Friday, December 29, 2006

California - The Rest

I am back from a holiday break and am back in work hell now as I am sure the rest of you are as well. One more California post and then moving on to new topics.

After we left Mendocino, we headed down the coast and then inland to Napa. We decided to take the scenic route which took us down route 1 and past some of the most amazing coastline I have ever seen. We stopped in a small town called Point Arena. This is one of those towns that takes down any directional signs to keep people from discovering and ultimately spoiling it.

And this is what I love about California, the town was really small, in the middle of nowhere, and yet we were able to stop in a deli (The Record) on the almost non-existent main street in town and have a ridicuously good lunch. I had a reuban with neiman-ranch pastrami and soft and spicy dark rye bread. I chased this down with a home made gingerale.

We then headed inland on what looked like a road on the map we had. It would hardly call it a road - it was like hiking with a car, and a minivan at that. The road curved and rose up the hills of Sonoma and it was scary and exhilerating and stunning and surprising. For 1 1/2 hours we passed two other cars and saw what I think was the most beautiful part of the country I have witnessed to date. I didn't take pictures because even though I wasn't driving, I thought somehow me not concentrating on the road would make us fall off the huge cliff on either side of the car.

When we finally came down on the other side of the mountain and peeled our fingers out of the seat cushions, as if an oasis, Ferrari-Carrano wineries appeared ahead of us - and we had five minutes before closing. We literally ran through the gate and up the long drive to arrive breathless as the staff was cleaning up. They graciously let us taste their wines not knowing how much it helped to calm our nerves. I don't really remember the wines, just how good it felt to be drinking wine, and not driving.

We checked into the Best Western Elm House Inn just of Route 29 in Napa which was one of the more affordable and surprisingly nicest hotels I have stayed at. I would highly recommend it. On to dinner at the Bounty Hunter which is named for the owner who finds and distributes rare and unique wines. As to be expected the wine list was long and interesting. Not as expected, but definitely welcomed was a high quality of the food. We shared beer can roasted chicken, a pulled pork sandwich, artichoke dip, and ribs. All was delicious.

The next morning we ate complimentary Belgian waffles at the hotel and then headed to Miner Vineyards on the Silverado Trail for a private tour. The was the highlight of the whole trip. Not only did we taste 11 plus wines (I lost track after a while) the quality of each varietal was pretty amazing - usually you go to a winery and one or two wines that they are known for stand out and the rest are just ok. We even got to try pinot noir right out of the barrel. The riedel stemware that was used for tasting certainly added to the experience. We left 3 hours later, a little drunk and a bottle of chardonnay richer (we drank it at Christmas and it was as good as remembered.)

On to a picnic lunch at V. Sattui, a regular stop for us where you can get cheese, salads, cured meats and a cheap bottle of wine and sit outside at one of their many picnic benches. Also, their tasting is free which is a plus.

With not much soberness left in us, we decided to hit two more vineyards. First was Plumpjack which is known for their screwtop wines. They were fine, but at this point the taste buds were a little dull. We skipped out on the $5 tasting fee because the woman behind the counter didn't get off the phone the whole time we were there and we went to Silverado Vineyards as much for the view as for anything else. Again, the wines were good - but hard for us to taste.

Some pictures from the trip...

Back to San Francisco that night. An evening of bar hopping in North Beach with stops at Specs and Vesuvio's - both high on the character charts.

The next morning it was off to New York with a quick stop for shrimp tempura udon at Ebisu in the International Terminal of SFO before boarding (again, only in California - even the food at the airport is great.)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

California Part 2

After the weekend in LA, we hopped in the car and drove up route 5 to San Francisco. Route 5 could be the worst highway in the US but the company was good and we had one of those ipod hookups so we were all set.

The husband and I lived in San Francisco for 6 years so it was a little embarrassing when we nearly drove right by SF. We turned around and arrived in the Richmond District around 8:30pm to visit with good friends. After some delicious cheese and beer we headed out to dinner at King of Thai Noodle house on Clement between 4th and 5th (they have other locations as well).

I know everyone says they have good Thai near them, but something about the places in SF are just so much better. I will say that Sripraphai in Queens was pretty freakin good, but that's about all I have found.

On the order for 6 people was chicken satay; fish cakes; tofu in green curry; noodles with egg, soy, and broccoli; chicken with chili; chicken with eggplant; 8 beers and I know I am missing a dish or two. You want to know what the bill was?

A whopping 65 dollars - for 6 people - after tax and tip.

It kills me when people talk about cheap eats in New York. It just isn't the same.

The next morning we headed up to Mendocino, a favorite weekend getaway of ours - and about every other couple in SF. Winter is a great time to go because it is really quiet up there. The ride up is windy but stunning and a sense of calm hits me every time the ocean reveals itself in all its angriness as you pull out of the redwoods and hit the coast. The town is about 3 hours north of SF.

This is one of about two dozen pictures I took while there. I'll post more tomorrow.

On the way, we always stop at Navarro Vineyards, the best producer of Gewurztraminer in CA, at least in my opinion. Their tasting is free and they offer all their wines for tasting. We bought a bottle of Gewurtz and a bottle of Pinot Noir for our night in Mendo.

After checking in to the Mendocino Hotel we went for a long walk on the cliffs. Walking is big is Mendocino. This was followed with some cheese and the bottle of Guwertz on the porch of the hotel which overlooks the cliffs and ocean.

Then on to dinner at Cafe Beaujolais. This is a must stop. And when you go, someone must order the Sturgeon, it is sort of famous - at least in my head.

We all started with Aperitifs, for me the Lillet Rouge which reminded me of a not too sweet sangria. For appetizers we split pumpkin soup which was so fresh that there were chunks of pumpkin; crab cakes that were all crab no breadcrumbs; and Nimon Ranch ham with a chile cream sauce and poached egg, obviously this had no chance of being bad. A great start to dinner.

Of course two people got the sturgeon which is pan roasted with truffle emulsion sauce, served with house made tagliatelle, wild mushrooms, beets and snap peas. This is one of the more perfectly balanced dishes I have ever tasted.

I had the lamb shank. Of course I loved it as I do anything that is braised.

The fourth person in our group had the duck which came with a pepper risotto. The risotto was almost too peppery on its own, it really tasted as if you were chewing on a peppercorn. However, with the sweet wine reduction sauce that was on the duck it worked like magic. I love when that happens.

For dessert, an apple crumble and a chocolate gooey thing that I can't remember. The wine was starting to kick in...

After walking back to our hotel (no need for a car in this town) we grabbed the bottle of pinot we bought earlier and played hearts in front of the fire in the lobby. I know this is so cheesy you want to puke but somehow when you are there it makes sense. I dare you not to do the same when you are there.

The next morning - more walks and a stop at the local bakery for blackberry danish and coffee to be eaten on the cliffs and then off to Napa. If only every morning started this way.

One other mention, there is a tea from the Mendocino Tea Company that rivals my favorite Mariage Freres tea. Here is a link to a picture of their booth at the local farmer's market. Very grass roots. They claim to have a website but it doesn't work. The tea you want (if you go to Mendocino it can be found in the grocery store in town) is the purple label, I think called Mendocino Sunsets.

