Mad. Sq. Eats in New York City, a special correspondent post

Today I have a very special post for you from my very good friend Karyn who spent a lovely weekend in NYC not too long ago with her friend Sari. Karyn mentioned to me they would eat their way through a street food festival so I could not help but ask her if she would like to write a guest post as a special on location correspondent. Happily she agreed.

If you are a regular CEE reader you will remember Karyn in past posts such as when she made Dutch Baby Pancake with Peaches, she was a dinner guest during the luxurious dinner party for PFB, I picked vine leaves out of her backyard to make dolmades, she was here for the miracle fruit dropping trip and finally I did an interview about her Pastry Chef on the side career.

Without further ado, here is Karyn with a special report from NYC. Thanks and love you hun!

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Every year, my friend Sari and I head to NYC for 4 days of adventure. This is the eighth year of this trip, which is based around shopping and eating. It seems that as the years advance that it’s really more about the food and yet we had never ventured into the world of street food – except for Sari having a NYC hot dog in year 2, but it was nothing memorable! This year we decided that it was the year to crack the street food scene and see what NYC has to offer. My research led me to the Urban Space NYC blog about a street food festival in its second year, and wouldn’t you know it, it was happening exactly when we would be in NYC! It was meant to be!

 

 

We planned on hitting the Mad. Sq. Eats festival the day we arrived in NYC, and basically were just waiting to get there and eat! It was a perfect day for an outside festival and there was a fantastic collection of restaurants participating.

We took a walk around the grounds to see what caught our fancy and decided that we should start in style at Red Hook Lobster Pound, with Lobster Macaroni. We placed our order and waited, mouths watering, as we watched our order come together. There were a few technical difficulties as the blow torch being used to melt the cheese on top ran dry during our order, but Emma, our hostess was very pleasant and it gave us a chance to explain that we were doing this blog. I took a picture of Emma and the way her arms came out, made her look kind of lobster like, don’t you think?

Finally, the blow torch was ready for action! It was great to watch it come together.

Et voila!

The noodles were very large macaroni noodles, the biggest we’d ever seen and WOW for 9$ we sure got our money’s worth in lobster! There were quite a few large chunks and I think we each got a claw! Definitely a great start although I would have preferred the cheese sauce to be a bit warmer, but fantastic street food otherwise!

We barely paused before searching for our next victim, deciding on Fatty Snack, which I had read about. They have a restaurant in their group, the Fatty Crab, and I was very excited to try their food. We decided on one order of pork buns, which were actually two little buns overflowing with wonderfully spiced pork for $6.

They were fantastic. I would go back for another one anytime but maybe not for a first date as it’s not the most elegant thing to eat!

That’s Sari in the pic, waiting for our buns. The man in the picture was wandering around the grounds trying to decide on what to eat and he approached Sari, asking about what to try and she gave him great feedback yet he continued to wander… I don’t remember what he finally ended up with, but there was something there for every palate. He looked a little overwhelmed with all the choices.

Sari was parched after this and decided on a beer from a place whose specialty was beer and chocolate. She had a Southern Tier Pumpking. I’m not too sure if the g in Pumpking was intentional or not, but I took a pic of the sign to prove that I can spell! They also had chocolate covered bacon caramel that I really wanted to try, however they were out of it and were only receiving more the next day.

 

Did you think we were done? Not even close! Next on the tour was a stop at Waffles & Dinges. Of course we needed to know what a Dinge is. Well, it’s a term that basically means “Things”. We ordered a waffle with Spekuloos! I was SO excited when I saw they had Spekuloos and they were even selling it! I showed some restraint and didn’t purchase as I would have had to carry it all day… oh yeah and I have a bottle at home.

We’re not sure what the guy in the pic above was eating, but boy did it look like he was enjoying it!

Our waffle: Spekuloos and fresh fruit, cut in two for us to share.

Ah… OK, after that was done we thought, OK, we’re ready for dessert! Sari had spotted the cannoli and wanted to try it, so we did. The man working there not only guessed that we were Canadian, but Montrealers! He was an expat, having left in 1984 and could pick out our accent!

