Archive | October, 2009

Eatery

28 Oct

I have been to Eatery at least half a dozen times, and it’s always a good meal. I happen to love their mac & cheese with the frizzled onions on top, however, I try not to pig out there TOO often. One thing I used to love about them were their shrimp chip-things (I call them “chip-things” because they aren’t really chips… they are more the consistency of puffed rice in a chip shape and size). Unfortunately, due to an apparent HUGE shellfish allergy problem in NYC, they have abandoned the shrimp chips and now just give out sesame seed chips. It is a big loss, however, these chips are tasty and nearly as addictive as the original.

One of our dining partners is only in the city every once in a while, so we told her to feel no guilt about getting the mac & cheese. I’m glad she did because I even got a bite!

Our other fellow diner got the burger which looked quite tasty.

I went with an appetizer special: duck ravioli. I am failing to remember the specifics, but I remember it sounded absolutely amazing and tasted good… but not great.

The winning dish was actually a last second ordered side of blue cheese mashed potatoes. This stuff was like crack!

Overall, I think Eatery is a good place to go where everyone will find something they like at a reasonable (for NYC) price (but not cheap).

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10

We are family

26 Oct

Sometime in the last few years, my cousins all realized that we actually like one another (rather than just being stuck together). There are 10 of us and we are all within about 10 years of each others’ ages, with most of us hovering around our late twenties/early thirties at this time. Most of us also have remained in the area we grew up (North/Central New Jersey) and have spouses or boyfriends. This usually leads to 20 of us total (which I’m sure is a nightmare for wedding seating). This year, we instituted cousin’s club so we can all get together on our own (without needing the excuse of a family gathering and our parents). Our second cousin’s club was recently, so I decided to bring Mike’s now famous squash souffle (we brought it to Thanksgiving last year and it was a hit).

The night before we whipped up all the ingredients in my mixer and then poured it into the spring form. (it’s crazy simple)

We then topped it with cinnamon and set it to bake for about an hour (my spring form makes it thicker, so it bakes longer than the usual recipe… next time I may do two so it’s thinner).

It seemed to be a hit at the party the next day (you can serve it cold or hot… I prefer it a little cold actually).

Mike’s recipe is a secret, however, so you’ll only get it out of me if we’re related or you’re REALLY REALLY special.

Our hostess of the gathering, Adena, also made some scrumptious food for us all to nosh on throughout the afternoon.

It was quite a spread

A breakfast casserole (that I photographed before it went back into the oven for more cooking)

My 1st favorite of the day, apple stuffed french toast

And my 2nd favorite of the day (made by cousin Kyle… girl Kyle), Pumpkin Cheescake (with the most unbelievable brown sugared nuts on top)

And of course some pizza bagels!

Thank you BBQ

23 Oct

A few weeks ago, I got the hair brained idea to build a screen… divider… divider with door… divider with french doors for Mike and my new apartment. It wound up being quite a project, yet with the help of my fantastic dad’s building skills (and physical laboring) and tools borrowed from friends, Josh and Lillian, we managed to complete the undertaking. I seriously couldn’t have done it without dad, Josh, Lil, an Mike. Here is the finished product:


(doors closed)


(doors open)

Originally, I wanted to take everyone out to dinner, but Josh and Lillian had already taken out steaks for a BBQ and invited us over. I felt bad changing my treat dinner into crashing their BBQ, but I brought a thank you mini pumpkin, beer, shrimp, and veggies to hopefully show my appreciation.

When we got there, the steaks had already been marinated in Black & Tan beer. Lillian had thought up this master creation while BBQing a mushroom on a fire pit and determining Black & Tan to be the only viable liquid. Turns out it tasted great so we were treated to Black & Tan steaks.

As my dad said, there was a “bicycle seat of a steak” as well

Lillian also cut up some sweet potato fries (<3) and had some bok choy on the stove when we arrived.


Lillian even made a black & tan sauce to pour over top.

Josh carved up the steak for us

My additions to the menu were grilled asparagus (grilling veggies is so novel to New Yorkers!) and skewers of shrimp and tomatoes.

