Friday, April 30, 2010
Ryan and I celebrated my official homecoming last night with dinner at Daniel Boulud's DBGB on the Lower East Side. The place fits its location on the Bowery- lots of raw materials- concrete piers in the dining room, and open kitchen, glass front- and the noise certainly gives the place a buzz. The tables are packed in tight- but booths along the side seemed to offer intimacy for some. The scene reminded me of one of the large food halls in paris, where the waiters buzz around as diners, packed in side by side, well, eat. Gives the place a better vibe for groups, parties, and fun, but not for a romantic, quiet dinner. More sceney and hip, less white linen than its big brother Daniel.
The menu had a ton of choices for meat and seafood lovers- and luckily, one vegetarian option for me. I have to admit, I must have either still been eating meat yet when I looked at the menu, or just didn't pay enough attention, but it wasn't until I was sitting there that I realized my options were fairly slim. Probably not the last time that will happen. I guess I could have asked them to turn out a vegetarian version of one of their other dishes, but I spotted a tasty pasta dish to try, so I went with that. It was really very good- a fresh marinara sauce, with onions and ricotta with lemon. Really clean, nice flavors, and it was a nice portion. (I couldn't finish!). I also had the butter lettuce and chive salad, which was as simple as the name suggests, and had a great 'green' spring flavor.
Ryan tried the tuna crudo, which came in nice size squares with a gingery dressing and cilantro. He then had the 2 sausage combo- and selected from maybe 10 different homemade choices. He went with the Beaujolais-which smelled so good I even tried it! You could taste the wine, and whole pieces of bacon, with a nice smoky finish. The second sausage he tried was the DBGB hot dog- which basically was the finest quality hot dog we've ever come across, garlicky and smokey. It tasted like it came off a camp fire. With a dash of the dijon mustard, nice and spicy- it was delish.
Unfortunately, we just didn't have the appetite to try one of the featured desserts- home made ice cream sundaes. But holy moses they looked good, and I sorta regret not forcing one down.
DBGB is also known for its beer menu, a large variety is on tap, and ryan tried one with his sausages that he really enjoyed.
Before dinner, We popped into this cute looking little wine bar- Quartino. They only serve organic wines, with selections mainly from italy and france. Each serving is a quartino (hence the name). I tried a white falanghina from Italy, and Ryan had a Barbera D'alba from Italy as well. Both were quite nice. I liked the romantic atmosphere and soft light! I'd pop in for a glass sometime again!
Monday, April 26, 2010
One of my all-time favorite irish classics, a good potato and leek soup just smells and tastes... good. Before the summer came on full force, I wanted to sneak this recipe in. I adapted mine from a combination of a recipe in the joy of cooking, dean & deluca's recipe for vichyssoise, and my own tastes. It's easy enough to take this heartier version and turn it into many different forms! Enjoy!!
1 and 1/4 pound potatoes
*I like red baby creamers or a mix of purple, white and red, and I keep the skins on. Roughly chop. Place in cold water in a bowl and let soak.
2-3 large leeks, white parts only
*make sure you clean these well. Chop off the green stalks. The best way to get the grit is to split them lengthwise and spread out the layers under a running tap. Chop into thin slices.
1 onion- I used half of a red and half of a white, but any combo will do. Cut thin.
3 cloves of garlic- minced
half a stick of butter
1 quart chicken stock (I used "organic free range")
salt and pepper
1 cup milk (more to taste)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1. Melt the butter in a deep pot over very low heat. Add the leeks, onion, and garlic and let cook down, approximately 45 minutes. Be careful not to let them brown.
2. Turn up the heat to simmer. Add in chicken stock and potatoes. Reserve the soaking water in case you need to thin the soup later. Let potatoes cook until they are super tender, and falling apart. Do not bring the soup to a boil. (If veggies dry out, add in a little bit of the potato water.) I'd say it took a good 40 minutes to get them tender.
*At this point I went to bed and let the soup sit on the stove top over night. Not necessary, but a good long sit never hurt anything.
3. Puree the soup in a blender or by passing through a mill or masher. At this point, you can determine the texture to your taste and intention. I like to keep the soup on the thicker side, with actual bites of potato as well, and so I only roughly puree about 3/4 of the soup. If you want to turn this into vichyssoise or make into a more delicate version, then go ahead and puree finely the whole batch, and strain the liquid from the puree and reserve in separate bowls.
