A Public Quest for Interesting Food Finds in Huntington

Join me on a journey for the best food finds in Huntington. Whether in restaurants, a deli-packed picnic
or a neighbor's back yard barbeque - we'll discover the best spots, secret recipes and where to find
those hard to find ingredients. Foodies... follow me!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


This time of year my father-in-law is usually stopping by with bag loads of cucumbers. RL has not one but two robust gardens and is very generous with the harvest. My son loves grilled cheese sandwiches with sliced cucumbers, a favorite from my own childhood.

My gardener friends have given mixed reviews of their gardens this season. The exceptional dryness changed things dramatically, with a general consensus that the potted tomatoes did better than in-ground plantings. RL did not stop by with any cucumbers this year. I missed them.

Receiving a large bag of cucumbers can keep you on your toes. Sure, you can eat them raw, slice them thin with onion into a summer-fresh vinegar dressing, or toss them in to a couscous with grilled chicken, garbanzo beans and feta cheese, seeded and chopped… the basics. Last year I made a point to find something new and came upon a recipe for a Cucumber Martini. Good Lord! It was made with gin which I normally avoid. (Forty years later, gin still reminds me of rubbing alcohol from my bi-weekly allergy shots.) This Cucumber Martini was the best use of gin ever. And what a labor of love; two cucumbers per drink. Peeled, seeded, chopped, through the food processor, then put through a sieve, capturing the very essence.

A few weeks ago I went to Black and Blue for the first time, across from Waldbaums. I was delighted to see a Cucumber Martini on the specialty drink menu and it was nearly as good as mine. What is it about one martini that makes the second seem like such a good idea? The food was surprisingly good. A simple, sensible menu, well executed. We ate outdoors, under the blue lights that magically minimize the street below. Next time I’m planning to eat inside; I always enjoy eating at a lively bar and this one was inviting.

My cucumber discovery this year (sadly with store-bought cucumbers) was a creamy, minted cucumber soup. It was one of the middle courses for a table of eight, put through the food processor with low fat yogurt, garlic, mint, etc. – then through the sieve. Served chilled, topped with diced radishes, cucumber bits and snipped mint. Oh, so refreshing on a hot night. Below is the exact recipe.

Minty Cucumber Soup
(serves 6)
7 Cucumbers, peeled, halved and seeded
1 clove garlic
2 cups chicken stock
3 cups plain low-fat yogurt
2 t salt
1 t white pepper
1 ¼ cups fresh mint leaves (reserve some for garnish)
1 t fresh lemon juice
3 radishes, diced for garnish

Cut 6 cucumbers into one inch pieces. Use the seventh to dice thin for garnish.
Combine the six cucumbers and the garlic in food processor. Add chicken stock, yogurt, salt, white pepper, ¾ cup of mint leaves and lemon juice. Process until smooth.

Pass the mixture through a sieve or fine strainer into a mixing bowl. Coarsely chop ¼ cup of mint leaves, fold into the soup. Chill for at least 3 hours.

Serve in individual bowls, garnish each with the chopped ¼ cup mint, diced radish and cucumber. Voila!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

REVIEW - Sally's Cocofe

I’ve probably walked past Sally’s Cocofe forty or fifty times, assuming it was just a dessert and coffee place, (Cocofe is located next to the unfortunate empty space where Chicos once occupied.)

Until nine months ago my assumption was right. Dr. Paul Bermanski (local urologist) originally opened Cocofe as just that; in honor of his mother I’m told. Sweet, sweet...

Now the name is a little deceiving. Last November Cocofe evolved into a swank-ish atomosphere and an unexpected menu. Many of the dishes are cocoa dusted, or sneak a little chocolate, hidden in the sauce.

From their website:
Sally's Cocofé is a full service restaurant serving eclectic American cuisine. Sally's is open for lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch, featuring Prix Fixe as well as ala carte menus.

I had the opportunity to sit with restaurant manager Rozeille Regelado (pronounced Rochelle) and she is as sweet as any dessert on the menu. With a touch of southern hospitality, she gave me her time and a little background on the restaurant.

The restaurant was livelier than we expected for a Sunday night. Good for them. When I chose the tuna dish, the waiter exclaimed “that’s my favorite” and I knew he meant it. My husband started with a creamy, flavorful salmon chowder that rivaled my own and finished with the comfort of a simple, satisfying pasta. Luckily he indulges my penchant for meal sharing.

