Archive | August, 2010

Last Weekend in the City

30 Aug

Our last weekend as residents of New York City – the past two years went by so fast and we’re going to miss so much, but we also can’t wait to get back “home.” We’ve had so many homes over the past five years – but our house in Somerville really is where we feel at home most. I wish we could take all our friends (and our favorite restaurants) in NY with us, but our friends will always have a place to visit in Boston and we’ll be back to visit as much as we can.

Work Friday night was fun – and a late one. I got a lot of advice and tips for success that I will remember for a long time. Saturday, Jason and I headed into the city to run errands. We headed uptown to some shops and then down to SoHo to Sur La Table and one of Jason’s favorite stores, Jeremy Argyle. We then walked around Union Square looking for artwork for our house – no luck though. Saturday night, Jason and I met up with one of his colleagues and had dinner at Tribeca Grill. We were all pretty hungry by then and had an amazing meal. We started dinner with a few appetizers, including the charcuterie plate, braised short rib pierogi, and jumbo lump crab cake with creamed corn. It was such a great start to our meal. For dinner, I had the monkfish, which was served with lobster and shrimp raviolini, tomato confit and artichokes. It was sweet and buttery and delicious! We had a great night.

On Sunday, I had brunch at Locanda Verde with my friends Jennie and Taryn. We started the morning off with cocktails (what else do you do at brunch!?). We all had the citronata, made with aperol, lillet and aranciata. YUM – so refreshing!

It was so good we had a second round!

While waiting for our table, we had the Pastry Misti Del Giorno which included olive oil coffee cake, a bacon polenta scone and a blueberry buttermilk doughnut We also had an order of sheep’s milk ricotta with truffle honey and burnt orange toast. Every table gets a plate of rosemary focaccia too – we were on carb overload, but loved every second of it!

The ricotta was so creamy and perfect for breakfast.

We each ordered something different for brunch. I had the Wood-Fired Uova Al Forno, with corona beans, mozzarella and black tuscan kale. It was lava hot fresh from the oven and had cheese melted on top. I would love to try and recreate this at home.

Jennie had the Zucchini Frittata with roasted tomato, goat cheese and basil.

Taryn had the Soft Scrambled Farm Egg Crostino with leeks, mushrooms and speck. The eggs were cooked exactly how I would make them – it looked delicious.

Brunch was great – if you’re ever looking for a great place with a fun atmosphere, fantastic drinks and food, try Locanda Verde.

After brunch, Jason met us in town and we did some browsing at one of my favorite stores, Anthropologie! I need a dress for a wedding later this month and they have great dresses. I didn’t find anything yesterday, but I’m going to check out some other stores. Jason and I left Anthropologie and walked around the Flatiron and Grammercy neighborhoods, ending up at Friend of a Farmer restaurant. It was like being inside someone’s country home – and was busy with brunchers. It was so hot out, we ordered a couple of cocktails. I had the Lychee Lemonade and Jason had the Pear and St. Germain Lemonade.

Cheers to Sunday afternoons!

In the spirit of eating out, Jason and I went to our favorite restaurant in Williamsburg for dinner Sunday night, Miranda – we also have no food and all my cookware is packed up! I’ve written about Miranda before – chef Sasha does Italian Latin fusion at its best. We love the atmosphere, the people and of course, the food. We started with Grilled Baby Octopus served over an arugula, avocado and cucumber salad, and the day’s ceviche special, made with bay scallops, shrimp, mango and lime!

The pasta is amazing and all homemade. For dinner, Jason had the garganelli with peas, longaniza and fresh mozzarella. I had the grilled skirt steak with shallot agrodolce (“sour sweet”) and roasted fingerling potatoes and carrots. Both dishes were amazing and the service, as always, was great. Our server suggested a dry rose that went beautifully with both dishes. For dessert, we split the special, a black plum and nectarine upside down cake with vanilla gelato!

Finally, to top off our weekend, we met friends Tim and Michael at Viva El Toro in Williamsburg for a nightcap before heading home. It was so nice to see them and catch up before heading back to Boston.

It was such a perfect weekend, filled with good friends, great weather and excellent food! Today and the next couple of days will be spent packing and moving back to Boston!

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A day of errands and glorious chicken!

