The Generous Pour at the Capital Grille, Providence, RI

The Bedfellow and I took a trip to Newport this weekend to check out the folk festival. While we were watching Beth Orton and Shovels and Rope, and not watching Beck play ‘Sexx Laws’ because he was too busy exploring his emotions, we were invited to take a side trip to the Capital Grille in Providence to check out this year’s Generous Pour event.

As you know from last year’s event, seven to nine wines are selected, generally around a theme or specific region, and are offered at an upcharge of $25 per person to be paired alongside a three or four-course meal so diners can sample the entire selection without opening full bottles. This year centered around California wines above 90 points, playfully named ’90 in the Shade.’ We started our meal with a few appetizers, and the first three wines.

One of the appetizer specials sounded too good to pass up, the chilled Maryland crab cocktail with a spicy mustard sauce—and no, not just because of the sauce on the side. Eight hours in the sun at a music festival had me craving savory, cold protein, so with that and the Wagyu carpaccio with wasabi arugula, we were set to start a wonderful meal. The crab was perfect, with a light, savory chew and tender bite. It almost didn’t need the sauce on the side, for a drizzle of tart lemon enhanced the natural salinity of the meat.
Both meats were delicious on a whole, but could have benefitted from a reduction of extra enhancements on the side. The carpaccio was served with a wasabi arugula salad and shavings of fresh, nutty parmesan. Both delicious, but the melty, fatty flavor of the meat was overshadowed by the sharpness of the cheese. It paired well alongside the arugula, though, and may have been the only salad I’d have asked for seconds of.

With these appetizers and the classic Capital Grille breadbasket, filled with flatbread, poppy rolls, and raisin brown bread, were the three whites- a 2012 La Crema Pinot Gris, 2011 Matanzas Creek Sauvignon blanc, and 2011 Freemark Abbey Chardonnay. My favorite was the sauvignon blanc, which had a curious varietal flair to it, almost musky and caramely, with a highly perfumed nose and snappy, bright finish. The Freemark and La Crema were also tasty, neither oaky nor overly dry, but not as memorable in terms of their uniqueness and pairing alongside the food.

For entrees, we were both craving steak after a day of sandwiches and smoothies at the beach, so I ordered the 24-ounce Porterhouse and the Bedfellow went for some surf and turf with a filet mignon. To eat alongside, we requested half orders of the creamed corn with bacon, Parmesan and truffle fries, and lobster macaroni and cheese. We may have gone completely overboard, as the side portions were absolutely enormous. The steaks were served with four reds, starting with the two lighter wines, a 2005 Kendall Jackson Highland Estate Merlot, and the 2011 Hartford Court Pinot Noir, and the heavier-bodied following them, the 2009 Atalon Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2007 Arrowood Syrah. I enjoyed them, but on a whole, did not find the selection as diverse as last year’s world tour of wines. The merlot stood out the most for me, with a rich, chocolatey flavor and velvety finish, and could have easily stood its own against the syrah, which personally had less bottle age and depth to it, despite being the heavier of the choices.  
I asked for my steak to be cooked a shade to the left of medium rare, as I still wanted some crisp but also wanted to relish the joy of stabbing it dead with my fork on it . It was perfectly cooked, albeit a hair more done at the edges, as it was thinner on the sides. I could barely make a dent in it, as it turns out that two pounds of steak are reserved for the metabolistic superhumans of this world. My sangfroid dissolved with each warm-blooded bite. But what I did have was delicious, and I tucked into it with gusto. Simple, clean in flavor, and cooked as I pleased.

The filet was cooked perfectly, plenty rare in the middle and juicy pink on the outside, but had a few technical flaws that detracted from the simple flavor of the meat. For one, the entire plate was swimming in a flavorful parmesan, garlic, and butter sauce better suited to a plate of pasta than to two delicate and expensive proteins. While I’m hardly objecting to butter on steak, one of life’s greatest pairings, the amount was downright excessive and coated each bite. The lobster was enhanced by this, as it was slightly overcooked, but the steak just felt overly heavy alongside such a decadent sauce.

