Archives for January 2013

Casa Pomona – Tasty Tapas on the UWS

Casa Pomona is a relatively new restaurant on the Upper West Side that specializes in tapas.

When I was invited there for a press meal, I was curious to see if authentic Spanish food had finally found its way uptown.

The restaurant is large and spacious, with a minimalist, rustic decor and a fun, throbbing vibe. It’s casual but not divey, and has a bar that is perfect for a glass of wine and a cheese plate.

Tortilla

This Spanish dish of eggs and potatoes is a traditional tapas food and it is done well here. A crispy, browned crust cuts open to reveal thin potato slices layered with softly scrambled eggs. The dish is creamy and fluffy, interspersed with garlic and parsley. This is as comforting as hash browns and eggs in the morning, but has those pungent flavorings that really take it all the way to Spain  Ask for some of the restaurant’s aioli with it and you will add another layer of smooth, garlicky goodness.

Mussels en Escabeche

These marinated mussels are by far the best seafood dish on the menu. They are well cooked, plump and sweet. Served cold and dressed with dices of cucumber and tomato in a vinegary dressing, they manage to be fresh and slightly salty without being dried out. These are excellent for anyone who likes mussels or doesn’t like garlic – this is one of the few dishes in the restaurant that doesn’t include a huge amount of garlic.

 

Croquetas with salt cod and potatoes

These are good, if not revelatory. They are served hot and properly crispy, with a creamy filling that is quite pronounced in its cod flavor – not a turnoff for me, but not the choice for people who are funny about fish.

On a related note, the fish options here are the weakest ones. Rubbery octopus and a very mushy, iodine-y and overly saffron-ed risotto disappointed at a meal that otherwise was extremely tasty. Stick to land and air based tapas here and you will be far more satisfied.

Gazpacho blanco

A major hit. The gazpacho here consists of almonds, bread, olive oil, grapes, vegetables, and a TON of garlic. The result is a cold soup that is crisp, rich, and garlicky. It is topped with a smooth olive oil that rounds out the sharp garlic’s edges and brings out the sweetness of the grapes. If you like garlic, this is a MUST GET. I am still dreaming of it.

Albondigas

Oxtail stuffed meatballs. What else can I say that will make those sound even better than they already do? A substantial meatball that seems to have pork in the mix breaks open to reveal almost jammy oxtail that is sweet, savory, and as close to meat jam as one gets. The meatballs are served in a deep, spicy sauce that has the taste of long roasted tomatoes that have turned sweet and almost meaty themselves. Use the crisply fried potato chips to scoop up the rest of the sauce. I know I did.

Patatas Bravas

Huge chunks of fried potatoes served with spicy tomato sauce and creamy aioli. Yeah, that’s what I thought, too: freakin awesome. Crispy, creamy, salty, spicy…all those things at once.

Grilled grass fed hangar steak with sauteed mushrooms, swiss chard, and onion marmalade

A good, if not great, steak. It is tasty, but as so much grass fed beef is, a little tough and lacking the full flavored iron-y beefiness that grain fed beef has. The mushrooms and chard cooked a la plancha are awesome – meaty, substantial, and fulfilling in a way that usually only meat is. The sweet and sour onion marmalade is also excellent. If you like grass fed beef, this might be right up your alley.

All in all, Casa Pomona offers a really tasty meal. I hope that they get a different seafood provider and figure out the paella, because most of the tapas were absolutely delicious. The gazpacho, meatballs, and patatas bravas were especially memorable. Stick to the meaty tapas and a glass of cava, and you will be extremely pleased. Spain might not quite be at the UWS yet, but it has at least gotten a whole lot closer.

*Disclaimer: This was a press meal. I was not required to write about my experiences, and the opinions are my own and unbiased. 

Top Notch Breakfast at the Hob Knob

Okay, it’s time for just one more Martha’s Vineyard restaurant.

It isn’t really a restaurant, it’s the breakfast part of the bed and breakfast where my mom, sister and I stayed while we were there.

The Hob Knob is an adorable bed and breakfast in Edgartown. It has individually decorated rooms, luxurious linens and bath products, and a nearby farm where it gets nearly all of its produce and dairy.

Plus, there is wifi in every room. This is a bed and breakfast done right.

