Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Here is a quick word of caution. Let's imagine that you are at home and really do not want to go out to purchase food. Now let's imagine you have all of the ingredients for thai food except the coconut milk, including the delicious canned thai spices. Just to make things even less general, let's also imagine that you've recently announced that you'd like to start 'getting into' dry spices rather than wet sauces and such for some reason that may or may not make sense to yourself. You might think that you should go ahead and make an awesome dry thai dinner right? Well,
DO NOT DO IT.
Last Sunday I made a panang curry as described above and it was so hot that I could hardly eat it.
Let's say you'd never find yourself in that position. I think I have learned another lesson that is even more general. If you are very hungry and you have food in front of you that is very hot, but it's the sort of hot that builds up over time should you: a) get something else to eat, b) go hungry, or c) decide that you can shovel enough into your mouth by the time that it gets unbearable (oh no, spell check isn't on. Apologies now for everything that's probably wrong with this post guys) that you'll no longer be hungry. If you answered c) you're VERY WRONG.
Monday, March 30, 2009
But no, pretty gross. They are, however, really easy to eat, especially when there is nothing else around. So just keep your distance from these sly bastards.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
After much debate, we decided to try out Five Leaves, a tiny little restaurant on the corner of Bedford and Lorimer. It's supposedly "Australian comfort food" (I'll take their word for it) with a nautical theme. Heath Ledger was planning this restaurant with some friends when he died. I feel like anywhere else in the world this would make a restaurant impossible to deal with. But Brooklynites, in all of their knowing nonchalance, keep it on the down low. Everyone knows, but it just doesn't matter.
The first thing that I noticed was the service. In fact, our waiter was so great that the people next to us wanted to leave him a note about it. The drink prices are reasonable; glasses of wine between $6 and $10 and cocktails for $9. Pretty standard. Casey sipped a pomegranate martini, while I had a glass of sparkling wine (delicious).
We shared the cheese plate, which the menu describes as "pont l'eveque, cashel bleu, humbolt fog, brin d’amour served with grilled fruit & nut bread". The waiter was kind enough to explain the different cheeses, which was an excellent gesture. The plate also included dates (which unfortunately are disgusting), a long strip of lavosh, and what I believe was celery root. All nice touches. The cheeses themselves were delicious, each one worth trying and savoring. While I prefer D.O.C.'s presentation and ability to customize, Five Leaves turns out a pretty solid cheese plate! I'd like to come back here for lunch - the grilled vegetable sandwich sounds delicious.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Please don't actually call me a recessionista though.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Friday, March 20, 2009
I was inspired to write this post by my friend T's Google Chat status message, which contained a link to Mark Kurlansky's new book about food history and the way Americans ate before chain restaurants and other modern "conveniences" obliterated the idea of seasonal eating.
I would have loved to create a longer post about this, but I'm kind of on a time crunch considering my upcoming trip to Sicily, which I leave for tomorrow and which I have not yet begun packing for. On the bright side, I'm hoping to get a few great SPF posts out of the trip!
A few books about food that I absolutely adore and would definitely recommend:
*The United States of Arugula: The Sun Dried, Cold Pressed, Dark Roasted, Extra Virgin Story of the American Food Revolution, by David Kamp
*Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, by Anthony Bourdain
*Eat, Drink and Be Gorgeous, by Esther Blum and James Dignan
*What to Drink With What You Eat, by Andrew Dornenburg, Karen Page and Michael Sofronski (reference)
And a few I've been dying to read:
*Omnivore's Dilemma / In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan
*What to Eat, by Marion Nestle (even though I tried to interview her once and she was kind of rude to me)
*Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise, by Ruth Reichl
*The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell, by Mark Kurlansky
*Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser
*A Cook's Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisine, by Anthony Bourdain
*Moveable Feasts, by Sarah Murray
*Art of Simple Food, by Alice Waters (reference)
If anyone has read any of these and would like to comment, or has other food book suggestions, I want to read your comments! Because, you know, I like to READ ABOUT FOOD...