  • Rare Seared Yellowfin Tuna ~ Cocoa-Chili Dust, Cilantro Pesto, Mixed Vegetable Sauté and Flour Tortilla, $22
  • Salmon Chowder ~ Tomato Relish and Cilantro, $7
  • Penne ~ Broccoli Rabe, Tomato, White Wine, Garlic and EVO, $16

Rozeille confided the most popular delights:

Arancini (crispy risotto balls), Bistro Fries and the Tartare of Salmon/Tuna with cilantro, lime and avocado.
Desserts are still what it’s all about at Cocofe, a safe-haven for the chocolate lover. Favorites include the Bread Pudding made with dark and white chocolate, and the piece de resistance – Fondue made with three different chocolates, served with fruits and pound cake.

I’m definitely going back, next time I’ll be sure to leave room for dessert. I love fondue! Check out their menu online: http://www.sallyscocofe.com

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Dinner in the making...

Nothing makes me happier than a friend who will open my refrigerator. It’s symbolic of the level of friendship.

Last week I invited a handful of friends for dinner. The intention was casual, though my normal routine is to attend to most detail in advance, before guests arrive, so I can relax and enjoy the evening. On this particular night, time slipped by and I just couldn’t get it together - arriving home only minutes ahead of the guests, groceries still in hand.

With no discussion, my friends scooped up the bags and put all the food away. Before I knew it Margaret had my refrigerator stocked and Sally rearranged my pantry as she put things away. Then Margaret faithfully attended the blender and Nat fired up the grill.

Dinner was nothing fancy: a few side salads, meats on the grill and corn on the cob with herbed butter (garlic, lime, hot sauce and a last minute decision to add a little lavender – Good Lord, good call!)

The food itself wasn’t the centerpiece of the evening, it was the fellowship. Preparing the meal together was a true communal effort. Everyone lent a hand in some way or another throughout the night. When I could stand no longer (back injury), Margaret emptied the dishwasher and Sally reloaded.

And the funny thing is, I don’t think anyone felt like they worked; it was just time spent together, joyfully preparing the meal. I’m proud of the friends I’ve collected over the years and have learned to be selective. I feel valued by them all and hope they feel the same from me.

In my next life, I’d like a dining room that seats 30 and a refrigerator the size of a bus.

ATTENTION READERS: If you would like to receive blog post alerts via email, please click into bean.corwin@gmail.com and write "add to on the hunt" in the subject line.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

LAVENDER – who knew?

There’s nothing like a serious event, when you really need your friends, to define who they are… Several years ago I sustained an injury that left me helpless for months. Anne and I had always been friends on the fringe, enjoying each other’s company from time to time. When I hurt myself she stepped up out of nowhere – bringing meals, keeping me company and taking me for drives to change the scene. Now we are very good friends and somewhere along the way we developed a lavender challenge.

Challenge isn’t the right word, exactly. We started out treating each other to bunches of fresh lavender when we came across them. Last week she brought me a fresh lavender plant, a cookbook on how to cook with lavender, and because she was worried the plant wouldn’t yield enough, she went to Penzey’s Spices and bought me not one, but two jars of dried lavender (and some lavender napkins).

Lavender? So I’ve been flipping through the cookbook, intrigued. Okay, I accept the challenge. Last night I made a pappardelle with a lavender cream sauce with shiitake mushrooms, slow cooked tomatoes and grapes – served with grilled lamb sausage and steamed sugar snap peas, so sweet they practically caramelized themselves.

I was excited about the meal so I stopped by Seaholm Wines & Liquors to ask for a recommendation of wine that would accompany lavender. (I’ll bet they don’t get asked that very often.) With little hesitation, John Reilly pointed me toward a Grenache, Atteca Old Vines 2007, with deep blackberry tones. John was right on target, the wine complimented the sweetness of the meal beautifully.

We finished up with some sheep’s cheese and sliced fruit I had bought at the Union Square Farmer’s Market earlier that day. My mother-in-law and I scooted in to load up on interesting vegetables, artisan breads and cheeses, lamb sausage and a smoked duck that I’d been craving.

Tomorrow night… leftover pasta with the lavender cream sauce, but I’m planning to shred in a handful of smoked duck and add asparagus to the mix. I’ll have to stop back at Seaholm and ask what wine goes with lavender AND smoked duck…

One point for me in the lavender challenge. You reading this Anne?

