September 29, 2010 § 2 Comments
September 27, 2010 § Leave a comment
This weekend, my mom and sister were in town to celebrate both of their birthdays – slightly belatedly – and enjoy our “fall” weather. We had a great weekend complete with fantastic food, a co-ed soccer game (my soccer debut), a Brooklyn housewarming party featuring an Indian feast, Wicked, and of course some requisite shopping. Here are a few highlights from the weekend eats:
After our first visit a few months ago, I was eager to bring my family back to experience one of my new Italian favorites. The folks at L’Artusi went over the top to make it a fabulous dinner and we had the opportunity to sample many things we had not ordered on our previous visit. Of the vast array of dishes we all shared, the highlights this time around were the fresh ricotta cheese with buttermilk crackers, the hanger steak with crispy potatoes with salsa bianca, and the brussel sprouts, which were roasted to crispy, nearly burnt perfection. This time, dessert was a must, and the olive oil cake with raisin marmelatta, vin santo and creme fraiche mousse was incredibly airy and moist, and the coconut semifreddo with figs was simply out of this world.
For breakfast on Saturday morning, we opted to pick up some pastries to enjoy on Rupert’s roof deck and serve as fuel for our soccer exploits later in the day. While the signature pretzel croissant is always a winner, the standout this time around was a pear and candied ginger corn muffin, the perfect balance of savory, sweet and spice. We also tried the maple bacon scone which was also unique savory/sweet combo. In my opinion, City Bakery offers some of the best iced coffee in the city, so that was also enjoyed. Had it been winter, the hot chocolate would have been requisite as well.
Sunday brunch was a special request of our guests, who had been to Pulino’s on their last visit just after it opened. The order never changes now that Rupert and I have zoomed in on our two favorites: the ottima and hte patate. The ottima features the crackly Roman crust with blobs of ricotta, blueberry jam and peices of crisp bacon. Some may question if this combo “works” but I am here to tell you it goes way beyond working, taking breakfast pizza to a new level. Run, don’t walk. The patate, on the savory side, features potato, sausage, mozzarella, fontina and green onions with two baked eggs on top. For the ingredient lineup it is surprising light. About one slice in to our brunch, I managed to dump half a latte all over our table, pizza, my lap, etc, and I have to thank our fantastic server for replacing the pizza and latte without charging us. Those who know me know that I have a proclivity for spilling, but this was definitely one of my more disastrous incidents.
Momofuku Milk Bar
Of course, no trip to New York would be complete for my sister without a stop at Momofuku Milk Bar. She stocked up on compost cookies for her friends back home and we sampled the Ants on a Log soft serve. One of the crazier combos they’ve made, but I have to admit they nailed the celery and PB flavor…it was authentic if not a bit bizarre. Apparently pumpkin cheesecake is up next on their flavor rotation. I’ll definitely be stopping by that one!
September 23, 2010 § Leave a comment
Hi Everyone! I promise to be back in blogging action soon. Just a hectic week around here. Next week: a weekend recap of my mom and sister’s visit to NYC and the next installment of West Coast Adventures! We have a lot of eating adventures in store so stay tuned…
September 20, 2010 § Leave a comment
One night this weekend upon decided to stay in, I surveyed my fridge in hopes of piecing together a passable dinner with its contents. A zucchini and yellow squash from the greenmarket along with a bit of leftover pancetta and a rather absurd assortment of cheese (does having no fewer than SIX types of cheese in one’s fridge indicate a problem?) inspired me to offer up pasta as an option, but Rupert raised the bar and suggested I work them into a panini. A lover of all grilled/toasted/pressed breads and the proud owner of a new grill pan, I quickly accepted the challenge! The results were surprisingly delicious and reinforced my recent theory that pancetta makes everything taste better. While quantities were all estimated, here is the basic recipe concept:
Summer Squash and Pancetta Panini
4 slices ciabatta or sourdough bread
1/4 cup diced pancetta
1 yellow squash, thinly sliced on a mandoline
1 zucchini, thinly sliced on a mandoline
1 cup assorted grated cheeses (fontina, mozzerella and pecorino romano)
coarse salt and freshly grated pepper
1. Saute pancetta over medium high heat until crispy. Remove from pan and set aside while leaving drippings in pan. Over medium-high heat, saute squash and zuchinni in pancetta drippings with a touch of olive oil if needed until slightly browned, soft and cooked through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
2. Sprinkle cheeses and pancetta on the bottom slices of bread and top with a liberal amount of squash and zucchini and the remaining slices of bread. (If I had any basil on hand, I would have added a few leaves of that as well). Drizzle both sides of bread lightly with olive oil. Grill the panini in a grill pan or panini press until cheese is melted (I prefer mine on the charred side, but feel free to adjust cooking time to your preferred grill mark degree). Cut in half and serve!
We also opened a bottle of 2007 Corazon rose from Corison Winery that we purchased on our drive through Napa this summer. We only shipped 6 bottles back (and tucked a few more into our suitcases) from all of our wine country jaunt, and we loved this one particularly because we had never come across another Cabernet Sauvignon rose. With fall almost officially upon us, we didn’t want to miss the opportunity to enjoy this bottle.
