Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween from Sanibel Island

We departed from West Palm Beach on Saturday afternoon and are spending the week with friends on Sanibel Island, located on Florida's Gulf Coast. (Recaps of days with Nanny and Grampy on the Atlantic Coast to come!)
Happy Halloween
Sexy Fireman, Vintage Mermaid, Luigi, Ninga Turtle, Beer Wench, Black Dynamite & Chilean Miner
Last night was a sh*tshow to say the least, so tonight we're taking it easy. You know, 5 beers in the Pool & Jacuzzi kind of easy. Tween Waters Inn on Captiva Island hosts a huge beach bash every year.
Told you it was nuts.
Tree lady walked around on stilts all night. Impressive!
Some fun costumes....
My people!
There are a lot more where those came from, it was such a great party! Here are a few scenes from the beach day 1:What did you do / dress up as for Halloween?!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

First Homemade Pizza

The first official Pizza I've ever made on my own, using none other than the recipe and techniques I learned at King Arthur Flour. Those classes at the Baking Education Center paid off tremendously, and even thought I was nervous as I set out to create my dough, I was confident in my ability at the same time. (That's right, I was nervously confident.)
Pizza Dough Ingredients:

-2 cups (8 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
-1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
-3/4 teaspoon salt
-1 tablespoon olive oil

-1/2- 3/4 cups warm water
1) In a large mixing bowl combine the dry ingredients

2) Stir in the olive oil
3) Stir in the water, adding the last few tablespoons slowly to see if they are needed.
4) Turn the shaggy mass onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and shiny.
5) Rise the dough in an oil covered bowl until doubled in bulk

6) Turn out the risen dough into a floured surface to shape the pizza.I find it incredibly tough to shape a round pizza. Since my pan is round, I let that aid in my endeavor and molded the dough around the pan. I added whatever ingredients I had in the fridge that seemed suitable. I had an opened jar of Bertolli Olive Oil and Garlic tomato sauce, shredded sharp cheddar cheese, ricotta cheese, onion,
and some fresh basil from my plant.
Basil is supposed to be added after the pizza cooks. It becomes crispy in the oven and looses its freshness. I remembered this the second after I sprinkled it on. Not a fatal mistake, I could always top it with fresh basil once it came out of the oven. Adam and I both thought the pizza, cooked for about 12 minutes at 450* came out pretty awesome for my first try. The actual crust was crispy, the pizza dough itself soft and slightly chewy. A crispier crust could obviously be achieved by placing the pizza directly on the oven rack, but I enjoyed the consistency of this one. I could have gone a little heavier on the sauce but overall it was flavorful and cheesy. I love ricotta cheese on pizza.
I've also been busy sorting through my summer wardrobe and perfecting my packing skills. Yes, I am a sunglass-a-holic.As you read this, by now I've touched down in the Sunshine State!! I am vacationing in various parts of Florida; spending quality time with family and friends. My absence is not permanent and I will return with recaps, hopefully sometime in the midst of it all!! My apologies in advance for the lack of blog comments in the upcoming week or two. Just know I am still reading your blogs from my iPhone on the beach!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Port Tasting

This past Saturday Cathy of Red White Boston invited me to attend a free Port tasting at Federal Wine & Spirits located Downtown at 29 State Street. My invitation stemmed from responding to a mini contest in Friday's edition of the Red White Boston daily email "Why You Drink What You Do" in 15 words or less. My response: Sophisticated and classy meets I love the madness associated with a dirty vodka martini evening, won me a spot.
{Circa 2008 @ Delux}

Since I am always looking to expand my wine knowledge, combined with the facts that a) I had no Saturday plans, b) I live close by and c) I have walked by Federal many times but have never wandered inside, I thought why not take Cathy up on this fun little contest. I headed downtown for the 2:30 tasting time. The exterior of the liquor store is currently undergoing construction, but if you can see the little black circle in the bottom of the shot, that's were I was headed!
It is located adjacent to the Old State House.
Unsure of what to expect, I entered under the construction facade into a tiny hole in the wall jam packed with wine bottles.
The staff who were extremely welcoming, noted my interest in the building and and explained to me the hand painted tiles on the wall date back to the 1800's and came over from the Netherlands - specifically the dutch village of Delft. The green tiles as seen above the door in the tiny vestibule are extremely rare.
Onto the wine tasting.
I love how there are bottles just tucked into the crevices of the walls.
I felt like I was on a mini adventure as I wandered to the cellar and around tiny hallways filled with boxes and boxes of wine and liquor.
Our host Peter had a number of Ports for us to taste, all varying in age and complexity.
We began with a 9 year old Quinta de la Rosa Finest Reserve.
He explained this was similar to your basic table wine, a less complex port to start. Next, we tasted three vintage Burmesters, the first an LVB (Late Vintage Bottle) Porto aged five years (a baby compared) in oak vats in order to preserve the deep color and fresh fruit flavors. The second was a 2001 which moved up in complexity and tasted little drier than the previous. The third was a real treat - a 21 year old vintage Colheita Porto. Aged in small oak casks since 1989, the result, as you can imagine, is a different character all together. Tawny in color with an intense aroma, this extremely complex wine with delicate flavors goes down smooth and lingers on the palate. A crowd favorite, we all gladly accepted second and third tastes. Peter told stories and offered advice as he poured, such as how to choose wine as a gift for someone: ask how old they are, where they grew up, and what they're having for dinner. Solid. We learned that certain grape varieties are an endangered species. The Pugnitello, a dying vine was actually found in an Italian woman's backyard and brought back to a normal existence. Oh yes, all sorts of fascinating stories were told as I enjoyed these sweet - but not traditionally sweet (the English made them sweet, Peter explained) Port wines in the basement of what was once an Old Belgian Chocolate store and is now the cellar at Federal Wine & Spirits.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Spaghetti alla Carbonara @ Artu

Somehow this fabulous meal got lost in the shuffle. The past few months have been quite a whirlwind. A beach vacation couldn't come at a more perfect time. (I'm not there yet, but pretty darn close.) Anyways, not last Wednesday, but the Wednesday before, my sister and I dined at Artu a neighborhood go-to located at 6 Prince Street. In the past I've had great meals - usually in the form of specialty pizzas accompanied by an espresso martini at the bar. The bar at Artu is a often packed with locals and tonight was no exception. We decided to eat in the dining room, also bustling with patrons and newly renovated. We were seated at a corner table next to to the window and beside this striking canvas wall painting. For a moment I was concerned about what I read on the bottom of the menu. The "No splitting of orders, a minimum dollar amount per person and the two credit card per table limit" had me questioning the owners definition of hospitality. I don't run a restaurant, but I dine out enough to know that most restaurants these days are open to a) splitting orders, b) allowing you to eat whatever you want (what if a member of the party just wanted a salad or an app?!) and c) Accommodating all forms of payment, even if this includes multiple credit cards split more than two ways. Let it be known that none of these three constraints affected mine or my sisters dining experience, but I do want my readers to be fully informed. I got over the writings on the menu rather quickly, and our waiter, Max, was no slouch in the hospitality department. Leah and I already had a glass of red at home so we opted out of the specialty fall cocktails and split a half bottle of Chianti, DOCG ($15) Ruffino - Tuscany. We were served a standard loaf of white bread and butter, nothing special. For my entree I chose a dish I had always wanted to try but believe it or not had never taken the plunge. Spaghetti alla Carbonara ($15) pancetta, pecorino cheese, eggs. There's a first time for everything. It has been two weeks and I'm still in a state of complete awe and satisfaction over the perfection of this pasta dish. Each string of spaghetti equally and generously, but not overwhelmingly so, was coated in a rich cheesy egg sauce were it mingled with fresh grated Parmesan cheese and layers of salty pancetta that was both tender and lightly crispy. The presentation was finished off with a bright green pop of parsley. Since I've never had this dish before, certainly I am an amateur judge by comparison. But being a pretty good judge of taste and texture, this was an excellent plate of pasta. All I need's a Carbonara aficionado to confirm. Leah's Pollo Parmigiana ($16) got positive reviews. The generous slice of chicken cutlet is pounded thin and topped with breadcrumbs, melted mozzarella, a helping of tomato sauce and of course parmesan cheese. This dish represents a simple Italian classic done right. We did think it unusual that pasta had to be ordered on the side. My experience has been that your choice pasta comes with the entree meat, but perhaps the Artu way is traditional and I am off base. Pictured below is a Side of Pasta ($5.50) al dente with just the right amount of red sauce.
I'm convinced they know their Italian food and I've been here enough to know the quality is consistent. If the food alone has swayed you, just make sure individual members of large parties plan to eat a full meal, have cash, or plan to put the bill on less than two credit cards! For traditional Italian dishes served in a pleasant environment with attentive staff, or for a lively bar scene with seasonal cocktails and delicious pizza, be sure to check out the North End's Artu Rosticceria & Trattoria.
Artu on Urbanspoon