A Divine French Holiday

DSCN0117I just returned from a dream vacation, Paris to Lyon and a cruise on the Rhone River. I ate new foods, tasted wonderful wine and saw monuments and lavender fields.

This was a “check this off the list” sort of trip.

Paris was a wonderful city and I could stay for months and never see all there is to see.

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We saw the Eiffel Tower from a distance, up close and inside. It takes on a whole new look at night with the lights reflecting the steel in the night time sky.

We climbed to the top of the Arc de Triumphe – all 284 stairs!

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I ate an interesting ham sandwich called a Croque-Madame. It is a Croque-Monsieur (a grilled ham sandwich with the ham inside the bread and the cheese on top)!with an egg on top. Madame! Get it? Egg on top? It cracked me up and was delicious.

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I went on a high speed train called the TGV from Paris to Lyon and boarded the Swiss Emerald for a Tauck cruise down the Rhône River. I cannot say enough about that company.

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Remington Tavern and Seafood Exchange

I have this theory I call the “Disney World theory.” That’s when your favorite thing is the last thing you did. When you just get off Space Mountain that’s your favorite ride until you get off of the Rock and the Rollercoaster and that becomes your favorite ride.

When I drove my son from Chicago to D.C. to Boston, his favorite school was the one we just visited (with a few exceptions, but that’s not what this post is about).

Remington Tavern and Seafood Exchange at 184 Sweeney St., North Tonawanda, is my new favorite seafood spot. So much so I have been there three times in the past month.

It has a very cool vibe and the tables in front by the canal are fun, too. The building is a late 1800s power house on the Erie Canal built by International Railway. The restoration really began in 2007, and it is the current site of this fine restaurant, and a few other businesses.

The bar is located in the middle of the seating area, so you are never very far from friends and diners. They have a seasonal bar menu (don’t you justlove that?) and I started my evening last week with a “Cucumber Cooler.” It was Hendricks gin, fresh lime juice, fresh cucumber and grapefruit bitters all in a highball glass. I liked it both because it had fresh lime and because it was not too sweet.

Our bartender also gave us a primer on the fresh oyster selection. That day they had several from Prince Edward Island and other northern climates. On our tasting plate were oysters called “Rocky Shore,” “Malpeque,” “Beach Blonds” and “Wallace Bay.” The “Beach Blonds” were the mildest of the bunch. Some were a little briny and others were sweet. They were all better with the two sauces. I loved the cocktail sauce with shaved horseradish on top. It was not as hot as I would have expected.

We ordered an appetizer from the specials menu. The stuffed spicy banana peppers were filled with ricotta cheese, extra virgin olive oil and fresh garlic. The filling was smooth and creamy with just the right amount of seeds remaining for the kick. If we have a criticism, it would be the plate and presentation. The plate was too small, because the peppers slid around, which made them difficult to cut. Maybe that lettuce garnish has a purpose, after all? Also, a piece or two of bread would have been helpful, too, as a way to cut the heat for those who do not prefer it. Overall, though, they were delicious.

I asked about the white wine selection and Melanie suggested a glass of Chateau Fantin Bordeaux Blanc from Bordeaux, France. She had me at France since I will be testing French wine in the French countryside next week. It was a smooth wine and a good value at $25 a bottle. I had never tried a white Bordeaux before and was happy for the experience.

We each tried a different entree. The sirloin steak sandwich ($16) with portobello, grilled onion and mozzarella was, as one companion said, cooked to perfection. The grilled chicken breast sandwich ($11) was served the same as the steak sandwich. She loved the caramelized onions and the fresh roll. They were both served with french fries, which had the right amount of crisp.

The grilled barbecue St. Louis ribs ($16 half/$28 full) were spicy and the sauce was generous. The fries were served with a vinegar aioli, which was one of my favorite bites of the evening. I love french fries with vinegar and this was a cool take on that.

20130629-084218.jpgI had one of the dinner specials: seared diver scallops served with a sun-dried tomato cous cous and arugula salad. The scallops were seared with some spice. They were perfectly cooked. My other favorite bite of the evening was the cous cous salad. It was room temperature, which was surprising. What a great idea on a sunny summer day!

When our server offered dessert, I forced my friends to go to the dark side with me. I think they are glad they did. We had an almond lace cookie cup ($8) with whipped cream and fresh berries and a hot fudge brownie sundae ($8) with peppermint stick ice cream. I burned my mouth on the brownie, but was able to sooth it with the creamy ice cream. The lace cookie cup had a lovely brown sugar flavor and the caramel sauce was a nice balance with the fresh fruit (blueberry, mango and strawberry).

