Sunday, January 31, 2010

BaoHaus - Rivington & Norfolk Sts

137 Rivington St

You’re roaming around the Lower East Side, you’re hungry, it’s late, and the last thing you want is another bad piece of pizza. Lucky for you, the gua bao at BaoHaus (open Fridays & Saturdays until 2 am) is just what you need!

Eddie Huang’s gua bao are steamed Taiwanese buns filled with skirt steak, pork belly, or pan-fried tofu, along with crushed peanuts, cilantro, pickled mustard greens, Taiwanese red sugar, and BaoHaus’s special Haus Relish.

The owner, Eddie (first name basis, please!), is working behind the counter and chatting up the customers as they come in, offering advice on which bao to try and whether you want fatty or lean meat. Definitely make sure you strike up a conversation with Eddie - he has great restaurant tips to pass along and loves talking about food.

Eddie lets *Little Scarlet* take a peek around the kitchen

Eddie’s Chinese heritage and Southern upbringing are both on display here from boiled peanuts (a staple snack of the South) to the pickled mustard greens that top all of BaoHaus’s bao to the cherry cola used to braise the Chairman Bao’s pork belly. Baos are priced two to an order, but a “Straight Frush” (any three baos, an order of bao fries, and a cup of boiled peanuts) is the way to go if you want to try everything - and you definitely should!

The bao fries are like Asian French toast sticks - slices of sweet, bao dough are lightly fried and drizzled with an addictive sesame sauce.

Bao fries and sweet, sesame sauce

Eddie’s Haus Bao is the same recipe he debuted on Food Network’s Ultimate Recipe Showdown (episode airing March 21, 2010). Angus skirt steak is red-cooked until it’s so tender it almost melts in your mouth, and is given a spicy-sweet flavor from reduced moutai (Chinese firewater). This Asian barbecue-flavored beef is then served on a folded, steamed bun.

Haus bao

The Chairman Bao is stuffed with Niman Ranch pork belly that has been braised low-and-slow, melting the ribbon of fat that tops each slice. All this is complemented nicely by that same refreshing combination of crushed peanut, pickled mustard greens, and cilantro.

Eddie gives a nod to his Southern roots by using cherry cola to tenderize Chairman Bao’s pork belly

Tofu has to be something pretty spectacular to capture the interest of Little Scarlet, and the pan-fried squares of the Uncle Jesse fit the bill. Coated in sweet potato starch before being fried, the tofu is firm and silken, and really holds the flavor of the Haus sauce well.

The Uncle Jesse is not named for the “Full House” character, but rather for Eddie’s vegetarian friend, musician Jesse Hofrichter.

If you’ve never had boiled peanuts before, they are not to be passed up. Boiled peanuts are soft and meaty, unlike the hard, crunchy, dry-roasted variety that fills serving dishes all over New York’s bars. This favorite Southern snack gets an Asian twist from being boiled in rice vinegar.

Don’t be surprised - these boiled peanuts are hot and delicious!

Whether you live on the Lower East Side or it’s your favorite late-night haunt, Eddie Huang and his bao are about to become your new best friends – so be sure to visit often!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Poll of the Week - 1.25.2010

As my loyal readers already know, this past weekend, Little Scarlet was lucky enough to participate in Foodbuzz’s “24, 24, 24” program – that’s 24 Meals in 24 Hours on 24 Posts. Little Scarlet embarked upon a culinary journey to the land of the Midnight Sun (aka “Sweden”), and was met with great success!

Today’s “Poll of the Week” involves a little bit of shameless self-promotion (follow Little Scarlet on Twitter! add Little Scarlet to your RSS feeds!). If you read yesterday’s post about Saturday’s Swedish Smörgåsbord, you’ll see that there were lots of different recipes used. Today’s poll asks, of the dishes prepared during Little Scarlet’s Swedish Smörgåsbord, which are you most eager to try for yourself?

Links (of course!) to all recipes are posted here:

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Skål! a Swedish Smörgåsbord

For January’s “24, 24, 24” program, I present to you all a traditional Swedish smörgåsbord in honor of A Little Night Music’s current revival on Broadway!

A traditional Swedish smörgåsbord is a buffet of bread, cheese, cold soup and fish dishes, and a number of hot dishes, so our Saturday Smörgåsbord menu had the following courses (click links below for recipes!):

Looking over the menu I’d created for Saturday’s smörgåsbord, I realized that I had never cooked any of these dishes before. Had I gotten in over my head? Was this going to be a huge disaster?

Luckily, everything was surprisingly simple to make and delicious to eat!

Just a few of the ingredients purchased that morning for Saturday’s Swedish smörgåsbord.

