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Friday, March 29, 2013

Book Review: Unbroken

Other than memoirs, I very rarely pick up a nonfiction title so I was leery of my book club's most recent pick.  Once I got about 50 pages in, however, I realized that this true story was as unbelievable as any work of fiction.  Laura Hillenbrand's biography of Louie Zamperini begins with a brief overview of his childhood in California where his penchant for mischief led to a love of running.  Zamperini didn't just love to run, he was good at it.  He set records every time he hit the track and became a veritable celebrity after a stunning performance at the Olympic games.  A glimpse into the life of a buoyant Olympic runner would have been interesting enough, but it was in WWII that Louie's life was virtually inconceivable.

When his plane crashes into the Pacific, Louie and two fellow crew-mates were stranded for a month and a half with no food or water.  They caught an albatross and ate its meat raw, they drank only when they were gifted with rain, and they survived enemy gunfire and ever-present sharks.  How is that even possible?  I don't think I would have made it 4 days and they made it 47.  I would have been shocked and impressed if the story ended there, but then we have about two and a half years of POW camps in Japan.  There, he was subjected to routine, brutal beatings and very meager food rations.  Through all this, Zamperini remained optimistic and stoic.  He could not be destroyed.  When he emerged from the war after most thought him dead, he went through a bout of PTSD that merely held him back for a few years before he became the inspirational man he always was and was always meant to be.

4 out of 5 stars

Thursday, March 28, 2013

3 on Thursday

I had such a wonderful time with my parents while they were here for a long weekend.  It was much colder than we expected, but we didn't let that stop us from running around the city!
If you haven't been to the MoMA yet to see Edvard Munch's "The Scream," get there now before it closes on 4/29.  It's amazing to walk right up to such a famous piece of artwork, but I found some of his other pieces even more interesting.  That Munch was one weird dude.

I wanted to do something special for my Daddy's birthday, which fell on the Saturday of his visit.  I did a little research and learned that their school, La Scuola, was holding a class on Saturday afternoon.  For about $60 per person, we learned all about Prosciutto di Parma from the experts while Eataly's head chef prepared us a 3 course meal that the sommelier paired with wine.  I learned a ton, took plenty of notes, and plan to put my new prosciutto skills to work soon. If you're a food nerd like me, I highly recommend checking out Eataly's upcoming classes.

I decided to host the Passover Seder this year, my first in an apartment with a real dining table suitable for dinner parties.  My Mom helped me organize the menu and pick out new placemats and dinnerware, but I was still nervous about how it would turn out.  Based on the fact that one guest went back for thirds, I'm guessing the food was good - phew!  My Passover menu was as follows: deviled eggs, olives/pickles, haroset, brisket, quinoa with tomato, avocado, basil, and lemon vinaigrette, sweet potato casserole, asparagus with peas, and sorbet with berries for dessert.  I was also pretty pleased with my centerpiece.  While we were at Calliope over the weekend, I noticed they used a mug as a vase and it looked beautiful.  I took 3 mugs in two different shapes and filled them with tightly packed carnations in two shades of pink: "my colors are blush and bashful"..."your colors are pink and pink".  Hoping somebody got that Steel Magnolias reference...otherwise that last sentence was weird.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


I agonized over the restaurant decision for my Daddy's birthday dinner this year.  I've received high praise for my previous picks of Socorrat Paella and Casa Mono so I didn't want to screw this one up.  If you're smart, you picked up on the fact that the last two birthday restaurants were Spanish, my father's fave.  I decided to make a sweeping departure to French fare this year, knowing that big risks often reap big rewards.  I knew my hunch to change it up paid off when I saw my father eating his meal at Calliope with a big smile on his face.  Huge sigh of relief from my end of the table.

Before I get into the food, I just have to mention the service.  Friendliness like this is what takes a meal from great to fabulous.  We were seated about 15-20 minutes after our 9:30 reservation - no big deal; we were happy to chill at the bar for a few minutes and have come to expect a lack of punctuality in New York.  The staff, however, recognized that even if a wait is the norm, it shouldn't be.  They apologized by bringing us a dozen oysters paired with wine, on the house.  The meal was immediately off to a good start.  They kept the momentum going by checking on our table enough to make us feel wanted without being pesky.

