Sunday, January 31, 2010

Eating Healthy: Bruschetta

In an attempt to be healthier this month, I'm adding for fresh fruits and vegetables to the daily meals. This time, I had an overabundance of tomatoes. Yes, I know it's winter and fresh tomatoes are best in the summer. But I'm not going to give something up just because it's not in season. I'll just eat more of it when it is in season. So, I wanted something simple and delicious. I made bruschetta. I started with the bread. Usually, I use delicious white Italian bread. However, back on the healthier track, I used whole grain bread. I brushed each side with olive oil and backed them in the oven until they're crispy and browned on all sides. This just takes a couple of minutes in the toaster oven. While that heats up, I work on the tomatoes. I dice each one up finely. Then, I add some fresh basil. Lastly, I season the whole thing with salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar, and basil oil. A good friend of mine gifted me this fantastic gourmet vinegar and oil. And it has changed my life. The vinegar has really nice sweet tones and isn't harsh at all. It changed the way I thought about balsamic vinegar. And the basil oil is so rich and fragrant. These condiments were added to the tomatoes and really brought it to life. Delicious! When the bread is toasted, I just added the tomato mixture on top. Viola! Instant snack. Though, there was enough for 2 snacks/meals for me. I was too full from it to each anything else. Read more...

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Locanda Verde

I went to have a group dinner at Locanda Verde last Friday at 8:30pm. When we arrived, the place was packed. There was literally no standing room near the bar nor near the host. People bumped into each other as they passed. When I eventually got up to the hostess, I announced that I had a reservation for 8 people at 8:30pm. They quickly found it and asked if everyone was there yet. I said no but it was still before 8:30pm. We waited 10 minutes for everyone to get there. Once our party was complete, I told the hostess that we were all present. She checked again and the table was still busy with patrons. I waited and waited and checked every 15 minutes. Once with another host. At 9:00pm, I was a little annoyed because the place had cleared out a bit and I could easily see tables available now. I asked another host (Iram) about it and he said that they were waiting for our whole party to show up. I had told him that we have been here for about 20 minutes now. He apologized and quickly led us to our table. We all sat and were relieved to finally get a table. The waitress comes over with the menus and tells us a little about how she thinks we could order: family style. We thought about it but decided to get our own appetizers and entrees instead. As she left for us to peruse over the menu, the host (Iram) comes over with 2 plates of the ricotta appetizers. He apologized again for the wait. He was really gracious to us. I was happy because I was nothing but patient and nice the whole time. We thanked him. Then we dove into the warm ricotta cheese and toast. We needed more bread because they give you a lot of cheese. A bread basket of foccacia came in quite handy. Now on to the food. We all ordered a variety of the menu. For appetizers, we had: steak tartare, priest collars pasta, lamb sliders, tripe parmagiana, burrata salad, beet salad, and blue crab crostini. I tasted everything except for the burrata, beets, and crostini. But everything tasted really good. My own dish was the priest collars which had pasta rings with calamari is a pesto like sauce. It was really filling for an appetizer but delicious. It wasn't spicy at all though. The lamb sliders were highly praised. I really liked my friend's steak tartare. It had black truffles mixed in with the meat and on the toast. You could smell it. And it tasted mighty fine. Now onto the entrees which I thought were better. We had the duck, buccatini, porchetta sandwich, pork chop, priest collars, and grandma's ravioli. My dish was the duck and it was cooked beautifully. The duck was still nice and pink but the fat had rendered. It was delicious. Some delicious bucatini in a rich sauce. A lot us liked the porchetta sandwich. It tasted very tender and the flavor was good. I wish there were cracklings in it though. There could have been but I didn't have any in the bite that I tried. The pork chop was enormous. It could have easily fed two people. But we're big eaters and finished them. Also, the ravioli was filled with veal, pork, and beef (I think) and was very rustic and old fashioned. We didn't have room for dessert because the portions were pretty big. I really liked this place and would definitely go again aside from the crowdedness and the wait time. But they apologized and made up for it. Otherwise, the service was very good. Locanda Verde 377 Greenwich Street New York, NY 10013-2338 (212) 925-3797 locandaverdenyc.com Read more...

