2011 Epic Fails and Pickle and Pastry Giveaway

As the last post of 2011, I present to you a gallery of the year’s biggest culinary failures. Some you have seen, most you have not. This list will serve as a reminder to me in 2012, every time I try to take a picture with flash or eat at a Todd English restaurant, that I have done that before, and that it just doesn’t work.  If you read to the end of the post, you may receive a handsome reward…Without further ado, and in no particular order:
11 Epic Fails of 2011
1) Whole wheat pizza dough
It tastes like cardboard at a pizzeria and it tastes like cardboard at home. I do, however, love the Emile Henry pizza stone on which I baked it!
2) Impatiece when making root beer floats 
Or cupcakes. Or meatballs. Basically, I just need to try to be more patient. Otherwise, the soda will always run over the edge of the proverbial cup. 
3) Meatopia 2011
Actually, this was great. The problem was that it was on the hottest day of the year and after I ingested about half my body weight in roasted pork, beef, and offal, I had to go home and lie with a Buddha belly on my couch for 3 hours. All I could eat the next day was miso soup. I have never, never, NEVER been so food-ed out in my life.
4) Every single picture I took at Alta
No more need be said.
5) That time I tried to make matzoh brie in a stockpot instead of a skillet
The whole thing steamed instead of sauteed and became something akin to regurgitated baby food. So shapeless and insipid that even a heavy dose of Sriracha could not save it.
6) My entire meal at The Plaza Food Hall
 Overpriced, under served, mediocre…good Lord, Todd English, you should be ashamed of yourself!
7) This Tunisian pastry 
It looked like a beautiful glazed donut but was instead filled with must have been tobacco-infused rancid honey. If you pass by a Tunisian bakery in the Latin Quarter of Paris, just ignore it!
8) Tomato vinaigrette for a summer salad
Doesn’t it look just like tomato paste? That’s what it tasted like, too. 
9) Banana pudding from Donna Belle’s Bakeshop
 All the things here looked so delicious. So why did I choose the one item that tasted like absolutely nothing. Not sweet, not sour, not rich, not tart…literally, it was like I was eating air. Fatty, cholesterol-ruining air. 
10) Jack cheese-jalapeno bread
This pretty much sucked. The bread was leaden on the outside, gluey on the inside. It was so bad I gagged in the sink. 
That’s what she said.
11) Frozen Mango and Dulce de Leche Ice cream
Well, actually, this was pretty good. Great actually. I just wanted to end on a high note. 
And what better high note than with TWO gift certificates to give away to the Bryant Park Holiday Shops? I am giving away, courtesy of The Blaq Group:
 $50 to Pickle Me Pete (the habanero pickles were so hot that they actually made me cry)
and
 $50 to Mmm…Enfes (A Turkish food emporium with all sorts of delicious treats and sweets). 
There will be two winners of this giveaway, which you can enter just by leaving a comment on the comment section!
The only stipulation is that you must be able to use your gift certificate by January 8th when the shops close. So, if you are in the NYC area, leave a comment for a chance to win some awesome pickles or sweet Turkish treats! Winners will be chosen randomly and announced Monday, January 2!
Good luck and happy new year!

Maple-Apple-Brussels Sprout Hash

I bet you thought that Thanksgiving was the best time to eat Brussels sprouts. WRONG! The colder it gets, the sweeter and more tender Brussels sprouts become. That means the best time to eat them is now! Combine them with onions, maple syrup, and an apple for a side dish so delicious, you may choose to make it your main course. If you think you don’t like Brussels sprouts, this dish may change your mind.
Apple and Brussels Sprouts Hash

Ingredients:
1 small container Brussels sprouts, washed and halved (with outer leaves removed)
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 package bacon
1 peeled apple, diced
2 – 3 Tbsp. maple syrup (plus extra, to taste)
olive oil, to saute
salt and pepper, to taste

 1) Preheat the oven to 350 F, place the halved sprouts on a tinfoiled baking sheet, drizzle heavily with olive oil, and stick them in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the sprouts are charred without and tender within.

 2) While the sprouts roast, pour some olive oil in a pan over medium heat. When the oil starts to make ripples, add the…

 onions and apples. Let them sautee for about 10 minutes, or until the onions are translucent and the apples start to turn golden.