The first app we ordered was the farm salad because I read in the 2013 Best of New York issue that it was the best salad in the city.  Big spears of lettuce were topped with fresh feta (creamier than most) and dressed with dill (I think) and a vinaigrette.  So simple, yet one of my favorite items of the evening.  We also ordered the mackerel with avocado, black sesame, and chile sauce.  This was probably my Daddy's favorite.  It was slightly out of place with the rest of the French food, but still thoroughly enjoyable.  We also ordered an appetizer special of fois gras mixed with pork and served with toast.  Saltier and less smooth than a typical fois gras, it was perfect French country food.  Moving onto the entrees, my Mom ordered roast chicken, my Daddy ate every bite of a veal tenderloin special, and I went with rabbit pappardelle.  "Mmms" were heard around the table after every bite.  The rabbit in my dish fell apart like pulled pork and the herbs lightened up the heavy pasta.  Finally, we had a flourless chocolate cake with vanilla sauce for dessert.  It was very rich and almost put us over the edge, but it's just not a birthday without cake.

It is my humble opinion that mastering the simple dishes (like those of Southern France) is more difficult than executing something complicated.  There are no trendy ingredients to hide behind, no foams or fusions.  You just have to know the perfect amount to use of a given herb and just the right time to pull a dish off the stove or out of the oven.  Calliope has nailed the difficulty of simplicity.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Salvation Taco

The hot new spot in Murray Hill is without a doubt Salvation Taco.  It's interesting that April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman's restaurant is constantly packed because it is nothing like the places that typically attract crowds in Murray Hill, meaning they've actually paid attention to decor and food quality and have shied away from a frat house vibe.  This different vibe draws in all the people who would otherwise head down to the East Village for a trendy dinner.  I admit, that's usually what I do, but I like having a fun place just steps from my own apartment.

It's a Mexican joint, but I use that term loosely.  The Moroccan lamb on naan "taco" we tried should probably not be classified as such.  Did that make it any less delicious?  Not at all.  What's in a name?  A taco by any other name tastes just as good in my opinion.  The curry cauliflower taco took our taste buds in a completely different direction, this time with a homemade tortilla.  The curry flavor was not overpowering - more noticeable was the flavor of the cauliflower brought out by roasting it.  The tacos are two-biters so I would recommend getting a bunch of things to share.  My father immediately gravitated to the ceviche as a side dish.  I loved the inclusion of jicama as it added a new flavor beyond the accustomed citrus.  The pork rinds on top served as a reminder that the restaurant's roots are in re-mixed Mexican street food.  My pick was the pork belly and pineapple salad.  When I was lucky enough to form a perfect bite with a piece of pork belly, pineapple, and cilantro I was rewarded with a salty, sweet, juicy moment.  The last thing we ordered was sort of an add-on but was probably our favorite dish of the day.  The grilled lamb tongue torta used bread light enough for the delicate meat to stand out but crispy enough on the outside that it didn't fully break down when coated with a garlic herb oil.  I think the tortas may only be available during lunch so it's worth it to try this place midday.

Can Murray hill sustain a place so trendy?  Not sure, but I hope so.

Bonus: there are ping pong tables.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Friend of a Farmer

My Mom arrived for her visit a day earlier than my Daddy so we could have a little bit of one on one time.  Ain't she thoughtful?  She landed early enough in the day that we could head straight to breakfast and since this was Mommy/Daughter time I had to pick a place with ample cuteness.  I knew Friend Of A Farmer had a Country Time Lemonade sort of vibe that draws major brunch crowds on the weekends, but since we were going on a Thursday we'd be able to get a table without trouble.

The restaurant looks like a bed and breakfast in upstate New York, complete with fireplaces, stone walls, and tons of floral wallpaper.  It was a much colder day than we had anticipated, and this is the kind of place you want to duck into to warm up.  It's just so cozy.