Tomorrow, California Part 3 Napa and the Airport

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

California Part 1

Two weeks ago the husband and I were in LA for a wedding (which was lovely by the way). Here are some notes from that portion of the trip. After the weekend, we drove with the brother and S-I-L to San Francisco, Mendocino, and Napa. I'll get to the 2nd and 3rd leg of the trip later in the week.

Because the wedding was in downtown LA, we decided to stay at the Standard Hotel which is a ridiculously trendy hotel (although, it is very 5 minutes ago from what I read in my People magazine.) I loved the Foosball table in the lobby even though I was only able to wrangle one game out of my co-travelers. I loved the bathroom that was bigger then my living room at home, I loved that the bed was too far from the TV to make the remote control work. I didn't love all the drunk people in the hallways (until I was one of them) or the bass coming from the rooftop bar until 2 am. But I did love the roof top bar during the day when no one was there. And I loved the silly water bed pods on the roof. The breakfast in the diner was great and I had some of the fluffiest pancakes I've had. I'm no pancake connoisseur but these were really good.

On Saturday we ventured to Malibu and decided to try Moonshadows Restaurant which I had heard about in additional People magazine reading. The weather was a perfect LA 74 degrees. We had a beautiful booth outside overlooking the ocean which sadly will soon be in the ocean because of all the SUV's and Hummer's that we sat in traffic with on the way there. But come on, they are really a necessity in the snow drenched, unpaved, streets of LA. Of course, I was able to forget about worldly concerns as I sipped on the best Bloody Mary I've had in recent memory and enjoyed the breeze coming off the water.

On Sunday we met a friend for lunch at Phillip's for the french dip, a classic LA foodie stop. It was a very cheap lunch which I appreciated. (Coffee is 10 cents). I thought my beef was a little fatty, which I usually secretly enjoy, but this was a little too much for me. I think I would get the pork or turkey next time. We ordered the cherry pie because it was one of those gooey fake cherry fillings that, like canned cranberry sauce, is better then the real stuff if only for the kitch value. It worked for me.

That night we went to a great hole in the wall sushi place in Little Tokyo that was recommended to us. Unfortunately, I don't remember the name of the place (bad blogger). I'm admittedly a bit of a sushi idiot. The husband has historically not liked sushi so we never go and so I've never really understood all the etiquette. We sat at the bar and the chef and waitress gave us a little sushi lesson - presumably because our idiotness was so obvious. I'm sure they laughed at us after we left, but they seemed really nice while we were there and they gave us a sushi calendar to take home. I learned that you always order tuna or salmon first and if you like the quality then you can trust the chef, if not, play it safe.

Tomorrow - California Part Two (San Francisco and Mendocino).

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A New Look

Do we like the new look of the blog? They made me change the template and I'm not sure how I feel about this one. Let me know what you think, I might try some new ones on this week. I'm also trying to figure out the new system which has been a pain in the a@#. So bear with me.

Ok, so I know it is a little late but here are my Thanksgiving pictures with some I the only one who thinks this fall came and went too soon. I refuse to give in to the natural progression of "time." I'm going to pretend like Thanksgiving was yesterday. Play along with me.

The day started (and always starts) with my Mom's famous crumb cake which is pretty much all crumbs.

Drinking began at 12:30 with Champagne Cocktails. Easy drink with a lot of complexity. Place a sugar cube in the bottom of a champagne glass. Add 2 or 3 dashes of Angostoura bitters. Top with champagne. The drink gets better with every sip.

Then on to appetizers from Arthur Avenue. Some prosciutto bread and green olives.

A well made antipasta is a true art form.

There is nothing better then the smell of turkey cooking.

Except a well carved turkey.

Ok, who can honestly admit that they like real cranberry sauce better then the canned kind? The canned stuff is one of the true great wonders of this world in my opinion. Sorry for the sideways picture, I can't really figure out the new blogging instructions.

Here is the table, beautifully set.

And here is my plate. How good does all of this look?

Finally, to cap off the weekend in my family's fantastic tradition of eating way too much cured meats, turkey sandwhiches on Friday with thick cut bacon.

Thanks to the brother and sister-in-law who put on a great T-day.

Tomorrow I post about California.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I'm Back

Ok, so I thought I was a bad blogger before. Now I have hit a new low. But here are my excuses:

1. Work has been really busy.
2. Was inCalifornia for a week and California doesn't have computers.
3. The cat ate computer.
4. Got a new computer but it is a mac and just figured out how to turn it on.

Here is the good news

1. I now have a computer that works.
2. I went to California and there is good food in California.

Stay tuned.

Monday, November 27, 2006

A Lesson Learned

So I learned a blogger lesson when I was informed by one of my two readers that I didn't post about everything that I promised to post about. That's the last time that I promise something I can't deliver....

I am going to get through everything I promised in this post and then move on.

Family Recipes as a Wedding Favor: At the wedding I mentioned in previous posts, I was impressed with their wedding favor. In addition to some jam and a lovely wooden spoon, there was a card with a recipe from each side of the family that was being joined in the day's celebration. I hadn't seen that before and I thought it was an idea worth mentioning.

My New Toy: Say hello to my new crock pot.

This was a recent birthday present and one that I can't wait to use. It came out of the box last night and the directions are being read today. Next task, finding a home for the pot in my miniscule apartment. Husband and cat may need to move out.

Food Writing Class at the Institute of Culinary Education: Two Monday's ago I treated myself to a class at ICE which is on W. 23rd between 5th and 6th. The question at hand was "how do I break into food writing." The answer was "you don't." Well, it wasn't that blunt, but essentially everyone wants to be a food writer, there are few magazines and few trusted writers, and even those barely get paid. I think I've decided to keep doing what I am doing for now. The upside of the class was the slice of pizza I had beforehand from the hole in the wall on the corner of 22 and 6th. Great sauce and cheese.

Speaking of Pizza: I went to Otto (Mario Batali's pizza place) two Mondays ago and the Friday before I went to Lombardi's. Both were delicious. At Otto, I particularly enjoy the pizza with the fried egg on top. Can't explain it, but it is so good. It was also interesting to eat there after just having finished Heat. The plain cheese pizza at Lombardi's was also very good and I really enjoyed the dressing on the salad we started with. The soda was a little flat. But I have to admit that a good slice at 3 am before heading home after a long night out beats either of the above options any day.

Monday, November 20, 2006

A Story about Beer

In my last post I mentioned that I was recently at a wedding in upstate NY (a lovely and very fun wedding, btw). But this isn't a story about the wedding, it is a story about beer.

Last Friday morning, we woke up a little groggy and still sated from our outing to Peter Lugers. A hint of fall was in the air and I hated to leave the city on such a beautiful day. But there was a wedding to attend.

We all headed to Grand Central to make our way upstate. The wallet was a bit thinner from the night before, but with the crisp $20 bill that was left, I paid for the $4 ticket to Westchester where a ride was waiting to take us out of town.

