Archive | March, 2012

Sludge Fudge

22 Mar

For my coworkers birthdays, I have sent surveys to ask for their favorite desserts.  My one coworker said “anything with raspberries and chocolate” so I went about trying to find a fun recipe that included both.  I was surfing through allrecipes.com and came upon a beautiful looking chocolate and raspberry layered fudge recipe

It started out pretty good… made some easy chocolate fudge and layered it on the botton… then made some of the raspberry fudge and layered it on top, then topped it with raspberries. 

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It sure looked pretty.

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That is… until I tried to get it out.

Turns out, the top layer didn’t actually set up.  It was basically raspberry mush… and it caused what can only be defined as “goop” to spread all over the fudge below as soon as I cut into it.

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Don’t get me wrong, it still tasted DEElicious, but it was a sloppy, gooey, sticky mess.

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The notes on the recipe said that a lot of people had this issue, and I should have listened.  Only a few people had issues, so I figured they screwed up and if I followed the recipe pretty closely, I’d be fine.  Wrong.  It didn’t seem that the ratios between the chocolate fudge and the raspberry fudge were that different, but white chocolate does act very differently.  I would make this again, but with more white chocolate and no cream, and perhaps some gelatin.

 

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RECIPE
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Raspberry Truffle Fudge

 
recipe image
Rated: rating
Submitted By: Leeza
Photo By: littlemisscook
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 10 Minutes
Ready In: 1 Hour 20 Minutes
Servings: 40
“A unforgettable double-layer confection that’s absolutely perfect for your true love!”
Ingredients:
3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed
milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
salt to taste
 
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup raspberry flavored liqueur
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (substitite white chocolate to get the top layer to be pink)
Directions:
1. Spray a 9×9 inch pan with non-stick cooking spray, and line with wax paper.
2. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine 3 cups chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk. Heat in microwave until chocolate melts, stirring occasionally. Be careful not to let it scorch. Stir in the vanilla and salt. Spread into pan, and cool to room temperature.
3. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine cream, liqueur, and 2 cups chocolate chips. Heat in microwave until the chocolate melts; stir until smooth. Cool to lukewarm, then pour over the fudge layer. Refrigerate until both layers are completely set, about 1 hour. Cut into 1 inch pieces.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED © 2012 Allrecipes.com Copied from Allrecipes.com 3/18/2012
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Mermaid Inn

20 Mar

I absolutely love oysters.  In fact, one of my favorite things even as a little kid were those cans of smoked oysters. (Yes… I have been a foodie practically since birth… and also a very, very strange child).  I had been hearing great things about the Mermaid Restaurants and their oysters. Not only were they rumored to be very tasty, but they have a “Happy Hour and a Half” every day from 5:30pm – 7pm with east coast oysters for $1 and west coast for $1.75.  Awesome deal.

As if that wasn’t enough to sway me, Blackboard Eats put out a special that took 30% off the bill. It didn’t include the Happy Hour, but hell… 30% off is pretty damn great. And finally it motivated me, with a deadline, to try it out.

There are three locations: The Mermaid Inn on the Upper West Side (Amsterdam between 87th and 88th), The Mermaid Inn in the East Village (2nd Ave between 5th and 6th), and The Mermaid Oyster Bar in Greenwich Village (Macdougal between West Houston and Bleecker).

We stopped into the one on the Upper West Side and were immediately warmly greeted and shown to our seat.  With 30% off, we decided to go whole hog… err… fish… and try out a number of yummy looking items.  I gave my usual peppers allergy warning (“I am allergic to peppers. The vegetable.  Black pepper is fine but anything made from the vegetable is a problem: Red, green, yellow, chili, jalapeño, red pepper flakes, paprika… old bay.”  I am so sick of saying this… but… c’est la vie).  He wrote it down and very diligently confirmed what I could and couldn’t have.

First, we started with the Grand Platter: 12 oysters, 6 clams, crudo, shrimp cocktail, and 1/2 chilled lobster.

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All the oysters were fantastic, but I decidedly have a preference for West Coast oysters.  Shhhh… don’t tell.

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The lobster was pretty good, but I am a total lobster snob after spending so much time in Maine. It’s just NEVER as good.  Do lobsters lose something the moment they cross the bridge out of Maine? It’s a phenomena I cannot explain.

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The crudo was a delicious tuna with avocado… oh… and PEPPERS.  I took a bite and my mouth felt itchy… then a second later Mike pushed a jalapeño across his plate and told me to stop eating immediately.

