Sunday, May 31, 2009

Peonies are luscious.

Peonies are my favorite flower, and even though I've resolved to live frugally these days, I couldn't resist picking up a bunch of deeply pink ones at the Greenmarket yesterday.

I love their dense, luxurious petals, and I like to emphasize that lushness by arranging them in tight bunches - this week, I've chosen a cute little creamer to use as a vase. Which is how this post is food-related.

What's your favorite flower, and how do you like to arrange them?

Do you peel your rhubarb?

I've seen recipes that mention it, and ones that don't. I've mostly done it, but sometimes I skip the step to save time. So, my question for you all is: do you peel your rhubarb? Do you find a major difference in texture when you do? Is it worth the time?

What's in your fridge?

Back when eGullet used to host their weekly food blog (I contributed twice, in 2006 and 2007), one of the traditions was for the week's featured blogger to invite us into their refrigerator. And if the blogger didn't comply within the first day or so, people practically revolted!

I might be exaggerating just a tad, but people's appetite for that glimpse into the fridge never failed to amaze me. So, since my fridge is chockablock full of late-spring goodies right now, I thought it might be time to give you all a little tour...

On the top shelf, we've got my Brita, some cranberry juice (for visitors who like a vodka cran, or a cosmo), my current jar of pickled ramps, a jar of Rick's Picks, a tub of Fage yogurt, Diet Coke (it fuels me), leftover Vietnamese food, Sriracha, some cold chicken (in the tinfoil) and this week's salad dressing (in the bowl.).

On the middle shelf, there's tonic water (diet and regular), some Magic Hat brought over by a book club member on Thursday, lemons & limes, some more Vietnamese leftovers (and slab bacon perched on top), and a line-up of jars holding strawberry-rhubarb compote and more pickled ramps.

On the bottom shelf, there are some strawberries (not local - a freebie from FreshDirect), romaine lettuce, rhubarb, spring garlic, and eggs! In the drawer we've got onions, snap peas, cucumbers, shallots, scallions...and I think that's it. The door is an assortment of various condiments, pickles, vinegars and oils (they stay fresh longer in the fridge) and cheese. Oh, and garlic!

So, what's in your fridge?

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Spring's sharp bite - and a bargain to boot.

Radishes aren't everyone's cup of tea - and, I admit, they're not at the top of my list of produce to get worked up over. That said, they add a delicious, peppery bite to salads, are delicious with butter, bread and salt, and, perhaps best of all - they're an insane bargain.

Local radishes from small farmers? $1 a bunch. ONE DOLLAR. Just thought that all of you who think buying local and sustainable is out of reach, budget-wise, should know about this. Not that you can live on radishes alone, but it's a start.

Cheating on Paris.

About six months before I launched Queenie Takes Manhattan, Louisa and I took a two-week trip to Europe. In addition to being a two-week long confirmation of the fact that we were destined to be best friends (we traveled together really, really well), it was a fantastic tour of some of Europe's most beautiful spots (Épernay excepted, though it gets a pass for the fantastic, sparkly hooch.).

We started off with five days in Prague, and knew we wanted to spend time in Champagne and Paris - but had no stop in the middle. Louisa wasn't terribly keen on Germany, so I did a little research and decided we would spend three days in Strasbourg as a way to break the journey from Prague to Reims.

We loved Prague, we had a fantastic, posh, tipsy time in Champagne, and Paris is Paris - but Strasbourg took us by surprise. It's an amazing place. Tiny but cultured (thanks in no small part to the university and the EU Parliament and Court of Human Rights), it's a gorgeous little mashup of French and German culture - luxurious but down-to-earth, fashionable but practical. It's flat and walkable, with a great tram system and miles upon miles of bike paths.

We had our best meal of the trip at Chez Yvonne, a vinstub (a sort of wine tavern) on one of the old town's tiny cobblestone streets. We also had some of the best pastry of our lives (Thanks, Pâtisserie Christian!), stayed in one of the most unexpectedly adorable hotels, and woke up each morning to the bells chiming in the pink - PINK! - cathedral.

In short, we found Strasbourg to be a most magical place - I'm still toying with the idea of moving there - and I would love to go back as soon as possible.

Barring that, I comb the interwebs for doses of Strasbourg-eosity whenever possible. This morning I came across this Flickr set (courtesy of Mike G. K.), and was promptly whisked away by a fantasy in which I decorate an apartment in central Strasbourg with finds from Paris' flea markets and some well-chosen Ikea bits and bobs, and then spend my days wandering Strasbourg's streets and writing about the city's magical charms. And, of course, get paid very, very well for it all. Sigh.

Thanks, Mike.

Photos of everything but the pastry courtesy of Mike G. K.'s Flickr stream.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Charcuterie, chez moi.

It was pretty dang warm here on Friday. Don't get me wrong - this spate of summer-like weather we've been having is very, very welcome - not to mention good for Memorial Day business at the local beaches. That said, my motivation to actually cook tends to dwindle as the temperature rises. So, for lunch, I decided to break out the charcuterie.

Pâté de campagne is one of my favorite types of charcuterie - I tend to prefer the more rustic versions, where the meat is chopped as opposed to pureed, and boldly flavored with cognac and black pepper. Of course, going for pâtés made of pork (pâté de grandmère is another good example) is also a more economical option than springing for those made with duck and foie gras.

Lately, I've been favoring Les Trois Petits Cochons for my charcuterie needs. They're based in Brooklyn and produce a full line of delectable charcuterie, including vegetable terrine and the aforementioned pate de campagne.

When I got home from the Greenmarket (where I'd bought a loaf of whole wheat sourdough from one of the bakery stands), I cut a few slices of pate, spooned a few pickled ramps out of their jar, sliced the bread and dished out a little whole grain mustard. A little light on the veggies, sure - but who needs salad when you've got pâté? Not I, my friend. Not I.

A city obsessed.

It's no secret that New York is a city obsessed with food. Be it home-cooked, ordered-in, or eaten-at-a-restaurant, New Yorkers cannot stop talking about their latest food fascination. This year, the biggest trend has been for the affordable and the transportable: banh mi sandwiches.

Sometimes, though, an obsession makes it through the trend phase and winds up a classic. Such is the story of Café Habana's grilled corn. People wait in line for this corn; they eat it on sidwalks, gobble it up greedily, and order more.

Grilled in the husk, then shucked, covered in mayonnaise, rolled in cojita cheese and seasoned with cayenne and lemon juice, it's pretty much one of the best things you've ever tasted. A little sweet, a little rich, a little salty, a little tangy - it's like spicy dessert.

Haven't had it yet? Do it soon.

Oh, and - those of you not lucky enough to live within subway distance? Here's a recipe to make the corn at home.

Cafe Habana
17 Prince Street (at Elizabeth Street)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

1,001 (ok, two) ways to eat your strawberry-rhubarb compote.

With vanilla ice cream...

...or with waffles, butter, and a pinch of sugar.

Family time.

On Friday night, I met up with my brother, Jeremy, at Joe, and we made our way downtown to Pearl Oyster Bar. We arrived at 5:30, a half hour before opening, and there were already about 10 people on line waiting to get in.

When the doors opened at 6:00, we hopped into two seats at the bar and ordered - oysters and a lobster roll for me, clam chowder and a lobster roll for Jer. Few people appreciate food the way my brother does, and he seems to have a special place in his heart for seafood - so it was really fun for me to share his first Pearl experience with him.

The oysters were fantastic - clean and fresh tasting, with just a hint of briny sea. The mignonette sauce was fantastic - bracing and full of tangy shallots - but the cocktail sauce could use a bit more zing. It was warm on Friday night, but the air conditioning was going full-blast, so the weather inside was just right for a bowl of soup.The clam chowder was rich and creamy, filled with bacon and chunks of potato.

And, unsurprisingly, the lobster rolls were amazing, though a tad overdressed with mayo that night.