The familiar "clink" "clink" "clink"......"clink" was heard as my change in the form of silver dollars fell into the metal bin.

Damn, I thought, what am I going to do with these silver dollars?

I can't explain it, but they don't feel like money and I feel just a little more flush when carrying dollar bills instead, and that's a feeling that I need often in New York.

Little did I know that the answer to my silver dollar dilemna was to be found in Oxford, NY.

There, in this remote part of the state, down route 12, after a 4 hour drive, after 2 wrong turns that added an extra 20 minutes, was the most perfect answer to that question.

In this little town, is the most exellent dive bar. And I don't mean a fake hipster Lower East Side Dive bar. This is the real deal. Not quite as deadly as Mars Bar, but not quite that different either. The place is called The Oxford Tavern, or the OT to the locals.

In this gem of a bar that is all characters and smoke, beers can be had for a mere $1.

And I can't explain it, but there is something particularly special about handing over a silver dollar for an ice cold Genny Cream. More then one were handed over and the logic that helped justify the $14 cocktail the night before seemed ludicrous and even a little sad.

Of course, as soon as I got back, I knew that that I would continue to justify my rent, and the bar bills, and dinner that is "almost as cheap as eating in."

And the next morning reading AM NewYork on the train, I giggled...and then shed a quick tear when I read about the $6 special for PBR and a shot of Jack at an East Village bar this weekend.

Traveling in Style

For the comfort of home when traveling, some people pack slippers, some go for their own pillow.

My family packs cured meats and booze.

On a recent wedding trip to upstate New York, the Hampton Inn spread included aged parmagianno, thin sliced prosciutto, lard bread, spicy sausage, and the requisite bloody mary mix.

These next few shots are small, but I know there are some of you out there who understand priorities... the bags get carried, the booze gets rolled.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Last Thursday we went to Peter Lugers in Brooklyn to celebrate a birthday.

Here's how it went down:

8 people
1 steak for three Pittsburgh style
1 steak for three medium
1 steak for two medium rare
8 pieces of bacon
1 side of creamed spinach
1 side of potatoes
1 side of onion rings
1 slice of cheesecake
8+ cocktails
2 bottles of wine
1 apple strudel
1 bowl of whipped cream with a candle

Pictures speak louder then words so:

...and just to prove that I can commit to gluttony.

There's not much else to say.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Happy Foodie

So, I had an extra long - great foodie weekend. I can't post very much right now because I am at work and a bit swamped but a few things you will hear about soon:

Gluttony at Peter Lugers

$1 Beers at the OT

Pizza at Lombardi's

Family Recipe's as a Wedding Favors

The New Crock Pot

Dinner at Otto

Food Writing a la ICE

This will be a busy week! I should be able to post tonight and get started on this list.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


I am just about finished reading Heat by Bill Buford which is the authors recount of a year spent in Mario Batali's kitchen as well as a great deal of time spent in Italy researching traditional recipes and cooking techniques.

A chapter on ragu inspired me last Saturday. I've been making sauce for ages, but apparently I've never really made a ragu. It couldn't be easier. Or more delicious.

There really isn't a recipe, more a philosophy, which is slow cooking meat with a little tomato paste and water.

I cross referenced with Silver Spoon, the Italian cookbook that I also received for my bday.

My Ragu

3tbsp butter
1 tbsp oil
1 lb hot Italian sausage, decased and crumbled
3/4 lb ground pork/veal/beef
1 carrot chopped
2 celery stalks chopped
2 small onions chopped
Small can of tomato paste slightly thinned with water
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt and Pepper

Melt butter with oil in large pot over medium heat. Place the meat, carrot, celery, and onion in pot and cook until meat starts to brown and vegetables begin to wilt. Add tomato paste and water, nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Cook over very low heat for 1 1/2 hours. Add water if it becomes a little dry (mine never did).

That's it. So good. So easy. Served over fresh pasta and it really doesn't get better then that.

I'm eating the leftovers today for lunch. Very excited.

Go vote!

Tonight I am going to post about the ragu that I made on Saturday and the bourbon cocktails that the husband made to go with them. That's right, it's heavy sauce/braising season which means it is also bourbon season! My favorite time of the year.

I can't post now because I don't have my camera and I took some pictures to include.

In the meantime, I just ate an ok sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich and am drinking a coffee with milk and one sugar.

Anyone have something good for breakfast?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Very Bad Blogger

So I have clearly not been blogging for a while. I apologize for the 2 of you still checking my blog with any regularity. I promise to do better.

I haven't been this busy in a while...I have barely cooked in the last several weeks. Sadly, the husband and I are surviving on not so good take out. Nothing has seemed very post worthy. But there was a glimmer of hope Wednesday night...

I'll set the scene. I set out to the way far east village for an avant garde (sp?) Japanese piano performance to scope out a potential performance that we could do at my work. There were about 20 people in the audience and it started out decent enough. The first song was kind of like a song, it seemed to have a melody.

But shortly thereafter, we dove headfirst into weird with the 2nd "song". I don't know if I can really describe how bad it was. The pianist would play a horrible chord and then stop, then press one key and then stop, then pluck on the strings of the piano, let the sound linger, then stop....this went on and on and on for over an hour. Actually I left after about 1h 15minutes into it. She could still be doing this for all I know.

The crazy part was that the black turtleneck clad audience seemed to eat it up, even were bobbing their head in agreement with how awesome it was. I am not making this up. I looked around for other people with the "WTF???" look that I was displaying, but they were nowhere to be found.

It was 9pm when I left, and I was way the hell over on Avenue C, and I hadn't eaten so I was hungry, and mad that I wasted an evening.

I know that so far this doesn't have anything to do with food. But for me, a night can always be saved by eating something good. I had $10 burning a whole in my pocket and, as mentioned, was in the East Village so there were many options in my price range.

I decided to go to 99 Miles to Philly, a cheesesteak place. I've been meaning to try the cheesesteak and compare to Carl's Steak, which I love.

As if it were a sign, they had a special for a cheesesteak, waffle fries, and a soda...$9.99. I even had a penny to spare.

And with a ketchup drenched waffle fry, a slug of coke, and a bite of cheesesteak dripping with hotsauce...the night was saved.

As for the comparison between 99 Miles and Carl's - I wish there was a little more steak and that it was cut a bit thinner. Also, the roll could have been slightly more crunchy. I like Carl's steaks better because it excels in both areas. I did think the cheese (American) was perfectly melted and almost turned into a sauce. Finally, I prefer the fries at Carl's, straightforward and crispy. But that is just a personal preference, as far as waffle fries go, these were pretty freaking good.

Tough to compare two great cheesesteaks...but there you have it.

Thanks for still reading my blog!

Friday, October 20, 2006

At Long Last - A great lunch

Every now and again, when we can get a big enough group together and we don't have too many meetings scheduled, we can order lunch from Arthur Avenue. Mike's Deli delivers but has a minimum and they take forever to get here. But it is so worth it.

