Thursday, October 25, 2007

...avec moi, ce soir...Hudson Valley Camembert

One evening coming back from work, I became incredibly excited at the thought of a homemade apple and brie sandwich. I knew already had crisp apples waiting at home (picked fresh from Meadowbrook Farm), so I decided to pass through Murray's Cheese in Grand Central Market to find the 'perfect match'.

I loooove cheese, and I'm a Valley Girl (Hudson Valley, that is) at heart, so it was no surprise I was attracted to Hudson Valley Camembert, from the Old Chatham Sheepherding Company. The HV Camembert is made from a blend of sheep's milk and BGH-free (Bovine Growth Hormone) cow's milk. It had so many things going for it--- its reputation ("Best Cheese in America", 2001 United States Cheese Championship), its shape (a curiously square slab--- making it stand out all the other Camemberts), and its size (a modest 4 oz.-small but big enough for one person).

But I digress. Getting back to the subject of cheese, ahem, the HV Camembert was soft and spreadable, making it a great pairing... for my sandwich. Though you can eat the rind, I would recommend discarding it because it imparts this rubbery/metallic flavor that could spoil the whole experience. You wouldn't want to ruin your first time ;)

Hudson Valley Camembert
$6.99 for 4 oz. at Murray's Cheese.

Murray's Cheese (various locations)
Grand Central Market
Entrance on Lexington side of Grand Central Terminal
43rd & Lexington Ave.

Bon Appetit Supper Club & Cafe

For those who've grown tired of frequenting the Halal stand on 53rd and 6th for lunch, I'd suggest dropping by the Bon Appetit Supper Club & Cafe in Midtown Manhattan. Open weekdays starting today, and only through November 2, guests will be able to enjoy special lunch items (sandwiches, soups, salads) created by celebrity chefs like Cat Cora, Giada de Laurentiis, Emeril Lagasse and Michael Mina, as well as the chefs behind Bon Appetit Magazine. There will also be various tastings and demonstrations throughout the week. Exclusive BA Supper Club dinners are available to Visa Signature cardholders only. Visit for more details.

Bon Appetit Supper Club & Cafe
221 W. 57th Street
Between 7th Avenue and Broadway
New York, NY

Monday, October 22, 2007

Weekend Damage

Today officially marks the beginning of yet another attempt not to eat SO much (as opposed to 'diet'). After last Thursday's tapas binge, Friday I kept low-key with a turkey sandwich for dinner, only to derail my turnaround with...
Saturday, lunch: Jalapeno & Cheddar stuffed soft pretzel at Starbucks (I was tutoring and had no other option than to eat what was available at Barnes & Noble)
Saturday, dinner: Hotdog and movie popcorn while catching Gone Baby Gone (hotdog- eh, movie- excellent!)
Sunday, brunch: Truffled eggs on pane pugliese and roasted rosemary potatoes, Bellini at Rue B (Avenue B).
Met my aunt for brunch w/ the beau, who had been here before and recommended the place, and the truffled eggs.
However, they seemed to be having an 'off' day, as service was horribly slow and the eggs were not as wonderful as expected (it also seemed to be lacking bacon as part of the dish, which I swear the menu had promised!). For $12 (brunch + cocktail), here it seems you get what you pay for. The intermittent 80s music couldn't even make up for it!
Sunday, dinner: Wedding dinner for a co-worker friend at aja Asian bistro at 58th and 1st. I wouldn't call the food amazing (many posts on dubbed it a 'wannabe Tao' for the most part), but I ate so much I thought my stomach was literally going to burst. Appetizers included edamame, vegetable dumplings, spring and summer rolls, and peking duck rolls (the best of the rolls), as well as a sushi platter with California, Eel, Shrimp Tempura, and Spicy Tuna rolls. I had the Chilean Sea Bass as a main and the beau had the Mongolian Steak. Both were fine, but not outstanding. Tartufo (2 kinds- vanilla/chocolate and hazelnut) was a surprising ending to the meal (for an Asian bistro). The hazelnut flavor was a nice twist.

Thankfully, there are no big meals on the horizon this week. However, I'm sure that I'll report on some interesting bites on the Scranton trip this weekend!

