Margaritas Trump Timeliness

Happy Cinco De Mayo! Yes, this post is late, but the post title explains why. When given the choice between finishing off the margaritas with Heather or writing this post, the margaritas won out! Sorry, but I’m sure you understand!

Sunday, I cooked tequila flamed shrimp tostadas for us to celebrate. I followed the Food and Wine recipe, just without the black beans (as I forgot to purchase them) and using yellow corn chips instead of tostadas. I also added a minced jalepeno to the avocado mixture (which is basically a yummy pineapple guacamole). Using chips instead of tostadas is a great way to do an appetizer or a dinner version. The meal was amazing, and I will definitely be making them again soon.

2eat2drink-114-tequila shrimp_p

The recipe called for a silver tequila; Don Julio Blanco to the rescue! Of the silver tequilas I’ve had, it’s by far my favorite. Give it a try!  Since the tequila was open, I felt compelled to make margaritas (see recipe here). They were helpful to lessen the effects of  the heat from the chipotle peppers and adobo sauce. Happy cinco nueve de Mayo! Cheers!

Happy Egg Bake Easter!

Don’t you just want to dive right into this…in all of its straight out of the oven fluffy cheese and egg glory??

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I know I do…even though I just did, and I’m really full! But this wonderful egg bake that Heather made for Easter brunch will settle flat in about 15 seconds, so now is the time! Sliced up, it’s a great way to satisfy your whole Easter brunch crew, and it can bake away while the Easter egg hunt is going on.

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Grapefruit and mimosas are a good pairing!

The recipe is super simple and is prepared the day before.

  • 10 slices Pepperidge Farm white sandwich bread, cubed
  • 1 lb. grated cheddar cheese
  • 8 eggs, beaten
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper

Grease a 9×13 baking dish. Alternate layers of bread and cheese. Mix remaining ingredients together and pour mixture over layers. Refrigerate overnight. Bake uncovered at 325˚ for 1 hour.

It should look like this before baking.

It should look like this before baking. Count flavor not calories! 🙂

A tip from my wonderful chef: the Pepperidge Farm bread is a key ingredient, and other bread doesn’t work as well. Heather kept this egg bake kid friendly, but don’t be afraid to add any pre-cooked ingredients such as ham, peppers, onions, sausage, or anything else you can dream up. You could also experiment with different kinds of cheese. Let us know what you come up with!

Enjoy your Easter! Cheers!

A Real Saucy Character

My amazing wife Heather and her awesome brother Dave have a new book coming out this Friday! I’m so proud of them! It’s called José Picada, P.I.: Deception Al Dente. You can find it here. In honor of this occasion, I decided to do an interview with one of their main characters, Chef Marco Augustino. What role does Chef Marco play in the book? Well, you’ll just have to read it to find out! But, in the meantime, I’m looking forward to trying his pasta.

Rich: So, Chef Marco, I understand you’re no longer with your restaurant, Bistro Italiano. Why did you leave?

Chef Marco: Yeah, we’re not gonna talk about all that.

R: Oh. Okay. Well, there go all my interview questions. We’ll just wing it. So, uh, thanks for making this beautiful plate of pasta I just photographed. It was fabulous!

CM: Yeah, it was. The secret is the sauce.

R: It really is a great tomato sauce! What makes it so special? Do you use a certain type of tomatoes? What herbs do you prefer?

CM: Yeah, we’re not gonna discuss my culinary secrets, kapeesh?

R: Oh. Um, all right. So, in Deception Al Dente, you cross paths with the main character, Josie Cates. What’s Josie’s favorite dish?

CM: I don’t know and I don’t freakin’ care. That girl is a real pain in my—

R: Uh, this is a family-friendly blog, Chef Marco. Let’s just get back to the pasta. What would you pair it with?

CM: Some crusty bread, a nice Chianti, and badda bing! You’re good to go.

R: Okay. Well, that pretty much covers it. I had a lot more planned, but you sort of derailed the entire interview.

CM: Whatever. You got any more Chianti?

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Heather and Dave have a unique writing process, where they e-mail the manuscript back and forth. Whoever has possession can alter anything they see fit. It’s a fun process to watch and listen to as they chat on the phone during their planning sessions. You can follow along with them at Driving Blind and on Facebook. Cheers to a job well done!

Café Puerto Rico, Old San Juan. A must do!

For the first post of the new year, I am finally following up on the new years eve post with a must do for all of you traveling to Old San Juan. Heather had done lots of research on where to go for local cuisine, and the first place the hotel concierge mentioned lined up with one of her options. Café Puerto Rico. A few blocks walk from El Convento (more on this wonderful hotel to come), we ended up on the edge of Plaza Colon and entered the cafe. It was crowded and lively and we were told to come back in 38 minutes. Yes 38. Never have we received such an exact return time. We wandered a few doors down to the Parrot Club for a cocktail, and listened to a jazz trio for 36 minutes, then quickly returned.

We were rewarded for our patience with a private table on the balcony overlooking Plaza Colon. I can’t say how lovely a view I, in particular, had without showing you my view.

Heather at Café Puerto Rico, overlooking Plaza Colon.

