Wednesday, February 24, 2010

petite abeille

After sipping (no, gulping is more accurate) on a grassy glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, amateur hour was over. It was time for "all-you-can-eat" mussels. Although this wasn't a table of avid nor fierce competitors. Diners with eyes bigger than their stomachs? Perhaps. But when those overflowing pots of steaming hot mussels were presented in front of us followed by a ridiculously large portion of french fries...good God. Holy deliciousness. Creamy and indulgent? Yes. Dipping french fries into said creamy, briny, broth? No brainer. Total Body Conditioning just got bumped up to an obligatory twice a week. But really, that's what it's all about. I'm happy to have my ass handed to me by a slightly flamboyant trainer with a casual attitude problem if it means I can continue to indulge blindly and spontaneously. Quite frankly, it's how I choose to roll.

So these mussels. I so badly want to use expletives in the best way possible but will refrain. They were nearly swollen in size. Tender, juicy, swollen mussels swimming in a slightly thickened broth of salt water liqueur, white wine, cream (oh was there cream), shallots, celery and a whole bunch of fresh thyme (I ordered the Poulette Mussels). Granted I was unabashedly ravenous since I nearly sprinted from gym to shower into god knows what clothes and to restaurant, but I couldn't eat these little morsels of pure delight fast enough. And leisurely dipping my french fries into the gilded broth while sipping my Stella, and I was no longer paying attention to conversation as well as I should have been. I was working on my mussels.

I know "all-you-can-eat" anything sounds less than appetizing to most (myself included) but Petite Abeille sports a dining special almost every night of the week: Monday is 1/2 price Belgian Beer, Tuesday is 1/2 price bottles of wine, Wednesday is all-you-can-eat mussels, and Thursday is Lobster Night. Don't let that scare you. It's a value-driven joint with serious food and a totally relaxed, charming, and comfortable atmosphere. With a couple of locations around the city, this place is not to be missed. Especially for any and all of you mussel lovers out there. I'd been meaning to pop into one of their locations forever and then finally spontenaity called last night and I jumped.
Now it's your turn.
134 W. Broadway (between Duane and Thomas)*
*click on link for other locations
FOOD: 38
LOOK: 17

the smile

Tucked away downstairs, on Bond and Lafayette in NYC's Nolita, is a concept store meets cafe called The Smile. An uber cozy hipster haven selling Wool and the Gang goodies, C.O. Bigelow products, and Kroneberg 1664 to sip alongside your Harissa Honey Roasted Chicken Sandwich with Preserved Lemon Aioli. A little hidden gem, if you will.

I don't "do lunch" enough. I realize that for the most part that's due to financial reasons and my insistence on brown bagging it (most days) to work but there's something kind of special about treating yourself to a nice lunch with a friend. And on a gorgeous sunny and unseasonably temperate Sunday after making an afternoon at Astor Wines, I popped on over to The Smile for lunch with my pal, Berit. I had never heard of the spot but Berit was raving. And Berit, by the way, has impeccable taste.

"I'll see you there in ten."

While we waited for our table (what was said to be a fifteen minute wait ended up being well over a half an hour. hmph.) we ordered two basil lemonades. Berit's favorite. And now mine too. Not having yet had my iced coffee fix for the day, the brightness and perfectly balanced tart-factor of this lemonade did a fine job of perking me up in no time. Fantastically refreshing and with sun pouring through the windows, I almost felt like when I walked outside, I could shed my layers to my t-shirt and skip home in the premature spring warmth. Order one when you go.

I'm a sucker for sandwiches served on baguettes. Particularly a classic Parisian one consisting of ham and cornichons. This one was sporting country ham, gruyère, coarse grainy mustard, and cornichons. The baguette could not have been any more appropriately soft and chewy and the razor thin sweet pickled radishes and cucumbers served alongside were especially charming and enjoyable when tucked inside your sandwich. A near perfect bite.

While I may not be a lady who lunches (regularly), I could get used to popping into The Smile every now and then when the occasion arises. That said, let's make a date.

The Smile
26 Bond St. (at Lafayette)

FOOD: 37
SERVICE: 24 (very, very slow but could be attributed to busy sunday and one girl waiting on the entire dining room, but, c'mon)
LOOK: 17


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

2008 Saumur Blanc Réserve des Vignerons

Seems I've been having quite a few "mind-blowing" experiences as of late. And for that, I say thank God. Nothing brings you back to life (after sickness and general bummed out-ness) like some food and drink that straight up rock your face off.

I mean that, of course, in the best way possible.

Cut to the 2008 Saumur Blanc Réserve des Vignerons Chenin Blanc. Exclusively sold at Astor Wines, I picked up this gorgeous bottle this past Sunday during my first trip to the infamous wine and spirits shop. It should be noted that this place, in and of itself, is a pretty phenom experience. I was in there for a good hour, taking my time, strolling up and down the aisles over and over again, reading every tasting note, and swapping bottles in and out of my cart. An adult field trip that needs to be repeated as soon as humanly possible. I walked out with this and a bottle of 2007 Meia Pipa (cabernet-syrah blend from Portugal) and would've snagged about five other bottles had I not had to schlep them home. But, alas, reason to go back again and again.

Ok, so back to the 2008 Saumur Blanc. This 100% Chenin Blanc, unoaked wine is one of the cleanest, freshest glasses I've had in quite some time. From my Cork'd review...
Honey and orange zest on the nose. Swirling around in my mouth, I was worried it was going to be overwhelmingly sweet but no, this wine is fantastically
balanced. WOW, amazing acidity. Honeysuckle, citrus, serious length! I could
shower in this wine. Smells and tastes like a perfect late spring, early summer
day, sitting in the sunshine and smiling. LOVE.
This wine scored a 93 for my palette. I literally couldn't help but mutter "wow" after every crisp and amazingly bright sip. What's even more fantastic is that this wine is on sale (again, only sold at Astor Wines) for a ridiculously cool $7.99. Which means it's more likely than not that a case order will be placed at some point in the very near future.

If you're in the NYC area, I urge you to make a quick trip (although "quick" is highly unlikely) to Astor Wines & Spirits to pick up a bottle. And get ready for it to rock your face off too.

Buy it online here.

Astor Wines & Spirits
399 Lafayette St. (at East 4th St.)

dinner in five

At one point or another (and for some, more often than not), we're all looking for a quick fix. And preferably one that's not going to wreak havoc on our wallets and/or waistline. So here's a ridiculously fast and filling lunch or dinner option that can be re-created a bajillion (yep, that many) different ways depending on what you've got on hand or what you happen to be jonesing for at any given moment.

Take a whole wheat tortilla (or regular is just fine) and fill it with a little bit of cheese (possibilities are endless, above was filled with some monterey jack and diced red onion). I know this sounds sacrilegious but I actually prefer to microwave my quesadillas. Gasp! No extra fat and the result is soft and creamy. But by all means, throw it into a pan, a panini press, a George Forman, the grill, whatever. It all works perfectly fine. Next, toss up a little salad. The other night I threw together some baby greens, grape tomatoes, and some shrimp with a shallot-dijon vinaigrette. Serve the salad atop the quesadilla and you are so ready to go.

But here's the thing. This is just a concept. Here for you to take it in whatever direction you see fit. Have some camembert or taleggio sitting in the fridge? Thinly slice some of it, spread a thin layer of a jam (apricot, lingonberry, etc.) on the tortilla, add the cheese, and cook that off. Top that with a lightly dressed salad of baby arugula and you've taken this à la francaise.

Have at it. And I can't wait to hear how you plan to make this little number your own! To the comments section, my friends...

tapas crawl, part dos: tia pol

After an ethereal experience over at El Quinto Pino, our group ventured West to Tia Pol for a continuation of our tapas adventure. Tucked in the back, in a semi-private room, we were ushered to our table. A long wooden table in a wood-paneled room with large narrow windows and tea lights everywhere, it almost had a Scandinavian feel in its esthetic. And a look that had immediately and obviously scored points with me. Cozy and inviting, we sat down, ordered a few pitchers of sangria and got down to business with the menu.

We'll have one of everything. More or less.

sangria to the face

pan con tomate

jamón, chorizo palacios, lomo embuchado

gambas a la plancha, sayin' what's up

chorizo con chocolate with sea salt and chili threads

Figures that the dishes I enjoyed most are absent from my photos. Sadly, they were wolfed down in record speed. The ham and manchego croquettes, the deviled eggs with smoked spanish paprika, the razor clams and cockles, the patatas bravas, and the tortilla espanola are all not to be missed.

