Recently I had the chance to travel to Canada on business. It was a whirlwind trip, but I did have a few hours in downtown Ottawa. One of my good friends always makes time to stop at Mickey Ds abroad to check out their regional offerings and in her honor I hit up the McDonalds Rideau Street to see what McDonalds is serving up just over the boarder...
Just glancing at the "Treats" menu you can already spot the Canadian influence. Blueberry Maple pie? Never seen that in the states. Their treats also had a bit of a European flair with a choice of mint and caramel Aero McFlurrys. Unfortunately I just got this one measly photo before I was busted by the McDonalds equivalent of the mounties.
But I did notice that their regular fare included grilled or fried Chicken McMinis topped with pesto sauce, "zesty mango" or done up Spicy Thai-style and served on a mini baguette. I don't know about you, but that at least sounds way more interesting than the standard grilled chicken sandwiches served at our local McDonalds. Almost makes me want to go back to try them, though it's hard to imagine it topping the Crocchette con Spinaci e Parmigiano Reggiano that I got from the McDonalds in Naples. Have you had any excellent McDonalds experiences abroad? jump
Tabla was one of the first high-end restaurants I ever remember wanting to eat at. It opened around the time I was finishing up high school, you do the math, and somewhere between it being Indian-fare-"if I'm going to try Indian, I want it to be good,"-and it not being the stuffy Eleven Madison Park, I decided it would be on my list. But then I forgot about it. Every now and then I would be reminded of what my dinner there would be like, but I always figured it would be around, and one day I'd have "fancy date night" there and that would be that. Then word came out that it was closing. When a good friend approached about going to the Brooklyn Brewery's farewell dinner there, I chomped at the bit.
The dinner was prix-fixe down to the beer we were going to be drinking. I didn't have a problem with this because I would have an incredibly hard time picking out one entree, and there's also my preference of drinking beer with my dinners. To start, we received some Sorachi Ale, and Tabla's celebrated naan. I've never seen such airy naan, and it was the best I've ever tasted.
First course was Hamachi Tartare with Cuvee de Cardoz. Apparently, Brooklyn Brewery thought that all their 2009 cases of Cuvee de Cardoz had been drunk, until they found the last one. Our drinks were from that case. The hamachi was, in my amateur opinion, superb; it tasted like the sea and the complementing ginger and mint added a nice kick I would have never thought of.
Next up, the famous Crab Cake. I had heard it was one of the best things on the menu, and true to the rumors, it was pretty freaking awesome. The crab taste isn't overpowered by the breading (panko,) spices, or accompanying guacamole. Turns out this is one of Garrett Oliver's favorite dishes there as well. For it, he chose to pair the dish with Blast, a double IPA.
Third course ended up being another seafood dish: Rice Flaked Lobster paired with the Brooklyner-Schnieder "Hopfen-Weisse" Weizenbock. This was the most unique presentation of lobster, the rice made it a bit crunchy and a side of excellently cooked brussels sprouts bringing up the seasonal aspect. Of course, the lobster was incredible, meaty and fresh. It made me almost consider liking cooked, not in a roll, lobster.
The main entree, if you can call it that, was Sweet Spice Braised Oxtails atop a Tapioca Pilaf, Peanuts, and Pea Tendrils. The oxtail was "fall off the bone" tender and meaty, complemented by the sweet sauce slathered on top. I even started considering eating the bone marrow-something I still have issues doing. This was paired with Cookie Jar Porter, a dark, sweet, oaty porter.
For dessert, we received the Tibetan Tiger Tea-Chocolate Pavé with Seckel Pears and Milk Sorbet and some Black Ops, a Russian Imperial Stout, to drink. The rich and very decent pavé is sitting on a caramel swirl that tasted delicious when mixed in with the cake. Though my dinner companion didn't care for the sorbet, our first disagreement of the night, I thought it was creamy and perfect for the pears. Of the dishes here, it's probably the only one I could ever recreate at home.
All in all, it was a fabulous dinner and will most likely be the only time I ever get to eat at Tabla. If you should find an offer to eat there before it closed on December 30th, you shouldn't take the time to think twice.
I'm sure you've heard more than enough from me about San Francisco, but the town is simply LOADED with good food. It almost seems to have more good eats per capita than New York! And each time I go there, it feels like I haven't even scratched the surface, and missed something major. Here are the other highlights of my trip:
At Waterbar located beneath the Bay Bridge, they have a happy hour special that involves $1 oyster and $5 glasses of wine. Not a raw oyster fan myself, I accompanied my cousin there where she happily slurped back a dozen in no time.
At Shanghai House out in Outer Richmond, I got to try some perfect shanghai dumplings, along with fried flounder and fried prawns with walnuts. Covered in a sweet, sticky sauce, and probably terrible for you, they were ultimately completely delicious. I've never seen this on a menu, but I will be looking around New York for such a thing.
Of course I stopped by my favorite bakery, Tartine, and got my usual morning bun and bread pudding. The seasonal fruit at the time was Sierra Beauty apples, a variety mostly grown on the West Coast. The baked version tasted more like an tart apricot than an apple to us.
I'd like to give a shout-out to the original Pork Store Cafe in The Haight. Every time I get breakfast here, the staff is lovely and the food is outstanding, healthy or not. It's an institution and for good reason.
Yes, this is my gratuitous In-N-Out shot. I don't think it's possible for me to be within miles of one and NOT get a cheeseburger animal style and a chocolate shake.
Mind you I ate that burger after finally visiting Humphry Slocombe and getting their Butterbeer AND Secret Breakfast ice cream. Secret Breakfast consists of cornflakes and bourbon, and is quite the boozy treat. The two flavors went well together and had I not been eating all afternoon, I would have also tried their duck fat pecan pies.
Lastly, I spent part of my last moments there drinking at the wonderful Anchor Brewery. Yes, I was able to get a tour-reservations are now six months in advance-and learned a bit about the differences in their brewing process. But most importantly, I got to sample their current offerings including the seasonal Holiday that had just come out. I think it's nicely spiced and pretty delicious, and have already been searching for it here.
The main reason behind my most recent trip to San Francisco, which is starting to feel like a second home, was to participate in our wonderful advertiser's food blogger convention: the Foodbuzz Festival 2010. Yes, Foodbuzz are the lovely people behind our banner. I had gone to their first festival last year and left a bit underwhelmed, but my hope for this year wasn't misguided! It completely came together this year!
Friday night was the Street Food Fare at the Fort Mason Center. After a few announcements and a foodie Yankee Swap, it was time to eat and Foodbuzz procured some of the best local food vendors to get us full.
Of the ones there, Roli Roti topped my list yet again with their porchetta, fresh off their mobile spit. The crusty, but soft bread; the spices; the cracklin' skin; the roasted potatoes. I had forgotten how unbelievable delicious and perfect their sandwich is for something that comes off a truck.
My runner-up was a tie. First, there was 4505 Meats' pork loin sandwich and chicharrones. The pork loin was encrusted in corn meal rendering it incredibly crunchy, and their jalapeno brine infused just enough spice into the meat. The fresh sesame bun, take note of the black sesames, and chicharrones made this little dish a keeper.
And I also did love Diamond Lil's Viking Gumbo and Vegan Paella. The bustaurant's serving was spicy with a thick sauce, chock full of vegetables and shrimp, and I'm sure of bowl of it would be meal enough for me.
Saturday afternoon was the Tasting Pavilion. Oh, tasting tents, where to begin. Marc of No Recipes said it best later on in the day, "You eat a lot, but you don't really have a meal." I had some good eating, like my DIY fish tacos-they included a taco bar this time.
And one of each of the 'Smores being presented by Ghiradelli. I love 'smores, I couldn't help myself. But I didn't feel like I'd had a meal, just grazed for hours and was a little ill because of it. As awesome as these events are, and they're pretty great especially for introducing us to new foods, your meals get a little thrown off and most of the time, I don't know when to stop the eating and get out of there.
Luckily, I did need a good nap before dinner. It was my vacation after all, and all vacations have a nap quota. This year, the fancy Saturday dinner was in the Ferry Building. First course was a Golden Beet Tart, yay, delicious vegetables. But the next course was perfectly Seared Scallops! Like butt-ah! Melted in my mouth they did. And they were in a butter sauce to boot! With roasted fennel; I didn't know I like roasted fennel.
Next was a rack of lamb with butternut squash puree and wild mushrooms. All was excellently cooked, well seasoned, and buttery sauteed goodness. I wanted to lick the plate, it was that awesome.
