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During the holiday break, Joel and I decided to go to Orange Glory for lunch. However, when we arrived, it was closed. I was very disappointed since we do not get to go there very often and their food is amazing. They are only open for lunch during the week, which is not very practical for us.

And then Julia announced that she had to go to the bathroom. You cannot ask a toddler to hold it while you drive to another restaurant. So Julia and I ventured to Hart’s Local Grocers, which is around the corner from Orange Glory. As we were walking toward the bathroom, we passed by a large sign that advertised a bunch of sandwiches. “Oooo!”, I thought. After Julia successfully went to the bathroom, I walked back to the car and told Joel that we should check out Hart’s.

The menu included a bunch of sandwiches, but both of us settled on the Hart’s Signature Breakfast Sandwich, which included 2 fried eggs, avocado slices, arugula, pancetta, and sriracha mayo. It sounded amazing… and after taking a bite, it tasted just as amazing!! The roll was soft and warm, the pancetta added the right amount of saltiness, the arugula added a nice peppery flavor, and the avocado… well , anything tastes amazing if it has avocado on it

We have gone back to Hart’s for the sandwiches several times since that visit. Then a few weeks ago, my friend Kristin was visiting and we decided that we should make the sandwich ourselves.

IMG_5334I must say that our version was a success! It was super simple to make… mix a bit of sriracha into some mayo, then spread it on the bread. Fry 2 eggs, breaking the yolk so the yolk is cooked through. To assemble the sandwich, you add the fried eggs to the bread and top them with the pancetta, sliced avocado (sprinkled with a little salt), and a handful of arugula. That’s it!

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Although my version was super tasty, it was a little different. I do like the roll that Hart’s uses… it has a semi-soft crust and a soft interior. I use whatever bread I have on hand, usually a farmstyle bread or a soft-sided Italian bread. The pancetta that they used was thicker than the one that I used. When I bought the pancetta, I was unsure about how thick to get it so I chose a thin slice. I would do a thicker slice next time. It would add more of a substance to the sandwich.

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Since Hart’s is a bit of a drive, I can now enjoy the sandwich anytime. In fact, I just made it today for lunch.

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cooking with julia

As I was cooking dinner the other day, Julia enthusiastically said, as she was pushing her little chair towards the counter “Can I help you cook?”. “Sure!”, I answered. I was making veggie burgers. She helped me mix the mayo with the pesto and then she spread the pesto mayo on the buns. She also helped me add the cheese slices, the avocado slices, and the tomato slices on the veggie burgers. It was a good first dish to help with and she was very proud. She ate half of the veggie burger, which is a lot for her.

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The next day she asked to help me cook again. This time I was cooking a curry soup from the Isa Does It cookbook. I showed her how to chop the onion, garlic, and ginger. When the oil was warm, we added the onion and sauteed it until soft. We added the garlic and ginger and cooked it a bit more.

The next required ingredient was rice. Joel helped her scoop the rice into the strainer and then we rinsed it. We then added the broth and the rinsed rice and she helped me stir.

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Once boiling, we added the curry paste and the cubed sweet potatoes. When the soup was almost done, she helped me add the spinach leaves. She loved this part… she loved grabbing the leaves and placing them in the pot. I let her do it a few times, since she grabbed small bunches.

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The soup was super tasty! It is the second time that I made it and this time tasted the best! :)

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lunch

I spent my lunch in the woods following deer tracks and a stream.

51The deer set the best routes… if you follow them, you will for sure have an adventure.

2It was so nice to be out… the weather has been super frigid lately and I felt cooped up.

4I was alone in the woods. It was quiet and serene. I did occasionally hear a few birds sing and the sound of the stream rolling through the ice.

6The snow was fantastic.

3Lunch was just… perfect.

I have a thing for gnocchi. I have had it for a long time. Soft pillowy melt in your mouth goodness… yum!!

I have never had the guts to make them from scratch. I usually buy the Gina Italian Village Potato Gnocchi, which are pretty good. But whenever I go out to a restaurant and they offer home made gnocchi, they taste so much better. My favorite have been at Good Luck, as I mentioned in a previous post.

A long time ago, my friend Karen, who is a super cook, invited me over for gnocchi. She shared her trusted recipe and showed me how to make them. The process was not very difficult, but it was time consuming. Her gnocchi were super tasty! She sent me home with the recipe, which I filed in my binder and thought about it every time I made the store bought gnocchi.

While browsing my new cookbook, Isa Does It, I found a recipe for a sweet potato gnocchi. After reading it, it did not seem too difficult and she mentioned that the total hands on time was 30 minutes. “Ooo! That is not too bad!”, I thought. Since my birthday was this past weekend, I decided to make them for my birthday dinner with my parents.

What I liked about the recipe is that you roast the sweet potatoes. Also, peeling the roasted potatoes is super simple. Once your potatoes are roasted and peeled, you mash them and then add miso, olive oil, salt, corn starch, and flour.

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The recipe required 1 1/2 cups of flour and noted that the dough should not be sticky. I found myself adding a bunch more flour since my dough was super sticky. Not sure why that was. I think that in the end, I used an extra 1/2 cup or more of flour. It was still a bit sticky in spots, but it was manageable.

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Once the dough was at the desired consistency, I removed the dough from the bowl and sectioned it into smaller rounds, rolled the rounds into strips, and then cut little pillows. Rolling the dough was a bit tricky since it was somewhat soft. I found myself rolling some of the strips between my palms instead of on the counter. Also, as suggested, I tried to score the pillows using a fork so they resembled the traditional gnocchi, but was unsuccessful. The pillows were soft, so perhaps that was the reason.

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I doubled the recipe since I wanted some leftovers, so I ended up with a lot of gnocchi. Since I doubled the recipe, it did take me longer than 30 minutes to make them.

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Cooking them was very quick. Just like any fresh pasta, you only cook them for a few minutes and once they raise to the top, you can drain them. I removed them using a slotted spoon as suggested. I was afraid to drain them in a colander, thinking that they might stick or fall apart.

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The recipe also included a creamy tarragon sauce with brussles sprouts. Instead of cooking the brussels sprouts in a pan, as required, I decided to roast them, since it is simpler and I love roasted brussels sprouts.

A vegan cuisine basic seems to be soaked cashews. Apparently it is used in a lot of sauces and soups. It gives the dish the creamy consistency and it is also a thickener. I decided to use coconut milk instead, since I did not have enough cashews and forgot to buy more.

For the sauce you sauté some onion and garlic and then add some white wine and cook it until the alcohol evaporates. Next you add the chopped tarragon and cashew mixture (this is where I added the coconut milk). Since coconut milk is fairly liquidy, I made a little roux and added it to the sauce, which thickened it nicely. I finished the dish with some pan-seared scallops, since I was in the mood for some fish/seafood.

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The dish was tasty. It looked really pretty! I found that both the gnocchi and the sauce were pretty mildly flavored. I wonder if the cashews would have added a little more substance to the sauce. I think that next time I will add some (ignore if you are vegan!) prosciutto or pancetta to the dish. Some sprinkled Parmesan cheese would also be a very nice touch.

Nonetheless, I was pleased with my dinner. And, my mom made my favorite birthday cake, which completed the dinner.

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Happy birthday to me! :)

Dilly stew… how can you resist that?!? And dumplings… really?!?

While spending an evening at our friends Amy and Richard’s house, I was eying their cookbooks. They are vegan and I have always had an interest in it. Looking at my cooking you might say that I do steer towards it, since I am lactose intolerant so I stay away from dairy, do not eat much meat, and eat lots of fruits and veggies. But I am definitely not vegan and it is highly unlikely that I will go there. I have a love relationship with prosciutto and desserts, which usually include eggs.

Their collection of cookbooks included Isa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildly Delicious Vegan Recipes for Every Day of the Week by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. While browsing the cookbook, I found a bunch of dishes that sounded really good, one of them being the dilly stew. I took a photo of the recipe and was excited to make it. Then a few days later I was opening a gift by the Christmas tree and lo and behold it was the Isa cookbook! Joel bought it for me. I was super excited! I browsed the cookbook again, admiring all the photos and recipes, and I decided to still make the stew as a first try.

The recipe is pretty simple. The hardest part, and it is not really that hard, is chopping all the veggies. The dish requires your basics, onion and garlic, and a bunch of veggies such as potatoes, carrots, and celery. I had some sweet potatoes, which Julia loves, so I decided to swap for a few of the regular potatoes. The dish also requires beans and a few fresh herbs such as dill, thyme, and rosemary (for the dumplings).

To start, you have to make a roux by adding some olive oil and flour. She mentions using a wooden spoon to mix it. I decided to use a whisk, since I have made a roux before and worked really well. The annoying part of making a roux is that it can clump. Using a whisk mitigates that risk. Once your roux is made you add the onions (I used shallots) and cook them a bit. Then you add the garlic and after a few minutes the broth (I used the Better Than Bouillon chicken, which I love) in a slow stream to prevent any additional clumps. You then add all the veggies and simmer them until soft.

