Avenue Food

Rosetta Wines at Atlas Park

 

 


Last weekend, on one of our usual hikes to the
Atlas Park Mall, Sarah and I dropped by Rosetta Wines. We’ve checked this spot out before, but it’s definitely been awhile. Maybe it was the fantastic display of rosés that greeted us as we strolled inside, or perhaps the charming store rep conducting the special prosecco tasting swayed us—man, it’s hard to say no to that bubbly stuff!--but we were completely blown away by this friendly, sophisticated and exceptionally appealing store. I think what really closed the deal, at least for me, was the selection of harder-to-find booze, including Sazerac rye whiskey, sitting on the sturdy wood shelves. Honestly, this store seems to be a miniature Astor Wines in our own backyard. They’re hosting a elderflower liqueur tasting today for heavens sake, how sweet is that! If you’ve never been, we urge you to walk on over.


Rosetta Wines
http://www.rosettawines.com/
The Shops at Altas Park
8000 Cooper Ave at 80th Street
Glendale, New York 11385

Sushi in Central Queens


Is there such a thing as good sushi in Central Queens? Brian and I have spent the past few weeks investigating the situation, and I wrote about it for About.com. Click here for the roundup—which includes Sushi Yasu and Sakura-ya Japanese grocery in Forest Hills, Shiro of Japan at the Atlas Park Mall, and Toyo in Middle Village.



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Creamy Hummus





Hummus Place, a mini-chain of little shops in Manhattan, has, in this hummus-lover's opinion, achieved the pinnacle of chickpea-puree perfection with their exceptionally smooth and creamy product. The West Village location is just close enough to my office to be a temptation pretty much every week. The hummus is served warm, with tahini, with chickpeas, or with fava beans and an egg. Each order comes with pickles, onions, a delicious homemade hot sauce, and two fluffy pita—perhaps indicating it's meant to serve two people. But the hummus tastes so good, I invariably eat up all of it myself, stopping just shy of licking the container.

Now, I've been making my own hummus for years—ever since I acquired a food processor. But I generally just throw the stuff together and give the whole lot a whir, not really paying attention to proportions and, consequently, getting wildly inconsistent results.

So, finally, inspired by Hummus Place, I decided to buckle down and create a real recipe—one that is rich, creamy, and contains just enough lemon. While I do believe that gussied-up versions, with roasted garlic or red peppers or whatever, have their place, I think this basic one stands just fine on its own.


CREAMY HUMMUS

2 cans garbanzo beans, drained, rinsed, and drained again
1 clove garlic, finely minced
3/4 cup tahini
1/2-3/4 cup water
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons lemon juice
Salt to taste (This will depend on personal taste, as well as what brand of chickpeas you use. I used Goya, and ended up adding 1 teaspoon.)

Combine ingredients, except for salt,  in a food processor, beginning with the lesser amount of water. Process until super smooth and creamy, adding more water if it's too thick. Taste and season with salt. Garnish with extra virgin olive oil, toasted pine nuts, and/or paprika.

Hummus Place
99 Macdougal Street
New York, NY
212-533-3089


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Death in the Afternoon






Absinthe. Just the word stirs up a flicker of apprehension in the hearts of casual and veteran imbibers alike. I too had my concerns, my mind filled with images of naughty green fairies, straight jackets, and mad googlie eyes. But despite all that, curiosity—especially since tasty drinks are involved—got the better of me. This is why on my
last trip out west, I made it a point to sample the stuff.

On this particular excursion to San Francisco, absinthe seemed to be everywhere. In fact, it was clearly on display in many of the spots where we bellied up to the bar. At Range, while Sarah and I sipped our 1794 cocktails, it was hard to ignore the bartender as she wrestled with a bulky absinthe drip, which had just arrived that day. After getting the fauceted contraption positioned correctly, she began to fill it with ice-water. Unfortunately, we weren't able to stick around.

