Category Archives: Guest Blogger

NYC: Bubby’s & The Standard Grill

Spent the morning at 59th and Lex, also known as Bloomingdale’s. After a productive spree, I headed back to the Meat Packing District to meet up with Rob and grab lunch at Bubby’s, a short walk from our hotel, The Standard.Bubbie's 003

Bubby’s, a scratch kitchen, immediately comfy with wood tables and chairs, exposed brick,  a well stocked bar and lots of natural light, also houses an old school soda fountain. This is our chance to try an honest to goodness egg cream. They serve chocolate and vanilla. We opt for chocolate to share. An egg cream consists of chocolate syrup. soda water and milk. The drink, much lighter in texture than a milk shake and less sweet, is quite nice and refreshing. You can really taste the soda water.

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For lunch we both ordered the Portland fried chicken and biscuit sandwich, two Ommegang Witte wheat beers and sides of coleslaw, mac and cheese and baked beans. The chicken, crispy and not greasy, I find a tad salty. This sandwich is served with honey mustard and chopped mustard greens. The greens are a revelation, great texture, mildly bitter, they really complement the chicken. The biscuit is decent but a little tough on the bottom. We got a choice of two sides and opted for a third. The sides are not overly large but perfect for two to share. Coleslaw is creamy and unremarkable, baked beans are sweet, smoky and have a nice heat, mac and cheese is excellent, cheesy but not gloppy.

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Tonight, our final night in New York, we are having dinner at the highly recommended Standard Grill which is attached to our hotel. The Grill exudes old world ambiance with some art deco features. The flooring is a lovely, warm copper penny tile.

We get settled into a red leather, tufted booth and peruse the updated classic menu. Radishes and chunks of Parmesan cheese are delivered to the table.  Salty and sharp, they compliment pretty much any cocktail. Bread and butter arrive, the bread in a paper sack. They take bread seriously here and the three small baguettes are salted and perfectly chewy.

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We decide on a dozen oysters from the raw bar. I order a Jackie 60 — mezcal, Grand Marnier, agave, lime and smoked sea salt rim. Rob orders a Continental Drift — reposado tequilla, lime, agave, curried mango and smoked sea salt.  Our oysters arrive, perfectly shucked and  accompanied by a well made red wine vinegar mignonette. I swallow one sweet, briney oyster and wash it down with the mezcal cocktail. What an amazing combination!  The smokey lime cocktail is the best thing I have ever paired an oyster with. Wow. Must duplicate these flavors at home.

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For starters we are splitting the iceberg wedge salad. It arrives on two plates and I explain to the waiter that we ordered only one to share. He assures me this is one order that they shared on two plates. This would be a massive serving for one. The lettuce is chilled and perfectly crisp. It is generously but not over sauced in a buttermilk dressing and topped with crispy bacon, fried shallots, mild blue cheese and dried cherries. A truly delectable salad.

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As we sip a nice Napa cab our mains arrive, medium rare strip steaks with chimmichuri sauce. Sides are separate. We chose the creamy spinach, crisp potatoes and the One Good Pickle that Rob insisted on. Our steaks are grilled a perfect medium rare. The chimmichuri sauce is excellent but spare. I would have preferred some on the side. Rob disagrees and thinks the amount is perfect and allows the steak to shine. He is wrong as usual.

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The crisp potatoes are just that. The pickle is young. crisp, tasty and not too salty. The creamy spinach is delicious. The green taste is slightly garlicky and nicely creamy.

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Dessert is offered and the menu is interesting. I am interested in the Wake and Bake, warm chocolate cookies with milk or the rhubarb crostata. They also offer a slice of birthday cake. Very nice. Unfortunately we are too full to be tempted and finish our meal with very excellent cappuccinos served with a square of very good dark chocolate.

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The Standard Grill offers superb fare with attentive table service. The washrooms are notable. The men’s and ladies’ are separated by a see through chain curtain and may as well be together. It is easy to miss the male and female silhouettes on the floor directing you to your gender side. You come out and wash up in a trough together. There is a a single male attendant who seems to spend all his time on the ladies’ side. This is disconcerting as the stalls are open below and their is a one inch gap between the door and the side of the stall. Just weird. An experiment, I guess but it’s just wrong.

 

 

RT6: Lake Placid Last Stop

Left Saratoga yesterday for Lake Placid, a two hour drive thru soft pine forests giving way to deciduous hills. This area will be in spectacular colour in 8 weeks. Soon we see the Adirondacks rise on the horizon and then the clouds break. The rains are quit heavy and the views are obscured. Driving is physical though the windy wet roads.

We are glad to pull into Lake Placid, the last stop on this road trip. As is traditional, we generally choose a well-appointed resort to relax for 2 days before heading back home to real life.This time we are staying at The Whiteface Lodge and Spa. We have a beautiful suite featuring a private balcony and a view of the Adirondack Mountains.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday and today we spent a little time poking about shops downtown by picturesque Mirror Lake.

The Lodge has a very nice restaurant and lounge and we are relaxing and eating here for our stay. Thanks for tagging along. Home tomorrow.

Easiest Potluck Dish That Wows

Easy Potluck RecipeIf you’re like me and don’t have any money/quiver in terror at the thought of having to prepare a dish for other people (except for your boyfriend who has to eat what you make before he goes to work in the evenings or he starves), this dish is perfect for you. So, you can relax and focus on what’s really important: Removing things in your medicine cabinet because you know your friends are snoopy.

I make this side dish every time we host a medium-to-large dinner party or holiday dinner in our apartment. It doesn’t take long, which is always nice when oven space is at a premium. It’s generally really cheap to make, tastes delicious and is subject to oohs and aahs when unveiled to a crowd.

I stole this recipe from my boyfriend’s mom. She makes it on similar occasions, but she puts carrots in it too. I skip the carrots because then there’s room for more cheese. It has no name, other than that “cheesy broccoli thing”, but my friends have tried to make “Pillsbury broccoli delight” catch on.

This is a perfect potluck side dish as well. I made this for my very first potluck and it turned out great, although while it was baking I made a frantic phone call to my parents asking what the general potluck etiquette was when it came to getting your dish back because my dishware was new at the time and I wanted it back. My mom assured me when I was leaving the host would wash it for me and give it back, which is exactly what happened. Phew. She also suggested adding pretty shapes.

Easy Potluck Recipe
"Does this mean you're going out tonight?"

You’ll need:

Baking dish (red Kitchen-aid dishware is the most impressive)
Cooking spray
3 tubes of Pillsbury Crescent Rolls (keep each of these in the fridge until the last second. This means when the recipe calls for one tube, you go get one tube out of the fridge and leave the rest in there or it will be a big sticky mess)
1 block (the big package!) of cheddar cheese, the older or sharper the better, grated
2-3 big heads of fresh broccoli, chopped into pieces
Parchment paper
Cookie cutters

And it goes like this:

1. Lube up the baking dish with a thin layer of cooking spray, paying extra special attention to the corners and the sides.

2. Spread one tube of crescent roll dough across the bottom of the dish, and squish together the little dotted lines on the dough with your fingers.

3. Bake this layer for 8-10 minutes or so at about 350, until reasonably cooked.

Easy Potluck Recipe
The first layer, baked in advance. If you're not pressed for time, you can skip this step, but it is difficult to discern whether or not the bottom layer is truly cooked once it is all constructed.

4. Cover the first layer of cooked dough with broccoli pieces.

Easy Potluck Recipe
The broccoli layer. This is the coverage you should be striving for.

5. Spread the cheese over the broccoli, filling up all of the nooks and crannies (especially the crannies).

Easy Potluck Recipe
The cheese layer. Crannies: filled.

6. Cover with another tube of crescent roll dough, stretching it out as much as possible to cover all of the broccoli and cheese. Pinch the seams in the dough together with your fingers.

Easy Potluck Recipe
Do your best, those Pillsbury crescent roll seams are tricky.

Here’s where we get fancy! I’ve served this plenty of times without the shapes on top, but I don’t think I’ll do it any other way after doing it with the shapes the last time.

7. Lay out a sheet of parchment paper and lightly spray it with cooking spray.

8. Roll out the last tube of dough onto the parchment paper. Pinch together the seams yet again to make one smooth sheet of dough.

9. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters and place them on the dish.

Easy Potluck Recipe
I only have Christmas cookie cutters, and the only other shapes were snowmen and candy canes. I didn't think they would come off well.

 

 

 

You cannot ball up this dough and roll it out again, it just doesn’t work no matter what you do. Do you see the tiny, mangled, ugly star in the bottom right-hand corner up there? That’s what happens when you try to recycle the dough. Just never try. Maximize the amount of shapes you can make to the best of your ability.

Bake the entire thing as long as you can in the middle of the oven at about 350. You need to keep it in the oven a while to make sure the broccoli cooks and the cheese melts, but you don’t want to burn the top dough layer. I’ve found it usually takes between 15-20 minutes, but if your dough layer isn’t too brown yet – keep going. If you didn’t bake the bottom layer first, you need to keep it in the oven until the top layer just can’t take it anymore.

10. Impress your friends! Also, you can add shredded chicken and make it a meal.

Easy Potluck Recipe
BOOM. Tastes even better the next day as leftovers!

 

How To Make Your Own Sushi For Fun And Profit

Sushi is delicious. It’s a popular take-out item, but it can be made at home much more easily than you think. To get real specific, “sushi” only refers to the vinegared rice found in various applications from nigiri (fish on top of rice) to maki (rolls of rice with stuff). Technically, this is Makizushi or “maki”.

Along with the following food items, you will also require a sushi rolling mat (or a bamboo placemat from the dollar store) and some plastic wrap.

Make your own sushi ingredients
Ingredients.

Mandatory sushi ingredients:

  • Sushi rice

Sometimes sold as sticky rice or calrose rice… if there’s a picture of a sushi roll on the package you are probably good to go. Cook it in a rice cooker, let it cool.

  • Nori

Nori are dried seaweed sheets. For some reason I thought you had to soak them in advance or something in order to transform them from delicate, dried crunchy pieces of mermaid-tail coloured paper into the soft, stretchy sushi coating we all know and love, but you don’t – the humidity from the rice takes care of all of that.

  • Rice vinegar
  • A couple spoonfuls of white granulated sugar

Our optional sushi ingredients:

  • Cucumber
  • “Crab”

Spicy mayo:How to make your own sushi

Hold on to your butts, because I am about to significantly improve your life. Spicy mayo, found on many delicious sushi roll varieties, is nothing more than mayonnaise mixed with Sriracha chill sauce. You’re welcome. Now you have the most delicious condiment for dipping, to spread on sandwiches and more. You’re not eating straight mayo, it’s an exotic treat!

How to make your own sushiCrushed Nacho Cheese Doritos

The restaurant that awakened my desire for sushi, Kinki in Ottawa, has a roll with crunchy stuff in it that appears to be crisped rice mixed with Dorito cheese. It’s probably not exactly that, but it totally tastes like it. Here we have cleverly skipped a step and simply crushed Doritos. Get a little crazy and go with extra spicy if you so desire.

The Steps:

1. Dissolve the sugar and vinegar together on the stove and allow this to cool before adding it to your rice. Mix well. Almost immediately, the rice will unstick itself and you will panic as it takes on the appearance of plain white rice – fear not, for this is only a disguise. If you let it sit for a moment it will recombobulate itself back into sticky rice.

 How to make your own sushi
Sushi rice.

2. Place the bamboo mat on a firm surface and have a bowl of warm water and a stiff spatula handy.

3. Place a sheet of plastic wrap over the bamboo mat. This is supposed to make it easier to form the sushi roll, but I find it gets in the way sometimes. You will have to find the best way for yourself.

4. Place the nori rough side up (it has a rough side and a shiny side) and gently spread the rice on it using the spatula. Wet the spatula in the water periodically to make this easier – but overall, this is the hardest part. Cram the rice onto the nori in a thin but tightly-adhered layer using the spatula, dipping it in the warm water to help it slide along the rice. Iron Chef Morimoto can do this simply with his wet hands at ninja speed, but we are lesser beings. Keep the rice layer only about 1/4 to 1/2 an inch thick – the thicker this layer, the bigger the rolls will be. You will need less rice than you think.

How to make your own sushi
Nori, rough side up and shiny side down.
How to make your own sushi
Rice on the nori! Nori tears easily so do this gently.

5. Place your ingredients on the sushi in a straight line on the end of the nori that is closest to you.

How to make your own sushi
Ingredients should be chopped into "stick" shape.
How to make your own sushi
Keep the ingredients somewhat compact and make sure each ingredient is placed throughout the length of the nori.

6. Use the bamboo mat to fold the nori over the ingredients and roll it up with your hands, keeping it tightly compacted.

How to make your own sushi
Folded over.
How to make your own sushi
Complete!

7. Chill the sushi in the fridge for about 30 minutes or so. I made this step up, I don’t know if you need to. It makes it easier to cut.

8. Slice the sushi!

9. ????

10. Profit!

How to make your own sushi
Enjoy!

Guest contributor Heather Rose is a freelance writer living in Toronto with her puppy, Bodie and boyfriend, Matt, one of whom enjoys her culinary experiments more than the other. She applies her life-long philosophy – “I did my best” – to all her recipes and cooking experiences.

Holiday Treats: 2 Family Faves

Chocolate Truffle Mice 

My mom used to make these chocolate truffle mice every Christmas. When other kids brought in cookies or bar desserts their moms made during our elementary school Christmas parties, I brought these mice. Santa may have even been left a few mice on more than one occasion. This recipe and the recipe below, candied orange peels, are in the notebook my mom passed onto me.

Adult me is wondering how kid me did not appreciate “gooey pizza muffins”.

As an aside, this notebook is the first thing I will grab if there’s ever a fire. It’s full of clippings from magazines and newspapers my mom stuck in a huge spiral-bound notebook. There’s notes all throughout, “excellent”, “not great”, “Heather loves these” and lots of these recipes I remember my mom making growing up.

Chocolate Truffle Mice (Canadian Living Magazine)

4 ounces/squares of semi-sweet baking chocolate
1/3 cup sour cream
1 cup chocolate wafer crumbs (or Oreo baking crumbs… But if you grind up the cookies yourself, about 30 cookies.)
1/3 cup more crumbs for later (or you can use icing sugar or sprinkles… But be warned, icing sugar will make your little mice disturbingly realistic)
Dragees
Almond slivers or flakes
Licorice for tails

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler, then remove it from the heat. Mix in sour cream, and then the cookie crumbs. Park it in the fridge to cool for about an hour.

Roll about a tablespoon’s worth of truffle into a ball, and then shape the ball to have a little point at the end for the mouse’s nose. Coat the truffle in more cookie crumbs.

You can then decorate with dragees (silver balls) for eyes, almond slivers for ears and licorice strings for tails. Do not be surprised if once everyone is done eating them, you are left with a plate of disembodied tails.

Candied Orange Peels

I’ve been making the candied orange peels on my own for the past three or four Christmases. Matt’s mom showed me a recipe in a magazine for candied orange slices, not peels. I thought this was really interesting and I am going to do both peels and slices during this run.

One interesting note is that the recipe for peels is done in two stages: first, you boil the peels in water for 15 minutes to remove the bitterness, then simmer them in sugar syrup until they are candied. For the slices, all the recipes I have found skip that first step. In addition, the peels use sugar and corn syrup, while the slices do not use corn syrup, but simply a 2:3 water to sugar ratio.

I’ve experimented with this recipe, and the only other citrus fruit that holds up well to the process is grapefruit, which still retains its distinct grapefruit flavour. Lemon and lime peels seem too thin and turn out crunchy and burnt-tasting.

The chocolate dipping is what I added to this recipe. Dark chocolate tastes really good, but semi-sweet chocolate chips are easier to eat out of the freezer when no one is looking.

This recipe is from Family Circle, December 1989.

Candied Orange Peels

2 to 3 lbs of navel oranges, or about 8 oranges.
3/4 cup of water
2 cups of sugar, with extra for rolling the peels in
2 tablespoons of corn syrup

Remove the peel from the oranges. I’ve found cutting them into quarters and scooping out the flesh works best, but if you intend on eating the leftovers later you will be left with a pile of mush. I always intend to eat the oranges, but never do. This is why I am excited about trying slices this time around, because there is less waste.

Boil the orange peels in a pot of water for about 15 minutes, drain.

Boil sugar, 3/4 cup of water and corn syrup, add the orange peels and simmer for about 35-55 minutes or until translucent. Do not burn it, or your pot will never be the same again. In addition if you burn the syrup, your peels will taste burnt and be crunchy even if they don’t look burnt.

After the peels are simmered, they are left to cool/dry before rolling them in sugar. They are supposed to be rolled in sugar when they’re just “tacky”, but I have found if you roll them when too dry the sugar won’t stick, but if you roll them just before the tacky stage the sugar is absorbed because of the moisture and the peels stay… Juicy.

I found the slices difficult to candy evenly, as they float. And, the more you push ’em back into their syrup, the more they fall apart. But if you cover them with enough chocolate it doesn’t really matter 🙂

Enjoy!