Archive | January, 2012

Beauty and Essex: Love it or Hate it?

26 Jan

There are some places that you hear so much about that you start to think it just MUST suck.  While I like the idea of “hidden” restaurants, such as Beauty & Essex that has the front of an antique store, they have a tendency to cater to an audience that cares about things like clothing labels and high heels.  I was in sneakers and no-brand jeans.  But Beauty & Essex was around the corner, we needed dinner, and there were 2 seats at the bar.

Sold!

The front is a “gallery” with some cool treasures.

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You enter through the door and the bar is mostly surrounded by exactly the type of people I thought it would be.  I looked around and immediately decided I was going to hate this place just out of principle.

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But then… this was placed in front of me…

Roasted bone marrow with rioja braised shallot marmalade.

Sigh… my hatred flew out the window and I drowned in the buttery marrow on the perfectly toasted bread with that just-sweet-enough marmalade to make me dance in my bar stool (little known fact: when I REALLY like food, I literally dance as I eat it).

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Then came the fried oysters… I cannot remember what was on these onions…

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But I remember thinking that fried oysters shouldn’t be that delicious.  Frying should ruin the flavor of the oysters… but oh no… not here…

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Our next selection was spaghettini with zucchini, lemon, parsley pesto, parmigiano and a sunny side up egg.  It was such a great blend of flavors, with bursting freshness.

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And of course, we tried the burger. It came with garlic aioli, beefsteak tomato, goat feta, and crispy bbq fries.  It was an excellent burger. I enjoyed the taste of the bun, but it fell to one of the biggest burger bun problems… halfway through it was in pieces.  But it didn’t matter…  it was good.

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And then we couldn’t stop there, right? We had to have dessert.  We got the black bottomed butterscotch pot de creme.

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It was adorable in the jar and came with 2 cookie spoons. Nice setup. Delicious. Rich. And perfect.

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And then I went to the bathroom… where there is champagne.   And as I laughed at the ridiculousness of this as well as at the women dressed to the nines in the bathroom, I realized that Beauty & Essex is the kind of place I don’t belong.

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It’s too designed.  Too New York snob.  It’s everything I hate…

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But I LOVED it.  Each and every bite.

Thanks Beauty & Essex… you couldn’t even make this sneakered, snarky, cynical New Yorker hate you for very long.

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

I made bread!

24 Jan

Two years ago, I epically failed at making bread. I went into it with such gusto… but it was so traumatic that it took a full 2 years for me to pull up the courage to try again.

I received a recipe that my friend Lillian had been using for years.  By the time I put all the dough together and kneaded, I wound up with a perfect ball of dough.  A much better state than the one from 2 years ago at this point.

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And then I left for a bit and came back the requested 1 hour later and was overjoyed to see my dough had risen SO MUCH that it was playing pic-a-boo under my dish towel.

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Now that was SOME rise!

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I pulled it out and took out some aggression by punching it in the face. (And while you’re there… LIKE NYC Nom Nom on Facebook!)

I then split it into 2 loaf pans and one mini loaf pan.

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And since I just can’t 100% follow a recipe without adding something to it… I painted the top of olive oil and then added flake salt to the top of the mini loaf.

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And when it came out of the oven, I was ecstatic.  Not only did it LOOK like bread… it SMELLED like bread!

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And it’s hard to resist a wee loaf.

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The bigger loafs also… amazingly… both LOOKED and SMELLED like bread.  It was so satisfying! (So satisfying, in fact, that I debated not cutting into it just in case I screwed something up)

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But cut into it we did and it sliced up perfectly.

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And then we ate it with homemade jam…

And it was good.

Damn good.

It was BREAD! Real bread!

And I made it.

