Friday, April 30, 2010
But Dirt Candy (under the guidance of chef Amanda Cohen) is very, very different. It's vegetarian, yes - and they'll go vegan if you like - but it's the opposite of austere, boring or punishing. Our starter is a perfect example of the spirit of the place: jalapeno hush puppies, served with whipped maple butter. The hush puppies were lovely. Piping hot and studded with bits of hot pepper, they were made most delicious by the sweet, round flavor of the butter, which melted and pooled on contact. (We actually sneaked the butter off the plate and held onto it for the rest of the meal. I have resolved to serve as many things as possible with maple butter in future.)
Our waitress recommended we each get both an appetizer and a main course; to tell the truth, we would have been fine forgoing at least one of the four dishes, but it was nice to taste so many things. I started with the barbecue carrot buns, which were served with a salad of cucumber, sesame and ginger. The salad was actually my favorite part of the dish; the buns, while tasty, were a bit under-seasoned and not quite, well, barbecue-y enough.
Anica's starter, on the other hand, was magnificent. A root vegetable salad served with greens, it had pumpkin as well as acorn and butternut squash. The croutons were flavored with blue cheese, and the crispy things were pepitas, pumpkin seeds coated with chickpea flour and fried. The dressing on this was insanely delicious - I don't buy bottled dressing, but if the chef were to bottle this, I'd spring for a whole case.
My picture of Anica's main was beyond blurry, so you're just going to have to trust me when I tell you that it was a plate of parsnip gnocchi served with a creamy root vegetable sauce and topped with carrot cake crumbs. It was tasty, but a bit on the sweet side.
We both loved my main, which featured all kinds of corn goodness: grits, huitlachoche (a delicious fungus that infects corn in a most wonderful way) and creamy corn, topped with pickled shiitakes (Yay, pickles!), an egg poached and fried in tempura batter, and a bit of salted ricotta. I. Was. In. Heaven. The egg and mushrooms in particularly made the dish for me.
Finally, dessert. All through April, the restaurant ran a special on dessert - order one, get one free! Since there are only four desserts on the menu, full-stop, we were able to try a bit of everything! Clockwise from the top, we have pea and mint ice cream cake, red pepper red velvet cake, caramel pudding with caramel popcorn, and fennel funnel cake. The pudding won the day, by a long shot, but the red velvet cake was really interesting, too.
All in all, a wonderful meal. This is vegetarian cooking at its richest and most generous. No shortage of creativity, flavor or texture to be found here. Just some of the most delicious butter of all time, and popcorn-flavored pudding. Yum.
430 East 9th Street (Between 1st and A)
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
First, while still at Chelsea Market, I took a peek into the mini Jacques Torres outlet across from Chelsea Thai. The chocolate chip cookies looked tempting, but I had another treat in mind.
Cherry blossoms were in full bloom along Hudson Street. Pretty, and so short-lived - the floral equivalent of spring in New York.
I passed Myers of Keswick, a charming little shop fully stocked with all kinds of goodies from the United Kingdom. The price of curing homesickness may be a bit steep, but ex-pat Brits in New York tend to flock here in any case in search of Lyle's Golden Syrup and authentic Cadbury chocolates.
I stopped into Chocolate Bar in desperate search of one of my own favorite treats: their milky-satly-pretzel bar. But, sadly, they were out! Cue my pout and change of direction to the east.
Typical West Village townhouses on Jane Street. I'd move here in a heartbeat. Anyone care to subsidize? Hmmmmm?
At the corner of West 4th and Bleecker, I stopped into the original outpost of Magnolia Bakery (they now have stores in Midtown and on the Upper West Side). While I'm not a huge fan of their cakes or cupcakes (too sweet, chewy instead of moist), I do love their little 75-cent chocolate chip cookies, though, so I bought one of them and kept on trucking. (But not before snapping a shot of their gorgeous mason jars full of sprinkles! I love this photo.)
Eventually, I made my way over to Washington Square Park, where I lounged in the sun, read a book, and generally enjoyed the fact that I had nowhere to be at that particular moment in time. Now that, my friends, is luxury indeed.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
I ordered the Zen butter, a combination of peanut butter and sesame seeds. It's more sesame-y than peanut-y, but it's 100% delicious. Creamy, cold and satisfying. Rich in a way that we're not really used to when it comes to ice cream, it's dense and nutty, but not even a little bit sweet. Good stuff.
