Tuesday, January 01, 2013

2012 in Food

2012 was a big travel year for us - we started the year in India and finished it traveling the west coast of the US. In between, we visited Yellowstone, Puerto Rico, New Orleans and a few other destinations. This provided us with a rare opportunity to try out multiple cuisines and restaurants around the country. Given that both of us enjoy food, we made very good use of our travels to try and sample as much local food as we could, and check out a couple of fine dining destinations as well. And while we were at home we spent the time meeting friends and family and enjoying good food and wine, as well.

No trip to Chennai, India can be considered complete without a mandatory stop to Murugan Idli Kadai - with those yummy idlis and multiple awesome chutneys. Since A was visiting after a couple of years, we had an invite to what seemed like every house in the city, which meant a week of non stop biriyani and sweets. Amazing!

In London, we were thralled by the coffee culture. Their strong and short cup of coffee leaves the american version far far behind. We loved Monmouth coffee company with its drip coffee process setup behind glass counter.

At the Borough market in London, we sampled a lot of local food - the sandwich at The Roast stall in the market is to die for. We wished we could spend a few more hungry days there - just look at the cheese below!

April rolled in with A's bday, our new apartment and much awaited spring. These provided more than enough occasion to dust out the baking pans and whip up some dessert.

In May, I finally graduated from B-school after three grueling years and we celebrated at David Burke Townhouse  in NYC, where I consider the whole meal to be a stage for their dessert grand finale.

2012 finally made our dream trip to Yellowstone a reality - D, A and I had a blast wildlife watching and I had my first taste of a bison burger (not made from the bison below!)

Summer also brought with it ample opportunity to barbecue and use up our CSA abundance, with an all time fave being Kale chips.

In his usual style, A made me a fantabulous b'day cake and bowled me over by giving me a surprise gift to attend bread making classes in Le Pain Quotidien, NYC

In Providence, RI our starving selves were completely satisfied at Los Andes - a great restaurant with live (loud) music and in Newport, RI, we tried great clams at Flo's clam shack and an amazing Sunday brunch at the Clarke Cooke House (ps - try the eggs benedict) - which has a great view of the bay.

It was Lobster time again in August courtesy of B and her wonderful parents in Vinal Haven, Maine coincidentally during the same week as the Maine Lobster festival

Towards the end of summer, we headed ourselves south to Puerto Rico to snorkel, zip line and just laze around in the warm sun and blue sea.  We obviously had to try the mofongos in the Luquillo kiosks, but we also came across a curious lollipop better known as pilones.

Things quieted down a bit towards the end of summer but we picked up our travel again when Fall arrived and we headed to B's parents' lake house in Vermont. We were incredibly thrilled to not only try loads of butter and cheese from Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery, but we also got to tour the facilities. And we returned home with enough butter and cheese, not to mention the fab cheese board to last us a few parties and more :)

Our much awaited NOLA trip happened after thanksgiving (and the great pecan pie). Words really cannot describe the great foodie experience in New Orleans - the music and the food was uplifting to body and soul. 

The banana foster breakfast is a must to start the day off right in NOLA and we had ours at Ruby Slipper. 

'A' convinced me that no trip to Bourbon street is complete without the Hand Grenade, but I wasn't convinced - I preferred the hurricane at the Lafitte's Blacksmith shop bar

But both of us did become BIG fans of the beignet and coffee at the Cafe Du Monde

Our big brunch in New Orleans was at Commander's Palace in the Garden district - the turtle soup spiked with sherry was definitely the star there, assisted greatly by the gumbo.

We ended the year with a week long trip traveling from San Diego to Las Vegas via Death Valley National Park. The serene and beautiful park was great this time of the year. In San Diego, we hit Searsucker at gas lamp quarters and picked up a decadent dark chocolate cup cake at Sprinkles in La Jolla.

Christmas eve brought us to Tom Colicchio's table at Craftsteak in MGM, Las Vegas.  We also remembered to stop by Thomas Keller's Bouchon bakery for a quick macaron fix and at Todd English's PUB for some great sliders. 

After such great food and christmas cookies over the holidays, I could not resist a last dessert, and mini chocolate chip caramel bundts sweetened the end of 2012.

Wow! 2012 was definitely an amazing food year.
Happy new year!

Thursday, June 07, 2012

CSA - Week 1

When D mentioned that she joined a CSA farm share in NYC, we were so excited at the concept that I had to find a local one for us as well. CSA is Community Supported Agriculture, where a local farm grows and harvest fruits and veggies on behalf of the CSA members and the harvest is shared among the members. Some CSA memberships also need the members to work for a few hours in the farm. D's did not and ideally I was looking for the same. Browsing through all the options in NJ (and there are loads), I decided to go with Griggstown Farm. They seem to be supporting CSA for quite a while now, have a lot of members and a very interesting list of harvests. The membership lasts for about 20 weeks from June through October and offered as a full and half share. Of course, we picked the half share (which is also turning out to be a lot of food!). In addition to all the benefits that everyone talks about, CSA personally allows me to try out veggies that I otherwise would not, thus expanding my food horizon and forces me to cook innovatively so that A and I (and D) don't cringe at the dinner menu.