Rue B
188 Ave B
New York, NY 10009-3627
Phone: (212) 358-1700

1068 First Ave
New York, NY 10022
Phone: (212) 888-8008

Friday, October 19, 2007

Top of the Tapas

Met a friend for a late dinner last night (I had to watch the new episode of The Office first- one day I'll get DVR...) at Las Ramblas on W4th in the Village. It's been unseasonably warm in the city, so we were fine to sit outside at high top on the street, zero wait (Las Ramblas, like most tapas bars, has a no-resy policy). Even though it was late, the restaurant still looked abuzz from the outside; I didn't get the chance to peek around because by that time I was hungry(!) and wanted to focus on the menu.

The food was great, but the thing I will also remember about this place is the great service. Our waitress excitedly explained the specials, all of which we were prepared to order, even after having already selected several plates---the tortilla espanola, chorizo con alubias (chorizo w/ sauteed cannellini beans and onions), piquillos con morcilla (red spanish peppers stuffed with morcilla- a sausage stuffed with pig’s blood, rice, onions and spices- popular in tapas, saffron rice, and manchego cheese), and the boquerones (white marinated Spanish anchovies). We added the following specials: fried shittake mushrooms with tomatoes and aioli(?) (described to us as a Spanish take on french fries) and a sliced duck dish.

The food came out very quickly- we toasted (him a beer, me a medium-bodied Tempranillo) and eagerly descended on the plates first brought before us. The tortilla was first. Though not normally a favorite of mine (it's a squishy, textural thing), I found this tortilla to be sufficiently firm, with thick, warm chunks of potato topped with a mayonnaise- a delicious and different comfort food. Whatever broth the onions, cannellini and chorizo was sauteed in (or maybe it was just the juices from the three ingredients?) was especially good for dipping the rolls which accompanied our meals. The broth was sour, but sour in a good way... it 'woke up' what could have been a bland dish and added a 'bright' flavor.

After finishing our respective apertifs, we ordered a pitcher of Las Ramblas' sparkling strawberry sangria to keep us fueled through the rest of the meal. The boquerones were next-wonderfully briney yet lemony and fresh (I think anchovies are generally underappreciated Stateside, and these were a treat). The shiitake mushrooms were also very good. I generally am not a fan of mushrooms in general--- too earthy and fungi-y for me, but fry them and I'm willing. The batter was light, and the aioli was the perfect, well, oily accompaniment! The piquillos were each placed atop a slice of bread and bursting with morcilla. With each bite, you could taste the assertiveness of the manchego cheese. I have to give credit to our waitress for highly recommending our last plate, the sliced duck. I'm not sure exactly how it was prepared but it was simply tasty.

Though at this point we, like the piquillos, were bursting at the seams, we pushed forward. I was adamant on ending our meal with cheese and roped my dining partner into ordering the plate (you can only have queso by the plate here), which included manchego reserva (aged 12 mo.), tetilla, mahon, and cabrales, and a small plate of tiny green olives. I was a little buzzed by this point, so honestly couldn't distinguish in detail between the tetilla and mahon, and the manchego was good (as usual). The flavor of the cabrales (a blue cheese) was very acute--- the first couple of bites were sharp and enjoyable, and after that, diminishing returns in the form of a saltiness which stuck in your mouth.

We ended the meal with a Grand Marnier Creme Brulee, accidentally brought to the table (he wanted the brulee from the start, and I the cheese- we thought we had settled on one, but the waitress did not catch that part of the conversation). We were fortunate for the mistake, because it was outstanding--- one of the best creme brulees I have ever had(!)--- so different from your typical Tahitian (ironic, isn't it?) vanilla. I couldn't do it justice by describing it here but recommend that you visit Las Ramblas to experience for yourself.

Overall, it was a delicious, casual and fun dining experience which merits a repeat visit.

I left so full I haven't had anything to eat yet today, and it's almost noon :O

Las Ramblas
170 West 4th St (btw. Cornelia & Jones)
Online at:

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Cheap Indian Food--- Cheap Because...You Can't Take It With You

Yesterday I had lunch with a work colleague; we ventured outside the office to a 'hidden' Indian restaurant on Greenwich Avenue. There is a lunch special where the plates range from about $6-$9. It's not what I would call exceptional, but for less than $10 and an excuse to diversify from the usual cafeteria fare, it's worth it. She had the saag paneer, I had the chicken saag (we weren't very adventurous, I admit); we ate about half of our entrees each and when we asked for doggy bags, we were denied. Our server said that they "don't wrap up for lunch", and that the reason they were able to offer lunch special prices was somehow attributed to the fact that they don't do doggy bags. How absurd is that?

