Sunday, October 31, 2010
I decided that Halloween morning was the perfect time to try the donut experiment. Why not start AND end the day with treats? That’s what I’m talking about! I gathered my ingredients and necessary equipment, riddled with anxiety over having to deal with hot oil. Well, after all was said and done and I sat down to a plate of warm, chewy donuts; my fears vanished and a monster was born. An exuberant, sugary “when-we-can-do this-again” monster. Here's the recipe I used:
1 8-count package of Pillsbury biscuit dough
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
Pour enough oil in saucepan to cover two inches; heat on medium-high. While oil is heating up, lay each biscuit on cookie sheet or large plate. Lightly flatten each one with your hand. Using a 1 inch round cookie cutter, cut a hole in each one. Add 3 or 4 donuts to the oil and cook each side for 1 minute, they will turn golden brown. Remove the donuts from the pan with a slotted spoon and lay on paper towels to absorb the oil. Repeat and cook the remaining donuts and holes. Add the cinnamon sugar to a large bowl or paper bag. Toss the donuts in the mixture and ENJOY. They’re just as fun to make as they are to eat.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Eataly is broken up into various sections, each with its own market and restaurant. The front area starts with a Lavazza coffee bar and leads into a gelato bar. You can buy chocolates and various confections, sit and enjoy the people watching and an espresso. As you move toward the back, the Panini bar meets the cheese and cured meats area. This is the point you think you've just found heaven but you're only at heaven's summer home. There's something larger and even more grand awaiting you.
My eyes got huge while perusing the seafood, beef, pasta, vegetable and bakery areas. Oh my god, there’s even a wine bar. Having heard about their in-house vegetable butcher, we decided to have lunch at Le Verdure. The nice thing about dining in is that you have to check in at a kiosk and from there you are seated. After ordering a bottle of wine, we ordered the Zuppa di verdure, raw vegetable salad and a combination plate containing a rice salad, soup and caponata. All beautifully presented, colorful and what flavors! Oh, how far we've come, from eating grey canned green beans to perfectly cooked, bright vegetable soup! Or how about heirloom tomatoes, lightly dressed in a lemon citronette? Clearly, the vegetable butcher means business.
After lunch, we shopped each area; stopping for salumi, porchetta, fine Italian chocolates, pasta sauce and baby vegetables. Dried pasta for miles, beautiful packages of candies, aged vinegars, Italian beers. There's no end to the fun you could have and spend a pretty penny in the process. After chatting with a manager who told us about La Scuola, led by Dean Lidia Bastianich, plans were made to check out an upcoming cooking class. A rooftop beer garden is also in the works, making Eataly an all encompassing culinary mecca.
A fun highlight of the trip was seeing Mr. "4 stars" Batali in the store when we arrived. He spotted me across the room, complimented me on the new leggings and insisted on cooking a private lunch. If you ask him about it, you get a completely different version of the story. Whatever Mario.
Friday, September 10, 2010
It’s official, school has started and everyone is “back”. The changing weather and increased traffic can only mean one thing…a return to hot beverages. I’d like to dedicate this post to the unsung hero of my food world, coffee. And where does the Cheeseburger get her coffee? At the Coffee Trade of course! Always trying to support local businesses, they are a little slice of heaven in the hurried world we live in.
The Coffee Trade is one of those places that comes to mind when you hear someone say they would love to open a coffee shop. The husband and wife owners have created a cozy and interesting place, he the roaster and she responsible for the antiques that fill each space in the old farmhouse. Don’t worry, you can get your frou-frou drinks here, but the focus is on the coffee. They offer an interesting variety daily, ranging from the perfect morning brew “Olde Trade Blend” to my new favorite “Brazilian Dark Roast”. No matter the blend; they are smooth, rich with flavor and unique.
Order in and linger at one of the outdoor spaces or find your way to one of the tables inside. I dare you to walk in and not browse the selection of tea, vintage jewelry and other eye-catching items in the front room. It’s nearly impossible and somewhere in that room you will find the perfect gift for yourself or a friend.
Next time you are in the Avon area, stop by and savor a cup of coffee. Don’t you deserve it? If you can’t make it to the shop, check out the website for coffees that can be shipped to you. I am a big fan of their dark roasts for the French Press!
The Coffee Trade
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
I decided a fitting tribute would be to highlight a New England summertime favorite and the topic of many a heated discussion…the lobster roll. On a recent trip to the Cape (a requirement of every New England resident); I feasted on a wonderful lobster roll at PJ’s on Rt. 6 in Wellfleet. Now, I am not of those seafood nuts who eats them every day, screaming about who has the best one and “don’t go there, they use celery” or “they use potato rolls, what the fu*k”. All I know is we were simply enjoying vacation and a meal of simple elegance. Sweet lobster dressed oh so lightly with mayo on a toasted roll. I was always a hot buttered lobster girl, but I’ve changed my tune! It was so good that we went back a few days later. Apparently, the dude from “Ace of Cakes” declared them his favorite lobster roll on a Food Network show. Hey, if a cake expert tells me to eat lobster, I’m there.
PJ’s is a no-nonsense family place, offering seafood, fried chicken, ice cream, to name a few things. We also tried the clam chowder, and although I prefer mine thicker, it did have a buttery rich flavor and CLAMS. I know, weird concept. If you want no-frills seafood done right, give it a try next time you venture up to the Cape!
