The Baconing. Frescos – Lakeland, Fl

Since man began eating well, man has known that pigs taste good. What’s the best part of the pig? Everything. If I had to choose one part, for me the answer is simple. The belly. Attempting to research the origins of bacon and other cured pig parts, I found many different claims of invention. Ranging from prehistoric times to the Romans in 300AD, the British in the 12th century, then jumping over to the French in the 15th century. There are also reports as recent as the 18th century when proper bacon was invented by a chap named Wilson Poopoobiscuit. As accurate as I’m sure the Internet is there are two things that I am sure of:

  1. The Jews didn’t invent bacon.
  2. Without bacon in all it’s forms, the world would be like a never ending Cormac McCarthy novel. (Drawn out and dreary. Leaving little hope for humankind)
  3. Canadian bacon isn’t bacon.

Now I don’t understand why, but about 3 years ago bacon started trending. It doesn’t make sense that something so amazing could have ever lost its popularity. It’s cool to like bacon again. If you watch any kind of cooking, food travel or food competition shows, you’ll see almost every contestant using loads of bacon. It’s quick to cook, versatile and hard to mess up. You can eat it at any meal and is used in virtually every cuisine.

I usually don’t work holidays but today was different. I was one of a few people that volunteered to come in on Veteran’s Day. I told one of the guys who would be working that I’d pick up breakfast. The only place near me was the little bakery/cafe I had just raved over on a previous post called Fresco’s.

Something caught my eye as it seemed strange to be included on the breakfast menu. A BLT. Pure American classic in every way. The one thing that stood out and really catapulted my interest in eating a BLT for breakfast was the garlic aioli that it came with. Fresco’s without a doubt in my mind has come up with the best BLT I’d ever had, and guess what? It only cost 5 bucks. So…they make their own white bread which gets them a nice pat on the back. Then they add a generous stack of crunchy romaine lettuce, followed by two perfectly sized slices of firm beefsteak tomato. The bacon was pretty special too. Thick cut and kind of mashed together to form a patty-like conglomeration. There had to be at least 8-12 slices of bacon to form the super bacon mountain. Perfectly crisp enough that it broke off at first bite but also tender enough so that it didn’t shatter to bits. Then a schmear of that garlic aioli. One bite and it was over for me. I couldn’t even wait to drive the 1 minute from Fresco’s back to work. I finished the whole thing in record time sitting in my car. Like the real man that I am. Here is the one shot I captured before it was too late. Enjoy

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If you have any BLT stories, hit us up and we can compare

Fresco's Bakery & Bistro on Urbanspoon

Simple Japanese Tofu Soup & White Bean Hummus

A bitter cold snap ravaged the South this week and left frigid Floridians in its wake. Temperatures plummeted down to the mid 50’s for much of the day on Friday. There was nothing that could have been done. No mitten would soften and warm the piercing chills of that gentle breeze. Nothing maybe except a nice bowl of soup.

I love both of the stereotypical soups you can choose from when you find yourself eating at any Japanese restaurant. It doesn’t matter if you are going to the most terrible of cookie cutter (insert random restaurant name deriving from generic Japanese landmark here) establishments. Or you are going all out at any of the high priced havens around the country ie; Nobu, Masa, Matsuhisu, or Jewel Bako. The one constant is this. They will have some version of either miso or clear soup.

This is my take on a marriage of the two styles.
It’s super easy and can be ready in minutes. I changed some of the ingredients around for personal preference but you can do what you like. Also to make this organic is not going to cost much more than conventional.

20111106-091929.jpg All you need is
48oz chicken broth. You can buy a quart and a pint size at the store.
4 oz shitake (sliced)
4 oz crimini (sliced)
I package silken tofu cubed
I bunch of baby spinach. You can sub in seaweed if you like
5 green onions
2 cloves garlic
4 tablespoons or more Tamari
Fried shallots

ShitakeBasically, you chop all your vegetables and pour the broth in a pot. Throw in everything but the fried shallots. Put on simmer for about 30 minutes or as long as you can stand it. The aroma will be amazing and hard to resist. The longer you let the flavors build the better it will be. It’s worth giving it some time to let the mushrooms release their flavors and allow them penetrate the tofu and broth. I’m not huge on seaweed so I used spinach. Play with it. Make it your own. If you want, adding a squeeze of white miso paste wont hurt but would change the flavor a bit, making it a more complex soup. Once you’re ready to eat, taste and make sure it’s seasoned to your liking. Then pour in a bowl and sprinkle fried shallots on the top. Makes about 6 servings.

The next extremely easy dish I’ve made recently is white bean hummus. I made this for a family get together and it went over very well. It came together due to not having any extra money at the time and just using the things in my pantry and fridge.

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Take all these in items and pulverize in a food processor:

2 cans drained and rinsed Cannellini beans
3 green onions
4 cloves garlic
2 tbsp sesame seeds
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp chili powder
Salt to taste
3 Tbsp Olive oil

It will probably take a little tweaking to get the flavor spot on, but you’ll end up with a nice creamy dip. I used sesame seeds, partly out of necessity and partly out out liking them more than tahini.(sesame paste) Tahini is quite pricey, around $6.50 a can, and I don’t have many uses for it. Plus I don’t really like it that much. I actually like the pop of the sesame seeds mixed with the creamy hummus.
To serve place in bowl and make some divots with a spoon drizzle more Oil on top to create little ponds of liquid gold. Sprinkle with a touch of cumin and coarse salt. Serve with rice or tortilla chips.
I wouldn’t say this if I didn’t believe it to be absolutely true. Anyone can make either of these. I have faith in you.

