food, recipes

Jalapeno Cheddar Biscuits

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How did you guys fare in the blizzard? My roommate and I journeyed to the florist to buy roses and hydrangeas to freshen up our apartment, which looks so desolate during the winter months. Then, we baked these heavenly jalapeno cheddar biscuits and gobbled them down while working from home. I adapted a very simple recipe from Cooking for Keeps and the results were too good to be true.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter, shredded or cut into small cubes
  • 1 cup half and half, plus more for brushing
  • 1 ½ cups shredded jalapeno cheddar cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Whisk flour, baking power and salt together. Mix in 1 cup cheese until combined. Quickly mix in butter.
  3. Pour in milk and mix just until combine.
  4. Dump mixture out onto a lightly floured board. Knead once or twice until the dough comes together.
  5. Using hands, quickly press dough into a rectangle, ½ inch thick.
  6. Make biscuits, pressing down and then pressing up quickly. I used a regular drinking glass for this.
  7. Use scraps to make more biscuits until none is left.
  8. Line on a baking sheet lined with a silt pad.
  9. Brush milk on top of biscuits and then sprinkle evenly with remaining cheese.
  10. Bake until golden brown and cooked through, about 15-18 minutes.
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food

Most Romantic Restaurants for Valentine’s Day

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Valentine’s Day is just a few weeks away, and for us New Yorkers, that means jumping on a reservation before every restaurant is fully booked for the night that tests mankind’s romantic prowess. For the first post of my Valentine’s series, I’ve compiled my ten favorite restaurants, plus one dessert spot, in New York that would win anyone’s heart, plus nine more places that my friends have raved about. I know there’s an exorbitant amount of Italian places on this list but what’s more romantic than sharing heart-shaped ravioli while staring into your partner’s eyes over a single flickering candle lighting your table?

  1. ScarpettaChelsea, $95 prix-fixe Valentine’s Menu
  • Upscale Italian with small but perfectly prepared portions and the most utterly spectacular bread basket I’ve ever laid my teeth on. I couldn’t believe the sweet rolls filled with creamy cheeses and buttery salami was FREE.
  1. Scalini Fedeli, Tribeca, $75 prix-fixe or $115 tasting menu (Valentine’s menu TBD)
  • Romantic Italian (see my review here)
  1. Brushstroke, Tribeca, $135 tasting menu (Valentine’s menu TBD)
  • The best sushi I’ve had in New York with a great in-house sommelier. Avoid if you’ve got any after-dinner plans though because my meal (which also happened to be my first date with Dan :) was almost 3 hours long!
  1. Il Buco Alimentari and Vineria, Soho, $30-$50 per person (Valentine’s menu TBD)
  • Rustic Italian with great pork dishes from their spectacular house-cured salami platter to the Porchatta alla Romana, a fatty pork loin fried to a crispy perfection. Skip the Cacio e Pepe though if like me, you despise pasta al dente.
  1. Perry St, West Village, $108 prix-fixe Valentine’s menu
  • Jean Georges gem that serves clean and classic American food in an equally clean and classic setting (see my review here).
  1. Morimoto, Chelsea/Meatpacking, $40-$70 per person (Valentine’s menu TBD)
  • Substantial portions of contemporary Asian food (see my review here)
  1. Txikito, Chelsea, $20-$40 per person (Valentine’s menu TBD)
  • Authentic Basque tapas with a gazillion choices. I personally loved the Txitxiki, a chorizo hash sandwich, and the Albondigas, or mint-infused lamb meatballs, the best.
  1. Wolfgang’s, Various locations in Midtown/Tribeca, $100-$150 per person (Valentine’s menu TBD)
  • Classic steakhouse with premium cuts and a variety of great staple side dishes like creamed spinach and baked potatoes. Also, the Canadian-cut bacon is to-die-for. Dan took me to the Bryan Park location on our second date :)
  1. Locanda Verde, Tribeca, $85 prix-fixe Valentine’s menu
  • Urban Italian in the heart of Tribeca, where Locanda Verde serves great pasta dishes. Warning: the fire roasted garlic chicken takes forever to make.
  1. Candle Cafe West, Upper West, $20-$30 per person (Valentine’s menu TBD)
  • Calling all vegan sweethearts in New York! I was vegan for a year (don’t ask me how I did it) and this place was a godsend. Even my non-vegan friends at the time thought the food was incredible.
  1. Max Brenner, Union Square, $10-$30 per person
  • I definitely wouldn’t recommend getting dinner here, but do go for dessert if you can manage to get a table. I’m a big fan of their crepe brulees, served with a variety of ice creams, chocolate smores sundae, and the classic European fondue for two.
  1. Isola, Soho, $30-$50 per person (Valentine’s menu TBD)
  • Coastal Italian food influenced by Sicily, the Amalfi Coast and the Italian Rivera. My friend says it’s “SUPER romantic and fuckin delicious” which is all you can really ask for on Valentine’s Day, right?
  1. Trattoria Il Mulino, Flatiron, $40-$60 (Valentine’s menu TBD)
  • If you happen to choose this place for your date then come by my table and say hi! Dan and I have this Il Mulino New York spin-off reserved for our Valentine’s Day and we can’t wait to try sausage pizza with broccoli rabe and porcini ravioli with a creamy champagne truffle sauce.
  1. Marc Forgione, Tribeca, $30-$60 per person, (Valentine’s menu TBD)
  • Another rustic, barn-like Italian restaurant with classic dishes like chicken under a brick. Dan’s brother recommends grabbing a seat along the rustic, wooden shelves, which almost resemble a fireplace under the candle lanterns hanging from the ceiling.
  1. Balthazar, Nolita, $40-$60 per person (Valentine’s menu TBD)
  • My co-worker calls this place a “loud and happening French bistro” where people adore the ginormous three-tiered oyster and shellfish appetizer platter. Try the goat cheese and caramelized onion tart if you prefer something more warm and savory to start your meal with.
  1. Buvette, West Village, $20-$40 per person
  • It’s like stepping inside a timeless little French bistro. No surprise the other location is in Paris.
  1. Bouley, Tribeca, $240 for 6 course tasting menu
  • Splureworthy French with impeccable service and Michelin star demanding food. Think Jean Georges, Eleven Madison Park, and Per Se kind of dining.
  1. Blue Hill, Greenwich Village, $85 for 3 course “Farmer’s Feast” menu (Valentine’s menu TBD)
  • Countryside saloon meet metropolitan Manhattan. Blue Hill focuses on season, local produce. Like really local. As in grown in Pocantico Hill, New York, where Blue Hill has their very own manure shed to make hot compost kind of local.
  1. Toqueville, Union Square, $125 prix-fixe Valentine’s menu
  • Contemporary French with hints of Asia and California influencing the menu
  1. Aquavit, Midtown East, $85 prix-fixe menu (Valentine’s menu TBD)
  • World renown Scandivanian food in a modern, minimalist setting. Don’t forget to try their famous hay-smoked Gravlax.

Photo by Emily McDowell

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food, restaurant reviews

The Lowdown on Morimoto

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Where: Chelsea/Meatpacking

S&S Rating: 8/10

Zagat Rating: 26

Price: $40-$70 per person

Good For

  • Dining with friends: How often do you find a Japanese restaurant with substantial enough portions that you’re actually willing to share? In fact, I once had the most marvelous girls-night-out dinner at the Philly location with two friends before we headed to an art gallery party next door.
  • First dates: Beautiful modern décor and sophisticated food presentation make Morimoto a great place to take your potential new beau or belle. Just enough diners that it’s not the two of you sitting in an awkwardly empty and silent room, but not so many people that you can’t hear the funny joke your date just tried to win your heart with.

Bad For

  • Families: The ambiance is really made for trendy city-goers, and not babies, as cute as they may be.
  • Sushi connoisseurs: See below.

Don’t Miss

  • Rock Shrimp Tempura: I’ve ordered this dish at a dozen other Asian establishments before and nowhere comes close to beating Morimoto’s tempura-dipped shrimp that’s deep fried then drenched in a tangy chili sauce (steer clear dieters!). Large enough to share between three people, it’s the perfect appetizer to start your meal with.
  • Duck Duck Duck: Duck confit fried rice topped with a duck egg and served alongside succulent roast duck breast makes this one of my all-time favorite meals. Best part? There’s so much food that I actually had leftovers (that never happens to me…) which I ate for breakfast the next day. Yes, for breakfast. Duck deserves a spot at every meal.
  • Kakuni: Translates into “square simmered,” which connotes the giant cube of pork that’s been braised for 10 hours in a sweet soy and scallion jus.  Served atop a savory rice porridge, this traditional Japanese dish also has roots in China, where it’s braised in red wine and called “dongpo rou.”
  • Mary Jane brownie: Yup, that’s a brownie topped with candied hemp seeds. I liked that the hemp flavor was definitely noticeable, even when combined with the decadent kinako (or soybean flour) ice cream.

Skip On

  • Australian Wagyu Steak: As my boyfriend put it, “I could’ve made this better at home.” The marinade tasted like pure butter and nothing else.
  • Sushi set: The quality of fish was considerably underwhelming, which wasn’t surprising considering the sushi menu comprises mostly of Americanized rolls that drown out the taste of the actual fish with western ingredients like spicy mayo. Try Sushi Yasuda (see my review here) or Brushstroke if you’re looking for authentic sushi.
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food, restaurant reviews

The Lowdown on Union Square Cafe

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Where: Union Square

S&S Rating: 5/10

Zagat Rating: 27

Price: $20-$30 per dish

Good For

  • Intimate Italian meals
  • Not much else: I honestly think you can find way better Italian places in the city for these prices.

Bad For

  • Hungry patrons: Expect reasonably small portions. I actually ate an entire bratwurst at the Union Square Holiday Market afterwards because I wasn’t full enough.
  • The claustrophobic: Like at most Italian restaurants, you’re squeezed into a tiny table between dozens of other likewise tiny tables.

Don’t Miss

  • Butternut squash tortelli, which is basically like ravioli filled with creamy sage brown butter and savory butternut squash, then topped with tart cranberries
  • Apple cinnamon donut for curbing pastry cravings

Skip On

  • USC Hangtown Fry, which is an omelette topped with fried oysters and mixed greens. After trying this dish, I’ve decided once and for all that oysters are meant to be eaten raw and drizzled with lemon juice, not fried to a gooey mush.
  • Bread basket: warm bread, soft butter. How hard is that for restaurants to understand?
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food, restaurant reviews

The Lowdown on Sushi Yasuda

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Where: Midtown East

S&S Rating: 7.5/10

Zagat Rating: 27

Price: $100 per person. There’s an Omakase menu, named after the Japanese phrase for “I’ll leave it to you,” where the chef chooses what he thinks are the best selections for the night. The price depends on what kind of fish is served, but ours, which seemed pretty standard, was about $85 per person. Appetitzers are around $10 to $20. One piece of à la carte sushi ranges from $4 to $6.

Good For

  • Special date nights
  • Nice dinner with your parents

Bad For

  • Big groups since the best seat is at the sushi bar, where food is served straight from the chefs’ hands to your plate and you can watch them at work
  • Families- see above; plus it was eerily quiet in the restaurant so I wouldn’t recommend bringing any loud little ones

Don’t Miss

  • Appetizer specials of the night- we had the grilled Chilean sea bass and the flash fried tuna, which were great alternatives to raw fish
  • Octopus sashimi
  • Fatty tuna nigiri

Skip On

  • Branzino sashimi or nigiri- I’m a fan of buttery, melt-in-your-mouth fish like fatty tuna so the tough, raw Branzino didn’t do anything for me. You can always tell the Chef not to include a certain fish, so I would recommend leaving out any Branzino from your Omakase order and going for something more tender instead.
  • Sea urchin nigiri, which is made from the sea urchin’s gonads (aka the equivalent of my ovaries). Maybe it’s an accustomed taste, but I wasn’t a fan of the super slimy texture.

Top image by NY Times (since we unfortunately couldn’t get seats at the sushi bar in time)

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food, recipes

Tis the Season for Fudge

What is it about the dreadful winter cold and the festive holiday lights everywhere that makes you want to devour pounds and pounds of fudge? I made two different kinds last week and wanted to share the recipes for them.

First is a nutella fudge, which is perfectly rich and creamy.

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Second is a white chocolate peppermint fudge. Just a warning though: this had a texture that was more like chocolate bark than fudge, but still delicious nonetheless.

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