Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy where I moved to in New Jersey, but living in Jersey in general makes me crave the New York experience like nothing else. After settling in at my new digs, I knew I had to make a trip into the city. It was time. On a recent Saturday night I headed out to Bayside, Queens, for a fabulous night of celebrating the birth of my friend Eric and reuniting with many old college friends I hadn’t seen in years.
But Sunday means brunch, and after stumbling around for a couple of hours after I woke up I ventured in to Astoria to celebrate yet another birthday—this time for a fabulous lady named Cassi. This celebration, however, revolved primarily around eggs and hashbrowns rather than the previous nights’ debauchery of drinks, food, a DJ, hot tub, pool, and bottle of Jim Beam.
Brunch was at Vesta. I stumbled out of the cab, still half in the bag, and into a nice, small restaurant located at 21-02 30th Avenue in Astoria, Queens, NY.
The lovely ladies who greeted me were my sister’s friends, and I was so happy to be able to celebrate with them. I sat. We chatted. We laughed. We waited for the other girls to show up. Unfortunately there was not a Bloody Mary in sight. I’d been craving hair of the dog since I woke up, so I settled for a mimosa, which was still quite delightful.
We were all so hungry as we waited for the last lady to join us that we decided to order a Hangover Pizza in the meantime. The pizza was out of this world. It was ultra-thin crust with potatoes, pancetta, sausage, fried eggs, and spicy tomato sauce. We dove in with gusto and devoured this culinary gift to those who partied too hard the night before. The yolk of the eggs oozed out over the hearty pizza and it was a short time before we’d finished the whole thing. This pizza was what everyone hopes to get out of brunch but too often has to settle for simple eggs and toast. Not that there’s anything wrong with eggs and toast, but when you know that a Hangover Pizza exists, nothing else will ever suffice.
I really wanted a Warm Bankie (fried eggs with polenta, asparagus, mushrooms, and truffle oil), but when I ordered it the server informed us that they were out of polenta and not making the dish that day. I contemplated asking them if they could just substitute bacon for the polenta, but instead I opted for the L’Italiano, which consisted of poached eggs, grilled Italian bread, hot sopressata, and ricotta. Damn. It was good. The yellow yolk oozed out over the sopressata and ricotta, which was spread thin on the grilled Italian bread. Every bite was hearty and satisfying with that rustic quality that meats like sopressata embody. The hashbrowns that accompanied it were also delicious.
As our breakfast plates were pulled away the server presented us with dessert menus. We groaned in our inability to eat anything more, but Kathleen looked at us all with a devilish smile and sparkle in her eye and suggested the chocolate ganache. We couldn’t resist, and I’m so glad we couldn’t. The chocolate gananche was decadent and rich, with a drizzle of caramel, and that nice element of salt with a sprinkling of peanuts. This is exactly what a candy bar should taste like. Luscious chocolate, sticky caramel, and salty peanuts. It was like a Snickers, but so much better. It also came with fresh whipped cream, which just makes everything in life seem more bright.
The menu at Vesta changes with the season so don’t expect to be able to get these exact dishes when you go there. Just be prepared for a fantastic meal based on exceptional, local ingredients paired with a nice selection of wine and wine-based drinks. Enjoy!
Thursday, September 30, 2010
This is my last Portland post, which makes me a bit sad, but so it goes. Well, it’s my last Portland, Oregon, post…from this trip anyways. And since I’m writing this while sitting in a lovely house in Portland, Maine (another foodie city), there will many more tasty posts to follow...
But back to Oregon. Before taking a red eye home to New York State, I spent my last evening in Portland at the fantastic MetroVino in the Pearl District.
MetroVino was suggested to me back in July when I mentioned to a couple in Albany that I was going to Portland and that I wanted to go out for at least one fancy and decadent dinner during my trip. They immediately began gushing about MetroVino, and it turned out that the executive chef happened to be one of their cousins. Score. I scoped out the menu online and knew that I had to make it happen. Everything sounded so delicious, and the extensive wine list tempted me all the way from across the country.
