Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Andrzejewski-Gedra Tasting Meal

Several weeks ago Doug and I went to a tasting dinner at Mike A's (soon to be Bourbon & Butter) which was created by the combined powers of Mike Andrzejewski with Steve and Ellen Gedra (Black Sheep).  It was a ten course dinner each paired with a cocktail or wine.  There were many things in this meal that I had never eaten before (blood risotto, squid ink, urchin and lamb testicles to name a few) so that plus the experimental feel of each dish made for a really enjoyable experience.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Soft-Boiled Scotch Quail Egg

I'm sure I've already mentioned the frequency I eat eggs.  It's often.  I love eggs.

The first time I had a quail egg was in Thailand.  Doug and I were on our honeymoon, perusing a street market looking for dinner.  So much of the food looked and smelled unfamiliar which was thrilling.  But more than once, something we had thought was foreign turned out to be a familiar ingredient that had just been prepared in an unrecognizable way.  In those circumstances we had conversations that went something like this: "So, do you think that's a meat or some kind of a fruit?" [cautiously take a bite]  "Oh, it's a potato."  Somehow, that was an equally exciting discovery.

At one point, we came across a stand selling fried hard-yolk quail eggs with a light squirt of that fermented, southeast Asian staple: fish sauce.  I swear, fish sauce over there is like Franks over here.  It goes on everything!  I liked the salty addition, but the powerful flavor overwhelmed any delicate flavors of the egg itself.  I made a mental note to try quail eggs on my own sometime back in the states.

Our Thai Street Meat Adventure

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tabree - BNF Dinner

I belong to a facebook group called Buffalo/Niagara Foodies.  BNF is a forum for people who love food and I am frequently amazed at how much knowledge is housed amongst its members.  For me, it's been an informative and entertaining resource for information on availability and preparation of ingredients, restaurants and various local food news.

Last week some of BNF's members arranged to meet one another for dinner to enjoy our pre-established common interest (food) and discover more about one another.  After a vote, with an overwhelmingly obvious winner, reservations were made at Tabree.  Eleven of us met, ordered from the menu and discussed food and life between (and sometimes during) mouthfuls of bliss.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Doug and I visited Tabree the night before I threw a big dinner party.  I wanted to escape the house for a great meal and some last minute inspiration before heading back into my own little kitchen.  

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Warm Corn and Bell Pepper Salad with Asparagus

Today Amateur Omnivore is guest posting for fellow blogger But I'm Hungry while she is taking a little baby-moon with her newborn daughter.

Check out this tasty vegetable side dish here and while your at it check out Christina's genius Creme Brulee Cheesecake and  Chipotle Sweet Potato Chowder!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Lombardo's Vine and Dine Dinner

Our recent Vine and Dine dinner at Lombardo was such a treat.  The food courses were thoughtfully paired with wines from Arrowhead Spring Vineyard and Leonard Oakes Estate Winery and I really appreciate when you can tell that a lot of love and planning went into a meal, as was the case with this one.  To read more about this meal, check out Nittany Epicurean.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Scallops Two Ways and Margarita Jello

I absolutely love scallops.  I love the delicate texture and the sweet, mild flavor and I love trying new preparations for them.  I've had them prepared with with hot sauce, with pasta, with vinaigrettes, with corn, with grapefruit, with prosciutto, with strawberries, with cream sauces and with sweet potatoes and cranberries.  I'm trying to say that they pair well with a lot of other foods and flavors.

Scallops tend to be a 'special occasion' meal at our house because of the heftier price tag compared to other seafood, but they're easy and quick to make at home.  If you haven't done this before, the trick is to just keep an eye on your pan.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


Remember that first really nice Saturday this Spring?  Ellen, my friend and recurring star in this blog, and I took full advantage of it and had a fun girls day out.  We ran errands, shopped around at the mall, picked up the petticoat for under her wedding dress, drove around Hertel, hit up a flea market, walked around Elmwood and ended up eating lunch at Agave.

Sitting there at the bar, the sun pouring through windows and keeping us toasty warm, spanish guitars drifting through the speakers, drinking margaritas (hers frozen strawberry, mine regular on the rocks, both with salt), it felt like we were on vacation in Mexico.  We were there for two hours but I could have stayed for four, it just felt good in there.

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Garage Deli

The Garage Deli, on Kenmore Avenue next to Torches, is open weekdays for lunch.  Owned and cheffed by the Richert family, you just sort of know that your meal is going to be a treat.