If you can bag a table well in advance, this is the perfect spot to have one of those often-dreaded large group dinners (is it just me or do those stress you out too?). Affordable is an understatement. We ate, and ate, and ate (and drank, drank, drank) to the point where I was borderline uncomfortable, and the bill came to about $40 a person. I was prepared to have to shell out two times that (considering two pilsners and an uni panini totaled the same amount over at El Quinto Pino...). Tia Pol was a fantastically enjoyable and more importantly, authentically delicious restaurant.

And since company plays such a large role in a dining experience, perhaps this review is a tad biased. Because a night full of constant laughter, delectable small plates, and a constant flow of libations never hurt anyone.

Certainly not our table of 7.

Tia Pol
205 Tenth Ave. (nr. 23rd St.)

FOOD: 37
LOOK: 18


Monday, February 22, 2010

tapas crawl, part one: el quinto pino

I've mentioned a couple times before that hype often leads to disappointment. High expectations, my friends, are for the birds. And with all the hype that has surrounded El Quinto Pino's famed Uni Panini, I walked into the teeny tiny tapas joint on Saturday night with mixed emotions. A bipolar moment, if you will.
While I couldn't wait to finally wrap my hands around the soft, warm ficelle (petite baguette), smeared with fresh uni and a generous amount of a seriously spicy dijon mustard then lightly pressed for a few seconds, I also worried that knowing everyone and anyone in the food world had raved about this sandwich and sung its praises, would inevitably doom my experience. I walked in with expectations through the roof; seemingly unattainable.

So when I slipped off the paper that delicately wrapped this haute panini, tore off a piece, and slowly put it into my mouth, a single tear may or may not have rolled down my cheek. Now, mind you, this may or may not have been due to the heat level in the mustard which cleared my sinuses for the month of February, but really, that's insignificant. There were tears.

This one bite (and second, third, and fourth) was packed with such incredibly exotic yet approachable flavors, I almost didn't know what to do with myself. The uni melts into an oceanic butter and the kick of the mustard makes this sandwich sing the Gipsy Kings "Volaré" at the top of its lungs. For days. And sipping my Pilsner inbetween bites, flanked by my food loving friends, I was gone.

Checked out. Gone to Mallorca.

Hello, Bliss. It's been a while.

In fear of becoming one of the many people who have placed this Uni Panini on a ridiculous high pedestal, I will allow you (and Jesus Christ URGE you) to try it out for yourself. Because once it's in your mouth, you will quickly realize that this is not just an eating experience. But a total body one.

And I'll be twitching until I get my next fix.

El Quinto Pino
401 West 24th Street

FOOD: 40 (*I only had the panini, though, so take from that what you will)
LOOK: 18


fresh direct take one

When I initially scheduled my Fresh Direct delivery for Saturday between the hours of 11am and 1pm, I hesitated. "I should make it earlier," I thought, so it wouldn't inhibit me from getting out into the sunshine (thank GOD) and running some errands. Yet come 11am and well after 1pm, I could be found in the fetal position on my bed. Swearing off wine for the rest of my life. And replaying scenarios in my head ad nauseum.

There's an epically humiliating story that explains said fetal position but to be honest, on a Monday morning, that's neither here nor there.

Regardless of my sorry state, as soon as the buzzer rang, I leapt up (woah, dizzy) to allow my special delivery in. A case of seltzer! Mine! All mine! Along with some other heavy-ish things I've been meaning to stock up on forever but am often not up to carrying them all the way up to the fifth floor of my apartment building. So on to I went to peruse their selection (not too shabby) as well as their wine offerings which totally took me off guard. I ended up with a slightly bizarre mish-mosh of things but all completely necessary: olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, dijon, whole wheat wraps, and quite obviously, err, Snyder's pretzels. The delivery guy was absolutely polite and cheerful (can't say I'd feel the same after lugging it all up the stairs) and didn't seem to mind my less-than-perfect appearance that morning.

