FOOD

Run– Don’t Walk– to kiki’s in Chinatown

If you were to walk down Division street not looking for it, you may never notice Kiki’s, the new Mediterranean restaurant and brainchild of the Forgetmenot family. Its cream awning fits right in with the Chinatown vibe, as big, red Chinese characters line it. There’s no sign, no neon lights, no indication that behind the doors awaits a magical Mediterranean experience that is otherwise inexistent in the neighborhood.

After a quick browse at the menu, you’ll know you’re in for the real deal: Greek staples like Tzatziki yogurt dip and kalamata olives with feta cheese to start, vegetable-heavy dishes and delicate seafood to continue, and hearty lamb and beef entrees, moussaka and pastitchio will keep you full until dessert.

The first thing to catch my eye on the menu was the melitzanosalata: a “simple smoky eggplant mash.” You can win me over with just about anything with eggplant, especially if it resembles baba ganouch, so I was sold. It arrived to the table accompanied by thick slices of warm grilled bread, the perfect vessel for dipping. The mash was sweet, like roasted garlic, with a little spice, a hint of lemon and topped with toasted walnuts. A very well rounded dip to prep my palate for what was to come.

FullSizeRender

Next we ordered the grilled octopus and a traditional Greek salad, meaning no lettuce, simply a beautiful melange of tomatoes, cucumber, green peppers, paper-thin red onions, Kalamata olives and a gorgeous slice of feta cheese. The salad was the tiniest bit overdressed for my liking in olive oil, lemon juice and herbs, but delicious nonetheless (cue: crusty bread). The octopus, on the other hand, was some of the best I’ve had in the city. It was so tender that the instant you put it in your mouth it begins to melt. Flavored with a lemon-garlic sauce that complimented, rather than overpowered its delicate flavor, the taste of this dish still lingers on my tastebuds and has set a new octopus standard for the rest of NYC.

FullSizeRender-3

FullSizeRender-2

Finally, we received Briam, a dish of mixed roasted hearty veggies, like eggplant, zucchini, peppers and potatoes. This dish was as delicious as it was unassuming. A vegetarian’s dream that will also please the meat eaters. I could eat this dish regularly. Along with the Briam was Lamb Frikasse, the most tender, fall-off-the-bone lamb shank I’ve had. It was blanketed beneath and sweet and rich sauce made of braised fennel, romaine lettuce and lemon cream. Though it was definitely the heaviest thing we ate, it rounded off our otherwise light dinner very well.

Had I not been too full for dessert, the cheesecake would have been a priority. The sweet cheese layer looked cloud-status fluffy, atop an exceptionally thick and crumbly crust. Another point of intrigue was the “real deal” Greek yogurt, topped with your choice of either walnuts and honey, sour cherries or homemade fruit preserves. I guess I’ll save those for a later date.

It would be in your best interest to get to kiki’s before the rest of the food world finds out about it. There’s still time to walk in at the dinnertime rush, have the table of your choosing and an uninterrupted meal to remember. I have no doubt that Kiki’s will join the other all-stars of the Lower East Side soon enough and when that day comes, all bets are off.

Advertisements

These are a Few of My Favorite Things…

I thought I would make Bon Appetit’s Kale Minestrone and the weather would be too warm to eat it. Thankfully, NYC had decided to become bipolar in the temperature department, and I’ve been able to enjoy this soup, in March, as snowflakes hit the ground. I tweaked the recipe a little bit, so I won’t be offended if you stick to the classic. I replaced the russet potatoes with sweet potatoes, because if you don’t know this already, they’re my favorite food ever. And sweet potatoes combined with kale and tomatoes? That’s what I would a call holy trinity. Bon appetite!  unnamed-1     INGREDIENTS 3 sprigs oregano 3 sprigs rosemary 2 bay leaves 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 onion, choppedleek, white and pale-green parts only, thinly sliced 2 carrots, peeled, chopped 2 celery stalks, chopped 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes Kosher salt 2 tablespoons tomato paste 1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, drained 1 Parmesan rind (about 2 ounces; optional) 3 cups cooked cannellini beans, cooking liquid reserved if desired, or two 15-oz. cans, rinsed Freshly ground black pepper 12 ounces sweet potatoes, scrubbed, cut into ½” piecesbunch Tuscan kale, ribs and stems removed, leaves torn into 1” pieces     DIRECTIONS Tie oregano, rosemary, and bay leaves together with kitchen twine. Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium. Add pancetta, if using, and cook, stirring often, until browned around the edges, about 5 minutes. Add onion, leek, carrots, celery, garlic, and red pepper flakes; season with salt. Cook, stirring often, until onion is translucent and carrots are tender, 10–12 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring to coat, until slightly darkened, about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, crushing with your hands as you go, then herb bundle, Parmesan rind, if using, and 6 cups water or reserved bean cooking liquid, or a combination. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Add potatoes, reduce heat, and simmer until potatoes are tender and flavors have melded, 20–25 minutes. Add kale and beans; cook until kale is tender, about 5 minutes. Discard Parmesan rind and herb bundle.

