Wednesday, October 30, 2013

New York City to New Jersey

Hi, hi. As many of you know, I'm about to embark on a move across the Hudson to Jersey City. Stay-tuned for Les Foodites updates and postings from my other former state, New Jersey. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

My Dinner with Ken Oringer at Toro

I just returned from a mind-blowing meal at Toro, the new Chelsea tapas hotspot that originated from the South End restaurant darling in Boston (I like to think it put Boston on the food map, but I need to tread cautiously with this statement).  The entire experience and meal was very memorable. We sat at the back bar overlooking Chef Oringer, who calmly fired up dozens of plates like razor clams, live sea urchin, and foie gras. His demeanor was humble, friendly, and knowledgeable. 
The menu is gigantic and a bit overwhelming at first, but thanks to the friendly wait staff, you should be in good hands. 
How many times have you had tripe, fried blow fish, foie gras, crispy pork belly, and more all in one seating? Well that's basically Toro in a nutshell.
We tried a variety of plates, all rich in flavor, but diverse in seasoning, like the Morcilla y Callos (tripe with yellow pea stew and blood sausage). My only experience with tripe involved a rather bland Chinatown meal. Not as memorable as this dish, which is a rich stew that reminds you of what Grandma would concoct.

Make sure to try the Pez Globo (blow fish, pictured at top). Eat it like a chicken wing to avoid the bones. The North African-flavoring and meatiness of this fish stands out. And it reminds me of Founder from The Little Mermaid, but in a good way.
The Panza de Cerdo (crispy pork belly) was also delicious. This fatty delight was served with apples and rutabaga. We gobbled up every bit of succulent fat (word for the wise, don't come to Toro on a diet).
Plates like the Gambas al Ajillo (garlic shrimp) are good but doesn't quite stand out as much as the Foie Gras y Piquillo (foie gras with piquillo peppers and candied walnuts), whose plump bodies of goodness arrive on skewers that are just begging to be de-skewered and consumed. 

One of the most memorable dishes was the Abalone, an entirely new sea creature to experience. Abalone is a mollusk from the scallop and snail family. It's a tad chewy and pairs perfectly with the rich brown butter sauce, crispy parsley, and homemade migas.  

I'd highly recommend Toro. The wait staff was friendly and it was a trip to chat with Chef Oringer and watch him in action. He was the one who suggested we try the blow fish and tripe--two of our favorite dishes. It's fancy tapas, so your bill will add up. Each glass of wine is $12 and tapas dishes range from $6 to $15, with a few outliers like the $50 Blanco Trufles con Camarones (shirred egg with white truffles and shrimp), and the paella entrees, which range from $35-90 per person. 

I left Toro with a high from a combination of the versatile richness and flavor, which was paired with an adventurous and unforgettable culinary experience like never before. 

All in all, Toro truly delighted the senses. 

85 Tenth Avenue, New York, NY 10011
(212) 691-2360

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Spinach Fusilli with Roasted Cauliflower

I've always been a fan of cauliflower with pasta, so I was excited to see the Gemelli with Roasted Cauliflower in Saveur. After reviewing the recipe, which included golden raisins and slivered almonds. Rather than buy a few more ingredients when I'm pre-move (did I mention I'm moving to Jersey City? More on that later), I decided to play around with this recipe to better suit my pantry status.

Spinach Fusilli with Roasted Clauliflower
Serves Two

1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
1/2 box of spinach fusilli
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1 1/2 cloves of garlic chopped
1/2 lemon, juiced and zested

Heat oven to 500 degrees. Mix the cauliflower, olive oil, cumin, and garlic on a baking tray and roast for 20-25 minutes.  Set aside. 

While the cauliflower is roasting, bring a pot of water to a boil. Once the water is boiling, add half a box of spinach fusilli and cook until al dente. 

Drain the pasta and reserve a quarter cup of cooking pasta water. Add the pasta and roasted cauliflower in the pot, add the reserved cooking pasta water, lemon juice, and zest. Add salt and pepper, and parmesan.

I hope you will enjoy this pasta as much as I did. It's a very light dish and great if you're a vegetarian. If you want more of a kick, add a few shakes of dried red pepper flakes. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Our Anniversary: Aroma Kitchen & Wine Bar

My husband and I just celebrated our first marriage anniversary. Naturally we celebrated with tons of delicious meals. The first meal was at Castle Hill Inn, our wedding site. Thanks to my sister-in-law, Sarah's wedding gift, Will and I consumed a decadent three-course tasting with wine pairing. I've been to Castle Hill for dinner several times and each time is better and better. I can't get over the beautiful service, food, and atmosphere Castle Hill has to offer. We feasted on seared foie gras, scallops with lobster, seared swordfish, and roasted duck, with various desserts. While I don't have photos from our romantic dinner, I do have photos (rather dark, so I apologize) from another celebratory dinner at Aroma Kitchen &Wine Bar, the restaurant Will took me to before he proposed.  
The day was rainy and humid, but the sunset was spectacular. The image at the top of the post was something I managed to capture before stepping into Aroma. Aroma is a darling, narrow wine bar with exposed brick, and friendly staff that screams romantic. We started with a Sardinian red and a Caesar salad with poached eggs, and warm burrata. What a decadent way to enjoy a Caesar.
For dinner I ordered Strascinati with Wild Mushroom Soffritto, Spicy Lamb Sausage, and  Roasted Red Peppers. The soffrito added a lovely depth and the mushrooms balanced out the spiciness of the lamb sausage and roasted red peppers. This dish was outstanding. I even wrapped up my leftovers and reheated with a handful of spinach. I was uncertain about microwaving the homemade pasta, but it withstood the heat, and was a great leftover later in the week.  
I also enjoyed loved Will's special, a homemade Ricotta Cavatelli with Salami and Greens. I love the variations of pasta; each dish has a flair and uniqueness that one doesn't see very often at your neighborhood Italian wine bar.
For dessert we shared a cinnamon bread pudding with cinnamon  stracciatella gelato and cinnamon anglaise that was sweet and airy. So good.