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Fresh Mixed Berry Jam
3 cups fresh berries (I used strawberries, raspberries and blueberries)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons real maple syrup (you may want to add more if you prefer a sweeter jam)
½ cup apple or any type of fruit juice
2 tablespoons chia seeds
Mix chia seeds into fruit juice and let soak until juice thickens, at least 30 minutes. It should be gelatinous; you can add more seeds if necessary. In a blender or food processer, combine the seed mixture, berries, lemon juice and syrup. Pulse a couple of time or until you achieve your desired consistency. Pour into a bowl and chill. Makes approx. 3 cups
I want my baby back, baby back, baby back ribs….
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
If you’ve never tried an heirloom tomato, you are missing out. Forget about your usual supermarket tomato; heirloom varieties come in a rainbow of colors, an incredible range of flavors, name and sizes. How about a tiny version in a husk that tastes like a pineapple? Or a vibrant green tomato called "Green Chile" with a crisp, almost apple-like flavor? Leave the dress at home, all you need is a dash of olive oil for your "Nebraska Wedding". It’s not too late to enjoy them either, check out your local farm market. As we left the festival, bags full of bread, cheese and vegetables, we looked forward to the annual "post festival" supper....a glorious tribute to the carefree days of summer.
Green Tomato Pie - served at Bloodroot - this dish is incredible!!
A savory dish that appears to be Pennsylvania Dutch in origin. Proportions are hard to be specific about in this recipe since it depends on how big your pan is and how many green tomatoes you have. From Roberta (Sage) of A Woman's Place, Athol, NY
1) Make pie crust (see recipe index) using 9 c. white flour, 2 1/4 t. salt, 1 lb. plus 1/2 stick sweet butter, 2/3 c. vegetable shortening, and 1 1/2 c. ice water.
2) Using a large pan, for example, one 11" x 17", roll out enough pie crust to fit and line pan.
3) Thickly slice 8-10 very hard green tomatoes, removing stem end.
4) Slice 2 very large onions and sauté in fry pan in 1/2 stick sweet butter
5) Slice 1 lb. Swiss cheese and 1 lb. Muenster cheese.
6) Sprinkle pie crust lined pan with bread crumbs. Layer tomato slices, cheeses and sautéed onions in pan. Sprinkle with coarse salt and lots of fresh ground pepper. AIso sprinkle over about 2Tb. brown sugar. Repeat layers until ingredients are used up. Top with more bread crumbs and a sprinkle of wine vinegar.
7) Roll out crust to top pie. Crimp edges and slash. Bake at 375° until brown. When it begins to brown, the top crust can be brushed with milk to glaze it. Leftover portions can be reheated in an oven or toaster oven.
Monday, August 2, 2010
Ding Dong! What? There’s no one at the door? That’s because your neighbor just dropped a bag of zucchini on your doorstep and ran like hell! Now what are you going to do? You are going to bake, that’s what! Not your usual zucchini bread, how about Chocolate Zucchini Cake? Oh yeah. I make this every summer, just like my grandmother did. It’s a cross between cake and a brownie, rich and moist. I don’t frost it, preferring to eat plain or with vanilla ice cream. There are few ingredients and after whipping up a few batches, you might want to invite your neighbor in for coffee and cake next time.
1/2 cup applesauce
1 1/4 cups white sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups shredded zucchini
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan; then lightly “flour” the pan with cocoa.
In a large bowl, mix together the applesauce, sugar and vanilla until well blended. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl; stir into the sugar mixture. Fold in the zucchini and spread evenly into the prepared pan.
Bake for about 25 minutes, brownies will spring back when touched.
Cut into squares and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream! They also freeze very well.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
The winery is family owned, and the grapes are all grown in the state. Wine making is not easy and takes several years to come to fruition when growing your own grapes. I think a lot of people easily dismiss their local wineries, but let me tell you....there is a lot of heart and soul in that tasting glass. Don't discount them!
The tasting room is very spacious and airy, which lends to browsing their selections or savoring a glass at the nearby tables. The son of the owner, a very knowledgable young man, led us through their current selections, both red and white. A standout white was the "Chardonel", a late growing grape that produces a full bodied wine with a tinge of fruit. My favorite red was the "Black Tie Cabernet Franc", a dry, complex wine. I personally love Cabernet Francs, and this was one of the best I have tried in recent memory. I thought all of the wines were excellent quality, and it's clear the family takes the business seriously.
As enjoyed our glass of Chardonel out on the patio, we relaxed while others enjoyed picnic feasts and soaked up the gorgeous view. A little slice of heaven in our corner of the world.
Connecticut Valley Winery
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Ferme bills itself as a true farm to table restaurant, the menu reads like one long mouth watering description of local bounty. Cato Corner Cheese, Hudson Valley Foie Gras, Nodine’s bacon, among others. You can order half or full portions of most appetizers and entrées; we’ll discuss this later. The menu begs you to play nice and share with others, perfect for a group of friends or a quiet dinner for two. Me, you and warm duck pâté…ooo la la
After obsessing about what to order, we decided on a cheese plate, roasted mussels, and meatballs. Yeah, I said meatballs! While waiting, we relaxed over two mason jars of chamomile coolers; a refreshing blend of chamomile tea, honey and lemon verbena. The drink list contains some interesting and classic cocktails, along with a thoughtful wine selection. An olive-rosemary martini, anyone?
