We receive so many incredible acknowledgments from our fans, both verbal and written - we are truly blessed! Occasionally, we're inspired to share the most wonderful ones with you. So here goes:
Dear Richard, Mary Anne, Jonathan, Megan, Sam, and the rest of the crew at Bistro-to-Go,
Sometimes positive reinforcement is hard to come by, so whenever I can give it out I am happy to oblige.
Back in the spring I had routine blood work done at my doctor's office and my triglyceride level which had been elevated before was now out of hand. He used the word "re-diabetic" in his scolding. Since then, I have eaten a bowl of oatmeal everyday and dined at Bistro-to-Go at least 5 times a week. I went back for fresh blood work in September. My triglyceride levels dropped 75%. The doctor was impressed and so was I.
I could not have achieved this improvement to my health without your help. A low-carb diet would have been a real drag without your greens, broccoli, chicken burgers, green beans, vegetable medleys, etc.
I am a bachelor. My refrigerator at home features mustard, baking soda and batteries. I eat out almost all meals. For that reason, I feel particularly qualified to say that Bistro-to-Go has the best quality, most skillfully prepared and conveniently served food in Ulster County and maybe beyond. All of your dedication to and passion for great food shines through brightly and I get to eat it.
Gratefully Yours, DJB
Catsmo Smoked Salmon Canapes
Chef Richard Erickson, Blue Mountain Bistro-to-Go
This is a classic finger food, but we have punched the flavors up a bit and serve it on sensational white wine shallot biscuits. Any nice cracker or pumpernickle bread, even cucumber slices would work equally well. Combine 4 oz. smoked salmon with 1 pound of softened cream cheese, 2 or three scallions and a generous bunch of dill, tarragon, chives or a combination of all. We mix it coarsely in the Cuisinart scraping down the sides. Spoon the mix onto a cracker and garnish with small slices of smoked salmon for a nice presentation. If you can purchase locally smoked salmon, it's even more delicious! Mixing some salmon in with the cream cheese rather than just garnishing the top makes a real difference and the result is a scrumptious little appetizer. Enjoy!
Tapenade and Goat Cheese Bruschetta
Chef Richard Erickson, Blue Mountain Bistro-to-Go
"Bruschetta" (oil rubbed and toasted baguettes) make great finger foods as an appetizer for a cocktail party or a cocktail hour at a larger celebration. There are many different toppings that one could use to make this perfect bite size appetizer, and the combination of olive tapenade and goat cheese is always a winner!
Basically, they are very easy to make. Start with several large baguettes and slice the bread on a bit of an angle to make elongated ovals. Brush with olive oil, place on a cookie sheet and lightly toast in the oven until they begin to show a bit of color.
Buy your favorite goat cheese, local is always best if you can find it and let it sit out of the refrigerator for 1/2 hour or so to make sure it's easily spreadable. We use a teaspoon to scoop out a small amount of goat cheese over about 1/3 of the bruschetta. Then layer a similar amount of tapenade onto the middle third of the bread, making sure to leave the other end free (it makes it easier to pick up neatly). We slice small slivers of cherry or grape tomatoes to use as a garnish on top of the seam where the goat cheese and tapenade meet. Voila! Arrange on a platter and you're set to go.
(Don't make these up more than one hour in advance of serving, the bread will become soggy.)
Tapenade is an olive spread which takes its name from the Provencal dialect for capers “tapeno”. Everyone makes his or her own version, varying the proportions but the basic ingredients seldom change. It is a tasty spread that is quite versatile and good to have on hand. Here then is the version we serve at Blue Mountain Bistro-to-Go.
2 cups pitted black olives, mix of Calamata, Nicoise & oil cured (brined olives should be rinsed, well drained)
1/4 cup anchovies
1/3 cup capers, rinsed
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, soaked and chopped
2 tablespoons freshly minced garlic
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup fresh chopped basil and/or parsley
1 shot cognac
2 dried figs, diced and soaked (can substitute date or prune)
1/2 cup good extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
Coarsely chop everything and then put in the food processor. Care must be taken not to over process into mush. Add extra virgin olive oil while pulsing the olive mix. The final product should be well mixed but not pureed.
A few notes about the ingredients:
Sun-dried tomatoes, although not traditional, make a welcome addition and add visual interest. Calamata, Nicoise, Gaeta, or a combination of olives all work well together. Oil cured olives may also be used, but can be a bit overpowering if used alone. Green olives are used occasionally, typically with the addition of a few toasted almonds or pine nuts. As in any dish, the freshness of the parsley and/or basil adds a brightness to the flavors and cuts the saltiness of the olives and capers.
Mushroom Parmesan Risotto Cakes
Chef Richard Erickson, Blue Mountain Bistro-to-Go
This is another fabulous finger food that can be prepared in advance and easily reheated at the last minute for a passed appetizer. We also make a larger sized version of the same cakes and use it as the base for a vegetarian entree, served with assorted vegetables.
The inspiration for this recipe are the savory rice balls of Sicily known as arancine, or “little oranges”, due to their shape and orange hued crust. Traditionally they are filled with meat or cheese and eaten as snacks in bars and cafes all over Sicily. Any type of risotto can be used and it is a great way to use leftover risotto one may have from a dinner party or whatever.
4 cups mushroom, chicken or vegetable stock
3 cups mushrooms, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely diced onion
2 T butter
1 T olive oil
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup arborio rice
Salt & pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated parmigiano
1 cup bread crumbs or panko
Vegetable or light olive oil for frying
2. Now add the rice to the mushroom onion mix, season with salt and pepper and stir to coat the rice completely. Begin ladling in the warm stock 1/2 cup at a time stirring and making sure the liquid has been absorbed before adding more. Rice varies so you may need more or less liquid. Unlike a traditional risotto, cook until the rice is soft and creamy all the way through, about 25-30 minutes.
3. Turn the mixture out into a bowl adding the grated cheese. When cool enough to handle, add the egg, mix well and do a test. Form a small ball of rice into a patty, press into the bread crumbs and gently saute in a small pan with a bit of oil. If you are pleased with the result, (texture, flavor etc) continue making balls. If not add more salt or cheese before making the entire batch.
4. Once all of the mini cakes have been made and pressed into the bread crumbs they can be refrigerated or even frozen until ready to cook. Fry the cakes in a small amount of oil (a non-stick pan is best for this), blot on a paper towel and serve on a platter. The risotto cakes can also be fried off ahead of time and rewarmed in the oven. We like to garnish them with a bit of shaved Parmesan.
Blinis with Smoked Trout, Creme Fraiche, and Wasabi Caviar
Chef Richard Erickson, Blue Mountain Bistro-to-Go
Over the course of the next few days building up to New Year's Eve, we'll be sharing some of our favorite appetizer recipes with you. This one's always a hit for weddings and cocktail parties!
Asian Tuna Tartare
This is a sushi like appetizer that does not require the skill of a sushi chef. It is fairly simple and has few ingredients.
from Blue Mountain Bistro-to-Go’s Chef Richard Erickson
Served on sliced cucumber, alternatively rice crackers
fleur de sel or a good sea salt
sesame seeds, white and/or black or nori
1. Start with fresh tuna that has been put in the freezer for 30 minutes or so (this makes it so much easier to cut). The tuna needs to be cut into a small dice, 1/8” or less. Keep in a chilled mixing bowl.
2. Peel a piece of ginger about the size of your thumb. It needs to be sliced into a very fine dice even smaller than the tuna. It can be done in a food processor as well, it just won’t look as attractive.
3. Mince the chives, you will need quite a bit, I would say about 2 bunches of chives, although the size of the bunches can vary from store to store.
4. Combine the ginger and chives in the bowl with the tuna. Add a pinch of cayenne, a generous amount of salt and lightly dress with 2-3 tablespoons sesame oil. Toss with a fork until well mixed and taste. It should be fairly spicy, remember it is served on cucumber which acts to take away some of the heat. Sample a bit until you are pleased with the combination. The ingredients can be prepared several hours ahead of serving but they should not be combined until an hour or so ahead of time.
5. To serve, simply put a teaspoon of tuna tartare on a thinly sliced cucumber and garnish with sesame seeds or thinly sliced sushi seaweed, nori. A sheet of the nori looks great as a base on a serving platter!! Bon Appetit !!
Will make approximately 2 dozen pieces.
By Chef Richard Erickson
"Brining". The word itself seems old fashioned and it is. It is one of the techniques by which ham and bacon have been cured for a long time. Modern chefs adopted the technique relatively recently to correct for the lean pork and poultry being raised commercially. It's easy and anyone can do it.
Dried out turkey breasts can be a thing of the past!! Turkey that is cooked over 150 degrees has all the juices squeezed out of it as the meat contracts during cooking. Brining will counteract that and give you a juicy, tender and flavorful bird. Really!!
A brine is basically salt water with sugar added to temper some of the harshness of the salt. Usually some herbs and spices are added to enhance the flavor. Here's what you do, it's this simple.
To make two gallons of brine, take:
2 cups kosher salt
1 cup sugar
1 head garlic
bay leaves, fresh thyme, sage or rosemary
Bring 2 cups of water to boil along with salt, sugar, the herbs and spices. Crush the head of garlic, add 3 or 4 bay leaves, a good branch of thyme, sage or rosemary and a sprinkling of peppercorns. Let simmer for 10 to 15 minutes and then cool. Now add two gallons of cold water less 2 cups. This is enough for a large turkey, 20+ lbs.
First remove neck, giblets and liver from the cavities, rinse and put into a large pot or plastic pail that would hold the turkey comfortably and cover with the cooled brine, put a plate on top to keep it submerged and leave refrigerated for 24 to 48 hours depending on the size. It is important that it remain 40 degrees or less.
Remove from brine, pat dry and roast in the usual way however do not add salt, the bird has already been seasoned! I like to rub the skin with a bit of oil and some of the herbs that I used in the brine. The internal temperature of the bird should be 145 degrees when it's done. Allow it to rest for at least 30 minutes after removing from the oven before you carve and serve. Now enjoy one of the most tender and delicious turkeys you have ever had.
This recipe also works well for chicken and pork, soak for shorter periods of time depending on the size of the piece of meat. Brown sugar, apple cider, mustard seeds, cinnamon, and cloves are all great to add to a brine. The variations are endless, so have fun with this and don't worry, be happy!
From all of us at Blue Mountain Bistro-to-Go, we wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving!
We are thrilled to announce that Hudson Valley Magazine has released the winners of this year's reader's poll and Blue Mountain Bistro-to-Go was voted Best Caterer in the Hudson Valley! We are honored! We so appreciate all of your support. With this in mind, we'd like to share this effusive thank you letter we received from a bride and groom whose wedding we catered in June.
"It took me one week since my wedding on June 23rd to my
darling Christine to write this review of The Blue Mountain Bistro. The
main reason for the delay is that I have just finished speaking to the
last guest regarding the incredible food and first-class service
provided by Mary Anne and Richard. As I now have the time to comment
on my experience with Mary Anne and Richard, any person who seriously
wishes to overwhelm their event guests with incredible food and service
is best advised to read on.
After Christine and I sent our wedding invitations I found myself feeling such gratitude for each guest who responded to our invitation with a “will attend.” I felt obligated to each of our guests to demonstrate my gratitude for their acceptance of the invitation to attend our wedding, Many of our guests would be traveling a long distance to attend. We just had to insure a perfect, killer wedding.
Incredibly, we selected The Blue Mountain Bistro even though it was the first catering entity which appeared after Googling caterers for the Kingston, New York area. We then contacted Mary Anne and spoke with her in detail regarding our wedding. She was incredibly professional and totally knowledgeable answering our questions regarding how to pull off a successful summer mountain tent wedding at our home in Haines Falls, New York.
The day of our wedding finally arrived and Mary Anne and Richard took over. Our tables set-up was beautiful. After Christine and I said our “I do’s”, the wedding reception began. The food at the cocktail hour was professionally delivered and FABULOUS. My favorite was the mini lobster sandwiches. Importantly, The Blue Mountain Bistro bartenders served our guests at a perfect pace, ensuring that none of our guests had to wait for a drink.
The dinner presentation was awesome. I observed highly skilled food servers delivering incredible tenderloin, pork and chicken specialty dinners to our guests. The dinner was fabulous with our guests cleaning their plates as if they had just escaped being trapped in a plane on an airport runway for 10 hours.
In sum, we could not have received a better affair if we rented the most gorgeous room at The Waldorf Astoria. Mary Anne and Richard delivered a wedding for the ages and WE were the lucky recipients of their “combined genius”. These are the only words that can truly describe their mastery of the art of catering and food and beverage service.
If anyone truly wants to honor and impress their guests, Mary Anne and Richard are the key and the ‘only way” to go. A wedding is a perfect fit for the axiom “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression” Importantly, I am a Consumer Protection attorney and I know good, honest business owners better than most. Richard and Mary Anne are throw-backs from the last century when the customer was king and businesses well understood that word of mouth was the best advertisement for their products and skills.
The Blue Mountain Bistro will now cater any affair which Christine and I may have in the future. I simply cannot believe that such a fabulous catering entity is located so close to our beautiful rural mountain home.
Book these two fabulous professionals, Mary Anne and Richard, before the day comes when they will be as available as a taxicab in Manhattan during a 5:00PM Friday July monsoon rain storm. Christine and I thank each of you from the bottom of our hearts---you gave us a wedding for the ages!"
People often ask me what’s it like to work in a professional kitchen. Reality TV shows with Anthony Bourdain, Gordon Ramsey and countless others have branded life in kitchens as a perpetual horror show. Angry abusive chefs, hellish working conditions, tension, with pressure and treachery at every turn. As any cook who has spent a lifetime in the kitchen can attest, this can and does exist. It is also just as likely that a kitchen can be a warm, homelike environment full of laughter and commeraderie in the midst of all the hard work.
I first found this to be true in Switzerland where I found work at a hotel as a dish washing/ski bum. I was broke, couldn’t speak the language, alone in a foreign country, and then suddenly I was a part of a team. Far from home, I realized I had found a surrogate family. Respect for others who work hard and do their jobs well is universal. Those who spend long hours together, sharing hard work and meals bond as co-workers in a way that few other workplaces can duplicate. What a feeling! I didn’t know it yet but I was hooked. I now realize that in every restaurant I've worked in since then my goal has been to recreate that feeling of connection. Like any family, there are good times and rough times, but the over-riding feeling is that we are all in this together.
At Blue Mountain Bistro-to-Go, employees come to work and after hellos and handshakes all around we get to work. What did you do last night? You saw a movie - how was it? Need time off to go renew your drivers license? We've got you covered! In short, everyone’s contribution is respected and acknowledged. "Please" and "thank you" are thrown around liberally. The dishwasher sings all day, we laugh and joke with the delivery people. People stop by on their days off to check in, recount stories of last night, grab a coffee and say "hi". After my most recent vacation with a bit too much time spent driving, it was a pleasure to get back home - to the kitchen. I confess I haven’t watched too many cooking shows lately, but I don’t think this is what they show on the reality TV shows.
I like to think that all this good energy contributes to the quality of our food. Happy people who enjoy what they're doing put an indefinable quality, a “shakti” as the Hindis say, into their work. We then share the products of our work (our "feel good food") with the public and get instant gratification for a job well done. It’s a pretty great feeling and I am sure I speak for many in the food service industry when I say “that’s what it’s all about”.
Richard Erickson, executive chef / owner, Blue Mountain Bistro-to-Go
When you're planning a wedding one of the most important things (among all of the important things) to consider is the location. Location, location, location!!! And then of course, the time of year - we all know we have no control over the weather, no matter what time of year it is! I hadn't had the pleasure of visiting the incredibly beautiful rural destination The Inn at West Settlement until a delightful couple came our way, having chosen this spot for their June wedding. We first met there on a very cold autumn day last year to "scope it out" when the barn was still under construction. It was good enough, however, for me to get a good sense of how things would proceed on the day of the wedding. We met a second time in the spring and WOW what a difference a few months can make! The barn had a beautiful new hardwood floor, the indoor bar was finished, the big barn door opening looking out over the pond completed, and the gardens looked beautiful.
The owner of The Inn at West Settlement, Andy McArdle, has done a fabulous job of renovating the house and barn to be able to host any type of event. And on this particular day in June, with the late afternoon sun pouring through the trees, we all felt like we were somewhere in the south of France, not the Catskills! One of the guests later told our hostess that she felt like she was in a Renoir painting! All of the elements came together to provide the absolute perfect setting for a perfect wedding celebration. The bride and groom chose to be married on the front yard of the house looking out over the pond and valley beyond. The backyard of the house provided a lovely spot for the cocktail hour, with the bar set up under several trees and a lavish table of appetizers on the stone patio.
After the cocktail hour the guests were invited to come take their seats in the barn for the salad course, a champagne toast, speeches and toasts from important friends and family. The dinner followed, then dancing, dancing, then cupcakes, more dancing.........then the poignant feeling when the night is slipping away. Slow time down so we can enjoy one more dance! Hugs, good-byes, thank yous.
We're sure the party carried on after we left, but we had a really warm feeling about this beautiful wedding day. Enjoy the menu of what they feasted on, and pictures from the event:
Mushroom Parmesan Risotto Cakes
Moroccan Merquez Lamb Meatballs, minted yogurt garnish
Caribbean coconut shrimp
Manchego cheese biscuits with Prosciutto and Quince
Moroccan Chicken in Phyllo Cups
Stationery Appetizer Table
Artisinal Cheese Presentation with fresh fruit and nuts
Vegetable Garden Crudite
Bruschetta Station, included eggplant caponata, olive tapenade, whipped goat cheese, artichoke Parmesan spread, toasted bruschetta and assorted crackers
Served Bistro Salad with nasturtiums
Chicken Citron with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, chef’s vegetable medley
Tuscan Braised Beef with Creamy Three Cheese Polenta, broccoli rabe
Vegetable Wellington, vegetarian option
Rosemary, sourdough, seven grain rolls
Cupcakes: Filled Lemon Curd, Hostess, Dulce de Leche filled, Chocolate Decadence, and Red Velvet
Chocolate Covered Strawberries
Strongtree Dark Espresso Blend Coffee
Day in the Life of an Artistic Event Planner / Caterer in the Beautiful Hudson Valley
We are in the height of our season now at Blue Mountain Bistro Catering as June is quickly coming to a close. The days begin whizzing by as we approach very significant Hudson Valley weddings and parties that have been in the planning stages for sometimes a year or more. Last Saturday as I awoke, my mind already buzzing with the packing list for the wedding that day, I thought - this would make a good blog! Everyone knows what it's like to attend a wedding, but how many people know what happens behind the scenes to make it all happen? Planning and catering for weddings, parties, affairs and events has become a major part of my life. As a Woodstock, New York based fine artist, I know how to approach planning a party and creating and presenting fabulous food a bit differently than your typical event catering service!
