holidays


I’m well-aware that I’m a tad tardy on sharing the food side of New Year’s. It’s more than justified, but that’s a story and explanation that will come later. Besides, I’m a believer it’s never too late to talk about a fabulous meal.

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True to what’s become our tradition, T and I made reservations for a nice dinner in Brooklyn. This year, we opted to visit Rose Water in Park Slope, having previously only been there for brunch. We were both big fans, so I took a bit of a leap of faith, booking us a spot for two menu unseen. Hey we’re serving a six course paired tasting menu just for the evening. A quick email to the manager confirmed that they could accommodate a mushroom allergy, so other than that, we had no idea as to what to expect when we arrived.

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The restaurant was nice and cozy when we arrived. We quickly received the first course – a Medjool date, stuffed with Fourme d’ Ambert and wrapped in bacon. It was paired with a Méthode Champenoise Brut from Domaine St. Vincent (New Mexico). For us, bacon wrapped dates are a fave, so this was a nice take on a staple

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The next course was fresh and super light – a simple raw scallop with finger lime. It took me out of the cold climate for a little bit as this one felt almost like a summertime dish (not that I was complaining). This has me excited to come back for dinner once the warm temps return as this bodes well for what the menu might include!

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We then were served a seared yellowfin tuna, accompanied by maitake, gold beet, and fresh wasabi. It was paired with a Muscat – “Exsultate” Domaine du Chapitre from S. Rhone. The sear on the tuna was nicely done and I liked the pairing of beets and wasabi with the flavors of the tuna. It was a slightly unexpected combination but worked perfectly.

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I believe the next course was my favorite – cider glazed pork pelly, with quail egg, cabbage, and mustard. From a prior brunch, I knew going in that their pork belly is delicious, so I was pleased to find it made the New Year’s Eve menu. The wine was also one of my favorite wines, a Riesling (Kabinett Halbtrocken “Zeltinger Himmelrich” Selbach-Oster from Mosel). If you’re ever lucky enough to be at Rose Water and pork belly is on the menu, this confirms it’s almost guaranteed to be a winner.

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The next course, the final of the savories, was seared venison, with chestnuts, black trumpets, and black truffles accompanied by a Barolo – Riserva Giacomo Borgogno from Piedmont.

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Dessert was a chocolate custard cake, with eggnog anglaise, vanilla ice cream, and hazelnuts, accompanied by a Quinta do Infantado LBV Port from Portugal. I only wished the eggnog flavor was a bit more prominent in the dish, but the mix of flavors here overall was great. The ice cream was a nice balance to the denser chocolate cake.

Following dinner, it was another lovely New Year at Amber’s… with many a fun photo to capture the evening. Here’s to more wonderful in all of the days ahead in 2015!

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Rose Water – 787 Union Street (at 6th Ave) – 718.783.3800
Reservations Recommended (No Reservations at Brunch)

If you’re like me, these holiday markets have become my obsession. Rather than having to choose a “type” of store, I can casually peruse stalls, booths, or tables with all sorts of items – many of which I had not thought of until I went to their market. I buy so many Christmas presents this way that I’ve lost count. When I heard about the Brooklyn Night Bazaar, a market I’d missed hearing of last year, I had to venture out on Saturday evening to see what it was all about.

Brooklyn Night Bazaar - Williamsburg

Brooklyn Night Bazaar – Williamsburg

I arrived on the early side, agreeing to meet my sister around 7:30pm. Serious shoppers note – early is way better in the case of this spot. Not only is your selection better, but also you’ll be able to walk directly in to the venue (the line snaked over 1/2 a block at 10:30pm when I left), you’ll be able to actually move around the venue and get up close to the merchandise before the crowd thickens, and you’ll be able to actually talk to people (live music in theory is great – but towards the end of the night, it made communicating with vendors a bit tricky).

Oaxaca and Dub Pies - Brooklyn Night Bazaar

Oaxaca and Dub Pies

The interior of the space was purely merchandise vendors – art to clothing (new and second hand) to jewelry to lotions and candles. Along the perimeter of the exterior though, you could find just about everything you might want to eat, from the basic (tacos from Oaxaca) to the unexpected (Blueprint Cleanse? Wait what?) to the comforting (all kinds of grilled cheese from Mrs. Dorsey’s Kitchen).

