Tag Archives: Seafood

Fall in Love with Sardines, Save Dinner

Bela Sardines. Photo by James Ransom for Food52

Bela Sardines. Photo by James Ransom for Food52

When I was a wee little one, I remember my dad coming in from an afternoon tending to his garden and popping open a can of sardines for lunch. Curious about these little guys, I was not. Usually his offer to share a bite was met with a prompt and firm “ewwwww, no.”

It’s taken me 30 years to question why these cans of conveniently packed, flavorful little fiddies get such a bum rap. I don’t think twice when cranking a can of tuna open to save the day when I have nothing in the fridge for lunch. I recently read an article by Nicholas Day on Food52 speaking the praises of sardines — in his case because it conveniently saves dinner in a pinch for his own children. He feeds his kids sardines? This made me take pause. Well why not.

And then I was contacted by BELA Sardines to see if their cans of fresh-packed {within 8 hours of being caught and never frozen} Portuguese sardines would be something we would be interested in selling in the Food52 shop. We popped a few cans open at the office, broke out the crackers and started snacking. They were good — really, really good. Each is slightly smoked and packed in either Portuguese extra virgin olive oil or tomato sauce {4 flavors to choose from}. Beyond just the flavor, there are other reasons to love these little guys — they’re low-mercury, sustainably caught, and full of healthy fats. They are a pantry staple everyone should pile high.

I’m a convert. To be perfectly honest, I would be happy opening a can of these, pouring a nice glass of wine and calling that alone a mid-week meal. But it doesn’t take much to use them in a slightly more creative way, with still minimal effort, and have a dish to be proud of. Go ahead, give sardines a chance — you may be surprised by a new love.

Need a Little Inspiration?
Linguine with Sardines, Fennel & Tomato
Sardines, Avocado and Radish Salad with Upland Cress
Sardine Butter

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recipe goodness :: mastering julia child’s fillet of sole meuniere #jc100

Julia Child's Sole Meuniere

Julia Child’s Sole Meuniere

Filet of Sole Meuniere was Julia’s first-ever meal in France.  She described the sole as “a morsel of perfection” and “the most exciting meal” of her life.  It was this simple preparation of sole that inspired  Julia’s 40-year love affair with food and the start of a cooking revolution in America. The dish takes less than ten minutes to prepare and since the filets go for a swim in clarified butter, there is no shortage of rich “French” flavor. Pour yourself a nice glass of chablis and take a petit voyage to France for dinner.

“There is no substitute for the taste of butter in good cooking…” — Julia Child

Sole Meuniere

Fillet of Sole Meunière

Serves 6

6 skinless, boneless sole or other thin fillets
Salt and fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup of flour or so for a plate
4 tablespoons clarified butter
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
4-6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 lemon cut into wedges

  1. Dry the fish, remove and bones, score, trim and lay flat on wax paper.
  2. Dust the fillets with salt and pepper. Just before sauteing drop each fillet into the flour to coat each side, shaking off any excess.
  3. Set the frying pan over high heat and film with 1/16 inch of clarified butter. When the butter is very hot, but not browning, rapidly lay each fillet side by side leaving a little space between each (don’t overcrowd).
  4. Saute 1-2 minutes on both sides, turning carefully so as to not break the fillet. The fish is done when just springy. Immediately remove from the pan to a platter or plates.
  5. Sprinkle each fillet generously with parsley.
  6. Wipe the pan completely clean, set over high heat and melt with new butter until bubbling.
  7. Pour over fillets — the parsley will bubble up nicely. Season with salt, serve with lemon wedges immediately.

Bon appetit!
recipe goodness :: mastering the art of julia child’s salade nicoise
recipe goodness :: mastering julia child’s rolled french omelet
recipe goodness :: mastering the art of julia child’s chocolate mousse
Do This!: Celebrate Julia Child’s 100th Birthday 

Excerpted from The Way to Cook by Julia Child. Copyright © 1989 by Julia Child. Reprinted with permission from the publisher Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.

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recipe goodness :: introducing grilled blowfish

Marinated Blowfish

Marinated Blowfish

Flounder, Cod, Scallops — all usual suspects you would expect to see on an early summer grill. Sometimes it takes a little convincing to get out of the mainstream grill mentality, which is why I love shopping at the local greenmarket. The benefit of strolling stand to stand is that you have the opportunity to chat it up with the experts whose daily job it is to harvest and catch the very food you put on your plate. Last weekend my friendly fishmonger Warren from American Seafood convinced me that the thing to make that night was his freshly caught blowfish. Woah, aren’t those the second most poisonous vertebrates in the world? I thought Warren was my friend. In fact, the northern puffer that we catch locally is not toxic, unlike its blowfish counterparts swimming through asian waters. So fear not, this delectable catch is a catch!

