Archives for May 2013

Tasty Lately

Where am I eating and what am I loving?

That’s what she said

pix 076 Make your own mac and cheese at S’mac

I have waxed poetic about this place before. The have a plethora of totally delicious macaroni and cheese options ranging from the simple to the extravagant. However, you can also make your own dish, which turns out just the way you want it. My version, with mozzarella, cheddar, ground beef, roasted tomatoes, and scallions, was absolutely epic. Creamy and stretchy and tangy. Spicy ground beef, juicy tomatoes, and a really nice sharpness from the scallions. unfortunately, I will probably never eat it again..choosing from the gigantic list of mix ins means I simply have to try something new every time!

pix 001 Baked clams at Esca

I have been holding out on you. There is one restaurant that I never, ever blog about. I leave my camera at home, order a Negroni, and eat myself silly. The restaurant is Esca. The chef, David Pasternack, fishes for and cooks the best seafood in the city. The pastas are non pareil. The crudos are sublime. And the baked clams are always delicious. This iteration is topped with garlicky ramps and buttery Ritz crackers, providing the lemony, buttery, spicy sauce of my dreams. The clams are soft and salty beneath their crunchy, buttery topping.

Go here. Or don’t…that way, it’s easier for me to get a reservation.

pix 042-001 Harbison cheese by Cellars at Jasper Hill

I tried this cheese at a Whole Foods cheese and wine event and it blew. my. mind.

This is like Camembert on incredibly creamy, earthy steroids. This gal is bloomy, earthy, and really savory. This simply CRIES out for a glass of prosecco and a warm baguette. Or you could wrap it in puff pastry dough and bake it.
pix 041-001 But with cheese this tasty, you don’t need to gild the lily.

Heavenly Mushroom Ragout

I was so surprised and annoyed to learn that my mushroom ragout recipe didn’t transfer from my old blog to this current one. A reader pointed it out to me, and Nicole, I am so grateful to you! Republishing this recipe is a no brainer – it’s one of the greatest, most versatile recipes in my repertoire. This Madeira scented mushroom ragout is going to send you to fungi heaven.

And don’t tell me there isn’t such a place. After all, I don’t rain on YOUR religious parades.

 Mushroom Ragout

2010-09-07 mushroom sauce

Ingredients:

1 lb.cleaned and roughly chopped assorted mushrooms (these are chanterelle(silky and mild), bluefoot(woodsy and meaty), and that classic favorite button

2 tbsp. butter

1 small onion, diced

1/3 cup Madeira or Marsala

3 sprigs thyme

1 glug Worcestershire sauce

salt and pepper to taste

1. Sautee the onion in the butter over medium low heat until the onions are tender and have JUST started to turn golden brown. You don’t want to fry them into action, you want to seduce them into submission.

2. Add the mushrooms.

The mixture will cook for about 35 minutes. This process simply can’t be rushed. This is how long it takes for the mushrooms to gently soften and release their moisture and for the onions to become jammy and sweet.

Don’t be impatient here. A tough, undercooked bluefoot mushroom is the worst thing in the world.

Well, besides leprosy. 

Those are the two worst things in the world.

3. Now, add the thyme leaves, Worcestershire sauce, and wine. Cook for about 15 minutes or so, until the mixture has further reduced and the smell is intoxicating.

4. Taste for seasonings and serve

This is such a fulfilling meal. Meaty, savory, herby from the thyme, rich from the wine, and comforting but not at all heavy. I love it with a dollop of sour cream stirred in at the end, making in velvety and creamy. You can serve this in so many ways, including…

-with Parmesan over polenta

-with poached eggs and toast

-with chicken and mashed potatoes

-over rare steak

-with a spoon and a hunk of bread, standing over a pot and praying no one comes in and expects you to share

It’s vegetarian(if you use vegetarian Worcestershire sauce), it’s simple to make, and though it’s a little pricey, it’s a great show-off dish for a dinner party.

Toldja heaven existed. 

My Best Friend’s Wedding – A Scottish Feast

My Best Friend’s Wedding isn’t just a movie anymore.

It’s actually one of my favorite memories.

My best friend in the world recently married the love of his life. There were kilts. There were tuxedos. There were bagpipes and tears and about a thousand iphone photos.

There couldn’t be a lovelier pair of grooms.

And the reception introduced me to a restaurant I absolutely must try again.

Highlands is a modern Scottish gastropub in the West Village. The menu items and cocktails we had are usually on the menu at some point or another, and are indicative of the type of food that is served here.

That is, to say, hearty and tasty.

