Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Swagapalooza

So the other night I attended Swagapalooza. It was an event that brought together various bloggers and new start up companies. Basically it was an event for people to network and get their product and ideas out there. And the new age way to do so is through blogs. I saw some really good products there. But being a food blog, I'll report on the food. There were light resfreshments of cupcakes and wine. The cupcakes were provided by Sweet Revenge. They had various flavors like Dirty (chocolate), Pure (Mexican Vanilla), Sweet Revenge (Peanut Butter), and Dulce de Leche. I think there were others but I can't remember. Naturally, I picked the chocolate. But as many times before, I went to stuff my face before I could take a picture. But let me just say that it was delicious. When you think of something that is decadent, this was it. The chocolate flavor was intensely good. I think it was because they used Valrhona chocolate. Yeah, the good stuff. Swagapalooza swagapalooza.com Sweet Revenge 62 Carmine Street NYC, NY 10014 (212) 242-2240 sweetrevengenyc.com Read more...

Convivio [CLOSED]

When a birthday comes around, I'm usually the organizer. I think of places that would suite the honored guest and create the guest list. I make reservations and most importantly I harass invitees about responding. Yeah, I'm good at that. So Mr. Peanut Head's birthday passed recently and I picked Convivio for him. It's a nicer place he would normally choose but sometimes it's good to go somewhere nice. Ms. Lollipop and Mr. Matzo Ball came too. And it was such a lovely dinner. I only wish I had the picture to express my joy about Convivio. Alas, I forgot my camera and was left with the crappy blackberry one. Two trips to this place and no good pictures to prove it's delectable-ness. Convivio's menu shows a list of several a la carte items separated as sfizi (bites to share), antipasti (appetizers), primi (1st entree), and secondi (2nd entree). There are also sides and specials listed. However, I think the best deal of the house is their $59 4 course prix fixe. You can pick any of the item listed on the a la carte menu and mix and match as you please. This includes the specials unless a supplement is listed. I generously convinced my friends to do the prix fixe. Last time, I chose the Fegatini (chicken liver crostini - $5) as a starter. I was so impressed that I was so tempted to get it again. But alas, I always like to pick something different to explore the entire menu. So this time, I picked Baccala Mantecato (creamy salt cod crostni, black olives, roasted tomato - $13). The fish was creamy and had a slight fishy taste but in a good way. It was really refreshing and a great start to a meal. My friends picked Lingua (veal tongue - $14) which was super tender; Ostriche (crispy oysters - $12) which were crunchy on the outside and supremely soft and creamy on the inside; and Salamureci (chilled heirloom tomato soup - $15) which was very refreshing in a gazpacho type way. Next, the Primi. Again, choosing something different from my first visit (Malloredus - $25), I picked the Agnolotti ai Formaggi (creamy burrata-ricotta filled pasta, tomato, basil - $20). I recently had my first encounter with burrata cheese a few weeks ago. And I fell in love. It's like fresh mozzarella cheese but a soft gooey center that oozes over everything. How could I not pick a pasta with burrata in it? And it was wonderful. The cheese melted in my mouth wonderfully. The light tomato-basil sauce balanced the rich creaminess with its own tartness and freshness. So incredibly good. They picked the Cavatelli al Forno(baked ricotta cavatelli - $24) which had braised rabbit ragu but didn't taste gamey at all; Mezzaluna al Tonno (tuna-tomato filled pasta - $24) which sparked with the salty capers in the sauce; and Spaghetti con Ragu di Funghi (semolina pasta - $24) which was surprisingly fresh and delicious in a different yet good way. For my Secondi, I picked the special which was a seared duck breast ($30). It was really good and cooked so tender. I hardly needed the knife to cut it. The sauce was amazing and I wanted to get every bit of it in my mouth. I loved this dish. Unfortunately, I don't even have a crappy picture of that to share. I forgotten to snap one before I proceeded to stuff my face. My friends picked the Capesante (seared scallops - $30) which were very large and succulent; the Bistecca alla Griglia (prime skirt steak - $28) which came out juicy and cooked to order; and the Salsiccia di Maiale (house made pork sausage - $27). How can you go wrong with house made sausage? Lastly dessert. We were quite happy with the savory part of our meal so far. And now the sweet. Again, I picked something different and chose the Tartaletta di Caramelle which was a chocolate caramel tart. It was sweet and sticky. The simple vanilla gelato complement helped add creaminess. They chose the Affogato al Caffé. It's like a ice cream float but with espresso and gelato instead. It was strong and creamy at the same time. So good. Also, an assortment of gelati and sorbetti was picked (chocolate, coffee, and mixed berries). Simple yet good. And lastly, the Panna Cotta. Now, normally I don't like gelatinous desserts but this was really good. It was served in a glass kind of like a parfait. But the lemon sorbet really cut the super creaminess of the panna cotta. And it was so good. The meal was really good and I enjoyed myself thoroughly. The birthday boy was happy as well as my other friends. Another birthday done, another wonderful dinner had. *Sorry about the bad pictures!* Convivio 45 Tudor City Place New York, NY 10017 (212)599-5045 convivionyc.com Read more...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Lunch Week 26: Baked Ziti with Butternut Squash and Sausage