Our cheese plate arrived, a generously sized assortment of Cato Corner Bridgid’s Abbey, Champlain Triple Cream and Point Reyes Original Blue. Complimenting each were apricots, honeycomb, marcona almonds and a fig jam. Every lunch should start out that way! As we wondered if we could finish our cheese fiesta, the mussels and meatballs arrived. As our server set the mussels on the table, our mouths gaped open. A half portion was set before us; a huge bowl, overflowing with mussels in a fragrant broth. Four large meatballs arrived in a small cast iron skillet, the size of tennis balls. There was nothing left to do but dig in! The meatballs were amazing, a rich mixture of meat and foie gras with hints of tarragon, Dijon in a cognac sauce. The mussels were a delicious mess, the roasting brought out their sweet flavor which was complimented by the saffron broth and sauce that was drizzled over the entire dish. A side of hand cut fries rounded out our lunch, and we were already making plans for our return. I snapped a quick photo of the mussels, but it doesn't do the dish any justice.
Now, about the prices and portions; you are getting some serious bang for your buck at Ferme. In the land of the $12 lunch sandwich, our mussels set us back $9 while the meatballs were a wallet-friendly $8. I will definitely return, hopefully soon to try it out for dinner. I haven’t seen much advertising from them, and I hope people will give them a try. Don’t let the fact that they are a hotel restaurant dissuade you; Ferme is a gem and an incredible value.
Friday, June 25, 2010
The storefront is in a plaza on Rt. 10, and easy to miss (ask “oh she who drove by it twice”), just look for Starbucks and TURN! Once I got inside, I was instantly at ease with the casual décor and vibe. Folks of all ages were smiling and boy, did the place smell great! The walls are decorated with comic book art, as are the tables. We had fun picking out our favorite superheroes.
The menu has a little something for everyone. Salads, burgers, paninis and yes…pizza. We decided to start with: chopped salad, Caesar salad and curly fries. I wanted a nice simple pie, so I went with one cheese pizza and one pepperoni. One in particular that I WILL be returning to try is the Mashed Potato pizza, it was calling my name!
Salads and fries arrived quickly and well presented. The chopped salad was a generous mound of lettuce, apples, cucumbers, carrots and almonds in a creamy dressing. I thought it was very tasty and the vegetables were nice and crisp. My friend declared the Caesar salad delicious, especially the dressing, which did not overpower. Curly fries were your standard variety…curly and a little spicy.
Pizzas arrived and we dug in. The pepperoni pie was exactly what I was hoping for; thin crunch crust with a little sauce, a gooey layer of cheese and a whole lot of hand cut pepperoni. I was most impressed with the crust: perfectly cooked, not soggy and held the ingredients well. Jr. can be picky about cheese pizza and she ate two slices without a complaint. Good enough for me! And for you health conscious folks, I do believe they make wheat crust, but I would call ahead to confirm.
Part of the reason we visited Little City is that I read a recommendation on Chowhound that their cupcakes were worth trying. On the day we were there, they were offering three flavors: vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. Each is served with your choice of frosting: chocolate or vanilla bean butter cream. We all ordered different flavors to try: vanilla with vanilla frosting, chocolate with vanilla frosting and strawberry with vanilla frosting. They arrived, each generous sized cupcake with a little chocolate star on top and a sprinkle of powdered sugar. The cakes themselves were perfect, not too sweet. However, the table was in agreement that the frosting was a bit too sweet; but that will not deter us from enjoying them again.
Another plus about our visit that evening was the outstanding service we received. Our waitress was so friendly, and it was fun to hear the conversations she had with Jr. about the food. Unfortunately, I didn’t get her name, but she really made for a great experience!
Next time you’re in Simsbury and have a hankering for some solid pizza, you know where to go.
Little City Pizza
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Here is our menu for today; I will be playing the part of the grill mistress, stand back boys!
Father's Day Menu
Pork Burgers with Saffron Aioli
1 lb. Ground pork
1 Tbl smoked Spanish paprika - key ingredient!
Pinch of salt and black pepper
1 Tbl minced garlic
1 onion, sliced
4 slices Monterey Jack cheese
4 hamburger rolls
Combine pork, paprika, salt, pepper and garlic in bowl, do not over mix. Shape into 4 patties. Grill until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees, approx. 10-12 minutes. Add cheese and cook until it melts. Brush onion slices with olive oil and grill until tender, remove with burgers. Add burgers to each bun, top with onions and aioli.
1/4 cup mayonnaise
Pinch of saffron
1 Tbl lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
Combine ingredients in small bowl, can be made ahead of time.
Grilled Corn on the Cob
Old School Potato Salad
I am pouring a chilled Rose of Malbec and "People's Pint Blonde Ale"!
Happy Father's Day!
-- Post From My iPad
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
A bit of laziness hit us as the day progressed, so we opted for take-out. Spicy tuna maki, Dragon maki, Alaska maki and "French Cake" completed our order. (I ignored the fact that French cake was really raw fish). The menu isn't your run of the mill sushi selection...no way. They also offer several entrees and noodle dishes. Rack of Lamb, stir fried noodles are just a couple of things you may be tempted to try.
I returned home with our goodies, and we dug in. The rolls were outstanding. The Dragon Maki boasted a colorful display of generous sliced fish; The Spicy Tuna had just enough heat and the Alaska Maki was a straightforward combination of salmon, avocado and cucumber. The standout was the French Cake roll. Salmon and yellowtail topped the roll containing a spicy tuna mixture and avocado. Covering the entire thing was a sweet sauce (eel, perhaps?) and a layer of crunchy panko. Ooo la la. The flavors melded together perfectly. Sometimes sushi rolls can be too "busy", but I am always impressed when so many ingredients come together harmoniously.
