December 30, 2009

Delhi Palace

My trip to get Indian food with Carlota had me wanting it again, very soon, so we made plans to hit up Jackson Heights (a neighborhood in Queens, NY famous for its Indian food, among other things) on a chilly night, just days before Christmas. Jackson Heights is THE place for Indian food in NYC, according to a lot of people, and it had long been on my List, the ever-changing, ever-growing counting of places where this girl has gotta eat. One thing or another always came up and my previous plans to go fell through time and again. Not this time! I met Carlota in her hood and we hopped back on the 7 train one more stop to Jackson Heights. We walked the brightly-lit streets for a few chilly minutes until we found the place Carlota knew: Delhi palace.

It was a bit early for dinner, so most places were fairly empty. When we walked in, there were only two other tables occupied at the moment. We sat down, still shivering, and browsed through the menus. As a grammar geek, I enjoyed some of phonetic translations--check out the ingredients to the 'blady mary' (bloody mary): I believe 'watch ester' sauce is supposed to be "Worchestershire" sauce..I think "watch ester" might be more appropriate considering how we pronounce it!

We started with some vegetarian samosas (above) and some poori (seen a few paragraphs above, next to the rice photo), that fried, oh-so-delicious bread that I know is certainly not healthy, but yummy as all heck. I don't normally order it, but Carlota twisted my arm ;) and I went along with her. It was really tasty and went quickly...I even liked it better than the naan bread (and I love naan!)

I wasn't sure what to get, so I ended up going with the Chicken Tikka Masala, which is the baseline dish I compare at all Indian restaurants. This was just okay to me. The tomato sauce wasn't as spicy or flavorful as I'm used to--it reminded me of a thicker marinara, actually!

Carlota picked the lamb korma for her entree, and I was expecting a sauce along the lines of the cracktastic Chicken Korma sauce we had at Cafe Spice. However, this one was bright green, jam-packed with cilantro, and while different, still amazingly good. I instantly wished I'd picked this!

Despite the amazing amount of food we consumed, we still thought we'd try dessert, and we were DEFINITELY getting the masala chai, a spice-infused tea that is fragrant and delicious. We ordered the kulfi, which is Indian-style ice cream, and it came topped with some curious additions. There was some rose-petal infused sauce on top which I couldn't handle--anything rose-infused tastes like soap to me. The little beads on top, the manager later told us, are basil seeds that have been soaked in water. They are supposed to aid in digestion. After all that food we ate, we needed all the help we could get!

The manager and staff were quiet friendly and checked on us often, and at the end of our meal, brought us this dessert 'on the house.' However, we were so beyond stuffed at this point that all I could manage was a polite bite, and even that was pushing the limits of my stomach! It was very nice of them, and I felt bad that I couldn't eat more of it, but dear Lord, even I have limits!

Did I mention this was definitely Cheap Eats? Our bill, including a glass of wine each, apps, entrees, dessert, and tea, PLUS a very generous tip, came to about 40 bucks TOTAL!!! Sweet! Afterwards, we wandered the streets and shops, admiring the saris, checking out some music, and enjoying the holiday lights. I'm so glad I FINALLLLLLLY made it out to Jackson Heights, and I can't wait to go back and visit a new place!

December 28, 2009

White Chicken Chili

White chicken chili is one of my all-time favorite cold weather foods. It's also surprisingly easy to make--you probably have most of the items in your kitchen right now!

For a recipe to qualify as a Recession Recipe, it has to be inexpensive and use items that are already in the pantry. I always have chicken broth on hand, along with spices, canned beans, etc. You may not have a can of salsa verde nearby, but it won't set you back that much. I picked this up about 6 months ago at my nearby bodega, and even the jacked-up "convenience" price was just over a dollar. And most of all, a Recession Recipe has to TASTE good!

There are a ton of recipes out there, so I improvised with the basic ingredients. You'll need:
2 15 oz cans Navy Beans (about .89 each at Trader Joe's & corner grocery)
1.5-3 cups chicken stock (on sale for about 4 bucks on, or make your own--I've used up all of mine)
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin (staple in mi casa)
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion (diced in mere seconds thanks to my awesome chopper, last featured here)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
7 oz can green chiles (1.19 at bodega)
2 cups shredded chicken (about a buck or 2 when bought in bulk on!)

