simplest french toast

Recently I went to Canada. In the winter. It was…chilly.

But the beacon of warmth came from the incredible food we found there — specifically at a bread shop called Hof Kelsten. (I found comfort in carbs.  No one is surprised).

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Though most of the bread didn’t make it back over the border due to hungry travelers and the fact that it was just too good not to eat immediately, some of it did, and that some got put to good use.

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Jeffrey Finkelstein, the bread whisperer responsible for Hof Kelsten, makes challahs on Fridays that are the size of a small child. Luckily their monstrousness meant I still had some upon arriving back in the States which immediately became some of the best french toast of all time.

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It is such a simple luxury, and easier than you think to pull off well.  And while you don’t need Hof Kelsten challah to make this version of the breakfast classic, good eggy breads like challah and brioche are the best for french toasting. And a little Canadian maple syrup doesn’t hurt either.

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Simplest French Toast
serves 4

4 thick slices of challah, cut in half (or other white bread, if it’s thin count 2 slices per person)
8 eggs
¾ cup of milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of salt

1. Heat a pan over medium heat.
2. Whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, salt, and cinnamon.
3. Soak each piece of bread through just before you put in the pan, making sure both sides are well coated.
4. Butter the pan (liberally) and cook each slice for 4 minutes on each side or until the slices are evenly browned, and no liquid is released when you press on the center of the bread.
5. Serve HOT with maple syrup. And if you’re feeling dangerous, a dusting of powdered sugar.

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simplest french toast

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.

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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

cold brewing

As we enter the iced coffee season, it seems that the hottest trend in the world of caffeine is “cold brew”. Though I still feel unsure about how it differs from iced coffee, we decided to try our hand at making some.

After having some deliciously cold brewed coffee at my favorite little South Boston shop, American Provisions, I immediately purchased the brand of bean they were using, asked how they made it, and went on my way to experiment.

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boston roasted, home brewed

Flatblack roasts their coffee beans right in Boston. The Italian roasted variety that we chose has a rich, smoky flavor, ideal for holding up to the unheated brewing and being served over ice.

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The beans get coarsely ground, and are covered with cold filtered water and left to steep at room temperature for 12 hours. They are then strained through a wire sieve fitted with a coffee filter. What you get is a very concentrated liquid that you then cut with cold water (more or less depending on how strong you take your coffee) and then pour it over ice.   And it’s good. real good. It’s not at all bitter, and the flavor stays soft and pleasant because it is never heated.

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all the kinds
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lemon filled. do it you won’t.

If you’re smart, you’ll serve this with donuts. You might have noticed I have a slight addiction to donuts. These are truly my favorites though, from Hole in One in Eastham on Cape Cod. I dream about these donuts. They have my favorite: lemon filled (the most underrated flavor of all time); but their toasted coconut, chocolate coconut, and sugar raised filled with raspberry jam could all ruin other donuts for you forever.

the one and only
the one and only

I am still not confident in my cold brewing, but if you want to give it a go check out these instructions.

cawfee.
cold brewing

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