Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Rita's Water Ice

The Upper West Side's new frozen treat outpost, Rita's Water Ice, is the perfect destination on a warm, sunny day. The small shop is located on Broadway between 92nd and 93rd streets and boasts tempting sweets like custard, gelati, and fat-free Italian ice. After sampling two cool flavors of Italian ice- the limited edition peeps (bright yellow in color with a sugary marshmallow taste- peeps aren't my candy of choice but I had to give the limited edition flavor a try), and mint chocolate chip (refreshingly minty and studded with mini chocolate chips)- I settled on a cup of the s'mores flavor. I was curious to find out how my favorite campfire treat would translate into Italian ice. I instantly fell in love and envision the s'mores flavored Italian ice becoming a favorite summertime indulgence. The smooth taste of toasted marshmallow, sweet graham cracker, and chocolate are as good frozen in a cup as they are melted on the end of a stick.

A generous "small" cup of s'mores Italian ice

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Brooklyn Flea

I spent the afternoon at the Brooklyn Flea with my favorite longtime Brooklyn local, Amanda. The popular market is housed in the former Williamsburgh Savings Bank and features over one hundred vendors hawking items including furniture, clothing, jewelry, art, antiques, and food.

Amanda and I quickly surveyed the top two levels of the market, opting to spend the majority of our time in the basement where an eclectic mix of food vendors serve savory and sweet edibles. With so many enticing, reasonably priced options we created our own mini food festival by sharing small bites from several of the market's participants. Every bite was bursting with flavor, and when we finally left the Brooklyn Flea we had a considerable number of new favorites. I would highly recommend the Brooklyn Flea to anyone looking for a fun, affordable weekend activity.

Bee 'n' Beez from Rick's Picks- a new take on the classic American bread-and-butter pickle with less sugar, fresh ginger, and dried cherries

Soler-Bermudez Red Hook Food Vendors' pupusa (a traditional handmade corn tortilla popular in El Salvador) topped with pickled cabbage, homemade tomato sauce, sour cream and jalapeños

Sigmund Pretzelshop's organic, hand rolled, fresh baked gruyère paprika pretzels

Nunu Chocolates uses cocoa beans from a sustainable, family run farm in eastern Colombia. It's 4-pack Caramel Blend contains a soft golden caramel butterfly, a hand-dipped salt caramel, a salt-roasted cashew caramel, and a peanut caramel crunch (my favorite of the bunch) all enrobed in a rich dark chocolate

Hand packed jars of spicy pickle spears made with McClure's Pickles' secret family recipe

Options at Red Hook Lobster Pound's table

A $14 Maine Style lobster roll heaping with large chunks of fresh lobster meat

Liddabit Sweets' Breakfast of Heroes- made utilizing Vermont maple syrup, Bourbon Whiskey, Gorilla Coffee, and Wellshire Farms bacon

A look inside Liddabit Sweets' sinful "The King"- brown butter/brown sugar cookie, peanut butter nougat, fresh banana ganache

Liddabit Sweets' addictive beer & pretzel caramels contain generous chunks of Martin's pretzels and Brooklyn Brown Ale and East India Pale Ale from the Brooklyn Brewery

Kumquat Cupcakery sells adorable mini cupcakes in flavors such as maple bacon, coffee caramel bourbon, and p.b. banana honey

Korey Provencher of Kors d'Oeuvres makes a number of delicious spreads and dips, including my favorite (and his most popular)- a sweet roasted pumpkin, butternut squash and goat cheese spread

Brooklyn based SCRATCHbread bakes products such as hazelnut oat-nibb bars, sour milk salt and pepper biscuits, buttercream brownies, and thick brownstone focaccia

Choncho's Tacos fried $5 beer-battered mahi-mahi tacos right on the spot. The hot, crunchy taco, served with cilantro, shredded lettuce, sour cream, fresh salsa, and a lemon wedge, was Amanda's favorite

FINE & RAW was founded by a former financial analyst who honed his chocolate making skills in the Arizona desert

Tasty dumplings packed with vegetables and topped with sesame seeds from the Good Fork, a restaurant and bar located in Red Hook, Brooklyn

According to the company's proprietors, one pound of Crop to Cup coffee provides a 20% increase in farmer wages and a 55% increase in overall community benefit

For those interested in making their own beer, the Brooklyn Brew Shop was on location with all the necessary supplies

We couldn't leave the market without taking home a box of mini baklava from Anthi's Greek Food

My favorite taste of the afternoon was the Sidney Dog from Asiadog. A smoky veggie dog is topped with a sweet relish (made from mango, cucumber, red onion, and cilantro) and crushed peanuts

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Dinner On Greenwich Avenue

A close friend of mine recently began working for a company based in Greenwich, Connecticut- joining the ranks of tolerant reverse commuters. I have always been curious about Greenwich (like most Manhattanites I have passing dreams of the greener pastures that accompany a suburban life), so I, along with another friend of ours, jumped on board when she threw out the idea of grabbing dinner at one of Greenwich Avenue's many restaurants.