26 Aug

I worked until late last night and thus, slept in a bit today. This afternoon though, I ran some errands and continued packing our apartment up. First I ran to Home Depot to get more boxes, then headed to The Brooklyn Kitchen, a grocer and kitchen supply store. They also have a butcher shop in the back of the store, The Meat Hook, where I picked up some chicken legs to cook for dinner tonight. I grabbed some heirloom tomatoes, apples and cipollini onions too. I absolutely LOVE this place. In addition to new and modern kitchen gadgets and cookware, they also have vintage pieces that I’d love to have. I’m sure some of my family members have these pieces in their attics or basements and don’t realize they’re now considered “vintage” and people go so crazy for them!

They've got a great "sign" in the front of the building!

The front of Brooklyn Kitchen has garage doors so you can peak inside. See all the vintage cookware!

There's a place for you to pour your own oils and vinegars, among all the pickling ingredients!

Heirloom and beefsteak tomatoes for sale

The produce is all from local farmers.

Behind the counter at the Meat Hook

Meat! There's a whole separate case for poultry. The quality is superior.

Here are some of those vintage cookware pieces I love. I believe some are old Pyrex sets. The colors are great.

For dinner tonight, I was planning on grilling my marinated chicken legs, but we left the bag of charcoal outside, it got wet with all the rain we had and wouldn’t light. So instead, I thought I’d braise the legs. The chicken marinated in olive oil, garlic, chili flakes, salt, pepper and rosemary. I started by heating up my cast iron pot really high with a few tbsp of olive oil. Then I browned the chicken skin side first, on both sides. The key to crispy brown skin that doesn’t stick is a really hot pan and some oil.

Here's my chicken browning in the pan, with just a touch of olive oil.

Next, I added my peeled, halved cipollini onions and a chopped heirloom tomato and cooked it with the chicken. It was time to deglaze my pan and get up all the brown bits of goodness on the bottom. I didn’t want to open a bottle of wine, so instead I used half a bottle of Brooklyn Summer Ale. I then added chicken stock to the pot to cover the chicken by almost half. Next, you bring the liquid to a boil, put the cover on and place it in a 325 degree oven for 45 minutes.

Here are my legs, tomatoes and onions in the braising liquid after I took it out of the oven.

When the chicken was done, I took it out of the pot along with the onions and set them aside. I wanted something to go on the side with my chicken and vegetables, so I decided on quinoa because it cooks quickly and I can use my braising liquid to make it. I mixed 1 cup quinoa with 2 cups of my braising liquid (I didn’t strain the liquid first) along with some of the chopped tomatoes. The mixture is brought to a boil, covered and then lowered to a simmer. It simmers for 10-15 minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed and the grains start to look translucent. I served my chicken with the quinoa, cipollini onions and tomatoes. It was delicious – the onions were sweet and melted in your mouth while the quinoa had all the flavor of the braise. The chicken was cooked perfectly as well.

This was the most flavorful dinner I've made in a while - it was delicious.

I’m off to pack some more – have a good night!

More packing, more smoothies!

25 Aug

I’m glad it’s been raining all day or I would feel bad for spending the whole day inside. I’m planning on spending the day packing until I have to go to work tonight. For breakfast, I made a Triple Berry Smoothie! In the mix was Chobani strawberry banana yogurt, skim milk, a drop of vanilla extract and a handful of frozen berries (strawberries, blueberries and blackberries). I love eating berries; they’re so good for your body, providing countless health benefits due to being high in antioxidants. My smoothie was delicious – frothy, filling and full of flavor.

I may have to order lunch out this afternoon as we’re low on groceries (I know, crazy) and I don’t want to walk around in the rain. There’s a great cafe/sandwich place with free delivery not far from us called Lunchbox. They have killer sandwiches done on Balthazar bread and an enormous salad bar. I think a Kennedy sandwich is in my future – turkey, avocado, cucumber, arugula and mayo on multigrain bread.

Packing and peaches!

24 Aug

I hate to pack, but at least I have a week off to do it and don’t have to juggle it with a full day of work. Rick and I dove straight in to packing and laundry this morning. As you can see, he’s raring to go!

In addition to packing, there’s lots of laundry to catch up with. It’s going to be a fun-filled week! Halfway through the day, Rick and I stopped for a lunch break. Instead of a big lunch and in honor of peach season, I opted to make a Peach n’ Honey Smoothie. Our neighbors have a peach tree and it’s so big that some of the branches hang over into our yard. We can’t let those peaches go to waste so I picked two today and got to work!