My Mom ordered the homemade granola with yogurt and fruit.  I had to steal a bite when I saw maple syrup glistening on the oats and it was just as good as I hoped - not soggy but not so crunchy you break a tooth, either.  I was in the mood for eggs and ordered the salmon scrambled eggs, which came with smoked salmon, cream cheese, tomatoes, and scallions.  I'm not a big lox fan, but this was thick, non-slimy smoked fish that gave the eggs a perfect saltiness to even out the sweet of the tomatoes.  The food was great, as was the escape from the hustle and bustle of the city to the quiet country.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

3 on Thursday

My Mom arrives this morning and my Daddy is following suit early tomorrow morning.  I am so excited to see them and have so many fun NYC activities planned.  I only wish it actually felt like Springtime for their visit - below 40 degrees is not ideal but we'll certainly make it work.
JC Penney has several great designer collaborations going on right now.  I thought Target had the market cornered on this sort of thing, but JCP has entered the game with gusto.  My favorite is the Happy Chic collection by Jonathan Adler.  I'm a big Jonathan Adler fan.  I love his preppy mod look but can rarely afford it.  The items he's selling at JCP are just as great as those he has in his store but at a fraction of the price.  I've found quite a few things I plan to order and intend to go nuts on the website this weekend.
Yacht Rock came to town last weekend and played at Gramercy Theatre, their biggest venue yet.  I grabbed my aviators and nautical attire and danced the night away on the front row to the soothing sounds of Hall and Oates.

Before heading to the Yacht Rock concert, I had my fellow attendees over for food and drinks.  I wanted to make some sort of signature cocktail but didn't want to mess with a bunch of ingredients and decided European style flavored sodas were the way to go.  Round one was sparkling blueberry and round two went to sparkling blood orange (my personal preference).  I mixed them with Brooklyn Republic vodka, a gift from my brother at my I Heart NYC housewarming party.  You can see the Brooklyn Bridge through the bottle so it's a great gift for a New Yorker.  The sodas came from Trader Joe's which means they were pretty inexpensive.  Since the juice is already sparkling, there's no need to add soda - you cut out a step!  The bottles are also very pretty so it looks nice sitting on the bar.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Mediterranean Shrimp Couscous

Problem: I completely forgot to prepare something for book club last night.  Book club starts at 7:30 (so I have til 7:45, obviously), which means I had to leave work by 6, stop by the grocery store, and get the cooking finished by 7:35 in order to get there at an appropriate time.  If I was lucky, I would have 25 minutes max for cooking so I had to be strategic.

While I cooked up some Israeli couscous, I prepped the other ingredients and threw them into the serving bowl: crumbled feta, chopped parsley, halved grape tomatoes, and shrimp.  You have two options at this point.  Either marinate the shrimp in a dressing of olive oil, dijon mustard, and cumin and then grill them, or use a box of the flavored couscous and just boil the shrimp.  I went with option number two because I happened to buy garlic and olive oil flavored couscous without realizing it so I didn't need the other seasoning.

I made it...just barely.  You've got a starch and a protein so this really could be used as the bulk of your dinner, which is pretty impressive since it takes less than 30 minutes to prepare.
I only got a pic of the whole book club spread, where mine is in the wooden bowl all the way in the back, unfortunately.  Don't worry, it was all gone by the end of our meeting!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


After a combo 1/2 marathon and St. Patty's Day celebration on Sunday, we decided we needed to soak up all our green beer with some Italian food and headed to the closest place we could find, Acqua.  Acqua stands out as a nicer restaurant in the middle of the more sparsely populated South Street Seaport area.  We started by ordering a margheria and a bufalina pizza to share but I would have skipped those had I realized the enormity of the pasta dishes that were on their way.

We decided to do family style versions of the orecchiette (with sausage, tomato, and broccoli rabe) and spinach gnocchi (with safron, fontina, and speck). Since family style isn't exactly on the menu, the waitress said she would prepare each dish as 3 orders to feed our table of six.  What came out was much bigger than that and try as we might, we were unable to finish.  They nailed the sauce on the gnocchi - one of the few times somebody says a touch of cream and actually means it.  Sausage and broccoli rabe are a pretty typical pair, especially with orecchiette and with just enough of each in this version, traditional is welcomed.

