April 28, 2006

Itty Bitty Success (or Nothing Rhymes with Anchovy)

Two days ago I decided to take the Itty Bitty Kitchen Handbook ($12.95, Broadway Books) for a spin. The aptly small book by Justin Spring gives advice on small-kitchen management as well as recipes engineered to squeak every last ounce of potential out of your amazingly small kitchen. It's full of useful lists (pots and pans to have, necessary spices, etc.) and occasionally points out the obvious, but Spring is mostly on-target. Though many of his statements are common sense, they serve as reinforcement.

Minimize your "stuff" (this word is offset in the Sand font, which makes it quite ugly and I wish he didn't use it so often) is the book's mantra. Have four place settings instead of 8, only keep the "stuff" you use regularly, etc.

The best part for me was the recipe section. Most often, books aimed at the young and poor crowd make the assumption that we don't want to eat well ("defrosted fish tacos," not from this book, thank god, is not a recipe, it's a nightmare). With recipes like Dried Porcini Mushroom and Barley Soup, Toaster-Oven Chateaubriand, Stovetop Irish Stew, Quiche, and a number of cold dishes, the book does a good job balancing the constraints of an IBK (itty bitty kitchen) with having a developed culinary sensibility.

The first recipe I tried was for pasta with garlic and anchovies.

Pasta with garlic and anchovies (adapted from The Itty Bitty Kitchen Handbook)
Serves 2
Active time: 45 minutes

  • 1/2 lb dried pasta
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • Half of a 2-ounce can of anchovies in oil (reserve oil; see Cooks' note, below)
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • Fresh parsley, finely chopped, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons dried bread crumbs (toasted)
Cook pasta according to package directions.

After adding pasta to boiling water, heat olive oil in an omelet pan over medium heat, and add slivers of garlic. Add anchovies along with half of the reserved oil when garlic looks golden. Cook until anchovies begin to fall apart. Add 1/4 cup water and keep sauce warm until pasta is cooked.

Drain pasta, return it to pot and coat with olive oil sauce. Top with red pepper flakes to taste. Sprinkle bread crumbs on top of the pasta just before serving.

Cook's Note: I was grossed out by the anchovies but I used them anyway. Do not worry about de-boning them, as they disintegrate while cooking.


The speed with which I was able to prepare the dish, about 40 minutes, works well for me. I added about 1/2 pound of sauteed chicken to this recipe and was quite pleased. The anchovies gave the dish a delightful savory taste and it turned out to be quite filling. Next time, I will also add about 5 ounces of wilted fresh spinach and some grated cheese.

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Thanks to In Praise of Sardines, Flickr, for the photo.

April 25, 2006

Dinner (and dessert) in Hipster Heaven

The Diner's Deck saved us $32 last night (before tip). Pretty sweet indeed, if you ask me.

Meg and I went down to the lower east side to take advantage of the free round of cocktails the Diner's Deck was offering in conjunction with their usual $10 discount at Barmarche (or their useful website). We followed our dinner with awesome rice pudding (to alleviate any confusion).

If you're turned-off by hipster-y places, you may as well stop reading. Barmarche was very hipster, though not too much so for my tastes. Dark lighting, dark wood tables, large Versailles-style mirror. It seems practically impossible to get a bad seat (we were seated next to one of the many windows).

We started off with our (delightfully free) cocktails, a Strawberry Fields (rhum clement vsop, cucumber, strawberry) for Meg and a Soul-Glo (starr african rum, ginger blackberries, mango) for me. Meg, as per usual, made the better choice. The Strawberry Fields had a near-perfect balance of sweet and savory, fruit and vegetable. Light and refreshing; the cucumber gave it a vegetal quality that's not often found in drinks. Mine on the other hand flirted with extremes: sweet, sour, and spicy, but went a bit too far in all of those directions.

I got the highly recommended, ecologically unsound, 60-second swordfish, and Meg chose the garlic shredded pork with sweet potato and pepper-Burgundy glaze. The swordfish, which itself was mostly dry and incompletely satisfying, came with a brilliant crushed avocado, jalapeno crème fraiche. The mellowness of the avocado played perfectly with the jalapeno. Meg's garlic shredded pork was practically perfect. Moist with just a little sweetness.

