Monday, September 30, 2013

Madison Square Eats is Back!

Roberta's The Unicorn
There's one thing I look forward to more than Barney's Warehouse Sale (which has been worse than the Giants): Madison Square Eats. I have fond memories of working there, seeing the crazy that is regular people, eating Roberta's pizza and enjoying the change of seasons. The outdoor eating fest always seems to end right as the weather turns cold (or warm, depending on which season). So here's your chance to enjoy the last days of warmth with some doughnuts and pizza (and tacos and macarons....)

Madison Square Eats
Falling under the list of "must eats" are Roberta's (obviously), Hong Kong Street Cart, Calexico, Mexicue, The Cannibal, Mayhem & Stout, and Arancini Bros. As for dessert, I'm always down for Nunu's Chocolates, Macaron Parlour, Melt Bakery, or Milk Bar. I will hopefully get the chance to stop by to finally try Doughnuttery, La Sonrísa Empanadas, Mason Jar NYC, Delaney Barbecue (I hear rumors of tacos!) and Sunday Gravy. If any of you try something unbelievably delicious, let me know! Ain't nobody got time to waste on bad food.

The full list of vendors can be found here. It's open daily until October 25th, 11am to 9pm.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Cold Brew Showdown

photo (2)
I've shared how I've fallen in love with cold brew ice coffee. It’s bolder and less bitter than iced regular coffee, but I'm also a thrify lady and as NY Mag points out, when you’re dropping $3.50 plus per cup, it gets to be a spendy habit. I've tried making my own at home with this recipe, but I'm sure I got my proportions wrong because it turned out a lot weaker than planned, let's be honest, I rarely have the patience for recipes that involve 24 hour advance planning especially when you're talking about coffee. I’ve been a fan of Grady’s Cold Brew concentrate, but when I saw that Trader Joe's was getting in the cold brew concentrate game, I had to do a head-to-head...

If I were a super organized food blogger I'd have sexy shots of me pouring the milk into frosty glasses of iced coffee, but, well, I have an infant and a toddler and unfolded clean laundry everywhere, so you'll just have to imagine. Are you visualizing two unmarked glasses of iced coffee? Good.

In one corner we have Grady’s Cold Brew, "a New Orleans–style" coffee concentrate that’s brewed and packed into nifty brown bottles in Brooklyn, NY. There’s no sugar in Grady’s but it’s brewed with chicory which lends a natural sweetness. You prepare Grady's with a 1:1 ratio, adding either milk or water to dilute it. You can find Grady’s in 16 ounce bottles or 32 ounces bottles which have four and eight servings respectively at a variety of stores around the city. They’re available at Union Market, Whole Foods and Fairway. The bottles retail at Union Market for $7 for the small and $14 for the large.

In the other corner we have a plastic 32 ounce bottle from Trader Joe's which touts that it was brewed from Arabica beans. The Trader Joe's is shelf stable, so it doesn't require refrigeration until you open it. Once opened you have 30 days to use it. The instructions on the TJ's bottle recommends 1 part concentrate to 2 parts milk or water and advertises 8 to 12 eight ounce servings from a 32 ounce bottle. Oh, and it's $7.99.

But how do they taste? I won't keep you in suspense any longer. In a direct match up Grady's easily beats TJ in my book. Grady's concentrate is smoother. I don't sweeten my coffee but I do like that bit of sweetness from the chicory in Grady's. That said cold brew from TJ's is $7.99 for 12 servings and Grady's is $14 for 8 servings. By the second cup of TJ's, it was starting to grow on me. But here's the thing. The Trader Joe's concentrate tasted like a cold brew coffee that I could imagine myself making at home with the correct ratio of H2O to beans. I'm not as convinced I could replicate my own "New Orleans style" cold brew without some practice. Grady's tastes like a treat to me and if I'm splurging by buying a concentrate instead of fully committing to DIY for my coffee break, then I'm going to go with what tastes best to me, so it's Grady's for the win.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Busy Times, Part 4 of 6

Outstanding in the Field BG
Er mah gawd, I'm so sorry for being off the radar. Sometime during the week *before* Labor Day, I signed over my life to school, work and Netflix. I'll try to keep up with eating delicious things and telling you about them--or at the very least, I'll tell you what everyone's telling me to go eat. There was one really interesting thing I got to do, and no, I'm not talking about researching the Farmland Protection Program or HACCP!