On a Saturday night we stepped into MetroVino in style. The restaurant was sleek, elegant, and inviting. We were seated at a spacious table and within a few minutes our server brought us a special little amuse-bouche sent out by Chef Gregory Denton. There was apricot, avocado, and even a little piece of popcorn. I loved the mix of salty, savory, and sweet, and the playfulness of the presentation was delightful. Shortly after that Chef Greg came by to say hello. There’s nothing like meeting a chef to make a foodie happy.
As I looked over the wine and bar menu I wanted to try everything. Wouldn’t you want to taste a Pink Lady (Plymouth Gin, applejack, lemon, egg white, and grenadine, served straight up), a Dark and Stormy (Gosling Dark Rum, Cock & Bull ginger beer, served on the rocks), or a Cucumber Caipirosca (Stoli Citron, lemon, and cucumber, served on the rocks)? All the cocktails sounded fantastic, but we went for the wine.
MetroVino has an exceptional wine selection, which was actually quite daunting. How does one choose when everything sounds so amazing? Thank goodness for text messaging—we soon had Cam’s suggestion for an exquisite Bordeaux.
And by exquisite I mean expensive.
The wine was a 1988 Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, St. Julien Second Growth Bordeaux from France. It was $14 for a tasting glass. Yes, that’s right—$14 for 1.75 ounces of wine. It was totally worth it. A whole bottle was $210. Maybe someday I’ll be baller enough to afford a $210 bottle of wine, but I’m not there yet.
It tasted amazing when it arrived at the table, but our server encouraged us to let it open up. So we sipped on the tasting glass throughout the meal. Every sip yielded a different taste. The flavors really did evolve and deepen over the meal. There aren’t enough adjectives to describe such a lovely wine, but some that kind to mind are “deep-colored, powerful, ripe, exquisitely well-balanced and perfectly harmonious.” Okay, I just lifted that off the winery's Web site, but the description really is spot on.
But 1.75 ounces of wine is not enough for two people, and even though that Dark and Stormy was tempting me on the cocktail menu, wine just seemed more appropriate. We selected a bottle of 2007 Charles Joguet Chinon Cuvee Terroir from Loire Valley, France. Although it was perhaps not on the same level as the Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, it was still a superb Bordeaux. This delightful red wine paired perfectly with our delicious dinner.
Even though we’d gotten oysters the day before I couldn’t resist getting more succulent, buttery West Coast oysters. We hadn’t discussed getting an appetizer but when the server asked if we wanted one, I just said yeah, let’s do this. Oysters for both of us. They came out in little serving spoons, already removed from the shell. Each oyster was prepared with a different sauce. One had cucumber mignonette, another came with ponzu wasabi, and last was with horseradish cocktail sauce. Each had that lovely ocean taste, and the different preparations brought out different layers of flavor of the oyster. They were all excellent.
I ordered a special, and I’m not quite sure if this covers all the components, but there was lamb, sage gnocci, zucchini, and pine nuts. The lamb just melted in my mouth. I simply love the taste of baby animals. Can you say decadent? Yes, please.
At one point I took a bite of crispy sage and literally stopped paying attention to the world around me as I sat back and appreciated the culinary experience going on in my mouth.
Adam ordered the grilled maple-brined pork chop with crispy roasted chile polenta, hazelnut chimichurri, tomatoes, and padron peppers. Again, the dish was amazing. I’m not usually a big fan of polenta, but this preparation was perfect. I mean, just look at that picture. How could there be anything wrong with this dish? All the flavors complemented each other like magic. Wonderful.
MetroVino has the kind of food where every little taste makes you smile…and stop mid-sentence just to appreciate the delicate layering of flavors in each mouthful. Each bite of dinner was exceptional. The wine was exquisite. It was the perfect way to end my trip to Portland.