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The wait staff was INCREDIBLY apologetic and immediately brought me out a FULL SIZE portion without peppers. And it was SOOOOOO delicious.

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We followed up our tower with lobster mac and cheese. This was perfectly cheesy (without being soupy) with great crunch on top and big full chunks of lobster meat cooked in.  The lobster in here was actually even more flavorful than the chilled lobster.  This was DELICIOUS.

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And then we had to try the lobster roll. The fries were perfectly average but the lobster roll was pure heaven… until… my mouth went on fire… and then the fire spread.

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Old Bay was lurking in every crevice of that sandwich… and was now burning every crevice of my mouth.  This was actually one of the worst burns I have ever experienced.  Because Old Bay is a powder, rather than burning a single spot like a normal altercation with a pepper might do, this spread across every part of my mouth and lips and hit hard.  I went immediately to the back and asked for a glass of milk (it is the only thing I have found that stops the reaction from spreading).  My waiter looked at me as if I had just told him that his puppy had died.  He sprinted into action, toppled over everyone in the kitchen, and ran back with a full jug of milk and a glass.  I went back to the table and a fresh lobster roll (sans old bay) was brought out.  And it was insanely good.  Perfectly buttered and crisped roll with perfect lobster meat.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t doing too well, so I asked for a glass of ice, which I proceeded to hold, embarrassingly, over my quickly inflating and blistering lip. At this point the manager came out and was beyond apologetic… mentioning that she was shocked to hear that the kitchen messed up not once, but twice, and that they had it backwards thinking my allergy was to black pepper, not the vegetable.  She immediately said they would be comping… the ENTIRE MEAL.  In my experience, it is really fascinating to see the difference in reactions I get from restaurants when peppers wind up in my food.  Many (too many) are totally indifferent or deny the hell out of it (“Oh it’s a jalapeño, not a pepper!“)  Some places comp the dish that was in error, or throw in a free glass of wine.  Frankly, I don’t expect anything. I would prefer the pepper wasn’t there in the first place, but accidents happen (it scares me to think what would happen if I WAS anaphylactic though).  I was SHOCKED when she said she was taking care of the entire bill.  And I felt awful. It wasn’t the waiter’s fault, and their care and attention was above and beyond.

It made what could have been an “I will never come back here!” boondoggle into an experience that will make me very loyal to this restaurant.  I can’t help but respect a place that takes ownership of its mistakes and goes above and beyond to compensate.

And just as I thought this restaurant had done enough to impress me, out came Fortune Teller Fish. Does anyone remember these from childhood? You put them in your hand and it tells your fortune depending on how it moves.  What a novel bit of nostalgia!

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And then… there came the chocolate mousse. Heaven.

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Beyond the above and beyond care for my allergy and comping the meal, the food here was sensational.  I was incredibly impressed and kind of wish I lived closer so I could be a regular at a place like this. Especially for those oysters!

Highly recommended.

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

A Restaurant is Born: “True Food”

18 Mar

If you haven’t caught up on the first parts of this story, I am chronicling the opening of the restaurant, The Keys, by Chef Bill Seleno. You can start at this introduction post, then read about the concept and the menu. In the last few weeks, Chef Bill took an adventure out to California to learn more about food sustainability, real farm-to-table cooking, and brewing beer.

Bill believes that clean food is very important and that no place lives this ideal more than California.  He calls the concept “True Food” and it’s all about being honest and transparent about where food comes from.  He is looking to bring this into every facet of The Keys.

And come on… if you’re going to do some R&D for a restaurant, there are few better places to do it than Southern California:

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Chef Bill was kind enough to send me his pictures from his trip. So all images included in this post are courtesy of Chef Bill.  (I especially love his picture of sandpipers above… I love birds almost as much as I love food.)

Bill took the nomadic approach and hiked his way through the (beautiful) area.

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He stopped by the Malibu Family Vineyards where he met up with owners/sommeliers, Tammy and Ron Semmler.

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In his own words, Bill tells me about his adventure:

“After hiking miles from Pacific Coast Highway to Mulhalland Highway through brushfires, police blockades and closed highways I made it to Malibu Wines.

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They are nestled on five acres in the Saddle Rock-Malibu AVA [American Viticultural Area] about 6 miles from the Pacific Coast Highway on what used to be an avocado plantation. The Semmler’s have owned the property since 1978 and converted it from an avocado farm to a vineyard after a severe freeze wiped out the plantation. After doing some research they found that the soil was perfect for wine production. The high altitude with separation from the coast, perfect Cali weather, and rocky soil allow them to produce wines very reminiscent of the Rhone Valley.

