March 29, 2007

Marketwatch: Is it spring yet?

Reading Peter Singer and Jim Mason's The Ethics of What We Eat (review) is making me question my gastro-values and it inspired me to go to the Union Square Greenmarket for the first time in a while (perhaps the first time this year...). Hopefully I will write a post after I finish the book.

I popped by the Greenmarket at 8:30 a.m. Monday morning and it was even more barren than I thought it would be. No fewer than three flower stalls, the pretzel guy, two bakers, Red Jacket Orchards, and a small smattering of produce venders. As I mentioned I didn't expect much, since it is still so early, but I was shocked to find only carrots, potatoes, onions, apples/pears, kale, leeks, and rosemary. I thought there would be some leftover fall squashes, you know, things that don't spoil so quickly.

Before I sunk completely into despair, I purchased a lovely goat cheese and strawberry tart from the Buon Pane. Any readers who were around last summer for the awful strawberry-ricotta frittata episode will remember my theoretical affinity for strawberries where they aren't supposed to be.

The tart, unlike my frittata, was everything I'd hoped for: the bread was fresh and chewy, the strawberries retained their sweetness and texture (ie they hadn't become stewed and bland-jammy), and the goat cheese and rosemary added a delightful nip.

And on a somewhat related note, I just found that The Girl Who Ate Everything approves of Buon Pane. Can't have too much positive reinforcement...

I have to imagine more venders showed up during the day, but I certainly hope things start growing soon. I want spring foods.

(Oh, and I bought some kale and leeks. The kale made its way into a pasta salad [post later?] and the leeks are still in a holding pattern. Perhaps a soup.)


The photo's from our site. Check it out for more of the same.

March 28, 2007

The Afterglow: S'Mac

Ever since S'Mac opened last summer in the East Village, I'd been dying to try it out. It was buzz city, for sure; there was great press, there was good press, and then there was the mac'n'cheese backlash. (And after it all NBC chimed in with some good press; it's a relief to know they're on top of things ...)

And I would have gone sooner; I must have tried over a dozen times. Each time was the same: talked to an eating partner, they agreed, we set a date, then they'd cancel.

Finally, Liz and I felt sufficiently driven to give it a shot last week. The smallish room was crowded for 8pm on a Sunday, and and the radiant heat from the cast iron pans did well by cutting through the early spring chill. She chose the 4-cheese, I went with the Cajun, and we both opted for the bread crumb topping.

The 4-cheese was quite bland and almost too runny, but the Cajun spicy/creamy combo did the job very nicely. I ended up making two meals out of the medium portion size, Major Munch.

Overall, it wasn't the best mac n' cheese I'd ever eaten but it was a strong contender. I will be back, but only when I feel a crushing need to fill myself on cheese and carbs.

The Afterglow is a reoccurring feature where Gourmetros visit buzzworthy places a bit after the buzz. Call us lazy if you must, but we just want to find out for ourselves if the places were ever worth it.

March 14, 2007

Dessertgasm: Buzz Bakery

Buzz Bakery has been receiving a lot of press lately, so Roommate and I set out for the new dessert place on a Thursday evening.

After perusing the online menu, I knew I would have a mild panic attack when I got there. SO MANY CHOICES. Buzz is open from 8 am to midnight, so you can pick up croissant and a coffee on your way to work, snuggle up with a good book and some drinking chocolate, or mosey in for a late-night dessert-fest. The late night dessert meal is possibly my favorite of all meals, and there need to be more places satisfying my need for this. Well done, Buzz.

Anyway, I did have a mild, joy-induced spaz when I got there, but I finally just resigned myself that I would have to come back 15 more times to try everything. I settled for the cinnamon-sugar donuts with dipping sauces and Roommate got the chocolate pate with espresso whipped cream. (We shared a lovely pot of tropical green tea to wash it all down.) The donuts were loaded with cinnamon sugar goodness, had a nice crunch on the outside and were not at all greasy. The dipping sauces were creme anglaise (my favorite), bittersweet chocolate, and raspberry coulis. Roommate's chocolate pate was rich, but melted in your mouth and wasn't too heavy. It paired perfectly with the fluffy espresso whipped cream.

And because I couldn't satisfy myself with just ONE dessert, I sprung for a coconut cupcake to go. It came in an adorable chinese food container. It was good, but not as delicious as I was hoping for.

Not food-related, but the design of the place was spectacular. Big windows, bright colors, and the art on the wall was comprised of "found object" cooking utensils - like a kite made out of old cookie cutters. Lots of low tables, couches, and chairs that lent themselves well to either an intimate evening experience or for curling up with a book and a latte during the day.

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March 13, 2007

Product Extraordinaire: Ginger Spread

At the cheese shop where I work, we sell lots of gourmet products. While everyone else takes home boatloads of cheese, my lactose intolerance leads me to bring home loads of burnt fig jam, graham crackers, and membrillo.

While I've enjoyed my fair share of these and other impulse buys, Ginger People brand ginger spread has been the best investment, since it has lasted awhile and I keep finding new ways to incorporate it into my cooking.

First of all, it's not a jam. Putting this on a PB&J would lead to more sinus-clearing than you're normally used to from Welch's, so I wouldn't recommend doing that. But this lovely product is perfect for the pantry, because if you're like me, you never have fresh ginger around when you need it. Ginger spread solves the problem, as it comes in a BIG jar, you only use teaspoons at a time, and it lasts forever - but not in a "loaded with preservatives" kind of way, since its only ingredients are ginger & cane sugar. The spread is thick and slightly sweet, with a grainy texture that reminds you of its natural-ocity. It's perfect for incorporating into dressings or marinades, jazzing up some stir fry, making some zingy scones, or whisking with some yogurt & rice vinegar to make a dressing for your makeshift Quinoa Waldorf salad (inspired by this gem from Epicurious).

But the possibilities are endless: ginger cupcake frosting, ginger burgers, ginger applesauce, ginger-tinis....mmm.

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March 5, 2007

16 oz Queso Fresco, 8 Meals

Sometimes I talk myself out of buying exotic ingredients. Whether they're expensive (meyer lemons), difficult to locate (farro), or just plain scary (uni), I can come up with many reasons to avoid a potentially awesome dish.

I had talked myself out of making macaroni with cream and cheese, Gourmet Feb. 05, for some of the above reasons. It had a number of red-button items in the ingredient list; it called for over 1 pound of chili peppers (I'm scared of spicy things, though I do often like them), and two types of Mexican cheeses: queso fresco (a firm, crumbly cow's milk cheese, similar to a mild feta), and crema (like creme fraiche, but more viscous).

While the recipe was not on the top of my list for those reasons, I happened upon all of the ingredients in my trusty SpaHa Associated. After buying some, I realized I had forgotten the serrano chiles but decided the poblanos would be spicy enough. (I was right, though I've heard the serranos are not quite as aggressive as they could be)

The recipe was incredible, the balance between the chile heat and the mild, creamy cheese made it totally worth it. Roasting the chiles was another first experience for me; I probably could have charred the outsides a bit more, but I was afraid I'd overcook them. The chiles came out tender and gave the dish a significant cumulative spiciness, but nothing unbearable.

At the end of the meal I was left with 3/4 of the queso fresco wheel. For a day or so I considered remaking the macaroni, but then the Feb. 07 Gourmet came. And with it, another intriguing recipe containing about a half-pound of queso fresco: an Andean potato stew. The editors billed it as comfort food, and considering the extreme cold it sounded ideal.

The achiote seeds seemed like they'd be difficult, but I found them, surprise surprise, at the same supermarket in the spice section. And the bottle was about 25x larger than I needed, so I'll be set with achiote for a while. Let me know if any of y'all need to, say, color some American cheese or dye some textiles (other popular uses include Mayan warpaint)

Preparation was easy and the product was satisfying. I'd say I increased the total poundage of potatoes to about 5; with the original 3 1/2, the potato stew was somewhat paltry on the potatoes (though I may have stretched it into more meals than the recipe foresaw ...). For clarity, the additional potatoes were cubed, not mashed. The queso fresco muted the mild achiote heat and looked quite handsome topping the stew. The avocados were crucial.

All of that left me 4 oz queso. I ate 2 oz standing over the range waiting for the potatoes to boil, and sliced the rest and topped it with red wine vinegar (kind of gross; balsamic would have been better).

One wheel of queso fresco, 8 meals. (It might have been 10...)

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