More borough love

I’m trying to take advantage of my last nights of freedom before the new semester starts, so my long weekend was full of exciting restaurants! Friday night, Erik, Jose, and I headed to Camaradas (ok, so technically East Harlem is not part of my beloved Brooklyn, but Camaradas is so cool, I will let it share post-space with my ode to Brooklyn eating) after work so that I could finally order the jibaro about which I have been fantasizing for months!

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The jibaro is composed of pulled pork sandwiched between … get this … two big slabs of fried green plantain:

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Can you imagine anything more mind-blowing? Or romantically lit?

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Saturday night, Erin Gunn Brennan and Mike came down to Brooklyn so that we could try the beer table at long last. This place opened a couple years ago literally steps from my apartment, but I’ve never been motivated to go because I don’t like beer. I’ve been trying to get my favorite beer lover down here for ages to try it, and we finally had the chance this weekend!

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I had a little chat with the owner and explained that I did not like beer and wanted the least beer-y beer on the menu. Enter Harvest Ale ’99, the beer that motivated the owner to open beer table in the first place!

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The tasting notes mentioned something about “hedonistic, figs, maple …” amongst other exciting descriptors, so I took the plunge and bought the $18 bottle.

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And I loved it!

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We needed nibbles to support the high alcoholic content of these beers, so we split the spinach salad with pear and Gruyere:

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And the maple bacon with caramelized potatoes:

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With our bellies full of expensive beer and miniature food, we took off for real dinner and football a few blocks away at Flipsters, the place where, according to the website, Brooklyn hipsters flip burgers:

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I’m pretty sure I did not see any hipsters standing at the grill …

Anyway, I continued the beer theme by ordering a Blue Point Blueberry:

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Proof that I drank my second beer of the night:

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While Erin and I tossed ’em back, Erik and Mike had their eyes on a clearly very riveting playoffs game:

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I was very excited when my salmon burger on whole wheat arrived:

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I think this is the most beautiful salmon burger to ever exist:

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Sandwiched:

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I was feeling bold and slathered on a TON of mustard without realized that it was the spiciest horseradishiest mustard EVER. I literally had tears streaming down my cheeks through the whole meal. I was delicious, but I REALLY had to focus on my breathing!

Sunday morning, I headed out to meet the NYU girls minus one — Gina, Kate, JQ, and Di — at Buttermilk Channel. Sadly, Buttermilk Channel had an hour and a half wait, so Gina and I set out to do some reconn and found Le Petit Cafe. It looked like a little to-go cafe from the outside, but two people walking into the restaurant separately saw our contemplative expressions and told us it was excellent. The hostess informed me there was a 20 minute wait, so we summoned the rest of the crew over and were seated in no time … smack in the middle of this urban paradise!

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You can’t even tell it’s Brooklyn! We were sitting right next to a little waterfall cascading the height of the wall. Kate and I agreed that the space and ambience, combined with the peaceful music playing, would make this an ideal spot for yoga classes. We all felt very zen.

I got complicated with the menu and ordered an egg white Huevos Rancheros over polenta instead of over a tortilla.

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The colors were amazing, so I went nuts with the pictures.

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And the polenta was perfectly crispy and cheesy:

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Just one more:

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Mmmmmmmm, sooooo good. I chopped it all up so I could mix it together and get every flavor in every bite.

It was a perfectly filling and relaxing meal, capped off by a few bites of Kate’s pumpkin pancakes 😛

Yayyyyyyyyyy Brooklyn, the best borough EVER!!!

Do you have a favorite borough!

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BrookLYNNNNNNNN!

A couple Sundays ago, Kate invited Gina and me over to her apartment for some home-cooked comfort food! Kate had decorated her coffee table with wine glasses, bread, and herbed olive oil for dipping:

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Fancy schmancy!

While Kate tended to the Ribolita (Tuscan bread soup) …

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… Gina and I broke into the snacks!

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Gina brought over veggies and HungryGirl’s buffalo chicken dip:

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I ate about a gallon of this stuff. It was AMAZING.

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Meanwhile, over by the stove, Kate continued her flurry of dinner-prep activity:

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This soup was delicious and SO hearty:

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The big chunks of Italian bread that had been baked right into it were delicious and FILLING.

For dessert, I brought over the last of the goodies that Coco sent me from Argentina:

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Perfect!

At work the next day, my international dessert sampling continued with this bowl of food left from a meeting (french bread, eggs with ham) and dulce with guava jelly that Rosalie brought from Puerto Rico!

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Mmmm, I think I’m addicted to dulce de coco.

