17 September 2014

David Mitchell

You know those books you recommend to all of your friends because you love them so much.  I actually have two - East of Eden by Steinbeck and Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell.  I quickly tell friends that the latter is much better than the movie and it's a book that you'll catch yourself thinking about years after reading it.

I was looking forward to seeing Mitchell tonight read from his new novel The Bone Clocks because there aren't too many living authors that I love like him. 

I wish I was a better writer to explain why I read his books but it's really about entering a world that I want to know more about and be apart of.  I'm excited by the stories he tells and how his characters seem real to me.  His imagination surprises me and I crave those surprises.

So this post is about seeing him read from his novel if possible but more about reading an author that writes unique and compelling stories.

16 September 2014

I Love These Nuts

I was invited to a party Saturday night where I knew very few people.  We were asked to bring food and the party was a very long trip on the metro. I decided to bring nuts as most people like them and they are easy to handle.  They were a huge success. 

I found three recipes for flavored nuts - two from One Good Dish by David Tanis and spicy brittled peanuts from Smitten Kitchen.   I think they would make the perfect holiday gifts.

cashews with indian spices

1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 lb natural raw cashews
2 tbs melted butter
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp turmeric
Sea Salt

Heat the oven to 400 F.  Toast the coriander and cumin seeds in a small dry pan over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Coarsely grind in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle.  (I skipped this step and used ground coriander and cumin.  It tasted good but I wonder how much more intense this process would affect the flavor).

Spread the cashews in an even layer in a shallow baking dish. Roast for 7 to 10 minutes until barely golden (it took my oven 15 minutes). Drizzle with the melted butter, then sprinkle with the toasted spices, cayenne, and turmeric. Season generously with sea salt and toss to coat.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

salted almonds with rosemary

1/2 lb natural (unblanched) raw almonds
2 or 3 rosemary sprigs
Sea salt
1 tb olive oil

Heat the oven to 400 F.  Put th ealmonds in a shallow baking dish, sprinkle with 1 tb water, and toss to moisten.  Strip the rosemary leaves form the stems and add them.  Add a generous pinch of sea salt and mix with your fingers to combine.  Drizzle the almonds with olive oil, toss once more, and spread in an even layer.

Roast the almonds for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally for even browning.  Take care not to get them too dark - check them frequently, since you don't want them on the verge of burnt.  (I checked them every 3 minutes and it took close to 15 minutes in my oven).  The interior should be golden brown.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

spicy brittled peanuts

1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp flaky sea salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup sugar
1 tb unsalted butter
1/4 cup water
2 cups shelled raw or roasted unsalted peanuts, papery skins removed

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon mat. 

In a small bowl, whisk together the baking soda, sea salt and cayenne, and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, heat the sugar, butter and water over medium-high heat until it just begins to turn golden, about 7 to 12 minutes.  Add the peanuts and start stirring, coating them with the sugar mixture.  After a minute or two (or five in my case), the sugar will seize up a bit, making the peanuts look grainy and crusty, and it will be harder to stir them - you'll be convinced that something is wrong but keep stirring and it will melt back into a golden caramel after 3 to 5 minutes.  Keep stirring, breaking up any clumps with your spoon, until th enuts are evenly coated, then remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the baking-soda-spice mixture as fast and evenly as you can, then spill the caramelized nuts onto your prepared sheet, spreading them in a single layer and breaking up any clumps that you can before they set.  Cool completely.

Once they're cool, break the nut clusters into smaller pieces and put them in a serving dish.  The nuts will keep in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

14 September 2014

Rose's Luxury: America's Favorite Restaurant

Tuesday was a very good day for a few reasons -

1) I finally had dinner with Kim and Kimber after we first discussed this last December.

2) I was able to eat again at Rose's Luxury even after it was named America's Best New Restaurant by Bon Appetit earlier this month and I read that the no reservation policy restaurant had waits of hours and hours for a table.

3) It was my Dad's birthday and I didn't feel the intensity of grief as I have previously.  I've had an interesting experience where one of my closest friends also lost her father recently and our conversations have helped me greatly.  But more on that later.

Kim, Kimber and I planned to meet at Rose's Luxury at 6:30 on Tuesday night.  I knew to expect a long wait but I still had hope.  I was the first to arrive, put my name on the list, and was told it would be a 2.5 to 3 hour wait.  I texted Kimber and Kim the news and Kimber was up for finding another restaurant.  Kim arrived and when I explained to her Kimber's thoughts, her face just fell with disappointment.  She wanted to eat at the restaurant I had been talking about for months now.

We drove to Kimber's house which is near the restaurant and decided to wait for the table.  We were warned though by the staff that we only had 15 minutes once I received the text that our table was ready to get to the restaurant.  The text came at 8:15 and we ran to Kim's car.  I set the stopwatch on the phone for 15 minutes and we ran lots of pink lights to get there with 3 minutes to spare.  The true miracle though was finding a parking space right in front of the restaurant.

We were shown to our table and felt immense success at finding ourselves finally in the restaurant.

This lovely challah bread with honey and butter was like eating home.  It was warm and delicious.  Kim found true happiness while eating this bread.

