Friday, December 31, 2010

Winvian Resort

I spent less than 24 hours at Connecticut's Winvian Resort, yet somehow I managed to consume enough for an entire weekend. Holed up in the Connecticut Yankee, one of Winvian's 18 playfully designed cottages, my stay kicked off with a cheese and charcuterie plate, followed by afternoon tea service- a pot of tea and no less than eight decadent sweets. A three course dinner (with all the extras it was closer to five) prepared by chef Chris Eddy (a tell-tale sign Winvian's fare is excellent- Woody Campbell, Chairman of the James Beard Foundation, holding court at an adjacent table) and a box of crispy chocolate clusters with turndown service rounded out the evening. Before setting off for Manhattan the next morning- a leisurely breakfast by the fire. The pictures below tell a better story than I ever could...

The cheese and charcuterie plate- terrines and pâtés, marinated veggies, olives and rosemary, roasted beets, three cheeses, quince paste, dijon mustard, honey, and candied pecans, served with thin raisin and nut toasts
A pot of Earl Grey with afternoon tea service
Ricotta, macadamia and pistachio rounds with blueberry compote, candied lime and apple chips
Fluffy strawberry marshmallows and rich truffles
Miniature cheesecakes topped with blueberry compote and candied lime
Almond tarts with fresh fruit and passionfruit curd
Pistachio biscotti
Chewy peanut butter cookies
Chilled raspberry soup (after 1 spoonful I decided to save calories on this one)
Crispy chocolate clusters were waiting when I returned from dinner at Winvian's restaurant. The gluttonous dinner: the chef's amuse- pork rillette topped with madeira and served with brioche toast; a second amuse- creamy ham and cheese rounds, and gnocchi with parsnip purée and roasted cipollini onions; starters- an endive salad with celery, blue cheese and prosciutto for my husband, and a homemade pasta with seafood for me; entrées- halibut with vegetables for me, and a veal chop with bacon wrapped potatoes for my husband; a palate cleanser- ice wine sorbet with thinly sliced grapes; dessert- a duo for each of us- creamy custard with cocoa nibs and a white and dark chocolate sacher with raspberries
Breakfast started with pancakes dusted with confectioner's sugar
The breakfast pastry basket- two croissants, a blueberry muffin, and three slices of lemon pound cake- accompanied by blueberry, strawberry, orange and raspberry jams
Attempting to keep it semi-healthy (it's never too late...)- a fruit cup served with yogurt topped with homemade granola

Monday, December 27, 2010

Market Mondays: Denied

This week's segment of Market Mondays proved to be an impossibility. Last night's blizzard (complete with thundersnow and lightning) blanketed Manhattan with several feet of snow, canceling Monday's Union Square Greenmarket and denying me my weekly vegetable fix. Wind whipped snow and puddles of slushy ice took the place of familiar vendors. The only sign of food- a miniature snowman with cherry tomato eyes, and a nose and mouth made with blueberries.

Strong winds are forming snowdrifts on the edge of Union Square
Piles of snow replace fruits and veggies at the scene of the Union Square Greenmarket
A tiny snowman with a cherry tomato/blueberry face

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Solo At ABC Elixir Bar

I can count on one hand the amount of times I've eaten a meal in a restaurant alone. I constantly see it being done, but it makes me extremely anxious and uncomfortable- culinary immaturity I guess. In the midst of running errands on an empty stomach (fighting the masses for that last perfect Christmas gift), I found myself sitting solo at ABC Elixir Bar, a cozy extension of Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s critically acclaimed restaurant, ABC Kitchen. ABC Elixir Bar serves a variety of juices, smoothies, and baked goods, as well as several tempting items from ABC Kitchen's menu.

It may be that the usual crowd was on their way home for the holidays, but I found ABC Elixir Bar's tucked away tables and relaxed, welcoming ambiance the perfect refuge for a solitary luncher. I sipped a tall glass of the yuzu c (orange, pineapple, grapefruit, lemon, lime, and yuzu) while munching on a roasted carrot and avocado salad with crunchy seeds, sour cream and citrus- all by my lonesome...

