missmaggiepops

Eating my way around the world

Victory Dinner & The James Beard Awards

  

This past Monday were the James Beard awards in Chicago. No, I was not accepting a prestigious James Beard award for my slacker food blog. Instead, remember I have a day job as a freelance makeup artist? I did Laura Keller’s makeup (Eeek!), Thomas Keller’s wife, and met Thomas! (Double Eeek!) I have no gossip to tell, they were a very cool couple and I was honoured to help Laura get ready for the big event. And that big bowl of hamdmade tagliatelle with braised short ribs from Eataly was my victory dinner to myself for a job well done. 

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Prune

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I found out about this East Village neighbourhood joint through reading chef Gabrielle’s memoir “Blood, Bones, & Butter“. When my husband came into town for the week to visit me I thought it would be fitting we should go there for our “date-night”. After a few intoxicating cocktails at The Ludlow Hotel‘s bar, we stumbled into the tiny restaurant to a prime window seat. We quickly ordered more wine and the app special: seared duck liver, braised hearts, and fois gras drenched crackers, which were amazeballs.

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For the main, my husband wasn’t that impressed: he ordered the pigeon, which is apparently a classic dish of the restaurant. I thought it was cooked well, but then again I was pretty tipsy by that point, anything was going to taste great. We split a Pinterest-perfect looking watercress salad, and I ordered the black rice cooked risotto-style with duck meat and turnips. Although not as photogenic as my husband’s dish, it was damn good. He thought so too. I think black rice should be the next “big” ingredient. Forget kale or pork belly- give me black rice.

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I have a saying: if it’s not chocolate, it’s not dessert. And there wasn’t any chocolate on the menu, so we ordered the mascarpone ice cream with salted caramel brioche (and a glass of port to wash it down with- long live alcohol!). The brioche cracked as soon as my spoon hit it, like breaking the crust of crème brûlée. Delish. Trying to recreate mascarpone ice cream at home will be on my to-do list, albeit with chocolate.
So, this is a mixed review: I loved my experience, my husband felt “meh”. Maybe go there as wasted as I was and you’ll have a great time.

Yunan Kitchen

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My friend and I were on the hunt for Chinese one night. A Saturday night actually. I had the brilliant idea that we should check out Mission Chinese- they take no reservations, but it was a snowy night, I mean, how crowded could it be? 1hr 45min wait-time crowded to be exact. F*** that. So we walked up Clinton St in snowpocolypse and came upon Yunan Kitchen. “Looks nice, has an “A” rating by the health department, let’s check it out” I said to my friend. I am so glad we did, it was like discovering a little gem in the city without ever having read about it through other reviews. It felt like my little find.
We started off with the smashed cucumber salad: amazing. Super fresh with toasted peanuts. Peanuts are so underdog next to cheerleader-popular almonds.

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For our mains, we shared the special: tea smoked chicken served with pickled veg and more peanuts. The chicken was cooked Perfectly: brined in tea, braised, then quickly tossed into the deep fryer to crisp up the skin and let the fat ooze into your mouth. Ah-Maz-Ing. My only complaint is that the chicken is sliced, served with the bone on. As a diner, I assume that if my chicken has been cut into smaller portions, the bone will have been taken off, be warned.
We also ordered the braised pork fried rice. My friend thought it paled next to superstar tea-smoked chicken, I felt it was everything it said it was going to be: braised pork fried rice and nothing more. Slightly spicey, totally satisfying. Some issues I had with this dish: we were given plastic chopsticks. I just feel that plastic chopsticks are a little harder to manage than wooden, but that’s just me. I also feel rice is easier to eat out of a bowl than a plate with chopsticks. Since we were sharing the big bowl of fried rice, the plates we were given alongside for our own portions were a little useless.

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Another great thing about this place was that it wasn’t filled with obnoxious diners. There were families, and couples, you could hear your accompanying diner talk without having to raise voices, and it wasn’t ridiculously packed at 8pm when we got there. It did start to get busy around 9:30 by the bar where we sat, but we were leaving anyways.
Yunan Kitchen is on Clinton at Rivington.

Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs

  

‘Oh sh*t’, I thought to myself as I was just about to dye some eggs for Easter- I bought brown eggs….. argh. But! Happy accidents do occur, and the brown shell created more muted, earthy tones of the dyes. More Pinterest-friendly I guess you could say. I used Natural Egg Dyes. Although you could certainly make your own natural dye to be used not just for eggs, but to dye wool, etc, I honestly don’t have the time to extract the colour from sources. If you are feeling super Martha Stewart-ish and want to make your own dyes, you could use turmeric for orange, & beets for deep red. Here is a great article that explains how to extract colour. 

As for making patterns on your eggs, I used rubber bands for stripes. You can also use crayons to mark out drawings (white for white eggs, brown for brown eggs) or use herb leaves to make patterns. For the leaves, place the leaf on the egg, wrap nylon around the egg & leaf, secure, and dye the egg. Remove everything when finished to see your pattern.

Paris, je t’aime

  

Paris in the springtime is beautiful. The flowers are starting to pop, you don’t need as many layers of clothing, and there aren’t hordes of tourists like in the summer. Parisian dining has been good to me so far as well.

  

I found fois gras confit at a market (Les Enfant Rouges) in the Marais, off of rue de Bretagne. I know: shut the front door; fat melted into more fat. Omgahdroool.  That same stand had Tomme du Chevre, which I quickly snapped up since it’s hard to find stateside, and a big chunk of sea-salted butter from Brittany.

