As you may have guessed from my previous post, I was not looking forward to Thanksgiving in Orlando.  Thanks to my publishing job, I had already been to Orlando for conferences twice in the last year, and one of the last places on Earth I wanted to go was back to that land of manufactured reality.

It turns out that all my self-indulgent whining was just that: self-indulgent and whiny.  We had a fantastic time at Harry Potter World.  And the Thanksgiving buffet?  Well, all-you-can-eat crab legs and dessert don't suck at all.

And did I mention the bottomless Champagne?  I might be coming around to buffets after all...

That said, we had lots of amusement park food: soft pretzels, hot dogs, fries.  So, by our last night, I was more than ready for some real food: we made reservations at Emeril's Orlando.  I was skeptical...but it was everything I had hoped for: delicious food, gorgeous list of wines by the glass, and attentive service (but not overly so).

We started with the New Orleans Barbecue Shrimp, which came with a diminutive but delicious rosemary biscuit.  The sauce added a touch of heat but it didn't make me scramble for my water glass (which is a good thing).  We also started with oysters in a creamy sauce with frisée and bacon.  It was okay...but I realized that I really love my oysters raw and adorned with only a squeeze of lemon; with all the other goings-on, I could hardly taste the oyster.  I drank a glass of Champagne, which held up to the barbecue shrimp surprisingly well.

Adam and I shared the duck duo for the main dish, which included a perfectly seared duck breast and duck confit.  Brussels sprouts and steamed potatoes were served with it.  And because we were having duck, I naturally drank Pinot Noir with it, specifically Foris Pinot Noir which is from the Rogue Valley in Oregon.  It was one of the rare times that Adam admitted my wine paired with the dish waaaay better than his beer.  I won, I won!

For dessert, we shared a vanilla crème brûlée which...I have to say...might be the best crème brûlée I have ever had.  How they got that thick sugary crust caramelized so perfect, I will never know.  It was outstanding.  The server recommended a glass of sweet bubbly for a pairing, which was lovely, but I was sort of jonesing for the espresso Adam ordered - it covered our table in a fragrant cloud.

It was an amazing meal with my amazing family, and it reminded me that my attitude can be such utter crap sometimes.  Orlando isn't that bad.  I'll never forget the trip and I'm so glad that we went.

I hope you all had a lovely holiday (you USians, anyway) with loved ones!

Eat, drink, and celebrate family.


Happy Thanksgiving

Well, lovely readers, I'm off for the holidays.  Think it's odd that I haven't mentioned what I'm making for Thanksgiving?  That's because I won't be making anything this year (nor did I last year - I was in Anguilla, eating grilled local crayfish).  This year....wait for it...I will be eating at a Thanksgiving buffet in ORLANDO.  Or-friggin-lando.  A million self-pitying sighs.

But before you feel too bad for me, let me tell you why we're going there.  We're finally taking Bug to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, otherwise known as Harry Potter World.  And the best bit is that Bug doesn't know: we told her we didn't have money to travel since we're saving up for a European trip next summer.  But we're going to wake her up on Thanksgiving morning and, with her bag already packed, tell her we're leaving on a jet plane to Harry Potter World.  Bug's love of all things Harry Potter has been documented here, and this is going to be nothing short of outstanding.

Parents of the Year Award?  Perhaps.  No, no, no.  I'm just happy to be nominated by the Academy.

Before I take off, though, I must share with you these fantastic stuffed fruits and vegetables from IKEA:

I'm in love.  I can't tell which one I want more, the broccoli or the carrot.  The strawberry is too predictably girly.  Wouldn't these make fun gifts for young foodies...or old ones too?  (Enormous thanks to my pal Marjorie for the link)

Well, guys, I'm off.  I'll be back next week with picture of the buffet in Orlando!  You excited?  Yeah, I thought you might say that...

Eat, drink, and do it for the kids.


Risotto with Leeks and Shiitake Mushrooms

Risotto is one of my favorite things.  And not just one of my favorite foods but one of my favorite things...ever...out of all things.

