Monday, March 26, 2007

Sugar High Friday #29!

One of the problems with having a food blog is that it can get a little monotonous to the reader. It runs into the danger of just documenting my meals, which while FASCINATING to me, can be a wee bit dull to you. So, to break things up a bit. I decided to participate in a few blogging events, starting with the famous Sugar High Friday event, the brainchild of the lovely Domestic Goddess.

This month's SHF is hosted by Emily at Chocolate in Context, and the theme is Raw Chocolate. Now, I certainly enjoy my chocolate, but I really, really enjoy it when it's paired with another flavor, like fruit or cookie dough. However, nothing, NOTHING gets my purr-organ purring (wow, that didn't come out as PG as I was hoping) like the combination of chocolate and peanut butter.

Armed with my cacao nibs, I grabbed some roasted peanuts from my cabinet and set out to make some PeanutNib Brittle. (Aren't you glad I'm not in Marketing?) While the idea made sense in theory, I've never made brittle before, so I used Gale Gand's recipe for Cinnamon Peanut Brittle as a starting point. With minor modifications, PeanutNib Brittle was born!


I'm not a connesieur of peanut brittle by any means, but I thought this was pretty darn tasty! The cinnamon and cocao nibs add a spicy, coffee flavor to the sweet brittle. It's definitely a grown-up candy, and it definitely satisfies my peanut/chocolate need.

PeanutNib Brittle

1/2 c. water
2 c. sugar
1 c. light corn syrup
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 1/2 c. roasted salted peanuts
1/2 c. cacao nibs
1 tsp. baking soda

First off, grease the heck out of a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper with butter.

Next, combine the first three ingredients in a medium saucepan with a candy thermometer attached. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Boil the mixture until it reaches 300 degrees F(about 10 minutes). The color will be a deep golden brown. Remove from heat, and add the next five ingredients, working quickly.

Pour the mixture onto the greased cookie sheet and spread it out with the back of your wooden spoon. It probably won't fill the whole pan, but just try to spread out the mixture to an even thickness. Let it harden uncovered 30 to 45 min.

Using your hands, break the brittle into pieces. Store in an airtight container.

Eat a piece. Enjoy.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Bento Like Beckham

When I get home from work, I usually have no qualms about chopping and cooking a delicious meal, even after a particularly long and stressful day. I love decompressing after a long day doing my cubicle thang by slicing garlic, chopping onions, and zoning out while Access Hollywood tells me everything I ever wanted to know about Anna Nicole Smith’s corpse.

However, the morning is a whole ‘nother story. I can grind my coffee beans and pour my soy milk into my cereal, but that’s it. I think that’s a lot! I’m proud of my ability to press the button on the coffeemaker in the morning.

That brings me to my main point. No matter how early I wake up, no matter how much coffee I drink, I can’t bring myself to pack a decent lunch. I usually slap a few slices of turkey on some bread, grab a piece of fruit, and run out the door. I even have a few Lean Cuisines on hand for mornings where I don’t feel like making a sandwich.

Why, when I have such a love for cooking, am I totally stuck when it comes to making myself a lunch?!? I work in an area where there aren’t too many affordable food options, so I try to bring along something, but it’s never anything I can get excited about. SOLUTION!!! I recently became mildly obsessed with the bento box. Now, I’ve always known about bento boxes, but I had no idea how innovative and creative they can be!

I’m especially wowed by Junko Terashima’s creations. She definitely brings lunch to a higher plane. If you don’t feel like searching through archives, a lovely selection is on an English language blog here: JustinSpace
(both links via Boing Boing)

I’m definitely ordering myself a bento box (possibly from Laptop Lunches) in hopes that I find some sort of lunch inspiration. I’m not sure that I will be adopting a rice-based lunch diet, but maybe I’ll be more innovative in my presentation. My turkey sandwich could use some googly-eyes.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Applewood: Eating Good in the Neighborhood

I love a deal. I like Kim Deal. Hell, I can even stand Deal or No Deal. That’s why I love Restaurant Weeks, in all their various incarnations. Dine In Brooklyn is no exception, and it’s a fantastic excuse to eat out even more than I already do.

