Apple cheesecake with a pie crust

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Want the dual satisfaction of apple pie AND cheesecake? Look no further: the apple-cheesecake-pie-crust is here. This is a dessert that I grew up eating and stealing away leftovers well after house guests had come and gone. I was back home recently and asked my mom for the recipe and it’s so easy that I made two cakes/pies in a week! Perfect for a BBQ, dinner party, holiday or just for fun. ENJOY.

Apple Cheesecake with a pie crust
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Baking Time: 35 min total

Ingredients

CRUST
1/3 cup of sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup of flour
1 stick butter melted (8oz)

FILLING
1/4 cup of sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 oz package of cream cheese

TOPPING
1 Apple sliced (either granny or pink lady)
Cinnamon for dusting

Directions
1. Mix crust ingredients and then place in pie dish with crust going up halfway up sides.
2. Bake at 450*F for 10 min.
3. Let cool ~30-60 min before placing in filling.
4. Mix filling ingredients and place in crust.
5. Arrange sliced apples atop filling and top with cinnamon.
6. Bake at 400*F for 25 min.
7. Serve warm or cold.

Noms!

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Came for the wine, stayed in the Port(o)

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After a quick survey on FB and some late-night Googling, I arrived in Oporto with a “to-do” list of things to eat and drink. I had my heart set out on finding the most flavorful francesinha, an educational port wine tour and freshly baked pastéis de Nata. Thanks to social media, and even some last minute DMs on Instagram due to Stories polls, I received some amazing recommendations and guidance right when we landed.

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Lado B – “A melhor Francesinha do Mundo”

First up: the monstrosity of a sandwich, the Francesinha. This is Portugal’s take on the French Croque-Monsieur, except there’s ~7 types of meat placed between two thick slices of white bread, then covered in Mortadella cheese and drenched in a tomato-beer sauce. If you’re feeling a little extra, add an over-easy egg and fries on the side. It sounds like a heart attack, and it certainly put us into a food coma afterwards, but it was delicious.

Second: Port Wine. Porto has fantastic tours on the Douro River, cellar and testing tours, and, if you have the time, tours out at the wineries in the Douro valley. Since we only had the weekend, we made the most of our visit by pairing a river, cellar and tasting tour of the Cálem Cellars. One of the interesting cocktails was a gin & tonic and a white port wine blended together; it certainly kicked up the alcohol content but also brought out some of the floral and sweetness of the gin.

The most imPORTant takeaway: there are such things as white/rosé ports and vintage is totally subjective.

Untitled-3Port wine; pasteis de nata; pastel de bacalhau at Casa de portugeusa

Third: Pates de nata is a Portuguese egg custard tart. Best served warm with a coffee. For me, it tastes like a mini crepe brûlée sans caramel top. Rich custard flavor with flakey crust.

Finally: codfish of all shapes and sizes.

Pastel de Bacalhau, or Fancy codfish cakes, are a mixture of salted cod, potatoes, parsley and onion. Casa de portugeusa fills theirs with Serra de Estrela cheese, a gooey Sheep-based cheese.

Porto’s food scene revolves around its fresh seafood produce, so it’s no wonder that one of their main prizes is the codfish. Salted cod, Cod skins, fried cod, baked cod, cod risotto, the list goes on.

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Bacalhau : situated right along the Douro River, this place is great for a long lunch, evening dinner, or for a drink while basking in the sun.

From left to right: Deep fried cod fish skins: it’s like a chip, with a bit of the sea attached to it and a Smokey tomato dipping sauce. Queso with bell pepper compote: this was a new one, and definitely not like your traditional Texas queso; the sweetness of the compote really helped balance the saltiness of the queso and pairing played nicely when spread on bread. Fried cod with rice: Think of this as cod served two ways: one that’s fried and seasoned with fresh lemon, and the other is cod tongues in rice with vegetables almost like a risotto in texture and style.

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Intrigo: Dining with a view! A little bit off the beaten path but totally walkable from the main part of town. Started with olive oil and bread, followed by vegetable soup (carrot and potato purée) and then tibourna bacalhau (yes, MORE codfish). We paired this with one of the best white wines I’ve ever had (Proeza Douro) super fruity, clean and bright.