Before this weekend, if you had asked me to name a single restaurant near the South Street Seaport, I would have come up blank.  Now, I can happily tell you to walk yourself over the cobblestone streets to Acqua for some quality Italian.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Baked Ricotta

Since my apartment is relatively close to Gramercy Theater, I decided to have the girls over for food and drinks before we headed to Yacht Rock later that night.  Most of the food came from Trader Joe's because no one can complain about going with store-bought food when it means you're munching on mac and cheese balls.  I did, however make one dish: baked ricotta.  I used this recipe for the ultra simple dip and it couldn't have come out better.  It's basically lasagna without the noodles and great when scooped up with toasted baguette slices.  I didn't take a picture of my version, but it actually came out looking a lot like the one from the recipe so click your way through the link might even discover you like the blog it came from, Sarcastic Cooking, as much as I do.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Heart of Palm Salad

While I was in Curacao, one of my favorite things to eat was a heart of palm salad that they served at just about every meal.  It was a very simple salad so I recently made a version of it here in the US.  I tossed chunks of heart of palm with celery that I sliced very thin on a mandolin, capers, parsley, and mayo.  The result was tasty even without the tropical climate.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

3 on Thursday

After weeks of crazy, I latched onto a week with few plans and didn't let go.  Sure, I have a happy hour planned tonight and a concert/night out on Saturday, but that's far more relaxing than the last few weeks.  For sanity's sake, I promised myself I wouldn't add anything else to the schedule.  I've actually managed to keep my promise and have felt myself return to normal human being status.
This guy, Murad Osmann, uses most of his Instagram account to chronicle his girlfriend leading him around the world in a series he calls "Follow Me."  The concept is genius and the pictures are a mix of quirky and breathtaking.  Follow him immediately.

On my travels to other cities, I've noticed that not everybody is kind enough to place a trash can on every corner like they do in NYC, which leaves you walking around places like DC with a cumbersome Starbucks cup that contains the remains of your iced skinny vanilla latte.  Philly takes it two steps further with their receptacles.  Not only do they have trash cans, but they are paired with recycling.  Even better, they're all painted which makes keeping the streets litter-free a fun activity for all. 

After walking around the funky South Street area of Philly, we headed down 9th Street towards the Italian market.  Gone were the murals of the artsy district and up went the neon signs advertising fresh meat, cheese, and fish.  We went inside just about every storefront, but the group favorite was the Di Bruni Brothers store.  The gourmet market opened in 1939 and has since expanded to a second, larger location, but the original still has heart...and plenty of cheese, olives, and preserved lemons.  I made a beeline for the case in the back that held the handmade burrata, one of my new favorites.  As you can see above, it's wrapped with a ribbon as it should be because it was my ultimate gift.  The outside was firm while the inside so creamy.  It's the best of both cheese worlds in one package.  So glad we stopped for a cooler so we didn't have to leave all of these wonderful Italian goodies in Philly.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Inspiration Station: "Father of the Bride"

Wow oh wow am I sorry.  I promised you an Inspiration Station post each month and I didn't hold up to my end of the bargain.  Two posts.  That's all I ended up doing.  I could blame it on moving and the lack of kitchen space to make the more intricate recipes I like to include in these posts, but where would that get us?  Instead, I'll shove the excuses to the side and just get back on track starting...NOW.

Father of the Bride (parts one and two) is one of those movies that I will watch whenever it's on tv.
  1. The Dish: Apricot Chicken.  Notoriously thrifty George Banks (Steve Martin's character) finally puts his foot down when wedding expenses start getting out of hand.  Instead of serving something fancy, he insists on the "chipper chicken," which I'm sure is the same bland roast chicken served at every banquet hall across America (alongside rice pilaf and a vegetable medley, natch).  My take on simple, cheap chicken is my Mom's recipe.  It's just apricot jelly/jam, Lipton Onion Soup mix (1 envelope), and 1000 Island salad dressing mixed to taste and then poured over chicken and baked in a 350 oven.  Bake it covered for most of time (45 min to 1 hour) and then uncovered for about 20-30 minutes to finish cooking.  George Banks' chicken sounds boring, but this sort of sweet and sour chicken is a great weeknight update.
  2. The Doodads: 
  • Annie's engagement ring came from a flea market in Italy.  Perhaps look at the internet's own flea market, Etsy, for a unique and inexpensive wedding band like this hammered gold one with inset diamond.
  • Brian's gift of a blender to Annie almost brought the wedding to a halt.  My can't-live-without-it appliance is not just any blender but a stick blender.  It's perfect for making soups, sauces, smoothies...just about anything.
  • George thinks he got a steal on a genuine Armani only to be told later that Armani doesn't make a "nah-vy blue tux-ahh-do."  Turns out the navy blue tux is kind of in vogue.  Here's a great one in midnight blue from J. Crew that really makes a statement.
  • Since George runs a tennis shoe company, good running shoes are a must.  And what could be better than shoes that are customized and all your own?  I'm a big fan of NikeIDs - the possibilities are endless and the shoes themselves are great.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Franklin Mortgage & Investment Company

Karina has spent a good amount of time in Philly so she became our tour guide on our recent day trip.  After walking around the South Street area, we headed to the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood.  I couldn't imagine two more different areas.  South Street is super funky with murals covering every building and the most diverse crowd I've ever seen.  Rittenhouse Square is more luxurious with fancy apartment buildings and gastropubs instead of dive bars.

