Friday, October 30, 2009

The New York Chocolate Show

Today marked the first day of The New York Chocolate Show, a three day event held in the Metropolitan Pavilion. This is the 12th consecutive year the event has come to Manhattan to mesmerize chocolate lovers with both contemporary and classic cocoa based products. Upon paying the $30 entrance fee, guests have the opportunity to sample and purchase confections from over 40 exhibitors ranging from local artisans like Roni-Sue's Chocolates to Dubai based chocolatier Al Nassma.

The Haunted House of Lord Shock O'Lade created by Chef-Instructors and students from The French Culinary Institute

Chocolate's versatility is showcased through the Bride Of Frankenstein's chocolate bridal bouquet

Dark chocolate bark topped with crystalized ginger, roasted pecans and caramelized nibs from Pure Dark

Activist candy company Sweetriot's cacao beans

Overseas Food Trading is sharing truffled walnuts from its Le Chef P√Ętissier line

A selection of "Trickster Treats" from Oliver Kita. A 16 piece box of Voodoo Bon Bons contains flavors like Dragon's Breath, True Blood, Snake Bite, and Rotted Toad

Berkshire Bark's Jumpin' Java bar, handmade in the Berkshire Mountains, is made with Belgian dark chocolate, roasted almonds, espresso toffee, crushed coffee beans and caramelized cocoa nibs

Sendall's Chocolates is handing out samples of its Toffee Taboo, the official chocolate of the G-20

Massachusetts based Chocolate Springs' NY Salted Caramel and NY Passion Bon Bons are among my favorite

Dubai based Al Nassma is the first company to produce chocolate made with camel's milk, which I was told is rich in nutrients and less fat than cow's milk

Christopher Michael's innovative Sizzling Bacon Bar contains pieces of bacon, popping candy and smoked sea salt

In addition to sharing chili pepper infused truffles, Rhonda Kave from Roni-Sue's Chocolates is also selling individual bags of Bacon Buttercrunch and Pig Candy, crispy fried bacon strips dipped in chocolate

Visitors to Jacques Torres Chocolate's table can sample limited edition Apple Pie and Pumpkin Pie truffles and purchase favorites including milk chocolate covered cheerios, dark chocolate covered cornflakes, Halloween themed chocolate pumpkins and suckers, and oversized chocolate chip cookies

Chocolove's Chilies & Cherries in Dark Chocolate- one of its 17 varieties of premium bars (each wrapped in a love poem)

Madecasse's chocolate is made in Madagascar and inspired by the proprietors' Peace Corps experiences

Every one of Jer's Handmade Chocolates' products are made utilizing all-natural peanut butter

De Bondt Chocolate's highly acclaimed aromatic bars (referred to as "Special Bars") are made with jalapeno, ginger, and my personal favorite, fennel

Markus Candinas, from Verona, WI, is on hand to share his elderflower truffles

E. Guittard's chocolate wafers in varying percentages of cacao

2 Chicks With Chocolate made its Chocolate Show debut

William Dean's 10 piece box of bon bons includes flavors like PB Krunch, Rosewater Caramel, and Lemongrass & Coconut

Guests are told not to chew Mon Ami Truffles. The traditional French truffles are made to melt in your mouth

Among a wide variety of spices, World Flavors Spices & Teas is selling a special hot chocolate blend and several loose teas that incorporate chocolate. The "Chocolate Tea Collection" includes dark chocolate orange, chocolate mint, cherry chocolate, tehai mayan cocoa, chocolate macaroon and chili truffle

Words of wisdom from Leonidas

On the way out, guests are given the opportunity to purchase a 10 piece box of chocolates from the 2009 Top Ten Chocolatiers. The $20 box includes Jacques Torres' Almondine, Norman Love's Passion Panna Cotta, Jeff Shepherd's Cayenne Caramel, Jin Caldwell's Perfecto Mojito, Thomas Haas' Almond Praline, Julian Rose's Ocumarian Truffle, Michael Recchiuti's Tarragon Grapefruit, Patrick Coston's Spicy Merlot, Andrew Garrison's Apple Crumble, and Markus Candinas' Raspberry Truffle