Thanks again to Natalie for exploring these wonderful tastes and putting up with my planning! Overall, a super delicious, beautifully architected, and a historical wonder that I’ll be

Finally, my top list of things “to do” in addition to the food recs:

  • On your first day do a Sandeman’s free walking tour. It gives some background history on Portugal and Porto with context about some of the architecture, politics, etc. It’s ~2.5 hrs and they have them in English at 1pm and 4pm.
  • Do one of the river cruises paired with a wine tour, ~€16 total, compared to a wine tour itself is like €15. There are 45 wineries there, plenty to choose from.
  • Francesinha is basically available everywhere; but we were recommended Lado B – A Melhor Francesinha do Mundo
  • Cod is a big delicacy here, so make sure to try the fried fish skins, risotto, fish fry, everything
  • The Jardins do Palácio de Cristal is a really nice view over the city and there are peacocks on the grounds!
  • After you visit the Jardins, if you walk down towards the river and you want really authentic souvenirs, Armazém is this cool antique warehouse. I got authentic 19th century azulejos (the blue tiles you see adorned on all the churches and buildings)
  • Going out, just hit up either Rua de Galeria de Paris OR Rua de Cândido dos Reis and there is great dancing (reggeaton and strong drinks)

We did all this in 3 days, if you’re there longer, I hear is awesome to go to a winery on the Duoro river or a day trip up to Braga to see more churches.

Catalan cuisine feat. Barcelona local finds

4.6.18_boqueriaMarket stand feat. cured meats and cheese at Mercat de la Boqueria (http://www.boqueria.barcelona/home)

“What was the best thing you ate when you were in Barcelona?” was the first thing asked by several colleagues upon my return to work last week. Between the numerous samplings of Ibérico ham, Manchego cheese and variety of seafood, it’s difficult to pinpoint one dish that left me wanting more.

But if I’m pressed to pick something, it would probably be the grilled squid from Cal Pep, a bustling space for authentic Catalan food that’s, if you’re seated at the bar, prepared and cooked right in front of you. “They basically continue bringing you plates [tapas] until you say ‘stop,'” was the selling recommendation of one of the many (Thanks Aishwarya!)

Including some color and commentary of the places we explored which include Cal Pep, Xampanyet and the Universal Kiosk at Mercat de la Boqueria. Special shout out to Natalie for being my nomming-exploration partner in crime!

Cal Pep | https://www.calpep.com/ 
Plaça de les Olles, 8
08003 Barcelona
Spain
Sant Pere, Santa Caterina i la Ribera-Born

Quick Notes,

  • Not for picky eaters
  • They’ll craft a menu for you based on your interests and their inventory for the day
  • ~$45 per person

Our order: Pan con tomate, almejas, Pimientos de Padrón, calamar, atún tartare, Mille feuille / Tomato on bread, clams, Padrón peppers, Squid with spinach and potatoes, Tuna tartare, Mille feuille dessert 

18913ACD-CA88-4AFE-96CE-65E6F6858C12From top right, clockwise: Lemon beer with pa amb tomaquet: toast rubbed with tomato, olive oil, garlic, and salt ; Pimentos de Padrón (not to be confused with shishito peppers, they’re cousins), nicely blistered and topped with olive oil and salt. Slightly sweet and very mild heat; Clams were slightly sweet broth (dry white) with a little bit of basil; Tuna tartare was super fresh, nicely seasoned with garlic, onion, pepper, sesame. A very large portion they kept providing us bread.

4.6.18_squidThis squid was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten: seared to a nice consistency and then doused in an olive-basil oil topped with salt. Incredibly juicy, sea-salty, and savory. Spinach and fried potatoes helped cut the intense flavors.

Not pictured, the Mille feuille square was the right dessert to finish off the seafood. Delicate in the pastry and confectioners sugar dusting, a beautiful and rich custard hidden between the layers.