The cannolis were $5 for 3 of them and we decided on Peanut butter, Kahlua and Salted Chocolate. I am not a cannoli fan and even less of a peanut butter fan so I tried the last two only. The Peanut butter cannoli is missing from the picture below – I think Sari was just too excited to try it! I didn’t care for the Kahlua one as it was very cheesy… and the Salted Chocolate tasted good but the shell was way too hard for a cannoli, but the chocolate and salt was a really nice combination.

OK, after this we were stuffed! It was a great festival and intro to street food. The door to street fare has been opened and is far from being closed. The only advice I would have to someone going to a festival like this is to go with someone that you can share with so you can try more things!

Foodie Trails with Foodie Friend: Blackberry Ricotta Filling

Funny how a simple comment on a blog can start a long conversation and eventually turn into a fabulous outing.

Towards the end of 2009 a new member joined the dinner group and she quickly took a liking to my blog and left many great comments. We actually started chatting a bit by email and looked forward to meeting in person soon at a dinner event. This day finally arrived during the group’s Christmas dinner. Unfortunately when you host you cannot spend much time with one person. But emails kept flying between us. One series of comments following the Canolli Daring Bakers Challenge got very heated on my blog…with this lady leading the pack!

Controversy over Canolli! Well that started another set of email exchanges between Claudia and myself. The result: we promised to go on the Foodie outing together that would include canolli! of course life got in the way and it took about 6 months, June 5th 2010, to finally spend the day eating! The day was planned by Claudia (who incidentally started her own food blog since then) and I met her at a subway at noon on that Saturday morning.

I stepped into her car and was quickly given…a canolli lol. What better way to start our adventure. We wolfed them down right in the car in no time. She had another gift for me that we will take a look at later in the post. Canolli are from…

Boulangerie Patisserie Lasalle, 2 locations
8591 Maurice Duplessis, RDP
1550, boulevard Daniel-Johnson, Laval

Next stop was a place Claudia had hear of. This lovely lady opened a stored specializing in stuffed dates. we really stayed quite some time and had a great chat with the owner. She uses two different dates: medjool and deglet nour that come from Tunisia or Algeria. A great tip: she quickly dips the dates in a mix of water and Orange blossom water. It adds a hint of a citrus scent and leaves the date glossy. She swears by Tunisian Orange blossom water alone. There are so many date confections: popular ones are cranberry, lemon, ginger, almond past, etc. Some are dipped ion chocolate (73% cacao exclusively).

Although not sold in the store you can make special savory (very salty is best) orders. Dates stuffed with blue cheese or salmon for example are delicious.

The owner also specializes in unique cookies and other pastries. She offered us scones made with soya flour, cranberries and Musk-mallow flowers. Really unique, I love it. This place is definitely worth the foodie detour.

La confiserie Thamar
168 rue Fleury Ouest, coin Esplanade

Now this next stop was a run in and run out. Claudia normally gets bread here on a weekly basis and we just picked up bread. She pre-ordered their amazing Olive bread. Since there was no more left she gave me one of her two loaves. THANK YOU! it was excellent and the bakery was impressive over all. Lovely huge olives all over the inside….so yummy.

La Petite Boulangerie
1412, Rue Fleury Est Montreal

Next on the tour? Lunch!

We went to a little hidden place in the Ile-de-la-Visitaiton park. Somewhere in the park are the ruins of the old mill that has been converted into a General Store museum up stairs and café-restaurant and adjoining terrace on the bottom floor. The terrace is set up along the small rushing river. You really feel like you are in the country almost. We even saw some local habitants: a few herons. Food is average OK but the location makes up for it. Really great choice.

Claudia: smile! you are on camera!

We made sure to keep room for dessert as Claudia had another surprise in store: gelato! I blog enough about ice cream so she new this would be a guaranteed success stop wise. We went to a traditional Italian place which is a restaurant, a gourmet shop and has a gelato counter.

