Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Simple Summer Sendoff


Summer is almost over.  It couldn't end soon enough if you ask me.  Although I generally am a fan of summer, love the produce, the sun, the fun, I'm definitely over this record heat.  This summer has been the hottest I remember in a long time.  I'm also not looking forward to the infamously hot subway stations of NYC, so please, heat, go away before I move this weekend.  Thanks :)  Since I'll be leaving summer and my parents' garden behind, I figured why not make at least one more delicious and simple meal utilizing some of our homegrown produce!!  I made a %#*$-ton of nut-less pesto and froze it in ice cube trays to enjoy in the coming months. 

Here is the basic recipe, except I ommited the nuts this time and multiplied it by a million: Basil-Walnut Pesto.  We had a table covered from end to end with fresh Armenian basil from our yard (a purple and green color), and I made several batches of delicious garlicky puree with it!  Today I took some of that pesto, added some fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano (don't freeze pesto with cheese mixed in, mix it in later), some tomato concasée (peeled, seeded, diced tomatoes) from our garden fresh tomatoes, some al dente whole wheat linguine, and some of the resulting pasta water and made a small feast!  We sat in our happy air conditioned world and dined on this deliciously simple pasta, sweetened with bursts of sun-ripened tomato.  I've made a similar variation in the past with a pesto cream sauce and tomato concasée, but this was much lighter since it lacked the cream.  Both are delicious :) I've always known that basil and tomatoes are BFFs, but this dish definitely proves that fact!

Whole Wheat Linguine with Fresh Pesto and Tomatoes
Serves 4

13.25 oz box whole wheat linguine
1/2 cup pesto (homemade or store-bought)
3/4 cup peeled, seeded, and diced tomatoes
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese for serving

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a generous amount of salt and add the linguine. Cook until al dente, stirring occasionally. Reserve several ladles of pasta cooking water, and then drain the linguine in a colander. Return the linguine to the pot, add the pesto and some pasta water, a little at a time, and mix until the pesto loosens up and coats the pasta nicely. Add the tomatoes and stir. Serve with extra cheese if desired.

Monday, August 30, 2010

One Step at a Time


Life is full of challenges.  When I moved to Los Angeles 5 years ago, I shared a one-bedroom apartment with a friend who slept on an air mattress while I slept on a fold-up cot with a permanent ditch in the middle (hello, back pain).  We had a cockroach problem, and I would have to unload half a can of Raid on each of those suckers to get them to stop twitching before I could calm down.  It isn't easy moving to a city and starting from scratch. Oftentimes you're greeted with unwelcome guests, yuck.

In less than a week, I'm starting all over again. You may recall an announcement I made back in May about my upcoming internship at the Food Network, and as the summer has been ticking away I've been preparing for this very major step in my life.  See, I don't consider my 2 1/2-month long internship this fall to be a temporary thing.  I plan on staying in New York City for the long haul, for better or worse (hopefully not worse, that would really suck).  The internship itself is in the Food Network kitchens in the offices above Chelsea Market, a New York City institution.  I am thrilled to call this my job site! It houses incredible restaurants, unique and wonderful food shops, and even some clothing stores.  It's about a block or two from the Hudson River and only blocks from the nearby Meatpacking District and even the West Village and Greenwich Village.  I look forward to learning all that the Food Network has to offer in their expansive kitchens from their knowledgeable staff.  These months will be quite special, I'm sure.

For living arrangements, I have looked far and wide, asked pretty much everyone I know in the city to keep their ears peeled for sublets and other short-term housing options.  I certainly can't get an apartment of my own without any semblance of a real job post-internship, especially at New York City prices.  I have been blessed with a free place to stay!  Did you hear that? A FREE place to stay!  I couldn't ask for more... well, maybe I could :)  It's in a very nice and safe part of Queens, very close to a subway stop which will take me straight to Chelsea.  Picture perfect.  I will have my own room, privacy, etc etc.  A few challenges I will have to face however (nothing in life is handed to you)... I will have to learn to live without TV or internet.  Pause for reaction.  Okay, I can probably live without TV (a lot of people do, but it will take adjustment nonetheless), I have DVDs I could always watch on my laptop if I wanted to (plus I'll be living in freaking New York so why should I stay home watching TV?!), so that's not a huge deal. But internet? What about my blog?! That is of course the first thought to come to mind.  I have a Blackberry to check emails and such, but what about my blog?! And in that case, even regularly reading all my other favorite blogs, when will that happen? Well, if "borrowing" a neighbor's wireless internet is out of the question, I will simply have to limit my blog posts to those brought to you directly from a nearby Starbucks :) Or just type my posts offline and use a flash drive to upload them from an online computer.  A little out of the way, but it will have to do.  I mean, what else are my options in someone else's home that lacks internet?  Especially if I'm only planning on staying a few months.

Also the kitchen is not super cooking-friendly.  I know most New York kitchens aren't due to their size, but this one is cluttered and not used very often, and I'm not quite sure how comfortable I feel rearranging another person's kitchen clutter, mind you I'm pretty sure my vast collection of kitchen items won't be coming with me for these first few months.  So suffice it to say, my recipe posts this fall will probably be limited.  I will focus my posts more on the experiences of moving to and working in New York City, dining in New York City, and the "challenging" world of cooking in New York City... in a small and foreign kitchen... without most of my kitchen tools.  It's almost like Survivor: NYC, or like Mission: Impossible, no?  My aptly-named blog will gladly accept the challenge head on, as the almost dorm-like experience will fortunately push my butt out the door to actually experience my new life in this new city (and get some much needed exercise) and probably give me a lot more to write about (from Starbucks, of course)!  I just wanted to make my readers aware of these changes in my kitchen lifestyle that will most likely affect the frequency and general types of posts you will find on Mission: Food in the very near future (September - November).  My readers mean so much to me, and I hope you will all continue to check in to see how my amazing internship and extensive food explorations in this incredibly culinary-centric city will pan out.  Once my internship ends, I really hope to find a more permanent job and an apartment with my very own, pocket-sized, New York City kitchen (hopefully free of cockroaches).  Fingers crossed! :-D

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Spanish Tapas Shark Party!!


Every year when Shark Week rolls around, I see a lot of people suddenly interested in sharks, when they never appeared to be before.  I'm glad to see they're not haters, but I feel the need to point out once and for all that I single-handedly started the shark craze. Sharks have a week devoted to me.  Well maybe not, but I've loved sharks for almost 20 years.  I saw Jaws for the first time back then and was immediately intrigued.  I started collecting and reading shark books, wrote my own shark journal containing information about different species of sharks, and in true Victoria fashion (I'm a weirdo after all) made paper cut-outs of sharks, scuba divers, swimmers, boats, and so on, and would play out various shark attack scenarios when I was bored.  I never said I was normal.  I must say that I truly and deeply LOVE sharks.  I have for a big part of my life.