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El Xampanyet | https://www.yelp.com/biz/el-xampanyet-barcelona
Carrer de Montcada, 22
08003 Barcelona
Spain
Sant Pere, Santa Caterina i la Ribera-Born

Quick Notes,

  • Extensive menu of Catalan tapas and dishes. Stop in for a snack or a meal.
  • They make their own fizzy white wine close to Cava or Champagne. Hence the name of the place.
  • ~$20 per person
  • Thanks Max for the recommendation!

Our order: Cava, Pan con tomate, pulpo con papa, tortilla española con chorizo, Botifarra amb cigron / Tomato on bread, Octopus with potato mash, Spanish omlette with chorizo sausage, Catalan sausage with chickpeas

4.6.18_xampanyetFrom top right, clockwise (please excuse the poor lighting): Pan con tomate, Octopus was grilled medium and accompanied with a potato mash and drizzled with a slightly sweet/spice sauce; Tranditional Spanish “omelette” this one had chorizo in it.; Botifarra is a type of sausage unique to the Catalan cuisine and can be made using varying techniques and cuts of pork (ie blood sausage, white sausage, etc.) This dish uses two types, regular or “roget” and black “Negra” with garbanzo beans. The fat from the sausage envelopes the beans and makes for a rich and fatty meal.

4.6.18_choclateChocolates and sweets at La Boqueria

Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria | http://www.boqueria.barcelona/home
La Rambla, 91,
08001 Barcelona, Spain

Quick Notes,

  • The open market featuring 200 vendors who cater to local produce and products along with gastronomic experiences that are made to order right in front of you.
  • There’s a wide variety of stands for traditional cheeses, cured meats, seafood, fruit, sweets, pretty much anything you can walk and eat with. We started off with a snack of cheese, Ibérico ham, and crackers while we weighed out other options.
  • Spend varies if you’re just snacking or sitting for a meal ~€5-40

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Kiosko Universal | https://www.yelp.com/biz/kiosko-universal-barcelona

Per recommendation, we ventured over to Kiosko Universal for their razor clams and langoustines. Both were prepped and cooked at the stand; both were super fresh and cleanly seasoned with basil, olive oil, and paprika respectively. Paired with fresh bread and a glass of Cava, it was a light afternoon meal.

Other notable finds that I didn’t have time to taste:

  • Le Cucine Mandarosso – The ‘best’ Italian in town
  • Quimet y Quimet – In a completely different part of town, but definitely go if you happen to be around there. A small, standing room only, and they prepare ‘montaditos’: a sort of open sandwich or stuff on bread or cracker. Their cheese plate is amazing. (Rec from an Airbnb local)
  • Little Bacoa Burger – Best burgers in town
  • NAP Antic – Best pizza in Barcelona
  • La Cova Fumada – This is a “greasy spoon” kind of place, maybe a bit overwhelming if you are not a local, but don’t get intimidated. Make sure you try the “”Bombas” and the “Butifarra con Cigrons” also try the artichokes. (Rec from an Airbnb local)

Noms!

All the hits: Athens & Mykonos

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{Seafood linguine at Nammos Restaurant}

Just in case you didn’t already know: I LOVE GREECE. Specifically the Greek Islands. Something about the fact that my parents met there and two of my best friends are Greek have me headed back this summer for the fifth time in six years.

While I will recommend Athens, you only need to stop there on your way in or out. The islands are definitely where you should spend the majority of your time. There are frequent ferries that leave out of the Piraeus Harbour/port but last year we flew to the islands and that was significantly quicker and more enjoyable. If you’re not prone to sea sickness you might want to take a ferry to the island and then fly back. Just a suggestion.

I’ve visited Kos, Mykonos (3x), and Paros. But I want to visit Skiathos, Crete, Rhodos, Milos and Naxos. All islands are going to have amazing beaches, food, nightlife, all around fantastic time.

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{Entrance to Pasaji Restaurant, in Ornos, Mykonos}

Athens and Mykonos, however, are where I can provide some recommendations that I always make sure to visit:

  • Acropolis (*duh) go either in the morning or later afternoon before it gets too hot
  • Monastiraki flea market–lots of great leather products and Greek goods (watch out for pick pockets!)
  • Thanasis: amazing Greek comfort foods and it is in Monastiraki area
  • Get a drink at the roof top bar at the Hilton, great view of the Acropolis at night
  • Benaki Museum: http://www.benaki.gr/index.asp?lang=en, really phenomenal art and it’s air conditioned!
  • National Archeological Museum: http://www.namuseum.gr/wellcome-en.html, ancient art and statues, beautiful building and ancient sculptures
  • Changing of the guard outside Greek Parliament in Syntagma Square–the changing happens every hour

Pro Tip: Cabs from airport: before you get in make sure they speak English and they have GPS. You should NOT pay more than ~35-40 Euros to get for the airport to downtown Athens or near the ports

I normally stay at my friend’s family apartment when in Athens but one year we stayed downtown in the Divani Caravel hotel which is right next to the Hilton. Super reasonably priced and pretty good location.

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Mykonos

  • Old Town is a super central location to stay at, and the Fabrika bus terminal will take you to all of the beaches on the southwest side of the island. Fabrika, serves Ornos and Agios Ioannis Beach, Platys Gialos, Paraga and Super Paradise beaches.
  • I’ve stayed at an Airbnb, at a boutique hotel (http://www.hotelmatina-mykonos.com/)and also a sort of chain hotel on the outskirts of the town. I would highly recommend booking a place to stay ASAP since the summer fills up fast.
  • While I am a fan of the clubs, I really love the beach parties in Mykonos. My absolute, always go tos: Nammos Beach and Super Paradise Beach. Scorpios is on my list this year!
  • This the company we used to charter a day catamaran to Delos and Rhenia (www.mykonoscatamaran.com), complete with a private chef, snorkeling, swimming and a full day of sun. I highly recommend this if you are with a small-to-medium-sized group.
  • All of the Greek food, all of it. But be sure to stop by Jimmy’s Gyros; whether it’s a gyro on the way to the beach or a gyro on the way back from a night out, these do not disappoint!

Can’t wait for #ALLTHEHITS , Mykonos2017, I’m coming for you!

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{Pita gyro at Jimmy’s Gyros}

Homemade soft pretzels

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There’s something uniquely satisfying when you dip a warm, freshly baked pretzel into spicy horseradish mustard. It’s a snack that easily accompanies beer, Sunday football, game nights and always impresses friends who are over for any occasion.

And while they may look intimidating to create (yes, it takes a few tries to get the knots right) they are surprisingly easy to make and require only a few ingredients. Here’s a perfect treat for the Oscars this weekend!

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Homemade Soft Pretzels (Inspired by Alton Brown from Top Chef)
Preparation Time:  1.3 hr | Cook Time:  30 minutes
Makes ~8 Pretzels

Our modifications:

  • Use regular flour and only 3.5 cups
  • Oven should be set to 500*F

Ingredients
3.5 cups flour
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp salt
2/3 cup baking soda
1 package active dry yeast
2 oz butter, melted
vegetable oil
1 large egg yolk, beaten
1.5 cups warm water
4-10 cups water

Directions
1.Preheat oven to 450 * F.
2. Line a baking pan with parchment paper and brush with vegetable oil. Set aside.
3. Mix water, sugar and salt in bowl and sprinkle yeast in on top. Let mixture sit for 5 minutes until it begins to foam. Slowly add in flour and melted butter, mix until well combined.
4. Continue mixing and start kneading until dough is smooth. Roughly 5-6 minutes.
5. Remove dough from bowl, oil the bowl with vegetable oil, return dough to bowl, cover and let sit for an hour. Dough will double in size as it rises.
6. In a large pot bring 4-10 cups of water and baking soda to boil
7. Remove dough from bowl, divide into 8 pieces. Roll out each piece into long ropes and form into pretzels*. (*This takes a few tries before you get it right. The dough can be difficult and is affected by how long it’s handled and at what temperature it’s at. U shape is the easiest to start with and The Kitchn has a good tutorial)
8. Once pretzels are formed, using a flat spatula, lower the pretzels individually into the boiling water, let boil for 30-45 seconds. Remove pretzel from water using slated flat spatula and place on baking sheet. Brush top of pretzel with beatn egg yolk and sprinkle with salt. Repeat this for each pretzel, and place them in oven to bake for 14-15 minutes depending on thickness of pretzel.
9. Remove from oven, let cool for 5 minutes, and serve with mustard.

