May 29, 2011

Savoring Summer

Summer is definitely here in NYC, and yesterday I was lucky enough to be invited to a delicious backyard BBQ at Tom & Jen's. They are quite the hosts, and had more food than we could possibly eat, but oh my, did we try!

Tom started us out with his fresh-baked boule, which had Herbes de Provence in it and was delicious all on its own. Isn't that a gorgeous sight??

My contribution was to make the mojitos. First Jen & I went into the backyard garden and harvested fresh handfuls of mint--what an amazing smell.

Mojitos can be labor-intensive if you make them one by one, so I opted to make a big bowl o' mojitos.

It's pretty simple--equal parts white rum & seltzer water, and 1 cup of sugar per liter of rum. I use powdered sugar, since it melts better than granulated. I don't like my mojitos too sweet--just sweet enough. Use granulated sugar, though, to gently muddle the mint leaves, which you let simmer in the bowl for about 30 minutes before serving. We sugared the rims of the cups for an extra bit of sweetness.

I'll let the pictures tell the rest of the story--Tom's delicious cherry rickey, watermelon salad with feta and basil, grilled chicken sausage with feta, quinoa salad with cucumbers, almonds & dried cranberries, kielbasa, quail, chicken skewers marinated in lemongrass and tamarind, succulent grilled salmon...just so much more than we could ever possibly eat. I hope you are having a relaxing Memorial Day weekend, full of delicious food, wonderful company, and good times all around.

Hope your summer is off to a delicious start!!

May 22, 2011

Chip Shop

After my jaunt to jolly old England (and the awesome Golden Hind) you might think I'd had my fill of fish & chips. Wrong-o!

Jen A invited me to have an early dinner with her and her friend AM on a warm, sunny, mid-May afternoon at the Atlantic Avenue location. Oh, Chip I miss your Bay Ridge outpost. I know there are still 2 others. My trips to the Park Slope were quite frustrating due to either odd-mannered waitstaff or no cherry pie on deck, and I'd given up on them, but Jen convinced me to try the Atlantic location--and meet her friend AM in person for the first time!

I'm always comforted by the sound of various UK-type accents when I go to any Chip Shop--isn't that always a sign that the food is legit?

We started off with some cold drinks: I ordered the Snakebite, a pint of hard cider with a shot of a cider with a shot of something I've already forgotten! Either way, tasty and refreshing. And bring on the foooooood

The 2-sided menu will keep you busy unless you stay focused: we were there for fish and chips! We ordered one plate of fried haddock and chips, and a plate of baked haddock and mashed potatoes. You know, balance is important. ;)

I usually go with the cod, but honestly I'm not sure I could tell much of a difference between the haddock and cod unless I had them side-by-side. I do know this--the plaice is not for me. I tried that once with ABF and was convinced to stick with cod or haddock after that. It seemed too thin and delicate--didn't hold up well.

Sidenote: how pretty is this blue plate?

And I can't go to Chip Shop and NOT get mushy peas. Peas! Which are delicious!!! Someone else didn't like these--I can't remember if it was J or A, but I love these. ABF is a big fan of these, too.

This was my FIRST go at the food--I start out all neat and pretty--but it doesn't end that way, trust me!

Look at that deliciousness! Tasty, crispy/crunchy batter, not too thick, delicious fish inside--I even loove love looooved their citrusy tartar sauce!

Okay, so the baked fish dish doesn't look so super appetizing, but it was tasty!

I checked early to make sure they still had the twice-fried (because once is for pansies) cherry pie--and yes they did! Even though we split the dishes, we were getting full, so we shared one order of this. Honestly, they don't need ALL that powdered sugar on top. I dusted off most of it, because it's really about the crust and the tart cherries inside. YUM. J & A both thought this was too sweet. I almost never think that about a dessert. Their treacle pudding with custard is still my favorite, but it had been too long since I had some cherry pie!

Once again, Chip Shop delivers some delicious food in a fun atmosphere. I love Chip Shop--it's such a treat, and now I know it's worth the trip to Atlantic Avenue!

