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

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Festival Food

Last weekend, we took a much needed vacation to New England for the 20th Annual Milford Pumpkin Festival in New Hampshire! We were lucky enough to be accompanied by the Silver family. Lots of fall fun was had. Foliage, pumpkins, food and even a zombie apocalypse! There was a haunted walk on Saturday night through a wooded area where zombies were on the loose! My kidlet was scared to death but she was still better than I was! I didn't even go in!

I did, however, partake in the food part!! We had all kinds of meals in all sorts of places since we took several day trips from New Hampshire. We stopped in Mystic, Conn on the way up. We took a trip to Salem, Mass on Sunday and on the way back home on Monday, we stopped in Brattleboro, Vermont. Vermont and Mystic will have a separate post! ;-)

For today, I will post about the seasonal goodness of the Pumpkin Festival. We had two special treats in particular that deserve to be mentioned....
Butternut squash bisque with cranberries. This stuff was incredible! The bread bowl really sealed the deal and it made the cold weather much more bearable.
This is cotton candy made out of maple syrup! There was a guy handing out free samples and I bet he snagged a lot of sales! He definitely hooked us! I also bought a bottle of syrup from him for a housewarming gift. When you go to New Hampshire or Vermont, you've gotta bring back some maple goodness!

The food wasn't the only star attraction. There was a giant pumpkin contest.
The winner weighed in at over 1,200 pounds! Wow!

We had so much fun! New England is so gorgeous in the fall and it's an ideal destination for a family trip! We're already talking about going back next year!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Opening a Can

I have a killer weakness for fried plantains. Actually, I've yet to meet a plantain I don't like! Another Achilles Heel of mine would have to be plantain chips but that's another post for another time!

A few weeks ago, I went to the Yardley Harvest Festival. I had two food goals inspired by my experiences from the year before. I had the most amazing fried plantains at a food stand in the court. I also was hoping to get more of the Best Darn Kettlecorn! I managed to accomplish both of these missions. I ate a few plantains at the festival but decided to stash them for when I got home because a friend of mine had mentioned to me (a few months ago) that I needed some plantains foster. That sounded almost too decadent but I went for it anyways.

I don't remember how it came up but my boss and I were talking and she started telling me about caramelizing condensed milk while it's still in the can by placing it in hot water and letting it simmer. I wasn't 100% sure if it was safe but I was so curious that I had to try it. I bought a small can of condensed milk and put it in a heavy pot with a lid. I let the can boil in some water for about 20 minutes. When I removed it. I could tell that some pressure had built up inside. I put it in the sink and decided to see what would happen if I opened it. I didn't blow anything up but hot milk did gush out of the small puncture in the top. It made it as high as the cabinet and splattered a bit. It also scalded my hand. After the initial spurt, it settled down and I opened the rest of the can. I was giddy to see that the milk was a slightly tan color because that indicated that the sugar had caramelized! I got a spoon and drizzled some on top of my plantains. They were cold from being in the fridge but I figured this would warm them up a bit. I took a bite and it was everything I hoped it would be. Chewy, sweet and a little salty. It was so rich, I couldn't finish it.

I have to find a better way to safeguard against aggressive gushes because I've already thought of several different things I can do with caramelized condensed milk! I didn't come out of this experience unscathed but I feel like it made me a better person.

Monday, October 5, 2009


This year was full of serendipitous discoveries for me in the food writing genre. I'd definitely heard of Chocolate and Zucchini but I'd never gone as far as to actually check it out until earlier this year. I have to say that catching up on everything this girl has written over the past few years is a daunting task. The same issue exists for David Lebovitz. I am so happy to have had the experience to prepare and take my trip to Paris this past summer or else I might still be in the dark as far as these great food blogs (and books!) are concerned.

I started to take a closer look at French cooking after our trip to Montreal last summer. We had several fantastic meals that made it seem much more approachable. The main focus, of course, is quality ingredients. Clotilde's approach to preparing French food is very cheerful and casual. We didn't hit up and fancy restaurants in Paris so our dining experiences (believe it or not!) were very similar. Pleasurable and creative. Those are definitely two words I would use to describe the recipes in Chocolate and Zucchini.

I prepared several recipes from the book....including the Chocolate and Zucchini cake.
I really wanted to celebrate the first zucchini to come from our garden by making something extra special with it! As you can see, it is very unassuming and simple. No layers or icing. Aside from shredding the veggies, it didn't require too much work. Despite all of this, the taste was fantastic. The concept was cute and quirky so despite the lack of frills, people were quite eager to dig into it. I'd highly recommend this cake for a party or potluck!

I'd also highly recommend either one (or both!) of Clotilde Dusoulier's books if you are planning a trip to Paris or if you just want to eat like a true Parisian in the comfort of your own home. If you don't feel like springing for the book, check out her website. She is more than generous with the recipes and content. My favorite feature would have to be the edible idioms. I start my French class tomorrow and it's nice being able to see some commonly used expressions.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Cadillac of Mozzarella

I was picking up some lunch the other day at one of my absolute favorite places in Princeton. They have a killer selection of many different types of imported European goods. Everything from chocolate, oils, vinegars, teas, olives and cheese. I was cruising the cheeses while waiting for my sandwich to be made and I noticed something wrapped in a big leaf that was sitting in a small bin of water. I asked about it and I was informed that it was a type of mozzarella with a creamy center called burrata. They import it from Italy once a week. I was absolutely intrigued!

This past week, I decided not to wait for a special occasion and went ahead and purchased some. I stopped by our public garden plot on the way home and harvested some tomatoes. I absolutely could not wait for Chris to come home so we eat it! He's lucky that I managed to restrain myself!

I sliced up the tomatoes and I cut the burrata in half. I studied the soft center beneath the thick skin of mozzarella. I harvested a few leaves of basil from our plant and sprinkled them all over the tomatoes. I put the cheese in the middle and poured a small pool of balsamic reduction near one end of the plate.

Molly and Chris gathered around and I would go as far as to say that the "ooohhhed" and "aaaahhhhed" a little bit!

I served the platter as an accompaniment to some orzo with garden fresh kale, tomatoes and Tofurkey sausage. My family loves this dinner but the shining star was definitely the burrata. We were running our fingers along the plate trying to salvage every last bit. I only used half of the cheese that night so I plan on serving the other half tonight with some homemade roasted peppers. I have been thinking about this all day! I can't wait for dinner tonight!

Happy World Vegetarian Day!!!