Noms!

Old favorite, new twist

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Photo by Lukas Keapproth

It’s been a while since I made Korean food, so I broke out the bulgogi and mandu (Korean dumplings) recipes from the vault this weekend. For color and use of leftover ingredients, Lukas and I tried out Spicy Stir-Fried Cabbage.

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Photo by Lukas Keapproth

Korean Pork & Cabbage Dumplings
Preparation Time:  1 hr | Cook Time:  6 -7 minutes per batch
Makes 45 dumplings

Ingredients
45 dumpling skins
1 lb ground pork
1/2 head cabbage (finely chopped)
3 green onions (finely chopped)
3 garlic cloves (finely diced)
1 tbsp rice wine or rice vinegar
4 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp sugar

Dipping sauce:
4 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 green onion
dash of sesame seeds

Directions
1. Filling: combine garlic, green onion, cabbage, pork, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and rice vinegar in large bowl. Set aside to marinate for 30 min-1 hr.
3. Assembly: Take a dumpling skin, place a spoonful of the filling in the middle. Wet your finger with a little water and brush the edges. Fold in half-moon shape, pinching the edges together. Crimp 4-5 times to firmly seal. Repeat this with all dumpling skins, or until you run out of the filling.
4. Cook: Cook in a steamer or over a pan of boiling water for about 6-7 minutes. Serve with dipping sauce.

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Photo by Lukas Keapproth

Bulgogi
Preparation Time:  1 hr 30 min – 2 hrs | Cook Time:  2-4 minutes per batch
Servings 4-5

(I’ve made the marinade based on 2.5 lbs of beef, after your first batch, you can add more of an ingredient to the already marinating beef if you feel the need to)

Ingredients
2.5 lbs beef round bottom round roast (or rump roast)

Marinade:
6 cloves garlic, diced
4 green onions, sliced
2/4 cup soy sauce
3 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp sesame oil
6 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp sesame seeds
sesame oil for cooking

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Photo by Lukas Keapproth

Directions
1. Put beef in freezer for 1 hr to 1 hr 30 min, depending on thickness of beef, so that it is slightly frozen.
2. Combine all marinade ingredients in large bowl. Set aside.
3. Slice beef thinly against the grain and add to marinade. Leave meat to marinate for 30 minutes to 24 hrs before cooking.
4. Bring 1 tbsp of sesame oil to medium heat in a pan. Spread several pieces of beef on the pan, turning frequently. When the beef starts to brown, and slightly char, remove beef and repeat with a new batch, adding more sesame oil as necessary.
5. Serve with rice and steamed vegetables.

Noms!

 

Spring Rolls and Fried Chicken

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Photo by Lukas Keapproth, Styling by Anna Jeon

Spring + Sunday = Spring roll assembly in the kitchen.

I’m finally grounded for the next three weeks before I take off on a back-to-back graduation/wedding frenzy between Boston, Austin and New York. I may even sneak a trip to San Francisco in the midst of it all. But for now, I’m taking the much needed “me” time in the kitchen to decompress and spend some quality time with Lukas and the cats. So far we’ve successfully made German pretzels, pizza dough, egg pasta, fried chicken and today, spring rolls with a side of spicy peanut-ginger sauce.

While I was away in Miami, Lukas found out that we had been breading our chicken piccata, chicken curry, chicken-anything-breaded incorrectly for the last few years. So yesterday, we successfully seasoned, floured, egg-washed, and panko-breaded some chicken tenders before resting them in a medium-heated pan of oil to brown. Best fried chicken I’ve ever had (whatever people say about Lucy’s here in Austin, I think it’s way too dry and overrated).

I’m not sure why we’ve never made spring rolls before: 1) they’re simple to make 2) consist of cheap ingredients 3) are way better than any spring roll I’ve ordered in a restaurant. Set them aside to chill for an hour or two, and then they’re the perfect appetizer to munch on while prepping your main meal (tonight we made Pad Kee Mao because I was craving it).

