Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Eating and Drinking in New Orleans

My main goal for my trip to New Orleans (apart from presenting at and attending a conference for work) was to eat well. Trying to embrace my success in New York, I didn't really plan ahead too much, and that turned out to be fine. There were lots of good choices, and almost all of my meals were spectacular. And you know how picky I am...

I was traveling with a coworker, and on our first night as we strolled around the French Quarter, we decided we really needed a cocktail and some supper. We looked at a few menus, and she said to me, "I'm not picky at all, you can decide." And I said, "Weeeeeeell, I'm too picky and we could walk around all night looking at menus." So, I got out my trusty iPhone, which led us to Lüke for sazeracs, shrimp and grits and étouffée. It was a brilliant way to start off the trip and set the tone for the fabulous eating and drinking that ensued.

For the sake of posterity, what I ate + drank in NOLA:

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Flashback to High School: (Almost) Flourless Chocolate Cake

Rain thwarted our plans for a mountain bike ride last night after work. The rain is whole heartedly welcome, but why does it always seem to happen in my free time when I want to be outside?

Stuck inside the house, I decided to make cake instead.

I made Molly Wizenberg's wedding cake. It's not the prettiest cake, but it's simple and fun to make. I especially love anything that allows me to break out the double boiler. Ours is an old Revere Ware copper-bottom stainless steel number. Andrew picked it up at the Rotary auction on Bainbridge Island before he moved to Albuquerque. When I met him, he didn't know what the metal bowl that fits inside the pot was for (other than getting in the way of his mac and cheese makin'). I snatched that puppy right up and it lived at my house until we moved in together a couple of years later. Now it's his favorite mac and cheese making pot and my favorite dessert making pot.

I made two identical cakes last night. The first is beautiful with crackly edges and a shiny top. The second cake isn't so pretty, and when I flipped it over to remove it from the pan, part of the bottom stuck to the parchment paper. Fearing that the ugly cake would also taste subpar, I took a little bite from the bits stuck to the pan. There was no need to worry. The cake, of course, tasted amazing (I mean it's hard to go too wrong with chocolate and butter). I took a bite and then wrapped the cake up, and as I was getting ready for bed, my mind was flooded with memories of high school.

My oldest friend Rosie's dad occasionally sent her to school with flourless chocolate torte to share with us at lunch. This was by far the fanciest thing I had ever eaten at that age. I didn't have much of a taste for dark chocolate back then, but it was clear to me that the torte was something to be savored and appreciated. It was rich and slightly bitter. I could only eat a sliver of it, but I knew that if I played my cards right, someday I would be able to eat a whole piece of dark chocolate cake. The day has arrived, folks (many years ago, in fact).

I haven't thought about the flourless chocolate torte in years. I've made (and eaten) this cake before without thinking of it so I don't know why the memory hit me right then. The taste memory of it flooded back last night the way a scent in the air or a song on the radio can bring you back to a specific place or moment. I could see us sitting in the high school cafeteria passing around the torte with all of our girlfriends. I could see Rosie's dad's smiling face. I could see us making a bid deal out of the flourless part - I had never made a cake at the time that hadn't come from a box mix so I didn't even know that some cakes did or didn't have flour. At the time, the flourless part of the cake seemed pretty obscure and interesting to me.

This cake isn't flourless - there's one tablespoon - but the flavor sure brings back the memories.

Molly Wizenberg also calls this the "winning hearts and minds cake," and I can attest that it definitely won some hearts and minds today. It seems to have been a hit at both offices. When Andrew got back to his desk after a morning meeting, he found an empty cake plate and this note on his desk.

In case you can't see the note, it says, "Thank you Andrew and please thank your talented wife," from his division members. And that was regarding the ugly cake!

The recipe is online here.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Simple Sunday Supper: Greek Meatballs with Tzatziki and Israeli Salad

We had a heat wave in Santa Fe last week, and I made this meal for dinner on Sunday night. I wanted something simple but tasty. It was light and refreshing, and it provided weeknight leftovers to fuel our after-work mountain bike rides.

Simple Sunday Supper

Tzatziki with toasted pita bread

Greek Meatballs

I've been wanting to make Yotam Ottolenghi's Fattoush recipe, but when I pulled it out late Sunday afternoon, I realized that the recipe advised to start at least three hours and up to a day in advance to make a kind of homemade buttermilk. That wasn't going to happen so I tried Smitten Kitchen's recipe for Israeli Salad instead. I found ground sumac at the Whole Foods. The salad was good, and I would make this again, but it wasn't knock your socks off good.

The Greek meatballs were a big hit though. The bacon cut the strong taste of the lamb making it more mild and the roasted peppers added a nice sweetness.

Greek Meatballs
Slightly adapted from here

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
1 large shallot, minced
1 pound ground lamb
1/4 pound bacon, finely chopped
1/2 cup roasted bell pepper, finely chopped (I roasted one orange bell pepper and used that)
Salt + pepper to taste

Heat oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add garlic, jalapeño and shallot, and cook for 1 minute, then let cool. Meanwhile, crumble lamb into a large bowl. Add bacon, garlic mixture, and roasted pepper and season with salt and pepper. Gently mix until just combined.

