A Few New Favorites

June 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

After a break from blogging, I feel like there is much to catch up on, but I’ll start with a few local finds that have wowed me recently. Then it’s on to Montreal eats (of which there were A LOT) and a trip to Miami, which seemed to be a teeming with New York transplants. As long as that involves Shake Shack, however, I’m not one to complain.

Epicerie Boulud

In New York, my new favorite is definitely Epicerie Boulud, Chef Daniel’s new-ish market of fresh baked items, sandwiches, salads, coffees, gourmet products, and really everything else on could wish for. During a busy day of move-realted errands, we quickly dropped by the dangerously close shop on Broadway and 64th for lunch. I lured Rupert with the promise of gourmet hot dogs, which lived up to his high standards. I opted for the Rocket Salad which was a well-balanced blend of arugula, jamon serrano, machego, marcona almonds, roasted red peppers, cherry tomatoes, raisins, olives and sherry vinagrette. I’m an admittedly picky salad person, and this one was right up my alley. They also have some powerful iced coffee, perfect for getting a jump start on Saturday morning.

When exploring the website while writing this post, I just discovered the breakfast menu as well as an oyster and wine bar menu, which may actually allow me to sandwich my day sometime soon around two visits. I’ve also yet to dive into the baked items and gelato, but I can assure you it’s only a matter of days. The words chocolate ginger pound cake alone cause me to ponder when I can next get there.

The store is replete with great options for eating there (inside standing at bar tables or outside at a few tables adjacent to Bar Boulud) or taking to Central Park. They also have an incredible selection of cheese as well as uncooked sausages, terrines, etc that one could easily take home for a meal.

What is more, the hot dog and salad respectively were around $6.50 and $8.50, which in my book is quite a bargain in NYC, home of the $10-12 make-your-own salad. Based on my salad savings, I hope to make it around the corner sometime down the road to try Boulud Sud, the newest fine-dining restaurant from Chef Daniel.

Aroma Kitchen & Wine Bar

I’ve known about Aroma’s wonderful Aperitivo deals for several years, but only last weekend did I discover their incredible cellar-level private rooms. We celebrated a friend’s birthday with a fabulous dinner where the beet appetizer (warm beets, gorgonzola, fig jam, walnuts, warm beet dressing) and buccatini (“cacio, pepe e uovo”, “aroma” pancetta) really stole the show. For the value, I would say Aroma is high on my list of fantastic group dining options. The wine list as well is well-curated and offers something for every price level. If for nothing else, it is well worth it to see what may be New York’s smallest restaurant restroom tucked away through the downstairs kitchen.

‘wichcraft

When ordering lunch for delivery in Midtown, I’ve narrowed my favorites down to a select bunch. ‘wichcraft remains one of my standbys, especially for the tomato soup and grilled cheese in colder months. For several years, I found myself wishing they would introduce a few new sandwiches, just to mix things up a bit, and it seems that lately they have done just that. On the most recent round of new summer sandwich offerings, I have fallen for the asparagus and pea frittata sandwich. Served all day, this would be a perfect indulgent breakfast, but I prefer it as a hearty lunch sandwich. The frittata was perfectly cooked and still very soft even upon delivery and the cheddar and rustic ciabatta are the perfect envelope for it. Now I just have to wait for their incredible gazpacho to make its summer debut and of course make it to Bryant Park every now and then for an ice cream’wich!


 

 

 

Heat Wave

June 21, 2011 § 1 Comment

Summer has officially arrived in New York, timed perfectly with a move to a new apartment on the Upper West Side. While I will miss my favorite East Village restaurants, I’m excited for a new neighborhood to explore and our new place. I could live in the kitchen alone! Most importantly, this apartment will feature a REAL dining table – no more dinners on the coffee table – and will open the door for a lot of cooking and entertaining with friends.

Apparently the owner of the condo we are renting shares my passion for cooking and kitchen gadgets, because she customized the kitchen with some fancy high-tech appliances including an ice cream maker, which will be getting quite a workout this summer. While we’ve only been moved in for a week, I’ve already found time to test the gas range and more importantly the convection oven. My time assisting a pastry chef one summer in high school instilled in me a love for convection ovens when baking. Gone are the burnt corners and bottoms of cookies and cakes. Instead the circulating heat of the convection oven perfectly and evenly cooks and browns all surfaces, vastly improving the end result.

Finding myself with some spare time last night, I decided it would be the perfect time to try a recipe for Tate’s cookies I came across on GOOP. I am firmly in the thin, crispy cookie camp and Tate’s spares no butter to make perfectly thin, crisp cookies that are sold all over New York. My favorite part about this recipe is that it only calls for mixing by hand with a wooden spoon, proving you don’t always need a hand or stand mixer to achieve a uniform, well-incorporated dough.

As the idea of having more than three dozen freshly baked cookies was a bit overwhelming and I only had about a cup of chocolate chips on hand, I halved this recipe. To give my convection oven a whirl, I baked the first batch on the conventional setting and the second with convection. The oven automatically lowered my preset temp of 350 degrees to 325 for convection and the cookies took about twice as long to bake. I kept the size and spacing of the dough the same for the sake of a controlled experiment. The difference, as you see below, was remarkable! My first batch did not resemble Tate’s in the slightest. They were slightly raised and still a bit soft in the middle even as the edges and bottom verged on becoming too brown. The second batch, however, was a dead ringer. The browned butter taste and perfectly crisp, thin texture were spot on. Based on these results, I have high hopes for future baking endeavors!

Convection baking on the left; conventional on the right.

Tate’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Source: GOOP)

Yield: About 40 cookies

2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) lightly salted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, beaten
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350º.

Whisk the flour, soda and salt together in a bowl. In another large bowl, mix the butter with a wooden spoon to lighten it a bit and then mix in the sugars. Add the water, vanilla and eggs to the butter mixture. Stir in the flour mixture until just combined and then fold in the chocolate chips. Using two soup spoons, drop the cookies 2″ apart onto two nonstick or greased cookie sheets. Bake for eight minutes, rotating the sheets after four minutes. Remove the cookies to a wire rack to cool, and repeat the process with the rest of the batter.

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