Some of my friends share this passion, and along with my sister we grew up watching Jaws movies and shark shows on TV.  We share hilarious shark-related inside jokes, and look forward to Shark Week every year.  About a year and a half ago I hosted the first ever Shark Party, which we aptly called "Shark Bowl" since we had it on Super Bowl Sunday (sharks trump football any day, at least when the Patriots aren't playing). The menu was Mexican and consisted of fried fish tacos, mango-radish salsa, pink chili mayo, guacamole, and fresh tortilla chips.  I replicated part of this menu a couple days ago in honor of the upcoming Shark Party sequel.  We never eat actual shark during shark parties.  I don't believe in eating shark, and it's the only animal I won't eat for ethical reasons.  I do like to incorporate fish or something shark-related into the menu.  When planning the menu for our second Shark Party, I took a lot of things into consideration, which I normally do when planning any menu.  Here are some tips for menu-planning...
  1. Consider spacial or equipment limitations.  Don't plan on making all the dishes in the oven, or all of them on the stove-top.  It will make your life extremely difficult.  Think about Thanksgiving... that turkey spends most of the day in the oven, and if you plan all of your side dishes to be baked or roasted as well, you're asking for it.
  2. Try and plan a few menu items that can be prepared in advance, especially if you are feeding a larger crowd and making several dishes.  You can thank me later.
  3. Strive to create a balance in color, flavor, texture, and temperature.  If you can prepare a couple cold items (think appetizers, dips, and so on), those can easily be made ahead of time.  If you make all brown food, it won't look very appetizing.  A meal of fork-tender pot roast, mashed potatoes, and wilted spinach might not be all one color, but it offers no variation in texture and would be better fit in a nursing home than at your dinner party.
  4. A general rule of thumb is to prepare at least one protein (depending on the size of your party), a starch and a vegetable.  You can make a few vegetables, and starches too depending on your requirements, but try not to make the meal too heavy in one department.  Three proteins and one starch would be too protein heavy, but one protein with two starches and two vegetables might be a little side-heavy.  Look at the big picture.  If you are planning a larger scale menu and plan on having more than one protein, make them different from each other!
  5. Use ingredients that are available and in season whenever possible.  Use your visit to the market as inspiration.  If a particular ingredient is on sale and looks fresh, think about ways to utilize it in your menu.  Or use ingredients in your pantry to save on having to buy more ingredients than necessary.  It's much more economical than buying every ingredient you need all at once.
  6. Think about fun themes for your dinner parties.  I've shared some good ones here!  A theme as simple as a food ethnicity or even a season will help you focus your menu in a cohesive direction, instead of having a scattered offering of items that don't seem to go together.  A holiday is already a built-in theme, but even then you can go further if you want.

With that said, I will now share my thought process in putting together the menu for this most recent Shark Party.  I decided right away that I wanted to do a meal of Spanish tapas.  No particular reason other than the fact that I wanted to make tapas :)  I thought it would be fun to make some tuna croquettes and use a shark cookie cutter to make them into "shark" croquettes, but after trying to cut the first few, that plan quickly failed since the filling was on the soft side and the shape was too delicate to bread.  I ended up making torpedo shapes instead (although a couple "sharks" survived as can be seen on the top of the croquette pile!)  The central "shark" dish for my tapas menu did not work as planned, but I made the best of it.  In the end the shape of my croquettes didn't really matter!

I knew that the croquettes would need to set in the fridge, but would need to be fried right before eating, so I started them early in the day, and then revisited them later.  I also decided to make some deviled eggs because those would not be too challenging, could be made early in the day, and were served cold.  I made some mini turkey meatballs the previous day and planned to make the wine sauce before dinner and simply heat the meatballs in the sauce.  That was a brilliant plan and saved me a lot of time the day of the party.  I also quickly assembled the goat cheese-stuffed bacon-wrapped dates about an hour before dinner and just baked them off right before.  During the last few minutes of baking the dates, I toasted up the baguettes for my tomato-rubbed garlic bread (a Catalan tapa), which was a cinch to put together last minute, while the croquettes finished frying.  I asked my sister to cut the fruit and put together the simple sangria, so that's pretty much the only thing I didn't make myself, but it was my recipe based on this one, but using different fruits.  In the end I had five tapas dishes and a specialty drink which were all very different and yet went together perfectly.

**Cold, soft, white and yellow deviled eggs... hot, medium-texture, brown meatballs in a yellowy-brown sauce...  Hot, crunchy/chewy, dark brown bacon-wrapped dates... hot, crunchy/gooey, light brown and white tuna and olive croquettes... hot, crusty, redish, garlicky bread with tomato.**

I also had a good variety of proteins: turkey, tuna, bacon, and egg, with a couple vegetarian options.  Although the shark shape didn't work out for the croquettes, the tomato rubbed on the bread wasn't unlike "blood" and the red wine sangria we had to drink was also red like blood :) The shark tie-in didn't fail completely.  I also provided party favors that were shark-related: shark pens!! At the first shark party I had shark breath mints!  At our Shark Parties we enjoy our delicious meal while watching shark shows or DVDs as well as Jaws for the first shark party or most recently Jaws: The Revenge, the awful last sequel to the original that for some reason we just love (making fun of it)!!  Now that I've discussed my thought process behind this menu and party, I think it's time to move onto the recipes, don't you?

