Monday, June 11, 2012

Happy 25th birthday to us!

A couple of weeks ago, over Memorial Day weekend, Jake and I celebrated our 25th birthdays, mine on a Friday, his on a Monday.

Having our birthdays this close together usually means we're willing to up the ante a little how we would normally otherwise celebrate, since it's a group effort.

Back in January, I came across a great deal on plane tickets from MSP to LGA and decided to surprise Jake with a trip to one of his favorite places: New York City.

After laying down false track (Jake thought we were going to his parents' on Saturday and out to lunch with friends on Sunday to celebrate), I proceeded to pack a suitcase in secret, then wake my husband up at 4 a.m. to give him the news we were running away for the long weekend.

It was insanely hot in the city, so most of our photos turned out to be of food, rather than snapshots of us enjoying the city. So, here's a quick rundown of our delicious food tours of NYC:

Our first stop after dropping our bags in our hotel (we stayed near Penn Station) was a walk over to K-Town on 32nd St. where we had bossam and oysters for lunch.

Jake found a description of the Landbrot Bakery in the current issue of New York magazine during our flight, so we stopped in for brezeln and a beer. The staff were incredibly friendly and we had a great mini-meal.

After grabbing pizza at Brookyln's famous Grimaldi's, we went to the Brooklyn Brewery with a college friend. We took the "tour," which was more like "The History of Our Brewery While Standing in a Production Space."

Ordered the Cheese and Crackers at McSorely's Ale House (and I also discovered that I enjoy porter beers)

Veselka's pierogies -- a longtime favorite! Great way to start out the meal. I also snagged the cookbook so we can make more Ukranian food at home now.

Was very thankful not to have to hunt down the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck in the heat. Just waited in the line outside their new shop for a bit. Tasty stuff!

Inspired by this post on Amateur Gourmet's blog about the Second Avenue Deli, we met my cousin here for brunch one day. We had the absolutely delicious matzoh ball soup (not something Jake or I had had before, having grown up in Minnesota). At the end of the meal, they brought us tiny chocolate sodas!

While wandering the East Village, we stopped into Murray's Cheese just to gawk and enjoy one of the best smelling stores I had ever been to.

To celebrate Jake's birthday "officially" we went back to K-Town and had a huge table full of Korean barbecue (before and after shots)

And we liked Second Avenue Deli SO MUCH we went back a second time.

The very awesome pickles and coleslaw. Below, our first ever knish, Jake's grownup chocolate soda, and another plate of pierogies.

My foodie souvenirs! What could be better than picking up the cookbooks at two of the awesome restaurants we ate at? The 2nd Ave Deli book has been a great read so far -- lots of cool stories about the owner and the history of the restaurant.

Happy birthday Jake!! Your turn to plan something awesome for 26.... :)

Friday, June 8, 2012

#LetsLunch: Food to Honor Dads

(photo by Glen Stubbe

Ah, my poor neglected food blog. It's been a busy couple of weeks. The biggest news of the last month is that Jake and I are on the move yet again and are currently in the process of moving our lives back to Washington, D.C.

So, due to packing up our home, wrapping up my current job, and a host of other blah blah blah reasons, I almost sat this round of #LetsLunch out. But, we're doing posts about food to honor our dads (in the U.S it is Father's Day on June 17th), and I really like my dad, so I am pulling this one together for him.

Above is a photo of my dad (and my mom) giving a toast at our wedding in September. We skipped a lot of the dad-ly duties like giving me away or a father-daughter dance, so I somehow do not have a photo of just me and my dad from the wedding.

The funny thing about picking a food to honor my dad is that the man doesn't really like food all that much. He's been gluten intolerant since he was about 18 or 20, or approximately 30 years before companies started pumping out half-way decent GF options.

So, the recipe I'm sharing today isn't a gluten-free one, but it's the closest thing to an "old family recipe" we have. Ham and Rice is a leftover from my parents' broke and newlywed days, and it is exactly what it sounds like. It embodies a lot of the things that come to mind when I think of my dad and food: simple, not a ton of ostentatious flavors, and easy to make.

To start, measure out about 1 cup of rice per person (yes, uncooked rice). It's a very generous portion but trust me on this. Feel free to use whatever white rice you have in the house, but my dad swears by Kokuho Rose rice. If long ago your kid insisted you own a rice cooker for her benefit, then start your rice cooker and set it aside. If not, go about your business making rice however you normally do.

Next, take a large amount of ham, cube it and fry it in butter or margarine. This gives the butter a nice hammy flavor which goes toward seasoning the rice. The trick here is not to make the pieces of ham too big or too small. About the size of an M&M (but square-ish, obviously). The amount you make will vary, but at our house, this is a family favorite, so when we make it for 4-6 people, we usually make enough to actually feed 10. This is an old step-shot, but I think this is about two hamsteaks.

The final step is pretty easy. Mix the two parts together. We usually do the ham in a large skillet with high sides and dump the rice in. What's the correct ham to rice ratio? You're looking at it. Basically, you want to be able to get one, two, maybe three cubes of ham in every bite of rice you scoop up.

That's it, folks. No further seasoning (but we do serve ours with salt and pepper at the table), nothing. Just serve it up in bowls and enjoy. And, if you're health conscious at all, consider serving with a large green salad.

The "recipe" as it were:
Ham and Rice
* about 2 hamsteaks to feed 4 people, or maybe 1/2-2/3 cubed ham per person.
* about 1 cup uncooked rice per person (you'll probably have leftovers, but it's great leftover
* 1 stick of butter per 4 people

Cook the rice according to directions or in a rice cooker. Set aside and keep warm.

Cube the ham and fry over medium heat for 8-10 minutes.

Toss the rice into the ham mixture until fully combined and rice is coated in the butter.

Serve with salt and pepper.

#LetsLunch is a monthly "lunch date" of food bloggers from around the world. We meet on Twitter and would LOVE to have you join us! Just send us a tweet on the hashtag (I'm @emmacarew) and introduce yourself.

In place of listing everyone's posts, I've started a Pinboard round up of all today's posts, which I'll update throughout the weekend.

See you next month!