Checking out the participants this year, Q and I knew that we both wanted to try Applewood. Being that Q’s birthday fell in the Brooklyn restaurant week this year, we decided that the fates were telling us that we needed to celebrate with an inexpensive good meal.


Applewood offered a lovely three-course prix fixe selection for only $21.12 (the prix fixe price for all the Dine In Brooklyn participants. Something to do with our zip code). We were seated towards the back of the small restaurant, where I had a lovely view of the kitchen, but I was also in a high traffic area right by the owners. Therefore, I felt too sheepish about taking photos of any of our meal. Le sigh. I’ll just have to wow you with my descriptions.

Are you ready to be wowed? No? Too bad.

Appetizer: seasonal soup (rutabaga) - I’ve never had rutabaga before, so I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. I think I decided before I tasted it that it would taste like parsnips and it did, kinda. But different. I’m no help here. I’ll definitely be trying more rutabaga in my cooking though. Plus, it’s really fun to say! RUTABAGA! The soup was finished with a swirl of balsamic vinegar, which was delicious, but then again, I love balsamic on anything. The soup also had a sprinkling of rock salt which you aren’t aware of until you crunch into a piece and it explodes in your mouth. It added a fun surprise to the soup.

As a side note, here’s a really neat thing I found relating to rutabaga: The International Rutabaga Curling Championship held in Ithica, NY. I wanna go!!!

EntrĂ©e: pan roasted duck breast (with white bean stew, bacon lardons, cippolinis, and garlic confit) - Q and I are both a little disappointed that this dish is not on their regular menu because we both enjoyed it the most out of our entrees. First off, the duck was perfectly cooked, so it was buttery like a rare steak. Mmmm. The white bean stew had tomatoes which surprised me, but added a nice acidity. I didn’t notice the lardons; I assume because the flavor went so well with the dish. Either that or they left them out. I’m not sure. The cippolini onions were a bit flatter than pearl onions, but otherwise they were about the same size. It was nice to taste an ingredient that I rarely get to try, but I don’t think my palate is sophisticated enough to differentiate them from roasted pearl onions. C’est la vie. The garlic confit was basically preserved garlic; it tasted like roasted garlic, but the flavor was much milder. Everything on the plate was soft and tender, and the textures went together as much as the flavors did.

Dessert: meyer lemon curd (with brown butter madeleines) - I think dessert was the best part of the evening. I would eat this every day if I could. It was ever so rich and delicious. The curd was more white than yellow, which made me wonder if there were as many egg yolks as are usually found in curd. It was more of a pudding consistency. Maybe cornstarch was added as a thickening agent? I’m not sure. Either way it was creamy and amazing. The madeleines were perfect as well.

The money we saved on dinner went to a splurge on a nice bottle of Bordeaux. It was a special occasion, after all! The portion sizes were quite generous, and I was a stuffed Krys afterwards. Oh, but what a good life to be stuffed with duck and curd.

Blind Tiger, Revisited

I am a woman of my word. I said I would go back to Blind Tiger Ale House to try the food, and by gum, I did! The kitchen is fairly sizeable for a bar kitchen, and the menu offers simple, no-frills bar food, like grilled cheese sammiches and chili. I opted to try one of their sliders, because I love me a mini-sandwich.


As you can see from the photo, their Tiger-style pulled chicken slider was actually quite sizeable. My picture doesn’t do it justice. I was expecting an average snack, because heck, it’s a bar! I was pleasantly surprised at the first vinegary bite, followed by buffalo hot sauce hitting the back of my throat. The shredded carrots on top added a nice crunch. Q opted for a grilled cheese sandwich with white cheddar, which was serviceable, but his attention was focused elsewhere.


As we expected, the beer is the true star at Blind Tiger, as it should be! However, the food is a perfect accompaniment. Now every time I drink a Southamptom Imperial Porter, I’ll crave the tangy hot sauce from their Tiger-style pulled chicken.

If paying for food ain’t yo thang, keep in mind that they are having a free cheese tasting every Wednesday with cheese provided by Murray’s cheese shop, conveniently located across the street. FREE CHEESE!!!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Smoke Joint

So I received an instant message at work a while back.
Q: Smoke Joint with Fred and Amanda?

