Thursday: Report from Harvest in the Square (the “Ohhh … Good Food Overload” Post)

photo-4To use a terribly-overused metaphor, I was like a kid in a candy store at Harvest in the Square, only the store was a cavernous tented event space stretching three city blocks and the candy was little menu tastes from several dozen restaurants located in the greater Union Square area — and wine shops, wineries and breweries to boot.

An hour and a half? No problem. As far as I can recount, here’s a faithful tally of my candy store rampage:

photo-12Tocqueville‘s chilled tomato consommé with a confit tomato (right) was beautiful to look at, but, pardon my unrefined palate, seemed a little oily. Also not quite a success was Back Forty‘s cold corn soup with Trinidad pepper relish — the soup had a sourness to it that I just didn’t get, and the texture was oddly … fluffy?

photo-13In the veggie sphere, I much preferred  Union Square Café‘s simple zucchini alla scapece or Gramercy Tavern‘s souffléd crackers stuffed with zucchini — so airy and poppable, it’s a good thing I didn’t discover these little gems until toward the end of the night because I would have kept popping them and not had room for, say, my second serving of Blue Water Grill‘s smoked bacon-wrapped lobster sausage (above, served with corn salsa and fennel pollen aioli). Never knew such a form of lobster existed, but my life is better for it now that I do.

photo-14The Strip House — I’ve never been, but they’re supposed to do good steaks — served a crab cake with fingerling potatoes. It was fine. But I much preferred steak places that did meat, like the Knickerbocker. Perfectly cooked strips of the restaurant’s signature T-Bone steak (right) were being snatched up faster than the chef could slice them. (If the point of a restaurant’s participation is to get you interested enough to come in sometime, and you’re a steak place, serve steak.)

photo-3More great beef: The grilled beef tenderloin and malanga fondue with truffle trumpet frisee salad (left) from brand new Pipa Tapas y Mas restaurant was a dark-horse contender for favorite of the night. And BLT Prime served a bacon-crusted Wagyu flatiron with corn roasted bell pepper salad and bacon chimchurri that sounded more complicated in the placard than what I got on my plate, but it was a nice bite.

photo-8Wildwood BBQ‘s whole pig (right) was definitely the most ambitious display of the night; the pulled pork sliders with coleslaw and chipotle BBQ sauce were okay, but a little boring compared to the smoked pork spare riblets being served at Hill Country‘s table (served with mac & longhorn cheddar cheese).

photo-6Hands down, my overall favorite of the night was Almond, who had a gorgeous, potatoes-overflowing and rock salt display and a brilliant dish (left): house-smoked blue fish and potato chips, dill, goat yogurt. It’s like chips and dip deconstructed, pure mouth bliss. And entirely original. I will go to this restaurant specifically to order this dish in the future.

More from the fish front: SushiSamba did a kanpachi tiradito with heirloom tomatoes, fresh yuzu and white truffle oil, which was clean and just a lovely bite of sushi. And while I wanted so much to love ‘Wichcraft’s fluke with vodka-infused watermelon, charred chilies and basil — sounds so exotic — it was really overwhelming. The charred bits were almost gritty, whoa there vodka-soaked fruit.

photo-10… and, dessert. The Stand‘s mini toasted marshmallow shakes were perhaps one of the most adorable presentations of the evening, each topped with its own chocolate-dusted marshmallow. The perfect serving size for this sort of event: a few good sips and you’re done and SO satisfied.

And the guys hand-shaving the ice for market-flavor treats at Todd English’s Olives table get the award for hardest working team. Literally, hand-shaving ice. It’s like kitchen time-out to have to do that job. The flavors were ambitious and fascinating: Horachata was the clear winner. The creaminess improves the shaved ices, and it comes dotted with tiny raisins. Other flavors were: butternut squash, spiced cider and pomegranate.

On my way out I grabbed at beignet from ilili — so glad I did. It was the perfect sweet bite to end on.

photo-15Other miscellany: Whole Foods’ “Ploughman’s snack,” which featured local ingredients from Rick’s Picks, Schoolhouse Kitchen and Sprout Creek Farm on these fantastic plates made from fallen leaves by VerTerra Dinnerware out of Long Island City showcased all the locally-produced items beautifully. You could tell it was a really thought-out presentation. And then there’s the guac — I just couldn’t say no, not when I see the Rosa Mexicano team pounding out fresh batches in giant stone pestels (left).

… And about those noodles from Republic that were handed out in tiny orange and blue-colored take-out boxes? Mine ended up in my purse for later…

Advertisements

Thursday: Rain, Rain Go Away (aka the “Myers of Keswick’s Magical Pies” Post)

Nothing shutters out an unseasonably cold and gloomy September day like a couple of pork pies and a couple glasses of red wine.

photo-17photo-18Make that, one “world famous” pork pie and one pie of the month, called “The Huntsman,” from Myers of Keswick, possibly (probably) my favorite British sundries shop in the city, and a bottle of “Ten Mile,” an ambitious blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Carignane and Barbera grapes out of Napa Valley by Nine North Wine Co. (Retails for $12.99 at Sea Grape Wine Shop, one of my favorite bottle shops in the city.)

photo-19This is not a pairing I could have matched myself a year ago. The pork pie and I are new-ish friends, but when I fell, I fell hard and fast. What’s not to love about the dense, salty, sticky, savory, (fatty), ground pork blend baked into a staunch, buttery, golden-brown crust? Don’t be fooled by its petit size or crimped edges, these pork pies pack some serious heft.

photoOn the other hand, the pie of the month, “The Huntsman,” is light and (almost) lean — it reminds me of the sort of pie a woman with an appetite more delicate than mine might prefer. It’s “three layers of yummy-ness” consist of pork pie meat, roasted chicken and Paxo sage and onion stuffing all layered into a pastry cup and baked until the stuffing is fluffy and golden.

