28 July 2011

novel nosh - An Atlas of Impossible Longing (part two)

Just in case y'all aren't avid readers of Sarah O's blog, desirous of everything, you should head over that way and check it out because it's definitely an awesome blog that I was very honored to be a part of this week.  While you're over there, check out my guest post - part one of our most recent novel nosh for Anuradha Roy's debut novel, An Atlas of Impossible Longing

Let's recap - the novel tells the story of three generations of an Indian family living during the first half of the 20th century while India was under British rule in a small town, secluded from the hustle and bustle of nearby Calcutta.  Through love, loss, mental illness, education, natural disasters and real estate, the story sucks you in with the richness of India's natural landscapes, chaotic history and one family's trials and tribulations.  Go read it.  Seriously, go to the library right now, check it out and devour it.  It's an ideal summer read and it's also truly inspiring.  Inspiring enough to lead me to experiment with fresh fruit and Indian food leading to my very first chutney.

Let's fast forward a bit and pretend you've already read part one of novel nosh!  So you should be well-acquainted with the mango chutney that was inspired by An Atlas of Impossible Longing, maybe even made your own batch, and are now eagerly curious to see how it went when I brought it along on ladies night with a few tilapia fillets.  Well, here you go -

I really wanted to grill the tilapia and since it was Paula's turn to host and she has a grill AND a backyard, our plan was falling into place.  Then the rain came, monsoon style rain like the kind in the book.  Instead, we rubbed the fish with a little bit of sofrito and fresh lime juice before sauteing it in a hot pan with a drop of oil and lots of green onions.  We slathered the heck out of that fish with the cool mango chutney and it was the perfect combination of creamy, sweet and spicy.  Alongside some more of that squash slaw, some breaded pork chops (surf & turf,) and Paula's potato salad, the meal was complete and a success.  Isabelle, the doll she is, rode over with a couple bottles of Red Bicyclette and some funny lady movie action so we all stuffed our faces and busted our guts laughing!

marley helped clean up

After supper, Isabelle and I headed out for a nightcap that led to a raucous game of darts.  In all honesty, it was my first time playing darts so it was long and tedious but I did win!  Though I have a sneaking suspicion Isabelle let me win in order to keep me out past my bedtime... but it was super fun and now I have a weird pain in my arm from all that dart throwing which makes me feel like a total weenie who needs to do a few more push-ups every night!  Que sera, another successful ladies night!

Tonight, I have the pleasure of getting together with Sarah for a bite and a bit of a reunion.  She sent me this amazeballs bit of info earlier today - her guest post related tweet was picked up by the publisher of An Atlas of Impossible Longing who also tweeted (is that right, 'tweeted'?) it then sent the link on to the author!  If any more cool stuff like this happens, I might start getting a big head about it.

So, since it's Thursday night and it might rain and you're keeping quiet and prepping for the weekend, I suggest the following activities for your evening - follow Sarah O at desirous of everything and love it, whip up a quick batch of mango chutney to enjoy at this weekend's barbeque, check out this great video interview of Anuradha Roy and then start reading An Atlas of Impossible Longing.  Happy Thursday!

20 July 2011

gluten-free gluttons

One of my favorite things to do is entertain.  I love to prepare a big feast and have a bunch of friends over to eat and drink and chat and be merry, maybe watch a movie or a football game, play some music or bust out the karaoke machine.  The only issues I ever encounter when hosting these dinner parties (other than running out of food or booze) are dietary restrictions.  A lot of folks these days are on special diets; but whether they're vegan or vegetarian, low carb, gluten-free, or diabetic, they deserve to eat as many tasty and delicious meals as anyone else!  So when I hosted a ladies night last night, I took all that into consideration and came up with a pretty tasty and festive feast - 

I whipped up a tasty south of the border fiesta, perfect for a sweltering summer evening.  With my famous summer squash slaw, overloaded tacos fille
d with brea
d an
d unbrea
d fish or spicy, pulle
d chicken, fiesta corn, chips & salsa, an
d enough guacamole to last a lifetime (or an evening with four hungry la
dies!) we were nearly stuffed and certainly satisfied. 

sneaking tastes before we even sit down

barefoot in the kitchen

can't get enough of that summer squash!