Unless you plan on getting apps or dessert, perhaps at Rice to Riches, as we did, you might leave hungry. It's not as if the servings were tiny, but they were not particularly generous (and I was starved).

Afterward, we went a few blocks down to Rice to Riches, a rice pudding parlor that has achieved, if what I've heard is to be trusted, cult status. Having tasted this rice pudding, I believe that there is substance behind that rumor. The pudding wasn't good, it was incredible. To date, I had never had a rice pudding that didn't make me gag and this delicious creamy rice, the cheesecake and chocolate chip flavored, was smooth, calming and quite pleasant.

To describe the pudding further, it looks like extremely creamy rice pudding. It is mostly dry and maintains its form when scooped, not drippy (gross). The mouthfeel is somewhat similar to cheesecake and the bits of rice are so tender I hardly noticed them. And the flavors are bold and distinctive without being overpowering or overly sweet.

The space itself, very well-lit ultra-modernJapanesee theme, is really out of sync with the rest of the neighborhood, dark and brooding.Hilariouss signs and instructions cover every wall and hang from the ceiling. It's a great place. You should go. Oh, and I found the ultra-small one to be the perfect size. (limited flavors on the teeny one, though. The normal-person small one is nearly enough for two people)

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Thanks to Aarora & bbeukema, flickr, for the photo. Mine continue to suck.

April 24, 2006

Mahimahi with Onions, Capers, and Lemon (Updated!)

Before our saturday night fondu-fest, about the 11th hour, figuratively speaking, an intense desire to prepare fish came over me. I know that it completely destroys my $5/day diet, but sometimes I've got to satisfy the urge. Some picture of a cod dish with sliced lemons was stuck in my head but I couldn't figure out where it came from.

After a quick search of my April Gourmet, I found mahimahi with onions, capers, and lemon and it looked quick, easy and tasty. I'd never cooked with capers before, which was somewhat troubling, but I'm trying to trust chefs and try new things.

After a quick trip to the Associated to get the nonperishables, or at least less-perishables (call me crazy, but I think I'll go elseware for my fish thankyouverymuch), I ended up at the Gourmet Garage. And no mahimahi. They did, however, have a handy chart that showed recommended substitutions which I used to make my selection of Lake Victoria farm-raised red snapper (about $10/lb at 1/2 lb per person).

Upon preparation, I found the capers somewhat difficult to work with. Not in and of themselves, but the act of getting them out of their narrow-mouthed jar while keeping the brine, which I did not need, inside. I felt silly using a knive to scoop the buggers out but it worked, so whatever. They remind me of little olives: slightly briny (when rinsed), tender, pitless, and they impart a delicate taste. I'm a fan.

Overall the dish was a success. The lemon/caper sauce was delicate and the whole thing took about 40 minutes from start to finish. Not crazy about the snapper, though; I think it would have been measurably better with the mahimahi. I need to get a roasting pan.

If you don't have a broiling pan, you need to figure out a way to get heat circulation under the fish. Either roll up pieces of tin foil into logs and put them under the filets, or put them on an oiled cooling rack on top of a pan.

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Tales from the fromagiere

After much research, I have determined that when one is a cheesemonger, the action she performs is monging. And this weekend, I monged...I monged real good.

Because my day job is, how you say, less than satisfying, I decided to find some weekend food work to add to the excitement. Through the magic of craigslist, I discovered the Cheesetique - a cute little independent business in Alexandria. It's run by a young-ish woman who graduated from college with a computer science degree, did that for awhile, then realized she hated it and really wanted to open her own cheese store. Jill Erber, you are officially living the dream.

Anyway, I got to taste a bunch of cheeses and revel in their awesomeness. I'm still working up to the point where I can recommend cheese to people based on their tastes. However, I can still appreciate the cheesey goodness, so here are some highlights:

*Honey Goat cheese (I brought some home with me): a firm but spreadable cheese similar to mascarpone. It has a hint of sweetness and is absolutely purrrrrfect for spreading on your morning toast.

