Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this past week:
In the mood for a casual place with upscale bar food and appetizers last Friday, we found Savour Kitchen & Cocktail Room to be exactly what we wanted — decidedly un-stuffy, with a large and varied selection of small plates. The food was good (we’ll be back for the lamb sliders alone), but the best part may have been the live music. Just a guy with a microphone and some sort of computer-operated music system, enthusiastically singing whatever seemed to move him at the moment (occasionally influenced by some of the more rowdy patrons in the bar area) was the perfect entertainment for a Friday night.
We took full advantage of the opportunity to feed our neighbors at the neighborhood block party by filling up our smoker with a variety of meat. And Dan took the opportunity to try a few new techniques: wrapping a brisket in bacon while it smokes, and wrapping another brisket and a tri-tip in parchment paper (after the meat reached 150 degrees in order to keep it moist and help to create a nice bark (the blackened exterior.) We were quite pleased with the results, and given how few leftovers we had at the end of the night, our neighbors were too!
Your eyes do not deceive you — one of our favorites this week is a garden hose. A hose featured in one of those annoying infomercials no less. While it didn’t come with a free set of Ginzu steak knives (I bought it at Home Depot), it really does work! The “pocket hose” is very lightweight and perfect for attaching to the end of our regular hose (or it can be attached directly to the spigot), then pulling across the backyard to hand-water plants with ease.
Speaking of plants, we planted milkweed this year (it’s the one with the spikey leaves on the left above), in hopes of attracting monarch butterflies to our backyard, on their way to Mexico. The female monarchs lay their eggs on the milkweed, which the caterpillars eat until they cocoon. We were inspired by (and thoroughly enjoyed) the documentary “Flight of the Butterflies,” which we saw at an IMAX theater with our niece and nephew when we met them in D.C. last month. Even if we don’t get any monarchs, the plants are a nice reminder of a wonderful time we had with family we adore.
Apparently there is a restaurant called The Vanderbilt in Brooklyn, NY that specializes in various appetizers, including fried brussels sprouts. We say “apparently” because we haven’t been there (yet!), so we don’t feel qualified to offer a personal opinion as to their specialties. But, when researching brussels sprouts recipes (this one is our usual go-to, but we get bored with it), we found an entry on the Food 52 recipe/cooking website from a woman who loves the “undisputed star” brussels sprouts appetizer from The Vanderbilt so much that she recreated the recipe at home. (After a quick perusal of The Vanderbilt’s menu, it doesn’t look like they currently offer the sprouts; all the more reason to try the homemade version.) Peeling the brussels sprouts is rather time-consuming (if you have kids — put them to work!) but worthwhile to get a nice mix of crispy individual leaves and tender cores. We think it’s the sauce that really makes this an outstanding side dish: spicy sriracha combined with sweet honey, sour lime juice and just a touch of savory sesame oil. Frying the sprout leaves can be a bit tricky (they pop and splatter a lot) and of course isn’t the most healthy way to get your veggies, so we tried roasting them in the oven instead. Although the roasted ones weren’t quite as crispy, they were still really good, and we could eat just about anything tossed in that flavorful sauce.
Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this past week:
Many thanks to everyone who made me feel special and loved on my birthday last weekend! I had a very happy day and am a lucky girl indeed to have so much love, friendship and thoughtfulness in my life. Plus, a husband who makes me burnt sugar ice cream with a candle for my birthday wish, since I don’t really like cake.
We went to a fun local art festival last Saturday and came home with a few new treasures. The piece above is titled “Conversation with Myself,” and is a sculpture that we coveted since last year’s festival, where we first saw the 12 foot tall version. Being able to meet and chat with the artist, Lorri Acott, makes owning a piece of her work even more meaningful. We also bought a few pieces from Ethan Jantzer, who explains his unique photography-without-a-camera method way better than we ever could.
We have a new sushi obsession — spicy tuna on top of crispy rice cakes. We first tried it at our favorite movie theater (yup, sushi at the movies!) and loved the combination of silky tuna with the airy crunch of the rice cake. We had a similarly delicious version at one of our favorite special-occasion restaurants, Shinsei. And speaking of Shinsei, we finally tried their “Thai fried rice” side dish, despite having over-ordered too much food to begin with (which is why we tend to only go there on special occasions), and will order it again each and every time we go back. It’s hands-down the best fried rice we’ve ever had, and the leftovers topped with a fried egg make for a perfect weekend breakfast.
Another “best ever” food item we recently tried is the Thai mussels appetizer from Meddlesome Moth. All hyperbole intended (this is “Friday Favorites” after all, not “Friday Just Okays”), these mussels cooked in a coconut milk and red curry broth with Thai aromatics are life-changing. When we asked our waiter about them and he called them “transformative” and said that they’re the only mussels on the menu he eats, he wasn’t kidding. The only thing we didn’t like about them is that we aren’t sure how to recreate them at home. Yet.
Tomorrow is our second-annual neighborhood potluck block party, which calls for thawing all the bought-on-sale giant slabs of meat from our freezer and prepping the smoker for overnight duty. We’ll be bringing pulled pork, beef brisket and tri-tip. Hope our neighbors bring their appetites!
Food memories can be powerful, in terms of a certain dish conjuring thoughts of a place or event associated with that meal, and vice versa. The strength of food memories is no surprise, given the fact that eating has the potential to engage all five senses: taste and smell (obviously); sight (think of a dessert almost too pretty to eat); hearing (just try and resist the urge to watch a movie when you hear popcorn popping) and touch (ever been to a crawfish boil in the spring time?) For Dan, there is a certain fish dish that will always make him think of the time he spent working at an old-school seafood restaurant called Poli’s in Pittsburgh, while attending law school. One of the menu staples at Poli’s — and one of Dan’s favorite things to eat there — was “Boston Scrod,” a white fish (cod or haddock usually) prepared simply with breadcrumbs and butter. While not particularly fond of his time waiting tables at Poli’s, he loved the Boston Scrod and recently found a recipe that is close enough to Poli’s version to conjure images of the unfriendly, elderly clientele who refused to leave a tip one penny over five percent. The dish is ridiculously easy to prepare — melt some butter, add crushed Ritz crackers, top the fish with the butter mixture and bake for about 20 minutes — and is so buttery delicious that even I (a serial fish-avoider) loved it. Although Poli’s shut down before Dan could make it back there for a nostalgic helping of Boston Scrod, now he can take the same trip down memory lane with this homemade version, without ever having to leave the house.
Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this past week:
In a happy coincidence last weekend, we went to our local mall for lunch and to pick up a few things at Williams Sonoma, on the very day that Bobby Flay happened to be there signing copies of his latest book. We didn’t plan on getting a book signed, especially since we already have one (an awesome gift from my parents) and there was a huge line of people waiting already. So we enjoyed a leisurely lunch, and by the time we got to Williams Sonoma to do our shopping, the line had dwindled to less than ten people. So we bought a book, jumped in line and just a few minutes later had an autograph and obligatory photo. Celebrity-chef stalking at its easiest!
When we finished
awkwardly standing there while he signed our book schmoozing with Chef Flay at Williams Sonoma, we purchased my new favorite kitchen gadget: the julienne peeler. One side of the tool is a regular vegetable peeler, and the other side is where the magic happens — the tiny serrated blade shreds veggies into perfectly julienned strips. Although we already have a mandolin slicer (which is a better tool for bigger slicing jobs), this little peeler is perfect for turning a couple of zucchinis into “spaghetti” in a flash, without any of the fuss (or fear that you might accidentally slice off a finger.) Simply cut off the bottom end of the zucchini (keep the top end intact to use as handle for holding the zucchini), cut a thin strip lengthwise off one side of the zucchini so it will lay flat on the cutting board, then drag the peeler from the top to the bottom of the zucchini to cut it into strips. Wrap the zucchini “spaghetti” in a couple of paper towels and squeeze out the excess moisture, then saute the spaghetti in a little olive oil for 2-3 minutes and toss with the sauce of your choice. We served ours with a tomato basil sauce (leftover from our latest pasta of the month club delivery — so good) for an easy, delicious and super healthy side.
Speaking of tomatoes, ours are on their way! All of our plants have a few baby tomatoes just beginning to grow, in addition to tons of flowers that will hopefully mature into tomatoes as well. Our crop last year was so good that we can barely stand store-bought tomatoes, and we’re hoping for more of the same this summer.
And speaking of summer, the Texas heat has yet to rear its ugly head, and we are more than okay with that. In fact, we had record-setting low temperatures yesterday and last night. It was actually cold enough for a fire in the fireplace — in May! — which is unprecedented for these parts, and we thoroughly enjoyed our final fire of the season.
Many thanks to my friend Paula for properly kicking off my birthday weekend (when your birthday is on a Saturday, celebration of the entire weekend is required) by treating me to a pedicure and introducing me to a restaurant that is sure to become one of our favorites: Whiskey Cake. Cool name, even cooler place, with an eclectic farm-to-table menu, innovative from-scratch cocktails and an awesome hip-meets-rustic-meets-comfortable atmosphere. We’ll be back. Thanks Paula!
File this one under “Interesting.” One of the cool things about having a food blog is that it’s a natural conversation-starter. Nearly everyone has an intriguing food anecdote, experience or recipe to share, once they find out we are passionate enough about food to blog about it. When talking to one of Dan’s colleagues at a work event a little while ago, she told me how her niece is currently living in Russia and has had to adjust quite a bit to cooking and eating over there, especially in terms of food availability. Apparently meat is very expensive (and quality can be somewhat sketchy), so they cook and eat a lot of vegetables. In particular, cabbage is abundant and inexpensive there, and they cook with it often. When I heard that one of their favorite dishes is a casserole made with cabbage and carrots, I was intrigued enough to ask for the recipe, especially since I don’t prefer the boiled cabbage that Dan
insists I eat serves with corned beef every St. Patrick’s Day. The dish sounds a bit strange — and I would definitely call it interesting — but we liked it. The cabbage has a mild flavor, the carrots add a bit of sweetness to contrast with the spice from the paprika, and the sauce made with butter, flour, chicken broth, milk and cheese ties it all together well. It may not be the best side dish we’ve ever had, but the fact that there’s a story behind it makes us appreciate this casserole even more. (And it’s a heck of a lot better than plain old boiled cabbage.)