Did I spend more than I typically would at my weekly grocery trip? Probably. But not really. I did slip in a bottle of Torrontés (don't act the least bit surprised) and stocked up on items that are slightly more expensive than a weekly trip permits. That said, I was pretty much thrilled with my Fresh Direct experience and would highly recommend them to anyone who finds themselves too busy or wiped to do the shopping themselves. And this is all coming from a gal who snubbed the site because grocery shopping to me is just as fun as any other shopping experience. But to be honest, grocery shopping from the comfort of my desk is a pretty fabulous concept. While I think I'll stick to picking my own produce out at the green market, when it's time to reload the pantry (read: SELTZER)? Well, it'll be Fresh Direct all the way.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

snapshots from cork'd donelan tasting

Thought I'd share some of the pictures that were snapped (by a professional, of course) at the Cork'd Tasting with Donelan Family Wines last week as they're far better than anything I could have taken. But, well, of course they are. That's the difference between a professional photographer and an amateur who couldn't figure out how to turn her flash back on when taking the ever important picture with Gary and Arax. [Frustration.]
Swirl. Sniff. Sip. Smile.

Friday, February 12, 2010

sushi is sensual

I was thinking about my V-Day rec's last night, and it crossed my mind that perhaps a heavy meal is not necessarily the best way to go. For a few obvious reasons I don't feel the need to go into. You're all "adults."

I think.

That said, am I serious? Sushi! How could I be so totally oblivious (rhetorical question, folks)?! Sushi is undeniably sensual, it's all absolutely share-able, and the option of cozying up to the sushi bar is undoubtedly the way to go. If you're in the NYC area, these are my suggestions: Tomoe Sushi, Kanoyama, Takahashi, or Sushi Azabu.
Of course there's always the option of surprising your special someone with sushi served...on you as the platter. And it is with hilarity, abhorrence, and confusion, I can tell you this actually exists.
Call me plane jane but I happen to love my sushi on inanimate objects that I can't have awkward staring contests with. But hey, that's just me.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Alright all you love birds, as I'm sure you're aware, a "special" day is coming up. V-Day. And whether or not you like to even acknowledge it, I figured I should offer up a few lovely and romantically charged ideas of how to celebrate with or without a significant other.

To be honest, there's something about cooking for (or with) someone that I find incredibly romantic. And unabashedly fun. Pop a bottle, flip on the music, and get down (hey, now) with the preparation of a fabulous meal. It is no surprise that this is always my idea of a perfect night with a friend, family member, or loved one. So let's take a look at a few charming menu ideas, shall we?

If you or your other half is a master shucker, I'm highly suggesting you start off with a few oysters and some bubbly (perhaps a sparkling rosé). If not, head on over to your local fish market and have them shuck them for you the day of. They'll place them on a bed of ice and you are good to go baby. Throw 'em back, clink your glasses, and let the aphrodisiac work its magic.

Oysters not your thing? Pick up a cheese or two. Head on over to Murray's (or your favorite local cheese shop) and taste through a couple till you've found one or two that will please both you and your lucky plus one. The fact that you took their taste into consideration will earn you points. And heck, free samples are free samples are free samples. Enjoy 'em.

Sharing your food is a particularly charming gesture. So if you're up to it, I think a tapas style meal could absolutely work to your advantage. An antipasti platter, cheese, bread, and some fabulous wine, (with the oysters and champagne to start) and I'd be perfectly content. But for those of you who'd prefer a more substantial meal, a big bowl of Anne Burrel's pasta bolognese (go for pappardelle) with two forks is a game changer. Yes, it'll take all afternoon to make but look, you're showing you care. Or spend the afternoon making it together and enjoy the ridiculously intoxicating aromas that will be wafting out of your kitchen all day long.

I was somehow born without a sweet tooth but don't hate me for having a soft spot for chocolate covered strawberries. One and I'm done and regardless of how unbelievably cliché they might be, you can't really deny their deliciousness. Otherwise, some sliced fruit macerated in Sauternes with some basil or mint could really seal the deal. Or at least they would for this girl.

If cooking-in is not something you're interested in, I suggest going somewhere not over-the-top formal. A wine bar would be a perfect destination (Terroir, Lelabar, Zampa Winebar, etc.). You can sit next to each other, share some small plates, and sip on a variety of inhibition-reducing wines, in a relaxed setting.

