Archives for November 2013

Happy Thanksgivikuh!

As I descend into the madness that is cooking for my whole family for the first time (?!) I leave you with hearty wishes for a good Thanksgiving and happy first night of Hanukkah.

A special thanks to those of you who are working on this holiday – you keep our world running while so many of us take time with our families. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Today it will be just me, the turkey, and oil for latkes.

If I don’t resurface in 2 days, send help. Or vodka.

Eats Before the Big Feast

Bites I have been enjoying before I go whole hog on a whole turkey on Thursday:

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Macchiato at Eric Kayser

As you may know, I can take or leave coffee – it isn’t my be all, end all. But the coffee at Eric Kayser is sensational. The macchiato is made with expertly brewed espresso that is nutty and pleasantly bitter, not painfully so. It’s served with creamy frothed milk and comes with a little sticky-sweet buttery cake on the side. A little touch like that makes this a standout and somewhere I would actively seek out, instead of just heading to the nearest Starbucks next time I need my caffeine fix.

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Pepe’s pizza in Fairfield

I have eaten this pizza at Mohegan Sun , but it is…if possible…even more delicious here. The coal oven allows for the thinnest, most properly burnished crust I have ever had.

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See how charred and crispy it is?

The tomato sauce is bright and uncomplicated by miscellaneous herbs and spices, and is topped with stretchy mozzarella cheese. There is no way you can wait long enough for this to cool so you don’t burn the roof of your mouth – just breathe into it. The sausage is garlicky and properly oily, and the house roasted red peppers are another wonderful topping choice. I happen to love Connecticut pizza, and if you think you like thin crust pizza…try this and see how much you have been missing.

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Jamba Juice

I know, I know…this is a chain. A west coast chain. Trust me, I am embarrassed. You can take the girl out of the valley, but you can’t take the valley out of the girl.

But I’ll be damned if the Caribbean Passion with strawberries, peaches, passion fruit-mango juice and orange sherbet doesnt’ set my heart aflutter and start my day off right.

Doughnut Plant – The Best Part of Winter

First, the bad news:

It’s cold. We are talking miserably, nose freezing-ly, don’t want to leave your house after 7 pm-ing-ly cold.

Now, the good news:

It’s perfect doughnut season.

Hello, Doughnut Plant.

IMG_20131122_102209_087 The Chelsea branch of the original gourmet doughnut shop (that’s right, cronuts weren’t the first fancy doughnuts in town) is much larger and nicer than the original. The Lower East Side location is literally a metal box with a shelf. The Chelsea spot has cute doughnut decor, a long bench with many tables, and a counter where you can get not only doughnuts but coffee and other treats, too.  IMG_20131122_102224_470 When you walk in, you are positively slammed with the almost overwhelming scent of sugar and yeast. It will shoot you straight back to middle school, when you used to buy those cheap doughnuts at morning break with money that was supposed to be spent on lunch. It’s nostalgic and yummy.

Sorry to use the word yummy…but how else can you describe doughnuts like these?:
IMG_20131122_103640_931 Salted peanut

So intense that I couldn’t finish this if I tried. And yet…it’s wonderfully, insanely, completely awesome. It’s a cake doughnut, which means that it is rather dense with a tight crumb. It is almost savory because it is so incredibly nutty. The sugary, crunchy glaze adds the necessary sweet component. This is for peanut lovers only – obviously, I fit the description.  IMG_20131122_103650_658 Valrhona Chocolate

The gourmet chocoholic’s doughnut. Also a cake doughnut, this one is filled with a tunnel of creamy, sweet chocolate pudding. The doughnut itself is very dark and has notes of coffee and currants – it’s a really rich, complex taste. It’s coated with cookie crumbs that Oreos hope to one day become. I love this doughnut – even though it is so dark and intense, it is one that I can easily eat by myself – preferably with a glass of milk.  IMG_20131122_103705_997 Apple cinnamon

The doughnut to end all doughnuts. Yeast doughnuts are light and airy – the very soft, squishy kind. My favorite kind. This is just unreal. It tastes so light and pulls apart in airy tufts. The glaze is cinnamony and sugary, with bits of real, soft apple. The apple really grounds the flavor profile, giving it fresh and even earthy tones amidst the sticky sweet goodness of the glaze. My favorite doughnut of the group.

I didn’g even get to blog the ethereal tres leches doughnut. Or the springtime fresh fruit doughnuts. Or the almost sinful creme brulee dougnut – that’s right, a creme brulee filled doughnut. These doughnuts aren’t cheap, but they are actually special enough to serve instead of a fancy cake at a dinner party. The service is great and the flavors are really special.

And, it’s winter. So get out those stretchy pants and load up on every flavor. The best part about winter may just be the food.

Pass the Prosciutto – Gluten Free Prosciutto, Goat Cheese and Beet Tartines

Sponsored Post

You know that I eat everything.

but you may not know that I have a lot fo friends with eating restrictions.

Friends who are kosher.

Friends who are vegetarian.

Friends who love meat but only if it’s chopped and if served steak will gag due to the texture.

I really can’t make this stuff up.

I also have quite a few friends who avoid gluten. I myself am a huge gluten fan, but hey – if are allergic to it you don’t feel well when you eat it, then of course you should avoid it.

So this is a recipe, featuring Parma ham, just for them. Let’s talk for a second about parma ham. It’s often called prosciutto, and it’s ham that is salt cured so it has a very mild, slightly salty taste and is served in paper thin slices. The pearly white rim of fat along the outside melts at room temperature and it is excellent in everything from sandwiches to pizzas to eggs. It is very soft and sort of melts when cold or room temperature, and becomes crispy when heated.

True story – I once fed a very finicky baby parma ham. And she couldn’t get enough of it.

So this is a recipe for those of you who are gluten-free or not! It is so delicious that you would never guess that this is made with any restrictions in mind. It is based entirely off of balancing – highlighting the different tastes and textures of the ingredients.

And – as a bonus – it’s a “no cook” recipe.

That means your kids can make it while you have a glass of wine.

Win/win.

Gluten Free Prosciutto, Goat cheese, and Beet Tartines

Ingredients:

parma ham recipe

2 slices gluten-free bread (I love Manna Bread)

4 slices Parma ham

2 whole beets, roasted and sliced thinly (yes, I used the premade kind…so sue me)

2 tbsp. whipped or soft goat’s cheese (I like Chevremousse)

drizzle of maple syrup.

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1. Spread the cheees on the bread.

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2. Layer with beets.

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3. Add parma ham.

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4. Top with a drizzle of maple syrup.

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5. Serve.

Oh, I’m sorry –  did you think that making a delicious gluten-free recipe had to be difficult? Did you imagine that you had to spend hours slaving away in the kitchen?

That’s the whole reason to use prosciutto. It’s so tasty and perfect on its own you need to do very little to it. The best way to enhance its naturally silky texture and savory taste is to pair it with something sweet – that’s the maple syrup. Of course, every tartine needs a creamy component – enter the goat cheese. And the beets really add an unexpected, earthy flavor and tender-dense texture. It makes it a light meal or very filing appetizer. These are elegant enough to serve at your holiday party but easy enough to put together for an at-home brunch. The maple syrup is just sweet enough without having the cloying, sugary taste of honey. And that ham is so delicate but distinctive that you won’t ever be able to go back to plain ole ham again.

Follow Parma Ham on Twitter for a chance to win $50 worth of the world’s most famous ham. Click on the banner below to participate. This post is a collaboration between the blogger and Parma Ham. 

Win Parma Ham

The Foods I Need to Eat

I have been lucky enough to have some amazing, uber decadent meals in my life.

Really, I am lucky and I know it.

But there are still some foods I have yet to try.

And boy, do I want to.

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Cinnabon

Yeah, what can I say? I have flown a lot, have picked up countless friends at the airport, and come from the land that invented malls (total valley girl here). Yet, I have never had the cinnnamony, sugary, doughy wonder that is a Cinnabon. I always want to, but then I lose my nerve at the last minute. Will I feel sick on an 8 hour flight? Will I spill some of the gloriously sticky glaze and be unable to change while I have to continue my shopping trip? Will I love it so much that I have to eat the monstrosity once a week until my heart explodes? Who knows? I really hope I get the guts to try it someday.

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Pressed duck

Or, duck that is served with a sauce made from grinding the carcass at the table , so the resulting sauce is blood, bones, and everything that is good. The duck carcass is pressed at the table in an old-fashioned device that isn’t even available for sale to use at home – like I would ever use it! The resulting dish is supposedly incredibly rich and minerally, which are tastes I love. I imagine that I might feel slightly barbaric eating this, but it’s such a famous and ancient preparation – the kings of France used to eat tuck this way – that I can’t pass it up. It is served at La Tour D’Argent in Paris and Daniel in NYC so..yeah…I will whip out those credit cards stat.

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Italian Beef sandwich

You can only get this in Chicago and it seems like a sister to my much-loved French Dip, which I grew up eating at the one and only Philippe’s. These sandwiches have the same roast beef served on a roll saturated with beef juice, except it’s served with searing hot giardiniera relish. It seems like it would be best after a night of drinking fancy cocktails. Beef. Spice. Carbs. Gravy…you KNOW why I want to try this!

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Fugu

Why do people eat something that might kill them!? It can’t be that delicious – only Nutella is that delicious. No, it’s what those of us who always wear our seatbelts, lock all the doors to the house, and never cut in line do to feel alive. I would LOVE to feel the slight tingle on my lips as I eat paper-thin slices of the raw fish, swished in tart ponzu dipping sauce. I would love to shiver with anticipation as I lift a slice to my mouth, praying that it has been prepared perfectly, with just enough poison left to tickle my tongue and let me know what I was eating. I would love to be in this elite club of culinary daredevils.

This is a must eat for me!

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State fair food

Because I simply must try this once in my life.

Bareburger – Forget the Burger, Get Those Sides!

This is a drive-by posting.

Just like the dinner was – fast, casual, and to the point.

Come to Bareburger wearing flip-flops and jeans. It is a fast-casual restaurant that specializes in organic, ethically raised produce and meats. And not just beef, turkey, and veggie burgers. Elk, venison, and bison all make appearances too. It’s turning the standard fast food concept around by making you feel good about what you are eating.

That cow isn’t just delicious, it was also treated well.

I know, I hate myself, too.

IMG_20131118_212934_773 Sweet Potato Croqs

Take it from someone who doesn’t even really love sweet potatoes – these are legit. They are whipped into a fluffy frenzy, mixed with sharp cheddar cheese, and fried until they are wonderfully crunchy outside. They are served piping hot with sweet and savory honey mustard and habanero chipotle dipping sauces. The habanero dipping sauce isn’t insanely spicy but it’s a really zesty, slightly hot dipping sauce. This is a must order.

IMG_20131118_212941_579 Fries

Like the Johnny Rockets fries of my youth! Medium thick  and skinless, not too salty and hot as can be. Served with a rather potent curry ketchup and two other dipping sauces, they are just what the (fast food) doctor ordered.

IMG_20131118_213415_168 Classic Burger

Here is the good/bad news.

Good news – it comes quickly. It’s clearly cooked to order. The toppings are fresh, the sauce is delicious, and the portion is generous.

Bad news – it’s underseasoned. Like..where is the salt? Or the pepper? Or the nicely charred crust? Where is any of it? I love beef, but it needs seasoning – it craves it. The excellent habanero chipotle mayo I ordered with it helped immensely but that’s a shame. This is great beef – it deserves better treatment.

Bareburger is a good spot for a quick lunch or dinner. Don’t go out of your way to go here, but if you do happen by it, it’s fairly priced with a comfortable atmosphere and good service.  Get a burger and some croqs, order extra sauce on the side, and you are on your way to a good, if not mind blowing, meal.

Bareburger on Urbanspoon

Get Downtown to Lafayette

I’ll cut to the chase – Lafayette is awesome.

I like it even better than The Dutch.

Why doesn’t Lafayette get more buzz? The atmosphere is a livelyy, spacious brasserie that’s more casual than Balthazar but nicer than Marseille. I would love to come here for brunch or for a birthday lunch with friends.  The menu is full of playful French classics – just like all of Andrew Carmellini’s restaurants, it is rooted in tradition but loaded with fun and personal twisted.

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Bread

Don’t miss it. The man takes his carbs really seriously. You can spread it with the soft, creamy butter or you can eat the tangy, slightly burnished crust alone. It’s phenomenal.

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Beet salad with curried cashews and yogurt

Yes, yes, yes! This is a well done salad. The beets are roasted until they are tender but not mushy and are extremely sweet. They are served with this tart yogurt and this fresh, earthy lettuce. The kicker where are the rings of perfectly pickled onions – they are piquant and bright against the other flavors. Though I didn’t like the cashews (can’t help it, I hate all cashews), this salad is very well portioned and is actually enough for a light meal with some of the very good bread alongside.

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Steak tartare

Very good, if a bit low on heat. Luckily, there is a bottle of Tabasco provided to up the spice quotient. Other than that, this is exemplary. It’s well portioned and made with soft, coarsely ground beef. It’s layered with classic flavors of pickles and served with as swath of mustard on the side and a wonderfully creamy quail egg yolk on top. It’s nothing groundbreaking but it’s super satisfying.

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Pumpkin brulee tart with pomegranate and whipped creme fraiche

The standout of the meal. A warm, whipped pumpkin pie underneath a shattering sugar crust. It’s scattered with tart, fresh bursts of pomegranate and plated with very dense, creamy whipped creme fraiche. It’s a really fun twist on pumpkin pie and I couldn’t stop eating it. This dessert isn’t only recommended, it’s unmissable.

I just love Lafayette! The service is great, the prices are what you would expect to pay at a Carmellini restaurant, and the food is just wonderful! I can’t even believe that I’m sharing this secret with you but, hey, – get there asap!

Moroccan Lamb Stew

Here’s a recipe from years ago when my only followers were my mom and my stalkers. It’s a wonderful, intricate, hearty dish that I can’t recommend enough. Moroccan food is SUCH an undervalued ethnic cuisine. Because Morocco was occupied by so many cultures over the years, along with its proximity to Spain, Moroccan food has influences from the Mediterranean, France, and Africa.  It results in a cuisine that is hearty, sweet, spicy, and relies heavily on the use of nuts, dried fruits and lamb.

I am relying heavily on your kindness because this is a recipe from the archives that is lacking photos, ingredient amounts, and a general sense of purpose.

What can I say, I was green. But I still made a hell of a stew.

Moroccan Lamb Stew (based off of this recipe
Ingredients:
4 lbs of stew meat lamb
1 cup flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
2 bunches carrots, chopped into large pieces
2 bunches celery, chopped into large pieces
8 onions, chopped into large pieces
2 28 oz cans of peeled tomatoes
4 boxes of chicken or veal stock
1.5 cups red wine
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup of prunes 1 small can tomato paste
2 heaping tablespoon harissa or other chili paste (I used sambal olek, but even crushed red pepper paste would be just dandy)
1 palmful each of:
cumin
coriander
allspice
nutmeg
cinnamon
salt
pepper
4 cups Greek Style Yogurt mixed with 1 bunch each of chopped mint and cilantro and 2 tablespoons of Za’atar (a middle eastern spice mixture containing sumac, sesame seeds, oregano, and salt. )

1. Throw all of the lamb into a bowl, then coat it with the flour.

2. Brown the lamb  over a medium high flame, with just a thin layer of oil in the bottom of the pan, until the meat is just barely seared and still raw on the inside. Make sure to do the lab in batches so they sear, not steam.  Remove the lamb after it is done and reserve it on the side.

3. Re-oil the pan and add your chopped veggies,  canned tomatoes, broth, wine, chile paste, and spices.

 4. Cover the pot tightly (yes, with tinfoil if you lost your pot lid) and put it into a 400 degree oven for about 3 hours, or until the house is incredibly fragrant and the lamb is tender and almost falls apart when poked with a fork.  
5. Add the tomato paste and the prunes, and let the stew cook for another 30 minutes or until it looks…

like this. The prunes will have mostly melted into the stew.

6. Enjoy with Greek yogurt and couscous. No final picture –  remember how I used to be even worse at taking photos than I am now?

 This stew is so outstanding.  Gamey, sweet, savory, spicy, rich, fragrant, and complex. It takes a long time to make but it’s really not difficult.  It’s warming, comfortaing, and perfect for a cold winter night when beef stew just sounds a wee bit pedestrian.
It’s worthy enough to get a re-post – what more can you want?

Why You May Wear Jeans at Asiate

Asiate at the Mandarin Oriental in the Time Warner Center isn’t the type of place you should wear jeans.

But you can.

That’s because the staff is so well trained that you will never know that you look hopelessly out of place. The only reason that they exist is to make you feel like the most important diner they have ever had the pleasure-  nay, privilege – of serving.

It probably sounds over the top.

But this was some excellent service.

Asiate serves Asian inspired seasonal food in an absolutely beautiful dining room with the best views of Central Park on the planet. Really, it’s just a solid wall of plate glass and there you are, 60 floors above one of the world’s iconic views. The decor is zen but by no means minimalist. It’s very chic and high end.

And so is the food.

IMG_20131031_123112_099 Gougeres

Light, cheesy gougeres are flecked with bits of garlicky parsley pesto. It’s the sort of unexpected touch that is found everywhere in the restaurant – it takes something classic, and then puts an elegant twist on it that makes the dish memorable  IMG_20131031_124427_909 Amuse bouche

A mild yellowtail sashimi topped with crispy potato chips. Light, playful, and savory. It’s an excellent start to any meal.  IMG_20131031_125325_745 Squash soup

This is an example of the flawless service at Asiate. I ordered only a main course but the rest of my party ordered a starter and a main. The chef sent this out, not knowing that I would be reviewing the place, but only that I should have the same number of courses as my tablemates. Pure class. And this soup is excellent – not too thick or gloopy but with a rich, sweet, earthy squash taste. The addition of roasted pumpkin seeds is a nutty, salty, pleasingly crunchy textural component. It’s warming and comforting – the perfect cold weather snack.
IMG_20131031_131753_808 Tuna nicoise salad

The tuna nicoise to end all tuna nicoises. Delicate tuna poached until it’s still pink on the inside and flaky but not at all dry or fishy on the outside. It’s in a very light, creamy dressing and layered with rich hard-boiled egg yolks, crisp frisee, juicy tomatoes, and a few briny kalamata olives. It’s a very standard nicoise salad, ingredient wise, bu the preparation really sets it apart. Each tomato is perfectly split, the yolks are finely crumbled, and the presentation is classic and beautiful. The tastes are clean and although familiar, are likely to be far finer than most you have already tasted.
IMG_20131031_140036_553 Cheese plate

And a rather mammoth one, at that! This dessert easily feeds 2 people as a light meal and comes loaded with hard, soft, stinky, delicate, gooey, and tangy cheeses. Add to that the excellent house baked raisin nut bread, some salted nuts, and a whole orchard of fruit and..well…

You’re in business.

Asiate isn’t a cheap meal. It’s rather buttoned up and fancy and you will pay for it. But it’s equally suited to a business lunch or a romantic date. That’s not just because the food is excellent. It’s because the staff is. You will be neither hounded nor ignored. They will know if you want a table overlooking the park or a quiet semi-private banquette. They are there to ensure your comfort and happiness.

Even if you walk in wearing jeans.

Early Bird Gift Guide

Originally published here (but it’s too useful not to share!)

The holidays bring fun and merriment but also stress and discord. How much money do you spend? How personal should you make the gift for a coworker? What if you forgot to get a last-minute gift and can’t afford the shipping? The answers to all these questions are almost always gastronomically related. Here are all the gifts you need for even the most troubling people in your life.

You brand-new boyfriend

You  sleep over every weekend. You met his mom at brunch one time, and you were finally invited to his friends’ monthly poker game/girls tapas night. Now that you are in, it’s time to remind him that you are uber-spicy. Put together a spicy assortment of spices, cheeses, and hot sauces to let him know that though you are sweet, you are also hot.

Your friend who still owes you $200

Hammer it home. Get a half bottle of wine, a box of chocolates clearly labeled half off, or a regifted gift basket. You wish you could get more for this friend, but you are flat broke. If only you had an extra chunk of change…

Your girlfriend with whom you are about to break up

Let’s not draw this out longer than we have to. Get her a package of ground beef, a jar of spaghetti sauce, and a shaker of fake Parmesan cheese. Bark at her to get in the kitchen, and make you dinner, and voila—she breaks up with you. Then go home, and order pizza with a clean conscience.

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Your boss who hates you

Kill ‘em with kindness. Get the most expensive box of macarons, the fanciest set of knives you can afford, or the newest wine aerator on the market. By showing that you won’t let your boss not like you, s/he will have to relent.

Your last-minute freak-out gift for your sibling

Don’t pay an enormous shipping fee, or run all over town looking through stores that are already sold out of all the good stuff. Go to the drug store and get fluffy socks, a trashy DVD, and loads of candy and junk food. Toss it in a gift bag, call it family night in, and watch the tears flow as you explain how all you really want this holiday season is more quality time together. Works like a charm.