Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Central Park picnic in three easy steps

Wouldn't you rather be here right now...

Now that summer is here, it’s time to get off your couch and get outside. What better way to celebrate the season and experience New York than by having a picnic in Central Park?

Whether you prefer to enjoy a feast while taking in Al Pacino performing in The Merchant of Venice or just want to relax in the sweet grass of the Sheeps Meadow on a lazy Sunday afternoon, Central Park is the place to be during a New York summer.

Luckily, the edges of the park contain some fantastic food stores from which you can procure tantalizing treats. Here are some suggestions for putting together a perfect Central Park picnic basket with minimal effort:

A great picnic always starts off with some appetizers, or as I like to call them in this setting, snacks. Swing by the Whole Foods in the basement of the Time Warner Center (10 Columbus Circle, southwest corner of the park), drop 2 or 3 of the following ideas in your basket, and you’ll be off to a great start:

Trail Mix – Always a classic for outdoor eating

Blue Corn Chips and Salsa – Simple but delicious

Specialty Cheeses – Pick a familiar favorite and something that will challenge your pallete

Fresh Fruit – Did someone say watermelon?

Shrimp Cocktail – Delicious decadence

Sushi – Easy for sharing, can be an entree too

Gazpacho – Is there anything better on a hot day?

For the main event, you’ll want something hearty and satisfying to sustain you through the summer’s warmth. A great place to pick up entrees would be Salumeria Rosi, a small, neighborhood salumi shop and restaurant (283 Amsterdam Ave and 73rd St). Depending on the size of your party, 1 to 3 of these dishes should suffice:

Mezzi Rigatoni all’Amatriciana – A blend of 9 meats, onions, tomatoes and artisanal pasta.

Costina – Spicy Tuscan spare ribs, slow-cooked with tomatoes, rosemary and garlic.

Torta di Porri -Individual size savory tart of leeks, pancetta and Parmigiano.

Matuffi con Polenta -Greenmarket zucchini braised in tomato with parsley, basil and Parmigiano over polenta.

Selezione Piccolo – If you can’t decide, this has seven different styles of salumi, about two pieces of each depending on size. This plate is perfect for two people to share or for one very hungry person.

Finally, no proper picnic ends without something sweet. Bouchon Bakery, on the second floor of the Time Warner Center (10 Columbus Circle, southwest corner of the park) has many mouthwatering confections from the chef behind Per Se, Ad Hoc, Bouchon and French Laundry. Here are some highlights with descriptions from Bouchon:

Macarons – This classic French pastry filled with rich buttercream has been adored for centuries. Precise baking produces a cookie that has a light and crisp outside and a soft and chewy inside. These two textures are what make the macaron such a special confection. The flavors of their macarons change with the seasons.

TKO – Homemade Oreos – An oreo cookie is one of Chef Thomas Keller’s favorite snacks, reinterpreted here using a chocolate sable dough and a sweet white chocolate ganache filling.

Chocolate Bouchons – These small, chocolate, brownie-like treats are moist, rich and named for their shape, which resembles a cork. They bake them with chocolate chips in the batter and dust them with confectioner’s sugar.

Doughnuts – It seems doughnuts are Bouchon Bakery’s best kept secret. In New York City these treats of a varied selection are available every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. While they are available from 7am to 11am on the specified dates, stop in early since high demand often causes the bakery to run out before then.

Now you’re all set, planning this picnic will be a walk in the park!

Central Park’s website has some great information about the do’s and don’ts of park picnics.

If you’re in from out of town and want to stay as close to the park as possible, book a room nearby at the Mandarin Oriental New York, The Empire Hotel or The Ritz Carlton – Central Park.

Now get out there and enjoy!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Choose your own eating adventure: 2010 Big Apple BBQ Block Party


One of the great New York -- neigh, great American -- events of the year is nearly upon us. A gathering of some of the biggest names in barbecue will will ring their rigs around Madison Square Park on June 12-13 for the 2010 Big Apple Barbecue Block Party, where an unprecedented eighteen (18!) BBQ icons will cook until every mouth has been fed and every tummy has been sated. In addition, there will be free live music, an outdoor beer garden and several free educational panel discussions and cooking demos.

Seriously, don't be tardy

If you're a veteran of the festival, there are a few minor tweaks this year that you should know about.

First, the pitmasters will begin slinging their creations at 11 AM each day, rather than at noon as in some prior years. This will give those willing to scarf bbq before mid-day a head start on those not in-the-know.

