June 25, 2021

Italy: First Meal!

January in Italy proved to be very, very rainy. Super Rainy. Thunder-boomy rainy. But a girl's gotta eat, so we trudged a few blocks from our rental apartment to find a nondescript restaurant with outdoor (covered) seating.

My first dish in Italy was a seafood risotto. This was okay, but not great. It wasn't as creamy and decadent as I remember risotto tasting in this country (or anywhere!) I wondered if maybe I was remembering the food in Italy to be a bit better than it was in reality. This can't be as good as it gets, can it?
Ready to rock it in Rome! 

You can't go wrong with an Italian red wine, though, and I had a glass of house red. Tart, with a gorgeous ruby color, it was probably the worst thing for an overtired, jet-lagged traveler, but it still tasted lovely.

My fellow travelers ordered another risotto (with walnuts and truffles, yum), the lobster special, and a dish that I think was veal, may have been pork? Regardless, everyone cleaned their plates.

I wasn't overwhelmed by this meal (in fact, I can't even remember the name of this place) but it was very welcoming, tourist-friendly (without being tourist TRAPPY), and molto convenient! Don't worry-- my note-taking gets much better as the trip continues!
Italian, French, Russian AND English! #languagenerd

October 05, 2015

Ria's Bluebird Cafe (ATL)

Ria's Bluebird Cafe came highly recommended from a former news pal of mine, so LaShauna & I headed over on a sunny Sunday morning to the Grant Park section of Atlanta, expecting a bit of a wait.
Fun fact: Grant Park is one of Atlanta's oldest residential neighborhoods. If you do have to wait for a seat at Ria's, enjoy the bungalows and cottages and Victorian houses in the area, or walk after your brunch later!

We must have arrived at the perfect moment, because we only waited about 15 minutes for an indoor table. The friendly hostess and servers were welcoming and helpful, which was nice, considering I was totally expecting a bit of pretension and hipster attitude. Nope!
I ordered a café au lait to start-- I like a good, strong cup of coffee anytime (before 4pm).

Shrimp & grits 
LaShauna ordered the shrimp & grits, and graciously shared some. This Yankee is coming around to grits-- as long as they've got some cheese in them! What a delicious dish- and not too heavy or clunky.

I'd surveyed the menu the night before (as I often do) and knew exactly what I was getting: brisket with poached eggs.
Our friend and fellow newsie, Brooks, said Ria's pancakes were worth the trip alone. (Confession: we ate it before I took a picture. It was that good). While I need to start the day with something savory, I sure don't mind sharing a pancake with a good friend. These pancakes really were spectacular. Sweet, tangy, and I slathered them with the ruby-red raspberry jam they gave us at the table.
Poached eggs & brisket-- yum!
Rich, ruby, raspberry preserves!
Who needs syrup when you have a gorgeous, jewel-toned condiment like this?

Thanks, Brooks, for the excellent recommendation! Ria's was fantastic-- and it would have been worth waiting for, too.

Ria's Bluebird
421 Memorial Dr SE
Atlanta, GA 30312
(404) 521-3737

January 26, 2015

London: Dishoom

It's never too late to talk about London, is it? I enjoyed a girls' trip last fall with my good friend LaShauna, a two-woman 'hen do' of sorts (aka mini-bachelorette party). Just the two of us traipsing around one of our favorite cities.

We met up one night with a former news colleague of mine who has lived there for almost a decade (and is on her way to becoming a British citizen)! She suggested meeting on the edge of Covent Garden at Dishoom, a mostly no-reservations restaurant that is one of the last remaining Bombay cafes in London. (They do take them for parties of 6 or more)

That no reservations thing is no joke. However, we didn't wait that long, maybe 40 minutes, and they brought out mini drinks and snacks to keep us from getting too hangry in line.
My drink was a lovely hot mint tea. Just sweet enough, and full of fresh mint.
They took us downstairs to a table in the middle of bustling room, and we started with cocktails. Mine was the Bombay Colada: a pina colada jazzed up with coriander (those seeds on top), chai syrup, lime juice, and rum. WOW. This was one of the best cocktails I've had the pleasure of sipping. The coriander made this drink sing from the tip of my tongue to the soles of my happy feet.

LaShauna ordered the Chaijito, a chai-infused take on the mojito. I tried a sip-- it is a refreshing spin on one of my favorite cocktails, but once LaShauna tasted MY drink, she made that her second cocktail (and so did I-- I had TWO Bombay coladas!)
We decided to share a bunch of dishes, including their sauteed green veggies, their red curry, black daal (lentils) and some naan bread.
Samosas to start-- flaky crust, surreally-spiced filling, YES YES YES.
That Black House daal (pictured above)-- holy shut your mouth richness. The menu says it's a signature dish, and I can understand why. Simmered for more than 24 hours, it is incredibly lush, aromatic, flavored in the most luscious of layers. I could have had just this dish and called it one of the best things I ever ate.
The chicken ruby was a gorgeous curry in what they call a 'makhani' sauce. Tender, juicy chicken pieces floating blissfully in that sacrilicious sauce. We had some naan, thankfully, to scrape up every last drop of this dish.
We ordered the succinctly-titled 'Bowl of Greens,' described as "grilled broccoli, snow peas and spinach tumbled with chilli and lime." This dish could easily have been a throwaway, but it was so incredibly flavorful that we nearly ordered another. Splitting this among three people left us all wanting more, but we were saving room for dessert.

And I doubled DOWN on dessert. I didn't just get the pineapple & black pepper crumble (which was good, but not great, a little dry).
I also ordered a dessert coffee, a Monsooned Cobbler. It is described as Malabar espresso, 'bamboozled' with spices, cognac, and cream. They served with with cream and EXTRA sugar on the side-- it does NOT need any more sweetness, but yeah, I splashed a bit more cream in there. It was super cold and super sweet. Normally I don't care for sweet coffee, but this was excellent. When I go back, I'm having just THIS for dessert!
12 Upper St Martin's Lane
London WC2H 9FB, United Kingdom
+44 20 7420 9320

November 21, 2014

Holiday Eats: Cranberry Pie

Thank goodness for bookmarks. I saved this recipe years ago after tripping across it in the wilds of cyberspace. It still took a long while before making it, and I'd be so mad at myself for that if it did any good. Instead, I will just make it as many times as I can to make up for all the missed opportunities!

Called Nantucket Cranberry Pie (original post here), this is texturally more like a cake, but let's not fight over semantics, shall we?

This recipe is dead simple, and simply delicious. You can put it together in mere minutes, and it's a tart and tangy treat to mix it up in a sea of pumpkin and pecan pies.

It's a one-bowl, easy-peasy, satisfying recipe. Chop the cranberries and nuts (I used pecans, though the recipe calls for walnuts), toss them with a 1/2 cup of sugar, and dump them in your pie tin.

Next, add 2 eggs, melted butter, flour, sugar, and almond extract to the same bowl you used to mix your berries & nuts. You'll have a thick, yellow batter ready to pour over the berries.

I made this for a work potluck and it was gone in no time. The tart cranberries and the mellow almond flavor were a great pairing, and more than one person asked me for the recipe. I think it might be on a few tables this Thanksgiving!

It's not the most photogenic dessert when sliced, but everyone will eat it too quickly even to notice! I loved this so much that I made it again 2 days later for company.

This dish has earned a spot in my immediate rotation of recipes. It's easy to prepare, bakes in less than 40 minutes, and goes just as well for dessert (I'll add some orange zest and top with whipped cream next time) as it does for breakfast, next to a steaming hot cup of coffee. I hope you'll give it a whirl!

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 14, 2014

Wafels & Dinges Restaurant

A group of us gathered one EARLY Sunday morning, hoping to have some of my favorite pancakes at Clinton Street Baking Company. When our expected wait of an hour turned into TWO hours, and then we heard it would be THREE HOURS, we collectively said Oh HELL NO, and walked north to find a better option, ANY option. Three hours for pancakes? You must think I've lost my mind and then some. No. NO NO NO NO NO. I'm mad we even waited that long, but sometimes optimism can be a real kick in the head.

We walked two blocks up and saw the brick and mortar version of the Wafels & Dinges, an amazing Belgian wafel truck that was really at the forefront of the food truck movement. In fact, back in 2008, I organized a Wafels & Dinges Day at the talk show where I worked. Everyone chipped in about 10 bucks and the Wafels truck came just for us outside work. Sigh..that was a great day. But back to the future...

He's putting BACON in the wafels--thank you, Sir. THANK YOU.
We walked in, immediately ordered at the counter (where they serve sweet AND savory), and were seated in under five minutes. Hello, THIS is how I like to do brunch. Screw that waiting in line nonsense. And I had an icy cold, bracingly strong iced coffee-- FINALLY!

I like to start with savory first thing in the morning, so I ordered the chicken and mushroom wafel. It sounded so good, and tasted even better. It was like a wonderfully comforting stew. Impossible to eat with your hands, but I'm not complaining. I was not expecting the savory wafels to be so incredibly flavorful. Bright, green herbs and BACON cooked into the wafel!! It came with a side of lightly-dressed arugula and pickled, tickle-your-tongue onions. Killer combo.

ABF ordered the Wake Up Grumpy: an egg, bacon and cheese with two savory wafels replacing the biscuit. Drizzled with a generous portion of honey, it looked gorgeous, and ABF gave it two forks up, happily.

