The Beginning…


Welcome to the first edition of  the Urban Tarte blog!  I have had the idea of a blog in my brain for awhile now and have  just been too busy to dedicate a good chunk of time to it.  Well, here I am, on the cusp of the first week of 2009 and I have decided this is my time to begin.  I’ve created Urban Tarte as a medium for me to share my passion for food with all of you! I hope you enjoy my quirky commentary on food, restaurants, random food science knowledge (did you know a garbanzo bean is both a vegetable and protein!?!) and please feel free to comment on anything presented. Enjoy!

And what better way to begin my blog than on the coattails of a fabulous trip to New York City! We actually began our 6 day trip in Watchung, NJ, where my friend Paul and I planned and executed a 7 course New Year’s eve dinner (paired with wine, obviously!!).  Over a length of four and a half hours, we presented a cheese course, ceviche, seared fois gras with port reduction, steamed king crab legs, caprese salad, broiled rack of lamb and homemade Italian ice. Needless to say it was a fabulous New Year’s dinner!

After 3 days of relaxation (and detox), we headed to the Big Apple to stay with my friend, Jules.

The highlight of New York is always spending time with my close friends in the city.  But no trip is really a success without some amazing food in addition!

 Our first night, Jules took us to Kanoyama, an incredible sushi restaurant in the East Village.  I began with a beautiful deconstructed seaweed salad, which was delicious.  Sea vegetables are known to be very nutrient dense and they contain a good amount of lignans, plant compounds with anti-cancer properties. So I was quite pleased to see my salad consisted of four different kinds of seaweed!

Brad had the miso soup and the hand carved bowl and spoon were just so beautiful I had to include a picture of them as well.

After dinner we stumbled into a fantastic little Jazz and Wine bar called, coincidentally, Jules.  We had to go in and explore, considering my friend who we were staying with (pictured below with me) is named Jules! They had a lovely wine and beer selection and the food at the tables surrounding us smelled fantastic.

It turned out to be a very cozy place and I suspect I will be back there during my next trip to New York.

 

Saturday was spent in SoHo, where I purchased the darling 50’s style hairpiece featured in my profile picture. Drinks followed at Irving Mill, a beautiful new restaurant in the East Village, with a good friend. Dinner was at a new, highly acclaimed ramen restaurant around the corner called Ipputo. YOU MUST GO! The 45 minute wait goes quickly as long as you have a Samurai in hand, not the sword but, rather, a deadly drink made with sake and apple juice. 

Once you finally get seated, immediately order the steamed buns. They differ slightly from the buns in Chinatown, as these are open faced, but they are equally as tasty. The biggest difference is that they have a bit of Kewpie mayonnaise and a bright, crispy piece of iceberg lettuce.  The lettuce was my favorite as its cold temperature and crispy bite helped balance the warmth and texture of the pork and the buns. Follow with the spicy tofu, it is ridiculously delicious with the perfect amount of spice. Finally, finish with any of the selections of ramen.  We ordered three different styles.

 

Each was different in its own right but equally beautiful and delicate in flavor. The broth lent a nice perfumed flavor, a combination of mushroom heft and a depth from beef and pork. A bit of lemongrass may have helped lift the dish a bit, but overall it was delicious. I recommend adding on the pork belly if you feel the need for even more umami lusciousness!!

The trip was rounded off with a lovely Sunday brunch with friends, again in the East Village, at a place called Kingswood.  Nothing better than an espresso, fresh squeezed orange juice and perfectly prepared eggs benedict (with tarragon hollandaise, of course!) to cure a night of too much sake!

 

Back in Chicago, coming down from the high of a great vacation, I felt inspired to counter my gluttony of consumption from the previous week.  What better way than to prepare than a simple broth based soup, studded with tons of vegetables and spiked with fresh grated parmigiano-reggiano?

 

Vegetable and Bean Soup

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 2 T. unsalted butter
  • 1 yellow onion, medium dice
  • 3 stalks celery, medium dice
  • 3 carrots, medium dice
  • 3 parsnips, medium dice
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 cups good quality chicken stock (tends to be the more expensive brands, unfortunately, or home made)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 medium zucchini, medium dice
  • 1 15 oz. can fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 15 oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed
  • 1 15 oz. can garbanzo beans, rinsed
  • handful parsley, roughly chopped
  • 10 large basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste (at least 1 t. of each)
  • freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano

DIRECTIONS

    1. Heat a large dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the olive oil and butter and warm 1-2 minutes. Add the onion and sauté 3-4 minutes.
    2. As the onions soften and turn translucent, add the diced celery, carrots and parsnips. Saute another 3-4 minutes and add the garlic cloves.
    3. Add the chicken stock, bay leaf and zucchini and stir to combine.  Cover with lid and simmer 1 hour.
    4. After an hour add all remaining ingredients except parmigiano-reggiano and let cook an additional 30 minutes to 1 hour.
    5. Just before serving adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
    6. Ladle into bowls and top with some fresh grated parmigiano-reggiano.

 

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