A few months ago a friend of mine asked if I’d like to go with her and two of our other friends on a wine and bike tour out on Long Island. I asked one question: do I have to know how to bike? Now, don’t get me wrong: I know how to “bike”. But as my brother likes to (lovingly) recall, I walked my bike down our 10-degree-inclined driveway until I was 16 years old because the hill was too “steep” to ride down and I was scared to fall off. Not that falling off would’ve been so bad. I did plenty of that, too. Somewhere in our family archives are Mother’s Day pictures of Little Lauren Four Eyes with a massively scraped up chin and forehead from an earlier neighborhood debacle between her and the pavement. And somewhere else in those family archives are family vacation pictures that are missing Little Lauren Pre-Teen Gangly Legs because she took a tumble down a Jamaican roadway and had to ride for most of the tour in a van with a kindly tour guide who offered her a sample of some of the local greenery IF you know what I mean.
Needless to say I’m not super adept on 2 wheels. But my friend reminded me that if they were going to be serving alcohol on this trip, it would most likely be easy enough that even the drunkest amateur would make it through unscathed.
So off we went last Saturday, pop music blaring out of our little green ZipCar rental, on our way out to the North Fork of Long Island to enjoy a hot, sunny afternoon with North Fork Bike Tours. We showed up a bit early and stopped in for a cold beer and some nachos at a townie bar where they were having a baby shower in the back room. If you’re rolling your eyes then you don’t know class.
We arrived at the scheduled meeting spot on time and ready for a ride. We hopped on bikes and followed our friendly guides, Jason and John, down the road to the first winery. I am happy to report that I never, not once, fell off the bike. I almost hit someone. But she didn’t even notice so it doesn’t count.
Wine casks at Pellegrini Vineyards
The first stop on our bike tour was Pellegrini Vineyards. I’d never visited a winery before (save for special events at Casa Larga Vineyards in upstate New York) and it was fascinating to tour the rows of vines, visit the giant casks that press and process grapes, and go down into a cool cellar where row upon row of barrels waits to produce the tasty wines we were lucky enough to sample. I’ve admitted here that I don’t know a whole heck of a lot about wine, but I do know Pellegrini served up a lovely chilled 2010 East End Select BBQ red that changed my mind about chilled red wines (aka loved.it.).
Vineyards at Pellegrini Vineyards
The next stop on our tour was Pugliese Vineyards. We tasted the wines here but didn’t tour the premises. At this point in the tour I think we were all too hungry to care about vines and grapes and casks and whatnot and North Fork Bike Tours served up a delicious selection of sandwiches from Love Lane Kitchen in Mattituck. I was wholly impressed by the spread: Cuban sandwiches, mozzarella with chicken, tomato, and pesto, steak sandwiches, chicken salad on fresh bread… and then tiny cupcakes to finish it off. As we lounged in the grass in the shade of a massive tree in front of a koi pond out in the “country”, I took a breath and relaxed into my alcohol-infused-calmness. A break from the city. Bliss. I picked up a bottle of a Pugliese Pinot Grigio to take back home with me, back to real life.
Our bike ride back to the original meeting place was only around 2 miles and it was incredibly peaceful just lazily drifting along the main road in Mattituck as the sun settled below the treeline. The sore butt bones I incurred the following day were well worth it.
My lovely friend Molly has this really brilliant feature on her blog where she includes a song she’d play while making the recipe she’s blogging about. I love it. I think it’s genius. And who doesn’t listen to music while they cook? So today you can scroll down and listen to the same song I played whilst making thisfattydelicious dish.
My mom calls this one “dad’s famous onion dip” because apparently when he was a bachelor he used to bring it to parties and everyone would RAVE and it was his little secret that it is literally the easiest dish in the world to create. But I had a thought. I love all the ingredients. So I will turn it into a fatty delicious sandwich. Try it both ways, kids! You will not be disappointed.
On the menu:
Chuck’s Famous Onion Dip
2 cups mayonnaise
2 cups yellow onion, diced
2 cups swiss cheese, diced (why doesn’t anyone ever shred swiss cheese? why don’t they sell it pre-shredded in the grocery store alongside the cheddar and the mozzarella? the world may never know.)
Throw ingredients in a big bowl. Stir. Microwave for 10 – 15 minutes or until melted into one beautiful mixture. Stir. Serve with Ritz. Be as popular as Chuck.
To make the sandwich: thinly slice 1/4 of a yellow onion and sautee with butter until the onions are gently browned. Build a sandwich with turkey, swiss cheese, a healthy slathering of mayo, and the sauteed onions. Grill over medium heat until the bread is browned and cheese is melted.
On the menu:
Homemade potato chips
3 Tbsp canola oil
2 large potatoes (I think any kind will work here, but I used standard Idaho)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice potatoes into 1/8 inch thick slices, using a mandolin or a sharp knife. Toss with oil. Lay in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes or until the slices are dark brown, just short of burnt. Immediately after removing from the oven, toss with salt and pepper or seasoning of your choice.
*Be creative! How delicious does shredded parmesan and parsley sound on these? Or a little cayenne pepper? Or just a healthy dose of freshly cracked black pepper? Or you could get REALLY crazy and sprinkle a little sugar and sea salt on them. The possibilities are endless. And if you mess up… well, you just wasted a couple potatoes. Call me. I’ll send you the $.65.
Happy Friday and a VERY happy weekend! Today’s post is blatantly stolen from Serious Eats but this was too good to pass up. This weekend, when you’re at the green market, pick up some figs because we are smack dab in the middle of fig season! You can use these suckers in so many different ways, but I like this salty sweet crusty melty cheesy combination the best.
photo c/o SeriousEats.com
It’s a take on the classic BLT that involves figs, prosciutto, and melted mozzarella cheese. Hungry? Me, too. Have a blissful weekend, kids!
I can’t tell you how thrilled I am that it legitimately feels like fall, that I have a brand spanking new stove (I think I will name her Bertha?), and that I feel a crazy intense desire to be back in the kitchen. All is right with the world! Okay, so I could use a tiny bit more money. Details.
On the menu:
Mom’s tomato soup
1 cup celery, chopped
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
2 medium sized carrots, grated
1/2 large green pepper, chopped
1/4 cup butter
4 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 quart tomatoes, peeled* and chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
4 tsp sugar
1/4 cup flour
Saute celery, onion, carrots, and green pepper in butter in a large, heavy pan until they are slightly softened. Add 4 cups of the chicken broth, tomatoes, salt, pepper, and sugar. Bring heat up to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Blend flour with the remaining 1/4 cup of chicken broth. Gradually add flour mixture to soup. Simmer for another 15 minutes, or until the soup thickens and the vegetables are tender. I like to serve this soup with tiny grilled cheese sandwiches, cause frankly, everything is cuter in miniature.
Note: the key to this soup is making sure all of the vegetables are chopped to relatively the same size.
*To peel a tomato: boil a pot of water. Make a small X in the top of the tomato, barely piercing the skin. Drop the tomato into the boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove it and immediately drop it in icy water. The skin will peel right off.
Sometimes when things are stressful in life, in work, whatever, I come home and I want to cook but then I see the loaf of potato bread, the jar of peanut butter, and the ripe banana and I think, “Mom would totally let me have this for dinner right now.” This sandwich is a glorified and indulgent take on your standard PB&B (that’s peanut butter and banana for those of you not so quick on the uptake) and is more dessert than dinner but why the heck not?
The recipe is simple and the results are faaaantastic. Just make your standard peanut butter and banana sandwich to start.
Next, melt 2 Tbsp of butter in a frying pan and fry the sandwich on both sides for around 4 minutes, or until the bread browns.
In a shallow plate, mix together 2 Tbsp of sugar and 1 tsp of ground cinnamon. Once your sandwich is fried, dip it in the cinnamon sugar so both sides are coated.
As I mentioned, I am never one to be up on new hot spots in the city. If I’m raving to a friend about an amazing “new” place I stumbled upon, it’s usually followed by an eye roll and a, “Yeah, that opened three years ago.” But this time it’s different! A ha. I am finally in the know.
The bar at Reunion Surf Bar, complete with giant-sized bartender. Cowabunga, indeed.
Reunion Surf Bar 44th Street between 8th Avenue and 9th Avenue, New York, NY. Reunion is an almost-hidden bar in Hell’s Kitchen (aka Culinary Wasteland) that is, for now, a spacious, dimly lit, surf-themed bar with potent cocktails and a creative bar menu that highlights the cuisine of Madagascar (Reunion island is off the coast of Madagascar). Videos of skaters and surfers play on the flat screen TVs as a “Gidget” vibe hangs heavy in the air. It isn’t fake or overtly kitschy – it’s just genuine and laid back and a welcomed oasis in the center of midtown Manhattan.
On the menu:
Hang Ten cocktail
Le Americain sandwich
The Hang Ten and the Mai Thai
Verdict: YUMMM OH THANK YOU JESUS YUM! I can’t tell you what a relief it is to now have a delicious cocktail bar with incredible food situated a few short avenues from my office. Or maybe it’s not a relief to my ever shrinking bank account. Whatever.
The cocktails at Reunion are the perfect blend of potent and smooth. I hate when a bartender feels like they need to put enough alcohol in your drink to make you drunk after three sips. I’m not 19… I mean, 21 anymore, Bar Man. Make me a nice-tasting cocktail. Becca and I started out with $3 grapefruit/vanilla shots (yeah, Happy Hour til 8!) and swiftly moved on to cocktails: the Hang Ten was exceptionally delicious, and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t traditionally enjoy a sweet drink.
The standout of the evening, however, was a sandwich called Le Americain: a baguette split open and stuffed with won ton meatballs, a sweet-mustard chutney, melted gruyere, and FRENCH FRIES. Did you hear me? I said a SANDWICH stuffed with FRENCH FRIES. The waitress told us it was “huge” and easily split between two people but truth be told… we could have each eaten our own. It’s just that delicious.
Or we’re just fat.
I can’t recommend this bar enough, so hit it before it fills up with suits and Bridge-and-Tunnelers. Because you know that it will.