Second, the number of fast passes being sold was severely cut this year and they are already sold out. However, if you are feeling truly saucy, a new pass called the Mad Sq ParkPass is available for purchase for the gentle price of $1500. The money goes to a good cause and is almost entirely tax-deductible, so it's worth consideration if you're so inclined.

Finally, and most exciting, there are several new pitmasters joining the veteran legends at the block party this year including Ken Bosley from Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn in Owensboro, KY. Mr. Bosley will try to do his home state's legacy proud by being the first BABBP participant to prepare Mutton in the festivals history.

Planning the perfect mode of attack for the BABBP, depends on your eating status. More specifically, are you a nibbler, a nosher or a fresser?

For your convenience, I've provided the following definitions specific to the purpose of this article to help you sort yourselves out:

A nibbler is someone who likes to sample a few things here or there, but is there as much for the blissful atmosphere as for the food.

A nosher is interested in trying the best of the best, but doesn't need to have everything to feel like they got what they wanted out of the experience.

A fresser is there to sample all they they possibly can. Calories be damned, a fresser is going to make the most of this unique annual event.

For all you nibblers out there, I'm thinking 2 plates of bbq is probably enough to sate your curiosity and appetite. That's why I'm proscribing you the following agenda:

1) Get a pulled pork sandwich from Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q, from Decatur, Alabama. Pit master Chris Lilly’s pork is chock full of nuanced smoky flavor and signature spices, while remaining moist and tender. Of all the pulled pork sandwiches I've had in my life (and I've had dozens), Lilly's have been the most consistent and delicious I've come across. You can try one of Big Bob's several signature BBQ sauces, if you dare, but this meat needs no adornment.

Big Bob's Beautiful Bounty

2) Gobble down a plate of brisket and sausage from The Salt Lick, of Driftwood, Texas. Michael Rodriguez and crew are no longer the winners of the “longest distance traveled” award, but they are still the BBQ beef kings. They turn out pink smoke laden beef and juicy, spicy sausage that bests the competition when in the Big Apple. Be sure to ask for a bit of the “moist” end of the brisket -- you won’t be disappointed.

Brisket and Sausage and Cole Slaw (Oh My!)

For the noshers, four plates seems about right. To the nibbler proscription, tack on the following assignments:

3) Grab a whole hog sandwich from Mitchell’s BBQ, of Wilson, North Carolina. For those unfamiliar to whole hog cooking, it involves slicing an entire pig right down the middle, seasoning the insides with spices and marinades and then smoking the whole thing on a huge grill. The meat, fortunately, more than makes up for the effort it takes to prepare it. Juicier than the traditional pulled pork sandwich, Mitchell’s whole hog is replete with a vinegar-based sauce that gives it a kick not found in some of the other sandwiches on offer. The meat is rich and incredibly flavorful (though it lacks a bit of the complexity from smoke penetration that many people expect in their pork).

Mitchell's Whole Hog on a Roll

4) Chow down on a plate of ribs from the 17th Street Bar & Grill of Murphysboro, Illinois. These are traditional Memphis style baby back ribs which are dry rubbed to let the succulent meat shine. Lovers of BBQ baked beans should make it a particular point to stop by the 17th Street stand, as their version (which accompanies the two or three ribs you'll get) is quite simply the finest I've ever tasted.

17th Street's Succulent Ribs and Phenomenal Baked Beans

For the fressers out there, you probably know all about the barbecue festival already and have your fast passes in hand (I should hope). For you, start with the four already recommended, and keep the good times rolling until we can roll you down Madison avenue, which should be right about when you polish off these two plates:

5) New this year: Chomp on some burgoo and BBQ mutton from Ken Bosley's Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn in Owensboro, Kentucky, lauded everywhere from the Wall Street Journal to Gourmet magazine (R.I.P.). Mr. Bosley's mutton -- meat from a lamb that's at least a year old is called mutton -- is cooked over hickory logs to give it its unique flavor. For food lovers, this is a unique opportunity to try a beloved regional classic that rarely gets much play outside of the Bluegrass State. Burgoo is a hearty soup made from mutton, chicken, and a variety of vegetables. Apparently, no two cooks prepare it the same way, so you know this will be a singular side.