Friday, January 29, 2010

Shake Shacking It Again

After having a burger from Shake Shack not too long ago, I couldn't get it out of my brain. That juicy, fatty burger with cheese. Yeah, it's well done but there's enough flavor and fat to compensate for it. So one spontaneous night, Mr. Meat & Potatoes and I were driving back from Brooklyn when hunger struck. "What should be eat?", he asked. I replied, "I feel like burgers." Silence...then "Shake Shack!", I exclaimed. Done and done. No pondering or debating. We drove straight there. It was a cold winter night so there was no line to order. I quickly chose a Shake Stack ($8.75), a Double Shack burger ($7.25), and some fries ($2.75). However, there was a line to wait for the food. No biggie. Their heat lamps were firing away. And I watched them make every burger and basket of fries fresh to order. When I finally got my order, I rushed into the car to pick at the fries. I was ravenous from standing next to the Shack and smelling all delicious odors emanating from it. Not being greedy, I fed some to Mr. M&P too. Surprisingly, the fries were really good. Normally, they're meh but I like fried potatoes and always get them. This time they were still hot, super crispy (but soft on the inside), and well salted. I guess it does pay off to watch them make fresh batches of fries in the winter. When we got home, we chowed down on our respective burgers. He had the Double Shack Burger. Good, delicious, simple, satisfying. I had the Shack Stack. For those who do not know what that is, let me enlighten you. It's a cheeseburger with a fried cheese stuffed portobello mushroom on top. And this is what it looks like inside. Yes, gooey, melted cheese on a mushroom, deep fried and on top a fatty beef patty with cheese. Glorious! Were we happy with the meal? Hell yes! Did we devour everything? Double Hell yes! Shake Shack Madison Square Park New York, NY 10010 (212) 889-6600 shakeshacknyc.com Read more...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Homemade Dumplings

Okay, so I make my own dumplings. I've been making these since I was very young. It all started when I was a child and my mom asked me to help. Over the year I got better and she got arthritis. Soon after, I took over the job of making dumplings for the family. It's a big job and it takes hours. But I reap the delicious benefits for months. Here's a tasting of the 3 dumplings I made recently. They're over some noodles and a side of vegetables. Of course, a nice dousing of soy sauce to go on top. So here I'll explain the 6 hours process of making 3 large bags of dumplings. First, the fillings. You can basically put anything in a dumpling. I like more traditional flavors so all my dumplings will contain ground pork. The only variance will be the vegetables. The first filling contained pork, shitake mushrooms, and shrimp. Here are my mushroom with the stems removed. I chopped these up finely for the filling. Then I sauteed them in some oil. And here's the shrimp. Peel and devein. Then chop into small pieces. You can also use very small shrimp instead of chopping up larger ones. The next filling contained pork and chives. Also, make sure to saute these in some oil. Don't worry about having to much vegetables. They also shrink after cooking them. See how much less chives I have now? The last filling involves pork and watercress. This is the most classic filling for me. I don't remember eating cabbage much. But watercress was always in my diet. Wash these liberally as a lot of dirt and sand can be found. So here's the filling with chives. I mix everything together and then season with salt, pepper, soy sauce, flour (to thicken), and oil. And here's one with mushroom and shrimp. Same seasoning. I use the same seasoning for all the fillings. And lastly the wrappers. I don't make my own dough. It's too laborious. Instead, we've been using this brand of dough my whole life. I think it's called Twin Marquis and can be found in any Asian grocer. I picked 3 different kinds of wrappers: yellow and round, white and round, and yellow and square. Each provides a different texture and thickness. Take one wrapper and place a small amount of the filling inside. Do not think more is better. More is NOT better. In fact, you'll have bloated dumplings that will fall apart in boiling water. Be patient. Next, wet the outside edge with some water until just damp. Again, more is NOT better here. Patience again. Then press the sides together by folding it in half. Now the key is to get all the air out of the middle. And slightly pinch the edges to make sure that stick. The above directions makes the easiest and fastest dumplings (as pictured in the middle). When you get a little more advanced you can start getting fancy with more pleats (as pictured on the right) or with purses (as pictured on the left). But in the end, they will taste the same, fancy or not. And here's some dumplings boiled fresh (about 7 minutes in salted boiling water). It's very important to taste test. These were the pork and chive dumplings in the round yellow wrapper. Mmm, mmm. They were good. The wrapper is perfect for boiling. And here is the pork, mushroom, and shrimp one. Also very good. The shrimp gives it a lot of flavor. The wrappers on these (white and round) is thicker and can be used for pan frying. The last dumpling (pork and watercress in yellow square wrappers) was really good. It definitely brought me back to my memories as a child. The wrapper on this one was very thin and can either be boiled or steamed. And here, I reap the benefits of my own hard work after 6 long hours: soupy noodles with fresh dumplings and bok choy. Read more...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Pam Real Thai (again)

