August 30, 2010 § Leave a comment
While shopping for groceries growing up meant one big trip to Kroger, in New York a week’s worth of groceries can easliy be sourced from three-four stores in order to secure the best ingredients and maintain a budget.
Our exploits took us to Chelsea Market for fresh seafood and incredibly cheap but fantastic produce and spices (.89 cents for 5oz of poppy seeds?!), Garden of Eden for last minute Saturday night ingredients, and Myers of Keswick for the aforementioned British fare Rupert and I were excited to seek out. Hopefully this will mean several home-cooked dinners this week (and finally taking proper advantage of Rupert’s roof deck grill). In the meantime, a quick overview of the highlights:
Lemon Poppy Seed Olive Oil Cake
My recent olive oil muffin from Maialino inspired me to take a stab at baking with olive oil. I tweaked a Lemon-blueberry Yogurt Cake from Deb at Smitten Kitchen using several of her recommended modifications. In this version, olive oil replaces the vegetable oil and poppy seeds take the place of the blueberries. I had some Siggi’s on hand which I used in place of full-fat plain yogurt. While I love the thickness of Siggi’s in spite of the fact that it is fat free, in this case the fat was missed and the cake turned out a bit drier than I would have liked. There’s always next time! I usually try to move baked goods quickly at the risk of consuming inordinate quantities myself, so this particular cake was also a treat for three of my building’s doormen, who seemed to approve.
Shrimp Tikka Masala
While I have been wanted to dabble more in Indian cuisine, having Banjara a phone call away and missing some essentials in my spice repertoire, have held me back. While a trip to Kalyustan’s will hopefully be part of my next shop around, Sharwood’s Tikka Masala really came through in this case. For a bottled sauce, this one was comprabable to any decent Indian take out I’ve had and we spruced it up a bit with some fresh shrimp from Chelsea Market and frozen peas. Topped off with basmati rice and some Trader Joe’s frozen garlic naan, this really was a quick but delicious meal.
The Brooklyn Salsa Company
While picking up some last minute dinner items at Garden of Eden, Rupert noticed the Brooklyn Salsa Company salsas, which were new to both of us. We opted for The Bronx The Burnt variety, which was outstanding. With an organic ingredient list of tomatoes, eggplant, coconut milk, chili peppers, curry powder, lime juice, and more, this was a new flavor profile beyond typical salsa and one of the coolest things I’ve tried in a while. I’m excited to try the rest of the line and excited to see they are also distributed at Whole Foods per the Brooklyn Salsa Company website.
August 29, 2010 § Leave a comment
This weekend, we finally made it to two restaurants I’ve had on my to-try list for quite some time.
After hearing several people sing L’Artusi’s praises, I finally secured a reservation to check it out with Rupert on Friday night. The restaurants occupies a two-level space on West 10th St. Seated on the second level, we had a nice view of the wine room, which hosts private and group events, as well as a skylight above. Instantly drawn to many of the dishes on the menu, we opted to select a few dishes from each of the crudo, vedura, pasta, and pesce categories and share. This strategy resulted in the perfect amount of food to accompany a glass of sparking rose we had to start and a wonderful bottle of Italian Sylvaner, one of my favorite, somewhat obscure varietals. The all-Italian wine list, it stands to mention, perfectly suits the restaurant, breaking out red and white selections by region.
Our first course consisted on an escolar crudo with avocado, basil and chiles and the roasted mushrooms with fried egg, pancetta and ricotta salata. Both were out of this world. The sauce atop the escolar was particulary intriguing, an incredible blend of its component parts. We then moved on to a sweet corn and ricotta ravioli and an orecchietti with sausage, salumi and bitter greens. Anything that boasts both sausage and salumi in one dish sets high expectations in my book, and this pasta certainly came through. The pastas rivaled those served at the likes of Babbo and A Voce when Andrew Carmellini was running the kitchen, which says quite a lot in my book. For our main course, we shared the cod wtih shellfish brodo, bacon and potatoes. The fish was cooked perfectly but just a bit heavily salted for our taste. While we were too full to consider dessert, the offerings were all tempting and justify a return visit.
For brunch on Saturday, we found ourselves in the West Village after a trip to Myers of Keswick, a British food store on Hudson St. where we hoped to find some Start, a favorite (aka favourite) British cereal that Rupert introduced me to last year). While that Start mission was unsuccessful, we did walk away with some Twiglets and bangers for grilling that later that evening. We consoled ourselves by grabbing an outdoor table at corsino where we shared two panini and a few crostini. The food was nearly identical to that of ‘inoteca, and the outdoor seating in the yesterday’s beautiful weather sealed the deal.
On our way up to the Apple store, where we oggled the iPad, and Chelsea Market for some grocery shopping, we passed by Fatty Crab, another favorite of mine that is now fresh in my mind to revisit soon.
August 27, 2010 § Leave a comment
Among the smattering of food blogs I follow, I have to say Smitten Kitchen and Amateur Gourmet definitely compete for most inspiring in terms of what recipes I dare to take on in a tiny East Village kitchen. When planning meals for this week, I came across Deb from Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for Joey Campanaro’s meatball sliders tucked away in the archives.
The quaint yet impressive restaurant in the West Village is one of the hardest reservations to score in New York, but it is well worth the effort just to try the sliders. I hear they are on the menu at Kenmare as well, but I’m not sure it would be quite the same quintessential New York dining experience. The meal I had there several months ago was spectacular from beginning to end. While the meatballs were incredible, none of the other food paled in comparison.
It was had my work set out for me to come close to duplicating their goodness, but Deb’s recipe did not disappoint. I took a few (err…many) liberties and shortcuts, omitting the veal, serving them sub style on a brioche hot dogs bun from Fresh Direct and baking the meatballs in the oven, but nonetheless they were fantastic. The meatballs were flavorful and juicy, just as remembered them and the homemade sauce was well worth the effort of excavating my mini Cuisinart from the tip-top cabinet. Many thanks to my sous chef who was also patient enough to have his sub photographed ad nauseam before a decent shot was captured and he was allowed to dig in. My digital camera doesn’t do it justice, but here are the results:
Note: The homemade hot dog buns from Fresh Direct were out of this world, especially when toasted. The aforementioned Amateur Gourmet’s recent hot dog bun french toast recipe may play a leading role in my weekend! As for the rest of the weekend, we have some exciting dinner plans for tomorrow evening and I hope there is cake baking in my near future as well. Expect a full report on Monday!
August 26, 2010 § Leave a comment
While I try not to go more than a few months between visits home, every now and then life gets busy and I find myself away longer than I would like. My last visit to Dalton, my tiny hometown in Northwest Georgia, was over Memorial Day, and it may be until October or November until I can make it back. In addition to missing my family, friends, and family dogs, I always become nostalgic over some of the great restaurants I always try to incorporate on trips home. Here are just a few for anyone passing through Chattanooga, TN, which is just a 30-minute jaunt from Dalton. I truly believe that these rival the majority that I have found in New York!
I began calling Chattanooga my second home while attending GPS for middle and high school. I also had the opportunity to live there for about a year after college writing for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. I can’t say enough good things about the city, the renewal and creativity taking place there, especially on the Southside. I would tell anyone to spend a weekend there and guarantee them a wonderful weekend of fantastic food, unique shops & galleries and natural beauty.
St. John’s Restaurant & Meeting Place
While I am perhaps biased as a former employee, I can confidently say St. Johns is one of the best, most inspiring restaurants that I know, certainly the best in Chattanooga. Chef Daniel Lindley spent time in the Gramercy Tavern kitchen before returning home to open his own restaurant, and the refined cuisine is a testament to his hometown roots and New York City training. For a more casual, bistro atmosphere and menu, pop in next door to The Meeting Place. The scallop dish, a menu staple, is probably my favorite scallop dish of all time. Both the Meeting Place and St. John’s ice cream sundaes are not to be missed when dessert menus appear. The staff and service at both restaurants is of the highest quality and enhance the entire experience and the design of two-level space, a lobby of a historic hotel, is clean yet stunning.
Just around the corner from St. John’s, Alleia is the latest venture from the St. John’s team, and my one meal there early after it’s opening indicated it would be another hit. Chef Lindley’s skills translate perfectly into the Italian menu.
A local favorite, this bakery featuring a vast selection of artisan breads, pastries and other doughy treats. Sandwiches are also available and great for picnic fodder along the River Walk or in Coolidge Park.
The one word you need to know in this tiny, quirky North River hangout is pancakes. Aretha’s even sells their signature mix. The biscuits (and breakfast sandwiches featuring them) are also out of this world for those who lean towards savory breakfast fare. Be sure to snag a spot on the porch or the two-top inside which in its former life was a Pac-Man table.
River Street Deli
Another perfect spot for picnic grub or a quick bite. The Muffaletta is mammoth and the Grilled “ChattaGooey” featuring pimento cheese and ham or turkey is decadent. My sister, a lover of all things sweet, swears by their signature Elana Ruz, another grilled offering with honey cured turkey, cream cheese and strawberry preserves. For a truly Southern experience, be sure to ask for a side of black eyed pea salad.
After lunch at River Street, walk upstairs to Clumpy’s for homemade ice cream that had developed a loyal following around town. The name is fairly brilliant for an ice cream shop as well. The coconut almond chuck, ginger white chocolate chunk and grasshopper are some of my favorites. Kids and those who are young at heart might take pleasure in the animal cracker complete with pink frosting or firecracker which features Pop Rocks. As an aside, ice cream will be featured prominently and frequently on this blog, so be prepared. I’m a girl after my father’s heart, afterall.
August 25, 2010 § Leave a comment
The past month has been a whirlwind of travel, work functions and spending time with good friends. Naturally, some incredible food has been involved along the way. Here are a few notable bites from recent meals in New York and beyond.
