Friday, December 25, 2009

Bring us some noggy pudding

During the past few weeks, I've been to several holiday parties. The group of knitters that comes into the bookstore on Thursdays had their shindig earlier in the month. A few weeks ago, one of the ladies, Susan, brought in some leftover bread pudding that she had made for the holidays. She said it was made with eggnog. I usually don't care for it but that didn't deter me from sampling the dish. I must have had a wild hair that day. I'm glad I didn't skip out because it was good! I asked her for the recipe and she wrote it down for me. Not only is it tasty, it's easy!

Instead of bread, she uses Italian panettone. I have to admit that I normally skip over these guys at the grocery store but at the same time, I've always been curious about them. I was excited for the excuse to pick one out from the display at Trader Joe's.

The recipe is simple:

1 Italian panettone
1 quart of eggnog (Do not use lite! Get the real deal!)
4 eggs
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp of vanilla

Break up the bread and put it into a casserole dish. Whip the eggs, nog, nutmeg and vanilla together and pour it over the top. I used a ladle for more even and controlled distribution. Bake it for 50 minutes to an hour at 350 and then you get this...

I made it for a party with some friends the other night and it went over quite well! I've had it warm and cold and it's delicious either way! You could probably even add a touch of rum or brandy to the batter before baking. It couldn't hurt!

This was a hectic, yet wonderful holiday season for me and I hope that it was equally joyful for anyone reading this. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

100th Post!!

I know it's been a while since my last post. This is my 100th entry and I wanted it to be special. It just took a while before I was able to scan my picture and put it on my laptop.

I've been a fan of Nigella's for almost ten years. I remember watching her on the Style Channel when she had the show Nigella Bites. She was creative with her cooking without being pretentious and she was the first woman I'd ever seen on television who made me feel like it was okay not to be a size 2. She was dead sexy and still enjoyed food. As I watched her fry Snickers and call for a reprinting of Liberace Cooks, I lost my heart.

Over time, I acquired and enjoyed all of her books. She recently released Nigella Christmas and during her book tour, she had a scheduled stop in Princeton! I just happened to be at Barnes & Noble when the sign was out and I couldn't believe my eyes! I don't watch T.V. I don't have cable so I really don't know many celebrity chefs other than what we carry in the bookstore where I work. Nigella and I go way back though. Meeting her has been on my life's to do list for years.

I put the date in my calendar in my phone and took the day off of work since I also had something to do at Molly's school that morning. I made arrangements for her to go to a friends house after school so I could spend the afternoon and evening waiting at the shopping center where Nigella would be. The event started at 7:30 with limited seating. I know this is crazy but I got there at 1:00. I wasn't about to take the chance of missing out! I'd been there when other celebrity authors were in town and the lines were insane by 3:30.

When I arrived, the event area wasn't even set up yet and I didn't see a crowd. I checked the service desk to make sure I had the right day! I found a flier for the Nigella signing and I was in the right place at the right time. I couldn't believe no one else was there yet! I was reading the rules and I could already tell that she was going to be cool. As long as you bought her new book, she would sign as many others as you had. She was also willing to personalize greetings AND pose for pictures. This is very rare for authors. I brought Nigella Bites, How to be a Domestic Goddess and Feast for her to sign. As you can see, I also brought my Polaroid. I still have some film stashed away for it.

I spent several hours roaming around the shopping center to kill some time. I went to Starbucks and got some iced tea and a muffin for when I got hungry in line. I went back to the bookstore and there were chairs set up and about 3 people waiting. They weren't going to let us take seats until 6:00. I ended up next to some ladies who were sisters. They seemed really close and it made me miss my sisters. They were a lot of fun to talk to and hang out with and the time passed quick.

The first 3 rows of seating was reserved so I got as close as I could when we were allowed to go in. I was happy with my spot. I had some magazines to read and that helped speed up the remaining hour and a half. There were lots of people there by that point.

She came out at about 7:40 and I was surprised at how short she was. She had a pencil skirt on and a green sweater that hugged her curves. I couldn't believe I was looking at Nigella Lawson in person. She gave a talk about her new book. How Christmas is really important in England because they don't celebrate Thanksgiving ("for good reason" she smirked). She let some people ask questions. Someone asked if she was going to be back on TV and she said that she preferred to just stick to writing because she was able to do it while her children were at school. Filming a show took too much time away from her family. I was amazed. How many celebrities to do see going right back to hectic work schedules right after they have children? To see her putting her family ahead of her career was quite refreshing. I'm not trying to start a debate here. I just appreciate that someone that I look up to so much is actually in the same boat as me! I base my work schedule around Molly's school and I know that I am very luck to have an employer who supports this. I don't take it for granted at all!

Someone else asked for restaurant recommendations in London and she gave two places. One place that she loves for good Italian food and another for traditional British fare. Another girl was getting married in the UK and she told her felicitations. She said congratulations to her fiance because he was the lucky one. The girl wanted a suggestion for a traditional English dish to serve at their wedding. She suggested toad in the hole in individual ramekins. I've never had this but I plan to make some with Morningstar links sometime soon!

