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EllyEats

Why Have I Never Tried: Crunchie?

Oh man, I love Crunchies. (I'm a Brit.) I might be wrong here, but I think the English "honeycomb" is what some regions (Buffalo and/or Pittsburgh, judging by my friend) call sponge candy. I also love Violet Crumble (or, Violent Crumple as my Australian cousin puts it); it's a much finer texture and less abrasive to the tongue.

I would give my right arm for a Crunchie right now...

Driving from DC to NYC..where to stop and eat close to highway

Provided the OP does actually want to stop and eat somewhere, I've had a couple of nice dinners along the way without too much of a detour. The Americana Diner in East Windsor, NJ is your typical huge diner, decent food and I've had great service there. In Havre de Grace, MD, the Tidewater Grille is a really nice stop right on the water. And in New Castle, DE, Jessop's Tavern is a good chunk of history with excellent beer and decent pub food. If I recall correctly, none of these is more than a few minutes off 95. We do the trip a lot and often leave from work in NY on a Friday, meaning that we'll want dinner before we arrive in DC at 11pm!

Pet Peeves When Dining Out

I can't believe no one has mentioned the cardinal sin of asking, "Are you still working on that?" It's not just that whole, "it's not work" thing, it also makes me literally think of jaws working on mastication, like a cow chewing cud, which doesn't exactly do a lot for my enjoyment.

Another big one for me: Failing to check on drinks, especially when you're ordering wine by the glass, ESPECIALLY when you're in a nice restaurant. Starting your $32 plate of coq au vin with only the dregs of your Muscadet or water to choose from to wash it down with just doesn't work for me.

Mincemeat

This may be sacrilegious to say so, but I've not found any compromise in flavor by using vegetarian suet since I've been living over here. (Native Brit.) You can get the Atora stuff in lots of supermarkets, or at least online (Amazon has it) and I've really not noticed the difference. I've been using Delia Smith's recipe since the '80s, every year!

Cook the Book: 'Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard'

Watermelon. And, it should be eaten in the paddling pool so you can get as messy as you like with the juice.

Seriously Delicious Holiday Giveaway: Russ & Daughters Brunch Package

A very small, dense, glossy, chewy bagel with cream cheese and Scottish smoked salmon. Just like I used to get at the Brick Lane Bagel Bakery in my hometown, London. Honestly, Russ & Daughters is the only place I've found over here that does the bagels right. Tomatoes, onions and capers are all superfluous when the salmon is Scottish. Maybe a squeeze of lemon and some black pepper. Perfection.

Serious eating with health consciousness in mind.

I'm a shameless foodie and love to cook. I've also lost 55 pounds after a lifetime of chub. I really started to lose the weight after I started cooking for myself and stopped taking advantage of the copious quantities of amazing menus stuffed into my NYC apartment's letterbox. (I now live in the burbs.)

The two main keys for being healthy while eating great food for me were:

1) Start with the vegetables. Most people plan meals around the meat/protein or the starch. I start by thinking, "what veg do I want to eat?" and then think what other things would go well with them. Vegetables bulk everything up - a handful of broccoli thrown into the pasta water during the last 2 mins of cooking; roasted butternut squash in my bulgur and roasted chicken salad. Etc.

2) Go for strong-flavored ingredients. You don't need much cheese if it's a tangy blue, or sharp Cheddar or fruity Parmesan. Also, you DO need a little oil - I use extra-virgin olive oil on nearly everything. There is a world of difference between using none (or PAM) and using even 1 tsp. Especially if you're using any kind of spice or even basic seasoning, the oil is what transports the flavors around the dish.

Therapeutic tedium... or hateful kitchen tasks I strangely enjoy

Snapping asparagus! I know people say that you can just snap the first piece and cut the rest of the bunch at the same place, but there are two things wrong with this: 1) two pieces of asparagus in the same bunch don't necessarily have the same amount of woodiness in the stems and 2) IT'S FUN TO SNAP, darn it! It's come into season with a vengeance in the past couple of weeks ($1.79/pound!), and I'm snapping away to my heart's content.

Anyone have Boston restaurant recommendations?

Oleana in Cambridge is a blissful retreat. Ana Sortun's cuisine is Turkish/middle Eastern influenced, and the food is just incredible. The restaurant itself is in a very pretty area, and the interior is intimate without being stuffy. Honestly one of the best restaurants I've been to in a long time.

