Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Asparagus, Ramps, & Morels...OH MY!

In case you have not heard...Spring has sprung my friends! It brings with it some delightful treats, 3 of my favorites being asparagus, ramps, & morel. Makes me giggle just thinking about them. All are wonderful simple additions to most meals. I don't know about you, but I love my asparagus drizzled with delicious olive oil, sprinkled with salt, fresh cracked pepper, and maybe a little lemon zest for an extra kick easily roasted in the oven for 10 mins. Delicious.
Ramps, or wild leeks, are my favorite & most flavorful member of the onion family. They are best to be hunted in April & May and are my favorite addition to any pizza or tart when caramelized. Use sparingly though...these guys have a tendency to be pretty intense! Flavor burst? Yes please.
Lastly, morels. Delightful for their rarity & beauty. Also a wild delight, morels hunting begins in spring & the timing varies largely based on several variables including rainfall, ground & air temperatures, and luck of course. There are several theories on the ideal conditions for these tasty fungi, but the safest bet is to go where they have been spotted in the past, or just buy them at your local farmers market (haha...the obvious choice for most). If you are up for the hunt, check out this site for tips & tricks...

And of course before allowing entry into your precious stomach, make sure what you've found is edible as some varieties are poisonous.

When you've done found your mushrooms add them to a delightful spring pasta or make an easy spring pizza with a tasty gruyere. Simple & darn right fungical!

Enjoy the Spring and all the amazing ingredients it brings!

Saturday, April 11, 2009 does your chompers good

Another day, another dentist appointment...I often wonder what I will do with all this time (& money) when I have my permanent grill in place. It's going to be quite a delight, but I will also certainly miss all my dentist office friends & their smiling faces. I have really enjoyed getting to know them, and my last trip was especially exciting as Dr. Brucia provided me with a lovely curd of knowledge...CHEESE IS GOOD FOR YOUR TEETH! I mean, I knew I had a special connection with this wonderfully tasty source of protein, but this just really takes it to the next level!
Not only is cheese good as milk is good, providing calcium that strengthens both your bones & teeth, it takes things one step further strengthening teeth from the outside. Cheese provides a protective coating of calcium preventing demineralization of teeth while encouraging remineralization, making teeth strong & resilient. If that's not enough reason for you to grab for a tasty wedge, there's more! Cheese helps fight tooth decay by balancing the pH in your mouth. Apparently, when we eat the pH in our mouth drops making your teeth vunerable to decay. Eating cheese before or after a meal, especially meals high in acid, will keep the pH levels in your mouth in check & prevent nasty tooth decay. I love it!

That's my curd for the day...Cheese, it does your chompers good! Grab a wedge & help your grill stay in tact!

If only every dental appointment could be so exciting...a girl can dream.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Big Cheese

Ahhh New York City, land of abundance...of all things really. People, art, fashion, sidewalk bags of trash, refrigerators, leggings, mini dogs, cabs, drippy air conditioners (you get the point) and certainly FOOD (stinky cheese certainly included). My job over the past 4 (gulp) years has allowed a good bit of tromping around this wonderfully unique foodie heaven & lovely visits with my friends living on the opposite coast. It is something I have rarely taken for granted...maximizing trips with meticulously planned days of straight food-loving. This past trip was no exception. Maybe even in my top 5 trips, and here's why...

Saxelby Cheese. A small space with a big heart tucked away in a special corner of the Essex Street Market in the lower east side offering up farmstead & artisan cheese. Anne Saxelby (behind the counter in this shot) opened up shop 3 years ago after studying cheese making in Italy, France, & Vermont with a focus on small local creameries. Her assortment is largely from Vermont & New York with some Midwest representation & 1 import...a Parmesan from Italy, carefully chosen & judging from the 4 I tasted, very unique. Two of my tastes came from Lazy Lady Farms, an organic creamery in Vermont, which uses a geothermal cave for aging their cheese & powers the small operation with 14 solar panels & a wind mill. All that goodness comes with a quirky sense of humor...the two cheeses I tasted were Barik Obama & Cowerce (a play on the french cheese, Chaource). I love it! Their use of oragnic dairy is very apparent in the taste of their cheese, much like our Cali-local Cowgirl Creamery. I certainly hope to be writing all of you about a visit to this farm...sounds like a magical place, brought to me by Anne Saxelby. Why did it take me so long to find this heavenly spot?

Casselulla, where their philosophy is...We like cheese. We really like cheese. A lot. No joke, check it out:
This was my first true cheese & wine (notice the cheese comes first) cafe experience...and I loved it! The very random Mid-town location on West 52nd St. was packed with cheese enthusiasts. An antique cheese case is the focal point of the casual open space displaying a robust selection of fromage from around the world. The menu is divided by different cheese making techniques (fresh, soft ripened, cooked & pressed, washed, & blue) & capped off with cheese flights. All cheeses are served with an accoutrement designed to compliment the curd.
Bassam, who was my partner in cheese crime for the evening (thank you, Bassam!), tried 2 Cow's milk cheeses. One a soft ripened cow's milk cheese from Milton, Vermont (Willow Hill Farm's La Fleurie) & Cecilia, a washed rind cow's milk cheese made by the Estrella Family Creamery in Montesano, Washington. The later I would certainly put on my cheese hit list (coming soon to Mission Cheese!!).
The spot was great, they love's pretty stinking obvious.

Baked by Melissa. The pictures here really tell the story. A tasty surprise when cruising down Spring St. (b/w Mercer & Broadway) in Soho. Melissa, peaking out the the window in the pic on the left, had a dream to bring delicious mini fun-filled cupcake treats to passerbys, and by is pretty hard to pass up! I decided on 3 of Melissa's creations...cookies & cream, peanut butter cup, & s'mores. It would certainly be hard to pick a favorite...they were all equally delicious. What a SWEET (haha) idea! Ahhh...New York.

Honorable mentions for this trip include...
Lil' Frankies (East Village) - A delightfully simple, casual & tasty Italian spot in the lower east side.
Alta (Greenwich Village)- Second time was a charm. This place is delicious & the space is killer. The spaghetti pepperoncini, while unassuming, is not to be missed!
Soho Dean & Deluca (Soho...duh)- Get real. How much delicious food can you cram into that space? I had no idea. To think I was resisting the hype is ridiculous!
Murray's Cheese (West Village) - Keeping it real...old school. Lots of cheese, house made goodness, & crabby men. They were immediately downgraded to honorable mention because they snarled at me for taking pictures. Apparently they don't want to share the good word of cheese with the world wide web. why?
Ruby's (Nolita) - While their touted burger will not be taking the crown of best NYC burger (in my opinion of course) from Prune, it was certainly delicious. The space was was the service.
Lupa (Greenwich Village)- An old trusty Italian stand-by did not disappoint. It seems you can never go wrong with the pasta specials.
Flying A - Innovative Soho boutique offering vintage fashion...sometimes straight up, and others remastered for a fresh new feel. I like it.

If you catch yourself cruising through The Big Cheese, give these places a whirl. I hope they bring you the same joy they brought me. Those of you that live excuses, report back immediately. haha.

Until next time sweet New York City...