Jeremy had to head over to the theatre, so we had to forgo dessert, but we agreed that next time we'd try the hot fudge sundae and the strawberry rhubarb pie. Yes, we're definitely related. Like you couldn't tell just by looking at us...

Monday, May 25, 2009

It's that time again.

My friends, the day I've been waiting for has finally arrived. Strawberries are here, and all is right with the world.

I took Friday off from work and used the morning to visit the Greenmarket. The Friday market is less crowded than its Saturday incarnation, but there are also proportionately fewer vendors on hand. I strode briskly down the line, checking each and every table for the tell-tale turquoise containers, searching and searching until I spied some out of the corner of my eye.

There were about ten quarts of berries on the table, so I quickly swooped down and claimed two of them. My search over, I calmed down a bit and wandered back through the market, adding a pound of rhubarb and a bouquet of poppies to my haul for the morning.

Strawberries will obviously be far more plentiful next week, so there's no need to be precious about them. But to make my haul last until then, I decided to use most of this first batch to make a double batch of one my favorite springtime treats, strawberry-rhubarb compote.

I've already eaten it on ice cream, over greek yogurt (topped with a drizzle of honey) and, admittedly, straight from the jar. Yeah, I'm uncouth - deal.

Paris, through the eyes of a Parisian.

For those of you who - like me - just can't get enough of Paris right now, have a gander at Cyril Genty's incredible, inspiring photoblog Un Jour à Paris. Each day he takes and posts a photo of his adopted home, and the results show a far more real, grittier, and more beautiful version of Paris than we typically see on this side of the Atlantic.

As someone whose favorite parts of her own city are typically those where the beauty is cut with a little grit, I am breathless at Cyril's ability to document those same parts of his home.

Many thanks to the blog Inside Out, whose fantastic interview with Cyril pointed me toward his blog, and kickstarted my latest addiction.

Photo courtesy of Un Jour à Paris.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Parisian perfection, part two.

Hello, doves!

Just wanted to let you all know that the second half of my guest post for Jauntsetter is now up and blogged for your reading pleasure. Enjoy, and tune in shortly for a new edition of Queenie's Take!

Au revoir!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Strawberries have landed!

In other news, I love Twitter. Thanks for the update, @maggiejane!

Forgive me readers, for I have sinned.

On Sunday, while my laundry tumbled in the dryer, I ran to the grocery store to buy some orzo for my lunches this week. After being horrified by the price of a box of De Cecco at my local Food Emporium, another kind of pasta caught my eye. Not until that moment had I realized what I wanted for dinner: Kraft macaroni and cheese from the box.

Reader, I bought that mac & cheese, and I ate it. Yes, I am a vehement advocate of all things seasonal and local, an evangelist for all things slow and unprocessed. However. I, too, have my American-grown food weaknesses, and that powdery, salty, orangey goodness is at the top of a very short list (which also includes chicken McNuggets and Friendly's Reeses Pieces sundae).

When I read the side of the box, I noticed that the recipe seems to have changed slightly since I last bought Kraft dinner. Instead of a tablespoon of butter, the recipe now calls for just half a tablespoon, and it specifies skim milk in lieu of whole. Interesting, no? I didn't have any milk in the house, so I subbed in water, which, frankly, works just as well.

I made a salad to eat alongside, to assuage my nutritional guilt, and dug into the bowl of bright orange, dinosaur-shaped noodles. Let me tell you, people - it was dang good. Better than Cheetos. Better than Hostess cupcakes. But while it was a fantastic trip down memory lane, it was not better than spaghetti carbonara. Phew.

Well, golly gee!

Jauntsetter is my latest addiction.

A most fabulous travel site and weekly newsletter for New York women, Jauntsetter highlights travel deals, tips and tricks for ladies traveling from the New York area. Each week, they feature a different destination (recent spots include Baltimore and Fire Island) and a different Jauntsetter of the Week. The Jauntsetters are always cool women with great travel wisdom to share, and I love hearing about their experiences, especially those related to food (um, duh).

