Archive | December, 2010

Top 10 Noms of 2010

31 Dec

I had a blast doing the Top 10 Noms of 2009 last year and referenced it many times throughout this past year.  2010 was a fantastic year in so many ways.  I mean come on… I was on TV for my baking!  I feel very accomplished after this year, in part due to how much I have grown this blog.  I also lost a lot of weight without sacrificing my love for food thanks to Weight Watchers.  Granted, I’ve fallen off the wagon a bit these last few months, but hopefully the new year will bring me luck in jumping back on.  It is a pleasure to have this little outlet outside of my “real job” to contribute to.  So without further ado, here are the top 10 Noms of 2010:

10. The Popover Cafe is a surprise to the top 10.  My sister had been raving about it, and I recently found out it’s a favorite of my cousin’s, but how good could a little cafe be?  Turns out… great.  It was just excellent comfort food with damn good popovers.  And I LOVE popovers.  Head to the Upper West Side for this gem of a brunch place.

9. When Mike’s family took us to La Masseria in Times Square after a Broadway show, we weren’t expecting much.  We live in the neighborhood and egotistically assumed that if we hadn’t heard rave reviews, it couldn’t be a TOP NOM.  Boy were we wrong!  The food was simply excellent.  Elegantly plated, fresh ingredients, and excellent preparation.  A contender to my usual Theater District Italian favorite, Becco.

8. We had the pleasure of dining at Ilili during Restaurant Week (it’s 2nd post in the Restaurant Week Wrap Up).  While most restaurants participate in Restaurant Week in a half-assed way, Ilili did an amazing job of letting us sample most of the menu and we found some INCREDIBLE dishes.  I have been back a few times since and can’t wait to go back again.

7. Lori and I took ourselves to Ma Peche for our birthdays.  You all know how much I LOVE David Chang, but I had heard mixed reviews about his newest establishment in midtown. The whole meal was really different and delicious, but this gets a top nom for those incredible crunchy noodles that I still dream about every day.

6. Ippudo is probably the restaurant I tell the most people about.  The ramen is just so spectacular that I can’t get enough of it.  I’m not a huge broth person, but I even slurp up every last drop of broth after eating the delicious noodles at Ippudo.  It’s SOOO good.  This place may have single-handedly ruined my diet… well… except for the Maine vacation(s).

5. The #5 spot goes to the full adventure of Nomming through Maine (Portland Day 1, Portland Day 2,Acadia/Bar Harbor Part 1, Acadia/Bar Harbor Part 2, The Coach Stop Inn B&B, Moody’s Diner & Young’s Lobster Pound, and Midcoat Maine).  The top Noms on this vacation were definitely the lobster at Beal’s Lobster Pier, our delicious meal at Primo in Rockland, and especially our FANTASTIC meal at Fore Street in Portland.  If you were wondering why Portland was named “America’s Foodiest Small Town” by Bon App in 2009, go to Fore Street.

4. I’m thrilled that Lincoln Ristorante got enough buzz that I decided to take a chance and schedule a reservation for 2 weeks after it opened for Mike’s birthday.  The food is sensational, but the ambience just sets it far above and beyond most places.  It’s a very special place, and if you want a special meal, go to Lincoln immediately.  And get the gnocchi side.

3. Another Nom that happened at the end of 2009 but didn’t make it onto the blog until 2010 was Bottega in Napa Valley. It did make it onto last year’s top 10, but it’s worth repeating.  Mike and I have the propensity to be celebrity chef sluts, but boy were we glad that we were when we opted for Michael Chiarello’s hot spot.  From first bite to last, this place was one of my all-time favorites.  It’s a meal I will always remember.

2. My birthday dinner at Le Bernardin was one of the best meals I have ever had.  Every detail was attended to and the service was impeccable.  The food was sensational with wine pairings that put this place off the charts.  I was so impressed with all the depth of flavors in these dishes.  Another very special place that really makes you feel like your are fortunate to dine there.

1. My love for David Chang was furthered by our opportunity to finally dine at Momofuku Ko.  To dine at Ko, you need to catch one of the handful of reservations that come up online about a week in advance.  It’s not an easy task (though much easier now than it used to be) and I was even more thrilled to learn that they were now accommodating allergies, so I wouldn’t be wasting my time and (large amount of) money by not being able to eat most of the food.  This restaurant is why chef tasting menus exist.  We had no idea what was coming next, but we got to watch it all unfold in front of us at the little intimate restaurant where the chefs prepare everything within 5 feet of your seat. If you have the opportunity to go, don’t miss it.

