Monday, May 30, 2011

Day 475 : Asparagus

There's something to be said for eating vegetables that are direct from the farm - crisp, fresh, alive and so much more like what you imagine they should taste like than what one traditionally buys at the supermarket. This evening I had more of the asparagus from the farm stand we passed by yesterday and I got to thinking about the perfect twist on a traditional panzanella salad (tomatoes, basil, garlic, bread, EVOO, etc.) but with the asparagus.

1/2 loaf of baguette/ciabatta (crusty bread) diced
1 clove of garlic
1 bunch of asparagus
1 diced kirby cucumber
Aged Goat Gouda
Handful of fresh basil
White Wine (for cooking purposes)
Sea Salt

Saute bread with EVOO, dash of white wine, garlic, tarragon, sea salt, and oregano over low heat till golden brown, approx, ten to twelve minutes. Dice cucumber and basil  and toss in a bowl, add croutons when finished. The great thing about farm fresh asparagus is all you have to do is wash them and they are ready to eat! So dice those as well and add a small drizzle of EVOO across the top of everything, sprinkle some sea salt and fresh black pepper. Then top with nice shavings of aged goat gouda for a creamy nutty addition to the dish.


Day 474 : Sojourn out East...(with corrections...)

I apologize that this post was originally written on an iPhone making spell check/rereading/ and correcting my mistakes a tough one but here it is fixed...and stay tuned for another fabulous post later on today.

Yesterday, after a fun filled beginning of this kickoff summer holiday weekend in Manhattan, I left town to head out to East Hampton with a good friend. Plans of relaxing in the sun, long runs, drinking rose wine, reading, cooking, and of course plenty of chatting were on the agenda...and what a perfect agenda at that!

In the late afternoon, we took a drive into Sag Harbor to visit Cavaniola's Gourmet -- a grouping of three small wooden buildings -- one boasting to be a cheese shop; one with gourmet prepared foods; and one a wine cellar. We wandered into the cheese shop which was stocked with imported crackers, pastas, and the such in the front area and a back cheese, meat and antipasti counter with two refrigerated cases. After a bit of a wait, we inquired about having a taste of their Gorgonzola cremificado, a delish creamy, spicy and punchy blue cheese. Looking around at the back refrigerator case, I was disappointed that not a single cheese had a label or any sort of indication about pricing structure or it's origins of production. For those of us who know a lot about cheese that is significantly less of a concern than the cheese amateur. This setup forces the consumer to engage in an extended conversation with the people behind the counter if they are unsure what to purchase. It also necessitates a significant amount of knowledge on the part of the cheese shop employees. Don't get me wrong the cheeses on offer were fabulous but it made the entire process of purchasing more complicated.

After our visit to Cavaniola's, we went to Channing Daughters for a tasting of their rose wines and a few of their whites as well. Channing Daughters winery is known for their extensive experimenation into the world of winemaking, they are the only producer to craft Tocai Friulano, Blaufrankisch, and many other wines on Long Island. Needless to say one of the reasons I am such a big fan is because of the four outstanding rose wines they make -- one with Cabernet Franc grapes, one with Merlot grapes, one with Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and one with Refresco grapes.

Returning back to the house from our explorations, we started cooking dinner--

A tasting of three cheeses- Equinox from Consider Bardwell, the Gorgonzola Cremificado discussed earlier and Saint Maure de la Tourraine (a soft decadent aged goat's milk cheese from the Loire Valley.) We paired the cheeses with Eli's health grain loaf, dried apricots and some green grapes. Apart from the cheese we had some chopped up fresh cucumbers, peppers and carrots. Then we grilled some fresh asparagus procured earlier in the day at a local farm stand and portobello mushrooms caps with diced sundried tomatoes, herbs, and Parmesan. Overall a fresh, market driven delish dinner for an evening spent on the patio by the pool. A great way to spend a Sunday night!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Day 473 : Equinox

Last week, I discovered a new cheese in the Consider Bardwell repertoire --- well more rather a cheese I hadn't tried yet and boy was I impressed! Equinox is a raw goat's milk cheese that has been aged for close to a year and is firm, salty, savory, crumbly and fabulous. It packs the classic goat cheese notes -- grassy, citrusy, clean, and fresh but with the age to stand up to some of the great Italian hard guys -- Parmesans and Piaves for example.

In case you aren't familiar, Consider Bardwell farm is located in the Champlain Valley in Vermont; it is actually the site of the first cheese dairy in Vermont. The farm now produces an outstanding mixture of cheeses utilizing goat and some cow milk...If you haven't tried a Consider Bardwell cheese, you must! I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

Image courtesy of

Friday, May 27, 2011

Day 472: A picnic in the park to kick off the summer

In holiday weekend mode yet?

I know I am!

Doesn't this weather scream Rose, relaxing in the sun, and barbecues?

I think this is the perfect afternoon to pick up a bottle of Bieler Pere et Fils Rosé, my go-to summer wine clocking in at $10.99 a bottle -- it is affordable, delicious, crisp, refreshing, and dry. Hailing from Provence, crafted by winemaker Charles Bieler in honor of his father and named for his daughter, he keeps it all in the family...and this is a family who knows a thing or two about winemaking, they used to own Chateau Routas also in Provence. Our Rosé is 40% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 15% Cinsault, and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon with hints of raspberry, strawberry, and light cherry and spice notes and a mineral finish. It's easy drinking summer wine at its best!

So what to have with it?

How about a nice fresh chevre from Painted Goat Farm in upstate New York?

Simple, young, alive, and the right way to ring in the summer!

Enjoy the long weekend folks.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Day 471 : How to Save / How to Splurge Dispatch #16

Heading out of town for Memorial Day weekend? Want to bring out some patriotic cheese with you? A selection of three cheeses produced on our soils in honor of the holiday weekend and the beginning of summer that you want to splurge a bit on?