Brooklyn Grange
When I was out in Nebraska, I got to be involved in an Outstanding in the Field dinner--here's a Serious Eats piece I wrote regarding their farm dinners. Well, the crew was traveling through the New York area about two weeks ago and I helped out again for their dinner at the original Brooklyn Grange!

Riverpark Ricotta Crostini
The chefs from Riverpark and wines from Brooklyn Oenology (drop the O, pronounce it ee-nology) were the stars of the night, and my personal favorite course involved squid ink pasta from Sfoglini. The pasta was covered with grilled octopus, clams, Carmen peppers, and it was all sorts of goodness. Like you wake up in the middle of the night and take an extra forkful straight out of the fridge good. The entire meal looked scrumptious, the end of shift family meal only proved it was, and everyone appeared to have a great time (though we were freeeeeeeezing.)

Sunset on Brooklyn Grange
And I am now completely sold on Outstanding in the Field meals. If you live in one of the areas they're about to tour through, get a ticket! I also advise using the dinner as a reason to begin planning a mid-winter sojourn to Hawaii.

If you're interested in visiting the Brooklyn Grange, they hold a ton of events throughout the season at both the original LIC location and the one in the Navy Yard. You can also stop to buy produce at the LIC location on Saturdays or at the Navy Yard on Wednesdays.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Valley Shepherd Creamery Opens Melt Kraft in Brooklyn

Melt Kraft
The good folks behind Valley Shepherd Creamery have opened a “farm to table” grilled cheese shop in Park Slope. Homemade cheese, tasty bread, what’s not to like?

Zzang bar
I happened to by The Melt Kraft about an hour after they opened on their very first day. It was the first I had noticed that something was taking over the old Almondine space. While I didn’t have time for a grilled cheese, I’ve vowed to go back. Brooklyn Based has an early look. I can say that their pantry selection is pretty awesome—they carry a bunch of artisanal ice creams like Jeni’s, Phebe and Phin and Steve’s. I couldn’t resist picking up a Zimmerman’s Zzang! Bar for my brother. For those of you unfamiliar with Zzang! it’s like everything a Snickers bar wants to be when it grows up. Right now they’re running a pre-Halloween special on the Zzang! bars. The bars are $5, down from their normal $6. Pretty spendy for some chocolate. But if you’re a big candy bar fan, it’s totally worth the splurge.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Caramel Thyme?

Thyme Caramel
Pardon the punny post title, but I recently had a thyme flavored caramel and it was kind of really awesome, so I couldn't resist...

This lovely little sweet set me back just 50 cents at The Ploughman in Park Slope. I went to the store in search of some Jojo's Sriracha sauce after falling in love with Peach Sriracha jam. I found my very own jar of Jojo's and I couldn't help but be tempted by the caramels in pretty glass jars at the point of purchase. They had a spiced caramel, a bacon thyme caramel and the regular thyme caramel you see above. I asked the cashier for her opinion and she recommended the thyme caramel. I'm not typically a huge thyme person. Sure I'll toss it into recipes in a blend like herbs de Provence or Za'atar and I know a jar of it somewhere, but it's not an herb I bust out with much frequency on its own. I was surprised how nicely the peppery-ness of the herb paired with the sweet, buttery, soft caramel. I wish I had taken notice of what company made the caramels--all the more reason for a return trip.