I've been in a funk for the last couple days, brought on in large part by an email from Bug's teacher, letting us know about our daughter's defiant behavior on a field trip.  I take this sort of thing so personally and, even if it's not rational, I feel like I have failed in some way.  Ugh.

So it's times like this that I make risotto.  It's a solid 30 minutes of standing in my kitchen and calmly stirring, stirring, stirring.  It's meditative.  It's surprisingly easy to make.  It's comforting.  Rather than running all over the kitchen, I get to stand in one place.  I can even make it with a glass of wine firmly in hand.

I have had the recipe for this risotto from Bon Appétit since 2007 (here's the original).  Inexplicably, I let it sit and never made it.  I've made some changes to the recipe I linked to - first, I didn't add an actual shaved truffle.  I mean, seriously, who does that?  Especially a family of three during a weekday.  And in this economy.  Additionally, I used vegetable stock, like the recipe says, but it gave the risotto an odd orange color; I'll use chicken stock next time.  Lastly, the recipe said to roast the mushrooms and onion for 45 minutes, but that was waaaay too long in my oven - they were blackened to a crisp and I had to pick out only the good ones.  So beware the cooking time.

Adapted from Bon Appétit, September 2007
6 servings

2 large leeks (white and pale green parts only), halved, sliced thick
3/4 cup whipping cream

1 pound shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, cut into 1/3-inch-thick slices
1 large onion, halved, thinly sliced lengthwise
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1 tablespoon white or black truffle oil
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, divided
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups arborio rice or medium-grain white rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
5 cups hot low-sodium chicken broth (Note: if you run out while making the risotto, just add water)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons white or black truffle oil (optional)

Chopped fresh parsley
Freshly grated Parmesan

1. For the leeks: Bring leeks and cream to a boil in heavy medium saucepan.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer until leeks are tender and cream is thick, stirring often, about 15 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper. (Do ahead: Can be made 1 day ahead.  Cover and chill.  Rewarm before using.)

2. For mushrooms: Preheat oven to 400 degrees, Fahrenheit.  Toss all ingredients on rimmed baking sheet.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast until mushrooms are tender and light brown around edges, stirring occasionally, about 35 minutes.  (Do ahead: Can be made 2 hours ahead.  Let stand at room temperature.)

3. For risotto: Melt 2 tablespoons butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add rice; stir 1 minute.  Add wine and stir until almost all liquid is absorbed, about 1 minute.  Add 1 cup hot broth.  Simmer until broth is almost absorbed, stirring often, about 4 minutes.  Add more broth, 1 cup at a time, allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding next and stirring often, until rice is tender and mixture is creamy, about 30 minutes longer.  Stir in leek mixture, mushroom mixture, remaining 2 tablespoons butter, cheese, and (if desired) truffle oil.  Transfer to large bowl, sprinkle with parsley, and serve.  (Alternatively, you can transfer the risotto to individual bowls and serve that way.)

NOTE ON KID-FRIENDLINESS: I made this kid-friendly in the last step.  Before adding the leeks and mushrooms to the risotto, I transferred the plain risotto to a bowl for Bug and garnished heavily with Parmesan.  The heavy use of Parmesan helps mask the pieces of chopped onion in the risotto.

Eat, drink, and stir your way out of a funk.


Weekend Plans

What are you doing this weekend?

I'll be enjoying a lot more of this, as it's so fleeting and it's one of my favorite things on Earth:

I'll definitely be doing more of this because I finally bought my own skates...which means I skate for FREE at Bryant Park:

I'm still formulating my menu but I think I'll be making THIS for a dinner party tomorrow night.

So what are your plans?

Eat, drink, and make the next two days count!


Linguine with Brussels Sprouts and Speck

"Pasta?  AGAIN?!"

That was the plaintiff cry from Bug a couple days ago.  But you know what horrible kind of mother I am?  I didn't care about her pasta prejudices.  It's finally cool enough outside that I can keep the pasta pot boiling for an hour and it won't make my kitchen unbearably hot.  I adore pasta in the fall.  Pasta, to me, means endless possibilities and a blank canvas.

