Tag Archives: lamb

Peter Luger Steakhouse

15 Jan

Peter Luger is probably the most famous steak house in all of NYC, which is why I find it strange that it’s in Brooklyn. I’ve long wondered if that adds to the allure… “it must be good if people will brave the L train for it!”

I had been to Luger once before and hated to say I was underwhelmed. I mean, it was a very good meal, but I didn’t think it was better than places in NYC and didn’t think it was worth crossing the East River to eat.

But when friends from out-of-town wanted to try it, I was excited to go on a food adventure with them.

I certainly love the inside. It’s beautiful without being fancy.

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Someone suggested we try the bacon. And BOY am I glad they did. This was probably my favorite part of the whole meal. It was thick cut, perfectly cooked, a little charred on the ends. Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmmm.

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And they are famous for their tomato and onion salad. This… I do not understand. I mean I like tomatoes and onions just fine… but why is this special? 

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Though they did advise that we pour the Peter Luger Sauce (which is on every table) on it, and I will admit, it made the onions and tomatoes very tasty (and added great, but not overpowering flavor to the steaks, too).

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The steak ordering is incredibly easy from the menu. You tell them if you want steak for two, three, or four and out it comes. It’s a beautiful Porterhouse that they serve nicely carved and dish out to each person at the table.

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And you don’t get more perfectly Medium Rare than this:

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We also ordered the lamb chops so we could try some different things.  These were delicious and I’m glad we had some variation (as much as I love steak!)

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We got a side of creamed spinach, which I thought was really tasty and heavier on the spinach flavor than the cream (which I prefer).

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Mmmm… meat.

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Even though we were all totally stuffed by the end, we just had to try the ice cream sundae (which came with a chocolate cow on top).  This was heavenly.

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As was the pecan pie.  It was super pecany and not overly sweet. And don’t even get me started on that homemade schlag!

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As you leave, everyone gets some chocolate gelt to take home.  A nice little way to be reminded later of the great meal you had.

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I certainly enjoyed my meal this time more than last time, and I think the key was variation. Definitely get the bacon, try some sauce on some tomatoes and onions (why not?) and then order up some amazing steaks with some lamb chops.  Leave a wee bit of room for dessert and you’re perfect.

Do I feel the need to travel to Brooklyn for this on a regular basis? No.  I still think the novelty is good for tourists, but as a local, I’ll stick with Keen’s. (Though my arm could certainly be easily twisted to return to Peter Luger!)

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

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Michael White’s Ai Fiori for Valentine’s Day Part Deux

15 May

Michael White is one of those “celebrity” chefs that I have long heard about but never tried.  Enter Ai Fiori, Michael White’s newest restaurant, centered around pasta, that happens to be just a few blocks from the apartment (400 5th Avenue, between 36th and 37th Streets, in the Setai Hotel).  We were looking for another lovely dinner to surround Valentine’s Day to compliment our meal the weekend before at Annisa (since I was away on business on the actual day), and Ai Fiori couldn’t have been more perfect.

We went for an early dinner and found ourselves alone (but not for long) in the tastefully decorated 2nd floor restaurant.

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Even the table settings were quite lovely.  A waiter confused our table with the one next door and accidentally delivered us glasses of champagne.  I wasn’t sure if it was free (for Valentine’s Day) so there was some confusion.  We sent the champagne back to the table that ordered it, but our waiter wound up bringing us a glass each, on the house, for the confusion.  A lovely touch.

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The crusty, soft, warm bread came out with delicious salted butter and well flavored olive oil.

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Our amuse bouche was small shot of a fruity smoothie.  I cannot remember if this was mango or passion fruit, but it was a nice way to start the meal.

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We chose to do the prix fixe of 4 courses (cominciare / pasta or risotto / pesce or carne / dolce) for $89.

Mike chose to start with the Animelle which was crispy sweetbreads, pomme purée, truffle vinaigrette, and pancetta. It was delicious, delicate, and just the right amount of crisp. It was a $5 supplement charge, and well worth it.

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I chose the Mare e Monte (which, sadly, does not currently appear to be on the menu).  This had a $15 supplemental charge… but hey, it was Valentine’s Day!

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This was diver scallops, celery root, black truffles, bone marrow, and thyme.

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It was rich in all the right ways with complex flavors and sprigs of green to spring it up a bit.  It was decadent and fantastic.

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For our pasta/risotto course, Mike chose the risotto with riso acquarello, duck confit, and hen of the woods mushrooms. This was a perfect blend of flavors. Very rich but not at all heavy.

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I went with the Agnolotti, which was braised veal parcels, butternut squash, and black truffle sugo.

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These were just perfect.  Great meaty flavor inside and the pasta was just thin enough to hold it together.  The bay leaf on top was crisped and slightly sweetened, and tasted great when broken up into the pasta and squash puree. Mmmm mmmm.

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For our carne/pesce course, Mike chose the Agnello, which was rack of lamb en crepinette, panisse, romanesco, and parmesan.  This was simply perfect. The lamb was cooked as well as you can cook a lamb and each piece on this dish was simply delicious, especially the sauce on the lamb.

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I chose the Astice, which was butter poached Nova Scotia lobster, root vegetable fondant, and chateau chalon sauce.  I always struggle when deciding to order lobster, as no matter how good it is, I never find it as good as the lobster pounds in Maine (I’m spoiled rotten… I know), but this one was right up there. All the pieces that came with it just added to a fantastic dish.

