Friday, July 6, 2012

DR Love

My girl Chi Chi introduced me to the great wonders of Washington Heights by introducing me to her super amazing wonder woman-esque friend "J" and by taking me to this awesome Dominican spot named El Conde

Now I know that just one restaurant alone cannot capture all the best parts a country's cuisine has to offer but this place seem to have a pretty good grasp on some of the staples of DR that I love.

Let's eat!

We started with the Croquetas and Camaraofongo (shrimo mofongo)

The Croquetas were nice an golden brown with a soft middle, just perfect, they were served with plantain chips

 The Camarofongo, was very moist with the right amount of seasoning and the accompanying sauce went perfectly.  LOVED that there was a huge portion of large shrimp in the dish as well!

We both opted to have their churasscuria skirt steak as our entrees since, that is what El Conde is known for...and we were not disappointed one bit!

Grilled to perfection, seasoned again very nicely!  And the accompanying rice and red beans went nicely.  Of course no meal is complete without a side of tostones (fried plantains) Sorry no pic of the tostones, but we all know what they look like!

It was a great night of making new friends and memories surrounded by great food...the perfect combo in my opinion.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Home Cookin' Love

Nothing makes me happier when the people I love request that I make them their favorite meals :) 

My 4 year old asked me to out of the blue to make him my yummy sausage lasagna, and of course on the most humid day we've had thus far, but how can you say NO to a little one who says "pulease" 5 times in a row with a big goofy goober grin :D

On with the cooking!

1 - box no boil lasagna noodle
1 - 32 oz. tub of Ricotta
1 - egg yolk
1/2 cup shredded parmigiano reggiano cheese
1 pack shredded mozzarella
1 pack shredded 4 Italian cheese blend (or the 3 or 6 blend)

For the sausage bolognese:
1 pound Italian sweet or hot sausage meat or 6 sausage links with casing removed
1 medium onion roughly cut up
1 carrot halved
4 whole garlic cloves1- 14 ounce can of low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup fat free half & half
2 Tbl olive oil
2- 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes (I like the whole foods organic brand)
2 Tbl sugar or agave
S&P to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Place a strainer over a bowl and dump the ricotta in the strainer and spread it out evenly. Let it drain all the extra liquid for at least 30 minutes or overnight in the fridge.

~ Place the carrots, onions and garlic cloves in a food processor and blend till smooth and paste like, set aside

~ In a large pot, brown the sausage meat on md/high heat, breaking it up as you go, once cooked through take
   out of pan and set aside.

~ Drain a bit of the sausage fat out, but leave about a Tbl full.
~ On md heat, Add 2 Tbls of oil t the sausage goodness left behind in the pan and Add the carrots, onions &
   garlic, S&P and saute til soft.
~ Add the sausage meat back in and saute for another 3 minutes
~ Add the half & half and let it cook down til it's bubbly
~ Add the crushed tomatoes
~ Swish the chicken broth around in the tomato can and add the broth to the pan
~ Add the sugar and mix well
~ On High heat let the sauce come to a rolling boil
~ Bring heat down to Low and let it simmer for at least 1 hour, starring occasionally so nothing sticks to the
   bottom of the pan

For the Ricotta:
~ Place the drained ricotta in a clean dry bowl
~Add the egg yolk and shredded parmigiano reggiano cheese and mix through

Assembly time!
I usually do sauce, noodles, ricotta, sauce, shredded cheese and then start the layers over again.  With the one box I can usually get 3 layers in finishing with the sauce and then shredded cheese on top.

~ Put 3-4 ladles of sauce on the bottom of the pan
~ I like to take a rubber spatula and spread the ricotta on individual lasagna noodle sheets just so that every bite
   gets some but it's up to you
~ On top of the noodles and ricotta add more sauce covering every inch and then spread the shredded moz and
   Italian cheese blend
~ Do the layers again 2 more times ending with sauce and shredded cheese on top

Take a large piece of foil, spray some Pam or equivalent and tightly wrap the top of the pan. 
Add a cookie sheet underneath and stick in the oven for 45 minutes.

20 minutes in, turn the pan in the oven.
35 minutes in, take the foil off the top and let the cheese brown a bit

Take it out of the oven and let sit for another 5 minutes and ENJOY!

Sorry forgot the final product pic...but you get the idea ;)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Oh Mikee You're So Fine!

Hello food lovers!