Chinatown Ice Cream Factory
65 Bayard (Between Mott and Elizabeth)
And this NYC Grows woolly pocket garden was pretty cool, too. Each pocket was planted with a different vegetable, flower or herb. Pretty freaking neat, and a reminder that, even in this most urban of landscapes, we need plant life to keep us sane, healthy and well-fed. (I planted my windowsill herb garden this weekend; how about you?)
Monday, April 26, 2010
Ostensibly a pizza restaurant (McNally hired San Francisco's Nate Appleman to create the menu and run the joint), it's first and foremost a gathering place for hipsters, hangers-on and (at brunch, at least) downtown parents and their children.
The three of us decided to share a few things, starting with an appetizer of asparagus, ramps and rhubarb. The dish was clearly meant to be a celebration of early spring, featuring the season's three star ingredients. The grassy asparagus, tart rhubarb and stinky ramps actually went quite well together; the flavors weren't revolutionary, but it was tasty. The dish was completely overwhelmed, however, by two things: the mound of far-too-peppery black pepper mascarpone hiding beneath the asparagus, and the price: $14.
Next, we tried the margherita pizza, which we ordered with an egg on top. The pizza was very good - crisp but still chewy, and the sauce, cheese and basil were each top-notch. The egg was put on a bit early and the yolk was cooked all the way through, which was a bit disappointing. Overall, though, it's a solid pizza.
The star of the meal, by far, was the sweet pizza we shared as a dessert. It was topped with pecorino, pears, cinnamon and sugar (and, my guess is, a bit of butter). It was just sweet enough, and the pears were still a bit firm and not at all mushy. We devoured this, licked our fingers, and resolved to come back and order a large one very, very soon.
282 Bowery (at Houston Street)
Saturday, April 24, 2010
First, a look at a gorgeous apartment in Bruges, widely regarded as Belgium's most picturesque town. The 17th-century house overlooks a canal, and is absolutely beautiful. I think the master bedroom nestled in the beamed eaves may be my favorite part. (Ignore the stuffed dogs, please.)
Next, these adorable ceramic baskets, which are modeled after the cardboard and paper varieties you see in markets all summer long. Imagine them piled high with raspberries, blueberries, strawberries or lemons. Gorgeous, right? I collect white ceramics, and these are going on my wish list, immediately. (Via the incomparable Creature Comforts.)
Finally, from Pink of Perfection, a recipe for a spring ragout of vegetables that looks absolutely too-licious. Radishes, snow peas, asparagus and herbs galore are enriched by butter, mustard and Parmesan cheese. Sounds like my kind of vegetables.
Friday, April 23, 2010
Jason and Abby are no slouches when it comes to food, and since they've been raving about Anella ever since they discovered it last fall, I knew I was in for a treat. It's a tiny, U-shaped space with a little bar running along the center of the restaurant. We had to wait about half an hour for a table, so we enjoyed another cocktail. I went for the Heering Manhattan, made with rye, Heering cherry liqueur, dry vermouth and bitters. It was fabulous - a bit sweet, but complex enough to keep my attention.
Everything we ate was delicious - the asparagus with crispy egg, the mussels with brie butter and french fries, the strozapreti with bacon. But my favorite dish of the night, far and away, was the romaine heart salad. It was served chilled, on an ice-cold plate. The dressing was a simple combination of crème fraiche and lemon juice, and sprinkled atop the whole thing was a smattering of dill, some buttery bread crumbs, finely chopped white onion and - the pièce de resistance - fried capers.
If you've never had fried capers, now is the time to start. They are absolutely divine. Frying a caper for a couple of minutes opens it up into a flower-like shape, and brings out the nutty qualities of the normally briny berry. They're fantastic with loads of different dishes - try sprinkling them on top of pasta, salads, or even scrambled eggs. You can't go wrong.
But first, of course, try them with this. I feel pretty good about this tribute to Anella's delicious dish, but please let me know if you can think of ways to improve upon it.
Hearts of Romaine with Lemon, Crème Fraiche and Fried Capers
Adapted from Anella
1/4 cup plus one tablespoon canola oil, divided
2 tbs. capers, rinsed, drained and dried for 30 minutes on paper towels
1 tbs. butter
1 slice bread (I used whole wheat, but you can use whatever you like.)
3 tbs. crème fraiche
1 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 romaine heart, halved lengthwise
1 tbs. dill, finely chopped
1 tbs. white onion, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fry the capers:
In a small skillet or saucepan set over medium-high heat, heat 1/4 cup of the canola oil until very hot. (A drop of water flicked onto the surface should crackle and evaporate immediately.) Add the capers and fry until they turn dark brown and smell nutty. Turn off the heat and, using a slotted spoon, remove the capers to a plate covered with paper towels. Set aside.
Make the buttery croutons:
In a medium skillet set over medium-high heat, heat the remaining canola oil with the butter. Once the butter has melted and is slightly foamy, add the slice of bread and turn the heat down slightly. Toast until dark brown on one side, then flip and toast the other side. Remove to a cutting board and slice into 1/4 or 1/2 inch squares. Set aside.
Make the dressing:
In a small bowl, whisk together the crème fraiche and lemon juice. The dressing should have a thick but drizzle-able consistency, like homemade ranch dressing. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
Assemble the salad:
Place the romaine heart halves side by side on a chilled plate. Drizzle generously with the dressing (Use it all; don't be afraid.), then sprinkle with the dill. Follow with the onion, then the croutons, and finally the capers. Finish with a bit of salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
Serves one, generously, or two, if you're really, really good at sharing.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
I ordered the pho with top round, brisket and tendon, while Miya went for veggie with veggie broth. Both were about six bucks, making them the most ridiculous bargains available. Seriously, these were huge bowls of soup. And they were oh-so-tasty.
My beef pho had a traditional, spice-scented broth. The clove and anise came through loud and clear, emphasized by the rich beefiness of the soup. One of the things I love about broth is the way it can be so rich and yet almost completely devoid of fat. It sucks all the flavor out of the bones and becomes something entirely new. It's almost alchemy.
When it came to the meat, I was particularly fond of the tender brisket. It practially melted in my mouth, and was full to bursting with beef flavor. The tendon wasn't bad, but there was a bit much of it for my taste. I'd much rather have had double the brisket and half the tendon. One only needs so much chewiness. And the noodles were pretty good, too - firm enough to stand up to the hot soup, but still tender.
Miya's veggie version was no slouch, either. Absolutely chock full of veggies and tofu, it was quite a sight to see. We got to work doctoring our bowls with hoisin sauce, Sriracha (for me; none for Miya, since Emi was sharing her noodles), bean sprouts and Thai basil. The doctoring might be the best part, actually - working for your supper, as it were.
245 Grand Street (Between Chrystie and Bowery)
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
even working stiffs tend to visit for a quick coffee break.) as well as its absolutely obscene prices.
You'll pay $7.00 for a cappuccino here, and I can admit that it's a good cappuccino. But the real star of the show is the pastry, and the cakes in particular.
The shop's aesthetic mirrors that of its product: spare but luxe, light but creamy, elegant but decadent. Their signature cake is called the Mille Crêpes, and it's essentially 20 (not a thousand, as the name suggests) paper-thin crêpes stacked one on top of the other. Pastry cream is mixed with whipped cream and sandwiched in between each layer, and the top is covered in a fine, bruléed sugar crust. It is, in a word, delicious. (It's also pretty easy to copy; check out my recipe for it over here. That's a photo of it below.)
Last week, I decided to branch out from my usual crêpes cake routine to try the lemon meringue cake, a typical Lady M spin on a classic. Fluffy lemon cake replaces the lemon curd pie filling. A thin schmear of lemon custard separates the two cake layers, and the whole thing is topped by a perfect mountain of slightly toasted meringue.
It's a pretty good dessert, though I think the cake could be a bit tarter, which would make it a far better foil for the sweet-sweet-sweet meringue. All in all, it can't ever replace the Mille Crêpes in my estimation, but it's still pretty dang tasty.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
It was a gloomy day outside, and the sky was that bright white color you see on chilly afternoons. The stone glowed under the filtered light, and the ladies decorating the cornices looked a bit forboding.
