Archive for August, 2011

CSA2 Week #11

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011 by virginia

I was a bit concerned about our CSA share this week, as I’ve been reading about the devastation at a lot of area farms caused by the hurricane this weekend. We didn’t get a farm report along with our share list but I hope that means everything is ok. We didn’t get a lot of variety this week but we certainly got a massive quantity of each item. This week our share contents included:

Cabbage – 1/2 head
Tomatoes – 4 lbs
Carrots – 0.7 lbs
Cucumbers – 4 lbs
Squash – 3.1 lbs
Cherry Tomatoes – 0.6 lbs
Greens – 1 lb

Chard, cucumbers, cabbage, grape tomatoes, tomatoes, carrots, squash

Watermelon was also on our original list but when we showed up at the distribution site it had been erased from the boards. I don’t know if that means they ran out of watermelons by the time we got there, or if none were delivered to begin with. Oh well.

I was happy to see carrots finally coming in, as I made a terrific carrot ginger soup last year that I’m hoping to recreate. Carrots also keep pretty well, and we are definitely struggling to keep up with eating all of our veggies.

We got a lot of tomatoes this week that are super ripe so we’ll need to eat those quickly. I’m hoping Josh makes some more gazpacho, since these are already bursting out of their skins. We also got some cherry tomatoes, a new item for us. Those are also pretty soft so we’ll probably eat them tonight in a salad with the half head of cabbage that we got.

We also got more squash of course, plus chard. I’m starting to get upset about the lack of kale! Oh well. And I can’t believe we got four pounds of cucumbers – what am I going to do with them? We still have a few pounds left in our fridge from the last few weeks. If anyone has suggestions, please let me know! I’m getting desperate…

CSA2 Week #10

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011 by virginia

We had another heavy week of produce, so I was glad that Josh was the one to pick up our CSA share this week. The tote bag we use to carry our stuff was packed to the brim. I was glad to see a lot of variety though, and not just multiple pounds of one item. This week our share contents included:

Cucumbers – 1.75 lbs
Squash – 1 each
Asian Melon – 1 each
Napa Cabbage –  1 each
Shisito Peppers – 0.6 lbs
Tomatoes – 2 lbs
Tomatillos – 0.35lbs
Greens – 1 lb
White onion – 1 ea.
Broccoli – 0.8 lbs

Chard, onion, cucumbers, tomatillos, broccoli, tomatoes, Asian melon, squash, shisito peppers, napa cabbage

I’m intrigued by the shisito peppers because when I was looking for padron peppers in NYC, I read that shisitos are a common substitution for padrons. Maybe we’ll pan fry these in olive oil and sprinkle them with sea salt to make our version of pimientos de padron, on of our favorite tapas.

The napa cabbage we got this week is HUGE. I still hope to make (and post about) lions head meatball stew with it. It’s such a tasty meal served over white rice, and the leftovers usually last me a week.

I was kind of disappointed that we got chard again this week for our greens. I had commented early on in the season that we got a lot of kale last year and not so much chard, and this year we’re getting lots of chard but not a lot of kale. We made collard chips one week but I have still yet to make any kale chips!

I still haven’t used the tomatillos from a few weeks ago, and so I hope they’re still good. Combined with this week’s batch, hopefully I’ll have enough to make a decent amount of salsa verde. They’re really quite small. We also didn’t get a ton of broccoli this week, just two small heads. Maybe I’ll try stir frying them with some green beans.

I’m not sure what to do with all the cucumbers. We still have some from last week as well, and I’m a bit pickled out at this point. Any suggestions?

Le Bernardin

Monday, August 22nd, 2011 by virginia

In the interest of full disclosure, this meal took place back in April. Yes, I’m really far behind with my posts.

As Josh wrote back in November 2009, Le Bernardin ranked as the #2 best meal we’ve ever had. We were there for his birthday that year and still remembered how incredible our experience was. During the last year and a half, however, we’ve had some pretty good meals (ie., Daniel, Eleven Madison Park), and we were curious to see if Le Bernardin would still live up to our memories. Our friend Melissa was in town and she really wanted to try Le Bernardin as well, so we managed to get a weeknight reservation at a decent time.

We met up with Melissa at the restaurant bar and were seated immediately. They’re currently renovating the interior of Le Bernardin right now, but I liked the old decor. The restaurant has very tall ceilings, and the colors are pretty muted, with lots of beiges and light browns. I find the atmosphere to be calm with an understated elegance, but not stuffy.

I was surprised when they served us the amuse bouche immediately, before we even received any menus. The amuse was a small portion of tuna tartare, and I wish that I could have had an entire serving because it was absolutely delicious. Tuna tartare is pretty mainstream these days and it’s hard to mess up, but it’s also hard to find one that will knock your socks off, like this did. This version featured classic ingredients like cucumber and chives, and the sauce had an Asian flavor to it. The tuna was fresh and perfectly seasoned, and it was a great bite to start off our meal.

Gorgeous tuna tartare amuse bouche

We were debating between the shorter tasting menu or the regular four course prix fixe menu and decided that if we all ordered different things and shared, we would be able to taste more dishes overall with the regular four course prix fixe. It was a bit tricky to split each dish three ways but we managed to do it without any major issues. We all picked our favorite dishes for each course, and the sommelier helped us pick out a white burgundy wine that was buttery and matched well with our dishes.

