcartsportland.com, a fun blog that covers the Rose City's food cart scene.