We did get a chance to have a sazerac made with genuine absinthe at Cantina, a really raucous house of mixology. I have to say that though the drink was nice, it couldn't hold a flame to the sazerac (non-absinthe version) made at our beloved Flatiron Lounge. Even so, the tropical tequila, rum, and sangria drinks on the menu looked absolutely amazing—I’m definitely going back.

The last stop on our absinthe journey was, fittingly, Absinthe Brasserie & Bar. We dropped by this French-themed hot spot on our last night in the city. When we asked the sharply suited barman for an absinthe-infused bevie, he produced the Death in the Afternoon, a Champagne-based drink popularized by Ernest Hemingway. With its potent taste of licorice and star anise, absinthe isn’t for the squeamish. That said, our cocktail was mixed with craft distiller Hanger One’s absinthe, which is as complex as it is balanced. Though my energy was flagging before my first sip, a pleasant invigorating calm took hold of me once the drink was down the hatch. No wonder the old man liked to throw a bunch of these back before facing the bulls. I suggest you take an absinthe trip yourself.


DEATH IN THE AFTERNOON

1 ounce absinthe
5 ounces champagne (the colder the better)

For my libation I used absinthe from Lucid, who claim to employ a more authentic 19th-century recipe than their competitors. The method is dead simple. Just pour a half ounce of absinthe (one ounce if you dare) into a Champagne glass, then top off with bubbly. Ideally the mixture should cloud up, attaining an almost milky appearance.

 
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Off the Menu: Orecchiette with Cauliflower


    Inspiration: Lupa 




Though I long ago overcame most of my childhood vegetable aversions (asparagus, eggplant, avocados, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, mushrooms, zucchini—oh, how I hated zucchini!), I only recently reached a conciliatory fork out to that pale, strangely textured supermarket staple known as cauliflower. And you know what? I liked it! Of course, it was no ordinary cauliflower preparation that won over my taste buds. This was cauliflower a la Lupa, Mario Batali’s crazy-popular Roman trattoria in the West Village, where we always go assuming we won’t be able to get a seat, but sometimes, miraculously, manage to snag a couple stools at the bar.

The cauliflower was pureed, creating a delicious and subtly flavored coating for their housemade pasta. In my version of the dish, I like to use orecchiette, whose concave shape is perfect for capturing bits of tasty sauce. Toasted walnuts add crunch and a welcome nuttiness; a generous sprinkle of parsley livens up the monochromatic appearance.


ORECCHIETTE WITH CAULIFLOWER AND WALNUTS

1 head cauliflower, cleaned, trimmed, and cut into florets
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
1 can low-sodium chicken broth
1 pound orecchiette
Hot pepper flakes
Salt and pepper
Plenty of grated Parmigiano (1-1.5 cups)
1/2 cups chopped, toasted walnuts
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

Put pasta water on to boil. Sauté shallot and garlic in olive oil. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes, broth, and cauliflower. Simmer until cauliflower is quite tender, about 15 minutes. Cook pasta. Mash cauliflower mixture well with a potato masher, season with salt and pepper. If it is too watery, simmer down a bit. Toss pasta with sauce and cheese, garnish with walnuts and parsley.

Lupa
170 Thompson Street
New York, NY 10012
212-982-5089


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Oxtail Soup with Shiitake and Tofu






My first foray into cooking with oxtails came just a couple of weeks ago, when I adapted for my handy-dandy pressure cooker a recipe from the New York Times by David Chang, the famously meat-adoring chef of the Momofuku mini-empire. His (actually, his mother’s) Korean-style soup, hearty with chunks of daikon, was an unqualified winner, and I decided to give oxtails another go this past weekend.

This time around, I played fast-and-loose with the ingredients, and ended up with quite a different soup altogether. Not better, not worse (I don’t think), just different. I flavored the broth with ginger and star anise, and brought fresh shiitake and tofu to the party. I don’t know what it is at this point—I mean, I don’t think you could call it Korean anymore—but even if it is sort of a pan-Asian mish-mash of flavors, it did hit the spot. Oxtails make a lovely rich broth, and this soup is thick with mushrooms and jiggly squares of tofu. Put it on the menu when you're hankering for a real belly-warmer. Serve with rice, or cook up some rice noodles to go in each serving.


