The Hermès Madeleine

We’ve been in Baltimore for a month as of yesterday, and while there are adjustments to make like finding new food and wine stores and getting accustomed to driving around in a real city, overall the move has been a very positive one. We were mostly unpacked by the time New Year’s rolled around largely thanks to Michael going through box after box during his time off work, and even now we just have to figure out where to hang and/or place the remaining pictures we have stashed around the apartment.

(We also have to get used to living in a city with an actual football team again, and moreover living not that far from the stadium. We were spared the brunt of the excitement this year but I imagine next fall we won’t be making many plans to venture out on Sundays unless it’s to places we can walk.)

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Home-cured gravlax with Wasa crackers, cream cheese, and pickled shallots

Another year, another New Year’s Eve in the books. Like last year our celebration was small but special as we were able to sit and nosh and chat all evening, and honestly I couldn’t ask for much more than that. I was beyond excited because it was the first time we could properly entertain in our new digs without bags of paper and flattened boxes lying everywhere, and truth be told I kind of felt like Marnie from Girls when she was fluttering about that North Fork house getting it ready for what would be the dinner party from hell.

(Fortunately our get-together did not include a choreographed dance number, not enough food for everyone who was gathered, or a drunken confession session in which everyone’s dirty laundry was aired, so really the comparison ended during the preparation stage.)

When it came to the menu we largely stuck to the edict of not serving brand new recipes, sticking with tried and true staples like hummus, lamb meatballs, and my crostini with mozzarella di bufula and serrano ham, but I admittedly did try something that was sort of new by trying Tom Colicchio’s recipe for cured salmon. It’s not the first time I’ve made gravlax, nor was this the first time we’ve tried making a cured product following a Tom Colicchio recipe, so it didn’t feel quite as much of a risk as, say, test-driving a recipe from either the Le Bernadin cookbook or even the Gramercy Tavern cookbook. Read More

Cava-Vermut Negre Fizz

It feels like vermouth is having a bit of a moment these days, isn’t it? It’s a moment that has been years in the making of course—I remember a few years ago when my friends at Saugatuck Grain and Grape were sampling tastes of a ridiculously delicious sweet vermouth that I had previously never heard of, and then a couple of years later one of the helpful people at Fairway’s wine shop was enthusiastically recommending a bottle of Vya to complete a little gift to Michael of Manhattan fixings. Now Spanish vermouth is getting stronger traction here, with brands both old and (seemingly) modern popping up in tapas bars and liquor stores alike with greater frequency.

I am by no means an expert on the stuff, but lately I’ve found myself embracing it and not simply as a mixer to go with whiskey or gin, or even as a substitute for regular wine in cooking. There are some really delicious brands out there and served in the way they were designed to be enjoyed…I have to say that I might be open to fer un vermut (or “to do a vermouth”) more often. As it is the case with many new experiences, however, I’ve found that this is often best done with the help of a familiar intermediary, and here cava is the ideal companion to convince you that vermouth is a mighty fine beverage component and not something to merely look at when fixing a martini. Read More

 

Open-Face “Bikini Comerç 24” Crostini

Writing about Tapas 24 in Barcelona has been on my to-do list since we finished our lunch there three and a half months ago, but I hesitated only because I was determined to offer a reinterpretation of one of the dishes we had and it took a little time to get it right. My notebook is covered with sketches of ideas and I’ve tried a few different iterations over the past few months, and I think I am satisfied enough to provide you with a delicious, very simple canapé for any New Year’s Eve celebrations. Better yet, it will not require to you get your hands on a fresh black truffle. (I know, I know—how magnanimous of me. You can hold your applause until the end.)

A moment of relative quiet in Tapas 24.

Tapas 24—it probably helps to add some context—had long been on my list of must-visit places in Barcelona (it’s strongly recommended by the crew at Barcelona Wine Bar via its guide to the best in Spain), but it was only on our most recent trip that we were able to make that a reality. The chef Carles Abellan was an acolyte of Ferran Adrià before setting out on creating his own little empire of restaurants, and Tapas 24 became the more casual offshoot of his first restaurant Comerç 24. Michael rightly likens the atmosphere of the place to that of a bustling train station, only I can assure you that the food is far better even than the likes you would find at Grand Central Terminal. There’s a set menu of classics plus daily specials, and during our meal we were both able to find a favorite off of each menu. While Michael preferred the pork belly with cabbage, shallots, and butter lettuce, I was partial to the bikini Comerç 24 for reasons that will be wholly unsurprising.

Bikini Comerç 24.

To be completely honest, I was a little mad at this sandwich because it’s simply black truffle, mozzarella di bufula, and jamón ibérico pressed between two pieces of white toast and cut into triangles, but all was quickly forgiven when I bit into the first one. My eyes bugged out (so much that Michael kept taking pictures of me diving into the rest of the plate) and I had to pace myself from wolfing down the whole plate before he could even get a taste. Even in the haze of a sandwich-induced stupor I knew that I’d want to revisit this again and again, so once we got back from our trip I started my experiments shortly thereafter. Read More

 

 

 

Our kitchen is (nearly) ready for New Year’s shennanigans.

 

Christmas has come and gone, and even though our new place is not at all decked out for festivities, visiting our families has given us quite the heavy injection of everything from Christmas carols to holiday lights. We received some fabulous gifts as we do every year, and of course that includes some pretty killer cookbooks that I’m excited to dive into over the next few months:

  • The Gramercy Tavern Cookbook: We only started coming here towards the end of our tenure in the New York metropolitan area, but it was certainly a case of better late than never. I’m hoping that both this book and the next can go far in both upping our culinary prowess and help fill that New York-sized hole in our hearts.
  • Le Bernadin Cookbook: As I’ve gotten more comfortable cooking fish—in particular whole fish—I’ve started to dabble into more advanced preparations, largely via Eric Ripert. It was only a matter of time before I wanted to explore some of the dishes that made him so well-renowned in the first place, and now that we’ve learned that the fish counter at the nearby Cross Street Market is the purveyor who supplies all of the sushi restaurants nearby, I’m really excited at the prospect of making high-quality fish dishes.
  • Moro: The Cookbook: I’m familiar with Sam and Sam Clark from their contributions to the Tapas cookbook, but I wasn’t aware of either Moro or Morito until Tim Mazurek (of Lottie and Doof) name-checked them in this piece for Serious Eats as favorite resources for dinner party recipes alongside Jerusalem, which is a favorite in our household already. The blend of Spanish, Northern African and Eastern Mediterranean flavors is one that intrigues me a great deal and given that we will be likely having at least a few dinner parties in the coming year, we’re going to need some new recipes to add to the repertoire.

(I also asked Michael for Mimi Thorisson’s A Kitchen in France: A Year of Cooking in My Farmhouse but since we haven’t done our gift exchange as of this post I don’t technically know if that will be added to my collection.) Read More

Salad of chicken livers and Italian plums.

Remember when I was all ready to sing the praises of Lorraine Pascale and Rachel Khoo, my two favorite food presenters? I had done so thinking that I’d be watching their exploits on the Cooking Channel for at least months to come (you know, until they found others to fill their slots), but then we found out a few weeks ago that cable won’t be an option at our new place. So while Michael is rejoicing at the thought of no more weekend mornings dominated by the Food Network, I’m bummed that I can’t fangirl over my two new favorites each week.

Oh well—at least I have cookbooks and online recipes to get me through this transition. It also helps that both shows have had their episodes in reruns, so at the very least I’ve been able to see them many times already and written down notes to any recipe that has caught my fancy well before we have to disconnect and mail back the cable box. Read More

Charred Lemon Gin Sparklers with Shrimp Fritters

So Thanksgiving happened, it’s now December, we’re moving very soon, and I may be feeling a wee bit stressed about it. The movers come next week, and I’ll be home on the packing day working while they box up all of our stuff. In the meantime we’re trying to get all of our things organized as best we can and cleaning everything as much as possible. We’re at the point where I’m simply anxious to be there so I can do things like quickly register my car and get a parking pass for the neighborhood as well as the more fun tasks of organizing all of our stuff and getting a few new pieces, but we still have a bit of a ways to go before we get to that stage.

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