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Onto dolce!  Mike chose the Tartaletta which was dark chocolate, red grape, caramelized sherry, and walnut gelato.  I loved this dish, and the grape tasted like a fantastic grape jelly.  It all went together perfectly.

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I chose to go with the Buddino di Limone with hazelnut praline, toasted meringue, espresso gelee, and cinnamon gelato. I was impressed by how architecturally it was belt, with a sheet of caramelized sugar balanced on top of the meringue peaks.

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This was a perfect dessert with great, original flavors.  Really impressive.

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And then out came the petite fours! They were stunningly beautiful…

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… and very, very tasty.  I especially liked this jelly thing… though I have no idea what it was. 🙂

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I knew we were in for a treat when we finally decided to try a Michael White restaurant, but this was out of this world.  I was so impressed by every bite at Ai Fiori, from start to finish.  It’s also very hard to find food this good, with a well-known chef, on a tasting menu with 4 courses for less than $100 (yes… I know that’s crazy…)  I really loved everything we tried and find it very hard to ignore the fact that this restaurant is so close to home. I just want to go again and again.  I definitely want to go back for breakfast, and also try White’s other restaurants (Marea, Alto, Convivio, Osteria Morini and recently expanding to Bernardsville, NJ and many other locations coming soon).

Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10

August

10 Apr

It was one of those nights where we had a birthday party late in the night and didn’t really have plans for dinner before.  We figured we would take a cab to the birthday location and stumble upon a restaurant nearby.  When we were about 5 blocks out, I realized we were passing August, a restaurant that had been recommended to me.  So we asked the cabby to stop and we jumped out.  15 minutes later, we were seated.

We started with the hamachi tartare that had asian pear in it.

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It had a great contrast between the mild sweet and fresh taste of the pear and the hamachi.

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We also got the jerusalem artichoke soup with brown butter and sunchoke chips.  I have to assume that sunchoke chips are really hard to come by or seriously expensive, because each time I get them I notice that they could easily double or triple the amount and there would still be too few.  I LOVE sunchoke chips, and these added a great crunch to the soup, which in and of itself was great.

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I went with the roasted lamb over root vegetables.  This was seasoned incredibly well and everything just tasted like a bit plate of comfort.

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Mike chose the scallops with celeriac remoulade, frisee, bacon lardons.

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It was very tasty, perfectly cooked, and well balanced.

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For dessert we tried the cinnamon apple crumble with salted caramel gelato. I was hoping for more crisp, but the flavors were really great. And it was warm and cozy.

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August is comfort food at its best and most elegant.  Flavors that were perfect for the cold winter night and yet refined.  I really enjoyed our dining experience here and I look forward to going back.

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

James Beard Foundation Pop-Up: David Chang and Iñaki Aizpitarte

8 May

When I heard that the James Beard Foundation was doing pop-ups in Chelsea Market, and one was featuring David Chang, I was ecstatic.  Luckily, GiltCity was doing a special where you could buy tickets before they formally went on sale, so we jumped on it. 

They are also doing a number of events in Chelsea Market.  It’s only through May 14th, so get going!

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When we got to the event, it was decorated beautifully with lights strung on the ceiling.  The earlier seatings were finishing their meals in shifts.

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While we waited, we were served some champagne and nuts.

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I took the waiting period to walk around the room and photograph some of the fun displays they had.

They had a number of programs listed and a nice Angus cow to show it off.

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They had a bar in the back with a number of fun colored jugs. It added to the festive feel of the room.

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They had a Julia Child display that was fun.

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Especially when you’re a ham like I am…

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Since the JBF Pop-Up is a limited time event, for only 27 days, all the staff were wearing shirts where they crossed off the days left.  We were day 22!

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Our table was set up beautifully, just waiting for us to eat.

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And there was a large chalk board to feature the dining experience.  While David Chang was definitely the draw for us (I have professed my love for him on this blog before), I was excited to try the food of Iñaki Aizpitarte from La Chateaubriand in Paris. 

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The menu changes daily, but this was the menu for our meal.  We began with chicharones, which were like fried pork rinds.  (Sorry, forgot to snap a pic!)

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Next up was white asparagus with mozzarella, sorrel, finger lime, and parmesan.  This was cold.  Super cold.  So cold you could hardly distinguish the flavors.  It was definitely lacking in punch of flavor and everyone around us was muttering the same thing.  Bummer.

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The next dish was kimchi jelly with fresh garbanzo beans, english peas, asparagus, ramps, fava beans, and herbs.  I couldn’t try this one because the kimchi had red peppers, but everyone around me was very dissapointed by this dish.  One diner next to us mentioned that he thinks it would have been okay as an amuse bouche, but not as an “entrée.”  They said it was lacking in flavor and depth and was just a really strange dish to be served by David Chang.  At this point, everyone looked around nervously and you could just feel the “this is IT!?” fear in the air."

(We also felt pretty rushed… the 6:30 seating was still wrapping up when we got our main course… and we sat at 8pm.  Hmmmm)

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But then… there came the lamb.  WOW!  This was milk fed lamb on charred eggplant, with some pickled fruit and onions.  What I LOVE LOVE LOVED about this dish was that it was a lovely piece of lamb plus some more exotic cuts, which I’m pretty sure was lamb belly and liver. 

It was also paired with an EXCELLENT wine.  I enjoyed the wines along the way, but this one was awesome.  Montgras Carmenere Reserva, Chile 2008 is now on the short list!