Fret not, you have come to the right place!

Should you be planning on bringing three cheeses, I recommend a soft/luscious creamy then a firm, hard, and nutty, and then a punchy spicy blue. Each cheese will be in the range of $20 to $35 a pound this week, making the price tag of bringing a tasting of three cheeses to be in the range of $50 to $60, depending on how much you get of each.

For the soft/luscious/creamy cheese, how about Catskill? A soft bloomy goat's milk cheese from upstate New York found for $28.50 a pound at Artisanal Cheese. It coats every crevice of your mouth in just the right ways -- lactic, grassy, citrusy, with hints of mushroom, this is the perfect cheese to pair with a glass of bubbly.

For the firm/hard/nutty cheese, I recommend 5 Spoke Creamery's Tumbleweed from Pennsylvania. It is a raw cow's milk cheese that has been aged for at least eight months, modeled on a traditional French Cantal with dialed up cheddar notes. Supple and nutty with a nice cheddar punch, this farmsteady cheese it the perfect second choice for your cheese tasting. Clocking in at $22.99 a pound at Murray's Cheese.

And lastly, how about Ewe's Blue crafted by Old Chatham Sheepherding Company in Old Chatham, NY. Sheep's milk cheese inoculated with penicillium roqueforti mold in the traditional Roquefort style of cheesemaking produces here a fabulously spicy and piquant blue with creamy luscious notes and a grassy brightness. Available for $33 a pound at Lucy's Whey.

And that will conclude your splurge worthy local cheese tasting.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Day 470 : Bacaro

Last night, I had the pleasure of trying Bacaro down in East Chinatown for dinner, modeled on and named after traditional Venetian "workmen's pubs" that serve small share-able plates and wine. Bacaro is a two floored space -- the top floor is a casual wine bar facing out onto Division Street whereas the downstairs is dark, cavernous, and quite romantic. Owned and run by the chef behind Peasant and his wife, this is a great place for a group dinner upstairs which was what I was part of last night or a romantic night with a special someone down below.

Before I delve into the food, I must tell you that the bartender introduced us to something simple yet fabulous that I most certainly plan on adopting -- infusing sage leaves into rose wine over night imparting an herbaceous quality to summer's best wine. I was already quite impressed with the joint after one sip of wine.

So what did we all split?

Two of their specials -- fried zucchini blossoms with ricotta and a full roasted artichoke with grana padano and bread crumbs. Each was done excellently -- the right mixture of savory, creamy, vegetal, and fresh rolled into one. Great with our rose infused wine and perfect for sharing! Apart from the specials we split their baked razor clams with white wine, olive oil, and lemon -- rustic yet elevated, sensual and delish. Next up, their frittata with cherry tomatoes, grana padano, and spinach -- a classic combination done well.

Then we had two of their pastas:

Spaghetti Nero -- their spaghetti with cuttlefish ink and one single squid on top. Incredibly luscious and silky smooth, a star of the evening!

Gnocchi con funghi -- pillowy light gnocchi served with sauteed mushrooms in a brown butter sauce, decadence in a dish!

Overall the meal was delish, a fun and affordable place with an extensive menu with something for everyone in a nice atmosphere in somewhat of a slightly inconvenient neighborhood but worth the trip. If you do go, look out for 136 Division Street as it surely isn't well signed.

136 Division Street
NYC 10002

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Day 469 : SCS Version 4.0, Dispatch #3

As I'm discovering more and more about the cheeses produced in Massachusetts and Portugal, I have come to notice that each locale has a very particular cheese point of view and unlike other SCS spotlights we have had, it is increasingly hard to find completely distinct cheesemaking styles in each. Each week, I aim to find something new to introduce you to that will be an example of the versatility present in cheesemaking based on a focused region and Massachusetts and Portugal are surely not the easiest. At the end of next week's spotlight, I will unpack my vision of the characteristic cheesemaking styles present in each place. But for the moment, lets continue introducing you all to new cheeses!

Cricket Creek Farm is located in Williamstown, Massachusetts and boasts 500 acres of green grazing hills for their forty cows (a mixture of Brown Swiss and Jersey cows) to enjoy. It is actually one of the oldest dairy farms in their region, owned since 2001 by the Sabot family. They currently produce three distinct cheeses, along with having milk, beef, pork, eggs, and bakery items for sale. This week, we will feature their extra aged Maggie's Round -- crafted in the style of a farmsteady Italian semi-firm raw cow's milk cheese, like a nice toma. Nutty and rustic with lightly buttery, floral and caramelly notes and a grassy, farmsteady finish. Maggie's round is offered for sale at the earliest, after four months of aging but I find it better when it has been aged for close to a year, the cheese becomes crystallized and crumbly in all the right sort of ways.

And from Portugal, another aged cheese, but not as long as our Massachusetts counterpart, Evora is traditionally aged for two to three months. A firm copper colored cylinder of raw Merino sheep's milk cheese that has been coagulated with cardoon thistle with a pale yellow-ish interior paste. Named after the capital of the Alto Alentejo province, located about 150 km east of Lisbon. With aging, the salt content of this cheese is dialed up a notch so it is great as a grating cheese in vegetable dishes. Smooth and rustic with notes of olive oil and hints of a spicy kick -- great with a glass of white wine. Want to know a fun factoid about Evora? It was once traded as a currency in the Portugal of yesteryear.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Day 468 : Lunch at Osteria Morini

Osteria Morini opened last year down on Lafayette with buzz as it was a Michael White destination restaurant. White's previous and current forays include restaurants such as Convivio and Marea, both superstar fine dining establishments, where as Osteria Morini is meant to be his casual trattoria joint featuring food of the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. Walking into the restaurant, the first thing that overwhelms you is the warm, inviting scent of home baked bread. At lunch time, the room was packed to the gils with the sort of see and be seen lunch crowd you would imagine at a downtown "in" spot that is a long wait during dinner hours however the noise level makes it hard to have a conversation.

