Friday, May 31, 2013

Day 1012 : A little break from cheese...of music, life, running and challenging yourself

Song lyrics triggering memories of running through tunnels in Washington DC, racing along the Schuylkill, the thunder of feet crossing the 59th street bridge, finish lines feeling like a million bucks and feeling like I had been through the hardest experience of my life -- my mind had started to wander somewhere over the Atlantic en route to run my first international marathon. What was Stockholm going to offer?

For me, the marathon is the ultimate test and the ultimate adventure, 16 weeks of training for one race pushing yourself to your limits, testing how far you can go both mentally and physically. In our contemporary day and age, we, as a people do not challenge ourselves sufficiently, we become complacent, happy to fall into a routine, knowing how the day will unfold. But how do we grow  if we don't challenge ourselves?

Distance runners are quite familiar to those challenges -- the sacrifices, the injuries, and the training but in the end it all leads to the joy of crossing that finish line, knowing that you have pushed yourself to your limits. Ask any dedicated distance runner why they run and sure you may get the weight loss answer or the "so I can eat what I want answer," but underneath all those superficial answers is : we, as distance runners have to run. It makes us who we are. 

Thinking about where I was 16 weeks ago when I started training for the Stockholm marathon and how much can change in that small amount of time, I feel thankful for the opportunity to run here in Stockholm and to challenge myself on a daily basis. Tomorrow I plan to run in honor of my best friend, my four legged companion, Coco, who made her passing during my training. So here's to you Coco! I can't think of a better way to honor you than by dedicating this entire experience to you. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Day 1011 - Event Alert: Vermont Cheesemakers Festival

The Vermont Cheesemakers Festival is one of my favorite events yearly. Held at the idyllic Shelburne Farms overlooking Lake Champlain, it is a celebration of Vermont cheeses, wines, beers, and artisanal foods and more! This year's fest, the 5th annual, promises to offer over 200 different cheeses from over 40 different cheese producers and much much more. 

What else more you might be wondering? 

How about a “Meet the Cheesemakers” workshop series? A look at affinage and a window into cheese caves with Murray's Cheese is on offer as well!! A workshop on Cheddar and seasonality in cheeses too!  

What else? 

How about two cooking demos? Creative cheese boards and Beyond Fondue: Cooking with Cheese. 

Tickets are $50 per person and include full access to all festival events, including workshops, demonstrations, and beer and wine tastings. Tickets are available online or by calling 802-86-FLYNN. The Festival typically sells out well in advance, so early ticket reservations are encouraged. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Day 1010 : Memorial Day Cheeses

Gosh can you believe it's already the beginning of summer? Granted last week surely felt like the beginning of Spring at best. But suddenly the sun is out, grills are getting warmed up, beach chairs are being taken out and bathing suits are being put on. It's time for Fromagical's favorite season!

And what better way to kick off the summer than with a selection of three American cheeses perfect for lounging at home watching a movie, bringing to your neighborhood cookout or your friend's cocktail party or the BBQ on the beach, you name it, these three cheeses are very versatile. One hailing from the East Coast, one from the Midwest and one from the West Coast.

Where to start?

How about with one of Fromagical's absolute favorites -- Vermont Creamery's Coupole. Named after its dome like shape, this geotrichum rinded aged goat's milk cheese is pure delight. Dense and cakey yet light and milky with a classic citrusy, grassy, chalky, goaty tang, it is perfection with an early summer sparkling or a warm weather rose. Great for the Memorial Day cocktail party or BBQ -- this cheese can be dressed up or down. 

And what next?

How about Mona? One of three cheeses produced by the Wisconsin Sheep Cooperative. Crafted utilizing a mixture of pasteurized sheep and cow's milk, this firm aged mixed milk cheese is the perfect snacking cheese-- as versatile as they come! Rustic grassy notes go hand in hand here with a sweet round nutty brown butter bent. Perfect with that cold brew or a nice light glass of red wine.

And lastly of course our West Coast cheese representative, the classically fabulous Point Reyes Blue. Tangy yet spicy and piquant with a round milky creamy mouthfeel, this cheese appeals to the blue cheese lover and blue cheese novice. Hints of wind swept breezes and grassy pastures make this raw and honest American blue. Great melted over grilled veggies or a burger or enjoyed with a glass of full bodied red, Point Reyes Blue is sure to awaken your senses.

