Monday, December 13, 2010

Holiday Gifts for Foodies

Whether you have a food geek niece, a chef brother, or a foodie aunt here are a few ideas to get you started. You might also like to check out my list from last year.

Under $25
Star Wars Heroes & Villains Pancake Molds (Photo at the top) This is so cute, what else can I say. I know plenty of geeky boys and girls here in New York who would want this. :) $19.99

Angled Measuring Cups
. I love these! Possibly life changing, especially when you need the liquid measurement in a recipe to be exact. Due to the angled surface you can look straight down at the cup to check the level. $19.99 for a set of three.

A popover pan
is a fun tool many cooks might never buy for themselves. Making it the perfect gift. I'll probably be using mine for my New Years Eve Party. The wow factor when guests see that tall cripsy exterior bursting up out of the cup and the moist eggy hollow interior ready for butter makes it well worth the $21.

Whiskey Stones are great for friends who like their tipple chilled, but not watered down. I've seen these in a local store and they are beautiful in a glass. Form and Function, FTW. You'll get 8 ice cube sized smooth soap stones for $20. (Edited to add: Thanks to a comment left here these don't hold the cold! Sorry about that.)

A Food Lover's Basket

I like the idea of introducing friends to cooking authentic recipes and THE source for whole spices and pastes and really anything you can imagine buying in Mumbai, London or Bangkok can probably be found at Kalustyan's. If you have a friend with an interest in Indian food create a gift package.
Start with Madhur Jaffrey's Quick & Easy Indian Cooking, a great novice cookbook. I learned to cook with whole spices from Jaffrey's books.
Although you can find many whole Indian spices at Whole Foods and even some supermarkets, the quality will probably be superior ordered from Kalustyan's thanks to the high product turnover. No old musty spices there.

Here are the staple Indian spices you might include in the gift package:
  • Black Mustard Seeds
  • Cardamom Pods
  • Coriander Seeds
  • Ground turmeric
Round out the gift with a bottle of mango chutney, ghee, which is simply clarified butter, and a package of crispy pappadums.
Price could be as low as $40 or as high as $60

It wouldn't be my Holiday gift list without something from D'artagnan , my favorite purveyor of natural and organic meats and other good things. The quality and care in their products is amazing.
I don't have a relationship with them other than that of slavish fangirl. :) Although I'd love a relationship. Don't they need a social media darling in the NY food world?

I did have a small fling with them after calling to let them know I found a bone in a sausage. They were sweet enough to send me a fois gras package as an apology. I hadn't blogged about the bone, and hadn't planned to. After all sausage is made from meat, right? I just wanted to give them a heads up about it because I eat their sausage and duck fairly often. There was strange timing with it since I had also included them in my Holiday Gift List just one week earlier! There was no quid pro quo. That's not how I roll as a food blogger.
Anyway, on to the good stuff.

Game Sausage Sampler for $26.99. I've had the duck and merguez and they are terrific.
You get one pack of EACH of the following:

• Duck & Armagnac Sausage
• Merguez Sausage
• Rabbit & Ginger Sausage
• Venison & Cherry Sausage
• Wild Boar Sausage

Duck Foie Gras with Black Truffles for $16 This would be a great gift on it's own, but even more so if you order the French Kisses 12 ounces for $10 to go with it.
Here is D'Artagnan's description of their kisses, "We start with plump, juicy prunes marinated in Armagnac (French Brandy) and then lovingly fill them with creamy, sweet mousse of Foie Gras." I haven't tried the Kisses yet, but I hear it from good authority they are mind blowing.

That's my list. Anything you'd like for the holidays?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Fast Vietnamese Slaw
This is a colorful side dish that can add excitement to everything from roasted meats to simple baked fish fillets. It's sweet, salty, and crunchy with a little bit of heat that you can control.

I like keeping a bag of the premade slaw mix in the fridge for this recipe. It's one of those rare ready made ingredients that stay fresh for a good week or so. The slaw keeps for about a week in the fridge and I like it more the longer it sits. You might think the herbs would die in all that acid, but the flavor is still great.