By the time dessert came, I was already blown away by the delicious dinner, which was exponentially better than last years, and the free-flowing wine (I have no idea how these pictures came out in focus). I believe I liked the almond cake and sherry sabayon, but the details are a little fuzzy.
Hopefully next year's festival will be just as good, or even better. I'd like to thank Foodbuzz for having me-as a Featured Publisher, all of this food was free for me. jump
I'm a sucker for holiday treats. And there's something about Halloween treats that are especially fun. The "black & orange" cookies ($2) at Terrace Bagel are no exception. While these traditional black & whites may don different colors for holidays (I've also spotted green and whites for St. Patrick's Day), year 'round they are among my favorite black & whites in the city...
What makes the black & whites so tasty at Terrace Bagel? Well, let's start with the cookie. It's moist and cakelike. Very nice to sink your teeth into. Their vanilla icing is pleasantly sweet, but not overly so. The chocolate icing actually tastes like chocolate. For me, the perfect black and white is one where both halves are equally delicious. No flavor favoritism. In my book, the black & whites at Terrace never disappoint.
Where do go for great black & whites?
Terrace Bagels 224 Prospect Park W between 16th St & Windsor Pl Brooklyn, NY 11215 (718) 768-3943 jump
With T-Day just around the corner pies are in their glory this time of year. Pumpkin, apple, cranberry, pear, squash, we love you all. Four & Twenty Blackbirds, our go to pie purveyor in the Slope, is selling whole pies for the holiday starting on Tuesday (and cutting off weekend laptop users starting this weekend)...
"To our loyal weekend customers - due to our increasingly busy weekends, we must limit laptop usage to the following hours: Saturday from 5pm to 7pm and Sunday from 5pm to 6pm. We appreciate your understanding and hope to see you soon!"
Now I've been guilty of holing up in a coffee house with my laptop to get some work done. I try to make several purchases to justify my space, but I totally see where the Four & Twenty folks are coming from in limiting peak hour laptop use. They do a lot of by the slice business and it kind of sucks when you go to a coffee house (or pie shop) to have dessert and discover that all the seats in the house are taken by people using the spot as their own personal office (or coff-ice, if you will).
Now on to the most important news...the Thanksgiving pie schedule.
They will have whole pies for sale in the shop November 23rd through 25th. To make sure there are lots of pies on hand they won't be serving other baked goods or pie by the slice. The early bird gets the pie...
Tuesday 23rd: 8am til they sell out. . .
Salted Caramel Apple
Bittersweet Chocolate Pecan
Wednesday 24th: 8am til they sell out. . .
Salted Caramel Apple
Bittersweet Chocolate Pecan
Bourbon Sweet Potato
Thursday 25th: 8am til they sell out. . .
Salted Caramel Apple
Bittersweet Chocolate Pecan
Bourbon Sweet Potato
Another year, another Foodbuzz Festival, another trip out to San Francisco. Though I made my requisite trips to Tartine and others, I wanted to devote this vacation to food trucks. During the past summer, Matt Cohen of San Francisco Cart Project started Off the Grid. On Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, a rotating variety of food trucks meet up in the same locations to vend for a few hours. I hoped to hit them up at least once, and felt lucky when I got to visit them twice.
On Thursday evenings, you can find the truck in the Upper Haight at Stanyan and Waller. Used to New York where if you put two or more food trucks together all hell can break loose, I was prepared for quite the chaotic scene. Instead I got a peaceful, friendly, let's all hang out and eat in a parking lot scene. It was a welcome change for me, I could see myself getting some dinner here every Thursday if it was in my neighborhood.
Granted we did show up a little late in the evening; my cousin and her roommate were able to get the last pork bun from Chairman Bao, while I went for the Hawaiian take on chicken and rice from 51st State. Along with the last bun, which they both agreed was fantastic, they received a mediocre pumpkin soup. I had to admit that I was a bit jealous they got that bun, I figured I would probably get a chance to visit the truck again. Unfortunately, I didn't, next time.
But 51st State's take on our beloved chicken and rice was definitely something to write home about. Their Mochiko Chicken meal consists of fried, ginger-scented, Shoyu marinated chicken on white rice with kimchee macaroni salad. The marinating and sauce make the chicken sweet with a bit of stickiness, and it's perfectly fried, not greasy at all. It reminded me of a sweet Katsu over rice, and I was a bit happy that they're on the other side of the country or I'd eat it all the time.