But one very important thing was missing - dessert.  As you've noticed from my previous posts, I rely pretty heavily on the old flour, butter, sugar combo.  In other words, not friendly for the gluten-free crowd.  But if I was going to create a confection worthy of my gal pals, I had to make a few substitutions.  And is there a better fill-in for flour than ground almonds?  I think not!  Well, unless you have a nut allergy but fortunately, none of these gals suffer from that unfortunate fate.  To match our Mexicali cena, I devised an awesomely rich, sweet, savory and spicy cake deserving of this very post.  

my gluten-free goddess

flourless mexican chocolate cake with cherries and almonds
1 c halved pitted cherries
3/4 c sugar
1/2 c unsalted butter at room temp
4 eggs
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 c finely ground almonds
1/2 c cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp fresh ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp cayenne or chipotle pepper
dash of course salt
1. Preheat oven to 350.  Blend butter, sugar, cocoa powder and spices together until creamy.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing well.  On a low speed, blend in ground almonds 1/2 c at a time.
2. In a small saucepan on a low heat, melt chocolate chips.  Stir melted chocolate into the batter very well.  Pour batter into a greased 8" pan.  Stir in halved cherries.
3. Bake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.  Serve with fresh cherries and salted caramel sauce.

cherry challenge part dos?

mmm salted caramel


Now, the specifics of my delish new dish may not be exact because I'm quite certain I was suffering from heat exhaustion (or too much white wine consumption) while I was baking, so just make sure the pre-baked result looks like a proper cake batter.  But whatever I did, it was a total success and my ladies loved it.  And I love my ladies!  Thanks for an amazing night Paula, Isabelle and Victoria... you gals are beyond amazeballs and I love the heck out of each and every one of you!  I anticipate many more ladies nights in the future.

a sweaty and satisfied chef

kind of a big deal

So, remember a while back I made those kick ass beer & pretzel caramels for my daddy-o?  Well, at the suggestion of one of the guinea pig tasters at the Brooklyn Kitchen, I sent my recipe and blog post along to the nice folks at the Brooklyn Brewery.  Well, not long after I sent it their way, I got an email back asking if I'd mind if they included on their website's blog.  Would I mind?!?  Heck no!  I immediately wrote back saying that I'd absolutely lovelovelove to have them share my recipe with the entire beer drinking world.  After some patient waiting (and obsessively checking their website) they posted my recipe!  I feel kind of famous now.  Check it out - baby j on brooklyn brewery!

Has anyone seen this awesomely nerdy food chain from Lapham's Quarterly (via the Huffington Post)?  It's this awesome chart that traces the roots and histories of tomatoes, black pepper and coffee.  Bet you didn't know that Ramses II was buried with peppercorns in his nostrils.  Or that tomatoes originated in Peru as cherry-sized tomatoes.  Check it out and slaughter the competition in your next game of Jeopardy or Trivial Pursuit - I'll take History of Coffee for 800!

NBC has compiled this super fun video of Ron Swanson of Parks and Recreation fame.  He loves food almost as much as I do.   Check out Swanson vs. Food and decide who wins... then take me into consideration and imagine a challenge between me and the amazing Ron!  I bet I could devour more than him any day; food cowers in fear when I'm around.  Though he gets bonus awesome points because he was once married to a librarian, I am a librarian and I love food.  Tough competition.

18 July 2011

sausage party

In honor of yet another fabulous night of No Pants karaoke with Brooklyn's hostess with the mostess, Miss Isabelle at the Trash Bar, I thought I'd whip up a post that was just waiting for the right moment to shine.  Karaoke was totally wild Saturday night featuring a motley bunch of wrestlers, Irish tourists, leftover band members, me and Isabelle.  Yup, it was almost all boys singing their hearts out and it was awesome!  But karaoke isn't the only sausage party in town.  There's always a great selection of delicious, tasty and creative bangers at the Meat Hook, my favorite neighborhood shop.  They have some of the best choices of their own home-made Classy & Trashy Sausages that come in the most amazing flavors like Lamb & Rosemary, Traditional Italian, Chorizo, Verga Verde, White Pudding, Chicken Parm Pizza, and Papa Doc.  And since it's the time of year to break out the old charcoal grill, they also carry killer hot dogs, chili cheese dogs and taco dogs.

With the help of the incredible butchers at the Meat Hook, I've been able to create some simple and succulent meals with their sausages.  I love a stuffed chicken breast, so when I saw that they were carrying Chicken Cordon Bleu sausages, I knew I had to pick up a few.  So I cooked them up in a pan with some extra ham and topped them with a sprinkling of freshly grated Swiss and a little spread of creamy and spicy dijon mustard.  On the side, French cut green beans and my famous dijon roasted potatoes.  Perfect!

chicken cordon bleu sausage

dijon roasted potatoes
2 large potatoes or 4 c baby potatoes
2 tbsp mayonaise
1 tbsp fresh chopped chives
1 tbsp fresh thyme
2 tbsp favorite seedy dijon mustard
fresh ground salt & pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350.  With a sharp knife, thinly slice potatoes (about as thin as a stack of 2-3 potato chips.)
2. In a small caserole dish, mix mustard, mayonaise, herbs and s&p together.  Toss potato slices with the mix to coat (add more mayo/mustard if needed to fully coat each slice.)
3. Bake at 350 for about 30-45 minutes depending on the thickness of your potato slices, tossing occassionaly so that all the potatoes get a little crisp.  I like to crank the oven up to broil for the last 10 minutes or so to get the top extra crispy!  Serve warm as a side or cool as a variation on the traditional potato salad.

In the mood for a more traditional pork sausage but with a little twist?  I recently tried out the Purple Goddess, a pork and herb sausage with beet greens that give it a pretty purple color.  Served up with a fresh spinach salad with bleu cheese and radishes, my super simple Confetti Cous Cous, and a scoop of fresh beet salad (really just chopped beets) from one of the many Polish shops in Greenpoint, this was a healthy and filling meal with all the food groups covered.
purple goddess sausage

confetti cous cous
1 c Israeli cous cous (the bigger, beady kind)
1 1/2 c chopped veggies (whatever you have in your fridge)
1 can beans (any kind will do)
fresh ground salt and pepper
1. Bring 1 3/4 c salted water to a boil and stir in cous cous.  Cover and let simmer 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally until cooked thoroughly.
2.  Add chopped veggies and can of beans with fresh ground salt and pepper to taste.  Stir well and serve at room temperature.  (For this serving, as it was a kind of last minute meal, I chopped up a combo of all the veggies I happened to have in the fridge - radishes, yellow and red tomatoes, chives, red onion, sugar snap peas and a can of white beans.  I also tossed in some fresh parsley for an extra kick.)

Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of my greatest sausage recipe yet - Buffalo Chicken and Bleu Cheese Sausage Corn Chowder.  If I had tried to capture a shot of this creation, I may have lost a hand since it was almost devoured before I even had the chance to set it on the table!  This started with a delicious surprise at the shop, Buffalo Chicken and Bleu Cheese sausages.  Rather than cook them up like a normal sausage, I cut the meet out of the casings and cooked it to get all crumbly.  I added it to a simmering pot of milk and chicken stock, some potatoes (to thicken up the pot,) corn and celery, and let it simmer for hours.  I served it up with some crumbled bleu cheese and Frank's hot sauce on top.  It was the perfect meal for those snowbound football Sundays.  Mmm, even in this heat I'm dreaming of soup.

buffalo chicken and bleu cheese sausage and corn chowder
3-4 buffalo chicken & bleu cheese sausages (if you can't find these, just use chicken sausage and double the amount of hot sauce & bleu cheese in the rest of the recipe)
4 c chicken stock
2 c whole milk
2 medium potatoes
1 c chopped celery
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 small package (about 2 heaping cups) fresh or frozen sweet corn
1/4 c cumbled bleu cheese plus extra for topping
2 tbsp Frank's hot sauce plus extra for topping (or your favorite hot sauce that isn't out of control spicy)
fresh ground s&p to taste
a dash of red pepper flakes
1. In a large stock pot, bring chicken stock and potatoes to a boil, cooking potatoes until the are almost compoletly cooked and tender.  Remove the potatoes but don't dump the stock, it's nice and starchy now so it should thicken up nicely.  Set the potatoes aside to cool.  Add the milk to the stock along with the hot sauce, red pepper flakes and s&p.  Lower the flame and bring to a simmer.
2. Cut the sausage meat out of their casings.  In a hot pan, cook the loose sausage thoroughly so it gets nice and crumbly.  Add the cooked sausage to the stock pot and continue to let simmer about 45 minutes. 
3. Add the chopped celery and cheese, continue to simmer until celery gets tender, about 15-20 minutes.  Cut the potatoes into bite-sized pieces and add to the soup with the frozen corn, simmering until the potatoes cook completely, about another 20 minutes.
4. Let sit for about 15 minutes to thicken up some more before serving.  Serve topped with crumbled bleu cheese, a dash of hot sauce and celery sticks.