And so, with a satiated stomach, a refreshed soul, and a half a bottle of red wine flowing through me, I boarded my plane, looked out at the night sky, and bid the West Coast adieu…but it won't be long before I return.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
My last shindig before leaving the Albany area was a bacon party. I got the idea one day when Natasha and I were texting each other about bacon. Yes, we periodically text each other about our love for bacon. That's just how how we roll.
So we were texting, and then it hit me--we need to have a bacon party. Of course Natasha agreed. What better way to say goodbye to Albany than with bacon?
The first thing that came to mind was my famous plate of bacon. As usual I opted for my favorite yet affordable bacon--Coleman's natural, nitrate-free, thick-cut, hickory-smoked bacon. I took a serving platter I'd been given as a graduation present and filled it up with the crispy and salty cured meat. Tara made sweet and savory dipping sauces, just in case we needed to add a little flavor to the bacon.
I was inspired to make bacon sushi. I hadn't made sushi in several years, but I've always been pretty skilled at rolling things up, so I thought I'd at least give it a shot. Inside the roll was cooked bacon, raw ahi tuna, and avocado. It was all wrapped up in sushi rice and seaweed paper. I drizzled a spicy mayonnaise sauce on top since I figured the sushi would already be salty enough with the bacon and that soy sauce might be over the top with saltiness. My only regret? I didn't pick up any wasabi or pickled ginger, which would have made a nice accompaniment.
Next up on the menu was bacon and beef dumplings. Dumplings are one of my signature dishes, and I would make them a lot more if they weren't so time consuming. I basically made them the same way as always except I added little pieces of bacon into the filling. I started with a mixture of raw beef, cooked bacon, mushrooms, scallions, ginger, and garlic. Then I placed little spoonfuls inside of wonton wrappers and brought the corners up, pinching them in the center to form little packets of gloriousness. I steamed them in the bamboo steamer until the beef cooked through and served them with a mixture of soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, scallions, ginger, and garlic.
Originally I just planned on making two dishes in addition to the plate of bacon, but sometimes when my food imagination gets going it just can't stop. As I was planning out the recipes for the sushi and dumplings I got another great idea. Sticking with the Asian theme I also decided to make bacon and shrimp egg rolls. For the egg rolls I grilled some shrimp, took a couple pieces of bacon, added some pre-made broccoli slaw and wrapped it all up in an egg-roll wrapper. I fried them up, nice and golden crispy, and served them with a sauce I made that was somewhere in between the standard sweet duck sauce served at restaurants and the more biting Vietnamese nuoc mam sauce.
Dishes from other guests included bacon-wrapped drumsticks (remove the skin, wrap in bacon, and bake), bacon-wrapped peppers, bacon muffins, and a broccoli salad with bacon. Well, we had to have a vegetable in there somewhere. I also set out a platter of veggies and ranch dipping sauce and some potato chips, but since these were not bacon related, they were relegated to a table far away from the bacon table.
We also attempted to play a game of Mr. Bacon's Big Adventure where you have to navigate your piece through Sausage Sea and Meatball Meadows while trying to avoid the dreaded Vegan Alley. But then we got too distracted eating bacon and the game fell by the wayside.
Overall the bacon party was a success, but just as a warning to other bacon partiers--it can be very dehydrating to consume that much bacon, especially when drinking alcohol as well. So be sure to drink plenty of water otherwise you might have a baconover the next day and wake up very, very thirsty.
After cooking so much bacon in my old apartment I'm pretty sure that to this day it's still got to have a little bacon scent lingering to welcome the next tenants. Hopefully they're not vegetarians!
Monday, September 20, 2010
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
"Is your middle name 'honey-baked'? Have you ever thought about, for show business, changing your name from Jon Hamm to something like 'Jon Sausage' or 'Stewart Turkey Link'?"
Zach Galifianakis: Guess what I had for breakfast?
Ben Stiller: Egg yellows?
Zach Galifianakis: Two waffles and a pancake.
Monday, September 13, 2010
I just got word that my recipe for latkes, which I posted last December, will be published in The Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook!
