Monday, June 30, 2008

A Venetian Salad

My dear jet-setting friend fell in love with an orzo salad she had in Venice and was kind enough to share the recipe. Feel free to add and adjust as liked. Go crazy with the proportions as well:

orzo salad:
orzo
steamed baby shrimp
a can of drained tuna
basil or parsley
chopped baby tomatoes
roughly chopped olives
(toss all together)


dressing:
balsamic
olive oil
honey mustard
s & p
(whisk well and pour generously over orzo)

It's a nice basic salad that allows you flexibility; I'd like to add fresh crab meat or fresh feta and sun dried tomatoes.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

J-J-J-JO JO

For my birthday dinner, aka the time where I get to pick where I want to eat and have my parents treat, I chose JoJo, one of Jean-George’s oldest NYC restaurants. I figured it would be a safe option; Contemporary French cuisine, easy to find and relatively reasonable, considering the "JG" name. Unfortunately, about a month before our reservation, NYMag featured an article that totally bashed J.G.'s little gem of a restaurant, labeling it as one of NYC's most overrated restaurants, “Once the gleam of [Jean-Georges’s] eye, now the bastard son at the family reunion”). I was scared and I panicked, but remained resilient and after thoughtful considerations, we stuck with our gut and kept our reservation at JoJo. We made the right choice. JoJo is tucked into a beautifully manicured town house on the UES. Inside is intimate, lush and comforting. We were seated on the second floor, tucked in the corner and had a lovely view of the neighborhood, which gave off a very Parisian feel. Our food, was fantastic all around, even down to our butter. We ordered an array of appetizers: pea soup, asparagus and avocado salad, crab cakes and a tuna soy bean emulsion roll that put traditional sushi to shame. For dinner, we all sampled and tried the ginger chicken with chick pea fritters, steak frites, skate with carrots and striped sea bass with roasted artichokes and peas and carrots. No complaints; it was scrumptious with excellent, attentive service and a nice bottle of Pinot Blanc. Go-to-JoJo.

Monday's Meal

Last evening, I was at a loss for what to cook, but I knew I wanted roasted brussel sprouts. That being said, I scoured Whole Food’s aisles searching for anything that would complement my vegetable of choice. I decided to make one of my favorite stand-bys; roasted broccoli. In addition, I ordered two chicken kebabs to sautee (garlic herb and ginger soy), and hand-picked some okra (I needed a challenge). Once back in the kitchen, I immediately got my brown rice ready to go. I also par-steamed the broccoli and brussels. Once slightly cooked, I smothered them in olive oil, crushed garlic, garlic salt and oil and let them roast at 450. I played around with okra; sautéed with olive oil and a little butter, crushed red pepper, chili powder and garlic salt. For the chicken, I sautéed the entire kebab in a pan and covered it for about 10-15 minutes. Everything was delicious and easy; the roasted vegetables were perfectly charred, the okra had a subtle kick, the chicken had a nice crispness, but still tender with tons of flavor, and the rice, well it was rice. But everything was simple, delicious and healthy—a great way to jump start the week.

Monday, June 9, 2008

A Summer Meal Utopia

Keeping up with birthday tradition, I attempted to expand the celebration into an entire weekend. That being said a scrumptious dinner party was in order and we had the perfect main course: fresh live lobsters. For sides we fixed up a lemon butter (ok, we just melted butter and added lemon) for optimal crustacean dipping, a homemade caprese salad with chopped tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, grilled corn on the cob drenched in Narragansett beer, butter and pepper, garlic fries served with garlic mayo (a house specialty) and grilled Portuguese fisherman sweet rolls.

The ultimate, perfect summer meal, which was accompanied by a buttery chardonnay and a crisp sauvignon blanc. Delightful. Indulgent. Delectable.