4. Also, if you like, you can leave the soup sans the milk and cream, and simply serve at this point.
For a 'cream of potato and leek" or vichysoisse:
If chilling or creaming, bring the cup of milk and the cup of cream to a bowl and simmer for a few minutes. Add in slowly to soup, adjusting for desired consistency and creaminess. You will want/need more milk and cream if you want it nice and thick- up to 3 cups milk and 1 cup cream. Same for vichyssoise, you will need to mix the milk with the puree and strain one more time, and then chill and serve the liquid portion.
Salt and pepper the finished soup to taste, and cut fresh chives as a garnish. Serve with a slice of hearty bread, and enjoy!!
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Ryan and I came back here for dinner a few nights ago. We've had some nice evenings here in the past, and some memorable food. On one of our first visits, a long wait prompted us to sit at the bar, have a few glasses of wine, and nosh on some olives. I have had a pork entree here that was amazing, and most memorable perhaps was a frisee salad with a gorgonzola foam- The whipped, light blue flavor and the tart greens was really memorable.
This past visit, I ordered the vegetarian tagine- which was spot on. Sometimes I find restaurants have a tendency to overcomplicate the flavors, but they went french classic, and really respected the veggies. Tender zucchini, mushrooms, carrots, green beans, and garbanzo beans in a tomato broth, with very simple couscous beneath it. It made for a really nice, almost soupy, taste, and great comfort food for a vegetarian gal.
Ry ordered the lamb, which he said was really flavorful, and it was served with some marinated mushrooms, a whole roasted head of garlic, and fingerling potatoes. Great and savory.
They also have a good burger, and a dollar or so cheaper than some of the other neighborhood joints.
We've come here time and again, and have always enjoyed the food!
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Ryan & I were having fun the other night thinking of the ten "grocery store" processed foods we just can't live without- and if we were moving to fresh-food-only island (serviced by fresh direct, of course), would just have to pack in our bags. What's your 10? Our goal is to try and phase out all other processed foods- yup, hopefully soon we will make our own dressings, breads, pastas, marinades, etc, but these 10 are forever in our hearts (and bellies!)
1. Aunt Jemima's Maple Syrup
AKA pure High Fructose Corn Syrup!! We both agree that we've been spoiled by the fake stuff, and find the real stuff just not sweet enough- and a little medicine-y. Call us low-class pancake eaters if you will, but Aunt J isn't going anywhere.
2. Ryan & I split on the one soda we would bring- He went for classic coke, and I opted for Mr. Pibb. Although both of us prefer fountain soda to cans and bottles anyway, We'd just have to make do...
Again, we couldn't quite agree, so I went with Reese's and Ry chose snickers.
4. Peanut Butter!
Despite trying several other nut butters and the stuff that tastes like peanut cardboard, we still stick by skippy. Though we now like and buy their "All Natural" brand, I still suspect there is some chemical goodness at work in this jar....
5. Pillsbury Cinnamon Buns
Requires almost no description, though I was tempted to go with pillsbury frosting- but since I'm not bringing the cupcake mix, seemed silly. Buns it is.
Yup, I like my ketchup with sugar in it too, and just can't seem to get a taste for homemade styles.
These bad boys are our all-time favs, Call us Homer.... Should be banned from the state, quite frankly.
How can anyone drink hot cocoa without it? Fluff 'n nutters are just soooo good, couldn't leave this total non-food behind.
So what if there are no identifiable ingredients? These cookies just feel good, and taste great. I like to dip them in my tea....
10. So far, all other items we both consume, but perhaps share a stronger preference for one brand over the other. But for our tenth items- there is no overlap. We're both pretty grossed out by the other's choice...
Sugary Cereal (All Ryan)
Coconut candies (allllll me)
And last but not least, a shout out to Instant Mashed Potatoes, which makes shepherd's pie taste oh-so-good, but just didn't quite make the boat. Alas, like unicorns, Hungry Jack must be left behind to drown in the sea of processed foods...