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Rainy Day Recipe

A comforting recipe on an otherwise gloomy day- the addition of chilies and crushed red pepper gives the dish heat while the pomegranate molasses provides a welcome sweetness:

Lentil and Eggplant Bake
1 1/2 lbs (approx. 1 large) eggplant
5 oz brown lentils
6 fl oz extra virgin olive oil
7 oz Spanish onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz (approx. 2 medium) tomatoes, diced
3 oz (approx. 2 medium) Anaheim chilies, seeded and chopped
2 tbsp fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
2 fl oz pomegranate molasses
2 tsp salt (plus more as needed)
1. Cut eggplant lengthwise into slices and score each slice. Sprinkle slices with salt to draw out moisture and allow to sit for 30 minutes.
2. Cook lentils according to package directions, drain and reserve.
3. Heat oven to 350 deg. Coat a large gratin dish with a thin layer of extra virgin olive oil, reserving the rest.
4. In a large bowl combine drained lentils, onions, garlic, tomatoes, chilies, mint, tomato paste, red pepper flakes, and 2 tsp salt.
4. Remove salt from eggplant slices and pat dry. Further cut eggplant slices into cubes and add the cubes to the vegetable mixture. Mix well.
5. Transfer mixture to the prepared gratin dish and drizzle the remaining extra virgin olive oil over and around the mixture. Drizzle pomegranate molasses evenly over the top.
6. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and transfer to the oven. Bake for 1 1/2 hrs, then uncover and bake for an additional 1/2 hr.

While it may not be the most aesthetically pleasing dish, what it lacks in presentation, it provides in taste. As it sits and the ingredients have time to meld, layers of flavor develop and it becomes nearly impossible to pass up seconds.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pumpkin Carving 2009

The tradition of carving lanterns from vegetables, most often turnips, originated in early 1800s in Ireland as an attempt to ward off evil spirits. Eventually the tradition made its way to America and pumpkins, with their larger surface area, inevitably took the place of turnips.

My pumpkin carving tradition began several years ago when my husband and I lived on 25th Street in an apartment with an oversized picture window and shelf, perfect to display jack-o'-lanterns to passersby. Over the years it has evolved into a gathering where food is central, and a friendly carving competition is more of an afterthought. This year's get-together was accompanied by an overabundance of fat filled treats and yielded five very different jack-o'-lanterns.

Sweets included a cherry-almond tart, gingerbread chocolate cake, pumpkin cookies with brown butter icing, gingerbread cookies, and crostini with ricotta, figs and honey

There were also a variety of cheeses, vegetable pizza, a taco inspired salad with corn chips, and vegetables with a multitude of bean dips

My husband handed off judging duties to our friend Garth- who will forever be known as the Simon Cowell of pumpkin carving competitions

Jennie's traditional style pumpkin took home top honors

Peggy's four seasons pumpkin radiated images from all sides when lit and was awarded "Most Boo-tiful"

Gina's marathon themed pumpkin puzzled the judge who deemed it unworthy of any award

My pumpkin, which I thought would win me another 1st place ribbon, took home the award for "Most Creative"

Sarah tried to save her pumpkin with toothpicks when careless carving skills caused her to lose more surface area than anticipated, but the unforgiving judge awarded her "Dead Last" for failed efforts

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Dumpling Debacle At NYC Dumpling Festival

My friend Sarah and I arrived at the NYC Dumpling Festival, held in Sara D. Roosevelt Park, at approximately 2:00 p.m. What followed can only be described as confusion and disappointment. Upon entering the Dumpling Festival we were met by signs screaming in bold black marker, "OUT OF TICKETS". Dejected and confused, (how could a food themed event that started merely two hours earlier be out of tickets- a necessity if one wanted to sample any of the nine varieties of dumplings), we stalled for a moment and debated an alternative lunch scheme. While we were discussing area restaurants, we noticed a line forming at the table responsible for ticket sales. An influx of tickets had miraculously appeared, and we took full advantage by quickly purchasing four tickets for $5.00 per ticket. Directly after purchasing our tickets we turned toward the dumpling stands and were overcome with severe disappointment. Had the promise of dumplings from Italy, the Philippines, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Poland and China not been so alluring we might have realized at least four of the dumpling stands were sold out of food and the lines at the stands that still had food were over 50 people deep (imagine how the lines might have looked had it not been raining). We used two tickets for a plate of five potstickers filled with chicken and lotus root (sadly, they were from a frozen package that could just as easily be purchased in a local grocery store and warmed at home) and a plate of three gummy palitaw (a rice flour cake coated with toasted sesame seeds and sugar) from the Philippines before we cut our losses, leaving two tickets unused, and headed home.