Chip Shop
129 Atlantic Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11201
(718) 855-7775

May 21, 2011

Perfectly Parisian

ABF & I covered so much ground in Paris that I'm amazed we found any time to eat. We were so intent on taking in as many sights (and sites) as possible that we often just grabbed food wherever we could find it.

After seeing the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and the cathedral of Notre Dame, ABF & I found ourselves wandering through the Latin Quarter. It was insanely, dazzlingly busy, so we wandered a bit past there to the quieter, calmer, Boulevard St. Michel, which is one of the boundaries of the Quarter (along with Boulevard St. Germain). There we popped over to a cafe with outdoor seating, La Fontaine St. Michel, in Paris's 5th Arondissement. It's, as you may have guessed, around the corner from the actual fountain of St. Michel (photo of it at the end of this post!)

We picked an outdoor table and immediately started drinking as much water as possible (hello, Americans!) I then ordered an appetizer portion of les escargots. Oh yes I did! In case you can't tell from my photo, I was extremely geeked out to be using the tongs and tiny fork--the quintessential accoutrements (can you stand all the French, people, CAN YOU!?) to a classic French dish that this American can only seem to stomach while abroad.

One of my first experiences in Paris, lo those many years ago (Sept 1999--what?!) was eating escargots (yes, snails). They were buttery, garlicky, and melt-in-your-mouth delectable, and quite the opposite of what I had expected. I decided that I'd have to dare myself (She Who can Still be Squeamish) to eat escargots again as soon as I got back there. Done!

ABF had 1 or 2 as well and thought they weren't that bad. Not as garlicky as I'd hoped, but the rich parsley topping was a nice touch.

ABF ordered a sandwich sandwich, nothing too fancy and he seemed to enjoy it. I remember it having mayonnaise and mustard, if I recall correctly, but I can't remember what was inside, and neither can he! I do know that he enjoyed it and the bread was glorious--as all bread IS in Paris, non?

For my entree, I went for a perfectly Parisian pairing--quiche with a tossed green salad in a creamy, garlicky dressing. This was lovely!

The cafe seemed to have a lot more locals than tourists, which was fine by me. Prepare yourself for plenty of cigarette smoke, too, but at this point we were getting (almost) used to it. This was a great place to fuel up for another night of walking through one of my favorite cities. Service was a bit stuffy, kind of what you might expect in Paris, but it just lends to the charm, I say!

If the nearby Latin Quarter is too crazy for you, amble on over, enjoy an espresso, then wander past the fountain and take in gorgeous views of the cathedral of Notre Dame and more...ah Paris, I miss her already!

La Fontaine St. Michel
11 Place Saint-Michel
75006 Paris, France
01 43 26 54 31

May 20, 2011

Paris: Le McDonald's

Purists & food snobs, avert your eyes! Yes, we visited McDonald's in Paris. Hear me out, though. McDonald's is almost always more delicious in other countries. I still remember how delicious the McDonald's in Moscow was, oh-so-many years later. It's interesting to see the regional/national differences in the menu. Also, ABF was being a wicked good sport accompanying me around France and letting me geek out over parlez-vousing everywhere we went, so the least I could do is take him somewhere somewhat familiar.

I happily ordered for us both: a Big Mac (pronounced: Beeg MACK) and frites for ABF, as well as a Diet Coke. They looked and smelled fantastic.

I ordered the Double Cheese, no fancy French name for their version of the double cheeseburger. This was really, really good. Not very greasy, and instead of fries, I ordered the side salad, which came with a cracktastic mustard vinaigrette. And this wasn't some cheap pile of iceberg--this was a gorgeous spring mix!

I enjoyed every bite of this meal, and it was affordable, too. I can't remember the exact prices, but I am sure it was a tad higher compared to American McDonald's, but it was still a decent amount of food/money for a quick lunch before heading off the La Tour Eiffel!

As much as I liked it, I know ABF LOVED it, and that alone was worth it. Bon Appétit, mon ABF!

Have you ever eaten at a McDonald's outside of the US? What did you like, dislike? What special item did they carry that caught your eye?

