Tag Archives: food

Saxon + Parole: Just a nibble

10 Jan

I met Chef Bill for a quick catch up about opening his new restaurant, The Keys, over drinks and nibbles at Saxon + Parole.  He wanted to go there due to their focus on fresh ingredients and molecular gastronomy inspired cocktails.

We each got a very, very good cocktail and decided to order some charcuterie. We went with the “A bit of everything”: Cured pork, chicken liver pot, terrine, cheese, olives & pickles for $29.  This was sensational.  Absolutely sensational.

The chicken liver pot may have been the best I have ever had. The rich liver was perfectly cut with a sweet and salty top.  Fantastic. And each meat and cheese was a perfect pick.  I really, really enjoyed this plate.

Import December 2012 iPhone 603

I really look forward to going back and trying more soon! 


Top 10 Noms of 2011

29 Dec

I can’t believe 2011 is over!  I always love going back through the past year of blogs to pick the top 10, and this year proved MUCH harder than years before.  There were just so many great Noms in 2011!

For the past Top Noms of the year, check out 2010 and 2009.

#10 – Alma de Cuba: Philadelphia I dream about the pork entree I had here, and that chocolate cigar for dessert (that was on fire) will always hold a tender spot in my food heart.

# 9 – The Breslin lived up to expectations with an awesome lamb burger and the scrumpets… oooooooohhhh the scrumpets.

#8 – We had wanted to visit Barbuto for a long time, after falling in love with the chef, Jonathan Waxman, on various food shows on television.  It was a meal made of some of the freshest, most lovingly crafted ingredients.

#7 – Our experience at Maialino was just a few days ago, but I am still thinking about that bacon and those desserts.  I can’t wait to go back again and try more… especially their namesake pasta.

#6 – When we decided to try Catch, Top Chef Hung’s new restaurant we didn’t know what we were in for. It was dark. It was Meatpacking. But it was delicious and inspired.  Awesome combinations and executed beautifully.

#5 – Imperial No. 9 was a fantastic journey of food, with many dishes that I would go back to eat all over again.  If you go, order as much as possible and share. Totally worth it.

#4 – Our adventure at Mountain Flying Fish in Breckenridge, CO was something I will never forget.  A well curated Omikase from the chef, who is a personal friend of my aunt proved to be one of the most perfect, original, and exciting meals I have ever had.  Land locked sushi shouldn’t be this good. Food shouldn’t be this good.  It was just… bliss.

#3 – Mike took me to Daniel for my birthday, and it was impressive.  The entire tasting menu was already one of the best meals I ever had, and then the desserts came.  The best series of desserts I have ever had. Hands down. And I LOVE dessert.

#2 – When I think of epic meals, I have to mention Blue Hill at Stone Barns.  A day-trip from NYC in Westchester, NY, it is actually ON the farm (which made for a lovely day as well).  Everything that comes out in the blind tasting menu was from the farm or locally sourced.  You don’t get fresher than that. And it’s hard to get any better.

#1 – Valentine’s Day at Colicchio and Sons for the Tasting Menu was phenomenal.  It took over the #2 all-time spot (under WD-50, which we tried again recently, by the way, to see if it could hold on to that #1 spot… more on that soon).  I have been to Colicchio and Sons a few times for their a la carte menu, and it’s always fantastic, but this tasting menu was other-worldly.  The duck egg, confit gizzard, & parsnip dish was hands down the best thing I have EVER eaten.  Just… wow.


Honorable Mention:

The Truffle, Gruanciale, and Egg Pizza from Otto

Birreria at Eataly for the fantastic ambiance, beer, and damn good food

The classic New York feel (and food) of The Palm

Thumbs Up Diner: Atlanta for The Heap

Peking Duck House for the Peking Duck Special

Kefi for that amazing octopus

And 2 great Restaurant Week meals that were worth repeating…

Ilili for Restaurant Week

The Modern for Restaurant Week Winter and Summer

And last but not least… It’s hard to write about 2011 without mentioning Albert Hall Tavern, but now that Chef Bill is gone, the spark just isn’t there like it used to be.

