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Weekly Menus: Week of 10/6/2013, Travel Prep Edition

Gentle Readers, this week I must start with a mea culpa. I was traveling last week, and forgot what day it was until I was back, and thus missed the Wednesday publishing cycle. From the amount of mail I received on the topic (none), I can tell there was a public outcry. So I will publish said Smoothie article this week. Meanwhile, look what I got to eat last week:

Biscotti and Cookie Platter at Babbo in NYC. OMG good.

Biscotti and Cookie Platter at Babbo in NYC. OMG good.

Yes, it was that delicious. A tip for anyone who is in NYC and hasn’t been to Babbo. If you go when it opens, right at 5 pm, you can snag a seat at the bar and eat. Highly recommend the pasta tasting menu or just eating around the menu at your leisure. Don’t skip the Brussels sprouts and the biscotti.

The Beer Festival Tasting Glass. Durham, NC

The Beer Festival Tasting Glass. Durham, NC

But I digress. My real life is quite a bit less glamorous but equally delicious. This week I went to my first beer tasting. I learned that there are many horrific beers in the world that taste like fruits and lawn clippings. I also found quite a few local brews that were delightful, and an interesting Pecan number that I’ll need to investigate. Shockingly, my favorite part was the food, especially the pairings, such as provided by my friend Carrie from G2B Gastropub. The andouille sausage with a little mustard was ideal beer food.

The inimitable Chef Carrie from G2B Gastropub in Durham, NC!

The inimitable Chef Carrie from G2B Gastropub in Durham, NC!

Okay, enough, I actually do cook sometimes too. The tasting of all the pumpkin things continues. A full report is coming soon.

Pumpkin Cake Doughnut with Latte Glaze from Rise. Hellooooo nurse.

Pumpkin Cake Doughnut with Latte Glaze from Rise. Hellooooo nurse.

Fried Green Tomato with Pimento Cheese Biscuit from Rise in Durham, NC. Just because.

Fried Green Tomato with Pimento Cheese Biscuit from Rise in Durham, NC. Just because.

 

Here’s what’s happening on this week’s menus:

Weekly Menus: 10/6/2013

Weekly Menus: 10/6/2013

And the Four-Square Grocery list (a little lean as I use up what’s here and plan to shop more heavily next week before  I travel):

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 10/6/2013

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 10/6/2013

Which all translates to:

Sunday: Steak and potatoes
I’m feeling red meat today, and the weather is a little autumnal. Perhaps the potatoes will be sweet or an acorn squash instead. If you’re not tossing winter squash in your cart regularly, you’re missing out!

Monday: Veggie Chili
This keeps getting delayed in lieu of other fast meals that don’t generate leftovers, but I’m making it this time, even if I have to freeze it for later!

Tuesday: Omelets
These were such a huge hit the other night, complete with quick sauteed spinach and portobello mushrooms that we’re doing it again. TPCs Jr are huge mushroom fan, and we’re committed to trying all of the types. That’s our schtick.

Wednesday: Pizza!
We’ve got a social to attend, and well, we all love pizza. Honestly, I could eat it 3 times a day. In fact, I’ve had to add it to my things not to leave unattended in the house list, as I will eat cold pizza until I founder. It’s a different food group that hot pizza, and I actually prefer it.

Thursday: Salmon and Couscous
We have to get more healthy fat in our diets. Plus I need to try to stay smarter than my offspring. I plan to tell them this and serve myself the largest portion. I’ll keep you posted on the results.

Friday: Mexican!
Probably burritos or quesadillas to accommodate the braced on, but we may be able to pull off nachos. Yum!

Saturday: Dine out!
So many possibilities, we often lament we only have 3 stomachs between us.

What do you do to prepare for a trip? Buy easy prep food, eat down the supplies? Share your tips in the comments area  below!

Send your make-ahead food ideas, chocolate covered peanuts, and pumpkin-themed whatnot to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up Wednesday, Smoothie Recipes and Tips (I Promise This Time)

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The Halal Guys! NYC Food Cart Review

Gentle Readers, is any food review worth a 30 block walk in bitterly cold wind? Yes, yes it is. The Practical Cook is here braving the elements so you don’t have to. Well, except for my partners in crime, whom we shall call MobileFoodie and Warlord. However, good news, The Halal Guys Food Cart on 53rd and 6th is completely worth it.