I actually got to ask her a question too! I told her that reading How to be a Domestic Goddess always sent my imagination rolling when I would see a recipe that called for some kind of flavored sugar. She sometimes calls for sugar that is flavored with vanilla or orange, etc. I told her that I was also a big collector of various types of salts and sugars. I mentioned vanilla salt that I'd picked up in Germany and she was taken aback. Vanilla salt?! With her accent, it sounded more like solt. :-) I told her that I always imagined her kitchen counter to be covered with various jars of flavored sugars and such and I asked if I was on track. She said that in her kitchen, she has what is known as the Cupboard of Doom. She said that you are taking your life into your own hands if you open it. I have one of those too!

We got in line for the signing and I got my books ready. I had her sign Nigella Bites for my mom because she's also a fan. When I called her the next day to tell her, she was thrilled. When it was my turn to meet Nigella, I tried to make it a point not to totally gush! She asked me what I was going to do with the vanilla salt and I told her I'd probably attempt some salted caramels. "Oh, I think that's a wonderful idea!" she said. When I whipped out my Polaroid, a few people laughed. I didn't care. I've always wanted a Polaroid with Nigella. The guy who was taking the pictures was impressed and Nigella was impressed too.

I was glowing when I left the bookstore almost 9 hours after I arrived. Meeting one of my biggest inspirations in cooking was absolutely worth the wait!

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Journey (Part 3)

The past few days have been a baking whirlwind. I guess that meeting Nigella really brought out the domestic goddess in me!

I let my fruitcake mixture sit for a few extra days but it was fine in the fridge. I could have done the baking by Friday but I was obviously busy that day! Saturday saw a bit of a more pressing matter....

These bananas needed to get taken care of! I wanted to have a backup for people who think they don't like fruitcake and also for those who are allergic to nuts since they have pecans in them. I decided to, once again, use the banana bread with chocolate chips and ginger recipe from A Homemade Life. Nine ultra ripe bananas yielded quite a bit of cake!
Two big loaves and four mini loaves. Perfect for teachers and coworkers. I am probably going to take one to my French teacher tomorrow since it's my last class. I didn't forget about the Paris posts on Tuesday. I have a really good one cooking up but I need to get my hands on all of the components first! It won't be ready by tomorrow.

Anyways, back to my fruitcakes. I had two jars of buttery spiced fruit and rum mix to work with. That ended up making two big cakes and six minis!
I was dying to use my St. Nicholas mold I got in Germany. There were some issues but I think I managed to salvage it. Whew! It's a real shame to let any of this stuff go to waste! I would not have been happy! It looks a bit messed up on the bottom but it's the cake that was meant for the house anyways.
These are the six minis. For the next two weeks, the cakes will be periodically basted in Kirschwasser. The flavor will mature and they will be ready to give as gifts. They'll be done on December 21st so I barely made it! I need to start them earlier next year. The longer they have to sit, the better they are! I heard that they start them at the end of October in England. I am going to aim to do the same thing!

We'll see if it actually happens.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Goddess Herself!

I will post my picture and more details later but I just had to make a quick entry to say


She was beautiful, gracious, sassy and awesome. Everything I hoped she'd be. She signed all four books I had with me. I didn't want to be greedy and have her sign all of her books that I own (and I do own them all!) so I picked my three favorites. I also bought her new one and it's signed as well!

Meeting her was a dream come true and I absolutely cannot believe it actually happened!!!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Journey (Part 2)

I removed my rum plumped fruit (aka macerated fruit) from the jar tonight and marched onward to the second step.

I figured that I probably had enough fruit for three large loaves of cake so I tripled the recipe. That means, I put a ton of butter in it! I also added the sugar, spices and unfiltered apple cider.

I let it all simmer for a while and relished the lovely scent. My house only smells like this one day a year and I absolutely love it!

I let the pot and the precious contents cool and then put it back into the jar. The liquid was slightly thicker. I actually had to use a second jar because there was much more than what I started with due to the additional ingredients.

Now it has to sit in the fridge for two days.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Journey (Part 1)

I started the almost three week journey to fruit cake today. Yes, I said fruit cake.

It's a personal tradition now for me to make Alton Brown's Free Range Fruit Cake recipe for the holidays. I enjoy the process and it's delicious!!! Fruit cake has a bad wrap but this is seriously good stuff and the people who are lucky enough to receive it as gifts RAVE about it.

Step one is to soak the dried fruits in spiced rum for 24 hours.

We have cranberries, cherries, currants, golden raisins, candied ginger, prunes and apricots combined with the zest from one lemon and one orange.

More to come...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving Takeout

I figured I'd better write about this while it's still somewhat relevant! You get two posts today since the laptop ate my brotchen post yesterday.

For the second year in a row, I've relied on McCaffrey's, a local grocery chain, to supply me with a yummy alternative to turkey for Thanksgiving. So far, I haven't been sorry. They offer what is basically a vegetarian pot pie that is loaded with seitan and dressing. I usually order the smaller version which is $16.99 and I am able to pick it up that morning before they close. It's up to me to bake it and that usually takes about an hour to an hour and a half. I baste it with butter and stick it in a 375 degree oven. It also comes with gravy! Last year it was sort of bland but they improved their game plan this year because it was really awesome!

It's a good size too. I ate my fill of it for Thanksgiving and still had a ton of it leftover to share with some friends last night. It reheats really well in the oven.

I know it's difficult to imagine Thanksgiving without turkey. This is my 3rd turkeyless holiday and it's getting easier. Especially when there's usually so many delicious sides to choose from...

