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Showing posts from May, 2011

Still Love Cafe Capriccio

I know that Scott has previously talked about Cafe Capriccio, but we went again and it is really such a great place. First off, they make in house a range of items including ricotta, mascarpone, mozzarella, and bacon. These items are all really great, and add to how special this place really is.

I feel the parking in that area can be a little difficult, especially if Billy Joel is playing at the Times Union Center or something. We never seem to pay attention to small facts such as those when we make reservations places, so often I feel it is better to park in a place where you know there is parking and walk. So I parked by the New York State Museum, and it is only about 3 blocks from there (of course there were spots closer, but that is just bound to happen I guess). Since it was a year anniversary of Scott asking if I would marry him and me saying "Are you sure? Are you sure? Are you sure?" at that very restaurant it all seemed very romantic. So I thought it was a good time…

Health and Safety in the Kitchen

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My coworker came in my office the other day and started talking about her garbage disposal. It was jammed so she put her hand in there, and my boss said she also had recently stuck her hand in her garbage disposal since she had a nail stuck in there (somehow). I said "What? Didn't you guys see every horror film in the 1990s? The ghost is going to flip the switch!!", which was, of course, ridiculous on my part. But the point remains that the modern kitchen contains many possible hazards. There are sharp knives, and duller knives (which could be even more dangerous because they they are more likely to slip while in use and cut the cook). There are raw eggs, raw chickens, food processors, 500 degree pizza stones, toasters, long haired women (possibly even dog or cat hair in the air), and hand held mixers that could accidentally turn on while you are pushing the chocolate chip cookie dough out of the beaters (unless you unplugged it first of course).

One example of the impo…

Tips for a Successful Party

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I went to a clothes swap party last night, and it was really fun. The food was great, and it didn't seem like it had taken a lot of effort on the part of the hostess (whether it did or not, I don't know, but it is good for it to seem that way). It made me think that for a party to be successful it is both simpler than it seems and more difficult than you would think to strike a certain balance. Here are some important things, I think:

Music: It is good to have something set the mood without inhibiting conversation. It's good to have something off the beaten path a bit to show the host's personality, but not so much that no one recognizes it, because the guests recognizing the music can lead to good conversations. Last night's party had some Richard Thompson, and I thought that worked great. If the party ends up switching from wine to bourbon, often things work their way in for irony's sake ("California Girls", "Umbrella"), but we at least wa…

Braised Lamb With Peas and Asparagus

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We were lucky enough to get an amazing early wedding gift: a beautiful cast-iron Dutch oven. Combined with the fresh asparagus we got from our trip to Indian Ladder Farms and the rainy weather, the condittions were perfect for a recipe I've wanted to try for a while: braised lamb with asparagus and peas from Amanda Hesser's invaluableThe Cook and the Gardener. It's a keeper.

I think I can say, without violating copyright laws, that it follows a classic preparation: brown the meet in batches, briefly saute onion and carrot, add flour to make a quasi-roux, add white wine and a bouquet garni, and then braise the lamb in an hour in beef stock. Near the end, add peas and blanched asparagus, and then garlic and parsley.

The end product was fantastic, very rich and deep flavor. It would require using more liquid, but I think white beans could be a nice addition too. Anyway, it's always nice to find something good to add to the repertoire -- a great way to break in o…

Yellow Rock Cafe at Indian Ladder Farms

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Today we went for brunch at the Yellow Rock Cafe at Indian Ladder Farms. I loved the decor (kitschy signs, fresh-cut lilacs) and the tablecloths (mismatched and vintage looking prints).




I had only really been to Indian Ladder Farms before in the fall, but it turns out in the spring and summer they have berry picking, and also still have their cafe and shop open. It is great because the ingredients in the dishes served at the cafe are all from local farms. Everything is really fresh, and very tasty. Scott had the Guilderville, and the menu describes it as: "Our garlic herb wrap stuffed with thinly sliced deli ham, Swiss cheese, sliced ILF apples, and Zaz mustard, and then grilled to perfection." And I had the Helderburger:"Truly an unforgettable hamburger made with all local ingredients. Six ounces of freshly ground, all-natural beef from Morning Fog Farms of Berne, NY, topped with leaf lettuce, locally grown sweet onion, and ripe tomato served on a fresh grilled hard …

Kitchen Organization

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A long time ago I read about Julia Childs's kitchen organization ideas. She kept everything out in the open and quickly accessible.
 I love this philosophy, and since I read about I have thought that having tools at the ready is just as important as having things already chopped up before one starts cooking. It is all part of the mise en place. I have followed this model in a few different ways.

