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Foodie Feast in New York City

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Written by foodie pam   
Monday, 18 June 2012

ImageWhat's a foodie?  It's a question I get asked a lot.  While you'd think I'd have a great answer, I don't. 

Generally, I say foodies appreciate the food they eat and take care to eat great tasting things whenever possible.  But examples often work much better.  Such as, when a foodie travels they plan where to eat throughout their entire trip. 

Now, I know some of you are nodding your heads -- you've been there and perhaps you've even let the dining location choices dictate other activities on a given day.  But some people who I say this to look at me like I am crazy.  Does it really sound that outlandish to pick out where to eat so you can savor as many amazing bites as possible?  I don't think so and on a recent trip to New York City I did just that…

Given the extra calories I was likely to consume I limited breakfast to fruit and coffee on most days and had a great time running the trails in Central Park and the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway.  And given the sheer number of restaurant choices in New York City I decided to focus on the restaurants of chef's whose cookbooks I frequently cook from. I also used Mike Colameco's Food Lover's Guide to New York City to help me decide where to eat.

Sarah Jenkin's Olives & Oranges cookbook rivals only Andrew Carmellini's Urban Italian on my list of top cookbooks that I frequently turn to.  Clearly, I had to visit both chef's venues. 

Sarah Jenkin's Porchetta is a very small restaurant that focuses on porchetta sandwiches.  Very small is really an understatement.  It has a counter inside and two benches outside; otherwise it is purely take out.  The menu is equally sparse but that's fine since the star attraction is the Porchetta sandwich.  One bite and you know you are indulging in something special.  Nestled within a hearty roll is roasted pork with a special combination of seasonings including wild fennel pollen and really crispy skin. Words alone cannot describe it so I urge you to try it out yourself…

Andrew Carmellini has two great cookbooks (Urban Italian and American Flavor) and two New York City Restaurants (Locanda Verde and The Dutch).  I went to both.  This was my second visit to Locanda Verde (yes in a city with this many restaurants it was so good the first time that I had to come back).  I must admit I returned as much for pastry chef Karen DeMasco's desserts as I did for the savories.  Choosing what to eat here is very difficult. Everything I've had is wonderful -- the Sheep's milk ricotta; the Burrata with eggplant calabrese, dandelion greens and fried rosemary; the Locanda Salad of bitter greens, dried cherries, hazelnuts and smoked speck; Pappardelle with lamb bolognese, ricotta and mint; the Shaved Porchetta Sandwich with grilled onions and provolone and more.  But the critical thing is to save room for dessert.  I particularly like chef DeMasco's use of frozen granita to accent flavors such as the carrot granita on the carrot cake.

The Dutch has a more American feel in contrast to the Italian focus of Locanda Verde.  I admit that originally I wasn't sure I wanted to deviate from the Italian food I so fondly know chef Carmellini for, but I am very glad I did.  The burrata with organic broccoli had pure clean balsamic vinegar and a few pickled items (onions I think) that made it stand out.  My absolute favorite dish of my entire visit was the Korean Style Hanger Steak with Kimchi fried rice and egg.  While I tend to stay clear of hanger steak because it can be a tough cut this was prepared perfectly and not at all tough.  The Kimchi fried rice stole the show: spicy, crunchy, and addictive. I may well have stumbled upon something I will crave again and again.  Dessert was also wonderful.  I'm not sure what magic Andrew Carmellini uses in obtaining pastry chef's but his selection of pastry chef Kierin Baldwin was an outstanding one.

Jim Lahey is probably best known for his no-knead bread and Sullivan Street Bakery, but his latest cookbook, My Pizza, is what got him on my list of restaurants to try.  Co. is a pizza focused restaurant that just so happened to be around the corner from where I was staying.  Since I've made several of the pizza's in My Pizza that are also on the menu of Co.  I knew that I not only had to try the restaurant but already had favorites to try.  The thin crust dough is amazing.  I was pleasantly surprised that what I make at home is very similar.  The pizza's were good too, but since I've made them and customized them to my tastes my expectations were high and I was slightly disappointed in the result.  That's not to say it isn't a great pizza place, but it is pretty hard to compete with something individually tuned to your own palate.

