a new york minute

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New York City has the tendency to be overwhelming and underwhelming at once.  There is just SO much possibility, that it almost limits you, particularly when you have a mere 24 hours to cram it all in…it’s as if no matter how much you do, you leave feeling as if you’ve barely cracked the surface of the city’s potential and offerings.

But every now and then, you manage to have that perfect little slice of city.  You see things, eat something amazing, and generally feel like you’ve experienced New York.  And it’s something to write home about.

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My kid sister had a birthday, so naturally we spent a day eating all over NYC to mark the occasion. We started at Gallow Green for bottomless brunch on a recommendation from Tasting Table, and thanks to them (and cooperative weather) we dined al fresco on the botanical rooftop sipping bloody mary’s and bellinis.  There were soft boiled eggs (appropriately served with crunchy sea salt), drop biscuits that were pure butter, and delicious grilled veggies (among other delights).  Live jazz was wafting through the greenery, and there was no line at the buffet.  As Beyonce would say, it was flawless.

the perfect plate.
the perfect plate.

Then we walked the High Line.  There were People’s Pops and the pleasant ambiance of nature contrasting with concrete, and eventually we found ourselves at Chelsea Market.  with its endless restaurants and food outposts, it is near impossible to leave there empty handed. I bought some treats at Liddabit Sweets. And then pined for everything else in sight.

joe

The final stop of the day was Joe Allen in the theatre district.  This place is a family tradition.  My Grandfather started going there just as it opened when he worked in the Garment District, loving the straight forward fare and cool as a cucumber atmosphere.  Thanks to him and my Grandmother staying so loyal we can say the words “put it on our tab”…which I thought was an urban restaurant myth.  They have mastered the classics, from meatloaf to burgers, but there is so much more than that.  And somehow there is always dessert.

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chocolate. pudding. pie.

There’s nothing like a New York food minute. Yet no trip on I-84 is complete unless it ends with a stop at exit 65 to hit up Rein’s Deli in Vernon, CT (in my opinion the only reason worth traveling through Connecticut at all). Chances are you’ve never been, but it is so worth the pilgrimage. It is better than any deli I’ve had in New York proper (sorry?). Perfect pickles. Matzoh ball soup. Pastrami on rye with spicy mustard. And a Dr. Brown’s cream soda…one might say that all weekends should end that way. I mean, I am saying it.

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a new york minute

bargain bivalves

I was admittedly late to the oyster party.  These raw, curiously textured, “tastes like the ocean” suckers were a total conundrum to me.  Their in the shell presentation and consistent partnership with champagne was enough to make me want to try them, but the aforementioned descriptors are what stopped me.  It took 25  years of life for me to recognize my foolishness.  Living in close proximity to some of the freshest, most delectable specimens available; I was doing myself a disservice by not indulging (a credo I apply to most dining experiences).

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mignonette sauce is my topper of choice

They are one of the ultimate summer snacks, and since they pair perfectly with cold summer beverages, many restaurants draw in a hefty post-work crowd by playing the bargain bivalve game.  Even some of Boston’s top restaurants do it. Eater Boston has a comprehensive list of where to find the $1 oyster deals in and around the city for each day of the week…but here are my preferences for the Monday to Friday grind:

Monday: Rialto (pictured here), starting at 5:30pm

Tuesday: Puritan & Co, starting at 5:30pm

Wednesday: GRILLED OYSTERS?! at The Kirkland Tap & Trotter

Thursday: Les Zygomates, 4:00-6:00pm

Friday (but available everyday): Lineage, 5:00-7:00pm

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he is just begging for a glass of champagne

The thing that is still unclear to me is just how many is too many. Can’t stop won’t stop.

bargain bivalves

market season

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The frizz inducing heat has come back to New England…which means…the farmers’ markets are back too! And they’ve got all kinds of pretty produce that looks good enough to eat.

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never was there a more colorful array of carrots and radishes.

My favorite thing about walking through the farmers’ markets is chatting with the people running the stands.  They are always able to make suggestions about how to use irresistibly unique ingredients I’ve never cooked with before, and most often to help me decide what to buy (decision making is not a forté of mine). Being able to talk with people who have grown the food you are eating is such a treat.

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hello, gorgeous.

So far this season I’ve become acquainted with ramps, radishes, and rhubarb; among other things. But I’ve also been drawn to the beautiful standards like strawberries that are just coming into season, and lovely heads of lettuce that have the power to make me actually crave salads.

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This year, The Boston Public Market has finally come to be.   This year-round market for local purveyors and goodies is what has been missing from this city for too long.  I am hoping that as it grows it evolves into something resembling my favorite market in all the lands: Borough Market, in London. A description won’t do it justice, so I will just provide some visual proof of its splendor. If you find yourself across the pond, it is a must.