ABC Elixir Bar's menu includes cold pressed organic juices, smoothies, coffees and teas, and looks to its neighbor's menu for market driven dishes (to name a few- roasted beets, tuna sashimi, cauliflower soup, spinach and goat cheese pizza, and a sundae that tops salted caramel ice cream with candied peanuts and popcorn, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce)
The yuzu c- maybe not worth the $12 price tag, but it gave me the boost I needed to finish the day's errands
One of my favorite dishes from ABC Kitchen- the roasted carrot and avocado salad

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Winter Warm-Up

As the first official day of winter rolled into NYC with frigid temps, my down jacket and I went in search of the perfect winter warm-up. Café Grumpy, known for its meticulously brewed selection of coffees (it made headlines earlier this year for its Ethiopian Nekisse, priced at $12 a cup), also serves a delicious cup of hot chocolate. Combining steamed milk with a blend of stone ground organic chocolate from Taza Chocolate, the hot chocolate is neither too thick nor too chocolatey, and is far from being overly cloying- in fact, it is less sweet than most hot chocolate I've come across. Spooning the artfully decorated froth into the base makes each sip creamy and satisfying.

A tasty way to warm up on the first day of winter
At $3 a cup, Café Grumpy's hot chocolate is a worthwhile indulgence

Monday, December 20, 2010

Market Mondays: Veggie Sloppy Joes

This week's installment of Market Mondays brought an old favorite back to the dinner table- sloppy joes. Along with the reintroduction came a veggie packed renovation- to both the base and the buns. A trip to the Union Square Farmer's Market and a bag full of garlic, onions, carrots, green peppers, portobello mushrooms, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes provided inspiration for a meatless sloppy joe on a sweet potato bun.

After a string of minor disasters, I don't mess around when it comes to baking- be it breads or sweets. For the sweet potato buns, I followed a recipe the Washington Post's Joe Yonan adapted from James Beard's "Beard on Bread". The only changes I made were to add sesame seeds (revolutionary, I know) and to use a square baking dish as opposed to a round pie plate (resulting in square buns- à la White Castle style). The base was more about improvising- utilizing all the veggies I picked up at the farmer's market and a few things I had in my apartment (a scoop of Trader Joe's 17 Bean & Barley Mix, molasses, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper, ginger, and cinnamon). With so many hearty, protein packed components and fresh flavors- the new veggie sloppy joe rivals the timeless original.

Bulbs of garlic at the Union Square Farmer's Market
A bin of purple onions
Oversized orange and purple carrots- I bought one of each and have plenty left over
The green peppers came from Lani's Farm- a vendor that won't return to the Union Square Farmer's Market until March
A great substitute for meat- large portobello mushrooms
Bags of tomatoes grown in New Jersey
Sweet potatoes- $1 per pound
Passing the sweet potato through a ricer ensures smooth consistency
The finished sweet potato buns, golden brown and topped with sesame seeds
Trader Joe's 17 Bean & Barley Mix- wet from soaking
Steam rising from the meatless base (veggies include garlic, onions, carrots, green peppers, portobello mushrooms, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes)
Two veggie sloppy joes on sweet potato buns

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Cana Wine Bar

I wanted so badly to love Cana Wine Bar, the newest establishment to pop up in Limelight Marketplace. With interest waning and stores turning over left and right, Limelight appears to be in desperate need of an ace in the hole. I was overly optimistic in thinking Cana could be such a savior (one bearing alcohol and snacks), as I went to its grand opening envisioning a cozy new watering hole- a place to whet my whistle before making the short trek back to my apartment. Sadly, the wine bar and restaurant proved to be anything but cozy.

Operated by the team behind Tracks Raw Bar and Grill and Penn Wine and Spirits in Penn Station, and serving a menu of Italian-inspired bites devised by restaurateur Nicola Maurello, Cana is reminiscent of an airport bar; a place to bide your time before heading off to greener pastures. The background noise (Limelight's blaring holiday tunes) is deafening, the ultra-flourescent lights unforgiving, and the service- mediocre (forgivable as it was opening day). An $8 glass of Il Faggio Montepulciano D'Abruzzo was served without mishap, but a request for a $9 glass of La Manna "Turris" Primitivo was shot down- a misstep that was shrugged off with a disturbing explanation, "We just opened and a lot of the things on the menu haven't been delivered." No alternative was offered, nor was any information given as to which of the menu's wines were on site.

With dinner reservations ahead of us, we looked past the paninis, soups and salads, and played it safe with a $12 cheese platter- a selection of four cheeses, raspberry jam, cocktail olives, and crostini served on an oak board. The platter's only flaw- crostini that could be mistaken for triangles of a Stouffer's French bread pizza, minus the sauce. My suggestion- ditch the subpar crostini and replace it with a few crackers or a thinly sliced baguette.

