Friday, January 29, 2010

Desnuda Serves it Raw

Will ate a raw oyster. I saw it happen. If you had asked me five years ago if my husband would ever pick up a piece of raw seafood and put it in his mouth, I would have laughed at you. To this day I haven't even tried sashimi on him. But Monday night, sitting at a bar in the East Village, Will ate not one, not two, but about eight raw oysters. I have never been so impressed with his sense of culinary adventure.

I hereby confess that Will was not the only oyster virgin sitting at that bar. With the exception of a fried oyster, I had never sampled this purported delicacy of shellfish either. I had always wanted to try. I grew up eating everything from clams to crabs to lobster, but I was just never around oysters. After I moved to New York I realized this was a huge gap in my food experience, upscale oyster bars are all over the city and I found myself standing, a bit awkwardly, at more then one work event where people would start raving about the oysters they were eating last weekend, and oh, have you ever had New Orleans oysters and on and on. The problem, as I saw it, was that you can't just walk into a restaurant and say "One oyster, please" to the waiter. Oysters, so I understand, are full of nuance, there are different types of oyster, different regions, different toppings, not to mention trying not to look stupid (or grossed out) as you pick up a gangly looking half shell and slurp out the uncooked contents. To top this all off, oysters are not the cheapest food in the world, and though they are often priced individually, I had the sneaking suspicion you weren't really supposed to order just one.

How then, was I supposed to figure out oysters, without spending a fortune on a date night that might go completely south if it turned out I hated the things, and without making an ass of myself to a waiter who really has better things to do with his time then explain what "Blue Point" meant to a hick from Pennsylvania?

The answer came as all good things do, written on a card at a bar. Desnuda. Desnuda is a lovely (but small, very small) bar Will and I discovered last year on 7th Street between 1st Ave and Avenue A. This is a lovely stretch of block, housing more then one of our very favorite East Village haunts, and being within a block of a few others. The whole place can only be about ten feet wide, just enough room for the bar, the people working it, and the stools. If you want to make it to the bathroom in the back, you kind of have to flatten yourself against the wall and slide. Come at the wrong time on the wrong night, and you won't get a seat. Will and I have done fairly well timing out this place though, and have sat there on more then few occasions. It is perched on those stools I have had some of the best and most complex glasses of Spanish and South American wines I have ever tasted.

Bonus is that they give you a cone of garlicky truffle salted popcorn, which is ridiculously addictive. They also serve ceviche, or their interpretation of it, but as I've always been on my way to or from a meal when I've visited, I've never really sampled the menu. The chef, though, is not in some remote kitchen where you'll never see him, he's behind the bar, doubling as your waiter. A chef and a sous chef, that's it, serving the wine, dolling out the popcorn, and creating what always appear to be really decent ceviche plates, or at least really pretty ones.

A few weeks ago Will and I had stopped in for a drink when turned away by PDT (without reservations that place is impossible, I should really try getting one). When the check came, amongst the papers in the bill fold was a little card, with the diagram of an oyster. Except, instead of telling you what the parts of the oyster were, it gave you even better information. It told you that if you stopped in on Sunday or Monday, you could get oysters for a dollar a piece. I eyed the chef behind the bar. The man who not only would prepare me food, but give it to me, and ostensibly have to talk to me. This was my chance. Casually as we left, I mentioned returning on dollar oyster night. "We're pretty crazy those nights," he replied. Damn. If I was going to not look like a fool in front of people, and was going to get the full attention of an unharassed chef, it seemed I was going to have to get there early. I made a plan. The place opened at 6, so I would get there no later then 5 minutes after. Will was to meet me in front of the bar. I was going to try an oyster.

It was almost eerie, in a way, I turned onto the street exactly at 6pm, the precise time when many of the places lining it open. St. Stanislaus church's bells rang out over the neighborhood, which I'd never heard before. It was almost a heralding sound. I walked past Bourgeois Pig, a favorite place of mine with really good bottles of wine that they sell for half price on Mondays and Tuesdays. That was not the deal I was looking for this night, however, and I strolled past the weirdly empty bar that had only opened its shutters moments before.

Will met me and we headed inside. It was just us, one other couple, and a woman who seemed to be toting a camera. Menus were handed to us and I set my gaze squarely on the chef. "Okay," I announced, "I have questions." He flipped the menu to the back, where three options were laid out. Blue Points were a dollar, Hama Hamas were two dollars, and there was a third option for three but I didn't worry about that, I was going for a low priced sampling. Upon inquiry I was told that most people order in half dozens or dozens. Will and I talked it over and decided to go with a half dozen of each, a small but decent sampling. I started to inquire about the toppings, but he assured me he would just pick out the three he thought worked best. I love personal attention when a place is quiet and the chef takes a personal interest. Wine suggestions were made to us, we selected, and settled in to watch him work. He and the sous chef set in, hand open and inspecting each oyster. I don't think at any point until then it really occured to me what Will would do with the oysters. I figured we would pick up dinner afterwards, because even if the oysters were really good they didn't seem like a meal. I would have been sad if he didn't at least pick one up, but I guess I just never imagined he would really be into the whole adventure.

As a full dozen raw oysters were placed on a bed of salt in front of us, however, Will didn't flitch. Just as I did he picked up a Blue Point, loosened it with a cocktail fork from its shell, and slurped the whole thing into his mouth. I just may marry him all over again. We had a lot of fun, playing with the spicy, sweet, and asian flavored toppings, trying our best to detect the differences between the East Coast Blue Points and the West Coast Hama Hamas and sipping our perfectly selected wines. The photographer, who was from some New York event website (I'll let you know if the photos ever turn up) took shots of the bar, the people sitting at the bar, and a plate of six oysters the chef had done up for her. After she left he picked up the plate, cleared our now empty shells, and placed them in front of us. The chef's name, we found out, was Dominic, and he may be my new best friend.

It was a case of right place at the right time, but some of that timing was my own planing. I've read online reviewers who've complained about this place, that they couldn't get a seat, that the food ran out early (since they serve a lot of things raw they insist on freshness and don't keep too much around to go bad, which I kinda agree with) and that they weren't given enough courtesy. My opinion is, when it comes to the nice bars in the East Village, you have to plan. These places won't let you stand around and hover over tables, if there aren't any seats, you have to leave. I personally enjoy not being hovered over, and feel that if you want to try the place that badly, do yourself a favor and get there early. You'll get kick ass service, they won't be out of anything, and when the really hot time of night rolls around, when all the really trendy people are jockeying for a seat at these bars, you'll already be comfortable with a drink in hand. And you'll get to hear some pretty bells.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bottling Brews

The long weeks of buying beer, drinking it, and amassing bottles has finally paid off. It's bottling day, people. As Heather and I were mapping this whole brewing thing out, she said that she didn't want anything to do with the first part of the process--the boiling, the extract dissolving, the wort chilling and the yeast pitching. I think in her head, I was going to destroy her entire kitchen and the apartment would reek of barley and hops for the remainder of our lease. Those things did not happen because I am a careful man and a wonderful husband.
Heather did agree to be present for the second major step of the process--bottling. The conceit of bottling is pretty simple: add sugar, put in bottles. The kit that Heather got me even came with a bag of superfine priming sugar so I didn't even have to measure it. I just had to dissolve it in two cups of boiling water and let it cool to room temperature. The biggest pains in my ass were, A) cleaning and de-labeling the bottles (I could have kept them on but I didn't want my beer to share a spotlight with Sam Adams and Magic Hat) and B) sterilizing everything and maintaining a clean work environment. These steps were taken before Heather got home from work. I only needed her there for the main event. I lined up my bottles, I set up my bucket, I re-lined up my bottles; I was so ready for this. Now if Heather would just hurry the hell up. Stupid employment.
Finally she arrived. We set to work. First thing's first, we take the lid off the fermenter for the first time in two weeks. I learned in yeast class that I should have been taking hydrometer readings every now and again, but I found that out a week and a half too late. God damn it. Maybe next time. We got the lid off and there was a thick layer of yeasty gunk on the inside wall of the fermenter. I take that as a sign that the process worked. After the yeast is pitched into the wort, there is a one to two day lag phase and then the yeast bubbles vigorously leaving behind a bunch of crap. Heather had a different reaction: "eeeeeeeewwwwwwww"
I added the sugar solution to the bottling bucket and then syphoned the beer from the fermenter to to mix it with the sugar, leaving behind the bottom layer of yeast sediment that has built up. An important thing to be aware of is that the beer should be exposed to as little oxygen as possible. Stirring the sugar in is not necessary; the swirling from the hose is enough to mix it in. I then attached the hose to the spigot on the bottling bucket. The hose comes with a neat little attachment that regulates the flow of liquid, making sure it doesn't spray or splash.
This is where Heather came in. One person could do this, but I wanted her around to speed this process up. In my mind, the longer it takes, the higher the risk for contaminants. I put the bottling bucket on the counter and got on the floor to take advantage of gravity--a dignified position. Her job was to bring me empty bottles, take them away once they were full, and cap them. It kept me from having to move. She had a little trouble with some of the caps, but discovered that she could get more leverage if she also moved to the floor. So there we were, two fully grown adults on the floor of our tiny kitchen surrounded with beer. I'm sure that image give you a lot of insight into our lives.
Aside from a couple of minor drips and bottle overflows, the bottling was a success. We ended up with a grand total of 43 twelve ounce bottles and a champagne bottle I had fitted with a grolsch bottle top. We put them all in cardboard six-pack caddies which are currently sitting on the bottom shelf of our book case while they undergo their secondary fermentation. The shelf has sliding doors so the bottles can be shielded from light. Two weeks from the bottling date, they should be ready to drink. You can be sure I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Destination India

I am bad at considering cooking ethnic cooking for dinner. When planning a weekly menu, it just never enters my consciousness as a possibility. And when I do crave it, I live in NY, so I can get some of the best take out around, made by people who actually know what they are doing. This is never more true then in my own neighborhood of Jackson Heights, a Mecca of Indian food. Tandori, curry, naan, all of it a dial away. One of my favorite dishes is either Chicken Tikka Masala, or Chicken Tikka Makhanwala, two similar dishes of chicken in a creamy spicy sauce that you can find either one or the other at many Indian Restaurants. The neighborhood's Zagat standby, the most celebrated of the many places around, is Jackson Diner, who has a pretty kick ass Makhanwala. The problem, though, is that the dish runs $12.95, and once you order naan and whatever else tempts you, it can be a pricey take out night, and they only take cash. It was time, I decided, to learn to make my own. I located a recipe for Chicken Tikka, and started searching for all the spices my cabinet did not hold.

The preeminent place in the neighborhood to shop for all of your Indian staples is the Patel Brothers market, a chain of Indian food stores I haven't set foot in for over two years. When we first moved here it was the first grocery store we saw, and we went to buy milk and basic staples for the apartment.

It was a bit of a culture shock for two naive suburbanites, as strange vegetables, boxes in characters we could not read, and languages being bandied about that we could not speak swirled around us. It's not that we're anti-other cultures, just the opposite, we find it really cool most of the time. It's just all a lot to take in when you're just trying to locate a box of Coco Puffs. We soon discovered the other more conventional groceries in the neighborhood and Patel became part of the background of the walk to the subway.

As I decided to tackle my own Indian cooking, I knew it was time to venture back into the market. It was not nearly as insane as I remembered, but perhaps I've just gotten used to the fact that every New York store comes with a level of insanity. As I perused a wall of seeds and spices, another couple of "Non-Indians" walked past. "Oh don't get that, we can get that in our own neighborhood. Check this out," I overheard in their conversation. I was a bit ashamed. Here other people are journeying out to Jackson Heights just to come to this store, and I've lived here for two years and have avoided the place. I am a disgrace to the word "foodie."

Patel Brothers is damn cool through. Huge bags of rice, spices, and snack food fill the aisles. As I was looking through the frozen food, I was stopped dead in my tracks. Mixed within the Indian labels was a package of frozen naan, posed next to the Pillsbury Doughboy. You don't get that at a Super Fresh. It had to go home with me. I just couldn't see a way around it.

The spices I got were amazing, if for no other reason then they came with their own little spoons. Where an American product would have had plastered all over it's packaging "There's a Spoon Inside!" these spices had absolutely nothing advertising their special bonus feature. It wasn't until I opened them and noticed something sticking out that I had any idea that I got a special spice spoon in each container. I may have squealed with glee. That might have happened.

The recipe I had was just for Chicken Tikka, and most of the reviewers seemed to feel a purchased Masala sauce was better then trying to make one, as their attempts to make one had not ended well. I decided one Indian challenge was enough for one night, and bought a spice mix that mixed with yogurt and water. Then I just spooned it over the finished product, and it worked perfectly. I may make my own masala sauce one day, but damned if that mix wasn't convenient. I was expecting a powder, but it was a moist baggie of spice, liquid, and deliciousness.

Chicken Tikka
Adapted (barely) From Gourmet Magazine


1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted
1 cups whole-milk yogurt
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 (3/4-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil plus additional for greasing pan
1 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3/4 teaspoons salt
3/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon garam masala (Indian spice mixture)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
2 1/2 pounds skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes

Equipment: 12" wooden or bamboo skewers.


Purée all ingredients except chicken in a blender until spices are well ground.

Put chicken in a large bowl, or in a large sealable plastic bag, and add yogurt mixture, stirring or turning to coat. Marinate chicken, covered and chilled (turning occasionally if using bags), at least 4 hours.

If using wooden skewers soak skewers in water 30 minutes. While skewers are soaking, bring chicken to room temperature.

Preheat broiler and brush a broiler pan lightly with oil.

Divide chicken among skewers (about 5 cubes per skewer), leaving an 1/8-inch space between cubes, and arrange about 5 skewers across pan. Broil chicken about 4 inches from heat, turning over once, until browned in spots and just cooked through, 9 to 12 minutes total.

Transfer cooked skewers to a large platter and, if desired, cover loosely with foil to keep warm. Broil remaining chicken in same manner. Remove chicken from skewers.
If making Chicken Tikka Masala, add masala sauce and toss. Serve warm or at room temperature.

I served mine over rice and to the side of the Pillsbury naan, which was really spicy but crispy. It tasted similar to the take out, which considering I've had what is supposed to be some of the best Indian food this side of the Atlantic, I think I did pretty well. Economically, I'm pretty happy as well. I bought the chicken for about $7, and spent about $6 for all of my spices. This brings me about even with one order at Jackson Diner, and now I have lots of spice leftover for next time. Jackson Diner does have a $10 buffet lunch, which allows one to try all manor of Indian food. Possibly this is where I will find my next Punjab cooking challenge...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Those Magical Micro-organisms

As part of our ongoing quest to gain more knowledge about the world around us (funny how the world around us is usually a bar,) we decided to sign up for a brewer's yeast class at the Brooklyn Kitchen. Ever since our knife skills class, Heather has had her ear to the ground for new and interesting classes. (Since that class they have been expanding. When we took our first class the instruction happened at a crowded counter toward the back of the store, which was slightly nerve wracking as we were all using sharp objects within inches of each other. Now they have opened a completely separate space a few blocks from the original store on Frost Street, complete with two full teaching spaces and a high end butcher shop. They have also included retail sales at the new location, mostly of consumable goods but some kitchen equipment too. The bulk of their kitchen tools still remain at the old space on Lorimer Street.) The instructor was a guy named Chris who works as a brewer at the Brooklyn Brewery.
The class was close to three hours long, but I found it pretty helpful. Even if I'm hearing a lot of the things that I've already read about in my beer book, it's good to hear it from an actual human being. It give me reassurance that people actually do these things. Much of the class was practical advice about the role of yeast in brewing, specifically home brewing--the history, the science behind fermentation, the differences between strains, the flavors it can add or subtract from the beer, the ideal conditions for yeast to remain healthy, and so on. Some of the specific subject matter was a little over my head but much of the class was made up of neophytes like me, so many of the questions were ones that I had too.
A fringe benefit for taking this class was the tastings. In order to illustrate a point about a flavor or a style of beer, we were given small glasses of a beer that demonstrated that quality. For example, to show the difference between a lager and an ale, we were given Brooklyn Pennant Ale and Brooklyn Pilsner. He also gave us tastes of some of Brooklyn's premium beers called Local 1 and Local 2. Earlier that day, he took some of each from the tank at the brewery and allowed us to try those against the finished product of each. These particular styles are fermented in the bottle with a different yeast than it's first fermentation. This illustrated the significance of secondary fermentation. We also tried a hefeweizen and a beer called "The Wild One" made with a strain of wild yeast called brettanomyces. He mentioned before we tried it that it had kind of a hay, barnyard, horse blankety kind of flavor. It was hard not to notice it after he said it. It was interesting and kind of good, but was not my favorite. My favorite--for the record--is the Local 2.
Midway through the class we took a five minute break to wander around and go to the bathroom. Before we started again, Heather asked about a bacon flavored beer that Brooklyn Brewery put out. An impish smile crept across his face as if to say, "Yes, we did that." He briefly outlined the process of doing that, adding, "It was pretty good, but you wouldn't want to drink a lot of it."
Towards the end of the class, Chris showed us how to calculate the viable yeast cell count by looking at a sample under a microscope. Now I can delude myself into thinking that I will put the effort into many things, but I can't imagine ever caring enough to actually do this. I suppose in a yeast class we're bound to get around to cell division and such. I peeked over at Heather's note but all she had were doodles of lightning bolts and smiley faces.
After the class, our instructor stuck around to answer questions. I stuck around to hear some responses and then joined Heather in the store. The Brooklyn Kitchen sells a fairly large amount of brewing supplies and ingredients. They have an entire corner dedicated to home brewing along with a big ass fridge at the other end of the store filled with yeast and hops. The beer bottles they sold caught my eye. They have the standard 12 and 22 oz. sizes along with the swing top or grolsch style bottles but they also sold these tops with little metal straps to convert a regular bottle into a swing top. I bought one and attached it to a used champagne bottle I've been saving and it fit like gangbusters.
Heather and I caught Chris before he left and I told him I was brewing an IPA. He thought that was a good beer to start with and told me to e-mail him and let him know how it turns out. (The people at Brooklyn Kitchen all have a great friendly vibe, they know a lot about food and drink and are excited to discuss it with like minded people. It certainly keeps us coming back.) To make the night complete, we topped the experience off with a pint at Barcade. We never miss an opportunity to take advantage of all Williamsburg has to offer--at least when it comes to beer and video games.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Epicurette and the Smokey Mountain Boys

