Spring!

March 20, 2017

While I was sleeping, the vernal equinox arrived at 6:28 a.m. Winter has been keeping a firm grip this past week with temperatures in the 30’s, well south of the low to mid-50’s it should be at this point in March. On this first day of spring, it will be 50 degrees which will feel welcome. And speaking of welcome…

“Welcome Sweet Springtime” is an old song that popped into my head. Though the entire melody was quite clear, I could only remember the first two lines, so I looked up the lyrics. (Everything is on the Google!)

Welcome sweet springtime,
We greet thee in song,
Murmurs of gladness,
Fall on the ear.

Voices long hushed,
Now hear full notes, prolong,
Echoing far and near.

Sunshine awaits for,
The flower that’s from seed,
Joy giving incense,
Fall on the air.

Snowdrops and primrose,
Both timidly beam,
Hailing the glad new year.

Balmy in life,
Breathing breezes are blowing,
Swiftly to nature,
New vigors bestowing.

Oh, how my heart beats,
With rapture anew,
Earth’s flower in beauty,
Again feeds my view.

The music is Anton Rubenstein’s Melody in F.

The Blizzard of 2017 That Wasn’t

March 15, 2017

Yup! It didn’t happen. At least, not in our area. For sure, you’ll hear not a peep of a complaint from moi! It started snowing in the middle of the night but by early morning, it turned to a mix of rain and icy rain. The “Blizzard Warning!” was rescinded and snow accumulation amounts were reduced considerably. By around noon, precipitation stopped altogether though there was a very brief period of snow flurries around 3 p.m. The always reliable Sanchezes showed up to plow our driveway of what was about 3 inches of heavy, waterlogged snow.

Jen kept the leftover stuffed cabbage from our Purim dinner, so on Monday evening, I made another batch for Michael and me. Perfect comfort food for a blizzard. Or for just frigid wintry weather.

At Home: Bobe Bopsy's Holiptches

Last night’s dinner:

Vegetarian Chopped Liver

Vegetarian Chopped Liver*

At Home: Bobe Bopsy's Holiptches

Bobe Bopsy’s Holiptches with Steamed Potatoes

*Vegetarian Chopped Liver is composed of French-style canned green beans, hard-boiled egg, and fried onions. I combine them the old-fashioned way — in a wooden chopping bowl using a hand chopper — and chop until it resembles chopped liver.

The recipe for the stuffed cabbage is here.

March Weather Madness Continues: Blizzard Warning!

March 13, 2017

Yesterday, we were in the Winter Storm Warning zone (Red). Today, we’re in the Blizzard zone (White)! Snowfall: 6 to 12 inches.

March Blizzard 2017

March Blizzard 2017

Whenever we’ll be in the city for several days, I don’t replenish comestibles we’ve run out of until we get back. I generally avoid going to supermarkets on Sunday since even on an ordinary Sunday, they tend to be jammed. When we come back to NJ Saturday morning, I shop that day. However, when we come back Sunday morning, I wait until Monday or Tuesday.

We left for the city this past Wednesday evening and came back yesterday morning (Sunday). Of course, before we left, we didn’t know that a blizzard was heading our way. So, yesterday, I braved the supermarkets. No surprise, they were zoo-like. Honestly, I don’t understand why people wipe the shelves clean as though they’ll be stuck in their houses for months instead of a day or two. Fortunately, the things I needed were in good supply. What? Nobody eats vegetables and fruit during a blizzard?!

During the blizzard, our electricity could go out because of the high winds. Ergo, no heat! Now that our chimney is in good shape, we feel comfortable about building a fire. So, Michael went out this morning and bought some bundles of firewood and some starter logs. If need be, then, we can huddle and cuddle near a fire in the family room. Since I will have two functioning gas burners on my cooktop (but no oven), I’ll be able to cook.

While it’s not unusual to have a major snowstorm in March, it seems odd because it’s been an unusually warm winter.

