Welcome to Naomi Kooker's blog.

At age 6 my mother let me into the kitchen, alone. By seventh grade I was feigning sick to stay home from school, "miraculously" feeling good enough to make baked-stuffed pork chops for dinner. My passion for cooking led me to a job as a sous chef in a Manhattan restaurant and, later, to stand quietly in the corner of (and eventually do one thing in) Restaurant Guy Savoy's kitchen in Paris. I overcame the ultimate cooking challenge when I made butter cream icing over a Bunsen burner at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. It was for a friend's wedding cake, the centerpiece at the reception the next day. It was midnight. With just hours to go, I managed to whip up the icing, then carefully place the last few candied violets onto the cake before the reception. Oh, how grateful I was for that Bunsen burner and the corner bodega that was open 24 hours.

It all worked out in the end. It always does.

Food, cooking and eating are inextricably linked to life. Life is better when good food is involved, and even better when good company is part of the eating.

Thank you for stopping in and being part of a growing dinner party of readers.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Enough Full

I like halfsies: half a warm chocolate chip cookie split with a friend (I know, that’s generous); half a stick of gum if that’s all you can find at the bottom of your bag; paying half the bill at dinner so it seems like a bargain.

So it is with half pints of beer, half bottles and small pours of wine that often hit the spot for me. I’m a lightweight, but I also enjoy a beer with my burger, a Sauvignon Blanc at the bar, a few sips of a good, deep Cab to carry my steak into the last bite.

Cocktails, that’s another story. As a friend and I recently slurp around the bottom of our naked rocks like kids sucking up the last of a milkshake, our waitress miraculously appears: “Another round, ladies?” Mine is a margarita with salt in a giant bulbous glass. Gone. My friend’s large glass of red sangria disappears as the waitress stands by.

“Do you do halfsies?” I venture. “What?” The waitress asks over the loud ‘80’s rock music. “Do you…can the bartender make half a margarita?” Her wan smile says, “Get me away from these L-O-S-E-R-S!” But she answers politely, “No, I’m sorry. We don’t do that.”

My friend and I nix the round and chat some more, all the while I'm thinking, Your loss, MexicanChainOfConvenience—you could have made another sale. But you blew it.

Usually siding with the “customer is always right”—and in that instance that would be me—I reach out for an expert opinion on the halfsies [fill in your favorite here] cocktail.

Glass More Than Half Full

In a polite, professional manner Alexei Beratis, beverage manager of Forum (opening soon) in Boston’s Back Bay, explains why it would be such a hassle: Bartenders have enough going on than to parse out a quarter of a half an ounce or an eight of a jigger of a drop—while pumping out regular drinks. Then there’s a whole new set of smaller glassware to match the smaller volume to add to the inventory and storage. Cha-ching.

Sure, there’s the hot trend of cocktail flights, wine flights, smaller versions for the sake of tastings, but we’re talking about a purposeful half-cocktail. “If you can be geared up for it, it’s fine,” Beratis says, being kind “—but to get into a seven-component cocktail and scale it down properly…” I get it. Plus, once you hold the Lilliputian drink in your hand, Beratis intimates a reality check. Really? Does it have to be this small?

I know. I don’t have to drink the whole thing and, like buying petite, that doesn’t make the blouse cost less. But this is different. It’s a well-known cliché that great things come in small packages or “less is more”. I’m of that edict when it comes to my cocktails—it’s the quality, not the quantity. It just would be nice to have the option to go smaller without paying full price. I’m not asking for a lot, really; I’m asking for a happy medium.