Most of the ingredients were easy to find. The wonderful, knowledgeable butchers at Ottomanelli & Sons had plenty of roasting ducks for me to choose from, and even had time to answer a few questions about scoring the skin and properly rendering the fat.

The ammonium carbonate for the drommar cookies, however, was impossible to get a hold of. The folks over at Epicurious claim that your pharmacist can prepare ammonium carbonate for you, but I got ridiculed off the phone by the people at “the nation’s oldest apothecary” (aka “C.O. Bigelow”) – if the nation’s oldest apothecary can’t help you, who can? After follow-up calls to Whole Foods, Dean and Deluca, and a desperate plea to Rite Aid fell flat, I called C.O. Bigelow one more time, and this time they said they could help me! Which would have been great, if it were true. But they only had liquid smelling salts and a deodorant made from ammonium-something-or-other (“It’s all natural, you can just shave off pieces and bake with that!”) - no thank you, Bigelow. After popping into a few other specialty grocery stores in the West Village, I had to settle on using baking powder and just hope for the best.

For a dinner party starting at 5h00 Saturday afternoon, cooking started six hours earlier at 11 am. I had a wonderful helper in the kitchen, who was kind enough to let me put him to work prepping various ingredients, taking pictures, and providing second opinions on these foreign recipes.

Limpa bread

The first thing made was the limpa bread dough, which needed a lot more flour than the original recipe implied would be necessary. While that dough was rising, I made the cookie dough (which went into the refrigerator to chill) and then started the blueberry soup, which would need to chill for several hours. The original soup recipe called for twice the amount of sugar I used, but any more sugar would have turned this refreshing soup into puréed blueberry pie-filling!

**Note**: Make sure you remember an apron for the soup’s puréeing step! Blueberries leave some serious stains, as the sleeve of my formerly-favorite blouse can attest.

Blueberries, lemon, cinnamon, and sugar simmer to make the blueberry soup
The soup went into the refrigerator to chill, and once the dough was ready, I split it into two loaves and put them in the oven for about an hour.

After a quick break for lunch, the cookie dough was properly chilled and it was time to bake the cookies (5 dozen cookies?? thank goodness for office-mates!) and then start on the cabbage to go with the duck.

Preparations for wine-braised cabbage

The purple and orange of the red cabbage and oranges looked so pretty when it was just starting to cook, and then after about 90 minutes on the stovetop, it cooked down to a deep, jewel-toned purple and the original orange slices had practically disappeared.

Because of a timing mistake, the meatballs had to be cooked during the first 20 minutes of the duck’s roasting time, but I don’t think it hurt either dish. While the meatballs were baking, it was time to create the Swedish gravy-sauce - once the meatballs had cooked, they went right into the saucepot to stay warm on the stove until they were ready to be served.

During this last flurry of activity, guests started to arrive, so while I was whisking the Swedish gravy-sauce and stirring the cabbage, my “sous chef” was busy helping to slice bread, set out cheese, and make the gravlax appetizers.

Limpa bread, with goat’s milk butter
“Wow, you can really taste the orange in here - it’s a symphony of flavor!” (apparently that’s how they talk in Canada...)

The gravlax was cured by Citarella, with juniper berries and a generous dose of dill. A thin slice of gravlax was placed on top of a cocktail pumpernickel square spread with cream cheese, and topped with a few capers.

Gravlax on pumpernickel, with cream cheese and capers
“I don’t really like salmon, but this doesn’t taste fishy at all - I think it’s the dill, it tastes so fresh!”

Finally, the only thing that still needed work was the duck in the oven, so we let that keep roasting and sat down to the blueberry soup.

Blueberry soup, topped with a dollop of Greek yoghurt.
“The lemon in this reminds me of a lemon verbena syrup I had once in Ireland - it tastes like summer!”

The blueberry soup was so different from anything I’d had before. Light and refreshing, with a ton of flavor from the blueberries and lemon, there’s also a little dash of warmth that comes through from the cinnamon sticks that simmered in the broth.

Swedish meatballs
“These meatballs have a lot of breadcrumbs in them - it's great for soaking up the Swedish gravy-sauce.”

After we finished the soup, we moved on to the Swedish meatballs, followed by a celebratory shot of Aquavit! The group had mixed feelings about Aquavit, a vodka-like liquor flavored with caraway seeds - one person loved it so much he added some to his serving of glögg (Swedish mulled wine), but another guest could barely keep hers down.

As people recovered from their Aquavit consumption (“Skål!”), it was time to take the duck out of the oven, pour off the fat, and make the prune-red wine reduction sauce using the leftover pan drippings.