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this is CHEESE. and not just any cheese. the prince of cheeses…comte.
this is CHEESE. and not just any cheese. the prince of cheeses…comté.

So go to the closest market and chat it up with the locals. Try new greens! Splurge on gourmet pastries! And appreciate how absolutely delicious produce can be when it’s eaten in season.

 

 

market season

micro salad

This salad is micro both for its petit size, and its use of micro greens. However, the real secret gem ingredient is sugar snap pea tendrils. They are tendrils…that taste like sugar snap peas.

the most petit lunch
the most petit lunch

They are these beautiful green curlicues that grow along with the leaves and pea pods.  In season now, they are irresistibly playful, and tasty too.  It is the perfect touch of sweetness in this baby salad.

 

pea tendrilling
pea tendrilling

You could absolutely beef this up with some other lettuces, or perhaps the addition of some seasonal fruit, but just as it is it perfectly suits a midday appetite (particularly on the weekends when you’ve had a massive breakfast and know you’re eating an early dinner but still can’t ignore the afternoon hungries).

Don’t be intimidated by its simplicity, it just wants no muss or fuss.  But not surprisingly, it does want a side crouton.  Sorry I’m not sorry.

CLOSE UP
CLOSE UP

1 bunch pea tendrils

1 box micro arugula greens

¼ cup chives, chopped

½ cup slivered almonds, toasted

goat cheese

1 demi baguette, sliced & toasted

balsamic vinegar

sea salt & pepper to taste

  • Slice baguette, toast for 5 minutes or until just browning on the edges in a 350 degree oven.
  • Slice chives, combine with other greens in a large bowl.
  • Over medium high heat, toast almonds. They are done when they become fragrant and just begin to brown, it should take about 5 minutes. Move them around in the pan periodically so one side doesn’t burn. Remove from heat and let cool for 2 minutes.
  • Spread goat cheese on the toasts. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.
  • Add almonds to the greens, and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.  Sprinkle everything with balsamic vinegar to your preference.  And might I suggest just putting the salad right on top of your toasts for eating.
salad. on toast.
salad. on toast.
micro salad

chronicles of a breakfast addict

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  I am not sure who they are, but they are right.  For me, few things come close to a perfectly cooked egg or a piece of toast slathered in butter.  I am a glutton for breakfast treats (current addiction being the lemon curd danish at Crema Café in Harvard square…it’s divine), I am addicted to cereal, and I would wear maple syrup as perfume if it wasn’t so sticky.

I could wax poetic on all ways that breakfast is culinary heaven, but instead I shall recount some early morning excursions I’ve been on lately so that you might go off and have your own adventures amidst Boston’s best pancakes, homefries, and the like.

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THE sourdough griddle cakes with honey butter.

Puritan & Company:  Brunch here literally blew my mind. Everything was phenomenal, and we tried the majority of things on the menu.  Highlights were definitely the flawless over easy eggs that topped most of the dishes, the sourdough griddle cakes, and the deconstructed yogurt and fruit parfait.  They even have a central breakfast treat table to display the assorted homemade pastries too.  I want to wake up in their dining room every Sunday morning. Creepy? Maybe. Delicious? Definitely.

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The most perfect sunnyside up eggs with baby chive bits and toasts.
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deconstructed parfait: all the fruit, homemade pear compote, greek yogurt dollop, tasty granola.

                                                                          Boston Brunchers at Brio: I got really lucky and had the chance to attend a brunch at Brio in Chestnut Hill with the Boston Brunchers, a fantastical group of bloggers in Boston that get free brunches about town and then tell the rest of the world about them.  We got a complimentary stint at SoulCycle (which nearly killed me) and we were rewarded with brunch.  There was stuffed French toast, eggs benedict, sweet potato hash and huge bowls of fresh fruit.  The place is lovely and the service was friendly. Great spot for an easy morning meal.

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stuffed berry covered french toast and baby benedicts on decadent biscuits with turkey sausage and spinach…stunningly plated.

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everyone’s favorite dinosaur.

Bagelasaurus: This micro bagel shop lives inside Cutty’s (which is fantastic itself).  On Friday and Saturday mornings Mary Ting Hyatt is making bagels the old school way: from scratch and rolled by hand.  You have to get there practically right at 8am when they open to ensure you can get them before they run out, and even then you’ll likely be waiting in line.  But they are worth getting up early for.  They are unlike any other bagel around…the outside has that ideal crispness that gives way to an airy, chewy interior.  And it doesn’t even require toasting, just a good slathering of schmear. (Edible Boston put Hyatt on the cover of their Winter 2014 edition, and the article is worth the read and littered with ridiculously pretty pictures).

not even doing these beauties justice.
not even doing these beauties justice.

OTHER PLACES OF NOTE: Keltic Krust in Newton (go for the breakfast sandwiches on traditional Irish brown bread); Mul’s Diner in South Boston (epic greasy spoon, cash only, a classic breakfast); Ohlin’s Bakery in Belmont (unreal donuts but not for the faint of heart, these are industrial sized pillows of sugar and joy).

Now accepting any and all breakfast/brunch recommendations.

chronicles of a breakfast addict

a sea of green

Sometimes, when you get all caught up in donut and cookie intake, your body revolts, and craves all things green.

Greens aren’t so bad, in truth they are actually kind of lovable.  Especially in the spring when they are at their greenest.  So I compiled all the green things in my fridge, added some frills, and ended up with this little bowl of healthy.

all the greens.
all the greens.

Simple and satisfying, it’s a perfect antidote to sugar overload. Or just to eat because you’re hungry and it tastes really good.

Get your green on.
PS. If you were asking yourself if those are assorted undergarments surrounding the edge of the bowl in the photos, the answer is yes.  The bowl comes from fishs eddy (purchased years ago), the coolest little kitchen shop in NYC.

with the frills.
with the frills.

 

All things green salad

1 bunch asparagus
½ cup scallions, sliced on an angle (just greens)
2 cups small English peas
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
4 cups baby arugula
4 eggs, hard cooked
1 lemon
2 tbs olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

  • boil the eggs: in a large pot cover 4 eggs with cold water until just submerged.  bring to a boil, then put heat low and cover the pot.  let eggs cook an additional 8 minutes.  Remove and run eggs under cold water until cool enough to handle.  Peel immediately and set aside.
  • bring 2nd large pot of water to a boil.
  • remove woody ends of asparagus, cut spears on an angle into bite size pieces.
  • drop cut asparagus into the water.  blanch 5 minutes or until tender. Put in ice bath to stop cooking and preserve color.  Remove from ice bath and set aside.
  • Blanch peas 3 minutes or until just cooked. Ice bath it. remove and set aside with asparagus. let cool.
  • Slice scallion on diagonal, just the greens!
  • Put arugula in a big salad bowl and combine all green things. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper, add the cheese cheese, squeeze lemon over everything, drizze with olive oil, toss to combine.
  • slice eggs and lay them atop salad.
a sea of green

the streit’s is right

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THE pink box

Passover can be a tough time for a carb lover such as myself.  Every year I try to remember that 8 days without leavened bread is really not an actual hardship.  And yet here I am, whining because all I can think about is baguettes. And cookies. And sandwiches. And baguettes.

Until I remember the silver lining…the matzah brei. Spirits = lifted.

Matzah brei is traditionally made with matzah (obviously) and eggs, can be savory or sweet, and has many variations.  If you happen to be of the Jewish persuasion, chances are the lovely pink Streit’s box is a familiar sight.  The Streit family has been making matzos in the lower east side of Manhattan since 1925, never changing their methods or recipe, and always keeping it kosher.  They gathered a dedicated following of New York City Jews who in turn instilled in their families a loyalty to Streit’s, and that loyalty has continued generation to generation.  Which is all to say in my family we always eat the pink box at Passover because my grandparents grew up in Manhattan eating it and taught me that it was the best.

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Image prep work.

Another thing they taught me, or more specifically that my Grandfather taught me, was that during Passover matzah brei is the only breakfast worth eating. He made a mean French toast, and when carbs were off the table he simply took his killer recipe and used broken up matzos in place of bread.  The man had a way with breakfast, among other things.

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the man. the myth. the legend. grandpa “sid the kid”.

Whether or not you celebrate Passover, this recipe is worth it.  It evokes all the comfort of a French toast, though I’ll admit it is perhaps slightly less pretty.  But who cares really? To me anything cooked in a healthy amount of butter and smothered in maple syrup is bound to taste like dreams.

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Sid’s Matzah Brei:
Serves a crowd

12 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup of milk
8 pieces of matzah
pinch of salt
pinch of cinnamon
4 tablespoons salted butter

  • Whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl.
  • Break the matzos into bite size pieces and soak in cool water for 2 minutes, then drain.  Add the matzos to the egg mixture, until fully coated.
  • Melt butter in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add matzos to the pan and cook until no longer wet.
  • Serve immediately smothered in maple syrup.
the streit’s is right

spaghetti for spring

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hello there.

I am not entirely sure where I first heard of the zucchini noodles concept, though if I had to guess I’d say it was likely Deb who introduced it to me (and by “Deb” I mean Deb Perelman of smitten kitchen, with whom I am on a first name basis with only in my heart; and by “introduced” I mean I saw it on her fabulous blog).

