Monday, January 31, 2011

Snow day, part two.

As you all know, we had a pretty incredible snowstorm here in New York last week. It snowed overnight from Wednesday to Thursday, but Thursday afternoon was bright and sunny and clear as a bell - the perfect weather for a walk through Central Park.

The streets were a bit slushy, but the park was pristine, full of sledders and cross-country skiers and loads of folks just out for a stroll, like me.

Alexander Hamilton says hello.

One of my favorite things about where I live is that I'm a five-block walk from this, Cleopatra's Needle. The obelisk actually dates to about 1,000 years before the time of Cleopatra herself and was erected here in New York in 1880.

There's been some debate recently about how well the obelisk is holding up exposed to the weather, but one thing's for sure: there's something majestic and fascinating about seeing it juxtaposed against the snow.

On my way out the park, I saw some kids leaving (temporary) hieroglyphics of their own.

I also saw one of the coolest snow forts of all time.

The faces on the facade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art agree: snow is cold, but pretty.

Am I in Central Park, or northern New England?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Queenie's Treasury

Happy weekend, everyone! It's a bright, sunny day here in New York, and I'm stuck inside with a nasty cold. Boo. That's right: feel sorry for me. And if you feel sorry enough to bring me some chicken noodle soup, even better. Maybe this week's Treasury will cheer me up a bit - shall we?

First up, have any of you not heard of Ban.Do yet? If not, consider yourselves informed. They make some of the most adorable accessories around, including headbands, shoe clips, and - my current favorite - big, organdy poufs, perfect for dressing up any outfit. You simply must go check them out; their blog is pretty much the happiest place on the interwebz.

I owe a huge thanks to Jen of The Haystack Needle for turning me on to Linea Carta's incredible table linens. I'm obsessed with the fox print items, and I wouldn't be surprised if one of those tea towels wound up in my collection sometime soon. Stunning stuff.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Beaming with pride.

Why, you ask? Because my lovely partners in blogland, Miya and Elisabeth of You + ME*, are featured in the new issue of Rue! Head on over to Rue's site to peruse the new issue and get inspired by Miya and Elisabeth's idea for a Skill Swap Jamboree! (Skip right to page 60 if, like me, you can't wait to see Miya and Elisabeth in action. But then, obviously, you should go back and read the whole thing, because it is awesome.)

Congrats, ladies! I'm so proud of you!

Amazing photos of the party by the uber-talented Trent Bailey.

Snow day!

Hello, my lovelies! As you've likely heard by now, New York was walloped yesterday and into this morning with a huge snowstorm. First came the relatively peaceful four inches yesterday morning and afternoon. Then came the thundersnow and the hail and the sleet. Then came the blizzard-like conditions, dumping up to four inches per hour overnight.

All told, we got about 19 inches here on the Upper East Side. And since I, personally, love snow, I am so happy! It's actually pretty warm out today, so I think I might take a little walk in the park this afternoon. In the meantime, enjoy a few snaps from my walk to grab coffee this morning!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Queenie's Treasury

Happy Sunday, my dears! It's pretty cold here in the northeastern United States, and we've been told to brace for - yet another - bad storm at mid-week. My one plea to the weather powers-that-be: please don't let the storm come between me and the Decemberists concert I'm supposed to go to on Wednesday. Mmmmkay?

First up this weekend, an adorable iPhone decal that makes your decidedly 21st century device look at little bit retro. Design*Sponge spotted this one, but, sadly, it seems to be sold out! If you're still craving an old fashioned camera aesthetic for your phone, check out this Leica version!

I seem to be in a somewhat analog mood this week, because I'm seriously into this alarm clock. I wish I could use one like this, but I've become somewhat addicted to my little clock radio with its multiple alarm settings and ability to switch between both WNYC stations with the touch of a button. All that said, how freaking adorable is this clock?

Last, something actually food-related. (Shocking, I know!) Have you seen the blissfully spare blog Simply Breakfast yet? If not, you must go visit. Jennifer Causey chronicles her daily life through lovely still life photographs of her breakfasts. One day she might enjoy a fried egg with spinach and a grapefruit on the side; another might bring a bagel with cream cheese and a tiny little cookie. There's something incredibly peaceful about these tableaux, and I highly recommend adding the blog to your daily reading.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Happy Blogiversary to me!

