11.20.2017

Love and Joy Come to You

It's time again for my holiday gift list for foodies, during this most sacred time of the year, when all shopping is permissible and no one can fault you for going overboard!

First up is Oprah's Weight Watchers cookbook, Food, Health and Happiness. I received this as a gift from my friend Melanie this year, and have very much enjoyed its light, yet flavorful recipes for Vietnamese chicken salad, cacao e pepe pasta, and miso glazed cod.


Next up, one of Oprah's suggestions for adding rich flavor to lightened up dishes is Sabatino Truffle Zest, a $15 indulgence that makes a great stocking stuffer, and is head and shoulders above truffle oil at adding the earthy, heady truffle flavor to foods without completely taking over all other flavors like oil does. It's intense and delicious on pastas, eggs, and potatoes, or to enrich a mushroom dish.




Staying on the spice track, you absolutely should buy everyone you know a jar of Trader Joe's Everything But the Bagel seasoning blend. This one's even more affordable, just $1.99, and makes everything you sprinkle it on sing with the onion, garlic, sesame and poppy seed goodness of an everything bagel. Basically, buy this for people you want to like you more, because they totally will. I like to brush boring old frozen dinner rolls with a little butter and then sprinkle it on before I bake them, to add zest. Also delicious on an omelet, especially if you're doing a low carb diet thing and are missing your morning bagel.

 
"But Shelbs!" you're whining, "I need more than stocking stuffers!" Duh, I know. And I got you. Shawn bought me my Philips Air Fryer last year for Christmas, and it has become our favorite appliance. Want chicken wings you can make at home, less greasy than bar food, but more crispy, and with no oil to dispose of or stink to endure? Air fryer. Want actually healthy French fries, crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside? Air fryer. Want crunchy empanadas without the guilt? Air fryer! It's bulky, yes, but we use it almost weekly, and deeply love the degree to which it's kept excess oil out of our diets this year, while still delivering crunchy, crispy food to our bellies.




If you get your loved one the air fryer, you might as well go ahead and get a French fry cutter. Believe me, once you taste how great fries are out of this baby, you're going to want to make them all the time, and cutting uniform fries by hand is a pain. We have this heavy duty French fry cutter. It's boss hog. A little unwieldy on the counter-top. I suggest mounting it so you can be a true fry professional in 2018.




For my birthday this year, I received a box of New York State treats from Shawn's family, and this next gift idea was my favorite of the bunch. Hedonist Artisan Chocolates is a Rochester-based business, and its ginger truffle and pistachio truffle were two of the best things I put in my mouth all year. The Chocolatier's Choice box is $34, just about what you planned to spend on your mother-in-law, no?




I met the proprietor of Syracha'Cuse, another New York-based food business, just a few weeks ago at a tasting in Hamilton. He makes hot sauces and mustards with kick, often using beer crafted by fellow NY purveyors. If you need a spicier stocking stuffer for the dude in your life who likes it hot, I bet this guy will have your hook-up. Plus, doesn't it feel good to shop local? (the correct answer to that is yes)




So that's my deal this year, you guys. Really great gifts, one and all. You could do all the foodstuffs together as one basket of goodies, or package the fryer, cutter, and truffle zest as a truffle fry bundle, or even the chocolates and cookbook together as a "Naughty Holiday, Healthy New Year," idea!


No matter which gifts you choose for those you love this year, make sure it has flavor, and remember, gift certificates to locally owned restaurants never spoil. Love and joy to all of you Hungries! Happy Shopping!

11.01.2017

Vegas Travel Guide: Delicious Strip



Since the terrible events at Mandalay Bay last month, visiting Sin City has seemed a bit taboo. Hopefully, our leaders in Washington will get off their butts and legislate some common sense steps to limit the availability of weapons of mass destruction to mentally ill people. And maybe, just maybe, we can also have a national discussion on how best to increase mental healthcare in this country so that those individuals can be diagnosed and treated before anything like this ever takes root in their minds.