Mix and let marinate for about 1/2 hour the following:
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 serrano pepper, seeded and minced, or more :)
1/2 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons Fish sauce
1 1/2 Tablespoon Sugar

Then add:
1 1/2 cup slaw mix (half a 1 lb bag) or 1/2 small cabbage, thinly sliced
1 shredded carrot (optional, I like more carrot than comes in the bag of slaw mix and it definitely adds a freshness to the mix)
1/2 thinly sliced red pepper (optional)
crushed peanuts and more cilantro for garnish

This slaw can sit for quite awhile, even overnight, but the vegetables do give off alot of liquid you might want to drain off. BUT save that liquid, I think it would make a great marinade for chicken or shrimp. Not sure about that idea of a marinade that's just a theory I'll have to try out.
Now, taste for the sweet, sour, salty balance adding more sugar, lime juice or fish sauce as needed. I think this is a skill that takes practice, figuring out how to balance flavors. It will probably need a little more fish sauce or sugar. Go very, very slowly when adding them it. Keep tasting.

Just before serving stir in:
1/4 cup fresh mint
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, make sure to include minced stems

Edited to add:
My friends over at eGullet forums recommend salting the cabbage first, letting it sit for awhile and squeezing out any liquid to cut down on how watery the slaw becomes the next day. It's not necessary, but I'll be trying this next time I make it.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Food Swapping
Urban domestics swap food in Brooklyn.

I went to the BKFoodSwappers food swap in Brooklyn last night and made out like a bandit. If you aren't familiar with the idea of food swapping, basically you bring some homemade food item and barter it for something tasty someone else made. We had a fantastic crowd of about 30 foodies.

I brought mango habanero hot sauce, papaya habanero ketchup, quick refrigerator pickles and an apple butter spiked with a tiny amount of habanero.
If you are looking for a great workspace in Brooklyn check out Brooklyn Creative League that gave us the space for our event. Thanks Neil! You can see the nifty form swappers fill out and put in front of our goodies for people to sign.

I came home with pickled green beans, some spectacularly tasty baked goods from Hungry Rabbit NYC, SkeeterNYC's Salmon Rilette, fridge pickles, apple pie rum, flax cracker, date tamerind dipping sauce from Jackie Gordon and Nomnivourous' bacon jam(recipe). I'm feeling very pleased with myself.

Swapping tips:
  • Know your audience. I knew my particular crowd are foodies, so I couldn't just stroll in with basic chocolate chip cookies and expect to score.
  • Label your items with your contact info and any social media links.
  • Have great organizers like Kate of Hipgirls and Meg of Brooklyn Homesteader who keep the event moving along.
  • Be prepared to go after what you want, channel your inner car salesman. I heard lots of begging and cajoling last night. I may have threatened @EmilyHanHan on Twitter for her bacon jam. :)
  • Go early. Get your name on what you prize the most.

Are you a swapper? Want to throw a swap? Kate has a nice description over at her website.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Love a macaron? Like pumpkin? Live in New York?
You might want to head on over to the Payard Patisserie website and preorder some pumpkin goodies. A lovely PR person let me know about how Payard is celebrating Halloween and I'm happy to share the good news with you.
Here are a few reasons why you would be a hero if you show up at a Halloween party with pumpkin macarons or even the $24 completely adorable cake:
  1. François Payard is a third generation French Pastry Chef.
  2. He was awarded “Pastry Chef of the Year” by the Bon Appétit Food & Entertainment Awards
  3. While the kids are eating poor excuses for sweets, you could be eating a terrific dessert.
  4. Macarons are the tastiest little bites, crispy outside creamy inside bites ever created by man.
Need I say more? I'd go for the cake. $24 is reasonable considering the fabulous chef.
Available Friday, October 29 through Sunday, October 31 and can be ordered at for delivery in Manhattan on Friday or Saturday, or for pick up at FPB or FC Chocolate Bar (located in the Mauboussin jeweler on Madison Avenue) on Friday, Saturday or Sunday by calling 212-995-0888 ext 131 or emailing

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Papaya Ketchup
This is delicious with my fried plantains, baked sweet potato spears or served with fish. This is terrific with mango too.