Big Meals in the Big Apple

Logan recently posed an interesting question that he thought might be helpful to you guys. Now that I’ve been working in in the city for almost a year, what three dining discoveries have I made that would come in handy for someone planning a visit? It didn’t take me long to compile a list and narrow it down to my top three of the moment. Hopefully these suggestions will help everyone from the most experienced New York visitors, to the first timers.

1. Snack 105 Thompson St.

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This little neighborhood gem in SOHO was an extremely recent find of mine, two days ago in fact. I was in the mood for Greek food, and I found Snack just over 4 blocks from my office. A very simple storefront displays a humble four tabletops and a food counter displaying some tasty looking Greek pastries. The menu has all the staples you’d expect, Skordalia, Saganaki, Dolmadas, along with interesting choices like Roasted 1.0 portobello mushrooms, red peppers & arugula with a spicy feta spread on sriracho bread. All the sandwiches are named like versions of software, which can only mean they’re constantly tweaking and improving their recipes. I chose a crisp classic Greek salad (meaning no lettuce) and a side of Skordalia (a puree garlic, potato, olive oil, and lemon juice). All the ingredients were at the peak of freshness, which meant the taste was off the charts. In all honesty, having been to Milo’s and sampling some of the finest Greek food Manhattan has to offer, Snack is easily the next best thing, and at a fraction of the price.

Snack on Urbanspoon

2. Da Nico 158 Mulberry St.

20111102-092310.jpgWhen you’re in the mood for some real homemade Italian food, you’ll find it here. Hidden amongst the myriad tourist trap Italian wannabes in Little Italy, Da Nico is serving up some super fresh cuisine, with a respectable wine list chockfull of some kick you in the teeth reds that stand up to the most robust of red sauces. On a recent visit with my family, we were seeking out a plate of Lobster Fra Diavolo to rival the much touted (by my father anyway) Randazzo’s. While it wasn’t on the menu, our waiter didn’t bat an eye when we made our request. We were met with a manhole sized bowl, overflowing with a whole lobster, fresh clams, mussels, scallops and shrimp. Underneath this ocean’s bounty was a pile of perfectly al dents linguine, and the whole affair was covered in a devilishly spicy pomodoro sauce. With great service, food and atmosphere, you can’t go wrong with Da Nico.

Da Nico on Urbanspoon

3. Eleven Madison Park

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20111102-092557.jpgThe first two entries are excellent, casual dining experiences with fantastic food that will definitely make for a memorable time. But if you want a dining “experience”, the kind of meal that you’ll be talking about as one of the finest of your life, make a reservation at Eleven Madison Park. Upon entering, you’ll be greeted warmly by the maitre’d and the soaring ceilings of the dining room. I have to say this was one of the most beautiful restaurants I’ve ever been to. Almost immediately our waiter was at our side, throughout the meal, he made us feel like we were his only table that night. He also served as our guide through the extensive tasting menu. You’re presented with a nicely designed card (which sets the tone for the whole experience) with a matrix of ingredients. The four rows represent the four main dishes. You choose from a variety of proteins, for instance for my first course I was given the options: trout, crab, quail; 2nd course, ricotta, snapper, lobster; 3rd course, chicken, pork, lamb; dessert, pear, strawberry, chocolate. Since the menu changes so often, I won’t bother going into detail about each dish, but you get so much more than the four dishes you choose up front. Normally a fine restaurant provides you with one or two amuse bouches, but that’s not enough at Eleven Madison Park, no we were presented with no less than five. Live scallops with orange zest, a cold pea soup with Parmesan frozen in liquid nitrogen, oysters, homemade cheese puffs, and my favorite, a beet and goat cheese lollipop. The meal was fantastic and far surpassed my expectations, the wine pairings were perfect for each dish, expertly chosen by our waiter (and sommelier). A highlight was during my duck dish, which was served whole and roasted with skin so crisp and meat so succulent. They proceeded to carve and serve the breast tableside, but to my dismay they took the legs back to the kitchen. Only after I had neatly devoured what was on my plate did the legs reappear, only now they had been cooked confit, in fact I couldn’t even see the meat below the creamy white duck fat, out of control.

Before dessert was served, another round of amuse bouches were brought to the table, an array of chocolates, macarons and caramels (I’m not doing these justice by giving such boring descriptions, they were unreal). Following dessert, we were asked if we’d like a coffee or aperitif, my father chose an espresso along with a cognac, I joined him in a cognac as I was in the mood for a nice warming drink. Rather than pouring us two glasses in the back, our man returned with an entire bottle of fine cognac, and plonked it right down on the table so we could pour ourselves as much as we liked.

This has become pretty long winded but I had to give this place its due. Eleven Madison Park is easily in my top 5 dinners of all time. Usually those experiences break the bank, but you could easily have a very special night for under $300. Like I stated earlier, this is an “experience”. Something that may not happen again, something you will surely never forget. That’s the beauty of this great city, it is what you make of it in every way, especially food. Adventures range from ultra expensive, to the cheapest of cheap. These three restaurants alone are a shining example of the range that NYC has to offer. Such a broad spectrum, there’s a gem out there for everyone.

Eleven Madison Park on Urbanspoon

So those are my picks, those are the places I would highly recommend to anyone planning a visit to my city. I’m sure there will be more great places to come, so feel free to ask. Enjoy!