Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Meet & Eat with Serious Eats

Just a little shout out if you happen to be intrigued by the news that I am currently interning with Serious Eats.  I am incredibly excited to be a part of this amazing food dream team.  And especially excited to connect with all the readers and glean whatever I can from them.  That's what I love so much about social networking - it allows us to expand our circle of friends.  And in this case, expand our bellies with fantastic new recipes and restaurants.

Anyways, I've said my piece.  I'm relying on everyone out there to send me their thoughts.  Where should I eat while I'm out in New York?  And you're welcome to send me suggestions for other places because I do love to travel.  Also, I do love to cook so I would appreciate recipes as well.

Thanks again everyone!  Here's a link to my Serious Eats "Meet & Eat."


New York Travels: Artichoke, Canal Seafood Restaurant, and Duane Reade Chocolate Chip Cookies

I know the reason you're reading this.  You're dying to know how amazing Duane Reade's chocolate chip cookies are, right?  I mean, who hasn't heard of this wonder and wished that they could only be so fortunate as to live near a Duane Reade.  Well, my friends, I am here to save the day.  But first, I just have to get the other minor reviews out of the way.

I have officially begun my internship at Serious Eats and will be assisting them in their community relations and social media marketing efforts.  I am extremely blessed and can't imagine a better job than to make a living eating and talking about eating.  My temporary home is near Gramercy Park which is conveniently situated smack dab in the middle of happy taste bud town.

Case in point.  I was walking to the local CVS and then on to the Verizon Store (so I could get ripped off) when I happened upon Artichoke.  I remembered seeing positive reviews on  Slice and I was hungry (when am I not?) so I decided to step in.  Don't ask me why I thought burning hot pizza sounded good when it was 97 degrees and 99% humidity.  Other people in New York were doing this...

Anyway, I strolled into Artichoke and looked at the menu which consisted of four items:  Margherita, Clam, Artichoke, Sicilian.  I went with the Margherita.  Classic and hard to screw up (although it's possible.)

Here's what it looked like when they handed it to me.

You can tell by the ooziness of the cheese that it's really, really hot.  And indeed, it was.  I burnt my poor tongue and roof of my mouth when I tested the tip to see if I could dive in.  Darnit, I hate having to wait for it to cool when I know it's good!  In the meantime, here was the pizza upskirt.

And then the eating began.  I was really impatient.  The small, volcanically hot bite I had was too much to resist for much longer.  I dove in as carefully as I possibly could.  Mmmmm.  The sauce is fantastic.  It tastes incredibly fresh and is neither too sweet nor too savory as some can be.  And the cheese, well it was fantastico.  It looks a little different - you can see it breaking up in this pictures after I'd had a few...

You know, posting to blogs can be really painful sometimes.  I'm looking at these pictures and now I really need to walk down my five flights of stairs (did I mention I moved into a 5th floor walk up?  I decided I needed it to balance the eating), and then walk a few more blocks over to Artichoke.  The cheese also lived up to its fame.  Salty, chewy, and softly stringy.  And the fresh basil?  Well, that just put it over the top for me.  Sauce, cheese, and basil - win, win, and win.  Unfortunately, the crust was a fail.  It was exceptionally crisp which I wouldn't say is a bad thing.  However, I being a crust person, did not even eat my crust.  It was too thick, too dense, and overcooked.  Maybe a fluke.  I'll have to test it out to see.  Even if it's not I'd still return for the three wins.

So today after work, I decided to take a jaunt down to Chinatown.  It only made sense that I get some Chinese food while I was down there, right?  Especially because I needed to be fed in order to make it home.  So I wandered around and looked for a spot that looked like it was filled with Chinese people.  This place seemed to fit the bill:

And actually, the fact that this was hanging in the window helped convince me.

They also had roasted pig heads and duck heads inside that were popular items.  I decided to spare you the picture in case you have a delicate constitution.  The menu and signs in the restaurant were pretty much all in Chinese which is lovely in terms of decor but unhelpful if you are ignorant in this language.  Fortunately, they also had an English menu.

Not wanting to hold the line up, I ordered based off of the pictures I'd seen outside.  Boring, I know.  Sesame chicken, pork dumplings, and a Diet Coke.  After ten minutes of waiting and head chopping viewing, I picked up my order, hopped on the subway, and then hoofed it up to the 5th floor.  Why did I think the 5th floor walk up was a good idea again?

