Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Scrappy Gen and Ben's Deli

My good friend Jennifer prepared this fabulous post for your reading pleasure - Enjoy!

Two visits two New York City in less than two months is a record for me. We had lunch with Suzee on October 23 and last Saturday I was back again, but I didn’t have time to see my old (as in long time, not age) friend.

Promises, Promises, playing at the Broadway Theatre, was the destination for my parents, my aunt, my sister and me. My Aunt is a big fan of Burt Bacharach, the music composer, and this was her last chance to see the musical, which closes on January 2. Sean Hayes was hysterical in the leading role and Kristin Chenoweth has a beautiful voice. The original movie, The Apartment, was a fairly serious one, but this show is fun and highly enjoyable.

We took the train to Grand Central Station from New Haven and arrived with a couple of hours during which to eat lunch. My Aunt’s friend had recommended that we try Ben’s Kosher Deli on 38th Street, a short ten or fifteen minute walk from the train station.

We were there early for lunch at 11:45 and quickly got a table. Before we had our coats off, we had been served big bowls of coleslaw and pickles, both dill and half sour. All three were crunchy and delicious.

The menu has a very large selection, but a couple of items appealed to our whole group; the famous Ben’s stuffed cabbage, the matzah ball soup, the hot pastrami on rye and the potato pancakes.

We all declared the stuffed cabbage a winner. The sauce tasted slightly sweet. The appetizer serving of one cabbage is enough for a lunch meal. Of course, we didn’t stop there and also had a half a pastrami on rye. The pastrami was tasty, but could have been better with a little less fat. My Dad had the matzah ball soup. I tasted the matzah ball and it was light and well peppered. The only item none of us loved was the potato pancake. Maybe it was New York style. We were hoping for a lighter, crisper pancake.

The service was good and quick, particularly considering it was the height of the shopping season. Would we make a return trip to Ben’s? Yes. In fact, I don’t have a choice as my husband, MJ, is not very happy that he missed out on the meal and has vowed that we will return. Perhaps to attend Boychick’s Bar Mitzvah.

Before we left New York to return to New Haven, my Mom and Aunt wanted to see the tree at Rockefeller Center. Doing this on a Saturday evening in late December is not something that I recommend, unless you are really good with crowds. It was absolutely crazy, but we did glimpse the tree.

My favorite part of our trip though was seeing these talented fellows:

The Salvation Army employees were singing and dancing their hearts out with microphones and karaoke. They gathered big crowds as they worked their magic and people dusted off their hearts and dug deep into their pockets to show their appreciation. It was a neat thing to see.

All in all, we had a great trip to New York and loved Ben’s Kosher Deli. The only thing missing from the trip was seeing Suzee.


How about Ben’s and shopping in January?


Scrappy Gen

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Rick's Favorite Oatmeal

Oatmeal is one of those incredibly low calorie breakfasts that is so satisfying. I think oatmeal is really my favorite "whole grain" and definitely my favorite baking ingredient. All that extra fiber along with the chewy texture and homey flavor is something of which we should take advantage, in my opinion.

Rick loves this preparation, and so do I. Unlike baked goods, I can just make enough for right now, and I have some tricks to make it just a little more decadent, without totally ruining the benefits of this tasty ingredient.

I make the oatmeal leveraging the directions on the package - a 2:1 ratio of water to grain. So 2 cups of water to 1 cup of old fashioned oats for the two of us. Then I start my tricks! I add about a 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon to the pan, and I core and chop a ripe pear (leave the peel on). Then I turn on the stove to start the cooking process. Bring to a simmer and cook for a few minutes until the oatmeal is the consistency you like.

Split the oatmeal into 2 bowls, and sprinkle about a tablespoon of brown sugar in each bowl, and add about a 1/2 cup of milk as well. Then, crumble 2 or 3 walnut halves into each bowl as well. Don't mix it all up - that way the little bit of sugar will dance directly on your tongue! And the nuts add this crunchy dimension, and the fruit adds sweetness too.

Every time I eat it, it reminds me of a cross between oatmeal cookies and apple crisp. What a way to start the day, huh? Yum!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Murray Hill Haunt - The Wharf

I think I have found another good pub in Murray Hill! Yay! I stopped at The Wharf after doing power Christmas shopping. The best time to find a cool pub - when your feet hurt from walking all over town, and your packages are getting heavy. Trudge in the door, plop all your bags on the seat next to you at the bar, and gratefully sit down. If you are lucky, they will have Blue Point Toasted Lager on tap!
I saw on the specials board that the soup of the day was potato cheddar with bacon. Oh my. It warms the soul and dances on your tongue. It really should be on the regular menu, it's so fabulous!

