Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Central Park, The Met and my first ever Giveaway!!!

Anyone that knows me is fully aware of how I loathe exercise of any kind. I will avoid it at all costs, so I was utterly shocked at how our walk through Central Park on our last morning in New York turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip. It was an absolutely gorgeous day and it actually felt and looked like fall! At my house we're sweating and dealing with drought so it was a really nice change of pace to bundle up in boots and a jacket and stroll along gorgeous walkways of yellow, orange and red leaves!
I personally had never understood why people would tell me to go to Central Park in the first place. Clearly all I am interested in when I am on vacation is eating, not walking. I didn't know what Louis was thinking suggesting we walk through the park on our way to The Met but as soon as you get a few feet in, it's like the busy noise of the city just melts away
and you're left staring at geese and gorgeous trees and fountains and old people doing exercise classes. I was so glad I wasn't doing that!
 So after all that exertion I felt totally justified hitting up Shake Shack for lunch
It was so so good
We both got the smoke shack (I got a single and Louis got the double) and we split an order of fries. The smoke shack is a cheeseburger topped with applewood smoked bacon, chopped cherry peppers and shake sauce. The sauce and cherry peppers totally made the burger and I can't wait until the Austin location opens so I can go and compare them!
 After stuffing ourselves we made our way, in the dirtiest cab to ever grace the face of the earth, to the Met
I was completely floored by just how huge the museum actually is! And, the entrance fee is "optional" so that everyone has access to the museum. I personally thought that was pretty awesome. We stayed the longest time in the Egyptian and Roman areas but quickly realized that we'd need a few days to be able to see everything
Taking a little break on the rooftop was just stunning and the bar up there was a bonus I was excited to see!
 I know this is random, but how cute is the little seating areas that I saw at our hotel?! I totally need to recreate this. Or pay someone to do it, since my crafting gene is broken. Before heading to the airport we stopped at The Common at the hotel and grabbed a quick bite since airport food is the worst excuse for food ever. I got the Lobster Gumbo and Triple Cooked Duck Fat Fries (if you're keeping track, yes, this is my forth order of fries on this trip)
 The fries were fabulous (obviously) and the gumbo was good. It was very thick and the roux was lighter than what I make, but it was still good. We said goodbye to the Hudson and headed home
Every time I come home from a long trip I am reminded that there's no better welcome home than the one from your dogs!
Roux and Beignet missed us way more than the kids did!
 I had such a fabulous trip I wanted to share a little piece of it with you!
I brought back an extra goodie bag from the Wine and Food Festival that I will send to one lucky reader! It's full of a ton of fun things that I hope you love!
To enter the giveaway all you have to do is scroll up to the top right column and "follow by Email" and come back leaving a comment telling me you did! For a bonus entry, share the giveaway on Facebook and come back leaving an additional comment telling me you did that. If you are already following by email, simply leave me a comment saying so. Good Luck!!
WooHoo!! Congrats Jenn Tidwell, you won!!
Winner must have a U.S. shipping address and will be chosen Saturday November 1, 2014 at 11:59pm.  The winner will be chosen at random using and announced at the top of this post. The winner will also be notified via email; if the winner does not respond within 48 hours, another winner will be selected.