The menu featured a selection of antipasti, panini, pastas, salads, and entrees. We split their whipped ricotta with fava beans, English peas, asparagus and a homemade pesto to start with grilled country bread. Delish, fresh, vegetal and perfect for sharing. The meal was off to a good start!

However it went all down hill from there -- I decided that with this depressing weather, I was going to have their minestrone soup with carrots, snap peas, fennel, zucchini, kale, and more veggies and topped with a Parmesan crisp that by the time the soup arrived at the table was already submerged and lost. The soup itself was too hot to enjoy by the spoon full for at least ten minutes. Once one could potentially think about enjoying the soup, it didn't really have the right sort of authentic rustic warming feel that a great minestrone should have.

Overall a nicely designed restaurant that maybe is worth one more go, but this first trip did not impress at all. Michael White should stick to fine dining, he hits a home run there. In the casual dining realm, he needs some work.

Osteria Morini
218 Lafayette Street
NYC 10012

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Day 467 : A riff on High Tea for a viewing of "The Kings Speech"

Last night, I went over to a friend's apartment for a viewing of the Best Picture winner, "The Kings Speech." Although I had seen the movie once in the theatres, I wanted to see it again to appreciate the visual and textual nuances in this brilliant film. We decided to go with our movie night, we would do our own version of an evening high tea with white wine instead.

I made three different types of tea sandwiches:

Each was served on whole wheat bread. The first was a smoked Nova Salmon with a garlic chive herb low fat whipped cream cheese then came an herbed chevre with watercress and butternut squash seed oil and lastly drunken goat's milk cheese with slivered Persian cucumbers and arctic thyme (brought back from Iceland). Each was delish, savory, and packed with flavor in each morsel!

We also had Neal's Yard Dairy Stilton, an apricot infused Stilton and a soft goat cheese with berries and Melba toast. The apricot infused Stilton was such a discovery because it had a more subdued punch than a normal Stilton but still with hints of blue piquance and a fruity floral apricot flavor. Certainly not an everyday cheese, but perfect for this occasion or spread on scones for breakfast.

There were also a few different types of scones with true English clotted cream. Overall quite the British feast for our viewing of this fantastic movie. What a fun way to spend a Saturday evening!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Day 466 : Travels around town

Gosh today feels like its been five days rolled into one -- half marathon in Brooklyn, check! Brunch at Avoce Columbus, check! New York State wine tasting at Union Square Wines, check! Smorgasburg, check!

So what did I have at Avoce? An escarole salad with fresh shaved pecorino and a poached egg topped with oil and vinegar accompanied by roasted cauliflower, slivered almonds, and golden raisins. Delish, fresh, crisp and a satisfying meal after my half marathon race. Always reliably yummy food with a nice atmosphere and a guaranteed treat sort of place.

Union Square Wines features fabulously extensive wine tastings from 2 to 5 on Saturdays and today's was an ode to New York State winemakers and we all know how much of a fan of local purveyors I am, so that was a treat.

You might be wondering however what is Smorgasburg? It is the Brooklyn Flea's food market featuring close to one hundred different food purveyors and artisans -- looking for homemade jams, pickles, teas, cheeses, breads, chocolates and more? It's worth making the trip! This week was the first version of Smorgasburg now happening every Saturday from 9am to 5pm at N6th and the East River in Williamsburg. It's worth the trip, I guarantee you won't meet disappointed.

And that's all for now folks.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Day 465 : The Philadelphia Cheese Experiment

If you're involved in the NYC foodie world, then you've probably heard of Theo Peck and Nick Suarez, the masterminds behind The Food Experiments -- a series of amateur cooking competitions that primarily have taken place in Brooklyn. Tried the tacos at the Brooklyn Taco experiment or the bread puddings at the Brooklyn Booze Experiment?  But for those of you who do not live in Brooklyn, this year they have launched what they are calling their national tour, with cooking competition all across the country -- Austin, Boston, New Orleans, Washington DC, and finally Philadelphia where they've decided to put on a cheese experiment. I wonder if they chose cheese for Philadelphia because of the well known cream cheese, hmmm....

So if you're looking to revive your competitive spirit or just looking for a road trip down to Philly and an excuse to do so or looking to try all sorts of inventive, unique, and wacky cheese based recipes, then I recommend planning to head down to Philly for the Cheese Experiment!

Check out their website for more details, to attend and enjoy the delicacies or enter into the competition!

In other news, I must mention a new restaurant I went to last night, granted there was no cheese on the menu, but it surely was a distinct culinary point of view -- fusion Thai, Malaysian, Indian, and Singapore cuisines, tucked away on a little side street off of Union Square. Laut offers clean, fresh, delish food with a lively atmosphere. So the next time you're looking for a reliable, affordable joint in Union Square area, try it -- 15 East 17th Street, NYC.

Day 464 : How to Save/How to Splurge Dispatch #15

This has not been a good week for me being on time with my blog posts and for that I apologize -- I surely had an unexpected evening visit to the dentist last night but that provides me with the opportunity to play catch up now on last night's blog.

Where to for this week's "How to Save/How to Splurge" dispatch? How about to Westside Market on 14th and 7th avenue?

Each week, they feature a different cheddar, swiss, and a "Pete's choice of cheese" (whom I imagine runs the cheese department there) on sale along with a few other cheeses on sale. This sale system provides you the opportunity to try a variety of different, straight forward cheese styles at affordable prices for you and your friends. This week, the cheddar clocked in at $6.99 a pound, the swiss at $10.99, and Pete's choice at $11.99 a pound.