Heather at Café Puerto Rico, overlooking Plaza Colon.

We ordered mero (grouper) and tiritas de churrascos (skirt steak) mofongos rellenos, and a couple of tropical drinks. This ended up being our favorite meal of the trip!

Here are a few more visual highlights from the evening. More from Old San Juan to follow soon. Cheers!

P.S. If those of you who subscribe (thank you so much for following along!), could let me know if the galleries appear correctly in your e-mail, I’d appreciate it.  They look lovely in the on line post, but it showed up in my and Heather’s e-mail all broken and random. I’ve contacted WordPress about it, so hopefully we can get it resolved. Thanks!

Happy New Year! (Old world style)

This may be an unconventianal New Year’s Eve post, but it really makes sense. Don’t we all ring in the new year by thinking about some highlights from the previous year? And pledging to do more of what makes you happy in the upcoming year? (And kissing your someone special as the ball drops in Times Square!) So….these pictures are from our 5th Anniversary honeymoon trip to Old San Juan — a definite highlight during this past year. And Heather and I call every trip we take together a honeymoon….which I hereby pledge to do more of this year! (Along with kissing her at midnight!)

This latest honeymoon was about eating and drinking in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, with a lot of cool sights in between sips and bites! I took so many pictures over the course of 4 days that it will end up as multiple posts. Here are a few highlights to get us started!

So here’s to a happy, healthy, prosperous new year to you all. Cheers!

Café Puerto Rico cheers. Happy new year!!

Café Puerto Rico cheers. Happy new year!!

Happy Black Friday! Happy Thanksgiving! And thank you!

Yes, this was supposed to be my Happy Thanksgiving post. But we all know that the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray. So…….due to this large plate of food and the glass of red wine (Hahn pinot noir, that I will definitely feature in another post) and a small sample of Custom Brewcrafters coffee porter (thanks to my brother-in-law), consumed at my wonderful mother- and father-in-law’s, inducing a nap on the couch with Heather and then an early bedtime (and then this run on sentence), my post never even got started. I was going to try and tackle preparing this year’s Thanksgiving with Friends. That will be coming sometime in the near future….because you can be thankful for good friends anytime!

Heather also pointed out how fitting our son’s school project from 6 years ago is to us and this blog, so I wanted to share it with you. I’m thankful for all of my readers and friends out there….thanks for listening to us, and hope you’ve enjoyed! Cheers!

Splendidly spectacular skirt steak

It takes every ounce of my being to chew slower.  Slow….down….absorb….flavor. Do you ever try to do that when something tastes really delicious? I bet you’ll have a hard time with this splendid combo. If I were to tell you that a skirt steak comes from the diaphragm muscle, please don’t let it creep you out. And if it did creep you out, pretend I didn’t tell you. You should definitely try this….seared on the grill in what seemed like no more than a minute due to it’s thinness….to medium-rare. Cover it with a little guacamole, and serve with a nice red wine. The steak was super tender, delicate and extremely flavorful.

Skirt steak draped in guacamole. This was delicious.

The 2010 red from Pesquie Terrasses brought a stunning 94 points (Wine Advocate) of Rhone Valley Grenache (70%) and Syrah (30%) to the table for less than $15. We picked up a nose of pepper, spice and plenty of red fruit. On the palate was pepper, cherry, strawberry, blueberry, anise, and spice that all lingered nicely. “We need to buy more of this,” Heather said.  It was a perfect match for the delicate steak, and the creaminess of the guacamole really blended everything together…with the jalepeno kicking up the spice in the wine. Try to chew slower…I dare you. Cheers!

2010 Chateau Pesquie Terrasses from the Rhone valley. 94 points from Wine Advocate.

Osteria Rocco (Neapolitan pizza, part three)

And for the final installment of Heather’s Neapolitan pizza article written for CITIZEN magazine:

Osteria Rocco, 165 Monroe Ave., Rochester, 585-454-3510, roccorochester.com

            Okay, so this pizza wasn’t cooked in a wood-fired oven, but was it ever good! The cooking method here is to use a brick-lined gas oven that runs at about 700 degrees. Yes, 700 degrees. That’s hot, and the nicely charred crust is evidence. This crust was a bit denser than at the other two places. It was crisp on the outside and super chewy on the inside, and we loved it!

First up was the margherita, which had crushed California tomatoes, basil leaves, and – cue the choir of angels – FRESH mozzarella. I did say we were pizza snobs, right? To me, a margherita just isn’t quite the same without the fresh mozzarella. The Rocco margherita was, therefore, my favorite.

Heather cutting the margherita!

Our chef’s choice pizza was the vongole. Its toppings consisted of clams (yes, clams!), pancetta, parsley, chili peppers, and garlic oil. This pizza had a really nice heat to it. The toppings made for a delightfully unusual flavor combination.

The vongole, fresh from the kitchen. Clams on a pizza!

The pizza at Rocco is served in the traditional Neapolitan style, which means that it comes whole, and is meant to be eaten with a knife and fork. This reminded us of our beloved Una Pizza, where the pizza is also served whole. However, Rocco helps you out by providing you with a pair of kitchen shears with which to cut your pizza into slices, if you so choose. How fun!

