Friday, July 29, 2011

Fat Fridays: Lulu Cake Boutique

This week's Fat Fridays indulgence brought me to one of my favorite Chelsea haunts. I wrote about Lulu Cake Boutique when it opened its NYC outpost in the fall of 2010, but it bears repeating- its cakes, cookies and inventive retro desserts (yodels, devil dogs and twinkies, to name a few) are phenomenal. On this particular trip, I chose an oversized tri-colored cookie. Lulu's take on a classic Italian confection- thick fudgy chocolate tops five colorful layers of almond sponge cake and alternating sweet raspberry and apricot jam, making this the best, and biggest, version of a rainbow cookie I have ever had the pleasure of devouring.

Each layer of Lulu Cake Boutique's tri-colored cookie is perfectly proportioned, and perfectly delicious

(*Full disclosure- Fat Fridays was extra fat this week- I couldn't leave without a half-pound bag of raspberry chocolate chip rugelach.)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Great Linguine Caper

I rarely take leftovers home from a restaurant. Not that I'm opposed to it, I just typically finish my meal (let anything sit in front of me long enough and I'm bound to take it down). Last night, two hearty hunks of bread and a filling appetizer stunted my ability to finish a very delicious plate of linguine strofinate al pesto e pomodoro piccante (for the Italian challenged like myself- linguine pasta with genovese pesto and spicy tomato sauce) at Southampton's Ristorante Sant Ambroeus. I'd say I managed about three good fork twirls while my husband had one, leaving more than half of the dish uneaten. I asked for the remainder of the $22 pasta to be boxed, my husband paid the bill, and we were on our merry way.

Back at home, I unbagged the leftovers only to discover a meager amount of linguine in a rather small container- not nearly what I had left on my plate at Sant Ambroeus. Never have I encountered something like this, so I am left asking- what happened to what I thought would be today's lunch; where is the linguine, Sant Ambroeus?

The small amount that was boxed and bagged for take home- maybe two or three bites

Monday, July 25, 2011

Market Mondays: Open-Face Greenmarket Sandwich

This week's edition of Market Mondays focuses on the simple beauty of vine-ripened heirloom tomatoes. The Union Square Greenmarket, and every nearby market for that matter, is overflowing with big, juicy, colorful tomatoes. It is a part of summer I can't get enough of.

I used toasted kalamata olive bread as the base for an open-face Greenmarket sandwich, layered with soft cracked pepper and garlic cheese, thinly sliced lemon cucumber, five different heirloom tomatoes, a handful of sunflower greens, fragrant Italian large leaf basil, a drizzle of Meyer lemon olive oil and balsamic glaze, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.

Out of all the funky varieties of basil- I went home with the standard Italian large leaf
Sunflower greens- the attendant offered to trade me as much as I wanted for my camera- while tempting, I passed
Heirloom tomatoes are in abundance at the Greenmarket- I slow roasted my extras and saved them for tomorrow's feast
Lemon cucumber- I first encountered this variety last year in my CSA take-home
I chose the Jersey Fresh cheese- "like a pressed mozzarella" with cracked pepper and garlic
Kalamata olive bread- made from all purpose and whole wheat flour
Half of the finished open-face Greenmarket sandwich

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Tomatoes To Bananas

When I first found out I was pregnant, I signed up with I plugged in as much info as I knew, and every Friday I receive an email with updates on my baby's development and what to expect during the impending week. Week after week- I've read as my baby's growth is likened to seeds, beans, fruits and veggies. I began with a tiny poppy seed and now I have a full blown heirloom tomato (along the way- a sesame seed, lentil, blueberry, kidney bean, grape, kumquat, fig, lime, medium shrimp, lemon, apple, avocado, turnip, and bell pepper). Up next- a banana. Imagine- an heirloom tomato growing into a banana in 1 week- and it's all happening inside my expanding belly.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Fat Fridays: Pizzetteria Brunetti

Nestled in the back of a Häagen-Dazs ice cream parlor on Westhampton's Main Street is Pizzetteria Brunetti. Opened during the summer of 2010, the tiny family-owned shop uses a wood-burning oven imported from Naples and fresh, oftentimes local, ingredients to turn out a traditional Neapolitan style pie with an exceptional, addictive crust.