Here's to a wonderful Memorial Day weekend and a great start to the Summer!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Day 1009 : Second time around...

Sometimes it pays to try something twice...and that surely was the case last night for Rana.

My last trip there on post 971 was good but not return visit worthy. However last night's meal was definitely return worthy!

So what made it better? A menu change highlighting seasonal ingredients and a lightness of hand totally changed my experience!

What did we have?

We started with their Baccala Crostini; a side of sauteed chick peas in a homemade tomato herb broth; and their selection of crostini spreads -- ricotta and pea puree, potato and artichoke hearts, and Tuscan Pecorino, sundried tomatoes and black olive. The Baccala was flavorful and dynamic -- salty and briny and everything wonderful that one expects Baccala to be. The chick peas were rustic and hearty with a herbaceous punch. And what of the spreads? Each unique and delectable -- they were the perfect start to the meal.

Next up we split two of their salads -- their special salad of arugula, watermelon radish, chick peas, English peas, fava beans, burrata and a spring pea pesto along with their mesclun, French breakfast radish, snow pea, and Parmesan salad. The burrata salad was delicious and a refreshingly different manner to serve burrata. Bright, springy, and truly fabulous, this is the sort of salad I would definitely go back for. The mesclun salad was fresh and flavorful with a nice nutty bent from the Parmesan.

Along with the salads we had their fish of the day which was a pan roasted Red Snapper served with white asparagus and mashed purple potatoes. Light and flavorful -- a lovely Springtime fish preparation. 

Overall a lovely meal in a light and airy space that is most certainly return worthy!

Chelsea Market
75 9th Avenue

Monday, May 20, 2013

Day 1008 : Willow Road

Situated under the highline, next to Colicchio and Sons and Del Posto, is Willow Road. Opened late last year with executive chef, Todd Macdonald of Boston's Clio and Top Chef's Grayson Schmitz, this restaurant pays homage to its location's prior tenant -- the Nabisco Factory. Rustic, vintage, farmhouse and meets urban sleek design in this American elevated gastropub.

The menu is a melange of small plates, bites, salads, entrees, and sides. Reinvented classics with an inventive flair.

So what did we have?

The Twenty Greens salad with pistachios, and smoked Pecorino. Rustic yet light and crisp with a nice nutty crunch and a smoky punch. The perfect ratio of cheese and pistachios to lettuce-- something that I find tends to be difficult in restaurant salads, but here was a definite success.

We also had their hunk of Prairie Breeze Cheddar served with grilled raisin walnut bread with the option for a shot of whiskey and a pickleback for an additional cost. Nice to see a restaurant keeping their cheese offerings very simple and being confident in their American classic choice of Cheddar.

What else?

Spiced lamb burger bites with sumac aioli, cilantro and iced red onion that were apparently very salty. The concept was a nice riff of on sliders but just hold back on the sodium a bit. Along with their Willow Mac n' Cheese -- large penne served with bacon, parmesan bread crumbs and more. Warming and comforting.

Of course I had to order the side of brussels sprouts -- roasted and served simply with brown butter. They had a nice char and rustic vegetal flavor.

Willow Road was slightly unprepared for a busy Sunday evening on a rainy day and thus our meal took over an hour to arrive at the table but the restaurant compensated us for that by sending out their mushroom spaetzle served with morel mushrooms, nettles puree and comte cheese. Bright and springy, this was a burst of flavor -- a true treat. On top of the spaetzle, they also sent us out a sticky toffee pudding and covered the entire meal except for one drink. Now that my friends is service -- it is the restaurant recognizing that they did a subpar job and wanting to make up for it.

Overall a nice addition to the lower Chelsea dining options with a wonderful interior design.

Willow Road
85 Tenth Avenue

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Day 1007 : A springtime Burrata

Burrata -- mozzarella curd filled with cream. Decadence in cheese. It is one of those dishes on a menu that I can't help but always order because it is such a treat. Traditionally paired with tomatoes, basil, and EVOO, maybe even arugula. Inspired by enjoying a morsel of burrata with the classic pairing last night, I thought of an excellent burrata springtime pairing that would highlight the rich milky decadence of the cheese with a bright vegetal aromatic springtime bent. So what is it?

