March Madness

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Ladies and Gents, March Madness is upon us. Co-workers, friends, brothers, sisters, dads, moms, husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends – everyone I know is watching young college basketball players dominate all over the country. Basketball brackets are on top of mind and weekends are filled with NCAA watching.

As I’m relaxing at home on this cold, snowy weekend (happy spring), I wanted to make a wintry cocktail that I could sip on and cozy up with throughout the Saturday/Sunday games. A nice Black Russian seemed perfect. It’s easy to make and even easier to enjoy… Here is how I made mine for this afternoons game watching!

Ingredients:

  • Stoli Vodka
  • Kahlua

Recipe:

  • 1 Part Kahlua
  • 2 Parts Vodka

Instructions:

  1. Fill a rocks glass with a good amount of ice
  2. Add ingredients into the rocks glass
  3. Stir ingredients together with a classy stirrer
  4. Enjoy!

P.S. Here are some weekend dessert recipes to enjoy as well – Chocolate Covered Strawberries and Blueberry-Orange Tart!

The Sea

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{The Sea menus}

So… there’s something I need to tell you… and you may judge me just a bit for it. I am not a big sushi person. I know, I know NOT normal BUT I am open to eating sushi on occasion. Sushi outings were never a big part of my life until I started dating the boyfriend. He absolutely loves sushi and could eat it every single night if he had it his way.

To mix it up and to celebrate our last night in Boca, we decided to have South East Asian food. Just five minutes away, lay a restaurant called The Sea. It’s supposedly one of the best in town but we had to taste it in order to believe it. What initially sold me was that there was not only sushi but a variety of asian food – think, pad thai, dumplings, edamame etc.

We started off with Aji Tuna Pizza and oh my goodness I have never had anything like it! Topped with Aji Tuna, cilantro, avocado, wasabi mayo on a baked tortilla – this pie was was really amazing. It was light and crispy, a perfect meal to share with everyone. I’m a big mayo fan so the drizzled wasabi mayo was the ideal touch. The presentation was wonderful too – sprinkled onions and green herbs made the pizza that much better.

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I loved the vibe of the restaurant. Wooden chairs, wooden tables and romantic decor with very cool light fixtures surrounded the entire scene. The windows were all open to let in the warm Florida breeze and blue curtains draped down the sides to make it more of a comfortable feel. 
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Just like the Aji Tuna Pizza, the sushi presentation was very impressive. We ordered Salmon Avocado Rolls (pictures to the left) and Tuna Tataki rolls (pictures to the right). The rice was perfectly salted and just the right amount of sticky which made it really enjoyable.  The seared tuna and the salmon were really fresh and smooth too. Overall, the dish was gone in two seconds… and I had more than half of it!
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The Thai Spring Pork Dumplings were mmhmm good. I am a big dumplings fan so I tend to always add some sort of meat to the meal order. The steamed pork dumplings were served with a sweet soy reduction which was really yummy.
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And the best for last – the Berry Berry Sake Martini. I have never had a martini with sake so this was new to me but oh so delicious! It didn’t have that strong gin after taste which paired nicely with the asian food. The menu had an extensive list of martini’s, but the berry berry seemed perfect for me because the blackberries and blueberries seeped straight to the bottom of the glass. 
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Restaurants and food experiences can really make a trip. This particular trip was filled with amazing food, unforgettable experiences and wonderful company to top it all off. If you ever make it down to Boca, make sure to make your way to The Sea, it’s truly worth it.

Tipsy Parson

Belly Filling Goodness

– Tipsy Parson

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Whenever friends come to visit, I always want to show them the coolest, yummiest spots in New York City. There are tons of amazing places to choose from so I never want to let anyone down especially if they are visiting for just a hot minute. Sunday brunch is definitely a BIG event which I take very seriosuly but at times it can be tricky to find the perfect brunch spot for larger groups. I am a pretty big foody and I love reading reviews or asking friends for restaurant recommendations.