Kennebunkport, Maine: what's good these days?

Had a fantastic lunch at Pier 77, it's a beautiful room with a staggering view. Fresh, tasty food, and welcoming but not overly intrusive service. Not sure what it's like for dinner, but we can't wait to go back for lunch.

A little bit outside town, Joshua's is definitely a different scene. It's in an old house, with lots of smallish rooms, and a real focus on "haute barnyard" - local, farmer's market ingredients, and not a lobster roll in sight.

Have to confess a huge weakness for Hurricane's - sure, the food isn't the absolute best in the area, but in terms of conviviality, we just love returning year after year and sitting up at the bar.

Haven't been to Bandaloop in a couple of years since they changed the menu - it's clearly been a successful change, though, as the reason we haven't been for a while is that we were completely unable to secure a table when we went. Serves us right for not making resys...

Cook the Book: 'Endangered Recipes' by Lari Robling

My fondest childhood memory is a bittersweet one; it's for a pie that I wouldn't let myself love, yet would give anything to eat now.

Growing up in London in the '70s, my palate was shaped by a thrifty mum who, despite not having a very large household budget at all, was a voracious and experimental cook. Robert Carrier, Elizabeth David, Jane Grigson and even the Galloping Gourmet were all influences and I enjoyed many a brave experiment in budget gastronomy.

It was when company came that she really pushed the boat out. Her favorite dish to make – and the real indicator that I was going to have a great night as the people coming to dinner were clearly our favorite friends who warranted this dish – was her fish pie. It probably cost more to cook than the weekly budget pushed together, but she’d go to Steve Hatt the fishmonger and get a selection of what was freshest. There would always be some smoked haddock in there.

A rich, tomatoey sauce, plus the unctuousness of a cheesy béchamel combined under the perfect mashed-potato crust; yet therein lay the problem. The inevitable result of tomato and cheese sauce combined was an undeniably curdled appearance. The taste was, to everyone’s declaration, sublime. I just couldn’t get over the fact that it looked like sick.

I would give anything to try that again; sadly, I live 3,500 miles away now, and my mother has moved on to farther-away culinary lands and so it will likely never be made by her hands again. Mummy, I’m sorry I wouldn’t eat it. I’m sure it was delicious.

What do you miss? (to: expats and others!)

Another Brit living here. The things I miss have changed a little over the 9 years I've been here, partly because I'm finding more and more products available here. So I don't have to miss Marmite, Branston pickle, Heinz baked beans & cream of tomato soup, or PG Tips tea. What I do still miss:

*Going into Marks & Spencers and picking out a ready meal for dinner - followed by the Count On Us chocolate mousse
*The selection of candy - I rarely eat candy, but when I do get the urge, I don't want to have to hunt down Crunchies, Maltesers or Bounty bars from a specialist store. I just can't quite enjoy the chocolate here.
*An abundance of convenient, ready-prepared, unusual veggies at a wide range of mainstream supermarkets.
*Taramasalata - available anywhere (again, mainstream supermarkets), not just by hunting down a good Greek place
*Properly spiced Indian food
*The ice-cream fridges in every newsagent (and, for that matter, newsagents) with huge varieties of ice lollies, not to mention the Bounty ice-cream bar
*Being able to buy wine in the grocery store (yes, I know you can do that in many states here, but not in NY/CT and that just bothers me no end)
*And yes, Muller yogurt, but ESPECIALLY Muller Rice.

That said, there are many things this side of the pond for which I'm very grateful, not least the iced water when you sit down at a restaurant table, and getting straws and a napkin when you buy soda.

Did Ina mispronounce something.....

Maybe Martha is an Anglophile? We Brits pronounce the H in herbs. I can't bring myself to do otherwise, and my husband thinks it's awfully cute. I've mostly gone the way of tomAYtoe, though not when I'm on the phone with my mother, heaven forbid.

As for "ahn-deeve," it was someone on Chopped, that was one of the ingredients the other night.

I think someone on the boards railed against "bleu" cheese the other week. I just find it difficult talking about food (and I kind of have to, it's my job!) when I'm not sure, even after nine years of living in the US, how to pronounce stuff. No consistency between Americanizing things and pronouncing them in their natural languages!

Savannah, GA

OH - we also really enjoyed Vic's on the River. The shrimp and grits were absolutely delicious. Good and interesting cocktails, too - the bar area is great for jsut a drink and a nibble if you don't want to commit to dinner.

