Archive | December, 2009

Top 10 Noms of 2009

31 Dec

What is a New Year without a Top 10?  I have been blogging for exactly 325 days and have enjoyed every moment of it.  I love food… and I’m so happy that I have some very faithful readers who have joined me on this journey (THANK YOU!). With that said, here is my top 10 Noms from 2009:

10) Disney World stands out in my mind for a very memorable eating trip in 2009.  The dinner we had at Marrakash comes up often and I still can’t remember ever having a better sundae than the Ghiradelli one I had at Downtown Disney.

9) When Mike and I took the Culinary Walking Tour of Greenwich Village, we didn’t really know what to expect. It wound up being great for both food (we have gone back to these places a few times since then) and history. 

8) I actually wound up going to Becco twice this year (Becco 1 and Becco 2).  They are awesome for having an unlimited pasta tasting from their three pastas of the day and a pretty extensive wine list for under $25.  But their Osso Bucco is what dreams are made of.

7) Every time I go to Koi it is amazing.  It’s one of the very, very few restaurants I can go to over and over again (even multiple times in the same week).  The crispy rice is amazing and I credit the Miso Glazed Cod with having started me eating fish for the first time.

6) The short ribs at Charles were great (well… I thought so until I had #2 on this list). We first sampled them at a nice fund-raising food festival and then I won a gift certificate by bidding $60 for a $75 gift certiciate.  The braised lamb shank was exceptional and highly recommended.

5) Quality Meats had been recommended to me time and time again.  While the steak was great, but not my favorite, the corn creme brulee was so good that I dream about it.

4) Eating at Montenapo, especially on someone else’s dime so we could order multiple courses without guilt (well, except waistline guilt), was a HUGE treat.  It’s brand new and in the middle of an area that is known to wimp out on food.  The Osso Bucco was the best I’ve ever had (even though I just had a taste of someone else’s) and the desserts were sensational.  There wasn’t a bad bite in the entire meal. 

3) I have loved Keens Steakhouse since the first time I tried it, however, the bar is especially amazing and I’m so glad Lori joined me for my first time.  That potato and steak was heavenly and more restaurants should make merengue… especially if it’s that good!

2) The number two slot goes to a yet to be blogged about meal at Bottega (Michael Chiarello’s restaurant in Napa Valley).  Why was it so good? You’ll just have to read the blog to find out!

1) My birthday dinner at WD-50 was epic. It is hands down the best meal I’ve ever had.  We went whole hog and got the full tasting menu.  Each dish was a new adventure… and not just because it looked cool.  There were such wonderful flavors in everything and I really loved this place.  #1 for the year… probably lifetime #1 to date.

Runners up:

Happy New Year Nommers!

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Mussels and Beer at Landmarc… For Free!

30 Dec

I know a lot of people say they don’t win anything… but I mean it.  Until this year.  I’ve been lucky in little drawings, winning dinners from FoodBuzz, and then with signing up for Circle of Taste with The Time Warner Center.  The first thing I won (yes… even more than one!) was a Mussel and Beer tasting at Landmarc.  The discription was completely vague so we had no idea what we were in for. 

Our tasting was to begin promptly at 9 and we were sat at a very low table with other winners.  The menu looked good. We could choose two mussel preparations and two beers from their list.

We could choose from light or dark beer from St. Bernadus.  I chose light, Mike chose dark.  Mine was good…

But Mike’s was GREAT.  Full, wonderful flavor. One of the best beers I’ve ever had.

We assumed we’d get a bite or two of each mussel preparation, however, they gave us HUGE tereens.  Each were a meal in itself but we got two.  And they were heavenly…

And they came with (delicious) frites!




And then… DESSERT!

This meal was SO good even if we paid for it.  Next time I know of someone that loves mussles, this is where I’m taking them.  We also got phenomenol service throughout and I was very impressed.  Their bar is very nice too.  If you need somewhere to bring a date… I think this place would be a total winner.

More Grand Central Market and Fresh Direct Goodies

21 Dec

I’ve already written about the Veal Bratwurst from the Market in Grand Central Station twice.  I really like them.  They’re sweet and flavorful without being over powering.  We picked up some more on our last adventure home from Westchester and decided it was time to spice them up a bit… so we cooked them in beer and onions and then grilled them on our stove grill top.


It was very easy to do.

Next up I had some miniature sweet potatoes from a recent Fresh Direct order.  I love fingerling potatoes, and I love sweet potatoes, so I was hoping the merger would work in my favor.

I decided to roast them the way I did the purple potatoes last time that went so well with the brats.

To complete the meal, Mike suggested we make a cold bean salad in a vinegar dressing.  I was game and we picked up green beans and wax beans from a stand at the Grand Central Market.

