Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top Ten 2011 Recipe Experiences

Cooking was definitely the name of the game in 2011. I tried a number of new recipes, hosted a few feasting parties and generally ate quite well.  Here’s a recap of the best recipe experiences.

10. Scrambled Eggs with Spinach and Cheddar. I have no idea why I never tried this before. Thanks to Ms. O and Mr. M, I discovered the recipe and it is a new stable.

9. Homemade Ravioli Stuffed with Mushroom Spinach and Cheese. She was pretty quiet this year, but my guest blogger did bust on the scene with this pasta wonder.

8. Thai Glazed Salmon with Baby Bok Choy. Because with a dish this simple, you really don’t need to go to a restaurant.

7. Spicy Thai Cornish Hen. An impressive display when done right that will leave your guest staring in amazement.

6. Pulled BBQ Chicken. Fall off the bone good.

5. Lemon Ricotta Pancakes. Another spectacular breakfast dish from the Williams & Sonoma cookbook.

4. Catfish with Spicy Spinach and Peppers. Even with no running water in my apartment, I managed to create this meal.

3. Gnocchi. I had to pat myself on the back after I pulled this one off, although I could have done a better job with the sauce.

2. Crisp Crab Cakes. It was a big hit at Friendsgiving and will now be a staple at my dinner parties.

1. Seared Duck Breast with Chili Honey and Ginger Glaze. This was one of the restaurant quality dishes that leave me wondering if I should spend more time in the kitchen and less at the dining table.

Honorable Mention: Three Bean Slow Cooker Chicken Chili.  Anything in a slow cooker is meant to be enjoyed and this chili was no exception.

I hope you enjoyed the recipes I shared this year and that you’ll stay tuned to the 2012 dishes.  Happy New Year!!

Hungry yet? 

Top Ten 2011 Restaurant Experiences

Another fantastic year is coming to a close and I thought I should do a recap of some of the best places I’ve eaten this year.

10. Kittichai. I kicked off 2011 with this meal. While the restaurant has changed over the years, I still dig the vibe and love the food.

9. Limon San Francisco. It’s hard for me to turn down Peruvian food, especially when there’s ceviche involved, add my two favorite west coasters in the mix and you have the perfect meal.

8. good. The name says it all. Brunch is getting a bad rep these days, but it was well done at good and the price was right.

7. Sweet Life Café. I’m not a big fan of American food, but something about farm to table freshness makes it so worth it.  No wonder the President and First Lady enjoy dining at this Martha’s Vineyard restaurant.

6. Atria. Three. Pound. Lobster. What more can I say?!

5. Morso. An Italian restaurant with Mediterranean influences. Fresh dishes with big taste.

4. The Mussel Pot. A restaurant dedicated to one of my favorite ingredients.  It doesn’t hurt that their appetizers are also remarkable.

3. Miss Lily’s. Jamaican classics in a luncheonette style restaurant. Despite it’s sassy staff, the food will keep me coming back.

2. Momofuku Noodle Bar. David Chang has blown up in the last 5 years. To celebrate my birthday I enjoyed the Fried Chicken Dinner and have never looked at fried chicken the same way.

1. Matsuri. This was hands down the best meal I had this year.  For Bestie’s birthday, we had an extended dining experience at Matsuri. So many items that we just couldn’t resist trying.

Honorable Mention: Smorgasburg! Okay fine, it’s not a restaurant but WHAT AN EXPERIENCE!

Can't wait to see what 2012 holds!!

Hungry yet?

Thursday, December 29, 2011


It’s hard to break out of habits. I try to make sure I sample a new cuisine every now and then, but I don’t always do it.  Thankfully I was invited to dinner at Gazala, an Israeli Druze restaurant.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I kept an open mind.  The menu offered familiar items, but with interesting ingredient combinations.  We were told that a pie was a must have.  We ordered the Mankosha Pie.

It was a thin circle of pita dough topped with oregano, olive oil, and toasted sesame seeds.  It definitely wasn’t what I was expecting when I saw pie on the menu.  It was well seasoned but not a taste I expected. There was a dryness to the seasonings, but the olive oil prevented it from actually being dry.  When it came time to select an entrée, I attempted to order the Sautéed Shrimp.  Our waitress told me it wasn’t very good and was namely for tourists. It’s not an authentic dish.  I was taken aback by her commentary, but decided to heed her warning.  We both ordered the Whole Fish Platter.  He ordered the Branzino.

What a site to behold. Mine was about a 2 – 3 pound snapper topped with onions and parsley it had a tangy taste with higher levels of acidity than I’m used to. 

The rice was a great neutralizer.

The meal was also served with a side of salad. 

This is not your typical salad. It was a mix of corn and lettuce. It tasted fine, but was not exactly a good compliment to the other items on the table.  I wasn’t particularly interested in dessert, but given the opportunity to try something new, I figured why not.  We ordered the Osh Al-Saria.

It is described as creamy yogurt pudding prepared with oranges and rosewater.  It tasted like sweet custard.  It was good, but tasted extremely rich and sweet.  The balance was best achieved when each bite included a bit of the crumbled pistachio.

Gazala’s was a great experience. It’s always nice to try something new. The fish was well seasoned and delicious and I really enjoyed the rice.  I’m not sure what else I would order from the menu considering the waitress steered us clear of one of the items that looked good.  I encourage you to check it out yourself, after all how many Druze restaurants have you come across?

Hungry yet?

Gazala's on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Remlik's Grille & Oyster Bar

Graduation season has come and gone, but back in May I was fortunate to celebrate as Y-squared graduated from college. The two-day ceremony was worth the trip and totally brightened my weekend. We celebrated by having a post ceremony meal at one of the area's newest restaurants, Remlik's. They had a special graduation menu so unfortunately some of the delicious treats I spotted on the full menu (Seafood Fra Diavolo and Jumbo Diver Scallops, I'm talking to you) were unavailable. We made do though and still had a great time. We started with a couple of appetizers for the table. The Calamari was quite impressive.

Crispy goodness, this was actually the first time I ate the tentacles! The aioli was also quite tasty which might have been why I dared eat the tentacles.  The breadbasket arrived with warm corn bread and delicious rolls. 

The Crab Cake was even better.

No filler in this bad boy, just big huge chunks of jumbo lump crab meat. Oh man it was so good and also had a tangy coleslaw on the side. Y-squared ordered it as his entree so that meant more for me as appetizer! 

After a longer wait than I anticipated, our entrees started arriving. It was a slow process and I think there was some miscommunication in the kitchen because of the amount of time that passed between the arrival of our dishes.  I ordered the Fish & Chips.

It wasn't exactly what I expected and I had to remind myself that the Fish & Chips I ate in London will not be properly recreated at a random restaurant here. The breading was off it just didn't taste very good. No seasoning! The fish was surprisingly fresh though so I just peeled the breading and enjoyed myself. The ¼ chicken with asparagus and baked potato was also a great dish.

Considering the way white meat often disappoints, I was glad this was juicy.  The asparagus was also quite good, but of course the baked potato was boring.  The Cheese Steak was popular at our table and must have been great because there were several empty plates.

The Classic Reuben was also a hit. It’s served with either Roasted Turkey or Lean Corned Beef on Marbled Rye bread. 

My aunt tore it up and barely came up for air. The Burger was apparently similarly appetizing because there was another empty plate. 

I was a big fan of the French fries and the Sweet potato fries too. Although I don't foresee any more trips to Binghamton, locals should go check this place out. Definitely a big step up from most of the other restaurants in the area!

 Hungry yet?

Remlik's on Urbanspoon

Three Bean Slow Cooker Chicken Chili

Although winter has been slow to arrive, once the temperature drops below 50 degrees I start to bundle up.  Which also means time to make some winter recipes. Last year I was thrilled that I made turkey chili, but I really wanted to use my slow cooker.  This year, I found success with a recipe I kinda just threw together.

3 pieces skinless boneless chicken thighs
2 jalapenos chopped
1 small onion chopped
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 can red beans, rinsed and drained
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can white beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup vegetable broth
2 tsps chili powder
2 tsps cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste

Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper.  Add them to the slow cooker with the onions and jalapenos.

Next combine all the other ingredients in the slow cooker. 

Cover and cook on high for 3 hours or low for 6 hours. It will start to smell fantastic around the 2-hour mark, but don’t open it!! Trust me, it’s worth the wait!  And you thought the other chili was easy?

Hungry yet?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Morso NYC

I was invited to a press dinner at Morso a couple of weeks ago.  I immediately checked out the website and was pleased to see so many dishes I couldn’t wait to try.  As I walked down the stretch of 59th street between 1st Avenue and York, I saw a bright awning and then through the glass several pops of color – I had arrived.  Upon entering, I am greeted by a cheerful hostess. To my right I spy a long communal table that seems to be a private dining area. To the left is the main dining room.  It is well lit, and two walls are covered with 50s style pop art. I loved it!

We sat at one of the round tables that seats 4 or 5. The restaurant gives off a cool modern vibe in an effortless way.  The tasting menu looked fantastic and as soon as the first dish arrived, I started falling in love.  The Gorgonzola Fritter Salad was eye catching.

The aroma was also quite appealing.  I cut into a crispy shell and cheesy middle then took a bite.  I was slightly embarrassed at my audible moan. I just didn’t expect to enjoy it so much – after all, I generally am not a fan of too many cheeses.  The combination of gorgonzola, roasted pears, spiced walnuts and the apple cider vinaigrette was perfect.  The dish was light and I did not leave a bite on the plate.  When the Farro salad arrived, I thought I would have the same experience. 

It just didn’t do it for me. It was very hearty and grainy. The combination of roasted almonds, dried apricots, eggplant and Portobello mushrooms definitely screamed Mediterranean.  I took a few bites and my palette just didn’t appreciate the combination.  If you’re looking for a healthy and hearty starter, this is definitely your best choice. Our next dish was the Spaghetti Carbonara.

It is usually served with guanciale, but they made mine sans pork.  I almost melted eating this dish.  The pasta was al dente and the mix of eggs, pecorino and onions was incredible.  I was especially pleased because the dish was not especially creamy. It was just the right amount of creaminess built into the dish and it did not require any additional liquid.  I finished my entire plate and honestly wanted to ask for more. When I first scanned the menu, I must say the Capesante caught my eye. So imagine how delighted I was when it was on our tasting menu.

The sautéed scallops served on black rice gave me goosebumps.  The scallops were some of the best I’ve ever tasted. Perfectly caramelized on the outside and melt in your mouth good on the inside.  The black rice was an interesting accompaniment but it worked.  The limoncello sauce was subtle but definitely present.  Next up the Agnello. I debated about whether or not I would try this dish. After all, I haven’t eaten lamb in over a decade.  I decided to give it a shot.

I mean a dish that beautiful can’t be so bad, right? It definitely had Mediterranean flare since it was served with crispy eggplant & lamb roll, white beans and mint sauce.  There were also little lamb sausages in the sauce.  I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it.  The beans were exquisite and the sauce brought everything together quite nicely.  The hint of spiciness left on my tongue after every bite was the best part.  After a short break to let our stomachs rest, we were treated to a dessert trio.  At an Italian restaurant Tiramisu is always expected.

This was different than any I’ve tried. Perhaps the blood orange sauce was the difference. The tiramisu was light and not too rich. I couldn’t resist the Chocolate Cake.

It was served with Vanilla gelato which would have been a great dessert on its own.  The dessert I least expected to enjoy turned out to be my favorite.

Pistachio Cake didn’t look like much when it came out but WOW it sure did pack a punch of flavor. I think I ate more than my share.  As I was eating, I kept thinking about all the other items I saw on the menu that I wanted to try.  I decided I had to come back…and I did.  At the end of that week, we celebrated my brother’s birthday at Morso. Our server that night was a bit chatty and overly explanatory, but I tend to be impatient so I won’t hold it against him.  The chef’s amuse that night didn’t photograph well but tasted delightful.

Beets with gorgonzola cheese and a limoncello sauce.  The beets were fresh and the contrasted quite nicely with the cheese.   Mama Bear ordered the pasta special of the day.  Our server described it as quill pasta in a yellow tomato sauce.

She loved the dish! I thought it tasted incredible. I’ve never had yellow tomato sauce, but this was amazing. The pasta was also delicious.  The birthday man ordered the Gnocchi Verdi.

I had been eying this dish since I first looked at the menu.  Gnocchi is one of my favorite dishes.  This was even better because it was spinach and in chicken and rabbit ragout.  Oh la la. Spinach gnocchi?! By far the best gnocchi I’ve ever had.  The rabbit and chicken combination was also spectacular.  I could eat this dish every day and never get tired of it. Y-squared ordered the Anatra.

What a beaut! Spiced duck breast with farro, dried cranberries, roasted pears and sweet and sour pomegranate sauce. The duck was sensational.  The crispy skin on the medium well duck breast was well seasoned and reminded me why I love duck so much.  I also had a chance to sample the Pheasant which was the Caccia (game of the day). 

Oh man! I had no idea pheasant could taste so good. It was served with gnocchi and small pieces of house made lamb sausage.  I was really impressed with how many ingredients were on the plate, but it still managed to come together well.  Everyone’s entrée was fabulous.  I enjoyed it so much I almost forgot to eat my own food.  I ordered the Caccuicco, a fish stew.

This was eye catching and definitely the kind of dish I would love.  Tons of seafood in a tomato sauce.  The seafood was great, but the sauce tasted a little thin. It needed a little more body and a pinch of salt.  The desserts were a great pick up.  They brought out a beautiful Tiramisu decorated with raspberries and a candle.

The Panna Cotta was fabulous as was the Cheesecake.  

All the desserts managed to be rich and flavorful but not overwhelming.  

Since they brought these out without us asking for them, I’m not quite sure whether or not they have a dessert menu. It may just be daily specials, which worked out quite well on two occasions!

Morso truly is fabulous. It is a restaurant with sophisticated dishes with fresh ingredients.  The décor is warm and inviting. The staff was very friendly on both occasions and I look forward to returning soon.

Hungry yet?

Morso on Urbanspoon