A weekend at the country house…

Last year my sister and her husband left their Manhattan apartment and bought a very old and very beautiful colonial farm house. I call it my country house. The house needs a lot of work but the charm is undeniable. I absolutely love to spend weekends up there relaxing, grilling, and enjoying the weather. This past weekend my mom was in town so I hopped on the metro north after work and headed to my country house 🙂

We had dinner at Purdy’s Farmer & the Fish on Friday evening. This place is amazing. It’s an old historic home that has been turned into a farm to table restaurant. You pass candlelit tables on the porch and enter through the front door where you are greeted by the hostess. The bar is right beyond the hostess table and the floor is littered with peanut shells which adds rather than removes charm. The restaurant was bursting with transplanted Manhattanites and locals. I loved it all. We dined a variety of oysters and crab legs to start. The oysters were wonderfully briny and fresh while the crab was cool and sweet. I had the swordfish for my entree and it was perfectly flaky and mild. The mustard from the green beans was tangy and slightly spicy. Jason ordered the Lobster Roll and my Mom ordered the Soft Shell Crab. Both were fantastic.

Now, the best part of this dining experience was the very drunk and very mean woman who was escorted out of the restaurant by the police. It was quite entertaining watching the scene unfold when she was asked to leave. The manager was very polite and patient but this woman just couldn’t comprehend what she had done wrong. She was very unruly. This obviously was not the norm and I was very impressed with the way the manager handled the situation. Overall I would return for the food and atmosphere. I want to try everything on the menu (which is constantly changing).

The next morning I surprised myself by going for a run! I hate running but I was very happy (when it was over) that I forced myself. We spent the rest of the afternoon picking wineberries and blackberries and laying in the sun. The house is surrounded by wild wineberry and blackberry bushes. They are so sweet and tangy. You can’t get much fresher than that.

Berries

We grilled our dinner. Literally everything was grilled. Beer Can Chicken with Grilled Red Peppers, Mushrooms, and Onions from the garden, and Corn on the Cob. We rounded out the evening with drinks on the patio. Life doesn’t get much sweeter than summer nights with your family.

Beer Can Chicken

Summer Nights

I’ll be back later this week with some delicious recipes! Have a great week everyone!

Restaurant Review: Laurel and Sage

Laurel and Sage is the adorable restaurant that opened up down the street from us on Walnut. It’s off the beaten path and easy to miss. From the outside it really doesn’t look too impressive; however, once you step inside you know you’re in for a treat. The decor is simple and fresh. All the tables are made from butcher blocks and there are several sparkling chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. Jason and I did not have a reservation and decided to see if they could fit us in on a whim. We benefited from a cancellation and were thrilled.

The restaurant is BYO which is very common for Montclair, NJ. I personally love it because you don’t have to spend a fortune on your wine. We brought with us a crisp and fruity Sauvignon Blanc.

We were served a choice of bread table-side from the bead basket and were given a delicious ramekin of honey butter. Immediately following we were served an amuse bouche of chilled pea and potato soup topped with a quail egg. This was delicious. There was so much flavor and the quail egg was cooked perfectly. A chilled soup is wonderful on a hot summer day. I was sad when I finished mine and certainly wanted more. I guess that is the purpose of an amuse bouche, right?

Pea and Potato Soup

We ordered two appetizers, the Crab Cake and the Blackened Swordfish Maki Roll. They were both fantastic. I thought there was a little too much sauce on the crab cake plate, but over all I was really happy with it. The apple slaw that was served with it was sweet, tart, and fresh. The Maki Roll was delicious as well. However, I didn’t feel like the swordfish really came through that much. I mainly tasted rice. I did however love the trio of dipping sauces.

Crab Cake

Swordfish Maki Roll

I didn’t take pictures of our main entrees as I didn’t want to irritate my husband too much, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t love them. Jason ordered the Soft Shell Crab which was so fresh and sweet. Fried to perfection over a bed of corn salsa. I ordered the Red Snapper in a Coconut Red Curry. The fish was cooked perfectly and the curry was sweet with a touch of spice that I loved. I would definitely order this again. It was served with sauteed baby bok choy and a side of cilantro rice. The rice was slightly green from the cilantro and full of flavor. I loved every bite.

