festivals and events
raves and reviews
the sweet scoop
the sweet scoop
On Tuesday, the Village Voice’s sixth annual Choice Eats tasting event took over the 69th Armory on Lexington Avenue. The highly anticipated affair featured Voice food critic Robert Sietsema’s culinary favorites from more than 50 handpicked restaurants spanning the five boroughs, along with beverage pairings from craft beer, wine and spirits producers.
As if all this wasn’t enough, VIP guests were invited inside a full hour before general admission for a live culinary demo from City Grit’s Sarah McSimmons and offerings from a dozen local restos including Pig and Khao, Qi Thai Grill and Exchange Alley. VIPs also indulged in the exclusive “Choice Sweets” dessert lounge featuring confections from Butter Lane, Grandaisy Bakery, Ovenly, and more.
A few of the night’s many standouts included Anella’s velvety handmade burrata with tomato jam and basil salt, fresh seasoned shrimp rolls from both Luke’s Lobster and Red Hook Lobster Pound, tangy buffalo chicken balls from The Meatball Shop, Porchetta’s savory crackling-topped pork crostini, John Brown Smokehouse’s succulent pastrami sliders with sweet ‘n’ tangy slaw, moist red velvet squares from Carlo’s Bakery, and perfectly indulgent fudge brownies from Robicelli’s. A selection of suds from Blue Point Brewing Company, Lagunitas and Stella Artois, along with creative cocktails mixed with Sidney Frank spirits and Prairie Organic Vodka, helped wash it all down.
Whether you prefer savory, sweet, spicy, ethnic, Americana, inventive, classic, vegetarian or carnivorous, Choice Eats aims to please any palate. And with a surprisingly reasonable ticket price point, the bang-for-your-buck appeal is just another reason to attend the eating extravaganza next year.
It’s that time of year again! Next week kicks off the 12th Annual Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival presented by Food & Wine. For four delicious days and nights, South Beach will be taken over by star-studded events showcasing the talents of the world’s most celebrated chefs, culinary personalities and wine & spirits producers.
One of the country’s most action-packed, indulgent and fun-filled festivals, SOBEWFF features non-stop epicurean events including Moët Hennessy’s The Q with Paula Deen, Amstel Light Burger Bash presented by Pat LaFrieda Meats hosted by Rachael Ray, Thrillist’s BBQ & The Blues blowout with Geoffrey Zakarian, Andrew Zimmern’s food truck fête, a swine & wine soiree hosted by Michelle Bernstein, Guy Fieri & Ziggy Marley’s crazy reggae jam closing party, seminars, tastings and more. I’m getting my appetite ready…
Don’t miss out! There are still tickets available for select events at sobefest.com.
For the second year in a row, I was asked to be an official media sponsor, which is an incredible honor and pretty darn exciting. So if you’re eating and drinking your way through the festival, be sure to look for my logo on signage around the area. Stay connected with me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to savor delicious details from all the festivities. And if anyone else is partaking in the #SOBEWFF madness this weekend, let me know!
Fun And Fit As A Family Ticket Giveaway
Ready for family-friendly fun in the sun? One of the perks of being a media sponsor is being able to give away several tickets to the highly-anticipated Fun and Fit as a Family Event on Sunday, February 24th.
Presented by Florida Blue and sponsored by Carnival, this family-focused, interactive celebration lets parents and kids learn the basics of healthy eating alongside acclaimed celebrity chefs Sunny Anderson, Aaron Sanchez, Robert Irvine, Anne Burrell, and more. Children can discover delights in the food garden, play sports on the beach, get their hands messy in the interactive Kellogg’s Kidz Kitchen and explore the animals of Jungle Island—all while learning the basics of preparing nutritious meals and having a blast doing it.
Want in on all the action? If you’ll be down at SOBEWFF and want FREE TICKETS to Fun and Fit as a Family, just comment below, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet me @ThisGirlCanEat, or post a comment to my Facebook page telling me why staying fit is important to your family.
Good luck and I’ll see you at the beach!
Images courtesy of SOBEWFF
Besides stunning scenery and super-friendly locals, the one thing that Grand Cayman Island clearly doesn’t fall short on is flavor. While visiting this tropical paradise during the Cayman Cookout, I was fortunate enough to savor some of the very best that the isle has to offer. From just-caught Ahi tuna and Wahoo fish, to locally grown breadfruit and cassava, to small batch rum that’s barrel aged under the ocean, the island-inspired cuisine of Cayman is undeniably distinctive, fresh and vibrant.
Cayman Cookout headlining chefs Eric Ripert, José Andrés and Dean James Max have shared a few of their recipes that capture authentic island flavor, yet can be easily created using ingredients found Stateside. For a true taste of the Cayman Islands at home, try the zesty chicken and mushroom paella that José fired up during his beachfront cooking demo, Eric’s grilled swordfish that he served at the Barefoot BBQ event, or Dean’s refreshing tuna coconut ceviche from the Harvest Dinner at The Brasserie. Bon appétit!
Chicken and Mushroom Paella (serves 6)
Recipe by José Andrés, as served during his Cayman Cookout Demo
Slice tomatoes in half, and grate each on a box grater over a bowl. Discard skins; set pulp aside. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pan over high heat. Lightly season chicken pieces with salt and pepper, and brown on both sides until deep golden. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.