On Friday, I sent my husband to pick up my favorite, the Verde Misto (fig puree topped with chopped mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, crumbled blue cheese, red onion, and a balsamic reduction). He returned bearing my requested dinner and a Fat Fridays treat- the weekly special dessert pizza. Made with a brown sugar infused dough, mascarpone cheese, blueberry jam, fresh blueberries and a dusting of confectioner's sugar, the pie is a delicious deviation from the norm and a worthwhile Fat Fridays indulgence.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Westhampton's Margarita Grille

As my parents, sister and I walked down Westhampton's Main Street on a hot and humid day, we were dared to sample Margarita Grille's "awesome" specials. We accepted the challenge, set up camp at a shaded table, and started with a round of cool drinks and the restaurant's version of a bread basket- complimentary tortilla chips and salsa.

While the menu offers a blend of Mexican, Southwestern and classic American fare, we came for the daily specials and stuck to our guns when it came time to place our order. Up first- the peach salad. A disappointment at a whopping $15, mixed greens arrived overdressed with balsamic vinegar and oil, fresh peach chunks, soggy cornbread croutons, and shredded cheese. Thankfully, it was the restaurant's only misstep that afternoon. The two additional specials, fish tacos with mako or tuna, hit the spot. Two soft tortillas are filled with a choice of grilled local fish, topped with a cabbage-cucumber salad, chipotle crema, and cilantro, and served with two lime wedges and a side of Spanish rice and black beans for $19 (the market price for that day's catch). With only three specials, our last dish was a flier from the menu- red, white and blue tacos- and it ended up being our tastiest. Two soft tortillas came layered with guacamole, a hard blue corn tortilla, crispy rock shrimp, salsa rojo, and queso fresco. On the side- Spanish rice and black beans, lettuce and chopped tomatoes- all for $16.

A relaxed atmosphere with outdoor seating, fun drinks, and flavorful lunchtime fare- worth repeating

The sign that landed us at Margarita Grille- "Why don't you try our AWESOME SPECIALS! We dare you!"
A colorful board proudly displays the daily drink specials
A duo of margaritas- pomegranate and strawberry, garnished with lime wedges and a rim of salt
In lieu of a standard bread basket- chips and chunky salsa
The disappointing, drenched peach salad
Fresh mako tacos with all the fixings
A regular menu item I'll definitely be back for- red, white and blue tacos

Monday, July 18, 2011

Market Mondays: Cherry Chocolate Chip Muffins

Recently, every trip to the Union Square Greenmarket involves me going home with a gigantic bag of cherries. They sit glistening in the sun, looking so plump and juicy that I can't help but keep mindlessly stuffing handful after handful in my bag (and into my mouth once I get home). This week, as I delved into the sweet, dark variety, I noticed Red Jacket Orchards' framed recipe for cherry muffins (anything in a frame must be legit). Knowing that I would have plenty to munch on and to test out this recipe, I took a pic and continued through the aisles, picking up butter, milk, and applesauce. I followed the recipe word for word, except for the addition of 3/4 cup milk chocolate chips, and a fresh Market Mondays treat was born.

If I ever make these delicious muffins again (which is highly likely as I seem to have a boatload of cherries in my fridge), I would add a pinch of cinnamon to the batter in addition to the topping. I would also reduce the quantity of brown sugar and cinnamon in the topping as there was excess waste.

Red Jacket Orchards Cherry Muffins (yield, 12 muffins)
1/4 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup milk, soy milk or almond milk
2 tablespoons applesauce (Red Jacket Orchards is unsweetened)
1 3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup cherries, pitted and quartered
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare muffin tin with liners.
2. Beat butter, milk and applesauce in a large bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients just until flour is moistened (this is where I added the 3/4 cup milk chocolate chips). Divide batter into muffin cups and sprinkle with topping.
3. Bake for 18-22 minutes.

The framed recipe that inspired this week's Market Mondays muffins
Red Jacket Orchards' applesauce
Butter was on sale- $5.75/half pound
I chose to make the muffins with sweet, dark cherries as opposed to sour cherries
The final cherry chocolate chip muffins

Friday, July 15, 2011

Fat Fridays: Have Your Cake, Ltd.

This week's Fat Fridays segment turned into a family affair. My parents and sister are visiting, and they were more than happy to join in my quest to find, and eat, a calorie-laden, fat-filled Friday delight. The scene of our snack attack- Quogue's Have Your Cake, Ltd. While the bake shop is filled with assorted temptations, we gravitated to the glass cookie jars sitting atop the long cupcake case. Inside those containers- chocolate crinkle sandwiches bursting with either vanilla or peanut butter frosting. Each $3 cake-style sandwich consists of 2 oversized, bubbly chocolate cookies dusted with confectioner's sugar, and a mound of rich, sweet cream frosting. Paradise in a cookie.