Monday, June 7, 2010

GETAWAY - Block Island, RI

There should be no blame. It was probably both our faults…stopping for gas, stopping for coffee… but privately I believed it was more Nat’s fault than my own. As we passed through Amagansett, heading toward Montauk for the Block Island ferry, we both realized we were likely going to miss the one trip of the day. We got snippier with each passing mile when suddenly the phone rang. There’s a benefit to making reservations – they realized we hadn’t arrived. When I told them our coordinates they said they couldn’t wait… then I pulled the sympathy card, “but it’s our 20th anniversary and we’re celebrating on Block Island – we got engaged on Block Island and this is very meaningful to us”. They waited. They even announced our plight to the waiting passengers over the loudspeaker – who all cheered on our arrival. That was the start of Memorial Day weekend.

There are some very good restaurants on Block Island. The wait staff can be amusing on this first weekend of the season… they’re all green, young and beautiful, many from other countries. Patience is a must. Within fifteen minutes of docking I had our dinner reservations made at the Manisses. Having been to the island many times before, I had a hit list. The entire weekend was such a ridiculous and shameful exercise in self indulgence, it’s worth sharing.

Day One:

  • Lunch at the National Hotel (anyone who’s been there, that’s the one with the big outdoor porch). We each had a bowl of their famous clam chowder and shared a grilled salmon sandwich with basil pesto. And of course, a few vacation cocktails to get started.
  • After a bit of shopping we felt parched and stopped at Ballard’s outdoor bar overlooking the water.
  • The Spring House, (toward the lighthouse) with the red roof and sprawling lawn was our home for the weekend. Apparently they serve drinks on the lawn.
  • Dinner at the Manisses, a three minute walk from our inn, began with a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon called an Educated Guess. Naturally, we selected it for the name alone. My asparagus soup was silky smooth with a little truffle oil I’m sure. I had lamb stuffed ravioli and Nat had Man-loaf, a hearty meat loaf with a rich brown gravy and appropriate sides. For dessert we shared a goat cheese cheesecake. By far, Manisses is my favorite restaurant on the island.

Day Two:

  • The Spring House offers a lovely Continental Breakfast selection. Open access to food is always difficult for me - there’s no off switch. My husband often tempts his fate to delicately let me know it's time to finish eating. He’s a good man.
  • For lunch I enjoyed every morsel of my Lobster and Avacado salad with a Pinot Grigio at the Harborview, another big porch venue. Nat offered me a bite of his hummus wrap… “uh, no thanks”.
  • The rest of the afternoon was even more indulgent. While Nat went for a two hour bike ride to work off his hummus; I had a massage and some spa services. We had already made our dinner reservations so I was able to relax.
  • Dinner was an attempt to recreate the moment. Twenty one years prior, on the day we became engaged, we had dinner at a lovely, out of the way restaurant called the Highview. It has since become the flop house for island workers. The restaurant served us and one other couple the whole evening and still the service was painfully slow. I had Prime Rib, Nat had Striper caught that day and we finished up with a shared warm apple pie a la mode. Simple, good food that filled our bellies for the 20-minute walk back to our hotel.

Day Three:

  • Continental Breakfast with slightly more restraint (the banana bread was excellent).
  • After yesterday’s massage I felt up for some exercise – we spent the day biking, hiking and kayaking. Somewhere in between we had another stop at Ballard’s for a lunch not worth mentioning.
  • And before dinner we stopped at The OAR, a very hopping restaurant/bar with outdoor picnic tables for families and a very good rum punch on the drink specials.
  • Dinner at the Spring House was undoubtedly the most indulgent dinner. I had seen people eating these interesting flatbread pizzas during the afternoon and had to try one… so I ordered a whole pizza as an appetizer. Arugula, pancetta, chicken… very similar to the pizza I tried at Porto Vivo not long ago in Huntington. We each had two small slices and saved the rest. The gnocci we shared melted into a rich, velvety puddle of flavor and I finished up with a course of pan seared duck medallions over an arugula salad. Thankfully we skipped dessert.

Day Four:

  • Leftover pizza for breakfast…

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

REVIEW - Ariana Cafe

Since I've started writing on the foods about town, where to eat dinner has taken a new twist. My husband, always supportive and ready for anything, comes home and asks “Where do you want to write about next?”

It’s rare that he and I find ourselves out to dinner alone, usually with friends or with our teenage son. Last Friday night we begged and cajoled our son to join us and he was having none of it. “You two go out and have a date” he insisted.

