Monday, November 30, 2009

Poll of the Week - 11.30.2009

Christmas decorations seem to appear as soon as we take the turkey out of the oven on Thanksgiving (if not sooner!), and it’s hard to walk past a vacant lot now that isn’t selling Christmas trees, or a store window that isn’t covered in snowflakes, reindeer, and pictures of Santa Claus. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, the celebration of “Christmastime” can be tough to escape - but it’s hard to be irked by all-Christmas radio stations and dancing snowmen lawn ornaments when there are so many good foods to be had! From gingerbread men to peppermint ice cream to standing rib roast, this season has something incredible to offer  everyone.

It may be hard to look ahead to the next holiday while still trying to use up Thanksgiving’s leftovers, but this week’s “Poll of the Week” should help get you in the mood to start planning your holiday party - Little Scarlet wants to know what’s your favorite Yuletide drink?

Don’t forget to leave a Comment below about your favorite “Christmastime” food tradition!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Porchetta – 7th St & Avenue A

110 East 7th St.

Barbecue may finally be losing its hold over New York’s dining scene, but the city’s demand for pork is as fervent as ever. This porcine love affair is perhaps nowhere more evident than at Porchetta, Sara Jenkins’ small, East Village take-out joint. Here, the humble pig dominates the menu, and the result is a blissfully indulgent treat for the eyes, nose, and stomach.

Porchetta, a Roman staple often referred to as slow-cooked Italian “fast food” (and here, the restaurant’s namesake), is highly flavorful, well-seasoned roasted pork with a crisp, chewy skin. Jenkins shows her brilliance by wrapping pork loins in pork bellies, and then vigorously seasoning them with a mixture of wild fennel pollen, thyme, rosemary, garlic, sage, salt, and pepper. After hours spent roasting in the oven, the smells of roast pork spill out into the street, luring you in to devour meat that is melt-in-your-mouth tender with a honey-colored crackling of skin - perfect for delighting the tongue and breaking the teeth.

Porchetta owes its strength and devoted following to the simplicity of its eight-item menu: porchetta, a soup of the day, an assortment of sides, and a mozzarella-and-tomato sandwich (I guess vegetarians have to eat too, right?). Don’t forget to notice the “daily special” side dish taped to the register - it’s worth catching for its fresh, seasonal ingredients, which on a recent visit included a wonderful spinach salad with beets and goat cheese.

As long as Porchetta keeps making their sandwiches (shown above), cardiologists will always be in demand!

The porchetta is served either on a plate with sides of beans and wilted, garlicky greens or on a Sullivan Street Bakery ciabatta roll, with bits of cracklings sprinkled in amongst unbelievably succulent pieces of pork. This porchetta sandwich is so juicy that the pork’s drippings soak right through the sandwich’s double-layered wrapping of tin foil and brown paper!

Crispy potatoes and burnt ends – try to order these earlier in the day if possible, before the burnt ends have a chance to dry out.

Porchetta’s crispy potatoes and burnt ends is the perfect accompaniment to their porchetta sandwich. Quartered gold creamer potatoes are glazed with a thin coating of pork fat, sprinkled with kosher salt, and roasted until the potatoes’ crispy skins yields soft, creamy insides. In case you hadn’t had your fill of pork yet, the roasted pork’s burnt ends are then added to the potatoes, for a little extra fatty crunch.

The only way to recover from a visit to Porchetta is with a long walk and a longer nap. Be sure to pick up a frequent buyer’s card on your way out the door - you’ll be back!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Poll of the Week - 11.23.2009

You can tell Thanksgiving is just around the corner because lines at the market are really starting to wrap around the aisles!  Whether you’re the kind of cook who has ordered the organic, free-range Bourbon Red turkey weeks ago (like from Princeton’s Griggstown Quail Farm and Market!) or the kind of cook who hasn’t really given thought to the menu yet, this week is full of trips to the grocery store and a million other last-minute errands.  All that time spent in line and in the kitchen comes to a head on Thursday, when we revel in the bounty of the season and celebrate what we’re thankful for.

Little Scarlet has many things to be thankful for (like food - especially since it’s responsible for Little Scarlet’s very existence!), but a good meal is about so much more than good food - it’s about good company. Some of my favorite Thanksgiving memories have not been of the dinner table at all, actually.  My mom always mans the oven and record player simultaneously, while yelling at my sister for sneaking bits (okay, handfuls) of hot stuffing out of the pan before dinner.  My other sister drinks Virgin Blood Marys all morning, and we tell her that no one should drink that much V8, which only makes her laugh and pour another one (gross!).  And the next day, my dad makes everyone his “famous” turkey club sandwiches - the “famous” part is self-proclaimed, but they are delicious!

Everyone celebrates Thanksgiving a different way and Little Scarlet wants to know what’s your favorite part of this holiday?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Poll of the Week - 11.16.2009

Is anyone else having a hard time believing that Thanksgiving is next week? It seems like time is just flying by, but, as with any holiday centered around food, you simply can’t start planning the holiday menu early enough. Last week’s Dining section of The New York Times covered the oldest of Thanksgiving questions: is Thanksgiving all about the bird, or do people really only care about the sides?

