December 25, 2010

Happy Eatings, everyone!! :-)

December 24, 2010


Despite what rumors may fly, there were actually a lot of great foods in the colonial days: roast duck, pumpkin bread, pie, and...syllabub. Syllabub isn't particularly renown, but it should be! Syllabub is typically a frothy drink made from homemade whipped cream, sugar, and white wine. Our variation, compliments of my great friend Allie, had some extra holiday spices thrown in (lots of cinnamon!) and I believe she used rum instead of wine. The result was a spiked whipped cream-type concoction that was light and airy and full of Christmas cheer - and it was as much fun to eat as it looks. Though originally thought to have been made by milking a cow straight into the bowl to let it froth naturally, if you don't happen to have a cow on hand, frothing the milk with a fork or whisk works pretty well too. To make more of a drink than a spooned dessert, simply add some more wine (or rum) to the mix (though this consistency would make for a perfect pumpkin pie plate accessory)!

Where you can enjoy this yourself:

My friend Allie's place, if you happen to know her and are in the Denver, Colorado area
- OR -
Your very own kitchen!

It takes a few minutes to make - especially with all the whisking involved - but the end result is worth it. Though I haven't sought out any recipes for it myself, I at least wanted to bring it to your attention because it's a great little drink/adult dessert that is perfect for this time of year.

December 22, 2010

Dumplings with Noodles in Brown Sauce

Since my first dumplings about two years ago, I haven't been able to get enough of them. The dumplings here may very well be the BEST dumplings around: a thin enough skin to see right through to the juicy pork filling inside, I first and foremost appreciate that the skin of the dumpling is substantial enough to more than adequately hold the dumpling together, yet it isn't thick and doughy, giving you something to chew on besides the pork and vegetable mixture within.

Dumplings piled high on top of noodles dredged in a thick, rich brown sauce - served, of course, in a "big bowl" (hey! That's the name of the restaurant!) - is food for the body and the soul. Dumplings to me are a great comfort (/lazy day) food, but I always feel great inside and out after a meal of Big Bowl's dumplings, and I think it has to do with the freshness of the ingredients. The vegetables, steamed just right, add such a freshness to the dark brown sauce dish that you feel like you're genuinely eating a healthy meal. And the dumplings pop with the flavor of fresh scallions and herbs mixed into the pork so that you can't help but smile as you're eating. Though the BEST Dumpling Soup at Big Bowl will always have a special place in my heart, when I'm in the mood for noodles instead, this is a great alternative.

Where to enjoy this yourself:

Big Bowl Noodle House
418 East College Avenue
State College, Pennsylvania

My awesome roommate Katie last year introduced me to Big Bowl, which is now one of my favorite restaurants, as well as the dumpling soup. This place is not to be confused with the fancy, reservations-only eatery you may find online if you google "big bowl:" this is a tiny little place sub-terra just of the main intersection of downtown State College.

December 20, 2010

BEST Belgium Waffle

It's the perfect balance between breakfast and dessert, light and filling, healthy and indulgent (oh come on, there are strawberries in there - they're healthy!). It's the Belgium Waffle, perfected with fresh strawberries and whipped cream.

Consistently sweet, ripe strawberries layered beneath a thick layer of whipped cream certainly contribute to why these are the BEST Belgium Waffles. But, as you may have guessed, the star of the show is really the waffle itself. Crispy on the outside but warm and fluffy on the inside, taking a bite of this waffle is like wrapping yourself in a big, soft blanket and jumping into a giant pile of pillows - it's comforting, it's wonderful, and it's SO much fun. The waffle is moist and cooked to perfection (with lots of butter) with a subtle flavor of malt - or something else delicious that makes each bite taste homemade.

One of my favorite things about these Belgium Waffles is the ratio of ingredients. The light and plentiful whipped cream is in perfect equilibrium with the strawberries and the waffle foundation. There are enough toppings for every waffle square, down to the very last one on the very last quarter, so that with each bite you get the full experience. A testament to the great layering of this dish can also be observed by the fact that the waffle is hot, the strawberries are room temperature, and the whipped cream doesn't melt as it's only supported by the strawberries, not the hot waffle.

Where you can enjoy this yourself:

Original Waffle Shop
1610 West College Avenue OR 1229 North Atherton Street
State College, Pennsylvania

If you are in the area, there is "The Waffle Shop" and also "Original Waffle Shop." They are extremely similar (used to be owned by the same people) but their menus, recipes, and prices are slightly different. The waffles at both are REALLY amazing though - so even though the photos are from Original Waffle Shop, I'm tagging both restaurants in this post. Oh! And another great point to make: as you can see in the first photograph, there is a lovely glass of orange juice on my right side. That's not just any orange juice - that's freshly squeezed orange juice. That gives them an extra gold star in my book. Additionally, though it's not in the frame of the photo, they have a variety of real maple syrup flavors (maple, blueberry, strawberry) - but it's REAL maple syrup, not any of this sugar-fake-corn-syrup stuff. That elevates them to two gold stars for me.