Makes 1 cup

1 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon butter

4 tablespoons onion, minced

1 teaspoon ginger, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 papaya, ripe, chopped

1/4 cup cider vinegar

4 tablespoons orange juice(optional, you could use just about any juice or water here)

1/4 cup sugar

Pinch of ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon allspice, ground

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce or to taste, habanero is reccommended


  1. In a medium sauce pot, heat the oil and butter.
  2. Add the onion, ginger and garlic. Cook for 5-10 minutes over a medium low heat until the onion as softened.

Add the papaya and cook an additional 5 minutes.

Add the cider vinegar, water, sugar, cloves, allspice and hot sauce. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer.
  5. Simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until thickened. Puree in food processor and cool completely. Add salt and pepper to taste. You may want to add more hot sauce.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Quick Fried Ripe Plantains (Maduros)

This is my new favorite side dish. If you've seen plantains and not know what to do with them this is a quick and easy and tasty introduction to bananas big starchy cousin. It's delicious with roasted meats and any Latin flavored meal or as a quick appetizer. When you fry up the very, very ripe plantains the sugars caramelize into the most amazing slightly crunchy outside complimented by the soft and sweet inside. The only difficult part of this dish is waiting for the plantains to turn completely black. This is when the plantain is at it's sweetest. I like to serve it with lots of fresh lime and salt and a habanero hot sauce, but sometimes will make a quick fruit ketchup. That recipe will be posted soon.

Serves 2 as a side dish, 4 for appetizers

2 ripe plantains, best if the skin is completely black, but wait until it has ripened to at least 1/2 black. It's not rotting, the starch is converting to sugar.
Vegetable oil, enough to cover the bottom of your wok or fry pan with 1-2 inches of oil, just about the thickness of your sliced plantain
Lime, cut into quarters

  1. With a sharp knife slice each end off the plantain. To remove the skin make shallow slices into the skin lengthwise down each plantain in 4 places. Carefully peel the skin off. This is easier the riper the fruit is.
  2. Slice plantains into 3/4 to 1 inch slices.
  3. Heat oil to 365 degree, I use my candy thermometer for this.
  4. Carefully slide slices into the oil and fry on one side for a few seconds. Keep peeking to see if they are browned. Turn over to brown the other side. This is a very quick fry, so don't walk away.
  5. Drain on brown paper, or just drain with slotted spoon and put on a plate. Don't drain on paper towels. I've made that mistake. They stick!
  6. Sprinkle with a coarse salt and pepper.
  7. Serve hot with lime for sprinkling and a good hot sauce.
  8. I like to serve it with my Papaya Ketchup, recipe coming soon.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Caramelized Onion Pie for @FeastUp Potluck Picnic!
If I wanted to get fancy then you could say this is my take on Tarte à l'oignon alsacienne that I learned from a Master Class with Chef Andre Soltner at The International Culinary Center in Manhattan. Chef Soltner said other chefs he knows send out a glass of champagne to a friend, but he likes to send out a slice of this pie. He believes, "If someone wants a glass of champagne, he can buy it. But an onion tart he cannot buy". Just as a heads up you really need to keep an eye on the onions as they caramelize, giving them a stir every few minutes or so. It does take a good 40 minutes or so, but the flavor is spectacular. This is a great dish to bring to a picnic and it holds well for a day or so, though it does taste best the day you make it.

3 good sized yellow onions, chopped
1 stick butter
1 or 2 ounces SCHALLER & WEBER BAUERNSCHINKEN (FARMERS HAM) smoky, don't use watery deli ham
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 large egg
4-6 slices of swiss cheese, thickly cut
pie dough, feel free to make your own, I always use storebought

Preheat oven to 400
Press pie dough into pie pan. Prick all over with a fork.
Bake til brown, about 15 minutes

While pie shell bakes saute onion with butter over medium high heat until lightly browned and all pieces are tender. Once you see some browning you might want to turn the heat down a bit, or if your brave just stay there stirring until you reach a nice golden color. Stir often!