Earlier this week Will expressed an interest in driving around the USA. This is an interest his father has also has, except he wanted to do it in an RV. This is not quite my idea of a vacation. As I rolled it around in my head though, I did start thinking about a few parts of America that had three things I go crazy over. Good music, good booze, and good food. Savannah, Georgia sprung to mind as a place that always has a famous restaurant by a new up and coming chef. Had we not been able to afford Dublin, Will and I had talked about heading out to Sonoma, California and returning with a few cases of wine, and I've always been interested by the music scene that is Chicago. There was one part of the country that has all three of the elements I desired, and within a few hours I had filled Will's email box with articles about a drag of road called Highway 61, Music highway.

It's a connecting highway between Memphis, Tennessee and New Orleans, Louisiana. I had already built a fantasy around it that involved renting a pickup truck, pulling on my cowboy boots, and cruising down stopping for Blues, Bluegrass, Barbecue, and Bourbon. However, it is January, not the ideal time of year for doing said cruising, though I'm sure it's warmer down there then it is up here right now. Also I have a job, one that would not appreciate an email saying, "Sorry, can't come in this week, searching for the home of Muddy Waters and the perfect shot of Rye." The trip, though I am determined to take it, must be delayed until I can actually plan it, request the vacation time, and let the weather improve. Damn my lack of spontaneity.

The ideas however, would not stop plaguing me this week. I downloaded a huge album of bluegrass music, and ordered a CD of blues. (Has anyone listed to a CD from the "I heard it on NPR" series?) While writing Friday's blog, I sat there with a glass of Ezra Brooks in hand. Finally the siren call of barbecue could no longer be ignored. I needed slow cooked meat. I needed it bad. I remembered the sandwich I had to quest for at the Big Apple Barbecue last year, the sandwich I had stood in line for over an hour to get. I fantasized about the brilliance that is a great pulled pork sandwich.

This, I discovered, was easier said then done. First was my complete lack of a smoker, a place to put a smoker, or a way to deal with the smoke. Apartment living strikes again. It seemed, through, that every cookbook I owned with a section for slow cookers included a section for a pulled pork sandwich. Not exactly the authenticity of standing by a fire pit south of the Mason Dixon line for eight hours, but I was desperate. These recipes differed in everything from cut of meat to sauce, one even included root beer as a main ingredient. What would I have to do to recreate the experience of that exceptional lunch over six months ago?

I launched into research, and it turns out, Pulled Pork has two distinct schools of thought, having to do with whether you are dealing with the East side of the Carolinas or the West (and you thought North and South were all you had to worry about.) In the East, you'd get a vinegar based sauce, which is spicier, where in the West, it tends toward tomato based sauce, which is sweeter (and usually still includes vinegar, just to be confusing.) I looked up the website of the place that had sold me the elusive pulled pork, Black Jack Barbecue. It turns out they sell their sauces, and there was a barbecue... and a cider. Crap.

Sweeter was the operative word for me, I remember as what sticks out in my memory was a sweet, tangy flavor. Ingredients jumped out like Molasses and Brown Sugar. I decided tomato based was my kind of barbecue. I briefly considered ordering the sauce, and getting the exact sauce I remembered, but A of all, this seemed like a cop out, and B of all I would have had to wait for shipping, and pay $8 for it. No, if I was gong to do this, I was going to do it right. Working mostly from the America's Test Kitchen cookbook, I worked on my perfect West Carolinas barbecue sauce.

The Sauce

4 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
2 Onions, Minced
2 Garlic Cloves, Minced
2 Tsp Chili Powder
1 3/4 Cup Ketchup
1/2 Cup Light or Dark Molasses
2 Tbsp Light Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Cider Vinegar
1/4 Cup Worcestershire
1/4 Cup Dijon Mustard
2 Tsp Tabasco
Salt and Pepper

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and chili powder and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds.

Stir in the remaining ingredients and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the the sauce is thickened, about 25 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cool to room temperature before serving, about 1 hour. (Can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 2 months)

I ended up with about three cups of sauce, and tossed it in the the refrigerator overnight next to the nearly four pound pork shoulder I had spent a small fortune on earlier in the day. I went to Dickson's Farmstand Meats, one of the "Rock Star" butcher shops invading Manhattan, but my thought was if I was going to make that much meat I was going to have it be the good stuff. They were exceptionally cool to me, I ordered the pork shoulder, and they didn't have it in the case so my sales person trotted over to the butchering area to have it cut for me. He asked if I wanted it tied. I had no idea what the hell he was talking about, and in nicer terminology, told him so. I explained this was my first time buying a shoulder. Saying this in a very nice butcher shop felt tantamount to walking into a record store and asking who the Beatles are. He was very nice about it though, and asked me how I was preparing it. When I told him pulled pork, he smiled and said he would take care of me. You get what you pay for. I went home with a gorgeous 3.75 pound shoulder, neatly tied, locally sourced. I was getting excited.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

3-4 Pound Pork Shoulder
3 Cups Barbecue Sauce of Choice
Salt and Pepper
Cider Vinegar

Heat large skillet over medium high. Place in shoulder fat side down, then brown on all sides. While browning, pour half of sauce into slow cooker. Once browned, remove pork from skillet and place into slow cooker. Pour remainder of sauce on top. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours, or on high for 4 to 6 hours. (I went with the slower route) Once the meat is fully cooked, remove to cutting board or platter. With two forks, tear meat into shreds (or pull the pork apart, as it were.) Toss meat with sauce from the slow cooker. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with cider vinegar if desired. Serve shredded meat on hamburger rolls with your favorite cole slaw, either on the side or on top of the pork.