My only regret is that I don't eat at either of the Waffle Shops every day. Maybe then I could something besides the BEST Belgium Waffles or the BEST Western Omelette (with the BEST Chocolate Chip Pancakes). Because, as it would seem experience tells me, they make one of the BEST breakfasts around.

December 16, 2010

BEST Meal Contender

Lobster bisque

Fresh BUFFALO mozzarella and tomato caprese salad

Heavy cream mashed potatoes

Creamed spinach

Filet mignon and shrimp

Fresh berries in sweet cream

Happy Birthday dessert platter

Confession: I just made up the "BEST Meal Contender" category because we had four incredible courses at Ruth's Chris Steak House, each one better than the next. So do I label this as the BEST steak? Or caprese salad? Or berries in sweet cream? because everything I had would certainly top my lists right now. Instead, in honor of this 3-hour and thoroughly enjoyable meal, I'm just calling the experience as a whole one of the best.

The lobster bisque was creamy with a nice tomato-and-seafood balance of flavor. The caprese salad, sitting over a bed of greens in a syrupy balsamic, had buffalo mozzarella - and it was as good as the mozzarella in Italy. It's the first time I've had it since returning: this is fresh cheese that melts in your mouth it's so soft and fresh - I've literally seen people eating it out of a bag with a spoon. My only complaint about their salad though, was the tomatoes were run-of-the-mill, the same flavor as you find at the supermarket - and they NEEDED to be homegrown tomatoes to be sitting next to the buffalo mozzarella.

Moving onto the side dishes, the mashed potatoes are like a dream, so creamy they're like a dream drizzled with butter, and clearly made with heavy cream (none of this low-fat milk stuff!). The creamed chopped spinach was also great (though the potatoes outshone them) - and now we come to the main entree. The Victoria Cut Filet Mignon at Ruth's Chris time and time again is my favorite filet mignon. The spices and marinades rubbed into the meat are rich and flavorful - and a nice medium-rare is PERFECT if you like your steak red in the middle. (I actually had some trouble with this, not remembering that the filet will cook another minute or so as it sits on your plate in front of you, so be sure to cut to check the temperature after waiting a few seconds at least.) The shrimp had a bit of Cajun seasoning (not my favorite flavor), but were succulent and perfectly cooked, nonetheless.

The desserts also did not disappoint - I can't tell you how sad it made me that I was too full to actually finish my sweet cream and berries dessert. It was SO good - the syrupy sweet-but-not-too-sweet cream hugged every crevice of the berries with a delicate vanilla accent, and it was impossible to comprehend that three or four bites in I just couldn't eat another bite. But it was heavenly.

Ruth's Chris is an upscale steakhouse, where it's a good idea to call ahead for a reservation, just in case. We were celebrating a birthday - the guest of honor's dessert was a small sampling of the berries in sweet cream, homemade berry sorbet (quite akin to the gelato I had in Italy), and chocolate mousse in a chocolate cup. Our server was great, but it was a long meal by choice, and I couldn't imagine it any other way. Ruth's Chris is an expensive restaurant, but the quality of food and service lives up to every expectation. In my opinion, it's worth saving up to go to for a special occasion.

Where you can enjoy this yourself:

Ruth's Chris Steak House
148 West 51st Street
New York City, New York
(Note: Check their website, they have locations all over the country!)

December 15, 2010

Chicken with Fresh Thai Basil Dumplings

Located (apparently only!) at a stand in the Boulder Farmer's Market, Sisters Pantry whips up piping hot, fresh, delectable dumplings served in a small pool of special dumpling soy sauce. Rumor has it, if you get there early enough, you can score some of the pork dumplings (unfortunately, we had opted to sleep in that day) - later in the morning, the pork are only available frozen for take-away. However, they have great garden vegetable dumplings and chicken with fresh Thai basil dumplings. The latter are the focus of this post, as I'm not usually one for chicken dumplings, but the fresh basil adds both a nice and unique flavor - a bright, fresh taste that compliments the dumpling sauce surprisingly nicely. You'll be lucky if you get to their stand at the market when there's no line - it's a popular stop for anyone craving a tasty mid-morning, afternoon, or evening snack!

