Rosé Parade

Ooh, ooh, I was SO THRILLED to read this New York Times article this morning on rosé: "Rosé Can Bloom in Winter" by Eric Asimov.  Like most people, I too have relegated rosé to the back shelves and cupboards during the winter months.  It just seems so...summery.  

But recently, when I made Crab and Ricotta Manicotti*, I was at a loss for a wine.  Sauvignon Blanc?  Chardonnay?  So I consulted my handy-dandy WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page (really, how many more times do I have to tell you about this resource before you'll pick it up?).  And rosé was listed as a match for both crab and ricotta.  My initial thought was an eye roll - I mean, come ON, it's January.  But I didn't have anything else that matched.  So I opened up one of my go-to rosés:

Fresh Direct**.  For under $20 per bottle.  And it went exceptionally well with the manicotti dish, giving it a brightness that it definitely needed.  It was a good foil.

My other favorite rosé is the Carpineto (forgive the glimpse of leg - this was a summer picnic photo):

While the first bottle is gone, thanks to the manicotti and a night with my Soul Twin, I'm still sitting on a Carpineto left over from the summer.  Thanks to the NYT article, I'm more tempted to drink it now, rather than wait until May.  So here are what Karen and Andrew are recommending with rosé that would work for the winter months:

  • apertif and/or with canapés, especially dry rosé
  • barbecue and barbecue sauce (I definitely do some stovetop grilling in the winter - this could work)
  • beef, especially spicier dishes
  • charcuterie, especially with dry rosé
  • cheese, especially mild (I'm not sure about this one - I tend to go with the meatier, heavier, bluer cheeses in winter.  Good to keep in mind, though, in case I put together a cheese plate)
  • cold dishes, especially meat (I wonder if this includes beef carpaccio...dang, I love beef carpaccio...)
  • cranberries
  • duck 
  • eggs and egg dishes (am I the only one that reads this and thinks, "Yay!  Brunch wine!  Wine at 11 a.m. on Sunday!"  Oh...wait...I'm the only one?)
  • peanuts and peanut sauces (yummmm...)
  • pork, especially grilled or roasted
  • quiche, especially with dry rosé (more brunch thoughts...)
  • saffron
  • sandwiches, especially beef and pork
  • sausage, especially grilled
  • soup (this is the verbatim listing: "soup".  Based on the other dishes, I'm thinking something seafood-based would be ideal)
  • spicy food, especially with fuller-bodied rosé
  • turkey, especially roasted 
So fun, right?  And I don't know about all of you, but this is the time of year - damn, February - when the winter doldrums start setting in and this is exactly the sort of thing I need to brighten up the dark days.

Eat, drink, and think outside the seasonal box.

* I should note that, in WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT, they mention that cream sauces should be avoided with rosé.  But it worked with this one.  My somewhat educated guess is that it is because the crab and ricotta were really the dominant flavors, rather than the béchamel sauce.

** I bought many, many bottles of this rosé from Fresh Direct in the summer.  It's not available right now but I'm hoping that it'll come back in a couple months?


Foodie Books for Kids: ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins

Buzz, buzz, buzz...that's all I keep hearing about Stephanie Perkins' debut novel ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS (Dutton, 2011).  It's "charming", "sweet", "fun".  On a personal note, friends were recommending it to me, telling me it was "right up your alley" and "suits your tastes perfectly".  Then there was the "Laura!  It's PARIS!  FOOOD!"

I scored myself a copy (thanks to the awesome folks at Penguin) and I was sucked in the moment I started it.  Sure, there are the obvious things I loved about it: France, travel, food, love, friendship.  Of course.  But there's something more to it; this story rises above the chick-lit nature of its cover.  Here is an example:

I look down, and I'm surprised to find myself standing in the middle of a small stone circle.  In the center, directly between my feet, is a coppery-bronze octagon with a star.  Words are engraved on the stone around it: POINT ZERO DES ROUTES DE FRANCE.
"Mademoiselle Oliphant.  It translates to 'Point zero of the roads of France.'  In other words, it's the point from which all other distances in France are measured."  St. Clair clears his throat.  "It's the beginning of everything."
I look back up.  He's smiling.
"Welcome to Paris, Anna.  I'm glad you've come."

And that, in a nutshell, lies the appeal of this book.  That feeling, of starting at the beginning, isn't a teen-specific emotion; it's a human emotion.  That idea of going someplace, of starting over, is so appealing and fresh.  If you will, it's a little EAT, PRAY, LOVE.  I've always been in love with the idea that, in leaving your comfort zone, you might just find yourself.  This story is also about forgiveness, making mistakes, and being honest with yourself - and goodness knows that we could all use a little of that.  My point being that I want to urge people not to dismiss this as fluff - I felt like it had weight and substance in surprising ways and has lots of crossover appeal.

And of course there's food: it's Paris.  I knew it was going to be good when, on page 26, I read, "Said boy asks rapidly, 'Yogurt with granola and honey, soft-boiled egg, or pears on brioche?'"  Mmm...pears on brioche!  And there's a section dedicated to Girl Scout cookies that thrilled me: "Josh snatches it from him.  'Not just any cookies, my fine English fellow.  Thin Mints.'"

Once again, I find myself reading a book that I wish I had written myself.  I relished every second of it and marveled, once again, at how wonderful it is when you read the perfect book for you at the perfect moment and it all clicks and you aren't quite the same for a few days afterward.  Don't you love that, too?

What perfect books have you read at that perfect moment in your life?


Golden Globes Party

I was beside myself to watch the Golden Globes this year; somehow, I've missed it the last couple years thanks to travel and work.  And even better that Mr. and Mrs. Soul Twin were going to be here to watch with us!

The first order of business, of course, was to decide our menu and, since Soul Twin had yet to read through Ina Garten's new one BAREFOOT CONTESSA: HOW EASY IS THAT?, it seemed we chose most of our recipes from there.  Here was the menu:
We also got the ingredients for Ina's Fresh Salmon Tartare but, unfortunately, in all the hubbub we forget to even make it.  Which worked out fine because BELIEVE ME this was more than enough food.  The photos:

We ate on our new plates that my mom got me for Christmas: faaaabulous NYC dishes with all the important monuments around the rim.  And we poured lots of bubbly:

The awards were a hoot, as usual, and...I have to confess...I adored Ricky Gervais.  I mean, if you can't laugh at yourself, then who can you laugh at?  And I hear that Anne Hathaway and James Franco have been tapped to host the Oscars?  Wha....huh?!  

And the fashion...oh, the fashion!  My initial favorite was this one (all Golden Globe photos from one of my favorite blogs, Go Fug Yourself):

 But then she showed off her shoes and I about died:

Um, anyone agree that they DON'T MATCH?!  Soul Twin and I had a few choice words to say when Olivia Wilde showed these things off.  So then my fave was this:

On a red carpet doused in mourning black, I found Claire Danes to be refreshing, age-appropriate, and well-fitted.  Completely classy.

Eat, drink, and throw themed dinner parties.


Soul Twin

This is just a teaser:

Soul Twin visited this past weekend and we decided it would be FAAAABULOUS to dress up for the Golden Globes and eat amazing food.  And drink lots of bubbly.

More photos and recipes to come!

Eat, drink, and be FAAAABULOUS!

Crab and Ricotta Manicotti

As mentioned previously, I have hundreds of recipes saved up and, in particular, I have dozens of bookmarked recipes from all the blogs I read.  One of those recipes is Crab and Ricotta Manicotti from Confections of a Foodie Bride, which I've been hanging onto for two years.

See my previous post for all my woes about trying to find Manicotti noodles; in summation, I couldn't find ANY.  So I substituted small square lasagna noodles that I found at Eli's Manhattan:

 The crab, ricotta, egg, Parmesan, herb mixture:

Here is how it looked while rolling them up:

And the finished product - the crab and ricotta mixture in the noodles, baked in bechamel sauce:

The lasagna noodles worked seamlessly in the dish - at least the ones I used - I don't know that I could guarantee that result with every lasagna noodle brand.  I stuffed it very generously, which I'd recommend highly.  I encourage you to play around with the recipe: it was rich and creamy but Adam and I found ourselves wishing for some heat, some warmth.  Next time I make it (and there will be a next time), I plan on adding cayenne or Old Bay seasoning.  But I definitely feel like it needed another level of flavor.