Savannah, GA

If you go just one place, go to Elizabeth on 37th. I had one of the best experiences of my entire gastrolife there, and that's saying something. The building itself is fascinating - take a walk around first to look at the troughs of interesting herbs and greens growing in the gardens. The interior is an old Victorian house, not too fusty but not incongruously modernized either. (Love the bathrooms!)

I went there with my mother, and we instantly knew that asking our sommelier to pair wines would be a good idea. The food was already extremely good - definitely Southern in its roots, but with inspired takes. But the wine - with pairings that surprised us - really transformed everything. A sneaky top-up pour was often given, which was a nice little fillip. We were expecting to see quite a hefty wine tab at the end, but no glass was more than $13, and we tasted some truly special things.

We were given a salad in between our appetizers and entrees. "Great, a sald," we thought, and took a forkful each. Then we realized that all kinds of ridiculous things were going on in our mouths - things we'd never tasted before. Our waitress came over and gave us a quick lesson on what was what - mind you, this is my mother and I, two English women who have eaten out all around the world and grow our own veggies - and we learned about many herbs and leaves that we'd either never heard of, or certainly wouldn't have considered eating in a salad. A while later she came back to our table with a handful of other herbs she'd picked and washed jsut for us to try.

At the end of the meal, the sommelier gave us a bottle of wine to take back to our hotel - a rep from a vineyard was in earlier, tasting it, and had left a case. They wanted to know what we thought!

I rarely rant and rave about the brilliance of any restaurant, knowing that in many cases, one person's amazing experience might be another thing entirely for another person. But in the gorgeous Savannah, when you will probably stumble across a few sub-par meals if you follow popular recommendations, I truly urge you to give this place a try.

"Secrets of a Restaurant Chef"

I'd much rather watch Ann cooking the crap out of something than watch Sandra Lee cooking crap.

Help make my pea soup REALLY special!

Actually, dbcurrie, rereading your suggestion - would you be able to identify what kind of sherry it was? Was it a dry or cream one, would you say? I used a little Tio Pepe fino in mine, but probably not enough to really impact the flavor. Love the shotglass idea!

Help make my pea soup REALLY special!

I want to try ALL of these! Gosh, thanks so much for the brilliant suggestions. It's an English pea soup (not split pea). I'm thinking maybe a splash of the lovely sherry vinegar I have, plus the crisp prosciutto. Thank you!

Farro spezzato?

It's actually the cracked stuff, not the whole pearls - which is the stuff I'd intended to buy! I'm not confident it can/should be cooked in exactly the same way as the whole grains, that the (delicious, thank you!) recipes above use. It looks a lot like bulghur, so I guess I could just look up recipes for that...

A baked pasta dish to complete my dinner party?

I'm having about 18 people over for a casual get-together on Saturday. On the menu so far: A big baking tray full of Italian sausages, peppers, onions and whole garlic cloves. A make-ahead tray of polenta, baked and sliced at the last minute. (Should I sprinkle anything on top of that?) Salad, and a big plate of cheese, salumi & fruit.

I'd like to add a baked pasta dish too, just in case people don't like the sausage & veggies. I don't want to do anything too elaborate, as I really only have a few hours on Saturday to do everything. Any delicious favorites out there?

Help make my pea soup REALLY special!

I made (and froze) a green pea soup for the first course on Christmas day. It's a nice recipe from Nigel Slater/Nigella Lawson, with roasted garlic, green peas, and chicken broth. I used good broth, and added a little slurp of Fino sherry to brighten it a little, and it's still not "wow!", like my soups normally are. I didn't add the optional cream; I may do, though it's not really a lack of creaminess that's not making it special, it's just an unspecific lack of "wow"ness.

I'm very happy to consider adding some cream to it. Meanwhile, though, what else can I add to help it transcend, you know, pea soup?

Miso-glazed anything-but-fish?

I have a recipe/method for black cod with miso, which I'm very excited about. But the husband doesn't eat any kind of fish. If I make the marinade, is there something I can give the same treatment to - like chicken? Any experiences?

Farro spezzato?

I bought a package of farro spezzato by accident - I'd meant to buy the whole grain to try a farroto, but was in too much of a hurry as usual. I'm expecting I can use it in similar ways to bulghur, but would love to know what other people have used it for - especially in warm recipes as opposed to cold salady-type things.

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