I'm having the eggplant parm and the eggplant isn't too greasy, very thin, and perfectly breaded. The sauce is that perfect sauce that you can only get at a great Italian restaurant and there is plenty of cheese.

The other people who ordered said there was so much, they would have lunch for tomorrow. I smiled and nodded in pretend agreement...but of course I knew I would eat the whole thing.

I'm eating my last bite right now.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Sad Lunch Again

Why can't I get myself to bring lunch to work? I just ordered a sausage, egg, and cheese on a roll and a large coffee for lunch. They are the only edible/drinkable things from the diner we can order I end up eating this often and at non-breakfast times.

So sad...

I did make pork chops with mustard and cornichons and a roasted beet salad with walnut oil and goat cheese last night, so I'll think about that while I eat my crappy lunch.

Off to Boston for the weekend, I'll bring my camera and hopefully will have some good foodie tales to tell.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

One Slice or Two

Got out of the office today and had pizza for lunch. I had a slice of sicilian which was way too bready for my taste. I know this about this particular pizza place, but I always order it.

I think it is because one regular slice is never enough and two slices seems a little piggy. I know I don't have to eat the second slice, but that logic doesn't work with me becuase if the food is there, I will eat it. So I order the sicilian and am disappointed instead, go figure.

Tonight, pork chops defrosting as we speak, need to pick up a vegetable on my way home, will probably also roast some potatoes that I keep forgetting to use.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Big Night

Watched this last night.

I love this movie.

As a foodie, I'm a little embarassed that I hadn't seen it until last night. If you like to eat or cook and you haven't seen it yet, put it first on your netflix cue. You won't be sorry.

Also, I have leftover chinese for lunch today, my week is looking up!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Babbo on My Mind

Once again I woke up too late to make my lunch. At what I thought was 7am, I sat up and was so wide awake that I was pleased with myself for getting a good night sleep.

As it turned out my watch had stopped and it was actually 8am. I was up and out the door in 15 minutes...and I still missed my train.

I love Monday mornings.

Already, I am thinking about what I am going to do for lunch since my options are EXTREMELY limited. My mind wanders in nostalgic reverence to the perfect meal that I had at Babbo a few weeks ago.

This was my kind of restaurant, comfort food done on a gourmet level, no pretentiousness at all but very nice atmosphere, a good buzz, not ridiculously expensive, and great music like the Strokes, Radiohead, etc. No classical elevator music anywhere to be heard.

We started with a salami plate which had a range of cured meats with an accompaniment of caramelized onions. The only thing that I didn't love was the lardo, which I feel bad admitting because I think it is a specialty.

We then split two pastas. First, the beef cheek ravioli with porcini and truffle sauce. It was so earthy and cozy. The other pasta was pumpkin ravioli with a brown butter sauce and shaved amaretto cookies. This is the most pumpkinny thing I have ever eaten and it was the perfect balance with the other pasta.

The next course was more braised beef (I've mentioned before that I love braised beef - do you believe me now) which was fall apart good and again just the perfect comfort food, especially with the nice bottle of good Chianti that we treated ourselves to since it was our anniversary.

Finally, the dessert of warm plum tart with cinnamon ice cream was better then I even expected it would be, and I expected a lot. The pastry was so flaky and delicate. And I am a sucker for cinnamon anything.

Sadly, now that my reminiscence is over, I will go back to thinking about my crappy lunch of who knows what. It might be a vending machine day for me.

Does anyone have something delicious for lunch? Maybe I can live vicariously through you?

Sunday, October 08, 2006


I'm sorry I haven't been blogging as regularly as I probably should. This past week has been filled with many dinners and food and drink related events as it was my birthday and we celebrated our anniversary all in the same week. Clearly it is the same week every year, and it is always an exhausting, gluttonous, and of course enjoyable whirlwind. That said, I have a lot to catch up on. I'll try to post as much as I can this week about dinners at Babbo, Chanterelle, and 11 Madison Park.

This post is a tribute to my predictability...or else my husband's keen understanding of the woman he married. Either way he picked the absolutely perfect gifts for my birthday.

Some highlights...

Mariage Freres Teas: Have tried the Buddha Bleu and the Eros. I loved each one for their perfect subtleness and smooth flavor.

Walnut Oil from J. Leblanc: The same place that I got the Hazelnut Oil and the best vinegar I've ever had(which reminds me that I need to post about the asparagus with hazelnut oil that I made).

The Silver Spoon Cookbook: Sort of the Italian version of the Joy of Cooking. Other then recipes for lights (lamb lungs) and some of the other varietal meats, I can't wait to get cracking on this book.

The Physiology of Taste by Brillat-Savarin: Another foodie must read translated by MFK Fisher. A tidbit from the first page, "Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are." Sound familiar?

Heat: Bill Buford tells his experience of spending a year in Mario Batali's kitchen at Babbo

Robert Sinsky Pinot Noir: First had this at French Laundry and love it for its flavor but also because of how it makes me remember one of the most perfect meals I have ever had.

The Whiskey (or Whisky) Argument

I have a friend who is an insatiable arguer. It is impossible to win with him because he will drag the argument out to such an extent that you either a.) secede your point so you don't have to think about it any more or b.) die of old age. Sometimes you are wrong, but that is rare.

You would think that I should know better by now to not engage, but alas an argument about whiskey vs. Scotch, how they are made, and why the flavors differ arose on a recent night out. I have to be honest, I don't really remember what I bet or really what my side of the argument was, but I know that by posting this I could potentially lose something.

I am by no means an expert, I just did a few google searches and looked through some of our cocktail books. Here's what I found.

The first step to make any whiskey is to malt barley. Barley is malted by letting it soak in water for a few days. This process turns the starch from the barley into fermentable sugars. Malting is stopped by drying the mixture in a kiln.

In Scotland, the malt is dried using a fire that is often fueled with peat and the smoke comes in direct contact with the malt. This gives Scotch the smoky flavor that it has and separates it from all other whiskies. In coastal areas, the peat will pick up the saltiness of the sea air and will contribute to the flavor of the scotch.

In Ireland, the malt is dried in a closed kiln fired by coal or gas and no smoke comes in contact with the malt - hence no smoky flavor. Also, the Irish spell it whisky, not whiskey.

So, Scotch is whiskey using peat and direct contact with the smoke in the drying process.

Irish whisky doesn't use peat. I think that was one of the arguments.

The next step is mashing and then fermentation followed by distillation. I'm not going to go into these processes because it wasn't part of the argument. Except to say that many whiskeys are distilled 2 times and Irish whisky is distilled a third time and that much of the body, or mouth feel, of the final whisky is believed to come from the size and shape of the stills used in its production.

The final step is aging and by law, Scotch whisky must be aged for a minimum of three years in oak casks. The casks that are used are an important component of the flavor development. Each year in the wood reduces the alcohol content, as the alcohol evaporates through the porous oak. (Interesting side note...the lost alcohol is known as the angel's share. I linked a bar of the same name that is worth a visit.)

Single malt Scotch requires old barrels because new ones would overpower the whiskey. The most common source is American whiskey producers because U.S. law requires that bourbon and Tennessee whiskey be aged in new casks so the old ones are sold for reuse.

