Archive | May, 2010

Why I want to marry David Chang (sorry Mike)

28 May

I have been hearing rave reviews about Momofuku Ko for a few years now.  I heard that it was an epic dining adventure.  I had fallen in love with David Chang as soonas I took my first bite of his pork bun at Momofuku Ssam.

Dinner takes 2 hours and includes at least 11 courses.  Currently, it’s $125 a head… so it’s definitely reserved for special dining occasions! (They also serve lunch Friday-Sunday which is something like 17 courses for $175… CRAZY!)  It’s a tasting menu selected from the freshest things in the market.  It changes constantly and you are at the complete mercy of your chefs.  For a long time, they would not accommodate allergies, so I thought I would never get to go. Recently they decided they could work around allergies (though I called to make sure since mine is odd… peppers) and I was SO excited that I finally would get to go!

The reservation system is quite interesting.  There are only twelve seats that surround a “bar” where you can observe everything the chefs are preparing for you.  You can only register one week in advance (it opens up at 10am) and it’s random and computerized.  You basically need to start clicking furiously at 10am for the day you want (Hint: Register first and check out the page to know what you’re up against and figure out the days that are posted).  It took me some time, but eventually I scored a Thursday reservation.

The one thing that really disappointed me about Ko was that you cannot take picture (collective “awwww” from all).  I hate posts without pictures, so I’ll do a very quick recap and give you the one and only picture from the night.

This was the entrance… no sign… just a little peach on the door. We walked past it twice!

Here is the rundown of what we could remember from the evening (I was writing down what I could on my iPhone… but I was much more focused on enjoying every morsel).

Peppercorn biscuit with honey- OMG was this good! What a way to start!

Eggplant and homemade pickles- Not memorable

Crisped pork skin- For how much I like crispy pork skin, I seem to remember this just not being amazing and that there wasn’t even really enough of it to savor

Chicken sausage with asparagus puree in spoon- Good but not great

Long Island fluke with English peas- Everything tasted SOOO fresh, but this just wasn’t my favorite dish

Beef carpaccio, horse radish, and honey crisp with schezuan peppercorn- The best beef carpaccio I have ever had! Even with the horse radish (which I typically don’t like) it was GREAT!

Gruyere broth with bone marrow brioche, wood sorrel, pearl onions, and beef gelee- Holy crap.  Just thinking back on this dish makes my mouth water. This was one of the best things I have ever eaten in my WHOLE LIFE.  You can’t possibly understand how good the Gruyere broth was. Nom Nom Nom

Chicken egg sturgeon caviar mini potato chips- A great little bite

Hand torn pasta chicken and snail sausage crispy chicken skin pecorino- MMmmm this was good.  Everything was just perfectly flavorful and it all blended together so well

Almond crusted skate roast cauliflower almond milk foam- This was good, but I wanted it to be better.  Sounded better than it was.

Shaved frozen foie gras with lychee, pine nut brittle, and riesling gel- This was where it became epic.  The amount of foie gras was insane (basically a full bowl) but it was SOO rich and SOO tasty.  The one part I didn’t like was the riesling gel. It was a bit too sharp and startling to the palette.  Even with that, however, this was amazing.

Duck breast and fried duck legs, charred mustard greens, ramps, honey, and turnip with pumpernickel bread crumbs- The best duck I’ve ever had. Hands down.  Our chef actually nibbled on this through the night.  He must cook this hundreds of times but he kept taking the scraps of this. That’s how good it was.

Pre-dessert: pie crust crumble with apricot sorbet and Makers Mark- This was delicious. I was sad it was small.

Pretzel panna cotta with caraway seeds, root beer ice cream, and brown mustard sea salt- As soon as I heard the description I knew I would be bummed… I LOVE dessert. I think dessert can make or break a meal. If it’s bad, it ruins it. If it’s good, it can save a so-so dinner.  Luckily, the rest of this meal was good enough that it didn’t have to come down to this dessert.  I dislike caraway seeds, root beer and mustard.  So basically the pretzel panna cotta and the sea salt were all that appealed to me about this dish.  And the pretzel panna cotta just didn’t really taste like pretzel.  Such a bummer! It was all just a bit too savory to end with too.  Even though I was STUFFED, I kept hoping they would come out with one last bite of a cookie or meringue or… something… Anything to get that caraway seed taste out of my mouth.  Oh well! I did finish it anyway… so it couldn’t have been THAT bad 😉

Overall, I would definitely say that this was one of the best meals I’ve ever had.  WD-50 was still hands down my favorite, but I love chef tasting meals and the intimacy of Ko along with getting to watch the chef prepare completely added to the experience.

Totally worth it!

Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10

PS- You might be wondering exactly how I managed to eat this meal while on Weight Watchers.  I posed this to my group leader and he thought for a while and then suggested I use the rest of my daily points (I still had about 12) plus my full weekly allowance (35) and just count the meal as one lump sum of points and not worry about it.  FANTASTIC advice! I was completely prepared to gain that week… but low and behold I was still down nearly a pound! It’s so exciting how well Weight Watchers really works…

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Ramping up for Spring

28 May

Ramps seemed to be all the rage on miscellaneous food blogs.  I heard that they are one of the first new spring veggies that come to the farmer’s markets so when I heard they were in stock in Union Square, I decided to try them.  A recipe that sounded delicious was a potato au gratin type dish that I actually could convert to a Weight Watchers recipe. (With my calculation and alterations, this made 4 portions and each portion was 5 points).

So we cut the ends off but used most of the rest (including the green leaves).

I also had beautiful multicolored potatoes from Fresh Direct.  It was all about the layering.

First a sliced potato layer.

Then a layer of the chopped ramps.

Til it fills the dish

I just loved the colors of all of this together

Then we topped it with milk (I went skim), grated cheese (I went fat free from Weight Watchers), and then sprinkled with parmesan cheese and some breadcrumbs.

And bake.  V’oila!

It needed a slotted spoon since the milk was a little watery, but the taste was SO. GOOD.

The ramps add a kind of scallion/garlicky flavor.

We also had it with miso tilapia (which was good, but not good enough to post the recipe)

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RECIPE
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Ingredients:

  • 4 med. potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 c. coarsely chopped ramps, including green tops
  • 1 c. milk (we went skim)
  • 1 (4 oz.) pkg. grated Cheddar cheese (we went for nonfat)
  • 1/2 c. fresh bread crumbs
  • Paprika (Optional… we went sans)

Directions:

  1. Preheat to 425 degrees.
  2. Place a layer of sliced potatoes in a greased 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Place a layer of ramps on top of potatoes. Continue alternating layers, ending with potatoes on top layer.
  4. Pour milk over top. Sprinkle with cheese, bread crumbs and paprika.
  5. Bake covered at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.
  6. Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Gettin’ Saucy

26 May

One of Mike’s coworkers started up Saucy Solutions and was nice enough to give us a bottle of her Sweet thing BBQ (as well as her bolognese, which will come up in another post). 

We defrosted some pork chops and simply baked the chops in the sauce with onions.  It couldn’t have been easier and the sauce came to only about 1 point. 

Mike also made some homemade coleslaw by adding oil, vinegar, and sugar to a pre-made broccoli slaw mixture.

It was a perfect pairing.

The sauce was great.  The perfect balance of sweetness and tang and it tasted so fresh.  I was impressed.  Perfect on pork chops. It got the thumbs up from Mike too!

Scallops Lime and Vine

24 May

I have been a fan of Food52.com for a few months now.  Basically they are crowd-sourcing recipes from their users and will make a published cookbook out of it after a year of subsmissions (52 weeks… ya know).  They have 2 specific categories each week that they request submissions for.  I haven’t really had a great recipe to submit, but when “Your Best Scallops Recipe” came up, I realized that not only was this one of my favorite foods, but I also had some in my fridge at that moment.  I spent the next few hours contemplating exactly what was submission worthy and I decided to go out on a limb.

I had a drink at a local restaurant a few days earlier that combined grapes and lime.  The combination was PERFECT and I thought it would be a great citris to cut through the butteriness of the scallop.  It was like a twist on sweet and sour.  So I set to making up something that was simple yet different.

First, I cooked down some grapes with sugar.

Then I mashed it all up and squeezed out the delicious juices and added lime and ginger.

I then let this cook down until it was reduced to a thick sauce.

As it was reducing, I browned up some scallops.


I also tried my hand at some food styling and photography… I’m not pleased with the results, but this blog includes my less than stellar accomplishments as well, so here ya go:


We made some delicious rainbow swiss chard to go with the main dish.

So did I win?  Not even close! I wasn’t even selected as a runner up.  Poo!  My submission is here: http://www.food52.com/recipes/4067_scallops_lime_and_vine

I think it deserved an honorable mention at least, but I guess I’m biased.  I recommend this recipe highly, however, and definitely at least make the sauce! You can put it over chicken, pork, duck or it would even be great over ice cream!

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RECIPE
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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Grapes- Seedless, Red or Black
  • 2 tablespoons Sugar
  • 1 Lime, Juiced
  • 1/4 teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • 1 pound Dry Sea Scallops
  • 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 tablespoon Butter
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Put grapes and sugar in a sauce pan and heat over a medium flame
  2. Allow to cook until grapes are softened and juice begins to seep out (About 10 minutes)
  3. Use a potato masher to smush grapes in pot
  4. Add the lime juice and ginger, stir to combine
  5. Allow to continue cooking for about 10 more minutes until juices have reduced
  6. While the sauce reduces, in the last 5 minutes, sear scallops by heating olive oil and butter in a pan until the butter stops bubbling. Place scallops in hot pan and sear for about 2 minutes on each side until golden brown (be sure to space scallops out so they sear and don’t steam). Remove from heat
  7. Salt and pepper grape and lime sauce to taste
  8. Drizzle sauce over scallops and serve immediately

Hippie Pie

21 May

I affectionately refer to my dad as a hippie.  He loves to watch birds, attended the march on Washington for Nixon’s inauguration, and knows how to harvest weeds from the woods and eat them.  Need I say more?

This aforementioned pie is actually Japanese Knotweed Pie and I absolutely love it. 

It’s not quite as scary when you grow up with this, but trying to convince others to try a pie made with weeds harvested along a New Jersey highway is not an easy task.

So what exactly is Japanese Knotweed?

Facts about Japanese Knotweed (thank you Wikipedia and odd factoids learned in my childhood):
– It is not only delicious (similar to rhubarb), it is used in Chinese Medicine to produce resveratrol (same thing they extract from red grapes and they say is so good for you in red wine… used in Chinese medicine for anti-aging, may have some effect in lowering blood sugar in humans) and as a nutritional supplement to regulate bowel motility (and who doesn’t need some good ol’ bowel motility?)  
– The flowers are used in beekeeping for making honey
– It helps desensitize from allergies since it contains low doses of local polen

(Note: None of the above facts have been proven by anyone of any note)

Dad made it this season with berries, and I approve! It’s a base of basically whipped cream, condensed milk, and lemonade along with the knotweed in a graham cracker crust.  The recipe will remain a family secret (sorry folks) so you have to be in the right spot at the right time around April to get a bite.

Of course, being handed a pie this delicious a few weeks into Weight Watchers was not easy… but I ate it 2 points at a time (1/16th of the pie… not bad when you figure out that’s about half a normal slice).  Delish!

Can’t wait for next April!

Roasted Veggies

19 May

It’s beet season!  I love beets, though I only discovered that recently.  The one thing I dislike about beets, however, is how they turn everything bright pink. But they’re worth it.  I have never just cooked up beets myself, however, so I had to Google the best way to peel a beet. Turns out it’s pretty easy! Just roast them and then use a spoon to slide between the skin and the beet under running water and it just peels right off.

They cook up so beautifully that I just had to take a few glamour shots…


We were in a veggie roasting mood, so we also threw some mushrooms, onions, carrots, and (our new favorite) daikon onto a pan and cooked up a zero point veggie feast!

In general, you can basically roast any veggie.  To keep it point free, put it on a Silpat and then spray it quickly with some cooking spray.  Put in a 400 degree oven and roast for about 20 minutes (thicker, heavier veggies may take longer).  I test for doneness along the way, however, this formula works for most hard vegetables.

Bond 45

17 May

Times Square doesn’t exactly have the best reputation for good dining.  Sure, there is Restaurant Row, but most people associate the Broadway District with being over priced.   While some are, there are some gems around.  Bond 45 is one of those gems… contrary to its appearance.


(Photo is not mine)

What kind of establishment puts that much neon onto their restaurant?  I shake my head at this, however, once you get past the neon, it’s fantastic.

First, the inside used to be a theater (made famous by Ziegfeld Follies) and it’s beautiful. 

Second, of course, is the food.

We started with roasted cauliflower.  It was good, but I like mine better. 🙂

We also tried the Artichokes alla Giudea which are fried “Roman Jewish” style.

Fantastic flavor and perfect crispness.  The worst part about these is when they are over.

When I was there last, one of my coworkers got the chicken parm and it was sensational (and HUGE!)  Mike went with the Veal Parm and it was absolutely fantastic (and still HUGE!)

I went with the Branzino, which was roasted with herbs, olives, and tomatoes and with a side of parmesan potatoes.  It was SO good.  And the whole plate for 8 points? Score!