The restaurant itself is chic and old fashioned at the same time. It’s so  cute it might as well be in Brooklyn. This is a fantastic date spot.

pix 080 French 75 with cucumber gin, prosecco, lemon juice, and sugar

A classic cocktail made new with the addition of cucumber. Light, bubbly, and crisp, with just a touch of sweetness and the faint juniper taste of the gin.  The lemon juice makes the drink pop at the finish. This is as good as many drinks I have had at craft cocktail bars.
pix 083 Cullen Skink

This smoked haddock chowder packs a punch. It has the consistency of great New England clam chowder but with a smokier, saltier taste. Velvety and savory, with tender potato and soft pieces of haddock. This is for someone who really loves seafood, but if you are fan of smoked whitefish you might just love this soup. I certainly did.
pix 084 Oysters with mignonette

Simple but superb. Fresh, creamy Massachusetts oysters topped with a savory bacon and shallot mignonette sauce. The salty, acidic flavors make the sweet side of the oyster shine. These could not be fresher or more perfectly shucked. I would absolutely come here for a dozen or two of these with a french 75.  Outstanding.

pix 085 Mini beef and pork pies

I mean, are you kidding me!? These are cute, portable, and totally tasty. Flaky, buttery puff pastry surrounding savory beef and potato or juicy, slighlty sweet pork and sweet potato. These aren’t greasy or salty, they are just like what you would make if you had endless time and pastry talent. I ate about 4 of these and could have eaten more.

Fabulous food, lovely atmosphere, what looks like fair prices…what’s not to like? Even if this wasn’t my best friend’s wedding, I would like Highlands. But it will always be the place where my best friends celebrated their love.

So I guess I’ll always love it.

Highlands on Urbanspoon

The Indescribable Corner Bistro Burger

There are some experiences that defy description:

The first time you hold a newborn baby.

Crossing the stage and receiving your diploma.

The way the sun feels on the first really warm day of Spring.

And going to Corner Bistro on a Saturday night to have one of the best burgers in town.

pix 090 I’m talking about the original Corner Bistro, not the lovely clean, easy-to-access one in Long Island City. This one is dark, dingy, and as crowded as a John Mayer concert circa 2002. People stand in line for an hour or more, unless they can grab bar seats. Be sure to get in the back of the line unless you want a stern rebuke. It is hot, loud, and sweaty. The scent of sizzling meat and beer fills the arena. People are hungry, tired, energetic, and ebullient.

It’s really quite perfect.

pix 094 As you inch up to the front of the line. you can see burgers being cooked in a large, salamander-like device. The meat goes in as rosy domes and comes out burnished a robust brown. 
pix 096 Bistro Burger

Very much like the one in Long Island City. Thick and juicy with a thickly charred crust and a really deep, meaty flavor. Crisp bacon, tangy american cheese, and a thick ring of onions. But this tastes more real somehow. Darker, wilder, more authentic. Maybe it’s due to the waiting around or the gin and tonics in my system, but this is always a fantastically satisfying burger. It’s hearty enough to be fancy but cheap enough to be lowbrow.
pix 097 Fries

Shoestring. Mouth-burningly hot. Perfectly salty and perfect IN ketchup.

pix 095 You are going to wait forever to sit. When you do get a table, you’re gonna be crammed in there like sardines in a tin. The service is fast, more than competent, and if you are sitting you had better damned well be eating and drinking.

And with some of the greatest late night burgers in the city, you will be.

Corner Bistro…so great that words can’t really do it justice.

Corner Bistro on Urbanspoon

A Meaningful Memorial Day

Fritos and Foie Gras will resume its normal blogging schedule tomorrow, but today I want to take the time to thank all those, past and present, who have served in our armed forces.

I love BBQs and white sales as much as anyone, but Memorial Day is really about remembering people, who devote themselves to preserving the American way of life.

My paternal grandfather was an immigrant fleeing persecution. This was at a time that many countries were turning away refugees, and his chances for survival in his home country were nonexistent.  If America had not welcomed him with open arms, I wouldn’t even be here.

So, thank you to the men and women who believe in the American dream and ideal so much that they are willing to fight for it. Thank you for protecting our freedom.

Have a meaningful and wonderful Memorial Day.

Dishes Worth Mention

It’s time for one of my favorite types of posts – a round up!

I love these posts because it lets me highlight individual dishes that I have snapped over the last few weeks – dishes that I wouldn’t write about in their own reviews but that are still worth mention. 

Dishes like these:

VLUU L200  / Samsung L200

Everything on the cocktail menu at Kittichai

I have only been here twice, and the 4 cocktails I have had have all been spectacular. The tiny bar area is comprised of a small bar and a few low tables. The cocktail list changes seasonally, but whatever is on the menu includes fresh fruit purees, high end liquors, and herbal infusions. Anything with lychee or passionfruit is a great place to start. The beautiful setting isn’t stuffy or uptight and the bartenders are happy to create a cocktail based upon flavors you like. It’s a tasty way to set off an evening in SoHo.

