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Monday, June 20, 2016

Celebrating Dad - Sweet & Savory Watermelon Wedges

Considering how important good dads are to our lives, it's kind of crazy that we only set aside one day a year to honor them. Plus they're so easy to please. Dad enjoys the simple things: a burger, a beer, some time to putter around the lawn or tap at golf balls, even just a few hours to watch sports all by himself. Let him do these things and he's a happy guy. 

Father's Day Starters: Shrimp Ceviche, Fresh Mango Margaritas Sweet & Savory Watermelon Wedges, Photo: NK


So it was only fitting that our easy-to-achieve Father's Day Barbecue began with the world's easiest summer appetizer, Savory Chili Lime Watermelon Wedges. How many summer starters can be ready in under five minutes? Before we share the ever so simple recipe, 

Check out our Father's Day BBQ Menu:

Cocktail Hour: Assorted Beer + Frozen Mango Margaritas
Sweet & Savory Chili Lime Watermelon Wedges (recipe follows)
Shrimp Ceviche with Tortilla Chips (a Neurotic Kitchen fave, recipe HERE)
Green Salad With Grilled Peaches and Dijon Shallot Vinaigrette
Assorted Ice Cream and Sorbet with Dark Chocolate Brownies & Strawberry Compote

Now, for your new go-to summer app, I give you this fresh spin on a barbecue favorite- a savory, sweet, tart and a little spicy slice of in-season Watermelon. 


Sweet & Savory Chile Lime Watermelon Wedges, who knew? Photo: NK

Sweet & Savory Chile Lime Watermelon Wedges
Serves About 10

Ingredients:
1 Small to Medium very ripe Watermelon (preferably seedless variety)
Zest of 4 Limes
Ancho Chile Powder 
Sea Salt 
Optional Cilantro for garnish

Method:
Slice Watermelon into wedged sized as you desire

Lay on a flat surface and sprinkle liberally with Lime Zest. Next sprinkle lightly with Ancho Chile Powder. 

Slice one of the Limes and squeeze a few drops of juice over the Watermelon Wedges
Sprinkle a bit of Sea Salt all over and serve chilled. Garnish with Lime Wedges and optional Cilantro.

~

It all went together wonderfully with the main event, a simply grilled Ribeye below. Until next year, here's to dad!

Easy Main Course: Ribeye with Green Salad & Grilled Peaches, Photo: NK











Sunday, June 19, 2016

Montreal - Food Paradise en Français (Family Trip For 4)

Traveling abroad with young kids can be a tricky endeavor. Add to that a lengthy trans-continental flight and the prospect seems even more daunting. We'd been wanting to take our little one out of the country for some time but had several such concerns in mind, so for our first time venturing out of the country, a quick trip to Montreal seemed like a genius idea. 

With flights from the NYC-area only an hour each way, French as the local tongue and the fact that the place oozes old-world charm, you could almost pretend you're in Paris. 

We'll try the transatlantic journey to Europe sometime soon, but for now our Family-Friendly Four Day Montreal Adventure a perfect choice.

Grand Prix Weekend in Montreal, Photo: NK 


Below you'll find all the details on where to stay and what to do, plus some handy travel tips AND, of course, all of the food highlights of this little jaunt. Montreal lived up to its hype as a major dining destination, and it really wasn't bad from a family travel perspective either. Can you believe we lucked into being there on Grand Prix Weekend or that our hotel was just steps away from the World Beer Festival??

One thing to note - we dined only in restaurants that were supposed to be relatively kid/baby friendly (in the early part of the evening), but we were surprised that even though other travelers had flagged them as appropriate for young children, only one of the three had a high chair or booster seat for our son. It just didn't seem to be the norm in the city. For this reason I would recommend you travel with one of these super handy portable booster seats

FOUR DAY FAMILY TRIP TO MONTREAL 

STAY: Le Saint Sulpice
Nestled in a charming section called Old Montreal, this stylish boutique hotel is quiet yet well-located near several of bustling streets for great dining and people watching.
It's also within steps of a major tourist destination, the Basilique Notre-Dame de Montreal (a breathtaking basilica with a long history). A stay at Le Saint Sulpice will also place you conveniently just a few blocks from the Place D'Armes Metro Station with two lines available to you. 

Le Saint Sulpice was a great choice for a family because the rooms are more like suites with a separate bedroom and little but well-appointed kitchenette (came in handy for preparing our son's snacks and storing his milk in the fridge). At night, we were able to put him to sleep in a different room and still stay up and enjoy a glass (or two) of wine in the living room relatively undisturbed (though he did stand up in his cot to peer at us through the frosted glass of the bedroom door).


TIP for parents of young ones: If it's financially feasible, reallocate some funds towards getting a better than usual hotel room when your kids are in tow. You'll be spending more time indoors than you'd like (can't miss that noontime nap!) so you may as well make it nice. 