It was one of their upscale bars that drew us to the neighborhood in the first place.  Karina thought The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Company made some of the most inventive drinks she had encountered so we made a beeline for the speakeasy.  What makes this one unique is that it actually was a speakeasy during prohibition.  And not just any speakeasy - it housed the largest alcohol ring in the country.  If you're gonna do it, do it right.

We arrived at 5:40, just 40 minutes after they opened and there was already a 30 minute wait.  They don't allow any more people than seats available, and when there are only about 50 chairs max (just a guess) they fill up quickly.  I tried the Freddie's Dead cocktail which included sarsaparilla - a flavor I've never had in food, much less in alcohol.  It was more than herbal, it was root-y.  I know that there's no adjective for root flavor so root-y will just have to to do.  Rooty tooty fresh and fruity.

Though this may surprise all of y'all who think I'm a complete lush, my favorite drink of the evening was actually Matt's alcohol-free one.  After Karina and I ordered our cocktails, the waiter turned to Matt who said he was going to pass for now.  I'm not sure if the waiter realized that was because he would soon be driving us back, if he thought Matt was perhaps an alcoholic, or if he just didn't want Matt to feel lonely without a drink in his hand.  Whatever the reason, the waiter suggested Matt try one of their "sooo refreshing" mocktails.  He approached the mocktail the same way he navigated us through the cocktail menu, asking Matt if he what flavors he preferred and building the drink around that.  He came back with a drink (pictured on the left) of housemade ginger syrup, housemade raspberry syrup, lime juice, and pineapple juice.  It was incredible.  The ginger brought the drink back down to earth so you didn't feel like you were drinking something in a tiki hut.  We all talked about wanting it in gallon form to keep in our fridges.

If this bar was in New York it would be snoot central, but it manages to remain low-key even with their strict door policy.  It's not the place to meet new people as everyone sticks to their designated table, but it's a great place to share creative drinks and intimate conversation with close friends.

Monday, March 11, 2013


On Saturday Matt, Karina, and I took a lil trip to Philly. Why, you ask? Because I was craving a cheesesteak. No, really, why are you going to Philly, you ask again, rolling your eyes. Because I wanted a cheesesteak. That really is the only reason. When I learned that Philadelphia is a little more than an hour and a half away, I figured I had no excuse to not have the sandwich that sets the bar.

Pat's, Gino's, Tony Luke's, and Jim's are the famous spots and it seems everyone has aligned themselves with one. Matt's favorite is Jim's so we headed straight there. The line is at least 30 minutes long at any time of day and you will smell cheesesteaks for every moment of the wait. Tantalizing.

It was the real deal. The bread was soft but held up against all the fillings without getting soggy. It was also clear the meat was top round - that's a difference you can taste. My only regret was not getting double whiz because I want to taste that in every bite and there wasn't quite enough on mine.

I live right by Carl's, which by most accounts is the best cheesesteak in New York. Many people say it's just as good as anything you could get in Philly, but I had to make the trip to the city of brotherly live to make such a claim. Now I'll say with confidence that Carl's makes a legit cheesesteak (just as good if not better?!  Gasp!), but there's something special about eating a Philly cheesesteak in Philly.

Jim's lived up to my expectations and I'm glad I got to pit it against my own Carl's. But now there's a new challenge to be held: Jim's vs. the other Philly cheesesteak masters. I'm always available for a taste test.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Boulud Sud

Daniel Boulud may be a French chef, but the focus of his Boulud Sud is Mediterranean.  I would say it's more "inspired" rather than smack you in the face with a bunch of chickpeas kind of Mediterranean and this subtlety only makes it seem more high end.

We started by getting a whole slew of things to share: the octopus à la plancha, lamb terrine, Mediterranean mezze, ricotta with tapenade, crispy artichokes with aioli, and jamon iberico.  I'm exhausted just writing that out.  Though we were only six people and we had entrees on the way, we finished off all of the apps without much effort, a testament to how good they were.  The octopus, ricotta, and artichokes went first as they were the clear table favorites.  With a sauce or dip on every plate, I was in absolute heaven, swishing my bread across every dish to soak up as much flavor as possible.

Plenty of the dishes include cous cous, chickpeas, yogurt, and I could get several of those flavors by ordering the chicken tagine for my entree.  The tagine, a ceramic pot with a cone-shaped lid, is pretty much the cooking vessel of Morocco where Boulud pulls many flavors.  Somehow, the chicken skin managed to stay crispy while sitting in the sauce for an extended period of time.  It may have been one of the simpler dishes on the menu, but it was so well executed that I was very happy with my choice.

We ordered two different chocolaty desserts and they were good and fine, but the stunner was the grapefruit givré.  Givré means "frosted" in French and in the case of this dessert, references the mass atop the puff of white atop the hollowed out grapefruit that looked like snow and tasted like sugar feathers.  I couldn't tell you what was inside the grapefruit.  There was something gummied, some fluff, some sugar.  Other than the grapefruit peel used only as the dessert's vessel, I had no idea what I was eating but I liked it.

Boulud Sud may have a famous chef, but it is far from trendy.  They draw a large pre-theater crowd in the early evening but as it grows later, it becomes a who's who of Upper West Side society.  I saw media magnates, Ben Stiller, and Fran Drescher dining (separately) while I was there.  I am neither a West Sider nor a member of society, but I'm always game to pretend.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

3 on Thursday

Once again, the quiet weekend I had planned has been booked up with activities and once again I don't care because I know I'm going to have a great time.
For years, Saturday night has been 80s night at Canal Room.  The cover band is ridiculous, half the people come dressed up, and you will likely walk away nice and drunky.  It's pretty much a guaranteed good time.  It's also a $20 cover and the drinks are pricey so I recommend some heavy pre-gaming.  If you haven't been, this should be on your NYC bucket list. 
A sex toy party is not my sorta thing.  I don't like to talk about that sort of thing at all, but my friend was hosting and needed to fill the room so I went in support.  Next thing I know, I'm having lickable and tingling lotions rubbed into my arm and being shown a variety of "bedroom accessories".  Talk about being completely out of your comfort zone.  Fewer people showed up than expected which meant I couldn't sink into the background - awkward!  I'm still very conservative and uncomfortable talking about personal stuff like this, but I suppose there's something to be said about pushing yourself to do something different...even if it makes you giggle awkwardly.  I'm sorry, I couldn't bring myself to post a pic of the toys so all you get is one of me testing out a lotion.

Back in the day, our group at my company was super tight.  Plenty of my original coworkers have moved on to other jobs and now that everyone is so busy, there doesn't seem to be the same level of camaraderie.  Every so often, we try to plan a little reunion at a bar to reminisce.  It's crazy to see how much we've all grown over the years and it's nice to see those early bonds (like the ones forged with my first cube-mates pictured above) remain strong.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Numero 28 Pizza

Ashley and I had a couple of overlapping trips - me to Curacao, her to Hong Kong/Manila and Savannah.  With all that exciting travel going on, we needed a dinner to catch each other up and decided to go to Numero 28 Pizzeria.  The brick oven pizza was nice and rustic - they didn't worry about getting a perfect circle and instead allowed the pizza to take on a squiggly rectangular shape.  We ordered the 18" San Daniele, which was topped with a super fresh tomato sauce, mozzarella, arugula, and prosciutto.  It was the perfect size for us to share (along with a bottle of wine, natch).  As much as I love good brick oven pizza, I'm usually disappointed when it comes to the table and see how they've been stingy with the toppings.  Sure, it looks pretty and minimalistic but - come on - mushrooms cost about $.2; give me more than five of them.  Anyway, my point is that Numero 28 was the opposite, even when you're talking about nicer ingredients like prosciutto.  Yes, the pizza was slightly more expensive than other brick oven places, but it's not like it broke the bank and it was worth it to leave the restaurant satisfied because I got more than crust.  Another highlight was the very attentive wait staff.  Perhaps it was just because it wasn't busy, but they were all over our table.  Almost but not quite to the point of getting annoying, but there's no such thing as being too nice. pic to share :(

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Redhead

I'm sure The Redhead was to beginning to feel more like the red headed stepchild for all the time it had been sitting on my list of restaurants to try.  I knew there was a Southern influence, but had I known there were Lowcountry items on the menu, I would have made sure to get there much sooner.  Although I went in after hearing good things, the food was actually better than I expected, always a welcome surprise.

