A Sarcastic Appetite

Restaurant Round-Up for the Week of September 30
September 30, 2010, 7:28 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I’m here to canvass the food blogs, so you don’t have to. A few highlights this week:

The Siftster is dizzy over Del Posto, “a 24,000-square-foot palazzo of mahogany and marble devoted entirely to the pleasures of Italian food and customer satisfaction.” It received 3 stars from Bruni in 2006; Sifty upped it to four.

Restaurant Girl’s round-up of Best Late Night Eats include standbys Artichoke, The Meatball Shop, and Crif Dog.

Immaculate Infatuation is unimpressed by the slap-dash happenings at Hill Country Chicken, but over the moon by the refined and delicious happenings at Gramercy Tavern.

The Sunburnt Cow’s birthday is going down this Sunday – $20 for an open bar, 3 to 11:30pm.

Eater has the early word on Riverpark, the new “New American” from Tom Colicchio, on 29th Street and the East River. I went last night and found attentive service and a straightforward bar menu – cheeseburgers, cheese plates, smoked almonds – and a leathery new car smell that happens in brand-spanking-new buildings. I’ll let the last one slide.

Grub Street gets hot and bothered over Bill’s Bar and Burger, which just opened in Rock Center.

Midtown Lunch notes that Mad. Sq. Mark’t, a pop-up in Madison Square Park, opened last weekend. Vendors include Roberta’s, Hill Country, Resto, and Wafels & Dinges, among others. It’ll, um, pop-up every weekend until October 23.

Mocha Cake with Chocolate Ganache
September 27, 2010, 10:56 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Sunday afternoons I tend to get a little buzz about getting into the kitchen….once the day’s mostly over, that is. I might lie around for the first 8 hours, but come 4 or 5 o’clock, I’ll think nothing of throwing something together that might take several hours to complete. This was no exception, though at least I can blame my late start on a leisurely return from a weekend away in Philadelphia, and not on gripping re-runs of House Hunters.

It’s not a complicated recipe, but like all cakes, it just takes a little while. Wait for the butter to soften! Let the eggs come to room temperature! Stop eating the chocolate chips! Don’t touch the cake until it’s cool! Ultimately, the cake didn’t get frosted until about 11 pm, at which point I threw it in the fridge – thankfully without it sliding into my lap. I finally tried it the next day…and it’s amazing. It’s mocha without being overbearing about it, and the chocolate ganache is really quite tasty. There is only enough frosting to do the middle and the top, and let it slip down the sides only a bit, but I’m pleased to be able to admit that’s not a bad thing. The cake is so good, you won’t miss having it frosted all the way around.

Mocha Cake with Chocolate Ganache

Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes. Makes 1 9″ cake.

2 1/4 c. cake flour, not self rising

2 tbsp. unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa

1 stick salted butter, softened

1 1/2 c. dark brown sugar, packed

2 large eggs, room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 c. sour cream, room temperature

3/4 c. freshly brewed coffee

1 tbsp. instant coffee

Preheat oven to 325°. Butter and flour a 9″ cake pan. Whisk together flour and cocoa in a small bowl. In a large bowl, beat the butter. Beat in the brown sugar and eggs until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, baking soda and salt, and beat to combine.

Add flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with 2 additions of sour cream, and beating until just combined each time. Mix the instant coffee into the brewed coffee; add to the batter, and beat until just smooth. Pour into cake pan and bake, about 45-50 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. Cool completely, then cut in half horizontally and frost with chocolate ganache.

Chocolate Ganache

Makes about 4 cups.

2 1/3 c. heavy cream

1/4 c. cornstarch

1 lb. semisweet chocolate chips

Heat the cream and cornstarch just to a simmer. Put the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl; pour the cream mixture over and let stand without stirring, about ten minutes. Then stir until combined completely. Refrigerate (or freeze, if you’re in a hurry), stirring every 10 minutes or so until proper frosting consistency is reached. Makes enough to frost the middle and the top, though not really the sides; in this case, the cake is so rich it’s not a problem. Keep the frosted cake in the fridge to hold the frosting set, but bring it up to room temperature before you want to serve it.

