Marea

Back in New York after a whirlwind three days up at Yale, Dad and I went out to dinner at Marea, a fancy seafood restaurant on Central Park South–one I’d been hearing about since my parents ate there 9 months ago. Let’s just say it lived up to my expectations.

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The atmosphere was buzzing with class.

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We started off with focaccia and a spot of white wine. Aerated and speckled with green olives, the bread had a light, crisp crust, and oh so much flavor.

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Dad and I both picked appetizers from the seasonal antipasti menu. My first official course was a tartaletta made with caramelized onions, marsala, cherry mostarda, and capers.

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Meanwhile, Dad indulged in fresh calamari.

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My next course was funghi risotto. A little more al dente than the typical risotto, the melding of mushroom and rice textures was exquisite.

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Dad’s pesto-bathed ricotta ravioli looked so delicious that it almost disappeared before I got the chance to document the dish. (Whoops!)

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And then, as though I wasn’t full enough, course three then wound its way to the table. Snapper for me, cuttlefish for Dad. Definitely the highlight of the meal thus far. But, then again, we have yet to arrive at the most anticipated plates of the evening.

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But before digging into the heavier stuff, we took a break our repast for some biscotti and chamomile tea.

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Alright, you’ve waited long enough: here they are.

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One Strati di Cioccolato, a sensational combination of dark chocolate and salted caramel flavors, and one Budino di Mandorla, a blissful blend of citrus and white chocolate.

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The check was accompanied by mini chocolate chou-crèmes. We left Marea full to the brim and elated, ready for many similar escapades in the future.

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Sluts and Man-Whores

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What, you didn’t think I was talking about people, did you?

One typical Friday night, a couple friends and I decided to do a little baking. But this wasn’t just any cooking affair. We went all out with Slutty Brownies and Man-Whore Bars–sinful smorgasbords of chocolate confection.

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As evidenced by the above assembly, our only concern was loading up on sugar.

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Slutty brownies first: a chocolate chip cookie layer, topped with oreos, finished off with fudgey brownie.

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Next up, man-whore bars: chocolate chip cookie, followed by chocolate ganache, rice crispy treat, reese’s pieces, oreos, more rice crispy treat, more chocolate ganache, and extra chocolate chip cookie crumbs.

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We bought LOTS of marshmallows for an optimal marshmallow to rice crispy ratio.

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The finished products were delicious, yet a little overwhelming. But, then again, that was the point, wasn’t it?

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The slutty brownies were based on a recipe from one of my all time lifestyle blogs: the Londoner.

You’ll need one batch of chocolate chip cookie dough, one batch of brownie batter (chewy, not cakey, if you please), 16 oreos, and an 8×8 baking pan. I used the classic Joy of Cooking recipes–always a safe bet.

The procedure is simple. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Spread the cookie dough along the base of a greased 8×8 pan. Lay out the oreos in a neat grid, and pour the brownie batter over them evenly. Stick ’em in the oven for half an hour, or a little longer if the brownies still seem raw when tested with a toothpick.

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Man-whore bars are just as straightforward, with a few more bits and pieces.

The recipe is based on this gorgeous blog post.

The procedure is simple.

1. Bake a batch of cookies–the Joy of Cooking formula is the best in my opinion. (However, I recommend decreasing the butter just a touch–it’ll make for a less gooey cookie crust, something to your advantage, in this particular case). Spread a thin layer–about 1/4 in thick along the base of an 8×8 baking tin. Bake the rest of the dough on a cookie sheet–you’ll need it for the top layer of the bars. Bake them until golden, or according to whatever recipe you choose to use.

2. Next up: chocolate ganache. Melt 8 oz dark chocolate, 2 tbsp butter, and 3/4 cups cream in a double boiler. Let it simmer a bit and stir the mixture over the heat until it becomes shiny. Let it cool. After a few minutes, you can stick the bowl in the fridge to speed the process. At this point, spread half of the mixture evenly over your chocolate chip cookie base.

3. For the rice crispy treats, melt 3 tbsp butter in a large saucepan. Then add in 10 oz marshmallows. When those are all liquefied, mix in 4.5 cups of rice crispies.

4. Rice crispy treats solidify quickly so this stage is critical. Spread half of them over the chocolate ganache layer, then hurriedly sprinkle on the reece’s pieces or peanut butter cups. Lay out a grid of oreos on top of that and then cover that with the remaining rice crispy treat mix.

5. The the finishing touch, spread out the remaining chocolate ganache and press the cookie crumbs on top.

Et c’est tout! Bon appétit!

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The Land of Plenty: Zabar’s

Food-wise, America truly feels like the Land of Plenty, especially at a place like Zabar’s.