I did find some reference to the fact that the microclimate of an area can also lend to the flavor of whiskies, however it is not just the air that surrounds the oak (in fact that seems to be the least important factor.) The quality of the water, rock and peat is unique to each area and thus each whiskey is unique based in part on these components.

To be called a single malt the bottle must contain only a single malt (barley) whiskey distilled at a single distillery. If it contains single malt whiskies produced at more then one distillery then it is called a blended malt or a vatted malt.

American whiskeys are either straight or blended. Straight whiskies contain at least 51% of a certain grain in the mash, in addition to barley, for example to be called Rye whiskey the mash must contain at least 51% of rye. Straight whiskies must be aged in oak at least 2 years. Blended whiskies have at least 2 or more grains in the mash.

American straight whiskies are further divided into Bourbon, Tennessee or Rye. Bourbon whiskies are produced in Bourbon County, Tennessee and can be either sweet (if fresh yeast is used to start fermentation) or sour (if new and residual yeast is used.) Bourbon is made primarily from corn (up to but no more then 80%) but the remaining grain in the mash is either wheat or rye. Makers Mark uses wheat and Jim Beam uses rye if you want to compare.

Tennessee whisky is almost the same as bourbon except that it is slowly filtered through 10 feet of sugar maple charcoal. Jack Daniels is a Tennessee sour mash whiskey.

Rye whiskey is similar to bourbon but must have a minimum of 51% rye in its mash, giving it a slightly bitter flavor.

All bourbon is aged in new charred white-oak barrels and it is this step that imparts the caramel flavor that is characteristic of American whiskies.

And now I don't want to think about bourbon, scotch, or whiskey anymore so I give up and secede the argument....see how that works?!?!?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Really Ugly Revealed

Beet Gnocchi with Rosemary

From Bon Appetit, October 2006.

The magazine says "A few roasted grated beets give this dish a lovely reddish hue." I might change the word "lovely" to something else, but I would definitely make them again and eat in a dimly lit room.

Here's the recipe:

3 small beets
1 lb fresh ricotta cheese
1 large egg
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly grated black pepper
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3 fresh rosemary sprigs (I only had dried, so I used about 1 tbsp)

Preheat oven to 450degrees. Wrap beets in tin foil an roast until tender, about 1 hour. Cool for about 15 minutes. Slip skin off beets and discard skin. Coarsely grate beets. Reserve 3/4 cup and eat the rest (or toss don't need them for the recipe). Into the bowl of beets, stir in ricotta cheese, egg, 3/4 cup Parmesan, salt, and pepper. Mix in 1 cup flour.

Lightly dust a baking sheet with flour. Place remaining flour in small bowl. Scoop dough into small rounds, about 1 tbsp, and transfer to bowl of flour. Coat rounds with flour, then roll to about 1 1/2 inch log. Make slight indent in the middle with finger. Transfer gnocchi to baking sheet.

Heat a pot of salted water to a simmer. Meanwhile, melt butter with rosemary in heavy large skillet. Cook until butter begins to brown, then set aside. When water is simmering, work in batches and place gnocchi in water. Cook until they float, and then cook for about 1 1/2 minutes longer. Using a slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi to skillet with butter and cook to just heat through, about 1 minute. Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese.

A beautifully ugly dish.

What's the ugliest thing you have made?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Really Ugly

So I made these last week. Still have some in my freezer. They are perhaps the ugliest things I have ever made. But...they tasted really good.

Any guesses?

I'll post later with a recipe.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Perfect Meal

Don't you love when the Perfect Meal presents itself without any planning, no poring over the posts on chowhound, no searching the pages of menupages, no flipping through zagats, no finding old "top restaurant lists" in get the idea.

For me the Perfect Meal moment is never just about the food, it usually is some combination of the company, the setting, the mood, the day that happened before or that is yet to happen, etc. It doesn't happen often and most times, it is when you least expect it.

So here was mine last night: a burger and a beer at Shake Shack in Madison Square Park.

I'll set the scene. I got invited to a private concert of this band the Old Crow Medicine Show. This is one of the few perks of my job. I l-o-v-e-d this band. Check out their myspace page and listen to Wagon Wheel. If you aren't a fan after that, we might not be able to be friends anymore.

So, seeing live music is always great and when I see people who are doing what they love to do and doing it well, it sort of gives me chills. I feel really glad about living in a city where I have this opportunity often, and I do stupid things like write notes that say, "Don't forget how much you liked this night." And I make promises to see live music once a week, and never to leave the city, get the idea. This is the feeling that I left the concert with.

We didn't eat before the show so when we left we were definitely on the search for dinner. Walking through Madison Square Park to get home we noticed that the Shake Shack didn't have a ridiculously long line that it usually does. In fact, there was no line. We ordered two Shake Shack Burgers, a Chicago Dog, and two beers.

We sat outside in the middle of the city that I am currently having a love affair with, the temperature was perfect, the burgers juicy, and the beer cold. Add in the natural high of just having seeing something real and you have the Perfect Meal.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Too Many Carrots?

I haven't had any coffee or tea yet and I woke up with an unexplainable swollen left eye, so I'm a little slow going right now. This post will be short and sweet. Here are a few random thoughts:
  • Had a lovely Rosh Hashanah dinner on Saturday at the in-laws. Because of a lack of communication on my part, there were two carrot side dishes. But I think it was ok because they were so different - also, can you have too many carrots?I think not. I made steamed carrots with garlic, honey, cinnamon, and cumin. They sound better then they were and ultimately tasted just ok in my opinion. My cousin in law made Carrot Souffle which was the subject of much conversation, I think because who ever heard of Carrot Souffle, but also because it was a delicious surprise. I say surprise, because I wouldn't think to put carrots and pineapple together in a souffle. Maybe cousin in law will be nice enough to post the recipe for the rest of us?
  • The highlight of this dinner for me, besides the good company of course, is always the brisket and sweet and sour meatballs. I am seriously upset right now because I was supposed to take leftover meatballs to work with me and I forgot them at home, probably because I was spending too much time poking at swollen left eye.
  • The brisket reminds me of how much I love braising and stewing season...a few more weeks and it will be the cooking method of choice for me.
  • Finally, today is a good day because my Gourmet magazine came this weekend. I resisted the urge to read it last night so that I would have good train reading material. Cracked the magazine this morning and had an excellent ride to work.
  • Coffee and bagel just delivered, much happier now.

Posts later this week, the ugliest thing I have ever cooked, finally used hazelnut oil that I bought in Paris, going to Babbo for a BNO....

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Art of Eating

  • I had such lofty goals tonight for a fabulous post with lots of description and crafty turns of phrase....but I accidentally drank a 1/2 a bottle of wine and watched two straight hours of America's Next Top Model.

    I'm not sure which one killed more brain cells.

    But, I did have more intellectual moments today. On my train ride home I devoured my new book, "The Art of Eating," by M.F.K. Fisher. I came to realize as I did some research for this blog that she is sort of the be all end all of food writing. It was time for me to do my homework.