Roast duck with prune-wine reduction sauce and wine-braised cabbage
“I love this prune sauce - is it weird that I kind of want to pour it over cake and vanilla ice cream?” (Maybe, but it did taste really good!)

The duck was very tender, and made a perfect bite when joined on a fork by a bit of sweet prune and some of the tart wine-braised cabbage. The wine, vinegar, and cranberry juice in the cabbage made it reminiscent of sauerkraut, which some people loved and others didn’t. It was interesting, though, to taste the orange and cinnamon through the tart cranberry juice, and the sauce cut nicely through the richness of the fatty duck meat.

One of my main concerns about this dinner was that there wouldn’t be enough food for everyone, but at this point, people were starting to show the pleasant signs of an oncoming food coma, so at least everyone was well fed! We put on a pot of coffee to rouse the crowd, while ladling out mugfuls of glögg and passing around the drommar (Swedish “dream” cookies).

Drommar cookies
“These remind me of shortbread at Christmas, and the coconut flakes give them a really different texture.”

With a mug of coffee in one hand and a drommar in the other, the five of us sat around listening to “The Night Waltz” from A Little Night Music, thinking about Sweden, and enjoying our first culinary foray into Scandinavia.

Was it an authentic evening? Well, we tried, but if there are any Swedish readers out there, please leave a Comment or write in to Little Scarlet and tell us how we did!

Thank you, Foodbuzz, for giving Little Scarlet the chance to make this Smörgåsbord! Please check out what the other 23 participants did for their “24, 24, 24” on

Limpa Bread

Limpa bread is a traditional, popular Swedish rye, made unique by combining unusual flavors like orange and fennel. Baked in a bowl (instead of a loaf pan), it is incredibly flavorful with an aroma to match. Limpa is best eaten by itself, or served with fresh butter.

Left (top & bottom), Step 2; Right (top & bottom), Steps 3 and 4. Recipe yields two loaves.

Directions (adapted from limpa bread recipe):
1 pkg dry active yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
1 tbsp sugar
½ cup plus 2 tbsp soft brown sugar
1 ½ tsp salt
3 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 tsp caraway seeds
½ tsp fennel seeds
1 orange rind, grated zest
1 cup hot water
2 cups rye flour
4 ½ - 5 cups all-purpose flour (unbleached, if possible)
  1. Soften yeast in lukewarm water; add 1 tbsp sugar and stir. Cover and set aside until foaming and doubled in volume.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the brown sugar, salt, butter, seeds, and orange rind. Stir in hot water until well blended, and cool to lukewarm. Add foaming yeast and 1 cup rye flour; beat vigorously with a whisk until the batter is smooth. Add second cup of rye flour and 2 cups white flour. Beat until smooth and well-blended.
  3. Add additional flour slowly, using just enough to make a dough that is soft, but stiff enough to handle (roughly 2-3 cups flour). Turn out onto a floured board and knead for 10 minutes. Place the dough in a warm, well-greased bowl; cover and let rise until doubled in bulk. Then, knead and shape into 2 round loaves.
  4. Butter and flour two ½ quart Pyrex bowls (or similar oven-proof bowl), and place one loaf in each. Bake in 350° F oven for 45 minutes or until done (may take up to 15 minutes longer, depending on your oven). Tap bread with fingers; bread is done when it sounds hollow.

Blueberry Soup

Blueberry soup may sound cloyingly sweet, but the addition of whole cinnamon sticks and lemon wedges add a zesty vibrancy to this refreshing, chilled Swedish soup. This is a perfect dessert soup to brighten up the winter months, and would do well as part of a main course during warmer seasons.

Recipe yields 4 generous servings, or 6 appetizer-size servings

Directions (adapted from Bon Appétit’s recipe):
2 1-pound bag of frozen unsweetened blueberries
2 cups water
5 tbsp sugar
4 thick lemon wedges (roughly ½ lemon)
2 cinnamon sticks
Pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Bring all ingredients to boil in medium-size pot over high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until berries are very tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and discard lemon slices and cinnamon stick. Reserve half of the blueberries, and purée the remaining half in the pot with an immersion blender; add some of the reserved blueberries and purée again for a thicker consistency, if desired. Add reserved blueberries back into pot and stir. Transfer all of soup to medium bowl and refrigerate until very cold.
  2. Serve with a dollop of Greek yoghurt, and garnish with lemon wedge.

Swedish Meatballs

Swedish meatballs are a necessary part of any smörgåsbord, and are a great belly-warmer during the cold winter months. This recipe uses a lot of breadcrumbs, which helps the meatballs to really soak up the Swedish gravy-sauce. This meatball recipe is great by itself, though, and using panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) instead of white bread gives these meatballs a lighter texture.

