Monday, January 31, 2011

Suzee's BLT Dip

My sweet friend Amber asked me for this dip today. I haven't gotten around to blogging about it yet, but figure now is a great time with the super bowl coming up!

1 lb bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
1 pint grape tomatoes cut in quarters. If they are large, cut in 6ths or 8ths.
1 bunch arugula (yes, it matters. I've tried other greens, and this really is the best), chopped
16 oz light sour cream
1 packet ranch dressing mix

mix it all up and enjoy!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday Mary Afternoon

Brunch is a religion here in NYC. Restaurants have special menus and cocktail specials, some even offer "all you can drink" options. We like to go to Brunch because it's better than a blue hair special, and if you go late, around 3 or 4, there is plenty of elbow room :) Sometimes, though, we like to laze around in our pajamas for the day, and if we want a brunch like experience, this is one cocktail we enjoy!
The secret is to use Mr. & Mrs T's Bold and Spicy bloody mary mix. It is the only ingredient I use that still contains high fructose corn syrup, but I don't think anyone thinks a bloody mary is health food. It's a treat, so I don't feel too bad about that.

A simple vodka is fine - no need for martini worthy spirits. Add in 3 good shakes of tobasco sauce, and a few grinds of pepper. And one of the most important things is the fresh garnishes. Today I added a couple celery stalks and a couple cucumber spears - the fragrance as you sip the cocktail just puts it up over the top. Seriously.

Mix, enjoy the fragrance, and sip. You won't have any choice but to enjoy :)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Spice Market - Wowie Kazowie!

Last Thursday night we went to Spice Market for dinner - it's Restaurant week :) And Spice Market is a TREAT! We started by sitting with a cocktail - I tried the Peach Saketini - made with my current absolute favorite spirit, Belvedere Pink Grapefruit vodka and then plum saki and blended peach. It was lovely. Rick had the Whiskey Fizz - whisky with stuff I can't remember now, but was really tasty :) I think his was better :)
We were brought a gorgeous dish of  lentil chips (so delicate and gorgeously flavored) and a tomato relish as described by our server - it was absolutely delish! A sweet and very spicy dip.
We so enjoyed our appetizers - first was the salmon tartar with avocado. Is there any way to serve fresh avocado and not have it be amazing?? I don't think so. Rick even liked this one. I was surprised and amazed. Next were chicken samosas with a cilantro yogurt sauce - the samosas were made with dark meat chicken - moist and flavorful, and the sauce started with a fresh hit of parsley and cilantro on the tongue, and exploded with spice. Simply fabulous!
I asked for beer recommendations at this point - something to go with all this spicey deliciousness. The waitress made pointed out a couple of white ales. Rick had the Coney Island Albino, and I had the Hitachino from Japan. It was the first time I paid $12 for a bottle of beer. But, it was tasty :)

This was the spicy thai slaw with asian pear, crispy shallots and mint. Sweet and spicy, a large serving of freshness, reminiscent of my Thai Chicken Salad, but much much spicier! And the sweet asian pear was just enough to put the fire out :)

The beef skewers were interesting - a mixture of ground beef and spices formed over the bamboo stick, and cooked. The cumin and chili was interesting, and there was definitely something in there that made us go "hmmmmmmm....what is that?".

This is an extra order of fried rice, suggested as an addition to the restaurant week menu. I was glad to try it, though the egg was a little over done, it was a tasty addition. In retrospect, it was gilding the lily, and we already had too much food,

The Vietnamese Chicken Curry was my favorite dish. It was creamy, crispy, tender, spicy and smooth. 2 well cooked chicken drumsticks with the favorful sauce - so nice.

The roasted cod was my least favorite - the fish was fresh, but the spicy lentils really overpowered the dish - We didn't finish it.
The 2 desserts for restaurant week were lovely. The kulfa was a lightly chocolatey caramelly candy. The caramelized banana rested on top with whipped cream and caramel popcorn. Sweet, an occasional spark of salt, and the perfectly ripe banana were a nice treat at the end of a yummy meal.
The ginger ice cream was also very tasty - uniquely flavored, but I won't be leaving my favorite chocolate behind :)

Everything at Spice Market is served family style, so I'd imagine it's a great place to take friends or visitors. The restaurant is very large for NYC standards - 2 very large floors of happy satisfied diners, and many well trained servers. The waitress uniforms are quite unique as well - entirely backless. Any where else it would be incredibly cheezy, but here it adds to the mystery of the decor and of course the lovely food.