Restaurant Round-Up for the Week of September 23
September 23, 2010, 8:05 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

You know it by heart now, surely: I’m here to canvass the food blogs, so you don’t have to. Some highlights this week:

Tasting Table has the early word on a new brunch series with Stella Artois. The first locale is Lure Bar, and their menu looks pretty decent: 2 courses and 2 Stellas for $25, and their famous cheeseburger is one of the options. Pencil me in October 2.

The Siftster checks out Vandaag, a relatively new place from Brendan Spiro, opened in July, and what Sifty considers “vaguely Dutch.” He’s tickled pink by the “inventive menu,” which includes unexpected twists on things like chilled cucumber soup and red kale salad.

The Immaculate Infatuation duo checked out Via Quadronno on the UES – and were unsurprisingly underwhelmed. If you have to go, order a panini, and be prepared to part with your cash. Brownie points to them for even venturing up here, though.

Restaurant Girl does another little round-up, this time of the “Best Fall Dishes” in NY. We might have 80-degree weather for the next three days here, but that won’t stop my jonesing for anything with sweet potatoes, pumpkins, or acorn squash. Is it because I typically serve these things with copious amounts of brown sugar and butter? Who knows.

Serious Eats New York has been doing great profiles of all the Vendy Award Finalists. Yesterday’s close-up was Yao’s Dragon Beard Candy, which sounds unpossibly delicious. I want like 17 of them. (Sidenote: don’t know what the heck the Vendy Awards are? Catch yourself up here. Tickets to the big bash are sold out, but that doesn’t mean you can’t support your street vendors in the meantime!)

Lastly, FloFab has a nice list of what’s open or opening soon, including Brats, by the couple behind Klee Brasserie, and Donatella, the slightly-behind-schedule pizzeria from Donatella Arpaia.

Chicken Stir Fry with Peanuts & Scallions
September 18, 2010, 11:11 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I have a very charming habit of getting enormously cranky when I haven’t eaten anything. It happens in the blink of an eye: one minute I’m a happy camper, the next I’m breathing fire and snarling around the room like some kind of medieval dragon. It’s not pretty, and the only remedy is food – and fast.

The biggest danger zone? Those hours between getting home from work and getting food on the table, a situation that becomes perilous when I throw in a trip to the gym. But having done this a few times now, I’m becoming a pro at having dinner ready within 30 minutes of walking in the door – including time to take a shower and make a few phone calls.

This is my secret weapon….well, that and a glass of wine, anyway. Toast the peanuts before you head out, and put the rice in the pot so you can turn the heat on right when you get back. All you have to do is chop the chicken, scallions, and garlic, and throw the sauce together. You’ll be surprised at how quickly it comes together. Even I was, and before I knew it the steam had subsided from my ears and I was no longer breathing fire. Crisis averted?

Chicken Stir Fry with Peanuts & Scallions

Serves 3ish. Adapted from Everyday Food: Great Food Fast by Martha Stewart.

1 1/2 lbs. chicken tenders, cut into bite-size pieces

1 tbsp. cornstarch

1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

lots of salt and black pepper

2 tbsp. peanut or canola oil

3 garlic cloves, minced

6 scallions, diced

2 tbsp. rice vinegar

4 tbsp. hoisin sauce

1 tbsp. soy sauce

1/2 tsp. fish sauce

1/4 c. water

3/4 c. toasted peanuts

rice, to serve

In a medium bowl, toss the chicken pieces with the cornstarch, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. Heat a saute pan on high heat. Cook the chicken, until browned, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and toss frequently for about 30 seconds; add the rice vinegar and keep stirring until evaporated. Add the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce and water. Add the peanuts and cook until the chicken is done. Remove from heat, stir in the scallions, and serve over rice.

Restaurant Round-Up for the Week of September 16
September 16, 2010, 8:05 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Hey kiddos! You know the drill: I’m here to canvass the food blogs, so you don’t have to. A few highlights this week:

Today is the last day to check out the Bon Appétit Pop-Up Cafe in Lincoln Center; though Brownie had an enjoyable experience – ahem, at the press opening – Danny of Food in Mouth fame was less than impressed.

The Immaculate Infatuation boys hilariously pan Olio Pizza e Piu – and I can laugh because I didn’t have to look at that octopus salad. Seriously. That thing will give you nightmares.

