Saturday, August 25, 2007

Queens Food Safari: Part One

What's the perfect bachelorette party for a foodie? A day of ethnic eating in Queens of course! For brownie's girls day, we made a trek up to explore Roosevelt Avenue in Woodside and Jackson Heights.

First stop was Izalco, a Salvadoran restaurant. We were stopping here based on Robert Sietsema's glowing words: "Culinary triumphs include elote tamales -- husk-wrapped, studded with corn kernels, and light as souffles."
We got one with chicken. They truly were light - probably the lightest masa I've ever had in a tamale. And wrapped with plaintain leaves rather than corn husks. So good I wanted to ordered another one, but we had more stops to go and need to pace ourselves.

We also tried a fried elote tamale with crema. Interesting -- never knew a tamale could be unwrapped and fried -- it was sweet too like corn bread.

For "dessert" we had a plaintain cake stuffed with sweet crema -- like a plaintain twinkie. Some of us liked it, some didn't. Me personally, I liked the cream inside but thought the plaintain was kind of mushy and starchy.

Second stop was La Uruguaya y Paraguayita Bakery. Sietsema said their spinach empanada was "worth walking a mile for." I much prefer baked empanadas like these, rather than fried. Fresh out of the oven, these would have been amazing. Microwaved to heat them up, they were still pretty damn good.

We got a spinach and a tuna - marinated the Spanish way. We were also curious about the barrels and barrels of little baked nuggets that were all over this place.

Marian bought us a bag -- they were like an oyster cracker-tarralle. Dry and crunchy, slightly peppery and seasoned lightly of fennel.

Izalco Restaurant
64-05 Roosevelt Avenue, Woodside
(718) 533-8373

La Uruguaya y Paraguayita Bakery
68-24 Roosevelt Avenue, Woodside
(718) 672-1919

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Heirlooms Make Everything Better!

While I've been dreading the weekly dump of squash, I continue to eagerly look forward to each week's batch of tomatoes. Each week we've gotten 1 1/2 pints of tasty sungold and regular cherry tomatoes, 3 lbs of regular tomatoes, and 4 lbs of a variety of heirlooms ranging from big and red, to small and orange, to green, to deep blackish-red. Makes for wonderfully mixed caprese salads (with my favorite vinegar).

Good tomatoes make such a difference, and it's such luxury being able to eat a great tomato with anything. I think redneckhunter and I are probably the only people in the world eating heirloom, liverwurst and cream cheese sandwiches though...

Ben's Chili Bowl and Waffle House

I was sure that at some point someone had blogged Ben's Chili Bowl, a Washington DC institution, but looking back through the archives, no one has. So here I will remedy the situation. The first time 1000yregg took me to Ben's, we each had chili half-smokes (Bill Cosby's favorite!) and shared an order of cheese fries. The gooey nacho cheese was just so guiltily good!

We had gone there before a show at the 9:30 Club and by the time we got to the club, I couldn't stand up to wait in line -- I just had to sit on the curb for a good 20 minutes until the food coma subsided and my head was clear!

We started out our last trip to DC with redneckhunter's brothers at Ben's Chili Bowl, and ended the weekend at Waffle House.

Redneckhunter and I both like our hash browns only Smothered and Covered (with sauteed onions and melted cheese), but his brother decided to go with the works: Smothered, Covered, Chunked, Topped, Capped, and Diced (Onions, Cheese, Ham, Chili, Mushrooms, and Diced Tomatoes)! The only thing he left off was Peppered (with jalapenos).

Ben's Chili Bowl
1213 U Street, N.W.
Washington D.C. 20009
(202) 667-0909

Monday, August 20, 2007

BrookLEn in Greece: an overview

Well, I finally made an honest woman out of LBT after all these blog-ed years, and after an amazing wedding, we jetted off to Greece for the views, the sun, and of course, the big eats. Late July in Greece is high-tourist season, but fortunately, LBT has some old friends living in Athens who helped to guide us on either end of our 'honey-trip', with some trial-and-error on the way.