VLUU L200  / Samsung L200

Financier at Financier

The namesake pastry at this mini chain is one of my favorite treats in the city. Similar to a vanilla scented madeleine, it is buttery, sweet, and perfect with a cup of hot chocolate. Tender and finely crumbed, it is moist within with delightfully crunchy corners. It’s well priced in a beautiful location that’s perfect for an afternoon repast with the girls. Or the boys! 

pix 007-001 Prawn and pork cheek skewers at Rouge et Blanc

Why haven’t I eaten here sooner?! And why didn’t I stay longer than for just a drink and a few appetizers?! Ah well, regrets are regrets, and one thing that I do NOT regret is this plate of Southeast Asian savories. The prawn and pork cheek are ground together to make an addictive sausage – moist and tender, with a faint saltiness that makes everything savory without being overtly seafoody.  Cooked on sugarcane, they have a faint but wonderful sweetness. Finally, frying them in crispy panko coating adds a crunchy textural component that makes the dish stand out. The tamarind vinaigrette is wonderfully sweet, spicy, and sour – it really balances the meaty skewers. The decor is beautiful – colonial Vietnamese inspired – and the service is charming. Run here, don’t walk!


And with that, I bid you all a great weekend!

Deja Vu with Plein Sud

Here’s one from the archives – since I visited, the chef has left and my pictures have CERTAINLY improved, but  it still might be worthwhile to give the place a try!

Despite a dismal NY Times review, I decided to check out Plein Sud for lunch.  Run (at the time) by Top Chef alum Ed Cotton, Plein Sud is an upscale casual brasserie in the Financial District.  It is a large, laid back space with a quiet elegance about it; perfect for a business lunch or casual brunch.

Bread

The bread deserves special mention. Thick, tangy slices of sourdough embedded with salty, meaty green olives. Smeared with creamy butter, it is an auspicious start to the meal.

Celery remoulade with apples

Unfortunately, this version of one of my favorite dishes is like a bad drunk – a little coarse, a little dull, and totally sauced.  The mayonnaise is far too cloying.  It dulls the naturally crisp, clean flavor of the celery root, and there is nowhere near enough acid, salt or pepper.

Chilled Leeks

Served in this light vinaigrette with just a sprinkling of chives, these are refreshing, light, and savory.  Simple but very well done.

Lentilles Ravigote

Delightful.  Served in a vinaigrette with chives, shallots, and hints of capers and chervil, the lentils take on these bright flavors beautifully.  It tastes simultaneously fresh and earthy-something not easily achieved!  This appetizer plate is ample enough to be a light meal all on its own!

 Thai Mussels with  coconut milk, lemongrass,  and madras curry, with French fries.

Fantastic. The fragrant lemongrass really elevates the combination of the sweet coconut milk and mildly spicy curry.  The cilantro ties in both the Indian and Thai elements, and the mussels are just perfect.  Sweet, ocean scented mussels wading in a spicy, rich broth that is so good I asked for a spoon to finish it off!

The fries are also first rate.  Served PIPING hot, with a light cornstarch coating and a dusting of parsley, these avoid salt overload.

Plein Sud is a delicious meal!  A few missteps, but far more hits than misses.  It is reasonably priced, well prepared food in a lovely atmosphere with excellent service.

Or at least it was when I went…seems like it’s time for a re-visit!

 

Plein Sud on Urbanspoon

Summer Balsamic Bruschetta

This is a time sensitive recipe.

Make it for the next 4 months or forever hold your peace.

This MUST be made with late spring/summer tomatoes. 

It MUST be made with the sweetest Vidalia onions. 

And it MUST be made repeatedly all summer long. 

Shall we begin?

Summer Balsamic Bruschetta

2013-05-16 pix1 Ingredients:

1 large or 2 small heirloom tomatoes, peeled and chopped

1/2 small Vidalia onion, finely diced

1/4 cup fresh unsalted mozzarella, diced

1/4 cup basil, cleaned and chiffonaded

1 garlic clove, peeled but whole

4 slices of thick country bread

2 tsp. balsamic vinegar

2 tsp. salt

photo_5 (2) 1. Combine all ingredients except garlic and bread, stir, and let marinate at room temperature for at least 20 minutes. That lets all the flavors mingle and marry.

photo_3 (3) he tomatoes will leach lots of juice because they are salted, but don’t worry – that’s the point.

cooking and bfast 035 2. Toast your sliced bread in the broiler until it is quite brown and charred in spots. Then, rub it with the clove of garlic, like here. That really starts to perfume the bread without making it overtly garlicky. 

photo_5 (3) 3. Pile the salad atop the bread and serve. 