Utensils at the ready in canisters:

Glasses on racks:

Hooks for aprons and pot holders:
And that leaves us with my project for today. One of my friends once said to me when we first got engaged not to put things on our wedding registry we didn't have space to store. Well, we have already received more gifts than we really have space to store. And sure there are some great options for dining room/kitchen storage (that cost a fortune), and maybe one day we may even be able to afford one of these beautiful storage solutions. But in the meantime, I got a cheap bookshelf from Staples, and mov…

An Affront to Respectable Drinks Everywhere

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 I don't even think I have to comment on this. We had a grand time making fun of this Cotton Candy and Bubble Gum flavored vodka. No joke, courtesy of Exit 9.

Whew

I didn't see the offending sign when I walked in to work today, and fortunately Mahar's will be re-opening today.

Pizza Party

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I have tried a few different pizza recipes, but the one I really loves is the Pizza Margherita from Cook's Illustrated. First off, you need a pizza stone (in my opinion it is totally worth it since you can also cook a variety of breads on it). Put pizza stone in oven, and put oven at 500 degrees. For the crust, you just whisk yeast into some room temperature water. Then in a food processor you put flour, sugar, salt and process for about 5 seconds. With the food processor running, add the liquid until a sticky ball forms, for a couple of minutes. Divide the ball in half, make into two smooth balls, place on floured baking sheet, cover loosely with plastic wrap sprayed with nonstick cooking spray, and leave them in a warm area of your kitchen for about an hour.

Then, you make the sauce. What I like about this recipe is that you don't have to cook the sauce. This is partially I think because it has you drain the tomatoes of a lot of their juices, and because Pizza Margherita goe…

It's My Way, Or...

My colleague Robert Farley speaks the truth about the discourse on mint juleps, which of course can be applied to cocktails more broadly:

What I have discovered is that the literature on the mint julep can be wholly characterized by this formula: "Mint juleps are vile, except ones that use [insert bourbon] over [crushed, shaved, cubed, etc. ice] with a bit of [crushed mint, bruised mint] on the [top, bottom] along with [a little/lot] of [granulated/powedered/syrup]. Any divergence from this recipe is a/an [disgrace/abomination/abortion/unholiness] that only a/an [moron/idiot/dilettante/frat boy/sorority girl/tourist/alcholic] would drink."
Indeed.

On the narrow issue at hand, I've never had a mint julep I liked. Or, for that matter, mojito; I think I can say that mint in drinks is a genre I Don't Get.

Wedding Food

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Today we are picking out the food for our wedding next month. While I totally trust the venue, I don't have very high hopes. My lack of high hopes was creating by an essay by Julie Powell in this book.

Powell states that: "Hundreds of guests + unreasonable expectations + catering - billions of dollars = rubber chicken. "

She also goes on to say: "Very long names for things should have set off the first alarm bells. The long-name thing is something that works for fancy restaurants. But when caterers employ the trick, it's to try to convince you that they are fancy restaurants rather than what they are, which is caterers. Unlike chefs, caterers do not cook to order. Caterers cook great huge batches of things, then pack them into large tin containers and carry them in vans to church basements or the grounds of local art museums, where they reheat the food on chafing dishes. Many foods can be eaten very satisfactorily this way, but these foods usually have…

Farmed Tilapia

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...is to be avoided. Essentially, there are two three problems. First, although farming may seem as if it's more sustainable, it's actually terrible for the environment. Second, as Schrambling correctly notes, it's very bland. And last, tilapia generally lacks the nutritional benefits of other seafood. Even farmed salmon is much higher in Omega-3 fatty acids: