Monday, August 30, 2010

Wedding Bells

August has been a joyous month...The Month Of The WeddingS!

It started with Katy's bachelorette party in New York.
From a sail around New York harbor aboard the old Shearwater sailboat, to dinner at Jane, karaoke at Pulse and a bedroom themed bachelorette brunch in Brooklyn Bridge Park, it was an action-packed (yet tasteful;-)) weekend. I highly recommend the Shearwater! This was the second time I've been on it, and have been amazed both times at how professional the staff is and how much fun I have.

Karaoke at Pulse was also a ball. I know, I know, you're saying, "but Erin you hate karaoke." So I thought!! But I picked Pulse because you can also play Rock Bank, which I became addicted to at Noelle's last year. Minus points to Pulse because they couldn't get Rock Band to work properly. And message to them, offering people a shot every time something goes wrong does NOT fix the problem. However, I had rented a private karaoke room so we switched to that and had a riot singing our (off key) hearts out.

August continued in Rochester, New York, at the wedding of Matt and Tricia, on a hill overlooking Lake Ontario. Matt was a fellow fellow in Germany. Their ceremony reminded me of what it must be like to get married at Jolli Lodge, overlooking Lake Michigan, except for the missing Manitou Islands:-) It was a lovely service, where Matt and Tricia wrote their own vows and had friends read poems and excerpts from the stories that were significant to them. They fulfilled every guy's dream and served Dinosaur BBQ for dinner. And they topped the evening with a cupcake wedding "cake"-- hundreds of mini cupcakes in flavors like PB&J (my fav!) and strawberries and champagne. The evening concluded at a local bowling alley, which was also a blast. Who knew New York State was so vast, but we had a nice drive up to Rochester and really though Webster was a nice area!

And last but certainly not least, Katy's wedding to Tyler on August 21, 2010. I feel blessed that I could be part of such a special day for one of my oldest and dearest friends.

The weekend started with a bridesmaid lunch at Katy's parent's house. Tea sandwiches were just what the bridesmaids (all 11 of them, plus 3 junior bridesmaids and a flower girl!!) needed to get ready for the rehearsal. [Cooks note: check out these cucumber tea sandwiches...pretty and tasty... though we used chive cream cheese instead of Tofutti.] The rehearsal dinner at The Black Bass Inn along the Delaware River was picturesque. And everyone was in bed early (well at least I was!) to get ready for the big day.

Katy looked beautiful in a Vera Wang gown and chandelier earrings. Tyler was styling in the suit Katy made him wear;-) The reception at Font Hill castle in Doylestown almost matched the elegance of the bride...almost. Congratulations Katy and Tyler!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Arthur Avenue

I've tried to get Matt to come with me to the San Gennaro festival (mid-September!) in Little Italy for 3 years without success... "Little Italy is so touristy. The real Italians are up on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx." I still want to go to the festival (Matthew, take note;-)) But Matt's argument got major support when Bobby Flay did his eggplant parmigiana Throwdown at Mike's Deli in the Bronx.

So to the Bronx we went.

Oh my gosh it was so good. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it. Let me have a moment...

Okay, so back to the eggplant parm. The success of the dish lies in the thinly sliced eggplant, very light breading and quality sauce and mozzarella cheese. I really enjoyed the basil on top too! The grilled Italian bread was the perfect sauce soper-upper.

I can't make eggplant parm to save my life but I do consider myself to be quite the connoisseur. So whose the best? For years, the honor has gone to Salvatore Scallopini in the Detroit area (with Granny holding the record for the best baked version, Ted's Deli in Burlington, NJ for the best rollanti and a new Italian place in Newtown having the best roasted eggplant roll.) Am I prepared to declare a new winner? As much as I don't want to dethrone anything in Detroit, Mike's Deli takes the top spot by a thin slice of eggplant.

Mike's also had great sandwiches. Matt enjoyed his Raging Bull, which is supposed to have hot sopressata and sharp provolone. Not sure that it had the cheese on it, but he liked it whatever it was.

On my next journey to the Bronx I will definitely be placing a catering order for a whole tray of eggplant goodness!

Monday, August 16, 2010

King of Corona

Paul Simon sings about Rosie, the Queen of Corona. But I recently visited the King of Corona...the Lemon Ice King of Corona to be exact!

Matt and I took a drive to Corona Queens to try some of the King's famous Italian ice. We both got lemon, which I can report was very good! It's better than the Italian ice you get in paper cups at the grocery store because it was soft enough to eat like ice cream and had a natural lemon flavor. But it's different (and not as good as) Rita's Water Ice, which I like because it's slushier and has bits of lemon in it.

The Lemon Ice King has over 3 dozen flavors. Now that tops Rita's! But my other slight beef is that you aren't allowed to mix flavors in one cup. But have no fear, I'll go back to try the others...well most of the others-- not so sure about licorice flavor:-P

Adding to the adventure, the nearby park has a bocce ball court, where some old Italian guys were involved in a serious competition!

With a hat like this, I think we might have found The Queen!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Minetta Tavern

It is only right that Captain Carnivore should provide a guest post about Minetta Tavern...

