Outside Eats

Outside Eats // MishMish

MishMish, Montclair

The kind folks at the Montclair Dispatch are letting me write about food! Once a week, I’ll be sharing my opinions on various Montclair eateries– with as many whimsical references as they’ll let slip by! My first review was published this week. I spoke with Meny Vaknin, the unbelievably busy but extremely kind chef at MishMish, a Mediterranean restaurant that is serving up so much more than hummus and pita. Check it out here, and keep your eye on my Outside Eats page for updates.

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Musing, Outside Eats

a weekend in the catskills

I spent a truly rad Fourth of July weekend (man, does that feel like ages ago to anyone else??) in the Catskills at my friend Sarah’s house. I used to go up all the time when I was younger, but I hadn’t been in years, so this was such a treat! There’s no cell service in most of the area, but you barely miss it. Honestly we probably wouldn’t have had a lot of really great conversations were we just constantly checking Snapchat. Mostly we spent the entire time eating or planning what we would eat next, which is pretty much a dream come true for me. On our first day we got there just in time to hang out in the warm sun at Little Pond for a few hours, which brought back all the memories of being 7 years old and trying to canoe. Later, we made my take on Deb‘s shakshuka for dinner. It’s one of my favorite on-vacation-but-still-cooking-for-oneself meals, make it yourself next time you’re in that boat! Don’t let ANYONE convince you to be grossed out by the concept of eggs poached in tomato sauce. I can assure you that they’re wrong. It’s delicious. There was also a whole darn lot of watermelon, arugula, and feta salad involved in our feast.

It was overcast and chilly for most of the Fourth, so we abandoned our plans to run and made a giant red white and blue breakfast (blueberry raspberry pancakes.) We drove to Andes for the afternoon, which is probably about ten blog posts away from becoming the next hipster getaway spot. You heard it here first, book your Airbnb’s now everybody! Andes does in fact have cell service *and wi-fi* which is good, because I dare you not to want to Instagram everything at all the adorable shops and eateries, including my personal favorites, Clementine Vintage and Two Old Tarts, where we tried on all the clothes and then devoured vegetarian chili and flatbread pizza. We then hit up Livingston Manor to go grocery shopping and to check out an art exhibit where Sarah’s mom Carol was showing some of her gorgeous ceramics. Sadly, we weren’t able to visit the Catskill Brewery because they closed early for the holiday, but let’s be real, this is just another reason to visit again! We made tacos for dinner (Sarah’s friend Lauren made some slammin’ guacamole and we sipped on amazing frozen lime drinks.) And as if we hadn’t eaten enough, we ended the day with an appropriately patriotic custard pie. A really nice weekend, and a perfect way to celebrate summer!

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Desserts, Outside Eats

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Chocolate Truffles (GF)

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to attend a truffle making workshop at Roni-Sue’s Chocolates (thanks, Katie!!) where I learned all about the art of fancy chocolate making. Over homemade hot cocoa we learned all about owner Rhonda Kave’s 25-year-long hobby turned successful business. In addition to the truffles we sampled, Rhonda also gave us a little lesson about the different parts of the cocoa pod (she gets hers from Belize, where she spends a lot of time with cocoa farmers). We rubbed the skin off a roasted cocoa bean (think espresso bean, but richer), poked at cocoa nibs, and those of us who were brave enough to sample unsweetened chocolate munched a little bit- not a bite for the Hershey’s Milk-minded, let me tell you. We then got to take over the kitchen and learn to make our own chocolate ganache, which eventually became truffles! This was a really fantastic experience.  It was clear that Rhonda enjoyed her previous career as a professional women’s activist, but her dream was always to work in chocolate. Now, she gets to incorporate chocolate with social activism and community engagement, and it doesn’t seem like she’ll stop anytime soon. She’s a cool lady, read more about Rhonda here.

I rarely find myself in the presence of people who truly enjoy what they do. It gave me quite a bit of hope. If you’ve been reading any of my recent posts, you’ve noticed my not-so-subtle hints about having literally no concrete post-grad plans. But it’s okay. Because I know what I like to do. And no, it’s not watching Netflix- though I’m sure that was your first guess, so good one! I really like making and styling food. Obviously, I’d love to figure out a way to make this blog a career, but the stars would have to align to make that happen. Or maybe I could run into a Saveur editor and convince them to feature me in the Food Blog Awards. But I dream. In the meantime, I’m really looking forward to the clean slate that is coming in May. And yes, I am going to continue to refer to this in a positive way probably until three days before graduation. Then we’ll let the panic attacks roll in. But maybe I’ll get lucky like Rhonda and find a way to do what I love. Here’s hoping!

Among the truffles we sampled: Raspberry (flavored with freeze-dried raspberry powder); Strawberry-Rhubarb with Marzipan and Apricot kernel; Eggnog Ganache with Rum in a White Chocolate Shell. Needless to say it was quite the afternoon. I’m featuring Roni-Sue’s basic truffle recipe today, but maybe I’ll experiment a little in the future and share that here as well! I feel like a Campari and orange truffle could be very interesting, don’t you?

Truffles (yield: approx 50 pcs)

7 oz dark chocolate (preferably 70%) – you can use chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
2 pinches pink salt (or sea salt)
1 1/4 c heavy cream
1 1/2 tsp unsalted butter, softened (optional- it just adds richness!)

Topping options:
Flaky sea salt
Unsweetened cocoa powder
Cocoa nibs
Crushed nuts
Crushed candy canes
Crushed gingersnaps
Chili powder
Ground cinnamon

Place chocolate, salt, and butter (if using) in a heat-safe bowl. Bring cream to boil in a small saucepan over medium high heat, then pour over chocolate. Let sit for about a minute, then whisk until smooth. Refrigerate uncovered until firm, about 1 hour. Spoon 2 level teaspoons-full of the chocolate mixture onto a large baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper, then return to refrigerator 15 minutes. With your hands, roll the mounds into balls, then roll or sprinkle with desired toppings! Chill until set, about half an hour.

 

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Outside Eats

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Outside Eats: Chicago

Go get yourself a snack, ’cause this post is long and full of deliciousness. I recently traveled to Chicago to visit some of my favorite relatives, and I kid you not, I think we spent 80% of our time eating and the other 20% talking about where we were going to eat next. In short: a perfect vacation. I just have to talk about a few of the places we hit.

1. Glazed and Infused Doughnuts (there are several locations, but I went to the one in Lincoln Park on my first day and the one in Wicker Park on my last day. Yes, it was that good.)

I literally walked off the plane, checked into the hotel, and went to Glazed and Infused. It was the first place I’d ever been in Chicago, and it was easily my favorite. You walk in and immediately smell doughnuts; you just get happy. There’s nothing else to say, you have to smile. There’s fresh coffee and warm samples and friendly employees wearing bandanas (a sure sign you’re in for a too cute/hip experience) and comfy benches and oh my gosh I did not want to leave. Even though it was 10 am on a Friday, I loved seeing people clearly “working from home” as they sipped from cartons of milk and pulled apart a doughnut while on a conference call. If you have to work, this is the way to do it, guys. Luckily, I was with four other people so I could order six doughnuts (yeah, one didn’t make it to the pictures) without getting weird stares from other customers or having to loudly say that I was taking them to a party and not in fact sampling them all for myself. This happens to me a lot. In places like this I tend to order multiples when I can’t decide on what to get. (I can’t decide the majority of the time, if you couldn’t tell.)

In case you’re curious, I’ll tell you which ones I got. And if you’re ever in Chicago, you have to promise that you’ll bring a bag of them back for me.

Terry’s Toffee: A yeast raised ring doughnut with caramel glaze, toffee bits, and chocolate drizzle. Pure candy deliciousness, even if I’m not the biggest fan of toffee on doughnuts.

Maple Bacon Long John: A yeast raised long john doughnut with a maple syrup glaze and a fat strip of real bacon. Not for the faint of heart. Or stomach. (Neither of these apply to me).

Chocolate Old Fashioned: A chocolate buttermilk cake doughnut rolled in a dark chocolate ganache. Without a doubt the best cake doughnut I’ve ever had. Tied with the crème brûlée for my favorite of the day.

Crème Brûlée: A vanilla pastry cream-filled Bismark doughnut with a torched sugar topping. This doughnut. Oh man. I honestly can’t tell you how good this doughnut was. To request one for my last meal would be an understatement. It was incredible. The end.