*D'Affinois: A triple cream brie-like cheese (because remember children, we can't get real French brie in the states because of crazy trade regulations) that is just delicious. Very soft and buttery, and even has an edible rind. Also brought a chunk of this home for some grilled cheese & apple sandwiches, which my roommate very much appreciated.

*Cheddar with caramelized onions: I do love me some caramelized onions, and this confirmed said love. If ever there was something to make me like burgers (besides the Shake Shack, of course), it would be the thought of this cheese melted on top.

I also tasted some Tibetan Yak cheese, which tastes about how you think a yak product would taste - hard, green, and...uh, yakky. I guess they can't all be winners.

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April 21, 2006

Tarragon Shallot Egg Salad Sandwiches

After weeks of deliberation and careful planning (read: procrastinating), I've finally made some egg salad. Let me tell you, it was a relief to finally make a Gourmet recipe from epicurious. I get ribbed a lot at work for my recipe choices, but whatever.

Anyway, the Tarragon Shallot Egg Salad salad came out very well. I followed the recipe exactly and can only add a more-exact number on the shallots: 2. Two medium shallots yield, in my experience, about 3 tablespoons (and if it's less, it doesn't matter because the product comes out shalloty enough). In a fit of compliance, I went out and bought the jar of tarragon white wine vinegar; maybe one day I'll try the recipe with normal white wine vinegar, but I doubt that'll be any time soon since I have a whole bottle-minus-two-teaspoons of the stuff.

I really can't stress enough that you should use fresh herbs when possible; they're expensive, but if you cut up the whole bunch, you can easily freeze it and have it on hand for subsequent recipes. Their egg boiling method was quite ingenius; I'd read that cooks should let their eggs warm up to room temperature before boiling to prevent cracks and spillage, but who has time for that? Starting with the cold eggs and cold water is brilliant. The 30-seconds-covered timing thing creeps me out a bit, but I've done it twice and the eggs turned out well both times.

The cost: about $1.25 per sandwich (I get $1.06 but I usually round up...).

NB - my cost estimates are based on a no-waste system. Yes, you have to buy a whole loaf of bread to make the sandwiches, for example, but I assume you don't waste any of it (therefore the cost is deferred).

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April 20, 2006

Al Dente al fresco and SHACK STACK ARTERY ATTACK

"Where do you want to eat"
"It doesn't matter so long as it's outside. Let's just walk [until we find a place]"
amen to that.

Our cabin fever was taken out back and shot last night when Meg and I ate al fresco at Al Dente, a moderately priced 80th st. Italian spot. It had what we were looking for: outdoor seating, open seats, and decent prices.

Because Meg lost her wallet at lunch, we ended up eating like real New Yorkers. Late. Late for us, anyway; it seems like people only start to go out to dinner at 8 here. We usually prefer 7 or slightly earlier when we can. I decided, since I was paying, that we were going to go all out to get our minds off of the day's events (granted, they weighed more heavily on Meg, but I was vicariously distressed): drinks, appetizer, meal, of course, and dessert.

Bellinis were followed by caprese di bufala (fresh buffalo mozzarella with tomatoes, basil, and olive oil). The bellinis were interesting, not entirely my thing, but pleasant, but the caprese was something special. After months of hearing foodies praise buffalo mozzarella this was finally my shot, and it was so worth it. It's hard to describe, but the texture is tender and it tastes like concentrated mozzarella. Mozzarella on crack, basically (in the best possible way).

I made the mistake of telling Meg what I was planning on ordering, homemade saffron fettuccine with shrimp, asparagus, basil, and fresh tomato, and she immediately fell in love with it. And because I can't bear to have people order the same plates, I moved on to my second choice, black linguine with calimari in a mildly spicy tomato sauce. The fettuccini was perhaps the ultimate spring dish and I was happy for Meg. In lieu of sauce, she can correct me here, I think it was just covered with olive oil and a little cheese. Brilliant.

My black linguine, a new thing for me, was interesting. It was more purple than black, was strangely dense, and didn't have too much tensile strength (eg it fell apart too readily for my taste). The dish overall was very good though; the sauce had just a enough red pepper kick on the finish and the calimari were tender.