After we made our selections, we settled in to enjoy our meal. First up was the bread, which featured an olive rosemary stick, a crusty white roll, and I think a whole wheat roll (sorry, my memory is fuzzy). The star of the lineup was definitely the olive rosemary stick, which was studded with salty and briny green olives.

Selection of breads - our favorite was the olive and rosemary bread stick

In order to make the sharing process easier, when we received our dishes, we immediately split them into thirds, ate our portions, and then passed our plates to the left.  The first course of the prix fixe comes from a category called “Simply Raw.” As the name indicates, the seafood featured during this course are not cooked, allowing their freshness to shine through. For our dishes, we ended up choosing the progressive tasting of Kumamoto oysters, the striped bass tartare, and the thinly pounded yellowfin tuna. The oysters, which were topped with different gelees and ranged from light and refreshing to complex and spicy, was a difficult dish to share because each oyster was different. Fortunately there were six oysters in total, so we each selected two, one from each end of the plate. I don’t know what each of the gelee toppings were, but the oysters were fresh and juicy, with lots of briny liquid to slurp up. The gelees were more of an accompaniment rather than a condiment, and they didn’t hide or detract from the flavor of the oysters.

Progressive tasting of Kumamoto oysters "en gelee"

The striped bass tartare was served with watermelon radish carpaccio, mustard oil, and red dulce seaweed vinaigrette. They also gave us some toasts on the side to accompany the tartare. At first taste, the tartare was a bit bland and really nothing special. However, when eaten in conjunction with the toast, the dish itself changed drastically. The flavor of the bass was more apparent, and the nuances of the vinaigrette and seasonings came through better. I went from thinking it was a lackluster tartare to really enjoying the flavors. It was like magic!

Striped bass tartare with watermelon radish carpaccio, mustard oil, and red dulce seaweed vinaigrette

My favorite appetizer of the bunch was the thinly pounded yellowfin tuna layered on a toasted baguette that is spread with foie gras. There was olive oil drizzled over the top and a sprinkling of chopped chives. The tuna was fresh and flavorful on its own, and light enough that it was the perfect match for the foie gras. The foie gras was just a thin layer so the dish wasn’t overly rich, and the toasted baguette provided a wonderful crunchy textural contrast. It was just a winning combination overall.

Thinly pounded yellowfin tuna over foie gras and toasted baguette

The second course of the prix fixe comes from a category called “Barely Touched.” Again, we all picked the dish that we wanted for the course, split it into thirds, then passed it along so that everyone could have a taste. We selected the peekytoe “crab cake,” the smoked yellowfin tuna “prosciutto,” and the seared langoustine. The peekytoe crab was a pile of loosely packed crab meat served with mango ribbons and a chili crab broth. There was no filler in this “crab cake,” just crab meat. The broth was pretty complex, with lots of different spices. It definitely had an Asian flavor to it, and we actually requested spoons so that we could spoon up the broth to eat together with the crab meat. Josh really enjoyed this dish a lot.

Peekytoe "crab cake" with mango ribbons and chili crab broth

The smoked yellowfin tuna “prosciutto” was an interesting dish, with thick pieces of tuna that were a deep red color and had a salty, smoky flavor to it. The tuna was topped with pieces of pickled vegetables and a crispy sheet of kombu seaweed. I didn’t love the flavor of the tuna but I appreciated the whimsical aspect behind the dish.

Smoked yellowfin tuna "prosciutto" with pickled vegetables and crispy kombu

Our favorite second course, and quite possibly our favorite dish of the evening, was the seared langoustine with mache and wild mushroom salad and shaved foie gras. The langoustine was cooked perfectly so that the texture was still light and delicate, not chewy or rubbery. There was just a small pat of foie gras on each piece, which added some richness but was in no way overwhelming. The mushrooms and mache were a great match for the langoustine, and a white balsamic vinaigrette bound everything together with just the right amount of acid.

Seared langoustine with wild mushroom and mache salad, shaved foie gras, and white balsamic vinaigrette

The third course, our last savory course, came from the “Lightly Cooked” category. We wound up selecting the poached halibut, the sauteed codfish, and the baked skate and langoustine “paupiette.” The halibut was described as being served with braised artichokes stuffed with water chestnuts and bacon in a Persian lime scented truffle broth. I have to admit, we picked the dish because of the lime scented truffle broth and were disappointed with what we actually received. The broth had no trace of truffle flavor, nor was it tangy from the Persian lime as we had anticipated. The broth was still flavorful, just not what we expected based on the description. I did like the stuffed artichokes, and the halibut itself was tender and flaky.

Poached halibut with braised artichokes stuffed with water chestnuts and bacon

The sauteed codfish had a beautiful golden sear on the outside, and the fish was well seasoned. It was served with a leek and grape parfait, caramelized endives, and a green peppercorn mariniere. This was probably the most classically French dish we had all evening, with simple, clean flavors and perfect execution.