I ended up choosing Tipsy Parson, recommended by a friend, and let’s just say it was southern comfort galore. Absolutely delicious & had just enough space for a large group. Not only was the food filling but it was extremely tasty and it reminded me of a nice home cooked southern meal. The staff was friendly and attentive – southern hospitality at it’s best. The overall vibe was charming and it brought back memories of my trips down to Charleston where I love exploring the food scene.

We started off with drinks and an appetizer – a Spicy Bloody Mary pitcher and a Tipsy Palmer pitcher (sweet tea, fresh mint & vodka) along with an order of “Frickles” (fried pickles) dipped in buttermilk dressing. All so perfect. 

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We all ended up ordering different dishes which made it so much easier to try multiple meals from the extensive menu. From the Biscuit Bomb to the BBQ Pulled Pork Spoonbread to the Farmstand to the Granola and the Savory Biscuit, the dishes were perfectly sized and we all left with our tummies very satisfied.

I had the Savory Biscuit with pimento cheese (I only recently found out how much I love pimento cheese) and scrambled eggs. The biscuit was warm on the inside and the pimento cheese was amazing. The combination of the three flavors worked really well together and let’s just say there was nothing left on my plate… 

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My friend ordered the the BBQ Pulled Pork Spoonbread which consisted of pulled pork topped with fried eggs and oozy bbq sauce. It was a mix of smokey flavors and the eggs ended up being a perfect topping.  The pork was tender and the corn bread was a nice balance to all of the rich flavors.
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 My very good friend Caroline (and roommate from college) had the Farmstand which made it to the very top of my list. Two poached eggs with veggie and greens sound simple but the pesto and almond pieces were the cherry on top. The meal had pieces of artichokes (which i love) peas, tomatoes and salad. The poached eggs were runny and really worked with the pesto and veggie flavors.
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Now this meal was pretty intense and unique but definitely super cheesy which is ALWAYS a good thing. They call this the Biscuit Bomb! Fantastic name, right? I unfortunately do not eat sausage so I disappointingly was not able to have a taste but holy heck when the plate came out oozing with cheese, it looked unbelievable!

The biscuit bomb is stuffed with country sausage and cheddar cheese. Doesn’t that sounds amazing?! The side of scrambled eggs may have been too much of an addition but you can choose to have the Biscuit Bomb on it’s own or I saw it ordered as an appetizer too.

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 Last but definitely not least, the Granola. Granola CAN be boring – but not this magic granola. The granola pieces were sweet just like frosted flakes but it was balanced perfectly with the non fat greek yogurt. I loved the preserved fruits too which had a syrupy flavor to them. A healthy meal that is deceivingly sweet = best of both worlds in my book. I almost ate the entire thing (after I finished the savory biscuit).
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Since brunch is a must do meal and calories don’t count on the weekends, Tipsy Parson is a MUST try. There is something on the brunch menu for every craving – sweet, savory, cheesy, eggy, waffly etc. The cocktails are on par, the service was really great, the food was perfectly seasoned, and the ambiance was super cute. I can’t wait to go back to try the Shrimp & Grits which is all I’ve been reading about.

Do you have any favorite brunch spots in NYC? I would love to know so I can add them to my list of places to try!

Recap

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2.24.15 was an amazing day. I truly had the best.time.ever and discovered that maybe 25 won’t be so bad after all. Mother/Daughter day went even better than I had imagined. Our first stop at 11:00 am was Maison Kayser for breakfast (a french bakery/restaurant). We had fresh croissants, warm baguettes, scrambled eggs and hot skim cappuccinos.
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After our carb-load, we walked over to Skin Spa where we spent most of the afternoon getting pampered – facial, massage, you name it. I was pleasently surprised with a bottle of Veuve Clicquot that we sipped on throughout our pampering session. That was the cherry on top of the afternoon. 
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 A day at the spa reminded me that I should really take care of myself once in a while. No wrinkles for me, please! 
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After we finished our spa treatments, we walked down Fifth Avenue and stopped by some of our favorite stores. Zara was at the top of my list this time around.. The day went by so fast we hardly realized it was time to head home to get all dolled up for our night out. I was so excited to dine on a fancy shmancy meal and happy that my brother would be joining us too. I’ve been to Le Bilboquet a few times and even though it can be a bit stuffy, the tuna tartar, foie gras and steak frites are just to die for.