Off we went to Ariana, to answer my husband’s question. I had been there before and enjoyed the unfamiliar flavors of Afghan cuisine. The spices are unlike anything else, subtle and dominant at the same time. Many of the dishes are served with basmati rice – the most delicate I’ve ever come across.

The irony of eating out without our son is that we spend much of the evening talking about him; his academics, sports achievements, friends and summer plans. I eye the menu as if he were there, deciding which dishes I’ll recommend when I bring him next time. His palette was more adventurous when he was nine – teenagers seem to collectively crave greasy fried anything smothered in cheese. It’s a phase, it will pass.

This time I ordered Mantoo – a plate full of steamed dumplings stuffed with ground lamb and veal, topped with a light tomato and meat sauce, topped again with homemade yogurt and mint. Is that cardamom I taste?

My appetizer was a simple chopped salad, an Afghan salad, made special with Ariana’s dressing. Our server/owner recommended we save half of the salad to eat with our entrée. She knew what she was talking about.

Nazifa and Ali Rahimi, always in the food business, have owned and operated Ariana for fifteen years. As we watch so many restaurants in our village try and fail, we can appreciate the accomplishment. All the items on the menu, Nazifa tells me, are hers and her husband’s. The kitchen staff is trained to follow their techniques and recipes.

When asked which dishes are the most popular, she said I was looking at them. The entire menu has been pared down to the favorites. If they were to offer the entire repertoire of Afghan meals, the menu would be pages longer – they’ve slimmed it down to suit our palettes with kabobs, soups, salads and an interesting array of Afghan meals, for instance Pumpkin Ravioli. The menu offers the best of it all.

Ariana also has much to offer to the strictest vegan. They have a section on the menu just for you. Having been a vegetarian myself for several years, finding a restaurant that’s both interesting and accommodating is hitting pay dirt.

Each month Ariana offers various specials to entice the new customer and reward the loyal. For May they touted 50% off the dinner cost for new customers, a FREE bottle of Chardonnay just for making your reservations online and a generous Early Bird temptation. I’m curious to see what they come up with for June – to commemorate the 15 year anniversary of Ariana.

Looking for something a little different? The atmosphere, the music and food whisk you away from Huntington when you step through the doors of Ariana – it’s a lovely dining experience.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Bin 56 - The Sequel

Bin 56 delivered as promised. The wine / dinner flight on May 10th was a gastronomical success. The anticipation built as we watched some of the local restaurateurs and chefs take a seat for the evening – there were a lot of serious palettes in the room.

Banfi wines were the real guest of honor. Lars Leicht from Banfi was present to talk us through each wine for each course. He kept it brief, educational as well as entertaining.

The first course opened with what was listed on the menu as Boat Scallop Crudo. Though as it was served about the room, it was casually referred to as ceviche. Naturally I had to ask… “what’s the difference between a crudo and a ceviche?” So I looked it up. It seems the difference is whether the fish is merely dressed or has been marinated. My guess is the dish was a true crudo.

Crudo: In Italian cuisine, crudo is a raw fish dish dressed with olive oil, sea salt, and citrus juice such as lemon juice and sometimes vinegar.

Ceviche: (also spelled as cebiche or seviche) is a citrus-marinated seafood, its birthplace is disputed between Peru and Ecuador. Although it is a typical dish of both countries, many other countries in Latin America have adopted it, with variations. Both fish and shellfish can be used in the preparation of ceviche.
The wine that was paired with the Boat Scallop Crudo is worth mentioning. Principessa Perlante is a light white wine with a subtle fizz, refreshing with a bouquet of citrus and apple. Lars Leicht said it best. By itself it is light and refreshing… much like when you sit down at a communal table, surrounded by strangers. At first you listen, observe and perhaps think the conversation is a little light. As you drink a little more and become engaged in conversation you recognize the complexities. Such is the same for the Perlante – once you begin eating a correctly paired meal, you discover the complexities of the wine. It takes on a depth. Had Lars been selling this wine from the car I would have bought a case on the spot.

The evening progressed with a continuous flow of wines, not just with the meal but generously between. And conversations certainly became more complex. At one point chef James Tchinnis came out to take his bow and answer any questions. One question from the floor – “where does the flat iron steak come from?” I suspect that Chef Tchinnis is more comfortable in the kitchen than facing a crowd; he gave a rather shy response then disappeared.

So I looked it up.

Flat Iron Steak: Developed by the research teams of University of Nebraska and the University of Florida, the flat iron steak is gaining in popularity with restaurants across the United States. You can thank the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association for funding research to make this tasty, tender economical steak available to us today.

