Sunday, September 11, 2011 has been a solemn occasion full of reflection on the past and future. During the past week, my husband and I watched several TV programs and read magazine and newspaper articles about the tragic events that happened a decade ago. Perhaps we overloaded ourselves with 9/11 but today, on the actual anniversary date of the attacks, I decided to switch gears to focus on tomorrow, Monday, September 12, 2011. It?s going to be the Mid-Autumn Festival (Tet Trung Thu in Vietnamese, Zhong Qiu Jie in Mandarin). It?s also called the Moon Festival because the moon shines never fails to shine super big and bright. Referring to the festival legends behind the holiday, my mom once remarked, ?It?s this time of the year that you can see the woman in the moon.? The Mid-Autumn Festival is a harvest festival, a time for giving thanks for the plenty...
With summer coming to an official close, I thought I’d reflect back on my absolute number-one favorite weekend of the summer: my family’s annual trip to the Mohonk Mountain House. Built in 1869 and nestled in the heart of the Hudson Valley, this grand ‘ol hotel has been a gathering place for my extended family for the past five years (and for countless others over the past 100-plus years).
There are so many things I love about Mononk … early morning hikes around the lake and up to the skytop tower, kayaking and canoeing, watching my boys fish for trout, hanging out with my mom, dad, and sisters on Mohonk’s majestic front porch, outdoor cookouts at the Granary, afternoon tea and cookies, playing board games at night with my family, and so much more. When we visit Mohonk, it’s like taking a trip back in time. Mohonk is magical and offers something for everyone.
During our August visit, I snapped lots of pictures with my iPhone, and during the long journey back to Boston, used the Instagram App on the phone to add interesting filters to many of the photos. This blog post features my favorite photos and fondest memories from Mononk 2011.
Simon, Tim, Josh and Mom. I promise you that we did not deliberately dress like quadruplets for this photo
It’s easy to overeat at Mohonk because lovely buffets await you morning, noon, and night. I always make a conscious effort to start the day with a high-energy breakfast of fresh fruit and a protein-rich veggie and cheese-stuffed omelet. Yes, I avoid the sausage and bacon and pastries and muffins and so on and so on and so on!
Lunch at the Granary features grilled ribs, BBQ chicken, baked beans and lots of fresh salads.
My extended family.
My mom and dad relax on one of the outdoor balconies. The 1970′s vibe of this photo really suits my parents and takes me right back to my childhood.
My boys hang out on one of the many gazebos that dot the Mohonk landscape. This year, Josh and Simon had their best fishing adventure ever. It rained for a bit on our last afternoon at Mohonk, which brought three-pound trout to the surface (no worries, the boys released everything they caught).
The Mohonk gardens are spectacular. Whoever maintains these gardens has a green thumb for sure.
In between the frenzy of food and physical activity, there’s always time to kick back on the porch and gaze across the lake. I can’t wait to return in 2012 for quality time and lots of good ‘ol fashioned bonding with my family!
For all of my Mohonk photos, visit our Flickr page.
Tuna salad recipe is very easy and needs just 3 ingredients – tuna, egg and mayo. I always have some canned tuna in my pantry, so if I don’t know what to make for lunch, I can quickly make a … Continue reading →
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When I was a kid (and still got bedtime stories!) one of my favourite books was a collection of cutesy tales that (without being all Aesop-y and flat out saying the moral or lesson) still managed to instil some sort of "you should do this" message. One of my favourites was a story about a "Green Galumpetty Monster" who hated to eat his green veggies. After scaring away a family of picnickers, he eats all their goodies (except the green lettuce) and turns into a rainbow-hued creature who gets into "big trouble" with his parents and is forced to eat bowl after bowl of grass to turn green again.
Luckily, we humans don't change the colour of our food (if we did, most of us would be very beige), but greens are still something we should be eating. The trick is to get the veggies from the store to the table seven days a week - before the freshness fades and they start languishing in the fridge. Buying frozen veggies is nothing new, but when it comes to quality and variety the results are a bit mixed. Obviously, blanching and freezing your own (like we do with each Summer's Romano beans and beet greens here) is the best option where both flavour and texture are concerned, but to do that with all your produce, especially the somewhat finicky, bitter dark leafies, is both time and cost prohibitive. In the case of spinach, to make your own 10-oz frozen block you'd have to buy easily a pound and a half of fresh leaves, then stem, blanch, wring out, pack and freeze them. If saving money is the goal when it comes to using produce, a $1 box of spinach from the freezer case will run you almost $18 homemade! "Specialty" greens like kale and rapini are even more.