“Welcome to autumn!” the index card proclaims. Could be that someone else’s cheery perspective is rubbing off, or it could be the blissful state these pies have put me in, but I’m about ready to say: bring it … well, almost.

Wanna see the guts? Check out the pies’ innards after the jump: Continue reading “Thursday: Rain, Rain Go Away (aka the “Myers of Keswick’s Magical Pies” Post)”

Tuesday: The Fried Lunchmeat Experiment (It’s Really Good!)

The description of the Swedish Ham ($8.99/lb) at Agata & Valentina reads as follows: “This ham has more sweet fat strips throughout making it very lush, moist and buttery with a light, delicate hint of smoke.”

Yes. I’ve been more than a little obsessed. I’ve made broiled ham-and-blue-cheese sandwiches, I’ve diced it to add to scrambled eggs. And now it’s going into the brussels sprouts — you could say this dish is a riff on that classic, brussels sprouts and pancetta, only, with a lot more ham (that’s not pancetta) and a few extra goodies. The results? Spectacular. I happily ate this for several meals.

photo-2

Brussels Sprouts and Fried Deli Ham

Ingredients:

1 lb. brussels sprouts, washed, bottoms trimmed and cut into halves
1/3 lb. ultra thin-sliced deli counter ham, preferably fatty, chopped into strips (more or less)
1 small red onion (1/4 cup? more?), roughly chopped
blue cheese crumbles to taste
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

You’ll need a deeper pan and a medium-sized frying pan.

1. Cook the brussels sprouts in the deeper pan over medium heat (generously add olive oil). Stir regularly; what you’re looking for is for the vegetables to begin to soften and brown up a bit, but it’s going to take some time to get them all evenly cooked. be patient. (Total: 7-10 minutes?)

2. In the frying pan, sautee the red onion over medium-to-low heat, until it browns and softens. Turn out onto a spare surface.

3. Next, in the frying pan (no need to clean), dump the ham in and turn the heat up to medium-high. At this point you should still be agitating the brussels sprouts so they all brown evenly. The ham is going to brown, then crackle, then even smoke a bit — it’s the result of cooking a fatty protein on a hot surface, but the meat will actually crisp nicely. Keep pushing it.

4. Once the brussels sprouts are done, mix in the red onions and the ham into the deeper pot; plate.

5. Garnish each serving with a little crumble of blue cheese (it will get a little melty). Scarf.

Servings: 4

photo

Saturday: “This Is How They Do It in France” (aka the “Central Park Bliss” Post)

First ride on my new bike, Caliente:

We entered Central Park around 80th Street on the East side, went up and around the top, and … break.  Near the quiet, algae-filled pond just south of the Great Hill, we stopped for a late lunch, Euro-style.

photo(4)photo(3)Which means: A baguette; some sliced porchetta from Agata & Valentina; deli-sliced Swiss cheese; an English cucumber (thin-sliced) for condiment. Some assembly required. (Good-for-you Apple & Eve fruit punch juice boxes from my fridge.)

… the loveliness of the afternoon? No imagination required. None, whatsoever.

Dinner: Spam. (The “Single-Serving Spam and Eggs” Post)

photo-5I have a soft spot in my heart for the Spam, it’s true. I love it’s fallout shelter kitsch, and quaint, mid-20th century packaging. I love how the Hawaiian culture has adopted it, and turned it into a breakfast side, a sandwich meat and sushi.

I picked up these “single serving” portions a few months ago from Jack’s 99-cent Store, for when I had a stray Spam craving.

photo-4photo-6…Well, that hasn’t happened yet, but trying to make something out of not much at all, staring into the fridge, at the eggs, and the onion, and staring at the tomatoes about to turn, I had a vision of an egg dish … that needed a salty protein, like ham. Or, in a pinch, Spam.

Why not? I pan-fried half a slice (a whole “single serving” has something like 60% of your daily allowance of fat), and, mixed with the fried tomatoes, onion, radish and chopped flat-leaf parsley, it was just the right touch. Now, what to do with the second half of my single serving?

Dinner: Time for a Round of Kitchen-Sink Leftovers (aka the “English Breakfast Sausage/Fried Rice Experiment” Post)

photo(4)Finishing the feast we ordered on Sunday from Sammy’s Noodle Shop & Grill was never even an option, although we gave it a good run:

— har gau, steamed crystal shrimp dumplings (4 ct.)
— pork and shrimp shumai (4 ct.)
— roast pork, Cantonese style
— roast duck, 1/4 duck
— house fried rice (chicken, beef and shrimp)
— sauteed mixed vegetables

By Monday night, the only remnants of the feast were the fried rice and the last of the sauteed vegetables, the perfect contestant for a game of … (drumroll, please) Kitchen-Sink Leftovers! Also known as: What Else Is Hiding in that Fridge?

photophoto(2)What happened to be hiding was a package of English breakfast sausage from Meyers of Keswick, a British specialty foods store in the West Village that makes sausages and other pork items (i.e. pork pies) that are so, so good. If I had to rank my favorite foods in the city, these are Tier One-caliber goods. Lucky day! Also, some loose leaf spinach, half a zucchini, eggs, the end of a bag of frozen peas.

photo(3)In the end, we had: Fried rice spruced up with peas, English breakfast sausage, fried egg, and tossed with the fresh spinach at the absolute last moment. Plus, a side of warmed, saucy sauteed vegetables, to which we added the end of the zucchini, which was spooned over bowlfuls of rice. Absolutely delish.

The final score: Five stars: I’d make it again, on purpose. In Kitchen-Sink Leftovers, you can’t get a higher mark than that.