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With a mandolin — or with a knife and some chutzpah — you create strands of zucchini to the width and length of spaghetti.  All you need to do is flash boil them for 30 seconds, and they become malleable and able to be twisted around a fork. They add a lovely dash of green to a bowl of noodles, which helps takes away any guilt one might foolishly associate with eating carbohydrates.

This recipe comes together quickly and is comforting enough for cold nights but light enough for the start of spring.  And most importantly, it just tastes good.

Serves 4

I add ribbons of spinach to add even more green, because it makes me feel good.  Basil would be a great substitute for that or a strong addition if you have any on hand.  For me there is nothing better than a bowl of pasta at the end of the day. Or the beginning of the day…whatever floats your boat.

Ingredients:

1 zucchini

½ box of whole-wheat spaghetti

1 cup spinach leaves

½ grated parmesan cheese

AND:

¼ cup olive oil

5 tablespoons butter

3 garlic cloves, peeled

2 slices of lemon

salt, pepper, red pepper flake to taste

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  • in a sauce pan over low heat, add the olive oil, butter, garlic cloves, lemon slices, and seasoning.  Let the butter melt and leave over low heat while pasta and zucchini cook.
  • With a mandolin or knife slice the zucchini into thin strands. Cut the spinach leaves into thin strips.
  • Boil the pasta according to your personal al dente preference, adding the zucchini for the last 30 seconds of the cooking.
  • Remove lemon slices and garlic cloves form the sauce pan, and discard. Drain pasta and zucchini and add them to the sauce pan.  Combine everything so sauce evenly coats the noodles and vegetables, and if necessary, add more salt and pepper.
  • Top with grated cheese and serve HOT.
  • And leave no noodle behind.
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clean plate club

 

spaghetti for spring

pizza pizza.

It’s basically sacrilegious to go to New Haven and not have pizza. I still haven’t worked out how this small slice of southern Connecticut became the hub of Italian thin crust, but it did. So on a recent visit I did some investigative research on the offerings.

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Pepe’s plain cheese

There are several places there making really delicious pies, and everyone seems to have an opinion about which is the best. So using my siblings as tasters, we decided to explore the breadth of options.

We went for two of the most well known spots, Frank Pepe’s and Sally’s, and ladies choice (the lady being my younger sister who currently lives in New Haven): Café Romeo.

From Pepe’s we got a plain cheese pie, after an intense debate about whether or not we would try their famous white clam pie, which is often imitated but apparently unmatched. Something about seafood on pizza is for me slightly unappealing, but people love it (clearly, because it’s become quite famous). But the plain lived up to the hype.

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A passionate taste tester evaluating Pepe’s

The proportions of the sauce to the cheese to the crust were spot on, but the sauce was what really shined. The center of the pie got a little flimsy but the crust was charred and chewy.

Sally’s is famous for their tomato pie, so we got a small one of those and small plain cheese (to have a true point of comparison). The tomato pie was good, but maybe I’m just a sucker for the classics, because I loved the cheese pie. It just edged out Pepe’s with the crust upholding a bit better, and the flavor was amazing. It had that certain something that made it almost impossible to stop eating. If I lived in New Haven, I’d be a glutton for Sally’s. Easily.

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Sally is actually short for Salvatore. Fun fact.

The Café Romeo pizza was really just something we wanted to try, having heard good things about their mashed potato situation. A white pie liberally covered in mashed potatoes, pieces of bacon, and sliced red onion, it was quite delectable…but one slice was more than enough. I would certainly recommend it though.

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Cafe Romeo mashed potato pizza

Moral of the story is there is nothing quite like this in Massachusetts. Sure we have good pizza, but there is something unique about these super thin, flash cooked Italian pies. But rumor has it Frank Pepe’s is planning to open up a shop in Boston…here’s hoping.

 

pizza pizza.

st. patrick’s grub

Ireland has a bad food rep, but I want to remedy this misconception.  On a day typically reserved for liquid meals of Guinness and Jameson, I present the following photographic documentation of some gems from this one time I visited the great green yonder:

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creamy potato soup with chicken, leeks, and scallions. and a hunk of carbs.
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breakfast at Queen of Tarts in Dublin…with all the breakfast things.
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tea time is irish code for carboloading.

It’s not all beef stews and shepard’s pies (though both of those things are deliciously done there) – for instance, they do breakfast better than anyone. Porridge with baileys…as a first course.  All the scones. Every kind.  The list goes on.

I guess all I am trying to say is thank you, Ireland. Sorry no one gives your food the credit it deserves. And the happiest of St. Patrick’s days to all.

cliffs of moehr: consistently winning the landscape game.
cliffs of moehr: consistently winning the landscape game.
st. patrick’s grub