You can read the detailed recipe here, but to give you an idea of how easy this was, here are all my ingredients (minus the yogurt):

I use frozen sliced peaches instead of ice in my smoothies, so it doesn’t taste watered down and is still frothy. I also chopped up one of the fresh peaches from outside. We have a stick/hand blender that came with a tall plastic cup for blending in, absolutely perfect for smoothies. It takes up less space than a blender and is ideal for 1-2 servings.

My smoothie was frothy, peachy, a little sweet thanks to the honey and had a warm spice thanks to the nutmeg. I used Chobani vanilla yogurt with honey because that’s what we had on hand, but you can use any kind of yogurt and any kind of fruit you have. We buy a lot of berries in the summer, and instead of letting them go to waste if we can’t eat them all, I put whatever we can’t eat in a Ziploc bag and keep them in the freezer for smoothies.

The finished product!

Last night, I submitted my mac n’ cheese recipe to food gawker. I’m not sure what they’re acceptance policy is, but I hope it is posted on there soon! Back to packing for a few more hours before we call it a night!

Weekend in Poughkeepsie

24 Aug

This weekend Jason, Rick and I spent the weekend at his mom’s house in Poughkeepsie. On Saturday night, we headed to the CIA (no, not that CIA) for dinner at Escoffier Restaurant.

The main dining area of the Escoffier Room.

Chef Auguste Escoffier is famous for teaching the principles and techniques associated with classic French cuisine. He is quoted a lot and his techniques are used throughout my FCI textbooks, so I was really intrigued by this restaurant. It was classic French with a contemporary touch. The restaurant is run by the students (even the waitstaff are students) so it was fun to see what they experience as well.

The meal commenced with an amuse bouche of tomato-watermelon water with basil (a flavor combination I’ve come to love this summer). We then had a round of appetizers; Jason and Barbara had a shrimp and scallop salad while I had quail with polenta and figs. Following the apps, we had our entrees. I had duck with wild rice and greens. Barbara had salmon over a vegetable and basil stew and Jason had the steak. It was delicious and beautifully presented. To drink, we all split a bottle of Pinot Noir. During dinner, we saw the table next to us order bananas foster, which included table-side flambeing! We didn’t order that, but did save room for dessert. I had lemon creme brulee. The atmosphere in the restaurant was really beautiful – stately and relaxing. We chatted a bit with our servers, who were all students, and found out their plans for the future. Many of them are graduating in just a few weeks.

Sunday ended up being a rainy day, perfect days for reading, catching up online, watching tv and cooking! After a day filled with all those things, I made mac n’ cheese with orecchiette, shitake and crimini mushrooms, broccoli rabe, gruyere and sharp cheddar cheese. I sprinkled a topping of panko bread crumbs, herbs and butter on top for added texture and flavor. I chose panko because they’re crispier and lighter than traditional bread crumbs. The dish was so simple to make, and so delicious on a lazy rainy day. We also had a big salad on the side, but I don’t think any of us really cared much for the salad! Click here to get my recipe and make it yourself!

The panko topping was perfectly crisped and browned.

The inside was creamy and nutty/earthy in flavor, thanks to the mushrooms and gruyere. Orecchiette pasta held the sauce really well.

With our mac n’ cheese, we enjoyed a glass of Gundlach Bundschu Gewürztraminer. Jason and I first had this wine when we visited Napa Valley last summer and enjoyed it so much we brought some home! It paired wonderfully with our mac n’ cheese. It was really crisp and held up well to the strong flavors in our meal.

Jason and I had such a nice weekend spending time with Barbara. We were also lucky to have several amazing meals over the course of the weekend.

FCI Graduation

24 Aug

Jason snapped this soon after the ceremony - I'm ecstatic!

Graduation was this past Friday – what a day! My classmates and I weren’t sure exactly what to expect, though we knew there would be some awards, toques and diplomas dispersed, and a serious sendoff. The afternoon started with my classmates and I taking a professional class picture with our chefs. I believe those are getting mailed to us once they’re developed – I can’t wait to see it!

Graye, Lauren and Warren waiting patiently to go to the ceremony.

Next, we headed to the amphitheater where our families were waiting for us, for the actual ceremony. Each of our chefs from levels 1-6 spoke to us and the crowd, giving us words of wisdom for the future and anecdotes from the last six months. Some of those chefs saw us in level one, and then again in level six and saw the long way many of us had come. It was nice to reflect on that. Following those words, each of us was called up to receive our diploma and toque.

