The Village of Farmingdale has lots of great shops and plenty of dining options, particularly for Asian cuisine. My daughter, aka Little Miss Ciao, enjoys hibachi at Wasabi Japanese Steak House on Main Street, but mostly for the cheesy jokes (egg roll, anyone?) and to catch shrimp in her mouth. The latter tends to make me feel like a seal (clap clap clap), but I play along. It can be a fun dining experience even after you know the shtick. Plus, their hibachi is delish.
But I drew the line on a recent visit. I was enjoying some sushi in the main dining room. Through a dividing lattice, we could see a rowdy bunch of hibachi goers hooting, hollering and really getting into the whole spectacle. It escalated into frat party mode when the rowdy chef – all fire and knives – started squirting sake into their mouths; they were competing as to who could go longest. I made the mistake of watching half-amused as it went on and on. The wild-eyed chef caught a glimpse of me and rushed over, shot his arm with the squirt bottle through the lattice and challenged me as I sat enjoying my safe dragon roll. Here’s more or less how it went:
Overzealous Hibachi Chef: “HAVE SOME SAKE!!!”
Hibachi table: “DO IT DO IT DO IT DO IT!”
In-No-Mood Me: “No.”
Table: “Awwww, she’s lame!”
Chef: “I don’t care! I’ll squirt it in your mouth!!!” (background: CHANT CHANT CHANT CHANT)
Glaring Me: “NO.”
Peanut Gallery: “OH, COME ONNNN!”
There was an anxious moment when I was sure he’d actually fire, but I sat firm with my mouth in a line. I challenged him back with my eyes: “Go on, Punk. I DARE YOU.” It felt like a western showdown. So much for my leisurely dinner.
Luckily, my dining companion chivalrously volunteered and the missile veered off in a different direction. Whew. I was released from the hibachi hostage situation. The moral of the story? Avert your eyes from rowdy hibachi. If unwittingly presented with a squirt bottle, put your finger firmly over the mouth of the “gun” and sweetly say, “Not tonight, honey.” Best not to challenge and fan the onion volcano flames.
The next time I was in Farmindgale, I dined at Tiny Thai, a cozy little restaurant across from Croxley’s Ale House. I sat un-accosted and enjoyed some excellent Chicken Pad Thai. Would I go back to Wasabi? Sure, but only with some protective rain gear, a posse and squirt bottle holster. What’s fair is fair, Pilgrim.
The year’s end always brings forth personal reflection. One may ask themselves, “What have I accomplished professionally?” “How is my family doing?” or “Where is my relationship headed?” This year, I dare you to ask another question; one that reaches deep within the recesses of your very core…“What were my best meals in 2012?”
If you can easily recall some food highlights that spark instant happy memories of time spent with good friends and family, then you’ve had a pretty good year. My most memorable meal in 2012? Bet you can guess. But if you have to think about it reaaaallly hard and are still stumped, perhaps it’s time to hit the dining reset button. And even though I love eating out and will continue to do so, I’m resolving to cook more substantially at home in 2013. We’re already headed in the right direction.
Last week, I spent 24 hours and cracked 497 eggs to make two giant platters of eggplant parm for the holidays. A few nights ago, I grilled some marinated rib-eyes for me and Little Miss Ciao. My New Year’s Eve home dinner plans involve a tuna tartare appetizer, filet mignon and lobster tail main course served with fresh spinach and homemade garlic mashed potatoes. I don’t do the Italian NYE lentils good luck thing, but maybe I should start; if it works for you I’d love to hear it. Anyway, I am reminded of how centering home cooking can be, how much food brings family together.
Recently, I also made a simple, yet heavenly marinara sauce with some tri-colored farfalle. Since we enjoyed it so much, I’m going to share the recipe. There are tons of variations out there, but this is more or less how I learned it from grandma – and you can’t mess with the nonnas. You’ll be amazed at how fresh and vibrant it tastes. Serves 2-3, and of course you can double for more guests.
3 tablespoons Extra Virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2-3 finely sliced fresh garlic cloves (you can add chopped onions, too)
½-1 cup hearty red wine (ex. Merlot)
1 14.5 oz. can Muir Glen Organic diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato sauce
½ tablespoon sea salt (or to taste)
¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper (or to taste)
Fresh basil & parsley, half a handful each. You can also add in a few bay leaves.
