Tag Archives: dinner

Celebrating With Special Girlfriends

Celebrating With Special Girlfriends

This past Friday night was very special. I got together with five of my very dear girlfriends for a delightful evening of connection, laughter, food, wine and general merriment! It was a pot-luck dinner and ALL of my friends love and appreciate great food and wine, so the offerings were superb. The occasion was supposed to be a celebration of three of our birthdays (Susan, Monica and me), but because I’m out of the country during the winter months, it has grown into just a great reason to get together and our group expanded to include Kajsa, Cathy and Tina.

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I was responsible for the appetizer and had planned to prepare stuffed mushrooms and a grilled eggplant salad served in Belgian endive. When I walked into Lina’s Market on Centre Street and saw the magnificent fresh figs they had displayed, the plan instantly changed. Instead I made carmelized figs with burrata cheese, with rolled prosciutto and fennel salami – the cheese drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil, fresh lemon zest, finely chopped arugula and freshly ground black pepper. To caramelize the figs, I removed the stem end, cut the figs in half lengthwise, and pressed the cut sides firmly into light coloured brown sugar. I heated a large, heavy sauté pan until hot, then cooked the figs sugar side down until carmelized (only takes a couple of minutes).

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Kajsa was up next with the salad course, which was absolutely brilliant. Kajsa is a caterer and is an amazing chef (as well as a cherished friend and first “adopted” daughter). She came up with this recipe after I told her about a fabulous crab salad I’d had in the JFK Airport recently. She made the salad with a combination of rock crab (from Prince Edward Island where she and her husband, Patrick, have a cottage) and shrimp, all beautifully wrapped in a ribbon of cucumber, served on a bed of mesclun greens, with threads of carrot and a thin slice of lemon to garnish. Gorgeous! None of us wanted to eat these little masterpieces, but we finally did and they tasted as incredible as they looked!

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Susan prepared delicious chicken skewers for our protein and Monica, another brilliant chef and our hostess for the evening, provided a fabulous rice pilaf and some marinated, grilled vegetables to complete our dinner. Kajsa had saved and brought some very special wine for all of us to share and we ate and drank very well all evening!

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Cathy supplied a delectable dessert of frozen green seedless grapes with ice-cold dessert wine from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia.

Dinner was phenomenal, but it was the laughter and connection shared among our group of six that made it incredibly memorable and thoroughly enjoyable!

Until next year, precious friends! xox

Tutto Il Giorno – Always Delightful!

 

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We bellied up to the bar at Tutto Il Giorno in Southampton just over a week ago to share small plates of appetizers and some wine with our dear friend, Sue. We sampled the Burrata (with sweet grape tomatoes and fresh basil), Britto (crispy calamari with zucchini and served with a basil dip), Arancini (local mushroom risotto cakes with a chive crème fraîche and truffle oil), Gamberi (grilled prawns, local asparagus, puttanesca sauce and toasted almonds) and Paccheri (slow cooked beef ragù served Neapolitan style). A beautiful bottle of Italian red wine to accompany and we had an amazing evening of great food and superb service (thanks Christopher and Mark!).

Belly up to the bar!

Belly up to the bar!

This past Friday night, we met up with Sue and another dear friend, Monte, again at the bar for a casual drink, bite and conversation. Sue and I shared the Branzino (fire-roasted whole fish served over an herb salad with a broiled cheese-crusted tomato), Ron enjoyed their featured pasta dish (delicious!), and Monte ordered their Cartoccio (local fish baked in parchment paper with mixed vegetables and seasoned with a roasted tomato vinaigrette).

Cartoccio!

Cartoccio!

This trendy Neopolitan-inspired restaurant opened in 2009 and reflects a chic dining atmosphere and experience. The Tutto legacy began in 2006 in Sag Harbor (now owned by chef Maurizio Marfoglia) when Gianpaolo de Felice and his close friend, David Mayer, imagined having the food of Southern Italy available in the Hamptons. That original restaurant was designed by Gabby Karan de Felice, married to de Felice, partner in the restaurants, and daughter of famous clothing designer, Donna Karan, and reflects the “urban zen” atmosphere (like her mother’s lifestyle store next door). That same comfortable atmosphere was replicated in the Southampton location where you’re always assured delicious cuisine made with local, fresh ingredients under the creative control of Corsican Executive Chef Alex Apparu. In 2014, the Tutto group opened a third location in Tribeca, which we’re looking forward to trying one day.