I don’t like to overcrowd the Swedish gravy-sauce, so this recipe actually yields a few extra sauce-free meatballs - feel free to use them up later in the week with spaghetti or on a meatball sub!

Yields 96 meatballs; for larger meatballs, use a 1-tablespoon measure instead - recipe will then yield about 48 meatballs.

Directions (adapted from Martha Stewart’s recipe):
1 pound ground beef chuck
1 pound ground pork
3 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 ½ cups whole milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 garlic cloves, minced
Coarse salt and ground pepper
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups canned reduced-sodium beef broth
  1. Preheat oven to 475° F. In a large bowl, combine beef, pork, panko, ½ cup milk, eggs, garlic, 1 tablespoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and allspice. Mix just until combined, being careful not to overwork the meat.
  2. Using a rounded ½-tablespoon measure for each, form mixture into meatballs (you should have about 96 - for larger meatballs, a 1-tablespoon measure should yield about 48 meatballs). Place meatballs onto two rimmed baking sheets, and bake until golden brown and cooked through, 10-12 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through.
  3. While the meatballs are cooking, prepare the sauce. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-high, and add flour, whisking for 1 minute (do not let darken). Slowly whisk in remaining cup milk and broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer until sauce has slightly thickened, 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.
  4. Using a slotted spoon, add meatballs to bowl with sauce; gently toss to combine. Serve as a side dish with lingonberry jam (or as an appetizer on toothpicks). If served as a main course, mashed potatoes or egg noodles are traditional pairings.

Roast Duck with Wine-Braised Cabbage

Duck is a very rich meat, and when combined with a bite of sweet prunes and some tart wine-braised cabbage, this dish makes the perfect forkful! Be sure to save some of the fat that cooks off of the duck - it’s great for frying up eggs or potatoes.

Preparations for wine-braised cabbage

Carved duck stuffed with prunes and apples

Plated recipe, complete with wine-braised cabbage and prune-wine reduction sauce. Serves 4.

Directions (adapted from Bon Appétit’s recipe):
½ orange, peeled and sliced
¼ cup (½ stick) butter
6 cups thinly sliced red cabbage (from half of large head)
3 cups blackberry-cranberry juice (**note**: do not substitute cranberry juice cocktail!)
1 ¾ cups dry red wine
½ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 5 ¼-pound duck
26 large prunes, pitted
1 Granny Smith apple, halved, cored, sliced
  1. Slice rind off the orange, and cut into slices. Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat, and add cabbage; sauté 2 minutes. Add 2 cups juice, 1 cup wine, vinegar, sugar, orange and cinnamon. Simmer until cabbage is tender and almost all liquid has evaporated, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour. Discard cinnamon stick. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  2. Preheat oven to 475° F. Place duck on rack in roasting pan. Place 10 prunes and apple in duck cavity. Sprinkle duck with salt and pepper, and score the skin in the duck’s fattiest areas with a sharp knife - be careful not to cut through the skin to the meat, though. Roast duck 30 minutes.
  3. Prick duck skin with a fork in the fatty areas over the breasts and thighs (again, do not pierce the meat), and reduce oven temperature to 350° F. Continue roasting until meat thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 160° F, about 1 hour.
  4. Meanwhile, combine remaining 1 cup juice and 16 prunes in medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until prunes absorb almost all liquid, stirring occasionally (about 10 minutes).
  5. Transfer duck to platter, and tent with foil to keep warm. Pour off fat from pan (saving some for later days!), add remaining ¾ cup wine to roasting pan, set over medium heat and bring to boil, scraping up any browned bits. Add wine mixture to prune mixture; simmer until prune-wine reduction sauce is reduced to 1 cup, about 4 minutes.
  6. Bring cabbage to simmer, tossing occasionally. Slice duck; arrange on plates. Spoon prune-wine reduction sauce over top, and serve cabbage alongside.

Drommar (Swedish “dream” cookies)

This recipe originally calls for “ammonium carbonate” - an ingredient that is very common in Europe, but can be incredibly difficult to find in America. Also known as “baker’s ammonium”, ammonium carbonate is a leavening agent that gives these cookies a uniquely crisp texture. It can be purchased at specialty grocery stores, or online, but baking powder can also be substituted in equal amounts.

Now, you might be thinking, “Put ammonium in my cookies? Are you crazy? Thanks, but no thanks”. But while ammonium carbonate makes the cookie dough smell like … ammonium, the smell completely disappears in the baking process and the cookies are 100% safe (and delicious!) to eat.

