Archive for June, 2010

CSA Week #4

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010 by virginia

It’s Wednesday again (don’t the weeks just seem to fly by?) which means it’s time for CSA! Josh actually volunteered today to help out with the distribution. All members of the CSA are required to volunteer 4-6 hours per season to either help meet the truck delivery, help with distribution, or help clean up the distribution site, which is a church near our apartment. The nice thing about this particular CSA is that all of the unclaimed/extra food is donated to the church at the end of the night so it doesn’t go to waste and it’s helping out people who probably wouldn’t normally have access to fresh vegetables and fruits.

Our share contents this week included:

Lettuce – 1 head romaine
Garlic – 3 each
Beets – 3 each
Carrots – 5 each
Onions – 4 each
Squash – 1 lb
Basil – 2 oz
Mixed Baby Greens – .25 lb

The beets and carrots widely varied in size (some were barely larger than my thumbnail), and I tried to pick out the largest ones. They weren’t super huge but I guess it’s still early in the season. The basil was gorgeous and fragrant, and 2 ounces is really a lot. Same with the mixed baby greens.

Beets, garlic, mixed baby greens, romaine, squash, carrots, onions, and basil in the middle

We also got our fruit share, which was pretty much the same as last week, except a smaller juice (boo).

Cherries – 3 pints
Juice – one bottle

We picked raspberry apple juice this time, and I liked it even better than the rhubarb apple from last week (though Josh prefers the rhubarb version).

Cherries and raspberry apple juice

According to the farm reports, the super hot weather hasn’t been good for the crops. Hopefully it cools down a bit because I’m really loving all these fresh veggies and fruits that we’re getting. And hopefully the pests stay away as well!


Tuesday, June 29th, 2010 by josh

I realize I’ve been a bit silent on the blog-posting front – 274 posts and only 9 by me. I’ve still been struggling about what to write. Virginia does great reviews of all our meals and there’s not much I can add on that front. I do travel a lot and, as a result, have plenty of meals on my own, but Virginia gets seriously jealous if I eat too well when I’m on the road. Occasionally I have musings, like how restaurants do a miserable job on website design, but I lack the confidence to put them into writing. I spoke with a few friends and came up with a few different ways I can get more involved as the features writer on TFB. For starters, I’m taking a page from Claire‘s book and I’m committing to post at least once a week going forward (much easier than promising to run 26 miles and then having to follow through). I can’t promise that any of it will be good, but I’ll have more features, book reviews, cooking tips etc. Also, while this might get me in trouble, I’m going to start writing about the good meals I have when I travel.

I wanted to start off my new posting-spree by introducing a theme, kind of like Virginia’s quest for the best pizza delivery. It would be a nice go-to topic for the weeks when I won’t have something prepared. Initially, I thought a grand search for the perfect post-coital snack would be fun but Virginia wasn’t willing to do the necessary research. No worries, I will come up with something. Since that idea went to bed (for now), I’m going to start my blog resurgence with something different.

Although I have been lacking in my posts, my role at TFB has not been non-existent. Besides being the webmaster I am also the press secretary. Virginia reads a lot of other foodie blogs and points me to contests we should enter, events to attend, and places to cross-post her musings. Believe it or not, Virginia is quite shy and when someone emails us at TFB for an interview, for example (yes, it’s happened), Virginia always asks me to follow up, and I do. This is the story of my first television audition.

Virginia sent me the casting call for a show called “Vacation Food Dude” that was (or is?) to be on the Spike network. The request was simple enough, fill out a form which asked questions about who you are and your food passion. I got called in for an audition the following day, right around lunchtime. My instructions were to bring my resume along with something to eat and talk about in front of the camera. I admit, I put more thought into what food I was going to bring than on preparing myself for the awkwardness of eating in that manner. I wanted something different that no one else would bring, with a complex flavor I can talk about at length. Also, my general sloth factored in and I wanted a place close to the casting office, so I picked up some Go Go Curry.