That's right, cats and kittens. Four years ago today, I posted some musings on food in New York and a review of the then newly-opened cocktail bar Death & Company, and a blog was born. Since 2007 (when I posted a measly 54 times, compared to 245 in 2010), we've been on many adventures together - Paris, Sonoma, India, Napa, Ohio, Pennsylvania,'s been a pretty marvelous run thus far!

As a bit of a celebration and a walk through the past, I thought I'd share a few photos I found browsing entries from over the years. I tried to select one favorite and truly representative specimen from each year, but 2009 proved to be too chock-full of merriment (Hello, 30th birthday trip to Sonoma, Napa and San Franciso!) to be so restrained.

So, there you have it! 4 years and 637 posts' worth of content distilled into seven photographs. I hope you enjoyed this little wander through the past, and I want to extend an impossibly hearty thank you to all of you for reading! It's been so wonderful to spend time with all of you, albeit virtually, and I can't wait to see what the next four years bring our way.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Come on over!

Hello, my doves! It's my day for blogging over at You + ME* Equals, and I think you're gonna like what you see. I've shared a recipe for a shaved Brussels sprouts salad that is, frankly, out of this world, and far more delicious than it has any right to be. Come visit!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Garlic and parsley and capers - oh, my!

Meatless Week may be over, but I didn't have any meat for dinner on Monday night, and these mushrooms are to blame. Smitten Kitchen posted about these a few weeks ago, reminding me of my intention to make them for ages and ages now.

You see, these mushrooms are made in the style of escargots de Bourgogne - roasted on high heat and smothered with lots of butter, garlic, capers and parsley. After all, the butter left behind once the snails have been eaten is always the best part.

These mushrooms are, in a word, delicious.

Seriously. Not only are these pretty much the easiest thing you can make, they are also freaking phenomenal. I ate mine with some crusty baguette and a glass of red wine, and I honestly can't think of a better supper on a cold winter night.

Roasted Mushrooms de Bourgogne
Republished from Gourmet, via Smitten Kitchen

1 lb. small mushrooms, cleaned and stems removed (I used cremini, which were large and needed to be quartered.)
2 tbs. capers, drained, rinsed and chopped
3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tbs. vegetable oil
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tbs. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley

Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and place the oven rack in the center.
In a shallow 1 1/2 quart baking dish, toss together the mushrooms, capers, garlic, oil and several grinds of black pepper. Dot with the butter and roast for 15-20 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender and a bubbly, golden sauce has formed in the bottom of the pan.

Remove the pan from the oven and toss the mushrooms with the lemon juice and parsley. Serve immediately, preferably with a loaf of crusty bread.

Serves two. No, really - you'd think the recipe would serve more, but they're just too damn tasty.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sunshine in a bowl.

When I was in Austin, Nick & Louisa took me out to dinner at Uchi, a beloved Japanese restaurant on South Lamar. Before we began the incredibly delicious meal, our waiter brought us a small amuse: pomelo tossed with olive oil and topped with grey sea salt.

It was, in a word, marvelous. Pomelo is a bit milder than grapefruit and has a lovely sweet, sour and slightly tangy flavor. It's not a juicy citrus; instead, its texture is a bit springy, the pulpy flesh bursting in the mouth rather than dripping on the plate. It's a fruit chock-full of subtle flavors.

On Sunday, by way of a snack, I decided to recreate the amuse here at home. Nothing could be easier, really. You slice off the pomelo's rather thick peel, trim the pith away from the flesh, and toss it in a bit of olive oil. Don't skimp on the salt - use the best, flakiest sea salt you have, and sprinkle a bit more of it than you think you need.

As a snack, a single pomelo serves one. As an amuse, it can serve three to four, depending on how skillfully you peel and de-pith the thing. Either way, it brightens a winter's day like little else can.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Meatless Week: It's over. Hallelujah!

Enough said.

Meatless Week: Assorted goodness.