Then there is the final cherry on top (which I unfortunately didn’t get a picture of).  They have a big bowl of English Toffee for the way out. I saved Weight Watchers Points for this… that’s how good it is! 

Overall, Bond 45 is so surprisingly good it almost gets more points just for being so surprising.  I have now eaten there twice, and both times have been exceptional.

It’s a bit pricey, but what isn’t in Time Square?

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

A Review of Weight Watchers Pre-packaged Food- Part 1

14 May

I have now officially been on Weight Watchers for 9 weeks.  I have lost a total of 14.2 pounds and honestly, my only regret is that I didn’t do this sooner.  Is it easy? Hell no. But it’s pretty damn simple.  I’m not hungry, I’m not craving, and I don’t feel like I’m missing out on that much.  Sure, I miss pigging out on super indulgent foods that I love, however, I have come to terms with the fact that pigging out really isn’t that much more satisfying that tasting it…  And if it’s really good, eating half of it. 

A lot of Weight Watchers is about trading.  Finding good substitutes for foods that “cost” fewer points.  There are some things that I think are worth trading out and some things that I would rather take the hit on the points.  First, there are the simple things, like trading out white carbs for brown (they keep you fuller longer and believe me… there IS brown rice that tastes GOOD), eating higher fiber yogurts, and eating some pre-packaged foods.  Now I know there is a lot of controversy about packaged foods.  And yes, some of these have ingredients that I can hardly pronounce. But in the end, I think the substitutions are mostly worthwhile, and they aren’t every day foods. (“Cookies are a sometimes food!”)

First, we’ll start with the worst. Hungry Girl has introduced me to some GREAT food substitutions.  Unfortunately, tofu noodles aren’t one of my favorite choices. 

Points for this is nearly zero.  So you want to eat them like you would pasta.

The problem is, these want so badly to be like pasta, but they’re just not!  It starts getting bad early on… I read before opening the bag the instructions to “reduce the authentic aroma.”  Yikes! They don’t lie… these kind of smell like fish.  YUCK.  I gave them a chance, however, and after par boiling the smell was hardly noticeable.

The problem is, the texture just isn’t right.  It reminds me of calamari.  And calamari is just fine, but it’s not pasta.

Sad.  Fail. 

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Next up we have two frozen meals from Healthy Choice.  The first is a new (I think) version called “Cafe Steamers” that steams pasta, meat, and veggies in a basket over the sauce that you later mix in.

It was quite delicious! Excellent flavor and veggies tasted super fresh.  Of course, the portion like all frozen diet meals was small, but I didn’t feel hungry afterwards.

The second Healthy Choice selection was an entree that included dessert.  This, again, had great flavor and it was a decent sized portion.  The berry crisp was decent (though I prefer their apple better).  The biggest problem I had was really about slight deception….

Look at the picture… now look at the veggies… See that? See the measily half a cauliflower piece and ONE carrot lying helplessly at the bottom of that photo? Not exactly the veggie mix I was expecting.  I guess broccoli is cheaper!

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Next up we’ll go into dessert.  These are by far some of the best trades!  I have lost 14 pounds and I have eaten dessert almost every single night.  How can you beat that?!

Weight Watchers brand makes these “Giant Vanilla Fudge Sundae Cones.”  The ice cream is a little bland, however, there is a secret portion of fudge in the very bottom of the cone that is DELICIOUS.  It feels so indulgent and it’s just two points!

Next up are the new Skinny Cow Single Serving Cups.  They are just the perfect portion and the one I tried had SO much flavor! WOW! And again… just 2 points!  I will be stocking up on these.  DELICIOUS!

Next up are the Smart Ones sundaes. (OO! Coupon on the site!) I have tried both the brownie and the cookie dough.  (Mint Chocolate Chip is in the freezer… I’ll let you know).  I thought the brownie was decent, but the cookie dough is SOOO good.  It’s a little chalky perhaps, but it has all the right flavors.  I like that they have a cookie crumble on the bottom and some great solid chocolate chips.  Mmm Mmm Mmm.

Last up in the “dessert” category is my new addiction.  Again, Hungry Girl turned me onto VitaTops.  They are vitamin, fiber filled chocolatey treats for 100 calories and low fat… that translates to ONE POINT!!  WOW! They are delicious and they come in many flavors.  Beyond chocolate, I’ve tried the Apple & Berries and it is SO good… great for breakfast!  My favorite so far is the Deep Chocolate.  You can get them from Fresh Direct, however, they ain’t cheap.  I ordered a sampler pack from the Vitalicious Website that included the brownies and the tops.   