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This was perfection.  Absolute perfection.  (Note to self: When in France, go to Chateaubriand. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.)

Every bite was savored and the full table of 20 seemed to say “mmmm” at the same time.

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At this point in the meal, the chefs came out and thanked each other.  Unfortunately, there was no mic so we couldn’t really hear what they were saying.  

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I did go up to David Chang afterwards and literally thanked him “for being awesome.”  He was very humble and thanked me for being a fan of his food.  It was a love fest.  A David Chang love fest!

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We had spotted Jeffrey Steingarten, the usually grumpy judge on Iron Chef, when we first entered (scroll up if you want to play Where’s Waldo and find him in some of the room shots above.)  He came up and spoke with David Chang for a while.

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While they were chatting, dessert came out.  I can’t say it sounded all that exciting: Poached rubarb with sweet potato vinegar, sicilian pistachio, goat butter, and goat milk from Momofuku Ko.  This was surprisingly delicious!  I didn’t have great expectations, but the flavors blended marvelously.  Very enjoyable!

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We all left this meal a little confused.  We went because we loved David Chang, but the consensus when we spoke to other diners was that the 3 things from him (the chicharones, the kimchi jelly, and the dessert) were just not what we would expect from Chang.  Perhaps he was trying to blend well with the French chef?  I’m just not sure… but the main dish he made (the jelly) just wasn’t very good according to Mike and our fellow diners. 

The lamb, however, almost made this worth every penny.  It’s pretty impressive when one dish can make the meal. 

Either way, it was exciting to be there.  I wish it were a bit more, but I’m glad to have been able to attend.

There are only 4 days left, so go stop by!

 

NYC Restaurant Week- Winter 2011: ilili (Take 2)

28 Jan

A request came in for a place to eat lunch during Restaurant Week for my work crew.  We needed some place near Gramercy, so my last experience with Ilili instantly came to mind.  Ilili still ranks as one of the very best Restaurant Week experiences I ever had.  Amazing food selection that all tasted GREAT and in normal person portions.  Could they repeat the awesome performance?

Beyond the food, I think the space is awesome.  Boxes with old fashioned lightbulbs hanging behind panels.  The ceilings are high, so I’m sure this place gets loud, but it’s lovely to look at.

They brought a basket of pita pillows to the table.  I remember these being tasty last time, however, they were a bit bland and stale this time.

Their Restaurant Week menu is almost entirely changed from last time, however, it’s still a phenomenal deal.  They let everyone order TWO items from the apps and then one entree and one dessert.   SO many apps sounded great.  I wound up going with the grape leaves (nothing special, but tasty).

I also ordered the Riz, which is Lebanese rice with toasted vermicelli and mixed nuts.  It also has a lovely hint of cinnamon and herbs.  This was probably the best rice I’ve ever eaten.  I could eat this for days.

Other selections from the group included the lentil soup….

The “mouhamara” which is walnuts with sundried peppers and pomegranate molasses…

The Phoenician Fries with sumac, parsley and garlic whip (Yum!)…

And dandelion greens with pine nuts and caramelized onions (called Hindbeh)…

At this point in the meal, everyone was already saying how much they were enjoying their food. And the entrees were yet to come!

One coworker was VERY well behaved and ordered the shrimp salad.  He said for salad, it was great, but I could tell he had food envy for the rest of the orders.

I was having a tough time deciding between a few options on the menu.  A couple people at the table went with my alternate selection, the Lamb Dip.  It was described as slow roasted leg of lamb on a house made bun with au jus and horseradish sauce.  It was DELISH!

But the whole table shut down when we tried my choice, the braised lamb shank.  One other coworker got it with the peppers.

Mine, obviously, was peppers-less.  And this was a show stopper.  It came with fried eggplant, labne, and mint.  It was OHMYGODINEEDTOHAVETHISAGAINRIGHTNOW amazing.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it.  The lamb was perfectly gamey without being too overpowering, and it was tender in an amazing sauce.  Wow.  I want to flash back and eat this all over again.

Our dessert selections covered most of the dessert menu.

Two coworkers were adventurous and got the Ashta, which is traditional Lebanese clotted cream with orange blossom simple syrup and bananas.  The clotted cream wasn’t bad, but I found the orange blossom syrup WAY too overpowering (like chewing on a plant) and the guys REALLY didn’t like it.  It was definitely an interesting flavor, just not our speed.

One coworker got the Awaimat, which is a Lebanese beignet with orange blossom simple syrup.  It was good, but I’m just not a fan of beignets unless they are from Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans.  Also, the orange blossom syrup in this was MUCH less overpowering, so it was much more enjoyable.

I was obviously on an ordering streak, as my Ilili Candy Bar (with chocolate kataifi crunch, pistachio and gif caramel, and chocolate ganache, which was poured over at the table) was FANTASTIC.

It was small but VERY rich.  The coffee with it was an excellent pair.

Overall, I think I can safely say this is the #1 recommendation I would give for Restaurant Week.  What’s even cooler, they have a lunch menu prix fixe all year long that includes a lunch salad or sandwich with a side for $20.  That WOULD be a good deal, but when you can get the above for $24, I have to say… RUN… don’t walk… to Ilili for Restaurant Week.  And the secret isn’t out yet, so you can still snag a reservation for next week.
Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10 (this is a bump up from last time, because it was, dare I say it?  EVEN BETTER with that slow cooked lamb sandwich)

Cookshop

10 Dec

As mentioned in my previous post, after the Dewar’s tasting, we needed food, desperately.  So we went across the street  to Colicchio and Sons.

