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Archive for April, 2009

Bad Rap

My friend Suburbanite sent me a link yesterday.  I was not pleased.

The Egyptian government has ordered mass slaughtering of pigs since the outbreak of Swine Flu.  (Should Swine Flu be capitalized?  Seems it should be since it is the WORST THING TO EVER HAPPEN.)

Now I realize I am contributing to this problem, even mentioning the swine flu.  it is mass hysteria over nothing.  Kids, there is a better chance that you will get attacked by a gang of rogue monkeys on your walk home from work than contracting swine flu.  Speaking of monkeys, anyone remember the monkey pox? Didn’t think so…

Anyway, these mass slaughters are not the only thing to worry about.  Farmers in this country are taking a real hit because of misplaced fears.  Look, I can tolerate a lot of things–gladiator sandals, Ashley Judd, whisky dick–but if I start paying $15 for a pork loin, someone is going to pay.

So, drop your masks.  Buy some pork.  Start caring about things that really matter to you, whatever it may be.  The pork?  It is not your enemy.  It is your friend.  Embrace the pork.

dscn1279

(The panko makes this really crispy, almost like a fried chop without the frying.  The soy sauce in the egg wash adds a nice touch.  Don’t tell me you don’t have time to make dinner..this took about 10 minutes. Try it.)

Panko Porkchops

Adapted from Cooking Light

2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 large egg white (I used egg beaters)
1/3 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
2 (4-ounce) boneless center-cut loin pork chops
Cooking spray
1. To prepare pork, preheat oven to 450°.

2. Combine first 5 ingredients in a shallow dish. Combine soy sauce and egg white in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Place panko in a shallow dish.

3. Dredge pork in flour mixture; dip in egg mixture. Dredge in panko. Spray pan and heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork to pan; cook 1 minute on each side. Place pan in oven. Bake at 450° for 6 minutes or until done.

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Grown Up

The other night I finally got around to watching “American Teen“. In this compelling documentary, the typical archetypes are presented; the geek, the jock, the hearthrob, the outsider and the queen bee. There wasn’t anything all the different about these kids; they were living in a small town, all doing their best to find their little spot in the world.

As I watched, I couldn’t help but cringe and bury my face in my hands on more than one occasion. The geek was awkward, cursed with a case of raw and angry acne, and painfully resigned to his dorky existence. The jock was crumbling under the pressure from his father to get a scholarship. The queen bee was lashing out–cruelly and viciously–in an attempt to hide some serious pain. The heartthrob was desperately trying to grow as a person, but kept on getting sucked back in to his clique. And the outcast was pretty awesome, but was just suffocating in a small, narrow minded town.

Despite the texting and instant messaging, it was pretty similar to everyone’s high school existence. The thing was, watching it, I was reminded how freaking real that all was. I wished I could tell them “It will get better.” “It won’t always be like this.” “You are cute and I promise your skin will clear.” “Once you leave this town you will see how rad you are.” “Let me show you how to fill out a FAFSA; don’t join the damned Army.”

It is still the same.  Will it ever change, those high school years?  I doubt it, but it was good to be reminded that with time and maturity, it does get better.

dscn1273

(Sure, potato salad.  I hear ya; not culinary amazingness, but you know you have a zillion BBQs to go to this summer and you will have to bring something.  This is a healthier, more grown up version of the potato salad your mom used to make.  Gone is the mayo and in comes the yogurt.  It is tangy and full of crunch and way more interesting than that stuff with relish in it.  Make sure to liberally salt the water before cooking the potatoes.  And see? While I think bacon is way overused, it does add a depth here.  I am not the anti-Christ, I just think bacon has it’s place…and it is in this.)

Grown Up Potato Salad

6 lbs baby red potatoes, cubed

8 strips turkey bacon, chopped

1 medium red onion, diced

5 stalks celery, diced

1 –17.6 oz. container Fage Fat Free yogurt, filtered through a coffee filter over a mesh colander

3 TBSP dijon mustard

1.5 TBSP cider vinegar

Salt and pepper

Cube potatoes and add to a large pot of cold water. Liberally salt water (about 3 tablespoons of salt) and bring water to boil. While potatoes boil, place yogurt in coffee filter inside sieve over a bowl. Chop bacon and cook until done over medium heat. Drain on paper towel when done. Chop onions and celery. In a medium bowl, mix together yogurt, mustard and vinegar. When potatoes are cooked, drain them and rise with cold water for about a minute. Mix together yogurt mixture, bacon, celery, onions, and potatoes. Liberally salt and pepper.

