A Couple of Tarts

We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink, for dining alone is leading the life of a lion or wolf. ~ Epicurus

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Downtown Sugar Fix

So S. and I got back from spending days sitting on the beach to this lovely April weather. I have to say, it makes me miss California. It also makes me want to curl up at home on the couch and not take a step outside.

Fortunately, there so many little gems to discover all around NYC, that I can be persuaded to venture out on a cold, rainy day.

Especially when dessert is involved.

S. is getting married and despite years of promises, I am not making her wedding cake due to the other obligations of being maid of honor. So instead she took me to the bakery/cafe that is doing the honor so we could sample some of their pastries.

Financier is a welcoming respite in Lower Manhattan, near Wall Street. It is on the cobblestoned Stone Street and was bright and cheery despite the greyness outside. We tried their chocolate mousse cake, which was definitely a winner. The sacher torte wowed us less, but their coffee was satisfying and came with a mini financier (of course), which RFC enjoyed later on that night.

It's good to know there is such a place to duck into in that area.

62 Stone Street
New York, NY
(212) 344-6400

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Hot Cross Buns

Just thought I would let you know that the hot cross buns I made for Easter came out wonderfully. I used a recipe from Martha Stewart and the orange zest gave them them an extra something special. One word of warning if you decide to make them next year...it's quite a process. The actual mixing of ingredients, forming, and baking of the buns doesn't take that long. It's the rising and proofing that keeps you home waiting. They are well worth it though!

NYC Tart

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Happy Birthday Mom (one day early!)

To say that my mother is an excellent cook is an understatement. She is the best. Everytime Dave and I visit my parent's home, Dave will ask "Can we make this at home?" My pathetic answer is "Um, sure." Deep down we both know I am lying. Despite my professional status, I am unable to duplicate the dishes of my childhood. I try to recreate the dishes from memory because no recipe is ever written down. One day, my sister and I had my mother do a demo of her noodles. We hovered over her shoulder with a pad and pen jotting down every gesture and movement. This technique only provided a mediocre result.

I know that I won't find the same aromas or flavors in a restaurant. So I feel compelled to perfect as many recipes as I can. Lately, I have been experimenting with my mother's pickled cucumbers. I can remember being as young as 3 and waiting impatiently for them to be prepared. It seems simple enough. Thinly slice a cucumber, add salt, vinegar, worchester sauce, soy, and a pinch of sugar. They come out differently each time, which is actually quite nice. The taste is not quite the same but perhaps one day...


Sunday, April 08, 2007

Joyeuses Paques

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Banh Mi and Fresh Ricotta

I braved the bone chilling weather yesterday and took a little trip into Manhattan to visit a couple places that have been on my To Do list for some time. I checked out the Essex Street Market, which my mom out in LA actually told me about. It was interesting, something more for those who live in the neighborhood, than something so unique as to warrant a special trip from Queens. But I'm glad I finally made it over there. For lunch, I took a walk into Chinatown to eat at a banh mi spot I had heard about recently, Paris Sandwich. Banh mi is a Vietnamese sandwich. It is on a french roll, the kind with the crusty outside and the soft fluffy inside. They are filled with pickled carrots and peppers (if you want it hot) and come in a variety of meat fillings. I think the traditional one is with pork roll and pork pate. There are also ones with chicken, BBQ pork, and sardines, to name a few. I went with the traditional (so much for no meat on Good Friday!). They bake their own bread, which makes a huge difference with the sandwich. I thought the fillings were a little skimpy and would have liked more carrots. And honestly, I prefer Nicky's Vietnamese Sandwiches in the East Village. Or what I remember of Banh Mi Saigon nearby (haven't been there in a while). But the bread was fresh and had the perfect crunchy/fluffy consistency. Another bonus is that they carry Vietnamese desserts (which I didn't try this time).

It was a good thing I had something to eat before my next stop! I finally visited that bastion of Italian meats and cheese, Di Palo Fine Foods in Little Italy. I can't believe I've lived here for almost four years and haven't once stepped inside. After hearing about them from S. and reading a bit about their ricotta in Heat, I knew it was time to get myself to Mott Street. I think there is always a line, but going two days before Easter insured cooling my heels for an hour or so. Luckily, I had all day and since I had never been there, it was fun to look around and watch the fine folks who work there. When it got to be my turn, I decided to get some sopprasatta, gorgonzola, and housemade mozzarella and ricotta. It may take forever to get waited on, but once you do, they take their time helping you and give you tastes of anything you might be curious about. I am taking the sopprasatta and mozzarella to RFC's mom's house tomorrow for Easter, but I have partaken in the ricotta. A few years back, I finally discovered what good ricotta was after having only been exposed to the watery and tasteless stuff in the supermarket. Until that point, I had never thought about eating it plain. It wasn't until I had fresh whole milk ricotta that I truly understood what it was supposed to be. I have been eating the ricotta from Di Palo simply spread on a piece of dense bread, with a scant sprinkle of course salt and a dash of fresh ground pepper. It's amazing. RFC also suggested putting a dollop on a plate of pasta with tomato sauce and eating the chilled cheese little by little with the hot dish.

Today I am making a recipe for Hot Cross Buns from Marth Stewart's show this week. So far so good and the buns are now proofing on the pans. It's almost time to add the cross.

Paris Sandwich
113 Mott Street (at Canal)
New York, NY
(212) 226-7221

Di Palo Fine Foods
200 Grand St
New York, NY
(212) 226-1033

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Bon bini!

S. and I left the boys at home and hit the beach in Aruba last week for a much needed vacation. Neither one of us had been to the Caribbean before, so it was a totally new experience. S. and I have traveled to a number of places here and abroad and all of our trips have entailed much walking around and checking out the local culture. Aruba, we decided, would be all about sitting on the beach, swimming and catching up on our reading. S. had a stack of New Yorkers and I delved into Heat by Bill Buford. We stayed at the Manchebo Beach Resort, which I highly recommend. It was low key, a little worn around the edges, but right on a quiet stretch of beach. The staff was incredibly nice and while the food was mediocre, it satisfied all of our other needs, which mainly consisted of doing nothing in a beautiful setting.

Well, I can't tell you much about Aruban culture or food for that matter, but S. and I did venture into town a couple nights and had some great food from other Caribbean islands. One night we went to Cuba's Cookin' for excellent mojitos and live music. We had a generous helping of lemony guacamole with plantain chips, followed by two different meat dishes with "moors & christians" (beans & rice). Mine was Picadillo de Res, which tasted a little like a meaty tomato sauce, served with more plantains.

The next night we headed for Jamaica Me Krazy. I just love saying that! To the point that S. was accusing me of wanting to go there just so I could tell people we ate at Jamaica Me Krazy. Luckily for both of us the food was fantastic. Unluckily, a few things we wanted to try they were out of. I ended up settling for jerk chicken, which wasn't a bad thing. It was spicy and juicy and came with plantains and a phallic looking bready piece that was akin to a hush puppy. For dessert I had my heart set on Jamaica Black Cake. I made a version of it with dried fruit at Christmas, so I was curious what this would taste like. At first they said they were out, but suddenly our waitress appeared bearing a plate with three slices of cake topped with chocolate and berry sauce and chocolate whipped cream. The cake was interesting in consistency, it had been soaked in rum for so long it had a slightly gummy texture. I loved it and ate far to much of the helping considering how heavy a cake it was. A few hours later it was still sitting in my stomach, lesson learned!

Now we are back in NYC, with our tans and tropical memories, looking out the window at the rain. Sigh...can't wait 'till summer! Or at least a sunny bit of spring.

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