I think I just seduced myself.

Whatever you do, enjoy the day, lovers.

cork'd tasting: donelan family wines

Me, Gary V., and Arax of Kiss and Type
Whether or not the picture above is printed, framed, and sitting handsomely on my bedside table is regardless, because Tuesday night, Cork'd, Gary Vaynerchuk, and Donelan Family Wines treated us to a fantastically impressive array of wines at the Roger Smith Hotel. One of which, was a barrel sample of their 2008 Walker Vine Hill Vineyard Syrah of which the only other person who had had the pleasure of tasting prior to us, was Mr. Robert Parker Jr. Yep. Kind of a big deal. Which in turn, means that I can now consider myself a pretty big deal in the wine world.

Or, something like that.

It's no secret by now that I've been to my fair share of Cork'd tastings. Can't help myself, frankly. But the wines at this particular tasting showed exceptionally well to my palette (and almost everyone in the room) and had the highest average score to date. And while the first pour, a white, 2008 Donelan Family Venus, didn't really make me sing, the Donelan reds were gorgeous. Not a single one of them scored below a 90 (from me) and my eyes nearly popped out of my head with every sip; explosive yet tamed flavors thanks to seriously talented winemakers. It was an honor and pleasure to get the opportunity to taste through them.

And it didn't hurt that Gary was there, live and in person, at the head of the table giving his two cents. At least for two of his unashamed super fans crushing it to his right.

Major props, once again, to Lindsay and Trout, for a killer and always informative tasting.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

amy's bread book signing

Last night I made the trip (down the elevator to the first floor of Chelsea Market) to Amy's Bread for a book signing to support my good friend, photographer Aimee Herring, who shot the new Amy's Bread Cookbook. The entire bakery was closed off to the public for the event and was serving delectable little hors d'oeuvres (gravlax and dill, goat cheese flatbread, and ham, gruyere and coarse mustard paninis, oh MY) and wine provided by Chelsea Wine Vault (had a great glass of this Gruner Veltliner). Although I'd never formally met Amy Scherber (seen above in white, seated), I frequent her Chelsea Market location almost daily (she mentioned I looked familiar, I most likely blushed with flattery). Her bread is superior to anything I've had elsewhere and her baguettes could not be any more authentically French. Not to mention the undeniable charm that all of her locations emanate. You absolutely feel transported when you walk inside. And the sweet smell of proofing yeast and warm, crusty bread never hurt anyone.

A lovely night celebrating lovely and truly talented people.

I strongly urge you to pick up a copy of the beautiful and wildly informative book here.

Friday, February 5, 2010

kitchen essentials

A fabulous friend of mine who just moved into a swanky studio recently asked me about what kind of knives she should purchase for the new pad. "Decent ones that aren't crappy," was the way she phrased it. I offered up my suggestions of where to go and what to look for and it was then that I realized I've never gone over the basic kitchen essentials with you guys, which is totally insane. So let's make up for lost time, shall we?

I cannot stress enough how important good knives are. One of the reasons I initially hesitate when a friend asks to cook dinner at their place is because I immediately wonder if there's going to be a knife issue. Do they have what I need? Will I need to bring my own? (Which, by the way, I have done on several occasions. This weekend, for example, I brought a pizza cutter in purse when I went to make 'zza.) Without good sharp knives, it becomes increasingly difficult to cook with ease. Below are the three essential knives every cook should have. A serated (for bread, tomatoes), a chef's knife (the one pictured below is called a Santuko), and a pairing knife (for fruits, small jobs, etc.). For what it's worth, I'm quite partial to J.A. Henkel knives. They definitely are up there in price but, to me, they're worth every penny. And as important as it is to have one of each of the knives below, it's equally important to have a knife sharpener. Almost any knife can become a great knife when you're armed with a sharpener. And if you were lucky like me, you were gifted with an electric one for Christmas last year. What? You don't have electric knife sharpeners waiting for you under the Christmas Tree? Well. Then I'm sorry.

Keep in mind that you're less likely to cut yourself with a sharp knife. I know it sounds backwards but it's true. A dull blade will slip. And when the blade slips, well, I want to be as far away as possible. Be careful!