We drank our wine, nibbled our cheese, and left shortly after arriving. As a pit stop during an afternoon in a seemingly faltering Limelight Marketplace, I predict Cana will have a short lifespan. And while my experience may have turned me into a pessimist, I think I can safely say it lacks the necessary attractiveness to become a destination unto itself.

A view of the multi-tiered Cana Wine Bar from Limelight's second level
The menu includes soups, small plates (crab cakes, croquettes, etc.), salads, paninis, carpaccios, cured meats, cheeses, bruschettas, cocktails, beer and wine (poured from a tap)
The cheese platter with the Stouffer's-esque crostini

Monday, December 13, 2010

Market Mondays: Hand Pies

Today marks my second Market Monday adventure. On tonight's menu- flaky hand pies made with sweet potatoes, cheddar cheese, purple kale, leeks and thyme from the Union Square Farmer's Market, along with a few other ingredients I had in my fridge. The recipe is below.

Roasted Pork and Vegetable Hand Pies (yield, 8)
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 medium leek, thinly sliced
1 small bunch purple kale, ribs removed, coarsely chopped
1 tsp thyme leaves
1 tbsp all purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup roasted pork loin, cubed
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 10 inch prepared pie crusts
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Salt and pepper, to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut prepared pie crusts into 16 4.5 inch circles and divide between 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Place in fridge until ready to assemble.
2. Cook sweet potato in a medium pot of boiling water until tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from water and set aside.
3. Melt butter in a large skillet and add leek, kale, thyme and a dash of salt and pepper. Cook over medium-high heat until leek is tender, about 5-6 minutes.
4. Add sweet potato, flour and chicken broth. Bring to a boil and stir until mixture thickens, approximately 2-3 minutes. Combine with pork and season with salt and pepper.
5. Spoon mixture onto 8 dough rounds, leaving a .5 inch border. Distribute cheddar cheese evenly and cover with remaining 8 dough rounds. Seal edges of each hand pie and brush with beaten egg.
6. Cut a vent in each hand pie and bake for 30 minutes, or until crisp and brown.

Sweet potatoes at the Union Square Farmer's Market
Purple kale sells for $2.75 a bunch
Blocks of cheddar cheese
Today, leeks were sold in bunches of 3
Leeks, purple kale, thyme, and sweet potatoes in boiling chicken broth
The assembled filling topped with cheddar cheese
A finished, golden hand pie
An interior view of a savory hand pie

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Nutmeg's Versatility

Whip-it loving teens have been experimenting with whipped cream, aerosol cans, and magic markers for years. Now, ABC World News brings word that youngsters favor a new flavor for their hallucinogenic highs- nutmeg. Myristicin, a natural compound found in nutmeg, produces mind-altering effects similar to LSD if ingested in large doses. But like the abuse of other household products before it, misuse of the spice comes with repercussions- including nausea, vomiting and diarrhea within 30 minutes of ingestion, and may lead to graver consequences like sudden sniffing death syndrome (does this sound fake to anyone else?).

Apparently nutmeg is much more versatile than I, a person who uses it solely to add a little pizzazz to foods like pies and soups, ever imagined. My takeaway from this newfound knowledge- I'd have no chance on the game show Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader as I am clearly nowhere near as imaginative as a teenager.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Help Getting Well

I would never wish sickness or injury on another person, let alone someone that I live with (Full disclosure- I once willed a college professor immediate pain and suffering after he humiliated me by informing 20+ classmates the answer I had given him was a stupid response to a simple question. He was a Jesuit priest teaching theology- how could I argue, especially given the fact it was a mandatory subject and I had no desire to be there?). That being said, I do sometimes long for the treats that inevitably accompany sickness or injury- "Here's a big basket of delicious sweets to help with a speedy recovery!". Who wouldn't get better at the sight of one of those baskets?!

My husband went under the knife this week to repair a torn acl, and in the days following his operation the sugar starting flowing into our apartment...

Butterfly Bakeshop's chunky oatmeal cranberry cookies
Mariebelle's Belle-Helene chocolate bars
A 2.5 quart of Baci Gelato's stracciatella gelato and mini cones
An assortment of Mrs. Fields' nibblers and brownie bites