Thursday, March 19, 2009
This is an Alaskan King Crab. Basically, it's a dinosaur. Eating this beast, turns out, is the most horrifying and revolting thing you could imagine.
We spent a few minutes trying to convince ourselves this was acceptable, until my sister compared the meat to a skinned human arm. At this point, we decided to bust out the wine and start de-shelling the crab for future use (although I'm pretty sure none of us will be able to eat seafood again).
Here's the meat:and the shellage:Sooo thanks across-the-street-neighbor, for making my hands smell like sea-monster for the rest of my life.
I don't think K has quite reached a verdict on SC yet, but I would definitely give it more than a few mmms (if we were still "mmm"-ing things, of course). I don't exactly understand where the name originated, but no matter. What DOES matter is that the food is delicious, and the atmosphere isn't too shabby either.
The place is wedged into a cute little block on Sullivan Street, also the home of the adorable V-Bar (a shoutout to my friend A, who worked and often still works there). It's accented with a brick-walled narrow interior, dim lighting, stray Christmas lights and Eastern decor. Totally typical, but still totally cute.
One thing I wasn't impressed with was the service. Our waitress was slow to approach us and take our order, even though there were very few customers. She also seemed bored and almost haughty, although she did kindly provide her opinion when I was torn between the Tempeh Rueben and the Roasted Black Olive Seitan Hero. Unfortunately, she also failed to notice (or at least care) when I pulled one of my classic moves and knocked over K's salad dressing (sorry again, K!). Granted, we didn't ask for napkins (why DIDN'T we do that?) but she was oblivious to the point that she plopped the dessert menu right into the dressing on the table and didn't seem to realize that I was cleaning it off while she was listing the dessert specials in her monotone. Harrumph.
Well, now that my complaints are out of the way, let's move on to the best part of the experience: the food. I ultimately settled on the Roasted Black Olive Seitan at the waitress's recommendation, and I'm happy to report that she finally did something right. Served on a delicious, warm, toasted baguette, my seitan was so heavenly I devoured it before any picture-taking could commence. Olive seitan with Dijon vinaigrette and mixed greens is one of my new favorite things in life, friends, although I wasn't that impressed with the side of slaw. I won't hold that against them though, since I'm pretty underwhelmed by coleslaw generally.
The half-pitcher of sangria we ordered (for only $15!) was also up to snuff and served as a nice prelude to the Johnny's visit we would make later. I tried to entice K into ordering one the desserts, which I've heard are amazing, but somehow she managed to resist yet again. One day, K...
Ultimately, I would say the experience was a good one. My food was great and our bill didn't cause me to have a stroke, so all was well. I would definitely become a repeat customer, if just to try the desserts! And maybe get a picture next time...
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
The food was hearty, the band was heartful, and the make-your-own-bloody mary bar was the answer to all my prayers.
Monday, March 16, 2009
i have a thing about greek salad. i grew up near many great greek restaurants on the gulf coast of florida, and one day i realized that the greek salad from greek islands restaurant (which i can't for the life of me find online) was my favorite food in the world. every time i go home, i have multiple greek salads. but sometimes i need a quick fix in the city.
since leaving florida, i have learned to be less demanding. the best i've found in the city so far is at westville east, whose version includes a bonus slice of bread with goat cheese slathered on it.
tonight, p made a delicious alternative as well! i'm not sure where he got the recipe but it was completely delicious! i would like some more right now, in fact...
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Holy crap guys! Z just made this wonderful asparagus! Thanks Allen Susser. It's a very healthy vegetable that has been covered in three kinds of fat! (Which, I guess, justifies the three exclamation points? Hey, I'm excitable).
*edit* Z: "I totally raped the Allen Susser recipe. More like apologies AS."
The violation apparently included a basil omission, a refusal to freeze the butter (which, eff that, having it hot and as a dipping sauce was good), a frying of the asparagus rather than a grilling, etc. In any case, it was incredible.
