Monthly Archives: May 2010

America’s Favorite

I don’t have any solid research to back this claim up, but I’m pretty sure chocolate chip cookies are, across the board, America’s favorite. Everyone has their own preference, but being a cake girl myself I like a big, soft cookie with a crispy edge and without nuts. I do enjoy the recipe on the Nestle chocolate chip bag, but they’re just a little too flat and crispy for my taste.

Truth be told, I’ve tried at least a dozen chocolate chip cookie recipes, hoping to be able to post one to the blog. This is the first one I’ve fallen in love with enough to post. So enjoy! My blood, sweat, and tears went into this one. But not really. That would be gross.

On the menu:
Chocolate chip cookies
Makes 24 cookies
Recipe adapted from
this recipe on Allrecipes.com

1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup white sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
2 Tbsp hot water
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together butter with white sugar and brown sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add vanilla extract. Dissolve baking soda in the hot water and add along with the salt and cream of tartar to the butter/sugar batter. Mix well. Add flour and chocolate chips, mix well by hand. Drop dough onto cookie sheets in 2 Tbsp size drops and bake for 12 minutes.

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Sun(ny)day Sun(ny)day Sun(ny)day!

Thank god the season of cheesy pasta is over. Seriously, my waistline couldn’t handle it anymore. Now that the sun is shining and the temperatures have warmed up, I feel like eating lighter. And nothing says summer to me like potato salad.

This very basic potato salad is easy to make, and even easier to eat a pound of. It’s light with a little kick from the celery seed. My friend Joe talks about this potato salad to this day, and he hasn’t eaten it since my mom made it for him in 2001. “My mom sends kisses!” I told him once. His reply: “Screw the kisses! Send the potato salad!”

On the menu:
Potato salad
Serves 4 as a side dish

4 medium sized potatoes (I used red potatoes, but you can use Idaho if you prefer)
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup ranch dressing
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp salt

Boil the potatoes whole for around 25 minutes, until you can stick a fork in them and it pulls out easily. Let the potatoes cool for around 15 minutes. Slice into chunks and mix in a bowl with mayo and ranch dressing. Add the celery seed and salt, and mix until incorporated. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

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ROC City Part 3: Wegmans

The Wegmans in Pittsford, NY

“What is it… a grocery store?” Wegmans is hard to describe. It’s more than a grocery store: it’s a destination. I was 13 (okay, 20) before I realized it’s called a plastic bag, not a Wegmans bag. If you need to grab a quick delicious lunch, you pop into Wegmans for a sub, a soup, a slice of pizza, a cookie cake, whatever. Need a new toothbrush? A kumquat? Fiddle head ferns? A bouquet of flowers for your mom’s birthday? A prescription? A place to drop the kiddies while you do your weekly grocery shopping? A DVD? An endless array of gummy worms, chocolates, or peanuts in bulk? A pint of Ben and Jerry’s at 3AM on a Tuesday? (no? me neither…)

You can literally find all of these things at Wegmans. And everyone is nice! And helpful! And there are ten people waiting to answer every question you might have about how to prepare a piece of their fresh produce, or a slab of amazing fish, or the endless Wegmans brand products they offer. No, they did not pay me to write this. They don’t need MY help. They are one of the very few American companies to NEVER have had to lay off a single employee. Did you hear that? Not a single employee.

When you ask an upstate-ex-pat what they miss most about home, they might tell you they miss the Garbage Plates, or the breakfast spots, or the festivals… but you can be absolutely certain that they will tell you they miss Wegmans. Everyone does.

A cookie cake from their phenomenal bakery

*Update: I had no idea this aired last night, but if you don’t believe me… Wegmans is getting press on Letterman. Look!

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ROC City Part 2: The Strawberry Waffle

Rochester has a great deal of history, especially in the downtown area. The George Eastman House is here, complete with a museum on the long and storied history of Eastman Kodak. The Mt. Hope Cemetery is the final resting place of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass. And one of my favorite areas of the city, Highland Park, was designed in the 1880′s by famed landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted.

May kicks off an entire season of outdoor festivals in Rochester, beginning in early May with The Lilac Festival in Highland Park, which is home to over 400 varieties of lilacs.

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After strolling through the seemingly endless lilac bushes, you might work up an appetite. And by “might” I mean “will.”

And what will you eat?! Where will you go?! The answer, my friends, is The Highland Park Diner.

Established in the 1940s, this diner has changed hands many times (and even did time as an OTB parlor… sick, I know) but still serves up the tastiest waffle topping I have ever inhaled calmly and daintily enjoyed: strawberries and sweet cheese.

Stay tuned for an upcoming post in which I try to discover the magic behind the sweet cheese… it’ll be blog gold, I promise.

