NEWS – new chapter!

We have news. No, not pregnant and nope, we’re not moving. Other news…

Back in 2007 the week Alex and I signed the contract to buy our place and move to Brooklyn, we went to dinner at a little restaurant near our house, The Garden Café. It was run by a husband / wife team for years and in Zagat had a 28 / 30 rating for food. It was a gem. And then it closed.

In 2009 during the worst economic downturn of our lives, a bright sunny place opened in that corner spot. It was founded by Alex Hall (more about him HERE) and was called Milk Bar. Milk Bar is an Australian café serving exceptional coffee, simple and delicious food in a modern environment. In 2014 he opened Brunswick, with a similar theme, just off Prospect Park in Windsor Terrace.

Here’s the news – we now own them. YES!  With a couple of other owners, including my ever wonderful business partner Darryl, several months ago we bought Milk Bar and Brunswick. Alex Hall built and ran them very successfully and he recently moved to Des Moines with his family to conquer the Midwest. He’s been an invaluable mentor to me – a real hero – teaching me the ins and out of how these cafes work. His dedication is what made both cafes work and we strive to carry that on.

cafes

We are overjoyed to have this opportunity. Milk Bar was one of the first places I took Avery for a breakfast out, just the two of us. On another occasion, I took her to her first drop off playdate and went to Milk Bar to enjoy coffee, breakfast and a book by myself. It’s a port in a storm, a neighborhood staple, a place to slow down your life for a few minutes. When we learned of Brunswick, it opened up a new part of Brooklyn for us, Windsor Terrace a wonderful family neighborhood a few minute drive away.

Both cafes are fixtures in their neighborhoods. They are places to unwind, meet friends, or enjoy time on your own for breakfast, lunch or a snack (and coffee, of course).  The café teams have also been hugely supportive and loyal (feeling really lucky over here, if you can’t tell.)

We are super psyched to invest in Brooklyn’s local offerings. If you’re in Brooklyn, we hope you’ll swing by and see us. For now, please like us on Facebook and find us on Instagram – links below!

Instagram!

https://www.instagram.com/milkbarbrooklyn/

https://www.instagram.com/brunswickcafe/

Facebook!

https://www.facebook.com/milkbarbrooklyn/

https://www.facebook.com/brunswickcafeppw/

 

Menu 47 – Middle East FEAST!

My first favorite entertaining phrase is “make ahead.” My second is “room temperature” especially in summer months. There are few things that make for a relaxed party or dinner than a made ahead meal served room temperature.

This past weekend I had my mother in town AND my mother in law – two women who love me no matter what I serve, but who we also love to cook for. So we did. And boy what a feast it was – the oohing and ahhing – and not just because they are The Moms – they actually liked it!

This menu is Middle East/Jerusalem inspired. Start with almonds – roasted and salted – and olives (the best you can find). Next, a series of salads. Tomatoes and cucumbers; raw squash with a light dressing and feta; burnt eggplant with pomegranate seeds. I also made Green Couscous (for the love of Yotam!) and it’s so easy and different and good.

For the main, we went grilled rack of lamb. You have a lot of leeway here with the main – the salads would go nicely with grilled or roasted chicken, steak, pork or even fish. It’s hard to go wrong so go with what you like best. Since we had the grill going, we toasted up some flatbreads too.

Of course we wanted dessert. We got the most amazing baklava – two kinds – pistachio and walnut. No way was I making baklava. I am not insane. There are certain things one should almost always buy. Support your local businesses – buy baklava.

And that was that. It’s a fair amount of washing and chopping but with a bit of planning (LOVE planning), you can have everything done by 3pm and resting, then just fire up your grill. Put everything on your table on large platters and have at it. One of my favorite menus ever.

Menu 47 - 8 11 2016

 

Tips and Notes

Tomatoes and Cucumbers – this doesn’t really need a recipe (Kirby cucumbers; colorful tomatoes cut into odd shapes; a little red onion; maybe you grate a garlic clove on it; red wine or sherry vinegar; olive oil; salt/pepper; time to come together). But if you must – this is a good basic version: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/rachael-ray/tomato-onion-and-cucumber-salad-recipe.html

Burnt Eggplant – Oh how I love Yotam. Seriously buy his cookbooks. http://www.athoughtforfood.net/blog/burnt-eggplant-with-lemon-garlic-and-pomegranate-seeds

Raw Squash and Feta – puurrty…http://cookieandkate.com/2013/summer-squash-salad-with-lemon-citronette/

More Yotam, Green Couscoushttp://www.marthastewart.com/348890/green-couscous

And the Bakalva – if you don’t have a middle eastern store near you, look here: https://www.amazon.com/Baklawa-Baklava-Walnuts-28-30-Pieces/dp/B0002HDM06

 

Menu 46 – Life Happens

Sometimes, even with the best of intentions, home cooking just doesn’t happen. Too busy, too hot, too tired. Whatever it is, sometimes it’s just too much.

