Saturday, February 24, 2007

Grand Central Oyster Bar

The husband and I are both suckers for old New York. Which is why, I think, we refuse to give up on Grand Central Oyster Bar. We have a tradition, that once a year we will go to GCOB for oysters, soup, and a couple of beers. This order is usually pretty safe - other menu items are pretty inconsistent. But the oysters and soup are typically very good and when you add in the atmosphere (we only eat at the bar) - it is usually great.

So that is what we did a few weeks ago. And sadly, it may be the last time. Everything was very mediocre. The soup wasn't bad, just nothing special and a little gloopy. The beer we ended up with was pretty good but that was after being told that they were out of the first two we asked for. They were also out of crab cakes, so we ended up with fried shrimp with a remoulade - they were fine. Here's what the oysters looked like. Some were uneatably huge. I guess we could have asked for small ones - we just asked for whatever was freshest.

I haven't given up completely - but it isn't a yearly event that I am looking forward to as much as I once did.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Shanghai Cuisine

Last weekend the husband and I had a lunch date at Shanghai Cuisine.

It was a cold day and really the only thing that would help were soup dumplings. I had been to New Green Bo a week or two earlier and was disappointed, so I was wary.

Was my relationship with soup dumplings over? Doesn't anyone say goodbye anymore?

Alas, there was no need to worry, the relationship is strong.

In my mind, soup dumplings are truly a genius creation. Up there with the paper clip, and the wheel. If you haven't had them, dumpling filled with pork and soup served with vinegar and ginger.

Go to SC now - eat soup dumplings.

The pea shoots were also good.

As was the chicken and taro root casserole.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Beppe Review and Camera Struggles

I tried to post the pictures from my new camera this morning and was able to download them but then couldn't get them onto blogger. Grrrr.

My frustration is mellowed with the delicious muffin, (corn or polenta I think) I am eating right now courtesy of Beppe Restaurant on 22nd between Park and Madison.

I was treated to a lovely dinner there last night. It had been on my list of places to try as Tuscan food is high up there on favorites.

The reviews I've read suggest that people either love or hate this restaurant. My opinion falls just a hair slight of "love" and lands in the "I REALLY, REALLY like" category.

For starters, we split the CRESPELLE, a chestnut crepe filled with stewed duck and black trumpet mushrooms. This has to be one of my favorite appetizers of all time. There were hints of truffle, and "stewed duck" was an understatement - it tasted like it had been slow cooked for ages and then just a little more for good measure, and the mushrooms had the perfect amount of bite.

For the next course we split the NORCINO, butcher’s spaghetti with crumbled pork, garlic, Chianti, rosemary, and tomato. Again, this didn't disappoint. It was basically a ragu, and the spaghetti was thinner and more delicate then I expected, a pleasant surprise. Though a bit on the salty side, I would definitely order this again.

On to the entrees, I had the PESCATRICE, Pancetta wrapped monkfish medallions with beets and mixed local potatoes. I didn't love this. The beets were good, but it is hard to screw up beets. The fish was just bland. Not much too it for me. Luckily I was pretty stuffed from the first two dishes.

My dining companion had the GAMBERONI, spicy large shrimp with blood orange, fennel, and puntarelle salad. This was very good. The shrimp was nicely grilled and definitely spicy. I think she had the perfect meal with this one.

Oh, I almost forgot, we split the special fries which I had read about. I could recommend this restaurant for the fries alone. Not only were they perfectly crispy, but they were loaded with flash fried herbs. They begged for a delicious burger topped with Roquefort cheese...but that's another meal.

No room for dessert, but the espresso was very good.

Of course, the Beppe experience is topped off this morning with the muffin I referenced above. A great touch when a restaurant sends you home with a treat.

So, if not for the monkfish and the slight saltiness of the pasta, I would have said that I loved this restaurant - but hey, it is Valentine's Day so maybe I will forgive these shortcomings and drop the L bomb on Beppe.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone! Anyone have special plans?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Book Recommendation: Life Is Meals

I've been reading this book that I got as a gift for Christmas.

I do get gifts that aren't food related, but they are few and far between.

This is a great train book, or one to pick up between books, as it basically a diary of days with short stories, facts, and tips about food. Each day no more then a page or two.