So every Sunday, I head over to the kitchen to whip up a big batch of food for lunch next week. Yes, I brown bag. And I almost always do it, unless I become too busy to even buy cold cuts from the deli. I do it for several reasons being health, finance, and laziness. Now, you may think that spending hours on a day off to prep and cook five meals at once is hardly lazy. But let me remind you, I hate it when the time comes to decide what to eat for lunch every day. I work in Midtown so the choices are endless. My problem, the more choices, the harder it is for me. So it's much easier for me to have my lunch ready and already decided. So my lunch for the week: Baked Ziti with Butternut Squash and Sausage It's fall and there are lots of squash and pumpkins to be eaten. My CSA this week provided some lovely butternut squash. It's sweet and so tender. They're best at this time of the year. The main players: butternut squash, turkey sausage, and baby bella mushrooms. Not pictured: whole milk ricotta and mozzarella cheese. One big ol' butternut squash. I cut off the ends and split it in half. Inside, you'll find some pulp and seeds. Scoop these out with a spoon. Next, I peel the very tough skin. Make sure you peel enough to get down to the flesh. You don't want any of that peel in your mouth. It's too tough. I cut them into bite sized pieces and season them with salt, pepper, and oil. Then into the oven at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes. While that is roasting in the oven, boil some pasta. Remember to add salt to the water! Next the turkey sausages. First I like to sear the links in a hot pan with oil. After it is browned on all sides, I add enough water to come up halfway to the links. Let that boil and evaporate until very little liquid is left. This allows the sausages to cook thoroughly. Remove the meat and let it rest for awhile. Do not slice right away because the juices will run out and leave the sausages dry. I washed and cut the mushrooms into bite sized pieces as well. I add these to the leftover sausage liquid in the pan. Cook until thoroughly until soft. Lastly, re-add the sliced sausages to the pan. Then these are done. The squash are roasted perfectly. They've softened completely. There's a little caramelization on the outside. They're so naturally sweet. So now the assembly. Some oil on the bottom of the pan first to prevent sticking. Add some pasta, then the ricotta cheese. Spread the cheese evenly. Add some of the squash on top. Next, a layer of the turkey sausage and mushrooms. Do not add any of the liquid. No one likes watery baked ziti. Add some grated mozzarella cheese on top of that. Repeat the layers until you end up with the pasta on top with ricotta cheese. I always like to add the mozzarella cheese last. It creates a nice gooey crust. Bake in the oven at 375 degrees for 30 minutes until the cheese in melted. This baking allows the flavors to meld together. I nice golden brown crust on top and everything is incorporated. My pan made about 12 servings. This dish is very hearty and filling. But since it has butternut squash and mushrooms in it, it's less heavy that a normal baked ziti with meat. In this recipe, I used whole milk cheeses because it holds up better in the heat. I had once used low fat cheese and it just didn't come together well. This is especially true about the ricotta. If you use low fat ricotta, it tends to be watery. You would end up with a very watery baked ziti. That didn't taste good at all. In fact, it was very disappointing. This time around with my lesson learned (don't believe in low fat cheese), the dish holds up well. In fact, I liked it a lot! I used whole wheat pasta again because it's heartier and you can't really distinguish the taste with all the other stuff going on in the dish. The butternut squash is sweet and tender. It is perfect for this weather. The turkey sausage adds the needed protein. The mushrooms soaked up the sausage juices nicely. They're hearty just like the sausages. Lastly, the sweetness of the ricotta cheese and the saltiness of the mozzarella just brought everything to another level. The cheeses just completed the dish so well. I will definitely not be bored with this lunch by Friday! Read more...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Amy's Bread Again