Our last three weeks have been this way. It hasn’t been abnormally busy – everyone is always busy, la di da. No, it’s not that. But I’ve been distracted and not so high on plan, shop, prep, cook, clean. The kids have eaten a lot of pizza and pasta. And look, they’re still alive 🙂

This coming weekend will be a little different. We will reconnect with the cooking process and having a proper sit down family meal. I snagged this menu from HelloFresh, which I’ve done a couple of times. I won’t review the experience here but I will say that if it makes your life easier to have the planning, shopping and measuring done for you, these services (Blue Apron, HelloFresh, many others) are great so go for it.

They posted a menu HERE that is simple, healthy and good. Pan-Seared Salmon to start with Arugula Mint Pesto – really fresh flavors that don’t require a lot of time – good bang for your buck. A quinoa salad that has almonds and peppery arugula…one of those things you’ll make and say “wouldn’t it be nice to have this around more often?” And last a fun side of broiled snap peas. Honestly, this is the kind of meal you could double and serve to company – it’s pretty, fresh and easy.

It wouldn’t be a family dinner without dessert. But on this night we go no fuss and dish up ice cream. Make sure you get some that everyone loves. Not a bad way to get back in the cooking groove, if I do say so myself.

Menu 46 - 7 18 2016

Tips and Notes

You can download the whole process here: https://ddw4dkk7s1lkt.cloudfront.net/card/55d34f5cf8b25e5a1e8b4567.pdf?t=20160707142638

Menu 45 – 10th Anniversary Feast!!!

10 years ago on this day, June 24th, we got married. What a day – what a weekend that was! There was canoeing and fishing; golfing and bird watching. There were golf carts and big hats; peonies and a string quartet. We had a backdrop of mountains and brilliant blue sky. We had a moose head! There were friends and family from far and wide. We had very few slow songs and a LOT of dancing. It was one of the best weekends of our lives, and thinking about it this week has been a fabulous walk down memory lane.

Planning our wedding was a great experience for us as a couple – we absolutely loved it. We started by listing things that we like and then tried to incorporate as many of those things as we could into the weekend. Ten years later, we still like planning and as such, tonight we are reliving part of that glorious day with a menu inspired by what we served that night. I’ve posted a very simple written menu of what we actually ate that night – you will see that tonight’s menu is clearly inspired by the same.

Tonight we will have a salad with shaved zucchini in a lemon dressing – lots of shaved parmesan gets tossed in as well. Then ribeye straight from the grill (my husband is the BEST grill master) and béarnaise. We will also have grilled asparagus because – you know – béarnaise. Ten years ago we served gratin dauphinoise – tonight we will make due with baked potatoes with sour cream and chives (so good). For dessert rather than cake at our wedding we had pies – LOTS of pies – five kinds to be exact (strawberry rhubarb, wild main blueberry, apple raspberry, maple pecan and peach). Tonight we have friends coming over who offered to bring a sweet and that makes me so happy.

Rather than a drawing this week I added a few shots from our wedding. They are pictures of pictures because – old school – I don’t have digital versions at the moment (SO old fashioned, I know). We’ve had a really amazing decade and I feel so blessed to have the husband and family I have…I hope you enjoy this little walk down memory lane with me.

 

Menu 45 - 10th anniversary

dad pic
I love this picture – my dad’s hand on Alexander’s arm…
wedding
Actually getting married here – here we go!
the walk
Woohoo!
walk
Priceless Alexander face
walk away
Photographer “walk away! walk away right now!”
moose
The Moose. Just the Best.

Tips and notes

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/champagne-vinaigrette-353469

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/filet-mignon-with-blender-bearnaise-recipe2.html

http://gratineeblog.com/2009/10/julia-childs-gratin-dauphinois/

Menu 44 – FATHER’S DAY is almost here…

Let’s be honest – brunch is terrible. The food is average; the drinks are watery and dreadful. And you most often WAIT for the privilege! Time to re-do brunch.

And what better time to re-do brunch than on Father’s Day. Time to make brunch a real meal, in your home – and today, a meal that puts hair on your chest. This is not a brunch for the faint of heart. This is a brunch for DADS.

Start strong with a Bloody Bull. Bloody Bulls are a riff on the bloody mary – but better. We’re talking beef broth (stop – just stop – listen to me). Read the link below for why bloody bulls are superior to the average bloody mary. Your dad is superior – he deserves this. Next, oysters. I said put hair on your chest. Oysters will do it (and I bet your dad will NOT be expecting oysters. A little surprise never hurt anyone). For the main event, Steak and Eggs. “Steak and eggs” are a father favorite in my house. Serious protein. A real meal. But let’s fancy it up some and serve the steak and eggs over spinach and OVER polenta (over over!). This is the way to eat eggs.

