Cupcakes Capone

Misadventures in Cooking, Dining & Exploration

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Shake, a Steak and a Cake...

Having lived in New York City several years now, I am often asked by friends, family, random visitors, "Do ya have any recommendations for food?" I find that I always list off the same places time and again, which makes me think.... Don't I eat anywhere else? The answer is yes, but only the very best stick with me. New Yorkers are loyal to their dining establishments and have a lot of pride in being able to recommend a truly great restaurant. Because in the end, it's our reputation at... steak. 

So here is my top recommendation for a perfect day of gut-busting, palate tingling New York fare at it's best... and pretty, darn affordable

LUNCH: Shake Shack
Whether you're in Madison Square Park checking out the Flat Iron building or up at the American Museum of Natural History hanging out with some dinosaur bones, you will no doubt notice the infamous line for Shake Shack.

Known for it's legendary burger, the ShackBurger, is 100% black angus beef  that is ground daily, cooked to medium and served up between lettuce, tomato, American cheese and a buttery potato roll. If you dare, dig into some salty crinkle cut fries (smothered in cheese for me) and wash it down with their famous frozen custard.

DINNER: Schiller's Liqour Bar

Oh Schiller's, how can I count the ways I LOVE THEE!!! Located in the trendy Lower East Side, this French brasserie has the BEST steak frites! Note: I have been to Paris and eaten steak frites at the "home" of steak frites... and it still doesn't compare. Don't feel adventurous and get chicken or salmon, get the damned steak frites! For those of you who are confused.... it's is a succulent sirloin steak grilled to perfection served with frites, a heap of salty, shoe-string french fries. Here is where you do get to choose: your steak is served with your choice of a Bearnaise sauce, herbed butter or Au Poivre (a sinfully rich peppercorn and red wine reduction). 

As for the rest of the menu, the calamari is a tasty appetizer with a fiery dipping sauce, while the Mac and Cheese is loaded with creamy cheeses and thick-cut bacon. The wine menu is no fuss and to the point: Cheap, Decent and Good. I like the way they think... Excellent steak frites, great wine, cool decor, great prices and quintessentially New York... eat here... I do all the time. 

DESSERT: Junior's Cheesecake 

New York cheesecake. Tourists flock to the city to eat it. Needless to say there are A LOT of crap, knock-offs. If you're near Times Square, you'll probably notice a handful of people carrying orange and white striped bags that say Junior's. This is the home of the "MOST FABULOUS CHEESECAKE" and is THE NY CHEESECAKE!
Ask just about anyone in the city and you'll get the same answer.

Now there are some ground rules... order the Original. I know that Strawberry-topped or Raspberry swirl sound fun, but if you are going for the true taste of NY Cheesecake... get the Original. It's light, fluffy, but creamy at the same time.... it's not going to come close to any other cheesecake you've eaten. Originating in Brooklyn, Junior's has been in business for over 60 years and it all started with the Original. Personally, I am not a fan of cheesecake, except for Junior's. So much so, that I actually had in flown down South for one of the desserts at my wedding.... and you know a Southern gal is NOT gonna have at her wedding unless it's truly the best.

And that's my perfect dine for a day in NYC. But hey! What about breakfast? you ask. Hit up just about any dinner in NYC and they got breakfast covered... eggs, bacon, home fries, omelettes, waffles, french toast and the best cup of "crappy" coffee you'll ever have. So, bon appetit!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Time Cafe, Astoria, NY

After a much needed hiatus from NYC, I've returned to the city refreshed... well for the most part. Coming back from a leisurely vacation can sometimes cause even more stress when you return from you destination. However, I found a delightful little cafe in Astoria to cause the hustle and bustle of NYC to slow down a bit, and ease me back into the grind.

The Time Cafe on Broadway and 45th Street is a nice little retreat for a glass of wine and a bite to eat. It's stocked full of bookshelves to browse and borrow from, comfy lounging areas and modern jazz softly playing in the background. I went by self on a random day and hour, and was pleasantly surprised to actually see people there. I pulled up a chair at one of the cafe tables outside to soak up the sun and enjoy the passerby's.

