dine out diet, week three

Has it only been three weeks? Somehow, it feels much longer. On Tuesday, I attended the Goats do Roam South African wine tasting at Braai, in the west 50s, and met the sincere and likeable Charles Back, the winemaker (see more photos here). I am excited to announce I have found my new inexpensive, but really good, easy drinking wine. Whether in Rose, White or Red, they were all splendid, and sell for under $10 a bottle. Yes! At the tasting we also sampled some South African tapas. Photo left shows a Peppardew stufffed with goat cheese, which came from the vineyards’ very own goats (hence the wine’s name). The small pepper, about the size of a cherry tomato, was extremely tangy, tasted like it was pickled. Diane, Charles Back’s wife, explained that these native South African peppers naturally taste that way, and were matched with the Rose. With the White wine, we recieved a selection of tapas. Braii’d Brie, under the orange triangle, was set on greens and had an orange-honey sauce. Pan-seared baby prawns came with a blue cheese sambal. Bite-sized samosas are to the right of the prawn. Way in the back is a Biltong Bruschetta, made with dried, salted beef and stewed tomato sauce. Due to my no-meat pledge, I had to pass on this, but did share what I could not partake. I did try a Chicken Liver, though, which was quite good (seen in bread basket). Does a liver count as cheating? I say, no! Friday night was my best restaurant pick of the three weeks. I had been meaning to check out Giano, in the east village, since it opened. The food was excellent, as was the amount of attention we received from owner Matteo. The generous mound of Arugula Salad with apple, orange, fennel and walnuts in the lightest citrus dressing was the perfect start. The Salmon had a delicious sauce made with Sambuca, tarragon, and splash of orange juice, which really transformed the dish. The plain spinach accompaniment was a perfect foil for the richness of the fish. See more photos of the space, and what my friends ate here. Delicioso!


Benedictine: I’m not religious, but it makes me want to pray

Did you know that Bénédictine is celebrating its 500th birthday? This liqueur created by the Bénédictine monks in 1510 is the oldest still in production today. Now, instead of an abby, there is the fairytale-like Bénédictine Palais, in Fécamp, France, where you can see how the spirit is crafted, peruse the museum’s artifacts, AND take in a current art exhibit. When I was a teenager, my mother favored this as a remedy for (ahem) menstrual cramps, so we always had a bottle around. I never thought to make a cocktail with it, that is, until attending the 500th Anniversary Celebration of Bénédictine. Five mixologists competed, adding some amazing ingredients like sweet potato au jus and house-made rose vermouth. Jackson Cannon, seen doing a double shake, above, created the Vincelli Fizz, which got topped with champagne. This got my vote as favorite cocktail. (See all the recipes, winners, and more photos from the event here.) Another cocktail whose season is right now is called Milk and Honey. This would make a great body-warming drink to sip as you come off the ski slopes.
Milk & Honey
1.75 ozs Bénédictine
Hot milk to top off
In a mug or toddy glass, pour in Bénédictine, add warm milk to taste. You can garnish with a slice of orange or cinnamon.


dine-out diet: week two

When you are cutting calories, you tend to focus more on the ones you are getting. So, the lesson after week two, is to be more selective with my restaurant choices, which were hit and miss. The Hit: On Wednesday, I attended i Trulli’s 15th anniversary party, and managed to stay on course. As you would imagine, they had an Italian bounty on display, featuring all sorts of goodies. I passed by the pork, turnips, breaded fried olives, mountain of cookies and focused on the table of seafood. There I was able to scoop up cold seafood salad, oysters, and octopus. I confess to having one mussel with bread stuffing on top! My favorite taste of the night, though, goes to Patti Jackson’s sauteed dandelion leaves, which were lightly bitter tasting. (see photo, left) I am still thinking about them and put i Trulli on my list of places to return to. Friday night, we headed west to Trestle on Tenth. I’m not saying it was bad, but just not fantastic. For the appetizer, I split some oysters and smoked trout salad with Bob. The strange thing about the oyster dish was how it arrived on the table. I am surprised nobody noticed this, or maybe that was the way it was intended to look? (click here to see more photos from that night) When the fish arrived on the table my heart sank. (top photo) How did I miss that this fish was served whole? It freaks me out to have to deal with the bones with every bite, and plus look at the tail and face of the fish, feeling bad as I am eating it. Sigh. It did taste good, but was tainted by the presentation. Saturday, I stayed in the ‘hood and visited Beppe. Everyone at our table loved the food, I thought my dish was good too, the halibut with brussel sprouts and cauliflower (photo, left). There was supposed to be something almond with the dish, but it didn’t come through, as opposed to the Commerce dish of last week. Sunday, my friend Judith came to visit, so a return visit to i Trulli seemed appropriate, especially since her father is from the Puglian area of Italy. After reading the menu online we slogged through the icy rain, excited to try most of the appetizers. Unfortunately, we arrived between lunch and dinner, only the bar menu was available. We still managed to do extremely well, with the endive salad, which had a hard boiled egg and parsley and matched it with grilled octopus with the tiniest fingerling potatoes, black olives, cauliflower and lemon confit. (photo above) It was a treat to sit by the window, have the restaurant to ourselves and catch up. More next week.




See my picks for the latest and best in kitchen design, renovation tips, and garden sanctuaries. From the contributer's page, some background info:

Ellen Swandiak has had a lifelong love affair with design. Every space she has ever lived in has undergone at least one transformation. Whether shopping for accessories, pouring through design magazines, checking out apartments in other cites (just to see), or admiring friends' homes, the passion for beautiful things and ingenious design never ends. "I love mixing a minimalist backdrop with the focus on a few splendid objects." She especially enjoys the "find" scouted from a vacation, which preserves the memory of time spent exploring exotic places. "I think it is really important to surround yourself with the things you love to look at, because it brings joy into your life on a daily basis. They don't need to be expensive, but should make you smile when you see them."


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Natural and organic options for the holidays and beyond.
(please note: Coturri wine and Vintae Luxury wine stories were combined by mistake! this was corrected in a future post.)


dine-out diet: week one

After fully enjoying the inevitable debauchery at the end of 2009, I felt ready to clean up my act. Here is my experiment. Every time I go out to eat for the next three months, I am going to order what I think to be the least caloric and healthiest items on the menu, and report back. At the end of week one, I am feeling slightly lighter—and not at all deprived. I could get used to this. From the top: At the beginning of the week I stopped in at Marc Forgione, in Tribeca. Lucky for me, one of the specials that day was Oyster Shooters, at $3 apiece. I downed that Virginia Olde Salt oyster with jalapeño-pineapple vinegar with delight. For my entree, I chose the Long Island striped bass, with black pepper-meyer lemon emulsion, braised daikon, and James Beard salad (I guess that is the parsley). The sauce was absolutely out of this world. For lunch on Thursday, I met my friend Maya and had the arugula salad with mushrooms, lemon vinaigrette and shaved parmesan at Bar Breton. The portion was quite generous, and the mushrooms added an earthy, smokiness to the salad. Friday night, Bob and I went to Commerce, which was crazily bustling and busy. For my appetizer I ordered the marinated hamachi ceviche with yuzu, tomato, chili and cilantro, which was sliced like sashimi. Excellent. Both Bob and I had the black sea bass with crushed sunchokes, spiced almonds and heirloom apple. The almonds lent a nice crunch into the mix. Tune in next week for more healthy choices. See more pics of the restaurnant's ambiance here.