There were two people ahead of me when I arrived. One had a bag from Bar Americain and the other was in the room doing his audition. It sounded like he was screaming at the camera in there, and I got nervous for the first time. I picked up a form and started to fill out the necessary information, most of which I had already filled out on the form I emailed in. Isn’t there a more efficient way to do that? My nerves subsided (thinking sarcastically about the world helps).
After Bar Americain was done, I got up to begin and handed in my “acting resume” (my actual resume coupled with several printed posts from this blog) and my headshot (one from Kuala Lumpur on the street drinking from a coconut). There were two people in the room, one who I assume was the casting director and an assistant who operated the camera and gave me prompts and instructions.

I was calm and casual when being introduced. We exchanged pleasantries and talked briefly about how I got into food and what I do for a living (not related to TV at all). Then the camera started rolling and my first surprise came: “If you had a device that allowed you to travel anywhere in the world in seconds and I asked you to use it to take me for breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner where would we go?” – @#$%, weren’t we going to talk about Go Go Curry? (I started to picture the travel machine invented by Mr. Garrison from South Park. Somewhere in the annals of the audition library of that casting company is a video of me with the smile of an immature 14 year old boy).

Well, ok, so I wasn’t prepared for that question, but I can think quickly on my feet. When my friends or clients come to New York I love taking them out to new places and introducing them to new things, I can do this. Breakfast, something unique, something the other candidates probably didn’t say… Dim Sum!!!! Virginia and I love Jing Fong in Chinatown, but that’s not really taking advantage of my teleporter… Dim Sum = Dumplings = Xi’An, China. Ok, we’re going to Xi’An for dim sum for breakfast. Although at the time I had not been to Xi’An (and now that I have I know I wouldn’t return just for the dim sum), I was able to go through the various dim sum and make it work.

Now I’m in my groove, hitting my stride, working my magic, some other cliché, and I decide that it’s afternoon, I bought this Go Go Curry and dammit I’m going to eat it. So lunch = back to NYC for some Go Go Curry. The casting lady tells me “nice segue”, @#$% that broke my concentration. I open the box and try to make a show of smelling, tasting and savoring the katsu. Damn, that was a big piece a put in my mouth. Chewing. 30 seconds of silence is a lot longer than it sounds. Still Chewing. Yum. “Describe the flavor” she tells me. Here’s where I really messed up. Describing flavors is not tough, I am usually very good at it, but under the gun is totally different. I deliberately chose the one food that is a complex mix of smoky barbecue, salty garlic mixed with sweet porky goodness. How do you describe that? The words are on the tip of my tongue. Damn, silence again. Oh yeah, “its a complex mix of smoky barbecue, salty garlic mixed with sweet porky goodness”. Boo-yah. That felt good.

Next up is the snack. Now, I figured I just had two Asian meals and I’m ready for a change of pace. There is no better snack than pizza and the best pizza is at Grimaldi’s in Brooklyn. So I take the opportunity to use a magic machine that can transport me anywhere in the world instantly to travel 40 blocks downtown and across the east river (I’ve named this magic machine, the “#3 train”). By this point, I’ve totally wasted the novelty of this exercise. My mind immediately jumped to what I would really want and where I would really take someone in the non-fantasy world. I have a bit of a New Yorker evangelist complex. I love to show off the best spots in the city to visiting friends and clients and I guess I drew on my standard operating procedure as food ambassador. In New York, getting 4 great meals a day doesn’t require suspending reality. Ok, so I suspend reality when it comes to my stomach capacity, but that’s it.

Last up is dinner. Here, I struggled with a dilemma. There are a few restaurants I really want to try and a few that I know are good. Trying to impress at a new place is a big risk and can end in big disappointment (see the upcoming Jean Georges post). Going to a reliable place is a lock. Well, the goal here is to take someone else around for 4 meals in a day. If there was one place I’d want to go back to it’d be Alinea. Again, a waste of the “machine novelty” but the honest choice, I went with it. BOOM, another roadblock. How do you describe Alinea? Man, talking about food is easy, writing about food is harder, but being in front of camera and trying to come up with details to talk about on the spot with no prior knowledge of the specific topic is really tough. As tough as trying to describe the meal at Alinea. I think the casting director has lost interest.

