Sunday, November 29, 2009

Saba Rock Restaurant


Saba Rock Restaurant ("The Rock") is situated in the North Sound of Virgin Gorda and is a destination that can only be accessed by boat. Its parking lot is often occupied by high-priced yachts anchored next to modest dinghies. My friends and I visited The Rock for lunch, when Chef Shelford Tucker serves reasonably priced pub fare infused with his signature Caribbean spices. The restaurant's fresh, flavorful food and breezy, relaxed atmosphere (swaying hammocks screamed to be used while our meal was prepared) were a welcome break from the afternoon sun.

Saba Rock Restaurant

Marya and Andy in the restaurant's clear blue parking lot

A juicy Barbados cheeseburger served with crisp fries

Tropical fish tacos, made with mahi mahi

The crunchy grouper sando with cool avocado tartar

A new addition to the menu, a jerk mahi mahi wrap with sweet peppers

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Giving Thanks On Virgin Gorda


My husband and I deviated from a customary Thanksgiving in Buffalo by celebrating with friends at Virgin Gorda's relaxed Bitter End Yacht Club. Seated at a table overlooking the turquoise waters of the North Sound, we relished in the warm breeze and soft reggae music as we feasted on an island inspired Thanksgiving dinner. Although the majority of food served was a clear departure from a traditional Thanksgiving meal, the chef did prepare a number of classics including roasted turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie.

Marya, Liz and I ready to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner at the Bitter End Yacht Club

Corn and zucchini salad

Tropical fruit salad

Caribbean plantain salad

Candied yams

Pumpkin rice

Grilled vegetables

Red bliss potatoes

Twice baked potatoes

House made cranberry sauce

Stuffing

Sage roasted carved turkey

Island spice rubbed pork loin

Grilled mahi mahi and sautéed vegetables in a savory curry sauce

Oven baked honey mustard ham

Praline pumpkin cheesecake and pecan pie bites

An assortment of cookies made by Winston Butler

Carrot cake topped with a maraschino cherry and chocolate cake topped with chocolate ganache

Apple pie

Pumpkin pie with whipped cream

An after dinner drink- spice rum

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Queen Of Pressure Cooking


I recently started lending a hand to Lorna Sass as she fine-tunes her newest endeavor, Pressure Cooking With Lorna Sass, a website devoted to the art of pressure cooking. Lorna's expertise in the culinary world has earned her the moniker "The Queen of Pressure Cooking." She has authored 15 cookbooks, countless articles for prominent publications, and was honored with the prestigious James Beard Award in the healthy focus category for her informative cookbook, Whole Grains Every Day, Every Way. The 20th anniversary edition of Cooking Under Pressure, considered the bible on the subject of pressure cooking, was published earlier this month.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

East Meets West At Convivio



I live on the West Side of Manhattan while the majority of my friends (and frequent dinner companions) live on the East Side. In the past, whenever we made plans to meet for dinner I would persuade them to venture across 5th Avenue to my side of town. With the list of stellar East Side restaurants continually expanding, I now make a conscious effort to eat east of 5th Avenue.

This weekend I headed east to join a friend for dinner at Convivio, an Italian restaurant nestled in historic Tudor City (an area that occupies 40th Street to 43rd Street between First and Second Avenues). The quantity and quality of food served from Convivio's $59 prix fixe menu (2 sfizi or 1 antipasti; 1 primi; 1 secondi- including the speciale del giorno; 1 dessert) make it one of Manhattan's rare bargains.

The stracciatella- fresh cheese curd and pomodoro with two slices of crusty bread is served cold

The zucchine- charred baby zucchini topped with basil pesto and cheese was my least favorite dish. The zucchini had a soggy texture and I had a tough time getting past the burnt flavor

The polipo- grilled octopus on top of chickpea panissa with olives and red peppers was delicious

I tasted sea urchin for the third time in my life (the third time's a charm...) in Convivio's malloreddus- sardinian saffron gnocchetti with crab and sea urchin

The sauce in the fusilli- pork shoulder ragu and caciocavallo fonduta- is exceptional

The branzino (a special of the day) arrived with caperberries, cannellini beans, and stewed tomatoes even though the menu specified parsnips, baby fennel confit, porcini mushrooms, and black truffle vinaigrette

Tonno- seared fennel crusted big-eye tuna, served with butternut squash caponata and vin cotto was a perfect rare

The sorbetti trio- mango, mixed berry, and lime with yogurt- was light and refreshing

Brasato d’Ananas- vanilla braised pineapple, coconut custard and mango sorbet was a great way to end a flavorful dinner

Friday, November 20, 2009

EAT.

