Today I had an errand to run in Cranford, a great town to the east. I've always loved their artsy movie house, funky furniture shopping and a few great restaurants. Well good got even better, as I found out today. Especially when I confirmed that the mileage from downtown Cranford is only 2.6 miles from downtown Westfield, and well within Westfield Foodie's range!
While I was sad to bid farewell to Sweet & Fancy, Once Upon a Cafe opened around the corner of Eastman & South. With a fabulous location, this sweet shop intended as a princess cupcake decorating party place is already expanding to book adult private events. There was a guy in front of Garlic Rose creating a water color montage of the newly bopping Eastman Street corridor. Unless this is the owner's little brother doing them a free favor, I took it as a high complement. It's kind of judging a book by its cover, but the sweets themselves tell a nice little story too.
Nothing against cupcakes, but I would take a creamy cheese to a sweet dessert any day. I am eagerly anticipating the opening of Cheese...Please! across the street. Despite the cheesy name (couldn't resist) this promises to be a fabulous new shop offering the finest international cheeses. A new venture to be opened by a local businesswoman who is defecting with a cult cheese following from another fromagerie (if I can use that term liberally here) in town, the cheese whiz had the brains to partner up with Marie O’Neill’s - an Irish food proprietor who promises to be "the corner store for all of your taste treats from across the pond." Despite the name, I know they will offer many goodies I will not be able to resist. And if you grab one of the coupons by the unopened shop door, you will receive 10% off your first cheese purchase.
Also right there is the Italian Pantry. WF hasn't eaten there yet, but plans to attend it's wine & food tasting menu in late July as it teams up with CoolVines for another fantastic gastronomical experience (check website for updates on tasting dates & times). The tiny eatery fills up fast but so will you, on their excellent homemade pastas for which they are known.
If Italian is not for you, there is the always delicious Avenue East. I stopped in at 1:30pm, starving and weary from a day on the road. For $10 including tax & tip, I enjoyed a special from their lunch menu. I was pleased with my green salad with carrot ginger dressing, a tasty crispy spring roll, and a plate of chicken pad thai with extra crushed peanuts. For those who know me, you can understand what an indulgence this was.
For a change of pace, try heading a few miles east for your next night out. Catch a movie or have a friend meet you at the train as you commute home. Or do something entirely different like getting off a few stops early, enjoying dinner and dessert al fresco, and then walk it off in under an hour.
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Today my inspiration comes from a food blogger in Paris. David Lebovitz understands how addictive fresh baguette is and even gave it a term. Crack Baguette not only captures the essence of food addiction, but it has a nice ring. It would make a great band name.
If you have time, read more of his blog, and be prepared to be tantalized by the photos of les pâtisseries et les chocolates. If I could be anywhere it would be eating and drinking my way through Paris. The photo here was taken last March and is one of my favorites - look at what is reflected in my vin rouge.
In case you are wondering what this has to do with Westfield, since I try to make all my ramblings relevant and of value to fellow Westfield Foodies, I will explain. My friend, who is from Westfield, is about to go to Paris. Maybe she will bring back some treats??
Friday, June 18, 2010
Whether dad is opting to be the chef, grill master or indulgent diner who gets the night off from doing dishes too, here are some recipes to please any man, any time of day.
Real men do eat quiche. We all know that. But it's still fun to say. Start the morning right with this classic brunch recipe. They love it even more when it is homemade by someone they love. He'll love you even more if you add extra bacon.
This satisfying salad from Patsys Pizzeria is what I will be making for the father of my 2 gorgeous girls. We ate this a few weeks ago on an overnight stay in the city, and went back the next day for more. He's been jonesing for this green salad with mozzarella, roasted peppers, black olives, capers, anchovies, carrots, tomatoes and artichokes ever since. I might add grilled chicken or shrimp.
Beer Can Chicken
This is an incredibly unique recipe that is really cool to make. The beer steams and flavors the chicken from the inside out, while the chicken roasts. The skin becomes very crispy and the meat is unbelievably tender. And you get to stick a can of beer up the chicken's butt. Offer daddy-0 a few sips since the can should be only about 3/4 full.
Wow, cooking porterhouse directly on coals. If you have a firepit, break it out ladies. This is prehistoric grilling at its finest. If possible, serve dinner in a cave and instead of a card, etch your feelings on the cave wall with a pointy stone.
