Fabulous Not Forty Birthday Dinner #1

There are some dinners that were so amazingly special with the right mood and the perfect wine that they are forever emblazoned in your mind.  This, however, was not one of those dinners.  It was memorable for a whole other reason: Mother Nature.

Don’t get me wrong, the food and the ambience were spectacular…and then…it started to sprinkle.  But let me start from the beginning:

We decided to splurge and go on a sunset dinner cruise.  Sounds fabulous, right?  Small boat, captain is also a gourmet chef, BYOW and we’re good to go.  Perfect!  Wonderful!  Very Key West!  Our cruise was originally scheduled for Friday, however, it rained all day (and we’re not talking light drizzling either), so the captain asked if we could reschedule for Saturday night, when the weather was expected to clear off.  Ironically on Friday, the weather cleared off right before sunset and it was a gorgeous night.

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But I digress.  Fast forward to Saturday.  Big day (snorkeling and oysters!), beautiful weather, we were pumped up, dressed up, we had wine for each course, and were excited about our cruise! We show up, meet Captain Alex (James & I–Sissy & TK have taken his dinner cruise before!), take off our shoes (Captain’s orders!), hand over the wine, and climb up to the top deck of the boat, where our table is set up–along with another table for another couple.

The boat heads out to a lovely spot with some great views of the harbor. IMG_0102

We’re drinking wine, talking, and out comes the bread: grilled!  It was so delicious.  Who would have thought to throw the bread on the grill?  Well, Captain Alex obviously, but I certainly would not have.  Needless to say (but I’m saying it anyway), the bread did not last long!

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Not long after the bread disappeared the pre-appetizer comes out: a hand-carved cucumber shrimp boat, with grilled shrimp and a Thai chili sauce. If you’ve never had grilled shrimp with Thai chili sauce, you should DEFINITELY try that at home!

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Next came the appetizers of crabmeat stuffed portobello mushrooms and potato & goat cheese tarts (this all paired really well with the buttery Napa chardonnay that we brought!).

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After the appetizers came the salad–a mango rosemary salad with toasted almonds, mixed greens, white cheddar, a honey vinaigrette dressing, served with a side of rain.

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That’s right…rain.  At first it was sprinkling…so we put on our big girl panties (yes, even TK!) and just hovered under the canopy.  It’ll blow over, we said.  The rain got harder.  Any minute now it’ll stop, we said…the rain continued to get harder.

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Finally Captain Alex announced that the radar showed a massive storm blowing in and we would be safer if we docked.  So, he closed up the grill while we all braved the rain to climb down the ladder and squeeze into the cabin below!

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We opened the second bottle of wine (a big, fat, delicious Texas red!) and once we were docked and could reopen the grill, we continued with the main course: a fresh catch of the day with a spicy peppery sauce, grilled zucchini and a rice dish.

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We wrapped up the evening with the most amazing key lime white chocolate whipped cream & blueberries.  I tried my best not to lick my plate.  And by that, I mean, I waited until no one was looking until I licked my plate.

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All too soon, it was time to say good-bye to Captain Alex and disembark.  I could tell that Sissy & TK were a bit disappointed by the turn of events because they were so excited to share this little treasure that they discovered with James & me.  However, I think it was an extraordinary evening.  After all, when you have great friends, great wine, and great food–who cares when Mother Nature throws a storm your way??

Better Than Sex!

Sigh.  Okay, here’s the deal: I thought I would be proactive and upload all of the photos from my FL trip.  The problem with that is whenever I go to my photo library to see what I want to write about next, I see all my Harry Potter photos from Universal Studios and suddenly THAT’S what I want to write about.  However, my OCD won’t let me write about Orlando until after I finish Key West.   Don’t get me wrong, Key West was amazing and amazing and even more amazing.  But Diagon Alley has a dragon!  That breathes fire.  A FIRE BREATHING DRAGON!

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If I were more technologically savvy, I could get the video to play…

There isn’t much that can compete…except, maybe…a grilled chocolate and cheese sandwich.

“What the what?,” you ask.  Oh yes, I said grilled chocolate and cheese from a fabulous little dessert restaurant called Better Than Sex (you can’t make this up, people!).  There were a plethora of tempting desserts from which to choose, however, since I feel that cheese is non-negotiable in my life, when push came to shove that’s what I picked.  Dark chocolate and brie grilled together on homestyle bread, topped with cinnamon and powdered sugar.  It was served with a strawberry champagne dipping sauce…and it was divine.

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chocolate grilled cheese!

Are you drooling yet?  You need to be!