The Bedfellow isn’t crazy about Parmesan, so I alternated between bites of steak and fries throughout the meal. The fries were excellent and very crispy, and loaded with cheese and just the slightest hint of truffle oil and cilantro. The cheese made it difficult to get one fry without tearing a few others off it, as it melted them into one large metafry, but was still delicious alongside the meat.

Our other sides were massive, the creamed corn being the Cinderella story of the night, perfectly balancing the gap between overly rich, dairy-heavy corn and plain vegetables with the bacon and, presumably, the bacon fat melting into the corn. It was fresh and served rustically with some larger segments of corn as if it had been recently shucked. Smoky and very summery.

And of course, I couldn’t take the Bedfellow here without having her try the famous lobster macaroni and cheese. This one was particularly heavy on the mascarpone, which I loved, and the pasta cooked exceptionally well, cradling the cheeses in its horn-shaped pieces. This is my favorite usage of campanelle. Oddly enough, the lobster was perfectly cooked in this, leading me to wonder if two different people had been cooking the lobster tails and the claw pieces in the pasta.
After that part of the feast, we’d saved just enough room for dessert. Our sweet server, who had been doubling both as a sommelier and dutiful waiter all evening, brought us a slice of flourless espresso chocolate cake from the chef, and we ordered some of their coconut creme pie alongside our coffees to finish off the meal before we went back to our tent. The cake was light, fluffy, and deeply infused with all the flavonoid glory to go with the dessert wine, a non-porty Zinfandel port from Sonoma County.
The coconut pie was the perfect way to finish the meal, and I’m unashamed to say that I’d been waiting all year for it- the fluffy cream, the boozy caramel, and the thick, salted crust complemented it all so well. I missed the crispy cookie on top, though! 
It was a wonderful meal and honestly, an even better breakfast when we woke up the next morning for the second day of the folk  festival. A special, big thanks to the team at the Providence location and the PR folks for the Capital Grille for having us for dinner.

Art in the Age Rhubarb [tea]

I’ve been watching a lot of 30 Rock lately and, since this morning, when I witnessed Episode 318, ‘Jackie Jormp-Jomp,” I’ve come to the sobering and ultimately deadening conclusion that this summer has basically been one, long dizzy day in the life of a middle-aged divorcee. If I take one more charming, aimless drive in the middle of the afternoon to the countryside or spend one more hour at the hot tub in the health club or at some coffee shop, I’m going to need to add another therapist to my Fall 2013 lineup. 

I think I’m ready for law school to start.

The most exciting thing I’ve done so far has been my nightly habit of a cocktail, coffee, and languid cruise around Petfinder, where I’ve submitted not one, but four applications for four separate Welsh Corgis who are desperately in need of a home, but, according to their rabid caretakers, not so desperate as to be placed in the carefully decorated one-bedroom apartment of a very well-dressed law student slash Casanova. Even though I asked multiple times, it does not give me any bonus points that I resemble a Welsh Corgi. 

Adopting a dog is more difficult than getting reservations at Jose Andres’ minibar in the summer, when I expected it would be as easy as walking into a Burger King, or at the very least, Gabrielle Hamilton’s Prune. So, I’ve stuck to what I’m good at, which is making craft cocktails and coming up with cute names for other pudgy, short-statured creatures. In other news, you can all start calling me ‘Mutton,’ but my fallback is ‘Bark.’ Ladies and gentlemen, Rhubarb, from Art in the Age.

It’s fresh, very herbaceous and verdant in flavor, and was sent to me after I missed their summer launch party, which included fresh doughnuts. Zut! But I’ve made up for that by drinking it with everything, including homemade fresh mozzarella with orange olive oil and fleur de sel…

And sundried tomato orzo with Scarpetta pesto, the aforementioned mozz, mascarpone cheese, and proscuitto. It’s a wonderfully versatile mixer, and in the past few weeks, I’ve enjoyed experimenting with various sweet fruits and syrups: club soda, lingonberry syrup, Q grapefruit, lemon, and orange soda, fresh lime juice, and even Chai tea has gone marvelously with it.