Don't forget, a good soup cooks for a long time so don't be afraid to let this one sit on the stove for longer than suggested.  Just make sure to save any veggies you're adding for the last 45 minutes or else they'll get way overcooked... a thick soup is quite different than a mushy soup.

Yum.  So much goodness stuffed into one little link!  Now, because I had such a rollicking good time at karaoke, I was neglectful at the beach yesterday and believe I may have turned into a hot dog.  My sunburnt legs are pink and my skin feels very tight.  But it was all worth it for such a killer weekend!  Thanks to Isabelle and Paula, you gals kick some serious ass.  And if next month's No Pants Karaoke is anything like this past one was, I'm pretty sure I'll have to belt this little ditty out -

14 July 2011

bastille my heart

Bonjour my lovelies!  Today is one of my favorite holidays of the year, La Fete Nationale!  Not only is it a  day to celebrate my favorite historical period, the French Revolution, but it's also the anniversary of my parents' first date.  Though I'm not in any way French, I always find a little francophile in me to celebrate with the best of them on this July day.  So throw on your beret and hop on your bike, and dance to Edith Piaf because you can-can pretend to be Parisian and enjoy all that the Frenchies have given us today!  And how convenient that this holiday happens to fall just a day after National French Fry Day?

I try to make something at least a little bit patriotic for this day each year, but since am not a pro at French cooking despite my love of Julia Child, I'm usually stuck making something relatively simple.  This year, I opted for the simplicity of a red, white and blue confection in honor of the flag that the revolutionaries hoisted after setting free all seven prisoners (epic, right?) and confiscating all of the gunpowder stored in the fortress-like jail that was the Bastille.  (Now, if you happen to be in Paris, don't bother to go looking for the Bastille as it isn't there anymore.  You could end up wasting an entirely good tourism day searching for it, right Elliot?)  Well, with these patriotic colors in mind and my mom's cherry challenge hovering over my head, I whipped up some vanilla almond panna cotta with cherry and blueberry compotes and crunchy candied almond sprinkles.  Challenge served!

all we're missing is the white!

Now, I know what your thinking - 'panna cotta?  But isn't that Italian?'  Well, yes it is, but since the first night I spent in Paris I dined at an Italian restaurant before watching the Eiffel Tower glitter with Parisian brilliance, I deem this completely appropriate.  And it was surprisingly simple to make.  As usual, I consulted a few different blogs and recipe sites before I began cooking and came up with my own perfectly delicious recipe for a vanilla almond panna cotta.

bastille day panna cotta with blueberry & cherry compotes
1 1/2 c heavy cream
1/2 c milk
2 1/2 tbsp sugar
1 1/8 tsp unflavored gelatin
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp bourbon vanilla (in honor of the French Bourbons!)
1. In a small saucepan, combine gelatin and about a third of the milk, whisking together allowing the gelatin to soak up.  Warm the combination on a very low heat, stirring constantly, until the gelatin is dissolved.
2. In a second small saucepan, warm the remainder of the milk, cream and sugar until it just begins to foam around the edges, stirring regularly to make sure the sugar dissolves.  When it begins to foam, turn off the heat and stir in the almond and vanilla extracts.  
3. In a bowl, combine the gelatin mixture with the warm cream.  Let stand for about 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so.  
4. Pour into 1 or 2 dishes lined with plastic (optional*) and let cool in the fridge for at least four hours.  Flip the set custard out of the dish when you're ready and scoop on the toppings.

compote **
1 c fruit 
1/4 - 1/2 c water
1 tbsp confectioner's sugar
1. Mix all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a light boil over a low heat, allowing the pulp of the fruit to turn into a kind of jam-like consistency.  Cool until ready to serve. 