Goodbye 2011! Onto even more fantastic adventures and Noms in 2012.

“What do I make for my Cookie Exchange?” (AKA The Big Dessert Post) – 2011 Update

12 Dec

#1 question that is coming up right now:

“What should I make for my cookie exchange?”

(Funny story… I have never been to a cookie exchange. I do love the concept… trading recipes and eating cookies does sound particularly awesome.  Perhaps I shall host one next year!)

In honor of the holidays… here is a selection of options that I have blogged about in the past that are great for a cookie exchange (with some 2011 updates):

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars/Cups (cups recipe at bottom of post)

Black and White Cookies

“O” Cookies

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cake Balls (they’re almost a cookie)

Homemade Crunchie Bars AKA Chocolate Covered Honeycomb (also not quite a cookie, but I think candy can count for an Exchange)

Chocolate Coffered Toffee with Salt (Candies for Cookies)


2011 Update:

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies


Chestnut Cookies


Homemade Salted Caramels (this photo was done in a mold and topped with chocolate)


Faux Fudge:


Meringue Mini Pies


Not into cookies/candies but still need a good dessert?

Peach and Pear Crumble

Key Lime Pie

Pie Variation #1 (Apple, with detailed instructions on making pie crust)

Pie Variation #2 (Cranberry Apple Pie- Prepared Crust)

Berry Belt Cake


2011 additions:

Grandma’s Plum Torte

Pumpkin Cheesecake: (and how to water-bathe it)

Drunk ‘N Nutty Pie

Strawberry Shortcake

Confetti Cupcakes with Bailey’s Frosting


If anyone does use any of these recipes for an Exchange, just give them this blog URL and ask them to tell all their friends!  K? 🙂

I will continue to add to this post as I post more dessert recipes.  So bookmark it or find it in the “Best of the Best” tab on the title bar.

Fudged Fudge

23 Mar

I have heard horror stories about fudge.  And I have also heard that you can make it in the microwave and no one will notice.  When looking for recipes one day, I decided to try the latter one and see how it turned out. 

I only had deep pans, and I was concerned about getting the fudge out.  So I greased up the sides and put parchment paper on the bottom (cut to size).  Turned out perfectly and came right out.


And it was easy to make multiple varieties just by mixing it right in the pans (that I made small to have a few flavors).  This one had white chocolate chips in it.


I then just used a simple bench scraper to cut into squares.


And we had perfect little servings of fudge.


 I still had some leftover sweet glazed pecans from the cheesecake, so I added them to one batch. (This wound up being my favorite)


It was remarkably simple, tasty, and the texture was actually BETTER than many homemade fudges I have tasted.  Next time you need to make an impressive dessert with about 10 minutes of hands on time, look no farther than microwaved fudge. (Let the fact it was so damn easy stay our little secret)


Microwaved Fudge
(borrowed from AllRecipes.com)


  • 16 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts (optional.  I tried white chocolate chips and pecans.  I think it would be amazing with pretzel pieces, fruit, or peanut butter)
  • I also added a bit of salt after melting until the chocolate was to my liking


  1. Line an 8×8 inch square dish with aluminum foil.  (if you want to make multiple flavors, use a smaller pan.  And when I tried to use aluminum foil, it wouldn’t get flat and I didn’t want wrinkled in my fudge, so I just buttered the containers and put parchment paper on the bottom)

  3. Chop chocolate and place in a large, microwave safe bowl with condensed milk. Microwave on high, stirring once or twice until chocolate is soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from microwave and stir until completely smooth. Stir in vanilla and walnuts. Spread in prepared pan.
  4. Refrigerate 2 hours, until firm. Cut into squares.

