Wednesday, May 19, 2010


When I’m cooking or baking for myself, I do it for stress relief and the sheer joy of the process. But really, there is nothing that makes me happier than when I’m in the kitchen preparing treats for someone else. Regardless if it's for a friend or a significant other, the best way I can show my love is through the gift of food. My fondest memories are the times I spent hosting and preparing dinner parties for friends and loved ones.

A few months ago I attended the “Doing What You Love” panel at the 92nd Street YMCA. Panelist Tom Colicchio said, "There's nothing better than being able to serve someone a plate and seeing them smile." Amen to that. I haven’t baked for someone other than myself in such a long time that I almost forgot how nice it is to hear someone blissfully exclaim, “Who made this? It’s so good!”

I forgot, that is, until I made pumpkin mini muffins for Chris’s surprise birthday brunch. The kiddie-themed rooftop party included pin-the-head-on-the-dinosaur, spider man themed skeet ball, and bubbles. As the sun beat down on the partygoers and melted the ice cream and cupcake icing, my decision to make muffins proved a wise choice. Some might think pumpkin should be relegated to the fall season but I’m of the opinion that anything pumpkin related is always enticing!

Like most cooks, sometimes I have to bake things I don’t really care for. The birthday boy loves pie more than a fat kid loves cake. I’m not much for fruit pies so I compromised with an avocado pie. I had never made avocado pie before but I figured now was as good a time as any to give it a shot. Surprisingly avocado pie tastes like an extremely rich key lime pie. The richness of the pie is mostly due to the use of evaporated milk. Three easy ingredients to make a sinfully delicious pie? It never ceases to amaze me when simple recipes result in such scrumptious fare.

My omelet was being guarded by ninjas while I prepared pancakes for the group

Avocado pie on a sophisticated dinosaur plate

Omelet bar options

Brunch is not complete without bacon...lots of it.

Happy birthday, Chris!

Sunday, May 16, 2010


There are over 18,000 restaurants in NYC but I go to the same restaurant for my birthday. For the third year in a row, I went to Degustation Wine & Tasting Bar, one of Jack Lamb's trifecta, a quaint 16 seater that serves Spanish inspired tapas. Its 10 course tasting menu never disappoints me and the courses are spaced out perfectly so you leave in state of gluttonous bliss and not feeling like an overstuffed moo moo.

I mentioned to Jack the weekend prior while I was at Jewel Bako, his Japanese restaurant, that I'd be coming for my birthday at Degustation the following weekend. He remembered when I saw him and so graciously sent over a piece of otoro sushi (which was incredible, by the way. I've had toro before but I've never had the pleasure of having otoro, which is far superior) and a cheese plate for dessert.

This is exactly why I continue to choose the same restaurant for my birthday. Do I want to try the hottest restaurant of the moment? Sure but at the end of the day I know that Degustation's service will always spot on and it's a guarantee that you'll mutter, oh my god, many times throughout the night after having bite after bite of heavenly goodness.

Food porn will now commence:

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Gmail is down and I've hit refresh no less than 300 times in the past 20 minutes.

More importantly, I just fell in love with a sixth grader.

Monday, May 10, 2010


During the week, I start my mornings off with a spinach omelette. Weekend mornings, however, are reserved for more indulgent starts, such as pancakes, biscuits, and scones. I've had a blueberry muffin in my recipe queue for quite some time and it just so happened that I had buttermilk in the fridge and blueberries in the freezer. A blueberry muffin is not worthy of eating unless it's topped with streusel...a lot of it. I typically like the ratio of streusel to muffin to be about 2 to 1 but then it'd be more of a crumb cake than muffin.

For this muffin, I used the Cook's Illustrated Best Blueberry Muffins with Streusel Topping recipe. The muffins were good but not amazing. I found it lacking in flavor and it wasn't as moist as I'd like it to be. I'm still on the search for the end all, be all of blueberry muffins so if anyone has one, please do tell.

Streusel Topped Blueberry Muffins
recipe adapted from Cook's Illustrated (May/June 2009) via Joelen's Culinary Adventures

Streusel Topping:
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
pinch table salt
½ cup plus 3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons warm, melted unsalted butter
Muffin Batter:
2 cups frozen blueberries
1 1/8 cups plus 1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

FOR THE STREUSEL TOPPING: Combine all the dry streusel ingredients in small bowl. Drizzle with the warm, melted unsalted butter and toss with fork until evenly moistened and mixture forms large chunks with some pea-sized pieces throughout.
FOR THE MUFFINS: Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Spray standard muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. Bring 1 cup frozen blueberries and 1 teaspoon sugar to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, mashing berries with spoon several times and stirring frequently, until berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to ¼ cup, about 6 minutes. Transfer to small bowl and cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.Rinse the remaining cup of berries under cold water and dry well. Toss dried berries in 1 tablespoon of flour and set aside.

Whisk the remaining flour, baking powder, and salt together in large bowl and set aside.In another bowl, whisk remaining 11/8 cups sugar and eggs together until thick and homogeneous, about 45 seconds. Slowly whisk in butter and oil until combined. Whisk in buttermilk and vanilla until combined. Using rubber spatula, fold egg mixture and remaining cup blueberries into flour mixture until just moistened.

Use an ice cream scoop or large spoon to divide batter equally among prepared muffin cups (batter should completely fill cups and mound slightly). Spoon teaspoon of cooked berry mixture into center of each mound of batter. Using chopstick or skewer, gently swirl berry filling into batter using figure-eight motion. Sprinkle prepared streusel evenly over muffins.

Bake until muffin tops are golden and just firm, 17 to 19 minutes, rotating muffin tin from front to back halfway through baking time. Cool muffins in muffin tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and cool 5 minutes before serving.

Monday, May 3, 2010


I've been wanting to try the food at the Red Hook Ballfields ever since I first read about it two years ago. Then I saw it on Anthony Bourdain's No Reservation and made a note to go the first weekend it opened. Warm ceviche?! I'm there! Randy and I hit up the vendors on Saturday with his dog, Bernie, aka the love of my life.

As you can see, she's quite popular, especially with the kiddies. Bernie isn't the best companion when you're trying to eat. She just stares at you and sits about an inch away, hoping for a morsel to fall and's rather distracting so off she went back to the car.

When faced with the decision of where to begin, we chose the longest line. You can't go wrong with the crowd favorite and this time, it was the Salvadorian pupusa truck. The cheese and pork stuffed pupusas had the perfect combination of cheese, meat and bread. Plus, they were greasy and oh do I enjoy grease! They were a bit heavy so the side of cabbage slaw helped make it less so.

Elote. Yum... Anything on a stick deserves a yum after it. Corn dog? Yakitori? Kebab? Yum, yum and yum. Actually, I've had fried scorpions on a stick so perhaps blankonastick doesn't always warrant a yum.

Pork skin and pork tacos. Ehhh....

The pork tamale was way too mushy but if you ignored 90% of it and just ate the top, it was deeelicious.

It's not easy getting to the vendors at the Red Hook Ballfields. The pupusas were good but given that nothing else really wowed me, I can't say that I'm too eager to make the trip again. I'm not going to write this place off until I try a few more things and can definitively say that it's not worth the hike. Perhaps the warm ceviche would have swayed me... I'll save that for next time!