 3) Add the bacon

 and sautee for about 20 minutes, or until the bacon is brown and crispy, the onions are sweet, and the apples are soft. You want really nice, crunchy bacon here to contrast with the soft elements in the dish, but don’t turn up the heat. The point is to render the fat slowly so the bacon cooks evenly without being black on the edges and raw in the middle.

 4) When the sprouts are done (just taste them…when there is a tiny bit of resistance to your teeth, they are done), take them out and add them to the pan.

 5) Add the Brussels sprouts and maple syrup to the pan. Stir the ingredients around gently, so you don’t break the sprouts apart but so that the maple syrup melts into all of the components.

 6) Taste for maple syrup, salt and pepper and serve!

 This is a side dish for people who love sweets. The apples, onions, and maple syrup make this positively sugary. In fact, I add a heavy dose of pepper to balance out the sweetness, though my sister likes it au naturale. The crispy bacon mimics the crispy sprouts, and the entire mixture is a sweet, salty, crunchy, and tender delight.

I could top this with a fried egg, or it is also delicious over a baked sweet potato. And don’t worry about being wrong about the best season to eat Brussels sprouts. I’m wrong sometimes. 
Well, no I’m not. I just said that to make you feel better.

Cookshop – Huevos Rancheros in NYC

I rarely visit the same restaurant twice, unless it’s in my neighborhood. I especially don’t care to review the same restaurant twice on my blog. But occasionally there is a restaurant so unique that it deserves a double mention. 
Such is Cookshop
 My previous review covers Cookshop’s locally and seasonally inspired lunch menu. It describes the relaxed, breezy dining room. But it doesn’t go over any of the brunch items. 
And, as good as lunch was, brunch was even better.
Grapefruit Brulee with Creme Fraiche and Brown Sugar
This is why you cook seasonally. Grapefruit is at its peak right now – tart, juicy, without a trace of bitterness. By covering it with brown sugar and broiling it until the surface was crispy and sugary, the fruit tasted incredibly juicy and fresh. Serving it with creamy creme fraiche and a scattering of earthy fresh mint grounded the dish, making it complex and well rounded. Though there could have been a bit more char and crackly crunch on the top of the grapefruit, the combination of sour, sweet, crunchy, and creamy was a great way to start the meal. 
 Griddled Cheese with Cabot Cheddar, Candied Pecans, Honeycrisp Apples, Fries, and Salad
This was a simple but great grilled cheese sandwich. Crunchy bread, sharp cheddar cheese, juicy apples, sweet pecans, and a healthy dose of piquant grainy mustard. The mustard really made this dish, and brought out the savory, salty elements of the cheese. The apples could have been sliced a bit thinner on a mandolin, but the tart, fresh flavor was excellent.The lightly dressed greens on the side were pristine and seasonal with bitter frisee and spicy radishes. And fries are just always awesome.
That’s my official food blogger stance on fries. 
Huevos Rancheros with Eggs, Black Beans, Ranchero Sauce, Monterey Jack Cheese, Lime Creme Fraiche, Pickled Jalapenos and Onions, and Crispy Tortilla Strips
This is it. This is the reason you come here for brunch. A huge ceramic platter came to the table so hot that its contents were still bubbling inside. A thick layer of molten cheese covered perfectly baked eggs, with solid whites and delightfully gooey yolks. Tender black beans, spiced ranchero sauce (a zesty, tomato based sauce similar to enchilada sauce), and the slight heat of jalapenos. Freshly fried tortilla chips that offered crunch, bracing pickled onions that offered freshness, and lime creme fraiche that cooled the palate. Onions, garlic, cumin, and a smoky heat pervaded the dish without being overtly sharp or pungent. This was bright, deep, hearty, and satisfying. I can’t say enough good things about this dish or about the fact that it was an extremely ample portion. 
Cookshop is a place I have to frequent more often. The prices are reasonable, the service is great, and the food is exceptional. They continuously prove that cooking seasonally and locally results in the best food on the planet. 
Don’t be surprised if you see a third review for Cookshop at some point. It’s just that great. 

Ed’s Chowder House – Do You Get What You Pay For?

