Monday, December 17, 2012

Deviled Egg Snowman


This carelessly constructed suggestion of a deviled egg snowman somehow still managed to sound like fun, so I made a gentle couple for my friend who first showed me the recipe. The author is on thehairpin.com and I'm not. Click away. In the spirit of the season, I'm drunk already on egg nog and it's not even noon.

 

I couldn't figure out how to slice and stack the eggs together, as some things happen from time to time, which I relegate to my left-handedness. Thankfully, Baby was around to work it out with me--and honestly, I just did what he told me to do even though I still didn't understand any of it. I also couldn't tell from the post that the caps were pickle ends, so I used halved black olives with Kosher half-sour brims. Frosty did have a black stovepipe hat after all so that only seemed sensible. Capers were the eyes and uncooperative slices of prosciutto served as the scarf. The snowfall of shredded coconut around the vintage Lenox platter was solely my idea. Nice, don't you think? Observe how the friendly, yet slightly ominous eggy snowmen are creeping up on you!



To boil your eggs, click here. Thanks to RealSimple.com.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Friend Writes...Pizza! Pizza! Pizza!


Allison Morris wrote to me on Evenings With Peter, submitting this piece that extolls the virtues of pizza. You can read about my personal obsession here. Please note her charming graphic below that I've included on the blog layout with the entirely thorough, amazing statistics about our love of pies--and support OnlineCollegeCourses.com.

A TASTY OBSESSION: THE YEAR IN PIZZA

For most of us, from the time we were children, the answer to the question, “what do you want for dinner?” has always been met with a resounding, wholehearted cry of, “PIZZA!” Whether you’re into some of today’s trendiest specialty pies, or your style is more plain cheese, nothing beats the joy of biting into a tasty slice if your personal favorite pizza. The current pizza market has its fair share of both cheap and gourmet pizzas alike, but some classic pizza joints will never go out of style. Whether you’re currently a student or you simply have fond recollections of your 20-something years, chances are you can probably relate to the age-old quest for a late night pizza. Even if, for some reason, pizza isn’t your all-time favorite food, there’s no denying the fact that it’s always there for you when you need it. Is there any sweeter sound than the pizza deliverer’s knock on your door? From providing a hearty meal for your family to fueling you through that late-night study session, pizza is a reliable dish for just about any occasion. If you can appreciate the appeal of the pizza, take a look at the following infographic, and take a moment to be glad that we live in a world where pizza exists.

Thanks Allison!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Raspberry Charlotte!

 

I freely admit that I was a little nervous about making this incredibly gorgeous Raspberry Charlotte as a suffix to our dinner that accompanied a reading of Clare Booth Luce's classic play, The Women. This distinctly female "no boys allowed" creation was read mostly by us boys. Hilarity ensued as we tackled all 22 roles. Bowls of smokehouse almonds and cocktails got us started. Befitting the glamour of another era, I served a watercress salad with Annie's Shiitake & Sesame vinaigrette and buttered Parker House rolls, all of which went quickly. Classic London Broil (a few slabs shown here) served as the main before our entrancing dessert.


Raspberry Charlotte is a delicate confection consisting of lots of whipped meringue that at any moment just may surrender itself to the food gods and keel over, at least so I thought. I made it the day before as it has to sit, refrigerated overnight, to relax. My charlotte was a total success and boy, did I feel proud, having executed it properly. A Kitchen-Aid mixer is essential to avoid so much exhausting hand-whisking to form the stiff peaks for the cake! And homemade whipped cream! We did not have eau-de-vie de poire as the recipe suggests but used instead kirsch (the cherry version) that we did have on hand for further flavor.

Here, the 9 cups of frozen raspberries are duly dosed with 3/4 cup sugar before filling the cake. Above is the finished result, drizzled with the berry puree.



To the table! Pearls and a gossipy tea set ripe for conversation!





A view of the Raspberry Charlotte pillage! Isn't that a brilliant color?


Another glimpse of the table as our evening settled in.