Sauteed codfish with leek and grape parfait, caramelized endives, and green peppercorn mariniere

Our favorite dish of the course was the baked skate and langoustine “paupiette” with charred shiitake mushroom and brown butter flavored dashi broth. Even though there was langoustine was tucked inside the skate, the skate itself was the star of the dish. It had a wonderful delicately chewy texture to it, and wasn’t the least bit stringy. The shiitake mushrooms and the dashi broth definitely gave the dish a Japanese tilt, and the flavors were surprisingly bold. I also liked the little french radishes on top, which gave each bite a little bitterness to counteract the richness of the broth. It was an elegant and well put-together dish.

Baked skate and langoustine "paupiette" with charred shiitake mushroom and brown butter flavored dashi broth

The last course of our four course prix fixe was dessert. Before dinner, I told Josh that I had read about a famous off the menu dessert created by Pastry Chef Michael Laiskonis, which was simply called “The Egg.” It was usually served as a pre-dessert with the tasting menu, and I was hoping they would let us order it even though we weren’t doing a tasting menu. After checking to make sure they had enough prepared for actual tasting menu diners, our waiter graciously let us swap out one of our desserts for The Egg.

What is The Egg exactly? It’s a milk chocolate pot de creme, or custard, served in an actual eggshell and topped with maple, caramel, caramel foam, and flakes of Maldon salt. The presentation is fun and unusual, but the taste is even better. Who doesn’t like a combination of chocolate and caramel? The salt adds a nice contrast to the sweetness, and the maple is just a hint to make you wonder exactly what’s in The Egg. The custard is smooth and rich, and each bite varies just slightly depending on what you get on your spoon.

"The Egg"

I have to say, The Egg is simply heavenly, but it was almost impossible to share with two other people. Considering that the serving is inside an actual eggshell, it’s quite small to begin with. That’s why it’s meant to be a pre-dessert, just a taste to leave you wanting more, and not an actual dessert. It was hard to pass The Egg on, but we managed to score a few tiny spoonfuls each. I know we all wished that we could have had our own Eggs!

We did order two other desserts for our prix fixe, the pistachio and the citrus. The pistachio featured pistachio mousse, vanilla cream, lemon raspberry pearls, and pistachio ice cream. I’m a huge fan of pistachio so I loved this dessert as well. I felt bad though when I found out later that Melissa doesn’t really like pistachio. Still, the mousse was light and airy while the ice cream was dense and rich. Pistachio was definitely the dominating flavor on the plate. The lemon raspberry pearls added a bit of color and some whimsy to the dish.

Pistachio mousse, vanilla cream, lemon raspberry pearls, pistachio ice cream

The citrus dessert featured lime parfait, meringue, avocado puree, and mint-grapefruit tequila sorbet. It was definitely citrusy, both tangy and very refreshing. The lime parfait was smooth and creamy, and the mint-grapefruit tequila sorbet was an interesting combination. Both Josh and Melissa liked this dessert a lot, and it was a great way to revive our palates after all the food we ate.

Lime parfait, meringue, avocado puree, and mint-grapefruit tequila sorbet

Lastly, they presented us each with a plate of petit fours. We were stuffed but couldn’t resist tasting each little bite. There was salted caramel covered in chocolate, a chewy caramel canele, a pistachio financier with a cherry inside, and a vanilla cream puff. They were sweet endings to a wonderful meal.

Salted caramel in chocolate, caramel canele, pistachio cherry financier , vanilla cream puff

After our meal we asked to see the kitchen, and while I was disappointed that Chef Eric Ripert was not in the house that evening, the chefs in the kitchen were extremely nice when we walked in. We also saw the separate pastry area where the team was hard at work trying to get all the desserts plated before the ice creams melted, as the kitchen was very hot – much hotter than any other restaurant kitchen we’ve visited.

Overall we were all extremely pleased with our meal at Le Bernardin. While it’s hard to compare if this meal lived up to the #2 best meal of our lives, it definitely ranks up there. The food was outstanding and the service was top notch. Our waiter was very friendly, offering his advice on which dishes to order when asked. The sommelier was also great in helping us pick out a solid yet reasonably priced wine. It’s easy to see why this restaurant has three Michelin stars. With regard to all the courses we had, I personally preferred dishes from the first two courses, as the fish was either raw or barely cooked. That’s not to say that the lightly cooked dishes were bad, I just found more exciting pairings and more variety in the first two courses. Coincidentally, Josh had a business dinner at Le Bernardin just a few days after our meal, and he found that dinner to be spectacular as well. I think it’s safe to say that Le Bernardin is our favorite high end restaurant in New York, and I wish that we could eat there more often. I’m looking forward to seeing what the new renovations will bring, as it will give us an excuse to visit again soon.

Le Bernardin
155 West 50th St. between 6th and 7th Ave.
New York, NY


Saturday, August 20th, 2011 by virginia

Josh and I were recently in the Union Square area because we were looking for some hiking backpacks at Paragon Sports. For my 30th birthday, Josh got me a 3-day hiking trip over Labor Day weekend in the Presidential Range of the White Mountains, since I’ve always expressed interest in climbing Mount Washington, the highest peak in the northeast. We decided to get brunch before trying on all the different packs, and I suggested going to L’Express because I had read that they serve a really great croque monsieur.