I am looking forward to going again soon, so hopefully I will have a visitor sometime soon so I can have an excuse :)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Kellari Parea NYC

I wanted to get out of the recent round of the same-o same-o rounds of restaurants we have been making this winter. I went on to Open Table, and found the cute local place not too far from the apartment. Kellari Parea is a very beautiful restaurant at 36 E 20th St. Rustic but romantic, quiet but not desolate.

Our waiter told us of the fresh fishes available, and there is a display case of fresh whole fishes to admire on your way to your table. We were a bit early, but decided to sit at the table for a pre-dinner cocktail. I tried the Ginger Sun, a vodka cocktail with a topping of prosecco. It was nice. Rick ordered a Figs n Kisses cocktail - a vodka cocktail with some sweet midori like liquor - his was a a sweet kiss - I liked it a lot.

Rick was pretty hungry, and wanted to order an app early, so we chose the Saganaki, described as Flamed kefalograviera cheese. It is a definite show stopper - the cheese is fried in the kitchen, and then some kind of liquor is poured over it, and set a light. Very fun! Be sure though, to eat your Saganaki as soon as it comes. It cools quickly, and it's not nearly as nice once it's cold.

I ordered the tzatziki, and it was a nice started - a nice amount of dip with freshly baked flat bread. And our waiter happily brought more fresh flat bread when we needed it.

For dinner, Rick ordered the filet mignon medium rare. Unfortunately it came well done. I ordered Yesterday's Lamb - a specialty of the house I thought. I was expecting a nice braised meat from the description, but it was tough and grey.

Although Kellari Parea offers meat, I think really it's a seafood restaurant, and that was not clear from the website unfortunately. I was hoping to have a few tapas, and share, but Rick was up for dinner. He chalked it up to: "You don't order coffee in a Chinese restaurant." and obviously you do not order meat here.

After dinner the waiter brought some complimentary cookies with the check, and they were nice.

I think I would go back, but I would plan on a seafood extravaganza :)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ai Fiori

After a meeting in midtown, I decided to stop here for lunch. Ai Fiori was written up in a few publications, and I've been wanting to stop in. I had thought the restaurant was on the first floor, but no, it's on the second. The dining room is beautiful, and each table was graced with a fresh arrangement of exquisite flowers.
I looked at the cocktail list, and selected the only vodka specialty cocktail offered. It was a little sour with the juice they used. It was not my thing. The lunch menu is available a la carte, or as a prix fixe where you select an appetizer and entree.
I selected the fresh sardine appetizer. I've been seeing more and more about fresh sardines in the foodie world and wanted to try them. As I waited, I wondered if they would like anything like the smelts we used to catch ice fishing. Welp - I don't know what sardines taste like if they were caught the same day as you eat them (like the smelts) but these were pretty fishy. The tomato relish on the plate would cover the fishyness, but I would not order these again.

As I waited for my entree, I looked around the room - the room was pretty, but the view, not so much. Those flowers add a lot.
When my entree came, it looked quite nice. It's a veal agnolotti. When I cut one of those fluffy pillows in half, and tried that bite. And it was heavenly. I called over a bus boy and asked him to send someone to recommend a wine to go with this work of art. By my 5th bite or so, my wine had arrived, and I had the pleasure of enjoying the obviously homemade pasta filled with savory minced veal. This I would order again :)
Ai Fiori is a business lunch locale - not a ladies who lunch locale. The dining room has a nice light during the day, but I don't think this section of 5th Ave would be too pretty at night. Despite the amazing service at this restaurant, for the money there are many other places I'd rather go.