The Sifster must have had a little Miami Sound Machine on the old iPod when he ventured down to pan-Latin newcomer Nuela – and then he must have had a few too many Cuba Libres, since he found the place compelling: “an eater’s den, substantial, interesting, slightly eccentric.” The Village Voice’s Sarah DiGregorio, meanwhile, who reviewed it three weeks ago, was put off by a “silly” king crab leg dish, and advises sticking to the ceviches; “the rest of the menu is seriously (and expensively) hit-or-miss.”

Hill Country’s spin-off, Hill Country Chicken, opened this week, and the menu is positively mouthwatering.

Eater also answers one of its own questions: revolving door chef Ryan Skeen has landed at Michael Psilakis’s not-yet-opened Fish Tag. (You might remember it as the space that formerly housed Gus & Gabriel, the absurd gastropub with a menu more suited to the widening waistbands of Middle America than the svelte size 2s of Manhattan.)

The guy behind Joseph Leonard, Gabriel Stulman, wants to turn that whole little stretch of West 4th into “Little Wisco.” Now that, my friends, is something I can get behind. Where do I sign??

In case you haven’t had enough of the farm-to-table movement (in which case, my sincere apologies, since things only just seem to be getting started), Restaurant Girl has a nice little round-up of options in Manhattan and in Brooklyn. Don’t get too excited, though, as there are no surprises here; ABC Kitchen, Blue Hill, and Applewood all make the list.

Blueberry Buckle
September 13, 2010, 10:12 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Recipes are nostalgic things, aren’t they? Even if you don’t know how to boil water, you still know how to enjoy food, and remember food, and share those remembrances with others. Sometimes our memories of places are shaped by the food we ate there – or mine are, anyway. And when one grows up spending summers in Maine, a few foods tend to take the spotlight year after year: lobster, corn, blueberries, popovers….and lobster and blueberries. All of this, of course, is typically enjoyed while being socked in for three days by relentless fog.

Blueberry buckle is one iteration of a summer of blueberries: blueberry pancakes, blueberry jam, and of course blueberry pie. It’s basically a coffeecake with blueberries and a streusel topping, though we never had it for breakfast. It was always an afternoon treat, sometimes served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and sometimes shoveled in just plain. It was one of the things I first remember baking on my own at 13 or so, curious about my mother’s handwritten recipe and what made the damn thing so delicious.

First, though, you must forget what you know about blueberries, even the ones you find at nice farmers markets. They’re nothing like Maine blueberries, which are smaller and tarter and altogether more delicious. Blueberry picking is a rite of passage up there, and not just for Sal; I’ve spent many an afternoon gathering berries, only to return with a dozen or so, having eaten them all. That being said, I had to make do with good old New Jersey blueberries (or at least I think they’re from New Jersey), and they’re perfectly fine. I just hope you get to try the real deal someday.

The rest of this is pretty straightforward; it’s a simple cake recipe, with some of the berries folded into the batter and the rest scattered on top. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to unearth the original recipe and so had to turn to the internets for a suitable substitute. This version didn’t rise as much as my mother’s recipe, but it’s delicious – and the smaller pieces mean you can get away with having seconds. Right? Right!?

Blueberry Buckle

Makes an 8″ square pan. That’s like, what, 6 slices, right? Adapted from “Mama’s Blueberry Buckle,” by Linda and Martha Greenlaw (via Food & Wine).

For the streusel:

1/3 c. all-purpose flour

1/2 c. granulated sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

4 tbsp. salted butter, softened, and cubed

For the cake:

1 c. all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 c. (1/2 stick) of butter

1/2 c. sugar

1 large egg

1/3 c. milk

1/2 tsp. vanilla

2 c. blueberries

ice cream, for serving

Preheat the oven to 350.º Butter an 8″ square baking dish. In a medium bowl, mash the butter, sugar, and cinnamon for the streusel. (Use a pastry cutter, forks, or your fingers.) Set aside. In another medium bowl, whisk together the cup of flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, beat the 1/2 c. sugar and 1/2 stick of butter. Beat in the egg, then beat in half the flour mixture, followed by the milk, and then the rest of the flour mixture. Beat in the vanilla, then fold in 1/2 c. of the blueberries. Pour the batter into the baking dish and scatter the rest of the blueberries on top, then scatter the streusel topping. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick comes out just clean. Serve warm or room temperature, with plenty of vanilla ice cream.