We blanched them for just about 3-4 minutes and then stuck them in a bowl of ice water.

Then we dressed them up with shallots, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil.

The completed plates were quire pretty.


As it turns out, I much prefer these brats just cooked on their own.  The beer and onions gave it a flavor that I thought I SHOULD have liked,but just didn’t.  It took away from the naturally good flavor of the brat itself.  Oh well!

The sweet potatoes were also good but not as good as those purple potatoes.  I also can’t seem to get them browned in the same way.  That first time was definitely the best and I haven’t been able to repeat it since.

The best part of the meal was definitely the bean salad.  Props to Mike for the idea and execution.  Nom Nom Nommy.

Joe- The Art of Coffee (and Dirty Chai)

18 Dec

Just a quickie for today.  While in Grand Central Station, we went down the wrong hall looking for a Starbucks and stumbled upon Joe- The Art of Coffee.  I have recently become incredibly addicted to Dirty Chai (A chai tea latte with a shot of espresso. Also called a Red Eye Chai. And two shots is called a Filthy Chai.) I asked them to make this for me and the barista behind the registered commended me on my drink selection.  They also offered great, friendly, prompt customer service that felt much more like New England than Grand Central Station Manhattan.  The final touch of awesomeness was the beautiful job they did on the traditional leaf pattern with the steamed milk/foam.

Best of all? It was probably the best one I’ve ever had!

I loves me some toffee

16 Dec

I am a HUGE fan of English toffee.  Heath/Score bars are some of my favorite candy, however, nothing beats a fresh batch from a candy store.  When I saw a recipe online for Gramercy Tavern’s homemade toffee that seamed very easy and included sea salt, I was in.  I first made this one random night at home and I just could not stop eating it.  I proceeded to make it again one night when my sister was visiting, then again for my housewarming party, and then yet again for Thanksgiving.  It was a hit every time and I honestly have to stop myself from making it out of fear of impending weight gain in massive quantities.  I have no self control for homemade toffee!

The key to good candy making is a good thermometer.  Mine was just okay.  This toffee has the love/hate quality of getting totally stuck in your teeth as you eat it (great for sucking, terrible for fillings).  I am going to try to make it with a wee bit less water next time to see if that helps with the tacky factor.

The sea salt really takes this toffee to a whole nother level.  My dad was NOT a fan but I think he’s out of his mind.  The salt is what most people loved most about the toffee. 

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RECIPE
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Chocolate-Covered Toffee With Pumpkin Seeds and Sea Salt

Ingredients

  • 6 oz. (1 1/2 sticks) butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp. water
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • about 6 oz. semisweet or milk chocolate (works best if tempered)
  • 1 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted  (I had none so I went without)
  • sea salt to taste

Instructions

Stir butter, sugar, and water over low heat to dissolve sugar. Raise heat to medium and stir constantly. Cook until a beautiful toffee color (candy thermometer should read about 295 degrees F).

Add salt and vanilla extract, carefully; the toffee sputters. Pour onto one lightly buttered sheet of parchment paper. Allow to cool.

Wipe off excess oil from the surface of the toffee with a paper towel (the excess butter fat may keep the chocolate from adhering properly).

Spread tempered chocolate over completely cooled toffee.

Sprinkle with toasted pumpkin seeds and sea salt while chocolate is still tacky (so that the seeds and salt can adhere).

Break toffee into desired-size pieces.

Soho Eats: Crepes and Cupcakes

14 Dec

One day while running all over SoHo looking for new office space, I decided to take a side road until I found a place for lunch.  I have a soft spot for crepes, so once I saw a little place that specialized in crepes, I couldn’t help but go in.  I was confused about the name since there were little stickers that covered part of it on their crepe cones, so I decided not to photograph the ugly side.  Turns out it’s in the news! I guess I will refer to this as the crepe place formerly known as La Crepe Parisienne.  Turns out I had also left SoHo for NoHo.  Who knew!

I ordered the prosciutto, raclette cheese, and sliced potato crepe since potato just sounded splendid. It was… fair.  Kinda boring actually.  The potatoes should be a wee bit crisped or something… it just tasted like mushy nothing really.  The cheese and prosciutto wasn’t anything special either.  Disappointing.  I did enjoy the handy holder though.

I left the creperie feeling as though I really wanted something sweet but was too full to get a sweet crepe.  That’s when I happened on just the right thing…

I’ve read about these a few times, but the Baked by Melissa miniature cupcakes being sold out of a “store” the size of a closet was too amusing to pass up.

When they say miniature… they mean it.  They were about the diameter of a quarter.  Three for $3 sounded worthwhile and I went with PB&J, S’Mores, and Peanut Butter Cup.  The chocolate cakes were excellent, though the PB&J one was somehow lackluster.  A great little snack if you’re in the area (Spring between Mercer and Broadway).

Krispy Krack Kale

14 Dec

I had heard rumors about kale that it was bitter.  As someone who will eat any veggie EXCEPT the bitter ones, I have avoided it at all costs.  Then came a review from Lori (a fellow kale skeptic) and the recipe, and I decided to give it a shot.  A few weeks later, I found a recipe for short ribs that included kale in its winter veggies assortment so I bought some from Fresh Direct.  One bored night I decided to refer back to Lori’s blog and crisp up one of the three bundles I had. 

It could not possibly be easier.  You wash kale, dry it off, toss it with olive oil and sea salt (not too much salt! it get concentrated as the kale roasts).

Then you stick it on a baker’s rack (or a pizza stone or a cookie cooling rack).  Then you put it in the oven at 250 degrees for about 25 minutes.

When you pull it out it doesn’t quite look like it should be crispy and when I reached in to grab a single one to try (figuring it needed more time or something) it was over.  I was in love.  It was perfectly crisp, salty, and a totally unique, milk flavor. 

I ate the entire tray on the left before trying to have some self control and put the rack on the right into a bowl… then proceeded to eat all but a small handful that I left for poor Mike when he got home.

The one problem I would advise about is that as it roasted, it curled around the little bars in the cooling rack, making it a bit harder to come off and causing more crumbling than you might want if you were serving this to guests.  I, however, had no problem collecting those crumbs and gobbling them all up.

I have made it TWICE since then (this was less than a week ago) and just ordered more kale from Fresh Direct for next week.  It’s THAT good. 

Run… do not walk… run to your nearest grocery store and buy some.  You’ll thank me later.

Makin’ Whoopie… Pies… again

9 Dec

The whoopie pies were such a hit at the housewarming that I decided to make them for our epic Thanksgiving feast (more on THAT later).  They were a HUGE hit.  The only person that didn’t like them was the person’s whose opinion matters to me most… Dinah (the matriarch of our family and Thanksgiving).  She said they were too sweet and she likes more “simple” desserts.  SAD! But everyone else loved them… so I’ll call it a success.  The last entry has the recipe, however, I never got pics of the finished cookies nor completed cakes!  So without further ado…


Hopping Across the Street

7 Dec

One of the first things Mike and I noticed about our new building was the little Italian restaurant on the block. Carbone Ristorante is in the middle of the Garment District on a side street, so I can’t imagine they get a great amount of foot traffic, however, I was happy to see a new place to try that was so convenient!

I went with the Homemade Fettuccine with Artichokes, Smoked Ham, and Cherry Tomatoes. It was good, but nothing great. The artichokes tasted very dull, though the smoked ham was tasty.

Mike went with the special of homemade pappardelle with rabbit ragu. I would say the same went for this dish. Good but nothing great.

Overall, the only real victory Carbone has is that they’re close. It wasn’t great and the prices were average to a little higher than average for NYC fine Italian. We took a peak at the dessert menu and nothing really called to us… so we got Ben & Jerry’s ice cream pops on the way home.

Total Nom Points: 5 out of 10

Magnolia Banana Pudding… FINALLY

3 Dec

I am not a huge fan of cakes in general, so it’s not shocking that Magnolia Bakery’s famous cupcakes has never quite had the luster to me that it seems to have with others. I was told, however, that their banana pudding was to.die.for. Since they have opened up several new locations, most of which don’t have lines around the corner like the original, I knew it was only a matter of time before my banana pudding opportunity arose. Such a day was on the way home from the MoMA (Tim Burton exhibit was crowded but cool but I still find it angering as to why people thing a white spot on a white canvas is art).

The Rockefeller Center Magnolia (on 6th Ave. and 49th Street) is small and cute and even features a Rockette themed special cupcake.


We grabbed a small banana pudding and made our way to benches in front of the Grace Building to dig in.

What I first noticed is that there is crumbled cake (angel food cake?) in the pudding. I thought this was a nice touch to add some texture since pudding can get a wee bit bland after the first few bites.

The banana flavor was great (though I love banana and would have preferred more) but overall I was a wee bit disappointed. I think it would have been hard to live up to the hype anyway, but it wasn’t anything I’d go out of my way to eat again.

I actually think what would have made me over the moon for this was some sort of candied nut to up the flavor/texture profile even more. I guess I’ll just have to make it myself!

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(Please forgive all my photos for the next few weeks as my digital camera finally died after many, many lives and I am exclusively on my iPhone until cameras go on sale after Xmas)