Erin Phraner is a foodie in every sense of the word. She’s the Associate Food Editor of the Good Housekeeping Magazine test kitchen, a contributor for multiple blogs, and the author of her own blog, Food & Femininity. With so many things on her plate, you have to wonder what her day-to-day life looks like and how she manages her time. But it’s all done by being so passionate about what she does! Today, we’re thrilled to get a peek at Erin’s life, what her home office looks like, how she manages her schedule, and where her favorite places to eat, shop, and explore are in NYC. Read on to find out more in this exclusive feature, photographed by Jenna Bascom.
You write for your own blog, contribute for other blogs, and you serve as the Associate Food Editor for the Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen. But what came first? Did you blog first, and then land your dream job? What was the progression of your success?
My blog Food & Femininity came first. I was in college, living in Paris, blogging for NYU about their study-abroad program…while performing in a musical, taking pastry class, and flirting with French boys. The NYU blog advisor told me I was writing too often about food and not enough about my courses, so I created a site of my own. That was my first (self-published) dip into food media.
Fast forward to the summer before my senior year at NYU. I heard Hearst was launching a food magazine, so I reached out about an internship. I landed the position and interned for the whole year, three consecutive semesters. At the end of my internship, I was hired full-time as the editorial assistant of the food department. I stayed at Food Network Magazine from 2008 to 2012, then moved on to Good Housekeeping within the same publishing company.
You live in New York with your boyfriend, who is also a food writer. With the two of you in the house, both so knowledgeable about food, who does all the cooking? What’s your favorite dish to make?
HA! This is a hot-button issue in our household. You know how most families follow the “I Cook, You Clean” rule? We do the opposite. Since we argue over who gets control of the kitchen, whoever cooks also has to clear up. That’s the deal we’ve made.
In general, I often handle weeknight dinners and boyfriend cooks lavish meals for guests over the weekends—he’s an incredible cook. My go-to simple suppers: Lamb meatballs or lamb burgers (I’m teased for making these too often), kale pizza, roast chicken or some kind of cheesy pasta with bacon. Baking is definitely my preference and my passion, though, so any dessert recipe or bread recipes is a natural favorite. My homemade biscuits might top the list. They helped me snag my dinner-dueling boyfriend in the first place!
When it comes to dinners, parties, and other get-togethers, do you prefer to host? Or would you rather have someone else handle the planning? Do you incorporate food into every event?
Food is part of every event, that’s just the nature of our family. I come from a long line of high-caliber hostesses. My mom, nana, and Ina Garten–loving aunts can all pull off a killer party for 20+ within hours if necessary. It’s insane. I’m not at their level yet—those girls have decades on me!—but yes, hosting is my preference. I tend to obsess over the non-food details, like cute cocktail napkins, a special party hashtag (i.e #cheeriocera) or setting up a selfie-booth.
That said, I don’t mind taking the back seat when it comes to get-togethers with friends. It’s actually really nice to have a night off. It probably helps that our pals are ridiculously good cooks, each with their own specialty. Dinner at a friend’s place gives you a glimpse into their unspoken food-mindset, you know? What you serve and how you set the mood says something about where your head’s at in that moment. I feel like I know my friends a little better after each meal and I love that. Creepy or sweet?
Where are your favorite places to go in NYC? Food, fashion, fun?
Oh goodness, where do I start!?
