Triple Melon Popsicles

Posted in Uncategorized on July 16th, 2016 by nita – Be the first to comment

The perfect summer time treat! Watermelon and lime; Cantaloupe and orange; and Honeydew and Mint – make for a refreshing snack! Kayla and I made these with our Zoku but alternate instructions are below…

1.5 cups sugar
2 cups water
1/4 cups chopped mint
1 cup watermelon (1/2 inch cubes)
2 teaspoons lime zest
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 cup cantaloupe (1/2 inch cubes)
2 teaspoons orange zest
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 cup honeydew melon (1/2 inch cubes)

Make Simple Syrup

Combine sugar and water into a saucepan and bring to a simmer until all of the sugar is dissolved. Set aside a third of the syrup and add mint leaves. Cool both batches of syrup to a room temperature (you may refrigerate as well. Strain the mint syrup before using.)

Make the Fruit Mixtures
Place watermelon in blender with lime zest, lime juice, and 2 tablespoons of regular simple syrup. Blend until completely pureed/liquefied. Set aside.
Place cantaloupe in blender with orange zest, orange juice, and 2 tablespoons simple syrup. Blend until completely pureed/liquefied. Set aside.
Place honeydew in blender with 2 tablespoons mint syrup (strained.) Blend until completely pureed/liquefied. Set aside.

Assemble Pops in Zoku
Take your zoku base out of the freezer (it should be prepped for use. This recipe makes at least 6 popsicles.) Place the zoku sticks into each pop mold. You may need to re-mix the fruit mixtures at this point. Pour in watermelon mixture to approximately 1/3 of the way up. Let freeze in zoku base(s) for 7 minutes (you don’t need to put it back into the freezer yet.) Now pour the cantaloupe mixture in to about 2/3 of the way up and freeze for another 5 minutes (still ok to leave outside of freezer.) Last, pour the honeydew mixture to the top mark of the popsicle molds. Place in freezer and let freeze for about 5-10 minutes. Now you may remove the pops using your zoku popsicle extracter.

Assemble pops without a zoku
Use 6-8 paper dixie cups. Pour watermelon mixture evenly about 1/3 of the way up. Freeze for 40 minutes. Now pour the cantaloupe mixture to about 2/3 of the way up. Freeze for 20 minutes. Take the cups out of the freezer and place popsicle sticks through the middle of each cup. If the cantaloupe mixture is still loose, freeze for another 5 minutes. Now you can pour the honeydew mixture on top. Freeze for another hour or so. Cut away the cup from the popsicle and enjoy!

Let me know if you have questions!

Made with LOVE

Posted in Dinners, Family, Food, Pairings, Recipes, Wine on February 15th, 2016 by nita – Be the first to comment

“Cooking is LOVE made visible…” – Anonymous

“Wine to me is passion. It’s family and friends. It’s warmth of heart and generosity of spirit.” – Robert Mondavi

I grew up with the understanding that food tastes better when made with love. When I was sick in bed and my taste buds were shot, my mother’s homemade soup would always make me feel better. And it was always delicious. When my daughters cook my breakfast on Mother’s day, I find myself going for seconds… sometimes thirds. Again, delicious. And of course, when my husband offers to make dinner for me on those infrequent but extremely well thought out occasions, I find myself savoring every bite as though it would be my last.

Love is one of those invisible ingredients that is necessary to every dish you create. After all, a recipe on paper (or online!) has no SOUL… It is the cook’s responsibility to bring soul to the recipe!

Inspired by LOVE and all things red, pink, and festive, we created a memorable dinner menu paired with some fabulous wines this year for Valentine’s Day. Our dear friends joined us as we paraded through courses of decadence. Here’s what we noshed and sipped on!

Charlot Tanneux Champagne Brut Cuvee Micheline 2008 – Suggested by colleagues and clients alike, I decided to bring home a bottle of this beauty for our special evening. This is a super sultry bottle of bubbles. Kudos to winemaker Vincent Charlot who clearly knows that the foundation of a stunning champagne is first and foremost, is to be a stunning WINE. This bubbly is rich, with a confusing but delicious combination of crisp and cooked apples, white fruits, flowery aromatics, and a seductive sweetness that is perfectly balanced. The perfect start to the evening!