Monday, October 27, 2014

NYCFWF day 3 and Morimoto

On day 3 of our trip we walked to Morning Star Restaurant a block away from the hotel for breakfast. I was intrigued by the menu since there were a few things I had never heard of before on there. Louis had the Irish Breakfast which included 2 eggs, black and white pudding, bacon, sausage, grilled tomato, baked beans and toast.
Ya know, a light breakfast to start the day.
I tried the white pudding which is an Irish oatmeal sausage and was surprised at how delicious it was! The black pudding I wasn't brave enough to try but Louis swore it was very good. I feel like I'm a pretty adventurous eater but blood sausage is where I draw the line.
I got the Cypriot breakfast which was 2 eggs, grilled halloumi, Loukaniko, Lountza, Potatoes and Toast
By the time I remembered to take a pic I had already dug into my plate, so I know it doesn't look great but I promise you it was! Sometimes you just can't beat greasy diner food, and this was a great place to get it! Halloumi is a firm Greek cheese that can be grilled or seared and this was perfectly crisp. I thought it was strange that the potatoes were actually just fries, but I am a French fry addict so it was totally fine with me. The Loukaniko is a Greek sausage flavored with orange peel, fennel seed, and herbs- to me it had a strong wine flavor and I loved it! Lountza is pork tenderloin that's brined, marinated in red wine, dried, smoked and sliced thinly. So so yummy and would be delicious on a sandwich as well!
For two coffees, and two HUGE plates of food our bill was $20 less than the one gross croissant sandwich that room service had delivered the morning before so this was a good pick and we left happy!
After breakfast we headed to the Food and Wine Fest and got there just in time to see Paula and Bobby Deen cooking together. I was really surprised to see them there since I thought she was banned from Food Network?!
Anyway, I love Paula and thought they were really cute together and she kept insisting on going into the crowd to let people sample the things they were making. 
A few of the stand out dishes of the day were this cute little ravioli with micro greens and the truffle cream sauce gnocchi. The gnocchi were literally the best I've ever had- pillow-y, light and airy. I could have eaten an entire plate of them....if I hadn't eaten my weight in food at breakfast.
 One thing that stopped me in my tracks was the 3D Systems sugar sculptures! Look at these things!! I sat there staring at them in awe and fully expected Willy Wonka to show up at any moment. They had a printer right there that just created whatever design they inputted into the sugar pieces and then airbrushed flavored colors onto each piece. This was honestly one of the coolest things I've ever seen and it really made me want one for myself. Can you imagine having friends over, giving them a cup of coffee and then a pink sugar hexagon?! Or popping one of these in your kid's lunch box. The teachers I'm sure would not appreciate a kid downing sugar cubes in the middle of the day but my kids would think it was amazing!
As if we hadn't eaten enough already, we headed to Morimoto for dinner. The restaurant is absolutely beautiful, and as weird as it sounds, the bathrooms are a must see!
I don't know how they do it but the infinity wall is amazing to look at! The seat lifts automatically when you walk in, can be heated and there is a long silver bar on the wall that has buttons for options to choose from for your "experience". I don't know who is hanging out in there long enough to need all of these services, but it was funny to see it there!
I started the night with a Sesame Raspberry cocktail that was absolutely divine and now I'm mad at myself that I didn't take a pic of the drink menu because I can't find it online
As a starter we tried the Oyster Foie Gras
Oysters, foie gras, uni and teriyaki sauce
After reading the description I was totally on board with this one and was really disappointed once I tasted it. The oyster, foie and uni were all the same texture and temperature. It was neither hot nor cold. I think I was expecting a cold oyster with seared foie on top but everything was luke warm and for me I need oysters either icy cold or hot- not somewhere in the middle. I had one and let Louis have the other two
My favorite dish of the night was the Toro Tartare with Kaluga caviar, wasabi, sour cream, chives, dashi soy and these delightful little crisps that looked like sprinkles
It was beautiful, interactive and totally delicious. We scraped this one clean!

Miso Glazed Roasted Bone Marrow with sake ikura, mitsuba chimichurri and grilled sourdough was next. While I'm not a huge fan of marrow like Louis is, I loved the sake ikura (salmon roe cured in sake) and the chimichurri which was made with mitsuba (Japanese wild parsley) on the grilled bread

My second favorite dish of the night was the Braised Black Cod with Ginger Soy Reduction. This was one of those dishes that felt like it disappeared off the plate way too soon! We couldn't eat it fast enough. The fish was so flaky, the sauce was sweet and sticky and rich and even the little slivers of pepper on the bottom of the plate were pickled, sweet and crunchy which gave a great contrast to the rich sauce on the fish.
This is the Duck Duck Duck which I thought was yuck yuck yuck. Louis and I both love duck but after eating just some of it we both agreed it just didn't work. At all.
The Roasted duck was ok, but not stellar, the sandwich on a housemade croissant with foie gras butter fell apart when we tried to eat it and the duck egg was just oddly on the side by itself. The two sauces were I think red miso sauce and black bean sauce but, if blindfolded, I would have sworn they were the same. Overall, a fail in my opinion. Do yourself a favor if you go and just go with the Cod!