We started with the house smoked sausage with brussels sprouts over potato puree with red eye gravy.  The sausage was filled with smoky spices and the brussels sprouts had a nice crisp on the edges that gave them a standout presence among the creamy potatoes and gravy.  At the waiter's suggestion, we also ordered the crispy cauliflower with green goddess sauce.  I assumed the cauliflower would be roasted, but it was actually deep fried and I shouldn't have to tell you that deep frying something is never ever a bad thing.  For my entree I actually got two smaller dishes, the small order of shrimp and grits and the side of collards.  I was a little nervous that the collards were prepared with corned beef instead of ham hock, but it turns out beef can provide just as much flavor as pork - who knew?!  In fact, I think using corned beef added the vinegar flavor during the cooking process, while I usually add vinegar at the table so basically they killed two birds with one stone.  The grits were super creamy - just how I like em.  (I basically like a little grits with my bowl of cream and cheese - who doesn't?!)  They also threw some andouille sausage chunks on the plate for good measure, and I thank them for it.  Although I didn't order it for myself, the one dish I kept hearing about was the fried chicken so I had to at least try a bit.  The skin was nice and brown - almost to the point that I thought the chicken could be dry inside, but it was nice and juicy.  There was certainly some cayenne in the spice mix, but I think I detected some sugar because there was a teeny bit of sweet in there.  I was too full for a whole dessert and I'm glad I passed because when the waiter brought the check he also brought out a homemade cookie for everyone at the table.  I stuck my oatmeal raisin in my purse and just like the restaurant itself, it was very happy happy discovery later on.  

Monday, March 4, 2013

Goat Cheese and Mushroom Stuffed Chicken

Time again to do something with chicken that will keep me interested in that fair foul.  I hadn't done a stuffed chicken in a while and it seemed like it was time.  First I sauteed chopped (not sliced) cremini mushrooms in a little butter and garlic and then mixed them with goat cheese.  If you do this right when the mushrooms come out of the pan, they'll be warm enough to soften the goat cheese, making it easy to combine.  I split chicken breasts in half lengthwise, leaving them just attached at the edge to create a pocket that I filled with the goat cheese mixture.  Fresh rosemary would be great here, but I didn't have any so...oh well.  The stuffed chicken then went in an egg wash followed by a breadcrumb/parmesan mixture.  After that, I baked them in the oven at 425 for about 35 minutes.  Some of the filling seeped out, which added moisture to the breading on one side and caused a little of it to fall off.  My solution was to add a little more parmesan before serving.  You can never go wrong with extra parm.  I wish I took a picture of the chicken's cross section so you could see the filling, but I'm sure you can imagine it.  Can you imagine how it tastes, too?  I hope so because then you'll want to recreate it.
I hope you can tell how massive this chicken breast is.  How big was this chicken?!  It takes up the entire plate and is really two servings...which of course means I ate the whole thing myself.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Tzatziki Tuna Salad

When I saw this recipe, I thought it might be a good way to give my tuna fish (which I typically make with just tuna and mayo) a little sophistication.  I had to adapt the recipe a bit because although I wanted grown up tuna fish, I can't help but be picky about what goes in it.  That meant the red onions and pepperoncinis were out and and the tomatoes had to be chopped a little smaller.  Though it seems like I may have left out a few key ingredients, the lemon and dill-filled tzatzki and cucumbers still made this a completely different tuna fish than the boring one I've always made.  Next time, I'll make the tzatziki separate from the tuna/cucumber/tomato.  I know that's what the recipe tells you to do, but I thought I could cut out a step and no one would notice.  Now I'm thinking it makes a difference.  As good as the flavor was, each ingredient would have been able to do it's job better had they been able to sit and come together in the sauce before being added to the tuna.  It was good the way I did it, but with the patience to make the sauce separately, it could have been called really good.


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