Goat Cheese-Stuffed Bacon-Wrapped Dates
Makes about 40-45

10 oz pitted dates
1 lb bacon (not thick-cut), cut slices widthwise into thirds
4 oz goat cheese, softened (microwave for 15-30 seconds and stir until smooth and spreadable)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Fill a piping bag fitted with a small round tip with the softened goat cheese.  Alternatively if using a disposable pastry bag, fill with the softened goat cheese and cut a small opening at the end.  Using the pastry bag, pipe goat cheese into the hallowed-out middle of the dates, where the pit used to be.  Wrap a piece of bacon (1/3 a regular slice) around the date and secure with a tooth pick.  Place bacon bundles onto a sheet pan lined with foil for easy cleanup.  Bake for 35-40 minutes until browned and crisp.  Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes before serving.
Deviled Eggs
Makes 12

6 eggs
1/3 cup + 1 T. mayonnaise
2 tsp. drained capers
1 T. minced parsley
1 tsp. lemon juice
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Kosher salt to taste

Put raw eggs in a saucepan and add water to cover.  Place over high heat and bring to a boil.  When the water comes to a boil set a timer for 10 minutes, and slightly lower the heat to keep the water at a boil but without agitating the eggs too much.  Meanwhile, prepare an ice water bath.  When the timer goes off, remove the eggs from the boiling water using a slotted spoon and plunge into the ice water bath too cool.  When the eggs have cooled, carefully crack and peel them, slice lengthwise, and remove the cooked yolk.  Set the whites aside and add the yolks to a food processor.  Add the remaining ingredients to the yolks and puree until smooth.  Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed.  Fill a piping bag fitted with a star tip with the yolk mixture.  Carefully pipe the yolk mixture into the empty egg white halves.  Alternatively spoon the yolk mixture into the whites (less pretty).  Chill until ready to serve.

Pa amb Tomaquet / Pan con Tomate (Tomato-Rubbed Garlic Bread)
Serves 4-8

1 baguette
3 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
1/2 a very ripe tomato (cut crosswise), lightly squeezed to remove seeds and juice
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Cut the baguette in half lengthwise and then cut slices on a bias in whatever size you prefer (4-6 pieces per baguette half would be good).  Place baguette slices on a sheet pan and place in the oven to lightly toast for about 5 minutes, until dry on top and barely golden.  Remove from the oven and while still hot rub the whole garlic cloves over the surface.  The garlic will melt/dissolve into the hot bread.  Then vigorously rub the tomato half over the tops of the toasted bread.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and serve immediately while still warm.

Mini Turkey Meatballs in Wine Sauce
Makes about 2 dozen meatballs
(Wine Sauce recipe from Tapas: Sensational Small Plates From Spain by Joyce Goldstein)

For the Meatballs:
1 lb ground turkey
2 slices white bread, crusts removed
1/4 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup minced onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the Wine Sauce:
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. chopped blanched almonds
2 T. chopped parsley
1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
Few saffron threads, warmed and crushed
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 T. olive oil
1/2 cup minced onion
1/2 cup dry white wine
2/3 cup chicken broth

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Soak the bread in the milk and then lightly squeeze out excess milk and add bread to a bowl.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix by hand until well combined, but do not overwork the meat.  The mixture may be soft.  Roll meat into small balls about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.  Place meatballs on a foil-lined, greased sheet pan (for easy clean up).  Bake for about 25 minutes until cooked through and starting to brown.  Remove from the oven and cool if making in advance, or set aside while preparing the sauce if making all at once.