Faux Fried Catfish and Spinach Quinoa

19 Jan

I was in the mood for quinoa, so I checked to see what Weight Watchers recipes came up and found a tasty sounding one with mushrooms and spinach.  The recipe was very similar to cooking kasha where you brown garlic and onions in a pan, then toast up the quinoa, then add in liquid and let it absorb.

(Side note: Does anyone else find it annoying to rinse quinoa?  It’s so delicious, but I can’t find a good way to rinse it without it getting everywhere)


Then at the finale, you top it with fresh spinach (which is always surprising how much it reduces in size!) and let it steam down and stir it in.


We paired it with faux fried catfish (it’s faux fried because it’s coated in ground up Fiber One cereal and then baked… it’s a really delicious and diet friendly way to “fry” just about any white meat or fish).


It made for a great meal, although the more I eat catfish, the less I like it.  I just don’t think it’s my kinda fish.


My favorite part about this meal, however, was making the leftovers for lunch the next day!  I topped the quinoa and spinach with 2 poached eggs and the mushy yolky goodness was purrrrrrrfect with the nutty quinoa and spinach.  Delish!





1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion(s), minced
1 clove(s) (medium) garlic clove(s), minced
1 cup(s) quinoa, rinsed
2 cup(s) reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, optional (we left this out)
4 cup(s) spinach, baby leaves, packed, coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp table salt


  • Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring frequently, until onion is tender, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Add quinoa to skillet; cook, stirring frequently, until quinoa starts to turn golden brown, about 2 minutes.
  • Add broth, black pepper and red pepper flakes to skillet; bring to a boil. Cover skillet and reduce heat to low and simmer for 13 minutes; stir in spinach. Cover skillet and cook until spinach and quinoa are tender and liquid is absorbed, about 3 to 5 minutes; season with salt. Yields about 1/2 cup per serving.

Albert Hall Tavern- Back For More

11 Jan

After the fantastic first impression at Albert Hall Tavern on Friday, Mike was raring to try it and I couldn’t wait to go back and have a full meal. We didn’t have dinner plans for Sunday night, so we set a date to check out their dinner menu.

The staff said to choose our seat, so I picked the table next to the shelf of books in the corner.  We enjoyed checking out the titles on the shelf throughout the meal, most of which were cookbooks.


The decor inside is cool, but completely unidentifiable.  They have old pages of books (or catalogs?) glued to the wall in a pretty cool way (the shelves with the books was all old cookbooks).  Then there are Victorian looking pictures of women (mostly) on the wall.


It looks pretty eclectic and interesting, and I enjoy the black and red motif.


The menu is quite eclectic, and I have trouble putting my finger on how to describe it.  Our waiter went with “avante-garde gastro pub.”  I’ll go with it.

They actually didn’t have many things on the menu, including some of the things I was dying to try (from the Bar and Pasta section).  They were also OUT of the hamburger, much to Mike’s dismay.  Turns out they had a run of people from the Javitz Center and were plum out of burgers, and many of the beers we were hoping to try.  Oh well!  Can’t blame them since they have only been open one week!


When we asked about the interesting “specials” section, the waiter informed us that they would actually be doing all-day breakfast since this neighborhood is lacking in that (You can say that again!)  I guess this is all a work in progress.  I look forward to seeing how it changes and what they add!


We decided to split a number of things to try as much as possible.

First we tried the tuna tartare with a quail egg.  This was a great combo of flavors, however, I found it a bit over peppered.  It distracted from the mild flavors of the tuna.


I did enjoy the quail egg, however, and wished there were more than one.


Our next order was by recommendation of our awesome waiter, James.  (If you go, ask for him. He’s awesome and you can tell he really loves food).  He told us that the mussels with charred rosemary and black garlic was really great.  He explained that black garlic is grown in caves so it doesn’t turn white and that the rosemary was charred and then steamed to release the flavors.  (I really appreciated his passion for talking about food).