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Photo by Lukas Keapproth

Vietnamese Spring Rolls with Spicy Peanut Ginger Sauce
Makes: 15-30 spring rolls (depending on spring roll sheets)
Prep Time: 15 min

Ingredients
2 carrots, julienned
1/2 cucumber, julienned
3 cups bean sprouts
1/2 avocado, thinly sliced
handful basil
handful mint
handfult cilantro
2-3 sprig chives (optional)
crushed peanuts (optional)
15-30 rice paper sheets

Peanut Sauce Ingredients
3 tbsp peanut butter
5 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp vinegar
2-3 tbsp ginger, finely chopped
3-4 tbsp brown sugar
diced peanuts
water

Directions
1. Follow instructions on softening rice paper sheets. (usually you dip them in warm water, lay flat and fill with ingredients before rolling)
2. Lay rice paper sheet flat. Layer ingredients, fold bottom, then sides tightly and roll up.
3. In a bowl, mix peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, brown sugar and diced peanuts. Add water until desired consistency is reached.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken
Photo by Anna Jeon

Photo by Anna Jeon

Buttermilk Fried Chicken
Makes: 2-3 servings
Prep Time: 1-2 hrs (or you can marinate overnight) | Cook Time: 15 min

Ingredients
5-6 chicken tenders
1 cup buttermilk
3 tbsp cajun seasoning
1/2 cup flour
1 egg
2 cups panko bread crumbs
2 cups vegetable oil

Directions
1. In a medium bowl, mix buttermilk, cajun seasoning, salt and pepper. Place chicken tenders in buttermilk and let sit for 1-2 hrs or overnight.
2. When ready to bread, in a medium pot or medium cast iron pan, heat oil on medium. Be careful not to burn the oil.
3. Spread flour on plate, beat egg in a small bowl, and spread panko bread crumbs on another plate. Create an assembly line as you are going to first flour, then egg-wash and panko bread crumb each chicken tender. **Pro Tip: Use a spoon to help press breadcrumbs into egg-wash and chicken tender.
4. Once oil is heated, carefully lay chicken tenders to brown, on each side for about 5-6 minutes.
5. Serve immediately with pickles and honey-sriracha glaze.

More to come on pretzels, egg pasta and pizza dough! Noms!

When in Rome… eat gelato every day.

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[Chianti: Finocchiona Siena salami, Tuscan pecorino cheese, fresh salad. Montepulciano: Proscuitto, emmental cheese, mushrooms in olive oil atPanino Divino]

Italy, you’ve ruined food for me. 

It’s difficult to say what I enjoyed the most because everything that we ate and drank was consistently and without fail, delicious. Your pizza, pasta, panini, cheese, cured meats, gelato and wines all exceeded our expectations. Now I am left wanting for more. 

How do I know if the prosciutto I’m sampling is aged enough? In order to create a perfectly, rich, silky carbonara, what is the correct yolk-pecorino-pasta ratio? Where can I enjoy, in the same establishment, brick-oven pizza at all hours of the day followed by an espresso and dessert?

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Gelato flavor profile: frutti di bosco e cioccolato.

Here are a few of my reflections from our Italian fooding experiences:

  1. It is possible to find good, authentic, inexpensive food near the tourist traps. You just have to go in prepared with recommendations from those who have gone before you. Thanks Stan for recommending Panino Divino by the Vatican.
  2. While known for wine, beer IS brewed in Italy! We found some really cool breweries in the Trastevere area. 
  3. Order the antipasta, primi, secondi and dessert. Pair with at least one bottle of wine. 
  4. Espresso at the bar: pop into a café, order, drink and get on with your day. I wish I spoke Italian so that I could have a conversation with the individuals who made and served my espresso each morning. 
  5. Aperitivo (or better known as an Apéritif) before dinner is always a good idea. Known as what will “tickle” your appetite, have some before drink cocktails, walk around and then your set for that late-ish dining experience. 
  6. Eat gelato every day. I like pairing chocolate flavors with a fruit. 