We settled on Solaia Champagne House, a restaurant with an intimate setting, seasonal menu, and a boatload of champagne. Our meal began with complimentary fresh bread (cheese, wheat, and crusty white) with a peppery olive oil, and progressed to a cheese board holding five varieties of cheese, sugared almond slivers with a hint of orange, and unprocessed honey. After we finished our delicious starters, which in my opinion are quite difficult to get wrong, dinner took a turn for the worse. We were served entrées that were over-spiced and overcooked, and a dessert that one companion described as evoking the taste of "a dirty, wet dishtowel." While the food was a disappointment (I have realized I am beyond spoiled living and eating in Manhattan), the quaint atmosphere, good company, and new experience in a new city made dinner in Greenwich worthwhile.

A list of Solaia Champagne House's entrées

Each meal starts with three varieties of complimentary bread and olive oil

Honey goat cheese, gouda, pecorino tartufo, brillat savarin, parmigiano reggiano, slivered almonds and honey

The scallops were overcooked, but the roasted cauliflower and outstanding creamless "creamed" spinach (the creamy consistency comes from puréed cauliflower) were redeeming accompaniments

The homemade tagliatelle with ragu of veal, pork and beef was dominated by too much rosemary

The white beans with the heavily spiced, overcooked tuna were flavored with what appeared to be bac-o-bits, and the escarole was limp and slimy

The dirty, wet dishtowel flavored apple strudel with vanilla ice cream and fresh mint

Monday, March 22, 2010

Just Food

After I expressed an interest in volunteering with a food related nonprofit, a knowledgeable friend led me to Just Food. Just Food connects local farmers with NYC residents by fostering communication and cooperation among groups concerned with farming, hunger, and sustainability issues. Programs such as The City Farms, Community Food Education, Fresh Food For All, Food Justice, and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) support local farms and food production, and promote equitable food distribution.

I have been assisting Just Food as it tests new recipes and revises its Veggie Tipsheets. Developed for CSA members and farmers, this invaluable resource contains recipes, selection and storage tips, and nutritional information for more than one hundred regional fruits and vegetables.

A look inside the prior version of Just Food's Veggie Tipsheets

*Click here for further information on Just Food's Veggie Tipsheets and here for information on joining the volunteering efforts.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Springtime Kitchen Accessories

From the moment I hung Crate & Barrel's Garden Harvest dishtowel through the latch on my oven door I find myself standing in my kitchen just to catch a glimpse of the hanging dishtowel in all its glory. Fresh colors in the shape of plump red tomatoes, yellow ears of corn peeping out of their husks, light green peas nestled in their shells, and bright orange carrots with vivid green tops are embroidered on a crisp white waffle-weave cotton, making it the perfect springtime kitchen accessory. A pack of 3 dishtowels is a mere $15.95- a bargain for the one article that can tie an entire kitchen together!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


I am not overly religious, but every year during Lent I wage war against one of my more unhealthy vices. This year I attempted to forego chocolate for the 46 day Lenten period (Ash Wednesday, February 17th, through the Saturday before Easter, April 3rd). I was doing extremely well given how much of the sweet confection I typically consume on a daily basis, and even lasted five days in the cold of Utah without one sip of hot chocolate (a feat until itself!).

In an unfortunate (yet delicious) turn of events, I returned home from Utah to find that my father had sent a rather large box of assorted Easter candy (Cadbury creme, caramel, and orange creme eggs, Reese's peanut butter eggs, Whoppers malted robin eggs, juicy Starburst, and my favorite- Cadbury mini eggs). I drooled over the candy for all of 24 hours before I was worn down and ultimately defeated by the Cadbury mini eggs. Chocolate is a powerful thing- and something I clearly do not have the restraint to give up for any reasonable length of time. There's always next year...

The bowl of Easter goodies- missing the Cadbury mini eggs that caused the demise of my Lenten promise

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Chimayo Restaurant

Chimayo, a cozy restaurant specializing in Southwestern cuisine, came highly recommended by Park City locals and tourists alike. With a track record of disappointing Park City dinners, my friend Sarah and I went into Chimayo with open minds and eager appetites. We were comfortably seated by a wood-burning fireplace and perused the restaurant's enticing menu before deciding to share one appetizer and two main dishes. The three creamy soups included in our soup sampler appetizer were extraordinarily flavorful and left us excited to taste our next course. Unfortunately, our excitement waned as the lag time between courses grew. More than thirty uncomfortable minutes later (uncomfortable, as an excessively large and bright spotlight from a nighttime taping of a One Tree Hill episode shone through the restaurant's windows directly into our faces) our entrees arrived. Thankfully they were well executed and highly enjoyable. The scallops were beautifully seared, and the sweet, buttery sauce was a delightful complement. The chicken was moist and tender with its unique and thoughtful nacho stuffing. Although a bit overpriced (the chicken dish was $35- Sarah thinks chicken should never cost more than $27- I'm not entirely clear how she arrived at this arbitrary amount but she is very adamant about it), dinner at Chamayo Restaurant was a memorable end to our quick trip.