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They told us to grab seats at the bar and people should be getting up any minute.  We hovered for about 5 minutes before feeling like we were just being plain rude… so I pulled out the iPhone and did some OpenTable-ing for the neighborhood.

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When I saw Cookshop (on 10th Ave and 20th Street) had a reservation open for 4 just 20 minutes later, we were out of there.  (Though we all vowed to return)

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We took the 5 minute walk and were seated immediately.

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This place just felt good inside.  Like someone put in a enough effort to make it feel special without making it feel overdone or uninviting.  Unfortunately, it was horribly dark.  Forget taking pictures… we could hardly read the menus!   (Apologies in advance for the overly dark pictures).

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Even though we had just sipped our way through the scotch tasting, we ordered some more drinks to keep the buzz going. We all had a good laugh when we realized that the locations that we had just learned about at the tasting were listed right on our menu.

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We went for mixers, however…

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We started with pizza.  Description sounded good…

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Upskirt was decent…. but it was just okay.

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The highlight was the gnocchi.   It was a special that night and included veal meatballs and brussels sprouts.    It was so perfectly pillowy.  We all mentioned how much we enjoyed this dish.

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Lori ordered what sounded a like a humble dish of eggplant parm.  But when it came out, not only was the portion HUGE, but it was delicious.

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Kevin ordered the “Lamb Three Ways.”  It was good… but not fantastic.

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Mike chose the porchetta, and he was nice enough to share some crispy cracklin’s with the table.  And we were all thankful for that!  It was delicious.

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I got the duck with lentils and squash.  I enjoyed the squash very much, and the duck was pretty good (though I wish the skin was a little crispier).

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We were absolutely game for dessert.

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Lori chose the Chocolate-Raspberry Sundae.  I am not a big sundae person at a restaurant, simply because I always prefer baked goods unless I’m going to an ice cream store specifically.  Lori seemed to agree and said this was just okay.  Nothing special.

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Mike and I both chose the Saigon Cinnamon-Pistachio pudding with a chocolate cookie, salted whipped cream & candied sicilian pistachios.  It sounded PERFECT.  But I found it lacking in flavor… I could hardly taste the pistachio.  Lori LOVED it, however, which is pretty funny since she did NOT like the Milk Bar ice cream with a similar flavor profile and I LOVED it.

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Overall, I thought Cookshop was delicious.   I think this is the kind of place I would prefer for brunch, however, dinner was very good.  I highly recommend the gnocchi!

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

For Lori’s full review, check it out here!

Summer 2010 NYC Restaurant Week Round-Up

28 Jul

I have a tenuous relationship with Restaurant Week.  I’ve reviewed a few places before, and still believe that Restaurant Week in NYC is a great opportunity to fill seats in a restaurant and allow people to try the food at places they ordinarily wouldn’t want to “risk” at full price.  For me, it’s great.  I do a lot of client entertaining at restaurants, and I’d much prefer to have a preview before I risk my good relationships on a bad meal.  Some restaurants, however, just put the cheapest food they can on the menu and skirt by.  I know Restaurant Week is political in NY, but I wish these restaurants just wouldn’t bother.  I try to read reviews about the best places to eat during RW and then provide my reviews so other’s can learn from my successes and mistakes.

So without further ado, here is my round-up for Restaurant Week for Summer 2010 in NYC.  And good news… they just extended the “week” through Labor Day!  So go and find a place to eat a three-course meal: Lunch for $24 and Dinner for $35.  Tell them NYC Nom Nom sent ya. (And don’t forget to tip on the original food price!)

My first RW stop of this season was lunch at Olives (note to Olives: your website sucks) with the lovely Miss Lori (of Stuff I Ate fame). Olives is the Todd English restaurant in the W Union Square.  (Side online media geek rant… Olives: your website sucks.  Todd English: your heavy breathing website is creepy.  W Union Square: Sorry I just cost you and my old Search team a few cents. /rant)

We started with a basket of way too deliciously moist bread with caramelized onions on top.

Which came with olive goo for dipping in. Mmmmm

The posted menu is here(however, ours was a bit different).  Lori and I both chose the beet salad to start. I have had a good deal of beet salads in recent years, and this was hands down the best one I have ever had.  I would eat this over pizza.  It was absolutely perfectly seasoned, sweet, and the braised pistachios were TO. DIE. FOR.  Wow.  I just want to go back for this salad.  Immediately.

I first chose two other entrees on the menu before I settled on the ravioli.  It was a sad moment, as BOTH entrees had peppers that couldn’t be taken out.  So I settled for the raviolis.

And if you get “stuck” with raviolis, these are pretty damn good ones to get stuck with.  Not the best, but quite delicious and totally satisfying.  The peas were perfectly cooked.

Lori chose the trout (which seems to NOT be on the menu that is posted) which had cherries (damn I love cherries), beans, and bacon.  This is what I REALLY wanted but it had jalapenos.  Damn.  Since I couldn’t even sneak a taste due to my allergy, her full review is here.

And then came the desserts… we decided to each get one of the pana cottas.  The first was a buttermilk custard with wild Maine blueberries and things that we kept commenting tasted just like Kix.  Turns out, that is exactly what they were!  It was pretty good… but nothing to write home about.

