Drink Something New: Lil’ Sweet, Lil’ Fizzy: Yellow tail Moscato

While in Texas, where they sell liquor in the grocery store, I stumbled upon a new flavor of one of my favorite economical wines: yellow tail Moscato. A tag on the neck of the bottle read “Lil’ Sweet, Lil’ Fizzy” and that cute tagline is spot on. It was a sweeter white wine with a little bit of fizz. Not nearly as carbonated as champagne or even soda; more similar to Pellegrino as far as level of fizziness is concerned.

I drank it chilled with dinner, but they suggest drinking it with dessert or fruit. Personally I think that wine pairing is more of a personal thing than a by-the-book thing. I like to try wines with their suggested pairing and then either stick with it or modify it based on my personal preference. Reisling is suggested for spicy foods, and as my favorite wine I enjoy it with just about anything, but I do believe it is best with Mussels in spicy Marinara. To each their own, I think.

If you enjoy wine but also the occasional vodka club with a splash of cran, chances are you’d like this wine. If you like champagne, or even just the idea of champagne, but it’s too carbonated for your taste, then try yellow tail Moscato.

Reisling still holds the number one slot for wine in my heart, but I like the Moscato and It has opened my eyes, and mouth, up to other Moscato’s. I’ll report back when I try a few others with my favorites.

Side note: Anyone else hear the Giada de Laurentis Moscato radio commercial? Every time I hear the word I think of how she says it. Much more eloquently than I do, but no matter the accent it tastes just the same.

Barefoot and Yellow Tail are my favorite economical wines – what are yours? Do you prefer one over the other?

Have you tried Moscato? Are you a fan?

Caprese-Style Bruschetta

I ate at an Italian restaurant in Newark, DE for six years, working there for about 2 of them. I practically lived there and still ate there on my days off. It is a local favorite with great food, huge portions and extremely reasonable prices. The name of the restaurant is Cucina di Napoli and if you find yourself in Delaware, I recommend it.

Now, one of my favorite things they have is their bruschetta (pictured above). It may sound silly since this is a simple appetizer, but they hit it out of the park every. single. time. It usually comes with five large slices of bread, perfectly toasted to be crispy on the outside as to not get soggy and soft on the inside making it easy to bite in to and chew. They go the tomato-garlic-onion route with basil and a standard dressing. Absolutely fresh and delicious. I could eat the whole plate as a meal.

I recently had some people over for a dinner party and wanted to make a light, yet delicious and satisfying appetizer, so I attempted to re-create this appetizer. The biggest difference is that I added small pieces of fresh mozzarella cheese. Hence the “caprese-style” part of the dish’s title. Overall it was a huge success!

Turing for a second to the wonderful-for-familiarization-purposes website Wikipedia,

Traditional Caprese Salad

“Insalata Caprese (salad in the style of Capri) is a simple salad from the Italian region of Campania, made of sliced fresh buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes and basil, seasoned with salt, pepper, and olive oil.[1][2] In Italy, unlike most salads, it is usually served as an antipasto (starter), not a contorno (side dish).”

Traditional Bruschetta

“Bruschetta (Italian pronunciation: [brusˈketːa] ( listen)) is an appetizer from central Italy whose origin dates to at least the 15th century. It consists of roasted bread rubbed with garlic and topped with extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Variations may include toppings of spicy red pepper, tomato, vegetables, beans, cured meat, and/or cheese; the most popular recipe outside of Italy involves basil, fresh tomato, garlic and onion or mozzarella. Bruschetta is usually served as a snack or appetizer.”

So the american-ized version of Bruschetta with the tomatos isn’t exactlyyyyyy traditional – but it is delicious, and it’s pretty close, so who cares?

Here is what you’ll need: 

  • 6 Roma tomatoes
  • 1 small white or yellow onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 7 or so leaves of fresh Basil – fresh makes a big difference, so I would suggest splurging for it!
  • Fresh mozzarella cheese (as much as you want – but one small container of the mozz balls in water would do it)
  • Whatever kind of bred you’d like – I would suggest italian or fresh bread cut in to slices
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Here is what you’ll do:

  • Slice bread, toast in the oven or a toaster oven on 400 for about 10 minutes – until they reach desired toastiness- (Not really a word, but I like it so just go with it)
  • Chop the tomatoes in to small pieces (but not minced!) – For tips, you can go here. Add to a large mixing bowl.
  • Chop onions in to desired sized pieces. If you like the taste of raw onion you may want bigger pieces the same size as a the tomatoes. I like to chop the onions very small – almost minced.
  • Peel and chop garlic. Add to the bowl.
  • fold all Basil leaves together and in half, then chop finely. Add to bowl.
  • Chop cheese in to small pieces – again, any size you’d prefer. For this particular dish I think that smaller pieces, but again not minced, works best.
  • Add olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. I would start with 2 tablespoons of oil, mix, and go from there.
  • Top bread slices with mixture and enjoy!

Your thoughts on bruschetta?

Any other favorite appetizers you can share?!

Happy National Mojito Day!

Today is national mojito day! If you’ve never had one, I strongly recommend you take this opportunity to indulge and drink something new!

Not sure what I’m talking about? A mojito is a cuban rum citrus cocktail.

The ingredients:
– White Rum – I’ll suggest Bacardi
– Sugar – It’s best to use simple syrup. Boil 1 part water with 1 part sugar or Splenda until it is syrup-y.
– Fresh lime slices
– Fresh mint leaves
– Seltzer or tonic (or even Sprite if that’s all you have)

The fun part: Muddling. Mojitos are made using a muddler – a stick-like tool used to press the mint leaves and limes (gently! don’t break them up!) to release the juices and oil which give the drink it’s fresh flavors.

Above is a photo of a mojito I made during a mojito making lesson on a cruise. So fun, super delicious and skill building – can’t beat that!

Mixing it up:

Place mint leaves and lime slices in the bottom of your glass. Add rum. Muddle fruit ever-so-gently. Add ice if desired and fill the rest of the glass with your sparkling drink of choice – I suggest plain, diet seltzer or tonic.

Enjoy!

Do you like mojitos?
There’s lots of variations – what’s your favorite?

Summer Salad Series [Review]: Buffalo Shrimp Salad at Kildare’s Newark

Kildare’s Buffalo Shrimp Salad

I have dreams about this salad. And I wish I was kidding. I was out with friends for someone’s birthday and the dinner spot chosen was Kildare’s. Now, Kildare’s isn’t my favorite place for food. I love the atmosphere and all of the amazing beers on tap, and their french onion soup and nachos are good. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with the rest of the food, it’s just not my cup of tea, if you will. Not bad, I just don’t prefer it. However, last summer I tried their Chicken Cobb Salad and absolutely LOVED it, so I thought I would get that again.

Looking over the salads on the menu I noticed a different salad, the Buffalo Shrimp Salad and was intrigued. So i ordered it.


It starts with a bed of iceberg lettuce with shredded celery and carrot sticks (very clever, I think) and topped with buffalo shrimp and crumbled blue cheese, I got the dressing on the side (and never even needed it!).

I went back 2 weeks later and got it again. That’s how good it is.

For starters, the shrimp is cooked perfectly. Shrimp can be tricky like chicken and get tough and dry very easily, but not at Kildare’s! It was lightly breaded and fried and the buffalo sauce was delicious without being overpowering or too wimpy. A very good balance of taste and heat, something I always look for when it comes to buffalo sauce.

The iceberg lettuce made me skeptical since I’ve never really been a fan. However, the light, fresh taste and insane crunch were perfect in the salad – all traits that Romaine lacks. The shredded celery and carrots – absolutely genius – added even more crunch and freshness to balance the buffalo. The blue cheese crumbles were fresh and acted like a dressing, eliminating the need altogether. And no dressing means that all of the other flavors have a chance to shine on their own.

This salad is spicy, refreshing and salty all at the same time. An absolute must-try if you go to Kildare’s for a meal!

Perfect Foods Bar

 

 

Perfect Foods Bars are high-protein, organic and gluten-free large snack or meal bars, depending on your food schedule. I had seen them on lots of blogs, but never in stores and was super curious. They were nice enough to send me a sample pack of their flavors, so here it goes!

Almond:
This is the first perfect foods bar I tried and I wasn’t a fan, to be honest. You can read my review here, but to summarize: It wasn’t terrible, I didn’t need to spit it out or anything like that, but I didn’t finish it.

In an attempt to find other opinions, I brought some bars to the office and had a female colleague of mine give this one a try.

Here is what she said:
“I liked how I could taste the honey – it was a prominent flavor. The almond flavor was also good. Overall I liked it!”

Cranberry Crunch:
This one was much better! This is the “Lite” version, with 199 calories as opposed to 304. The peanut butter taste isn’t overly intense, but it is prevalent. The cranberries and the “crunch” which taste like tiny pieces of rice cake, were great. Looking at the label, one of the ingredients is brown puffed rice, so there you go – that’s why I taste the rice cake! (But better – if you’re thinking rice cakes are bland- these are not!) I think I would really like this if the other ingredients had smaller proportions in order to make room for more cranberries.

Peanut Butter:
I alerted Katie at Perfect Foods Bar that I am not a big fan of things that are primarily peanut butter flavored, but she sent them along anyway so that I could have some peanut butter lovers in my life give them a whirl. So, I brought them to the office and this is the response I got.

“They’re OK. They really taste like peanut butter, like organic peanut butter. But I’m really not picky.” By the looks of it, he needed some milk; he was struggling to speak between bites. And judging by the fact that he finished it in less than 3 minutes, I would say he liked it.

If they sound like something you would like I would definitely recommend giving them a try. They are really, really nice people and this is a good product.

____________________________________________________

Full disclosure: I had seen Perfect Foods Bars on other blogs and could not find them in stores anywhere. When I e-mailed them, they offered to send me some if I would give them a review. This is my 100% honest review of their bars.

Summer Salad Series: Spinach Caprese Pasta Salad

I made this pasta salad last weekend for a birthday barbeque and it seemed to go over very well. I like this one for the summer because it is very light and the spinach and especially tomatoes are tastes of summer for me. You can make this in either large or small quantities, it can definitely be made ahead of time and it travels well, too. Perfect for attending or hosting summer parties!

What You’ll Need: 12 side servings

  • 1 pound pasta, I prefer Farfalle (bowties) for this
  • 6 roma tomatoes
  • Fresh Mozzarella cheese (half average size block/roll)
  • half bag of fresh baby spinach
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic
  • 4 average-sized basil leaves
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

What you’ll do:

Prepare the pasta, drain and return to a large pot or mixing bowl.

Chop tomatoes – I found that it worked best to slice in to round disks, then cutting each “disk” twice in to 4 pieces. Add to pasta

Remove the end of the stems from the leaves of spinach, rip spinach up in to smaller pieces. Add to pot.

Cube mozzarella in to desired size pieces.

Remove outer casing and any rough edges from the cloves of garlic. Mince garlic in to very small pieces and add to pasta.

Fold all basil leaves together and chop finely. Mix everything together.

Add red wine vinegar and olive oil. Mix. Salt and pepper to taste.

That’s it! Not too bad as long as you can stand all of the cutting and chopping, or if you have a great sous chef! 😉

A tip for pasta salads: The ideal bite would contain a little bit of everything. It is up to you to decide how big you want each of your ingredients to be as you prepare them to be added to the pasta. However, think about how small they would all need to be in order to fit nicely on a fork and in to your – and your guests’ – mouths all at once 🙂 In terms of this recipe I would caution against making the mozzarella pieces too big.

I would also try this with some grilled chicken mixed in, or sub the pasta for heartier veggies like zucchini and squash for gluten free/low carb! Try Dreamfields pasta for a healthier, but still truly pasta taste and texture!

Do you have a favorite pasta salad?

If you avoid pasta, anything you prefer as a substitute?

Any suggestions for salads for me to add to the series, or particular ingredients to highlight?

Heartland Brewery, NYC

One recent Friday afternoon around 2pm I found myself in NYC, and to celebrate the commencement of  summer hours, we decided to take advantage by having a late lunch during happy hour. I had a coupon for a retail establishment, and we noticed that just around the corner was a place called Heartland Brewery. Although I hadn’t been there before, Phil had, and he highly recommended it, suggesting we go there for an appetizer and to try their seasonal Summer Apricot Ale.

He had me at Brewery.

Being that it is a brewery, I thought it would be best to try one of their house beers and one of their seasonale, allowing us to share and sample each. We ordered their house lager, the Cornhusker and the Seasonal Summer Apricot Ale. We also ordered the appetizer sampler. Get this: it’s called the “Heartland Pu Pu Platter” – if I wasn’t in to sampling as many things as possible, I’m not sure I would have had the courage to ask for it out loud.