I sautéed the onions and garlic in about 2 teaspoons of olive oil, just enough to sweat them (don't let the garlic burn!!), then I dumped everything but the chicken into the pot. Once the aromatic mixture came to a boil, I simmered it for 5 minutes and then added the chicken. It smelled so good that I could only wait another 5 minutes or so before I doled some out for dinner. YUM! Not as good as my mom's, but pretty damn close. I had some more for lunch today, and it tastes even BETTER!

December 21, 2009

Buttercup Bake Shop

**Hello, fellow Members (the website posted one of the cupcake pics from this post) welcome to the blog--stick around, y'all come back now, ya hear?**

Oh, the things I eat in the name of research. :) While working on a weekend on a special broadcast, I was delighted to see that my guest host brought us all a dizzying, colorful array of cupcakes from Buttercup Bake Shop.
Buttercup was founded by one of the original folks behind Magnolia, which is in my Top 3 of cupcake destinations (homemade cupcakes being #1!). Buttercup is equally delicious, though I have heard reports from more than one person that the staff there is not at all friendly. I have only been there once in person and didn't notice anything unusual, but I wasn't there very long. I may have to visit again in person to check this out for myself. ;)

As tempting as all these cupcakes looked, I stuck with my go-to flavor, the vanilla cupcake with (pink) buttercream frosting. It was DEEELICIOUS. The vanilla flavor isn't as pronounced as it is at Magnolia, and the frosting is abundant but maybe also not quite as sweet as M's. This was delicious with my hot cup of coffee (a 2nd best considering no glass of ice cold milk was handy)!

Several of us had our cupcake before the show started, but we all resisted the (strong) temptation to have a second, and left the rest with the security guards at the front of the lobby--I think we made their day!

Comfort Food: American Style

I had an only in NY moment about a month ago with the awesome Carlota. She was working in her bar, and she invited me to stop by and visit. I was trying to be low-key, not wanting to get her in trouble or anything on the job. While I sat there nursing my water (I'd just come from a birthday party and was not up for more alcohol!), a striking blonde woman walked in and sat two seats to my left. I heard her Australian accent as she asked about the champagne there. Carlota recommended a martini instead, and the woman gamely picked that. A quick glance showed she an attractive blonde beauty rocking an amazing rabbit fur coat. I was still pretending not to know Carlota, so I didn't interject myself into their conversation. In fact, at one point Carlota told the woman "My friend and I are thinking about going to Iceland," and I didn't realize she was referencing ME! I was working on my Blackberry, pretending to be a total stranger and not at all involved--I probably came off a little distant at first! It slowly dawned on me that I was being brought into the conversation, so I quickly changed gears and started gabbing. A pretty easy transition for me. ;)

The next thing you know, the three of us were chatting like schoolgirls. The woman's name was Karen, and she was in town for a 2-week vacation--the previous week she'd spent with her girlfriends and doing some business--now she was on her own for a week and looking for tips. We were more than happy to help. Carlota, being a native New Yorker, had way more tips than I , but what I lack in experience, I make up for in enthusiasm. I couldn't believe when I looked down at my watch and HOURS had passed. It seemed like minutes! We all exchanged info and made plans to get together at least once before she flew home to Australia. Carlota & I agreed Cafeteria would be a great spot for some Comfort Food: American Style.

We headed off to Chelsea on a busy night--it was packed! There were no tables in the dining room, and the wait would be at least an hour, but the hostess told us we were welcome to go hang out in the lounge downstairs, which even had its own smaller bar. I was thinking "Why am I just learning about this place??" While Cafeteria can be very yummy, it's also a very loud dining area. I was thrilled at the chance for a more secluded place. We went down the stairs into a small room that held maybe 40 people. Lovely!

We started off with a carafe of the red wine sangria. Fantastic. It was not strong at all, but still tasty. I wish there had been bigger chunks of fruit--that's half the fun--but all in all, this was a good pick.