* I say use a dish lined with plastic because I like to flip it out onto a plate and scoop the compotes on top as if it were a mold.  You could use glasses or any other pretty dish you have and separate into as many molds as possible, though you may want to consider doubling the recipe if you plan on serving more than two.
** I made my cherry and blueberry compotes separately because I wanted to use them as two totally different flavors and toppings.  You could mix  fruits or use any kind of fruit you'd like since a compote is one of the simplest things in the world to make.  The word 'compote' is actually French for mixture.
*** Since I used almond extract in the panna cotta, I considered putting a splash of almond extract in with the compote but, alas, I didn't have any in the house.  Try it out with different complimentary liquors.

blue, white & red

Ok, so these might not be the prettiest pictures and they certainly don't give this dish it's due.  I know I should probably have waited until at least 10:00 in the morning before even thinking about dessert, but I just had to try some before I skipped out for work.  And if you think about it, panna cotta is kind of like vanilla yogurt, right?  The tartness of the blueberries and cherries was the perfect accent to the rich and creamy subtle sweetness of the custard.  

breakfast of champions (it's the same in french & english,
so you need to say it with a goofy accent)

I wish it was a little more portable so I could have brought it with me to work, but at least it will be waiting for me when I get home.  And tonight I get to have another Dad Date!  I think I might take him to Flute for their champagne fueled fete.  Or Cercle Rouge for a rollicking game of Petanque.  Maybe we can rent bikes and pretend we're in the Tour de France?

tour de france - brooklyn style (last year)

In order to look festive for the holiday and my Dad Date, I spent this morning rummaging through my shrinking wardrobe (I really should do laundry) to find something festive to wear and had a very tough time.  All of my striped shirts need to be washed, my tour de France dress is too sporty for the office, and I gave my carnival dress to Aunt Carolyn.  I finally settled on a pretty little red dress with blue and red dots that kind of look like fireworks.  I think the lady I bought it from is French and I wore it on my way to Paris so it works.  Plus i broke out my firework bobby pins from VintageIce for the occasion!  But, how much do I wish I still had this little getup to wear in honor of the second red, white and blue holiday of the year?!

baby baby j

Don't know much about history?  Here's my very brief intro to the historic day that we celebrate on July 14th -  Back in 1789, Louis XVI was acting even weirder than usual and his gal, Marie Antoinette was getting a real bad rep for being a floozy and spending all of the country's money on tacky extensions and baked goods.  The downfall of the people of France was not entirely the fault of the government or the royal family, they shelled out a lot of money to help us out during our revolution and there were shortages of food because of the weather and stuff, but people were cranky and wanted someone to blame so... a bunch of these "regular folk" got together to play tennis and sign some papers swearing to split from the King and start some rough drafts of a constitution.  (I wonder if this is how the French Open started.  Hmm, tennis.)  So then a bunch of people without pants got nervous that their tennis superstars were in danger and decided to storm the big jail known as the Bastille and set free the prisoners (seriously, all seven of them) and raid all the weaponry and gunpowder storage.   There was a lot of fighting and storming and yelling and fire and blood.  And that's pretty much the big event that kicked off the French Revolution.  Vive la France!

Oh, and a quick sorry to the gals of the French women's soccer team.  We didn't mean to ruin your Bastille Day with our all-American awesomeness.  Maybe next time ladies.

13 July 2011

mrs. buttermilk

After my Red Velvet success, I found that I was left with a carton of buttermilk in my fridge and no ideas for what I couldo with it.  It's not the right time of year for soda bread, I haven't been in a pancake mood for awhile, and I certainly wasn't about to go and bake more cakes during this wicked heat wave.  After rattling my brain, I found the answer was right there all along in one of the Sweet Spot's favorite meals - fried chicken!