I thought I would never get the opportunity to eat here.  It's a little too far from work to trek over for lunch, but I am a lucky girl.  Ellen (yes, Curly's, Martin Cooks and Agave Ellen), is a teacher and on her week off for spring break she offered to pick up lunch from The Garage for both of us and meet me somewhere closer to my work to chow down.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Homemade Fettuccine

The very first time I made pasta was on a whim.  I had the ingredients.  I had the time.  I had the enthusiasm.  I did not have the equipment.

It was half a disaster.  I made spinach linguine and it tasted good.  Kneaded by hand, rolled by hand (technically: rolled by wine bottle [hey, you use what you've got...]) and cut by hand.  So far so good.  But I almost wish I had a photo so you could see the embarrassingly uneven strands of linguine I made.  We're talking widths ranging from half a spaghetti noodle to half a lasagna noodle.  Shameful.  Let's move on.

For Valentine's day last year, I was thrilled when my husband bought me the pasta roller attachments for my Kitchenaid Mixer.  Turns out, the right tools can make a world of difference.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Turkey, Apple and Bacon Sandwich with Cranberry Aioli

My previous understanding of the term 'aioli' was basically that it meant 'fancy mayo'.  To find out more, I went to my trusty food-informant (the world wide web) and it seemed I wasn't the only one who was curious about the difference between the two condiments.

What I learned is that purists would consider a traditional aioli to be an emulsion of garlic, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil, ground and combined with a mortar and pestle.  No exceptions, no substitutions.

Then, classic French aioli took the traditional recipe and added a single ingredient, egg yolk.  The result is what we would call garlic mayonnaise.  The addition of the egg yolk significantly increased the emulsion power and now, thankfully, because the egg emulsion isn't as delicate as the garlic-only emulsion, the ingredients can be whisked by hand or with an electric blender.  Remove the garlic from this recipe and we have good ol' fashioned mayo.

These days, aioli, as a popular term, is being used interchangeably to refer to any of these three recipes.  This shift in the use of the term can be confusing.  Does the aioli contain garlic?  Does it contain egg?  Is it really just store bought mayo?

We also have variations on aioli where new ingredients are added for flavor.  For example, we might find chipotle aioli or this recipe's cranberry aioli.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Martin Cooks - Brunch

I have been really wanting to get to Martin Cooks for a while.  The price point for their tasting-menu-style dinner, $65 per person + $40 to add wine pairings, for me means it would be a special occasion dinner.  Special occasions have come and gone but for one reason or another I hadn't made the trek yet.  That didn't stop me from torturing myself by reading their menu offerings which are posted on the website as they change each week and I'm telling you: I couldn't wait to get there.

On Sunday, the stars aligned.  I actually stumbled into this place accidentally.  

I tagged along to Horsefeathers' Winter Market with two of my friends and as we drove past the building looking for parking I saw the signage in the window for Martin Cooks.  I think I may have audibly squealed with excitement. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Homemade Yogurt and Maple Granola

My parents tell me this story about when I was 4 years old.  On this particular day all the kids at daycare were being given ice cream as a special treat.  Seriously, what is more exciting to a child than ice cream?  I think the answer is nothing.  So the story goes that we were all given our ice cream and when I took my first bite I got a huge smile on my face and yelled "yogurt!".  It turns out, the staff was verbally disguising the yogurt as "ice cream" to trick the kids into eating it.  I was thrilled.  The other kids started crying.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Sous-vide Flank Steak with Red Wine Sauce and Gorgonzola Powder

I love slow cooked meats and the seemingly magical way that a tough cut can be broken down into tender juicy bites.  Smoked, braised, roasted, sous-vided.  (Sous-vided... that is the past tense of sous-vide, right?)

The sous-vide machine is essentially a hot water bath.  Food is vacuum sealed in plastic and submerged in water held at a specified temp.  For example, a medium rare steak is ~135 degrees.  When I cook this flank steak, I set the water temp to 135.  The steak cooks at this temperature for 8 hours.  Because this temperature of the water is the final temperature of the meat, there is practically zero chance of overcooking the food. (However, if left long enough, those proteins will denature so much that you will have meat mush.  Mmm...)

The sous-vide machine has been a lot of fun to play around with.  Before using it for this steak (135 degrees), it's been used to hold homemade yogurt at a steady temp while it ferments overnight (112 degrees), used to cook pork belly (180 degrees) and used to make egg yolk croquettes (144 degrees).  It's been fun discovering different uses for the machine and learning why the cooking temperature and time varies for different foods.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Raspberry Pancakes with Almond Powder and Ricotta Stuffed Raspberry

I know, I know, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  But during the week I do not drag my body out of bed early enough to make breakfast.  On work days I'm more of a brush teeth, brush hair, run out the door kind of gal.  

It's different on the weekends though.  For weekend breakfasts I love playing around making a variation of pancakes, eggs, french toast or oatmeal.

For now let's talk pancakes.

What's the best fruit in a pancake?  Blueberry?  Raspberry?  Banana?  Something else?  This recipe combines raspberries, almonds and dark grade B maple syrup to keep things simple, but jazz up the flavors of a basic pancake breakfast.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


My visit to Curly's last week wasn't just for dinner.  My girlfriend, Ellen, is getting married later this year and she was pumped to check out Curly's as an option for her reception.  The rooms were nice, the meal options sounded delicious and the dance floor was real hard wood (perfect for the breakdancing I'll be busting out at the wedding).  But, when you're planning a special event, you seriously can't beat that feeling of clicking with the banquet manager.  

We met with Scott who was knowledgeable, patient, friendly and flexible.  Even if Ellen didn't already have a little love for Lackawanna (where she lived in her first apartment), and a lotta love for Curly's food, meeting with Scott sealed the deal and made us all feel like she would be in great hands.  She's going to have an amazing wedding!

Now let's eat dinner.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Lemon Cheesecake and Blackberry Dessert Sauce

"Some people think destiny is something you cannot escape, such as death or a curdled cheesecake, both of which always turn up sooner or later." - Lemony Snicket
I have to be honest, I was nervous to tackle a cheesecake.  With this recipe, some research on the the concept and I think a little beginner's luck, I had really good results. 

All this talk about a soggy crust.  I found pages and pages of threads discussing how to avoid soggy crusts.  It's a sensible question, we're literally putting a non-watertight pan into a water bath.  Cooking in the waterbath allows the cheesecake to heat evenly and more importantly to cool slowly which will help prevent cracking on the top of the cake.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Olive Bread Crouton

My dad makes great bread.  It's soft and spongy with just a hint of sweet.  A good sandwich can be made even better with great bread.  Egg sandwiches are my absolute favorite food and the anticipation of my Saturday egg sandwich breakfast is a large part of the reason (though not the entire reason) that I look forward to the weekend.  

I have eaten so so so many egg sandwiches, but my very favorite version is on day-old dad-bread with prosciutto and Dubliner cheddar.  It's a rare treat because dad typically only makes his bread for Thanksgiving or my birthday and then I have to hope that it doesn't all get devoured at dinner* and that there are some leftover slices I can take home with me.  Come to think of it, he and I should have a chat about the frequency of his breadmaking...

I digress.  This recipe is for my olive bread, not dad-bread.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Cucumber Salad, Balsamic Caviar and Fried Camembert

Looking through the pictures as I've been writing about each of the courses from the murder mystery dinner has been a reminder of how much fun I had planning and preparing all the dishes.  It's like I can re-live the night, in a way, which is the reason I really started this blog in the first place. 

One of the more fun projects for the dinner was this balsamic 'caviar'.  It looks impressive and with the right tools, some simple instructions and a few tips, it's so easy to make.  This would definitely be a fun project with kids (and with fruit flavored jello).  The result would be like jello dip'n'dots. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Brussels Sprout, Pork Belly and Apple Skewer

It's an undeniable truth of the universe that people who don't like brussels sprouts just haven't tried this recipe yet.  

Food can be prepared so many different ways.  Variations in method of cooking, such as steamed or roasted, the addition of sweet, savory or spicy seasonings and the incorporation of other ingredients for texture or flavor all affect the final taste of a dish.

For example, I would prefer my salad without olives.  But I love olive bread and I love olive tapenade.  Doug's brother likes split pea soup but he doesn't like to just have peas.  I'm sure everyone can think of an example like this.  And the reason for like versus dislike may be just a difference in the food's preparation.  When someone says that they don't like a food, I always like to know how they've had it prepared because sometimes it's not the food, it's the packaging.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Trattoria Aroma - Main Street - Dessert

Trattoria Aroma on Main is my go-to restaurant.  It's conveniently located close to my house, they have great daily specials and I love the atmosphere at the bar.  There's always someone to strike up a conversation with and Joe, the bartender, is friendly and attentive.  And he really knows his wine.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Chicken and Quinoa

I have always liked to eat cauliflower.  My gramma, since I was little, or probably before that, has always had bite size pieces of fresh cauliflower in a bowl in the fridge.  And when I discovered roasted cauliflower it was love at first bite.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Pasta, Passion and Pistols

I love throwing dinner parties.  I love the planning and the prep and the part where I (hopefully) get to serve my friends something yummy.  Also, when we have company, the house gets cleaned, so that's a bonus.

This dinner is something I have been hoping to try for a long time, but needed some time to build up some courage.  I wanted to serve a small bite 'tasting' meal as a walk through of an entire day's meals.  We had breakfast, lunch, dinner (with an appetizer, salad and main course), dessert and a drink to pair with each of them.

This post is a little teaser of the meal and I'll link out to the recipes later once I get them written up.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Korean Beef Noodles

This recipe was one of my first attempts at cooking an asian-style dish at home and has become somewhat of a staple when I'm craving these flavors.  In fact, you should see the recipe card.  It is dirty and stained, a clear indication of being well loved.  The sesame oil brings an earthiness to the dish, soy and brown sugar is always a winning combination and the apple cider vinegar gives everything an extra little kick of flavor.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Fried Eggs in Bell Pepper Rings

I love Sundays.  On Sundays, Doug and I have lunch at my gramma's house with my mom, stepdad, aunt and uncle and then we go to Doug's parent's house in the evening for dinner.  It's a day full of food and family and I love it.

Mom and I share a love of eggs.  Eggs for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or for anytime of the day.  For brunch this Sunday, she made a fun, really colorful and delicious egg fried inside a bell pepper ring. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Shrimp and Corn Chowder

Soups may be my favorite thing to make in the kitchen.  With any recipe, changing the quantity of an ingredient or incorporating something new all together can add a new dimension of flavor or change a dish completely.  I love to compare and combine different recipes and then make notes of what I liked or didn't like so I can make changes for the next time I try making it.  Some of my recipes are covered in little scribbles and notes.  This method of changing ingredients in and out works particularly well for soup recipes because they're so forgiving.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Banana Bread

I like to slice bananas into cereal, pancakes and ice cream, I use them in my smoothies and I eat them plain for a snack.  When I eat them plain, I have to say I'm a little particular about their stage of ripeness.  (I can hear my dad's voice, full of sarcasm, saying "You?! Particular? Never!"  lol)

Because I am 'particular', I have become somewhat of a connoisseur of achieving ideal banana ripeness.  Here are a couple of tricks I use for banana maintenance.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Torches - Bourbon Social

"Whisky is liquid sunshine" - George Bernard Shaw

Torches Restaurant is special to me because JJ catered my wedding.  Ah, shameful wedding picture plug, but I want to share because it's so apparent how much love they put into their food.  Everything they put out was so beautiful and creative.
As a family, the restaurants they're running now, Torches, Smoke on the Water and The Garage, all put out food that is appealing to both the eyes and the tastebuds.  From their hosts, to the bar, to the table, I've never experienced the slightest break down in service.  They do a great job of making their food feel special and making their guests feel special as well.

For the bourbon tasting, there were ten of us.   For 'some reason' we were seated in a separate room which we had almost all to ourselves.  'Some reason' may be the fact that we're all a little loud and a little vulgar often with very little notice of who else might be within earshot.  Smart move, Torches, because this night was no exception.  The food was classy.  Our table... well, let's just say this won't be on any of our 'classiest moments' lists.  (You all keep a 'classiest moments' list, right?)  Anyway, I was laughing all night and thoroughly enjoyed both the food and the company.  Thank you, PJ, for planning this.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Osteria 166

In the past few months Osteria 166 has pervaded my life.  First, it became my parent's favorite place to eat resulting in numerous "meet us for a drink!" texts, which I happily accepted.  (Osteria carries Arrowhead Pinot, a draw for my two favorite oenophiles.)  Well, a drink turns into drinks and drinks turns into dinner and I think now between all of us, we've probably consumed the majority of the menu... in multiple.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Steak and Mushroom Fettuccine with Poached Egg

February 24, 2014
If I could only eat one food for the rest of my life, it would be eggs.  I like eggs all ways, but I love them with a perfectly gooey, runny, bright orange yolk.

I have made poached eggs more times than I can count, but I've achieved a perfect poach only a handful of times.  I wish I could get it exactly right every time!

Monday, February 24, 2014

An organized mind

I don't have an organized mind about everything.  I can never find my keys... or glasses... or phone... But when it comes to planning for a meal, it's like my brain is a card catalog.  I can rifle through various details about components, preparation and plating and I can picture how the whole process will play out, market to table, like a story.

I love that process.  The preparation, the anticipation, the creation and the satisfaction of a well prepared meal.  It's not that they all turn out great.  I'm no expert.  But I love to experiment and learn as I go.