Sunday, January 31, 2010

eating your way through nyc...

As promised, we tried some new and notable restaurants while in New York City last week amidst the most intense cold snap imaginable. We also, unfortunately, tried some not-so-notable places, but the good out-weighed the bad on this trip. Here are two stand outs…

Company is a pizza place right next to… nothing… on 9th avenue and 26th street. While you probably won’t ever be in the neighborhood, its worth a trip for the thin pizza pies on a soft crust with fabulous toppings. Most notable were the “Popeye” which had fresh spinach, toasted until crisp in the giant pizza ovens over gobs of melted gruyere and buffalo mozzarella, and the "Flambe" (reminiscent of the Alsatian Tarte Flambee) with caramelized onions, lardons and béchamel. Don’t let the faux fireplace blazing on a big screen tv fool you- the food is authentic and delicious. They don't take reservations and tables are communal, but it kind of adds to the fun.
230 Ninth Avenue, New York,

History and contemporary sensibilities collide at Commerce, housed in the newly restored Grange Hall in Greenwich Village, once a Depression-era speakeasy (and formerly The Blue Mill Tavern). Tiny and bustling and tucked away on one of those streets you would miss if you blinked, the cocktails are divine and the food is too. I dined on roasted sweet potato tortelloni with hazelnuts, pomegranate and a buerre noisette, as well as sazeracs and champagne cocktails with house-made grenadine. It was a fabulous evening staying warm and catching up with old friends in a bistro-style café on a back street on a cold night.
50 Commerce Street, New York,

Of course we hit some tried and true favorites that can’t be missed when in New York- Pastis for a brunch of oysters, croque monsieur, pomme frites and café au lait, and Le Pain Quotidian for flaky croissants, steel cut oatmeal and herb teas. If I hadn’t walked about a thousands miles while there, I know I would have come home twice my original size. But that is the beauty of Yew York- eat divine food and then walk it off through Central Park!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

bundled up, then and now...

Heading to New York for a chilly weekend of buying and meetings with importers from around the world- hoping to find some fabulous things for this Spring! I have an appointment with a silk importer who has some fabulous new colors for the Julie dress, and we plan on bringing back lots of Moroccan baskets, silk scarves and beach cover ups for the warmer months ahead.

I came across this photo yesterday of little bitty me in an adorable yellow coat in Rockefeller center right after my fourth birthday. Wish I could look this cute this weekend while I’m bundled up to beat the 15 degree weather. But I do promise to try some new restaurants and share the scoop, as well as visit some old favorites. I can’t go to New York without a trip to Le Pain Quotidian, Pastis and Café Habana!

Monday, January 18, 2010

winter citrus...

Citrus is everywhere right now, being fresh in season, and I am constantly looking for new recipes to use up all the gorgeous satsumas (made marmalade), lemons (see the lemon meringue torte) and grapefruits that friends and neighbors have been sharing. What I love about these perfect fruits is that they aren’t perfect at all. A real lemon fresh off a tree looks nothing like the plastic-y perfect fruit found in most grocery stores! The outsides are blemished and rough, and the insides are heaven on earth. I may be biased, but I think the further south you go the better the citrus becomes, and it keeps me thinking of south Florida this time of year.
The absolute, without question, best fruit stand in south Florida is Robert Is Here on the way to the keys. So pack your convertible, save room for a bushel or two of produce and head to Homestead. Robert Is Here Fruit Stand was established in the late fall of 1959. At that time, a six-year-old boy was set on this very corner with some of his father’s cucumber crop and told to “Sell ‘em!” Robert sat all day that Saturday and no one even stopped. That evening, Robert’s father decided that “there can’t be that many people who don’t like cucumbers; they must not see this little boy standing here on the corner.”

