Rick recommended "Friday's friend" as the perfect day after Thanksgiving treat. Every year we have just pulled out the dinner from the night before and pick on our favorites. Friday's friend was hands down the best post-Thanksgiving sandwich. Will be back again for more next year....or maybe when I grill that Turkey this summer.
This recipe comes directly from the Ricks Picks NYC website The Daily Brine.
A ciabatta loaf
Extra sharp cheddar cheese
A couple of onions
Rick's Picks Green Tomato Condiment
Peel and chop the onions into little pieces. Sauté the onions in a pan with the butter until they are caramelized. Reserve the onions on the side. Slice the ciabatta in half lengthwise. On one side, put slices of turkey and slices of the Green Tomato Condiment pickles. On the other side of the bread, put the caramelized onions and the cheddar cheese. Put the two sandwich halves together and place them in a panini press (if you don't have a panini press, you can use a frying pan and weigh the sandwich down with a second pot). Grill the sandwich on both sides until it is golden brown. And... viola! Friday's Friend. Dip your creation in warm turkey gravy for an added bonus... it's an Italian sandwich concept with a French dip twist... it's like you are standing on top of the Alps looking in both directions!
And the cooking begins. Although everyone is bringing something and we will be laden in desserts (after all isn't it all about over eating?), I felt compelled to make this cake. I tore out the recipe last week from the NYTimes and it sounded a bit different and delicious.
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter ( soft )
2 cups flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (plus another 1/2 for tossing on top)
2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
10 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Heat oven to 350. . Grease 2 - 9" cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper and lightly flour. It is worth it.
In a large bowl whisk the flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, baking soda, baking powder and salt together.
Beat one stick of butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. 3 minutes or so. Beat in one egg at a time. Beat in the pumpkin puree. Beat in the flour mixture about half a cup at a time. Fold in the chocolate chips. The recipe called for stirring in the pumpkin puree and flour mixture but I just gave it a beat or two to make my life easier and it seemed to work.
Divide the batter into the pans and bake for about 40 minutes. Cool the cake for 10 minutes, take them out of the pans and then let cool completely.
With an electric mixer, beat the rest of the unsalted butter and then when it is really whipped, add the confectioners sugar. Then add the vanilla and the chocolate. I found the frosting to be really thick and dense. You could always toss in a bit more vanilla to make it smoother or even cream but I went with the thick.
Place one cake down, cut it so the cake has a flat plane otherwise, it it hard to put on the second layer. Spread with the frosting. I used my fingers a bit to move the frosting around so I didn't break the cake. Thick frosting. Put on the second layer and complete. Toss some chocolate chips on top for decor.
I know the cake is delicious because I had the piece which I cut off to even out the cake. Must make room for tomorrow!
I am preparing for Thanksgiving by eating as much as I possibly can before Thursday so my stomach is ready for large consumption. Seriously though, I need to take a chill on going out and eating and of course drinking. Last night, we went to Centro Vinoteca for dinner.
As I am still obsessing about the recession, a little update on walking through the West Village en route to dinner last night. Walking down Bleeker was like walking through a morgue. It was truly eerie. Very few people were out. The stores were shining with their 70% off signs. 70% off specially picked items. Hello...put the whole thing at 70% off but whatever. Bar Q had only one table filled. It was a gasp moment. Centro Vinoteca wasn't exactly booming either.
Centro is not that large although there is an upstairs area that I didn't check out. The bar area, when you walk in has about 10 seats and a few high cocktail tables with seats too. Most of the seats at the bar were fill. There are only 8 seatings areas downstairs. 2 of them are huge round couches that can actually sit 8 but we were sat at for four. It was kind of weird. We ended up moving to something that appeared smaller but wasn't. It was a moment where a thought went through my head, should we go somewhere else?
Our friends arrived and we sat down and went with it. The first round of drinks had to be sent back. 2 of them arrive with flat bad tasting tonic. But, then we began to order. We were out with a couple, who I have such a great time with. First of all, they love to taste and drink. What could be bad? Always communal eating.
We started off with a variety of appetizers from the bar and from the menu. Some things were really good and others were just okay. A small plate of marinated anchovies...nothing to write home about. Shrimp and chickpea fritters were okay. Chopped pieces of shrimp and chickpeas rolled and dipped in some type of bread crumb, deep fried and served with a lemon aioli. It was a tad mushy. We also had something similar with cauliflower which was nice. The cauliflower still had a good bite to it and the parm crust which was crispy outside really worked. The winner was pizzetta. So good that we ordered a second one on our second round of food. Very thin crust pizza shaped in a rectangle and cut into small squares. Tiny pieces of sausages that had been pan fried and crispy over a very thin layering of shaved cows milk cheese with greens over the top. I think the crust was made first and then they put the toppings over it and let the heat melt the cheese since the sausage had already been cooked. Really delicious. These all came from the small bar menu.