Gotta love the smack talk from the rookies

6) Saddle up to a plate of Pappy's Smokehouse's St. Louis-style ribs. Pappy's is a newcomer to the national scene, having only opened its doors in 2008. Call them precocious, but in their first two years of existence, they were voted the best in St. Louis by the River Front Times. These ribs, which are cooked for up to 18 hours over apple and cherry wood, are dry rubbed and only served fresh off the smoker, per their owner's demand (he apparently doesn't believe in re-heating). As their menu states, "Sauce is on the side 'cause there's nothing to hide." Tear into the tender meat and you'll see where all that time and energy went.

How could anyone resist?

Whether you're planning on trying few bites of one, or demolishing more than eight plates of barbecue in the two days of the festival, I assure you that you'll have a blast.

If you're in from out of town and want to stay as close to the festival as possible, book a room nearby at the The MAve,Gershwin Hotel, Hotel Giraffe, or Wyndham Garden Hotel Manhattan, Chelsea West.

Now get out there and enjoy!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Internet is Amazing.

Want proof? Check out this map created by the fine folks over at Epicurious.

It helps you not only figure out what's currently fresh in your area, but where to get it and what to do with your new purchases.

If anyone's reading in Iowa, January is time to give kohlrabi a try...

I hope this inspires you to try something, er.....fresh.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sunday Supper

After our recent trip to Argentina, Tesha and I had some pictures to exchange and debts to settle, so I invited her and her boyfriend Clifford over for dinner this past Sunday night. Tesha is one of my favorite diners, as she is both adventurous and trusting that I probably won’t kill her with my experiments.

We started off with a jazzed up version of the Argentine staple, provoleta. Lacking the standard circular metal dish in which the hunk of provolone is normally grilled turned out to be a major problem, as my disk of cheese melted far more quickly than I expected in my grill pan. While I was able to salvage the cheese, I didn’t get the beautiful circle of provolone that I was looking for, nor did the cheese develop a golden brown crust over very much of it, which is sort of the whole point of the dish.

Having said that, it’s melted cheese, and no matter what you do it, it will probably be pretty tasty.

A mostly delicious failure

I added my twist to the provoleta by adding shreds of Benton’s Tennessee prosciutto, fresh basil and some homemade pickled red onion slivers that I made with more sugar that the recipe calls for to counteract the saltiness of the other ingredients. The onions provided a nice texture element to the gooey mess on the plate and the basil a welcome floral note. The prosciutto might have been overkill considering that the cheese was already salt laden, but it definitely worked and added some richness. This was definitely a triumph of taste over appearance. Next time I’ll pick up a proper cooking vessel though.

Next we had a classic matzoh ball soup with some roasted jalapeno added for a little kick. I started off with chicken neck bones, onions, parsnips, celery and carrots from which I made a classic chicken stock. Then I charred two jalapenos using the gas from my stove and peeled the burned skin off before letting the whole peppers soak in the soup for the last hour of simmering to impart a bit of their flavor and heat. The difference is subtle, but I think it’s a nice addition to an already pretty good soup.

Simple, Homey Goodness

For the meat course, I prepared chicken leg/thigh quarters that I marinated in Lawry’s Chicken and Poultry seasoning (which I use as a base seasoning for almost all chicken dishes) and Ssamjang, a Korean condiment made from bean paste, chili paste, sesame, garlic and sugar. It’s basically the Korean version of ketchup, and improves just about any dish that you’d consider either hot sauce or ketchup for.

Spicy, Savory, Sweet and Tender

I browned the chicken in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat for a few minutes, then roasted the quarters in the oven at 325 degrees for about an hour. What resulted was some of the most flavorful and tender chicken that I’ve ever prepared. The ssamjang worked wonders for the meat and caramelized into a beautiful crust on the skin. Tesha said it was her favorite chicken dish that she can remember. I'm not sure it was quite that good, but just to check, I’m making it again tonight.

Finally, we arrived at dessert, which was my most ambitious course of the evening.

Let me start by saying that I’m really into basil. I love the flavor, I love the smell and I love how versatile it is. When I was out in San Francisco earlier this year, David and I prepared french toast with strawberries and basil whipped cream. I also sampled one of the best desserts of my life at Ubuntu, a basil semifreddo with strawberries and lime granita.

I was determined to make a dessert with basil, and I decided that I was going to do so via one of my other favorite foods, ice cream.

I borrowed an ice cream machine from a co-worker and got down to business. The first step was trying to figure out how to impart the basil flavor without actually putting basil leaves in the ice cream (I didn’t think they’d work texturally). I decided to take a page from Christina Tosi’s book and let the cream sit with bunches of bruised basil leaves in it for a few hours before making the ice cream. I then followed the standard recipe for vanilla ice cream (milk, cream, sugar and vanilla).

Infuse thyself, basil!

I dipped a spoon into the mix and tasted the results. It was SO good. Again, remember that I like basil so much that I eat the leaves straight, but this stuff was awesome. A little sweet, a little floral and not overpowering, but certainly basil ice cream.

This really couldn't be much easier

As a base for the ice cream, I made some challah french toast. I added a bit of balsamic vinegar to the batter for an additional twist of flavor and it worked very well as part of the dessert, with the ice cream’s sweetness swooping in to balance out the tart vinegar.

Balsamic French Toast, Basil Ice Cream, Raspberry

I was quite excited that the dessert worked as well as it did and I’ve already begun pondering both what else I can use the basil ice cream for (caprese with tomato sorbet and mozzarella balls?) and what other non-traditional ice creams I would like to attempt.

All in all, I think Tesha and Clifford had a nice evening and were pretty pleased with their meals. It was a great Sunday evening.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Pour on, Porron

Saturday evening, I had the pleasure of enjoying a late night snack and drinks at Macondo with a small group of friends.

We were enticed by the waitress to try their special drink of the evening, a concoction of whiskey, rioja wine, lemongrass and orange liqueur. However, it wasn’t the elixir itself, which was compelling enough, that prompted our order. It was the delivery method.

Say hello to my little friend

That was via porron.

For those too lazy to click to the link, here’s what George Orwell had to say about them: “A porron is a sort of glass bottle with a pointed spout from which a thin jet of wine spurts out whenever you tip it up; you can thus drink from a distance, without touching it with your lips, and it can be passed from hand to hand..”

The idea is that the whole table can share one porron, and because of the proscribed method of imbibing, the hygenic issues of sharing a drinking vessel are minimized.

Adam in Action

I can honestly say that I’ve never had so much fun drinking anything.

At first, it was funny to watch my friends struggle to perform the porron dance of slowly pouring the drink into their mouths and then spilling on themselves as they tried to pull the porron away as the waitress showed us. Once we got the hang of it though, it became a blast to both drink from the porron yourself and watch your friends do so via long streams of alcohol hurling through the air into their mouths.

It was so pleasurable, that I even took to using a spent porron as my water glass.

Josh impressing the ladies

It turns out that porrons are not particularly expensive, and I think they’d make a great gift for anyone who enjoys being a daredevil drinker.

Just be sure to wear a bib….

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

It's Here!

The day I've been waiting for has finally arrived.
Costco will open their first Manhattan Store on Thursday, November 12th. Expect long lines, crazy crowds and great deals.
The store will be located on East 117th Street, near the FDR.

You Can Find Me In the (Warehouse) Club


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Mea Culpa

It's been way, way, way, way too long.

I'm sorry.

Now that we've gotten that over with, I have much to share in the coming weeks (assuming someone is still reading this (thanks Mom)).

First, a short article detailing how to get the most nutritional value out of the foods you are eating.

Try adding some black pepper to this party for both complexity and, apparently, good health

Luckily, the suggestions involved are often tasty additions to the vittles in question, so it really shouldn't take much convincing to give these ideas a try.

Enjoy: Getting the Most From Your Meals

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What I Cooked On My Summer Vacation

I made it out to San Francisco last month for a fantastic week long vacation. I stayed with my friends Jeannette and David and spent most of my time eating very, very well. This is the first of two posts discussing the wonderful things I consumed on that trip.

This post shows off some of the work that David and I did in the kitchen during my time there.

Next time I'll show you what we dined on at San Francisco and Napa's wonderful restaurants.

Thursday David and I walked through the Ferry Building and picked up a whole striped bass that we grilled in their garden. We stuffed it with a bunch of herbs he had lying around the house and served it over papparadelle that we made from scratch.

For the record, the striped bass started it

I had never made pasta before, so this was an enlightening experience. I enjoyed the process so much that I have since purchased my own pasta machine.

On top of the fish and pasta, we tossed in some fresh veggies that we bought at the Ferry Building's farmer's market. We also made a sauce from fresh corn and milk that worked beautifully with the pasta and morels, if not the fish or veggies. See the results of our work below.

Mise En Place - Morels, Carrots, Snap Peas, Wax Beans

Striped Bass, Flat Leaf Parsley, Hysop, Thyme, Rosemary

David rolling out the pasta sheets

Fresh Corn Sauce

Trust me, there's a striped bass in there somewhere

The finished product - Whole Roasted Striped Bass over Home Made Pappardelle, Morels, Carrots, Sugar Snap Peas, Wax Beans

On my last day in town, David and I put on a brunch for about 20 of his friends. I got to play sous chef and waiter, and it was a blast seeing everyone enjoy themselves (and the food) so much.

Here's what we made:

The Menu

Crispy 36-Hour Pork Belly, Vidalia Onion Jam, Russian Black Bread

Wild Mushroom (Chanterelle, Maitake, King Trumpet, Porcini) Omelet, Fromage Blanc, Heirloom Tomato Salad

French Toast Sticks, Fresh Strawberries, Diced Strawberries, Strawberry Puree, Basil Whipped Cream

David Plating the French Toast

The Americanized Croque Madame

The Completed Pork Belly Sandwich

Look out for my next post when you'll find out what exactly the dish called Carte De Musica is.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Don't Forget The Drinks

Eating well isn't my only pastime.

I also like to enjoy a frosty beer, a fine wine or a well-crafted cocktail from time to time as well.

The one issue I have with buying drinks when out is whether the juice is worth the squeeze.

By that I mean, why pay six dollars for a beer when I could have the same exact same brew from the supermarket for less than a dollar a bottle? What reason do I have for dropping ten bucks on a gin and tonic when I can concoct my own for a tenth of the price? What's my motivation for ordering a forty dollar bottle of wine that retails at my local wine store for $13?

In certain instances there may be unique offerings in terms of selection (hard to find brands) or liquid delivery method (draft or cask ales), but in general, a great majority of the drinks ordered by bar and restaurant going patrons are familiar to their future imbibers.

When I drink outside of the house, I tend to order based on three ideals (in order of importance):

1) Beverages that I've never heard of

2) Beverages that I've never before had the pleasure of experiencing

3) Reasonable markups on beverages that I am familiar with (and enjoy)

I understand the need for restaurants to provide customers with the option of drinks they are familiar with to ensure that non-adventurous customers can quench their thirst. However, I believe that it should be the responsibility of any restaurant worth it's salt to provide diverse and unique options for those patrons interested in trying something new.

In that vein, here are some of my favorite restaurants and watering holes that also have superb libations to match their vittles:

Tailor's Solid Cocktails (yes, that's white russian rice crispies)

Tailor - They aren't cheap, but I guarantee you that you've never had anything like Eben Freeman's Cocktails. They just filed for bankruptcy, so go check them out before you no longer can. The free curry popcorn at the bar is about as addictive as it gets.

The lair of the Chang and Wylie Dogs, and Bacon infused whisky

Please Don't Tell (PDT) - Finding your way into this hidden drinking den is only the beginning of the fun. Creative drinks using fresh, seasonal ingredients are the standard at this clandestine cocktail lounge. More importantly, there's nothing quite like quaffing a pitch perfect cocktail while chowing down on phenomenal junk food (Jalapeno Cheese Tater Tots anyone?). Be sure to check out their celebrity-chef haute dogs.

Even the bar stools are appetizing

Terroir - Wine bars can be snooty, overpriced and boring. This place is none of those things. Run by the fine folks at Hearth and Insieme, Terroir's staff will gladly educate you about the wines you're tasting while feeding you excellent morsels of interesting foods.

Five and Ten - I adore Five and Ten for about a million different reasons, but one of my favorite reasons to love it is their beverage program. Every liquid on hand is carefully chosen, from local craft beers (Terrapin!, Sweetwater!) to classic and modern southern cocktail favorites (Mint Julep, Southern Sunrise).

Don't be dismayed if your date gets distracted by the wine list

Their wine list is a tome worth checking out even if you never plan to step foot in the restaurant. It evokes the pleasures that the wines it lists provide, and uses humor, Rochioli, Sonoma, 2005 (the cult classic), or Loire, Dom. St. Nicolas, Cuvee Jacques, 2004 (full, bright; speaks fluent terroir)), gravitas (Billecart-Salmon, rosé, NV, Champagne (complex beyond belief; true bliss)) and food imagery (rose, Pax, Sonoma County, 2005 (sought after; berries, roses, nilla wafers)) to describe the many wines on offer.

Even wines by the glass get chef's notes in their descriptions. It's one of the few wine lists that is actually fun to read, and its evident that those involved clearly had a blast coming up with it.