It all made for one beautiful plate

It was a great meal and so nice to have since I don’t get much BBQ.

Thanks again to my crew and tool lenders. You guys all rock!

Charles Restaurant- ::EDIT::

21 Oct

When Mike and I went to Taste The West Village a few weeks ago, I entered into a raffle where you bid on a gift certificate to certain restaurants (it went to charity for the schools). After tasting the awesome braised short ribs at the Charles (234 West 4th Street on the corner of West 10th Street) stand, I decided it was totally worth it to bid $60 for a $75 gift certificate.  I really didn’t expect to win but it was my lucky day.

It said on the reservation email itself that photos were not allowed in the restaurant. Bummer!  I snuck some on my iPhone, however, until the light couldn’t hold out any longer. (Sorry for some of the blur)

We started the meal with some delicious flat bread and olive goo (aka tapenade).

For an app, we decided on potato gnocchi with squash, spinach, and pecorino romano. It was great.  The gnocchi was at a perfect consistency and flavor and the squash, cheese, and spinach gave it such a great, earthy flavor.  

We decided on the brussel sprouts as a side dish and they were okay, but nothing like the now infamous ones Mike and I make with pancetta (inspired by both Babbo and Guy Fieri).

I was tempted to go with the short ribs again, but when Mike said he was also leaning in that direction it opened me up to try something different. So I went with the Braised Lamb Shank which came with Israeli couscous.  It was a really marvelous dish. Great flavor to the lamb and the couscous was delicious.  I savored every bite.

The short ribs were just as good, if not better, than at the tasting.  I still think the celery root puree is too soft for the soft texture of the meat, however, it was definitely tasty.

For dessert, Mike made a good call and said the molten chocolate type cake sounded right up my alley.  WOW was it!  Perfect.

Mike went with the homemade ice cream sandwiches.  See that little bowl of warm liquid? I’m pretty sure that was nutella.  I wanted to put my entire face into that little bowl.

Overall our meal was very good.  That lamb was absolutely worth going back for.

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

EDIT:
Funny… the same day this posted, Charles was in GrubStreet: http://newyork.grubstreet.com/2009/10/charles_names_jason_zukas_as_t.html

Welcome to the Neighborhood

19 Oct

I have long been reading about the Schnitzel Truck and was quite excited when I read on the Midtown Lunch Twitter Tracker that they were in front of my new office building on only my third day, I was in. It was chilly and the line was pretty long, but it was too fortuitous to pass up.

They had run out of bread, so they only had platters left. I wound up being glad to spend the extra $2 because the beet and feta salad was GREAT. The Austrian Potato salad left something to be desired (and it didn’t help that it was so cold that it felt like it was right out of the freezer and killed the temperature of the meat… but oh well). I would up choosing pork rather than chicken and the meat itself was perfect. The breading was perfectly shnitzel-like and the flavor was great. Just wish it hadn’t been so cold by the time I got across the street and into my office.

As far as “Street Meat” goes, this is good. Even more than being good, however, it’s original! Selling schnitzel out of a truck? Can’t wait to see what they think of next!

NJ BBQ at the Grub Hut

19 Oct

When I visited my mom in NJ, she decided that Grub Hut in Manville, NJ was the place to take me for some BBQ.  They also have Mexican, but the vote was that their BBQ was some of the best she had eaten, so we all ordered some ribs.


They had a few items on special including the Rib Sampler which included Baby Back, Beef, and Spare Ribs.  I ordered it with the special teriyaki sauce since the BBQ sauce was a risk with peppers.  It was SOOOO good.

The beef were decidedly my favorite.  And they were the size of my head!

Mom went with the double that came with spare and baby back (as well as sides of cole slaw and AWESOME BBQ baked beans.)

Rich got the 4 pound beef ribs special.  It was HUGE.

It was a very messy enterprise, though entirely delicious and with enough food for another meal!

Our pile of bones was quite large.

