Monday, December 22, 2008

Grand Szechuan has opened up a great new restaurant on 7th Ave. NYC

Dumplings at the Grand Szechuan.

I went here on the advice of New York foodie and TV Food critic Ed Levine, because I find I agree with the majority of his reviews. This place is a definite find. In Midtown too, the so called foodie graveyard of Manhattan. This is the kind of food that will linger in your brain for days after eating it. The incredibly silky tofu comes with a smokey, fiery pepper sauce with ground pork, the perfect dish to spoon on rice. The wok fried chicken with almonds and green onion was like a dish of the most incredible fried chicken you can imagine cut into bite sized pieces wok tossed with chili peppers and sliced almonds and green onion. Sounds simple enough but this is not your father's Chinese food.
I can't wait to go back. I'm addicted to spicy foods, and this place is like heaven. I'm glad to finally have somewhere like this nearby (rather than having to travel all the way to Flushing and back for Spicy Tasty or Little Pepper). My meal: Ox Tripe and Tongue (spectacular! amazing spice, mouth-numbing, everything was so crisp and fresh), Dan Dan Noodles (not the best I've had, of this standard szechuan staple.. i wanted a little tartness or tang, but it was still really good), Scallion Pancake (SO good, surprisingly. it was light and flaky, delicious. Not at all, thankfully, the typical soggy dense greasy version), Braised Lamb Fillets with Napa Cabbage and Roasted Chili (amazingly spicy! the lamb was extremely tender. all the different little vegetables were all cooked perfectly. the only negative thing i could say is perhaps it could use a little less salt)... I keep looking over the menu, planning my next visit (Spicy Sesame Noodles, Beef Tendon, Chef's Ma Paul Tofu, Double Cooked Sliced Pork Belly...) The restaurant decor is nothing special, kind of standard, it could be Cleveland in 1980, but nothing is dirty or tacky. The service was as helpful as they could possibly be. There was a cute moment where the server asked if he could take my plate and I sort of went yeah but no but yeah it's so hard to say goodbye!, we both laughed. The clientele was varied -- a Hispanic couple who ordered safe dishes and pushed things around, not eating much. a Jewish couple with sleeping infant who ordered safe (and a lot!) but loved every bite. a few Chinese couples who were really enjoying themselves, and me... At one point the Chinese couple next to me complimented me, saying I really knew how to order the good stuff (aka I eat like them), and it's surprising how i could handle the extreme spice (which was too hot even for them).

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Italian Christmas Cake

Almost every Town or Village in Italy has some sort of Christmas cake, cookie, or pie. A very popular one is Panettone which is essentially a sweet bread, which is traditionally eaten around Christmas.
Panettone is the traditional Christmas Cake of the Milanesi, and has become the most common Christmas cake in Italy. Originating from Milan this delicious treat is great curled up with an indulgent long coffee! Their are many variations to the traditional citrus zest flavor such as with chocolate chips or completely plain - but I think the original is the best! It can be enjoyed as breakfast, afternoon tea or dessert...the perfect Italian treat!
7 g active dry yeast
235 ml warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
50 g white sugar
2 eggs 120 ml
Low fat plain yogurt
5 ml vanilla extract
6 g grated lemon zest
2 g salt
500 g unbleached all-purpose flour
70 g dried currants
50 g raisins
8 g confectioners' sugar
15 g butter, melted (optional)
In a medium bowl, combine yeast, sugar and water. Cover and let it stand 10 minutes, or until foamy.Add eggs, yogurt, vanilla, lemon zest, and salt. Mix well.
Stir in flour 1/2 cup at a time until dough forms into a manageable ball shape.
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 to 10 minutes, adding flour as necessary, until dough is soft and pliable, but not sticky. (May need up to 5 cups flour.) Place dough in a large, lightly pan-sprayed bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size. This should take about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees ) and lightly grease a round 8-inch cake pan with butter. In a small bowl, toss dried fruit with confectioners' sugar. Punch down dough in bowl, transfer to floured surface, and knead in the fruit. Form the dough into a ball, place in prepared cake pan, cover it loosely with a dish towel, and let it rise for 30 minutes. (The loaf will rise above the pan sides.)
Brush with melted butter.Bake for 45 minutes, or until loaf is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
You can find this in any of the Italian restaurants in Little Italy in New York .... as well as the famous other Italian pastries such as my other favorites cannolis, chocolate mousse and Italian cheesecake. ... my favorite is Sfogliatella
Happy Christmas or Buon Natale!

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Drinks Are On Me

Drink Up My Friends, the drinks are on me! Ho, Ho, Ho...

The holidays are a great excuse to drink up and be jolly.
As a vodka aficionado I am always searching for the most enjoyable vodka that I could find. And I am proud to say Titos vodka has become one of my former favorites. Of course Kettle One is still my Numero Uno.
I mostly drink Vodka in straight on the rocks or in martini's where I usually use Ketel One. Tito's has a very distinct flavor to it which I really like in my Martini's. And by the way, it's made right here in the USA.... in Austin at Texas.
Give it a try.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Eclipse di luna-Atlanta

I love Tapas Bars.Its great to go out with friends who share the same taste in food.

(All pictures belong to the restaurant website)
Eclipse di luna (Miami Circle) is a neat place.Very loud and full.I never saw an empty table all evening.

There seemed to be just one waitress and yet we were not neglected.Service was great,though there may have been other waitresses and I failed to see them !

Everybody talked about the Patatas Bravas con Romesco (Spiced Potatoes with Romesco) so it was the first thing I tried.It was a tad bit dry but the dip was great.The others at the table loved it so it may have been just me !
Another recommendation was the Ejotes Crujientes(Crispy Green Beans with sea salt) and this was perfection.Cooked thro and crispy.

My father-in-laws favorite was Calamares Fritos (Lightly Fried Calamari & Pico de Gallo ).The pico de gallo was to die for,seriously...the tomatoes just melted in your mouth!
My mother-in-laws favorite was the Costillas Espanolas(Spanish-Style Ribs in aged balsamic vinaigrette).They were very tender and fell off the bone.
A popular recommendation was the bottomless sangria and the paella that we did not try but everyone talks about it.

Prices range from 3 bucks to 6 bucks.Our total bill for 5 people came upto 80 bucks and we ate a ton !