20 menu items I was likely to order in 2015

20 menu trends in 2015

So here we are, the last post of 2015! 2015 was a transitional year for me + this little blog.

I started my full-time job in late 2014, so finding the time to figure out how this space worked into my life, while working full-time was definitely harder than I thought it would be.

I took a few months in the middle of the year to transition my focus from my Etsy business + focus more so on food content. I still run my Etsy shop, but I'm definitely going to spend more time in 2016 thinking about how I can create more content for people like me. You work full-time, you freelance on the side, but you love good food. That's the direction we'll be going in for 2016.

But that's for next year! Let's focus on a recap, shall we? Here are the 20 menu items I was likely to order in 2015. Warning, these aren't for those looking to detox + diet. Ha!


burrata 

burrata is like fresh mozzarella’s fancy cousin. It’s burrata's soft exterior that gives way to a creamy interior that puts it on the top of this list. it's freakin' good! burrata is often served alongside tomatoes, but it is best with a drizzle of balsamic, a sprinkle of salt + plenty of bread to dip straight into it. sign. me. up.

pork belly

OK. pork belly is tad bit like glorified bacon, but when prepared correctly you get the tenderness of smoked meat, creaminess of the melted pork fat + the crunch of the caramelized exterior. pork belly is often relegated to appetizers (a few cubes served with a beautiful sauce + shaved vegetables), but my go-to is the five-spice pork belly sandwich at Num Pang. I haven’t made pork belly at home, so maybe this is something to explore in 2016?

cubano

whenever I go to a new sandwich joint + I see that a cubano sandwich is on the menu I know to pounce. it’s kind of like a ham + cheese sandwich with the volume turned up. you have the ham + swiss cheese, but most cuban sandwiches also come with roasted pork, pickles + mustard or spicy aioli. my favorite by far is the one at Café Habana

ramen

impossible to avoid in NYC, ramen shops continue to pop up + I am a-ok with that. I slurped a lot of ramen this year, but all ramen isn’t created equal. This isn’t your college-style ramen out of a styrofoam  container. This is stuff of substance. My favorite ramen style is a tonkotsu broth (aka pork broth) with long, squiggly noodles. Ramen with super tender, thinly cut slices of pork is ideal. Ramen Zundo-ya + Ippuddo served up bowls I kept slurping this year. The tsuke-men (dipped noodles!) at Ramen Setagaya were also a gem!

soup dumplings

I had my first bite (+ then hundreds more) of soup dumplings this year + I’m never going back! soup dumplings are a bit different than the typical fried pork guys. they’re little pouches of pork filled dumpling skins with a soupy interior. you have to order more than you think is enough + slurp them up. sometimes you will burn the roof of your mouth, but it’s kind of worth it. The Bao is a fun spot in NY to try these.

bibimbap

basically mixed rice, bibimbap is a Korean dish involving warm rice, veggies, protein, sauce + tons of toppings (sometimes even a raw egg!). my favorites were those served in a warm sizzling hot pot! this is comfort food, but well-rounded so you get a taste of everything in each bite. it’s also a treat because typically I don’t want to prep so many components when I’m eating for one!

smoked meat sandwiches

there’s something comforting about a good smoked meat sandwich. I think it harkens back to my childhood when my family would go to jewish delis for pastrami on rye with plenty of grainy mustard + sour pickles on the side. restauranteurs have continued to preserve this tradition. some of my favorite smoked meat can be found at Mile End, where the spirit of the classic jewish deli is alive + well.

stuffed ravioli

i’ve only attempted to make ravioli once before. it took forever. but it was so worth it, because nothing is as delicious as homemade ravioli. this is why when I see it on a menu (+ I have a gut feeling that the restaurant makes their own) i know instantly what i’m ordering. fillings-wise, simple is always better. you can’t go wrong with a simple cheese filling or even a butternut squash filling. but if we’re being completely honest, my favorite ravioli is Mo Rocca’s My Grandmother’s Ravioli.