From the appetizers portion of the menu we split 2 salads. Escarole salad tossed with mushrooms, hazelnuts, shavings of pecorino cheese and thinly sliced Granny apples. The apples were the key. Escarole has such an intense flavor that the apples change the salad. I really liked it. We also had the grilled octopus. Always a favorite. Grilled octopus with small sauteed and fresh greens mixed together on the side. This was a real winner and we ordered it again for the next round.
Honestly, I could have been done but we just kept going. As we reordered the octopus and pizzetta and got 4 more things. Thick round pasta with a rich tomato sausage sauce. Very good. We also had the black ink pasta with shrimp, cockles and a spicy sauce. I had one bite as I was seriously hitting the wall. The sausage stuffed chicken sounded interesting. A roll of chicken that had been sliced into individual pieces that had been stuffed with sausage and served with polenta on the side. A big thumbs down on this. Really garlicky and the whole combo didn't work. The steak was fantastic. A rib eye, perfectly cooked and just a really great piece of meat.
Funny enough, when we walked in, we bumped into a group of 8 that we found out were eating there for the first time too. Centro Vinoteca was impossible to get into when they first opened. Clever because the food is good and the space is small. Glad I finally got there. Worth the wait.
Image via WikipediaMy friend and I were talking about all the recent articles about Michelle Obama and how she is supposedly going to have to give everything up to be the First Lady. Cheri Blair told her that she is going to have to learn to take a backseat. Women are concerned that Michelle is going to have to put her career on the back burner for the time being. Personally, I think all the brouhaha is bullshit.
It isn't like Obama woke up one morning and failed to mention to his wife that he threw his hat in the rink to run for President. A marriage is a partnership. Sometimes one person takes a back seat while the other drives and visa-versa. Take a look at Hillary Clinton. She took a backseat for 8 years to her husband and now it appears that she will be Secretary of State in the Obama White House.
Men seem to slowly creep up the scale while women are all over the place with a variety of different careers based on where they are in their life. Of course that doesn't always hold true but it seems to happen to women more.
Men and women are different. Some women are more like men while other men are more like women but in general, I find that women end up taking care of the majority of the particulars around the kids and the day to day life of a family. People in partnerships, even a business partnership, fall into roles. It is natural.
Michelle Obama seems to me to be one smart cookie. She will carve out for herself the role that she wants to play for herself, for her husband, for her children and for the country. She won't do it by herself, she will talk to her partner about it. That's what partners do.
Fred and I have been together for 27 years. We have always been partners. Believe me, my role has changed many times over the years. For many years, I was the breadwinner. We certainly shared many responsibilities for the kids but as time went by, roles shifted. We made a decision together about how it made sense for me to focus my time in order for someone to be around for the kids. His career was booming and mine was changing. Did I give up opportunities? Sure, but we made that decision together and I was comfortable with it. If something came along that I didn't want to pass up, we would have shifted for that too. There is no doubt that we are in a great situation that enables me to have so much flexibility but nothing is perfect. It hasn't always been easy to be the person on the back burner but maybe it wouldn't have been easy working full time and not being around for the kids either. It isn't easy being the woman. It is impossible to have it all at the same time. I see many women making choices to fill their need to have their own thing by working and they end up feeling not good about anything. Yet, other women find the balance works just right. Everyone makes their own choices for a variety of reasons.
This is a topic I can ramble on about for ever but I'd like to see women back off of Michelle Obama. She has had an interesting career and was probably the breadwinner for some years. She appears to be in a solid partnership in her marriage. Passing judgment on how she should work or not work or be a first lady is her decision to make and one that she will probably do with her husband. Her kids are young. Let her figure out what the next lady in the White House who has degrees from 2 prestigious universities, who has worked for a better cause and appears to have raised 2 confident young women decide what her role will be that will make her happy that will in turn make her family happy.
The role of a woman is never so clear cut when there are kids involved.
10 Downing has transformed the corner of Downing and Sixth Avenue. For years there was a dilapidated travel agency in that space. As those businesses go out the window, it was only a matter of time before the agency closed. Every time I walked by the space, I'd wonder how is that travel agency paying their rent?