OXTAIL SOUP WITH SHIITAKE AND TOFU

1 oxtail, cut up (about 2 1/2 pounds)
1 large onion, quartered
1/2 pound fresh cleaned shiitake, stems separated and caps sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 slices ginger (about 1/4-inch thick)
1 whole star anise
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tub regular tofu (about 1 pound), drained and cut into small cubes
Salt and pepper
Chopped cilantro for garnish
Chopped scallions for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place onions, shiitake stems, and oxtails in a roasting pan. Coat them lightly with oil; generously salt and pepper oxtails. Roast until oxtails are nice and browned, about 40 minutes. Place oxtails, onions, and shiitake in a pressure cooker with garlic, star anise, and ginger. Add seven cups cold water. Cook at high pressure for 20  minutes, then use natural release method to release pressure. Remove oxtails, set aside to cool. Strain broth. Bring broth to simmer, season with soy sauce, salt to taste, and plenty of black pepper. Add mushrooms, cook until tender, about fifteen minutes. Meanwhile, remove meat from bones. When mushrooms are done, add tofu and meat, simmer another couple minutes to heat through. Garnish each serving with cilantro and scallions.


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Pasta with Pancetta, Pepper, and White Wine



 


This past Monday evening, faced with a nearly empty fridge and too lazy to hop on the subway, we came close to throwing up our hands and trying our luck with one of the reliably mediocre restaurants that seem to thrive in Forest Hills. But there is one thing I hate more than eating food that sucks: spending lots of money to eat food that sucks.

So I considered the meager holdings of our pantry, remembered the pancetta I had thrown in the freezer some time ago, and cobbled together a pasta that I think will become a staple in our weeknight rotation. Sort of like carbonara minus the egg, this simple spaghetti is meaty, full flavored, and delicious. The wine adds a touch of acidity and the shallots oniony sweetness. You won't need any extra salt (except for in the pasta water, of course!) because the pancetta provides plenty.


PASTA WITH PANCETTA, PEPPER, AND WHITE WINE

1 pound spaghetti
3 ½-thick slices pancetta (about 1/2 pound total), cut into small chunks
2 minced shallots
½ cup dry white wine
Black pepper
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Put pasta water on to boil. In a large sauté pan over fairly low heat, render pancetta in a little olive oil until it's dark and crisp. Add shallots, sauté a couple of minutes. Add wine and a generous amount of coarsely ground black pepper, simmer for about ten minutes. Boil pasta, adding about 1/2 cup of the pasta water to the pancetta sauce and simmering a few minutes longer. Drain pasta, toss with sauce and parsley. Finish with a sprinkle of cheese.


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1794






I certainly don’t think myself a revolutionary, but I do consider whiskey-drinking serious business. So too, it seems, did settlers along the frontier of a fledgling United States, judging by the events of the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794. Range, a popular and very cool restaurant in San Francisco, references this troubled time in the nation's history with a 1794 cocktail, which Sarah and I sampled during our holiday visit to California.

This tasty libation is based on
rye whiskey, which can be a bit hard to come by these days (at least in Queens), but was the prevailing brown stuff back in the country's youth. Basically a Manhattan with an Italian twist, or perhaps a Negroni dreaming of the Big Apple, the 1794 will appeal to lovers of both its forebears. Complementing the rich spiciness of the whiskey is a slight bitter bite of Campari. Rounding that out is the sweetness of vermouth. Binding it all together is an aromatic flamed orange peel for garnish. Oh yeah, now that’s a taste fit for adults!

The proportions of the main ingredients are subject to debate—really, it depends on where your taste resides on the Manhattan/Negroni, or sweet/bitter, scale. During my personal fine-tuning, I had fun convincing open-minded NYC bartenders to play along with me—Kerrin and Scott of PJ's Steakhouse and Gates of Gstaad, many thanks.

The 1794 is my submission for this month's Mixology Monday, hosted by Jimmy's Cocktail Hour. The theme? Variations.