Heat a large cast iron pan over medium to medium high heat. In order to test your seasonings and adjust as needed, form one meatball, approximately 1¼-inch ball, and brown on all sides until cooked through, approximately 8 to 10 minutes. Taste test and adjust if necessary. I found that I needed a little more salt than I had originally added.

Form 1¼-inch balls and repeat the browning process. Work in batches if necessary to avoid over crowding in the pan.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Summer Evening in Santa Fe: Seeing the Santa Fuego*

We had the perfect summer evening this week. After work, we came home for a quick bite to eat and then we rode our bikes downtown to see our local professional (zero A's) baseball team, the Santa Fe Fuego, play the Alpine Cowboys.

We rode through our neighborhood, down the river trail, did a loop around the Plaza and headed to Fort Marcy, which is also the site of the burning of Zozobra. This was our first time attending a Fuego game, and it was definitely the most charming baseball game I have ever been to. 

We bought our six dollar tickets and cans of local beer and found a place on the cement bleachers. It wasn't very busy so finding a good seat was easy. We sat behind home plate, and since it is such a small venue, we could see all of the action. We also got to see this view of the mountains all night - not bad!

Those fans in the know had brought lawn chairs and blankets. We sat down next to a group of coworkers who were on a company outing. They had a dozen pizzas delivered to them in the stands!

The announcer told us to be on the look out for the team mascot, Furry. Furry is a black, red and orange dinosaur who is, you guessed it, really furry. Furry made his way through the stands posing with the kids and adults for photo shoots. After the fifth inning, he raced all the kids around the bases and in a surprising turn of events, he beat them all. What the heck, Furry?? As my friend Felicia says, Furry is a mess!

Two little girls in the front row chanted "let's go Fuegos!" and we all responded with five claps. And then an elderly man in back shouted, "Let's go..." and we responded "Fuego!!" We did this every time the Fuego were at bat, and sometimes when they needed some extra encouragement on the field.

There was a lot of action. The Fuego hit two home runs, the first baseman took a ball to the face and two of the opposing team's pitchers were struck by hits. I did a lot of cringing. I have never seen so many people get hit by baseballs.

Around the fourth inning, they asked for a volunteer to sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame for the seventh inning stretch. The guy who volunteered didn't seem to know the words very well... I guess I should have volunteered after all.

When the Fuego won, they played Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash and we all sang along as we filed out of the stadium. We hopped on our bikes and zipped back home. I haven't been riding my road bike as much as I usually do, and it was a good reminder to get out riding more often. There's nothing quite like cruising down the bike path at dusk with the warm air rushing by your face. 

Ity was the perfect summer evening in Santa Fe. It was so much fun that we have plans to go to another game next week. It really was the perfect summer evening in Santa Fe. 

*The actual team name is the Santa Fe Fuego, but I think it's a missed opportunity not to call them the Santa Fuego!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Visit to Zabar's

Within the first week or so of meeting Andrew, he had already told me about his family's tradition of eating Zabar's dinners, which consist of various cheeses, charcuterie, bread and wine. In my family, these are the things we snack on, but Andrew's family makes a whole meal of it and it is glorious! One day several years ago, after I told my mother-in-law about the crème fraîche story, she told me with all seriousness that their family values include good cheese near the top of the list.

Zabar's dinners can be eaten as a picnic while camping or out on the back patio or around the fire in the winter. It's simple and delicious, and a real treat. This is not an every week occurrence, but we usually indulge every couple of months.

There are many amazing cheese shops in New York, but when Andrew was a baby his parents lived a few blocks from Zabar's. At that time, in the 1970s, the area was redlined and they couldn't even get a bank loan. It's hard to imagine now since it seems so fancy. When his parents left New York, and no longer had access to Zabar's, the tradition continued and the name has stuck all these years.

Since I had been hearing about Zabar's for years, a visit was a must-do for me on our trip to New York.

After spending the morning in the Natural History Museum, we strolled over to Andrew's old house.

And then we went around the corner to Zabar's to pick out cheeses for a picnic in the park. We picked some local cheeses that we couldn't buy at home and got some salami and crusty bread.

We had visited Eataly earlier in the week with its slick shelves filled with pricey olive oils and designer salts, and it was a real contrast. Zabar's clearly has just as good of a selection, if not better, but it felt like the kind of place that real people shop, a place with history and character. The kind of place that feels real. I think think this was my favorite day of the whole trip!

Monday, June 2, 2014

New Orleans

Just a few days after getting back from Zach's graduation, I left for a conference in New Orleans. This was my first time in the city, which I've always wanted to visit. It did not disappoint.

I've heard New Orleans described as a city that lives out loud, and from my short trip, I think that's pretty accurate. The friendly people, the music, the barges on the Mighty Mississip (so far from it's beginning near Lake Itasca), the street cars rattling down the middle of the road. The general hustle and bustle of the city. Even the buildings felt like they were speaking to me.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

New York

We spent a quick five days in New York for my brother-in-law's graduation. It was my first trip, and despite my deep desire to do so, I didn't do any research before we went. I wanted to just enjoy our time with family and experience Zach's New York. I usually do a ton of research on restaurants, but I left it all in Zach's hands this time. We had the best time. Seriously, THE.BEST.TIME!

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