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?

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.

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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.”

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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.

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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?

Happy Birthday Mom

Today is my mom’s birthday.

I know you might think that this may not mean a lot to you, but it does.

I mean, you are reading this blog, right? You are hopefully making some recipes and visiting some restaurants, right?

You are doing that because of my mom.

My mom taught me everything about food.

She was the first person who bought me a sushi roll when I was 7 years old. I remember sitting in that tiny restaurant in a Southern California suburb, with a cylinder of  concentric circles of black, white, and red, and thinking…”tekka WHAT?! Raw fish is amazing!”

She made me bone marrow, promising me that it looked gross but would taste amazing. It was rainy and gray outside and she spread a quivering, murky colored blob onto a piece of sourdough baguette and sprinkled it with sea salt. I’ve never looked back.

She took me down to Olvera Street and bought me my very first taquito – she promised that I would like it. Obvi, she was right.

She never made me eat anything I didn’t like – because, the one time she did, the cheese was actually spoiled and rancid, and she never got over the guilt. AWESOME for me!

She talked me out of trying deviled ham and canned clam dip, which I was obsessed with after reading a children’s book. I can’t even imagine the years of harm that meal would have caused.

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She bought me my very first food book – the inimitable What’s for Lunch Charlie? – and read it to me over and over and over, and then made me lunch whenever I invariably got hungry. Usually it was something awesome, like grilled cheese.

She made me chile rellenos before grad night at Disneyland. 

When I was in high school, she would let me bring over 20 people after play rehearsal and, on a whim, magically whipped up her special spaghetti. She never asked for prior notice or reimbursement for feeding a huge cast and crew. She invented that spaghetti because it was so easy to make and she could buy all of the ingredients at Costco.

Speaking of casts and crews, when I was in college, she made pans and pans of matzah candy when we opened a show. She made maybe 15 trays and would send them overnight express, wrapped in bubble wrap and at least 25 lbs. heavy. The pans were always decimated an hour after I brought them to the theater, and when my mom showed up tot he theater, the cast always fought to get to her first to hug her and beg her for the recipe.

She used to let me eat that cheapo creamy chicken ramen when I was sick. I would stay up late and watch I Dream of Jeannie with her and eat that ramen, which explains why, to this day, it’s my favorite food to eat when I’m sick.

She sat with me for hours as I agonized over which restaurants to visit during our family vacations. She always let me take the lead and was perhaps the only person who ever adhered to my eating schedule (egg whites and an apple ONLY on the day of an important dining reservation!)

She introduced me to my first wiener schnitzel in Vienna, my first tapas in Spain, and my first afternoon tea in London.

She taught me how to pinch my fingers together to see if steak was done.

She helped me painstakingly make my first – and last – molten chocolate cake. 

She went to Trufflepalooza with me. Twice. 

She taught me that throwing a party is all about lots of food and a great theme. People forgive cheap booze and plastic cutlery when you transform the living room into a Moroccan palace.

She taught me how sour cream and Cool Ranch Doritos are an unbeatable, if embarrassing, flavor combination. 

She smuggled back some Scottish beef in her suitcase and we made the most incredible beef Stroganoff with it.

She took me out of gym class (let’s face it, I SUCKED at dodgeball anyway), brought me home, and taught me how to whip Hollandaise until it was thick and frothy, how to poach salmon until it was silky, and how to dice an onion to minuscule, uniform bits.

She took food writing classes with me and ditched them with me to go get lunch, because we aren’t really the follow the rules types, anyway.

She told me that recipes are for the birds…which really only works if you

She spent hours on the couch with me, silently watching Nigella and loudly deriding Sandra Lee.

No one has ever embraced a fast food burger or a blini with caviar with such equal fervor as my mom. She taught me to accept the Fritos and the foie, equally.

She came over and cooked with me every night for almost a year when I first started my blog, so I could have someone crush tomatoes when I photographed.

She is the best home cook I have ever known, the most voracious experiencer of life, and without her, I would probably be working at a job I hate, being a generally miserable person who never let myself stop to get a macaron in the middle of the day.

Happy birthday, mom. Make it a delicious one.

Weekend Eats: Girls Gone Calm Edition

Weekend eats, Girls Weekend: Girls Gone Calm Edition. 20141202_125634 Nanoush Labne Wrap

Meh…not my favorite Mediterranean spot on the planet. The restaurant is tiny and cramped, the service is slow and uneven, and the food is okay at best. The labne wrap was 1 part creamy, rich strained yogurt and 99 parts lettuce and tomato. Now, I like veggies as much as anyone, but if you are giving me a labne wrap, give me some labne! I can’t really recommend this for anything other than vegetarian sustenance when it’s too rainy to cross the couple of blocks to Maoz.

20141206_180948 Whirley Pop stovetop popcorn maker

This machine made a popcorn lover out of me! I was never one of those people who worshipped popcorn as food from the heavens. Give me potaot chiops, know what I mean? This stovetop pot is, however a game changer. It’s so easy and quick to use and the flavor combinations are ENDLESS. So far, I have used Reese’s Pieces, lime zest and togarashi, and truffle salt and butter. I could even see using the truffle version as pre-dinner nibbles for a nice dinner party.

20141206_161428 Sushi from Whole Foods

Because, at the end of the day, after all of my pastrami stuffed egg rolls and amazing French meals, I am such a basic you know what.

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I hate myself for liking this stuff, but the shrimp tempura roll is downright delicious. Apart from the somewhat gummy and overabundant rice, it’s actually perfect. Spicy, crunchy, and sweet.

The spicy tuna with brown rice is pretty healthy and no slouch either.

And this post is why Girls Gone Calm is a video series in which I could totally star. 

Quinoa Salad and the Secret to Great Cookies

To get straight to the point:

20141130_085812 Eggs Norwegian at Landmarc

Where else can you get a high end breakfast at 8 am? Silky salmon, lemony hollandaise, and some of the greatest hash browns in town – they are crispy-soft, buttery and well salted. Don’t miss the very tasty, coarsely ground pork sausage. It’s robust and juicy – more like full on burger than an anemic sausage.
20141201_124639 Quinoa salad at Spring Natural Kitchen

So tasty and wholesome that it tastes like something that I would make myself. I can’t give any higher praise. This is something that tastes like it was made with care and love. Crunchy cabbage, toasted cashews, chewy quinoa, and a bright, acidic vinaigrette. This is feel good food that fills you without weighing you down – I can’t imagine a better lunch option.

20141128_152831 The world’s greatest cookies

They are just the plain old recipe on the back of the box, with COPIOUS AMOUNTS of Reese’s Pieces and M&Ms added. I mean copious. Pretend that you are a toddler who adds cookie ingredients with abandon. Because that’s how glorious accidents happen…adults hand over the reins and toddlers add WAY too much candy. Or, you know, just enough to keep the dough moist and tender, making the ideal soft, barely under baked cookies that are chewy, chocolatey, and irresistible. 

Phoebe would be so proud:

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