With newly found finned friend in hand, I came home, tossed them in a bowl with a generous drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of a lime and a few chopped scallions, leaving it all to marinate until dinner time. After a few minutes on the grill, we had ourselves a beautiful Spring supper that looked almost like a butterflied shrimp {they have a hard tail that stays on}, but was light and flaky like any good filet.

Grilled Blowfish

Grilled Blowfish

Grilled Blowfish

2 small blowfish per person.
Drizzle of olive oil
1 lime zested and juiced
salt and pepper to taste
Extra lime, olive oil and flaky salt for serving

  1. Toss everything in a casserole dish or bowl, coating the fish evenly and place in the fridge until ready to prepare (1-4 hours).
  2. Heat the grill to low and cook 4-5 minutes on either side, until flesh is no longer translucent and flakes easily from the bone.
  3. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil, a squeeze of lime and flaky salt.

Springtime Treats
Summer Strawberry Chilled Chamomile Tea {non-alcoholic}
Spinach, Strawberry & Halloumi Salad
Violet-Radish Spring Salad with Secret Lemon-Garlic Dressing

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Luke’s Low-Key Lobster Roll Licks Competition {And My Lips}

Luke's Lobster Roll

Luke's Lobster Roll

I’ve had many a lobster roll in NYC. It’s like the great burger debate — everyone always wants to know who tops the competition. So naturally I have made my way about town sampling each take on the warm-weather favorite — Mermaid Oyster Bar, Pearl Oyster Bar, Lure, Ed’s. But I was especially excited to see the UWS dining renaissance lure two new lobster shacks in the past month: Luke’s Lobster and Ditch Plains. This is a no-lose situation for a lobster lover to have two walking-distance destinations to visit, but I have to say I was especially excited to see Luke’s join the ‘hood.

Instead of a walk-in chinese take-out, we now have a walk-in Lobster counter. Nothing fancy — a few bar stools and a parchment-lined red plastic diner basket is all you really need to focus your attention more properly on the simple, but standout sammie. You order at the counter from a simple seafood, soda, soup and chip menu that is Maine-sourced, and in a matter of a few seconds dinner is served.

Luke’s was only started two years ago, but owner, Luke Holden, has long been connected to the Maine coastal waters. He sources all his lobster meat from his father’s sustainable Maine seafood company, making his the only roll that’s traceable from the sea floor to your plate {love this!} What’s truly special is the lobster is only graced with a small amount of mayo, lemon butter and a few “secret spices.”  Everything should have some secret spice on it in my opinion, but the true secret to why this particular lobster roll stands out amongst the crowd is the fresh sweet claw meat that is used for each roll. This is also why you pay far less than any other lobster shack since there is much more market demand for the tail meat. The best deal on the menu: for only $21 you can get half a lobster roll, half a shrimp roll, half a crab roll, a pair of Empress claws, Miss Vickie’s chips and a Maine Root soda!

The Skim: Now that the sun is starting to shine and Spring seems to finally be here, I say break out the plastic bib and get thee to Luke’s Lobster. They also deliver, so if you prefer to enjoy from the comfort of your stoop, divine lobster goodness is only a phone call away.

Map426 Amsterdam Avenue
Reservations: Not Taken
Phone: 212.877.8800

Other Warm Weather Winners:
Not so Standard Biergarten
Mission Dolores {Accomplished}: Great New Brooklyn Beer Garden
Community Food & Juice: Fresh & Fantastic Fare 

NYC Best: Summer Sausage & Other Seriously Good Eats @ Summerstage

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Barcelona Digested: Hang with the Locals – Cava and Cafe Catalonian Style

Barcelona: Where the locals go

When I travel, I want to know where the locals hang out.  What’s the best bite in town?  Where do they go to grab a drink?  How do they spend their Saturday afternoons.  Of course I’m sure there is some overlap with where the non-local, tourist types visit as well, but in an effort to sum up the recs I got, tried and loved, here’s a list of favs to get your cava and cafe con leche Catalonian style.