If that's the case, next time I go, I am sharing a plate, and they will get only half my business. Less waste, plus more money in my pocket for tomorrow's lunch--- at the office cafeteria.

107 Greenwich Ave
Greenwich, CT 06830

Monday, October 15, 2007

Snack Time: Doritos Collisions!

We stopped for gas on our way up to the reservoir and picked up some snacks at the Mobil Mart. I was in the mood for something salty. Enter Doritos Flavor Collisions- featuring two different Dorito flavors in one bag! (Though this may not seem like a major innovation, because I work in Marketing I would guess that this was probably considered a revolution from the Doritos brand team's perspective.)

I've eaten an entire bag of Doritos in one sitting, so it was in our best interest to grab the 99-cent bag to share. It combined Zesty Taco with Chipotle Ranch-flavored Doritos. Of the two, Zesty Taco was more memorable (definitely zesty, in a good way!) but Chipotle Ranch wasn't far off the mark (it did taste a lot like Cool Ranch--- again, not a bad thing).

Missy Elliot was chosen to help launch Doritos Collisions (also available in Hot Wings & Blue Cheese Flavors)--- the campaign plays off of Elliot's penchant for music mash-ups (combining different styles/genres, not unlike this Doritos proposition of combining flavors). What will those clever Marketing people come up with next? ;)

Food + Foliage

This past weekend the beau and I went on a hot air balloon ride over the Hudson Valley! We had to wake up hella early (me, 40 minutes before departure, him, 5 minutes) and it was freezing, but absolutely worth it! We launched from Sprout Creek Farm and floated over the Taconic Parkway, observing patches of changing leaves, moving fog, and a rising sun. Growing up in the Hudson Valley, there was always amazing foliage; I've only started to really appreciate it now that I don't live at my parents' house and am not surrounded by it daily (instead, I'm surrounded by the concrete jungle of NYC). Now I try to make a dedicated trip each year to see the leaves at their brightest.

After the ride, we stopped by a local farm (Meadowbrook Farm in Wappingers Falls, NY) for apple cider and fresh cider doughnuts. Because we'd been up so early, we snatched up the first fresh dozen of the day. It was absolutely worth being up that early. The doughnuts were warm and chewy (rather than cake-like, as most of us know doughnuts to be) and I could have easily eaten five of them, but limited myself to three ;)

In the afternoon, we drove up near Kingston around the Ashokan reservoir. Because the weather has been kind of funky and summer has kept coming back, the leaves haven't really changed as much as they should have by now. However, there are some pops of color against the rolling hills of green. We arrived at the pedestrian walkway over the reservoir just in time for sunset.

On our way home, we decided to stop for dinner in Rosendale, NY. We decided on Red Brick Tavern, for a casual bite. For an appetizer we had the Chipotle Mango bbq wings- saucy & sticky- just how I like them... and a generous portion (a dozen for about $7) and for mains, the beau went for the Sticky Chicky sandwich (battered chicken cutlet w/prosciuitto and a sticky honey sauce/syrup on a roll) and I had the 'West Coast' pasta (angel hair with olive oil and garlic, with sauteed shrimp, chicken, peppers, eggplant, and sun-dried tomatoes). I was deciding between this and a similar one in a parmesan cream sauce. In an effort to remain healthi-er (than I have been lately), I opted for the West Coast (foregoing the parmesan cream sauce). Unfortunately, the angel hair pasta was less garlicky and oily than I had hoped and more bland and watery. I also thought that both chicken AND shrimp was a little ambitious--- I would have focused on either shrimp or chicken only. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Red Brick had more to offer than just the standard pub eats and was nearly full after my share of the Chipotle Mango wings anyway.

Later that night I met with girlfriends, one of whom brought an apple pie she had made with apples she picked at a local farm. The apples were delightfully tart and the crust crunchy and flaky. I went to bed late, but very full and quite content!

Meadowbrook Farm
29 Old Myers Corners Rd.
Wappingers Falls, NY 12590

Red Brick Tavern
388 Main Street (Route 213)
Rosendale, NY 12472