Overall, Grub Hut offers so much meat for the price that it is entirely worthwhile.  There are also sometimes coupon on Restaurants.com that can save you even more (none at this time… sad).  It’s delicious and better than most Northeast BBQs I’ve had.  Totally worth a stop if you’re in the neighborhood.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

Mike’s birthday dinner- Part II: Quality Meats

17 Oct

Deciding where to take Mike for his birthday dinner was quite difficult this year.  I cooked him his favorites on Friday, however, I wanted to take him out somewhere special.  After my birthday at WD50 with the best meal I have EVER had, I knew I wouldn’t be able to beat it, but I had to make sure it was a good place.  I was debating Ninja, but I hear that while the entertainment is fun, the food is only so-so (and horrifically expensive).  I thought about a classic like Gramery Tavern or Bouley, but then I heard such rave reviews about Quality Meats (on West 58th Street between 5th and 6th Ave) that I decided to take a gamble and try it out.

The decorations were nice with all old fashioned light bulbs and wines stacked to make partial walls.  The downstairs had an interesting room with 2 chairs, and antique phone, and a bull… which lent itself well to a good, cheesy photo op.  (Mike is such a ham.  Love it.)

For the wine, we chose to take a chance with the “Sommelier’s Bin” which provided a good bottle of wine for $75 that was orphaned from a previous special.  Our wine was just okay, but it was nice to know we got a good value (the wine would have normally gone for well over $100).

It was too dark at our table to take pics without flash, so I tried to pick my photo ops wisely and waited for the entire table to be laid out before snapping away.  The only items that missed the shot were the 2 figs with goat cheese that we began with and then the appetizer we ordered of fresh tomato salad (which was good, but nothing special).

The main course was quite a spread.  Mike ordered the aged rib steak and I went with the aged bone-in sirloin.  Our waitress said that while the filets are good, these two cuts were even better, so we trusted her.  They both had EXCELLENT char on them, though I liked my sirloin a wee bit better. We both agreed that even the steak sauce was great and neither Mike nor I like steak sauce.

Mike ordered the Yorkshire Creamed Spinach and I was told the Corn Creme Brulee was not to be missed.  The creamed spinach was tasty and I liked the pastry around it, but it fell a wee bit short somehow.

The Corn Creme Brulee, however, WOW!  This was probably one of the single best things I have ever eaten.  Thank you Hyun for insisting that we order this!  It was perfectly flavored with fresh corn in a custard like creme and perfectly seared on top to make a crackle.  It was absolute heaven.

For dessert, Mike wanted chocolate rum raisin ice cream (which tasted deliciously rummy) and I went with the blueberry tart that had stewed peached.  It was delicious, though the peaches were cut so small that they had almost 0 flavor. My favorite part, however, was that a odd green sauce was around the edge.  Turns out it was basil and mint and it was Fan.Freakin.Tastic.  I could have drank the stuff! The tart itself was great, however, and I wish I had the room to finish it!

Overall, I thought Quality Meats was pretty fantastic.  The steak was some of the best I’ve had (rivaled Keen’s even! My favorite) and the corn creme brulee just sent it over the top.  It’s an expensive meal, but I felt like we got our money’s worth (by NYC Steak House standards anyway).

Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10 (and 10 out of 10 for that corn creme brulee!)

Mike’s birthday dinner- Part 1: My kitchen

16 Oct

When I realized I had the day of Mike’s birthday off, I decided that it would become a cooking extravaganza.  I asked him what menu he wanted and he selected something with lamb, a risotto, our infamous brussel sprouts, and homemade chocolate peanut butter CUPS for dessert.

After seeing that the price of lamb on Fresh Direct was absolutely outrageous ($45 for a single piece?! WTF?) I went with the lamb shoulder chop.  It was billed as being just as flavorful and juicy as its more expensive counterparts.  I looked around for recipes for a while and didn’t come up with anything that really jumped out at me.  I picked up a Bon Appetit magazine randomly at the hair salon that morning and, there it was… “Lamb Chops with Pomegranate and Dried Figs.”  Done.  Went to the gourmet food store and had problems finding pomegranate marmalade, so I went with a pomegranate jam instead and hoped for the best.

