Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Springtime in a vase.

Peonies are my favorite spring flower. So lush, so remarkably happy-making. What's your favorite flower?


This past weekend, I visited my alma mater, Bryn Mawr College, for my ten-year reunion. It was, in a word, amazing. I'd never exactly forgotten how much I loved my time at Bryn Mawr, or how inspiring it was to be surrounded, every single day, by such brilliant, driven and remarkable women, but I'd forgotten the sense of wonder that experience gave me. No more, friends. Never again will I take those four years for granted.

And it doesn't hurt that the campus is unbelievably lush and full of breathtaking neo-Gothic architecture. I mean, this place was designed by Calbert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmstead (they of Central Park in Manhattan) - how could it not be stunning?

I visited most of my old dorms, even peeking into my senior year room, which was a ridiculously palatial single with thirteen-foot ceilings, a fireplace and a wall of windows (windowseat, too, natch).

I also paid a too-brief visit to Haverford College, just a mile down the road. Bryn Mawr and Haverford have an unusually close, cooperative relationship (same class schedules, same meal plan, ability to live, take any class or major at either college, and so on), and I majored in religion there.

I had cocktails with my thesis advisor and two of my fellow majors, and managed to snap a photo of Haverford's undeniably picturesque Skating House.

I really can't wait ten more years before I go back again. Even five might be a challenge.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Fingers crossed.

I have to make a few more visits to cement things, but I think I've found a new local: Flex Mussels on E. 82nd Street. The mussels and oysters were delicious, as was the rosé. And, most importantly, they have a bustling bar up front. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tweaking a classic.

My name is Meg, and I'm addicted to Italian food.

If you are even a casual reader of my blog, you probably already knew that. I mean, I'm an omnivore. I love Vietnamese, Chinese (especially bad, Americanized Chinese - I am half-Jewish, after all), French (obviously), Japanese, Cuban, Mexican (especially taqueria-style eats), Spanish, molecular...you name it, I probably really enjoy it.

But when it comes to what I'm likely to cook at home, Italian frequently seems to win the day. I think it's likely the result of its emphasis on fresh ingredients (especially vegetables) and my ability to look at pretty much anything and go, "That would be great with some olive oil and garlic." Whatever the reason, Italian - or, at least, Italian-inspired - is often on the menu chez Queenie.

So when I wound up with a package of hot pork sausage a week or so ago, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it: make some sausage and peppers. I turned to my current Italian-American gurus, the Frankies. Yes, I know. You've heard me mention them before. Tough noogies.

The Frankies make their classic sausage and peppers with sweet sausage, and serve it on polenta. I only had hot sausage, but I added some basil from my windowsill garden to sweeten things up. And, since I'm trying to cut back on the processed carbs (which is not easy when you love pasta as much as I do, guys), I ate mine all plain-like. It was still dang good.

Sausage with Onions and Roasted Peppers
Adapted from The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual

2 bell peppers (at least one red; the other red, yellow or orange)
1 small yellow onion
2 tsp. canola oil
Kosher salt
1 pound hot pork sausage, casings removed
14 oz. canned San Marzano tomatoes
1/4 cup loosely packed basil leaves, sliced crosswise into 1/4 inch slices

Roast the peppers:
Using a gas stove, turn two burners on high and lay a pepper on each (Using tongs, please!). Roast the peppers, using the tongs to turn them, until the skins are evenly and completely black and blistered. It should take between 5 and 10 minutes.

(If you don't have gas burners, brush the peppers with a bit of canola oil and roast them under the broiler, following pretty much the same procedure. This method may take a bit longer.)

Once the peppers are roasted, place them in a medium mixing bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. They'll steam a bit before they cool, which will make them easy to peel. Once they're cool, peel away the blackened bits and core and seed them. Slice them lengthwise in 1/4 inch wide slices, and set aside.

Prepare the sausage & onions:
Cut the onion in half lengthwise (through the root), then cut the halves into 1/4 inch wide slices with the grain, meaning lengthwise from the root to the tip.

Heat the canola oil in a wide saute pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion and just a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens and takes on a golden color. If things are browning too quickly, add a splash of water to the pan (but make sure it cooks off before you move on to the next step).