Our first lesson of Greek food: aim for the middle. We tried some high-end eating (1800 in Santorini was the best test; great views, tasty but forgettable dishes), but the more outstanding and memorable meals were tavernas in the middle of our price range. To start, our Athens hosts, Kim and Maro, took us to Bakaliko, which has several locations in the outskirts of the city. Starting with a most impressive olive tasting, we had a 'special' lasagna: fettuccine congealed with bechamel and meat. Kim also had risotto-stuffed pepper and tomato which might have been the most delicate dish we had in the country.

Next lesson: Try the fish. On Santorini, we scored with a recommendation from a boat captain, who suggested we go to "the last taverna on the pier", a little place called Taverna Dimitri. There, we experienced seismically good swordfish and orata (sea bream), so good we only got pictures before the grill. Paradisos Taverna on Santorini offered us "little fish", or whatever the Greek fisher-dad caught that day. Probably sardines, they tasted robust, oily, and delicious.

Last lesson: Go with the flow. No Greek word is ever spelled in English the same way twice, and no eating experience ever goes like you'd expect. Our hosts took us for a final taverna meal to a place as what I can only guess is called Oxapa. Maro ordered a flurry of food for us, and though much of it was fried, all was taken in with glee and abandon; sausages, fried zucchini, tzatziki, feta salads, with great Greek wine (our favorite label was Sigalas)... one last blurry meal for a speedy honeymoon trip.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Girls Cooking Night: Raw Food

The girls and I had our most ambitious cooking night yet. We decided to make raw foods, as in the "Raw Food" movement. Brownie pointed us to this Green Chefs site for recipe ideas.

We started out with Melissa's delicious fruit and tomato gazpacho, and Kim's whitefish and scallop ceviches.

I made nori rolls which used cauliflower chopped in the blender to mimic the rice.

I think perhaps only brownie and Marian truly followed all the "Raw Food" rules -- nothing over 110 degrees and vegan. Fish, of course... not vegan. Nori... roasted. Dessert... made with honey.

Brownie's lasagna was not only pretty but yummy. The "cheese" was made of pureed pine nuts. The zucchini and tomatoes were sliced so thin to serve as the lasagna sheets. Marian's beet ravioli (also really pretty) had mandolined beets, soaked in olive oil and lemon as the pasta. The "cheese" filling was pureed cashews and seasonings, and a pureed red pepper sauce.

Debbie made desserts. The no-bake cookies were really good. Like cookie batter or peanut butter balls. The carrot cake was so rich and sticky-sweet, we could only eat tiny slivers. I had also made a tofu chocolate pudding. I've made this before with melted chocolate and it's yummy, but to follow the raw rules, I used cocoa instead. It came out soupier and less thick than with melted chocolate -- when the chocolate rechills I'm sure it helps gel up the pudding. Without that, it's just the tofu giving it any body. Maybe a firmer tofu would have helped.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Kopp's Frozen Custard, Jumbo Burgers in Milwaukee

When I went to Wisconsin, I flew into Milwaukee, and on the way back to the airport, we stopped at Kopp's for their famous custard and burgers.
When entering the place, you can't help noticing the all stainless steel kitchen with several custard machines making fresh custard flavors up front.
I started with a cheeseburger with the works and onion rings. The burger was not your usual piled high made to order burger that you can't get your mouth around. It was more like a Whopper- flatter and easier to bite into. It was also pretty greasey.
The onion rings were tasty as well. For my custard, one of the flavors of the day was the butter pecan.

Boys Weekend in Wisconsin, Pt. 2 - Lengua Tacos

While up in Wisconsin with the boys, we enjoyed delicious BBQ'd bratwursts and Hungarian sausages (with paprika) from Schwai's butchers and microbrewed pale ale and I.P.A. from Caldera Brewing smuggled in lickingpants suitcase from Portland, OR.
One of the highlights was our friend Steve making homemade tongue tacos. He started with a large cow tongue from the butcher, and then he proceeded to smoke it all day on the BBQ.
While waiting for it to reach the right temperature, he made homemade pico de gallo with fresh tomatoes, onions, fresh cilasntro, jalepenos, and limes. He also started to warm up fresh corn tortillas he brought from a tortilleria.
When the tongue was ready, he then proceeded to chop it up into little chunks, seasoned it on a grill, and then we all made our own tacos a la carte.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Boys Weekend in Wisconsin, Pt. 1 - Fish Fry

