Monday, April 28, 2008

Vinny Makes It Big Time!

My friend Vincent, an amazing writer and provocative commentator, has been getting a lot of press lately. I have a famous friend, people are calling me when they see him on ESPN and everything! Vince has a superb writing style, he is for sure a pompous, self-indulgent asshole, but I love him anyway. I especially like how he rates NBA events using examples of egregious acting in shameful movies. I can't really stay focused on watching a game of basketball but even I could read this article and chuckle. If you are up on sports, you'll want to check him out. Unless of course you want to talk hockey, you're out of luck because he doesn't "pump" white man sports. Take it up with him.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Ria's Birthday Extravaganza

I love to entertain and haven't been able to all winter, as I shut off the front of my house to hibernate in the back rooms. Sometimes I'll have a couple of the girls over but the only place to sit is the bed and it usually deteriorates into a modified slumber party setup, including trying on and modeling clothes down an imaginary catwalk and nibbling on cheese in between our turn to sashay. Anyway, this is fun, of course, but not the same as my visions of garden parties with frothy cocktails and marvelous appetizers beneath the stars.

So, as the beautiful weather is finally here, I decided to throw a little fete for my friend Maria. This was also an excuse to finally open up the house for the season. I planned a soul food/southern style meal, with some pulled pork, sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese and greens. As it turns out, on the day of the party WE HIT A HIGH OF 87 DEGREES HERE IN THE 'LO. Crazy. While I am not complaining, it wasn't exactly the kind of day I felt like spending in the kitchen, shredding pork, boiling macaroni and roasting sweet potatoes. But it all got done and I even got to spend some time outside cleaning up the outdoor area and furniture.

Let me tell you a little something about macaroni and cheese. I saw Bobby Flay challenge a world-reknowned macaroni and cheese maker to a throwdown. I thought I'd look at both of their recipes for inspiration; Bobby, as usual, likes to riff on tradition and the person he challenges tends to stick with old classics. So I looked at these recipes, Jesus Christ, now wonder we're an obese nation! 2 sticks of butter, a dozen eggs, 6 cups of half and half and 17 cups of cheese! Althought I defintitely didn't follow that recipe, I still managed to spend almost $20 on an absurd amount of cheese. This is certainly a once-in-a-while kind of meal.

The crowning glory of the night came when my friend Meg, otherwise known as Dessert Goddess, arrived with her homemade cake. It was a peanut butter cake with peanut butter frosting and chocolate sauce and peanut butter cups decorating the top. I'm not even that into cakes but this one really captured my heart. I'm ashamed to admit how much of it I ate but, in my defense, I didn't eat sweets nor one single french fry all last week!

Monday, April 14, 2008

This and That

It occured to me that I have lots of snippets that have been languishing in my brain for some time so today I've just got a list of short musings.

-I went to Rochester to see Dom about a month ago and we went out for lunch. I had monkfish with spaetzle in a paprika sauce. Very unusual the sauce was, I can't even really describe it nor think of how to reproduce it. Monkfish is often called poor man's lobster and it really does have some of the same flavor and texture. Then for dinner, Cuca made the most delicious shrimp pastelillos. MMMMM, this is making me hungry for lunch.

-A few weeks ago, Dom and I went to Kleinhans to hear his friend, Cristina, sing. Afterwards, there was a little hobnobbing reception with some nasty, passed hors d'ouveres but surprisingly tasty schnitzel, red cabbage salad and spaetzle. I wasn't hungry but who am I to turn down free food?

-I went to dinner at my mother's boyfriend's house and he made this incredible turkey vindaloo. This being one of Greg's experiments, I can't really describe it except to say that the flavoring was full and intense, the meat melted off the bone and I think I had three helpings. We also had green beans with chanterelles and, get this, spaetzle. This is crazy, I've had spaetzle perhaps three times in my life and all of a sudden, I've had it three times in a week!

-I've been hearing about this 888 place, located at 888 Main Street. The best pizza in Buffalo, best pizza outside NYC, better than Bocce etc. The pizza was pretty standard, nothing special, I'm not really sure what all the hype is about. The wings were very good though, cooked to just the right degree of crispiness.

-We went to Mode yesterday for brunch. I ordered the same Tuna Nicoise that I shared with Dom& Co. a few weeks ago and, while it was perfectly fine, the tuna was not even close to the quality that it was a couple of weeks ago. The bread was also stale. N. had a steak sandwich and french fries that were the best fries I've ever had. However, Mode is getting increasingly spotty; the service was slooooow as molasses and they weren't busy. Ten minutes to bring over my coffee is a bit much. Stale items and varying degrees in quality annoy me.

-The "Best of Buffalo" edition of Artvoice came out last week and,Jesus Christ, where do they find these people? Who the hell voted Mighty Taco as the best Mexican in Buffalo? And Just Pizza is not good! Their cheese is rubbery and has the appearance of candlewax. My vote is for Mr. Pizza, although I will admit I have not tried a lot of old Buffalo old standards, Bocce included.