If you go, know they do not accept reservations, so you should be ready to enjoy hanging at the bar. The vibe is very cool and I look forward to my next visit.

Have a yummy day!

A Day Of New York Minutes

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4:25 am: I’m up before the alarm for my 6:45 am flight. It’s safe to say that happens never.

5:01 am: put on sensible shoes and put suitcase into car.

5:04 am: change sensible shoes and replace with more stylish shoes.

5:11 am: depart for airport 11 minutes late. No worries…I won’t stop for coffee and will ” make it up in the air.”

5:54 am: arrive at the airport, park and board shuttle. Meet a fellow foodie. Chat about food. He also makes his own Lemoncello. He uses grain alcohol, not sold in New York, which he procures from a friend in Ohio. I share my Polish potato alcohol and Pisco combination. We chat all the way through the TSA line.

6:13 am: have my ID in one hand, sweater in the other at the front of the line. No boarding pass. Oops. Quickly go backward in line. Obtain boarding pass. Back in TSA line.

6:25 am: My need for coffee supersedes all other things, including boarding a plane. Buy coffee.

6:30 am: entered line as they called my row. No problem. Easy peazy lemon squeezy.

6:35 am: seated next to my new foodie friend. Took my allergy medicine so my very clogged ears would not explode.

6:50 am: flight in the air, eardrums intact

7:45 am: Kennedy – early arrival

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Terri is pretty happy with her Jamba Juice!

8:06 am: Jamba Juice!! I had an Orange Carrot Karma Smoothie and it was good ’til the last slurp.

9:31 am: Penn Station madness…it may be the worst smelling place ever. Only go to the restroom if it is a dire emergency. Trust me on that one.

9:55 am: drop stuff off at hotel on 40th Street. Head to Rockefeller Plaza and Sak’s Fifth Avenue.

IMG_292910:12 am: stopped for a quick bite and quick sip at Pax.  We ordered a few iced lattes and tea along with a lemon bar and red velvet cupcake to share. The quality of the food here is very good but we were disappointed at how dry both our confections were. Brush off the crumbs. Move on.

11:34 am: Ran into Rod Stewart.IMG_2932

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_293612:30 pm: stopped by Cafe Metro for some Spicy Southwestern Pasta Salad. It had black beans and corn with a creamy mayo. I would have preferred a little less mayo but it was a tasty salad.

1:25 pm: birthday surprise at a Mid-Town Manhattan women’s clothing store. The birthday girl never saw it coming.

1:40 pm: drinks at a restaurant on 7th Avenue in Times Square. I wish I could remember the name so I could tell you not to go. Sorry.

6:00 pm: Pedi-cab ride to 39th Street Pier. BUYER BEWARE: Know/negotiate the price in advance and have cash.IMG_2949

 

 

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7:10 pm: Ferry to Lincoln Harbor (next to the Lincoln Tunnel) and a short walk to the Chart House.

7:30 pm: arrive and are seated at a curved table with a panoramic view of Manhattan.

7:30 – 10 pm: ate delicious food while staring at one of the most vibrant and exciting cities in the world. I cannot recommend this location more. Be sure to ride the ferry ($17/round trip) if you are capable of walking a bit. Make reservations via Open Table and allow yourself at least two hours. Also, the last ferry leaves around 10:30 pm so be sure to work that into your plan. There are plenty of taxies at the 39th Street station to take you to your destination.

11:15 pm: arrived at the Marriott Marquise Hotel in Times Square. My friend “had a guy” who could get us past the line and up into the rotating dining room for a night cap.  Drank a pineapple Caipirinha which probably would have been amazing had I not been up since 4:25 am.

photo (16)12:45 am: the view of the Empire State Building from my bed. Goodnight world!

Social Media and Ginger Cake

Let me open this by saying were it not for social media, you would not be reading my food and life blog on WNYPapers.com. Here’s why:

When I decided to spin my blog away from an online news source in 2012 the first follower I had on my WordPress.com site was WNYPapers. It was not immediate but it got me thinking about the folks who were interested in reading my work. Who are they?

It’s relatively easy to figure out with social media.

