July 28, 2010

Bears, Beets, Battlestar Galactica

My coworker Patty and I were at the end of a long hard week a month or so ago, and we made the short walk to Banc, a surefire standby.

I wasn't super hungry, so I opted for the layered beet and goat cheese salad. Whenever I even think about beets, I can't help but chuckle as I remember one of my favorite scenes from "The Office." Go ahead, enjoy. I'll wait here for you....

Back on topic...I was picturing multiple layers of beets and cheese, more like alternating discs, but it was really a stack of chopped, roasted beets with a top of goat cheese. Either way, still tasty. The tangy, slightly-creamy goat cheese went so well with the mellow, sweet beets, all on top of a bed of bitingly-fresh arugula.

Patty ordered their Cobb Salad. It was more like a deconstructed take on a Cobb salad. She ate it and enjoyed it, but said that it was so far off from a regular Cobb salad that some folks might have different expectations.

We were still a bit hungry, so we opted to split a dessert. The pavlova sounded tempting, even though meringue is not my favorite thing. I figured it would be light and perhaps the least calorie-packed dessert available. It looked quite lovely, but I wouldn't get this again. The consistency of meringue (crunchy meringue, not soft meringue like that on a meringue pie) kind of gives my teeth the shivers. I know, I'm weird.

Like I said, looks pretty, tasted just okay. But I'm weird about textures. Something about the super-cold ice cream and the meringue didn't work for me. But you can't go wrong with the beets! And as always, our service was great--they're friendly and never, ever hustling us out the door.

July 26, 2010

Sweet Simplicity

(I know, I know, I've been restaurant-heavy lately on the blog. Listen, it's hot as all hell in NYC right now, and 10x hotter in my kitchen, so we're keeping things light and breezy. But THIS recipe, my friends, is worth heating up the house...and it only takes a few minutes under the broiler!!)

Got 5 minutes? Then you can whip up an amazing, sweet-tart dessert that tastes like summer..and it features one of my very favorite fruits: raspberries! Once again, thank you, Deb @ SmittenKitchen.com!!!

Three ingredients--THREE--are all you need, and I bet you have them on hand already: raspberries, sour cream, brown sugar. Fold the raspberries (or any summer berry) and the sour cream (or Greek yogurt or regular yogurt) together gently and spread in a shallow dish, such as this lovely little number from IKEA (love!)

Crumble the brown sugar on top and pop it under the broiler until it starts caramelizing. HOLY. YUM. Your guests don't need to know how easy it is to assemble!

Sure, it won't be the most delicate-looking dessert ever to leave your kitchen, but I promise you it will go over like gangbusters with your guests. Or just you.

Eat it right away. Just do it. Make it. Enjoy it. I did.

I also split the recipe, making only half the amount for myself, and making mini-gratins in 2 small ramekins, which I ate the next morning with breakfast. Sure, the sugar isn't crunchy anymore, but the flavors will still make your tongue sing.

July 23, 2010

Stuffed Peppers

My coworker Patty is always talking about her mother's cooking (her mother's family is Sicilian and Northern Italian), and I have long been wanting to try it. My wish came true last week when Patty brought me one of her mom's homemade stuffed peppers.

And yea, it was very, very good. Green peppers can seem bitter to me sometimes when they're cooked, but this one was perfect. It still had bite and substance, but was easy to cut into as well. Stuffed with a moist, tender, gorgeous meatball, all under a river of red sauce ("gravy," as Patty's mom calls it). I don't care what you call it..it's delicious. A pleasant surprise on top: NO RICE INSIDE! I'm not a huge fan of rice, so I didn't miss this at all--more room for meat!!!

For all the wonderful restaurants and food carts and trucks, it just never really gets as good as home cooking, right?

Thanks, Patty, and Patty's mom!

July 15, 2010

Olives New York

A favorite friend (and fellow foodie) of mine was free for lunch today (you can see her review here!), when I had a rare afternoon show off (meaning I could eat lunch at a normal hour in a RESTAURANT, not hunched over a keyboard!), so we met at Olives New York, a Todd English establishment, to take advantage of Restaurant Week lunch specials. Restaurant Week is a great time to try places you might not otherwise hit--while they offer a limited menu and often slightly smaller portions, it's still usually a good representation of the food and a chance to try it without spending too much money.