I really love what they have done with the space. I can't put my finger on it but there is something about the space, the vibe, the whole place that reminds me of somewhere else I have been. Oh well. The space is clean, black and white, with art work hanging through out. Really established artists of the past 10 years. I think I read somewhere that the pieces were lent by friends of galleries but maybe not. I particularly like how the windows wrap around the entire space yet the door is on Downing. A door build like an old barn door.
The service is great. Very attentive and happy to have you there. That alone goes to the top of the charts considering the days of old where you should be so happy that we gave you a seat. No longer works for me. The menu is interesting. Keep in mind that place has only been open about a week and a half.
Everybody tried something different. It was a family affair. Fred began with the black squid ink pasta with crab meat. Nice tasty, different with a bit of a kick. This particular dish has been written about and someone had to get it. Josh had the cassoulet with duck meat balls. This was served in a small cast iron pot. The bottom was linked with rich white beans and 3 duck meat balls over the top. Lots of flavor and a clever take on the classic cassoulet. Em and Jess had the white bean soup. Not what they expected. A dark tomato broth with salt cod. A tad salty and not that interesting. I went with the brussel sprouts. Roasted brussels sprouts covered with pan fried breadcrumbs, shavings of Parmesan cheese and a soft boiled egg. A really interesting mix of flavors.
For dinner, we all went out own separate ways too. Fred and Jessica both had fish. Jessica really liked her dish. She had the Montauk Fluke. What was called for on the menu isn't exactly what she got. There were chanterelles and fluke but no mention of a puree of sunchokes. She was curious and asked what it was. Strange that this wasn't mentioned. Fred went with the cod which was a little bit undercooked. He was not wowed. Josh went with the chicken that has been written as the supposed dish to have. Really good. Crispy chicken served over a bread salad. Emily should have ordered the chicken she enjoyed eating part of Josh's. Emily had the arctic char which she really did not like. They failed to mention on the menu that the fish would be sitting on liquid of a parsley puree. It was way too strong for the subtleties of the fish. I went with the lamb which was good. 2 large lamb chops and a small piece of lamb shoulder that had been braised with crispy skin on top. Then a few greens and square pieces of saturated chick pea bread. Not sure exactly how they were made but it worked with the lamb and the tiny pieces of feta cheese scattered around the plate. Rich and a tad fatty.
It was a Sunday night. The place was pretty busy. The kids still had lots of work to do. It wasn't a relaxing meal so perhaps that had something to do with it. The noise is a bit loud in the restaurant and Fred had a hard time hearing. Nobody wants to rush back but I am game to check out the restaurant again. I liked the menu and the vibe. I can't imagine they won't eventually open for lunch considering that the 2 places across the street from them do a huge lunch business and it is something they can certainly capitalize on. They seem to have it together. Even though the food was coming out quite quick, the kitchen will start to get in step as time goes on.
Not a total thumbs up for 10 Downing but a mixed review. I will go back again to see where they are in a few months.
My father has a saying, "that's why they make vanilla ice cream". Essentially the same as, that's why they have horse races. Everyone makes different choices, everyone has different tastes, everyone is just different. Certainly it is much more entertaining to go somewhere when everyone has the same sensibility as it is fun to dish, laugh or be awed together.
A friend of mine, who has reinvented herself a variety of times, is currently producing an off-off Broadway show in NYC. Super smart and decided about 12 years ago that it was theatre she was after. She started down a new path. I love that. She has really enjoyed it and has learned an incredible amount.
We went to see her latest undertaking, Season's Greetings which is playing on the UWS for a very short run. The director, asked her to get involved and help produce the show. The show that the Director chose to do ( and financially back ) is a play called Season's Greetings written by Alan Ayckbourn.
The question I ask is why did the Director choose this play? It is ridiculously long, British humor and not that inspiring. Obviously the Director thought it was a good choice because that must be which why she chose it and financially backed it.
I think there should be a law. Anything off-off Broadway can not have a running time of more than one and half hours. Here, this would be not be the case. The play is based on a dysfunctional family getting together for the holidays. You get to know the characters and their interactions with each other. Each have a different relationship but all together they seem like a truly unhappy or ignorant bunch.
There are certainly some good actors and some not so good actors but I just can't understand why out of all the incredibly interesting plays written around the world why the Director chose this play. It isn't that interesting. Perhaps it is interesting in Britain because the humor is definitely English humor (duh) but why put up that kind of money for something that is a losing proposition the second you open the door?