Chicken over rice with hot sauce and tzatziki from The Halal Guys, for the win.

Chicken over rice with hot sauce and tzatziki from The Halal Guys, for the win.

As some of you may have noticed, I will in fact walk a mile for food. Even if I have just eaten. This past weekend, after a long and leisurely brunch amongst friends, new and old, it was time to eat again. There was not a good reason other than I had never been to this food cart, and it came highly recommended (special thanks to the CHO for that).

Like a beacon of warmth in the distance, The Halal Guys keep the fires burning.

Like a beacon of warmth in the distance, The Halal Guys keep the fires burning.

So we walked. The food itself is very straightforward, but you have some choices to make, so use your transit time wisely: chicken or lamb; gyro or over rice; hot sauce, tzatziki or both. Served with lettuce and tomato no matter what, I went for chicken over rice with both sauces. The meat was fresh and flavorful, that mysterious combination of outdoor cooking and unnamed spices. The hot sauce was in fact hot, nicely balanced for me by the tzatziki, and the portion was outrageously large for the price.

Lamb gyro, extra hot sauce, from The Halal Guys!

Lamb gyro, extra hot sauce, from The Halal Guys!

I tried a bite of the lamb as well, and I’m definitely getting it next time. Or perhaps a combination platter? I can’t decide. The Halal Guys claim to be different, and they’re right. Lines can be long, but they run two stands and move fast. Have your order ready and step to the side. Or no meat for you!

Ohhhh, we're halfway there . . .

Ohhhh, we’re halfway there . . .

Thanks to my companions for braving the cold, though I do hope we can stop for wigs and necklaces next time. The next time you’re in Manhattan, stop by The Halal Cart and take a break from the dirty water dog and the pretzel. It’s a NY institution, and well worth the trip.

I became an ice zombie en route.

I became an ice zombie en route.

Send your extras scarves, your actual suggestions, and food related questions to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up Sunday, it’s Weekly Menus: The Juniors Are Cooking!

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New York in Review: 10 Restaurants, 3 Days

Gentle Readers, a birds gotta fly, a fish has gotta swim, and The Practical Cook has to eat everything that’s not nailed down. During a recent journey to New York, a journey focused on eating, much ground was covered in 3 boroughs.

Smile if you like a 3-course dessert menu. (ChikaLicious: Chocolate Tart with Pink Peppercorn Ice Cream)

Smile if you like a 3-course dessert menu. (ChikaLicious: Chocolate Tart with Pink Peppercorn Ice Cream)

Here’s the list. Special thanks to Buttercup for tour directing and not stabbing me with a fork when I shot innumerable pictures.

Set your GPS to "Hipster" and head to Brooklyn Star in Williamsburg.

Set your GPS to “Hipster” and head to Brooklyn Star in Williamsburg.

10 NYC Restaurants, 3 Days

1. Joseph Leonard: Highlights include great atmosphere, pork permeation, but strong veggies. The Brussels sprouts dish, and the cauliflower, are still in memory. Split a cassoulet that fulfilled all of my omnivorous dreams.

The cassoulet from Joseph Leonard included pork 3 ways and a whole lot of delicious.

The cassoulet from Joseph Leonard included pork 3 ways and a whole lot of delicious.

2. ChikaLicious Dessert Bar: I’ll let the pictures speak here. Get something to wipe the drool from your screen. I’ll wait.

Cranberry Poundcake with Butternut Squash Ice Cream, Candied Pecans from ChikaLicious.

Cranberry Poundcake with Butternut Squash Ice Cream, Candied Pecans from ChikaLicious.

Final course from ChikaLicious: chocolate, coconut, caramel, the dessert trinity.

Final course from ChikaLicious: chocolate, coconut, caramel, the dessert trinity.

3. Taishu-Izakaya Kenka: The crazy menu and specific rules aside (there’s a fine for barfing), the salted cow tongue was the perfect random snack. It was so perfect in fact that I ate without shooting it. Oopsie. The gratin was like the south and Japan had an unfortunate food baby.

The Menu at Kenka, Viewer's Choice

The Menu at Kenka, Viewer’s Choice

Pumpkin Gratin with Floppy Bacon on Noodles from Kenka. Not a winner.

