Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Tour of the World... With Part of My Thumb Missing!

So yes, dinner #26 was very fun and all. As Tamy mentioned we were being filmed for a very cool project.  I guess somewhere in between the lights, the camera, the focusing on the characters, the not focusing on the camera crew and producer, cutting up my veggies, is where I lost track of what I was doing and took a knife straight through the upper part of my thumb. Luckily the cut was not as bad as it sounds, and I managed to keep things together (literally) and continue on with the show!

Well, for the show we had a great menu planned and let me remind you that we have had this menu ready for two weeks. This was the dinner that was cancelled at the very last minute due to my family emergency.
The menu was the following:

Phylo stuffed with feta cheese and capers accompanied with tri-color olives and mint sauce

Lamb sausage and eggplant stuffed pasta shell with fresh tomato sauce

Lamb chops with bordelaise-style sauce and mushroom and chipotle risotto

Warm chocolate cake with melted brigadeiro (brazilian chocolate candy)

The picture speak for themselves!

Green Olives, Sun Dried Tomatos & Kalamata Olives

Stuffed phylo with feta and cappers

Lamb sausage and olives stuffed in a large pasta shell

Lamb chops with delicious reduced stock with mushroom & chipotle risotto

Warm chocolate cake stuffed with brigadeiro accompanied by chocolate and vanilla sauce
This was the photo taken seconds after cutting the finger. You can see in the background the blood... luckily no food got contaminated.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What does Thursdays at Worth Street Look Like?

We have an amazing video that our dear and talented friend Raul Mandru put together, it introduces the idea of Thursdays at Worth Street in such an amazing way. Here it is in case you want a refresher.  

The question roaming through our heads now is how else would the Thursdays at Worth Street experience look like? How about the characters, our guests? What would their stories look like on camera? What about Felipe and I? What is our story on film? So many questions and the good news is, we are beginning to get some of the answers.  

For dinner #26, we had the chance to create a Saturday special edition with a talented producer and now friend, Evita Douropoulou. She used Worth Kitchen as the setting to her pilot show "Wanna Be a NYer" a story about students on their quest to find a US visa. For the first time, our dinner had real characters! While the show is reality based, it does have four set characters whose stories develop certain ways and into certain directions. The experience for us was a bit surreal. The one thing we try to do at all our dinners is to make our guests feel 100% comfortable. I think in this case, Felipe and I were the ones to feel a bit out of place, almost as if we were staged characters ourselves, not us in our own flesh and bone. If there is a word we try to maintain intact during our dinners is the word AUTHENTICITY. We always allow (if not aim at) getting people's true colors to come out, including mine and Felipe's. In fact, the nights where these colors come out the strongest end up being our most memorable and rich dinners. I have to admit that having a camera aiming at you throughout the dinner experience makes for a "staged" you, no matter how honest you would like to appear. I almost felt as if I was cheating on myself by not being genuine. While the "real" Tamy would greet us with short appearances, as soon as she got a glimpse of that camera, she would go back to hiding. And well, as far as the staged Tamy goes, maybe she isn't so bad, we will have to wait and see. 

The one thing that held true during this filmed Saturday edition is the amazing people we met and who now form a special part of our lives. During the dessert, we turned the cameras off, sat down, and opened up yet another bottle of wine. We all talked about our dreams, what drives us, where we want to go. The characters talked about their very real struggle to get a visa and Felipe and I talked about our very real Worth Kitchen project. Whether on or off camera, it was amazing to see so many live projects cross paths: A producer chasing an idea, a student chasing a visa and a couple chasing the dream of a restaurant. Thank you Evita for such great opportunity and for allowing us to see ourselves through a new lens.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dinner #25 - A Night of Ricotta

December is always a very crazy month and the same definitely applies for Worth Kitchen. In the past two weeks we have had 3 dinners, two of which have been filmed. We are planning our first dinner for 18 people this Thursday at a beautiful loft in SoHo. So our plans do not stop... but lets not get ahead of ourselves. We still need to go back to Thursday December 2nd, our 25th dinner.

The dinner of the ricotta. Delicious dishes, and my first braised short ribs of the winter. This is a dish that will make various repeats in the future.

The menu was the following:
Baked beets and ricotta with rosemary and truffle salt

Braised short ribs with a merlot and broth reduction on a bed of ricotta polenta

Ricotta cheesecake

The baked beet slices with ricotta. A little amount of beet juice was poured on top of the cheese to give it a desired coloring. Experimenting with the presentation is one of the key take aways from these dinners. Sometimes its a hit, sometimes its a miss. You be the judge.
The short ribs were seared before putting them to braise for 4 hours in a chicken broth with leeks, carrots, celery, rosemary and a bottle of merlot. By end of the braise we had a delicious broth that when filtered and reduced to a perfect sauce. The polenta with ricotta was served a long with some chanterelle mushrooms
The ricotta cheesecake was very simple yet indulging. My first cheesecake ever and I think it came  out quite well. It was missing the orange zest, it could have given it an additional flavor bump. But for first time with a cheesecake, I was very pleased. 

