chocolate and spice… and everything nice

Jordan is sitting next to me, sulking over a failed attempt at an extremely complicated chicken soup recipe from Thomas Keller’s book.  The chicken that he roasted for said recipe was kick-ass, as usual (we got to nibble on some of it for lunch). His dumplings, however, had a crumbly consistency, and fell apart.  He’s now researching other dumpling recipes in an effort to salvage the soup.  Stop being so hard on yourself, honey!

Anyhoo, we had quite the culinary weekend despite this snafu (but try telling that to Mr. Sulkypants).

{fried rice, spanish style}

{omelet}

{lemon cauliflower}

{cooling cookies}

{lunch spread}

{two bite buckeyes}

The highlight was most definitely the Two Bite Buckeye cookies from Food52 (http://www.food52.com/recipes/13509_twobite_buckeye_cookies), which were a runner up in their chocolate and spice recipe contest.  Now I haven’t tasted the winning recipe, true, but I absolutely cannot believe that these didn’t take first prize.  Imagine Mexican hot chocolate in cookie form, with… ready?… a peanut butter ganache.  To die for.  He made a batch of these babies on Saturday, and they quickly disappeared.  We even used them in lieu of tips for our massages (which were given to us by students at the Finger Lakes School of Massage).  Speaking of which, I can’t believe we didn’t know about this deal sooner.  90 minutes in heaven costs only $35, and since the masseurs are students, tipping is a no-no.  Cookies as currency is not a bad idea – they seemed quite pleased about it in fact.

When Jordan woke up on Sunday, the first order of business was making another batch.  We’re each planning on bringing some to work this week, although the hoarder in me thinks that they are too good for sharing.

lately

Here is some of what’s been going on around here lately.

{blueberry pancakes with peach preserves}

Jordan’s famous blueberry pancakes topped with Robin’s famous homemade Amagansett peach preserves.

{scrambled}

Jordan has not yet gotten the memo that processed meats are evil.  Here we have chorizo sprinkled atop scrambled eggs and sausage from Hemlock Hills farm on the same plate.  Scrumptious.

{snake bite cake}

This was another Food52 find. The chocolate cake was made with Guinness. The cream cheese frosting was supposed to be made with pear cider, which J couldn’t find. Instead, he decided to infuse it with some lavender mint tea that we had laying around the house. And he says he can’t improvise…

{flowers}

Flowers for poor, sickly me.  Thank you sweetie.

vacation planning for foodies

I am the trip planner whenever J and I travel.  I get a strange sense of comfort and satisfaction from reading guide books and ruminating over itineraries, maps, and hotels.  This is especially true in the case of Japan, since I know (or more accurately, knew) my way around, and since I have a laundry list of places that I am aching to revisit.  Within about a week of booking our trip, I had almost entirely mapped out our journey and finalized our hotels.  You could say I was more than a little excited.

When it comes to food, however, I encourage J to do the research and tell me where he wants to eat.  To him, every vacation is about food, first and foremost.  And while the culinary experience is a big deal for me as well, I don’t quite relish the idea of reading through countless posts on Chowhound and the like in order to find the most beloved foodie destinations.

Putting aside the  challenge of navigating Japan, and particularly the labyrinth of Tokyo, I created a Google Doc for us to collaboratively plan our adventure.  I have filled in where will be each day, with a column for “activities”, and another column for J to fill in, called “eating”.  Here he can pull together his sources for the best food in a given area.  The challenge, of course, will be in our ability to find these restaurants once we’re there, but we’ll cross that bridge later.

J started his research with the cities of Kyoto and Osaka.  So far, he has bookmarked a chain called Yubanzai Komame-ya, specializing in yuba, a delicacy composed of fresh layers of the skin of soybean milk (in other words, tofu skin);

{komame-ya set}

and Giro Giro, offering a modern take on Kaiseki (a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner), which has been widely well-reviewed.  People particularly are drawn in to watch the chefs at work.

{giro giro restaurant}

Of course, we don’t want every detail planned in advance.  I hope we can wander aimlessly and let our noses guide us to some great hole-in-the-wall places as well.

catching up

I may have been too busy to post anything over the last few weeks, but that doesn’t mean J has been slacking in the kitchen.  On the contrary, I have many highlights to share.  And, although J will swear up and down that he is a terrible baker, many of this post’s goodies are baked ones.