Don’t Rain on MY Party
The first thing we always pray for is a great weather day! This can make all the difference! Last week was one of the hottest so far this summer with temps close to 100 degrees and high humidity. It poured rain on Friday, but they promised us a beautiful day on Saturday and so it was! I was thrilled to think we wouldn't be drenched from just loading everything into our vans, to arrive at the site looking a little less than fresh!
This special wedding celebration took place at the groom's country home from his childhood. He was one of six kids - how special for their family to be reunited for his marriage at the place they've loved for decades. As is usually the case for upstate New York summer weddings, they had a large tent erected in the front yard (lucky to have had a perfect flat space for this!) - with a sweet spot next to it where we put up our "cook tent". We always get a few solid sides which create a visual barrier with the main tent - and this is our staging area. This location was a stunning summer kitchen with a carpet of vinca going off in all directions and surrounded by a stately grove of trees. What could be more beautiful?
We generally have four tables for our work surfaces, a propane grill, our own propane stove, and a proofing cabinet to help keep the food warm. The usual protocol is that one of our kitchen staff comes to the site along with the wait staff three hours in advance of the start time to get the "kitchen" set up and begin prepping the appetizers. The chefs usually arrive an hour or so ahead with as much of the hot food ready to go in cambros (hot boxes) and the rest to finish on the grill and our camp stoves.
To backtrack just a bit, many hours before we leave my assistant and I have already packed our vehicles with everything that will be needed for the event: all the platters, baskets, bowls, chafers, serving utensils, tablecloths, extra lighting, cords - in short - whatever we haven't gotten from the rental company. Often, our vehicles are chock full of stuff ready to be quickly unloaded and sorted upon arrival at the event or wedding catering site.
We are blessed to have developed an amazing staff of waiters, bartenders, and bus people over the years, who now know how to whip into action the minute we hit the ground at an event location. Before we leave, we have a meeting where I outline all the details of the party (the menu, timing, special needs and requests) so that there is no question what will happen in every precious second leading up to the beginning of the event.
Setting the Tables for our Delicious Food
Our first task is usually to set up the tables, chairs, and bar inside the tent. Most people are economizing these days so we often use the same chairs for the ceremony and the dinner - so part of the staff will set up the chairs in the designated location of the wedding itself. After the couple has tied the knot, we whisk the chairs into their proper places at each place setting.
Next comes the place settings and decorating the tables. Many bridal couples and their families have fun with this aspect - creating favors, special flower arrangements and place cards - last summer one couple had an artistic friend who created magical dioramas inside glass bowls depicting couples and people in all sorts of fantastic environments.
Once the setting for the celebration is fully set up, we turn our attention to the kitchen and do whatever is needed to finish the appetizer preparations. In this case, all of the appetizers were passed by the wait staff, but sometimes they also request an appetizer table. We have created all sorts of great spreads for these - coming in my next blog post, pictures from the previous week's appetizer table!
As the moments draw nearer to the ceremony, we look around for anything else that we may have overlooked - check all the place settings to make sure everything is perfect, and wait along with the seated guests for the bride to commence her walk down the aisle. It's so heartwarming, after months of conversations with the bride and groom - to finally be witnessing this precious moment of love and commitment. This is truly what all the fuss is about! LOVE!
All You Need Is Love – and a GREAT Wedding Celebration!!
We savor this moment and then the explosion of applause! And now it's showtime!!! Out come the platters being passed by our marvelous staff - people having cocktails - enjoying the love in the room - the happiness of the families - our delicious food! This joyous schmoozfest usually lasts 1 - 1 1/2 hours and then we invite the guests to sit down and enjoy a plated salad, a champagne toast, and speeches by friends and family. We clear the salad plates and the guests are then invited table by table up to the buffet, or they are served a plated meal - the choice of the hosts. This is when I seem to have lost the ability to continue taking photographs! Once dinner service begins, I'm too busy checking on details to continue my documenting the event. I often pull it back together to get some good shots of the cake - so important!
People usually like to dance for an hour or so before they have dessert, so this gives us a chance to get things cleaned up and organized for dessert and coffee service. Over the years, I've come to feel a dessert table and self serve coffee are the most practical. Often, folks are up dancing and may or may not want dessert - if they do - it's there and they can help themselves. This also could be more of a "country thing"! Folks seek us out here in the Hudson Valley for less formal events - held outdoors, not in a fine hotel with white glove service. I'm always amazed at how many people request our services that live far away - sometimes even the West Coast! The Hudson Valley has become a real destination for exactly this type of "country" wedding - which mixes great and healthy food, glamor, natural beauty, and a more casual feeling than you would get in other places.
We love being an integral part of the Hudson Valley wedding scene. Stay tuned for more posts on our 2012 catering season which is in full swing!
Appetizers pictured in this blog are (from the top): Lobster Rolls, Mini-lump Crab Cakes, and Truffled Mac n' Cheese Pops.
Crudite Centerpiece for Splashy Appetizer Table
Everyone agrees that fresh veggies and dip are a delicious and important part of a good appetizer table, but sadly the most common thing most people do is just cut up a bunch of vegetables and put them on a plate with a bowl of dip. If you really want to wow your guests and have some fun in the process, consider making one of these splashy crudite centerpieces! You can save the money on a flower display as well - there's nothing more beautiful and colorful than "food as art"!
Last Saturday I volunteered to make just such a healthy food arrangement for The Woodstock Artists Association and Museum, as they were having a fundraising event and had asked various local businesses to donate food. I woke up inspired and thought I would go online to find some new ideas. Sadly, there was very little of interest - thus the birth of this blog post!! The world needs to know how to make one of these crudité creations - so I got out my camera and took pictures of each step along the way. There's nothing complicated about it, but it will take a few hours. I'm lucky to have our wonderful kitchen staff available to cut up all the veggies for me - but from there - all I did was have a good time!
Crudités & the Perfect Platter
I started by looking for the right platter - very important. You'll need to find one with some depth to it - I've also used deep planters or planter baskets for the base. Last summer I made small centerpieces for individual tables using clay pots. (see blog post http://www.bluemountainbistro.com/_blog/Bistro_Blog/calendar/2011/6/). It's important that the main ingredient, wheat grass, sets down into something so it can be stabilized and the roots covered. (I've also considered that a flat platter could be used and the base of the root portion of the grass could be wrapped with an attractive wide ribbon and then pinned together as another option.)
Healthy Appetizer Ideas for your Wild Culinary Imagination
The next very important ingredient is a flat of wheat grass. We purchase ours from our vegetable purveyor, but you could inquire at your local grocery store to see if they would special order some for you. I put a piece of cardboard in the bottom of the platter to raise the level 1/2" or so and then set the grass in.
Next I took a large savoy cabbage and cut off the largest of the bottom leaves. Savoy cabbage leaves are stunningly beautiful - and set them on the four corners of the platter. I scored the center of each leaf and trimmed a tiny bit so they would lie flat to the grass.
Then I cut the top of the cabbage off and slowly hollowed out the center, being careful not to get too close to the edge, to make a "bowl" for the dip. I placed this in the center as this display would be seen from all sides. (If it were going against a wall, I might have chosen to place the "bowl" in the front center and build the vegetables all around it.)
Next I took the lightly steamed broccoli stems and placed them around the base of the grass - to fill in the gap between the grass and the platter. Then the lightly steamed white and yellow cauliflower were placed on top of the broccoli. (Steaming these veggies brings out their flavor - no one wants to eat raw broccoli or cauliflower!) You really can have fun with this and use any kind of veggies for the base, but I love these textures together and think they make a great anchor for the spears which will come next.
Skewer Those Multicolor Veggies
I have a good selection of different sized wooden skewers that we use for various appetizers. These can be purchased online at a great store called www.pickonus.com. I like to have a selection of lengths to work with, as the grass is fairly tall when it's fresh (about 4") - and when you stick the skewer into the grass the veggies should sit near the top of the grass. I start by separating the colors and putting all of one color in first, in this case the yellow and then the orange carrots. I put them on the longest skewers I had. I liked the way that looked so I added the celery at the same height. I decided to put the jicama on shorter skewers so they would be lower into the grass. We cut the cucumbers as rounds and scored the sides so they were really festive - they looked like cucumber lollipops! Grape tomatoes went on shorter picks as well as the very colorful red, yellow, and green peppers.
You really can use your imagination and use any combination of vegetables. The most important thing is to pay attention to color masses - I've gone for an overall confetti effect in this case, but you could also make a striking ensemble with bands of color - keeping all of one veggie together in a group. Whatever your choice, it's a fun way to play with food and wow your guests at the same time.
We make a delicious blue cheese dip to accompany most crudite displays, but any fresh herb-infused yogurt based dip or an aioli would be equally delicious. If you're looking for a vegan option you could also use hummus or baba ganoush. Since I was bringing this to a party, I brought a container of the dip and placed it into the cabbage bowl once I had set it up on the appetizer table. Have fun and enjoy!
The Hudson Valley has a new and fabulous chocolate producer called Fruition Chocolate, and we are proud to be selling their delicious bars and chocolate covered cranberries and nuts in our store. Bryan Graham, a former pastry chef and student at the Culinary Institute in Hyde Park, New York, opened his own store in 2011 just a few miles up the road from us on Route 28! So what makes their chocolate so special, you might ask? Bryan literally makes his chocolate confections from the cocoa beans themselves!
This from their website: "Bean to bar is the term used to describe chocolate that is made straight from the cocoa bean. The majority of chocolatiers buy a bulk source of chocolate and melt it down to craft their chocolates. What's different about Fruition Chocolate is that we craft our own chocolate from the bean, and then use that to create our bars and confections.
We are proud to rank among only a handful of small batch craft chocolate makers in the United States. This is a group of manufacturers whose ultimate goal is excellence in everything they do: finding exceptional ingredients, and carefully coaxing out their fullest potential until a chocolate emerges several days later that stands up as a world class product."
Enjoy this inspiring video clip where Bryan shows you his process of creating chocolate "from bean to bar".
The Fruition Chocolate products we are currently carrying in our store are the Signature 66% Dark Chocolate bar, the Classic Milk Chocolate bar, Chocolate Coated Toasted Almonds with Sea Salt, Chocolate Coated Orange Scented Cranberries (my personal fav), and Dark Chocolate Coated Jalapeno Dusted Corn Nuts! Please ask for a sample next time you're in - we hide them in the office!
I've had this blog in mind for months, and today seems like the perfect time to share it. So sorry for North Carolina, but so happy that our President Barack Obama has come out in favor of same sex marriage. Here in New York State we were all ecstatic last summer when the legislature passed the Marriage Equality Act. In this day and age, people of all inclinations should be able to legally share their lives with one another! This has really changed the face of the wedding industry, as the old traditions make way for new forms of expression. The possibilities are endless! How fabulous to see two male figures on the top of a wedding cake! (or two women, as the case may be). All notions of "what's appropriate", in terms of dress and fashion, the type of party to have, how to decorate, invitations, music - it's all up for grabs!
We were honored to cater a fabulous wedding celebration last September here in Woodstock and here are the menu highlights from this festive occasion:
Bacon Wrapped Dates
Mushroom Parmesan Risotto Cakes
Truffle Mousse on Red Wine Biscuits
Citrus Poached Shrimp, Bloody Mary Cocktail Sauce
Autumn Harvest Bisque, served
Poulet Roti Grandmere, roast chicken with mushrooms, bacon and pearl onions
Whole Roasted Shell Steak
Butternut Squash - Sage Bread Pudding
RSK Farm local mashed potatoes
Chef’s Seasonal Vegetable Medley
Bread and Butter
Cutting Cake as the Wedding Cake
Assorted Homemade Cupcakes
Catskill Mountain organic coffee service
In the following slide show you'll get a sneak peak of the chef's putting the final touches on the dinner buffet before the guests were served. One of the greatest challenges we faced with this dinner was the served butternut squash soup. We took this on like you would if you were a contestant on Top Chef! It was the end of September and most likely it would be a cool evening. Not a problem to keep the tent warm for the guests, but how would we have the warm soup on the tables awaiting the guests when they first sat down from the cocktail hour?
We had to take into consideration that from the moment we told the guests to sit down to the guests actually sitting down could be at least 15 minutes. So the bowls would have to be piping hot when we put the soup in them, then taken by the waiters to the tables awaiting the guests - hopefully still hot and nourishing!
We devised a way to bring hot bowls to each table and then pour the hot soup into each bowl just minutes before the guests sat down. We hope they all have wonderful memories of their first sip of our delicious Autumn Harvest Bisque!
Enjoy a few snapshots from this lovely wedding!
In February I took a fabulous trip to Oaxaca, Mexico with Destination-Arts (a multi-dimensional painting and photography workshop). We had the distinct pleasure of spending an entire day with the noted chef, caterer, and Seasons of my Heart Cooking School founder Susana Trilling. This wonderful day really rounded out our experience to Oaxaca in the most profound way. We had no way of knowing this until later when the dust settled! For me, as a restaurateur and caterer this provided the "flavor" that was the finishing touch on the whole experience.
There were 22 of us in two vans, and as we slowly made our way through the intense traffic, washed out roads, and detours - we began to worry that we were seriously lost! But we finally made it and from the moment we walked through the doors of this enchanting cooking school, we were impressed! The room was large and airy with a high domed ceiling. The kitchen was very large, completely tiled, with a dramatic central stove on the far side and lots of counter space for all of us to work. On the front work areas were five big flat baskets, each containing the ingredients to be used in each recipe.
We each took a seat at one of the three big tables they had set up for us and Susana began to give us the agenda for the afternoon. (I forgot to mention that we had spent the morning with Susana and her wonderful assistant Yolanda being guided through the Abastos Market in Oaxaca - 3 1/2 football fields in length! We had a chance to explore all the various food items we would be utilizing in our cooking that afternoon - it was an amazing adventure!) Susana explained the different courses we would be making for our meal, and how we would divide into groups to prepare the food.
Here's the menu we prepared that day, some of Susana's comments regarding each dish and photos I took along the way:
Tacos de Huitlacoche (Corn Fungus Tacos) - this dish features a local specialty which is foraged during the rainy season in corn patches. This corn fungus has a subtle musty, earthy taste that is quite delicious.
She explained that corn is the most significant food in Mexico and that all legends have corn as the beginnings of mankind. Unlike the States where corn has been highly hybridized, there are 40-50 varieties of corn in Mexico. The salsa we made to accompany these tacos was called "salsa de chile piquin" and she told us that these chiles are so hot, you have to wear gloves when handling them. Yikes!
Sopa de Tortilla (Country style tortilla soup) - this is an example of how they don't waste anything in Mexico - as a soft tortilla ages, it needs to be eaten, so it is fried and used in other dishes such as this soup. She said that every kitchen makes this soup - it is everywhere!
Ensalada de Pina, Jicama, y Agracate (Pineapple, Jicama and Avocado Salad) - this is such a delicious, crisp and refreshing salad! I told our chefs when I got back that we HAVE to make this for our customers this summer - everyone will love it! Susana mentioned that this goes especially well with mole and is perfect in hot weather. All the ingredients should be chopped the same size and the cream cheese (or goat cheese) adds an acid element that provides a good counterpoint to the fruit.
Relleno de Papas del Istmo (Baked Potatoes from the Isthmus) - this recipe comes from Thuantepec and is typical of the potato dishes that are sold in the markets on Sunday mornings and taken home for brunch. It reminded us a little of potato salad from our culture, minus the mayo. This dish is traditionally served with mole.
Mole Coloradito Oaxaqueno (Oaxacan Coloradito Mole) - Susana learned this recipe from her friend and teacher Carlota Santos, who she spent many hours with in her kitchen. I chose to be in the mole-making-group and I have the greatest respect now for anyone who tackles this masterpiece of culinary art! Susana explained that Oaxaca is the "land of seven moles" - (mole means mixture or concoction") - and that the test of a good mole is that all the flavors blend perfectly and not one of them stands out above the others. Mole is present at all important life celebrations. A few quick notes: 1) never use ripe tomatoes, green tomatoes are better; 2) chiles are blended - there are many reasons why certain chiles are used to make certain moles; 3) Mole Negro is the most important mole for the big celebration on November 2nd, Day of the Dead and is generally combined with turkey for special occasions; 4) "Coloraditio" is a little red, everything is toasted, roasted, and fried, then blended; 5)some of the other moles are Mole Rojo (little red), Mole Amarillo (orange and easier to make), Macha Mantelles, Chanchilla, Verde tomatillos (made with green tomatoes).
Budin de Elote (Corn Pudding) - this is also inspired by the Isthmus and is generally made during the rainy season when the fresh corn is harvested.
After we had each picked our groups, she put on some great music and we all got to work! Thank goodness my group was headed up by our fabulous photography coach Dan Lipow, who also is a very talented cook. He took charge and we each began working on different aspects of creating this magical dish. Here is the recipe with accompanying photos:
Ingredients (makes about 8 servings)
Seasoning ingredients for chicken stock (double the recipe)
1 1/2 chickens (about 4 1/2 pounds), cut into 8 servings, reserving the back and neck for stock
9 chiles anchos (about 4 1/2 oz), stemmed and seeded
11 chiles guajillos (about 2 1/4 oz), stemmed and seeded
2 black peppercorns
2 whole cloves
1 whole allspice
1 piece Mexican cinnamon stick, about 1inch long
1 small head garlic, cloves separated
1 small white onion, quartered
1 lb ripe tomatoes (2 med to large round or 8-10 plum), quartered
1 sprig fresh marjoram or Oaxacan oregano or 1/2 tsp dried
2 tblsp plus 1 tsp lard, sunflower or vegetable oil
1/2 large ripe plantain, in peel
1/2 bolillo or French roll, sliced
1 tblsp raisins
5 whole, unpeeled almonds
3 tblsp lard, sunflower or vegetable oil
1/2 cup sesame seeds
2 bars Mexican chocolate (3 oz each) or to taste
1 1/2-2 tblsp sea salt, or to taste
1 tblsp sugar
In a heavy 7 qt stockpot, heat 6 qts water and the seasoning ingredients to a boil. Add the chicken pieces and lower heat to simmer. Cover and cook the chicken for about 35 to 45 minutes or until the meat is tender and the juices run clear when the dark meat is pierced with a fork. Remove the chicken, strain, and reserve the stock.