We quickly put in our order for the Mac Attack, the mac and cheese sampler (picture at top of post). Carlota & I regaled Karen with our tales of growing up with the powdered cheese sauce in the blue box, and how our tastes have changed over the years. Whatever you put in your mac and cheese, it's still a go-to comfort food!

Between 3 hungry gals, the mac attack was just a few bites each, so we also tried their meatballs, which came in a cast-iron skillet, floating on some delicious, savory red sauce (red sauce!!!!). The meatballs were delicious, just salty enough, delightfully soft and scrumptious. The crusty bread was perfect for soaking up the rest of that yummy sauce.

We also ordered something I'd never had before myself: chicken and waffles. I've known it was a classic pairing for some time, but it never really appealed to me because, waffles? Eh. When I tried this dish, though? NOMNOMNOMNOMNOM!! I have never had such a light, delicious, fluffy waffle in. my. life. I could have eaten just that, plain, with nothing else. The fried chicken was excellently seasoned--holy cow. I can see now why this is such a hit!

For dessert, we wanted to try the peanut butter dessert with the crystallized bacon (which Sara & I shared a while back on my first trip there), but the server told us that was last season, and this season they had a different option: bacon glazed caramel popcorn. I think I may have looking slightly crestfallen at hearing it was now a slab of peanut butter pie with a cone full of the popcorn, but the server tried to make us feel better by saying the piece of bacon was pretty small anyway. LIAR!!! I mean... I disagree. It was a fairly sizeable chunk shared by Sara & me months ago--it would have been enough for the 3 of ust that night! We sighed and reluctantly ordered the pie instead. It was not great. It wasn't even really good. It was ridiculously rich--too rich. The popcorn was just so-so, and the bacon flavor was lost in it. It was a bit of a disappointing end, but we still had a great night of girl talk and cultural comparisons! Karen repeatedly invited us to come visit her in Brisbane. Bless her heart, I'm not sure if she realizes we are two gals who will SO take her up on that offer.

December 16, 2009

Hinsch's Diner--Old School Eats!

This place, right in my hood, offers two of my favorite things: breakfast food and sundaes! And you can leave the big bills at home--this place is DEFINITELY cheap eats!

Hinsch's is an old-school diner, complete with barstools, paneled walls, and waitresses who've been there 20-plus years and will call you Doll and Hon. My fabulous friend Carlota reviewed this place ages ago, and she swooned over their banana split. I'm not much for bananas with my sundaes, but I can definitely vouch for their sundaes overall! But first to the 'real food.'

Kelli and I dragged ourselves out of our warm building one Saturday morning and walked the short distance to Hinsch's, right on 5th Avenue in Bay Ridge. This place is old-school, cash only, vinyl stools at the bar, booths in the back, seat yourself anywhere you like. Kel & I always tend to gravitate towards the same area in the back, depending on how busy it is. This was a very late "breakfast" (past noon), so it had cleared out a bit by then that day.

I ordered my usual--eggs over easy (my go-to when poached eggs aren't available) with bacon and home fries. The home fries are just okay, but at mere dollars per dish, it is always a good deal. You also get toast, and Kel & I both always opt for the rye--toasted and tangy and just enough butter. I always forget to ask for a plain piece of toast so I can put some of that Welch's grape jelly on my bread (without butter, of course, I don't like mixing butter and jam). Kel opted for the same dish, but with their skinny, crispy fries instead of home fries.

We also shared some of their old-fashioned French toast. This is sooo good! It's eggy but not too eggy, super-fluffy and super-delicious. So good. I usually only have one piece because I'm more of a savory than sweet breakfast person. Plus, did I mention the sundaes?

The breakfast food is good, solid fare that comes out fast. But as I mentioned, we had a greater objective in mind: sundaes!! This place makes their own ice cream, their own hot fudge sauce, you name it. Kelli always gets chocolate ice cream, I always get vanilla. I also opt for both whipped cream AND marshmallow. Yeah, I said it. Live large. Kelli doesn't care for the whipped cream, but she learned long ago to give up the fight. Every time she tried to get no whipped cream, the waitress's reaction was something along the lines of: "Are you crazy? It's REAL whipped cream--not the kind from a can" and the next thing you know, Kelli relents and here comes a coronary-inducing amount of whipped cream towering over her sundae. She discreetly scrapes it off once the mollified server walks away. Pick your battles, people.

Notice how the marshmallow topping is driiiipping off the sides of the dish. Yum. We never finish these, but that's not the point! This is one of my favorite splurges (we really only go about once a year--it had been 18 months since our last sundae--now you know why). With all of our food, unlimited coffee refills, and super sundaes, our bill still came to around 10 bucks each. Awwww YEAH.

December 14, 2009

Pindar Vineyards

ABF & I were out this past Sunday in Long Island again, doing some Christmas shopping in some very un-Christmasy weather. Oh, it was horrible. Rainy, cold, dark at 3:30pm. Feh. I DID purchase my very first Le Creuset Dutch Oven (thanks to a birthday gift card from a good friend). I'd been saving that card for a special occasion, and 30 percent off Le Creuset was special enough for me!

Where was I? Oh yes...we ventured allll the way out East to one of ABF's favorite places, Pindar Vineyards (and also the site of our second date, when I was still quite nervous and, well, quiet. Ha--that era is over!) ABF was picking up gifts for co-workers, and I was wandering around checking out the discounts.

ABF asked if I wanted to go for a tasting while we were there, and of course my answer was yes! Hey, I wasn't driving! Like Duck Walk, it's 4 dollars for 5 wines.

The first wine I tried was their everyday white, Autumn Gold. This was good, but not great (then again, I'm more of a red than white drinker, so keep that in mind). It's definitely affordable at just under ten bucks a bottle. It wasn't too sweet or too dry. As they explain in their tasting notes, it's like your basic Pinot Grigio. Good, but I didn't HAVE to take this one home. ;)

Then I moved on to their 2008 Sauvignon Blanc. I'm slowly starting to appreciate that grape more and more. These grapes grow about 100 feet from the Long Island Sound. I thought this was EXCELLENT, and ended up bringing home a bottle (12.99).

Third on my list was the 2007 Johannisberg Riesling. I love Rieslings, and tell everyone I know that they do NOT have to be cloyingly sweet (though I don't mind those, either!) This Riesling is the perfect balance--sweet but not too sweet. I could definitely taste a peach-like note in there. Very good!

One of ABF's favorite wines there is their Merlot. Hanging out with ABF has definitely given me a new appreciation for Merlots, which I didn't use to like as much. I'd had too many weak, watery ones. Duck Walk's still remains a favorite of mine. This one, Pindar's 2008 Merlot, is very smoky, which I'm not super crazy about when it comes to my wine. ABF loves it, but I'm still lukewarm on this one.

If you're looking for a light, slightly puckery red for your next meat and/or Italian dish, try out their 2006 Cabernet Franc, which goes for 18.99. This wine, a rich ruby-colored beauty, won Pindar the Best Red Wine at the 2007 NY Food & Wine Classic.

My final selection was the Cabernet Port. I'm a dessert wine lover (though I so rarely drink them, oddly enough), and I had to give this one a sip. It tasted very raisiny. Not quite as tangy as the other ports I've had, but this was a nice, sweet, subtle port. It would make a lovely gift, and at 14.99, it won't break the bank.

If you're counting, yes, you're right--that was a tally of 6 wines, not 5. When I couldn't decide between the Cabernet Franc and the port, the server happily gave me a sample of both. Woo hoo!

In the spirit of the holidays, Pindar also set out two crockpots bubbling with aromatic offerings: one was mulled wine, super heavy on the cloves (a little clove goes a lonnnnng way with me) and the other was non-alcoholic mulled apple cider. I actually preferred the cider. ABF and I both had some before we got back on the road.
If you're looking for something to do on your next date, I highly recommend a wine tasting at your nearest vineyard! Wine tastings are a great idea, especially when you're first getting to know someone. It gives you something to talk about say, should both of you be a little quiet at first. :) You're also not going to get DRUNK, so there's no embarrassment factor. They may also inspire you to try a new wine with a new dish--or give you great gift ideas for friends and coworkers. I know ABF got some good deals for his shopping list, and I always find something delicious to bring home with me. I am open to hear your suggestions for what to pair with this Sauvignon Blanc that is now safely tucked away in my fridge!

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