How about burrata paired with sauteed fiddle head ferns?

What are fiddle head ferns?

Image courtesy of www.

Well they are little coiled ferns available only in the early springtime months, traditionally discovered by foraging. Unique in look, they tend to have the flavor profile of asparagus mixed with spinach -- vegetal and rustic yet bright and alive. So why not saute them with some garlic, sel de guerande and EVOO and pair that with burrata topped with a few basil leaves? A celebration of springtime green!!!

How to prepare the fiddle heads?

Make sure to rinse them throughly. Then toss them in a pot of boiling water for one to two minutes. Then toss them in a saute pan with EVOO, garlic, sel de guerande, and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes. Cook for approximately ten minutes over low to medium heat. Pull off the stove and place your burrata on top with a few basil leaves and another drizzle of EVOO. Enjoy with a glass of crisp, mineral forward white wine.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Day 1006 : Announcing the newest in cheese

Located in Crown Heights, is the brand spanking new cheese shop -- Wedge. Owned by Kate Blumm and Micahel de Zayas with Lilith Spencer curating the cheese selection, this petite cheese shop is putting Crown Heights on the cheese map! I had the pleasure of meeting Spencer last summer while interviewing contestants for the Cheesemonger Invitational and could tell at that time that she was going places -- she was part of the new generations of cheesemongers and boy was I right! Less than a year later, here she is, out on her own after a stint at BKLYN Larder. So check out this new cheese destination in this rapidly changing neighborhood for cheeses, nibbles, and even cheese education to boot!

728 Franklin Avenue

Monday, May 13, 2013

Day 1005 : Zabar's

While running with a friend yesterday who mentioned to me his love of Epoisses and how he purchased one roundelle at Fairway for $19.99 and then walked into Zabar's to discover the same cheese on sale for $4.99; I decided it was time for a visit. I hadn't been to Zabar's in a while and I've always said that if you are looking for an extensive selection of cheeses from across the pond at prices that won't break the bank, then the place to go is Zabar's. Their Loire Valley goat's milk cheese selection is hard to rival and their cured fish options are excellent among many other delicacies. But let's focus on their current cheese offerings.

Strolling in yesterday afternoon, I was excited to see what I could find and at what prices -- it was time for a little bit of frugal cheese shopping. Yes, you can go to East Village Cheese and purchase cheese for deeply discounted prices but the quality is hit or miss, at Zabar's this surely isn't the case.

Of course I had to get a small roundelle of Loire Valley goat -- St Marcellin to be exact. At perfect ripeness and consistency, this little disc of soft and creamy bright goat's milk cheese is easily spreadable on bread or a cracker and the perfect complement to a nice glass of bubbly Prosecco or even a crisp glass of white wine. Decadent yet light, you cannot ever go wrong here. Whereas at Fairway, one finds this cheese for $5.99, it was only $3.79. 

The real find was Mountain Gruyere for $8.98 a pound! The classic Alpine style cheese aged to perfection at a truly remarkable price. Traditionally you will find Gruyere for anywhere between $15 and $20 a pound. Nutty and rustic yet tangy and buttery, you cannot go wrong with this melting superstar. Perfect with a medium bodied red wine. Great as a substitute for Parmesan in my classic quinoa and veggie dishes, Gruyere adds a wonderfully nutty touch.

And what else?

Looking for a morsel of Parmesan's salty and briny cousin -- Pecorino Romano? Featured for $10.99, it is perfect for shaving over pastas, pizzas, roasted veggies, you name it! 

Was this it? No way! But these were a few of the great deals found yesterday at Zabar's and I am sure you my friends will find many others that will delight. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Day 1004 : It's asparagus time...

You know its Springtime when you see asparagus, ramps, and rhubarb on restaurant menus...out with the root vegetables and in with the green bounty of warmer months to come.

So tonight in honor of the fact that it is apparently Springtime, I thought I would propose a very simple asparagus dish to celebrate.