Bar Basque

Tonight we had a fabulous meal at Bar Basque, on 6th Ave between 29th and 30th streets. It's restaurant week (yipppeeee!!!!!) and I love getting out of our own way to try new places in new parts of the city. After the 4/5 train had delays of an undetermined timeframe, I jumped on the A train to Penn station. I was trying to get off at 23rd street, but accidentally ended up on an express train to Penn Station. Not so far really, but I had it in my head that this place was on 6th between 19th and 20th, so I walked all the way down there, and realized....hmmmm....I am in the wrong place, and Rick is already there. I hopped in a cab and scurried back up to 29th street, just in time for our reservation.

Bar Basque is on the second floor, and because it was frigidly cold, the Matre 'd was also on the second floor. It was a little confusing as there are no signs. Just a big staircase and a hall. I almost walked into the windowed elevator door as it looked like just a hall way. I was really batting 1000 tonight :)

I had thought this was a different place when I made the reservation, so I was surprised by the second floor local, and the contemporary disco interior. Rick was waiting at the bar, so I took it upon myself to order a specialty cocktail. Perusing the menu, I selected a Kiwi Elderflower martini, made with tequila as the base. It was simply outstanding. I never would have thought the Elderflower liquor would have stood up to the tequila, but it did, and I really enjoyed it a lot :) If you come, don't miss it!

We made our way to the Matre 'd, and were shown to a 2 top in the atrium. It's an interesting room, and they show silent black and white short movies against the wall across the street - not long enough to take your attention away from the conversation, but a little light and motion :)

This is my post martini smile :)

We ordered from the Restaurant Week menu and elected to have the wine taste pairings as well. Rick started with the Crispy Farm Egg, nestled in a bed of potato and cheese sauce, and the yolk still warm dribbled over the serrano ham. Sigh ... this was amazing. It was paired with a light white wine with a light sparkle to it, Oloroso Faraon. 2 of these and you would have an amazing brunch.

I had the roasted beet salad. It arrived chilled, which surprised me, but it was very delicious. The caramelized goat cheese had a crispy topping of baked sugar, which I actually could have done with out, but over all the flavors really enhanced eachother nicely. The wine served with this, Txakoli Ametzoi, was akin perhaps to a cogniac - smokey, smooth and a little warm going down. I never would have selected it on my own, but it went really well with this salad. Nicely done!

For dinner, Rick selected the Paella. The presentation left something to be desired, but the bite I enjoyed was surprisingly flavorful with a nice spice to it. The small sausages and dark meat chicken were perhaps a bit over cooked for my taste, but Rick enjoyed it, and I encouraged him to scrape up the toasty rice bits from the pan, as this is a key part of the dish. His wine was a red - Tempranillo Montebuena unoaked - simple on it's own, but very complimentary to the dish.

Rick's happy sigh knowing I'm having fun, and we'll be home soon so he can play video games :)

My entree was the grilled snapper. It was nicely cooked - not over done, but lacked any kind of seasoning. I was looking for the salt shaker. The wine, also simple, light, and added flavor to the fish.

In retrospect, one of the specialties of the house is the crispy suckling pig. I would love to try that :)

For dessert, I had the chocolate flan. Oh. my.


It was rich and not too sweet. There was a sugary candy topping, but I pushed that aside to enjoy the richness of the dark chocolate. I used some to fill the little cookie there. I was planning to try the dried cherries, but I didn't. I'm not really a dried fruit gal. The wine with this dish was also another deep dark one - dark amber in color, and tasted very high in alcohol. I'm not a dessert wine person, and this was not your usual dessert wine - it tasted of chocolate and cherries, but alas, my palete must not be too good at this point because it seems that Nyquill may aspire to be this wine. Ah well - we all have what we like, right?

