Wednesday, May 26, 2010

weekend dinner party: memorial day

Anyone else confused as to what today's date is? I couldn't even tell you what month I thought it was when I was walking into work this morning. 8:30am and dressed in an airy, light cotton dress I was already feeling the nearly oppressive heat. And after a quick glance at my faithful Outlook Calendar, May 26, 2010 was confirmed. May? You could have told me July and I would have believed you. August, even, and I don't think I would have flinched. There's probably a term for this condition. I fear it's got something to do with aging (we won't go there). But as evidenced by my scatterbrain, well, that term won't be crossing my mind any time soon.

What were we talking about?

Ah! Memorial Day Weekend is up on deck and the implications of this long weekend make my heart flutter. Why? Because I'm beach and boat bound. And beaches and boats yield the happiest version of me I know. Throw in some great food and drink and I'm on a straight up high. And so, the plan to achieve said euphoria is as follows:

chipotle pulled pork sliders topped with red cabbage-apple slaw
2007 Seghesio Family Vineyards Zinfandel
grilled chicken under a brick with citrus, garlic, and smoked paprika
potato salad with salsa verde
watermelon salad with feta and mint
Unoaked Chardonnay from Burgundy
strawberries and blueberries over vanilla ice cream drizzled with black pepper-balsamic syrup
Remember on Monday how I mentioned picking up a big ole pork butt? Well, now you know why. By throwing that into a slow cooker with a few BBQ spices for a few hours and putting together a tangy slaw, you'll have the makings for the world's best appetizer: pulled pork sliders on potato buns. Bam.

And as for the wine pairing? Jon Troutman of Cork'd says: "Zinfandel can serve as the ultimate BBQ red wine this summer. The jammy berry and spicy flavors that many have can play well with a chipotle sauce and other sauces with a 'zing' to them. But, choose wisely; those with excess alcohol levels (15.5% and higher) can be tricky to pair with foods as the alcohol dominates the flavor. 2007 Seghesio Family Vineyards Zinfandel."

And given my experience at a Cork'd tasting with BBQ ribs and sparkling rosé (the left-field pairing of the century), I imagine that could be an equally interesting option with these sliders as well.

Chipotle Pulled Pork Sliders

2 lbs. boneless pork butt
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp. (more or less depending on your heat tolerance) of chipotle in adobo
1 bottle (12 oz.) of your favorite BBQ sauce (I recommend Sweet Baby Rays)

Place pork into lightly greased slow cooker. Combine onion, garlic, chipotle, and BBQ sauce and pour over the pork. Cover and cook on the Low setting for 7 to 9 hours. (Make this the day before the bash.) Shred the meat with two forks. Serve on mini potato buns (non-negotiable) with a small spoonful of slaw (recipe follows).

As for the slaw, feel free to go the classic route or omit it all together. But a red cabbage and apple slaw with fennel and dill and a yogurt-based dressing just sounded way too lovely to pass up. Click here for the recipe, courtesy of Gourmet, many, many moons ago.

For the grilled chicken under a brick, follow this recipe from Bon Appetit. But here are my alterations: swap the Hungarian sweet paprika for Spanish smoked paprika and bump up the garlic. The herbs, I'll leave up to you. I trust you. Promise.

Potato Salad with Salsa Verde

3 lb. small red potatoes (or fingerlings)
3/4 cup salsa verde (Jamie Oliver, you are a God)
1/2 cup mayo (or try greek yogurt as a substitute)
a couple handfuls of baby arugula

Place potatoes in a large pot, add water to cover, and season liberally with salt. Bring the water to a bowl and then allow to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and allow to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the salsa verde and mayo. Add in the cooled potatoes and baby arugula and toss until every potato is perfectly coated with dressing. Taste for seasoning then adjust with salt and pepper.

Watermelon Salad with Feta and Mint

1 (5 lb.) watermelon, chopped into bite-size chunks
2 tbsp. fresh mint, chopped
1/2 cup feta, crumbled
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a small bowl, whisk the lime juice, olive oil, and mint together. In a large bowl, add the watermelon, red onion, and feta. Pour the dressing on top and toss. Crumble the feta on top and toss again just before serving.