Especially the breakfast part.

Each stay here includes the first meal of the day in the room price, and with a meal this good, it really is the most important one. Check out the food porn:

Fresh Fruit

As you sit in the eccentric-upscale-homey (yes, that’s actually how I would describe it) dining room, you will be brought fruit. It isn’t anything exceptional, but he attention to detail and presentation is lovely.

Blueberry scone

Don’t bother to count carbs here. The scones are things of beauty. Soft, airy, and served warm, they are on the sweeter side of scones. They taste like the top of a blueberry crumb muffin – sugary, buttery, perfect with a pat of melting butter.

Eggs and bacon

The soft boiled eggs, served in vintage egg cups, are served alongside sourdough bread and thick slices of salty, smoky bacon. Like all the meat here, the bacon is locally produced and the eggs are procured from the farm down the street. They are truly delicious – creamy, firm white surrounding a fluorescent orange yolk, intensely buttery and rich.

Rum Soaked French Toast

The french toast is custardy and almost spicy, spiked with cinnamon and nutmeg. It is served with coarsely ground sausage that is moist and porky without being overly greasy or fatty. Dunk  a piece of the toast in the real maple syrup and the spicy, sweet, intense taste of the rum fairly explodes.

The Mag-a-Muffin

This take on eggs Benedict is a little lighter than the original. Fresh farm eggs are poached and served atop ripe tomatoes, Canadian bacon, and an English muffin. It’s satisfying without being heavy and it’s very tasty. That’s what having such fresh ingredients does – it elevates everything. All the tastes are crystal clear and sharp – rich egg, sweet tomato, salty meat, and yeasty bread. Totally in sync and totally delightful.

The entire Hob Knob experience is totally delightful. It isn’t cheap, but the service is excellent, the rooms are lovely, and the food is really delicious. The next time you head to Martha’s Vineyard, book yourself a room here, because the only way that you get the breakfast is to book the bed.

Cajun Chicken Pasta – My Precious

This blog is not my only day job.

That’s right, I’m a food writing slut. I write for Bites, for Vagobond, for Northeast Flavor, and for Whisked Foodie, to name a few.

Of course this blog is my baby. My precious.

Not to get all Gollum on you or anything.

But, sometimes I write pieces for other outlets that are REALLY too great not to be shared here. So, I’d like to share with you a recipe that I created for Whisked Foodie. The version that I will include here has been slightly altered, but it’s almost the same thing.

The same awesome, tasty, delicious thing.

Cajun Chicken Pasta Salad (slightly adapted from Whisked Foodie)

Ingredients:

3 cooked chicken breasts, shredded

1 pound fusilli, cooked
2 bell peppers, cleaned and diced
1 bunch scallions, cleaned and diced (white and green parts)
1 bunch celery, diced (hearts only, all the way up to leaves)
1 package frozen green peas
1 ½ teaspoon sundried tomato paste OR 1/4 cup diced sundried tomatoes
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup barbecue sauce
Cajun seasoning, salt, and pepper to taste

1. Combine the bbq sauce, mayo, spices, and sundried tomatoes/tomato paste in a bowl. Mix well, and taste for seasonings. You want a really aggressive spice on this. Also, make sure you buy unsalted Cajun seasoning. You want a lot of garlic and some heat, but salt should be added on your own.

2. Put the diced veggies into a large bowl.

3. Add the marinade.

4. Add the peas, chicken and warm pasta. The pasta must be warmed so that the marinade is fully absorbed. Stir and let it sit in the fridge for at least an hour or up to overnight.

5. Just before eating, taste to adjust the seasonings and serve.

This stuff is good. It’s a down and dirty kind of recipe, with things like frozen peas and leftover chicken breasts. It’s creamy, tangy, and more than just a little spicy if, like me, you choose Cajun seasoning with lots of garlic powder and cayenne pepper. This should be served just a bit below room temperature, which lets the peas show their sweetness without making the mayo taste warm and gloopy. The chicken could be seen as optional, but it really bumps up this dish to full meal status. The secret is the sundried tomato paste. It adds a sweet, salty, umami-blast of flavor.

This dish, like my blog, might not be fancy.

But it, like my blog, is indeed…

my precious.

Bodega Potato Soup

I’m a lazy, lazy person.