doughnuts

they’re not going away + I’m totally ok with that. I think we’re getting bored with standard doughnut flavors (move aside chocolate glazed), because more + more bakers are experimenting with unique concepts. one of my favorites was a café au lait doughnut from Dough. and while not a doughnut per se, I finally had a cronut (do i need to include a TM after this?) this year which didn’t disappoint. even my local bakery started making cronut rip offs so, cheers to me!

mac & cheese

i’ve never been able to make a solid mac & cheese myself, which is pathetic because it’s my favorite food in the entire world. my favorite noodles this year were shells + thick macaroni tubes. as far as the cheese, a mac & cheese has to contain some sharp cheddar. mix-ins aren’t really welcome, sorry! my trick for making the boxed variety more special? add plenty of butter + olive oil to the packet of dried cheese, then add red pepper flakes, black pepper + fresh parmesan cheese. toss in a few mushrooms if you have them around.

fried chicken sandwich

this is a trend that EXPLODED + I’m sure it’s going to continue into next year. I had my first bite of chick-fil-a (boo their politics, yay to their food) plus a try at Fuku, David Chang’s creation. the best fried chicken sandwiches were spicy, were served with a killer sauce + used thigh meat for moist sandwiches. for achieving this at home, make sure to mix in spiced to either the breading OR the binder so you fry in that flavor.

frito misto

crispy. hot. battered. fritto misto is a display of the best seafood fried to perfection. it always seems to be served with a creamy dipping sauce (bonus points for a spicy dipping sauce) plus plenty of fresh lemon for squeezing overtop. the easiest way to pull this off at home is to stick to one type of seafood, whether that be squid, shrimp or even baby scallops. fry up some basil alongside for some herby crunch. 

fried artichokes

now this is comfort food that you don’t really feel guilty about afterwards. fried artichokes are crisp on the outside, but the crust gives way to tender artichoke hearts. it’s time consuming to make, especially when you are using fresh artichokes, but if you see them on a menu you have to pounce. my favorite fried artichokes are the ones at Harvest on Hudson where they serve them with shaved pecorino + arugula pesto.

lobster roll

so i did a good stint at a lobster roll company + even so, I still freaking love the stuff. i was trained well to like lobster rolls with toasted buns + plenty of lemon butter. you can easily make these for yourself at home OR just have them sent to your house. a highlight this year was trying out the roll at The Lobster Roll (AKA LUNCH). It comes with fries people!

brisket

oh man, brisket HELLO. Mighty Quinn’s came in like a shining beacon this year + I continue to compare all other BBQ briskets to theirs. you’re never really sure what’s in the sauce (plus most BBQ joints keep their formula top secret), but my favorite is smokey, slightly spicy + definitely sweet. 

crostini

I made a joke this year that I would build a crostini empire + I’m still sold on the idea, tbh. open-style sandwiches are the bomb so I continue to test recipes + order recipes that involve a shiz ton of ingredients on top of crispy bread. one of my favorites was an open faced sammy from Little Skips featuring lox, avocado, red onion + goat cheese schemer. I have plenty of crostini-like ideas to explore in the recipes archives.

croissant

I’m still waiting for croissants to be like the next doughnut/cupcake trend, but for now I’ll just enjoy some good ones + wait on it. I feel like a broken record when I shout from the rooftops that I am obsessed with Lafayette’s croissants. The croissant du jour is switched up every day, but they’re stellar. my favorite has to be the banana, chocolate + coconut one. these aren’t your supermarket croissants though, they’re crisp + endlessly flakey. 

beet salad

2015 could be the year when if there was a beet salad on a menu, I needed to order it. i really love beets, but sometimes the effort to make them soft bores me. it just takes a lot of time + I usually don’t have the patience! but it’s a good thing that most restaurants make a great beet salad. you’ll usually see beets alongside a soft cheese like goat cheese plus a whole bunch of herbs or citrus. 

pizza slice

oddly specific, yeah, but the artichoke pizza slice at the aptly named Artichoke Pizza is killer. can I say that it was my favorite slice this year? actually, yeah, because it made it even easier for me to shovel spinach + artichoke dip into my mouth. thank you.

lechon

so for those unfamiliar, lechon is roasted pork, aka. suckling pig. this is one of the best ways to enjoy pork as the skin gets incredibly crispy while the meat becomes tender + falls apart. Asia de Cuba serves a sick spread. you get a nice bowl of the roasted pork with lettuce to enjoy with a few sweet + spicy sauces. they also serve it up with plantains, black beans + fried rice.


have very happy new year's everyone! i'll see you back here in 2016!

did you like this post? be sure to share it with your friends that might be traveling in NYC!