Earlier this week, Jauntsetter editor Dororthy McGivney posted some musings on traveling solo, inspired by her (current!) trip to Paris. I tweeted her to let her know how much I loved the post, and we got to talking a bit about great things to do in Paris.

And then, the most exciting thing of all happened - Dorothy invited me to write a guest post and share my Parisian favorites with Jauntsetter's readers!

The first half of my perfect Parisian day is already posted over at Jauntsetter, with a second post (all about ice cream, Camille and wine) planned for this afternoon. Go check it out, and make sure to sign up for Jauntsetter's newsletter while you're at it!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

En plein air.

You know it's almost summer in New York when you eat outside for the first time. This probably isn't so different for non-New Yorkers - when I was growing up in Connecticut, we used to eat outside as soon as it got warm enough - but there's a curious willingness on a New Yorker's part to brave the smog and noise of congested avenues to dine al fresco the second the thermometer passes 70 degrees. (My friend Miles is a notable exception to this rule.)

Last Friday, after spending an afternoon off from work baking my sunscreen-slathered self on a rock in Central Park (that's a shot of the Great Lawn, taken just before dinnertime), I met my friend Cristin for an early dinner at Bar Boulud, near Lincoln Center. We actually ate there together at about the same time last year - and this time around, we had basically the same meal. Except, this time, we got to eat outside and enjoy the sunshine.

We shared a few small things, which seems to me to be the best way to eat, the vast majority of the time. Cristin ordered a flight of red wines, I tucked into a flight of French whites (white Burgundy - is there arnything better?), and we shared escargot, pâté grand-mère, and some delectably crispy French fries. Bar Boulud wins many, many points for serving its fries with tangy, European-syle mayonnaise. MANY POINTS.

(They lose a few points for some pretty shoddy service, though. They were hovering and imposing for the first twenty minutes, and then, when we were ready to order, they disappeared. They forgot Cristin's second glass of wine, too. For shame, frankly, at the price of $17 a glass.)

But, aside from the service glitches, it was a great, warm, sunny meal. So what if it's back in the 50s today?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Getting ready.

My regular readers know that I am growing more and more impatient for the arrival of summer's bounty to the Greenmarket. I'm craving berries and tomatoes and corn and peaches - and I can almost taste the strawberries, which are bound to show up any day now.

In preparation, I've been reading through last summer's issues of Gourmet. It hasn't helped allay my cravings - but it has reminded me of a couple of recipes I wanted to make last year and never got around to tackling. Among them are the Aussie burger, tomato and honeydew salad, grilled watermelon and tomato salad, and cheesecake with minted blackberries.

I also found a dessert I made last year that I want to make again this summer: mascarpone-filled cake with sherried berries. Oh yes. Come to Mama.

Photo of the mouthwatering cake is courtesy of

Friday, May 15, 2009

Queenie's Take: Boston ahoy!

This week's Queenie's Take comes to you straight from Twitter, where I asked people to send their most pressing food and travel questions. So, today we'll be talking travel to Boston, and next week it'll be shopping & cafes here in NYC. Without further ado...

We're in Boston Sunday through Tuesday. What should we do? - Danielle (@foodmomiac)

Good question, Danielle! As a former denizen of New England, I have some Boston favorites to share with you - and since I know you have kids, I'm going to try to focus on stuff that you can all enjoy together!

Boston is one of those towns that brings out my nerdy side - American history, academia, great art - for such a small city, Boston has an incredibly rich cornucopia of stuff to tickle your brain. One of favorite museums is the Boston Museum of Science, with its awesome mid-century-version-of-the-future architecture and its Leonard Nimoy-narrated planetarium welcome. They also have a butterfly garden exhibition right now - something Dylan is bound to love.

My other favorite is the Museum of Fine Arts, which has an absolutely magnificent collection of John Singer Sargent's works (though we have my favorite - Madame X - here in NYC). He's one of my favorite artists, and seeing so many of his pieces together in one space is truly awe-inspiring.