My mother-in-law always makes a dish of stuffing outside of the turkey. She also makes killer stuffed mushrooms that I will try to get the recipe for and post someday. They're seriously good. She actually made her own cranberry sauce too! Needless to say, she was busy! Top that plate off with some mashed potatoes and brussels sprouts and I had it going on! I didn't even have room for sweet potatoes. I had to eat some food off of my plate first! I was just as full and happy as the people who ate turkey.

We also repeated our pumpkin pie order from Cranbury Delights this year as well. I didn't get a picture of it before it got eaten up.

Click here for a listing of McCaffrey's locations. It really is a great place to shop.

Cranbury Delights
64 N Main Street
Cranbury, NJ 08512

Whatever you want to call it...

I had this post all nice and typed up for yesterday and my computer ate it! I guess those brotchen looked too good for it to resist! Let's try this again...

While we were on our trip, I was already expecting to encounter one blast from my past. While we were in Austria, I encountered another...brotchen! Chris grew up calling them Kaiser rolls. I can clearly remember the packages of these rolls that my Opa would bring home from Germany that had a solider on the front of the bag. They're about the size of hamburger buns but instead of being soft, they're quite crispy on the outside. I can remember sitting at the table with my Opa while he cut open a brotchen and scooped the inside out with his fingers. My eyes would watch him deposit the unwanted glutenous filling next to his plate and then I would immediately pounce! I'd grab the bread and stuff it into my mouth and I'd wonder all the while how he could resist not putting away every last morsel of these delicious things! When I got older, I realized that it's easier to butter the inside of the rolls if you scoop out the extra bread. However, I still eat what I remove from the brotchen!

These rolls are hard to come by in the U.S. Oma and Opa live near a Vietnamese bakery that has a pretty good brotchen but they aren't round. They're still tasty and when I visit, they always make it a point to have them for breakfast several times! My Opa is probably their best customer.

While we were in Austria, I kid you not when I say that I easily ate a dozen of these things in four days. I should rename this blog The Brotchen Diet.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Viennese Coffee

Hello! I'm back from my AMAZING trip to Austria and Germany. I am surprised I was able to fit into my seat on the plane to come home because I ate SO MUCH! I suppose that the large amounts of walking helped! I definitely put some mileage on my Converse! I've been making up for it these past few days by being pretty darn lazy! This jet lag has me barely able to keep my eyes open!

We didn't have a single bad meal the entire time we were away. Everything that passed through my lips was to die for. No joke. I figured I'd kick the post trip posts off with something that Vienna is quite famous for: Coffee!

Coffee in Vienna isn't just a drink, it's an experience. The craftsmanship that goes into each beverage along with the velvety smooth espresso is unmatched. I ordered the same thing every time which was a caffe macchiato
Macchiato translates from Italian as "marked". The dark espresso slightly stains the white foamy milk. A proper macchiato is almost an even mixture of liquid milk and foam. I've had one that comes close at Starbucks but the espresso tastes so scorched that you have to mask it with caramel flavoring. This was perfect. You can see the beautiful layering of the drink in this picture. Pardon the dark shots. I was trying to photograph my food without disrupting other patrons.
We decided to share some dessert to go with our coffee and Chris insisted on Kaiserschmarrn. As you can see in the picture, it is a thick German pancake that is cut into pieces, sprinkled with sugar and served with a warm compote of plums. This picture doesn't really convey how HUGE of a serving that was given to us. We couldn't even finish it which is practically unheard of! Ha! We had some serious food envy from the table next to us when they brought it out. I can't say that I blame them. It should also be stated that Chris had serious drink envy when he tasted my macchiato.

ETA: I went to Starbucks tonight and ordered a macchiato. It tasted like I was drinking a campfire.

Friday, November 13, 2009

We Shall Meet Again!

This is a picture from our trip this summer of my typical German breakfast. The bread is the star of this show. There are few, if any, that I covet more than a good German bread. The dense sponginess inside surrounded by a chewy crust. My Opa used to bring it home from his trips overseas and all you need to do is slather it with a little butter and you will instantly take me back to my childhood. It sounds much easier than it actually is. I've tried for a looooong time to find bread that comes even close to this and it's almost impossible. The closest I've found, so far, was in Montreal.

When we were in Germany this summer, we stayed at the Hotel Agneshof. A free breakfast came with our room and I took full advantage of it every morning. The bread was just like my Opa used to bring home and I stuffed myself full of it. After each breakfast, I was already looking forward to the next. It was one of my favorite edible memories of our trip this summer because it reminded me of one of my favorite edible memories of my life. That bread.