I definitely prefer the tops.  (They are in the frozen section in your grocery.  They can be microwaved, but I actually prefer them frozen since the chocolate chips stay nice and crunchy).

Hungry Girl runs a lot of promos, so when I ordered again (YES! I love these things!) I got 24 tops for $29.99 and free shipping. WOO!  (Right now she is running another promotion where you get 5% off with code HUNGRYGIRL2010.) 

They are so filling and delicious! I can’t say enough good things about these…

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…Until we get to Better’n Peanut Butter.  OH BOY!

This.

Is.

The.

Best.

I am obsessed.  Normal peanut butter is 4 points per tablespoons. Reduced fat is 2 points per tablespoon.  Better’n? 1 Point per tablespoon!  That means I can have four times as much. Right?  

I thought it would be tough to match the taste of peanut butter but I have found I actually PREFER this.  Well named product.

It’s not quite as thick as regular peanut butter (more the consistency of thick hot fudge I’d say) but it’s not oily or wet like organic peanut butters.  It’s just absolutely delicious.

As if you couldn’t make it better… spread some Better’n on a VitaTop!

WOAH NILLY!

We have a winner!

Homemade Crunchie Bars

12 May

I somehow completely forgot to post this from months ago, so you’ll forgive this pig out fest from pre-Weight Watcher days…

I have been in LOVE with Crunchie Bars (chocolate covered honeycomb made mostly in the UK) ever since I accidentally stumbled upon them in a Bridgett’s Irish Store in my neighborhood Jersey Mall.  Then I saw this poston TheKitchn (where I also learned there is an Australian Version called Violet Crumbles!) and knew I had to try this the next time my mom came to visit (since she also has a special place in her tummy-heart for Crunchies). 

You start with a combination of honey, corn syrup, and sugar. 

Then it heats…

After reading the post on thekitchn.com, I was terrified that the mixture might overflow.  They spoke of a chemical reaction after adding the next ingredient (baking soda) that makes the candy expand exponentially.  I envisioned myself somehow cleaning stick honey candy out of my gas stove and nearly quit right there… but I took out my biggest post and turns out I had little to be scared of…

Well… except killing my candy thermometer…

As I whisked the baking soda into the mixture furiously, it certainly did expand. But it maybe went from about 1 inch on the bottom to about 3 inches.


Then I poured the gelatinous foam mass onto my prepared silpat and thought that there was no way this could possibly make that interesting honeycomby like, sponge looking texture, could it?

It took about 2 hours to harden (I guess it was more humid in my apartment).

And when I cracked it open I was giddy. It was beeauuuuuuutiful!

I quickly coated it in chocolate (if you leave it exposed to the air it turns to goo I hear).

And it turned out perfectly.

Did it taste EXACTLY like a Crunchie bar? No. But it was pretty damn close.  And pretty damn good seeing as though I MADE it! Woo!

The recipe is very good on the originating site, so I’ll let you click on over and show this blog some love if you’d like to make your very own Crunchie bars: http://seattlest.com/2007/02/13/seattlests_answer_to_violet_crumble_.php

I highly suggest it!

Beckett’s on Stone Street

10 May

A few years ago, Mike turned me on to Stone Street (in the Financial District), which is a small street made of… you guessed it… STONE!  But it’s a cute little cobblestone street with restaurants that put their tables out on the street. It’s quite adorable and a really nice area to eat in on a nice day.  Funny enough, we always have to walk in a few circles looking at our iPhones trying to find Stone Street, but it’s worth it.

This time around we chose Beckett’s

All of the tables outside are together for all the restaurants.

Mike went with the Yellowfin Tuna Melt with zested lemon, sharp white cheddar, on country white. 

Here is an up the skirt view of the melty goodness…

It was delicious. 

Now the reason I chose Beckett’s is because they had a delicious sounding salad.  And I was psyched to be able to eat a WHOLE HUGE PLATE of food and not kill my points.

It was their summer salad with grilled chicken, sliced strawberries, almonds, and goat cheese over arugula with balsamic vinaigrette.  Total point count? 9! Not too shabby for a huge plate with CHEESE!

Overall, both things we had were totally delicious, but also a bit simple.  The atmosphere is hard to beat there.  I’d recommend this place if you’re ever on Stone Street (though with Smorgas Chef across the street, it’s tough).

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10