Friday, April 11, 2008

Thank G-d It's...Fried

by Erin & Xani

We know it's been a while since we've shared one our Sunday dinners with you, and that's because due to the MPILP auction and some other events (post coming soon!), we haven't had a chance to make dinner together recently. We have one fabulous Sunday dinner in our archives though, and we are just now getting the chance to write it up, so enjoy!

As some of you may know, the BCD parents are building a house on the Eastern shore of Maryland, near Cambridge. (We lovingly refer to the house as "Blackacre" - if you don't get it, you're probably not a lawyer/law student; ask one if you're truly curious.) Because they travel to the shore often to check on the progress of the house, they have started coming home with great local seafood. We didn't hesitate to incorporate some great-looking shucked oysters and clams (whole belly clams! no strips here!) into our menu, which was:


  • Cocktails!
  • Cornmeal-crusted fried belly clams with homemade tartar sauce
  • Oyster stew
  • Buffalo chicken wings with Mom's famous bleu cheese dressing
  • Garlic fries

Wow, fried anyone? We went a little crazy with the amount of fried items, but they were so good! Every once in a while isn't so bad, right? Right. Anyway, we started off with cocktails (the ladies each had champagne cocktails and Dad had a martini) as we began cooking each of the different items.

Dad was in charge of the clams. First he dipped the clams into a mixture of milk, eggs, salt, and pepper, and then he dipped them into yellow cornmeal. We busted out the Fry Daddy (yes, we actually own one) and in they went! Meanwhile, Xani put together a quick tartar sauce made from mayonnaise, relish, and hot sauce.

Caught stealin'!

These clams turned out great! They had a great texture without being too chewy (is this because they are belly and not strips?), and the cornmeal coating was nice and crunchy. Served with the tartar sauce, they were a great nosh as we continued to cook the rest of the meal.

EP was in charge of putting together the oyster stew. Now, oyster stew is not really a stew at all. It's basically a creamy soup with oysters in it - yum! We used a recipe from The New York Times Cookbook, which began by sauteeing some thinly-sliced garlic and grated shallot in butter. Then milk and cream are a little white pepper are added and heated through, and then the oysters and their liquor (the liquid that they come in) are added until they oysters are cooked (only a few minutes). The dish is finished with some salt and chopped parsley.

We enjoyed the stew in mugs and it was so awesome - rich, creamy, and oyster-y. This is a great simple recipe if you have some extra oysters lying around (who has oysters just lying around? Get a job, oysters!).

For the main course, we had WINGS! BCD Mom makes some killer Buffalo wings and the best bleu cheese dressing ever. It is a real treat when we have them because (a) they are so good!, and (b) they are a huge pain in the ass so we don't do it often. Mom uses the Hooters recipe (we're classy like that) and they turn out great every time.

The wings are coated in a light coating of flour, paprika, cayenne pepper, and salt. Then they are refrigerated for a bit so the coating sticks better. Then the wings are fried up (we use an electric fry pan for more even heat), drained on wire racks, and then tossed with the wing sauce (butter, hot sauce, ground black pepper, and garlic powder) while still hot. Yum!

The wings were served with Mom's famous bleu cheese dressing, a (secret?) family recipe made with sour cream, mayo, bleu cheese, garlic pepper, ground black pepper, and hot sauce. OMG this is good stuff, even on a salad!

Lastly, Xani made her famous fries (wow, that link is from our first post ever!), and this time she tried to emulate the great garlic fries at Don't Know. She took finely chopped garlic and tossed it on the almost-done fries while they were in the hot oven. They turned out great, but next time she says she wants to use even MORE garlic to give them even more flavor. More garlic? Yes, please!

Gellie loves fries...can't blame him

Finished plate - yum!

Our little chicken- and fish-fry was a really fun, casual Sunday dinner filled with new experimental recipes and old family favorites. Good times!