Honorable Mentions go to:

  • Uncle Jack’s on Valentine’s Day for having dependably great steak
  • Zuni Cafe for inspiring us to make the famous chicken at home on many occasions.  (This special chicken will actually be served tomorrow at the annual Chrismukah Family Celebration.)
  • LA Times Food Festival for allowing us the opportunity to finally try The Nom Nom Truck
  • Nanoosh for having one of my new favorite lunches, their Garden Salad, which keeps me coming back
  • 5 Napkin Burger for having burger eggs benedict for brunch
  • Father’s Office which is Mike’s choice for “Best Burger of 2010” (I’d have to agree with him)

What a year it has been!  Happy New Years Nomming everyone and here is to more wonderful Noms in 2011!

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Top Recipes of 2010

31 Dec

Before going into the Top Nom Restaurants of 2010, I wanted to share with you my favorite recipes that I discovered and came up with in 2010 (click on the links for the recipes):

Best Brunch Recipe: Crustless Ham & Egg Tarts

Best After Work Dinner: Chicken Stuffed with Grapes, Hazelnuts, and Parmesan Cheese

Best Weight Watchers Recipe: Weight Watchers – Chicken Tagine with Apricots

Best Seafood: Scallops Lime & Vine

Best Odd Protein: Ostrich Steak

Best Chicken Recipe: Zuni Chicken & Bread Salad

Best Side: Corn Fritters

Best Desserts (You know I couldn’t pick just ONE):

Homemade Crunchie Bars

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Meringue Minis

Banana Faux Ice Cream

This year has taught me, above else, that the best cooking comes from reckless abandon.  Throw caution to the wind and spices in your pot.

Happy Nomming!

Maggiano’s Wedding Tasting

30 Dec

Before anyone gets excited… NO… not my wedding.  This was for my MOTHER’S wedding.  She was nice enough to bring me along to the part of weddings that I think I can best contribute to… the tasting.  In my opinion, people remember 2 main things about a wedding… the music (especially if it was bad) and the food.  Honestly, wedding food is usually somewhere between poor and average.  I have been to very few weddings where I walked away thinking the food, especially the entrees, were good.  Usually the hors devours are the best part of the evening and then it’s all bland filet mignon and dry chicken from there on out.  (Or a plate of frozen vegetables when your server doesn’t understand the difference between a chili pepper and black pepper… but that is another story for another day).

So when my mom said she was having her wedding at a chain restaurant where they would be serving Family Style, I was skeptical.  But that skepticism was soon washed away.  The food was fantastic at Maggiano’s.  We went to the one in Bridgewater, NJ, however, they have many locations across the country.

We started with salads that were outrageous.  The Chopped Salad with crispy prosciutto and the Spinach Salad with gorgonzola cheese, bacon and toasted pine nuts were some of my favorite dishes all night. Unfortunately, I forgot to photograph these.

I remembered I had a camera when the spinach and artichoke dip came out.  It was good, but nothing too special.

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We also tried out raviolis with veal and mushrooms in a cream sauce with roasted tomatoes, breadcrumbs, and marsala wine.  It was delish!

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The chicken francese with crisped potatoes was surprisingly good for chicken.

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I’m pretty sure this was the parmesan crusted tilapia.  I’m not a huge tilapia fan, but this was good.

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The pesto linguine (there may have been chicken too) was one of the favorites across the whole table.  Everyone went in for seconds on this one.

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We were all looking forward to the garlic mashed potatoes… but we were all left wondering where the garlic was.  Someone even asked the waiter if they were sure they put the garlic in… they were.  Pass.

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But the side of garlic string beans was delicious.

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The desserts were where Maggiano’s shined even more.  We started with cheesecake, which was divine.

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Then we tried the apple crostada, which they said was their most popular dessert.  It was awesome.  A sweet and crispy shell with perfectly cooked and seasoned apples inside.

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They also ordered the tiramisu under the waitress’ suggestion.  I have never been a tiramisu fan.  It’s always just a little too mushy and alcoholy for me.  Reminds me of eating mushy bread soaked in vodka with a bit of chocolate and coffee flavoring (yes… I would go so far as to say that I usually HATE tiramisu, even though it SOUNDS excellent based on the components).  This, however, was the best tiramisu I have ever tasted.  The lady fingers weren’t soggy, the layers were all great textures, and the flavors were excellent.  Color me impressed.

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Overall, this meal rivaled most Italian meals in NYC.  I was unbelievably impressed that this place was a chain.

At the wedding, they chose some of these dishes and some others, but I do have to say, every single person I talked to raved about the food.

It was a pleasant surprise.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

Slow Cooker Pot Roast and Brussels Sprouts

29 Dec

I am really enjoying experimenting with my new slow cooker. I see why people start cooking this way. It’s all prep and then let it work its magic for a few hours… then when the timer is up, a hot meal is all done.  Fantastic.

So it seemed like the perfect place to make a pot roast.  I really had no idea what I was doing, so I decided to wing it.