-I tried making pizza dough in my beautiful new food processor this weekend. Twice. Needless to say, it didn't work out so well. Help me out!

-I'm off to Portland and Seattle next week and I hope to return with lots of Lucy stories and NorthWest-tinged tales of culinary adventure!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Harsh Blast Tempered by Shameless Praise

In a broad attempt to better inform the world of delicious food and warn them away from imposters, I will feature two products this week. One gets a thumbs up and the other a thumbs way down.

First off, I'd like to say that I really love our local (sort-of) supermarket, Wegman's. Everything from the produce to prepared foods and even general demeanor of employees is top-notch. Even the Wegman's brand is very consistent. With one exception. Their brie is NASTY! I should have known better but I just couldn't resist. It has poor texture and strong, overdeveloped flavor and smell. I like stinky cheese but this is really rotten. I put it in a salad the other day and I had to eat around it. I've even tried a few different varieties of Wegman's brie, mild, earthy whatever. They are all bad, stick with the French stuff.

Drew's Natural brand makes an Orange Sesame dressing that I cannot get enough of lately. I usually scoff at premade dressings but really, I just need to take a break where I can get it sometimes. I'm learning. Nicole brought this gem into my house last summer and I liked it but kept forgetting about it for some reason. My mother jogged my memory because she bought the Thai Sesame Lime (not remarkable) and I made a mental note to pick it up at Wegman's. Weirdly, the next few times I went to the grocery store, it was sold out! I must be onto something. Anyway, I finally got my hands on some and it is delicious. Slighty nutty from the sesame oil and perked up by ginger and orange, it is a great as a salad dressing but I've also been putting it on steamed broccoli. I imagine it would make a good marinade too and the addition of some fresh, chopped cilantro brightens it even more (as per Nicole's suggestion). They've got several other flavors, including Kalamata and Caper and Shiitake Ginger, that I can't wait to try. Now that I've been turned onto the world of premade dressing, who knows what's next? Instant mashed potatoes and canned soup! Nah, let's not go that far.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Cook's Illustrated is Full of Hooey

The Cook's Illustrated website is full of all kinds of fabulous information, except that it's a major tease. Oh, need curry powder, like to know how the different brands stack up against each other, according to the test kitchen? Sorry, you must be a member. So, since I received a subscription to the magazine for my birthday (thank you!!!!!), I foolishly assumed that granted me access to the mysterious Cook's Illustrated vaults of wisdom. I was wrong. Apparently, there is an additional charge associated with the online membership and my favorite part? They won't even tell you how much it is until you give them all your identifying information. Is this not ridiculous? CI, I have loved you for so long but now I'm starting to see you for what you really are and I don't like it.

(I will retract this statement if CI makes me a lifelong member for free)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Roasted Red Pepper Dip

For years, my mother has been making this dip that is always a hit at parties. I think it was discovered by my godmother and it's a great recipe because it's unique and made up of ingredients that are always lying around my house. I was going to make some bruschetta for Tasty Tuesday last night but decided to go lower maintenance and I whipped this up in the time it took me to wash all the dishes in my sink, which is not long at all because I can't stand more than a couple of things in my sink.

Anyway, it was a hit with the girls and I thought I'd put it up here for them.

Muhamarra or Roasted Repper Dip

1 7oz jar of roasted red peppers, drained
2-4 cloves garlic
1/3 c. toasted walnuts
2/3 c. breadcrumbs
1 T. lemon juice
2 T pomegranate molasses ( I just use regular)
1 t. cumin
1 whole dried red chili pepper or about 1 T. red pepper flakes
1/2 c. olive oil
salt and pepper

Puree in the ingredients in a food processor and serve with pita wedges or vegetables. The flavors develop over time so feel free to make it a few days ahead of time. It also freezes well. Yesterday I put a handful of cilantro in and it was a fantastic addition.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Two Noteworthy Items

A couple of really great things happened to me over the weekend. On Saturday, I ran my very first race, a 5K for Friends of Night People. I'm not a runner and had never run that far outside so I was NERVOUS the night before. I woke up on Saturday to a cold, foggy day and my spirits were pretty low, as were my expectations about how I'd perform. Thanks to my running mate, Kristin, I made it the whole way without one step of walking!!!!!!! I did it in just under 33 minutes, which is by no means fast but perfectly acceptable. Next up, a 5 mile race!

The second marvelous thing to happen was that Sunday was the nicest day we've had all year. It was sunny, in the mid-sixties and the flowers were in bloom. I sat outside and read for hours. Now, while this is all very well and good, the amazing thing is that I GOT A SUNBURN! In April! Usually, I don't much care for sunburns but this was notable since I finally feel like winter is over and spring, glorious spring, is here!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Fish Fry Update

It just occurred to me that I was supposed to be spending the winter eating wings at various joints and reporting back on my findings. I've done a lot more fish fry eating than I have wing eating so I need to get back on track with that.