That wrapped it up. I didn’t feel great about my performance but I was proud of myself for having gone and tried out. I left thinking about all the things I didn’t do right: I looked at the interviewer instead of into the camera. I spent too much time thinking and probably wasn’t peppy enough. My sweater fit awkwardly. Oh well, it was a unique experience, certainly fun and educational. We had drinks with Alissa (an actual actress) the next day and she told me if I didn’t hear back right away it meant I didn’t get the part. I figured as much the moment I left the studio. I guess I am left with my current job that sends me on projects all over the world and offers me the opportunity to eat at all kinds of places. (I collect my frequent flier miles so Virginia can come with me sometimes too). In reality, I am already the “Vacation Food Dude” and I wouldn’t change it for anything.

Minty Mojitos

Monday, June 28th, 2010 by virginia

Minty mint

So what do you do with a third of a pound of mint? That’s the dilemma we faced when we got our first CSA share. Josh and I like mint but don’t really cook with it too often, plus we still have our mint plant from last year that is surprisingly still alive and producing leaves. We decided to go with the more obvious route and made a few batches of minty mojitos.

To make a mojito, muddle together a handful of mint leaves, a teaspoon of sugar, and the juice of half a lime. Really squish it all together for about a minute to extract every last bit of flavor. Add rum into the container where you’ve been muddling the other ingredients and swirl it around a bit. We like two shots per drink. Pour it all into a cocktail mixer with ice. Shake well, pour into glasses filled with ice, top off with club soda, garnish, and serve.

Lime mojitos

We also made mojitos with lemons (are they still considered to be mojitos?) when we accidentally ran out of limes. Mint lemonade is a classic summer drink, and adding rum into the mix only made it better. Vodka would probably do the trick as well.

Lemon mojitos

The mint really works well with the citrus, and you can boost up the flavor even more with citrus-flavored rum. The amount of rum/sugar/club soda can vary between personal tastes, but adding a lot of fresh mint leaves really brightens up the drink. It’s perfect for these hot summer days!


Sunday, June 27th, 2010 by virginia

In honor of my last year as a 20-something year old, a large group of us met up for a boozy brunch at Vintage. I’ve walked past the bar/restaurant many times before but had never gone in, but one Saturday I noticed that they offered all you can drink brunch for an additional $8 on top of a brunch entree, which is quite the bargain. It included unlimited mimosas, bellinis, and bloody marys, with no restrictions on time or switching between drinks.

Josh and I arrived first (shocking!) and staked out tables in the front near the bar. There are also lounge areas in the back with couches and low tables, as well as an outdoor garden, but we figured regular tables were more conducive to eating. We started out with a round of bloody marys while we waited for everyone else to arrive.

Spicy bloody mary

The bloody marys were pretty tasty, with lots of horseradish that made it nice and spicy. There was a strong celery flavor as well, and it was perfectly seasoned, with just the right amount of vodka. I ended up having a few of these before moving on to my next batch of drinks. Most everyone else stuck with mimosas, which were slightly heavy on the orange juice but didn’t really skimp in the champagne department either.

Table full of mimosas

The brunch menu is pretty extensive at Vintage, with various egg/omelet options, french toast, burgers, and sandwiches. Josh had classic eggs benedict with the hollandaise sauce on the side. The eggs were well poached and still runny, and it was a perfectly adequate rendition of eggs benedict. The hash browns though were really good. They were made from shredded potatoes, nicely seasoned, and crispy on the outside. Yum!

Eggs benedict with shredded hash browns

I opted for the chicken sandwich with avocado, hardboiled egg, bacon, and mayo. The chicken was tender and not dried out, and the avocado added a nice creaminess to the sandwich. The bacon was extra to add on but provided a crunchy saltiness that balanced out the flavors and textures. The sandwich came with a big pile of shoestring fries that were hot, thin, and crispy. This place really knows how to cook potatoes!

Chicken sandwich with bacon, egg, and avocado, plus shoestring fries

In addition to the bloody marys and mimosas, I also tried the bellinis. They were made with peach juice and champagne and were refreshing, though a tad sweet. I could definitely taste the peach and it was nice and bubbly.