Pumpkin Gratin with Floppy Bacon on Noodles from Kenka. Not a winner.

4. Bouchon Bakery: I would walk on hot rocks to get to this blueberry muffin, and nearly had to, subbing in Hot Rockettes, who were performing at the time.

The Most Delicious Blueberry Muffin Ever from Bouchon

The Most Delicious Blueberry Muffin Ever from Bouchon

5. The Brooklyn Star: Fantastic brunch spot for hipsters in Williamsburg, these people take a swing at biscuits and actually connect. I would not put cheese on biscuits for sausage and gravy, but still great. The masa cakes with chorizo, in a word, nom.

Biscuits with gravy topped by eggs, with juice. And a beer. Because it's Brooklyn Star!

Biscuits with gravy topped by eggs, with juice. And a beer. Because it’s Brooklyn Star!

Masa cakes with black beans, eggs, and chorizo, I think I love you. Brooklyn Star.

Masa cakes with black beans, eggs, and chorizo, I think I love you. Brooklyn Star.

6. Num Pang Sandwich Shop: I want to eat here for every pre-dinner snack for the rest of my life. I loved the skirt steak bahn mi, until I tried the pulled pork with a touch of extra Sriricha. This will require retesting.

Skirt steak bahn mi from Num Pang. It is a beautiful cacophony of flavor and texture.

Skirt steak bahn mi from Num Pang. It is a beautiful cacophony of flavor and texture.

Pulled Pork Bahn Mi from Num Pang. It's like Cambodia meets the South plus Sriracha.

Pulled Pork Bahn Mi from Num Pang. It’s like Cambodia meets the South plus Sriracha.

7. Joe the Art of Coffee: This made the list because of the salted peanut butter cookie. It was essentially a big lump of peanut butter with some flour and butter making a passing acquaintance. Yes, please.

Salted peanut butter cookie with raspberry rugelach. Peanut butter jelly time!

Salted peanut butter cookie with raspberry rugelach. Peanut butter jelly time!

8. Forcella: Great pizza, I just coveted the one I didn’t order. I think there’s a grass is greener analogy here. But I digress. If the pumpkin pizza is on the menu, order it. Because it was dark and I was hungry, I also failed to shoot anything here properly. Apologies, guess I’ll have to go back. (Thinly-veiled excuses, party of one!)

9. Olea: Order the merguez and almond-stuffed bacon-wrapped dates as sides, and then split some other dishes. The green eggs are a pass. The dates are not optional. Seriously. The almonds aren’t just paste, but chunks. Run, don’t walk. All found in my old hood, Fort Greene. I have missed you Brooklyn.

Bacon-wrapped almond-stuffed dates at Olea in Fort Greene. Worth the trip.

Bacon-wrapped almond-stuffed dates at Olea in Fort Greene. Worth the trip.

A good merguez is hard to find. This is that merguez. Olea in Fort Greene.

A good merguez is hard to find. This is that merguez. Olea in Fort Greene.

10. Roti Boti Restaurant: When I die, if I’m taking a taxi, I’m asking for a stop here en route. For real, this is the land up in Queens where you either live there or drive a cab, and it took planes, trains, AND turning on “location services” to find this pot of gold. Order anything you like plus bread. Die happy.

The largest, fluffiest naan I've ever seen. You can ignore the adage to not fill up on bread at Roti Boti.

The largest, fluffiest naan I’ve ever seen. You can ignore the adage to not fill up on bread at Roti Boti.

Half of the dishes at Roti Boti. Get the chicken tikka masala, but risk never wanting it anywhere else again.

Half of the dishes at Roti Boti. Get the chicken tikka masala, but risk never wanting it anywhere else again.

BONUS, Not Food But Still Awesome, The Parlor: Located in the back of a barber shop (naturally), I drank caffeine for the cause, though tempered with milk. This was one fine latte.

One shot latte from The Parlor. It was dreamy.

One shot latte from The Parlor. It was dreamy.

 

Who wouldn't want an espresso with their fauxhawk?

Who wouldn’t want an espresso with their fauxhawk?