When it came time to take the meat out of the slow cooker, it was falling apart. Success! I loaded it into a foil roasting pan, and proceeded to rip it apart. I took a preliminary taste, and nearly fell over. It was juicy and tender and amazing. With a big kitchen spoon I started spooning on the sauce, three spoonfuls to start with. My eyes rolled back in my head. I kept spooning until I felt I had achieved the Nirvana like status that this meat called for. Will wouldn't stop comparing the dish to porn. Three sandwiches later he collapsed on the couch with a satisfied and deeply impressed smile. I think we have found his new favorite dish. What is it with boys and barbecue?

I did miss the smokiness that comes from sticking a huge cut of meat in a cabinet built specifically to cook pork, but for an apartment in Queens I think I came as close to authentic barbecue as one could, and it was knee buckling good. To get "the real deal" I think I'm going to have to rent that pickup truck and head towards Dixie. Epicurette in Memphis has a nice ring to it...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Bonus Restaurant Blog Friday!!! Momofuku Noodle Go!

Am I a bad foodie? As I am writing this I am trying to force defrost a week old sausage in a plastic baggie in a bowl of water for my dinner. I may also be sipping straight bourbon simply because I was reading about Beer and Bourbon Festival today that I can't afford to go to and was hankering for it, and didn't have the energy to turn it into a proper cocktail. Some nights I create complicated adventurous meals and some nights I'm just a depressing human being.

So lately I've gotten away from the whole "Restaurant Review" aspect of this blog, mostly because I'm too busy (read: poor) to have dined out much lately. Also though, I've enjoyed the rhythm of testing, eating, and posting about a recipe every Monday (even if on Sunday morning, I still sometimes don't know what that recipe is going to be). With restaurant week arriving Monday, however, I'm going to be jonesing to tell you about my upcoming adventures. Reservations are made, lunch at Tabla and dinner at Park Avenue Winter! Squeee! In order to not screw up this delicate balance of blogging, I will be moving all restaurant reviews for the foreseeable future to Bonus Blog Fridays. Bonus Blog Friday's, for any newcomers, is when I post extra content that I've actually managed to find time to write during the week. It's not a guaranteed post date, but a little something extra.

As a primer for these restaurant Friday's, I wanted to share with you the wonderful time I had this week FINALLY trying Momofuku Noodle Bar. I am a big ramen fan, and when I was cursed with a cold a few weeks ago, I pouted until Will took me out for a big steamy noodley bowl to make me feel better. It worked, and even though now I'm better, I've been hankering for it again ever since. The frigid New York weather can just get inside you sometimes, but you know a giant hot bowl of soup could cure it. And it will be awesome. I had remembered last year reading a blog on the NY Magazine site where they took Iron Chef Morimoto around to the East Village to judge and rate this somewhat trendy version of the Japanese street food (and startled the hell out of Momofuku owner David Chang). The winner was Momofuku Noodle Bar, which happens to also be the most expensive at about $16 a bowl. While the other ramen places tend to be more traditional, a counter, some stools, and not much else on the menu besides the soup, Momofuku is more of a restaurant, with a varied drink and sake menu, sides, appetizers, and the top rated ramen in NY.

It's an impressive place, so when Will and I first attempted to go there last week, the huge line just to get in deterred us. I was hungry, and am really not considered a patient person. This week, however, I was determined to try it. We had a guest in town, the incomparable and wonderful Anne, and we were seeing a show in the village at 7pm. Perfect, I thought. We'll get there early, before it gets insane, and get seats. Meeting time: 5:30pm. Watches synchronized, and GO! Anne and I turned up early and discovered the place was closed until exactly 5:30 for a private event. Perfect, we would wait outside until they opened the doors and get prime seats. Except Will was late. And they won't seat you until the entire party is there. And the place was filling up with hipsters quickly. Dirty, faux-hawked hipsters. We waited outside, and I hopped from one foot to another whining like a petulant child. Will arrived about ten minutes later, having been screwed over by a sluggish R train. We went in and scored fantastic seats, right on the end of the long communal table by the window. We weren't crowded when the front of the restaurant did fill up with waiting people fifteen minutes later and we were perfectly arranged for conversation. Momofuku gets full points for this.

The waitress was very patient as I inquired about the slushy drinks, the difference between the Ginger and the Apple Cider, and how incredibly alcoholic they were. I decided on the Apple Cider (more smooth, she said) and the small (as I wanted to remember the show that night). Anne took a Japanese beer and Will, always our alcohol adventurer, did a sake flight. I may have helped him. A little. Part of the reason I did this was my drink was "small" which was pretty tiny, about 8oz. It did not last the whole meal. If you aren't planing in engaging in cultural interaction later in the evening, maybe get the large.

I had read that the restaurant was doing interesting things with chicken. They offer a fried chicken dinner that you have to reserve in advance (the only reservations the restaurant allows) where you have to bring between four and six people and they make this special fried chicken that people are going nuts over. We did not have four people or a reservation, but I saw smoked chicken wings on the menu and we ordered them as a starter to split. They were made with pickled chilies, scallions, and garlic and were a perfect starter. The meat fell off the bone and they nailed that tangy/sweet thing you expect from an Asian chicken wing, but without being overwhelming in either direction. The order included about eight wings and had I not been expecting a giant bowl of soup for my entree, I may have ordered a second round. I would definitely recommend them.

But now we were onto the main event--the ramen. Now if I were a professional reviewer with an expense account that would let me take my friends out for dinner and then insist on what they were to order so that I could try everything, we would have tried all three of the ramens offered by the establishment (are you listening NY Times?). However, we were all paying for our own meals and of course each of us wanted to order the most famous and best reputed dish, the Momofuku Ramen, so I can only tell you about this one dish. It's a good one to know about, however. The broth was rich, savory, and that perfect amount of salty. What set it apart from other pork ramens I've had though was the use of different cuts. Most establishments give you the requisite two or three slices of pork for you to break apart and mix into your soup. Momofuku gives you shredded pork that mixes in easily, and then a few sliced of a more tough cut to eat separately. As I always feel like I don't have enough pork, this was a boon, a delightful bounty of pork in my soup.