Being the GENIUS people that we are, we all picked a different dessert to try (and share!).  While I think each preferred our own, I will confess that Tracy’s order of the signature dish was a very close second to my concoction of melted cheese and chocolatey gooey-ness!

Tracy ordered the Better Than Sex

Tracy ordered The Better Than Sex

Jamie's Kinky Key Lime Pie

Jamie’s Kinky Key Lime Pie

Christi's Peanut Butter Perversion

Christi’s Peanut Butter Perversion

NOW ARE YOU DROOLING?!?!?

Of course, there was quite an extensive list of dessert cocktails, along with a great wine list and the usual dessert drinks.  Even the coffee was fancy, with the option of a chocolate rim.  I enjoyed the delicious coffee as is, but Christi ventured out with a pretty white chocolate rim!

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It’s a tiny restaurant and always packed, so either make a reservation beforehand or be prepared for a wait (don’t worry–it’s well worth any wait!).

Better than sex?  No–but pretty darn close!

A Peep at My Sweet Tooth

One of the earliest memories I have is going with Granny to the nursing home to visit her father, Pa.  We never stayed long, just a few minutes (probably because she had a little rugrat in tow!)–just long enough to say hi, ask how Pa was doing and hand over a bag of candy.

My great-grandfather, you see, had a sweet tooth–and not just one either!  He could easily eat a large bag of candy in one sitting.  In order to make the candy last longer than 2 hours, Granny would give the bag of candy to the nurses and asked them to ration it out so the bag would last all week.  Of course, Pa was having none of that: once his daily ration was consumed, he would then start raiding candy stashes of everyone in the nursing home.  Apparently, Pa was quite the candy thief.

It is, therefore, little surprise that his great-granddaughter inherited his sweet tooth.  I’m not a big candy fan–I mean, don’t get me wrong, I like candy and will happily indulge–but I much rather prefer cake and ice cream and pudding and pie and cheesecake and cream puffs and…well, you get the picture: things made with love–not in a production line (although, yes, I will concede everything I listed can be made in a production line).

EXCEPT one thing.  It’s completely irrational and totally disgusting and why, why, why I love them I’ll never know, but I do.

Peeps.

Yes, marshmallows dipped in sugar.  I’m not proud, but there you go.  Take a minute to make that face.  Yes, that face–you know that scrunched-up-I-can’t-believe-I’m-actually-hearing-this face you make it whenever you come across the rare individual that actually admits to liking Peeps.  You know, the same one you make when you hear that someone likes Vegemite. The BFF tries her best to indulge my predilection for Peeps (she will NOT under any circumstances acknowledge my voracity for Vegemite, except to say that I’m gross!).  She tries to get me Peeps for every holiday where they make an appearance (which, anymore is ALL OF THEM), such as for example:

HALLOWEEN!

HALLOWEEN!

And in case you’re wondering, NO, I did not eat the entire package in one sitting, much to Pa’s dismay.

An Apple a Day

Anyone in the health industry will tell you that there is a lot of truth in the old adage: an apple a day keeps the doctor away.  Apples are high in fiber and antioxidants and something I’ve never been a big fan of until moving to NYC.  I mean sure, if you set a slice of apple pie al a mode in front of me I will insure every single crumb is consumed, but to just eat an apple because?  Nope.  I would eat an apple because they’re relatively inexpensive and good for you, but not because I loooooooved it.  Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate apples–I just prefer…um….almost every other type of fruit, except honeydew melons.  Then, it happened.  I moved to New York State.  THE BEST THING, in my humble opinion, about living in New York State is having an actual season of Autumn (as opposed to Texas where Autumn is classified more as “finally, a break in the heat wave”).  What, might you ask, does one do in Autumn?  Thank you for asking: pick apples.  But this is not a post about picking apples, because I have yet to actually go to an orchard to pick apples.   What I do is go to the Farmer’s Market and pick apples.

Check out all those apples!

Check out all those apples!

The first thing you need to do is branch out of red delicious and granny smiths.  A quick Google search will tell you that that there are over 7,500 varieties of apples world-wide.  WHAT THE WHAT?!?!?!?  Honestly, I was expecting and hoping for a 100 to wow & amaze you.  Guess who’s wowed and amazed now?!?!?!?  Before you write in and tell me that there are lots of varieties of apples available in Texas, I’m just going to tell you that fine, there are.  But I found my (current) favorite apple that was created here in the Empire State: empire apples:  they are crisp, slightly tart, with a sweet, clean, burst of apple finish.  more flavorful than red delicious, more tangy than galas, a lot less tart than a granny smith.  I also really love honeycrisps, thanks FB post by Carrie, who proclaimed them to be her favorite. I like that they are crisp and tangy with a honey finish (I’m sure lending itself to the name!).  My advice on honeycrisps: let them set for a few days–the longer you leave them, the sweeter they become.  I was so excited to try a honeycrisp, I had one on the way home and honestly, I was slightly disappointed–as they were by far the most expensive–and to me they tasted a lot like a granny smith (imagine if you drizzled unsweet honey on a granny smith–that’s what it tasted like to me).  It took a few days (i.e. I ate the rest of my apples) and difference was completely noticeable, leading to a complete change of heart (thanks Carrie!)!!