Hopefully this will be the first of much of my work to be put to the presses. Thanks to all my faithful readers.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
"No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers."
Thursday, September 9, 2010
After my post back in June expressing my desire to go to Voodoo Doughnut in Portland and try out their famous bacon maple doughnut some of you may be eagerly awaiting a post on these exquisite little gems of baked goodness.
Well, sorry to disappoint, but it just didn't happen. I feel like a foodie failure, but I just didn't make it there. Oh, I was in the area…several times. But I was waiting for the perfect moment--I didn't want to rush what was sure to be love at first bite.
I contemplated making up a whole story about how great they were and just giving the readers what they want. I could claim the doughnuts were light and yet rich, the maple frosting sweet and decadent, and the bacon glorious and savory. But I just can't do it.
So here's what really happened. On my last day in Portland, after a fantastic lunch at Pok Pok and on our way to an out-of-this-world delicious dinner at MetroVino, we thought we could sneak in a quick stop at Voodoo Doughnut. I even hoped to snag an extra one to bring back for my bacon loving friend Natasha (come on, what are friends for except clogging arteries?). That is, until we saw the line out the door. Seven p.m. on a Saturday and, yes, the line extended out the door and down the sidewalk. It was nearly as hopping as the DMV had been that morning (another necessary stop for anyone visiting the Portland area).
When I saw the line I threw in the towel. Screw the doughnuts and their bacon and maple deliciousness. It was not going to happen. So…next time?
Ok, you've heard it oh so many times from me, but I love oysters. Simply adore them. Could eat them every day for the rest of my life and be satisfied. They are my absolute favorite food. Pure, clean, unadulterated, sexy, slippery oysters. I think you get the picture.
My trip to Oregon would have fallen short had I not made it to the coast. I'm an ocean girl--it's where I feel the most at home, so I was thankful that on my second-to-last day in Oregon we made it out to the coast and Ecola State Park (see the final scene of the Goonies). There was crashing waves, wind blowing sand everywhere, a delicious picnic complete with my famous chicken, more Rogue beer, and salty air. It was rough and rugged, just like I'd imagined it.
But then came the oysters. Oh, these oysters were something else. I had tried a West Coast oyster when I visited Fish in New York City early in the summer, and although it was fabulous, these oysters took it to a whole new level.
We cruised down the coast in search of a spot that was supposed to be fantastic. With our eyes peeled for looming piles of oyster shells--the telltale signs of a good oyster joint--we began to wonder if we'd missed it. So we stopped at a little shop and went inside to ask. As soon as we told a local we were looking for a spot that was supposed to be great and had big piles of oyster shells outside, his eyes lit up and he became animated, telling us to just continue down the road for five minutes. Sweet.
And then there it was. A little shack-like looking building on the side of the road with multiple piles of oyster shells. It turns out that it was a restaurant of the Pacific Seafood company. We went inside and ordered a dozen to share between us. It was a very nondescript restaurant--bare white walls, a seafood counter of fresh fish and shellfish, and simple tables with everyday people enjoying very basic meals.
The oysters--I'm pretty sure they were Kumamotos--were huge. A little lady behind the counter cracked into them with ease, revealing the gleaming, glistening, silvery gems inside. The taste put them right up at the top of my favorite oysters list.
They were superbly sensual and creamy, each one a little piece of decadent heaven. Oysters are supposed to be aphrodisiacs, but I've never experienced something like this before. One word: Phenomenal. Simply phenomenal.
Although I'm a northeasterner, I think the Pacific ocean may be where it's at when it comes to oysters. Like so many other things about Oregon I just couldn't get enough--and these sexy, succulent oysters are definitely worth the trip.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Sunday, September 5, 2010
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
As I've mentioned before, I've been on a trend the last couple of years towards drinking wine rather than beer, but being in Portland it was hard to resist the plethora of microbrews. One of my favorite (actually, perhaps my most favorite) microbreweries is Rogue, and I just happened to be in the heart of Rogue country. I knew my trip to Portland wouldn't be complete without a few pints of tasty Rogue beer.