There is one wild card in ramen, the egg. I am a huge fan of egg in Ramen, my favorite being at Ramen Setagaya where it's half a soft boiled egg which I put soy sauce on and eat separately, slurping out the yolk and eating the egg with bites of noodle. This is a slightly undignified and almost religious experience. It also disgusts Will more then words can say. He cannot deal with egg, at all. Unless it's been mixed into the food in such a way that the raw ingredient is unrecognizable, he won't go near the things. He says it's the smell. I do not discourage this, as it always means more egg for me. That religious experience egg? I get to eat two of them because he scoops his into my bowl. At Momofuku they go with a poached egg. Will's first order of business was to scoop it into his spoon and try to hand it off to me. Well it exploded. It dripped all into his bowl and over his pork and noodles. His face approximated something of a kicked puppy. He looked so sad, all those lovely ramen components, covered in the one thing he really didn't want to eat! Before I could even react, Anne grabbed her bowl and switched it with his. I think she just wanted to make the face go away. "It's okay, I like egg!" she exclaimed, as I carefully scooped the intact egg out of his new bowl and deposited it in my own. Between the two of us we had saved Will's dinner. And I got two eat two delectable eggs (though I still kinda prefer the soft boiled kind in my ramen).

In the end the whole night was a blast, and it was a much better overall experience then you'll get at most of the other ramen bars in New York. If I just needed a quick dinner, or was just trying to ease a cold, I would go with one of the other places, Rai Rai Ken or Ramen Setagya, where you'll still get a fantastic bowl of soup for a lesser price and without the "trendy restaurant" feel. For a group outing though, having a "New York" experience, this place was absolutely perfect. Just arrive early or the "New York" experience will be that of standing in a group of tightly packed people waiting for the night to begin. And we have the subway for that.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Good Luck to the Barley Mow

For those who don't know already, Heather was nice enough to get me a beer brewing kit for Christmas. I'm not sure I needed another obsession, but I'm happy to roll with it. My gift was the kit, a box of ingredients for an IPA (India Pale Ale) and an accompanying book, How to Brew by John J. Palmer. I would recommend this book to anyone starting out because it is very well laid out. If you just want to know the basics, the first chapter will probably get you through. If you want to get more in depth about any one topic, the chapters are very clearly labeled. And if you want to get into the science of fermentation and beer production, there is no shortage of that either.
Rather than rush into brewing right after Christmas, I decided it might be best to read up a little about what I'm doing and try to avoid any pitfalls. After all if I make a mistake, I might not know right away. It might take me a solid month to find out. "Oh right, I was supposed to put yeast in it. I was wondering what that was for." I didn't read the book cover to cover, but I amassed what I thought was enough knowledge to proceed. I got all giddy and set aside a whole day to brew. In the days leading up to brew day I wouldn't shut up about it. I would point to my ingredients and say, "There it is Heather. That pile of crap will soon be delicious beer."
Heather, upon seeing my excitement, tried to temper it by warning me not to get my hopes too high. She said that she bought the ingredients as a test batch and that I shouldn't be crushed if it doesn't work out. I'll be bummed but I won't be crushed. I just can't help getting excited about it. I even talk about it at work. "Three days til brew day...Two days til brew day...brew day's tomorrow." A coworker of mine says that Heather has given me a golden ticket to become an alcoholic. Maybe, but I don't think so. There are cheaper and easier ways to get beer. Buying Pabst Blue Ribbon for one. Malt extract isn't cheap.
Then the day came--this past Thursday to be specific. The whole process is supposed to take only a couple of hours but I took things slow to make sure I was doing them right. I started by putting a gallon and a half of water on the stove in a five gallon stock pot. Before the water boils, a pound of cracked grains is steeped in the water for a half hour to give it color and aroma. To be honest, it made the entire apartment smell remarkably like Grape Nuts. After the grains are steeped, they are removed and the water is brought to a boil.
The water is then taken off the heat and half of the seven pounds of malt extract are thrown into the pot and dissolved. The pot is then put back on the heat and the first of a battery of hops are added--bittering, flavoring, and finishing. As time goes on and I get better at this whole process I'm sure I'll come to understand better this whole process, but for now I'm just doing what the directions tell me. After the bittering hops have steeped for 40 minutes, the pot is taken off the heat again and the rest of the malt extract is added.
This is where I hit a little snag. It took me a long time to dissolve the malt extract and even after ten minutes there were still little clumps. I ran the wort through a strainer and got rid of the clumps. I don't think I removed enough to harm anything, but if my beer isn't as malty as I'd like, I'll know why.
After finishing my hop additions, I transferred the pot to my sink which was waiting with ice water. I thought two bags of ice from the grocery store would be more than enough but it melts very quickly. I had just enough to get me through. After it cooled, I poured the wort through a strainer into the fermenting bucket which had two gallons of water waiting in it. The book told me that I should have a fair amount of sediment at the bottom of the pot--proteins that solidify and need not go in the fermenter--but I saw none. That may have been because I already strained it when it was on the stove. I have no idea.
After pouring the wort into the fermenter, I topped it off with additional water to achieve five gallons and sloshed it back and forth between the two containers a couple of times. The book recommends that you oxygenate the beer before you pitch the yeast. My yeast came in a little packet that resembled a cold compress. A couple of hours before brewing, you smack the bag inside the pack to activate it. The packet expands to let you know the yeast is viable. After the yeast is pitched, it's off to the races. I just have to let it sit in the dark at a constant temperature. It's currently in my office, sitting under my desk inside the box it came in. Every now and again, I'll peek in like a child to see if the airlock is moving. Like many of my projects, the main goal is to keep things from exploding and making a mess of our apartment. So far, so good.
Tomorrow marks the one week anniversary of brewing day. My goal is to obtain 50 empty beer bottles before I get to the next step in this process. I don't have that much further to go thanks to a friend of mine inviting Heather and me to a party for the Eagles/Cowboys game. The Eagles lost but I got a bunch of bottles so I count it as a win. Once I've passed two weeks, I can begin to bottle. Hopefully nothing goes wrong in that time. Wish me luck.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Resolution 2: Don't gain 20 Pounds

Well December came and went. It was fun, it was hectic, it was a tiny bit high in calories. I blame the fondue. Or the peppermint cheesecake. Or the wine and cocktails. Okay, there were a lot of calories that found their way into my diet in the month of December. But now it's January and I'm walking past all of the super obnoxious "New Year, New You" posters, because apparently no one is tired of that slogan yet. I don't need a new me. What was wrong with the old me? She wasn't perfect, but people seemed to like her. This poster is trying to make me feel insecure and change my behavior. You know who else does that? Cults. The next thing I know, I'll be dressed up in a white shirt and black tie hanging out in subway stations measuring people's thetan level. Nice try, poster. Everywhere advertising feels the need to remind that if I don't lose the holiday weight, I'm am a worthless failure. Also fun is at parties where every time I reach for a chip, someone feels the need to elbow the person next to them and go "Ah, wedding must be over, huh?" Bite me. At least I don't have the pressure of being a member of Geez.

