PROFILE: Midtown Lunch’er “The Amateur Gourmet” (Plus another book giveaway!)

I am away in England for the week, so every day I’m turning over the site to a random Midtown Lunch’er.  Today, I’m pleased to welcome Adam Roberts aka The Amateur Gourmet, and author of the new book “Amateur Gourmet: How to Shop, Chop, and Table Hop like a Pro (Almost)”.  He doesn’t actually work in Midtown, but he eats here occasionally, and while he might not give you any good ideas for lunch’ing in Midtown, he is giving away copies of his book, which is a really fun read for anyone who likes eating…

Name: Adam



Where in Midtown do you Work?:
Midtown’s very own Park Slope. Ok, I don’t work in Midtown. But I’ve had lunch there before!

Favorite Kind of Food:
I really like pasta and I really like dessert. I guess, then, you could say I love carbs. I’m the anti-Atkins.

Least Favorite Kind of Food:
I like everything. But if I had to pick something, I’d say really stinky cheese… though even that is beginning to grow on me. Literally!! I need a doctor!

Favorite Place to Eat Lunch in Midtown: The best lunch I ever had in Midtown was at Le Bernardin—a $48 prix fix lunch of food so extraordinary, it made lunch look like dinner and dinner look like breakfast. Huh? But I know Zach doesn’t like these snobby high-end places, so for his sake I will mention Sapporo (49th btw. 6+7th) for excellent Soba noodles.  (I don’t like Cafe Metro & Chipotle.  Le Bernardin, I like.  Especially when someone else is paying.  -zach)

The “go-to” lunch place you and your co-workers eat at too often: I don’t have any co-workers. I work alone. And my go-to place is in Park Slope; why am I on your blog again?? (Um… I thought it was obvious? To give away free stuff to my readers… -zach)

Place you discovered thanks to Midtown Lunch: Hmmmm… the dark empty cavern in my soul?.

If you could work anywhere (just because of the lunch) where would it be and why? Purely for lunch purposes, I’d love to work in Paris. Baguettes with French butter; stews; macaroons, pastries…was this question limited to New York? (Definitely not. Although, lately a lot of Lunch’ers have been giving a lot of New York centric answers. Do I need to re-word this one? -zach)

And now… the reason Adam is here.  Free copies of the “Amateur Gourmet: How to Shop, Chop and Table Hop Like a Pro”, a really fun and down to earth book for anyone who loves food, but has felt like an idiot at a restaurant, or trying to cook at home.  Want one?  Post your funniest story about an eating out mishap, or the time you screwed up a home cooked meal in the comments section.  Obviously these stories will be from a long time, since I know all of you guys are food pros at this point.  Best 5 take home a copy of the book.

And as always, if you want to be the next Profiled: Midtown Lunch’er, email me at


  • Rudes – no… but I have recently become an “Auntie M” and my brother an “Uncle Ben” ;)

  • Why don’t they just call sweetbreads – mincemeat and vice versa? The names would fit better the other way around.

  • Back in high school, I slept over a friend’s house one night and offered to make her scrambled eggs for breakfast the next morning. I had no idea how to make scrambled eggs – I only knew what it’s supposed to look like. So, I fried a bunch of eggs in a pan and started to smash up the eggs as they were cooking, so it turned into little bits and pieces of dried up, fried egg and tried to pass it off as scrambled eggs. To this day, my friend still makes fun of me for that weak culinary moment.

  • One time, when I was about 7, my Mom let me make my Kraft macaroni & cheese on the stove by myself. All was going well until I realized I had added the cheese packet, milk, and butter without draining the water first. I cried.

