Thursday, October 13, 2011

Eli Zabar's E.A.T.

After dropping by the Russian embassy on the Upper East Side, I stopped by Eli Zabar's E.A.T. to grab lunch before heading back to work. I hadn't been and it was the closest thing I could think of in the area. Silly me didn't check the prices. Walked out with a container of the Tuscan Bread Salad and some grilled zucchini and eggplant. Kinda in a daze after having handed over my credit card and been charged $26.

$26 for that. As I sat at my desk back at work, I was careful not to waste a single piece of anything. It helped that both the bread salad and the veggies were delicious but come on - $26 for what amounts to 2 slices of bread, a slice of mozzarella, an under-ripe tomato and maybe half a zucchini and quarter of an eggplant? Biggest rip-off ever. Even if the food was good, I am never going back. EVER. So then I made my own panzanella a week later with greenmarket tomatoes, bread from Eataly and mozzarella from DiPaolo's. For a fraction of the price. Although I must say I'm impressed the man can charge that much. Then again, he got away for years with lobster salad sans lobster.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Salvatore Bklyn Ricotta

I went to Eataly to get some Salvatore Bklyn Ricotta which I've been dying to try for the longest time. Tiny thing set me back $10. But it lasted a really long time (well, a week, but a little goes a long way). I would sandwich it between slices of grilled zucchini, or put it between roasted eggplant and tomato slices. And then one day I put it on top of some garlic-rubbed toasted bread and topped it with prosciutto.

And all was well.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Summer cooking update

What did I cook this summer? Nothing. It's been mainly tomatoes cut up with some olive oil and basil, grilled zucchini slices that I brush with a mixture of olive oil, salt, dried herbs and tomato paste, and roasted eggplant slices that make my mouth itchy (ugh, allergies). The few things I have managed to make this summer:

Sopes after I had to make refried beans from my over-pressure-cooked pot of black beans topped with shredded chicken breast with achiote

Turkey tacos because I wanted to try out the new Rick Bayless frontera grill skillet sauces. I used my mini muffin tray turned upside down to hold these

Cherry brown butter tart because we had an over abundance of cherries after we went cherry picking in Jersey. Not a huge fan of this actually

Roasted carrots that I decided I had to make after I had the roasted carrot and avocado salad at ABC Kitchen

Peach crumble a la Orangette because our peaches were going to go bad. I later made this with plums. With plums it's better.

Speculoos ice cream with speculoos cookies I brought over from Paris. Might try this using the spread next time since letting the cooking dissolve in the ice cream base liquid made it a little grainy

Kimchi pancakes although I didn't notice that the kimchi had MSG in it (boo!)

Soba noodles with zucchini which is a great summer dish. Actually, soba with anything is a great summer dish. Even plain soba.

Spaghetti with spinach pesto, Parmesan and pine nuts

Slow-roasted tomatoes which I then packed in olive oil for later use. These are getting ready to go in the oven

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Hurricane cooking

We were holed up in our apartment for most of the Hurricane Irene weekend, starting at around 4pm Saturday though Monday morning. Friday night we went out for some wine and small plates at Bar Veloce but not before I finished making some high-protein savory muffins. They have cottage cheese, eggs, almond meal, the slow roasted tomatoes I made a little while back, basil and cheese. No butter or oil! And you can use low fat cottage cheese! JP hated them. I loved them. Try them - they're really good and you can change the flavorings as you wish.

Saturday morning I went for a walk down to Union Square where some rebellious farmers set up their market stands (I thought all outdoor markets were cancelled). There was a short downpour during which I stayed under one of the tents but afterwards, lots of washed fruits and veggies:

These are called sanditas but don't mistake these for mini-watermelons (although that would be awesome). They're actually mini cucumbers (officially called Mexican sour gherkins). But they don't taste that good - the skin is kinda thick and the seeds are pretty much all that's inside.

After the market but before it started pouring JP and I took a walk around which ended up with up going to Hill Country Chicken (surprisingly open) and eating some fried chicken and biscuits. Their biscuits are awesome.

You know what else is awesome? Squirrels. Or at least squirrels in Madison Square Park that get close enough for you to photograph them.