El Xampanyet {Cava & Tapas Bar | La Ribera}
Must do. A fantastic cava and tapas bar, serving the bubbly in ‘50s style champagne glasses. Hang out with locals standing at the bar for a few bites before going out. Family-owned since 1929, it has both good energy and an historical air that makes trying a bite of this and a bite of that, that much more enjoyable. Its bright fluorescent lighting gives it the feel of an old-school NYC Jewish deli, serving up great food in an unpretentious setting. And since the Catalonians like to come and go frequently, the people watching never stops.

El Xampanyet

Mercat de La Boqueria {Food Market | Barri Gotic}
It’s on every list. Stop here to eat what you see. Mounds of beautiful fruit, roasted nuts, chocolates galore. Also fun to admire the fresh seafood, chickens with their crown still on and even a few lambs heads w/ eyeballs – no prepackaged grocery store cuts here. Go early and enjoy watching the owners set up shop or eat at two of the best food counters in the market before it gets too crowded with tourists {Pinotxo or El Quim}.

Piles and Piles of Sweet Goodness

Pinotxo {Coffee & Tapas Bar | Barri Gotic, in La Boqueria}
A tiny family run bar, but the owner is one of the most well known in Barcelona. Go early for breakfast (9am), ask for the specials and hang with the owner and other market locals who stop in for a quick coffee and bite before the rush of the day begins.

Pinotxo

Meson del Café {Coffee Bar | Barri Gotic}
Tiny 100-year old café with delicious picardia (coffee w/ condensed milk and whiskey). It’s small and kitschy, which makes it a great place to perch and people watch while reenergizing.

Meson del Cafe Picardia {mmm}

Cal Pep {Seafood Tapas | Born}Great tapas bar known for their fresh seafood. Cal welcomes his patrons with his raspy voice and personal recommendations. It’s diner style seating with an impressive line-up of waiting patrons along the wall, but the distraction of watching the excitement behind the counter will keep you entertained.

Cal and his team

Fresh Clams from Cal Pep

Quimet y Quimet {Tapas Bar | Poble Sec}
Small little tapas bar where you rub elbows {literally} with the locals in a small, standing room only space. The walls are attractively lined with bottles of wine and spirits and the bar showcases all the tapas basics. Inventive combos still rely on the traditional canned food items, but stack up bites like roasted pepper, cream cheese, canned crab, langoustine, caviar, drizzled in balsamic, olive oil for a sensational snack. Also try the dried beef with truffle oil and olive tapenade.

Um, Yes Please. Thank you Quimet y Quimet!

How could you say no to these tapas?

Can Manel la Puda {Paella Outdoor Cafe | Barcelonata}
Excellent paella along a café strip in Barcelonata. This is the perfect Saturday afternoon destination to enjoy a glass {or bottle} of cava and some of the most delicious, fresh seafood paella I have ever had. This is how the locals spend their weekends — a lifestyle I could get used to rather quickly.

Outdoor Paella Cafes in Barcelonata

The right way to spend a Saturday afternoon

More Barcelona Digested:
Barcelona Digested: Chocolate Central
Barcelona Digested: Mercat de La Boqueria
recipe goodness :: barcelona favorite recreated | balsamic chick pea salad

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Filed under Do This!, Eat Here!, Travel Bite, {Drink Me}

Barcelona Digested: Mercat de La Boqueria

Mercat de La Boqueria

There is so much to write about the Barcelona food scene — it is arguably one of the top eating destinations in Europe with a mouth-watering balance of traditional and cutting edge restaurants, cafes and shops to eat your way through. In an effort to fully digest my week in Barcelona, I set out to categorize the best dining experiences and quickly noticed Mercat de La Boqueria was on all of my lists. It is a not only a place to find beautifully vibrant produce, locally sourced butcher stands and mounds of fresh-off-the-boat seafood, but it’s a specialty foodies dream, where one can seek out Iberico cured ham, artisanal chocolates, regional olive oils and spices. La Boqueria even houses a few legendary tapas bars that come highly recommended and are visited by locals. It is a place to eat what you see, buy gifts that will be reminiscent of Barcelona and explore the heart of Catalonian cuisine the way Catalonians do. Deservedly, Mercat de La Boqueria gets its own post.