Peach bellini

I really liked the brunch we had at Vintage and thought it was a good deal, especially for all you can drink brunch. Most entrees ranged from $8-$10, and the unlimited drinks were only an additional $8. Our waiter was super friendly and not stingy with the drinks, topping off everyone’s drinks before they even got half empty. It wasn’t crowded at all so it was quiet enough to hear each other talk. I really liked the laid back atmosphere and the great service. We’ve since gone there for after work drinks, and they have an extensive martini list with over 200 concoctions. Everything we had was tasty and appropriately strong, and I’m sure we’ll be going back there more often from now on.

P.S. Thanks to everyone who came out! I had a blast!

753 9th Ave. between 50th and 51st St.
New York, NY

Roasted Bok Choy

Thursday, June 24th, 2010 by virginia

Bok choy

Based on a recommendation by commenter Sean, we took our CSA bok choy and roasted it in the oven. Our usual method of preparing bok choy is to chop it up into smaller pieces and sautee it with olive oil and garlic, but cooking it in the oven seemed much simpler and quicker. Our first step was to separate the leaves from the core, but as I attempted to do so, I found a little surprise…

Well hello there Mr. Slug!

I was a little freaked out but hey, this stuff really is coming straight from a farm so it should be expected. I removed Mr. Slug and carefully washed the leaves. After drying them thoroughly, I tossed them with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper, then laid them out on a large baking sheet.

Bok choy on a baking sheet ready to go into the oven

I placed the baking sheet in the oven preheated to 450 degrees and kept it in for about 10 minutes, watching it carefully. When the edges of the leaves started to visibly crisp up, I pulled them out and seasoned the bok choy with more salt and pepper, plus a few squeezes of fresh lemon juice.

Oven roasted bok choy

Wow the bok choy was awesome! It was cooked through but still crisp and juicy. The lemon juice added a brightness to the already fresh flavor, and it really couldn’t have been more simple to prepare. We covered the baking sheet in foil first, so clean up was a breeze – just pull off the foil and toss in the trash! It was a great side dish to our meal, and I have a feeling we’ll be cooking bok choy like this from now on.

CSA Week #3

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010 by virginia

Yet another week has gone by and you know what that means: CSA! We’ve got veggies bursting out of our fridge but we still can’t get over how great they are. Farm fresh really does make a huge difference. Our share this week included:

Lettuce  – 1 large head
Garlic – 3 bulbs
Garlic scapes – 5 stalks
Radishes – 4
Onions – 4
Greens – 3/4 lb

We had a choice between romaine lettuce and red leaf lettuce so we chose the romaine, because we still had red leaf left over from last week. We also had a choice between ruby chard and kale for the greens, and we went with the kale because we had chard last week.

From left to right: onions, radishes, garlic, romaine, kale, garlic scapes

In even more exciting news, our fruit share started this week!! The email that we received regarding the contents was a bit confusing, and so we thought we were getting three pints of juice. Not exactly fruit, but we figured it was because it’s still early in the season. Turns out that we got three pints of cherries, plus a juice. There were several juices to choose from and we opted for rhubarb apple, since it seemed to be the most unusual option.

Cherries – 3 pints
Juice – one bottle

Cherries and rhubarb apple juice

The cherries are slightly tart but have a great firm, juicy texture. They’re good for snacking on their own, but I’m hoping to bake with some as well, since three pints is quite a lot of fruit.

Oodles of cherries

We’re still trying to cook more each week, and we’re getting much better about it. More recipes to come!

Light Caesar Salad

Thursday, June 17th, 2010 by virginia

Gorgeous romaine lettuce

As part of our first CSA share, we received two medium-sized heads of romaine lettuce. They were really gorgeous – vibrant green, fresh, and crisp. We wanted to make caesar salad with it, but our usual homemade dressing is pretty heavy and thick. We didn’t want to overwhelm the lettuce and lose the fresh flavor so we decided to lighten it up a bit by omitting the egg and garlic and putting in a smaller amount of anchovy paste.

