Monday, March 31, 2008

Chelsea in Chelsea, Amongst Other Lower Manhattan Locales

See those green balls of deliciousness? They are what God would have if he asked for falafel. Taim's classic green falafel sandwich was the first dish of the day on my outing with my friend Chelsea to (a week belatedly) celebrate my birthday. The object of our day was to eat and shop our way around several neighborhoods of New York. We did pretty well, considering it was one of the windiest days of the year and we both were tight on cash.

Our first stop wasn't actually Taim; it was Chelsea Market. We wandered through a bunch of the stores, especially the restaurant supply store and the fresh market. However, much as I wanted to drop a few bills, I only walked out with one bag and that only contained unbleached parchment paper and cupcake cups.

After CM, we enjoyed that fabulous falafel at Taim, then headed over to Union Square to see what all the fuss was about at Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. We have WF and TJ's here in Jersey, so I thought the New York stores might be different. They weren't. In fact, they were smaller and generally unimpressive as far as their chains were concerned. You could easily go to West Orange or Princeton and experience very nice WF stores. And, if you wanted a nice TJ's, there are many to pick from in Jersey.

Our favorite stop in Union Square was Lush. Both Chelsea and I are big Lushies, and we dropped quite a bit of cash at the wee store. While the London and Toronto stores are much better, it was still a nice experience. I highly recommend the Karma soap.

If you're lucky, you might recognize the delicious pizza above from Luzzo's, our next stop. It's definitely my favorite pizza in NY, and I'm happy to say that Chelsea became a convert as well.

There she is, looking every bit the Mona Lisa with the pizza.

Since we were in the St. Mark's area, we had to stop by Angelica Kitchen for take out. I had to have the walnut lentil pate (which is what I always order because it's so tasty). Unfortunately, the one thing I should have bought, the Angelica Home Kitchen cookbook, wasn't available in the take out side of the restaurant.

After Angelica, we headed down to the Lower East Side for cupcakes, Jewish food, and fancy cheeses. We started at Russ and Daughters for some old fashioned belly lox (nice and salty!). I was impressed by the counter man's ability to slice and clean the lox before wrapping up my little package. I also ordered some whitefish salad, but they only serve whitefish and salmon salad, so that's what I walked out with.

Then, we headed up the street to Yonah Shimmel's for some knishes. While we were there, a long-time customer came in to complain that the recipe had changed. I believe him since the sweet potato knish doesn't taste the same any more.

Our second-to-last stop was Babycakes. Chelsea loved the cupcakes. Per usual, I ordered a couple of cupcake tops and multiple pieces of coffee cake. They didn't last long.

Finally, we headed down the block to Essex Street Market in search of Saxelby cheesemongers. There, I bought Constant Bliss cheese and some Parmigiano Reggiano that was probably among the best I've tasted.

The highlights of our day were probably Taim's falafel (a new must-have for NYC visits), Luzzo's pizza, and Lush.

What are your NYC favorites?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Shelterrific Says "Show Us Your Collections"

To that I say, "See my lovely Polish pottery!"

Mind you, not all the dishes in that cabinet are Polish pottery, just the blue and white circular patterned ones. The rest are most likely from China.

When John and I first announced we planned to marry (more than two years and one elopement ago), people asked us where we registered, what we wanted, and other such questions. Since we weren't sure about anything except that we were going to elope, I volunteered "Polish pottery," which led to Mom and Dave buying us our dinner dishes and loads of lovely serviceware.

Along the way, we've added a few other items to our daily dish collection such as dessert bowls and salad plates.

Above you can see that we have a platter, octagonal small bowl, spoon rest/ladle (although I wouldn't use it as a ladle), and oval baker in addition to the dishes. We use the Polish pottery every day, and the platters and other serviceware when guests come to visit and dine at our home.

It's really sturdy stuff -- you can bake in it, microwave it, and run it through the dishwasher. I've even dropped bowls from the second shelf in the cabinet onto the counter without any damage to the bowl (or the counter). My favorite aspect of this pottery is that it holds on to heat and moisture very well -- so if we heat the plates before serving the food, it stays hot much longer than usual. Also, when I bake in the Polish pottery, the food stays very moist and tasty.

The pattern we picked is the classic Peacock. However, I've decided that when we purchase more (or are asked for gift suggestions for our anniversary), we'll probably get the Flowering Peacock pattern since it goes so well with it and is so pretty.

There are quite a few different patterns available, but I find that sticking with the classics allows me to find many more of the pieces I'd like, like large vases, etc. I've included a few resources for finding Polish pottery online, but some great places to find pieces include yard sales and the odd pottery store. I found my first two bowls at a Cracker Barrel store in Nashville, Tennessee many years ago. Good hunting to you!

Polish Pottery Resources
Blue Rose Polish Pottery
Polish Pottery House
Polish Pottery on Ebay

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Have I Ever Mentioned How Much I Dislike Squirrels?

As you can see, the neighborhood squirrels have been digging in my garden, hopefully not deep enough to get to the tulip bulbs (some of which have already been poking their lovely green leaves up through the topsoil and mulch).

I've tried "deer be gone," which smells like pee. That will work for a day or two and must be reapplied when it rains. Just a word to the wise, don't spray it when it's windy. It's not as funny as it sounds.

I've also tried cayenne pepper, both when I planted the bulbs and on top of the mulch. That also lasts until it rains, and I have to use a lot of it. Makes me wish the feral cats of the neighborhood would stop all their wacky mating and go chase the squirrels already.

My big fear is that when the bulbs actually do bloom the wee rodents will rip off the flowers before we have a chance to enjoy them. If you have any suggestions at all (other than pet ownership, because we cannot at the moment), I'd greatly appreciate your help.

Fantastic Stir-Fried Eggplant with Ginger Plum Sauce

A couple of months ago, Mom and Dave purchased a copy of Mollie Katzen's The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without cookbook and lent it to me to try a few recipes. I've had a few recipes in mind to try for a review, but recently bought a really nice eggplant, so I thought I'd give the stir-fried eggplant with ginger plum sauce a try.

This very tasty dish was a snap to make, with only a few key ingredients (plum jam -- although I used a no-sugar-added plum spread, minced ginger, Dijon mustard -- I used regular organic yellow mustard, fresh eggplants and seasoning) and one pan. The secret is in getting a good sear on the eggplant prior to cutting the heat and mixing in the sauce.

This dish is sweet and tangy in the most delicious way. I found it to be very satisfying with jasmine rice and a few garlic-sauteed asparagus tips. Add a few cashews or almonds and you have yourself a great vegan meal.

I strongly recommend buying the book or borrowing it from your local library. It's worth the $15.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Product Review: SideSwipe Spatula Mixer Blade

If you're a stand mixer user like me, you probably understand what I mean when I say that the silicone spatula is a dear friend. However, a new gadget from Frut LLC called the SideSwipe makes using the stand mixer a lot less silicone-spatula intensive.

The way it works is by using flexible silicone fins to wipe down the sides of the mixing bowl so that you don't have to keep stopping your mixer when you're blending ingredients. I had heard about it and decided to give it a try on one of John's favorite dishes, whipped potatoes. Below is a very short video of how I tested the SideSwipe. My review follows.

I'm definitely a convert. Using the SideSwipe was a snap and actually cut the time it normally takes to make whipped potatoes by many minutes. I'll try it again soon on cake or cookie batter, which tends to be a bit stickier. But, in the meantime, I encourage you to share with me your experiences with the SideSwipe if you've tried it .