I then had to spend the next thirty minutes explaining to my boss that Smoke Joint was the unfortunately non-work-friendly name of a restaurant and not an invitation for illicit activities. When I first went, I wasn’t particularly wowed, but I thought that I just didn’t order the right thing. Their Brooklyn Wings were tasty, but not mindblowingly great bbq.


So, a return visit was in order. The atmosphere is supercozy, even in the freezing weather we had this last weekend, and the service is really friendly. Smoke Joint also scores major points with me for serving one of my favorite beverages, Mother’s Milk, a delightful milk strout from Keegan Ales. This time around, I ordered the hacked and stacked pork sandwich, with a side of macaroni and cheese.


Now, anyone who knows me well knows that I adore mac & cheese. Even a potentially traumatizing incident involving vomit and kraft didn’t deter my love. So of course, I enjoyed their generous side portion of the creamy, orange creation. It wasn’t the best mac and cheese I’ve ever had, but I certainly enjoyed it.


At first I was a little weary of the cornmeal-encrusted roll that the pork rested upon. I’m used to my pulled pork sandwiches served on wonderbread buns, but this roll was delightful—especially when it got a bit soggy at the end. Starchy goodness. The pork itself was a little dry, but a little of Smoke Joint’s tangy sauce helped provide a temporary solution.


All in all, the meal was nice, but a huge part of that was just how comfortable I felt in the space. I also really enjoy that it’s fairly close to my apartment. I love having a BBQ place a stone’s throw away, but I just don’t think I’ve ordered the right things. I hear their beef short ribs are where it’s at. I guess I’ll have to keep on trying.

Polygamy Porter: Bring Some Home to All the Wives

This blog has taken a rather beercentric turn recently, but I suppose that’s fitting because it’s a special week for Q (beer geek extraordinaire). That’s right, Q turns another year older today! But enough about Q’s day of birth. Instead, let’s talk about the many gifts that he brings into my life. Love. Companionship. Beer glasses.

Q went to Utah for business earlier this year, and in between meetings and schmoozing, was able to pick me up a little souvenir.

Wasatch Brewpub is based in Park City, Utah and is the first brewery in Utah in over 20 years. Their marketing is simply genius.

The glass is one of my cherished possessions. I just wish I had more than one (insert rim shot here).

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Blind Tiger Has Risen

Blind Tiger Ale House was always one of my favorite beer bars. There was no better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than free bagels and a tasty brew off of their extensive draught list. However, very little in Manhattan seems to stay the same, and Blind Tiger soon found itself with an expired lease, being replaced by yet another Starbucks.

Luckily, they found a new space right around the corner (on Bleecker across from John's Pizzeria), but their troubles were far from over. Despite their pedigree as a fine beer bar, the State Liquor Authority denied their liquor license in their new location. Blind Tiger decided to turn lemons into coffee, and opened anyway as a coffee shop and eatery while they awaited the ok from SLA. A long, LONG struggle ensued, and last week, lo and behold, they finally got their license!

Blind Tiger opened its doors at 4pm last Thursday, but being a working girl, I was only able to show up at about 6pm. I knew it would be busy, but I had little idea just how packed it would be. I edged my way in, thanking the heavens for making me so small and compact, and ordered a Lagunitas Hairy Eyeball. Q joined me, as did one of other friends, and they had a celebratory drink as well. The beer was delicious, the wooden beams were beautiful, and Q almost got into fisticuffs with a gentleman who had too many. All was right with the world.

I had wanted to sample the food, but it was really way too crowded. We enjoyed our drinks and squeezed ourselves out of the bar. I'm a little disappointed that I didn't get to experience more that they had to offer, but at least I have the reassuring knowledge that I'll be back.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Happy Pi Day!!!

