Friday, December 9, 2011

eating in queens

Here comes the next stop on our NYC food tour...only three months after the first installment!  Better late than never?  

Oddly enough--and it seemed to strike New York residents as especially odd--we stayed exclusively in Brooklyn and Queens the first 2/3 of our week-long summer trip.  We didn't even make it across the water to Manhattan until the last two (food-filled) days.  Those photos will be coming along, hopefully soon.  It's not necessarily that we didn't want to go to Manhattan, but there was already so much to see and to eat in Long Island's boroughs.  So, without further ado, Queens!

Long Island City

We spent one hot day in LIC and managed to swing by M.Well's diner for brunch between "Warm Up" festivities at MoMA PS1 and just before the diner was scheduled to move from its location at that time.  (Not sure what the status is currently.)  M.Wells had just been named in the Bon Appetit list of Best New Restaurants in 2011.  So, it was justifiably very busy, but worth the wait.  All our food was amazing.  Would definitely seek it out again when we return to the city.

adorable diner car interior 

egg-sausage sandwich with cheddar, pickled jalapenos, and tomato

fish & chips 

simple, but rich hamburger 

custardy maple pie 


After seeing Serious Eats writers repeatedly gush about the food courts in Flushing, I knew we had to go.  We took the long train ride out on a miserably rainy day and felt almost like we had left the states completely, the smells and sights were so fully Asian.

Here's a photo of the lovely food court at Flushing's New World Mall.

Here's a small corner of the food court where we actually ate something: Golden Shopping Mall's food court.

At the experts' insistence, we sought out Xi'an Famous Foods' cold skin noodles, a Chinese dish--and a combination of textures--like none I'd ever experienced before.  Hand-cut noodles with plenty of bite, cucumber, onions, and cilantro sit in a tear-jerkingly spicy sauce that's soaked up by spongey cubes of wheat gluten.  I want to go back to try stir-fried skin noodles, plus everything else on the menu.

Later on that evening, in sheer, wet exhaustion, we stumbled into a shabu shabu place called La Mei.  The kind couple sitting near us recommended the all-you-can-eat-in-two-hours option.  Even though we weren't all that hungry, we couldn't pass up the chance to dip a ton of different things in scalding pots of broth.  Seasoned buffet-goer Matt broke down during the last leg of our eating marathon, but I got a second wind when the fresh udon noodles showed up.  Oh man, I want some right now.

just some of the many things we tasted: fish balls, beef, napa cabbage, corn on the cob, pork blood rice cake, lamb, whitefish, cuttlefish, shrimp, spinach 

tasty little straw mushrooms

Check back for food tours of the Lower East Side and midtown Manhattan!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

eating in brooklyn

So, a couple weeks back we were in NYC, doing a veritable walking food tour of the city, armed with suggestions from the trusty Serious Eats and Everybody Likes Sandwiches blogs.  I am not going to review the places we went, since I'm pretty sure Serious Eats has covered every place we went at some point.  I am simply going to tempt you with food photos and hopefully provide at least one idea for a place to stop next time you're in the Big Apple.  

Let's start in Brooklyn!  Bear in mind, I know there are more neighborhoods in each of the NYC boroughs--I'm just listing the places we managed to make it to!

Crown Heights

We stayed with our friend in this neighborhood and had a lovely breakfast at Carribbean restaurant Trini-gul.

a "double" from Trini-gul

I could eat doubles every single morning for breakfast.  The heavily seasoned chickpea stew glues two soft flatbreads together and fills my stomach with a satisfying ball of starch to start off the day right.  Pictured with authentic Brooklyn chain link fence.

Our last meal in New York was a memorable one.  A couple of days before we had passed on eating pastrami at Katz's Deli (the Lower East Side food tour coming soon!) in favor of wrapping up our trip with the pastrami at David's Brisket House & Deli.  I guess I will never (?) know what I missed by skipping Katz's, but I do know I was not disappointed at David's.  

a classic pastrami on rye with mustard from David's Brisket House

My eyes probably grew wide when the fellow assembling sandwiches pulled a huge hunk of fragrant meat from a steam tray and put it on the meat cutter, juice dripping off the edge of the table and onto a strategically-placed towel.  So tender, so fatty, so hard to forget.


Sunday morning we made it out to the Brooklyn Flea at the East River Waterfront in Williamsburg.  There's also one in Fort Greene on Saturdays.  It was every bit the foodie haven that it had been advertised to be.  

pupusas from the Red Hook Vendors: pork "special" at left and chicken/cheese at right 

Matt, posing dutifully with watermelon juice from the Red Hook Vendors 

a fatty, crunchy (!) roast pork Porchetta sandwich 

for dessert: the "goodwich" from The Good Batch

I wanted so badly to have stroopwafels from The Good Batch, especially the peanut-butter-filled kind.  Somehow, even after we purchased an ice cream sandwich from that very stand, we failed to realize that it was indeed the stroopwafel place.  Oh, well.  They were probably out of them anyway and that would have just made me more crazy.

Not pictured (our camera battery died at dinner) is pizza at Forcella in Williamsburg.  Now, none of us ordered the montanara pictured in the Serious Eats review, but we did have a couple of the fried pizzas, and they were folded up and fried like calzones plus sauce, rather than flat as depicted.  We were confused, but no less satisfied.  

Coming soon: a pictorial food romp through Queens!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

all good summer things

I have been criminally lax about updating this blog, especially for the summertime!  In my defense, I've had a full course load this summer, but I have a few weeks between summer classes and fall classes to try and be productive.  I am going to really make an effort to update things this fall, if for no other reason than to feel like I'm doing something.

Anyway, I thought it was about time I posted a recipe.  We made this a few weeks back with one of the first summer tomatoes (from the farmer's market--we killed our tomato plant).  We also happened to have an abundance of blue cheese leftover from another meal.  We always have basil (out back), crusty bread, and our old standby, Sashay Acres bacon, on hand.  A meal was born.

Actually, we ate this as an appetizer, but it would be more than enough as an entree.  I only stacked our salads a few tomato slices high, but next time I'd go even lower--one or two slices only--for easier eating.  Next time I also think I'll splurge on the fancy French gray shallots at the farmer's market for more intense shallot flavor in the dressing.

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Bacon, Blue Cheese, and Basil
very slightly adapted from Gourmet via Epicurious
serves 2 (easily multiplied)

2 slices crusty white bread, like sourdough
4 slices bacon (depending on how porky you like your veggies)
olive oil (if needed)
1/4 c finely chopped shallot
3 tbsp Sherry vinegar
2-3 assorted medium heirloom tomatoes, cut 1/4- to 1/3-inch thick
15 small fresh basil leaves
1 1/2 oz blue cheese, at room temperature, crumbled

Cook bacon in (cast iron, preferably) pan until crisp, and remove to paper towels.  Leave bacon drippings in pan.

In the same pan, toast bread on both sides in bacon drippings over medium heat.  If you don't like your bread bacon-y, pour off drippings into a heatproof bowl and reserve.  Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in the same pan and toast bread.

Using remaining bacon drippings (pour them back in the pan if you poured them off), plus a couple tablespoons olive oil if the pan is getting dry, cook shallots over medium heat, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes.  Add vinegar and simmer, whisking, until emulsified, about 1 minute.  Season dressing with salt and pepper and keep warm.

Crumble bacon.  Arrange bread on plates and divide tomato slices among them, stacking slices and sprinkling some basil and bacon between slices. Sprinkle cheese and remaining basil and bacon over and around tomatoes. Spoon some of warm bacon dressing over and around tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

portland: dinner highlights

So, onto the other meal we ate in Portland.  There were no lunches, since the breakfasts were so huge.  Even though we ate at a lot more breakfast spots than dinner places, the dinners we had were some of my favorite meals on our trip.