A picture is worth a thousand words:

Fresh Seafood

Perfect Produce

Piles of Fruita

Sweet Mandarin Oranges

Artisanal Chocolates

The Land of Fruits and Nuts

Once Happy Chickens

My New Goat Friend

Where to Eat @La Boqueria:

If you’re interested in grabbing a bite of prepared food, I highly recommend paying an early morning breakfast visit {9am} to Pinotxo or El Quim de la Boqueria., two petite walk-up establishments that have no more than 10 bar stools at the bar. Showing up before the masses only adds to the experience, as you can have a quiet one-on-one chat with the owners and taste some of the most unique creations that aren’t always available when the market is abuzz with visitors. You’ll understand how special this early morning hour is when you visit the market midday and struggle to not bump elbows.

My Other New Friend and Infamous Owner of Pinotxo

The Next Pinotxo Generation Serving Up Egg Tortilla

Amazing Chick Pea Breakfast

Mercat de La Boqueria Must-Do Tips:

 

  • Go early (9am) to watch all the purveyors set up each nut, chocolate and fig, to perfectly present their bounty. The quiet of the early morning hour is spectacular in contrast to the midday buzz — the best way to take it all in.
  • Breakfast or Lunch at Pinotxo — A tiny tiny family run bar, but the owner is one of the most well known in Barcelona. Good things come in small packages. Go early (9am-ish) and ask for the specials to avoid the rush.
  • Breakfast or Lunch at El Quim de la Boqueria – Quim has been at the helm of this kiosk bar for the last 20+ years. It’s a place for fresh seafood and high-end tapas.
  • Buy some goods and make yourself a picnic to take to Park Guell for an outdoor lunch overlooking the Barcelona sprawl.
  • Things to try: exotic fruit, bite-sized chocolates, horchata, anything your heart desires!

More Pictures to Devour:

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And More Barcelona to Digest:
recipe goodness :: barcelona favorite recreated | balsamic chick pea salad

Barcelona Digested: Chocolate Central
Barcelona Digested: Hang with the Locals – Cava and Cafe Catalonian Style

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Gone Fish. ‘in Sausalito

 

Fish. Dungeness Crab Sandwich

Fish., a sustainable seafood restaurant and fish market in Sausalito, shows sometimes nature’s simplicity is all you need. The chalkboard menu hung over the open kitchen lists the selections of the day and features “f/v” beside each dish, prominently naming the fishing vessel responsible for your fresh catch. Well that’s a glowing idea.

The doors opened for lunch at 11:30am and it was not long before the line was easily 20 people strong and continued to grow with the lunch hour rush. People will wait for good food and Fish. {so says the name} is good food period.  It’s crab season in San Fran, so it didn’t take much reflection to decide to bite into the dungeness crab roll.  This delight was served on a slightly sweet and fluffy brioche roll that was no doubt swiped generously with butter and toasted face down on the grill, before being stuffed with perfectly seasoned crab that did nothing more than slightly accentuate the sweet, natural flavor of the main catch. With a Ball jar of pinot grigio and a side of salty fries, I had the makings of a fantastic mid-week lunch with my brother. As it turns out Fish. was also the location of my brother’s first date with his now wife – I guess they don’t say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach for nothing.

The Skim: Looking to clear out of the food fog? Head on out to Sausalito for a taste of what fresh food should be all about. Weather permitting you can enjoy your catch at one of the picnic tables overlooking the marina – just be aware of jealous seagulls who want a bite of Fish.

Other SF Catches:
SF Best: Nopa
SF Best: RoliRoti Rolls Out Revolutionary Rotisserie
Blue Bottle Coffee Brews One Brilliant Cup at a Time

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Travel Bite: Puglia on a Plate

In honor of Puglia Wine Week and to bring you a special edition from the hills of Italy, I asked my brother to contribute a guest blog recapping the honeymoon highlights from Puglia. So much to say and eat, so grab a glass of vino and enjoy!

Guest Grubber: Brian D.
When we were choosing our honeymoon destination it was pretty daunting to know that we could go anywhere in the world we wanted and that we were about to escape for three weeks of uninterrupted freedom.  Since both of us are gainfully employed by companies we do not own, it was pretty clear to us that this opportunity doesn’t come around all that often.  Because of that, the paradox of choice kicked in in a big way and we struggled to narrow it down to a short list.  We made our way through all of the continents and ultimately came to the conclusion that we wanted to go somewhere with good weather, great food and to a place that neither of us had been before.

After checking the September weather patterns of almost every place on earth, our final decision was to travel to southern Italy and make our way by car from Puglia, through Calabria and into Sicily.  Interestingly, we went into the trip thinking that it was going to be all about Sicily, but now that we are home it is clear that the star of the three weeks was our time in PugliaPuglia, for those that don’t know, is the region of Italy in the “heel of the boot”.

