Memorial Day Grilling!

May 31, 2011

Grilled Potato and Shrimp

When I really started to think about it, and realized that over the last month I could count the number of times I cooked on one hand, it seemed pretty appropriate that it was Memorial Day weekend. Because there is nothing I love more than a good cook out on a Holiday! But I was a bit nervous. Hot dogs and hamburgers weren’t going to satisfy my culinary craving. And the normal flooding of ideas had seemed to be diverted. So as we cruised back to Sea Cliff on Sunday, and I focused on the road (instead of my wedding sized hangover), something clicked, and it felt good to be back!

Growing up, I remember the grill filled to the brim with meat. Chicken, ribs, burgers, dogs; you name it, we grilled it. Occasionally an ear of corn and some peppers shared the grated space but it wasn’t until much later I started to appreciate the grill as a multipurpose tool. Hell, we even baked our turkey in it two years ago for Thanksgiving! But in all honesty, just about everything can be grilled and potatoes are my new favorite addition.

Par boiling the halved potatoes ensured that I could have that delicate potato doneness without drying them out from the heat of the grill. But it was that direct heat that made them the perfect star to this potato salad. The crispiness and “grilliness” (maybe that should be a word?) worked as an amazing canvas to charred scallions, grilled peppers and onions, and grilled shrimp. Tossed with a dressing made from Greek yogurt, sherry vinegar, dill, cumin, and parsley, I could not get enough of this side! The flavors melded into a warm and comforting Mediterranean potato salad that I will be surely re-visiting throughout the summer. My only regret was not paying more attention to the “recipe”. So unfortunately you’ll have to wait till next time to snag the recipe card.

Hope you all had a great Holiday weekend! Anyone do some grilling?


The Willy Wonka of Cava?

May 26, 2011


With three and half days in Barcelona and another two in Sitges, we filled our vacation with all of the good stuff: exploring, relaxing, eating, and drinking. What else could you ask for? But it was our half day trip to the Freixenet vineyards in  Sant Sadurní d’Anoia that really surprised us by being one of the most exciting moments of the trip!

In all honesty, Freixenet Cava has a sorta ridiculous place in our memories. All through college we made a point to drink bottles of the stuff at our parties because of the shelf popping (seemingly ridiculous) black bottle and the fact that it seemed like a classy upgrade from Andre. So when Em booked the tour we didn’t have any real expectations. In fact, even on the train ride out, we were laughing about how little we knew about what was about to go down.

Cork or Truck?

You think these run on booze?

With some Santa Caterina Market goodies in tow, we stepped off of the train to a view of the eye popping Freixenet entrance. The walkway lined with cork trucks and bottle motorcycles, with tons of potted planters packed with flowers, it somehow all resonated with that now seemingly perfect black bottle!

I'll take the large please!

The tour was lavish and wonderful to say the least. Walking through the four levels of caves in the original building, the detail of the cava producing process and the sheer size of the Freixenet production was really remarkable. Little did we know the volume of Cava that Freixenet was producing annually; with close to 200 million bottles all produced at this family run producer, the tour was not only fun but it was extremely interesting.

Carlos: Tour Guide, Drummer, Friend

For example, when Carlos, our amazing tour guide (who also happened to invite us to his towns celebration because he would be playing drums that night), explained to us the evolution of the yeast removing process. Back in the day, he told us, after almost a month of slight shifting to push the yeast to the head of the bottle, the sediment was removed by hand, with a quick motion releasing the cork and using the thumb as a stopper. Not so efficient and maybe a little messy huh? So when some smart dude invented a process to freeze only the small volume of liquid surrounding the yeast and to expel that “ice” by pressure, things got a whole lot easier. Fascinating!

Willy Wonka?

I probably can’t do the whole tour justice without gushing for way too long. It was unlike any other vineyard visit we have made. Even the most educational tour in Sonoma didn’t live up to this over the top exhibition. We finished with a few amazing glasses of Cava, including a glass from one of their rarest bottles. Still hand made and available for limited sale in Spain; I absolutely loved it. Even more delicious was a sparkling rose that Em adored. With two bottles of the latter in hand, we made our way back to the train station, smiling wide, feeling as though we had just left the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory. That is if you could get drunk at Willy Wonka’s!

