Live blogging Vegas deliciousness

2 Mar

Whelp, the girls and I are in Vegas and although what happens here stays here, I’ve decided to share the foods with you. “Live Blog” means fresh pics as I eat, which, let’s be honest, could be quite a lot. First pics are dinner (happening right now) at First.

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Day two: Good morning from Caesars

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It’s a salads-for-breakfast kind of day, and Kate is very good at looking like a lady who lunches.

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And no surprise I fell behind on the “live” part. Dinner last night at CraftSteak, my most favorite of favorite places. The short rib is unbelievable and the raspberry martini is the best I’ve ever had.

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Day Three: Starting off the day with a few hours at The Buffet at the Bellagio. Definitely worth the 30 minute wait in line, and delicious enough to begrudgingly thank Jon Siegal for the recommendation.

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Buffet plate one: the savories. Western omelet, bacon, Lyonaise potatoes.

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Second round: carrot cake, cheese cake (D, it’s the bomb), fruits and more champagne.

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Trip three: shrimps!!! And more champagne.

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And, roughly three hours later, we’ve had our fill at the buffet.

Why Stoddard’s Kind of Sucks but I Won’t Stop Going There

29 Jan

The short version: the service is terrible, but the cheese and booze are amazing.

Our dear friend Sara was in town this weekend, up from Martha’s Vineyard and looking to get into some big-city debauchery. If you knew Sara, you’d know that debauchery was probably the last thing she was looking for, but she was looking to have a nice dinner with friends and I’m never one to pass up the chance of a delicious meal. We decided to head to Stoddard’s on Temple Place downtown, a frequent hangout for our small group.

I’ll tell you why I love Stoddard’s: it’s pretty small, has a great prohibition era speakeasy feel to it, has amazing cocktails, and has a cheese fondu that will make you want to lick the bowl. Nearly every time I’ve been there, I’ve sat at the bar. The bartenders have always been exactly what you’d want from a bartender – friendly, attentive and great at mixing drinks.

Mmmm cheese fondue ...

Having said all that about the bartenders, it makes me feel a little bad that I have to say I think the exact opposite is true of the service in the dining room. Last night was the second time we’d ever sat at a regular table with a waiter and it was the second time that we were really annoyed that we did. As our waiter gave us dirty looks, disappeared for huge stretches of time, and forgot our orders, I thought back to the first time that we sat in the dining room. I think there were six of us eating there that night and we were seated at the table closest to the bar. As we were eating, drinking, chatting and laughing, the manager came over to our table and asked us to be quiet. In a bar. Where everyone was loud. Where no one seemed to take any notice of us besides the manager. I remember we even asked if people had been complaining about us and he said no, he just thought we were being loud. Strike one, Stoddard’s.

Tess and Ilena, smiling despite the annoying wait for more drinks.

So last night – in all fairness to Stoddard’s – I was far less offended than I was the first time we ate in the dining room. This time, no one accused us of being too loud. No one really paid any attention to us at all. And before you start thinking that we’re high maintenance girls who relish the opportunity to complain about anything and everything, nothing could be further from the truth. We weren’t in a rush, we understood that it was busy during the Saturday night dinner hour. We hadn’t seen Sara in a while and were perfectly content to sit and sip our drinks and take our time eating. But our waiter was just straight rude. He was as unsmiling as the hostess (who just blankly stared at my friend Tess when she showed up to meet us) and barely talked to us. Then he disappeared for probably 20 minutes while we were hoping to order a second round of drinks and several of the tables around us were trying to pay their bills.

I guess the bottom line is this: Stoddard’s has two things that endear it to me – fantastic cocktails and delicious melty cheese. Luckily, I can get both of those things in the bar, where I will sit every time I go back there.

The Patriots are going to the Super Bowl and I made wings. Everybody’s a winner.

24 Jan

This past weekend, the AFC championship was a big deal in Boston, and while Tom Brady admitted he sucked, my food choices definitely did not. Emotions were high on Sunday, especially in my house where the dude friend is a huge Pats fan. I decided the best way to try to keep everyone calm was to cook and I made lots of deliciousness. I started with the slow cooker chili that I love so much. It was a snowy weekend here and it seemed like a perfect opportunity to break out the crock pot.

I also tried out a new recipe: buffalo wings. Since I don’t have a deep frier (*sigh*), I poked around and found a recipe for baked wings. It’s linked here and pasted below.