In the meantime I'm going to be plotting ways to include thyme in some fall baking. Thyme & salted caramel apple pie, anyone?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Look! A Cronut (and Magic Soufflé) Post

Fig Cronut
Back when the the cronut aka the pastry that launched a million blog posts debuted, I figured to myself, as much as I love pastries and anything remotely doughnut related, this was going to be a food trend that was going to pass me by. Why? Uh, the line. At the time I was enormously pregnant and had a toddler. Now, a few short months later, I have an infant and a toddler. If you want a cronut you have to queue up in SoHo during the wee hours. If I get the chance to sleep in even a few minutes in the morning, I take it. As time has passed the line hasn’t subsided, if anything it’s longer than ever. This weekend I had my taste of a cronut at last and by extreme luck and good fortune there was no waiting involved…

I didn’t bribe anyone. I didn’t have an intern to sit outside for hours waiting for the Dominique Ansel Bakery to open. So, how did I get a cronut without waiting? Well, Chef Ansel recently played a little 21 questions game on the Twitter in anticipation of revealing his latest pastry creation. I love games. Logic games especially. While I was keeping a side eye to the chatter as Chef Ansel answered people’s questions, it wasn’t until he started dropping some serious hints that I jumped into the fray. Knowing that the dessert was chocolate and likely a soufflé, but also another very French dish that had some of the similar flavoring of the soufflé, started piecing things together and guessed that the new pastry was an orange blossom brioche filled with a Grand Marnier soufflé and I was right! In addition to the gratification of guessing correctly I also won a cronut and a magic soufflé which would be held for me at the bakery. No line! Woot!

Saturday we met up with Lawman-in-law in the bakery’s back garden to claim my prize and sample the bakery’s wares.

Cronut cross section
First up, the coveted cronut. Lawman is not a fig person. Nor is he a mascarpone person. So he was more than a little disappointed to discover that was the flavor of the month (and cronuts only come in one flavor). One bite made him a believer. The pastry was as light and tender and flakey as I’ve heard. It wasn’t the slightest bit greasy or heavy. And it had just the right amount of filling to infuse it with flavor without making it messy. The fig wasn’t in your face figgy, it was pleasantly mellow. I’m sure others have said all there really is to say about the cronut and then some. It’s tasty. It’s impressive (how is it so flakey and light?!) It’s fun.

the magic souffle
The magic soufflé was another work of sheer genius. You must eat it hot and it’s best if you just tear into it with your bare hands. It’s essentially a pocket soufflé. Again, Lawman isn’t a big fan of the citrus chocolate combo, but here the orange and orange blossom weren’t overpowering, they perfectly complimented the chocolate. The brioche was tender and the soufflé inside was still warm and oh so good.

I wouldn’t pass up either of these fine treats, but if I had to choose or I’d say go for the soufflé and stay for the DKA, the signature pastry which is essentially a caramelized croissant (I know, it blew my mind, too). I don’t have any pics of the DKA because we ate it too quickly, but I would make a special trip for that alone—did I mention that it’s a caramelized croissant?! And you don’t need to stand in line for 3 hours to get one. In fact, I kind of want one now.

If you are reading this in the wee hours and have nothing to do this morning, you could hop out of bed and head to Madison Square Park where for one day only Shake Shack and Dominique Ansel are partnering for the Cronut Concrete to benefit the Widows & Children Foundation of NYPD. There are only 1000 concretes available and the first 100 folks get a sweet t-shirt. Doors open at 10 am, an hour earlier than normal and, well, I don’t have to tell you that there’s going to be a line.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Taste Talks Talks Taste

Oh, the weekend is coming. And that means another huge star-studded gorgefest is happening! This time, it all goes down within walking distance of my apartment (because as much as you hate to admit it, Williamsburg/Greenpoint is the epicenter of the food universe lately.)

Chef April Bloomfield is curating a two-day festival of all things food. There's talks. There's a screening. There's a cook-out! Our pals from Robicelli's will discuss how they acquired a book deal, while our friend Daniel Krieger gives tips on how to make your food photography look appealing. And then you can go foraging! I will be spending my Saturday atop Brooklyn Grange, but if you want to make it a Williamsburg day, I highly recommend checking out the full Taste Talks schedule. The best part is most of the events are $80 or under. (There is a fancy dinner at The Elm that's $125, but April Bloomfield and Paul Liebrandt are cooking!)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Scenes from the 2013 Vendys

2013 Vendys Cinnamon Snail Donuts
You probably already know that El Olomega won the Vendy Cup this weekend. Perhaps you saw the article in The Daily News with the accompanying photo by our pal, Clay Williams. Or perhaps you read Siobhan or Max’s recaps. I wish I could say I tried everything at the Vendys—I’ll be honest, I didn’t have time or tummy space. But I did eat some tasty, tasty things and here are some pictures

2013 Vendys Cinnamon Snail doughnuts
In my book this might as well be the “Doughnut Vendys,” I ate—I kid you not—at least 2.5 doughnuts and I don’t regret it one bit. One was a sweet yet tart and tangy cranberry glazed cake doughnut from the Cinnamon Snail. Lawman and Lil B knocked back a couple Norberweiberberweiberhydrafabs from the Snail, that’s the “white chocolate glazed donuts stuffed with bourbon hazelnut ganache and dusted with dirty blonde streusel” you see above.

2013 Vendys Carpe Donuts
I also had one and a half hot, yes, sort-of-burned-the-roof-of-my-mouth piping hot doughnuts from the Carpe Donut Truck. Organic apple cider doughnuts served fresh? Uh, yes, please. I may start chasing that truck down. By the way, the haze you see in the photo above is not some sort of ethereal glow, though it might as well be. I think I got a little hot grease on my phone...

2013 Vendys Oddfellows Cornbread Ice Cream
The cornbread ice cream from OddFellows was definitely one of the most interesting things I tried. Salty, sweet, and creamy, I’ve never had corn ice cream before, but why not? I’m kind of sad that last weekend was their last weekend serving it for the summer because their cornbread ice cream sundae with blueberry compote and bacon whipped cream sounds pretty darn delicious.

2013 Vendys Lonestar Taco
This taco from Lonestar Taco was ridiculously good. I wasn’t really that hungry after the Cinnamon Snail’s enormous savory sample platter (seen below)—come on, I can’t say no to Korean BBQ Seitan or Tempeh Tacos if the Snail is cooking. I almost passed the Lonestar taco up. But Lawman insisted. And I’m glad he did.

Cinnamon Snail Vendy Savory Platter
The taco chips from The Chipper Truck were awesome. As was the souvlaki from King Souvlaki. Alas, I didn’t get any snaps of them, so you’ll have to take my word for it (or Gothamist, who called The Chipper’s taco chips one of the five best dishes at the Vendys).

What was your favorite thing you ate at the Vendy’s?

Monday, September 9, 2013

It’s a Red Hook Vendy Hat Trick!

2013 Vendy Cup Winners El Olomega
This weekend marked the third Red Hook Food Vendor win in a row as El Olomega Pupusas brought the Vendy Cup back to Brooklyn. If there was any doubt as to the Red Hook ball fields being a hotbed of deliciousness, consider that four of the Vendy Cup winners in the last five years have been Red Hook Food Vendors…

In the process of researching our book, New York á La Cart: Recipes and Stories from the Big Apple's Best Food Trucks, I had the chance to interview many of the Red Hook vendors including El Olomega owners and siblings, Marcos and Janet Lainez. Marcos and Janet were gracious with their time and sharing stories of the early days of vending at the ball fields and how their mother, Teodora began selling pupusas, a traditional, handmade Salvadoran corn cake stuffed with a variety of fillings. They also shared their recipe for chicken pupusas. Mmm…pupusas. Their pupusas are ridiculously good—Lil B can’t get enough of them and it seems the judges couldn’t either.

While summer may be winding down, the ball fields are still cooking ‘til the end of October. This coming weekend should be a big one at the ball fields, they’ll be celebrating Mexican and Central American Independence Day. If you haven’t been to the ball fields yet this season, don’t miss out! Follow the Red Hook Food Vendors on Facebook for more details.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Pick Up a Copy of New York á La Cart at the 2013 Vendys

Boxty recipe testing shot
We're in the final countdown to this year's Vendy Awards. The big day is on Saturday. If you haven't bought your ticket yet, there are still some available and if you haven't bought your copy of our book New York á La Cart: Recipes and Stories from the Big Apple's Best Food Trucks--wait, you haven't bought a copy yet?--you can do so this weekend at the Vendys with the proceeds benefiting the Street Vendor Project! Inside you'll find recipes and stories from four of the five finalists for the 2013 Vendy Cup featured in our book. Learn how to make The Cinnamon Snail 's Blue Corn Pancakes with Pinenut Butter, chicken pupusas from El Olomega, shrimp rolls from Luke’s Lobster and boxty (aka awesome Irish potato pancakes seen above) from The Chipper Truck and much much more...