It is also a great gift because it is beautifully illustrated

Today's entry is an exchange from the play, The Importance of Being Earnest, tomorrow is about the benefits of chocolate, and when I randomly picked a page just now - July 21 is about Hemingway, the daiquiri, and its origin. Clearly, something for everyone.

In other news, I bought a small digital camera this past weekend. A little frustrated at all the extras you need to buy, i.e. a $40 memory stick. But I have a few pictures saved on the internal memory from a Chinatown lunch this past Saturday. Will post as soon as I figure out how to download onto my computer.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Superbowl Party

As promised, a post about the Superbowl Party we threw on Sunday. I love cooking for the Super Bowl because there is nothing fancy about it. I also tend to make things that I don't make any other time of the year.

Like Buffalo Chicken Wing Dip.

Poach 2lbs of chicken breast and shred. Place on the bottom of a large lasagna pan or casserole dish. Pour an entire bottle of Frank's Hot Sauce (it is important that it is Frank's). Mix well.

On stove, mix 2 8oz boxes of cream cheese with a bottle of ranch or blue cheese dressing (I used blue cheese ranch)over medium heat until smooth and bubbly.

Pour this on top of chicken. Top with about 1 cup of chopped celery. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes at 375 and then top with Cheddar or monterey jack (or both) and bake covered for another 20 minutes.

Use celery or carrot sticks for dipping. The joy of chicken wings without the wings!
Is there another time of year when this would be appropriate?

I also made Spicy Nuts.

This is one that I actually make often.

So easy. Buy raw nuts (any combo is fine). Toast the nuts on a pan at 350 degrees until slightly browned. Meanwhile melt 2 tbsp of butter, add about 2tbsp rosemary, 1tsp salt, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, 1 tbsp brown sugar (I really eyeball these and you can pretty much up the quantities or reduce as you like). Pour nuts into a bowl and mix with butter mixture.

Also on the menu was 7 Layer Dip (I only did 6) - refried beans, sour cream, salsa, guacamole, cheese, jalapeno slices.

Potato chips and onion dip and cheese and crackers of course.

Hot Spinach and Artichoke dip from Food Network.

White Chili Surprise also from Food Network. This is a new favorite recipe by the way. I think it was because of the lime and tequila marinated chicken. I will probably add this to the repertoire for during the year as well. If you don't add the cheese at the end, it is pretty low fat and still tasted great. I also used canned beans which were fine. And I chopped the chicken into pieces and mixed it with the marinade and then sauteed it before adding to the chili. The recipe calls for grilling the chicken whole - I don't have a grill, also I think the chopped chicken absorbed more of the marinade.

Cocktail Meatballs. Made the meatballs first and cooked them in the oven to brown. Meanwhile had brown sugar, ketchup, and Worcestershire cooking on high in the crock pot. Added the meatballs and cooked for about two hours. Have been enjoying these for lunch the past few days.

There were Roasted Artichokes that a friend brought over (loving them for lunch this week also). Tomato and mozzarella salad - the only semi healthy thing on the menu. And it was all topped off Cinnamon Brownies with caramel and pecan topping (a little undercooked in the middle).

Here is a picture of the appetizer table.

I might have gone overboard considering what is still left in the fridge. Here is the fridge after the party. Ummm, I hope I don't actually finish all those beers...

Here is me, putting my feet up after the party, drinking the left over champagne from the champagne and bourbon cocktails that the husband expertly made.

Here is what happens the next night when you forget to run the dishwasher. That's right, you eat brownies with chop sticks.

Good food. Good friends. Good enough game. Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet.

All the makings of a successful Super Bowl Party.

Drake's Apple Fruit Pies

I have an embarrassing confession to make.

Every now and again, the vending machine at my work features Drake's Cakes.

That's not the embarrassing part. The embarrassing part is how excited I get when I see them.

I rarely go to the vending machine, and they rarely put the pies in there, and even more rare is when it is the apple pie. To have all those stars align, well, you can see how I would consider myself to be very lucky that day.

Yesterday, I passed by when the vending machine man was reloading and I saw that he had Drake's Pies. He was taking forever, and I think my lurking was making him nervous. I considered buying one off of him directly, but I felt like it would seem too desperate, so I didn't buy one.

