I’d been dying to try Seersucker and figured it was a perfect time when two of my Southern friends were in town back in November.We instantly noticed that the wood pieces along the wall, mounted at a set interval, were intended to align to the ridges in seersucker fabric. Nicely done.
Occasionally, there are restaurants I’m seemingly always planning to visit that I never manage to actually visit. Char No 4’s on that short list, known for their classy American fare (with a definite hint of the South) paired with their extensive whiskey and bourbon selection. Their website actually defines the restaurant as “a whiskey bar and a restaurant inspired by a passion for bourbon”. Yes please. I finally made it there due to a special through Blackboard Eats, which entitled you to a free 2 oz. taste of one of two whiskeys (Rittenhouse Rye 100 or 4 Roses Bourbon) with the purchase of either an appetizer or entree. Deal.
On my first visit, my boyfriend and I decided to go with the fried jambalaya rice balls from the snack section of the menu, the bacon from the appetizer list, and the shrimp and grits entree. The jambalaya balls were very flavorful – slightly spicy and not overly salty. The andouille aioli served along with it was a nice touch. Note, they take the word “snack” seriously here – you’ll see that the order included three balls.
I can’t help but know I’m going to love a restaurant that has bacon as an appetizer. The bacon is house smoked and it’s a thick cut, served alongside molasses marinated grilled corn Awesome. The bacon is thick and chewy. If crispy is your preference this might not be for you.
Char No 4 – 195 Smith Street (at ) – 718.643.2106
Every year since I moved to New York, my parents drive up from Alabama for the week of Thanksgiving. One year, we tried to do the whole thing in my little place (that would be the year of the Jive Turkey fiasco – and yes, I just Google’d and somehow, they seem to still be in business) and last year, we ended up doing it out at my sister’s place. Usually my mom ends up having to do way too much work and doesn’t even get to really relax and enjoy the day, and so this year, we decided just to be all modern and go out to eat instead. We noticed last year at this time that our favorite Greek restaurant in the city, Pylos, served a prix fixe meal for Thanksgiving. At only $40 per person (not including drinks), it ended up being actually less than what we’d spent on our turkey from Hill Country plus the cost of all the sides my mom had baked that year.
They had several seatings – 4:30PM and 6:30PM (they were planning on having a 2:30PM seating only if the 4:30 filled, so not sure if that came to pass – I can say there were people in the restaurant wrapping up, so I presume they had this as well). All which was required was a credit card, on which $8 per person would be charged if you were to no-show. To start, everyone received soup – which was an acorn and butternut squash soup with honey, nutmeg, and Greek yogurt (kolokythosoupa me meli, moscocarido kai strangisto yiaourti). Anytime I’ve had butternut squash soup, I found it to be too salty and sometimes bland. The honey and nutmeg helped to balance out any saltiness, which I loved – and the yogurt made it very creamy. I’m forever spoiled now and fear I can’t have this soup elsewhere because I liked this version so much better. If you are here and they happen to serve it again, don’t pass it up. It’s worth it. [Read more…]
Back in February at Dixie’s annual birthday brunch, a friend brought vegan chocolate chip cookies. I was skeptical. I take my sweets seriously and while I’ve had vegan baked goods several times at Sticky Fingers in DC, I’ve yet to embrace the idea that I can make something in my kitchen that’s remotely edible when you eliminate everything you’ve gotta for a vegan recipe. Oh dairy! While I’m very anti-milk, I do take milk chocolate seriously. However, I was totally blown away by these cookies. I couldn’t stop eating them, even though there was this glorious king cake, homemade donuts, baked brie, you name it to fight with them for prized stomach space.
I finally asked for the recipe to try them myself. I’ve baked something vegan once before (thesevegan protein bars). While I definitely do not follow a vegan diet, I’m not opposed to trying out new things and, having tasted these first-hand, I knew they were worth the new ingredients for my fridge. So my vegan friends, the “tree hugger” in the title of this post is definitely filled with love. I figured my trapeze class last night was a perfect time to try them out. It made enough for an army, so I brought the leftovers into work – where they’ve been met by rave reviews. My friend got the recipe from The Joy of Vegan Baking and it requires only a few ingredients you may not have in your kitchen (of course in case you happen to be vegan!).
- 4 1/2 teaspoons Ener-G Egg Replacer (equivalent to 3 eggs)
- 6 tablespoons of water
- 1 cup non-hydrogenated, non-dairy butter, softened
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar (I opted light)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 to 2 cups nondairy semisweet chocolate chips (I, naturally, opted for 2 cups)
- 1 cup chopped nuts (optional – I opted out)
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. I used a nonstick cookie sheet.
- In a blender or food processor, mix the egg replacer and water together until it’s creamy. I actually used the mixer for this in a smaller bowl, since you’ll ultimately pour this in with other ingredients.
- In a large bowl, cream the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla. Add the egg replacer mixture to this wet mixture, and thoroughly combine.
- In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt.
- Gradually beat the flour mixture into the wet mixture until it begins to form a dough. When it’s almost thoroughly combined, stir in the chocolate chips and nuts (if using).
- Bake on the cookie sheet for 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Mine took the 10 minutes and I was careful not to burn them, as I wanted them just barely done and still very chewy.
The recipe claims it yields a dozen, which might be true if you were going for Great American Cookie Company ginormous style. I’d say mine made close to three dozen! Plenty for any event or just to much on. Try them. You won’t believe they’re vegan.
Added bonus? No eggs! Means no salmonella… means eat all the batter you want! Win all around.
(Again just to note, the title is not meant as an offensive slight to vegans. It’s actually more in line with my old school thoughts on such things. In Alabama, there aren’t exactly a ton of options for someone pursuing such an extreme diet. That’s one of the things I love about NYC. You can find it all here, whatever your diet may be. But it’s this old association which leads me to want to end with this graphic… m’kay?)
I would’ve sworn there was a Taste of 7th Street last year that I missed. Apparently not though, as this year was touted as the first. Running for a full weekend from February 27th through 28th, you even had the option of spreading out the bites between two days if you preferred. Scheduling conflicts though made it so it was a one day eating frenzy – though totally doable. The purchase was coordinated via ScooopSt, a site which sends out specials in the NY area on a daily basis, ranging from food deals to health and beauty discounts. Very handy. For an $18 pricetag, we were able to get $35 worth of food at five different 7th Street restaurants between Avenue A and First Avenue.
We started off at Caracas Arepas Bar, a spot I’ve visited one other time for a full dinner which I found very reasonably priced and the food well done. Last time I was there, I tried one arepa with chicken and chorizo (always yummy) as well as one more exotic involving shark (not a big fan of shark – too fishy fishy). This time though it was the Arepa De Pabellón, an arepa of shredded beef, black beans, white salty cheese and sweet plantains. When we arrived, the to-go section of the restaurant was jam packed with people waiting to get their taste. The manager was seeing if people wanted to go next door to the sit down portion of the restaurant and sit down. Would we? Why yes please.
Sitting down at the bar proved to be prime seating for watching the kitchen staff make the arepas. I watch them roll their hands into the big plastic bins of cornmeal, roll it into a ball, and then flatten it out to make the arepa. If you’ve never had an arepa, they’re kind of like a doughier version (much more so) of a tortilla. Here’s how Caracas explains it. If you’ve never had one, highly recommend giving them a taste. Very unique! I’m usually averse to ordering anything involving beans, but in the spirit of the festival, I gave it a go. And I was happy I did so. It was very good. I’ve never had plantains in a sandwich like that, and it was just a subtle sweet addition. I’m not sure what sort of cheese was the white salty cheese, but it definitely was salty and an excellent choice. Highly recommend.
Next up was Luke’s Lobster, a small standing room only dining area lobster spot just east from Caracas’ location. I’ve been wanting to try Luke’s for ages, but lost a little bit of motivation with the cooler temps. They offer two sizes of lobster rolls – one is the larger, more standard size for $14 or they also have a smaller version for $8, which was the size we received. I was pleased to see a generous helping of lobster on top of some fresh buttery bread. Mmmm. I’m not sure what the “secret spices” were in the plastic claw salt & pepper shaker, but it made for a nice addition into the mix. Not a big fan of mayo, I appreciated their lobster roll didn’t rely on the mayo to add much into the equation. It was more of an afterthought, leaving the focus where it should be – on the lobster. They also offer crab and shrimp rolls. The owner, Luke Holden, is from Maine. I think it comes through clearly with the roll that he knows his lobster. Worth cramming into the window to try … or toting home as well. Check them out on Twitter too – they post specials there. Worth keeping an eye open!
Similar to Luke’s, I knew Porchetta was primarily a grab and go kind of spot, not something I’m usually drawn to in the winter. So I was really looking forward to seeing what they had. When we walked in, there were no ifs about their focus. Pork. And in a serious way. It smelled amazing and we were greeted with one of the most sincere people I’ve encountered in food service in a long time. There they were serving up their pork sandwich, usually $10 solo so thrown into the mix for the Taste of 7th Street was a steal. I’m not a huge pork afficionado, though being from the South I’ve been known to put away lots of bacon in my time. However, this was just completely different from anything else I have ever tried. It was done perfectly – not too dry and not too salty. They define this preparation on their website as “roasted pork with crispy skin, highly seasoned with aromatic herbs and spices, garlic, sage, rosemary, and wild fennel pollen”. They equate it to “slow cooked Italian fast food”. I like that. The rosemary seasoning definitely was the predominate flavor present, but I really liked it. Again, very different.
Then we entered into the realm of the sweets. First up was Xoom, a new(ish) juice bar in that magical 7th street block. Apparently they’ve been there since Spring 2009. I’m not sure where my eyesight has been. Their operations were nice and bright and I loved that the smoothie I selected, the Paint it Blackberry (guava juice, mangoes, blackberries), was sweet yet not overwhelmingly so. I’ve stopped doing smoothies at the likes of Jamba Juice since it’s just like sugar in a cup in favor of doing them right at home. It was nice to see a place doing really good smoothies. Bravo. They boast no sherbet, no sorbet, no ice cream, no high fructose corn syrup, or anything to artificially flavor the smoothies. They also will include in what they call “xoomers” with a full range of “purposes” from cold fighting to hangover curing. Only downside this February afternoon was I was chilled straight to the bone after the smoothie. I’ll have to head back when it’s warmer to try one again!
To cap it all off, we headed over to my favorite cupcake spot, Butter Lane, where we were able to pick out not one but TWO cupcakes! I had to try at least one new personal flavor, so I went with their newer icing addition, cherry, on a chocolate cupcake. Very good! And I went with a more basic selection, raspberry icing on vanilla. Perfect way to round out a chilly afternoon of indulgent eating over on East 7th. If you weren’t able to make it out, I recommend checking it out next year. Or just stopping by some of these spots. There are other places along that block as well that are excellent, even though a bit pricey to be included in on this special. Pylos is currently my favorite Greek restaurant in the city. And the Bourgeois Pig is my favorite fondue and a perfect date spot (even if my only date there has ever been my mom). Thanks to ScoopSt and the restaurants who participated!
I’d been wanting to take some cooking classes. I’ve been looking for a few weeks and surveying some friends. I’ve got one friend who attended the French Culinary Institute and another who did the full program at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE), but I was looking for something a bit more simplistic. I vowed only to invest in classes for things I either (1) loved or (2) couldn’t figure out on my own. When I saw Butter Lane’s “Better Cupcake” class at the Bowery Culinary Center through Whole Foods, it was a no brainer since it was both. If you haven’t caught it over time, I absolutely love these cupcakes.
I’d never taken a class at Whole Foods. They actually have a nice selection of offerings, even including hosting Zach of Midtown Lunch for a piece on food blogging. The space was just massive for someone who has zero kitchen space. I was actually waitlisted for the class, so I totally lucked into getting to stay. Well, that and it was freezing outside and raining. Always helps. All of the appliances and space though have me forever spoiled. I am still trying to figure out how I could squeeze this in my apartment. [Read more…]
I went a little pumpkin crazy and so I looked in my pantry to see I’d bought a total of four cans of pumpkin. I started to look through recipe for something that was not dessert which contained pumpkin. When I came across recipes for pumpkin turkey chili, I was intrigued. I loved the pumpkin hummus, and hummus isn’t something you would typically think to pair with something slightly sweet like pumpkin. Between the two recipes, I went through another two cans of pumpkin.
I started off with a simple recipe for pumpkin cornbread. This was so ridiculously easy. I’m already planning to make this to contribute to Thanksgiving, when my parents come up from Alabama and we all squeeze in and do Thankgsiving sans dining table (or a table at all actually). For this one, I just had to pick up some cornmeal and I was set. I made this without the pecans, as I wasn’t sure how much the walnuts I had would change up the mix. I also used egg beaters, which came out just fine. These are also just the right amount of sweet for you to get away with serving them for breakfast, so none will go to waste even if you’re dealing with a lot of leftovers.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs, well beaten
- 1 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
- 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans (optional)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Stir flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Then make a well in the center for the egg mixture. Stir together the eggs, pumpkin, sugar, and oil, and pour this into the large bowl. Stir just until blended. Add pecans (optional). Bake in preheated oven for 15 to 18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.
For the turkey pumpkin chili recipe, I opted to use my big spaghetti pot. The lid I had didn’t actually fully cover it, so I was worried it might not cook as well. Thankfully no issues. The only problem I had on this one was I kept losing stray pieces of the yellow and green peppers to the floor, which would be subsequently inhaled by Miss Dixie. I really liked that AllRecipes even included in a recommendation as to wine pairing along with each recipe. Their recommendation for Red Zinfandel was an excellent match. I’d see a Syrah being suitable as well, although hard to go wrong with a good Zin in my book.
This made quite a lot of chili for one person. I confirmed today that at least it does reheat well, which is very important. As I’ve found is often the case with turkey, it might could use a tad more seasoning. I’d be curious to try the recipe again and include in just a tad more chili powder. I’d never had sour cream as a garnish for chili, but I have to admit it was quite good. I also think the shredded cheddar is a must have. Sadly I forgot this part when bringing in the leftovers today and learned that is definitely the case!
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
- 1/2 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 pound ground turkey
- 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 2 cups pumpkin puree
- 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 dash salt
- 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup sour cream
Warm oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion, peppers, and garlic until slightly tender. Stir in turkey and cook until slightly brown throughout. Drain and and mix in canned tomatoes and pumpkin, adding the seasonings (chili powder, pepper, salt). Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 20 minutes. Garnish with cheese and sour cream.
The two served to compliment each other quite nicely. Not too pumpkin-y in the end. I’d highly recommend this very easy meal for a simple seasonal variation on a nice staple for cooler weather. After this, I might take a mini hiatus from cooking all things pumpkin. Maybe…
It’s been getting cooler (except for our random 2 day “heat spell” here in NYC) and for me, that means college football (go SEC!), leaves changing colors, and oh yes, the arrival of fall foods. It’s time for pumpkin, for apple, for cider, and oh yes, sausage balls!
I’ve posted the recipe before as it’s one of my all-time faves, but I realized I actually forgot one of the key ingredients. The other post also didn’t have photos. I’m not sure about you, but it drives me nuts when there’s not a visual to accompany a recipe in a cookbook. Sausage balls are the easiest thing in the world. They might be messy to make, but that’s the most painful part of them. All you need are the four ingredients and a little bit of patience for the mashing process. [Read more…]
Doodley doo… my phrase of the night. And meanwhile, it’s been a day allllll about food. Oh so much food. I’m sitting here typing away in a food coma, after just having watched bits and pieces of “American Idol”. It may never happen again (Paula, you are officially a nut job – not that there’s anyone out there claiming to be on the other side of that opinion fence). Anyhow, more later on my dining experience, but I’ll instead focus on the important thing: dessert (clearly).
Isn’t this a lovely welcoming scene? And it’s definitely an equation I agree with. :nods: [Read more…]