Category Archives: Nance & Brian Good Eats

Ride the Wave

I’ve been wondering of late if the universe gives us exactly what we need but not as often what we want. As I face more job upheaval, something I thought surely impossible given the sheer amount of prior chaos in this sphere of my life, perhaps the wisest piece of advice I’ve received lately is to “ride the wave” at work. So I’ve been thinking a lot how flexibility is critical to creating happiness for ourselves.
Facing the bleak prospect of working in New Jersey and losing Tribeca as my spiritual base makes me want to spit nails! I just got here and love everything about it. The random cobblestone street, the pocket parks I traverse on my walk from the subway, the unconventional coffee shop (Kaffe) where the swag wait staff knows my name and the playlist is awesome, the access to sky, the wind from the Hudson that reminds me of the renown Mistral wind in Provence. How can life be so unfair to deprive me of these daily pleasures — F*@#$&^%ck!! The only thing I’ve ever liked about New Jersey was “The Sopranos” which you can tell since I can curse like Carmela.
Despite this set back, I realized that I’ve gotten many things that I wanted….just not in the form or timeframe desired. Take cooking for example. Although cooking was a big part of my prior life – as La Mamma for my family creating a tradition of Italian, French and Cambodian food ties that bind, it was an art that had gotten lost in the divorce transition. I longed to get cooking back on the front burner in my life. Actually a happy by-product of my marriage was an exposure to Asian food. So sitting at my desk at lunchtime, I consider the option of a tasty banh mi sold at the food truck outside 388G on Tuesdays in the warm season – a shrimp summer roll, Vietnamese iced coffee, alternatively, a Vietnamese sandwich. Sometimes I meet JuJu at Viet Café down on Greenwich St where we sit at the bar, share a pho and catch up. It’s good to enjoy food again.
Eating out notwithstanding, I was a great cook back in the day. In my spare time, I am creating a personal cookbook of all my favorite recipes to pass down to my daughters. The Cub is perhaps a better cook than me, being fearless and adventurous in the kitchen. Faithfully following the Paleo diet, he has created some awesome dishes such as cauliflower rice. Cooking, though, takes time and between my exercise schedule, class at Hunter and work, there’s not much to spare. As the Cub and I are often weirdly in sync, we both expressed a desire to cook for the “someone special” in our lives. As there’s no one special in our lives, that experience hasn’t materialized. Instead of lamenting that fact, we decided to be happy cooking for ourselves. If you thought Brian was in his 20s, think again! Ever the perfect 40 year old role model, he shops, preps and cooks his weekly meals every Sunday. A bottle of wine might be shared as we bring the weekend to a close.
Cooking for others may sound easy but not! I have noticed with some despair that not all of my friends appreciate a dinner invitation and fewer still reciprocate. Providence appeared in the form of a classmate who lives in my ‘hood. Finding ourselves with 15 technical competencies to complete prior to graduation from Hunter, we started reciprocating dinners each time we got together on a Sunday evening to work on another competency. A recent menu chez moi started with a respectable & properly chilled Sauvignon Blanc, soppressata and wafer crackers, followed by my favorite Cipriani lunch – arugula salad with chicken Milanese. The bite of the bitter arugula is balanced by the sweetness of ripe summer tomatoes, the chicken cutlets are fried to offer a counter balance of fat; season to taste with some freshly ground pepper and dress simply with an ample squeeze of lemon. Dessert was my first attempt at granita something I discovered in Sicily when JuJu and I would watch the elegant Italian women appear at the breakfast buffet and take a healthy helping of coffee granita topped off with a wallop of whipped cream! Accompanying my mango granita, I added extra blueberries to a crumble cake which Brian agreed should be a new addition to that personal cookbook.
So in the end, I remembered that it’s all about riding that wave and taking advantage of what comes along. I may not be cooking for my lova! but I am cooking for myself and sharing food with people who enjoy it with me. As faithful readers may know, I am fond of a particular food analogy – the slow braise as relating to love. The art of braising – the French elevate everything to an art – is a simple, economical and efficient cooking technique with huge outcomes. It is characterized by searing quickly at high heat, followed by a long, slow cooking not requiring much attention. The meat magically becomes tender through a steady low flame that is no less intense than a roaring fire. This method of cooking is suitable for tough cuts of meats (like people who are oppositional maybe?!) Remember that braising takes time but you get a deliciously satisfying result in the end. So my advice is to let love simmer below the surface, enjoy the surprises on the journey of life even if they detour through New Jersey.

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CHEAP EATS (#1) – BurgerFi

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It’s clear that the Cub and I enjoy food – creating special moments breaking bread with friends and family and enjoying the best restaurants NYC has to offer. Always the odd couple, the Cub trends older and I trend younger. It’s a secret of our successful relationship. While he is writing insightful reviews about “The Marrow”, I’m dying to get myself to “Porchetta “as a savory reminder of my time in Rome with JuJu.  With the recent publishing of New York Mag’s “Cheap Eats 101” and inspired by the movie “Julie & Julia”, I decided to see how many cheap eats I could sample in one year’s time. Not being able to devote each day to a new restaurant, I will pick out a random restaurant on the list which happens to fall within walking distance of a neighborhood I find myself in. I may throw in a few cheap eats from JuJu’s list of taxi driver recommendations.