And of course, coffee. But frankly after eating all of this what you really should do for your dad is prop him up in the best chair in the house, hand him a remote and the paper and keep those bloodies on refill. He will probably nap. And one of the best things you can ever give a dad is a nap (same with moms).  Plan a little, and get this done for your pops.

Menu 44 - 6 16 2016

 

Tips and notes

In support of the Bloody Bull: http://www.foodandwine.com/blogs/2015/11/29/heres-why-bloody-bull-better-bloody-mary

http://www.framedcooks.com/2015/05/the-best-steak-and-eggs.html

http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/classic-mignonette

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Menu 43 – TACOS

In general, you will be happy if you eat tacos. Have you noticed that? Who doesn’t like tacos? I wouldn’t hang out with people who don’t like tacos. The best tacos I ever had (other than my mom’s) were at Rockaway Taco. A couple of years ago, we had a family beach morning, jumping in waves and building castles with the kids. Around 11:30, we skedaddled our way to Rockaway Taco, ordered a bunch and ate them while sitting in the back end of our car. Then we went home, the kids took naps and we lounged the rest of the day. It was great.

Rockaway Taco itself is now gone – sort of – it reemerged here: http://www.rockawaybeachsurfclub.com/food-menu. Go if you can!

Because of Rockaway Taco, I associate tacos with surfing. No, I don’t surf. But apparently people who surf like tacos, so, you know, it all comes back to tacos in the end. Oh and June is International Surfing Month (because I bet you didn’t know that).

This week re-create that taco surf moment and make a bunch of amazing tacos. Play surfer music if you want. Mix a big batch of margaritas. Whip up fried fish tacos topped with cabbage and spicy mayo. Serve with roasted corn salad – equites. Finish with a big dish of ice cream – ideally with your feet still in the sand.

Menu 43 - 6 3 2016

 

Tips and notes

Start with a pitcher of margaritas: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/article/4-steps-to-the-best-ever-margarita

Next, roasted corn salad: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2012/07/esquites-mexican-street-corn-salad-recipe.html

And the main event, ROCKAWAY TACOS: http://abc7ny.com/archive/6999337/

Menu 42 – Memorial Day PICNIC

Memorial Day – about so much more than burgers on the grill. It’s about honoring all Americans who died while in military service, and their families who by extension, gave so much. It began as Decoration Day when family members visited cemeteries and decorated gravesites of the war dead with flowers. This traditional of having Decoration Days still remains today and often involves many family members meeting at a cemetery, decorating together and then having a picnic-like “dinner on the ground” (at least according to Wikipedia).

Also according to Wikipedia, “On Memorial Day, the flag of the United States is raised briskly to the top of the staff and then solemnly lowered to the half-staff position, where it remains only until noon. It is then raised to full-staff for the remainder of the day. The half-staff position remembers the more than one million men and women who gave their lives in service of their country. At noon, their memory is raised by the living, who resolve not to let their sacrifice be in vain, but to rise up in their stead and continue the fight for liberty and justice for all.”

So on this day, remember with your own family and friends how grateful we need to be for all who’ve sacrificed their lives. Attend a parade. Say thank you. Prepare a meal that you mindfully share with those family and friends.

I’m sticking with Decoration Day here and suggesting a picnic. Nobody will be mad if you pour them a Back Nine to start – you know, a spiked Arnold Palmer. Next, everyone seems to like cold fried chicken – how about turning that into a sandwich on this day. Make a spicy slaw too, and slice pickles – people can top their chicken sandwich as they wish. Alongside, a fresh couscous salad (keeps well outside – a little fancier than baby carrots and hummus…not that there’s anything wrong with that). I always want potato chips at picnics, so find the best you can and snag a few bags. And last, it’s not a picnic without dessert…at a picnic cherry pie might be messy, so go with bars – cherry pie bars.

Have a happy, healthy, grateful and mindful Memorial Day.

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Tips and Notes

A refreshing drink: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/nancy-fuller/back-nine-spiked-arnold-palmer.html

The chicken from this sandwich, make ahead, grab some buns, make the slaw, have people assemble on their own: http://www.saveur.com/article/recipes/buttermilk-fried-chicken-sandwich

Buy the best pickles you can find: http://www.seriouseats.com/2011/07/taste-test-what-are-the-best-pickles.html

THIS couscous salad! http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/couscous-salad-zucchini-and-roasted-almonds

Also smart to buy the best potato chips you can find: http://www.seriouseats.com/2013/05/taste-test-potato-chips.html

And last but not least, a not messy “cherry pie” http://joythebaker.com/2014/05/cherry-pie-bars/