I adore Brussels sprouts and was very happy when I got to dig into these! They were flash fried till the outer leaves were deliciously crispy and then tossed in a sauce I could have taken shots of, Chinese sausage and cranberries. Yum yum!
I was really happy to go and try Morimoto even though we didn't love a few of the dishes. The ones that shined were good enough to go back for!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

NYCFWF day 2 and Le Bernardin

 For me, going into this trip, Saturday was the day I was most excited about. Being featured by Extended Stay at their booth, doing interviews, demo-ing my dish and getting to chat with Sunny was such an honor and I truly felt like I was in a dream.
Christa, the gorgeous girl next to me, had prepped my dish for me and it looked so beautiful we had to take a picture with the sandwich!
 As always, I was nervous when I first got there seeing all of the camera people setting up, but once we got rolling it was so much fun!
 I was interviewed by Real Food Real Kitchens and as soon as they post the video I'll share it!
Family, food, culture and history; these are the essence of Real Food Real Kitchens, a cooking series that goes into the real kitchens of everyday people and explores one of their most cherished traditional family dishes.
Real Food Real Kitchens tells the intimate story of a person, their family, and their culture and how food creates an emotional bond that connects them all together
 Sunny, as usual, was beautiful and so sweet. She totally lives up to her name!
 I didn't even realize until looking through all of the pictures that we matched!
 In the afternoon Rachel Ray was on the stage right behind our booth and her demo was packed! I just love her!
 After the Festival closed we made it back to the hotel and got ready to go to Le Bernardin for dinner
The inside of the restaurant is absolutely stunning and very serene. Please forgive the quality of the pictures but I was trying to not make too much of a scene while getting shots of each of our dishes throughout the meal. They started us off with an amuse bouche trio of goat cheese filled crisp topped with roasted beet, a tuna tartare sweet potato crisp and a shot of velvety carrot soup topped with a yuzu foam
 Louis started with the Tuna and looked like he was going to lick the plate at the end. Layers of Thinly Pounded Yellowfin Tuna, Foie Gras and Toasted Baguette, Chives and Extra Virgin Olive Oil
 My starter was the King Crab Medley with warm Matsutake Custard and Seaweed-Shiitake Broth. I had to laugh when our waiter explained the dish to me and then said "be sure not to eat the seaweed under the bowl". Uuummmm, ok? I wasn't planning on it but thanks anyway!
Y'all that custard came straight from heaven. There is just no other explanation for how good it was. If you ever decide to have dinner here GET IT. I promise, it was the highlight of the night!
 Next up for Louis was the Olive Oil Poached Escolar with Niçoise Olive, Grilled Maitake Mushroom and Citron Vinaigrette. We have had escolar before and really love it so it was no surprise how good this one was.
 My next choice was the Sautéed Langoustine with Truffles, Chanterelle and Aged Balsamic Vinaigrette.
If I see truffle on a menu 9 out of 10 times I will order it. I just can't help myself so let's pause a moment and look at the large slices of truffle on top of my dish. Total delicious decadence. The langoustines were so tender and perfectly cooked it really reminded me of a scallop, the sauce was one of the best butter sauces I've ever tried and even though I usually don't like frisee, it was the perfect bitter bite to cut the richness of everything going on on the plate
 Louis' entrée was the Poached Halibut with Razor Clams, Aki Nori and “Sweet Corn Chowder”
While the dish was very good, neither of us were blown away by this one. The deconstructed chowder vegetables and broth were beautiful, but overall I think we would order differently next time.
 My entrée was the Pan Roasted Monkfish with Tarragon Scented Pea Purée and Armagnac-Black Pepper Sauce. While I loved the way the monkfish was cooked and seasoned I felt like the rest of the dish just fell flat. I didn't taste any tarragon, and while the Armagnac sauce was delicious I wanted it to be thicker so it would cling to the fish better.
 Louis chose the Hazelnut Praline dessert with Flourless Hazelnut Cake, Gianduja Mousse, Orange Curd, Praline Ice Cream
I didn't taste much of Louis' so I can't say exactly how it was but there was nothing left on the plate when he was done, so he must have liked it
  I got the "Maple" - Maple Candy Cap Crémeux, Maple, Huckleberry Confit
I adored the huckleberries and the crisp wafer on top. I felt that all of the pieces worked really well together and nothing was overly sweet which I really appreciated 
 As a sweet surprise from the kitchen our waiter brought us this gorgeous Kataifi Filled Squash Cremeux, Bourbon Sabayon, Candied Cranberry, Spiced Ice Cream
The little bundles are crisp phyllo strands that are fried and just shatter when you cut into it. It was fall on a plate!
 To end there were gold chocolate and peanut butter truffles, the most divine light and airy lemon macaroon I have ever had, a guava gelee and a square of puffy light and airy raspberry chocolate cake
We left stuffed and utterly happy