The next day, Robert’s father placed a sign on each side of the table proclaiming in big red letters “Robert Is Here.” By noon Robert had sold all of the cucumbers. The following weekend, a neighboring farmer added tomatoes to Robert’s display and a fruit stand was born. Robert was out on the corner every day during Christmas break, and when school started again in January of 1960, Robert’s mother made arrangements for the bus to pick him up and drop him off at the fruit stand. He and his mother would set up the stand each morning and leave a coffee can on the table. Customers paid by leaving the money in the can using the honor system. The bus would drop Robert off after school and he would work his stand until it got dark. By the time Robert was nine years old, he had hired a neighbor lady to work for him while he was in school. Robert bought his first ten-acres of property when he was fourteen and planted an avocado grove.

Specializing in all sorts of tropical fruits, including some you’ve never heard of, Robert also sells canned produce using his mother’s recipes, makes up fresh shakes and smoothies and other goodies, and often has live music playing. It’s an experience.
Robert is Here 19200 SW 344th Street. Homestead, FL

Head out from Robert Is Here down South Dixie Highway and Highway One and you’ve reached the Keys. One of the best meals I’ve ever had was at the Marquesa in Key West on New Year’s Eve several years ago. One block from the famous (and rowdy) Duval Street, this former Catholic boardinghouse painted pale aqua-blue and yellow houses an award-winning boutique hotel and restaurant. The “innovative” Café Marquesa serves "fine Caribbean-Continental" food. The hotel rooms, restored 1884 conch houses, are situated around a little secluded garden oasis where we were served champagne on New Years after our amazing dinner of Lamb. Rated number 1 in Florida by Travel & Leisure Magazine, the hotel made their list of the 500 of the Worlds Best Hotels. The best part about it? Today’s weather report reads Sunny and 74 degrees.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

a delicious new year...

While I don’t normally have an overly large sweet tooth, the cold weather of the past few weeks has kept me indoors eating nothing but stews and sweets. Not a terrible life. I recently tried a recipe for a three layer lemon cream filled meringue tower that was to die for. Three large flat meringues (almost the size of a pie) are layered with a homemade lemon curd full of tons of tangy zest folded with homemade whip cream. And repeat the layers and repeat again. If you can avoid eating the entire thing in one sitting, you are stronger than I. Thought the least I could do was share the recipe…

I didn’t take any pictures of my towering lemon confection, but I found a picture of a similar concoction in Gourmet Magazine July 2009. They used berries instead of lemon, but the concept is the same.
Lemon Meringue Torte
6 egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
¾ tsp vanilla
6 egg yolks
1 ¼ cups sugar
4 ½ TB lemon juice
2 TB lemon zest
1 ¼ cup whipping cream
3 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Beat egg whites until stiff in a electric mixer. Gradually add 1 ½ cups sugar and ¾ tsp vanilla. Divide the meringue mixture into thirds and pour onto a baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Spread to the diameter of a pie pan. (tip: I took an old pie pan and traced the outline on the parchment, then flipped the parchment over so you don’t get pen or pencil marks on your meringue. Makes gauging the right size of each meringue much easier) Bake one hour.

In a medium bowl beat egg yolks. Add remaining sugar, lemon juice and zest. Cook over a double boiler until thick (consistency of pudding), stirring occasionally. Cool. Whip cream with an electric mixture until it forms soft peaks. Whip in remaining vanilla. Remove cooled meringues from parchment and place the first on a cake stand (plate will do but its not as pretty). Spread with 1/3 the lemon cream. Layer the second meringue and repeat with filling. Repeat again. Thinly slice a lemon or two and place on top for decoration. Keep refrigerated. Serves 10. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

notable words...

“hidden talent… counts for nothing.” – nero

We’ve waxed poetic about the lost art of letter writing before, and stand by the merit of letter press cards. Last summer we found the most amazing boxes of letterpress stationary and cards handmade in New Jersey that we sold out of in no time at all. But someone just told us about some cards of a different sort. Still exquisite in their handmade nature, these cards send a distinct and quirky message to your recipient. Each card is emblazoned with a quote from (in)famous historical figures (read dictators) that will leave you belly laughing at the hilarity, absurdity, brilliance or cruelty. Letterpress printed in Brooklyn on 100% cotton, Dictator Goods “was founded to occupy the intersection of handcrafted, high design and brazen irreverence.” Have a look and enjoy- a good laugh and some high quality stationary are guaranteed.