Press Perks: Umami Burger Williamsburg Opening

One of the benefits of working for a food magazine (besides the awesome food and experience, of course) is getting invited to press events at restaurants, bars, hotels, food fairs and more. I’ve done everything from learn about stout beers, to taste some of the finest oysters to watch an entire cow be butchered. My most recent adventure lead me to Williamsburg, Brooklyn for the opening of Umami Burger, and boy, was it worth the commute on the L train.

The atmosphere of Umami Burger is pretty much what you’d expect from a Brooklyn burger joint: hanging bicycles, long bar with an impressive draught, cool music and ironically placed next to a sweetgreen. My boyfriend and I were greeted by friendly, informative staff and a myriad of drinks, sides and burgers to try at our disposal, so try and try we did.

We started off with their beet salad, accompanied by spicy arugula, smoked almonds, mounds of a fluffy ricotta-goat cheese combo and a truffle vinaigrette that is to die for. The flavors and textures were so well balanced– now we understood why they call themselves “umami.”

Next came the burgers and sides: the original Umami burger, the K-BBQ burger, a specialty to the Brooklyn location, a side of Korean BBQ sweet potato fries to accompany the K-BBQ burger and a plate of their house made pickles.

unnamed-2

Please excuse the poor lighting.

I get why the Umami burger is so popular and classic. It embodies everything good about any type of burger– or sandwich for that matter. The perfectly cooked freshly ground beef tastes how a burger should: fresh and meaty, without that lingering “packaged ground beef flavor,” as I like to call it. Shiitake mushrooms and caramelized onions add a nice hint of earthy richness, while the roasted tomato keeps it lively. Topped with a Parmesan frico (Parmesan cheese that’s been baked for a few minutes until it melts and then hardens into a chewy, crunchy cracker type thing) and this burger certainly has it all.

The K-BBQ burger was a horse of a different color. It really did taste like something you would get at a Korean BBQ restaurant, which is what I loved about it, but I found the actual burger patty to be somewhat lost among the caramelized kimchee and Asian slaw. Nonetheless, I enjoyed both.

unnamed

The sweet potato fries were topped with kimchee and goat cheese. Though they were accompanied by four different specialty sauces, they were delicious as they were. And the pickle plate, which included not just cucumber but also beets, carrots, turnips and fennel, was delightful and unexpected.

I have to say though, one of my favorite parts of the evening was the cocktail menu. We tried about five different drinks, each completely different and delicious. You can tell a lot of thought went into crafting these cocktails, a detail I greatly appreciate about any bar or restaurant.

So thank you, Umami Burger, for giving me a reason to cross you off my NYC restaurant bucket list, even if you were all the way in Brooklyn.

Homemade Almond Butter

Hello, my name is Lauren, and I have an addiction: to almond butter.

I am thoroughly obsessed with it. I slather it on apples, celery, dollop it on oatmeal, sweet potatoes and even lick it straight off the spoon. I seriously can’t get enough.

FullSizeRender

Now don’t get me wrong: I love flipping the switch at Whole Foods and watching whole almonds turn into a smooth paste right before my eyes. But wanna know what I love more? Making it myself.

I like making almond butter at home for a few reasons.

1. I can add whatever I want into it (or not!). Sometimes I just want straight-up almonds. Other times I want a hint of cinnamon and a drizzle of honey

2. I can control the salt content. A lot of the times, jarred almond butter will contain a lot of salt. I like mine alllllmost salt-free.

3. It’s more cost efficient. Have you ever noticed how expensive almond butter is? Yeah, me too. And I was sick of spending money on something I could easily make at home.

4. I can make as much as I want and it’s really quite rewarding. A quarter cup? Fine. 2 cups? Even better.  You’ll see what I mean about it being rewarding once you try it yourself. Here’s how:

INGREDIENTS

2 cups raw almonds

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tbsp honey

pinch of salt

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit. Spread the almonds in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Bake for 10-20 minutes, turning once, until golden and toasty (tasting is encouraged!).

Add almonds, cinnamon and salt to a food processor and process until smooth, about 5 minutes. Once smooth, let the food processor continue to run and drizzle in honey. Taste and season accordingly. Enjoy!

A Bumper Crop of Pumpkin Beer Has Taken Over Grocery Shelves

The leaves may be changing, but one fall flavor trend has remained the same: pumpkin.
 
From Starbucks’ early release of the Pumpkin Spice Latte, to Dunkin Donuts’ launch of their Pumpkin at Dunkin’ campaign, everyone is hopping on the hayride to pumpkin town. An industry that’s no stranger to this trend? The beer industry.
 
pumpkin-beers

Image via Blog About Beer

 
An influx of pumpkin-flavored ales and lagers has hit the shelves starting as early as Labor Day, and pumpkin beer sales are expected to increase by 28% this year, according to USA Today. While tried and true favorites such as Samuel Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale and Shock Top Pumpkin Wheat are making a strong return for fall 2014, you can expect to see some new labels added to the mix, such as Magic Hat, which after 20 years of brewing, has finally released a Wilhelm Scream Pumpkin Ale.
 
Due to the high supply and demand for pumpkin beer, this will be the first year that the Brewers Association’s Great American Beer Festival will have an entire category dedicated to pumpkin beer. In years past, there had been a pumpkin beer subcategory, followed by a “Field Beer” category, but since pumpkin made up the overwhelming majority of entries, it now claims its very own category.
 
Beer Advocate has listed over 700 entries for pumpkin-flavored beers, and although some may be coming from the tiniest of microbreweries, other big name brands such as Flying Dog and Brooklyn Brewery are proving that there is no company too big or too small to keep up with the trend.
 
What do you think? Has the pumpkin beer trend gone overboard?

A Feast Fit for a Queen

So now that it’s officially been forever since I last blogged, I’m finally making a conscious effort to get back into blogging, thanks to this phenomenal and inspring article by Josh Ozersky. He gives a unique perspective on how to be a successful food writer, and although I’m still trying to figure out how I can fulfill all of his seven commandments, I figured I’d start with (what I believe to be) the most important:

Write everything out. Whole sentences. The right words. A beginning, a middle, an end. It doesn’t matter where. Write out blog posts. Write out tweets. Write out Facebook posts. Write texts, if there is time. And do it often, as often as you possibly can. Get your reps.

I recently moved to Union Square, aka the mecca of all things delicious, especially brunch. Not that finding a delicious brunch in New York City is a hefty task, but finding a brunch with a great cocktail, great service and at a reasonable price is a little harder than you’d think. Lucky for me (but maybe unlucky for my wallet), Feast is right across the street from my home, and this past Saturday, I fell in love.

My boyfriend and I trailed in on a rainy afternoon, post-workout and ready to drink. We were hungry, excited and, given the weather conditions, had nothing else to do that day and figured may as well indulge a little.

The first thing I noticed upon walking into Feast was the atmosphere. It was cozy and comfy, and juuuusst trendy enough to make me feel like I was getting a good meal, without feeling like it was hipster overload. Mason jar glasses, wooden tables and exposed lightbulbs was all it took to win me over.

The way their brunch works is you pay $26 for a choice of cocktail or unlimited coffee, a variety of adorable small plates to begin with and an entree. UM, HELLO, that’s like, a TON of food for a very reasonable price in NYC. Plus, you are definitely going to leave full and satisfied until dinner.

There is probably nothing I dislike more than when you go to a tapas or small plates restaurant with, lets say, 4 people, and they bring you tapas in quantities of 3, or some other number that just isn’t conducive to sharing. Well, lucky for me again, Feast doesn’t do that. See what I mean:

photo 1

How cute is this?! The top plate included two slices of warm, cinnamon-y, moist zucchini-carrot bread, two perfectly sized fluffy scones, and two slices of a moist challah bread topped with cinnamon apples. Like grandma’s house during the holidays. The bottom plate had two glasses of greek yogurt with fresh blueberries and homemade crunchy granola, two glasses of a refreshing watermelon apple juice and two bruschetta toasts. Remember, it’s late summertime, so these tomatoes were so sweet, juicy and bursting with flavor. The garlic was a nice touch, too. The BF and I were smart in saving half of each pastry until the end of the meal so we had a little bit of dessert. 🙂

We always share plates when we go out because we both want to experience as much as we possibly can while still remaining financially responsible. So, we shared:

photo 3

The baby back Benedict  a perfectly poached egg atop fresh, creamy grits, sauteed spinach and an insanely delicious corn cake, all topped with barbecue hollandaise and, oh yeah, accompanied by a juicy-tender baby back rib off the bone (!!!). I know it’s pretty hard to mess up eggs Benedict, but this was by far one of my favorite versions. You could tell every element was homemade and carefully executed right before it was brought to the table. And what could be bad about starting your day with ribs?! We also shared:

photo 2

Smoked salmon with a red flannel hash and poached quail eggs. Can you see those tiny white balls at the left side of the plate? Yep, those are quail eggs. They’re so tiny and adorable, and I’m truly impressed that someone had the hand skills and time management to perfectly poach them. The salmon was buttery and smooth, and provided a nice contrast to the crunchy crostini and tender beet-laden potatoes. While the Benedict was on the heavier side, it was nice to have a lighter dish that was just as delicious and fulfilling.

I think I was so focused on the food that I forgot to take pictures of the cocktails, but they stood up to the food in quality. I had a peach bellini and the BF had a beer-y mary. We ordered seconds.

If you can’t tell, I have fallen in love with this place. I’m already looking forward to coming back to try their dinner, and maybe even their whole-hog Monday!

So thank you, Feast, for making my rainy Saturday just a little bit brighter.

Pistachio Madeleines

I’ve been on a huge pistachio and almond butter kick lately. I’ve been spreading the stuff on apples, rice cakes, celery– just about anything crunchy and healthy. I love these two nut butters because they’re made of 100% nuts, they’re a great source of protein, and they remind me of my younger days spooning peanut butter straight from the tub without having a care in the world (guilty: I’ve done this with almond butter). But when I was browsing my Thomas Keller Bouchon Bakery cookbook, I couldn’t help but be tempted to make pistachio madeleines. The recipe calls for pistachio paste, which is a little more concentrated than regular pistachio butter, but I thought I’d try my luck with what I had on hand, and boy, did these babies come out delicious. Let’s start with the basics, shall we?

27E8A357-CCD2-49AD-A901-010200B6F25A

What is a Madeleine?

No, she’s not your favorite British cartoon character, Madeleines are cake-like cookies baked in a madeleine pan, which each mold resembles a sea shell. They’re light, pillowy, not too sweet and down-right delicious. Traditional Madeleines have a buttery, vanilla-y flavor, but the addition of pistachio butter (which I had never had before) gives them a nutty, earthy flavor and bit of a heartier texture.

Where can I find pistachio butter?

url

Working at a food magazine has its perks, one of them being, well, free food! I was lucky enough to score this jar of pistachio butter at work after we had conducted our “Best Nut Butters Taste Test.” However, you can find this stuff in most grocery stores these days, but when all else fails, I’d suggest Whole Foods.

Where can I find Madeleine pans?

Any home goods store (Bed Bath and Beyond, Target, etc.). They look like this:

url-1

If possible, get a non-stick one. It will make your life a lot easier.

Okay time to get to the (very specific) recipe.

INGREDIENTS

1/4 cup + 2 1/2 tbsp AP flour

3/8 tsp baking powder

1/78 tsp kosher salt

1/4 cup + 1 tsp eggs (it’s a little more than one egg, beaten)

3 tbsp + 2 tsp granulated sugar

1.9 ounces unsalted butter (it’s a little less than 4 tbsp)

2 tsp dark brown sugar

1 1/8 tsp honey

3 tbsp pistachio butter

DIRECTIONS

Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

Combine the eggs and granulated sugar and mix with a handheld or stand mixer on medium-high for about one minute to dissolve the sugar. Increase the speed to high and whip for about 4 minutes, until the batter has doubles in volume and has lightened in color.

Heat the butter, brown sugar and honey in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, whisking to dissolve the sugar, about 1 minute. Remove fro the heat.

Gently fold half the dry ingredients into the egg mixture, then fold in the remaining dry ingredients until just combined. Pour the warm butter mixture over the batter and fold until the batter is smooth.

In a small bowl, microwave the pistachio butter for 15-30 seconds until it has loosened up a bit. Add 1/4 of the madeleine batter to the pistachio butter to lighten it, then fold in the remaining batter. Cover your bowl and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, and up to one day.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using a paper towel, rub room temperature butter into each of the madeleine molds and freeze the pan to harden the butter.

Spoon about 1 generous tablespoon of batter into each mold, spreading it so that it covers most of each mold. Bake for 7-9 minutes, keeping a close eye. The cookies will be done when a toothpick comes out clean when stuck into the middle. Let sit in molds for a few minutes then place them on a cooling rack.

regular

The cookies are just delicious on their own, but if you’re looking to satisfy your sweet tooth just a liiiiitle bit more, you can glaze them like I did:

Just combine 1 cup powdered sugar with 1-2 tablespoons milk of your choice (I used vanilla almond milk) until all the sugar has dissolved. Once the cookies are cool enough to handle, spoon the glaze over them and return them to the cooling rack to let the extra glaze drip off.

I wanted to get more adventurous so I dipped a few of the madeleines in Nutella glaze (YOLO). The nuttiness of the cookies pairs perfectly with the chocolate-hazel-nuttiness of the Nutella. As Rach would say, YUM-O.

nutella