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24 was great but 25 will be even better!

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

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Dark chocolate and strawberries make a deadly combination. I love both ingredients and I will argue that dark chocolate is indeed good for you! The other night, I wanted to make something chocolatey that would satisfy my craving but would only take me a few minutes to prepare. Since I love fruity desserts, chocolate covered strawberries sounded perfect. I bought a box of delicious, large, sweet strawberries and got started  – take a look!
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Ingredients:

  • 2 chocolate tablets of Valrhona 71% cocoa (the best chocolate)
  • 1 crate of large strawberries
  • ¼ stick of butter

1. Combine butter and chocolate pieces into a double boiler. Stir until mixed together

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2. Dip strawberries into chocolate and place on parchment paper
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3. Place chocolate covered strawberries in fridge until chocolate is hardIMG_5227Bon Appetite – enjoy!

And the Oscar Goes To…

Tonight is OSCAR night! If you had a chance to read my Grammy Awards post, then you know I am a big fan of watching award shows and eating treats all at the same time. Tonight, I am sitting back and snacking/cocktailing with a few friends while we watch all of the beautiful red carpet fashion as well as the actual ceremony of course.

I have seen a handful of movies that are nominated but I know I will need to put many more on my must see list after tonight’s show. Take a look at the snacks & bites my friends and I put together for the big night! And of course we are going to have Petee’s Pie for dessert too……..oscars

{Image Via}

We started with Mama K’s Artichoke Dip which was excellent…

Ingredients:

  • 1 can (14oz) can progressing artichoke heart .. Or other brand
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 clove chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 round  bread to set it in

Directions:

  1. Drain artichoke and squeeze all the juice out
  2. Put all ingredients except lemon juice in a bowl and mix with hand mixer or blender
  3. Add lemon juice on top
  4. Cut open the bread and pull inside our the bread out in order to make a bowl dip
  5. Pour mixture into hole
  6. Bake 350 degrees for 20 mn or less until top slightly browned
  7. Serve with crackers

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We also snacked on Paula Deen’s Crab Dip which was absolutely delicious as an app.
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After the watching all of the fashion walk down the red carpet, we dined on my friend Alisen’s unbelievable turkey burgers with brie, cranberries and fresh rosemary.
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We sipped on cocktails throughout the night (orange/peach/mango juice with champagne and a drop of St. Germaine) and tallied up our oscar ballot predictions (winner get’s a bottle of champagne)! And voila – how to have a great Oscar’s Night!

Mini – Boulettes En Sauce

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Whenever I go home for a weekend, my mom & I love to pop open some champagne, read through recipes from her extensive cookbook collection, and pick out a meal that we can really enjoy making together. We always make sure to choose a meal that will satisfy our moods at that moment in time. It’s our “thing” to cook together & I would’t have it any other way.

Mini-Boulettes aka. meatballs have always been my go to comfort food and when prepared with the right sauce and sides (we chose rice & carrots), it is oh so yum. We picked out this recipe from an older french cookbook and it was pretty perfect for our family night in. Paired with a nice glass of red wine, the Mini-Boulettes En Sauce were truly the best.

Meat Ingredients:

  • ½ cube of vegetable bouillon
  • 75 grams of breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoons of Maizena
  • 1 egg
  • 1 chopped small onion
  • Salt/ Pepper
  • 400 grams of minced meat
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 pinch of oregano

 Preparation for the meat:

  1. Dissolve the vegetable bouillon in 50 ml of hot water. Mix flour and bread crumbs separately. Add the bouillon to the flour mixture and let it rest for ten minutes. Incorporate the chopped onion, egg, salt & pepper. Add minced meat and mix it all together with your hands.
  2. Make mini rounded boulettes with your hands and fry on pan with butter.
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    Sauce Ingredients:
  • 1 vegetable bouillon cube
  • 1 chopped shallot
  • 1 grated carrot
  • 1 chopped turnip
  • 1 chopped celery stick
  • 50 ml of heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon of flour
  • 1 teaspoon of tomatoe paste