I visited Vegas the week after the shooting, and the mood of the town was somber. It seemed less busy than usual, which was sad, but ultimately positive for a girl looking for easy and last-minute tables at restaurants on The Strip. This was a short trip, with work at the convention center during the day, but I hit a few places you should know about.


B and B Ristorante, in the Venetian, is another stop in the Batali empire of fantastic restaurants. They started us off with a delightful amuse bouche of spiced chickpea bruschetta, but then proceeded to try to upsell every single course thereafter – a tendency I noticed during a couple dinners this trip.


This ball of truffled butrratta wasn’t my favorite bite of the night. It was less creamy than most handmade burrattas, and relied more on the gracious splash of olive oil over the dish for flavor than any of its own merits.


But these brussels sprouts were delicious. Caramelized and flavored with lardon and lemon zest – they were crisp-tender, and perfectly seasoned.


The short rib entrée, served with creamy Anson Mills grits and Barolo wine sauce, was delectable. I loved the fresh horseradish and celery leaf salad over the top, which brightened up the deep, earthy flavors of the wine sauce measurably.


Nutella ricotta crespelle cake was the Italian version of crepes with Nutella and strawberries, except the crepes were crispier, and the Nutella was delivered in a perfect quenelle, whipped with ricotta cheese. Fried hazelnuts over top added crunch, and the mix of both fresh and dried barriers sprinkled over the plate provided nice, sweet contrast.


The service at B and B was impeccable and undeniably fine-dining level, but honestly, it was a touch overbearing. There’s a fine line between fussed over, and being hounded by a man who insists on reading you the entire menu. I prefer not to have that crossed.

Bazaar Meat is a Jose Andres joint at the SLS, and this place is GORGE-OUS. It is also $$$$. And they will try to upsell you into $200 steaks, so hold firm to whatever it is you really want. $540 suckling pig, anyone? That said, it was the best meal of the trip, and you shouldn’t miss it if you want all of the whimsy Jose serves up in DC, with the added panache and magic you can only get in Vegas.


First, kick off your evening with a cocktail I have covered on BHS before. The salt foam margarita is a Andres classic, and though its price has now soared to $16, it’s worth it. This is the most ethereal, refined margarita you will ever drink.




Next up, get you some croquetas de jambon, or ham croquettes for my non-Spanish speakers. You may have had ham croquettes at other tapas restaurants, but I guarantee you’ve never had any fried food this wonderful grace your mouth. The inside was flowing with tiny cubes of salty, fine-textured ham in a savory béchamel sauce, while the outside was perfectly fried in a fragile breadcrumb coating.


Super-giant pork skin chicarron? Yes, please. These actually ARE super-giant, and then when your waiter brings it to your table, he cracks it into manageable pieces with a hammer. Now THAT is entertainment I can get on board with. The cooling z’atar greek yogurt sauce that comes with these is worth the price of admission, alone.


Romaine on ice was supposed to be salad. This is what came. OK. But seriously, the ranch dressing that came with it was so good, I didn’t care that I was expected to pick whole leaves of lettuce up with my hands and eat them.


These bread sticks, or grissini, wrapped with raw steak were fine, and complimentary from the chef, but again, it was the dipping sauce that astounded us. It was a parmesan foam, and I would have eaten it off the corpse of any animal. It was creamy tasting, but lighter than any cheese sauce has a right to be. The texture was light as air, but the flavor had depth and salinity. Excellent.


We split the $95 grass-fed, bone-in strip loin between the three of us, and it was the perfect amount of stunningly tender beef. Pricey, yes. Delicious, YASS.


For sides, Brussels sprouts (again) and fried potato sticks. The sprouts had apricots and citrus and were exceedingly bright and light, which was a nice foil for all the richness going on in this meal. The potato sticks were flavored with malt vinegar, which isn’t my jam, but what can you do? My companions wanted fried potatoes, and these delivered on crunch and salt.


