Monday, November 19, 2012

Street Eats, NYC

The other weekend we had some time to kill before meeting friends in the West Village, so we decided to walk around the neighborhood and of course, have a snack... or two, or three.

We saw some Union Jack bags coming out of a store, and were drawn to Myers of Keswick British groceries.  Along with McVities, PGTips, Marmite, HP Brown Sauce all that good stuff, they also make their own Cumberland sausage (the best West of Allonby, according to their website), bangers, and meat pies of many varieties.  We got a Cumberland sausage roll and it was indeed magnificent.  We also got a pork pie with stilton, but decided to save it for later.  Unfortunately our friend's dog managed to scarf it up before we did, but she seemed to enjoy it!

Then under the High Line, we wandered among the food stalls, and couldn't resist getting a Throwdown from Wafel and Dinges.  This is the waffle they beat Bobby Flay with -- topped with speculoos, whipped cream, and powdered sugar.

Myers of Keswick
634 Hudson Street New York, NY 10014
(212) 691-4194

Wafels and Dinges

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Cooking Trotters

Redneckhunter brought home a big bag of pig trotters from Double Brook Farm, so we spent a lazy Saturday cooking them one weekend.  This involved first boiling them -- along with onions, herbs, garlic -- for about 4 hours.  This yielded a delicious pork broth, which we saved of course!  Then smoking with hickory for another 2 1/2 hours.  They were already falling off the bone after the boiling, but the smoking really made all the cartilage nice and gooey and gelatinous.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Bobby's Burger Palace, Princeton, NJ

Over the summer, our local mall, The Princeton MarketFair, shut down their food court to bring in more sit-down eateries, and we were a little wary of what would come.  That changed when we found out one of the new places would be Bobby Flay's Burger Palace.

There are only 11 of these currently, all in the Mid-Atlantic region. Ours opened in late August, and we've already gone there 3 times.  It's a good mid-price, slower-than-fast-food, faster-than-sit-down kind of place. The decor is tongue-in-cheek retro-chic with long serpentine bar seating and communal tables with faux wood finish.

The menu is pretty simple - 10 varieties of burger topping combos which you can get on Angus beef, ground turkey, or chicken breast;  two types of grilled cheese;  a regular salad, a chopped salad, or a salad with any of the burger varieties on top; fries, sweet potato fries, or onion rings; and 13 flavors of milkshake (include 3 spiked shakes). 

Redneckhunter was happy to see a Black and White milkshake actually listed on the menu.  A lot of times he has to explain to people what goes into black and white -- vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup or hot fudge.  He had to admit that Bobby made a good one.  One of these times I'm going to have order their dark chocolate shake.

So in our various visits, we've tried a few different things.  Well, I have, at least.  Redneckhunter has stuck with the LA Burger -- avocado relish, watercress, cheddar cheese, and tomato.

I've tried that one, as well as the Napa Valley with fresh goat cheese, watercress, and Meyer lemon honey mustard, and the Dallas as a turkey burger, which was spice crusted, with coleslaw, Monterey Jack, BBQ sauce and pickles. 

The beef burgers have always come out a perfect medium rare, the meat flavorful, the buns soft and fresh.  All in all, a mighty tasty burger.

I liked my turkey burger - I think the spicier Dallas was a good combo for it -- though I still don't think it beats my favorite turkey burger, which is from Big Nick's Burger Joint on the Upper West Side. 

The only two things that have just been so-so are the sweet potato fries (we haven't tried the regular fries or onion rings yet) , and Bobby's sauces (a selection of which are left on the table -- jalapeno, chipotle ketchup, a signature burger sauce -- and a honey mustard horseradish for the fries).  Nothing really was better than just plain old ketchup.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Smorgasburg in DUMBO

My cousins recently moved to DUMBO, and so did Smorgasburg! So on a recent weekend visit, we set off for a Sunday outing to the Smorg. 

First off, what an amazing setting for it, under the span of the Brooklyn Bridge in the old Tobacco Warehouse shell, and the old timey Jane's Carousel nearby. 

Most of the Smorg regulars were there.  Probably fewer prepared food vendors, but plenty of eating options. 

After a walk-through, I was sucked in by the pretzel rolls on which Schnitz served their chicken schnitzel sandwiches. 
Redneckhunter went for a brisket sandwich - he was a bit disappointed that he got mostly burnt ends, and not so much fatty meat. 

I finished things off with not one, but two, frozen treats -- a plum shave ice from People's Pops, and a gourmet lemon slushie from Kelvin Natural Slush Co.