Puglia, or Apulia, is an interesting place.  It is more agricultural, than industrial, and it is definitely a much less popular tourist destination than some of the bigger cities like Rome and Florence or areas like the Cinque Terre and the Amalfi Coast.  The accommodations in the area are based largely on the concept of Agritourism, where people stay at farmhouses, or “Masserias”, that were fortified back in the days when the landowners had to deal with foreign intruders and have since been converted into very comfortable bed & breakfasts.  The place we stayed was called Masseria Torre Coccaro, a 39 room country estate halfway between the airports of Bari and Brindisi and surrounded by acres of olive groves and vegetable gardens.

Masseria Torre Coccaro

We stayed at Coccaro for 7 nights and used it as our base to explore the region.  In hindsight, we couldn’t have chosen a better place and, unfortunately for our waistlines, we were able to sample some of the best food we have ever tasted.  Here are the highlight bites:

The restaurant at Torre Coccaro

Fresh Seafood from Savelletri

Set in stables from the 1600’s, the restaurant offered up some of the best food on our trip. First off, their breakfast put the rest of the hotels we stayed at to shame.  As for the rest of the meals, they collaborated with local farmers and bordering Masserias to source the best meats and cheeses.  They had a network of people that help them find wild products like porcini and cardoncelli mushrooms, asparagus, snails, myrtle and berries.  The nearby fishing village of Savelletri brought them fish daily, including freshly-caught scampi, shrimp, tuna, snapper, and local spiny lobsters. To top that off, almost all the fruits and vegetables served are produced on the estate.

Cooking School at Torre Coccaro
This wasn’t something we planned to do, but when we arrived at the property and learned that there was a school on site we couldn’t pass it up.  We had a ton of fun with chef Donato, learning how to make typical Apulian dishes including fresh bread, 6 or 7 different types of pasta, a simple pizza with tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and capers, a fried version of a calzone called “Panzerotto” that is unique to the region, sautéed “sweet olives” that were picked that day and unlike anything I have ever had, an eggplant terrine and baked fish (Orata) with fresh vegetables.  Luckily we weren’t forced to eat everything we made, but we were able to sample most of them.  Needless to say, we didn’t have dinner that night!

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Local Puglia “Mozzarella Farm”
Another treat that was offered up on arrival was a visit to the farm just down the road that raised cows and made fresh mozzarella and burrata cheese daily.  For those that don’t know, “burrata” means buttered in Italian and is usually made from mozzarella and cream.  The outer shell is solid mozzarella and the inside usually contains both mozzarella and cream.  That said, this farm also made another version of burrata filled with fresh ricotta, which was new to me and even better than the classic version…who knew it was possible.  Believe it or not, we spent 45 minutes with 3 workers that spoke about 3 words of English, collectively.  It could have had something to do with the free samples they kept pushing on us, but we just couldn’t tear ourselves away.

Hand Pulling Mozzarella

Masseria Il Frantorio
Another masseria, Il Frantorio, just down the road and on the way to the town of Ostuni, gave us one of the culinary highlights of the trip.  They served up a seven course meal that was both creative and delicious.  So much so that we didn’t realize that the entire meal was almost entirely vegetables (sourced from their garden on the property of course, BUT vegetables nonetheless!)  It wasn’t until the last main course, when a filet of local swordfish was served, that we looked at each other and said “wow, I didn’t even notice”.  The highlight of the meal was a pair of fried carciofi (artichokes) drizzled with reduced sweet wine alongside lampascioni fritti (hyacinth bulbs) with orange honey.  Pretty simple, but super delicious when paired with a glass of late harvest Primitivo di Manduria.

Fried Carciofi at Il Frantorio

Al Fornello di Ricci
In the town of Ceglie Messapica lies a restaurant called Al Fornello di Ricci that Mario Batali called the best in Puglia.

“The place is perfect! If you are within 200 miles of this place and choose not to eat here, you are mistaken” Mario Batali

Needless to say, we are suckers for marketing, or at least Batali hype, so we had to check it out.  The meal did not disappoint.  Across the board, the dishes were simple, but the flavor of each was intense.  We knew we were in the right place when the tasting menu kicked off with a selection of eight different antipasti, ranging from simple beet chips to fried zucchini blossoms stuffed with fresh ricotta.  After that we had two pasta courses, a main of locally-raised lamb, and dessert — each course paired with a different wine and included in the fixed price.  Delicious. The only downside was the 45 minute drive back to Coccaro after the meal…as you might expect, driving on Italian country roads while in a food coma isn’t usually a recipe for success.