The seafood is extremely fresh and the rolls are generous. Although we were very pleased with our take-out, I recommend that you experience Meadow by dining in. The large front windows open in warm weather, which makes for a pleasant open air dining experience. Do try it!
Meadow Asian Cuisine
-- Post From My iPad
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Last summer, we were delighted to find a “hidden” gem down at the marina in Old Saybrook, serving the greatest hot dogs around. (The Mr. fell for the mini-burgers) We snuck over there for snacks in between sand time, devouring dogs on butter grilled buns. Did I mention they also make a mean egg sandwich? *sigh*
SOOOO….with memories of last summer fresh on our minds, we headed over on Monday to check out the place. Rumor has it that someone in the car may have whooped with glee when the “OPEN” sign was spotted. We walked in, checked out the chalkboard menu and couldn’t believe our eyes…NO HOT DOGS. Mostly a selection of breakfast and lunch sandwiches (a $17 lobster roll if you want to splurge). After a quick regroup in the corner, we decided to order egg sandwiches and some delicious Ashlawn Farm coffee. While waiting, we felt bad for the young man working as he had to repeatedly tell people they weren’t serving hot dogs. In the owner’s defense, I would like point out that he does have a place, Jack Rabbit’s on Main Street in Old Saybrook, which DOES serve his famous “Dragon” dogs and creative burgers. But not nearly as fun as sneaking off to the little place in the marina! We sat outside, enjoying our breakfast and savoring the coffee. The egg sandwich is very straightforward…fried egg and cheese on a soft roll. Simple and perfect.
Let’s consider this my open letter to Jack, PLEASE bring back the Dragon dogs.
Ashlawn Farm Coffee
Friday, May 28, 2010
Sun’s out, the grill calls! You know what I'm talking about...hot dogs, burgers, 3,000 tons of potato salad and slaw. The Cheeseburgers will be enjoying every moment of it, going to a few parties, maybe the beach. In the meantime, if you're going through a little withdrawal, check out the NEW Cooking Channel lineup! Catch ya next week!
Cooking Channel Marathon Lineup
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
So far, 2010 is shaping up to be one mother of a year. When I say mother, I am referring to Joan Crawford “are those metal hangers?”; not Heidi Klum “the hot mom at school”. Yeah, it pretty much sums up the way the year is going. One of the bright spots is a monthly brunch outing with friends. We try to change it up and last weekend found ourselves at the Spicy Green Bean in Glastonbury. Their daily Facebook menu posts are so tantalizing; a visit was most definitely in order.
Located in a small storefront next to a dry cleaner, it’s easy to miss, but worth searching for. The place is intimate, with eclectic art that decorates the cozy dining area. We started out with a cup of delicious coffee, offered by a very hospitable waitress. The perfect playlist of acoustic music filled the room on our visit. The breakfast menu is a well chosen selection of pretty much anything you might want to eat in the morning and then some. Although the sweet potato pancakes were calling out for me, I opted for the Ropa Vieja burrito, after hearing it was made with pork instead of chicken. My friends ordered the Chicken in a Biscuit and The Krabby Omelet. To complement our dishes, we were offered a choice of a complimentary mimosa or Bloody Mary. The Bloody Mary was served in a fun retro glass with a spicy green bean garnish. Crunchy with kick, we could have eaten an entire bowl of them.
Our entrees arrived to a collective “WHOA!” from our table. The portions were very generous and each was served with a side of home fries, which contained several varieties of potatoes, making for an appealing presentation. I loved the burrito, chock full of tender pork, eggs, beans AND rice. You needed a game plan to attack the chicken dish; fried chicken breast on a biscuit topped with a rich sausage gravy and two eggs. Biscuits and gravy are one of the most delicious combinations on earth. My friend raved about her crab omelet, only wishing it contained a bit more of the chive cream cheese, but that’s only because it was so damn good.
The Spicy Green Bean has a nice laid-back vibe; I would love to try it out for dinner, which is BYOB. As far as breakfast goes, we will definitely return!
Spicy Green Bean Deli & Catering
Thursday, April 22, 2010
We were fortunate enough to be seated on the balcony, which allowed for a stunning panoramic view of the Pacific. While staring out at the ocean and daydreaming about beach life, I ordered a floral California Viognier and perused the menu. George’s offers a selection guaranteed to please any appetite, from burgers to ahi tuna.
As we read the menu, we couldn’t help but inquire about the “George’s Famous Soup.” How famous was it? One word….Oprah. Like you’re gonna mess with her. So we ordered it. Out came a sizable bowl of thick soup, a unique blend of smoked chicken, broccoli and black beans. It tasted better than it looked, but all agreed it was worthy of fame. Yes Oprah…you told me so.
After the soup, I promptly decided on the fish tacos, a favorite food that is hard to come by in our area. I could eat them practically every day! The Mr. ordered a cod special (pictured) while our friends chose the Spaghetti with Clams and the Five Spiced Chicken Salad. While we waited for our entrees to arrive, there may have been a conversation about working indoors and the bitterness associated with it. I don’t remember.
Our food arrived and we dug in. The flavors of fish, jalapeno and lime accented with fresh crispy cabbage put me in fish taco euphoria. The Mr. and friends were clearly enjoying their dishes as well, all generous portions and wonderfully presented. Our waitress was very gracious, which enhanced an already perfect afternoon. After enjoying lunch at George’s, I could easily picture having a wonderful sunset dinner on the Terrace. I don’t think it gets much better than that.
George's At The Cove
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Fingers caress, a swirl of the glass
Close my eyes, savor each note
Another sip, the taste lingers
Wine and memory intertwine
Sunday, April 11, 2010
On a recent field trip to the shore, we bought some fennel sausage from Mike's, a great little meat market (with killer sandwiches) in Old Saybrook. I wanted to make a dish that would really bring out the flavor, and decided to roast them with potatoes, peppers and onions. It will quickly become a favorite comfort dish once you try it! Combine the onions with shallots for added sweetness.
Roasted sausage, onions, peppers and potatoes
4-6 links fresh sausage
3 large potatoes, peeled and sliced
2 red peppers, sliced
1 large onion, sliced
1-2 shallots, sliced
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 tbsp smoked paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large baking dish, place potatoes on bottom. Next, add onions and peppers. Place sausage on top. Pour broth into dish. Sprinkle paprika over the top. Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour. Remove foil and bake for an additional 45 minutes, until sausage is nicely browned. Serve with merlot or white Bordeaux.
Mike's Quality Meats & Deli
1522 Boston Post Rd.
Old Saybrook, CT
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Hello! I hope you are all enjoying your weekend! Going to a pajama party later at a fabulous restaurant in the area; which should make for a fun post tomorrow!
-- Post From My iPad
Sunday, April 4, 2010
In world of flesh eating aliens, only one thing stands between them and the renegades who are fighting for the good of all mankind….Grilled Flank Steak!
Wouldn’t you like to begin every conversation as a movie trailer? You could have lots of fun with that! Now back to the post….
Warmer weather has finally arrived, time to head outside for some grilling and backyard games! While standing in line at the meat counter on Friday, I ordered a flank steak and the guy next to me asked how I was preparing it. I shared with my favorite preparation method, which prompted him to buy a steak and try it out. Flank steak is very versatile and will hold any type of marinade. It's simple enough for a weeknight dinner yet perfect for an outdoor dinner party.
Grilled Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce
1 ½ - 2lbs. flank steak
1 cup fresh Italian parsley
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
Add ingredients to food processor and blend well. Transfer to a plastic storage bag or dish. Add flank steak and marinate for 2-6 hours. Grill on high heat approx. 3-5 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature reaches 135 F. Remove from grill and let sit for a few minutes. Slice steak against the grain, in long strips.
Serve with grilled vegetables and an Argentinean Malbec or California Cab.
Speaking of meat, our town is getting a butcher shop; someone is listening to my food prayers! (HELLO Trader's Joes!!..) Check it out: http://www.themeathouse.com/
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Passing though the Chicago airport recently, we stopped to have a quick bite at the Billy Goat Tavern outpost. As I was ordering, I looked up at the sign near me and annoyed the server by taking a photo! The name of the tavern didn't come out very well, it's pretty obvious from the photo where the inspiration for this blog came from....
Hopefully, I will get some time to post soon, I have eaten some wonderful meals recently and can't wait to share them with you.
Monday, March 22, 2010
I promised myself that when I started this blog, it wouldn’t get too serious or personal. Recently, a family event occurred that has really struck a chord with me, and I think the overall theme is worth sharing. When I was a little girl, my father’s younger brother disappeared, never to be heard from again. Over the years, questions arose as to his whereabouts. Did he have a family? What did he do for work? Did he know that his parents had passed away years earlier? As the internet entered our lives, the occasional online search was attempted with no success.
Recently we learned the unfortunate news; he had passed away after losing a long battle with cancer. Suddenly, details emerged about his life. The picture of an incredibly generous and selfless man appeared. He moderated a website and built computers for people in need. I reached out to his online community, and was touched to hear stories of their personal experiences. For the past week, I have been reviewing over 5 years of correspondence and gathering information about this uncle I barely knew. As the portrait started to breathe life, I discovered that he and I were eerily similar; we shared a favorite book, a TV show, Freecycle, sharing information and embracing all things technology. I couldn’t help but feel tremendous sadness and at the same time, joy in finding each new detail. The story continues to unfold and in the process, faith in human kindness has been restored. But let me get to the point….
After 33 years of no communication, it was revealed that he was days away from making contact with his family. Sadly, he passed away before it happened.
“Live Like You Were Dying” – Tim McGraw
He said: "I was in my early forties,
"With a lot of life before me,
"An' a moment came that stopped me on a dime.
"I spent most of the next days,
"Looking at the x-rays,"
"An' talking 'bout the options an' talkin’ ‘bout sweet time."
I asked him when it sank in,
That this might really be the real end?
How’s it hit you when you get that kind of news?
Man whatcha do?
An' he said: "I went sky diving, I went rocky mountain climbing,
"I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu.
"And I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter,
"And I gave forgiveness I'd been denying."
An' he said: "Some day, I hope you get the chance,
"To live like you were dyin'."
He said "I was finally the husband,
"That most the time I wasn’t.
"An' I became a friend a friend would like to have.
"And all of a sudden goin' fishin’,
"Wasn’t such an imposition,
"And I went three times that year I lost my Dad.
"Well, I finally read the Good Book,
"And I took a good long hard look,
"At what I'd do if I could do it all again,
"I went sky diving, I went rocky mountain climbing,
"I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu.