I have admitted it here before, and I’m about to admit it again.

Though it might seem like I cook all the time, I really don’t. I love to go out to eat, and sometimes, I even love to go to the local corner deli and get a quick turkey sandwich and a bag of chips eat while watching the premiere of some horribly embarrassing tv show.

Don’t worry, I haven’t sunk so far as to start watching Buckwild.

One of the best items at any NYC corner deli is a stuffed baked potato. These are always huge and tasty, chock full of tender broccoli, salty bacon, and always loads of cheese. They usually warm it in the pizza oven, so the skin gets uber crispy while the insides stay creamy. And did I mention these are huge?

That’s where this recipe came from…a leftover over-stuffed twice baked potato. You can use, in its place, mashed potatoes, a frozen twice baked potato, or any cooked potato at all.

The only requirement is that you stay in your pajamas the entire time that you cook it.

It’s that kind of lazy recipe.

Bodega Potato Soup

Ingredients:

1 leftover stuffed baked potato/1 cooked twice baked potato/1 cup mashed potatoes

1 cup frozen cauliflower, microwaved until soft

2 tsp. butter

1/2 onion, diced

1/2 cup shredded cheese

assorted seasonings (cayenne pepper, cumin, bbq seasoning, etc…)

1/2 to 2/3 cup of milk (or to taste)

1. Melt the butter in a stockpot over high heat, and throw in the onion to get translucent. Sautee for about 10 minutes.

2. Add the milk and seasonings. Cayenne pepper is especially useful here, but adding things like curry, herbs de Provence, or dried thyme take the soup in any direction you like.

3. In a few minutes, the milk should be bubbling and starting to scald. Now…

4. Add the potato…

and the cauliflower. That should stop the milk from bubbling up so furiously. If it still bubbles like crazy, reduce the heat a bit.

5. Now stir in the cheese, and let the soup cook for about 5 minutes.

6. When everything is heated through and the taste is to your liking, puree in blender until smooth. You may need a bit more milk, since the soup will thicken up quite a bit (but not too much…the thickness is part of the whole deal!).

7. Top with a blanket of shredded cheese and serve.

I told you this was really easy. You don’t often think to use up leftovers – at least, I don’t – and this really uses a leftover potato to great effect. The soup is thick, creamy, and very flavorful. Whatever is mixed into the potato just enhances the soup with bits of broccoli or small shards of crunchy bacon. Don’t forget the seasonings – this is such a rich and milky soup that it needs a lot of flavor so it isn’t bland.

When done right, this should be a thick and cheesy bowl of comfort.

To be enjoyed while watching Buckwild.

Come on, you already knew I watched it.

Also:

 the winner of the cheese giveaway is :

True Random Number Generator

21Powered by RANDOM.ORG

 Sarah M. Shaker! Congratulations Sarah, I will contact you shortly to get you your prize!

Cabot Cheese Giveaway!

Let’s keep this post short and sweet, shall we?

I want to give you some cheese.

Well, to be perfectly frank, Cabot Cheese and I want to give you some cheese.

Check out their awesome Facebook page, too!

You may have seen me tweeting the heck out of a Cabot Cheese giveaway over the holidays. You may have seen me in the grocery store with a few blocks of Cabot in my grocery cart. That’s because Cabot cheese is just plain awesome. It is real, wholesome cheese that is carefully crafted and made without any weird chemicals or additives. They have interesting and well done flavors – the habanero flavor is so spicy that it actually makes MY eyes tear, and the cloth bound cheddar is as complex as Italian cheese and just as delicious – sharp and salty with calcium grains that melt gently on the tongue.

Even better, the farm is a co-op. That means that farmers and their families own and operate the system. You aren’t giving money to some huge corporation manufacturing Franken-food, you are giving it to real people who love food and want to give you a quality product.

And, if you live in NYC, they want to give you this product for FREE

 (sorry, this contest is only open to residents of NYC, so I can get the winner his/her cheese in solid form versus a melty, cardboard box-induced moldy state after 3 days in the mail)

All you need to do is leave a comment in the comment section and you will receive:

1 block of seriously sharp cheddar cheese

1 block of  extra sharp cheddar cheese

1 block of sharp light cheddar cheese

1 Cabot cheese apron

1 Cabot cheese slicer

Trust me, you want this cheese. It’s ideal for grilled cheese, mac and cheese, or just eating in slices with an apple on the side. This is really good stuff.