So I challenge you as diners to seek out something new and interesting when you go out, whether it be food, drink, atmosphere, or hopefully, all of the above.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Summer in the City Tasting Event

City Harvest, a non-profit organization that I am an active volunteer for, is the world's first and New York City's only food rescue program.

The organization saves perfectly good food that would otherwise go to waste from restaurants, farmer's markets, grocery stores and trade shows and distributes the bounty to the people who need it most.

To run this great organization requires some lubrication (a.k.a. cash). To that end, City Harvest organizes several fundraisers through out the year, most of which are centered around tastings of many of New York's best restaurants and bars.

Their logo certainly does not match the local weather so far this summer

This Tuesday, June 23rd, City Harvest is hosting their annual benefit, Summer in the City. This year's event features tastings from over thirty top joints, including Stanton Social, Dirt Candy, Allen & Delancey, and 10 Downing.

Of interest to celebrity chef followers, Food Network and Top Chef alum such as Leah Cohen, Alex Guarnaschelli and Chris Santos will be on hand cooking on behalf of their restaurants.

I've been working on my pick-up line for weeks

The night will also feature two new components; six chef demos and late-night celebrity chef karaoke.

The event costs $125 for general admission and $200 for VIP. For the price of a nice dinner out, you can eat dishes from 30+ great restaurants and drink from some of Manhattan's top watering holes, both with unlimited portions.

Would it help if I told you I'll be on hand as a greeter?

Again, this is a really fantastic cause, so if you've got the evening free, I couldn't think of a better way to enjoy a Tuesday night while doing something both important and fun.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

It's the most wonderful time, of the year...

For those of you who aren't already planning your weekend around it, let me encourage you to reschedule whatever you thought you were doing and head to the 7th annual Big Apple BBQ Block Party.

Due to using up the world's supply of beans on one pot, the Proclamation Stew Crew won't be joining us this year

Last year I did a preview of what was going down, which you can see here. All of those favorites are back for another year, as well as some new entrants into the competition. I'm particularly excited to sample the ribs from Pappy's Smokehouse in St. Louis.

Some important changes that have taken place since last year include the extension of the festival's hours from 12:00 pm - 6:00 pm to 11:00 am - 7:00 pm. While I'm excited about the change, I'm worried that the 'cue will run out well before 7:00 pm, as it has in prior years.

Like last year (but unlike the first five years), many of the BBQ seminars given on site will be free. You can check out a listing of what's being taught here. There's even a free bourbon tasting.

Finally, if you haven't already purchased a fast pass (don't say I didn't tell you to do so), they won't be selling anymore this year. Hopefully this means shorter lines for pass holders (like yours truly).

I'll be the one right over there, licking my fingers

Whether you're there for the food, the live music, the beer garden or just great people watching, this event has something for everyone. I look forward to seeing you there.


Friday, May 15, 2009

Edacious, Profiled

I'm famous.

Melody Serafino is bringing value to the masses

Fellow frugal New Yorker Melody Serafino pens a valuable blog called Fabulously Frugal. For her weekly Friday profiles of people living according to her site's mantra, she has chosen yours truly.

Check it out here.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Whiff of Spring

Can you feel it in the air? More importantly, can you smell it?

That pungent garlicky aroma? It can only mean one thing.

Ramps are back.

Tastiest Weeds Ever

For those who aren't familiar with these spring delicacies, ramps are wild green onions that grow in eastern North America from north Georgia up through Canada. Prized for their sharp, powerful flavor and come-hither aroma, ramps substitute easily for any dish requiring garlic or onion.

Ramps are only available for about a month out of the year, depending on what neck of the woods you call home. Also depending on the location of your domicile, you might be able to go out and pick your very own ramps (or order them from someone who can). Ramps are often found in groups with wide, verdant green leaves, and purple or burgundy tints on the stems. A scallion-like bulb strongly roots the plant to the dirt underneath.

For New York city dwellers, ramps can be found at the Union Square greenmarket Mondays, Wendesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Just let your sense of smell guide you to them.

Seriously, follow your nose...

I love using ramps in recipes that allow them to play with other bold flavors, or as a substitute for garlic. Some of the things I've been concocting include:

Ramp and Bacon Omelet

Grilled Rice Cakes, Kimchi, Bacon, Ramps

Shrimp and Grits, Andouille Sausage, Ramps

With ramps, you really can't go wrong. Have fun, experiment, and for everyone's sake, brush your teeth.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Costco is coming!

It's official (seemingly).

Costco is coming to Manhattan.

According to this article, it will arrive by year's end.

Cheapskates rejoice!