Tuesday we leave for Vienna and we're also going back to Germany. We're staying in the same hotel as we did this summer. Chris knew how much I wanted to stay at the Agneshof again and it didn't seem possible at first. There is a world famous Christmas Market that kicks off two days after we leave (darn it!) and so the hotel costs are much higher than they were this summer. We were discouraged last weekend while we were trying to book a room. The next morning, he came bursting into the bathroom while I was in the shower. He told me that he had good news that he didn't want to wait to tell me. The cost of the room went down from the night before and he was able to book it for the trip. I was thrilled. This hotel is right in the center of town and so conveniently located. I will be able to walk everywhere I want to go while we're in Germany. The location alone is worth staying at the Agneshof. If that doesn't sell you, do it for the breakfast. Do it for the bread.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Bucks Outing

Last Saturday, the family met up with some friends (Shannon, Laura and Kate) and we did a little caravan into Bucks County, PA so we could wander around in Doylestown. We'd been there before but so many of the adorable shops close early so we wanted to come back when we would have more time to explore. I've been to several Bucks towns now and for the longest time, I really loved New Hope. Doylestown has it beat! They have everything I could possibly want: good food, used books, vintage jewelry, music, stuff for my dog.... Really, that is just the tip of the iceberg. I would advise you to arrive at noon if you plan to make a day of shopping because we still missed out on several places that closed at 5.

Who could resist a sign like this? We couldn't so we went inside. They had adorable things and two of my friends splurged on something.

The next place we ended up was the Doggie Deli. This shop is full of decadence for your pooch. They have an amazing selection of treats big and small plus an incredibly friendly and helpful owner. He actually has little stations set up all over town with free treats to lure in potential customers. Shannon already wants to come back for some Christmas shopping and I think I saw the perfect gift for Chowder.

This is the case and as you can see, the selection is quite vast. We got our little man a few treats and they've all been enthusiastically gobbled up!

We walked past a fancy little bakery called Let Them Eat Cupcakes. They must be pretty popular because they were cleaned out! The cupcakes are $2.50 a pop and were a decent size. They had a good selection of flavors as well. We were saving our appetites for dinner so we passed but I have every intention of hitting them up next time.

I might have been more inclined to spoil my dinner if I hadn't been distracted by the amazing vintage jewelry shop across the street!! This lady had my number! We went inside and I immediately wanted everything! The selection of gorgeous baubles is unbelievable and the prices are not bad. Of course, the main thing I wanted was over $200 but it was over 100 years old! I did score a bunch of stuff off of their 5 dollar rack as well as a Christmas gift for my Oma. I've already worn one of my pieces and still can't believe I only paid $5 for it. I have a killer piece to wear to the opera in Vienna next week!

We wandered in and out of a few more shops including a fabulous record store and some clothing and knick knack shops. We stopped in at a used book shop that had a fantastic selection at some seriously good prices. I got a copy of A Confederacy of Dunces for less than five bucks. Most of their paperback selections that were still in the bestseller list were priced around the same mark.

After the bookstore, we searched out some dinner. We decided to go somewhere low key and found everything we were looking for in Basically Burgers. We walked in and they even had the Alabama/LSU game on! (ROLL TIDE!) Not only did they have a nice selection for the omnis, they had a choice of three different veggie burgers. Morningstar and even Boca for the vegans. They also had gluten free buns. I had a black bean burger with cheddar and a few other fixings. We shared some fries (I recommend the sweet potato fries!) and I splurged and got a chocolate shake that was absolutely amazing. They have a reasonably priced kids menu with pb&j (you can even get it grilled!) and other classic fare. Don't come looking for anything outside of the basic American burger, hotdog and fries spectrum. They don't branch to far from that but they do deliver a solid meal at a reasonable price with friendly service. I would definitely go back. They beat the pants off of Cheeburger Cheeburger.

You wouldn't have to twist my arm very much to get me back to Doylestown! However, I think they should rename it Averystown!

Basically Burgers
12 West State Street
Doylestown, PA

Central Books
35 West State Street
Doylestown, Pa

Twenty East Vintage Jewelry
20 East Oakland Ave
Doylestown, PA

Let Them Eat Cupcakes
17 East Oakland Ave
Doylestown, PA 18901

Doggie Deli
19 Donaldson St
Doylestown, PA 18901

Siren Records
25 East State St
Doylestown, PA 18901

Sweet Blossoms Lingerie Boutique
65 South Main St
Doylestown, PA 18901

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Say Fromage!

I am enjoying these Paris posts. They bring back a lot of fantastic memories.

I mentioned before that we were renting a small efficiency apartment so we had access to a kitchen. We tried to keep the cost of the trip down by eating in at least one meal a day. Sometimes we kept our meals relatively simple (Maybe even to the point of stereotypical): Bread, cheese, fruit and wine.

This was the meal that topped off our day of walking to and from the Eiffel Tower. It was 7 miles each way so we were tuckered out by the time we hiked the 5 flights of stairs back up to our place. We passed by an outdoor market, a patisserie and also a fromagerie and made a mental note to stop in on the way back to pick up some dinner (and dessert!).

I would have to dig through a lot of my scraps and cards from the trip in order to relay the names and addresses of the places we stopped and hopefully I can update later with that information. The good news for anyone who might be reading this and planning a trip to Paris is that there are amazing bakeries and cheese shops everywhere so it would almost be pointless. The gentleman working behind the counter at the fromagerie was really nice and helped us to select a few different types of cheeses from his incredible spread.
These are all different types of goat cheese.

We each selected a dessert from the patisserie that was a few shops down. I selected a giant chocolate macaroon. I forget what Chris had but it is pictured in the bottom right corner of the first photo. I do remember that he enjoyed it very much. As you can see, we also picked up a baguette.

They say that the best cheeses are the smelliest and I think there is definitely something to it. We asked the gentleman behind the fromagerie counter to help us to select something and he sent us home with this...
This is the cheese that was inside of the large round container in the middle of the table.