I am thrilled for my friend to have the opportunity to produce this play ( and not put a dime up ) and work in NYC. She did a great job. Yet, as I sat through the play, all I could think of is what my father says, "that is why they make vanilla ice cream". For me, I would have definitely picked another flavor.
There is a reason why food writers return to restaurants a few times before writing a review. Every day is not always consistent. Bad chef day, not enough coverage, food wasn't delivered, etc.
I met my Mom for lunch at Tarallucci e Vino this past Friday. The place was packed! The good news is that I got there about 20 minutes early with Bon Appetit in hand and put our name on the list. Happy to stand there and read the magazine.
Fred is a huge fan of Tarallucci. In the warmer months there are tables on the street. Inside, there are pastries and such to buy for take away and coffee. A large square room with just a few tables. Then a step or two upstairs in the back is a large country like room. A big communal table down the middle and tables around the circumference of the room. The noise is loud because the room was beyond packed. Figured it must be good. The restaurant has been open for some time and if people are waiting for a table at lunch time, that should be a good sign...right?
My Mom walks in and literally as she enters the door, we get seated. We sat at the communal table. Nothing on the menu really rocked our boat but could be the day. Another day, I might have found 5 things that looked good. I ordered a beet corn salad with feta cheese. My Mom went with the spinach fritatta which is served on bread, a fritatta sandwich, with greens on the side.
Food came relatively quick. Earlier I mentioned the good news, here is the bad news, the food is awful. The beet salad was tasteless but I was hungry and needed to be somewhere else in 45 minutes so it was fine. My Mom got the fritatta. She tasted it and then I tasted it to confirm. It was inedible. Like a hockey puck and cold. The woman who was running the restaurant, could have been the owner, noticed us and quickly came over. She took it away and asked my Mom to order something else. At this point, I suggested going with a mozzarella and prosciutto pannini. When in Rome, do as the Romans...right?
The sandwich came out. The greens were tasteless and the sandwich was salty and not that good. Really disappointing. If it wasn't for the fact that I needed to be somewhere, I would have left and gone somewhere else to eat. Truly.
But, Fred loves the place, so it made me think about the restaurant review situation. Maybe it was a bad day, maybe they were understaffed, maybe the chef quit yesterday or maybe all of the above. There must be a reason that the place was crowded. There are plenty of other places to eat in the neighborhood for lunch.
So, Fred can continue to return and hopefully remain happy with his choice. I, on the other hand, will never walk in Tarallucci for food again.
As I get older, my quick recall has become delayed. So when someone says, "where should we go to dinner" or "what are your favorite restaurants right now"? I go blank. It is like turning the computer on. I sort of need a second to boot up, then I'm good to go.
The beauty of Open Table is that I really do not need to boot up. Also, you don't need to call a bunch of different restaurants to see if there is availability. I am pretty sure Open Table is only given a certain percentage of the tables available so calling might get you in when Open Table can't but it is a beautiful thing to go online and pick a neighborhood to find a restaurant. Pure ease.
My friend made reservations for the four of us at Annisa on Thursday afternoon for Friday evening. I love Annisa. I was surprised they had an opening. Last night was probably my fifth time there. As Fred said, it is a very adult restaurant. My friend said, you mean you can see the menu and hear? We all thought that was quite funny but spot on.
The ambience is soothing. The service is wonderful. It as if you have entered Anita Lo's dining room. You are her guests. The room glows, the music is soft and the food is delicious.
I like the way the bar has only about 6 seats and looks over Bedford Street. This part of Bedford Street is off the beaten path so generally quiet. The eating area is behind the bar and raised up so there really is a separation. The bar says, sit here while we get your table ready and then we will guide you upstairs to sit. Elegant.
The menu is interesting. One of those menus where what you read is not what you expect. Always worth having the waiter explain the nuances of the dish. I began with pickled oysters. 6 pickled oysters that were placed on small squares of brown bread topped with sauerkraut and a spot of a mustard oil in front of the bread to pull through en route to your mouth. So good and so clever. Two of us went with the oysters. The other two went with the spicy eggplant. Half a baby eggplant that had been grilled with a spicy seasoning. Placed on top of a thick Greek yogurt next to a perfectly round mound of lentils. Delicious. Fred and my friend were espousing about Greek yogurt and the waiter came by and told us about the yogurt and where we could buy yogurts packed over roasted fig compote. Loved that. He even gave us the card of the place where we could get the yogurts.
