House of Skip

Monday, September 30, 2013

Paleo Pen Pals- Sept

In August I discovered Paleo Pen Pals, it is a site where people who lead a Paleo lifestyle can swap ingredients and come up with new recipes and then not only share them with each other, but also the whole Paleo Pen Pals community. I am always up for a challenge in the kitchen, so I thought it would be fun. I enjoyed my first experience with it (see previous post-Fruit and Nut Bark ), so I signed up again.

This month I got paired with Danielle from Massachusetts. Danielle sent me something I have not used in the kitchen before, Miracle Noodles, they are noodles made from Shirataki. She sent me three packages of them, which are 7 ounces each. They were ziti, fettuccine and rice.
She also sent me a can of wild caught tuna. Upon reading other Paleo Pen Pal submissions, I know that you don't always have to use all the ingredients sent to you in one dish, but I thought it would be fun to do so in this case.

So, as I began to think about noodles and tuna, I thought, tuna casserole? Hmm... that could be interesting. I have never really been a tuna casserole fan and I was pretty sure my companion would have been like, "what, ew!". Therefore, I knew my challenge would be re-inventing the tuna casserole. I had recently bought some kalamata olives which got me thinking about a Nicoise salad and then it hit me- Nicoise Tuna Casserole! Oh boy!

I chose to use the ziti Miracle Noodles for this dish. Danielle included a note for me with the package that stated you need to rinse the noodles well (which it also said on the package) and upon opening them, I knew why you cannot skip this step. The noodles come in a plastic, liquid filled bag and when I cut it open I was overwhelmed with the smell of a fish tank. Rinsing the noodles in a colander resolved this. Danielle's note also suggested sauteing the noodles in a pan alone before adding other ingredients, I think this worked well also- so thanks for the tip. Here's the recipe:

Ingredients

1 7 oz package of Miracle Ziti
1 x oz can of wild caught tuna
approx. 10 grape tomatoes halved
a handful of pitted kalamata olives, chopped
1/4 cup of walnuts finely chopped
a handful of capers
splash of olive oil

1 clove of garlic, sliced

2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon "bouquet garni" which is a Spice Blend that I buy at a little shop in Princeton, NJ.
juice of 1/2 lemon

Rinse your noodles well under running water. Shake off excess water. Add a splash of olive oil to a hot skilled and then add noodles. Once the noodles begin to soften, add your tomatoes, olives and capers, mix well and also to cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until your tomatoes start to soften. Add the green beans and stir well.
The gang's all together
While this continues to cook, make your vinaigrette but adding your mustard, vinegar, anchovy paste and salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisking well, while whisking, incorporate a little olive oil until you reach desired consistency.
The vinaigrette



Now that your skillet mix is heated through and the flavor have begun to incorporate, remove from heat and place in a bowl. Add your tuna to the bowl and pour vinaigrette over the mixture and stir well, adding your bouquet garni seasonings. Now dump it all into a greased 8x8 baking dish, squeeze a little lemon juice on it and top with chopped walnuts (I put mine through the food processor to make them like a breadcrumb crust you might use in a traditional casserole). I then baked this a 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, just long enough for the whole thing to heat up and the walnut crust to brown.

The verdict? It was tasty. If you like a Nicoise salad, you'll enjoy this. The salty flavors from the olives and capers pair nicely with the tang of the mustard. The walnuts provide a nice texture difference to the tuna and noodles. The noodles are a little slimy, but do a good job of standing in for real noodles.

I generally don't look for "substitutes" for things like noodles or bread, as I do just try to eat mostly fresh veggies, fruits, meats and seafood. If I'm in the mood for pasta, pizza or bread, I just have the real stuff because I am not sure the alternatives are any better for me. That being said, I did like the noodles and couldn't find any definitive info saying they were on the no-no list for paleo. I probably won't hunt them down and buy them for myself, but I am already thinking of fun stuff to do with my two remaining packs.

So, thanks Danielle for the fun adventure in Miracle Noodles!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Ginger Man, Greenwich, CT

After some shopping and before a round of golf (for my companion) we decided we should have some lunch. We chose a bar called The Ginger Man. It was classier than i expected, it had a hometown bar/steakhouse feel. There was a decent lunch crowd for a Friday, so I am guessing they do a good work lunch business.

The place is big, we were seated in a nice section behind the bar. The bar looked like a cool place to hang and have a beer. They are known to have a good beer selection.

What I was surprised about was how big menu was too. Not just bar food- there were a good amount of salad and entree options.