Little Scarlet loves quality and variety above all else, making it hard to ignore the dazzling array of side dishes that Thanksgiving brings. A Thanksgiving spread certainly needs a turkey, but it would a hollow sort of affair without stuffing, two kinds of potatoes (mashed regular & sweet!), and a rotating assembly of roasted vegetables. This week’s “Poll of the Week” wants to jump start your menu planning - what is your favorite Thanksgiving side dish?

(some might argue that gravy & cranberry sauce are not really true side dishes, but I challenge any of you to enjoy your turkey without them!)

Of course, there are plenty more Thanksgiving traditions (what would we do without pies?), so write in and tell Little Scarlet about your favorite part of Thanksgiving!

**update** - Sam Sifton (Frank Bruni’s replacement over at The New York Times) says he thinks that “the two most important factors in any credible Thanksgiving feast are the cranberry sauce and the gravy”. Stuffing may have won this week’s poll in a landslide, but gravy and cranberry sauce are not to be forgotten!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Poll of the Week - 11.9.2009

Breakfast and lunch can be separated by as many as three different and distinct meals: second breakfast (loved by Bavarians, and served at 10:30), elevenses (served at 11:00, and adored by such characters as Paddington Bear and Winnie the Pooh), and brunch. Of these three meals, only brunch has really caught on in America, and it has become the perfect excuse to indulge in breakfast foods after noon.  Sunday Brunch is especially popular, and is well loved by girlfriends sharing gossip, mothers and their doting children, and hungover twenty-somethings recovering from the weekend’s activities.

In this week’s “Poll of the Week”, Little Scarlet asks what is your favorite brunch food?

One of the best things about brunch is that even with these basic menu items, there can be such great variety: pancakes are loaded full of blueberries or chocolate chips, Eggs Benedict’s delicate, poached eggs rest on top of crisp, salty Canadian bacon or sweet, succulent lobster, and an omelette’s filling is limited only by the chef’s imagination! Tell Little Scarlet the best way to eat your favorite brunch food in the Comments section, below!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Yonah Schimmel’s Knishes Bakery - Houston St & Forsyth St

Yonah Schimmel’s Knishes Bakery
137 Houston St.

No trip to Manhattan’s Lower East Side is complete without a visit to Yonah Schimmel’s, the birthplace of New York City’s original Jewish knish. Yonah Schimmel’s Knishes Bakery has been in the same location since 1910, and serves potato latkes and noodle kugel along with their collection of historic knishes. Yonah Schimmel’s knishery sells standard varieties of savory knishes (mushroom, spinach, sweet potato, red cabbage, etc.) and dessert knishes (filled with fruit and cheese), as well as “modernized” daily specials like garlic-onion and “pizza” knishes.

Most New Yorkers are familiar with street vendor knishes, but those sad, tired squares of over-worked dough and instant mashed potatoes give knishes everywhere a bad name. Yonah Schimmel’s serves up fluffy, handmade mashed potatoes baked inside of a flaky, piping hot crust. All those potatoes can sit heavy in your stomach, though, so one knish should be plenty for lunch or an on-the-go afternoon snack - a dab of spicy brown mustard livens things up if you’re looking for a little extra kick.

Spinach knish

Mushroom knish

These knishes are roughly the size of softballs and, at $3.50 each, are an outrageous steal. And if you want to truly indulge in the best Jewish food the Lower East Side has to offer, infamous Katz’s deli is just four blocks east along Houston St!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

NYC Dumpling Festival - Sara Delano Roosevelt Park

NYC Dumpling Festival
Sara Delano Roosevelt Park, Houston Street b/w Forsyth St. & Chrystie St.

New York’s annual dumpling eating contest has gained such popularity over the last six years it has given way to the first annual NYC Dumpling Festival. Organized by the New York City Food Bank, over a thousand people flocked to Sara Delano Roosevelt Park two weekends ago to sample dumplings from all over the world.

These dumplings went fast, with all but two of the dumplings selling out only about a third of the way through!

The world’s largest whole-wheat dumpling (prepared by Chef One).  Stuffed with 945 regular dumplings’ worth of filling, this massive dumpling weighs in at 768 lbs.

Dumpling lovers lined up for gnocchi (Italy) and bao (China).  Other featured dumplings include tamales (Mexico), palitaw (Philippines), kuih koci (Malaysia), idli (India), and pierogi (Poland).

Be on the lookout for next year’s festival (all proceeds will benefit the Food Bank for New York City).

Monday, November 2, 2009

Poll of the Week - 11.02.2009

While autumn seems to make everyone crave apples and pumpkins in every conceivable variation (apple cider, pumpkin soup, apple pie and pumpkin pie...), I always look forward to those giant bins of mixed nuts you find at the market around this time of year. Summer’s lobster crackers find a new use cracking open slightly sweet hazelnuts and rich, meaty Brazil nuts. A bowl of uncracked mixed nuts and good conversation is the perfect way to pass one of November’s many cold and rainy afternoons.

Image belongs to blogger “Wendy Usually Wanders”

This week’s “Poll of the Week” asks what is your favorite kind of nut?

If you have any good nut recipes (desserts, soups, or what-have-you), I’d love to hear about it in the Comments section!