And to sip? Jon recommends: "Chardonnay has taken a beating from the mainstream press lately for being over oaked and ubiquitous, but there are plenty of options out there that serve as the perfect chicken pairing. Look for something either lightly oaked or unoaked, especially those from Burgundy. While the very best Burgundies can get super pricey, I'm going to let you in on a little secret. St-Aubin is home to some of the most value-driven and under-appreciated Chardonnay in the world."

For dessert, we're keeping things super simple, because quite frankly, that's all I know how to do. Slice up some strawberries and add them to a bowl with plenty of fresh blueberries. Grate the zest of an orange on top and add a sprinkle of sugar. Set them aside and let them do their thing.

In a small pot, add in 1 cup of balsamic vinegar with 3 tablespoons of sugar and a few cracks of black pepper and swirl it all around. Crank up the heat to medium-high and allow it to reduce while checking in and stirring it occasionally. Once it's the consistency of syrup, immediately remove it from the heat.

Add a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream to a bowl, spoon on a generous portion of berries, and drizzle with a bit of the balsamic-black pepper syrup.

And don't think we didn't match up a cocktail for dessert. Jon? "Madeira wines are often reserved by many only for cooking, but the best Madeira can make for an awesome pairing option. Usually reserved for chocolate, Madeira might not be a traditional pairing, but it should play nicely with the black pepper-balsamic syrup. Look for "Bual" or "Malmsey" to appear on the label, which indicates it's a sweeter Madeira."

Now, take a bow. And then a seat. And enjoy every single bite and sip.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

sip on this: chilean gewurztraminer

It is a hot and humid 80 degrees and sunny here in New York City today which, depending where you're hanging, translates to borderline uncomfortable meets unbearable conditions. A quick fix? First, pour yourself a cold glass of this 2008 Aresti Gewurztraminer from Chile ($9.99 at Chelsea Wine Vault). After you get over the pronunciation hump*, it's all smooth sailing on a catamaran in the Caribbean from there. Relish in the pineapple and white flowers that will be wafting from the glass and then take it for a swirl: peach and tangerine to the rescue with lime zest and spice cutting in on the finish. Take another sip and feel free to gently press the chilled bottle to the back of your neck. Exhale.

Second, install the dang AC. It's time.

*Avoid the whole pronunciation issue by simply showing the guy/gal at the wine store the word "Gewurztraminer" on your phone and/or a post-it. Done. And no harm done to the ole ego.

we hold the keys to the city

Just your typical Saturday, really.

Red (cranberry) Lemonades at Wilfie and Nell

A grilled cheddar with egg and bacon was presented on my right. I'm almost mad at this picture. That's how badly I want(ed) a bite. Jamie: were you aware?

Beasting off the Riesling with a view--scratch that--the view.

The Lobby Lounge at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, I gotta hand it to you. I mean...
i heart nyc.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

monday meal planning

Whether or not you can believe it, Memorial Day is right around the corner. And before I unleash the menu on Wednesday's Weekend Dinner Party post, I thought I'd tease you with a little pork butt.

Since you're not going to be able to purchase a 10 oz. portion of boneless pork butt (shoulder) at the grocery store, go ahead and pick up a 2-1/2 lb. piece. Cut off the amount needed for the Stir-Fried Pork with Leeks recipe below (thank you, Saveur) and then throw the rest in the freezer. We're going to be using that this weekend.

And that's all I'm sayin'.

This recipe comes together in a matter of minutes and will satisfy any and all temptations to peek at the take-out menu. If pork is not your thing, you could certainly use boneless, skinless chicken breast or even shrimp. Just make sure to make up a pot of brown rice to have alongside. Chopsticks, optional. Fortune cookies, required.
Photo Courtesy of Saveur
Stir-Fried Pork with Leeks (Cong Bao Rou Si)
Courtesy of Saveur Magazine, May 2010
Serves 2-4

10 oz. (about .6 lbs) boneless pork butt or shoulder, frozen for 20 minutes and cut into 2" x 1/8" strips
1 tsp. Asian sesame oil
1 tsp. dark soy sauce
1/2 tsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. canola oil
1 leek, white and pale green parts only, cut diagonally into 1/4" slices

In a medium bowl, combine the pork, sesame oil, soy sauce, cornstarch, sugar, and half the garlic; let sit for 15 minutes.