Preparation for the sauce:

  1. Boil 300 ML of water and add the bouillon cube. Once the cube is melted in the water, add all of the chopped vegetables. Cook for 15 minutes. Pour mixture in a blender and puree the mixture. Put the puree in a pan. Separately mix the heavy cream and the flour in a bowl. Add the heavy cream mixture to the puree mixture. If the sauce is too thick, you may add some bouillon water or a little bit of plain water. Add tomato paste.
  2. Adjust the seasoning if necessary.
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    Once everything is ready, nicely plate it, sprinkle some parsley atop,  and you’re all set!

Blueberry – Orange Tart

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 I can’t stop thinking about warmth and summer probably because this freezing February weather is unfortunately going to linger for a bit longer. With summer on my mind comes images of fresh fruit, especially blueberries. I love all fresh fruit but blueberries particularly remind me of sitting on a warm beach on an island in Greece… I tried this recipe on this cold afternoon and I have to say it was pretty fabulous. IMG_5197

  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, melted & cooked
  • 4 ½ tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 5 ½ cups of fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Juice of and finely grated zest of 1 orange
  • 2 tablespoons quick- cooking tapioca
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In medium bowl, combine flour, butter and 3 ½ tablespoons of powdered sugar. Press dough in a thin layer on the bottom and sides of an 8-in square pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm. Prick dough all over with a fork and bake crust for 25 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove from oven and cool.
  2. In a medium sized saucepan, combine 4 cups of blueberries, granulated sugar, orange juice and tapioca. Blend well and let stand for 15 minutes
  3. Cook the blueberry mixture over medium heat until mixture comes to full boil. Reduce heat and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring constantly and lightly crushing berries with slotted spoon against sides of pan. Add orange zest then remove from heat. Cool for 15-20 minutes.
  4. Pour cooled mixture into baked tart shell and chill for 30 minutes. Top with remaining blueberries and continue chilling.
  5. Before serving, sift remaining 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar atop tart.

IMG_5201 IMG_5203 IMG_5204With a glass of prosecco, in front of the fire, it was a perfect afternoon treat that hit the spot.IMG_5216

Travel Guide // Cocktails & Bites in San Fran

Top two questions always on my mind before visiting a new place is where can I eat the best bite & where can I drink the best cocktail? ! I’m a big fan of gathering recommendations through word of mouth and I’m also a huge Yelp fan. I really believe in reading reviews and customer experiences. Here are a few restaurants and bars that really stood out for me on this trip!

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{ Mint Cotton Candy Dessert – picture taken at The Slanted Door }

Bites:

Nopa // This restaurant is first on my list because it is an absolute MUST. The atmosphere was really fun and very nouveax American. I loved my meal – a plate of housemade pappardelle infused in an incredible bolognese sauce and parmesan cheese sprinkled on top. Appetizers consisted of fried broccoli and sardines – both really tasty. Plants and greenery surrounded the tables with geometric shaped lights hanging from above . It should definitely be on everyone’s top restaurant list. * Note: You must make a reservation a month in advance or you will not be seated.

 + Papito // I love Mexican food but I just can’t seem to find a great place in Manhattan which is a real bummer. But in SF, totally different story. I was walking around Hayes Valley and all I wanted were a couple of tacos and a giant margarita. It was my first day in the city so I had no idea where I was going. I quickly “yelped”  Mexican restaurants around the area and *bam* a huge list of four-star places appeared on my phone screen. Papito, an organic Mexican restaurant, had unreal pastor tacos ( pastor = marinated pork shoulder, roasted pineapple, onions, cilantro, salsa verde) and the guacamole was so yum. I was also very content with my Pomegranate Marg. I highly recommend trying this place for lunch!