Wonderful seasonal and local dishes.  I got to try my first fiddlehead fern and huckleberries.  Seemed like sort of a Portland version of our favorite restaurants in Madison.  Great for grown-ups and kids.

special: seared halibut with morels, fingerling potatoes, fiddlehead ferns, and tarragon vinaigrette

braised pork collar over greens and potatoes with apple butter

cuban sandwich with ham, roasted pork, house-made pickles, and mustard aioli

huckleberry cheesecake

Toro Bravo

A Spanish tapas joint--my first tapas meal.  We each ordered something we thought sounded good, then shared.  It was a very nice, though dark, birthday meal for Matt.

fideos with spring vegetables and bacon

drunken grilled pork over avocado salad

braised lamb with coriander and apricots over house-made noodles 
(my personal favorite of the night)

Would definitely return for more spicy, rich, sticky Thai food.  Whiskey Soda Lounge would make a fun stop--their related bar across the street serves really intriguing Thai appetizers.

clockwise from top right:
khao soi kai - curry noodle soup
duck larb issan
sticky rice & sides
sai ua samun phrai - Ching Mai spicy sausage
Vietnamese fish sauce wings

huckleberry drinking vinegars

Monday, July 11, 2011

portland: breakfast highlights

Matt and I went to Portland in May to visit his folks.  It was a great trip.  We ate pretty much constantly, as there are so many places to eat and we only had four days.  Previously unbeknownst to me, Portland is full of great breakfast places.  I'll try to do the quickest rundown possible of a very small sampling of Portland breakfasts.

Their namesake is delicious, especially the vegetarian version, full of sage and thyme and mushrooms and reminiscent of Thanksgiving dinner.  Plus, a huge menu with lots of omelette and scramble choices, life-changing beignets, and a short walk to vintage and record shopping made this a fast favorite.

beignets with powdered sugar and maple syrup

biscuit with vegetable gravy

Everything was great here, though to be honest, I've had better chicken-fried bacon.   You really can't beat fluffy pancakes with house-made strawberry syrup and something called "pork belly benedict" (which, by the way, Matt can't stop talking about).

huevos rancheros 

 chicken-fried bacon with caramel sauce

pork belly benedict with bacon fat hollandaise

Arlita Library Cafe

A solid breakfast was had here as well.  Nice specials and, based on the coffee cake, I'd say wonderful baked goods too.

pear & fig coffee cake

scrambled eggs, asparagus, bacon, and stout cheese sauce on toast

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

new finds

Lately I've only been posting about food, and mostly (or exclusively) Meatless Monday posts.  So, I thought I'd share some of the rad things I've picked up in various locales as of late.  The dress I found at a great little vintage shop on a recent trip to Portland, Oregon (can't remember the name, but it was on Mississippi).  I wore it to me and Matt's fourth wedding anniversary dinner.

60s wiggle dress, $25 
American Tourist "Tiara" suitcase, $15

I got the perfect travel accessory at a little antique store in Dickeyville, Wisconsin, home of this place:

 Dickeyville Grotto

Luckily, the church adjacent to the grotto had a garage sale!  I grabbed this super cute sewing box (the chimney is a pin cushion!) and also a coat, but it's way too hot right now to even look at a wool coat.  

 sewing box, $0.50

Matt and I also had a very successful trip to our favorite local consignment shop a few weeks back and got the following items:

 metal cabinet, $25

 set of 6 coasters, $2

vintage fan--watch your fingers!

Monday, June 20, 2011

greens overload--conquered!

Our CSA has been pretty much straight greens for the first two weeks.  Spinach, kale, arugula, bok choy, mustard greens.  Although I could freeze the spinach and possibly some of the other greens, I've decided to take on the challenge of working through bag upon bag of leafy greens.  

spicy greens and soba noodles

Have you ever had the experience where you look at a beautiful seasonal cookbook in late winter and salivate over the early spring recipes?  Then you realize you're in the upper Midwest and those spring ingredients won't be available locally until June, or late May if you're lucky.  I'm trying not to whine about other parts of the country being way ahead of our growing season.  Instead I'm pulling out my spring recipes and enjoying the first crops of the Wisconsin summer.

heat sources utilized

I've been taking some liberties with my recipes since I have had spring garlic and onions readily available.  In addition to a couple of cloves of garlic, I added my last spring garlic stalk and tripled the green onion input.  I was also pretty liberal with the ginger.  And I opted to use some teeny tiny serrano peppers from the farmer's market in place of the crushed red chili flake.  But when I got to tasting the noodles, the heat from the peppers was not coming through, so I threw in a scant teaspoon of gochugaru, Korean chili powder.  When that wasn't cutting it either, Matt suggested we turn to togarashi, a tasty Japanese seasoning mix of sesame seeds, chili powder, orange peel, and more that was one of the only spicy things to cross our lips in Japan.  My good friend togarashi finally did the trick.