For the adults, a wander down Beacon Hill's Charles Street might be in order. Filled to bursting with great shopping (clothes, home design, and the like) and good restaurants, it's just down the hill from the State House, and makes a nice afternoon walk. My cousin and her husband live up near the top of the hill, and I'm falling a bit more in love with the neighborhood on each visit.

Finally, for me, there was nothing cooler about my early trips to Boston than walking the Freedom Trail. Along the way you can choose to visit Paul Revere's house, Old North Church (in whose steeple hung the two lanterns signaling the approach of the British soldiers), and the USS Constitution. If your kids are anywhere near as geeky as I was (er, AM), they'll be psyched.

As far as food goes, you can't beat Boston for seafood, and for that, there are two spots I'd recommend. First, Barking Crab, downtown. Awesome lobster rolls, great fried clams, and great grilled fish, too. And, of course, there's the all-time classic, Summer Shack. Voted best lobster roll in Boston two years in a row, it's worth the trek out to Cambridge to visit the original location of Jasper White's seafood mecca. We ate here when my brother graduated from college, and I still think about it.

We expect a full report!

Photos courtesy of Pear_Biter, Shooothead, mkrigsman and Dan4th on Flickr.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Eat your greens.

I love lettuce and greens in all their various forms, but I will admit - I'm not great about using them at home. I tend to stick with romaine, which serves me for my meal-sized salads (a dinner eaten at least twice a week chez Queenie) as well as my smaller, side-salad creations.

Anything else I buy tends to sit in the fridge till it wilts enough to become completely unappealing. Such behavior is a waste of food and money, and so I've stopped pretending and mainly get my lettuce varietal fixes elsewhere.

That said, when I saw some fresh pea greens at the market last week, I couldn't pass them by. I love their sharp little bite and the crunch of the stems, and I thought they'd be the perfect thing alongside the duck leg I'd bought on the other side of the park. I did a little thinking, picked up a container of fresh fettuccine, and made my way back uptown.

When I got home, I chopped some shallot and a little garlic, seasoned and seared the duck leg (which I then popped in the oven to finish cooking), and sauteed half the pea shoots in a tiny bit of olive oil. I lined the pasta bowl with the other pea shoots (still raw), topped it with the fettucine and cooked greens, and placed the duck leg on top of it all. A shower of chives and a bit of salt and pepper later, lunch was ready!

Fresh Fettuccine with Pea Greens and Duck

1 duck leg, skin-side seasoned with salt and pepper
3 tsp. olive oil, separated
1 small shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, sliced
2 loosely-packed cups pea greens, separated
1 tbs. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. honey
2 tbs. dry white wine (or dry Vermouth)
1/4 cup finely chopped chives
1/4 lb. frsh fettucine, cooked according to package instructions
1/2 tbs. unsalted butter
Salt and pepper, to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. In a small skillet set over high heat, heat 1 tsp. of the olive oil for a minute or two. Place the duck leg in the skillet, skin-side down, and let sear on high heat for a minute, then reduce heat to medium and continue to cook for three to four more minutes, until the skin is dark brown and crispy. Turn the leg over and transfer the skillet to the oven. Cook for 10 minutes, then remove from oven and let sit while you prepare the pasta.

In a medium skillet set over medium-high heat, saute the shallots in two teaspoons of the olive oil until transluscent, about one minute. Add the garlic and saute for a minute more. Add the pea greens and chives and saute for two minutes, or until wilted. Add the mustard & honey to the pan and stir into the greens, shallots and garlic, until both are evenly distributed. Cook for two minutes, then add the wine.

Stir briskly, making sure you get any good brown bits from the pottom of the skillet incorporated into the sauce, then turn the heat down until the pasta is ready. Once pasta is ready, drain (Do NOT rinse!) and add to the skillet. Turn the heat to medium and cook the pasta and sauce together for a few minutes, stirring to distribute the sauce throughout the pasta. Add the butter stir once or twice to incorporate, and turn off the heat.

Line your plate with the remaining pea greens, top with the pasta, and place the duck leg on top. Sprinkle the remaining chives over everything, season to taste, and eat!