The dude loved them (I’m guessing since he ate like eight of them in 15 minutes) and they’re also super yum reheated in the oven. If you like things mega hot, you could sprinkle some red pepper flakes on them after you’ve coated them in the hot sauce.

Ingredients

    3/4 cup all-purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    20 chicken wings
    1/2 cup melted butter
    1/2 cup hot pepper sauce (such as Frank’s RedHot®)

Directions

  • Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and lightly grease with cooking spray. Place the flour, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, and salt into a resealable plastic bag, and shake to mix. Add the chicken wings, seal, and toss until well coated with the flour mixture. Place the wings onto the prepared baking sheet, and place into the refrigerator. Refrigerate at least 1 hour.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  • Whisk together the melted butter and hot sauce in a small bowl. Dip the wings into the butter mixture, and place back on the baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven until the chicken is no longer pink in the center, and crispy on the outside, about 45 minutes. Turn the wings over halfway during cooking so they cook evenly.

My favorite part of the game time fare was dessert. I’d been craving cupcakes all weekend, so I grabbed a box of Betty Crocker, a can of frosting that sounded like it had the most chocolate/fudge/cocoamazingness in it, and made these little bites of heaven. I think I ate three …

They're round, but I think you get the point.

I posted this picture on Facebook and was promptly told to take it down, as my caption might have implied that I was nervous that the Patriots might not pull off the win. In the end, they did, though, and I feel confident that the food would have put a smile even on Billy Cundiff’s face … Poor Billy.

How I survived the hurricane (Spoiler alert: It involves beer)

28 Aug

Another spoiler alert: It wasn’t much of a hurricane around these parts. It’s better to be safe than sorry, however, and with all the media hype and my proclivity to believe everything I see on TV I obviously made a Friday night stop at the grocery and liquor stores. Stop and Shop was a madhouse on Friday after work (apparently I’m not the only person in Boston who believes everything they see on TV) and I tried to make my trip as expeditious as possible.

According to the National Hurricane Center, this is what you need to survive a hurricane. As I have no infants or elderly people living at my house, I obviously chose to focus on the “snack foods” recommendation. Thanks for giving me an excuse, NHC. I stocked up on Sour Cream & Onion Baked Lay’s and (my favorite) Flavor Blasted Goldfish.

Probably the most awesome and important thing I bought at the grocery store was a 90 count bag of Totino’s Pizza Rolls. Pizza rolls are an even guiltier pleasure of mine than Flavor Blasted Goldfish. Pizza inside an egg roll wrapper? Oof. While delicious pretty much any time, they’re especially delicious at 3 a.m. when you’ve just gotten home from the bar. The dude friend and I housed a bag in this fashion a few weeks ago and in a pizza roll-induced euphoria, this is the conversation that transpired:

D: What are these called?

Me: What are what called?

D: These pizza things.

Me: Pizza rolls?

D: Right. But what’s the name name?

Me: That is the name. Pizza rolls.

D: But what if I wanted to buy them? What’s the name?

Me: Oh. Like the brand name? No idea … But they come in a yellow bag. Pizza Rolls.

D: There has to be a brand name. But anyway, I wish we had more of them.*

90 pieces of awesome.

And that’s the thing about pizza rolls. You always wish there were more of them. Lucky for all you guys, you now know the brand name and lucky for me I bought 90 of them on Friday so wishing there were more wasn’t a problem during the weekend of Irene.

The other important purchase I made with regard to hurricane survival was beer. While Stop and Shop seemed to be out of some essentials, like bottled water, Marty’s Liquors was plenty stocked up on supplies that were just as important (if not more so when you’re planning to be trapped in the house for two days). I bought some Sam Summer, which is quickly on its way out, and some Shipyard Pumpkinhead. It was kind of a bridge between the seasons, which I made sure to enjoy all weekend long.

It's that time of year again. Pumpkinhead time.

Finally, to beat the boredom of a rainy Sunday, I baked (and then ate) brownies. When the thought originally occurred to me, I was intent on making them from scratch. I figured it would take more time and they would be more delicious than anything that came out of a box. While I’m sure I was right, the thought of cleaning up several bowls/pots/pans, checking to see if I had all the appropriate ingredients at home, and paying fairly close attention to what I was doing all seemed a little bit much and I settled on a box of Duncan Hines. I figured even if the brownies came from a box, I’d still get to lick the bowl, which everyone knows is the most important part of brownie making.

mmmmm brownie batter.