The dressing really couldn’t be simpler, and I made it in my knock-off magic bullet blender. Just throw the following ingredients in, eyeballing the amounts:

-Juice of one lemon
-About a teaspoon of anchovy paste
-A dash of worcestershire sauce
-Grated parmesan cheese
-Olive oil

The amount of olive oil depends on how thick you want it to be. I started with about a quarter of a cup and then increased it to make the dressing a bit thicker, so that it would cling to the leaves. Blend, and then toss with the leaves, which we cleaned and chopped into 1 inch pieces. Grate some extra parmesan over the top, and a few grinds of pepper.

Lightly dressed leaves

The salad was really fantastic, with the lemon brightening everything up. The lettuce itself was the best romaine we’ve ever eaten, crisp and flavorful, not watery and bland like the romaine you get from the supermarket. We served the salad alongside some tilapia cakes that Josh made extra special by adding in some bits of crunchy turkey bacon. It was a light meal but packed with flavor, and so very easy to prepare.

Tilapia cakes with caesar salad

CSA Week #2

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010 by virginia

It’s CSA time again! Can you believe that a week has already gone by? Josh picked up our second CSA share bounty and it was even bigger than the first week! For week #2, our share contents included:

Lettuce – 1 large head
Bok choy – 2 heads
Garlic – 1/4 lb
Garlic scapes – .2 lbs
Radishes – .45 lbs
Onions – .45 lbs
Greens large – .5 lb
Arugula – .2 lbs

The large greens this week had beautiful red stalks – anyone know exactly what kind of vegetable this is?

From left to right: Garlic, large greens, bok choy, radishes, red leaf lettuce, arugula, garlic scapes, onions

We are already starting to feel a bit overwhelmed with vegetables, and it’s only week #2! We still have some mint, bok choy, radishes, and greens left over from last week, and our schedules haven’t let us cook as much as we would like. But we’re making some progress, and we’re definitely enjoying every bit of our fresh veggies. More recipes to come soon!


Tuesday, June 15th, 2010 by virginia

Josh and I are fans of brunch but we’re not big fans of the stereotypical “brunch scene.” We prefer low key places, preferably with cheap drink specials, that serve reliably good food. We also don’t wake up that early on weekend mornings so having a place that serves brunch late is also important. Occasionally, however, when we go out with a large group of people, we end up going to brunch places we normally wouldn’t attempt on a typical weekend. Such was the case when we were in a group of nine and tried to get a table at Jane in Greenwich Village during prime Sunday brunch hours.

In our defense, we had made a reservation for brunch knowing full well what the scene is like there. In their defense, half our party showed up late. However, they kept us waiting for well over an hour after that, and it didn’t appear that our table would have been ready at the designated reservation time regardless of whether or not everyone showed up on time. To make matters worse, it was pouring rain and there really is no space to wait inside the restaurant. There’s an awning outside but that was packed with people as well. Our table finally freed up, and we were led downstairs away from the main dining room. I honestly didn’t mind because it was a bit quieter downstairs and the tables are further apart.

We were pretty fed up at this point and quickly ordered a round of drinks. Josh and I both got bloody marys, and Jane makes one of the best versions that I’ve had. It’s tangy and spicy with lots of horseradish mixed in, and packs a decent alcoholic punch.

Spicy bloody marys

Next we attacked the bread basket while we looked over the menu. There were pieces of a crusty Italian bread, a cranberry and walnut wheat bread, and some peppery crispy crackers. The bread came with a sweet strawberry butter that I really enjoyed slathered on everything.

Basket of bread and sweet strawberry butter

Josh and I went halfsies on our entrees, choosing one from the “brunch” section of the menu and one from the “lunch” section. First was the Benedict Jane, which was poached eggs on crab and crawfish cakes with spinach and tarragon hollandaise. The eggs were poached pretty well, still runny on the inside, and the crab and crawfish cakes were pretty tasty. I also liked that it wasn’t drowning in hollandaise sauce, since we forgot to get it on the side. The accompanying roasted potatoes were pretty bad though, limp, soggy, and greasy.

Benedict Jane

Our lunch entree was the BLT & E, which was bacon, lettuce, tomato, and a sunny side up egg on a ciabatta roll with lemon aioli. The sandwich was absolutely fantastic, and exactly what I hope for in a BLT & E. The egg was nice and runny and the bacon was crispy. The lemon aioli really brightened up all the flavors. The accompanying rosemary fries were thin and crispy – way better than the sad roasted potatoes.