Great gelato bars but not earth shattering unusual flavors. But it was good. Front cup is mine: Gianducia, Cantaloupe and English Custard flavors. The cantaloupe gelato was phenomenal. Gianducia was a new discovery for me. Gianducia is a sweet chocolate containing about 30% hazelnut paste invented in Turin. basically its natural real Nutella before it was commercialized.

Gelateria Roberto’s
2227 Rue Bélanger

Last stop was La Baia de Fromaggi, a last minute decision. It was not suppose to be an Italian outing, just mostly turned out that way. What a shop! Look at all the cheeses hanging from the ceiling!

Turns out the owner served us and took a liking to us (and is a camera exhibitionist lol). Now most of the conversation was in Italian with Claudia and the owner. I caught on a lot but missed a lot too.  It really added also to the experience. The owner is very proud of his store’s quality, its food…and right fully so! Love this pic of him showing cheeses to Claudia!

I did make a few purchases here which I’ll describe just below as they became my light dinner.

La Baia de Formaggi
1715, Jean-Talon St. E

So I bought some of the best proscuito I ever had (the one the owner held in the picture above) called Proscuito Originale de Parma. Then I told Claudia to pick an Italian cheese I never tasted before for me to try. She chose a Torta al Mascarpone. OMG, its a ‘layered cake’ if you will of gorgonzola and mascarpone. Can you even imagine how divine and rich that was! I served up a slice of each on that olive bread we bought earlier for dinner. It was orgasmic!

So what was my 2nd surprise from Claudia? Shells for canolli…12 of them! She said they were for me to fill will my unique touch. Thank you so much again, Claudia; I was just so touched.

So on my way home I got some ricotta and my inspiration of the moment: blackberries.  See my recipe below.

Blackberry Ricotta Filling

for canolli or what ever you fancy
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
about 1 cup of blackberries

  1. Put everything in a blender and puree.
  2. Place mixture in a strainer lined with cheesecloth. Fold cheesecloth over the top.
  3. Let drain overnight in the fridge.
  4. Pipe your filling into the cannolli shells with a party bag or a large zip-lock with a corner tip cut off.

You can read her interpretation of our outing too.  Thank you Claudia for a fabulous day and letting me get to know you one on one…my new friend! To our next outing!

Repairs: Day 1 and a Tease

A little update for my regular readers. As you know 10 days ago my apartment was flooded by a broken pool pipe which is 2 floors above me.

Today the repairs (done by the building owner) began. The parquet floor in my bedroom was removed and my carpets were cleaned professionally.  I had to remove everything from my bedroom (except the bed). So now I am sleeping on my mattress on the floor of the living room. There is furniture everywhere. Its not easy feeling so cramped but I am actually really excited…feels like a free renovation. Here is a pic of the floor today…

So life is a bit crazy right now. I also bought yesterday my plane ticket for my summer holiday…in 3 weeks I am out of here. And lots of exciting things are coming shortly here on the blog.

  • Wednesday I will have an exclusive review of a very special new store opening on the same day I will post.
  • Keep an eye out at the end of the week for an article I am writing for the Daring Kitchen.
  • A really great review of a restaurant in Toronto.
  • Reviews…great stuff: a ceramic knife, an expresso machine and nice ethnic flavored vinaigrettes.
  • And a tease picture below about a really amazing outing I had with a fellow Montreal food blogger, Foodessa.

canolli stuffed with homemade blackberry ricotta

The Cannoli Debate

Wow, who would have thought The Daring Kitchen’s last baker’s challenge was going to become such a controversy! I have gotten lots of private and public feedback but the best has been an ongoing email conversation with Claudia, a member of my dinner group. She happens to have Italian blood in her veins.