With the annoying reality check that is January, I've been trying to trim back the fat on some of my cooking. The problem with this is that I am essentially a fat purist. I don't really believe in recipes that claim to "let you enjoy your favorites" simply by substituting the ingredients with the "fat free" or "light" versions, generally affecting the taste. Then I just sit there eating the adjusted food, wishing it was the real thing and feeling sorry for myself. When I cut back, I cut back by portion size. I'll eat half of the giant burrito, and save the other half for the next day's lunch. Instantly I'll have cut the calories in half! I get the small latte, instead of the grande "non fat with skim" version. And I try to find recipes that honestly have less fat, not because they were adjusted to have less, they just naturally have less, so taste is not sacrificed. If you are looking for options from my past posts, I would suggest, Portabella Burgers (the very first recipe I posted!), Roasted Tomatoes, and Fish Tacos. This week though, I pulled out the big guns, and old classic of mine that I have been meaning to share with you for quite some time. Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce the best Turkey Burger of all time.

Turkey Burgers can be a bit tricky, easy to dry out and prone to blandness. This recipe fixes those problems by mixing in bits of green pepper and adding a fantastic balsamic rosemary marinade, so flavor abounds. As for the meat, while it is leaner, I wouldn't recommend going with all light meat. It dries out way too fast. I would recommend a blend of light and dark meat, or if you're okay with a bit more fat (and then only eating one burger) all dark meat has worked well for me many times. What makes these even better is brushing that fantastic marinade onto some sliced onion, and then grilling those as well. It's a delicious combination. The recipe was designed for a real grill, but I live in an apartment in Queens and it's 28 degrees outside. I use a Calphalon grill pan, and for my "cover" I use the lid to a crappy pasta pot that I threw out over a year ago. It's all improvisation baby. Don't think. I also use a George Foreman for the onion rings and the buns. The George Foreman doesn't come out much, I find it dries out meat really quickly, but it's genius for veggies. That thing can make some killer asparagus too. So make due with what you have, and enjoy. This is a super easy recipe, great for the middle of the week, and with any luck, it will help those jeans not feel so snug either.

Phenomenal Turkey Burgers
Adapted from Southern Living

Marinade Ingredients:
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Burger Ingredients:
1 pound ground turkey1/2 cup Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
1 tablespoon minced dried onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 hamburger buns
Half a large onion cut into 1/2 inch slices for the Onion Rings

Wisk together marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

Combine all burger ingredients in a large bowl. Divide into 4 patties. Baste with Marinade.

Grill, covered, over medium-high heat (350° to 400°) 5 to 6 minutes on each side or until no longer pink in center, basting each side occasionally with Fresh Herb Marinade.

While burgers are cooking, brush onions with remaining marinade. Grill about 4 minutes on each side (or 5 minutes total on a George Foreman) until onions are tender and grill marks appear.

Grill buns, cut side down about 2 minutes or until toasted.
And that's it! You just assemble your burgers, using whatever burger condiments you favor. Will's a pickles and ketchup guy, I prefer a mayo ketchup blend. It's not exactly a salad, but it isn't a big roast with buttered vegetables, which lets face it, is what first comes to mind when it's this cold out. Feel free to leave your favorite low cal recipes in the comments, I've still got a few pounds to go before I stop growling every time I see a cupcake. And Christ, there's only one month until the sweets bonanza that is Valentine's Day. Oh well. At least the wedding is over...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Brandy Alexander--Always Gets Me Into Trouble

A few years ago, Heather bought a Feist album and it contained a song called "Brandy Alexander." It's a mellow little slow jam that has kind of a groovy feel. Heather liked the song so much that she became fixated on getting a brandy alexander. She would wake up in the morning and want a brandy alexander for breakfast. When I told her that cereal would be better, she asked if she could pour a brandy alexander over it instead of milk. She would speak of a perfect world--one with no wars, no hunger and brandy alexanders as far as the eye can see. I found her speech idealistic and psychotic. Kind of like Glenn Beck. I wanted to give her the cocktail. The problem was that neither of us knew what it was. I deduced that it was some sort of brandy concoction crafted by a man named Alexander.
I feel like since we moved to New York, our knowledge of mixology has grown exponentially, but at the time we were neophytes. Let me put it this way: Back then, the most interesting thing in our liquor cabinet was hypnotiq. It's fruity and turns your drink blue. So Heather set out on her task. Every time we went out to a bar, she would ask for a brandy alexander. We soon found out that many bartenders either don't know how to make one, don't have the ingredients, or both. It was getting a little frustrating.
I know what you must be thinking. At this point, couldn't we have just looked up the ingredients, bought them and mixed it ourselves. I should tell you that moving to New York--one of the most expensive cities in the United States--is a money draining undertaking. We were feeling like a couple of miserly broke-asses so at the very least, I was unwilling to blow money on liquors and liqueurs that we didn't even know if we liked. You might then ask why we were going out to various bars and such. Well, considering we were hanging out at establishments that can't make fancy drinks like brandy alexanders, we weren't running up astronomical tabs. I digress.
Cut to Restaurant Week (Heather's favorite time of the year): Winter '08. Heather scores reservations at a place called Osteria del Circo, an Italian circus themed place. We enjoy a lovely dinner and afterwards decide to check out the bar area. I order a scotch and Heather once again asks for a brandy alexander and braces for heartbreak. The bartender nods and gets cracking. Success. Heather takes a taste and is very pleased. It's a sweet, creamy, chocolatey delight that is not entirely unsophisticated. Heather enjoyed it to the last drop.
As we moved from completely broke to just bohemianly poor, we started finding out and amassing the ingredients in our attempt to recreate the drink. We settled on a cognac--Courvoisier-- for our brandy. The rest of the ingredients were easy. A basic creme de cacao runs about ten to twelve dollars and will last a very long time; as for the cream, we already keep half and half in the fridge for our coffee. The recipe calls for heavy cream but I think half and half works just as well, and when I don't use heavy cream in a drink Heather spends less time following me around with the calorie information and talking about expanding waistlines. It's win win.

