Sunday, September 14, 2014

Three to try :: NYC

A few weeks back, I took a long weekend to visit one of my closest friends, Leigh Anne, in New York City. Last spring, she picked up and moved across the country to follow her Big Apple dreams. I'll admit I mourned the loss of my devoted brunch buddy, but it was quickly outweighed by my happiness for my friend and her exciting opportunity as well as the anticipation of a visit to New York over the summer. I was thankful for having seen much of the tourist side of the city in a previous trip, so we could spend the weekend catching up and leisurely exploring.

Luckily Leigh Anne shares my sense of adventure and love of food, so much of the four days was spent in search of food. Between a local and a devoted foodie, we had an endless list of places we were hoping to fit in.

Fort Defiance

Of course, we visited Chelsea Market, and made a stop Fat Witch. S'mores in a brownie, what can I say it's an excellent combination. For happy hour, we dared a walk through Midtown on a Friday night so we could try Southern Hospitality, a bar and restaurant owned by Justin Timberlake that stays true to his southern roots. Leigh Anne and I felt so at home at Spitzer's, a gastropub in the Lower East Side. Communal tables, craft beer and a lively atmosphere -- it's the kind of place we could spend hours in, and have been known to do. As soon as we read 40 beers on tap, we were sold. We made the trek to Red Hook with Becca, our friend who happens to be Leigh Anne's roommate, for brunch at Fort Defiance. It was a quaint restaurant that was worth the trek, with hearty portions, seasonal ingredients and tablecloths that reminded us of the southwest.

Becca, Leigh Anne and I ventured to The Standard hotel's Biergarten at the High Line for drinks with Leigh Anne's friends and I tried the Berliner Weiss, a regional German wheat bear that's fruity and a little sour.  It's funny that it took a trip across the country to step inside The Standard, when I used to drive past the one in Hollywood on a weekly basis. On the way home, we got a sweet tooth and that meant a stop at Magnolia Bakery, made popular by Sex and the City, was in order. I couldn't not try the cupcakes, since I've spent my adulthood venturing to Sprinkles. I enjoyed the Banana Cupcake, which had a light, more banana-muffin-like flavor with a sweet caramel frosting. There were also stops for coffee, of course. We are journalists by trade after all. And, we got a chance to try the ever-popular Shake Shack burger, and compare it to In-N-Out and the numerous other "road-side" burger stands. The consensus was it was a good burger, and each has it's own perks. And of course, what trip to New York would be complete without a slice of pizza.

Fried Chicken and Cheddar Waffle from Buttermilk Channel with a view of the
 skyline from Brooklyn Bridge Park (left), DBGB Kitchen and Bar, and
Cookies and Cream and Salted Carmel from Blue Marble Ice Cream

But among our many stops, there were a few standouts and I am so excited to share my three to try for New York City.

DBGB Kitchen and Bar 
Daniel Boulud's restaurant in the Bowery has been on top of my list of places to try in New York for quite some time and I was excited to enjoy a night out with Leigh Anne and Becca during my visit. I originally saw DBGB featured on a Food Network show, and the French bistro meets American tavern concept intrigued me. The menu features a variety of house-made sausages from around the globe, traditional entrees like duck and steak frites and inspired gourmet burgers. I mulled over the menu for a good 20 minutes, but in the end went with the first item that caught my eye. The Piggie is a beef burger topped with pulled pork, jalapeno mayonnaise and a mustard slaw. And I was not disappointed. Each bite was thoughtfully layered, but the flavor profile not overly complex. Beyond our satisfying meals, the main dining room took inspiration from the history of the Bowery as a restaurant supply district. The walls were lined with shelving stocked with dry goods, table wares and copper pots from other acclaimed chefs. It felt almost if you were dining in an enormous, walk-in pantry albeit more chic than industrial.