Prosciutto wrapped zucchini

wrapped zucchini // a little gathering

Err, where has the time gone because apparently it's almost 2016?

Ahhhh! At the moment I'm spending a lot of time trying to plan for the new year (key word, trying), but I find myself distracted by taste-testing christmas cookies + surfing the internetz for top cookbook lists of 2015. Amazon two day shipping is super dangerous at the moment, so I'm trying to stay focused.

Again, I said "trying".

But it's almost the end of the year, so it's time to start seriously thinking about all of the New Year's eats you are going to serve. I grew up with New Year's parties at my house with family friends + lots of food. My mom would do the planning, making sure there were enough little bites to get the night started. From pigs in a blanket to sushi, there was always something for someone. I have the best memories from these parties, but it was always lots of work!

Here's the deal. You don't need to go absolutely insane when you entertain on New Year's, but you should treat your guests to delicious bites. This prosciutto wrapped zucchini recipe is perfect, since you can do it ahead + then roast them right before your guests arrive. The zucchini is coated in a spicy/herby scented olive oil marinade + with crispy prosciutto you can do no wrong.

Note: You H A V E to eat these right away, since baked zucchini tends to get cold + soggy as it sits out which is no good for your fancy shindigs.

Looking for more ideas for New Year's?

spicy baked chickpeas

goat cheese + parsley stuffed mushrooms

roasted butternut squash w pecan toasts

roasted grape toasts

Prosciutto wrapped zucchini 

  • 2 zucchinis
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • A sprinkle of cayenne pepper
  • A sprinkle of ancho chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 lbs thinly sliced prosciutto 
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Start by prepping the zucchini. Slice both zucchinis in half, lengthwise. Then cut each half in half again. Then slice each long piece of zucchini into halves or thirds, depending on the size of your zucchini.
  3. Toss the zucchini pieces with olive oil, cayenne pepper, ancho chili power + dried basil. This will give the zucchini even more flavor!
  4. Next wrap each piece of zucchini with a tiny slice of prosciutto on a lined baking sheet.
  5. Place the baking sheet in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the prosciutto is crisp + the zucchini has softened.
  6. Enjoy these right away while they are still warm.

Sesame white cheddar crackers

white and black sesame cheddar crackers // a little gathering

As a New Yorker who grew up (+ still lives) near NYC, my recipes are definitely inspired by the things I experience in the big city. Indulgences are a plenty, like one of my favorites the black + white cookie. I used to look forward to sharing a black + white with my mom when I visited the city growing up!

Wait, why are you looking at me weird. What's a black + white cookie, you ask? It is a soft, buttery cookie half-dipped in chocolate frosting + vanilla frosting. It's. the. best.

But it's also indulgent, so that's why I treat myself to a Zaro's black + white cookies once a month. OK! Maybe twice a month if it's a ridiculously stressful one or I miss my train, which happens quite often. It's definitely become a thing; a little reward for a job well done. 

So for the lovelies that read my blog, I wanted to re-create the black + white I love, but switch it the eff up. In comes the white cheddar cracker version! Slice + bake crackers are addictive, but they are a good trick to have up your sleeve when you are entertaining during the holidays. I mean, cheese + cheese crackers means I am one happy camper.

The key to pulling off the black + white cookie effect is using two types of sesame seeds. Otherwise these are so simple + delicious on their own or with a handful of grapes.

Print the recipe below!

Sesame white cheddar crackers [for ~2 dozen crackers]

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sharp white cheddar, shredded
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon white ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoon milk
  • White + black sesame seeds, for garnish
  1. