Review: Prune (East Village)

Sunday Brunch at Prune

I fell in love with Prune before I’d ever eaten there. Naming her restaurant after her childhood nickname, Chef Gabrielle Hamilton documented her experience opening Prune in her New York Times Bestseller, Blood, Bones, and Butter. By the time I had finally made dinner reservations, I already knew about Hamilton’s affinity for Negronis, her love of the simplicity found in radishes and butter (a favorite we share), and the attention to detail involved in cooking a hare. Like the menu that values “simple” delicious food, the restaurant itself is easily overlooked- so much so that after reading at length about the restaurant’s façade and 30-seat bistro dining room, I walked right past the distinctly purple awning and wide windows that look out on the sleepy residential street it’s nestled in. After a few 180˚s, I entered the dining room to be greeted by a blonde woman in a dress who showed me to my table.

(Spoiler Alert: I realized months later while attending a Taste Talks event that this blonde woman listening in on my know-it-all accounts of Gabrielle’s life, was the chef-author herself. Cue: me physically cringing for the next week with flashbacks of me rattling off Did-You-Knows about Gabrielle while she refilled my water glass).

Prune Carbonara

The menu, which recently underwent an enormous overhaul that coincided with the restaurants fifteenth anniversary and Hamilton’s first cookbook, featured a list of dishes inspired by the Italian countryside Hamilton loves: Duck breast with cipollini onions, dandelion greens, and agrodolce dressing, Escarole salad in the Ruman puntarelle style. I ordered a lamb dish with chickpeas, and a chicken broth with a poached egg. While the components of my meal were simple, the flavor of each dish was incredible. The broth in particular had a depth of flavor that I’ve never experienced from broth alone.

This past Sunday, I returned to stand outside of Prune at 9:30 AM, thirty minutes before doors opened with roughly forty other people layered in coats, hats, and mittens for brunch. While I love brunch, I’ve become distrustful of eating out for brunch after one too many botched Eggs Benedict and watered-down mimosas. Prune’s brunch was enough to earn my trust back instantly. Seated by the large front window, I felt like I was in an open-air French bistro despite the ice-cold pane of glass to my left.

Egg en Cocotte

As soon as the menu hit the table, my boyfriend and I went a little crazy and ordered all of the foods (many of our restaurant outings begin this way, but this was excusable for an anniversary brunch). Spaghetti a la Carbonara; fresh Ricotta with raspberries, figs, toasted pine nuts and honey served with Merveilles; Egg en Cocotte served with chicken, buttered white toasted and a mixed level vinaigrette. Drinks and sides all around!

While some of the foods were not perfect (the chickpea side wasn’t particularly interesting and the ricotta could have used some more honey), the meal was. From the slightly tart and salty center of the Merveilles to the friendly waiters, reasonably-priced food, and Beatles-heavy playlist, consider my dislike for brunch gone. Carbonara is often done too heavily, relying on a thick egg-cream sauce for its flavor. At Prune, however, the cream was traded for a significant dose of pepper and thorough coat of parmesan, allowing us to easily polish off a huge bowl of the lighter-than-expected dish. See you next Sunday, Prune.

2014 Best of New York

Buttermilk Channel Lamb Salad

Bear with me, but I’m about to make a huge claim: 2014 was my best food year ever (and maybe best year ever?). After graduating in May, then moving to New York City this summer, I made it my goal to try just about every restaurant I could get into – which was a lot. Eight months and countless bites (and pounds?) later, here are the restaurants and meals that have excited me the most this year:

The Best of the Best:

Favorite Overall Restaurant: Pok Pok Ny
Best New Restaurant: Cosmé
Best Cocktail BarEmployees Only
Best Beer Bar: The Cannibal
Best Brunch: Prune
Best Fancy Date Night: The NoMad
Best Easy Date Night: All’onda
Best Set Dinner for Two: Pig Out at Tuome
Best Cocktail: Hunny at Whiskey Soda Lounge
Best Bite: Uni with Truffle Salt at Sushi Nakazawa

Honorable Mentions:

Best Pop-Up Restaurant: Mission Chinese Pop-Up
Best Tasting Menu: wd~50
Most Unexpected Taste: Popcorn Parfait with Concord Grape Sauce at Contra
Best Ramen:Jin Ramen
Best Fried Chicken: Buttermilk Channel
Best Cocktail Name: Sippy Cup at The NoMad
Best Late Night Dessert: Salty Pimp at Big Gay Ice Cream
Best Ice Cream: Vietnamese Coffee at Morgenstern’s
Best Pastry: Blueberry and Cream Cookies at Momofuku Milk Bar
Best Piece of Food Writing: An American Ramen Master by Pete Wells

Holiday Host Gift: Challah Wreath

Challah Wreath Host Gift

Most of the parties I get invited to at this point in my life are accompanied by a case of Bud Light or boxed wine, but there are certain situations that require a host gift that doesn’t come in a cardboard box. And I’m not talking about wine (Let’s all get a little more creative!). Here’s a gift that’s easy to make, under $10, and is guaranteed to be a hit every time.