If you are a tea drinker, casual or otherwise, or even if you are thinking of trying it out, I have a serious recommendation. Please go buy some loose tea. You might think it is expensive, but if you measure out tea-spoons and make it by the pot, you'll realize that 4oz lasts 4-ever. Both the fragrance and the taste are improved over Loosey's more popular brother Bagged Bullshit.
Then, get to know your varie-teas. There is a lot of variation between the crazy herbal concoctions and the standard white, green, and black (serial comma say what!). Some taste like smokey dirty, for the double breasted suit wearing, pipe smoking, scotch drinker in you; while others taste like rose petals gently floating on the wind for the dandy fruit in you. To say "I don't like tea" is akin to saying "I don't like cheese," it's foolish--in a category that large there has to be something for everyone.
Don't know what's what? That's fine, You should go to a special-tea shop. The crappe you'll get at the grocery isn't really loose tea anyway. You need to get something that's sold in a huge tin that you can smell before you buy it. As a double bonus, you'll have a variety so huge that you'll have to ask the specially trained professional what's what. You'll probably get asked some questions like "do you want caffeine or not?" or "what sort of things do you like to taste?". Then they'll make some recommendations and you can smell them. I'd suggest getting a couple of different sorts in the smallest variety possible to see how they work.
Also, a brief note on caffeine. There are two different shapes of the caffeine molecule. The one in tea is metabolized slower by the body than the one in coffee. This means it is basically a time-released drug that leads to a smoother high. You won't get the great up that I like so much, but that gives people the jitters, and you won't get that horrible crash that makes you wish you were either in bed or drinking more coffee.
Finally: here are a couple of recommendations: tea spot which is just south of Washington Square or my favorite Sympathy for the kettle on St. Marks. They're great because I've left K funny messages about what happens there, they make their own blends (try Dorian Grey ... it's an earl grey with lavender and it's amazing!), and they have some pretty awesome tea serving toys.
1. About once a month Z and I succumb to the urge to get Pillsbury pastries--either biscuits or croissants. I'm not sure why, maybe it's the ease, or maybe it's that obviously artificial buttery warm gooey chewy quality. In any case, when we do the latter, I like to place a little bit of cheddar in the triangles before I roll them up. Maybe you would too?
3. Warm Tasty Nuts. So, we needed to get some unsalted cashews a while back for a Chinese recipe we were cooking. As a result of this I discovered that unsalted cashews, by themselves, are terrible. The other day I hadn't eaten and my body wanted some kind of protein, but it also did not want to go outside. The solution was to roast my own cashews in some salt, paprika, and pepper. The result, as noted above, was some warm tasty nuts. They could have been better, and I'll mess around with the spices, but this is a fun thing to do that takes 3 minutes, seems like a fancy treat, and makes almost zero dishes (the small egg pan rinses pretty quickly)
2. Simple sauces. I liked those nuts so much that I decided to expand the idea to oil. I don't have any fancy glass bottles with spouts into which I can place things that I would like to infuse my table oils with, but I thought, heat speeds up molecule motion, maybe it'll speed up infusion. Well, no I didn't, I just typed it there, and I think it sounds kind of dumb. Anyway, I wanted to have a simple linguine with oil dish so I crushed some garlic (I didn't feel like chopping it) and threw it along with some red hot pepper flakes into a small pan with a bit of heated olive oil. After maybe 2-3 min. and a bit of stirring I poured just the oil over some pre-cooked noodles. It was a lot tastier than just plain oil!
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Yep. I dig his vibe. Thanks to Eric for this one!
Friday, March 13, 2009
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
I was apprehensive when she suggested a Japanese restaurant because I had already eaten Japanese food twice in the past week (at Watawa and Miyako). However, a quick perusal of the menu immediately piqued my interest. The food choices were nothing like what I expected from a Japanese restaurant. The owners must have found a very specific niche, because none of the reviews I read seemed to include a universal description of the type of food they serve. Japanese/Sushi, Home-cooked, American Comfort Food, Coffeehouse, Dessert/Ice Cream, and Cafe are just a few of the ways reviewers and Web sites have described the cuisine.