And we ate everything.

Oh, and I almost forgot, the bread. Before the caprese our waiter brought out two cute pieces of focaccia with olive oil in a crescent-shaped plate. Meg loved the focaccia but it was a bit too bland and chewy for me.

And dessert. Who could resist molten chocolate cake with a scoop of gelato? Certainly not us. It was everything we'd hoped for, but with the gooey chocolate center and delicate Italian ice cream, how couldn't it? It was, I think, my first experience with non-Ciao Bella gelato and I found it thoroughly acceptable. Harder and denser than I was expecting but still light and dreamy. I'll be hitting up the Laboratorio del Gelato (sic) soon, so then I'll know what it's really supposed to be.

Afterward, someone could have rolled us home. I was as full as I'd been in a while. Quite full and appreciative.


I was going to go to the Spotted Pig with Meat Stick tonight (god I wish she would change her name, though it is entertaining to refer to her like that) but considering the wonderful weather we opted for the good ole' Shake Shack instead (they're open till 9p.m. now!). The line was long, probably 50 people or so, but it went quickly. Quite a different experience than in the fall. It used to take a long time to make an order, then a long time to receive your food, now it takes a long time to make your order but your food is almost immediately ready. I'm a fan of speedy service.

The Shack Stack (flickr picture)was a beautiful, wonderful, awful feast on a bun. A shack burger covered by a portabella mushroom burger covered by a shack burger with cheese. A healthy dose of vitamin G (read: grease, not riboflavin) Oh, and there was a piece of lettuce too, and a tomato. The cheese-stuffed mushroom layer was really something else.

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April 19, 2006

Checking in.

Just wanted to drop in for a second and say that I tried the recipe linked in my last post for Salty Oat cookies, here and they were pretty freakin' good. Could use more salt, and I recall the Teaism cookies being more dense, but still, very tasty. Give it a whirl.

Secondly, I was at Tuscarora Mill Restaurant in Leesburg yesterday for a work function, and it was really, really tasty. I mean, okay - catering items like cheese plates and hors d'oeuvres usually aren't that fantastic. But if the quality of Tuskie's (affectionate local name) bacon-wrapped scallops, beef satay, egg rolls, crostini, etc. are any indication of its entree quality, I'm so there. Not to mention it has a pretty awesome wine cellar, although I'm really uncertain exactly what red I had yesterday (the label said something like 2004 cabernet sauvignon shiraz merlot...what?).

And, if any of you are close to one, I love me some Trader Joe's. Organic soaps, good bread, organic shampoo, good cheese...and cashiers who randomly make Wookie noises at each other...I can dig that.

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French Omelets Gone Wild!

I've been in somewhat of an eating slump the past few weeks. When Meghan isn't cooking for me, I've been eating my way through my nonperishables. Lots of pasta. Anyway, eating became much more of a chore than it's ever been. Eating and shopping for food were tiresome. I'm glad that's over.

Last night, I left work at five and sallied forth into the Lower East Side to negotiate the vending of some cheesy commestibles (that is, I went to buy some cheese) from the East Village Cheese Shop. One day I'll be able to get cheese that costs $12 or $15 per pound, but for now I work with the $1 wedges of Brie, Camembert, and whatever else happens to be on sale (Dutch, or Danish, Fontina, as was the case yesterday). With my fontina and herbed Brie, I took advantage of the wonderful weather and walked back to Christopher Square to take the 1 uptown.

On the way, I continued to fret about what the hell I was going to eat for dinner. At this point, I had very little that was in any way appealing: frozen ham steaks from Bill's 14 lb. Smithfield ham, a little pasta, easy mac [it was a gift], bread, peanut butter, and yogurt. Considering I had about 10 ham steaks, I have been somewhat desperate to find interesting ways of preparing them. The difficult part with them, though, is that they're extremely salty. Salty.