Rick had the Torta wth the honey iced cream - this was light, lovely, and nice end to a meal. The wine, a late harvest Moscatel, was not syrupy sweet. Just nicely sweet, and it was nice with the torta especially.
On the way out, I had to take a photo of the studio 54 look of the lounge - LOVE IT :) You just don't see places like this anywhere but NYC, so you have to enjoy the over-the-top-ness of it :)

I hope you try Bar Basque - it's normally a Tapas joint - and I'm looking forward to trying some of the Tapas next time. But go during restaurant week - they really have done a nice job with it.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Suzee's Crab Stuffed Mushrooms

It's not often I make these mushrooms. I came up with the recipe back in college, when I started cooking because I LOVE LOVE LOVE to eat - good food, not yukky food. I used this stuffing for both mushroom and baked stuffed shrimp (which were all the rage back in the day). As a college chick, I could make dinner for 6, with cocktails and wine, for less than the cost of 2 entrees at a reasonable restaurant. And I admit - mine was better! Hehehehe :) Well, I thought so, and that meant I enjoyed cooking for my friends, and they didn't seem to mind eating what I made :)

For these stuffed crabs, you need:
A can of crab, drained and squeezed well - get that juice out of there, and discard (the 6 oz size is good for 2 lbs of mushrooms)
A stick of salted butter
A sleeve of saltines (this time I used stone ground crackers)
2 lbs of mushrooms

Since I was the only one eating these cutie patooties, I only made a few, but these are the proportions.

Mince the garlic.
Melt the butter over low, and add the garlic.
Crush the crackers - not with a rolling pin so they are too fine, but just with your hands. If  you only use your hands, you won't have to worry about crushing them too finely, and they should be very, very small pieces.
Mix the crab, crackers and butter mixture.

Brush the mushrooms so they are free of dirt, and pop the mushroom stems from the mushroom cups. You can save the stems for anything calling for sliced or minced mushrooms, or if you are feeling exeedingly ambitious, make some duxelles and freeze it for later. Its an ingredient that will add richness to almost any meal including beef.

You can, at this point, pre-bake the cups for 20 minutes or so. Some people do this so that the stuffing doesn't easily fall out of the mushroom, but after trying it, I don't think it's really worth the trouble. You can decide for yourself - if you do pre-bake, you can cut the total baking time.

At this point, whether you have pre-baked or not, it's time to stuff the cups. Honestly, I always have extra stuffing left over, so pile it high :)

Snuggle all the mushrooms in a single layer in a baking dish, and bake at 350 until you smell the mushrooms, and then add 0 or 15 minutes more. This will be about 25 minutes or so for pre-baked mushrooms and about 45 for raw.

Now, if you have other things baking at 400 or 325 or whatever, this recipe is very forgiving. Adjust the cooking time and be sure to cook them until the mushrooms are fully cooked. Then enjoy!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Suzee's Huevos Rancheros

I had some tasty leftovers in the fridge, and they inspired this weekend brunch dish.

Fresh Direct started carrying La Tortilla Factory brand tortillas - they are low carb, 50 calories a piece and really tasty. I just warmed them up on the serving plate for 30 seconds in the microwave. I topped each tortilla with about a 1/2 cup of heated refried beans (120 cal), 1/4 cup shredded cheese (100 cal), 2 eggs over easy (140 cal), 2T of my homemade salsa (maybe 10 calories?) and 2 sausage links (140 cal).

So this tasty dish, filled with protien, fiber and calcium was 560 calories. Not a diet dish but a satisfying dish filled with nutrients.

And once you break open those gorgeous over easy eggs, it's a work of art!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Suzee's Inside Out Chicken Pot Pie

Took today off, so this evening I didn't mind making a hearty dinner. I had chicken left over from the weekend, and I was ready for some kinda yummy warm something.

I started with 2 - 3 T of butter, and melted it over medium heat in a dutch oven. I sprinkled 2 T of flour over the butter and made a roux, stirring and letting the flour cook for a minute or 2.

Next I added 3 cups of broth (homemade even) and a cup of white wine (Cavit Pinot Grigio). I whisked it all together and brought it to a bubble. I added 1/2 t garlic powder, 1t onion powder, 1t tarragon, 1T dijon mustard, and 2 packets of splenda. I tasted and added a little salt and a little freshly ground pepper.

Next I added a 16 oz bag of frozen mixed veggies, and a 16 oz bag of broccoli cuts. I stirred it up, and put a cover on it. While that was heating, I pulled out my chicken, and chopped about 4 cups of chicken.

Meanwhile, I stared water boiling, and cooked about 4 oz of elbow macaroni a minute or 2 shy of al dente.