After this dinner I had a lot of short ribs and polenta left over. So instead of keeping it around for a personal dinner or lunch, I took the everything to the office and prepared short rib tacos and ricotta cheesecake for anyone that was around. This was officially our first of what could be many more Thursday Left Overs.  Many were feed and all were happy.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Ok, so the bench has its flaws

Though the acquisition of our bench was a good one, during last Thursday's dinner, it became apparent that like everything and anything in life, it does after all have its flaws. Please use the image bellow as a way to illustrate its flaw.

The bench, as illustrated above, does not allow guests to recline. But while the bench is to blame here, I would like to make a point that it is only PARTLY to blame. I would like to bring to everyone's attention the second picture as reference:

As you can probbably tell, this is not the same type of fall. What we have here my friends is the second fall by the same guest who may have had just a tad too much to drink. This dear guest of ours is a guy who has lived in the same cities at the same time that Felipe has, making him an expat companion and another identity wonderer just like Felipe. They both got overly excited to meet yet again at another city, now NY, even if our dear guest was just passing by the city. There were many stories to share and much to catch up on, so we will give our friend the benefit of the doubt. I do have to say that this guest became the first over nighter! We had to put him on the sofa bed since he was in no condition to report himself back to his downtown hotel (yes, it was that bad but we still love him). Here is him and Felipe laughing about the fall in case you were worried our poor guest actually got hurt:

Last Thursday was such an amazing experience and there are so many anecdotes coming out of it that I think I would need about four to five additional posts to do justice to the night. So, in order to recap the highlights, here are some of the crazy things that took place during our last dinner:

Borrowing a roll of toilet paper from our neighbors, speaking about fetishes, forgetting that a guest did not eat meat and having to improvize on the spot (and succeeding in ingenuity!).

To all our guests, thanks for going with the flow, for not taking things seriously and for laughing at your own falls. I raise my glass to your dinner and may the ones to come be just as amusing!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The “Frijolito” (beans) Challenge, Calling in Auditions

This story was first told to me by my father in law John, the first version included pennies and a jar, it was told to me in English. This second version was told by John, but to Felipe’s friends from Mexico and in Spanish, hence the switch from pennies to beans or what we call “frijolitos”. The story goes as follows. During the first year of a marriage, a couple places one frijolito into a jar for each time  they “make love”. After the first year is over, every time the couple “makes love” a frijolito is removed from the jar. It is said that throughout the couple’s lifetime, the jar would never be completely emptied out. This causes instant laughs but what I find even funnier is the way people react to this story. As a good strategist, I analyzed the whole situation during our last dinner in Mexico, which constituted of Felipe’s closest (and oldest) friends. It also consisted of two guys who are married, and two guys who are UBBER single. This made my focus group even better, both single and married being fairly represented.

Here are the reactions.

The single guys were the first to laugh and laughed the loudest. Well, that makes sense, the joke is not on them, so there! They can seat on the sidelines and laugh their asses off. But what was interesting is that this automatic burst of laughter was shortly followed by an anxious feeling of “is this what I have to look forward to?”.

The married guys instantaneously laughed as well.  But there was something interesting about this married group of participants. One of the married guys (whose name I won’t mention here even though it will be obvious to everyone so sorry in advance for any marital conflicts this post might cause). Anyway, this one married guy had shown up to dinner alone since his wife was traveling to the US to visit family. He also had just very, very recently gotten married, so I had my eye out to see how he had changed and transformed due to his newly committed life. Soon enough, sirens went off! His reaction to the frijolito challenge gave it away completely. His reaction was to first challenge the frijolito story: “That isn’t MY particular case”. This is the natural knee jerk response of a newlywed, whose latest memories of intimicacy are found right around the corner, honeymoon snapshots from some beautiful, uninhabited and desserted island. But it was his second reaction that really proved it, he was one of us, the married kind. While challenging the frijolito story and trying to prove to us all that this was not HIS story, he began getting concerned about making this challenge public: “what would his wife say?” “How would she react?” , “What if she were to find out?" Boy would he be in trouble! 

And so the night went on, and so this newly, very newly wed drank his tequilas. I think that is what unites all of us married people who have blindly jumped in. It is now you plus one, ALWAYS. Every action that you take has a reaction in your partner. And while this might give some a bit of an acid reflux, it also means that someone will always have your back no matter what action one takes (or how many frijolitos you put in the jar).

So to that certain newlywed who we love dearly, “bienvenido a la vida de los oprimidos” (or, "welcome to the life of the oppressed”)…frijolitos or not, I have a good feeling it will be a hell of a ride for us all!