Wrap the plantain in tin foil to cover completely and place in a 350 degree oven and allow to roast for 35 minutes. The skin will burst open and the flesh will look transparent. If you are working with a comal and wood fire, place the plaintain directly on the coals to roast.
Bring 2 qts of water to boil. On a 10" dry comal, griddle or in a cast iron frying pan over low heat toast the chiles on both sides, toasting the chiles anchos a bit slower and longer than the chiles guajillos, because of their thicker skins.Toast them on both sides until their skins start to blister and they give off their aroma. Remove the chiles from the comal or pan, place them in a medium bowl, and cover with the hot water. soak the chiles for 20 minutes, tuning to soften them. Puree in the blender, using as little of the chile water as possible, about 1 cup. Pass the per through a strainer to remove the skins.
On the comal, griddle or cast iron frying pan, toast the peppercorns, cloves, allspice and cinnamon stick, and remove from the heat. Grill the garlic and onions, turning them often until they become translucent. Let cool. Puree the spices, onion and garlic in a blender with 1/2 cup of the reserved stock. Set aside.
In a medium frying pan, over medium heat, cook tomato pieces and marjoram or oregano with no oil and cook until condensed, 10-15 minutes. first they will give off their juices, then they will dry out. Puree the tomato mixture in a blender, then pass the mixture through a sieve.
In a medium frying pan, heat 2 tblsp of lard or oil over medium heat and fry the bread slices until brown. Remove them from the pan. In the same oil fry the raisins until they are plump, about 1-2 minutes. Remove them from the pan. Fry the almonds until light brown, about 2-3 minutes. Remove them from the pan.
Peel the plantain and place it with the bolillo, raisins and almonds in a blender with 1 1/2 cups of reserved broth and blend until smooth. Wipe out the frying pan and put over low heat. Add 1 tsp of oil and the sesame seeds and fry until brown, about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. If they bounce around a lot in the pan add a good pinch of sea salt and the seeds will calm down. Cool the seeds and grind in a molcajete or spice grinder, or in a blender with a little bit of broth, blending very well. You can also grind the seeds in a Cuisinart with 1/2 tsp of vegetable oil to make a smooth paste.
In a heavy stockpot, heat 2 tblsp of lard or oil over high heat until smoking. Add the chile puree a little at a time stirring constantly. It will splatter about a bit, but keep stirring. Lower heat to medium and after about 20 minutes, or when chile puree is thick, add the tomato mixture and continue to cook, about 15 minutes, stirring to keep the mole from sticking or burning. Add the onion and ground spices mixture and stir well. Add the pureed plantain mixture and ground sesame seeds, stirring constantly about 10 minutes. Add 4 1/2-5 cups of the reserved broth to thin out the sauce, and let it heat completely through, about 20 minutes more. Add the chocolate, stirring constantly. When the chocolate dissolves, add the salt and sugar, if needed. Let it cool down for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The more time it has to cook the better.
Return the chicken pieces to the broth and heat through. Add more broth the the mole if needed. The mole should be thick enough to just coat a spoon, no more. Place a piece of chicken on a serving plate and ladle enough mole on top to completely cover the meat. Serve with hot corn tortillas.
Hint: you can use turkey, pork or rabbit instead of chicken. You can use the rest for Tamales Oaxaquenos made with banana leaves or Enchiladas Oaxaquenas. You should make this mole at least one day ahead, as the flavors will blend together better. The sauce freezes well too.
We were honored to co-host a Long Island wine tasting last night with a friend and client of ours who works with national and international hotel groups as well as The White House on service, food and wine issues. That’s right, that White House, the one on Pennsylvania Avenue! In response to social conversation with Daniel Shanks, the Food and Beverage Director and Wine Steward at the White House, he realized the time was right to familiarize himself with the current vintages of various Long Island wineries.With scarcely 24 hours notice we put together a menu to accompany 16 different wines and eight people whose job it was to rate the wines. Yes, I know, a tough job but....blah blah blah
Our friend Eric Weiss, the consultant, has a wine and hospitality resume longer than my arm. He kept us on task in a fun, friendly way, always mindful of the job at hand. We described each wine with three words, ie. "black currant, white pepper, soft", judged whether or not it was representative of the grape variety, and finally, whether or not we liked it.
Apparently these State dinners run like clockwork, 1 hour to an hour and 15 minutes max. No waiting for the bouquet to open, everything must be right there, up front, immediately accessible. So what did we serve? Here’s the menu:
BLUE MOUNTAIN BISTRO-to-GO
Richard and Mary Anne Erickson, Chef/Owners
Kingston, New York
MUSSELS "MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE"
mussels with white wine, creme fraiche and blue dʼAuvergne
Riesling, 2009, Grapes of Roth
Sauvignon Blanc, "Mudd," 2011, Channing Daughters
First Label Sauvignon Blanc, 2010 Raphael
Pinot Blanc, 2009 Lieb Vineyard
Gallery White Blend, 2010, Bedell
ROLLED STUFFED PORK LOIN with prosciutto, raisins, pine nuts and sage
Pinot Blanc, 10 year Reserve, 2010, Lieb Vineyard
Chardonnay "First Label, 2010, Raphael
Chardonnay, 2008, Pelligrini
Chardonnay, "Old Vines," 2008, Lenz Vineyard
Chardonnay, "L'Enfant Sauvage," 2008, Channing Daughters
BRAISED BEEF BRISKET, WINTER VEGETABLES, ONIONS AND MUSHROOMS
Petit Verdot, 2008, Lieb Vineyard
Merlot, "Tuthills Lane," 2007, Paumanok Vineyard
"Sculpture Garden," 2008, Channing Daughters
"Fatalis Fatum, 2007, Wolffer Estate
Merlot 'Estate," 2007, Lenz
POLENTA RICOTTA CHEESECAKE
"Finale," NV, Pelligrini
Years ago at our restaurant Blue Mountain Bistro we loved hosting wine dinners, but in our current incarnation as a take out business this doesn’t happen very often, You can imagine how fun it was to come up with a menu like this. Also challenging, as we didn’t want the food to overpower the wines or have flavors that would conflict.
Everyone agreed the evening was a smashing success, and what fun to hear the variety of comments about the wines.It’s amazing how your impression of a wine can change from that first sip to the experience of savoring it with food. Many of my first impressions changed 180 degrees!
Chef Jonathan Sheridan executed a perfect progression of plates, Michael Clark from our catering staff kept the wines poured and provided excellent service, and when it was all over it felt like we did this every day instead of once in a blue moon. I’m sure some of these dishes will find new homes in our food cases and on our catering menus. Oh, by the way, if you haven't had wine from Long Island lately do yourself a favor. I was particularly impressed with the red wines which were a total surprise to me. Cheers!
Yes we do! Great tasting local milk from a farm in Salem N.Y. The McEachron family has been farming for over 100 years, the old-fashioned way. They grow their own feed for their cows, recycle the manure for fertilizer, do not use growth hormones or antibiotics. Taste the difference, rich clean milk. The reduced fat milk is so good it tastes like whole. The milk is only sold in a 275 mile radius from where it is made and it goes from cow to bottle in under 8 hours! This is the milk we use for our cooking, coffee, and for sale in our store. I was won over from the first sip, and I was also won over by the price, very affordable for such a premium product. What could be more satisfying than supporting your local farmers and getting a great tasting product? Come pick some up today.
What is the Best Dog Food? / Healthy Raw Food Diet for Dogs
At the Blue Mountain Bistro we always want to give you and your family – dogs and cats included – the ultimate best in healthy foods!
We are proud to now be selling all natural, pure premium raw pet food from Woodstock Meats called "Butcher's Blend". They're our longtime neighbors in Woodstock, and have been known for years as purveyors of the hig
hest quality meats and grocery items. And now they've turned their attention to making pet food of the highest quality as well. Here is some of the information from their literature:
Did you know that raw food diet for dogs provides double the nutrition of any canned or dry food? It is not measured by the descriptive label on the package, it's obvious in the absorption of their food. Dogs and cats are NOT humans. They have a very different digestive tract and process. We can get very sick from raw meat, while dogs thrive on it as their natural diet.
Feed Your Dogs and Cats Healthy, Premium, Natural Raw Diets
Compared to us, dogs and cats have a very short digestive system, which means that foods are processed quickly -- before harmful bacteria have a chanc
e to multiply and cause problems. Also, carnivores have a very high level of acidity in their digestive systems. This high acidity allows them to break down the nutrients in raw meat and bones, and is also hostile to bacteria. A raw food diet consists of good quality, USDA-inspected and approved meats and bones.
Cats and dogs are carnivores (or meat eaters). Yet all dry commercial pet foods are at least 60% (or more) grain because the carbohydrates are needed to hold the food together. Does it make sense to feed our carnivores a diet that contains at least 60% of a substance they don't need? Additionally, carbohydrates are metabolized by the body to glucose (sugar) which is known to feed cancers, diabetes and many other disorders that now plague our companion animals. Raw diets simulate the menu that nature intended carnivores to eat. When a carnivore eats an herbivore (like a rabbit) the carnivore eats some meat, some bone, some organ meats (liver, heart, kidney, etc) and some green vegetation contained in the herbivore's digestive tract. That's natures' perfect meal - the meal that raw diets replicate.
Raw Pet Food Diet Ingredients
Here are some things they think are not obvious, but they want you to know about their foods:
- Beef and Broccoli is 75% beef, antibiotic and hormone free beef - the same ground meat that we eat! The color appears to be a greenish-brown due to the grinding of the broccoli and the juices that are released into the meat.
- Beef, Liver, and Yam is 50% beef, the same beef but the overall formula is less expensive because there's a lower percentage of meat and additional less expensive organ meat.
- Butchers Blend 100% is exactly that - not a blend at all. It's 100% meat - human grade meat - to be offered by a small local butcher. It's great for dogs and cats. The beef flavor contains no bone.
- Salmon is a real source for the good omega 3 and 6
- All Butchers Blend products contain NO additives or preservatives. This combination offers optimum levels of amino acids, protein, essential fatty acids, naturally occurring enzymes and the necessary vitamins and minerals that are the building blocks for your pet's healthy biological functions.
- All of our ingredients come from suppliers recognized for their superior quality products and the highest standards of safe food handling for humans.
- Every ingredient in our formula will provide your pet with essential nutrients they need to build and maintain healthy immune, circulatory, nervous and digestive systems.
The benefits of Butcher's Blend raw pet food are better health, more energy, less allergies, cleaner teeth, shinier coat, less odor, and a longer life.
Flavors available are: Beef, liver, and sweet potato; Chicken, sweet potato, and apples; Salmon, sweet potato and apples; Beet, broccoli, and apricot; Turkey, sweet potato, and apples; Lamb, carrots, and kale; and Venison, carrots, peas, and cranberries. Oh, did I mention that the mastermind behind this whole project is Kevin Christofora? One of the owners of Woodstock Meats - hats off to you Kevin!
What's not to love?! I can testify that the very first day I fed this food to my black lab Molly, she ran around the room doing circles for a few minutes! One of her sure signs of being extremely joyous!
What the heck's a "hawg wing"? Well if pigs could fly, would they have wings? This year, we're offering up our delicious version of this recent invention from the food industry - that is a reshuffling of the shank portion of the pig. The pork is wrapped around a sturdy bone, in a drumstick fashion which allows you to eat the tender morsels with one hand. They taste like a cross between chicken wings and barbecued ribs. If you're tired of chicken wings, or just want something meaty and different, come on in and check out our hawg wings!
Surprisingly, I asked Richard a few weeks ago if he had stocked up on chicken wings for the Super Bowl party weekend and he replied "no"! What? Sacrilege! How could you NOT have chicken wings for the Super Bowl? Then he explained that the price of wings had skyrocketed out of sight and most of the big chains had bought up all the wings. He couldn't even get ahold of wings, almost two weeks out from the Super Bowl.
This reminded me of the old days when we owned a restaurant and the liquor companies would jack up the cost of champagne a month or so ahead of the holidays. Unfair!! or just the American way? Anyway, enter the hawg wing! And I have to admit - I tried my first one today and they ARE delicious! So if you want a special treat to take to your party tomorrow, stop on in and get a bunch!
“a post-mortem on our favorite Christmas dish”
Let me first say it didn’t start out to be a "turducken", that is a chicken, stuffed in a duck, stuffed in a turkey. It really was a “ballotine”, a French name for something stuffed inside a boneless poultry. The turducken to which I refer is a Cajan creation involving andouille sausage, cornbread etc. I wanted a long cylinder filled with something delicious, suitable for a Christmas-type dinner celebration. What I came up with was a boneless turkey breast wrapped around a chicken mousse that was studded with confit of duck. All poultry, all delicious, seemed like a winner. I later added prunes and some spinach for contrasting color. It turned out fantastic! Trouble was very few people had heard of a ballotine.
Turducken Recipe Hit (...or Miss!)
Food Arts Magazine, a popular food industry publication for chefs, that is heavy on recipes, has a wonderful semi-regular feature titled “Hits & Flops”. It's quite interesting because everyone has them, hits and flops, that is. What fun to read about high profile chefs having to pull something from their menu! Usually it's a matter of wording, timing, or ingredients that are too unusual. It could even be that it's too much work for the kitchen staff. Technically this dish worked quite well, it was beautiful and delicious. It was hardly a flop, but I think customers were afraid to order it as no one knew what it was... "Turkey Ballotine with chicken and duck". I think next year with a few pictures and a better description it could be a big hit. I was quite pleased with it. Not much new under the sun these days, but I’ve never seen or heard of a similar dish. I’m not quite ready to call it a “turducken” just yet but when I described it to people that seemed to be the word that really gave a visual. So the next time you're looking for a fabulous dish to entertain your guests, give the turducken a try - then tell us what you think? And as for the recipe? There are so many steps and it's so time-consuming, that we recommend you let us do all the hard work! Order ahead, then come in and get it from us! Enjoy the slideshow of how we made the turducken.
Beets were the number one item on the list of “best foods you are not eating” which first appeared in the NY Times in 2008 (http://nyti.ms/2IATkZ). This incredibly popular article lists eleven foods that are good for you but for some unknown reason don’t make it to the dinner table or into people’s lives. So what is it with beets? Sometimes it’s a matter of the labor involved (the long cooking time and messy peeling process), and is probably why they are so popular in our store. We’ve had beets on our daily menu since we first opened in 2007 and they continue to be a big seller. And now we understand they have become very popular in upscale restaurants too!
The Nutritional Value of Beets
Beets are related to spinach and chard; the leaves and ribs are all edible and good for you: from the New York Times article, “Dr. Bowden says, … they are a rich source of folate as well as natural red pigments that may be cancer fighters.” Mostly we boil the beets, peel and cut them, then cover with a vinaigrette/brine seasoned with star anise and clove.
They are great oven roasted as well: we parboil them briefly before peeling, seasoning and roasting. Occasionally we have golden beets which are a bit milder in flavor and appeal to those who are not crazy about beets. This week we are making borscht so stop in for a warming bowl of beet soup! And just for fun, we thought we would share a wonderful excerpt from Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume: “The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity.
Beets are deadly serious. Slavic peoples get their physical characteristics from potatoes, their smoldering inquietude from radishes, their seriousness from beets. The beet is the melancholy vegetable, the one most willing to suffer. You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip… The beet is the murderer returned to the scene of the crime.
The beet is what happens when the cherry finishes with the carrot. The beet is the ancient ancestor of the autumn moon, bearded, buried, all but fossilized; the dark green sails of the grounded moon-boat stitched with veins of primordial plasma; the kite string that once connected the moon to the Earth now a muddy whisker drilling desperately for rubies. The beet was Rasputin’s favorite vegetable. You could see it in his eyes.”
Beet recipes: Roasted Beets / Pickled Beets / Sugar Beets / Cooking Beets!!!
And here is our favorite recipe for Borscht! Another great thing you can do with beets! 3 lg. beets, peeled and shredded 3 lg. carrots, peeled and shredded 3 medium baking potatoes, peeled and cubed 1 tablespoon vegetable oil 1 lg. onion, sliced thin 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste 2 qts. water or vegetable broth 1 medium head cabbage, cored and shredded 1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained 3 cloves garlic minced salt and black pepper to taste 1 teaspoon white sugar, or to taste sour cream, for garnish 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill for garnish horseradish also makes a nice garnish with a little kick Sweat the vegetables in the oil, (beets, onion, garlic and carrots) until they release their juices. Then add tomato paste and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the water, salt, pepper, and diced tomato. Simmer for 1/2 hour and then add the cabbage and potato. Cook for another 20 minutes, then adjust seasoning. Garnish with the sour cream, dill and horseradish as an option. It can also be chilled and served cold.
Fabulous desserts are a hit all year round, especially here at Blue Mountain Bistro-to-Go! We are so proud of our fabulous baker, Melinda Champagne for her heroic efforts in putting out desserts of the highest quality! Enjoy these images from the sweetest year on record! (and thanks to Roy Gumpel for the first two images).
Some dishes are carefully planned and executed and others just seem to happen by themselves. Yesterday was an example of the latter. Wild mushroom and black truffle lasagna an accident!! Let me explain. Several days ago a salesman left some pasta samples from Italy, paper thin sheets of egg pasta, absolutely gorgeous!! My first comment was I'd like to do a different type of lasagna with this, not really knowing what that might be.
The next day, a local forager came by with beautiful chanterelles, black trumpet mushrooms, some boletes, and one I've never heard of, "cinnabar", a brilliant orange cousin of the golden chanterelle. The wheels were starting to turn...last night after a long Friday preparing for weddings and keeping the storefront filled with food it all came together. A quick canvas of the walk-in turned up the perfect amount of bechamel, nice fresh ricotta, and a small wheel of sublime black truffle cheese. Some fresh thyme, Portobello stems and truffle oil and it was happening.
Within minutes onion and chopped mushrooms were sweating on the stove and the ricotta was being whipped with the bechamel and grated cheese. A layer of pasta, a layer of mushroom-cheese mix, and so on...and finally a shower of the sautéd mushrooms on top and bam, in the oven! I've never put together a lasagna so quickly. There it was and here it is! Just out in the store and going fast!