May 19, 2011

Paris: Late-night Lebanese

ABF & I took the long way, shall we way, to find our hotel on Boulevard Garibaldi. By the time we got there on that hot, humid, April day, we were beat, so we took a luxurious nap. By the time we got up and moving for dinner, it was pretty late and our options had dwindled.

We wandered a few hundred yards down the road and found a Lebanese restaurant, El Fares, that was open late, half-full, and smelled delicious. We were feeling adventurous, so in we went.

As soon as we sat down, someone whisked over dishes of raw veggies and green olives.
Aren't French radishes sleek & stylish? Yeah..still too bitter for me, but I gave them a shot anyway.

And the olives were so good--briny, fresh, tangy, and, as were the veggies, complimentary!

You know my love for languages, so I always get a kick out of seeing translations on menus. Please note the 'no comment' on the falafel (is this good? bad? indifferent?) and the 'beyruth' style for hummus. I assume, this being a Lebanese spot, that they meant Beirut. Squint up a little further to read about the ingredients 'protected' by pita bread. Sigh. I love languages.

I immediately ordered some hot mint tea which smelled ammaaaaaazing. I added one sugar, just enough to give a hint of sweetness.

ABF ordered the lamb kebab platter. It smelled wonderful and was tasty, but it was not a lot for food for a fairly pricey entree (about $18 dollars).

I ordered the kofte, ground lamb. It was also a very small portion, but it was just enough for a late night snack. The salad was fresh and lightly dressed, and the pickled veggies had a nice zing to them. Also not a 'cheap' dish (about $15), but tasty, delivered quickly, and we were grateful as our options were few and fleeting that evening!

Overall, we were happy with our meal. I would probably go back there for lunch instead of dinner. It's a popular spot for people of all ages, though we saw more young people in their 20s there, we also saw two women in their 60s who were traveling from the states, some older Lebanese men, and of course, us. : )

El Fares
166 Boulevard Grenelle
75015 Paris
08 99 23 96 04

May 18, 2011

London: REAL English Muffins : )

Before I came to visit ABF in England, I had heard him wax poetic on how awesome the English muffins are in the UK. I grew up on "English" muffins here in the US, usually Thomas brand, but ABF assured me that the ones across the pond were even better.

I decided to make a breakfast sandwich for myself one morning after ABF had left for work. Ahhh, vacation.

The English muffin looked a little different from the USA version--fewer 'nooks and crannies' and whatnot. When I toasted it, it came out much smoother, almost velour-like.

Something has definitely changed in the UK since my last visit (around 1996). There is a definite surge in pride for all things British--British apples, British eggs, British-baked bread, you name it. I don't remember seeing that advertised quite so much.

After a bite of this breakfast, I can kind of see their point! The yolks were so buttery, rich, golden, delicious. The salty butter, the rasher of bacon, and the creamy eggs all came together on a soft little pillow of scrumptiousness.

So it's true--English muffins really do taste better in England!

May 17, 2011

London: Swedish Sundaes

After a filling dinner at the awesome Golden Hind, ABF and I took a long, lovely stroll through the streets of London. We meandered this way and that, sort of heading back to the tube (subway) but not in any direct way. That's one of my favorite ways to explore a city--just meander!

We stopped about 30 minutes later, as the sun was disappearing, and saw an ice cream parlor decked out in Swedish flags (ABF's father's side hails from Sweden). On we went!

Kula had a colorful spread of ice cream flavors, a cappucino machine, and outdoor seating with heat lamps--what more could I need? We ordered a sundae, 2 lattes, and headed outside.

The British artist Banksy designed the specials board for this place (they'd been wiped clean for the next day at this point). I have seen a few of Banksy's works around NYC, so even though he's from the UK, it was like a reminder of home, too.

The sundae had chocolate ice cream, whipped cream, and delicious, pulverized hazelnuts on top! This was delicious and just the sweet ending I wanted. Our lattes were creamy and delicious, and kept us warm in the chilly night.

Kula Café
21 James Street
London W1U 1DS
020 7998 1455
Visit their site--click here!

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