In any case, my mother and sister joined my father and me on an adventure out to Tonawanda this past Friday. If you know me, you are probably aware that I don't like to trek too far from home for shopping, dining and so on. But I heard that this place, Squire's Tap Room, still served a yellow pike fish fry. Intruigued, we decided to give it a try.

We arrived right at 5pm and the dining room was packed! I know fish fry night means early dining time but my goodness! Within a few minutes we were seated and had our orders in. I was disappointed that the yellow pike fish fry was only a special on certain nights so I wasn't able to try that. They do offer a mini fish fry, which actually wasn't mini at all, becasue the regular fish fry had two large pieces of fish! It was one of the best fish frys I've had around town; the battre was crunchy and not too thick or overdone, the fish was flaky and moist and the sides were all delicious. For the four of us, dinner was a whopping $27.90! I love this place and next time, I might order the Warrior Combo, which is 5 wings and beef on weck. How do you love that, Buffalo?

Thursday, April 3, 2008

I'm All Pretty and Easter-like

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Up Until This Point...

I have devoted this blog to food, and I intend to stay true to the original intent, but sometimes things come up that I must comment on. So this is my official warning, dear reader, that I may use this space to expound on politics, love, philosophy, triple cream cheese, high thread count sheets and all that other abstract sh*t. Oh, and I may also mention my gorgeous niece Lucy inordinately. She is sooooooooo amazing.
I just realized today how much "upkeep" costs me. I mean, take your monthly or yearly expenses for toiletries, groceries or whatever category and you may be surprised. For example, I noticed my lotion/creme inventory and am shocked to find that I use a minimum of SEVEN different lotions each day. Is this excessive? Probably.
Every morning, I wash with my Clinique face wash, use my Clinique skin primer and finally Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion. For those who don't know, it's not really all that dramatic. Anyway. At night, I use Clinique Repairware ( I should own stock in this company, no?), then an eye cream, plus Burt's Bees Honey and Bilberry Foot Repair. My all-day, everyday body lotion of the moment is Giovanni Cucumber Song. Yes, that's right, Cucumber Song. Isn't that just about the most moronic lotion "title" of all time? I smell it and hear a symphony of cucumbers. Stupid. Besides that, I also favor Watson's Lemon Hand Cream, Burt's Bee's Shea Butter Hand Repair Creme and especially the Body Shop Hemp Hand Repair (CAUTION: You may smell like a hippie!!!!!)
I'm starting to be concerned that my 7-10 lotions a day is bordering on obsessive. But I invoke my girl Mary's voice when she told me that she takes 20 minutes each day to lotion up post-shower and uses the time to appreciate her strong, firm body. True, I won't always have it this easy so my advice; enjoy that strong body while you can, take the time to lotion your body and appreciate it. Ashy elbows are never a good look.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Dining a la Mode

Last Friday, I had the honor of going to dinner with my dear Domma and his lovely friend who was in town as a guest singer with the Philharmonic. So highbrow, I know, hmmm. We tried going to Toro but alas, Friday nights are a lot more busy than I anticipated. We ended up at good old Mode, in the former Le Metro location. I like Mode for brunch, for late-night cocktails and dancing but I rarely seem to make it there for dinner.

So I got to try a whole new array of dinner dishes and overall was quite pleased. We decided to order a whole bunch of things and sort of do a tapas-style dinner. Hey, if we couldn't eat at Toro, we could still emulate their style, no?

Our server brought our some FANTASTIC bread and olive oil for dipping. It was really superb, I couldn't stop eating it. The oil was so flavorful and must have been infused with garlic and aromatics. We ordered an appetizer special of grilled shrimp over new potato salad and topped with a quail egg. The shrimp were fresh and tasty but they were no prawns and at $14 for three shrimp, a wee bit overpriced. The potatoes were dressed with a hint of mint, very refreshing. We also had Medjool dates, stuffed with gorgonzola and wrapped with proscuitto, which combines three of my favorite things but somehow it wasn't all that tasty. It was, however, garnished with some greens that had a really great spicy-sweet dressing. Our final appetizer was tuna nicoise. The tuna was black sesame seed crusted and lay on a bed of greens, olives, greens beans and egg. Tuna nicoise is a dish that is high on my list of good eats but I rarely order it becasue for some weird reason, people think it's ok to bastardize it with tuna from a can. Blecch. We also ordered a roasted pear salad that never came but we weren't charged for it and after sharing all that, we still had an entree of duck breast to share. The duck was fantastic;, meaty and rich, crisp skin and placed atop sweet potato-duck confit and braised swiss chard. The accoutrements were a bit salty, and I like salt, but overall really quite good.

I have to admit though, I'm sick of swiss chard and sweet potatoes. I want delicate asparagus and butter-soft fresh lettuce. Hmmm, sigh, spring is just around the corner, hurry up!