Archive for the ‘cheesy meals’ Category

Pompei\'s slice

[Pompei’s slice]

I don’t crave pizza often, but within the past few months I’ve eaten couple slices worth writing about. I suppose I’ve been generally disappointed by New York pizza because the random pieces I’ll eat on occasion never live up to the hype. Also, for me, the power of pizza is far less than the power of Mexican food or ice cream. Thus, while I’ll drive 45 minutes for a lick of Christina’s, I’m far too unmotivated to trek to DiFara to try its acclaimed pie.

But! When good pizza comes my way, I do not object. In Massachusetts, my favorite pizza is from Papa Gino’s, an east coast chain with two locations five minutes away from my home. It’s my go-to place for an everyday slice. My brother, cousin and I agree that Papa Gino’s has perfected the ratio of cheese to sauce to thin but not glaringly crispy crust. It’s dependably satisfying, which is usually what I desire when it comes to pizza.

Back in the New York area, the first satisfying slice I had was when Waq took me to his hometown favorite, Pompei Pizza in Bayonne, NJ. For the past couple years, I had been listening to him praise Pompei. Of course I trusted his sense of taste- we had eaten many a meal together- but I was never in Bayonne long enough to try Pompeii for myself until one overcast Saturday this past February, when that Pompei slice, thin, cheesy, and fresh, brightened my day with its pleasing proportionality. Below, Waqas’s description of the pizza:

Waqas: “Well, the thinness is perfect; it’s thin enough to be crispy but the pizza never falls or droops, which thin pizzas often do. And the crust is light and fluffy without being doughy or overly chewy. They put a generous amount of cheese on it and the sauce is just slightly sweet/tart and has a great herby spiciness to it. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this pizza, plus, the smell of the place billows out onto Broadway.”

The second noteworthy slice I had was with work folks on a balmy evening a couple weeks back at a Ray’s on Prince Street- yes, Ray’s, that pizza store that sits on the corner of every block in Manhattan. Although Kim said that it was the first Ray’s in the city* and swore that the pizza was beyond average, I still had my doubts. We ordered a pie, half vegetarian and half pepperoni. I usually prefer thin crust pizza but Ray’s thicker crust was pillowy and aromatic and topped with soft ricotta, thin rounds of tomato, sliced garlic and basil. The superior quality of fresh ingredients used in the pizza made it memory worthy- I’ve been yearning for that slice of summer ever since.

*According to Wikipedia, the Ray’s on Prince is the first Ray’s in the city and all the Ray’s pizza places are not connected as one big chain but, for the most part, are independent restaurants that share the same name.

Pompei Pizza, 480 Broadway, Bayonne, NJ. (201) 437-5408
Ray’s Pizza, 27 Prince Street, New York, NY. (212) 966-1960


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I’m home for a few days. I like looking out at the trees in our backyard, some with curving leaves still hanging from branches, rusty hooks suspended against the bleak sky. On the ground the leaves look chalky, shivering and scattering when the wind blows. It feels like fall, but Hi, spring. You’ve finally arrived. On a walk I spotted tiny nubs on branches, dark knots framed by gray, soon to unfurl glossy new leaves.


Last weekend we cooked for a few hours for a late lunch party, climbing out on the fire escape in between dishes to breathe. The sun was throwing gold on us and our forbidden jungle of a backyard.


We made an Onion Tart with Mustard and Fennel that turned out surprisingly well. I was worried that the dough wouldn’t rise- it was my first time working solo with yeast- but I placed the bowl in a sunny spot and in a little over an hour, a smooth, shiny balloon had formed. In that hour, we slow-cooked three pounds of onions until brown and sticky-sweet, brightened by fragrant fennel seeds. I punched out the dough on a baking sheet and spread a spoonful of mustard across it, then heaped on the onions and sprinkled the Parmesan, dry and sharp.


After around 30 minutes in the oven, the crust had baked to a crisp, tender, pizza-like dough. The various elements melded together beautifully. The sweet, fennel-speckled onions sitting atop the spicy mustard and covered with a layer of bumpy, browned Parmesan formed a tart that exploded with possibilities of the nutty, the sweet and the heat. It tasted like a new season.


We also made Sauteed Swiss Chard with Sliced Garlic, gorgeous and juicy (and healthy), a bowl of savory flowers. We added lemon and hot chile flakes to the original recipe to give it an edge.


We served the swiss chards and the onion tart with L’s excellent turmeric-tinged breakfast potatoes and an Algerian Fennel and Carrot Slaw with Olive Dressing. We had made the salad a couple days back and as the sweet fennel and crunchy carrot sat marinating in the warm oils from the olives and sundried tomatoes, it evolved into a full-bodied cold entree.


Many more Saturday lazy lunches to come!

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Last time I was home, Maggie took me to her favorite sandwich shop, Darwin’s, located down a lovely, shady curve of Mt. Auburn Street. It’s a cozy coffee and cookie cafe on one end and a sandwich source on the other, both areas filled with fresh flowers. In between, it’s a mini-grocery outpost stock full of bananas and glossy tomatoes, runny cheeses and marzipan chocolates, where sweating bottles of beer are stacked in the fridge and red wine lines the walls.


Maggie pointed out their color-schemed displays. Yellow in the winter window adds cheer. A happy, sunny spot built with mustard bottles, Toblerones, white wines and lemonade.


I wish I had gotten a photo of the sexiest sandwich assembly line ever. I kid you not, there is a boy for every crushing girl heart out there: tall, skinny, curly haired, hat haired, smiley, serious, melting eyes, strong hands, tiny t-shirts, etc., etc., etc. Imagine this assortment of cute men, shoulders hunched while making you the perfect sandwich.


I ordered The Hubbard Park with cheddar on toasted Pepperjack bread. The tables were all taken so Mags and I sat on a bench inside with the “notoriously messy” sandwiches in our laps and a pile of napkins beside us. Stacked inside the sandwich, in addition to the cheese, were slices of avocado, apple, carrot, and tomato, and handfuls of curly sprouts. Hummus and honey-mustard dressed it with a nutty, soft spice. It was an awesome sandwich. Fresh, quality ingredients (and really cute boys) can make all the difference when it comes to food (love).

The Hubbard Park with Cheddar: $7
Darwin’s is located at 148 Mt. Auburn Street and 1629 Cambridge Street, Cambridge MA.
Mt. Auburn: (617) 354-5233; Cambridge St.: (617) 491-2999

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Rice is the undisputed queen of making me awesome mix CDs. Before her mixes, I received compilations that I listened to with a sense of obligation- you know, the kind you trade with your psuedo-boyfriend in middle school but never really get into because both your tastes are still ill formed. But Rice’s mixes, which started in high school, were the first that I ever took seriously, listening to once and then over again, and again, on repeat. Her tastes are diverse and her unearthing abilities impressive- she can find old hip-hop, obscure indie tunes, classics, mashups, rock, sad melodies, energetic jumping songs, British stuff- and she has a gift of figuring out exactly what her friends want to hear. She left for Italy yesterday to work at Spannocchia, a farm where she’ll learn how to craft prosciutto and practice sustainable agriculture. Here are some snapshots from her goodbye party, which took place Saturday night.

A pile of thinly sliced portobello
Olive oil dressed sweet potato chips with Parmesan, parsley, salt, and pepper
Sticky taleggio, parsley, and parsnips

Hanami Ale is the spring seasonal beer from NH-based Smuttynose. I loved the cherry blossom label and the slightly sour taste, and surprise surprise- I’m suddenly itching to visit DC to see the blossoms!
Jugalbandi‘s versatile roasted parsnips, a quick and simple party food that’s proven to be a favorite among my friends.

Taleggio and portobello pizza with caramelized leeks and fresh garlic, parsley and lemon rind. We made the dough but we felt turned out more like springy focaccia than the crispy crust promised from the recipe. Still tasty.

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I heard about the breakfast potatoes at Cousin John’s Bakery months ago, but I tend to get distracted- or should I say dazzled- by pretty things- namely, the gorgeous array of baked goods displayed in their window. I have a weakness for Cousin John’s brioches and their ethereal almond croissants in which soft almond paste is folded between twists of flaky pastry. Definitely better than Balthazar’s.


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I visited Balt’amour last weekend to spend time with three close friends from college. Lisa, Malka, and Elana picked me up from the always cheerful Baltimore Travel Plaza.


We drove directly to Nacho Mama’s in Canton where we started sipping on these not-so-lethal hubcap margaritas. I’ve had many a discussion with friends about how the drinks in Baltimore are, for some reason, delightfully less deleterious than the ones in New York. I can drink without the fear of a terrible hangover the next day. Of course, Baltimore’s prices are kinder, too- these hubcap margaritas were $10 each, and we split that four ways.


Nacho Mama’s menu is expansive but I prefer to stick with the nachos- tried and true, with proper cheese to beans to veggies proportions. The jalapeƱos were actually fiery. My friends ordered quesidillas that were overstuffed, with the tortillas baked to a dry crisp. Not exactly appetizing but with such a large plate of nachos, who needed more food?


The next day we headed to Hampden’s roomy but odd Dogwood Cafe for lunch. We walked down a ramp to enter the large underground dining room and I felt as though I were entering a dungeon. The tables, lighting, and artwork were pretty fancy, yet, something seemed off. We sat next door to the kitchen and while the main dining room is perfectly presentable, I stared at the stretch of uncarpeted, shabby floor leading into the kitchen. I know it was a weird fixation, but that patch of floor was starkly different from the methodically decorated dining room and I started wondering why they hadn’t taken care of the floor everywhere and what this stretch of floor could portend about the kitchen beyond.


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On Maggie’s birthday we headed to her house to cook dinner. For starters, she had already prepared Alsatian Cheese Tarts. So much deliciousness was packed between the layers of creamy cheese, crispy caramelized onion, and flaky puff pastry that we ended up feasting on these and forgoing the rest of dinner.


Like the cheesy tarts we are, we donned Birthday crowns during dinner. Other items we consumed after stuffing ourselves on the Alsatian tarts: pomegranate margaritas, eggnog, coffee (for me, jetlag) and Maggie’s mom’s baked Alaska pie.


Maggie says that making the Alsatian Tarts is super easy… and one batch produces 36 bite-size appetizers, which sounds great for a party. Find the recipe here, on Sharing the Food Love, which is a blog Rice, Maggie and I started 2 years ago and update infrequently. Although we ate our tarts plain (and thoroughly enjoyed them), you could top yours with a number of items, including pieces of mushroom or roasted red pepper.

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