Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Chocolate Mint Crinkles

I love chocolate cookies! That's just a statement of fact. I especially love fudgey chocolate cookies that are crispy on the outside and slightly chewy on the inside like the corner piece of a bath of brownies. When I saw this recipe, I knew I had to try it. Plus with the cracked top and powdered sugar, these cookies look like they've had a dusting of snow!


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Lobster Rerun: Holiday Recipes

It's holiday baking time again! Nothing like the warmth of the kitchen mixed with Christmas songs and movies to ease you into holiday mood. We're only a week away from Christmas and treats are expected when I show up at my family's house! Here are some of my favorites from last year that I shared with you - I put them in order of difficulty in case you want to try one this year!

Peppermint Bark 
This recipe is way too simple and delicious NOT to try! Just melt a bunch of chocolate, add mint extract, and crushed candy canes! A crowd pleaser for sure.

Chocolate Mint Ganache Cupcakes (and Cream Cheese Frosting)
The assembly might take some time but these cupcakes filled with a ganache surprise are extra decadent topped with a yummy cream cheese frosting.

Fleur de Sel Caramels
These nuggets of buttery caramel goodness are addictive especially with the salty topping. The hardest part of this recipe is paying full attention to the sugar carmelizing and waiting for it to get to the exact temperature. If you have the patience to do this right, the reward is well worth it :)

What's your favorite holiday treat? Are you trying any new recipes this year? 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Good Eats SF: Izakaya Sozai

Just when you think you can't eat any more food, here's some good eats I had on a recent trip to San Francisco!

In the mood for some Japanese small plates and ramen? Then head to Izakaya Sozai!

My sister introduced me to this place, saying it's one of her "go to" restaurants that she takes her San Francisco guests. And now I know why. Sozai is a tiny restaurant of maybe 10 tables and bar seating open to the kitchen. By my sister's recommendation, our eating plan was (every good meal starts out with a plan doesn't it?) a few izakaya (or small plates) followed by a steaming bowl of their house special ritsu tonkotsu ramen. We kept an eye out on the menu for any starred (*) items which were considered house specialties.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Good Eats SF: Tony's Pizza Napoletana

On my last trip to California, my San Francisco born and bred friend mentioned he heard somewhere that the "best pizza in the U.S." was at Tony's. He didn't believe it and looking at two New Yorkers (me and the hubs), he knew that we didn't believe it either. So we did some research. While USA Today doesn't claim it to be the "best" it does call it "the most unique and comprehensive pizzeria in the nation, if not the world". Ok, pretty credible source so why not check it out?

Not sure what to expect, we were all surprised and impressed by the menu which was divided into several sections boasting pizza specialties from different regions (Napoletana, Califorina, Classic American (New York style), Roma, Sicilian, Detroit, Classic Italian, even St. Louis) which each has its own type of oven and temperature (gas, electric, wood, coal)! Very cool.

We ordered two pizzas for the four of us. First, Tony's award winning Margherita (according to the USA Today review, he's the first American ever to win the title of World Champion Pizza Maker at the World Pizza Cup in Naples 2007). The menu states that only 73 Margherita pizzas are made each day in a 900 degree wood-fired oven.

The Margherita had a thin fluffy crust with a smokey flavor. Tomatoey but not too much marinara sauce and perfectly placed fresh mozzarella bites topped the pizza. It was a win for Tony's and for our stomachs.

Next up, we tried a coal-fired white pizza with garlic and clams. Another win! This white pizza had garlicky clam bites cooked into the cheese along with some very juicy whole clams with shells on top. Like bonus bites of clammy goodness.

There were so many other pizzas I would have liked to try on this extensive menu. I wonder if they all would be as tasty as the Margherita and White pizzas we had. Oh well, save something for the next trip.

If you're in the North Beach area or are interested in getting your Sicilian pizza next to your Cali style, check out Tony's!

Which type of pizza would you try?

Tony's Pizza Napoletana
In North Beach
1570 Stockton Street
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 835-9888

Monday, December 5, 2011

Simply San Marzano?