Apart from these weekly special routines, this week that had a special on Monte Enebro -- a flat log shaped Spanish goat's milk cheese from the Castilla y Leon region. During the cheese's aging process, the rind has been coated with ash and blue mold instilling a blue cheese style kick and a fabulously spicy pungent twist. The cream line separating the lactic, citrusy, bright interior, is gooey and luscious with farmsteady, barnyardy, walnut notes. Overall a delish cheese.

Clocking in at $11.99 a pound on sale as opposed to say $30.99 a pound at Murray's Cheese, a visit to Westside Market is definitely in order this week.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Day 463 : Healthy Chips and Dip

Bored of pita and hummus? Over tortilla chips and salsa or guacamole or spinach-artichoke dip? Want something satisfying and snacky but healthy and not too filling, great for summer picnics with nice light white wine, like a Vinho Verde.

How about homemade Kale chips with an english pea ricotta herb dip?

Sounds good right? So how do you make them?

Preheat oven to 250 degree then take a bunch of kale, rinse, and place on baking sheets with a drizzle of EVOO, some sel de la guerande, and a little bit of crushed red pepper. Bake till crispy, about 30 minutes.

While they are cooking, combine one cup of steamed english peas, one cup of fresh ricotta, a handful of diced garlic chives, EVOO, sel de la guerande, black pepper, and one diced lightly sauteed garlic clove in a food processor. It will be a creamy vegetal dip that will be perfect with your homemade kale chips.


Day 462 : SCS Version 4.0, Dispatch #2 - Better late than never..

Yesterday was one of those days where the entire day escaped me and I did not have the time to write to you, my dear Fromagical readers so for that I am sorry. But fret not, we will be catching up with our State - Country spotlight along with today's post now.

So what of our Portuguese and Massachusetts friends this week? For this month of SCS spotlight, I am trying to provide you with a sequential cheese tasting as opposed to jumping from a blue cheese to a goat's cheese to a washed rind cheese -- a different approach.

Smith's Country Cheese is classic New England -- located in Winchendon, Western Massachusetts,
they craft their own farmstead versions of gouda, havarti, and cheddars. I know what you might be thinking, that's not very original but their aged gouda is an award winning -- nutty and creamy with a sensual smoothness that rivals their across the pond counterparts. Crafted with farm fresh cow's milk, this cheese is embued with that fabulous Massachusetts terroir.

And what of its Portuguese counterpart?

How about Serra de Estrela, named for the highest mountain range in Continental Portugal. Raw sheep's milk is coagulated with cardoon thistle and salt into scrumptuous wheels of semi-soft, luscious cheesy goodness contained in a leathery cloth exterior rind. Funky and raw with a nice barnyardy farmsteady bite, this cheese will delight. Enjoy with a nice crusty baguette and a minerally white wine. When young, this is the sort of cheese that you can just dip bread into, it is soooo fantastically gooey!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Day 461 : Rainy Day Blues

Gosh I feel like the British have lent us their springtime weather looking at this week's forecast for rain and more rain and yet more rain. So I thought we should embrace the rainy day blues with a fabulous Scottish blue? Gosh this weather surely doesn't feel like May 16th, does it?

We all know Stilton, so I thought I would suggest a fabulous blue that I consider to be a richer, creamier, more luscious Scottish relative -- Strathdon Blue crafted by Ruaraidh Stone in Tain, Ross-shire, Scotland. Less punchy and piquant with a roundness of flavor and crisp freshness made with a mixture of pasteurized cow's milk. An excellent example of Scottish cheese making seemlessly appropriating British, French, and Italian blue cheese notes into a product completely their own and utterly fabulous!

I'd recommend enjoying this on a whole wheat walnut raisin bread toasted with a nice glass of red wine.

Let's kick those rainy day blues folks!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Day 460 : Zero Otto Nove comes to Manhattan

Earlier this week, a well-known and much loved pizzeria from Arthur Avenue in the Bronx opened its first Manhattan location in the Flatiron area, on 21st street between 5th and 6th -- Zero Otto Nove. The menu pretty much is the same as its more established Bronx sibling and the decor is warm with a classic trattoria feel. The wine list is of course Italian centric, highlighting the big bold reds that are meant to be enjoyed with red sauce style meals.

What did we have?

We split two of their antipasti :

Polipo -- Grilled octopus with fresh tomato, capers, cannellini beans and olive oil. Flavorful, rustic, and homey, you can't go wrong here.

Mozzarella Caprese -- A twist on the classic Italian appetizer with a few extra touches -- homemade buffalo mozzarella was served on top of two large tomato slices garnished with marinated mushrooms, roasted peppers, and basil. Simple, clean, fresh ingredients done right.

Of course we had to split a pizza of theirs, it was a pizza place after all!

So we decided to try "La Vincenzo" composed of fresh mozzarella, gorgonzola, fresh cherry tomatoes, basil and marinated porcini mushrooms. This was the perfect mixture of sweet and savory with punchy and creamy cheeses all rolled into one. The crust was thin and light and the 10 inch pie was not at all oily, but airy and delightful -- an excellent backdrop to showcase the ingredients that were topping the crust.

Overall a delish meal, I would definitely come back. After having visited other artisanal pizza places the week they opened and one could tell that they had some kinks to work out, Zero Otto Nove was a welcome surprise -- good fresh homemade food done right in a lovely and welcoming atmosphere.

