Bienvenidos a Miami

welcome-to-miami-oSo, I’m back on the road again (as usual)…
Full disclosure, my trip to Florida was not as food focused as many of my others, as there were bloody Marys to be had, champagne corks to be popped, and outfits to be ogled. I did, however, particularly enjoy two meals in the city where the heat is on.

1. BodegaInterior-Bodega-1800-x-1200-1800x1200Although this funky, casual Miami beach eatery markets itself as a “taqueria y tequila” joint, we found no evidence of the latter. Luckily, the tacos more than made up for this deceit. There were inspired flavor combinations such as the “Camaron BLT” with shrimp, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and a chipotle-cotija dressing. The chicken taco with garlicky kale and avocado salsa verde was also a winner. We didn’t try their “tortas” (Mexican-style sandwiches), but the housemade popsicles, in both tropical and classic flavors, were super tasty, especially a mango-chile one. Basket-of-Tacos-1800-x-1200-1800x1200 1220 16th St
Miami Beach, FL
(305) 704-2145
http://www.bodegasouthbeach.com/

2. 27 at the Freehand
27 is a restaurant at a hostel. But don’t start envisioning greasy haired backpackers and dingy digs–Miami’s Freehand hostel is a chic, young spot, with options for both individual and shared hipster-decorated rooms (think colorful artwork and yoga class-style blankets.) Their bar, The Broken Shaker specializes in handcrafted cocktails and some of the best wallpaper I’ve ever seen. 1297_Freehand3_72-960x630Bar patrons spill outside to the many outdoor areas, around the pool and in old school lawn furniture. 27, the Freehand’s restaurant, serves really standout food–so good that I came back twice in one weekend (no joke, Friday and then Sunday.] 27The menu is comprised of small plates — shocker — but they really deliver, from their arepa platter served with gloriously umami ropa vieja to an ever-changing selection of roasted and pickled vegetables largely grown on the property’s garden. As much as it pains me to say it, the kale salad with miso and tahini is particularly off the chain:Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 3.07.05 PMDon’t miss the cocktails–particularly the Smoky Calabaza (Charred Calabaza with Garam Masala Spices, Fresh Citrus with Del Maguey Mezcal and egg whites with “27” emblazoned on it) and the Miso Old Fashioned with miso-honey reduction and mushroom (!) bitters.IMG_8869

2727 Indian Creek Drive, Miami Beach, Florida 33140
(305) 531-2727
http://thefreehand.com/miami/

*photos courtesy of Bodega and The Freehand, respectively.

I’m always hungry in Philadelphia…and I didn’t stop eating for 3 days.

As I’m currently focusing on freelance projects, I’m a fairly free agent—visiting friends and family and eating my way through the Eastern seaboard. This past weekend I went to the most underrated food town out there—Philadelphia, for some much needed time with Rachael, one of my closest friends, and the best food guide a girl could have. A born and bred Philadelphian, Rachael keeps tabs on the city’s great restaurant scene, while maintaining an impressive legal career and a very active social life!

Unsurprisingly, we had a marathon culinary weekend, starting with a lovely home cooked meal on Friday. After some green smoothies filled with mindfulness, and a Saturday morning yoga class, we rushed through the snow to Dizengoff, a “hummusiya” owned by one of Philly’s most acclaimed chefs, Michael Solomonov.
IMG_8672 IMG_8673They don’t do much, but what they do—fresh baked pita and hummus—is done expertly. I ordered the humus bowl with cucumber, which was stuffed with a spicy smoky paste. Each bowl is served with pickles, Israeli salad, and the perfect pita—crisp and mildly singed on the outside and soft, fluffy and sauce-absorbent on the inside.
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It only seemed right to follow up a somewhat virtuous meal (hummus is just vegetables right?) with a doughnut, because also it was snowing outside and plus I love doughnuts. Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetNo justification necessary, I guess. We hit up Federal Donuts right across the street. Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetWe ordered the aptly named “Hot & Fresh” with a dusting of vanilla sugar.Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset I’m always more a proponent of the squishy Krispy Kreme-esque yeast-raised donuts, but these cakey creations were pretty delicious as well. They were, well, hot and fresh, not to mention crumblingly decadent and not too sweet. Federal also serves fried chicken with myriad glazes and toppings, and I plan on trying it on my next visit.Processed with VSCOcam with b1 preset

Seemingly endless snow and treacherous icy streets seemed reason enough to stay close to home, and luckily Rachael’s neighborhood offers a wealth of excellent eatery options in a close radius. We assumed the sub zero temps and constant threat of limb breaking would keep people inside their homes, but the restaurants and bars turned out to be hopping with people hoping to imbibe and consume themselves into warmth.