What is my obsession with marinara sauces? Previously, I made a tasty tomato sauce using a Bon Appetit recipe and techniques which promised and delivered a better pasta experience. But if you read the recipe it requires a food processor and I just don't want to spend the time to clean it after. For this recipe, I tried a  simpler using slightly different and fewer ingredients:
Serves 4
1 - 28 oz. can of San Marzano tomatoes
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
2 table spoons of good olive oil
3 garlic cloves, finely diced (kinda garlicky so scale down if you don't like garlic)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
accidental amount of sea salt (helpful, yes? maybe...1 teaspoon)
a few grinds of black pepper
chopped fresh basil (optional)
1 lb of fresh linguine

In a nut shell, San Marzano tomatoes are regulated heirloom tomatoes from San Marzano, Italy. The tomatoes have a sweeter less acidic flavors compared to Roma tomatoes which is what we usually find in "canned tomatoes". San Marzano canned tomatoes have their own special regulatory stamp of authenticity which of course makes them more expensive. Read the wiki here.

I don't know for sure if these tomatoes made this sauce so tasty or if it's the rest of the recipe. Either way, give it a try. San Marzanos run about $2 more than your normal can of tomatoes (which in my store is about $1.99). I did notice that the tomatoes seemed to be a brighter red and the juice it was sitting in seemed thicker than my normal can of tomatoes. Onto the recipe:

Heat up the 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced garlic, allowing it to sizzle until quite fragrant. Add pinch of red pepper flakes. Don't let the garlic burn / turn brown because then it'll be bitter.

Pour in full can of tomatoes. Add 2 tablespoons of tomato paste (about two 2" squirts if you're using a tube). Stir sauce and use the spoon to start mashing down the whole tomatoes. Allow sauce to simmer over medium low heat for ~ 35 minutes, stirring occasionally. I threw in a couple basil leaves toward the last 15 minutes that I later removed before serving.

Halfway through the cooking time, take a careful taste of the sauce. Add salt as needed. Or accidentally drop a chunk of salt into the sauce like I did, try to scoop it out, not find it, and then realize after that actually that was the right amount of salt. So really use your taste buds here to figure out what that amount is. I'm guessing 1.5 teaspoons.
Meanwhile cook the fresh pasta per the directions on the package and drain, set aside. Fresh pasta has such a different texture, if you haven't tried it you should! I haven't eaten much until recently and I really like it! There's more bounce to the bite. Some call that "toothsome." I call it yummy. The pasta  I bought suggested 3-5 minutes. I did 4, I probably would have been better at 3. Don't forget to reserve about a 1/2 cup of pasta water toward the end of the cooking time.

When sauce is done, remove from heat. Add a few tablespoons of pasta water to loosen it and spoon over fresh pasta. Twirl to incorporate. Add fresh chopped basil.
I can't tell you how much I love a bowl of carbs. The sauce was pretty tasty - I noticed that it's not as tart as using regular tomatoes and the flavor seemed deeper somehow. Next time I'll make a batch and freeze them in little Ziplocs for individual weeknight sized portions.

What's your favorite tomato sauce recipe?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Holiday Cards

Last year I ordered Minted.com holiday cards decorated with one of our newly received professional wedding photos. I revisited the site this year and opted for a non-photo card called the Merry Ribbon design in orange.
Merry Ribbon Holiday Non-Photo Cards
I left the card pretty much how the sample looks and even though I loooooved the backing and envelope liner options, the total price per card was just too much for me (even after a 20% discount). Plus if I'm really ambitious, I have some leftover paper from wedding stuff that I could use for liners.
Cute liner option
Back options
This year I also scaled back on the # of cards. Last year I waited until the last minute and hurriedly sent out cards to a bunch of folks. I'm also debating whether to keep the "2011" off the card in case I do have extra. Then I can save them for next year.

Are you doing holiday cards this year?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving Recap: a Dog, a Frog, and Some Meatballs

Alright, I know Thanksgiving is "over" and it's on to Christmas / Cyber Monday, etc. I couldn't help but share our first Thanksgiving in our new neighborhood.