I also consulted THE FLAVOR BIBLE by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page for some inspiration.  Under "crab", I got some other flavor ideas that could work in this dish: chives, scallions, saffron, Tabasco, balsamic.  All might work here.

But this is why I love this dish and why I'm likely to try it again: it leaves lots of room for interpretation and improvisation.  My favorite!  And if that weren't enough, per Shawnda's blog post, I froze a portion of the dish so it's on deck for a meal this week or next.  Which is a working parent's get-out-of-jail-free card!

Eat, drink, and get creative!


Is Manicotti Passé?

Tonight I'm making Crab and Ricotta Manicotti for dinner, courtesy of Confections of a Foodie Bride.  I have saved the recipe for a very long time (two years!) and I'm finally going to give it a spin.

I used Manicotti with some regularity when Adam and I first got married.  I had a (very loose) recipe that a friend taught me in high school: it basically consisted of stuffing ricotta, grated mozzarella, salt, and pepper into uncooked Manicotti shells.  Place in glass baking dish.  Cover entirely with jarred pasta sauce - seriously, douse it.  Grate lots more mozzarella over it (to taste).  Cover with foil, bake until cooked through.  I couldn't tell you the temperature or timing, as it's been years since I have used this "recipe."  I'm guessing 375 degrees for 45 minutes.

But those days are long gone and now I find myself looking for Manicotti shells for this recipe.  Wouldn't think it would be so hard, would you?  But it has been for me.  Adam looked at Chelsea Market (at both Buon Italia and Manhattan Fruit Exchange) and came up with nothing.  I looked online at Fresh Direct - no luck.  I looked at Eli's Manhattan to no avail.  So I got desperate and, at Eli's, picked up flat lasagna noodles and figured I could wrap them up - almost like pasta spring rolls.

So what's the deal?  Is Manicotti passé?  Is the fancy-shmancy stores I'm shopping at?

All that searching and I probably would have been better off going directly to the closest store in my neighborhood, otherwise known to me as one of the most utter crap grocery stores I've ever known: Key Food.  Wouldn't that be ironic?

Eat, drink, and improvise.


California Food Love

I'm back from ALA Midwinter and so thrilled - I feel like the holidays and this conference have taken away so much of my free time.  I'm so ready to enjoy some food and time with my family!

I did have a truly awesome food moment at the conference: Liz Burns who blogs at A Chair, A Fireplace, and A Tea Cozy and Angie Manfredi (who blogs at Fat Girl Reading) stopped by the booth and told me they were going to In-N-Out, the greatest  fast food burger joint ever (as far as I'm concerned).  The California Girl in me oohed and aahed, and Liz and Angie were so affected by my food geekdom that they offered to bring some back for me.  One $40 round-trip taxi ride to In-N-Out later, and here is me gushing over my animal-style cheeseburger and cheese fries:

Amazing.  An absolute highlight for me.  It reassured me that, even though I live across the country, the things I love about home are still within reach.

Eat, drink, and get by with a little help from my friends (thanks, Liz and Angie!)



Come Wednesday, I'll be flying to San Diego for the ALA Midwinter Meeting, and I'm trying really hard not to be bitter about the fact that I was just in California five days ago to visit my family*.  I can hardly believe I'm heading back to the West Coast again.  Which is one reason why this New Year's weekend has been so important to me: I have such a strong sense of homebody-ness.  I have spent the last three days really hunkering down and enjoying my own little home here in NYC, spending time with Adam and Bug.

The craziness aside, it is during weeks like this when menu planning becomes even more of a priority to me.  It's more than food - it also assures me that Adam and Bug will eat well in my absence and that there is a certain amount of order in a chaotic world.  I mean, when the going gets tough, the tough eat good food, right?:

 Monday: Oatmeal with Apples, Brioche Toast.  Breakfast for dinner?  Absolutely.  This recipe is one of my favorites from French Women Don't Get Fat - the apples make it even heartier and more fulfilling, not to mention that they lend a brightness to the oatmeal.  I'm stressed and tired before a conference...yet this makes me feel like I've still provided a comforting, satisfying meal to myself and my family.