L’Express has a French bistro vibe to it, with mirrors on the walls and lots of dark wood paneling, but it’s a massive restaurant. It’s owned by the same people who own Nizza, Five Napkin Burger, Marseille, etc., and I tend to find these restaurants to be just a bit commercial in appearance. Nevertheless, I love the food at Nizza so I had high hopes for L’Express. It was fairly late for brunch so the restaurant wasn’t crowded, and we were seated immediately.

Josh and I decided to split the croque monsieur and the merguez sandwich. Our food came quickly, and everything was piping hot. The croque monsieur looked gorgeous, with a cheesy top that was perfectly browned.

Croque monsieur, frites, petite salad

I cut the sandwich in half so that we could share, and the cheese inside just oozed out. The sandwich itself was made on perfectly grilled white bread, and there was a thin layer of ham and cheese on the inside. The ham was salty but not overly so, and the combination was just perfect. This was by far the best croque monsieur we’ve ever eaten in NY.

Autopsy shot

The merguez sandwich was comprised of two sticks of merguez sausage on a baguette with tomato concasse. The merguez was very flavorful, with lots of Moroccan spices in the sausage. There was some spicy harissa on the side that I slathered on the sandwich, giving it a nice but not overwhelming kick. Both of our sandwiches came with thin cut french fries and a small salad. The dressing on the salad was classic vinaigrette, which I love, though this version was maybe not as good as the dressing from Les Halles. The fries would have been amazing had they been fried just a tad crispier, but I liked how thin cut they were.

Merguez on a baguette with tomato concasse

Overall Josh and I both really liked L’Express. That same night, we were both craving another croque monsieur. It seems like such a simple sandwich to make but it’s surprising how many places just don’t do a good job. The version here was cheesy and crispy, exactly as it should be. I enjoyed the merguez as well, and service was fast and efficient. It was a hot day so we were both guzzling water like crazy, and our waitress patiently refilled our glasses at least a half dozen times. Portions are big and prices are very reasonable, with all sandwiches coming in under $15. It’s definitely a place that we’ll come back to, especially for the croque monsieur.

249 Park Ave. South at 20th St.
New York, NY

Bonus Cayman Post – Singh’s Roti Shop

Saturday, August 20th, 2011 by virginia

So on our way from Georgetown to Seymour’s Jerk Centre, we passed by a place called Singh’s Roti Shop. It was another local joint that I had read about before coming to Grand Cayman. The shop features Trinidadian and Caribbean cuisine, and I really wanted to try a roti, a sandwich wrapped in a flaky flat bread.

Because we were already on our way to Seymour’s for lunch, I knew I wouldn’t have much of an appetite if I ate a roti immediately beforehand, so Josh suggested that we get a sandwich to go and eat it later, since our hotel room had a refrigerator and a microwave. I knew it wouldn’t be quite the same as eating the roti fresh, but it was still better than not trying the sandwich at all.

The woman at the counter who took our order was very friendly, and when we ordered the curried chicken roti, she said we would love it so much that we would be back again the next day. That’s a pretty confident statement, and I liked that she seemed very passionate about her food. We also tried to get an order of doubles, which is curried chickpeas sandwiched between two fried flat breads, but unfortunately they had run out. It’s only served on Saturdays so I guess it’s very popular.

The menu

I really wanted to tear into the warm roti right away but I exercised some restraint. The next day, before we headed out to get marinated conch at Alfresco, we briefly microwaved the roti until it was warmed through. The flat bread was still flaky, but probably not as flaky as it would have been had we eaten it fresh. I was also surprised by the size and heft of the roti, since it looked pretty small when it was all wrapped up tightly in foil.

Curried chicken roti

When we cut it in half so that we could share it, the smell coming from the curried chicken was absolutely incredible. The chicken was still tender, and it was layered with soft, mashed potatoes. The curry was the typical yellow curry, but this version was extremely flavorful and complex. We could see all the layers of the flaky roti, and each bite was a wonderful mix of spices and textures.

Autopsy shot

Josh and I absolutely loved the curried chicken roti from Singh’s, and the woman was right, I absolutely would have gone back the next day to get a fresh roti had we not had a flight to catch. The shop itself is very casual, though there are tables where you can sit and eat inside. The curried chicken roti was C$7.50 so while it’s not dirt cheap, it’s pretty reasonable and one sandwich will definitely fill you up. The roti was one of the best things we ate on our trip, which says a lot considering we ate it after it had sat in a refrigerator all day and was reheated in a microwave. I would definitely recommend trying it out, and if we’re ever back in Grand Cayman, I would go there again in a heartbeat.

Singh’s Roti Shop
Corner of Dr. Roy’s Dr. and Shedden Rd., George Town
Grand Cayman

Grand Cayman Day 5 – Alfresco

Thursday, August 18th, 2011 by virginia

Sadly, day 5 was our last day in Grand Cayman. Most of the crew left after breakfast so we said our goodbyes over waffles at the Comfort Suites. Josh and I had booked a flight in the late afternoon so that we could have some more time to explore the eats on the island. The main item I wanted to try was marinated conch, which is sort of like conch ceviche. I asked the woman at the front desk for recommendations and was told that it wasn’t conch season so she didn’t think we’d be able to find it anywhere. Drat!

