Monthly Archives: January 2014

Celebrating Chinese New Year – 新年好!!!!

My local friends are comprised of a varied mix of ethnic backgrounds which makes life, and more importantly food, so much more interesting.  We try to gather and celebrate each other’s cultures when we can, and it’s a fun and great way to expose our children to international experiences through food, friends and fun.  A huge part of any culture after all is its food.  And so this past weekend we had an early celebration for Chinese New Year hosted by some friends who love food and wine as much as I.

It all began with an email chain about the frigid cold weather, noodles and hot pots, which led to us reminiscing about our post-Sandy dinner to celebrate the return of electricity, which somehow led to (I believe I was the instigator) planning a Chinese New Year party.  Date and time decided, we now had to come up with a menu and dole out the responsibilities, and in the process wound up planning a dumpling throwdown.

My contribution to the evening was Korean pork-kimchi dumpling pancakes with a spicy dipping sauce.  Yes, I know that is not Chinese but my hosts allowed it and the recipe sounded delicious.  Besides, there was a contest to win and I wanted to bring both flavor and presentation to the table even if I didn’t have time to make my own dumpling skins.  The other dumpling contributors made steamed salmon & spinach dumplings and Chinese shumai. 

Dumpling Pancake in the making
Korean Pork-Kimchi Dumpling Pancake

Steamed Salmon Dumplings

Yifu Noodles & Ba Won Ji
It was such a fun evening with so much food.  We had tofu skin two ways and small tofu appetizers for the vegetarians.  There were yifu noodles and fried rice, homemade spring rolls, baby bok choy with mushrooms, Chinese meatballs, delicacies like beef tendon and pig’s ears – a standard at any Chinese celebration, Shanghai style soup, Chicken in a delicious gravy (Ba won ji) and my favorite – steamed whole branzino garnished with ginger, scallions, and cilantro in the most flavorful & rich broth.  I could have eaten an entire fish if I hadn’t already been full from all the other delicious food.  We appropriately ended the meal with Chinese desserts – eight treasures rice and coconut nian gao. 

Homemade Spring Rolls
Tofu Skin – two ways


Braised Baby Bok Choy
Baby Bok Choy & Mushrooms


 

Individual Tofu Appetizers

Tendon & Ears & Other goodies

Amazing Steamed whole Branzino

Ba Won Ji – Chicken with ginger & scallions


Sadly I had to leave the celebration early to attend another party that was previously committed to, but was very thankful to the hosts for moving this New Year celebration to an earlier time so that I could partake in this amazing experience of culinary & cultural deliciousness.

Anyone hungry yet???

Happy Chinese New Year to you all!!! 

新年好

A Ski Weekend in Manchester Vermont

Every year a group of us plans a weekend of skiing in Vermont over the MLK Holiday.  This year, the plan just didn’t come together so I decided to take my son anyway and instead of staying on the mountain as we usually do, I opted to stay in Manchester, a town I’ve passed so many times but never visited.  This would also allow us the option to ski different hills if we wanted. 

We stayed at the Manchester View Inn which is a reasonably priced inn with varied types of rooms each with an outdoor porch or balcony.  It was clean and comfortable and perfect for a ski vacation.  The room had a small refrigerator which allowed us to pack some things for breakfast and afternoon snacks like milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.   The inn is about 30 minutes from Stratton Mountain which is where we skied both days.


We arrived in Manchester on Friday night a little later than I thought due to Albany area traffic but still early enough to get dinner.  After settling in and browsing through the dining guide in the room, we decided to go to The Silver Fork, a small family owned restaurant.  When we got there around 8:30pm, we were greeted with a smile from Melody but unfortunately they didn’t have anything available till 9:30pm.  She was so apologetic and friendly that when we got back to the car we decided that an hour wait was worth it for a menu we wanted to try.  And so, we went back at 9:30 and were promptly seated at the bar which is also reserved.  My son was thrilled since he loves to sit at the bar allowing him more opportunity to socialize.  A good restaurant experience, for me, is more than just about good food; it is about the whole package from ambiance, food, service, and my happiness scale at the end of the meal.