The second pana cotta was a bittersweet chocolate with shaved brownie, cocoa puffs, and white chocolate fudge.  What they FAILED to mention was the watermelon sorbet.  It was so damn good that we each contemplated accidentally tripping and falling (mouth first) into our neighbor’s plates as their desserts came out.  This sorbet is the stuff that dreams are made of.

Overall, I was very impressed with Olives.  I’ve had apps and drinks there before and I’ve never been dissapointed.  I hear the regular dinner menu has AMAZING pasta.  Totally worth it.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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Our next restaurant of the season was Ilili.  This came as a recommendation and seemed especially enticing since they offered a free pour of Lebanese wine during the two original weeks of RW (thanks for the tip Wined and Dined!)  

Even though we got a free taste of wine, I saw a cocktail on the menu that I couldn’t resist.  It had tequila, mulberry syrup, and lime.  It was quite enjoyable.  And obvious QUITE strong… the pictures for the rest of the Ilili post are terribly out of focus.  Apologies in advance.

Their Restaurant Week menu is here.  (They also offer a Dinner special for $39 every Sunday – Wednesday that is similar to the RW menu was. It doesn’t appear that they are officially participating in the extended Restaurant Week, but this was a steal even for an extra $4!)

We went to Ilili with our friends Josh and Lillian, and what is so much fun about Ilili’s menu is that there is just SO much to choose from so we each chose 2 small plates, 1 entree, and 1 dessert and then sampled around the table.  I love friends who share their food!

First up was the green beans with date molasses garlic whip, sesame seeds, and pickled pearl onions.  Delish!

Then there was the insanely creamy hummus…

…That came with well inflated pita.

We also got artichokes (which aren’t on the current, year-long menu).  I hear they were good, but they were spicy so I had to do without.  Poo.

We tried the Mekanek, which was lamb sausage sauteed with olive oil with lemon and pine nuts.  Tasty.

And the steak tartar that came shaped like a meatball.  I prefer my tartar less reminiscent of raw meat I cook with… but at least it tasted good! (And yes… I stuck to the far side of the plate below)

I ordered the lamb meatballs with onions and pine nuts in a tomato sauce.  These were so good and lamb-y! MMmmmm

Our last “app”/small plate was the lamb ribs with burned strawberry, scallions a la plancha, cuin, and aleppo broth.  I REALY wanted to try this (burned strawberry just sounded interesting) but, turns out, the aleppo broth took me out of contention.  Lillian said it was good though!

Josh chose the braised rabbit with eggplant, romano beans, and roasted heirloom tomatoes.  (Right Josh? Man I hope that’s right…)  He liked it whatever it was!

Mike chose the Chicken Shish Taouk which was marinated in lemon and garlic on a spiced pita.  He enjoyed thoroughly.

Lillian chose the striped bass with a ragout of clams and herbs, kouzbara toast, and lemon espuma.  It was deliciously tender and juicy.

In my humble opinion, my entree was the best.  It was the lamb and plum stew with crispy vermicelli.  It helps that lamb and plums are 2 of my favorite foods.  The meat just fell apart on my fork and the tastes were effortlessly elaborate.  I loved it.  Love love loved it.

The desserts were plentiful.  First up was the Ilili Candy Bar that came with chocolate kataifi crunch, chocolate ganache, pistachio and fig caramel and finished with warm chocolate sauce (table side).  I’m not sure why it was called a candy bar, but it was delicious and decadent.

Josh chose the homemade Lebanese ice cream.  I’m not sure what kind it was… but he enjoyed it from what I could tell.

Lillian got the Ashta which is traditional Lebanese clotted cream with orange blossom simple syrup.  This was tasty, but not as rich as I like my desserts. (I’m a glutton for chocolate).

Overall, I was incredibly impressed with Ilili.  Not only was there a lot of food and a lot to choose from for a typical Restaurant Week menu, but they do a similar special all year long AND the food was spectacular.  Not a bad dish on the table.  I will do work lunches and dinners here.  It was that good.

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

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After reading some reviews, Mike and I chose to do a RW dinner at Park Avenue Summer (which also doesn’t appear to be on the extended RW list).  They change the menu and decor for each season.

Our bread basket was concerning, as while the biscuits looked delicious, they also looked like they could have potential inclusion of peppers (and as we all know, jalapeno peppers ARE in fact peppers).

Luckily, they read my mind and included a descriptive card about the breads! (and the Summer Corn Roll was tasty).

 

We started with a chef’s treat of watermelon pieces on a stick.  Good… but if you are just going to serve watermelon on a stick, it had better be VERY good watermelon.  It wasn’t.  Just okay.  I’m hard to impress with watermelon though.

The restaurant was VERY dark (even leading an old lady to block the stairs as we went to our seats to allow her “eyes to adjust”) so the pictures are not great.  Sorry!

Here was the menu.

Mike started a dish that isn’t on the posted menu (my memory isn’t good enough for this!)  I have no recollection of this… hmmm…

I got the salmon tartar and this was REALLY good.  Impressive citrus flavor that perfectly balanced the fish.

Mike got the Dr. Pepper Baby Back Ribs for his entree with fresh peach slaw.  He made the right choice.

I went with the roasted chicken with peaches.  It was just… ehh.  The skin wasn’t crispy enough, there was too much sugar in the peach sauce and not enough peaches, and the chicken was a bit dry.  Very disappointing.