Then I flashed back to Meg saying that she loved ham and eggs. I wanted to get eggs for egg salad, so it was perfect. After a quick trip to the Associated, I decided on a french omelet (no milk, just scrambled eggs) with my herbed brie, scallions (also for the egg salad), and the ham. Recipe below:

French Omelet with Herbed Brie, Scallions, and Ham
Serves 1

1 tablespoon butter
2 eggs
4 oz herbed brie, or any soft, creamy cheese, rind removed
1 tablespoon chopped scallions (see Cook's note, below)
4 tablespoons chopped ham (prepared according to package instructions, of course...)

  • Scramble eggs and season with salt and pepper. Even if you don't like salt and pepper, it really does make the eggs taste better. Trust me.
  • Melt butter on small skillet on medium heat until foam subsides.
  • Pour eggs into skillet and pick up edges as they cook to spread out liquid egg mixture. (See Cooks' note, below)
  • Add cheese off center when the omelet begins to look dry.
  • Add ham and scallions on top of the cheese.
  • Fold omelet in half (not really french style, but whatever), and serve on a plate.

Cooks' Notes: The scallions added a nice element to the meal, but would have tasted better caramelized. If you choose to do that, use an additional 1/2 tablespoon of butter and do it before you cook the eggs.
Keep a close watch on the eggs; I've found that milkless french omelets tend to burn more quickly than their milked counterparts.

Oh, and for anyone keeping track, this meal cost about $1.25. $1.50 with salad. Again, no pictures because they turned out gruesome.

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April 12, 2006

A special circle of (my) hell ...

is reserved for people who eat smelly foods in enclosed spaces.

I mean really, could you please save your prepackaged tuna salad until after you leave the subway? Tuna, on occasion, may taste great but the experience is quite different for people around you.

In short, my subway ride home from lunch was mostly nauseating because of the gross bald guy sitting across from me eating his tuna.

Don't do it. That goes for the office too. Doubly so.

April 11, 2006

Yogurt on Sale!!!

I wonder if this is a shameless plug post. Regardless ...

The Gourmet Garage is right around the corner from me and I love their monthly sales. It is, for the uninitiated, an upscale, mostly expensive supermarket. It's the sort of place I go into to ogle, not necessarily buy, the food (unless it's part of the aforementioned monthly sale).

This month they've got Stonyfield Farm yogurt on sale for $.45 per 6-oz container. This price in itself is not phenomenal, but it will give you a break from the Breyers stranglehold on the occasional $.33 cent 8-oz containers that go on sale at the Associated from time to time.

For someone who eats as little as I do, the 2 ounce difference between the breyers and stonyfield made less of a difference than you'd think. I found that the allegedly all natural yogurt (no synthetic growth hormones, according to the packaging), had a pleasing taste and texture. Fruit-on-bottom yogurt and I have an on-again, off-again relationship, though it's mostly exploitation on their part because I can only seem to find FoB yogurt on sale.

The stonyfield texture is thick and creamy (and can get lumpy if you don't stir it enough. Stir it a lot) and the 6 ounces stuck with me for the long haul (10 am to 1:30 p.m.). The fruit is, for lack of better wording, real-tasting. Neither too sugary nor too soggy.

Though I am not a strict follower, stonyfield products would fit into the 100 mile diet that I read about somewhere (eating food that came from within 100 miles of where you are). Bottom line: It tastes good, it's inexpensive, it's [somewhat] locally made. Eat it and you will love it. The Gourmet Garage sale goes through the end of the April.

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April 10, 2006

Tea and Cheese or Death! Tea and Cheese or Death!

Cheese and I have a glorious and erratic relationship. I love it in all its forms...squishy, stinky, pre-processed, aged 10 years, shredded, grated, melted, mixed with garlic and herbs...

However, it unfortunately doesn't always return my adoration. Y'know. Lactose intolerance and all that. (Damn my Asian-ness and its genetic shortcomings in the area of spoilt milk products!)

Regardless, I had a point. And my point was that Skip likes wine. And I like cheese. And you should try both together. Which is why Skip should follow this post with an appropriate set of pairings, whereas let me tell you, the Vienna/Herndon locations of Great Harvest have an absolutely amazing Guinness and Gouda bread, which you really need to try because I'm all for cheese and beer.