We woke up to a bright and almost warm fall morning and headed to check out the parade! Since you have to wake up at the crack of dawn for the prime seats, we settled for standing mid-block and watching a few floats pass us by. Seeing Snoopy go by really just made my Thanksgiving!
here he comes!
and there he goes...
Afterward, we walked to check out the remaining balloons waiting in the wings including childhood faves - the Smurfs and Kermit! Buddy, however, was so distracted by the squirrels running around teasing him.
Hubs being "cheeky" 
For our Thanksgiving meal, we joined the hubs' family at Telepan, a neighborhood restaurant that is his family's favorite! Homey and warm, we felt very welcomed by the wait staff while the maitre'd and chef also came out to say Happy Thanksgiving. Even better was the meal that accompanied the hospitality. Here are a few pics to share:

The amuse bouche from left to right - a gruyere cheese puff, apple slaw, and mushroom soup. It's hard to choose favorites but since the cheese ball oozed cheesy goodness, I'll pick that one :)
My appetizer was a burrata mezza luna in ... a mushroom and parmagiano broth and mini meatballs. O. M. G. So delish.
And of course I couldn't pass up on the organic turkey with brussel sprouts, sweet potato and yukon potato mash. The turkey was cooked just right and juicy and flavorful hiding a tasty stuffing underneath.
Finally, traditional Thanksgiving day dessert - apple pie in the form of two fried but light dumplings with a few dollops (wish it was a bowl) of caramel sauce and cinnamon ice cream.
I was so amazingly full at the end of the meal, I could barely stand when it was time to leave! Overall it was a great holiday with cool fall weather, good food, and always good times with family! For me the highlight though was seeing Snoopy in person

What was the highlight of your Thanksgiving?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Small Business Saturday - $25 back on your Amex!

Register your Amex card for a $25 statement credit TOMORROW! Spend at least $25 at a small business (your local deli, bakery, wine store, restaurants, dry cleaners, boutiques, etc.) and get a $25 statement credit on your registered card.

Register here and for more details
Where will you spend your $25? I plan on visiting the bakery (mmmmm) or somewhere for brunch :)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing you happiness and full bellies with your friends and family!
Buddy not checking out the Kermit float!
Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Times

Happy Thanksgiving week!

Now that the Lobster fam is settled on the Upper West Side, we're a stones' throw from the inflation of the balloons in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade the night before. Nothing says Thanksgiving like a GINORMOUS Snoopy over New York City.
We will follow the route in this handy dandy inflation map on Macy's official parade site
Then after a long, happy, filling Thanksgiving Day on Thursday, I'll relax with a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and A Very Gaga Thanksgiving.
What's your Thanksgiving tradition? Anything new?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Good Eats NYC: The Leopard

Last month, my in-laws invited me and the hubs to dinner at The Leopard des Artistes in the space formerly known as Cafe des Artistes, a mere stone's throw from Central Park. The Leopard serves yummy Southern Italian food and despite the more formal atmosphere (v. my usual haunts), we had a relaxing and delicious experience! Since I was unable to take my own photos, the below recap shows professional photos from various reviews :)

See here the pretty paintings! Note how no one is distracted by the artistic nudity.
Photo from The New York Times review
For the art buffs, some history from The Leopard's website:
"Rich in history, the landmarked Hotel des Artistes is the largest “studio” building in New York City. It was originally designed by George Mort Pollard and developed by Walter Russell as an artist’s cooperative apartment building in the beginning of the 20th century.

Friday, November 18, 2011

I Want Truffles!

Thanks to Serena at Big Apple Nosh for sharing this giveaway! I've entered and now so should you!
I want truffle ectasy, Don't you? Enter Now!

If I won, I would amp up my Truffle Mac & Cheese which I made last year for Thanksgiving. It was a hit and I can't imagine how much more of a hit it'd be with real white alba truffles! I drool.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Good Eats now in NYC!: Ladurée Macarons

During our trip to Paris, my travel buddy and I ate 20 macarons in 2 days. Is that too much? To give you some perspective, that's about $40 in cookies. Blame it on the exchange rate OR blame it on the deliciousness of Ladurée.

Oh, macarons, so pretty...the smooth round top of the almond meringue, the crusty "feet", the ganache filling peaking out between the two cookies.
Photo courtesy of my sister
I've had a few macarons in New York and they don't come close in comparison to the Ladurée macarons. My travel buddy and I loved them so much we stocked up on the last day to bring a suitcase full back for our family and friends (and ourselves of course!)

The Ladurée macaron is chockful of textures. When you first bite it, you break into the crisp outer shell. Then a slight chewiness of the cookie, followed by an even chewier bite of the filling paired with a burst of flavor from the middle. You can taste the almond bits in the cookie. The fillings taste fresh and made with real  ingredients - framboise (raspberry) made of real raspberry with real raspberry seeds.

Fast forward a few months from my Paris trip and now there's a Ladurée  in NYC! On a recent visit on a Sunday afternoon, the line for the French delights was out the door. Granted the store is pretty small so it's easy to create a long line. I waited about 30 minutes before I got to my cookies - the same flavors available in Paris with the addition of Cinnamon Raisin - maybe something seasonal for American palates? I stuck w/the tried and true favorites - Rose, Black Currant, Raspberry, Pistachio, and Salted Caramel. I suspect the cookies are imported because it's like I'm being transported back to Paris.
Cute Halloween display
How much for that cookie in the window?
Priced at $2.75 each, these macarons are not an inexpensive treat. Then again, what's $2.75 when your taste buds are transported to Paris?

Have you tried macarons? What's your favorite flavor combination?

Ladurée New York
864 Madison Avenue between 70th and 71st streets
New York, 10021
(646) 558-3157

Monday, November 14, 2011

Belated Summer Post: Beach Buddy

This post is very late but I can't help but share as we're nearing the end of the year (already?) and I'm looking through old pictures. Buddy and I went to the beach this year and guess what. He LOVES sand but HATES the water. Here's what happens when you combine the two:

Happiness is exploring...
 With your friend who looks just like you...
Happiness is the freedom to run!
And smelling the fresh sea air
Unhappiness is being chased by waves...
And trying to dry off after the humans test your "swimming skills"

Unhappiness is wet fur.
 Thank goodness for fall!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Happy Birthday, Buddy!

Buddy turns 2 today. If only he had any clue. He sure is growing up fast...acting like a full blown teenager sleeping a lot and being temperamental, unwanting of my hugs, interested only in seeing his friends at the dog park.

Maybe some extra treats and belly rubs later. To another year of Buddy!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Mmm...Fish Tacos

I have never really had fish tacos but people seem to really like them including the hubs. Since we're on a healthy eating kick, I made fish tacos this weekend. It was tasty and fresh and so easy to make on my George Foreman! Go George!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Rainy Day Activity

I found my rainy day activity for the stormy weekend ahead:
That's right. The 1996 BBC miniseries version of Pride and Prejudice. It's 5.5 hours of Jane Austen!!! I know that sounds like torture to some but so fun for me! And with the hubs away this weekend, I'll get to savor every minute of it without him lording over the remote trying to turn it off. I haven't watched this version in years and it even took a few viewings before I accepted the more recent Keira Knightley movie.

Buddy better get ready to hunker down for the weekend. I suspect he'll spend most of his energy barking at the English countryside horses.

Are you a Pride and Prejudice fan? Am I the only one excited about this? What about Colin Firth? 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Fall TV!

Thanks everyone for your anniversary wishes! I can't believe it's been a year already! Now back to your regularly scheduled programming...
I really love TV. It's been a slow summer, TV-wise and I'm looking forward to a lot of new shows this season to see what will become my next fave! Here are a few I'm wondering about:

NBC's Up All Night. I love Christina Applegate, Will Arnett, and Maya Rudolph all separately so together they should be hilarious right?
Fox's New Girl. I love Zooey Deschanel. She's cute, quirky, and funny.
ABC's Pan Am with Christina Ricci. It's Mad Men meets Catch Me If You Can. I couldn't get into Mad Men even though I love that era's costumes. Maybe Pan Am will fare better with me.
Not to mention, new reality TV like Rachel Zoe Project and Dancing with the Stars! I'm also thinking about whether to continue watching Glee, Gossip Girl, Parenthood, and the Office

And! After a year's break, the hubs is letting us re-subscribe to HBO so I can catch up on Entourage before its final season and also Boardwalk Empire which people have been raving about all year while we didn't have HBO, le boo.

I watch a lot of television, don't I.

What's on your fall TV line-up? Do you have any favorite or recommended shows that I should try out on my DVR?