Ah,Pi Day-- a day that satisfies both the math nerd and the baking nerd inside. What kind of pie to bake to celebrate this irrational number? Only the most irrational of fruits would do. Rhubarb! (It’s an irrational fruit because it’s actually a vegetable. Ha-ha! Fooled you! I am hilarious. All of this was a Shakespearean aside, by the way.) I pulled out my Baking Illustrated tome and got to work on a rhubarb-strawberry pie. Now, I have made this pie with great success before, and this time, the crust seemed even easier to create. This is really the best pie crust recipe ever. So flaky. So buttery. So good. And I used a bit of the trans-fat-free Crisco, and didn’t notice any difference. Hurray for slightly-more-healthy-yet-still-terrible-for-you baked goods! The entire pie took less than two hours to bake, from start to finish.

This recipe makes a damn tasty pie! Now if only I could master the technique of making it attractive. See, I kind of fluted my pie edges, but I was under the impression that it was mostly for decorative purposes. I didn’t realize it was supposed to seal the top and bottom crusts together so the tasty filling wouldn’t bubble out everywhere. Whoops. Needless to say, I’m glad I baked the pie on a cookie sheet.

But look at the filling!

Hmmm. It may be time to invest in a proper pie pan rather than disposable tins from PathMark. Nah.

I always thought that rhubarb was more of a spring/summer crop because that’s when I’d always see it at the farmer’s market, but then I learned about “forced rhubarb,” or greenhouse-grown rhubarb, which is now showing up in supermarkets (sure, it feels like spring here in New York, but it’s still kinda wintery). It’s a pinker and more tender version of the veggie, but it’s just as delicious. The flavor is supposed to be milder, but it still tasted plenty tart to me, which melded quite well with the sweetness of the quartered strawberries.

Pie plus math equals awesome.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Ode to Brunch

We awoke one morning, and thought of brunch
We needed tastiness on which to munch

"Didn't I hear about a place in Brooklyn North?
Quick! To Greenpoint! We shall go forth!"

After a quick jaunt on the G subway
We reached our destination. Hurray!

The joint was jumping at Brooklyn Label
We sat at the bar; there was no free table

I was so happy for I could see the kitchen
And the coffee was hot and fresh. Bitchin'!

Q decided upon the Chili Colorado
But we were in Brooklyn! Not Colorado!

Peppers and pork topped with poached eggs
Tasted so good, Q couldn't feel his legs

Luckily we were seated, about to eat
Limbs were not needed nor were our feet

What did I order? The poet that I am?
Of course, I ordered Green Eggs.. no ham.

Soft eggs, pesto, and spinach so fine
Such sweet richness was mine, all mine!

So if you find yourself in Greenpoint and have the time
Eat tasty brunch, and prepare to rhyme.

Friday, March 09, 2007

DiFara's Pizzeria

“I am extraordinarily patient, provided I get my own way in the end.”- Margaret Thatcher

I was always told from a young age that patience is a virtue. In New York, it can be a necessity. New Yorkers seem to be willing to get in a ridiculously long line for anything, not matter how overhyped (see Shake Shack, but they also know that to taste something ethereal, sometime waiting is a small price (see the reservation wait for Babbo.)

There was a freakishly gorgeous and warm day mid-February, so Q and I decided to walk over to Midwood for a taste of the best pizza we’ve ever had. The last time we were at DiFara’s, three of us strolled in, waited a half hour to get a pie, and finished the glorious creation in five minutes. We knew this was an anomaly, and we were prepared to wait much longer this time. We weren’t prepared for how so many of the other patrons lacked our patience.

Okay, if you see a crowd of twenty or so people, your safe bet is to assume that they are waiting. Your first inclination should not be to stroll past them and place an order. Everyone should be equal in pizzawaitingtime, and you are not special just because you look just like Parker Posey’s character in Best in Show. Grrrr. When you wait together, there is an unspoken bond—a shared anticipation. I hate when people don’t respect that bond.

Sorry. Where was I? Oh yeah, after dealing with the rudeness for about an hour, Q and I finally had our very own pie to call our own. And it was good, so good that we couldn’t wait to dig in, hence the incomplete-pie photo.

We got our pie with pepperoni and fresh garlic. Just look at that pepperoni! And the beautiful orange fusion created by the olive oil, two types of mozzarella, and pepperoni melding together. Enough has been written of Dom's methodical genius, so I’m just going to let the pictures do the talking.

Patience pays.