Bistro 14 – Making the Rehearsal Dinner the Main Event

When you go to a rehearsal dinner, you are mostly praying for free-flowing wine, food that is thoroughly cooked, and not to be seated next to a creepy groomsman. It’s no use to pray for the food to actually be good, because that just never happens. Except at this wedding. Thank you, Jamie and Larry, for being totally and completely obsessed about food.

Bistro 14 is a globally inspired eatery on Long Beach Island that specializes in the fresh seafood and produce of the area. It is open year round, but in the off-season, only on weekends. The feel is beach elegant, with an airy, wood paneled room with many windows.

Chowder

Whatever you do, whatever you order, GET THIS CLAM CHOWDER. For some reason, the folks on Long Beach Island make a fantastic clam chowder.. The clams are large and sweet, with a pleasant chew and a totally clean aftertaste. The broth is briny and acidic, brimming with fragrant celery, tangy tomatoes, and lots of sharp black pepper. This clam chowder isn’t anything new, but it is made so well that it seems like it is. If only every restaurant in NYC took such care with its clam chowder, I wouldn’t be so thrilled when I tried clam chowder here.

But, as fate would have it, I was.

Green Salad with Crostini

A few salad leaves, some fresh cucumbers and Jersey tomatoes, and some tart, bright vinaigrette. Nothing special, but again, something done with care. The vegetables are crisp and fresh and crisp, the dressing is applied sparingly, and the crostini is spread with light, creamy goat cheese that is none too grassy or funky. It works for people who love goat cheese and people who are wary of it.

Grilled Local Scallops, shrimp, and Crabcake with Herbed French Fries and Coleslaw

Seafood so good I would swear I was at a clam shack in Massachusetts or Maine. Succulent scallops, broiled until just cooked through, so rich that they required no butter. Large shrimp, expertly cleaned and absolutely as sweet as sugar. When I have shrimp like this, it reminds me why I’m not kosher. The crabcake is another winner, with large, mild hunks of crab combined with herbs and mayonnaise until they form a moist, satisfying cake. They don’t’ skimp on the crab here, and put enough seasoning in the mix to complement the crab, making it sweeter next to the savory garlic and herbs. The cocktail sauce is rather insipid, and the tartar sauce unmemorable, but the coleslaw was creamy, tangy, and perfectly crunchy. The French Fries are another winner – overtly garlicky and piping hot, but not too salty. I would have cleaned my plate if my boyfriend hadn’t “generously” offered to help me with my fries and crabcake…thank you?

Bistro 14 hosted a really great rehearsal dinner and I have no doubt that the food is just this delicious when you dine here a la carte. The chef was there at this dinner cooking, overseeing, coming out to chat with the bride and groom…it was a totally hands on situation. He is proud of all the food he puts out, and he should be. The price point is very reasonable, especially to someone coming from Manhattan, and if the service was like it was at this affair, it is more than competent. I mean, this restaurant did the impossible ..it made the rehearsal dinner part of the main event.

Bistro 14 Restaurant and Raw Bar on Urbanspoon

Western Bacon Cheeseburger Pancakes

Wednesday was National Pancake Day…how great is that?! In honor of it, I invented a pancake recipe of my own. Something a little heartier, a little sassier, a little more…perhaps…ridiculous…than standard hotcakes. Some might say it reminds them of a burger from a certain West Coast fast food chain. Some might say it reminds them of a gluttonous nightmare. Most of you are going to say it’s a perfect way to celebrate this tasty holiday.

Western Bacon Cheeseburger Pancakes

Ingredients:

prepared pancake batter (enough for about  6 pancakes)

4 strips bacon, chopped

1/3 lb. ground beef

2/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese

2/3 cup French fried onions, plus more for garnishing

sesame seeds for garnishing

1 tbsp. grill or bbq seasoning

bbq sauce to serve

1. Cook the bacon over medium heat until it is very crisp.

2. In the meantime, combine the prepared pancake batter with the cheese, spices,…

and fried onions.

3. Mix to combine.

4. When the bacon is cooked, add the ground beef and cook until it is totally browned and cooked through. The remove most of the beef with a slotted spoon, leaving the drippings in the pan.