We had the most amazing experience that evening.  I ordered Baked Beets & Goat Cheese as an appetizer while my son enjoyed their warm breads and tapenade.  I accompanied this with a very nice Gruner Veltliner from Steininger.  My entrée choice, Slow Roasted Pheasant with Wild Mushroom Ragout & Polenta had run out so I opted for their other evening special of Osso Bucco and switched to a Cote du Rhone.  My son ordered the Salmon Strudel.  Both entrees were delicious and perfectly executed and we ate far more than we should have.  The rest of the menu looked equally good and we wanted to try a little bit of everything.  Throughout the evening Melody spoke to us about the food and the restaurant and how she and her husband (the chef), Mark, came to Manchester.  She was attentive to each and every patron and we even started up a nice conversation with our neighbors at the bar.  At one point she brought Mark out to introduce us as well.  Needless to say my son was a big hit with Melody and all the other staff with his enthusiasm for good food and witty conversation.  He even ventured to order their Mango Souffle served with Caramelized fresh Mangoes for dessert and proceeded to eat more of it than I thought he might.  To be fair it was really really awesome!!  It was huge but also light and airy and not too sweet which made it easy to eat.  I commented that it would taste really good with a nice Sauternes or dessert wine and immediately Melody poured me a small glass from a winery called Witness Tree in Oregon.  We had the best time and though the evening ran late, it was ok because we had already decided not to rush to the mountain in the morning.










Saturday conditions were not great for skiing but we managed to get in a few good runs before quitting.  Since my son was still recovering from being sick, we opted to stay in our room and eat cheese, crackers & fruit for our dinner that evening along with a bowl of store bought ramen and some local VT beer.  We watched “The Help” on TV in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. and went to bed planning for an early start the next day.

Sunday was a much better day for the slopes.  With a few new inches of snow and colder temperatures for grooming, we didn’t feel like we were ice skating all day.  Getting on the lifts before 9am didn’t hurt.  It really was a fun day of skiing since my son was feeling much better and we also had a friend join us for part of the day to keep up with him – something I’m not as good at anymore.  With a brief stop for a light lunch which consisted of a bowl of noodles with chicken & vegetables, we skied straight till around 3:30pm.  While heading back to the inn, we realized that we were hungry again and decided to stop to eat on our way instead of waiting until dinner time. 

Another restaurant I had read about and wanted to try was on the way and so that’s where we wound up.  The restaurant is called “The Perfect Wife” but also has a tavern next door called “The Other Woman Tavern”.  Still in our ski attire, we opted for the tavern which would also allow us to watch the NFL playoff game between the Patriots and Broncos.  We ordered the Burrata with Arugula Salad from the restaurant menu and the small Nachos from the tavern menu.  A local wheat based IPA and a hot chocolate and we were all set.  The burrata was creamy and delicious and is made at a local farm.  We didn’t eat anything else, but I’ve made a mental note to visit the restaurant again on a future trip.  They also have live music at the tavern on Friday nights.  Happy to watch the Broncos win, we made our way back to the inn to relax for the evening.


















One of my favorite things about traveling is the discovery of new places to eat.  I have passed through Manchester more than a dozen times but had never stopped to explore this town.  It is quite a large town with shopping and many more restaurants than we had time to try, but I will surely return on future trips and try more of them.  If you’re ever in Manchester, I do recommend that you try The Silver Fork and if you see Melody, please say hello for me.  Reservations are a must at both restaurants.  The tavern does not accept reservations.

Restaurant Websites:

The Swatmeister

I am always trying to come up with new cocktails when I don’t feel like drinking wine, beer or straight scotch/bourbon.  I find most cocktails too sweet for my taste so it’s easier to come up with my own mixes.  If you follow this blog you know that I love Gin.  And my go to gin is Tanqueray Rangpur which can be difficult to find at times.  Last night was one of those times that I was hankering for a cocktail.  I find that this generally happens on that rare occasion when I’ve finished work, finished making dinner and actually have time to sit and enjoy a cocktail before eating.  And so the Swatmeister was concocted…….

 

Ingredients/Recipe :

 
2 ozs Tanqueray Rangpur Gin
1/2 oz St Germaine
3 oz R.W. Knudsen Cucumber Essense (I buy it on Amazon)
Juice of 1/2 lime
 
Pour all ingredients over ice in a shaker.  Shake well and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a wedge of lime.  This will yield two drinks.  Enjoy!!
 