This morning, I hoped my luck had continued. I approached the vending machine this morning with a mix of excitement and nervousness.

The end of the story is that I just finished both pies. I did it quick so no one would see me.

They are the worst snack I think you can eat - healthwise. But I love their fake deliciousness. And I'm going to the gym later.

When I was looking for a picture of the cakes. I found a website (links below) which is worth at least a few minutes of procrastination for those of you who do that. I imagine if you are reading my blog, then you probably do....



Superbowl pics tonight. Got home late last night and never made it off the couch to post.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Restaurant Reviews: Assenzio and Mamlouk

Big foodie weekend for me. Two lovely dinners out (both on 4th Street) and a Super Bowl party at the apartment. I'll post about the SB tonight - I finally have pictures to post.

For today, a recap of two dinners.

Friday night: Date night with the husband at Assenzio on 4th Street between A and B - a Sardinian restaurant that gets very good marks for great food at pretty inexpensive prices.

We had a shaky experience to start. We arrived at about 9:15 and were told the wait was going to be 10 minutes. Surprised because the place was packed, we sidled up to the bar. Fifteen minutes later we decided to get a drink and were told the wait would be another 15 minutes. A little frustrated because I would rather just be told the actual time then be strung along. Then the bartender asked if we wanted to eat at the bar since it would be another 30 minutes at least. OK, so now it is nearly 10pm and we still haven't been seated.

The husband decided to talk to the manager who asked us not to leave, promised he would seat us soon, apologized profusely and bought us each a glass of prosecco. Good first step to get us back on track.

We were seated shortly thereafter. The manager was also our waiter and was ridiculously attentive - he apologized about 10 times, the 11th might have been too much.

On to the food. We started with fried calamari and zucchini - very good, not different then expected. We also had a tuna carpaccio salad with arugula, cannelloni beans, and oranges. This was fantastic. Really fresh and perfectly dressed.

For entrees we had the mini pasta dumplings with wild boar ragu and the pappardelle with mushroom and truffle sauce. The pastas were fresh and the sauces were rich and delicious.

We split a bottle of red wine from Sicily - I wish I wrote it down because for the price, it was pretty unbelievable. I may call and get the name.

The meal ended with tiramisu which was the only thing that didn't hit the mark, it was a little wet for my taste - too much coffee.

We paid, very happy with the meal, and then the manager came over and asked us not to leave yet. He came back with 3 shot glasses and a bottle of honey grappa. We all did a shot - and all former wrongs were righted.

Saturday night: Girls night out at Mamlouk, also on 4th Street between A and B. This is a truly great restaurant block. There are at least 2 other spots that I want to try.

I had heard good things about this Middle Eastern restaurant. It is a $40 price fix and there isn't a menu, you just get dish after dish, after dish...after dish....

Really, this went on for over 2 hours.

I can't remember everything that we had but some highlights were the hummus, the cheese that came with the pita, the lentil soup. the salad with spicy pita chips, the lamb meatballs, the sauteed white fish, the spinach with tomatoes, and the avocado spread. Again, these are just highlights - there were probably another 5-10 dishes that were great.

The real winner was the baklava. It was drenched in butter and was perfectly sweet and flaky, and the cinnamon really shone through. This typically isn't a favorite dessert of mine, but I have definitely changed my opinion. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

The decor is exotic and cozy at the same time - lots of pillows, intimate booths, low light, copper tables, lots of red and yellow, etc. The kitchen was open and added to the notion that we had walked into someones home and were being treated to a feast. Adding to the experience was a belly dancer who performed midway through the meal and the hookah pipes that other tables were enjoying.

Earlier in the night, we were deciding between this restaurant and Moustache - a favorite of mine with locations in the West and East Village. As I was doing a little research this morning, I found out that Iraq-born chef/owner Salam al-Rawi also owns the Moustache restaurants. So, it all makes sense that Mamlouk's was as good as it was. It is worth noting, that unlike Moustache, it wasn't a cheap restaurant. Four of us had the price fix and we split two bottles of wine - we got out of there for $75 each. But, it is a great experience and never once did I doubt that we got our money's worth.

Back too work now and looking forward to my lunch of leftovers from the Superbowl Party last night.