5. Move the beef in the pan into a small circle…

6. And layer about 1/6 of the batter over the beef. Top it with a few sesame seeds (a hamburger needs a sesame seed bun, right?!).

7. When the batter looks like this, with little bubbles all the way around the edge of the cake, flip it.

Ta-da!

8. Repeat steps 5-7 until all the pancakes are cooked.

9. Drizzle with bbq sauce, top with extra fried onions, and serve immediately.

These are a gluttonous fat kid delight. The pancakes are fluffy and savory. Crispy bacon, juicy spiced beef, gooey cheese, those delightfully salty fried onions…who wouldn’t like this?! Be sure to use a good quality bbq sauce here, because it really brings the pancake-burger hybrid together. This is insanely and guiltily tasty. Try it and you will be hooked.

Now, I just can’t wait for national foie gras day…foie gras pizza, anyone?

 

Cassoulet

One of the best things about visiting France for the first time is realizing how wrong you are about so many things. They don’t hate Americans. They don’t all wear Chanel. And the don’t all smell like rotting brie cheese.

Well, some of them do, but 11 year old boys don’t like to shower in this country, either.

One of my favorite things about visiting France was realizing that not everyone eats tiny crudites, expensive champagne, and tasting menus every night. There is a whole world of rustic, hearty, rather inexpensive French food. Food that you eat with family, drinking table wine, laughing and dipping spoons into each others bowls until you rise from the table, bellies ready to burst and eyes ready to take a wonderful fat-and-carb induced slumber.

Cassoulet is such a dish. This rustic pork, duck, and bean stew is everything I don’t associate with Paris – heavy, overt in taste, somewhat clumsy in serving. And yet I love it.

Don’t leave anything out, especially duck. That is the only really expensive part  this dish, but it serves such a large amount of people that it is totally worth it. Use a wine that you love to drink, so you can drink it with the meal. I used a Tarquiet Chenin-Chardonnay. This wine has the dry, crisp notes of chenin blanc blended with some buttery, yeasty flavors of chardonnay. It really stands up well to the pork without overshadowing the other flavors.

Cassoulet (adapted from Saveur)

Ingredients:

60 oz. cannellini beans

2 onions, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

10 tbsp.  olive oil

5 cloves garlic, smashed

1 lb. pork shoulder

1⁄2 lb. pancetta, cubed

1 bunch thyme, tied with twine or thread

4 tbsp. dried oregano

2 bay leaves

3 cloves, tied in a cheesecloth, or 2 tsp. ground cloves

1 28 oz. can whole peeled or crushed canned tomatoes

1.5 cups white wine

4 cups chicken broth

4 confit duck legs

1 lb. ground pork

2 cups panko bread crumbs

4 tbsp. melted butter

3 tbsp. each salt and pepper, plus extra to taste

1. Put the ground pork, the pancetta, the onions, the garlic, and the carrots into a large dutch oven with the olive oil. Let it sautee and steam until the pork is totally cooked through, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 325F.

2. Strip the confited meat off of the bones, and take the skin off. The skin should come off easily. Save it and set it aside.

3. Add the meat to the dutch oven,and, meanwhile…

4. Cube the pork into 1 inch pieces or thereabouts (removing excess fat and saving for future use),

and then add it to the dutch oven.

5. Add the beans, stock, wine, and tomatoes…

then the spices and herbs. Bring it to a rolling boil over high heat.

6. Set it to cook in the oven, covered. Do not disturb for 3 hours.

7. In the meantime, put the reserved confit skin in a skilled over medium low heat. Let it cook for about 40 minutes, or…

until you have this. Crisped duck skin, a pool of gorgeous duck fat, and an incredible smell wafting through your kitchen.

8. Chop up the skin…

and mix the skin and butter with your panko bread crumbs.

9. By now your stew should be pretty much cooked. Taste it. Does it need more salt, more spice from the cloves? Does it need more acidity from wine? Adjust it as you see fit, and have a bite of the pork to make sure that it is extremely tender. It should be so delicious that you literally start drooling immediately. If you do…

Add the breadcrumbs to the top…

and bake for 30 minutes, or until the top is browned and fragrant.

