Acts of Love

He makes me...

Breakfast in bed (probiotic included)

Scallion Pancakes with Sriracha dots (just because)

Sunday breakfast

Healthy tuna melts

Most of all, he makes me the happiest wife.

Arroz con Gandules (Rice with Pigeon Peas)


After years of frustrating, obsessive experimentation, this recipe has reached perfection. It’s not just the ingredients, but also the tools used that make it all come together.  My favorite Latin side dish. Add chicken or ham bits to make it a meal!  Take the extra time to make the sofrito and freeze it in ice cube trays - it’s worth it. 


Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20-30 minutes
Serves: 4 - 6

Ingredients

⅛ cup of Canola Oil (enough to coat the bottom)
1 heaping tablespoon of Sofrito (use Goya frozen sofrito or make your own - recipe below)
1 heaping tablespoon of tomato sauce
1 Sazon packet
2 tsp cumin powder
½ tablespoon salt or to taste
2 cups of medium grain rice (River brand is great)
2 ¼ cups water
Handful Spanish olives with pimentos (If large - slice them up. If small, leave them whole)
1 can of Goya green pigeon peas

Rinse your rice in a metal strainer until water runs clear and set aside to drain. This gets out all the extra starch to make your rice less sticky.

In a cast aluminum pot over medium low heat (ours is an Imusa 3.7 quart), coat the bottom with oil. When oil heats up, add the sofrito, tomato sauce, cumin, and Sazon. Stir to combine and let saute a minute or so.  Add water and salt to taste, and bring it up to a hot simmer. When hot, add rice, pigeon peas and olives. Stir and bring to a boil. When boiling, lower the heat all the way to LOW and cover. Set timer for 11 minutes. No peeking or stirring.

See that dark stripe? That's pegao!
When time is up, remove the lid. All the gandules have floated to the top. Stirring up from the bottom, mix everything together with a heavy metal spoon - being careful to leave that crunchy bottom layer - that is called the “pegao” and it’s usually fought over at dinner tables across Latin America. Cover the rice again, and let cook for approx 10-12 more minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.




Sofrito:

2 big bunches of cilantro (chop off the thick stems)
2 green bell peppers (seeded and cut into large chunks)
2 heads of garlic (peeled into cloves)
1 medium onion (chopped into large chunks)
Olive oil

With a small amount of oil in a blender or processor, grab a little bit of each ingredient and start blending until complete. Sofrito! Freeze into an ice cube tray for the perfect size you’ll need for each batch of rice.


Sun Noodle turns your kitchen into a ramen shop.



Mail order ramen? With no ramen shops in our town, and no Sun Noodle Ramen Kits around, our only road to ramen this fabulous is good old fashioned mail delivery. Thanks, Amazon!


These kits come comes with 2 servings! They are packed tight with noodles, which can look deceiving by its size. But once unraveled, it becomes clear this kit holds enough noodles, even for the hungriest man.

Our fave is Miso Ramen. The broth is surprisingly shop-quality, and comes in a liquid form - not like the powdery packets in the instants. Add hot water and broth packet to a bowl, while you boil the noodles separately for 2-3 minutes. Drain and adorn with your favorite toppings!






Ramen Spree in NYC


We love to make the most of our weekends alone together. This weekend, we decided to hop on a train to New York City and satisfy our ramen craving. Ramen is scarce in these parts. I've said on so many occasions (probably while I was shivering in these freezing temps) that we need a ramen shop in West Chester. 

We were inspired by this story, where a couple went on a 3-day spree, eating 10 bowls of ramen. Ten! After 2 days and 3 bowls of our own, we have a heightened appreciation for Lisa and David. From Saturday afternoon to Sunday morning, we would set out to eat ramen.

Stop #1: Momofuku

Knowing part of David Chang's story and the buzz around this little shop, we knew Momofuku would be our first stop. We arrived at 11:40am on a Saturday, expecting to see the line down the block. We were the second party, surprisingly, but I still swear it was a fluke because the line quickly formed behind us. Doors opened at 12:00. We were seated, and every seat was immediately occupied, still with a line out the door. The staff was bustling, serious, and a well-oiled machine. Impressive to witness.