I decided to go with a mushroom risotto to compliment the other strong flavors and found a recipe that sounded good (see below).  It was a bitch to keep stirring while putting everything else together, but I’ve determined that constant stirring of risotto isn’t necessary after the first few additions of liquid.  Just gotta go back to it often.




This time I wound up making the brussel sprouts with small diced pancetta.  It produced more pancetta grease to brown the brussel sprouts in, however, I missed those big bites of pancetta when we were eating it later.  Next time, I’ll go half big dice half little dice.

The plate came together very well, and all the flavors played nicely against each other.

Dessert is where I started to get creative.  I made the chocolate peanut butter cups in much the same way I make my chocolate peanut butter bars.  I cut cupcake cups in half and then melted down some milk chocolate to fill in the bottom of the cups.  I would take the individual cups out into my hand and spread the chocolate up the sides of the cup to the edge.  To my surprise, it stayed, forming a perfect bowl in the center.  I put these in the fridge to harden.  I then whipped up some peanut butter filling.  For 12 individual cups, I had plenty of filling by combining 1 cup of peanut butter with 1/2 cup of powdered sugar, 2 TBsp butter, and about 1/2 cup of graham cracker crumbs.   I filled these into the hardened chocolate cups then tamped it down on the counter to get a perfectly even surface.  I then melted down some more chocolate and poured this over the peanut butter filling and smoothed it over to the edges.  Back in the fridge and 20 minutes later I had perfect little homemade reeses. It was SO easy and looked so good.  The paper was a wee bit hard to peel off (next time I’ll look for stiffer ones) but it all comes off and tastes so good.  I may give these as little gifts this holiday season.


(Making the cup bottoms)


(Filling the cups with peanut butter than putting on the top layer of chocolate)

This was so easy, in fact, that I felt as though I hadn’t done quite enough for Mike’s birthday.  The back of the chocolate morsels box had a recipe for “brownies that are more like fudge” so I decided to make some bigger peanut butter cups too.  I mixed up a smaller proportion of the brownie mixture and put it into 2 popover pans.  Baked these up and, while they were in the oven, got to making some peanut butter mousse (recipe below).  Once it was all done and the brownies cooled, I cut out the center of the top of the popover in a cone shape and then filled the inside with the peanut butter mousse.  Topped each one with an unwrapped peanut butter cup and v’oila:


(brownies cooked in popover pans)


(one with the center cut out for filling)


(folding together the peanut butter and whipped cream)


What was interesting about the mousse is that it was nice and fluffy and creamy the night I made it, but after refrigerating the leftovers, it definitely thickened and became more the consistency of soft fudge.  Delicious either way! Especially when mixed with some vanilla ice cream!

___________________________________________________

RECIPES
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Lamb Chops with Fig and Pomegranate Relish

Ingredients

·      2/3 cup pomegranate seeds

·      1/4 cup diced dried Calimyrna figs

·      1 teaspoon chopped fresh mint

·      1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

·      1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses

·      5 teaspoons olive oil, divided

·      1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, lightly crushed, divided

·      2 5-ounce lamb loin chops or shoulder blade chops

Directions

1.              Mix pomegranate seeds (I omitted), diced figs, fresh mint, balsamic vinegar (good quality), and pomegranate molasses (or jam!) with 3 teaspoons oil, and 1/4 teaspoon cumin in small bowl.

2.               Sprinkle lamb with remaining 1/4 teaspoon cumin, salt, and pepper.

3.               Heat 2 teaspoons oil in medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.

4.               Add lamb; cook to desired doneness, about 5 minutes per side for medium.

5.              Top with relish and serve.

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Gourmet Mushroom Risotto


Ingredients: (I halved this and it was still enough for 3 meals for the 2 of us)

·       6 cups chicken broth, divided

·       3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

·       1 pound portobello mushrooms, thinly sliced

·       1 pound white mushrooms, thinly sliced

·       2 shallots, diced

·       1 1/2 cups Arborio rice

·       1/2 cup dry white wine

·       sea salt to taste

·       freshly ground black pepper to taste

·       3 tablespoons finely chopped chives

·       4 tablespoons butter

·       1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

1. In a saucepan, warm the broth over low heat.

2. Warm 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the mushrooms, and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Remove mushrooms and their liquid, and set aside.

3. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet, and stir in the shallots. Cook 1 minute. Add rice, stirring to coat with oil, about 2 minutes. When the rice has taken on a pale, golden color, pour in wine, stirring constantly until the wine is fully absorbed. Add 1/2 cup broth to the rice, and stir until the broth is absorbed. Continue adding broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring continuously, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente, about 15 to 20 minutes.

4. Remove from heat, and stir in mushrooms with their liquid, butter, chives, and parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Peanut Butter Mousse


Ingredients

·       1 cup creamy peanut butter

·       8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature

·       1 cup powdered sugar

·       1 tablespoon vanilla extract

·       1 cup chilled whipping cream

Directions

  1. Using electric mixer, beat peanut butter and cream cheese in large bowl to blend.
  2. Add powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons vanilla extract and beat until well blended.
  3. Using clean dry beaters, beat 2 cups whipping cream in medium bowl until stiff peaks form
  4. Fold gently into peanut butter mixture in 4 additions

Oh Koi… how I love thee

14 Oct

There are not many restaurants that I can eat multiple times in a week and still want to go back the next day, however, Koi (on 40th Street between 5th and 6th Aves, across from Bryant Park) is on the top of that list.  I’ve heard a lot of people discredit Koi as being a lesser Nobu, but my Nobu experience was just fair, whereas I am excited every time I go to Koi (and I’ve probably been there over 20 times).

The dish everyone looks forward to is their crispy rice.  It’s topped with spicy tuna (I have mine with regular tuna sashimi to avoid the spice).  It is sensational.  I’m still not sure how they make the rice taste that good and have that amazing crispy texture, but that secret keeps me coming back all the time.  I (and many others) have chosen to order this as just their entree.  It’s that good.

The crispy rock shrimp appetizer is a favorite, however, I think the Kobe Beef Carpaccio with fried shiitake mushrooms and yuzu vinaigrette is sensational.  Their warm baby spinach with mushroom salad is also quite tasty.

For an entree, I ALWAYS order the Miso Glazed Cod.  I would say that this dish revolutionized my life since it’s actually what started me eating fish.  It’s always done perfectly.

The sushi is also notable.  The baked crab roll is on top of a regular (delicious) California roll.

Usually I leave too stuffed to have dessert, but it is always VERY good at Koi.  I love the rice pudding creme brulee.  Delish!

Overall Koi is so dependable and so good that it’s one of my absolute favorites in NYC.

Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10

Borrowed sauce, semi-fresh pasta, and roasted garlic bread

13 Oct

My mom came to visit and brought me some sauce made with tomatoes, zucchini, and sausage.  It was delicious (though the veggies produced too much water and adding corn starch just gave it a powdery texture that didn’t work.  Oh well!)  We put it over some of the semi-homemade pastas, like Buiton, that are now popping up more and more in grocery stores (not quite dried but not quite as fresh as the ones in Italian Markets).  The linguini was good (though still not as good as the real fresh stuff) but the artichoke raviolis were disappointing.  As a lover of artichokes, I hardly tasted artichoke flavor AT ALL.  Boo.

As a side, we decided to make some garlic bread.  I roasted up some garlic (take a head of garlic, cut off the points so you can see each clove, coat the top in olive oil and wrap it in tinfoil. Put it in the oven at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes to an hour.  The garlic should be soft enough to just mush right out of its casing).  The roasting takes away the sharpness and leaves you with a delicious piece of garlic that can be eaten all by itself.  We, however, mashed it into melted butter and spread it on italian bread.  Then broiled the Italian bread for just a few minutes to crisp it up.  So easy and so good!