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Whether you go to Tutto for lunch or dinner, you’ll always enjoy the atmosphere, food that is consistently creative and delicious, an extensive wine list, and friendly and professional service. Before you’re done your meal, you’ll already be looking forward to your next visit. Buon appetito!

Dinner With Elaine

We had a chance to visit with Ron’s third sister (he has four of them – lucky man as they are all amazing women!), Elaine, in Los Gatos, CA, on our recent visit in the area. Elaine is a brilliantly talented lady (as are all four of Ron’s sisters), with a burning passion for travel, art, culture, and decorating. Her taste is extraordinary and she is truly a remarkable woman.

She invited us to her new home and we shared a wonderful evening with her and two of her friends: Mary, who she has travelled to Cuba with on several occasions for cultural expeditions, and Nancy, a long-time friend and talented hair stylist. Instead of going out for dinner, Elaine prepared and served a delicious dinner of BBQ grilled salmon, oven-grilled broccoli Romanesco, asparagus, onion and tri-colored carrot, and boiled corn on-the-cob. When we asked what we could bring, she said that we could do the sauce for the salmon.

Ron and I had enjoyed a wonderful chimichurri sauce before we left Cabo, so I immediately thought that would be the perfect accompaniment to the grilled salmon and mixed vegetables. Elaine had all the ingredients and I used this recipe from New York Times Cooking app as my basic guideline: http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1015299-chimichurri-sauce. Although my picture of my plate doesn’t include the chimichurri, it provided great color and flavor to the salmon and all the vegetables Elaine served. Delicious!

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Leftover chimichurri can be used as the base on toasted baguettes for appetizers, mixed in with beaten eggs for scrambled eggs (green eggs and ham, perhaps?) or omelet, as a pizza or flatbread sauce, or tossed with cooked pasta. It really is a versatile and healthy sauce and I highly recommend you try it! A little taste of Argentina – wherever you are in the world!

Enjoy the Journey!

I LOVE cookbooks and had a massive collection of them in my past life. Wherever I traveled, it seems I picked up a new cookbook and got to explore the foods and flavors of the places beyond the trip itself. I also chose cookbooks of places I hadn’t yet traveled, but LOVED the cuisines, like India, Thailand, Africa, the Mediterranean, etc. I kept a precious few cookbooks when I purged my belongings last year and gifted all of the remainder to charity – paying the incredible gift of amazing food with others who might not otherwise get to experience travel and/or a variety of cuisines of the world.

One of the best ways to get to know a country, a culture and its people is through food and drink. Everything we do socially is centered around them: a first date with drinks and dinner perhaps, holiday meals shared with traditional recipes and loved ones, bringing food to a family to offer comfort and support during difficult times, a business meeting over coffee or lunch, etc. Nourishing our bodies and our souls with good quality food is one of the most important things we can do to honor ourselves and to show our love for others.

It takes time to plan, shop for and prepare good food. The investment is worth it and cooking is one the things I truly love to do. It’s meditative and creative. Like anything, learning the basics and the techniques are important to make the process more enjoyable. Some people have a natural flare and others have to work at it. Absolutely no one knows it all and there is always more to learn.

I worked really hard to write my three cookbooks and I loved doing them. Been there, done that and wrote three books! Now, I’m enjoying preparing food from other people’s recipes or creating things in our kitchen from my imagination (or from memory of foods we’ve enjoyed). This is an exciting new chapter in my life and I’m enjoying trying new recipes immensely.

I’m travelling lighter these days with very few cookbooks but a world of recipes at my fingertips with the internet and some fabulous food sites. One of my favorites is the Cooking App from the New York Times. It has become one of my main sources of inspiration and an absolute delight to cook recipes from. We LOVE Melissa Clark and her fun, fresh approach to food. Her recipes are delicious and videos capture her delightful personality.