You get what you pay for. Haven’t you heard that your entire life? And yet, there are times when you really don’t. You overpay and get crap, or you pay a little and get something so great. What would Ed’s Chowder Bar bring?
Ed’s Chowder Bar, located in the Empire Hotel, is not a place I would normally frequent. It is 
1) In a hotel
and 
However, it was open Christmas Day. And had reservations and its normal menu. So we went. 
The space was extremely upscale without seeming fussy or stuffy - Ina Garten meets Carrie Bradshaw. Sleek and elegant with nautical touches and a bright, airy feeling. Also very spacious – a huge plus for any NYC restaurant. 
Oyster Crackers and Horseradish
Have you ever wanted to go to heaven? Just split open an oyster cracker with your thumbnail, heap on some horseradish, then replace the top. Then eat. It will clear your sinuses and awaken your tastebuds.
Bread Basket
We also got a bread basket filled with white rolls, cornbread sticks, and jalapeno-cheddar bread. Though it all sounded great, it was merely okay. The rolls could have been yeastier, the bread could have been spicier, and the sticks were a touch too sweet. Best to stick to the oyster crackers here. 
Iceberg Salad with Tomatoes, Red Onions, Pumpernickel Croutons, Blue Cheese, and Buttermilk or Balsamic Dressing
My sister wanted this salad. So we got it – way she wanted it: with almost everything on the side. And, you know what? The server delivered our order perfectly without once making her feel like she was Sally Albright. And the salad, albeit a simple one, was perfectly prepared. Crispy croutons, fresh veggies, light and flavorful dressings, and some of the best blue cheese I have had in a restaurant. Really – it was funky and umami but without having any of that stinky foot taste to it. Instead, it was bright and almost electric tasting. 
Needless to say, I ate it with my oyster cracker sandwiches. 
Oysters
All the oysters at Ed’s Oyster Bar are flown in daily, and they offer a larger or smaller selection according to what they can get fresh. That’s great. What isn’t so great is that while 3 of the 5 oysters we ordered were delicious, the remaining 2 were not. They weren’t “off,” but they were totally devoid of flavor and that minerally, complex taste that oysters should have. When I am paying $3 per oyster, they should all be spectacular. If the oysters don’t taste great that day, just don’t put them on the menu. The best oyster of the bunch was the Mystic. It tasted like summer in my mouth – light, bright, and salty, just like the seashore. The mignonette sauce was a little bland, but the cocktail sauce was spicy, sweet, and fantastic. I would recommend Connecticut based oysters here. 
Golden Snapper
Having never seen golden snapper on a menu, I had to order it. It was fantastic! If you like snapper, striped bass, or any light, flaky fish, you must get this! It had the crispy skin of char but the delicate texture and mild flavor of striped bass. It was lightly grilled until moist, and with just a squeeze of lemon, was fantastic. 
Horseradish Mashed Potatoes
It was a big horseradish day for me. 
While I tasted only a hint of the spicy, pepper taste of horseradish in these potatoes, they were phenomenal. Creamy, but with a few large lumps, and the red skins mixed in well with the fatty, luscious taste of butter. These were great (and yes, a few spoonfuls of the horseradish mixed in did kick the whole thing into taste nirvana).
So, the food was great, the service was even better, and the surroundings were lovely. What’s my only hangup  about this place? The price. It ain’t cheap. It is going to cost you upwards of $40 here for an appetizer and entree at brunch. And I’m just not sure that a plate of fish and a salad is worth that price, no matter how delicious. Now, that said, I would absolutely come here for a few Connecticut oysters and that terrific bowl of mashed potatoes. And if I were headed to Lincoln Center, I would eat here in a flash.
So, do you get what you pay for here? 
You tell me.
Ed's Chowder House on Urbanspoon

Remember the Time…

…when I forgot that today was Monday? Yes, I was actually convinced that today was Sunday. I have no excuses and few words. The words I have are these:
When in doubt, top it with a fried egg.
That’s what she said. And she also said, regular posts to resume tomorrow!

The Smith – Midtown East’s Dining Destination

The Smith is just way too good a restaurant for Midtown East. Of course, that’s why it started in the East Village and is only now making its uptown pilgrimage. But, really…this place is destination worthy, which I rarely say of a restaurant east of Park Avenue in the 50s.

