Womp womp, when was the last time I did one of these awesome round-ups? Probably around the same time Pandora thought it was appropriate to play ‘Hey There Delilah,’ which it’s doing right now. This time, it’s a little different- I have a mix of gluten-free products that I’ll give numerical ratings to, just like my big features, but…smaller. Think of it as the specialty food equivalent of GrubGrade’s First Looks or TIB’s Quick Reviews. Interspersed through this will be some recipes I’ve recently made that I’m particularly proud of.
Today is just a good day to celebrate being an adult. What’s that, you ask? Well, over my carefully prepared lunch of gluten-free Easy Ma-er, Annie’s Rice Pasta and Cheddar in individual cups, I’ll tell you. It all started this morning, when I woke up after a mild-mannered evening of Thai food, Riesling, and more backepisodes of Pokemon than I care to mention, with the Bedfellow. I woke up realizing that not only had I planned early enough to get some early notes done for class that morning, but that I’d also spent the better part of the evening cleaning my floors and ranting about party etiquette. Why don’t people know how to RSVP? Adult problems, people.
Continue reading “Annie’s Rice Pasta and Cheddar”
I went to sleep with two bottles of Riesling and now there’s Riesling on my breath and when I got out of bed this morning, my mouth was dry and by mistake, I banged my head on the headboard and tripped over my Birkenstocks and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad hangover. At breakfast, the Bedfellow ate a Cortland apple and my Facebook friends posted photos of delicious brunch, but all I had was a cup of black coffee before I started to feel queasy. I think I’ll move to Paris and stop drinking. At the gym, I could only do twenty minutes on the elliptical and heave the kettle ball once before my stomach started hurting and the pretty people looked at me in the pretty gym clothes. I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad hangover. I don’t even know why they call them kettle balls.
Happy government shutdown! It’s okay, we have plenty to talk about on Foodette. Sometimes I feel like a pet seal- what can I say? I perform better when I have a small treat, and I need lots of little bites of energy to keep me through the day. I’m lucky that I live close enough to school that I don’t have to resort to buying my own lunch, but I like to keep a stash of goodies in my car and briefcase, too, for days when one class goes slightly over the schedule or when I just feel low on energy. Lately, I’ve been eating organic candy chews from Lovely Candy Co- these were sent to me over the summer, but I recently found the pack I’d been saving for school: superfruit!
They come in three flavors- blueberry, raspberry, and cranberry, and come individually wrapped. They are quite the faithful homage to Starburst- same creamy, chewy texture and shape, but are all natural, gluten-free, GMO-free, and fruity as hell, despite being somewhat stickier. I haven’t been able to put them down, and I’m not typically a candy person.
Where these succeed outside of their commercial counterparts is their flavor. They have sizable chunks of freeze-dried fruit, and some of the flavors have herbaceous notes to them. I am unsure if that’s from the fruit itself or an additional flavoring, but it makes for a very good foil to the sweet fruit and sugary base.
The only area where these fall short is packaging- the predictability of Starburst makes them easy to eat and parcel out. Everybody has a favorite flavor. With these, there are more to the package- approximately 30, but the flavor discrepancy was a little ridiculous. In my package, I had 17 blueberry candies, 10 cranberries, and 3 precious raspberries, which happened to be my favorite flavor. A more even adjustment would behoove the brand.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the sausage. While it was housemade and very tender, the flavors – smoked pork with chipotle and roasted garlic, were muddled together and monolithic, and ended up tasting aggressively, generically spicy. The homemade pickles? Perfect, snappy, fresh. This stark divide in artistry between vegetables or more delicate proteins and heavier fare would follow throughout the entire meal.
The Bedfellow started with the ‘Soup of the Day’. She is remarkably discerning when it comes to her favorite drink, the dirty martini, and was dubious of its inclusion of vodka versus gin, but pronounced the drink palatable and pleasantly boozy and enjoyed the blue cheese olives as a snack after the drink was finished.