As I prepare and play with new foods and recipes, I promise to share them with you. I’ll share great food and hopefully save you the process of finding the best recipes, food and flavors as I find them. I hope you enjoy this journey as much as I delight in sharing it!

On The Road To San Diego

We shared a lovely dinner and stayed overnight with David and his gorgeous girlfriend, Jake, at his newly and beautifully renovated home in Santa Barbara on our way south. When we got back to David’s after a delicious dinner downtown, we found a note on our car that had been left by one of his elderly neighbors to apologize for hitting and damaging the front end of our car which we had left parked on the street. Ironically, we had just had body work done on the BMW convertible in New York and the car was in perfect condition when we started our road trip. We were leaving early the next morning for San Diego, so Ron had to get a repair estimate as quickly as he possibly could before we left the area.

David and Jake

David and Jake

We had picked up a new used car (a 2002 Lincoln LS sedan) in Santa Clara to drive down to ensure that my Mom would be as comfortable as possible as she’d been having recent back issues and we knew there was no way for the three of us and all our “stuff” to comfortably fit and travel in our little BMW. The Lincoln needed a new air conditioning compressor, which our friend, Stretch, had ordered and it was to be waiting for us to pick up in San Diego.

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Ron and I fired up our walkie talkies and got our damaged little caravan on the road to San Diego as soon as he was able to get a repair estimate in Santa Barbara. I was really anxious to ensure we got to the airport on time as my amazing little 83 year-old Mom was making her first solo trip – flying from Calgary, Alberta, Canada to meet us in San Diego to drive the Baja to Cabo San Lucas.

Mom Matthie

Mom Matthie

We got to the airport a little late and I was panicked. Ron found parking first and went in to find her at the luggage carousel while I found my way back to the airport and eventually secured parking. Ron found her there, as calm as could be, after having made friends with the airline escort who took her by wheelchair to the carousel area and, of course, several other people. Whew!

Ron needed to pick up the part for the Lincoln, so we took Mom to a nearby park and had an impromptu picnic (with the delicious sandwiches and food that we had prepared at Ron’s Mom’s home) and Mom and I had a chance to catch up while Ron was gone. We found a well-kept and clean motel for us, the Best Western Seven Seas (http://www.bw7seas.com), that had adjoining rooms for peace of mind. We had originally planned on crossing the border that day, but Mom seemed a bit tired, so we thought it best to let her get a good rest and we’d go into Mexico the following day.

Mom wasn’t terribly hungry that night, so we got her some soup and brought it back to her room for her. Ron and I headed to Old Town in search of Italian food as both of us had been craving it for some time. We wandered around to check out the sights and settled on Jack & Giulio’s Italian Restaurant (www.jackandgiulios.com) for dinner. The meal (we split Angel Hair Mediterraneo and Scampi Alla Giulio) and the bottle of 2009 Castello di Meleto Chianti Classico were great, but the absolute stand out of the meal was the basil orange vinaigrette they used on the salad we started with: an Insalati Cuere di Palma with hearts of palm, greens, tomato, and avocado. We almost licked the plate it was so good (Ron actually ordered more bread to sop up every drop of the dressing). Here is the closest re-creation of that dressing that I have been able to come up with so far:

Basil Orange Pesto Vinaigrette

½ cup fresh basil
2 Tbsp. orange juice
1 Tbsp. grated orange zest
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. white wine vinegar
½ tsp. sea salt
¼ cup olive oil

Add first 7 ingredients to your blender and pulse to chop and blend. Gradually pour in olive oil from the small opening at the top of the blender lid until mixture is completely blended. Chill 2 hours in the refrigerator and serve over greens or use as a dipping sauce for seared scallops or grilled shrimp.

We were really sorry that Mom hadn’t joined us for such a great meal, but she needed her rest after her first solo trip ever and all the excitement of the day. We shared many more great meals with her in the month she spent with us, however, and made some wonderful memories with her.