So it's no surprise that I tend to go overboard.  Last winter, I made a deal with Bug that I'd limit my pasta dishes to only once a week.  Which didn't keep me from stretching it...I made linguine one night and then, two nights later, I claimed that risotto wasn't pasta - "it's rice."  Similarly, I tried to convince Bug that orecchiette was actually "ears," which - of course - she didn't buy for a second.  *shoulder shrug*

I maintain that I make the menu, do the shopping, and do all the cooking.  And most of the clean-up.  So they'll eat it and, by god, they'll LOVE it.

First up is this awesome recipe inspired by one I found in Saveur (which was created by Missy Robbins of A Voce): Linguine with Brussels Sprouts and Speck.

The joke in the family is that I say every recipe I make is "so easy."  Adam or Bug will say, "This is great!  So good!"  To which my standard reply is, "And it was so easy!"  And, like all things that are said too often, it has become an inside-joke in our family.  But this really is easy.  Not to mention that it's super kid-friendly - it was really easy to add just the speck and ricotta to Bug's pasta and then the Brussels sprouts separately to ours.

Lastly, I'll add that this is a different way to present Brussels sprouts.  By the end of the autumn, I'm so sick of roasted, flash-fried, and sautéed bee-sprouts.  This is a fresh alternative when you need a break from the same ol' same ol'.

Eat, drink, and talk them into pasta.

Inspired by Missy Robbins' recipe in Saveur

1 pound fresh or dried linguine
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
3 cups Brussels sprouts, quartered
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces speck, sliced into ribbons (can substitute with pancetta or prosciutto)
1 sprig rosemary
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (can substitute with Parmesan)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper

1. Put a pasta pot filled with water on high heat and bring to a boil.  Put about 2 tablespoons of salt in the water.
2. Rinse the Brussels sprouts, trim the bottoms, and discard any brown or discolored leaves.  Cut into quarters.
3. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat and add olive oil.  Add the speck and cook for two minutes, stirring until fat is rendered.  Add the garlic and cook for 15 seconds.  Add the Brussels sprouts and saute until browned, about 5 minutes.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Add the chicken stock and rosemary.  Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.  Set aside.
4. Cook pasta according to package instructions.  Drain, reserving a half-cup of pasta liquid.
5. Add the pasta to the sauté pan and reheat over medium-low heat.  Add the butter.  If the pasta is too dry, add just enough reserved pasta liquid to moisten.  Stir in the cheese.
6.  Add pasta to individual bowls and garnish with a dollop of ricotta, a drizzle of good-quality olive oil, and freshly ground pepper.

NOTE ON KID-FRIENDLINESS: I make it kid-friendly in step 5.  Before adding the pasta to the sauce pan, I put a little aside in a bowl for Bug.  I spoon sauce on hers, sans Brussels sprouts, and add speck and cheese for garnish.  Done.

* A thank you for Classic Pasta for the recipe.  I tore the recipe out of my copy of Saveur but proceeded to lose it - I was relieved to find it online!



And the winner of the giveaway for THE FOOD LOVER'S GUIDE TO WINE and WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT is Tanisha!  Congratulations, Tanisha!

For those who read my thoughts on THE FOOD LOVER'S GUIDE TO WINE and either didn't enter or didn't win, I'll take this chance to recommend them again: they're an invaluable resource!

Thanks so much for your comments, "likes", and follows.  I have another recipe post coming up but, in the meantime, make sure to stop by my Facebook fan page, Twitter, and Pinterest.  Seriously, are you guys on Pinterest?  I'm addicted...

Eat, drink, and thanks for playing!



You may or may not believe me when I tell you that I don't know a lot about wine.  I know what I like, of course, and I do a reasonably decent job at identifying what it is I'm smelling and tasting in a glass.  But appellations?  Vintages?  Tannins?  Nope,  I couldn't tell you much about those.  Which is absurd because I've read a lot on the subject of wine.  Unfortunately, none of those technical terms ever sticks in my brain and so I go on, blissfully ignorant, enjoying what I'm sipping regardless.