The controversy is not so much about my cannoli or the recipe, but rather where is the best canolli in town, store bought that is. Here is what she wrote (printed with her permission):

“Saturday supper was spent around my mother-in-laws table with some very ‘pastry opinionated people’.
The favourite place for ‘cannoli’ sparked quite the stir.
Who knew these debates could be just as heated as politics…but wayyyy more amusing.
Some comments got louder than most…who thought the cannoli had to much in ratio of ricotta to cream…were they way too sweet or not enough…should there really be chocolate added…or just left natural…crust just not right…should shell be fried or baked…wow…what a science… the right balance of ingredients seems to make or break that poor little cannoli.

Do you see what you started;)))

My husband and I were keeling over of laughter when we realized how deep rooted peoples’ opinions of food selections really are.

All this to say…better to talk about food vs. where is the real estate market at…and forecasting the nest financial scam!!!

Anyhow, at the end we seemed to have finally come up with a short list that is manageable.

Unfortunately, a lot of some of the best pastry shops are found wayyyy in the east end of RDP where my brother-in-law specializes (tons of Italians there)…however I find that it may be too far to mention them here.

Therefore…drumb roll please…here are the addresses in some order of preference.

Boulangerie Patisserie Cristina
2945 boulevard de la Concorde Est, Laval (450) 664-3698
…I can definitely vouch for their lobster tails
…mmmm….did you ever have these?…they are devine!

Pasticceria Di Bella
5235 Rue Belanger, Montreal, (514) 728-4335

Boulangerie & Pâtisserie Napoleon
4579 rue Jarry E Saint-Léonard, (514) 728-9635
…also very good lobster tails…

Boulangerie Patisserie Concorde
608 boulevard de la Concorde O., Laval (450) 668-7853

Boulangerie NDG
5801 Chemin Upper-Lachine Montreal, (514) 481-4215

Pasticceria Alati-Caserta
277 Rue Dante, Montreal, (514) 271-3013
although slightly over rated…is still a viable choice”

Thank you Claudia for that list. Have you got another place to suggest?

Cannoli Heaven

When I read the December’s Baker’s Challenge I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I LOVE cannoli. I don’t just like them, I LOVE them. I do not indulge in them too often because I would weigh 400 pounds otherwise. And this may sound silly but I never really buy them in my home city of Montreal. Even weirder my favorite cannoli are found in Boston at Mike’s Pastry in Little Italy. I have been told that the best canolli in Montreal are at Alati Caserta in Little Italy but have not gone there yet‎.

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But I soon realized before getting to heaven I would first have to pass through hell. I fear frying in oil and have no real experience in it. You’ll remember I almost started a fire on my last attempt with the chocolate wontons. And before that well I honestly cannot remember if I have attempted to fry anything really. But I found the courage and went out to by a frying thermometer.

Actually I decided to do half the recipe fried and the other have baked…just to see the difference. Before I go on let me tell you the November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose her Cannolo (Cannoli is plural) recipe by using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.

I had my friend Raquel over to participate in the preparation. If you want to make them you can find the full recipe here. The night before I drained my ricotta as per directed in cheese cloth with weights on it. I was surprised at how little liquid came out of it.

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Then we made the dough and let it rest for a good 2 hours. During that time there was a lot of wine and we made the ricotta filling. I wanted to keep it simple so I only added a little orange zest and I ground some freshly baked chestnuts. We decided to make have plain and half chocolate.

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Then the tough part. Rolling out the dough and cutting it. Wow that is tough dough. But we finally got though it. I did not want to purchase cannoli tubes so I bought manicoti pasta tubes and oiled them prior. Worked just fine. Got the oil going and threw in the first batch. I was slightly panicked. But you know what they came out not bad at all. They blistered nicely as described. I made them a bit smaller.

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One got loose from the tube and fried up into a big puffy ball. Looks like a spaceship or a puffed fried pita lol.

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Once they were cooled down we filled some zi plock bags, cut the end of, and stuffed the shells with the ricotta mix. Here is the result decorated with more chestnutssugar 038

The baked shells are really inferior in look and taste…still good but it’s totally worth the effort to fry them.

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And finally the taste test. They were simply…heavenly!

Hugs and Biscuits,
Evelyne