Restaurant Round-Up for the Week of September 9
September 9, 2010, 7:43 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Remember these? No? Well I’ll remind you. I’m here to canvass the food blogs, so you don’t have to. Some highlights this week:

Jeffrey Steingarten checks out Eataly and writes an illuminating rundown. I’d check the place out myself (and ideally this week, before all the A-listers go back to their own camps) if I could get in the door of the darn place…..though maybe I shouldn’t bother, since apparently things are falling a bit flat in the wine department.

Chef Marcus Samuelsson, who’s been heavy on the PR ahead of the opening of his Harlem restaurant Red Rooster, has even bigger plans afoot: he wants to turn the whole neighborhood into a “brand.” One of the commenters sums it up best: “I’ll believe his ‘commitment to the neighborhood’ if he is still there after Sifton’s review.” And that’s assuming the Siftster gets uptown to review it in the first place, since apparently he’s biased towards Brooklyn….

FloFab’s Fall Restaurant Preview makes me feel as giddy as an 8 year old on Christmas morning. Andrew Carmellini’s opening a new restaurant! Ditch Plains AND Toloache are coming to the UWS! The couple behind Lamazou are opening a bistro! I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep tonight for all the excitement….even though plenty of these places won’t open until November.

Restaurant Girl does a nice little round-up of an area often left to the tourists: South Street Seaport. Turns out there are a few nice places worth a detour – once the weather cools off and I don’t fear melting on the 4 train on the way down, of course.

Pies ‘N Thighs has been getting a lot of love on the food blogs lately; Adam of Amateur Gourmet headed there a few weeks ago for lunch, while Brownie and her crew keep going back for breakfast. Serious Eats NY also prefers breakfast, though I’ll be honest: I want both.

One Pot Lemon Chicken & Rice
September 7, 2010, 8:21 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Yes, it’s true, I’m back – but more important, back in the kitchen.

Of course, having been away for so long, I was feeling a little rusty – so I figured a nice one pot meal might get me back in shape. And this did not disappoint. The original recipe called for orzo, but I couldn’t find any at the market and so substituted rice. Wary about cooking rice in the oven? Let me introduce you to Luisa, who will introduce you to Francis Lam, AKA the “Rice Whisperer.” Look, it’s not a big deal. Just cook the rice in the chicken broth until it’s tender, and oh, how you will be rewarded. The rice gets so creamy I wondered if I had slipped a stick of butter in there by accident. (Probably wouldn’t be the first time.) The lemons add a nice, fresh bite that’s tempered just a bit by their time in the oven, and the olives are briny and salty and delicious.

Unless I’m smothering a roast chicken with softened butter, I rarely cook poultry that’s not boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I’m happy to report that’s about to change. This is a simple recipe – just brown the chicken before throwing everything else in the pot and then throw the pot in the oven. Pour yourself a glass of wine and watch some HGTV while you wait. No? Just me? Plus, the drumsticks are so cheap – which means I can buy more wine!

One Pot Lemon Chicken and Rice

Serves 3ish. Adapted from Regina Schrambling’s Chicken and Orzo with Lemon and Rice.

1.25 lbs (about 5) chicken drumsticks

lots of salt and pepper

2 tbsp oil + 1 tbsp. butter

1 c. rice

2 c. chicken broth

1 large garlic clove, minced

1/2 lemon, cut into 4 wedges

1/2 c. Kalamata olives, pitted

1 bay leaf

3 tbsp. chopped fresh oregano

Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large stock pot, heat the oil and butter over medium high heat. Season the drumsticks with salt and pepper, and brown on all sides (in batches, if necessary). Remove from the pot.

Add the rice, chicken broth, garlic, lemon wedges, bay leaf, olives, more salt and pepper, and 1 tbsp. of the oregano. Stir to combine, then add the chicken back in. Cover and put in the oven. Bake about 36 minutes, until the rice is tender and the drumsticks are cooked through, checking after 30 minutes to be sure you don’t over do it. Taste, adjust seasoning, and add the remaining oregano before serving. (Oh, and don’t forget to fish out that bay leaf.)