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I find that since I write this website people are often hesitant to cook for me.  Likewise, they fear recommending a favorite restaurant–or bringing me there–because I will tear it to shreds.  I can see where the concern comes from; I have spent a lot of time thinking about food, honing my palate and educating myself.  I get it, sure, but I always feel compelled to remind people that discovering my first Sonic was one of the best moments of my year so far. Just because I know what is in season, how a steak should be cooked, or what is in a bechamel sauce, that doesn’t mean I xcannot appreciate some awesome chili fries or your mom’s dirt cake…in fact, I love that kind of stuff.

I have contemplated this a lot since a visit to Bar Dupont last week with Restaurant Refugee. Now between the two of us, we are probably going to catch almost every mistake a place makes.  No establishment is perfect–there is always room for improvement–and I assure you, we will find it.  When writing about a restaurant or forming an opinion–a simple “yes” or “no”–I think very simply.  Is this a place where I feel comfortable telling people to spend their money? Has this place earned the cash of my friends and family?

Bar Dupont, you have earned nothing.  First, let me start on the positive note:  The mustard was awesome.  It had a kick of wasabi and was nice on the (frozen, precut) fries.  Also, the space is amazing.  It is sleek and sexy and the lighting is wonderful.  It would be a fantastic space for some post dinner drinks…

…if it didn’t suck so bad.  I mean, this place was egregious.  Abomidable.  It made for a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad night.

This is where I feel conflicted.  I am going to just straight up blast in this restaurant’s face.  Hope it has a hanky. Here we go:

  • The waitress could not list the beer on tap.
  • When we moved inside (it was cold out), it took about 15 minutes for our check to be picked up.
  • We watched one of the managers–of which there were far too many on duty–stick his hands in side wine glasses THREE TIMES as he was unloading the dishwasher.
  • We sat far too long at the bar without any attention.  Several different people took our orders and kept asking us what we needed…I am all for teamwork, but this was just disorganization.
  • The menu lacks explanation.  We went with the “turf” flat, which was a sampler of sorts, and it was horrible.  The mini chicken slider was so dry I could not even swallow it. I dubbed the lamb carpaccio (carpaccio is supposed to be raw meat, by the way), a “lunchable”. The short ribs, my beloved short ribs, were weirdly shredded and served on toast that was only actually toasted on one side, making everything kind of mushy.  The duck terrine was…gelatinous? Gooey? The sirloin salad was fine–nothing bad, nothing special, though it did need some salt.
  • We also ordered the burger to split, knowing you can test the salt of a place by it’s burger.  RR wanted it medium rare so that is what we asked for; it arrived medium well.  The aforementioned crappy fries were served with the delightful mustard, some generic catsup and a crappy aioli (which I assume was just some Hellman’s).
  • Oh, and the food?  It sat in the window for about three minutes–as several suits and bartenders milled past it.  We had to ask for our meals.  We saw the same thing happen with several other plates.  Restaurant rule number one: food goes from the kitchen to the table.  It never, ever takes a detour; this is unsanitary and the food gets cold.
  • The place was deafeningly loud.  We could barely hear each other  and there was nothing to absorb any of the sound.
  • We ordered a bottle of wine and it took forever for it to arrive.  They explained the reason it took so long was because the wine cellar was 4 stories down…and they didn’t have a key.  Are you kidding me? No key to your God damn wine cellar.  I felt like I was on Candid Camera.
  • So yeah…when the wine arrived…it was not the one we asked for.  It was the wrong year.
  • We were clearly not pleased.  We left with more than half of our food uneaten.  No one said a word or asked why we didn’t finish.

Am I a hyper critical asshole?  Perhaps.  But seriously, I could never, ever tell anyone to spend their money at a place that is lacking in every department.  Food, service, sanitation, atmosphere…all of it was terrible.  Biddy Mulligan’s, which formerly occupied the space, may have been nothing fancy but they had plenty of good beer on tap and some pretty decent bar food.  This was just a tragedy. Why would you want to spend your cash at a place that treats you like you are an idiot? There are far better places out there.