10. When the juices start to bubble through the top of the breadcrumbs, the cassoulet is done.

11. Serve, mes petits, serve.

There is nothing cool or reserved about this dish. It is entirely out loud and unapologetic. Porky and sweet and tart and rich and savory. Creamy beans, tender pork, crisped bits of pancetta. Juicy tomatoes, the gentle spice of cloves, and the crispy, butter breadcrumbs.

Serve this with the leftover wine, or any other spirit that suits your fancy.  Eat it with a a light salad and top off the meal with some buttery shortbread cookies and coffee.

Or, just plan to finish off the cassoulet instead of dessert.

Eating like Paul Bunyon – betcha didn’t know France had it in her.

*The wine was provided to me as a sample. I was not required to use or write about it, and my opinions are my own and unbiased.*

Have a Meaningful Fast

Today is Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. I will be observing the holiday with my family, and wish everyone who is observing to have a meaningful fast. I will be back tomorrow with a recipe involving pork – just as any good Jewish girl would do the day after atoning for a year worth of sins.

See you tomorrow!

PS – I promise that this is the last Jewish Holiday break for the year…we like to consolidate our holidays into a short time period!

Jacob’s Pickles – Pickles and Pork on the UWS

The Upper West Side is home to some great whitefish and – now – some down home spicy southern cooking.

Jacob’s Pickles is a sprawling, brick walled restaurant on the UWS. It specialises in homemade pickles, artisanal  beers and cocktails, and good old-fashioned southern food. Though it is almost always packed, it is large enough to be seated without a wait, and also takes reservations. When I was there on date night, I saw a group of girls there for girls night out, friends coming out after studying at grad school, and a couple of families with young kids. This place really runs the gamut – more family oriented earlier in the evening, and a place to grab a few beers and get a little rowdier later and on weekends.

Allagash White

This beer is just as described – crisp, light, and extremely food friendly. It has enough of a yeasty, wheaty taste to stand up to spicy, hearty dishes, but is not so strong as to bitter or overly heavy. This is a winner among beer experts and novices alike.

Home-made Pickles

Hot Sours – sour and spicy pickles, with only a little heat. It is mostly spicy, and definitely not too hot for anyone who is a spice wimp.
Candy Red Beetsthese converted my boyfriend, a self-confessed beet-o-phobe, to a beet-o-phile. Sweet, thin sliced but with an al dente bite, and a bit tangy. These would be fabulous with a chunky blue cheese dressing, but they were also great on their own.
Sweet and Spicy Carrots – tender but with a bit of crunch at the center, these are a standout on a table full of delicious pickles. Gently spiced with what tastes like harissa, cumin, and maybe a touch of cinnamon, they are earthy and extremely fragrant. They give off a middle eastern taste that is entirely unexpected and at the same time harmonious.
Thyme Jalapeños – tasty, but the weakest of the bunch just because they were the least innovative. You can get similar things to these spicy, piquant peppers in the grocery store, whereas the other pickles are all totally unique.

Orange zest country sausage fresh cut fries,braised cabbage, spicy brown mustard

This sausage is coarsely ground, not smooth, tightly packed breakfast sausage. It is rustic and hearty, with a strong porky taste mixed with bright orange and a few of licorice-y fennel seeds strewn without, The fries are exemplary – fresh cut, skin on, and crispy, but even better is the cabbage. A soft mound of it, sweet and juicy, lays under the fries. So delicate and resh tasting, it is like sauerkraut’s more genteel sister. Delicious and perfect to cut through the fat of the sausage. Eat it with some of the accompanying mustard for a bracing punch of flavor.

Shrimp and bacon grits whole wild shrimp, bacon cheese grits

These shrimp are cooked with the head, then deveined and shelled for your dining pleasure. Briny and full flavored, these taste overtly like seafood - a bit muddy for me, but my companion wolfed them down. They are served in a garlicky,m savory broth and ladled over smooth, creamy grits strewn with crisp bacon and redolent of smoky pork fat. Pork and shellfish have a natural affinity for one another; the sweetness, saltiness, and smokiness balancing each other out, and when combined with luscious polenta, the combination works well yet again.

Jacob’s Pickles is heartily recommended. Service is fast and friendly, the vibe is relaxed, and the seriously long beer and cocktail ist is worth coming back for alone. But the food is so delicious and fairly priced, you won’t be able to deny ordering some pickles and a pork products.