It was creamy, luscious and it stunk to high heaven! It took us several days to finish it since it was on the larger side and every time we opened the fridge, it smelled like we had a dead body in there. Chris and I still laugh about it.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Birthday Pie

Yesterday was my 32nd birthday. We basically spent the weekend celebrating. Saturday was an outing with some friends in Doylestown, PA (post coming within the week) and Sunday was spent reading the onslaught of internet well wishes and talking on the phone with friends and family. Thinking about it still makes me feel mighty special.

My birthday was a gold mine of blog inspiration between the PA trip and the 25 year old bottle of balsamic vinegar that my friend Shannon got me (!!!). The focus for today will be the lovely dinner we had with the inlaws last night.

My mother-in-law is always very thoughtful when it comes to fixing meat free stuff and I always appreciate it. If she makes spaghetti, she always makes me a small pot of marinara sauce. For Thanksgiving, I know I can count on a small pan of stuffing that wasn't cooked inside of the turkey. She knows that I absolutely love it when she makes spanikopita and so she decided to throw down for my birthday.
She always refers to it as Spinach Pie. Chris and I hopefully don't sound too much like foodie elitists we call it spanakopita. She did call him a wise ass over the phone the other day when he said it! The recipe actually comes from her sister-in-law, Madeline (who is Greek). Consider it your party favor. ;-)

2 bags of spinach
6 eggs, beaten
1/4-1/2 lb of butter, melted
2 large onions, minced
Filo dough (in the frozen section of your grocery store)
1.5-2 lbs of feta cheese

Allow your filo to defrost in the fridge the day you are planning to make this dish.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl: Mix spinach, eggs, half of the butter, onions and feta cheese. Add enough flour to soak up extra juice.

Butter the bottom of the pan Layer the bottom and the side of the pan with filo dough. Put one half of the spinach mixture in the pan and cover it with 6-8 lightly buttered sheets of filo. Add the rest of the spinach mixture and top with more buttery filo layers. Fold in the sides. Add butter to the top.

Bake for an hour and check for doneness. Add an additional fifteen minutes if it needs it.

For dessert, I always request a cherry pie from Delicious Orchards on my birthday. It's one of my favorite things. The pies at Delicious Orchards are amazing but on the pricey side so we usually save them for a special occasion.
This place is pretty awesome though. They have a huge bakery as well as a nice selection of cooking ingredients. There is a deli, a lovely produce section and all sorts of delightful edibles tucked here, there and throughout. Everything from mustards to extracts. I recommend stopping in if you're in the mood for something a little bit special.

Delicious Orchards
320 State Route 34
Colts Neck, NJ 07722

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Dias de los Muertos

Last Sunday, I took down my Halloween decorations (I was pretty impressed with myself for being so quick about it!) and I used the space that was occupied by my haunted village to put up my Dias de los Muertos altar. I used lot of TLC and I think it came out pretty good. A friend of mine told me that I'd obviously forgotten some of my Halloween decor but I told him that this was something different. I agree that it looks a bit morbid but The Day of the Dead or All Souls Day is actually very beautiful.

As I was adding the various elements to my altar, I fondly recalled the loved ones that have passed on from this world. Grandparents, my friend Pat, Chris' brother Adam.... I used those serene moments to send thanks for their impact on our lives and to hope that they all know how much we still love and miss them.

I cooked a huge meal and invited some people over. One family was sick but we were fortunate that the Grady family was able to make it. I know it's a Mexican holiday but I cooked Indian food. I was seriously craving it. I did make a banana bread in my new skull pan. It turned out really cool...

This is actually the recipe from A Homemade Life for banana bread with chocolate chips and candied ginger. It wasn't planned to far ahead. The fact that I had four very ripe bananas in my fruit basket sealed the deal!

It was a huge pan so I doubled the recipe. It turned out really nice. I had enough leftover to send home with my guests and to offer up to my Tuesday knitters and they were all swooning over it.

The Grady's just welcomed their second child, a baby boy, into the world on October 2nd. I was holding him and just reveling in his newness. The circle of life really is a wonderous thing.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I Like Buttah.

I have exciting news. I am always a little hesitant to allow that particular statement to escape from my lips because when you're a 31 year old woman who has been happily married for over 3 years, the first thing that everyone assumes is that you're pregnant. I'm not pregnant. As a matter of fact, my exciting news wouldn't be possible if we had a baby!

My husband is taking me to VIENNA this month!!! He has a business trip and he bought me a plane ticket for my birthday!!! We're leaving two weeks from today!! We also have to go back to Germany for a few days and I am really looking forward to returning to the same hotel we stayed in this summer and eating the yummy (complimentary) breakfast!

For the next few weeks, I'm going to be researching and checking out possible links to cool places I need to explore. I found myself wondering aloud the other day if the butter in Austria is nearly as good as it is in France. If I could find a shop like Da Rosa, I'd be pretty happy!

Da Rosa is an amazing little foodie haven in the 6th arr that elegantly displays many drool worthy items.
(like lavender rice!)

We went there specifically looking for butter....

We bought two different kinds. Both were lightly salted but one was a little bit special...