With that in mind, I really love the books of Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg.  I met them back in 2008 and I've been a fan of both them and their books ever since.  WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT is one of my favorite books; I'm going to go out on a limb and say I use it more than any other food- or wine-related book on my shelves.  It makes sense, of course, seeing as I drink wine with every dinner (and sometimes with lunch), and I consult this book nearly every time.  I also highly recommend THE FLAVOR BIBLE.  I don't use it as much since I don't regularly go off-recipe when making a meal, but it's a brilliant resource when you're cooking off-the-cuff, trying to make something happen from random ingredients in your fridge.  Ultimately, both books are useful, smart, and reliable; I couldn't do without them.

So I was ecstatic to get Page and Dornenburg's most recent book THE FOOD LOVER'S GUIDE TO WINE, which appears to have a lofty goal: marry the concept of WTDWWYE and THE FLAVOR BIBLE to make one major reference tome for food and wine pairing.  FOOD LOVER'S GUIDE, more than the previous two reference books, attempts to educate the reader.  So, while it serves up information in a bullet-pointed style that is easy to read, it still wants the reader to gain knowledge and confidence in drinking and enjoying wine.  First and foremost, Page and Dornenburg want to demystify wine and stress that drinking it is a subjective experience, free from judgement and wrong answers.  I particularly loved this quote from Mark Twain to start the 2nd chapter: "There are no standards of taste in wine ... [One's] own taste is the standard, and a majority vote cannot decide for him or in any slightest degree affect the supremacy of his own standard."  The aim of this book is not to tell the reader what's good and what's bad but, rather, to help the reader understand what it is they're drinking so that they might better enjoy it (or, if not, then understand why they're not enjoying it).

One of the things that I love about this book is the historical timeline.  Yes, Page and Dornenburg actually try to tackle that beast: the history of wine in the United States.  I found out all kinds of trivia, such as the fun fact that Thomas Jefferson reportedly bought more than 20,000 bottles of wine while in office.  The timeline helps give some context to how far we've come in the United States, particularly when you find out that there were more than 2,500 commercial wineries before Prohibition and, after it finally ended, only about 150 wineries remained.  As of 2010, there are more than 6,000 wineries in the U.S.

There are also some helpful graphs and tables.  In particular, Page and Dornenburg include a large list of how to choose wines by flavors, which is extremely helpful for someone very new to wine.  For example, if you love apples, then perhaps you should try Chardonnay (especially unoaked), ice cider, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, or Vouvray.  Being a strawberry gal myself, I see that Beaujolais, Pinot Noir, rosé, and Tempranillo are the suggested wines (and, sure enough, those wines feature heavily in my own wine refrigerator).  I love that tools like this give the reader language and context with which to describe and enjoy wine, especially if you're talking to the salesperson at your local wine shop or the sommelier in a restaurant.

Yet another plus to FOOD LOVER'S GUIDE is the extensive list of wines.  There are wines here that you can't find in WTDWWYE, such as Carmenère.  Another feature is that each wine has "Comparables" listed.  This is where I'll use both of these books as a cross-reference.  For instance, let's say that you've looked up brussels sprouts in WTDWWYE (which actually happened to me the other night).  The only wine that is listed there is Sauvignon Blanc.  Of course, it just happened to be the rare time when I didn't have a Sauvignon Blanc stocked in my fridge.  So I went to FOOD LOVER'S GUIDE and looked up Sauvignon Blanc.  The comparables listed are white Bordeaux, Fumé Blanc, Graves, Pouilly-Fumé, and Sancerre.  Guess who just happened to have a white Bordeaux!  Yep, me, and it went very well with the brussels sprouts.  Don't worry if you don't know any of the wines I just listed - FOOD LOVER'S GUIDE helps you decipher all that.

Last but not least, a major bonus - especially for newbies - is that each wine listed also includes a pronunciation key!  I recently discovered the Bastianich Friulano and had no idea how to pronounce Friulano...but no more (it's free-oo-LAH-noh).  Now I can feel like less of a jerk when I ask for it at Eataly!