Brandy Alexander
-1 1/2 oz brandy
-1 oz creme de cacao
-1 oz half and half (heavy cream if desired)

Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass and add chocolate shavings for garnish.

And voila. A nice sweet cocktail to chase away the winter blues. An added bonus is that if you get good at making this drink, you will know something that many New York bartenders don't.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Resolution 1: Cook Italian

First a quick Thank You to everyone who left such lovely comments to the wedding photos. We were extremely touched at the outpouring of well wishes. You guys rock! Okay, on with the blog.

As 2009 drew to a close, food publications rushed to predict what food trends were over and what trends would dominate the new year. With these predictions they posted tantalizing pictures of the new "it" foods. (New York magazine, I'm looking in your direction) The new food trend driving me the most crazy? Italian. I love Italian food, the sauces, the shellfish and the pastas. With the exception of a crazy decent Spaghetti and Meatballs, (which admittedly included jarred sauce) I have almost no Italian cooking skills. My repertoire has focused mostly around American and French dishes--heavy on the roast, light on the pastas. In fact, most of my pasta came out of boxes that had been chilling in my cabinet since the last time it was on sale, not exactly "authentic cuisine." Unless, of course, you were raised in the Barilla or San Georgio family.

If Italian is to be the new trend, which will inevitably create a windfall of articles and the aforementioned photos, I was going to either go bankrupt dining around at restaurants I can't afford (SD26 those tempting bastards) or I can buckle down and learn some cuisine from a boot shaped country. A good New Year's goal, no?

I decided to start with a basic Ragu, a nice meaty dish for these cold winter nights, and one served with pasta so there's no need to bother with side dishes. As I was going to the "authentic" thing, I bought the fresh, refrigerated, "must be used in a day or two" pasta. I have my eye on the Kitchen Aid pasta maker attachment, so look for that in the future, but for this meal I was focusing solely on the Ragu. After much research, I went with a Ragu made with sausage and veal stew chunks, since this did not need to be simmered quite as many hours as a Ragu made with a tougher meat. I had seen one recipe for ragu with lamb shanks that looked very tasty, but this needed to be simmered for over three hours. I don't have that kind of time; those DVDs of Gilmore Girls aren't going to watch themselves. Therefore when I got to the store and lamb sausage with garlic was on sale for far cheaper then the standard sweet pork sausage, I decided to go with it, and just trim back a bit of the garlic that was called for in the original recipe. I also went with a recipe that called for dried porcini mushrooms, as I had them on hand and they always lend an earthy feel to meat dishes. They even find their way into my pot roast.

The end result was heavy, juicy, and meaty, exactly what I wanted to eat as a freezing cold rain poured down New Year's Eve. It also has that delightful side benefit of calling for 1/2 a cup of red wine, which means once the meal is ready you have already selected the wine to pair it with. Tell your guests not to worry if more then 1/2 a cup is missing from the bottle. It's all part of the cooking process.

Pasta with Veal, Sausage, and Porcini Ragu
Adapted from Bon Appetit

1 cup water
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot, peeled, finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
8 ounces lamb sausages, casings removed
8 ounces veal stew meat, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup dry red wine
3 cups chicken broth (low sodium)
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes in juice
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1 pound fresh fettuccine
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Bring 1 cup water and mushrooms to boil in small saucepan. Remove from heat. Let stand 15 minutes. Strain soaking liquid through paper-towel-lined sieve into bowl. Coarsely chop mushrooms. Set liquid and mushrooms aside. Heat oil in heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, parsley and garlic.

Sauté until vegetables are tender but not brown, about 5 minutes. Push vegetables to side of skillet. Add sausage and cook until brown, breaking up with back of fork, about 4 minutes. Add veal and sauté until brown, about 5 minutes. Add wine. Increase heat to high and boil until wine is almost evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add 1 cup chicken broth; boil 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add reserved mushroom liquid. Simmer until liquid is almost absorbed, about 5 minutes. Transfer mixture to processor. Using about 4 on/off turns, process just until coarsely chopped. Return mixture to skillet. Mix in tomatoes with juices, bay leaves, sage, and porcini mushrooms. Reduce heat to low.

Simmer uncovered until sauce thickens, breaking up tomatoes with back of spoon, adding remaining chicken broth 1/2 cup at a time and stirring occasionally, about 1 hour. Season with salt and pepper. (Ragù can be made 2 days ahead. Cool slightly. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled.)

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain. Add sauce to pasta pot and rewarm over medium heat. Add pasta and toss to combine. Transfer to bowl. Sprinkle with cheese.

And there you have it! A bit labor intensive, but it made for a very warming meal. Of course, it doesn't quite go with my other New Year's resolution (or at least post holiday weight resolution) to learn a few less fattening dishes, but I decided to not work on that until after the holiday weekend. It's better for the psyche. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go bake a cake. Timing is everything.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

As a gift to all of you (since I didn't get around to doing this last Friday for Christmas) I present photos of the lovely wedding brunch reception we had at the Joseph Ambler Inn. I didn't eat a lot of the food (I was corseted into that dress) but I understand it was great. All the photography here was done by Lamb & Drake Photography. Enjoy!

The jam we had as wedding favors. They were from Bucks County Perserves, which we found at the Doylestown farmers market. The guy who runs it, Jerry, did an amazing job, creating custom flavors. We ended up with Apple Spice, Pear Cabernet, Queen Anne's Lace, and Strawberry Grand Marnier (our personal favorite). Incidentally if you live in PA and are looking for some jam, you can email Jerry. They do all manner of gift baskets, and as you can see, wedding favors. (I loved my jam)

Pumpkin muffins. God I love all things pumpkin.

My mom and Aunt Chris, making a blog guest appearance!

Mmmmm, waffles

Okay, so we ate a little...

Cake Cutting!