I'm not gonna lie, folks. I'm pretty happy that my second Meatless Week has come to an end. It's not that I don't love vegetables - you know that I do - but, for some reason, this foray into meatlessness was a lot harder than the one we took together last summer. No doubt the absence of truly superb and diverse local produce played a part, but I think there's just something about the colder weather that makes me want meat.

In any case, I stuck to it, and I'm proud of that, at least. After all, what's a challenge if it doesn't, in the end, challenge us?

One of the things I did to get me through the sushi-free days and hamburger-free nights was to make a couple of root vegetable salads. I ate these together and apart, but I think they make the prettiest picture paired up, in a take on the crudités plates so popular in French bistros.

These two salads - beets with walnut-garlic dressing and celeriac rémoulade - are two of my all-time favorites, mostly because they're full of flavor and don't feel at all like any kind of deprivation. The beet salad comes straight from Mark Bittman, who based his ultra-simple recipe on a technique taught to him by the inimitable Alsatian, Jean-Georges Vongerichten. (If there's anyone who knows how to make winter produce appetizing, it's an Alsatian.)

The remoulade is based on Ina Garten's super-easy take, with a bit of parsley thrown in for freshness and color and a touch of honey added for depth. I also say pooh to her suggestion of a mandoline or food processor for making the rémoulade; if you are serving a huge crowd, fine. But for a few servings, a sharp knife will surely suffice.

So go forth and make these delicious meatless creations - I certainly will, though the next time they appear chez Queenie, they'll likely be paired with glorious, wonderful meat.

Celeriac Rémoulade
Adapted from Barefoot in Paris by Ina Garten

1 pound celeriac (also known as celery root)
3 tbs. lemon juice, divided
Kosher salt
1/2 cup mayonnaise (either homemade or Hellmann's)
1 tsp. Champagne or white wine vinegar
1 tbs. Dijon mustard
1 tbs. whole grain mustard
1/2 tsp. honey
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper

Cut the knobby end off of the celeriac to create a stable way to brace it. Peel the celeriac by slicing down the sides with a serrated knife, removing the rough, brown peel. Discard the peel and cut the celeriac first into 1/4 slices, then into matchsticks about two inches long.

Place the sliced celeriac into a large bowl. Sprinkle with one tablespoon of the lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Set aside for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the dressing. Combine the mayonnaise, vinegar, mustards, remaining lemon juice, honey, another 1/4 teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper in a small bowl. Whisk together and set aside.

Once the celeriac has spent 30 minutes softening in the lemon juice, add the sauce to it a bit at a time. You want the vegetables to be lightly dressed, and will likely have a healthy amount of sauce leftover. (It's great on meats and sandwiches of all kinds.) Once you've dressed the salad to your liking, add the parsley and stir to combine evenly.

The rémoulade be made up to 24 hours ahead and stored, tightly covered, in the fridge. Bring to room temperature and adjust seasonings before serving.

Serves four as a side.

Beets with Garlic-Walnut Sauce
Adapted from Mark Bittman

2 pounds red beets, trimmed of their greens if need be
1/4 cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic, peeled and whole
1/2 cup walnut halves
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Wash the beets well, and let them remain a bit wet. Wrap each beet individually in aluminum foil and place them on a cookie sheet. Roast them in the oven, undisturbed, for 60 to 90 minutes, until a knife pierces them with little resistance. Smaller beets will take less time, and some mondo beets will take more. Check every 15 minutes or so and remove them from the oven one by one as they finish.

Allow the beets to cool to the point where you can handle them, then peel them and cut into 1-inch cubes. Place in a large bowl and set aside.

While the beets roast, make the garlic-walnut sauce. In a small skillet set over moderately low heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic and toast until it softens and turns somewhat golden. Add the walnuts and cook for a few minutes more, just until they begin to color. Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside to cool.

Transfer the walnuts, garlic and olive oil to a blender, or to a tall, narrow container. Blend in the blender or with an immersion blender until the mixture is smooth and the texture is even. Mix in the orange juice. The sauce should look a bit silky and will be light brown in color.

Once the beets are cut into pieces, add the walnut sauce and stir with a spatula to ensure the beets are evenly coated. Season with salt and pepper to taste (I think it needs a healthy amount of pepper) and serve at room temperature. Garnish with the parsley just before serving.

The salad is great the day it's made, but even better the next day. It will keep, tightly covered in the fridge, for up to four days.

Serves six as a side.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Queenie's Treasury

Happy weekend, everyone! For the folks here in the States, it's a long weekend. We're celebrating the life and message of Martin Luther King, Jr. on Monday. I plan to do so with a visit to a few museums and a donation to City Harvest - but before we get down to observing the holiday, let's do some Treasury-ing!

First up, a store that made the rounds in a big way before Christmas: Kaufmann Mercantile. They've restocked for early spring, with an emphasis on housekeeping and outdoorsy, wintry pursuits (such as snowshoeing). I absolutely love their super-Yankee, slightly preppy aesthetic, which reminds me of the sorts of things I used to find in my grandparents' Connecticut closets. Especially the ones that sat undisturbed from 1975 onward.
I'm a bit obsessed with bows recently, and so these earrings, by the super-awesome jeweler by boe, are haunting my dreams. I worry a bit about how they'd look on my super-human earlobes (No, really, I have very large earlobes, courtesy of my grandfather's genes.), but I can't help but crave them in any case.

Dear Hancock makes a series of correspondence cards adorned with various desk themes. My favorite, at least today, is the Naturalist. I love the owl, I love the succulent, and I love the abundance of glass domes. I might just need to add these to my stationery collection, which has been rather depleted following the holiday season.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Required eating, part two.

Nick's brother Reggie and Reggie's girlfriend Rhi came to visit Austin for a few days after Christmas. This, of course, meant that we had to go back for more barbecue. This time, we headed out to the Salt Lick, a slightly more down-home spot (imagine picnic tables, communal seating and no booze) than the County Line. We hadn't known about the whole no-booze thing, so it was a good thing we were seated quickly. Who needs beer when you have barbecue?

The Salt Lick is seriously old-school Texas about its barbecue. Brisket, beef ribs, pork ribs, smoked sausage and chicken (which, really, seems a concession) are the only things on the menu, unless you count pickles, onions and white bread. Oh, and pie. For dessert.

I decided to order the brisket and sausage, and Louisa ordered a plate of beef ribs. We swapped some sausage and brisket for a rib somewhere in there, and I was happy we did. Because, at the Salt Lick, the ribs are totally the way to go. The sausage is tasty, the brisket is fine. But the ribs? Are awesome.

This is due, in large part, to the perfect pairing of their barbecue sauce with said ribs. The Salt Lick's sauce is sweet, salty and smoky in equal measure, and has a fabulous texture (not too thin, not too thick) to boot. (You can buy it on the internet, peeps. So get to it.) I could have eaten that stuff alone, just on the bread, but it would have been a crime not to enjoy it with the meaty, Flinstone-esque ribs.

Did I mention the ribs? Get the ribs.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Does this make me honorarily Southern?

On New Year's Day, Nick, Louisa and I headed out to visit Louisa's parents and sister for a New Year's feast. In true Southern fashion, Louisa and her parents prepared collard greens, cornbread and, of course, black-eyed peas. (Black-eyed peas bring you luck in the New Year, and Louisa's mom Jan says that even "one spoonful is enough.")

It was a truly wonderful meal. The peas were sweet and tender, and especially good when topped with hot sauce - we had multiple choices on the table, including Sriracha, Tapatio and Tabasco. This is a family that takes its condiments seriously. The collards - which Louisa made using The Gourmet Cookbook's stupendous recipe - were insane. Chock-full of bacon and touched with cider vinegar, they are luxuriously delicious.

We spread butter and pepper jelly on our cornbread (and then ate the leftovers with local honey the next morning), but my favorite thing of all might have been the incredible pork roast George made. He and Jan wanted to make something out of the Zuni Cafe Cookbook, which I'd given them for Christmas. Judy Rodgers calls this roast "mock Porchetta," and it's easy to see why: the seasonings she uses (capers, lemon, rosemary, fennel) echo the flavors of a traditional Italian pig roast. Jan and George roasted vegetables alongside, and the whole thing was just so good. Tender, rich and full of amazing porky flavor.

There was salt pork in the cornbread, too, which means we managed to pork up all but one dish out of four - a highly auspicious beginning to 2011, if you ask me.