We can’t wait to return and try different menu items! If you find yourself in Montclair, NJ don’t miss this restaurant.

Blue Apron: Seared Cod with Spring Vegetables in a Lemon Dijon Sauce

Have you guys heard of Blue Apron? It’s amazing. They send you the ingredients for three dinners each week along with detailed recipes. You can skip a week and you can also customize your dinner choices. It’s so convenient if you don’t have time to shop or if you just want to try some new recipes. The best part is they send you the exact amount you need so you no longer have leftover ingredients. No more throwing out a whole bushel of celery because you only needed 1 stalk! Genius idea!!

Our first dinner was Seared Cod with Spring Vegetables in a Lemon Dijon Sauce. It was better than I expected. First you prep your ingredients while boiling your water. Then blanch your asparagus for 2-3 minutes and immediately dunk in an ice water bath to stop the cooking process. The fingerling potatoes go into the same pot of boiling water for 9-11 minutes, until tender. While your potatoes cook, make your sauce. Minced shallot, Dijon mustard, salt & pepper, and olive oil are whisked together to make a slightly spicy dressing for your vegetables. In a large bowl mix together all your veggies (sliced radishes, potatoes, asparagus, capers) and sauce and set aside. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a non-stick pan. Sear the cod on one side for 3-4 minutes and then flip, add the butter and continue to baste the fish with butter for an additional 3-4 minutes or until the fish is cooked through. Serve fish over veggies and enjoy!

Seared Cod

The fish is really tender and the flavor is fantastic. Butter makes everything better. You can see my fish fell apart because it stuck to the pan a little even though I used a non-stick pan. I would not attempt this without a non-stick pan. The mustard sauce brought it all together. It was tangy, spicy, and a little sweet from the shallot and the capers add a bit of saltiness to the dish. Perfect.

Jason and I were both pleasantly surprised with this outcome because we don’t normally cook with white potatoes or radishes (although I didn’t put any radishes on his plate…) It’s fun to experiment with new ingredients! Give Blue Apron a try, you won’t be disappointed!

Eating my way through Italy

Capri

Italy was amazing. It was warm, beautiful, and intriguing. We explored Rome, Sorrento, Pompei, and Capri. Capri was by far my favorite place. I just loved the stone walkways throughout the whole city. Sometimes we would just follow them until we figured out where we were. This also resulted in us walking down the mountain only to have to walk back up…. The history and ancient ruins that we saw were breathtaking. The Colosseum and Pompeii were particularly amazing.

Now, the food. I have to be honest, I was not impressed by our meals in Rome. I think that we must have been in the wrong places. This was our first time to the city, so naturally we wanted to see all the tourist attractions which led us to make some bad restaurant choices. However, my favorite pizza (pictured below) was served in Rome right beside the Collesium, so I guess you never really know what you’re going to get!

1st Pizza

The pizzas are smaller than what we are used to but perfect to share for lunch. The crust was crispy and the cheese was gooey and the sauce was perfect. It really was the best pizza.

Now, the pasta…oooh the pasta. The pasta is served more al dente than I was used to; however, that did not bother me. There was homemade pasta everywhere! Below is a picture of Scialatielli with Lobster in a White Wine, Garlic, and Fresh Tomato sauce. This.Was.Delicious. It’s an absolute must to soak up that sauce with a slice of bread. We paired this dish with a glass of their local white wine, which was also delicious. Semi-sweet and crisp with fruity undertones.

Lobster

Finally, the Eggplant Parmesan. This was probably Susan’s favorite appetizer to order. I do not love Eggplant Parmesan, as it’s a classic dish that is prepared the same way at each restaurant. I prefer to try new dishes. The presentation was adorable and while it wasn’t my favorite, it was still delicious.

eggplant

My favorite restaurant ended up being the Panorama. It was just outside of Sorrento. We shared a delicious quattro formaggi (four cheese) pizza to start and then split an amazing scialatielli pasta with fresh vegetables, garlic, and white wine. We also split a local fish entree that was outstanding. The restaurant was a small “mom & pop shop” and didn’t look like anything special. The owner was our waiter and he basically made these dishes just for us. It made the experience very special. We also shared a bottle of their own white wine. I unfortunately only took a picture of the pizza because I couldn’t help myself from digging right in to the other 2 dishes!