"And I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter,
"And I gave forgiveness I'd been denying."
An' he said: "Some day, I hope you get the chance,"
"To live like you were dyin'."
Like tomorrow was a gift,
And you got eternity,
To think about what you’d do with it.
An' what did you do with it?
An' what can I do with it?
An' what would I do with it?
"Sky diving, I went rocky mountain climbing,"
"I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu."
"And then I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter,"
"And I watched Blue Eagle as it was flyin'."
An' he said: "Some day, I hope you get the chance."
"To live like you were dyin'."
Monday, March 15, 2010
Hey kids, break out your “Kiss Me I’m Irish” button and that green shirt you-only-wear-once-a-year-because-green-makes-you-look washed-out. March 17th is almost here! Even though I am 0% Irish, I feel a deep connection to the culture, music, art and food of the Emerald Isle. St. Patrick’s Day is almost here, and if you’re looking for an alternative to the traditional corned beef and cabbage then I’ve got your recipe! It’s a tried and true favorite from Emeril Lagasse (yes, it contains his Essence, does he cook without it?). It’s a rich dish, so might want to keep it light on the side with a simple sautéed cabbage. Serve with Guinness, Smithwick’s or O’Hara’s Irish Red. As always, I’ve included a playlist of traditional Irish music, some of the finest music in the world.
BAKED CODFISH WITH IRISH CHEESE CRUST
• 4 (6-ounce) codfish fillets, skins removed
• Emeril’s Essence
• 1/2 cup fine bread crumbs
• 2 tablespoons melted Irish butter
• 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
• 2 teaspoons Lakeshore Strong Irish Mustard or Colman's English mustard
• 2 teaspoons minced garlic, or spring onions
• 6 ounces Irish cheese such as Dubliner, Coolea, or Carrigaline, or Irish cheddar such as Kerrygold Vintage, grated
• 1 cup heavy Irish cream
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a casserole dish and set aside.
Lightly season the codfish on both sides with Essence and place in the prepared dish, skin side down.
In a bowl, combine the bread crumbs, butter, parsley, mustard, and garlic, and mix well. Add the cheese and mix well. Place on the fish, patting down to make a crust. Pour the cream over the fish and bake until the fish is cooked through, golden brown and the cheese is bubbly, 15 to 20 minutes.
Remove from the oven and serve. Serves 4.
St. Patrick’s Day Playlist
Shenandoah – Van Morrison & The Chieftains (one of the greatest musical pairings ever)
Lafferty’s/Crock of Gold/Lady Birr/Abbey Reel – Lunasa
The Samurai Set – Gaelic Storm
To the beggin’ I will go – Old Blind Dogs
Strathspey/Con McGingley’s – Altan
Carolan’s Favorite Jig – Cherish the Ladies
Nil Na La – Solas
Pastures of Plenty – Solas
Miss Casey Medley – The Cottars
Toss the Feathers – The Coors
Morning Nightcap – Lunasa
Irish Heartbeat – Van Morrison
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Fewer things are comforting than a plate of spaghetti and meatballs, especially on a chilly, damp Sunday. I put out the call to the rest of the family, and Sunday dinner was in the works. My recipe for meatballs is very simple and can also be used as a base recipe for meatloaf. They can be baked and later added to the tomato sauce, which is what I prefer. Leftovers make excellent meatball grinders with provolone cheese and roasted peppers. Feed your man, feed your family, feed a stranger; they will all love you while slurping on your saucy spaghetti and meatballs.
Mama Michelle’s Meatballs
1 lb. ground beef/pork/veal mixture
¾ cup bread crumbs
¼ cup finely chopped shallots
2 teaspoons Italian herb blend (or basil/oregano)
¼ cup grated Parmesan Cheese
2 Tablespoons Fresh or Dried Parsley
¼ teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, combine the egg, bread crumbs, shallots, herbs, Parmesan Cheese, parsley and salt. Add meat mixture and mix well. Add a splash of chicken stock, just enough to moisten. Shape mixture into approximately 16-20 meatballs. Arrange them in baking dish and add enough chicken stock to cover bottom of pan. (optional, but it makes for a very moist meatball!) Bake for 15-20 minutes. Drain the pan and either add them to the already simmering tomato sauce or serve alongside the pasta.
Enjoy with a glass of Monte Antico Toscana. (A reasonably priced full bodied red)
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Once a month I get together with a couple of good friends for happy hour and for our last gathering we decided to try Esca, located off Main Street in Middletown. I had been looking forward to trying Esca for some time; that area has a great dining scene worth exploring.
The façade is unassuming, blending right in with the rest of the surrounding buildings. However, upon entering the restaurant, we were immediately struck by the lush and elegant Italian décor, from the impressive chandelier in the front dining area to the expansive cave in the wall above the bar. We sat at the bar and marveled at the Italian murals and upper level dining room that looks out onto the restaurant; as if you were sitting on a balcony in the Italian countryside. After reading the menu, it was decided that we would have to return to Esca, perhaps for dinner. Since it was happy hour, we decided to choose a couple of appetizers and wine. Sarah, our outgoing bartender, took our orders for the olive bowl, cheese plate and calamari.
Let’s chat about the wine list! It’s well balanced, broken out by style. It’s easy to choose based on preference, and not confining. I think too often we pigeon-hole ourselves into one type of grape and where’s the fun in that?? And now back to the food.
Our plates arrived and happy hour was well under way. The olive bowl was a colorful assortment of marinated olives accompanied by parmesan twists. Personally, I could live on olives and thought the bowl would be a perfect way to start out any meal! The cheese plate contained several artisan varieties; unfortunately I didn’t get the names of each. We were not complaining as we savored each slice with a dip of organic honey. Included with the cheese plate was a fun “fruit shooter”, a tiny cocktail of raspberries and Prosecco. Calamari was served hot and fresh with a snappy red pepper aioli. During our evening, we observed dishes coming out of the kitchen….pan seared scallops, mussels, and gnocchi to name a few. Everything looked delicious (duck confit flatbread and Cioppino are calling my name!) and the servers seemed to genuinely care about their customers.
To finish the evening, we rewarded ourselves for making it to Friday with a dessert. A little coffee and biscotti with chocolate sauce was the perfect thing to enjoy while we chatted our troubles away.
Refreshed from our Friday-cation, we parted ways and decided to put Esca on the short list of places to return.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
Hey there Burgers!
Recently I've received some very nice compliments from some readers, and I just wanted to say THANK YOU! This year has been a challenge to say the least; it makes my day to hear that reading this blog makes you want to get out and try the recipes, foods and restaurants I chat about. But don't stop here...step outside of your comfort zone when you're eating out or trying to decide between your usual merlot or cabernet. Pick a new recipe from a cookbook and go for it!
At the very least, you tried it and expanded the horizons a little. Fun, isn't it?
Monday, February 22, 2010
COME TO THE TABLE it’s SUPPERTIME
Shepherd’s Pie again,
Beef, corn and potatoes so sublime
We’re having Chipped Beef with White Sauce tomorrow tonight?
Meat out of jar is DYNO-MITE!
On Wednesday it’s La Choy Chop Suey,
With authentic crunchy noodles and suey go gooey
It’s Sunday, that can only mean one thing
New England Boiled Dinner our palates will sing!
A fitting ending to each glorious dish
Is Jell-o mold with fruit cocktail, what more could you wish?
Friday, February 19, 2010
Last weekend before taking in the Kid Rock show at Mohegan Sun (stop snickering) we decided to have a proper dinner at Bar Americain. Having never dined at the original location in New York City, I was really looking forward to trying it out and possibly catching a glimpse of Mr. Flay laying the smackdown in the kitchen. I looked, but the only thing staring back at me was the red snapper from the seafood display.
Mohegan Sun has done an excellent job of attracting a variety of big names in the restaurant business, and the latest addition is no exception.
For starters, the restaurant is a welcoming space with high ceilings, marble flooring and amber lighting. It’s airy and comfortable. Several glassed in areas displaying wines flanked the walls. A bar to the right of the entrance looked like a great place to wait for a table and do some people watching.
Upon being seated, we decided on a couple glasses of wine while perusing the menu. The wine list contains a well chosen selection, with something for every budget. I loved that we didn’t recognize many names, and proceeded to choose poorly with a glass of Malbec! On the flip side, my friend enjoyed an outstanding Tempranillo, which I also ordered with dinner. I think it was one of the best wines by the glass I’ve tried recently. Wine in hand, we faced the daunting task of narrowing down our dinner choices, not as easy as we thought. Every single item on the menu piqued our interest, which doesn’t happen very often. The Bobby Flay influence was in every dish, his signature bold style enhanced by complex flavors.
As we nibbled on warm and spicy cornbread sticks, we chose the Tuna Tartar and Gulf Shrimp with Grits from the appetizer menu. If they had given us ladles for the grits, we would have used them. Creamy with a spicy kick, it was something that would be perfect with a pork dish, shrimp or with eggs for breakfast. The one complaint was that the shrimp in the dish were on the small side; we would have preferred four medium shrimp as opposed to five tiny ones. We also enjoyed the Tuna; it was fresh and provided a refreshing accompaniment to the grits. If that was a taste of things to come, we were in for a treat. Our friends ordered the Mussels & Fries American and the Red Snapper. The Mr. also ordered the Red Snapper and I chose the Duck with Dirty Wild Rice. Apparently, we were worried about leaving hungry, so Brooklyn Hash Browns and Cauliflower and Goat Cheese Gratin were added as side dishes. When the dishes were brought to our table, the shark feeding frenzy began. The Mussels arrived, smothered in a wonderful green chile sauce with a side of addictive fries. My duck was perfectly cooked, so tender and moist on a bed of wild rice with bourbon sauce. Quack. I think the prettiest and most complex dish was the Red Snapper Florida Style. A generous portion of fish, dressed with a thin plantain crust and mango salsa. Tropical and spicy, a taste explosion indeed.
Can you believe we left room for dessert? Oh yeah. Our plates were cleared to make room for Sweet Potato Pie and Pistachio Crème Brulee. Both were outstanding and the ideal ending to our dinner adventure.
The service was spot on, friendly and relaxed. Given we were there on a Saturday night, we would have easily been rushed through dinner, but that was not the case. Bar Americain adds yet another destination restaurant to the already stellar lineup at Mohegan Sun. Thanks Bobby!!
Saturday, February 13, 2010
As we all know, February 14th marks the beginning of the Year of the Tiger. And oh yeah, that other holiday. (you pick, Daytona 500 or Valentine’s Day) Not sure how to celebrate? I’ve taken out the guesswork for you and prepared a simple Chinese menu along with a soundtrack of tunes to set the mood. Get your beloved involved in the cooking and let the sparks fly!