Beet Tartare with Chevre and Maple Chili Pecans paired with A. Mandria Patrimonio Rose 2014 – We topped a composed salad of arugula, beets dressed in balsamic, and chevre  with maple-chili glazed pecans. This dish begged for a rose to be paired with it, and I couldn’t imagine a better one than this Corsican gem. Rose petals, strawberries, and citrus on the nose… Melon and stone fruits on the palate. It was a perfect match! Click here for the Beet Tartare recipe…

Egg Yolk Ravioli with Sage and Pancetta paired with Domaine Thibert Pouilly Vinzelles Les Longeayes 2012 and Domaine Bzikot Bourgogne Blanc 2013 – Velvet. That’s the word that came to mind when I tasted the perfectly runny yolk that oozed out of our ricotta and egg filled homemade raviolis into a sauce of butter, stock, sage, and pancetta. This called for a wine with some acid to pair with it. Some of my favorite producers of white Burgundy came to mind… I actually appreciated both wines with the ravioli. The Vinzelles was a better match on paper due to the richness of the wine and the buttery-”velvety” style of the sauce but the acidity of the Bzikot really cut through the decadence of the sauce and made for a perfect match. Thanks to our dinner companions for bringing the Bzikot wine – it was so nice to taste 2 very different style of white Burg with this dish! Click here for the Egg Yolk Ravioli recipe…

Braised Short Ribs with Swiss Chard and Potatoes paired with Chateau Rayas Ch du Fonsalette 2000 and Rovellotti Ghemme Chioso dei Pomi 2008 – OMG. Loved this short rib preparation. After it braised, it finished off in a 400 degree oven to almost “crisp up.” So the meat had a bite to it on the outside and was super tender once we cut into it. The velvety sauce along with the swiss chard were a great foundation for some complex and structured wines. We had two fabulous bottles. We decanted the Ghemme for almost 2 hours, and it evolved into a smooth and elegant pairing with luscious dark berry tones, aromatic violets, and structure that softened into great complexity. SO ethereal. Such a great pairing. However, I think I practically went into a trance when I took a sip of the Rayas. This 2000 vintage of juice from the Fonsalette property is labeled as Cotes du Rhone – but make no mistake… it IS a VERY serious wine! A lovely Rhone blend of red varietals, the wine is creamy and textured, game-y with lots of garrigue, some herbal tones and even a little bit of licorice. In my opinion, this wine was perfect with the short ribs and accompaniments. Click here for the short rib recipe!

Simply stated, the inspiration for the meal came form love, exuded love, and was served to those I love. Made with Love <3

Braised Beef Short Ribs with Swiss Chard and Mashed Potatoes

Posted in Dinners, Food, Recipes on February 15th, 2016 by nita – Be the first to comment

RECIPE: Adapted from Smitten Kitchen – Braised Beef Short Ribs with Swiss Chard and Mashed Potatoes

Serves 6 (I only served 4 but had enough leftovers for 2-3 more people)

6 large beef short ribs, about 14 to 16 ounces each (if ribs are tinier, buy by weight, not number)
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup diced onion
1/3 cup diced carrot
1/3 cup diced celery
4 whole sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 cups port
2 1/2 cups hearty red wine
6 cups beef or veal stock
4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
1 medium onion – cut into a nickel sized “dice”
2 bunches Swiss chard, cleaned, center ribs removed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Season the short ribs with the salt the cracked black pepper, and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Heat a large Dutch oven over high heat for 3 minutes. Pour in 2 tablespoons olive oil, and wait a minute or two, until the pan is very hot and almost smoking. Place the short ribs in the pan, and sear until they are nicely browned on all three meaty sides. Depending on the size of your pan, you might have to sear the meat in batches. Do not crowd the meat or get lazy or rushed at this step; it will take at least 15 minutes. When the ribs are nicely browned, transfer them to a plate to rest.