My dad- putting his cash away after picking up the tab for our Fat Fridays indulgence
My sister- trying to get her mouth around a very thick crinkle sandwich

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Death By Amorino

I recently read an article that stated, "Consumption of ice cream increases during the summer and so does the number of people who drown. Therefore, eating ice cream causes drowning." The article attempted to use this nonsensical approach to prove an unrelated point (something to do with alcohol and drunk driving), but I couldn't focus on the author's conclusion. I got sidetracked thinking about ice cream and drowning, or rather drowning in ice cream.

It has been so incredibly hot lately that the idea actually seems plausible. So, if I were to drown myself in cool, creamy goodness what brand would I choose to meet my end? In record time, and for 3 simple reasons, I settled on Amorino's gelato: 1. there's no denying its deliciousness; 2. no matter what the size (from a piccolo cornetto to a grandisima coppa) you can request as many flavors as you can handle- all for the same price; and 3. once filled with gelato, each cup or cone is made to resemble a blossoming flower.

The French-based company's first American store opened in June on University and 10th
In addition to a wide variety of mouth-watering gelato, a number of sorbet flavors are available
A blossoming combination of pistachio, amarena, and caramello with fleur de sel
The piccolo cornetto (small cone)- I stopped myself with only three flavors
The focaccina (sweet sandwich) comes with sugar $3.50, gianduja or chocolate $5.25, apricot or wild strawberry organic jam $5.25, or may be filled with your choice of gelato $7.50
Amorino's gelato is made with organic fresh eggs, fresh milk and seasonal fruits and can be found in Milan, Paris, London, Barcelona, Berlin, Innbruck, and now- NYC

Monday, July 11, 2011

Market Mondays: Recreating Manzo's Vegetable Salad

It's hazy, humid and temps are hovering above 90 degrees. For these reasons this week's Market Mondays dish needed to be light and easy to prepare. I recently had dinner at Manzo in the Batali-Bastianich food mecca, Eataly, and loved its simple, clean flavor. I set out to recreate the experience by first roasting summer squash (zucchini and zephyr) and cherry tomatoes with fresh herbs (thyme, oregano, and basil). I separately roasted sweet peppers until brown and blistery, and easily removed the outer skin. I combined the roasted veggies and topped them with thinly sliced Pawlet cheese, a drizzle of Meyer lemon olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper for a quick, tasty salad. Just as good as Manzo's (swapping out Parm for Pawlet), without the $18 price tag.

Summer squash was in abundance at the Union Square Greenmarket
Sweet peppers came in yellow, orange and green hues
Pints of plump cherry tomatoes were $4.50
Herbs were on sale- 1/2 price- $1.50 each pot
One of my favorites- Consider Bardwell Farm's Pawlet cheese
The final roasted veggie and Pawlet salad

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Oceanbléu's Lobster Bake

On Saturday night, the otherwise private Westhampton Bath & Tennis Hotel and Marina opened its doors to the public for the first of many beachfront lobster bakes (the remainder will take place Saturdays 6-10 p.m. during July and August). Robbins Wolfe Eventeurs transformed the exclusive club's elegant ballroom, Oceanbléu, into a social gathering for lobster lovers, complete with live music (the 7-piece band seamlessly performed everything from Boombastic to Mustang Sally) and stunning views of the Atlantic.

With the $45.95 price tag came an unlimited seaside buffet and dessert table, plus full dinner service including a 1 1/2 pound steamed lobster or grilled chicken, corn on the cob and roasted potatoes. The seaside buffet included assorted fresh breads, mussels and steamers, balsamic grilled vegetables, roasted beets with haricot verts, and salads like caprese, mixed greens or spinach with a number of add-ins, asparagus, hearts of palm and cucumber, shrimp, and pasta. Options at the dessert table included apple cobbler and berry pies, a strawberry sheet cake adorned with a pink lobster, seasonal fruit, house-baked cookies, chocolate cake, and brownies.

If the diners' response to the first lobster bake is any indication of the ones to follow, Robbins Wolfe Eventeurs is likely to have a very successful summer at the Westhampton Bath & Tennis Hotel and Marina.

The view from the beach looking inside
An overview of the seaside buffet
The band kicked the party into gear with songs everyone could dance to
Steamers with clarified butter
Mussels with bread for sopping up the juices
A bucket of lobster crackers and bibs were the centerpiece of each table
Andy, getting ready to feast on his lobster dinner
Sarah, who has a deadly shellfish allergy, and Bryan, poised with a life-saving EpiPen
Sarah's grilled chicken, topped with a mango salsa and served with corn on the cob and roasted potatoes
The main event- steamed lobster
My lobster aftermath
The dessert table's many options
Strawberry cake with a lobster even Sarah can cut into
Looking out from the dining room- this deer grazed nearby until it became dark and it was time for all of us to go