Archives for July 2013

Farmer’s Markets, Fresh Butter, and What’s For Breakfast, Dad?

You know what restaurants I love, what recipes I create, and what hotels I frequent.

But how about those little food-related events and items that slip through the cracks?

Here is a peek at some rarely blogged food stuffs that I am loving this summer:

pix 032 Greenmarkets

I can’t stay away from the greenmarkets this summer. Everywhere I walk, I seem to  happen upon a few farmstands lining the block. They are selling eggs with fluorescent orange yolks, cream so yellow and thick that it actually coats the inside of the glass jar in which it comes, and the sweetest stone fruits and berries. I have tried juicy, garlicky kielbasa, sour rye Ruis bread,  and enough garlic ramps to scare Dracula away forever.

pix 034 Greenmarkets aren’t necessarily cheaper than the grocery store, but the difference is that the money you spend goes straight towards the farmers and the farms. You are supporting actual people, not huge corporations or sketchy processing plants. You eat fish that has been cooked that morning and strawberries that are so sweet that they require no sugar.

Though I have been known to whip up some of that sweet cream and serve it alongside.

And the one time I overwhipped it, it turned into…

pix 037 Homemade butter

Move over, Laura Ingalls Wilder! This stuff is so easy to make! Just toss cream in a stand mixer, put the mixer on medium/high, watch The Newsroom ‘s opening credits, and look! It’s butter! Drain off the buttermilk and spread it on a hot baked potato, some roasted asparagus, or any bread you have lying around the house. It lasts for about a week and you have to leave it at room temperature for 30 minutes before you want to use it, so it’s not as hard as a rock. It’s so sweet and fresh – no mystery ingredients here! You could add salt or some chopped herbs to jazz it up, but that’s really gilding the lily.

pix 041 Chili Cheese Fritos

Why are these so difficult to locate in NYC?! I grew up eating these in California, and they put the Fritos in Fritos and Foie Gras! Regular Fritos are to Chili Cheese Fritos as a bicycle is to a limousine: They both get you places, but the experience is entirely different. These chips are dusted in a smoky, garlicky, slightly spicy coating that is reminiscent of actual chili! It’s a salty, savory, and totally addictive taste. If you want to be really bad, dip them into sour cream as you eat them. If you want to be good…find another blog.

Of course, if you decide you do want to check out this blog…maybe you want to check out some of my other work…


Like my first cookbook! This book, What’s For Breakfast Dad, is the result of 2 years of collaboration with Raburn Publishing. It’s full of easy, kid friendly recipes that you can make with your kids on the weekend, regardless of cooking experience or available time. Toad-in-the-Hole, Tropical Oatmeal, and – of course! – Candied Bacon all make appearances. I’m very proud of it and know that it’s going to make those 7 AM Saturday breakfast and cartoon wake-up calls a million times easier for you. Head here to buy the book for any dad, mom, grandparent, uncle, or anyone else in your life who needs some inspiration when Junior gets hungry in the morning!

Fish Tag – A Smoked Salmon Bonanza

In New York, you have to keep your head down.

Nope, I don’t mean work hard.

I mean that you literally have to position your head downwards in order to see half the great restaurants here. 

After all, if I didn’t keep my head down, I would totally have missed Fish Tag.

Michael Psilakis’ fish and charcuterie oriented restaurant got mixed reviews when it opened, but it sounded intriguing anyway. However, it somehow got lost in the shuffle of restaurants on my radar, until my family and I were walking past it and caught view of it this past weekend.

 Though you must descend steps to reach the restaurant, the main dining space is incredibly bright and clean thanks to larges skylights and windows to a small outdoor garden. The look is clean and minimalist – very Scandinavian. The vibe is extremely quiet – not a place for small children or loud, raucous group parties.

 Grilled Cheese with Pork Belly and Poached Egg

A hearty and well made dish. Crisp bread surrounded mild, melty cheese and tender pork belly. The pork belly was more salty than smoky, which worked well with the cheese’s mild taste and the perfectly poached egg. This grilled cheese could have benefited from a slightly tangier cheese, like tallegeio, but it was still tasty and satisfying.

 Fig, Proscuitto and Manouri Bruschetta

Though the ingredients sounded wonderful, this was very disappointing. The figs were very soft and sweet – delicious on their own, but they rendered the dish too sugary. The prosciutto was in such minute amounts that it did nothing to add crunch or salt to the dish. The best aspects of this were the creamy manouri cheese(like a fattier, richer ricotta), and the perfectly charred bread.