Doughnut Plant
Who doesn't love doughnuts? I have favorite bakeries or ice cream shops in nearly every city I've visited, and Doughnut Plant is now sitting at the top of my New York list. Leigh Anne shares my love of this sweet treat. In fact we had a favorite bar in Phoenix with doughnuts on their dessert menu that quickly became an after-work favorite. So after a red-eye flight and a quick stop to drop off my luggage, we ventured to Chelsea to get a late breakfast. With all the seasonal and unique flavors, I probably could have ordered a half dozen doughnuts. Luckily I had some self restraint and settled for two featuring my favorite fruits. The peach cake doughnut had a great crumb texture. My favorite though was the vanilla bean yeast doughnut with blackberry filling. It had a perfect ratio of vanilla in the dough and sweetness in the berry filling, so that neither overpowered the other. Doughnut Plant's filled doughnuts are square with a hole in the center like traditional doughnuts. It's absolute genius because now there is filling in every bite! There is no reason to wonder why Doughnut Plant is celebrating it's 20th anniversary, they know doughnuts and it shows. While the wait wasn't long, there was a constant flow of people coming and going as we sat and enjoyed our doughnuts.

Smorgasburg was quite possibly my favorite part of my entire weekend in New York City. It's a weekly food market with vendors from restaurants and local food proveyors across the city. We ventured to the Brooklyn Bridge Park location on Sunday morning so we could enjoy the views of Manhattan as we enjoyed our snacks. There options were abundant, ranging across many cuisines, but I had my eyes set on trying Blue Marble Ice Cream. But first I opted for something more savory, on Becca's recommmendation, from Buttermilk Channel. We got one of my favorites, buttermilk chicken on a cheddar waffle. Simple, but done well. I enjoyed it so much that on my next trip to the Big apple, I plan to make a stop at their restaurant in Brooklyn. After, I stopped to get a two-scoop cone at Blue Marble to enjoy as we wandered the length of Brooklyn Bridge Park from the piers to the Brooklyn Bridge. I opted for a perhaps strange combination so I could try both of the featured flavors, cookies & cream and salted caramel. Artisan ice cream is really worth the cost, it just tastes so much better! It was the perfect treat for a summer afternoon.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Try everything

My motto when it comes to food is "try everything at least once." While that philosophy definitely has the potential to lead you astray and it is easy to let preconceived notions about a particular food or flavor influence us, more often than not I am pleasantly surprised by own tastebuds. This motto is the reason I've come to love oysters on the half shell, quinoa and chai tea, just to name a few favorites. One of the many reasons I enjoy dining out is that it's a welcome opportunity to try something new. Chefs are constantly experimenting, so even if I get a favorite dish like salmon or pasta, many times it is paired with something I would not have imagined. Sometimes it's a a new flavor for me, like the first time I tried grits or pâté. And sometimes it's a new use for a tried-and-true standby, have you ever tried zuchinni chips? If I had enough, I'd never stop eating them.

At least once. Everything is worth revisiting. Our tastes evolve over time, and recently I have discovered a newfound affinity for many foods I abhorred as a child. Brussel sprouts are perfect roasted with bacon and shallots. My friend Leigh Anne led me to an appreciation of all things pumpkin and squash. I am still a hold out on pie, as I will always prefer apple, pecan or really any other option before pumpkin pie. But I have tried and enjoyed pumpkin bread (which makes a mean french toast), roasted butternut squash and white chocolate pumpkin truffles. That last one is a real surprise, as I'm usually not one for white chocolate either. My most recent and exciting discovery was cauliflower. It was always the vegetable sitting there on the veggie platters, and I never touched it. I always thought it had no flavor, probably because I so often tried it raw. But I have come to learn that cauliflower is quite versatile when cooked, absorbing the flavors around it. It makes a great loaded au gratin replacing potatoes and just last week I tried a delicious recipe for buffalo cauliflower bites.

Recipe roundup. This probably will come as no surprise to those of you who have read my blog from the beginning or follow me on twitter. I own at least a few dozen cookbooks, subscribe to two magazines devoted entirely to food and countless others that boast substantial cooking sections and dozens of blogs and email blasts with daily recipes, restaurant lists and more. I am constantly tabbing my magazines and cookbooks with sticky notes and printing out recipes from the web that I want to try. The ever-growing stack is a mental cue to try something new rather than rely on making the same old thing week in and week out.

So with that in mind, I am going to start regularly including this feature, highlighting recipes I found and loved, or ones I am anxious to try. (Click on the names to link to the original recipe.)