      A quote for today and a hearty recommendation after just 40 pages:
      "A long evening - what to do with it? There is a fairly good play, a passable movie, a game of bridge - some way to kill a few hours.

      But an evening killed is murder of some kind, criminal like any disease, and like disease a thorough-going crime. If Time, so fleeting, must like humans die, let it be filled with good food and good talk, and then embalmed in the perfumes of conviviality."

      Note to self.

      1. Don't murder any more evenings

      2. Start using the word conviviality

    Monday, September 18, 2006

    Keep it Simple

    I have a lot to blog about this week. I finally used my fig jam, took a great trip to Arthur Avenue, started a great book, and had a BNO Sunday night. I'm feeling a little exhausted and the creative juices aren't really flowing at the moment, so as the title suggests I am going to keep it simple...

    When you have good ingredients, you don't need to do anything fancy. On the trip to AA, we picked up some fresh mozzi from Casa della Mozzarella, some extra thin prosciutto di parma from Biancardi's, and fresh bread from Madonna Bakery. Put them together and you have perhaps the best panini around. The only thing that could have maybe made it any better would have been some fresh basil.

    See? Simple.

    Thursday, September 14, 2006


    Football is back and my Sunday's take on a much different form for several months. Here's what my Sunday afternoon looked like.

    Pizza with Garlic and Mushrooms, delicious.

    Tuesday, September 12, 2006

    Sunday, September 10, 2006


    Had a big night out on Friday. Two excellent friends were in town from San Francisco for the night. We started with cocktails and cheese in the apartment. Because it was a special occasion, we broke out the champagne. I am thinking of naming my first born French 75 after this celebratory delight:

    French 75

    2 tsp sugar
    1 ounce lemon juice
    2 ounces gin

    Shake all but the Champagne in an iced cocktail shaker. Pour into a champagne flute. Stir gently and garnish with a cherry.

    (will post a picture tomorrow - it doesn't seem to be working tonight.)

    The second cocktail was a Champagne Cocktail where you place a sugar cube in the bottom of a champagne flute, pour in four dashes of Angostura bitters and top with champagne. This drink really grew on me. At first I liked it, but it wasn't a standout. But as the sugar dissolved, the warmth and spiciness of the bitters played off the sugar and melted into a drink with so much depth and flavor.

    We paired all of this with some cheeses from Murray's Cheese in Grand Central - a favorite spot of mine in the city. I asked the man behind the counter for some advice, which is always a good call. We ended up with a mild but tangy goat cheese, a creamy blue that melted as soon as I took it out of the wrapper, and a sheep's milk from Vermont that was mellow and firm. As accompaniments, we had quince paste and sliced apple. So good. (I'll post tomorrow with the names of the cheeses, I tossed the wrappers and forgot to write them down beforehand.)

    Sufficiently cocktailed, we headed out to dinner at Schiller's Liquor Bar. Arriving at the restaurant 15 minutes late, we were greeted with a 40 minute wait. This was ok for three reasons, first it gave us time to digest all of the cheese, second we had enough time to enjoy the hipster circus that is the lower east side. And finally, we could catch up on each other's lives before stepping into the deafening din of the restaurant. Seriously this restaurant is loud.

    We were crowded into a tiny table and I must have elbowed about 20 skinnyjean-clad rear ends. The food was just ok. We had lemon and garlic shrimp and calamari for an appetizer. For dinner I had the steak frites which were fine. The fries were actually very good and the house butter on the steak was great. But really, when is butter not good?

    I did love the cheap wine that they serve and also the service was surprisingly excellent considering the crowd. And of course, the company was sublime!

    After dinner, we headed to the Pegu Club for some more drinks. As always with this bar, the drinks were well made and did not disappoint. I had a gin, peach and jasmine fizz and then the last drink I don't remember that well, gin, cognac, lemon and soda water I think....hmmm, can we say one too many?

    Oh, did I mention that we got back to the apartment at 3am and that I had to be on a train to work at 7am? Not smart.

    But so worth it to catch up with old friends. On the eve of a terrible anniversary, that sentiment was never more true to me.

    Thursday, September 07, 2006

    For Cheap

    Two posts in one day!

    Quick one here. I wanted to post something to remind everyone that you can cook a great dinner and still have it be cheap. I love bargains and I wanted to share this one.

    I bought a whole rotisserie chicken for 8 bucks. Green beans for $1.50. Had left over cheese. Bought tomatoes for $2.00. Had left over lettuce.

    Roast chicken, sauteed green beans with butter, salad with mozzi and tomatoes. $12.50 for two people. Fantastic.

    Pork Chops and Brussel Sprouts

    I came home on Tuesday with the lofty goal of making pork chops with caramelized onions and fig jam. When I was in Paris at the beginning of the summer, we got a free jar of fig jam because we bought 2 jars of fois gras. We are fancy. Have not had occasion to eat either the jam or the fois gras.

    I got home only to find that the onion I was going to use was rotten. What was I to do? You'd think with the highfalutin mention of fig jam and fois gras that I would have other products to use for dinner. I looked in the fridge and I had a beer, mustard, and garlic on the counter. Hence, Pork Chops with a Mustard Garlic and Beer Sauce was born.

    The fig jam will have to wait for some prosciutto concoction that I have been dreaming about since.

    Pork Chops with a Mustard Garlic and Beer Sauce
    4 boneless pork chops
    5 cloves garlic chopped
    1 tsp dried rosemary
    1/2 dark beer
    salt and pepper
    2 tbsp olive oil

    Heat oil in pan. Salt and pepper the pork chops. Sear the chops until browned, about 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove from pan, add garlic and saute for about 1 minute. Add beer and rosemary. Cook until sauce is reduced somewhat and the bubbles are gone, about 5 minutes. Add pork chops to pan and cook another 20 minutes. If sauce gets too thin, add a little more beer. Drink beer.

    Brussel Sprouts

    Heat about 1 tbsp butter in saute pan. Cut brussel sprouts in half lengthwise and add to pan.

    Pour about 1/2 cup chicken broth into the pan and season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 20 minutes at medium high heat until all of the chicken broth is gone. Add small amounts of water until brussel sprouts are cooked through and nicely caramelized.

    Here is what it all looked like with a perfect Manhattan on the rocks. Pork chops, brussel sprouts, a front of the TV.

    Yes, we did watch Mr. Ed on our black and white TV and we put Beaver to bed soon after the show.

    Tuesday, September 05, 2006

    What I Ate - Highlights

    Sorry I have been so delinquent the past week or so. I have been eating, I just haven't had the time to write about it. A few posts are ready to go and currently are stewing in my head, but I only have a few minutes this morning, so this will just be a highlight tour of my Labor Day weekend.