A long wait at Cheu Noodle Bar almost set us on our way towards the awesome Garces Trading Co (conveniently located below Rachael’s building) but we decided to wait it out, and thank god we did. This tiny hipster-y spot turns out some of the best Asian fusion (a category that usually gives me the creeps) I’ve ever had. Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset The nightly dumpling special was Beef & Broccoli, so of course that was a must—as was the broccoli and Vietnamese sausage appetizer which Rachael, swami of excellent appetizers, insisted we order. Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetThe vinaigrette on the broccoli was sweet with a hint of spice, and the chunks of sausage kept me coming back for more. Crunchy peanuts added texture, and…well…I could eat this every single day. We shared a yaki soba with chorizo which didn’t have the depth of the other dishes, in addition to a glorious coconut curry noodle soup which was hearty, pungent and warming, but with freshness from crunchy beansprouts and herbs.Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset We then rushed home—mindless movies and warm blankets awaited.Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

When someone invites you to the buffet brunch at the Four Seasons, you go. When that someone is Rachael’s wonderful mother Vera, you go in even higher spirits. What followed was many courses of brunch cocktails, seafood in many incarnations, beef wellington, lamb, blueberry-chocolate chip pancakes…..You get the idea. I was too busy stuffing my face to take any photos, so this is a more adequate portrayal:

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Feeling like beached whales, we returned home on Sunday afternoon and remained horizontal for much of the day, until a brief sojourn to the gym in an effort to regain hunger for dinner. Yes, dinner. And not just any dinner—but a meal at Vernick Food & Drink, one of Philly’s finest. And it didn’t disappoint, not even a little bit.

Starting the meal with an amuse bouche of potato soup and a cheesy gougere felt very right.Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

Two raw fish dishes opened our meal—one an Asian inspired poke—with succulent cubed tuna and a sublime soy-based sauce. The arctic char crudo was more subtle but also terrific—particularly the crispy crunchy fish skin on top.IMG_8726 We were all suckers for the chicken liver toast which tasted as artful as it looked, topped with red onion chutney.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetAn otherwordly parmesan custard laid below red wine braised artichokes—you can’t make this stuff up—which sat beside two expertly charred octopus tentacles made perky by little cubes of pickled fennel.Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

Did we stop there? Of course not! A nightly special of housemade spaghetti with spicy tomato sauce and bottarga delivered as did peppery toasted cauliflower.IMG_8731 IMG_8729 Midway through the meal, the sounds of live jazz wafted up to us, perfectly complementing our dinner, and making us even more at home in this laid back temple to exquisite dining.Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset

On the recommendation of our lovely waiter, we ordered the roasted date cake with orange cardamom toffee sauce and coconut ice cream. Think sticky toffee pudding…gooey, bready with a caramelized flavor. A scoop of chocolate-crunch ice cream and a little glass of Madeira rounded out this fantastic close to my Philly weekend. Until the next time! I’ll just have to wait for my arteries to recover…

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Dizengoff
1625 Sansom St, Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 867-0088
http://www.dizengoffphilly.com

Federal Donuts
3 Locations Throughout Philadelphia
http://www.federaldonuts.com/

Garces Trading Company
1111 Locust Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
215-574-1099
http://philadelphia.garcestradingcompany.com/

Cheu Noodle Bar
255 South 10th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
267.639.4136
http://cheunoodlebar.com/

The Four Seasons
1 Logan Square, Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 963-1500
http://www.fourseasons.com/Philadelphia‎

Vernick Food & Drink
2031 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 1
267-639-6644
http://www.vernickphilly.com/

Brunch City!

parisAs we’re all preparing for Sunday brunch, I came across this wonderful project by two artists: Brunch City They examine popular brunches in cities all over the world and then create models of them with tiny renderings of the city in or around the food. Check it out:

Marrakech & Mint Tea:morocoo_custom-69c86b01cf19dfc5ca65f2a58352accaf91a49be-s800-c85

