Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Grand Street Cafe

JJ and I always have such a hard time figuring out where we want to eat out on special occasions. For his birthday dinner, we wanted to try some place new. We have always heard that Grand St. Cafe had amazing food and when he suggested it, I was delighted. Grand St. is tucked away just east of the Country Club Plaza on the ground floor of a low-rise office building. The restaurant decor reminds me of one of my favorite classic restaurants in Charlotte, The Village Tavern. The food is much better, though. The casual, yet sophisticated surroundings really represent the food well. It is not pretentious or overly trendy. There are jagged-edged glass panels that allow you to view the busy kitchen area. We sat in a booth with plain view of the cooks in the kitchen which was kind of fun.

Looking at the menu, we began to salivate. Everything sounded delicious. We couldn't decide on one entree each, so we split three appetizers and split an entree. Our appetizer choices included Thai Style Shrimp Dumplings (in a lemongrass coconut cream), a Trio of Artisan Cheeses (with wild honey, seasonal fruit, and sunflower seed crackers) , and my favorite which was Maine Lobster Gnocchi (poached lobster and portabella mushroom in a lobster chervil cream). Our entree choice was Pan Roasted Duck Breast grilled with fig butter, a side of sweet corn souffle and butter braised green beans. The duck breast was lean and succulent. The sweet corn souffle was airy and rich and absolutely divine. We had not eaten a meal this good in a very long time. We hardly spoke the whole time because the food was so captivating. It is a bit expensive, but well worth it. I strongly suggest this restaurant if you have not been there. We plan to go back really soon.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Birthday Boy Brunch

It was my boyfriend's 31st birthday this past weekend and the morning after his big party, I decided to cook him some brunch. I assumed he needed a power breakfast to recharge, so I made him toast, fakin' bacon (turkey bacon), fruit salad and hot pepper cream cheese eggs. The fruit salad included pomegranate seeds, blackberries, and mango. For his egg scramble, I chopped up hot Italian peppers and about 2 tbsp. of cream cheese for 3 eggs. He loved it along with his gifts. For the lighter fare, I made myself a three egg white scramble with spinach, green peppers, green onions, and artichoke hearts. His looked way better...

Organic Dried Fruit with Goat Cheese and Pistachios

I tried this hors d'oeuvre for the first time at one of my friend's parties. I loved how fresh and pretty the dried apricots looked on the plate and they tasted even better. The bright orange color of the apricots with the white of the goat cheese and the pop of green from the pistachio just looked like art on a plate. I am a graphic designer so these small details appeal to me. She got the idea from a local Kansas City caterer, Moxie catering.

After purchasing some organic produce at the Santa Monica market over Christmas, I decided to incorporate my fresh finds into this dish. I used the organic dried apricots, organic dried elephant heart plums, and the pistachio nuts that we bought from the California pistachio farmer. This hors d'oeuvre is quick and easy and doesn't need a lot of preparation. They were a hit at the New Year's party as there were none left on the plate.

The lady that sold us the pistachios mentioned that they would bring us good luck in the new year to come. I am not familiar with the pistachio being a New Year's tradition, but I decided to make these anyway. Whether they will bring about good fortune or not, your taste buds will definitely think so...

· dried apricots (or any other dried fruit)
· goat cheese
· shelled pistachio nuts

INSTRUCTIONS (super easy)
· Lay the dried fruit flat on a serving plate. Pat a small amount of goat cheese into the center of each dried fruit. Press the pistachio nuts into the goat cheese one per piece.

Happy 2009!

Black Eyed Pea Salad with Basil Dressing

Eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Day is thought to bring prosperity in the South. I searched and searched for recipes and this one seemed delightful. It is very easy to make and the longer it marinates, the better the final product tastes.

· 3 cups canned or cooked black-eyed peas (2-15 oz. cans, drained)
· 1/4 tsp. salt
· 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
· 1/2 cup of finely chopped celery
· 1 small sweet red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
· 1/4 cup of cider vinegar
· 3 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
· 2 to 3 medium cloves garlic, crushed
· 1 1/2 tsp. sugar
· 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
· 1/4 tsp. salt
· 1 cup olive oil
· fresh basil or parsley for garnish

· In a serving bowl, combine black-eyed peas, 1/4 tsp. salt, chopped onion, celery, and red pepper. Set aside.
· In a separate, whisk together the vinegar, basil, garlic, sugar, remaining 1/4 tsp. salt, and pepper. Gradually whisk in the oil until the dressing is well blended.
· Combine the salad ingredients with the dressing and mix well. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours or overnight. Garnish with fresh basil or parsley.

Happy New Year! I hope this dish brings you good luck in 2009!