Chef Henri speaking to the crowd and our class.

I'm waiting for chef to call my name

All the chefs congratulated us as we received our toques and diplomas.

I was so happy here.

After that, it was award time. There were awards given out for perfect attendance, community service, a 95 GPA or higher and best menu projects. One person in our class received the award of distinction for having a cumulative GPA of 95 or better, Brian Kauffman – what an achievement! I received two awards, one for community service – I volunteered throughout the last six months at several events, student focus groups, recreational classes and the like. I also received, along with two other classmates, an award for getting a perfect score on my menu project.

Following the ceremony, everyone gathered in the back of the amphitheater for canapes, champagne and more photos! I was so happy to have my mom, Michelle, Jason, Jason’s mom, Auntie Donna and Uncle Paul there. They made the day really special.

Me and Warren.

Me and mom - notice I'm holding the same glass of champagne in every picture!

Auntie Donna, me, Mom and Michelle

Jason, me and Barbara (my future mom-in-law)

After graduation, we celebrated with some champagne back in our apartment then headed out to dinner at Locanda Verde. Our meal was amazing, the perfect end to a perfect day. We started with three different crostini, sheep’s milk ricotta with herbs and sea salt, an arugula salad with figs, asiago and speck, a tomato watermelon salad with smoked ricotta, and lamb meatball sliders – YUM and WOW! For our entrees, everyone had something different. Auntie Donna and Uncle Paul split the bisteca for two, which came with rustic potatoes and a tomato salad. My mom and I had the pork chop, served with white beans and a sweet onions. Jason had pasta with a lamb ragu, mint and sheep’s milk ricotta. My sister and Barbara had diver scallops served with farro, tomato mostarda and salsa rossa. Believe it or not, we had dessert after that, every single one on the menu! To name a few, we had the toasted almond semifreddo, sweet corn budino, chocolate-pistachio tart and lemon tart, which all came with different flavors of gelato! It was heavenly – I hope Jason and I have time to go back one more time before we move!

It was such a wonderful day and evening – I hope everyone (friends and family) had as much fun as I did! I will never forget it.

Culinary Final

23 Aug

I was so stressed out all week about my final and for good reason – it was tough! We started Thursday off with a written exam (we had to write the ingredients and procedure of the consomme, but didn’t know that was the dish until that morning) and then had a practical exam which was timed and consisted of making two dishes for a panel of judges. Half the stress of the practical is that you need to be familiar with all eight dishes, but will only get two of them on the final. We all pick a number out of a hat after our written exam and that number corresponds to a pair of dishes. I pulled the Beef and Chicken Consommé with Poached Egg, Bacon and Chanterelles and the Sautéed Duck Breast and Braised Duck Leg with Pickled Cherries, Baby Bok Choy and Port Wine Sauce.

My first dish (4 plates of it), the consomme, was due to the judges at 12:45; and the second dish (another 4 plates), the duck, was due to them at 1:33. Because the second dish is due so soon after the first, you need to work at both throughout the morning as you only have time to finish the second dish after plating the first dish. Two proctors watch over the class during the practical and grade you on technique, time management, organization, and cleanliness, among other things. Then, a panel of 3-4 judges taste your dishes and grade you on plating, taste, texture, etc. We don’t know who the judges are until after the final is over, just prior to meeting them and listening to their critiques of our dishes. They’re all well-known restaurant owners and/or chefs in New York City.

I did really well on my final (both written and practical) and had great critiques from my judges! I was really pleased with how it all turned out, though my hands were a little shaky while plating my dishes. I chalk that up to nerves though! After the final, my class headed to Onieals, a bar a few blocks from school where we enjoyed some celebratory beverages. Some of our chefs met us there as well.

Harold, Han Joo, Brian and Lauren

Me, FX and Han Joo

Me and Hunter (one of my group-mates over the last two months)

Han Joo and Stephen

Chef Lisa, Chef Mimi and Harold

Jillian, me and Graye

I hardly have any pictures of Mic - this is a good one!

Caesar and Adam

After Onieals, we all headed to Lauren and Graye’s house in Tribeca to hang out on their rooftop. We had a blast and the view was gorgeous!

Taking a picture on the roof!

The following day was graduation – we couldn’t wait!