Later in the evening I made a plum galette from some plums I grabbed Friday at the Rockefeller market. Although some sugar got burned in the oven which created a lot of smoke in our apartment and I spent the next morning trying to scrape it off (success!)

And for breakfast on Sunday I brought out my aebelskiver pan and make aebelskivers (puffy Danish pancakes).

I filled some with champagne grapes, others with raspberries and a couple with mini chocolate chips. the grape ones were the best - each grape was like a tiny burst of sugar when biting into it. YUM.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hester Street Fair

One of my friends has a stand at the Hester Street Fair for her baked goods company which features cookies and cupcakes with Asian-inspired flavors (think green tea, jasmine, black sugar). On her first day selling, JP and I paid a visit to say hi and to fill ourselves with everything the fair has to offer. He didn't really know that we were eating there until we got there and I asked him to get in line for tacos at the Brooklyn Taco Company. Poor kid stood in the blazing hot sun for 10 minutes for those tacos! But they were good - particularly the chilorio brisket taco.  

The elote, which we actually got because the tamales would have taken too long, was also good - every square inch was covered in cheese. What wasn't good was the agua de sandia. I supposed I can't fault them if the watermelon wasn't ripe but don't use it if it doesn't taste good!

I also polished off a whole shaved ice with condensed milk mochi, kiwi and mango, and a scoop of green tea ice cream from The Shaved Ice Shop

I was a little upset that JP didn't like it, but I think it was because there was a LOT of condensed milk - even I found it a little too sweet and cloying. He did like the paletas from La Newyorkquina enough to get two of them. I have La Newyorkquina's book which I keep bringing to places I think she might be at so I can get it signed but no luck so far. Maybe next time.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Anniversary dinner at L'Atelier

August 17th equaled 4 years. Although JP likes to say it's been only 3 years since I was in Paris all of 2010. No, it's been 4 years. So I grilled some skirt steak*. Made some corn and bacon. And an heirloom tomato salad with basil, balsamic and Arbequina olive oil. We finally opened up our Clos du Val cabernet that we got when we were in Napa a few years ago.

For dessert I had picked up some Italian plums (prunes?) at the Rockefeller farmer's market during lunch and turned them into a crumble.

It was a good dinner. But our "going-out" dinner was Saturday at L'Atelier de Joel Robouchon

Verdict? It was fun but the food was MEH for the most part. JP ranked it dead-last out of the four anniversary dinner's we've had. I ranked it second-to last only because I don't remember how much I liked Perry Street (the other two are Daniel at #1 and Alex at the Wynn in Vegas at #2).

We didn't get the tasting menu (I'm deathly allergic to sturgeon and have an aversion to foie gras) so we went a la carte.  A couple small plates - sauteed amadai in yuzu broth with lotus root, sauteed squid with chorizio and violet artichokes in tomato water, asparagus macaroni gratin and seared scallop with ginger and chive crust (yes, singular scallop for $28) followed by our mains. I had the hanger steak with roasted shallots and shishito peppers which failed in comparison to the hanger steak I had at craftsteak two years ago. JP had seared sea bass with a lemongrass foam and stewed baby leeks where the overwhelming flavor was lemongrass and I was reminded about those spicy cashews I have in my pantry that I need to return to TJs because I don't find them palatable.

Granted, the presentation of everything was top notch. Not all dishes fell flat. I quite liked the squid with chorizo and the crispy crust on the amadai, as well at the shallots on top of my steak. My strawberry-rhubarb-gin cocktail was stupendous and my dessert was pretty good - cheesecake mousse with Tahitian vanilla and seasonal berries.

JP's sauteed peaches with peach sorbet and meringue came on dry ice which was pretty cool.

But there was something off about the service (didn't help that obnoxious girl that sat next to me started elbowing me sometime during our dessert course). Maybe it was because I had chosen counter seating but it didn't feel like it was worth it. There, maybe that's what I mean. The food is good but overall the price just isn't worth it. I proposed that we stick to Daniel from now on since nothing else has quite measured up. We can be one of those couples that goes back every year once a year on their anniversary.