The Foodette (aka, Picture Unrelated)
(Aka, No Internet)
(Aka, Bark)
Ingredients: 2,5 ounces of Rhubarb liquor, 1/2 cup of Q lemon soda, 1/2 cup of club soda, squeeze of lemon
Instructions: Shake Rhubarb over ice, strain, mix soda and lemon in. Drink immediately. Forget to take photos and have another cocktail.

Campbell’s SpaghettiOs Cheeseburger-Os

It’s difficult to not have all my stuff in one place. Half of it is here, half is packed and in my car, ready to go, the really important child-sized desk and broken IKEA bed frame is at my mother’s, and there is a multitude of clothing and ill-fitting jackets at various homes throughout the Atlantic Seaboard. Meanwhile, my punctuality has gotten the better of me, and I’m left scratching my head as all my shelf-stable groceries are put into boxes, wondering what I can do with two Kraft American Singles, malt liquor, half a jar of jam, and yuzu rind for dinner.
Usually, I just get a cheeseburger or grill some chicken and eat it over the next few days, but when Cheeseburger-O’s came in the mail, I was excited to have my meals further expedited. Cheeseburger flavor without the hassle of obtaining a cheeseburger.No need to venture out into the world with the hesitation of a feral kitten untouched by meaty human fingers. All I needed was a microwave, a can opener, and moxie, none of which I had at the ready.
Long story short, the can sat on my shelf and taunted me for half a week until I had obtained the necessary appliances. What? I don’t eat things in cans! Noblesse obese, you guys, a girl’s gotta have some standards. I finally got around to sampling the dainties with the Bedfellow last night, in what shall henceforth be known as a ‘terrible mistake’.
Cheeseburger-O’s are the third new flavor Spaghetti-O’s has released in half a century, and considering the rate which Apple drops iPods like a teen mom, that’s an impressively austere feat. They promise 750 O’s in every can, a phrase which I resent and am considering copyrighting. I’m pretty sure my very similar promise has been around longer, anyhow, if you count five years of relentless activity as longer. Whatever, you’ll hear from my lawyers. Me, in a few years, maybe. Cheeseburger O’s have the condiments of a cheeseburger in geriatric, spoonable form- mustard, tomato sauce, cheese, pasta, and beef. It’s like the 99 cent Wylie Dufresne cheeseburger that you eat with a spoon. Except that it’s not.
It’s not that I wouldn’t cotton to the flavor of cheeseburger-infused pasta, it’s that it failed before it was even out of the can. Nothing about this tasted like a burger or even had aspects of a burger outside of the tiny pieces of ground beef, and since Campbell’s makes Spaghetti-O’s with beef already, this is a redundant point. The sauce is watery and highly sweetened and bland, though perhaps has a tiny bit more of a taco seasoning flavor than the original version. No acidity to counteract the rich flavors or beef, and no vegetal aspects to speak of. I thought this was an interesting concept as I’ve seen many an episode of ‘Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives’ focusing on Guy’s gaping maw and cheeseburger soup in cute diners, and from what I understand, it’s balanced with all of the flavors in a burger in soup form. That was what I expected here, and the polar opposite of what I received. We threw pickles into the soup until we got bored, and then we got real cheeseburgers instead. 

Sandwich Saturday

It’s kind of a slow week due to moving and preparing for it- all of my food is mainly packed away, and UPS and FedEx don’t deliver on weekends! I got a little carried away with packing, so I thought I’d give you a peek at some of the sandwiches I’ve been making for the Bedfellow and have eaten myself.

I’ve had to get a little crafty lately, as I wonder if I’m developing a slight intolerance to gluten. When I eat more than a slice or two or more than half a small roll, I end up getting very fatigued and feel depressed until my body digests it. It’s something to look into, so I’ve been trying to be careful lately and stick with more proteins and grains. But this sandwich was certainly the masterpiece, especially as of late- lavender cheese from Rogue Creamery atop sauteed chicken with honey, lime pods, and smoked sea salt.