Oh, and to all interested, we are calling in auditions and would love it if someone could report on results. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

From Inception to Execution: Things Never Come Out As Planned... And For That We Are Grateful

Adaptability and patience; these are perhaps the most challenging assets that we as humans have and must develop in our lives. To say that life is always full of surprises is not only an overused cliché but does not even come close to how much anything that is planned could potentially change at a whim. Yet, these changes are what makes life… beautiful.

The real tale of our Thanksgiving is one which we could have never predicted, but the reality was amazing.  In order to properly tell it we must go back to the beginning.  A story which I hinted at in my previous post.

On Saturday November 20th, some friends which we had recently meet were shooting a pilot for a new show they were just developing. The setting for this episode was going to be a Worth Kitchen dinner. As the apartment was being lit and the cameramen were shooting Tamy and myself prepping the food and the apartment, I received a call from my parents telling me that my grandfather had just passed away. In shock and not knowing what exactly I needed to do next, I continued cooking. It was Tamy and Evita (producer and camerawoman) that took action and started packing up the equipment. It was 7:30 at the time that Evita and Beto (the other cameraman) left and at 11:30 both Tamy and myself were sitting on a plane on our way to Bogota.

Funerals are very sad, and this case was not different. However I do not share this with you guys looking for any condolence, my grandfather was 98 years old and he lived a very rich and full life. He brought us together as a family to wish him a sweet  (bittersweet) farewell. Our trip to Colombia was quick and unexpected, yet an amazing chance to reconnect with family members I have not seen in a while, especially my Grandmother.

There was a very special moment Tamy and I shared with my Grandmother, in the middle of a restaurant surrounded by uncles and cousins. She silently taps our shoulders and tells us “please do not say thank you nor any comments. You are the only ones I have a gift for and I do not want anyone else to know.” She slips a very small package into Tamy’s hand and tells us “This is a very lucky item that used to be my Grandmother’s and I want you to have it for your kitchen.” Its really the small details like this one that can completely change your day, your week, or your perspective.  We now had in our hands an amazing family heirloom that is over 150 years old… passed on to us in one of the sweetest ways possible. A great close to an emotional 4 days in Colombia.

And like that we found ourselves on our next plane heading to Mexico for our very intimate family Thanksgiving. The first of two Thanksgiving dinners that we had planned. Yes, I know, TWO!  And we took it upon ourselves to cook the two dinner’s on Thursday and Friday. You see, my friends from Mexico love the Thanksgiving tradition, not just because of the food, but because it’s a moment where the old high school group of friends, friends who have remained very close since our graduation, can come together and have a great time. Plus, they have been complaining how unfair it is that they have not participated in a Worth Kitchen event, so what better opportunity than this to have a special Thursday AND Friday dinner.

So friends, I present to you the very special Thanksgiving menus and pictures from our traveling roadshow in Mexico.

Dinner #1 Traditional Thanksgiving Menu
Lima Bean salad with pickled onions & cilantro

Italian inspired turkey with rosmeary, basil, & white wine as well as roasted vegetables
(gravy was made from turkey broth, drippings and all roasted veggies blended)
Stuffing - Italian bread stuffing with basil an Parmesan cheese
Mashed potatoes with hazelnut and cinammon
Candied Yams
Green beans with almonds and cilantro

Pecan Pie (store bought... I know but I did not have time to do everything! We arrived at 3:30 AM that day)

Plating the salad... man I love that kitchen!
The turkey just before it was removed from the oven. You might notice a small hole where the rosemary is coming out from, I stuffed it with butter and rosemary for additional flavor and tenderness.
The appetizer on the table as was set for the dinner. Notice the wine on the top left? Quintessa 1996. So good!
And this is what a traditional Thanksgiving plate looks like in the Donnelly Family household. I am pretty sure it is very similar as many home across the States. This one happens to be in Mexico.
Dinner #2 (On Friday) Thanksgiving a la Mexicana

Nopales (cactus) salad with red and green tomatoes and fresh cheese on a bed of stuffing souffle

Chipotle-honey rubbed turkey with kumquats and rosemary and "chile de arbol" pickled onions
Cilantro Pasta
Green beans with almonds and cilantro (we had a lot of green beans)

Yam (sweet potato) Crème Brulée

The turkey before going into the oven with a close up of the chipotle rub, rosemary and juicy kumquats.
The nopal salad lying on top of the stuffing. If you have never tried cactus before, it is very delicious, highly recommended. Every once in a while you can find them in Chelsea Market, but almost year round in Spanish Harlem markets.
Prepping the dishes as everyone awaits in the table behind me. 
And this is my take on a Mexican Thanksgiving. The gravy was made by reducing the juices and drippings from the turkey. The onions have been sitting in vinegar and chile juice for three days, they were SPICY! So good! And yes, the plates definitely added some additional Mexican flavor.
And this was the group of friends for whom we cooked the non-traditional (but what I hope will become a tradition) Thanksgiving. There is one important person missing from this picture due to the fact that he left early (once he saw the tequila being poured), my Dad. He joined us for the entire dinner.
Also missing is a picture of the dessert. They all came out terrible, however, the combination of yams in a crème brulée was definitely delicious and highly recommended for anyone to try.

Over all the Thanksginvings were amazing. And for all of those who donated to the Children's Cancer fund in Mexico, we raised $1,200. A great figure, especially considering all the complications we had leading up to the event. A very special Thank You to all of you who donated, and to all of you who helped us out so much in this project.

Adaptability and Patience is a virtue, but one we should always be thankful for as well.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

From a Crazy Week to Thanksgiving in Mexico

The lights were on, the camera was rolling, the food was being prepped... and then the call arrived that made us jump on a plane within 4 hours. We sent our friends packing up their equipment and taking off, and what would have been an amazing and delicious dinner was left in the freezer.

We have been in Colombia for 5 days an currently sitting in the El Dorado airport in Bogota waiting to take off to Mexico City. Thanksgiving is tomorrow and I have not even begun to think about the full menu.  But in my occasional check-in to email I found out that we have received +$400 for our charity fund, something that makes us very happy. Especially since it has been unexpected. 

Between tomorrow and Friday we expect much more but this has been an amazing turnout. So to all of you thank you!

For those who are curious, we have two thanksgiving dinners, the first one if for the immediate family (with the exception of my mom who will stay in Colombia during these holidays) on Thursday. The second will be on Friday with a more Mexican theme, with our close friends. The first turkey will be a "italian sytle" turkey with basil, rosemary, white wine. The second one will be a Chipotle & honey base with orange juice. Stuffings TBD.

I wish all of you the best for this Thanksgiving!

Enjoy your friends and family. And always remember to be thankful for everything you have...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Vegetarian Dinner: The Good, The Bad, and The Delicious

It is not very often that I can actually make the link that is made on the title. Its not that I am not the vegetarian type, I am just too in love with all things involving meat and animal fat. I know that half of you reading this just kind of rolled your eyes and thought "eeeww animal fat". However the other half, who is cleaning up your keyboards from thinking or remembering my squash fried in duck fat... I am talking to you. There is something to be said about a well made vegetarian dinner. 100% vegetarian, no fat, not animal broth, no fish, just good 'ol earth grown goodness. If Mario Batali were ever to read this blog, I think he just clicked the back button. However, I think that the results of the challenge was a plate that would even make Batali proud.

Stepping out of your comfort zone is alway, ALWAYS, a good thing. It bring new things that you never thought you were capable of doing. The last time I made a "vegetarian" dinner, I included scallops. I cheated. So a month ago, when we decided to have a veggie only dinner, there would be no cheating. And so it began, the guest were set, the theme was there, all that I needed now was a menu. Inspiration came in various forms. First off, a friend of mine advised me to stay away from the staple vegetarian food; squash, eggplant, and zucchini. Apparently vegetarians are sick and tired of eating the same food when the order a vegetarian sandwich or dinner. Point taken. The same person suggested the use of polenta, the delicious italian starch that is made from dried corn, delicious. The rest of the inspiration came from two places. First, from a gift a past guest of our made, a ver large bag of hibiscus flowers (dried) and second, by strolling through the amazing Greenmarket in Union Square. Have you ever seen a head of romanesque broccoli? Just by seeing it makes you want to try it. The freshest veggies were chosen. Moving from stand to stand, not know what I was going to do, little by little the menu was created:

Pan fried Shishinto Peppers with Sea Salt

Flash fried hibiscus flower taco with cream and a green tomato salsa
Fried goat cheese stuffed zucchine blossoms with a chipotle cream

Seared baby portobello mushrooms on top of a Grilled polenta with asiago cheese surrounded by a pool of freshly made vegetable broth and steamed romanesque broccoli.

Hibiscus Creme Brulee... SPOILER ALERT... (it failed)

We finally began creating the menus again! Here is the table before everyone arrived. 
The appetizer was very interesting to make. Even though Hibiscus  flowers are hard to come by in the States, it is a very common in Mexico. I left the flowers soaking for 24 hours in water (the water I then used as a hibiscus iced tea, or agua de jamaica as it is know in Mexico). Then I flash fried them in very hot oil for no more than 30 seconds. Once you remove them from the oil and onto a paper towel, salt them immediately. The tortillas are also home made. The zucchini blossoms are from a recipe that I have used in the past with a white wine and flour base.

This plate came out so great not so much due to the cooking, but due to the freshness and amazing flavors of all the ingredients. The polenta was home made (no I did not grind the dried corn, but I did not buy that roll they sell in the supermarket) with rosemary and veggie broth. The mushrooms were sauteed with a little bit of salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar. The vegetable broth was made 12 hours in advance using 6 leeks 2 onions, some garlic, 6 carrots and a lot of rosemary (about 6+ cups of broth).