Getting Around Montreal:  The Metro is super easy to master and will get you most anywhere you need to go. They also seem to have an extensive network of busses. Cabs are plentiful and about as expensive as they might be in New York City. 

TIP: Email your hotel concierge service in advance to have them secure your all-important dinner reservations. You won't have to call internationally to book or communicate in another language. I used to know French pretty well but I am admittedly rusty (Sidenote: most folks we encountered in Montreal spoke excellent English). 



Gorgeous Notre-Dame Basilica, Montreal 

GO: In less than a half hour metro ride from Old Montreal, you can arrive at the Biodome. A hit with kids and adults alike, this collection of science and nature themed museums has something for everyone (a planetarium, zoo, botanical garden, and more). Educational and entertaining, I think you'll find it worth the trip. 

Ok, ok, I know what you're thinking... get to the good stuff! 

WHAT WE ATE:

When Anthony Bourdain tells us to do something, we do it. That's why Montreal institution, Joe Beef, topped our must-dine list. (For more on Tony's Montreal food stops, click HERE).  TIP: Joe Beef's Sister restaurant, The Liverpool House, is supposed to be as good and an easier reservation to get. 

I can't say enough about how welcoming the staff was at this restaurant. They truly went above and beyond to make sure our experience was fabulous. We went on the very early side because we had our little guy in tow. He may be a precocious toddler but everyone, especially the gentleman bussing tables, was just lovely to him and his delight in being treated him like a grownup customer was palpable as he confidently ordered three milk refills for his sippy cup! 

The real-life urban legend of Joe Beef

Amazing Smoked Lamb & Spicy Sausage, Photo: NK


I learned that Montreal is famous for Cod - also known as "Morue" Photo: NK 


Pain Farci, like a melty cheese fondue sandwich with ham, mushrooms and gravy.
Mouthwatering. Photo: NK 


Incredibly delicious and fresh oysters and razor clams with green apple, peas and
foie gras. To die for. Photo: NK 


The charming lettuce garden at Joe Beef, Photo: NK 
For me, Joe Beef was an especially great experience, but on our second day we enjoyed a more casual, family friendly comfort food joint called Le Robin Square. The food was good and the place was cute, casual and fast if you're in Old Montreal.


Burrata Pizza at Le Robin Square, Photo: NK


Mac & Cheese with Sweet Ham and a very fresh and 
delicious Chicken Caesar Salad at Le Robin Square
Photo: NK 

GO: Take the metro to the Plateau Mont Royal neighborhood Get your caffeine fix and head out for a walk around a very cool neighborhood called Le Plateau Mont Royal. Head up to the Park Mont Royal for some greenery too. We didn't get to do this because the weather turned on us, but we were told that a climb up a one of several great hills (Mont Royal) gets you a fabulous view of the city. 


Photo: NK 

Le Plateau Mont Royal, the neighborhood at the foot of these hills, is great for finding some of Montreal's most beloved casual bites.

EAT:
Stop at Fairmount Bagel for unique Montreal-Style Bagels (this New Yorker enthusiastically approves) and then to famed Schwartz's Deli for a delicious "smoked meat" sandwich, to use the local parlance.


Required Tasting: Bagels from Fairmount Bagel and Smoked Meat Sandwich From Schwartz's, Photo: NK

EAT: 
For our last night, we dined La Salle à Manger in Plateau Mont-Royal. We really enjoyed all the food and the Oysters, in particular, were to die for. Ambiance is very casual and festive but still visually pleasing, and the place attracts a nice mix of energetic patrons from all walks of life. Add to that a solid wine list and rare beer offerings plus a menu with daily specials that were really appealing (I couldn't decide!) and you have a winning dining experience. We definitely recommend it!    

Oysters from Washington State and British Columbia, Photo: NK 

Daily Specials on the board at La Salle à Manger, Photo: NK

Grapefruit Tartelette With Pistachio Crumble, Photo: NK

Really Tasty Mackerel with Sardines, Photo: NK 


GO: By now you have gathered that Montreal is indeed a cook and eater's paradise. If you haven't gotten your fill, visit the best of the best, Atwater Market, for an amazing collection of local specialties, meat, fish, breads and pastries. There are several magnifique public markets in Montreal. Find them all thanks to this handy little website. An native told me that Atwater was the her favorite so that is where we headed on our last day. 

Partially indoors, this was a great choice of activity for a rainy morning. We took some meats, cheeses and pastries back to our hotel room for a little last minute carpet picnic prior to heading to the airport for our return flight.  

The inspiring selection at Atwater Market, Photo: NK
And there it is. 

Just a half hour cab ride to Pierre Elliot Trudeau International Airport and were ready to head home to the U.S with lots of wonderful memories. Montreal was gracious, beautiful and delicious. I'd recommend it to anyone, young and old. 