We found out the Pam Real Thai delivers to our area! We thought that they didn't deliver at all. How silly of us! So we quickly jumped on it and ordered in one night. I started with a small bowl of Tom Yum Goong ($3.95). I wasn't feeling too great and thought a nice hot, spicy soup might jump things into gear. What I received was quite good. The soup was slightly spicy and very tangy/sour at the same time. It definitely woke me up. In the broth I found a couple of shrimp and mushroom. Simple enough and did its job. Then I ordered the Pad Gra Prow ($9.95) with duck which was crispy duck with basil and spices. The duck was dry but the flavors were amazing. It came with a small container of white rice which I poured over the dish and sopped up the sauce. He chose the pad thai with chicken ($6.95). He's never had pad thai before and really liked this. I thought the sauce was a little sweet and could have used more peanut sauce. I like my pad thai more savory. But he liked it good enough to order it again. One thing I've found at Pam Real Thai is that the servings can be so deceiving. At first glance you think it's not enough. But while you're eating, you start getting full. In the end, it's just enough. Pam Real Thai Food 404 W 49th St New York, NY 10019 (212) 333-7500 Read more...

Egg McMuffins-esque Breakfast

Looking for a meat-a-rific breakfast? Look here! Don't let the title fool you. Yes, technically it's an english muffin sandwich. But there are eggs and taylor ham inside. And don't forget about the side of bacon and breakfast sausage. Heart stoppingly good! Here's a nice close up of the sandwich. Taylor ham, eggs, and cheese. Mmm, mmm! Read more...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Food When Drunk As A Lightweight

When I drink too much and become buzzed like at the Midtown Lunch HH, I have to drink lots of water and eat something. So that something this time was hot dogs and some fish sticks. It tastes good to me. Read more...

Lunch Week 4: Mixed Greens Salad with Anchovies and Eggs

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: Salad with Eggs and Anchovies Not much happening this week. Time went by too quickly and I was stuck with nothing to work with. A quick trip to the supermarket and I got some mixed spring greens, an English cucumber, some tomatoes, green bell peppers, a red onion, and shredded carrots. For dressing, I bought Marie's red wine vinaigrette. In the cupboard, I found some anchovies which I love. And there were some extra eggs in the fridge. A quick 8 minute boil and they were ready. A couple of layers mixed together and my salad is ready. I have a nice trick that I like to use when I'm transporting salad to work without making it soggy. Instead of filling a separate container with dressing for just one salad, I pour the salad dressing onto the bottom of the bowl. Then I put some of the heftier vegetables on top, like carrots or tomatoes. It's also really good to place any meat (like anchovies) on the bottom with the dressing as well. Make sure any leafy greens go on the very top. They are the most delicate. So, when it's time for lunch, I just give the covered bowl a quick shake and it's dressed properly. No extra materials needed. Read more...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Veniero's Pastry Shop

Veniero's is a long standing bakery in the neighborhood. Though not my favorite, it's still good and worth the trip. Walking in, you'll find a plethora of cookies, cakes, and pastries. It's hard to decide what you'd like. If you want variety, pick a few of the mini pastries to share, as I did this day. Here, we have 2 types of cannolis: vanilla and chocolate. Also, a mini chocolate chip tart and a mini eclair. They were all very good and delicious. The cannolis were properly filled. What irks me the most is when bakeries cheat you out of cannoli cream by just filling the ends and not the whole shell. Cheapos! But not at Veniero's. They do it right by their customers every time. These pastries helped satiate the sweet craving we had after all that savory food. We ate these standing outside admiring the place. But if you feel like taking a load off and having a cup of coffee with your baked goods, head to the back to the cafe and enjoy. Veniero's Pastry Shop 342 East 11th Street Manhattan, New York, NY 10003 (212) 253-8714 venierospastry.com Read more...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sigmund Pretzel Shop

People say that the pretzels in NYC suck. And they do! Those cold, stale, and chewy ones from the hot dog carts are terrible. As a kid, I ate them. But I didn't know any better. Now, I do and I won't but them. The next best thing so far has been Pretzel Time or Auntie Anne's. Chains, yes I know. But what are my other options for a quick pretzel? Finally, Sigmund Pretzel Shop. This small unassuming place is cranking out some pretty good pretzels. There are plain but also these other fancy ones. I picked gruyere and paprika. Cheese and bread? Yes, please. The pretzel was soft and chewy. Hot from the oven and into my mouth. It was definite a good snack. Oh and they offer free dips. I wanted mine plain but they sure sounded good. Feel like having something more filling? They offer several pretzel sandwiches. And there are picnic benches to dine on in the shop.

Sigmund Pretzel Shop 29 Avenue B New York, NY 10009 (646) 410-0333 sigmundnyc.com Read more...