The meal began with warm squares of potato bread and a metallic tasting cilantro dipping sauce

Soup sampler- arturo's tortilla soup (spicy with cubes of cheddar cheese, a scoop of guacamole, and fried tortilla strips), crab and corn chowder (with the crab on the side because of Sarah's deadly shellfish allergy), and roasted pumpkin soup (with a large chunk of blue cheese and dried cranberries)

Acapulco style pan seared sea scallops- fresh diver sea scallops seared golden brown and served with whipped sweet potatoes. Drizzled with a blood orange and jalapeno buerre blanc

Stuffed breast of chicken "nachos grande style"- roasted chicken breast filled with Chimayo's special nachos. Served with freshly made guacamole and salsa de chile rojo

The bright spotlight from the taping of a One Tree Hill episode- shining directly in our faces as we tried to enjoy dinner

Our cozy seats

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Wasatch Brew Pub & Brewery

In the mood for something a little more low-key than last night's overpriced dinner at 350 Main, my friend and I settled on the Wasatch Brew Pub & Brewery. Established in 1986, the Wasatch Brew Pub & Brewery is known for its locally brewed beers and simple pub fare. We were immediately disappointed when we realized the brewery does not offer a beer sampler. The more popular brews are sold by the pint or bottle. Not interested in getting sloppy while still adjusting to the high altitude, we limited ourselves to four beers between the two of us. There were no clear standouts amongst the beers we sampled. Our first place choice- the smooth amber Wasatch Winterfest Ale with rich caramel malt flavor. Coming in dead last- the thick Polygamy Porter (the reason behind the name- "Every good polygamist can use extra stamina."). I am vehemently opposed to strong coffee flavors and this beer was heavy with tones of coffee and chocolate.

We were equally disappointed by Wasatch Brew Pub & Brewery's dinner menu. The burger we ordered was average at best, with an oversized bun and mealy tomato. The oyster mushroom and fontina pizza was much too light on the sauce, much too heavy on the cheese, and quite bland. The meal's saving grace- the crispy french fries that accompanied the burger. Thankfully there were plenty of them.

The hoppy Wasatch Winterfest Seasonal Ale

The Belgian Style White Ale, called Wasatch White Label, is likened to Blue Moon

The gold medal winner of the 2006 World Beer Cup- Squatters India Pale Ale

Sarah's first sip of the dark Polygamy Porter- only 4% alcohol by volume

A mediocre Niman Ranch all-natural burger topped with melted swiss cheese

Individual sized oyster mushroom pizza with thick fontina cheese and herbs

Monday, March 8, 2010

350 Main

With a multitude of appealing restaurants dotting Park City's Main Street, my friend and I were drawn to the dinner menu at 350 Main. The restaurant, with its open kitchen and warm accents has been awarded "Best Restaurant - Park City" by Salt Lake City Magazine in both 2007 and 2009. In addition to a signature menu showcasing global ingredients that are naturally or organically grown, Chef Michael LeClerc has created a Menu de Sante. The Menu de Sante includes "items that are high in vitamins, antioxidants, and flavor, while being low in saturated fats and calories."

We sampled appetizers from the Menu de Sante and picked our entrées from the signature menu. Unfortunately, the chef's complicated presentations outshone the food. The plates we received were overly busy with unnecessary distractions, taking away from what could have been a solid main. Dishes were piled high with colorful ingredients, and oftentimes the myriad of flavors did not complement one another. 350 Main would benefit from a focused, simplified approach- less is more.

Tuscan style veggie salad with too much white bean mousse (overpowered by garlic), basil oil, tomato concassé, and sesame crackerbread

Roasted eggplant salad with sun dried tomatoes, basil, spinach, crumbled feta, pesto vinaigrette and an asiago crisp

Hapu'upu'u- pacific sea bass crusted with island spices, lemon and basil. Served with wasabi whipped potatoes (the wasabi flavor was entirely lost), roasted pineapple salsa and mango-ginger creme

Ono-ono- pacific ono served two ways: Grilled and served with asian stir fry and topped with spicy island chutney; Wasabi seared, served with napa cabbage and rice noodle salad, topped with pickled shallots and peanuts. With so many components- I think they forgot to pay attention to the fish- each piece was disastrously undercooked, rendering it inedible