Choosing the best storebought freezer option though can also be a bit of a shot in the dark. A lot of the time, vegetables are overcooked (hello, broccoli), packed in so tight they get crushed (Brussels sprouts, I'm looking at you) and too often the goods are frozen in bulk "blocks" that quickly lose their nutrients in storage, get freezer-burned and are hard to divide into portions. The only frozen vegetable that I almost always prefer to use is spinach, due to the value and convenience (since most recipes use a 10-oz box). When it comes to the rest of the goods, though, I'm pretty much a die-hard freshie - even though I know that in Winter some of the frozen stuff is better for you nutrient-wise. When a company called Cookin' Greens? gave me a lovely stack of coupons for their bagged , pre-chopped, pre-washed and IQF dark leafies, I figured I might as well give them a shot - if they were as bad as the broccoli was, I could always puree them into a soup or pasta sauce.
I have to say I was extremely pleased with the bag of CG kale I picked up - the contents of the 500-gram (roughly 17.5 oz) bag are "double-washed, double blanched, chopped and quick-frozen" within six hours of being plucked from the field, and were really easy to separate into batches for cooking. Taste-wise, it is really almost "bitter-sweet" and reminiscent of home-steamed, and none of the colour was lost in the freezing or thawing either. The texture, which is the most tender I've ever had (even cooking it from fresh myself!) fared equally well when I prepped it in the microwave, in a frying pan, and even mashed into potatoes (I tossed it in mostly frozen and let the tater's heat do it's thing). Of course, I had to try pureeing it too, making goodies like blueberry-cherry smoothies, upcoming batches of muffins and brownies and the cake below. There was no "stringiness" to the purees either - and as a whole the bag was about as far from being a conventional "block" of frozen greens as a deep-fried food festival is to being a cardiologist's convention. The only misgiving I had about any of the bags they offer (Athlete's Mix, Designer's Mix, Artist's Mix, collards, mustard greens, spinach, kale and rapini) is that the bags themselves are not resealable. A heavy-duty plastic freezer bag fits the bill nicely, though.
Since I first reviewed Hannah Kaminsky's book Vegan Desserts: Sumptuous Sweets for Every Season, I knew I simply had to make her "Torta al Vino" - a low-rising grape cake with the fine texture of ground almonds and a good glug of red wine. Given that I am always wont to modify anything that comes into my recipe folder, and since I had just read an article on the popular "hiding veggies in desserts" technique (a la the Sneaky Chef and Deceptively Delicious), I wanted to see if I could apply the mentality of adding applesauce in place of oil in baked goods also applied when it came to pureed veggies. To balance out the bitter edge from the greens, I added some of the backyard grapes to the blender - a logical addition since the same fruit was being folded into the batter at the end. A little of my Krisda stash cut down the sugar a fair tad, and using half spelt flour bumped up the protein, fibre and deliciously nutty flavour. Hannah's version also uses almond extract and pine nuts, but because I had neither on hand I just left out the extract and folded in slivered almonds instead. A few grapes sprinkled overtop of the batter in the pan crowned the delicious mixture (which tasted nothing of the hidden veggies) and rewarded me with a gorgeous, aromatic and moist wine cake that everybody who tried it liked.
Vegan Torta Al Vino
Adapted from Vegan Desserts: Sumptuous Sweets for Every Season by Hannah Kaminsky
Serves 1250 g Cookin' Greens Chopped Kale, steamed20 g seedless (preferably wine-making) grapes12 oz low fat silken tofu1/4 cup olive oil1 tsp vanilla3/4 cup dry, full-bodied red wine1/2 cup sugar12 packets Krisda stevia1 cup flour1 cup spelt flour1 cup ground almonds1/2 tbsp baking powder1/2 tsp baking soda1/4 tsp sea salt1 1/4 cups small sweet (preferably wine-making) grapes, divided1/2 cup slivered almonds
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Four years ago tomorrow I woke up to terrible news. An airplane had crashed into the twin towers. It looked completely unfeasible and I left my girlfriend's house confused. When I got home I watched the news over and over like the day the Space Shuttle exploded but I still could not figure it out.
The next day I went to work knowing that I would not be able to reach my family living in lower Manhattan for some time to come. Having lived in London during the 1989 Northern California earthquake I knew that NY would shut down all outside lines to make room for emergency communication.
In 1996 I worked with Martin Howard and Waldy Malouf at The Hudson River Club in the twin towers. I knew that geography well. My education having been NYC public schools, many school trips were made to the roof and up the jet powered elevators of the those too high buildings often.