I also bought a bit of ground beef- not my usual fare, but since I was craving a burger atop little Martin’s-esque rolls, went for it along with some American cheese.

This one was made using the slider method from Serious Eats, steamed atop sweating, grilled onions with pickles on the bottom and American cheese on top. Ridiculously messy but ultimately really tasty. More laborious than grilled burgers and not necessarily tastier in comparison, but still fun to try. The one above was done on a hot pan, and my apartment smelled like burgers for hours. Worth it!

Sometimes when I run low on groceries, I have to get creative. Luckily, I have a lady who is a whiz at making guacamole, and with a little roasted red pepper goat cheese and salsa, this was a no brainer. The best part was how grilled the guac got when it spilled out of the sandwich.

This last selection wasn’t really a sandwich at all, but was a dip that we ate with chips and little pieces of bread- so, a deconstructed sandwich. Barbecue chicken dip, but instead of using cream cheese and dressing like many recipes call for, I switched it up and used labne, a yogurt from Karoun Farms.

Luna Fiber Bars Peanut Butter and Strawberry

Amidst all the hustle and bustle of moving, I found one of my old journals tucked into a stack of old cookbooks while getting my stuff together. It’s from 2008, and unsurprisingly, contains a ridiculous amount of food descriptions, drawings, and grocery lists. There are sandwiches with French fries stuffed in the middle. Recipes involving multiple baked goods in one item. One list just says, ‘Cheetos (4)’ and I’ve been scratching my head trying to figure out what the hell that means. Did I really intend to get four bags of Cheetos? Or four different kinds of Cheetos at the same time?

If I’ve made any positive changes since then, it’s certainly been better eating habits. Having foregone the temptations of the dining hall early on, cooking for myself has challenged me creatively and nutritionally. I haven’t completely reached my goal of totally healthy, clean eating just yet, but I feel like I’m well on my way to doing so. The latest addition of a microwave in my life has made things infinitesimally easier. Strangely enough, it’s been about a year since I’ve had a microwave, and I’m still timing things in 45 minute or 2 hour increments based on what I can make in the oven. So sometimes, I don’t cook and just grab a quick, healthy snack.

With all my errands today, that snack was a few Luna Fiber bars. The internet sent them over, and just when I needed them, there they were, along with ground coffee, cognac, and instant cake from today’s UPS shipment. They come in three flavors—strawberry and peanut butter, raspberry chocolate, and blueberry vanilla. Because I had errands today and wasn’t able to eat breakfast, I ate all three within the course of the day so I could stay full and do what I needed to get done. I thought the PB and strawberry was the more exciting of the flavors, and coincidentally, it was also my favorite. The texture is fantastic, like a soft peanut butter cookie or a homemade Fig Newton. It’s a really well-made bar, with a yielding, chewy outside topped with sugar and a jelly filling. However, it is really tiny- like, eaten in three bites tiny. It would be perfect were it not for the cloying, overly sweet protein flavor. Much better than regular Luna bars, filling without feeling too healthy, but still has a ways to go. I think it’s still the best dessert-like protein bar, but falls short of Fiber One in terms of indulgence.

Sample Disclosure
I received this for free, it came in a cute box, and I wasn’t influenced by the free-ness of the stuff, but was really happy to eat it for breakfast as prior to said bar acquisition, I was replete with merely cake flour, old sausages, and booze. Luna, thank you for not driving me into obesity and a sad, dark life.

Dunkin’ Donuts Cuban Sandwich

Fortuitous circumstances have put me in possession of a vintage Eames chair, so now I can sit alone in the dark and watch Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in style. My part-time employment as an anime wrangler was fleeting, and I’ve taken up tutoring to supplement my lavish lifestyle. Of course, this leaves me with free days, so I’ve been thrill-seeking and friend-searching on the side to see what adventures I can get myself into.