Panorama Pizza

This was a once in a lifetime trip. I am so fortunate to have been able to spend this time with my sister. I will never forget it.

Susan

I have a travel bug and have already thought about my next trip…Ireland and Scotland are calling my name!

Until next time…

Epicurious: Saffron Seafood Boil

This weekend was one of my favorites. Both Jason and I were home and we were able to relax with no plans. The highlight of my weekend was discovering an adorable cafe & juice bar that opened up down the street from us. It’s called The Corner (they don’t have a website yet but it’s on the corner of Walnut Street and Grove Street in Montclair, NJ) and the juices and food are delicious! The decor was perfectly quaint. It was the great way to re-fuel after my Kettle-bells and Pilates classes.

Juices from The Corner

We also found time to visit a nice little brewery, only about 30 minutes away in Butler, NJ. Ramstein Brewery was a great way to spend an afternoon.

Ramstein Brewery Door

The tasting room is small and darkly lit, but it opens up into the brewery which offers more space and light. It’s a little grungy which makes it feel authentic and real. They had four beers on tap and we each ordered different ones and shared. They also offer flights. My favorite was the Blonde Hefe-Weizen and Jason loved the Golden Lager. We left with a 6-pack of the Blonde and a growler of the Golden. We will be returning soon!

Ramstein Brewery Inside

On the way home I forced Jason to stop at Trader Joe’s so I could stock up on supplies for the week. Dinner on Saturday was a delicious Saffron Seafood Boil from Epicurious. I made several changes to the recipe, mainly because I’m not fully confident cooking mussels or clams at home yet.

1. I used shrimp, cod and chorizo. Looking back I think I should have picked up halibut, as the recipe suggested, as the cod was very delicate and fell apart easily.

2. I seasoned with salt & pepper a little bit more than suggested. Some of the reviews said the broth was a little bland and I wanted to avoid that.

Saffron Seafood Boil

I thought this turned out great. It was seasoned well and the fish and shrimp were cooked perfectly. The chorizo really added some delicious flavor and spice. I think this saffron base would pair nicely with almost any seafood (except maybe salmon). Think lobster?!

Enjoy!

Cooking Light: Crispy Fish Nuggets with Tartar Sauce

The second installment of Cooking Light dinners did not disappoint and these Crispy Fish Nuggets with Tartar Sauce only pack 287 calories per serving. I don’t think you can find a lighter fried fish. These are also perfect for a weeknight dinner because everything comes together fast.

First pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. Toast your breadcrumbs and fresh thyme in a skillet over medium heat for just a couple of minutes (this is important, do not skip this step). Then combine the breadcrumb mixture with salt & pepper. Now it’s time to get your prep station set up. Add your breadcrumbs to a shallow dish and in another dish add a cup of flour. In yet another shallow dish, whisk together the egg and 2 tablespoons of water. Now toss the fish in the flour, egg and then breadcrumbs (in that order) and place in a single layer on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes until fully cooked and golden brown.

While the fish is cooking you can quickly pull together the homemade tartar sauce and a simple side salad. The tartar sauce is simply a combination of the following ingredients: 1/4 cup of canola mayo, 1 tablespoon of chopped dill pickle, 2 teaspoons of chopped fresh parsley, 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon of Dijon mustard. I added a little bit more lemon juice and some white vinegar. The sauce felt a little too heavy with all the mayo…I might try it again with some Greek yogurt instead.

Crispy Fish Nuggest

These little nuggets were delicious! I could have eaten a whole batch but had to restrain myself. This is a family friendly meal that gives you the yummy comfort of fried food without all the fat and calories. Enjoy!

What’s next from Cooking Light? Three Chili Dusted Shrimp with a quick Corn Relish