Its seems as if its Tamy that always takes the pictures because I definitely come out way more than she does. Anyways this was the group just before enjoying the dinner.

Brian was warning of a a rabbit with big pointy teeth! (context)(more context)
Notice that I totally skipped the dessert? Well that because a) the camera ran out of memory space and b) the hibiscus flowers actually cut the cream and what resulted was a flavorful dessert that looked terrible and had very bad texture. But I guess in all experiments you can't alway succeed. Failure is an option and I learned a lot (much more) by failing. Its always fun to have this group of people to try my experiments on!
Thank you all.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thanksgiving is Right Around the Corner... Its Time to be Grateful

There is always plenty to be grateful for. This year, Tamy and I started our life together. Created this awesome project which has just taken our life into a completely unknown direction. Professionally we are doing fantastic. And to top it all off, as some of you might or might not know, my father put up a great fight to cancer, lung cancer to be exact. It was very tough on him and the family, but he stuck to it and beat it. Thank God he was smart... due to regular check-ups, the cancer was discovered early on and did not metastasize anywhere else. This is indeed a very important Thanksgiving for the entire family.

It is for this reason, that this year we have decided to do something very special. It is time that we help out much more to those who have not been as lucky as us, to those who have not been able to put up the fight that my father did. Tamy and I will be flying to Mexico on a very special Thursday at Worth Street for a charity dinner with my family and friends. We will be supporting a very poor hospital in the city of Queretaro (about two hours outside of Mexico City) that helps out children with cancer. These kids never had the same chance that my father did, but with our help, we can at least give them a fighting chance.

The hospital is called AMANC Queretaro and we feel very fortunate to be able to help them in any way possible!

At this point I reach out to all of you. If you want to help out in anyway please reach out to us. We also have a PayPal account setup to receive any donations anyone might want to give. Please send us an email to with any comments, ideas, suggestions or anything you would like to share.

We will keep all of you all up-to-date on our progress and on the very special event.

Help us by saying FUCK CANCER! (sorry for the language but its the true emotion that the disease brings out!)

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Truth Behind Vegetarians

This is the second post for dinner #23, the one before it I wrote and than deleted four days later.  

I had the pleasure and luck to sit down during a meal next to Ze Frank, who I told about our Thursdays at Worth Street experiment. I asked for his opinion on the project and he replied to me with a question that gave me a totally new and insightful perspective. He asked: Are you telling the truth about the dinners when you write about them on the blog? My knee jerk reaction was to reply yes, of course! But his question also came just at the right moment where my truthfulness in my writing was about to be put into question. The TRUTH is, I do find something very unique and special about all the dinners we have had so far, but of course, there are some things that go wrong, that are off, that don’t catch flow or connect in the way we would want them to. His question made me question my writing, in a good way of course! It made me shove it a little bit against the edges of social correctness and create a new filter I can evaluate my writing against: Complete and utter truth. I will now document the pink, sweet and fluffy but also all those gray areas in between.

The second expression of dinner #23

The night felt a bit off right from the get go. I was leaving to go to a conference in Mexico early Wednesday morning and we didn’t want to cancel dinner for the week so instead we decided to have the dinner take place on a Tuesday.  Like the butterfly effect, this had an impact in just about everything leading up to the dinner: Brainstorming the menu, going to the market, confirming guests, consulting wines, and many other endeavors that happen in between dinners. On top of that, it was a complicated dinner since it was all vegetarian. Not to blame our vegetarian friends, but these dishes, rather than more simple can become very complex and elaborate, especially when one is trying to escape the traditional and present an exciting menu to a group of people who are usually limited in their options. We wanted to allow our guests to rethink their possibilities when it came to food and create something  for them that was rich and fulfilling. Very beautiful in theory, much chaotic in practice.

This complexity quickly became apparent in what a real, full on restaurant would be the back of the kitchen, but unfortunately for this particular night, was front and center and completely visible to all the guests.  The kitchen became a HOT MESS, there was barely any room left to prepare the food, the kitchen counter was FULL with ingredients, sauces, plates, skillets, pans, you name it! It looked like a crazy Turkish bazaar. It was so crowded with stuff that even I felt there was no room for me in it. Felipe was maintaining composure but I could tell he was getting flustered. While he wasn’t making it apparent, he had on that undeniable vibe only couples pick up from each other. For the first time, I was not let in, I became a guest rather than a player, I sat on the bench, waiting for my turn to join in on the game.  And suddenly, still on the bench, I started seeing all the pieces coming together. All of these food elements were actually randomly connected. The kitchen started to make sense and that tension all of a sudden started wearing off. At the end, this was one of the most delicious dinners Felipe has made. It was exceptional, delicate, unique and just exquisite! Best of all, I got to see it all. I got a sneak peak into the imagination of his brain and its ability to deconstruct and build back up again. I got to see and enjoy the food from the perspective of our guests.