A basket of bread and a colorful dish of olive tapenade appeared as soon as we sat down at our table. The bread had lovely caramelized onions baked into the chunks, and the tapenade had some juicy and delicious olives of all colors.

The tapenades were both delicious, but I found myself going back again and again for the salty, tangy black olive version. I am crazy about this stuff--I need to hunt down a good recipe to make at home. This stuff is WONDERFUL slathered onto a sandwich instead of mayo!

I knew the second I saw it that the beet salad would be mine, oh yes, it would be mine. It was beautiful and absolutely lovely. Tender, roasted beets, a creamy sauce, and crunchy, salty pistachios.

Aren't they gorgeous?? Pretty, pretty, colorful deliciousness.

Sara ordered a glass of Chenin Blanc, while I opted for the "Olives Up," with vodka infused with pineapple and ginger, with a sugar rim that was just sweet enough. This was good, but not amazing. I'm not sure what Sara thought of her wine, but my drink was just okay.

Sara is allergic to peppers of all kind: red, green, chili, jalapeno, you name it. Is it a pepper? Then don't feed it to her. She immediately told the server and he was very diligent, checking on the dish and reporting that there was jalapeno juice in the trout dish we both wanted for our entrée. Great news for me (I love spicy things), bad news for her. The quail dish also had pepper elements to it, so she was left to the third and final option, Peas & Ravioli. She said that generally, pasta at Olive's is really good, so she wasn't too, too disappointed.

It was a lovely-looking dish. She was kind enough to share a bite, and I found it yummy. The cheese filling was more layered than I expected, in a very good way.

My trout dish was a beauty. It came beautifully resting atop a bed of spicy beans, and sprinkled with fresh, fresh, cherries. The trout was perfectly cooked, super moist, and absolutely delicious. Some of the beans weren't cooked as evenly as others, but guess what? I ate them all anyway. The jalapeno juice was a nice addition--it gave it heat without searing the tastebuds.

I dug a little underneath the fish and saw... BACON! Thick, chewy, salty, slightly sweet BACON! Oh my, this was tasty. I ate it slowly, savoring each chewy mouthful of saltastic flavor.

We couldn't decide between the two panna cottas for dessert: blueberry and chocolate--so we got both and shared them. I'm so happy to have friends who don't mind sharing food. :)

These were just lovely. They could have easily been a throwaway dish, but they came just as thoughtfully presented as our other dishes, and each one was great in its own right. The chocolate was rich, creamy, and intense, and the watermelon sorbet was OUT. OF. THIS. WORLD. I'd go back just for a chance to sit down and eat more of this sorbet.

The blueberry version was delicious, too, with Maine blueberries in the sauce. The crunchy things tasted an awful lot like Kix cereal to me (and the chocolate ones, which I liked better, tasted Cocoa-Puffy to me).

From start to finish, this meal was a delight. Our server was great, attentive but not smothering, he actually listened to Sara's allergy info, and our food was spot on. At 27 dollars for all 3 courses, it was beyond worth it. I'll definitely go back to Olives!

July 11, 2010

Caliente Cab Company

My coworkers and I met last week to send off one of our radio hosts, who was packing up her family and moving across the globe. We picked a spot close to our studio, Caliente Cab Company on 3rd Avenue. This is not my favorite place, but it was within walking distance of the studio and blah blah blah.

Happy Hour is pretty darn decent here, IF you sit at the bar (remember this for later), that is. 4.50 for a house margarita on the rocks? Si, por favor! My coworker and I were closest to the restaurant, so we got there first and grabbed seats at the bar. This was in the final game of the World Cup, and I think we might have been the only 2 people there not really paying attention (until the last minute, that is). We were the only people at the bar, too, but we still had to wait a while to get our bartender's attention, and he was still half-turning away from us before we finished sentences. The hell? We were polite, we weren't demanding, but would it have killed him to at least PRETEND our patronage was welcomed, nay, even tolerated? Sigh.

The 'rita was tart and crisp and hey, for $4.50, I'm happy. It's not a rock-your-socks-off 'rita, but it was cold and icy and tasty. That makes me happy.

We ordered a small portion of the guac (yes this is the SMALL) and even asked if we could have celery sticks instead of deep-fried tortilla chips. They were quite accomodating and we appreciated it. Have you ever put guac on a celery stick? Do it.