 Gaspe Salmon with Bagel, Pickled Vegetables, Fennel Salad, and Creme Fraiche

There was a variety of smoked salmons offered, and I went with the Gaspe because it was described as lush, delicate, and succulent. I could go on and on about the way the salmon tasted but…why should I? That is exactly how it tasted. It had a firm texture, with a good amount of salt but not too much smoke, which is what I like in a smoked salmon. My father had the Irish smoked salmon. I really enjoyed that one more – it was even less fishy than my excellent gaspe salmon. The accompaniments were all first rate – the pickled cauliflower, briny olives, tart creme fraiche, tangy fennel, and chewy bagel made for a brunch fit for a Jewess*.

 Greek Spoon Salad with Tomato, Cucumber, Feta, Onion, Peppers, Olives, Grilled Kale, Radishes, Red Wine Vinaigrette

This simple Greek salad that would have been good on its own but was propelled to greatness by the grilled kale. The kale became so charred, so rich and meat-like that it added a whole other dimension to the salad. The tomatoes tasted sweeter, the feta tasted sharper, and the dressing tasted brighter. I will absolutely be grilling kale at home from now on.

Smashed Fries

Not listed as a side dish, our very sweet server let us order a side of these for the table. And they are. DYNAMITE! Made from starchy Idaho potatoes, these were somewhere between roasted potatoes, french fries, and hash browns. Thick as steak fries, but with the tender insides of baked potatoes and the crispiest crust I have ever had…these are phenomenal. Though I don’t think they were cooked in animal fat, they couldn’t be improved upon even if they were. Just greasy enough to remind you they were an indulgence, and perfectly seasoned, these were so good that any dipping sauce was totally unnecessary. A must order.

Fish Tag is a great spot for brunch with your parents. Not a destination restaurant, but the prices are very fair for the amount and quality of food provided. The service is great and the surroundings are nice but not stuffy. The smoked salmon is incredibly delicious, and those fries knocked my socks off. And, most importantly, it reminded me why it’s always important to look down in NYC.

Besides, you know, avoiding stepping in dog poop.

*Jewess (def): A woman raised in the Jewish culture. She is good at bargain shopping, bad at sports, and has impeccable taste in smoked fish. 

 

Fish Tag on Urbanspoon

Classic Tzatziki

I love fusion cuisine and making up recipes on my own.

I’m all for newfangled cooking styles – bring on the spherical olive oil, ya know what I’m saying?

But there is a time and a place for those recipes and a time and a place for the classics.

I present to you now, a true classic.

This recipe is for my favorite Greek dip. There is nothing nouveau or  very unique about it. 

It just has everything it should and nothing it shouldn’t. 

Tzatziki

2011-02-28 greek fish Ingredients:

500 grams(1 medium container) full fat Greek yogurt

1 cup washed and diced dill

a few sprigs each oregano and mint

2 cloves garlic

2 small cucumbers or 1 large one

juice of 1 lemon

salt and pepper to taste

1. Set the tub of Greek yogurt to drain over a colander for an hour. A LOT of water will run out, making this creamier and richer than ever. 

 In the meanwhile…

 2. Grate the cucumbers on a box grater or in a food processor.

3. Then, let the cucumbers drain over a different colander so that they don’t add all the water you just drained from your yogurt back into it. This should take a good 15 minutes or so. Finish by drying them well with a paper towel. 

4. Take the cloves of garlic, and SMASH them with the wide part of your knife. This will make the peel slip right off and split the clove a bit.

 This is what hungry people do for anger management.  

5. Sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of COARSE salt on each clove. Fine salt won’t work, it MUST be coarse salt to act as an abrasive to the garlic.Then, drag the wide part of your knife slowly and firmly across the garlic in one direction, just going over and over the garlic. Sooner than you think, you will have… 

This! No big cloves, just a smooth garlic paste.

6. Add the smashed garlic paste, half of the lemon juice (you can always add more!), and some pepper to the herbs…

7. Add the yogurt and the cucumbers…

 8. Taste and adjust for seasonings.(the rest of the lemon juice, some more dill, a touch more salt…). 

greek fish 196

9. Serve

 This is  a really fabulous dip. It’s creamy and verdant and just mildly spicy from the garlic. You really need the full fat yogurt here to compete with the lemon juice and aggressive pepper – the fat content keeps it from being too tart or harsh. It is wonderful on a fish sandwich, as a dip for pita, or even as a salad dressing. Serve it alongside some hummus and olives and it’s a party platter.

It’s not new. It’s not hip.

But it sure is tasty. 

Garlic Scape Chimichurri Pesto

Peanut butter on its own is good

Peanut butter WITH chocolate is great.

Burgers on their own are good.

Burgers WITH cheese are great.

Ice cream is good.

Ice cream WITH Bravo on in the background…well, you get the picture.

Chimichurri is a savory, pungent Argentinian sauce used to perk up steak. It is usually made with garlic, vinegar, and parsley.

Pesto is an Italian pasta sauce made with basil, tons of parmesan cheese,and olive oil.

Combine the two and…

Garlic Scape Chimichurri-Pesto (based off of Serious Eats’ recipe)

2013-07-09 pix Ingredients:

4 garlic scapes, green stems only, chopped (or about 5 cloves garlic, and 1 onion)

1.5 cups chopped herbs(I like cilantro, basil, lemon basil, and a little bit of parsley)

1 or 2 Serrano chiles, chopped

1/2 – 2/3 cup olive oil

1/3 cup sherry vinegar

1/3 cup grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese

salt to taste
pix 008 1. Dump all ingredients in a food processor.

pix 013 2. Pulse until totally pureed.

pix 020

3. Refrigerate in a covered container for at least an hour. Then, taste for seasonings. You may need it to be spicier or more piquant. It will also become thicker.

pix 014 4. Serve.

On just about anything, really. I served it over quinoa with lamb sausage, arugula, and roasted squash. It would be just as delicious over poached eggs. Or atop pasta. Or served room temperature as a dip for veggies. Or – OOH – mixed with mayonnaise for a real kick on a turkey sandwich.

As the sauce warms (you can heat it gently on the stove or just put it directly on hot food), it becomes aromatic and the flavors bloom. Fragrant cilantro, spicy-savory garlic scapes, a bit of back-of-the-throat-heat and a surprising hit of acid from the vinegar. The basil is sweet and the cheese makes the sauce creamy and thick. This is the best of all possible worlds.

pix 016 Because chimichurri by itself is good.

Chimichurri with pesto is great.

Millesime – A Brasserie Blast from the Past

One of the hidden reviews that didn’t get transferred when my blog moved. Let’s give it another look, shall we?

Millesime has been called many things. A sleeper hit. The restaurant with the best Caesar Salad in NYC. But the restaurant that will make you reconsider crabcakes as the finest fish cakes in the world? It has never been called that.

 Until now.

Millesime, in the Carlton hotel, is a beautiful, Disney-fied version of a grand French brasserie. It specializes in traditional seafood, including a huge selection of fresh oysters. It’s large and spacious, with a magnificent domed ceiling. It’s a great date spot.

Oysters

You can’t go wrong with oysters here. The selection changes daily and whether you like large, briny ones or small, creamy ones, you will find fresh, impeccably shucked specimens here.

And the red wine and shallot butter served alongside is a total revelation. Who would ever pair red wine with oysters? But blending that deep, earthy red wine and some sweet shallots into that creamy butter, then pairing it with the hearty bread and a salty oyster is an amazing combination of deep and light, earth and sea. It is really a standout of the meal.

Smoked herring salad and warm fingerling potatoes

Another winner! The mild, smoky fillets of herring have an almost bacon-esque quality with a silky smooth texture. None of that odd fishiness that lesser herring sometimes has. The oil in which it is submerged is lemony and rich enough to spoon over the creamy, perfectly cooked potatoes. A truly perfect dish.

 The Caesar salad

Grilled romaine lettuce, topped with nutty Parmesan cheese and then dressed in a garlicky, limey dressing. The smoked cod is so thinly sliced that it is almost unnoticeable. This is tasty, yes, but the best Caesar salad? Hardly. It is a novelty item more than anything else – delicious, but not memorable, in my mind at least.

 Pike quenelles Jean-Louis Dumonet style

This is the best fish cake I have had in my life – crabcakes, be damned! A slightly crisp top gives way to a warm, velvety, pillowy interior that tastes like the world’s best hot crab dip. It is sweet and rich, languishing in this creamy, liquor-y, shellfish-flavored sauce that is so good that my dining companions and I started unabashedly spooning it into our mouths! It is truly and totally delicious, and I could have this for my meal and call it a day.

Chocolate mousse bar with tangerine sorbet

A perfect finish – smooth, deep, almost bitter chocolate tempered by sweet, tangy, bright sorbet. If the sorbet was just a touch hard, no one noticed or cared.

And why should we? This is a fantastic dining experience. Beautiful dining room, relaxed atmosphere, and a waiter who let us gab at the table for a good 3 hours without pressuring us to order a drink.

 And that’s why this review got reposted..because it’s such a winner that I really have to head back!

Millesime on Urbanspoon

Gina La Fornarina – I’ve Got The Gift

I have the gift.

The magic touch.

I always (well, 9.7 times out of 10) choose fabulous restaurants.

I don’t know how I do it, but somewhere between my lack of athletic ability and my unruly eyebrows, fate decided to give me one gift – the gift of restaurant picking. I can somehow sniff out the diamond in the rough, that oft-passed-over gem.

I guess that’s the only way that we ended up at Gina la Fornarina

pix 016

This small UWS restaurant is the sort of place where coworkers come for a light lunch and mommies with strollers sit their kids down with ipads while they enjoy a glass of wine and a decadent pizza. It is steeply priced, but the atmosphere is breezy and feminine,the menu is child and adult friendly, and it’s the only game of its kind within several blocks. It’s casual-nice, with efficient service and a full bar, without having to pay the premium price of a full-on foodie restaurant.

pix 018 Prosciutto and fontina panini

Very simple and very delicious. Buttery fontina cheese, soft and pleasantly salty prosciutto and the perfect panini bread -fluffy but thin, soft enough to eat but dense enough to stand up to the fillings. The meat fairly melts into the cheese and the effect is a surprisingly light sandwich. This isn’t huge or overstuffed, so you can indulge without feeling like you are going to need a new pants size after lunch. The salad alongside is fresh but underdressed – be sure to ask for additional dressing on the side.

pix 017 Four cheese and mushroom pizza

When I see a dish made with truffle oil on the menu, I’m bound to order it. This pizza is great! It has a thin, rather stiff crust that has a nice char and thick bubbles around the crust. The four cheese blend of mozzarella, fontina, Gorgonzola, and parmiginao is well balanced – nutty, creamy, stretchy, and just a little piquant form the Gorgonzola. The mushrooms are meaty and juicy and the truffle oil is merely the faintest hint of heady, umami scent…it really completes the dish without overpowering this.

pix 015 Gina la Fornarina is an ideal lunch or dinner spot. The breads are totally delicious and I would come back here for the pizza, sandwiches, or excellent wines by the glass anytime. You pay here, for convenience, for lovely surroundings, and for some good food. But, if you stick to food and not booze, it’s considerably cheaper. And more delicious than I would have thought, given the pink decor and cartoon-laden menu.

Thank heavens I stopped in here.

Thank heavens I’ve got the gift. 

Gina La Fornarina on Urbanspoon

Recent Tasty Bites: Summer Edition

Now it’s time to look at a few super tasty dishes around town:

pix 001-001 Rose Rose at The Smith

A cocktail so delicious that it would stand toe-to-toe with any libation at a high end bar, let alone a restaurant. Rose Lillet, prosecco, fresh strawberries, and muddled basil make for a sweet, verdant, effervescent drink. It’s not overly sugary, but rather, sweet with the strawberries. Teh basil prevents it form being dessert like, and the glass it is served in just adds an elegant touch. It’s fabulous with dinner but equally tasty as a stand alone drink. 

pix 019-001 Ice cream sandwich at Jacques Torres

The best reason to love summer since swimming pools. Two of Jacques famous chocolate chip cookies sandwich fresh ice cream or sorbet. The coconut ice cream is especially decadent – rich and heady with a strong vanilla-coconut taste. It is creamy and squidges out of the edges of those awesome cookies – large and flat, with huge hunks of deep semi-sweet chocolate. Be aware that you will need some strong teeth to get through this sandwich since it’s rather large and the cookies harder vs. softer. But the payoff is worth it!

pix 039 Tuna Tartare at Cafe Tallulah

That’s right UWS, keep on getting hotter! Cafe Tallulah is a swanky brasserie-style restaurant that manages to be hip in the evening, relaxed in the afternoon, and tasty at all times of day. It’s the perfect spot for a happy hour cocktail and one dollar oyster (every night till 8 pm), brunch with a few friends, or dinner on date night. Sup on classic French fare as as well as fusion dishes. The tuna tartare is a recent favorite. Fresh tuna, tender and lean, served atop cilantro-flecked avocado puree with baby vegetables and spicy aioli alongside. It’s light and vibrant, with fresh ingredients and a fair price tag. I could eat this as a light main dish and it makes a great shared appetizer as well. With places like this, the west village should worry…the uptown restaurant scene is catching up!