The Smith is an American brasserie serving from breakfast through late nights, with a huge menu including a raw bar, soups, salads, sandwiches, entrees, and a bevy of desserts. The Bloody Marys they offer for brunch are great to boot – spicy and full bodied, with a nice kick of vodka. The decor is casual brasserie – dishtowel napkins, tiled floors…

and this eclectic display of vintage liqueur bottles. 

Water

This place offers complimentary sparkling water. Glory be and the saints be praised, because, as a gal who can down 4 club sodas at one meal, this is both welcome and a huge money saver!

Oysters

It was a risk ordering oysters in a non-seafood based establishment, but it paid off. The oysters here – Beau Soleils, Fanny Bays, and Cotuit Bays – were fresh, briny, and full of oceanic oyster liqueur. I expected good oysters, but these were great – easily as good as the oysters at Mermaid Oyster Bar. Served with some of the fiery housemade habanero vinaigrette, they were an unexpectedly fantastic start to the meal.

Roasted Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese

French Onion Soup gone American Tomato Soup. That is the brilliance of this dish. A steaming layer of gooey melted cheddar cheese covered a thick slice of sourdough bread that became soft and tangy in the creamy tomato soup. The tomatoes were clearly roasted, bringing out their sweetness before being mixed with fresh cream. I thought I detected chicken or beef stock in the background, but it could just be that the stock was simmered for long enough that the flavors all fully developed that umami taste. Perfectly seasoned, with enough salt to bring out the tomatoes’ savory qualities, this was a stand out dish.

Simply the best tomato soup I have eaten in the city, and one that I aim to recreate at home. Serving it French Onion Soup style was a stroke of genius.

Chicken Paillard with Mozzarella, Roasted Peppers, Arugula, Marinated Tomatoes, and Parmesan Dressing

If you feel like this, this is just what you feel like. Know what I mean? This tastes exactly like you think it will. Thin, juicy chicken cutlets with charred, smoky edges, topped with bitter arugula, silky red peppers, juicy tomatoes, and salty, nutty, Parmesan dressing. Filling but not heavy, savory but not overtly garlicky or spicy…this just fit the bill.

With a few of my sister’s very tasty, lightly salted fries (that reminded me quite a bit of In-N-Out, actually), this was a perfect lunch.

The Smith is just so great. The portions are huge, the atmosphere is festive, the price is right, and the service is expedient. 

And even though the food is way too good for Midtown East…I’m not complaining.
The Smith Midtown on Urbanspoon

Chopped Liver with Prunes and Marsala

Here’s the thing…I have posted a chopped liver recipe before, but back then, my blog was a little bland. A little unspecific. And, probably, extremely ill edited. So, I thought it warranted a repost. After all, this most perfect union of meat, fat, and onions can’t really be posted enough, can it?
Okay, you can stop staring me down. After this year, I won’t post it any more.
Chopped Liver

Ingredients:
2 lbs. chicken livers, rinsed in a colander until the water runs clear
4 onions, sliced
1/4 lb. chicken fat (Or 1/4 cup ready made schmaltz)
about 15 pitted prunes
1/3 cup Marsala wine
1/2 cup cream
salt and pepper, to taste

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1) Put the chicken fat in a pan over medium low heat. You want the fat to melt very slowly, so it doesn’t burn. This is called rendering the fat and will result in crispy skin(gribenes), and liquid gold(schmaltz). If the liquid starts to turn golden brown or give off a strong aroma, turn down the heat immediately.

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2) When the fat is melted (about 20 minutes), remove the gribenes and pour the onions into the pan.

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 3) Turn the pan on medium high and really fry those onions. You don’t want a golden brown color, you really want a darkly caramelized and fried color. This will likely take at least 25 minutes.

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Chicken skin sexy photo shot break…these would be great crumbled up over hot popcorn…okay, now back to the recipe!

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When the onions look like above, take them out of the pan to drain on a paper towel, but leave the pan on the stove.

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 4) Dump the chicken livers into the pan, and…

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saute them until they look like this – a rather unappetizing grey. It will take around 15 minutes. You know you are done when you cut into the largest liver and the middle is just BARELY a pale pink. This isn’t the time for rosy red livers.

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 5) Put the hot livers in your food processor.

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 6) Add your prunes.

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 7) As you start the processor, drizzle in your wine…

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 and your cream.

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 8) When the pate is smooth, put it in a large bowl. Add a hefty amount of salt and pepper (the liver REALLY needs a good amount of salt),

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 and the onions.