Soundtrack: Noel Coward, The British Bands; Flapper Favourites, Music from the 1920's; Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

Monday, December 10, 2012

Veal Prince Orloff


This particular evening was inspired by the hilarious, classic "Dinner Party" episode of Mary Tyler Moore, where Sue Ann Nivens cooked everything and Mary played host. Unlike other parties that Mary threw, this meal of Veal Prince Orloff for Congresswoman Gettys was a success. And so was our dinner! I used Julia Child's recipe but this recipe from epicurious.com is very similar.

I wanted an elegant table to feature our 'haute cuisine' palely painted in mostly white.

 


 Simple cuts of silk celadon ribbons served as napkin rings.


As involved as the dish of Veal Prince Orloff was, I made it the day before and merely re-heated it to serve--it was time consuming to make but actually saved time.

Crunchy asparagus with garlic butter was courtesy of Fresh Direct, served as our starter, and both bags took about five minutes to come to life in the microwave. Devoured.


The lovely veal is shown below, cooked to a bare pink, smothered in a sumptuous sauce passed down from the hands of French nobility! Components are listed in more detail here, but basically, onions simmered with rice created the soubise; chopped mushrooms in butter served as our duxelle preparation; the flour and milk bechamel turned into veloute with the addition of our veal liquid and then became mornay with the addition of grated Swiss cheese. After a swift puree from the heft of a hand blender, all danced together and we had the lyrical sauce for our Veal Prince Orloff.



Two sturdy bunches of braised celery to accompany the veal was basically my own invention, lightly tossed in melted butter and slowly simmered in shallots, then I added a half cup of dry white wine and a half cup of French court bouillon stock to the mix, garnished with chives and flavorful celery leaves. Devoured.


The Baked Pears Alicia was a made up dessert created for the show and I did a riff on the recipe that I found online. I don't mind telling you I used canned pears so I wouldn't have to peel, split and core them. I marinated them overnight in their own juices, some water and white wine, with vanilla beans, reconstituted dried lemons slivers, cinnamon bark and baked them in a 350 degree oven until warm.


P.S. Devoured.

We set up our beautiful vintage chocolate service and made a steaming batch of hot cocoa, laced with a few shots of Patron coffee liqueur-flavored tequila.


Our guests, mid romp!




Thanks, Mary!

Soundtrack: Henry Mancini, Martinis with Mancini; Equivel, Christmas!; Herbie Hancock, Cantaloupe Island; Antonio Carlos Jobim, The Man from Ipanema; Frank Sinatra, A Jolly Christmas.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Fatta Cuckoo - Next Magazine Review


I just loved this place!

Fatta Cuckoo
63 Clinton St (btwn Rivington/Stanton Sts), 212-353-0570, FattaCuckoo.com

Upon entering tiny seater Fatta Cuckoo, we felt as if we had jumped into the Magic Screen from Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. As the mere name might imply, the space itself is quirky, whimsical and fun, assembled by proprietress Leah Tinari with her own broadly imagined paintings hanging on the whitewashed-brick walls. The food is a delight, as handled by chef Matias Hernandez. It’s stuff that everybody likes but  doesn’t descend to ordinary comfort food. Tinari glows with passion about her food and art, and it emanates from her as she dotes upon the engaging premises. An amusing, explanatory anecdote: when Tinari was a child, her Italian nonna used to tap her belly with a gentle forefinger after eating an exhausting meal and coo, “Fatta cuckoo!”

Over a groovy soundtrack featuring old-school hits, the cocktail list further inspired our imaginations, particularly the special T-Party cocktail with Espolòn tequila, spiced honey, Lillet and bitters. What could have been a blithely loathsome brunch drink, the St. Rose was actually a very solidly balanced cocktail with vodka, St-Germain liqueur, Aperol, orange bitters and a float of prosecco. We also took more than a few sips of a blood-orange screwdriver with vodka, muddled basil, a breath of lime and a splash of soda water.

We ordered a cream-filled ball of burrata cheese, plucked from Saxelby’s in the nearby Essex Street Market. This beauty was domestically crafted in Philadelphia and the day’s preparation included mint and pistachio pesto with a chiffonade of basil and a touch of olive oil, served with cranberry-walnut crostini. We were curious about the calamari—stuffed with braised short ribs!—but moved on to a plate of ravioli filled with whipped ricotta, shiitake and cremini mushrooms in a mushroom cream sauce tied up with thyme and offered like little presents with wonton skins as wrapping paper.