Fry mushrooms until browned in oil and chicken fat. Set aside. Set 18-inch paella pan over two burners at high heat on the stove top, and heat 1/3 cup olive oil. Add tomato pulp and cook until darkened, about 5 minutes. Add paprika and saffron, and cook for about 1 minute. Add chicken pieces and mushrooms; add sherry and cook until evaporated. Add chicken stock; bring to a boil.
In a food processor or mortar, puree parsley, garlic and almonds, with a tablespoon or two of water until smooth and stir into pan. Sprinkle rice across the pan and stir until the grains are submerged, then don’t stir again. Cook on high heat for 10 minutes, rotating the pan on the two burners to distribute heat. Using a small spoon, test rice and stock and add salt as needed. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking for 6 minutes. Test rice again. If it is still hard, continue cooking for 2-4 more minutes.
In the final 2 minutes, sprinkle frozen peas over the top and return heat to medium-high, listening for a crackling sound to ensure the bottom is toasting but not burning. Remove from heat, cover with paper towels and let sit for 5 minutes. Use a metal spoon to scrape toasted rice from bottom of pan and serve.
Image courtesy of Creations Unlimited, Cayman Islands
Grilled Swordfish with Fennel & Tomato Vierge (serves 6)
Recipe by Eric Ripert, as served at the Cayman Cookout’s Barefoot BBQ
Grilled Swordfish & Fennel
Season the swordfish fillets with salt, pepper, Herbes de Provence, and olive oil. Reserve. Grill to desired temperature.*Swordfish can be replaced by Striped Bass or Halibut
Place the sliced fennel in a small bowl; dress with lemon vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper. Top fish with this mixture before serving.
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and let marinate for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over fish of choice.
Trim and cut tuna into smaller workable portions. Slice tuna into thin strips and small dice.
Dice the peppers (keep seeds for extra spicy) and ginger. Add to the pot with the coconut milk, sugar and fish sauce. Bring to a boil and immediately turn down to a low simmer for about 10-15 min. Take off the stove and let sauce completely cool. Strain and refrigerate.
Chop the cilantro; thinly slice the bell pepper and Serrano peppers. Slice the green onions and combine all the ingredients together.
To Serve: In a bowl, add the diced tuna, the ceviche mix and coconut sauce. Mix well and season with salt, pepper and squeeze of fresh lime juice. Serve in coconut shells over ice!
Sauté onions and leeks with butter in a small stockpot until soft. Add the chopped garlic and lightly sauté. Scoop out the pumpkin flesh from the squash and add it in the mixture with the honey and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the cream and bring the soup back to a boil. Season with clove, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Blend the soup in your bar blender, strain, and reserve. The soup can be held in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Cayman Land Crab
Brown butter in sauté pan, once golden remove most of the oil and leave browned butter solids. Heat pan on medium heat and sauté seasoning pepper and chives for 3 minutes. Turn heat up to high and add land crab quickly sauté crab for 2 minutes. And season with salt and pepper.
Place the warm land crab equally in 6 serving bowls. Spoon a tablespoon of cream next to the crab. Pour the hot soup in the bowl and garnish with the chives.
Image courtesy of The Brasserie
While headlining the Cayman Cookout last weekend, culinary power duo Eric Ripert and Anthony Bourdain commanded a beachfront stage at the Ritz-Carlton to teach an audience of epicureans some fundamental cooking techniques—from roasting a whole chicken and making pasta, to mastering a classic French omelet and grilling a perfect steak.
According to Bourdain, most people murder their steaks on a daily basis. His impassioned plea was that the crowd, at the very least, would walk away knowing how to properly treat their meat.
And while most of us Northerners won’t be firing up the grill anytime soon, those in warmer climates (or brave souls willing to bear single digits!) should get the barbecue basics down before their next steak craving hits.
Steak grilling tips à la Eric & Tony:
Bring to temperature. “Take your steak out of the fridge for at least 15-20 minutes before cooking it. This way, you will be able to sear the steak nicely, get a nice crust, and have the insides cook to your liking. If you don’t do that, you can burn the outside and the inside can still be raw. Bringing the meat to temperature is very important.”
Get your grill hot. “You want to be sure your grill is nice and hot before throwing your meat on there, but you don’t want the flames to be roaring and destroy your steak. Don’t go crazy. It’s more about how it tastes on the inside, and not about how it looks on the outside.”
Don’t mess with it. “After you throw it on a reasonable fire, leave it alone. Don’t poke it, don’t stab it, don’t start peeking into it by jabbing holes in it! If you must move it, move it once—45 degrees, thereby giving those perfect checkerboard grill marks that make steaks look so sexy. Beyond that, you don’t want to flip it over, and flip it back over…no good will come of it.”
Let it rest. “The single most important thing that everybody gets wrong, generation after generation…they take a perfectly good rare or medium-rare steak off the grill, and cut right into it prematurely. They figure that steak served hot is better. It isn’t! A steak should rest for about 5-7 minutes after you take it off the grill. It won’t become cold, but the muscle will start to relax and become tender. And all the blood and juices start moving around and settling in really interesting ways. That’s the way to go.”
What do you think of Eric & Tony’s techniques? Any other steak tricks you’ve learned?
Check out my gallery here for more images of Eric, Tony and the Cayman Cookout crew.