Meatless Week: Going gratin.

Meatless Week continues, despite my current and intense craving for a ShackBurger. Damn you, Serious Eats. Anyhoo, let's talk gratin.

Anyone who thinks potato gratin is a lot of work is sorely mistaken, and likely missing out on one of life's great simple pleasures. Yes, there's some peeling and slicing involved, but that's not so bad when you consider the immeasurable return: creamy, stinky-with-cheese potatoes. Very little is more satisfying, in my opinion.

Over the weekend, I decided I'd make a little gratin with some gorgeous gold and purple potatoes I picked up at the Greenmarket. I grabbed a bottle of Ronnybrook's Creamline milk and thought I'd just go ahead and use some of the Pecorino left over from my escarole and walnut salad to finish things off.

The method I used is called dauphinois, which basically means you cook the potatoes with the liquid (stock, cream or milk) and seasonings (just garlic, in this case) in a small saucepan ahead of pour the lot into a buttered dish. The result? Your potatoes are done cooking just when your cheese is perfectly browned, and are soft and silky, not dry and crumbly. Works like a charm, every time.

I typically work off of The Gourmet Cookbook's Gratin Dauphinois recipe, improvising here and there when need be. This version turned out to be wonderfully smelly, with the garlic, Pecorino and touch of Parmesan combining to make a terribly fragrant dish. All in all, I judged it to be a success, and a perfect warm counterpart to that salad.

Potato Gratin with Pecorino and Garlic
Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook

1 lb. Yukon Gold (or similarly waxy) potatoes, peeled.
1 cup whole milk
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano, coarsely grated
1 tbs. Parmesan, coarsely grated

Place the oven rack in the middle of the oven and pre-heat to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Slice the potatoes as thin as you possibly can and place them in a medium saucepan. Add the milk, garlic, salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to the boil, then remove from heat.

Meanwhile, generously butter a small gratin dish. Once the potato mixture has boiled, pour it into the prepared gratin dish. As soon as the oven is fully heated, sprinkle the cheese and nutmeg over the top of the potato mixture. Place the gratin dish in the oven.

Bake the gratin for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the top is brown and bubbly. Remove from the oven and let sit for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Serves three as a side dish.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

One last point about Torchy's.

Their queso? It is amazeballs. So order that, too. Yum.

Austin Tacos, Part Two: Torchy's

On New Year's Eve, Nick, Louisa and I headed out to Torchy's Tacos to try out their famous fried avocado taco. Yes, you read that correctly: fried avocado. Sounds like Austinites have a positively Scottish propensity for breading and deep-frying anything at hand, doesn't it?

In addition to checking out the fried avocado, I decided to try a Trailer Park (fried chicken with green chilies and pico de gallo). Let's tackle the avocado first.

So, fried avocado. Really good idea, but tough to make work in a taco. Surrounded by sauce and seriously crunchy lettuce, the textural contrast between the avocado's crispy breading and its creamy inside was completely drowned out. While I loved Torchy's spicy ranch dressing and would gladly dip an entire independent order of said fried avocado in it, the taco just didn't work.

The Trailer Park was similarly just okay. The chilies weren't quite spicy enough for me, and the taco lacked the acidity it needed to sing. This turned out to be true of most of Torchy's tacos; the only one we truly loved was the Baja Shrimp, which was saved by its successful contrasting textures and its delightful pickles. The pickles made it work. Pickles always make it work.

So, moral of the story: go to Torchy's, order two Baja Shrimp tacos, and try to make them give you a plain order of the fried avocado. Perfection.

Update from SXSW 2011: The Dirty Sanchez is so. Freaking. Good. So order that one alongside a Baja Shrimp. (And, yes, that's really what it's called.)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Paying a visit.

It's a busy day here at Queenie! Ana of Rearranged Design (you might remember the House Tour she invited me to do a couple of years back, or her super-awesome ice cream guest post here) invited me to post a little something. I shared a bit of my brainstorming around a planned kitchen update, so, if you'd like to chime in on my ideas, get on over there!

Image of Ruthie Sommers' kitchen from the tragically defunct Domino.
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