At 12:06. Packed.
We ordered the pork buns and the brisket bun. This might have been a mistake, since our mission was ramen, but we had to try these reputed buns.  Here is the bun master - only tasked with cranking out these lovelies with precision - one after the other.
The making of the buns.
Brisket buns were our favorite, over the pork.


And this guy was dishing out the kimchee and other sides.

Our ramen is here! Pork ramen. And yes, it was executed perfectly...from the soft-poached egg, to the pork 2 ways, to the fish cake, to the springy/chewy homemade alkaline noodles. I was in a bit of a ramen haze while I was eating this, only recalling the beginning and the end. The very sad end to our time at Momofuku. You don't dilly-dally and chit-chat at a ramen shop. You eat, you leave. Hungry people are waiting, and your seat is getting a tad too warm. But before we parted, we were sure to scoop up a cookbook and a tote. The book was signed by Chang - happy surprise.



Stop #2: Totto Ramen

If we had to choose a favorite, it would be Totto. We had to endure much more of a line (only because of the time of day). And with the bitter cold, it was nice to have a heated, enclosed vestibule to wait. The energetic hostess kept us smiling as we placed our orders during the wait. A clever system they have in place:
  1. Put your name on the clipboard. *Important* Just because people are waiting outside, don't mistake this for the line. The "line" is the list on the clipboard that hangs on the front door. Open the vestibule door, grab that list, and get your name on it. Now you're in line. Also, don't miss your name being called. Your name will be crossed off, and the next party will be called.
  2. Take a menu. The hostess will take your order when she's ready.
  3. Your name is called. You're seated.
  4. Ramen is served!
We loved the vibe here. The loud music, the smiles, the genuine "I love what I do" attitude from the staff. Another well-oiled machine, but we weren't left feeling like a number.

And the ramen! I enjoyed Totto Miso Ramen. Mild, savory, buttery. The koji miso and ground pork in a scoop on top would be mixed in for a deeper, richer broth.


He happily slurped the Totto Spicy Ramen. He likes it spicy. And this was just spicy enough, assuming the extra spicy version may have been over the edge.




And here they are, all mixed up and showing their gorgeous noodleness...




Stop #3: Tabata Ramen

And now for something completely different. We were so full from an impromptu breakfast-turned-shenanigans with the fun fellows at Empanada Mama. We couldn't possibly order 2 more bowls of ramen, so we split one - despite the odd looks we received for sharing. Onward! 

No wait here at Tabata Ramen, but locals seem to love it for a good warm-up. We ordered the Tabata Ramen, which was described as soybean powder and coconut milk-based broth, topped with chicken stew, cilantro, and red onion. Sweet, creamy, and mild with nice, chewy noodles. And we were plenty full, even after sharing the bowl.


Steamy
In total, we had 3 variations of ramen in 3 enjoyably different places, yet left with the experience defined as much by what we didn't sample, as that which we did.  Can't wait to go back for more and continue to build our noodle-fluency.  Love in the city, putting the Amen in Ramen.

Alinea Experience

Her:  It all started when he surprised me with tickets to Alinea for my birthday. We had been learning more and more about Grant Achatz - his struggles and accomplishments. Alinea seemed to us, to be outside the realm of anything we experienced before, and knew we wanted to try it together.

As good as we are in the kitchen, and as wide as we thought our gastronomic vocabulary was, nothing could really prepare us for this. I mean, sure...there are pics all over the interwebs of the different courses. But - they change often, and we really didn't want to spoil it by knowing too much.

Months later...with flights booked, dress clothes packed, and Airbnb rental reserved, we were on our way to Chicago. Our friends and family were nothing more than confused when they learned our main reason for travel was a restaurant. But we live at Ten. Not half way, not almost. We go for it. In everything we do.

And we went for it. We flew to Chicago to eat at Alinea. And we will never forget it. (We probably won't ever do it again!), but it was really unforgettable.

The Experience

This would be a 16 course meal. We had a wine pairing with almost every course, but the champagne was our absolute favorite.

We ordered this when we got home, and it did not disappoint. It was approx. $35/bottle.


Pierre Moncuit Blanc de Blanc Brut
(Non-Vintage)

Amuse Bouche: Osetra

Toasted brioche foam with onion gelee, egg yolk emulsion and caviar.
Salsify

Did you know what salsify was? We did not. So when the server chucked this wooden wreath on our table, and told us to forage for our food, we were stupefied. Lost. He said he'd come back to check on us.

We spun the thing around, searching for something - anything - edible. No dice. The server took pity on our hungry souls and helped us find the first piece. It was dried, and camouflaged by the wreath.
Clever you, Grant.

Okay, a good ice breaker. No more frou-frou impressions, and we could relax. The servers were mischievous yet instructional.  We were having fun now.



We now know that salsify is actually a root vegetable related to the parsnip, and can be prepared the same ways.

Skate

Skate with brown butter, lemon, herbs

Pebble (The Beach)

This course was beautiful and delicious. Every texture and taste of the sea. Brilliant.
Ebi, ogo, clam shells, white bean puree, white mushroom cap

Corn

The cadence at Alinea plays mostly with anticipation and suspense. The servers drop things off and walk away. And we were just a little bit wiser from our salsify experience. (Or were we?)

An empty can of "Alinea Achatz Style Corn" sat in front of us, with just some ash at the bottom. Again, we wondered what was happening.

Next was a hollowed out log cradling a charred, smoky ear of corn, not appearing much different from something you'd pull off your own grill. The top of the husk is removed and placed in the can. The can! It's just meant to hold your smoking husks, silly. No smoke and mirrors this round (okay, maybe a little smoke).

The course was a perfect reassembly of grilled corn kernels, atop a corn pudding like your mama never made. The whole thing was infused with truffle, manchego cheese and sherry. My favorite course, this one.

Goodness.

Trout

This course was served on a bourbon barrel plank, giving a cool presentation for two. The barrel had been home to bourbon, maple syrup and most recently, fish sauce. On each side of the plank were identical displays of trout, Vietnamese coriander, broccoli, roe - with a surprise in the plank's center: fish bones! The trout carcus. We didn't eat the bones at first, but the server assured they'd be delicious - and he was right. The bones crunched with the texture of a potato chip, but drizzled with a sweet spicy fish sauce. Lovely bones.



Lily Bulb


Palate cleansing. Very floral in taste.

Rambutan, distillation of caviar lime, edible flower petals



Campfire

How romantic! They just placed our own little personal campfire between us. Are we roasting our next course ourselves?


No, we wouldn't be roasting our own next course. But while we were enjoying our warm ambience, we would be presented with...

Matsutake

Pine, huckleberry foam, tapioca

Interesting blend of flavors and textures. But I'm starting to get full. I'm feeling a wine haze. I'm really enjoying this personal campfire. And then...

Pork Belly

Our server put out the flames, and said our next course had been cooking in front of us the whole time.  Jaw drop. What looked like charred wood, was actually pork belly wrapped in a protective seaweed, along with a charred parsnip, and a mushroom. Playful and delicious.

Pork belly, parsnip, black trumpet, kombu

Hot Potato/Cold Potato

We were looking forward to this next course. All the hype had us hyped, and for good reason. This little dish packed a punch. A cold truffle-infused potato soup is sitting in a small wax bowl. The pin is holding a warm potato ball, a black truffle, a cube of parmesan cheese and a cube of cold butter. Pull the pin, everything drops into the cold potato soup, and knock it back like a shooter. 

Note: This was really tasty. But at this point, there had been more than one appearance of truffle, and I am beginning to get a little overstimulated by the strong taste. If you're a truffle/mushroom lover, you'll love Alinea. I am still learning to love fungi, so I found the truffle a little overwhelming. Still, I pressed on!

 

White Truffle Risotto


What's that you say? More truffle? When the server hovers over your truffle-y bowl of risotto to grate even more white truffle on top, one might hear singing of angels. But as I said above, my belly was already doing flip flops. All the wine and different tastes in a short period is like training for an olympic sport. I was slowing down. He was ready for more.

White truffle risotto, parmesan, truffle beurre monte

Squab

Our first time trying squab. Deep, dark flavors on this plate. Blackened squab, squab offal truffle, roasted carrot, beet, and orange for contrast.
Squab, beet, orange, carrot

Squash

Transitioning to the dessert stage, here. Probably the least appetizing in appearance. The brain has a keen way of convincing you that because something looks grey and unappealing, it probably will be. Here was squash, draped in ashen goat cheese, served on a chunk of asphalt, and "tagged" with licorice spray paint by the server. Gimmicky. Fun. Not our favorite.



Blueberry

Bubblegum noodle frozen with liquid nitrogen? Yes, please. So many things went POW on this plate, and it was a very welcome change in palate and texture. Even though I was beyond my limit at this point (in capacity, and in the legal sense), I was happy to eat this dish.

Bubblegum noodle, lilac, sorrel, blueberries

Green Apple Balloon

Gigglefits! By the time this course makes its way to the table, you can already hear the mood change in the room. Everyone is animated and having a blast. What you thought would be a quiet, formal atmosphere has caught you by surprise and before you know it, you're joining in the fun. Helium-filled green apple taffy balloons. We were kids again. And I had the gigglefits. I even went home with taffy in my hair. (Pull your hair back, ladies!)

Photo by Alinea


Tropical Fruit

A rubber table cloth is rolled out, and your table is artfully designed. The chef narrates as he "plates":

"Dark rum reduction, spiced creme, mango, passion fruit, carmelized banana, sour cherry, jackfruit, watermelon, lime candy in edible wrapper, bitter chocolate, lychee sugar (sprinkled down from above like fairydust), frozen coconut".

The coconut ball was smashed to bits for the finale. Very fun interplay of tastes and texture. 
Rum, vanilla, kaffir lime

The Menu


My love. He is always surprising me. And he knows how to push the comfort levels right to the edge. Alinea did just that. Unforgettable, unrepeatable.

Tasting Menu - For Kids!


We are always trying to get our kids to expand their palatal horizons. You might think, being raised by such curious and culinarily daring parents, that they wouldn't be so discriminating.

Alas, they are 10. And it takes a lot of adding flavors, textures, cultures, etc. to get a better understanding of the foods they will enjoy. That's why, at least once a month, we do a tasting menu. We make it fun and mysterious by presenting new foods and familiar foods in new ways. We also give each night a theme and each dish a clever name.

The kids put on a movie, we enter the room carrying each dish, and present it formally: "For your amuse bouche, you will be sampling (insert clever name here). Enjoy!" And leave the room before they can ask too many questions. "What is it?! Will I like it?!" Just let them discover!

These nights carry great outcomes. Not only do our kids broaden their world view, but we always find a new addition to add to our lunch and family dinner ideas. Our tapas plates get a lot of use!

Join us for our most recent Tasting Menu - for Kids!

Theme: Comfort Nuevo

First Course: Arriba Sombreros
Which is really just a Pringle and a
jalapeno string cheese on top.
This was more for laughs.
Things get more interesting, I promise.
Second Course: Tree of Life
Steamed asparagus wrapped in proscuitto.
The adults liked this much more than the littles.
Third Course: Neato Meato
We sliced a grilled Delmonico steak,
marinated it in A1 steak sauce,
and grilled it on skewers.
Fourth Course: PBJ Sushaaaay
White bread flattened with a rolling pin.
Smear peanut butter and jelly very thinly. Roll tightly.
This was the hit of the night, and was the hot demand for lunch!
Fifth Course: Fantangelo!
We do not endorse kids drinking soda.
Fanta is given as a treat on occasion, though.
And this time, we paired it with an unfamiliar fruit: Tangelo.
Sixth Course: Meatloaf Cupcakes
Fun in a muffin tin. A good recipe is here.
This was also a big hit.
Seventh Course: Nibble Dips
Tiny grilled cheese corners atop a shot of soup.
We had ham & bean soup on hand.
Served in an espresso cup.
Eighth Course: Pizza Bombs
More muffin tin fun. These are stuffed pizzas.
We used pepperoni, cheese, and marinara.
More on the side for dipping.
Recipe is here.
Ninth Course: Coco Banana
Ghiardelli melting chocolate and banana chunks.
Easy.
 Final Course: Lavalicious
Lava cakes with whipped cream.

We will post another tasting menu shortly, and I think that one is a tad more daring. As I mentioned, we are always adding new foods to our kids' plates, and this is a great way to figure out who likes what. From this round, we determined that both kids wanted to add PBJ Sushaay to their school lunch. A neat addition would be to pack it in a takeout sushi container and chopsticks. 

Use what you have on hand! You'll be surprised what you can come up with - and better yet - what your kids will eat!