Friday, April 23, 2010
So, I've never found a homemade baked ziti that I really loved. Too much ricotta, and that whole egg thing, and just not enough sauce, or flavor for that matter. Ryan and I have gone through several recipes, to no real pleasure. The pinnacle of our adoration, however, is Sal's Pizza's version, which is super saucy, super cheesy, and just really damn good. Here was our latest- and first truly successful attempt at replication:
Baked Ziti a la Sal's:
1 Box ziti or penne
1 bag shredded mozzarella
half a ball of mozzarella
1 small container ricotta
parmesan and pecorino for grating
homemade pasta sauce (see our recipe)- large amount
tomato paste- to thicken sauce
red wine- for sauce
2 fresh garlic cloves, finely chopped
-Boil and drain the pasta. Place a layer of pasta, then top with shredded mozzarella, grated parmesan and pecorino, pour in sauce, and place dollops of ricotta. Salt and pepper generously, sprinkle with oregano.
-Add another layer, repeating procedure.
-On top layer, add slices of mozzarella along with all other cheeses, and sprinkle garlic into cheese.
Bake @ 350 for approx 35 minutes, until cheese begins to brown!!
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Buenos dias. One thing I love is mexican-style breakfast. So today, I present eggs three ways!
Scramble the eggs with a splash of water. Add in the veggies, serve on tortillas!
-red 'ranchero' sauce or salsa
tomato, onion, garlic, cilantro, chiles, chili powder. Mix in pan, let simmer.
Layer the tortilla, then the eggs, and spoon the sauce/salsa on top.
-pieces of hard corn tortilla
Mix all ingredients into scrambled eggs. Top with salsa.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
An interesting article in this week's times magazine (one of many- the entire issue is devoted to health & wellness, with food and exercise featured) asked how we handle the paradox of telling our daughters both that they are beautiful the way they are, and that they need to "watch their size" for their health?
I don't have a daughter of my own, but as a teacher (and wellness.... advocate?) I have thought about this a lot in regards to my female students. 40% of our girls in grades 1-5 report being on some type of diet- these are girls between the ages of 6 and 10- and they are dieting, and this trend continues right into adulthood, when today, 50% of American women are on a diet at all times.
As disturbing as this is, it is perhaps even more so to realize that depending on race, between 30-40% of our girls under 19 are overweight. 17% are obese.
To say our food habits with our children- and ourselves-are disordered is an understatement.
I don't have easy answers- but I think it might start by telling our girls the following messages:
1. You don't need a thinner body, you need a healthier, stronger body. And we can ALL, forever, work toward that goal, regardless of where we begin.
2. You do not need to go on a diet, you need to change your diet, and be aware of what you eat and how it makes you feel.
These are the new rules I've been living by, and these are rules that I do not feel conflict. When I eat well, I feel good about myself. When I work out, I feel healthy and strong. I might always have some wobbly bits- that's just who I am. I am never going to be 5'11 and weigh 117 lbs (the average model height and weight)- but then again, neither will the other 98% of all women. Short of being stretched on a rack, those extra 7 inches in height just aren't coming my way. But I can do pushups, I can run for about 10 minutes straight- and I can twist myself into one sexy little pretzel. I'd like to do more. I want our daughters and students to see role models living in a new reality, where healthy is beautiful. I want moms, and friends, and aunties- to sell a new message of womanhood.
We joined the Williamsburg-Greenpoint CSA!! What is so exciting about this? We will now get farm-fresh, picked-that-morning vegetables, fruit, eggs, and flowers every other week for the next 6 months! Beginning in mid-june and going all the way to Thanksgiving, we will be feasting on fresh foods. And all for only $22 a week. I am sooo excited! I am dreaming of produce :)
Check ours out at:
Saturday, April 17, 2010
Cheers is our local thai spot. The decor leaves a bit to be desired, though they do have a backyard... We opt for take-out. The food is phenomenal. Now, a lot of folks come all the way to Williamsburg to check out SEA, our other thai restaurant- but for me, Cheers beats SEA hands down, though I do occasionally venture to SEA, too. A play-by-play:
SEA: Super chic, but looking a little worn?
Cheers: no wait, 10-15 minutes for food
SEA: 1 to 2 hours on popular nights, total madhouse, we prefer lunchtime!
Cheers: the spring rolls are amazing. They are always fresh, lightly fried, and super tasty. Love the plum sauce.
SEA: the spring rolls are tasty here too! I also like their version of Thom Ka Khai- a coconut soup with galangal and cilantro.
Cheers: Favorite for Ryan- Chicken Panang Curry. A red creamy, spicy coconut curry with red pepper. Me: Green vegetable curry with tofu- spicy coconut curry with eggplant, zucchini, green beans, and carrots.
SEA: I love one of their specials, "Rama the King". A mixture of red curry and peanut sauce! SO yummy.
With a cup of jasmine tea, I'm in heaven!
Friday, April 16, 2010
So last night I was very very brave- and tried grilled fish. It might not sound that crazy, but you have to understand that I'm one of those... bread it & fry it or for god's sake at least put some hot sauce on it-type fish eaters. In other words... I generally like to cloak my fish in other flavors, so going for the grill was a big leap. My beloved worked very hard to make a tasty treat, and I must say, the raw ingredients got me pretty excited. Garlic, extra virgin olive oil, fresh rosemary, red bell pepper....and then he pulled out the fish, which I did not love the smell of as much. (I'm trying!) BUT I have to say, the final product was extremely tasty!
Cod or other white fish filet
fresh sprigs of rosemary (dill)
extra virgin olive oil
red bell pepper (cherry tomato)
salt & pepper
In a tinfoil pouch, mix together all the goodness. Grill for about 15 minutes.
Serve with haricot verts and red new potatoes!!
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Tonight Ry & I went to our favorite Indian Restaurant, Banjara. "Loyalty" is not the right word for how we feel about this place- as far as we're concerned, you could close pretty much every other indian restaurant in town. Yup, that into it. We've been coming here for a solid 5 years, pretty much since I left the UWS and the Indian Cafe by Columbia. Never had a bad meal! We make a pilgrimage here now probably every 2-3 months, although we tend to go more as the weather improves...
What we love: the vegetable samosas and the mint chutney. YES.
Ryan: Murg tikka masala- which is a creamy version of the classic. White meat chicken in a tomato/cream based sauce that is not spicy, but very flavorful.. and a side its of naan to dip in the sauce.
Me: Chicken or Vegetable vindaloo, as hot as they are willing to make it for a white chick. Usually they look to Ryan for permission/confirmation that I am not insane. Oh man, over the basmati rice, with a little raita and naan....so good.
A Taj Mahal beer for Ryan to boot, and the meal is complete.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Continuing my trend of throwing together food from what is in the fridge.....
A different type of 'potato' salad!
french green beans ('haricot verts')
(Possible add-ins: cheese, fresh herbs)
Splash o' dressing= delish!
salt & pepper
Proof that simple can taste great!
Saturday, April 10, 2010
I've been eating at Dumont for 6 years now, and have a lot of memories in this Billyburg 'standard'. Back in the day, it was one of the few nicer restaurants off the Lorimer stop, and it had a cute backyard. For our first year here, it was our go to for out-of-town guests if we wanted an 'upscale' bite. I have always been a fan of the salad- well, really, the dressing- its an awesome vinaigrette, and always dressed nice and light, just the way I like a salad. The mixed greens are always fresh, and a little pepper makes this simple and a bite of perfection.
The burger is pretty famous- and though I haven't tasted one in a while, my husband, and good friend Rosalia- swear by them. It's definitely in the top 5. One complaint Ry has is that prices have creeped steadily higher, including the burger, which now runs $14.00 with cheese, and I believe might rise to $15 for bacon. I have always opted for the Dumac and Cheese, which is by far my favorite "creamy" roux-style mac. I don't usually order this out, as it tends to disappoint, but they have it down to a science. A creamy 4-cheese sauce, usually including gruyere, is topped with pancetta and baked until the top is well done. (Ask for well done when you order, you want that nice crisp). It is hard to stop eating it, and it really is the ultimate comfort food.
Over the years, I've tried many of the specials- and I am a big fan of the pastas- usually served in a chicken-broth based something-or-other that is just heavenly. Unfortunately, these menu items have now risen to the $25 price, which I just can't bring myself to order on a weeknight out. Too bad, because I really think this stuff is awesome. If you are here on a special occasion, indulge, and you will not be disappointed. Same goes for the pasta dishes at their sister-restaurant Dressler. Get them. They are phenomenal.