Use a slotted spoon to add the onion to the peppers. Without turning the heat down, add the sausage to the pan. Use a wooden spoon to break it into small clumps and saute for 10-12 minutes, until it's brown but not dry.

Add the canned tomatoes, crushing them one by one as you add them to the pan. Add half the basil. Scrape the bottom of the pan to rescue any delicious browned bits. Simmer the lot for 15-30 minutes, or longer if you have the time. Add the peppers, onions and remaining basil, and cook for a few minutes more.

Serves 2-3.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

An unexpected treat.

As a tried and true caffeine fiend, I can typically be trusted to show up pretty much anywhere with a coffee cup in hand. My current favorite is Stumptown, the Portland, Oregon based roasters and brewers who've recently opened up (limited) shop here in New York.

I'm far too busy (read: lazy) to make my way to the Stumptown shop at the Ace Hotel on a regular basis, so imagine my delight when I discovered that Balthazar Bakery, which brews Stumptown, also stocks a couple of different bean blends.

I stop in to Balthazar for a fix a couple of times a month (They're near my stylist Holly's salon, and my new 'do requires bang trims approaching the fanatical.), but I'd never noticed the wall o' beans before. I quickly snapped up a pound of the Balthazar blend, roasted on May 18th. It's round and rich and strong, but not bitter. Pretty perfect, right?

My apartment, it must be said, smells divinely of coffee at the moment. Bliss.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

PSA: Strawberries are here!

Strawberries made their first appearance at the Greenmarket this morning, kids! Time to start planning your pies, crostatas, shortcakes and compotes.

This scone.

This, my friends, is a strawberry-rhubarb scone from the lovely and amazing Two Little Red Hens bakery.

While my neighborhood (Yorkville, part of Manhattan's Upper East Side) is still woefully lacking a great coffee place (Joe, won't you please open over here?), it does have some seriously good baked goods. For bread, you can hit Orwasher's. And for the sweet stuff, you can go fancy and high-falutin' at Lady M, or down-home and amazing with the Hens.

This scone is a perfect example of how they take rustic to the next level. Yes, it's a slightly misshapen, large, American-style scone. But it's made with the best ingredients, it's seasonal, and it's incredibly tender and delicious. Its top is lightly crusted with crunchy sugar, it's stuffed with rhubarb and berries, and its innards are all creamy and lush. It is marvelous.

Next time, we'll talk about the buttery glaze on their cinnamon rolls. Drool.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Here we go, a-marketing.

The greenmarket is approaching full bloom, folks! This weekend I snagged French breakfast radishes, ramps, eggs, peonies, lilies of the valley, asparagus, spinach, cucumbers, red bell peppers and tomatoes. (Those last three are greenhouse-grown, but still local. What can I say? I'm desperate for a preview of summer.)

Fiddleheads were on offer, too. Gorgeous, no?

And lilacs. So many lilacs. The market was fairly carpeted with lilacs. I resisted in favor of my always-and-forever peonies, but I couldn't help pausing to take in a long, deep sniff. (My market shopping bags are courtesy of Baggu, and I love them beyond measure.)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Rainbows ahoy.

Success! The books are organized by color. Just wanted to let you guys see the finished result. The back of the unit is nearly full, and also organized by color, but by boring colors. (Dull green, lots of cream, a bit of black.)

Queenie's Treasury

Happy Sunday, my doves! It's been a busy weekend chez Queenie, full of marketing, apartment refreshing and laundry. Lots and lots of laundry. Before I get back to my glamorous life, let's talk Treasury.
First up, an amazing cookware store: Pot & Pantry. Based out of San Francisco, this incredible shop stocks vintage and new cookware from all over the world, including Dansk, Mauviel and Le Creuset. I'm a bit obsessed with the lovely shapes and pop-y colors. I know that I'll be making a pilgrimage to their brick-and-mortar store the next time I'm in town.

Despite my love of color, I often find myself drawn to interiors done up in luxe neutrals. There's just something so calming and sumptuous about them, isn't there? This one belongs to Keri Russell - yes, Felicity herself! Anne Sage (she of Rue Magazine and the City Sage) found and shared it the other day, and I am smitten. Especially with that Ochre chandelier.