Like I said, just leave a comment saying that you want some cheese. And, at 9 am Monday, January 14th, the contest will close and I will choose a winner, and have the cheese messengered over to him/her.

So comment away and try some cheese!

*Disclaimer: I was offered the chance to do this giveaway by Cabot. I was gifted some cheese but am in no other way compensated, and my opinions about the product are my own and unbiased. *

Sweet Potato Hash

I don’t really like sweet potato pie. And because of that, I thought I didn’t really like sweet potatoes.

But I was wrong. And if you think you don’t like sweet potatoes, because the only way that you have ever had them is pureed into a cinnamon heavy pie or buried under gooey marshmallow sludge, you might be wrong, too.

That’s why I am so glad that I took a chance, and, in the process, liberated the sweet potato from its overly sweet confines.

This recipe is easy, it is very versatile, and it is so tasty it will blow your mind.

Feel free to toss in some fresh spinach, mushrooms, or cherry tomatoes at any time in this process. Quite frankly, some bacon would be damn good here too.

Of course, everything is just a background flavor to these tasty potatoes.

Viva sweet potatoes!

Sweet Potato Hash

Ingredients:

3 small sweet potatoes, or 2 large ones

1 onion, diced

1 or 2 serrano chilies (depending on how spicy you like food), diced

1 clove garlic, diced

1/4 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Pour the oil into a pan and set it on high heat. When it starts to “wave,” add the onions and garlic, then turn the heat down to medium high. This allows the onions to start frying without burning the garlic. Let this go for about 10 minutes, or until the onions start ot turn golden and are dark brown in some spots.

2. Cut the well washed potatoes into small chunks, so they cook quickly. No need to  peel them – the skin tastes great!

3. Add the potatoes to the pot…

and stir them so each one is slicked with oil. Then, cover the pan with a lid, and walk away for 15 minutes. Only check on them if there is a distinct smell of burning or tons of smoke in your kitchen.

4. When the potatoes are soft when punctured with a utensil, remove the lid and…

add the jalapenos. Now turn the heat back to high and let the potatoes cook for another 10 minutes, occasionally stirring.

See those lovely browned spots? That’s just what you want.

5. Serve.

Preferably, by the way, with a fried egg and pancakes, like I did. This is so tasty. The potatoes are sweet and soft, complimented by crunchy shards of fried onions and the absolutely fiery heat of the jalapenos. The small chunks of potato soften when the lid is on the pan, then immediately crisp on the outside when the pan is uncovered. It’s the perfect combination of crispy-tender, salty-sweet, spicy-smooth. Serve it with some Greek yogurt and you are in business.

 And that’s the story of how I liberated the sweet potato.

Bites and Sips Around the City

There is just one burning question every New Yorker needs to know (now that we know that Dan was Gossip Girl):

What are the tastiest snacks, bites, and drinks around town, and where can you get them?

Read on, hungry city dweller:

Hummus Plate at Le Pain Quotidien

Ah yes, this upscale coffee shop/bakery does more than just great breakfasts. Order the hummus plate and you will be surprised at how tasty it is. The hummus is thick and lemony, slick with fruity olive oil. The kalamata olives atop are juicy and soft, the perfect salty counterpart to the hummus.Also on the plate is garlicky, almost velvety babaganoush and quinoa tabouleh that is earthy, herby, and chock full of juicy tomatoes and diced onions. The sour wheat, crusty white, and sweet raisin breads served alongside complete the dish. This is enough for a very satisfying lunch or a shared snack plate among 3 friends. It’s amazing how well this Belgian place does a middle eastern plate.

Foccacia de Recco at Rosemary’s

This locavore west village restaurant is a little too pricey for what you get, but there is one thing worth trying here. The foccacia filled with milky, creamy stracchino cheese is among the best breads in the city. Your order arrives piping hot, slick with slightly spicy olive oil and topped with grains of coarse sea salt. When you tear a chunk off the bread, the first scent that hits you is the rosemary, deep and woodsy. Then, the tantalizing smells of yeast and spicy olive oil hits your nostrils. The taste is as good as the aroma. The bread is pliant and soft, with a thin crust, punctuated by sharp rosemary needles. The inside is filled with that mild, creamy cheese, so soft that it makes mozzarella look hard and pungent. This is like grilled cheese on steroids, and it’s worth a visit to the restaurant to try this.