The next day, I convinced Yvo to join me at the Friday lunch Off the Grid spot by City Hall. Since the various trucks alternate weeks, this means a whole different group (save 51t State) than the night before and the same groups this week.
We went with an order of the Sisig Tacos from the Filipino truck Hapa SF. The two tacos contain braised pork, avocado salsa verde, radishes, and cabbage. At $3 a taco, they are a bit expensive for the Bay Area, but you do get some nice chunks of pork. I wouldn't be adverse to eating this for lunch, but I would have to buy something else to tide me over.
Then, we saw the jackpot, for me at least. I love ice cream, I love soft serve, I adore our main summer soft serve go-tos, Big Gay and Miss Softee, but one thing I've always wished for is flavored soft serve. You can throw a lot of toppings on a vanilla/chocolate twist, but it's still a vanilla/chocolate twist. So when I saw the menu at Twirl and Dip, the sun shone down on me, the birds chirped louder, angels began "Ahhhhh!"-ing, and I had found my dream truck.
Yes, flavored soft serve. And not just any flavors, Ginger and Mexican Chocolate! Two of their rotating flavors! Which you can get in fresh, handmade cone, OR as an ice cream sandwich! And for the lactose-less, coconut milk ice cream. ALL for under $5. I went with the twist since the two flavors complemented each other quite nicely together. The Mexican Chocolate had a nice amount of good cinnamon in it, while the ginger wasn't too overwhelming. It was held by one of the best cones I've ever had in my life, crunchy and fresh-we need more handmade, fresh cones like these in New York. Between this and Sylas & Maddy's, I'm getting spoiled.
For those of you in SF, this Friday night is the season finale of the Fort Mason Off the Grid, the one where I was so close, yet so full. If I were you, I'd totally make it my Friday evening plans.jump
As we rolled up to the gas station-yes, it's adjoining a gas station-the line was out the door. A little line wasn't going to deter this lady, especially once I spotted the slabs of ribs, fries, and sandwiches. Nom, nom, nom. A good 45 minutes later, we were staring at the big board menu when I noticed that this was my lucky day.
See the sign off to the side? It says "Burnt End Sandwich." Sweet Jesus, the angels above and my father below were watching out for me.
Look at those juicy, tender burnt end chunks. Kansas got the stink eye when he tried to take bites, all of the crunchy fat and meat of this baby was mine. I put a good amount of sweet sauce on after taking this, before it managed to hit spots I didn't even know I had. This may quite possibly be the best sandwich of my life, so far.
Plus, he had his own sandwich, the Z-Man: brisket, provolone, and two onion rings. It's sloppy, but it's good. I remember only taking one bite, I was too focused on my sandwich. Both of us were greatly impressed by their nicely spiced fries, those are a definite side dish for the awesome sandwiches.
Have you ever secretly wanted to participate in your office's NCAA bracket, but shy away because you don't actually know much about sports? (I swear I'm not speaking from any experience here. Nope, not at all.) Well, in the Piglet Tournament, sixteen of the year's best cookbooks face off bracket style with the winner taking home the Piglet trophy.
Sharpen your pencils and start your brackets! Here are the competitors:
Wow. Impressive slate. It's going to be a tough fight to the end. The cookbooks will be judged by an all star roster of judges:
Christine Muhlke, food editor of the New York Times Magazine
Ezra Klein, staff writer at The Washington Post
Chris Cosentino, chef at Incanto
Francis Lam, writer at Salon.com
Lockhart Steele, president of Curbed Network
Corby Kummer, editor of The Atlantic Food Channel
Aleksandra Crapanzano, screenwriter and food writer
Ree Drummond, creator of The Pioneer Woman
Peter Kaminsky, co-author of Seven Fires
Soraya Darabi, co-founder of Foodspotting
Todd Carmichael, CEO and co-founder of La Colombe Torrefaction
Deb Perelman, creator of Smitten Kitchen
Gabrielle Hamilton, chef/owner of Prune
Meg Hourihan, co-founder of Blogger
Susan Orlean, staff writer for The New Yorker
Michael Ruhlman, author of Ratio
Mario Batali, chef, cookbook author and founder of Eataly
The rounds will play out over the next three weeks and winners will be announced each weekday (beginning today!) with the final winner revealed at The Piglet Party at the 92nd Street Y Tribeca on Tuesday, November 30th at 7:00pm.