Back from Barcelona!

May 25, 2011

Shellfish Paella at Can Majo

After being gone three of the last four weeks I can honestly say I’m excited to be home. I’m already missing our time in Barcelona but it was definitely nice to get a full night of sleep in my own bed! And luckily for me, re-counting some of the amazing food highlights from the trip will keep the excitement going…

I’ve always been known as a bit of a planner. Some of our friends used to call me the “camp counselor” in College and there is no better example of this from when we would go out to eat. But after years of menu research and review scouring I’ve learned to be more relaxed, especially when I’m traveling. It’s good to look up some of the famous spots or the hidden gems before visiting a new city but organizing your schedule around eating can be a bit overwhelming (that is unless you are going to New Orleans). That being said I did almost zero research prior to our trip to Barcelona and would be a liar if I said I wasn’t a bit nervous. After all, I do sorta love to eat…in case you hadn’t realized.

But after meeting Em late Wednesday night and roaming the Barri Gotic, we stumbled upon a cute little tapas bar and kicked off the trip with the classics. Patatas bravas, mussels cooked in white wine, an assortment of olives, and grilled bread rubbed with fresh tomatoes. Everything was fresh and delicious and it was then clear, eating would not be of concern.

Chocolate Croissant for Breakfast

The next morning, prior to heading out for some exploration and a few pastries (delicious!), I was determined to map out a few spots for the remainder of the trip. I guess I’ll never fully get rid of the camp counselor in me! But I think Em would agree that this is probably a good thing.

This could be what heaven looks like...

I didn't even know there were this many olives...

Roaming the Santa Caterina market for our picnic lunch at Freixenet was absolutely one of the highlights. These types of markets full of fresh seafood, cured meats, prepared dishes, fruit, cheese, and just about everything else, with unbelievable quality truly resonate with me. And how damn good does the Jamon Iberico look! Trust me it tasted even better with fat that melted in your mouth.

Las Bombas at La Bombeta

We also made our way to La Bombeta which had caught my attention while wandering through Barceloneta the first night we went out. This place wasn’t much to look at, which is why I was sure it must be a local spot as it was packed to the brim. After another quick google search (gotta love the internet) my suspicions were confirmed and we made it a priority to chow down on their tapas. Las Bombas (lightly fried mashed potato balls) with a spicy aioli were flat-out unbelievable. Sounds so simple, but these had some real complexity to them in flavor. With some Spanish Chorizo and Galician Octopus (slices of octopus with paprika and amazing olive oil) the food was a perfect complement to the fantastic sangria!

Speaking of which, we probably drank all of Barcelona’s Sangria so I’d probably hold off on visiting until they re-stock. But in all seriousness we were addicted to the bold flavor and simplistic approach to almost of the Sangrias we tried. With only sliced lemons and sometimes oranges floating in the dark red pitcher, it was the wine that played the key role here, and not crappy fruit or sweetness. That is everywhere but Opium Bar on the water. I know, you’re probably saying to yourself, “well serves your right for going to a place called Opium Bar”, but we had an excuse! Our table down the beach was not ready so we decided a quick drink would do us right. Too bad we chose probably the worst place in Barcelona; the only thing we regretted from the entire trip.

Breakfast at Buenas Migas

Phew, now that I got that off my chest, on to more deliciousness! Another amazing spot we found was Buenas Migas for breakfast. While I’m all about pastries once in a while for breakfast, I need a bit more substance to get my day going. This focacceria offered an unbelievable selection of these delicious topped focaccia (mine with white sausage and onions) as well as a bunch of other goodies. This would definitely be my regular stop if I lived there!

And finally, the last thing I have to mention (until I think of more) is of course the paella. While you’ll notice we took quite a traditional Spanish approach to our meals, I wasn’t quite expecting the level of deliciousness these rice dishes offered. I’ve had it in the states and I’ve attempted them on my own but they always end up heavy, salty, and boring. The two we tried (at Agua and at Can Majo in Barceloneta) were not only both delicious they were extremely different. One packed with artichokes, cuttle fish, and shrimp and the other full of amazing shellfish. These were both home runs!