Heat a 14" wok (or stainless-steel skillet) over high heat until wok begins to smoke. Add 1 tbsp. oil around the edge of the wok and swirl to coat the bottom and sides. Add the leeks and cook, stirring and tossing constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer leeks to a plate and set aside.

Return wok to high heat and add remaining oil around edge of wok, swirling to coat the bottom and sides. Add the pork mixture and remaining garlic and cook, stirring and tossing constantly, until the pork is browned, about 2 minutes.

Add reserved leeks to the wok and cook, stirring and tossing often, until just tender, about 1 minute.

Ever seen Israeli Couscous at the grocery store? If you haven't yet, I strongly urge you to seek it out. It's essentially couscous on steroids. Swollen little pearls of baked wheat which yield a satisfying bite and change things up from your typical orzo, for example. But the two are most definitely interchangeable. This week, I'm planning on putting one together for a light dinner and easily transportable lunch. So you whip one up too.

Israeli Couscous with Shrimp, Feta, and Lemon

1/2 box of Israeli Couscous, cooked to box directions
1 lb. (about 10 to 12 jumbo) peeled, deveined shrimp with tails removed, cut into bite size chunks
1 clove garlic, grated
1 lemon, zested then juiced
1/2 cup crumbled feta
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium-sized pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add in grated garlic quickly followed by the shrimp. Cook for about a minute or two until just pink and then remove from heat.

In a large bowl, add the cooked Israeli Couscous, shrimp, feta, parsley, and lemon zest. Squeeze in the juice from the lemon and a healthy drizzle of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


1 lemon
1 bunch of Italian flat-leaf parsley
1 leek
garlic (you should have)

soy sauce (pantry item)
sesame oil (pantry item)
cornstarch (pantry item)

2-1/2 lb. pork butt/shoulder
1 lb. peeled, deveined shrimp

israeli couscous (or orzo, orecchiette, whatever)

Wine: Chilled bottle of Sauvignon Blanc (I picked up a bottle of this)


"Wanna grab some oysters downstairs and shuck 'em for lunch?" - Kendra
"Um. Yes. Yes, asbolutely, yes." - me
So Calm Coves, Kumamotos, Watch Hills, Malpeques, and Blue Points were bagged with plenty of crushed ice and a lemon for squeezing. And then, Kendra got after it with the shucking knife. Let me just say. The girl can shuck. She shucks like a pro. And within minutes, two large white platters with beds of ice were filled with oysters on the half shell, ready to be thrown back with sinful bliss and indulgence. A pure, unadulterated delight.
I now proclaim Oyster Friday. For all.

Friday, May 21, 2010

hanna leess, cum laude

Where have I been? Oh, just up in Boston, celebrating my little sister Hanna's graduation from Lesley College. With Honors. That's what I'm talkin' bout, Hannie Bop.

Turns out Boston is quite the little charmer. While graduation day was chilly and wet, we warmed it right back up with a near-perfect bite and Gruner Veltliner sip at City Girl Cafe (their egg salad is bonkers) which was followed up by a satisfyingly spicy haute-Mexican feast at Cambridge's Olé (Graduation girl's choice. Big sister's B&G Oysters reservations got nixed. Hmph.) and ended with the most mind-blowing flan experience I've ever encountered. And the following day could not have been lovelier. So we strolled around the North End along the water, made a quick stop at the Paul Revere house (Mom's insistence. We obliged.), watched sailboats come in and out of the harbor, and fit in an al fresco Italian lunch filled with carpaccio and carbonara at Trattoria il Panino.

And since I didn't get my oyster fix while I was there, I can assure you, Boston, I'll be back. And soon.

Hanna, as you've heard many times already (as evidenced by the non-stop waterworks from yours truly; emotion overload), and you'll hear many times more, we could not be more proud of you and your beyond admirable accomplishments. And we can't wait to see what other wonderful contributions you're going to unleash in your limitless future. World, watch out. And I really, really mean that. She's a fiesty one--and gushing with talent.

Did I mention she graduated with Honors?

