Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Restaurant Review: Fig & Olive

When Jamie decided to delay his business trip one more day just to hang out with me last night, I knew an impromptu Restaurant Week date was in order. Instead of playing the usual "where do you want to go?" back and forth game, I texted him a time and a place. Fig & Olive, nice and close to home, and I have wanted to try it for such a long time (you know, all four years of living on the Upper East Side). Plus, it's on the FGF 101 in 1001 list, so it seemed like an extra efficient choice!

The atmosphere of the restaurant was nice, not too loud, perfect lighting, and we weren't seated too closely to our neighbors - all great things by NYC standards.

We started off with a bottle of pinot noir, and since we were afraid that the Restaurant Week portions might be very small, we also ordered a cheese board to start. The board was one of the best I've had - just the right amount and variety of cheese, bread, almonds and jams (fig, apricot) to start a meal.

Of the Restaurant Week options, I chose to start with truffle mushroom croquettes, per a strong recommendation from our waiter. He was spot on, they were perfect. Just the right amount of truffle and cheese, so savory.

My main was the primavera lobster risotto, which was generous in portion, and very rich. The veggies tasted so fresh, and the risotto texture and flavors were spot on. The "lobster tail" was a bit tiny, but I think that the portion is larger on the normal menu, and the risotto itself was so good that I didn't mind at all.

For dessert we shared both options (a cherry, mascarpone, pistachio "dessert crostini" and a "chocolate pot" with crunchy praline financiers & vanilla cream), of which we agreed the chocolate pot was the better choice. Smooth, creamy, chocolatey... the best way to end the meal.

Fig & Olive was a great Restaurant Week choice - I think we had an excellent sampling of their menu, and I don't think we even needed to order the cheese plate. That said, with our add-ons (the wine and cheese), the bill did wind up being way more than we'd like to spend on a random Monday night. There is only one more week of Restaurant Week, so I recommend getting in on this prix fix while you still can.

Next up for Alycia and me? Le Cirque with some girlfriends this Thursday...stay tuned!

See this review on Yelp!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Hearty Chopped Winter Salad

So we're past January when the gym is taken over by everyone seeking to tackle their New Year's resolutions, but it's still winter, and most of us are still recovering from the long, gluttonous holiday that was really only a short 1-2 months ago now that we're in February.  Now that I'm suddenly looking forward to a Spring vacation (which means not only beach, but bathing suits!!) it's made me think about my eating habits now vs. in the warmer months -- and it's clear to me that a major difference in my daily menu is one thing: salads.

I simply just do not eat enough of the green stuff as a full meal in the winter.  Maybe because the Winter makes you want warm things like (typically super-salty) soups, or heartier meals (read: fatty/carby) to keep you warm, and you tend to hibernate at home more (less active), you stay warm.

Salads tend to be cold.  However, this past weekend, I continued to hibernate in my apartment but this left me to my own devices in order to whip up a nice, hearty, warm (enough) salad to help transform my less-helpful Winter eating habits and take a few cues from my lighter, healthier menu in the summer months.

Enter: Hearty Chopped Winter Salad.

Ingredients (this can totally be varied depending on what's in your cupboard/fridge!):
- Antibiotic-free chicken
- Organic greens, chopped
- walnuts
- dried cranberries
- chopped beets
- chopped red onion
- grilled cauliflower
- cubed apple
- garnish of freshly shaved parmesan cheese
- side of whole wheat cranberry walnut bread (optional -- my FAV from my local bakery :-)

I started with dark, organic greens (purchased a mix of swiss chard, kale and spinach) and added a mix of sweet & savory topped with warm seared cauliflower and protein-rich antibiotic-free chicken.

It really is as easy as just cooking, chopping and tossing it all together -- but I think a few small techniques helped to enhance the flavor a bit too:

1. Chicken: pounded thin, doused in olive oil, lemon, salt & pepper to taste.  This simple marinade and act of tenderizing the chicken a bit more really helps to make the protein just a tad tastier and really moist when cooked all the way through.

2. Cauliflower: I had about 1/4 of a head left.  I never think of grilling/sautéing this veggie until I realized I had some leftover to use.  After cutting as if it was a loaf of bread, just 1-inch slices, adding some EVOO, salt & pepper to taste, it really came out as a super yummy semi-crunchy addition after cooking it al dente.  I will DEFINITELY be adding cauliflower cooked this way to future dishes, it really transforms the veggie like you wouldn't believe, yum!!

As mentioned -- just chop, toss (with a little EVOO, salt & pepper as dressing) and enjoy!

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Bourgeois Pig - A Girl's Best Friend

Allow me to crawl out of my food coma to tell you about the Bourgeois Pig. 

Nestled in the center of one of my favorite city blocks, among grab-and-go greats like Luke's Lobster, Porchetta and Caracas Arepa Bar, is a haven for the Holy Trinity of foods to live for: wine, cheese and chocolate. 

You may miss it if you don't know what you're looking for, so take note: the front is reminiscent of a castle with large white stones and wooden window shutters, framed by red torch-style lights, with just a chalkboard marking the entrance. Enter through the red velvet curtain into a dimly-lit room of Victorian style couches and chaise lounges surrounding small tables with marble tops.

Alycia, our friend Iris and I got cozy on some of the couches and ordered the Provence champagne punch. The flavors were perfect. Alycia said it tasted like Summer and Winter at the same time. Don't ask me what that means, but I was inclined to agree (maybe the bubbles went straight to my head).

For fondue, we had the lobster bisque. Now please understand, this was my first fondue experience so I have nothing to hold it against, but this bisque was perfection. Lobster and shrimp broths with melted cheddar and a little spicy kick. It was served with assorted roasted vegetables (potatoes, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, artichoke hearts) and bread points. The fondue itself had chunks of shrimp and lobster in it, which came in handy when we ran out of dippers.

We finished with room for dessert, and decided on the 50/50 fondue, with white and dark chocolates. The dessert portion was extremely generous and included bananas, strawberries, raspberries, two kinds of cake (I think lemon loaf and chocolate banana bread), grapes and apples.The white chocolate was my favorite, flavored with edelflower and lemon zest. When we were near finished the waitress (who was lovely, by the way), brought us spoons "to get at the bottom" of the fondue. We didn't think we would attempt this, but suddenly found ourselves spooning addictively at the pound cake that divided the two chocolates.

We will be back.

Pro tip: arrive early. We came during a little snow-storm and the place was empty at 6:30, but completely packed by the time we left a few hours later. I can't imagine what a normal evening is like.

Read this review on Yelp!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Plan-ahead Breakfast Casserole

Let's be real, hangovers are not really something that you plan for -- unless you're expecting two guy friends to crash at your place the Saturday night of your husband's late-night birthday bash.  This all happened last weekend, and since I was given enough notice, I did us ALL a favor and made: Plan-ahead Breakfast Casserole.  Healthy whole-grain carbs, an array of flavorful veggies with organic eggs and yummy italian cheeses to hold it all together.  Paired with a healthy fruit salad and you have the perfect hangover cure.  The best part is that you can put it all together the day before and so all you have to do is pop it in the oven the next morning!

Ingredients (though you can totally change this up and use any combos you want!):
- olive oil
- onion
- prosciutto
- portobello mushrooms, sliced
- 1 loaf multigrain ciabatta, cubed (about 8 cups)
- 9 large eggs
- 2 cups milk
- salt
- black pepper
- 1/4 tsp dry mustard
- 1 package italian shredded cheeses
- handful sundried tomatos
- 1-2 cups thawed/cooked frozen spinach
- 5-6 sprigs of fresh basil

Instructions (day-before!):
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add onions and cook until translucent, transfer to large bowl for mixing with the other ingredients.  Cook portobellas thoroughly and add to mixing bowl. Chop all remaining dry veggie/meat ingredients and combine all-together in bowl.

- In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, salt pepper and dry mustard.

- Spray a 9x13 baking dish with oil.  Add half of the cubed bread.

- Top with mixture and sprinkle evenly with cheese, add remaining bread cubes to the top.  Pour egg mixture over the entire dish and press down with hands or a large spoon on the bread gently to make sure everything is coated.

- Put casserole in the fridge overnight to allow the bread to absorb the egg mixture.

- Preheat oven to 350F.  Bake the dish, uncovered, for 50-60min or until puffed and golden.  Let stand 5min before serving

1/4 tray of the final product.
Bad news: completely missed the opportunity to take a better photo while in a hangover-stuper.
Good news: post-casserole I felt like a new person!

Enjoy! :-)