Ample Hills - One of My All-Time Faves - Brooklyn Night Bazaar

Ample Hills – One of My All-Time Faves

And don’t forget the sweets! Make sure to visit my favorite, Ample Hills, for a sweet treat to round out your visit. For those of you who think Prospect Heights is oh too far, you’re lucky that it’s coming to you for several weekends. I recommend the Bourbon Street. Delish! For another sweet option, check out Arancini Brothers and their hazelnut balls. Amazing!

Miss out on the first nights of the event’s run? Fear not. There are 10 evenings in total and that means 8 more chances for you to make it out.

Ping Pong - Brooklyn Night Bazaar

And if shopping and eating isn’t your thing, there’s always … ping pong!

45 North 5th Street – Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Running Fri/Sat through December 22nd
Free Admission

Hope you all had a wonderful 4th of July! If you’re like me, the weekend meant lots of quality time with friends accompanied by, what else, a fabulous assortment of fine food. There were cookouts and lazy nights in as well. Nice.

Beach Bum

Beach Bum

Monday though it was all about the beach. We were off bright and early to head to the Hamptons, Amagansett specifically, for the morning. The sand on the beach was soft and the others on the beach were quiet and respectful, noticeably enjoying the beach but not announcing it to you and those around you just how much so with each word they utter.

After the sun started to fade a bit, we packed up for our next stop – The Clam Bar. On my last trip out east, I’d been to Duryea’s for lobster rolls, a favorite of one of my girlfriends (Dixie loved it too). This time though a local had recommended this spot saying it was better. And I daresay I agree. The bun was slightly non-traditional, though it had the butter it should and was slightly toasted (so to me, they got the important part right). The lobster was plentiful too – lots of claw meat and very little filler, and the mayo wasn’t overwhelming.

So many options, but really only one option...

So many options, but really only one option...

Lobster Roll @ Clam Bar - Amagansett, Long Island

Lobster Roll @ Clam Bar - Amagansett, Long Island

First time lobster roll eater!

First time lobster roll eater!

Later for dinner we cooked out. See? So much food.

Courtesy of the Grillmaster

Courtesy of the Grillmaster

And it’s not a trip to the Hamptons without a stop at Brieremere Farms. Blueberry cream pie. Yes please! I could barely contain my excitement (ok, maybe I didn’t really try). If you’ve followed this blog, you’ve probably read my ode to this fabulous dessert in the past.

Pre-Pie Dance

Pre-Pie Dance

Blueberry Cream Pie - Brieremere Farms - Riverhead, NY

Blueberry Cream Pie - Brieremere Farms - Riverhead, NY

Slice o' heaven

Slice o' heaven

 

How was your 4th of July?

Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake

Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake

I’ve mentioned here before my intense feelings for pumpkin, regarless of the season. I have even shared quite a few recipes for various pumpkin things for you to enjoy. This new one here is from the Philadelphia website and is one my mom tried out over Christmas. I’ll admit a bit of the luster of pumpkin pie has worn off for me, as it sometimes tastes um well too healthy (whether it is or not) and not enough like dessert. This recipe brings together two good things and basically makes them both  better. The full recipe from their website also includes the crust, which is different from how we made it. You can either follow the full recipe or make a quick standard graham crust shell (super easy). In thic case, you cannot really use a pre-made at the grocery store since it works best with a springform pan.

Ingredients

  • 3 (250 g) packages PHILADELPHIA Brick Cream Cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 dash ground cloves

 

Directions

  • Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Beat the cream cheese, 1/2 cup of the sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer until well blended. Next add the eggs, one at a time, mixing on low speed after each one is added just until blended. Remove 1 cup of the plain batter; place in small bowl.
Batters, Divided

Batters, Divided

  • An optional step which might be worth your while is draining the pumpkin. Draining the pumpkin? I know. My mom mentioned this, which I’d never done, and I was really intrigued to see what happened. Canned pumpkin actually has a fair amount of excess moisture in it. She emptied the pumpkin out onto a paper towel lined plate. Within minutes, the paper towel was soaked. Look at this below!
Optional: Draining the Pumpkin

Optional: Draining the Pumpkin

  • Back to the recipe. Next, stir the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, pumpkin and spices into remaining batter. Spoon pumpkin batter into crust, which should be lining the inside of a 9 inch springform pan; top with spoonfuls of reserved plain batter. Cut through batters with knife several times for marble effect.
Adding the Swirl

Adding the Swirl

  • Bake 45 minutes or until centre is almost set. Cool completely. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight. Cut into 12 slices. Be sure to store the leftover cheesecake in refrigerator.
Finished Cheesecake

Finished Cheesecake

This dessert was perfect. The pumpkin flavor was very strong, with the sweetness of the cheesecake having a perfect balancing effect to make it the perfect combination. Call me crazy, but I think this would be my new pick for must-have Thanksgiving dessert.