Moving on! I realize it can be difficult to acquire delicious cheeses when you're out in the boonies. Fortunately, your bloggers here at theGourmetro are urban-suburban creatures from the East coast, gifted with a wide variety of food-shopping options. And so, a primer on what those of you in less gourmand-filled areas are missing (most of these are available at Wegman's, Whole Foods, or even your friendly local Giant for Washingtonians. Unless otherwise noted. And of course, for the diehard fromagephile, Cheese Supply.

I may not be a true connoisseur (yet), but that don't mean I don't know what's tasty. :P

PARRANO: Parmesany/Gouda-esque cheese, nice salty, nutty thing going on.

OLD AMSTERDAM GOUDA: Aged 2 years. Please pass the Guinness.

PRIMADONNA GOUDA: Aged 3 years. I think this calls for a Cabernet? I'm making this up out of whole cloth. WHAT SHOULD I BE DRINKING WITH MY CHEESE, SKIP?

CRANSLEYDALE (Also known as Wensleydale with cranberries): Sort of sweet, sort of tart, creamy British cheese. Pretty crumbly, good on salad.

D'AFFINOIS: Basically a double-cream Brie. Comes in an herb format which I have on my list of "to try".

PENNSYLVANIA WHITE NOBLE: Limited-edition cheese available through Green Valley Dairy. Cheddary, sharp, and tangy/grassy.

That's a basic primer. Now, the classic Anh response to artisan cheese...GRILLED CHEESE!!!

Grilled Cheese a la Tran:

  • Two slices of bread (I'm a big fan of Martin's Whole Wheat Potato...I can pretend it's good for me, unlike normal potato bread...)
  • butter
  • several thin slices Cransleydale
  • several thin slices Primadonna, Parrano, Old Amsterdam or some combination thereof
  • mixed greens
  • a light vinaigrette - easiest to put together is balsamic, olive oil, and a teensy bit of salt and pepper
  • conversely, saute some baby spinach in butter for the greens portion of this dish.
  • Toast bread LIGHTLY. Like, when I'm sayin' light, I mean light like a Norwegian after two minutes in the sun. While bread is toasting, toss greens in vinaigrette and set aside. DO NOT DRENCH THEM. Just "lightly coat," whatever your definition of light may be...
  • Butter frying pan lightly. Places thin slices of cheese on one side of bread, and greens on the other, whether they're the mixed greens or the sauteed spinach. Put pieces together in appropriate sandwich format. Pan-fry til cheese has melted. Serve with strawberries or other seasonally appropriate fruit, lapse into food coma.
  • Wash dishes, repeat.

Have I mentioned how much I love cheese?

On a places-to-go note, I love me some Teaism. I hit up the one in Dupont Circle occasionally, and I highly recommend the Japanese Sweet Green Tea for nice spring days. Salmon bento box ---> also good. But OHMY, the best thing was the Salty Oat cookie. Amazing. DCist attempted a reproduction here, but as we can see, there is some flack from Teaism's owners in the comments section, which rumor has it is pretty much how they roll. Unfortunate. But although they seem over-protective even when their fans are preaching the Gospel of Teaism, I'm not entirely sure I can give up the occasional green tea and cookie, unlike S'Bux, which is in fact the devil, but the devil's everywhere in the suburbs of D.C.

A nice alternative is Ching Ching Cha in Georgetown, if all you want is tea and food. But if you're planning to sit around with a laptop and do work, Ching Ching Cha's atmosphere is so serene, you'll probably feel intensely guilty. So, you know - choices.

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April 6, 2006

Sausages and zucchini fries

"Surprisingly delicious ... a tasty and filling meal," said the Gothamist (my favorite NYC news blog) of Mandler's Original Sausage Co. (or here for Menupages)

Meg and I agree.

We found Mandler's, off Union Square on 17th St., on the way to a swing dance last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. Tall ceilings, extensive menu, and breakfast all day are sometimes enough to get me smitten. Oh, right, and $4.95 meals help too.