We chose the ‘gin and tonic’ salmon as an entrée, along with the hangar steak, cooked rare. Despite having ordered salmon in restaurants before, this was one of the few times when I was asked how I wanted it cooked. I appreciated that. I typically prefer my salmon as rare as my steak, but as I was sharing it, we went for medium-rare. It was cooked perfectly. The lime emulsion on the side was transcendent, and transported me back to La Biggarade in Paris, with the carefully separated pods of citrus fruit in a light, creamy sauce. Everything about the salmon was impeccable, from the balance of the smoky, grilled elements of the fish to the light vegetables and citrus. However, the element of ‘gin and tonic’ was lost on me, save the lime garnish, although I did appreciate the effort.
My life is breaking into small, but manageable pieces. Ihave a host of tiny, infinitesimally asinine issues that somehow, my psyche has been interpreting as huge and life-changing, like the fact that not one, but two pairs of leather pants I’ve purchased on eBay don’t fit correctly in the ankles, or that the candle I bought smells like cheap aftershave and makes my eyes water. The hot water tank in my complex is broken and will be fixed by tomorrow, so I have to own my rank, delicious scents and languish another day without using honey-oatmeal soap, or, horror of horrors, go to the health club to work out and use their shower.
My point is, things are awful. I have too many apartments to choose from in too many beautiful buildings before I start at my first choice of law schools, my Birkenstocks don’t perfectly match my Coach Beekman, and switching from Firefox to Chrome is taking hours with my slow internet. My mother keeps posting passive-aggressive comments on my Facebook statuses! Pandora skips! It keeps playing ‘My Girl!” I look too damned good in men’s tank tops!
Cherrywood, in Soho, was a breath of fresh air, both from the overwhelming crowds of Mercer Street and the stifling afternoon heat last Wednesday. A new addition to a quieter part of town, Cherrywood offers a gilded interpretation of classic Asian and American flavors.
The décor is understated, almost a little generic with its blood-red curtains and eponymous wood accents strewn about the restaurant, high-ceilinged and classic like a more minimal boudoir. It is sprawling in all aspects and ends up feeling a little less intimate than the name Cherrywood Kitchen would suggest, but Cherrywood Study or Cherrywood Living Room ends up making more of a mouthful than the food. The upper catwalk of the main room had bookshelves and oddities along the shelves, which I craved more of than the small peek I received in gazing around.
The drink menu offers six cocktails, perfect for two to sample throughout an evening, and a reliable, if basic wine selection. The cocktails were what piqued my curiosity, utilizing an array of fresh fruits and ingredients, from the simple, but vibrant Botanical Gimlet, with Hendrick’s, tonic, lime, and cucumber, to the clever in the Cherrywood margarita, whose flavors were reminiscent of a craft cherry limeade. The vodka cider was my personal favorite – simple, clean flavors that perfectly complemented the ribs, with a punch of Cointreau to withstand the strong flavors of the meat.
The Bedfellow was partial to her Manhattan, made with smoked orange peel. A serviceable sangria and delicate blood orange prosecco finished out the meal, before coffee and dessert wine. (Clockwise: Cherrywood margarita, vodka cider, blood orange prosecco, Manhattan, and Taylor Fladgate)
Lo and behold, like the transformation of a boy to a man, or a man to a Transformer, my refrigerator has grown the hell up. The moment another live, human being stepped over the threshold of my smelly apartment and asked for a snack, I suddenly grew a pair- of avocados, that is. And duck thighs, and whole-grain mustard, and fresh steak, and smoked gouda. I now have a fridge that a normal adult would be proud of. Foodette is back, and she came with condiments. One of my new favorite things is yogurt. I realize that most of the adult world discovered this as soon as they entered college, but blame my developmental disability and quirky childlike whimsy, please. And now I have sixteen kinds of yogurt! The latest and greatest variety is Smari, an organic Icelandic yogurt made by sassy cows from Wisconsin. (Angie looks like Amanda Seyfried!!)
Smari is twee in the best possible way. It’s a crash course in excellent marketing, graphic design, and quality control. I’m enamored with the bold linear label design, more approachable than Siggi’s Hieronymous Bock imitations and sleeker than Chobani. The slogan- “the brave yogurt of Iceland!” is adorable, as is their horn-hatted spoon logo. And each cup has four cups of milk. We’re coming out on top already, which, of course means the expectations are even higher for the product inside.