Momofuko's pork buns were a must have that I enjoyed on my first day in the city at David Chang's ssäm bar. I've heard lots of people say how good they are and we even have a recipe of them available here on Project Foodie from the Momofuko Cookbook.  Typically such expectations result in disappointment but not in this case.  I found the pork buns as wonderful as everyone said they would be.  The bun is light, the sauce melds perfectly, the house made pickles have just the right crunch and the pork belly was luscious and over the top as I expected.  The surprise was the accompanying Sriracha sauce which I found very addictive.  If I'd had another open lunch spot I would have been back here (and again).  And next time I'd like to visit one of his restaurants for dinner. 

Within eyesight of ssäm bar is Milk Bar and pastry chef Christina Tosi's famous Crack Pie. While I did indulge at the Milk Bar, it was with the Candy Bar Pie: sweet, intense and original with more peanut that I'd expected.  I also had a taste of the Espresso Milk Shake which was exactly like you'd imagine and, of course, delicious.

My last choice was more traditional with no accompanying cookbook (that I know of at least).  Katz's Delicatessen is a New York City icon that has existed for over 125 years but remains packed at lunchtime with lines both to enter and order your food once you get inside. They have the system down;  everyone gets a ticket when they enter and as you pick items your ticket gets updated so that when you leave they know how much to charge you.  No one gets out the door without showing their ticket.  Despite the crowd and somewhat rushed atmosphere the Pastrami was well worth the visit. 

Wow! -- what a few days of savoring food from some of my favorite chefs.  Good thing I got in some exercise, including checking out the elevated park The Highline that transformed a former elevated railroad line and urban blight into a beautiful green area in the city.  And helping even more to burn some calories were the many miles of runs as I continue to train for my next half marathon! 

Disclosure: Samples of products discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or manufacturers.

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Last Updated ( Sunday, 10 June 2012 )
 

Celebrating Barolo

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Written by foodie pam   
Monday, 11 June 2012
ImageHave you heard of Marchesi di Barolo?  It's an Italian winery in Barolo that has imported wine into the US since the 50's.  

I hadn't heard of them until a recent tasting event I attended that was hosted by their new distributor Wildman & Sons.  The event was to welcome Marchesi di Barolo and as part of the celebration we tasted select vertical and horizontal flights of Marchesi di Barolo vintages from the 1970's through 2010.  

Typically in such a tasting I will find a few wines that I enjoy and some I don't.  To my amazement I enjoyed all of the Marchesi di Barolo wines and found several that were knock outs.  

ImageMarchesi di Barolo, founded in the 19th century, is now run by the 5th generation of Abbona family members Ernesto and Anna Abbona.  Ermesto is the wine maker while his wife Anna serves as the face of the winery. Anna's friendly, outgoing and delightful personality was only second to the quality of her husband's wine at the event.  The next generation wine maker and marketer, that is Ernesto and Anna's son and daughter, were also present spreading the word on the winery.  With each tasting the family shared details on how the wine was made along with how the grapes grew that year and how both affected the resulting wine.

All of the wine I tasted was very good.  Of course some stood out more than others but I would gladly drink any of it again.  The vertical tasting of 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000, 2001 and 2003 Barolo Riserva was very interesting.  Over the years the winery made some changes in how the wine was produced adding some more modern techniques.  The changes were evident in the vertical and highlighted that modern techniques can improve wine.   My favorite wine in the vertical was the 1990, although the 1980 was also exceptional with all of the older wines still very alive.  However, I found the horizontal tasting of 2007 Barolo's more practical since those are wines I (and you) have a chance of enjoying again… These included the Coste di Rose, Cannubi, Sarmassa and del commune di Barolo.  The Barolo Sarmassa was my favorite.  It had a deep red color, aromas of vanilla, licorice and a full bodied taste with blended spicy and woody notes.  I also particularly enjoyed the Barolo 2006 Tradizione.

Following this event I sought out some other Barolo wines to see if my love of Barolo wine was a result of the dedication of Marchesi di Barolo or the just the flavors of Barolo grapes.  After trying three other non-descript Barolos I am confident that I do like Barolo's in general, but that the Marchessi di Barolo are indeed special and worth seeking out.Disclosure: Samples of products discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or manufacturers.