Crap, remember when I said I was thrilled to be home…I could go for a few more slices of jamon and a few more las bombas. I wonder if they deliver?

Reset Explosion!

May 18, 2011

Fireworks Testing Facility

This explosion of fireworks during our visit to the testing facility pretty much represents the attack on my 10 day reset since I’ve been to Germany. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t eat any meat for those 10 days because I am pretty sure I’ve had 2 pigs and a cow since I’ve been in Berlin. And it’s all been damn delicious! They’ve got away with meat! And I guess fireworks/explosive testing as well…

Off to Barcelona tonight!

On the Road Again – Time for an Evolution

May 15, 2011

New Rooftop Planter

Despite my best intentions, my week back  in the States was not filled with cooking and blogging. Instead I spent my time catching up with friends and preparing for the next wave of travel. Off to Berlin and then on the Barcelona, I’m pumped to eat my way through the ten days and to come back with some fantastic inspiration.

Plus, I have another exciting project to come home to! As you probably remember, my attempt at a window herb garden didn’t go so well last year. So this year I’m teaming up with Mark and Kelly to take advantage of their amazing Brooklyn rooftop. Last year Kelly planted a number of plants (tomatoes, peppers, herbs, and even strawberries) and raved about the output. So with a motivation to expand the gardening potential, we got to work on two of these planters (pictured above). Kelly found almost all the wood on the side of the street and with one quick design meeting over beers, and a few hours of construction over coffee, we had these two beautiful planters ready to go. I’m pretty darn impressed with our craftsmanship!

And while these planters will surely be fruitful for our everyday cooking, I’ve got a bigger plan in the works. I’m not ready to leave you with much in the way of information, but I am pretty sure it will be worth the wait!

So while I’m away, I hope to blog a bit but I’m not making any promises. But I’ve got a favor to ask of you all. It’s been over two years of blogging and I’m looking for your feedback. Leave a comment below on what you’d like to see more of (stories, recipes, events, etc.) or some good old-fashioned compliments (or criticism if you feel it’s necessary) and I’ll be sure to take it all to heart. It’s time for a bit of an evolution!

Who doesn’t love a BLT?

May 11, 2011

Mackerel BLT

Not that I’ve been intentionally avoiding it (with the exception of the 10 day reset), but I realized on my way home last night that it’s been pretty damn long without a crispy strip of bacon. And maybe unlike any other food, a bacon thought unequivocally results in a bacon craving. And with some green tomatoes from the green market sitting in the fridge, it wasn’t too hard to think this one through…

BLTs are one of my favorite foods, ever. When done well, it’s the perfect balance of flavors, textures, and colors. But green tomatoes add a different element to mix. Rather than the sweet and juicy red tomatoes we expect to see on a BLT, the green tomato is tangy and still a bit crunchy. So for a main dish, I wanted to bring in a few extra elements to bring back that balance.

Instead of deep frying the green tomatoes, I broiled them very quickly topped with a honey/dijon combination sprinkled with panko. The result was a deliciously crispy topping without all the effort of frying. Plus the freshness of the green tomatoes was kept in tact which I really liked. Paired with the green tomatoes was maple glazed bacon adding that saltiness and sweetness that make the perfect BLT. With fresh arugula and 1 hour sautéed onions (the only way to develop that richness) the dish was almost perfect. But it was the pan seared Mackerel that really put this BLT over the top. Instead of a crusty sandwich, my BLT turned into a fantastic main course which accomplished two major things. My bacon craving was satiated and a new craving was formed. The craving for the summer! And it looks like were getting pretty darn close!

How do you like your BLTs?

On the move…

May 10, 2011

Life is a bit crazy these days. And not at all in a bad way. I’ve got lots going on and it all seems good to me. But the reality is, I haven’t had much time to cook. So after another late night (this time searching for a suit), the opportunity to spend some time in the kitchen was lost yet again. And with another trip abroad coming up this weekend, things aren’t looking so good from a food creativity stand point. But Barcelona should be great inspiration for when I return.

So in honor of my current craziness today’s poll is all about on the go eating. We all know it’s tough to eat healthy and delicious food while traveling but let’s hope I can buck the trend!

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