Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mindy's HotChocolate

Mindy's HotChocolate is a chic restaurant and dessert bar in Wicker Park that receives rave reviews for its hot chocolate and decadent desserts (made with seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients). Armed with a hearty appetite and accompanied by two girlfriends, I enjoyed a very indulgent meal there this past weekend. The three of us ordered so much that our waitress shut us down when we tried to tack on two sides to our carb heavy dinner choices. In the end her logic was much appreciated as the additional food, likely delicious, would have taken needed space in our dessert ready stomachs. We began the night by working our way through shared plates, and like food warriors we finished the evening by bravely (some may say greedily) tackling three individual desserts. The food was superb.

A selection of artisanal cheese from Wisconsin including cheddar aged 10 years, Marieke smoked-cumin gouda and Grand Cru gruyere

Sweet potato soup made with bourbon and molasses and topped with a toasted marshmallow

Schlenkerla-smoked, beer poached soft pretzels served with house-made mustard butter

An extraordinarily rich macaroni and cheese made with Rothkase gruyere and Carr Valley mammoth cheddar (I dream about this dish...)

Heirloom tomato and melon salad with wild arugula and white anchovies

A hamburger made with house-ground Heartland beef topped with cheddar and organic bacon

A Tribute To The Malted Milk Ball- layers of smoked almond meringue, milk chocolate malt mousse and brownies, bittersweet chocolate ganache, coffee/cocoa nib milk chocolate malted milkshake

Peppermint Patty- frozen white chocolate mint semifreddo, oreo cookie crust, house-made "peppermint patty" and liquid hot fudge

Blueberry- a napoleon of sweet corn ice cream and corn nut tuiles, cornbread cannoli filled with caramel corn cream, warm local blueberries and popcorn

Monday, September 28, 2009

Frontera Grill

My recent trip to Chicago afforded me the opportunity to sample lunchtime fare from Top Chef Masters winner Rick Bayless' casual restaurant, Frontera Grill. The highly popular spot (the wait was over an hour long at 11:30 a.m.) serves bold Mexican flavors from a menu that changes on a monthly basis. With his fresh tastes and fun presentations it is easy to discern why Rick Bayless deserves his crown. Add on a few margaritas and I'd be hard-pressed to find a better way to spend an afternoon.

Fresh and chunky guacamole served with tortilla chips

Hawaiian ahi tuna tossed with crunchy jicama, spicy red chile-apricot chamoy salsa and topped with almond crunch

Sopa Azteca (Rick's famous tortilla soup)

Wood-grilled chicken tacos served with roasted pepper rajas, two salsas, frijoles charros, guacamole and homemade tortillas

Swordfish with a mole sauce, pineapple, rice and flour tortillas (not pictured)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Graham Elliot

I have been a fan of Graham Elliot Bowles for quite some time, and I developed a full-fledged foodie crush when I witnessed his inventiveness and lighthearted humor on Top Chef Masters. Asked to create an amuse bouche utilizing items found in a vending machine, he wisely used his designated quarters, collected his selections and joked, "That's just lunch. Now I gotta get something for the contest." He is wildly likable. So naturally when I made my way to Chicago to visit two of my favorite (and very missed) friends I coerced them into joining me for an unforgettable experience at Graham Elliot Bowles' appropriately named "bistronomic" restaurant, Graham Elliot. It was a true delight to meet him in person and experience his artistry firsthand. Graham Elliot's hip playlist enhanced the relaxed atmosphere, and my friends and I relished the complex flavors and beautiful creations put before us. Each meticulously detailed dish arrived resembling a colorful painting on white canvas. When the time came for our plates to be cleared, there wasn't a bite of food left.

Diners munch on truffle popcorn in place of a traditional basket of bread

Wagyu beef tartare with truffle aioli, petite herbs, potato chips and steak sauce

Signature caesar salad with romaine hearts, brioche twinkie, Spanish anchovies and parmesan fluff

White tuna sashimi with plantain chips, whipped avocado, cilantro sprouts, radishes and passion fruit

Hand pulled mozzarella with heirloom tomatoes, mini basil, balsamic sorbet and olive oil

Bison skirt steak with baked beans, onion ring, cole slaw and root-beer barbecue

Seared Alaskan halibut with Israeli couscous, smoked eggplant, caramelized fennel and tomato marmalade

Great Lakes walleye with braised artichokes, haricot verts, citrus and olive paint

Deconstructed lamb gyro with pita bread, crumbled feta, tomatoes and mint yogurt

Dark chocolate cake with crunchy meringue, angostura bitters, ice milk and cocoa syrup (with a birthday candle- HAPPY BIRTHDAY ANDY!)