The guac was pretty yum--I like some chunks in my guac as opposed to a pea soup-like puree (though I won't ever turn down either!), and the flavors were bright and cooling. My only complaint (a frequent one) is that we ordered medium spicy and we clearly got mild. In fact, it was so mild it might have actually sucked the heat out of other nearby dishes as well. It was perfectly salted, though, so I'll end on an upbeat comment there. ;)

More folks arrived after our first round, and the guest of honor ordered her favorite, a raspberry margarita (hello! Who loves raspberry? THIS GAL!), which I didn't even consider because I assumed that meant frozen (the frozen ones are just too sweet and hit me too hard too fast).

I was WRONG. It was on the rocks--and I quickly ordered one for myself. This is sweet, yes, but has a strong raspberry flavor. Not too bad. Did I mention $4.50???

Sadly, I had to leave just as the party was starting, but I came by later at the end of the night, when the whole group was supposed to be there. Half the folks had left, but the party had moved... OUTSIDE. (Say it with me.. NOoooooo!!) Well, guess what? Everything ordered outside was now double and triple the price. What I hate, or at least resent, about CCC, is that they seem to go out of their way to mislead people. My first trip there, it was CLEAR we thought Happy Hour extended outside. We even asked our server how much time was left in HH, etc, only to receive a crazy, full-priced bill. Well guess what happened again in my absence? The same damn thing. Service is also pretty bad. I don't know if the waitstaff have a horrible working environment or everyone is always having a bad day, but this was CCC's third and final strike with me. If you're in the neighborhood and need a cheap 'rita fix, pop in...but don't invite me to join you! Okay..maybe for just one...but then I'm LEAVING!

July 08, 2010

Ammos Estiatorio: Desserts

With all the food we'd scarfed in appetizers and entrées at Ammos, you might think we'd skip dessert. Unless you're not new here and you know me. Of COURSE we got dessert! We first ordered some crazy rich, thick Greek coffee, so intense and flavorful that a tiny espresso cup's worth is more than enough.

One person got the baklava and shared--crispy, sweet, yummy triangles of phyllo dough.

That tiny scoop of something on the far right? Ouzo ice cream!

I also got ice cream, and chose fig and Greek coffee as my flavors. I looove figs (Fig Newtons are actually one of my favorite cookies in the world) and heck yeah I love coffee. These were sooo good. Tiny, chewy bits of fresh fig were scattered throughout the smooth and not-too-sweet ice cream. The Greek coffee was super intense and super delicious. I shared it with others and the coffee hit a home run with almost everyone.

Patty got the ouzo ice cream--both scoops were the same flavor. I don't really care for black licorice or anything with licorice flavoring, but this was surprisingly lovely. The licorice was softer, not so harsh, and I actually took a second bite. It had a clean, fresh flavor. Opa!

If you're in the neighborhood, definitely stop by for dessert--I liked it even more than our main courses!

July 07, 2010

Bang-Up Breakfast

I'm a little hooked on veggie omelets right now. It's my favorite way to sneak in some more vegetables into the diet while also filling up with good protein. I had a Trader Joe's red pepper that went a long way last week. I used it in two salads, as a snack (dipping into hummus), and finally, the last few dices went into my eggs.

I think a few years ago, I would have tossed this pepper. It was starting to get a little wrinkled. Not soft and gross, just...tired. I think the more I play with my food, the braver and more judicious I get. But guess what..you can't really tell once you dice that baby up into ruby red pieces of yum.

I sautéed the peppers for about 2 minutes on their own, then added the shallots.

Then it was just another minute or so until I added the eggs, which I'd whisked and seasoned with salt, pepper, and a splash of half and half.

I had to add a little extra, so I took three slices of avocado and sprinkled it with diced red onion and lime juice--my current salad of the summer. This is SO good.

Three simple ingredients never tasted so good, I promise.

You know how everyone says they don't have time to make breakfast in the morning? I get that, I do. On the days when I have to wake up at 4am, heck yeah, I pop a protein shake and go, but just try it once or twice. This breakfast, from start to finish, took less than 8 minutes. Eight minutes!!! And it kept me full all morning. What's your favorite way to start the day?

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