Why do I like Culinerapy, the food-blog brainchild of Sara Reddy Coyne? Maybe it’s the lovely cooking, but you can find that anywhere; maybe the pretty pictures, but online, those too abound. No, what sets her blog apart are scenes like this: “…life-altering moments can come at the most unexpected times. Like, in my case, my life was changed forever at a Naked Porn Star Roller Skating Party.” This reality TV producer spends her nights weaving such tales, memories that might begin in surreal L.A. and end with asparagus risotto – all delicious, and with an introspective view that can only come with muffins. Sara says most events in her life make their way into the kitchen; I say, where else?
How often do you think about eating?
Are you kidding me? All the time. I’m even thinking about food as I type this. Food is my mental screen saver, it pops up anytime my brain pauses: as I brush my teeth, while I’m in the shower (why do all my best ideas come when I’m shampooing?), most of the hours I’m supposed to be working, and especially when I’m driving. It’s a wonder I haven’t crashed my car (or lost my job). You know that saying, that guys think about sex every seven seconds? That’s probably how often I think about food.
A wet cappuccino with a dainty dash of cinnamon. Also, Ben and Jerry’s Coffee Heath Bar Crunch, if I may.
Favorite hometown food?
I spent much of my childhood in San Diego, where we had these fast food Mexican restaurants on every corner called either Alberto’s, Roberto’s, or Umberto’s, which all fell under the umbrella nickname of “Berto’s.” They’re kind of the Southern California equivalent to Ray’s Pizza in New York: independently owned, but the food at each one is practically identical. They’re most revered for their taquitos (smothered in guacamole and sour cream), quesadillas, and three-pound burritos. It’s cheap, greasy, and unbelievably good. Smother it all in hot sauce, chase it with an horchata, and it’s like a perfect storm in your belly. Sometimes delicious hurts.
Ever been served breakfast in bed?
I have, if four a.m. counts as breakfast. Not too long ago I had a terrible fit of insomnia, and was miserably wide awake in the wee hours of morning. My patient, perfect husband got up and made me chamomile tea and nutty wheat toast smeared with apricot jam, brought it to me on a tray, and stayed up watching Barney Miller with me until I was sleepy. Might just be the sweetest thing anyone’s ever done for me. Especially the apricot jam part.
Your absolutely reliable, go-to dish for entertaining is:
Nothing. I have a complete fear of commitment when it comes to recipes. I tend to love’em and leave’em. In fact, I throw a series of dinner parties called the Apocalypse Dinners, in which I invite a bunch of people over and make dangerous, untested recipes while drinking wine. Everyone ends up in the kitchen, waiting to see if the whole evening goes up in flames, their cell phones at the ready lest emergency pizza delivery (or the fire department) is needed. Miraculously, the food always ends up great. If I take myself too seriously, or worry about impressing people with a perfected recipe, I miss out on the best parts of the night.
Food that makes you gag?
I’m pretty fearless, but a recent run-in with hog casings caused a near-vomit experience.
Worst kitchen disaster:
Clogged sink on Thanksgiving. I had to rinse my 27-pound cider-brined bird in my bathtub. Oh, and I was also partially responsible for a sourdough starter that made a mason jar EXPLODE. There are still petrified yeast splatters on my friend’s ceiling.
Three things in your refrigerator right now:
Bottle of Rosé, goat cheese, and the world’s largest artichokes, but not for long.
Your idea of a romantic meal is:
Nothing too precious. As a general rule, I prefer messy and comforting to fancy. Grilled pizza and a bottle of Barolo on the patio is unbelievably romantic. I’m also a big fan of sharing, especially when it comes to dessert: two spoons dipping into a chocolate soufflé is damn sexy.
Secret snack of shame?
Oh, honey, I have no shame. You’re talking to a grown woman who openly admits that one of her favorite meals is chili cheese fries. I regularly eat ice cream in the middle of the day straight from the carton, and I dip my pizza crust in bottled ranch dressing.
However, my all-time favorite snack is not all that scandalous: toasted sourdough bread topped with avocado, salt and pepper. I grew up on three acres of avocado trees, so avocado has a recurring role in my snack fantasies.
Most ambitious thing you’ve ever done in the kitchen:
Hm, let’s see. I’ve deep fried four Cornish game hens at once, one bubbling dangerously on each burner. (Wearing protective goggles and elbow-length gloves as I did it, I might add.) Also, I’m oddly intimidated by anything that requires rising and kneading, so each bread recipe I successfully attempt feels like a major accomplishment.
But most days, I prefer making things that calm me. I live for the aroma of onions sautéed in butter; the simple act of stirring a soup, tasting and adjusting it along the way. I love to bake anything that makes the house smell like vanilla, or better yet, almond extract. Cooking is very therapeutic for me, a safe haven from all that’s expected and required of me in real life. So, other than the occasional Apocalypse Dinner, I’m usually drawn to recipes that are more comforting than ambitious. I believe cooking shouldn’t be hard work. It should be restorative, rewarding. Hence the idea of Culinerapy.
Best restaurant if you’re not paying:
Babbo, in New York. I love that it feels like a neighborhood joint, with rock music blasting while you’re humbly served some of the best food you’ve ever tasted.
If you were a cocktail, what would you be?
Grey Goose and soda, with two lemons. I’m not sure if this relates to my personality in any way whatsoever, but it sure does taste good.
Extra Credit: Where is the world’s best pizza?
I’m gonna give my Los Angeles some love and say Casa Bianca in Eagle Rock, and the fennel sausage and scallion pie at Pizzeria Mozza. Thin, chewy crusts, not too saucy, unconventional flavors and toppings surprising you with every bite. I know California pizza is controversial, but Controversy is my middle name.
Not really. It’s Johanna.