 And what’s a better follow up to an UWS bagel and schmear than some shrimp and grits?

Jacob's Pickles on Urbanspoon

Leeks Vinaigrette (And Global Bazaar Ticket Winners!)

For a recent bistro themed meal, I needed a light side dish that would cut through the fatty main course but was heartier than a salad. Preferably something that could be cooked ahead of time then kept at room temperature for the duration of the party so it wouldn’t take up room on the stove.

It should also be classically French because, heaven help me, I love a theme.

I turned to leeks vinaigrette because it is a dish that is so easy to prepare. It takes awhile to prep, but after you are done cutting and cleaning, the cooking is a breeze. This recipe serves bout 4 people as a side dish, but double or triple or deca-tuplet it – it is so easy to do! It is delicious hot, room temperature, or cold, and can easily be made vegetarian. everyone loves this, even people who are funny about onions, and most importantly…it’s as French as Chanel.

Leeks Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

2 bunches leeks

2 boxes chicken stock

1 cup your favorite vinaigrette

1. Chop the long, husky, green ends off the leeks and the roots, so you are only left with the white parts. Take off any hard or bruised outer leaves, then slice the white parts into small rings.

2. Fill a large bowl with cold water, then plunge the leeks in there, swishing them around in the cold water, and let them sit for about 5 minutes, while the dirt sinks to the bottom.

Really get in the water, separating the circles, making sure the leeks are clean. You may need to spill out the water, then repeat the process a few times. It’s worth it for non-gritty leeks.

2. Pour the chicken broth in a large pot, and add the drained, cleaned leeks.

3. Set to boil for 30 minute, or until the leeks are very tender, almost melting, with no fibers.

4. Drain leeks.

5. Add the vinaigrette, and eat immediately or let come to room temperature.

6. Serve.

These leeks are what is refered to as “melted”, because they become so soft and smooth. They are incredibly healthy, but taste indulgent – almost fatty in their richness. They have none of the pungency or overly sugary overtones of raw or caramalized onions. They are something all their own. Savory, light, filling, and somewhat earthy, the way that turnips or potatoes are.

They soak up the vinaigrette, with ads brightness and a bit of salt to the naturally sweet leeks. They cut through fatty stews, they are delicious layered on bread with ricotta, and they are even great the next day served atop a pizza.

And they are unequivocally french.

Long live the theme.

 AND…

The winners of the pairs of Global Bazaar tickets are (taking into account 2 comments that were not available to win the prize – and it was only done through 19 comments, but I had some problems copy and pasting here…)

True Random Number Generator


10Powered by RANDOM.ORG

Lisa

and

True Random Number Generator


19Powered by RANDOM.ORG

Melody

*Winners must contact me by 4 pm today with their full names and email addresses so they can get tickets! Otherwise, prizes will be released to other people.*

Travel and Leisure Global Bazaar Giveaway!

What’s the last time someone tried to give you free tickets around the world?

Never, right?

Well, how about the next best thing?

via

This year, Travel and Leisure magazine is taking over the Lexington Armory from September 28-September 30 for it’s Global Bazaar.

This is a travel show times ten.

On steroids.

Plus hula dancers and cooking demonstrations.

This 3 day festival is going to be a gastronomic and travel extravaganza, with days for families, a night with parties, and more. Check out this schedule:

Friday, Sept. 28

8PM-11PM
Session I: Kick-Off Party

via

*Enjoy food from chefs like Jose Andres, Scott Conant, and Michael White. Visit global food trucks with authentic dishes from around the world, and sample all sorts of cocktails (by such high end companies as Patron Tequila) and wines(i.e., Layer Cake vineyards). As you dine, enjoy live fire eaters and belly dancing performances, and shop to your heart’s content from artisans sourced from Morocco, Sri Lanka, and other exotic locales – you won’t find this stuff at Duane Reade! Don’t miss hanging out in the Global Sky Club lounge by Delta and talking to representatives from the Easter Islands, and Taj Hotels.*

Saturday, Sept. 29

1PM-5PM
Session II: Global Bazaar by Day

More of the same…

8PM11PM
Session III: Global Bazaar at Night

…and you know you are going to want more of those Patron cocktails.

via

Sunday, Sept. 30
11AM-3PM
Session IV: Tribe Family Opening

This one is all for the kids! No booze, no age restrictions (you must be at least 21 to attend the other sessions), and lots of interactive installations. Dance, sing, eat, and have fun with the little ones!