It took about three seconds of scouring the menu to realize we had to have the fried chicken, which turned out to be incredibly juicy—brined and battered and served with a ladleful of sharp Gorgonzola, celery root purée, house-made hot sauce and a prickly side of carrots and celery, all in homage to classic roadside chicken wings. We paired this up with red Swiss chard sautéed on an amiable plate of frizzled bacon and golden raisins. Seriously crispy pork was furthered by a fanciful blueberry barbecue sauce, an earnest cornbread cake and slivers of slaw. We plundered the mushy potato puffs, or elevated Tater Tots, if you will.

Keeping it in the family, Tinari’s mother lends a hand with Mom’s Desserts, which she actually makes. We’re talking brightly zesty yet delicate Key Lime pie; cream cheese cheesecake with a graham cracker crust that had us at OMG; and a Grasshopper Mousse that screamed for a ’70s dinner party with crème de menthe, a fluff of the freshest whipped cream and a dusting of chocolate sandwich cookie powder. We rolled over all of them, enjoying every bite that we could manage, as we’d been pointing at our bellies for quite some time.

Even after the sugar rush subsided, what could we say? We’re cuckoo for…

Short Order: Comforting food for everyone served with a refined side of whimsy in a relaxed, charming atmosphere.
Peter’s Picks: T-Party tequila cocktail; vegetable ravioli; fried chicken; Mom’s Desserts
Peter’s Pans: Venturing to the Lower East Side and then trying to find where on earth the restaurant was!
Prices: Appetizers: $10–$15; Entrées: $16–$21; Alcohol: wine, full bar, specialty cocktails.

First published in part in Next Magazine

Photo credit: Gustavo Monroy.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Fettucine Rigate alla Carbonara


Rarely can I pass up a pasta! Angolo Soho executive chef Michael Berardino was kind enough to provide this wonderful recipe, untangling the mystery of his carbonara. His dish is actually rather simple though, done in classic Italian style, without the heavy cream so often used in the Americanized version.


Fettucine Rigate alla Carbonara
Serves 4
Ingredients:
1 lb. fettucine
¼ tbsp. ground black pepper (about 90 turns from a pepper mill)
3 oz. pancetta cut into strips 1/2" by 1/4"
2 oz.  Pecorino Romano cheese, grated fine on microplane
4 egg yolks
2 ½ tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil


Directions:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Drop the pasta into the water and stir to keep from sticking. 
While the pasta is cooking, place the pancetta in a large saute pan and cook until crisp and rendered. Pour off half of the fat, and add the black pepper. Toast the pepper until aromatic. Add a little butter and 1tsp of EVOO.
Remove the pancetta, reserve on the side, and add some of the pasta cooking water to form an emulsified sauce. 

Once the pasta is cooked, remove from the water, drain well, and add directly to the sauce. 
Add the remaining butter, the pancetta, and the pecorino cheese.  
Mix well to combine and if needed add pasta water to adjust the consistency of the sauce. 
Plate the pasta into 4 bowls, leaving a little well in the center for the egg yolk. 
Finish with the egg yolk, a couple cracks of black pepper and a little grated pecorino.

Angolo Soho is located at 331 W Broadway (@ Grand St). Visit AngoloSoho.com for more info.

First published in part in Next Magazine.
Photo Credit: Gustavo Monroy

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Shouldn't You Just...?


Purchase a number of battery powered tea lights and place them around a few branches to create an instant fireplace? The birch twigs seen here are secured through the top of a wine rack. What a warm glow for the winter! No kindling required.


Modern advice on etiquette for the not-so-new millennium.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

It's Beginning to Look a Wee Bit Like Christmas!

                                      

Thanksgiving has hardly passed and I'm already on a tear to suit up for Christmas. I haven't done the tree yet (fake, emits a preternatural glow, from Urban Outfitters) but I've set up a seasonal table with numerous woodsy boughs, pine cones real and others shaped and fashioned into candles, clementines, and candy canes. I like the deer wearing the scarf!

Here's the heft of the table...


with a further inspection of the centerpiece.


Birds and pugs are seen frolicking here amongst the boughs and pine cones--and that's a bottle of  homemade vanilla extract, with vanilla beans slowly infusing into vodka before being presented as gifts in a few weeks.