Fried chicken is one of my all-time favorite foods and a total guilty pleasure.  Ever since I was blessed with the gift of my grandmother's cast iron skillet, I've been attempting to perfect my fried chicken recipe.  I've gotten a little better with each try and this time, I think I finally did it!  After soaking the chicken in a brine of buttermilk and spices, I double battered it in seasoned flour and tossed it in some hot oil to fry up to golden crisp perfection.  I know you're all on the edge of your seats, waiting for me to give you the exact recipe I used, but my sincere apologies because that I cannot share.  Not because it's some new found family secret but because, like all the best fried chicken recipes, it was totally to taste and eyeballed.  But I can tell you what I put in the brine and flour mix so, here you go -

fried chicken brine & cooking instructions
garlic powder
chipotle pepper
cayenne pepper
fresh ground black pepper
fresh ground salt
fresh parsley, chopped
Frank's hot sauce
1. Mix all ingedients together to create a brine.  Let chicken pieces soak overnight in brine.  Remove the chicken and coat with flour mix.  Redip each piece in the buttermilk brine and then dunk in the flour mix again.  
2. Let air dry for about 20-30 minutes. (this was recommended by a few other blogs and recipes I consulted and I found that it led to less splatter and flaking of the batter.)
3.  In about 2" of hot vegetable oil (in your cast iron skillet,) place each piece of chicken and let crisp up until golden brown.  Flip and allow to cook on the other side, about 5 minutes each side.  Be careful not to crowd the chicken by only putting 2-3 pieces in the skillet at a time, depending on the size.

seasoned flour for fried chicken
sifted flour
fresh ground salt and pepper
cayenne pepper
chipotle pepper
garlic powder
cumin (for that smokey flavor, if you like it)

I served this homestyle treat alongside some smokey collared greens, overloaded mashed potatoes, and buttermilk cornbread.  How did I do all that in the short amount of prep time I have after work you ask.  Here's how - Syvia's canned collared greens are almost as good as the fresh ones you get in Harlem.  Jiffy cornbread mix is something I am never without.  Just substitute the milk for buttermilk, add some s&p, a little extra sugar, maybe a teaspoon of oil, and frozen sweet corn, and it tastes 100% homemade!  

The potatoes, well they are homemade.  I had some baby Yukons leftover from my patriotic potato salad and some bacon since, well let's face it, I'm never without bacon.  Cook those up and then mash them up with a little bit of milk and every baked potato topping you could ever imagine - cheese, sour cream, chives, butter, s&p.  I totally thought of my gal Jenessa while I was making these because I knew she'd love them.  She thinks I make the best mashed potatoes in the world; so much so that I even made her a mashed potato birthday cake last year!

jenessa, i miss you!

Supper was ready to begin now!  And it wouldn't be fit to serve up a fried chicken meal on anything other than my pollo loco plate, right?

I sat down with a full plate of home style goodness and a tall glass sweet tea just as I heard a crack of thunder and the skies opened up with a perfect Summer storm.  I couldn't have asked for a better way to end the day.  And what would a good old-fashioned feast like this be without a little Southern Rock?  Well thanks to the awesomeness of Pandora genre stations, that's exactly what was blasted out of my weak little computer speakers every step of the way.  Free bird to fried chicken!

After this success, I think I deserve an extra treat in the form of a new condiment.  And what would go better with fried chicken than Mike's Hot Honey?  Maybe when pay day rolls around.

12 July 2011

revuesday - old standbys

I've been super fortunate over the past few days to catch up with some wonderful friends and eat some delicious food.  Isn't it great how there are certain things and people you can always count on?  Like an old friend who you trust with everything and call in the middle of the night when you wake up in the Bronx because you fell asleep on the train or because you're having a bad day, a good restaurant is hard to find.  You know the kind I mean, cool and casual with a great menu that has something for everyone, no matter their taste or budget, where you can go for pretty much any meal and get a bite and a cocktail to makea day better or a visit special?  Well, I'm lucky to have a handful of both - great friends and tasty restaurants.  In honor of both, I thought I'd shout out just a few of the restaurants that I have found I can count on when me or my friends and guests are craving a bite.  Starting with -

Cafeteria.  I'm not positive, but I'm pretty sure I went to this restaurant long ago when my friend Jill and I were visiting her cousin and I loved it then, too.  Again though, not positive.  Well I've been here on quite a few occasions and have enjoyed everything I've ever ordered, especially the Cobb Salad and the Mac n Cheese.  Their menu consists primarily of high-end diner staples with a twist.  Really delicious twists like cranberry aioli, apple cider coleslaw, truffle parmesan... mouthwatering.  The cocktails at Cafeteria are amazing too; seasonal, fresh, creative and strong!  The best part about this restaurant is that it's open all day and night.  Yup, 24/7.  And for a relatively hip spot in Chelsea, the prices are pretty reasonable; I mean, I can afford to eat there.