To make a picada, in a small food processor combine the garlic, almonds, parsley, paprika, saffron, a pinch or two of salt, and a few grinds of pepper and process until finely ground. Set aside.  In a large frying pan, heat oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes.  Add the wine and broth and bring to a simmer.  Add the meatballs, reduce the heat, cover and simmer to heat through.  Add the picada and cook for a few minutes longer.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Tuna and Green Olive Croquettes
Makes about 2 dozen
(Adapted from Tapas: Sensational Small Plates From Spain by Joyce Goldstein)

3 cups whole milk
4 oz unsalted butter
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 5-oz cans tuna, packed in water, drained and flaked apart
1/2 cup chopped green olives stuffed with pimento

About 1 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs beaten with a few T. of water
About 1 cup fine dried bread crumbs
Canola or peanut oil for deep-frying

In a saucepan, bring the milk to a simmer over medium heat and remove from heat.  While the milk is heating, in another saucepan, melt the butter over low heat.  Add the flour and stir well to combine.  Cook for a few minutes while stirring, but do not allow the roux to brown.  Carefully add the milk a little at a time, whisking between each addition to prevent lumps.  When all the milk has been added, continue to whisk over medium-low heat until a very thick bechamel sauce forms, about 3 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Remove from the heat and stir in the tuna and olives.  Adjust seasoning as necessary.  

Lightly grease a 9x13" pan.  Pour the croquette base into the pan and spread out to form an even layer, using the back of a spoon or spatula.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours until cold and set.  

Arrange 3 shallow bowls and fill each with flour, beaten eggs, and bread crumbs to form an assembly line.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set that next to the assembly line.  Scoop some croquette mixture with a spoon and using wet hands form it into a 2-inch long torpedo shape or a 1 1/2-inch ball.  Drop it into the flour, roll it around, and shake off the excess.  Dip it into the eggs, drain off the excess, and then add it to the bread crumbs and toss to coat.  Set on the lined pan and continue with the rest of the croquette mixture.  Refrigerate the formed croquettes until well chilled, another 2 hours.

Pour oil to a depth of 3 inches into a deep, heavy saucepan and heat to 360 degrees F on a deep frying thermometer, or until a bread crumb dropped into the hot oil begins to sizzle and float immediately.  Carefully slip a few croquettes into the hot oil and fry until golden, about 3 minutes.  Using a wire skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer to a sheet pan lined with paper towels to absorb the excess oil.  Serve immediately, or keep warm in a low oven until ready to serve. 

Friday, August 27, 2010

Fish Tacos Dinner and Giveaway Winner!


Whoa, I rhymed ;-) First of all I would love to share my awesome dinner tonight with you all.  Some of my newer readers may not remember this oldie, but goodie, from over a year ago.  I made some delicious fried fish tacos for a Shark Party (more on Shark Parties later this weekend...psst I'm having one tomorrow!).  It was a huge hit and about time I made them again! Instead of using mango in the salsa as I originally did, this time I used peaches and it was just as delicious!  I also paired it with some delicious refried black beans.  I put them in a casserole, topped with crumbled Cotija cheese, and baked to melt. Yum yum!!  Add a Corona with lime and you have a great Friday night meal! Check out these recipes and try it yourself.

Perfectly fried panko-breaded fish 

Peach-Radish Salsa 

Now for the CSN Stores giveaway!!  Thanks to everyone who participated! I used Random.org to select a winner and here she is... entry #1, Lucy! Congrats, Lucy! Enjoy your prize :)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Culinary Adventures Through Newport, RI

My aunt has a timeshare, and recently decided to use her allotted time for a week in Newport, RI, which is about 40 minutes from where we live.  They had traveled earlier in the summer and didn't want to go too far.  They couldn't take the whole week off to spend at the timeshare, but didn't want it to go to waste either, so they asked me if I wanted to spend a few days during the week with my cousin in Newport. I said, "Yes, please!"  I could definitely use a few days away from my house, and Newport is a wonderful summer resort town.  Unfortunately for us, we landed here during a week of drizzle and clouds, but we're making the most of it :-D  Our hotel is right in downtown Newport, and we have been enjoying walks to the wharfs, window shopping (and some real shopping), and of course eating!!  I'm pleased to share with my readers some of the lovely eateries we visited, in case you ever find yourself in this beautiful town!