Put the olive oil in a medium sauce pan and add in freshly sliced garlic. Saute on medium to high heat. When garlic is opaque, add in red wine and reduce for 3-4 minutes. Add in all the tomatoes, then 1/2-1 cup of water to cut thickness. Increase heat to a simmer, then gradually add in herbs and seasonings, then butter for richness. Cook on a slow simmer on low/medium heat for about 40 minutes. Serve over your favorite pasta, top with some parmigiano-reggiano grated cheese if you wish and enjoy.
Here’s to sharing many great meals with loved ones in 2013. Have a Happy Food Year! Now everybody sing! Should all the lame meals be forgot…
Recently, Little Miss Ciao (aka, my daughter) and I went for a Long Island Foodie jaunt on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. The destinations in mind were the opening of the outdoor Lange Eylandt (Dutch for Long Island) Market and then a storefront called A Taste of Long Island. Our mission was to taste some innovative products crafted by some of LI’s smaller food producers and support local growers.
Our first stop was the outdoor Lange Eylandt Market in the Milleridge Inn Village in Jericho with 20+ food and craft vendors. We spooned our way through some jam from The Jam Stand, sampled some marinade from We Rub You, sipped some soy milk from the Soy Hound and munched on Morning Sunshine Breakfast Cookies and Kitty Lee Thomas gluten-free sweets. There were crafts too, but we were focusing on the fresh and wonderful products placed before us dressed in clever packaging, mostly presented by the people who make it themselves. You could taste the passion in each item and revel in contagious enthusiasm as they relayed stories about how they came to be. At the front of the bustling market was also a farm stand with fresh local produce, and we got to sample some deliciously ripe tomatoes and fresh corn right on the spot. Now little Miss Ciao has an affinity for raw corn, but it just ain’t the same from Shop Rite.
Next stop was A Taste of Long Island Specialty Food Market on Main Street in Farmingdale. The back of the store houses a commercial kitchen shared by many small Long Island based food businesses to create their gourmet or specialty products. In the front, Long Islanders can purchase these wonderful items, which vary from a wide range of baked goods, chocolates and candies, barbeque sauces and salsas, to items produced by local farmers, such as honey, jams, jellies and preserves. Fresh eggs, pasta and produce are also available, and they even feature Long Island wines and craft beers. I even sampled some lavender goat’s milk body lotion from Catapano Dairy Farm. The best part is on Sundays and Wednesdays in the back lot, they put on the Farmingdale Farmers Market. There, you can sample and buy some fare and chat with some of the creators themselves.
The best thing I tasted that day was a superb red velvet cake ball made by Cakes by Kat right in the Taste of Long Island kitchen. It was moist, sweet and an off-the-charts delicious micro-dessert. I also tried some sweet Maple Toffee Peanut Butter from The Three Nuts Peanut Butter Company, which was crunchy, sweet and salty – a real treat.
It was quite a fun day; ideal to take the family, explore these markets and support Long Island entrepreneurs. So, if you’re not up for the drive out to the North or South Forks, this will fill in quite nicely to try and buy fresh, delicious products from Long Island.
Once in a while, I crave a quintessential New York experience. So, after an entire day of exploring Central Park, I was ready for a memorable Italian meal at Tony and Marisa May’s midtown restaurant, SD26, a reinvented version of the legendary San Domenico. The father-daughter seasoned restaurateurs have taken the winning ingredients from San Domenico and placed them in a chic and modern setting – one that seems to closely emulate the vibrant Marisa May.
The lounge sets the mood with glittering glass, sexy leather, and an absolutely huge bar to sit and enjoy a snack or drink for the extensive vino list presented via iPad. A specialty cocktail menu with Marisa’s signature Capri Sunset Cocktail, made with Prosecco and limoncello, offers other refreshing options. Our affable bartender made us feel welcome; pretense wasn’t on the menu. In fact, we were welcomed all over the place. How nice for New York!
Enter the main dining room with twinkling lights that emulate a starry night. Hot red leather booths flank the dining room set against black and white décor. Colorful, eye-catching fiber art from Sheila Hicks hangs above. Private party rooms on the 2nd floor behind smoked glass hints at the parties within with busy waiters flitting in and out. An immaculate open kitchen reveals busy cooks at work, on the other side, a salumi station showcases enticing dried meats and cheeses manned with its own chef who freshly slices orders.