The Met can seem imposing from certain angles, but I love that its sweep of stairs is so often - day or night - softened by the presence of pairs of friends sitting, chatting, and possibly enjoying a hot dog from the vendors that sell them (overpriced, of course, this is tourist central) down on the Fifth Avenue curb.
This is the Upper East Side at its finest, all neoclassical and proper. The area near the museum is well worth a wander, especially on a nice day. Me, I spent my time checking out the incredible exhibition of the Limbourg brothers' illuminated manuscript, Les Belles Heures du Duc de Berry. An incredibly tactile and awe-inspiring experience, if I do say so myself. You can get within inches of the folios and examine them with a museum-provided magnifying glass. I felt like a proper Sherlock Holmes, searching for meaning in the detailed borders, and gaping at the pin-pricked gold leaf that sparkled like the sun.
Maybe I shouldn't wait so long next time.
Monday, April 19, 2010
The tart is a modified version of a recipe that appears in David Lebovitz's new cookbook, Ready for Dessert. It's as easy as can be, with a dough made in the food processor and pressed into the tart pan - no rolling involved! The polenta (or corn meal) and eggs make the crust hearty and fuss-free, and the whole thing keeps wonderfully for several days (I made mine on Tuesday and was still eating it on Saturday.).
Choose any jam you like; I used a combination of blackberry and strawberry, which turned out to be delicious. The slightly sour blackberries tempered the sweet strawberries, and the whole thing was incredibly addictive. The one major change I made was swapping in vanilla extract for almond (I don't particularly care for almond extract.). Feel free to swap it back if that's your thing.
I may make a peach one tonight. I mean, how else can you have peaches in April?
Easy Jam Tart
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup stone-ground cornmeal or polenta
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
9 tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, whole
1 egg, separated
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups jam or marmalade
1 tbs. coarse-crystal or granulated sugar
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. In a food processor, pulse the butter and 1/2 cup sugar together until smooth. Add the egg and egg yolk along with the vanilla and pulse until combined. With the processor on, gradually add the flour mixture through the feed tube and mix until the dough just comes together.
Transfer about one-third of the dough to a lightly floured counter and shape it into a log about 2 inches in diameter. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it until needed. If the shelves in your fridge are wire, place the log on a plate before putting in the fridge.
Transfer the remaining dough to a buttered 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Using your hands or the flat bottom of a measuring cup, press the dough evenly into the bottom. Press the dough up the sides to the rim of the pan and set the tart pan on a baking sheet. Refrigerate the dough-lined pan until firm, at least one hour.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spread the jam or marmalade evenly over the dough in the pan. Cut the chilled dough into very thin discs with a sharp paring knife. Arrange them slightly overlapped in concentric circles over the jam to form a top crust. (I used a square tart pan, so I did mine in rows, and let the jam peek out a bit.) Using a fork, beat the remaining egg white with a teaspoon of water until frothy; brush evenly over the tart lid and then sprinkle with1 tbs. of coarse sugar. Bake until the top crust is golden brown, about 20-25 minutes. Let cool completely before serving.
Keeps very well, wrapped tightly, at room temperature.
Friday, April 16, 2010
I've shared this recipe before, but I think it bears repeating. It's easy and delicious, and makes a comfortingly simple meal out of duck legs, another of my favorite things. Yum.
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.
Spring was on display, too, though, in the form of azaleas...
...and just-beginning-to-bloom lilacs...
...and edible flowers.
The perfect breakfast, no matter what the season? Ronnybrook's coffee-flavored milk. Remember when your parents would put just a smidge of their coffee in your milk to make you feel all grown-up? This is like that, but creamier. It's decadent, it's naughty, and I love it.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Since I rarely make it onto the water (over or under it, surely, but not onto it), I opted for the latter option. Walking down Wall Street from Broadway reminded me of how much I love the financial district - it's dead as a doornail at night, but its streets are narrow, twisty and canyon-like in a way that no other part of the city is. It's downright gorgeous, and, during the day, full of energy.
I won't bore you with the details of my Ikea run, but I will share some photos from the ride. The taxi terminal lies just south of the Brooklyn Bridge, and the views are spectacular. I love how, even from a distance, the bridge feels so touchable. Looking at it is like touching the sun-warmed stone itself.