The beef cut is actually a top blade steak derived from the tender top blade roast. The roast is separated into two pieces by cutting horizontally through the center to remove the heavy connective tissue. The shape of the cut resembles the old flat irons, hence the name.

Cheers to Bin 56 for celebrating Banfi wines. A lovely evening.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Face of Bin 56

Bin 56 is an unusual restaurant model for Huntington. There’s a communal table that seats about 12, a few jaunty spots around the room with plush seating and coffee tables, and an ample bar. They even put the upholstered chairs outside when weather permits. The music is funky, the food delicious and the wine and cocktail listing a splendid, elegant collection. This is what you get when you go to Bin 56… what you feel is something else... Welcome.

John “Juan” Estevez is the face of Bin 56. He is gracious, attentive and makes everyone feel as though they are being welcomed into his home. He remembers what you drink, remembers the friends you came with last time and greets you with a warm embrace. Eating out as often as I do, there’s no other restaurant in my travels that has made me want to go back, in part, for the maitre d. The restaurant feels like home.

It turns out John’s roots are in Huntington. Remember the Iberian, where Besito is now? In 1977, when the Iberian opened, John was 15 years old. He worked along side his first-generation Spaniard parents for 17 years. My family frequented the Iberian when I was a kid; it offered the best paella in all the land – thinking back, there’s a good chance John and I met as kids. His mother then was the face of the Iberian; with her flaming red hair she was iconic.

But I digress… this isn’t a story about the Iberian.

John gives his mother the credit for his hospitality. He says he learned a lot about the restaurant business from her. After the family restaurant closed, he worked around New York City, including eleven years at the Manhattan Ocean Club, but says it’s good to be back in Huntington. He has been with Bin 56 for 14 months, since it opened. His family background explains why he occasionally slips into Spanish and why he is known by his frequent guests as Juan.

Bin 56 changed hands recently and is now owned by the Carey family. The menu has changed only slightly, now with chef James Tchinnis in the kitchen (previously of Bistro 44 in Northport). It still serves the appreciated tapas-style plates – with favorites including crispy calamari with a sweet and spicy glaze, lamb chops and skewered shrimp and chorizo. Among the cold plate favorites are lemonade shrimp cocktail, tuna tartare, asparagus wrapped in Serrano ham and the ever popular cheese plate. My personal favorite is the slow braised short ribs – it melts in your mouth. And there’s often a fresh pasta special that captures my attention.

Weekly & Monthly Specials –

  • For the wine lover – weekly wine specials are presented, off the regular cellar offering, just to keep things interesting.

  • Happy Hour from 5-7– branded “5@5” – means there is a selection of plates and wines offered for $5 during these hours.

  • Tuesdays are now known as Tarot Card Tuesdays – with someone on hand to read your future.

  • And here’s the kicker… one Monday a month, Bin 56 offers up a special Wine & Dinner flight starting at 6:30 p.m. The menu is centered on either a wine region or particular grape.

MAY WINE & DINNER NIGHT - Monday, May 10th - Bin 56 will pay homage to the Piedmont region of Northwestern Italy. Cost is $60 per person. Menu will include:

Boat Scallop Crudo paired with Castello Banfi Principessa Perlante
Cherry BBG Glazed Pork Loin paired with L’Ardi Dolcetto d’Acqui
Black Angus Flatiron Steak paired with Castello Banfi Regolo, and finally
Chocolate Covered Chocolate Cake paired with Castello Banfi Rosa Regalle

For these special Monday nights, best to call and make reservations, 631-812-0060. I’ll see you there.

56 Stewart Avenue, located next to Toast, diagonally across from Burger King.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A quiet two for one...

My nails have always been thin, transparent thin, too thin certainly to serve as a screwdriver to tighten the arm of my sunglasses. When the arm finally detached, I went to visit my friends at Moss Opticians. Randi and Natalie were eating lunch in the back; naturally I had to know what: a Chicken Caesar Salad from the Golden Dolphin Diner.

Being fans of this blog they suggested I check it out for myself. “It’s great… one salad is big enough for both of us.” Hmmm, this was worth checking out. So a few days later, on our way home from shopping for kitchen herbs, I talked my friend Denise into sharing the same salad… purely research. We ordered from the car on our way into town and walked in from the back (ample parking, critical in Huntington). The salad was ready, packed for take out, complete with pita bread for $12.50 plus tax and a little tip. (As an aside, Denise who has lived here for 5 years thought the GD was Chinese take out…)

Once at my house we split the salad in half (and I mean even Steven like a couple of eight-year-olds) and dined on the patio. Sure enough, it was overflowing with chicken, salad a plenty for two. They have other salads on the menu; all can be topped with grilled chicken or shrimp, all for about the same price. I intend to try them all, one by one.