For dessert, ABF & I shared the sweet raspberry wafel, lightly dusted with confectioner's sugar and a small scoop of vanilla ice cream and drizzled with honey. This was great- ABF is coming around to really liking raspberries (one of my favorite foods), and I'm happy to share with him. As tasty as this was, I actually rate the chicken & mushroom wafel as even more fantastic.

See that stunning chocolate concoction? I think that was my friend Travis's pick-- I was so full at this point I couldn't even fathom trying it, but it smelled glorrrrrrrious.

The prices are reasonable, coffee is strong, flavors are fab, and the servers were all cheerful and welcoming. Skip waiting ANYWHERE for brunch and try out this spot!

Wafels and Dinges

209 East 2nd Street

NY, NY 10009

(866) 429-7329

November 06, 2014

Personal Shepherd's Pies

I'd made mini pot pies a while back (for St. Patrick's Day), but I hadn't tried them yet the low-carb way. This dish was one of the few ways my mom could get me to eat vegetables when I was a kid. Now that I'm older and FAR less picky an eater, I find myself making this dish on my own. On a chilly November night, I decided to make a few personal servings of Shepherd's pie, with some tweaks.

I switched out the ground beef for ground turkey, and instead of peas, I used carrots. I'm not a registered dietitian, but I'll take the carbs in some organic carrots over junk food any day. Plus, the carrots looked so bright and colorful in what can be a dreary-looking dish. I also added mushrooms to the mix to sneak in some more veggies.

I boiled some cauliflower for 8 minutes, then put it in my food processor along with some roasted garlic, salt, pepper, and a small knob of cream cheese. I used this as the topping instead of heavier mashed potatoes. Most of the time, when I sub roasted cauliflower instead of white potatoes, no one even notices! Much lower carb count, still delicious!

After 30 minutes in the oven (at 400), they were perfectly browned on the top, and delicious inside! I had some that night for dinner with a good friend, and will be enjoying the leftovers this week for lunch!

Mini Shepherd's Pies:

1 lb ground turkey

1/2 yellow onion, diced

1 cup mushrooms, chopped

3 large carrots, chopped

Worcestershire sauce

1 bag (16 oz) frozen cauliflower

Salt, pepper, roasted garlic cloves, or garlic powder

Sauté the carrots and onions until softened, set aside (I don't like burned onions!)-- Add ground turkey to pan, brown. Once it's almost browned through, add mushrooms. As turkey is almost cooked through, splash a tablespoon or two of Worcestershire sauce and blend. Add a dash of salt & pepper to the meat, set aside.

While browning turkey, boil the frozen cauliflower for about 8 minutes, until softened. Blend in food processor with salt, pepper, a clove or two of roasted garlic (or garlic powder), and an ounce of cream cheese.

To assemble pies: add 1/4 cup of turkey and mushrooms into a ramekin. Add layer of carrots & onions. Top with the pureéd cauliflower, and use a fork to make little peaks in the cauliflower.

Bake in 400 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until the tops are browned. Let ramekin cool 5 minutes, but still use caution when handling the dishes (pot holders are key). This dish gets even better the next day!

October 30, 2014

Spicy Carrot Soup

Our office LOVES to eat cook. Every so often, we take on a cooking challenge that focuses on one ingredient. In the past, we've featured lemon, pumpkin, and apple, in sweet and savory forms. This time, the lowly carrot, so often pushed aside as an overlooked, overcooked side, too center stage.

I decided to make a harissa-spiked soup I made years ago for a dinner party. It struck me as something different, a new mix of flavors for our group. And it couldn't be easier!

Okay, there is peeling and chopping to do with those carrots, but I find chopping to be very relaxing. You might disagree, and that's cool. Takes all kinds, right?
It's basically sautéed carrots & leeks, stock, and harissa. So dead simple! Once the carrots of softened, you put half of the soup in a blender and purée it, then add it back to the soup. Adds a nice texture and heft to it.
The original recipe calls for chicken stock, but we have a few vegetarians at work, so I switched to vegetable stock. I've never really used veggie stock before, but it turned out to be just fine. It was a different flavor, but it was still delicious, and some of the vegetarians thought the stock's richness gave the dish a meaty taste, anyway!

Harissa, a spicy pepper sauce popular in Northern African cuisine, is the magic ingredient. But a little goes a long, long way. I ended up adding an extra teaspoon, and it was deemed too spicy for some. I'd stick with just the recommended two!
Carrot hummus!
Carrot ring: EPIC

The next morning, I put the soup in a Thermos and carried it off to our Carrot Gathering. We had a delicious variety of sweet and savory dishes (Carrot ring! Carrot juice! Carrot hummus! Carrot-feta dip! Carrot CAKE!!!), and will be adding some of those recipes to my own repertoire! This outing also solidified this spicy soup as a favorite of mine.
You can put it together in less than 20 minutes, and yet the flavor of this dish is surprisingly complex!
You can get the easy-as-all-getout-recipe here!

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