All that said, if you're going to pick a single wine book to buy from Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, then I would recommend WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT.  That's the one that you can rush to look at while you're in the midst of making dinner; the best thing about it is that you can look it up by food and that's what makes it completely invaluable to the home cook and wine drinker.  But don't get me wrong - you'll still want THE FOOD LOVER'S GUIDE TO WINE because it does provide more in-depth information and the cross-reference possibilities are huge.  And THE FOOD LOVER'S GUIDE TO WINE provides more educational opportunities.  Really, the two books go hand-in-hand.

In fact, I feel so strongly that both books are essential to the home cook that I'm hosting my very first giveaway on Pinot and Prose!!!  I'm giving away THE FOOD LOVER'S GUIDE TO WINE along with WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT to one lucky reader!  Here are the rules:

  1. Write a comment telling me about a wine you love, or a wine you'd like to try, or a food & wine pairing you enjoy.  Heck, just comment anything about wine.
  2. Then, if you haven't already, go to my Facebook fan page and "like" me.  (Oh, heaven's, I feel desperate asking you to "like" me...)
  3. And consider yourself entered!
Only one entry per person and no family members, please.  I'm going to open it up to my international readers so feel free to enter if you live across the pond.  Enter by 11:59 p.m. EST on Monday, November 7th and I'll announce the winner on Tuesday, November 8th.

Good luck!

Note: I just have to share this inscription that Karen and Andrew wrote in my copy of WTDWWYE back in 2008: "To Laura & Adam - From one compatible pair to another, with our delicious wishes, Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg."  Don't you love that?


My Cup Runneth Over

Leaving publishing and libraries behind recently wasn't an easy decision.  And it still isn't.  Likewise, when I left culinary school two years ago, that was one of the hardest decisions I've ever made.  But it's okay because it's led me here.  I can't believe I'm able to do freelance work, talk about food, take pictures, spend more time with Bug, travel whenever I want...like, as my life.  This is an amazing time for me and I'm loving every second.  I am so incredibly lucky.

Speaking of lucky, it's been a very good few days for me; let's just say that the mailman has been my friend.  Check out all the delicious treats below:

The lovely Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg sent me a copy of their newest book, THE FOOD LOVER'S GUIDE TO WINE (review coming up).  I'm such an evangelist for their FLAVOR BIBLE and WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT - I'm thrilled to be reading the latest.  I now have the trifecta of foodie reference books...and so should you.  Go get them (or give them away for the holidays!).

The awesome folks at Sterling sent me a copy of EDIBLE BROOKLYN: THE COOKBOOK by Rachel Wharton.  I just got it yesterday so I haven't cooked anything from it yet, but I can't wait to dig in.  It's the first cookbook I've seen born from the Edible magazines.

I won a contest!  Thanks to Cooking with Libby and Tate's Bake Shop, I have a copy of their cookbook, TATE'S BAKE SHOP COOKBOOK.  I also got three bags of their Whole Wheat Dark Chocolate cookies.  Review?  So good!  I don't normally like my chocolate chip cookies crunchy but these are different: they have this lacy delicateness to them that I just adore.  I'm happy to dig into these instead of Bug's Halloween candy!

And I won another contest!  In a few short hours, I'll be joining Google Places and Midtown Lunch for lunch at Food Gallery 32!  I have to confess that I've never tried Korean food so this will be a treat.  I'm also going by myself, which means I'll have to be social and introduce myself to strangers.  Eek!

Last but not least, I just found out from a friend of mine that I might be able to see Gabrielle Hamilton speak about BLOOD, BONES, AND BUTTER, a book that I compared to the work of MFK Fisher.  I'm so beyond excited...really, I can't even express it.

And this is my life.  I can't believe it.  And I can't thank you enough for letting me share my food, my drink, and my table with you!

Eat, drink, and cheers to you!  I'll be paying it forward soon, I promise!

NOTE: It's not all fun and games.  In the midst of trying to get my still-life shot, this kept happening: