Archives for December 2014

Epic Fails of 2014

Aaah, 2014 – a year to remember! A year where I ate at Michelin starred restaurants, traveled to Greece, cooked a traditional feast or two, and started an Instagram account. Oh, and I got married, too. We had a lot of hits – you know about all of those.

Now, let’s look at the misses, shall we?

Epic Fails of 2014

IMG_0865 Greek chicken slow cooker soup

Newsflash – when making chicken int he slow cooker, don’t put mushrooms in there to cook for 8 hours. They disintegrate and become both mushy and tough. Oh, and don’t use just wine for the braising liquid – it will make everything taste like battery acid. OH, and for heaven’s sake TASTE IT before you tell your family what is for dinner.

Because, if it turns out anything like mine, what’s for dinner will be take out Chinese food.
IMG_0965 Harissa baked salmon

I actually am still retching just thinking about the completely rotten, putrid, foul aroma and taste of what should have been delicate, spicy, mild Copper River salmon. I coated this in a harissa-tomato paste flecked with cilantro and for some reason, in between the time that I applied it to the salmon and the time that I ate it, it became just repulsive. Actually disgusting. I can’t even look at this picture any more.  IMG_1107 Pouring out gravy with the fat

I did this, and continue to do this, like every other time that I separate fat from gravy. That’s what I get for watching “The Real World” reruns while I cook.  IMG_1758 Ever so slightly rotten delicata squash from Trader Joe’s

Don’t worry, I didn’t just cut around it and feed it to the kids. We had to get Chinese take out, again.

20140817_191503 Sunday night pizza

Some wine, some great focaccia, wonderful pizza toppings…this was our favorite tradition of 2014.

That we did exactly once. ONCE. I’m disgusted with myself.

20140809_115858 This picture

Like, what is it? This was a DELICIOUS farmer’s market lunch of sheep’s milk cheese, jewel like tomatoes, and wonderful, juicy peaches. Why does it look like something that fell out of a dump truck?

So, here’s to 2015!

Enjoy the festivities and see you here, bright and early, Monday morning!

Mini Review – Lunch at Saiguette

Just popping by before I head downtown to get supplies for New Year’s Eve.

Spoiler alert: I’m not cooking and we will be asleep by 10 pm, easy.

Anyway –  my sister treated me to lunch the other day and it was fabulous!

20141229_115520 Saiguette is a tiny storefront on the way UWS. It’s only a few stools, an L-shaped counter, a refrigerated glass case, and some of the tastiest Vietnamese food east of the Mississippi.  20141229_115526 I’m telling you, it ain’t fancy.  20141229_120240 Pork Belly Bahn Mi

but it is delicious. The bread is crunchy but not too dense – yielding but doughy. The consummate bahn mi bread. It comes loaded with lightly pickled cucumbers, cilantro, shredded carrots, jalapenos, and that smoky, sweet, sticky pork belly. It’s a little tougher than I usually like, but the flavor is out of this world. Next time I can’t wait o try the traditional version, with terrine and pate.  20141229_120245 Crispy spring rolls

Light, insanely hot, and so crispy that they shatter all over your jacket. Dip them in the accompanying sweet, sticky sauce and you won’t be able to stop yourself from inhaling the entire order. We almost ordered another set.

This place isn’t worth a schlep form another part of town, but if you are within 10 blocks, you should totally head there! It’s cheap, clean, and the food is tasty!

Come by tomorrow for the last post of 2014 – the year’s epic fails!

Wontons, Carrot Cake, and the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Some discoveries over Christmas and the days that followed:

20141224_185456 General Tso’s Chicken from Serious Eats

Amazing, incredible, perfect, wonderful. This is an extremely labor intensive process – double dipping, deep frying, hand coating, the whole megilah. But let me tell you – it is WORTH it. This is the crunchiest, golden-est, delicious-est fried chicken I have ever eaten in my home. I didn’t even do it properly – half of  the chicken didn’t get properly coated in the dry mix and became gluey and messy. But, somehow, when it fried, it became almost as crispy and perfect as the pieces that were prepared with care and precision. I dumped a bunch of chicken in at one time, undersalted it, and cheated on the sauce by using store bought duck sauce that I doctored with sambale olek and scallions. It was stilt the best American Chinese food that I have ever made at home. Fabulous.  20141225_113413 Deep fried wontons

In my new, cheap, and totally awesome wok. The wok is the best deep fryer I could ever imagine and the best tasting wontons I have had in my own home. I love potsktickers as much as the next gal, but wontons really should be totally crispy, with no doughy or delicate steamed quality. Give me crispy, crunchy, brown, and hot enough to burn my tongue. I fried these half a bag at a time and they disappeared faster than you can say “pass the ponzu.” 20141225_161931 Many assorted Asian sauces

…make for a great do-it-yourself fried rice bar.  20141226_173245 Carrot cake from The Little Pie Company

For people who think that they hate carrot cake. So sweet, fluffy, moist, and positively draped with creamy, sweet, thick cream cheese icing. Yes, I have been eating a ton of carrot cake lately.

Hey, it’s the most wonderful time of the year, right?

Picholine – A Luxurious, Delicious Gem of a Restaurant

My photographs from my recent dinner at Picholine are terrible, but that’s because the lighting is soft and romantic.

Make no mistake…the food is nearly as good as it is at Daniel. I was shocked at how amazing it is.

The service is comfortable and friendly, and with very few missteps (forgetting a spoon here, misplacing a dish there), quite good.

Now, let’s get into it, shall we?

First off: the room.

A jewel box. A symphony in dove and lilac. Sparkling crystal chandeliers. Cozy banquettes where lovers, old and young, are seated cheek to cheek over sparkling glasses of rose champagne. Old fashioned and lovely.

The clientele: Your parents. Possibly your grandparents. And, on this night, Alan Alda. Yes, America’s national treasure, Alan Alda.

The food: Any number of set courses or tasting menus. Here are a few of the in every way flawless morsels that we devoured:

20141219_194227 Olive and fennel financier

Warm and subtle, with no overt licorice or olive tastes. Merely yeasty and fragrant with a vague earthy sweetness, studded with salty, juicy bits. My husband, who likes neither olives nor fennel, calls this “the perfect amuse bouche.” 20141219_195245 Bread

At first I thought that this was a misstep, but later, I saw that the bread is served room temperature on purpose. It’s a surprisingly, salty, savory baguette, with briny green olives and a yeasty interior, but if it were warm, it would take away from the exceptional cheeses served on the cheese cart.  20141219_195558 Warm apple cider with veggie crisp

Like a hug from a very wealthy grandma. Decadent and comforting.
20141219_200154 Seared foie gras

At least as delicious as that served at Daniel and Jean Georges, if not a million times better. Served in a delicate miso broth that is sweet, complimenting the foie’s delicate flavors, this is what foie should be. Soft, salty, buttery, creamy, melty, luxurious. It requires no overt ingredients, like truffle or sweet accompaniments, to make it shine. As you spoon off each bite of foie, its flavor infuses the broth and at the end you are left with a foie flavored miso broth that is pretty much what heaven would taste like. Please don’t miss this foie. It even makes versions in Paris cower at its glory.
20141219_200232 Uni panna cotta

One of Picholine’s signature dishes, and with good reason. Ever y bite is like a visit to the seashore. Smooth, creamy custard over wonderfully fresh and briny uni. Teh topper is a heaping quenelle of caviar, each tiny egg popping with a savory salinity that juxtaposes the sweet custard. They don’t skimp on the luxurious ingredients, which helps make the hefty price tag seem justifiable.  20141219_202126 Pastrami skate with mustard and sauerkraut

Unexpected, uninhibited, and delicious. Crunchy, breadcrumb crusted skate, seared until it’s still juicy but with a crispy exterior. When paired with the warm, punchy sauerkraut and the cool mustard remoulade, it’s a well-balanced melange of flavors, textures, and temperatures. It’s exactly what I didn’t expect at this elegant, French influenced restaurant.  20141219_205250 The cheese cart

Terrance Brennan’s piece de resistance. The best cheese cart in the city, I’mn now convinced – Artisanal be damned. This doesn’t rely on any fondues or nouveau accompaniments. It’s just fantastic cheese. Stinky, creamy, mild, sharp, grassy, cow, sheep, pasteurized, teeming with delicious bacteria…whatever you want, it’s here! The excellent cheese sommelier is helpful and evocative in her descriptions. Don’t miss the wonderful, soft, orange-scented raisins with at least one full fat, creamy  cheese.  20141219_210937 Mignardises

I mean, are these little afer dinner sweets ever not exactly what you wanted? None of these stand out as memorable, but hat could be because I was still in a cheese-fueled lactose haze.

Picholine is a special occasion restaurant hat deserves way more accolades than it gets. It’s as expensive as top-tier restaurants and just as delicious. The service is perhaps a tad less polished than its more illustrious counterparts and the cocktail list is very sad, but the food is exceptional.

Thank you so much to my incredibly romantic husband for surprising me with a date night that I will remember for many years to come.

It almost makes up for that time that you made me watch “How it’s Made: Heated Flooring.”

What and How to Eat During Winter

It’s almost Christmas! You know what that means…CHINESE FOOD TOMORROW!

But here are a couple of tips to get through the snow, slush, and muck when the tree comes down and all that you’re left with is the aching feeling that global warming would be better than 2 more months of this crappy weather.

20141218_123727 Sushi

Eat as much sushi as possible through March. Now, when the water is cold, fish have to put on extra fat. That means tekka that tastes like toro, oysters that are creamy and plump, and uni that is…well…eat as much uni as you can afford. Salmon is better in the summer, but almost every other fish is better at this time of year.  20141218_190444 Order yourself some indulgent sweet treats from Sucre

Family sent me a delicious holiday care package from this Nola sweet factory and all I can say is I WANT CANDY! The macarons come in a series of southern inspired flavors like bananas foster and strawberry shortcake. The strawberry one is especially delicious – the cookie is a little too airy, but the ganache is a white chocolate blanket adorned with a sticky, juicy jewel of strawberry jam. This is a good cookie. To say nothing of the excellent chocolates and craveworthy peppermint bark.  20141222_085449 Breakfast or dinner dates with friends

I hate this weather so much that I never go out in it, except for errands, transport, and pre-planed dates. I don’t just go out on a whim like I do when it’s warm and summery. Planning dates with friends is one of the only ways to keep e from becoming a complete social hermit. With my work and family schedule, breakfast works better for me. Meeting a friend even once a month makes a huge difference in your winter life – after all, how fun is it to eat a delicious meal with someone who doesn’t share your last name? I heartily recommend the creamy scrambled egs and wonderfully tangy toast that I enjoyed with Feisty Foodie at Maison Kaiser.

Porter House – A Great Lunch Deal and Phenomenal Steak Tartare

I had the most unexpectedly lovely lunch the other day  – you really have to go to Porter House to know what I mean.

I mean that it’s in the Time Warner Center, home to Per Se and Masa. I mean that it’s the restaurant of a celebrity chef, Michael Lomonaco, and the steaks all come a la carte with huge price tags.

And they have  a 3 course lunch prix fixe for $30, one of the city’s great steak tartares, and a gorgeous dining room.

Michael Lomonaco is kind of a prince among men. His bravery, his kindness, and his story can’t be told better than it is here – so I’ll leave it at that. You can read that he is the kind of fellow to whom you want to give your business.

The atmosphere is tranquil and upscale – the kind of place you would come with your parents for Christmas lunch. Or, you know,t he kind of place you would visit when Landmarc has an hour wait and you are starving.

The (unpictured) bread service is excellent – the raisin pecan bread is soft and sweet. It’s more like cake than bread, and it’s delicious.

20141221_115147 Caesar salad

Excellent – really, above reproach. Fresh, crunchy lettuce leaves that are cut into bit sized pieces so you don’t have to gnaw on roughage like peter rabbit. A subtle, salty, creamy dressing without too much garlic. Freshly shaved parmesan, sourdough croutons, and a super thin cried anchovy crisp that is savory and delightful. Truly, one of my favorite Caesar salads in the city.  20141221_115154 Tomato fennel soup

My mom always says tht you can judge a chef by his/her soup, and in this case, the chef deserves a Michelin star. The soup is creamy and bright, with a tart, earthy tomato taste and just the slightest sweet tang of fennel. It’s so slight that I might have missed it had the server not warned me – it’s really subtle. The Parmesan on top and crunchy croutons make this a more refined version of Italian peasant soup. It’s just what you want to eat on a cold NYC day – grown up tomato soup.  20141221_121043 Steak tartare

Stop the presses, this is it. This is the steak tartare of my dreams. The seasoning could be a little spicier, but the balance of tart pickle, bracing mustard, sweet, shallot, and creamy egg yolk is ideal. And that meat. Wow, that MEAT. What must be hand chopped filet mignon in small, irregular pieces, is one of the best steak tartares in the city. It’s tender, intensely iron-y, and well salted. It even has some sweet undertones, not at all too muddy or earthy. Spread on toasted sourdough bread….only some Tabasco sauce could bring it to utter perfection. It’s also a well sized portion for an entrée.  20141221_121051 Burger with blue cheese

As good as the tartare. Coarsely ground and juicy to the max, with a thick, almost blackened (as requested) crust and a pink interior that reaches to a nearly translucent red center. It’s topped with blue cheese that is salty and funky but not too much so. Blue cheese and beef on a squishy bun with crispy fries…is there anything better?

This restaurant is a splurge for lunch, but at $30 for three courses (unpictured steak frites and flourless chocolate cake are just excellent), it’s a great deal. Other than a rather surly hostess, the staff was flawless and the lunch was a delight.

Unexpectedly awesome meals…can we get a hashtag for that?

Pancakes, Knoblewurst, and Gelato – A Good Weekend

Okay, all, I have done my latke detox and I am back in the game!

This weekend was full of heavy hitters and tastes you need ASAP.

20141220_102849

Caramel pecan pancakes from The Smith

The Smith hits it out of the park once again. These pancakes aren’t quite up to Du-Par’s level, but man-oh-man are they close. The are a little dense, but other than that, ideal. Not too sweet, since they get drenched with a sweet, smooth, buttery caramel sauce, toasted pecans, and a whipped cream concoction that can only be described as “someone get me a cardiologist because I want to eat this until my arteries explode.”

20141220_201731

Knoblewurst from Katz’s

Don’t worry, I got some pastrami, too. The knoblewurst is just a nice, garlicky way to round out the meat-fest.

TWSS.

On soft, unmemorable rye bread with a smear of hot, extremely memorable, deli mustard, this is the hot dog of your dreams. Juicy, crispy, meaty, and awesome.

20141220_212916

Passion fruit and Keffir lime gelato at il laboratorio del gelato

The consummate dessert post Katz’s. I often go for the creamy fior di latte or the vaguely alcoholic Kahlua, but this may be my new go-to order. The keffir lime is tart but not bitter, nicely juxtaposing the creamy, sweet, bright passion fruit. the textures of both are creamy and pleasantly dense – the perfect consistency for scooping with the plastic spoons.

Tomorrow – lunch in Columbus Circle.

Hanukkah Eats, Part 3: I’m Running out of Juice. And I Need Some Juice.

Dear readers, I am afraid that I have let you down.

This week, my diet has, quite literally, consisted of lakes, leftover lakes, a jar of kimchi, and endless seltzer. I have just been in a Hanukkah frying haze. 20141217_133419

Though, truth be told, I was tempted by the lovely Ruinart champagne bar at The Nutcracker.

I have nothing to show you.

And yes, I hang my head in shame.

However, I do offer you this article – curated by yours truly and featuring some of the neatest Hanukkah dishes I’ve ever seen. Come on, dessert latkes?!

I’m taking the next 2 days to…I don’t know…eat kale and visit a sauna in hopes of overcoming this oil-laden few days.

OH…and follow my brand new Instagram account  (@fritosnfoie) where you can see all of the latke, latke, latke goodness for yourself!

See you on Monday when I’m back in the game!

Yes, Another Hanukkah Post

What my family will be eating this Hanukkah:

Kimchi Latkes

Brisket

Doughnuts

I know that I should throw a salad in here somewhere, but there just isn’t any room. Aah, well,

Happy second night of Hanukkah, all.

What to Eat Before Hanukkah

What you should be eating today, before what is sure to be an onslaught of latkes, Christmas cookies, and alcoholic beverages of all sorts.

20141207_152950 Quinoa salad from Three of Tarts

A wholesome, tasty lunch or side dish. Red quinoa that’s a little underdressed, but a quick douse of apple cider vinegar at home remedies that. The asparagus is crunchy and verdant, the roasted tomatoes are soft and juicy with olive oil, and even the corn manages to somehow be sweet. Red quinoa is a slightly more toothsome and hearty than yellow quinoa – give it a chance.
20141212_204612 Buttercup Bakeshop carrot cake cupcake

Buttercup never lets me down, least of all with this rendition of my all time favorite cake flavor. The carrot cake itself is moist and fluffy, with a bouncy but not dense crumb. It’s loaded with fragrant nutmeg and the carrot shreds are not overly discernible. Nothing worse than big ole strings of carrots ruining the cupcake’s texture. The cream cheese frosting is damned near addictive. Smooth, creamy, tangy, sweet, dense…yeah, it’s absolutely addictive.

And that’s all I’ve eaten recently, besides bagels with Barney Greengrass whitefish salad.

How about you?