Turn the heat down to medium, and add the onion, carrot, celery, thyme springs, and bay leaves. Stir with a wooden spoon, scraping up all the crusty bits in the pan. Cook 6 to 8 minutes, until the vegetables just begin to caramelize. Add the balsamic vinegar, port, and red wine. Turn the heat up to high, and reduce the liquid by half.

Add the stock and bring to a boil. Arrange ribs in the pot, lying flat, bones standing up, in one layer. The stock mixture should almost cover the ribs. Tuck the parsley sprigs in and around the meat. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and a tight-fitting lid if you have one. Braise in the oven for about 3 hours.

To check the meat for doneness, remove the lid and foil, being careful of the escaping steam, and piece a short rib with a paring knife. When the meat is done, it will yield easily to a knife. Taste a piece if you are not sure. [If you would like to cook these a day ahead, this is where you can pause. The next day, you can remove the fat easily from the pot — it will have solidified at the top — bring these back to a simmer on the stove or in an oven, and continue.]

Let the ribs rest 10 minutes in their juices, and then transfer them to a baking sheet.

Turn the oven up to 400 degrees F.

Place the short ribs in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes to brown.

Strain the broth into a saucepan, pressing down on the vegetables with a ladle to extract all the juices. Skim the fat from the sauce (if you made these the day before, you will have already skimmed them) and, if the broth seems thin, reduce it over medium-high heat to thicken slightly. Taste for seasoning.

Saute the dime sized onions in a saute pan with the 2T olive oil. Saute the onions until they are lightly browned. Tear the Swiss chard into large pieces. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil to the pan, and stir in the cooked onions. Add half the Swiss chard, and cook a minute or two, stirring the greens in the oil to help them wilt. Add a splash of water and the second half of the greens. Season with a heaping 1/4 teaspoon salt and a pinch of ground black pepper. Cook for a few more minutes, stirring frequently, until the greens are tender.

Place the swiss chard on a large warm platter, and arrange the short ribs on top. Spoon lots of braising juices over the ribs. Serve the potato puree (see recipe below) on the side.

Mashed Potatoes
2 pounds potatoes, scrubbed (I used Yukon Golds)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick, 4 ounces), melted
1 1/2 cups half-and-half , warmed
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
Ground black pepper
Chives for garnish (optional)

1. Place potatoes in large saucepan and cover with 1 inch water. Bring to boil over high heat; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until potatoes are tender (a paring knife can be slipped into and out of center of potatoes with very little resistance), 20 to 30 minutes. Drain.
2. Set food mill or ricer over now empty but still warm saucepan. Spear potato with dinner fork, then peel back skin with paring knife. Repeat with remaining potatoes. Working in batches, cut peeled potatoes into rough chunks and drop into hopper of food mill or ricer. Process or rice potatoes into saucepan.
3. Stir in butter with wooden spoon until incorporated; gently whisk in half-and-half, salt, and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Egg Yolk Ravioli with Sage and Pancetta

Posted in Dinners, Food, Recipes on February 15th, 2016 by nita – Be the first to comment

RECIPE for Egg Yolk Ravioli with Sage and Pancetta


Garnish for Sauce:
1/4 lb diced pancetta
1 tablespoon olive oil
8-10 sage leaves
1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon (generous) ground black pepper
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large egg yolks
6 tablespoons (or more) water
5 teaspoons olive oil
9 large eggs
4 tablespoons butter
2 cups chicken stock
3 tablespoons finely grated pamesan cheese

For garnish for sauce:
To a saute pan over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and pancetta and render until crispy. Remove from the heat and place onto a paper-towel-lined plate. To the fat in the pan, add the sage leaves and fry until crispy, about 30 seconds. Season the sage leaves with salt. Finely crumble the pancetta, crumble the sage and set aside. Reserve for garnish.

For filling:
Mix all ingredients in small bowl. Refrigerate while making pasta.