Mixing the Cornbread

Mixing the Cornbread

Preparation for Christmas is in full swing over here, as I’m sure it is on your end. Since my family dined out for Thanksgiving, Christmas is the holiday where we do the more traditional full Thanksgiving meal. Earlier today, I made sausage balls, our usual holiday appetizer of choice. Next thing up was cornbread, which will be used for dressing tomorrow (similar to this preparation posted from Thanksgiving last year).

Now while I have bought the boxed variety in a pinch, there’s truth in the fact that you just can’t beat the real deal. Especially when, ehem, it’s this easy. 8 ingredients. Not too bad at all. Even the infrequent cook (oh say yours truly) can manage such an order. This one comes from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup shortening

I took the shortening and placed it in the oven to melt. Recipe says to sift flour with sugar, baking powder, and salt. I skipped the sifting and opted to stir. Stir in the cornmeal. Then you add the eggs, milk, and the now melted shortening.

Recipe says to beat with a rotary or electric beater until just smooth. I just stirred real hard. Same difference. Don’t overbeat though!

Pour into a greased 9x9x2 pan. Bake at 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes. And voilà! Enjoy!

Nice golden brown. Perfect!

Nice golden brown. Perfect!

I’m not a fan of winter. I always say I live in NYC because I love it so much in spite of being forced to serve my time annually – “time” being the 3.5 months of cold temperatures. No tank tops then. Oh no. It’s all sweaters, boots, gloves (which I lose as quickly as I replenish), and hats (the worst – if you see me wearing one, know I’m waving the ultimate of all white flags).

But I have my moments. Times when I walk outside and take a breath in and can feel the snow readying to make it’s way in. Or moments like today, when the number of flakes are far outnumbered in comparisons to the flake-free seconds that have passed, but where you kind of think for a moment you could get excited about the whole winter-season-thing. But those few flakes happen to fall across the scene just perfectly in front of holiday decorations.

And there moments where, even though you’re in the midst of tourist mobs, that NYC’s most popular holiday spots are just plain beautiful.

Rockefeller Center - Christmas Tree

Rockefeller Center - Christmas Tree

Rockefeller Center - Christmas Tree

Rockefeller Center - Christmas Tree

Lobby of the Time Warner Center

Lobby of the Time Warner Center

Every year since I moved to New York, my parents drive up from Alabama for the week of Thanksgiving. One year, we tried to do the whole thing in my little place (that would be the year of the Jive Turkey fiasco – and yes, I just Google’d and somehow, they seem to still be in business) and last year, we ended up doing it out at my sister’s place. Usually my mom ends up having to do way too much work and doesn’t even get to really relax and enjoy the day, and so this year, we decided just to be all modern and go out to eat instead. We noticed last year at this time that our favorite Greek restaurant in the city, Pylos, served a prix fixe meal for Thanksgiving. At only $40 per person (not including drinks), it ended up being actually less than what we’d spent on our turkey from Hill Country plus the cost of all the sides my mom had baked that year.

Acorn and Butternut Squash Soup - Pylos

Acorn and Butternut Squash Soup - Pylos

They had several seatings – 4:30PM and 6:30PM (they were planning on having a 2:30PM seating only if the 4:30 filled, so not sure if that came to pass – I can say there were people in the restaurant wrapping up, so I presume they had this as well). All which was required was a credit card, on which $8 per person would be charged if you were to no-show. To start, everyone received soup – which was an acorn and butternut squash soup with honey, nutmeg, and Greek yogurt (kolokythosoupa me meli, moscocarido kai strangisto yiaourti). Anytime I’ve had butternut squash soup, I found it to be too salty and sometimes bland. The honey and nutmeg helped to balance out any saltiness, which I loved – and the yogurt made it very creamy. I’m forever spoiled now and fear I can’t have this soup elsewhere because I liked this version so much better. If you are here and they happen to serve it again, don’t pass it up. It’s worth it. (more…)

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