I'm letting you in on a huge secret. Actually, two. The first is that Pillsbury pie crust makes pie making so fast and easy it's a shame not to be making them all summer. Second, the recipe on the box is perfect. It takes less than ten minutes from refrigerator to oven and bakes in less than an hour. Cut the top layer into strips, with a beveled roller if you have one, and make a lattice top. Substitute any fruit for the apples. Frozen fruit makes it even easier, just make sure it is thawed and drained. Daddy will not like wet pie.
photo credit: www.barbecuebible.com
photo credit: Bon Appetit, July 2010
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
I have a whole new respect for the brew master. Not a coffee machine or fraternity party king, but the tōji, the esteemed sake brew master. A tōji is highly regarded by the Japanese, and after last night's tasting of 5 sakes from CoolVines matched with 5 courses at Nagoya, I understand why. Much respect is accorded to the guy who can create a complex, diverse yet totally unique brewed alcoholic beverage from a simple grain of rice. Combined with the delicate sushi with various explosive toppings and sauces, the sake not only complements the food but attacks your senses.
The classic Japanese cuisine of Nagoya was beautifully presented as five small plated courses, beginning with an assortment of tuna, yellowtail, white tuna and pepper tuna sushi. The show stopper was the yellowtail jalapeno, a gorgeous buttery flower with slabs of seared yellowtail topped with thin circles of fresh jalapeno, topped with a yuzu sauce. Also noteworthy was the deep purple eggplant that was seared, serrated and stuffed with soy scallion marinated salmon. There was a subtle spanish influence, seen in the salsa, cilantro and fresh peppers used tastefully as garnish. And one of my favorites, the very american cream cheese that was fused with the fried salmon and topped with a dollop of spicy tuna.
It was my first time at Nagoya, and I learned some secrets that you can only learn from going there 1-2 times a week for 4 years. Like the guy sitting to my left, lucky for me. The owners and sushi chefs are family, some brothers, and that comes through in the way they make their customers feel so at home. In fact, my table mate fishes tuna off the Continental Shelf, about 100 miles due east of Point Pleasant, and brings it to them to prepare his rolls. You don't get much fresher than fish you caught that day prepared in your favorite kitchen by expert chefs who specialize in that particular fish! He is determined to get on the white board of specialty rolls named after customers that hangs behind the bar. I have to take another look, I can't imagine who got on the big board if not him. He recommends the toro belly, yellowtail belly and the artic char, which isn't even on the menu. My new sushi guru.
If you are serious about learning about sake, you should stop by CoolVines and talk to the knowledgeable general manager Damon O'Gara. In his orange paisley tie and distressed jeans, he is not quite tōji material but seems to know his stuff. Here's a quick 2 minute primer: you mill the rice, then soak and steam it. The more you mill it, the more pure it tastes. A 50% mill will taste less robust than a 35% mill. Then you let it ferment, and as the starch converts to sugar, it is simultaneously converted to alcohol. Unlike wine, these two processes happen at the same time, not as separate steps. As always the masters of efficiency.
I didn't know that chilled sake is served in a narrow long stemmed glass, and only hot sake is offered up in ceramic. I also did not know that it is bad luck to pour your own sake. There are various levels and distinguishing criteria which may make it on the label, such as Ginjo (50% distilled), Junmai (no additional spirits added), Genshu (no distilled water added), Koshu (which may not be aged and is often fresh to market, with a more pronounced taste) and Futsuu (table sake, served hot).
For that matter, who knew CoolVines even sold sake? Stop by one afternoon and you may even get an on-the-spot tutorial. I asked a question in the store once about Italian pinot noir and my quick lesson included a freehand sketched map of Northern Italy on the back of a napkin. Check their site for more wine tastings and special events, and you heard it here first - a dinner and wine tasting at the Italian Pantry in Cranford on July 23.
The dinner was a bombardment of flavors, colors and texture. I will be back to CoolVines and Nagoya for more culinary adventure. Unfortunately for now, it's back to rice krispies and milk.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Cool Vines and Nagoya are teaming up for a sushi and sake tasting on Monday, June 14 at 7pm. Westfield Foodie will be there, eager to sample the seared yellowtail jalapeno and the grilled salmon-stuffed eggplant. I'm all about pairing cheese with wine, so it is natural to pair sushi with sake. Think vodka made from rice, how bad can that be? Psss Cool Vines manager Damon O'Gara will also be pouring ales, in case you want a stronger brew than soy sauce. For more information visit the link or call the store at 908-232-5050.
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
I discretely photograph food. I want to remember a dish before it is ravaged or home cooked meal that hopefully tastes as good as it looks. I enjoy culinary art, and I am as obsessed with my iphone as I am with food. Apparantly I'm not the only one.
I am as excited about the way food looks - whether it is a stack of fruit at the market or a creatively plated entree - and appreciate presentation as much as taste or smell. I feel giddy like a child when the waiter presents my food and it just looks so incredible. Even if the taste is mediocre, snapping a quick photo is like gathering up all that excitement and bottling it, or preserving it as a memory, when anything is still possible. As much in your laptop as your brain, this image will transport you to that time forever.
A friend recently sent me a link to a New York Times article that was the cover feature for the Dining & Wine section about a month ago. I knew there were others like me, who blog or have food websites. Or who just love to photograph food. Today, I welcome 2 men to this group.
In the same week I received my first 2 food photographs from another person. Usually I am sending or posting them, but I really enjoyed seeing these in my inbox. They both know their way around a restaurant, a camera phone and are without a doubt the two most influential men in my life. My husband and my father. Same week. Weird!
The first was last Wednesday, when my husband sent me a photo of his healthy dinner. He was on a new diet, and was proud of his healthy dinner and wanted to share it with me. He asked me what he could get besides a greek salad or burger, and I suggested "something grilled with vegetables." He sent me this photo of the grilled salmon, above. I was out with friends and we were trying to guess where it came from. The vegetable medley and foil-wrapped potato suggested a place with high turnover, where the waitress would be certain to ask you "fried, baked or mashed?" Any guesses? First correct guess wins a free lunch at this Westfield eatery.
Then today, my dad sent me a photograph of his dinner in Chinatown. Far from Westfield but close to home, his meal reminded him of me. He sent it to me because a few years ago we spent some time in Chinatown sampling various restaurants, which we dubbed as "important research" and ate a lot of soups and dumplings. If anyone were to start a blog on chinese soup, it might be my dad. He writes "It’s unbelievable what $4.75 can buy. This was at the restaurant that we ate in twice at the corner of Henry Street and Catherine Street in Chinatown. It was about a 7 inch bowl crammed full of the most delicious roast pork noodle soup with shrimp dumplings (that actually contained small whole shrimp). I recalled the two of us eating there as I finished every drop."
Memory enhanced memories. Fading faster than your iphone battery.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
ΏΠΑ or OPA is a Greek exclamation that is shouted out to celebrate life. And based on the Greeks I know, life is all about celebrating. Especially this weekend as the annual Greek Fest opens its doors June 3 - 5.
This fabulous 3 day extravaganza features food, fun and games for all ages, including cooking demonstrations, amusement rides, dance lessons, live music and a lot of incredible food. All events take place at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church on Gallows Hill Road in Westfield. It starts today and runs through Sunday. Take a minute to review their outstanding schedule of events.
The Greek Fest Menu features many mouthwatering Greek specialties like gyros, souvlaki, spanakopita and moussaka. Make sure to check out booth #7, featuring ten delicious Greek pastries. You will not want to miss the Philoptochos cooking demos on Thursday and Friday, and a special presentation on Saturday at 2pm by Greek Chef Paul Delios.
When I went to college in Michigan, we used to go to a section of Detroit called Greektown. They'd serve you a shot of Ouzo and smash a plate over your head, shouting out OPA! Then I went to Corfu, a beautiful island in Greece and was treated the same way. Turns out I can get the same treatment right here in Westfield.
For excellent Greek Fare the rest of the year, there are plenty of options right here in town. Every Tuesday night is Greek night at the Westfield Diner, where the Greek owners serve up specalties like Broiled Calamari Oreganata and Leg of Lamb. They may not know how to spell salad on their website, but their greek salad is one of the best in town.
For more upscale fare, Limani Seafood Grill has a very tasty menu with two standout Greek appetizers. The Pikilia Spread includes tsatziki (yogurt, cucumber, dill, garlic), skordalia (whipped potato, garlic), taramosalata (red caviar whipped with lemon and oil), an assortment of dips and spreads, kalamata olives, imported feta, red beets, toasted crostini. Or try the Thalasomezes with char-grilled shrimp, octopus, and calamari with an oregano-lemon-oil emulsion as an appy or lunch.
For Greek food at home, salads are a great place to start. The traditional Dolmas, or stuffed grape leaves, can be purchased at any supermarket. Westfield Foodie highly recommends The Greek Store on Boulevard in Kenilworth, but you can also find them at a wonderful value at Trader Joe's.
I have many Greek friends but I made the salad pictured above for my cuban/jewish/italian hosts. Everyone loves a Greek salad! And everyone will enjoy the festival so grab your kids, work up an appetite and leave your plates at home.
Photo Credit: Dan Gross