THE 1794

1½ ounces rye whiskey
½ ounce Campari
¾ ounce sweet vermouth
Strip of orange peel

Begin by chilling a martini glass. Add rye, Campari, and vermouth to a mixing glass. Next add lots of ice. Stir for a good twenty seconds to ensure everything is nicely mixed and chilled. Strain contents of mixing glass into your cold martini glass. Now take the orange peel and warm its outside skin gently with a lighter or match. Lower flame directly above the drink and squeeze the peel with its outside skin pointing downward. The essence should hit the flame, then spark up. To finish, rub the peel around the edge of the glass and garnish.


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Off the Menu: BBLT Panino


Inspiration:
Murray's Cheese Shop





If you truly are what you eat, I’d wager a guess that Brian and I are each about 50% cheese. And I blame Murray’s. Murray’s is arguably the best cheese store in New York City, and it just happens to be located between my office and the station where I catch the subway home each night. I used to try to avoid stopping in more than, oh, two times a week, because I worried about spending too much money on six-dollars-per-pound artisanal pasta and consuming too many calories in the form of curdled milk products. But the allure of this brightly lit shop, with its underground caves that you can view from the sidewalk and its promises of luscious Tallegio, tongue-tingling Cabrales, made-that-day Mozzarella, and salty, complex cured meats is just too great. Now I just try to escape for under $20. (Thankfully, I’ve come to realize the six-dollars-per-pound pasta isn’t better enough than the $1.29-per-pound pasta to justify the difference.)

Did I mention Murray’s does lunch? Oh yes. Oh yes, indeed. These sandwiches are not your run-of-the-mill sawdust-esque turkey and flabby roast beef. No, these bready masterpieces are a cut of well-sliced salumi above. Like the Iberian, featuring Iberian ham and rich La Serena cheese. Murray's also sells a BLT with a twist—rather than mayo, this one uses Burrata, an Italian cheese that's basically Mozzarella wrapped around an oozy cream center. The first time I'd even heard of Burrata was last year on one of Lidia Bastianich's cooking shows. Now, not only does Murray's sell it, but I've seen it on restaurant menus, too. And it's really no wonder the stuff is catching on—it is soft, creamy, and decadent. Traditionally, Burrata is served with broccoli rabe; the vegetable's bitterness is a fantastic complement to the cheese's milky sweetness. For my home version of Murray's indulgent sandwich, I used peppery arugula and sun-dried tomatoes—though when summer comes around, I'll probably swap in fresh ones.


BBLT PANINO

Bacon, fried
Arugula, washed and dried
Cooked Bacon
Good-quality sun-dried tomatoes in oil, sliced
Fresh Burrata, sliced
Rustic country bread

Layer ingredients on bread. Proportions are up to you, but be careful to not use too much cheese (or it will ooze all over the press). Grill in a panini press.


Murray's Cheese Shop
254 Bleeker Street
New York, NY 10014
212-243-3289


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Shrimp with Saffron and Tomato






Even work-night meals call for a little bit of extravagance. Take this super-simple shrimp dish, which is one of those crunched-for-time throw-together things and would actually be sort of boring were it not for the aromatic addition of saffron. This exceptionally alluring spice—actually the stigma of a type of crocus—may be shockingly expensive pound-for-pound, but so few threads are required to infuse a dish with its luxurious fragrance, deep flavor, and rich yellow color, even a fraction of an ounce will last you quite a long time. So don’t keep the saffron tucked away for a special occasion—use it to jazz up everyday dinners, too. Served with good bread and a green salad, this shrimp is a excellent way to start.


SHRIMP WITH SAFFRON AND TOMATO

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups canned tomatoes, crushed with your fingers or passed through a food mill
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
A good pinch saffron
1 pound peeled shrimp
Salt and pepper

Saute garlic in the olive oil. Add tomatoes and thyme to the pan and crumble in saffron. Season sauce with salt and pepper, simmer about ten minutes. Add shrimp and simmer until cooked through. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.


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