    • Friday night - Indian food. Delicious Chicken Korma. Also had a rum cocktail with a dark rum that a friend brought us from the Caribbean. I'm not sure that any other liquor smells as good as rum.
    • Saturday - cup of clam chowder in Newport, RI. Perfect comfort food for a stormy day.
    • Sunday - tasted Johnny Cakes for the first time at a greasy diner in RI. Johnny Cakes are very thin cornmeal pancakes that almost look like crepes. We sat at the counter by the griddle... had to pretend that the exorbitant amount of grease was just an illusion.
    • Sunday night went to a new restaurant Japonais. Among other fantastically trendy items, had thin cut filet mignon cooked at the table on a hot rock, excellent octopus sushi, and the best fries and spicy mayonnaise that I have ever had at an Asian restaurant....the answer is no, I have never had fries and spicy mayonnaise at an Asian restaurant before. But yes, they were still wonderfully crispy, full of spice including, I think, crushed nori. And as some of you know, I have a thing for flavored mayonnaise. I could only hope to make mayonnaise this good.
    • Monday went to a bbq to cap off the summer at a friend's house. Had a delicious burger that is said friends secret recipe. The chopped onions that he incorporates keeps the burger really juicy. Maybe he will be nice enough to share the recipe with us.

    What did you eat over the Labor Day weekend?

    Wednesday, August 30, 2006

    What I Ate

    Short post today and no pictures. I'm going back to the theme "What I Ate." I'll tell you if you tell me. Here's what I ate yesterday.

    Skipped breakfast, I know mom, I shouldn't do that. For lunch I had reheated baked ziti which I made on Sunday night. Not bad, but I didn't use enough tomato sauce so the ricotta was a bit overwhelming. But, compared to some of my other quick options for lunch where I work, this wasn't bad. Eating the same thing for lunch today, ho hum.

    I've been drinking tea like it is nobody's business because my office is so freaking cold. It's just boring Tetley tea, had about 4 cups yesterday. I think I might bring in my new favorite tea, Mariage Freres, which I had for the first time in Paris. The bagged darjeeling tea is so smooth even if you let it steep for too long.

    Went to the vending machine at about 2:30 and bought a pack of M&Ms.

    Pretty boring day, but then I went to Five Points restaurant on Great Jones Street with husband and in-laws and had a thoroughly enjoyable meal. The menu reminded me of restaurants in San Francisco. Everything was fresh from the market and ranged from soup to pizza, to scallops, and steak. The kind of place I would be a regular if I was rich - you could eat this food every day and not get bored or feel bad about yourself after.

    I started with a market green salad with toasted goat cheese. As you now know, I didn't eat a single vegetable or fruit prior to this salad so it was much needed. The dressing was an aged balsamic vinaigrette. The goat cheese smooth and tangy. Nothing surprising here, just good clean flavors. Moved on to the flank steak with creamed corn and mustard greens. I didn't eat much of the mustard greens, but not because they weren't good, I'm just not good at eating my vegetables...unless they are creamed. I ate all of the corn. I haven't had that in years and it was slightly better then the canned version that I last ate. The steak was surprisingly tender for a flank steak and perfectly cooked (medium rare).

    Finally, the dessert...we shared a blueberry tart with brown sugar (delicious) and a chocolate pot de creme. This one looked like it fell out of a Martha Stewart spread. The bowl was that muted light green in every food picture, the chocolate light brown, topped with a dollop of fresh perfectly white whipped cream. Two little star cookies sat precariously atop the cream. Almost too pretty to eat.

    I did say almost though, we finished that one completely. I haven't summoned the nerve to bring a camera to restaurants and photograph what I eat, but I will work on it. Until then, I hope I was descriptive enough.

    So that's what I ate. Not a short post as I had promised. I told you early on that I like to talk about food, what can I do....Now it is your turn.

    What did you eat yesterday?

    Sunday, August 27, 2006

    Fizzle for Shizzle

    I actually came down with a cold on Friday which is a horrible thing to happen in the summer. But I am a trooper and I struggled through to test two different gin fizz drinks. This blog is hard, hard, work and there is no give up in me. Besides, gin fizzes are the perfect summer drinks and there is only a week or two before I switch back to bourbon, so I felt that there was no time to waste.

    A little nugget about gin. Gin is made from a mash of cereal grain (usually corn, rye, barley, or wheat) and is flavored with botanicals. Juniper is the most prominent flavor but others include coriander, lemon, fennel, cassia, anise, and almond. A Dutch chemist apparently created gin in the mid-sixteenth century. He called it ginievre which means juniper in French. He declared it an attempt to enhance the therapeutic properties of juniper in a medicinal beverage. (from Dale DeGroff's The Craft of the Cocktail)

    So here's to the therapeutic properties of juniper as we enjoy these final days of summer...

    Gin Sling
    This drink looks simple to make, and it is, but the flavor is anything but. There were subtle hints of pineapple and peach that made me forget I was in a 100 sq foot apartment...and I am sure I heard waves lapping on the pavement 7 stories below. This is a real summer drink.
    1 1/2 ounces gin
    1 ounce sweet vermouth
    3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
    1 tsp sugar
    soda water
    lemon peel for garnish
    Shake all ingredients except the soda water with ice and strain into ice filled glass. Top with soda and garnish with a spiral of lemon.

    Gin Daisy
    There is only one word to describe this drink...refreshing. Enough said.
    2 ounces gin
    Juice of 1/2 lemon

    1/2 teaspoon sugar
    1 tsp grenadine

    Soda water
    Pour ingredients into an ice filled shaker. Shake, then strain into ice filled highball. Top with soda water.

    Friday, August 25, 2006

    Boogie Down Bronx

    I was thinking this morning that I spend an awful lot of time in the Bronx (went to favorite restaurant Roberto's again last night), and as those of you who know me know, I am constantly singing it's praises, so I am going blog a bit today about my favorite food finds in Little Italy aka Arthur Avenue in the Bronx:

    1. Casa della Mozzarella
    The best mozzi around (mozzarella for the non Italian bunch). Made fresh in the store. I prefer the medium salted ball. The husband likes the bocconcini but I think they are a little too salty and you miss the melt in your mouth center that the ball has. It all depends whether you like your mozzi a little chewier or a little softer. The best bet is to buy both because really it is like arguing over whether you'd rather have silver or gold.

    2. Madonia Bakery
    A few different products here. First, love the pizza dough. It is great to keep in the freezer and pull out when you want a quick dinner. The medium round loaf of bread is perfect for making panini's with mozzi and prosciutto. Ask them to slice it for you. Finally, the olive bread if it is hot out of the oven is a must have, but you need to eat it while it is still hot. Arthur Ave is not a place to go if you aren't hungry. Expect to eat your weight on any given trip.

    3. Full Moon Pizza
    The cornmeal tinged crust cracks when you bend it and the cheese is always perfectly browned. The sauce is the best I've had in NYC.

    4. Biancardi's Meats
    When I go to Arthur Ave, I take the train from Grand Central and bring a backpack. I buy as much meat as I can fit in the bag. Usually it includes 1/2 lb prosciutto, 2 shell steaks, 2 large pork chops, a chicken cut into 8 pieces, hard sausage, 4 of the thinnest veal cutlets you can get, 4 links of spicy sausage, and 3 lbs of short ribs. This will last me a month in the freezer. I usually pay about $100-$150 for all of it which is without about half of what I would pay in the city.