The Slanted Door // This restaurant is located inside the ferry building and has an amazing view of the bay bridge all lit up at night. My experience here was honestly a bit iffy. The cuisine was modern Vietnamese and the restaurant layout was pretty with huge windows overlooking the bay and the bridge. For apps, my friends and I ordered the Crispy Imperial Rolls & Vegetarian Spring Rolls – all very good. For the main courses, we all shared the lamb rack, the short ribs, scallops and jasmine rice. The meal was definitely pricey and the service was below average, which was fairly disappointing. A few orders were missed and the waitress/hostesses were not very friendly. But something tells me to give  The Slanted Door another try, especially after trying their mint cotton candy dessert…

Super Duper Burger // I sadly did not make it to In-N-Out Burger because believe it or not there was only one in all of San Fran (near Fisherman’s Wharf). Luckily, as soon as I saw the bolded words Super, Duper and Burger I hopped & skipped right to the front. Super Duper Burger is an SF burger chain located all around the city. The burger was so.juicy.so.good. The brioche bun was intertwined with two patties and the perfect amount of cheese was oozing out on my plate. The fries were so crispy and also had the choice of ordering a basket of garlic fries. I am a huge burger/fries aficionado and was overall very impressed with this find.

2836825b6d75d1d4e89648adc1d99457{ cocktail image from Pinterest }

Bars & Cocktails: 

The Tipsy Pig // This place had such a cute & sweet atmosphere. A few friends and I stopped by right before dinner for a drink or two which was perfect. There is a lit up outdoor area with wooden benches where we all sat outside in the warm January Cali weather. Christmas lights wrapped around all of the trees and there was a very American rustic feel. I had two very different cocktails – Strawberry Fields which was a bit too sweet for me and the Mariposa Gimlet which ended up being jusstt right.

+ 15 Romolo // This bar was a real hidden gem that I would have never found if I wasn’t hanging out with friends whom have now become SF locals. It is a bigger sized bar located down an alley just a few flight of stone steps up. The atmosphere was very hip and very grey cave like. It reminded me of the hidden speak easies in Manhattan. The Pimms Cup is their famous cocktail on the menu and I definitely recommend it.

Vesuvio Café // This is a really classic bar and should be a definite must visit. The setting is really quirky and very cool with an eclectic set up. The walls are filled with poetry, pictures, actors, actresses, quotes and phrases. Red velvet textured curtains draped across the windows and it was once upon a time Jack Kerouac’s favorite bar. It felt like an old saloon from way back when, filled with a lot of charm and history. A historic bar everyone should try.

Grammy’s & Pie

I absolutely love award season…. The beautiful clothes, the excitement and all of the anticipation keeps me guessing “who will win, who will win!?” Below is a list of unbelievable performers that I have my $$ on (figuratively speaking) winning in a few top categories tonight. Who do you think will win?

  1. Album of the Year: Beyonce, Beyonce
  2. Best New Artist: Sam Smith
  3. Record of the Year: Shake It Off, Taylor Swift
  4. Song of the Year: Stay with Me, Sam Smith
  5. Best Rap Album: The Marshall Mathers LP2, Eminem
  6. Best Pop/Duo Performance: Bang Bang, Ariana Grande, Jessie J & Nicki Minaj
  7. Best Rap Performance: i, Kendrick Lamar
  8. Best Rock Album: Songs of Innocence, U2
  9. Best Country Album: Platinum, Miranda Lambert
  10. Best Rap Song: We Dem Boyz, Wiz Khalifa

Watching these award shows on Sunday nights is never complete without some sort of treat. Ask anyone I know and they will tell you that if it was socially appropriate to start meals with dessert, I would without a doubt.. A cute, cozy pie business just opened up on the Lower East Side of NYC and I already have had my fair share of pies since they’ve opened. Tonight will be no different…Petee’s Pie (perhaps the cheeseburger pie) will definitely be calling my name as I watch gorgeous performers take the stage. Happy Grammy’s night!

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   { Image from peteespie.com }

 *** You can also follow me on twitter to see what I have to say on tonight’s show– https://twitter.com/cestmoinatasha