so fresh and so good

One of my favorite restaurants in the city is also one of the oldest restaurants in the city - Pete's Tavern.  Now, McSorely's may claim to be the oldest bar in New York but I'm not so sure about that.  Pete's also stakes a claim in that rite by pointing out that they remained open during Prohibition under the guise of a flower shop, but that might just make them the oldest continuously open bar in the city.  Either way, Pete's gets my vote since it's the only bar that can lay claim to having been a part of O. Henry's writing career.  Since The Gift of the Magi is one of my all-time favorite love stories, I find it completely awesome that there is the possibility of my butt sitting in the same seat as the writer of that great work!  

Beyond the awesome historic essence that Pete's has, they serve up some pretty great pub grub, too.  I never really venture too far from standard pub food, but when I do I'm always pleased.  More often than not though, I order the exact same thing every time - a bacon bleu cheeseburger, medium rare, with sauteed mushrooms and onions, and a schmear of mayo and ketchup, and a side of big fat steak fries - and splitting it with my honey at least one Friday every month; it's kind of our thing.  We enjoy it with the house ale, dark and strong.  Sometimes we split the fried calamari and sometimes we get a side of thick and heart split pea soup or creamy clam chowder, but we always get the burger.  And we always leave happy.  The fact that it's just down the block from work doesn't hurt either.  Go here if you like history or food or NYC or a good time.  Just go here.

Last but not least, my go to neighborhood brunch spot, Enid's, is perfect for hungover Sundays with friends who slept on the couch, travelers passing through, and those early morning visits from mom.  Typical brunch fare with a slightly Southern flare is served up alongside my absolute favorite Bloody Mary ever!  It's almost a meal in itself.  Justin always gets the Hungry Bear, a huge biscuit and gravy sandwich with eggs, and regrets it since after cleaning his plate he usually has to be rolled out of the restaurant since he's so stuffed full of yummy goodness.  The huevos rancheros are always awesome, the pancakes are seasonal and ginormous, grits are great... seriously this place is perfect.  I usually order the egg special with a side of collared greens, french press coffee, and at least a couple of Bloody Marys.  Hey what's brunch without a buzz?

best bloody mary ever!

So to all of my friends who stick around, the ones I can count on to be my old standbys, thank you for being awesome and listening to me and letting our lives connect.  And to these three restaurants, thanks for filling me up with good food, great drinks, and good times with the best friends I could ever ask for.

11 July 2011

happy birthday, meg!

Because she's such a wonderful friend and a super fab coworker, I opted to save my dear Meg from the doldrums of store bought office birthday cakes and gift her with a homemade confection.  In an attempt to make her birthday as wonderful as possible when she's stuck working 9-5, I baked her favorite, red velvet cake.  This was a new recipe for me but we all know I love a challenge.  And a challenge this certainly was since I had to work quickly and exactly when prepping the batter.  It looks lovely and the batter tasted pretty darn yummy.  I hope Meg enjoys her cake and her special day... Happy Birthday!

red velvet cake
2 1/2 c cake flour
2 tbsp dutch processed cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 c sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp bourbon vanilla
1 c buttermilk
1 tbsp red food coloring
1 tsp white distilled vinegar
1 tsp baking soda
1. Preheat the oven to 350.  Grease and set aside two 8" cake pans.  In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder and salt so that it's sifted and well combined.  
2. In the bowl of your electric mixer, blend butter until smooth.  Add sugar and vanilla, blending until the mix becomes light and fluffy.
3. Whisk together the buttermilk and red food coloring.  With the mixer speed turned to low, blend in flour mix and buttermilk, alternating between the two and allowing to mix completely about 2-3 minutes.  
4. In a small cup, combine vinegar and baking soda, letting it fizz up and fold it into the cake batter.  Quickly and evenly pour the batter into the two greased pans and put in the mile rack of the oven.  Bake about 30-35 minutes.  Let the cakes cool completely before attempting to ice them.  

buttercreamcheese icing
1/2 c unsalted butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese
1 lb confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1. Blend all ingredients together until the mix is light and smooth.  Simple.

Happy Birthday, Meg!