We also ordered off the regular menu (in addition to a bottle of wine) and got the fried artichokes.  I was SO disappointed with these.  The breading was so heavy and fried so much that you couldn’t even taste the artichokes.  They tasted like fast food.  Weird and disappointing. 

For dessert, Mike chose two curious flavors of ice cream: sweet corn and carmelized honey.  They were both stupendous but I LOVED the corn. Wow! Like licking cold popcorn flavored deliciousness. 

I went with the Chilled Banana Parfait with Chocolate Crumbs & Banana Butterscotch Puree.  Honestly, I hoped it was something like my insanely delicious Faux Banana Ice Cream, but it was lackluster until I hit the butterscotch, which made it better, but still not GREAT.  Bummer.

Overall, I was pretty disappointed by Park Avenue Summer.  I don’t know if it was the RW menu or if the food was just not what I expected.  Bummer.

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10

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Our last scheduled stop for Restaurant Week was dinner at Perry Street (a Jean Georges restaurant I had heard good things about.  They also seem to not be participating in the RW extension… damn.  But they do have a summer special for lunch ($26) and dinner ($38).

The day before, Mike and I checked out the RW Dinner Menu and were disappointed to see that they only had 2 apps and 2 entrees to choose from (and both entrees included scary words like “spicy” and “ratatouille”).  I called to confirm and asked if they could move us to lunch, which had a MUCH bigger menu (though even with so much selection, I had trouble finding pepperless items).

I really liked the ambiance of the restaurant. 

Even the bar just looked comfortable.

We started with an amuse bouche of cold watermelon soup.  It was tasty but a little too vinegary for me (it burned the throat).

Mikes app was the goat cheese and peach salad.  These were the best peaches I have had all season.  Hands down.  I want to know where they source them from.  This is how peaches are meant to be.  Mike enjoyed the crystallized wasabi (and wasabi nuts) but I steered clear (not a fan… reminds me too much of the scary pepper in taste).

I went with the arctic char sashimi with lemon, olive oil, and crispy skin.  It was good, but really was no comparison to the salmon tartar from the week before at Park Avenue Summer.

Mike chose the grilled yellowfin tuna burger. It came with bonito mayonnaise, shiso, and yuzu pickles.  I think it was tasty, but it was a bit hard to get past the fact that this was ground up tuna rather than a tuna steak.

I had the spinach and goat cheese omelet with crunchy potatoes. 

It was good but nothing too special.

For dessert, Mike got the “berry soup.”  It was good, but felt like a cheap alternative to a real dessert.

I went with the chocolate lava cake. 

It was disappointing… especially because the center was pretty well done.  The chocolate was SO bittersweet that even the ice cream (which was tasty) couldn’t quite make up for it.  It was also a bit dry.  It would have been well suited for a berry sauce of some kind.

Overall, I was underwhelmed by Perry Street.  For a name like Jean Georges, I expected more, especially for Restaurant Week.  I don’t know how their regular menu is, but this was just… ehhh.  Another bummer. 

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10

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Restaurant Week Summer 2010 was an overall success since we had TWO great meals. 

Summary: Skip Perry Street and Park Avenue Summer, Hit up Olives and especially Ilili.

Nomming thru Maine: Acadia National Park/Bar Harbor- Part 2

14 Jul

After planning so well for our restaurant stops in Portland, I really didn’t have many foodie plans for Bar Harbor.  We mostly stumbled upon places through the week.

One night we were looking for an early bite, however, most places didn’t open up until after 5:30.  One place we did find that was open was Rupununi

We started with the “empanadas” which were unlike any we had ever had before.  It was described as “Traditional Argentinian style, hand made empanadas stuffed with lobster, roast corn & cheese.”  It was like an empanada went to France and mated with a croissant.  But it was delish.

Mike ordered the Fisherman’s Fried Sampler with scallops, haddock, and Maine shrimp.  I think Mike maxed out on the fried food, however, the scallops were heavenly.  The rest was ehhhh. 

I went with the Lobster Scampi which came with fresh Maine lobster, artichokes, capers, cherry tomatoes, and spinach over linguini.  This was AMAZING!  You don’t see chunks of lobster like this outside of Maine.

Later that evening we were strolling through town and ducked into an ice cream store to buy some fudge.  I was so blown away by the following sign that I just had to try some of this ice cream flavor. (It was actually not half bad, though nothing I’d ever want as more than a taste)

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

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Unfortunately, our stay was very rainy, however, we made it over the Jordan Pond House one rainy afternoon for tea.  The location was a beautiful, old building right on the lake.

Here was the menu:


I went with the tea and popovers.


These were OUTRAGEOUSLY good popovers.

Mike went with the lobstah chowdah.

It looked kinda oily, so I was concerned, however, there were solid chunks of lobster meat that were as big as the bowl’s circumference.  And the taste was just sensational.

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10 (for the afternoon tea anyway)

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On one of our last evenings in Bar Harbor, Mike and I went to Reel Pizza Cinerama, which is a movie theater that serves pizza (that smelled AMAZING) and had couches and little tables in front of seats to eat from.  We just had the beer.  It was a fun experience!

For dinner, we took a TripAdvisor recommendation and tried out Cafe This Way.  

I appreciated the design aesthetic on the ceiling.

The bread came out and smelled delicious. (It was fair)

We ordered the smoked duck wrapped scallops for an appetizer.  They were pretty good, but it wasn’t quite as ducky or scallopy as I would have hoped for.