Here are my unwrapped goods:

I'm not even going to go into detail.  It was not good.  I should have walked the three extra blocks to a restaurant I knew was good.  Ten bucks down the toilet.  Well, actually, in the garbage.  I'll give them a little wiggle room for the fact that I had to schlep it back to my place before eating.  But I'm pretty sure that doesn't fully cover them.

Looks arent' everything.  
Looks can be deceiving.  This chicken looks good, right?  Nope.  It wasn't crispy but a bit gooey.  It required more sesame seeds in my opinion.  And as much as it pains me to say this, Panda Express makes better food than this.

As for my beautiful dumplings?  I've never truly had a dumpling I wouldn't eat.  Until today.  They were thick, dry, and just not good.  I'm so sad.  How do you screw this up?  I couldn't figure it out.  I tried to taste different ones at least in hopes that I'd figure out what went wrong.  I guess I'd have to watch their process.  Either way, they went in the trash.

And now for the piece de resistance - and what you really came here for.

'cause grandma's stuck in traffic

I'll be honest.  I bought these mostly for the packaging.  I thought the quote was hilarious, "cause grandma's stuck in traffic."  Also, the coloring looked such that maybe they really would taste buttery, chewy, and homemade.  My grandma didn't bake chocolate chip cookies so I had to rely on my assumptions here.  
The cookies were indeed soft and chewy.

But, ehhhh (insert buzzer noise) on the grandma reference.  These cookies tasted in no way homemade.  Less chemically than Nabisco's Chewy Chips Ahoy but other than that pretty similar.

I didn't care tonight.  After the Chinatown upset, I needed chocolate.

There's always tomorrow.  Which reminds me, where do you think I should eat?

Artichoke Basille’s Pizza & Brewery on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Easy Sunday Dinners: Chicken Enchiladas - Guaranteed to Satisfy Your Pickiest Eater or Critic

Looking for another easy Sunday dinner?  What can I say?  I like simplicity.  Call it laziness, call it a lack of time - you can put whatever word to it you'd like.

I started making these chicken enchiladas ten years ago.  I don't remember how they came about but I had a college roommate from Namibia who became obsessed with them and implored me to make them at least once a week for her.  Some foods have the ability to not be bound by culture.  There is a universal comfort to be found in this dish.  Probably something to do with all the cream and carbs.  The best thing about this dish is that it is totally customizable for picky eaters.  I've never had a single picky eater turn their nose up at this dish and my husband, who doesn't eat leftovers, always happily eats these two days later.

Okay, ready?  Now, this is by no means gourmet, so if you're going to judge, judge now.  However, it is a cheap meal, an easy meal, and a delicious meal.  This is one of those meals that when you bite into it, you're transformed to a warm, happy place where you're stresses and troubles are temporarily drowned.

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Get out your basics:

Here's your "need" list:

6 tortillas (I used burrito size but you can use whatever you have)
2-4 cups shredded cheese
2 cans cream of chicken soup
2 cups milk or cream
1 can diced green chiles
2 tbsp olive oil
4 chicken breasts
salt & pepper

You can also add:
1 clove garlic
1 chopped red or green pepper
cayenne pepper
whatever else floats your boat

 Chop the chicken breasts into small pieces.  In your pan, add a couple tablespoons of olive oil, the chicken, and the can of green chiles.

 Cook on medium until the chicken is cooked through.  This time I also chose to add a crushed clove of garlic.

Add one can of cream of chicken and some milk.  I don't actually measure the milk - I just add however much I think looks right.  If you want thicker enchiladas you'll limit your milk.  I probably add around a cup or a cup and a half this round.  Add salt and pepper to taste - I also tossed in a little cayenne as well. Let it simmer until creamy and evenly mixed.

Now you're ready to assemble.  Take a 9X13 baking dish and spray with with non-stick cooking spray.  Take out your first tortilla and lay a large scoop of your creamy chicken smack dab on top of that tortilla.  You can add cheese inside if you want them super cheesy.  I opted out this time.  Then roll, baby, roll.

Roll six times - or however many times you feel like.  You can adjust your tortilla/filling ratio according to your own desire.

 Now take your second can of cream of chicken and your remaining milk/cream and heat over the stove using the same pan from  before (so you can use any remaining goodness).   Once this is heated evenly, dump it on top of the tortillas and schmear to even it out.  Finally, dump shredded cheese on top.

Cover with tin foil (or don't) and bake at 350 F for 20 minutes.  If you want, at the end set your oven to broil and let it roast the top for a minute.


 And I'm hungry again.  Too bad this yummy dish is back in Utah and I am not any longer.  The things we do for those we love.  An entire pan of acceptable leftovers for a non-leftover eating person.

Bon Apetit!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Exciting New Ventures and Some Food Along The Way

I have been so lax in my blogging lately.  I do so apologize.  Life has been a little crazy - because I'm sure that I'm the ONLY one who can lay claim to that sucker.  Yeah, right.

So, the primary reason I visited New York in April was the desire to combine my two greatest loves - my husband and New York!  I realize you probably were thinking of food or shopping as some other possibilities - but that is precisely why New York is one of my top loves.  It has some of the greatest eating and shopping in the world.  It's probably my favorite of all cosmopolitan cities potentially because I am so comfortable there but I think also for the sheer diversity of offering.


The second reason I visited New York was to interview with the awesome peeps at Serious Eats for an MBA Marketing internship.  When they posted that they were looking I decided to send them an email - an email which I assumed would find its way into the black hole of dreaming.  My schedule would not permit me to do an entire summer nor do I currently live in New York.  Instead I live in Utah and have both a husband and mortgage - minor complications.  Imagine my surprise when my goofy, sleep deprived email was responded to with an interview request.  Short end of this looong intro is that I have the privilege of working at Serious Eats this summer.   Their bright, creative, friendly office is located in Chelsea and I will be living by Gramercy Park.  I am very excited on all fronts.  How could you not be excited to eat for a living?

With that bit o' news I'll continue my long overdue postings of my next set of restaurants I frequented on my trip.

This particular day started waaaay too early.  Lack of sleep was already an issue since the previous day we had arrived on the red-eye and while C immediately passed out in the hotel, I had to continue on to my interview.  This lack of sleep was compounded by C's desire to get up before the butt crack of dawn to stand in line for Saturday Night Live tickets.  Days:  2, Hours of Sleep:  5.  It was cold and I was cranky.  This helped alleviate that crankiness.

If you've paid any attention, you'll see that my blog header involves a pain au chocolat which is indeed one of man's (well, the French's ) greatest creations.  Instant prozac.  Calms my soul and warms my heart.  Thanks Dean & Deluca - you're pretty much always there when I need you (at least when I'm in NYC).

Fortunately, for my sanity (and for his), C and I went back to the hotel and crashed for a couple of much needed hours.  After sleeping and showering and remembering what it was like to be human again we continued on.  Erin Adamo, from Serious Eats, told me I HAD to go to Crif Dog, on the Lower East Side.  That worked perfectly with my plan to visit a few other spots.  It really is hard to choose what will take stomach space when you have limited time (and stomach space).

We took the subway to Astor Place and walked along the beautiful streets to the  Dumpling Man.  I've been eating with chopsticks for longer than I can remember which should indicate to you that I love Asian food.

How could you not love me?  I'm adorable!
C and I ordered four dumplings (you have to remember, we were "pacing" ourselves - especially since Crif Dogs was literally across the street).  Dumpling Man offers different fillings - pork, chicken, veggie, shrimp, and surprise.  I did not feel like a surprise on this occasion.  So boring.  Instead I purchased two pork and two chicken - one steamed and one seared of each flavor.  While watching our dumplings be filled, pinched, and cooked, we more genuinely entertained ourselves with watching the new counter guy get grilled and instructed by the owner.  I must say it was amusing to watch a 50 something year old man instruct a 20 something year old boy on how to use a remote control.

Seared on left, Steamed on right

Yum.  This blog post was inspired by and motivated by perusing my food pictures.  I look at this and wish I was closer to this foodie haven.  You can see the love in the hand pinched dumplings.  I can't say that I ended up with a preference between the seared or steamed - that all just depends on my mood.  Steamed are soft and allow you to feel "healthy"  (I believe in excusing my food choices through such rationale) and the seared have a delightful crispness to the bottom and have a slight caramelization which lends to a deeper flavor of sorts (but harder to rationalize - don't worry - it's still totally possible).  I did think the pork was better of the two meats.  However, both were juicy, salty, and made me feel like I was home.

We then embarked on an incredibly long journey across the street to Crif Dogs.

This neighborhood was just so quaint.  I miss being able to walk the streets while admiring the buildings and picking out all the places I would happily live.  Crif Dogs is in a small and dark space.  Very little space and very busy.  They have a lot of fun options to order but since we once again had limited stomach space (darn stomachs!) we ordered one dog each.  I ordered the Tsunami - "a house dog, bacon wrapped, with teriyaki, pineapple, and green onions" (minus the green onions) while C ordered the Chihuahua - "a bacon wrapped dog covered with avocados and sour cream."  Healthy choices indeed.


Go to Crif Dogs.  Not only do you get to experience a super tasty dog at a super cool location, but you also get to give your order to a sassy lady at the register.  I love that everybody is so friendly in NYC.  I miss that when I'm elsewhere.  Getting back to the food?  Crif Dogs is number one for a reason.  Bacon wrapped.  Can it get better?  I think not.  The textural differences of the plush bun, crisp bacon wrapped dog with delightful snap (snap is uber important in hot dogs), and sweetness of the teriyaki and pineapple marrying happily together - perfection.  C's was good as well but I prefer mine (no bias since I ordered it).  His also had the delightful bacon snap and creaminess provided by avocado and sour cream.  I liked the more savory and biting flavors of the Tsunami.  Of course, all the dogs have fun names.

Okay, okay.  I'm wrapping it up.  You'll laugh when I tell you that immediately after leaving Crif Dogs I sought out my next food location.  What can I say?  Tompkins Square Park is surrounded by luscious food offerings.  S'MAC and Artichoke are among some of the well known and loved offerings also in the area.  I'll visit those when I'm living only a few blocks away during the summer (which I can already forecast will require much exercise to combat said convenience).  We were headed to Una Pizza Napoletana for a much needed delicious slice.  We had, after all, been in New York for an entire 30 hours.  We witnessed a bicyclist eat it hard in the intersection of 10th St. and Avenue A.  That guy was seriously hard core.  He misjudged his timing going around a corner and skidded across the pavement, losing a few belongings in the process.  I thought for sure we'd have to call an ambulance.  But I guess if you can sit on one of those ridiculously painful seats for hours you can handle pain, period.  He picked himself and all of his belonging back up and cycled off with his buddy.  I should have taken that as an omen.  Una Pizza Napoletana is no longer.  I walked past where it had been and tried to figure out if my memory was truly that bad.  Nope.  It's just gone.  The owner will be opening a new one, somewhere, sometime.   FAIL.

Instead, I was forced to go shopping.  Here...

and then visit here...

Ah, I love Union Square Park and The Met.  I had meant to stop by Two Little Red Hens to pick up a few scrumptious cupcakes and other baked goods.  I was deterred by my husband and our time quickly running out before The Met closed and our other plans collided.  Instead, after we finished at The Met we walked over to Il Vagabondo on 62nd.  I hadn't eaten here before but had seen it on The Food Network's show, "The Best Thing I Ever Ate."  Emeril Lagasse (my former boss' good friend) had recommended Il Vagabondo and their veal parmigiana.  It was a little chilly out and besides the fact that I had a list (literally, a printed list of my potential eats in New York) warm, comforting pasta sounded fantastic.

The Upper East Side can be a little on the quiet side for my taste albeit contains some gorgeous apartments and mansions.  Il Vagabondo fits in as a lovely little spot.  Notice, small spaces tend to be a theme here.  You may be a little confused if you've never been here before.  From the outside looking in, Il Vagabondo looks like it only has a bar.  You have to walk through the long and narrow space to get from the bar to the restaurant area.

We didn't even bother with the menu.  If Il Vagabondo was supposed to have spectacular veal parmigiana, then that's what we would order.  To add a little variance we ordered one veal parmigiana with penne and one chicken parmigiana with spaghetti.

The service was great and it was fun to watch a bunch of guys make fools of themselves while playing bocce ball (did I mention half of the narrow space is occupied by a bocce ball court?).  The veal parmigiana?  Eh.  Everything was made very quickly and tasted fresh.  But honestly?  Really?  The best thing I ever ate?  Hardly.  It's not that I'd turn my nose up at it but when in New York, with so many food options?  I'd go elsewhere in pursuit of something that truly deserves to be on my list of "the best thing I ever ate."

Finally, we continued back to Rockefeller Center with our stand by tickets for Saturday Night Live.  Apparently, everyone who had tickets from the lottery actually decided to use them because we did not get in.  Had we chosen to attend the dress rehearsal instead of the live taping we would have.  Double fail.

Irritated that our 4:00 am wake up call had been for naught, I had to make a quick stop before we headed south to our hotel.

Do I think Magnolia Bakery is the bomb?  No.  I'm a little miffed that they have chosen to sell out and have franchised.  They've lost the authenticity that they had in their Greenwich Village locale.  But I'll still eat their cupcakes.  I mean, I'm not THAT big of a snob.  It made my day better.

Chomp.  Sigh.  Butter, Chocolate, Sugar.  Somehow, it works every time.