  • Not quite sure how to follow the Hindu joke, but I’ll do my best! After spending a month in Romania and eating all their incredible food, I came home and decided to try making sarmale, or cabbage rolls. I’m a darned good cook now, but it’s because I’m stubborned. Mind you, I was not a domesticated animal back then. I invited my friends over for what I thought would be a really authentic meal. I couldn’t even cook rice in those days. I put it in my friend’s oven-safe bowl because it was pretty. Oddly, you do not put those on the stove top – it broke in half. Off to a nice start. If you’ve never had cabbage rolls, they’re a pickled cabbage leaf with meat and rice inside, simmered in a wonderful tomato sauce. I couldn’t find pickled cabbage, so I used raw cabbage leaves. My rolls came out – well, let’s just say extra crispy. The rice inside wasn’t cooked through, and the tomato sauce was more like juice. Large cabbage torpedos floating in a bath of tomato slop. One of my friends took one bite, fell off his chair, and dramatically played dead. For five minutes. We went to McDonald’s. themommyspot (at) gmail (dot) com

  • When I was a kid, one of the first things I tried to make one night for family was my old favorite, macaroni and cheese. I loved the stuff out of the box from Kraft, but I wanted it to be special and from scratch, so I went to the store with my mom, convinced her to let me buy ingredients that I needed on my own, and came home with the fixings that I thought I needed–based on the list of ingredients on the box. I guessed through some of the mysterious list, and then based most of what I needed on the nutritional facts. So I had pasta, that was easy. Then milk and slices of American cheese for the sauce. There was a lot of fat listed, and I knew butter was fat, and I was smart enough to know sodium meant salt, and there was a lot of that too.

    Somehow, though, I wasn’t smart enough to know that the percentages listed were based on everything you ate all day, and not everything that was in the mac ‘n cheese you’d prepare out of that box. So it said it had something like 25% fat and 30% sodium, so I figured that out of a total 100% dinner of mac n cheese, almost half of the final dish was butter and salt. I decided there were four of us, so like four servings of past if each was about a cup, then I’d need about a cup of butter and a cup of salt.

    My family was nice enough at the time about it, but they still cringe when I offer to cook them dinner.

  • DDR – I believe it was calf pancreas. Can’t recall exactly as it was a good 4 or 5 years ago.

    This was actually a dinner I took my then-girlfriend out to for our 1 year anniversary, so not quite as bad as if this had been a 1st date.

  • Bright side,Matt. You’re Ex GF would of gone to work the next day and said ‘Matt’s meat last night was very unusual’

  • My roommate and I were having guests over for dinner. I had prepared a bunch of dishes and decided that we would bake a cake for dessert. Unfortunately, my roommate ripped open the cake mix without caution, and the bag of dry cake mix went flying all over the kitchen floor.

    That’s when we found a box of Hershey’s Cocoa and decided to make a chocolate cake from scratch. We finished mixing the batter and put it in the oven.

    Later on, when we tried taking the cake out of the oven, it had doubled in size and it wiggled around, having the consistency of jello. I thought it was going to explode!

    Turns out my housemate thought there was no difference between a tablespoon and a teaspoon of baking soda.

  • The worst restaurant experience for me took place in Eastern Europe. Apparently no one is vegetarian over there, because when I asked the hotel restaurant to prepare a vegetarian meal, all that I received was a plate of broccoli. It took awhile to convince them to cook up some pasta, since the restaurant buffet was all meat. Even the vegetables had pork mixed into them!

    Before I became a vegetarian, the nastiest thing I ate at a family dinner was cow’s tongue. No confusion in the name there.

  • The time in HS my friends and I attempted to make some *special* brownies. There must be many methods to actually creating good brownies full of specialness, but the way we went about it was to first ground up some of the good stuff. With no pestle and mortar, the best that we could do was a spoon and a bowl. Needless to say, the bits were all uneven. Added to the troubles was the fact that we didn’t have a brownie pan, instead we had a cupcake one. When we got done mixing the brownie batter from the Betty Crocker box, we added the ground up bits and mixed it up some more. Apparently we didn’t mix it well enough. As the cupcakes baked in the oven, a wonderful aroma filled the air and we eagerly awaited the special treat. After the cupcakes cooled, we all dove in and had one. Nothing happened. Naturally, we had more. The problem with uneven mixing was that some cupcakes were more special than others. All the side effects from the special brownies kicked in super hard and we were left a little scared, completely dizzy, and eventually passed out to let sleep be our savior. The lesson I learned from that mishap was to always mix well! Evenly! Oh, and stick to normal cupcakes/brownies.