Smari does not disappoint. With 130 calories and a whopping 17 grams of protein per cup, it’s my new favorite way to start the morning or end the day- whenever I feel like I need the most energy. Of the four flavors Smari sent over, blueberry was my favorite. It has a rich, jammy flavor with a natural sweetness that the high acidity of the yogurt brings out marvelously.
The milkiness is concentrated in this particular brand- perhaps a little too much, as the flavor eventually starts to taste very rich and cheesy after a few bites, more like sour cream with some blueberries thrown in than yogurt. I am curious to try this in a miniature cheesecake, as its flavor packs quite a powerful punch. Flavor-wise, Noosa is still preferential, but this has a better all-around package.
I’ve mentioned before that brunch is a big affair for me. Welp, now that baby has her first real job, plus school and various assorted debauchery, anytime is brunch time, provided I’ve ten minutes, a handful of dry cereal, and a hardboiled egg. But you know that doesn’t really cut it. I need real brunch, with real forks, real hipsters, and real food, damn it, and as luck would have it, Murray’s Cheese, a New York epicurean staple, introduced their weekend brunch and invited me over for a taste. Finally, brunch I could schedule in and prepare for! Over a springy Sunday morning, I sampled cheese-filled treats aplenty.
It doesn’t get much better than starting with bellinis…unless said bellinis are lychee and black cherry-flavored. Lychee fared better, the yeastiness of the Processo mingled nicely with the floral notes. Black cherry was delicious, but the fruity flavor was omnipresent and pushed out the more delicate flavors of the wine.
As we were guests of Murray’s, I shot them a quick email before I came over- simple in premise, but direct: “What should we get?” Their response met mine with a succinct, “As much as you can.” And holy cheese, were they right. We got a phenomenal spread of food, its versatility proving Murray’s deft hands with delicious cheese. We started with a cheese plate, arguably the best of the selection, though I’m biased just coming from a life of cheese plates in Paris.
Each order of the cheesemonger’s selection comes with the cheesemonger, carefully pointing out and describing her selections and pairings with both housemade and artisanally produced condiments. We asked for the strangest and funkiest, and we definitely got it, starting with the Hudson Flower, cave-aged at Murray’s courtesy of the Old Chatham Sheepherding Co. with a blend of lemongrass, juniper berry, cracked black pepper, and paprika. This was paired with a housemade rose tea petal jam, and was my personal favorite of the bunch. Floral, spicy, and, as the cheesemonger said, “I feel so girly whenever I eat it!” Me too. Kinda.
The next was a Beaufort d’Ete, transporting me straight back to France with its creamy, eggy, pungent flavors and a crumbly, honeyed sweet edge. Man, was this nostalgic. They paired it with pickled spicy carrots whose lingering spice deftly cut the richness of the cheese. It was better with the wild boar soprasetta than the delicate shavings of proscuitto as the former helped coax out those spicy notes even more. We finished with a perfect Fourme d’Ambert, yet another tug at the old heartstrings for me. This had a funky, pervasive sea salt and musk to the core, with an aggressively stingy bite, just pure chalk, salt, and cream. Paired with the delicate, although strangely solid white sea salt honey and prosciutto, it was something I could have eaten by the pound.
After the cheese plate, we started in on the brunch menu. We wanted an even divide of sweet and savory, so we decided to start with the Illegal Doughnut, two thick slices of Pullman’s bread stuffed with cream cheese, bacon, and fried with a creme brulee crunch. Delicious, and certainly rich, as it was over three inches of fried, creamy goodness on a plate, but I wished the cream cheese filling had been seasoned or spiced in some way, or at least whipped to cut the sheer density of the plate. In this case, it seemed as though a block of cream cheese had been placed in between the bread, which is all well and good, but at a place that specializes in cheese, cream cheese should not go ignored.