I am still dreaming about our meal. Aroma is a wonderful cozy date restaurant. It's perfect for a glass of wine with cheese or a three course Italian feast.   

Aroma Kitchen & Wine Bar
46 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Restaurant Review: Eastwood in Lower East Side

After an evening of cocktails at a memorable gallery reception in the Lower East Side, I found myself at Eastwood, a corner spot that blends Mediterranean with Mexican flair. Upon entering, you should immediately place your food order at the order window to your right. The menu is written on a chalk board and features comfort foods like Fish & Chips, Falafel, Avocado on Toast, Grilled Cheese on Pita, and other mostly unhealthy goodies.

After you place your food order, move onto the bar to place your drink order. Then grab a seat on one of the benches and wait for your treats. 

We ordered the Fish & Chips which arrived on bulkie Challah toast. The fries weren't too crispy, but the fish certainly was. The fish was served with a delicious mayo/aoili. I haven't had this dish in years so it was worth the wait.

We also ordered a side of Falafel, which was pretty good (I prefer Taim), Avocado on Toast (always a winner), and a Kale Salad with shallots, walnuts, fennel, and apple. Loved this.

This is a great low-key spot if you're looking for a quaint Lower East Side spot but don't want to dig deep into your pockets.

221 East Broadway, New York, NY
(917) 284-4514

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Restaurant Review: Mezetto, Lower East Side

Let's welcome Mezetto to the Lower East Side. I've now been to Mezetto twice and each time it gets better and better. Mezetto's menu focuses on Mediterranean-style tapas with subtle twists to each dish. 
On a most recent visit, we started with the Mezetto Trio, which comprises of homemade labane, eggplant caviar (think baba ganoush), and hummus served with a side (or two) of za'atar bread. This is a great starter, especially if you order at least two servings of flat bread. 

We also loved the lamb meatballs, which are made with crushed pistachios and served in a tomato sauce sprinkled feta. The lamb meat is tender and the pistachios add a nice depth of flavor.

The falafel balls are also good. These balls arrive stuffed in a bun that resembles a pork bun. These crispy balls are drizzled with harissa aioli and topped with a pickled slaw. 

Another winner was the roasted cauliflower. We ordered this side to make us feel better about the other fried food and meat we ordered. If you're looking for a vegetable this is a good choice, although a tad too salty.

We also ordered the gnocchi with truffles and mushrooms. We loved the flavor but didn't quite love the the texture of the pasta--it was a bit too dense and distracted from the entire experience.

If you have room for dessert try the halvah ice cream with delicate ribbons  of halvah shavings and served with caramel and crushed pistachios. This tastes like a Mediterranean Snickers bar. It's delicious. 

Mezetto does not disappoint, nor does the attentive and out going staff.  Looking forward to my next visit.

161 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002
(212) 933-4587

Friday, October 4, 2013

Sunday Football: Homemade BBQ Chicken Pizza

As many of you know, it's football season. Rather than creating a schism in my marriage, I am trying to embrace this period of my life. I am doing this via food (quel surpise). I may not necessarily "watch" the game, but I will cook in with my husband making greasy, comfort foods like pizza, artichoke dips, and chicken wings.

This week we made homepage BBQ Chicken Pizza and it was scrumptious. Here's the recipe:

Homemade BBQ Chicken Pizza 
Serves two to four

1 pizza crust
2 breasts of chicken
1/2 cup of BBQ sauce, plus more for drizzling (we used Stubb's)
1/2 cup of cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup of gouda, shredded
1/2 red onion, caramelized

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the chicken breasts and mix with half of the BBQ sauce. Cook breasts for 20 minutes.

Roll and flatten the pizza dough and place on pizza stone. Cover the dough with the remaining BBQ sauce. Place shredded cheese over the sauce and add the red onions. 

Once the chicken breasts are cooked through, slice into smaller pieces and add to the top of the pizza. Drizzle with more BBQ sauce. 

Bake the pizza at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.

We freaked over this pizza. Let me know what you think. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Remembering Marcella Hazan

I was disheartened to hear that the dear Marcella Hazan, the Italian cookbook writer and chef has passed away. Ever since I can remember, my mother would make Marcella's Ragu, a delicious bolognese that takes about four to six hours to create. As a tradition, I make it every winter. Her recipes are basic, with simple ingredients, that always produce fantastic results. Just last week I was thumbing through The Classic Italian Cookbook and cooked the Rosemary Chicken. I've included the draft of the post below that I hadn't quite finished. 
Now that fall is officially here, I've been trying to cook more cozy meals. This week I made Marcella Hazan's Rosemary Chicken with Garlic and White Wine and Gwyneth Paltrow's Risotto with Peas and Greens
The chicken was easy to prepare; you basically sear the chicken on both sides with garlic, add wine, and simmer for 30 minutes. Gwyneth's risotto was also easy and tasty. I used the vegetable stock I made a few weeks ago, which added more depth to the dish. My only suggestion would be to add grated cheese (obviously, but surprisingly, you don't need much). Both of these recipes fit the bill and satisfied my desire for comfort food as the fall settles in. 

Marcella's recipes have been influential in my kitchen and I will always continue to consult her books throughout my cooking endeavors.