 

Churros in Madrid:madrid_custom-7971a2af59874a3b174f9d7246975d870a76749b-s800-c85*Images courtesy of the artists: Andrea G. Portoles and Bea Crespo

 

Braving Boston

IMG_8651Quentin & I spent the past week in snow-deluged Boston, visiting my parents, who just returned from India, thus skipping the lion’s share of this awful winter. Due to a flight delay and massive amounts of snow, my elaborate Vday dinner was spent in the company of just my boyfriend and father sans my mother, kind of a shame, although none of us really care about the holiday. I did, however, have big plans for cooking and baking, and made:

Root Vegetable Tarte Tatin from a recent Bon Appetit which was really delicious although sadly my tarte tatin’s dont always end up turning out as magnificent as the picture (read: they never do) But the herby caramel and roasted veggies were lovely and perfect for eating snug and warm. IMG_8616Ingredients
SERVINGS: 4
1 medium Yukon Gold potato, peeled, sliced into ½” rounds [INSTEAD OF POTATO I USED BEETS]
1 medium sweet potato, peeled, sliced into ½” rounds
2 medium carrots, peeled, sliced into ½” rounds [ I USED MULTI COLORED CARROTS!]
1 medium parsnip, peeled, sliced into ½” rounds
1 small red onion, sliced into ½” rounds
¼ cup olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
⅓ cup sugar
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1½ teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1½ teaspoons chopped fresh sage
4 ounces fresh goat cheese
1 disk All-Butter Pie Dough [*I USED PUFF PASTRY INSTEAD. PIE DOUGH UNNECESSARILY STRESSES ME OUT AND THIS WAS ALREADY COMPLICATED ENOUGH!)
All-purpose flour (for surface)

Preparation
Place a rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 400°. Toss potato, sweet potato, carrots, parsnip, and onion with oil on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper and arrange vegetables in a single layer. Roast until golden around the edges and tender, 30–35 minutes. Let cool.
Meanwhile [WHILE VEG ARE COOLING] cook sugar and 2 Tbsp. water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, swirling pan occasionally, until mixture is amber-colored, 5–7 minutes. Remove from heat and add vinegar and a pinch of salt, swirling pan to combine. Quickly pour caramel into a 9”-diameter pie pan; tilt and rotate pan to evenly coat bottom with caramel. Scatter rosemary and sage over top.
Arrange potatoes, carrots, and parsnips snugly in a single layer on top of caramel, using smaller carrot and parsnip pieces to fill in any holes. Scatter onion rings and crumble goat cheese over vegetables.
Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to a 12” round. Drape over vegetables, tucking edges into pan. Prick dough all over with a fork. Bake until crust looks dry, about 20 minutes; reduce heat to 350° and bake until crust is golden brown, 15–20 minutes.
Let tart cool 5 minutes before inverting carefully onto a large plate.
DO AHEAD: Vegetables can be roasted 4 hours ahead. Keep at room temperature.

IMG_8653A Cioppino-style Fish Stew

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 garlic cloves, divided
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup packed sliced fennel [FORGOT TO GET IT, WHOOPS!]
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 1/2 pound cleaned squid, bodies sliced into 1/2-inch rings, tentacles halved lengthwise if large
  • 1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 8-ounce bottle clam juice
  • 1 1/2 cups seafood stock or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 baguette, sliced and toasted
  • 1 pound littleneck clams, soaked in water for 1 hour
  • 1/2 pound medium tail-on shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 pound mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded [I SKIPPED THE MUSSELS AND DID EXTRA HALIBUT]
  • 1/2 pound skinless flaky white fish such as bass, halibut, hake, or cod, cut into 1-inch pieces

IMG_8646Mince 2 of the garlic cloves. In a large pot over medium heat, heat oil. Add onion, fennel, celery, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the minced garlic and red-pepper flakes. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until garlic is golden and fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes more.

Reduce heat to medium-low and add squid. Cook, stirring occasionally, until squid is opaque and tender and the released juices reduce, 15 to 20 minutes. Add tomato paste and oregano and cook, stirring, 1 minute.