IMG_5254The dumplings where the easiest in the world! You simply add some flour in a bowl and mix some salt, baking powder, and chopped rosemary. You then make a well in the center and add some milk (I used coconut milk) and olive oil and mix it until it comes together.

Once the veggies are soft, you simply drop spoonfuls of the dough into the pot, cover it, and simmer everything for about 15 minutes. That’s it! I really liked the dish, especially the dumplings. They definitely make the dish. The best part about it is that you can experiment with different veggies for the stew and different herbs for the dumplings.

IMG_5256I love new cookbooks! Especially ones that include tons of photos… I find them more inspiring. I really want to make every dish in this cookbook! Although the cookbook includes vegan recipes, you can easily substitute or add non-vegan items such as chicken broth, dairy, meats, etc. If anything, I feel like the recipes give you a good base for adding more veggies to your everyday meals. In addition, the recipes seem simple and do not require strange ingredients that you will only use once. In fact, I noticed that multiple recipes include the same ingredients, which is fantastic!

I planned my meals for this week and two of them are from the cookbook. Stay tuned! :)

cibon: a tribute

On Tuesday I found out that Cibon was closing its doors and opening as a French restaurant. Julia had her first sleepover at my parents’ house so Joel and I were childless for the evening. We tried to think of a place where we have not been in a while and after naming a few options, we settled on Cibon.

As soon as we walked in, I noticed a change. There is now a communal table in the middle of the restaurant and new fabric on the cushions. It looks nice. I did not really think anything of it, specifically about the communal table. It seems to be a new fab in Rochester at the moment… everyone seems to be including it in their space. (I associate the communal table with a French place… specifically Le Pain Quotidien.)

Once we sat down, our server stopped by and informed us that it was their last day as Cibon and that they were out of a few items on the menu. I could not believe it! I was speechless! How can that be?? Cibon has been one of my favorite places in town. Joel and I have been going there since they opened, which was at least 14 or 15 years ago.

I remember our first visit. Tivoli used to occupy the space. Joel and I went there a few times and then all of a sudden Tivoli closed and Cibon took its place. I was a little sad that Tivoili closed since the space was kind of cool. Cibon was a nice surprise. Their menu included paninis, which was a new thing and they were only $4.25, breakfast items, such as bread and jams, and juices. It was great! Joel and I practically lived there… we went there every weekend and sometimes during the week too. The food was fantastic and the atmosphere was just as good. They always had the lights dimmed and played awesome music. The place was even greater in the summer since they had the outside seating, although that came later and it was also a new thing. Outside seating was unheard of in Rochester at that time, but it is definitely fantastic and I am glad that it stuck.

I have so many awesome memories at Cibon. I celebrated numerous birthdays there. The space where is now the kitchen used to be a little cozy area that included a comfy couch and a small side table. That was my favorite spot to gather with my friends to celebrate my birthday or just hang out. The staff knew us well since we visited so often… I loved that! I was super disappointed when they converted my cozy space to their kitchen. What were they thinking!! HA! The place was always my first pick for any gathering, even without the cozy space. The food was always consistently superb and the atmosphere was the best in town.

Their menu did evolve over the years, which was expected. I remember when they stopped serving the juices. They were really the only place in town that served fresh squeezed juices so it was kind of sad. At that point, their menu became more of a lunch/dinner spot. They added some pastas, which were fantastic. I feel like they were also one of the first places to serve fresh pasta. I remember the first time we ordered the linguine with pesto and pine nuts. It was to die for! The pasta was super fresh and the pesto was super tasty. It was such a simple dish but so good! Also around that time they started serving the paninis with a large pile of greens and the Cibon sauce. Joel and I always commented how fresh their greens were. I don’t think that we ever had a wilted green… ever!

I always went there for the paninis. I think that I ordered one 98% of the time. My favorite has always been the Michelangelo, which was sauteed shrimp with pesto, goat cheese, and tomato. The bread was always sprinkled with some salt and herbs before it was pressed. It was a bit messy on the fingers but the taste made up for it. I tried other paninis over the years and they were just as good. It was a bit disappointing when during one of our visits we noticed that the bread was different, which is the same bread as they used for a few years now. The previous bread was not too crusty and had a soft middle. Apparently Cibon had the bread made specifically for them and all of a sudden the baker started to sell it to everyone in town. So Cibon broke up with the baker and had to find a new bread. I feel like the bread was not as good as the original, but it was still acceptable.

