Saturday, April 18, 2015

DriveThru - Upland

A quick stop into where to eat with Pete!

Baby and I went across town to Upland in Manhattan's Flatiron District for a Saturday brunch around the lazing time of afternoon, otherwise known as 2-ish. Once again, restaurateur extraordinaire, Philadelphia-based Stephen Starr (Buddakan, Morimoto, El Vez, to name a very few) has conjured up his particular, practical brand of magic, this time in a partnership with chef Justin Smillie (Il Buco, Barbuto, the Standard). Hailing from Upland, California, Smillie is now helming the cheering, Italian-laced Upland kitchen. Word of mouth indeed speaks with a gregarious tongue: I learned of Upland through a friend and by the time I raved about it separately to two others, they told me they'd already paid a great visit! My perfect trifecta was reached as I loved the atmosphere, the kind service and hardly least, the quite fetching fare. The only way is Upland!

The Quick Bites:
Pastry basket; we slathered treats such as scrumptious grapefruit pound cake and bomboloni (Italian doughnuts) with butter and jam. My favorite recipe for lemon poppy seed cake may be found here, just try subbing pink grapefruit for the juice and zest
Burrata; the creamy orb of mozzarella filled with cream was speckled here with delicate trout caviar, frizzled leeks and a drizzle of Arbequina olive oil
Hen-of-the-wood mushrooms; these toothsome, adventurous and considerably-sized bushes were lightly tossed with olive oil to create absolute delight
Estrella; chicken livers embraced a radiant pasta dish that was gently enveloped in a sauce of rosemary, sage and sherry
Smoked salmon pizza: cleverly composed with cloumage (a cow's milk type of cheese, similar to ricotta) and topped with sunflower sprouts and caper berries
Bacon; what's brunch without it?

Until Next Time: everything else on the brunch menu and return for dinner too!

Upland is located at 345 Park Avenue South, New York, NY, 212-686-1006,

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Morels and Asparagus for Pasta and Soup!

This particular platter of spaghetti was too delicious to ignore so I purchased my sumptuous morel mushrooms, steamed the asparagus, sliced the garlic, minced the shallots and further set to work! Now, the dried morels that the recipe suggests are nearly prohibitive in cost, so I bought fresh instead, and they were about a quarter of the price. I substituted some dried Polish mushrooms as well, that we had on hand, to steep into my broth and then tossed the halved morels in toward the end. I love asparagus and the meaty morels all worked together admirably to make such a delicious (and fairly easy) pasta dish with a wonderful zing from lemon juice and lemon zest. As the recipe only requires the asparagus tips, what then to do with the stems? There were also morels remaining so Baby and I devised a velvety soup that I believe ought to be served chilled for an elegant opening lunch course. Save a few snipped asparagus tips to garnish your fragrant, rich, nourishing soup!

Click here for Leah Koenig's Morel and Asparagus Spaghetti recipe, adapted from!

Chilled Asparagus and Morel Soup
Serves 4 as an appetizer
8 oz asparagus stalks, steamed
A handful of fresh morels
3/4 cup cream
1 1/2 cups canned vegetable stock
1 medium shallot
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup olive oil
A few shakes of dried thyme, about 1/2 a teaspoon
A dash or two Sriracha, to taste
Grinds of salt and pepper, to taste
1 capful red wine vinegar

Except for the red wine vinegar and olive oil, throw everything into a blender, preferably a Vitamix. It's that easy! Use your intuition for personal taste; perhaps you might like to add more of the gentle shallots, or amp up the Sriracha for heat. Blend for a few minutes until thoroughly combined, and while the motor is still running, drizzle the olive oil into your soup in a slow stream to emulsify. Pause briefly and then add the red wine vinegar. Pulse several times. Chill for at least two hours, beautifully garnish with your asparagus tips and do enjoy!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Steak (and eggs) Diane!

In a fit of inspiration, perhaps recalling late nights in college when a platter of steak and eggs seemed the only thing to do at 3 o'clock in the morning after a kegger, Baby and I recently made a classic Steak Diane preparation with a more assured sense of maturity--it was at least for lunch, but it was our own invention when we threw a fried egg on top of both steaks. Divine! But do clear your schedule: although this was so delicious, it was heavy and afterwards we slept for the entire day having hungrily consumed both of the steaks! In all fairness to us, we had both experienced a very busy, tiring week.

We sauteed the mushrooms in butter and bas Armagnac and then set it afire! Fantastic. The fairly simple recipe is found here. The Armagnac we used subbed for the suggested brandy, a package of chopped mushrooms resulted in easy work and of course, a few filet mignon steaks are essential. Make this anytime as the spirits move you and do enjoy!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Dinner is Served!

When entertaining, I find that simple elegance is the backbone to any dinner. I love these cherry brandy roses! I composed this wonderful menu of dishes that I'd made before, including an appetizer, soup, and salad, but also I endeavored to prepare a new entree that I'd never made before; a classic Steak Diane. Dessert followed these courses, of course. Read on!

Mini pre-made Quiche Lorraine courtesy of but the proper recipe for Julia Child's whole quiche is shown in this video.
Serve with a bottle of fizzy Spanish cava. Other various mixed concoctions made with cava found here and here

White Gazpacho
Caesar Salad
Steak Diane*
Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

*We were too stuffed already to make the steak. Read about the ensuing morning here.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Grasshopper Pie

Should you find yourself still in the spirit to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, or need some pampering in its aftermath, I would like to suggest the slightly boozy Grasshopper Mousse! Perhaps McDonald's is no longer serving its recently reclaimed Shamrock Shake! Whatever the sitch, this creamy, 70's-elegant dessert is a delight anytime. I had written about Grasshopper Mousse before, prepared for one of my Derby parties back in 2013, but I felt the recipe should stand on its own as well in this particular post. It really is fantastic and so easy to prepare.

A heartfelt thanks to Leah Tinari of the sorely lamented Fatta Cuckoo restaurant in Manhattan who supplied me with her mother's treasured cocktail party staple recipe. Do enjoy!

Grasshopper Mousse
2 large boxes of vanilla pudding mix
6 cups heavy cream
3/4 cups creme de menthe
1/2 cup creme de cacao
Package of Oreo cookies

Whip pudding and heavy cream together and gradually add both liqueurs. Whip until mousse-like and desired consistency is reached. Give it a taste and add a tblsp or two more of liquor for a stronger flavor. Place in a container and chill. Crush Oreo cookies in food processor.

Place some cookies crumbs in bottom of martini glass. Add grasshopper mousse, top with whipped cream and sprinkle on more cookie crumbs.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Cassoulet 2015

It hardly seems like another year could have possibly passed in which I celebrate the anniversary of my blog, but it has! As usual, I found a different cassoulet recipe to make in proud honor of my first post. was responsible for this one, employing a recipe from the March 2006 issue of Gourmet magazine. While it was tasty certainly, it wasn't exactly among my favorite instructions of the other more hearty, traditional French classic preparations that I've made over the years. I subbed pork loin for pork shoulder (it was just easier--and cheaper!) and as much as some readers may cringe, I used a couple of cans of white beans instead of taking the time to let dried beans soak overnight. Instead of the suggested pork sausage, I rounded up some D'Artagnan wild boar sausage as well as a rabbit-pork-ginger blend to great effect. A delight! However you personalize your cassoulet , I do find it absolutely essential to let the dish rest, refrigerated for a day or two, before slowly reheating and serving to your guests. Make the crumb topping (a great touch) just before this step and do enjoy!

Thanks to folks for reading!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Tip O' the Mornin' to Ya--Corn Bread

I tried making a Jiffy yellow cake mix something or other for one of my parent's or sibling's birthdays, I seem to recall, when I was about five years old. It was a ghastly affair. When pulled out of the oven and sliced open, I heard  the food angels cry as the innards revealed a loose, fibrous stretchy seaweed of sorts. I have no earthly idea what I did--but needless, I suppose to say, it was revolting, even to my ill-equipped five year old palate.

I've come a long way since then (more than a short trip, I assure you) but I still have a fond appreciation for the Jiffy mixes and the simple recipes found on the back of the boxes. Recently, on a whim, I picked up a Jiffy corn bread muffin mix at the grocery store and it all came out just fine--no, more than fine, good!

Now, the tip? Add a can of creamed corn to the mix! Isn't that absolutely rich? Also, blend a tablespoon or so of honey into softened butter and slather it with abandon onto your corn bread, newly arrived, fresh and hot out of the oven.

Here's the Nordic Ware Citrus Blossom Williams-Sonoma loaf pan I used for the corn bread. How handsome!

Do enjoy!