I could go on and on about all the apples I’ve tried, thanks to the Farmer’s Market at the Ferry Terminal, but this is a birthday post for Chelle, so I feel that a little splurging is necessary.  I found these tasty little morsels in the latest Food Network magazine.  I do have to admit that I haven’t tried them yet.  But c’mon, it’s a apple pie bite on a stick–how can you go wrong?!?!?!  Of course, I use empire apples–like granny smiths are firm enough to hold up…unlike, for example red delicious which get schmushy–yeah, it’s a technical cooking term (at least in my house!).  Oh and just in case you’d like to add it to your Food Network recipe box, there’s a link on the title.

Apple-Berry Pie Pops

3 apples (such as Golden Delicious and/or McIntosh), peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup raspberries
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 14-ounce packages refrigerated pie dough
1 large egg, beaten
Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

Toss the apples, raspberries, granulated sugar and lemon juice in a large bowl. Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the fruit mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples aresoft and the raspberries break down, 8 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour, cinnamon and nutmeg and stir until the juices begin to thicken, about 1 minute; set aside to cool completely.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and line2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Unroll the pie dough on a lightly floured surface. Cut out 2 1/2-inch rounds with a cookie cutter or glass (you should get about 48 rounds). Arrange half of the rounds on the prepared baking sheets; put a rounded teaspoonful of filling in the center of each. Brush the edges of the dough with water, then top with the remaining dough rounds, crimping the edges together with a fork to seal.

Brush the pies with the beaten egg and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Cut a small X in the center of each to allow steam to escape. Transfer to the oven and bake until golden, 22 to 24 minutes. Let cool slightly on the baking sheets, then insert a lollipop stick into each. Let cool completely. Store in an airtight container up to 3 days.

Here’s what they should look like (hahahaha…I mean, I’m just admitting right now, mine won’t!)

My Kinda "Lolli" Pop!

My Kinda “Lolli” Pop!

Easy as, well you know ;- )

Happy Birthday Chelle!

Mini-Update

As, you may recall (or know if you actually know me): I wrote about the virtues of the banana pudding at Magnolia. IMG_2482_2

Well, I stopped in today…to celebrate…well, insert something here:_____________________!!!

And what I discovered is that Magnolia now offers a “mini” size of the delicious crack filled pudding (of course, I’m kidding about the crack–it’s filled with bananas and vanilla wafers of course!).  This is great news to me…and anyone else who can gluttonously finish off a large if the situation calls for it.  It appears to be 1/2 a cup, indulgent but not gluttonous: THE perfect size.

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Thanks Magnolia!!

Cupcake Wars!

Of late, cupcakes are THE trendy dessert choice.  Makes sense–small, individual sized cake.  Your very own and small enough to not feel like you have to share…unless you’re one of those people.  But, in case you hadn’t guessed, I’m not.

My biggest problem is that–at least thus far–I have yet to find a good cupcake here in NYC.  The biggest cupcake rivalry is Magnolia vs Crumbs.  And New Yorkers are, like with everything, very opinionated about their cupcake loyalties and one is often identified as such:  Yankees or Mets, Giants or Jets, Knicks or Nets, Magnolia or Crumbs (I jest slightly–you might be forgiven of your cupcake preference, but not your sport affiliation!)

I choose: neither.  I find yankee cupcakes (as I like to call them) dry and tasting slightly of cardboard.  A fact that they try to mask with a plethora of icing.  And if I have to pick based on icing, since that is pretty much all I’m going to eat anyway, I’d go with Crumbs.

That being said, however, I frequent Magnolia a lot more than Crumbs.  Why?  Two simple words:  Banana Pudding.  Quite simply put, it is THE best banana pudding I have ever had in my life.  And I looooove banana pudding, especially my Granny’s (DO NOT SHARE THIS INFORMATION WITH HER PLEASE, she’d never forgive me..even if she’d secretly be happy not to have to make it!)

So when in NYC, don’t give in to the cupcake hype–go to Magnolia and get the banana pudding.  You’ll thank yourself…and maybe me.