I admit, in addition to the food, the other thing a cool pub requires are chairs with backs. Now these are the tables in the bar area - note there are not any backs to these chairs. The bar chairs have backs though :) I think it's important to have full disclosure.

After a cup of that incredible soup, I enjoyed the lobster macaroni and cheese. I told the bar tender - I'm a lobster snob. Is it really good? And she assured me she'd just had some last week, and she was pleasantly surprised how good it was. So was I! Yum!!!

The dish was appropriately cheesey with a decidedly cheddar slant. The pasta was cooked well - nothing mushy about it. Since the lobster consisted of claws and knuckles, I'd assume this was frozen fare, but in combination with the cheddar flavor, it really tasted fresh! There was a smattering of crunchy breadcrumbs on top - if you are into that you will be pleased. I'm not, but I still liked them.

If you find yourself in the Murray Hill area, ignore all the other pubs on Frat Row (aka 3rd Avenue in this area), and head straight to The Wharf. Good stuff there!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Cirque Du Soliel - Wintuk

Last night went to see Wintuk - I got a comp ticket, and this was the last year they were going to offer it in NYC. I walked over to Madison Square Garden, and after getting lost in the Andrea Boccelli line, I now realize that MSG has 2 venues - the arena (where I saw Lady Gaga earlier this year) and the WaMu Theater (where Wintuk was held). The arena has great seats all around. The WaMu Theater was so poorly designed, I'll bet 50% of the seats had an obstructed view (the head in front of them). And the seats are very uncomfortable.

The show started on time, but surprisingly, people kept arriving and were seated during the show. It was very distracting. I'm not sure if it's true of all Cirq shows (though it was for Banana Schpeel) that there is really no story. And this show had even less dialog. In the first 45 minutes, there might have been 20 spoken words.

The show was filled with physical comedy, and I'll bet that children would really enjoy it. Unfortunately, I didn't.

It seemed unprofessional. Given that some paid more that $200 per ticket, that was surprising. In addition to seating people while the show was in progress, Cirq was not even able to maintain a playbill for this show to let you know who the performers were.

So, if you are in the mood for a child like show sans the adult jokes, or perhaps you want to expose your children to theater as a way to ease them into something where appropriate behavior is required, perhaps this is for you.

For me, I'm not sure I'd actually pay for a Cirq show given my experiences so far.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving on Indian Lake

Sunrise Thanksgiving morning - lots to be thankful and grateful for...

Rick believes there is a Turkey Protection Program here in South Padre - these Turkeys are in costume.

Mushrooms - just out of the oven. Pretty gosh darn tasty!

This is a random Indian Lake bean bag game with variable rules. Tom and Aggie seem to like it though :D

Dinner with a whole lotta Indian Lakers. Some really amazing dishes at this pot luck!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Suzee's Peas and Onions with Champagne Cream Sauce

We went to the Indian Lake Potluck Thanksgiving this year, and Rick was hoping for some peas and onions. Usually we just buy them frozen, but here in South TX there was not even a package of frozen onions to be had.

I did find some raw pearl onions and figured, what the heck - lets try and make some from scratch.

I blanched the onions for 3 - 4 minutes to get the skins off (3 ten ounce packages). I figured out early on that if you leave the root end attached, and slice off the other end, you can pretty easily peel off the outter layer and slice it off the onion. I tried the "slip the skins off" method, but my onions were not cooperating.

In a stock pot I added about a 1/2 cup of flour and 3 or 4 T of butter. I stirred them together to make a roux and continued stirring as they cooked on medium for 2 - 3 minutes. I added a can of low sodium chicken broth, and whisked this together until smooth. Next I added 1/2 bottle of Asti Spumanti (Mom's fave for a holiday). Once it stopped bubbling from the carbination, I simmered it a bit to allow it to thicken. Maybe 5 or 10 minutes. I added some salt and freshly ground pepper, and I'll tell you the sauce tasted pretty gosh darn good at this point, so I added back the onions and also added 2 lbs of frozen peas. I let the the veggies simmer for about 10 minutes. After that I added about 1/2 - 3/4 cup half and half, and heated it through. I added more salt and pepper at this point as after the cream addition, it definitely needed some adjustments.

I consider this recipe a success - the 25 or so folks at the pot luck enjoyed them, as did Rick. Next time though I think I would make these adjustments.

Add the peas at the end, so they stay a nice bright green.
Consider going without the cream at all - the sauce was really nice even without it.
Add some tarragon to the mix - I think that would really make it special.

If you try this recipe, let me know how it goes! Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A perfect day on the Island!

We had a belated birthday celebration for my father's 21st celebration of his 50th birthday. I thought he would like an apron for making his famous black bean soup!

I was able to finagle a trip to the Palm Street Pier for our celebraton - I'm sure glad my father likes it too!