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Located in NYC, on the Upper West Side, Zabars is a foodie’s heaven.

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Floor to ceiling, the walls are stocked with fruits, vegetables, crackers, tea, olives, prepared salads, chocolate, cheese! How is a shopper supposed to choose?

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I’m indecisive to begin with, so faced with all this to choose from, I’ll admit it took me almost an hour just to buy breakfast food!

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Ultimately, I settled for the classic lox on jewish rye, with a couple of homemade rugelach on the side.

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With two types of fresh rugelach available, chocolate and cinnamon raison, I was inclined not to futz around. Chocolate was the obvious choice. Fortunately, my father threw a couple cinnamon ones into our order. Boy, was I surprised. With  these flakey, fruity little numbers in hand, the chocolate paled by comparison. Who knew?

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Bagels are good, but jewish rye is something else. Soft, with a crust that’s just chewy enough, slightly sour, with caraway seeds all over the place, this bread is to die for.

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Delicious when freshly sliced, this bread is just as tasty the next day: toasted and topped with nova lox and goat cheese, my favorite alternative to the classic cream cheese. There is no better breakfast.

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Breakfast of Champions

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This week, I had the immense pleasure of spending a couple days at my future alma mater: Yale College. As far as I know, universities are not famed for their cuisine. Yale, however, did have one standout breakfast option: fresh waffles, soaked with school spirit in addition to maple syrup.

 

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Soho Sunday

The globetrotter that I am this spring, I now find myself in New York!

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On this sunny spring Sunday, Dad and I headed down to Soho for brunch.

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While exploring, we encountered this endearing little bulldog. Considering the purpose of my visit, this was definitely a good omen. Boola boola!

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The architecture was charming, but after a bit of wandering around, it was time to put food in.

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Dad had made a reservation for Sunday brunch at a happening little spot called Hundred Acres. People watching in New York is fabulous. We were sandwiched between a pair of very hungry New Yorkers – the quantity of food they managed to consume was utterly incredible – and and a trio of men sporting babies on their chests.

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For the food itself, Dad and I started by splitting something ricotta fritters with apple cider syrup. A very unusual and creative combination of sweet and savory flavors, they were to die for.

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For the main event, I had soft scrambled eggs with gruyere and mushrooms, accompanied by homemade cornbread and crunchy fresh greens. The melding of flavors and textures made for a very satisfying eating experience.

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Having tanked up on brunch, Dad and headed back outside to enjoy the sun, shop, and eventually hike our jet-lagged selves back uptown.

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Along the west side of the island, stretching from the Meatpacking District up to 30th Street, runs a swath of park called the High Line. The old elevated train tracks down here have been revamped and are now a NYC destination.

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The wooden deck chairs that line the High Line are elegant and relatively comfortable, in my opinion. On a sunny Sunday afternoon, they seem like the place to be.

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If you know where to look, there’s a great view of the iconic empire state building.

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It always feels like spring when the flowers come out. Daffodils are everywhere! (And they just happen to be my favorites!)

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Butternut Squash Soup

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You may recall that a couple weeks ago I was in Canada, eating an exquisite meal at Araxi, pouring over the cookbook longingly. Days later, that dinner was still fresh in my mind – that dark molten chocolate cake interior, those pickled beets, the texture of that incredible butternut squash soup. By Saturday, I could wait no longer.

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Recipe:

Adapted from Araxi: Seasonal Recipes from the Celebrated Whistler Restaurant

You’ll need…

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 sliced shallots
  • 5 lb butternut squash
  • 7 cups vegetable stock
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup whipped cream
  • 2 tbsp toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tbsp chopped chives
  • salt and white pepper

1. Heat the butter in a large saucepan (you’ll have to add in all of the squash later on) and sauté the shallots until they’ve become slightly browned.

2. Add in the squash and some salt and white pepper for seasoning, cover the pot, and cook for 20 minutes over low heat, or until the squash is soft.

3. Pour the stock in and let the mixture simmer for 5 minutes or so.

4. Stir in 1/2 cup of parmesan and then remove the soup from the heat after a couple minutes.

5. Pureé the soup thoroughly and pour it through a mesh sieve.

6. Stir in the whipped cream and add more seasoning as necessary.

7. Serve out portions, topping each portion with a bit of parmesan, a few pumpkin seeds, and a pinch of chopped chives.

Bon Appetit!

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Wasted on Chocolate

I know I haven’t posted in a little while… But now I’m back! And trust me, this cake well and truly makes up for my online absence.

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Dubbed Chocolate Wasted Cake, this sugary tour de force is deliciously decadent.

