Wednesday, September 28, 2011

NYC Honey Festival Part 2 - The Dinner

Even though the honey festival itself had ended, the main event was just beginning.

Motorboat and the Big Banana, Sharon Is Karen, and Caracas Arepas Rockaway (three vendors on the Rockaway boardwalk) came together to offer a delicious honey themed dinner at the sweet price of 20 bucks a plate.  Kira and I stuck around to take part in this pretty righteous bounty.

There was fried chicken with spicy honey butter sauce (the chicken was soaking in a big buttermilk bath and was fried fresh), collard greens with bacon, honey baked beans, and blue cornbread. I'd never eaten baked beans made with white beans before, but they still tasted delicious. The cornbread? Well...I can be rather picky with cornbread, and this was a little dry. So, I just slathered it in the Mike's Hot Honey I had bought earlier. Kira did the same, and soon it was all gone.

And for dessert, a beautiful honey tres leches cake, with raspberry coulis and walnuts:

Perfectly moist and sweet. The raspberry coulis added some lovely tartness and the walnuts lent their toasty crunch. I think this was all 20 smackers well spent, don't you?

And best of all, we got to eat with this beautiful view:

Friday, September 23, 2011

NYC Honey Festival 2011 - Part 1

An incredibly sweet way to spend the day, yes? The Rockaway Beach Boardwalk in Queens played host to the first New York City Honey Festival (hosted by the Queens based Brooklyn Grange) this past weekend, and two of my friends and I decided to check it out.There was no better way to celebrate the first year of legal NYC beekeeping.

It was a gorgeous fall morning/afternoon....really glad that the weather was behaving itself.

This tempting delight was our first stop:

Why hello there, Mike's Hot Honey! This spicy blend of honey, vinegar, and chilies has long been on my wish list. Mike's assistant was slicing up chunks of Manchengo cheese and crusty bread for samples, and of course we pounced upon it like hungry mice.

The burn of the honey is warm and complex, rather than astringent. Sweet, but ends with a tingly bite.

Commerce! And a happy customer.

As we walked through the tables we spotted:

And silk-screening, courtesey of the Bushwick Print Lab:


I was this close to getting a little bee painted on my cheek, but I held off because I thought I'd look silly.

We then ran into the Backwards Beekeepers NYC table:

which was covered in:

Nothing to fear though, for they were all under glass. It was crazy how busy they looked.

Behind the boardwalk concessions, local beekeepers were demonstrating how they extracted honey from their hives throughout the day.. Tim O'Neal of Borough Bees talked about his hives and explained how the bees made the honey.

After the hives were uncapped (the bees seal the combs with wax when they're full) , they were ready to be spun in a honey centrifuge (the hand crank kind was in attendance, so you had to use some elbow grease to spin it):

And there's the honey coming out of the spout. From there it can be strained to get out stray pieces of wax, or just bottled as is.

I also bought a wee bear of Summer honey from Seward Trail Honey, which has liquid gold from various parts of the year.

Sixpoint Brewery was also on hand to quench our thirst with some honey brewed beers. I chose the pale ale, Little Buzz. It was smooth drinking with just a kiss of sweetness. There was another brew, I think it was called Medium Dark? But I think Little Buzz won my vote.

Kira and I, all smiles.

John, taking a sip. 
But, I think the COOLEST part of the day, was helping beekeeper Ralph Gaeta of Buck and Billie's Honey get some honey out of some particularly stubborn combs. Kira and I really got our hands dirty; She held down the centrifuge, and I used my very long arm to scrape every drop of honey towards the spout. Nary a drop was wasted!!!

Let it begin!

Teamwork! On the left, Kira. On the right, Ralph.

Straining the liquid gold. The wax bits left over, Ralph will use to make candles.
And here are some humorous photos of me not wasting any of the honey that had stuck to my arm:

You really can't take me anywhere.
Since we were so helpful, Ralph reserved two jars of his amazing honey for us before he sold out and it was definitely money well spent.

Here is a little bee enjoying some honey from the Honey Tasting, where Ralph got second place!

Please don't sting me.

After all of this carousing, it was time to take a relaxing walk on the beach, and catch a bit of the sunset.

But after all of this honey and other treats from the Rockaway Boardwalk, we were still hungry. Thank goodness there was a honey themed dinner in store for us.....stay tuned for the thrilling and belly filling conclusion in my next post!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

New York Craft Beer Week Dinner - BLT Burger

Oh yes, that time has rolled around again, guys....New York Craft Beer Week! I haven't been able to be as active as I'd like to be this year (my beer passport is being woefully underused), but I knew when I saw the special NYCBW menu at BLT Burger, that I couldn't possibly pass it up.

Three courses (I had 2 choices per course) were paired with three beers from Breckenridge, a microbrewery out in Denver, Colorado. I love finding new beers to try, so the fact that this was from a brewery I didn't know made this all the more exciting.

First Course:
Fried Green Tomatoes w/Buttermilk Ranch Dipping Sauce served with Breckenridge Agave Wheat

This was the first time I'd been served batter-dipped dipped tomatoes, I'm more used to the breadcrumb/cornmeal variety...and I dare say that I enjoy the latter more. The hot batter coating kept slipping off the tomatoes! In spite of that, the green beauties were tangy and very tasty. The Ranch dressing provided some kick.