Fava Bean Crostini and Fried Zucchini Blossoms

I could probably keep going, as there are tons of other great meals and experiences that I left out, but it’s really just more of the same goodness.  So as the Italians say, “Basta!!!” or “enough”.

Overall the trip to Puglia far exceeded our expectations and the fact that it never felt touristy and overrun just made it that much more special.  We came home with the feeling that we had somehow outsmarted the rest of the tourists in Italy, standing in line at the Uffizi in Florence or craning their necks to take in the tower in Pisa.  We couldn’t be happier with our decision to spend a week there and in some ways wish it was longer.  Our only fear now is that we don’t get back before the rest of the world figures out what a great region it is!

Non Basta?
Do This!: First Ever Puglia Wine Week
Bistro Don Giovanni: Napa-Sourced & Italian-Inspired
Bocca di Bacco: I say PotaTO, You say PoTATo

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A+ 8.ate@eight Back to School Nite

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Apologies for my absence for a few days, but I have been busy shopping and chopping for what was the last 8.ate@eight supper club of the outdoor season. You wouldn’t think preparing “cafeteria” food would be such a distraction, but when you’re hand selecting figs and prosciutto from Italy for your pizza, catching red snapper off the east coast for your tacos, hunting bison out west for your mini sliders and hand frying potatoes for your truffle-rosemary chips, then there isn’t much time for blogging. Well maybe I wasn’t actually doing all of those things {except the hand frying – look out Frito Lay!} but the menu is accurate. As several friends had kids heading back to school, I thought it would be fun to relive the nostalgia of new sneakers, trapper keepers and the best of school cafeterias — only better! Here’s the full report card…

The Syllabus:

Starter
3 Grilled Pizzettes:
{1} Arugula, Fig & Proscuitto w/ Grated Parmesan Cheese
{2} Greek Olive Tapenade, Pickled Red Onion & Feta w/ Lemon Olive Oil
{3} Spicy Italian Sausage, Roasted Fennel & Fresh Mozzarella
w/ Grandma’s Sauce & Fresh Rooftop Basil

Mini Lime-Chili Red Snapper Tacos
w/ “Fruit Punch” Sangria

Salad
Roasted Corn & Vegetable Medley w/ Chipotle Bacon & Queso Fresco
w/ Bodegas Valdesil Godello Valdeorras Val de Sil Montenovo (Spain)

Entrée
Mini Bison Sliders w/ Buffalo Mozzarella and Olive Tapenade
Homemade Truffle Rosemary Parmesan Chips
w/ “P.S.” Local 2 Brooklyn Dark Ale

Dessert
Coconut “Twinkies” w/ Lemon Curd Filling
w/ Kahlua-Rum Chocolate “Milk”

It was just like showing up to a new classroom — some old friends and some new faces to get to know. This is why I started 8.ate@eight and what I love about my table. People can come together to enjoy good food and drink and easily fall into conversation with an unfamiliar group.

Pablo is the Principal at his own school he started -- how awesome is that!

As the 8.ate@eight-ers filed in, I was busy at work grilling pizzas on the BBQ. Not an entirely new concept, but a new twist on school lunch favorite — wasn’t pizza day a must?! With dough and toppings on hand, I grilled up three different versions: an Arugula, Fig & Proscuitto w/ Grated Parmesan Cheese Pizza, a Greek Olive Tapenade, Pickled Red Onion & Feta w/ Lemon Olive Oil Pie and a crowd-pleasing favorite, Spicy Italian Sausage, Roasted Fennel & Fresh Mozzarella w/ Grandma’s Sauce & Fresh Rooftop Basil.

Fresh Figs

Served alongside the pizza were some Red Snapper Tacos with a Lime-Chili Marinade and Avocado Sauce. I’m pretty sure the lunch ladies didn’t fill our shells with anything better than greasy ground beef, but I wanted to keep it light. Both of the appetizers were served with an adult version of fruit punch: sangria! With a winning combination of spanish vino, brandy, triple sec and lemonade, I soaked a combination of lemon, lime, orange slices and cherries overnight and topped each cup off with a little club soda — every party is better with bubbles!