It was the perfect meal for a relaxing night in!
September 17, 2010 § Leave a comment
September 16, 2010 § 2 Comments
On my first trip to New York City, I was 14 and relatively terrified. With a death grip on my Dad’s hand, I scurry along trying to avoid oncoming traffic on the sidewalks. Everything seemed dirty, loud and fast paced, but once safely inside the Broadway shows we attended and restaurants where we dined, I came to understand what made the city so great. It’s safe to say if you had asked me then, I probably would have sworn I would never live in such a place. Of course 13 years later, I’ve been living here and loving it for more than 4 years.
Looking back on my first visit, I can recall which outfits I brought to wear, which broadway shows we saw and the exciting cab ride into the city for the first time from LGA. But —two distinctly new York food memories stand out to me. The first was my father’s morning trips from our hotel room to Dean and Deluca for croissants and freshly-squeezed orange juice. These would serve as our breakfast as we completed our morning routine. Having never been to Paris at that time, I am sure they were the best croissants I would have had up until that point and in my mind I labeled them as what New Yorkers ate for breakfast. (At that point I had not been introduced to the hard roll, which I still think is a crime again all breads, biscuits and pastries.) Luckily I do not currently follow my perceived New York breakfast regimen or I would surely weigh 500 pounds. Croissants, however, would reenter in my life when I studied abroad in Paris during college, and my affinity for and constant pursuit of the best almond croissant will never wain. Nor will never forget my early morning runs in Paris with smells of baking breads and pastries wafting from boulagerie-patisserie.
Gotham Bar & Grill
The second New York food memory that surely inspired me to follow my path of cooking, writing and working in the food industry, was a dinner at Gotham Bar & Grill. Still a wonderful and successful restaurant today, Gotham was relatively avant garde for the mid-1990s, and Chef Alfred Portale’s vertical masterpieces of food were unlike anything I had ever seen or tasted. It was here were I also learned that refills in New York are often not free (as they gloriously are in the South) so I would be having one Coca-Cola with dinner and I better make it last. This lesson has also served me well when it comes to ordering beverages in New York and Europe. Gotham, by the way, is still an excellent restaurant, classy spot for after-work drinks and one of the best prix-fixe lunch deals in town.
While I have formed hundreds of new food memories since interning and then moving here four years ago. These two will stick in my mind always when I think about this incredible city and experiencing it for the first time.
September 14, 2010 § 1 Comment
The Meatball Shop
On Friday night, we were in the mood for something fun and different. The Meatball Shop has been on my list of places to check out since I sampled one of their spicy pork meatballs at Taste of The Nation earlier this spring, and this seemed like the perfect occasion for it. We arrived around 8:45 and were quoted a 45 minute wait – not bad at all for the Lower East Side on a Friday. We were happy to wait but were also told the bar and two standing tables in the window were first come first served. We quickly grabbed a small bar table in the front and actually enjoyed the standing dining experience after sitting at desks all day in the office.
My favorite features of the restaurant were certainly the antique meat grinding tools adorning the wall and the laminated menu which one checked boxes to order. This menu is conducive to meatballs in every format including in a bowl, as a topping, as sliders, in a hoagie or smashed in a bun. See for yourself!
We opted for the spicy pork meatballs in classic tomato sauce served with focaccia, a beef slider with parmesan cream and a lamb meatball special slider. To round out the meal, sides of polenta and saffron green beans with onions were ordered as well. We loved it all and were only encouraged to want to try more as there were so many meatball/sauce/bread combinations and permutations to explore! (I would like to think I could calculate this, but even at the peak of my high school algebra career, I probably would have gotten it wrong). The spicy pork meatballs were perfectly cooked and the beef & parmesan cream slider tasted like the most decadent burger you can fathom. The green beans were tender and reminiscent of the overcooked (in a wonderful way) green beans I am accustom to as a Southerner.
After our meatballs, we considered asking for the check and going elsewhere for another drink in order to oblige the throng of hungry people waiting outside, but our fantastic waitress would have none of it. She all but insisted we stay until we had finished a homemade ice cream sandwich and I was not one to object. Like the meatballs, you must custom build your ice cream sandwich by selecting the cookie and the ice cream. As I take ice cream very seriously, I must have pondered this menu for at least 5 minutes in silence before selecting the coconut macaroon with strawberry ice cream. This turned out to be a great combination but I have a feeling it would be hard to go wrong. The ice cream reminded me of one you would churn in a wooden ice cream maker at a summer cookout.
Even with a couple of drinks, our meal was a great value for high quality ingredients cleverly prepared and served in a lively environment. For $3, The Meatball Shop even offers draft beer by the glass (basically a half-pint), an option I came to love in England and one that I wish more bars and restaurants embraced.
I just read on Eater that they were shopping for another space, and would welcome a second Meatball Shop anywhere it pops up! For now, I will be a frequent patron of their LES outpost.