Scoop cooked onions in a large bowl and let cool. Whisk egg and add to cream. Stir well and mix into coolish onion. Stir in minced ham. Stir in freshly grated nutmeg. Season with salt and lots of black pepper.

Turn oven down to 350

Line pie shell with cheese slices. I find this layer of delicious melting cheese keeps the pie shell crisp. Pour on the egg, cream and onion mixture. Smooth down with a spatula.
Bake until set about 25 minutes.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Summer Quick Pickles

This recipe will blow your mind. You will never buy pickles again. There was a summer where I made a vat a week. I went to a food swap in Brooklyn recently and was told later that someone I swapped with liked them so much she was rationing them out to 1 or 2 pickle slices a day. Crunchy and spicy with a little sweetness it's great with everything from BBQ to a cheese plate. I like them out of the jar for breakfast. :) Try the onions and garlic on your next grilled hot dog.

This recipe came from my tinkering with Chris Schesinger's Famous Back Eddy House Pickles. When I lived in Somerville, Mass. his East Coast Grill restaurant was one of my favorites. As soon as you sit down in the restearnt your brought a little dish of these pickles. I've simplified it by not sauteeing the onion and garlic. I also don't bother with sliced carrots and peppers, though by all means go for it if you like. If you are interested in experimenting with more delicious quick pickles I absolutely recommend his cookbook Quick Pickles, Easy Recipes with Big Flavor. I've gotten alot of use out of it.

Actual work time is no more than 1/2 hr.

3 lb of pickling cucumbers
3 Tbsp salt
8 cloves garlic, peeled and bruised
2 onions, sliced
4 cups cider vinegar
2 cups light brown sugar
1 tsp ground cloves
4 bay leaves
1 Tbsp yellow mustard seeds
1 Tbsp black mustard seeds (FYI you can use any mustard seeds you can find.
2 Tablespoon Dijon, I'm sure any good mustard would work
2 tsp whole allspice, cracked (put on a cutting board and press down very hard with your heaviest pan)
2 tsp whole coriander seeds, cracked

Prep the veg:
Slice cucumbers into 1/4 to 1/2 inch rounds. Remove both ends, some people say if you leave the blossom end in the pickle it could turn the batch bitter. I haven't seen any science on this, but just in case I slice them off. Maybe someday I'll do a head to head with two batches.
Toss slices with the salt in a large bowl and top with some ice. I never have more than one tray actually full in my freezer so I wouldn't worry too much about that. Put this bowl in your fridge for 3 to 9 hours.
Remove from the fridge, rinse the slices well and set aside in a non-reactive heat proof bowl. I use a large mixing bowl.
Make the brine:
In a non-reactive pan dissolve the sugar in the vinegar over medium heat. Stir in spices. Bring to a boil over medium high heat.
Continue to boil for 5 minutes, stirring every now and then.
Pour your boiling syrup over cucumbers and onion/garlic mix. Let it cool before refrigerating. I would wait maybe 4 or 5 days for best flavor, if you can wait that long. This will keep about a month in the fridge, but I doubt it will last that long once you've tasted them.
Your kitchen could smell like vinegar for about a day. I tend to toss my box fan in the kitchen window blowing out and that takes care of it. One day of your place smelling a little like vinegar is worth these terrific pickles!
You can vary these spices depending on what you like. I've been thinking of tossing a few serrano chili peppers poked with a fork a few times in with the cukes.

Let me know if you make them! I know you'll love this easy recipe.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Plaza opens a Euro Style Food Hall

I love this concept. Imagine if your local mall's food court was taken over by the terrific chef Todd English and a great sommelier. Just imagine it for a moment.

That is what that iconic New York hotel has created, sans The Plaza prices. I was invited to the opening-day launch and the layout is very much what you find at a food court, but with very comfortable seating in front of each of the eight stations. The space was beautifully designed to look like a European food hall by architect Jeffrey Beers.