Mixed Berry Fruit Fritter: They offer a different special fruit fritter every day, which is super cool, but I’m so glad I was there for berry day. Berries are one of my favorite things to put in dessert. Not because fruit in pastries means they’re healthy and you can have them for breakfast (it doesn’t, but that doesn’t stop me), but I really feel like the natural tartness in berries lends itself perfectly to rich treats. And nothing is more rich than fried dough covered in glaze. MMmmmmMMmmm.

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2. Waffles Chicago in South Loop.

Who doesn’t love waffles?? If you don’t, I don’t think we can be friends any more. Sorry not sorry. I’m so glad this place exists. I think waffles are a really incredible and unique food. Although they’re almost exclusively classified as a dessert-y breakfast food, I almost prefer them paired with savory components, be they literally within the waffle or served on top. The food at this place was delicious, but moreover it gave me so many great inspirations for my own cooking. I thank Waffles for that. Unless you’re splitting one dish with a group, I recommend coming HUNGRY. I don’t think this is a venue that specializes in a lack of butter. Or cream. Or bacon.

In addition to the dense and chewy Liege waffle, which came with blackberry topping and lavender butter (Y U M) and the sampler platter, which involved mini versions of the Mexican Chocolate waffle with orange Anglaise; the Red Velvet waffle with whipped cream cheese, strawberry compote, and candied walnuts; the Brussels waffle with blueberry sauce; and the Green Tea waffle made with Matcha powder, lemon ginger cream, shaved pistachios and candied ginger, all of which can be seen below in the pictures, we also sampled the more traditional savory waffle dish of Fried Chicken on top of a bacon waffle with spicy maple syrup. There were already too many things on my plate, but if I could go back I’ll be getting the parmesan and lemon tilapia over a garlic butter waffle and the mini waffle bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches.

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And now for some of my favorite specific dishes at more restaurants…

3. Brussels sprouts with marcona almonds and manchego cheese at Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba (incidentally, I think my grandfather once called me this -babareeba, not cafe-..weird nicknames for Rebecca ftw?) in Lincoln Park. I actually never like brussels sprouts, but this fantastic tapas bar changed my mind. They also served up some ridiculous fried goat cheese balls, chicken and chorizo and veggie skewers, red pepper aioli, handmade empanadas, and some magical white peach sangria. Was I drunk off three sips at lunchtime? Yes. Was it stupidly awesome? YES.

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4. Homemade pop tarts at 2 Sparrows in Lincoln Park. A raspberry jam and basil (yes, basil) filled pastry with a vanilla bean sauce. The basil made this pastry one of my favorites of the whole trip. I’ll definitely be trying out something like this myself. They also make a mean Eggs in Purgatory (shirred egg in spicy tomato sauce served in a mini cast iron skillet). Yes plz.

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5. Baby back ribs, coleslaw, mac & cheese, and cornbread at Smoque in Irving Park. Wow. This was some rockin’ barbeque. It’s incredible what good food does to a simple menu. Tender pulled pork, unbelievable baked beans, tangy coleslaw, and my first ever taste of brisket! This made me happy I was taking a break from pescetarianism. Sometimes it’s worth it to have a little meat-day once and a while! Also, Guy Fieri has eaten here, and he is a majestic creature.

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And just in case you don’t think that’s enough food, there was more incredible coffee and pastries at Buzz Killer Espresso and the Wormhole Coffee in Wicker Park (yeah, if you didn’t notice, Wicker Park is essentially Chicago’s Brooklyn. I was wondering where all the cute hipsters were hiding in this town, and they were literally all in Wicker Park. I felt underdressed the moment I stepped on the trendy graffiti-tagged sidewalk.) Also, the best Chai latte of my life at Dollop Coffeeshop in Lakeview. It’s gotta be really good for me to not order coffee somewhere, and this is one of those places. Last but not least, ice cream and ferris wheels at Navy Pier. Chicago, I think it’s safe to say I’m pretty into you.

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Breakfasts, Desserts, Outside Eats, Sides, Snacks

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Outside Eats: the City Bakery

Okay, question for everyone: who hasn’t been to the City Bakery yet? I bet there are at least a few. Perhaps you haven’t because you were waiting for the official Spices and Spatulas review of the place? As flattered as I am, I think you should get a move on. This place is magic. Located in Union Square this “part bakery, part cafe, coffee bar and cafeteria” is going to have something for everyone. I promise. If you can tear yourself away from the bakery display and venture past the Chocolate Room (yes, you read that correctly) you’ll hit the cafeteria section. Don’t be fooled by the name, it’s only called cafeteria because you’re gonna need a tray to get all your goods to the table; there are no soggy chicken nuggets or lumpy fries here. Fresh kale salads, homemade soups, flatbread pizza overflowing with yummy ricotta, incredible mac & cheese (just to name a few) is what you’re looking at for lunch/brunch here. And if that weren’t enough I haven’t even gotten to the baked goods.

 

vsco_2(check out that cool kid checking himself out in the window. #lol)

 

In my opinion, one of the most intriguing options behind the glass is the pretzel croissant. It has it’s OWN website, separate from the bakery’s. That’s how good it is. Maybe someday I’ll be as rad as a pretzel croissant and someone will make a website about me. Watch the video and see how they’re made, it’s an awesome experience even for those who don’t enjoy watching the Food Network in their free time (aheh). Just go get one. Even you weirdies who claim you’re “not a dessert person”. It’s the dessert you can eat for breakfast and not feel like you probably should’ve had yogurt. The kinda sweet, kinda salty, very-crunchy-but-somehow-also-soft-and-pillow-like goes perfectly with their hot chocolate, which is basically melted chocolate bars mixed with milk and sin. When you sit down with a cup, I guarantee some of you will be thinking “okay, this is definitely not gonna be enough for me. I LIVE for dessert. I drink hot chocolate for breakfast.” And then you try it. And after three sips you’re ready to have a nap. After half the cup is gone you swear you’ll never order it again. Then you find yourself licking an empty cup, buying a few cartons to go, and repeating this same charade next week. Personally, I can’t drink the whole cup unless I have three hours to spare, so I usually get a sample cup of hot chocolate (1 oz, less than a buck, just deal with it) in a small coffee. Much more doable. Also I’m going to mention one more thing in case you’re only halfway sold on making a trip here: there is a maple bacon scone. Yes. Okay, who wants to look at pictures? There aren’t that many ’cause I was just a little busy eating..

vsco_0-4vsco_3To go version. Currently residing in my fridge.

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Outside Eats

forty five

Outside Eats: Sunday Doughnuts at Montclair Bread Company

In addition to DIY’s, I thought I’d add another section to the blog: delicious looking food I find when I’m out and about. There’s honestly so much wonderful food out there, but this summer’s mission really has been all about the doughnuts. My lovely friend Emily and I have been scouring the area for who makes the best ones (check the insta pics from Doughnut Plant by clicking here and here or make your own from my brunch post) and our latest endeavor has been at the Montclair Bread Co., a great little shop that’s been a staple in town for years. They make real bread out of fresh, natural ingredients. I dare you to walk past without walking in. Seriously. I’ll give you five bucks if you can do it. Relatively recently a new group of bakers have taken over the shop and with them came a tradition that makes me grin: Sunday doughnuts. Not unlike the Cronut that’s been attacking the NYC area of late, there’s only a finite amount of doughnuts made every Sunday (ONLY Sunday), but you’ll be glad to know you don’t have to get in line at 4 am to get a taste; you can stroll in at 8 am and get your pick of the litter. It’s worth it. As I was leaving they were bringing out yet another flavor, so you know I’ll be going back next weekend.

These were unlike any doughnuts I’ve had before. Unlike the farmer’s market fresh doughnuts I’m used to, these were light and fluffy and not too sweet. They tasted like you could eat six full ones and go back for more. Or maybe after a trip to the gym. My winner for taste was the Boston Cream one because pastry cream is one of my favorite foods, but I usually find it overwhelming in a doughnut. Not the case here. It was just the right amount of richness paired with the very lightly sweetened dough and mild chocolate ganache. MMmmMMMmMmmMMMm. I recommend you go right this minute, next Sunday at the very latest. I’ll see you there!

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