In the late afternoon of September 12 vague terrible information crept up into my numb consciousness. Heather Ho was the pastry chef of Windows On The World. Was this right? I asked Elizabeth (Falkner. I was working at Citizen Cake at the time.) She wasn't sure.
About ten days later my uncle called me to say that my father and stepmother were ok. I called and asked my dad to please walk over to Gramercy Tavern to speak with Claudia Fleming. I worked with Heather at GT and I knew that having just returned to NY Claudia might know where she was working.
A few days later my father called the internal phone line at CC crying. At the end of September I received in the mail the NY Times page showing the names and photos of those missing and dead. A bright photograph of Heather and a little bit about her graced the page.
When my mother read the news she called me and through tears said, "That could have been you. You and she shared such a similar trajectory."
Heather Ho was a piece of work. She was loud and spoke her thoughts without a care for how they might land. She knew that to be in this business you had to have shark's skin and if she offended she looked at the hurt person and said things like, "O come on!" Once at the bar across the street she told me that she was cooking just because. Because she didn't know what else to do. But she had a touch. She got pesky recipes to work that no one else could. And she couldn't explain what she had done! She moved like lighting. Whipped runners, captains, floor managers and back waiters into submission. And then she would slap them on the back in the sweaty defeated red locker rooms like we were all just in basic training together and wasn't it fun?
I will never forget my first week at Gramercy. Heather and Gina De Palma, (now the pastry chef at Babbo), flanked me as I leaned down into the i.c. drawers, learning how to quenelle by fire, screaming "FASTER! FASTER!" One night when I was training with Heather alone we had over 20 tickets on our board that were modified with a red "NOW" and after spinning like the Tasmanian Devil she looked dead at me and said, Where are we?!!!" Defeated, I replied pathetically, "I don't know." And then she kicked into overdrive and showed me how it was done.
We kept in touch and I ate her desserts at every restaurant she went. I ate her perfect lemon ice box cake a dozen times and was the happiest person alive the day Food & Wine printed her banana caramel bread pudding. Having grown up in Hawaii she had a sweet American palate. In her personality she carried a secret pocket of fierce quiet conviction and gave me supportive but unapologetic well chosen words when they were absolutely necessary.
When I learned that her death was definite I had trouble mourning her. I could see her and hear what she would have said. Sappy she wasn't. Nor would she stand for such ridiculousness.
In early October I traveled to NYC for a pre-planned Lydon family reunion. I did something else. I called Gina and Claudia and I told them what I had not the time to say to Heather. I thanked them for helping to shape who I was striving to be as a pastry chef. I thanked them for pushing me so hard (that kitchen was loud and brutal at times) and told them that GT had been a real turning point in my career. We told Heather stories and remembered her in the way that she would have been happy to have been a part of. We talked shit and we told it like it was.
-KingT's Wing Fling
Hello loyal readers, welcome back! Sorry for the delay but you needn't worry, I was out of town eating at more great spots to share with y'all here. In the meantime, football season is here baby! I've been waiting to post about today's place up until the season began so with that we head to the southside, South shore neighborhood to sample some of the city's best wings. Make that some of the countries best. Wings Around the World puts BW-3's in it's place, in the garbage bin.
Located on 75th street in Chicago's Grand Crossing neighborhood
WATW is a small tiny little storefront that puts out some huge flavor. There are no tables so I usually enjoy my wings on the hood of my car. NO! it is not unsafe to do so. The neighborhood is fine and never has there been a problem. The owner is also a great guy who puts out some mean wings. In fact there are near or over 40 different selections for you to choose all categorized by country of flavor. From China to Jamaica and all stops in between they got you covered.
The menu along the wall
I'll be the first to admit I am nowhere near having gone thru all the flavors but the ones I have tried I quite enjoyed. My first visit ever was without a camera but we all really enjoyed the lemon pepper from the American section. Unique flavor profile made these wings ones that you remember and I still do. My favorites are from the US portion and of course the Jamaican. They make quite a few variations of jerk sauce and do a nice job at that. The wings are nice sized and cooked to perfection. Sauces are all homemade.
If you find yourself in need of some chicken wing trays this football season I'm going to suggest, fuck that, tell you that WATW is the best spot for you, even if your on the northside. You see, wings are all they do so they do them well. It's that old restaurant saying "you pick one thing, and you do it well" and then your spot should do the same. They don't mess around here and the people of the neighborhood support them because they do it right. If good old Buffalo style is your preferred choice well your fine on that since they do some of the best Buffalo wings anywhere near Chicago and if they were located in Buffalo, there too. Check them out will ya.
Buffalo Wings fresh from the fryer
Wings Around the World
510 East 75th Street
Chicago, IL 60619