  • My worst dining out experience happened about ten years ago at some generic Indian restaurant on the East side. There were six of us having dinner, and we were practically the only other ones in the restaurant until this large family walks in – mom, step-dad, grown kids, assorted other adults. There were probably about ten of them. They sat down and this guy who looks to be about 25 or so (he looks normal, but it soon becomes clear he is developmentally disabled, lets say), says “Mom, I want to get the tandoori chicken” and she says, you can’t have that. And he starts screaming, “but you said I could order whatever I want!”. He begins throwing a huge tantrum, insulting his mom and basically throwing a fit. So the step-dad stands up and starts trying to break up the fight and calm him down, and the hysterical kid stands up and starts screaming and swearing at him (he used his first name, hence I assume step-dad). Then the next thing you know, he takes a big slug at the step-dad and the step dad hits him back! They start this fist fight which quickly elevated into a cartoon-like scuffle, causing them to sort of go rolling, end over end out the front door. On their way out, they knock over our table, we narrowly jump out of the way, but it sends food and water and utensils all over the place, all over us. The poor family is so embarrassed, apologizing to us and to the restaurant owner.
    The funny thing is, before this all happened, one of our dining companions had realized she left her purse at a bar we had visited a few blocks away. So she left to go get it, and then this whole thing goes down. She walks in a few minutes later to find us standing there with bewildered looks on our faces, our table knocked over and food and plates and things everywhere and asks, (what else?) “What happened?”

  • I know this won’t win me the book but I made three cooking “mistakes” when I was a kid: one, my mother asked me to hard boil some eggs for a salad and I forgot to put water in the pot which I remembered when the eggs exploded and went all over the ceiling; two, I couldn’t remember which sugar was granulated and which was confectioners and my cookies turned out like rocks; and three, instead of baking a cake, I broiled it by accident. Not too tasty.

  • In early 2001, my friends and I got to chatting about this little gem of a show, Food 911. We made a bet that I could get myself on it and not just that, I could get them to throw a party so my friends could meet Tyler Florence.

    This is what I filled out on the show’s website:

    I’ve recently become obsessed with everything Spanish, i.e.; cuisine, music, art, dancing. While eating dinner at El Quijote, a New York standard, I found that the broiled chorizo and shrimp in garlic sauce outshined the paella tremendously. I would love to entertain a group of friends this spring with traditional Spanish tapas. I can serve up a mean Sangria, but the food will be lacking. I have a rooftop locale at my disposal in Chelsea, it’s just the menu that needs refinement. Please help!

    An exotic cuisine. Check. Fancy big-city locale. Check. 27-year-old dot-commer. Check. What more could they want? How could they resist? Well, sure enough a few months later I got a call from a production assistant from Pasadena who wanted to run through a preliminary interview. God, how I lied. I started blabbing about how I had tried to throw a party and all of my guests just ended up getting drunk while tossing the tapas out of the window onto the hookers on the street below. I became the tapas laughing stalk of Hell’s Kitchen.

    They bought it and told me to invite my friends as they would stage another party for me. We were ready to shoot the show at the end of May. My problem? I don’t really have a rooftop location in Chelsea. It’s actually the photo studio of my sister’s boyfriend. I also never had a tapas party. And, I’m actually a really good cook who spent the better part of her teens and early twenties working in restaurants both waiting tables and in the kitchen.

    As everyone arrived, they had to sign releases to give their permission to put them on TV. They were all in on the plan and were just looking for free food and drink. When the show finally aired, my friends took every opportunity to make fun of my first tapas party. With one of them actually saying, “Usually we eat before Karen’s parties.”

    A few weeks after we taped, I was at Alphabet Kitchen (formerly on Ave A) and I was enjoying tapas and white sangria, when who walked by my table but Tyler Florence. He stopped and said hi and my sister explained that I only eat tapas now and drink white sangria and that they’re a little worried about me.

    Here’s the episode:,1976,FOOD_9964_19736,00.html

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