 ~ Day 1 - Dinner ~

Cafe Zelda
528 Thames St
Newport, RI 02840
(401) 849-4002

I immediately loved the decor in this small restaurant space: dark blue walls with thin white stripes, with photographs and models of sailboats throughout the cozy room.  There is an adjacent bar with a door closing it off from the main dining room, keeping the noise level to a minimum.  It's so very Newport :)

Photo from Cafe Zelda website 

We decided to order a couple appetizers to share, and opted for the Warm Gorgonzola Sourdough, which was a thick, gooey, creamy bath of warm Gorgonzola cheese and cream, topped with fresh diced tomatoes, and served with crispy toasted bread for dipping.  It was incredibly mild in blue cheese flavor, with a slight punch of tang at the end.  I love blue cheese of all kinds, and really enjoyed this dip/spread.  The fresh tomatoes were a nice touch of acid and color as well.

**I'd like to apologize in advance, the two photos of the appetizers turned out pretty poor.  I'm  in the process of driving myself crazy trying to take better low-light photos in restaurants, and took these using a higher ISO so they have a lot of "noise" and aren't even completely in focus :( I didn't want to make my dining companions wait for me to try a million different settings, so the quality of the photos suffered.  My entree photo turned out better because I changed the ISO back.  I think using flash can make the photos too bright and washed out.  If anyone has great, sure-fire tips for using a point and shoot to take photos in low light without excessive blur and noise, please let me know!

Warm Gorgonzola Sourdough $9 

Our second appetizer was equally delicious.  It was their take on sushi, a nice piece of ahi tuna, wrapped in seaweed, then breaded and fried to form a crispy exterior while keeping the fish raw.  It was served over a bed of seaweed salad with wasabi, and a ponzu dipping sauce. I loved the texture of this dish, with the soft, melt-in-your-mouth raw ahi with a crispy fried surprise.  I had never had seaweed salad before, but absolutely loved it! It had a crunchy texture and a strong sesame flavor. I could eat a huge bowl of it, and will have to keep that in mind next time I go for sushi!

Nori Wrapped Ahi Tuna $12 

Cafe Zelda offers weeknight dinner specials.  On Monday night they have a small selection of half-priced entrees, while the rest of the weeknights they offer a special prix fixe menu at a very reasonable price.  I decided to order off the regular menu instead of trying one of the three offered half-priced entrees, although a couple of my dining companions tried the specials and really enjoyed their food.  I immediately landed on the scallops as soon as I read the description... native corn, heirloom tomatoes, haricots verts, and citrus vinaigrette. Sold. It was the perfect dish of summer vegetables with my plump sea scallops.  The scallops themselves were a little on the small side compared to some others I've had, but they were delicious nonetheless and the dish was incredibly filling!  I was ready to burst by the end of the meal and couldn't even make room for dessert!  I loved the fresh vegetables on my plate, the sweet corn, the tart and juicy heirloom tomatoes, and the crispy sweet haricots verts.  It was heavier on vegetables than actual scallops, which looked a little unbalanced on the dish, but the five scallops I did have were tender and the meal as a whole was very very filling.

Seared Bomster Sea Scallops - with native corn, heirloom tomatoes, haricots verts, citrus vinaigrette $24 

~ Day 2 - Lunch ~

The Mooring
1 Sayers Wharf
Newport, RI 02840
(401) 846-2260

I remember Giada DeLaurentiis dining here in an episode of "Giada's Weekend Getaways," and the appetizer she chose looked really delicious.  I decided that someday I would have to try it, and that someday finally happened.  The Mooring has a great waterside location with an excellent view of the harbor from both outdoor and indoor seating.  It's a pretty large restaurant with a convenient pay parking lot directly in front.  A giant metallic fish hangs over the bar, a perfect setting in this mostly seafood establishment.