Our other large plate was the Alpine Eggs, described as the “fondue of eggs” by both our server and the PR team. These were monstrous in size and flavor- two pillowy English muffin halves with ham, grilled mushrooms (B generously ate the ‘shrooms off mine) and a perfectly poached egg on top to be drizzled with what seemed like an endless pot of tangy, smooth cheese sauce. Everything worked well in this dish, and I happily scraped the plate and dipped anything I could in the sauce- a fork, crackers, my pinky finger, though I did find myself craving a little spice to counter some of those creamy flavors.
Surprisingly, the two sides we ordered made more than a complete meal themselves, and actually ended up being our favorites. Murray’s, please know that I could eat those grits ad nauseum. I would cook them and never, ever leave the house, so creamy and infused with cheese they were. The Tickler cheddar was sharp and savory, and melted so well that long after the dish had cooled down, the cheese was still gooey and yielding with each bite. I prolonged our brunch by at least an extra fifteen minutes just so I could nibble on this. With the scrapple, it was likely one of the best brunch meals I’ve had in the last year.
Ohhh, the scrapple. My discreet notes to myself, scribbled on both my phone, and, after its untimely battery death, my hand, best sum up my feelings toward it: “Holy damn, scrapple, you crazy.” Crazy indeed- tender, with every last edge crispy and crunchy. Murray’s is off to a great beginning. Their individual items need tweaking, but it’s a solid start to what I imagine will be a stunning final menu. We left stuffed with leftovers in hand and decided it wouldn’t have been so awful to fall onto the subway tracks and die afterward. There’s no shame in being star-crossed brunch lovers.
(FTC Disclosure: Murray’s generously comped our cheese plate and invited us in to what was likely the very last two-top in a ten-mile radius on such a beautiful spring day. Seriously, everyone in the tri-state area was brunching that day, so muchos gracias.)
This week on Chopped: Pre-Spring Break Edition, or as we call it behind the scenes, “Fuck, fuck, fuck, What am I supposed to do with all of this hummus?” we encounter a plethora of ingredients our intrepid chef has never reached for before, much less made the effort to consume, including, but not limited to granola-infused peanut butter, a sack of clementines atop a bookshelf that came off as clever and hip, but quickly rotted, a haircut inspired by Marlon Brando and a Titanic-era Leonardo DiCaprio, and aging Lean Cuisine Salad Additions.
Spoiler alert, also, real talk: do I look like the type to eat salads? Absolutely none of the current stereotypes I cuddle up to would eat a salad, I know this because I’ve tried and failed. So, Lean Cuisine, that, and my apathy about buying vegetables in quantities not befitting a single, dour human being compels me to try your new kits with spaghetti. Store-brand spaghetti, that chicken is too pallid for the fresh stuff. That, and the fact that it took about 15 minutes before I realized that filling my Firefox tabs with recipes and looking at them would not suffice my actual bodily hunger. Tant pis.
I’m not including a recipe because it’s a little reprehensible, but suffice to say, it includes peanut butter, a ginger-sesame dressing out of a salad kit, copious amounts of hot sauce, and closed doors. However, I also realize none of you read this blog for moral culpability, so I’m inclined to also tell you solely because it doesn’t entirely matter. This salad kit is delicious when it isn’t used for salad. My favorite part? The pineapple and yellow carrot pieces. While I may not have prepared this correctly- I don’t own a microwave and don’t care to go to the convenience store to ape theirs five blocks away, so I thawed the chicken and veggies instead for a few hours, that may have been what improved them. Sticking them in the microwave, according to conspiracy theorists and eco-minimalists, leeches all of the flavor out of them and renders them mushy and unpalatable. Here, they retained a little snap and remained firm and bright. Paired with chow mein noodles tossed in sriracha (noodle-on-noodle action) it was a great dinner, and two more great lunches.
Also, holy chicken, Batman. Either corporations are getting hella deft at mimicking food (a quick glance to the ingredients reveals this to be slightly true, modified tapioca starch) or they’re just using better chicken. This tastes, feels, and for all intensive purposes, is real and quite tasty. And better than buying and/or thawing large chicken breasts. So, Lean Cuisine, my lassitude is your gain. Four for you, Glen Coco.