Now, before I forget, they also do brunch here, and the huevos rancheros gets extremely high marks every time.
If only drinks and food weren't quite so pricey, I might still come here on a monthly or bi-monthly basis, as I once did. But these days, the prices have just gotten too high. But, sometimes... You just gotta "do-mont"!
Friday, April 9, 2010
I have been wanting to take Ry to Rye for a while. Like so many places in Williamsburg of late, Rye features old-fashioned cocktails at a beautifully crafted bar and intimate tables. There is no sign outside, but it stands out on an otherwise residential block. The interior features a lot of dark wood and white candles, and the restaurant was quiet enough to enjoy conversation.
There was an odd smell of chlorine and cleaning products right when we walked in that was not appetizing, however, and seemed out of place in a 'classy' joint...
We were seated right away at a great little table for two, in a curve in the booth that afforded a great deal of privacy, and I liked the people-watching view.
The cocktails were tasty and served on silver trays with hand cut ice cubes, a very nice touch. The wine list had several $9 and $10 glasses that were tasty. I tried the beet salad, which was quite good. The beets were sweet, with a creamy goat cheese and with peppery microgreens on top. We both agreed it was refreshing and savory at the same time. On the other hand, Ryan was not as thrilled with his brisket sandwich, which he reported was not very tender, and actually quite tough. For the carnivore he is, it was odd watching him pick meat off his sandwich- practically unheard of. The side of mac and cheese was quite large, and I found it tasty, but not rave-worthy. A bit bland. Overall, we found the food hit or miss. Other items on the menu looked very promising, but I wonder about execution.
After Rye, we headed over to the Huck bar, which is conveniently located just up from our apartment. Again, offering a selection of old-fashioned and crazy cocktails, this bar is a bit pricey, but upscale for the lorimer stop, and with plenty of wines and cocktails to choose from. Ryan first tried some Witches Brew that was strangely smoky, and later an old-fashioned, and I stuck to wine. I like the atmosphere here, and it's usually full but not crowded, a nice balance. The food is cute and a good nosh, but again, be prepared to burn some money. A fun note, they make their own grenadine, and shirley temples here are not just for little girls!!! I've come here once or twice after being out in the city and wanted to keep the fun times rolling while switching to a non-alcoholic beverage, and this was fun!!
Saturday, April 3, 2010
I'd like to take credit for actually taking this picture (for once!) A relatively rare thing on this blog. Anyway, last night Ry & I went on a date to what is probably my all-time favorite spot in all of NYC. Yes, grand praise. We've been coming here for almost as long as we've been dating, and it never ever disappoints. I've brought my mom here, friend after friend from out of town, and my Aunt & Uncle most famously last summer. It rocks everybody's socks, so I hope it rocks yours, too. Why the italian meat and cheese counter? Because it might as well be in italy- the food is imported by the owner, along with the wine, on a weekly basis.
The interior of the restaurant is like a cozy italian kitchen, but we prefer to go when the weather is nice and sit outside. The wine menu is extensive and fabulous- ask the owner, (ie the cute bald guy with the killer italian accent), for some recommendations, and be prepared to be blown away (both in taste and quality... and a little less pleasantly in price). Some highlights of past sampling include a fruity, cherry-forward red, and a verdicchio that was neon yellow and had flavors of pineapple. If you are new to italian wine or tend to stick to the boring varieties of pinot grigio (AKA "water") and chianti, then this is a great place to come explore. The menu includes vermentino, verdicchio, montepulciano, nero d'avola, and falanghina, all worthy of your time and taste.
As for the food... wow. As I mentioned previously, the wine is not the only import here. The mozzarella is fresh, soft and salty, with a slightly firmer outer crust. Somehow the tomatoes always taste like summer here, as does the basil. The meat & cheese plate is awesome, and is served with a house-made olive oil and rosemary bread/chip that is addicting. All the fresh, home-made pasta specials and sauces are insanely good, as are the crostini and the salads. I don't think i've ever tried the panini, but I bet they are good too... Even the desserts are delish...
I can only think of 2 complaints. They only take cash (sooooo over this, Brooklyn) and they may or may not charge you your first born child. But hey, after a few glasses- or bottles- of amazing wine, who cares??