Primarily I use Facebook and Twitter. My foodie persona on Facebook is JudeTheFoodie and can be found here. Here people can chat with me directly and I find this to be the easiest way to have direct interaction with other foodie friends. By “liking” this page you can also become part of the conversation.

Twitter is still a mysterious social media to many with lots and lots of rules attached that to someone with little experience would view as mishmash. @JudeTheFoodie is the “handle” I use on Twitter to Tweet my foodie experiences including travel.

Here are just a few things to know about Twitter to help you understand the puzzling world of Tweeting.

When you “follow” someone you can read their Tweets (messages 140 characters or less). Unless they follow you, they cannot read your Tweets. The idea is that we follow folks with whom we are interested without regard to their wanting to know anything about us.

For example, I follow Martha Stewart. I can see all of her Tweets. She, however, (sadly) does not follow me. If I want a Tweet to get to her, even though she does not follow me, I can begin my Tweet with @MarthaStewart and it will show up on her feed. The feed is the list of Tweets from all of the people you follow.

Once you follow a large number of people the feed is very congested. You could spend the entire day reading your feed. I say that a Tweet is a lot like standing on the 50 yard of a stadium and speaking to a packed house without a microphone. In order for your Tweets to have any impact (and for most people to see them) you need to mention someone (using the “@” symbol and their Twitter handle like @MarthaStewart) or use a “#” called a hashtag.

The hashtag is a way to group Tweets. If you Tweet “I love watching #Chopped. The ingredients in the basket are crazy!” anyone else who enters #Chopped in the search area can see your Tweet. It’s pretty cool and you can chat with folks from around the world.

I also post my columns on Pinterest. It is a cool way to group my recipes and travel articles in one place for people who do not follow me on WordPress.com. WordPress is the blogging platform I use and what runs my website. I am slowly gaining followers on my website. If you follow my blog at JudeTheFoodie.com you can click on follow. Whenever I post anything on my website you can read it on your WordPress.com reader.

Now, what does a ginger cake have to do with social media? The recipe I used the other day to make a very moist ginger cake can be found here: http://theworldinourkitchen.com/2011/03/08/ginger-cake/

I have never met Chef and Jen but due to social media I can say they are friends. We started following each other on Twitter which led to Facebook which led to Words With Friends which led to the realization we are only 50 miles apart. We hope to meet this summer.

Every day I post a “JudeTheFoodie.com Question of the Day.” Late last week it was Cake or Pie? Over 600 people viewed that post (and I only have 159 followers on this Facebook page). Chef waxed poetic about his wife Jen’s ginger cake. I asked for the recipe and through the power of social media I baked this cake a few days later.20130422-082849.jpgThis cake is moist and dense. I little piece has a big impact. The recipe calls for ¾ or a cup of ginger and I used the whole piece which turned out to be a little over a cup. I think I will use the recommended amount next time because the ginger was very powerful (not unpleasant but strong).

Also, I recommend using a medium saucepan to heat the one cup of water. When you add the soda you have a bit of a chemistry experiment as it will bubble up. Add the chopped ginger to the pan, stir then add to the batter. Caution: this batter is much thinner than you would expect so don’t worry, its fine.

The recipe does not call for any topping and while it does not need anything to taste wonderful I am going to make a sweet whipped cream to serve on the side the next time I make this great cake.

Please “Like” JudetheFoodie on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @JudeTheFoodie. Begin a Tweet with @JudeTheFoodie to let me know you read this column.

Have a yummy day!

It’s Fun to Eat at the Bar!

I travel a lot, often by myself. While I am not averse to eating alone with a book or my iPad, I most often enjoy sitting among my soon to be friends at the bar. You usually get served more quickly and you often have small plate options not available on the full menu.

Twice in New Orleans I ate memorable meals at the bar. The first was at the Acme Oyster House where I watched a highly skilled oyster shucker open hundreds of oysters an hour. I settled in my seat after only a few minutes waiting outside in a line that went around the block. A simple question of availability at the bar afforded me the chance to eat an oyster po boy and it was one of the best sandwich bites of my life. I am not sure what the sauce was but the combination of the fresh bread, perfectly fried oysters and sauce makes my mouth water as I write.

The second time was at K Paul’s on Chartres Street in the French Quarter. Again, there was a large crowd waiting for tables but I spotted a spot at the end of the bar. I asked the bartender his specialty and he boasted he won the award in New Orleans several years in a row for his original twist on the New Orleans Hurricane. I must admit, it was a tasty drink.