This meal was expensive on the level of, like, you better win money gambling first. And like I said, our very cute waiter, Gerardo, did not wear a 'do rag, but did try to talk us into steaks costing hundreds of dollars. But that said, most of what we ate was absolutely wonderful; levels above anything you’re eating here in good old Binghamton, NY. Jose Andres does not play, you guys. Eat at Bazaar Meat.

The next evening, I saw Cirque du Soliel, which I know is terribly 2003 of me, but I have literally wanted to see it since 2003, so it was a bucket list thing. And it was awesome. But I was not about to actually eat food in Treasure Island, which is the Walmart of strip casinos, so I hot-footed it across the street to the Wynn.

La Cave is a darkened jewel-box of a small wine bar inside this super fancy casino and resort, and I sat at the bar alone and ate two gorgeous little dishes you might want if a late night light bite is what you’re craving in LV.

Crab ravioli were three tiny, perfect, bites of thin pasta enveloping sweet crabmeat in a lemon-butter sauce with grape tomatoes, and arugula. The peppery arugula and sweet tomatoes set off the acidic punch of the rich butter sauce really well, and the ravioli were so delicate, it was like eating clouds.


French onion soup was a little more pedestrian, but still really tasty. Rather than a soup-soaked crouton topped with browned cheese, this tiny crock was crowned with a puff pastry sheet, and the Gruyere melted right into it, creating a seamless cheesy/crunchy dome over the savory soup that was fun to crack with my spoon. Because there wasn’t a mass of melted cheese oozing over the top, I missed the gooey factor I usually enjoy with onion soup, but that didn’t take away from the taste at all.


The service here, even at the bar, was spot-on. My server was friendly and solicitous of my approval without giving me the hard sell on any menu items. He kept my water refilled, and let me order my two dishes one after the other without fussing that I was taking up a bar stool for too long. I would definitely dine here, or better yet, drink here, again. 

Because I was there for a trade show at the convention center, we stayed at the SpringHill Suites Marriott, which was one block off the strip, and I didn't mind that one bit. It was a bit less luxurious than many strip resorts, but also quiet and easy to get in and out of. The Ubers are also very good in Vegas, but beware, from any of the larger resorts, you will play a long game of go seek trying to find where the Hell they're allowed to pick you up. That game took me almost a half hour at the Wynn. 

9.12.2017

Endicott's Newest Italian Star is Framed in Precious Stone Arches

For ages, a little white building on Watson Boulevard in Endicott caught my eye. The owner took his time working on these incredible cobbled stone arches above each window and doorway, and for whatever reason, it captured my attention and my fancy.

That little white building is now Ristorante Dell’Arco, and it just might catch your fancy, too, even if you’re not a fan of architecture. This new Italian restaurant feels very authentic on the scale of Endicott Italian cuisine – I don’t know if it’s because the building feels like it could exist just off a palazzo in a small village, or because the food, despite being decidedly Italian American, is so good. But you should try it for yourself and see.

I’ve been to Ristorante Dell’Arco twice now, once for lunch and once for dinner. I can confidently tell you to try appetizers, and I’ve vetted two of them for you. The bastoncini di mozzarella is what I would dub mozzarella in carroza – that is, it’s basically a deep fried grilled cheese sandwich. I know! So you have two thin slices of white bread jammed with a lot of fresh mozzarella cheese, breaded and fried and served with marinara. It’s a little heavy, but it does not slouch on cheese flavor or the robust crunch you want from a fried appetizer.


The aracini, or fried rice balls, were my favorite of the two, though. This is uncommonly good risotto, first of all – absolutely crammed with high quality, aged parmigiana cheese. The rice isn’t overcooked, either, which often comes with aracini. But the kicker with these babies, served four for $8 in a shallow pool of bright, savory marinara, is the fry on them, which is crispy but also delicate. There is a breadcrumb coating here, but it isn’t so thick as to outshine the rice and the cheese, and that makes allllll the difference. These are outstanding, and would be terrific at Happy Hour, standing in Dell’Arco’s small bar, washed down with a beer.


