February 26, 2009


This past weekend, MB and I flew down to Florida to see her folks. Her parents have a beautiful home, right on a canal on Siesta Key, just an hour or so north of where I was born in Fort Myers. As always, our visit was full of great food including a bunch of fish caught by my father-in-law. Friday night, we had a delicious ceviche of scallops, shrimp and amberjack followed by seafood stew. Ceviche recipe after the jump.

Here's the recipe my father-in-law used to make the ceviche. He didn't do it over night, just 3 or 4 hours, but he stirred it regularly, probably every 20 minutes. The dish was great that evening but even better the next day.

1 1/2 lb firm flesh fish, shrimp, scallops or combo
5-6 limes (Enough Juice to cover fish)
1 cup diced fresh tomato
1 green pepper, sweet, chopped
4 tablespoons chopped parsley or chopped cilantro
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon oregano
2 jalapeno peppers, chopped (or more to suit your taste)
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
1 dash Tabasco sauce
lettuce leaf (to line serving bowls)
avocado (optional)
black olives, sliced (for garnish) (optional)

Dice the fish (shrimp/scallops) (approximately 1/2-inch dice if using shrimp
use cleaned shrimp).

Marinate fish in the lime juice in the fridge overnight (4 hours, in a

Stir often.

Pour off most of the lime juice (just leave it moist). Add remaining ingredients except lettuce, avocado and olive. Do this
preferably a few hours before serving & refrigerate. Toss well and arrange in individual serving bowls that are lined with the
lettuce leaves. If you wish garnish with sliced avocado and sliced black olives.

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February 12, 2009

Hop O-drama: Feds Haulted Production of Six Point's Limited Presidential Beer

An interesting story on Gothamist today claims the Feds closed down the Hop Obama beer I blogged about back in November claims the Feds served a cease and desist order to shut down production of the Sixpoint's limited run because, "...having the President's name in conjunction with [their] product...apparently violated some federal statues." 

Oh well. They were only going to make it for a limited time anyway. Didn't make the beer any less delicious.
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February 9, 2009

Stone Park Cafe Brunch

This past weekend, my sister and brother-in-law left their two children with my parents, hopped on the train, and headed down to the city for a visit. They arrived in the Slope around 10:30, just in time for brunch. We considered several options - Applewood, Sette, Miracle Grill, Little D's - but with the temperature hovering around 50 degrees, we decided to take the walk down to Stone Park Cafe. As always, it was completely worth it.

Breakfast nachos? My brother-in-law couldn't resist!

Stone Park is probably our favorite brunch locale in the neighborhood. Not only is the food delicious, the drinks are strong, the music is great and the general atmosphere is perfect for a Saturday or Sunday morning, regardless of what you were up to the night before. But really, it all comes down to the food...

Since the second or third time we went to Stone Park, MB and I have ordered the same thing. The story goes something like this. Someone we knew had been to the resto recently and claimed the burgers were the best in the 'hood. Being afficionados of ground beef patties, MB had to put this fare to the test...but when we got there, we were really in the mood for breakfast. Solution? The most ridiculous burger order we could think of. To this day, I've been too embarrassed to make the order but my wife is all over it:

"I'll have a burger, medium, with sauteed onions and mushrooms, bacon, cheese and an over-easy egg."

If I was preparing this bad boy, I'd put the egg on top of the burger but under the cheese --- but after you make an order like that, it's hard to offer any additional suggestions without pissing off the waitstaff or the kitchen, Regardless, the burger is delicious. The key to eating it is to put the bun on top and press firmly for a minute of so until the yolk from the egg drips all over the burger and the rest of the ingredients mush together. Half-burger, half-croque-monsieur, the result is a delectable feast unto itself. To top it off, they serve nearly-perfect fries (thin but not too thin and extremely crispy) served with a spicy creamy-mayonnaise-y sauce.
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February 4, 2009

Arancini - Cheesy Deep-Fried Risotto Deliciousness

I've been meaning to do this post since I first tried this recipe back in December but I kept forgetting to get pictures before MB, our friends and I devoured all of the goods. But before I get into the food, a quick update on the layout of this blog. I finally figured out how to get the "Read More" links to work. That means there will actually be more content after the jump. Finally!

Enough of that. On to the balls!

The whole arancini fetish started back in the fall when MB and I were brainstorming menu ideas for our annual Christmas party. Despite being the worst party food idea in history, I couldn't get risotto out of my head. Suddenly, I got the idea to bread small wads of leftover risotto and deep fry them. Presto! All the goodness of risotto in a bite-sized, finger-friendly ball...

3 seconds of researching deep fried risotto balls and it was pretty obvious I wasn't the first person to come up with the idea. Arancini are street food in Sicily and have been around for centuries. The word "arancini" literally means little oranges. There are several different varieties but the most common are filled with ragu, tomato sauce, mozzarella and peas. For our version, we decided to forego the extras and stick with rice and cheese.

As far as I can tell, arancini came about because people don't like leftover risotto. I say "people" because MB and I don't agree. Sure, the leftover rice doesn't have the same texture as a freshly made batch but if you've seasoned the dish well, the leftovers can make for a quick, delicious dinner if you're in a rush. For the record though, I will agree that the best way to eat leftover risotto is in a deep fried ball. 