Hope you enjoy your Sunday folks and a very Happy Birthday to  my wonderful four legged companion, Coco's 11th birthday! May she live many more years of doggie bliss!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Day 459 : Fast, Easy, Fresh Breakfasts for One

This Saturday morning after a shift in my weekend plans, I decided I was going to have a relaxing morning before heading out on a long run and peered in my fridge to see what I should make for breakfast. I settled on two poached eggs on each side of a toasted multigrain english muffin with shaved Cantal over the top of the eggs with some sauteed mushrooms and underneath a homemade kale pesto -- my healthier version of eggs benedict. So shall I walk you through the preparation?

How to poach an egg in case you've never done it before:

Grab a large sauce pan and add about two quarts of water to the pan with a teaspoon of vinegar. Bring the water to a light simmer and then break each egg in a separate bowl and slowly slide the eggs into the simmering water. Turn the heat down very low and cook the eggs for 3 to 4 minutes or until the whites are firm and opaque and one hopes the yolks are runny.

Now you have your two poached eggs, place these to the side.

Let's move onto the mushrooms, in a small skillet, saute a handful of diced mushrooms with half of a diced shallot, EVOO, balsamic vinegar, a dollop of dijon mustard, oregano, some sea salt and fresh pepper. Saute until golden brown and caramelized. Top these with some grated Cantal cheese.

The last element of our breakfast / brunch dish is of course our kale pesto:

Combine one cup of cooked kale, 1/2 cup of pine nuts, EVOO, 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan, a dash of lemon juice, one garlic clove and some fresh sea salt in a food processor. Blend together.

Place your kale pesto on your toasted multigrain english muffin, top with your poached egg, then your sauteed mushrooms and then some extra shaved Cantal cheese and enjoy!

Day 458 : Boulud Sud

This week another restaurant was added to the Boulud portfolio, actually right around the corner from his casual Alsacian joint, Bar Boulud. Known as Boulud Sud, the new addition features a Mediterranean influenced menu with French, Turkish, Moroccan, Italian, Greek, and Spanish flavors. The menu is divided into three parts: De la Mer, Du Jardin, and De la Ferme. The first side of the menu is composed of a variety of small plates, appetizers, and entrees featuring different fish dishes, the second features vegetable dishes, and the last poultry and meats. Everything sounded

So what did we have?

We split:

To start we had their sea urchin and crab tartine served with green olives which was luscious, creamy and all around fabulous. With the sea urchin, we also had their tomato and sheep's milk cheese small plate that was composed of ricotta and oregano along with pan con tomate and finally grilled manouri and tomato -- an excellent selection and pairing of a few simple ingredients that played off of one another seamlessly.

Next up, we split their octopus a la plancha which was served with marcona almonds -- nutty, flavorful, and nuanced -- this is  a dish that does octopus proud! Apart from the octopus, we had their chickpea dish composed of homemade falafel, fresh hummus and crispy lavash and then tabouleh two ways. The tabouleh two ways was -- one small dish of the traditional tabouleh with parsley and cherry tomatoes accompanied by cauliflower tabloueh with golden raisins and almonds.

And what next? How about a side of crispy artichokes alla romana, not too fried and greasy but all around perfect! Vegetal and crunchy, you were able to taste the purity of the artichoke without feeling like you were eating a mouthful of grease as fried artichokes can sometimes be.

I was very impressed with the quality of the food and the service, for a restaurant that had been open three days, they certainly did not show the kinks to the diners in any way. Each dish was unique -- an excellent melding of flavor profiles into delish dishes. It is definitely a wonderful addition to the Upper West Side dining offerings.

I apologize this post was a bit late, but worth the wait!

Boulud Sud
20 West 64th Street

Friday, May 13, 2011

Day 457 : How to Save / How to Splurge Dispatch # 14

First off, I apologize for the delay, blogger was down over night so although yesterday's post was written, it did not have the opportunity to go live till now:

Deviating somewhat from our good deals around town spotlight in our "How to" column, I thought I should alert you all to a new development in the Daniel Boulud empire, one where we can definitely have the opportunity to splurge -- Epicerie Boulud located at 64th and Broadway opened in conjunction with Boulud Sud. It is Boulud's first foray into retail and boy did he choose to pair with the right cheese purveyour -- Saxelby cheese, one of my favorite places to procure cheese around town and previously you had to go all the way down to the Essex Street market, but now a small selection of Saxelby's cheeses will be featured at Epicerie along with an excellent French cheese selection. Apart from the cheese, there is charcuterie, prepared sandwiches, salads, pastries, and more. In the evenings, they will have a raw bar with lovely oysters. Today was the first day they were open to the public till 8pm and it sure looks like they have some finishing touches to put on the place, but when it is finished fully, it will have that fabulous French cafe/grocer "je ne sais quoi" feel. So check back by in about a week or two when they have worked out the kinks and it sure will be a place for a splurge.

Stay tuned later for a recap of dinner at Boulud Sud.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Day 456 - Fishtag's take on fondue

Last night after the Sotheby's auction, I went with a few friends to Fishtag, Michael Psilakis's fish restaurant on 79th street for some nibbles and wine. I'd been once before and if you, my dedicated Fromagical readers recall, thoroughly enjoyed my meal so I was looking forward to a return visit.

Fishtag features a nice list of cheeses, smoked and cured meats and fishes along with a dinner menu that is designed based on the beverage best consumed with the dish.

Last night we split their Young Pecorino Saganaki (named after the single serve frying pan in which Greek dishes are cooked in). Their saganaki was "cast iron roasted sheep's milk cheese with preserved lemon, fried garlic, smoked and salty almonds, and wild flower honey. It was served with grilled country bread -- it was the perfect melding of sweetness, saltiness, aromatic vegetal notes and an overall creamy wonderfulness. An interesting approach to a shared melted cheese dish, something I will have to experiment with at home.

Apart from the Young Pecorino dish, everything we had was delicious and flavorful. Crisp, clean, unique food, executed successfully. A fun place to go with a group of friends for wine and a bite -- easy, convenient, and hassle free!