We had an appetizer before our pizza. Fresh homemade ricotta. It’s worth a trip all on its own!

Fresh homemade ricotta. Incredible.

We’re sure that there are many more Neapolitan-style pizzas out there for us to try, no matter where you are. If you have any recommendations, leave us a comment!

Lucca Wood-fire Bistro (Neapolitan pizza, part two)

Sorry for the delay (we’ve been a bit busy!) – here is the second installment of Heather’s Neapolitan pizza article for CITIZEN magazine:

Lucca Wood-fire Bistro, 90 W. Main St., Victor, 585-924-9009, luccawfpizza.com

Like at Ember, this pizza is cooked in a wood-fired oven, this one reaching temperatures of around 550 to 650 degrees. We really like this crust, which is a great blend of crunchy and chewy.

For the margherita, the toppings were sliced plum tomatoes, grated mozzarella, chopped basil, garlic, and olive oil. We liked that the basil was put on after the pizza came out of the oven, keeping it nice and fresh, and that there was lots of it! We’re kind of partial to basil.

The funghi, along with the margherita, and a couple glasses of old vine zin!

Our second pizza, chosen by the chef, was the funghi. The toppings for this pizza are garlic and oil, mozzarella and asiago cheeses, roasted red peppers, spinach, prosciutto, white and portobello mushrooms, finished with truffle oil and parmesan. Wow! What a pizza! It is rich, creamy, and decadent, and one that we will certainly go back for.

This is a wonderful time of year to visit Lucca. They have plenty of outdoor seating, and we adore sitting on the porch and watching the world go by while we enjoy our delicious meal.

Good pizza AND good dessert!

I just have to add that while we were there, we also had the chocolate chip cannolis for dessert. They were excellent! Oh, and the boys enjoyed their cheese pizza, too!

The “my father is a photographer” syndrome.

After giving it much thought and consideration, we consider Lucca Pizza to be our favorite pizza this side of the Mississippi. Tell chef/owner Matt Gervasi we sent you!

Ember Woodfire Grill (Neapolitan pizza, part one)

We were at it again! The next CITIZEN magazine is out. Check it out here, or look for a copy on a newsstand near you! Heather wrote a very nice article which I am going to break into 3 parts to post, as I have a few pictures from each location to add. Here is her intro to Pizza Bliss, featuring some of greater Rochester’s finest Neapolitan-style pizza:

Rich and I are, admittedly, pizza snobs. We favor Neapolitan-style pizza with a nice thin crust that’s chewy on the inside, crispy on the outside. Our favorite pizza in the world used to be found in the East Village of New York City at Una Pizza Napoletana. This amazing pizza was crafted in the traditional Neapolitan way, using a heavenly sourdough crust and delectably simple toppings that were brought into perfect harmony in a super-hot wood-fired oven. Unfortunately for us, Una Pizza moved to San Francisco. Thus began our search for an incredible pizza closer to home.

We’ve tried many restaurants in and around Rochester during our search for the perfect pizza, and decided to share our top three finds with you: Osteria Rocco, Lucca Wood-fire Bistro, and Ember Woodfire Grill. At each place, we ordered a margherita pizza (a traditional Neapolitan with tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella), as well as asking the chef to choose a pizza for us.

I can’t elaborate much (except for the extra pictures!), other than to say…this is not your average pizza. And, I would go get some…..now. But, back to the article….

Look for the sign on the wonderfully renovated train station!

Ember Woodfire Grill, 21 Livonia Station, Livonia, 585-346-0222, emberwoodfiregrill.com

            First of all, I have to rave about this building.  The owners took over a year to renovate this old train station before opening in December of 2009, and boy did their efforts pay off! The super-charming interior manages to be open, airy, and traditional all at the same time. The old section of the building blends seamlessly with the new addition to create a very inviting space.

            Now, to rave about the pizza! Being cooked in a 650 to 700 degree wood-fired oven, the crust came out with some nice uneven charring on the bottom and edges, in fine Neapolitan style. This crust was uniquely light and airy, which we found very pleasing, and had a fantastic blend of crispiness and chewiness.

            The margherita pizza had extremely flavorful crushed tomatoes, a nice combination of chopped and whole basil leaves, sliced mozzarella, and was topped off with a bit of olive oil and salt.

The margherita!

            For the chef’s choice, we were delighted by the steak pesto pizza. This was topped with grilled steak, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, fresh basil, walnut pesto, and gorgonzola. The steak was incredibly tender, and blended so well with the other toppings that the combination didn’t overpower the delicate crust in the least.

Steak pesto pizza….grilled steak, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, fresh basil, walnut pesto, and gorgonzola.

            All in all, a fabulous pizza experience!

Yes, we did travel to Livonia! Near the North end of Conesus Lake. It’s really not that far away.

There were many things we wanted to try on the menu, and we will be back soon to do so. They have an awesome patio….go check it out! (Article part two and three coming soon!)

Heather on the porch of a great old building we passed heading east out of Livonia.