So, how do you make these bad boys? Well, assuming you're already sitting on a pile of cooled risotto, it's really pretty easy; if you don't know how to make risotto, read four or five different recipes and give it a whirl. 

First, take a chunk of the rice and flatten it out in your hand, kinda like you were going to make a small hamburger. Then add whatever you want to stuff inside. Again, I've been sticking to mozzarella up to now but I could see adding meats, mushrooms, spinach, you name it.

Next, fold the rice over the cheese or whatever you've put inside and roll it into a small ball. Once all of your rice is rolled up, its time for the breading. There's some different strategies for this stage depending on who's recipe you're reading. Like many Old World recipes, people can get down right violent about how these things should be done "properly," but I say, whatever you want to do that will make a nice crunchy crust on the ball is gonna be good. Personally, i dredge the balls in flour, then in egg and finally in breadcrumbs. Once I'm finished, I like to throw the balls back in the fridge for a bit so they keep their shape.

Once the balls are ready to go, get the oil ready for frying. I use vegetable oil in a Le Creuset pot but you can do whatever oil/pan combination you like. Just make sure you know what the smoking point of your oil is. For my setup, I get the oil up to around 340 degrees - I use a candy thermometer to gauge the temp. Once the oil is hot, I ease the risotto balls into the pot. Because the balls are super dense, they sink to the bottom so you need to stir them occasionally so they don't over-brown on one side. After a few minutes or when the balls look like "little oranges," pull them out and place them on some paper towel to draw out any excess oil. We sometimes serve ours with a side of tomato sauce but they're just as good plain, if not better. Bon appetito and, as always, let me know if you give it a try.

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February 3, 2009

Andrew Bird @ Carnegie Hall (con'd)

Last Wednesday, I closed the book on the 3rd of three projects that had been dominating my life since before the New Year. Between unprecedented levels of sleep deprivation and consecutive weekends of work, I was due for a break. MB was in pretty rough shape too; she had just come off an intense class that met four nights a week for four hours a night. Needless to say, we really needed a night to relax.

We'd booked the Andrew Bird show sometime back in the fall, almost immediately after we caught him at the Hiro Ballroom. That show was his first public appearance after he completed work on his latest album, Noble Beast (which, according to Mr. Bird, should be intoned in the voice of David Attenborough). It was neat to see Mr. Bird and his new band in an intimate setting trying out the new material for the first time. Sadly, he wrapped up the show a little early because he had to run over to the Music Hall of Williamsburg for a DNC fundraiser - it was the night of the 2nd presidential debate. All in all, it was a great show but nothing like what we caught at Carnegie Hall.

Mr. Bird opening the show by his lonesome

After a quick drink at a nearby pub, we entered the fabled venue. The last we were there, we watched Trey Anastasio play songs off his orchestral album, Seis de Mayo, with the Vermont Youth Orchestra. This time around, instead of sitting 10 or so rows from the very back of the room, we had wonderful seats just left-of-center in a box in the 2nd tier. Before we went into our own box, we watched couple after couple walk into a box, walk back out, approach a staff member and ask, "Is this really the right seats?" Not only were the box seats great, but we were in the front row, right on the banister.

Before Andrew came out, his "opening" band Dosh took the stage. Dosh consists of everyone in Mr. Bird's current band, sans Mr. Bird. Martin Dosh started the evening on his own. Surrounded by a drumset, a trio of synths and keyboards, and an Akai Headrush sampler pedal, he got things going with Simple X. After a pair of solos, he was joined by bassist and clarinetist, Michael Lewis. A few songs later, Jeremy Ylvisaker added his guitar to the mix. All of the Dosh songs were instrumental, a very appropriate considering the venue.

After a short intermission, Mr. Bird took the stage by himself, playing three looped instrumentals featuring his usual mix of violin, guitar, whistling and oohs & ahhhs. After his second song, he thanked the audience for letting him ramble a bit. "Alright, this is gonna be fun. Thanks for indulging me; I just had to play like that in this room." By the time he invited his band onto the stage, the excitement in the room was palpable.

Most of the set was dominated by songs from Noble Beast with a smattering of old favorites like Imitosis and Tables and Chairs. Overall, the show was very similar to what we'd seen at Hiro back in October but it was clear they'd spent a significant amount of time mastering the songs. That being said, Andrew felt the initial loops for Fitz and the Dizzyspells weren't up to par so he stopped the band and took another stab at it. After 3 or 4 half attempts, he joked, "It's a slippery slope." Personally, I thought this minor hiccup added to the performance, demonstrating just how real (re. not pre-produced) all of the sounds were.

By the end of the evening, the audience was roaring after each song. After closing the set with Tables and Chairs, the entire crowd immediately rose to their feet, encouraging Mr. Bird back for not one but two encores; they would have had a third if the house lights hadn't come up.

After snapping a shot of Mr. Bird on my iPhone during his first number, I remembered I have a Recorder app. You can download nearly the entire setlist (minus that first tune) here: http://drop.io/abirdcarnegie. (quick side note - drop.io is a great site for hosting files of any type or variety). The quality of the recordings aren't stellar but the room was friendly, especially on the quieter tunes, and I think it's worth the listen. Some of my favorite tunes are the ones I don't know the names of - #1 and #8. Enjoy and let me know what you think.
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