Well, friend-seeking hasn’t been going so well. I never realized how difficult it was to be friendzoned when you actually wanted it. It’s hard to be in limbo – I’m moving from one city to another, so there aren’t many preemptive measures I can take. And humans, by nature, are frustrating, especially in this area. Apparently, there isn’t a preferred gender pronoun for people who don’t know how email works. Although I did have one extremely successful friend date, successful in part due to equal parts of good conversation and vanilla milkshake! So, thrill-seeking is the next measure. I considered taking a vacation to Florida until I remembered that I was a student. Thankfully, Dunkin’ Donuts has brought all the crushing disappointment of a real vacation to their restaurants up here, with the glamorous Miami and politically-correct Amherst-exclusive Cuban Sandwich.

The new-ban Cuban features roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, and a Dijon pickle spread on a French roll. A tall order, especially on the pork front. This isn’t the first time Dunkin’ has tried their hand at a Cuban, following the dismal failure of the Cuban flatbread, with all the fun of a Cuban sandwich without any of the components that designate it as such. This time, they appear to be going pretty straightedge. The sandwich is tall, though in part, that is due tothe French roll, perennially fluffy.
Surprisingly, all of the ingredients looked pretty legit. There was a fairly large slice of tender pork, which, despite having doubtfully been really roasted, had a bold, savory flavor unto its own. The ham and swiss looked plentiful and appetizing, despite glistening with sweat. I mean, come on, Swiss, what is this, junior prom? And the pickle and Dijon spread tasted just like Big Mac sauce. Which is honestly pretty great. The sandwich is bland, though, due to uneven distribution of the sauce, whose acidic, brighter flavors really mitigate the basic saltiness of the meat. Only the middle bite, the exact epicenter of the sandwich, carried any acidity or semblance to pickle slices in a real Cuban.
And to be honest, that bite, had it not been lukewarm, was great. The flavors are more distinct with that little hint of brightness. Without it, it ends up tasting like a generic mixed meat sandwich. Just like Florida. And I didn’t even have to get sunburnt or sit next to a crying baby on an airplane.

The Nosh Show: Episode 8

This week, I broke up the sausagefest on the Nosh Show as a special guest! Listen as I yap about the Fancy Food Show with Junk Food Guy, ignore the scary noises of incoming freshmen crowding the free internet area of the campus center, and ponder the merits of pancakes that taste like doughnuts.

It’s my first podcast, so no comments on: my jarringly monotone voice, my svelte girlish features, or my complete and utter lack of profanity. Balls!

Enjoy!

Goldfish Macaroni and Cheese Mac and Cheese Cheesy Pizza

This forced socialization thing is hard. No, scratch that, it’s the worst. Hard is having to merge on a busy highway, or open a bag of Sun Chips quietly. This is DMV-levels of Millenial discomfort. With a lethal combination of a wheezy air conditioner, the worst internet connection ever, and no snacks, I’ve forced myself out of the house in my finest linen shirts and Birkenstocks to the comforting, suffocating embrace of a local coffeehouse. The internet thing is especially killing me. I can’t fully describe the sheer rage I feel toward DataJack, only that it combines the slow pain of walking on hot pavement with the rising force of anger I feel only when I read articles on Fox or see photos of other people eating pizza online, with the exception of the fact that I can no longer even read those articles or ogle those cheese drips, because photos load with a speed that makes dial-up look advanced.

So, now I’m here. I’m backed into a tiny corner with my back against some exposed brick and what looks to be a trendy reclaimed wood installation of mountains jutting from the wall. I have traded $4 and my dignity for an iced chai and have awkwardly negotiated the usage of an outlet so my aging HP can function. If one more person asks me to share a table, I might cry and start making a barrier with my laptop bag, French-English dictionary, and sunglasses case so I don’t have to see the raging trendiness in their eyes and the ensuing realization that the grown woman next to them is still hiccuping, twenty minutes later.