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RECIPE
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Homemade White Bread from Lillian (original source unknown)

INGREDIENTS:
7 1/4 to 7 3/4 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon nonfat dry-milk powder (they sell this in big packets in big boxes)
2 packages active dry yeast
2 2/3 cups water
1/3 cups shortening
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt

DIRECTIONS:

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine 3 cups of the bread flour, the nonfat milk powder and yeast; set aside.
  • In a medium saucepan, heat and stir water, shortening, sugar and salt until just warm and shortening almost melts (I actually got nervous because I know temperature is important for yeast, so I looked it up and found this handy dandy chart. I realized my water was WAY too hot already, so I pulled it and let it cool down to below 130°)
  • Add water mixture to the dry mixture. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds, scraping the sides of the bowl constantly.
  • Beat on high speed for 3 minutes.
  • Stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can with a wooden spoon.
  • Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface.
  • Knead in enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately stiff dough that’s smooth and elastic (8-9 minutes total). Shape the dough into a ball.
  • Place in a lightly greased bowl, turning once to grease the surface of the dough. Cover and let dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size. (45-60 minutes)
  • Punch dough down.
  • Turn out again onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 2 or 3 equal portions.
  • Cover; let rest for 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, lightly grease two 9x5x3 inch loaf pans or three 8x4x2 inch loaf pans.
  • Shape each portion of dough into a loaf by rolling on a lightly floured surface into a 12×8 inch rectangle. Roll up, jelly-roll style, starting from the short side. Seal with fingertips as you roll.
  • Place into prepared loaf pans.
  • Cover and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled (20-30 minutes).  (Mine didn’t really rise MUCH more, I guess because it rose SO much in the first round, but it turned out just fine)
  • Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30-40 minutes or until bread sounds hollow when you tap the top with your finger. (My mini loaf took about 20 minutes total)
  • Immediately remove bread from pans and cool on wire racks.

YIELD: 2 or 3 loaves

Anniversary Sausage Fest

19 Jan

I happen to live right near a New York Institution: Esposito’s Pork Shop/Sausages/Finest Quality.  I’m not sure what their real name is, but it doesn’t matter… all that matters is that they have meat and it is good. And cheap.

I stop by often after work and pick up a meal.  A few weeks ago, I stopped by to pick up some sausages to have a special breakfast on Mike and my 4 year anniversary.  I went in for just a couple sausages, but wound up walking out with 4 varities: Chicken Apple Sausage, Bratwurst, Breakfast Sausage, and Sage Sausage.

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I made some sunny side up eggs and we dove in.

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All the sausages were great, however, the sage sausage was especially delicious.

Food Network NYC Wine & Food Festival Grand Tasting

17 Jan

Every year, the Food Network Wine & Food Festival in NY occurs right around Mike’s birthday.  So for the past 2 years, I have treated him to passes to the Grand Tasting event.  Last year it was a lot of food and wine.  We were expecting to be equally overwhelmed, but then we realized that this year things were changing.

This year, they were having chefs speak on various topics throughout the day.  When we looked at the schedule and realized that Chef Alton Brown (my favorite) was up first, I was very pleased we got there at opening.

He was introduced by Alex Guarnaschelli.

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He talked to us about how much fun it is to combine science and food and I started to TOTALLY nerd out.

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And then… he brought out the sword.

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And set up his helper with goggles and a catcher’s mitt…

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And then pulled out a chilled bottle of champagne…

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Explained to us about how there is a seam in the bottle…

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And proceeded to lop off the top of the champagne bottle WITH THE SWORD and send it flying across the stage.

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We then had a liquid nitrogen demo followed by an awesome demo on how to make wine beads.  He was taking questions from the audience and I raised my hand (nerd… remember?).  I stood up and Alton squinted into the stage lights and said “Yes ma’am? At least I think you’re a ma’am… I can’t see in these lights.  I then turned to grab the microphone and then… it happened…

“Oh yes! Definitely ma’am… I can see now that you’re… chesty.”

Yes… Alton Brown called me chesty.

I didn’t stop laughing all day.

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The next few hours were a blur of food and wine and food and wine.

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Some of the best restaurants in NYC have bites out for tasting.

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As well as some products (like these homemade awesome salted brownies and cookies)

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And some brand names for tasting.

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But it is HUGE. So huge that it’s actually overwhelming.  I know I enjoyed some items… but it was just SO MUCH that I can’t remember what it was!

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Though someone thinks like me and looked at which cookies pair best with which wines.  And made a chart.

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Chick peas as snacks? Don’t mind if I do.

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And some just had damn good displays… mmmm… pig…

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That’s like… a million dollars in black gold….

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Ok… THIS one was VERY memorable. It was lobster in a pumpkin bisque.  Two of my favorite things. And it was delicious.  And I even took a picture of the sign… so now I must be sure to visit Millesime.

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And after we were completely filled and mostly drunk… we went to the final talk of the day… “From Bad Boy to Family Man: A talk with Anthony Bourdain narrated by Joshua David Stein”

Why I swoon for Bourdain when I know he hates everything about food bloggers, I have no idea. I have fantasies that I could win him over… tell him how much I love food and love writing about it… but I know he would curse me off and wouldn’t give me the time of day.  Perhaps he is my bad boy fantasies from youth.  But I have read his books and I hang on his words and I go where he recommends… it’s a sick fascination that I cannot explain… but I am not ashamed to admit it.  I really love Anthony Bourdain.  (In fact, his show “The Layover” is currently on in the background as I write this… what can I say?)

This was quite the talk!  I have seen many things he said (mostly about other chefs) during this chat quoted in other places.  But what I got out of it is that Anthony Bourdain just wants everything (food, restaurants, chefs, diners) to be better.

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Tickets go on sale in JUNE for this October event, and they usually sell out quickly for the best events.

Not all experiments work…

12 Jan

I had some extra pumpkin cheesecake batter and an egg white.  So inspiration set in.  Can I bake a mini cheesecake with a meringue top?

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Would the cheesecake set without burning the meringue?

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Would it all stick together to make one ultimate dessert of 2 of my favorite things?

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Would this be my claim to baking fame?

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Could it be? Could it work?

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As it turns out… the answer was no.  The light meringue crisp didn’t work with the dense cheesecake, and the tops just popped right off.

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Sure… they could be reassembled into little toadstools.

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But the only real way to eat it was upside down in a mess of a recipe that just didn’t work…

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But even experiments that don’t taste as you intended can be delicious in their own way 🙂

WD-50: Can it reign supreme?

10 Jan

For our anniversary, Mike decided it was time to return to WD-50, the site of our #1 meal of all time.  Could it reign supreme?  Would our years of eating at some of the best restaurants make WD-50 look less lustrous?

As it turns out… NO. Not at all.  But let’s get to that…

We started with cocktails that were so delicious that I can’t remember what they were.

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We went for the Tasting Menu again ($140).  We didn’t do the wine pairings because Mike had an early day the next day, however, since most of their wines are on the pricey side, the $85 wine pairings are pretty much a steal.

We started with oyster, grapefruit, tomatillo-horseradish and a hush puppy. Everything blended incredibly well, and even though I like oysters and don’t mind the sliminess, I was impressed at how this had none of the textural issues that most people don’t like.

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Next we had what was a very memorable dish from our last dining adventure, the everything bagel (which was made of ice cream), smoked salmon threads, and crispy cream cheese.  We remembered it being bigger last time (and referring to the photos, it appears it was) and much better.  This was still good, but it didn’t have that pop of “wow” it had last time. Perhaps because it wasn’t the surprise it was the first time around?

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Next we had “Foie-lafel” which was similar to falafel but made with foie gras.

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In a wee pita.

And it was good.

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Though as it turns out, it had peppers in it.  I had to get a glass of milk and the entire wait staff was super apologetic.  Luckily, it was a light hand so I only got a little itchy.  They actually wound up offering us a free course because of it (as if we needed MORE food).  It wound up being sweet potato and sake soup with a coconut puree, hazelnut oil, and lime. I was so surprised by this gesture that I forgot to get a photo, but it was beautiful and delicious. And I’m so glad we got it “by accident.”

Our next course was a poached egg “in the shell” (which was EDIBLE!), pumpernickel (which was more like a thin crouton), caesar dressing, and lily bulb.

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This was a feat in food.  The egg was perfectly poached but in the shape of an egg.  I have no idea how they did this.  I still stair at this picture and try to figure out how it was done.

And not only was it cool, it was delicious.  The caesar dressing was perfect with the egg and those pumpernickle crisps were awesome.