I ordered the Meat and Cheese platter. It came with a serving of Brie, Manchego and Gouda cheeses, some salamis, Mediterranean olives and toasted pita bread. It was a tasty, non-fussy afternoon snack, which I paired with the house Pinot Grigio. The waiter graciously allowed me to occupy my table for a full 3 hrs, so I was able to leisurely nibble and sip my din. Granted, I don't think it would have been the same attitude had it been at the height of brunch hour, but I appreciated it nevertheless. So, thanks Time Cafe for helping me gently slip back into my New York state of mind.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Dos Toros Taqueria, NYC

After a recommendation from a friend, I popped into Dos Toros Taqueria for lunch today. Opened last November by brothers, Oliver and Leo Kremer from San Francisco, who after moving to NYC discovered a huge lacking of the well-known West-coast Mexican flavor.  

It's a cozy, little spot just off of Union Square on 4th Avenue. Don't be surprised if there's a line out the door. In NYC, that's always a good sign. The menu is simple: Burritos, Tacos, Quesadillas and Platos (that's a burrito without the tortilla). Today, I went with the tacos. You have a choice of soft or crispy, not crunchy. Essentially, it's a soft tortilla that's fried up just enough to give it a slight crisp. I chose one packed with carnitas (pork) and the other with pollo asado (grilled chicken).  Both were generously covered with a fresh pico de gallo and crumbled cheese. Both were fantastic! The pork is full of flavor and so juicy, while the chicken perfectly balances spice and flavors of the grill. I rounded out the meal with chips and guacamole, which was pretty darn good too. If you're in the mood for a beer, they do carry the wallet-friendly, Tecate for a mere $2.30 along with several other Mexican imports. 

So if you're looking for a little San Fran treat, and I'm not talking about Rice a Roni, swing by Dos Toros for a taste.

Bon Appetit!

Friday, June 25, 2010

So many cookbooks!

If you're like me, you have a nice little library of cookbooks. We all have at least one cookbook spot-lighting an ingredient: The Little Book of Chicken, Gone with the Grits, The Ice Cream Book, Betty Crocker's Bisquik Cookbook. These are like the li'l cookbook that could! and proves just how many ways you can cook it.  The other type of  cookbook is the collective. This tends to be a full collection from salads, breads and main dishes all the way down to dessert written and edited by the featured cook: Bobby Flay, Julia Childs, Rachael Ray. It's a grand showcase of talent.

Unfortunately, there are normally only a handful of recipes that I consider "keepers," while the rest tend to be "filler" for the book. This can be pretty disappointing after you've spent about $30 on a cookbook and only walk away with five recipes. So it leaves you a little daunted when standing in Barnes&Nobles looking for your next purchase. 

DISTRESS NO MORE!!! If you are going to buy a cookbook, Food&Wine has published a must-have cookbook: Food & Wine: Best of the Best Cookbook. It features "the BEST RECIPES from the 25 BEST COOKBOOK of the Year" in 2009. It features all of the heavy-hitters, including the loved celebrity-chefs: Mario Batali, Giada De Laurentiis, A16, the Brass Sisters, Sur la Table and Robuchon to name a few. Below are just a few of my personal favorites so far. Bon Appetit!

Heirloom Cooking with the Brass Sisters: Arline's Swedish Meatballs with Sour Cream Sauce
Hello comfort food!!! I am immediately whisked off to a little village in Sweden where a little old lady in clogs and an apron is making hundreds of tasty meatballs by hand while sheep graze the nearby mountains and someone in the distance yodels. Yes, they are that good! It is time consuming, but this will be an addition to my holiday menu from now.

1 1/2 lb ground veal
3/4 lb ground pork
1 c finely chopped onion
3/4 c half-and-half
2 Tbsp flour
3/4 c soda cracker crumbs
3/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp butter, softened
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 white wine
1 can chicken stock
2 Tbsp flour
1 pint sour cream
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

1. Place the meat in a food processor (I had to work in batches) until smooth. ** If you have a good butcher, ask him to double-grind you're meats before leaving the store to save on time.** Add onion, half-and-half, cracker crumbs, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Process until smooth like paste. Shape into balls, about 2 Tbsp each. (If they are too sticky, wet you're hands. Also, I put mine in the fridge for about 20 min to firm up before cooking.)
2. Heat butter and oil in 2 large frying pans over medium heat, add meatballs, gently turning until evenly browned about 5-7 min. * It took me and my friend to do this *  Evenly divide white wine and chicken stock to each pan, simmer 5 min.
3. Remove pans from heat and gently move meatballs to a platter. Consolidate all juices to your largest skillet. Whisk 1/4 c of juices with the flour in a small bowl, return to pan and whisk to blend. Set pan over low heat and barely bring to a simmer. Do NOT boil! Whisk in sour cream a little at a time until smooth. * To get an even smoother cream sauce, strain it before adding the sour cream.* 
4. Return meatballs to pan and turn in sauce to coat. Once heated through, transfer to a platter and garnish with parsley. Serve with a side of mixed jelly (equal parts Strawberry jam and Grape jelly)!

A16: Tuna Conserva with Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Capers and Bread
The perfect summer salad, for lunch or even a starter. Oil-packed tuna tossed with capers, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, homemade croutons and red wine vinegar. It's tangy, salty, crunchy and absolutely delicious. If you've ever had any reservations about tuna packed in oil. TRY IT! 

1 baguette, cut into 1" cubes
3/4 c EVOO
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and cubed
1 lb vine-ripe tomatoes, cored and quartered
1 Tbsp salt-packed capers, chopped
5 basil leaves, coarsely torn
Kosher salt
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
6 oz oil-packed tuna, drained

1. Preheat the oven at 350. Toss bread with 1/2 c of EVOO, spread on a baking sheet and bake for 10 min. 
2. Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl with remaining 1/4 c of EVOO until thoroughly tossed. 
3. Before serving, gently toss in toasted bread.

A16: Roasted Chicken with Radishes and Salsa Verde
This meal makes me think of Argentina. Gather your family and friends around the table for a rustic meal with a great bottle of wine. The juicy, succulent chicken and crisp radishes surrounded in a bath of Salsa Verde that explodes like fireworks in your mouth. Pair it with a spicy Malbec or even a Rioja. 

3 Tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp aniseeds
1 tsp dried chile flakes
6 (1 lb) young chickens or 1 rotisserie chicken
Kosher salt
1 c fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 tsp salt-packed capers
1/2 c bread crumbs
1/2 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 c EVOO
2 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 bunch radishes, thinly sliced

1. With a spice grinder or mortar and pestal, grind the oregano, aniseeds and 1/2 of the chile flakes to a powder. Season the chicken's skin and cavities with about 2 Tbsp salt, followed by the spice rub. For best taste, cover and refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days. 
2. Preheat over to 500. Once chicken is brought to room temperature, roast the chicken/s on baking sheets for about 20 min, rotate at 10 min.
3.  Meanwhile, combine parsley, capers, bread crumbs, garlic and remaining chile flakes in a food processor until coarsely blended. With the food processor running, drizzle in the EVOO. Stir in the lemon juice and a pinch of salt. That's you're Salsa Verde! (Also great on steak)
4. For the radish salad, toss them with a few tablespoons of salsa verde and a little salt. 
5. To serve, arrange chicken/s on a platter, surrounded by the radish salad. Pass remaining Salsa Verde at the table. 

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Just another blog...

It's official. I'm joining the world of blogging.

Gasp! Sacre Bleu!! Holy Batman!!!

So here it is...

To chronical my misadventures and mayhem in cooking, dining and exploration throughout the world.

I vow to create devilishly, delicious dishes in my kitchen, seek out tasty morsels and thirst-quenching treats, and unearth hidden treasures from New York City and beyond! I am armed with a whisk, empty stomach and deep curiosity to discover great potential in the world. Domestic Goddess by day, Cupcakes Malone by night... watch out world, a creative genius is on the loose.

But why, you ask? Mainly, for me (hey it's a blog! You know it's self-involved). And it's a little something to share with my family and friends, who I don't get to see very often. So on that note... Enjoy!

XO Cupcakes Malone