Sundays in DUMBO in Brooklyn Bridge Park
Through November 18

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Kennett Square Mushroom Festival, PA

Earlier in September we were down in Delaware getting our car fixed before a night out in Philly, and decided to take the scenic route up through Kennett Square because it was the weekend of their annual Mushroom Festival. 

Kennett is the mushroom capital of the world, so this is their chance to celebrate all things mushroom.  I had read about Talula's Table, a little market in downtown Kennett where they also do a nightly chef's table booked one year in advance, so when it came to choosing which stand to visit, I figured we'd try it.  We got the mushroom risotto, and mushroom spring rolls.  They also had mushroom mac and cheese.  Risotto was satisfying, but the spring rolls were huge, but not so good.  The filling wasn't much better than your average Chinese takeout, and the spring roll skins weren't crispy.  I was however drawn to trying their homemade pretzels and was very happy with a nice yeasty, chewy, fennel one.

For dessert, I had to try pumpkin mushroom ice cream from Woodside Farm Creamery in Hockessin, DE. This family-run dairy is right across from the Chinese American Community Center - hard to resist anytime I find myself out there.  The ice cream is super rich and creamy and the pumpkin flavor was great - not too much mushroom.
And whenever I"m in Kennett Square, I also have to get a donut from Alondra's Mexican Bakery.  I always feel like a little kid walking in to the smell of a great bakery.

Monday, September 03, 2012

George's, Cape May, NJ

On our Cape May girls' weekend, we kept seeing lines waiting outside of George's Place, so we figured it had to be good.  We went for brunch on Sunday morning, and started off with fresh fruit smoothies from the next door juice bar (apparently owned by George's son) while waiting in line.  A brilliant business idea to keep the line happy and make some dough off of them while they wait. You could get them with or without yogurt, and with either fruit puree or fresh fruit lightly sweetened with honey. When our name was called, they were super nice to seat us and let us wait for our friends (who were still checking out our of hotel down the street).

The food was worth the wait - I got french toast topped with limoncello greek yogurt and fresh blueberries -- beautiful and surprisingly light. My friends also really liked their breakfasts.

George's Place
301 Beach Drive 
Cape May, NJ 08204

The Blue Pig Tavern, Cape May, NJ

We recently had a girls' weekend in Cape May, and had a nice time at the historic Congress Hall hotel at the Sea Spa, shopping for jewelry, doing yoga on the beach, and dining at their farm-to-table restaurant The Blue Pig Tavern.  We had seen the place (and taken a picture with someone in a Blue Pig costume) on last summer's trip to Cape May, but hadn't eaten there.

We started off with some house-made guac, ceviche, and baked mac and cheese.  I should have known better than to order ceviche (I am spoiled by good Peruvian ceviche back home.)

My friends ordered the lump crabmeat salad with avocado and mango, fresh pappardelle with bolognese, and P.E.I. mussels.

I got one of the day's appetizer specials as my entree -- scallops served atop an eggplant puree (eggplant being one of that week's major crops from the farm).  It was a nice dish.

The Blue Pig Tavern at Congress Hall
200 Congress Place
Cape May, NJ

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Adventures in Cheese Making

I got a deal on a cheese-making kit online -- rennet tablets, citric acid, a cheese thermometer and a cheesecloth -- enough to make over 30 pounds of the either mozzarella or ricotta.

One gallon of milk produces around 1 pound of cheese -- the milk is cooked while reacting with the rennet and/or citric acidMy first attempt at mozzarella didn't go so well. There were 2 things I attributed it to: #1 I think I stirred too vigorously (I'm Chinese, when you tell us to stir, we stir -- an integral part of wok cooking), so that I didn't let my curds set up enough. #2 was I don't think I heated up my curds enough to be able to stretch them properly.  So I ended up with something dense and more the texture of cream cheese (without the cream cheese flavor).    

Attempt #2 was better. my curds definitely separated and got stretchy, and formed a nice ball.  Cutting off warm slices, it was quite tasty.  However, put in the fridge overnight, the texture changed and got dense and lost that great springy chewiness.  

So the 3rd time around, I decided to go with the easier ricotta.  I drained a small batch to eat right away (hung in a cheesecloth like a scrotum over my sink).

We had it with grilled tomatoes on semolina.  And I let the rest of the pot of curds drain a bit longer, leading to a nice batch of rich creamy ricotta.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Red Lulu Tequila Bar, Norwalk, CT

While we were up in Norwalk visiting friends, we walked around at the SoNo (South Norwalk) Arts Festival, and feeling a little peckish, decided to stop in for a drink and a snack at Red Lulu's Cocina and Tequila Bar.  The decor was goth boho meets Studio 54 (all black walls, faded velvet couches, and mirror-top coffee tables) and the waitress uniform seemed to be short black shorts with gauzy see-through tops.