I sat at the wine bar counter and had a perfectly tender and seasoned octopus, some slightly overcooked and under seasoned lamb skewers, terrific sashimi and a very nice chianti. The bonus was I met a really cool girl sitting at the bar with me. Emily works nearby and was excited to have some new food options in what is a Manhattan food deadzone.

I really think this will catch on with the local office workers. You can eat at the bars and as a bonus, order from any of the other stations no matter where you sit. Sit at the Grill and order from the Dumpling Bar. A pretty ingenious idea.

Stations at The Plaza Food Hall by Todd English include The Ocean Grill & Oyster Bar, The Bakery, The Cheese & Charcuterie Counter, The Wine Bar, The Grill, Pizza, The Dumpling Bar, and The Sushi Bar. If you are in the area I recommend it, the food quality was stellar, but if you're short on time they are still working out the service kinks. It took a while for my dishes to arrive. If you're on your lunch break, you might want to get your food to go.

The Plaza Food Hall by Todd English will be open Monday through Sunday from 7am to 9pm. It is located at One Central Park South, New York, NY 10019.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Hardcore Homecooking
Have you ever imagined not eating out or getting delivery for a year? Yeah, me neither, but Cathy Erway of the Brooklyn blog Not Eating Out in New York did. For two years she did not eat out in New York! In addition to being a lovely person, she bravely committed to this mad mission, and succeeded. Through her blog she was able to turn her adventures into a recently published book, The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove.

How can you not eat out in New York? More so than any other city I've lived in New Yorkers eat out... alot. How can you socialize with friends or boyfriends? Cathy finds some unique ways to make it work, with varying outcomes. Her book is more a memoir of her experiment with some great recipes thrown in. I plan on trying her San Bei Gi very soon. The Brooklyn food scene is so vibrant and she is shining in the middle of it. Go Cathy!

You might also want to check out The Week of Eating In that Cathy inspired on the Huffington Post.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Twitter Recipes:
I like to write an entire recipe in 140 characters

I've heard from a few of you that you would like to see a repository of some of the recipes I twitter. Maybe a tumbler blog? If you have any suggestions let me know.

Ultimately I'd really like to publish a mini book of my recipes. The type of book you often see by the counter at book stores, usually 2 inch square.

If you're interested in more twitter recipes you might also like to see this UK Guardian article about other twitter users and chefs who tweet about delicious ideas. I'm in it!

This is the quote from the paper: Piper's Best Baba Ghanoush, transmitted over two tweets: "Best Baba Ghanoush Halve 2Eggplants rubwithEVOO RoastCutSideDown 400degrees tilSoft chopwithskinON Processwith 1/4cupTahini Juice1Lemon 2mincedGarlic Cloves 1TbspCumin Add more of any of these &S/P to taste."

Twitter Recipes

Depression Proof Recipes: Rub whole sweet potato with OliveOil & lots of salt/pepper. Pokew/knife so it doesn't explode Roast 400degrees 1hr

Chicken legs marinating in Italian dressing. later dredge in grated parm cheese and roast ~1hr @375 #cheapdinner 5:00 PM Jan 21st from web

Steam head of cauliflower(pokew/knife) til v.Tender drain well(Key!) Puree w/ 4-6ouncesCreamCheese S&P Nutmeg ToTaste :)

Avocadoes on sale 2 for$3 Guac! Cilantro 2TbspWhite Onion minced, Juice of 1 lime, 1 tomato chopped, Jalapeno, 1tspgarlicclove S&P

Eggplant 1/4"slices dipped in egg then 1/2CornMeal and 1/2freshgratedParm Bake onOliveOiledPan 350 about 45 min. flip when each side brown

Make the eggplant into a Napoleon, stack with layers of Tom Sauce, Mozzarella and parm cheese. Top layer is Mozz. Put back in oven to melt.

