Spring, Where Are You?: The Fritos and Foie Gras Edition

It will be March 1 tomorrow.

By all accounts, that is when spring should start, equinox or not.

It’s daylight savings next week, for Pete’s sake!

I’m not even asking you, I’m telling you. Spring should be here NOW.

So here are the things that I wish were on my docket for this weekend:

Drinking margaritas

Eating light, fresh sushi

Cooking with fresh asparagus and tender new potatoes

Scrambling eggs for an outdoor brunch

And here is what I actually will be doing:

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Drinking hot cocoa

Eating lamb stew

Cooking with hearty beef and pasta

Making the fattiest, most decadent vegetarian sandwich known to humankind

Because it’s going to be 10 degrees and snowing this weekend.

Winter, I have given you your due, but to me, you are now dead.

Sun, come to mama.

How to Approach a Tasting Menu

Originally published at Whisked Foodie

A tasting menu is a huge commitment. A commitment of time, a commitment of money, and a commitment of appetite. It isn’t something that should be entered into lightly. You need to take the time to prepare and to anticipate. Follow these steps before you undertake a tasting menu:

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Consider the cost

It’s not just the cost of the menu. The cost of alcohol, the cost of menu supplements, and the cost of tip. This isn’t the time that you want to be mentally calculating your budget or praying that your debit card works. This is a wonderful, often once-in-a-lifetime experience and should be savored, not stressful. It is better to wait until you can really enjoy yourself then try to go before you can afford it.

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Will you like the restaurant?

If you hate the scent of curry, then that hot Indian restaurant in town isn’t going to impress you no matter how many James Beard Awards the chef has won. This is a big decision, so don’t base it on popularity or on something your friend liked. Be sure to go somewhere that you will really enjoy.

Give yourself time

The servers certainly can speed up your meal, but why would you want them to do that? Part of the glory of the meal is sitting back, relaxing with a wine pairing, and enjoying conversation with your fellow diners. This isn’t just a meal, it’s an experience.

Ask questions

Don’t know which wine to choose for dessert or what uni is? Just ask! Servers at fine dining restaurants are usually passionate about food and are more than happy to assist you in your choices. It isn’t about upselling you; it’s all about enhancing your experience.

Have an open mind

Who knows when you will get the chance to try frog legs or tomato gelee again? You don’t have to eat everything, but if you don’t at least try everything, you might as well go to McDonald’s for dinner.

Leave the diet at home

This should be totally self-explanatory.

Breakfast in the City

I have been all about breakfast lately! Bye bye steak and spaghetti, hello eggs for breakfast, waffles for lunch, an roast beef hash for dinner. Here’s where I have been getting my fix!
IMG_20140223_115007_989 Country breakfast at Citrus

Sure, this place might be most known for its trendy Latin-Asian fusion, but it does a damned good skillet fried egg with crispy bacon and a side of creamy, cheesy grits. It’s not mind blowing, but considering that it comes with a (spicy and potent!) Bloody Mary, the price is really reasonable. The bacon is crispy, the grits are buttery and rich, and the eggs are cooked but not at all rubbery. Plus, it’s super kid friendly, right down to the fountain where you can let your little ones congregate – there is always at least one parent there watching over all of the others.

That’s when you enjoy that Bloody Mary. 
IMG_20140217_084259_522 French breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien

I haven’t ever seen any Parisian eating a breakfast that even remotely resembles this, but if they knew how tasty it is, then they would be all over it. A soft boiled egg, with tender whites and a thick, hot yolk, is the ideal vehicle for slabs of tangy levain bread. Or, you can slather the bread in whipped cream cheese and top it with some soft smoked salmon. This hits all of the great breakfast points for me – eggy, light, filling, and savory. It will keep you full until lunch without feeling like you have a carb hangover.

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Chuao maple bacon chocolate bar

Okay, so it isn’t breakfast, but it has maple in it. And bacon. But not too much – just enough to add a really salty note to that creamy milk chocolate and almost insanely sweet maple.  It’s the ideal mixture of sweet, sharp, and very rich - there iss o much cream in the chocolate that it melts on your fingers. They sell tiny bars of this, which is great…because when I buy big one, I eat the whole thing.

After all, it does count as breakfast. 

 

Kringles for Christmas in February

Being Jewish gives me a ton of culinary advantages. I was eating liver at a young age, learned about the goodness of schmaltz on bread, and absolutely live to celebrate any holiday with a ton of food.

But, I was also denied some opportunities.

Like the opportunity to come downstairs on Christmas morning to the scent of cinnamon, sugar, and nuts.

Because, in some Gentile households of Danish descent, the kids get that every year in the form of a Kringle.