I mixed the chicken and the pasta into the veggie mixture. I decided at the last minute to add some cheese, so I stirred in 2 cups of shredded cheddar.

I covered it, popped it into a 350 degree oven, and let it bake for about 30 minutes.

Even though I didn't take a photo, I had to capture what I did. Rick loved it! I bet adding more stock would make it into a great stew.

If you try it, let me know how it goes! You could cut the ingredients in half too, but we are looking forward to leftovers :)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Suzee's Amaretto Blueberries

Tonight I made a last minute dessert for dinner. We rarely have dessert these days, and I was in the mood. I thought up this quicky little ditty :)

2 4 oz packets of fresh blueberries
2 oz cream cheese
1/2 a nip of amaretto liquor
1 t white sugar

Mix the cream cheese with the amaretto. Split the mixture into 2 small bakeproof ramekins. Layer the 2 packets of blueberries over the mixture - one packet for each ramekin.

Sprinkle the sugar over the blueberries.

Bake at 350 degrees while you are eating dinner.

Once dinner is over, pop the ramekins on a bread dish, and stir up the blueberries, and cream cheese.

The sauce is sweet and the amaretto complements the blueberries so nicely.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Annie's Most Amazing Ribs Ever

I've had the pleasure to eat Ann's most amazing ribs ever a couple of times. I failed making them once, but I'm ready to try again. My biggest mistake was that I didn't cover them in foil :(

I just prepped a rack of ribs with the spices below - you are supposed to use this amount for 3 racks, but I just dumped it all on. Could that be how I get into trouble? We will see :)

Here is the spice rub recipe:

2 tablespoons ground cumin

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon dry mustard

1 tablespoon coarse salt

1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

2 teaspoons ground cardamom

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Rather than put  it in the oven for some ungodly amount of time (I forget how long she bakes them, but it's low and slow, and I thought it was like 6 hours), I'm going to try the crockpot and see how that goes :)

I'll let you know :)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Hairy Monk - Great Boston Pub in NYC

We have finally found a place to watch the Patriots when they are not on TV! The Hairy Monk is a Boston Pub - they play all Boston teams with the sound! It's an oasis in the city of Jets and Giants :)
The first trip for us was the day after Christmas. After we left NH early to get home prior to the big snow storm, we walked down to 25th and 3rd to see the 1:00 Patriots style football. It was snowing sideways, and that storm actually dumped 20" of snow. 
I got excited because the menu indicated they had Redhook ESB on tap, and it's one of my faves. But no, you can't trust the menu, or the beer list on the wall. The waitress suggested the Harpoon Winter Warmer. We tried it, but it was just a little too much like pumpkin beer to me...That's ok though, because they have a nice selection of 8 or 10 on tap.
While enjoying the pre-game we ordered some nachos to start. This is a huge and delicious tower of power! The chili is not in any way wimpy - put on your big girl panties because it is SPICY! Delicious spicy not crazy spicy, and the flavor is really great. Usually these Irish Pubs are more mild even if you ask for spice, so it was a pleasant surprise! The table behind us ordered buffalo wings, and wow, they smelled so good. That is on my list for next time :)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Mussels in a White Wine Cream Sauce

My friend Amber was looking for a recipe for mussels that had a nice sauce with it. This is my basic mussel recipe, and many have asked for it.

A pinot grigio you would drink - say Cavit, inexpensive but still tasty 1/2 bottle

2 or 3 tomatoes, chopped

a softball sized onion chopped

3 or 4 fat cloves of garlic minced or grated on a microplane

2 T olive oil

2 T butter

5lbs mussels, cleaned, debearded and checked to be sure they are alive (toss any with open shells)

A splash of cream or 1/2 & 1/2

juice of 1 lemon

Saute the onion in the olive oil and butter until translucent

Add the garlic and sautee for a minute or 2 more

Add the wine, cover and bring to a simmer

Add lemon juice and tomatoes, bring back to a simmer

Add in the cleaned mussels, steam with the top on until they boil over 3x

Take the pot off the heat, stir in the cream, and serve with crusty bread to sop up the juices!!