In the hotel lobby, there were copies of a magazine that had menus from several dozen restaurants. While Josh packed up our stuff, I combed the magazine from cover to cover in search of a place that listed marinated conch. I found it on the menu of a restaurant at the other end of Seven Mile Beach called Alfresco. When we checked out, I asked the woman at the front desk if she would call the Alfresco to see if they were indeed serving marinated conch that day, as I didn’t want to make the trip out there for nothing. She made the call and gave us the thumbs up, so off we went.

We headed up West Bay Road and caught a bus almost immediately. The driver knew where Alfresco was and dropped us right in front. The restaurant has two seating areas, one inside and one outside. We checked in with the waitress inside, who told us to sit anywhere we wanted, so we headed for the outdoor area which is a deck right along the beach. The view was simply stunning, and there were umbrellas and trees around to keep us in the shade.

The tables on the deck right along Seven Mile Beach

There were some sort of grape-like fruit dangling from the trees above us

Lizard on the deck

Even though it was pretty early in the day, I ordered a frozen strawberry daiquiri to drink. Hey, it was our last day of vacation! Josh got a Caybrew, and we sat back to enjoy the view. We saw Eric (one of Josh’s former coworkers who we were hanging out with all week) walking up the beach and called him over. He apparently had taken a stroll along the entire length of Seven Mile Beach (which is really only about 5.5 miles), and he definitely looked like he needed to sit down and drink some water. He ended up joining us for lunch on the deck.

Caybrew and strawberry daiquiri

My bad luck with restaurants continued, as we learned from the waitress that their fryer was broken. This meant that I couldn’t tried cracked conch, another Cayman specialty that is kind of like fried calamari, but with conch. They also only served turtle on Fridays, and it was Sunday. At least they had the marinated conch though, which was our whole point of going to that particular restaurant. Since it was early, and we had just eaten breakfast, we decided to stick with just the marinated conch while Eric ordered a jerk chicken sandwich.

The marinated conch was prepared in a traditional style, with strips of peppers and onions and mixed in a spicy tomato sauce. The conch itself didn’t have too much flavor, but it did have a chewy yet crunchy texture that I enjoyed. It reminded me a bit of the texture of jellyfish, which I love. The sauce wasn’t too spicy, more sweet and tangy. Josh thought it was a bit too ketchup-y but I didn’t mind. The conch was served with saltine crackers, which was an interesting combination, though I preferred eating the marinated conch on its own. It was a refreshing dish on a hot day.

Marinated conch served with saltines

I was disappointed that we weren’t able to try cracked conch or some form of turtle, but I did enjoy the marinated conch. I think I was expecting more of a traditional Peruvian style ceviche, which is marinated in citrus, but this was an interesting dish. I liked the ambiance at Alfresco, and the view on the deck really couldn’t be beat. Eric enjoyed his jerk chicken sandwich immensely, so I think Alfresco is definitely a place worth checking out. The menu was pretty reasonable, with most dishes under C$15.

After we paid our bill, we went down to the beach to take some more photos before heading back to the road to catch the bus. While we were waiting for the bus, we saw a green iguana sitting in a tree above us, which was pretty neat.

Looking all the way down Seven Mile Beach

Swimmers enjoying the water

Looking up the beach the other way

Iguana dangling from a tree

We ended up catching the bus heading in the wrong direction, but the driver said we were near the end of the line and he would be turning around soon. It gave us an opportunity to see a bit more of the island so I didn’t mind. The turnaround point was Boatswain’s Beach Adventure Park and Turtle Farm. Funny story about the farm – one of my coworkers went to Grand Cayman as part of a Caribbean cruise. They took the excursion to the turtle farm, except she thought it was for turtle conservation. They went through the tour and saw all the baby turtles, etc., and at the end of the tour, they asked her if now she wanted to taste turtle. Needless to say, she was shocked, and only then realized that it was a farm, not a conservatory.

I wish we had time to visit the farm, but we had to get back to the hotel to pick up our bags and catch a cab to the airport. We had to make a stop first at the Beach Suites to pick up our camera battery charger from the front desk, and ended up walking back to the Comfort Suites via the beach one last time. We walked quickly, as we thought we were running late and we had been told that the airport in Grand Cayman gets really packed on Sundays so it takes a long time to get through security. We shared a cab with Eric and arrived at the airport only to find that our flight had been delayed several hours. Awesome.

So it turned out we had plenty of time, and got through security pretty easily. We did a little duty free shopping to kill some time. Josh bought a nice rum, a nice scotch, and a bottle of cheap rum for me. We also picked out some rum cakes, a Grand Cayman specialty. Tortuga is the name brand of rum cakes, but we opted for the cheaper Blackbeard brand. We did pick up a mini Tortuga rum cake and plan on doing a taste test to see how different or similar the two brands really are.

When we checked into our flight at the desk, they told us that no meals would be served on the plane so before we boarded, we picked up some Jamaican patties to go. They only had chicken left, and only one that was the local Cayman Island Taste brand. The other was a Jamaican brand, though I don’t remember the name. The two brands were actually pretty different. The Island Taste patty had a richer brown sauce in the filling, while the Jamaican brand had more of a classic yellow curry flavor. Both had flaky pastry crusts, and I enjoyed both of the patties.