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 9) Now mix with a spoon and taste, taste, taste! Is it too bland? Add more salt. Too acidic? Puree up a few more prunes with some cream and add the puree to the dish. Too sweet? Time for some more Marsala. When the liver tastes good to you, wrap the bowl in plastic wrap and store it in the fridge for at least 3 hours or up to overnight. The flavors will really develop over this time.

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 10) Serve. 
This is rich – like, Warren Buffet rich. Some people dig it on bagel chips, but I prefer mine with celery sticks and endive spears – some crisp, clean vegetable that really showcases the decadent nature of the meat. This is not overtly liver-y. It is really rather mild as far as pates go, thanks to the prunes and cream. The onions add a chewy, crunchy element and the Marsala adds a tang and depth that only alcohol can truly give(don’t worry, the heat of the liver cooks the alcohol in the processor). This is just so great. Anyone who has never had chopped liver will like this. Anyone who has ever had chopped liver will LOVE this.

And forget what I said above. I am totally going to post this recipe every year. It’s just that great.

Fatta Cuckoo: The Best Restaurant You’ve Never Heard Of

Restaurants like Fatta Cuckoo are why I am in love with NYC. A tiny restaurant, only big enough for a few stools and tables, offering haute Southern food at incredibly reasonable prices. I hadn’t ever heard of it, and still wouldn’t if it weren’t for my social media guru friend and dining partner-in-crime who both invited me there for a tasting. That is because the chef refuses to spend any money or time on advertising that could better be spent on the food itself. Chef Chris Mitchell, of The Breslin and The Meatball Shop, is making his stamp on the New York food scene by staying true to his beliefs: fresh food, local vendors, and the Southerm flavors of his youth mixed with the sophistication of his classical training. He spent time with us during the meal and explained every dish, talking about how each element worked and what inspired him. Though I can’t imagine that he does this for every diner, his love and commitment to making each dish a wonderful experience must surely be on every plate.

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The restaurant is, as aforementioned, diminutive, but the causal space manages to feel comfortable and hip. Be aware that none of the seats have backs, so this may not be ideal for someone who needs a lot of room or back support during the meal. But, if they can suck it up, your friends will be in for an very special gustatory experience.