We will certainly be back! In the meantime, if you need more trip ideas, click through a few of our previous food & travel guides:

Paris and the Loire Valley 
Spain, Barcelona and Madrid
Chicago Culinary Highlights - Two Restaurants to Try 
When in Rome - Culinary Recap and Restaurants of Rome, Sorrento, and the Amalfi Area
San Francisco and Napa Valley Wine
San Fran to Los Angeles Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip
Lowcountry Cooking Inspiration - South Carolina

San Francisco and Napa Valley Food Guide

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Budget Cuts - Denver Steak + Marinade

So what if I have steak on the brain? It's nearly summer and grilling season is here. Though I try not to eat too much Red Meat, I can't deny that it's a treat now and again, and I am always looking for flavorful cuts that won't break the bank (though a nice Ribeye will always have my heart). Today's PSA is about a not-so-well-known budget cut of Steak I've just discovered, thanks to the good people at Fresh Direct

Say hello to the Denver Cut:




Denver Cut Steak in a foolproof marinade, Photo: NK 

A little chewy, a nice amount of fat but not grissly, and very flavorful - not unlike Hanger Steak. 

If you can't find it, some other cost-effective favorites include the aforementioned Hanger or less ubiquitous Edge of Eye - the former is tougher than the latter but also super tasty.

Now that you've got that all down pat, time to cook! Below you'll find a great marinade that we tried. Reserve half of it to make a dressing for your veggie accompaniments. The more you marinate, the better it will be. Overnight is ideal. Here's a pic of the delicious result.  Happy Memorial Day and have fun grilling! 

Denver Cut Steak Marinade with Caper Vinaigrette Sauce for Serving
Makes enough for 2 8-Ounce Steaks
Recipe from Fine Cooking

Ingredients: 
3 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
1/2 Cup Olive Oil
2 Garlic Cloves, minced 
1/2 teaspoon Anchovy Paste 
1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard 
(+ 2 8-Ounce Denver Cut Steaks)
(+ optional Salad and/or Vegetable side dish as you wish) 

2 Tablespoon Capers
1 Tablespoon Minced Italian Parsley  


Method: 

Combine the first five ingredients and mix well. In a glass dish or tupperware, pour all but a quarter cup of the marinade over the Steaks and refrigerate for 2 hours to 24 hours (hint: 24 hours is better!).

When ready to cook, allow excess marinade to drip off Steaks and prepare them on the grill, stovetop or to your liking. When ready to serve, take the reserved 1/4 cup Marinade and add Capers and Parsley. Stir. Drizzle over steaks and any accompanying salad or vegetable for serving. Enjoy! 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Salads of Summer - Asparagus & Rainbow Carrot Salad

Summer is right around the corner and there's no season that inspires me more. That's why it's always about this time each year that the warmer weather gets me primed to try out new and different recipes that highlight the best produce of my favorite season. One theme that has always been on my radar - salads that push the envelope by going beyond humdrum, bland greens. Today's colorful and crunchy spring-into summer salad does just that. And it will equally delight as a hit barbecue offering or family side dish to a simple grilled fish. Made with Rainbow Carrots, raw Asparagus peeled into ribbons, sweet Pears and shavings of salty Pecorino Cheese, this dish is as tasty as it is pretty. The crispy, (mostly) raw greens really give it character.

The secret to this recipe is beautiful Rainbow Carrots. You can even find them pre-shredded if you're lucky. Add to them shaved raw Asparagus that has been sliced into thin lengths using a vegetable peeler. 


Asparagus, Carrot and Pear Salad with Shaved Pecorino, Photo: NK 


Finished Asparagus and Rainbow Carrot Salad, Photo: NK 

Shaved Asparagus, Pear & Rainbow Carrot Salad 
Serves 4

Ingredients:
Medium Bunch Thin Asparagus Spears
Rainbow Carrots, cut into a julienne or purchased pre-cut (about 2 Cups) 
1 small, ripe Pear, cored and sliced into half moons
2 Ounces shaved Pecorino Romano Cheese (use a vegetable peeler)
1 Tablespoon Salted Butter
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1.5 teaspoons fresh Lemon Juice 
Salt 
Pepper 

Method:

Shave the Asparagus. The best way to do this is to lay the Asparagus veritically on a flat surface. Take vegetable peeler and shave from the base to the top, using strokes that go in the opposite direction from you. Repeat until all the Asparagus has been shaved. Add to a large salad bowl. 

Melt Butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add the shredded Carrots and cook, for 3 to 4 minutes, until they wilt slightly but remain crunchy. Toss a few times throughout. Remove carrots to the bowl with the Asparagus.*You can skip the warming the Carrots step but I feel it sweetens them a bit and adds texture complexity of the dish.

Next, add the Pear. In a small bowl, combine Olive Oil and Lemon Juice. Add a generous amount of Pepper and a few pinches of Salt. Stir.

Dress the salad and toss (you can do this up to a half hour in advance). Taste for seasoning and add Salt if needed (keep in mind the Pecorino will be salty).

To serve, plate salad and top with generous Pecorino shavings. Enjoy!