Lemon Poppyseed Cake + Farmer's Market

As today's temperatures are reaching almost 50 degrees, I couldn't resist making a trip to the farmer's market at Grand Army Plaza this morning. Of course, I always love the market best in the summer, but there is something very comforting about the apples, root vegetables, and hearty greens that are available now. I also wanted to try out my camera a little more in a setting outside my kitchen. I'm still very much learning about all of the settings and options, but below are a few of my shots from the market.And when I got home... Alright, finally: the recipe. When I was little, one of my favoite "breakfasts" was the incredibly sweet lemon-poppyseed mini muffins from the supermarket. I'm not quite sure why my mother let us eat these as they were bascially dessert. In any casee, this dessert was inspired by those muffins, but is a slightly more sophisticated take. I made this the other night when I didn't have my camera, so forgive the instagram photos. This recipe was taken from one of my favorite food blogs, Always With Butter, but I made a few tweaks, including changing the cirtus from orange to lemon. I also was far too excited to eat it when it came out of the oven, which explains why the glaze pretty much melted into the cake. In addition, I would use more powdered sugar next time to make the icing thicker. Still good though.

Lemon Poppyseed Cake (adapted from this recipe on Always With Butter)

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 3/4 cups sugar

1 1/4 cups butter, softened

5 eggs

1/3 cup lemon juice

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 cup poppy seeds

1/2 cup powdered sugar

3 tablespoons lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour an 8x8 baking pan. Sift first three ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside. Best butter and sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Then add zest, lemon juice, and vanilla. Mix well. Mix in flour mixture and poppy seeds. Pour into prepared pan, and bake for one hour or until a tester comes out clean. Cool completely. Whisk powdred sugar and lemon juice until you have a thick glaze, then pour over cooled cake.

Crispy Fish Sandwiches with Sriracha Mayo

Following the Belgian Waffles post, I realized that the recipes on this site have been a little breakfast heavy -- which is great, because honestly, who doesn't love waffles at any hour of the day? I do, clearly. However, sometimes you need something savory, and last night Ari and I decided to branch out and make something different than the usual peanut noodles/chicken/takeout. Specifically, we picked up some tilapia from The Greene Grape, made a quick mayonnaise, and pan-fried the fish -- all in all, about an hour, including picking up the fish. Not bad for a weeknight dinner! We used a baguette for the bread, but next time I would use a softer roll, as the delicate fish was somewhat overwhelmed by the crunchyness of the bread. Also, I didn't have my camera but have been playing around with the Instagram app on my phone, which is why the colors look kind of crazy.  

Crispy Fish Sandwiches with Sriracha Mayo (loosely based on this recipe from Food & Wine)

2 fillets white fish (we used tilapia, but any will do)

1 baguette, cut into 6-inch sections and halved (again, I would use a softer bread next time)

1/4 cup flour

1/4 cup cornmeal

1 egg

Salt and pepper

3 tablespoons canola oil

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon honey

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon Sriracha

1/2 teaspoon garlic

Lettuce

 

Place flour egg, and cornmeal in three separate shallow bowls. Mix egg to break up. Season cornmeal with salt and pepper. Heat oil in  a skillet over medium heat. Place fillets first in flour and coat completely, then in the egg, then in the cornmeal. Coat completely, and place in the pan and cook until browned, 5-6 minutes per side. Meanwhile, mix the mayonnaise, honey, lemon juice, Sriracha, and garlic in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Spread one side of bread with mayo, top with lettuce and fish fillets once  they are done. Serve immediately.

This recipe makes plenty of mayo, but you will definitely want it all. (Especially if you serve some french fries on the side...)

Mabel's Smokehouse & Banquet Hall

If you had told anyone five years ago that New York City would be bursting at the seams with barbecue restaurants, they most likely would have laughed at you. However, now New York boasts some excellent barbecue and Southern restaurants, many in the style of the cuisine from Georgia and Alabama. Some notable places include Pies n' Thighs, the Commodore, Georgia's Eastside BBQ, and Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. Though these places boast excellent fried chicken, biscuits, and grits, something was still missing. Enter Mable's Smokehouse & Banquet Hall, located in Williamsburg.