For pasta:
-Whisk flour and salt in medium bowl; make shallow well in center. Add egg yolks, 6 tablespoons water, and oil to well. Using fork, whisk water, egg yolks, and oil. Gradually work in flour from around egg mixture to form crumbly mixture. Knead in bowl until dough comes together, adding more water by 1/2 teaspoonfuls if dry. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Divide into 4 equal portions. Cover with plastic wrap; let rest on work surface 30 minutes.
-Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Turn pasta machine to widest setting. Flatten 1 dough piece to rectangle (cover remaining pieces with plastic wrap). Run dough through machine 2 times. Fold uneven ends over to make straight edge. Adjust machine to next narrower setting. Run dough through machine 2 times, dusting lightly with flour if sticky. Cut dough strip in half crosswise for easier handling. Repeat running dough through machine 2 more times on each narrower setting until pasta is generous 1/16 inch thick (setting #2), dusting lightly with flour if sticky.
-Whisk 1 egg in small bowl for egg wash. Place dough strips on work surface. Cut each strip into three 4-inch squares, trimming as needed. Place 3 pasta squares on 1 prepared baking sheet. Place 1 rounded tablespoon ricotta filling in center of each of 3 squares, spreading filling to 2 1/2-inch circle. Make well in center of filling large enough to hold 1 egg yolk. Carefully break 1 egg open and separate yolk from white (reserve egg white for another use). Gently place egg yolk in well of filling. Brush edges of pasta dough with egg wash. Carefully place 1 pasta square atop egg yolk, pressing edges of pasta squares together to seal tightly, enclosing yolk and filling completely. Dust ravioli lightly with flour. Repeat procedure with remaining pasta, ricotta filling, yolks, and egg wash for a total of 8 ravioli. DO AHEAD:Ravioli can be made 4 hours ahead. Refrigerate uncovered.

For sauce:
Melt butter in a shallow pan and add stock. Bring to a very light simmer, and then add the grated parmesan cheese. Add the garnish for the sauce (pancetta and sage.) Keep at a low simmer.

Finishing the dish:
Add enough water to large skillet to measure 1 1/2inches; sprinkle with salt. Bring water to boil. Working in 2 batches, gently slide ravioli into skillet, egg yolk side up; adjust heat to keep water below rolling boil and cook just until pasta is tender, being careful not to overcook egg yolks, about 3 minutes (do not turn ravioli over). Transfer the ravioli quickly to the shallow pan with the butter sauce. With slotted spoon, transfer 2 ravioli to each of 4 plates. Spoon sauce over.

Serves 4

Beet Tartare with Chevre and Maple Chili Pecans

Posted in Dinners, Food, Recipes on February 15th, 2016 by nita – Be the first to comment

RECIPE for Beet Tartare with Chevre and Maple Chili glazed Pecans

3 large red beets (2 lbs. total)
drizzle of olive oil
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/4 cup maple syrup
Small dash of cayenne pepper
2 1/2 cups arugula
drizzle of olive oil
salt and pepper
3 oz goat or feta cheese, crumbled (about 1 1/4 cups)

Roast Beets – Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Scrub beets (remove the greens from beets) and place in a roasting pan. Drizzle beets with a little olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 45 minutes to an hour, until beets are tender. Let cool. Peel beets when cool enough, and then dice into a small dice and place in a bowl with the balsamic vinegar and 2T olive oil. Season with a little more salt and pepper.

Make glazed Pecans: Toast the pecans in a dry pan over medium heat on the stove for 4-5 minutes, or until fragrant and lightly browned. Add Maple syrup and dash of cayenne and raise the heat and bring to a boil. Let cook for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and pour nut mixture onto a parchment lined plate. Let cool and then break apart just before serving.

Serve: Drizzle olive oil and a sprinkling of S&P over arugula in a medium bowl. Divide arugula into mounds on each of 4 salad plates. Place a ring mold on top of arugula. Divide beets dressed with balsamic into the ring molds, then top with chevre, dividing equally, and then top with nuts, dividing equally. Press down with a dry spoon but don’t compact the mixture. Lift ring mold, and Voila!

Serves 4

Rampy and Ravenous

Posted in Food, Recipes on May 5th, 2015 by nita – Be the first to comment

Fresh Ramps

I know what you’re thinking…. “Really? With the title of this post?” But I couldn’t think of a more appropriate way to describe the way that I felt while writing this. Yes, Rampy. And Ravenous.

Every year at the start of spring, I look forward to finding these delicious shoots of garlic and oniony goodness in the farmers markets and local gourmet grocery store. “What IS a RAMP?” you ask? Well, I wrote about it 4 years ago in this post too, so take a look and get another fantastic recipe to use them in!

I found a few fresh bunches at the market on Saturday and was inspired to use them in everything I cooked. I added some ramps into some marinades that we used for grilling, chopped some up and sprinkled them over eggs, and even seasoned some simply with salt, pepper, and olive oil and grilled them to perfection. The grilled ramps are definitely going to be a staple side dish as long as they are available!

But the recipe that got the highest accolades of the weekend was a simple breakfast biscuit. This was made for a book club brunch and was received with rave reviews. So savory, just spread a little fresh butter on top for an indulgent treat!

Two-bite Ramp Buttermilk Biscuits

1/2 bunch of ramps, cleaned and trimmed
3/4 cup buttermilk, plus 2 tablespoons
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
20 grinds of fresh black peppercorns
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Chop the bulbs and stalks of the ramps finely. Chop the leaves as fine as possible without bruising them. Combine the stalks, bulbs, and leaves of the ramps and the 3/4 cup buttermilk in a small bowl. Set aside.

Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, and fresh ground pepper in a food processor. Turn the food processor on for about 30 seconds, until all the dry ingredients are well combined. Add the chilled butter to the flour mixture, and pulse until a fine meal forms, about 15 pulses.

Transfer the flour mixture to a large bowl. Add the buttermilk-ramp mixture and stir just until a dough forms. Do not over-mix. Turn out the dough to a floured work area, and press the dough into a 7-inch diameter round, about 1/2 inch thick. Use a 1 inch diameter biscuit cutter dipped in flour to cut out rounds. Gather the scraps of the dough, reform, and cut more out this same way. Transfer the biscuit rounds to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. The recipe should yield about 20-22 small biscuits. Alternatively, you may make larger ones by using a 2-inch biscuit cutter. See below for change in baking time.

Bake the biscuits for 15 minutes until golden brown, and cool on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. If you use the 2-inch cutter, increase the bake time to 18-20 minutes. Yields 20-22 small biscuits or 10-12 larger biscuits.

Yummy Places – NYC edition

Posted in Uncategorized on November 2nd, 2014 by nita – Be the first to comment

So, I recently posted about some of my favorite NJ eating destinations. As most of my family and friends know, if given a choice, I will always opt to make the trip into Manhattan or Brooklyn for a nice meal. I’ve just always felt that the city had more to offer in every aspect – variety, quality, value, excitement… You get the point! Instead of listing my recommendations, I will list some of my favorite places in NYC and the dish(es) that lure(s) me back there, or that had me speechless. An asterisk next to any of the restaurants indicates that I found their wine list to be pretty interesting as well.

*Aldea – fun night out with east coast and west coast pals
Arroz de Pato (Rice, sofrito, duck confit, duck breast)

*A Voce – a “misunderstood” reservation at eleven madison re routed us here for a fabulous evening with our favorite Austin peeps
Octopus Carpaccio

Beauty & Essex – impromptu evening with the BIL and SIL; good for vegetarians
Chili Salted Shisito Peppers

*Boqueria – lots of fun tapas nights with friends
1. boquerones
2. paella

Brooklyn Fare – fun work outing… Too many dishes to choose from!
1. warm beet soup with hudson valley yogurt whip
2. Kumomoto oyster with grapefruit, creme fraiche, oyster juice gelee
3. seared scallop with squash puree, pork belly, pea shoots, black trumpet mushroom, and white truffle foam

Co. – Many family early dinners with BIL, SIL, kids, and nephews; good for vegetarians
1. Any vegetarian seasonal pie
2. meatballs

*Cookshop – a great Friday night with awesome friends
deviled eggs

*Corkbuzz -many fun nights with family and good friends;
1. beet chips with tzatziki
2. beef tartare
3. to die for crispy fingerling potatoes

Dovetail - a great bday celebration for SIL; great for vegetarians
Black garlic and Cauliflower base with grilled lamb

*Eleven Madison Park – our Austin friends whisked us away for a night of indulgence! loved the entire menu; vegetarian tasting menu avail
1. carrot tartare
2. sturgeon with sabayon and everything bagel crumble
3. roasted duck with huckleberries

Estela – snacks with friends and the hubby
salted cod and potato croquettes

*Hearth -anniversaries, birthdays, brunches, our GO TO spot!
1. gnocchi!
2. braised rabbit
3. spatchcock chicken
4. meatballs
5. everything!

Hundred Acres -brunches with the gang and intimate dinners with fam; good for vegetarians
ricotta fritters for brunch

*Il Buco – 40th bday dinner with great friends; good for vegetarians
1. kale salad
2. every pasta on their menu

Il Buco Alimentari – holiday dinner with the gang
cacio e pepe

*Lafayette – outside snacks and brunches with amazing ladies
1. Salad Nicoise
2. Roasted Beet Salad

La Vara – holiday dinner with the gang
1. huevos de cordoniz
2. albondigas

Little Prince – birthday dinner with hubby

Mehtaphor – fun nights out with girlfriends; good for vegetarians
Veg Street burger with Indian frites

*Momofuku Ssam Bar – lots of eating with friends that love to eat
1. Bo Ssam
2. Oysters
3. Pork Buns

Monument Lane – intimate lunch with SIL
sandwiches are yum

*Narcissa – fun evenings out with friends
carrot fries

*Nomad – dinner with BIL and SIL – great cocktails too!
1. buttered radishes
2. roast chicken with truffles

Perla – fun night out with the gang
beef cheek agnolotti

*Rouge et Blanc – date night with hubby and dinner with the gang
house made thick noodles

*Semilla – dinner with BIL and SIL; great for vegetarians
1. arancini with burdock
2. celery root papparadelle
3. shaved sunchokes

The Eddy – anniversary dinner with hubby
1. ricotta dumplings
2. bacon tater tots

The Little Owl – lunch with maya
meatball sliders

Toloache – lots of fun dinners with friends and fam; good for vegetarians
1. queso with huitlacoche
2. variety of ceviche

*Txikito – late night silliness
1. pipperak (blistered peppers)
2. krokettas

Uncle Boons – dinner with great friends
1. crab fried rice
2. “son in law” eggs

Yummy Places – Jersey edition

Posted in Uncategorized on October 27th, 2014 by nita – Be the first to comment

I’m asked at least half a dozen times a week about where I would recommend a friend or family member to go for a nice dinner in the local surrounding areas. I usually spend about an hour researching places and studying menus; creating lists of eateries that I know would be appropriate for said friend/family member. Well, now hopefully I can just refer them to this post, and we’ll all be more efficient. Because I’ve listed many places where our experience dates back to almost 5 years ago, I will not go into great detail about every establishment. Instead, where necessary, I’ll drop a few tidbits of info on why I love the joint. The “Veg friendly” note has been added next to the eateries that I believe went above and beyond and created fun, seasonal, and unique meatless options for more than one course (ie not just a crunchy salad or pasta.)

Ariane Kitchen & Bar, Verona, NJ
chef was on Top chef and is extremely talented; I know them from old space (Culinariane); hearty meat dishes and scallop dishes were always great

Arturo’s, Maplewood, NJ - Veg friendly
incredibly seasonal and fresh; menu changes weekly; BYO; known for their gourmet pizzas and garden fresh salads; amazing crust!

A Toute Heure, Cranford, NJ – Veg friendly
farm to table; source as much as they can locally; BYO; hearty rustic vibe; French inspired; Apple cake during holidays is off the charts

Elements, Princeton, NJ – Veg friendly but ask
5 Star dining in NJ; Chefs Anderson Ryan are rock stars; unique, innovative, seasonal, fresh, delicious. they push the boundaries; LOVE everything!