SECOND BONUS: Doughnuts, Peter Pan Bakery: Pitched as one of the best doughnuts ever, I’ll admit that walking around  Brooklyn eating it, I did have a moment. As a Krispy Kreme girl, that’s saying a lot for the cake-style. I would hold the Apple Cider doughnut from the Carrboro Farmer’s Market up against it. I plan on hosting a taste showdown at some point in the future. But when someone says, do you want to split a doughnut (immediately after brunch mind you, and en route to more food), the answer is “yes, please.”

Peter Pan Donut & Pastry: Because I could not stop long enough to photograph the actual doughnut.

Peter Pan Donut & Pastry: Because I could not stop long enough to photograph the actual doughnut.

What’s your favorite hidden spot in New York? Post a comment below, tweet my way, join the conversation! You name it, and if it won’t kill me, I’ll eat it. 🙂

Send your Metro cards, actual questions, and food challenges to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Coming up Sunday, Weekly Menus or How Not to Eat Turkey.

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The Most Delicious Blueberry Muffin Ever: An Ode

Gentle Readers, last week was an overwhelming display of deliciousness. Team Practical Cook took the show on the road to New York, and we ate for all we were worth. One of the more challenging meals on the road is breakfast. Do you want to spend all morning eating questionable eggs from a buffet? No.

Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes from Veselka

Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes from Veselka

We tried a variety of New York breakfast approaches, and we augmented with dry cereal in the room as a breakfast appetizer. Here’s our journey.

Photobombed by the statue at the edge of Central Park!

Photobombed by the statue at the edge of Central Park!

Day 1: Veselka
Home of my very favorite blueberry buckwheat pancakes. Plus pierogi!

Potato Pierogi from Veselka

Potato Pierogi from Veselka

We essentially brunched here. I have fond memories of Veselka breakfasts from my misspent youth, and who knew, they cater to kids too. These pancakes rocked, as did the corned beef hash. Simple comfort food done right, plus wiki sticks for the win.

Corned beef hash with eggs over medium, side of kasha from Veselka

Corned beef hash with eggs over medium, side of kasha from Veselka

Day 2: Cart Outside Central Park
Egg and Cheese on a Roll, Bagels with Cream Cheese

The Jrs' First New York Bagel

The Jrs’ First New York Bagel

The experience was great (the Jrs actually paid both times, very exciting), the food was average. When asked if I wanted salt and pepper on my egg and cheese I said yes, and apparently no one had affirmed in some time so great was the enthusiastic application. A good bit of the bagel went to the pigeons as well.

City pigeons meet bird lover and bagel fan.

City pigeons meet bird lover and bagel fan.

Day 3: Bouchon
The Most Delicious Blueberry Muffin Ever (plus a Savory Scone, Ham and Cheese Croissant, and Broccoli Quiche)

The Most Delicious Blueberry Muffin Ever from Bouchon

The Most Delicious Blueberry Muffin Ever from Bouchon

This happened by accident in Rockefeller Plaza, as the original destination simply never opened the doors. I am not sorry. I didn’t think it was possible to make a blueberry muffin that good, it was magic and sunshine. The savory scone featured bacon, cheddar, and herbs, and the warm dishes were nice too. A huge hit with everyone.

Savory Scone from Bouchon

Savory Scone from Bouchon

Day 4: The Takeaway Shop Next Door
Bacon, Egg, and Cheese on a Roll, Bagel with Cream Cheese, Fruit, Milk

New York breakfast, takeaway shop.

New York breakfast, takeaway shop.

Finally we tried to health it up a little bit. After much excitement in passing this place every day on the way to and from the hotel, the end result was less thrilling. My bagel was good, the Jrs are not sold on rolls versus biscuits. The fruit and milk were consumed though, and the idea that you could just grab and go was inspiring.

The Jrs take on the Big City!

The Jrs take on the Big City!

In the end, I realized why I lean on Starbucks so often when I travel: predictable oatmeal and pumpkin bread. Add a latte to it and call it a meal. I couldn’t do that in NYC, seemed wrong. But we were never close to the greatest bagel or the dive-iest diner at the right time. I look forward to hearing your breakfast recommendations in NYC and beyond!  Post a comment, send a Tweet, share your strategy!

Send your sky miles, cooking challenges, and utter nonsense to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Coming up Friday: The Watermelon Semifreddo Recipe!! (For the summer win!)

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