I tried to prepare myself for this in the best way that I could. Before I ventured out into public, I bought four boxes of macaroni and cheese and a package of toilet paper at Wal-Mart. As you may know, this exclusive set was nominated for a ‘Worst Combination Award’ at this year’s Retail Stars gala, and swept the category, closely tailed by ‘tampons and cat litter,’ and ‘any Eddie Murphy DVD’. Regardless, I brought home my bounty and am going to savor the ensuing reviews. Today’s antisocial special, brought to you by a dead childhood, is Goldfish Macaroni and Cheese Mac and Cheese Cheesy Pizza.

Admittedly, I was less excited about the flavor and more excited about the pasta- solid, thick, fish-shaped pieces? Sounds like orichiette for children, and I love me some tiny ears. Plus, my affinity for macaroni and cheese that tastes like snacks that taste like other snacks is still raging hard. The box title is ridiculous, the back of the box reminding me why I’m happy I don’t have an unpaid marketing internship, as it primarily details, in subtle comic form, the tragic, yet concisely gritty recounting of the murder and disembodiment of the protagonist’s peers before he, himself, is consumed. It’s like Quarantine, but for kids.

Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. I should have known when I saw the crudely-rendered pieces, shaped like rejected Pokemon pasta from the mid-2000’s, or smiling tennis rackets, destined to crumble under the relentless pressure of my spoon. Sixteen minutes to boil, coincidentally the amount of time I need to cry into my pillow, and they were done. A pugnacious herbaceousness. A faint whiff of dairy, from the last of my imported French butter, and a single, cheesy tear down my cheek. I needed no further motivation to leave the house.

Bell, Book, and Candle, New York, NY

After the hustle and bustle of the Fancy Food Show, the Bedfellow and I sought solace in the shadier parts of Greenwich Village, specifically, to visit a new restaurant called Bell, Book, and Candle. If you walk too quickly on West 10th, you might just miss it, as it’s located in the basement of a gorgeous brownstone. Outside of the more adult stores, it’s the best kept secret there. We were invited for dinner, so we decided to put our feet up, relax, and enjoy the evening.
Bell, Book, and Candle, or BB&C as it’s affectionately known, features a special aeroponic garden on the roof, which aptly balances out their basement location. The garden is used throughout the year to supply the freshest of fresh herbs, vegetables, and fruits to the restaurant, depending on the season. After all, it doesn’t get more local than seventh floor succotash or rooftop radishes. We poked around the garden just as the sun was setting – the perfect, lush setting to give a new meaning to ‘concrete jungle.’
We started out our meal with fried oysters in a green chile and buttermilk sauce, lobster tacos, and the grilled sausage of the day. Right away, it was obvious that there was a line drawn in the sand, and it sat squarely on the ‘surf’ part of surf and turf. The chef has a light, delicate hand with seafood and vegetables. The fried oysters were charming in their presentation, but unwieldy as there were no indications as to whether one ought to slurp them right from the shell or use a fork to spear them with. Eating around the potato curls was like performing a delicate bomb-disarming maneuver- one wrong move and your cardigan was covered in crumbs. Still, their flavor was delicious and they were perfectly fried.
Likewise, the execution of the lobster tacos was refreshing. While I always love a fried taco shell, it was fun to try these in a soft shell, as it really showcased the tender texture of the lobster. Braised greens and salsa verde adorned these, bringing a very fresh, minimal element to the bite. I was impressed at how some very distinct flavors – breading, fried potato, and salsa verde in the oysters, and greens, chile-buttermilk sauce, and cheese in the lobster, were tempered down so as to showcase the most of the shellfish.

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.

With the appetizers, we ran down the cocktail list, starting with the cutely named ‘Dill With It,” with huckleberry vodka, strawberry, cucumber, lemon, dill, vanilla, and cava. Despite the long list of ingredients, the bulk of them shone through and all blended together marvelously. While the vodka and berry flavors were clearly the visual start, the cava, vanilla, and dill shone with each sip. It was like drinking a boozy gazpacho, with marvelous, fresh flavors.

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.