A taste test of chocolate desserts from Amy's Bread. We have Devil's food cake, German chocolate cake, and a chocolate brownie with nuts. The winner for most decadent? The Devil's Food cake. Amy's Bread 672 9th Avenue New York, NY 10036 (212) 977-2670 amysbread.com Read more...

Pho Tay Ho

As a change of pace, the big sis brought over some Vietnamese food to satisfy our hunger. And boy was I hungry! She purchased the goods from a nearby restaurant in Brooklyn, Pho Tay Ho. I think I've actually been there once. It's not fancy and most would consider it a hole in the wall. The food is decent and definitely friendly to the wallet. We start off with some Goi Cuon (summer rolls with shrimp - $3.75 for 2). They are not stingy with the peanut sauce. The summer rolls were really big but refreshing. The shrimp wasn't stringy and the lettuce was crisp. The peanut sauce was done right with a good combination of peanut butter and hoisin sauce. Then we shared a plate of Bun Cha Gio Bo Lui (grilled beef & spring roll with sesame seasoned lettuce on rice vermicelli - $5.95). The Bun Cha was good as well. It comes with a fish/vinegar type sauce that you pour all over. It's also another nice and refreshing dish. The spring rolls held up well in the travel and was still crispy. The beef was tender and flavorful. Bahn Mi sandwiches are always a must (sliced pork, pate, pickled veggies on a baguette - $3.25). I love these. Thankfully, we got 2. The banh mi sandwiches were just okay. I've had better. The meat to bread ratio wasn't what I was used to. And I didn't detect any cilantro in it. But still a decent sandwich. Some nice and hot Xe Lua Pho (combination extra big bowl with rice noodles in beef soup and six different meats: brisket, navel, frank, omasa tendon & eye of round - $5.95). The Pho was really hearty. It's best when eaten on a cold, rainy day. It's just one of those warm your soul type of foods. But being that I've had many of these over the years, I can eat them on the hottest of summer days. They also offer a grilled chicken version: Pho Ga Nuong ($5.75). The grilled chicken version wasn't too bad. The chicken was very juicy and flavorful as well. But there's nothing like a nice beef bowl of soup and noodles. With everything said and done, it cost right under $35. This amount was enough to feed 5 adults properly. Mmm, mmm good. Pho Tay Ho 2351 86th St Brooklyn, NY 11214-4309 (718) 449-0199 Read more...

Friday, September 25, 2009

Anonymous Pizza

Some random pizza from an unremarkable joint. Hence, we didn't remember the name. Sausage, peppers, and onions on the left; Buffalo chicken on the right. Pepperoni and Sausage on the left; Tomatoes and spinach on the right. As you can see, the slices are pretty laden with toppings. But the cheese was lacking. The quality wasn't there. The crust was the worst part. It had char but it wasn't crispy at all. In fact, it was soft. How disappointing! It's not that hard to find good, decent pizza in NYC. This was not one of them. Read more...