The moment I tried these ridiculously fresh tasting mussels, I was sold.  The broth was absolutely FANTASTIC.  We had one full clove of the black garlic and it was insanely good.  I honestly wanted to bathe in the broth.  We made no hesitation of asking for crusty bread (which, smartly, comes from Amy’s Bread) to soak up as much of the sauce as possible.  I wish it came with and we didn’t have to ask for it, but these are the little kinks that I’m sure they will figure out very soon.  The cook later told us that people threatened to chop off arms if the bussers tried to take the empty dish away before it was cleaned of all its sauce.


Next up, the chef brought out duck rillettes with figs.  This was delish.


The fig was a perfect foil for the duck, which was almost like pulled duck that then got packed back together.  When we asked the chef about it, he said he wanted to go back to the French basics, had some extra duck, so brought it to us off the menu.  (A FANTASTIC chef that sees the opportunity in doing this… and delivers a great dish).


We opted to split the 12 ounce Ribeye.  The car was delicious, and I like that they put nice sauteed onions on top.


It came with 3 sauces.  The white sauce tasted like a bernaise, the dark brown like an au jus, and the light brown one was delicious, yet I couldn’t put my finger on it.  The waiter informed us that it was an au poivre.  I always think of an au poivre as being overly spicy, so much so that it distracts from all over flavors.  This, on the other hand, had  a perfect sweetness to it that brought out everything that is fantastic about steak.


We also ordered a side of barrel roasted winter vegetables.  Who knew vegetables could taste THAT good? (And I love veggies)  These were just perfect.  Incredibly flavorful.  I had to wonder where this guy buys his veggies.


After this incredible meal, I couldn’t wait to try dessert.  This, however, was where the magic ended.  Since the chef is making everything himself, he hasn’t gotten to desserts yet.  I was thisclose to offering to bring over some confections for the next few weeks because… seriously… dessert is IMPORTANT!  (Note: if anyone from Albert Hall is reading, the offer still stands.  I make a mean meringue.)

I am THRILLED to have this place right around the corner.  There are no go-to places in this neighborhood and I love that they have a great draft beer selection.  Mike and I have already discussed about heading there once a week.  From start to finish, it just felt comfortable and homey there.

Beyond the fantastic food, the staff is wonderful.  Our bartender on Friday took great care of us and our waiter was impressively informative (even if it was steering us away from the food that wasn’t stellar) and we really enjoyed chatting with him.  We even chatted with a chef for a bit on the way out and found out that he sources his food from all the great local butchers and farm stands in the area.  We also agreed with his statement that he was surprised that there aren’t more restaurants in this area with all the fantastic ingredients available so close.  He even commented about how much he enjoys getting meat from my favorite butcher on the corner, Esposito’s Pork Shop.

Overall, this place has been fantastic from top to bottom so far.  I look forward to their expanding menu, when they open up the private room in the back for suckling pig roasts, and eating and drinking here much more often.

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

Pumpkin Cheesecake

15 Dec

When a coworker’s birthday arrives, I always try to bake for the office.  It gives me a great excuse to bake and not have to eat it all.  For one coworker, Sam, I gave him a blank slate to choose what he wanted.  His choice: Pumpkin Cheesecake.  Wise choice, Sam.  Wise Choice.

I didn’t have a recipe that I loved, and usually actually wind up making no-bake cheesecakes (I usually prefer their texture).  For his, however, I did some searching around online to see what I could come up with.  My typical method for coming up with recipes is to check out some highest rated ones around the internet (AllRecipes.com is great), go to some of my most trusted resources for recipes (Food Network, Pioneer Woman, and Smitten Kitchen to name a few), then combine my favorite parts of each and my past recipes to come up with something a bit more Sara.  When I saw this recipe from Paula Deen, however, I decided to try it as-is.  And boy am I glad I did!  This was the best graham cracker crust I have ever tried.

You combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and cinnamon and then add melted butter.  This is pretty much the same set of ingredients as every graham cracker crust, however, the proportions and texture is just perfect.


Then you press it into the bottom of a springform pan.


And if you want to make a sample for yourself and your boyfriend to “make sure it tastes okay” before cutting into the big one the next day… fill the bottom of a non-stick baking cup.   


Next for the filling, you need cream cheese at room temperature.  It’s amazing how long it takes cream cheese to get to room temp, so I used the kangaroo pouch in my apron to speed it along.  (TIP: Take your cream cheese out a few HOURS before you start) 


Then you fill the springform with the combination of blended cream cheese, pumpkin puree, eggs (both full and yolks), sugar, spices, and sour cream (which I think really added a perfect flavor!)  The one edit I made is that I added more spices, since I love the flavors of fall.  I honestly could have probably added even more. 


Then I put the same filling into the cups.


 And set the whole thing to bake at 350 for 1 hour. (Or 30-35 minutes for the mini cups).


Then let it cool for 15 minutes before slapping yourself in the forehead.  Why?  Cheesecakes are finicky little things.  They just LOVE to expose their fault lines as they cool.   Every other cheesecake I’ve ever baked I have put in a water bath (which regulates the temperature so it doesn’t crack as it cools), and I just plum forgot.  D’oh! 


Honestly?  No one cared and it still tasted MARVELOUS!  I don’t think I would change a thing about this recipe with the exception of a bit more allspice and clove.


And what would a Sara dessert be without a homemade schlag to go with it?  I thought a salted carmel schlag would compliment the pumpkin cheesecake… so I looked up a recipe and found out that it was basically just making caramel, adding salt, then adding in the heavy cream, letting it cool and then whipping it up.  Easy-peasy!

Unfortunately, however, my pot has a hot spot and it kept burning in one corner.  Damn.  It was still delish though!


I added the cream once it browned…


 And the cool cream instantly made it into cracked caramel sugar.  But a few spins over medium heat and it blended nicely into a delicious base for whipped cream.


 And the minis?  Well… a bit overcooked.  I did it for 45 minutes, so probably more like 30-35 would be better (cheesecake shouldn’t brown, and should be a little loose in the middle).


 But they popped out beautifully.


 And made a perfect bite with the whipped cream.


This is a fantastic recipe.  And a TRUE crowd pleaser.


Pumpkin Pie
(Borrowed with hardly any changes from Paula Deen via FoodNetwork.com)



  • 1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 stick melted salted butter


  • 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pureed pumpkin
  • 3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves (I would make this 1/4 or 1/2 tsp. depending on your love of cloves and possibly also add 1/4 tsp. Allspice)
  • 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

For crust:

In medium bowl, combine crumbs, sugar and cinnamon. Add melted butter. Press down flat into a 9-inch springform pan. Set aside.

For filling:

Beat cream cheese until smooth. Add pumpkin puree, eggs, egg yolk, sour cream, sugar and the spices. Add flour and vanilla. Beat together until well combined.

Pour into crust. Spread out evenly and place oven for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and let sit for 15 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours.



Virgin America- DeliBreak Lunch Box

26 Nov

I am not a fan of plane food.  I can’t think of anything grosser than pre-packaged, shelf stable, mass quantity food.  It reminds me of my highschool cafeteria… without the pizza and tots.  And now they make you PAY for it? ARE YOU KIDDING?!

So when I noticed that Virgin America really takes on a new look at in-flight meals (along with everything else), I figured it would be interesting to blog about their “GoPicnic DeliBreak Lunch Box.”  I like that you order it when you want it, and the cost isn’t awful seeing as though you are literally entirely trapped with their menu.  I think this was $6 and it was plenty to fill me for lunch and leave me with some snacks for hour 4 on the trip to LA.

This was the box front, which varied slightly from the description on the menu that I remember reading.


And the list on the box even varied from the actual food that was inside.  I found this slightly concerning, since picky people may not be pleased by trading out potato chips for pop chips.  Luckily… I love pop chips!


Thought I was kind of curious what sweet maui onino potato chips might taste like.