Last weekend we headed to Chicago for our friends Mark & Sheryl’s wedding, and were graciously hosted by my good friends Rose & Trevor (and their terrier Ernie) who live in Lincoln Park. I fall more in love with Chicago after each visit and this was no exception, while the focus of the weekend was not food (for once!) we still fit in some great meals & snacks.
Gelato @ Black Dog Gelato
After several miles of wandering/exploring on foot after an afternoon Cubs game, Rupert & I were in need of refreshment, particularly the frozen variety. Black Dog Gelato in Wicker Park came across my ice cream radar a few months ago, and I took the opportunity to check it out. I tried two of their signature flavors, Sesame Fig Chocolate Chip and Goat Cheese Cashew Caramel. Both were delicious and I was surprised at how well the fig and sesame flavors completed each other. Rupert took a tried and true approach with Strawberry and Café Au Lait, which both proved solid as well. (As a complete aside, it should be noted a cab driver who delivered us to Black Dog not only took a comb to his bald spot and peripheral hair at a stop light but also touched up his arm hair during our ride. Amazing.)
Pomegranate Ginger Ale @ Wow Bao
After an 90 minute architecture boat cruise with the Chicago Architecture Foundation, Trevor recommended a stop at Wow Bao for ginger ale. Their homemade ginger ale is available in plain, green tea and pomegranate flavors. It packed some major ginger and the large cylindrical ice cubes were icing on the cake (for anyone else who is a notorious ice-chewer). The buns and dumplings also looked delicious – I would love to see one open to NYC in the future (hint hint, Lettuce Entertain You!)
Fat Tire @ Pequod’s Pizza
Ah, my favorite from New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, CO. Slowly but surely these guys have begun distributing east of the Mississippi so thankfully I can get my fix when I visit home in Georgia. New York, however, is still deprived of this boozy delicacy, so I make sure to enjoy every drop. The deep dish at Pequod’s was also fantastic, particularly their homemade sausage!
Lemon Poppy Seed Pancakes @ Toast
On Saturday morning, Rose recommended Toast, a cute brunch spot in Lincoln Park. While this combination now seems obvious, I don’t recall having ever stumbled across them in the past. Due to a recent poppy seed obsession, I was quick to give them a try. They were stellar and will certainly inspire some recipe tinkering of my own in the future. The rest of our meal at Toast was equally delicious and their collection of vintage toasters is not to be missed!
This summer I was luckily enough to join friends at their rental house in East Hampton not one but two weekends this month. We had an incredible time relaxing, playing bocce, beaching and applying copious amounts of sun block (luckily I am not the only fair skinned one in the bunch, so SPF 45 was at the ready at all times). Most meals were spent cooking and grilling at home, and we surprised ourselves with some perfectly grilled swordfish & corn on the cob as well as White Peach Sangria, which my friend Alex spearheaded. We did squeeze in donuts on more than one occasion morning and these donuts reminded me of what donuts should be!
Donuts @ Dresssen’s
You can watch these small fried rounds of doughy goodness float through the fryer in the window and have them glazed to order. The outside is perfectly crispy and the inside still warm and pillowly like a cake donut should be. After a thorough sampling, I’d recommend the cinnamon sugar for it’s simplicity.
Manhattan & Brooklyn
The major perk of my job is to constantly try and stay abreast of new restaurants. Here are several notable dishes & drinks I’ve had in during recent exploring.
The ‘Cue @ Fatty Cue
While the food at Fatty Cue proved meaty, quirky and delicious as expected, what wowed me the most was their incredible cocktail menu. Of the drinks I tried, this rum-based cocktail was the most unusual and addictive due to the smokiness of the smoked pineapple and the spicy of the Tobasco sauce.
Flourless Chocolate Cake @ Diner
Made with Mast Brothers Chocolate this was the lighest, most airy flourless chocolate cake I’ve ever had. While most prove so rich and dense for my taste, I could easily consume an entire cake slice of Diner’s version (and would kill for the recipe).
Iced Coffee & Olive Oil Muffin @ Maialino
Working two blocks from Maialino makes it a dangerously easy spot for me to grab a decadent breakfast. Anyone who hasn’t been for breakfast or brunch is seriously missing out. In my opinion, it’s what they do best. The Four Barrel iced coffee is some of the most potent and delicious that I’ve had in New York (and in cold months the latte is a formidable substitute). The Budino di Olio d’Oliva is as decadant as breakfast should get. I venture to guess based on how moist it is that you could actually squeeze olive oil out if you were foolish enough to waste one for the sake of experimenting. A recent encounter has inspired me to procure ingredients for a yogurt olive oil cake, the results of which I will share once the weekend rolls around and I find a few hours to bake.
House Smoked Brisket Sandwich @ Char No. 4
As a Southerner, I take barbeque very seriously, and this sandwich is hands down the best I’ve had in New York (or above the Mason-Dixon for that matter). Also of note is the homemade hot sauce served with the pork nuggets. Some of the spiciest and best I’ve ever had!