I threw a roast in some chicken broth and Worcestershire sauce, added onions, and topped with ketchup.

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(Yes… I stirred it all together before turning it on)

It smelled AMAZING while it was cooking.

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We paired it with the brussels sprouts that we love to make (Recipe at the bottom of this post).  This would make the time that I learned that the brussels in brussels sprouts is actually plural.  Nearly 30 years and I never knew that.  Learn something new everyday!

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The onions with this were fantastic.  The meat itself was good, but no “Grandma’s Pot Roast.”  I may try to cook it a bit longer next time as it wasn’t as soft as I would have liked it to be.  But it sure was easy!

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The Popover Cafe

27 Dec

The Popover Cafe is on 86th Street and Amsterdam Ave.  My sister recommended  it to me since I am such a huge popover fan.

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The inside was quaint and a great setting.  The menu mentioned that the owner decided to cook her favorite foods and that people just kept coming back for more.  It definitely all had that “homemade” feel, from decor to food.

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 They had some hot winter drinks on the menu, which quickly made me think that more restaurants should do this.  I got the warm cider punch.

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And Mike got a hot chocolate. 

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 We started with the mini popovers.

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They were a perfect 4 bite portion. 

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 And we got them with apple butter (along with regular butter and strawberry butter).  The minis were okay, but part of what makes popovers so great is all the delicious fluffy center.

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 Mike got the eggs benedict that came on an open popover. 

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 I got the Kobe Beef Corned Beef Hash.  It was a delicious blend of beef and potatoes, topped with a scrambled egg.  It was delicious!

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 And the popover was just perfect.   AND HUGE!

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Flakey (but not overly eggy) on the inside.

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I absolutely loved my meal.  It was just wonderful comfort food and sent over the edge by delicious popovers. 

I highly recommend the journey to the Upper West Side, especially if you love popovers.

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

 

Meringue Minis

24 Dec

So… now you have mastered meringues after watching my first forray into vlogging.  And you’re ready to pump it up a bit?  Good.  here is an awesome thing to do with meringues that actually made the president of my company say it was the best dessert he has ever had.   

So how do you do it?  Well… if you won the first NYC Nom Nom giveaway, you can make them yourself in the non-stick baking cups that I am obsessed with.

You just use the same meringue recipe and pour it into the cups.

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 I used my fingers to spread the meringue up the sides of the cup.  I was hoping this would create a divot to fill with whipped cream and berries.

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 But a few minutes into cooking, I realized that just the opposite was happening.

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I wound up getting pretty little mounds of meringues that were perfectly fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside. 

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 While the domes made them impossible to fill, they sure looked lovely. (I actually remade this a few days later and didn’t move the batter up the sides… it wound up flat on top.  Still delicious, but these look much more fun.)

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 I wound up having extra batter, so I took the extra and combined it with fall spices (cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg) and putting it into a separate dish.  It was delicious, but wouldn’t really come out of the dish.

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 The mounds wound up perfect perched in homemade schlag and some balsamic strawberries.

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Now that it’s winter and strawberries are about $100 per pint, I need to find some fruit to replace the berries.  But if you have access to berries, this is just perfect. 

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Trust me.  You and everyone else will LOVE this!

Merry Christmas Nom World.

The First NYC Nom Nom Vlog! (Part 3)

23 Dec

So how did it all turn out?  The conclusion of Part 1 and Part 2 of How to Make a Meringue:

(When posted, you can find the rest here:  Part 1 and Part 2)

____________________
RECIPE
____________________

Meringue Shell

Ingredients:

  • 4 egg whites, room temp.
  • 3/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

  1. Preheat to 275 degrees F
  2. Beat egg whites until frothy (using a standard mixer makes this much easier)
  3. Add cream of tartar and beat eggs untill very stiff
  4. Add sugar by the spoonful alternatingly slowly
  5. Very slowly add vanilla by hand by pouring it down the side of the bowl and slowly folding it in
  6. Pour into buttered spring form
  7. Bake at 275 for 1 and 1/2 hours
  8. Turn off oven, then open oven door slightly and let cool in oven over night
  9. Flip cooled meringue over to expose the concave bottom, which can be filled

_______________________

Balsamic Strawberries

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint of strawberries, sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Directions:

  1. Pour balsamic vinegar into a medium saucepan and place over a low flame
  2. Stir in sugar
  3. Add strawberries and cook under low heat until berries are soft, about 5-10 minutes
  4. Strain out extra juices (into bowl, so you can save it for delicious toppings!)