222 West 79th Street

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Day 455 : SCS Version 4.0, Dispatch # 1: In the Spotlight

For this version of our SCS spotlight, I thought I would focus on the cheesemakers of the Northeastern state, Massachusetts, that are sometimes overshadowed by Vermont, New York, and Connecticut cheesemakers and put them in the spotlight. For our European counterpart, I thought we should do the same -- focus on a country that doesn't always have the opportunity to be in the spotlight, so I chose Portugal. Over the next month, we will showcase four cheeses made from each of these places with the hopes of encouraging you to eat more Portuguese and Massachusetts crafted cheeses. So let's get going!

Today I aim to choose two cheeses that for me represent the excellence achieved in cheesemaking in each locale and are characteristic of the cheeses being produced in Massachusetts and Portugal.

The Classic Blue Log crafted by Bob Stetson and his wife at Westfield Farm in Hubbardston is our first Massachusetts cheese. Westfield Farm in central Mass has been crafting mainly goat cheeses and a few cow's milk cheeses since the early 1970s. Nowadays, weekly they produce about 1500 pounds of cheeses. Their Classic Blue Log is their signature cheese and boy is it striking in appearance and in taste -- a young fresh goat's milk cheese is covered in blue glaucum mold (the mold traditionally inoculated to create blue cheeses) and slightly aged. It is rich, creamy, grassy, and citrusy like any lightly aged goat's milk cheese would be but this cheese also has the dialed up tangy punch of a blue. An excellent melding of two distinctly different cheesemaking styles into one fabulous cheese.

Image courtesy of

And what of our Portuguese counterpart this week?

How about Nisa?

Hailing from the Alentejo region of Portugal, this sheep's milk cheese is the perfect mixture of refined grace and rustic barnyardy-ness. How? It is a raw sheep's milk cheese that is crafted with thistle rennet imparting a vegetal, farmsteady fabulousness to the cheese. Why thistle? Well the cardoon thistle utilized in the production of this cheese grows wild in the region in which the cheese is crafted. Yellowish on the exterior, the interior is bright white ivory and paste-y with a floral nutty sweetness. An excellent example of the earthy cheesemaking styles coming out of Portugal. A versatile pairing partner for both red and white wines.

Image courtesy of

Monday, May 9, 2011

Day 454 : A springtime Grilled Cheese

It's been a while since I provided you all with a grilled cheese recipe and so I thought with the proliferation of grilled cheese shops and trucks and stands opening around town, it was time for a new Fromagical grilled cheese.

What's necessary for today's grilled cheese?

Pullman Bread sliced thickly, courtesy of Grandaisy Bakery
St Pats - Nettle wrapped triple cream cow's milk cheese from Cowgirl Creamery
Grilled Ramps and Asparagus
Sea Salt / Pepper

Grab a stove top grill, spray with Pam and lightly brown a few ramps and asparagus till they have a nice char on either side. Next up, slice two thick slices of your Pullman. On both pieces drizzle some EVOO. Slice a thick amount of St Pats on one side of the bread. Then top with your grilled ramps and asparagus and consequently a handful of mache and a few basil leaves. Sprinkle a little bit of salt and pepper and top the sandwich with the other piece of bread. Grill away. Enjoy with a light white wine.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Day 453 : Mother's Day Brunch

Happy Mother's Day to all of the mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, godmothers, dog and cat mothers and any other mothers out there. Today was a day to be with family, large and small, if you have the fortunate opportunity of living close your family.

My mother prepared a lovely brunch as usual for the occasion and of course I brought the cheeses. But before we get to the cheeses, let me tell you what she served which was fabulously delish :

There were homemade popovers as per my grandmother's request, a family brunch standby --  airy and heavenly. With the popovers were ramekins of sauteed spinach topped with a poached egg with grated cheese, a dollop of labne and caviar and a few asparagus spears over the top. A simple yet celebratory dish -- clean and flavourfully creamy yet light -- an ode to Spring's vegetable bounty. Next up was a mixed green salad accompanied by homemade gluten free biscuits and three types of homemade confiture to pair with the cheeses : an orange basil marmalade, a fig almond sesame paste and a black olive medjool date cilantro paste. Each was unique, inventive, dynamic and of course all around delish -- an extremely creative interpretation of cheese pairings and boy was it a success!

So what were the cheeses I chose for today's repast?

1. Coeur du Berry - A French young goat's milk cheese coated with ash in the shape of heart. Zippy, tangy, citrusy, grassy and everything one looks for in a quality goat's milk cheese.

2. Barick Obama - Lazy Lady Farm's ode to our current president, this washed rind pasteurized cow's milk cheese in the shape of a brick is stinky, biting, oozy, gooey, supremely unique and all around fantastic! Perfect on the homemade gluten free biscuits!

3. Ubriaco infused with Moscato - A young Italian cheese that has been soaked and washed in moscato wine -- great for such a celebratory occasion!

The cheeses were a smashing success as were their accompaniments.

And what was for dessert?

Homemade paschka (a traditionally Russian dessert composed of low fat cream cheese, goat's cheese, vanilla, and honey) topped with strawberries, hazelnuts, and beets. A savory sweet finish to a wonderful meal.

A lovely time was had by all.

Thank you to my mother for the delicious brunch and for being the supportive, loving, and caring woman she is on a daily basis. If you haven't already, take a moment to say thank you and express your love to the woman who brought you into this world, I am sure it will bring a smile to her face.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Day 452: A quick fresh breakfast dish for one

This gorgeous Saturday morning I decided to enjoy the New York Times and a cup of coffee and a nice homemade breakfast dish before heading out on a long run. Peering into my fridge, I decided to make an ode to green spring egg white frittata. What did I decide to put into the frittata?