Tuesday: Creamy Parmesan Polenta with Brussels Sprouts.  I use Ina Garten's new recipe for the polenta and Nigel Slater's uber-easy recipe for the Brussels sprouts.  This dinner will truly take me only 30 minutes to put together...but the rewards are endless: it's the culinary equivalent of a working brick fireplace in my apartment.

Wednesday: Nachos.  Guess who is now in San Diego...  This is Adam and Bug's table now.  Chips, cheese, black beans, olives, salsa, sour cream.  Naturally, everything is organic-y.

Thursday: Grilled Prosciutto and Cheese.  Again, I'm gone.  I added prosciutto to make it resemble something delicious and uptown.  Does it help that they'll be making the sandwiches with Comte and Fontina?

Friday: I leave them to their own devices.  It's either Breakfast (eggs, potatoes, bacon, toast) or they'll go out.  I'll be busy stacking up books in the booth, waiting for the two hours of madness that is the conference's "opening reception".

The comfort food theme began tonight with Cabbage and Straw, one of my favorite winter pasta meals.  It comes from Rachael Ray's magazine, in which she says "I cannot successfully transition from summer to fall without eating this Italian classic".  But don't listen to her.  This is too hearty to be a summer/fall transitional dish - it's winter through and through.

Adapted from Rachael Ray

2 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
9 oz. fresh fettuccine or pappardelle pasta (not dried)
1/2 large head Savoy cabbage - quartered, cored, and shredded
1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter
6 garlic cloves - smashed, skins removed, cloves quartered
20 fresh sage leaves, 10 whole and 10 thinly sliced
1 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1 1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of water to a boil; salt it.  Add the potatoes and cook for 7 minutes.  Add the cabbage to the same pot and cook for 3 minutes.  Add pasta and cook for 2 minutes (fresh pasta needs to be cooked for much less time than dried, which is why I altered Ray's recipe).

While the potatoes and pasta are cooking, melt the butter in a large, deep skillet (I used non-stick) over medium heat.  Add the garlic and whole sage leaves.  Cook until the sage is crisp, 3-4 minutes.  Remove the garlic and sage leaves to a small plate.

Add the sliced sage and pepper to the skillet; just before draining the potatoes, pasta, and cabbage, add 2 ladles of the starchy cooking water.

Drain the potatoes, pasta, and cabbage and add to the skillet.  Stir it all together, adding the Parmesan as you work to get a cheesy, buttery coating.  Adjust the salt and garnish the pasta with the reserved whole sage leaves and garlic.

I drank a cheap but satisfying wine with it - Odfjell Babor Cabernet Sauvignon - and Adam really liked his Brooklyn Brewery Winter Lager pairing.

My point is that, even when you have no time, even when you're not home, planning balanced and satisfying meals is entirely possible.

Eat, drink, and make good food a priority.

* Oh, how I wish that I could have stayed there and just worked from my parents' house! 



Working on this blog for the last 2+ years has greatly increased my awareness of and knowledge of photography.  But, truth be known, I'm more confused and overwhelmed than ever!  It's a big, wide world of cameras out there!

I started with a point-and-shoot, a Panasonic Lumix.  Now I have my Canon Rebel Xsi, which I adore.  But even now, a year after buying the Rebel, I'm already getting itchy for more.  We've added a zoom lens to our equipment and we're saving up for a macro lens.  I also want some filters and a dimmable flash.  

I also added Photoshop to my list of wants.  And I got it for Christmas, thanks to MC (my mother-in-law).  A friend of hers knows a photographer, and MC went to him for advice.  He randomly pulled an image from my blog and did a quick touch-up using his own Photoshop.  Here is the Before picture:

And here is After:

Big difference, right?  Sure, it's brighter in general, but he also brought out the blue of the plate and the yellow in the cheese.  And I'm guessing that even more could be done; for instance, I would love to get rid of the red folder in the background.  What the heck is that doing there?!

So I'll be playing with Photoshop in the months to come - can't wait!  Also, thanks to this photographer friend, I've added round reflector disks and a hand-held strobe to my growing list of wants.  

Now all I need is a super cute camera bag to hold it all in.  I particularly like this one:

Because we all know it's about the accessories, right?

Eat, drink, and continually learn.