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So, the Semmler’s are growing in Malibu and production takes place in San Luis Obisbo. Currently they have applied to begin production there at the vineyard making them one of only 3 other vineyards in the area to be doing so (Aquadulce and San Antonio are the others). 2000 brought on their first vintage. They currently are producing two labels, Saddle Rock and Semmler. Six labels under the Semmler line and six under the Saddle Rock. The Saddle Rock line includes a Rose and a Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine.

Of the two I tasted, four were from the Saddle Rock line and here is what I got…

2009 Saddle Rock Pinot Noir: Tea Leaves and Strawberries on the nose, sweet not overly ripened red cherry and spice on the tongue adding a fresh bit of tartness on the pallet. It is aged six months in french oak and finishes with a hint of vanilla and earthiness. Light by Pinot standards with but a nice back of the tongue fullness.

2010 Saddle Rock Merlot: My favorite of the line. It holds a dark ruby red color with an assertive fruit nose of Blackberry and Plum. It’s medium body was accented with ripe Raspberry and Tahitian Vanilla leads into a smooth and supple finish with touches of tobacco, wet rock and caramel.

2009 Saddle Rock Syrah: This is their inaugural vintage of Syrah. Deep purple color with a nose of Blackberry, Blueberry, and a hint of Vanilla. It’s a medium to full bodied wine with dried Cherries being most predominant. the finish had some light tanins with what is best described as Chocolate covered Espresso beans and a hint of Star Anise.

2009 Saddle Rock Petite Sirah: This one had the same deep purple color with Blackberry and and Violet on the nose. It was jammy on the palate with smooth tanins that left notes of Blueberry, Black Licorice, and Plum on the palate. Balancing it all out were the accents of moss and a touch of the attic.

Overall a smooth selection of young fruity wines that were well balanced. There are now over 70 privately owned vineyards in the region and growing as more land becomes available. The one thing that stood out was their devotion to the preservation of the area. They limit growing area to individual producers ensuring that the region is not decimated.”

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As Bill hiked back down from the vineyard (which, apparently, is something that most people do NOT do according to the cops that drove up to him to inquire what the heck he was doing), he stopped by a farm he had passed earlier in the day, which was advertising balsamic lemonade. He determined that he had to try this and found himself at Vital Zuman Sustainable Farm. It is a Certified Naturally Grown Farm owned by Alan Cunningham. It sits on 6 acres of land that his family has owned since the 50’s. He produces over 21 types of fruit and a full array of winter and summer vegetables. In addition to the fruit and vegetables that he grows, he also produces his own raw honey by the beehives he keeps there. He pickles his own vegetables as well.

Chef Bill found his way to Santa Monica which he found very touristy, other than a dive bar called Gas Lite Karaoke Bar where he found out that Jim Morrison is actually still alive according to a haggard regular (there’s hope Doors fans!)  After this adventure with the locals, he discovered the real attraction in Santa Monica: The Farmers’ Market.  The market operates on Saturdays from 8am until 1pm and is located on Main Street. There are over 102 restaurants in the area that shop and support the farmers markets regularly for their produce.

I personally visited this Farmer’s Market a number of years ago and still remember how impressed I was with it.  Gorgeous produce and flowers… strawberries have never smelled that good since.

With a focus on the 1920’s as the theme of the restaurant, tying into “True Foods” is a no-brainer.  In the 1920s, everything was local and sustainable by default. It was before chemicals and hormones became part of food production (now… manufacturing). When all farms were “free range” because no one had determined it was more cost effective to put chickens in tiny pens and pump them full of chemicals to make their breasts so large that they can’t even walk.  The products came right to your door, every day, from a local farm. Honest farm-to-table food.

Bill wants to focus on this real, true type of farm-to-table. Any Farmer’s Market can call their food “right from the farm” but just because it’s a farm, it does not mean it is necessarily organic, sustainable, or chemical/hormone free. Many Farmer’s Markets we see in NY have food that is more marketing than it is the “local” good food they want to say it is.  Sure their hogs may be free range, but is their feed chemical free? (To learn more about this, check out this link  and this link  posted by Chef Bill on The Keys Facebook page.)  At the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market, they are very particular about being completely transparent about growing practices, including chemicals and sustainability.