Of course, these tickets are rather pricey – about $125 per event. That includes all food, booze, and entertainment, but hey, it is still expensive. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to go to any or all events for free?

YOUR WISH IS GRANTED

(Darn it, wish I had a little genie costume for moments like that!)

via

I have 2 sets of VIP All-Access tickets to give away for the event. That means you get into any event, all weekend, for FREE!!!

Just leave a comment in the comment section, and you could be the winner of 2 tickets! The winner will be chosen at random this Sunday at 8 pm, and will be announced MOnday, September 24.

Good Luck!

*Disclaimer: I have partnered with Travel and Leisure to provide this giveaway. I am attending the event for free, but am not paid for my participation.*

Zesty Eggplant Rollatini

I know that you want to give into autumn, sit down with a whole pumpkin pie, and pull out your fat pants.

So do I.

Don’t do it!

Resist the urge with this totally comforting and savory dish that is so spicy, cheesy, and melty, that it will make you forget that there are no refined carbs in there. It is gluten free, vegetarian, and kosher, too.

What’s more, it is easy. Take shortcuts with your favorite jarred sauce if homemade isn’t readily available. Choose herbed goat cheese rather than spend time mincing garlic and stripping thyme off h the leaf. Don’t bother salting and draining the eggplant, since the sauce and cheese will cover any slight bitterness

You actually can sit down with this whole dish and eat it, relatively guilt free.

Be sure to slice the eggplant quite thinly – too thin is ok, too thick is like chewing a shoe sole.

Zesty Eggplant Rollatini

Ingredients:

2 eggplants, washed and cut lengthwise into 1/8 inch slices

1 log herbed goat cheese, room temperature

16 oz. skim milk ricotta cheese, room temperature

1 container mushrooms, cleaned and quartered

1 bunch each basil and Italian flat-leaf parsley, washed and chopped

1 jar your favorite pasta sauce

1 tsp. olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Lay the sliced eggplant on a foil lined sheet and bake at 330F for 20 minutes, turning once halfway through. No seasoning, no olive oil, no nuthin. This is solely to dry out the eggplant so its water doesn’t dilute the sauce, and to make it flexible enough to roll.

The finished eggplant will look golden and even charred in parts. Set aside to cool.

2. While the eggplant cools, mix the goat cheese and ricotta in a bowl…

and mix in the herbs. Combine, then taste it and add salt or pepper as needed.

3. Add the olive oil to a pan over  high heat, and when it ripples add the mushrooms. Sautee for 10 minutes, or until they are lightly browned and have softened slightly.

4. Add the tomato sauce to warm it though, and then…

5. Put a layer of sauce over the bottom of your baking dish. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350F

6. When the eggplant is cool enough to handle, place about 1/2 tablespoon of the cheese mixture at the broad end of the eggplant, and then…

Roll it…

Up!

7. Place in the bottom of the baking dish, seam side down, and continue rolling until the eggplant and/or cheese is used up.

Don’t worry if the eggplant tears a little or if the cheese seeps out of the ends.

8. Cover with the tomato sauce, and bake for 1 hour, or until the tomato sauce has thickened and deepened in color, the cheese is melty, and the whole dish is bubbling.

This is comfort on a plate. The eggplant becomes velvety and soft, and the skin caramelizes at the edges, turning crispy and sweet. The tomato sauce deepens in color and taste, turning almost piquant and spicy, blending with the creamy ricotta and goat cheeses. The dried herbs and depth and the fresh herbs add a punch of brightness. The finishing touch is the bite of beefy, toothsome mushrooms.


I love this with pasta or garlic bread, and a green salad finishes this off nicely.

Yeah, I know that I said this was a no carb meal.

Maybe you should get out those fat pants, after all.

Jayson’s Pancake House – the Biggest Breakfast in New Jersey?

A destination like Long Beach Island has many breakfast options, all with cute names like “Gertrude’s Pankake Haus” and “Uncle Stevie’s Roadside Grill.” So many choices can be confusing, there is always the feeling that you are missing out on the sweetest cinnamon rolls, the freshest eggs, and the cutest knickknacks on the windowsills.

While on the quaint island for a wedding, the groom told us to check out Jayson’s Pancake House, saying that it served some of the most delicious pancakes in town. He swore on it so much that he came there to eat. On his wedding day.

If the man trusts this place to fortify him on the most important day of his life, the least I could do was trust him.

The restaurant is extremely quaint – a totally predictable beachside eatery with checkered curtains, sweet servers who often work at 2 different restaurants in town during the summer, and steaming cups of coffee brought round as soon as your tucchus hits the seat.

Eggs with Scrapple and Toast

2 eggs, cooked until the whites are firm and the yolks are thick but still runny. 2 pieces of wheat toast, served with mound of creamy whipped butter, melting into rivulets on the crusty bread. Scrapple, crunchy without and creamy within – onions and pork prevalent, blending well with the sweet maple syrup served alongside. Perhaps the most memorable component of this dish are the homefries – almost like Greek fries, they are thick cut and very crisp, with fluffy, buttery innards. Barely salted, they are purely potatoey, somewhere between chips and fries, and totally delicious when dipped int he egg yolk and some hot sauce.

Silver Platter Breakfast

This has most of the same food that I had (as well as some very fluffy, light, none too sweet pancakes), but in gargantuan portions. Enough to feed an entire army. Enough to feed an entire nation. Enough to feed a groom and a best man.

Maybe this meal was just great because we were celebrating the wedding of two great people. Maybe we were made hungry by the sea air. But I don’t think that’s all that it was. I think that the food here is really great, honest food, served by kind servers at very reasonable prices. Bring cash and bring your appetite.

And if you finish that silver platter breakfst…bravo to you!

SuzhiZen – I Know Good Sushi

When I see a bunch of business people in suits walking into a Japanese restaurant, I know it must be expensive. When I see a bunch of Japanese businesspeople in suits speaking japanese, playing with phones that look like they are from a future century, and chatting with the server like they dine all the time at said restaurant, I know it must be really tasty, too.

My sister took me here, and though she and I often have different tastes in where to dine, I could see that she picked a winner here from the moment I walked into the large, sleek restaurant. The vibe is elegant and hushed – it struck the perfect balance between business casual and serious foodie destination. From the second we were brought warm towels to wipe away the grime of the city, I knew that this was an ideal sister date.

Corn Tempura

I would have walked right past it if good ole sissy hadn’t pointed this out. Buttery kernels of corn were encased in a light, crunchy tempura batter, The soft sweetness of the corn contrasted beautifully with that crunchy tempura coating. The dipping sauce, enlivened by fresh ginger and turnip, was salty and savory next to the positively sugary corn. A few leaves of minty perilla were thrown in there, fresh and herbal in the crisp coating. There were not soggy or blackened pieces here – just simple ingredients prepared to showcase the corn.

Fried Duck Roll with Duck, Shiitake Mushroom and Ginkgo Nuts

A very crispy, somewhat thick wrapper around juicy, earthy duck meat, mushrooms, and the sweet crunch of ginkgo nuts. The tangy hoisin and spicy mustard accents the duck, and it arrives piping hot, which brings the aromatic ginger of the roll to the forefront. This is hearty, but served in such a small portion that it is a perfect appetizer for lunch. Highly recommended.

Spicy Tuna and Yellowtail Scallion Rolls

What can be said about excellent sushi? That the fish is pristine, luscious and fatty when called for, lean and clean when it is appropriate? That the rice is room temperature and sticky/sweet,  contrasting with the crisp, nutty nori? That the wasabi is freshly grated, delivering a spicy and citrusy punch? That the soy is thick and almost sticky, complex and umami with the clean, simple fish?  It is all that, without a question.

It is a bit more than that though. Good sushi is about a serene atmosphere. It is about gracious service and beautiful surroundings. It is about losing yourself in the art of sushi and truly having a sensory experience.

This is not cheap but it is incredibly taste, and fairly priced.

A great date with a sister or with anyone else who knows good sushi.

Sushi Zen on Urbanspoon