You can join in the celebration, by purchasing tickets to The Piglet here. In addition to the big announcement, there will be a panel discussion on Food Porn with Frank Bruni, Chris Cosentino, Ben Leventhal and Frank Falcinelli. And for drinks and snacks? You can expect tasty tidbits from Van Leeuwen, Rick's Picks, Liddabit Sweets, Mexicue, Nuts + Nuts and Theo Peck along with wine from Hanna Winery and beer from Kelso of Brooklyn. Not enough for you? How about a pop-up cookie stand from Dorie Greenspan? Oh, yeahhhhh.
Tickets are $38 ($5 goes to Wellness in the Schools, a non-profit focused on improving environment, nutrition, and fitness in NYC public schools).
Good luck to all the competitors and a special hooray to our pal, Cathy Erway! While you're waiting for the action to unfold, you can catch up on last year's contest here.
Last weekend Lil Bobo came to visit us (who am I kidding, he came to see Little B and Guided by Voices). When we woke up on Sunday morning we discovered he was gone. A couple hours later he returned, stuffed from brunch at Shopsin's. That's right. Shopsins. On a Sunday. 'Cause Sunday brunch is baaaaaaack!
Lawman and I had a tradition of going to Shopsin's for brunch after Sunday Mass at their Carmine Street location. When they moved to the Essex Street Market, Sunday brunch ended because the market itself has traditionally been closed on Sundays. But last weekend marked the first that the Essex Street Market was open. I can't wait to swing by one of these Sundays for brunch. I might have to get my old Sunday standby, the Piaf (eggs and fried onions with gruyere sauce over toast).
I have a bit of a reputation for taking on overly ambitious baking projects (pie pops, anyone?) often at all hours of the night. But writer, Nina Callaway, makes me look like a total lightweight with her second annual Pieathon. Yes, that's right a pieathon, 24 hours of straight pie baking to benefit CancerCare...
Nina founded Pieathon last year to honor her parents, who both died from cancer. As the narrator of Pushing Daisies would say...the facts are these...
*Pumpkin Pie (with a ginger snap lined crust), $30
*Pecan Pie (with a flaky pastry crust), $35
*Chocolate Pecan Pie (with a flaky pastry crust) $37
*Sugar Cream Hoosier Pie (homemade graham cracker crust). $20
*And the recently added: Cranberry walnut Pie (apparently it "straddles the line between cake and pie, with the rich moistness of a cake, but the crispy outer edges and density of a pie." Sounds good to me!), $25
If you live in the city you can make one of her pies your very own by purchasing it here. As of yesterday morning, she's sold out of Pecan, Pumpkin, Chocolate Pecan, and Sugar Cream. And can still take a few more orders Cran Walnut. If you can't get your hand on one of the pies, consider sponsoring her by the hour.
According to Nina: 100% of the proceeds go to CancerCare, and can be fully tax-deductible if you pay through the CancerCare website (just give Nina the heads up so she can count it towards her total)
"Baking for 24 hours straight is as much a mental challenge as a physical one, and each dollar helps with the fortitude!"
If that alone doesn't sway you, for each $24 you pledge (or for each $1 per hour), Nina will send you one of her pie recipes. Pledge $125 or more and she'll send you her "extremely awesome chocolate chip cookies." Yum. jump
One of the things I noticed early on coming to NYC from a small New England town where everyone knows each other is that the anonymity of the city allows for a lot of passive aggressive behavior. You know the drill, you're walking down the street and some decides to "tell" you as they are passing what they think of you or whatever you're doing. They don't actually stop you and bring it up. The just mumble it loud enough for you to hear it, but not so loud that it would likely inspire you to talk back to them. Thanks. Um, thanks a lot. But the other day a passive aggressive comment about food trucks got me thinking...
Here's the scene. Lawman and I were out in the Slope with Little B. I had a cake craving (when do I not have a cake craving?). We had just been to a party, but because of my tree nut allergy I couldn't enjoy the cake there. Boo. Lawman promised me some cake. We happened to be outside of Barnes & Noble and the Cupcake Stop Truck happened to be there.