Cheesy buffalo cauliflower wings (left) and Canal House peach jam

Cheesy buffalo cauliflower wings
The aforementioned cauliflower bites. After trying an au gratin a coworker brought in for a potluck, I did a search for more cauliflower recipes to test out and found these on the blog Jessica in the Kitchen. It's funny how your mind plays tricks on you based on your memories of certain flavors. If someone else had made this recipe, I don't know that I would have known I wasn't eating chicken.

Canal House peach jam
I don't think I will ever run out of uses for peaches. And this is one of my favorite new recipes for using them up before they turn bad. My favorite Bon Appétit got the seasonal-cooking superstars from Canal House to share this gem. And I love that it keeps to just the essentials, peaches, sugar and lemon juice.  I cut the recipe down based on what I had left, but if you don't you'll have plenty to share with friends as hostess gifts or "just-because" treats.

Proscuitto pesto pizza twists
From the blog A Zesty Bite, I found this recipe when I was looking for ideas for a cocktail party with some of my colleagues. I adjusted it slightly, using crescent dough instead of pizza dough. Besides the simplicity of preparation, it was a great finger food which is always a plus when you're entertaining.

Cinnamon polenta pancakes
Pancakes are one of my favorite go-to breakfasts. I know my favorite recipe by heart, and I can whip it up just as quickly as scrambled eggs or oatmeal. This was a great find for a heartier twist on traditional buttermilk pancakes.

Sour chocolate cake
This is first up on my to try list. I was sold when I read chocolate cake. A new twist with some tang from vinegar and it has cinnamon. Though I may lose the crumby texture, I'll probably try substituting butter as I am not huge on using shortening in my recipes. I may just whip this up for dessert tonight.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Easy for Everyday :: Lemon Poppyseed Biscuits

Last night I once again found myself craving something sweet that would let me savor some of my favorite summer flavors. Berries and peaches are among my favored produce, so I'm always looking for new ways to use them! A tried and true summer favorite is strawberry shortcake, but it's one of the recipes I most often play around with. Whether it's chocolate or the lemon poppyseed biscuits that follow, there are so many interesting combinations off such a basic concept.

I served these lemon poppyseed biscuits with sliced peaches and a small scoop of vanilla ice cream. But it's a biscuit that's not too sweet and could easily pair well with other fruits, whipped cream or even just a pad of butter. While I definitely see myself bring this recipe out for a future brunch party, it'd be perfect for a bridal shower tea or dessert like I enjoyed last night.

1 1/2 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp cream of tarter
1 1/2 tbsp poppyseeds
1 stick butter, softened
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon extract

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Combine flour, baking powder, sugar and cream of tarter and poppyseeds in a large bowl. Mix well.
3. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
4. In a small bowl, mix buttermilk, lemon juice and lemon extract.
5. Pour liquids all at once into flour mixture. Mix until well combined, the batter may still be lumpy. 
6. Drop biscuits onto the lined baking sheet, using a spoon and spatula to form small mounds.
7. Bake for 10-11 minutes, until golden.

Makes 6 biscuits.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Five years ago today ...

Juniper & Ivy, Richard Blais' restaurant in San Diego.
My birthday dinner and one of my favorite meals this year,
plus I had the opportunity to meet Chef Blais.

I launched Chasing Crumbs five years ago today. What started as an outlet for my writing has become so much more than I imagined. It's a challenge to myself to break out of the routine and try new things when I enter the kitchen. It's inspiration when I travel to explore each city's unique culinary offerings. It's a testament to my goal of sharing my love of food with others. On my blog's fifth anniversary, I wanted to take a moment to reflect and share with you the story behind Chasing Crumbs.

When I turned 11 my grandmother taught me how to cook, and since then it has always been a passion of mine. Cooking is my favorite escape, an adventure into a world of savory and sweet treats. It's so easy to get lost in the the aromas of freshly baked cookies, cinnamon apples simmering on the stove or a bourbon bread pudding bubbling in the oven. Certain flavors have the power to transport you to another time and place -- freshly grilled corn and roasted peaches remind me of summer, prime rib invites memories of holiday dinners and seafood will always remind me of home. 