Two different brands of Jamaican patties

The flight home was pretty uneventful. Ironically they did end up serving food on the plane, some jerk chicken that was nowhere even close to Seymour’s jerk chicken. I stuck with the Jamaican patties. We arrived back in NY much later than we planned since our flight was so late. We quickly got in a cab, eager to get home, and wound up with the worst driver ever. He missed the exit for Manhattan and ended up driving us 20 minutes into Long Island before figuring out how to turn around. He also had no concept of changing lanes, and would almost come to full stop on the highway when it was time to switch. I was terrified the entire ride.

We finally got home much, much later than expected, finally concluding our five day trip to Grand Cayman. We had a blast hanging out with everyone and were thrilled to take part in Claire and Sean’s wedding. It was definitely a trip we’ll always remember, full of good food, great fun, and even better company.

53 Town Hall Rd., West Bay
Grand Cayman

CSA2 Week #9

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011 by virginia

We weren’t expecting to pick up our CSA share this week but due to unforeseen circumstances, our trip was unfortunately cancelled. Not a big deal, as we plan on redoing the same trip next year. And this means we have more time to eat our veggies, as I was starting to get worried about the state of our fridge again. Hey, when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, right? Well in this case, we got a ton of tomatoes this week, so Josh is making gazpacho, one of my favorites. This week our share contents included:

Greens – 1 lb
Peppers – 3 each
Squash – 1.15 lbs
Cucumber – 1.5 lbs
Tomatoes – 4.5  lbs
Watermelon – 1 each
Mint – 0.12 lbs
Perslaine – 0.12 lbs

Chard, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, purslane, squash, mint, watermelon on top

Spaghetti carbonara with chard is one of our favorite dishes, and so easy to make. It’s always a quick standby dinner for us. Other simple suppers include pureed zucchini soup, or zucchini pancakes with smoked salmon and poached eggs.

I was surprised to see purple peppers, since we’ve been getting a lot of green peppers. I wonder if they taste the same, or if they’re any sweeter. I might just eat those fresh with a salad.

We also got more purslane, which I’ve been using as a garnish. It adds a citrusy, almost sweet bite to every dish. This batch will be the perfect topping for Josh’s garlicky gazpacho.

As for the mint and watermelon, maybe we can combine those for a refreshing salad or an interesting dessert? So many possibilities!

Grand Cayman Day 4 – Seymour’s Jerk Centre and Myrtle’s

Monday, August 15th, 2011 by virginia

We were pretty tired the morning after Claire and Sean’s wedding but probably not as tired as the people who partied on the roof afterward. Claire and Sean had organized a brunch at their hotel so we made our way over to the Beach Suites, via the beach of course. After a hearty breakfast of eggs, bacon, potatoes, and pancakes, plus some slices of leftover wedding cake, we felt re-energized. Silva, Felipe, Justin, Josh and I decided to head over to Georgetown, the main town on Grand Cayman, to check out the sights.

We took a bus to Georgetown, which we found was the best method of transportation. The buses, which are really just large vans with blue license plates and have stickers on them that say WB1 or WB2, run back and forth on West Bay Road and the fare is C$2 or US$2.50 (they take both forms of currency and will give you change in whichever one you prefer). Although there are bus stops along the road, the buses will pick you up anywhere. You can flag them down like a taxi, or if they are coming up behind you, they’ll give a little honk and you can wave at them to stop for you. They’ll also drop you off anywhere along the road, so it’s almost like taking a taxi, except much cheaper. Taxis are very overpriced compared to the bus, so I would suggest taking the bus whenever you can.

In Georgetown we pretty much just walked around. There wasn’t a whole lot to see – we were a bit disappointed. Sure, there were lots of souvenir stores and jewelry shops, but we were expecting more historical buildings or colonial architecture. The biggest attractions seemed to be Margaritaville and the Hard Rock Cafe. I guess the town mostly caters to the cruise ships that come in. All the stores boasted duty free signs, but only for the cruise ship passengers. We didn’t find anything interesting to buy, but the stores were nice for their air conditioning. It was really hot out and extremely humid. I ended up overheating at one point and had to find a bathroom to run some cold water on my face and wrists in order to cool down.

Random roosters outside the Tortuga Rum store

Pretty feathers

On the coast in Georgetown - there were groups of people snorkeling nearby

Can you see the little crabs along the edge?

A random anchor

Pirate ship!

We had some milkshakes and smoothies at a place called Paradise, which is right on the water. It was nice to sit and enjoy the view and the slight breeze. Afterward, we headed back toward the center of Georgetown, away from the water. There was a post office, a library, and a war memorial, though still not much to see. We took a few pics then continued on our way.

Post office

Pretty square with the library in the background

Peace memorial

I don't remember what this statue was for but it was around the square

Our next destination? Seymour’s Jerk Centre.

I hadn’t done much restaurant research on Grand Cayman before we arrived because I wasn’t sure how much free time we would have. Of the minimal research that I did, however, all signs pointed to Seymour’s Jerk Centre, which is famous for its jerk chicken. I knew we had to go there so we convinced the crew to meet up for a late lunch. I hadn’t seen pictures of the place beforehand and was surprised by how rustic it was. It’s basically a hut that houses the barbecue smokers where they cook the meat, a small kitchen where the workers prepare and serve the meat, and two picnic tables in the back where you eat. We could smell the barbecue from a few blocks away, and let me tell you, it was pretty enticing.