You see those little black flecks? That is smoked salt. I cannot begin to write about how amazing it smelled melting in the pan while I was preparing dinner in our little apartment. I'd never do the memory justice. The best way to enjoy it was on a lovely baguette. There are so many little things that come to mind when I recall our trip and this is close to the top of the list. I am going to Vienna to enjoy some amazing art but I will also be on the lookout for butter.

If you are a foodie in Paris, I implore you to go to Da Rosa. If I had only one day, it would be on the top of my list. I'd buy a baguette, some salted caramels and some butter. Then I would happily munch away while strolling through the Louvre towards the Seine.

Da Rosa
62 Rue de Seine
75006 Paris, France

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Buy One, Get One Free!

Last night was a much needed night out with my lady friends! My friend Laura celebrated her birthday this month in Burlington, Vermont (jealous!) and so we tried out best to get together as soon as possible to mark the occasion. I met Laura, Kate and Ashley while I was working at Borders. I have managed to remain close friends with several of my former coworkers and it's always lovely when we manage to get together and catch up! Sometimes we meet for breakfast and other times, we try to go to someone's house. Last night, we decided to step out and hit Fedora for dinner. I have been a lot lately for brunch but it's been about a year since I've had dinner there.

Laura was torn between about four different items on the menu but she ended up copying Kate and going with the Mexican pizza on the appetizer menu. Ashley had a turkey burger and I had the harvest burrito. Ironically, I'd shot down the idea of going to On the Border because I've eaten a lot Mexican lately! This just sounded so good! (Also, On the Border sucks!)

I know that Fedora's portion sizes are ridiculously huge but I was completely shocked when the waiter brought out our food and my plate had two HUGE burritos on it! I asked him if people actually manage to eat both and he said no.
The burritos were served on a bed of rice and stuffed with veggies (peppers, onions mushrooms and what appeared to be some sort of squash), refried and black beans plus cheese. It was (as you can see) topped with a lovely sauce and more cheese. I really loved that there were two different types of beans in there! I can never get enough! It is $11.99 for the harvest burrito but you really do get two meals for that price. You can't beat that! I told Chris we could just go here and split the meal and a dessert. The cozy atmosphere makes it ideal for a date or for a social jaunt with friends. I've never been let down. Okay...maybe just once. Last night we were looking for the awesome brie appetizer we'd enjoyed in the past and it was no longer on the menu. Boo! Not that there was any room for an appetizer! We were stuffed after our meals but we still decided to mosey on over to the dessert case...
I promised Chris and Molly I would bring them home something and I am a woman of my word! I selected a Reece's cup brownie and a caramel brownie. I took one bite of the caramel brownie just to make sure it wouldn't kill anyone. *sigh* The sacrifices I make for my family!
We all decided to partake in a little sweetness. You can see the lovely caramel brownie, to the right is Ashley's chocolate espresso bar (ooey gooey and good). Laura had a cookie with Snickers in it and hiding in the back left is Kate's caramel apple dumpling. We were four satisfied customers when we walked out of there. I have no doubt that we will be back.

Fedora Cafe
2633 Lawrenceville Rd.
Lawrenceville, NJ 08648

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tuesday Theme

I realized recently that I really didn't do well to blog about food from our trip to Europe this summer. I am currently enrolled in a French class that meets every Tuesday. This is our 4th week but I just came up with the idea to post a picture or two of food from Paris and write about it for the remainder of the class.

The first full day in Paris, we decided to hunt down a market to stock up on a few essential items. We tried our best, since we had access to a kitchen, to not eat out for every meal. We were staying in the 2nd arr and I'd read about a market in the 3rd arr called Le Marche des Enfants Rouges. This is apparently one of the oldest markets in the city and the name literally translates into "market of the red children". It was established in 1615 and evidently took the name from a nearby orphanage where the children wore red coats.

We picked up some eggs, butter, creme fraiche, some mushrooms, strawberries, wine and a few other items. We also scored some lunch at a Moroccan food stand.

I have always wanted to go to Morocco and I've done a little bit of reading about the places and the people. They are said to be extraordinarily friendly and this was definitely the case here! We received a warm welcome and when they found out we lived close to New York City, the cashier who rung up our order was so excited because he was traveling there in September. He was just as happy as we were to be in Paris so I hope he had a wonderful time.

They had several vegetarian options here so I ordered the tangine with couscous that was served with hot mint tea.
The plates were hot so they had an older gentleman with very calloused hands and a kind smile who delivered them to the tables. The stew had many lovely elements such as cinnamon, raisins, preserved lemons and tender vegetables. Couscous is one of my absolute favorite carbs so I was really happy. Chris enjoyed his meal too. We'd definitely recommend it to anyone (especially vegetarians) who are looking for something special.

Le Marche des Enfants Rouges
39 rue de Bretagne
(3rd Arrondissement)
Paris, France

Monday, October 26, 2009

Salty Sweet Bliss

I think we've definitely got a little Trader Joe's Mania here in the Princeton area. I read a really cute article in U.S. 1 this past week that raved about the unique gourmet items and the amazing prices. She listed a few of her favorite items and one of the things she mentioned was sea salt brownies. Sea. Salt. Brownies.

I was absolutely consumed with a feverish desire to get my hands on some of these bad boys as soon as possible!!! I am not joking when I say that I thought about them all week! I had a small list of things I needed to pick up from TJ's and so I was able to justify a visit on Sunday night. My husband and kidlet accompanied me. I was afraid Chris would see right through my plan but the absolute pleasure we had in wandering up and down the aisles overshadowed everything. I picked up the items on my list and even scored one of the reusable shopping bags I'd been eyeing on several people throughout town. We went home and I heated up some hot water for tea. It was time...

The clan was ready to dig into these. Chris seemed much more satisfied with them than I did. I'm not saying they weren't good. They just weren't great. It was a good plan, the texture of the brownie was just not right. A bit too dry (in my humble opinion). It took a little while to recover from the slight let down. I have been so excited about the rise of salted sweets and I really hadn't experienced it to what I thought was the full potential. I had some salted chocolate covered caramels from a candy store in Georgia this summer and they were also a let down. I am still reeling from not being able to experience Henri Le Roux's CBS caramels while I was in Paris! The shopkeeper that carries them was on vacation! I was beginning to truly believe that the caramel curse would continue to haunt me!


I was cleaning some stuff off of my dining room table. I went to a baby shower yesterday while my husband took Molly to hang out at Silver Forge Farm for brunch. They were kind enough to bring me home some eggs and the reusable grocery bag that they brought it home in was still draped across the table. I picked it up and I noticed there was still something in it. I reached inside and pulled out a gold box.
I gasped! I knew exactly what it was!!! We were out with Shannon and Eliezer earlier this month in Princeton. We ate dessert at Bent Spoon (another story for another time) and afterwards, we were walking back to the cars. We passed by Thomas Sweet which is a few doors down on Palmer Square. This location sells chocolate while the Nassau Street location focuses more on ice cream. I was curious to see if they had any salted caramel offerings but they were closed. We started to walk away and the girl who was working came and unlocked the door and asked if we had any questions. I mentioned my quest and she invited me in to see their case. The did, indeed, offer dark chocolate covered caramels glistening with sea salt. I told her I would come back and purchase some when they were open. Shannon beat me to it. I was so excited! However, I'd already met my chocolate quota for the night so I decided to wait until today.

Once I got settled in from work this afternoon, I walked into the kitchen and picked up the shiny box. I slowly removed the lid and pushed aside the protective layer of tissue paper. The chocolates almost seemed to greet me and I smiled back. I plucked one of those gems right out and took a deep breath. The moment had arrived.
For a second, I thought I actually felt the earth move but it could have just been me swooning ever so slightly as I sunk my teeth through the chocolate shell and into the caramel. To my delight, the buttery sweetness was punctuated by flecks of salt. It was amazing. I don't know how I managed to eat only one. I am also quite proud of myself for sharing some with Chris.

For now, my search is over. Tommy has agreed to an open relationship so that I am able to experience the salty sweet seduction of others but I really cannot imagine it getting much better than this for now. I haven't really had the chance to explore NYC so we shall see. The holiday season is upon us and I've recently learned that Henri La Roux does mail order so I can actually purchase some CBS without airfare to France. I think I know what I am asking Santa to bring me for Christmas this year.

Thomas Sweet Chocolate
29 Palmer Square
Princeton, NJ 08542

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Very Apeeling

Thanks to one of my Tuesday knitters, I got to try something I've always wanted to do! I cannot tell you how long I've been plotting an eventual attempt at making candied orange peels. When I was younger, my Oma would tell me stories about her childhood. She grew up very poor and was the middle of nine children. My great grandmother Una put herself into an early grave working 3 jobs in order to keep food on the table. When I think of this, I am always extraordinarily grateful for all of the opportunity and blessings I've had in my life. I never knew my great grandmother but my Oma has played such a huge role in my upbringing. I grew up on a completely different part of the spectrum than she did because she and my Opa spoiled me rotten! When we talk on the phone now, I'd say at least half of our conversation is about food so I get it honest!

One day, she was telling me about Christmas time when she was a child. She would usually get an orange in her stocking. In those days, it was a true luxury. They didn't have trucks hauling citrus from Florida and California all year round like we do now. She didn't want to waste any part of it so when she was finished eating the fruit, she would make candy out of the peel. I was completely dumbfounded by this! That bitter junky stuff that I always threw away could be made into candy?

Fast forward to about three weeks ago. My knitters were talking amongst themselves and one of them, Eileen, mentioned how she eats a lot of oranges. She said she always saves the peel and makes candy. I interrupted her (oops!) and exclaimed that I'd been meaning to try doing that. I have a few books with recipes but, for some reason, it always intimidated me. She told me it was terribly easy. The next week, she was even so kind as to bring me in a baggie full of peel and her recipe! It may sound small but I know that she lives on a very fixed budget and I was so moved by her thoughtfulness.

It took me about a week and a half to get around to actually making them into candy but they held up just fine in the fridge. You have to boil them for ten minutes and them dump the water. Then you have to repeat that process two more times to remove the bitterness. I tended to them while I did random housework and it made the whole condo smell like oranges. Nice bonus!

Candied Citrus Peel

Peel from various citrus sliced into 1/4 inch strips
2 cups of sugar
1/2 cup water
Extra sugar for sprinkling (optional)

Boil peel in enough water to keep them covered for ten minutes. Drain. Repeat two more times. Drain peel and add two cups of sugar and the half of a cup of water. Boil until the syrup is thick and the peel is translucent. Syrup might be completely absorbed.

Lay on wax paper to dry overnight. You can coat in sugar after about an hour of initial drying. I actually only used 1/4 cup of water and a cup of sugar because Eileen told me that there wasn't enough peel to warrant the full amount.

I know it says the extra sugar is optional but it looks so gosh darned pretty that I can't see why not!
My husband and I could not keep our hands out of these things while they were drying! They are absolutely delicious. You have to make sure they are 100% dry before storing them. I have mine in an old jar and they will keep for a looong time. I already have some fresh peel gathering up in the fridge for another round next week! I think this will make excellent holiday treats!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Of Love and Noodle Soup

Chris and I got married a little over three years ago. We went to three different places for our honeymoon tour of 2006. The weekend after the wedding, we decided to go to Vermont for some much needed peace and time to ourselves. We stayed for three days in the southern town of Putney which is very close to another little town, Brattleboro. The New Hampshire state line is right next to it.

The hosts of our bed and breakfast told us that we should definitely check out Brattleboro and I'm so glad we did! It was chock full of stuff to see and do. Thrift shops, a movie theatre, a used CD store and lots of places to eat. That may not sound exciting to some people but I was set! We wandered into an Asian restaurant for dinner one night. I had no idea that this particular meal would stick with me for years to come!
I don't remember what Chris ordered but I'll never forget what I had. It was chilly outside so I went with the noodle soup bowl. I had several choices for additional ingredients at 75 cents each: egg, tofu, spinach or kimchi. I went with an egg and some tofu. They brought me back a huge, steaming bowl of noodles swimming in a light amber broth that was speckled with oil. The rich scent of sesame made my mouth water. I'd had very little experience with sesame oil before. I can recall ruining at least one dish by adding too much of it. The stoutness is definitely an acquired taste. That soup showed me what could be accomplished if one knew how to use it the right way. It also lit a torch for Korean food that still burns bright in my belly. Nowadays, I rarely seem to be able to get enough of that bold sesame embrace on my tongue and within my nostrils. It's one of my absolute favorite flavors.

I was so infatuated with this soup that we went back for lunch the day we left Vermont to come home. I can't count how many times over the past few years that my mind has wandered back to that steamy bowl of Heaven. During our recent trip to New England a week and a half ago, I pushed for a detour through Brattleboro on the way back home and my husband was gracious enough to indulge me. We were rewarded by an absolutely gorgeous drive through the state of New Hampshire that was draped with fabulous fall foliage. We listened to classical music and did our best to take in as much as possible.

When we got to Brattleboro, the sentimental history of that spot overtook me. I was in a fantastic mood as memories from our honeymoon played out during our walk through the downtown area. We crossed the familiar threshold of Shin La and I smiled. It looked just as I'd remembered it. It doesn't really have the typical ambiance of an Asian restaurant. It almost looks like a pub. We sat down, looked at the menu and my eyes immediately fell on my heart's desire. I was tempted to add kimchi along with my tofu and egg but I wanted to say true to the original. I have a Polaroid from three years ago of me holding a bowl of this soup but you'll have to settle for the picture I took from a week and a half ago.
It's difficult to say how it feels to have actually experienced it again. It actually managed to live up to the memories which was somewhat of a relief. It would have been sad to have my fantasies dashed by mediocre soup! I feel confident that I could probably recreate it at home now. I don't know it if will be the same but I suppose it better to try than to have to wait for several more years to have it again.

Shin La
57 Main Street
Brattleboro, VT 05301

Monday, October 19, 2009

Been there, ate that.

I mentioned in a previous post that we stopped in Mystic, Connecticut on the way up to New Hampshire last week. My friend Shannon has been raving about this place so I was excited to see it! The skies were grey but that only seemed to add to the charm of this little New England town. I hope to go back and spend some more time exploring someday. Lots of cute shops and very scenic areas to walk and take pictures.

We stopped in and ate at the famous Mystic Pizza. I normally don't go for touristy traps like this but Shannon and Eliezer insisted that this was good stuff. We were in between lunch and dinner so we managed to score immediate seating. It's really famous because of the old movie that was filmed here starring Julia Roberts. They have it showing at all times on a screen inside of the restaurant. It's funny because although I've heard of the movie, I've never actually seen it. I didn't really put 2 and 2 together until after I was inside. Ha! I'd heard of Mystic Pizza because I've seen some of their frozen products in grocery stores.

I was hesitant to get too excited because of all of the hype but I was sold on the first bite. It's difficult to come by a thicker crust in New Jersey so when my teeth took more than a second to make their way through this slice, I was pleasantly surprised. It was a long and drawn out bite. They had a nice selection of toppings so we went for roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts and (this was the kicker) gorgonzola cheese. I am now of the opinion that EVERY pizzeria should offer this as an option. It really made for an excellent flavor! The next time we make pizzas at home, I am going to make sure we have some!

We have a lot of excellent pizza around these parts but I have found my mind wandering back to that particular pie a few times since we got home. I've been exposed to so many fantastic mom and pop pizzerias over the past few years that I find it nearly impossible to pick an absolute favorite. I imagine that it is similar to having more than one child. You love each one for different reasons.

Mystic Pizza
56 W Main Street
Mystic, CT 06355