Add wine, raise heat to medium-high, and cook until cooking liquid is reduced by half, 5 to 7 minutes. Add tomatoes with their juice, bay leaves, clam juice, and stock. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, covered, 30 minutes. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the butter, 1 tablespoon parsley, lemon zest, and 1/4 teaspoon salt together. Cut remaining garlic clove in half and rub the cut sides on the toasts. Spread the flavored butter on the toasts.

When ready to serve, heat the pot to medium and add clams, cover, and cook for 3 minutes. Stir in the shrimp and mussels. Arrange the fish on top of the stew, cover, and simmer until shellfish opens and fish and shrimp are firm and opaque, about 5 minutes more. Discard bay leaves and stir in remaining 2 tablespoons parsley.

Serve cioppino immediately in large soup bowls with gremolata toasts alongside.

Sacher Torte
I’d been dying to make this Viennese cake with jam and chocolate. Luckily, I’m not providing a photo, because mine was not the best specimen. It was alright, but let’s leave it at that.

On one of our rare jaunts outdoors, we ate at Catalyst, a nearby restaurant on MIT’s Cambridge campus. Our lunch was very flavorful and beautifully prepared, and I huddled with this hot toddy as I stared at the mounds of snow through the large windows. We had a winter salad and chickpea fritters among other treats:IMG_8626

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We also had some great crawfish hushpuppies, fried chicken, and grits at State Park. Due to a somewhat rowdy night I sadly don’t have any photos, but I highly recommend it!

On Tuesday night, we spent the evening with our friends at Asta and had the insanely imaginative five course tasting menu. From exploding poprocks in a parsnip intermezzo to a dish of apples, horseradish and lardo, our tongues and minds were entranced with every bite. Sadly I didn’t snap a picture of one of my favorite courses: bright, toothsome Brussels sprouts with a Marmite-butter sauce. I’m still thinking about it. I just found out yesterday that Alex, the chef at Asta, was nominated for a James Beard award—Congrats Asta and head over there, Bostonians!

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Celery with black garlic gnocchi and crispy chicken skin

Spaghetti Squash with Brown Butter Vinaigrette

Spaghetti Squash with Brown Butter Vinaigrette

Crazy parsnip poprock cacao nib amazingness

Crazy parsnip poprock cacao nib amazingness

Catalyst
300 Technology Square, Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 576-3000
http://www.catalystrestaurant.com

Asta
47 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, MA 02115
(617) 585-9575
http://www.astaboston.com

State Park
1 Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 848-4355
http://www.statepark.is

Health Kickin’

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So, my birthday just happened, and since I’m a youngest child, it’s more of a birth week…fine…birth fortnight. Anyway, needless to say, much self-indulgence occurred in the form of champagne, whiskey, and spaghetti.IMG_8583So, my newly twenty-seven year old self is trying to take it easy for a couple of days before heading to my parents’ in Boston for what I’m sure will be another weekend of Kobayashi-style power-eating and drinking.

When I’m trying to cut back a bit, I know I have to cook for myself. I can delude myself into thinking that the restaurant salads and sashimi are going to make me feel better, but the truth is, you never know what’s in it. Or, it’s straight butter, and that’s why it’s delicious…I digress.

So, after a trip to the grocery store yesterday I decided to make my version of a health bowl–something packed with veggies and protein, but not so light that I’m hungry every two hours.

When I do this, I usually combine things from the following categories, which you can definitely mix and match:
a grain (in this case, I used basmati brown rice, which I cooked according to the directions, and subbed beef broth for water so it was more flavorful)DSC_0474

cooked greens (I just sautéed baby spinach in a hot nonstick pan until it wilted, and then minced one clove of garlic on top and took it out of the pan as soon as the garlic was fragrant)IMG_8574

raw veggies (I’m obsessed with cucumber, so I peeled and de-seeded it–which is totally your choice, it’s fine with seeds and peel–and chopped it up with a sprinkling of this fancy salt. I also used half an avocado)

IMG_8575protein (I bought some pricey but delicious Tonnino tuna filets in olive oil and threw some in so I wasn’t ravenous in an hour)

IMG_8581IMG_8580dressing (The tahini-lemon dressing from this Smitten Kitchen recipe reproduced below, is absolutely delicious–a go-to of mine– and the perfect compliment to everything else in the bowl)

IMG_8582For tahini dressing:
1 medium garlic clove, finely minced with a pinch of salt
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons well-stirred tahini
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more to taste
Meanwhile, make the tahini dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic and lemon juice. Add the tahini, and whisk to blend. Add the water and olive oil, whisk well, and taste for seasoning. The sauce should have plenty of nutty tahini flavor, but also a little kick of lemon. You will probably need to add more water to thin it out.