I decided that I wouldn't try to understand it. I was intriuged, and I was ready to see for myself what this place was all about. The entire space is a moderately spacious box that resembles a coffee shop and a living room at the same time. A few small, two-seater tables are set up near the front windows, and a massive bookshelf takes up the wall to the right of the entrance. I immediately noticed that the shelves are crammed with manga, but I read in a New York magazine profile that there are fashion magazines and other publications available to customers as well. Artwork, some of it in the anime style, covers the walls. There are two large couches that appear to be leather facing each other in front of the long diner-style counter dotted with bar stools. The whole place just creates a great vibe as soon as you walk in the door.
Feeling immediately comfy and quite at home, I get cracking on deciding what to order. After a brief flirtation with the idea of Neapolitan Spaghetti (with japanese sausage and veggies cooked in ketchup), I took R's recommendation to order the Ham Gratin with Macaroni. To start out, we requested an order of gyozas to split.
While we were waiting on our food, we received complimentary salad in small glass bowls, which I insisted on eating with chopsticks. Topped with some sort of tangy, vinegar-based sauce or dressing, it was actually quite amazing. I'm not much of a salad girl, but I ate my entire portion. Empty salad bowls aren't very common for me!
The gyozas, which I think were vegetarian, actually turned out to be fantastic (as you can probably guess from the photo). Gyozas are often hit or miss, and although I'm not quite sure what was in this particular type of gyoza (maybe the descriptions on the Hiroko's menu need a little help...), they were some of the best I've ever had. I barely stopped to breath between bites, which isn't anything new, but it's still important to note.
Although the name of my main dish turned out to be slightly misleading (unless "macaroni" now actually means "penne"), it was nonethless delicious. The penne was served in a pretty dreamy cream sauce and was mixed not only with ham but also broccoli, cauliflower and other assorted veggies. Served in a skillet reminiscent of S'Mac and looking very similar with a crusty cheese topping, this dish was heaven. Besides, the portion cost only $11 and I couldn't even put it all away.
I was assured by R that the desserts are also very good, but I was unable to cram even one more morsel into my mouth. However, I can't wait to go back! K would probably not appreciate the fact that it took them YEARS to bring our check (we had to ask for it) but anyone looking for a place to linger over dinner in a cozy atmosphere won't be disappointed. Weird, yummy comfort food at its finest!
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Monday, March 9, 2009
Blackbird has a laid-back vibe that is perfectly suited to nursing a cup of coffee, (s)pot of tea, or glass of wine. Today I was pleasantly surprised to discover that they offer a fairly impressive brunch menu as well, with a charming selection of sandwiches, frittatas, and salads. There are also plenty of snackier options, and the requisite mimosa/bloody mary offering.
And now, the service. It's not that Blackbird has bad service. You sit down, they bring you a menu. They are pretty on top of that. Once you order, the food & drink is quick to come. After you ask for your check, you get your check. I guess that is really all you can ask. Just do not expect to doted upon. I don't believe any of my servers there have ever said more that 5 words to me, and they all seem to avoid eye contact at all costs. But really, when you think about it, is this any reason to cry foul?
Nah! All things considered, Blackbird is a great little spot in a super-convenient location with a pleasant ambience and satisfying menu. And if I was working there on a monday afternoon, I probably wouldn't want to talk to anyone who was having brunch on a monday afternoon either.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Dreams came true last night at Miyako. Big ole thank you to everyone who came out last night. We missed you mwr, but someone needed to keep the tradition of someone not going to someone else's birthday thing alive.
I'm not really sure what everyone else had, but my Maki combo (tuna rolls, salmon rolls, & cali rolls) was just great. THEN, they even served me green tea ice cream (not two giant wasabi mounds). Naturally, I was in the bathroom while this happened.