Yields 5 dozen cookies

Directions (adapted from Gourmet’s recipe):
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
2 sticks butter, softened
1 ¼ cups sugar
1 tsp baking powder (replace with 1 tsp “baker’s ammonium”, if available)
½ tsp almond extract
1 ¼ cup shredded coconut
  1. Sift together flour and salt.
  2. Using an electric hand mixture, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in baking powder and almond extract until well combined, and then slowly mix in flour-salt mixture at low speed until just blended. Stir in coconut. Form dough into disk and chill, wrapped in plastic wrap until firm, about 1 hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 300° F. Roll dough into 1-inch balls and arrange 1 inch apart on greased baking sheets. Bake cookies in upper third of oven until pale golden around edges, 18 to 22 minutes. Transfer cookies to rack to cool.

Glögg (Swedish mulled wine)

Glögg yourself!

This Swedish mulled wine is fun to say and fun to drink (go on, use it in a sentence… “your glögg is showing” or maybe “what the glögg!”…?). Some recipes call for the sugar to be soaked in brandy and set on fire, with more brandy ladled on top until the sugar has dissolved - but this recipe is a little less flammable.

Cardamom pods, cinnamon, cloves, and orange zest are the traditional base for this winter drink, as are the raisins and almonds present in each cup. Combinations of alcohol like red wine, Muscatel, tawny port, brandy, and Aquavit (a potent, vodka-like spirit flavored with caraway seeds) vary from family to family, though, so feel free to experiment!

1 ¾ cups water
18 cardamom pods
2 cinnamon sticks
12 whole cloves
½ orange, zested
¾ cup sugar
½ cup raisins
½ cup blanched almond slivers
1 bottle Muscatel wine
½ bottle tawny port
  1. Bring water to a boil with cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and orange zest; stir in sugar until dissolved. Remove from heat, and allow to steep for several hours, or overnight.
  2. Bring to a simmer, and pour in the Muscatel and port. Add the raisins and almonds, and raise the temperature so that the mixture is steaming - be careful not to simmer though, for fear of cooking off the alcohol.
  3. Serve warm in a mug, with some fruit and almonds in each cup.
Recipe yields 5 servings.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Katz’s Delicatessen - Houston & Ludlow Sts

Katz’s Delicatessen
205 E Houston St

New Yorkers know it as one of the best Jewish delis in Manhattan - and, therefore, the world. Tourists know it as the scene of Meg Ryan’s famous “fake orgasm” scene in 1989’s romantic comedy, When Harry Met Sally. It doesn’t matter how you know Katz’s Deli, though, so long as you show up hungry!

Katz’s deli boasts that it is “famous for the best sandwich in town”, and while the sandwiches at Carnegie Deli and Second Ave Deli make this a tough judgment call, Katz’s towers above its other competitors. Its pastrami sandwich is so good you wish you could live off of it – layers of cured, smoked brisket rest between two slices of Jewish rye, and are topped off with a big squeeze of deli mustard. The corned beef doesn’t pull apart as easily as the pastrami, but both meats are fatty, tender, and crying out for a house-made pickle!

Pastrami sandwich on rye (top), with pickle (bottom). On “Seinfeld”, one of George’s girlfriends famously said, “I find pastrami to be the most sensual of all the cured salted meats.” After eating at Katz’s, *Little Scarlet* has to agree!

“I’ll have what she’s having.”
From front-left to right: Sauerkraut, half- and full-sour pickles, pastrami sandwich, corned beef sandwich. Any sandwich should be washed down with one of Katz’s several different beers on tap, ranging from Budweiser, to Brooklyn Lager and Magic Hat #9, to Katz’s own Katz’s Ale.

Any sandwich is made better by a serving of half- and full-sour pickles, as well as a side order of sauerkraut. The sauerkraut is strong, but it’s fresh and crisp, and is perfect to cut through the richness of Katz’s meats.

Katz’s serves only one type of knish - potato. These square pockets have a chewy, fried crust, instead of the light, flaky crust of Yonah Schimmel’s knishes down the street, and, at about one-third the size, are nowhere near as dense. A knish from Katz’s goes great with an egg cream, which, if you’ve never had one before, is worth trying here. Made entirely without eggs or cream, a classic egg cream calls for a combination of chocolate syrup, milk, and seltzer water, and tastes like a thin, bubbly milkshake.

The best strategy for a place like Katz’s is to come in a group - how else can you expect to try the pastrami, corned beef, and brisket sandwiches, plus finish off a knish, an egg cream, fries, and a big glass of beer?!