Battening down the proverbial hatches….

Purim Dinner at Jen & Louis’s Apartment

March 12, 2017

Homemade Gluten-free Hamantaschen

Today is Purim. Last night, we had our Purim dinner with Jen and Louis. Instead of having it at our apartment as we usually do, we had it at Jen and Louis’s place. And… She and I prepared it together.

Before coming into the city, I baked two kinds of gluten-free Hamantaschen: Prune and Apricot (pictured above).

Dinner started as our holiday meals always do with my famous Chopped Salad. Jen made it and did an ace job.

Chopped Salad

The main course was Bobe Bopsy’s Holiptches, my maternal grandmother’s recipe passed down to me by my Aunt Symie. One of my earliest blog posts was about them and included the recipe.* While Jen had a copy of the recipe, she’d never made it. It was great fun preparing it together.

Stuffed Cabbage

To go with the holiptches we prepared Steamed Potatoes. Jen peeled and I sliced.

Steamed Potatoes

The four of us agreed that the holiptches were seriously delicious, and the steamed potatoes were the perfect accompaniment.

Stuffed Cabbage & Steamed Potatoes

An article in the Times talked about the savory hamantaschen Breads Bakery was selling: roasted beets and potato with caramelized leeks. Jen was interested in trying them, so since our apartment is not far from Breads, she asked us to pick up some and bring them along. While she and I were cooking, the guys bundled up and took a walk to By the Way Bakery, a gluten-free bake shop, to get some of their prune and apricot hamantaschen.

We ended the meal with a hamantaschen taste testing.

Hamantaschen

Left: Mine; Top Center: By the Way; Bottom Right: Breads

Michael liked the savory ones, but Jen and I didn’t. Louis thought the ones from By the Way were good, but he liked mine better. (Smart!)

It was great spending yesterday afternoon and early evening with our favorite daughter and son-in-law. Yes, I know, we have no other….

Michael and I came back to NJ early this morning. Now, with snow in the forecast, I think I’ll cook up a pot of holitpches for the two of us.

Happy Purim!

*To read the post “Bobe Bopsy’s Holiptches,” click here.

5-Day Birthday Dining Extravaganza (Part 6): Dinner at Eleven Madison Park

March 7, 2017

Birthday Card

After having a night-before-my-birthday dinner at Mamma Guidara’s and a birthday lunch at NoMad, we completed the Made Nice trifecta with dinner at Eleven Madison Park. It’s where we always celebrate our special occasions. Most of our monthly visits to EMP are at lunch. However, for our anniversary and birthdays, we always do dinner. And so at 8 p.m., on Monday, October 24th, we pushed through the revolving doors and entered the gorgeous Art Deco room. I know I’ve said this before, but no matter how often we go to EMP, we’re always excited to be there, and the staff is excited to have us there. But we feel a heightened sense of excitement when we’re celebrating a special occasion.

Arriving at our table, I immediately spotted this beautiful hand-drawn card created by the very talented Emily Parkinson.

Birthday Card

The interior is at the top of this post. The lovely message and so many of the staff signing gave me a huge case of the warm and fuzzies.

Elizabeth was our captain for the evening while Sommelier John Ross saw to our beverage needs. It’s always great fun having them take care of us. After we discussed menu choices with Elizabeth, John wheeled over the Champagne cart.

It being a celebratory occasion, Michael had his favorite Champagne.

Krug

John knows what I like, so my favorite Non-Alcoholic French Sparkling Cider was also on the cart.

French Sparkling Cider (Non-Alcoholic)

As always, our first bites were of the signature cookies which are already on the tables when guests are seated.

Black and White Cookie

Black & White Cookies with Apple & Cheddar

The meal began with a quartet of Hors d’Oeuvres brought to the table by one of the chefs.

Hors d'Oeuvres Tower

Hors d’Oeuvres Tower

The chef disassembled the tower which then becomes four interlocking sections each holding a different hors d’oeuvre connected by a theme: Mushrooms.

Hors d'Oeuvre Tower: Mushroom

Tarte with Black Truffle

Hen of the Woods with Amaranth and Horseradish

Pickled with Apple and Shallot

Beignet with Black Truffle

The Caviar course was next. It’s Chef Humm’s upscale take on Eggs Benedict.

Caviar

Caviar Benedict with Potato, Leek, and Hollandaise

I don’t eat caviar, so I got this not exactly shabby substitution.

Black Truffle

Black Truffle Benedict with Parsnip and Hollandaise

Accompaniment for the Benedicts. Look out, Thomas’s!

House Made English Muffins

House Made English Muffins

Next up: Foie Gras! We had the option of choosing hot or cold. While I generally prefer hot, I’ve found that at EMP, I like the torchons better. And Michael always prefers cold. This one had us both swooning.

Foie Gras

Foie Gras Marinated with Plum & Cocoa

Foie Gras

Wine pairing:

Moulin Touchais

At this point, the House Made Rolls arrived along with the Amagansett Sea Salt. However, instead of the usual house made cultured butter, there was something quite different to spread on the rolls: Honey Nut Squash with Sage and Cinnamon that was mixed at the table with some other ingredients.

Honeynut Squash

Honeynut Squash

While it was tasty, I have to be honest and say I much prefer the butter.

For the fish course, we were given a choice between lobster and striped bass. We both chose the latter.

Striped Bass

Striped Bass Poached with Fennel and Clams

Wine pairing:

Schloss Gobelsburg 2000

The vegetable course was Celery Root. Previously, it had been prepared “en vessie.” This time, there was a brand new preparation expertly finished tableside by Elizabeth.

Celery Root

Celery Root

Celery Root en Croûte with Black Truffle

Michael likes to have at least one beer pairing, so John paired this beer with the celery root.

Beer

When one of the reception staff arrives at our table mid-meal, we know that it’s Kitchen Visit time! This time, it was Matt who escorted there. When we’re celebrating a special occasion, the kitchen is often the place where we will be greeted with a surprise. Even knowing this, we’ve given up trying to figure out what it might be. And damn it! They do always manage to surprise us!

We walked in and saw that they’d removed the high-top table and replaced it with a table for two. There were place settings and wine glasses which held pours of – GASP! – Château d’Yqem.

Kitchen Visit

After we sat down, Chef de Cuisine Dmitri Magi brought over this.

Kitchen Visit

OMG! Yes, a gigantic White Truffle!

Two plates were set in front of us holding a composition Dmitri had created especially for us.

Kitchen Visit

Ris de Veau, Cauliflower, and Almond

Dmitri spooned on some sauce.

Kitchen Visit

Kitchen Visit

Now, the idea was, of course, for the white truffles to be shaved on top. Next thing I knew, Dmitri handed me the truffle and said, “You do it!”

Kitchen Visit

Well, folks, let me tell you that was no easy task. What took me totally by surprise was that the truffle was not anything like the mushrooms I’m used to cooking with. This baby was hard! Like baseball hard. My first attempt didn’t go well. Dmitri retrieved the truffle, made some adjustments to the shaver, and shaved a few truffles. He made it look so easy!

Kitchen Visit

He handed the truffle and shaver back to me. It still wasn’t easy — you have to put some muscle into it — but I finally managed to get some decent shavings on Michael’s plate.

Kitchen Visit

Dmitri added a lot more and then rained truffles onto my plate.

Kitchen Visit

Dmitri’s creation by itself would have been sensational. Covered with a blanket of white truffles, it was orgasmic! John Ross knows that sweet wine is the one type of wine I like, and you can’t do much better than Château d’Yquem which also happens to be Michael’s favorite sweet wine. Overall, perfection!

