Monday, February 22, 2010

How I Became A Foodie


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

Bar Americain - Mohegan Sun Casino

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

Tigers, Fast Cars and Cupid

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!

– 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

Pappacelle - Avon, CT

In a town loaded to the gills with Italian restaurants, I think the hands down favorite for the Mr. and I is Papacelle. A family-owned place located in a quiet section of a shopping/commercial plaza, it offers a relaxed vibe with a beautiful view of nearby Talcott Mountain. Having said that, I must also tell you that I have a love-hate relationship with the place.

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

Hello! Is it me you're looking for?

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!