 

One Weekend Three Amazing Meals

Yesterday was the second anniversary of this blog.  I have truly enjoyed this venture that has been a wonderful outlet for me to talk about the three things I love the most – food, wine and travel.  I hope that you have enjoyed this journey with me and that you will continue to do so for a long time to come. If you are new to this blog and have not read my original entry on how I discovered my three passions, I welcome you to do so:

As appropriate, to celebrate this blogaversary, I spent the weekend surrounded with foodie friends, delicious foods and fantastic wines.  If I could only find a way to make money and live like this all the time…… 

Friday Night


My food adventures this weekend began with a trip into New York City on Friday with a friend.  It has been a dreary week and I needed to get out of the house.  Our original plan was to try a new ramen restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen, but we decided to save that for a group outing with other ramen lovers we know and opted to try Umami Burger instead.  Umami Burger originated in California and recently opened an outpost on Sixth Avenue between 9th St & 10thSt.  The New York Times recently featured them in the Dining & Wine section and I was intrigued.  

The restaurant is a decent size and bustling with energy.  We were given a 30 minute wait and decided to have a drink at the bar while we waited.  I ordered a Gin & Tonic and the bartender, who was super friendly, suggested a gin called Death’s Door which is distilled in Wisconsin.  He let me try some plain and it was really good.  Later research revealed that this gin is infused simply with juniper berries, coriander and fennel for its aromatics.  It was very delicious with almost floral notes on the nose.  When a few seats opened up at the bar, we opted to just order food there.  My friend ordered their original Umami Burger with shiitake mushrooms, caramelized onions, roasted tomato, parmesan crisp and umami ketchup.  I chose the Hatch Burger with four types of roasted chiles and house cheese.  Wanting to experience both of these, we cut each in half and traded.  Both were perfectly cooked on a soft bun, and were absolutely juicy and delicious.  I can’t even say I preferred one over the other.  We got tempura onion rings on the side, which were also crispy and very good.
The Hatch Burger

Saturday Night


I spent most of my rainy Saturday doing some food shopping, running errands and cleaning the house.  But I also had fun making dessert for the dinner party I was invited to that evening while blasting music on my iPod.  My hosts served a delicious dinner of Brined Pork Chops, Roasted Apple Sauce, Polenta, Prunes steeped in tea & Cognac, and a Wedge Salad of Butter Lettuce, Avocadoes and Orange segments served with a warm shallot dressing.  I contributed Chocolate Mousse in Chocolate Cups with whipped cream and raspberries for dessert.  Equally delicious wines accompanied this fantastic meal including a phenomenal Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA).  A big thank you to E & B for a wonderful and delicious evening……

The food we ate:


The wines we drank:

A very special Trockenbeerenauslese from Austria

Sunday Evening


This day was the highlight of my weekend and so much fun!!!!  I have a few friends who are as crazy as I and love to cook and drink wine with an equal, if not greater, passion.  Every so often we get together and plan some elaborate dinners or events.  If you’ve read my post on the pig roast in my backyard, these would be the same culprits.  We don’t just cook our own dishes and bring them along to the hosting kitchen, we actually cook together while enjoying some amazing wines in the process.  Yesterday’s event was to make pasta and sweet Italian sausage from scratch.  

We made Pappardelle with Sweet Italian Sausage & Broccolini and Roasted Cauliflower with Cumin, Coriander and Panko crumbs.  For appetizers (need to eat while we are cooking after all) we had Marinated Eggplant, Cheese (Jarlsberg and Paradisio), Cerignola Olives, homemade Cheese “Cookies” and a Baguette.  Homemade Apple Pie and an encore of my Chocolate Mousse rounded out dessert for the evening.  We started at 4pm and ended well past 10pm.  We played Spanish LPs on an old turntable and even listened to some Bollywood while having a blast cooking and sipping Champagne, Nebbiolo and Amarone through the evening.   My son even joined us later in the evening and ate his meal in record time.  I don’t think he came up for air from that bowl of pasta.  Thank you to I & M for hosting and to M for showing us the pasta making techniques.  I can’t wait for our next adventure………

Making pasta: 














Making sausage:





















The food we ate:

 














The wines we drank:

 











In Summary:

Saturday Night!!


Sunday Night!!!

I hope you have enjoyed this special anniversary edition and that the photos have inspired you to go to your kitchen and cook something.  I have a Chipotle Pork Loin Roast in my slow cooker for dinner tonight….


May 2014 be filled with lots of food, wine and fun for us all!!!

Swati

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