We started with beers, a cider for my companion (he's a big fan of hard ciders, as they are naturally gluten free). I opted for Rogue Dead Guy, one of my favorites. It was a good choice as it paired nicely with my lunch. I had a sausage platter which was served with two different types of sausage over a bed of sauerkraut and potatoes. It was really delicious. The sausages were juicy and full of flavor, there was a nice whole grain mustard on the side as well. Perfect little lunch if you ask me.

My companion went traditional pub fare with a burger. This burger was on the special menu and was topped with roasted red peppers and mozzarella cheese.
He was equally happy with his choice, it is not often my companion indulges in something like a burger and he really enjoyed it. It was served with a side of fries, nothing special, just a side of fries, but then you don't really need to do anything special to fries, they good just the way they are.

If my companion didn't have somewhere to be (he had a tee time at a local golf course nearby our hotel) I could have stayed at Ginger Man for hours just sampling beers and maybe munching some more on bar goodies, but alas we moved on, hit a few more shops and then it was back to the Delamar for tea and relaxation for me and a round of golf for my companion.

http://www.gingermangreenwich.com/index.php?p=about

64 Greenwich Avenue Greenwich, CT 06830 - Tel: 203.861.6400 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Méli-Mélo of Greenwich, CT

After our exciting adventure in Amherst, MA, followed by a couple winery stops in CT and a night of food and drink, we woke up the next day ready to relax in Greenwich, CT. We headed to breakfast at this little juice bar right on Greenwich Ave. It was called Méli-Mélo, and had great big floor to ceiling windows that opened so it felt like you were right on the street. In an area like Greenwich with great shops and restaurants lining the street and a easy flow of foot traffic it was lovely.

When we arrived we were advised to seat ourselves. After sitting for a few minutes enjoying the view and fresh air we were brought menus. The menu at Méli-Mélo is interesting, as I am sure you could have guessed, being a juice bar they keep things pretty healthy. They have a variety of omelets, crepes and of course, juices.

As we sat trying to decide what to get, we watched lots of people come and go. Some were coming to sit for breakfast as we were and others were running in to grab and juice and head off to work or other activities. Service was a little slow, but not terrible. I ordered the beet, carrot and ginger juice and my companion had a fruit combination, banana grapefruit and orange, he's not as big on the veggie juices as I am. We opted for just juice and water as we'd have a couple of coffees at the hotel (shout out to The Delmar for great freebies). I ordered the fresh herbs omelet and my companion had the sopressata omelet. The omelets came with a nice mixed greens salad on the side, dressed simply with olive oil and vinegar. My omelet was lovely, perfect texture and with yummy chives and scallions cooked right into the eggs, really beautiful colors. My companion liked his omelet too, but was a little disappointed that the meat was laid out on top of the omelet instead of being cooked in it which is what he expected. It was a nice presentation with the sopressata layered on top of the eggs and it tasted good, but was just not what he thought it would be.

Feeling refreshed and ready to hit the store, we walked Greenwich Ave and visited some lovely stores, including a few chains and some independent shops.

http://www.melimelogreenwich.com/

362 Greenwich Avenue
Greenwich, CT 06830
TEL: 203-629-6153
FAX: 203-861-9359
restaurant@melimelogreenwich.com


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Elm Street Oyster House

For our first dinner on our trip to Greenwich, Connecticut we picked the Elm Street Oyster House. It was a  cute setting- it had a very seaside feel too it. It was small but not cramped. There was a nice bar area when you walk in and then the dining room was separated from the bar by a wall.

The person who greeted us was friendly, but over all the service felt rushed, they were pretty busy for a Thursday night, so that may have contributed to that. Our waiter was nice and did recommend some great oysters for us when we asked, but he was very short with us, not in a nasty way, he just didn't take his time with us. I feel it is worth mentioning, however it did not ruin our experience.

Elm Street Oyster House has a very nice menu, all the usual things you expect at a seafood place. What was nice is they have "daily specials" in which you can choose your seafood, fish, lobster, scallops, etc and then choose how you want it cooked, steamed, grilled, etc.

As you would expect, they of course have oysters on the menu, and as I mentioned we did ask our waiter to recommend some, so he recommended three kinds and we got two of each. They came out in a lovely presentation on a sliver platter with ice and each oyster had a label next to it telling us what it was. It would have been a good idea for me to write them down, but of course I did not because we were too busy eating them! haha! They were very good. Some of you who have read previous reviews (see Frontera Grill in Chicago) you know Skip is fairly new to oysters. These three were small and not very slimy which is a the way I prefer them. My companion can tolerate the bigger, juicer ones, but liked these too, they had great flavor. We of course were enjoying these with a nice bottle of white wine as well- they had a reasonably priced list.

In addition to the oysters, I also had a cup of gazpacho to start off my meal. It was yummy, very refreshing. When my companion asked me how it was I said, "like eating salsa with a spoon" but it wasn't just any salsa, it was also topped with a couple of sweet and delicious rock shrimp.

For our entrees, I chose the lobster from the daily specials and opted for it grilled, it was very good. It was grilled perfect and the meat was super sweet.
I got to chose two sides and opted for spinach and snap peas, they were both good, seasoned well. My companion went with the sauteed soft shell crab, it is always nice when you find it on a menu and it is not battered or fried. He said they were fresh and tasty. They were seasoned on the spicy side and came with mashed sweet potatoes. The sweet potatoes were also delicious.


All in all, Elm Street Oyster House was a great meal. We enjoyed the atmosphere and the food.

http://www.elmstreetoysterhouse.com/

Monday, September 9, 2013

An afternoon in Amherst

My interest in writing about food and drink really started as a way for me to use my desire to write and my love for wine, food and spirits at the same time. A journey into Skip's youth will be filled with lots of classic novels and poetry collections. Any given afternoon you could find her nose deep in a book, assigned for school or otherwise and on weekends you might find her thumbing through a book of prose by Frost, Yeats or Emily Dickinson. Dickinson was certainly my favorite and I devoured all the information I could about her. It wasn't until adulthood that I realized there was a museum in her home town of Amherst, Massachusetts. Naturally, I have been wanting to visit there for some time. My companion did not find any other suitable reason to travel there so in order to make my dream of going there come true, he planned a trip in which we could go to Amherst to see the museum and then drive somewhere else to spend the rest of our trip- more on that later.

We hit the road early in the morning and stopped for breakfast (see City Limits Diner post) and then traveled the rest of the way to Amherst (about 4 hours from the House of Skip home base). Amherst is a college town and looks as such, especially mid day in early September. There were lots of students milling around, streets lined with book stores and eateries. It was a really lovely day with mild temperatures and bright sunshine. We arrived at the Emily Dickinson Museum, which is a really the home she grew up in and the house next door which belonged to her brother. I'll spare you the details but will share that we had a private guided tour of both houses that taught us about the history of the Dickinson family as well as discussion of Emily's poetry and life. Skip was in heaven.
After the tour we wanted to grab lunch before hitting the road again. There were quite a few choices and we weren't really sure what to do. Knowing we had planned to hit some wineries on the way to our final destination, we opted for a non-alcoholic lunch- shocker I know. So, we picked a casual eatery, Black Sheep Deli. It is just what it sounds like - a deli. There was a big board with all the menu items and a counter where you ordered and paid. You then picked a seat and waited for your name to be called. The place was okay looking, nothing special- very college student friendly. The menu was pretty extensive for a deli. My companion ordered something called "the Italian" which was the equivalent of an Italian hoagie, it had most of the components, capicola ham, salami, mozzarella and crusty bread. I got "the European" which was black forest ham, brie, red onions, lettuce and tomato. It was supposed to be on pumpernickel but they were out so I got rye.

We picked a small table near the window to wait. I went to the bathroom which was absolutely disgusting. It smelled like a zoo, the knob was wet and there were paper towels all over the floor. Luckily I didn't really have to use the bathroom, I just wanted to wash my hands before we ate. And that's what I did, I washed my hands and then used a paper towel to open the door and exit that sorry excuse for a restroom. Not long after I came back to the table a girl behind the counter hollered my name and we grabbed our sandwiches. My companions sandwich looked awesome and he really enjoyed it. Mine also looked good, but when I got to the second half (it was cut in half on the diagonal) I noticed something black on my lettuce and went to remove it thinking it was a bit of wilted lettuce however, it was a fly. I am not sure how long it was there, but I pulled that piece of lettuce off of the sandwich and the fly didn't move at first- it was near death so I doubt it was flying around us as we sat there. There is a good chance he'd been hanging on the lettuce for a long time. I tried to carry on, but I just couldn't so I ended up just picking some of the remaining ham off the sandwich and calling it quits. To be honest the brie wasn't the best I'd ever had either.

In retrospect, I think I was too hasty in making my lunch order, I should have taken more time to look at the menu and order something else, I really didn't like the sandwich I picked which is a shame because my companion really liked his. That aside, there was still a fly on my sandwich and a really nasty bathroom. I am not saying don't visit Black Sheep, just be cautious and definitely look before you bite, I'm glad I did.

http://www.emilydickinsonmuseum.org/

http://www.blacksheepdeli.com/

This is my letter to the world,
That never wrote to me,--
The simple news that Nature told,
With tender majesty.
Her message is committed
To hands I cannot see;
For love of her, sweet countrymen,
Judge tenderly of me!
-Emily Dickinson

Saturday, September 7, 2013

City Limits Diner, White Plains, NY

My companion and I were on our way for a nice road trip to hit a couple of cool places as the summer winds down. After a ride on the turnpike and over the George Washington Bridge, I had major heart palpitations. Luckily not long after that we arrived at City Limits Diner for some much needed coffee and breakfast.

As far as diners go, City Limits was hitting all the right points. They had the obligatory bakery counter in the front and large booths around the perimeter. We were seated at a cute little table and coffee and water arrived not long after we were seated.

There isn't too much to say about the menu other than it had the normal diner breakfast items. My companion got french toast which was made with raisin and currant challah bread and served with a vanilla bean apple sauce and of course maple syrup. The plate arrived with about 4 large triangles of french toast. The apple sauce was on the side, as was the syrup. My companion slathered the apple sauce on his toast and added a drizzle of syrup. He dug in and was pretty quiet, so I think he liked it :) The toast was big and the key is that they used good bread. I opted for the corned beef hash with poached eggs and hollandaise. My hash was presented in a skillet pan, which you know I thought was fun! :) The hash was perfect, it had those crisp edges, yet some of the potatoes were still soft, great textural differences in the dish. The hollandaise was not overly heavy and provided just enough tang to the dish. The meat was seasoned just right, with that salty flavor you want from a corned beef. The eggs were great too, you can't go wrong with a poached egg when you have a good hash. Cutting into that yolk and having it drip over the hash... so good.

The verdict on City Limits Diner? Good coffee and a nice breakfast selection. Comfortable seating and a nice break from NJ/NY traffic. All in all worth the stop. So if you find yourself on a road trip, give City  Limits a try. And get something from the bakery case, we didn't but it sure looked good.

http://www.citylimitsdiner.com/

200 Central Avenue
White Plains, NY 10606

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Despaña Princeton

Again in the mood for something close by and easy, my dining companion and I once more ventured into Princeton. There have been a couple of changes to some local establishments. One that we noticed on another trip, was that this little place on a corner that used to be an Indian restaurant is now a tapas cafe called Despaña. Upon doing some research we found out that it was a BYOB, so a bottle of Spanish red wine in hand we headed to Despaña.

 When we arrived, we found that the first floor was a takeout/deli and that upstairs was the restaurant. They had a super cool second story outdoor patio, but there were no available tables when we arrived, I guess everyone thought it was as cool as we did. Any who, we sat inside which was equally cool.

The menu is designed as small plates meant for sharing. There were so many good things on the menu and so it took us some time to decide. Our waitress was patient with us and gave us plenty of time to look over the menu, in the meantime, we did ask for our wine to be opened and we sipped while we discussed our game plan.

We first ordered some meat, we went with the Iberico ham, which was to be served sliced thin. Then we decided on three tapas Chorizo Con Castañas (chorizo with chestnuts) which were served in mini casserole dish (so cute!), calamari, which came lightly fried and a tomato stuffed with manchego cheese. Next up we ordered a paella to share, we went with the paella mixto which had chorizo, sea bass, shrimp, and chicken. The paella are meant to share and come in two sizes, small and large, we got the small and it was plenty for the two of us when combined with the meat and two tapas we had.

So, how was it? This meal was AMAZING. The tapas came out first and wow- the presentation of the chorizo with chestnuts was so fun, with them all bundled in the casserole dish! The chorizo was spicy and the chestnuts added a unique contrast in both flavor and texture, we loved this dish.
Chorizo with Chestnuts

The calamari had come out at the same time as the chorizo, it was good, but nothing special, similar to calamari appetizers you get any where else. We did enjoy them, as they are one of our favorites. 
Stuffed Tomato
The third dish arrived and it was like a dream (more so for me than my companion) the stuffed tomato was a great presentation, the beautiful red tomato in the middle of the plate, over flowing with cheese, surrounded by a salad of mixed greens and topped with a thinly sliced piece of toasted bread. As we were finishing up our other tapas, our Iberico Ham arrived. It was beautiful. I would hang a photo of it in my home, it was glossy and we couldn't wait to dive in. The ham was sliced paper thin and melted in your mouth. It had great flavor, smokey yet soft, perfectly salty.
Iberico Ham
The last thing to arrive was our paella. It came to the table in lovely little skillet pan and then we were given two smaller versions of the same skillet to use as plates. This made it so fun! The paella was perfect. The rice was soft and stuck together, but crispy on the bottom where it crusted up on the pan. The chicken and chorizo were both tasty and added texture and spice to the dish. The shrimp and sea bass were delicate and sweet for a nice contrast. As I said earlier the small was really a great portion size for us to share after having devoured all three of those tapas plus the ham. If you were going to go lighter on the tapas, you could get a large paella and share it among two or more people.

Paella Mixto
For your entertainment, I will tell you that my dining companion, while we were trying to decide what to order, asked "would it be too much chorizo" (if we got both the Chorizo and Chestnuts and the paella with chorizo) and I replied, "there is no such thing as too much chorizo". And I was right.

So whether you want to bring your favorite bottle of wine and taste the menu like we did by ordering a few tapas or you just want to get your hands on some good pork products in the deli, stop by Despaña.

http://www.despanabrandfoods.com/



Monday, September 2, 2013

North End Bistro, Princeton

Not too long ago, my companion and I headed into Princeton for a casual dinner. We drove to the far end of Nassau St, finding ourselves at the aptly named, North End Bistro.

It is in a really cute building, just next door to the Whole Earth Center. The structure which is mostly glass and metal features colorful decor.  From the moment we walked in we noticed that the staff was super nice. We were standing waiting to ask for a table, and a staff person who was not the hostess, greeted us and said someone would be right with us, there was an obvious concern about us standing there waiting. The hostess greeted us and we requested to sit outside on their lovely patio which faces Nassau St, she told us it would just be a minute, so we got comfortable in their cute lounge-like waiting area and sat on the low cushy couches that were in front of giant floor to ceiling windows. We were not sitting for long before another server greeted us and asked if we were waiting and we said yes, someone else was getting us a table outdoors, he said "no, no there is a table, come with me" and we followed him outside and were seated at a table right against the stone wall that divided that patio from the street. In addition to the stone wall, there was also a line of trees to provide privacy while dining on the patio. My companion and I agreed it was a lovely spot.

We were soon greeted by our server and her helper whom she was training that night. We were provided with menus and told about some special beverages they had available and informed that North End Bistro is an outlet for Hopewell Valley Vineyards and that while they do not have a bar, we could buy a bottle of Hopewell Valley wine and enjoy it with our dinner.

We started with two appetizers, fried calamari and zucchini with a great dipping sauce,  that was zesty and
ahi tuna bruschetta, which was really fresh and tasty. My companion was worried about the wasabi cream sauce that came with it, but when the appetizer arrived he was relieved to see that the sauce was used sparingly. And when we tasted the dish, the sauce was not heavy or super creamy, it was a nice texture and added to the freshness of the fish.

While North End did not have any additions to the menu, they do feature daily specials on the menu, a different one for each day. And Saturday happened to be- pork osso bucco! It was Skip's lucky day! It should be no surprise that Skip got the Osso Bucco. My companion ordered the steak frites, the steak was actually covered in root beer and served with yummy fries. Oh! I almost forgot. When we first sat down, instead of providing us with a basket of bread as is the usual in most restaurants. We were given a bowl of homemade potato chips! Wow. They were thin, crispy and extremely delicious! In fact, when our appetizers arrived, we actually moved the chips to the wall so we would stop eating them! haha!

Any way, back to the entrees, the pork osso bucco was so good. It was tender and full of flavor. The dish was supposed to be served with mashed potatoes, but I asked for veggies instead and was able to get brussel sprouts! Hooray! They were super yummy too! It is always nice when a restaurant is able to be accommodating to diners requests. My companion really enjoyed the steak frites. As soon as it arrived at the table, I kept getting a whiff of something that smelled sweet and then I realized it was the root beer from the steak. The meat was tender and the fries were crispy and delish!

We really had no room for dessert, we definitely could have done with just one appetizer, but we were so excited when we got there that we ordered two, which is why we were so stuffed when we left.

North End Bistro is definitely on the list of places we will visit again. If you want to find out why, check them out for yourself.

http://www.northendprinceton.com/home