We ordered a Pinot Noir while we were there that we enjoyed so much that I took a picture.  Look out for Angeline!

I guess I was on a duck kick and I ordered the roasted duck with spiced pears and blueberry jus.  This dish was dissapointing.  First, there were only 2 little slivers of spiced pear on the plate (with that heaping portion of duck!) and the blueberry jus wasn’t very interesting and the duck just wasn’t as flavorful as I’m used to (perhaps it was the type of duck this restaurant uses?)

Mike chose the grilled lamb sirloin that was served on a goat cheese, cheddar, onion, and jalapeno quesadilla with cilantro mint chimichurri.  I’m pretty sure he declared this just average.  Nothing like the lamb from Fore Street a few nights before.  

Overall, we were pretty disappointed by this place.  Nothing was bad, just underwhelming.

Total Nom Points: 5.5 out of 10


Nomming thru Maine: Portland Day 2

9 Jul

Our day 2 in Portland was planned to be our foodie day.  We booked at 2 restaurants that were well acclaimed across the food world.  Our first stop was for lunch at Five Fifty Five.

They obviously know their audience…


The first thing on the menu that struck my eye was their cinnamon bun.  I think there are few things so indulgent as a stick, cinnamony, fluffy cinnamon bun.  And since my Weight Watchers points were out the window… this was just perfect.

And it was SO. GOOD.

They also served delicious table breads that I believe were current biscuits and little muffins.  They were served with homemade butter. Nom Nom Nom.

Mike ordered the pork sandwich.  This was good but nothing to write home about.

My truffle eggs with a chive popover, however, were out of this world.  I never knew eggs could taste that good.  Usually truffle is just a mild essence, that is sometimes too earthy for even my tastes.  This one, however, was absolutely delightful.

And I do love me some steaming popovers!

I was pretty impressed with this place overall, though I’m not sure if it was a MUST STOP since Mike’s meal was just so-so.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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We had a bit of time to kill between lunch and dinner, so we booked ourselves a craft beer tour through the city courtesy of Maine Foodie Tours.  We started our tour at the Gritty McDuff’s Brewery.

They quickly took us behind the scenes to learn how beer is made.  I found the whole thing pretty awesome (though not quite as awesome as our tour of Mondavi where we learned SO much about how wine is made). It all starts with grain, and the toasting length determines the color and flavor (and the additives, like hops, really determine the flavor profile further).

We got to peer into the giant steel brewing vat to see what beer looks like during fermentation (maybe?)

Our next stop was at Sebago’s beer bar where we got to sample any 4 beers off the menu.  They had a nice display of grains toasted to different colors.

And I enjoyed my camera settings on this one.

Our final stop along the way was at a beer garden called Novare Res.  

The inside was quite cool and there were picnic tables for socializing outside.

They had quite the extensive draught list. I really liked how they put a flavor profile summary next to each one.

We got to sample two beers there.  One was Allagash White, which was good but one we’ve had in multiple places.  The second one was new and it blew my mind.  Marshall Wharf Deep Purple was described as “lager beer with peated malts. ‘smoke on the water.’” It tasted so smoky… almost like bacon… but in a VERY, VERY good way.

The beer tour was excellent and a lot of fun.  It really opened our eyes to how great craft beer is in Maine… we used this knowledge throughout the trip!

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Our last foodie destination scheduled for Portland was the one I was looking forward to the most.  Fore Street was the #1 restaurant that came up whenever I searched for or asked about where to eat in Portland, ME.  

Their kitchen area and ovens are pretty much in the middle of the space and fully exposed (which I love).  

They are big on the farm to table idea and their menu changes to reflect what is freshest at the time.

We were told that the wood oven roasted mussels were heavenly.  They certainly were!  The shells were so brittle that they just cracked away and they were easily the second best mussels I have ever had (after our epic mussel feast at Landmarc in NYC). 

The roast cauliflower was perfect cooked as a side.

Mike chose the two cuts of Maine Island Lamb (smoked shoulder and turnspit roasted leg) with roasted yukon potatoes.  Mmmm Mmmm this was GREAT!

I chose the pork chop with spice cherry and rhubarb sauce and pickled rhubarb.  I seriously nearly licked this plate clean.

We were epically stuffed, but not too stuffed for dessert!  I believe Mike went with the chocolate peanut butter torte.

And I chose the chocolate cake.  I couldn’t believe how good it was.

The best dessert I have ever had that I just couldn’t finish no matter how hard I tried!

I was actually so stuffed from this meal that I was nearly sick. My body just wasn’t used to eating like that after these last few weeks of dieting and 15 pounds less to stuff the food into!

The meal was sensational, however.

Total Nom points: 8.5 out of 10


Mike’s birthday dinner- Part 1: My kitchen

16 Oct

When I realized I had the day of Mike’s birthday off, I decided that it would become a cooking extravaganza.  I asked him what menu he wanted and he selected something with lamb, a risotto, our infamous brussel sprouts, and homemade chocolate peanut butter CUPS for dessert.

After seeing that the price of lamb on Fresh Direct was absolutely outrageous ($45 for a single piece?! WTF?) I went with the lamb shoulder chop.  It was billed as being just as flavorful and juicy as its more expensive counterparts.  I looked around for recipes for a while and didn’t come up with anything that really jumped out at me.  I picked up a Bon Appetit magazine randomly at the hair salon that morning and, there it was… “Lamb Chops with Pomegranate and Dried Figs.”  Done.  Went to the gourmet food store and had problems finding pomegranate marmalade, so I went with a pomegranate jam instead and hoped for the best.