Homemade sesame shortbread with prickly pear, homemade halva, banana and salted caramel

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Swirl Events' Wine & Dessert Tasting

I was born with an insatiable sweet-tooth and in recent years I have developed a weakness for wine, so when I heard about Swirl Events' Wine & Dessert Tasting I signed up immediately. The tasting was held last night ten floors above 28th street in AVEvenue's event loft. I was a picture of gluttony as I happily over-indulged on sugary confections and wine (paired specifically for each dessert by Swirl Events' friendly proprietor, Anu Karwa). Six different dessert artisans were on hand to share and discuss their latest creations.

Gourmetibles (www.gourmetible.com)
Each variety of Gourmetibles' ("The Candy That Thinks It's A Cookie") treats begins with a cracker, cookie or pretzel, followed by a layer of toffee, and ends with a topping that may combine chocolate, peanut butter, nuts, marshmallows or a peppermint candy (limited holiday edition). Gourmetibles' two founders, Anne and Regina, served three delicious flavors: Naked In The Dark, Why Not White, and their most recent addition, Peace O' Pecan.

Liddabit Sweets (www.liddabitsweets.com)
Liz Gutman and Jen King of Liddabit Sweets utilize fresh, local ingredients when preparing their products. As a result, the company's product list is printed with a caveat - selections change seasonally and from week-to-week. Event-goers got a taste of Liddabit's changing menu last night with the debut of the Dorie Bar, my favorite dessert of the night.

Gotham Cookies (www.gothamcookies.com)
Michelle Sarivole of Brooklyn based Gotham Cookies attended last night's event and shared her crunchy Almond Butter cookie. An organic bakery, Gotham Cookies produces cookies and brownies that are subsequently shipped to dessert lovers in eco-friendly packaging.

Roni-Sue's Chocolates (www.roni-sue.com)
Roni-Sue's Chocolates' hand-made chocolates are crafted from real fruit and natural flavors. Chocolatiere Rhonda Kave let guests sample decadent espresso and portly fig truffles. The truffles, along with other specialties like pig candy (chocolate-covered bacon), are sold out of her shop located in the Essex Street Market. Swirl Events poured a Montepulciano from Ruffino's Lodola Nuova Estate- a perfect complement to the truffles.

WannaHavaCookie (www.wannahavacookie.com)
WannaHavaCookie's cookies, bars, and whoopie pies are hand-mixed in small batches to ensure the highest quality. Marisa Angebranndt, WannaHavaCookie's charismatic baker, shared an outstanding chocolate chip cookie and chocolate whoopie pie with chocolate filling.

Sweet Muse (www.sweetmuse.com)
Laura Siner, the creator of Sweet Muse, brought beautifully packaged brownies and blondies to the Wine & Dessert Tasting. I ended the night by sampling her moist, rich espresso and deep dark double fudge brownies- pure bliss.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Undone By Food

Frank Bruni's appearance on Charlie Rose aired Friday, Sept. 19th (http://charlierose.http.internapcdn.net/charlierose/091809bruni.wmv). Throughout the seemingly sincere interview Frank discussed his new book, Born Round, and his career as food critic for the New York Times- a highly respected position he held since April 2004 and one he recently abandoned. Frank talked about balancing his health and weight in light of his chosen profession and past struggles with food (i.e., during childhood classmates teased that his initials stood for Fat Boy rather than Frank Bruni; resounding fears of weight gain followed the end of his high school swimming career and resulted in bulimia). Like many before him, Frank's answers to American's obsession with food (he candidly stated to Charlie, "We all eat too much.") are exercise and portion control. Exercise is his "down payment" for eating as much as he likes to eat, and given his history, I believe him when he says it's a lot. In my opinion, one of the most memorable lines from the interview (aside from comparing a picture of himself at 275 lbs. to Jabba the Hutt) was- "I want to enjoy and love my food but I don't want to be undone by that food."

I wholeheartedly agree with the notion that exercise is a key factor in maintaining a comfortable, healthy weight. It is a necessary component on days like today- days where I want to pig out on multiple heaping spoonfuls of cookie dough and Oversized Almond Chocolate Chip Saucers (recipe below). If any food can "undo" me- these almond flavored cookies, with their crispy outer edges and gooey chocolatey center, come dangerously close.

Oversized Almond Chocolate Chip Saucers (yield, approx. 7 5.5 oz saucers)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup almond flour
2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter
2/3 cup light brown sugar
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsps almond extract
12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup slivered almonds
1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
2. In a medium sized bowl whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of a mixer with a paddle attachment cream together butter and sugars. Add eggs and almond extract and continue to mix until smooth.
4. Gradually add in flour mixture and mix until a smooth dough forms.
5. Stir in chocolate chips and slivered almonds.
6. Form oversized balls of dough (each weighing 5.5 oz) and bake 15 minutes or until edges are a crisp brown but center is still light and gooey.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Taste Of Bombay (Mumbai?) In Chelsea

My growing desire for Indian cuisine may be playing tricks on my mind, but it seems like I've seen restaurants come and go in the time it has taken Bombay Garden (located at 62 West 22nd Street between 5th and 6th Avenues) to open its doors. The restaurant hung its multi-colored grand opening flags yesterday, but each time I pass by its glass windows every table sits empty. For the sake of its new owners, I hope the lack of diners is a sign the restaurant's "Grand Opening Special" is a success. For a limited time, customers who take their lunch or dinner to go will receive 25% off their order. The offer expires September 30th.

A Chelsea outpost of Bombay Garden opened yesterday at 62 West 22nd Street

Bombay Garden's take-out menus indicate a delayed opening- the Grand Opening Special's original expiration date (July 30th) is crossed off and extended in red marker (September 30th)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Wedding At Whiteface

My sister-in-law Beth recently married her longtime love at the Whiteface Club & Resort in Lake Placid, New York (http://www.whitefaceclubresort.com/). I know from firsthand experience that planning a destination wedding can be somewhat nerve-wracking, but thanks to the professionalism of the Whiteface Club & Resort's detail oriented staff, Beth spent the evening exactly how a bride should- elated and gorgeous. Every detail, from the color coordinated baskets of tissues to the refined fare (my favorite part of any wedding!), was beautifully executed.

Garden fresh crudités and refreshing cocktails were ready post ceremony

Dinner service started with a salad consisting of crunchy mixed greens, pears, walnuts, chèvre and raspberry vinaigrette

Tuna was topped with a sesame soy glaze, ginger and wasabi

The vegetable option was colorful and fresh

Filet mignon was accompanied by asparagus and potatoes

Chicken was served with grilled vegetables

The design of the marble cake matched the Adirondack theme

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Last night I attended a friends and family event at SD26, Tony and Marisa May's new restaurant located off the northern edge of Madison Square Park. Aside from the blaring sound of an ever present fire alarm, the evening was extremely enjoyable. The design of SD26's sizable space evokes minimalism, yet its atmosphere is inviting and remarkably comfortable. A sleek crowd, including Mauro Maccioni, Donatella Arpaia, Gael Greene, and Leah Cohen feasted on small bites prepared by Executive Chef Odette Fada and a team of Michelin starred Italian chefs. The flavors served out of the restaurant's open kitchen were delectable. Last night's preview left me eager to taste Odette's full menu when SD26 opens to the public (currently on track for September 15).

SD26's Executive Chef, Odette Fada

The open kitchen allows patrons to watch as their food is prepared

A zesty tomato soup with pasta, mussels and beans

A salty chutney with tomato, zucchini and olives topped mini burgers

The food was served buffet style from the restaurant's open kitchen

Chefs plated pasta dishes as guests moved through the food line

Spinosini 2000 with prosciutto, lemon, olive oil, garlic and parsley

My friend Lauren adored the artichokes and described them as "buttery"

Thinly sliced prosciutto was served throughout the night

Fresh meats

Crunchy lobster tempura with micro greens

Chefs enjoying a drink at the end of the night