A Mooring is a Nautical Device

In light of a birthday, a special celebratory dinner was called for to reign in my 24th year on earth. My cohort and I chose one of our Newport, RI faves, The Mooring; a classic downtown seafood restaurant overlooking the wharf. We began our event by ordering a bottle of moderately priced Vouvray and gulping down two I.P.A. oyster shooters. For those of you poor souls who are not familiar with the so-called oyster shooter, it is pretty much a verbatim interpretation of the title; a shot (usually vodka) in an oyster. However, The Mooring gives us a little twist on the original and conveniently serves the open faced oyster with cocktail sauce and then provides a generous glass of I.P.A. to wash down the shot. Delicious and different- I liked it. For our main appetizer we sampled the seared Ahi tuna with fresh greens and wasabi mayonnaise and their famous lump crab cakes. Both were excellent. The tuna was perfectly seared and well presented on the bed of greens with swirled aioli on the plate. My only suggestion for the tuna would be to add more aioli, but I am biased in the condiment department. The crab cake, which I have had in the past, was delicious as always: a lovely plump cake full of crab, no annoying fillers and extras—just pure tender crab lightly fried.

For my main, I had the pan seared Scottish salmon with green lentils and sweet corn broth. My salmon was perfectly cooked as I requested; almost rare. However, I found the broth to be rather dull and lacking of seasoning. My dish was accompanied with grilled asparagus, roasted red peppers and a tarragon aioli, which had the perfect light crunch. My cohort’s chili cornmeal crusted scallops with mango barbecue sauce was out of this world. Large fist-sized scallops, perfectly seared and flavored with a powerful zest and “pow.” We finished our feast with complimentary glasses of raspberry champagne and dragged ourselves home perfectly content and delightfully buzzed.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Margs Margs Margs

Last evening was dubbed at Margs Night 2008 as my guzzling partner and I coordinated and planned a Margarita Around Back Bay evening where we could explore and investigate the so-called leading margarita vendors of Boston. We surveyed our options: Mesa (already did the fish bowl marg- good but a little too strong, if you can believe it), Fajitas and Ritas, Cottonwood Cafe, The Cactus Club and Casa Romero. After careful examination, we finally narrowed down our search to a realistic and more- soberly acceptable two: Cottonwood and Casa Romero.
Cottonwood was fun; it has a great reputation, prime Back Bay location and great margs to boot. Our bartender/ tequila connoisseur was a bit rough at first, but eventually warmed up to us and we received a top notch agave lesson. Basically, tequila is made in a few ways: silver, oro reposado and añejo and extra añejo.
Silver tequila is un-aged and stored in aluminum or oak barrels. Good news for your alcs; It is ready to drink immediately! Oro is un-aged as well and is often mixed with coloring to “trick” the drinker that it is aged; often resulting in a gold or caramel color. Reposado is as it sounds; aged tequila, with a minimum of two months, but less than a year in oak barrels. Añejo is aged more than a year but less than three years and extra añejo is aged in oak barrels for more than three years and is the newest trend in tequila. So when one chooses their personal blend, as they do at Cottonwood, it is important to know the following: tequila type preference, orange flavoring liqueur preference (Cointreau, Grand Marnier or Triple Sec) and of course the extras; frozen, straight up, on the rocks or salt. Our bartender was also kind enough to let us in a little secret; Patron is good, but not the best and backed it up by giving us a tasting of Corzo reposado (about $50 per bottle), a tequila aged in small oak barrels for optimum smoothness and flavor.
For margs sampling we tasted Cottonwoods’s Tradicional:
with Sauza Tres Generaciones and Cointreau–“the smoothest” and the Sauza Conmemorativo and Citronge “Boston’s Best” and most popular margarita. We loved both. A perfect blend of sweet and tart and paired perfectly with the salty, hot tortilla chips and four dips: guacamole, red and green salsa and con queso (note to self, stay away from the con queso, not necessary and could have very well come from the always entertaining/inspiring "Cheez Whiz" phenomenon).
After we exhausted ourselves with Tequila 101, we hit the pavement to Casa Romero, a charming sub-ground restaurant in an unassuming alley way around the corner from L’espalier. At Casa we had a fantastic Patron silver marg with salt and on the rocks that literally rocked. Unfortunately, our appetizer selection did not. We ordered the shrimp flauta, ok, but nothing to write home about, the pork tamale, all breaded and barely any pork, also quite under-seasoned, and chicken livers that had gristle and lack of seasoning as well. We should have taken our cue from the stale, flat chips we were greeted with upon arrival. Oh well. However, I will continue to persevere and give this cozy restaurant another try next winter, and I’ll be sure to go the entrée route. Even if the entrees are a let down, we always have that margarita…