Brussel SproutsFresh/frozen simmer til tender drain/dry well Toss in EVOO with lots of S&P Roast 400degreetill brown ~45min stir ocasionaly

@Jeters I'd cube veg, roast with lots ofolive oil/rosemary/S&P for about 1 hour @375degree put S&P'd fish on top after 50 min. cook til done

PureedSwedes: nuke 1large/choppedPeeled rutabega tilSoft, puree with 4tbspcreamcheese or butter, S+P totaste. Keeptasting for salt

CheeseSauce that makes everything taste goodMelt2TbspEach Butter+Flour cook til gold Stir in 1CuptEach Milk Shred SharpCheddar til Melted

RecessionProofCooking MisoSoup 4cupsH2o 3TbspMiso 2tsp InstantDashi(get@JapaneseStore) simmer w/cubedtofu little minced greenonion

Vegetable Candy: CutCarrots/Parsnips into same size tossed w/oliveoil lots of S+P Roast at 375 tilsoft 1hr. Stir every15-20 min or so

FastGravy for boring leftovers: Stir 2TbspFlour into2TbspHotButter Stir 1Minute Stirin1CupChicknBroth 1CupHalf&Half S+P to taste

Slaw shred HeadCabbage 1/2thinlyslicedRedOnion 3-4TbspCiderVinegar 2-5TbspMayo 1tspPaprika/DryMustard S&P ToTaste Chill a few hours.

Slaw Rec. cont I also sometimesadd thinlyslicedFreshHotPepper, 1TbspChipotleinAdobo, grated carrot, cilantro, depends on whats in the fridge

Want: A Grilled Cheese made from fresh sourdough bread sliced with mix of XtraSharp Vermont&Irish CheddarCheese browned inlotsof goodbutter

Quick Summer Salsa Cube1ripeMelon, mince1/2jalapeno, 1/2bunchmint, 2-3TbspRedOnion Add toTaste limejuice little hotsauce ChiliPowder S&P

Cheap Tasty Cream of Broccoli Soup recipe on the way. Don't forget to add salt and pepper to taste cont...

Cook1dicedOnion in 1/2stickButtersStir in2TbspFlour Whisk in5cupsChickenStock Simmer Add1boxFrozenBroccoli Cook20Min Add 1/2cuptCreamPuree

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Respect for the Eggs is the Brunch Litmus Test
Brunch at L'ecole Review

I take brunch seriously. I recently had one of the best at L'ecole, the restaurant of The French Culinary Institute. Full disclaimer: I was invited to this brunch and aside from tips, it was free. Please believe, I would never tell you I loved a meal if I didn't. Speaking of love, they are having a special Valentine's Day brunch.

For $19.50 you get an assortment of freshly made bread, an appetizer and an entree. In Manhattan that is a steal! The quality of everything I tried was stellar. Every dish was clearly made with care and attention. Even more importantly, my eggs weren't crucified. They were exactly how an omelet should be - soft and creamy perfection. Why is it that most brunch spots can't cook eggs? They're always rubbery or brown. Usually, if I want great eggs I have to do it myself or go to Stone Park Cafe in Brooklyn. I even heard another diner order their eggs cooked “over medium”! I could see it and it did look more glistening with a gorgeous wobbly yolk.

Here's what we had:
Complementary Bread: The basket came with an assortment of 5 different types. Most had seeds, nuts or dried fruit and were delicious. Even better, the butter was actually spreadable. I have never understood sending out cold bread with frozen butter.
Cappuccino and a Bloody Mary: Coffee was very good, but the Bloody Mary wasn't that inspiring. It seemed watery and needed more horseradish.
Appetizer of Duck and Pork Terrine with Pistachio and Truffle: I think this was terrific, but I wasn't in the mood for it. It was a cold day and I should have started with something warm. Next time I'll try the French Onion Soup app.

Shrimp & grits

Appetizer of Butter Poached Shrimp on top of Grits with Andouille Sausage: Three perfectly cooked tender juicy shrimp on top of a good 1/2 cup of buttery grits. Very generous serving size for an app.

Omelet: Redolent with delicious smoky bacon, thanks to North Country Bacon out of New Hampshire. I also added in some goat cheese and sauteed onions. Like I said, perfectly cooked eggs! Hooray! It came with a potato terrine in the form of thinly sliced potato, layered with herbs. My only disappointment was that although I could see the herbs between each layer I couldn't actually taste them. I also would have liked a hollandaise or bernaise sauce puddle underneath.

Duck Confit

Second Main of Duck Confit: Delicious juicy duck with a citrus sauce that I wanted more of! The fresh tasty greens (baby arugula?) were a nice accompaniment, but could have used a little more acid in the dressing.

The decor was warm and attractive, though maybe just a little hotel lobby-ish. I appreciated that my seat gave me a view out the street. Ask for the table in the corner closest to the bar. I haven't had dinner there, but the dress of most everyone at brunch was casual. This may sound odd, but the dining room chairs are really comfortable. Some restaurants feel like they chose chairs just so that you would eat and leave as soon as possible. Too bad I didn't take a photo of them. :)
The music level was perfect. I often I find myself at brunch yelling over Led Zeppelin.
This is a great spot to bring larger crowds, though I would make reservations. There are 3 or 4 tables that can take parties of 6 to 10.

Very friendly and attentive. Not sure you can take this into account since they knew I was there to review them. :) I did see that other tables were well taken care of. You can read on Yelp that I'm not alone in my opinions. The yelpers love this place.

Wrap up:
Over all very, very well done French food with good portion sizes at prices that you can't complain about. I plan on coming back as soon as I can and recommend you try it out, maybe this Valentine's Day. I'm looking forward to trying a dinner here. They have a $42 five course prix fixe that dinner menu that includes appetizer, fish course, meat course, salad, and dessert. That is an incredible value. Great spot for any age range, good for dates and out of towners you want to impress.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Help for Haiti!
On Sunday, January 24th, L'ecole, at The French Culinary Institute,
will be donating 100% of brunch proceeds (11:30am-2pm) including
waiters tips to The Red Cross Haitian Relief.
The prix fixe menu will be $19.50.

During the last third of their training, L'Ecole, the Michelin-rated restaurant of The French Culinary Institute, provides a unique opportunity for culinary students to apply their skills in every station of a busy kitchen. Under the watchful eye of Chef-Instructors, students learn to prepare meals for New York's sophisticated clientele. The Zagat Survey rated the restaurant highly, comparing it to "getting Prada wholesale." The menu prices really are fantastic.
L'ecole 462 Broadway, New York

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Best Tomato Soup Ever
Campbell's tomato soup is what I grew up on and it's what I turn to when I feel sick, but this is even better. Try it with a grilled cheese sandwich on a cold day. I added 1/2 a chipotle, but it's wonderful without it. This is a very forgiving recipe, more of this and less of that. If you don't have celery I would still make it. The key is to keep tasting and get the salt and pepper right. It won't take more than 20 minutes of your attention to pull it together.

4 Tbsp butter
1 medium size onion, finely minced
1 stalk of celery, finely minced

1 28 ounce can of tomatoes, chopped
~3 ounces tomato paste, about 1/2 a small can
1 cup chicken broth

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp thyme
1 tsp dried basil, or 1/2 bunch of sliced fresh basil leaves added at the last minute before serving
1/2 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced (completely optional, or a little tabasco)

1/2 - 1 1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 to 2 tsp of sugar (to taste depending on acidity of tomatoes)

  1. Saute onion and celery in butter over low heat until soft, about 15 min.
  2. Add can of tomatoes with it's liquid, chicken broth, and seasonings to the pot.
  3. Bring to a boil, and lower to a slow simmer. Simmer about 20 minutes. Puree with blender, food processor or hand stick blender. I like a cup or so not pureed to give the soup a bit of a chunky texture.
  4. Return to the pot, bring to simmer and stir in baking soda and cream to taste. It may foam up a bit with the addition of baking soda, but don't be alarmed. It's added to make the soup less acidic so your cream doesn't curdle.
  5. Stir in salt and sugar adding very little at a time stirring and tasting to balance the flavors. Keep tasting! You may even want to add more cream.

Serves 4

To serve for company: Top bowls with a tablespoon of herbed goat cheese and a fresh basil leaf.