*Note: Whole Foods Chelsea - please carry non-grass fed beef. I like it better. And its not $14/lb. I think I'll be going to Whole Foods Union Square for meat from now on.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


JP and I finally ventured over to Smorgasburg - the food-centric offshoot of the Brooklyn Flee, just one stop into Brooklyn on the L (if it was more, we might not have made it over...). It was the perfect day with the breeze from the water providing some welcome respite from the blazing sun. My plan? Sample as much as I can and hit up some spots that I'd read about and wanted to try. We succeeded for the most part - mostly because we came a little after noon while the market was still fairly slow.

We started with a pork cemita. What's a cemita? It's a sandwich originating in Puebla, Mexico. It's kinda like a regional version of a torta.

Unfortunately, we both found the bread to be too dry and neither the black bean spread nor the cheese made up for it. I wouldn't really recommend this to anyone. Plus, JP wasn't a fan of the papalo. We washed it down with some jalapeno limeaide from Tenpenny which I found to be a rip-off after I saw them pouring in Minute-Maid Limeaid and mixing it with other stuff (probably jalapeno-infused simple syrup). It wasn't that good either.

It started getting hot so we moved right along to the frozen desserts - Sweet Fusion which served small-batch ice cream enveloped in homemade mochi. We tried the watermelon one which was really good and refreshing, but a tad on the pricey side for what it was. I just remember thinking "if this was $1 less, I'd enjoy it more". But thats alright, we're supporting small producers and $1 for me isn't as much as $1 for them.

Still craving something to beat the heat, we hit up Rob & Anna's (hehe, say their name fast) for their soft-serve frozen bananas. I got it with some raw raspberry coulis which provided just the right amount of tang. This was one of the stands I wanted to try. I don't like bananas in smoothies but I do like other kinds of bananas. It was an interesting taste/texture combination and I'm glad I shared it with JP - I don't think I would've been able to finish this by myself. It's not that I didn't like it (I did), it was just...strange. 

We didn't try Nana's which sells frozen bananas dipped in chocolate that you customize with various toppings; in the hour or so after we first arrived at Smorgasburg, a ferry unloaded boat-load (ferry-load?) of passengers and huge lines formed. In other related news, I recently started freezing halves of baby bananas and coating them in chocolate. These are delicious.

While all those ferry people were waiting in lines, we sat around and enjoyed the views before making rounds for more edibles again. Round #2 started with JP getting a banh-mi style hot dog from AsiaDog, which I've written about before, topped with aioli, pate, cucumbers, pickled carrots and daikon, cilantro and jalapeno. 

We then moved on to the shave ice from People's Pops. I tried People's Pops once. I didn't like them. but their shave ice (yes, shave, not shaved) is SO RIDICULOUSLY GOOD AND REFRESHING. JP won this one - he got the sour cherry flavor, while I got the red plum version (they just pour homemade syrup on top of your ice). I could've eaten both of these. Note to self - get an ice shaver next time we're down in Mexico (the one the guy was using was Victoria, which is a Mexican brand).

And lastly, I couldn't pass up a doughnut from Dough. I'd heard a lot about them recently and having finally tried doughnuts from The Doughnut Plant, I couldn't pass these up to compare (took me a while even though the new location at the Chelsea Hotel is only a few blocks from my apartment...and I didn't even buy them, they were an apartment warming present/edible!). 

JP resisted. Why did I want a huge doughnut after already being a glutton and eating so much food? Plus it was pretty hot outside by then. But I just wanted it. We were debating between the blood orange and the hibiscus but finally went with the latter. I won this round. JP loved it. The doughnuts are light and fluffy and they're yeast doughnuts! That's my favorite kind - it reminds me of my childhood when I was in Communist Russia (we had surprisingly good baked goods over there!). I can't say I tasted much of the hibiscus, just a slight tang in the sweet glaze but whatever. This was a delicious way to end a delicious day. 

I'll definitely be back before summer is over - I missed out on some things I wanted to try, particularly Shorty Tang's cold sesame noodles, a delicious-looking chocolate crinkle cookie from Commerce Bakery and biscuits from King's Crumb. Next time. And another doughnut, or two.