Two for the price of one, and it was a good salad!

Last night landed me back at the Golden Dolphin with my husband, son and his friend after Lacrosse practice. It’s a kid-friendly place. The atmosphere lends itself to families. Eating in offers additional perks. We were each given a small bowl of pasta salad, a diner’s muse bouche. The bread basket offered a variety of choice, with big chunks of grilled bread sitting on top screaming “pick me first”, which I did. The boys were all hungry and sank into their hamburgers. I took a different route, to test the two for one principle, and selected the Eggplant Parmesan. It started with a huge salad, either house or Greek, and the entrée was indeed generous. The theory holds. I ate half for dinner (and was full) and brought the rest for lunch at the office.

A little planning can go a long way. It’s good food with great value. These days, that’s worth something.

And to prove my point one last time… I went to visit Aunt June in the hospital not long ago. Knowing she was fed up with mass production inmate meals, I brought her a Golden Dolphin entree of chicken and tons of vegetables over rice with a smooth gravy. Granted she eats less these days, but she enjoyed her Golden Dolphin for three nights running. Good for her.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Dinner at the bar...

Margaret had another birthday. It took us both by surprise. At some point they just zip by in rapid succession and there’s no stopping them. But we can slow things down a little, if only for a moment, to celebrate life, friendship and reflect on the year.

We did none of those things and went out for drinks instead. Margaret is single so I am cognizant of choosing a lively environment, rather than a romantic table for two gal pals. Porto Vivo was perfect. Having been there five times already I have yet to eat in their restaurant, always at the bar. It’s comfortable. Twice I’ve been there solo, eating at the bar and chatting with strangers, another hobby of mine.

The bar is a big square centered in the room, ample access, with seating not only at the bar, but tables and chairs of varying heights around the room. In one corner, which I was fortunate to share with my husband a while back, is lush and cozy with sink-in couch, chair and a coffee table.

And here’s one for the smokers… there’s an elevated balcony off the bar, over the street, just for you. No more standing by the front door, greeting guests with your leper stick.
This time around I got the Flatbread Pizza with prosciutto, arugula and fig preserve. The combination of flavors was magnificent. I’d seen this on the menu before and this was the night. With every intention of eating only half, it was gone in a blink. (Though Margaret's sample piece did seem rather excessive). And being the foodie that I am, and a smarty pants by nature, I believe I could have improved on the dish by a) cutting the prosciutto into smaller pieces so the whole flap of ham didn’t slide off with a single bite and b) either cooking the arugula a bit to give it some weight or tucking it under the cheese so the leaves weren't loose, fluttering about on top. But hey, that’s me. (If anyone tries this, let me know what you think. It’s delicious, but messy. The fig preserve is brilliant.)

Porto Vivo, 7 Gerard Street, is next to Mac’s Steakhouse. Here’s the link. http://www.porto-vivo.com. They also tout the sexiest Sunday Brunch, imaginative cocktail concoctions and a world-class wine cellar.

Another year, another martini, another moment shared with a good friend. It was indeed a successful night. Happy Birthday, Margaret!

EARTH DAY is coming…
April 22, 2010 marks the 40th Anniversary
Think Green Facts: Packaging Matters - It takes 90% less energy to recycle aluminum cans than to make new ones; 5 billion aluminum cans are used each year!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Guest List...

Similar to how depression era folks take comfort with stacks of canned goods in their pantry, I take comfort surrounded by stacks of books. All kinds of books - self help, business, biographical, best sellers, as long as my stack is reasonably high, I’m content. What’s especially fun is to receive a book as a gift, when it’s someone else’s favorite.

Which leads us to why this article is titled The Guest List. I’m reading a book given to me by a friend called The School of Essential Ingredients, by Erica Bauermeister. I’m sure it’s no coincidence that it’s about another foodie. The lead character owns a restaurant and teaches cooking classes to the community. It’s a wonderful read, but there’s a gem in here that made absolute sense. .. worth sharing.

Although the author was specifically talking about our Thanksgiving tradition where we pile our plates high and smoosh foods together – her point was that this is disrespectful to the food. And here’s the gem:

“…approach the food we will be preparing like the guest list for a dinner party – each dish invited for its own personality, all of them playing off one another to make the meal more interesting.”
Huh. Treat each dish as a guest at the party, with respect.