The Atmosphere

The sign out front says “Brewery and Rotisserie” which has me skeptical, as the vision in my head that of Boston Market with beer on tap. Can’t judge a restaurant on it’s tagline, apparently. I was impressed from the second I walked in. Dark wood on the floors some of the walls, with a design theme that is chic yet sporty and homey. There are stairs everywhere. If you aren’t seated on the first floor you will be led down a curved staircase to the bar area where there is a mix of seating options, great lightening and a very, very comfortable feel.

Drink Something New: The Brews

House Cornhusker Lager

This beer was very, very light and refreshing without lacking in the flavor department. If you’ve read my earlier Drink Something New posts, you know that I have come to enjoy malted beers and Belgians, and that I am not a big fan of hops. This beer had virtually no hoppy taste and was very smooth. A great light lager for anyone who likes that kind of beer.

The Seasonal Summer Apricot Ale

This was absolutely delicious, and up there on my favorite beers list for sure. The second you fill your mouth with a sip of this beer there is a rush of flavor. It isn’t overly sweet or fruity, just a strong classic ale taste with citrus notes. It has a smooth finish, not too hoppy and definitely no “dirt” taste. Although it is a very strong taste, it isn’t too heavy or thick, which is perfect. I STRONGLY suggest that you try this beer if you’re in New York City this summer.

Eat Something New: The Food

Like I said, we ordered the Heartland Brewery Pu Pu Platter appetizer sampler, a sampling of their “5 house dishes.” The presentation was great and extremely unique, unlike any other plating I’ve ever seen, especially for a place this casual. It came in a stacked tower, as you can see here, each level devoted to one of the five dishes.

From the top down:

Pulled pork sliders:

I am not a big fan of pulled pork or BBQ in general because I like to taste all of the ingredients I am eating, including the meat. Often times I have found that BBQ style food is drenched, even sometimes drowning, in BBQ sauce, not allowing for any other flavors to come through. These pork sliders surprised me and I liked them more than I had thought I would. Cooked very well, tasty sauce, soft, fresh bun. I only ate half because I wanted to save room and it was the first thing I ate, but if you like pulled pork or even just BBQ, these would be a good choice.

Fried Pickle Spears:

These were, hands down, the best fried pickles I have had to date. And yes, I’ve had fried pickles a number of times. It was a pickle spear cut the way they are usually served with a burger or sandwich in a restaurant. It was fully intact, breaded and fried. The pickle was still perfectly crispy and juicy and tasted like a pickle. Sometimes, when left in the fryer too long I assume, the pickle part of a fried pickle loses its pickle tastes because the breading is too thick or it is too greasy. Not the case at Heartland. The breading, and this goes for all of the breaded items, was perfect. The food obviously is not frozen and the breading is added by hand. It is crunchy and crispy, not at all soggy. The best fried pickles I have ever had.

Mozzarella Sticks:

Like the pickle spears, the mozzarella sticks were perfectly breaded and came in long strips that almost looked like they could have been string cheese in a former lifetime. Very tasty!

Skewers:

The skewers were my least favorite of the five, to the point where, if I was to return and order this sample again, I would ask to substitute a second helping of one of the other 4 to replace this one. The meat was cooked perfectly, not tough or dry and slid right off of the skewer. However, there was almost no seasoning, they were cold, and they alternated with what I think were pieces of tomatoes. It just didn’t go. Very bland and the fact that it was cold didn’t make it any better.

Buffalo Chicken Wings:

Pretty standard appetizer, but Heartland did them very well. I don’t like Buffalo Wild Wings’ wings because of all of the thick breading. I like to still taste some of the chicken. Heartland’s wings are tender and juicy, and the sauce has a great taste and has just the right amount of heat.

 

Overall I highly suggest this place, hope to return, and think you should try to make it there this summer. Being a brewery, they brew their own beer and it is really very good. The food was good and the atmosphere was classy and relaxed all in one. A great place for happy hour, a dinner date, or even a casual night out.

 

Have you ever been to one of the Heartland locations?

Do you prefer Breweries to other types of restaurants?

What’s your favorite Brewery in NYC?