Egg Whites
Shaved Asparagus
Tete de Moine
Herb infused Chevre
Sel de la guerande
Black pepper
Fresh Thyme and Rosemary
Crushed red pepper

To get started, preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Grab a skillet and spray it with PAM or coat with EVOO. In a bowl, whisk together the egg whites, a sprinkling of sel de la guerande, black pepper, some thyme and rosemary. Next up chop up a third of a cup of broccoli really finely and dice a handful of fabulously fresh springtime asparagus and a few ramps. Place this in a bowl. Transfer your egg white mixture to the warm skillet on the stove and then top with your chopped up veggies. Now add one shaved asparagus and a nice generous helping of long thin shavings of Tete de Moine. Cook over low heat on the stove for about 7 minutes or until the eggs are just about to set. Now crumble some herb chevre over the top and sprinkle some crushed red pepper and a little more rosemary. Place in the oven for about eight to ten minutes or until it is golden brown. Take out of the oven and enjoy with a nice cup of coffee and the Saturday New York Times.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Day 451 : Lunch at Cookshop

This lovely Spring afternoon, I had the pleasure of dining outdoors at Cookshop, Marc Meyer's casual chic fresh ingredient driven American eatery. Crowded with art world types and visitors to Chelsea, it was a-buzz this May afternoon!

So what did we have?

We split their thin crust nettle pesto, ricotta, mozzarella, and Pecorino pizza with crushed red pepper flakes. Savory, creamy, rustic, earthy and all around fabulous. Not too heavy to weigh you down in the middle of the day either. An ode to the springtime with nettles this was the perfect pie for a windy sunny May day like this one.

Then we split their butterhead lettuce salad with radishes, goat feta, homemade croutons and creamy herb dressing and a side of roasted brussel sprouts with carrots and a salsa verde. The salad was crisp and refreshing yet filling with just the right amount of creaminess and saltiness from the feta and crunch from the croutons. The roasted veggie side was an excellent ode to our local vegetable bounty -- rustic, homey, and fabulously flavorful.

A delish lunch composed of the sort of food I like to cook at home done right.

156 10th Ave

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Day 450 : How to Save / How to Splurge Dispatch #13

Were you feeling left out last week when I told you about the fabulous deals on the Upper East Side at Grace's Marketplace? Want to know about what sort of deals you can find in your area to save but still be able to enjoy nice cheese? I thought for a few weeks we would explore a few different neighborhoods of NYC to discover cheese deals as part of our "how to save / how to splurge" column.

This week, we will travel through Central Park which is in full bloom at this time of year to Zabar's, the Upper West Side market to discover a few fantastically affordable cheeses :

1. Le Mini Chevrot - Clocking at $3.98 for a small round this is the perfect blend of two of my favorite Loire Valley soft ripened aged goat's milk cheeses -- crottin and Chevrot. Firmer than a normal crottin but softer than a normal crottin, this is a perfect small party cheese and at under $4 a round, you can't go wrong.

2. Doux de Montagne - Clocking in at $3.99 a pound, this classic versatile aged cow's milk cheese is a veritable bargain. Great for cooking with pastas, utilizing in grilled cheeses or enjoying on its own with a glass of wine or a beer, you can't go wrong especially at $3.99 a pound!

3. Lastly, on sale this week is the fabulous Tete de Moine or Monk's head and at $9.98 a pound, I recommend you buy it in bulk...a cylindrically shaped Swiss cheese that is refined, aromatic, nutty, and the perfect melange of dressed up chic and casual fun in a cheese. Meant to be eaten utilizing a Girolle that slices the cheese thinly so one can achieve the maximum taste sensations.

This is just an example of the wonderful options, Zabar's has to offer, but be prepared, they close earlier that most supermarkets -- 7pm.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Day 449 : A perfectly simple local pairing

This weather does not scream early May, maybe at best it is early April, but Spring surely doesn't feel as though it has sprung. So for a day like today, you need to kick that rainy, grey feeling with an uplifting and delish pairing!

My new favorite local New York State wine is the basis for this pairing -- Frost Cuvee produced by Hermann J. Wiemer vineyard in the Finger Lakes is a blend of Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc grapes. It is the perfect melange of sweetness, minerality, floral and fruity notes with a hint of spice. Light on its feet yet complex, this is a wine that delights across the board.  At $12 a bottle, it is a steal.

Keeping with the local theme, why not pair this with the creamy yet spicy Coach Farm Green Peppercorn Cone crafted in the Hudson Valley region? A bloomy rind goat's milk cheese that has been infused with green peppercorns for an excellent kick. At $5.99 for a cone, it too is an affordable splurge.

Just as our wine melds such distinct styles, so does our cheese -- light yet fullbodied, grassy and citrusy yet aromatic and spicy. The perfect pairing for a rainy May day or a sunny June afternoon.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Day 448 : SCS Version # 3, Dispatch 4, Rounding Out the Cheese Plate

For our last Big Guns post I thought we should round out our cheese plate, we have a firm classic cheese, a stinky cheese, a raw goat's milk firm cheese and the last cheese should probably be a blue cheese. However a fresh cheese from each would have also have been a nice way to round things up but I think a blue offering would be best for today and both the Vermont and French cheesemakers certainly wow when it comes to blue cheeses.

Lady in Blue will represent the new world blue cheeses of Vermont crafted by Laini Fondiller and Lazy Lady Farm in Westfield, Vermont. Laini is constantly experimenting and expanding her cheese repertoire to include new and distinct cheeses. Her cheese names have a fanciful and fun sense of humor to them and are light on their feet and uniquely flavorful. Lady in Blue surely doesn't disappoint -- produced with raw cow's milk and aged just for sixty days, best in the summertime months when the cows are fed fresh and alive grasses. It is soft and creamy with a roundness of flavor that coats every crevice of your mouth in just the right ways. It does a grassy piquant dance on your tongue with that classic blue tang but with a raw freshness to it that delights!