 The hangar steak was also cooked en pointe, but the rich flavors – bleu cheese, onion marmalade, and steak sauce, overwhelmed each other, each fighting for top billing on the palate. As protein-avaricious as I am, I found myself craving more fresh vegetables to better distribute the umami of all the other elements, as the braised greens fell to the wayside. The Laguiole knife was an attractive touch.
Alongside were fries – tasty and fresh, though minimally seasoned. We were finishing up our second cocktails as we munched on them- the ‘grill on grill’ for me, with grilled pineapple, tequila, chartreuse, lime, agave, and cilantro, and the ‘city sage’ for the Bedfellow, with bourbon, sage, honey, aperol, and lime. 
 Each masterfully carried the same properties as the last – the secondary mixing components came through, with the chartreuse and cilantro strongest in mine, and the lime and sage in the Bedfellow’s. I found myself wishing for more of a charred flavor with the pineapple, as the word ‘grill’ or some iteration of it was featured three times in the description.
We later switched to a 2009 Don and Sons Pinot Noir from Sonoma County with the steak – a perfect, classic pairing. For dessert, we shared a glass of the Pindar late-harvest Riesling from 2008, which went impeccably with the fruity desserts before we took our trip to the garden above– your sneak peek is shown here.
Our server recommended the brown bag peach crisp with crème fraiche ice cream, and we chose to share the banana and toasted almond bread pudding as well. The latter was very dense, a hybrid of a classic banana quickbread with an eggy, dense center.
Both desserts were fresh and succulent, in particular, the crème fraiche ice cream, which, with a little sea salt, could have been a separate dessert in it of itself. 
 The garden speaks for itself, and the touch of its delicate bounty is suffused throughout many aspects of the meal. We left feeling refreshed, energized, stuffed to the brims, and ready to take on the trip home. With a little tightening of the richer dishes, or more emphasis on lighter fare, Bell, Book, and Candle could become a regular stop for us, and hopefully many New Yorkers. 

2013 Summer Fancy Food Show Top 15 Sweet and Savory Foods

As far as trends went, this year couldn’t have been more different than the last. We’ve traded spice for tea and ice cream for fruits and vegetables in one of the wildest years of foods yet. Here’s the Top 15 in Sweet and Savory categories for your entertainment.

Top 15 Savory
1. Brooklyn Piggies BBQ sauce: I’m not a fan of most barbecue sauces, but when we came across this beautifully-designed booth and the sweet owners of the company, it was hard to resist! It carried a tangy, almost citrusy punch.

2. Olia tomato and fig caviar: This was from Israel, and don’t be fooled by the petite size of the jar. The ripe flavor of the figs makes the tomatoes even jammier.

3. Falksalt Citrus: One of the best in the burgeoning ‘specialty flavored salts’ category that emerged during the show, this variety featured huge, honking salt crystals and a sweet, lemony aftertaste.

4. Chili and Limon dehydrated nopal: Spicy and sweet was the name of the game this year, and these dehydrated chunks of cactus had a texture to them similar to fruit leather, making them the healthiest, and tastiest gummy candy we saw.

5. Vermont Smoke and Cure Honey Mustard: Great balance between tender turkey jerky and a sweet, snappy mustard. Slim James, if you will.

6. Cabot habanero cheese dip: Holy habanero! Cabot has just introduced this creamy, spicy new spread. It’s the perfect kind of dip for parties, or in my case, to slather atop hot brisket sandwiches. A new kind of cheesesteak!

7. Rogue La-Di-Da lavender cheese: I’ve had this for a day and have already used it in grits, barbecue chicken dip, and a killer fried chicken sandwich. The slightly bitter, slightly sweet flavor accompanied by mild cheddar keeps me coming back for more.

8. Brooklyn Salsa mole: This was the first thing we tried at the show, and boy, did it wake up our taste buds! Very chocolatey, but still easy to eat with chips.

9. Charlito’s Cocina dry-cured beer salami: We received both delicious meat and sweet hair compliments at this booth, and were lucky to take some of this spicy, hoppy salami home. It’s going to be a knock-out for our next charcuterie board.