Last night we also had a great swim in the pool and I got to see the sunset over at Coconuts. Every sunset on South Padre Island is a good one :D

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Long Plane Ride

We took our Dial 7 car to the airport, and went through all the airport hassles. Then we waited for our plane like good doobies, and once we got seated, Rick's Kindle died. Seriously. We were about to spend 7 hours in a cramped airplane cabin, and he didn't have any reading material. Thankfully mine still worked, and I had a couple magazines with me. At the next stop (they stopped 2ce, but we were not to deboard) I used the wifi to download a couple books to my kindle phone app. Course my phone is not designed to be on all the time, and the battery died with about 45 minutes left of the flight.

We did call Amazon customer service at the first stop to get some help. They had no idea what was happening, and suggested they would send a new one to us, and we could return the dead one. We were able, after some negotiation, to get the new Kindle sent to my parent's place, and for them to get it to us for tomorrow. So half the vacation without the numerous books we downloaded specifically for this trip :( One day at a time, right?

Yesterday we got some fish tacos at the Palm Street Pier (my favorite spot), and watched the Patriots spank the Colts. Good day :)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Share Our Strength Party Pack

Hickory Farms is offering a Party Planning gift pack for $40 where they donate $5 for each package to Share Our Strength. SOS fights hunger in America. As a part of the Foodbuzz Tastemakers program, I received my Party Planning gift pack today, and I must say - the presentation is really top notch. The package arrived in great shape, and I looked forward to opening it up to see what was inside!

I like to give food gifts - things that people don't buy themselves. Hickory Farms isn't what I would usually choose, but I must say, it's an afforable option which can be easily shipped. The added feature of supporting a great organization is a bonus in my book.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Creamy Champagne Chicken Soup

My friends Jennifer and MJ came to visit not too long ago, and I think that's why I've been reminiscing about them lately. We went to UNH together, played and danced and did all that college stuff. After college, I was a bridesmaid at their wedding, visited when babies were born, and shared lots of dinner parties at their house and mine.

MJ is one of the pickiest eaters I've ever met (well, perhaps Rick is that picky too). At any rate, during the dinner parties, we tried new dishes and socialized at home where we could be comfortable and spend a few less dollars. MJ was always a wonderful guest, and we always had fun, but it was tradition that he would stop on the way home from dinner at McDonalds - I think he used to get a quarter pounder with cheese because he was hungry. I served a lot of fish because I loved it, but he did not. Thanks MJ for coming despite the menus I subjected to you :) You are my favorite non-eating dinner guest :)

Now Jen would make delicious meals (which yes, MJ liked haha!) and this one dish she made was called Champagne Chicken. It has been too long to remember any specifics except that it had champagne and chicken in it, and was a great use for left over champagne. I remember I really liked it.

So, for some reason the other day I was thinking about all of this as I was making chicken noodle soup. Interestingly I had a heavy 1/2 bottle of left over champagne. Thanks Jen for inspiring this yummy dish!

12 C Home made chicken stock
1 lb raw boneless chicken, in a small dice ( use cooked chicken and add at the end)
1+ lb carrots, peeled and diced (be sure it's pretty small to get a few things on your spoon and to ensure they cook)
1/2 lb egg noodles
1t dried thyme
1t dried tarragon
1t onion powder
1t garlic powder
1/2+ bottle left over champagne

sour cream for finishing

Heat the chicken stock with the carrots.
When it starts to simmer, add the chicken and the spices.
After 10 - 15 minutes, add the champagne and the noodles. Stir to ensure all the noodles get wet, and let simmer for 10 minutes or so. Add the chicken now if you used cooked chicken. Don't mix it for these 10 minutes so the noodles don't get gummy.
After 10 minutes, it may seem a little stiff. Add water, 1 cup at a time, until it's the soup consistency you like.
Heat through.

Serve in a bowl or a mug, and stir in a spoonful of sour cream

This is a really tasty option, and you feel good for using up that champagne!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Rain on Broadway

Last night I had the opportunity to see Rain on Broadway, a tribute to the Beatles. I let my friends know I was going, and I was surprised to hear the multiple view point comments. It seems there is a love/hate relationship with the public, which I would not have guessed. This show is all about the music, and I have to say I'm not a huge Beatle fan - I don't own any of their recordings, but I don't turn off the radio if one of their songs comes on. Honestly, I wanted to learn more about the history of the Beatles and consider how they influenced music of their time and mine. The bonus was it was a very entertaining history lesson!

With the multimedia insertion to the show, I was very impressed with how the show reminded you really how different life was in the these decades, especially when the Beatles first burst on the scene. Hindsight is 20/20, and it looked to me that the Beatles were just as influenced by America, as America was influenced by the Beatles. I prefer the pop-like music from the early Beatle sounds. The sound and video were very cool - and it felt authentic. The songs were raw without any electronic smoothing, and I loved how each vocalist was really such a fabulous musician!