Any cocktail at The Dutch

I have been here several times, and each time have ordered a different cocktail. Every single one has been exemplary – well balanced, interesting but but not different just to be weird, nuanced and also pronounced in all the right places. The bartenders are knowledgeable but not snobby, and have no problem recommending something that you will like. The bar is small but comfortable and the vibe is extremely laid back. Of course, also order something to eat, but this is a great place to get a little tipsy before dinner.

Beef Carpaccio with Truffle Oil at Slightly Oliver

I know I have talked about this place before, but it deserves more mention because I just love it. The cocktails, the  faux-British vibe, and the tasty small plates make this a real gem on the Upper West Side. This carpaccio, made with tender slices of beef and dressed with a peppery arugula salad with a tiny fried quail egg and toast, is a perfect appetizer or even light meal. The addition of truffle oil just elevates it. Mushrooms and beef are always a win, especially when the beef is filet mignon and the mushrooms are truffles.

#winning

Taim – How Have I Not Tried This Amazing Falafel Before Now!?

Ugh…this is just like that humiliating Shake Shack experience. Why did it take me so long to get to Taim?! I love falafel. I love casual places. I love to eat…why didn’t I go here sooner?!

Just like when I realized what I had been missing with Shake Shack …the embarrassment may never leave me.

Taim is a tiny storefront in the West Village. Really small…only a few seats at the window, and even those are cramped and tiny. It’s best to get takeout or, on a nice day, eat outside. It is possible to sit comfortably if

But however tiny and cash only this place may be, it’s worth it.

The falafel is outstanding.

Falafel Sampler

An uber popular choice that lets you try the three flavors of falafel offered here. Be sure to dip the balls in the creamy tahini, a middle eastern sesame paste that is somewhere between peanut sauce, tzatziki, and heaven.

Green: with parsley, cilantro, and mint. This traditional falafel is special mostly because of its texture – dense and moist, with a very thick, crackly crust. The taste is classic middle eastern, fragrant with the parsley and mint. The hit of cilantro adds a welcome, sharp flavor.

Harissa: mixed with Tunisian spices. This is my favorite flavor. It has the same marvelous texture as the green but with the added slight heat of harissa, one of my all time favorite hot condiments. The paste is fiery but earthy at the same time, akin to a less smoky chipotle. The harissa falafel elevates the chickpeas, adding fire and salt. It isn’t super hot, just a bit spicy for those of us who like to mix it up.

Red: mixed with roasted red peppers. This tasted a lot like the original green falafel, but with less of that fresh taste of cilantro. the red peppers were not noticeable in the taste of the falafel and this was probably my least favorite. That said, it is still heads and tails above most other falafels in town.

Falafel Platter

The way to go if you eat in – if you are going to walk as you eat, go for the more user friendly sandwich. This comes with a selection of those wonderful falafel balls, fresh Israeli salad, a wonderfully lemony tabbouleh, and a few pieces of the most tender, fluffy za’atar dusted pita bread on the planet. No exaggeration, it is the best pita bread I have had in ages…it’s enough to make me realize why Israel is called the holy land.

Be sure to help yourself to some of the sauces served alongside, including the oily, garlic laden s’rug (like chimichurri) and the addictive spicy-sweet mango sauce called amba.

Fried Eggplant

It’s oily. It’s messy. It’s soft and slick and might be too much for some people.

Some people who have no tastebuds.

This overload of creamy, fatty, eggplanty-goodness put the meal over the top. Be sure to get an order.

The food here is incredibly cheap, especially for the quality. Everything is made fresh to order, the staff is courteous and extremely adept, and the food is really, really good. They have a food truck. They have a restaurant. They even have another sit down restaurant that has now made it to the top of my list. There is no reason that you can’t go get some of that falafel this week, right?

Take it from me…to wait one more day before you try Taim is one day too long.

