So I guess this recipe may be a little out of season…but I think I’m just way too anxious for spring to start. We’ve had a couple random seasonally warm days here in NYC this February (interspersed with some snowy ones), and it has gotten me dreaming of summer. Fresh Vietnamese spring rolls are one of my favorite healthy snacks, and they obviously get better with fresh, seasonal ingredients, a.k.a in the summer time. That being said, I believe there is no reason they can’t be replicated in winter as well!
The best part about fresh spring rolls is that you can literally add any kind of veggie, seafood or meat you desire. I love having a mix of brightly colored veggies in mine, like shredded carrots, purple cabbage, red peppers and green onions. The colors show through the translucent rice-based spring roll paper, making them fun and festive. I’m also an herb queen with this recipe – I throw in tons of fresh herbs like cilantro, mint and basil.
Happy Valentine’s Day!! Hailey here, after a long hiatus from the blogosphere. Business school has turned out to mean much more work than I anticipated, but with the internship recruiting season behind me, I am excited to have more time to blog. This is officially my first post since the beginning of fall semester, and I have to say I’ve really missed it! The longer I live in New York the more I feel that I am conforming to the NYC lifestyle which involves minimal cooking and lots of eating out, so I am going to make a conscious effort to reduce these bad habits.
Last night one of my girlfriends hosted a “Gal-entines Day” dinner to celebrate love among friends. She cooked a fabulous meal, we drank wine, we watched Justin Bieber music videos…ok maybe I shouldn’t admit some of these things. But I was really excited to try out a Valentine’s Day Cake Truffle recipe that I sort of made up, but took inspiration from cake pops. I really don’t like cake pops very much — they are adorable but always taste way too sweet and dense. I started this recipe with my favorite white cake batter, but cut the sugar in half since I knew I wanted white chocolate on the outside. I also improvised a white buttercream frosting to condense the cake truffles a little bit and help them stick, but also added much less powdered sugar than typical icing.
A couple of weeks ago Cathy and I were in Thailand for an annual trip we do with our girl friends from college. Last year we went to Spain, and this year we decided to give Southeast Asia a try! We had a wonderful time, starting in Bangkok, heading north to Chiang Mai, and finally south to the islands Koh Phangan and Koh Samui. One of the highlights of our trip was a Thai cooking class we took in Chiang Mai.
The cooking class was run by a company called Asia Scenic, and we would highly recommend the experience. We started the day at the local market where our guide showed us where the locals would buy their ingredients, followed by a garden tour where we learned about and harvested all sorts of Thai spices and herbs including three types of basil, lemongrass, green onion and chives.
Stir fry: pad see ew
Soup: tom yum
Vegetable spring roll
Curry Paste: panang
Curry: panang with chicken
The teacher taught us how to chop and grind the ingredients for prep work, and we each had out own wok and cooking station outside where we followed demonstrations and cooked our own dishes! The class was very well organized and informative. We learned all sorts of interesting tidbits along the way. For example, did you know that Thai people rarely eat Pad Thai? The natives tend to eat more curries and rice dishes rather than noodles, which you would never guess from looking at menus in all of the restaurants in Thailand!
Cathy and I realized how easy most Thai dishes are to make (with the exception of fresh curry pastes- it took about 20 minutes of hard labor to pound the fresh chilli peppers and herbs!)
The best part about the class was that they gave us a cookbook at the end, so we can continue to make Thai food at home!
I recently finished reading Danny Meyer’s book “Setting the Table.” Danny Meyer is a New York City icon within the food industry, and one of the greatest restauranteurs of our time. His philosophy on business and hospitality is unique and noteworthy, and his work in the industry has been an inspiration to me personally. I highly recommend this book, especially to those immersed in the New York City food scene, as it offers fascinating insight into the thought process and labor behind Danny’s restaurants, menus and impeccable service. For instance, you get to learn about Danny’s lengthy research journey across the US to sample the best burgers and custard, and the long hours spent in the kitchens of Eleven Madison Park developing the perfect frozen custard concoction for Shake Shack with the help of Eleven Madison’s pastry chef at the time. Every time I bite into a Shake Shack burger since reading “Setting the Table,” I think of Danny’s long journey to create the perfect blend of sirloin, chuck and brisket, and I understand the reason it’s so good.
Danny Meyer opened his first restaurant, Union Square Cafe, in 1985. Being Danny Meyer’s original restaurant, it has obviously been on my “list” since I moved to NYC, however reading “Setting the Table” was what finally pushed me to make the reservation. Union Square Cafe is a product of Danny Meyer’s year spent in all of the finest trattorias in Italy and brasseries in France in his 20’s after he left his successful career in sales. Danny took all of his favorite elements of the European dining experience and brought them to life in NYC with his vision of Union Square Cafe. Today USC may not be the trendiest spot in NYC, but it sure is reliable. Reliable is serving some of the highest quality yet simple Italian cuisine, coupled with some of the best service in the city.
It was truly a unique experience to dine at Union Square Cafe after reading the book and truly having an understanding of Danny Meyer’s story. I noticed things about the dishes and service that I otherwise would have overlooked had I not gained a sense of Danny’s fine-tuned attention to detail, style and philosophy through his book. USC met all of my expectations. (Note I did not use the word exceed simply because I have the highest expectations for Meyer’s establishments based on experience). Bravo Union Square Cafe, a New York classic with outstanding food and service.
21 East 16th St. New York, NY 10003
What to Order: Fritto misto, any pasta (I had the spaghettini with flaked sea bass), roasted chicken, cannelloni beans, broccoli rabe
I’ve been wanting to try Traif for quite some time, but I get lazy on weekends and it takes a lot to get me out of Manhattan. (Note: Traif is in Brooklyn). Furthermore, Traif is a fairly hard reservation to get, so some advance planning has to go into it. Luckily my good friend did plan ahead, and made a reservation for 6 and dragged us all to Williamsburg for the night!
And I’m sure glad he did…Traif was absolutely incredible. It’s a small and cozy restaurant with a charismatic open kitchen and a backyard patio. The food is served tapas style (my favorite), so you get to try a bunch of different things. There was not a single dish I didn’t absolutely love, which is rare for a small plates place; I usually find that there is at least one dish I could have done without. The waiter suggested about 2-3 plates per person, which ended up being a perfect amount of food.
A few things to note about this restaurant: 1) It is NOT vegetarian friendly. Pretty much everything was heavy on pork, shellfish or some other kind of meat (hence the name, Traif which means non-kosher). No complaints from my end, but don’t bring your vegan or kosher friends here. 2) Most of the dishes are served in multiples of 4, so I would suggest going with a party of either 4 or 8. We had a (ravenous) group of 6, which was a bit tough and resulted in fighting over the last two pieces of each dish.
I’d say if I HAD to pick my favorite dish, it would be the baked muenster, pictured below. Keeping in mind I am a cheese lover, this was the most decadent and delicious melted cheese plate I’ve ever had. It was literally a pot of thick, baked muenster cheese, so thick that you couldn’t dip like fondue; we had to use knives to cut pieces of the cheesy, gooey goodness. This is one not to be missed, but then again I could say that about so many other dishes here as well!
229 South 4th St. Brooklyn, NY 11211
What to Order: Spicy Bigeye Tuna Tartare, Hampshire Pork Belly, Strawberry-Cinnamon Glazed Ribs, Baked Muenster Cheese, Broccoli Rabe
*Note: The menu seems to rotate quite a bit, but these were some of our favorites in April 2015!