Red Snapper Tacos

Sangria "Fruit Punch"

Probably the least eaten items on those styrofoam trays were the vegetable medleys and fruit cup cocktails, so I decided to do a combination of both with a modified version of my friend Nora’s delicious corn salad. There are several things that are great about this salad and its a recipe for success that I have written about before: sweet, spicy, citrusy, savory and salty. I roasted several ears of sweet jersey corn, removing the kernels and adding to a combination of grapes {strange, but sweet and amazing}, red bell peppers {peppery and colorful}, red chilis {that subtle spicy kick that I love}, cilantro {a polarizing ingredient for many, but even I converted a hater at the table}, scallions and lime. So that’s the regular combination, but I also decided this salad would do well with a few bits of chipotle bacon crumbled on top with some queso fresco — if only school veggies were always this good.

Roasted Corn & Vegetable Medley

Roasted Corn Salad

It’s not only important to eat your veggies, but a good healthy protein also tops the food pyramid. I keep speaking the praises of bison to anyone who will listen {recipe here}, so I thought if I put them in slider form I could win the hearts of my table too. So let’s reiterate some important facts — please take notes.

Bison tastes very similar to beef, but is slightly richer, so I complemented that flavor with a spread of salty olive tapenade on the mini buns and melted some creamy buffalo mozzarella on top for a better take on a kiddie craving.

Mini Bison Sliders

And just like PB&J is a match made in heaven, so are burgers and chips. So I carried out the dutch oven, a few pounds of potatoes and got to work slicing, rinsing, drying and frying the makings of my Homemade Truffle, Rosemary Parmesan Chips. A lot of work, but there is something very satisfying about putting Frito Lay to shame from your own kitchen {recipe to follow}.

Toss in corn starch to remove moisture and create crispier results

Toss in 375 degree oil 4-5 minutes until golden blond

Strain and Season with Fresh Rosemary and Truffle Salt

Season with Rosemary, Truffle Salt, Parmesan Cheese and Try Not to Eat Too Many

While everyone settled in for the Ferris Bueller classic, Naerim also made a guest appearance and served her Coconut “Twinkie” with Lemon Curd filling and I blended up some Kahlua-Rum Chocolate “Milk” just in case  everyone didn’t have enough to drink.

Coconut "Twinkies" with Lemon Curd

As usual, we cleared the plates, handed out some blankets as the night started to cool and fired up the projector for our guest visitor: Ed Rooney. No better end to another memorable 8.ate@eight supper club.

Ed Rooney Was Our Guest Visitor

Thanks!

Thanks to Naerim again for all the help serving drinks and food and ending the evening with a great new take on an old lunchbox treat! Thanks to Kristin for snapping some pics while I was manning the grill. And I of course want to thank everyone who grabbed a seat at the table — it was lovely to have you all!

I’m ruminating on some future indoor events for the fall and winter, so stay tuned. If you aren’t on the dinner distribution list, email me at 8ateateight@gmail.com to be added. See you at the table!

Recipe Goodness:

Homemade Rosemary, Truffle and Parmesan Chips or Fries

Prep Time: 1 Hour | Cook Time: 20-30 Minutes
Serves 4

2 1/2 # russet potatoes  (about 4 large)
3 QT. peanut or canola oil

Peel and cut potatoes into either long sticks or 1/2-inch thick circles for fries or use a mandolin to thinly slice flat or waffle cut circles {using the waffle blade} for chips. Rinse cut potatoes in large bowl under cold running water until water turns clear. Cover with cold water and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 12 hours.

Pour off water,spread potatoes onto towels, and thoroughly dry {important for crispiness}. Transfer to large bowl and toss with cornstarch until evenly coated. Transfer to wire rack set on rimmed baking sheet and let rest until fine white coating forms, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in large, heavy bottomed dutch oven, fitted w/clip-on candy thermometer, heat oil to 325.  Add half of potatoes a handful at a time and increase heat to high.  Fry, shirring with mesh spider until potatoes start to turn from white to blond, 4-5 min.(oil temp will drop). Transfer fries to paper towels to absorb oil and cool. Return oil to 325 and repeat with rest of potatoes. Let potatoes cool.

Heat oil to 375. Add half of fries or chips, a handful at a time, and fry until golden brown, 2-3 min. Transfer to paper towels & repeat with remaining fries. Season immediately with chopped rosemary, truffle salt and shaved parmesan.