Serves one, generously. I've made this recipe a few times this month, usually with fresh fettuccine. Last week, I used spaghetti - which works really well, too - so don't feel beholden to the fresh pasta rule!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Flowers, flowers, everywhere!

I've gone a little poladroid-crazy lately, but, when there are so many gorgeous flowers to look at - can you blame me? Lilacs have been bountiful at the market for weeks now, and last Saturday brought the first of my absolute favorite - peonies - as well as some sweet little buttercups.

Happy spring!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Not the hard stuff, but it'll do for now.

For my money, asparagus rival ramps for the altogether-made-up title, "Spring's Greatest, Most Delicious Vegetable." Gloriously grassy (which makes sense, since asparagus is a grass, of sorts), asparagus is a perfect foil for many of spring's other goodies, such as farm-fresh eggs, chives - though it's no stranger to the more wintry parmesan and balsamic vinegar.

Over the last two weeks, I've made my way through four bunches of asparagus - some roasted, encrusted with grated parmesan, some blanched and dipped in homemade mayonnaise, some steamed and topped with an improvised, raw hollandaise (really just homemade mayo with extra lemon juice and chopped chives).

My cravings for strawberries, tomatoes and corn haven't abated, but the asparagus binge is helping to alleviate the pangs - for now.

Monday, May 11, 2009

In a pickle.

My love for pickles is famous, in certain circles. When I was growing up in Connecticut, we'd pile in the car for drives up to my aunt and uncle's house in Massachusetts. The best part of the drive (aside from the destination, of course) was our regular pit stop at Rein's Deli just south of Hartford, where the sandwiches are massive, and the pickles just keep coming.

My love for pickling is a more recent development, but is no less of an obsession. When spring rolls around, I find myself desperate to pickle everything in sight, the better to preserve the bounty of the season through the long, cold winter I know is coming. Well, that - and I just love the sweet, vinegary crunch of a good pickle.

For the last few weeks, the greenmarket vegetable most worth pickling has been that stinky harbinger of spring: ramps. I follow this recipe from Serious Eats for my ramp pickling, and it hasn't steered me wrong yet. The fennel and coriander lend the ramps an additional complexity, enhancing their essential garlic-tinged, meaty flavor.

Pickling is super-easy, too - I don't have the storage space to do actual canning, so I just store my jars in the fridge till I have the opportunity to use the goodies I've accumulated. (Need some ideas about what to do with your bounty? Check out this link.) They also make fabulous gifts, and a couple of the jars I have in the fridge right now are slated to make their way into some hot little hands in the next couple of weeks. Lucky ducks.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Up close and personal, the full arsenal.

I think I've exhausted my trip to Stone Barns in terms of blogging material, but there's still more to see, if you're game.

So, if you're feeling the need to look at a few more pictures of adorable lambs, or to see the cows lazing about in their gorgeous pasture, have a gander at the full set of photos, right here. And enjoy!

Up close and personal, part three.

The greenhouses at Stone Barns sit at the foot of a hill, spreading out below the titular stone barns and outbuildings, fanning down toward the bluffs that line the banks of the Hudson. In a landscape dominated by natural materials, flora and fauna, their glass, plastic and steel silhouettes seem a bit out of place, an invading force overtaking a rural idyll.

That is, of course, until you venture inside.

Filled with lettuce, carrots, seedlings, and two rabbits, the greenhouses are row after row of fun - walking along the neatly-spaced plantings, you find greens you never even knew existed, and, in Cristin's case, see your first ever still-in-the-ground carrot.

Deer tongue lettuce is in abundance, as is a rainbow of chard. Among the seedlings, we saw arugula, oregano, and thyme - labeled "Summa Thyme," for your chuckling enjoyment. As someone who has only recently begun to grow her own herbs (and one persnickety Meyer lemon tree), the sheer plenty of it all was fantastically inspiring. Yet another reason for my first home purchase to be a place upstate, where I can renovate, garden and entertain to my heart's content.

And, yes, of course you're all invited.

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