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Posts from April 2013

Speck and peas: pizza


When I'm trying to come up with pizza ideas, I'll think "pasta." Conversely, when I'm pulling together a pasta dish, I'll think "this would work with pizza." It's obvious why. Pasta is made from flour and water (sometimes egg) and pizza dough is made from flour and water. When pizza is done well, you'll even have that layer of dough right under the toppings that has the consistency of a noodle. Pizza carbonara and pizza all'amatriciana? Of course.

Since the speck and peas and pasta with cream sauce experiment, the thought of applying the same approach to pizza had been rattling around in my head. I took a few minutes yesterday to poke around the internet before I jumped in, and found that Jim Lahey has a recipe for prosciutto and pea pizza in his book 'My Pizza.' I took his idea of using bechamel and off I went.

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Speck and peas and pasta: cream sauce


The fella from and I were emailing each other about food the other day, as we generally do, and the subject of speck came up. Speck is sort of like prosciutto, but it's smoked, which means it might even be better than prosciutto.  iamnoachef had just got done cooking a pizza with some speck, and my response was to tell him to put speck in his carbonara, since it's smoky, and since he thinks that bacon is an appropriate meat for carbonara. I do not, and this is a constant point of contention. 

He graciously ignored my ribbing, and then we moved on to the idea of pasta with speck (but not carbonara). My mind was now focused on speck/peas/pasta/cream. iamnotachef quickly suggested a bit of mint (inspired) and pecorino romano (which I always pair with pork/pork products).  Off to Fairway I went for the speck (and then to King's for the mint, since Fairway inexplicably didn't have any mint).

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Red's Dips and Flips: West Caldwell, NJ: Chicago Italian Beef [CLOSED]

Sandwich closedChicago Italian Beef in New Jersey

Update (6/2015): Red's has closed. The owner notes that she is looking into starting up a food truck.

For a while there, I guess my entire adult life, I was finding myself in Chicago somewhat regularly, eating.  Chicago is a fantastic city, like no other I've visited, and it has a great food culture.  While many may think "hot dog" when they hear Chicago, or worse yet, "deep dish pizza" (an abomination by any reasonable barometer), I think "Italian beef."  This is because of the undeniable fact that Chicago Italian beef is one of the greatest sandwiches ever invented. I'd say it even comes close to the roast pork Italian coming out of Philly. Close. 

Unfortunately Chicago Italian beef isn't easy to come by in the NY/New Jersey area.  We did have J's Beef in Linden for a brief moment, but after they closed up I figured we were left with nothing.  And we were, until recently.

A place called Red's Dips and Flips opened in West Caldwell.  You heard me: Red's Dips and Flips. And damnit if they aren't serving Chicago Italian beef.  And I suppose flips, too, whatever they are.

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Four Seasons: Nevis, West Indies


While visiting cities and countries and spending 10 days walking around and exploring cultures and sites is certainly fulfilling, sometimes we just want to sit on a beach.  We'll generally alternate between what we call "beach vacations" and "cultural vacations."  In September of 2012, the t:e organization was looking for a beach vacation.

In the running was Mexico and, of course, one of the many islands in the Caribbean.  The missus had visited Nevis some years back and had a wonderful experience at the Four Seasons resort. My arm did not need twisting. 

First things first: you just thought "what is Nevis?"  Or, you knew right away.  It's that type of place. Small. Off the beaten path. And very friggin' awesome.

We flew from New York to St. Kitt's, where we were met by a car service and whisked off to the Four Seasons ferry that would take us directly to the resort on Nevis. I highly recommend this method of arriving at the resort. There's something very relaxing about pulling up to a dock at a resort, rum punch already in hand. 

IMG_0741On the way from St. Kitt's to the Four Seasons Nevis.

IMG_0758Closing in on the resort. What you see is almost the whole island.


Our room was not yet ready when we pulled up to the dock, so we pulled up a bar stool (shocker) at Cabana, the casual beach/pool bar/restaurant, where we would be spending a lot of time this trip. The cocktail list leans toward islandy drinks, and I was fine with that.  

IMG_0791A clear abuse of shallow depth of field. I should be embarrassed.

'Nevisian Smile' - think Pina Colada, but you're sitting next to a volcano in Nevis.

We ordered a tuna nicoise, and what would quickly become a favorite dish: conch with pickled vegetables.  This dish is fantastic.  Tender conch, with pickled cucumber, some sweet peppers, a bit of fresh herb.  The "broth" was briny, not much unlike the liquor from an oyster (liquor is the best part of the oyster eating experience).  I ordered this dish every day. And so should you.



The Four Seasons has two basic rooms (and, of course, rooms that I can't afford). Some face Nevis Peak, and some face the water. We chose the Nevis Peak view, knowing that we'd be upgraded since it was off-season and we booked through American Express, and were very pleased with the ocean view. But I can certainly see the allure of waking up to the majesty of Nevis peak every morning. 

There are several buildings, some of which are in front of pools.  You might consider requesting the buildings that aren't, and request a second floor room, for additional privacy.

There are three pools, including an adults-only pool.  Some basic water sports are available right at the resort, and some decent snorkeling.  Lots of fish and lobsters and sea turtles.  Not the greatest clarity when the sun is behind the clouds, but certainly good enough snorkeling for hobbyists. 

Adults only pool

The golf course is supposed to be pretty good (at the very least, the views are spectacular), but since I don't play I didn't care.  We did, however, spend hours on the golf course, taking pictures of monkeys.  There are monkeys all over the island, much to the chagrin of Nevisians, and a shit load on the Four Seasons golf course. I highly recommend taking a walk up to the back nine to check them out.  They're a funny lot, and if you're vaguely interested in wildlife, they will be sure to keep you entertained for hours. Since it's a decent walk to the back 9, you might want to go to the pro shop and tell them you're going to the driving range so you can get a cart.  It'll cost a few bucks, but it's worth the convenience.  Conversely, you can ask the front desk to have someone bring you up.  Getting back, obviously, is a bit trickier, but at least it's downhill.  Did I mention it's as hot as b*lls in September? Bring water.


If you're like me, you might also spend hours on the beach taking pictures of crabs and birds and the random dog that might make its way onto the beach.  



IMG_3314The beach in front of Sunshine's, Lime, and Chevy's, just down the beach from the Four Seasons.




View from the room


Back to the food...

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Burger Land: Travel Channel

A few months back, Travel Channel aired two episodes of Burger Land, a great show on hamburgers hosted by George Motz.  I figured that was it for the show, but they've restarted with some additional episodes.

George is an affable character with some admirable sideburns and a real passion for burgers.  He did, after all, write the book on the subject.  The show is shot and edited well, and is a real pleasure. Don't miss it.

After catching the third episode, "Hollywood Hamburgers," which featured a place called Pie 'n Burger, I knew what was happening for lunch. 

The Pie 'n Burger cheeseburger consists of two four ounce patties, smashed down with a can of tomato juice, cooked on a flat top, with pickles, cheese, and a Thousand Island style dressing.  It also has lettuce, which I generally skip when making burgers. This style of burger is right up my alley.

Here is what my version looked like.  For some reason four ounce patties on TV are much smaller than they are in my kitchen. I wouldn't recommend eating a burger this rich more than once a week.  Or, whenever you catch Burger Land on TV.