  

I also grabbed a quick bite to eat at famed Rose Bakery in the Marais (30, rue Debelleyme, 75003 Paris) near my hotel. I had a quiche with chunks of roasted salmon, hubby’s had chorizo and roasted fennel, while kiddo’ ate croquettes of veal & polenta (ok, kinda’ ate. He’s going through the fun toddler phase of subsisting solely on bread & grapes)

  

Of course I did requisite cheese & butter shopping on rue de Rivoli. There are some great markets on that street where you can pick up giant morels, beautiful berries, hard-necked garlic, freah seafood, and so much more.

 

 

  

And don’t forget to pick up fresh yoghurt. My motto in life is: boycotte fat-free yoghurt; Long live cream! Actually, boycotte ‘fat-free’ anything.

  

And if you’re into collecting vintage silver, Paris is where it’s at. Either at the antiques stores throughout the city, or at the markets. I found sterling silver soup spoons for €8 each. 

   

   

I ran into a restaurant supply store, E.Dehillerin, near the Louvre, such a happy accident. Picked up a €20 butchering knife for the hubby, and nearly lost myself in all the copper, and molds section.

  

There really is just too much to talk about in 1 singular post. Next up: restaurant recommendations. A bientôt!

  

  

 

 

  

Zurich

  

Breakfast, Swiss style: rosti potatoes with raclette cheese & the happiest egg I ever did see. Not bad for brunch at Zurich Bahnhof (train station) just before departing to Paris today. 

Beer O’Clock



Labatt, a Canadian brewing company, is known for its iconic dirty-old-man-beer: Labatt 50. That sh*t’s nasty. My husband picked up the Labatt Bourbon Barrel Age a few nights ago, a supposed try at craft brewing by a large conglomerate. We mostly tasted vanilla, not bourbon. I’m drinking it right now at my own private happy hour (aka drinking by myself in my kitchen) mostly for the alcoholic content. But the taste isn’t that bad if you’re in the mood for a sweeter beer. Labatt, you’ve cleaned up; not in a Brooklyn-hipster-way, but more of a West-Island-of-Montreal cleaned-up. Good enough.

Tiny NY Kitchens

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Who says you can’t cook in a generously-sized closet aka NY apt? With Whole Paycheck just down the street from me, I was able to whip up Bon Appetit’s Curried Ground Shrimp & Noodles for dinner. It’s amazing how creative you can get with a limited amount of counter space. I do recommend a food processor for the shrimp, and I just finely diced my onion instead of pulsing it into a paste as the recipe called for. I skipped the extra Korean hot chilies as my jalapeno was already super hot, and subbed cilantro for the basil because cilantro is Much cheaper in the winter than basil. Dinner for 1 just got elevated.
Click here for the recipe.

And for another great recipe to cook in a tiny kitchen, I also made Bon Appetite’s Oven Risotto with Kale Pesto. I had no idea you could cook risotto in the oven, what a great trick! You can use any sort of green in here, not just poster-child kale. Collards, spinach, Swiss chard, and even arugula would be great to use in place of the kale. I also used a mix of almonds & walnuts for the pesto.

Russ & Daughters

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I love a good deli just like the next person, and this definitely fits the bill. I know, I know, go to Katz’s, it’s a NY institution, but I’ve been there years ago and found it to be more tourist trap than an authentic dining experience (is there even such a thing?).
Russ & Daughters was great. I took the baby there (ok, well, he’s technically a toddler now, but he will Always be my baby….), and kiddo ate latkes with salmon roe on them. He Loved them:) I, meanwhile, ordered the most perfectly cooked sunny-side eggs with smoked salmon & latkes, while the hubby ordered sturgeon, eggs & onions. Delish. Baby & I washed our breakfasts down with a chocolate egg cream, and a cream soda that was flecked with vanilla bean seeds.

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Next time, I would love to order their caviar. Hopefully baby will be just as into that idea as he was with the salmon eggs.

Northern Spy Food Co: Finger Lickin’ Good

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I’ve spent February in NY, and the dining has been good to me so far. I recently went out to brunch with my good friend in the East Village at Northern Spy Food Co, and it was finger lickin’ good. I ordered the grapefruit and ginger seltzer, and we split the buttermilk biscuits with apple preserves. The seltzer was great: refreshing and not sickly-sweet, and those biscuits were so good my friend ordered another round for herself.

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The decor is exactly what you would expect out of a farm-to-table restaurant: disheveled wood, prop-styled perfect sugar bowls, and chalkboards describing their wares. All ingredients are locally sourced and seasonal (hence the name: Northern Spy is a variety of apple).

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For the main course, I ordered the pulled chicken sandwich with the most perfectly cooked poached egg. It was amazing. Definitely not first-date food; no, this sandwich is meant to be eaten with a significant other, or a really good friend, that is in it for the long-haul. It’s just too messy to be eaten around someone you’re trying to make a good impression on. But what’s messy, just like a bad boyfriend, is oh-so-damn-good going down.
My only complaint with this restaurant, and with dining in general lately, is seeing kale, and pork belly on the menu. I don’t know about you, but I’m kinda’ over kale. Kale has become the Justin Beiber of menus: obsessed over, everywhere to be found, and then all of a sudden, just like the Bieb’s, it won’t go away. Same goes with pork belly. Pork belly has become so common it’s like calamari: you’ll find it everywhere, no matter how fancy or not the joint is. I think the problem is the overuse of these ingredients; and for that matter, the availability. When ramps come into season, we all obsess over them, they’re on every single special, and then magically they’re gone when the clock strikes summer. Either restauranters find a new ingredient to obsess over, or chefs should think about using some other humble, yet nutritional-superstar veg, in place of kale- broccoli or cabbage anyone?
Even with my neurotic rant over kale, you should still definitely check out Northern Spy Food Co. You will not be disappointed.