And yes, you really do need to try it all. Grab a self-serve table and make sure you linger for a while after you’ve finished eating - trust me, you’ll be thanking Little Scarlet later!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Clarification re: Big News from Little Scarlet!

Apparently Tuesday’s disclosure wasn’t as clear as I’d hoped it would be (thanks to a lack of html savvy...), but there is exciting news to share.

This month, Little Scarlet will be featured in Foodbuzz’s “24, 24, 24”!! Each month, Foodbuzz accepts proposals from its Featured Publishers for the “24 meals, 24 hours, 24 blogs” program, where Foodbuzz ultimately selects 24 entries for inclusion. These 24 meals have to be prepared on the same day (24 hours), and coverage must then be posted on all 24 blogs.

So what will Little Scarlet be blogging about on January 24? A Swedish-themed dinner party happening this Saturday, in honor of A Little Night Music’s first Broadway revival!

Little Scarlet’s “24, 24, 24” event is the ultimate New York “dinner and a show”. Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music is a light-hearted tale of mismatched lovers set in turn-of-the-century Sweden during Midsummer’s Eve, and Little Scarlet’s Swedish smörgåsbord on Saturday night will be the perfect foreplay to our attendance of Sunday’s matinee performance.

In much of the world right now, these cold, dark winter months make it easy for many home cooks to get sucked into tired routines, so why not draw inspiration from a country that produces fine food even during the “Polar Nights”? This winter equivalent of the “Midnight Sun” shrouds Sweden in darkness for many weeks of the year, but Sweden has much more to offer than IKEA’s Swedish meatballs. Make sure to come back this Sunday, January 24 to read how Little Scarlet’s traditional Swedish smörgåsbord turns out!

I will be posting recipes of all food prepared during Little Scarlet’s “24, 24, 24” event, so that you can recreate this fabulous spread on your own. And for those lucky readers in New York City (or the tri-state area), I hope you’re able to create your own New York-Swedish “dinner and a show”!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Big news from Little Scarlet!

Attention, everyone - Little Scarlet has some big news to share with you all later today! But instead of diving right into it, here are a couple of hints to get you through the day:

Big Surprise Hint #1: Can anyone think of a use for ammonium carbonate?

Big Surprise Hint #2: Blueberries make great pies, scones, fruit salads, salsas, and....... ??

(Are these the worst clues ever? Try this next one out...)

Big Surprise Hint #3: There’s a theme for Saturday’s dinner party using ingredients from Hints #1 and #2

Big Surprise Hint #4: Dinner is inspired by the setting of a Sondheim musical, currently starring Angela Lansbury & Catherine Zeta-Jones!

Big Surprise Hint #5: Foodbuzz is helping Little Scarlet out on this one... and the surprise will officially post on January 24....

Can’t guess? Be sure to check back at 4h30 pm EST (Tuesday, Jan 19) to find out Little Scarlet’s big surprise!

(p.s. follow Little Scarlet on Twitter to never miss an update!)

***update*** Still can’t guess? Look here for the big news!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Poll of the Week - 1.18.2010

To all of my American readers, happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day! Hopefully you’re like me and are enjoying a day off from work, catching up on whatever you didn’t get around to this weekend - whether it’s laundry, sleep, or a new recipe!

Little Scarlet has spent much of the past few days doing research and reading up on different restaurants to decide which places to visit during the long weekend - the research paid off and it’s been a busy couple of days full of great eating.  In reading about different New York restaurants and food trends, though, there are a couple of terms that pop up over and over again. Some of these terms (like “organic”) are very popular and widespread, while others (like “Caveman” or “Paleo”) are relatively unheard of. And others just have ridiculous names - “flexitarian”, anyone?

Today’s “Poll of the Week” wants to know, of all the foodie trends out there right now, which name bothers you the most? (note: not the movement itself, but just the name given to it) What name are you the most tired of hearing?

Leave your rants in the Comments section, below!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Celsius - Bryant Park

Bryant Park – 5th Ave & 42nd St

Open annually, Nov. 6, 2009 - Jan. 24, 2010
Sunday-Wednesday: Noon - 10pm
Thursday-Saturday: Noon - Midnight

One of the great things about living in a city like New York is the seasonal restaurants that pop up throughout the year. The Bon Appétit Supper Club and Café is perhaps the most popular of these, but it’s only open one week a year (weekdays only!) and is open to the public only for lunch. But not to worry, Bryant Park has the place you’re looking for!