*Update: in my haste, I forgot to take a picture of the inside of The Highland Park Diner and it is admittedly one of the coolest things about the place. According to a few pieces I found on the web, diners such as this one were made in a factory and then transported by rail to the site, hence the long and narrow shape that would fit on a train track. Sweet, huh?

Thanks to Roadfood.com for permission to use this photo.

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ROC City Part 1: The Garbage Plate

Growing up in Rochester, New York, I never really understood why so many people would want to voluntarily call it home. It snows 9 months out of the year (yes, it snowed on Mother’s Day… that’s May 9, people), one of the greatest forms of weekend entertainment is a trip to Wegmans grocery store, and you can’t go out for a meal without running into your kindergarten teacher or your first boyfriend. However, now that I am a mature woman of twenty-COUGH, I see all the beauty that lies in The Flour City. That’s right. The food.

How could I have ignored the fact that the city I grew up in is famous for a flour mill, Genesee Beer, and Garbage Plates? Oh yeah, and Kodak… whatever.

This week, I’m going to share some of my favorite Rochester, New York treats in an homage to my hometown. It’s no New York or Boston, heck it’s not even Minneapolis, but it’s where I was born so it’s alright with me.

The Garbage Plate at Empire Hots

On the menu:
The Garbage Plate
Bread and butter (the requisite side dish)

This is how we do math in Rochester, NY. Don’t let anyone tell you different:

One plate / (macaroni salad + homefries) + 2 cheeseburgers + (finely ground beef sauteed with hot sauce and spices) + sauteed onions + ketchup + mustard = The Garbage Plate

Derivatives include substituting burgers for red hot dogs, fried fish, eggs (breakfast plate, duh) or the popular white hot dog, a Rochester special made from pork.

If you ever travel upstate, and yes this is the REAL upstate, you have got to go to the original Nick Tahou’s Hots for a Trash Plate. If you value your life and would rather not be shot, or if you simply want a Plate after dark (Tahou’s closes at 8PM because of all the crime they experience) go to Empire Hots in Webster, NY. It might not look pretty, but your taste buds will be singing a different tune.

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Why Don’t You…

Dear friends,

This weekend I’m taking off and I’m leaving my computer behind. I’ll be back on Tuesday with brilliant posts about Garbage Plates and sweet cheese Belgian waffles (you can hardly stand the wait, right?) but in the meantime I leave you with this list of things that I would be doing if I was staying in town this weekend. So…

Why Don’t You…

Get your drink on all sneaky-like at a speakeasy like Dutch Kills (27-24 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City) or Please Don’t Tell (113 St. Marks Place).
Or, opening this weekend and offering free hot dogs (I said FREE HOT DOGS! Go people, go!) in the old East Side Company Bar space on the Lower East Side, Painkiller. 49 Essex Street at Grand Street

Take a culinary vacation from impending rain, use whatcha got, and pretend you’re in Australia while you eat Fairy Bread in bed whilst watching Young Einstein.

Feed your sweetheart little dollops of heaven via chopsticks at Blue Ribbon Sushi. 119 Sullivan Street

Watch Food, Inc. or Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, both available instantly on your Netflix.

Bask in the lusciousness of a $26 pre-fixe lunch menu at Nougatine by Jean-Georges (1 Central Park West); none of the wallet strain, all of the succulent flavor that this famous French chef is known for.

Nurse your Sunday morning hangover with a stack of sour cream pancakes, heavy on the syrup, at Bubby’s (120 Hudson Street). Just don’t look too ragged. It’s a notorious celebrity hangout and you wouldn’t want to miss your chance to woo Justin Timberlake, now would you? Thought so.

Happy weekend, kiddies!

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Cinco de Mayo for Just Un Dolar!

Is that Spanish? Who even knows. And that post is misleading because Cinco de Mayo is today, a Wednesday, and these deliciously cheap tacos are only available on Tuesdays. But don’t be sad: you can go eat $1 tacos next Tuesday and pretend like it’s Cinco de Mayo all over again. Don’t worry. I won’t tell anybody.

Fish tacos! Apologies for the wonky color... clearly my camera has a mind of its own.

Wharf Bar and Grill 3rd Avenue, between 38th Street and 39th Street, New York, NY. Located amidst other bars boasting specials and deals for Happy Hour, Wharf is lovely because it’s spacious, there’s an area upstairs that can accommodate big parties, and it’s an easy going vibe. There are always drink specials and the staff is incredibly friendly.

On the menu:
Shock Top beer
$1 Tacos (fish, chicken, and beef)

Verdict: Did I mention each taco costs $1? How could this possibly be anything but incredible? Each taco is served on a corn tortilla that measures about 5″ in diameter, and you have to order in groups of 3, but truth be told: I ate 6. And I drank 2 delicious summery Shock Top beers (it’s like a Blue Moon). And I was comfortably full. I’d imagine if you’re a large man, you could probably eat 12 tacos and not eat for the rest of the night, but that’s still only $12! The protein of your choice (ground beef, shredded chicken, or fried fish, of which persuasion I’m not sure) is tucked into its shell with shredded lettuce, chopped red onions, a generous helping of shredded cheese, and a spicy salsa verde.