Above is a shot of downtown Manhattan, with the water taxi sentry standing guard. Not to be morbid, but I'm still not used to that gaping hole in the skyline, and I don't think I ever will be.
Next up, Lady Liberty! People who come to visit New York are often surprised by how large the harbor is; this is the closest shot I could grab of the Statue, even with full zoom. She technically lies on the New Jersey side of the harbor, something that has caused quite a bit of squabbling over the years.
Finally, land is sighted! This is a view of Ikea from the taxi; the ride took about 15 minutes total, and couldn't have been lovelier. I wouldn't mind a commute like this one, no sirree.
For lunch the other day, I decided I wanted rice, but also an egg. Well, easy enough. Rice and eggs are a classic combination. Eggs are scrambled into fried rice, served fried on top of bibimbap, and huevos con arroz is literally that: eggs scrambled with rice. And so, for lunch, I improvised a bit. I cooked up some basic white rice, and worked on the topping in the meantime.
Leftover steamed broccoli was sauteed with garlic, soy sauce and a touch of rice wine vinegar (White wine vinegar will do in a pinch.). An egg was fried. Chives were sprinkled, and Sriracha was squeezed. Lunch was ready in ten minutes flat, and was delicious and satisfying.
It's not bibimbap (no array of marinated veggies, no delicious crust on the rice), but it assuaged the craving and made me a happy lady, so I consider it a mission accomplished.
Queenie's Craving Relief Rice
1/2 cup white rice
2 tsp. plus one tbs. canola oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup vegetables, chopped
1 tsp. rice wine vinegar
3 tsp. soy sauce, divided
1/4 tsp. sugar
1 tbs. chives, finely chopped
Sriracha, for serving
Cook the rice according to the package directions. Set aside, covered, and keep warm.
Meanwhile, heat two teaspoons of the canola oil in a small skillet set over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant and golden, about three minutes. Add the vegetables to the skillet and saute for a few minutes until warmed or cooked through, then add the vinegar, one teaspoon of soy sauce and the sugar. Cook until most of the liquid is absorbed. Transfer the vegetable mixture to a small bowl and wipe out the skillet.
Heat the remaining canola oil in the skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the egg and fry until the whites are just set. Turn off the heat. Place the rice in a bowl, top with the vegetables, and then with the egg. Drizzle the remaining soy sauce over everything, then add the chives and Sriracha to taste. Serve immediately.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Staycation breakfast, though, means farm eggs scrambled in butter, filled with sauteed ramps. Staycation breakfast, my friends, is awesome.
Scrambled Eggs with Ramps
2 tbs. unsalted butter, divided
5-6 ramps, cleaned, trimmed and chopped into 1-inch pieces
2 eggs, as fresh as can be
2 tbs. milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a small skillet set over medium heat, melt one tablespoon of the butter until it just begins to foam. Add the ramps and a teeny pinch of salt. Saute for a few minutes, until the ramp leaves are dark green, almost black, and the stalks are tender and beginning to brown. Season with a pinch of pepper.
Remove the ramps from the skillet and wipe out the pan with a paper towel. Return the skillet to medium heat, and melt the second tablespoon of butter, making sure it coats the bottom and sides of the skillet.
Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and milk together in a small bowl, using a fork. Add to the skillet and scramble gently. As the eggs begin to come together, add the ramps back into the pan and stir everything together. Continue to scramble until the eggs are just cooked (or longer, if you prefer drier eggs). Serve immediately.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
The last time I blogged about City Bakery, it was all about their tasty brunch and ridiculous hot chocolate (complete with homemade marshmallows, of course). Since it wasn't too chilly out and I'd already eaten an early lunch, three o'clock seemed just the time for a chocolate chip cookie.
Oh my god, the cookie. City Bakery's chocolate chip cookie is a perfect blend of the crunchy and the chewy - it alternates between the two textures, chewy where it's a bit thicker, and crunchy in the little cookie cracks and along the edges. The chocolate is melty, smooth and rich, and the whole thing is just the right size for a satisfying snack.
And does it photograph beautifully, or what? Drool.
3 West 18th Street (Between 5th and 6th Avenues)