We ordered the pork sausage, habanero and lychee salad which I had loved at my previous visit to the restaurant.  Kim and Kimber decided it was their favorite dish at this meal.  Rose's Luxury changes their menu often so it was complete luck on our part to find this still on the menu.

The summer peach salad with shiso, mint and ricotta was nice but all of us felt like it was something that we could have made at home.

I did like the peach salad paired with the sfoglini rigatoni with tomato, basil and eggplant because it tasted like I was eating a garden.  The tomatoes were perfect - tangy and sweet but not too sweet.  

We did not order the jerk chicken with pickled mango raita and green papaya salad because we felt that we had enough dishes but the kitchen sent us an order anyway.  Delicious and a very nice surprise.

The Mexican grilled corn salad with guajillo, lime and cilantro did not look very special but it was my favorite.  I loved the flavor and it was again like eating a garden.

The pickle-brined fried chicken with honey and benne seed was perfectly cooked and seasoned. There were a couple of dishes on the table with honey including the honey-glazed carrots, mascarapone, matzo meal and dill (below) and it was all very well used to showcase the meats and vegetables.  Kimber said that the carrots was one of her favorite matzo dishes that she's eaten.

Dessert was not even a question and we let Kim decide since it is her birthday later this month.  We ordered the first two which are not traditional desserts.  Kimber said it succinctly in that both desserts were like an elevated cheese course - the savory and sweet represented equally.  I loved both and we kept eating them but it may have not met a dessert expectation for someone. 

The English pea cake with mint curd, pistachios and buttermilk.  It was a beautiful plating.

And the smoked celery root mascarapone with chamomile honey ice and brown butter walnut crumble.  I loved how each bite of both desserts was different.  The ingredients worked really well together.

12 September 2014

My Monday in NYC

I think I wrote earlier that this was a very short trip but I did stick around through Monday thank goodness.  I always need at least a full 48 hours in the city.

Right around the corner from Uncle Boons is this place which I knew would live up to expectations.  The same folks that own Mile End and Mile End Delicatessen opened Black Seed to spotlight Montreal bagels. Who knew they were worth an entire shop? They've started serving egg sandwiches since my visit and also bagel pizzas but only from 10 pm to 4 am on specific days.  I will return for an egg sandwich.

Yes it was early before 10 am but I believe all good ice cream shops open at 8 am.  So many reasons to love Morgensterns.  This could be an "every visit to NYC must" kind of place.  Today's flavors were chocolate oat (love) and sesame caramel.

Any photos of the actual exhibit were strictly forbidden but I loved Charles James.  Absolutely gorgeous dresses that had the architecture to be studied and honored. He was a genius.

I also stopped in the Garry Winogrand exhibit that is closing later this month.  I walked into a group of experts discussing the legacy of Winogrand.  Regardless of their decision, a very worthwhile exhibit of an artist who took very good street photos.

11 September 2014

Russ & Daughters and Uncle Boons

I love my friends for many reasons but a particular one is their flexibility in agreeing to eat where I want to eat when I'm in NYC.  I especially love Dan and Jackie because they always seem to meet me at an early hour on Sunday for brunch.  This time was at Russ & Daughters Cafe in the Lower East Side.  I've always loved the shop on Houston so I had high hopes for the cafe.

Dan ordered latkes with apple sauce for the table.

Jackie and I split our dishes (one of my favorite things to do) - Eggs Benny with salmon and Lower Sunny Side (salmon, eggs and latkes).  

We ordered babka french toast for the table and it was devoured.  My favorite dish on the table.

And Dan had some type of fish sandwich.  

Overall, the environment is cool and very much the sister to the shop but the food did not excite me.

This was completely different from my dinner that night at Uncle Boons.  Chris told me this place was delicious and the reviews have been great. They don't take reservations and I really wanted to go so Brigham, Broek and Lauri met me for a very early dinner.

Koong - Grilled Head On Prawns

Yum Kai Hua Pli - spicy chicken and banana blossom salad

A dish that I can't remember but that we couldn't wait to start eating.  

Massaman Neuh - the most delicious curry with beef ribs

And for dessert - coconut sundae and mango and sticky rice.

I could happily eat here daily. One of my new favorite restaurants in the city. 

07 September 2014

A New Jersey BBQ

I meant to stay in NYC over the weekend once I returned from Paris but my allergies dissipated that desire pretty quickly.  But I knew I was returning the next weekend as Nick and Whitney were in town from Singapore and it had been a year since I last saw them.

I love these two a great deal and I'm excited to meet their new baby daughter when they return to the States someday.  Moving to DC made me realize that seeing friends if only for a few hours is worth the time and money when they aren't that far away.  And this was a quick trip.  I came up Saturday morning and left Monday afternoon.  I wanted to see everyone and eat everything.

The traveling was during the World Cup and thank goodness for Twitter to keep me posted on the games. It was a good year for games.  No one was really sure who would take the championship and I liked that.

I arrived in New Jersey where Nick picked me up for a BBQ with Whit's family.  There were a couple of us including Trish who traveled to the suburbs to see them.

I really didn't take too many photos except of this little boy who loved drawing with crayons on my legs.  I wished the crayon markings had actually transferred.

Nick and Whitney and a really good blueberry pie we ate that night.  None of us were hungry for it but we had to order it.