Mable's brings real Oklahoma-style BBQ to an area that doesn't know much about it (not, being from Minnesota, that I can claim any authority). Immediately upon entering, you feel as though you have left New York City and entered a bar somewhere in Texas. The space is large, industrial and unpolished, with neon signs and long wooden tables. It's a slow night, and one of the cooks drinks a beer at the bar, chatting with the bartender and a couple of friends. The heavenly smell of smoked meat wafts from the open kitchen. There aren't many choices on the menu -- ribs, brisket, pulled pork, a veggie bbq option, and a handful of sides. Ari and I decide on the deluxe platter to split, so that we can try the most items. The platter includes three types of meat (clearly, we skip the veggie option), three sides, pickles, coleslaw, and Wonder bread. We chose candied yams, collard greens, and potato salad for our side dishes, and the entire platter arrived steaming on a cafeteria tray within minutes. Slightly panicked but also ecstatic about the amount and variety of food, I added everything to my (paper) plate in order to try it all. The ribs were crispy and caramelized on the outside, and tender and well-seasoned. The brisket seemed to fall apart when it touched the fork. I thought the pulled pork was rather on the dry side, but then, I generally like my pulled pork to be slathered in bbq sauce. The potato salad and coleslaw were classically creamy, nicely offsetting the smokiness of the meat. I also very much enjoyed the pickles and pickled jalapenos, which had a crisp acidity without being overwhelmingly bitter. I did not, however, like the candied yams, which were too cloying in a marshmallow-maple sauce.

Overall, Mable's is a good addition to an already restaurant-heavy neighborhood. I love trying new types of food, and it was interesting to see the differences between the all of types of bbq we now have in the city. While some dishes could use improvement, I would certainly recommend it for large parties and rib fanatics alike -- although vegetarians should probably stay away.

Ladurée

I am a little embarrassed to say this. I'm not a very patient person, so I don't particularly like waiting in lines, whether it's at the bank or to get into a bar. However, I waited in line, in the cold, for 20 minutes to buy macarons. Yes, those little French cookies that seem to be made of air and butter and goodness.I first heard about Ladurée when I was visiting friends in Paris during my semester abroad during college. We couldn't afford many dinners out, but all of us could afford a cappuccino and an exquisite little cake at Ladurée, one of the oldest pâtisseries in Paris and the inventor of the macaron as we know it. They now have several locations, but the one we went to felt like stepping back into a 19th century salon. You almost expected women in bustled gowns and men with top hats to step through the doors at any moment. I don't remember what I ordered, but I know it was some combination of hazelnut and chocolate deliciousness. We left feeling incredibly elegant and sophisticated, proud that even we, on college student's budgets, could afford some of the luxuries of Paris. Imagine my excitement when I heard that Ladurée was opening its first American outpost right here in New York over the summer. Being that the Upper East Side is a very long ways from Brooklyn, and the lines were around the block, I stayed away for months. However, on Friday I gave into my longings and ventured up to Madison Avenue and waited in line. It was cold, but everyone who was waiting was so excited just to get inside the pastel-colored shop. The macarons were artfully arranged by flavor, and you have the option to buy exquisite boxes by the dozen. I decided on six flavors -- cinnamon-raisin, sea-salt caramel, vanilla, lemon, coconut, and raspberry. To be honest, I was still a little hesitant since the macarons are flown in from Paris every day, which seems slightly excessive. However, after the first bite of sea-salt and caramel, all of my doubts melted away. I have had macarons before, but this was entriely different. The cookie was soft but with a lovely crunch to the outside, and the filling was pure caramel -- spiked with a hint of salt to keep it from being overly sweet. The following flavors were just as wonderful. It's not something I could spring for every day, but it's nice to know that there is a little slice of Paris in New York.

Restaurants: Dumont Burger

Oh, Dumont Burger, how I love you. You never cease to amaze me, with your tender and succulent beef patty, crunchy lettuce and onions, and toasted bun. With or without cheese, you are perfect. I could rhapsodize about your vinegary pickles, your crispy fries, and your incredible onion rings, but really, it is the burger that takes center stage.

If you live in New York and haven't been to Dumont Burger, I suggest you hop on the L train and run there. Immediately.

No really, you will thank me.

Dumont Burger is the off-shoot of a slightly fancier restaurant called Dumont, both located in Williamsburg. Dumont has better ambiance, with a lovely garden outside (and an excellent fried artichoke salad). They also serve the same burger, but in my opinion it is somehow better at the appropriately named Dumont Burger. The only unfortunate thing there is that the seating, especially in the winter, is limited. It is really more like a bar inside, but on warm summer nights, life doesn't get much better than sitting outside at the sidewalk tables with a giant burger in hand and a cold Hoegaarden to wash it all down. Of course, they have other items on the menu besides burgers and fries, such as a pulled pork sandwich and turkey burger. However, I ordered the turkey burger once and while it was good for a turkey burger -- that was about it. I enviously looked at my dining companion's regular burger with regret. As the inimitable Ray Isle, Food & Wine's  Executive Wine Editor, recently said:

"Somewhere out there someone is trying to stay healthy by eating [a turkey burger]. Madness knows no bounds. Drink water with it, then watch Papillon, the great Steve McQueen movie about being in prison on Devil’s Island in French Guiana—because that is what you are doing to your soul, my friend."

(See the full article on burgers and wine pairings here)

Many people claim to know the best burger in New York, but in my humble opinion, it can be found on Bedford Avenue  in Williamsburg, just a short ride from Manhattan.

Also, does anyone know where they get those pickles?

The Greene Grape

For those of you who live in Fort Greene or Clinton Hill, The Greene Grape is probably already familiar to you. However, even if you don't live nearby, I think it's worth a trek from elsewhere in the city. Their provisions store has a good selection of organic produce, fancy packaged foods (many from Brooklyn), and one of the better cheese selections I have seen in the area. My particular favorite so far is toma della rocca, an excellent goat, sheep, and cow's milk cheese that is runny and soft and has just enough tang to make it interesting. The Greene Grape also has a wonderful meat counter, and all of the employees are extremely helpful. Ari and I bought some ground beef from them the other night to make hamburgers, and they were quite delicious if I do say so myself, even though they were made on the stove instead of the grill. The meat and fish is also all organic, and locally raised when possible.

Luckily, they also have a wine store by the same name just down the street. Though small in size, they have a great selection of wines in many price ranges. One of my favorites over the summer was the 2010 Laurent Micquel Syrah Rosé, affordable at $9.50 while also being a lovely, dry summery wine. They also have have hard-to-find Aperol, one of my favorite spirits from Italy (particularly when mixed with prosecco over ice to make a Spritz). In addition to a great wine selection, they have tastings at least once a week, and the last time I was there they had a bottle open for people to taste for themselves.

I love the informal atmosphere of both of their stores, but the people that work there are always ready and willing to help if you need it. You could easily buy ingredients for an entire dinner there, but my favorite is to ask for a cheese recommendation, grab a baguette (and some wine, in a paper bag of course), and picnic in Fort Greene Park a few blocks away. Doesn't get much better than that.

Restaurant: The Farm on Adderley

Image via thefarmonadderley.com

Last Thursday was the second time I had visited this little restaurant in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. Ditmas Park is within walking distance of my old apartment in southeast Prospect Park, but it feels like you have escaped New York into a peaceful neighborhood filled with gracious old Victorian houses and charming little restaurants. The Farm on Adderley is an American, seasonal restaurant with a great beer and wine selection, known mostly for their burger and red meat which is all sourced locally.

The first time I ate there was for brunch, and my friend Morgan and I sat in the back garden. I had the smoked trout hash with hollandaise (excellent), and Morgan had the scrambled eggs with kale. The best part of brunch was the chocolate brioche, served warm and smothered in butter. This, eaten with great iced coffee while sitting under the September sun, was perfect.

The next time we went, Fall had finally come to Brooklyn, so we sat inside near the bar. We decided on splitting a few things, and started off with acorn squash with sauteed peppers and fried brussels sprouts. This was disappointing. The amount of brussels sprouts amounted to one, and the peppers overwhelmed the flavor of the squash, which is the reason we ordered the dish. However, the french fries made up for it. They were crisp and thick without being soggy, served with an excellent curry mayonnaise (and I am always a sucker for flavored mayos). For our entrée, we split the pan-fried skate with brown-butter sauce, collard greens, and pearl onions. This was lovely, albeit incredibly rich. I had never had skate before, and the sweet, almost crab like meat provided a wonderful foil for the brow-butter sauce. The roasted pearl onions were sweet and delicious, particularly when contrasted with the bitterness of the greens. At the end of the meal, we were both regrettably too full for dessert, but I plan on returning to try the burger and hopefully the salted chocolate mousse soon.

Restaurants: The Mermaid Inn

      Due to some unseasonably warm weather in New York this week, restaurants are keeping their patios open through the end of the month, which is always excellent news for me. At seven o'clock on Sunday night, it was still 80 degrees out, which gave me a chance to catch up with a couple of good friends from Bar Boulud. We decided to hit up the East Village institution known as the Mermaid Inn. I had heard great things, but never had a chance to go.

Abby and I both decided on the fish tacos, while Angie chose the squash soup and the grilled romaine salad. The fish tacos were wonderful -- the tilapia was crispy but still moist inside, and the cabbage slaw that it was served with was spicy without overwhelming the fish. I also tried a little of Angie's salad, which was fresh and lemony, with just a hint of anchovy. We sat in their back patio, which is much quieter than the sidewalk seating in front, and is festooned with lights and bordered by trees. We all felt like we had escaped New York for a little while.

The meal ended as they all do at the Mermaid Inn, with tiny cups of complimentary chocolate pudding and a fortune-telling fish. My fish told me that I'm "passionate" (which is certainly true about food). I'm hoping to go back before the weather changes and check out their excellent happy hour ($1 oysters! fried calamari! Aperol spritz!), but I don't make it before that, they also have a charming bar.