So to all our vegetarian guests, which also came randomly together, thanks for pushing Felipe’s culinary limits and challenging us in just about every way.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Night Full of Nuts... Oh and Food As Well

There is very little more that I could add to dinner #22 that Tamy has not mentioned in her previous post. In fact, I won't even give it a shot as she pretty much created a great example of how that night went down. The truth is that it was truly a night full of surprises and one for the record books. I have never laughed and cried so much in a very long time. And agreed, there are many variables and excuses that helped, but there is a lot to be said regarding group chemistry and energy. Call me esoteric or what you will, but there was some amazing energy in that room that night. It seemed as if everyone gathered around were long lost friends... all it took was half an hour to get to know one another and then all of a sudden friends were catching up on everyone's lives. BUT, none of the guest had ever meet each other, nor did they have anything in common, no shared thread. 8 people, completely different, but coming together in almost perfect harmony.

Energy, that inexplicable force that draws us together, the pure essence that we cannot see, nor taste, nor smell but we can feel it. That is how dinner #22 can best be defined... that plus the fact that we were all completely nuts!

And now for the menu:

3 Spreads on quinoa crackers.
- Spaghetti squash with pine nuts
- Smokey artichoke with pistachios
- Goat cheese and walnuts

Lamb kabobs with pistachios on a bed of almond basmati rice
Brussels Sprouts cooked in pancetta oil and honey

Warm chocolate cake with a serving of pecan/Madeira caramel

As I dish the spreads, I try to create some sort of design with the goat cheese and walnuts, only to realize that I probably would not make a great pastry chef. However it tasted delicious. 

I finally figured out a great recipe and use for the quinoa. About a month ago I tried to make quinoa cakes, which proved not as successful as I had envisioned. This time around I created crackers and they came out delicious. The (red and white) quinoa crackers are topped with almonds, accompanied by the three different spreads. The recipe is not that hard but a bit long for the crackers. If there is enough demand I will post the recipe here.
The raw kabobs just before they went on the grill. You can see the the pistachios all over the meat. The recipe is very easy straight forward, but we had secret ingredient that came straight from Greece. 2lbs of ground lamb with a cup of chopped up pistachios, salt, and the special spice mix (it included mint and marjoram). Mix all the ingredients together, then roll into separate pieces and place the stick through it as above. Grill the meat for about 10 minutes on medium high heat. Make sure to turn the meat continuously to make sure all the meat is cooked through.
The final presentation of the meat laying on a bed of basmati rice with almonds and brussels sprouts sauteed with pancetta and honey. The mix was very different but absolutely delicious. When preparing the brussels sprouts, make sure to cut them in half and peel off the top layer of leaves. The pancetta was cooked first in order to release all the grease. I removed the 4 pieces of pancetta sauteed the sprouts then added it back chopped up into tiny pieces for flavor.
The warm chocolate cake was a great finale to the dinner. What really made this plate special was the pecan/Madeira caramel that we served apart (but meant to mix together). This recipe is simple. 1 cup of Madeira wine and about 1/2 cup of sugar. Let the mixture boil down to a caramel. Add the pecans and let cool down a bit in order to get a smooth caramel texture.
And this is the nutty group! Thank you all for making this such an amazing night!
A very special call out to the wines of the night need to be made! The following were the top three wines of the night in no particular order:
An unfiltered white from the Alsace region of France. The Binner was Amazing!
An amazing red from Lebanon, yes I know Lebanon. Spectacular and full bodied. Chateau Musar
The Donati was the clear winner of the night. Nobody expects the flavors that come out of that bottle. Its somewhere in between a sparkaling white and a beer. Don't believe me? Get one at Frankly Wines!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

An Alien with Extraordinary Abilities and a Larger Than Usual Penis

Pic courtesy of Heather Lockhart
Yes, ladies and gentleman, you read correctly, I wrote penis on the title. Why did I do that? Because I can, and that is the beauty of this crazy, social, psychological, emotional experiment that we have going on! We can do with it what we want! I also wrote that oh so indiscreet word because it is what dominated most of the conversation for the last hour of dinner #22. But let me backtrack a bit, I don’t want our well behaved and for the most part sane guests to get a bad rap.

EXCUSE FOR OUR GUESTS TO BEHAVE INDECENTLY #1 – A NUTTY WEEK - The week leading up to dinner #22 was completely NUTS! Our heads were spinning with ideas and opportunities, we were waking up with a rush of energy to do more and create more. And that, we did, but it also made our week pretty insane and extremely busy. So we decided to make the theme of our dinner “GO NUTS”, why the hell not, we were already down that path so we thought, we might as well embrace it! So yes, the name of the dinner, as you can imagine, lead to all conversations being able to be misinterpreted.  And yes, the title might have pushed a bit of the indecent conversations that were taking place at 1AM in the morning!

EXCUSE FOR OUR GUESTS TO BEHAVE INDECENTLY #2 - THE FANTASTIC WINE This one is a no brainer, give your guests bottles and bottles of delicious wine and see what they start talking about, go on, do it and report back to me, I am sure it won’t be anything remotely close to PG13 conversations.

The “Why the hell not I may never see these people again” syndrome is a reoccurring theme at our dinners. There is something about eating in the comfort of a home yet in the midst of total strangers that makes people open up, let loose, relax and shed some ego. This syndrome manifests in different ways, sometimes through tears, sometimes through singing, this time it was through uncontrollable laughter and indecent conversations.

So let’s give our guests a break and thank them, really thank them, for letting us let go a little, live a little, and forget about the world and its complicated issues.

Oh and yes, in case you are still thrown off by the title of the post, there was indeed an alien among us. One of our guests confessed that his work visa described him as “an alien with extraordinary abilities”. This guest is also half Jewish, so you can draw your own conclusions as to the second half of the title.

Due to popular requests... here is our resident alient

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Worth Kitchen's Take on Italian... But Not Traditional

We were taking some time to let the food inspire us. Its usually the best way to have the recipes come to life. So there we are, walking through Chelsea Market, browsing all the stores, looking at the food, searching for inspiration. As we walk into Buon Italia, we see the truffles, the frozen foie gras, the fresh pasta, the delicious cheeses, and right there the theme for the night was born. We need to take on Italian, but in a nontraditional way. And in keeping with the theme, in a very non traditional way, Tamy created the entire menu. From start to finish she designed all of the plates and even the ingredients. The Worth Kitchen Sous Chef created her first full dinner. This might not sound like big news to you, but 6 months ago she didn't even know how to heat up a soup in the microwave! I am very proud of her and her incredible menu, so I present to you the Worth Kitchen take on Italian.

Three pasta shells were stuffed with eggplant, hot Italian sausage and goat cheese. It was seasoned with basil, rosemary, and most important, an extremely fragrant truffle salt. In the center was a concentrated tomato sauce prepared with shallots, garlic, olive oil, red wine and garnished with basil. This dish is a must repeat!
Adding the last detail to the entree, drizziling warm olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the sauteed butternut squash cubes.
The entree consisted of an Angus Silver Point roast cooked in the oven for 45 minutes and covered in rosemary, salt and pepper; a stuffed mini eggplant with mozzarella basil and truffle salt, and sauteed and browned butternut squash with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Tamy serves the wine to the guests as we prepare to enjoy the dinner. You might notice in the background a couple of people that do not have food in front of them. Well this is due to the fact that they literally crashed the party. We loved it (they are good friends of ours). There was no food for them, but that was not a problem for as they had already eaten. They joined us for about 30 minutes until they retired for the night.
The dessert was a chocolate mascarpone mousse stuffed in a mini apple. On top a homemade whipped cream. The apple was so small that we decided to add an additional serving of chocolate... well also because it was so good. The trick for this dessert was to use semi-sweet chocolate instead of bittersweet, very rich yet delicious. Want the recipe for this? Shoot me an email. Very easy to make.
One fun additional anecdote from this week was that there were 2 alumni of both my high school and college. Alex studied in my high school (graduated 4 years before me) and Liza, our featured "stranger" of the week whom we meet on Twitter, happened to be a fellow Hoya. Very fun coincidence, just to add another theme to the dinner.

I want to extend a very warm "Thank You" to our guests this week: Karen, Lalo, Alex & Liza. We had a great time with all of you. It was a great night. 

Sunday, October 31, 2010

When Demand Surpasses Supply

Thanks to food. curated. for the pic.
There is something about restaurants in New York with a two month reservation wait list that annoys me and thrills me all at the same time. Obviously there is something incredible about the restaurant, especially when its not your over the top Buddakan style restaurant, but more of a low key one with great popularity. However I have yet to make a reservation for a restaurant 2 or 3 months in advance... why? Because its annoying to think that I have to plan my life around a reservation 2 months from now. Regardless, its part of the successfulness of a restaurant in the city and if we were to ever open one, I would love to have a 2 month reservation wait list... (WHAT RESTAURANT OWNER WOULDN'T?)

Well guess what? Worth Kitchen officially has a wait list of 2 months. We are booked until January 2011. And not only that but we have to shift guests and friends around to be able to accomodate for the demand. Also there are Thursdays that due to our real jobs we have to cancel, so instead of canceling we are creating special Saturday editions of Thursday's at Worth Street.

The best feeling that we have from all of this is not an ego boost nor is it the fact that we are actually working on something fun and amazing, its the feeling of responsibility that we have with all our future guests. It feels as if we already have our restaurant up and running and our guests are our clients. 

So, to all former and future guests or those who want to find out what the Worth Kitchen is, thank you. I hope the day that you find a seat in our table, it fulfills all your expectations. 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Talkin bout our generation

In his box, he had packed all valuables. He decided to carry the box with only one hand, since the other was busy holding on to his red cape. As he looked down and saw shiny blue, he remembered his superman powers. But he needed to concentrate, watch his step, he absolutely could not trip as he walked down the hall, into HR’s office. This story didn’t really take place, but its one of the stories that one of our guests discussed as a potential real story. His agency was due to have massive layoffs the day after Thursday’s dinner. Regardless of what would happen, we all collectively decided that the best idea moving forward was for him to document it all. Given that the layoffs were tentatively scheduled to happen ONE day before Halloween, we all wondered if HR would really have the guts to fire people in costume.

Yeah, things aren’t so serious, at least they weren’t at our last dinner. Karen, another guest at our latest dinner and a great artist, was telling us of a talk she recently had to give at a Zen House in Brooklyn. Before going on stage to speak , they put her in a room full of people to meditate for half an hour. “People were zipping tea….tea! She told us, “regular art show attendees use Chelsea galleries as pre drinks before going out!” She was skeptical about the whole place and the talk, still, she told people a story and everything was ok. She is also skeptical about the over the top drama usually associated with art and artists and sees art as a more rational process. Ironically her work is about family tension, not an easy topic.

Liza, another one of our guests, came into a stranger’s home, on her own….brave soul! And Lalo told us about music and playing the base in shady Houston basements.

If I had to put a theme to the night, it would definitely have to be PLEASE, DON’T TAKE YOURSELF SO SERIOUSLY. Truth is, we did put together a group of real laid back people. Truth #2 is, we did drink plenty of wine, yet, beyond the obvious, I do believe our generation has caught on to how absurd everything really is. But this realization does not come to us in a “cut your wrists open” kind of way. The sentiment is not that things are sad because they are ridiculous and we can’t figure them out. It also isn’t about Carpe Diem of any kind, no “screw it all, life is meaningless so I will be reckless”. In fact, I believe our generation is pretty healthy, how else would we enjoy all the absurdity that get’s thrown our way? Perhaps it comes down to being able to learn faster all the good stuff: Good food, good wine, and figuring out EXACTLY what type of company will be good and healthy for us. So thank you Liza, Alex, Karen and Lalo, for reminding us that such is life, and we actually like that way.

- Tamy

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Night of Citric Fun...

For dinner #20 we took a recommendation that came from one of our past guests, Amy Chow and invited one of our neighbors. Now, truth be told, they found out about us through some other friends instead of a spontaneous invitation, as Amy originally recommended. Regardless, it was a blast having some neighbors come down a couple of floors and join us for a great dinner. Along with them we also invited another couple, who we have been trying to have over for a bit as well as a good Argentine friend.  Also, Julie, from DNAinfo joined us as our guest journalist (she wrote a really cool article about her experience at Worth Kitchen)

This dinner's theme was all about using citrus fruits. I know what your thinking... not very autumny, but hey it turned out great! The inspiration from this  has actually been coming from Tamy, something which I have seen more and more often. Personally I love it. It really shows how she is coming into her own within the culinary world. As with the menu for upcoming dinner #21, most of it was all her idea. Not only has the sous chef learned a lot about helping with the prepping, but she is actually working hard on creating the dishes. 

Now back to the citrus fruit and last week's menu...
Appetizer - Fennel & orange salad with shallots, blood orange juice and champagne vinaigrette. Topped with Parmesan cheese chips
Entree - Miso glazed Sole with grapefruit accompanied by bok choy  with shallots and walnuts and sauteed oyster mushrooms with ponzu sauce
Dessert - Grapefruit sorbet drowned in muscat

Friends gather as the salad is prepared and the hunger in the stomach grows. (They actually ate all the Parmesan chips TWICE before the salad was ready...) 
The fennel is a delicious vegetable with a very aromatic flavor, resembling a smoother anise.  However the flavor on its own can be overpowering. The Valencia orange and the Parmesan chips were added to balance that flavor. The vinaigrette was created by mixing one chopped shallot into 1/3 of a cup of champagne vinegar 1/4 of blood orange juice and 1/4 cup of of olive oil. The shallots should sit for about 1 hour in the vinegar before mixing for best flavor.
Preparing the Sole before backing it. On top of a parchment paper, I brushed the miso glaze (purchased at The Lobster Place in Chelsea Market with the fish) salt and white pepper, chopped scallions & topped with grapefruit slices. This is then wrapped and backed for about 15 minutes at 350°.
I know they are all very hungry... at least they had some amazing wines from Franlky Wines!
The dish as it was served.
Grapefruit Sorbet with a lemon zest on top. This was my first sorbet, but it was very easy to make. Since I didn't have an ice cream maker it took a bit more time, but it all came out delicious.
Adding the muscat to the grapefruit.
The final dessert, grapefruit drowned in muscat.

Post dinner conversations always get very funny. I think he was talking about a penalty shot blocked by a goalie in the World Cup. But to tell you the truth, he could have been talking about how tall he wants his future son (or daughter) to be.