Lovely atmosphere and décor aside, our meal was absolutely sublime. As a small appetizer, we enjoyed Eggplant Terrine with Tomato Coulis, Parmigiano Foam and Basil Pesto, a hearty dish served at the perfect temperature and texture. My dining P.F.C. (Partner in Food Crime) enjoyed homemade spaghetti with garlic olive oil and tuna. He reported that the pasta was cooked al dente, and overall the dish was quite satisfying. While he dove in, I crunched on an absolutely huge Arugula and Endive Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette. It was fresh, bright and palate-cleansing.
After annihilating our appetizers, we had to try their signature dish, “Uovo” Soft Egg-Filled Raviolo with Truffled Butter. It was about the size of a softball, so the extra large spoons served with the dish are put to good use. We spooned into the firm pasta and watched the egg run out and mix with rich ricotta flavored with fresh parsley and cheese. Holy raviolos! This was one phenomenally rich and delish dish.
I opted for a half-order entrée of Seared Sea Scallop with Olive Oil Crushed Potatoes, Summer Truffle and Crispy Prosciutto. The scallops were plump and dotted with pretty petals of earthy truffles. Paper-thin prosciutto added a pleasant salty crunch. Tender potatoes with parsley and olive oil were the perfect accompaniment. Dining P.F.C. enjoyed Olive Oil Poached Cod Fish with Balsamic Caramelized Cippoline Onion and Bell Pepper Foam. It was pure and mild, served what he deemed, “fascinating” artichoke hearts. They were mingled with lemon and some kind of flower essence… was it lavender? Is the Chef out there to comment? I must know! Entrees were also a win.
Memorable meals are all in the details, big and small. It personalizes the experience. I loved that SD26 served miniature biscotti before dessert. A little brownie, some chocolate chip, a caramel wafer, an anise star cookie like my grandmother used to make; it looked like what you’d get at an Italian bakery if you ordered a pound of cookies. But of course, what came before was so remarkable that we had to order the Tiramisu. Cool and creamy, it had a rich crunchy wafer at the bottom and a dusting of cinnamon with a dark chocolate raspberry SD26 circle on top. We put those big juicy spoons to good use once again.
Aspetta! How did a beautifully presented Strawberry Zabaglione end up on our table, too? We quickly dismantled the light flaky layers doused with powdered sugar in between rich cream and impeccably fresh berries. It was served with a hazelnut gelato what was off the charts – pure and unadulterated with a slight crunch – bellissima!
With our finales, we enjoyed happiness in a glass in the form of a lightly bubbled dessert wine with hints of pineapple and apple. And did I mention the service was wonderful, too? I relish the memory of this spectacular meal. Telling you about it was kind of like reliving it, but not really. So I now find myself yet again on the train to NYC. See you at SD26.
Headlining Long Island restaurants, wine and spirit brands, nightclubs, entertainers, hotels and catering halls all joined together for the 2nd annual Long Island Hospitality Ball on Monday, June 18th, held to benefit the American Cancer Society. The brainchild of hospitality pioneer and thyroid cancer survivor, Keith Hart, the event was a true sensory delight, where over 150 hospitality businesses set up poolside stations showcasing their talents. Held at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury on a clear, almost-summer evening, finely-attired folks sampled the fare, tasted wines and liquors, danced, raffled, socialized and networked. At $100 per ticket, not only did folks fully enjoy themselves, they managed to collectively raise $220,000 toward a cancer cure!
Crest Hollow’s pool area was beautifully trimmed and brimming with party-goers. Each of its two small beach-like seating areas had live entertainment, and an upstairs room was pumping with DJ and later, the fun and funky, That 70’s Band. When the sun went down, lit-up bars drew in guests like fireflies. Enormous tikki torches were set ablaze. Lit-up waterfalls created serene spots within the hustle and bustle.
Slicing through the crowd with Skinny Girl margarita in hand, I sampled a bit of sushi from Nisen, some short ribs from Brasserie Cassis, oysters spiked with jalapeno vodka from Old Fields, ceviche from Besito and rigatoni with vodka sauce from Serata. For finales, I enjoyed a silky cannoli cream-filled sugar cone from Ciao Baby and decadent tiramisu cream-filled biscotti from the Garden City Hotel. I also tasted some phenomenal Long Island white wines, but unfortunately hit my limit right when I found a table offering caiparinhas. Full of food and fun from the ball, I opted out of the after party at Four Food Studio in Melville. Maybe next year…Miss Cinderella Ciao needed to go home!
This was an epic event and a true win-win – a delightful time while contributing to a great cause. The 2013 ball is already being planned. If you’re a Long Island foodie, don’t miss it.