{lemon custard sponge cake}

This lemon custard bread has my name written all over it.  I typically love anything lemony, especially in the dessert category.

{biscuits}

J made these homemade biscuits to pair with a soup (picture not found).  I think I tried to resist eating them for about 5 minutes, and then I had to give in and eat them for the rest of the week.

{smothered in sausage gravy}

And now smothered for weekend brunch, just to make them extra healthy.

{blueberry scones}

J begged me to make these blueberry scones (because I was already feeling terribly about myself over all the lemon custard and biscuits).  I will never be able to eat a Starbucks scone again.  Amazing.

{mayo-less tuna salad}

Finally, something healthy!  This tuna salad with olives, peppers, artichokes, basil (recipe from food52) is the best I have ever had in my life.  I could eat it everyday.  There are so many flavors going on, and the basil gives it a hint of sweetness.  Served with kale and quinoa salad, one of J’s go to recipes, always fantastic (and lemony).

{monkfish}

Our friend, Amy, visited us this past weekend, and J knew that brunch the next morning would be pretty naughty, so he went easy on us with dinner.  It was healthy and delicious, and made us feel a little less guilty about dessert.

{dessert}

We finally finished off the scones, which is both happy and sad.

{potato scallion pancakes}

Brunch prep: this is basically a giant latke, from J’s Thomas Keller book.

{brunch: potato scallion pancakes topped with eggs, sausage, salad}

The finished product.

Needless to say, we could use a good walk today to make up for the damage we’ve done.

good food week

{carrot soup}

{multigrain blueberry pancakes, honey}

{onion tart}

Some homemade Middle Eastern mezze:

{chick pea salad and babaganoush}

{beet and blood orange salad, chorizo}

unseasonable

This week brought us two very cold days, with temperatures in the teens at night.  That’s all it took to finally get some noticeable ice on the lake, and even along the Hudson River.   Then the weather got much warmer.  Today feels like the first day of spring, in fact.  We have some melting going on in the backyard (luckily for the ducks, who are still clinging to every unfrozen inch of the place).

{ice}

{ducks}

{frozen leaves}

{puddle}

J is worried that this winter will be too warm for the lake to freeze over.  He has long been looking forward to walking on it.  We’re told that it always freezes though, and by late January/early February the ice fishers will emerge with their huts.   I hope J will wait until he sees them safely perched out there before  running across it himself.

holidays

We’ve had our first holiday season up here (and as a married couple).  Christmas trees now lay on curbs, the car has been equipped with snow tires, and it looks like temperatures will start to drop this week.  Although we did get a freak snow storm in October, it has since been unseasonably mild and we are holding our breaths waiting to see what winter, at its most brutal, will look like in Lake Peekskill.  I think that as long as we resign ourselves to use the occasional sick/vacation day when the roads get dicey (we both get plenty but rarely use them), it might actually be easier (i.e. prettier and cozier) up here.  Jordan’s prediction is that this will be a mild winter, and that we’ve already experienced the worst.  He’s such an optimist.  I keep telling him that December is always the mildest month of the winter.  We kid ourselves into associating Christmas and New Year’s with snow, but January is when the season hits full force.  Once the next snow falls, we won’t see the ground for many months to come.  I wonder if we will still go hiking/walking every weekend, and whether people will want to keep visiting us.  I wonder if either of our cars can handle snowy roads (hope so!), and how long it will take to shovel them out and defrost them in the morning before work.  And I wonder how we will bear the morning commute into the city, knowing that if we stayed home we’d be in front of a raging fire and looking out onto the frozen lake in our backyard.  The real test of whether we are cut out for life up here, or whether we should pack our bags and join J’s family in sunny California, begins now.

In the meantime, we had some Christmas weekend guests, who were treated to J’s sausage and peppers and his lamb tagine.

{sausage and peppers}

{hosting}

{lamb tagine}

For New Year’s weekend we visited our friends in Amagansett, where we walked through sand dunes and cooked a seafood feast.

{walk}

{marsh}

{crab claw}

{stuffed clams}

{lobster and sweet potato fries}

{seafood feast}

Tomorrow we head back to regular work weeks (well, it’s only a 4 day week, but still…).  These last 2 long weekends in a row have spoiled us rotten.