October 30, 2011

HB Eats: "Taste of Sunnyside 2"

I do believe that 2011 is the year of the food festival.  It seems like every week I am reading about or attending a new event highlighting local produce or restaurant fare. Yes, it's a great time to be a foodie in New York, and I was very excited to check out the second annual "Taste of Sunnyside" on October 18th in Sunnyside, Queens. The event was hosted by the Sunnyside Shines Business Improvement District and Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce. The diversity and vibrancy of Queens was well represented by over twenty restaurants from the Sunnyside and Woodside areas.

The action-packed evening was divided into two identical back-to-back 1 ½ hour tastings serving over 600 guests.  Organizers passed out Guest Pass dining cards that limited each participant to one sample per restaurant.  While this method seemed restrictive at first, it turned out to be a great way to keep track of what tastes the night had to offer, without overwhelming tables with repeat guests.  My favorite samples of the night came from De Mole, an authentic Mexican restaurant serving up shrimp ceviche on a corn tortilla chip, Copper Kettle’s comforting deconstructed chicken pot pie (the biscuit on top served as the crust), and Salt and Fat’s beautiful shrimp, corn, and carrot puree.   Other high points of the evening included Arriba Arriba’s delicious margaritas and Anise Fusion’s colorful carved watermelon sculpture (their Asian fusion food was great too).  I really got the sense that attendees had a wonderful time discovering new dishes and supporting local restaurants.  

Have you had a memorable experience at a local food festival?  I would love to hear about it!

October 22, 2011

HB Eats: Cruisin' Kitchen- Bringing the Kitchen To You

There’s a new food truck in town, and last week I had the opportunity to meet up with Keith Album, chef and owner of Cruisin’ Kitchen, in Manhattan.  When I first met Keith earlier in the year, his enthusiasm for the food business was contagious (not that I need much help in that department).  Keith has an impressive track record in the culinary world, having started his career as a bagel maker and part-owner of a deli/bagel shop in Forest Hills, Queens and later attending the French Culinary Institute. Since then he has worked in a variety of executive kitchens and ventures, but also had a dream of serving up great food in accessible settings.  Recently he has made that dream a reality by partnering up with former Ramones’ drummer Marky Ramone for his first foray into the food truck industry. 

Now Chef Keith and his crew serve up trattoria style eats out of a unique and rockin’ kitchen on wheels. The stars of the menu last week were Keith’s delicious homemade meatballs served with Marky Ramone’s signature marinara sauce.  The well-seasoned sauce was a nice compliment to the perfectly cooked meatball.  The side of cheese crisps was a fun and inventive way to soak up the sauce and balance the softness of the meatballs.   I can’t wait to sample more of Keith’s creations in the future!  You can follow the Cruisin’ Kitchen as it makes its way around the New York area on Twitter @Cruisin_Kitchen and Facebook

October 16, 2011

HB Eats: Madison Square Eats Market

I recently discovered a great pop-up food market in the Flatiron District, but if you walk down the wrong block or blink, you might just miss it!  Madison Square Eats has made its popular return to Worth Square, located just west of Madison Square Park on Broadway and 24th Street.  The market has a great selection of gourmet foods in a quaint and inviting street space lined with colorful pink umbrellas and festive lights. 

Over two dozen vendors are open for business at the market, including local favorites like Red Hook Lobster Pound, Sigmund’s Pretzels, Robicelli’s, Wafels and Dinges, and The Milk Truck.  There are also some lesser-known vendors (at least to me!) like Cuzin’s Duzin, with its simple yet addictive mini-doughnuts, made-to-order in a funky mini-doughnut making machine.    Overall, Mad. Sq. Eats. provides a great outdoor dining, snacking, and happy hour alternative for the midtown crowd and visitors.   Unfortunately, it took me over three weeks to find this hidden gem, and now there is less than a week left to sample the goodies, so hurry!  The event runs daily, 11 am to 9 pm, through October 21st.   

October 8, 2011

HB Cooks: Engagement Chicken and Baked Butternut Squash

The fall season definitely puts me in the mood to do more cooking and get back in the kitchen.  As the temperature drops, I look forward to warm comfort food, steamy hot apple cider, and the beautiful fall foliage.  This week I found two easy recipes that don’t take a lot of prep, but do take a lot of time to bake, so make sure to budget your time accordingly.   The folklore behind “Engagement Chicken” is more detailed than I first realized when I found the recipe on my Epicurious app. Glamour magazine first published this simple roasted chicken recipe in 2004.  As the story goes, one of its employees made the meal for her boyfriend, at which time he promptly dropped to his knee and proposed.  Since then, many couples have claimed to have been engaged as a result of this lemony dish and have contacted Glamour with their stories.  Engagement or not, I can attest that this chicken is pretty fabulous! The recipe is also part of a the Glamour book 100 Recipes Every Woman Should Know.

I followed the recipe pretty closely, but it is helpful to know ahead of time that it takes about 3 lemons to make ½ cup of fresh lemon juice, and only 2 lemons really fit into a 4 lb. chicken.  Therefore, 6 lemons is a good number for your grocery list.  Since I still don’t own a roasting pan, I used a glass pan and propped the chicken up on carrots.  I also didn’t have fresh herbs available, so I basted the chicken in the last few minutes of cooking and sprinkled on dried thyme, parsley, and sage.

The chicken came out really juicy and the sauce was to die for.  One thing to take into consideration if you follow my carrot roasting method is that the carrots become a little too lemony to eat, so make sure you cook some separately if that is your chosen side dish.

My main side dish was baked butternut squash with melted butter, brown sugar, and spices.  I basted the squash almost as much as I basted the chicken, to insure a buttery flavor throughout the fruit.  I baked the squash at the same temperature, 350 degrees, and time as the chicken, which is probably why my meal took longer to cook than the recommended time.  Overall, my oven was busy for about 2 hours.  Since every oven is different, you can judge the chicken by its temperature (the recipe calls for 180 degrees in the thigh) and the squash by pricking it with a fork to determine its tenderness.  Honestly, I just took a big cut into the chicken breast after it was golden brown to see if it was cooked through and tasted the squash (while not the most precise way, that got the job done).  I really enjoyed this homey dish and next time perhaps I will add some stuffing, greens, or dessert to the mix!  Enjoy!

October 1, 2011

HB Sweets: Gigantic chocolate cupcake!

Here is a look at one of my favorite dessert creations: a gigantic chocolate cupcake with Reeses Peanut Butter Cups!

And here's a link for the Big Top Cupcake pan that I used to make this beautiful dessert!