“We should totally try to make these at home.”

In a lot of cases, as frustration mounts and the joy of recreating something you’ve loved in a restaurant falls victim to repeat failures, this phrase soon turns into “Whose stupid idea was this anyway?”

But a helping hand from a pro like Alice Waters can go a long way toward preventing such disappointment, as I learned this weekend when raw-materialsI attempted to make pickled vegetables like the ones we enjoyed at The Spotted Pig in New York last month.

While looking for another recipe in Waters’ newest cookbook, The Art of Simple Food, I came across her oh-so-easy directions for making quick-pickled vegetables.  I knew I had to give it a shot, to see if it even came close to the tangy goodness of the green beans, beets and other veggies we had in New York.

Details on produce, prep, pickling and palate after the jump. (more…)

When planning our trip to New York recently, Mike and I had one restaurant we absolutely wanted to hit: The Spotted Pig. This cozy gastropub is owned by British chef April Bloomfield and colleagues, serving up seasonal British and Italian food.

You may recognize Chef Bloomfield from a guest judge stint on the finale of Top Chef Season 4 (hint: she’s the lady in this photo montage).  Featured on pretty much a gazillion foodie shows, her insanely popular spot might be the only Michelin starred restaurant that doesn’t require a small bank loan for a meal. The bad news? It doesn’t take reservations. The wait for a table on Friday or Saturday nights is known to be epic. To save time (and maybe a little money), we opted to skip right ahead to Sunday brunch, making The Spotted Pig an exclamation point at the end of our foodie Tour de Gout in New York.

Even if you don’t have the exact address of The Spotted Pig handy, you can spot it on a Sunday morning by two distinct signs: a lush container garden and a hanging pig over the front door. If you arrive much later than the restaurant’s 11 am Sunday opening, you can also spot it by the crowd waiting outside for a table.

The interior of this gastro pub is clearly designed to evoke neighborhood country pubs. With wood paneling, sparingly utilized stained glass windows and embroidered stools, they do the job nicely without veering into cliche territory. The pressed-tin ceilings and exposed brick add to the coziness, giving me one more reason to daydream about living in the West Village so I can become a bar regular here on slushy winter nights.

But this wasn’t a slushy winter night; it was a crisp, sunny fall morning and we were ready for brunch. Let’s get to the food.