I can go on and on, but I guess I should stop. I still cannot believe that it is closing. I am sure that the new restaurant will be good but it will not be the same. Yes, I am very sentimental and I do not like when my favorite things disappear. It is also a little surprising to me that the owners are actually changing the restaurant name too. Why not just change the menu. It seems a bit risky to me, but I guess I do not know much about running a business or a restaurant.

I am so glad that we went there on Tuesday night. It would have been so sad if the visit was in the new restaurant. At least I got to try their panini one more time.

Cibon closing feels like losing an old friend. I guess I can always make new friends, but it will not be the same and I will miss it dearly.

 

good luck

Oh Good Luck… where do I even begin?!? I just love you! I really do.

Good Luck in my opinion is one the best restaurants in town. Every time I visit, it just gets better and better. I am not sure how that can even be possible, since every meal is just super. Every time! But it is true. I realize that there are other restaurants in town that are perhaps just as good, but I cannot get myself to go anywhere else. It is not like I visit it that often… we only go there for special occasions. Maybe it is because I know that I will always have a memorable dinner there. It is just perfect.

First, the cocktails. I admit that I find myself asking the server what a lot of the ingredients are, but even so, the drinks are SO good. Somehow all the different ingredient combinations just work. So creative! My latest find is the 1620 Japan… bonded bourbon, plum wine lavender syrup, lemon, Regan’s bitters, soda, sorrel, fresh mint. Oh my! And I do not even like bourbon. Ha! I hope that it will be on the menu next time I visit. It is definitely a keeper.

Then, the food. I really love how the dishes are made to share. It provides an opportunity for the group to taste multiple dishes. And that is exactly what we do.

One of may favorite dishes is the gnocchi. I have an obsession with gnocchi. It is my comfort food. The gnocchi at Good Luck are just heavenly… little goat cheese pillows that just melt in your mouth. And the sauce… oh the sauce… simple, yet so delicious. What makes the sauce is the guanciale… cured pork (of course) that is pan fried to a crisp. Salty, crispy bits of yumminess! Seriously! The combination of the gnocchi and the guanciale is just heavenly. Bread is definitely necessary to scrape the bowl. No residual allowed. In fact, the servers asked multiple times if they can take our “empty” bowl… our answer was a strong “No!”. :)

During our recent visit, we brought Julia along. Of course her favorite dish was also the gnocchi… she is my daughter after all. She kept pointing to my dish asking for more. “But, but… they are my gnocchi!” I thought. Those few gnocchi were on my plate for a reason… I saved them to savor them slowly. But how can I say no to my sweetie pea. Oh the sacrifices that we do for our children. :)

Another favorite is the organic greens salad with avocado vinaigrette. That’s right… avocado vinaigrette. It is a simple salad, but the vinaigrette makes the dish. Once again, bread is definitely necessary to scrape the plate. No residual allowed here either.

Another dish that we savored during our recent visit was red lentils with sweet potatoes, swiss chard, and agave. It was served straight out of the oven and it had a stew like consistency. The sweet potatoes and agave gave it a perfect amount of sweetness but the dish also had a touch of spice. The lentils and sweet potatoes just melted in your mouth. Mmmm… Yes you guessed it… bread is also necessary here too. :)

The other dish that is becoming a favorite and that I hesitate to admit to is the burger. I know what you are saying… “You do not eat beef, Veronica!”… I know! But the burger at Good Luck is SO good. I do not know what they do to it, but it is so tasty. Again, I really do not want to admit it, but cannot help myself. Ha! And the fries are amazing too… thinly cut (my favorite), a little crispy, and salty. A perfect companion to the burger.

The last thing that I would like to mention is the chocolate cake. The first few times I ate at Good Luck when they first opened, the chocolate cake was made into a shallow ramekin. It was served straight out of the oven and the top was crispy and the middle was gooey. Oh my! Joel and I would go there just to have the cake and drinks. Then over the years, the cake evolved into a smaller and taller cake. It still comes right out of the oven, but it is no longer gooey. At first we were disappointed, but during our last two visits, we decided that it is just as good, maybe even better than it was originally.

Their menu changes with the seasons, which I love. But sometimes it is sad since the dishes are not exactly how I remember them. Their evolution, however, is never a disappointment. The chefs are so creative and amazing. Just like the drinks, the different ingredient combinations that they blend just work.

So yeah, Good Luck… I really do love you! You are just perfect!

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