Finally, a little more real estate porn for you. Check out this amazing house on Maui. It's just...wow. There are no words. I am generally pretty into being an urbanite. I like hustle, I like bustle, I like people. But this? I could see myself kicking back here a few times a year. (Via the Wall Street Journal.)

Saturday, May 14, 2011


I spent most of my day today rearranging the apartment, including reorganizing my (nearly 1,000) books by color. It was a long day, and I'm horrifyingly sore, but it was worth it. Results to come soon!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Inspiration strikes.

Kids, I am so excited! I've figured out a way to rearrange my furniture just a tad that will allow me to finally - FINALLY - have a bar cart-ish setup in the living room. It won't be a cart (more of a tray on top of a table), but still: gorgeous glassware, vintage ice bucket and pretty accessories? You shall be mine.

When I figure something like this out, I'm always tempted to go nuts and buy all the bits and pieces immediately. I'm going to try to pace myself this time, but it hasn't stopped me from gathering inspiration from all of my favorite spots around the web.

I haven't figured out all the details, but I know I want a lacquered tray, a small arrangement of in-season flowers at all times, and some seriously awesome rocks glasses and champagne coupes. I also think I need a whimsical bottle opener and possibly some custom, monogrammed napkins.

Once I figure this all out, I will report back. Trust. In the meantime, you can follow my inspiration board over here at Pinterest. (And if you're not on Pinterest yet, what the heck are you waiting for?)

Images via Lonny (#1, #2 and #4) and Atlanta Homes & Lifestyle (#3).

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

West Village meets Austria.

I have a bit of a soft spot for Austrian food. I've never met a schnitzel I didn't at least enjoy, and I can't think of a better way to take my espresso than with a dollop of whipped cream (sweetened a bit and named schlag by those crazy Austrians) right on top.

And so it's a bit shocking, really, that I hadn't been to Wallsé until this past Saturday. In my defense, I have visited its uptown sister establishment (Café Sabarsky) many a time. After all, it is but a short walk from my home base, where Wallsé involves a bus ride and a subway trip. Turns out, though, that it's worth the trek. (As my friends Nicole, Amelia and Anna swore it would be - credit where it's due, kids.)

Caroline and I sat outside for most of our lunch; we had to dash inside before dessert to avoid a passing rain shower. Before that, though, we sat on Washington Street enjoying the people watching and generally feeling good about being New Yorkers. The West Village has a way of doing that to a person.

We kicked off with cocktails; I ordered the Ginger Highball, mostly for the rye, while Caroline went for the Blood Orange Cosmo. Both were tasty, if a bit sweeter than my usual fare. We were incredibly boring when it came to our food - we both ordered the exact same thing. Wiener schnitzel.

After all, what's not to love about a cutlet covered in delightful breading, perfectly fried and served with a potato-cucumber salad and lingonberry preserves? As it turns out, absolutely nothing. I mean, there's not a lot more to say. The breading was well-seasoned, which meant the whole thing felt good, as opposed to simply naughty. The salad was creamy but tangy, which meant it felt like real food as opposed to something a neglectful cook might throw together five minutes ahead of a potluck. And lingonberries are awesome. In short, this dish is a great blend of some of my favorite things: crunchy breading, warm food with cold, creamy food with crunchy, sweet food with salty.

Caroline insisted on trying the sachertorte, which was lovely, and far less dry than most of the sachertortes I've encountered have been. I, meanwhile, indulged in an einspanner, which is a fancy way of saying "double espresso topped with sweetened whipped cream." I know, right?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Queenie's Treasury

Happy Monday, all! So sorry that this week's Treasury is a bit late. My Saturday got away from me, and I spent most of Sunday, well, paying for Saturday. Ouch. But here we are, on a gorgeous Monday morning, and it's time for some pretty things.
First up, a gorgeous piece of art I found via the amazing blog sfgirlbybay. Lauren Bahr's Cradle is full of energy, but still a bit calming, thanks to the blend of soft colors. The pops of brights make me smile. I love, love, love it, and an 8x10 print is only $20. Hmmm....

Next up, Food52's shop has, once again, hit it out of the park. I am simply in cookware lust with these colorful serving pieces from Horne. I certainly don't need more tools right now, but that ceases to matter when I gaze at the lovely enameled handles. Sigh.

Finally, this house. Is. Amazing. It's a house built in and around the remains of a 19th century Scottish farmhouse, and it is simply stunning. I want to go there and retreat from the world for a while. Just wonderful.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Hard as it may be to believe (snort), even I have kitchen mishaps. Sometimes they're disastrous, and sometimes they're minor. The one I had on the Saturday before Easter could be classified as the former. I actually found myself standing in my kitchen, throat on fire from a cold, cursing the author of a recipe. Loudly, colorfully and at great length.

What happened, you ask? Well, I'll tell you. I was making a ramp tart to go alongside my brother's Easter leg of lamb, and the crust betrayed me. I made it, let it rest for a full two hours, rolled it out between two pieces of plastic wrap, and placed it gently in the tart pan. And then, when it came out of the oven, it was cracked all along the bottom.

Idiot that I occasionally am, I figured this was all par for the course, and went ahead and poured in the custardy filling. Of course, this was a tart pan with a removable bottom, so the filling proceeded to spill all over the stove and counter as it leaked through those little cracks and out of the pan. OF COURSE.

After screaming, stomping and generally muttering as I cleaned up the mess, I decided to make a second crust. I couldn't face rolling the dough out again, so I decided my guests would have to deal with a pressed-in tart crust (and to use a pie plate for extra safety), something I've done before and plan to do again. It is so. Much. Easier.

And, frankly, the tart was still flaky and delicious, so I feel no guilt about it and have no qualms encouraging you all to do the same, lest you end up as I did, shaking your fist at the kitchen gods.

Oh, and, the tart? It's marvelous. Creamy and decadent, but small enough in stature to go down nice and easy. The stinky ramps call for a mild goat cheese, but if you don't have ramps where you are, sub in some chopped leeks and an aged cheese - that'll be pretty dang good, too.

Ramp Tart with Goat Cheese
Adapted from Bon Appétit

For the ramp filling:
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 bunches ramps (about 1/2 pound), cleaned, trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
2 tbs. water
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

For the crust:
4 tbs. ice water
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup plus 1 tbs. chilled butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

For the custard:
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk
1/4 tsp. salt
4 oz. mild goat cheese

Make the ramp filling:
In a small saucepan set over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the ramps and stir to coat in the butter. Stir in the water and salt, then cover the pot and reduce the heat to low. Cook until the ramps are very tender, about 25 minutes, stirring frequently. Set aside. (If you're doing this the day before, allow to cool, cover tightly, and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before adding to the tart.)

Make the crust:
Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse a few times to combine, then add the butter. Pulse a few times until a coarse meal develops. With the motor running, add two tablespoons of the ice water. Check to see how the dough is doing; if it's still a bit dry and not coming together, add the rest of the water.

Take the dough out and place it in a 9-inch glass or metal pie plate. Gently press the dough out and down with your hands or a flat-bottomed measuring cup, until it is evenly distributed and goes up (but not over) the edges of the pan. Place in the fridge for at least an hour. If you plan to leave the crust in overnight, cover tightly with plastic wrap first.

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the crust from the fridge and line with tinfoil, covering the entire crust (including up the edges). Fill with pie weights or dry, uncooked beans and bake until set and dry, about 30 minutes. Remove the pie weights and tinfoil and bake until golden, about 10 more minutes, depending on your oven's personality.

Make the custard and finish the tart:
In a medium bowl, combine the milk, cream, eggs and salt. Beat until light and well-combined. Dot half the cheese around the bottom of the warm tart shell. Arrange the ramp filling on top, then place the rest of the cheese on top of the ramps. Gently pour in the egg mixture.

Return the tart to the oven and bake until the center is set and puffy and the tart is golden in spots. You may need to cover the edges of the crust - one of these is super-handy, or you can make a make-shift one from tinfoil.

Serves 8 as a side, or 4 as a main course.
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