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 Sweet Potato Hush Puppies with Chili Lime Aioli
All summer Chef Mitchell prepared dish with sweet corn, but when corn went out of season, he refused to buy frozen or subpar corn. His solution was to use a sweet potato in the batter instead of the corn. Tiny brunoised sweet potatoes, creamy and soft, melted into slightly sweet cornmeal batter. The result was a light hush puppy, crispy on the outside and  fluffy on the inside. The fritter could have been a dessert with powdered sugar, but the zesty chili lime aioli brought the dish to a savory place. The fact that the vegetables were brunoised shows Mitchells’ commitment to quality – it takes FOREVER to brunoise vegetables, but that is the only way to make sure that there is texture to the potatoes and that they are all cooked through evenly. No one saw the tiny, even dices of sweet potato, but the perfect way that the croquettes were fried were the result of that attention to detail. This sweet and savory starter was just the beginning of a sensational meal.
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Black Bean Soup with Roasted Poblano Crema and Crispy Tortillas
Any dish that is remotely Mexican piques my interest, and this black bean soup was the best I have had in recent memory. The soup was hearty but not heavy, with a slow burning spice that made it perfect for the wintry night. The poblano crema was creamy and smoky without being too spicy, and the crispy tortillas…well, when is anything crispy not delicious, right? I could have eaten a bowl of this, easily. Or two.
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 Burrata and Fried Egg over Roasted Tomato Sauce with Chile Oil
The flavors here were all wonderful – milky burrata, rich egg yolk, spicy chile oil, and deeply earthy roasted tomato sauce. Though I would have preferred the tomato sauce to be hot instead of room temperature, the combination of flavors was so rich and totally comforting that it won me over. The chile oil was especially important in keeping this dish bright and interesting.
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 Lobster Ravioli with Marechiara Sauce with Lemon Zest and Chives
This was my second favorite dish of the night. The homemade ravioli was tender and thin, but with a bit of chew that contrasted with the sweet lobster and fresh chive filling. The natural salinity of the lobster was complimented by the spicy tomato sauce and that incredibly fresh, vibrant lemon oil. The lemon oil was a total shocker – it made the tomatoes sweeter, the lobster richer, and really electrified the whole dish.
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 Butternut Squash Risotto with Fried Sage and Butternut Seed Oil
I’ll be frank: this dish blew my mind. I have had butternut squash risotto, and this had all the qualities of a good one – creamy rice, sweet squash, a touch of woodsy sage. But the butternut squash seed oil knocked this out of ordinary territory right into the hall of fame. It tasted reminiscent of both peanut butter and tahini – deep, nutty, meaty. A little went a long way towards giving the dish depth. I plan to make this at home and experiment with other roasted nut oils – it was a major eye opener.
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 Three Chile Rubbed Pork over Sweet Potato Mash with Roasted Pasilla Chile Sauce
THIS was the dish of the night. Maybe the dish of the month. This is undoubtedly the best pork loin that I have ever eaten, mostly because it was cooked perfectly – medium rare. Not at all red, but rosy throughout, so it retained the inherent sweetness and tenderness of the pork. This was almost as succulent as pork belly, but without any of the salt or smoke. It was purely sweet, pure pork flavor, surrounded by a zesty, peppery spice rub and lacquered in a smoky roasted chile sauce. This was not hot at all, just spiced – someone who doesn’t like incendiary food could certainly enjoy this. The mash, creamy and sweet, were another example of how Mitchell loves to use what is in season. The sweet potatoes absorbed the pork’s many juices and that wonderful roasted chile sauce.
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 Braised Short Ribs over Sweet Potatoes
Want to see what perfection looks like?
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This. This is what a perfectly cooked short rib looks like. Melting off the bone, with booming beefy flavor within and a sweet/salty BBQ glaze without. Roasted sweet potatoes, with their mineral-y skin on sopping up all the luscious bovine juices. This is a standard on the menu, and the regular portion is Flinstone sized, replete with a giant bone. I can’t make better short ribs than this.
You have no idea how much it pains me to admit that.
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Dessert Sampler with Coconut Cake, Key Lime Pie, Cheesecake, Lemon Pistachio Cake, and Tortoni
Well, this was a great way to end a gut busting meal – with four slices of delicious cake and a sweet, almondy ice cream. The lemon pistachio cake was particularly wonderful – dense, moist, and more rich than sweet.

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Fatta Cuckoo is a hell of a spot. The food is seasonal, locally sourced, and outrageously delicious. The portions are huge. The prices are fair. Perhaps most importantly, the chef is a guy whose establishment you want to patronize. He so loves food, he loves feeding people, and he loves doing it in a responsible, seasonal way.

And all that is why Fatta Cuckoo is the best restaurant you have never heard of. Until now.
Fatta Cuckoo on Urbanspoon*Note: My meal was paid for by the restaurant.  I was not paid or required to write a review, and my opinions are my own and, I feel, impartial.*

Tuscan Hummus

Contrary to popular belief, the great equalizer isn’t education. It’s hummus. Have vegetarian friends? They can eat hummus. Same goes for people who can’t eat dairy, wheat, or nuts. It doesn’t cost a lot of money to make a huge amount. It also couldn’t be easier to make and it’s pretty damn delicious, to boot. That said…If I never see another pita chip again, it may be too soon. Sorry, but the thing about hummus is…since it is so great, everyone does it. It’s time to jazz up hummus, to give it new life and make it sexy and mysterious again. It’s time to take it to San Remo, drive it down the Italian Riviera, and bring it back in its new European outfit. It’s time for:
Tuscan Hummus

Ingredients:
2 cans cannellini beans, drained
3 Tbsp. jarred pesto (be sure to find one without nuts if you are serving those with allergies)
1 head roasted garlic
1/3-1/2 cup apple cider or tomato vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
Special Equipment: Food Processor

 1) Dump the beans into the food processor.

 2) Toss in the pesto.

 3) And the garlic
You guys doing ok? I know, I’m really intimidating with all of the incredibly technical recipes I show you on the blog.

 4) Vinegar. Add it. Be aware, you may need up to 1/2 of a cup of vinegar by the time the hummus is to your liking. But start out with 1/3 of a cup. You can always add more later.