So it was a perfect confluence after Titan Ride at Equinox on the upper east side that I realized I could walk to my first cheap eat – BurgerFi located at 1571 2nd Ave at 82nd St. Since being forced to renounce my 6 am spin habit of 10 years, I’ve had to find alternatives. Although some people think I’m crazy to devote time on a Friday evening to a spin class, they don’t know Titan Ride. I am so energized by the music that I feel like I’m pre-gaming for a club outing later…. which I usually am! But that night I decided on another option and after burning a thousand calories, I went to eat a thousand calories. To start let me say that BurgerFi is trademarked and has its “story”. Quite simply, BurgerFi claims to “change the way we think of the burger” and provide a unique experience. I think I will love this place as they devote a page on their website to the various alias they’ve been called. My Burgerfication was about to begin….

I enjoyed a leisurely stroll to 2nd avenue which is ugly beyond description even on a balmy summer evening as the avenue is disrupted to expand the subway line. While noting the plethora of restaurants all alive with people, I wondered if I could ever live on the UES if life made me do it. Since life is making me do things these days that I am not in sync with, this is not such a random thought. Although I am about finished with the UWS, I doubt the UES would be my choice despite providing better dining options.

My first impression was this franchise was modelled after McDonalds, only trying harder. Beer was displayed artfully and as I placed my order I considered a Corona instead of a milkshake. Wine is an option as well as specialty soft drinks such as Coke de Mexico (who knew?) To end the mystery, my order consisted of the BurgerFi Double Cheeseburger (650 calories), Parmesan Cheese and Herbs Fries (650 calories) and a strawberry shake (720 calories) = 1430 calories! Good thing I didn’t have an appetite until 3:30 pm the next day.

Really there’s not that much to say about a restaurant (big word) that is mostly fast food leaning towards upscale and hyped with a folksy online marketing campaign. Nonetheless I am never one to refuse the challenge to eat a burger, especially in the summertime. The burger itself was tasty being natural Angus, you know; the fries were trying too hard to be special and I don’t need whipped cream with rainbow sprinkles decorating my shake. Although I wouldn’t say no to another BurgerFi, I also wouldn’t go out of my way to dine here again. Then again, I’m not a hamburger connoisseur just a hungry girl after spin class.

Do any readers know what the French call McDonald’s? A correct answer and I’ll buy you a BurgerFi.

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Good Eats: Molten Lava Cake with Cherry-Brandy Reduction

I think it’s time to share with you a taste of my culinary merits. I’ve mentioned before that Nancy and I both love to cook. But as we are quite multifaceted, we’ve yet to really share our cooking until now. Again, why are men not proposing to us on a weekly basis?

I love to cook an elaborate meal, (1) because I have a natural urge to dazzle others, but more importantly (2) because I love to treat my friends and family to a good meal. Gourmet cooking takes effort, patience and finesse. Growing up with parents who liked fine dining, traveling frequently and trying new and exotic cuisine, I quickly attained a high standard to compare against. As I grew older, I wanted to make the things that I ate at restaurants with my parents. Why couldn’t I, right? In fact, why couldn’t I make these things better? Remember I’m a perpetual overachiever.

The issue with cooking restaurant quality meals at home is that very few meals can impress me anymore. Even at some of the best restaurants in NYC, I’m bored unless there’s something new and interesting or simply exceptionally well done. I told you, I’m one of the bougiest 23-year-olds that you’ll ever meet. Some of the things that my sister and I cook at Christmas rival what’s served at Jean Georges restaurants. But actually. Luckily I live in one of the culinary capitals of the world and for every sub-par, exorbitantly expensive meal there is something truly fascinating to try and rave about.

In any event, last weekend I cooked a 3 course meal with the wholehearted intention to impress. (Sidenote: Extravagant cooking is actually a family technique on how to nab a man)  I started with a Cold Zucchini Salad in an Almond Pesto, followed up with a pistachio-encrusted halibut in a blood orange reduction, finished with a Molten Lava Chocolate cake with Brandy-soaked cherries. As I’ve made this dessert 3 times in the last month, always to rave reviews, I’ll share with you the recipe.

This recipe is really great because it can be made ahead and just popped in the oven during dinner. The presentation makes people swoon and it’s also easy to make more based on your party size. Enjoy and stay posted for more Nance&Brian Goodeats.

Ingredients

  • 1 14-oz bag of frozen pitted dark sweet cherries, thawed and undrained
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • ¼ cup of brandy
  • ¼ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons all purpose flour
  • Powdered sugar

Preparation

Combine cherries with juices, 1/4 cup sugar, brandy, and cinnamon in a medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Simmer until sauce thickens and is slightly reduced, about 10 minutes. Remove 1/4 cup cherries from sauce; drain well. Transfer to work surface and chop coarsely; reserve chopped cherries for cakes. Set aside cherry sauce.

Butter two ramekins (Using baking cooking spray also works well here). Whisk cocoa and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in small bowl to blend. Stir chocolate and butter in heavy small saucepan over low heat until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat; whisk in cocoa mixture. Whisk in egg yolks, then whole egg and flour. Fold in reserved 1/4 cup chopped cherries. Divide batter between prepared ramekins. (Sauce and cake batter can be made 1 day ahead. Cover separately; chill.)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake cakes uncovered until edges are set but center is still shiny and tester inserted into center comes out with some wet batter attached, about 18-20 minutes.

Warm sauce over low heat. Cut around cakes to loosen; turn out onto plates. Spoon sauce alongside. Sift powdered sugar over; garnish with mint.

Note: I usually take glamour shots of the food I make but for this occasion serving on time was of utmost importance. You’ll have to deal with an Insta pic 😉

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