Next came the main courses. All beautiful and all delicious. I went with the 4 M's. Madai with morels, mitusba and myoga. Japanese red snapper, crispy skin side up, over a bunch of Japanese mushrooms and a brown Asian flavored sauce. Absolutely sublime. My friend had the Miso marinated sable that was silky and buttery placed over a large piece of homemade tofu in a bonito broth. Light and full of flavor. Someone else had the skate. A fanned out piece of skate, browned served over an avocado radish salad. Interesting and almost hearty infused with Korean flavors. Fred had the short-ribs that had been braising for a very long time and served with a burdock root and Japanese mustard. One bite of short-ribs literally melted in my mouth.
Dessert, how could you not? One thing for the four of us. I love bread puddings so we ordered that. A small square bread pudding that almost looked like kugel with a browned top. Shaving of lemon through out the dessert and served over a lemon sauce. Incredibly light.
Such a nice night and such delicious food. Glad we went back, would go back anytime. Annisa has been around since 2000 and I can't imagine that it won't be around in 2010. Annisa will certainly be here for many years to come.
I had lunch at Little Owl this week. As always, delicious. I happened to walk by Market Table on the way to lunch. I am honestly blown away how packed both of these restaurants were for lunch. I know they are also packed for dinner because it is tough to get a reservation but lunch in the west village...wow!
Since I am on my recession theme there are a few thoughts on this.
My friend, who owns a bunch of restaurants, is still doing quite well. His places, like Market Table and Little Owl, are really well branded restaurants and they make people feel special that they are eating there. The atmosphere is warm. The service is wonderful and you get a really good meal. As another friend in the restaurant business said to me, New Yorkers eat out and they aren't going to stop eating out. The question is where, how often and how much are they going to spend every week.
NYC is a public city. What I mean by that is people don't hang out in their homes. You even see little kids hanging in their lobbies. People hang all day at the local coffee bar because it is communal and they are connecting with people. It is an external town vs an internal town. In cities like Los Angeles, people spend a lot of times in their cars and homes. The complete opposite of NYC.
The change in the economy will certainly have some winners and some losers in our ever changing town be it art galleries, clothing stores or restaurants. If I were a betting girl, I'd be putting my money on Little Owl and Market Table to win. Impressive.
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Dave Eggers: The Circle
a crazy book about a company that seems similar to a google or yahoo that is essentially moving towards world domination. a world of complete transparency. makes you really wonder about the 24/7 world we live in. lots of interesting conversation here.
R. J. Palacio: Wonder
Wonderful young adult book about August, a young man with a severe facial deformity. After being home schooled he begins school in NYC in 5th grade. The issues he faces are challenging. The story is written highlighting different characters each chapter and how they see August. The book is about growing up, being brave, being accepting and more than anything about the importance of being kind. A great quick read.
Donna Tartt: The Goldfinch
I can't imagine that this will not be my top book of the year. An insanely well written fantastic book.
Naoki Higashida: The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism
A beautiful insightful book written by a boy with Autism. He explains what goes on his mind and the way he reacts to the world. A true gift for everyone who has someone with Autism in their life.
Jesmyn Ward: Men We Reaped: A Memoir
A powerful memoir about growing up black in rural Mississippi with poverty, racism, drugs and lack of jobs. Watching more than a handful of Ward's young male friends lose their lives and way before 25 is what prompted her to write this memoir. A stark reminder of how the odds are against young black males in this country and why. A really powerful honest book that will stick with me.
Amanda Lindhout: A House in the Sky: A Memoir
Incredible book Must read.
David Levithan: Two Boys Kissing
Everyone should read this book. It flows like a beautifully written essay. Two gay boys in high school try to break the world record for kissing. The event goes viral. That is the main thread of the book among a few other gay relationships. The hardships of coming of age and coming of age gay. Can't say enough good things. Loved this book.
Mitchell Jackson: The Residue Years
An autobiographical novel that goes back and forth between a young man and his mother in Portland, Oregon. The draw of the drugs on the street continues to bring them both back to something they want to move past. The language and swagger of the characters looking to overcome obstacles that are hard to shed.
Katherine Boo: Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity
A biography of the desperately poor in Mumbai, India. It is actually a non-fiction book but reads like fiction. I did not finish it. I hope to go back to it but I have read several books on this subject and although this was real I just couldn't get through it.
Karen Joy Fowler: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
Fun read, well written page turner. The main character describes her life living with a chimp, a father scientist, a mother and a brother who left home. Nature vs nurture.