I decided to go with a mushroom risotto to compliment the other strong flavors and found a recipe that sounded good (see below).  It was a bitch to keep stirring while putting everything else together, but I’ve determined that constant stirring of risotto isn’t necessary after the first few additions of liquid.  Just gotta go back to it often.




This time I wound up making the brussel sprouts with small diced pancetta.  It produced more pancetta grease to brown the brussel sprouts in, however, I missed those big bites of pancetta when we were eating it later.  Next time, I’ll go half big dice half little dice.

The plate came together very well, and all the flavors played nicely against each other.

Dessert is where I started to get creative.  I made the chocolate peanut butter cups in much the same way I make my chocolate peanut butter bars.  I cut cupcake cups in half and then melted down some milk chocolate to fill in the bottom of the cups.  I would take the individual cups out into my hand and spread the chocolate up the sides of the cup to the edge.  To my surprise, it stayed, forming a perfect bowl in the center.  I put these in the fridge to harden.  I then whipped up some peanut butter filling.  For 12 individual cups, I had plenty of filling by combining 1 cup of peanut butter with 1/2 cup of powdered sugar, 2 TBsp butter, and about 1/2 cup of graham cracker crumbs.   I filled these into the hardened chocolate cups then tamped it down on the counter to get a perfectly even surface.  I then melted down some more chocolate and poured this over the peanut butter filling and smoothed it over to the edges.  Back in the fridge and 20 minutes later I had perfect little homemade reeses. It was SO easy and looked so good.  The paper was a wee bit hard to peel off (next time I’ll look for stiffer ones) but it all comes off and tastes so good.  I may give these as little gifts this holiday season.


(Making the cup bottoms)


(Filling the cups with peanut butter than putting on the top layer of chocolate)

This was so easy, in fact, that I felt as though I hadn’t done quite enough for Mike’s birthday.  The back of the chocolate morsels box had a recipe for “brownies that are more like fudge” so I decided to make some bigger peanut butter cups too.  I mixed up a smaller proportion of the brownie mixture and put it into 2 popover pans.  Baked these up and, while they were in the oven, got to making some peanut butter mousse (recipe below).  Once it was all done and the brownies cooled, I cut out the center of the top of the popover in a cone shape and then filled the inside with the peanut butter mousse.  Topped each one with an unwrapped peanut butter cup and v’oila:


(brownies cooked in popover pans)


(one with the center cut out for filling)


(folding together the peanut butter and whipped cream)


What was interesting about the mousse is that it was nice and fluffy and creamy the night I made it, but after refrigerating the leftovers, it definitely thickened and became more the consistency of soft fudge.  Delicious either way! Especially when mixed with some vanilla ice cream!

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RECIPES
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Lamb Chops with Fig and Pomegranate Relish

Ingredients

·      2/3 cup pomegranate seeds

·      1/4 cup diced dried Calimyrna figs

·      1 teaspoon chopped fresh mint

·      1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

·      1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses

·      5 teaspoons olive oil, divided

·      1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, lightly crushed, divided

·      2 5-ounce lamb loin chops or shoulder blade chops

Directions

1.              Mix pomegranate seeds (I omitted), diced figs, fresh mint, balsamic vinegar (good quality), and pomegranate molasses (or jam!) with 3 teaspoons oil, and 1/4 teaspoon cumin in small bowl.

2.               Sprinkle lamb with remaining 1/4 teaspoon cumin, salt, and pepper.

3.               Heat 2 teaspoons oil in medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.

4.               Add lamb; cook to desired doneness, about 5 minutes per side for medium.

5.              Top with relish and serve.

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Gourmet Mushroom Risotto


Ingredients: (I halved this and it was still enough for 3 meals for the 2 of us)

·       6 cups chicken broth, divided

·       3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

·       1 pound portobello mushrooms, thinly sliced

·       1 pound white mushrooms, thinly sliced

·       2 shallots, diced

·       1 1/2 cups Arborio rice

·       1/2 cup dry white wine

·       sea salt to taste

·       freshly ground black pepper to taste

·       3 tablespoons finely chopped chives

·       4 tablespoons butter

·       1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

1. In a saucepan, warm the broth over low heat.

2. Warm 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the mushrooms, and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Remove mushrooms and their liquid, and set aside.

3. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet, and stir in the shallots. Cook 1 minute. Add rice, stirring to coat with oil, about 2 minutes. When the rice has taken on a pale, golden color, pour in wine, stirring constantly until the wine is fully absorbed. Add 1/2 cup broth to the rice, and stir until the broth is absorbed. Continue adding broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring continuously, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente, about 15 to 20 minutes.

4. Remove from heat, and stir in mushrooms with their liquid, butter, chives, and parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Peanut Butter Mousse


Ingredients

·       1 cup creamy peanut butter

·       8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature

·       1 cup powdered sugar

·       1 tablespoon vanilla extract

·       1 cup chilled whipping cream

Directions

  1. Using electric mixer, beat peanut butter and cream cheese in large bowl to blend.
  2. Add powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons vanilla extract and beat until well blended.
  3. Using clean dry beaters, beat 2 cups whipping cream in medium bowl until stiff peaks form
  4. Fold gently into peanut butter mixture in 4 additions