These signs were taped on each side of the ticket table

Malaysian kuih koci were sold out

Although we had waited in line for Indian idli we were given potstickers as all idli were sold out

Pierogies, a food I was looking forward to eating, were sold out

The shortest line was at the palitaw stand, and after tasting them we realized why

This performer's ability to balance and twirl a bottle on the edge of a spatula in his mouth did not detract from the lack of food

The event was crammed with people waiting in long lines

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bid Against Hunger

City Harvest's highly anticipated Bid Against Hunger took place tonight at the Metropolitan Pavilion. The benefit featured an eclectic group of restaurateurs, skilled chefs (including Eric Ripert, Chair of the City Harvest Food Council), and volunteers serving small bites from over 60 of Manhattan's most popular restaurants and bakeries. While deciding which fabulous foods to devour, eager bidders were given the opportunity to vie for priceless auction items such as "Colicchio And Canapes", an intimate cooking lesson for four in Craft's private dining room with Tom Colicchio coupled with a cocktail party for twelve with B.R. Guest mixologist Eben Klemm.

I worked my way around the room sampling from as many tables as my ever-expanding stomach would allow- all in the name of charity. If I had been bold enough to opt for seconds, I would have made a beeline for Blue Hill's clean flavors and colorful presentation, Alex Guarnaschelli's unconventional pairing of buttery popcorn with creamy butternut squash soup, Landmarc's rich orecchiette alla norcina, Jean Georges' warm crab cake with ginger and lime dressing, and The Modern's nutty pistachio bavaroise with almond praline.

Blue Smoke's mini banana cream pies

Blue Hill's presentation and flavors were exceptional- my favorite of the night

Bar Breton's crepe croque monsieur, black forest ham and gruyere with garlic mayonnaise

Roquefort parfaits with sauternes gelee and walnut crumb from Bar Artisanal

Apotheke's Albert Trummer presented freshly made strawberry fennel and cilantro paso cocktails

Anito Lo of Rickshaw Dumpling Bar and Annisa

Corton's red kuri squash veloute and parmesan

Spiced tuna, marinated beets and harissa aioli from BLT Fish

Mushroom soup topped with truffle cream from Corton's Paul Liebrandt

Creative packaging for China Grill's confucius chicken salad

Ed's Lobster Bar's lobster roll canape

Portobello mousse and peach fennel compote from Dirt Candy

Daniel's lemongrass marinated pineapple with thai-basil foam and a sesame tuile (no Daniel in sight)

Cupcake Cafe's beautifully decorated walnut, chocolate and lemon cupcakes

Craft's roasted sirloin, hot pepper relish and charred onion soubise

Alaskan sablefish, root vegetable salad and carrot coriander vinaigrette from Oceana

Bomboloni from Motorino

Michael Psilakis at Anthos' table

Gordon Ramsay at The London's soy marinated strip loin, pickled daikon and togarashi mayonnaise

BBQ Lamb Buns at Geisha's table

Pistachio bavaroise and almond praline from The Modern

Pork terrine, pistachio puree and pickled mustard seeds from Spigolo

Seasonal's braised beef cheeks and spaetzle

Scott Conant of Scarpetta served tuna and avocado salad

In addition to Hudson Valley moulard, duck foie gras pastrami and burgundy mustard on a black pepper brioche roll, Per Se sent guests away with individually wrapped chocolate chip brownies

VIP Guests were sent home with a goodie bag filled with champagne, a Zagat 2010 restaurant guide, Stumptown coffee beans, and additional treats