With this new perspective in mind, here's my Easter Guest List:
  • Spring Pea Soup with mint and pancetta wrapped croutons – invited because I’ve made it before and its lively personality is always appreciated...

  • Butterflied Leg of Lamb, marinated in garlic, mustard, oil, balsamic and rosemary, charcoal grilled – this guest is like a long-lost friend, invited to the table because my Armenian mother and aunts love lamb and no longer cook it for themselves.

  • Rice Pilaf – invited also because it’s a favorite of the people guests. Although they see each other often, there's always good conversation.

  • Steamed Green Beans with a shallot mustard vinegarette and slow roasted tomatoes – invited as the green guest, every plate should have one, and because I suspected the vinegarette would meld nicely with the rice guest. I just knew they'd get along.

  • Steamed Butternut Squash with cloves and nutmeg in the steaming water – invited for its wry sense of humor and because I made this dish up last week and wanted to share it with my parents, hoping it would become their friend, too.

  • Sliced Clementines bathed in a simple syrup boiled with mint, rosemary and vanilla, topped with shavings of bittersweet chocolate – invited solo but showed up with another guest, hazelnut cookies (sometimes guests do that and you just have to roll with it). They complimented each other beautifully on the dessert plate.

The people guests thoroughly enjoyed the food guests, and ate them all up.

EARTH DAY is Coming –
April 22, 2010 marks the 40th Anniversary.

Think Green Tip:
Buy local produce whenever possible. This avoids wasteful transportation and unnecessary food packaging which in turn conserves our resources and reduces your carbon footprint.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What Constitutes A Foodie?...

My husband and I had a discussion recently about what it meant to be a foodie. He was a little disappointed to be relegated as my dishwasher. He argues that he’s a foodie also, because he likes to share a fine meal with me… so we went to Wikepedia for the general consensus definition:

Foodie is an informal term for a particular class of aficionado of food and drink. The word was coined in 1981 by Paul Levy and Ann Barr, who used it in the title of their 1984 book The Official Foodie Handbook.

Foodies are amateurs who simply love food for consumption, study, preparation, and news. Gourmets simply want to eat the best food, whereas foodies want to learn everything about food, both the best and the ordinary, and about the science, industry, and personalities surrounding food. For this reason, foodies are sometimes viewed as obsessively interested in all things culinary. There is also a general feeling in the culinary industry that the term gourmet is outdated. "Foodie-ism" is a modern, popular way of engaging food culture for the general population.

Dear Husband,

You play a vital role in my life and my kitchen, you make it easy for me to explore new culinary adventures; and I love that your taste buds follow me in good faith off every cliff.

But sweetie, by definition, you’re not a foodie.

When I drive to Fairway and back just for pumpkin seed oil, you think I’m nuts, but love the meal. When we walk down the street and I have to stop at every restaurant to read menus and pinch ideas, you pull me away to keep us on schedule, but you love the outcome. And when I come to bed with an armload of cookbooks, cooking magazines, sticky notes and highlighters, researching our next dinner party, you wish I would pay more attention to political issues and watch the news instead. But you’re my biggest fan at every party.

And so sweet husband of mine, let’s compromise. I’ll grant you an honorary foodie membership - with deep appreciation of your whole-hearted support and steadfast dishwashing skills.

PS - Dinner’s going to be messy tonight.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

For the bread alone...

Friday was a busy day for me. I had an early afternoon doctor's appointment in New York City so I took the day off from work and crammed the morning full of stray errands. My last stop was for a good cup of coffee. Wild by Nature's Happy House Blend is an organic coffee rich in flavor… by my standards, the best in town. It's my destination coffee when I have the time.

But this isn’t a story about coffee,
it's about a sandwich...

With my coffee in hand I decided a little snack was due for the train ride. I looked at the hot foods, the cold prepared foods and realized I needed something practical to eat on my lap. So I grabbed a pre-made sandwich without paying much attention except that it featured chicken. Pow at first bite! This was an interesting sandwich.

The bread alone would have been enough - their Health Bread made fresh on site with various nuts and sunflower seeds. It’s that dense, delicious bread you’d expect to find in a Vermont cafe. There is a hearty variety of sandwiches as well as a selection for the leaf eaters - featuring tofu or portebello with grilled vegies. The Santa Fe Sandwich that impressed me on the train I later learned was their most popular: chicken with guacamole, salsa, spices, roasted peppers, pepper jack cheese and tortillas. On fabulous bread for $5.99. These sandwiches are just sitting there quietly. Too quietly. They need a sign, or a good spokesperson.