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In his own words, here is how Bill described it:

“While I was there I ran into a couple farmers that I had called prior to my leaving and a couple more stands that stood out. Lindner Bison being one of them where I met with Kathy Lindner. They sell in five of the local markets. I recently found out that there is a Bison farm in Long Island. I think this is the cut I will be using for the slider. Lindner is 100% grassfed, sustainable, no hormones, no chemicals, no feedlots or mobile feeding tubs, and no pesticides. Bison meat as a whole has less cholesterol, calories, and fat. Yet, at the same time has more Omega 3’s and more protein, nearly twice that of Beef. In addition to that there is less shrinkage in cooking. This will allow me to keep the cost down as I will be cutting it with Marrow… On a funny note, while we were speaking a woman shopping for some top-round told me that her Bison converted her vegan husband. A lot of info can be found at www.eatwild.com on the practices of grassfed foods.”

Bill wants to bring this “True Food” mentality to The Keys.  His goal is to have a website that breaks down his ingredients, their source, and facilitates conversations with their producers.  He wants to put together a co-op style partnership between small, local farms and restaurants.  For example, he would organize a truck to stop by multiple farms and then sync that up with multiple restaurants to buy their ingredients.

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It will take a lot of homework and organization, but that is part of what he is working on now.  By the time the restaurant opens, he wants to have established this network.

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After exploring the LA area, Bill made his way to San Diego where he became fully immersed in the culture of Craft Brewing. He was enthralled that there is a group of craft beer enthusiasts who will send out a mass text message to insiders who are “in the know” to come to a certain bar at a certain time to enjoy the one remaining keg of a very specific beer.  It is like a flash mob where they all come, enjoy the beer, and then disperse.  They “live, drink, breathe” craft beer and it is part of their culture.  It is a movement and a way of life for this group in San Diego.  According to Bill, comparatively the craft beer movement in NY is years behind.  He was especially excited about his meeting with Pizza Port, an award winning craft brewery.  Bill plans set up his own small microbrewery at the restaurant so that he can brew his own batches with the help of some of the people he met.

I am excited to see all these ideas come together, and especially excited to be along for the ride on this great project.

Steak ‘n Shake comes to NYC

15 Mar

When the announcement was made that a Steak ‘n Shake was coming to NYC, I didn’t get what all the fuss was about.  Perhaps as a born and bred Jerseyan who went to school in Upstate NY and then settled down in NYC, I was just not raised to understand the gloriousness of steaks and shakes from a flyover-country chain (har har har).  I mean sure, I do enjoy a Shake Shack burger now and again (though their dogs are really where it’s at and their shakes are super tasty) and I do think Schnipper’s burgers and shakes are divine, but part of the reason I like them is because they are so New York.  (Yeah… I’m a bit of a NYC snob… sorry).  But then again, one of my favorite places to eat on any road-trip is Cracker Barrel, and there ain’t nothing NYC elitist about that!

Anyway… back to Steak ‘n Shake…

One opened up just recently next to the Late Show studio (Broadway between 53rd and 54th).  After a particularly delicious meal that should have left us 100% satisfied, we popped out of the restaurant to see this brand new neon sign just calling to us: “You NEED a shake! You cannot go to bed without first filling your already stuffed belly with creamy goodness!”

And seriously… who can argue with a neon sign giving you subliminal commands?

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The rumor was that there was a queue (wow… I’m sitting here in London at the moment and without a second thought, I just typed “queue” instead of “line”… strange) at all hours, but we got there about 10 minutes before closing and were ushered in by a security guard-type dude (why? no idea) to the counter to order.  I knew they were pretty famous for an extensive burger menu, so I was surprised to see the limited options.  I was definitely too stuffed to try a burger, but we ordered up 2 Specialty Shakes, which had candies mixed in with  your choice of flavors.  

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We stepped around the corner to see the Shake Station, which was a large shake makin’ machine.

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As we waited for our shakes to be whipped up, I noticed that they have the cool new Coke machines that let you pick from about 6 million flavor combinations.  This, in and of itself, is a draw since the only other place I’ve seen these are in movie theaters in NYC.

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We eagerly took our shakes out of the shake mixer’s hands and took a sip.  Well… more like sucked our cheeks into our mouths as we tried with gusto to get anything through that straw.  With hardly any luck, we wound up downing most of it with spoons.  

And how was it?

Ehhhh… Friendly’s & Dairy Queen each have a version of this shake, but dare I say the ice cream was much better at those.  Much creamier, much more flavor. This was flat, boring ice cream with frozen candy mixed in.

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So I guess I still don’t get what all the fuss is about…

Ramen Infographic

8 Mar

A reader shared this with me and it combines two of my very favorite things… Ramen + Infographic

We Love Ramen Infographic
Created by: Hack College