Fascino, Montclair, NJ – Veg friendly
excellent pasta; fun tasting menu; BYO

Jockey Hollow Kitchen and Bar, Morristown, NJ
excellent wine list that offers pours by the taste, glass, and bottle; fun vibe; seasonal and fresh food locally sourced (Oyster Room and Dining Room)

Mistral, Princeton, NJ – Veg friendly
little sister of elements; all small plates; great for sharing; again very unique and seasonal, flavorful combinations; BYO; menu always changing

Ninety Acres, Peapack, NJ – Veg friendly but ask
gorgeous restored carriage house on natirar estate; seasonal farm to table; great wine list

100 Steps, Cranford, NJ – Veg friendly
sister restaurant of A Toute Heure; focuses on raw bar items; small plates; BYO; delicious menu constantly changing

Pairings, Cranford, NJ
beautiful setting in downtown cranford; BYO; great food and great ambience

Pluckemin Inn, Bedminster, NJ
beautiful space; contemporary upscale American cuisine with a twist; excellent wine list

Restaurant Blu, Montclair, NJ
BYO; innovative menu with lots of small plates; great for sharing; unique flavors

Sette Cucina, Bernardsville, NJ
excellent Italian fare; homemade pasta; BYO

Shumi, Somerville, NJ
the freshest sushi you will ever taste in NJ, maybe anywhere! tell server your budget and that you rely on the chef’s choices – they will hook you up!

Thirty Acres, Jersey City, NJ
very thoughtful and seasonal menu; very artistic plating; shared plates; used to be BYO – but I think things have changed and they now have a liquor license, and are a tasting menu only establishment. i will definitely check them out again soon

Rose’ in September

Posted in Uncategorized on September 10th, 2014 by nita – Be the first to comment

I’m crazy about the wine I’m about to tell you about. I’ve been drinking it all summer long, but it wasn’t until the temperatures dropped slightly and I could feel that crispness in the air that I could really appreciate all this little gem has to offer. The producer (Maxime Magnon) labels this wine as a rose’. If I were to taste this blindly, I probably would not assume rose’; in fact, I don’t think that I would be able to figure out the grape varietals or origin at all, as it is a unique style of wine from the region of Corbieres. But I do love this wine.

Maxime Magnon Corbieres Rose “Metisse” is a blend of cinsault, grenache noir, carignan, and grenache blanc. Like many of the vintners in the Corbieres region, Maxime approaches viticulture and vinification of his wines with the utmost respect for nature and the soil. He is a naturalist at heart, certified organic with biodynamic practices in his vineyard management. His vineyard land is comprised of mostly limestone and schist, making the terrain a very difficult one to farm. The yielding fruit has such complexity, because of the characteristics of the ground. All of his wines are aged in neutral barrels and they all, especially the rose’, are meant to have immediate approachability.

I love the bright cherry notes that I get on this wine; not as reminiscent of a rose’ as much as it is a light pinot noir. On the nose, I get berries, red cherry fruit, and some herbaceousness that I can’t exactly put my finger on. On the palate, I get a bowl of berries with some leafy tones. Definitely drier and higher acid than your typical fresh rose from Provence. I love the complexity, and the diversity of the wine. It will pair with everything from simple salads to light game.

This is the perfect sipper for the beginning of the Fall season… Still warm enough out to enjoy a rose’, but one with a little more structure and complexity will match the chill in the air as we approach the cooler months. I love pairing this with grilled salmon brushed with a little berry-chili glaze. There’s not a lot of heat, but the flavor of the chilies and berries together have great balance especially with the salmon.

Grilled Salmon with Guajillo Berry Glaze
Serves 4

3 oz dried guajillo chilies, stemmed and seeded
2 cups boiling water
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups fresh berries (raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries work best)
2 tablespoons sugar
salt, to taste
4 (6 oz) salmon fillets (with skin)
oil, for brushing grill grates and fish
salt and pepper to taste

For the sauce: Place dried chilies in boiling water. Let sit for 30 minutes, until chilies are softened. Reserving the soaking water, remove the softened chilies and place them in a blender with the garlic, and blend with a few tablespoons of the soaking water so as to form a paste. Place two teaspoons of olive oil in a medium saucepan, and bring to a medium high heat. Add the chili paste, and saute until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the berries and stir to combine. Add all of the soaking liquid and sugar and bring to a boil. Simmer the mixture on low for about 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the berry sauce mixture to a blender, and blend until combined. Strain the mixture into a clean saucepan, pressing on and then discarding the solids. Simmer the mixture until slightly thickened, and is just about 1 cup. Season with salt and divide the sauce equally into two bowls.