Have you had a deli sandwich lately? Nothing as interesting as this, the bread certainly not as good and I doubt for a better price. They even sell half sandwiches for $2.99 and half wraps for $4.99 which are ample, or maybe leave room for a little soup.

I had an opportunity recently to sample all their soups. These are not your ordinary soups. For starters, they use minimal salt, finding their flavors in less obvious places. Most of the soups are vegetarian but you don’t miss the meat. Somehow they worked the smoky flavor into the Pea Soup without the ham hock. I asked the counterman what was creating the smokiness and he gave me a kind smile and a wink. Apparently they don’t give up their secrets. The Miso Soup is macrobiotic for patients with degenerative disease and their Chicken Orzo Soup was light, full of vegetables with giant chunks of roasted chicken, truly a meal in itself.

Heading off to work? Think about grabbing a great cup of coffee and
a sandwich for your lunch later. (And some fruit, it's good for you.)
Although Wild By Nature is not officially rated an organic facility, it does use primarily organic ingredients throughout their recipes.

EARTH DAY is Coming –
April 22, 2010 marks the 40th Anniversary.
Think Green Tip: Buy local produce whenever possible. This avoids wasteful transportation and unnecessary food packaging which in turn conserves our resources and reduces your carbon footprint.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Southdown Solution... for a mid-week meal

Southdown Market is a wonderland for me. As I’ve gotten busier and older there’s less time and energy to put out a top shelf meal during the week. Southdown’s prepared foods should not be overlooked. Though some selections can edge a little pricey, I find a little planning is a low-cost alternative to eating out too often during the week; and a healthier alternative to take out.

With my George Foreman Grill I had a reasonable dinner for four on the table in 18 minutes for only $22.04. What’s that, $5.50 per person? (And yes, I timed myself tonight to make the point. Note: the 18 minutes does not include clean up, never does. I’ll have to clock my husband separately on that.)

So this was my reasonable, delicious and quickie meal:

  • Four prepared lamb burgers – mixed with feta cheese and black olives
    You Do: Grill it (I used the George Foreman Grill)
  • One bag of fresh spinach
    You Do: Sauté with garlic/oil and a sliced shallot, touch of salt
  • One package of PRE-CUT butternut squash (pre-cut is brilliant as they’re such a nuisance.)
    You Do: Steam it. I tossed some cloves and nutmeg into the water. The squash took on all the flavor without having to add any butter or salt. This was a new trick for me tonight, I’m thrilled with the outcome.

Yep. 18 minutes. Top that, Rachel.

Monday, March 22, 2010

One Fish... Two Fish... Rockfish

Huntington is no doubt a restaurant mecca of Long Island. Choose any ethnicity from around the globe and Huntington can serve it up. Well, mostly. There's no Korean food just yet.

And with all those choices, I still gravitate back to old favorites. Last Saturday, my girlfriend Denise and I were sitting on my deck enjoying the first rays of sun after this long winter and we decided it was a good night for lobster. Eat it, and summer will come. We agreed on our favorite seafood spot, Rockfish. Typically for us it's a warm-weather restaurant, with its outdoor patio conjoined with Finley's notable beer selection. Turns out, it's not bad in March either.

We ate indoors in a private little nook for four. When it came time to order, I pulled a fast one on Denise and ditched the bib-fare for an outrageous pan seared tuna encrusted in sesame seeds in a hoisin drizzle. (I ate the leftovers for breakfast the next morning. Don't ask.) I also had a refreshing, but not too filling cock-a-leekie appetiser. Truth be told, I ordered it just so I could say it out loud. Cock-a-leekie. Come on.

Only one of us braved the 2 lb. crustaceon and she was happy to the bitter end. Licking and smacking herself to the finish line with a pre-moistened towelette. My husband had a delicious wild salmon and Tom had the flounder in a white sauce with asparagas. It was gone before I could steal a bite.

A good meal is more than good food... it's the total experience. In all, we were four happy customers, well fed, well watered, well attended. RockFish typically becomes THE PLACE once the weather is reliably nicer for an outdoor meal, but there's no need to wait. The food indoors is just as delicious.

Value does not mean finding a bargain -
but instead, it is finding a place where you are valued as a guest.