Appetizer - Pork Dumplings - get takeout and save yourself some time!
Main Dish - Spicy Orange Beef (oranges represent good health and long life)
• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 1 pound round steak, cut into thin strips on the diagonal
• 1/4 cup orange peel, cut into slivers
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
• 2 tablespoons cornstarch
• 1 cup beef broth
• 1/4 cup soy sauce
• 1/4 cup sherry
• 1/4 cup orange marmalade
• 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1. In a wok or skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add beef strips 1/3 at a time. Stir-fry for 3 minutes or until browned, removing the done pieces to a plate lined with paper towels.
2. Return all the beef to the wok. Stir in orange peel, garlic, and ginger; stir-fry 1 minute.
3. In a medium bowl, combine cornstarch, broth, soy sauce, sherry, marmalade, and red pepper. Pour this mixture into the beef, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for 1 minute. Serve hot. Serves 4
4. Serve noodles (uncut – they represent longevity)
Cocktail - Golden Champagne Cocktail
• 3 parts sparkling wine
• 2 parts tangerine juice
• 1 splash grenadine
Pour sparkling wine into a champagne flute, and then add tangerine juice. Top with grenadine. Enjoy!
Dessert – Almond Cookies, Sorbet
February 14th Playlist
“Fool in the Rain” – Led Zeppelin
“She” – Elvis Costello
“Wild Horses” – U2
“Say Goodbye” – Dave Matthews
“Angels” – Robbie Williams
“Wonderwall” – Noel Gallagher (live version)
“Air that I Breathe” – Simply Red
“Heat of the Moment” – Asia (live acoustic version - amazing)
“Diamonds and Pearls” – Prince
“Steamroller Blues” – James Taylor
“Save Room” – John Legend
“Bubbly” – Colbie Caillat
“Collide” – Howie Day
"Someone Like You" - Van Morrison
"I Belong to You" - Lenny Kravitz
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Over the course of a year, I have eaten there approximately 8 times for lunch and dinner. Although it hardly makes me a regular, I did experience lackluster service on three occasions and an odd customer service snafu by one of the owners. I am not alone in my observation, having heard similar stories from co-workers. But, I am not one to write off a restaurant too easily, so let’s keep an open mind…
One mistake Papacelle does NOT make is with their food. It is consistently excellent and is what keeps us coming back. Their menu is not your typical “red sauce” Italian and features a well chosen selection of meats, seafood and pasta. On my last lunch visit, I was tempted by a rabbit ravioli lunch special and was rewarded with a delicious plate of rustic pasta. The filling was tender, savory but not overly rich. The Mr. ordered his usual Carbonara, which has the distinction of being his favorite in the area. On previous visits, the Beef crepes and “Study of Meatballs” were standouts on the appetizer menu.
One my favorite things on their menu is also the simplest. You must try the Grilled Romaine. Practically a meal, the grill lends a sweet smoky flavor to the lettuce which is then dressed with olives, peppers, zucchini and a garlic dressing.
The wine menu aims to please, you’ll see some familiar names but the prices are reasonable enough to be adventurous and try new ones. Two of my favorites: Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay and a super Tuscan from Villa Antinori.
Inside and out, Papacelle offers one of the best most beautiful dining spots in town. It’s one of the few places around where you can escape from the pressures of office life for an hour or enjoy a relaxing dinner out. The dining room and bar are very spacious; even when it’s busy you never feel like you’re sitting on top of your neighbor. In the warmer months, it’s a treat to sit on the patio with its beautiful fountain and lush green surroundings.
They are also very proactive at engaging diners through wine dinners and dinner specials. I am perplexed as to why service lags at times, but the obvious attention to detail in the cooking will keep me going back. Do try it, and I would be interested to hear your thoughts.
3/13/10: Returned to have lunch recently and decided to post a photo of another dish I enjoyed; the venison ravioli. It was outstanding!
Monday, February 8, 2010
How's life, my fellow burgers?? After a little self-imposed break from my computer, I am refreshed and ready to get down to business. I've got some familiar favorites to chat about, a few new places for you to try and a little cooking humor.
As far as the bucket list goes, the ricotta operation is going well and my French press is getting some regular use. (why, in god's name, did I pack it away??)
I'll be back!
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Fresh Ricotta Cheese
Makes 1 1/2 cups
By Andrew Carmellini
8 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Line colander with 4 layers of cheesecloth; set in sink. Bring milk and salt to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in lemon juice. Let simmer until curds form, 1 to 2 minutes.
Using finely slotted spoon or skimmer, scoop curds from pan and transfer to cheesecloth-lined colander. Let drain 1 minute (curds will still be a little wet). Transfer curds to medium bowl. Cover and chill until cold, about 3 hours. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled.
Monday, January 11, 2010
I surprised the Mr. with dinner at Fleming’s Steakhouse on Saturday; he is celebrating a milestone birthday this week and I knew Fleming’s would deliver. We had a hankering for a solid steakhouse meal and were not disappointed. So, I just wanted take the time to thank our server, William. Not only was he extremely knowledgable but was very enthusiastic and personable. We had a lot of fun discussing wines and his recommendations really enhanced our meal. He also assisted us with the age old quandary, “what wine pairs well with cheesecake?” (just for the record, I decided on my favorite sparkling wine from Gloria Ferrer)
After our dinner on Saturday, we decided that Fleming’s offers the best service we’ve had at any restaurant in a long time.
Thank you William!