Friday, March 6, 2009
I had often been told that sushi was an acquired taste, so I was apprehensive about that first time. Luckily, I had a single, beautiful experience at the late great Happy Kobe in Athens, Ohio. A friend of mine worked there at the time, and I trusted his judgment about what to feed me. I can't remember what types of rolls I was served that day (I want to say a Dragon Roll with crabmeat, but I could be completely fabricating that information), but I was surprised and delighted to learn that I loved sushi from the very first bite.
That said, I have very specific cravings for sushi. There's no way I could eat it every day, and if someone suggests it when I'm not in the mood for it it's basically the last thing on the planet I want to eat. But if I'm craving it, well, get out of my way. Our love affair runs hot and cold, but it's always simmering somewhere below the surface waiting for its moment in the sun.
After I'd lived in New York for a few months, I woke up one day to realize that I absolutely needed sushi in my life. Immediately. Unfortunately, I had no idea where to go to get some that wouldn't kill me. Somehow, it seemed important to verify that I wouldn't keel over after eating it. I have a vague recollection of Anthony Bourdain's dire warnings about discount sushi in Kitchen Confidential, so that probably has something to do with it as well.
Eventually, I dragged a friend to a Japanese restaurant near Union Square. She'd eaten there before and hadn't died, so I figured it was a pretty safe bet. Unfortunately, the sushi was not the best, and I was still unsatisfied. What to do?
Nothing was to be done, it turned out, until T and her roommate discovered Watawa, a Japanese restaurant on Ditmars Boulevard in Astoria, Queens. I dragged my friend R (who happens to be Japanese) to this cute little place over the summer. From delicious edamame and dumplings to the superb Pauline Roll (recommended by T), I knew I'd found a winner (and a way to satisfy my cravings). Another plus: they deliver to me.
T and I decided yesterday to enjoy some Watawa during The Office, and it turned out to be the best idea ever, as you can see below. In addition, we picked up some cupcakes from the BEST CUPCAKE PLACE EVER, also on Ditmars: Martha's Country Bakery. It will have its own post pretty soon, I promise.
So that's it. This promises to be a Sushi-riffic weekend with Miyako on deck tonight. Delicious!
Pauline Roll: Shrimp tempura inside, topped with crunchy spicy crabmeat.
Not pictured: Edamame, spring rolls, veggie tempura, Martha's cupcakes!
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Monday, March 2, 2009
Sometimes you're poor. Oh let's face it, often times you're poor. Actually, you're always poor, although occasionally you delude yourself into thinking that you're not. Unfortunately those bouts of delusion leave your pallet refined enough to recognize the inferiority of gruel upon which you subsist. I can't solve that problem for you in its entirety, but here's a good first step:
awesome beans and rice! The taste, texture, and even presentation of this dish is such that while you're eating it you can convince yourself you paid $12 for a side of it at a place you read about in New York Magazine. Seriously, and the work that goes into preparing it is minimal.
First: start your rice. 1 cup uncooked. It's easy to stop rice when it's done and fluff it, so just have this going on while you do other things.
Next you should chop everything. Lately I've become a huge fan of doing all of the chopping ahead of time. We have these nice little plastic containers from when we ask for leftovers from awesome thai and they don't warrant an actual sized container. I like to put the chopped things in those. Since they're just full of chopped fresh veggies, a simple rinse is enough to call them clean.
Chopping: 3 cloves garlic (minced!)
1 small onion (I used a medium one!)
1 Bell pepper. Here Elise called for half green and half red for color and taste. I did that once and it was awesome. Last night we used a green pepper and it was really good, but not quite awesome. The red ones cost about three times as much here, though, for some reason.
A brief aside on chopping: I find myself chopping so much these days that I'm looking to improve my technique. I think I've made some good progress. These are the three adjustments I've made if anyone cares. Make sure the skin is on the outside. If you have it at the bottom it might not get severed. When the knife hits the board push it forward ever so slightly to make sure you've got a clean cut. Finally, and this was the most difficult, only move the hand holding the veggie and not the knife hand at all. This slowed me down at first, but after I got used to it I was able to move super quickly without fear of chopping my fingers off, since there is no way to really shove your hand under the knife.
While you were chopping the last thing heat up the oil on your skillet or pan or whatever large flat metal surface you're using. It's so nice to hear that sizzle the second you add something to the pan. Also, it helps to control cooking times since the heat stays constant. This is especially important if you've got some turgid vegetables that you don't want to mushify. Only a very little bit of oil here. Don't go overboard!
Okay so throw on the onions and peppers. If the onions are going to caramelize or the peppers are going to wilt in a couple of minutes then you're too hot -- cool down fast!
When the onions just start to soften up add the garlic for only a minute. I don't know why this is, but several recipes call for this late addition of garlic and a short cooking time. I'm trying to figure out why that is and if I do I'll report my conjectures here.
Then all at once add 2 cans of rinsed and drained black bean
2 tbs white vinegar
some hot sauce or cayenne pepper.
I used more of either of the last ingredient than the recipe calls for, but not a whole lot. You don't want to eliminate the other tastes. You're cooking with fresh ingredients at home after all. One of the reasons restaurants that suck need such good sauces is that they can't keep anything fresh in those disgusting refrigerators that Chef Ramsey is always screaming about. If you're cooking at home with fresh stuff take full advantage!!!
Okay get this stuff up to a boil and then pop a cover on and reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes. I know, boil, what are you talking about, there's only 2 tablespoons of liquid in there! Just do it. You'll know what boil means.
Now the last step: add the rice and a TBS of orgeano. Stir around and then salt/pepper to taste.
Seriously, it sounds like nothing great, but the vinegar/cayenne infusion coupled with some crisp peppers and soft onions is heaven. Also, this makes enough for 2 main dishes and 2 sides, all for under $4. A delicious veggie full protine with some fiber to boot? You can't beat that with a beating stick the size of a Roman village.
first of all, i need to recommend that no one ever try to go to this place without making reservations. fortunately we had them for 2:30, and were seated by about 2:45 (after enduring a lot of 'excuse me' and 'can i get through here?' due to the very narrow space between the entrance and the check-in). although waiting was difficult, we were seated upstairs where it seemed like the service was more easy-going than the ridiculously crowded downstairs.
i've always had reservations about this place because of its brunch special. it is $16 for a meal and three drinks (mimosas, screwdrivers, or bloody marys). it seemed to me that such a place could not possibly offer quality food, as its main draw was obviously its price and drink special.
i was wrong. i had the three eggs any way (scrambled) with tempeh bacon, fruit, mixed greens, and home fries. the tempeh bacon in and of itself was enough to change my mind - long strips of tempeh seasoned perfectly to match the delicious scrambled eggs and greens. paired with the delicious bread-type appetizer we were given (still not sure exactly what it was), it was an unbelievably delicious brunch.
paired with a walk up to union square, and an unsuccessful stint at shopping, essex is an excellent way to start the day.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
1. Last night I made sweet potato risotto which was accompanied by bottle of Perrier Jouet. We had the Grand Brut sort which isn't as expensive as the notorious flower variety. It had one of the nicer smells I've had in a drink in a long time, tasted lovely, bubbled well, and was all around a good thing. This is good news, because the risotto was not so hot. We didn't have any pecans so I subbed cashews instead. I've done it with walnuts to no ill effect, but cashews just made the whole dish too sweet for my scotch loving taste buds.
2. Kendall and I made awesome salad. This salad is amazing and needs its own post, so I'm not going to comment here.
3. Z and I tried a local sushi place that was GOD AWFUL. Never go to the Fresh Pond Road E-chiban (not that anyone ever would). They had a decent sweet potato tempura roll, but anything with fish in it was awful. The salmon skin roll had rather large chunks of salmon attached to the skin. Furthermore, if my tongue was not being deceptive that day, there was an awful lot of mayo in the rolls. I'm not sure if that's an Americanization or an abomination, but I am sure that it's reprehensible either way.