Archive for October, 2007

Until November…

Yup, that’s right, I’m heading out for another business trip, this time to the wilds of Singapore. I may try to post next week, but I’ll be more or less offline until the beginning of the month. Get ready to hear about chicken rice and more….

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Applewood and Applewares

Applewood in Park Slope, Brooklyn

Finally, fall is here! There’s a slight chill in the air and a light breeze swirling leaves around the sidewalks. Arriving just in time for Jim’s birthday, Friday night’s autumn-appropriate weather helped us celebrate at Applewood in Park Slope.

Established in September 2004 by Laura and David Shea, Applewood is known (and loved) for its use of sustainably-grown, local food products. Low lighting, yellow and exposed-brick walls, and small pots of herbs on each table contribute to the restaurant’s homey feel. After walking into the friendly warmth of the dining room on Friday night, I immediately felt my muscles relax, something I needed after an especially long week.

Reading through Applewood’s menu was to stroll through autumn’s natural bounty. Jim and I considered ordering some of their fabulous-looking seasonal cocktails, but in the end we shared a bottle of wine from the extensive list. We started with a roasted red beet salad, the ruby-toned root vegetables surrounded with toasted, crunchy hazelnuts, foamy fromage blanc fondue, and delicate red bowl lettuce ($10). The meaty, charred flavor of the sautéed Maine lobster with caramelized potato gnocchi and wilted pea shoots was an earthy contrast to our light salad ($15). It was also our favorite dish of the night. Throughout our meal we snacked on complimentary wheat and multigrain bread. Whether slathering it with Applewood’s french butter, cream cheese and garlic, and white bean and bacon spreads, or using thick slices to mop up broth from the lobster dish, we just couldn’t stop eating it.

The rest of our evening was spent in Vermont: Jim chose the grilled Vermont pork with rapini, caramelized pears, and mustard-pork jus for his entrée ($23) while I went with the grilled Vermont lamb special served with rainbow chard, white turnip purée, and lamb jus ($26). My lamb was soft in texture but strong in grilled flavors. It was perfectly cooked and heartily complimented by the tangy vegetables upon which it rested. The pork, while gentler in taste, was subtly accented by the sweet pears.

Then it was time for dessert: the Italian plum-chili cobbler with arugula ice cream ($7). Now I know I don’t need to explain our fondness for arugula again. Once we heard that the ice cream was made on-site at Applewood, there was no going back. And we didn’t want to, not after taking a bite of this spicy treat. To be honest, the ice cream didn’t scream arugula flavoring to me, but it wasn’t supposed to; just a hint was all we needed.

Even though it took us a long time to get to Applewood, now I can’t wait to go back. In between meals at the restaurant, I’ll have to make do with visits to its new cookware store, Applewares, around the corner from the restaurant. This airy, light-wood hued store offers all the basics: ceramics, pans, knives, appliances, and more. Now, do I really need another vegetable peeler?

Applewood: 501 11th Street (between 7th and 8th Avenues in Park Slope, Brooklyn) 718-768-2044
Applewares: 548 10th Street (between 7th and 8th Avenues in Park Slope, Brooklyn) 718-576-2484

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Kitchen Gadgets: Egg Pants

Egg Pants by Liz KinnmarkI simply cannot stand how cute these things are. Egg Pants! That’s right, now your hard- or soft-boiled egg can wear PANTS! I want to boil some eggs, just so I can dress them in these cheerful three-legged trousers and trot them around my kitchen table. They were dreamed up by Liz Kinnmark and LIZKIN Design. One size fits all, as the material is surprisingly flexible. One more time: EGG PANTS!

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Apple-Cranberry Pie, with Pumpkin on the Side

Prospect Hill Orchards in Milton, New York

Even though summer has overstayed its welcome this year, I’m determined to enjoy fall. I want to carve pumpkins, ooh and aah at the changing leaves, and wear cozy sweaters.

So, in pursuit of some autumnal fun, we jumped in a car and drove out to the Hudson Valley for some apple and pumpkin picking on Saturday. We wound up at Prospect Hill Orchards in Milton, and despite the 90-degree heat came away with an impressive haul of apples and one perfect pumpkin. Ah, Fall. (Sort of).