Behold, a filling, healthy, veggie-filled tasty meal that can be assembled with a number of other ingredients.

Healthy Hunkering Down

So, it’s still January, and eating healthy is all the rage. Nevermind that it’s freezing out, which to me obviously equals melted cheese and meaty stews. Regardless, when I’m eating healthy, I still need to eat hearty or I’m hangry. Lots of “h”s but it’s true! This light meal is one of my faves and excuse the sub-par photographs…as I said, I was hangry!

Roasted salmon with Asian Flavors.DSC_0098 Continue reading

Mumbai, Kochi, and more Eastern eats

DSC_0407Following our Myanmar sojourn, we headed West, to Bombay (Mumbai), for more hijinks in a post-colonial country. After some much needed family time, a Bollywood New Years Eve, a trip to the caves in Elephanta (where we spotted this gem): DSC_0308and lots of eating (not pictured, sadly—but I’ll include our go-to spots at the end), we went South, to Kerala. I’d never explored South India, and was very excited for a new experience in the country I visit each year. We began in Kochi, a port city on India’s West Coast, and traveled throughout the region…DSC_0341We spied a local man making biryani (rice and meat cooked together) in large quantities:DSC_0360 DSC_0362 DSC_0364 DSC_0366 DSC_0368

We also spent a glorious day and night on a houseboat cruising through the Keralan backwaters.DSC_0369 DSC_0373 DSC_0410 DSC_0411DSC_0398 DSC_0407 Having spent much of my time in India in Bombay I wasn’t as familiar with the coconut-infused flavors of the South. The local cuisine displays both the more tropical surroundings and Portuguese colonial influence in many dishes which are often heavy on ultra-fresh seafood. While on the boat, we stopped by a local floating storefront to pick up some just-fished shrimp and other necessities:DSC_0387 DSC_0390 DSC_0393 DSC_0396

On the boat, one of our first meals featured (from far left moving clockwise) yogurt-coconut curry, fried roots and coconut pieces, sautéed greens with, yes, more coconut slivers (seen in more detail after this photo), and a raw cabbage and coconut salad. DSC_0377 DSC_0383Simply spiced and fried fish:
DSC_0384Deep fried banana slices served with tea:

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Our travels in Myanmar and India only excited me for more trips to come…who knows where! For any of you heading to Mumbai, here are a few of my family’s favorite spots.

Kebabs n Kurries: While the name doesn’t have the minimalism of many restaurants in the West, this restaurant in the ITC Grand Central hotel is a stand-out. The black dal and Chicken Malai Kababs are my go-tos. It’s kind of far out for us (we live in South Bombay), but we always make the trip or come on the way back from the airport!
No.287, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Road, Parel

Trishna: This fish restaurant is a favorite with locals and tourists alike. The food is rich, but delicious–get the butter-garlic prawns or fish and the chili crab.
Bamanpuri, Kanti Nagar, J B Nagar, Andheri East

Swati Snacks:
For excellent vegetarian fare, go to Swati, which specializes in street food without the threat of, well, what comes along with Street Food. There’s usually a wait in this tiny no-frills spot, but it’s worth it. Go for the dosas, sev puri and panka chatni (“savory rice pancakes steamed in banana leaf.)
248, Karai Estate, Tardeo Road, Opposite Bhatia Hospital, Near Javji Dadaji Marg, Tardeo

Kala Ghoda Cafe: 
For Mumbai, this sandwich shop is nothing short of hipster. It’s a cool cafe vibe with very good coffee in a tiny lofted space.
10, Ropewalk Lane, Opp Krishna Restaurant, Kala Ghoda Fort

Khyber
This is an oldie but a goodie, and my family has been coming to this restaurant for years. The kababs are delicious, and my father always orders the brain cooked in an omelette with green chutney. Not quite my cup of tea but everything else is excellent.
145, Ground Floor Mahatma Gandhi Road | Kala Ghoda, Fort Near Rhythm House