Our friends at Gill Farms in Hurley, New York keep surprising us with beautiful, tasty, healthy vegetables. Life is too short to only eat broccoli! So come on in and try some of the wonderful vegetables we have been preparing. Expand your mind and your palate!
Today’s delivery included multicolored mini-eggplants and gorgeous okra. There is definitely much more to do with okra than making gumbo, (which we love) so to highlight these fascinating vegetables I made an Indian inspired dish, called a “bhadji”, delicately seasoned with ginger, tamarind and chili for today’s plat du jour.
The fresh cranberry beans we cooked yesterday are another late summer treat, truly amazing! I folded these into a clove, cardamon scented rice, sort of like an Indian version of the Cajan “dirty rice”.
To finish the dish we’ve paired a nice cool cucumber yogurt raita, with cucumbers from Gill Farms, of course, and some fresh herbs from our garden out back. We're loving the bounty of the harvest in August, come share it with us!
We were just asked to provide a "farm-to-table" recipe for a local magazine called VISITvortex and of course we knew that we had to create something with the fresh produce we're getting in every day from our local favorite Gills Farm in Hurley, New York. I turned around to ask our chefs what they had in mind and Jonathan had just put out our plat du jour today, Fresh Trout with Olive Salad (inspired by Muffuletta Olive Salad Recipe from New Orleans).
We make our own version of "Gardiniera" with the beautiful tri-color (purple, green, and white) cauliflower from Gills Farm. Cut the cauliflower into similar sized florets and blanch. Then lightly toss with red wine vinegar and cool. Insert this simple version of Gardiniera in the following recipe to create the topping you see for the trout.
Muffuletta Olive Salad 1 1/2 Cups Picholine Olives, Pitted 1/2 Cup Calamatta Olives (or Black) Pitted 1 Cup Gardiniera (Pickled Cauliflower, carrots, celery, Pepperoncini) 1 Tbsp. Capers 3 each Fresh Garlic cloves, chopped 1/8 Cup Celery, thinly sliced 1 Tbsp. Italian Parsley, finely chopped 1 Tbsp. Fresh oregano (from our garden) or 2 tsp. dried 1/4 Cup Pimientos (Roasted red peppers) 1 Tbsp. Green Onions, thinly sliced 1 finely diced jalapeno pepper Kosher Salt & Freshly Ground pepper to taste 1 tsp. Crushed red pepper flakes 3 Tbsp. Red Wine Vinegar Extra Virgin Olive Oil about 1 - 1 1/2 Cups Finely mince first 11 ingredients and then combine with the red pepper flakes, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly, let stand for one hour for flavors to marry. This is a great condiment for grilled fish, steak, chicken or as in New Orleans - on a sandwich - Muffuletta or otherwise!
Opera! Jazz! R&B! Classical! Choral! World! Childrens! Gospel! : It’s a World Class Opera Festival / Music Festival - in Upstate New York!!!
Live From (Phoenicia) New York – It’s Saturday Night (Live) Opera in the Park!!!!
It’s almost here! One of the Ulster County region’s most awaited summer event – the Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice. At Blue Mountain Bistro, if we have a day off, our favorite thing to do is to go to an outside event. This summer is so full of concerts, festivals and theater - from Woodstock's Bird-On A- Cliff Shakespeare outdoor productions, to the Belleayre Music Festival, to the second season of Phoenicia's 4-day town wide International Festival of the Voice – and it is inspiring to be able to enjoy art and music in the Catskills. All these events create delicious opportunities to bring along a gourmet al fresco picnic! Since Blue Mountain Bistro-to-Go is located on the way to the fun on Route 28 in Kingston, it’s easy to phone ahead and order a delicious entrée, drink and yummy dessert to take with you. The Bistro-to-Go is the Go-To place for take away! For a relaxing time wherever your day takes you – Woodstock’s beautiful Comeau property or Opus 40, Phoenicia's Parish Field or kid-time at the Empire Train Museum - we have created a variety of box lunches and dinners that will be freshly made and ready to eat under the twilight stars or sparkling sun.
Made Especially For the Phoenicia Voice Fest - Your ‘Opera Box’ Dinner To-Go
On August 4th, Thursday evening, consider a concert by R & B and gospel artist Roz Morehead along with a picnic of steak kabobs, Israeli couscous salad roasted patty pan squash, a giant gourmet cupcake and refreshing drink.
Or on August 6th, a night at the opera underneath the shooting stars of summer, listening to Mozart's Don Giovanni or the voice of Lauren Flanigan echo off the encircling Catskill Mountains while dining on grilled salmon with summer salsa, bistro potato salad, green beans vinaigrette, delicious dessert and a beverage. Kids have concerts to go to as well – Ralph and Ralph August 5th & 6th @11:30am & Uncle Rock August 6th @4:00pm - and if you are in a rush to get there, you will want to order a few boxed lunches to bring before they get on the Esopus stream side train that follows the shows! We have a breaded chicken cutlet (or grilled tofu), pasta salad with cherry tomatoes and mozzarella and a huge cookie along with a bottled drink all ready for when hunger strikes! Don't forget the day concerts with the Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Choir, Mid-eastern 'oud master Simon Shaheen and concert pianist Justin Kolb! For a hot day, we have created a cold plein air dish of cold sesame noodles, spicy Asian slaw, grilled tofu, choice of Melinda's giant cupcake and bottled water, ice tea or lemonade.
How Do I Get My Food?
Your orders need to be placed early enough so we have time to prepare them just for you – It’s easy and convenient – pick out your delicious ‘Opera Box’ take away choices (below) and phone us at: 845-340-9800Please order by 4:00 pm the DAY BEFORE the event you are picnicking at! Put your portable gourmet dinner order in - then swing by on your way from the NYS Thruway to Phoenicia - and pick up. It will be like having a personal restaurant cater your outdoor summer concert fun! (The folks sitting next to you will be really jealous!) Here is a complete list of our offerings: Box #1 Grilled salmon with summer salsa Bistro potato salad Green beans vinaigrette Choice of Melinda's giant cupcake Bottled water, ice tea or lemonade $18 Box #2 Steak kebobs Israeli couscous salad Roasted Gill Farms patty pan squash Choice of Melinda's giant cupcake Bottled water, ice tea or lemonade $18 Box #3 (Vegetarian) Cold sesame noodles Spicy Asian slaw Grilled tofu Choice of Melinda's giant cupcake Bottled water, ice tea or lemonade $16 Box #4 (kids) Breaded chicken cutlet (or grilled tofu) Pasta salad with cherry tomatoes and mozzarella Cookie Bottled water, ice tea or lemonade $8.95 …and for tickets and concert schedule, please go to Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice
Healthy To Go Food For When You Shout, “I Don’t Want To Cook!”
Phoenicia based children’s music artist, Robert Burke Warren, aka Uncle Rock, wrote a brilliant song for kids entitled, Shop at a Mom N’ Pop, which he performs to help raise a young audience's awareness of local Mom and Pop stores. He and his family lived in NYC and were weekend commuters to this area for many years, until the loss of their St. Mark’s Place apartment jump started them to relocate full-time to the Hudson Valley. Robert is passionate about supporting local businesses and has tried to pass that on to his many fans - so that they grow up appreciating the wonderful relationships that can flourish when you connect one to one with the proprietors of a neighborhood shop, restaurant or business. In an age where mall stores hire employees with very little expertise in their specific departments, there is a new desire for shopping local, as well as theenjoyment of discovery when we find that new place-to-go.
The Kingston Daily Freeman Agrees
Our local newspaper recently gave some local love to us – and that is so much appreciated! Thank you, Daily Freeman for the recent wonderful article on our Blue Mountain Bistro. Front of house manager and co-owner Mary Anne Erickson is quoted as saying, “We are, in the best sense, a Mom and Pop operation, where people can pop in, any day or every day, and feel welcome.” It’s easy and convenient to pop into this Mom & Pop because it’s right on the way up the line from NYC. In your Woodstock travel, Phoenicia travel, Hudson Valley travel – you can discover your new favorite place-to-be. Just come on in and get your food!
I Don’t Want To Cook
Another musician associated with this area, Todd Rundgren, wrote a song called Bang The Drum All Day, and the chorus starts with the simple, pertinent phrase “I don’t want to work!”
Sometimes when you’re on the go, rushing home after a long day doing your thing, or anxious to get to your upstate weekend digs: cooking = work!!! Remember the old advertising phrase from the 60’s – “Don’t cook tonight – call Chicken Delight!” Well, decades have now passed, and though a ‘don’t cook’ premise is still appropriate, people are actively seeking HEALTHY food on the go. The mega-supermarts have their pre-packaged and deli selections – but that is not an alternative for delicious home cooked to go food. We derive great joy and satisfaction from knowing that many of you consider our kitchen an extension of your own – because we cook the way you cook – when you have all day, when you feel creative, when your cupboard and fridge are stocked with the freshest, best quality, and healthiest ingredients. So please check out this article on what we do. Our cherished regular customers will enjoy reading about their local home base for good food to go. For those who have never stopped in, please discover us. When you come to this beautiful area of the world, country living and small town life slow the pace down. Simplify your life today and let us do the cooking.
Everyone is always looking for the best chicken salad recipe. One of our favorites is this healthy chicken salad recipe that has its roots in the savory flavors of Morocco.
We thought you'd like to learn some of the secrets to our famous, ever popular Moroccan chicken salad. We do it as a wrap or put a big dollop of it on a salad, AND we also chop it finer and spoon it into phyllo cups for a tasty and satisfying party appetizer. Here are some of Richard's thoughts:
As long as I've been a chef I've been a strong proponent of the Mediterranean style of eating: which includes lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lesser amounts of fish, meat and wine. When I was designing a luncheon menu for Blue Mountain Bistro-to-Go in the weeks before we opened, I wanted to emphasize that by taking some classic deli favorites and giving them a Mediterranean twist. The Moroccan chicken salad was quickly a big hit. Visually it is striking from the bright colors in our homemade spice blend, ie. turmeric, cumin, coriander, paprika, ginger, nutmeg and more (called ‘ras al hanout’ in Morocco, literally translated as "top of the shop").
For this easy chicken salad recipe, we start by roasting Murray's free range chicken breasts rubbed with our spice blend (mentioned above), then mix the diced chicken with dried currants, red grapes, red onion, scallion, celery and cilantro. Finish the mix with mayonnaise (to taste), a splash of lemon juice and fresh ginger juice. Take this wonderful chicken salad to your next summer picnic or neighborhood BBQ and be prepared for many compliments. Enjoy this slide show of how it all comes together.[slideshow]
Today was a classic hot and sunny July day in the Hudson Valley! What a perfect day for a brunch in a barn!! Especially if you got married yesterday and wanted to give your guests a taste of rural life AND delicious food from Blue Mountain Bistro-to-Go!
Here is the menu we featured at this gorgeous old barn in Kerhonksen, New York:
Fresh squeezed orange juice and Mimosas
Frittatas with Gill Farms patty pan squash and Asiago cheese
Italian sausage, fennel, and sage frittata
Banana walnut and fresh blueberry muffins
Melinda's homemade streusel coffee cake
Bridor French croissants and chocolate croissants
Bagels with cream cheese and scallion cream cheese
Catsmo locally smoked salmon
Smoked trout rillettes on endive spears
Fresh fruit salad
Catskill Mountain organic coffee service
And then of course, when you're a caterer, you walk into a raw space (an old barn) and go about creating magic! It helps to have a great crew who work at lightning speed to turn a rustic environment into a lovely dining room. Enjoy the slideshow:
Looking for a healthy appetizer that also doubles as a fabulous centerpiece? Check out these cool Garden Vegetable Crudite centerpieces I made for a pool party last weekend! I used wheat grass as the base, and skewered a fun assortment of veggies and voila! There you go! Our chefs made a yummy yogurt-fresh dill dip as an accompaniment - I delivered to the party and they were immediately put on the tables. So fun, festive, and delicious!
This past weekend we catered our first wedding of the season at the stunning Slingerland Pavillion on the Mohonk Preserve. What a delightful location with panoramic views facing west for the full sunset effect! For those of you who have never had the experience of cooking and serving a four star dinner to 125 guests under a tent - enjoy the shots of our "camping kitchen".
Another fun detail: the bride and groom chose wheat grass with heirloom seed packets labeled with each guest's name and table number as their "seating chart"! Very creative and fun.
Sunday June 5, 2011
Wedding Celebration Menu
Passed Appetizers & Cocktails
Moroccan Chicken in Phyllo cups with Tomato Chutney
Black Olive Tapenade and Fresh Goat Cheese Bruschettas
Maryland Lump Crabcakes with Red Pepper Relish
Caprese Salad Skewers (Tomato, Basil, Mozzarella)
Served Salad, Champagne toast, speeches
Roast Leg of Lamb with Spring Vegetable Fricasse
Basmati Rice Pilaf
Trout Grenobloise with a lemon, caper, parsley sauce and croutons
Steamed Fingerling Potatoes
Grilled Gill Farms Asparagus
Ratatouille and Goat Cheese Ravioli (vegetarian entree)
Dinner Rolls and Butter
Wedding Cake in the Pavillion
Chocolate cake with chocolate mousse filling, white butter cream frosting
Catskill Mountain organic coffee and tea service
Ready for a mouth-watering delicious crispy treat? Try one of these tantalizing fried artichoke hearts! The Italians aren't sure how old the recipe is, saying it could date back to Imperial times when the Roman Jewish community had upwards of 50,000 members.
We started by cleaning the artichokes, cutting off the bottom of the stem and the tough outer leaves. You will end up removing about half of the leaves to get to the tender inner section and may want to trim the sharp tips of the remaining leaves, as well. Cut the remaining heart section in half, dip in lemon water, then drain on a paper towel. Mix together in a bowl some matzoh meal, salt and pepper then coat the hearts on both sides. Heat at least 1/2" of olive oil in a saute pan and when hot, quickly saute some chopped garlic and then scoop out so it doesn't burn. Now gently drop your artichoke hearts into the oil, turning them so they cook evenly ( about 3-4 minutes) until they're golden brown. Set on a paper towel to remove excess oil and enjoy!!
Our resident greeting card designer, Barbara Kashuk, just got back from a fabulous month-long trip to India and talk about getting inspired! She just brought in a whole new batch of cards that she's made based on photographs she took on her trip. I've included some of the card images here to tempt you.
Here are a few of her remarks about the places she visited: "I loved the 12 days I spent in and around Chennai, A southern mostly Hindu and vegetarian city on the Indian Ocean. The pace is slower than cities in the north of India, and it's the largest city in Tamil Nadu State. After Chennai I went to Jaipur in Rajasthan, which compared to the south, was like a wild west town. The old "pink" city is walled and has gates in different parts that separate the streets that have clothing, jewelry, leather metal, etc. Old Maharajah palaces have become hotels, and some are beyond belief. I went to Delhi next, and the city has changed from when I was last there quite a few years ago. New Delhi is full of Consulates and Manicured Estates, but Old Delhi, where I stayed, is a maze of fascinating streets winding through neighborhoods, and the largest Mosque is there. Also the beautiful Laxmi Hindu Temple." Thank you Barbara for bringing these wonderful Hindu deities to the shelves of our store. Come on in and take a few home to share with friends!
Butternut Squash Bread Pudding
Bread pudding has been a staple in our dessert case since we opened Bistro-to-Go three plus years ago. The sweet version made with chocolate croissants and bananas has been the most popular. Bread puddings are incredibly satisfying to make; it’s something about the process of transforming humble day old bread or croissants into something really special that I love. I never tire of making them!
For sometime now I've been contemplating a savory bread pudding recipe. I’ve wanted to create a dish that would work not only here in our store but also for our catering menus - something for late summer and fall would be the best. A couple of weeks ago I made a butternut squash soup with caramelized onions, sage and Parmesan cheese and as I was making it I said to myself, “this is it - this would make a great bread pudding”.
Start by peeling several butternut squash, then remove the seeds and cut into 3/4” cubes. Season with salt, pepper, chopped fresh sage and enough olive oil to coat. Put the squash cubes onto a cookie sheet and roast in a 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until tender. While the squash is cooking, caramelize several finely sliced Spanish onions with fresh sage until soft, sweet and deep brown and set aside. The next step is making the custard and soaking the bread. Place whole slices of bread in a buttered baking dish, then soak the bread with plain milk and cover lightly with grated Parmesan. If you have an old baguette (we freeze them when they’re day old and save them just for this purpose) cube it as if you were making croutons and put in a mixing bowl.
Then in a separate bowl whisk together 4 whole eggs, two egg yolks, 1/2 cup ricotta and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan with a pinch of salt, pepper, nutmeg, and several cloves of roasted garlic for each quart of milk you are using. Pour this mixture over the cubed bread and let stand for at least 30 minutes. Now it’s time to assemble the dish. Spread the caramelized onions on the bread layer in the baking dish, then add the roasted squash.
Finish by pouring the soaked bread custard mix over everything. Adjustments in quantities of each element may need to be made to suit your size baking dish. The most important thing is that the bread is well soaked (wet) - a bit soupy even - otherwise your bread pudding will be dry. This “recipe” is the kind I like best - one that give you the reader a chance to have fun and experiment! Consider adding some apples or pumpkin puree in the fall, or a different kind of cheese like Fontina..... you get the idea. Have fun and enjoy eating the cloud!
I consider myself a salad green snob! For many years I had a very large home garden and a good portion of it was devoted to growing every variety of salad green I could find. (This was "back in the day" when you couldn't just go into a grocery store and find interesting greens!) I studied various ways of planting and ended up loving the French intensive method, where you scatter seeds in sections and begin thinning when they're young. I planted swaths of each variety which made such a gorgeous display as the seedlings emerged: "greens" of every color, taste, and shape!
When we moved to our new home, which is located in a very rocky and wooded area, I realized it was just too much to put in a big vegetable garden. Maybe when I'm retired!! And after all, in recent years the commercial mesclun mixes have become as standard as the ol' iceberg lettuce used to be. So no real need to grow all those exotic greens anymore, right?
Actually wrong! There is absolutely no comparison between the mesclun mixes of today and the savory, tangy, and often spicy greens I used to grow. These mixes used to be "special" and now they've become "standard". So how delighted I was to find that Richard had ordered this wonderful new product for our store: Tanimura and Antle "Get in Shape" artisan lettuce. http://www.taproduce.com/consumer/artisan-lettuce.php It's a delightful package that contains four actual heads of lettuce: Petite Oak, Petite Tango and Petite Gem, that are packaged in the fields when they're picked and not pre-washed (a ritual that I used to love!) And what's even more wonderful - they taste delicious - they actually have diverse flavors - something I used to take for granted with greens. I admit this is not a local product, they're grown in California - but in the dead of winter in the Northeast, I love being able to eat a beautiful and flavorful salad grown with care.
As the owners of a food business that's committed to sustainability, the idea of specializing in chicken wings, can bring one's ideals into conflict!! This is the type of gray area we all come up against at various points in our life where the choice is to "give the people what they want" or take the higher road. We have caved on this one!
It all started a few years ago when we were invited to participate in the Ulster County Wing Fling - a new event that was being planned by the Chamber of Commerce, that had the potential to rival the now famous Garlic Festival held at Cantine Field in Saugerties. How could we say "no"? At this point, we made chicken wings occasionally for a special party order, or of course if people requested them for a big weekend like this one: Super Bowl Sunday! But that was the extent of it. Our talented chef Jonathan Sheridan had worked at several restaurants where he put out his own version of spicy wings, so we turned the big competition over to him, giving him free reign to create a great recipe. Which he did - and how! Sweet Thai Chili Wings! And lo and behold, the 10,000 or so attendees at the festival agreed that Jonathan's wings were the best - we won first place in the popular vote! Ever since that day, we have featured these delicious chicken wings in our store, as we do now, along with the more traditional Jalapeno Wings, served with blue cheese and celery. Pick some up today or tomorrow for your Super Bowl party! Your guests will love you for it!
Amazing!! Mark Bittman's Food Manifesto for the Future shot to the # 1 Most Popular Shared article on the web edition of the NY Times last weekend. While there is nothing new in what he calls for, it is radical that such an article would garner so much attention. Granted, people who read the NY Times are not the most representative cross-section of our society, but it does show that more and more people care about where our food comes from.
Essentially, he calls for a more sustainable culture of producing and consuming food, putting government subsidies where they can make a positive difference rather than using our tax dollars to support highly processed and manufactured products. As he points out, it is not just our personal health that's at stake when we purchase, prepare and consume food - the health of our country and planet are also impacted.
Here at Bistro-to-Go we like to feel that we are a part of this process, preparing and serving food that is inherently fresh and good for us, our neighbors, and the planet. How did it come to pass that fresh foods are costlier than processed foods? It seems crazy that our political and economic systems are set up to encourage this but that’s how things have evolved. But it doesn’t have to stay that way. If the people of Egypt can demand a new government the least we can do is demand fresh food.
Support your local farmers, producers, and makers of food and remember that Brillat Savarin’s words are just as true now as when he first spoke them in the 1700's, “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you who you are”.
The compressor on our “soup freezer” went belly up yesterday, but it's all better now thanks to refrigeration genius Charlie Groeter who swooped in to the rescue! Thank you Charlie! In the process of pulling all the soups out we took stock of what we had and now we know why our savviest customers walk in and head straight for the freezer. We’ve got a pretty impressive collection to suit most anyone's taste.
All our soups are made in house with fresh stocks, herbs, vegetables and lots of love. It may sound trite but as any true cook will tell you, there is nothing more satisfying than making a delicious soup. (Pictured above is the ever-popular Curried Mussel Soup.) We make two fresh soups each day for our customers to enjoy and freeze the rest. Many are vegetarian, some are vegan, all are fresh, clean and delicious.
The mix is constantly changing, of course, but to give you an idea of what's most popular, here's a partial list:
- Chicken Soup, always the best seller, they don’t call it Jewish penicillin for nothin’
- Butternut Squash and Apple, made with local cider and Granny Smith apples
- Carrot Ginger, smooth with lots of fresh ginger and yogurt
- Italian Minestrone, rich with beans, tomato and packed with vegetables
- Minestrone Verde, a green vegetarian version of the classic
- Potato Leek, sometimes vegetarian, sometimes classic with chicken stock
- Harira, spicy with lamb, barley, lentils with lemon, traditional to break the fast of Ramadan
- New England Clam Chowder, we steam fresh chowder clams ourselves!
- Vegetable Beef, packed with vegetables and beef in a rich beefy broth
- Curried Mussel, one of the most requested, check our specials menu for dates
- Chili con Carne, stew meat and ground meat with multiple layers of flavor
- Turkey Black Bean Chili, a popular lighter version of chili con carne
- Split Pea and Ham, simmered with smoked pork shanks
We take requests and are always happy to be reminded of something we haven’t made in a while. We also make marinara, putanesca, bolognese and vodka sauces along with traditional and vegetarian lasagnas. Occasionally, you will find chicken pot pies or our chicken burgers with feta and olives in the freezer as well. Stop in, check it out, a couple of quarts of soup or sauce can be a real lifesaver if you get snowed in!
New Year's musings from Chef Richard Erickson
I have been wanting to eat porchetta ever since I first heard that Sara Jenkins (daughter of the famous cookbook author, Nancy Harmon Jenkins) opened a place in the East Village by the same name. In Central Italy a whole pig is roasted and then sold from a cart, (street food - this has to be the epitome of "slow cooked fast food"). A pork loin covered with garlic, fennel and rosemary wrapped in a pork belly and slow roasted for hours is how they do it. "Amazing", I thought. "The loin is continually basted as the
Well, with the end of the year drawing quickly to a close we still hadn't done it. Summer catering ran into Thanksgiving ran into Hanukkah ran into ..... you get the picture. Well, I'm sure the kitchen staff thought I was nuts but sure enough, right in the middle of Christmas and New Years preparations came a whole pork belly from Hudson Valley Meat Co. We opened it up, scored the skin in a diamond pattern, seasoned it with plenty of chopped garlic, salt and savory herbs. After sitting for several days we wrapped it around one of our Berkshire pork loins tied it up and set it to slow roast for almost seven
Crispy skin, fatty belly, and lean loin all heaped on a semolina baguette make a killer sandwich. We'll also be serving it as a plate with garlicky greens and cannellini beans. Stop in today and have some, the parking is easier and the price much cheaper than on E. 7th Street!
Risotto Cakes with Italian Fontina and Black Truffles
Richard Erickson, chef Bistro-to-Go, Kingston, New York
The inspirations for this recipe are the savory rice balls of Sicily known as arancine, or “little oranges”, due to their golden crust. Traditionally they are filled with meat or cheese and eaten as snacks in bars and cafes. Our version omits the filling and we serve the cakes as an appetizer or on top of an array of roasted, steamed, and grilled seasonal vegetables.
This version is especially festive for holiday entertaining - we’re making the small ones for our New Year’s Eve party.
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 cup each finely diced onion, celery and carrot
2 T butter
1 T olive oil
1 1/4 cup arborio rice
Salt & pepper to taste
1 cup grated Fontina
1 cup grated Caciotta al Tartufo (black truffle cheese)
1 cup fine dried bread crumbs Vegetable or light olive oil for frying
1. Heat the stock. In a separate sauce pan heat the olive oil and butter, add the finely diced vegetables and cook over moderate heat until the onions are transluscent.
2. Add the rice, salt and pepper. Stir to coat completely, then begin ladling in the warm stock. Add 1/2 cup at a time stirring and making sure the liquid has been absorbed before adding more. Rice varies so you may need more or less liquid. Unlike a traditional risotto, cook until the rice is soft and
creamy all the way through, about 25-30 minutes.
3. Put the cooked rice into a mixing bowl, add the cheese and the egg, mix well and chill.
4. Depending on whether you will be making an appetizer or an entree, you will choose a scoop that will give you either a small (2-3 bite morsel) or a dinner size portion. Form into a patty, roll in the bread crumbs and assemble on a cookie sheet, which can be kept refrigerated until ready to cook.
5. Heat oil in frying pan and cook on each side until golden brown. This can be done ahead and then reheated in the oven on a cookie sheet, which makes a very party friendly appetizer!
We loved making the traditional potato latkes during Hannukah and people gobbled them up - but we've noticed more and more folks requesting gluten free foods, so Richard invented a delicious vegetable quinoa latke that was a real crowd pleaser!
Here's what he has to say: "The quinoa latkes have been such a hit this past week I thought they deserved a mention. I absolutely love the taste of quinoa and have been making tabouli with it all summer long. However, tabouli is a warm weather dish and I've been brainstorming about some type of gluten-free savory patty or cake and suddenly last week when we were making potato latkes it all happened in a flash. Quinoa latkes!!
Quinoa cooks very quickly, 2 cups quinoa to 4 cups salted water. Combine the cooked quinoa with a finely minced onion, scallion, parsley, 1 grated carrot and 2 medium grated zucchini (which are salted first, then squeezed dry). Soy flour works well as a binder or you can also use mashed potato flakes. Regular flour would be our normal binder but then it obviously would not be gluten-free. I used a little over half a cup for this quantity. Mix everything together with 4 beaten eggs, season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
We use an ice cream scoop to portion out the proper amount for each latke and then shape into patties. The raw latke should hold together fairly well and it will tighten up a bit once you begin to fry it. If they do not hold together or seem too wet add more flour, too dry, add another egg. We always test one first to see if the seasoning is correct before making the whole batch.
Don't be discouraged if they don't hold together at first, the ratio of vegetable, quinoa, flour, and egg just needs to be adjusted. If you're experienced in making regular potato latkes, the cooking technique is very similar once you begin to fry them - you want a nice golden brown color and do a test to make sure it's cooked all the way through. The nice nutty flavor of quinoa is delicious combined with the vegetables and fried. These "latkes" are great with sour cream or just as an accompaniment to a luncheon or dinner dish."
Thumbs down on dried out turkey for your Thanksgiving dinner, once you've brined, your turkey will shine! So what the heck is "brining" - an old-fashioned word and a technique that is now being enthusiastically embraced by many. If you've wondered what it is and /or been afraid to try it - worry not - it's easy.
A brine is salt water with sugar added to temper some of the harshness, then herbs and spices are added to enhance the flavor. Modern chefs have adopted the technique relatively recently to correct for the lean pork and poultry being raised commercially. Turkey that is cooked over 150 degrees has all the juices squeezed out as the meat contracts during cooking. Brining will counteract that and give you a juicy, tender and flavorful bird. Really!!
For a 20+ lb Turkey
Here's what you do, it's this simple:
To make two gallons of brine:
2 cups kosher salt
1 cup sugar
1 head garlic
bay leaves, fresh thyme, sage or rosemary peppercorns
Bring 2 cups of water to boil with salt, sugar, herbs and spices. Crush the head of garlic, add 3 or 4 bay leaves, a good branch of thyme, sage or rosemary and a sprinkling of peppercorns. Let simmer for 10 to 15 minutes and then cool.
Now add two gallons of cold water less 2 cups. Remove the neck, giblets and liver from the cavities or the turkey, rinse and put into a large pot or plastic pail that will hold the turkey comfortably and cover with the cooled brine, put a plate on top to keep it submerged and leave refrigerated for 24 to 48 hours depending on the size.
It is important that it remain at 40 degrees or less. Remove from brine, pat dry and roast in the usual way however do not add salt, the bird has already been seasoned. Rub the skin with a bit of oil and some of the herbs used in the brine. Internal temperature should be 145 when done. Allow to rest for at least 30 minutes after removing from the oven before you carve and serve the turkey. Now enjoy one of the most tender and delicious turkeys you have ever had. This recipe also works well for chicken and pork, soak for shorter periods of time depending on the size of the piece of meat. You can also add brown sugar, apple cider, mustard seeds, cinnamon, and / or cloves. The variations are endless so have fun with this and don't worry - be happy - and enjoy!
We've recently been invited to contribute some recipes for cooking endive to California Endive's website (http://www.endive.com). What an honor, as they're the primary grower of endive in the USA. We recently posted this picture on our Facebook fan page, but today our outstanding chef, Jonathan Sheridan, gave me his recipe for this delicious dish:
Braised Endive, seared with lemon tarragon vinaigrette
Chef Jonathan Sheridan, Bistro-to-Go, Kingston, New York
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup white wine
1 tsp sugar
pinch salt and pepper
Cooking the Endive
Trim the outer leaves and the end of the stem of the endive. Cut in half and put into a stainless steel pot with water (just enough to cover). Add the rest of the ingredients and gently stir together.
Take a clean kitchen towel and place on top of the water, then place a clean plate on top of the towel, (which will be used to keep the endive submerged while it’s cooking). Cook the endive over a low flame, barely simmering, for 20 minutes. Test with a knife for doneness - if the knife offers no resistance, they’re perfectly cooked.
With a pair of tongs, gently remove the endive and put on a rack to drain with the open side down so all the water can drain out. Take a heavy bottom saute pan and turn the heat up all the way, add 1/4 tsp olive oil and quickly place the endive, cut side down in the pan and sear for 3 minutes to allow them to caramelize. Remove from the pan and put on a platter to be served.
Lemon Tarragon Vinaigrette
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp agave syrup
salt and pepper to taste
1 lemon peeled, seeded and diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh tarragon
Mix all ingredients together and spoon over endive. Dust with some crushed pink peppercorns.
They're baaacckkk! There's no meal more perfect for a night you just don't want to cook than one of Bistro-to-Go's homemade chicken pot pies! We use Murray's free range chicken, leeks, onion, carrots, turnips, parsnips and fresh thyme in a luscious creamy sauce (rich with homemade chicken broth) - and they fly out the door! So they just came out of the oven - stop in and pick one up on your way home, then pop it in the toaster oven for a quick reheat, put on your jammies and enjoy!
More shots from our summer catering season! In June we provided one of our favorite summer meals for Grace's Bat Mitzvah in Saugerties, New York. Much merriment, dancing, dining, love and admiration from family and friends helped usher Grace into this new phase of her life.
Vegetable Garden Crudite with Roquefort - dill dip
Mediterranean Mezze Table featuring a spread of house marinated olives, hummus, baba ganoush, herbed sheep’s milk feta, stuffed grape leaves, flat breads and pitas
Fresh Seasonal Fruit Platter
Fresh Strawberry Lemonade, Rose Hips Ice Tea, and White Sangria
Rocket Arugula & Radicchio Salad with pecorino, lemon and olive oil dressing
Le Grande Aioli
A stunning display of poached and steamed seasonal vegetables, grilled shrimp, filet mignon, Chatham cod (if available) or salmon, bowls of aioli, sea salt, cracked pepper
Baguettes and olive oil on each table
Fresh Fruit Platter
Mini Fruit Tarts
Assorted Homemade Cookies
Catskill Mountain organic coffee and tea service
Wedding catering can be one of the most rewarding experiences for folks in the hospitality business: few life experiences bring more people together to celebrate love and joy! The pressures can also be intense! As seasoned as a kitchen and front house staff may be, and completely confident in the ability to deliver fabulous food and service under the most rustic and challenging circumstances - there's one thing that none of us can control - and that's THE WEATHER!!
This summer was truly magnificent here in the Hudson Valley (as opposed to last year's rainy summer). Almost every Saturday provided glorious sun and weather that would bring tears of joy to the eyes of those who have been planning their wedding for many moons. So happily, most of my pictures of our food are bathed in sunlight.
Today's offerings are from a July wedding which featured a large antipasti station with passed appetizers and shots of our team plating one of our favorite salads: the Medi Salad - our version of Greek salad that's topped with our crispy feta cheese.
July Wedding at The Sloan's Country Home
White beans, Roasted red peppers, Assorted Mediterranean olives, Cherry tomatoes and boccacini, Seafood salad, Artichoke hearts, Stuffed grape leaves, Garden radishes, Celery hearts, Fennel, Sopressata, Salami, Semolina breads, Flatbreads and Foccacias
Black Olive Tapenade and Goat Cheese Bruschettas
Crispy Mushroom Parmesan Risotto Cakes
Eggplant Caponata in Phyllo Cups
Moroccan Spiced Lamb Skewers with Minted Yogurt
Skewered Chicken Satay with spicy coconut peanut sauce
Served Mediterranean Salad, Champagne toast
Grilled Beef Tenderloin, au Poivre Sauce
Soy-Ginger Grilled Tuna Steaks on Asian Slaw
Mediterranean Vegetable Ravioli with Sicilian Almond Pesto
Chef’s Seasonal Vegetable Medley
Bread and Butter
Vanilla Wedding Cake with chocolate ganache filling
White buttercream frosting
Catskill Mountain organic coffee service
In case you wondered what happened to our frequent blog and Facebook posts - catering season happened!! Wow! We had a fabulous summer season helping make people's dreams come true with delicious and festive wedding celebrations and parties big and small. In the next few weeks we'll be sharing some of our favorite photos and recipes from the summer.
Today's post is a slide show from last week's wedding at Opus 40 in Saugerties: a perfect weather day, behind the scenes watching the chefs make salads, Tartan themed place setting, and grand finale Red Velvet wedding cake.
Mitzie and Ed's Wedding at Opus 40
September 18, 2010
Artisinal Cheese Platter Shrimp Cocktail Platter
Pulled BBQ Pork and Cornmeal Tartlets, jalapeno mayo
Tuna Tartare in Cucumber Boats
Smoked Salmon Canapes on White Wine Biscuits
Moroccan Chicken Salad in Phyllo Cups, red tomato jam
Arugula and Radicchio Salad
Certified Angus Beef Tenderloin, garlic aioli and au poivre sauce
Catskill Mountain Trout with lemon, caper, and chive sauce
Brown Basmati Rice and Lentil Pilaf
Chef’s Seasonal Vegetable Medley
Bread and Butter
Red Velvet Wedding Cake
with custard filling, vanilla butter cream frosting
Catskill Mountain organic coffee service
It's mid-August and lately I've been aware of that familiar late summer feeling when the light begins to change and a tugging happens in my heart: summer's almost over! We've had an abundance of delicious fruit and vegetables this year however the early fruits are now gone, blueberries are fading from the scene, peaches have been stars and are now beginning to wane. So what a treat to get our delivery from Red Jacket Farms and see and taste their stunning Vanier speckled plums. We put them in the case for all to enjoy and Melinda had a heyday making pies which just came out of the oven.
Come on in and enjoy the samples she put out of the plum filling. Absolutely divine! or buy a pie to take home.
This weekend we're creating an antipasti table for a large wedding and wanted to utilize some of the fresh, local vegetables that are available and delicious right now. After taking a look at these colorful and freshly picked peppers, there was no doubt that we had to include pepperonata in the mix! If you don't have all these amazing colors to choose from, it works just as nicely with solid red or yellow bell peppers - always best if you can purchase them from your local farm stand this time of year.
Start by cutting the peppers in half, remove the seeds and stems, lay them skin side up on a baking sheet with a little bit of water and roast in the oven at 350 degrees until you see the skins have become crinkly (approximately 20-30 minutes). We prefer to roast them in the oven instead of over a grill because the flavor stays clean and fresh - no charred taste - more of the pure taste of the peppers. Next put them in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a sheet pan and let them steam. When cool enough to handle, peel the skins off. Cut the peppers into strips and set aside. Thinly slice red onion, garlic and cook slowly in olive oil. When the onions are transluscent add the peppers, a few capers, green olives, season with salt and pepper and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remove from the heat, add a splash of red wine vinegar and a few basil leaves, check the seasoning, let cool and serve. Pepperonata makes a delicious antipasti: serve with a sliced baguette or toasty bruschettas. It also makes a wonderful topping for grilled chicken or fish. Mangia!
Now is the time to let your imagination soar! Summer fruits make the most delicious accompaniments to any meal. Our chef Jonathan Sheridan came up with this sweet and spicy melon salsa to garnish wild sockeye salmon from the Pacific Northwest.
Take any summer melon (in this case cantaloupe) and dice into 1/2" cubes. Combine in a bowl with some chopped fresh basil and mint. Add diced sweet red pepper, finely diced hot chile pepper, fresh squeezed lime juice, agave syrup and toss. We picked some nasturtium flowers and leaves from the garden which add more color and spice to the presentation. What a great centerpiece for your summer table!
Turn these gorgeous beefsteak and low acid tomatoes (ours are from Gill Farms) into a simple summer favorite! Slice the tomatoes and layer with fresh mozzarella on your favorite platter. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper, freshly chopped basil and a good balsamic, red wine, or sherry wine vinegar and voila!
Summer produce is at its peak right now and this colorful, delicately delicious, and healthful "green" - rainbow chard is one of the best. I've grown it myself and never tire of the sweet tender flavors of chard simply prepared by steaming it with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Today we got a delivery from our neighbors at Gill Farms and I was struck by the beauty of the colors of the stems sitting on the counter as I walked through the kitchen.
The preparation is so simple.
Start by cutting the stems where they meet the leaves and then into 3" pieces. Wash thoroughly and set to drain. Cut the leafy parts horizontally across the stem portion into 2" strips and soak for a few minutes in water and then drain.
In a large pot, heat some olive oil and add chopped or sliced garlic. (Don't let the oil get too hot, as the garlic will cook very quickly and you don't want to let it burn.) While the garlic is cooking add the stems (still wet from draining) with a little salt and pepper, cover and let steam until almost tender.
Now take big handfuls of the chard leaves, stir with tongs fully coating the leaves with the garlic oil and cooked stems. Turn the heat down low and cover letting everything cook until done. Check seasoning for salt and pepper, platter and serve. Chard is delicious warm or at room temperature. In Sicily and Catalonia golden raisins and pine nuts are sometimes added and are a wonderful somewhat unexpected addition.
To our amazement the folks at Gill Farms have done it again - miracle of miracles! They have corn on the cob ready to eat the first week in July and the tomatoes are just coming in too - little cherry tomatoes right now, but in my book that's still miraculous! Granted, the weather this year has been wonderful for our local farmers - it's so nice when they get some breaks. We've had lots of sun, warm weather and sufficient rain (until just recently) to provide an excellent growing season. We so loved that first bite of butter and sugar corn at our 4th of July BBQ - it was deeelicious.
None of us are tired yet of just eating it straight from the cob, but soon enough we'll be looking for other ways to enjoy eating fresh corn. Here's a recipe that makes a wonderful dish to take to a neighborhood pot luck or serve at home to your family and friends.
Black Bean & Corn Salad
Chef Richard Erickson, Bistro-to-Go
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar or fresh lime juice
2 T minced garlic
1 tsp ground cumin
1 T chili powder
1/2 cup olive oil
2 (15 oz) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
4 cups fresh corn, from about 10 ears
1 lg red pepper, finely chopped
1 lg red onion, finely diced
1 small bunch scallion, chopped
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped salt and pepper to taste
Whisk together vinegar or lime juice, garlic, cumin, and chili powder. Add the oil in a slow stream, whisking, until combined well. Set aside
Combine the beans, corn, pepper, onion, scallion and cilantro in a large bowl and toss with the vinaigrette. Adjust seasoning and serve. This is a great recipe for leftover corn on the cob. It keeps well and is a much appreciated and colorful addition to any picnic or barbeque. It can be served on a bed of lettuce, Boston or Bibb work great, and garnished with avocado to dress it up and serve as a first course. The quantities are not terribly important, it can be a bean salad with corn or a corn salad with beans. Tomatoes are a welcome addition and even a jar of salsa can be added in a pinch.
Here's a great recipe that will wow your friends, is savory, healthy, delicious and you can shop at your local farm stand to purchase all the ingredients. One of the reasons we love this recipe is that the vegetables are roasted, not grilled, so they absorb less oil and the dish is light and clean. Romesco sauce (which dates back to medieval times) is a wonderful type of "pesto" thickened with bread and nuts. Traditionally made with romescu peppers we approximate the flavor with red peppers and a bit of ancho chili pepper. The recipe looks a little strange but follow it to the end and taste the results. We think it's worth it and that you'll agree. The mixture of vegetables is similar to ratatouille so we always tell people it's a Catalan ratatouille!
Esclavida (Grilled Vegetables) with Romesco Sauce
Chef Richard Erickson, Bistro-to-Go
1 large eggplant
3-4 zucchini and/or summer squash
1 large Spanish onion
4 plum tomatoes
2 red & 2 green peppers
1/2 cup toasted almonds
1/4 cup Sherry wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Romesco Sauce (recipe follows)
1. Cut the vegetables into pieces of equal size (approximately 3/4 - 1” cubes). Season with salt and pepper, toss lightly with olive oil and roast for about 15 minutes on a sheet pan in a 400 degree oven.
2. Take 1/2 cup Romesco Sauce, 1/4 cup Sherry wine vinegar, 1/2 cup olive oil and whisk together.
3. Garnish with whole toasted almonds and serve.
4-6 Ancho chiles
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 pita or other bread
1 cup almonds
1/2 cup hazelnuts
2 T garlic
1/2 cup tomato, peeled & seeded
1 large roasted pepper pinch cayenne
2-3 T Sherry wine vinegar
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 T paprika
2 T tomato paste
1. Cover chiles with boiling water after discarding seeds and stems. Soak until soft.
2. Heat half the oil, add bread. Fry until golden. Remove, add chiles, cook for 2 mintues.
3. In food processor, process almonds, salt and garlic. Add bread, chiles and tomato.
4. Add cayenne, vinegar and rest of olive oil. Grind black pepper and adjust seasoning. Thin with a bit of the ancho liquid but not too much.
Should have a smoky and lightly spicy taste, but not be too spicy hot.
What could be more perfect for the 4th of July or for any backyard party than homemade potato salad? We have several favorites here at Bistro-to-Go: traditional with a mayonnaise base and another version in vinaigrette often known as German style.
This weekend we're making the all-American version.
Start with a nice variety of baby potato (reds and creamers are our favs). Cut into equal size pieces and put in a big pot of heavily salted water. Cook to perfection, (firm enough to hold their shape but not al dente!) drain off the cooking water, splash with some apple cider vinegar while still warm, toss, and allow to marinate while gathering the rest of the ingredients.
In a large bowl combine finely diced sweet onions, celery and scallions. Add several big dollups of mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, course grain mustard, a bit of sweet pickle relish, salt and pepper. Other ingredients can be added for interest (such as diced cucumber and green beans for example) and a variety of fresh herbs such as tarragon or dill. Right now we have an abundance of giant red mustard greens in our garden, so Richard took a big handful of the leaves and chopped them into fine long strips ("chiffonade") and added to the mix for an extra spicy kick! Now combine the still warm potatoes with the other ingredients. (We consider this an important step as the potatoes absorb flavors which won't happen if they are cold.) Garnish with fresh herbs, tomatoes or chopped hard boiled egg for a beautiful presentation. Wishing you a fabulous 4th of July weekend!
The 4th of July weekend is upon us and we've had great fun in the past with stars and stripes cakes and fruit tarts. But another great dessert for any occasion is the great American Cupcake! And we are so lucky to have the ever-popular cupcakes that Melinda whips up on a daily basis here at Bistro-to-Go! This new variety is a chocolate cupcake and features a whipped chocolate ganache filling with chocolate buttercream frosting. If you're looking to serve them to your guests this weekend, call soon as they go fast! Also available are her yummy lemon coconut cupcakes with lemon curd filling, carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and her version of the old Hostess classic with whipped marshmallow filling.
I thought it would be fun to share a couple of snaps of how she makes the design on top - perfect for Halloween actually!
This is the time of year when friends and sometimes even customers bring us goodies from their gardens when they have an abundance. Our bookkeeper Bonni brought us rhubarb and today Melinda whipped up some divine strawberry-rhubarb pies. She said, "we're going to keep one of these for ourselves" and after letting them cool for about 20 minutes we cut into the one "damaged" pie!! What a treat! The essence of early summer in the northeast! The only thing missing was the vanilla ice cream - oh well - we suffered through.
And another one of her amazing creations picked up for a Sweet 16 Party tonight - Happy Birthday Kelley!
I have the utmost admiration for our local farmers and their ability to be harvesting the most gorgeous vegetables by the second week in June! Loretta from Gill Farms came by today and brought us a bounty of delicious produce which was grown just down the road - kudos to John who runs the farm and to Cindy and Loretta who do such a beautiful job at their roadside store on Route 209! One of our favorite vegetable preparations we just call "Chef's Seasonal Vegetable Medley" - when brides and grooms ask me in the dead of winter what's in it, I tell them "whatever we can get that comes fresh from our local farms". And hallelujah - here it is. The preparation is simple: cut each vegetable to maximize the beauty of it's shape. It's nice to make the size of the broccoli, for instance, about two bites for interest. You can experiment and see how the sizes and shapes of different vegetables interact and look together when they're cooked and presented. Each type of vegetable will be steamed individually, tested with a knife for done-ness (they should have a bit of give and still have their color when you take them off the heat). Prepare a bath of ice water to plunge them into immediately to help retain the vibrancy of color - no one wants to look at or eat veggies that are overcooked. Once you have cooked your assorted vegetables, put them together in a big mixing bowl and add toss with olive oil in which you've sauteed some finely minced shallots. Add salt and pepper and toss. Pour out onto your favorite platter and garnish with some fresh herbs. In this case, we went out to our garden and picked some thyme blossoms, chopped them lightly and dusted the top with the flowers. Beautiful, aromatic and delicious!
Well now that summer's here, let's just dive head first into the barbeque thing! As Americans we're just crazy for the lure of the outdoor grill and what could be more fun and perfect then kebobs! Our plat du jour on Wednesdays is Mediterranean Kebobs and today we made them with fresh sushi grade tuna. What makes them "Mediterranean"? The recipe we used to marinate the tuna is called Pincho Moruno and it comes from one of our favorite cookbooks Delicioso, The Regional Cooking of Spain, by Penelope Casas. This marinade is traditionally used with pork, but it's really delicious with any grilled meat, fish or poultry.
Here is the recipe:
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
8 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp minced parsley
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp crushed coriander seeds
1/4 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp imported sweet paprika
1/4 tsp dried crushed hot red pepper
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp minced oregano leaves or 1/4 tsp dried several threads of saffron
1/2 tsp salt
As you can see from the pictures, we then put the tuna chunks onto wooden skewers that have been soaking in water for one hour. In this case, we topped each kebob with a piece of zucchini, but you could have lots of fun making up your own combinations. This is just one of many great grilling tips we'll be sharing with you this summer. Enjoy!
We're blessed to have a wonderful association with one of the premiere wedding venues in the Hudson Valley, The Onteora Mountain House. As the exclusive caterer, one of our greatest pleasures is using as much farm-fresh produce as possible. This week we received an enormous order of fresh salad greens from Jim and Viv at Cody Creek Farm in Saugerties. They brought us a great organic selection of arugula, Boston and red leaf lettuce, and their own mesclun mix. No pre-washed greens here - it took us a few hours to wash and dry them all, and once they were prepped we decided they needed their picture taken. So we set them out next to the little herb and vegetable garden I've created in the back of our store. The guests at the wedding today and tomorrow will be dining on freshly picked salad greens - not an every day occurrence for most folks.
We've co-hosted some wonderful tasting events at Onteora Mountain House for the couples and families that are getting married there. The big roomy kitchen allows plenty of space for several chefs to prepare and set out all the food from a large selection of different appetizers to a variety of entrees and finally cake samples.
If you've never had the pleasure of eating as many chicken wings as you could possibly imagine, then you should definitely put a big star on your calendar for this upcoming weekend and get your fanny down to Cantine Field in Saugerties, New York for this great event! Last year was our first, but definitely not our last as we came away with the People's Choice Award for the Best Chicken Wings in Ulster County. YAHOO! and YEEHAH!
So how do you even begin to plan for something like this when you've never done it before? We had heard wild stories from the year before that the vendors were crazy running out of wings early on in the day, so we racked our brains and came up with the figure of 5,000 wings, hoping this would take us through to the end. And it almost did - we ran out of wings around 4:30 - much better than some of our counterparts that were looking to buy some of our product mid-day.
Jonathan Sheridan has been known in many of his former "chef-ing" jobs (Vong / NYC and Rosendale Cement Company to name a few) as an amazing creator of wing recipes, so we let him have free reign to come up with last year's prize winners: Sweet Thai Chile Wings and Spicy Jalapeno Wings.
But honestly, we'd rather have you come on down and give us your vote! Thought you'd enjoy a few snapshots from last year's competition. Try to imagine what 5,000 chicken wings would look like in our walk in? Or prepping 5,000 wings to be cooked and then transported to the event where we finished them off in the fryer and tossed them in the finger-licking sauce. So this week, that's what we'll be up to!!! Sounds like fun doesn't it?
Our chefs have had the most fun making "stacks" (little mini meals) with various combinations of ingredients. The one ingredient they use consistently as a base is polenta. Now, my long held belief as a lay person (Mary Anne speaking here) was that polenta was a lot of work to make. Well, we've been carrying this wonderful product in our store since we opened, Bel Aria pre-cooked polenta, and it will make your life so easy! And it's really delicious. Simply slice, brush with olive oil and grill to create the base for a "stack" of any flavor.
Polenta, the Italian word for cornmeal, has been the staff of life in Italy for centuries, particularly in the northern regions. It's very nutritious and can be served many different ways: piping hot with butter and cheese, as an accompaniment to meat or fowl, fried, boiled, or baked with a variety of fillings such as sausage or cheese. It's excellent as an appetizer when fried and topped with a savory spread. Bel Aria polenta is pre-cooked and rolled for easy slicing and heating. In addition to the plain variety, it's also available flavored with basil and garlic or sun- dried tomatoes.
Our chefs have had fun with different combinations using steak as a main ingredient (shown here with oven roasted tomatoes and spinach). The opening photo features a popular combination of shrimp, gigande beans, and green beans garnished with chive oil.
Today's special features the ingredients traditionally associated with Italian bruschettas: tomatoes, basil, onion, garlic, olive oil, vinegar and finely diced mozzarella.
Have some fun and make up your own combinations - these stacks are great as a first course, appetizer or main course. We love to play with our food!
We're into the joy of the growing season now as we begin to expect new arrivals each week from one of our favorite local farmers John from Gill Farms. A few days ago he showed up with an enormous bag of freshly picked spinach. It's so great to see the beginnings of what is in store for us in the coming months.
The first thing we do with the spinach is cut off the tip of the stem and discard. Then we separate the stems from the upper leaf, putting all the leaves into a sink full of water. Let them soak for a bit, gently swishing them around to dislodge any bits of sand that may still be clinging to the leaves. To be safe, we usually drain in a collander and then wash them one more time in clean water. Then spin dry.
As I was cleaning the spinach I remembered a dish we used to do years ago with the stems: a gratin! There's nothing more satisfying to a chef then making use of all of a plant or any food item. "Nose to tail eating" as Fergus Henderson says. In a professional kitchen, or any kitchen for that matter, nothing should go to waste!
Spinach Stem Gratin
We start with a basic bechamel sauce: 1 cup flour, 1 cup butter, and two quarts of milk flavored with a bay leaf and freshly grated nutmeg (a great base).
Next, we grate a mixture of cheeses: cheddar, gruyere or fontina work the best, ricotta is good also, stay away from mozzarella as it gets stringy. Mix a couple of eggs into the sauce, a couple cups of grated cheese, a bit of Parmesan never hurts, and pour into a gratin dish with the seasoned blanched stems. I like to add a bit of the cooked spinach leaves (chopped) as well for color. Now top with bread crumbs tossed with a bit of garlic, butter and parsley.
Bake until set, about 30 to 45 minutes at 350 depending on the size of your gratin dish. This is a delicious side for a summer meal, or would make a fabulous vegetarian entree. Enjoy!
One of the coolest things about being married to a chef and owning a food business is there's always something amazing going on in the kitchen. The other day as I strolled through, our awesome chefs were preparing this fabulous eggplant dish - it was something entirely new to me and was visually stunning! I decided to take pictures at each stage of the dish's evolution, to share with you.
How fun today when one of our customers (the extremely lovely librarian Kara) ordered it exactly the way it should be served: with some sliced mozzarella and a side starch (here our whole grain pilaf, but it would also be great with pasta.)
Making the fans is extremely easy. Choose a medium to large eggplant, rinse and dry. Slice the fan layers about 1/2" thick ending the cuts close to the base. Oil the bottom of a baking dish inserting the eggplants. Slice tomatoes into 1/4" pieces and toss in some finely diced garlic. Then layer the tomato between the "fans" of the eggplant. Drizzle olive oil over the everything and sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper. Place in a preheated 300 degree oven for about one hour. Test with a knife to make sure they're completely cooked.
This dish makes a great vegetarian entree or an unusual side for a summer barbeque. We served it on a bed of fresh greens and drizzled a balsamic glaze over the eggplant as a flavor accent. Delish!
The change of seasons always brings the excitement of new seasonal menu items and here at Bistro-to-Go we've started making Quinoa Tabouli again - much to the delight of our customers. Traditionally tabouli (or "tabbouleh") comes from the Middle East and Mediterranean regions and is made with bulgar wheat, parsley, scallions, mint, tomato, onion, lemon juice and olive oil. We chose to make ours with quinoa for a number of reasons, the first being that it's delicious, light and very nutritious.