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Lady Who Brunches

I spend a lot of time thinking about what it would feel like to not work. Everyone does this, right? Even if they love their job? I have to believe they do, because even if you are doing important work like clothing orphans or sending beehives to African villages, sometimes you just want to be lazy.

I don’t know if it is the sudden emergence of summer (Spring, why such an elusive vixen this year?) or just some listlessness I have been feeling about my current employment “situation”, but I spend far too much time fantasizing about what I would do with those empty days. Reading and volunteering would probably…happen.  That would be a good thing.  I would definitely be a better friend, keeping in touch more and hopefully figuring out a better way to parse up my time and still keep some for myself.

But the truth of the matter is this; I would become a lady who brunches. For me, brunch is a much better option than lunch. It is over the top and decadent; exactly how I do.  I would order french toast drowned in rivers of maple syrup and slather scones in clotted cream.  I would finally find the best hashbrowns in the city and locate the most fantastic cup of coffee.  But really?   It is all about the mimosas…glass after bottomless glass of worry erasing would greet me every morning.  It would be glorious.

But for now, I work.  I’ve yet to win the lottery or drop my ideals and allow myself to become a kept woman. Just the rushing to fit in the gym and return all those neglected hone calls.  Though I am sad I cannot have those things, it probably is for the best I don’t eat all those brunches.  One should not exceed their caloric intake for the day before noon.  If I am stuck with something healthy, delicious and filling, I think I am doing ok.  Those brunches can wait.

dscn1276

Breakfast Quinoa

Slightly adapted from 101 Cookbooks

1 cup skim milk
1 cup water
1 cup organic quinoa, rinsed
2 cups fresh berries–I used strawberries and blackberries
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
4 teaspoons honey

Combine milk, water and quinoa in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer 15 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed. Turn off heat; let stand covered 5 minutes. Stir in blackberries and cinnamon; transfer to four bowls and top with pecans. Drizzle 1 teaspoon agave nectar over each serving.

Serves 4.

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You know what I like?

No no no…I am not talking about leopard print, wheaty beer or any movie involving lots of blood, but there is that.

I am talking about road trips. Windows down, singing along to the radio and some junk food. What is not to like? Lucky for me, I am taking one next weekend. I am heading to NYC with my girls LiLu, Maxie, Deutlich and dmb5_libra.

From gpb.org

From gpb.org

I cannot even imagine the trouble we will get in to, but I assure you this: my cleavage will finally see sunlight, someone will fall flat on their face, and LiLu will get the spooning of a lifetime from yours truly.

Next Saturday night (5/2/09) we are getting together with a bunch of NYC bloggers and readers. If you are in the area, please come out and say hi to the above mentioned ladies, as well as Chris, idontliketoread, Cavy, Wordy Ninja, Kat and Lauren.

There are only a few rules:

–You must be nice/accepting of the fact that we will probably be falling down drunk by the end of the night.

–You cannot be creepy. If you ask to smell anyone’s hair, you will be punched. Or, I will send my mom after you. This kinda shit scares her. I don’t know why; the internet is a safe place.

–You cannot publish any photos without permission. Me? I don’t care as long as they are flattering, but others may hunt you down.

If you can follow these simple guidelines, we cannot wait to meet you. Swing on by the Village Pourhouse on the corner of 3rd Ave and 11th Street at 9.30 and I’ll give you a big smile.

Just don’t touch my hair.

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On Charm

The beguiling Lisa was the lucky winner of my coffee syrup raffle a few weeks back.  I have to admit I was thrilled when I pulled her name; I will take any excuse I can to get this lady at a dinner table with me.  I really love her, her writing, and her outlook on life.  I kind of felt like I won.

After a few emails we settled on Posto; she had a hankering for some pasta.  I was excited to try a new place that has been on my list.

I started with some Prosecco by the glass, which was priced reasonably.  As I waited for Lisa I glanced around.  I liked the open, airy space and the sleek minimal furnishing. The floor to ceiling windows really open the place up, and I couldn’t help but think it would be a great spot for a date.

Our server didn’t rush us to order and was attentive without being overbearing.  There was nothing remarkable about him, but he was unobtrusive and efficient.  We started with some speck, proscuitto, and La Tur cheese (it is a kind of creamy and brie like cheese).  The cheese was great and the bread served with it was fresh and delicious.  I just wish there were more descriptions on the menu.  I know what speck is, but I second guessed myself.  Descriptions would have been helpful.