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Cappuccino e tiramisu at Pompi.

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Pizza prosciutto e funghi [Pizza with ham and mushrooms at Angelino ai fori]

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Selezione di Culatta e salami di Dozza, Prosciutto di Parma, Finocchiona. Selection of Italian salami and prosciutto at Life Restaurant

IMG_0909_editAperitivos at Baccano.

IMG_0894_editThe time when we went to a super tiny restaurant where they only spoke Italian and had a daily menu in Italian. Through miming and guesses based on what we’d tried the previous two days we managed to order “I Tonnarelli all’uovo fatti in case fave guanciale e pecorino” a carbonara-like pasta with Fava beans and pork jowl and “Il filetto di tonne rosso* con contorno di palate al rosmarino, ciboria ripassata e zucchini marinate” a form of pork with potatoes, spinach and zucchini at Osterio 22Quatro. 

Italian noms!

Laissez les bon temps rouler! : New Orleans

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Let it be known that the 15-20 minute wait for the the beignets and black coffee at Café du Monde are worth it. The hot, chewy, fried dough piled high with powered sugar is one of the sweetest culinary experiences in the French Quarter.

New Orleans is playful in personality, lively in vibrant jazz and big brass band notes, magical in its architectural feats, and delicious with its melting pot of French-African-Spanish-American cuisine. You can find Gulf oysters on the half shell on every block, variations on the traditional Po’Boy, seafood laden gumbo and jambalaya, and just about everything complimented with red beans and rice.

Image-1 (1)Clockwise starting top left: Baked oysters three ways (A half dozen fresh shucked oysters topped with crab and saffron, spinach and herbsaint and cornbread andouille) at Crescent City Brewhouse; Jerk Shrimp Roll/Pineapple Tartar Sauce/Chips at Compère Lapin; Supreme Jambalaya (embellished with shrimp, crawfish, & tasso. Reviewed by Offbeat Magazine’s Ian McNulty as the best Jambalaya in New Orleans.) at Coop’s Place; Beer flights at NOLA Brewing. 

With so many options and cuisines to choose from, we built up our appetites by exploring the city mainly on foot–one day we walked 11.4 miles–and discovered some dining gems off the beaten path. New Years Day, for example, proved to be impossible when trying to book or find a place for a late lunch. Through several failed attempts, we found ourselves at Compère Lapin, a mid-priced restaurant-bar in The Old No. 77 Hotel, where we enjoyed some Caribbean-Euro interpretations of local New Orleans fare. Another time, after wandering around the Garden District, we were drawn into Atchafalaya‘s fragrant brunch offerings, only to return the following evening for a sophisticated Southern meal.

Top three from our wanderings:
(1) Avenue Pub has an amazing 30+ taps, international casks, and excellent pub food. We went there twice!
(2) Coop’s Place jambalaya IS supreme. Fried chicken is also a great main. The line moves pretty fast, but avoid it on weekends and go on weekdays.
(3) Courtyard Brewing has a variety of pale ales, sours and local breweries. Food truck and free grilled oysters!

Thanks to the thoughtful recommendations of co-workers, friends, and siblings of friends, our recent trip left our stomaches full and eager for more.

Beef Stew in Red Wine Sauce

With cold weather descending over Austin and the rest of the country, it’s the perfect time to cozy up with a bowl of savory, fragrant, filling soup. Hours after cooking this beef stew our apartment still smells of garlic, red wine and thyme. Similar to beef bourguignon, this recipe involves braising the beef in bacon fat, except there is no stock or water. Just wine. Choose a wine that’s not sweet but a dry red. Preferably cheap since you’ll be using the whole bottle.

Pro tips for Beef Stew in Red Wine Sauce:

  • Beef: We used top sirloin that was 2-inches thick, cut into large cubes. This helps maintain moisture and tenderness when cooking.
  • Stew: At the end, we thickened the stew by slowly whisking in a combination of flour and water. The mixture was made by shaking 2-3 oz of cold water and 6tbsp of flour together. Keep slowly adding until desired consistency is achieved.
  • Parsnips: For additional sweetness, we added parsnips to initially soak with the beef and wine.