A real pine cone hovering about the pine cone candles on a vintage candy dish from my cousin and a doily from a set that Baby and I found in Thomaston, Maine over the summer. 


One mustn't forget the coffee table!  Sprigs of fir branches and laurel stuck in a Moroccan tea pot on a silver tray, with Christmas tree bulbs that my relative wrapped in sequined ribbons and dotted with beads--back in the 70's! And I think I see an encroaching lobster, don't you?


Dried lemon rinds, orange zest, cinnamon, black allspice pearls and sparks of cloves are all simmering on the stove top, filling the apartment with the most persuasive, wonderful aromas. Whatever the holiday, do enjoy and let the season ring!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Moment


As a writer who constantly ponders food and drink, I would like to pause in prayer from the usual banter here to consider the last few days for those of us who lost power to make meals, pull water from our taps and the staggering number of people still enduring. And most importantly those continuing to be struck by the devastating loss of their homes, their foundations ripped right from under them. For those of us returning to normalcy, what trembling luck we have. With Thanksgiving coming up, I hope that those in the most desperate need will be able to face the future and find a way to soon say the same. Do enjoy what you have and donate where you can.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Crepes Corbie



When Corbie was eight years old, she used to hang around the smoke-filled green room in the theater wing of my college, where her mother taught students about the world of musical comedy. I suppose we baby sat Corbie in a way, so naturally we all tortured this precocious, tousled-haired little girl. She recently turned 30 and now I find myself friends with a successful, slyly beautiful, talented young woman. To celebrate in our way, Baby and I made her dinner headlining our own creation, flaming Crepes Corbie. Think of a savory Suzette, with lobster (we are both from New England, of course) with vanilla chive sauce, brown butter, pearls of salmon roe and of course, Cognac.


I set a reasonable table for the three of us during the day with these outrageous tall stems that dangled sprouted pods from the top as a centerpiece, and other autumnal branches that had delicate orange and yellow flowers,  reflective of our petite pumpkins and ghoulish gourds.


Baby made the stacks of crepes ahead of time as well. To make the thin pancakes, a basic recipe can be found here. And always throw the first one out for luck!


About an hour or so before our guest of honor arrived, we started to saute the lobster shells (from the reserved lobster meat) in butter and wilt the leeks, carrots, celery and tarragon chiffonade in prep for the vanilla chive lobster sauce. This requires heavy cream and I forgot to buy it, but you know what? You forge on (and don't tell anybody your dish didn't come out the way you wanted it to be). The end result was still pretty tasty, just thinner, and well, less fattening too.


We made the scallion mashed potatoes ahead of time too, and quickly microwaved our bag of haricots verts with almonds from FreshDirect, as we reheated the potatoes later and topped them with lump crab before serving.


When we all sat down to dinner (after a few glasses of rose, which turned into a few more) we enjoyed a wonderful salad composed of mesclun greens, Napa cabbage, Mandarin orange segments and toasted brioche croutons tossed with a silky shiitake and sesame dressing, courtesy of Annie's, which frankly could be served with a straw.


The Crepes Corbie were a delight to make, as we rolled up three at a time in a buttery saute pan, with the lobster tucked inside. Then we added about a quarter cup of Cognac, removed from the heat and lit the whole thing on fire! A note: before the flames rapidly die down, the dish should be presented theatrically to the table (at a distance) and served once the incendiary crepes are quite out.

We had yellow cupcakes with vanilla frosting for dessert. After all, whatever our age, I hope we are still children at heart.


Happy Birthday, dear Corbie!


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Happy Hallowe'en From Ghoulia Child!


Bonjour! I'm afraid I had a little accident in the kitchen this year while trying to hack apart a chicken for a Poulet Financiere. After a bit of a tussle with the plucky devil, the bird got away and I'm still not entirely sure where it went. Just the same, do have a fiendishly good time on Hallowe'en this year and bon appetit!

Ghoulia 


Saturday, October 13, 2012

the pale of memory


This is not my usual sort of post, where I cavort around, gleefully suggesting what to eat. But I hope you will find my first published novel a remarkable feast just the same. I am eager to know if 'the pale of memory' is to your taste. Do enjoy and please watch this snippet from my book party! Tell everybody!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XhfeZ_shpM&feature=player_detailpage

Copies are available now on Amazon.com, BN.com and iUniverse.com.