Haven't had much time to cook these days...actually haven't had much the appetite to...why....well we are expecting our 2nd son in mid Sept and I've been going through the joys of all day morning sickness that's why :)  But now that the first trimester yucks are behind me, I'm rip roaring ready to go back to my glutenous ways and cook up a storm...well as long as I'm not too sleepy that it ;)

I love taking recipes apart and making them up as I go.  Usually have really good outcomes too (or so my hubs and son say :))

But for this particular night, I wanted something really flavorful, comforting and FAST!

Quick and Easy Baked Sesame Terriyaki Chicken Thighs & Dill Basmati Rice (serves 4-6)

I seriously can't take credit for this recipe, thanks to my friend Joanna I saw the light :)

1 disposable rectangular aluminum pans for oven use or 2 9" aluminun disposable pie pans
1 1/2 cup MIKEE Sesame Terriyaki Sauce
6 Chicken Thighs w/ skin and bone intact (or any cut you like), washed and pat dried
1 1/2 cups basmati rice, rinsed thoroughly and soaked in water for 20-30 min
1 bunch fresh Dill
1 14.5oz can low sodium chicken stock (MAKE SURE ITS THE LOW ONE!)
1 cup water
1 Tbl. butter or ghee (optional)
Black pepper

Now I can already hear the snickers from the foodie world because of my bottled marinade but STFU you!  This stuff is amazing in a pinch or for those dinner parties that are ultra last minute!  whole sesame seeds are added to this sweet savory sauce, it's quite addictive.

Apologies for the lack of pics of the prep but I think I can do a good job illustrating in words :)

Preheat oven to 425

For Chicken:
Once you've thoroughly washed and dried your chicken thigh pieces, place them in the pan, make sure they are not touching...I usually like to use 2 9" pie pans and put 3 pieces on each in the beginning.

Start spooning sauce over the chicken and use your hands to get every inch of that chicken coated.

skin side up, place in oven for 25 min.
flip chicken and place back in the oven for another 15 min.
flip once more and place in the oven for another 10 min.

I know, I know a lot of flipping but TRUST ME please! :)

For Rice:
Wash the rice and remove any stones or husks that you find.  once the water is clear, submerge rice in water for at least 20 min.

Start prepping the Dill, I usually just run it though some running water, pat dry and cut off the excess stem as close to the fronds and then do a rough chop of them.

Drain the rice of the water it was sitting in and place in pot.
Add the Dill
Add the optional Tbl of butter
Add the low sodium chicken stock and water and stir.
Bring to a boil on HIGH heat, and then lower the temperature to the lowest setting possible and let it cook for 15 minutes, DO NOT OPEN LID!

After 15 minutes you should have fluffy dill laced basmati rice!


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

GNO on a work night baby!!!

When I can, I LOVE getting together with my girls.  New and old, don't matter to me!  Of course at any function with me invovled, there MUST be great food and drink! 

I'm a HUGE fan of Chef Tom Colicchio!  His staff is always very warm and unobtrusive, but then you would be too if you knew the wrath of God, aka TC, would come down upon you if you didn't act accordingly working in his restaurant...apparently he's a it scary to his employees....

Onto the food!

We all decided to do the 4 course pre-fixe at $69.00.  Not a bad price at all for a 4 course.

I love how they make you feel like a "VIP" diner in a sense by bringing out the daily chef prepared amuse bouche to try :) 

First amuse bouche was a english pea salad. very clean tasting and crisp

Second amuse bouche was a cold white asparagus soup with a little chip of pickled cucumber.  So refreshing and light with just amount of seasoning to bring out the sweet asparagus flavor

Third amuse bouche was a warm liver pate puff...I was the only one who enjoyed it at our table I think...the rest didn't seem to appreciate the little gamey flavor that came through once you bit down on the little puff...oh well their loss :)

Sadly I only got a pic of the salad and was too busy eating to get the shot of the other 2!!! :(

Oh and we couldn't get enough of the warm buttered dinner rolls!!  We got it sent to our table 3 times!

Here's the Menu:

Four Course Menu (choose one from each course)














My choices were:

The Foie Gras was shaved onto alternating very fine wafer crisps.  Really light in texture and flavor and the candied walnuts & thick Rhubarb jam went nicely as well...just enough sweet to balance out the dish overall :)

My least favorite dish sadly...It all sounded really good...come on squid and prawn is a winning combination...but for some reason the pairing was just not right int his dish.  The charred squid flavor overpowered the prawn so it made the dish kinda taste like what you would imagine a dirty gym sock or bad B.O. would taste like...I know weird analogy but it was that bad.  The boiled salted peanuts did nothing for the dish as well...

This dish was just alright.  It came with 4 different parts of the pig: belly, mini chops, face, and loin.  You definitely tasted the pork flavor, which I liked but I wished the skin on the pork belly was crispy instead of soft...the polenta lacked seasoning but the again I guess that was done so that the pork flavor would stand out.

Who can say no to doughnuts!  wish the 'nuts were a tad warm..they were a little bit too dense since they were a bit chilled.  The rest of the dish was great :)

They brought out a final round of amuse bouche: little round shortbread cookie (so good!) and little dark chocolate cherry bon bon like things, again very good!

Overall, I would go back...both the Tap Room and the Main Dining room menus are worth a visit :)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

ABC & Graves

A very dear close friend of mine has been told recently that she has Graves disease. What's graves, click HERE. It's been pretty rough on her and so I wanted to do something a little extra special to let her know I'm always here for her no matter what...the best way I know how to do that is with...FOOD :)

Let me tell you, it helps to have connections to get into this spot (thankful that I have that) :)
Atmosphere at ABC Kitchen is trendy, minimal with very clean lines.  I liked that the space featured the food and not how many adornments they could put out to make it "pretty"

It was just a party of 2 that night but man we ate like a party of 6, aside from the main dish, becasue my dining partner doesn't eat pork, the restaurant kindly split the other dishes we ordered in 2 when we mentioned we were sharing everything, big brownie point there ;)

First course:
~ Roasted Carrot And Avocado Salad crunchy seeds, sour cream and citrus...I think by far my favorite dish there.  The carrots were seasoned with some cumin/coriander spice and then roasted to OMG melt in your mouth goodness!

~  Roasted Kabocha Squash Toast fresh ricotta and apple cider vinegar...on a rustic piece of sourdough toast again seasoned very well and  the combo of the light ricotta and the semi dense squash paired nicely together

~ Roasted Cauliflower. Onion and walnut crumbs, fried egg ....Again another stellar dish, the Cauliflower was roasted just till fall off the fork tender and worked very well with the warm sunnyside up egg on top

Second Course:
~ Housemade spaghetti with chanterelle and parmesean...this was my least favorite sad to say...the dish was overpoweringly salty! we tried tasting each individual piece of the dish and all tasted fine seperately but combined them into a bite and it was waaay salty!  This was the reason why I didn't give the restaurant 5 stars...when we were served this dish, 2 different waiters came by and asked how it was and both times we mentioned it was way too salty and both times neither of them offered to take it back or on you servers!

Third Course:
~ Roast suckling pig w/plum and smoke bacon marmelade and braised turnips...OMG that crackling skin was to die for!  the pork was moist and again melted the minute it was in my mouth.  Turnips have a bad rep but I so love them, especially when they are the small teeny baby versions, sweet and butter!

Overall a great experience and pricing was right as well. We were way too stuffed to even fathom looking at the dessert menu, but next time we'll have to tackle that and review it as well :)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Let's Celebrate a Birthday...

No not mine, but a really dear friend who I consider my Lil Sis turned 24 last Friday.  I remember when I was 24....yeah not going there but it was a hell of a year in a good way :)
Plans were made to meet at her BF's place for pre-dinner champagne toast, other drinks and some small bites stuff...and then we were on our way to Riverpark for dinner.

Our reservation was late, 9:45, but we never felt rushed while waiting for another couple to show or while looking over the menu to order.

Let the eating begin!

First Course: Avocado & Hamachi Salad w/pickled red onions, radish & charred chilies; Mushroom Consommé w/mushroom frisee, pecorino crouton, caramelized shallots; Squid Ink Chitarra w/calamari, octopus, shrimp, lemon & fresno chilles; Pork Tortelloni w/turnips, red cabbage & sage


Avocado & Hamachi was really fresh and velvety. I was told by lil sis's BF that the mushroom consommé looked impressive but it lacked a little body.  The Baised Pork Tortelloni were rich but not overly and went really well with the broth that came with.  And the Squid Ink Chitarra had a nice bite to the handmade pasta, seafood was tender and the overall dish had a nice lemon briney note to it, overall a great start.

Second Course: 10oz. Berkshire Pork w/brussels sprouts-apple hash & parsnips puree; Grilled Flatiron Steak& Braised Brisket w/broccoli, fork smashed potatoes & balsamic glazed cippolinis; Roasted Leg of Lamb w/ swiss chard, pine nuts, capers, raisins, eggplant & oregano. 