    5. Arthur Avenue Market
    The olive stand on the right side of the market toward the back has the best large green olives. They are slightly sweet with just a hint of salt. Truly addictive. Sometimes I stop for the broccoli rabe pizza at the stand in the back of the market. They also make a great penne a la vodka. On the left side of the market, stop at the case that has bowls of marinated veggies and various spreads. Ask for the hot pepper spread. It is so spicy, but a thin layer on the panini adds just a touch of spiciness that brings the whole thing together. I've also used it to spice up sauces, add to a boring chicken breast dish, or sometime when no one is looking, just eat it by the spoonful.

    6. DeLillo's Pastry
    Best cappuccino around.

    7. Borgatti's Pasta
    Stop here for fresh pasta. Allow at least 1/2 hour because the Italian grandmother behind the counter doesn't move for anyone. The place is all ambiance and character. You can order the pasta as thick or thin as you want it, they cut it to order. Best eaten that night. Also great are the pasta tubes and the ravioli.

    You can find all of the merchant's addresses at this webssite.

    Anyone in for a walking tour of Little Italy soon?

    Here's a link for Roberto's.

    Wednesday, August 23, 2006

    What I Ate - Farmers Market Wednesday

    I love Wednesdays because I get to shop at the Farmers Market where I work. It isn't a big one, but the produce is fresh picked from New York farms. I can usually supplement with items at the Grand Central Market and come up with a pretty good meal. Here's what I came home with today:

    I tried a recipe for tomato sauce from Cooks Magazine last week with pancetta and rosemary so I still had some on hand. I figured I would recreate the recipe with a bit of a twist. Here is what I came up with.

    Seared Scallops with Fresh Rosemary and Garlic Tomato Sauce

    7 large sea scallops
    3 large tomatoes, skinned, seeded, and coarsely chopped
    5 oz pancetta, diced
    1 tsp minced fresh rosemary
    3 large garlic cloves minced
    1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste
    salt and pepper
    1/2 tsp sugar, or to taste
    2 tbsp olive oil

    Heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Saute pancetta in a large heavy pan until browned and crisped, about 10 minutes. Remove pancetta from pan with slotted spoon and place on paper towel to drain. Pour out remaining oil.

    Return pan to medium heat. Add remaining tbsp of oil. Saute garlic, rosemary, and red pepper for about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and cook until tomatoes slump and turn into sauce, about 10 minutes. Add salt, pepper, and sugar to taste.

    While sauce is cooking, sear scallops that have been seasoned with salt and pepper. Remove from pan. Place sauce in a shallow dish and top with scallops. Sprinkle pancetta over the top.

    Heirloom Tomato and avocado Salad

    Cut tomatoes and avocado. Add olive oil, the best vinegar you have, and salt and pepper to taste. That's it. The freshness of the fruits (yes both are fruits) will take care of the rest.

    Here's what it looked like:

    With moody lighting...

    avocado and Tomato...

    Tuesday, August 22, 2006

    Drink of the Week

    As I mentioned in my first post, I have been the lucky recipient of vintage cocktails as the husband has taken the making of them up as a hobby. Did that sentence make sense? If not, then partake in a cocktail yourself, read it again, and I am sure that it will be crystal clear.

    In any case, part of studying cocktails includes understanding their history. While it is not my first interest, my mind and liver have absorbed some of this information through the books lying around and the unbelievably fascinating conversations that I enjoy with the husband and the cat (she is a great listener). I plan on sharing these nuggets as I post the "Drink of the Week."

    For today, an itty bitty nugget....A response to a reader's question in an 1806 publication The Balance and Columbian Repository says, a "cocktail is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters."

    Here is a recipe for the Jack Rose (pictured above), supposedly named for a pink rose called the Jacquemot rose. It is sweet, but not overly so. Tart, but not overly so. And alcoholy, but not overly so. In short, it is perfectly balanced.

    Jack Rose

    1 1/2 ounces applejack (available in liquour stores)
    juice of one lime
    1/2 ounce grenadine

    Thursday, August 17, 2006

    What I Ate

    I had a pretty delicious food day today. It started boring enough, cereal scarfed down in about 2 minutes. Actually, exactly 2 minutes. I have my morning routine down to a science and get up and out of the apartment in exactly 29 minutes.

    But then lunch came and the fun began. I am organizing an event at work and we are hiring a local restaurant called the Latin Kitchen to provide the food. Long story short, they sent over pork, yellow rice and empanadas for us to taste. I tasted it. Then tasted it again, and one more time to be sure. The yellow rice was outstanding, pork was bad for you good, but the stand out was the chicken empenada. It was tangy, salty, juicy, and tender - there was a strong hint of lime and spice that was utterly surprising as I normally find chicken as a stuffing pretty boring. Note to self: start eating more Latin food.

    As if that weren't enough, I went to my favorite Italian restaurant, Roberto's in the Bronx. I started with sausage, cannolini beans and broccoli rabe. I'm not sure how they do it, but the broccoli rabe is soft and not at all bitter. The next course was a shared homemade ravioli filled with figs and goat cheese, topped with sage butter. Um, can we say perfect? I think I might add this to my last meal list for before I am executed. I might even forgot how much I abhor capital punishment if they gave this to me before the big jolt. My entree was veal sauteed with fava beans and porcini mushrooms. I have a rule that if fava beans are on the menu, you have to order them. Have you ever tried to peel fava beans? Not easy. Better to have someone else do it.

    So here is my question for the night:

    What is on your last meal list?

    Wednesday, August 16, 2006

    Fire up the Grill

    So here it goes. This is my very first post on my very first blog. However, it certainly isn't the first time that I have talked about food. Sometimes it seems like that is all I do and I apologize to those who know me (maybe this will alleviate some of their pain).

    I've been thinking alot about how I would organize this blog and my plan right now is to post in several categories:

    What I Ate
    Should be the most frequent post since I eat every day - sometimes three or four times a day.

    What You Ate
    I love hearing about what other people eat, even the minutiae of snacks and breakfast. Please say I am not the only one who is fascinated by this. Apologies in advance to my friends and family who I will hit up first, but I hope that this section will grow with time.

    Sunday Supper
    This is by far my favorite meal and the one I spend the most time preparing. Sometimes I'll plan all weekend in hopes of coming up with the perfect meal.

    Drink of the Week
    I am a lucky girl because the husband likes to make vintage cocktails. I am the tester. Never having met a cocktail I didn't like (except grappa), I look forward to sharing recipes and food pairings.

    Food for Cheap
    There is nothing I like more then finding a bargain. It's not easy to come by in NYC, but they are out there. I'll share my finds for restaurants and shops. These will be the real "cheap" places and not "if you only get an appetizer" cheap places.

    BNO (big night out)
    There is nothing better then getting all dressed up and having a big night out. The aperitif, great wine, amuse bouche, strange meats, rich sauces, desserts you have to order in advance, you know the drill. Sadly, this will be a rare post. But I also think you can have a BNO at the mid range places, so I will post about these in the same category.