So, this beer right here? I need to find out where I can get it here in NYC, because it is just fantastic. Between the hint of lingering sweetness from the agave and the smoothness of the wheat, I could have drunk this all night long. A great pre-dinner beer and a nice introduction to this brewery.

Second Course:
Mac and Cheese Burger - Fried Mac and cheese patty, caramelized onions, beer cheese, bacon, and BBQ sauce served with Breckenridge Ball Park Brown

Oh yeah baby. Read that description again if you don't believe me. This burger could have been an outright disaster; it has way too many components to be structurally sound, and delicious. was exactly that. The mac and cheese patty was crispy and flavorful...and the cheese was GOOEY. I'm very particular about mac and cheese, and this was delicious. The bun, perfectly toasted. Ordering the burger medium, instead of medium well made a difference, too. The juiciness of the burger ran into the other condiments, combining to make this dish really pop. It did a great job of turning something gimmicky into a burger that I wish that BLT would put on their menu permanently.

The slightly smoky flavor of the Ball Park Brown complimented the burger, but also let it shine; there were a lot of strong flavors going on here, and it was just assertive enough. Again, a very smooth drinking beer. The taste almost reminded me of a slightly bolder Newcastle.

Breckenridge Float - Vanilla Porter, Vanilla Ice Cream, Graham Cracker crumbs

Yum, yum, and more yum. So many flavors going on here: sweet, bitter, creamy, and spicy. The porter was divine, very rich with deep vanilla tones but never delving into a syrupy treacle. I would have liked some whipped cream and salted caramel...but that was only an afterthought.

This menu is only good until September 25th, so if you liked what you saw here, make sure you get down to BLT Burger. New York Craft Beer Week seems to just bring out the best in restaurants.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Eating My Words: Chocolate Crumb Cake From BabyCakes

Okay, so does this look gluten-free, sugar-free, and vegan?

It doesn't taste like it either.

BabyCakes in the Lower East Side is pretty much the place in the city to get your snack on if you have certain dietary restrictions. They carry cupcakes, scones, donuts (!), and other delights that are either vegan, dairy-free, sugar-free, soy-free, name it, they have it.

Now....I don't usually like vegan baked goods; let's be real, I loathe them. Greasy with oil, very heavy, off tasting...give me butter, sugar, and eggs any day of the week, please. But after I had tried their mini donuts at their boardwalk location on Rockaway Beach, I decided to relent a bit, and expand my horizons. Because those donuts were really damn good. Moist, cakey, and light, with gooey icing. You really can't go wrong with that.

This Village Voice review encouraged me to do just that, and I picked up a slice of this cake. First thought: this is thing is HUGE. When I opened the clamshell case, all I could smell is chocolate. A good sign.

My first bite: oh dear Jesus. Gooey, dense chocolate goodness. The chocolate sauce drizzled over the top was delightfully sticky, the crumb topping, slightly crunchy. It's sweetened with agave nectar and pears, but you can't really taste them very much. I'm gonna guess that they use a really intense cocoa powder, because this was as rich and complex as any chocolate cake I've ever had. I ate half and saved the other piece to have with my lunch the next day, and it was still pristine.

So, don't worry, I'm not abandoning my precious eggs, milk, and sugar. No way, no how. But it's nice to know there are tasty, quality options for folks that want them.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

What's a cure to the End of Summer Blues? Brooklyn Cured.

On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of going to Trophy Bar in Brooklyn to go to the Brooklyn Cured Cookout. What can complete a summer night better than the aroma of grilled meats wafting in the twilight air?

Brooklyn Cured was started by Bensonhurst native, Scott Bridi, as an antidote to the lack of imaginative charcuterie on New Yorkers plates. Everything he makes, from the sausages, the bacon, to the smoked pork rillets (a sort of  spreadable pulled pork) is done small batch style to ensure its deliciousness. The cookout was a great way to be introduced to his product line in an intimate, super relaxed setting.

My favorite dish of the evening? The Chicken Chorizo Slider, with a cilantro and grilled scallion pesto and a vinegar red cabbage slaw.

So usually, when you think slider, you think of a thimble-sized sandwich/burger/whatever that barely has any flavor and doesn't stick around long enough even if it had any. Not this one. The sausage patty was thick, juicy, and smelled fantastic. I loved how vibrantly colored the condiments were.The taste, even better. Incredibly succulent because of the dark meat, and very flavorful without being too salty. I never imagined applying the flavors of chorizo to chicken before, but now I definitely won't count it out. You can make a satisfying sausage with chicken!

A closer look at this thing of beauty. 

The tangy crunch of the vinegar-based slaw and the pungency of the pesto kept the sandwich from seeming too rich. I think the only additional thing I would have liked from this sandwich was if the brioche roll was toasted, just a little bit. Toasting bread just adds another textural component for me that I really enjoy...but it was only a minor point off. I also had another sandwich, the Hot Italian Sausage with Provolone Fonduta, which was very tasty...but I think this little gem stole my heart.