There were 6 of us dining and only 3 pictures here because there were 2 orders of each; clearly we all have similar tastes and wants when it comes to food :)

Usually in restaurants like this I steer clear of the steak, but I have to say the Flatiron steak was the winner here because of the nice generous portion of braised brisket that comes with it.  Actually no, the entire dish was very well executed.

The Berkshire Pork was a very close second as well.  Tender and juicy with the right amount of sweet and savory from the accompanying sides.

The roasted leg of lamb....let me just put out there that I LOVE lamb.  But for some reason I didn't love this.  There was waaay too much going on the plate, too many flavors and components that just didn't jive.  In the middle of eating it, I seriously couldn't remember if I ordered lamb or pork because that lovely sultry gamey flavor of lamb was so masked. Tom Colicchio should really reconstruct this one because it does have the potential to be amazing.

Third Course: Sheep milk Yogurt Cheesecake w/roasted figs, preserved walnuts, anise hyssop; Beignets w/vanilla custard & strawberry preserves
The cheesecake was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. Totally made up for the lack luster lamb! It was rich, creamy, light and smooth all in one.  The birthday beignets were very good as well, crunchy exterior with a very soft light middle.  

Not pictured are the Affogato w/vanilla ice cream, frozen espresso meringue, cocoa nibs & espresso cookie and the Sorbet sampling concord grape, pear, & fig, why?, because the were pretty forgettable.  And come on you've seen sorbet scooped into a bowl before haven't you?!

Prices definitely matched the quality of each dish, ok not the lamb but the rest of them did, and the portions are generous as well.  Service & staff was unobtrusive but very friendly and knowledgeable as well.  

Overall I would definitely go back and recommend the restaurant. I think for my next visit I want to try there Brunch menu next time…um hello they have pork belly (and I don’t mean bacon!) as a side!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cocktails, Conversations & Marrow

When I'm not in the kitchen whipping up one my many culinary masterpieces, I'm an event planner here in NYC.  Most of my clients are the much hated 1% population of this world.  I mainly stick to planning and managing large scale luxury weddings and producing celebrity charity galas and fundraising events. 

Recently a really good friend of mine asked me to team up with her create these monthly events centered around wellness for optimal health.  So for our first event we decided to keep it food centered to show people that they can still have great organic options for cocktails and pair them with some amazing small bites as well.  First order of business, to find a mixologist who is knowledgeable about organic spirits and who can also take those organic spirits and make them into something mind blowing in a glass.

We started at Employees Only  (and actually ended here too) Hands down one of my favorite speakeasies in the city.  The big draw to this place is the amazingly talented bartenders/mixologists.  Yes they have a full bar, yes they have a full cocktails/drinks menu but what makes them the best is that you can ask any of their bartenders what you are in the mood for, the flavors you like, the spirits you enjoy, the allergies you have and they will create something totally amazing.  I've never had a drink here I didn't like, men maybe, but not the drinks.  From there we explained to the head mixologist our event mission and he began to make us some amazingly crazy cocktails...don't ask me if I remember the names because it was a long night lol...

The 2 up first in our binge quest for the right mixologist was a lovely drink called the Amelia: Luksusowa Potato Vodka & St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur shaken with pureed Blackberries & Fresh Lemon Juice and the West Side: Charbay Meyer Lemon Vodka and Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice shaken with Fresh Mint, served straight up.
The Amelia was stunning to look at and even more amazing once in my tummy!  It has a rich burgundy velvet look and taste to it, sweet but not cloyingly sweet. 

The West Side was sooo refreshing!  Charbay is a company based in California that makes these infused vodkas that are really infused with real fruit and ingredients not like some others that pour in a flavor "extract" to make their product taste like it's been infused with a bitter note. 

Amelia Cocktail (taken from the net):

West side Cocktail (taken from the net):

We also had some of the food there too, you know to balance out the alcoholism going on.

First up: Bone Marrow Poppers (taken with my G2 phone camera, not too shabby no?): Essentially a piece of marrow tucked inside a light pastry shell topped with a little greens and bordelaise sauce.  I felt the sauce was a bit much for this dish, I would have been happier with the puff pastry with the marrow and maybe some fleur de sal instead, still marrow is heavenly no matter what :)

Next up: Crispy Skate Paprikas crispy buttery skate wing with spaetzle and a light crème fraiche and tomato sauce.  This was AMAGING.  The skate was fried golden but not at all greasy with the a perfect crunch and the spaetzle and cream sauce were just great delicious accompaniments

Overall a great night AND we found our mixologist :)  Event details to follow soon so stay tuned :)