Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Fooditka Family Cooking Competition a la Chopped

This past weekend, my family and I spent a most relaxing time in the Berkshires near Great Barrington.  In honor of my mom's 60th birthday, we rented a lovely house in the area and spent the whole weekend chillin, cooking, enjoy the outdoors and each other's company.

Always the creative force behind something wonderful, my Mom thought it'd be a great idea to take part in a family cooking competition, not unlike Food Network's Chopped.  The object of the game was to work with three pre-selected secret ingredients and make them into a cohesive dish.  Of course the fun of the game is that you never know what you'll get and that the three ingredients don't necessarily go well together.  Here's where we netted out - everything turning out quite well might I add:

Secret Ingredients:
Batch 1 - Oranges, cous-cous/quinoa medley, artichokes
Batch 2 - Porcini mushroom truffle cream, sunflower seeds, pomegranate balsamic vinegar
Batch 3 - Bacon, white truffle oil, Nutella

Dan and I were lucky enough to score the second batch, which made way for great opportunities to make something hearty, comforting but also sophisticated.  I have to say that everyone pulled out the stops and all of the dishes were a huge success.  Even though we tried to be discerning in our judging process, we ended up loving everything and congratulated each other on a job well done.  Here are the goodies that came out of this fantastic competition.  I highly recommend doing this on a future family trip - it'll for sure bring you closer together!

Citrus Salad with Bacon by Mira - Having the great idea of pairing the smoky bacon with something healthy such as fresh vegetables, my mom went all out.  While the dish may look simple, she incorporated a very diabolical strategy of glazing the bacon in Nutella, which surprised and delighted us all.

Nutella Parfait by Paul - Being the master of parfaits, my dad accentuated Nutella as the star ingredient by mixing it with yogurt, fresh fruit and some crunchy oat cereal.  Not only did he put his concoction in festive wine glasses, he cut out the fruit in a zig-zag design, which added a special touch.

Stuffed Peppers with Grilled Oranges by Peter and Fiana - Deciding to make something healthy, each bite of this stuffed pepper with a cous-cous/quinoa medley stuffing tasted wholesome.  We loved all the different colors represented, including a mix of red and yellow peppers.  A side of a sweet plumb reduction was a great idea for a natural sweetener, as well as the clever use of grilled oranges, that would also go nicely on top of a salad.

A Modern take on Chicken and Waffles by Dan and Fooditka - Doing what we do best, Dan and I decided to make waffles.  Using lean chicken sausage as the star ingredient, we sauteed it over some red onions and then topped each homemade sunflower seed waffle with it, as well as a generous amount of the porcini truffle cream.  A big handful of arugula sprinkled with the pomegranate balsamic went on top for more goodness.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Pre US Open Eats off the 7 Line

The U.S. Open, my all time favorite sports tournament is almost in town, and I can't wait.  While I relish all the tennis action these exciting two weeks bring, I'm not always jazzed about the food options offered at the stadium.  It's for this reason I'm providing you with a quick round-up of delicious eats you can grab prior to or after visiting the Open without fail.  All of these suggestions are located close to the 7 train line, so they offer easy convenience.

Biang Noodles in Flushing - This popular noodle shop will satisfy your gametime hunger with more than a dozen different varieties of noodles, skewers, bread dishes such as sliders, dumplings and even authentic Chinese desserts.  Make sure to bring cash, as Biang doesn't accept credit cards.  41-10 Main Street, Flushing. 718.888.7713

Venturo in Sunnyside - Loving Vesta's little outpost in Sunnyside, it's just a few short steps from the 7 train and couldn't make it easier to stop off and get some fresh, delicious food.  In addition to dinner and wine, they serve lunch so you can hit them up during the U.S. Open day sessions.  Recommended dishes include the homemade thin crust pizzas, the pasta free lasagna and of course their Baby Jesus cake for dessert.  44-07 Queens Blvd, Sunnyside.  718.406.9363

Jahn's in Jackson Heights - If you'd like to treat yourself to a celebratory old fashioned sundae, Jahn's is your pick.  Boasting north of 14 different sundae varieties, you can get everything from a classic vanilla hot fudge sundae to something funky and unusual such as the Kitchen Sink Sundae which feeds up to 10 people at once.  81-04 37th Avenue, Jackson Heights.  718.651.0700

Sunday, August 17, 2014

New, Tasty Local Eats at Crescent Grill

Image by Crescent Grill

I love me some fresh, seasonal veggies and always look forward to enjoying them in local eateries, especially ones that participate in CSA shares.  Recently spotting the latest offering of beautifully ripe tomatoes at Crescent Grill, I wanted to spread the news so you all too can enjoy this goodness.  Here's what you can expect at Crescent Grill in terms of local veggie options.  But not to worry meat eaters, they've got something for you as well!

Fresh veggie options:
Tomato and watermelon salad (as seen above)
Sugar snap peas and carrots
Sauteed grilled yellow corn with roasted peppers
Pan seared grouper with roasted beets
Butter poached lobster with heirloom radishes

If you'd like to sample their tasty bar food, don't miss out on the happy hour specials with half priced draft beer and even their burger + double fried French Fries for under $10!  You can catch their Happy Hour specials from Wednesday - Friday from 5 p.m. - 7 p.m.

Crescent Grill - 38-40 Crescent Street, Long Island City NY 11101
N/Q Train to 39th Avenue

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Brindle Room – The Burger Legend Lives On

Ever since we saw it on
Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, Dan and I have been dreaming of visiting the Brindle Room and trying their legendary burger. Marveling at Guy Fieri, as he devoured that juicy patty with all the fixins, we decided to make a date out of it, coming out for happy hour and staying til dinner.

Set in the heart of the East Village on 10th Street between 1st Avenue and Avenue A, The Brindle Room is surrounded by private residences and a sprinkling of quaint eateries. It’s somewhat easy to miss if you’re not looking for it, as the sign is subtle and the façade narrow.

Comfort and familiarity washes over you as you first step into The Brindle Room, feeling oddly nostalgic and automatically like a place you won’t come to just once. Dan and I situated ourselves close to the bar, so we got a little feel of the action and observed a few folks enjoying quintessential bar food eats such as burgers, beers, poutine, oysters and such. Everything looked and smelled wonderful, which assured us why we came.

Noticing a sweet deal on happy hour items such as oysters, mussels, poutine and beers, Dan and I started with a few apps before moving on to the showstopper burger.

Oysters – The $1 deal on oysters was an easy sell for us, as we ordered a half dozen and gulped them down with gusto. Not only were they large and meaty, they boasted a clean fresh-from-the-sea flavor that didn’t need much else besides a little spritz of lemon.

Moules Frites – It was also hard to resist the happy hour PEI mussels, which came topped with a rustic garlic, tomato and basil broth. While enjoying the actual mussels and their substantial interior, the Provencal sauce was the best part, especially as a vessel for those well done frites.

The Burger – To simply call this a burger wouldn’t do it justice, as it was so much more than that. I have to admit that it didn’t look impressive, the puny thin bun and a slightly charred outside making it seem pedestrian. However immediately following the first bite, we quickly understood why it was recognized as a Triple D standout.

Firstly, the juiciness of the meat is simply diabolical, as each morsel produces utter delight with the well marbled meaty flavor dissolving into your tastebuds. You quickly learn why they use the thin bun, as the meat is truly the star ingredient and the bread simply just a vehicle of transport for the meat. A heap of perfectly caramelized onions and a generous slab of slightly melted Roquefort cheese gives the burger a hint of sophistication and further accentuates its quality. Without a doubt, this is an overall win!

Donut Holes – Although we were already full, the waitress offered us a serving of complimentary orange glazed donut holes that we couldn’t refuse. Loving the idea behind this clever dessert, I appreciated the resourcefulness of the holes as well as its sweet flavor and airy texture. The orange glaze on top further sealed this already sweet deal.

Service and Cost:
Very much in line with the relaxed vibe, the service at the Brindle Room also mirrors that. Impressed with the level of knowledge that our waitress had about the menu, she was confidently able to recommend what to get and even went into specifics about some of the ingredients. Overall, everyone had a very casual feel about them, which was welcome and needed after a long day in the big city.

Costs are pretty decent considering the quality of all the food and its NYC location. The burger set us back $14, which isn’t cheap but it truly was a bomb burger, and the happy hour small plates were $5-$6 each. Our dinner came out to about $35 each including drinks, tax and tip.

3 Mmmms

The Brindle Room – 277 East 10th Street, New York, NY 10009
L Train to 1st Avenue

Friday, August 15, 2014

Joe’s Shanghai – Real Chinese Food by way of a Local

A few weeks ago, my friend Angela promised to take me to Chinatown to sample real Chinese cuisine. I was eager to sample authentic foods from her home country, such as soup dumplings, rice noodles, and various red bean delicacies.

Situated in the heart of Chinatown, Joe's Shanghai rests on Pell street just around the corner from other mainstays such as the Nom Wah Tea Parlor and Tasty Hand Pulled Noodles. It’s easy to spot it from the outside, as it has a large sign and tons of people constantly going in and out.

Although the restaurant is quite big, it’s very busy, which makes getting there early important in order to score a good seat. Angela and I were prepared to sit at a long communal table and share our space with strangers but ended up at a two-top right by the entrance, which worked out perfectly – especially for a newbie like me.

While you’ll find many non-Chinese folks at Joe Shanghai, I think I was at an advantage with my friend Angela being there who speaks the language. Drawing my attention to the folks who ordered cliché Chinese foods such as the well-known General Tso’s Chicken, Sesame Chicken & Broccoli and the like, Angela was keen to open my eyes to the good stuff.