Read About Past 8.ate@eight Events:
8.ate@eight Went Whole Hog and Hog Wild @ the Big Southern BBQ
Who Cut the Cheese Didn’t Stink!
Silencing of the Spring Lambs was Lambtastic!

What are you still doing here? It’s over. Go home.

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Summer Lovin’ Me Some Oysters @Mermaid Oyster Bar

Mermaid Oyster Bar Selection

The ancient Romans prized oysters for being aphrodisiacs. The 18th-century lover Casanova, in particular, is said to have eaten fifty oysters for breakfast every morning to make him virile. Is there any truth to these mollusks making mermaids sing? Oysters do contain a high amount of zinc, a lack of which has been linked to male impotency, but there is no scientific evidence that these pearl-producing friends can produce much more than a tasty meal and perhaps a little sex-appeal as these slippery little suckers get slurped out of their shell.

Mermaid Oyster Bar

August 5th is National Oyster Day, so what better day to suck down some summer seafood and see where the evening takes you. One of my favorite tiny seafood shops is Mermaid Oyster Bar {sister restaurant to The Mermaid Inn}. This quaint little joint has a clean white-walled New England feel to it, with an open air front, high bar stools and booth seating that lines the fish-framed wainscoted walls. It’s great for a casual evening out to enjoy some really fresh and spectacular shuckin’.

With a menu featuring 13 different types of Oysters native to both the East and West coast, you can choose from a variety of sizes with a range of sweet and briny characteristics. My favorite {no joke} was called the Naked Cowboy. This Long Island Oyster was sweet and smooth and actually one of the most inexpensive options on the menu {hooray for local fishermen}.

There are plenty of other delicious options on the menu if oysters don’t appeal to you. The Shimp Po’ Boy is spicy and generously sized and the Lobster Roll is a classic served on a sweet brioche bun that won’t disappoint. And if you’re looking for a side, don’t forget the Old Bay Seasoned Fries, which are the  perfect crispy, salty and spicy accompaniment to a cold beer and tray of oysters.

The Skim: As if the tray of lovin’ oysters isn’t enough of an enticement for a good night out, at the end of the meal you’ll also get a special little treat — an espresso cup portion of chocolate mousse and a fortune telling fish. Perhaps he can reveal the future of a shuckin’ good time???

Map: {79 MacDougal Street & Bleecker}
Reservations: Taken!
Phone: 212-260-0100

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Belmont Stakes: Best Get Boilin’ Ya’ll

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Even though the Belmont Stakes is a NY based race, there is something about horse racing that evokes an affinity for all things southern. And even if you’re not into horse racing, you can no doubt get excited by chilled cocktails and pots boiling away on the stove, preparing home cooked fare from the deep south.

Last night I went roof hopping from mine to my neighbor’s {this didn’t involve any James Bond leaps} for my first ever Low Country Boil Bash. For those of you, like myself, who don’t know what Low Country Boil is, let me paint you a picture. First, you start with what could only be created in the south, Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka {flown in from South Carolina}. Mixed with lemonade, this stuff tastes exactly like the sweet tea you would expect to find at a southern picnic, but is actually hard liquor. Of course you only realize that after you quench your thirst with a few innocently big gulps on a hot summer’s evening. Good thing there were trays and trays of ‘boil’ to soften the blow.

Crawfish, Crawfish and more Crawfish

So what makes up a Low Country Boil? 6 pounds of fresh Louisiana crawfish were flown up for the evening, steamed to bright red perfection and served with a heap of fresh corn, red skinned potatoes, shrimp and andouille sausage, all of which was boiled together with onions, garlic, old bay seasoning, salt, pepper, butter and lemon halves.  Yes ma’am! And it wouldn’t be a southern meal without a little cornbread or bacon, so why not serve that with bacon-cornbread muffins! The newspaper was spread, napkins were stacked and we all gathered round to dig in and start pulling the tails off the crawfish. This might seem intimidating if you have never done this before, but if you think of it like a mini lobster, you realize it’s not only easy, but fun, and the reward is a sweet meat that is worth the effort. For those who consider themselves adventurous {me} you can suck the head to get to what most southerners claim is the best part {not me}. I wasn’t able to stay for dessert, but I was eyeing the homemade peach cobbler and red velvet cupcakes that topped off a lovely nod to southern cuisine. We should all learn a thing or two from southern hospitality and invite more of our city neighbors to hop roofs or walk down the hall for a friendly gathering, because I have to say, that was one memorable NYC meal. Thanks friends!

Low Country Boil Takes On NYC

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