Seizing the moment (carpe cake-um!) I decided to get a Fluffernutter cupcake $3. I'll be honest and say that I haven't had a Cupcakestop cupcake--save a free one they were giving out for some Dress Barn promo--since they opened because their cupcakes frankly didn't impress me. But they were there and I was there, so I bought one. Just as I was about to sink my teeth into it, Passive Aggressive Dude breezes by saying something to the effect of "stealing from the stores that have to pay the rent." I assume he was referring to my buying from a mobile vendor versus say one of the other bakeries down the strip.
While I can't think there are any bakeries in the immediate vicinity, CupcakeStop happened to be parked out in front of B&N, so I suppose I could have patronized them inside. But unlike most passive aggressive comments, this one actually got to me. Readers know that I love food carts and trucks and am a big supporter of the mobile vending community. Nine times out of ten when I go to a cart or truck to eat, it's because I've sought them out specifically (twitter stalking, anyone?), so no surrounding business is actually losing my money, because I wasn't a likely customer for them to begin with. In this case, however, the comment hit home because I'm not that big a fan of CupcakeStop's product and I bought it anyway.
If I had thought about it and not been swayed by convenience, I would have gone the 10 or so blocks down the road to buy a Robicelli's cupcake from Blue Apron--a product I love from a bricks and mortar store I love, thereby showing my support for two vendors I very much enjoy. And a Robicelli's cupcake is cheaper (at $2.50 each) and much tastier, at least in my book.
One of my favorite things about food is the community of people who make, sell, eat, and write about it. For me knowing the stories behind my food makes it taste that much better. I don't have to tell you that it's a tough economy, but as we head into the end of the year, remember to support the small businesses you really love, be they trucks, carts, or bricks and mortar stores to ensure that they stay in business for a good long time.
Speaking of Robicelli's...they are taking pre-orders for Thanksgiving. Check out all the details here. jump
Almost immediately after NYCWFF was over, I was gearing up for a little out of town weekend in the far reaches of our Nation's Heartland. I was going to Kansas. No, not for a BBQ fiesta in Kansas City (though some crazy awesome BBQ was had there-more on that later), I was going to the heart of Jayhawk country: Lawrence, Kansas, where I did not once eat from a chain restaurant.
The first surprise came fairly early on in my travels, a burger stand that serves poutine! Our mutually favorite way to eat fries and I wasn't any where near Canada! Not only was there the delicious that is poutine, you can also get duck fat fries! Granted, those cheese curds could be a little bigger, but that brown gravy was meaty goodness. The Classic was an awesome burger as well. The greens are just getting in the way of a good char with juicy meat and a bun that holds it all together. I would have eaten it all, but I had eyes for those gravy-covered masterpieces.
Plus, I had to save room for dessert. One thing I spotted upon entering the "downtown" was a sign saying "Homemade Ice Cream" to which my tummy responded "Yes, please, now." The sign is in the window of Sylas & Maddy's where they have over 150 flavors, offering 40 each day. Overwhelming to say the least. Knowing that I should go the 'unique' route, I chose a double cone of Kansas Twister (peanut butter ice cream, Oreos, peanuts, and fudge swirl) and Maddy's Mud (coffee ice cream with brownies & Oreos). Creamy, richly decadent, and generous with the fillings, it was one of the best ice cream cones I'd had in a while. It was on par or better than some of the favored New York places, truth. And it only helps that they make their waffle cones fresh too! This was the first of what I hope is many visits to come. Should I stop visiting Lawrence, rest assured I will be calling Sylas & Maddy's to discuss shipments.
As I was leaving from my first visit, I noticed that they also serve ice cream sandwiches, my preferred ice cream delivery. So the next day, after lunch at Oklahoma Joe's BBQ in Kansas City (wait for it), we had a pretty good idea of how I was going to eat my ice cream. Now, unlike most NYC places, you can choose your cookie-sugar, chocolate chip, or M&Ms-and choose your ice cream. The final decision ended up M&Ms cookie with Gold Dust ice cream (Snickers, & Oreos with a caramel swirl). Sweet, messy goodness, the ice cream was delicious, the cookie was delicious, the nap I needed afterward was delicious.