All in all, I think the biggest lesson I learned this weekend was food (and beer) can help you get through anything – even a category 1 hurricane that’s downgraded to a tropical storm that’s downgraded to “you probably didn’t need to stay home drinking and eating pizza rolls all weekend.”

 

 

*To be fair to D, this is probably not the way this conversation happened. I’m sure there was a lot more incoherentness on my part. To be fair to pizza rolls though, this is the gist: they’re the best.

Decompressing in Manhattan: Part 2

17 Aug

And now for the delicious continuation of my quick trip to New York.

First I want to back up a little bit – I think I said last time that we played Frisbee in Central Park during the day, but really we threw an Aerobie around. If you’ve never played with one of these things, you totally should. I had one when I was a kid and it got stuck on the neighbors’ roof and I vividly remember being devastated. It’s like a hybrid Frisbee/boomerang, and if the wind catches it right it can sail forever. I noticed a lot of people wanted to get into our Aerobie toss – and then I noticed they were all dudes. And then I realized that if you’re single, tossing a Frisbee/Aerobie/football on the grass in Central Park is like going to a bar, only you get to run around more and you don’t have to spend as much on drinks. Even with Patrick around, Becca and I must have been “accidentally” thrown at least five Frisbees/footballs that didn’t belong to us.

Anyway, I digress. With all that Aeorbie throwing and chasing, we were hungry for dinner (and of course more sangria). The the sangria prepared, Becca got started on dinner, and she cooked some of the best chicken I’ve had in a really long time – cutlets stuffed with fontina cheese and arugula with some panko bread crumbs on top. A-mazing.

Pre-oven cutlets with lots of garlic and a little bit of salt and pepper.

Even before tasting it, I decided that I was going to have to make this chicken myself at one point or another, so I asked Becca for the recipe. Turns out it’s from Williams-Sonoma – those people are the absolute best at being delicious. Here’s the recipe, straight from the W-S crew:

Baked Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Arugula and Fontina

Ingredients:

2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing
5 oz. fontina cheese, preferably fontina Val d’Aosta
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, each about 7 oz.
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 large garlic clove, minced
16 arugula leaves, tough stems removed
2 eggs
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried rosemary, crumbled
1 lemon, cut into 8 wedges

Directions:

Position a rack in the upper third of an oven and preheat to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly oil a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

Trim off and discard the rind from the cheese. Cut the cheese into four 2-by-1 1/2-inch rectangles about 1/8 inch thick.

Using a flat meat pounder, pound each chicken breast half until flattened to an even thickness of about 1/4 inch. Season the chicken breasts with the salt and pepper.

Place 1 chicken breast, with the long side facing you, on the work surface. Top with one-fourth of the garlic and 4 arugula leaves, torn as needed to fit the breast half, leaving a 1-inch border uncovered on all sides. Top with a piece of cheese. Starting at a short end, roll up the breast, tucking in the arugula as needed; set seam side down. Repeat with the remaining chicken, garlic, arugula and cheese.

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and 1 Tbs. of the olive oil. In a shallow dish, stir together the bread crumbs, oregano and rosemary. One at a time, coat a rolled chicken breast with the egg mixture and then roll in the bread crumbs, coating evenly. Place the breaded breasts, seam side down, on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Place the oiled baking dish in the oven and heat until very hot, about 3 minutes. Carefully arrange the breaded breasts, seam side down, in the hot dish. Drizzle evenly with the remaining 1 Tbs. oil. Bake until the bread crumbs are golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of a stuffed breast registers 170°F, 25 to 35 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a carving board. Cut each stuffed breast crosswise into slices about 1/2 inch thick and transfer to warmed individual plates. Serve immediately, and pass the lemon wedges at the table. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma New Flavors for Chicken, by Rick Rodgers (Oxmoor House, 2008).

Becca served her version with asparagus and when everything came out of the oven I almost ate it all right off the baking dishes.

Baked Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Arugula and Fontina + asparagus

Patrick suggested that we eat at the table, rather than standing around the kitchen island, so I poured myself another glass of sangria, loaded up my plate and promptly began stuffing my face. Not only did we eat every piece of chicken and every piece of asparagus, Becca and a meticulously ate all the extra melted pieces of cheese and stray panko crumbs that were left in the baking dish. Ballin.

Ready to rock with sangria in the background.

With bellies full and showers taken, we were ready to get really crazy – it was time for Catch Phrase, one of my all time favorite games. Patrick and Becca’s friend Chelsea joined us and things got a little competitive. And also increasingly difficult as the sangria ran out and the beers were cracked open. I think we played best two out of three and I think Patrick and I lost to Becca and Chelsea … I think.

Patrick admiring Becca's Catch Phrase skills.

After that we headed to a local bar with Patrick’s awesome sister Jen where we set a high score in Nudie Photo Hunt. The last stop of the evening was the Galaxy Diner for mozzarella sticks and chicken fingers, because, you know, I really hadn’t eaten enough that day.

All in all, it was the perfect weekend trip. I’m unimaginably lucky to have such great friends and additionally lucky that they love to eat just as much as I do.

Decompressing in Manhattan: Part 1

15 Aug

Bad days happen, but thankfully there’s always good food to make it better. And if you’re as lucky as I am, there are good friends, too. After a rough few days last week, I headed down to New York to see Becca (the best best friend on the planet) and her boyfriend, Patrick (who is also pretty cool). I was welcomed with hugs and then lunch at Zigolinis, a cute pizza place in Hell’s Kitchen around the corner from Becca and Patrick’s place. We shared the insalata verde (yum), the pomodoro pizza (also yum), and the Diavola (yummest).

Pomodoro. Lots of garlic. No sauce.

Mmmmm Diavola.

Becca makes sure I'm presentable at all times.

The pomodoro was a great choice for a hot day – it’s not cooked and there’s no sauce, so it’s pretty light. I gotta say, though, the soppressata on the Diavolo (which I definitely had to Google as I was perusing the menu) was amazing. It was kind of like a less greasy pepperoni. I think it was the table favorite. Food-wise, anyway. The real table favorite was the sparkling sangria.

I’m not going to lie, I was a little nervous that we weren’t going to get any sangria. The waiter suggested it and as Patrick and I were discussing red, white or sparkling, Becca chimes in with “You guys want to drink? It’s only noon.” It would have been cute if it wasn’t so dangerously close to putting a damper on the best part of Saturday brunch. Luckily, we were able to persuade her and it was probably one of the best decisions I’ve made in recent history because it was the best sangria I’ve ever had. We even asked the waiter for the recipe, which goes like this:

  • Prosecco
  • Peach nectar
  • A mix of fruit
  • Coconut rum
  • Something I can’t tell you (literally, that was the last ingredient he told us)

We decided we had to make it and after a few hours of walking and Frisbee in Central Park we stopped at the Amish and picked up the fruit (we used orange, lemon, lime, white peach, green apple, red apple and mango).

Sangria fruit!

We cut up all the fruit and let it marinate in the coconut rum for about an hour (mostly because we were really impatient, I’m not sure how much rum actually soaked into the fruit). Then we mixed the fruit with a full bottle of peach nectar and two bottles of Prosecco. Brilliant.

Rum soaked fruit.

With sangria in hand, we set our sights on dinner and decided to cook at home. Mouthwatering descriptions and photographic representation of what we ate to come in Part 2.

Muddling: I think I’m missing something

8 Aug

Mostly the equipment, I think.

I recently downloaded the Martha Stewart Cocktails app for my iPad and even more recently got to try out my first recipe. Barbecue bound and intent on winning the hearts of my dude-friend’s sister and brother-in-law, I (with the help of said dude-friend) decided on a bourbon drink with muddled peaches, blackberries and mint.

Sounds awesome, right? Well I’m not going to say it was unawesome, because if you like bourbon it was fantastic. But I like peaches and blackberries and mint and there wasn’t a lot of fruit flavor going on in those drinks.

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I think the problem was in my muddling technique, which is weird because I watched a video about it in the Martha app so you can understand how I’d be baffled by my non expertise. I’ve come to the conclusion that you really need one of those wooden pestle things. Remember that Bacardi mojito commercial where the bartender is muddling the mint with the wooden pestle thing and all people uncontrollably dance around to the rhythm of his mashing? Yeah – that wooden thing he’s got there. I need that.

I’m not trying to say that these drinks didn’t make us dance around a little, Bacardi mojito style, but I am saying of you want to make muddling happen do yourself a favor and equip yourself properly.

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