This is an easy and solid stir fry that could be very flexible with the greens and seasonings used.  Throw in whatever greens you've got on hand--they cook down quite a bit.  It calls for balsamic vinegar, which I can only assume is a stand-in for Chinese black vinegar.  Along with the rice vinegar, I thought it lent kind of an odd sweetness to the dish, so I think next time I might try sherry vinegar instead.  

Spicy Greens and Soba Noodles
very slightly adapted from

6 oz soba noodles; or substitute other Asian noodles such as udon, somen, or ramen 
2 tsp sesame oil; or substitute peanut oil
1 tbsp vegetable oil, preferably peanut
1-2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 tsp minced garlic
½ tsp crushed red chile, such as piquin
¼ c chicken or vegetable broth (be sure to use vegetable broth for a completely vegetarian dish!)
8 oz mustard greens, bok choi, spinach, or other greens, stems removed and coarsely chopped
2 oz straw mushrooms (I omitted these this time)
1 c mung bean sprouts
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds for garnish, plus sriracha, sambal, or togarashi as desired

    For the sauce:
    1 tbsp balsamic or sherry vinegar
    4 tsp rice vinegar
    1 tbsp peanut oil
    2 tsp light soy sauce
    1-3 green onions, chopped
    ¼ tsp dark sesame oil
    ¼ tsp crushed red chile, such as piquin or gochigaru
    ¼ tsp sugar
      Cook the noodles according to the directions on the package. Drain and rinse the noodles and place in a bowl. Add the sesame oil and toss to coat.  Combine all the sauce ingredients in a bowl and stir to mix.
      Heat a heavy skillet or wok over medium-high heat, add the vegetable oil, and when hot, add the ginger, garlic, and chile and stir-fry for a couple of minutes.  Add the broth, and when simmering, add the greens and cook until done. Add the mushrooms and mung beans and cook for a couple of minutes.  Stir the sauce into the vegetable mixture, add the noodles, and toss to coat and reheat.  Put the noodles into a bowl, garnish with toasted sesame seeds, and serve.
      A meatless meal actually on a Monday...imagine that!

      Sunday, May 8, 2011

      happy mother's day

      Today on Mother's Day I'm thinking about how much of my cooking abilities and interests are because my mom also loved to cook.  I have often observed that I was never taught to do things like cut fruits and vegetables--I just sat and watched my mom.  I know how to make basic meals without a recipe the same way my mom did, which oftentimes I think she learned from her mom.  I hope I can pass that knowledge along someday.  I also give her credit for helping me develop my tastes in food.  She introduced me to different flavors from early on and set the ball rolling for me to expand my tastes more and more.   Cooking and eating are such a big part of my life and I enjoy sharing it with my mom still.  Thanks, Mom!


      Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Goat Cheese
      from Serious Eats (I think there's a missing step in their recipe, so I've filled in the blanks below with what I did.)

      1 lb broccoli rabe, chopped
      1/3 c extra-virgin olive oil
      6 garlic cloves, chopped
      3/4 tsp crushed red chile flakes
      12 oz orecchiette (I can never find orecchiette at my grocery store, so I used a short-cut pasta that looked close enough.)
      2 tbsp lemon zest
      4 oz goat cheese, sliced 

      Pour about 8 quarts of water into a large pot, add a few tablespoons of salt, and bring it to a boil. Toss in the broccoli rabe and cook for 4 minutes. Remove it with a pair of tongs and immediately toss it in some ice water. Chill for a few minutes then drain and pat dry.

      Heat the olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat.  Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and saute 1-2 minutes until garlic is just golden.  Add the broccoli rabe and cook 3-5 minutes until stalks are tender and the leaves wilted.

      Meanwhile, bring the pot of water back to a boil and cook the orecchiette according to the directions on the box. Taste the pasta with a minute left on the timer. If al dente, turn off the heat, drain the pasta, and transfer it to the skillet. Turn the heat to high, add the lemon zest, and season with salt. Cook for a minute, stirring constantly.

      Transfer the pasta to bowls or plates. Add a bit of goat cheese to each one. Serve.