And then, just since I’m talking about delicious things, I might as well mention that Diana, Vani, and I met up at the newest raw restaurant in Brooklyn, Sun In Bloom, for dinner on Tuesday night.

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I ordered the Southwestern Burrito:

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The “meat” inside was made of sunflower seeds and was absolutely delicious and tasted like tacos!

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Plus, I ordered my burrito wrapped in collard greens instead of a tortilla — brilliant!

I love having so many people with whom to explore the food in my borough! Who do you call when a new place opens?

Shredded, pulped, and peeled

There is no sight more promising than a table full of veggies …

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Last week, I inaugurated my brand new slow cooker by sort of following this recipe for ropa vieja. I enlisted Erik to do the yucky raw meat part of the preparation …

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… while I went to work on the broth:

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Erik also helped me chop the rainbow of veggies that we decided to throw in for fun. And then he went to sleep.

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I combined everything in the pot …

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… and set my alarm for 4:30 am so that I could get up and remove the meat …

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… shred it …

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… and then return it to the pot for another couple hours to marinate:

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Can you guess what I had for lunch the next day??

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It was sooooooo delicious … comparable to the meat that my coworker Belkis makes.

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(Clearly, I’m almost an authentic Latin American chef!)

The next day, I embellished the stew with some spiralized zucchini:

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Mmmmmmm. I rarely cook with meat, so I get really excited when it actually works!

I also made some fresh orange juice with this new addition …

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… and then I obviously ate all the pulp:

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I hadn’t made fresh orange juice since I was probably five years old. This was incredible!

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I also went crazy and finally purchased one of these giant pomelos that I had been admiring at the market:

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Since it was so huge, I planned to eat it 1/4 at a time for a little snack …

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… but it was ALL flesh in there!

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Obviously, I had to eat the whole thing since it was so small 😛

I was left with a big pile of peel and no idea what to do, so I started some googling and found that pomelo peel is excellent candied! I loosely followed the recipe I found (which I can’t locate now) and chopped the peel into 1-inch chunks:

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And boiled it in fresh water three times to remove the bitterness:

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And squeezed the peels between two cutting boards to remove as much of the moisture as possible:

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I ended up with about three cups of peel:

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The recipe called for 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup of water per cup of peel. I improvised here thanks to this jar that’s been waiting for a job:

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I probably used under 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/4 cup of water, and the last 1/2 cup of the key lime jam that Wife brought for me when she visited last year:

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I whisked everything together in a saucepan over low heat until it was melted and reduced:

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Next, I mixed the peel into the syrup until every piece was coated and then arranged it on a foiled cookie sheet to dehydrate in the oven for a couple hours:

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I pulled the “candy” out of the oven while it was still a little bit wet …

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… so that I could roll it in this:

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And voila! Candied pomelo peel:

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And super green fingers!

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So sure, the peel still tasted like peel a little bit and I’m the only one who is going to eat it … but I still think it is pretty cool that I turned trash into candy 😀

Have you done anything creative with trash lately?

Teatime

Last week was full of all sorts of tea excitement! It started when Lillian dropped two bags of Eggnogg’n tea on my desk:

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I had heard so much about this tea but never had the chance to try it. I added milk and honey and curled up under my desk in solitary eggnog confinement, mmmm.

Next, Deborah brought in fresh ginger tea homemade by her mama.

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Wait, that’s not ginger tea! How did that get in there?!!! We definitely did not also eat a whole bag of cotton candy left from the Knicks game her friend attended …

Ahhhh, here’s the tea:

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Can you see those giant chunks of real ginger and apples?

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It was some of the best tea I have ever tasted!

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Tea adventure part 3:

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In an effort to avoid the cakes upon cakes upon cakes at my office, I’ve been going grocery shopping next door so that I can keep delicious and healthy snack ingredients — like apple, pumpkin, and yogurt — on hand at all times. This bowl of winter comfort involves a cup of pumpkin microwaved for two minutes with a chopped apple and topped with plain yogurt and …

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… the contents of an apple cinnamon herbal tea bag!!! Delicious AND beautiful at the same time 😀 I love how the tea turns the yogurt pink.

All mixed together:

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Next up: Mr. Midwest himself (aka Erik) brought back some fancy teas from his trip home at Christmas:

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This tea is delicious — it has actual chunks of cinnamon stick and apple in it. I’d show you a picture of the giant chunks of apple … but I accidentally ate them right out of the mix before the camera got there, whoops :-/

Adventures in wholesome beverage-land continued on Saturday when we headed down to Bay Ridge for a Merry-Christmas-to-ourselves massage followed by brunch at HOM:

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(Erik is not actually supposed to be the star of that picture.If you look at the board up above his head, you’ll see the many teas listed on the menu. To the right of his tongue, you’ll also see giant canisters of The Republic of Tea teas.)