Ordering quite a few dishes and sharing everything with Angela, I felt that my experience was a fine introduction to real Chinese food, which I’ll no doubt eat again. Also glad to learn about the way in which to eat these foods, I’m glad I won’t stick out like a sore thumb at my next experience.

Soup Dumplings – The first thing Angela asked me before we stepped inside Joe Shanghai is whether I’ve sampled these before. While I was sure I’ve tried them in the past, when they actually arrived, I knew I hadn’t and was in for a treat.

Consisting of fresh, thin dumpling dough stuffed with pork and crab meat, the soup dumpling presents an ingenious way to enjoy carbs, protein and soup in one bite. Angela showed me the amateur way to eat one, which is by biting into it vertically, resulting in a sad spillage of soup, and then the right way, which is to bite off just the top and suck out all the broth. What a dish! Not only is it incredibly fun to devour, the contents inside produce something wonderfully fulfilling and comforting.

Rice Dumplings with Cabbage – Technically I’m not even sure this dish is on the menu, which made it that much more special. Reminding me of the spicy rice dumpling and thrice cooked bacon I had at Mission Chinese, this one was a lot more enjoyable because it featured one of my favorite ingredients, green cabbage. Laced with little chunks of slightly sweet pork, the dish was a total hit and something unexpected to the American palate.

Pork and Bean Noodles – Pork was no doubt the star ingredients of the night and also something prominently featured in this noodle dish. While the deep red broth was flavorful and stuck nicely to the long, thin noodles, I found it to be too salty and couldn’t get through most of it.

Fried Pancakes with Red Bean Paste – Although we were almost ready to call it quits, Angela remembered she ordered this sweet dish at the beginning of our meal. Looking beautifully golden brown with the saucy red bean paste peeking out, it reminded me of a crepe but with a thicker, layered, doughy exterior. The red bean paste was spectacular and while very sweet, it complemented the milder pancake with its jam-like texture and flavor.

Service and Cost:
Because I was in the company of someone who knew her way around a real Chinese menu, we were well taken care of. I’d be curious to see if my experience would differ at all with a non Chinese speaker, but only time will tell when I go back and bring others to try it out.

Costs are affordable and everything is conducive to sharing. Our grand total for all the food I just mentioned was a mere $25, inclusive of tax and tip.

3 Mmmms

Joe’s Shanghai – 9 Pell Street, New York NY 10013
6 Train to Canal Street

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Queens County Market is Back for the Summer

It's been a few months since I visited the last Queens County Market back in May at the Queens County Farm, which was a lot of fun.  Continuing to look forward to this event, I appreciate the innovative locales Katrina, the market's founder and organizer comes up with to keep things interesting.

This month, I'm excited to see the market branch out into a new neighborhood in Queens, which is Corona.  I think this area is extra relevant this month, as the U.S. Open is going on exactly at this time and for this reason, the neighborhood is more populated than usual.  

Taking place at the Corona Greenmarket, you'll be able to experience a lot of local food greatness in the form of fresh fruits, veggies, prepared specialty foods, spices, gourmet desserts and more.  A preview of the vendor list will come as we get closer, but for the time being, here are the deets so you can save the date:

Queens County Market
Friday, August 22nd from 10:00 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Roosevelt Ave & 103rd Street (Take 7 train to 103 Street/Corona Plaza)

Monday, August 11, 2014

Memorable Birthday Treats from The Chocolate Swirl

This past weekend, my family celebrated their trifecta of birthdays with a big shin-dig at my parents' house.  Aside from all of our favorite people coming out to celebrate, the food (and the dessert especially) is always a big highlight.  I'm usually the one that takes care of the latter, as I typically call on the experts to create something special and interesting.  This year, I engaged Lisa from The Chocolate Swirl in orchestrating these fabulous personalized cupcakes.

Chocolate Swirl's Birthday Cupcakes - Being able to customize virtually anything at the Chocolate Swirl, I wanted to create three unique cupcakes, tailored to the likings of my Mom (Mira), Dad (Paul), and Brother (Peter).  I thought it'd be cool to display everyone's ripe old age on fondant as well, which luckily no one objected to.

In terms of flavors, we went with three varieties including: Mira (banana cupcake with mocha frosting), Paul (chocolate cupcake with vanilla chocolate chip frosting), and Peter (Guinness/chocolate cupcake with peanut butter frosting).  All three looked beautiful and festive, but one stood out the most in terms of uniqueness and flavor, which was definitely the Peter.  I loved the deep chocolate flavor of the cupcake with slight hints of that smoky, coffee essence from the Guinness.  Devouring the peanut butter frosting, it was soft, creamy and really peanut buttery, which was awesome.

Service and Cost:
Since the Chocolate Swirl is available solely online, you can contact Lisa directly or you can message her on Facebook.  Responsive and very accommodating to all sorts of preferences, I have confidence that you'll get a great experience and that you'll love your order.

Cupcakes range between $3.50 - $4.50 a piece, which is a decent price for a truly customized treat.

The Chocolate Swirl 


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