And what of its French counterparts, there are so many it is tough to choose -- Roquefort, Fourme D'Ambert, Bleu d'Auvergne, Bleu d' Lacqueville, I could go on and on but I thought instead of choosing the quintessential and yes totally fabulous Roquefort that I imagine a lot of you know, I thought I would introduce you to a favorite of mine -- Bleu des Basques Brebis. Crafted in the Pyrenees where firm sheep's milk cheeses such as Ossau-Iraty and the more well-known Pyrenees Brebis are produced, this is a firm sheep's milk blue cheese that I think combines the perfect nutty, butterscotchy, earthy and rustic notes of the classic firm sheep's milk cheeses of the region with the punch and spiciness of the blue mold, there's a depth of flavor here with a lightness on the palate -- an excellent cheese that is perfect with a glass of Port.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Day 447 : Round Two at Red Rooster

Last night I returned for my second visit to Marcus Samuelson's new-ish hotspot in Harlem, Red Rooster, and I'd have to say, I was much more pleased this time around than my first visit, maybe it was the slight adjustments to the menu or the quiet atmosphere of the downstairs room giving everyone the opportunity to chat or maybe it just was that the restaurant grew into itself.

So what did I have?

I split their market green salad with mixed greens, oyster mushrooms, radishes, and cauliflower topped with a sherry vinaigrette and their black vinegar cauliflower side that was served with sesame, sumac, and pine nuts side to start. The salad was crisp, fresh, clean and delightful, a great market salad for a warm springy day. The chef's creativity definitely shone through with the cauliflower side -- it was rustic, homey, spice forward, flavorful, and truly unique.

For my main I decided that since last time I tried the chef's homey, Southern / soul food / rustic side of the menu, I should try the Scandinavian side so I had their Gravlax, Avocado, onion and fennel appetizer served on thin pumpernickel bread with dill cream cheese. This was a delish, simple light preparation that gave the Gravlax the opportunity to shine! Quite the treat.

Apart from what I ordered, I also got to taste their homemade fresh cheese that went into their chickpea dumpling dish and boy was it esoterically fabulous -- somewhat like a farmer's cheese but infused with curry, cumin, and paprika. This cheese had its fingers in the cuisines of many different cultures and that is what I think Red Rooster does best -- it adopts and melds cuisines together in a seamless manner, making one as the diner expand their culinary horizons.

A fun and delish meal was had by all, worth a trip back for their Gospel brunch, that's for sure!
Red Rooster
310 Lenox Ave

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Day 446: Txikifest and Floralia

What a gorgeous May Day it has been thus far and it isn't over yet! My day was full of running around town and two of the events I went to today are with sharing about -- one with plenty of cheese and one completely without, at least for me. The first was Floralia, the New Amsterdam Market's May Day celebration that was all about greens and plants and of course, local jams, chocolates, cheeses, meats, breads, and more. The New Amsterdam Market organization had even erected a May Day pole. Morris Grilled Cheese that was written up Friday in Daily Candy had a twenty person deep line, shows what press will do for you, right? The Cellars at Jasper Hill were present with their fabulously aged Cabot Clothbound Cheddar and Landaff and my favorite Rhode Island Cremery, Narraganset was on hand offering samples of Atwell's Gold, homemade mozarella and yogurt. If you were looking for the best deal, a nice large hunk of aged Cabot Clothnound cheddar was available for $5 and it is just at the right age currently -- nutty, butterscotchy, caramelly, and tangy for all the right reasons. Made me look forward to the upcoming weekly New Amsterdam Markets this summer, a personal favorite of mine!

Heading from the South Street Seaport and the New Amsterdam Market's first market of the season, (they start up weekly June 5th), to Txikifest, we got plenty of time to soak up the sun and get nice rosy cheeks. We arrived at Alex Raij and Eder Montero's first ever Txikifest that took place in a back alley behind their restaurant Txikito on 9th avenue and 24th street just a little after 1pm and were pleased to see it wasn't that crowded.

So what was Txikifest? It was a celebration of the low alcohol Basque Spring time wine, Txakoli, with a variety of restaurants providing small plates of food to pair with the light and fanciful wines. Present were: Taim, Txikito and El Quinto Pino, Co, The Hurricane Club, Edi and the Wolf, Lassi (being resurrected for one day only), La NewYorkina, and traveling the furthest distance Poole's Downtown Diner from Raleigh, NC.

What were my favorites? Before we get there, I should probably mention I couldn't eat all of the food so should you be a meat eater, you might have had different opinions. For me there were three front runners. First up were Taim's homemade falafels with an herb based tahini, perfect with this light white wine. Flavorful and herbaceous but not heavy and fried, just the way a falafel should be. Next up, I had the Ramp roasted tomato coleslaw from Poole's that was supposed to be served with a Pulled pork slider but the cole slaw alone on a mini brioche bun was amazing -- dynamic, aromatic, vegetal, crunchy and slightly creamy, this wasn't even comparable to your average deli coleslaw, it was a salad unto itself. Lastly I got to try Co's new pizza -- a homemade walnut spread lightly coated the thin pizza crust which was topped with caramelized onions and hen of the woods mushrooms, EVOO, and some local herbs. Nutty, rustic, barnyardy and fantastic, this vegan pie managed to walk the perfect line between lightness and heaviness. Such an inventive combination of ingredients!

Overall the Txikifest was an excellent wine and food tasting -- not too crowded, fabulous weather, and I had the pleasure to learn a lot about a particular wine varietal I didn't know that much about.

A great day if I do say so myself with plenty more fun adventures to come before the day is done.

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