The actor playing the Paul McCartney character was simply amazing. He didn't look like Paul per se, but his gestures, dancing, awesome hair and interacting with the band - after a few minutes, you knew exactly who he is portraying. It seems he was also in Beatlemania (the previous Beatles Tribute, which I did not see), so I can only imagine how much time he spent capturing these physical nuances.

Rain is only on Broadway until January 9th - it is a great show for young and old alike - it is fun and you can't help but smile.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Lincoln Center in the Evening

Just outside Lincoln Center is the infamous Empire Hotel. If you are in the area, I encourage you to go so you can say "I've been there!"

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Suzee's Grapefruit Glazed Layer Cake

I was feeling a little restless today. There weren't any jobs posted that sounded interesting, the one contact I was able to connect with didn't have any time to chat today. Perhaps tomorrow.

I started browsing through the Foodbuzz Top 9, and came upon the number one today and it inspired me to make a cake. This is really not anything fancy - I had a cake mix in the cupboard for French Vanilla cake. I made it according to the directions (but if I do it again I would add a cup of sour cream like my MIL does - that adds a great crumb and moisture) in 2 eight inch round pans. I let it cool, and flipped one layer and placed it on the plate top side down. I added about a cup or so of Stonewall Kitchen's Mimosa Jam (oh my so delicious!) and spread it over the top of the lower layer. I put the next layer on top. Then I mixed about a cup and a half of confectioners sugar with about 2T of grapefruit juice, and mixed them together - it took some time, but don't add more liquid - it will come together. I tasted it and it needed something to cut the sweetness so I added a couple of scrapes of orange zest. That did the trick!

I drizzled the glaze over the top, and licked the spoon (yum!)

I hope you enjoy pairing these flavors - I'm in a big grapefruit phase - expect more :) xo

Friday, November 12, 2010

Suzee's Beef Stroganoff Soup

As a part of the Tastemakers Program with Foodbuzz, I was able to replentish my supplies of Lea and Perron's Worcestershire Sauce. I got my coupons for freebies, and shared them with my family.

My cousins, Denise and Ginny, always have great beef recipes using this really uniquely flavored condiment, and I think their mom, my Aunt Beth, would use this a lot too. It's that little something that makes you go hmmm.... yum! What is that??

I also like to make soups of the flavor of things that may be too rich to eat as just a dish. Adding water gives me more bites of delicious flavor :) So this experiment came out pretty good :)

1 32 oz carton of Rachael Ray Beef Stock
1/2 lb browned ground beef
1 1/2 minced onion
10 oz package of button mushrooms, minced and sauteed
8 hefty shakes of Lea and Perron's Worcestershire sauce
1/2 C red wine
1/2 C brown rice (uncooked)
2 C water

sour cream to stir in at serving time.

Add all together and allow to cook for a few hours on low. It worked best for me to pop the pan in the oven on 300 and let it go :)

I read an interesting article from the magazine which is associated with America's Test Kitchen. They tested a number of beef broths, and the Rachael Ray Beef Stock In A Box won by a mile - she actually uses 2x the beef products to make the stock. I think it also really made a difference in this dish.

I like to leave the sour cream out until you serve it as then you can determine how much you want to add, and then of course it's easier to reheat as well :)


Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Empire Hotel - Papparazzi Heaven

I went to the Empire Hotel rooftop bar to get this shot of the iconic sign. I reference the papparazzi because I think it is impossible to pick up a rag and not read about some big star partying there the week before. I went at around 7 pm, and I'm here to tell you, this is before blue hair time for the hip and happening for NYC :) Still, I enjoyed my cocktail, and the view :)

Here is my cocktail at the Empire Hotel Rooftop Lounge :)

STRAWBERRY FIELDS - Grey Goose Citron Vodka, fresh strawberries, lemon juice and simple syrup, topped with prosecco

I highly recommend it!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dogfish Head Raison D'Etre

I was just at the store because I needed some sour cream for my soup, and I walked by the beer aisle and this beer called me. "Suzee, Suzee - I am delicious and I won't be here when you come back later. Buy me! Buy me!" So, as you can imagine, I did.

I cracked it when I got home, and wow - it was so delicious! I looked on the Dogfish Head web site, and they suggested to drink it from a goblet or snifter, so I poured it into a wine glass. I was really surprised difference in flavor between a swig from the bottle and a sip from a glass! The ale beery bitterness cut through the lager like initial taste in the bottle. While I was on the web, I found that each bottle has 9% alcohol, and 220 calories (wow!), so take this in to consideration if you decide to have a second one :)

Really, this is a delightful beer - if you see it in the store, fork over that $14.00. You won't be sorry!