The Cook's Tour: November 2008

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Oceanos, Fair Lawn, NJ





We had dinner last night at Oceanos, a Greek seafood restaurant.  This was our anniversary dinner so I researched carefully.  Besides getting great reviews from various local newspapers, one of my favorite food bloggers, TommyEats, had given Oceanos a big thumbs-up. Additionally, after the chef/owner picks out the day's seafood every morning at the Fulton Fish Market, he comes back to the restaurant to bake all the bread for the day.  The bread, BTW, is a wonderful marble and served with flavorful Greek olive oil from the family's vineyard in Greece.

My big take-away: the outstanding service.  Yes, the food was fresh & delicious, and the restaurant's atmosphere was sleek, pleasant, & quiet (loved the color scheme - all soft blue and chocolate tones).  From the friendly host who greeted us at the door to the efficient, smooth, not overly-friendly wait staff, this was one of the most pleasant dining events in a long time.  

The best thing about the service:  I have no idea what my waiter's name was.  And, please don't take this the wrong way - he knew his place.  He didn't hover over us, although when we looked around for him to request another glass of wine or ask a question about the specials, he was there.  When he was serving a course and we engaged him in conversation, he smiled, made a light comment, and was gone.  What a breath of fresh air from the all-too-typical "hi, guys, my name is Joey and I'll be your server."  I know a lot of restaurants think that by having their wait staff introduce themselves it gives you some kind of bond with them, but frankly, I don't want to bond with the wait staff.  And, the use of the word "guys" has really gotten out of hand.  I know we all use it in our daily lives, but this is probably the thing that irritates me most at a decent restaurant.  If I'm at a Chili's (or similar ilk) for a casual, quick meal, OK.  But "real" restaurant owners:  please train your wait staff not to address patrons as "guys."  Wait staff:  look at the people at your table.  Your big hint here, some of us are not guys...

So, now to the food (photos above):  we started out with a grilled calamari appetizer - very nice.  For the main course, I had the Chilean Sea Bass, served with grilled asparagus and a vegetable risotto.  This was delicious.  My husband, Barry, had the swordfish special.  This was served with a tequila-lime sauce and yellow Spanish rice - again, delicious.  Dessert consisted of a Greek yogurt with walnuts and cherry preserves for me and a chocolate-cheesecake-layer cake for Barry.  

As an aside, have you tried Chobani Greek yogurt?  OMG - it is TDF. Try it - go to www.chobani.com and get yourself a coupon.  Once you try Greek yogurt, you will never go back to weak, watery yogurt.  There are a couple of other Greek yogurts in my Shop-Rite but I haven't tried them yet.  I am stuck on Chobani - fat-free, great flavors, and wonderfully thick, rich, luscious yogurt.
Oceano's on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 29, 2008

It's All About the Doughnuts






So, I must tell you that these doughnuts are absolutely fabulous.  They are everything a cake doughnut should be: a nice crust on the outside, with a light (not too sweet) cake inside, & a delicious glaze.  These are almost like the crullers I remember from my childhood.  My Dad & my Uncle Marty would bring back these wonderful crullers from the Allwood Bakery in Clifton.  They would sit there in our kitchen having coffee & crullers and talk about horses (they were big into horse racing but not in a bad way). Sadly, you can't get a good cruller these days. These doughnuts are a close second.

They were really not hard to make.  However, I did realize that using the Waring Deep Fryer was not the appropriate tool here.  You do not make doughnuts in a little fry basket (no room to flip). Luckily, we have an electric fryer that worked great.  And, it didn't take all that long. After the dough rests for an hour, you're good to go.  I did only make half the recipe because I really don't need two dozen doughnuts sitting around and this was just a test.  And I made the original glaze (remember, I said I was going to skip the glaze & just use powdered sugar?).  Well, you can't really have maple doughnuts without the maple and the maple is in the glaze.

I've attached a few photos here. It was a great way to while away a Saturday afternoon - I strongly encourage you bakers/fryers out there to try it.  


Friday, November 28, 2008

The List



Happy Day After Thanksgiving!  Hope your day was filled with fun & good food.