Cafe Tallulah on Urbanspoon

Orange Frappe Dessert Shots

This is the story of a hungry girl who never gave up.

Not when she was too lazy to juice oranges.

Not when she was too stupid to realize that if you put in too much sugar, the shebert won’t set.

Not even when she got a sugar high so intense that she was doing jumping jacks in her living room to burn off energy.

She just kept on making this recipe to the best of her abilities.

So, once upon a time…

Orange Frappe (based on Serious Eats)

2013-06-22 pix2 Ingredients:

2 cups orange juice

1 cup cream

1 cup light corn syrup

3/4 cup sugar

1 tbsp. vanilla extract

pix 060

1. Combine all ingredients. Then, put it in the freezer. Ever few hours, stir it a little. You must let it chill for at least 10 and up to 24 hours. It will still be extremely slushy, but will have thickened slightly.

fooood 037

Under no circumstances should you attempt to put this in the ice cream maker and turn it into sherbet. The girl who made this added far too much sugar and after many tears of frustration, she realized that the sugar prevents it from freezing.

She was kind of a dumbass.

fooood 038

2. Taste a spoonful, realize how amazing this is, and serve in tiny shot glasses or Chinese soup spoons. 
fooood 039 Bye bye Orange Julius. There is a new sherif in town. Creamy and cool and intensely orangey. The slight whiff of vanilla and the wonderfully sweet, clean taste of creamy are background notes to the orange juice’s bright taste. It’s not too pretty, but it’s easily dressed up.

So, the moral of this story is…

If at first you don’t succeed…throw some sprinkles on it and call it a dessert shot. 

And they all ate happily ever after.

Happy Fourth of July!

Happy Fourth of July!

For those of my readers not from America, this day is devoted to drinking beer starting at 11:30 AM, eating food that is burnt on the outside and raw on the inside, and seeing 15 minutes of fireworks after saving a spot for 7 hours.

In other words…it’s great to be an American 🙂

Enjoy the day, everyone, and see you back here tomorrow!

ETA: I meant check back Monday! I’m taking this long weekend to make some tasty treats that I can’t wait to share with you next week!

Sponsored Post: Celebrate Summer with Red Mango Frozen Yogurt Smoothies

Smoothies aren’t something that you see me eating a lot.

Why?

Well, partially because they either taste chalky and gross OR leave me totally unfulfilled and wanting a real meal.

They rarely taste great and offer a filling, satisfying feeling.

Well, here it is…the Chupacabra of smoothies.

Red Mango SuperBiotics Smoothies Summer Logo

Red Mango, a chain of natural frozen yogurt stores, has introduced a new line of smoothies.

They are tasty.

They are healthy.

They manage to keep you as full as a burger without the guilt of ingesting a full day’s worth of calories in 20 minutes.

These new summer smoothies are all natural, full of healthy probiotics and patented superbiotics, and blended with sweet fruit and fresh juice.

Red Mango Mixed Berry SuperBiotics Smoothie (2)

The smoothies fall into one of four categories:

Body Balance: Yogurt based with boosts like Dark Chocolate Mate which adds a rich, dark chocolate flavor with antioxidant boost and Metabolic Fix 360, featuring protein, calcium, and African mango.

All Fruit Harmony: Dairy and soy free smoothies made only with fruit, juice and ice.

Twisted Fruits: Traditional, yogurt based fruit smoothies

Just Kidd’n: Kid sized smoothies made with creamy yogurt and fresh fruit.  

pix 034

My drink of choice was the Mango Berry Remix with the 360 boost.

It’s sweet and creamy, with honeyed, tropical notes of mango and juicy, bright strawberries. The Metabolic Fix 360 was undetectable and helped me power through the rest of my day without feeling sluggish or hungry. This would be an ideal breakfast, but next time I might be tempted to get the Lil PB Cup…after all nothing says summer like chocolate and peanut butter, right?!

These smoothies are really tasty. They keep me full for a long time, they are the ideal transportable meal, and if you have any finicky toddlers in your life, this is the perfect way to sneak some healthy fruits into their diet.

Even better, now through July 5, Red Mango is offering $2 (plus tax) 16 oz. Super Biotic Smoothies! That’s cheaper than fish and chips at your local pub, plus way healthier and…dare I say it…even more delicious.

Get this deal while you can and you will be hooked. Let the company know which flavors you like best at their Facebook and Twitter accounts!

Because, lo and behold, this smoothie is both tasty and fulfilling.

Disclaimer: This was a sponsored post. I was compensated for my opinions and thoughts. 

The Chupacabra, indeed.