10. One Screw Loose Coffee Jalapeno Jam: Both the jams and their owner were snappy and quirky- we spent a lot of time chatting up the sweet lady behind these wonderful flavors, but this robust, bittersweet spicier jam won our hearts. Yet another sandwich spread I’m excited to try!

11. P&H Soda Co. Lovage Syrup: It might seem strange to put a soda syrup under the savory category, but this lovage syrup tasted identical to a fresh, salted stalk of celery.

12. Bissinger’s Point Reyes Blue Cheese and Wine Grapes: Behold, the only candy in the savory category, too! Bissinger’s makes their wine grapes pop even more with the inclusion of chunks of Point Reyes bleu cheese.

13. Good Taste Creamy Rice with Squash and Poblano Pepper

 14. Halen Mon Vanilla Sea Salt: I would have loved to receive samples of this! It was piquant, sweet, and very much infused with gritty, boozy vanilla beans.

15.Bare Fruit Crunchy Chile-Lime Apple Chips: Finally, the fruity snack that chomped like a chip- the lime enhanced the acidity of the fruit while the chile left a substantial burn!

Top 15 Sweet

1. Pok Pok Som Thai Basil: This bright pink drink had a sour, herbaceous edge to it and a very refreshing flavor on such a hot day. Mixed with club soda, it made a fascinating cocktail mixer.

2. Found Apple Juice: The new Scottish company comes bearing simple, clean juices and spritzers in a variety of flavors with an impeccable bottle design.

3. Poco Dolce Spicy Brittle: Another beloved company with a spectacular bar snack- spicy peanut brittle, with cayenne and a heavy dose of sea salt.
4. The Tea Room Lapsang Souchong Chocolate: This was likely my favorite product from the entire show, and my personal vote for the best. Heavy, but not overdone, on the smoke, with a smooth, rich chocolate base.

5. Willie’s Cacao Lime Chilli Caramel Black Pearls: Fantastic little balls of spicy, sweet joy, with a dark, deep chocolate that played beautifully with the caramel.

6. Owl’s Brew Naked Arnold: Arnold Palmer for the set who already vodka-fies their Arnold Palmer. This takes it one step further and intensifies the tea flavors, making it even classier after the 18th hole.

7. Askinosie Hemp Bar: Like no hemp bar I’ve ever tasted! It really showcases the nuttiness of the grain without resorting to pot jokes- or should I say, potshots? Ha. Ha. Ha.

8. Exotica Fir Honey: The sappy, sticky flavor of this was like no honey I’ve ever tried before. Something that I imagine would go well with dishes both savory and sweet.

9. Fior di Mandarino: Creamy, delicate, and zesty, this bittersweet treat turned heads with its bright color and flavor at this year’s show. Its nutty counterpart, fior di pistacchio, won a silver sofi award at last year’s show.

10. MitchMallows Churros: Covered in cinnamon sugar and a tiny bit of spice, these gritty, chewy treats blew Jet-Puffed out of the water.

11. Stephen Smith White Petal Tea: Crisp, clear, and refreshing, this light white tea would be perfect for a garden or tea party.

12. High Point Crème Caramel and apple compote: Holy cow. Rhubarb, mint, and roasted apples with this ice cream nearly killed me and blew the other ice creams out of the water. High Road, sell that TOPPING!

13. Noosa Lemon Curd: I’d been aching to try the latest from my favorite yogurt company since I read about it on their website. True to form, it didn’t disappoint. Sweet, tangy, creamy lemon curd atop their already amazing yoghurt base.

14. Liddabit Dorie: Salted cookie crunch, caramel ganache, and peppered orange caramel? Sign me up! Soft, balanced, spicy, and amazing.

15. Kicking Mule Tangerine Chocolate Milk: This was the only sample we didn’t try, but BBF founder Adam Sah told us it was fantastic, and with a flavor that likely tastes like a chocolate orange, how could it not be?

That’s all for this year, folks! We’ll be reviewing these throughout the month- this was definitely the best year yet! Can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2014.