My sister recently closed on a house in downtown Buffalo, happily leaving her much smaller apartment behind. As a result, she was faced with the task of dressing up what seemed like a limitless expanse of bare walls in comparison to her previous living space. After she hung the pictures and paintings that survived the move, she reluctantly allowed me to use my artistic abilities (or lack thereof) to fill a small corner in her kitchen with a food themed work of art.

I used elbow macaroni, plastic utensils, fabric glue and silver spray paint (to match the silver fixtures) to create a masterpiece in a black framed shadowbox. The outcome is entitled "EAT." for obvious reasons.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dr. Nathan Myhrvold

Science is not my strong suit. As a junior in high school, I passed my Chemistry class thanks to a friend who took pity on me and programmed his TI-82 (a graphing calculator) with answers to all of our exams. My friend had the class in the morning and handed me his answer laden calculator after his class ended, which I happily took with me to my afternoon class. My foolproof system for cheating didn't help when the Chemistry Regents Exam rolled around. I failed miserably, spent the summer with a tutor, and barely passed when I retook the exam. As a senior I was put in Physics first period. This gave me no opportunity to cheat as I had in Chemistry. After struggling through extra-credit projects I passed the class with a low grade (yes, my parents were proud) but failed the Physics Regents Exam. Luckily I didn't need to pass the Physics Regents in order to graduate high school with a Regents diploma- so I spent my summer in the sun instead of with a tutor.

My inability to understand basic science principles leaves me in awe of people like Dr. Nathan Myhrvold. Dr. Myhrvold's work is the subject of a fascinating article in the NY Times. The article discusses how Dr. Myhrvold, armed with a high-tech kitchen and a team that includes a biochemistry graduate and professional chefs, is using science to adapt food industry technologies to restaurant cooking. His findings will be made available in a still untitled cookbook that is currently over 1,500 pages. The cookbook will include information on microbiology, food safety, the physics of heat transfer on the stove and in the oven, formulas for turning fruit and vegetable juices into gels, and more. I am well beyond my high school years and science continues to haunt me- I never thought I would need a tutor to understand a cookbook!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Black & Blue Steak & Crab

I spent the last few days visiting my family in Buffalo. While in town my sister and I tagged along with my parents as they celebrated their 37th wedding anniversary at black & blue steak & crab, a restaurant known for its fresh seafood and tender steaks.

According to our friendly waiter, the restaurant is named for the black and blue crust that forms on a cut of steak after it receives a quick turn in the kitchen's 1700 degree oven. Black & blue steak & crab received three and a half out of four stars from the Buffalo News' restaurant critic, Janice Okun, and it is easy to see why. The atmosphere is elegant yet inviting. None of the restaurant's seafood items (save for the king crab) are frozen- they arrive daily in temperature controlled vehicles. The wine list is extensive and the flavorful dishes are prepared with a refined simplicity.

Sopressata and four cheese stuffed banana peppers top a shaved fennel salad

A “filet mignon” of Hawaiian tuna seared over a gingered potato salad, soy glazed carrots and sugar snap peas

A special- sesame crusted halibut with a ginger soy glaze over swiss chard and grilled scallop teriyaki risotto

Jumbo scallops tossed in a pomegranate glaze served with a grilled vegetable risotto and crispy onions

The warm chocolate "bomb" with vanilla ice cream was devoured as soon as it was put on the table

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cranberry Season

Fresh cranberries contain a number of disease preventing nutrients and antioxidants. Their limited availability and tart, tangy flavor make them a highly popular superfruit. I usually stock up during cranberry season (they are typically harvested between September and October and sold between late October/early November and December), using them in everything from colorful sauces to comforting breads, and freeze extra quantities for later use- when the only cranberries available in grocery stores are dried. Below is a quick, simple recipe for a cranberry based won ton appetizer:

Fresh Cranberry Won Ton Cups
Ingredients:
1 pkg won ton wraps
12 oz fresh cranberries
1 navel orange (peeled, with zest reserved)
2 tbsp mint leaves
3 tbsp agave nectar
1 cup pecans
12 oz pkg white chocolate chunks
Preparation:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Spray a muffin pan with cooking spray and insert won ton wraps into the pan, forming small cups. Bake for 6 minutes.
3. Pulse cranberries, peeled navel orange, orange zest, mint leaves, agave nectar and pecans in food processor until coarsely ground and well mixed.
4. Spoon mixture into cooled won ton cups and top each with several chunks of white chocolate

Baking the won ton wraps gives them a crunchy texture

The chunky mixture can be made in less than 5 minutes

Topping the cranberry won ton cups with white chocolate adds a contrast of color and sweetness