GROCERIES & PROVISIONS
Los Paisanos Meat Market We’re at our favorite butcher shop at least once a week for dry-aged steak or their teeny breakfast sausages. (162 Smith St.; Brooklyn, NY)
Bklyn Larder Don’t go hungry! I’ll usually stop in for one thing—our favorite coffee beans—and leave with stinky cheese, their pork ragu, and a chocolate chip cookie for the walk home OBVIOUSLY! (228 Flatbush Ave.; Brooklyn, NY)
Betty Bakery If guests are coming over and I don’t have time to bake something for dessert, I’m heading to Betty’s for a box of homemade Twinkies—a move I totally stole from our friends. (448 Atlantic Ave.; Brooklyn, NY)
Bien Cuit I end my weekend runs on Smith Street just so I can treat myself to a well-deserved croissant. Their Pain de Mie makes the BEST grilled cheese ever! (120 Smith St.; Brooklyn, NY)
Passage de le Fleur Ugh! I’m only telling you about this place because I like you, otherwise I’d keep it a secret forever in fear that it’ll become too popular and you’ll drink all of my wine. There’s absolutely no better place for funky, biodynamic vino (my favorite!) and the owner, Fifi, is just the most charming person you’ll ever meet. (573 Vanderbilt Ave.; Brooklyn, NY)
MY NEIGHBORHOOD RESTAURANTS
Roman’s My only complaint is that the menu changes daily because their lasagna is everything and I want to eat it every day always. Other obsessions: Their bread, burrata (when they have it), super-cool wine list and mint stracciatella gelato. (243 Dekalb Ave.; Brooklyn, NY)
Mile End I love so many things about Mild End Deli but Burger Night might be my all-time favorite. On Tuesday nights this modern Canadian-Jewish deli offers a Smoked Meat Burger, poutine and your choice of a Labatt or soda for $19. There’s nothing better! It’s also my go-to spot for iced coffee and rugelach. (97A Hoyt St.; Brooklyn, NY)
Ivan Ramen Okay, fine! This isn’t in my neighborhood but it’s a short subway or cab ride away, which I think still counts. I’ve never craved noodles but something about Ivan’s Spicy Red Chili Ramen keeps drawing me back, even in the gross/sticky heat of a NYC summer, which is totally saying something! (25 Clinton St.; New York, NY)
Estela Also a quick trip from our Brooklyn digs but worth every second! Thomas Carter and chef Ignacio Mattos are talented in ways you will never fully understand so, trust me, just go and soak in every moment of their delicious genius. Must order: Mussels escabeche, ricotta dumplings, any wine Thomas recommends! (47 E Houston St.; New York, NY)
The Long Island Bar When I was growing up, the Long Island Bar & Restaurant was a diner on Atlantic Ave. Last year, though, Toby Cecchini—brilliant creator of The Cosmopolitan cocktail!!—turned the empty landmark into a low-key cocktail joint. Nothing fussy, nothing annoying, just the best goddamn drinks in Brooklyn! (110 Atlantic Ave.; Brooklyn, NY)
The NoMad Bar Two words: Cocktail explosion! These large-format cocktail urns are the highbrow answer to the Everclear-laced “fish bowls” you may have encountered in college but, like, so much more delicious and elegant. We shared the Mai Tai Explosion with friends on my birthday and it was delightful. Order the burger! (10 W 28th St.; New York, NY)
Aritzia Minimalist basics like the perfect slouchy t-shirt, cozy sweatshirt or slip dress. My “Loving: These Outfits” Pinterest Board is chockfull of pieces from this Vancouver-based boutique. (524 Broadway; New York, NY)
Le Labo Boyfriend gave me the Bergamont 22 Body Lotion for Valentine’s Day when this French perfumery opened its SoHo store. Snotty me told him I hated the scent for the first three days—now I can’t get enough of the light citrusy-spicy smell. What can I say? It grew on me! (233 Elizabeth St.; New York, NY)
O.N.A Whoever owns this tiny shop knows exactly what I want on my body at all times. I’d take one of everything for my closet—clothing, shoes and accessories included. It’s my style to a tee! (593A Vanderbilt Ave.; Brooklyn, NY)
Kate Spade Saturday Continuing on the simple, minimalist clothing bandwagon—have you been to Kate Spade Saturday!? Not only am I obsessed with their strappy sundresses and slip-neck t-shirts, their housewares are TO DIE FOR! (152 Spring St.; New York, NY)
Nordstrom Rack Let’s be honest, I can buy a few pieces from cool boutique-y shops but I’m a bargain shopper at heart. I love seeing the “You saved $$$” at the bottom of a discount store receipt! A Nordstrom Rack just opened up in our neighborhood in Brooklyn and I’m there every-other-week.