But beyond all else, what I love about food is that it brings people together. Growing up, the dinner table was where we shared stories about school and work. On holidays my family would take turns in the kitchen preparing parts of the meal. And today, I often host friends for brunch or invite them to try new restaurants with me. And the rare opportunities I've had to chat with a chef about my meal, those are moments I treasure as I hope to glean insights that I can ultimately incorporate into my own amateur adventures in the kitchen.  

Whether it's trying new foods, restaurants or recipes, I long to explore more of what the culinary world has to offer. And I will continue to use this blog to share my experiences with you. Cheers!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Easy for Everyday :: Sweet Potato and Andouille Sausage Pizza

I don't like to let working nights get in the way of great home-cooked meals. Often times, I'll use my weekend to cook ahead on dinners that are easy to reheat. This weekend I had some inspiration to combine a few of my favorite Southern flavors into a colorful and delicious pizza. Cooking pizza at home is a lot easier than most people expect, especially if you use an already prepared dough or crust. But even making your own dough doesn't take too long.  And a little trick if you don't want to heat up your oven, fire up the grill! It makes for a great smoky flavor.

1 sweet potato
2 Andouille sausages
6 broccolini or baby broccoli
1/2 can fire roasted diced tomatoes (drained)
Shredded Mozzarella cheese
Shredded Parmesan cheese
Pizza dough (homemade would be best, but to easy with preparation, I used Pillsbury's artisan refrigerated dough)
Olive oil

1. Preheat oven according to pizza dough directions. 
2. On a baking sheet, form dough into a circle or square. If desired, roll edges over to create a crust. Pre-bake dough for 5 minutes and remove from oven.
3. In a skillet, remove sausage from casing and cook until browned. Set aside.
4. Dice sweet potatoes. In the same pan, add olive oil and sweet potatoes. Cook until caramelized. Add broccolini and toss until bright green.
5. Lightly coat dough in olive oil. Spread diced tomatoes evenly.
6. Spread a thin layer of Parmesan cheese. 
7. Across the pizza, evenly distribute sausage, sweet potato, and broccolini.
8. Finish with a layer of Mozarella and Parmesan cheese. 
9. Bake pizza according to dough directions, about 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.

Serves 4-6

Friday, June 13, 2014

Easy for Everyday :: Beet and Arugula Salad

Wow, it's already June. It's amazing how quickly time flies when you're busy. I'm feeling a bit guilty that my last post was in March, especially since I have plenty of content to share with you all. Over the past few months, I've shifted roles in my day job, helped friends prepare to move cross-country and have rediscovered my love of reading. More relevant to this blog, I've taken a few day and long-weekend trips that have left me with some great restaurant finds to pass along. I've found one of my true food loves is Southern cuisine, met one of my favorite chefs and experimented with a lot of seasonal produce. I've literally filled my fridge with produce in no less than a half dozen grocery trips this year. I've participated in 5-10k races and an 11-mile hike for charity, and while I've always been active, the running in particular has pushed me to pay more attention to how my body responds to different foods. There's really no comparison to a meal that's rooted in fresh fruit and vegetables, whether it's the side dish or an entire meal. Well maybe a meal rooted in mac & cheese ... but then, what can I say it's all about balance. 

I managed a 6-mile walk this past weekend in 95 degree weather to make a trip to the farmer's market. It was hard work as it got warmer, but well worth it when I made that evening out of all my market finds. This simple three-ingredient salad is perfect for summer and makes a perfect compliment to a heartier pasta or steak. 

2 beets
2 cups arugula
1 cup sunflower shoots (These can be found at most farmer's markets and some specialty grocery stores, but other sprouts and shoots could easily be substituted)
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Peel and dice beets into small chunks. 
3.  In a baking dish, toss in just enough olive oil to coat and lightly season with pepper.
4. Roast beets for 35-45 minutes, until just soft. Remove and let cool for 20 minutes.
5. Rinse arugula and sunflower shoots, pat dry. Combine in a serving bowl. 
6. Add beets to serving bowl, toss and drizzle lightly with 1 1/2 tbsp each balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Depending on your taste, you can add more vinegar or less. 

Serves 2