The jerk centre in its entirety - the smokers and the kitchen are on the left hand side, the picnic tables are on the right

The smokers where the meat is cooked - the smells coming off were absolutely incredible

The menu is pretty straightforward. There’s jerk chicken and jerk pork, fried fish, and a handful of other choices. We all got some form of jerk, since it is a jerk centre after all.

The menu

We were the first of the group to arrive but we were surprised to see Claire’s parents already there eating. They both enjoyed their meal, though I think Aine may have found the jerk seasoning to be a bit too spicy. We placed our orders and were just sitting down to eat when the crew from the Beach Suites arrived, including Sean and Claire. The rest of the Comfort Suites crowd followed shortly thereafter, and we all squeezed into the larger of the two picnic tables.

Josh and I decided to get an order of jerk chicken and an order of jerk pork to share. They also do a combo platter for single diners who would like to try both meats. The meats were wrapped in tin foil and served with two slices of white bread. We ended up forgoing silverware and just tore into it with our bare hands. Both the chicken and the pork were absolutely fabulous. I might have liked the pork a bit more, but only because there were pieces of pork belly in the mix, and I love pork belly. All of the pieces of pork were succulent and tender. The jerk seasoning was spicy but not overwhelming. The spices tingled on our tongues and lips but we could taste the different nuances in the seasoning.

Succulent pieces of jerk pork

The chicken was a mix of all parts as well, though I preferred the dark meat thighs and legs. There was a bottle of vinegary hot sauce on the table, which we liberally doused on the meats to add even more zing. I used the white bread to make little sandwiches out of the meat, and even though the portions were huge, I stuffed myself silly until all we had left were a pile of bones.

Tender jerk chicken

I absolutely loved Seymour’s Jerk Centre. The jerk seasoning was the best we tasted our entire trip, and the chicken and pork were obviously slow cooked so that they were falling apart tender. There isn’t much in terms of ambiance though, which might turn some people off. Like I said, it’s basically a hut. You eat outside on picnic tables, and there are lots of flies flying all around. Admittedly, the flies were a bit annoying, but I guess it’s part of the experience. This is an authentic, local joint. Everyone we asked knew about Seymour’s, and it was totally worth the trip. This was definitely one of my favorite meals in Grand Cayman, and I highly recommend it.

After lunch, we took a bus back to our hotel and changed into our bathing suits, then walked back over to the Beach Suites to meet up with everyone. Claire and Sean were finally able to hang out and relax with us for a bit. We hung out in the water for a bit, and then decided to get some exercise in with a friendly yet competitive game of ultimate frisbee. It was pretty tiring running around in the soft sand, so we took frequent intermission breaks and ran into the water to cool down. It was a tight game but our team ended up victorious, which is always nice. It was definitely a fun time, if a  bit exhausting.

We finished the afternoon in the pool, enjoying some frozen drinks from the swim up bar. The sun was starting to set and it actually got a bit chilly in the pool so we started to make our way back to the Comfort Suites. Josh decided to have fun with his wide angle lens on the walk back, taking lots of pictures of the beach, the water, and his footprints.

We took a short break before dinner, taking our time to clean up and relax a bit. For dinner, we decided to try out Myrtle’s, which was recommended to us by a few locals. It was noted for serving authentic, local Caribbean cuisine. We took the short walk over to the restaurant, which is located in a strip mall just down the road from the Comfort Suites. It’s nothing fancy, but we were there to try out the food.

When we walked in, the place was packed with rugby players. There was a tournament going on and a lot of the players were staying at the Comfort Suites as well. I think it was the team from Barbados, and they took up the whole outer room of the restaurant. We put together a few tables near the bar and settled in. We got a round of lemonades, fruit punch, and sodas, and tried to decide what we wanted to eat. I was debating between the turtle burger and a few other items, but then we got some bad news.

Because the rugby players were such a large group, the kitchen had prepared a buffet style feast for them. That meant they didn’t have capacity to cook many items on their regular menu, including the turtle burger, turtle soup, and marinated conch, all of which I really wanted to try. The choices we did have were pretty limited, but there wasn’t much we could do.

Josh and I decided to get conch fritters to start, which were better tasting than the fritters we had at the Beach Suites. There was more conch mixed in that added a chewy texture, and the flavors of the spices in the mixture really worked well. I just wish they had been slightly crispier.

Conch fritters

Josh wanted the shrimp curry from the menu, and fortunately, it was available. The curry sauce was a bit weird though, not what we were expecting. We thought it would be a yellow curry, similar to the curry that came with the curried chicken, but this was more like a brown curry that was sweet and sour. Josh asked for it spicy but it didn’t have too much of a kick.

Shrimp curry

I ended up ordering the stewed beef, which was not on the menu, but I guess it was one of the dishes they had prepared for the rugby players. It turned out to be a fantastic dish, with soft, tender beef that fell apart with the gentlest prodding of my fork. The beef was cooked with potatoes, carrots, and onions, and enrobed in a thick, rich sauce. All of the entrees were served with rice and beans, a small salad, and two pieces of fried plantain.