After the smash success of Challah French Toast and the realization that honey in braided bread might be the best thing since sliced bread, I now present the Challah Wreath. All you do is follow the recipe below to make challah (I doubled the recipe to make a larger wreath), then braid the challah into a circular braid. To do this, braid the challah on a baking sheet, braid the end pieces into each other and tuck them in so that the start and end points are disguised. Also, remember to put a small bowl or other oven-proof object in the middle so the hole doesn’t close up!

Once baked, place fresh rosemary into the challah to look like branches, and add either edible flowers or cranberries for some color. As a final touch, put a soft, round cheese in the middle so that the challah can be shared around the table with some delicious cheese for the perfect hors d’oeuvre!

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Recipe: Four-Ingredient Weeknight Chicken

FourIngredientChicken

If I had all the time in the world, I would cook a four-course spread every night (and probably weigh twenty pounds more than I do), but unfortunately having a 9-6 (which is often more like a 9-7:30) doesn’t lend itself to nightly feasts. To compromise my love of cooking with maintaining my sanity, I keep a few dishes in my arsenal that are incredibly easy and pair well with an after-work beer.

This dish is one that my mom often cooked as part of her weeknight arsenal, and I was amazed to find how easy it is when I asked her for the recipe. While the ingredients are somewhat reminiscent those one might find at a 1950s Tupperware Party (Is Lipton’s Onion Dip Mix actually safe to eat?), it’s undeniably delicious and easy!

Time: 40-60 minutes
Yield: 8 servings of chicken

You will need:

½ pack Lipton’s Onion Dip Mix
Half a jar of apricot jam or preserves
¾-1 cup teriyaki sauce
8 chicken thighs

To make:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place roughly four scoops or half a jar of apricot jam in a small mixing bowl with the Onion Dip Mix. Add teriyaki sauce until it has the consistency of molasses.
  3. Place the chicken thighs in an oven-safe dish and pour the sauce over the pieces of chicken, making sure to cover it evenly.
  4. Cook the chicken in the oven for 30 minutes at 400 degrees, then lower the oven to 350 degrees and cook the chicken for another 15 – 30 minutes, until it is is cooked and still a little pink, and the sauce has become caramelized.

Giving & Thanking: A Guest’s Last Minute Guide

Giving & Thanking

If you’re anything like me, you’re sitting at home with your family (still in your pajamas) watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, or you’re sitting on your bed listening to your boyfriend play guitar while you wonder what to wear since it just started snowing, and what to get for a last minute host gift. If you’re in the latter category like me, here are some tips to get your Thanksgiving going without a hitch:

Bring the perfect host gift. Resist the temptation to bring wine (unless asked). Many hosts will have already bought all the necessary wine and booze to go with your meal, and by bringing a bottle, you will be throwing an impostor into the mix. If pressed for time (which, let’s face it you probably are), pick up an expensive bottle of Olive Oil or Vinegar. If you have a couple of hours before the feast, try making this centerpiece. It’s gorgeous – and edible!

Get into the holiday spirit. I am usually fairly against watching the television during the holidays – with two exceptions, one of them being the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (the other being It’s a Wonderful Life on Christmas Eve). There’s nothing like watching a hydrogen-pumped fake turkey to get you into the mood of eating one. If you’re in New York City this year, catch the balloons uptown where there are fewer tourists – anywhere above 51st Street and Sixth Avenue is usually prime for viewing!

Call your mom. If you aren’t lucky enough to be with your family this year (or consider yourself lucky for dodging that bullet), take time today to give your parents a call. Even if it’s for a quick chat, one phone call can go a long way. On that note, text your friends – they’re basically family too and it never hurts to let them know you’re thinking of them!

Find the perfect outfit. Whether finding inspiration from your closet, or running to JCrew to find something acceptable to wear to Auntie Carol’s, just remember that black is slimming, and leave room for that food baby. And a last coat of nail polish can go a long way in making an outfit look more polished.

Get outside. On the food baby note, getting some exercise on Thanksgiving never hurt. Whether it’s an early morning Turkey Trot, or a long after-dinner stroll, take time to stretch  your legs. Your post-Thanksgiving belly will thank you.

Review: All’onda (Greenwich Village)

Before moving to New York City – when the uni craze was at its peak – I saw a photo on Kate Krader’s Instagram. Captioning a bowl of Bucatini pasta nested in breadcrumbs, she wrote, “Yes on Bucatini with smoked sea urchin & spicy bread crumbs.” Although I had not yet graduated school, yet alone found an apartment in New York, I made a reservation for two at All’onda in May.

Yes on Bucatini with smoked sea urchin & spicy bread crumbs.

A photo posted by Kate krader (@kkrader) on

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How to Budget for Dining Out

How to Budget for Dining Out

One of my favorite things about living in New York is that every time I read the NYTimes Dining section, or see an Eater list of top restaurants, almost every restaurant is within a subway ride away. Since moving to New York, I’ve been to four out of five of Eater’s “hottest” restaurants and eaten at some of the best restaurants in the world, even though chances are my salary isn’t a third of the size of those dining on either side of me. One of the most common questions I get when I tell people about the fantastic meal I’ve eaten the night before, is “How did you afford that?” The short answer is that food is something I care about and make an effort to prioritize, but here are some tips I’ve adopted for being able to eat out at an amazing restaurant at least twice a month!

Have drinks at home. While having a glass of wine is sometimes a necessary part of a meal (Say Yes to the wine pairing at Noma, say No to the wine pairing at the new trendy place down the block), whenever you feel that the cocktail or wine list won’t enhance the food, skip it and look forward to the bottle of 2 Buck Chuck you have waiting at home for you! Another tip: my boyfriend and I have a deal that if one of us is taking the other out, the other person will pay for all of the drinks.

When you eat out, make sure it’s somewhere special. Don’t eat out (or order in) just to eat out. On nights where I’m too exhausted to cook, and just don’t have it in me to make anything for dinner, I stay away from the Take Out menu drawer in my apartment and head to the grocery store. If necessary, lots of stores have great ready-made options that are a fraction of the price of take-out. Trader Joe’s has great frozen foods that (while not nearly as delicious as anything home made) cost $8 instead of the $20 that China Palace will cost you.

Bring lunch to work. Never, ever eat lunch out. Think of it this way: if you spend $10 per workday on lunch, then that’s $50 per week and $200 a month. That’s an entire twenty-course tasting menu at 11 Madison Park or Sushi Nakazawa, or a dinner for two with all the drinks you want at Pok Pok. Chances are you won’t remember the fried chicken you bought last Thursday, but I can still describe in detail every piece of tuna Mr. Nakazawa served me two months ago.

Ditch your gym membership. A gym can cost upwards of $80 per month. Instead of spending your money on treadmills and barbells, try running and working out outside (it’s a better workout anyways)!

How to Cook an Entire Pumpkin Pt. 3: Pumpkin Bread

Fresh Pumpkin Bread

In honor of my favorite fall food, I’ll be taking apart a pumpkin one piece at a time to show you how to make an entire meal (appetizer, entrée, and dessert) with one five-pound pumpkin! Here’s how to make the rest of the meat and make a dessert!

My love affair with pumpkin started with pumpkin breads and pies. Every Thanksgiving, I look forward to the pumpkin pies that would come with it, but most often came out of a can, premixed with pumpkin purée, sugar, and nutmeg. After a recent purchase of pumpkin butter, I decided that I wanted to learn how to make pumpkin bread the old fashioned way, and it was much easier than I expected it to be! As long as you have a food processor, the entire preparation shouldn’t take you more than thirty minutes!

Time: 20 minutes (1 hour, 15 minutes to cook)
Yield: 1 loaf

You will need:

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups shredded fresh pumpkin
1 cup toasted pumpkin seeds (I did not like the pumpkin seeds but others did!)

To make:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Sift the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix the sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla. Combine both mixtures and fold in the shredded pumpkin and pumpkin seeds (at last minute). Once the ingredients are all incorporated pour into a non- stick 9 by 5 by 3-inch loaf pan, coated with butter.
  4. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. At this point a knife inserted into the middle of the loaf should come out clean. Cool for 15 minutes and turn out onto a cooling rack. Cool completely.

 

Credit: Adapted from Food Network

 

How to Cook an Entire Pumpkin Pt. 2: Roast Pumpkin With Feta & Honey

Pumpkin with Feta and Honey

In honor of my favorite fall food, I’ll be taking apart a pumpkin one piece at a time to show you how to make an entire meal (appetizer, entrée, and dessert) with one five-pound pumpkin! Here’s how to make the meat into an entrée!

Time: 40 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

 

You will need:

2 Lb. Pumpkin, peeled and cut into bite sized cubes
3 Tbsp. Olive Oil
3 Tbsp. Honey
3 Tbsp. Balsamic Glaze
1 Tbsp. Salt
1.7 Oz. Crumbled Feta Cheese
1/2 Tsp. Chili Flakes
Salt and pepper to season

To make:

  1. Preheat oven to 410F.
  2. Toss the pumpkin cubes in the oil and bake for 20 minutes.
  3. Drizzle with honey, balsamic glaze, feta and chili flakes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot or cold. (I served it over an arugula salad and it was delicious!)

Credit: Adapted from Not Quite Nigella

How to Cook an Entire Pumpkin Pt. 1: Prep & Seeds

How to Cook a Pumpkin I love pumpkin-flavored things, and I’m not talking about the latte-variety. Two years ago, during my semester abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark, I joined a farming co-op that in the winter months delivered bags of vegetables to my door. The co-op specialized in seasonal vegetables that could withstand the freezing Scandinavian fall, so I ate way too many beets and pumpkins from August through December of 2012. My roommates and I made use of our pumpkins with pastas, soups, and some failed attempts at pumpkin cookies, but the experience made me realize how over-looked actual pumpkins are for the amount of “pumpkin spiced” things stocked in Trader Joe’s this season.

In honor of my favorite fall food, I’ll be taking apart a pumpkin one piece at a time to show you how to make an entire meal (appetizer, entrée, and dessert) with one five-pound pumpkin, starting with the seeds! [Read more…]