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Last Updated ( Sunday, 10 June 2012 )
 

Wine Country Cheese Explorations

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Written by foodie pam   
Monday, 21 May 2012

ImageSonoma County is well known for wine and has great restaurants, but did you know it has cheese treasures? The rolling hills and mild climate are also ideal for raising goats, cows and sheep from which amazing cheese is produced. Perhaps best known is Laura Chenel goat cheese along with the homes of Cow Girl Creamery and Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company in nearby Pt. Reyes Station.  But many more small production cheeses are also born in this region.   So much so that cheese lover's can explore firsthand farms and dairies tours along with tasting countless cheese varieties along a "cheese trail" (See cheesetrail.org for a great map of tour options).

For cheese lovers who want even more, the annual California Artisan Cheese festival is a great activity.  The three day festival held each March offers farm tours, cheese centric dinners, cheese lectures and cheese making classes.  

ImageDuring this year's festival, I attended a fresh mozzarella and ricotta making class by The Beverage People.  Before the class I was skeptical about making cheese at home.  I thought that it's easy enough to buy cheese at the store, why would I want to spend time making it myself? I already knew the answer; it is very similar to why I make my own bread and other homemade items. By making it myself I know that the freshest ingredients are used and, with a bit of practice, it will taste better than store bought. Plus, combined with my homemade pasta and vegetable garden, entire meals can now be homemade.  

Granted, some cheeses are more difficult to make than others and investing the many months needed for aged cheeses may not be on my horizon. But, fresh cheeses, the focus of the class I took, are easy make.  Making ricotta really only requires milk, acid and heat.  Sure, you need to keep an eye on the milk as it heats, but active time is pretty low.  Mozzarella requires a bit more work since the cheese needs stretching, but really that's part if the fun! I learned how to make both of these at the class which was, as with the rest of the cheese festival, fun, informative and a tasty treasure for cheese lovers.

If you're interested in making your own cheese: The Beverage People have some cheese recipes on their website  and below are links to some cheese recipes available here on Project Foodie.

Disclosure: Samples of products discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or manufacturers.

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Last Updated ( Sunday, 20 May 2012 )
 

Tasty Bites for Spring

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Written by foodie pam   
Thursday, 29 March 2012

ImageEven before the change to daylight savings time had us "spring forward", this year was simply flying by.   Somehow, though, I always find time to relax in the kitchen and find new things to share with foodies.  This month's pick includes some great kitchen staples, addictive snacks, pick-me-up snacks and, of course, libations…. 

Great additions to the Kitchen Arsenal

ImageI've lost count of how many balsamic vinegars and olive oils I've tasted.  Most often the balsamic vinegars are too sweet or artificial tasting, whereas the olive oils are either bitter or bland.  Surprisingly, my latest tastings found well balanced balsamic and olive oil both from the same company: The Artisanal Kitchen.  Plus, they won't bust your wallet. The Aceto Balsamico Di Modena -- Purple Label ($14.99 for 500 ml) is smooth and full-bodied with just the right amount of sweetness.  The Three Olives Extra Virgin olive oil ($19.99 for 500 ml) is unfiltered and low in acid for a mellow fruity flavor. -- picked by Foodie Pam

Snackin' it up

ImageIf you are looking for a snack bar that is soft and sweet rather than the typical hard and crunchy granola bars, then give Kraft's Milk Bite a try. The Milk Bites are available in either Chocolate, Strawberry, Mixed Berry, Oatmeal or Peanut Butter and use real milk to create a soft and creamy granola bar (I found Chocolate and Strawberry equally tasty and addictive!).  They need to be kept refrigerated, so be aware that this isn't something that will sit in the bottom of your travel bag for that emergency fix. -- picked by Foodie Pam  

Italian Brew at Home

ImageI tend to be a creature of habit when it comes to my morning cup of Joe.  It's not that I'm against trying out new coffee beans, most simply don't get my attention for very long.  Well at least they didn't.  A recent tasting of Caffe Bomard from Italy not only got my attention for its great flavor and aroma, but more importantly this 100% Arabica Italian Roast continues to get my attention every morning.  It is a lighter roast than some Italian roasts though, so if you are looking for an Espresso bean this may not be it.  But for my French press it is perfect.  Available on Amazon.com with a buy one get one free special it is currently $49 for 4.4 lbs. -- picked by Foodie Pam

The Dried Fruit Formerly Known as Prune

ImageWhen fresh fruit is scarce, it used to be a challenge to add sex appeal to my morning oatmeal. Sure, there are plenty of packaged dried fruit varieties available, but reading their nutritional content on the bag made me think twice before shaking a liberal dose onto my cereal. The folks at Sunsweet have now solved this dilemma with Plum Amazins. Compared to the same size serving as raisins or dried cranberries, the Plum Amazins are less expensive, have 50% more fiber, 45% less sugar, 19% fewer calories, and a lower glycemic index. And then there are the antioxidants, potassium, plus the lack of added sugar and preservatives.

Because they are sold already pitted and diced, they are ready-to-eat for snacking, and a convenient substitute for any other dried fruit in your favorite recipes. Having them in my cupboard, I seem to find new uses every day. Adding them to salads or yogurt is a current passion. And do try them sprinkled over soft cheese, or with vegetables. (Kids adore that unexpected touch of sweetness.) Or in Moroccan-style dishes. Or tossed with salted nuts for a quick appetizer. See what I mean? The possibilities are endless.  Plum Amazins are sold in an easy-to-pour 9-ounce canister in the dried fruit or produce section of most supermarkets, for a suggested retail price of $2.49. Amazin, indeed. -- picked by Peggy Fallon

Libations

While cooking is relaxation, nothing beats enjoying some champagne or wine after a long day at work.  Champagne is a particular favorite of mine for a girl's evening of chit chat and nibbles (something I wish I had more time for).  When I'm up for the splurge Taittinger Brut La Francaise ($45) is currently at the top of my list.  Rated 91 Points by Wine Spectator, I couldn't agree more with their assessment: "A fine, very pure style of Champagne. Has hints of toast and citrus fruits that come together in a style that is almost the essence of Champagne. Crisp, rich and complex.".  And it goes great with cheese!   -- picked by Foodie Pam

Disclosure: Samples of products discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or manufacturers.

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Last Updated ( Tuesday, 03 April 2012 )
 

You Say En-dive; Those-in-the-Know Say On-deev

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Written by Peggy Fallon   
Thursday, 22 March 2012

ImageCurious about that pleasantly bitter crunch you recently enjoyed in a salad? Chances are it was endive, as it is beginning to show up everywhere. With good reason. Once available only as an import from Belgium, compact little heads of greenish-white or red endive now originate from dark growing rooms at California Vegetable Specialties (CVS) in the agricultural Sacramento River Delta area, thanks to mastermind Richard Collins. CVS is the only producer of endive in the U.S., selling over 4 million pounds per year.

Endive is not just another pretty face, nor is it simply the latest food fad. Its presence has withstood the test of time, for it is definitely the most versatile of the chicory family: a natural-born scooper for dips; an edible container for appetizers; and a must for chic salads. And as of late the European tradition of serving endive warm in soups, sides, and entrees is finally catching on. (Type "endive" in the Recipe Search box here on Project Foodie, or just click here, and you'll come up with plenty of ways to incorporate it into your everyday meals.)

As if tasting great and being "in season" all year long is not enough, endive is believed to have some significant health benefits: Dr. Oz named endive as the #1 vegetable to cut the risk of ovarian cancer. (In a study of 62,000 women, those who consumed 1 head--a mere 1 cup sliced or chopped, raw--per week reduced their chances of contracting this form of cancer by a whopping 75%.)

Look for endive the next time you're in the produce section. And don't balk at the price: on a per-pound basis, endive is less expensive than that bag of pre-washed lettuce you just threw in your shopping cart.

Go to endive.com for serving tips…and just about everything else you could possibly want to know about endive.

Disclosure: Samples of products discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or manufacturers.

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Last Updated ( Thursday, 22 March 2012 )
 
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