Happy frying,

E & X

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Top Chef 4: The Elements

by Erin and Xani

Last night was the fifth episode of Top Chef and finally the claws (and the tears) have come out! All that fighting helped both of us gain precious points in our Top Chef fantasy game. But first, a quick recap:

Ming Tsai was the guest judge for the entire episode, and everyone was excited about him, especially since so many of the chefs cook with an Asian influence. (Side note: It's really too bad his show was taken off of the Food Network, it was good! Yet another example of the FN moving away from interesting, ethnic cuisine shows to more quick-fix, weeknight dinner shows...blech. But, I hear his show on PBS, Simply Ming, is quite good.) (Another side note: Our cousin Doug went to Yale with Ming! One degree of separation - sweet!)

The Quickfire was all about the chefs' palates, so they did a blind taste-test of 15 different ingredients. They were presented with two kinds of each ingredient, one cheap and one super-expensive, and the chefs had 20 seconds to pick which was the higher-quality ingredient. Ingredients included crab, maple syrup, bacon, soy sauce, chocolate, aged cheese, butter, caviar, pork, and olive oil.

Antonia won the challenge, getting 12/15 right! She was not shy about her incredibly sensitive palate.

The Elimination Challenge was another catering challenge: the chefs were divided into four teams of three, and they each had to make a first course for the Meals on Wheels Chicago Celebrity Ball. Each team was assigned a different element: earth, air, fire, and water. The chefs really tried to be creative here and incorporate their elements, and while some were successful, others failed miserably. There was quite a bit of bickering as well, specifically between Dale and Lisa on Team Fire, and amongst the whole Team Earth (Spike, Antonia, and Zoi).

The winners were Team Fire (Dale, Lisa, and Stephanie), who made a chili-marinated shrimp with a miso-glazed piece of bacon, atop a salad of pickled chilies. Yum! The judges found it to be very fiery and spicy and delicious. Stephanie is on a roll, but in the end, Lisa won the challenge for her innovative miso-glaze on the bacon, and as a special prize she and a guest get to go to Italy!

On the bottom were Team Water (Richard, Andrew, and Mark) and Team Earth. Team Water once again was led by Richard, but this time it didn't work out so well. They made a sous vide salmon (sous vide is where meat or fish is placed in vacuum-sealed bags and cooked in hot water) with a parsnip-vanilla puree and a salad, and MORE fake caviar made with tapioca! Richard cleaned the fish but not very well, as almost everyone had SCALES on their portion of fish. Ew! As Ming said, that can ruin a dish completely.

Meanwhile, Team Earth made a beef carpaccio with mushrooms and sunchokes which was apparently completely devoid of flavor (well, except some ill-fitting rosemary). Spike argued that he had wanted to make an earthy, butternut squash soup, but he was out-voted. Ming commented that that would have been a GREAT idea, saying the test in France for a good cook is: make me a soup. (Family members and others who have been to France: is this true??). This obviously pissed off Spike, this being his third time in a row on the bottom.

In the end Zoi went home for not seasoning the mushrooms correctly. When they got back to the back room where all the chefs wait (for hours I'm told by a certain Top Chef friend of mine), drama ensued. Jen (Zoi's girlfriend) was obviously upset, and then Zoi started crying, then Antonia started crying, and even Richard cried! Then began the fighting: Spike yelled at Antonia for not taking more of a backseat since she had immunity. Then Dale complained a bit and Lisa told him to stop, and he WENT OFF on her since she complained throughout the entire episode. Whew! DRAMA QUEENS!

Erin's Take:

I had Richard, Mark, and Dale on my team this week, and with all the drama, I earned 13 points!! (Speaking of points earned, I have to give a shout-out to the lovely Kit of Mango & Ginger who is playing along - she is in 37th place OVERALL!) I was hoping Dale would have won the challenge instead of Lisa (as Dale said: she made bacon and she gets to go to Italy??), but I was glad that neither Mark nor Richard went home, and let me tell you, they were CLOSE!

I thought the episode overall was good, though these themed dishes (zoo animals, films, elements) is seeming a bit forced to me. The best theme they have ever thought of was in the second season, where they had to cook a 7-course meal and each course was inspired by one of the 7 Deadly Sins. Brilliant! As I recall, my boy Michael had Envy and made something with a big fish and a little fish. In fact, I think he may have won that challenge??

Dish I wished I were eating: Well if Ming Tsai had never had miso-glazed bacon, then I sure as hell haven't. Bring on the fiery shrimps and bacon!

Favorite chef at the moment: Stephanie or Dale. Stephanie keeps a low profile but she is quite brilliant on the show (and in real life as my family members who have been to her former restaurant in Chicago keep telling me!). Dale I think is really talented even though he is kind of an ass. But hey, that's good television!

Xani's Take:

I kept my team from last week, and it was a smart move! I earned 12 points this week from Antonio, Richard and Andrew:

The fighting, cursing and crying really paid off!

And now, a confession... I haven't technically "watched" the whole episode, yet. I mean, I watched about 90% of it laaate last night, but it was after consuming a bit more akvavit than I maybe I should have, so its a little fuzzy. I also turned it off right after Zoi got the boot, so I totally missed all the fighting and crying that everyone is talking about (everyone=2 people)! I'll have to re-watch it again during one of the billion re-runs.

Dish I wished I were eating: None of the dishes really blew me away this week. I'd probably pick the bacon dish by default (I love anything with bacon!), but what I really wanted to do was try the palate test! So curious about how I would do...

Favorite chef at the moment: Hmm... this is tough. There's no one I really LOVE, yet. There's not even anyone who gets the eye-candy vote! Can I say my favorite chef at the moment is Sam from Season 2??

So, what did everyone think?

EP & X

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Oh Big Time: We Have Field Reporters!

by Erin

As you may have gathered from a few of our posts, we like cupcakes. You might say we're a bit obsessed, but really, can you blame us? Anyway, about a week ago, Xani saw the Martha Stewart Show which featured the three ladies who write the Cupcakes Take the Cake blog (which is wonderful, by the way). They mentioned a particularly good cupcake bakery in Brooklyn, NY, so Xani wrote to our friend Lauren (the one I visited in NYC who lives in BK) via Facebook (shameless plug: join the BCD Group!) and said:

"Kumquat Cupcakery... Do you know of this place? Its in your 'hood. Please investigate and report back."

And you know what? SHE DID! This is one of the ten million reasons I love Lauren - she takes direction! And now, Dear Reader, Lauren's field report on Kumquat Cupcakery:

Ladies,

I spent a little time this weekend doing field research for my favorite food blog (that's yours, by the way). As directed by Xani's post on my Facebook wall, I checked out Kumquat Cupcakery and ooh did I like what I found. The owner, Keavy, doesn't have a storefront but sells at two markets in Brooklyn, so we went to one this past saturday called Artists and Fleas in Williamsburg--put on your hipster glasses, gals! The place was small and mostly clothing and jewelry. The cupcakes were the only food on offer, and Keavy was there selling them herself! She was awesome, super sweet, and you should be friends with her. So, she had three flavors of her tiny cupcakes on offer--chocolate truffle, banana creme, and red velvet. They are SO adorably small, Xani you'll die of cuteness, about half the size of the Tribeca Treats ones I'd say. I tried red velvet first, and lemme tell you why Keavy is awesome--wonderful cake to frosting ratio, frosting sweet without being cloying, cake moist and favorful. Plus we got 6 for $5, tried a couple there and ate the rest at 4am when we came home drunk, when they were even tastier!!

Oh, Sarah and I both got some awesome new jewelry there, too, so the trip was a hit. Thanks for putting the Kumquat on my radar! She sells at a much bigger market on Sundays, which I think we should hit on your visit. So much to cram in...

I'm attaching a pic, though my photography is nowhere near as good as yours!

Thanks Lauren!! You are the best. Can't wait to hit the Kumquat during our next visit to the Big Apple!

Happy cupcake hunting,

EP

ps. Bonus points for figuring out the reference in the title. Hint: it's related to Top Chef!

Monday, April 7, 2008

More Burgers, plus Cupcakes and Bacon Chocolate! Oh MY!

by Xani

This past weekend I took a moment out of my whirlwind life for a whirlwind trip to Philadelphia. In less than 24 hours I was able to knock another burger off the list, visit the cutest grocery store EVER, achieve a culinary dream, drink in the lap of luxury, and visit an old favorite haunt.

The first meal of the day was at Rouge, a see-and-be-seen type of place on Rittenhouse Square in Center City. You know its a hip spot when there is a 45 minute wait at lunchtime! No matter-- we strolled around the square, did some window-shopping and were finally seated at a table by the open windows overlooking the square (great people and dog-watching!). Ordering was easy-- a bottle of Prosecco and of course I had to get the Rouge burger, served with melted Gruyere cheese, caramelized onions, and fantastic pomme frites on the side.

Yummmm...! I was super-excited to eat this burger. It was obviously "classy" (served on an actual plate instead of a greasy paper bag) and when it arrived at the table it looked absolutely perfectly cooked (medium-rare, of course). The fries were great, but not quite as good as a friend's order of Truffle Parmesan pomme frites! Note to self: next batch of duck/goose fat fries MUST be covered in Parmesan and truffle oil! I give the Rouge burger 7.5 burgers out of 10. Great grilled bun and toppings, and high quality beef, but the burger itself was slightly under-seasoned for my taste. Also, it was $17! I know I was paying for the plate, the view, and the experience, but I can get better flavor at Five Guys.

After lunch we decided to hunt down some cupcakes! After EP's experience with NYC cupcakes I wanted to see what Philly had to offer. We ended up at nearby Grocery Market and Cafe, which is one of the cutest places EVER. Sort of like a Superette for the very rich and refined, everything at this little corner shop was ultra-gourmet. They had a selection of five different cupcakes, so we got one of each!

Chocoholic and Coco Loco

Little Lolita, Plain Jane and Peanut Butter and Chocolate

Grocery also had a great selection of fancy candies, including Vosges chocolate bars. I was way too excited to see their rare and elusive Mo's Bacon Chocolate bar (with Applewood smoked bacon + Alder wood smoked salt + deep milk chocolate) available for purchase! I quickly snatched one up, and a friend picked up their Red Fire Exotic Candy Bar (Mexican ancho & chipotle chillies + Ceylon cinnamon + dark chocolate). We took all our sweet treats back to a friend's room at the Ritz Carlton and had a mid-afternoon cake and chocolate tasting... NORMAL!

This was sooo fun and delicious. First the cupcakes: unfortunately three out of five of the cupcakes were chocolate cake-- not my favorite. But they were pretty tasty and delicious. Chocoholic was just that-- super-rich chocolate cake with chocolate icing and sprinkles. Peanut butter and chocolate (the name speaks for itself) was pretty good, and Little Lolita was chocolate cake (boo) with with AMAZING goat's milk cream cheese frosting with chile toffee peanuts. I definitely preferred the Coco Loco (mmm coconutty) and the Plain Jane (vanilla cake, vanilla icing and delicious crunchy nonpareils) over the chocolate varieties. And if THAT wasn't enough sugar, out came the chocolate bars:

Oh Mo, how I've longed for you...

Bacon-y sweet perfection

Surprisingly spicy

I'd been dreaming about trying the Bacon Bar, especially since experiencing the fantastic Maple Bacon ice Cream at Craft a few months back. And, I gotta say, it is damn good. It's pretty salty, and the bacon flavor is mild, but it works so perfectly with the deep milk chocolate. Yum. I'm hoarding the last few squares and allowing myself one little nibble a day! The chile-dark chocolate bar was interesting as well. More cinnamon-y than spicy at first, it has quite a kick at the end. I would love to try some of their other bars, but at nearly $8 a piece its more of a once in a while indulgence...

We soon fell into a prosecco and sugar-induced coma, until it was time to wake up and drink and eat more! First, drinks at the Four Seasons before dinner at The Continental Midtown. The Continental (the original location is still open as well) is an old favorite place of mine and I've been there many times over the years. Anyone who is visiting Philly and wants a fun, funky atmosphere, great drinks and affordable, delicious food should definitely check this place out! It was packed so we enjoyed some cocktails at the bar (get the Buzz Aldrin for something sweet, or the Pickled (extra spicy) if you've had enough sugar for the day), then were seated upstairs for dinner. No pictures this time kiddos-- but I highly recommend the shoestring fries and the Continental salad. Don't miss the house-made cotton candy for dessert!

So, that's my trip to Philly in a nutshell. It was a much needed escape from real life, if only for 24 hours. Hope to return to the city of Brotherly Love soon!

X

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