So this month, in honor of… um… the Fifth Day of May (seriously, what IS Cinco de Mayo?), have a taco! Because it’s only a dollar! And it’s delicious! And you just don’t need any more reason than that.

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Why go out for a hamburger when you’ve got steak at home?

This past weekend, I found myself completely caught up in the summer heat with an intense craving for some red meat. I wanted a freshly grilled burger or a sizzling steak or even a Zweigle’s hot dog with that delicious crispy skin you can only get from a charcoal grill. Nothing says summer to me like the smell of grilled meat. Well… maybe grilled meat followed by some ice cream.

On the menu:
Ribeye steak
Steamed broccoli with goat cheese and walnuts
Baked potato

While there is nothing very complicated about this meal, it’s a classic, it’s sure to please any meat eater, and it can be created in a quick thirty minutes.

Steak

Heat an oven-proof skillet to high heat with 1 Tbsp of canola oil
Season the ribeye with salt and pepper, and sear the meat for around 2 minutes on each side
Put the entire skillet in a 450 degree oven for around 6 minutes (if you’re making a thinner piece of meat, take the steak out after 4 or 5 minutes)
Let the meat rest for fifteen minutes after it comes out of the oven

*A few notes on steak:

  • In order for the steak to really hold in all the juices, the outside layer needs to sear. When you place your steak in the skillet, don’t move it around at all aside from the single flip.
  • Never cut your steak open immediately after it’s removed from the heat (or taken out of the oven). Meat contracts when it’s heated and all the juices run to the center. It needs at least 15 minutes after it’s been removed from heat (longer if it’s a big honking piece of meat) to relax and release and let the juices redistribute. If you cut a piece of steak straight off the heat, all the juices will run out onto your plate. And that ain’t cool.

Broccoli

Trim stalks off of the broccoli and cut into bite-sized pieces. Throw the pieces into a pan with an inch of water at the bottom. Turn the heat to medium and let the broccoli cook until the water is 99% gone. Plate broccoli and break up goat cheese over the top while it’s still hot enough to slightly melt the cheese. Sprinkle walnuts over the top.

And for dessert? Ice cream. And when your local grocer, has a sale on Ben & Jerry’s… well, it’s like fate made that decision for you, now didn’t it?

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Brooklyn is Burning

In most areas of the country, brunch is the meal between typical breakfast and lunch hours. In New York City, brunch is an all-out weekend booze fest during which you are encouraged to eat breakfast food between the hours of 6AM and 5PM and drink “breakfast cocktails” to excess. Needless to say, it is my favorite meal of the week.

This weekend was the first ridiculously beautiful, sunny weekend in New York and I soaked it up to the fullest by traveling to Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn where brunch is like a religion.

Cafe LULUc Located on Smith Street between Baltic Street and Butler Street, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. I can’t speak for Cafe LULUc in the winter, but in the warm spring and summer months, the front doors are completely open and the back patio is open, creating a sparkling sunny garden terrace vibe. Warm breeze and Latin music drifted through the cafe, the back tables on the patio surrounded a huge tree that sporadically and poetically dropped purple flowers from its branches, and the clientele is a mix of cool Brooklyn hipsters and gorgeous young families. I didn’t even mind all the babies in the vicinity of my table, and trust me… that’s saying something.

On the menu:
Eggs benedict, with french fries and a green salad
Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, with french fries and a green salad
Mimosas

Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon

Verdict: Delightful. Eggs benedict is my go-to brunch dish and this did not disappoint. 9 out of 10 times when I order eggs benedict, the poached egg is borderline hard-cooked but these eggs were done PERFECTLY. The Hollandaise sauce was creamy and subtle, the accompanying french fries were thin and crispy, and the small side salad had a dreamy basil vinaigrette dressing that lightened everything up. The mimosas were $7 a piece, which seemed a little steep to me, but every meal on the menu was a bargain at under $10 so it all evened out. And after two “light on the orange juice” glasses of my most favorite breakfast cocktail combined with the steamy summer heat and a belly full of food, who cares how much they cost anyway? Not this girl. Not even a little.

I am also a fan of brunch because it’s technically lunch and after lunch you’re allowed to have dessert. So… I did.

Pistachio ice cream with bumblebee sprinkles

Sweet Melissa Cremerie, 276 Court Street, Brooklyn, NY. You know how sometimes when it’s hot out you eat your ice cream so fast (to keep it from melting, of course) that you can barely even taste it? No? Yeah, me neither. Anyway… this was delicious.

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