The pesto here is delicious, and in high demand. In fact, all the tortellini were gone on the night we dined here, so Melinda had to have her pesto on penne. But the sauce was well done – savory and flavorful without being so rich as too overwhelm the palate after just a few bites. I found the pasta to be a bit overcooked, as I did with the next dish, but the flavor was good – basil, cheese, oilive oil and pine nuts all in harmony.


The carbonara was excellent, but on the salty side. If you’re someone sensitive to salt, this will not be the dish for you. But if you like strong flavors and can handle the salinity, this fettucine dish with pancetta, egg yolk, and pecorino Romano cheese is delightful. Again, the pasta was overcooked enough so that by the time I was halfway through eating it, I could no longer twirl on my fork, which is a small ding on its otherwise delicious record.


At lunchtime, you would be wise to order the Tuscan chicken sandwich. That sounds pretty plain, right? On the contrary, this sub (it is not a Panini, as the menu states – not sure what’s up with that) is full of flavor, from perfectly ripe, sweet tomatoes, to expertly fried chicken cutlets, fresh mozzarella, to just a hint of that bright, well-seasoned tomato sauce. This sandwich is plenty big for $9, and is so much more than just chicken on bread.


The Stromboli was, likewise, a gut-busting portion for lunch. It was packed with lots of ham, pepperoni and mozzarella cheese. I did feel like the pepperoni could have been higher quality and therefore spicier, given the robust nature of most of the ingredients at Dell’Arco, but I added peppers to my boli, and they were grilled before going into the dough, which added a lot of flavor to the end product. Another cup of that delicious red sauce was served alongside, and it was more than enough for a hearty lunch at $12.


Ristorante Dell’Arco is still new, as is its staff, so we found that while the service was friendly and punctual both visits, there are still some kinks to be worked out insofar as the servers’ familiarity with the menu and ability to split checks as asked. But by no means did either of those blips ruin our rosy impression of this brand new star on the Italian dining scene. We skipped dessert, as they aren't made in house, but they're pretty standard: cannoli, tiramisu, chocolate cake.


I give Ristorante Dell’Arco an eight on the BHS scale, and I can’t wait to stop in again to try the linguine con gamberetto di scampi and the pork chop with spicy peppers! If you’ve been to Dell’Arco, sound off with your recommendations in the comments! My hunger is big; my personality is bigger! 

9.05.2017

Be Basic as You Like on Route 96

The I’ve been wanting to tell you about this place for a whole year, but I didn’t have the photos to back up my story. I know how y’all like pretty pictures. I also know it’s the end of summer and ice cream is likely a bit lower on your priority list than if, say, this post had gone up two months ago, but let me tell you one thing: homemade pumpkin soft serve. Yeah. So do not ignore this post, is what I’m saying.


Route 96 Owego Soft Serve is basically the ice cream stand of your dreams, and will delight the child in you even if you have no children. First of all, how cute is this place?


In addition to delicious, house made pumpkin and cheesecake soft serve ice creams, they carry the full line of Perry’s hard ice creams, and hand-dipped cones. 


And you can eat them in front of a miniature Texaco station


OR a tiny lighthouse


OR this completely normal house boat thoughtfully docked on the lawn for your ice cream eating pleasure.


I told you this place was a kick! There is a tiny clown car to pose in:


As one does! Seriously, how cute does Melinda look in this itty bitty car thingy?

And even one of these (for you kids, this is a phone booth; it’s what people made calls from when they were out and about before cell phones existed)


This place is not only a playground for your inner child, it also serves slamming ice cream, and even though summer is nearly over, pumpkin season is just beginning, so scoot on over to Owego and get your chocolate dipped, sprinkled cone of sweet and savory spiced deliciousness today!