Thanksgiving always signals the real start of winter (the season I dread).  It's a long, bleak road ahead until Spring.  What else is there to do but perhaps bake something wonderful & dream of places to go.  So today I am thinking of baking up a batch of doughnuts (I think technically this wouldn't be baking because you fry doughnuts).  I have never made doughnuts before but this is a perfect weekend to try them.  Other than our 16th wedding anniversary dinner tomorrow night, we've got no plans.  I found what appears to be a great recipe on Epicurious ("Maple-Glazed Sour Cream Doughnuts with Sugared-Walnut Streusel").  OMG.  Just saying the title makes me happy.  I think what got me started on this doughnut idea was doing my 45 minutes on the treadmill this morning.  Yes, I know what you're thinking:  how could exercising & doughnuts ever be combined in one sentence?  Well, on a shelf right next to the treadmill is the Waring Deep Fryer we bought at Costco two years ago & have yet to use.  Every time I'm down in the basement on the treadmill, I look at the deep fryer & say to myself "I really should do something with that."  So this weekend is it.  Tomorrow (Saturday) is "try the doughnuts" day.  I would have done it today except I had a manicure appointment (this is very important) and I don't have two of the necessary doughnut ingredients in the house.  However, I think I will only make half the recipe and finish them off with powdered sugar rather than the recommended glaze.  I will, of course, take progress photos for you each step of the way.  If they turn out good, I will send along the recipe in case you too have a doughnut calling.

Now, the other part of my dreading the winter thinking is dreaming of fabulous places to visit.  With the sorry state of the economy, I think major transatlantic trips might be out.  But how about long weekends to great cities in the US with incredible restaurant/ food scenes?  This works for me (which also works very nicely into the overall title of my blog - get it? The Cook's Tour???).  And hence, the title of this post, "The List."  I am going to compile a list of the cities & restaurants we hope to visit.  If money is really tight, we can even just do East coast food trips (Providence, Boston, Portland, DC, Savannah, Charleston).  So, here we go.

The List (in no particular order) with one or two restaurants from each city:
  • Providence (Il Forno)
  • Boston (Rialto)
  • Chicago (Spiaggia, Tru, Frontera Grill)
  • Charleston (Hominy  Grill, Charleston Grill)
  • Portland, ME (Fore Street, Hugo's, Duck Fat, Standard Baking Co.)
  • Portland, OR (great wine, who cares about the restaurants!)
  • Walland, TN (Blackberry Farm)
  • San Francisco (Tartine, Boulevard)
  • Berkley, CA (Chez Panisse)
  • Napa (Mustard's, Julia's at Copia, Ad Hoc)
  • Sonoma (The Girl & The Fig)
  • Big Sur, CA (Big Sur Bakery - photo above is a "Jammin' Jelly Doughnut" from the BigSur Bakery)
  • Atlanta (Watershed in Decatur)
This is just off the top of my head without any research (sad, isn't it).  Do you have cities/restaurants to add to my list?  Send 'em on!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Holiday Cocktail Nuts



With the holidays fast approaching, I wanted to suggest a wonderful, quick nut recipe that you can use at upcoming gatherings (these are courtesy of Eating Well). I made these last week - they are easy, delicious & taste great with a slightly chilled white wine. 

These nuts remind me of the fabulous nuts we enjoyed this past summer in Positano (aaahhh, overlooking the incredible Amalfi Coast enjoying a cocktail at LeSirineuse...). Sorry, back to reality in NJ where it is currently 25 degrees - this so doesn't look like Italy.

I think you will love these - give them a whirl this holiday season!

2 cups  whole blanched almonds

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 300°F.

Place almonds in a baking pan; toss with oil, cumin, salt and pepper. Bake until lightly toasted, about 25 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack. 

Variation: Use curry powder and cayenne pepper in place of cumin and black pepper.

Welcome!



Welcome to the first edition of The Cook's Tour. Those of you who know me, know that I am passionate about all things food & travel. I have wanted to produce some sort of publication about my culinary finds for a long time.

Weekly, I will send out a fabulous recipe or an interesting restaurant find/travel tip. These items will come from my personal collection of books & articles, or from the web (with proper credit given, of course). There is so much information out there & hopefully I can cull this down & provide you with relevant, interesting, & delicious information.

A little about me: I live in northern New Jersey & have a full-time job in the pharmaceutical industry. The pharma world is great, but my passion is FOOD! I am a dedicated baker & in a past life, co-owned a dessert catering company called "I Love Cheesecake." I still harbor fantasies of winning the lottery, quitting my day job, & opening a food-related business. This newsletter is a small step in that direction.

So, now the fun begins. Come with me on "The Cook's Tour" as we explore food, baking, & travel. Let’s build a community of like-minded food-obsessed individuals.  Please send me your feedback & your food finds. Feel free to forward these finds to friends you think might enjoy this blog.  Thanks!

Bon Voyage!

Terry

Echo