When you’re not working in the Good Housekeeping test kitchen, you’re working in your office at home. Your shelves are full of books about food. Do you have a favorite? Do you have a cookbook you would recommend to beginners?
You should have seen the collection before boyfriend and I moved in together! We both cut down our cookbook stashes by at least half. My favorites live at work now: The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten and Martha Stewart, followed by Ina’s Barefoot In Paris and Barefoot Contessa At Home. I have all eight of Ina’s cookbooks—and I cherish and love each one—but those are the three I use most often.
For a beginner home cook, you can’t go wrong with Ina (see above). Her recipes are pure gold! They work every single time, whether you’re a rookie or a pro. Other gems:
I Know How To Cook, Ginette Mathiot’s bible of French home cooking—a must-have since the 1930’s (and it’s just gorgeous)!
Everyday Food: Great Food Fast by Martha Stewart Living! Seasonal and simple; I still cook from it.
Everyday Italian by Giada De Laurentiis—pasta’s a great place for a first-time-cook to start and this book’s loaded with easy recipes!
What three things can you just not live without in your office at home or at work?
Toothbrush & toothpaste: At work my top drawer is stocked with toothpaste, floss, mouthwash and a toothbrush. We eat such a weird combination of foods throughout the day. Cookie-dough pizza + Thai curry + three bean salad + milkshake ends up tasting really unpleasant in your mouth. I like to start each recipe with a clean slate, so I brush my teeth after each tasting, probably like five to six times a day. I’m sure an expert would say that’s too many times. But, bonus: Fresh teeth and a big glass of water helps fight off the afternoon munchies.
My “Dolly-Lama”: I keep my favorite photo of Dolly Parton on my desk for inspiration. I love a strong woman who doesn’t apologize for things and my Dolly-Lama’s one of ‘em! Sometimes you just have to ask yourself, “What Would Dolly Do?”
Fabric Hair Ties: I switched from regular hair ties to fabric hair ties, like these ones from Anthropologie, this year and I’m addicted. My old bands were such blowout-killers! Now I can throw my hair up to make a recipe without getting that weird line in my hairdo afterwards. It sounds silly but it makes a huge difference not having to re-do your coif at the end of the day before meeting friends for drinks/attending a work event. Time is precious!
– The New Food Lovers Companion (Fourth Edition) by Sharon Tyler Herbst & Ron Herbst
– Pink or orange Le Pens for editing
– Fine point Pilot G2 Retractable Premium Gel Ink Roller Ball Pens (black and blue) for writing
– Kitchen clogs: I have a crappy pair of navy faux “Crocs” from high school that I still wear. I think I paid $15 for them before a community service trip to Nicaragua.
– Shout Wipes for the inevitable kitchen stain.
– Extra grocery bags: I end up lugging around a TON of stuff and I never like being caught without my own tote, for the sake of the environment and my poor little hands.
Tell us what it’s like to work in a magazine’s test kitchen. Do you develop recipes, and then decide to publish? Or are themes and requirements set each time, requiring you to develop something specific for the issue?
It’s awesome! And busy! There’s a lot of planning on the front-end to keep things running smoothly, since we’re often working on two to three issue’s worth of magazine recipes (plus a full range of web recipes) at a time. We plot out stories in broad strokes before anyone hits the kitchen, this way we don’t waste time or food. Once a recipe is created, we keep testing that little sucker, using different ingredients and appliances to cover all variables, until it’s absolutely perfect. It’s the only way you can guarantee a recipe will look and taste just as delicious at home. It’s a rigorous process but it’s worth it. I hold myself to the same standards when I’m developing recipes on my own. People are going to spend their time and money making these dishes—they have to be impeccable!
Photography for Best Friends For Frosting by Jenna Bascom