The next day I decided to make an apple pie. Now, I have never considered myself a baker. My futile attempts to make pie crust from scratch have always ended with tears, horrible swearing, and banging of rolling pins against the counter. (Embarrassingly I seem to do this a lot). I resolved that this time the experience would be a peaceful one. No pie-related outbursts allowed!

I turned to Cook’s Illustrated magazine, which had arrived last week with recipes for Apple-Cranberry Pie and Foolproof Pie Dough.  The pie sounded great, but I hesitated after paging through the recipes. I’m not a huge fan of Cook’s. Their recipes are generally reliable, yet tend to be exhausting and time-consuming. And I just cannot stand Chris Kimball’s hokey letter at the beginning of each issue. But the foolproof aspect proved too attractive in the end, and I dove into the realm of flour and butter, and an interesting key ingredient: vodka!

The pie took me about four hours to make, from start to finish. Recipe note: If you decide to use Cook’s dough recipe, make sure to generously flour your work surface, and don’t roll the dough out too thin. I rolled it paper-thin the first time, and I couldn’t lift it off the work surface into the pie plate. I had to start all over again.

Cook’s Illustrated Apple-Cranberry Pie

And look! Isn’t it beautiful? OK, I may be exaggerating a bit, but I am so proud of this pie. The crust was both buttery and flaky, the most important characteristics of a pie crust. The sweet apples and the tart cranberries combined beautifully, one never overwhelming the other. (I didn’t use all of the cranberry mixture prescribed by the recipe; it seemed like too much to me.) And, most important, no outbursts!

So Summer, linger as long as you like with your heat and humidity. Autumn will be here soon enough. And I’ll peacefully make more pies to prove it.

(Unfortunately I cannot link directly to the recipes on the Cook’s Illustrated website; I think you have to be a member of the website to see them.)

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The 15th Annual Chile Pepper Fiesta

Brooklyn’s Petro’s Banner at the 15th Annual Chile Pepper Fiesta

I’m exhausted. First came the 7th Annual International Pickle Day Festival on the Lower East Side. Then the Brooklyn Botanic Garden held their 15th Annual Chile Pepper Fiesta on Sunday. What’s a girl supposed to do with all these pickles and chile peppers begging for attention? I decided to bring in the reinforcements: Jim’s parents, who were visiting from Pittsburgh for the weekend. The group of us (Jim included, of course) made quite an impressive chile pepper squad.

We headed straight for the tasting area at Magnolia Plaza. There was no time to waste, as we had some serious eating to do before the 4 o’clock Steelers game. (In retrospect, we probably should have skipped the game. What an ugly loss…)

Brooklyn made a strong hot sauce showing, just as it did among the vendors at the Pickle Festival. Brooklyn Petro, a four-month-old hot sauce company based in a Park Slope apartment, was a festival newcomer and my personal favorite. They also had the best logo (pictured above). I tried their smoky Exhaust brew, while my father-in-law, intrepid food warrior that he is, asked for the hottest sauce on hand. I told you he was brave. (Dad, are you ok? Just checking.)

I also tasted some sweetly spicy pomegranate and cranberry chutneys from the Bombay Emerald Chutney Company, followed by Guyank Brand’s amazing sweet pea hush puppies. They came topped with a delicious sweet-hot pepper sauce that made my stomach dance a high-speed jig.Aji Dolce Chiles from Eckerton Hill Farms

Because chile peppers are often used in pickling, there was a bit of overlap with vendors from the Pickle Festival a few weeks before. What this meant for me is that I was finally able to try Rick’s Picks Phat Beets. I had been too full to even think about eating them at the Pickle Festival, but fate finally brought us together again on Sunday. They were worth the wait.

We ended our chile pepper adventure by observing a fascinating demonstration on pickling by Lauren from Rick’s Picks. We also tasted some heat-infused, crunchy Aji Dolce chile peppers (pictured above). With all this talk of pickling lately, it has definitely been added to my list of future food projects. But for now, my stomach needs a break from these spicy food festivals.

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