For the fish: Preheat your grill to high and lightly oil the grate. Pat the salmon dry, brush with oil, and then brush the flesh side of the four fillets with the sauce from one of the bowls that you’ve set aside. You should use the entire 1/2 cup. Season the fillets with salt and pepper. Place the salmon, skin side down, on the grill and lower the heat to medium. Flip after 4 minutes, and continue cooking for another 3 to 4 minutes (7-8 minutes total.)

Serve the salmon with extra sauce, if desired.

Bo Ssam and Boxler

Posted in Dinners, Food, Pairings, Recipes, Wine on April 21st, 2014 by nita – Be the first to comment

Bo Ssam at Momofuku Ssam Bar

Pork Belly Buns at Momofuku Ssam Bar

It’s been almost two years since the first time I took part in the ethereal “Bo Ssam” experience. I was lucky enough to be invited to a table at Momofuku Ssam Bar one May evening, being told nothing else but “We are doing Bo Ssam.” I did my research, and learned that Bo Ssam is in fact an EXPERIENCE, not only a dinner. We started with some amazing appetizers, the pork belly buns being amongst the  most memorable. Oysters were brought out to the table,  in addition to plates of butter lettuce leaves, kimchi, a few different sauces, lots of white rice, and of course – the perfectly caramelized, falling off the bone, mouthwatering roasted pork shoulder. And tongs. We made little lettuce wraps, rice bowls, you name it. We ate for what should have been hours, but felt like minutes. David Chang is an absolute genius – he somehow elevates pulled pork to a whole new level!

One of our dining companions brought this to dinner - WOW.

We enjoyed every aspect of the dinner that evening, including some of the amazing wines that we paired with the meal… Magnum of Chartogne Taillet Champagne, Magnum of 2006 Donnhoff Niederhauser Hermannshohle Riesling (Wow!),  2006 Jasmin Cote Rotie, and the showstopping 1976 Cune Imperial Gran Reserva.

Homemade Roasted Pork Shoulder with Caramel Crust for Bo Ssam

Homemade Ramen with eggplant chili mazeman and pork belly

Well, that dinner set the stage for several future experiments in my own kitchen. While extremely time consuming, (warning – do not attempt to make these recipes on a weeknight unless you have the day off!) the results are well worth the effort. I’ve used the meat from the bo ssam for the filling in the pork buns, but nothing is more decadent and satisfying as the pork belly. David Chang’s Bo Ssam recipe is almost fool proof – roasting the bone in pork shoulder low and slow for several hours and then encasing the super tender meat with a crunchy caramel-ly brown sugar crust at the end. These flavors even inspired me to make several attempts at homemade ramen. I’ve experimented with a few recipes, but really appreciated the depth of flavors of the one that I post below.

The richness of these dishes call for something that screams acidity and offers some reprieve to the heat that the accompaniments like the kimchi and sauces bring to the table. I found the wines from Albert Boxler to be ideal for these pairings. Everything from the Sylvaner to the Pinot Blanc… the Riesling to the Grand Cru cuvee have paired sublimely with the recipes below! Forget “Pigs and Pinot”… it’s time for Bo Ssam and Boxler!

David Chang’s Bo Ssam Recipe – I followed it to a tee. Give yourself a day to make this and enjoy leftovers for a week!

Momofuku’s Pork Belly Buns Recipe – I have also used leftover pork shoulder from my Bo Ssam to fill leftover buns – really great alternative but the pork belly is super decadent!

Ramen with Pork and Chili Eggplant Mazeman – I don’t agree with the amount of oil used in this. It’s already so rich with the pork belly and I actually only used a third of the amount of oil in each step that calls for it – My first attempt was tasty but very oily. I thought cutting back the oil made a huge difference.