Thursday, January 29, 2009

99 Miles To Philly

I have been listening to Splendid Table for a couple years now. With Lynne Rossetto Kasper's melodic, smiling voice it is hard not to get excited about food. Each week on her radio program she has Jane and Michael Stern discuss their weekly food adventures. The couple writes the Road Food column in Gourmet magazine which correlates with their website Road Food. Jane and Michael travel across the country and eat delicious food (sounds like a dream job). A lot of the places they stop are local diners, which are a personal favorite of mine. Anyways, I became intrigued with their website and started looking up restaurants reviewed in NYC. The first place they mentioned was 99 Miles To Philly. Being a vegetarian I have no real interest in Philly cheese steaks - in fact I have never even had one when I ate meat. But in the Road Food review the place was said to have amazing onion rings - so I was there!

99 Miles to Philly is a casual place where you shouldn't mind getting grease on your shirt. The menu is upfront and direct. The Wit' and Wit' Out phrasing is charming.
I ordered at the counter a side of onion rings, fries (they were waffle!), pickles, and a root beer - DIET (I have to save calories somewhere). Everything came wrapped in grease soaked brown paper bags. The waffle fries were good, crisp on the outside with soft potato on the inside - just how I like. I would go on about them, but the onion rings stole the show. The onion rings were crispy on the outside and soft and sweet on the inside. They were cut thickly, with generous amounts of onion on the inside. I didn't have time to take a picture of the rings because I ate them so fast, but billyboy from Road Food did (see below). I would definitely go back just for the rings.
My partner in crime ordered a cheese steak wit' provolone, onion, and sweet peppers. These are his thoughts:

"After major disappointments at the some of the major meateterias in the city (namely Katz's Deli and Big Nick's) I had all but swore off cheese steaks in New York City. Now I can confidently say that there is only one cheese steak in NYC that I would even consider ordering again, and that is the sandwich served up at 99 miles from Philly. I have just one complaint; the meat was too dry. Considering that this is a steak sandwich we are talking about, this ends up being a considerable fault of the execution. But maybe this mistake was a one-off and my next visit will erase my only grumble. I imagine that visit will be soon considering the wide array of toppings luring me back. Pleasant surprises were their ketchup and steak sauce, not your usual Heinz affair, but since the bottles were unmarked I couldn't tell what they were."

If you are in the area near Union Square you should stop by for a deliciously greasy meal, just make sure you walk it off :)

Note: Jane and Michael Stern also have a book called Two For the Road. Read their review of 99 Miles to Philly here.

Year of the Ox

So up until last year I didn't know much about Chinese New Year except that I am year of the rat - thanks to Chinese restaurant's zodiac place mats. But since I now work for a Chinese company a whole new light has been shed. I have to say I still don't know that much about all the festivities, mythology, or superstitions, but I am pretty sure it is way cooler than the American version of New Years. What has been most interesting to me about CNY is the food! While clicking through one of my favorite blogs (The Kitchn) I saw a recipe for Blood Orange Jelly Smiles. Now I have to admit that while reading the instructions I knew this would be quite a process, but the results seemed worth it. They looked so pretty and glossy - plus they are healthy and it has opened a gateway for other jelly possibilities. It only takes 6 oranges and 1 packet of unflavored gelatin. No, I didn't get a vegetarian version of gelatin - I can't be perfect all the time. Agar is an Asian gelatin substitute that is made from seaweed. (The perfect time to use it would be in this recipe - oh well). Here are some pictures of the process.

In the instructions it says to be very careful about not puncturing the skin. You have to be gentle, I stabbed a couple innocent oranges by accident. I decided to use my handy wooden reamer from Fishs Eddy (my fav dish ware store). It did the trick, but I then used a small spoon to gently scoop out the rest of the flesh after I had squeezed the majority of the juice out. I got them as clean as possible, but I am not going to lie - it was a little time consuming and I think I had carpal tunnel by the end.

I only added a small pinch of sugar to the orange juice. I probably would add more next time. Blood oranges are more tart than navel oranges (read below for some additional info on blood oranges). I ended up with 1.5 cups of juice. Unfortunately, that was not enough to fill all the orange halves. I had 12 and only filled 8. Maybe next time I will be more persistent with the juicer. After the jellies solidified I trimmed the edges and sliced into wedges. Overall, the jelly oranges look beautiful, but next time I might just use a regular navel or a tangerine for a better flavor.

Note on blood oranges - taken from one of my favorite books Starting With Ingredients by Aliza Green. Page 657 states:

"The mutation which produced the blood orange's ruby red color probably arose in the seventeenth century in Sicily. The best-known varieties include the round, early-season Moro, and the midseason Tarocco (named for its resemblance to a child's toy), and the highly prized Sanguinaccio. These small to medium-sized fruits with moderate amounts of seeds have tangy juice that is concentrated in flavor and body. Blood oranges are imported from Mediterranean countries and are now also grown in California. They are in season from California mid-December through mid-April."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Obama Rama

Since this is President Obama's first real week in office. Here is my first post on my blog. For Inauguration Day I insisted on having an office potluck while watching the inauguration together. There was a lot of delicious food - especially a quinoa salad (which will be featured on a later post). Also, my coworker Shari brought me this awesome cupcake from Eleni's NYC (pictured above). I couldn't eat it that day for I felt it was sacrilegious, but I didn't feel bad the next day. For the evening I had a Chili and Cornbread Party in honor of Obama. After doing some research I found out that Obama's favorite food is chili (based on a bunch of random things I read online). Honestly, if it isn't - I don't care because it is a fav of mine. Chili is so easy, quick, and filling. It is also great for leftovers (which is something I hate). I also made Jalepeno Cheddar Cornbread courtesy of Ina Garten. It isn't that traditional, but still really flavorful and easy to make!
Here is the recipe for the chili (the picture above is double the recipe):

-1 Can of black beans (drained and rinsed)
-1 Can of red kidney beans (drained and rinsed)
-1 Can of Cannellini beans (drained and rinsed)
-1 Can of fresh corn (drained and rinsed)
-2 Cans of stewed tomatoes (chopped if you want smaller chunks)
-1 Large can of tomatoe sauce
-1 Packet of chili mild seasoning (I like it hotter, but for guests I kept it mild)
-1 Long hot pepper (chopped and seeds removed depending if you want a milder version)
-1 Large sweet pepper (chopped and seeds removed)
-2 Cloves of garlic (minced)
-1 Large onion (white, yellow, or Spanish - chopped)
-Olive Oil (or whatever oil you have)


-Saute onions in a couple tablespoons of olive oil until translucent on medium heat.
-Add garlic and peppers and cook until soft
-Add everything else and simmer until the flavors meld (about 1/2 hour).

Note: I love to serve this with Fritos and extra sharp cheddar shredded on top. It is a must for the ultimate chili experience. Oh yeah, and you can also add meat, but I don't think anyone missed it - but they could have just been being polite :)