Peach Cobbler

I bought a large amount of peaches from the supermarket the other day. But they weren't very good. In fact, one was downright terrible. In protest, I left them in the fridge for a really long time. So long, in fact that I thought they have already spoiled. But a quick check and they were still good for just a very short amount of time. So I did the next best thing, I made a peach cobbler. Cobblers, in my mind, are really easy desserts. You basically slice up some fruit, add some spices, then dump them into a dish with a topping. Bake and done. They're certainly not as meticulous as pies, cakes, or cookies. In fact, I don't really consider it baking because I don't measure the ingredients. I do everything by eye and things always turn out fine. So I start out with some ripe peaches. As always, use the best you can find. But this time, I'm just using up leftover food from the fridge. I peel the peaches, removed the pit, then slice them up thinly. Next, I add sugar, brown sugar, salt, vanilla, and as a twist, cardamon. I dot the fruit with butter for richness. This also helps create lots of bubbly juices. Then the topping includes oatmeal, brown sugar, sugar, salt, and cold butter. Dot that with butter too for nice browning. I baked it at 375 until the filling is hot and bubbling. Also, make sure the topping is nicely browned. This takes about 30 minutes. I wanted some ice cream with my cobbler but didn't have any at home. So instead, I improvised with an ice cream sandwich which turned out just fine. The cobbler is really good. The peaches taste much better this way. And my little twist of cardamon adds really nice flavor. The oatmeal topping adds nice crunch and texture. Peaches saved! Read more...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

CSA 6: Corn, Salad Greens, and Cucumbers

The last of the summer goods from my CSA. I should be expecting some really good fall produce soon. But for now, I'll enjoy these. First, I striped the kernals from an ear of fresh corn. I sauteed it in some oil, salt, and pepper. Next, I washed some salad greens ready for some light heat. However, I didn't wash them good enough. While cooking, I saw some dirt at the bottom of the pan. I even spotted a bug. In the trash they went. How unfortunate! My laziness didn't check first for cleanliness. So i had to just settle for the corn with breakfast which included some pizza rustica from Sergios and buttered toast. The corn was so fresh and nice and sweet. I love corn. The pizza rustica is some cured meats, cheese, and egg all wrapped in dough and baked. It delicious! And for lunch, something simple. I tore the meat off of some barbecue chicken. Added a few sliced of smoke gouda. I heated the sandwiches on the stovetop. Then I marinated slices of seeded cucumbers with balsamic vinegar. The sandwich was juicy and hearty. The crispness of the cucumbers added the needed freshness. Upper Meadows Farm 12 Pollara Lane Montague, NJ 07827 (973) 293-8171 uppermeadowsfarm.com Sergio & Co 28 Broadway Denville, NJ 07834 (973) 627-1043 Read more...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Yum Yum

A recent dinner with friends in the new neighborhood was called. We were looking to advance the palate of one of them. But nothing to scare them off. And of course, we wanted to keep the price low. Nothing is worse than trying something new, hating it, then having to pay a large sum for it. No one likes that plan. So we headed out for Thai. Hell's Kitchen is a Thai mecca. My favorite so far is Pam Real Thai Food. We went there first but the wait was 15 minutes. More importantly, it was cash only. We forgot to inform our guests. They insisted on someplace else and we obliged. We headed to the ever so popular and more trendy Yum Yum. We started off at Yum Yum 3 but it was booked. No free tables. Next, Yum Yum Too. There was one table but a group of four took it right before us. No luck. Lastly, the original Yum Yum. There was room in their second room. Fantastic. We were tired of walking and just wanted to eat. Menus and glasses of water came quickly. As we looked things over, we saw a special: Buy any drink $7 or more and receive a free appetizer on the list. We all went for this deal. As a group, we picked: Mai Tai, The Playboy, Mojito, and Pineapple Mojito. I have to note right now that the drinks for sickenly sweet. So much that I took one sip, dry hacked, and didn't finish the rest. Also, I didn't taste any alcohol in them. And they came when we were having our entrees. Bad bad bad! The food was better (thank god!). For appetizers, we picked: curry puff, edamame, steamed dumplings, and wingdings. Here's a picture of the curry puff. It was light and flaky with a nice curry flavor. The dip was a light vinegar to help cut the oil in the puff. For entrees, I ordered pork in garlic sauce (tod kra tiam - $8.95). The pork was good. Not dry at all. The garlic sauce was very good and strong. It came with a bowl of rice that I used to sop up all the sauce. He picked the Penang curry with chicken ($8.95). There was a good heat to it but the kind that didn't linger. She picked a special duck dish called Duck Num Dang ($14.95). It was a really large portion. The sauce was sweet and sour. The meat was tender. And the one we wanted to explore new foods picked Pad Thai with beef ($7.95). It was simple but different. It's definitely an easy dish to ease someone into Thai food. It helped that he liked peanut sauce. At the end of our meal, they gave us some ice cream on the house. On top we have red bean (okay), then coconut (more like vanilla with shredded coconut), and green tea (no one liked that one). All in all, the meal was just okay. I definitely like Pam Real Thai Food better which is definitely more authentic. With all the other choices right around the corner, I might as well go for what I like and not settle. Yum Yum Bankok 650 9th Avenue New York, NY 10036 (212) 262-7244 yumbangkoknyc.com Read more...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Lunch Week 25: Roasted Salmon with Creamed Kale

So every Sunday, I head over to the kitchen to whip up a big batch of food for lunch next week. Yes, I brown bag. And I almost always do it, unless I become too busy to even buy cold cuts from the deli. I do it for several reasons being health, finance, and laziness. Now, you may think that spending hours on a day off to prep and cook five meals at once is hardly lazy. But let me remind you, I hate it when the time comes to decide what to eat for lunch every day. I work in Midtown so the choices are endless. My problem, the more choices, the harder it is for me. So it's much easier for me to have my lunch ready and already decided. So my lunch for the week: Roasted Salmon with Creamed Kale I'm trying to be a little healthier this week. So I thought fish was a good choice. But I need some vegetables to complement the fish too. I had an overabundance of kale from my CSA share. I wanted to use it before it dried out or became rotten. I didn't feel like having it sauteed again. I wanted something different. Creamed spinach came to mind. So instead of spinach, I used kale. I started with some salmon fillets. I seasoned them simply with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Next, I placed lemon slices on top. This adds a nice depth of flavor and helps get rid of any fishiness. A lot of times I like to cook with lemon instead of squeezing it on top at the end. It does the job without adding a (too) strong lemon flavor. I put it in the oven for 30 minutes at 375 degrees. I've noticed at for my convection oven that it automatically sets the temperature at 350 degrees and just circulates the air. The salmon came out just perfectly cooked and flaky. They fillets remained juicy. I'm glad. This has been my first successful roasting meal with the new oven. Next the kale. I had three different types: Curly, Red Russian, and Dinosaur. I washed and chopped them into small pieces for easy cooking. Saute in a little oil, salt, and pepper. Kale has a lot of water so it shrinks about 50% when cooked. Always account for more kale when buying bunches. Afterward, I place them in the food processor to chop them up finely. Be careful when using the food processor with hot food or liquids. The heat produces steam and the top can fly off and hurt you. And food can fly out and burn you. Always put less hot food in a processor than you would cold food. Next, I warmed up some heavy cream. Do not boil or it may curdle. A stick of butter gets melted. Yeah that seems like a lot but I'm aiming for more than 10 servings! Add equal parts flour to the mix and create a roux (a thickening agent used for cream sauces and soups). Continuously stir the rue until the raw flour taste is gone (about 5-10 minutes). Add your cream and it will thicken quickly. Let it return to a simmer so that it has reached it's thickest point. Add thickened cream mixture to the chopped kale. Mix thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to your like. And there you go. Creamed kale on the bottom and a piece of roasted salmon on top. The salmon is simple. The taste of the fish stands out. I wanted it that way so I didn't season it with other flavors besides salt and pepper. The creamed kale is really rich. But it has a sweet flavor from the cream, a nutty flavor from the rue, and a bitter flavor from the kale itself. But somehow, it works. Those flavors work really well with the savory taste of the fish. Upper Meadows Farm 12 Pollara Lane Montague, NJ 07827 (973) 293-8171 uppermeadowsfarm.com Read more...