This is super simple and super delicious. The balsamic vinegar is the secret – it adds a deep, umami flavor that brings out the best in the sweet onions, earthy tomatoes, and fragrant basil. Be sure to use the best mozzarella you can find – burrata would be sensational here! Actually, use the best of everything you can find. Since there are so few ingredients in this bruschetta, each one must be perfect.

One more must here – 

You must eat at least 3 helpings of this. 

Quick and Spicy Cheesy Grits

This post was written before the devastation in Oklahoma. Sending best vibes and thoughts to those caught in the disaster. Visit here to find how to help.  

Don’t think that something instant can’t be wonderful.

Instant oatmeal? Awesome

Instant messenger? Addictive

Instant road rage relief? The person who invents this is going to be a millionaire and a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

5 minute grits fall into this category of “instant and great.”  They are way faster to make than the traditional stuff, but are still creamy and satisfying, and – bottom line – can be made last minute.

When you add mix ins, these get even better.

So, if you have 15 minutes and some ingredients on hand, you have a side dish of which you can be proud.

Quick Spicy and Cheesy Grits

2013-05-16 pix Ingredients:

1/3 cup quick cooking grits

enough chicken broth to make the grits, according to the package directions (probably about 1 1/3 cups)

1 jalapeno, diced

1/3 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1/4 cup cleaned and diced cilantro

4 scallions, diced

salt and pepper to taste

garnishes like sour cream, hot sauce, and/or avocado

pix 002 1. Prepare the grits according to directions. Be sure to stir when the grits start to thicken so they don’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
pix 003 2. In about 5 minutes, or after the grits have gotten thick, like this, turn off the heat.
pix 004 3. Now, just dump in the mix ins and stir.

pix 005 4. Taste for seasonings, and…
pix 006 5. Serve

This simple recipe has become a staple in my repertoire. The cheese melts into the grits, making it gooey and tangy. The warmth wilts the cilantro, releasing it’s fragrance. The jalapenos are spicy; tempered by the cheese and the avocado. The real trick here is to use chicken stock when you make the grits. That adds a strong backbone that really enhances the corny taste. This is awesome with bbq chicken or as a side to taco salad.

It’s not only  grits, it’s instant joy.

Dominique Ansel’s Dreamy Caneles

I’m going to Paris this summer and I can’t wait. The sights, the streets, the shopping…and the food. Oh the food. There is nothing like eating in France. You can cook the same recipes here in the US, but the ingredients just aren’t the same. Sometimes, though, when I am lucky, I taste something that really reminds me of Paris.

pix 025 Like every single thing that I ate at Dominique Ansel Bakery. This tiny bakery, with a few tables and backyard garden, is the namesake of the baker who made his name with Daniel Boulud. He is known for his rich, authentic Parisian pastries and delicious desserts. He is also known for his croissant-doughnut mashup called the cronut, but I didn’t wake up early enough to snag one of those.

pix 026 In fact, lots of his pastries run out early in the day, so set the alarm clock if you have your heart set on something particular. Don’t worry, the bakery sells made to order madeleines throughout the day.

pix 027 Blackberry Pavlova

Frankly, this is wonderful. Airy meringue sandwiching rich pastry cream, tart blackberries, and some concentrated syrup so sweet and jammy that it is a pure burst of summer. This is light but very sweet. Elegant and fulfilling, ideal after a rich lunch. 

pix 029 Flourless chocolate cookie

This is just an excuse to eat a personal sized cake. Dense and fudgy with gooey chocolate chips melting even at room temperature. It’s sweet, but not overly so. It has a warm, deep flavor that only comes from truly high quality chocolate. It’s decadent but not too much to handle on your own.

pix 028 Canele

Do you like bread pudding? If you do, then you will love this canele. The thickly burnished crust is sugary but not just sweet – it also has a slightly bitter edge that makes it really complex and interesting.

pix 030 The interior is eggy and soft, almost melting in the mouth in contrast to the stiff outer crust. It is heady with vanilla and the faint backnote of rum. It isn’t overtly alcoholic tasting or heavy  – it’s light and custardy, a wonderful blend of different tastes and textures. This is better than many caneles I have had in Paris and was the hit of my visit. 

Dominique Ansel is a slice of Paris right in Soho. It is fairly priced (though not cheap) and the  pastries are just perfect. I would absolutely go back, and plan to.

It might just hold me over till summer vacation. 

Dominique Ansel Bakery on Urbanspoon