Where you can enjoy these yourself:

Sisters Pantry
Boulder Farmer's Market
1900 13th St
Boulder, Colorado

December 14, 2010

Roasted Vegetable Ciabatta

What's better than roasted vegetables sandwiched between syrupy balsamic, fresh mozzarella, and ciabatta, all pressed together? Not a whole lot!! I've really come to appreciate roasted, caramelized, or grilled vegetables in combination with a mild cheese and some flour-based envelope. The balsamic was a nice tie-in to the red peppers, eggplant, and onions, and though the ciabatta was a bit crunchy on the outside for my tastes, it was certainly a nice little lunch - and the second half of this establishment is an ice cream parlor, so how could you go wrong?

Where you can enjoy this yourself:

Sweets of the Spoon
597 Route 25A
Downtown Business District
Rocky Point, New York

December 13, 2010

Fresh Berries in Custard

I looooove fresh custard. Give me custard-filled cream puffs, cakes, bowls with a spoon - anything, I'm there! This custard was the first good home made custard I've had in a while, so it seemed especially good: its light vanilla flavor was a perfect compliment to the strawberries, and its heavy weight was a great contrast to the fluffy (and also fresh) whipped cream on top. One would think some berries and custard in a cup couldn't possibly fill you up - but after an appetizer and main dish, it was hard to even think more than three bites into this. Delicious - and worth sharing at the table!

Where you can enjoy this yourself:

Lombardi's on the Sound
44 Fairway Drive
Port Jefferson, New York

(Details below are copied from a previous post on Lombardi's)

It should also be made known that this very well could be the best restaurant I've ever experienced. We came upon it by pure chance one day driving around and, despite its exclusive country club exterior, the restaurant is quite open and welcome to the public. I've been there three times over the past two years and verifiably would drive all the way out there for their food. Every single time we've gone, every single person's meal has been incredible - not just good, but really, excellent. They price accordingly - I couldn't make a habit of dining there five nights a week, or even one night every week - but I cannot stress enough that it is worth every penny. If you go during the summer, there is a beautiful view out over the Long Island sound; the staff is pleasant and attentive, with a host regularly making the rounds to assure your overall satisfaction; the atmosphere is relaxed and calming. Throw in truly excellent food, and you have a five-star winner, by my standards (which I like to think are pretty high).

December 10, 2010

Oven Roasted Vegetable Ravioli

Nothing says vegetable like the color green! The mascarpone and ricotta filling is blended seamlessly with a blend of fresh vegetables (none of which were particularly distinct, in a good way) and swimming in a roasted tomato sauce, topped with fresh basil and grated cheese.

What's neat about this restaurant, Church Brew Works, is it is as it sounds: once a church, it is now a brewery. A unique reuse of the building (and all the more commendable for it, in my mind!), the homemade beer is supposed to be very good - but for me, the homemade cream soda stole the show. Unfortunately, I didn't take a photo of the cream soda (believe it or not - it looked like ever other glass of cream soda you've seen, haha), but I do highly recommend it!

Where you can enjoy these yourself:

Church Brew Works
3525 Liberty Avenue
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

December 9, 2010

Deviation: Review of Recipes Every Man Should Know

What's better than a little black dress? A little black book - OF RECIPES!

Well, that's probably a debatable point (it really depends on the dress - and the recipes ;-)

The essence of Recipes Every Man Should Know, the latest publication from Food Blogga author Susan Russo and Brett Cohen (author of Stuff Every Man Should Know), is embodied in its title. This little book is chock-full of uncomplicated, low-prep, sure-to-satisfy recipes, ranging from great breakfasts (for one...or two); bacon in greens, margaritas, and brownies; and romantic dinners that will impress that special lady (and then all her friends when she gushes to them later)!

The book makes a great first impression with it's sleek black cover, and a quick flip through reveals a clean and well-organized layout throughout the recipe pages. Inside, they begin with an easy-to-read table of contents and an amusing introduction ("So, why should men cook? 1. Women think men who cook are sexy, 2. It involves fire, sharp instruments, and meat, 3. Women think men who cook are sexy, and it involves fire, sharp instruments, and meat."). Next comes a graphic list of basic utensils every kitchen needs and a nice break-down of kitchen terms before launching into the recipes - they do a great job providing a good synopsis of "basically" everything without being overwhelming. It's a good way to start the book and set the tone: don't be intimidated, you're cool, you've got this.

So, to offer a thorough review of this Recipes Every Man Should Know, I tried out three recipes: a breakfast, a dinner, and a snack - plus a small bonus at the end!

BREAKFAST: Better-Than-IHOP Pancakes

This is a recipe that's simple and doesn't take a lot of time (spoiler alert: all the recipes in this book are like that!!). But this is a handy one to have on hand because while the basic pancake recipe holds up on its own, it also provides a great foundation for creative toppings and fillings. And if me suggesting "creative toppings and fillings" makes you want to run for the hills, fear not! Because Russo and Cohen have already been creative for you: listed right after the basic recipe are a few variations to spice things up a bit (chocolate chip, maple apples, rum bananas with nuts anyone?).

DINNER: Shrimp Fettuccine

I love pasta, and I love shrimp - but for some reason the thought of preparing seafood has always intimidated me a little. So this was new territory for me. And guess what?? The meal was great! I don't know what I was ever so worried about! Oh, the ingredients that you toss into the cream sauce just make the shrimp POP with flavor - I went back for a second, then a third helping. The best part was the timing: while the pasta is cooking, you can make the sauce and prepare the shrimp - it's really no more than 15 minutes to the table once the pasta water boils. It looks complex, it tastes complex, but it's a very approachable meal to make. This is the recipe that really sold me. I would be thoroughly impressed if someone - of any gender - whipped this up for dinner, especially in so short a time.

SNACK: Sweet-Potato Fries (Plain and also the Parmesan-and-Herb variation!)

While I consider myself a good cook, before Recipes Every Man Should Know, I only once ventured into the world of making fries. It didn't turn out so well (imagine eating a potato that's in a cute french-fries shape and warm...but kind of very raw). So I was excited to give a slightly more instructed try with Russo and Cohen's Sweet-Potato Fries. And what a turn out! This is a great example of why it's important to have a little easy-reference book on hand to guide you from one side of the kitchen - where fries turn out hard and raw and inedible - to the other side, where after a VERY few short steps you get soft and silky snacks worth passing around.


Though I didn't have this book on hand during Thanksgiving, in later reading through the "Turkey Carving" how-to, I realized the method described in Recipes Every Man Should Know was the same as ours this year. So here's a great example of the method they describe - look how beautifully it came out!! Have you ever seen such a gorgeous carving??

Obviously, this book is great for men AND women; I think it's important for everyone to know how to cook at least a little. Especially if you like bacon (and who doesn't?!), this is a great little book to have on hand no matter what your gender. I love that they point out in the intro, "It's small enough to fit in your back pocket, so you will never ever need to write a grocery list again." (Men, showing up at a grocery store with a recipe book as your shopping list is probably the ONLY way to pick up chicks at the supermarket. Just FYI.)

So not only is this a great little book to stick on your bookshelf, or slip in your back pocket - but can't you see it fitting just perfectly inside a Christmas stocking, too?? Check out Food Blogga here (where she even posts some of the recipes from the book!), or order a copy - modestly priced at $9.95! - from here.

December 8, 2010

Crêpe Suzette

Certainly enough for two to share, crêpe suzette is a French dessert dish consisting of - you guessed it - crêpes and beurre Suzette (a butter and caramelized sugar sauce), with a twist of orange. Ours were filled with a little orange juice and the pulp of a fresh orange, Grand Marnier, and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Though I think using orange zest may beat using fresh oranges (as to avoid any pith, or that white part of the orange), this is definitely my favorite type of crêpe so far.

Where you can enjoy this yourself:

La Creperie
Paris Las Vegas (Hotel and Casino)
655 Las Vegas Blvd So.
Las Vegas, Nevada

The crêpes here are about $10 a plate. It's expensive, and we must have waited 20 minutes (with only one or two people ahead of us), so don't expect the same quick and easy on-the-go snack you might find in the real Paris.
It looks an awful lot like Paris - but don't be fooled! (Paris [Hotel and Casino] Las Vegas)

December 7, 2010

BEST Prime Rib

I'm just going to pause you here, for effect. You can click to see a larger photo...

What you're looking at is...the most perfect Prime Rib. In the world. Period.

Here is the Master Carver (note the large medallion indicating his prestigious status!) who is responsible for the table-side carving of my requested cut and preferred temperature of meat (rare, thank you very much!).

Much like the BEST stuffed mushrooms, this prime rib will change your life.

It's difficult to find truly rare prime rib, but Lawry's Prime Rib in Las Vegas has done it. The meat is so tender you could cut it with a fork - and it positively melts in your mouth. This isn't just prime rib, it's Prime Rib. It's hard to imagine I've ever settled for anything less.

You know the name Lawry because the company (though recently bought by Nestlé, as I understand it) makes great marinades you can buy at any grocery. It's clear where they got their start, as they really make some of the best steak I've ever had. In addition to the side of great mashed potatoes (note: by default they add their gravy to the mashed potatoes, but you can also opt for au jus instead), I added a side of creamed spinach and my company had an extra side of creamed corn. Surprisingly, I preferred the corn to the spinach - the spinach is seasoned with spices, onion, and bacon, and the corn is a sweet golden yellow served in a broth of cream - basic enough, but exceptionally delicious.

Where you can enjoy this yourself: (PS this restaurant needs to go on your bucket list, so take note!!)

Lawry's The Prime Rib
4043 Howard Hughes Parkway
Las Vegas, Nevada

Note on the website, there are several locations, and also several other Lawry's restaurants! It also needs to be noted: RECIPES FOR EVERYHING mentioned in this post are available ON THE WEBSITE listed above. I hadn't noticed it before, and it's really hard for me to contain my enthusiasm about this!! In part because they only have locations far, far, far away from the East Coast...

Off the main strip in Vegas, you need to know about Lawry's The Prime Rib ahead of time (so if you're reading this you're in good shape!). How did I find out? I struck up a conversation with a stranger at a wedding, it came up that I was headed to Vegas soon, and he said there was a restaurant I HAD to try - so you know that my radar went right up! "It's the best prime rib sandwich I've ever had," he told me. He'd had lunch there, but we ended up dining for dinner. As I recall, the cut I got was $34 - but wait - because INCLUDED in your meal was a dinner-sized plate (below) of Lawry's famous spinning-bowl salad, fresh Yorkshire pudding, mashed potatoes, whipped cream horseradish, and the prime rib (my cut was 6 or 7 oz, I believe). This is an upscale restaurant, but the prices are realistic and you really get your money's worth. They get extra credit in my book for being so down to earth in that regard - and for having a prime rib that makes me want to hop a plane for 5 hours just to have it again.
Our lovely waitress preparing the famous spinning salad
Tossed in Lawry's specialty dressing, the evening started off with a great serving of salad...
And finished with an English trifle grand finale!

December 6, 2010

Waffles and Ice Cream

This little cafe, with a few table and chair sets and lots of fun adornments on the walls, can't be more than twenty feet wide - but it's about a hundred feet long! This was a must on my list of things to do in Pittsburgh: I'd heard rumors of a little specialty shop that's all about ice cream and waffles. What could be a better combination??? Though I don't know if I'd come back for the waffles, their ice cream was GREAT - and you see that infinite list on the blackboard?? Those were all the different flavors of ice cream they had, or could whip up for you. Because I had a cinnamon waffle, I just went with plain (fresh) vanilla bean ice cream - but it was really, really good. So good, it's actually a contender for the BEST Vanilla Ice Cream category. I also got a bite of peach ice cream (they mix it with the peaches right there) and a vanilla cookie ice cream. The sky's the limit and the staff seemed willing to indulge any flavor you could think up - so be creative!

Where you can enjoy this yourself:

Oh Yeah! Ice Cream and Coffee
232 South Highland Ave
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

December 3, 2010

Garlic Fries

What do you get when you take two great foods and combine them? Only the greatest snack idea EVER! Not too much can beat some good ol' garlic, and when tossed in generously with a heaping stack of french fries, you have what can only be considered a fantastic appetizer, late night snack, side dish, etc.! This was the first time I've had garlic fries, and now I'm itching to get my hands on some more. Appaloosa Grill serves theirs up with some chopped fresh garlic, fresh parsley, and salt. I'm excited to try throwing these together at home with a few extra spices for a little extra kick - maybe even add some sauteing?? The possibilities are endless!

Where you can enjoy these yourself:

Appaloosa Grill
535 16th Street Suite 105
Denver, Colorado

December 2, 2010

BEST Roast Beef Sandwich

There is nothing like farm-fresh, local ingredients - especially when it comes to meats. Made to order, however you want it, None Such Farms uses their own beef in their roast beef sandwiches, and you can taste the difference. The meat is always rare - or so juicy you'd think it's rare - and flavorful, you'll never be able to go back to your normal grocery store meat again! I like my sandwiches piled with red onion, lettuce, tomato, oregano, red wine vinegar, and a little black pepper. The great thing about farm store too, is odds are you'll get fresh bread (if not baked on premise, baked somewhere nearby), which of course makes any sandwich as much as it's filling.

Where to enjoy this yourself:

None Such Farm
4493 York Road, 4458 York Road
Buckingham, PA

Their website lists two addresses: as you're driving along York Road, the entrance to the actual farm is on one side of the road and the barn-type building housing the None Such Store (and roast beef sandwiches!) is directly across on the other side of the road. The latter is immediately off the road with a parking lot just outside of the store - and the farm itself is pretty easy to identify on the other side.

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