A bit about the book:


THE PALE OF MEMORY by Peter Halsey Sherwood (iUniverse; On Sale: September 7, 2012; $13.95 USD) is a suspenseful, bracing novel set in a mid-90's Manhattan still hovered over by a dreadful affliction. What starts out as a caper in which the Hardy Boys themselves might have embarked upon turns into a reckless mission of obsession that evolves into a dangerous love affair with dire consequences. From the perspective of a voyeur, the reader peeks into the world of the questionable protagonist, a young man named Scott or ‘Scotty’ to his friends, as he attempts to hide his secrets and transform a new lover in an ultimately futile effort to recreate the past. In a swirling pool of lies amongst all of the characters, nothing is what it seems at first as perceptions are revealed and confronted with haunting vigor. As the reader discovers through Scott's slowly exposed mania, his life has been one stained by a curious, confusing past that eventually brings THE PALE OF MEMORY to a devastating crescendo.
 
A few of my esteemed readers said:
“A period suspense novel, as cleverly pulled off by an expert at the genre.”

Michael Musto, Village Voice columnist

“Hitchcock’s Vertigo with sexy, dangerous young men. Had me hooked from page one.”
Charles Busch, author of The Tale of the Allergist's Wife

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Chef's Recipe - James Corona's Fusilli alla Norcina



This sumptuous pasta featuring thick curls of fusilli pasta and sweet and hot sausage in cream is courtesy of Bocca executive chef James Corona. Thank you for the recipe, James!

Bocca
39 E 19th St (btwn Park/Broadway)
BoccaNYC.com 

Fusilli alla Norcina

Recipe Yield: serves 4
Ingredients: 
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp garlic, minced
1 tbsp shallot, minced
1 link of sweet sausage
1 link of hot sausage
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup smoked mozzarella, grated
1 lb fusilli pasta
Salt
Pepper

Directions: 
1. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water till al dente.
2. Drain pasta, reserving a cup of the pasta water for binding.
3. In a large saucepan, brown the sweet and hot sausage.
3. Combine minced garlic, shallots and heavy cream with sausage in saucepan and reduce for about three minutes.
4. Add smoked mozzarella.
5. Toss fusilli into the sauce. If necessary, use reserved pasta water to bind. Serve.

First published in part in Next magazine

Friday, October 5, 2012

15 East - Next Magazine Review



15 East
15 E 15th St (btwn Fifth Ave/Union Square West), 212-647-0015, 15EastRestaurant.com

Marco Moreira and Jo-Ann Makovitzky add to their culinary empire with the freshest fish hauled in from Japan by executive sushi chef Masato Shimizu.

My gal pal is simply stark-raving mad for sushi. I don’t know anyone who loves the raw devils more profoundly than she does. So it was my thrill on the evening we hastened to 15 East to have her sample executive chef Masato Shimizu’s fresh fish flown, which is flown in from Japan. We were, in a word, wowed. Everything was a small surprise—we were presented with wonderful gifts, which once opened, so to speak, proved to be utter delights, enlivening our taste buds, enriching our hearts and filling our stomachs.
The husband-and-wife team Marco Moreira and Jo-Ann Makovitzky moved their fabulous Tocqueville to a nearby location and reinvigorated its former address as 15 East with the assistance of architect Richard Bloch. Although we considered the crowded sushi bar in front, we made our way to a more capacious corner banquette in the modest dining room composed in an inviting color scheme of sand and slate with pale, billowy curtains.
Settling into cocktails, the Tokyo Manhattan struck my fancy with a light Japanese single-malt whiskey with a masculine uprising about the bosom that bandied about with sweet vermouth and brandied cherries. The summery caipirinha with passion fruit and lime had a good nose and was decidedly more feminine.
A convenient tray of creamy, buttery Kumamoto oysters started us off with sweet, icy ponzu granite and pickled turnips that held a resonating pine flavor in the final execution. Bluefin tuna was served two ways: as red velvet slices of sashimi and chopped toro tartare in a conspiracy with chive oil and paddlefish caviar.
We moved on to a carafe of a floral, elusive, wondrous chilled Koshi no Kanbai “Muku” sake that further enhanced the flavors of our ensuing dishes, which included a rapturous, benevolent and calm pond of caviar, ikura and uni floating along with cold soba noodles and wasabi paste. More sea urchin found its way into a poignant, soft risotto keenly matched with sumptuous matsutake mushrooms and pink wasabi root to set up our pasta course. We dispensed with our chopsticks, resorting to spoons so we could devour the dish more quickly. Eleven kinds of Japanese sea lettuces, in turns sturdy, woodsy, frilly, oceanic, fruity and sweet, cleansed our palates for the upcoming meat.
A tartare of chopped Kobe beef led the way with a presiding flavor of crisped garlic and a cracked, runny quail egg on top. Foie gras terrine bordered on the obscene with miso duck, raisins and brioche that I unashamedly admit I devoured in one orgiastic bite. Medium-rare smoky duck with shiitake mushrooms, sweet Japanese yams in a veal stock reduction and soy had us quacking with vigor.
Resist as we did at first, desserts were a foregone conclusion. Wavering between indulgences such as flourless chocolate cake, kabocha crème caramel, a watermelon parfait and green tea ice cream with matcha jelly and red beans, the crunchy tempura rice pudding won out with its fully rounded ice cream fashioned from sake. With nothing left to do but hug our gracious co-conspirators, we packed up and left 15 East to head home, back west.

Prices: Appetizers: $12-$29; Entrées: $18-$95; Alcohol:  wine, full bar, specialty cocktails.
Short Order: For aficionados of fish, modern Japanese cuisine off of Union Square proves to be a really great catch.
Peter’s Picks: Tokyo Manhattan cocktail; sea urchin and mushroom risotto; foie gras terrine with duck; caviar, sea urchin and salmon roe soba noodles.
Peter’s Pans: 15 East has not taken residence in my apartment building.

First published in part in Next magazine
Photo Credit: Michel Ann O'Malley

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Jeremy's Fresh Pina Colada



Baby had returned from Marrakech after two months away for business and I had been madly editing to put the final touches on my novel. Exciting! But just the same we thought it was high time for some sun, surf, and sand as the fall had descended indeed so unexpectedly. So we headed off to South Beach for a week to stay at Delano. To be perfectly honest, all we did was sleep, eat and drink poolside or at the beach at this utterly spectacular hotel, and not necessarily in that order.

Jeremy, the bartender at the pool was kind enough to make at least several pina coladas on the rocks for me. Now, I love a pina colada when I make them myself, but out and about, when they are frozen, they often don't taste like there's any booze in them and after one they become cloying. One might as well stuff themselves with rock candy! So here is the elegant solution with Jeremy's recipe that certainly made for a few entirely enjoyable afternoons. I suspect the use of coconut water is the trick. Do enjoy!

Jeremy's Fresh Piña Colada
Ingredients:
2 oz. fresh pineapple juice
2 oz. Coco Lopez
2oz. light rum
1oz. Coco Vidal coconut water
Method:
Shake and our over ice, a splash of dark rum on top. Garnish with a pineapple slice.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Next Magazine - Isola


Isola Trattoria & Crudo Bar
9 Crosby St @ Grand St, (212) 389-0000, IsolaSoHo.com

Originally based on the dreamy, fantastical atrium in Jean Cocteau’s classic film La Belle et La Bête, Imperial No. 9 in the Mondrian Soho hotel became something of a kitchen nightmare. Star chef Sam Talbot left his post and several replacements followed. The menu that slowly lost its flavor during Talbot’s tenure has been entirely revamped and gloriously resuscitated by the hands of executive chef Victor LaPlaca—indeed, the newly dubbed Isola is now a fantastic night to remember. Much of the décor has stayed the same but LaPlaca, a native Sicilian, pulls his food inspirations from the Amalfi Coast and further reaches out to other Italian provinces.

A most extraordinary Isola Negroni led the way with Tanqueray Ten Gin, a touch of Campari and Carpano Antica stepping in for less casual sweet vermouth. A few of my friends took a sojourn with the Columbian Exchange, a decided step up from a margarita with fresh honeydew melon, lavender and lemon shaken up with Don Julio blanco tequila. Another dining companion was delighted to find Italian Peroni beer on draft and availed himself of its foaminess readily.

Truffled mushrooms topped a flat grilled special pizza and burrata cheese with squash blossom pesto occupied another pie. Warming, fluffy focaccia with salty taleggio cheese, sweet caramelized onions and fig jam tasted like a savory cake and rounded out the bulk of this carb fit.

To lighten things up, we took a dip into cool slices of hamachi with crispy shallots and a vibrantly verdant pool of surrendered avocado. Tuna in white balsamic vinegar shared a plate with intensely red, ripe watermelon, while octopus in an almond romesco sauce found kindred spirits in herbed aioli, peanut potatoes and zesty lemon. A Caesar salad rapidly followed, its grilled leaves rolled up like a scroll parchment with black olive-anchovy dressing and ricotta salata. Thinly sliced baby beets were finely featured with a burst of green pistachios.

Moving to mains, ravioli stuffed with porcini mushrooms were delicate love notes, embraced by a heartbreaking veal ragu. We didn’t know what to do with ourselves when the extraordinary, hefty, medium-rare sirloin showed up courtesy of meat maven Pat LaFrieda, with a skirt of rich juices bleeding into mushroom polenta and cured, truffled fatback. The whole affair was beyond anything and not even like steak. We found it rather more like slowly savoring an indecent, chewy caramel. We were simply ravished! What could whole branzino with perfectly seared skin do but hold its own quite swimmingly, with escarole and a sauce made with limoncello?

Frosty scoops of ices were endearingly served in paper cones with wooden spoons, just like summer days at the beach. Tangy tangerine sorbetti was our first choice, followed by chunky strawberry rhubarb and wildly absorbing cannoli gelati. Naturally, we didn’t stop there and got involved with butterscotch cake, done up with slowly simmered blueberries and peach jam. Tartuffo threw us into overdrive with fudge brownies, hazelnut gelato and creamy salted caramel reaching to the heavens. What an enchanted evening we had during our time in this garden.

Prices: Appetizers: $9-$36; Entrées: $17-$48; Alcohol:  beer, wine, full bar, specialty cocktails.
Short Order: Dining in the beautiful atrium at the Mondrian Soho hotel is nothing less than enchanting, with wondrous fare executed by executive chef Victor LaPlaca.
Peter’s Picks: The Isola Negroni; delicate porcini mushroom ravioli; divine sirloin of the third kind with rich polenta; fudgy tartuffo.
Peter’s Pans: Nope. Nothing. Really.

First published in part in Next magazine
 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Rosie Daley's Un-Fried Chicken




This is a finger lickin' dish from Rosie Daley's book, In The Kitchen With Rosie, that I've been making for years! I owe many thanks to spa-trained Daley, who helped Oprah lose all that weight back in the mid-90's, and taught me a wonderful methodology to use when making any kind of food. What joy I found back then, discovering ways to make perfectly reasonable meals that are low-fat and health-conscious--there is so much flavor cleverly incorporated into Rosie's creations, using spices that are probably already in your pantry.

Instead of dealing with removing the skin from chicken drummers and breasts as the recipe below suggests, I just buy boneless chicken breasts. I also skip the whole ice bath process and thaw my chicken until it is malleable but still cold, so the yogurt will cling to the chicken before being marvelously, lightly breaded with proportions of the spice ingredients that best suit your fancy!

Rosie Daley's Un-Fried Chicken
Makes 12 pieces
Light vegetable oil cooking spray
3 whole chicken breasts, halved and skin removed
3 1/2 cups ice water
1 cup plain nonfat yogurt

FOR THE BREADING
1 cup dried Italian bread crumbs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon Creole seasoning
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Dash cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Coat a baking sheet with 3 sprays of the vegetable oil.
Put the chicken in a large bowl with the ice water. Put the yogurt into a medium bowl. Set both bowls aside.
Toss all the breading ingredients into a large, tightly-sealing plastic bag. Seal and shake well to mix.
Remove 2 pieces of chicken from the ice water. Roll each piece in the yogurt. Put the chicken into the plastic bag, reseal, and shake to coat thoroughly. Transfer the breaded chicken to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat the process until all 12 pieces are breaded. Spray the chicken lightly with the vegetable oil.
Place the baking sheet on the bottom shelf of the oven and bake for 1 hour, turning the pieces every 20 minutes to allow even browning.
Serve hot or at room temperature.

The finished dish! Go green and dress with haricot vert as I did, seen here. Thanks, Rosie!


Friday, August 17, 2012

Next Magazine - Between The Bread


The line may be long come lunchtime at Bottino (246 10th Ave, 212-206-6766, BottinoNYC.com) pictured here, but the wait never is. The folks that work there move fast! From the list of sandwiches, the tuna with chopped red onion is my go-to, on a bed of peppery arugula and tomato and nestled between slices of your choice of Tuscan white (my favorite), baguette, wheat, focaccia or multigrain. I wouldn’t say no to the Prosciutto and mascarpone sammie with basil, either.
A rare, thinly sliced roast beef deli sandwich is the perfect thing to take out at Lunch Box (886 Ninth Ave, 212-489-9642, NYCLunchBox.com). The meat is stuffed in a chewy baguette with frilly lettuce, American cheese, horseradish sauce and creamy avocado. Do consider sharing: this one is better suited for two.
Gird your loins. The Mish Mash at Mile End Sandwich (53 Bond St, 212-529-2990, MileEndDeli.com), the Noho outpost of the Jewish delicatessen, is a bit of a mess and hardly your typical breakfast nosh. They throw scrambled eggs in an onion roll with some salami—naturally a beef frank goes there, too—and caramelized onions for what is undoubtedly a resounding finish.
Alobar (46-42 Vernon Blvd, LIC, 718-752-6000, AlobarNYC.com) has a Duck Confit “Sloppy Joe” that layers smoked ricotta, a trifle of truffles, onions marinated in red wine and a sunny-side up duck egg between the bread. In case you’re feeling skittish, mixed greens are on the plate to provide a delusional balance.
Outrageous Rocket Pig (463 W 24th St, 212-645-5660, RocketPigNYC.com) took off a few months ago as a new venture from chef Ralf Kuettel of Trestle on Tenth. The menu is a straight shot, specializing mostly in the huge and heavenly Rocket Pig Sandwich with spice-rubbed pork, red-onion jam and mustard-y sauce on an exquisite ciabatta roll. Rocket Pig hot sauce comes on the side, along with a house-made pickle. When there’s “No More Pig” they put out a sign saying so, and that happens quite often.
Txikito (240 Ninth Ave, 212-242-4730, TxikitoNYC.com), pronounced chee-kee-toe, is a tiny, intimate little shoebox with one of the most gleefully shameless burgers in town. The El Doble, set amidst the  usual Basque creations of of Eder Montero and Alex Raij, is only available during lunch, so if you can’t make it during work—play hooky!
The boys are also doing their stuff at El Quinto Pino (401 W 24th St, 212-206-6900, ElQuintoPinoNYC.com), featuring fantastic, sumptuous sea urchin (or briny peanut butter as I often call it) laced with a gently biting mustard oil pressed in the middle of the most delectable warm and crusty bread from Tom Cat bakery in Brooklyn, which apparently delivers to this joint exclusively.
Lyon (118 Greenwich Ave, 212-242-5966, LyonNYC.com) presents a well-executed taste of Lyonnaise fare, in the dusted-off space formerly known as Bruxelles. The Croque Monsieur is not as good as it was during the previous occupancy, but the Croque Madame with smoky ham, cheese and béchamel topped with a fried egg just might make you forget.
A mere 12 clams gets you a pint of brew and a Shorty Cheesesteak at Shorty’s (576 Ninth Ave, 212-967-3055, ShortysNYC.com). Choose a Stella Artois and order the Shorty with the works. It arrives as if sent down from the heavens above, tidily wrapped in swaddling paper with everything kissing a scrumptious Italian Hoagie Roll from Philly’s own LeBus Bakery. Grilled onions (sandwiches are served ‘witout’ them unless you ask), Wiz (their version of Cheese Whiz), shredded lettuce, sliced tomato and a side of mayonnaise are all beyond.

First published in part in Next magazine