Monday, May 17, 2010

empanadas (in hopes of making up for lack of monday meal planning)

While strolling around the West Soho meets Tribeca neighborhood which I call my home, my roommate Meghan and I passed Ruben's Empanadas on Grand Street. After a grueling in a feel-good way hour and a half yoga class, I couldn't really stomach the thought of taking down an empanada. Heck, I don't even like empanadas. Do I?

Meghan went for one. The spicy chicken. And after it was warmed up and wrapped up to-go, we were on our way home.

Once we were back in the apartment, Meghan unwrapped her adorable little spicy meat-filled package. C'mon. Empanadas are pretty adorable. They're cute. You can say it.

But what I found fascinating (and to each his/her own for their interpretation for "fascinating") was the consistency of this particular empanada dough. Instead of being greasy and flaky like pie crust (which I admittedly abhor), it was chewy and pizza dough-like. And pizza dough, I can get down with.

This immediately triggered a conversation of all of the endless empanada possibilities that could be created using pizza dough instead of the typical stuff. And before you call it a calzone, let's get a few things clear: there won't be any mozzarella, tomato sauce, or pepperoni here.

But by all means, feel free to go that route. No one. And I mean NO ONE. Would object.

Not only would an empanada make a great week night meal (you can make them on a lazy Sunday and freeze them for easy re-heating) with a side salad but you could totally make miniature versions for cocktail parties.

Here are some of the filling ideas I've been tossing around:

-ground turkey (or beef) enriched with grated carrot, zucchini, onion, and garlic then spiced up with chipotle. spoon onto a small piece of rolled out pizza dough and top with a bit of grated monterey jack cheese (or not), seal, brush with egg wash, and bake (i'm guessing 15 minutes at 400F)

-flaked salt cod (bacalao) added to riced (or mashed) boiled potatoes, sauteed onion and garlic, and a beaten egg, folded together. spoon onto rolled out piece of pizza dough, seal, brush with egg wash and bake.

-shredded rotisserie chicken added to tomato sauce (like that stuff in the can. no joke. it's bland which works in our favor here because we're controlling all the seasoning) with chopped red onion, chipotle, cilantro, and monterey jack cheese. spoon onto rolled out piece of pizza dough, seal, brush with egg wash and bake.

-quickly saute spinach with garlic and red pepper flakes, add in some chickpeas and lightly smash. add a pinch of smoked paprika and remove from heat. spoon onto pizza dough, top with crumbled feta (or goat) cheese, seal, brush with egg wash, and bake off.

Long story short, any leftovers you have, can get tucked inside the dough and with the accompaniment of some shredded cheese, not a soul will be complaining.

i'm on a boat

This past Sunday was spent as follows: On a boat. I was on a boat. I was on a boat with Arax and Rob. In Rowayton, CT. Oysters happened. As did some Babich Sauvignon Blanc which I had the pleasure of tasting prior at a Cork'd event. And the peaches and the grapefruit and the green, green grass had just reeled me in and begged to be enjoyed seaside. And so that happened too.

2009 Babich Sauvignon Blanc

Let Summer 2010 begin.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

taste of tribeca

This past Saturday was the 2010 Taste of Tribeca: a culinary festival to benefit the two public elementary schools in the area, PS 150 and PS 234. The weather could not have been more perfect (perhaps except for the wind tunnel that is Tribeca) and I happily bopped around the event, snapping pics and eyeing the food with envy. Yes. That's right. I perused the event without purchasing a ticket to gorge. And while the proceeds clearly go to an excellent cause, I just couldn't justify shelling over the $45 on a day where I was flying solo. And you know what? That was just fine with me. There's something slightly liberating about doing things on your own. Besides, when I want to do something, I'm the last person to wait for someone to do it with. Had the event been more enjoyable with a plus one? Well, of course. But with the sun streaming down, helping me to achieve that much desirable t-shirt tan, and a bluegrass-meets-rock band playing, this gal was smiling and discretely (or not so) swaying her hips to the music.

Among the many restaurants I had my eye on, standouts were The Harrison, Landmarc, Sushi Azabu, Terroir Wine Bar (smoked chickpea and calamari salad, WIN) Zucker's Bagels & Smoked Fish (they were offering mini bagels with the works).

And with that, I'm already anxiously anticipating next year's event. When, undoubtedly, I'll be taking part in the eating portion.

Chef Amanda Freitag of The Harrison

The Lamb Jamb Lamb Meatball Cook-Off: Amanda Freitag vs. Marc Forgione

Amanda Freitag went the old school route: lamb meatballs finished in a homemade tomato sauce

Marc Forgione went new school: cumin-scented lamb meatballs with a yogurt sauce

Judge's Panel: some Next Food Network Star chick, Sara Gore of LXTV, and Ben Leventhal. And the winner is...

Marc Forgione!

Friday, May 14, 2010

cork'd content: food and wine pairings

Food and Wine: A Pairing Should Fit the Bill
I was recently out to eat at a restaurant in downtown New York City that inspired this piece. While the name of the establishment will remain nameless, I've noticed this particular restaurant's downfall becoming a trend, sweeping across both Manhattan and the nation as a whole. The issue that I've experienced, is with the pricing and quality of wine lists that are completely out of line with the pricing and offerings from a kitchen. The following description of incongruity between food and wine is not unique to restaurants. This same principal should be applied when preparing a meal at home...

My friend and I showed up for dinner decked out in our finest jeans, t-shirts and sneakers. A casual spot, we were led to our table by an unkempt, disheveled looking teenager and presented menus and a wine list. For food, we had an assortment of gourmet dishes to choose from, including a "chicken cutlet sandwich" and a "cheeseburger with sweet fries." Nope, these were not kids menus.

After a quick dinner menu perusal, I flipped open the wine list. With over 150 wines by the bottle and 20 wines by the glass, there was a major French influence to the list. The least expensive by the glass pour was a Loire Valley Saumur -- priced at $11 per glass. By the bottle there were verticals of Dom Perignon and Opus One. Suddenly I asked myself, "should I be wearing a collared shirt?"

You wouldn't serve Beluga Caviar with Lay's potato chips for scooping, would you?

For that very same reason, you shouldn't serve a bottle of 1990 Dom Perignon alongside Popcorn. The two may complement each other. In fact, the two might even enhance one another. Like your Uncle Charlie who always seems to have a gas-attack when company is around; it's funny, it might even work in the right situation, but it's just plain the rest on Cork'd (and get involved in the Comments section!)

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Cienfuegos is the hip, eclectic, and almost otherworldly new rum-centric lounge that just opened above the Cuban sandwich joint, Carteles, in the East Village. With a menu of Cuban small plates and a cocktail menu crafted by Ravi DeRossi of Death & Co., we dashed over on Wednesday night to get in on the scene. And what a scene it was. Difficult to get in? Casually. There's a certain air of pretention before entering. Which quite frankly, I can always do without. But that said, after some silly back and fourth about party-size, we were seated almost immediately.

And then you climb the stairs and enter straight into Havana Nights. Antiqued turquoise walls, white shuddered windows, chandeliers everywhere, high backed upholstered club chairs, and white wrought iron gates enclosing the area, we looked at each other both with excitement and a slight hesitation. Do we like this? Do we fit in? Do we want to like this and fit in?

I'm still trying to figure that one out.

A fun night out? Absolutely. But will I be rushing back? I'm thinking no, not really. While the Rosa Verde cocktail (see below) had me amped up to get on over to this place, the food was sadly lackluster. Throw a Cuban sandwich my way with a Mojito and I'll be smiling all night. But Cienfuegos failed to deliver that to me. But it should be known that half the table really got down with the food. Enjoyed the flavors. Gobbled it up. The other half, along with me, did not.
Go check it out for yourself, though, and stick with the cocktails. Because when the weather starts to warm up (again), I imagine things heat up (in a real good way) inside Cienfuegos too.

Rosa Verde: Watermelon juice, Nicaraguan Rum, lime juice, arugula, and pink peppercorns.

Hotel Nacional: Champagne, apricot juice, lime mint, and a whole lot of...Brandy maybe? Cognac? Very potent. Too potent, in fact.


Food: 20
Service: 22
Look: 15
Vibe: 10

TOTAL: 64 (sorry, guys)


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