After spending three hours in Powell's Books, which is heaven to a bibliophilia like myself, and a little thrift-store shopping, I headed over to the Rogue Distillery and Public House in the Pearl District. It was a lovely day, and I managed to snag a table outside. As I glanced at the menu of various beers, as well as the food menu, I made the decision to ball out and get whatever I wanted regardless of the price. In fact, I didn't even look at the prices for anything. This was a theme I'd carried throughout my whole trip to Portland--my bank account suffered, but my soul and stomach were very satisfied. It was all worth it.
I began with a pint of Juniper Pale Ale. It was nice and light with uplifting and lingering flavors of Juniper. It is definitely one of my favorite Rouge ales, and to enjoy it at a real Rogue location was simply…awesome.
In addition to the Juniper Pale Ale I ordered the Spruce Gin Oyster Shooter appetizer. It was a shot of two northwestern oysters with a cocktail sauce made of Rogue Spruce Gin, tangerine, lemon, grains of paradise, horseradish, and coriander with fresh lemon. The oysters were soft, slippery, and buttery. The cocktail sauce was exquisite, and it all paired beautifully with the Juniper Pale Ale.
Next I opted for the Dry Hopped Saint Rogue Red, which I had never tried before. It was not overly hoppy but instead had just the right amount. It was a lovely light reddish-amber color. Delightful.
I wanted a burger. Bad. Wandering around Powell's on an empty stomach made me ridiculously hungry, but I knew if I got what was sure to the phenomenal half-pound Kobe burger on the menu I would be super sleepy with the itis, and it was still fairly early in the afternoon. I also wanted to leave as much room for beer as possible, so instead I went for the Kobe slider. It was so cute and tiny and was served on a teeny bun with wasabi mayonnaise.
When I bit into the slider I could literally taste the massages that the cows had received. It was tasty and certainly satisfied my burger craving. I also grabbed a plate of salty and crispy fries with ranch dipping sauce to snack on since I figured I'd be there for a while.
I sat. I wrote. I drank. I ate. I drank more. Next up was the Morimoto Soba Ale. This ale may be my absolute favorite Rogue ale, though it's just so hard to choose a fav. It was very light and refreshing and was perfect for a sunny, warm day (yes, Portland does have sunny days!).
As I sipped on my brews I heard the server at the next table over telling the customers they could become Rogue Nation Citizens. My curiosity was piqued. When my own server came over I asked her about it, and she told me I could get 10% off my pints if I became a citizen. There are other perks as well, such as a free beer and t-shirt on your birthday (Note to self: Go back to the West Coast and get to a Rogue pub on birthday). I was sold and filled out the paperwork. When she showed up with a camera I was surprised but simply grabbed my beer, posed, and smiled pretty for the camera. It's official. I actually have an ID card for Rogue. Score.
I had planned on getting one more pint, but my stomach was getting full, the sun was starting to set, and I had to get back to Southeast Portland. So naturally I grabbed a bottle of Somer Orange Honey Ale to go so I could drink it later. I also couldn't resist the Rogue Spruce Gin. I'm a gin girl. It's been my liquor of choice for a while, and the description sounded simply amazing. I hadn't known before that Rogue made spirits, but I'm so happy to have made the discovery. The fourteen ingredients in this gin included spruce, cucumber, angelica root, orange peel, coriander, lemon peel, ginger, orris root, grains of paradise, tangerine, juniper berries, champagne yeast, grain neutral spirit, and "free range" coastal water.
That night we made some of the most phenomenal gin and tonics I've ever had. Now if I can only find out where to buy Rogue Spruce Gin in northern New Jersey…
If you love good beer, do yourself a favor and check out Rogue. You can pick it up at most beer distributors, even if you're on the East Coast. The cost is a little higher than other varieties, but it's worth it…every time.
Dare * Risk * Dream!