My friend Karl introduced us to this insanely delicious treat this past weekend – a little Christmas in February, dontcha know?

photo 1 (9) These Kringles come from Oh Danish Bakery in Wisconsin. You just order them online and freeze them. Follow the easy instructions to heat them up – don’t even THINK about microwaving these babies. Would you splatter paint on a Degas?

photo 3 (4) They come iced and ready to go. After just 3 minutes in your warm oven, the incredible scent of something sweeter than a cinnamon roll but with the same yeasty, familiar overtone wafts through the house.

photo 4 (4) This is addictive. It’s better than the alligator from Viktor Benes. It’s flaky and tender, but not doughy or gummy like most cinnamon rolls. It’s filled with a very fine pate of pecans, cinnamon, and sugar – it’s so delicate in texture but very robust in flavor. The icing is hard and crispy, like the awesome glaze on a sugar cookie, juxtaposing the delicate dough and the almost creamy filling. There are supposedly other versions, filled with raspberry and other fruits, but man…I can’t imagine anything tastier than this.

I wish this was a sample the company had sent me so I could send you some in a giveaway. But it isn’t  - it’s just this kick ass pastry from Wisconsin that my Danish friend Karl (Danish by way of Tucson, AZ) brought over for breakfast.

It’s why we keep him around.

And it’s why I’m mad that I’m Jewish

Empanadas and a Root and Bone Preview

I won’t keep ya in suspense – here are some delicious eats I have been enjoying as of late:

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Squash blossom and goat cheese empanadas at Cafe Frida

This place is kinda pricey and the portions can be small, but this is one of the dishes on the menu that is not only tasty but well portioned. The empanadas are very big – excellent for an appetizer or enough for the majority of a small meal. They are flatter than traditional empanadas and very flaky. The interior is creamy and earthy, with oregano and cilantro. It’s served on a rather spicy, tart salsa that brightens up the whole dish. I highly recommend this and a potent frozen blood orange margaritas for a snack at the bar.

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Skate with lemon and butter at Ed’s Chowder House

Been awhile since I ate here, right? The service has definitely gone down a notch, but the fish is as excellent as ever. This skate is as good as I have had anywhere, and that includes a very salty version that I once had at Balthazar. This is crispy, moist, and flaky with a mild taste, similar to bass. It’s served in an almost too buttery sauce – rich, tart with lemon, and swimming with herbs and leeks. It’s picatta style to the max, complete with buttery crushed potatoes. It’s super rich and a little heavy for a fish dish, which makes it ideal for a winter night.

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Deviled Eggs from Root and Bone

Top Chef’s Jeff McInnis is bringing his southern fried cookin’ up north and when it hopefully opens this spring in Alphabet City, expect the lines to go around the block. At this preview event, I had some really great food, but none was better than this deviled egg. Creamy, tart, and salty with a surprising umami kick from the anchovy – this is an egg for the ages. The perfect brunch dish or anytime dish. I could eat a dozen, no problem.

Seven Foodie Phrases You Will Never Hear Me Say

This isn’t just a blog about food…it’s a blog about me.

And I want you all to be prepared, not just for what to expect from an Italian restaurant, but how to tell if I have become a zombie in case of the zombie apocalypse. 

If I ever utter one of these phrases, it’s not me. It’s my zombie self.

So run.

Because I would NEVER say:

“Ugh, I would never eat fast food.”

“Dude, no foie gras is worth that much money.”

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“Oh I didn’t prepare to wait in line. That’s okay – let’s just wait for a couple of hours – I’m hungry, but I won’t get cranky!”

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“I know that we are in Japan but I just really want to go to TGIFriday’s…”

“Give me another red wine – I never get hungover!”

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“I honestly can’t eat one more French fry.”

“Let’s skip the appetizers and just order more dessert!”

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“Just dig right in, it’s okay if you don’t wait for me to take a picture for my blog.”

Superbowl Sunday Menu

So, there is a big event coming up.

I know this because my fiance told me that we have to hold a party for it.

I have never hosted this kind of party. This isn’t really a dinner party. It isn’t an awards show party. And there will be no pairing of wine with cheese.

It’s a big bowl party.

Wait…no… a SUPER bowl party.

There’s going to be a football game and for some reason, people are super psyched.

I will try very hard to watch some of the game and not just play Candy Crush the entire time.

The good thing about this party is that the main focus, besides football, is on food. Not intricate, complicated dishes with subtle spicing, but with the trashiest food possible. Hearty in both ingredients and flavoring, it has to be stuff that feeds a crowd with varying palates and allergies and is also delicious. So, here is what I am thinking of making:

Bombay Deviled Eggs

The last time I made these was almost 2 years ago and they were so popular that they went without me even getting a chance to go back for seconds. They are handheld, they are filling,they are cheap, and they are major crowd pleasers. They aren’t overtly Indian, just slightly spicy and fragrant – the perfect twist on a deviled egg.

Mexican Cheeseburger Dip

I mean, come on…this stuff is tailor made for a Superbowl party. It’s hot, it’s meaty, it’s cheesy, it’s INCREDIBLY unhealthy, and you are supposed to eat it with Fritos…it’s literally PERFECT. I mean, right?

Right.

Jalapeno Popper Monkey Bread

Because why just serve normal bread when you can have one stuffed with cheese and bacon?

Tabasco Sweet and Hot Pralines

These are the perfect thing to snack on in between platefuls of meat and cheese. Just grab a a handful and munch while playing candy crush – I mean, watching the game. They are the perfect mixture of sweet and savory – tasty but not too hoity-toity gourmet. This is good stuff to have sitting around the house. I might mix it in the bowls with plain popcorn.

Fig, Ricotta, and Prosciutto Flatbread

Gonna get maybe 4 or 5 cans of pizza dough and bang these babies out. Might top some with chicken sausage or duck prosciutto to make it kosher.

Might not.

These are as close as I can get to heaven. Pork. Fig. Cheese. and Carbs.

Oh yeah.

Obviously, making some guac, too.

What are you eating on Superbowl Sunday?

The Greatest Cooking Shortcuts

If you couldn’t guess by now…I’m pretty lazy. 

I love spandex pants – no zippers to zip.

I love spoiler websites – who wants to sit through the entire LOTR trilogy, anyway?

And I LOVE cooking cheats.

I’m not one of those cooks who thinks that you need to can your own jams  and butcher your own hog to make a a homemade meal truly authentic. I’m not quite the Semi Homemade Nightmare that some celebrities are (nor am I subtle), but there are a few products that I just LOVE using to make my meals faster, easier, and more accessible. Here are my faves:

Worcestershire Sauce

Stuff from heaven, nothing less. This is salty, savory, umami in a bottle. It’s made from anchovies, garlic, about a million spices, and other things, and let me tell you…it’s the missing ingredient in almost anything. It’s the key to my shortcut Caesar dressing, the star in every single burger, and I wouldn’t go near a Bloody Mary that doesn’t use the stuff. I never use anchovies – just use this potent stuff. it makes everything taste much deeper and richer, like you have been boiling stock all day just for your last minute bouillabaisse. Don’t leave home without this.

Canned tomatoes

If you have a bumper crop of tomatoes and a bunch of time on your hands, by all means, put up your own tomatoes this week. However, if you have no desire to stand around the kitchen in the heat, boiling, seasoning, sterilizing, and washing for hours, then just buy the stuff in the cans. Nowadays, there are so many varieties of canned tomatoes—imported, Mexican, organic, and fire-roasted to name a few—that there is no reason that you can’t find the tomatoes you need for your recipe. Even when tomato is the star, store-bought canned tomatoes offer the same tang and acidity of home-canned ones. The low sodium ones are especially useful, so you can doctor them up yourself. I use them in salsa, in tomato sauce, and even roast them with plenty of garlic, basil, oregano, and olive oil. 

Canned Stock

I know, I know that homemade is best. And if I had a huge suburban freezer, I would totally just make a huge batch and keep it frozen year round to always have wonderfully gelatinous, rich stock at my disposal.

But, sadly, I have only a tiny NYC fridge.

And I like watching The Real Housewives more than I like boiling soup bones.

So boxed stock makes it into my soups, sauces, roasts, and purees. It often gets a bump from fresh herbs, but come on…this shortcut is a no brainer. 

Pre Shredded Cheese

If I am making dinner for 3 or 4, sure I will grate the stuff fresh – it tastes much more vibrant and fresh, and it doesn’t have all of those weird ingredients that keep it from clumping. But when I am making 60 mac-and-cheese cups for the preschool party or 2 huge trays of tamale pie, I’m going with the pre-grated stuff. It might not be great, but it is quite good.

Cookie Dough

Because ain’t no one complaining about a freshly made cookie, no matter who made the dough.

The World’s Best Foie Gras

This article recently appeared at Tanja Ellis Culture Home. However…how could I not share it with you all here? It’s my favorite subject and I really want my favorite readers to enjoy it (that’s y’all). So, without further ado…the world’s priciest way to raise your cholesterol:

Foie gras is one of the world’s most coveted foods. For those who love it, nothing compares to the rich, meaty taste of foie gras. From lollipops to the classic torchon, here are the world’s ten best foie gras dishes.

Rendang and Apple Foie Gras at Frangipani, Kuala Lumpur

Frangipani’s rending and apple foie gras exemplifies Kuala Lumpur’s fusion of Asian and Westernized cuisines. Aromatic curry in the rending combines with caramelized apples and a phyllo dough sphere to complement the seared foie gras. This fusion dish seems destined to become a modern classic.

Foie Gras Lollipops at Amber, Hong Kong

Though one might not expect dessert before the main course, that’s what is on the menu at Amber. Here, a foie gras nugget is concealed within a candied shellac of raspberry and beet, topped with gingerbread and beetroot.

Le Burger at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Tokyo

Eating Joel Robuchon’s famous French food in Tokyo is not only delicious, it is totally whimsical. His “Le Burger” tops a juicy beef patty with pat of seared foie gras and sweetly caramelized bell peppers that take the American comfort food classic to a wholly new level.

Foie Gras Nigiri at Maido

Japanese expatriates in Peru have invented Nikkei food, which is the blending of Peruvian and Japanese cuisines. Nowhere is it done more exquisitely than at Maido. Try the foie gras nigiri, which consists of sushi rice placed under a tiny lobe of seared foie gras. Seasoned only with sea salt, this collision of tastes, textures, and cultures comes together seamlessly.

Cromesquis de Foie Gras at Au Pied de Cochon, Montreal

Martin Picard’s casual restaurant is an ode to all things foie gras, but the standout dish is the cromesquis de foie gras. Two golden brown cubes arrive at the table, with instructions to let them cool for a few minutes because the interior is piping hot. A thick, crispy breading surrounds a molten interior that is rich, buttery, and the essence of foie gras.

Foie Gras Crème Brulee at Sage, Las Vegas

This gamble that Chef Shawn McClain makes in Sin City pays off in spades. The foie gras is whipped into a light, creamy mousse that is then given a sugary, crackly top. It’s sweet, savory, and utterly addictive.

Foie Gras Soup Dumplings at Annisa, New York City

Chef Anita Lo has made her mark on the culinary world by fusing Chinese and French techniques, and her seared soup dumplings with foie gras have been on her flagship restaurant menu since day one. Thin skin dumplings are filled with a meaty broth then topped with seared foie for the ultimate umami experience.

Foie Gras Crunch at Osteria Francescana, Modena

The foie gras at this modernist restaurant is cooked into a smooth torchon and then filled with aged balsamic vinegar and rolled in toasted nuts before being served in “ice cream bar” form.

Foie Gras Confit at Benoit, Paris

This classic bistro’s foie gras, cooked gently in its own fat, is rich beyond compare. Served with warm brioche, the foie is positively buttery and perfectly executed.

Foie Gras En Croute at Le Relais de la Poste, La Wantzenau

Set in the city of Strasbourg, this small hotel-cum-restaurant serves traditional French cuisine in a serene setting. Get the baked foie gras and you will receive a golden, flaky pastry that cuts open to revel an entire velvety foie gras. Just book a room ahead of time, because after indulging in the the specialty of the house, you won’t be in the mood to go anywhere.

Make the Most of NYC Living With These Eating Events

If you don’t live in NYC, there are a lot of things you have over us.

Mexican food.

The price of buying a home.

Kids who know what grass is.

But there are a few things that make this busy, expensive, smelly city worthwhile.

Namely, events like these – I am going to try to hit some up this weekend, and so should you, if you can! (I wasn’t compensated for posting about these-they just look and sound delish!):

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Get in touch with your Austrian side at Cooking A Capella’s Schnitzel, Spaetzle, and Strudel class. Austrian food is the best – it’s hearty and utilizes lots of butter, bread, and potatoes – basically, it’s just what you need in this arctic weather.  At this class, prepare to “make Jagerschnitzel (a breaded pork cutlet with a bacon-mushroom sauce) homemade spaetzle with cabbage and cheese (made by hand with a spaetzle board) and apfelstrudel mit vanillesauce made easy with phyllo dough.” Anything that says “mit vanillesauce” is going to be delicious. Plus, you get 10% off if you buy tickets here.

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Brooklyn Night Bazaar

Why is Smorgasburg still getting all the press when this place is somwhere you can go without a hangover or worrying about the weather? Head to Williamsburg, and from 7 pm to 1 am, listen to live music, buy clothing and knick kancks from assorted vendors, and…of course…pig out. Enjoy street tacos from Oaxaca Taqueria, my favorite brisket from Delaney BBQ, and what many consider to be the greatest ice cream around, from Ample Hills Creamery. Buy a SuperPass and get 2 free drinks, skip the line, and – oh yeah – enjoy playing glow in the dark mini golf! Bring cash and don’t forget to hit up the bars in the bazaar.  after all, it’s party night!

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Ayza Couples Night

if you are single, go with a friend and make out a little. It’s worth the potential awkward day tomorrow to get this chic chocolate restaurant’s free Jacques Torres truffles at the end of your meal. You have to eat anyway, right? Why not make it a dinner filled with reasonably priced wine, tasty meat and cheese plates, and then chocolates from the city’s most esteemed chocolatier? Just follow these instructions and don’t forget a chocolate martini to go alongside.