BLT & E - how good does that look?

While the food at Jane is passable for the most part, I still can’t get over how crowded it is during brunch and how long the wait is for a table, even with a reservation. The restaurant is packed to the brim and incredibly noisy, making it hard to carry on a conversation.  It’s also on the pricier side for brunch, with most options hovering around the $15-$16 dollar mark, although that does include one brunch drink (lunch items don’t include a drink). Additional drinks will cost you though, $12 for specialty cocktails and $11 for champagne cocktails. While I love the bloody marys they serve, the atmosphere and the wait is really hard for me to deal with. It’s worth checking out once in a while but it’s definitely not somewhere we frequent. I definitely recommend trying to get a reservation, and hopefully, they’ll keep it.

100 West Houston St. between Thompson St. and LaGuardia Pl.
New York, NY

Otto Enoteca and Pizzeria

Monday, June 14th, 2010 by virginia

Josh and I spent one Saturday afternoon perusing the vegetables at the Union Square Greenmarket and then wandered southward in search of a late lunch. We tossed back and forth several different options but couldn’t decide, until we hit Washington Square Park and realized we were just around the corner from Otto.

We had eaten at Otto one time previously, on a Sunday night with Josh’s family, but that was a few years ago. Pizza sounded good to both of us so we headed in. It was that weird time between lunch and dinner so there were plenty of tables available in the restaurant, but it was also surprisingly crowded given the late/early hour. We settled down and munched on some slices of rustic peasant bread and grissini while we looked over the menu. The grissini are pre-packaged but the bread had a thick, chewy crust and a nice slight sourdough flavor to it. Make sure to ask for some fruity olive oil to dip the bread in.

Bread and grissini

Although Otto has wonderful pasta, Josh and I were both in the mood for pizza so we decided to split two pies. The hardest part was deciding which ones to get, because there are lots of options to choose from. We ended up picking a classic margherita and a mushroom pie with taleggio cheese. We also decided to share a roasted brussels sprout antipasti that was perfectly cooked, nicely tangy, and not too bitter.

Brussels sprout antipasti

The pizzas at Otto have a super thin crust that are surprisingly still a bit chewy, not like the cracker thin bar pies. The pizzas aren’t huge, but they’re not tiny either. Someone with a somewhat hearty appetite could finish one pie by him/herself.

Margherita D.O.P.

The margherta d.o.p. looked beautiful, as it was covered in a brilliantly colored red sauce, neat little dollops of buffalo mozzarella, and bright green basil leaves, but I thought there was too much sauce and not enough cheese. The cheese was surprisingly creamy, not stringy, with a noticeable gaminess to its flavor.

Lots of sauce, a little cheese

The crust was a golden brown on the bottom, but not burnt (I hate super dark brown spots), and crackly on the outer edge.

Underside shot

The mushroom and taleggio pizza gave off an incredible earthy scent. There was no sauce on the pie but it was completely covered in mushrooms, with the cheese melted underneath. Fresh parsley leaves topped it all off.

Funghi & Taleggio

The taleggio had a buttery flavor that paired perfectly with the mushrooms. I loved how savory it tasted, and it was a nice departure from the typical pizza.

Lots of mushrooms and parsley

While Josh and I both think that the pizza at Otto isn’t as good as some other places (like Lombardi’s), it’s a really well done gourmet pie at a very reasonable price. In fact, the entire menu is very affordable, not something you would expect from a Mario Batali restaurant. The vegetable antipasti are only $4 each, salads are just $8, pastas are $9, and pizzas range from $7-$14. There’s a lot to choose from and everything is freshly prepared. The restaurant is quite large with multiple rooms, and nice warm atmosphere. There’s also a spacious bar area in front, perfect for having some wine and nibbling on some meat and cheese antipasti platters. There are also lots of sorbets and gelatos available for dessert, including my personal favorite, olive oil gelato. This is definitely a place worth checking out.

Otto Enoteca and Pizzeria
1 Fifth Ave. at 8th St.
New York, NY