A little incongruous on a sunny late summer afternoon in Connecticut, but a giant pitcher of lime and cranberry sangria seemed to fit.

They had a variety of guacamoles, so we tried two -- one with agave-glazed pork belly, and the other with lump crab meat, lobster, and chili-garlic butter.  Both nice combos, with a bit of kick to them.  We also got crispy chili and masa encrusted oysters with chipotle crema.

Red Lulu
128 Washington Street
Norwalk, CT
(203) 939-1600

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Don Antonio's, New York

Last time we got together in the city with Petiteseour, she suggested going to Don Antonio's -- a midtown pizza place that her co-worker was a regular at.

The place was packed and we got seated in a cramped corner by the servers' station -- the first in a string of little annoyances that added up.  There was also red wine served chilled, plates piled carelessly in people's faces, grumpiness at requests like more bread, stuff taken away too quickly,

We started off with the homemade burrata, and a salad with pancetta, apples and gorgonzola.  Burrata was good (though not enough bread, nor balasamic);  salad was forgettable.

Then we order 3 pizzas for the 5 of us -- the Vesuvio, a stuffed pizza with fresh ricotta, mozzarella and salami inside, topped with red sauce, ham, more mozzarella, mushrooms, and artichokes;  the Pope's Pizza, with butternut squash, zucchini, roasted peppers, and smoked mozzarella;  and lastly was one of the day's special which sounded really good with gorgonzola dolce, a bunch of other cheeses, figs, and prosciutto, but was disappointing.  The figs were too sweet, the gorgonzola too strong. 
I liked the butternut squash and smokey flavor of the Pope's pie, but it was not a hit with Petiteseour.  Her favorite and Redneckhunter's favorite was the stuffed pie.  I liked the pizza, but Petiteseour thought it suffered from too much volume where the oven doors being constantly opened and closed and not retaining heat led to a less crisp crust. 

What really struck me to not recommend the place was really the service -- all around crappy.  We learned that Petiteseour's friend tended to go on his own and sit at the bar - clearly the way to go - table service was subpar.

Don Antonio's
309 West 50th Street
New York NY

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Return to the Knife and Fork Inn, Atlantic City, NJ

One thing we like about traveling to Tampa is flying in and out of Atlantic City airport. Nothing normally brings us to A.C. so it's only in transit that we get to eat at the Knife and Fork Inn.  Now 100 years old, the joint was an old haunt of Nucky Thompson, Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope and Vic Damone, and was in a scene in the movie "Atlantic City" with Susan Sarandon and Burt Lancaster. 

We ate in the bar and kept it simple splitting 4 appetizers -- crab and avocado terrine, Jersey tomato and buffalo mozzarella salad, tuna tartare, and kobe sliders topped with au poivre sauce, blue cbeese bechamel, and caramelized onions.

Knife and Fork Inn
3600 Atlantic Ave, Atlantic City, New Jersey 08401
Phone 609-344-1133

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

El Puerto Restaurant, Tampa, FL

 While we were in Tampa visiting Redneckhunter's brothers, we made a stop in Ybor City to pick up cigars before heading to the airport.  It took a while to find a cigar shop that was actually open at 11 am, despite any hours posted on shop windows - guess they're on Tampa time.  But when we did find one, Redneckhunter was very happy at his haul.  I decided to ask the proprietress where we should grab lunch - always happy to get a local's recommendation.

She directed us off the tourist-centric 7th Avenue, just a couple blocks away to 5th to the Argentine restaurant El Puerto.  The place was adjacent to another cigar store (where Redneckhunter picked up another 1/2 dozen cigars) and had chickens running around on the sidewalk outside -- both good signs. 

We got there a little before noon, and I'm glad we did because by 12:15 every seat in the place was taken, and we never would have made our flight in time!  Another good sign considering the restaurants on 7th Avenue had people out on the street trying to drum up lunch business.

I ordered the Chupe de Camarones - shrimp soup with potatoes, rice, shrimp, and a hard-boiled egg.  Redneckhunter got a lunch special - the Mini Parillada - Argentinean sausage, skirt steak, chicken breast, pork chop with a side of rice and beans.  I can't believe this was the mini version of the dish!  

A great find, which hopefully we'll return too next time we're visiting family!

 El Puerto Restaurant and Grill
1623 E. 5th Avenue
Tampa, FL 33605
(813) 248-8222