The first week offered a whole bulk load of green leafy vegetables - most of which had never set foot (figurative foot) in our house ever before. Arugula, Kale, Lettuce and Chards suddenly became the rulers of my refrigerator and I had to think very hard for ways to incorporate these veggies in our eating routine.

CSA haul - week 1

Arugula was easy - I made a salad with chopped arugula, thinly sliced apple, grape tomatoes, Parmesan cheese and some raspberry vinaigrette that was chilling in the fridge (see the pun here?)

Then came Kale - I tossed kale leaves in olive oil, salt and pepper and left them in a 250F oven for about 20 minutes for some crispy kale chips. They don't look it, but were quite tasty and the three of us ate the whole bowl of goodness (!!)

Kale chips 

I convinced A to throw in some Collard leaves and of course the cilantro, into his cabbage kootu, which was a big hit.

The broccoli, scallions and bok choy went into a veggie stir fry along with some mushrooms and paneer. I made the stir fry with lost of ginger, soy sauce and some hot sauce and paired it with fried rice.

The lettuce went into another salad with sliced pears, heirloom tomatoes, feta cheese and more raspberry vinaigrette.

And finally, I used the sage, oregano, thyme, swiss chard, collard leaves and more broccoli for a Pasta dish last night.

Phew! that was tough. I still have the purple cauliflower and radishes sitting in my fridge tray. And meanwhile, the new haul comes in tonight. I guess I have to think of more things to do with these veggies - already feels like its going to be a very 'green' summer :)

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Wine bottle art

Even before A and I moved into our new apartment, we started talking about ideas for DIY projects, which both of us enjoy immensely. Over the years, we had collected (or thought we did) quite a few wine bottles and I decided to give A an ultimatum - we either use it or they're gone. Out of this was born the idea of a wall art piece using the said bottles. When D heard about it, she was super excited as well. So one cloudy afternoon, the three of us embarked on a journey to the nearest Loews to try and figure out what we needed to implement our idea. Mind you, we just had a vague understanding of the implementation at this point, and were not even sure if the tool we needed existed.

As we wandered across the many aisles in Loews, we came across a kindly guide (read: Loews employee). We quickly explained to him what we were trying to achieve. His look as he heard the idea spoke volumes - I am quite sure he had decided by then that we were three geeks with lots of time in our hands and no idea how to use/pick the right hardware.
Anyway, after looking at and rejecting a number of options, he finally pointed us to the one clamp in the entire store that could fit our need, as well as all the other ancillary items. After promising him that we would come back with a pic of the final product, we quickly selected our colors and went on our way.

The first task at hand was to paint the wooden board. Since none of agreed on the right shade, we just poured a dark green and a white to the count of 'tick tick one' on the board and used our brushed to mix the two colors together. Let's just say that we weren't entirely thrilled at the result. nevertheless, we let the paint dry.
The next hurdle was to find the mid-point of a circle. Given that we were three engineers, you'd think this would be easy, but alas no! Without any tools (no protractor, scale, compass) we were quite pressed to find a solution. Finally with a thread and some approximation we marked our center and the end points, drilled the holes, attached the clamps and forgot about the project for a week.
After we finished moving, it took us a while to realize that we did not have all the bottles we needed. So we had to have friends over to drink up some wine :) Only after that, did we finally attach our bottles to the board.

I LOVE the end product and it looks glam on our wall, AND the project was soooo much fun!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Parmesan Crusted Goat Cheese with Basil Oil

Parmesan Crusted Goat Cheese with Basil Oil from Annie Eats is the prettiest looking appetizer ever.

Image from Annie Eats

I tried this a while ago and messed it up a bit so I had to cover the cheese ball with sumac, but it wasn't too bad and I got to use my sumac supply :).

Turkey meatballs for kofta curry?

The other day I planned to make kofta curry but some last minute work turned up and I knew there was no way I could finish cooking by dinner time. So I ran to the store and picked up some turkey meatballs. They look kinda ugly but taste pretty decent. All I had to do was saute them a bit in olive oil with some jeera (cumin seeds) and coriander seeds in a pan and they turned a beautiful golden brown, after which I could just proceed to use them in a regular curry. This isn't cheating, is it?

Halloween cupcakes

I halved this recipe and frosted the cupcakes with a simple butter cream frosting colored with orange food color.

Yummy salad?

Quite incredulous, but we actually liked this salad when I tried it at home a few days ago. Paired with a veggie burger, its an interesting and healthy dinner option. I made the salad with some wild arugula, black beans, feta cheese, thinly sliced green pears, cherry tomatoes and some light balsamic vinaigrette.Try it sometime...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Kinda healthy dark chocolate chip cookies

It's the season to make cookies, which means the guilt index goes up as you gobble them down. But, chocolate chip cookies need not always pack an astounding amount of calories. I made up this slightly low fat version of chocolate chip cookies and they turned out pretty good. I can definitely make them again. And at 86.5 calories per cookie, most of us can afford to eat at least one each day :)
If you try out this recipe, do post me a note, I'd love to get feedback on these cookies.