Pull out your stovetop grill, grab some asparagus, keeping them full, drizzle them with EVOO and sliced garlic, a pinch of sel de guerande. Grill for a few minutes per side or until nicely charred. Once the asparagus is flipped and one side is grilled, while the other side is cooking, top with some crumbled fresh chevre. While this is cooking, grab a handful of sugar snap peas and a fennel bulb. Dice the sugar snaps and half of the fennel bulb up with a little bit of the fennel leaves. Top with some EVOO and sel de guerande. Let this marinate for a few moments while your asparagus are cooking. When the chevre is fully melted, pull off your asparagus and place on a bed of sugar snaps and diced fennel. Enjoy with a bright crisp glass of Gruner or even a Pinot Gris.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Day 1003 : Queso de Murcia Pairing

Crafted in the Murcia region of Spain, southeastern Spain to be exact, is Queso de Murcia. Queso de Murcia is crafted with the milk of Murcian goats, the best goat milk producing breed in Spain. This DOP, firm, aged goat's milk cheese is bathed twice in red wine during its aging process providing a deep maroon exterior with a bright white interior. Crisp, grassy, citrusy and milky interior paste goes hand in hand with a rustic floral and fruit forward exterior.

What to pair with this delectable and flavorful cheese?

How about a compote of roasted cherry tomatoes and cranberries? Sweet and tangy, yet juicy and bright -- perfect for the milky lightness of the cheese.

Enjoy on a crisp and crunchy piece of toasted baguette with a brush EVOO and a sprinkling of sea salt.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Day 1002 : Small actions, big impact

Lets take a break from cheese for a moment to discuss an awesome event taking place on Monday eve.

So what is this event?

It's a public art project led by New York based artist Yazmany Arboleda along with a team of Afghani artists designed to gift 10,000 pink ballons to Kabul locals.  Arboleda's work has been featured in WWD, ABC, Huffington Post and he was recently selected as one of the GOOD 100. He's brought his balloon project to Bangalore, Nairobi and Yamaguchi, but this is the first time that anyone in the world can take part.

So what happens Monday evening? 

You get to participate in this awesome global art project with the 10,000 Balloons Pop up at Ludlow Studios.  We'll write and sign personal messages for Kabul, snap portraits of each other and take over an entire swath of the mural. Secure your spot at the pop up, balloons to share with friends and a place in the cultural city of a history. 10,000 Balloons is presented by Imagination in Space, Ludlow Studios, House of Horology, Streetwater and Paul Zepeda. 

For $10 you get to participate and receive seven free balloons, so grab your tickets here:

Monday May 6th 
Ludlow Studios - 40 Ludlow Street 
7 - 10 pm

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Day 1001 : Monument Lane

Located on the corner of West 12th and Greenwich Avenue sits the locally sourced American restaurant -- Monument Lane. Inspired by the street's name back in the 1700s, this rustic yet inviting restaurant is covered in maps of the New York of yesteryear but the menu itself is very contemporary and strictly seasonal.

The menu itself is a melange of small bites, appetizers, entrees, cheeses and cured meats -- lots of dishes that sounded appealing that's for sure!

So what did we have?

We had a selection of three of their cheeses - all locally sourced and each more wonderful than the last. There was Vermont Creamery's Torus, the goat cheese roundelle with a cutout center that has a special place in my heart; Hudson Flower, the local aromatic bloomy rinded goddess modeled on the likes of Fleur du Macquis; and of course Cabot Clothbound Cheddar.

Apart from their cheeses - we split a few of their small bites - their crispy chickpeas, roasted baby beets with a dollop of yogurt and their grilled English peas. The chickpeas were the absolutely perfect snack for our glasses of Vermentino but what wowed significantly more was their grilled English peas - flavorful and dynamic yet rustic and aromatic. The meal was off to a good start!

We then split a few of their salads  -- first of their Kale and Escarole salad topped with a soft poached egg, croutons, local Grana Padano and an anchovy vinaigrette. Simple yet flavorful - it's pretty hard to go wrong with kale in my mind! Next up, their Red Jacket Fuji apple salad with Vermont cheddar, wild arugula, red onion, and ramp vinaigrette. A classic combination made local and seasonal that delighted on the palate - fanciful and light! And last up we had their spring vegetable salad which was composed of watermelon radish, cherry tomatoes, pickled red onion and a lemon vinaigrette. A simple clean celebration of springtime in vegetable form.

Overall, a lovely meal at a warm and welcoming locally sourced tavern that's definitely worth a trip back for.

Monument Lane
103 Greenwich Avenue

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