Next are the tools that I use at least one of on a daily basis. From top to bottom: a spider skimmer, a flat-edged wooden spatula, a medium ribbon grater, a fine microplane, and tongs. The spider skimmer may not be a necessity for everybody but I feel like once you have it, you'll find yourself using it for all sorts of things. I use mine every morning to gently lower my eggs into a pot of boiling water for my breakfast of soft boiled eggs. But it's also great for blanching vegetables, fishing things out of pots, etc. They're crazy cheap too and you can find them at any kitchen supply store or on every corner in Chinatown. The flat-edged wooden spatula is an unsung hero. You know when you're cooking ground meat and you're desperately trying to break it up but a wooden spoon sure as heck isn't getting you anywhere? Well this guy will be your new BFF. I can't even tell you how much of a huge help and time saver the microplanes are. No more chopping garlic. Grate it on up (for salad dressing this is particularly helpful). The medium-ribbon grater is even great for cheese, carrots, whatever. You get things finely chopped in seconds. The fine grater is fantastic for zesting citrus and grating ginger. Lastly, tongs. Tongs, tongs, tongs. These are like an extension of your hands and I cannot imagine my kitchen life without them.

I should also mention that the huge wooden cutting board these are photographed on is my Boos Block. Get on that too. Because having enough space to chop is imperative and will remove a lot of cooking frustration (ESPECIALLY in a tiny city kitchen). That and the rest of these kitchen basics will undoubtedly make your life easier. You'll want to get in there and cook because you're armed with the tools to whip up whatever it is your hungry little heart desires.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

choice eats update

One of the most sought after bites of last year's event, the Baoguette Banh Mi. SPICAY!

This just in! A list of all of the confirmed restaurants to be serving up their finest bites at the 2010 Village Voice Choice Eats Event has just been updated. The restaurants that are currently locked in are:

Agnanti Restaurant, Ambiance Restaurant, Baohaus, Dirt Candy, DuMont, Egg, El Almacen, Fatty Crab, Fette Sau, Fort Defiance, Hummus Place, Kuma Inn, Luke's Lobster, Madiba Restaurant, Mama's Food Shop, Mantao Chinese Sandwiches, Max, Mercadito Restaurants, Mooncake Foods, Mumbai Xpress, Mustang Thakali Kitchen, Ovelia, Patacon Pisao, Pinche Taqueria, Porchetta, Purple Yam, Radegast Hall & Biergarten, Rajbhog Sweets & Snacks, Smorgas Chef, Spicy Bampa aka Bamboo Pavilion, The Sheep Station, The Vanderbilt, Tiffin Wallah, Toloache, Txikito, Xie Xie and Zuzu Ramen.

And if that impressive list isn't enticing enough, a few of the joints have teased what they'll be serving. Allow me to whet your appetite...

Kuma Inn plans on dishing up Adobo & Atcharra: Pork Belly braised in soy, vinegar and garlic with pickled vegetables.
Purple Yam promises Tocino (sugar-achuete cured pork) sliders in purple yam rolls with grated green mango. Chicken/Pork adobo skewers.
DuMont will have Spring Chowder: cucumber-scented chowder with mussels, clams, and shrimp finished with an herb pistou.
Mercadito's enticing us with Tacos de Camaron: Shrimp, roasted garlic, chipotle mojo, and avocado.

That said, I expect to rub elbows with each and every one of you (and believe me, there will be some serious rubbing of elblows, that's how many people show up to feast) on March 22nd.

(Last year's recap, found here.)
Tickets available HERE.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

superbowl bites

It's no secret by now that my football fandom is beyond pathetic. And I'm in no way proud of this. I'm ridiculously indifferent when it comes down to which team I'm "rooting" for season to season and when I'm "watching" the game I'm still in the dark as to what it is everyone on the field is doing, who has possession of what or who, and what all those numbers and letters mean on the top of the screen. Sure, go ahead, point and laugh, call me a girly girl. I'll probably laugh with you. Truth of the matter is, I'd love to understand it, get into it, become a devoted fan. My brain, however, has decided for me otherwise: I do not possess the capability for comprehending the game. Not even dating the quarterback in high school (ZING!) helped this girl get a better understanding. Yet somehow, I'm not hopeless in one day having the light go off.

We just won't hold our breath.