 5) Start the food processor, and slowly drizzle in the olive oil. You won’t need much because the pesto has oil in it.

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Just drizzle a bit in until the hummus becomes a consistency you like – I prefer a consistency that is mostly smooth, but not too thin. Transfer to a container and refrigerate the hummus for at least 3 hours, or up to overnight. Taste for seasonings before serving, and add more pesto, oil, or spices as you see fit.

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 6) Serve.

This hummus is a showstopper. I served it with a drizzle of chile-infused olive oil on top, but it is delicious just on its own. The beans are creamy and mild, and the roasted garlic adds the deepest, sweetest flavor to the dip. The jarred pesto is – if I do say so myself – the genius of this recipe. Two little spoonfuls and you get the most incredible, unmistakably Italian flavor of sharp Parmesan cheese and earthy basil. The vinegar is the kicker here – its brightness and acidity adds another dimension to the hummus.
That’s what this recipe does all around – it adds another dimension to hummus. It is elegant, it is hearty, it is healthy, and it is really, really tasty with a breadstick or crudite.
And, let’s not forget…hummus is the great equalizer.
I know, I taught you that…you’re welcome.

Kimchi Latkes – Happy Hanukkah!

Hanukkah starts on Monday, and boy am I ready! I might be too old to get gifts anymore, and I know that the blue and silver tinsel around my house has nothing on a fully decked out Christmas tree, but latkes…yeah, I got latkes. Standard latkes, Moroccan Latkes, and…now…
Kimchi Latkes
(because, really, who doesn’t need more fermented cabbage in his or her life?)

Ingredients:
3 potatoes, grated
1 onion, grated
1/4 cup kimchi, chopped
1 – 1 1/2 cups flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup cilantro and 1 serrano chili, diced
sour cream
gochujang*
sesame oil or sesame chili oil
vegetable oil in which to fry
*gochujang is a Korean hot sauce that is made with chili, rice, and fermented soybeans. It is slightly spicy, but also nutty, earthy, and a little sweet. You could always use Sriracha or Sambal Olek in place of this, but you won’t get the same complexity or subtlety of flavor that you get with the gochujang. You can get it in upscale grocery stores or Asian grocery stores.

 1) Combine the potatoes, onions, cilantro, and serrano pepper in a bowl.

 2) Put the mixture into a paper towel, and squeeze the moisture. This is a VERY important step, or your pancakes will be mushy and not crisp properly.

 3) Take the kimchi (which I like to cut with kitchen shears)

 and blot it with a paper towel to remove excess moisture. It doesn’t have to be super dry here, just not sopping wet.
That’s what she said

 4) Add the kimchi, eggs, and 

 flour to the potato mixture. 

 5) Combine with a fork or your hands until a thick mortar is formed. 

 Add more flour if necessary. You need the flour to work with the eggs to bind the pancakes.

 6) Heat some oil in a skillet over medium heat.

 7) Drop a small lump of latke mixture into the pan – it should sizzle when it hits the oil. Mash the latke down with a fork to make it thin, so it has enough time to cook on the inside. Thick latkes = raw potatoes.

 8) When the latke is golden brown on one side (about 2 minutes) flip it, and cook it until it is crispy on the other side. Then remove it from the pan, and place it on a paper towel-covered plate to drain.

 9) In the meanwhile, combine the sour cream, gochujang, and sesame oil. I like to use a 1.5:1 ratio of sour cream to gochujang with just a splash of sesame oil, but you do what tastes good to you.

 When it is all combined, the sauce should be a lovely orange-y color.

 10) Serve.

These are really pretty outstanding. Somewhere between a traditional Pajeon and a classic latke, these are crispy on the outside and tender on the inside – like the hash browns of your dreams. The kimchi becomes soft in texture and mild in taste when it is cooked, removing the overt fishiness kimchi can have, but leaving behind a pleasantly salty, tangy taste. The cilantro is herbal,and the diced serrano adds heat to the potatoes and sweet onions. These latkes are perfect on their own, but the dipping sauce really takes it over the top. The cool sour cream and nutty, deep sesame oil play well off each other. The gochujang adds heat and a bit of funky umami flavor. This would be delicious with sliced flank steak or maple salmon
Of course, it also goes great with that well known party game “Spin the Korean Dreidel.” Happy Hanukkah!