Thursday, October 23, 2014

New York State of Mind

The past few weeks have really flown by and before I even knew it, it was time to hop on another plane to New York for the Extended Stay America trip to the New York Wine and Food Festival
We flew in early Friday morning and as soon as we dropped our bags off at the hotel we headed straight to the Festival site. I couldn't believe what a great job Extended Stay had done recreating a hotel suite in the middle of a warehouse! It looked great and was so fun to see the behind the scenes set up of the booth. Friday and Sunday were the best days at the Festival crowd wise. Saturday was really busy and very crowded. I highly recommend doing one of the less crowded days if you ever get the chance to go it was much more enjoyable!
And look what they were going to hand out to everyone that walked by:
 After looking at the Extended Stay display we made our way through the walls and walls and walls of food, wine and liquor samples
 There was a healthy mix of food companies serving samples of their products
Liquor companies serving delicious cocktails
and plenty of stops that had samples and cute little activities to participate in to win prizes at their booths
The offerings were delicious and I was so glad we had a few days at the festival so we could pace ourselves 
Part of my prize package was tickets to the Grand Tasting for the weekend and passes to the exclusive GEMs room:
The Southern Wine & Spirits of New York Trade Tasting is an exclusive invitation-only experience for SWS’ top clients and partners. Network with industry peers while sampling dishes from top New York City chefs and learning about new trends and products in the food and beverage industry. For the first time ever, NYCWFF is proud to present the Wine GEMS Collection Room presented by Nespresso and the Boutique Spirits Collection Room, where guests can taste rare, exclusive, or limited vintage wines and the finest craft, artisanal spirits from Southern Wine & Spirits’ and Lauber Imports’ portfolios.
 This was my kinda place!
They had a huge Nespresso display and walked you through a chocolate, wine and espresso tasting
 it was delicious and informative and I wish my espresso was always served like this!
 This duck Baklava was Sooooo good, I had to stop myself from getting another
 and I really loved Cupcake wine's walk up booth! Super cute!
 Barilla was serving numerous pasta dishes and I loved their pasta filled line dividers
 After the festival, we headed back to the hotel and changed to go to the Skylark
 My sweet husband made a reservation for us here and it was perfect! Gorgeous views of the city and we were able to just relax and take it all in
 I tried their Sommelier Cocktail which was vodka, malbec, st. germain, crème de cassis
plum bitters, ginger ale & champagne grapes
It was very yummy and reminded me of a lighter, less sweet sangria
 We ordered the deviled eggs with cilantro, lime, mild chilies,
tamarind, crispy shallots- totally delicious! I've never met a deviled egg I didn't like and we tried the herbed fries with truffle aioli I practically scarfed down by myself.
 I also tried the CoCo- a stylized fruit & botanical infusion, peach, violet, chartreuse, st germain, nolet’s gin, sparkling with prosecco, floating strawberry pearls.
On the menu the "floating strawberry pearls" were the selling point for me, but this one was just ok. I've had way better bubbly cocktails before. Louis got the Fort Knox- elijah craig bourbon, reposado mezcal, yellow chartreuse, honey syrup, grilled lemon ice block and it was SO good! I had never tried chartreuse before and I really enjoyed the grilled lemon that came through once the ice started to melt.
 After leaving the skylark we took a walk through Times Square
 The fall weather was so perfect coming from muggy gross Texas heat and it was the perfect first night in NYC!

Pickle Baked Chicken Tenders with Creamy Chili Honey Sauce

Thanks to Hellmann’s 100% Recycled Plastic Bottles and the “Real Taste, Less Waste” challenge I get to share with you a kitchen hack that...