So with all that said, let's address the Superbowl this Sunday. While I may not have a jersey to sport, I'll take any excuse I can get to whip up some slightly less-than-healthy food and knock back a few beers with friends. And since spinach-and-artichoke dip and buffalo wings are two things that don't exactly speak to my taste buds, there are certainly equally delicious ways around this.

To satisfy the wing lovers in the crowd, I'm thinking Sticky Sesame Chicken Wings. If you've got some fresh ginger in the freezer (and I hope you do) I'd grate some into the marinade for this. If not, no big deal. They'll undoubtedly be just as good.

I'm also thinking sliders would be a sure fire crowd pleaser. But not just any sliders. How about chipotle meatloaf sliders? And since I certainly don't want to be hovered over the stove flipping a million little burgers, I propose baking off a sheet pan of my famous meatloaf and then cutting it into little slider-sized squares to slip onto mini potato buns and top 'em off with a little avocado-cilantro-mayo (mash up avocado, add in some mayo and chopped cilantro, done).

A fridge filled with bottles of your favorite beer (bud light, please) some of the bites listed above and a room full of friends?

God, I love football.


My name is Kiira and I'm addicted to seltzer.

I can't sleep soundly without knowing there's a fresh bottle of seltzer safely stored in my refrigerator every night. Ready and at my disposal to guzzle at any given moment. More often than not, you can find a bottle tucked away in my purse in case of an emergency. And if my vending machine at work had cans of seltzer, I could kick my Diet Coke habit once and for all.

That said, this soda maker by SodaStream is my dream come true. Especially considering I go through a liter a day x 365 = I can't afford not to have this in my life. You simply place a bottle of tap water into that little gadget and 30 seconds later you have seltzer.

Beyond, beyond genius.

They retail starting at under $90.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

shrimp quesadilla with avocado salad

I'm telling you, I really hope this whole exercise regimen thing isn't going to come around and bite me in the behind. Because once I've had a full day of work, dragged my sorry self to the gym, then up the four flights of stairs to get to my apartment, I'm not only dry heaving (alright, slight exaggeration) but ridiculously ravenous.

Last night was no different.

While clocking in time on the treadmill, my thoughts were consumed by two things: "When is Ke$ha's 'Tik Tok' going to come on so I have a sick beat to run to?" and "What in God's name am I going to eat as soon as I get home?!"

Normal, I know. So on my way back to my apartment, I stopped in the corner produce bodega for an avocado, tomato, and red onion. Tonight, I was going south of the border. And fast.

I quickly defrosted some jumbo shrimp (thank you, Costco) and then threw them into a pan with a smashed clove of garlic and a teaspoon of chipotle in adobo. Two, three minutes later they were perfectly pink and just cooked through. I chopped up half the avocado, the plum tomato, and finely sliced half a red onion and tossed it all with a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette (although a squeeze of lime juice, a dash of olive oil, and salt and pepper would be just as fab). One side of a whole wheat tortilla was filled with thin slices of a mild white cheddar, and a few shrimp that I halved lengthwise. I then folded the tortilla in half and threw it into the microwave (trust me) for one minute. You could also slip it onto a large pan and cook on both sides until the cheese has completely melted. Transfer it to a plate, top with a generous spoonful of the avocado salad and dive in.

Dinner was thrown together in about 10 minutes. As far as how quickly it was consumed, well, let's just say I'd like to maintain my ladylike street cred. That is, if it even still exists.

Wine Pairing: A crisp, cold glass of Torrontés

Monday, February 1, 2010

cork'd tasting: clif family wines at clo wine bar

This past Sunday, two gal pals and I attended a Cork'd wine tasting at Clo Wine Bar located in the Time Warner Center. The wines were provided by Clif Family Winery (of ClifBar) and accompanied by suggested trail mix pairings. I'm going to admit something that I'm not proud of. In fact, quite embarrassed about. So, here goes. I am not a fan of nuts. Like really, really can't stand 'em. Don't even like to think about them (I know, some foodie I am). So when I heard the pairing was with trail mix, I was ready to steer clear.

That is until I tried a smoked paprika almond. Now, I'm not saying I'm going to go ahead and fully embrace all nuts, but heck, when they're covered in a salty smoked paprika, they made a nut hater into a nut...tolerator.

Regardless, the wines that were poured were totally impressive. Not that I went in with any preconceived notions, but I suppose when a wine is associated with something completely non-wine related (i.e. Clifbars) there are some unmerited thoughts that run through your mind.

The first wine to taste was the 2008 Clif Family The Climber White Sauvignon Blanc Blend. A fruity and flat out really easy to drink glass of wine. Bright apple balanced by good acidity. I commented in my review that I thought it was probably low in alcohol because it was so sip-able only to turn around the bottle to see an ABV of 13.4%! A well made wine indeed.

Next was the 2006 Clif Family The Climber Red which had cherries and a meaty component on the nose. In the mouth, I was surprised to discover it was not at all a fruit-driven wine but instead had a whole savory and smokey thing going on that I was totally digging. I gave this guy a 90/100. Cheers.

Third was the 2006 Clif Family Gary's Improv Syrah: ultra smooth, pepper and berries. Another 90 pointer (to my palette), my friends.

Lastly, was the 2006 kit's killer cab which was throwing off some unappealing scents my way. In fear of unfairly representing this wine, I won't share what they were. But in the mouth, this guy totally redeemed himself: very dry but had a great meatiness to it with plenty of dark fruit.

The best part about this particular tasting, for me, was bringing two new friends on board. Both were fans of wine but nothing beyond that. What makes Cork'd such a great site is their ability to take the intimidating factor out of the whole wine experience. No need to fear you're not smelling or tasting the right thing because, heck, there is no "right" or "wrong." They were at ease because they were constantly reminded to trust their own palettes. I was proud to watch my girls dive in, without hesitation, and review wines, taste and smell them in a whole new light, and meet other wine-loving peeps of all different levels. Which, my friends, is the beauty of Cork'd.

If you live in or around the New York City area, do yourself a favor and pop by the next tasting. If not for the fabulous wine experience, for the fact that you'll most likely see me there.

battle of the pizzas (and sexes)

I can't think of a better way to spend a below freezing and so windy I had tears streaming down my face kind of night than IN with a great bottle of red and homemade pizzas. Throw a little friendly competition into the mix and you've got the makings for something quite epic.

Although my competitor claimed to have never made pizza before, we turned towards each other (à la a scene in an old Western dual) at Whole Foods to find the exact same ingredients in each other's baskets. I mean, really, what are the odds? Being the incredibly generous, kind, and adaptive person that I am, I allowed him to continue with his original plan as I ditched my mushrooms and headed for the prosciutto. A wedge of Taleggio was tossed into my basket as a threat to his truffle oil.

2007 Vitiano (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese Blend) to sip while cooking is an absolute necessity. Incidentally, it was also incredibly delicious and from what I hear, a great value. Seek this guy out.

Pizza # 1 getting ready for the oven: base of a white béchamel sauce with lots of black pepper topped with caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms, mozzarella, and parmesan.

Pizza # 1 came out of the 450F oven and was topped with arugula, thrown back in for a minute or two, and then was drizzled with truffle oil right before serving.

Pizza # 1 completed.

The dough for pizza # 2 was brushed with garlic oil, thinly sliced white onion and torn pieces of Taleggio. Into the oven it went until the crust was a golden brown and the cheese had melted evenly into a pool of divine and slightly pungent gooey-ness.

Once Pizza # 2 was out of the oven, it was topped with thin slices of Prosciutto, sliced plum tomatoes, baby arugula and a generous drizzle of a balsamic reduction.

Both pizzas were absolutely delicious. I'm still not entirely sure which was more enjoyable: the time spent making them or devouring. Alas, a third party was most definitely needed to come in and play the role of unbiased judge. Which is where you all come in to play. Which pizza reigns supreme? The caramelized onion, mushroom, and arugula with truffle oil and white sauce OR the tallegio and white onion pizza with prosciutto, baby arugula and balsamic reduction drizzle?
Go vote in the comments section!
*A good tip: If and when you're faced with a kitchen with no pizza stone or baking sheet (as we were this weekend), remove one of the racks from the oven and cover it with aluminum foil. A little spritz of cooking spray or a drizzle of olive oil and you're good to go. Now you have no excuses. Get on in the kitchen and make your own 'zza!


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