Wine and Roses – A Serviceable UWS Wine Bar

The West Village is full of quaint, interesting wine bars that offer a great selection of wine by the glass, tasty small plates, and excellent service. The Upper West Side? Not so much. So, when a friend suggested we check out Wine andRoses a few months ago, I was all about it. After all, a gal needs her wine.

Said like someone who self medicates.

The small restaurant is well laid out, with plenty of windows, a few high tables, and a large bar that comfortably seats many. We went for brunch, so it wasn’t insanely busy, but I could see how a place like this could get hopping on a weeknight after work.

We started with mimosas which were were, while unexceptional, tasty. They used good sparkling wine, neither too sweet nor too dry, that mixed well with the the tart, thick orange juice. Too many places screw up mimosas, so this was a pleasure.

Watermelon and tomato stack with feta and balsamic glaze*

Like the mimosa, nothing unexpected, but a very tasty dish. The watermelon is juicy and sweet, making the tomatoes more acidic, earthy flavors come ot the forefront. The feta is creamy and salty without being bitter, and the thick balsamic glaze adds tang. This just shows that when food is done well, it need not be complicated. 

Flatbread with  wild mushrooms, mascarpone and goat cheeses, and white truffle oil

An excellent flatbread. A crispy, crackerlike crust topped with meaty sauteed mushrooms and a combination of slightly funky goat cheese and buttery mascarpone cheese. It is topped with salty, nutty shards of fresh Parmesan cheese and a drizzling of truffle oil, heady and rich. This is light and satisfying at the same time.

The only issue I have with this place is the pricing – its a bit high for what you get, which is good but not destination worthy. However, it’s one of the only establishments of its kind in the hood. The service is, if not overly friendly, competent, and the wine by the glass selction looks lovely. While I wouldn’t run here again, I would stop by if I was nearby and desperately craving a glass of prosecco.

Once again, said like someone who self medicates. 

 *Yes, this eatery was visited so long ago that tomatoes were still in season. Yeesh. 

Momofuku Noodle Bar – Unique Ramen and Rockin Buns

It’s hard to have a restaurant in NYC that is cool and relevant for even a minute. If you have one for years? Along with an ever expanding empire, a name in the media, and a highly acclaimed magazine? Well then, you are probably David Chang. The man behind the Momofuku has several restaurants, all of which are still so cool that you will have to wait a minimum of 25 minutes, no matter what time of day you walk in. Don’t expect his restaurants to be traditional, but do expect them to be delicious and very inventive.

Case in point: Momofuku Noodle Bar.

This long, light East Village restaurant is always packed, but the tables turn quickly. Expect to be jostled as you wait for your seat (don’t forget to put in your name with the host), and then consider yourself lucky if you get a booth. Most of us are sat at a long, high communal table with stools without backs. Just FYI.

Brisket buns with horseradish mayo, pickled red onions, cucumber, and lettuce

Having already tried the famous pork buns, I went with the brisket buns this time. Wow. Really, really awesome. Very tender brisket, with a melting layer of fat, smoky as if it was on the BBQ, but soft as if it were cooked the Jewish way. Layered on a soft, sticky bun with cool veggies and creamy, hot horseradish mayo, this really hits the spot. It also prepares you for the rest of the meal – not traditional, not totally Korean OR Japanese OR anything else…just totally Chang. 

Chilled spicy noodles with sichuan sausage, spinach,a nd candied cashews

Stop the presses. This may be my new favorite noodle dish in NYC. 

The noodles are incredibly springy and al dente, with just enough give to absorb the mouth numbing, lip tingling, nose running house made chili oil. The sausage is hot and juicy, filled with Sichuan spices that are warming and aromatic. The spinach soaks up more of that delicious chili oil and even the cashews – not my favorite nut – were a welcome crunchy, sweet note. The portion is extremely generous and the flavor is well balanced. I really can’t say enough about it.

Mint Chocolate Cake Truffles

Not my favorite cake truffles, as they are a bit aggressive in the mint department, but still tasty enough to gobble down whole.

A lunch here will cost you about $20, but I am shocked to say that it’s worth it. The ingredients are high end, the food is really unexpected, and it is so tasty. I am craving those noodles as I write this and can’t think of another ramen in town that is more unique or better balanced in terms of flavor. Add to that excellent, fast service, and you have a restaurant that will absolutely last the test of time.

Actually, it already has.