My birthday was in February, but its stunning conclusion did not occur until mid July. Why? Because Erin and I are simply not cool enough to get a reservation at Minetta Tavern. Recently taken over by new owners and chefs, people such as Madonna and Gwenth Paltrow have taken to it like a fish to water. As a result we had to make a reservation 30 days in advance and could only get a weekday at 6pm.

I would have waited a year. The star attraction at Minetta Tavern is the Black Label Burger. Sourced from meat king Pat LaFrieda, who has created custom blends for many New York restaurants, this piece of meat was unlike any I have ever had. It has no peers. This burger continues the 80/20 ratio of meat to fat that is considered the standard for top burgers-- anything more is too much fat and creates flare up and anything less is too lean to have good flavor. This is not grass fed beef either, which, while humane simply does not have the flavor of corn fed beef. Anyway, this burger is an 8oz blend of dry aged rib eye (the same rib eye steak on the menu for $90), skirt steak, and brisket. They literally grind dry aged rib eye steak for the blend. If you want to know why the burger costs $26, this is why. Dry aged prime beef is very expensive. Now, it’s rare that something, anything, that receives this much hype actually lives up to the fanfare…but this burger does! I ordered mine medium. While not on the menu, they say you can get cheese, but really shouldn’t, so I didn’t. It also comes with caramelized onions which I usually don’t like, but this is how the chef prepares it so this is how I wanted it!

My burger arrived exactly as it was in the picture/card Erin gave to me on my birthday telling me she would take me here for dinner (quick side bar..isnt Erin the best!). [ET: I really didn't add this!] I did take a french fry first, which was fried and salted very nicely, then grabbed for the Black Label Burger. Taking a moment to let the anticipation subside, I took a bite of the beef that must be served in Heaven. It is so hard to put into words because it is unlike any burger you have ever had. [ET: don't think Matt's ever smiled so big in his life. Don Mattingly could have sat next to us and Matt would not have noticed!] The onions are just sweet enough to provide a light and crunchy flavor, while still letting the beef take center stage. If you don’t cook the beef right than nothing is going to work, and this was cooked more than perfect, just slightly pink in the middle. A very nice salty crust formed on the top of the burger, and you bite through that and the onions into a blend of beef that tastes like eating a steak. The burger is loosely packed yet stays in form and molds itself to the bun. I didn’t want to finish it; I let the last bite sit on the plate for a few minutes. When I was done, I wanted another.

I think Erin had a salad and a crab cake special, but I was so immersed in beefy glory she could have been eating crown rack of lamb and I might not have known. [ET: yes, I had a crab cake and a salad with warm goat cheese spread on baguette toasts. Not willing to declare a new crab cake champ, but I give Minetta props for a solid crab cake, with very little filler and a fresh, buttery crab flavor.]

[ET: you can also tell how much Matt loved his burger because he didn't mention our drinks, which I also enjoyed. I had a Stormy Cider, with fresh apple cider, rum, spices and lemon. Matt had a Blood and Sand with whiskey, cherries, oranges and vermouth. Both yummy...but mine was better!]

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Latest Pizza List

10. Krunch grandma slice
9. Lucali
8. Fascati and Joes
7. Keste
6. Grimaldis
5. Motorino
4. Lombardis
3. Johns
2. Artichoke (though if I was awarding a posthumous award, it would still go to Anselmos)
1. DIFARA...really, who could knock the king from his pedestal. But what is all of this talk about his son franchising!?

Pizza review

I haven't posted about pizza in a while. Of course this is not because I haven't been eating anything from my 5th food group! So here's where I've been.

Motorino (Williamsburg)- After a mixed experience at Motorino in the East Village, Matt and I wanted to give the original Motorino a try. The original is definitely better than the sequel!! I enjoyed a margherita DOC with buffalo mozzarella and Matt loved the pizza with soppressata. The buffalo mozz made an important difference in the overall flavor of the pie. The sauce had a good tomato flavor and the crust was nicely charred, soft and light.

Keste Pizza and Vino (Village)- Keste has entered the packed pizza scene in a packed pizza area (Joes and Johns nearby) but has made its mark in my pizza book:-) Keste is tiny but we were there early enough that getting a table wasn't a problem. I ordered the Ortolana-- artichokes, mushrooms, fresh moz and tomatoes. Minus points for not removing the mushrooms that I asked them to. But otherwise, this was a good pie! Flavorful cheese and high marks for the sauce and crust. Matt got the Regina Margherita with grape tomatoes and loved it!.

Paulie Gee's in Greenpoint-- Another Matt pick. I absolutely love their decor!! Tables and lights are made from reclaimed items and the bar has a built in booth. Mixed review on the pizza. Matt loved it and ranks it as his top pick (after DiFara of course!) He had the King Harry, with Fior di Latte, Italian Tomatoes, Prosciutto di Parma, Pecorino Romano, Olive Oil and Fresh Basil. I liked the crust-- piping hot, soft and light. But I didn't feel there was enough cheese or that the sauce had enough kick to it. Even Matt said he wanted more Prosciutto on his. I did think he did a good job with the amount of basil. And additional points to Paulie Gee himself, for working the dining room and making sure customers were happy. Location seems to be a bit tough but then again so is Midwood. Good luck Mr Gee!! (P.S. Captain Carnivore is now addicted to the Mexican Coke that you offer!)

So where do these reviews leave my top 10 list? List tomorrow.