Chicken Liver Toast

8265 Beverly Blvd. bet. N. Harper and N. Sweetzer Avenues

Liver has an unfortunate yet understandable reputation as "mystery meat", however, with the right touch, its rustic quality can be taken to the heights of refinement, as seen in the chicken liver toast on the happy hour menu at Terrine.* Chef Kris Morningstar's spin on this dish coaxes out the best of liver pâté. He creates such a luscious and delectable mousse that you wonder how he magically whipped out everything off-putting about liver. 

"This chicken liver toast is so addictive," I said to my friend, "Is it me or does it taste a little like Doritos?"

She took a bite and chewed on it thoughtfully.

"Oh my god, it does!"

A mystery, indeed.

*Try it with a glass of light and fruity Beaujolais.

The Lonely World of Acquired Tastes

A page from Eleven Madison Park: The Cookbook

Oysters, caviar, anchovies, sea urchin, tripe, bone marrow, pâté, testa, blue cheese, chicharrones... My affinity for acquired tastes definitely comes from my mother, who I would say is my original #singlegirldinner muse. I remember very vividly catching her make her own #singlegirldinner for the first time as a child and this has always made an impression on me. 

It was an odd hour for my mother to be cooking. It was late in the afternoon—much too late for lunch and way too early for dinner. I was in my room doing my homework when I smelled a buttery and garlicky perfume waft down the hallway. What is she cooking? I wondered, and trotted down to the kitchen to investigate. 

There she was, hovering over a sizzling frying pan on the stovetop, nudging its contents gently with a wooden spatula. She spooned a steaming scoop of rice into a small bowl and scooted her secret dish onto a plate.

"Is that steak?" I asked, with my mouth watering.

"No, it's something else" she responded, carrying her little meal over to the kitchen table, "Do you want to try it?"

I examined the plate, She had cut the liver into strips and seared it with caramelized onions and crispy garlic. It looked like steak that was perfectly charred around the edges and still pink in the center. I had never had liver before, but I wanted so badly for it to taste like steak. I nodded.

She put a little bit of everything onto a fork and fed it to me. I grimaced, "Yuck! The texture is so strange! What is it?" I had expected to chew and instead it just became a paste in my mouth. I was weirded out yet intrigued.

"It's liver," she said, with a sigh, "See? I could never make this for dinner. Nobody would like it except for me."

You might protest: "But she was married! And she was a mother! She wasn't a single girl!" Oh, but it doesn't matter, you see—it doesn't matter where we are in our lives, if there is a moment to steal to ourselves to have our cake and eat it too... We will! 

It didn't stop at liver with my mother. She had her own stashes of things, like jars of homemade kimchi, blue cheese dip (which, to my own dismay, I once confused for ranch dressing) and papaya (which looks so much like cantaloupe to a child when it's all sliced up). I thought it was marvelous that she preserved her own little world, in spite of having a troop of five children.

Her snacks were particularly quirky. She would pair bananas with Laughing Cow cheese, dip grapefruit segments into chili salt, and mash soft-boiled eggs into stinky tofu so that she could dip sprigs of watercress into the mixture. I've even caught her sautéing ramen noodles with garlic and French's Yellow Mustard, which—believe it or not—became a hit with her friends. Many of her acquired tastes eventually became mine. But I draw the line at pickled chicken feet. That, I can't do. 

Now I understand why she had all of the #singlegirldinners that she did. It's not easy to find dining partners who share the same craving for those off-the-beaten-path tastes; the pungent, bitter, sour, unctuous, mineral sorts. And that's fine.

More for me.



Crudités to the rescue!

If you're like me, your love of noshing can lead you to what goes on the dinner plate. Many a-times I'll be too tired to assemble an actual salad, so I'll just put its elements onto a plate and call it a day. Some of my favorite ingredients are: sliced cucumbers, whole grape tomatoes, green beans, feta cheese chunks, and hard salami slices. (Citterio has a great line called Pronti: pre-sliced hard salami, which makes life even easier! Perfect for snacking and picnics.) It's a pretty healthy assortment of goodies. Sometimes I take it up another notch with triple cream brie and pâté. Radishes and cornichons should also be thrown into the mix. 

The Spotted Pig



314 West 11th Street at Greenwich Street

Not counting yesterday's lunch, I have only eaten at The Spotted Pig a grand total of one time--and I used to live in an apartment right around the corner! Why, pray-tell, would I not make myself a regular at this fabulous West Village gastropub? Well, it's kind of hard to eat somewhere that's so consistently packed that you're always quoted with a 2-hour wait time. However, if you do manage to snag a seat on one of their mismatched barstools, or wait it out without fainting from hunger, it's worth it. With April Bloomfield's influence in the kitchen, everything is bound to be a hit: deviled eggs, chicken liver toast, burgers with Roquefort, and sheep's milk ricotta gnudi. If you do happen to feel light-headed during the 2-hour wait for a seat, you can surrender and go to White Horse Tavern next door. Or, try coming back on a Monday afternoon as I did. You might have better luck then.

The Wren

44 Bowery Street bet. Great Jones and Bond Street

There's definitely a bar scene up front at The Wren, but, if you can snag a table in the back, it can be quite quaint and lovely. I love the modern-rustic decor here and they a British pub-inspired menu to match: cheese and charcuterie boards, fish and chips, and a whole array of spreads and goodies served in little jars. My favorites are the chicken liver mousse and the steak tartare, which come with warm toast points on the side. Add a glass of beer or wine to that and I'm happy.