_______________________

Homemade Spiked Schlag (whipped cream)

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint of heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar (or more to taste)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup flavored liquor of choice (such as amaretto)

Directions:

  1. Pour heavy cream into a stand mixer bowl
  2. Add sugar and vanilla extract
  3. Turn on mixer and beat until stiff (about 10 minutes)
  4. Fold in liquor
  5. Serve immediately

The First NYC Nom Nom Vlog! (Part 2)

22 Dec

I know… you are DYING to know what happened the next morning with the meringue.  (If you haven’t seen Part 1 yet, check it out). Here is Part 2:

(When posted, you can find the rest here:  Part 1 and Part 3)

____________________
RECIPE
____________________

Meringue Shell

Ingredients:

  • 4 egg whites, room temp.
  • 3/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

  1. Preheat to 275 degrees F
  2. Beat egg whites until frothy (using a standard mixer makes this much easier)
  3. Add cream of tartar and beat eggs untill very stiff
  4. Add sugar by the spoonful alternatingly slowly
  5. Very slowly add vanilla by hand by pouring it down the side of the bowl and slowly folding it in
  6. Pour into buttered spring form
  7. Bake at 275 for 1 and 1/2 hours
  8. Turn off oven, then open oven door slightly and let cool in oven over night
  9. Flip cooled meringue over to expose the concave bottom, which can be filled

_______________________

Balsamic Strawberries

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint of strawberries, sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Directions:

  1. Pour balsamic vinegar into a medium saucepan and place over a low flame
  2. Stir in sugar
  3. Add strawberries and cook under low heat until berries are soft, about 5-10 minutes
  4. Strain out extra juices (into bowl, so you can save it for delicious toppings!)

_______________________

Homemade Spiked Schlag (whipped cream)

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint of heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar (or more to taste)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup flavored liquor of choice (such as amaretto)

Directions:

  1. Pour heavy cream into a stand mixer bowl
  2. Add sugar and vanilla extract
  3. Turn on mixer and beat until stiff (about 10 minutes)
  4. Fold in liquor
  5. Serve immediately

The First NYC Nom Nom Vlog! (Part 1)

21 Dec

I decided to do my first video blog about the first recipe I ever remember making, a meringue.  Meringues are notoriously hard to make since small things (like yolk and oil) can ruin it and it’s hard to tell when it’s right.  It turns out I had so much information to share that the blog wound up VERY long.  Therefore, I have split it into 3 parts.

The following is Part 1.  I can pick these videos apart (I am my own worst critic, afterall), however, for my first attempt, I think it turned out pretty well.  I learned a lot by doing this and I look forward to do more in the near future.  Special thanks to Mike for his awesome taping and editing!

So without further ado…

 

(When posted, you can find the rest here:  Part 2 and Part 3)

____________________
RECIPE
____________________

Meringue Shell

Ingredients:

  • 4 egg whites, room temp.
  • 3/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

  1. Preheat to 275 degrees F
  2. Beat egg whites until frothy (using a standard mixer makes this much easier)
  3. Add cream of tartar and beat eggs untill very stiff
  4. Add sugar by the spoonful alternatingly slowly
  5. Very slowly add vanilla by hand by pouring it down the side of the bowl and slowly folding it in
  6. Pour into buttered spring form
  7. Bake at 275 for 1 and 1/2 hours
  8. Turn off oven, then open oven door slightly and let cool in oven over night
  9. Flip cooled meringue over to expose the concave bottom, which can be filled

_______________________

Balsamic Strawberries

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint of strawberries, sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Directions:

  1. Pour balsamic vinegar into a medium saucepan and place over a low flame
  2. Stir in sugar
  3. Add strawberries and cook under low heat until berries are soft, about 5-10 minutes
  4. Strain out extra juices (into bowl, so you can save it for delicious toppings!)

_______________________

Homemade Spiked Schlag (whipped cream)

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint of heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar (or more to taste)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup flavored liquor of choice (such as amaretto)

Directions:

  1. Pour heavy cream into a stand mixer bowl
  2. Add sugar and vanilla extract
  3. Turn on mixer and beat until stiff (about 10 minutes)
  4. Fold in liquor
  5. Serve immediately

How NOT to make Meringue Cookies

20 Dec

I have been making meringues since before I could walk.  It is the first memory I have with my Grandmother and my first food memory.  She taught me how to peak egg whites into meringues and let me press the button on her Kitchenaid. 

This does not mean, however, that I do not occasionally completely FAIL meringues.

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I had just made an apple pie with shortening and, though I washed all my items, I think there was still too much grease on my hands and some of my utensils and it killed the meringues.

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Meringue pancakes anyone?

This FAIL post is to preview the theme of this week.  All meringues. All the time.  Why? Because what better dessert can you think of for Christmas than a sugary, white, delicious treat that is VERY impressive to make. 

And this week will feature my first video blogs on “how to make a meringue” in 3 parts. 

Happy Meringue Week!