Meg got the signature Mandler's Bratwurst (traditional European bratwurst with mildly spiced pork and beef) and a mint lemonade and I indulged in a bockwurst (mildly seasoned pork and veal with herbs and spices) and a side of zucchini fries. Both of the wursts were topped with sauteed onions and mushrooms and we found them satisfying and filling; neither were too spicy but that was over-compensated-for at the well-stocked mustard bar. There were 9 to 12 different mustards (horseradish, roasted garlic, Vermont maple, etc.) to choose from and they were spicy enough.

The zucchini fries were absolutely wonderful. The little fried rounds went quite well with the different mustards and the roasted red pepper sauce I got to go with the bockwurst.

The atmosphere was upscale fast-foody with a decent amount of seating; the music was fast and euro-club-inspired. If I went back I might get the sausage fondue (though it's pricey at almost $11 per person).

I would write about what I had for dinner tonight, pumpkin ravioli with vodka sauce, but it's so out of season that it's embarrassing (those ravioli have been in my freezer since they were on sale at the Gourmet Garage back in October or November. Completely ashamed of myself but it tasted so good).

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April 5, 2006

Please, we only eat here. Drinks are for the weak.

No one has drink-blogged yet, so let me be the first. I have the ever-exciting, CRAZY concoction of lemonade to present to you.

I had a craving for lemonade on Monday, as the weather was teasing us with warmth and humidity. After calling my roommate to check if we had a juicer ("uh, you do realize that we have frozen lemonade that I can just plop into a pitcher?"), I headed to Crate & Barrel to see what my not-too-expensive juicing options were.

I had originally planned just to pick up a reamer.

Pros: simple, cheap, and doesn't take up much space.
Cons: looks sort of awkward to maneuver.

I also thought about a Kitchenaid juicing attachment.

Pros: I've always wondered what that little knob thingy on my mixer is for. Might as well use it!
Cons: $35 is sort of ridiculous for a juicer. And a juicer attachment at that.

So, after checking through the massive wonder that is Crate & Barrel, I settled on the Juicester, which seemed to be both functional and cheap. YAY! It has a non-skid bottom, crucial when putting all your force into obliterating a lemon. The last thing you need is a kitchen floor full of lemon juice. Also has two reamers for all sizes of citrus, plus what it refers to as a "double-strainer." Hmm. But most important to me was the attached measuring cup - so key.

Trying to be a bit different than Mr. CountryTime, I opted for Ginger-Honey Lemonade. First conundrum was how many lemons produce 1 1/2 cups of juice?? Err... I opted for 8 medium-sized ones, and my spidey sense must have been right on, because I got EXACTLY the right measurement. O'Joan rules.

Otherwise, it was extremely simple to make. If you like your lemonade full of pucker, I would just put cubes into individual glasses before pouring. If not, add more water or ice cubes (to the pitcher) to taste.

In the best possible world, your lemonade-drinking experience will involve a rocking chair, porch, steamy weather, and Louis Armstrong singing "La Vie en Rose." But it's still good on a rainy cold day.

April 4, 2006

How many pastries constitute a meal?

First of all, if someone could buy me these plates, that would be great. I think food would taste much better, therefore I would cook more and have more recipes to blog about.

Katie, Nick and I made the trek to NYC this weekend for some fun, and as per usual, it was amazing (minus the 6 hour bus ride and 7 total hours of sleep). First stop: Coronet, for pizza ACTUALLY as big as your face. It was everything drunk food (err, or completely sober) should be - greasy and full of carby goodness.

Saturday we finally experienced the glory that is the Shake Shack. Sadly, Dan & Co. didn't get there in enough time to wait in line and still make it to our 1 pm tour. I don't even really like burgers, but I gotta admit, they were pretty amazing. Maybe not mind-altering, but coupled with a black & white shake, a damn good lunch.

Dinner was at Boca Chica, a South American restaurant near Arlene's Grocery, where we were seeing a show later. Very cute, good size, and we got the U-shaped booth smack dab in the middle of the restaurant. (I'm also a big fan of the curtain sectioning off the entrywas from the rest of the restaurant, and therefore keeping the cold out. Perhaps this is everywhere in New York and I'm just too podunk to realize it.) We started off with some white sangria, which was very different than I had experienced before. It was more margarita than sangria, not that I'm complaining. AND we got plaintains and mole as our free beginning carb. WOW. I could have just had a giant plate of that plus the sangria and been one happy eater.

But alas, had to order an *actual* dinner. I ordered a corn souffle with chicken, raisins, and tomatoes. I've never had a souffle in non-dessert form, but the flavor combo sounded yumcious, so I went for it. Aaaaaaaand it was amazing! It was creamy and sweet, and there were golden raisins, but none of these so-called tomatoes. Whatever, it was great. I was afraid it was going to be grainy like polenta - which I'm not a fan of, since it's basically grits - but it was more like corn pudding, which I adore. Plus, it came with black beans, white rice, and a crunchy little salad that complemented everything quite nicely.

On our sleep-deprived walk to the subway on Sunday, we stopped by Sanuk (sp? I couldn't find a link), an organic high-end grocery for pain au chocolat and some intense juice. It's open 24 hours...as Vito said, "You'll never know when you'll want a pomegranate after coming home from the bars at 3 am." Well said.

We wandered around the city quite a bit, stopping at a Farmer's Market where we saw some crepes, which made us sad we had wasted our hunger on pastries, good as they were. Per Vito's suggestion, we headed to Magnolia Bakery for cupcakes, aka the lunch of champions. (N.B. Apparently said bakery was on Sex & the City, which makes my inner snob/wannabe non-tourist cringe.) There was a line outside the door, as the bakery is about the size of my bathroom, plus there was a Cupcake Bouncer, regulating which of us peons could enter. AWESOME. Standing in line you could smell the cakey goodness wafting through the vents...and we salivated, watching them whip up more frosting. The line moved fairly quickly, and we grabbed our dozen cupcakes and bounced. My only complaint is that the cupcakes weren't really labeled - granted, there were only combinations of vanilla & chocolate, but still. There should have been more selection, and I would have liked to seen some labels.

We went across the street to Bleeker Park and entered sheer cupcake bliss. Uberthick frosting, and not the gritty overly confectioners-sugared kind. Twas a beautiful thing.

April 3, 2006

Cakeman, I won't be soothed

Cakeman Raven, you came so highly recommended.

Saveur had an article that made meg crave his Red Velvet Cake, so Saturday being her birthday and all, I had to oblige.

After reading that article, I had about two weeks to lust after this red velvet cake and build it up into the best cake in the world. Living in New York, the most hyperbolic place I've ever seen, it's easy to get into the habit of making absurd, unprovable claims (e.g. the shake shack has the best burgers ever; or, my favorite, dinky sidewalk venders that claim they have the best coffee in the world). So, needless to say, I had a lot of time to fantasize about what the best cake ever would taste like. Before I go on, in my defense, the Saveur article did insinuate that Cakeman's red velvet rivaled the best New York cheesecake. Yes, it went there. Bold claim.

I will forego the ensuing fiasco and skip to the cake. Outside was pure cream-cheesy whiteness, except the sides, which were encrusted with crushed pecans. The flesh of the cake, if you will, was deep cherry red with three layers of cake (five total layers if you count the two thin layers of cream cheese frosting).

And now the first bite. Dry. I am a moist cake man, so this was a big letdown. Everything else was wonderful, but it was hard to get over the dryness. The taste was subtle and pleasant; some people found the frosting a little on the sweet side, but I thought it rocked. The pecans on the outside were the best part. My favorite bite was the last bit of it: the upper left hand corner. The fattest part of the cake, with the top icing and the side icing with the pecans. The pecans gave a great dimension to the flavor profile.

I'll be very Bruni for a moment and give Cakeman solid two stars. I see potential for greatness, but it just isn't fully realized. Sorry about the lack of pictures. I might get a better one with the bit i have left, but the pictures I have are gruesome; wouldn't do the cake justice at all. I'll go back and give them another shot.

For any non-Cake listeners, the title for this post came from the song Daria: "I won't be soothed over, like smoothed over, like milk. silk, a bed spread or a quilt. Icing on a cake, or a serene translucent lake." Not entirely true, but it looks good as a title. I could completely be soothed if the damn cake were more moist.

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