Quinoa originated and is primarily grown in the Andes and has a very high protein content (12%–18%), making it a healthy choice for vegetarians. Unlike wheat or rice (which are low in lysine), quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids making it an unusually complete protein source. Another big reason we've adopted and love quinoa is that it's gluten free and a perfect fit for the clean and healthy foods we offer. All of this would mean nothing if it didn't taste good! I usually side with tradition and history but in this case I truly think that quinoa tastes better and makes a better version of tabouli than the original made with wheat. Try some and judge for yourself. Just remember, true tabouli is bright green with lots and lots of parsley, mint and scallions.
Today is the 136th running of the Kentucky Derby and other than the mint julep, Derby Pie is one of the great culinary traditions used to celebrate the day.
The pie originated in 1950 at the Melrose Inn in Prospect, Kentucky, by the Kern family. The name "Derby Pie" was chosen because the various family members couldn't agree on a name, so they put all the names in a hat, and pulled out the winning paper which said "Derby Pie". The family has trademarked the name and created a proprietary recipe for the pie which they market as a business, so needless to say we will not divulge our recipe! Suffice it to say that the pie is a chocolate and walnut tart in a pie shell usually made with a pastry dough crust.
We made our version with pecans, chocolate chips and Kentucky bourbon so it tastes a lot like a pecan pie with chocolate chips in it. The real topper is the Kentucky bourbon whipped cream and a sprig of mint! So we're off to the races, the roses and the excitement at Churchill Downs. Good luck to all the horses and their riders today.
What was the inspiration for this dish today? Well, we usually use chicken legs for chicken cacciatore or pot pies and thought this would be a great change. Despite the strange cold snap we're having right now, we wanted to do a lighter and more seasonal preparation, eh voila! Hoisin charred chicken legs!
Hoisin "barbeque" sauce (ala Chef Jonathan Sheridan) is easy to make, providing you've done a little shopping in advance for the ingredients. Start by taking equal parts hoisin sauce (most markets have this in their Asian food section) and ketchup and mix together in a bowl. Then in a sauce pan, take equal parts soy sauce and sugar, several whole star anise, a sprinkling of Sechzwan style peppercorns and crushed chile flakes, and minced garlic and simmer gently for 10 minutes.
Let cool and strain into the hoisin ketchup mix. Add a squirt of sesame oil to the mix and toss the raw chicken legs until they're completely coated with the sauce. Lay the pieces out on a pan and cook in a 300 degree oven for 20 minutes, then raise the temperature to 400 for 20 minutes. This brings out the flavor of the bbq sauce and gives them that stunning charred look.
We've made an Asian version of cole slaw with rice wine vinegar and cilantro to go with the chicken, which provides a nice contrast to the spicy sauce. Serve with steamed rice or roasted sweet potatoes and you've created a dinner your fans will rave about!
Paella is our Thursday “plat du jour” and always fun to cook. Paella is essentially a rice dish originating in the provinces near the rice growing regions of Valencia. Originally made with snails, rabbit and chicken, it almost always includes seafood today. There are as many variations of paella as there are villages in Spain so to give a master recipe is useless. All would agree however that it is first and foremost a rice dish not a seafood dish.
Valencia is a famous rice growing region and the short grained rice they raise is similar to the more commonly available arborio rice from Italy. The elaborate Paella Valenciana that one sees in restaurants all over the world probably started in neighboring Catalonia, Valencia's sophisticated neighbor. One of the things that makes it fun (from a kitchen's point of view) is the stock used to cook the rice.
Every cook loves to make stock!! We start with a rich chicken stock made with the bones of the Murray’s chickens we clean each day. We follow with the shells from peeled shrimp and even snapper or cod bones and heads depending on the week. The point is we devote most of our attention to a rich stock full of the flavors that will appear later in the finished dish.
The rest of the dish is relatively easy to prepare as the other ingredients garnish the flavorful short grain rice that has absorbed all of the flavors.
Here is a recipe for an easy and familiar paella with chicken, chorizo or ham and shrimp. Add mussels or clams for variety and a colorful presentation.
1 lg chicken cut into small serving pieces olive oil
5 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 lb shrimp or prawns
1 Spanish onion, diced
1 lg tomato, diced or 1 cup canned diced
1 Spanish style chorizo, or 1/4 ham
1 tablspoon sweet paprika
1 pinch saffron
1 1/3 lb short grain rice
1/2 pound green peas, green beans, or butter beans, cooked and drained
1. In a wide flat bottomed pan, saute the chicken pieces in a small amount of oil until golden brown. Remove and set aside.
2. Heat the stock.
3. Slowly begin cooking the onion with the saffron, chorizo and paprika stirring well.
4. Check the stock and season with salt and pepper. Now add the seafood, beans or peas, the rice and the warm stock checking the liquid for salt and pepper.
5. Simmer uncovered until all the liquid has been absorbed, about 20-25 minutes. A crust on the bottom is considered by many to be not only desirable but highly sought after.
When the paella is finished carefully arrange the seafood on top, sprinkle with some chopped parsley and then serve.
Chicken Marsala is a good example of one of those dishes that have gotten a bad rap from being mass produced in industrial kitchens. When prepared carefully what could be tastier than a tender chicken scallopini topped with sauteed mushrooms and Marsala wine? I take personal pleasure in resurrecting "old school under appreciated dishes" and bringing them back to life for others to enjoy. Cooking in a busy kitchen such as ours, allows us to do numerous things which, while not impossible for the home cook, can often be cumbersome and time consuming.
Following is an outline of how we do this dish and a few of our techniques. I was tempted to use the work "tricks", but there are no real "tricks" in a good kitchen, just good solid cooking techniques built up over years working with and thinking about food and flavors.
We start with boneless chicken breasts which we slice and then gently pound out to tender pieces, about 5-6 oz each. Seasoned with our house mix of kosher salt, sea salt, and freshly ground white pepper we then dredge them lightly in flour and saute until golden and set aside.
Next we saute the mushrooms, (a mix of cremini, shitake and oyster) with minced shallots and fresh thyme. We then deglaze with a good Italian dry Marsala wine and let that reduce a bit before adding chicken stock. (Sauce stocks are dark, meaning we roast the bones and vegetables before simmering them giving a rich full flavor perfect for dishes like this, as opposed to light stocks made for soups.)
We then return the sauteed chicken pieces briefly to the sauce where the flavors can mingle, finish cooking the chicken, and the bits of browned flour on the chicken help to thicken and enrich the sauce.
Leaving the sauce simmering on the stove top we then platter the chicken and add a bit of lemon juice to the sauce (to counteract the sweetness of the wine and add depth and complexity). Finally we finish by swirling in a bit of porcini butter which we make in bulk and freeze, adding smoothness and shine to the sauce along with the exotic aroma of the porcinis.
Chicken Marsala has consistently been our best selling plat du jour and a we think deserving of the title we have on our catering menus, "the best you've ever had"!
We always look forward to Thursdays and our potato delivery from Bob at RSK Farms - this week he had a wonderful surprise for us . . . ramps! If you've never had the pleasure of tasting a ramp, the flavor and aroma is a combination of onions and garlic, although they're often referred to as "wild leeks". They grow from South Carolina to Canada, and in many areas are considered a spring delicacy and a reason for celebration. After all, anything that you can harvest this early in the growing season brings excitement and anticipation to those of us craving farm fresh (or in this case often "wild") food.
We cut off the tip of the bulb (the root end) and gently washed the ramps, then put them in a saute pan with some olive oil, salt and pepper and a splash of water and let them braise gently until they were tender (about five minutes). Once they're cooked to perfection, serve them as an accompaniment to seafood or chicken. Today, we put some of them in the food processor and buzzed them into a puree which we used as a base sauce for fresh Long Island blue fish.
Ramps uniquely pungent flavor is a fabulous addition to soups, egg dishes, and potato dishes. They're also great in scrambled eggs or with pan-fried potatoes for a wonderful Sunday brunch item. After a winter of working with and eating root vegetables the fresh, clean flavor of ramps are a delight and a harbinger of good things to come. Enjoy them while they last - they're one of those fleeting spring delights in the Northeast!
Richard recently completed ServSafe, a sanitation course that is now required in New York State for all food service operators. This series of classes was developed by the National Restaurant Association and taught locally at Ulster Boces in Port Ewen. Here are some of his thoughts: "You can only imagine that a state mandated food safety class could have the potential to be a crashing bore, but I'm happy to report that the three four hour classes taught by Victor Arnao were both interesting and informative. They were peppered with numerous videos illustrating real life situations, instructions about food safety and finally "the dreaded" exam, which I passed with flying colors.
I'd say 50% of this course is common sense, things your mother told you about basic cleanliness and hygiene. A good chunk of the information however, was stuff the average person OR cook would not necessarily have considered. For example potato salad... did you know that the potatoes will spoil quicker than the mayonnaise and are more likely to be a cause of food related illness? I certainly didn't. Here are some other important tips I learned:
- Cleaning work surfaces and sanitizing them are two different procedures that require clearly labeled buckets for each job. We now have them both here in our kitchen.
- Some types of bacteria can cause illness and others spoil food; some can survive freezing and others are not destroyed by cooking. We learned how to identify many of these and understand the environments in which they grow, which is the first step in controlling them.
- How to calibrate those little thermometers cooks wear in their shirt pockets to monitor their accuracy
- The best way to wash your hands! (a minimum of 20 seconds of vigorous scrubbing with soap and hot water up to your wrists - then dry them with a disposable towel). Now you're ready to put on your food service gloves!
It was great to meet other people in our local food service industry: a woman in charge of a school cafeteria, another from Meals-on-Wheels, the Queen's Galley, and so on. It's interesting to note that those people who work with children or older people have an even greater responsibility for food safety, as they are often more at risk due to food related illnesses.
All in all, the entire experience left me feeling proud to be a part of the food service industry and a heightened sense of responsibility to our customers. I have always worked hard at running a clean operation and it felt good to see that we were doing all the right stuff. Over the years the health inspectors have often commented that if everyone were as committed to cleanliness as we are it would make their job much easier. Many thanks to Victor Arnao for teaching such a great class."
Ivan Lajara, blogger for the Kingston Daily Freeman (as well as editor of Preview, the Freeman's weekly entertainment magazine) has chosen to include our blog, along with 12 other local blogs on their site! We're honored and will use this as a kick in the pants to get blogging more often! To view the other chosen blogs, check out the link below: http://bit.ly/bEn07Y
Spring has sprung early this year! Record temps and gorgeous sunshine surprised our favorite farmers at Gill's just down the road in Hurley. They're harvesting their first crop of the season and WE are the beneficiaries! Spring's first asparagus - hooray!
Come in and share the joy - take some home for dinner tonight. It's lightly steamed with shallots, tarragon, sea salt and extra virgin olive. Simple perfection.
Richard and I had the honor of attending the First Annual Hudson Valley Hunger Banquet on Sunday night, March 28th at Back Stage Productions in Kingston. It was a night like no other. We were greeted at the door and invited to take an envelope. We were then instructed to look inside the envelope for a number which would tell us where we would be dining.
Richard found a #1 in his envelope which meant that he had the privilege of sitting in the elegantly appointed section of tables in the center of the room. They represented 15% of the world population and dined on a sumptuous five course meal and wine pairing, catered by chef Samir Hrichi of Ship to Shore restaurant in Kingston. The meal began with a lobster ceviche with tuna sashimi and a crispy flatbread. For the second course they were served seared Hudson Valley fois gras with a sun-dried cherry chutney. The next course featured slow cooked Fleisher's pulled pork wrapped in Boston bibb lettuce with a blood orange ragout, followed by apple wood grilled baby New Zealand lamb chops with parsnip turnip puree and cumin coriander jus. The meal was topped off with a smoked mango parfait, Jane's homemade coconut almond joy ice cream and a lovely port. I was really thrilled for Richard (the hard-working chef) to be treated to such a lovely meal!
If I had drawn a #2 (as you may have deduced I landed a #3) I would have been seated at long lunch tables with no cloths and been served a Kingston High School student lunch consisting of chicken nuggets, corn, jello and chocolate milk. This group represents the 35% of the population that are considered "middle class".
I was one of the people representing 50% of the world's population that live at or under poverty level. We were seated in chairs around the perimeter of the room and eventually were allowed to go up to a table where we took a cup of white rice, a slice of white bread, and a small cup of water.
The organizers of the event, Diane Reeder (founder of the Queen's Galley), Victoria Langling (founder and director for the Daily Bread Soup Kitchen), and Ward Todd (president of the Ulster County Chamber of Commerce) all gave their opening remarks and addressed the state of poverty and hunger in the world, as the folks at the elegant tables were served their first several courses. The rest of us watched, with hunger pangs growing in intensity! I made the mistake of coming to the "banquet" a little hungry and now was regretting my decision to not bring a snack! And then I realized what eventually would become clear about the message of the evening - how often do most of us really feel hungry? How is it to see people dining and drinking and enjoying life and not be able to participate? This was beginning to make me really uncomfortable!
So, my friend Deborah and I decided to take action - we got up and began to beg! She went to one of her friends at an elegant table and of course I went to Richard and tasted one morsel of the fois! Wow! So delicious! And even more so as my stomach was screaming for food at this point! We got over our pride and continued begging for at least one bite of each course.
The whole night was a big social experiment really - some of the 15%ers got up and gave their food away to the poor underprivileged folks on the outskirts of the room. I bumped into a friend later in the evening sitting resigned in the back row grumbing about a food riot and throwing his rice at the people in the center. I shared the benefits of begging with him and encouraged him to come with me to "the source" which he did, and one of Richard's table mates gladly gave him her dessert! I told him you get "more bees with honey"!
The night brought awareness to those in the room and was certainly of great service to the hunger organizations it was intended to benefit: The Queens Galley, Ulster Corps, Daily Bread Soup Kitchen, Family of Woodstock, Caring Hands Soup Kitchen, Angel Food East, Saint James Food Pantry, Rosendale Food Pantry, People's Place, Chiz's Heart Street, God Given Bread Food Pantry and Libertyview Farm Hunger Relief Project.
Bistro-to-Go along with a number of other local restaurants and food businesses also donated a percentage of their sales on Sunday to this worthy cause. We're honored to help promote their mission that "hunger is not an option".
Even if you're not Irish, you're probably up for either a corned beef sandwich today or one of our corned beef and cabbage dinner specials which will include the ever popular colcannon. But here's the big question - have you ever tried it?
Colcannon (or "colchannon") is extremely popular in Ireland and is much the same today as it's been for centuries. It was traditionally eaten in at Halloween as until recently this was a fast day when you weren't allowed to eat meat. The name derives from cal ceann fhionn -- white-headed cabbage.
Here at Bistro-to-Go we cook up Potato Bob's carola potatoes and mash them as we would to serve every day. Take a bunch of leeks, chop them fine and soak in water to clean out the sand. Drain, then sweat them in a pan on top of the stove, sauteing with some butter, salt and pepper till soft. Chop the kale and savoy cabbage (the queen of all cabbage) into horizontal strips about 1" wide and put into a deep pot with about 1" of water in the bottom. Steam until they're tender and drain off the excess water. Toss in some olive oil, salt and pepper and stir into the potatoes along with the leeks. Check the seasoning and voila! Colcannon! May the luck of the Irish be yours today!
Blood oranges certainly brighten up the kitchen on a snowy winter day!! The deep red color of the flesh and juice is quite a shock if you've never seen it before. Sometimes the skin is blushed with the same color but not always. The flavor is delicious and the zest makes a very colorful ingredient in cooking (ask anyone who ordered our Roast Duck with Blood Orange Sauce for Valentine's Day)! They're great for juicing and make a tasty cocktail as well.
There is no better orange to use for this classic Italian salad.
Fennel and Orange Salad
1 lg bulb fennel 1 small red onion 2 lg oranges 2 T red wine vinegar 1/3 cup good olive oil 1 teaspoon minced garlic Chopped mint for garnish optional
1. Trim the top of the fennel, reserve some of the fronds, and peel the outside of the bulb of any tough stringy parts. 2. Slice the fennel and onion VERY thin. 3. Zest one of the oranges then peel both and slice. 4. Combine olive oil, vinegar and garlic with a pinch of salt in a bowl. Toss with the fennel, onion, orange and allow the flavors to blend. Serve as is or on a bed of arugula or watercress for a sensational salad dish.
What is a Meyer lemon?
Most of us are used to looking for a specific variety of apple or pear, but lemons? Who knew?
Like most things that are grown on a smaller scale they are tastier. Meyer lemons are a hybrid originally from China as are most citrus fruits. Besides being a gorgeous rich deep yellow color they are delicious and a bit less acidic than standard commercial lemons. The smooth skin is a bit thinner and wonderful for candied zests or any recipe calling for the zest. A beautiful lemon tart, lemon curd, lemon marmalades - in any form these lemons are a joy to use and eat! We have been having a lot of fun with them in the kitchen here at the store - they just look so cool. They're irresistible!
Here's our recipe for sweet and sour lemons which are fabulous on seafood, chicken, and even as a base for a quick herb vinaigrette. If you are using Meyer lemons you may eliminate step 1, which is used to remove the bitter flavor of the white pith in regular commercial lemons.
Sweet and Sour Lemons by Chef Richard Erickson
4 lemons, sliced 1/8” thick 1 cup white wine vinegar 3/4 cup sugar
1. Put lemon slices in a pan, (preferably stainless steel) cover with cold salted water, bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Discard the liquid.
2. Combine vinegar, sugar and the parboiled lemon slices and simmer for about 15 minutes.
3. Let cool, discard any seeds, and store in the liquid.
These keep for several weeks. Use whole as a garnish for fish or chicken.
They are easiest to use when chopped and added to sauces or vinaigrettes. I like to de-glaze a pan that was used for cooking fish or chicken with white wine, add a spoonful of the sweet and sour lemons, several tablespoons of herbs, and a splash of extra virgin olive oil. An easy garnish that will wow your guests.
One of our best-selling dishes here at Bistro-to-Go is Shrimp with Gigande Beans. It's the simple combination of the two main elements tossed together with some olive oil, garlic, dried chili pepper and chopped parsley that makes this dish a winner! And what actually makes it SO simple is that we use Divina gigande beans because they're cooked to perfection and canned.