We toddled back to our table basking in the glow of the fantastic surprise. The flatware for our next course had already been laid. It included our engrave knives (a gift from EMP for our 45th anniversary) which signaled that the main course would be served.

Our Engraved Knives

The choices were venison or Chef Humm’s signature duck. Michael chose the venison but since I don’t care for it, I had the duck.

Duck

Duck Honey and Lavender Glazed with Turnip & Huckleberry

Venison

Wine pairing:

Saint-Estephe 2000

Two sides served family style:

Potatoes

Potatoes

Black Radish and Spelt Dumplings

Black Radish and Spelt Dumplings

The Cheese Course was an oldie but goodie.

Cheddar

Cheddar Tart with Apple and Mixed Greens

Mixed Greens

Wine pairing:

Chardonnay

Approaching the meal’s denouement, we chose different desserts. From the photos, you won’t have to guess which was dessert was Michael’s and which was mine.

Pear

Pear Sorbet with Caramelized White Chocolate & Riesling

Chocolate

Chocolate Tuile with Crème Fraïche Ice Cream and Mulled Wine

John went a little overboard with the pairings.

Harlan Estates

Rappa

Riesling

Our usual Siphon Coffee was prepared by Whitney Boyer, one of the dining room managers.

Siphon Coffee

Michael always enjoys ending with Laird’s Apple Brandy.

Laird's Apple Brandy

For some time, we’ve been having the Chocolate Pretzels with Sea Salt and the “Name Your Milk” game packed to go. Also in the bag were the take-home gift House Made Granola, menus, and a Birthday Bonbon.

It was a truly magical evening. Outstanding cuisine, spot on pairings, exceptional service, and a memorable surprise. Couldn’t ask for anything more. Plus, we were surrounded by our terrific EMP family. I sincerely appreciate everything they did to make it an unforgettable birthday celebration.

Eleven Madison Park

To see the entire photo set for this dinner click here.

Here are the links for previous birthday extravaganza posts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. The links to Parts 4 and 5 are in the first paragraph of this post.

March Weather Madness

March 1, 2017

73 degrees on the first day of March. Crazy!

At Home 2017

At Home: Avocado Toast

February 18, 2017

At Home: Avocado

The avocado. WebMD calls it a “nutrient all-star” because it contains a myriad of vitamins and minerals that have lots of health benefit. And while the fat content is high, it’s monounsaturated fat, aka the “good” fat, that helps lower bad cholesterol.

No doubt the avocado’s most popular use is for guacamole which, of course, I’ve made occasionally (the recipe I use is via Diana Kennedy, the doyenne of Mexican cuisine). However, I more regularly use an avocado when making one of my favorite salads, the Cobb salad, in which it’s an important ingredient.

A few days ago, I made a Cobb salad for lunch – just for me because Michael preferred to have something else. That meant I didn’t use the entire avocado, so then the question: What to do with the rest? I did consider making guacamole but suddenly got this brainstorm. Avocado toast! Something I’d never made before. Actually, I’d never even eaten it before. Though it’s become quite trendy and is served in many restaurants, it’s not been on the menu in any of the restaurants we frequent.

A little Googling provided the info that avocado toast can be plain or adorned. Adorned sounded good to me. And I immediately had the idea of how mine would be adorned.

Though the recipes I looked at all called for hearty, very crusty breads, I used a fairly thick slice of brioche bread. Besides it being the only bread I had on hand, it happens to be really delicious especially when toasted. I mashed the avocado, mixed in a bit of lemon juice, and spread it on the toasted brioche. To the avocado base, I added these layers: chopped scallions, crispy bacon torn into small pieces, chopped tomato, cubed pieces of cooked chicken breast, a generous sprinkling of blue cheese, finely minced hard-boiled egg yolk, and the hard-boiled egg white finely chopped. Lastly, I spooned on some vinaigrette.

Et, voila!

At Home: Avocado Toast

Avocado Toast Cobb Salad

Not exactly a pick-me-up-and-eat-me type of avocado toast as a fork and knife were definitely required. Yum!

Jekyll & Hyde Weather

February 8, 2017

Today

At Home 2017

At Home 2017

Overnight

At Home 2017

Tomorrow

At Home 2017

We’re in the 8-10″+ zone!

Happy Birthday, Michael!

January 26, 2017

Apple Tart

5-Day Birthday Dining Extravaganza (Part 5): Lunch at NoMad

January 24, 2017

NoMad Atrium

Having lunch at NoMad on the day of my birthday was a no brainer! My birthday occurs during white truffle season. I adore white truffles as does Michael. And there is no better place to have them than at NoMad. Added to that, the dessert cart was back! It had been part of lunch service during NoMad’s early days. We’d loved it, were bereft when it was no longer available, and so were thrilled when we read it was returning. White truffles and the dessert cart on my birthday! We were stoked!

We’ve had countless meals at NoMad since it opened nearly 5 years ago. As I said in my previous post about Mamma Guidara’s, we are flattered to be considered members of the NoMad Family and are always made to feel special whenever we dine at NoMad. When we come for dinner, we always sit in The Parlour because in the evenings, it is quieter than the Atrium. However, The Parlour is not open at lunch, so the Atrium it must be. Fortunately, it isn’t noisy in the afternoon. And, frankly, the brightness that comes from the enormous skylight makes for excellent photos (so much better than the dim lighting and red décor of The Parlour).

Flatbread

House Made Flatbread with Sweet Potato and Apple

The filling changes with the season. Hot and crusty. Yum!

Bay Scallops

Bay Scallops Marinated with Yuzu and Pistachios

We each started with the scallops. Light, flavorful, delicious.

Champagne

Though Michael had not ordered wine to go with the scallops, the sommelier arrived with this surprise gift for him — the perfect accompaniment.

Alba White Truffle

White Alba Truffle

Look at the size of that beauty!

Alba White Truffle

Intoxicating aroma!

White Truffles

Tagliatelle

Ready to be shaved upon. The NoMad offered the truffles at cost, 4 or 8 grams, the latter dubbed “The Ridiculous.” They’ve been doing that for the past few years. Now, you couldn’t possibly be thinking we’d skimp and get a measly 4g’s? After all, it was my birthday lunch. But the fact is, even when it hasn’t been a special occasion, we’ve always opted for 8 g’s.  So, bring on The Ridiculous!

White Truffles

Sometimes, the shaving takes place in the kitchen.  We felt honored to have them shaved at the table.

White Truffles

Tagliatelle with White Truffles: 8g’s aka The Ridiculous

In a word: Orgasmic!!

Coravin: Barolo

Coravin: Barolo

Coravin: Barolo

At NoMad, Michael always requests at least one wine from the Coravin list. Barolo is a classic pairing with white truffles.

The Dessert Cart Is Back!

The Splendiferous Dessert Cart

There was no way we could possibly choose just one! Nor even two. The solution? We’ll have one of each and share! (We didn’t include the Chocolate Bar because we had one at home.)

Raspberry

Raspberry, Violet Macaron, and Cream

Lemon Tart

Lemon Tart

Blueberry Streusel Cake

Blueberry Streusel Cake

Blackout Layer Cake

Blackout Layer Cake

They added a surprise gift for me: the NoMad’s signature dessert with a birthday candle. Of course, I shared it with Michael.

Milk and Honey

All the cart desserts were wonderful. But without a doubt, my favorite was the blackout cake. Seriously chocolaty without being too sweet, it totally bowled me over! We polished off all the sweets with the exception of the blackout cake. The slice was enormous, so we finished half and asked that remainder be wrapped. But the NoMad’s generosity knows no bounds. When we got home, we discovered that they’d included another large slice!

Truly a memorable birthday lunch!

Here are the links for the previous extravaganza posts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. The link to Part 4 is in the 2nd paragraph of this post.