When it was time for dinner I asked him my usual question: “If I never return, what is the one dish I must try while visiting your city?”

His answer was the stuffed pork chop. It was a very large pork chop filled with herbs and cheese. It has been a while so I cannot remember the particulars but it was a delicious dish. The meat was very juicy, which is no easy task on a cut so think. When a gentleman sat at the bar a few seats over he asked about the specialty that evening. The bartender asked me to let the man know my thoughts and he ordered the same thing. As we chat with the others at the bar we talked about home. He said he was traveling north to New York to attend his niece’s high school graduation. A few more minutes of conversation determined he grew up in Kenmore, NY and was attending Lewiston Porter’s graduation.

It truly is a small world as Lew-Port is my alma mater, as well. You just never know who you will meet.

I twice dined at the bar this past week. On Saturday we had some wine and watched the Master’s at Hops N Vines in Lewiston. We enjoyed the mussels in white wine sauce and lobster bisque mac and cheese brought down from Casa Antica.

Another wonderful bar dining experience happened last week when I suggested to my friend Amy we grab one drink after work. We settled on Oliver’s where we met at Christmastime and enjoyed a chocolate martini expertly created by bartender Mike. I sincerely love watching a bartender mix a drink and interact with the crowd.

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We enjoyed a French 75. This gin and lemon drink must be making a major comeback because it was new to me just a few weeks ago and I now have several ones to compare. Mike offered it with gin or vodka and since reading about it when I wrote my Town Hall review I wanted to try one with gin. He used fresh lemon juice and simple syrup. He added ice and gin to a shaker and shook to chill the liquid. He poured it into chilled martini glasses and added champagne to the top. I may have a new favorite drink.

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I was hungry and I talked Amy into splitting a a bowl of parsnip soup with crispy pancetta. They were kind enough to actually split the soup into two bowls. If you are watching your waistline and your wallet it is a great idea to share. Some restaurants charge a fee for this but it is still worth it because no one needs the portions served at most restaurants.

We also shared a pizza. It was no ordinary pizza, either. It was called a Cuccidati Pizza, bitter greens, fresh ricotta, walnut & fig pesto. I am a big fan of figs and this was really good.

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Mike barely suggested dessert and I pounced on the idea . Yes, the lady may have appeared too eager but the offerings were so yummy who could resist? This was a chocolate torte with a butter crunch ice cream and a toffee crisp on top. There apparently was caramel on the plate but I talk too much and Amy took complete advantage and ate most of it. I forgive her because I ate most of the toffee. It all evens out.

Next time you find yourself alone at a restaurant, I highly recommend sitting at the bar. You will enjoy the camaraderie, learn about the area and never dine alone.

Have a yummy day!

The Glamour of Traveling

When I had the honor of singing the US and Canadian national anthems at Toronto’s Skydome (before Rogers amassed their billions for the naming rights) I met a woman who was to throw the first pitch. Prior to the game all of the pre game folks rehearse according to a carefully prepared and timed script.

She had to go to the mound…or many feet in front of the mound and practice throwing to the catcher. Wow, that’s hard. I was impressed she got it even near the plate. She said she had been throwing the ball to her husband for weeks to practice.

When it was my turn to practice they cued my tape and I (shudder, yes, I lip synced) sang the anthems with all my heart into a dead mic. Easy peazy lemon squeezy.

This whole process blew first pitch woman’s mind. “Wow, you sounded great! Where do you sing? Are you famous?”

“Um…I sing most often in church and I am decidedly not famous.” But, she was not buying it one bit. Not famous? Not possible. She kept at it. “How often do you sing the national anthem?” At that point I had sung for the Sabres a few times and sang at what is now Progressive Field in Cleveland for the Indians.

Of course I was famous, or so she believed. When she gushed again she declared my life must be so glamorous. By then I didn’t have the heart to tell her differently since she already didn’t believe me. Even today, whenever I clean my bathroom I think of first pitch lady and the glamour of my life.

Travel is glamorous. Traveling is not.

I write this from a hotel room in North Carolina at about 12:30 AM. A ten and a half hour journey took nearly fifteen hours today.

Apparently God picked Florida up by the Keys and shook it like a rug, flicking everyone without a Florida zip code back to the northern state where they belonged. I’m convinced that the only people left are the senior citizens and the food service folks who serve them their early bird specials.