In the old days at Blue Mountain Bistro, Richard used to soak dried beans overnight and cook them himself, but found that they didn't cook evenly. No matter how many beans seemed the perfect "done-ness" there were always a number in the batch that were too crunchy, thus dissatisfying. These Divina beans are perfect every time! It's no wonder they garnered the Sofi award from the National Association of Specialty Food Trade competition which honors truly outstanding food products.
Gigandes are plump, meaty white beans grown along the mountain slopes in Northern Greece. They're packed with protein and have been a staple of the Mediterranean diet for centuries. Divina's gigandes are marinated in a delightful vinaigrette with red and green pepper strips. They can be served as a savory, stand alone antipasto dish or as a special ingredient in salads. We sell a giant can (70 oz) of gigandes for $16.99! If you aren't planning a large dinner party to use the whole can, you can freeze whatever's left in sandwich baggies and pull them out as needed for a quick healthy snack, make your own "hummus", toss into a salad OR make this quick easy dish.
Shrimp with Gigande Beans
Chef Richard Erickson, Bistro-to-Go
1 pound shrimp, shelled
Sea salt to taste
1/2 cup good olive oil
4T chopped garlic
2-3 bay leaves
Dried red chili pepper
1. Season the shelled shrimp with sea salt and bring to room temperature while you prepare the other ingredients. This is usually done with small shrimp.
2. Choose a pan where the shrimp will fit comfortably (too small or too large a pan will affect the result.)
3. Heat the oil, add garlic, bay leaves and chili pepper stirring carefully over medium heat. At just the moment when the garlic begins to turn color add the shrimp, increase the heat and stir constantly until the shrimp are done, about 2-3 minutes. If cooked too long the flavor of the garlic will go from nutty and aromatic to bitter and acrid.
4. Toss in the gigande beans, sprinkle with parsley and serve.
Serves 4 - 6 people as an appetizer with a baguette or 4 people served over angel hair pasta as an entree
We always welcome our weekly delivery of potatoes from the guy we affectionately call "Potato Bob" (aka Bob Kiley) from RSK Farms in Prattsville, New York. In the winter months Bob draws from his store of carolas and fingerlings that were harvested last fall. Now that we're nearing spring he's getting ready to start planting all over again. I asked Bob what he has planned for this year's growing season and here's his list: Carola, Red Norland, Green Mountain, Adirondack Blue, Adora, two types of fingerlings = Russian Banana and Laratt, Austrian Crescent, Rose Finn Apple, New York 118, and Keuka Gold. And that's just potatoes! This spring he'll begin planting my personal favorite mesclun salad greens, and later in the season pumpkins, winter squash, sweet corn, string beans, tomatoes, and peppers.
Bob is what I would consider a farmer out of the old tradition - no corporate farming going on here! He and his family started their farm in Ashland, New York in 1984 with 40 milking cows - selling their raw milk to the Dairylea Cooperative. In 1998 they decided to switch over to growing vegetables "because they'd lose money slower with vegetables"!!! Over the years he's developed a wholesale customer base of local restaurants, the Kingston and Woodstock Farmers' Markets, and the Culinary Institute of America in Poughkeepsie.
His favorite outlet, however, is still his own personal farm stand in the front yard of his home. If you want to go for a visit, you'll find his delicious produce on Route 23A in Prattsville, New York. Best time to visit would be late summer! For more info call 518-299-3198.
We are so fortunate here in Woodstock to be able to help a local organization that has been involved in supporting the people of Haiti for 20 years. Local residents Terry and Pierre Leroy founded HPSP in 1990 as a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping the poorest segments of Haiti's population, and, in particular, the children. They began to do so by providing assistance to grass-roots community based projects such as: schools, orphanages, peasant/farmers cooperatives, health clinics, etc.
Their specific areas of interest are: healthcare, nutrition, agriculture, fisheries management, sanitation, and education. Prior to the earthquake, HPSP was actively promoting inter-cultural educational programs for Haitian and Dominican youth with the intention of fostering better cultural, political, and economic relations between the two countries.
The week after the devastating earthquake hit Haiti, we ran a dinner special all week featuring Haitian food: Stewed chicken with riz et pois (red beans and rice) and picklese (spicy cabbage slaw) and gave all the proceeds ($450) to HPSP. They told us the next week they had already been able to bring supplies in and that our donations along with those of many others in our community were really making a difference.
Here are the most recent email updates from Terry about their progress in Haiti:
January 31, 2010 The Staff and the children of 3 of our orpnanages were very grateful for the food, medicines, and some blankets that were delivered to them last Saturday by HPSP volunteers through the Dominican Republic. As we prepare to send an other load shortly, through Santo Domingo, we've made more than $9,000 cash transfers to our people in the island. We're making some steady progress in getting the aid to our people in the Port-Au-Prince and Petionville areas. I renew connection with Dr. Georges and my sister-in- law Annette. Their houses collapsed but they're ok and they're both assisting other people getting food and shelter. Dr Georges has offered his clinic and labs in Port-Au-Prince to serve the HPSP relief effort. Our medical team will then have a safe base when they arrive in P-Au-P by mid-Febuary. Annette Pradieu is converting her own place of refuge (a nearby church) into a neighborhood shelter for people who lost their homes.
We're getting the work done by our people themselves. The residents of the KOFA cooperative in the Central Plateau, have offered to open up their communities to others in need in Port-Au-Prince. We have restored our "people to people" functioning network in Haiti. This system allowed us to reach out to the most remote and isolated areas and also, to turn over 100% of the money and items we collect to the projects we support throughout the country. Several representative of farmers cooperatives have made an urgent request for tents, plastic tarps, sleeping materials and cold medicines. We're having a benefit concert tomorrow night at the Kingston epicospal church of Pine Grove St. in Kingston, NY at 3 PM with the wonderful singing choir: Art Choralis.
By the way, someone has approached me about doing a poetry reading in Woodstock to benefit the HPSP's relief effort. I thought you would be interested. I also thought we would use such an activity to get the schools of our area involved. Let me know if you can help to make this happen.
Pierre February 15, 2010
As I write this update the Haitian Earthquake that struck at 4:53 PM on January 12th, is over a month old. The relief effort continues with urgency as now challenges face the survivors, including respiratory illness, dysentery and much more.* We just learned that in one of our orphanages over 8,000 feet above Port-au-Prince, where it is cold at night and the children are outside, that many now have asthma. As you know our first shipment of food, water, medicine and clothing, reached our two orphanages, Maison d'Epsoir and La Creche, on that joyful day of January 23rd. Our next bus which will also be carrying tents is probably leaving for Haiti as we speak. A third bus is going to Carrefour (the epicenter) to help the family and neighbors, of a Haitian family living in Catskill, New York. This family suffered many deaths and so far has received no help. The Carrefour bus will be departing in about a week. Equally exciting news is that 12 medical personnel, including 5 doctors, 3 of whom are Haitian, several nurses including a nurse midwife, and EMTs, want to go under HPSP auspices into Haiti, to work at the Thor Clinic outside of Port-au-Prince. They will also give followup care to the 400 children we support in our orphanages. An exploratory team of 5, including two doctors, one of who is Haitian, are planning to leave the first week in March. Part of their task is to access the needs so that the next team can follow up in early April. None of these efforts would be possible with out the great outpouring of love, donations and energy that HPSP is the recipient of. In peace and friendship, Terry Leroy for HPSP
If you would like to donate to this wonderful organization, here is the link to their website http://www.haitiansupportproject.org/
Today's Plat du Jour is poached tilapia with a lemon-dill-cream sauce, steamed baby RSK Farms carola potatoes, and a broccoli cauliflower medley. We often use this delicious light farm-raised fish for our Friday plat as it adapts well to many different preparations. During the summer we battered and pan-fried it and served it with our homemade tartare sauce - a huge hit! We usually serve the most divine baby carola potatoes from our favorite local RSK Farm in Windham, New York. (Future blog post on Bob and his farm coming soon). He told me the other day that this is the end of the little baby potatoes! We'll have to wait for next season to enjoy their candy sweetness again. Very sad!
Wishing you all a wonderful President's / Valentine's weekend - no funky weather allowed!
Richard and Jonathan have whipped up a delicious batch of chunky beef and kidney bean chili today for all the revelers who want something substantial to feast on tomorrow along with their chicken wings!
Wikipedia defines : "Chili con carne (literally 'Chili with meat', often known simply as chili) is a spicy stew. The name 'chili con carne' is taken from Spanish, and means 'peppers with meat.' Traditional versions are made, minimally, from chili peppers, meat, garlic, onions, and cumin, along with chopped or ground beef. Beans and tomatoes are frequently included. Variations, both geographic and personal, may involve different types of meat as well as a variety of other ingredients. It can be found worldwide in local variations and also in certain American-style fast food restaurants. The variant recipes provoke disputes among afficionados, and the dish is used as an ingredient in a number of other foods.
Our version features beef chuck stew meat, ground beef, and kidney beans. The kicker is a cool product we sell in our store called La Morena Chilpotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce. This product is from Mexico and adds a mellow smokey chile taste to the dish. Garnish with cheddar cheese (and/or chopped tomato, cilantro, sweet onion, and sour cream), you'll blow your guests away with our chili.
Come on in today or tomorrow - $10.99 quart!
We're just back from our delightful first trip to the beautiful Caribbean island of St. Maarten (Dutch side) / St. Martin (French side). The island has a fascinating history of countries vying for ownership of this small chunk of land, with these two winning out. As far as we could tell, delicious food was available on both sides, with French cuisine shining brightly at a higher price (the Euro was about 1.4 to our dollar).
We sampled a variety of food from totally "down-home grilled on the edge of the sea" bbq at Lolo's in Marigot to a very sophisticated haute cuisine seafood sampler at Le Pressoir in Grand Case. However on our last night we enjoyed our favorite and oh so simply delicious meal in Marigot: steamed mussels in white wine!
This reminded us of how PERFECT this dish is. And of course we had it on our menu at Blue Mountain Bistro for years as Moules Marseillaise (recipe included below). As we happily dined on the tender, delicious mussels in the simply flavorful broth, we mused about these humble mollusks and Richard reminisced:
"I think I would rather have a nice bowl of steamed mussels than lobster. The broth that comes from steaming them in a bit of white wine, bay leaves and a hint of lemon juice is just heavenly. So heavenly in fact that 'back in the day' in France, they were frequently cooked for their broth only, to be used for seafood sauces and stocks. Their sweet heady aroma is simple but complex, earthy but from the sea, in short just about perfect. I picked some off the rocks near Montauk for Mary Anne on one of our first dates. (Did I mention they're sexy also!!) She was quite impressed when I brought them home and steamed them with this same simple preparation, and that just about sealed the deal. We were engaged a few months later!"
Moules Marseillaise by Richard Erickson, Chef-owner Bistro-to-Go, Kingston, NY
10 lbs mussels
1/2 cup minced onion
1/2 cup minced fresh fennel
1/2 cup minced celery
1/2 cup minced leek
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup chopped garlic
4 T minced shallot
Red pepper flakes to taste
1 t crushed fennel seeds
2 cups white wine
Juice of 1 lemon
Fresh herbs (preferably mixture of parsley, chives and tarragon or dill)
1. Slowly cook onion, leek, fennel, and celery in olive oil until soft but not brown.
2. Add garlic, shallot, red pepper flakes, fennel seeds, saffron, white wine and simmer for ten minutes. Reserve this mixture. (It keeps well in the refrigerator for 3-4 days)
3. For each serving of mussels add 2 heaping tablespoons of the mix and 1/3 cup of wine, 1 tablespoon butter, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 2 tablespoons chopped tomato, and a pinch of the mixed herbs.
4. Cover and steam until the mussels open.
Serve in bowls with the accompanying liquid and crusty French bread.
12 large servings / Enjoy!!!
Julia Child's Beef Bourguignon is our inspiration for Wednesday's Plat du Jour. After seeing Julie and Julia we knew we had to add this fabulous dish to our weekly dinner special menu - and our customers are glad we did!
Let us do all the hard work (Julia's recipe God Bless Her has 17 ingredients and 25 steps) - for $10.95 you too can savor this delectable recipe! So, of course, we always bring it home for dinner on Wednesdays (if there are any left) and as we were discussing the joy of savoring a hearty stew in the dead of winter I asked Richard the question, "What's the difference between this dish and the Coq au Vin we frequently make as a lunch special?"
And he said "there really are very few differences". "Few dishes are as well known as Boeuf Bourguignon and its' cousin Coq au Vin. Both are cooked in red wine and the signature garnishes for both include glazed pearl onions, quartered mushrooms and fried bacon called 'lardons'. The beef (good chuck is the most reliable and tasty), is simmered for several hours with red wine until the connective tissue dissolves into a rich smooth sauce. The same braising technique is used for the chicken (or in the old days 'cock') in the Coq au Vin. The other major difference between these two dishes is that the Coq au Vin is a more humble dish that can be more freely adapted by the individual cook.
The Boeuf tradition harkens back to the strict tenants of classical French cooking with very specific steps that need to be followed. The traditional accompaniment to both is boiled potatoes or noodles, and more red wine of course. (We also think mashed potatoes are delicious.) So, next Wednesday, when you're fighting off the chill of winter, and wondering what's for dinner - call us to pre-order your beef bourguignon as it sells out fast! As Julia would say "Bon Appetit"!!
We are blessed to have the most amazing baker, Melinda Champagne, on our staff here at Bistro-to-Go. Every day she creates extraordinarily tempting sweets and treats for our customers - and devilish delights to plump the waistlines of those of us who work here every day! Not an easy task to be steadfast in walking by the snippets of magic bars she leaves in a prime location in the kitchen - or the pie dough ends she rolls up with cinnamon and sugar just to tempt us.
When the chocolate chip cookies come out of the oven she always cuts up a few of them when they're warm and they find a brief home in the sampling station of the kitchen! And when she makes one of our customers' favorites, chocolate eclairs, she often makes a few minis for the staff. They don't stick around long! So for those of you who love to eat her treats, and for those of you who live too far away to enjoy them, I've compiled some photos of our favorite desserts of 2009 - no calories in looking!
This year we had the second in what appears to be gaining momentum as an annual New Year's Eve tradition: a fabulous collaborative dinner party with some of our dearest friends. The invitation was this: Richard will make the main course, bouillabaise, and each couple will bring other contributions to the meal and a bottle of bubbly. We worked at the store all day, very busy with pickups for parties that evening.
I stole away an hour or so to go home and set the table - something I really love to do. Some gorgeous Indian saris (formerly the curtains at our restaurant!) were perfect for a festive tablecloth. I added candles to create a festival of lights, sprinkled rose petals all around the candles, and then gently placed a few of my favorite buddha statues in between to create a welcome table for our guests.
New Year's Eve 2009 Dinner Menu
Appetizers, Evelyne Vegetarian pate and "tapenata"
Homemade bread, Steve
First Course, Maria Watercress and Endive Salad with beets, toasted walnuts and goat cheese
Main Course, Richard Bouillabaise
Desserts Chocolate Bomb Cake by Elise Fresh fruit platter by Joan New York Cheesecake by Laurie
Here are Richard's notes on Bouillabaise: The name alone is enough to send a buzz through any room. Bouillabaise is right up there with cassoulet as a dish that has inspired countless writers to wax poetic on its' merits and what constitutes the real deal. What exactly is a true bouillabaise? Can anyone who is not from Marseille, let alone not French make one? How many cookbooks must one consult, what fish to choose, the list goes on. Many will say that it is "rascasse",the bony scorpion fish found in the Mediterranean, that gives an authentic bouillabaise it's character. Purists be damned! I declare that a wonderful fish soup/stew by any name is a thing to behold and eat with great pleasure. The wonderful thing about bouillabaise is that it is just as much fun to prepare as it is to eat.
No use making dinner for two, this dish demands a large dinner party! I started several days before by making a fish stock, or fumet, from cod and snapper bones that were a gift from Gadaleto's fish market in New Paltz. Trimmings from leeks and fennel flavored the broth. Shrimp shells were saved for shrimp oil and numerous other shrimp (for shrimp cocktail) were poached in the broth further deepening the flavors. The day of, lobsters were par-cooked, the meat taken out and bodies returned to the broth for further cooking. Finally the broth was strained and allowed to settle. Next leeks, onions, celery, and fennel were simmered with tomato and garlic in a shrimp oil that had been made from the shells.
Saffron, crushed fennel seeds, a few red pepper flakes and a pinch of herbs de Provence were added. Then julienne orange peel, a few diced potatoes and the broth were added and allowed to simmer. Finally the clams, shrimp and monkfish were added to complete the dish but not without a generous splash of Pernod. The alchemy was almost complete!! Served in large bowls with a garnish of toasted baguette and a large dollop of garlicky rust colored rouille to swirl into the broth, the bouillabaise was finally complete.
To make a good bouillabaise truly all that is needed is a really good seafood broth and to respect and include the holy trinity of Provencal cookery: fennel, saffron, orange and a love of good food, especially seafood. Great food is always a way to celebrate the years end, life and good friends. Bon appetit.
[gallery link="file" columns="2"]
- Testimonial from a Satisfied Bistro-to-Go Guest
- Great Appetizer Recipes: Smoked Salmon Canapes
- Great Appetizer Recipes: Tapenade and Goat Cheese Bruschetta
- Great Appetizer Recipes: Mushroom Parmesan Risotto Cakes
- Great Appetizer Recipes: Blinis with Smoked Trout, Creme Fraiche, & Wasabi Caviar
- Great Appetizer Recipes: Asian Tuna Tartare on Cucumber Rounds
- How to Brine a Turkey for Thanksgiving
- Blue Mountain Bistro Catering Voted Best in The Hudson Valley
- Feel Good Food - A Chef's Perspective on what makes a great kitchen!
- Perfect June wedding at The Inn at West Settlement
- March 2013 (1)
- December 2012 (5)
- November 2012 (1)
- September 2012 (2)
- July 2012 (1)
- June 2012 (3)
- May 2012 (2)
- April 2012 (3)
- February 2012 (2)
- January 2012 (2)
- September 2011 (1)
- August 2011 (2)
- July 2011 (4)
- June 2011 (2)
- May 2011 (1)
- April 2011 (1)
- February 2011 (4)
- January 2011 (2)
- December 2010 (2)
- November 2010 (2)
- October 2010 (3)
- September 2010 (1)
- August 2010 (4)
- July 2010 (6)
- June 2010 (4)
- May 2010 (7)
- April 2010 (7)
- March 2010 (2)
- February 2010 (7)
- January 2010 (4)