Frozen mint julep
Photo (c) Donny Tsang 

There are about 100 other recipes from vendors all around the city including many from past Vendy finalists and winners. Vegetarians and carnivores alike will find something tasty in the pages like zucchini pupusas from Solber Pupusas, black bean tamales from Tamales Guadalupe, dosas from NY Dosas, Greek Pork Chops and Lemon Potatoes from Uncle Gussy's Truck, Lamb with White Sauce from Kwik Meal, Chorizo Huaraches from The Country Boys. Got a sweet tooth? How about Coffee Ice Box Cake from The Treats Truck, The Salty Pimp Sundae from Big Gay Ice Cream, or Frozen Mint Juleps from Kelvin Slush? Gluten free? No problem, the GF recipes are labeled for your convenience.

NY a la Cart front and back covers
Here's the drill. If you're at the Vendy's come on by the merch table. I'll be there selling copies of the book to benefit SVP until we run out. Want a hot tip on the best dishes to prepare for your own street food party or some recommendations for where to get started in the kitchen? I can help you with that. You can take home a, ahem, pretty sweet book and help raise more money to support the Street Vendor Project's mission. Sounds like a street food win/win to me. Get your tickets and I'll see you Saturday!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Coffee Cake Like Grandmas Do

Blackberry Peach Coffee Cake
Growing up, my days in New York were filled with the crumbs from Entenmann's coffee cake. Not the cake part--I always found it stale and dry--just the sweet, cinnamon-laced crumb topping. To this day, whenever I see a great coffee cake recipe or am particularly missing my grandmother, the craving won't subside until it's taken care of. Both these things smacked into each other last week. The coffee cake came care of an adorable lady butcher I know who's behind what is quite possibly my new favorite blog; missing my grandmother came from cleaning out my family's house in Douglaston. This cake happened.

Blackberry Peach Coffee Cake
About a month ago, a recipe for Blueberry Hazelnut Coffee Cake went up on Yummy Books, Cara Nicoletti's recipe blog. But I didn't see it until recently and I wanted to add peaches (side note: I have been eating all the peaches this summer. I'm like some rabid peach eater.) I also forgot to pick up hazelnuts. And I wanted to use my new 12" cast iron skillet like a grown-up. I scaled up the recipe, adding a pound of fruit and eating a fair share of the topping.

Blackberry Peach Coffee Cake
Unfortunately, I made the decision to bring this cake to a BBQ hoping to give away about half and bring the rest home. WRONG! My lovely, wonderful friends ate all of my cake! I had been a bit nervous since my oven desperately needs recalibrating and the cake ended up in there for nearly an hour and a half. But I do believe this is a winning coffee cake recipe, enough so that I might rather make this than buy Entenmann's.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Lobster Tornado Salad

lobster tornado salad
If your Facebook feed looks anything like mine, it’s full of folks bidding their farewells to summer and preparing to embrace sweater weather. I, however, refuse to accept that summer is over. I looked at the calendar. It’s only September 3rd. I still have a few weeks left of reveling in open toed shoes and eating ice cream for dinner outside. I’m going to enjoy gazpacho and shaved ice and cold salads like this one that I recently had at my aunt’s house…

The official name of this dish is “Lobster Tornado salad,” it’s a riff on a family tuna salad recipe. The original tornado salad was so named because every time my aunt made this for dinner when she lived in Ohio they’d end up eating it in the basement while waiting out a tornado warning. The salad is simple: macaroni, mayo, finely chopped celery and a little bit of onion. Salt and pepper to taste and lunch is ready. This tornado salad was gussied up for our visit with lots and lots of lobster. We missed the annual family reunion/lobster jamboree in July because it was too hard to travel with a newborn. My aunt froze our share of the lobsters and voila!

While I'll never say no to lobster, plain old tornado salad is just fine by me. The classic version has tuna and when I make it at home I use elbows. It’s probably one of my top five easy meals. Perfect for these real last days of summer when you’d rather be soaking up the warm weather than slaving over a hot stove.