We ordered a pot of blackberry sage tea:

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The tea came with mini apple cinnamon muffins and slices of Mama D’s special currant bread with butter and Stonewall Kitchen wild blackberry jam:

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Mmmmmmmmmmmm …

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We devoured the plate and I probably would have been full for the rest of the day on just that (especially after eating lots of complimentary trail mix at the spa :-p)!

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But there was more! We ordered two brunches to share, and the chef/waiter/jackofalltrades brought the meal to us already split!

We shared pistachio-crusted French toast with bananas, sauteed apples, maple syrup, and crispy crispy bacon:

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And a turkey reuben (turkey, Swiss, sauerkraut, and mustard) on marble toast with a cranberry goat cheese salad on the side:

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I was pretty stuffed before I ate this, but I was significantly more stuffed after!

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Geez, just writing this post made me feel tons of relaxed. Clearly, tea is the solution to everything. And, apparently, I consume copious amounts of it!

What does tea do for you?

Worth the wait

I had planned to head up to MA again for the long New Years weekend but decided last minute that I really needed some solid bonding time with my apartment. As a result, this weekend was a complete bonus to me, and I took advantage of the time to do some of the things I haven’t had time to do for months and months and months, like bake bread!

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I have this recipe for Irish brown bread that I love, but I haven’t had a chance to make any in over a year! Friday morning, I set about remedying that sad fact:

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Every time I make this bread, it is a little bit different. The recipe calls for four cups of flour, but I like to mix it up with whatever random grains I have around. This time, my fourish cups included: 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1 cup whole kamut flour, 1/2 cup toasted wheat germ, 1/2 cup cornmeal, 1/4 cup ground flax seed, 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats, and 1/3 cup caraway (rye) seeds:

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All mixed together:

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The rest of the recipe calls for 2 tbsp molasses, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 tbsp butter, 1 cup fat free plain yogurt, and as much milk as is necessary (usually something less than 1/2 cup) to get the dough to just barely hold together. I knead the dough a couple of times on a floured cutting board, shape it into a loaf, cut a few crosses in the top, and place it on a parchment-lined (yes, I reuse my parchment paper!) cookie sheet:

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The bread bakes for about 40 minutes at 400 degrees, until a tester comes out clean:

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I love this bread because it is super thick and hearty with a crunchy outer crust and a dense and heavy inside. Because it is such a dense bread, I like to pre-mark where the slices should be so I don’t accidently eat four whole cups of whole grains in one sitting!

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Inside:

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Mmmmmmmmmmmm!

An excellent topper for the bread has been homemade pistachio butter that I whipped up with this new appliance from my mom:

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A real, live nut grinder!!! I’ve burnt out so many food processors and coffee bean grinders in my quest for homemade nut butter, so let’s hope this new guy is man enough to accept the challenges that await!

On Sunday, I went with Gina to see the Who Shot Rock & Roll exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. When we finished, we had to walk for 40 minutes in the bitterly cold snowy wind back to my apartment, so I decided that — at very long last — I should make use of the molten chocolate lava cake batter that has been patiently waiting in my freezer since this event in March!

I greased some ramekins and cut a hole in the corner of the batter bag. What oozed out was less than photogenic …

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But it did its job!

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With my modem on the fritz, I couldn’t look up the recipe to refresh my memory on how to bake these little guys, so I stuck them in a 375 oven for about 25 minutes. (Side note: Just to clarify, this is the leftover chocolate lava cake batter made by the chef of River Cafe, the fanciest restaurant in Brooklyn and, quite possibly, once of the fanciest in all of New York City!)

When the top of the batter seemed to have solidified into some sort of cake, I removed the tray of olfactory heaven from the oven:

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I turned the lava cakes onto small plates and dusted them with cinnamon …

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… and crossed my fingers for the big reveal.

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Gina bravely broke the surface of her cake with a spoon.

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… and NO LAVA!!!!

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Grrrrr, those last five minutes in the oven must have turned the whole thing solid. Or else, I had the temp too high. Either way, who’s going to complain about a mound of rich, fudgy brilliance??

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Oh.

Theatrics aside, we all demolished our cakes in mere minutes amidst moans of pleasure.

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I’m so glad I saved this batter from the trash nine months ago!! Let’s hear it for freezers!

What is your greatest freezer success story?