The amazing appetizer that I knew I had to try was the Bag of Doughnuts which consists of fried savory treats very similar to traditional Rhode Island clam cakes.  If you never heard of a clam cake, it's essentially a fried clam fritter, and is oven served alongside white clam chowder.  It's amazing.  I don't often indulge in a series of fried dishes, but on occasion I think it's worth the guilt.  These fritters contain a mixture of lobster, crab, and shrimp and are served with a knock-your-socks-off-amazing chipotle-maple aioli.  If you think sriracha aioli is amazing (and it totally is) this takes the spicy aioli in a mildly sweet direction with just a perfect mixture of flavors.  I would happily bathe in a vat of this sauce.  But I was also quite content dipping my delicious "doughnuts" into it.  Yum!! I would order this again and again, until my arteries crust over.

Bag of Doughnuts - Lobster, Crab and Shrimp Fritters with Chipotle-Maple Aioli $11 

Lunch consisted of sandwiches for both my cousin and myself.  The entrees are the same price for lunch and dinner, and I can't bring myself to spend over $25 on a lunch entree unless it's for something really special, and considering we were eating dinner out as well that night, we both decided to keep it simple.  She opted for the open-faced turkey sandwich with melted Muenster cheese, crisp bacon, basil pesto and fried egg on top. That's a serious sandwich! Mine was a simple fried sole sandwich with tartar sauce.  I thought the fish was cooked nicely and the tartar sauce was tasty, but the bread to filling ratio was a bit bread-heavy.  It was delicious and fluffy, but overwhelmed the delicately tasty fish.  In any case, it was a good sandwich, and the fries were nicely seasoned.  Lunch was filling and satisfying...

Open-Face Turkey Sandwich - Hickory Smoked Turkey, Muenster Cheese, Bacon, Fried Egg, Basil Pesto, Buttered Artisan Bread $12 

Fried Sole Sandwich - Mooring Tartar Sauce $12 

~ Day 2 - Dinner ~

Mamma Luisa Italian Restaurant
673 Thames St
Newport, RI 02840
(401) 848-5257

When I noticed that Mamma Luisa had 4 1/2 stars on Yelp, it immediately intrigued me. That is no easy feat. I perused the menu and started drooling. Everything sounded really good. Reservations made, we were ready to go!  To start, the restaurant is housed in an old Victorian-style house off the main stretch of tourist-populated Newport streets. They serve comforting home-cooked food in an elegant setting.  There are three unique dining rooms, two downstairs, and one upstairs, and an adorable sitting room by the bathrooms.

Sitting room :)

Onto the food... they offer four different types of bruschetta. For our starter, we chose their fava bean version which had a sweet fava bean puree spread over toasted crusty bread, topped with Pecorino Romano and salty prosciutto.  Excellent.  Oh and backtracking to the regular bread, delicious and warm with a jug of olive oil at each table. They charge $1 for each additional basket of bread though, fyi. On another note, they have a separate page on the menu devoted to their vegetarian items, a great idea to help narrow down choices for those with dietary restrictions.

Fava Bruschetta - Mashed Fava Beans, Shaved Pecorino Cheese, Prosciutto $8.50 

Time for awesome entrees. My cousin went with their Tagliatelle al Pesca, which was served in a cute fish-shaped dish.  The sauce was light and simple, a barely-there type deal, but it was perfect with the fresh, sweet, perfectly-cooked seafood. Mine was the Spaghetti Carbonara, or "cholesterol on a plate" as I like to call it. Perfectly al dente spaghetti and salty, crunchy pancetta all coated with a thin veil of black pepper-spiked egg, with some Pecorino Romano cheese and cream for good measure. Finally garnished with one thin, crispy slice of pancetta. Gluttonous Heaven. One of the best Italian meals I've ever had, food done right, great service, cozy but upscale atmosphere, seriously great prices, off the beaten path. Win win win.

Tagliatelle al Pesce - Egg Ribbon Pasta with Sauteed Shrimp and Sea Scallops with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Garlic and Basil $18.50 

Spaghetti Carbonara - Spaghetti with Pancetta, Eggs, Pecorino Cheese, a Touch of Cream and Black Pepper $14.50 

~ Day 3 - Lunch ~ 

Castle Hill Inn
590 Ocean Ave
Newport, RI 02840
(401) 849-3800

I've already sang the praises of Castle Hill Inn, and my love for this gorgeous venue is unwavering.  Although the weather was overcast during this recent visit, with just a teeny bit of rain, it made no difference to the incredible experience.  The service is of course first class.  I have never had a moment of unhappiness when visiting Castle Hill.  It's like a fairy wonderland of awesomeness.  Lunch was no exception.  My sister joined us and started off with a delicious chicken soup with black beans and corn, almost like a tortilla-free tortilla soup.  It was served with grilled flatbread.  She then had the burger, which she loved!  The aioli that topped it was delicious.  My cousin had the turkey sandwich, which she also really enjoyed.

Chicken Soup with Black Beans and Corn $8

Local Grass Fed All Natural Beef Burger - House bacon, Grafton cheddar cheese, shaved onion $18

Turkey Sandwich - Arugula, pancetta, fontina cheese, roasted garlic-thyme aioli, sourdough bread $15

I couldn't resist the sound of their special lunch entree.  It consisted of a tender poached lobster tail perched atop a bed of perfectly cooked English pea, roasted corn, and lobster claw meat risotto. The dish was finished with a tomato-parmesan nage and some basil oil.  Could you resist a dish like that? I definitely couldn't! The lobster melted in my mouth, absolutely perfectly cooked, while the risotto had a great al dente bite and was nicely free-flowing (as risotto should be) surrounded by a pool of flavorful sauce.  Totally worth the price tag.  I practically licked my plate clean... practically.  When it was all over, I whispered sweet nothings to my lobster corpse... like the true food freak I am :-D 

Poached Lobster Tail served over a bed of English pea, roasted corn, and lobster claw meat risotto, with tomato-parmesan nage and basil oil $28

Proud member of Plate-Lickers Anonymous... look us up on Facebook!

~ Day 3 - Dinner ~

The Red Parrot
348 Thames St
Newport, RI 02840
(401) 847-3800

In selecting the locale for our final Newport dinner, our only stipulations were that it be cheap and convenient.  We went with the Red Parrot because it was conveniently across the street from our hotel (and at this point we were lazy) and fairly cheap compared to other nearby options.  It was also pretty average.  The menu rivals Cheesecake Factory's in length at 22 pages!  It has something for everyone, focusing on a somewhat Caribbean, but mostly American palate.  There's nothing exceptional about the food, but if you are dining with picky eaters, chances are they will find something on this menu to eat.  If you're dining with financially-challenged diners, they will find some pretty cheap options here as well.  My cousin ordered a simple blackened chicken Caesar salad, while I went with their jerk chicken wrap.  It was seasoned pretty well with a nice sweet touch of pineapple inside, but nothing extraordinary.  The fries were below average, the tortilla chips stale.  I guess you get what you pay for! The payoff for coming here and saving our money came later with dessert... stay tuned :)

Blackened Chicken Caesar Salad $9.95 

 Caribbean Jerk Chicken Wrap - chicken breast grilled with jerk spices, lettuce, tomato, red onion, grilled pineapple, melted swiss cheese in a wrap $8.95

~ Day 3 - Dessert ~

Cold Fusion Gelato
389 Thames Street
Newport, RI 02840
(401) 849-6777
Here's the payoff.  Luscious, silky, creamy gelato.  Giada ate here during her trip to Newport (along with the Mooring and Castle Hill Inn as well).  The flavors change daily, and on any given day there are about a couple dozen gelato choices and about a half dozen sorbets.  The flavors I went with were mudslide (chocolate with Kahlua, Bailey's and vodka) and toasted sesame and honey.  Wow.  Both were exceptionally good, but the toasted sesame and honey especially was incredibly unique!  Flavors I would never had considered using in a frozen dessert, and now I have no choice but to attempt my recreation of this tasty treat.  Wish me luck :)

And they lived happily ever after.  The End. 


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