They packaged it well, with a lot of options within one compact box.


And like I said… it was plenty of food.


A very good snack/meal option.  Thanks Virgin America!  You remain my favorite airline (even if you INSIST on flying out of JFK).

Mike’s Birthday Dinner Part 2: Black and White Cookies

17 Nov

The second part of Mike’s birthday dinner had to be dessert.  I tried to think of something new to make that Mike loved.  He always seeks out black and white cookies, so I decided to try my hand at them.  I also decided to try to take a lot more “making of” pictures for this recipe.

Here is the ol’ melted butter in the mixer pic.


I then creamed said butter with sugar.


And then started adding eggs.  Here went #1 of 4.


As you are looking at the picture below, I’m sure you’re thinking to yourself “why on earth is that egg so happy?”  I’ll tell you… I tried to take a picture of these eggs with my camera about 400 times. It couldn’t find a single surface to focus on, however, so I got crafty.  And… named him Fred.

Say “hi” to Fred!


And then… Fred had to die.

Goodbye Fred.


I mixed the eggs in with the butter/sugar and then added in milk, vanilla extract, and lemon extract.  That is when it got scary.  It looked curdled.  I’m sure the lemon extract had something to do with it.

I paused for a moment, but then decided to continue and see how it all turned out.


Next up came the cake flour, salt, and baking powder.


Which, when all combined, looked like something edible again.  (Oh boy and it was good eatin’ batter!)


This here is moments before I licked it completely clean.


I dropped the dough onto a pan by an ice cream scoop, aiming for bigger cookies than the 1 Tablespoon suggestion would have brought.  I wanted bakery size!


Then I used the back of a spoon to swirl the top to make them flatter.


Using my trusty Silpat all the way.  Well… half of the way.  I only had 2 mats and 4 pans.  D’oh.


And then into the oven they went at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.


And if it wasn’t clear why Silpats rock, here is photographic evidence that Silpats are pretty much the best invention ever.  THOUGH, after the suggested 30 minutes, both trays were still pretty raw.


I actually stuck them back in the oven and checked on them about every 3 minutes for the next 15 minutes.  It was now 50% longer than the original recipe called for and I started to get nervous.  I took them out and they were less raw, though still quite white on the bottom.


I took a bite and figured it didn’t matter so much since they tasted awesome.  And onto the cooling rack they went.  (Though, as mentioned in the previous entry, some came into work with me.)


When I came home (prior to making dinner), I started glazing the cookies.  The bottom shows the white glaze, which basically just looks half shiny.


Then I added chocolate glaze.  I was in WAY too much of a rush so I didn’t spread these out enough.  So they weren’t nearly as neat as I would have preferred.  I was also pretty bummed at the transparency of the chocolate glaze and could not for the life of me figure out how most places get it so dark!


But they tasted great!  Though not bakery great.  I guess there are just some things you should leave to the pros!


Black & White Cookies
(original recipe was from AllRecipes.com, however, I read the notes and tweaked it accordingly)


  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 3/4 cups white sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/3 cup boiling water (just add until it’s the right consistency)
  • 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips (good quality)


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Butter/spray 2 baking sheets or use a Silpat.
  2. In a medium bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in the milk, vanilla, and lemon extract. Combine cake flour and all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt; gradually blend into the creamed mixture. Drop tablespoonfuls of the dough 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.
  3. Bake until edges begin to brown, about 20 to 30 minutes (or more?). Cool completely.
  4. Place confectioners sugar in large bowl. Mix in boiling water one tablespoon at a time until mixture is thick and spreadable. (Add more than the indicated amount if you need to).
  5. Transfer half of the frosting to the top of a double boiler set over simmering water. Stir in the chocolate. Warm mixture, stirring frequently, until the chocolate melts. Remove from heat. (or do it slowly in the microwave)
  6. With a brush, coat half the cookie with chocolate frosting and the other half with the white frosting. Set on waxed paper until frosting hardens.