Archive | August, 2012

ZoneManhattan Days 3 & 4: Everyday is like Xmas!

30 Aug

So far the diet is going well. I don’t find myself overly hungry during the day (though I can’t say I really feel full). The one problem is that both Mike and I have been having mild headaches on the diet. It could be withdrawal from all the sugars and salts that we usually eat, or just getting used to have less calories each day.  Whatever the reason, it seems to be getting a bit better, and I hope we get used to it very soon. 

I certainly seem to be losing weight (full report Saturday after week 1 is complete).

Our plan is to do the diet during the weekdays and then eat well on the weekends.  I’ll be in Pittsburgh this weekend to visit my college weekend and celebrate her birthday, so I’ll have to be good with both eating and drinking.  With so much progress in a week, however, I really don’t want to slip so soon.  

One thing that is really cool is that every morning is like Christmas. I open our door and there waiting for me is our coolers of food!  I have no idea what will be in it each day and I love the surprise.

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When I open it up, it’s all neatly packaged and ready, having been made fresh the night before, and our menu is on top.

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Here were the menus from the past two days:

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I am continually impressed with the flavor and quality of the food. The portions are small, but there is so much flavor packed in that I don’t feel like I’m dieting.  And then there was the apply-cherry strudel today.  SOOOO good!

Cream Puffs

30 Aug

I really love when Mike comes home and says “You know… my coworker says they really love ______.”  And then suddenly I find myself searching for recipes and Mike finds himself lugging lots of tupperware into his office.  I love a good baking challenge.  So when a love for cream puffs was mentioned, I began scratching my head.

Aren’t cream puffs really hard to bake?

As it turns out… NO… Not even a little bit!

I scoured AllRecipes.com and eventually landed on this recipe. I was skeptical how vanilla instant pudding would work out, and while it felt a bit like cheating, the rave reviews about it made me try it out.

The dough is actually started in a pot on the stove. Water, butter, flour, salt. 

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And then put into a mixer and beat in the eggs.

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It made a perfectly thick dough, which I then dropped by the spoonful onto a silpat and baked.

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I was so excited when I opened up the oven and there were perfect little puffs.

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The recipe says to slice the tops off, put the filling in the middle, and then put the sliced top back on.  But I wanted to fill these little beautiful puffs.

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I first tried the old “Put it in a ziplock and cut off the corner” piping method, but the bag was just too soft to get into the cream puff in any sane way.

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So I began to look around the apartment for something to make it easier (and also allow Mike to take it into the work and do it there, so it didn’t get soggy).

Then I remembered my trusty little squeeze bottles.  I don’t know what I ever did before these babies!

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So all you do is flip it over, put the spout into the bottom of the puff, and squeeze until full. There is a hollow space in the puff and it works like a charm.

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And when you popped them open, they were flaky yet doughy and tender puffs with a crispy shell and great filling.  It was a really awesome recipe.

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These were so easy to make, that I would easily do these for any dinner party. They are impressive without being time consuming. And I was impressed that they lasted overnight and that Mike could fill them the following day.

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RECIPE
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Ingredients

  • 2 (3.5 ounce) packages instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  •  
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs

Directions

  1. Mix together vanilla instant pudding mix, cream and milk. Cover and refrigerate to set.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
  3. In a large pot, bring water and butter to a rolling boil. Stir in flour and salt until the mixture forms a ball. Transfer the dough to a large mixing bowl. Using a wooden spoon or stand mixer, beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, until golden brown. Centers should be dry.
  5. When the shells are cool, either split and fill them with the pudding mixture, or use a pastry bag to pipe the pudding into the shells.

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/cream-puffs/detail.aspx

ZoneManhattan Day 2: Dinner and Portion Sizes

28 Aug

Our dinner tonight consisted of Herbed John Dory with asparagus, baby pattypan squash, and red quinoa. It was quite tasty, with a bit of a pesto-like sauce.

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But our servings got me thinking about portion size. Too often I fall into the trap of eating just as much as Mike does. But he is much taller and, well, a guy! One thing I’m hoping this diet does is help me better control my portions. I know how much I should eat, but I always wind up clearing my plate anyway and splitting everything pretty much on half. May this be a lesson learned.

A Restaurant is Born: Movin’ Again!

28 Aug

So… what is happening with The Keys?  (If you have no idea what that even means, I am currently documenting the opening of The Keys Restaurant in NYC by Chef Bill Seleno.  Please see Part 1Part 2, and Part 3, and Part 4 to learn more about the concept and menu.)

Everything was humming along back in June. A few delays had caused a few investors to back out, but a few others had come along. Bill got a big “yes!” from Crown Consulting and Design, the firm that is going to contribute by taking care of the build out.  Bill didn’t know how much their contribution would be and was hoping he wouldn’t have to trim his 1920’s concept back too much.  He was thrilled when they agreed to cover all build out expenses, without cutting any corners, for 10% interest in the restaurant.  

But the hold up is still the owner.  Turns out, the owner had to resolve a lot of financial issues before he could sell the space.  He dragged his feet for so long that Bill asked his broker to look for another space.  He happened to know someone who just came into a space, so they went to check it out. Bill told me that the space didn’t have some of the perks of the 1st place (which had 3 floors, a downstairs club area, and an outdoor space) but it did have an impressive kitchen.  But the space is really beaten up and has been vacant for weeks.  They also only have a liquor license until midnight.  Bill was set to negotiate for this space, and was hoping to receive a copy of the lease and the details about the space 2 weeks ago.  But, in what seems to be a trend, feet were dragged.  

Enter fate.

Bill met up with an old friend from his Gustovino’s days, Heather. Turns out, Heather had been trying to open  up her own restaurant for quite some time, but luck was not on her side. When Bill told her about his vision, she jumped on board.  She walked through both spaces with Bill, and said that the 1st place was really the winner. Heather really wants to get things done quickly, and signed on as a partner. She brings to the table her craft behind the bar and she is excited to use some of Bill’s chemistry vision in the drinks.  Turns out the delays brought about an opportunity for a fortuitous partnership.

As for the menu, Chef Bill may have to modify the menu to run his seasonal, local menu and will be utilizing the brick oven even more to maximize the resources he has at his disposal.  He plans to bake all the breads in house, including a table bread of sour dough dinner rolls with pearls of olive oil, gorgonzola cremificato, and olives.  He’s exploring adding a selection of meats and pizzas as well.

So how is Chef Bill staying afloat with all these delays? He has been all over the country catering various friend’s weddings and their kid’s Bar Mitzvahs. He will be working for a Kosher catering company throughout September. Heather will be his right-hand woman to take meetings and act on Bill’s behalf while Bill is out of town.  

The opening is now probably more likely to happen in February.  I’m amazed to see how much a restaurant opening can be delayed. Everything was on target for a July opening back when we started this project, and now he’s looking at nearly 9 months after that, and that’s only if the space can be secured in the very near future!

Thankfully, the owner of the 1st spot is currently being a bit more forthcoming, so Bill hopes he can secure the last of the information next week.

And then it’s full steam ahead!

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ZoneManhattan Day 2 Breakfast

28 Aug

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Cherry Waffles with Roasted Nectarines and Turkey Bacon. Small side of cottage cheese.

Was worried that the waffle heated in the microwave would be gummy, and the lack of any syrup/sauce would make it dry. But the flavor was so great, none of that mattered.

Can “diet” food really be this satisfying?

A New (diet) Adventure

27 Aug

Boy… nothing like a diamond ring and a promise of ever after to motivate you to shed the pounds!  I spent a few months on Weight Watchers about 2 years ago, where I successfully lost 17 pounds before they changed their system (and I got lazy) and I gained over 20 pounds back.  I even tried a crazy juice diet, but that didn’t go so well.

I’ve always struggled with my weight, which probably is in direct correlation to my love for food.  Especially fatty, sweet, and carb loaded food.  

But now it’s serious… and I mean business.

A friend of mine was looking awfully svelte one day and I asked him how he did it. Turns out, he started one of those NYC chef delivery diets, Zone Manhattan, and lost over 30 pounds.  This seemed like a good solution for me because it came with his seal of approval (and he loves food as well) and because it would really force me to control what I eat.  Also, it’s cooked fresh and delivered to your door.

I was nervous about how expensive it would be, and it certainly is NOT cheap. But it’s more affordable than most at $38-$46 per day. (Please pull your jaw up off the floor).  My goal is to be on it for a few weeks, drop some pounds (just in time to go dress shopping), and then use that to snap me back onto Weight Watchers where I can maintain the weight loss progression. And if it works, I’ll jump back on it right before the wedding to see if I can shed some more.

So Mike and I embarked on this diet today (Monday, August 27th) and we’ll see how it goes. We’re trying it out for just a week at first, and we’ll go from there.

The food so far has been incredibly tasty.  You are meant to eat about every 2.5 hours, so it’s 3 meals and 2 snacks. Here’s my menu today:

Breakfast: Coddled Egg of Spinach, Sweet Potato, and Turkey Bacon

Snack 1: Broccoli and Smoked Gouda Salad

Lunch: Tuna-Avocado Wrap with Lemon Vinaigrette  

Snack 2: Bread Pudding

Dinner: Herb Grilled Atlantic Salmon with Asparagus, Sweet Corn and Red Rice Pilaf

Every meal was exceptionally good.  And while I’m on the lowest calorie amount per day (1,300), I wasn’t too hungry throughout the day.  I don’t even like salmon, and I really enjoyed the dinner.

Color me impressed.

I’ll be posting pictures on weekdays and keep you posted on my progress.

Stay tuned

22 Aug

Sorry I’ve been a bit MIA! Wedding planning is a beast.  We just came back from Maine where we spent 4 days seeing 11 venues. It was crazy, but we saw some great places. In fact, we found FOUR places… all of which are in hot contention.

If you want to see our exploration process, I started a blog about the search: A Very ME Wedding

I’d also like to mention that my last post was #500 here on NYC Nom Nom.  I can’t believe how far this has come.

Stay tuned… more FOOD POSTS coming very soon!

A**holes at Esca

14 Aug

 

I live right near Esca, and being the Batali and Bastianich fan that I am, I was surprised at myself that I hadn’t been in a while. I had been once, years ago, on a work lunch, but had never been back since.

And now… I will never go again.

I worked in restaurants a few times over my life, and because of that I have a lot of empathy for people that do that job and I’m a chronic over-tipper because I know how underpaid restaurant staff is for the amount of shit they have to put up with.

But there is no excuse for treating customers the way we were treated.

We walked into the restaurant pretty late on a Saturday night.  It was well past peak hours (though not near closing time), and we had eaten a very late and large lunch. We were looking for a bite, maybe some oysters and cocktails. We would have been happy sitting at a bar, and knew that if Esca couldn’t take us, we’d just go elsewhere.

We should have known immediately from the hostess that this was not going to be a good experience.  We walked in and noticed that the restaurant was less than half full. We asked the hostess for a table for 3. She looked at us as if we had asked her if she likes to eat dog poop.  She wrinkled her nose and said she didn’t think she could seat us.  Well okay then… plenty of fish in the sea. We would find another place. “Wait…” she said. “I think I can find space for you. Let me see.”

We waited a few minutes and she came over to tell us she could seat us, and made it sound like it was about as much of an inconvenience as it possibly could be.

We sat (surrounded by empty tables, mind you). And sat. And sat.  We asked for menus twice from bussers.  We finally got some about 20 minutes after sitting.  Within moments of sitting, our waiter was there to take our order. We asked him for a few minutes.  When he came back, we ordered drinks.

It took a good long time to get our drinks, so in the meantime, the waiter came up to take our order.

“We’ll have one dozen oysters please” said we.

“And?” snarled the personification of snootiness.

“That is all.”

“That’s it?”

“Yes.”

“Hold on.”

We held… and soon a manager came up to us and informed us that we had to order a minimum to sit at a table. I explained that we were only there for a quick bite and drinks, and that it said in no location that there was any kind of minimum.

The manager shrugged and said that was the rule.

While I was inclined to leave on the spot in a huff, our drinks were already on their way and it was late. And frankly, I was feeling pretty lazy. I figured we would suck it up and order some stuff to satisfy their demands. We added a few things to our order and when we asked if that was sufficient, the waiter rolled his eyes at us. HE ROLLED HIS EYES AT US.  He said he thought it would be okay.

We waited a good amount of time for our drinks and oysters, but finally, they came out.  They were actually quite good. Nice and briny. 

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And then we waited. And waited.

A long, long time later, the crudo came out.  I will take this moment to remind you that crudo is RAW. 

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All the crudo was very good. And impressively, they managed to not get peppers in any of it. (Thank goodness for small favors?)

We especially liked the brill and mackerel crudos, but my favorite was the mahi mahi with almonds.

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And then… we got a lemon.

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And this lemon sat there.

And sat there. 

And sat there.

A full 40 minutes that lemon sat, all alone, on the table.  Finally, our food showed up.  

First came the Fritti, which was crispy cornmeal crusted halibut cheeks, Louisiana shrimp and vadalia onions. This was pretty unremarkable, but not bad.

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And we had the monkfish. I wrote down that it was “great.” “Perfect flavors.”

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We were then given some petit fours. Nothing super.

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At the very end of the night, we looked at our watches and noticed we had been there for over 2 and a half hours.  Absolutely ridiculous.  We also walked out of there spending about 4x what we came in meaning to spend, due to the “minimum” rules.

We opened up the bill and noticed that the bottle of wine was not charged. When the server came back in a rush, we asked if the wine was taken off, and he said “yes yes” before the question even came out of my mouth. I’m not sure if he actually even heard me. And if the wine was taken off, perhaps that was part of an apology from the manager for how bad the service was? If so, why didn’t he come over and say something? I have a feeling it was a mistake and the waiter couldn’t be bothered to actually listen to my question. So we paid our bill and were on our merry way.

I want to empathize with them, I really do. But this was absolutely unacceptable service.  The rudeness, the wait times, the obvious neglect for our table. It’s not like we came in looking like bums (though that shouldn’t matter either), but even our water glasses went empty for long periods of time.  I know that some places require minimums, but if that is the case, it should be printed on the menu. Period. 

I have to imagine that if Batali actually knew what was going on in this restaurant, he’d slap a few people. I only say that because I want to hold Batali in a little bit of revery as I have to date.  I want to assume this is something he would never stand for.

And I won’t stand for it either.

Congrats, Esca. I spend tens of thousands of dollars on dining with clients and I will never be coming back to your establishment. And I live next door and drop a good amount of my salary on eating out.  You have lost a customer. A good one.

But every customer should matter. Period.

Total Nom Points: 3 out of 10 (and only because the food was pretty good)

Telepan for Brunch

9 Aug

Telepan is one of those restaurants that I have always heard good things about, meant to try, and would forget about soon thereafter.  I was browsing through OpenTable.com for a brunch place in the Upper West Side (it’s on 69th Street just east of Columbus Ave), and when Telepan came up with an open reservation, I was delighted to finally be able to cross it off the list.  

We were warmly greeted and shown to our table.  Bread came out fast and it was my favorite type of brunch bread basket: lots of different things to try.

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And the jam and butter were especially good!

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We did the brunch prix fixe for $32, which included the breads, apps, and entrees.  First out was the apple sausage with poached egg, duck prosciutto & watercress.  It was all well balanced, well dressed, and quite tasty.  

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We also tried the house smoked brook trout with potato-chive blini & sweet onion sour cream.  It was the most mentioned dish on FourSquare tips, so why not?  This was one of those moments that FourSquare proved its value to me. I would have never ordered this without the recommendation, and that would have been a shame.  This had great smoky flavors, excellent texture, and a great balance.

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For our entrees, Mike, surprise surprise, got the burger. It was one of those burgers that was almost too high to get into an average sized mouth, but Mike overcame this hurdle and somehow ate it.  And it was good.

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I got the Lumberjack, which had scrapple (which is kind of like a pork scraps cake), canadian bacon, buttermilk pancake, and sunnyside up eggs.

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The combination of flavors and textures made this into a really great dish.  The scrapple was especially delicious and crispy.  A really great brunch dish.

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I really enjoyed our meal at Telepan and I’m surprised it took me this long to try it.  I want to go back for dinner in the near future and try some more dishes.  But if you’re looking for brunch on the UWS, Telepan is a great choice!

They also participate in Restaurant Week, and have picnic baskets to take with you into Central Park, and Sunday night Burger Night. In case you needed another excuse to go.

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Brooklyn Diner- “The Finer Diner”

7 Aug

We take clients out to all sorts of fancy restaurants, so when we had one request a trip to Brooklyn Diner, we quizzically agreed. We can go any place in Manhattan and you want to go to a diner? A diner called Brooklyn Diner? Which is in Time Square? And has the tagline “The Finer Diner?”

Well… ok…

Brooklyn Diner is the classic Times Square establishment with such a bright neon sign that it blends right in to the rest of the block. When we entered, I realize it’s part of a family of restaurants including Redeye Grill, Tratoria Dell’Arte, and Bond 45, all of which are in the general vicinity of midtown.  Turns out, I’ve been to all of their restaurants except Brooklyn Diner, and was actually quite fond of the restaurant family.  The food at each was always reliably good, if not above par for Times Square.  All are more than any normal person would ever want to spend, but hell, it’s Times Square, so good quality food seemed fair at their price.

Back to “The Finer Diner.”  

After a bit of teasing about this pick, we found out that our client’s heard from some of their coworkers that this place was very good, and happened to have a really good lobster roll.  Well ok!

I actually wound up getting grilled cheese with split pea soup. It was a very chilly day and this hit the spot.  The bread was perfectly crisp, the cheese full of flavor and melty without being a mess, and the soup had great flavor.

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I shouldn’t have been so skeptical!

They put hot dogs in it too, which was a fun (and delicious) twist on ham.

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Everyone else went right for the lobster roll, which they all said was very good.  Even their fries and onion straws were especially crisp and tasty.

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I was pleasantly surprised by Brooklyn Diner.  I guess my expectations were quite low (I can be so judgmental sometimes!), but I would recommend this place to anyone in the area looking for a casual and relaxing lunch before a Broadway show.  

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10