So I was up in Wisconsin this past weekend to have a boys weekend with some of my good friends including lickingpants. Luckily, we all like food!
Friday night in Wisconsin is all about the fish fry - perhaps a remnant of the Catholic tradition of eating only fish on fridays. We headed out to a local joint near the lake house we were staying at called The Red Fox.
We started with an appetizer of deep fried cheese curds, a regional speciality, followed by a trip to the bountiful salad bar. The best item was the BLT salad.
For the fish fry, I got to try the walleye (above) and the perch. In Wisconsin, you just have lemon and tartar sauce- no vinegar. The walleye was great. I thought the perch, because it was a smaller piece of fish, was too firm after being fried. My side of German potato salad was delicious.

Red Fox Food & Spirits
N5285 E Little Silver Lake Rd
Wild Rose, WI
(920) 622-5300

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Cooking more farm share produce

Boy, I thought we were getting a lot of produce a few weeks ago from our farm share... it just keeps getting more and more each week.

After getting 2 lbs of squash per week for about 3 weeks, drastic measures were called for. I found this recipe for squash pancakes in Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. It was basically like a squash latke instead of potato. I grated several pounds of yellow squash and zucchini, mixed it with chopped onion, egg, breadcrumbs, flour, and parmesan cheese; formed it into patties, dredged them in flour and pan-fried them. They were good - less starchy than potato pancakes. Though if I make them again, I'm going to squeeze the liquid out of my grated squash before continuing -- my mixture was pretty wet and hard to work with...

I was quite proud of this week's inspired notion to make moussaka. One pan of moussaka and I managed to use up 1 regular eggplant, 3 Chinese eggplants, 5 potatoes, 5 small tomatoes, and 1/2 lb of onions, 1/2 head of garlic.

I oven roasted the eggplant and potatoes, just drizzled with a little olive oil. The garlic, onions and tomatoes were sauteed with ground lamb, seasoned with oregano, nutmeg and cinnamon. Then everything was layered in a baking pan, and topped with a low-fat bechamel that I got from

To give you an idea of the haul we got this week, that still leaves me with 2 pounds of heirloom tomatoes, 1 1/2 pints of cherry tomatoes, 1 1/2 pounds of regular tomatoes, 3 cucumbers, 1 head of garlic, 1 stalk of basil, 1/2 pound of arugula, 3 bell peppers and more friggin' squash!!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Ice Cream: Gerenser's and Mary's Dairy

I have to admit it, we've been eating a lot of ice cream this summer. In Princeton, we're pretty lucky to have three great places -- Thomas Sweet's, Halo Pub, and the Bent Spoon -- and I actually do go to all three depending on what mood I'm in. My friends and I used to joke that just about all there is to do on a Friday or Saturday night in Princeton is get ice cream and rent a movie.

Another town that I can't go to without stopping for ice cream is New Hope, PA, where Gerenser's is the place to go. They have all sorts of exotic flavors on the menu like African Violet, but I'm always a little disappointed in these.

Instead, I stick with chocolate peanut butter. Redneckhunter's brother (above) is enjoying Turkish Coffee, and redneckhunter himself stuck with the classic vanilla chocolate chip.

The last time I was in the city, I stopped into Mary's Dairy. I did not indulge, but petitesoeur ate herself into ice cream coma with a scoop of Dulce de Leche and a scoop of Killer Chocolate. The Mary mascot is cute too -- what she's saying in the sign is "Bipolar? Bicoastal? Bisexual? Who cares... BUY ICE CREAM!"

22 S Main St
New Hope, PA 18938

Mary's Dairy Greenwich Village:
171 West 4th Street (Between 6th and 7th Ave.)
NYC, NY 10014
(212) 242 6874

Mary's Dairy
East Village:
158 1st Ave (Between 9th and 10th Streets)
NYC, NY 10009
(212) 254 5004