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Then we got a king oyster “udon” with sweet breads, banana-molasses, and pickled ginger. This was the only dish that didn’t work for me.  The chewiness of the “udon” made from oyster mushrooms just didn’t sit well with me (kind of reminded me of those diet tofu noodles that I dislike) and the sweet of the banana molasses just didn’t work. I love sweetbreads, so I enjoyed those, but as a combination, this just didn’t work for me.

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Next came monkfish with smoked barley, beet-mustard, and nori.

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It was a beautiful stack of fish that had all the right flavors and it all really let the monkfish shine.

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We then had quail with nasturtium (a kind of watercress or flower… not sure) yogurt, turnip, and nutmeg.

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This was DELICIOUS, however, the turnips were a tad bit under-cooked. It didn’t matter in the slightest, however, since the quail was so perfectly cooked and succulent.

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We had to split the next entree because the lamb loin with “red beans and rice” and chayote squash had peppers in the “red beans and rice.”  I did try a bite of the lamb, however, and it was perfect.

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My replacement course was wagyu beef with fig sauce, black eyed peas in 2 preparations (one crispy, one soft), and what I believe was a polenta cake.

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Score! While Mike’s lamb was great, this was sensational.  The meat was perfect, tender, and had a beautiful sauce.  The 2 preparations of black eyed peas was novel and delicious.  I really enjoyed this.

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I was entertained that they replaced the silverware between each and every course.

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And then… it was time for dessert.

First up was candied egg yolk, brown buttermilk, jackfruit, and hazelnut.

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Oh man that candied egg yolk.  It was sooooo good. It has a bite to it but was sweet and such a cool texture to go along with the rest of the dessert.

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Next we had apricot, buckwheat, quince and green tea.

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The buckwheat became kind of a crunch that was delicious with the rest of the fruits and sorbet.

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Our last main dessert was milk chocolate, black bean, plantain, soy, and peanut.  The black bean made for a very dramatic plate.

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And while those combination of flavors is nothing I would ever put together or order, it all perfectly combined.

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Our last bites were “rice krispy treats.”  One was warm and fried, the other was filled with ice cream.

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The used the same flavor profiles but made for completely different textures and mouth feels.  Both were good, but I LOVED the crisp of the rice krispie coated ice cream.

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So… was it as good?  It was damn close.  What I love about WD-50 is it is completely different from anything else I have ever eaten.  A lot of thought goes into each dish and it comes out creative and really makes you say “how did they do that?”  But if it was only that, I would scoff… another food trend… who cares?  But WD-50’s tasting menu is delicious and really brings you through an epic, imaginative, tasty food adventure.  It’s kind of like dinner and a show, but the performers are the courses prepared by the chef artists.

Bravo WD-50.  You reign supreme.

Total Nom Points: 9.5 out of 10

Love Lane: Mattituck, LI

5 Jan

After our wonderful adventure exploring the wineries in Long Island, Lori suggested we do dinner at one of her favorites, Love Lane Kitchen.

We didn’t have reservations, so they told us it would be about 30 minutes.

Luckily, right next door was Love Lane Market… and I love me a market. (I think they may be owned by the same people, but I’m not positive)

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They stock their shelves with great ingredients, many of which I am familiar with and some new ones.  It reminded me of a little Eataly.

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But with a bit more personal touch.

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I have this odd love for these types of chairs. I THINK the top is what they use to form horse saddles, but I could be making that up.

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Even their tiled floor was cool.

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I REALLY wanted to try the rotisserie duck, but we wouldn’t be able to eat it before I was off on a trip. Lori and her ABF got on though and said it was great.

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They even had a selection of homemade pastas.

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And homemade mozzarella.

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As well as a wood fire pizza oven in the back.

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This is the type of market that I wish would open up near me in Manhattan.  But it was just perfect in this little Long Island town, on Love Lane.

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As soon as we got out of the market, Love Lane Kitchen was calling our names.  We sat down and immediately dove into some delicious, fluffy rolls.

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We began with a calamari salad.  It’s refreshing to have calamari that isn’t fried and this was delicious, with a dressing that brought out all the great flavors.

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Mike, shockingly, got the cheeseburger.  Since it was devoured before I even remember picking up my fork, I’ll assume he enjoyed it.

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Lori got the skirt steak.  I tried some (without the sauce) and it was juicy and perfectly cooked.  It also had a nice char on it, so the flavor was great.

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Lori’s ABF chose the short ribs.  Oh these were good.  They were so tender and the sauce was a perfect compliment.

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I went with the pork belly with a slow cooked egg.  This was cooked to perfection, with both crunchy bits and the melty soft fats that make pork belly oh so good.

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And boy oh boy do I love eggs. It was on top of a radicchio (I think) which is usually a bit too bitter for me, but with the sweet of the pork and the egg yolk, it was delish!

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As if we weren’t indulgent enough, we split THREE desserts.  We got the cheesecake, the apple pie, and the chocolate pecan pie.  All three were good, but nothing was outstanding.  And I was too full to even look at another bite.

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Though the pumpkin cheesecake did just keep on calling out to me… “just one more bite!”

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Love Lane Kitchen was a perfect end to a perfect day.  Great, home style food cooked with love and attention.  Everything was scrumptious and I would love to go back to try more.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

For Lori’s take on our meal at Love Lane Kitchen, visit her blog here.

Long Island Wineries

3 Jan

Lori, from StuffIAte, has been telling me about the virtues of the wineries in Long Island for years.  I was skeptical.

Could decent wine come out of Long Island?  I don’t know what I was picturing, but it sure wasn’t this…

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Our first stop was Lori and her Awesome Boyfriend’s favorite, Clovis Point.  We actually had a Groupon for a tasting and then glass of your choice with a cheese plate.  It was just about to expire (whoops!), so we decided to head out the week after Thanksgiving. (YAY for off season!)

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We tried the full menu and I was really impressed.  I enjoyed all the wines on the list.

I actually really got into Chardonnay (and Pinot Noir) when Mike and I were in Napa. I didn’t think I was a Chardonnay person, but turns out you can make a damn good Chardonnay if you know what you’re doing.  We all wound up taking some bottles of Chardonnay home, but I especially enjoyed the barrel fermented one.

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And so I drank it (and took home a bottle… or two)

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The cheese plate was a good little snack in the middle of the afternoon with the wine. And there is a lovely tented area outside nearer to the vineyard (Lori told us it’s open during the nicer weather).

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Cheers!

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I usually don’t post photos of people on the blog, but I think this picture of Lori and her ABF is just too cute not to post.

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The day was young, so we decided to head to another winery.  As it turns out, most of the wineries are within a few minute drive of each other.  It actually really reminded me of a little Napa.  It was quaint and homey and come on… vineyards!

Our second winery was Pindar.

There was a lovely windmill outside and the sun was just setting.

(Photo courtesy of Mike)

While the vineyard seemed lovely, I was not impressed by the tasters who didn’t care to explain anything and seemed to want to be left alone as much as possible.  I didn’t really LOVE the wine there and I wound up taking NO pictures. Whoops!

Our last stop of the night was at Duck Walk vineyard.  This is probably the best known LI winery, however, we went to the one on the North Fork, which was supposed to be “smaller.”  I can’t image what the “bigger” one looks like because this was was bea-u-ti-ful.

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The inside of the tasting room had these awesome chandeliers

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And really put us in the holiday spirit.

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And a lovely aquarium.

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The staff at this tasting were splendid, adding a lot of color to the tasting and just being all around nice people.  The cute guy serving us was talking about how he just can’t find a “nice girl,” so that’s your cue single female readers. Head out to Duck Walk in the North Fork to find your wine loving mate.

We wound up falling in love with their dessert wines.  It was all good, but there was something special about their late harvest Gewurztraminer called Aphrodite.  We also really enjoyed (and also took home) their Blueberry Port.

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Our trip out to Long Island was an eye opener. It was so beautiful and so lovely, I can’t believe we didn’t do it before.  We also had a lovely dinner at Love Lane Kitchen (post to come) that just made me fall in love with the area even more.  I can’t wait to go back.

Thanks Lori!

Check out Lori’s post about Clovis Point Winery and her photos of Briermere Farms, where we really enjoyed but I forgot to take pictures.