Stewed beef

Overall I was disappointed that we weren’t able to try out the normal menu at Myrtle’s, but what we had was pretty good. It’s simple, local cuisine, nothing fancy. Prices are a tad lower than some of the more upscale restaurants that we went to, but still kind of pricey compared to NY. I think the shrimp curry was about C$17, and the stewed beef was C$14.50. There’s a small extra charge if you use a credit card, but all the prices are laid out clearly on the bill and you can pay in Cayman or U.S. dollars as well. Service was friendly, and it’s definitely a nice, low key joint. I just wish I could have tried turtle!

After dinner we headed to the Beach Suites once more and hung out at Bamboo, of course. We had a nice semi private area in the corner because the bar was full, and we had a few round of drinks before saying our goodbyes to everyone, since we all had different flights out the next day. The walk back to our hotel via the beach route was peaceful as usual. It was our last full day in Grand Cayman so it was kind of bittersweet, but we managed to pack in a lot of sightseeing, food, and fun.

Seymour’s Jerk Centre
Shedden Road, Georgetown
Grand Cayman

Queen’s Court Plaza, West Bay Rd.
Grand Cayman

CSA2 Week #8

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011 by virginia

Sorry for the lack of posts this week. We were in Hilton Head for a long weekend and ended up staying an extra half day when our flight was cancelled due to weather here in NY. At least we had great weather down there, lots of sun, though it was pretty hot and humid. I sat by the pool while Josh golfed in the morning. Not a bad way to spend a few days. Now we’re back and have lots of work to catch up on before we head off on our next trip, next week.

Josh picked up the share this week, which was another heavy load. This week our share contents included:

Cucumbers – 1.75 lbs
Tomatoes – 1.9 lbs
Squash – 1.5 lbs
Greens – 1 lb
Beets – 0.75 lbs
Purslane – 0.4 lbs
Eggplant – 1.75 lbs
Peppers – 1.25 lbs
Melon – 1 each
Basil – 0.2 lbs

Kale, purslane, eggplant, tomatoes, beets, cucumbers, squash, peppers, basil, melon on top

This was the first week that we got tomatoes, and they’re pretty ripe. I’m sure we’ll get more in the next few weeks, and while these are standard red tomatoes, I can’t wait for the heirlooms to come in. I’m not sure if we’ll make a gazpacho with these, or just pair them simply with the gorgeous basil leaves we got.

For the greens, only kale was available, which is always fine by me. We also got some more purslane, which I’m still not sure is the best way to prepare. There’s also a wonky looking yellow melon, which I don’t know if it’s sweet or savory. I guess we’ll just have to cut into it to find out!

As usual, we got more squash and cucumbers, as well as a bunch more peppers. I’ve also got a big supply of eggplant now, though Claire’s idea of baba ganoush is definitely up my alley. I love smokey eggplant dip, and the few recipes I’ve looked up look pretty simple to make. We just don’t have much time to use up all our veggies, since we’ll be away for a week and a half starting next Wednesday. I’m pickling cucumbers as I write!

CSA2 Week #7

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011 by virginia

It was a pretty hectic CSA Wednesday for me, as Josh was out of town and I had a work function to attend at 5:30. I ended up running out of my office at 3 to pick up the share, then running back to work right afterward. It was also tough because our share was so HEAVY this week, though the farm reports warn us that shares later on in the season will be smaller because things are ripening so fast right now due to the warm weather. This week our share contents included:

Cucumbers  – 2.5 lbs
Squash – 2 lbs
Greens – 1 lb
Eggplant – 1 lb
Peppers – 3 each
Purslane – 1/2 lb
Basil – 1/3 lb
Watermelon – 1 each
Dandelion – 1/3 lb
Tomatillos – 0.4 lbs
Beans – 2/3 lb
Corn – 2 each

Ruby chard, dandelion, squash, beans, peppers, eggplant, tomatillos, watermelon, cucumbers, basil, corn, purslane

There were two new items for the season this week – corn and tomatillos. We got corn last year, but the tomatillos are brand new to us. I’d love to make a salsa verde with them, but we really don’t have a whole lot to work with. I can’t wait to try them out though, and experience their tanginess.

For the greens, we got ruby chard again. Beautiful stems though, so I’m excited. The leafy portion we’ll probably mix with dandelion and either eat them sauteed with garlic, or mixed into a spaghetti carbonara.

For the beans, I picked ordinary string  beans rather than yellow or green pole beans. I prefer the tender crispiness of string beans. I’m not sure what to do with the squash and eggplant, since we get those fairly often. Maybe mix them with the peppers for a nice ratatouille? I might also try to stuff the peppers, since we still have a few from last week to use up.

As for the basil, I have a batch of pesto already in the freezer, since we’ll be away this weekend and then for the next two weekends after. Hopefully another batch will keep just as well. With regard to the purslane, we ate a simple salad of purslane and parsley greens mixed with a bit of lemon juice and olive oil. Refreshing and delicious. It’s a bit intense, so a little goes a long way. The purslane has a nice lemony flavor to it. It’s a great accompaniment to something rich – try it out! Lots of omega-3s are just a bonus.