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I found this recipe while trolling around on what is perhaps one of my favorite buzzfeed lists ever: 71 Reasons Candy Hearts are Stupid, a string of 71 images of mouthwatering chocolate creations cleverly set to Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get it On.”

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Chocolate Wasted Cake is constructed as follows. Two layers of chocolate cake, each soaked with a bit of liqueur, are glued together and coated with chocolate icing. Next, the sides of the cake are tiled with chocolate chips, the top with candy pieces. The final touch is a drizzle of chocolate ganache. Are you drooling yet?

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As I made minimal changes to the original recipe, I’ll leave you to refer directly to those directions.

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You’ll need LOTS of these.

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For the top of your masterpiece, the candy selection is up to you. The original recipe suggest kit kats, twix bars, and kisses. But butterfingers, snickers, and malted milk balls also make for a pretty heavenly combo.

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Hazelnuts and chocolate must be one of the best duos of all time. Frangelico is a liqueur that literally tastes like nutella. Why soak your cake with anything else?

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One slice of this baby and you’ll be wasted on chocolate goodness in no time.

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Araxi

Meal. Of. The. Week.
Or Month.
Or Year? Ok, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but this dinner was utterly sublime.

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A few years ago, Araxi was good. Now it’s great. Exceptional. Extraordinary. And, dare I say it, even better than last night’s Rimrock Café.

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The housemade bread was served with olive oil and butter, a really rich (but magnificent!) combo.

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Eve, Mom, and I strategized our meal with the utmost care: two shared small plates, and two large.

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Butternut squash soup with a touch of curry oil – just enough to taste, but not overwhelm.

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Our second appetizer was a beet salad with fresh mozzarella and candied pecans.

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Main dish no. 1: Arctic Char on roasted rapini, fingerling potatoes, dijon maple dressing, and potato foam.

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And… no. 2: Parmesan Polenta with butternut squash, roasted seasonal vegetables, tapenade, and romesco sauce.

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Finally, the four of us couldn’t resist the restaurant’s signature truffle fries, and truffley they were.

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Brace yourselves. It’s time for dessert. There were a few appealing options on the menu but none quite lived up to the sound of ‘Valrhona Chocolate Fondant: warm chocolate cake with salted caramel ice cream.’

Tangent: the consensus is that we really should have had two sticky toffee puddings last night rather than one of those and a chocolate cake – disappointing. As a result, Mom ventured forth a brave suggestion: two of the chocolate fondant. It was definitely the right decision.

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This cake. Mom even went as far as saying it may be one the best chocolate desserts she’s ever tasted. Eve wants it piped into her veins via IV.

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As though we hadn’t had enough to eat, our server brought a few little treats to round off the meal. The shortcake and chocolate cookie were good, but the financiers were easily the highlight. Moist and mildly sweet, they were delightful.

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Before leaving, we just had to take a look at the Araxi cookbook. What if it had the instructions for the butternut squash soup? Or better yet, that molten chocolate cake recipe?

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Well, it did. So, naturally, a copy came home with us, autographed to my sister and I by the chef and all!

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To Abby and Eve – Always eat well and hug a farmer.

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Rimrock Café

A couple trips to Whistler ago, we hit gold. We discovered the Rimrock Café. A casually sophisticated spot, this restaurant serves creative cuisine with distinctive and divine flavor combinations.

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The fluffy bread slices… that I somehow refrained from eating.

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My appetizer: sautéed wild mushroom salad with freshly made shoestring potatoes.

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Expecting sizable portions, Eve, Mom, and I split this delicious doozy of a main: salmon with goat cheese (who’da thunk it?), arctic char with porcini rub and wild mushrooms, and seared ahi tuna with wasabi butter, all served with fresh seasonal vegetables.

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The fish was hard to beat… but not impossible.

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This sticky toffee pudding is one of the few desserts that is as good as (or in this case better than) chocolate. Its mapley caramel character blew away the chocolate-hazelnut competition: not an everyday occurrence.

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Dad: “Guys, you can’t lick the plate!”

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Cows Ice Cream

Whenever my family finds itself at Whistler, we make a point of going to Cows. Cows is a small Canadian ice cream company that makes insanely good frozen treats, as well as tremendously funny bovine paraphernalia.

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They even make their own waffle cones right in store.

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Inside the shop, everything in sight is cow-themed, including the menu.

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It was a tough decision, but I finally decided on Moo Henry. Chocolate and oozing toffee, plus chunks of fudge and a few peanuts? Mmm!

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My mother opted for Wowie Cowie and Chocolate Monster… in one of those freshly cooked ice cream vessels.

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Remember how I mentioned bovine merch? How could I resist? Although ‘Gangnam Cow’ and ‘Moomoolemon’ were tempting, ultimately ‘keep calm and graze on’ was the winner.

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