For entrees, Lisa went with the spaghetti with seafood.  While tasty, I found it a bit too “fishy”.  The taste of ocean aggressively attacked my palate; while it tasted good, it was strong.  I went with the tagliatelle with goat ragu and sunchokes.  The ragu was AMAZING; rich, flavorful and hearty.  I love sunchokes so the sauce pleased me immensely.  Sadly, I found my pasta a tad too al dente.  It needed to be boiled for maybe another 45 seconds.  Also, while I chose it, I was surprised to see a ragu on the menu in April.  Kind of heavy for the spring, you think?   I had the same reaction when one of the specials was a butternut ravioli; squash is way out of season.

Dessert was really great.  We got a rhubarb berry crisp with ice cream that was divine.  Lisa and I both love rhubarb so we may have been predisposed to like it, but that does not take away from the fact that it was hella good.

But there is one thing about this trip I can’t shake; I liked Posto a lot, I will most likely reccommend it to people looking for a decent Italian place, but I didn’t love it.  There were pros and cons to the place, but the same can be said about Next Door and I left really pleased and eager to try it again.  Posto? No such feelings. Some restaurants have a charm, a warmth…and I really just was not feeling it at Posto.  I don’t know how Posto can find its mojo–hell, I don’t even know what exactly it needs–but it needs something, just a little twinkle in it’s eye and hop in it’s step.  It was like a guy that is really good on paper–smart, funny, attentive, attractive–but you cannot bring yourself to like him.  It just isn’t there.

That being said, we are all looking for someone, something, to love and far be it from me to tell you what that is.  Stop by and see if it is your style.

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Cinnabombed

I spent 15 minutes Saturday night trying to convince some lunk that I am not Italian. Now I know I have dark hair and dark eyes, but I am pretty fair. His drunken insistence wore on my last nerve. I know I should have shooed him away then and there, but he was from Boston and I am a sucker for the accent. He pitifully orbited around me for the rest of the evening. I tried to be kind, but when he tried to kiss me as I left I had just about had it.

I ambled home, talking to a friend on the phone. Once in my apartment I decided now was the perfect time for a cinnamon roll. I had lugged back a bag from a beloved bakery in RI and it seemed like a delicious treat. In my haze I placed the frozen hockey puck on a plate to defrost.

A non microwave safe plate.

For 90 seconds.

As I type this out I am reminded of my idiocy with every key stroke; a shiny blister resides on my right ring finger. Not only did I manage to injure myself in those wee hours, I passed out in bed with a plate and a potholder. I woke up with the plate next to my head and laying on top of the potholder. Now this may not be my proudest moment, but it is a better option than waking up with a vodka bottle near my head and laying in top of a drunken Bostonian, no? Baby steps here, kids. I am growing as a person.

I mean, who the hell makes a cinnamon roll when they are drunk?  Isn’t it pizza time? Or falafel time? I mean hell, I have even been known the shamelessly wolf down a sandwich in those wee hours.  Nothing as good as this chicken cheesesteak, but it would be hard to match.  Lightened up, these has far less oil and fat than the traditional cheesesteak and tastes really good.  I made a tactical error toasting the bread; it made it a bit dry, but that is my own damn fault. The picture here blows (big surprise), but is there really anyway to make a sandwich look really awesome?  Probably, but I was too hungry and this was snapped in a rush.

Maybe I will go for this next time; the baked goods have not treated me kindly.

dscn12621

Chicken Philly Cheesesteaks
Slightly adapted from Cooking Light

Cooking spray
3/4 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into (1-inch-thick) strips
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup red bell pepper strips
1 cup green bell pepper strips
1 cup vertically sliced onion
1 1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
4 (3-ounce) submarine rolls (such as Cobblestone Mill brand)
4 (1-ounce) slices provolone cheese

Preparation
Spray pan that has been over over medium-high heat. Add chicken to pan; sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt and black pepper. Sauté 5 minutes or until chicken is done. Remove chicken from pan. Add red bell pepper and next 5 ingredients (red bell pepper through garlic) to pan; sauté 6 minutes or until tender. Stir in chicken and pepper sauce; remove from heat.

Slice each roll in half horizontally, cutting to, but not through, other side. Place 1 cheese slice and 1 cup chicken mixture on bottom half of each roll, and gently press roll halves together.

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