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?