Once the temperature dips low enough, Bryant Park erects an outdoor skating rink, called “The Pond at Bryant Park”. The Pond is Manhattan’s only free ice skating rink (although skate rentals are $12) and is available to the public from early November through late January. With Harry Connick, Jr. and Perry Cuomo crooning softly through The Pond’s speakers, an afternoon of skating at The Pond makes for a great date – especially if followed by food and drinks at Celsius!

Located on the north-east corner of Bryant Park, Celsius is a glass-enclosed restaurant/lounge overlooking The Pond and Bryant Park’s decorated “Holiday Tree”. Celsius has a well-stocked bar on the first floor and additional table service seating upstairs, but the best seats in the house are on its outdoor terrace. These long, comfy couches and cozy tables for two are perfect for an après-skate bite, and are flanked by enough heat lamps to keep out the winter chill.

Click through the slideshow to see pictures of Celsius!

Celsius’ menu is full of cold-weather favorites with a casual touch of elegance. Mac-and-cheese becomes “mac and cheese gratin”, full of gruyere, gouda, and Vermont cheddar, while potato-and-cheese pierogies are spruced up with sides of caramelized onions and pomegranate-apple compote. An order of steak frites pairs a well-marinated skirt steak with piping hot, salty french fries, which are covered in a light dusting of Cajun seasoning, and served with ketchup and a barbecue-like spicy dipping sauce (which is great on the steak). The home-style chicken pot pie is prepared and served in its own cast-iron skillet, where a savory, buttery crust tops a sea of surprisingly large, tender hunks of chicken, punctuated by the occasional whole, baby Portobello mushroom and other stray vegetables.

Skirt steak makes a double-appearance on the menu at Celsius, first as steak frites and then as a skirt steak sandwich served with horseradish mayo and grain mustard slaw.

Chicken pot pie is slow-baked and served in an individual cast-iron skillet. Occasional bites of peas, celery, carrots, and whole, baby Portobello mushrooms interrupt an otherwise creamy landscape of tender chicken.

There is something at Celsius to please everyone, from their Asian-inspired vegetable spring rolls and butternut squash-coconut bisque, to a seasonal beet and goat cheese salad, to side orders of tater tots and buffalo wings. Their desserts are safe but well done, and their cocktail menu is inventive with drinks like “Earl-y Chili” (gin, earl grey tea, lemon juice, egg white, and peach bitters) and “Red Sage” (absolut, cherry liqueur, muddled sage, and Coca-Cola).

Celsius has a decent selection of hot drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcholic - perfect for warming your hands after time on the ice!

This perennial pop-up will be back in the fall, but don’t wait. Celsius is only around for a few more days, closing up for the season next Sunday, January 24. Make sure you go soon - and bring a friend!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Poll of the Week - 1.11.2010

Pizza is truly an all-American food. Brought to this country by immigrants, America has taken the best parts of pizza’s Greek and Italian ancestors, and created something that only occasionally bears resemblance to its international counterparts. The great thing about pizza, though, is that no matter what style you prefer, there is a part of America that specializes in exactly that.

If you like deep-dish pizza, Chicago’s the place for you. Love wide, foldable slices? Head for the streets of New York. If your favorite pizza comes topped with barbecue chicken, or shrimp and avocado, or loaded with fresh vegetables and goat cheese, you can thank Wolfgang Puck and Ed LaDou for creating “California-style” gourmet pizza. And whether you’re engaged in the wood- vs. coal-burning oven debate, or don’t care how it’s cooked so long as it’s hot, pizza’s never-ending combination of dough, sauce, cheese, and toppings ensures that this American staple has something to offer everyone.

As today kicks off the first day of National Pizza Week (always the second week in January), Little Scarlet has to ask the most important of all questions - what do you want on your pizza?

Tell Little Scarlet which place makes the best pizza you’ve ever had!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Shepherd’s Pie

New York’s weather has been beastly the past few days - the temperature has been hovering in the mid-twenties (° F), and with the wind whipping up the avenues, it feels about ten degrees colder! Tomorrow’s forecast is calling for snow all day, and what better way to warm up at the end of a long day than with a piping hot one-pot meal?

Shepherd’s pie is a perfect winter meal, full of hearty meat and crisp vegetables, all topped with creamy, fluffy mashed potatoes. Sautéed mushrooms add extra body and depth of flavor, and an even mix of ground lamb and ground beef tones down the gaminess of the dish. A mashed potato topping is crucial to a true shepherd’s pie, so make a big batch of this using your favorite recipe!

Little Scarlet likes to make mashed potatoes by boiling peeled, cubed potatoes in lightly salted water until they can be easily pierced with a fork. Drain water from the pot, reserving a few tablespoons to add later, and mash the potatoes in the pot with a fork as best you can (it’s okay to leave behind a few lumps). Slowly add a combination of butter, sour cream, milk, and reserved potato water, sprinkling with kosher salt and tasting as you go, adjusting amounts of ingredients accordingly.
For best results, prepare the mashed potatoes while the meat is browning - it’s alright if they cool, as they will warm up later in the oven. Serves 6-8.

This recipe is perfect for lifting you out of the winter doldrums - enjoy!

2 tablespoons olive oil
½ pound baby Portobello mushrooms, chopped
½ large onion, chopped
½ pound ground lamb
½ pound ground beef
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
14 oz brown gravy
1 16-oz bag mixed frozen vegetables (peas, carrots, corn, green beans)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
½-1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
½-1 teaspoons kosher salt
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté mushrooms and onion about 8 minutes, or until mushrooms are brown; transfer mushrooms to a bowl. Add ground lamb, ground beef, and garlic to skillet, sautéing about 5 minutes, or until meat is no longer pink. Return mushroom and onions to skillet, and mix in gravy. Reduce heat and simmer until mixture thickens, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.* Add frozen vegetables, and simmer until just tender, about 5 minutes longer.
  2. Mix in 2 tablespoons parsley, and add ½ tablespoon Worcestershire sauce and ½ teaspoon kosher salt. Season with freshly ground black pepper - then taste. Add additional Worcestershire sauce and salt, if desired.
  3. Transfer meat mixture to 2-qt glass baking dish. Spoon mashed potatoes on top, covering meat completely. For a pretty flourish, make a cross-hatch pattern in the mashed potatoes using the tines of a fork. Bake pie about 15 minutes, until heated thoroughly (insert a knife into the center of the pie, and see if the tip is warm to the touch). Garnish with remaining tablespoon of parsley and serve.

    *1 tsp cornstarch can be used to help thicken the mixture if its viscosity still seems too low.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Poll of the Week - 1.04.2010

Welcome to the first “Poll of the Week” of 2010!!

New Year’s Eve is a time for revelry, and between the specialty cocktails, coolers full of beer, and friends who make sure your hand is never empty, New Year’s Day can sometimes bring a brutal welcome to the next year. All of those resolutions to “eat right” start after one meal - breakfast on January 1. When you wake up feeling a little under-the-weather, what do you reach for? A friend of mine swears by Lay’s® Potato Chips and “yellow”-flavored Gatorade®, while another will only drink ginger ale and green tea. Little Scarlet rang in 2010 with rye toast and scrapple - the BEST, most underrated breakfast meat! (It’s very popular in the mid-west and mid-Atlantic regions - thank you, Philadelphia!)

Most seem to find success in more traditional cures, though, and this week Little Scarlet wants to know what’s your favorite hangover remedy?

If you have any other favorite ideas, leave them in a Comment for your fellow readers!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Red Beans and Rice

Like gumbo and jambalaya, red beans and rice is a staple of Creole cooking - and one of Little Scarlet’s favorite childhood meals! Salty, smoked ham adds great flavor and depth to a simple bowl of kidney beans, while Frank’s RedHot sauce lends a subtle kick of spice. It’s perfect to make on a cold, wintry weekend afternoon, and goes great with a simple green salad.

This one-pot dish takes a few hours to cook, but requires very little attention and tastes even better the next day - I promise you’ll be amazed by how a dish with so few ingredients takes on such wonderful flavors!

Red beans and rice - recipe makes about 6 servings

Directions (modified from Jeff Smith’s The Frugal Gourmet):
1 pound kidney beans
½ pound ham hocks or smoked ham
1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 tbsp parsley
3-4 bay leaves
4 cloves garlic, crushed
4 tbsp butter (or ½ stick)
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp Frank’s RedHot sauce
Pepper to taste
Salt to taste
3 cups cooked white rice

  1. Soak beans overnight in ample water. The next day, drain water from the beans, and place in a heavy kettle. Add the ham, onion, celery, parsley, bay leaves, and garlic (don’t add peppers yet!), and add water to the pot barely to cover the contents. Bring to a boil, and then turn to a simmer.
  2. Simmer, uncovered, for two hours, being careful that the beans don’t stick. If the beans become too dry, add a little extra water and stir.
  3. After the first two hours of cooking, add butter, bell pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and Frank’s to the pot. Continue cooking for one more hour, this time with a lid on the pot and the heat on low. Add extra seasonings (salt, pepper) at this point if desired, but take care not to add salt before this point because salt cooks out of the ham hocks (or ham) and seasons the dish well. Serve over white rice.
If you like yours a little extra spicy, make sure you bring the bottle of Frank’s to the table!