It took 3 1/2 hours to drive through South Carolina and those that were not in their cars in post holiday gridlock were eating at the Cracker Barrel. No lie, my mom and I had to wait 20 minutes for a table at 9 PM. Thank God they have biscuits. And sweet tea. And grits.

But the trip was worth everything we experienced today because my family was mostly together last weekend (missing a nephew and family who stayed back home and a niece who was traveling through Italy).

Cousins got to make new memories, siblings and parents played Monopoly and 500 Rummy and I got to cook.

My sister and I prepared our annual seafood feast on Good Friday. The kids actually look forward to it and I don’t think we disappointed anyone. It is a hefty investment but worth the expense and time. We really kept it simple this year with only one hot side (my orzo with roasted grape tomatoes) and a “nice” salad. Our cousin brought a really cool bread bowl and cupcakes. We had a great evening.

20130414-203607.jpgHere is a quick trick for grilled shrimp: marinate them with the shells on with lemon, lots of garlic and good olive oil. Get your grill screaming hot. Instead of just one skewer, use two to create some stability. Cook each side for only a few minutes until just pink.

One of the highlights of my trip was dinner at the Chart House in Fort Lauderdale. The dinner was as good as the view. There are many of these restaurants across the country. Each one has a view of the water. My favorite is in Dana Point, California. If you ever have the chance, I highly recommend it. It will be a special dinner so be prepared for a pricey a la carte menu.

From Thursday through Monday we had nine people living in a two bedroom condo. Close! But I wouldn’t trade the joy on my mother’s face when she saw an entire pew filled with her family on Easter Sunday.

No, traveling is not glamorous, but well worth the effort knowing we once again made memories of a lifetime.

Have a yummy day!

1 Activity + 1 Bite + 1 Sip = Easy Party

Any holiday is busy with church and travel and family so it’s hard to coordinate the fun and have fun yourself.

For Easter this year I decided to schedule an early brunch for our family at a lovely restaurant. This way everyone had time to relax in the afternoon. At 6:00 pm we all convened for an Easter egg hunt for the children, a sandwich platter and age appropriate drinks for all.

Here is a plan that will get you out of the kitchen and into the mix.

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1. An activity: ours was an egg hunt but here are a few ideas for an activity to center around your party

movie night
the playoffs (Buffalo fans, don’t put off having a party just for this :o)
Mother’s Day – have the big kids coordinate a card making party for all of the moms. Think glitter and macaroni.
clothing drive – ask everyone to bring one no longer loved professional outfit to the party and box them by gender and size. Donate them to a job placement center.
game night – you don’t have to stick to the usual ones…have you ever played Candyland with alcohol?

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2. A Bite: I made a sandwich platter. I bought 2 ciabatta loaves and 2 multi grain loaves. Look for bread that will lay flat on both sides when cut in half.
I cut one ciabatta and one multi grain in half lengthwise. I put mayo on both sides and layered a quarter of a pound of provolone cheese, a half a pound of thinly sliced roast beef and sliced tomatoes. I cut the sandwich in quarters then down the middle making eight sandwiches.
Next was prosciutto di parma on ciabatta: i spread pesto on both halves of ciabatta then added a half a pound of thinly sliced prosciutto di parma. On that I spread about 6 ounces of goat cheese. I cut the sandwiches as described above.
The last one was my grilled zucchini Caprese sandwich. You can find it here. http://judethefoodie.com/2013/02/12/grilled-zucchini-caprese-sandwich/
I placed all of the sandwiches on a big plastic platter. Paper plates and paper napkins save time and add to the party theme.

3. A Sip: all you need is one special drink and you have a party. My Easter Punch

20130401-104743.jpgis as easy as can be. Buy a package of frozen mixed berries. Add some to any kind of cool glass (I love these retro dot cups here). Fill the cup about half full with store bought lemonade then complete with sparkling white wine. I used Asti but you can use Prosecco or Champagne.

Give this a try and you actually will enjoy your next party.

Have a yummy day!!
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Congratulations to Colleen Low Larkin who won the March Quick Bite Quick Sip contest.

March theme: Grandma’s Kitchen

“The pies at Mangia Cake and Village Bake Shop, while they’ll never be quite as good as hers remind me of my Grandma Ross-BEST PIES EVER!”

You have won a $25 gift certificate to the Lewiston Village Pub!

Let’s keep the party going. April’s Quick Bite Quick Sip theme is Spring. Head out to your favorite eateries and hang outs and play.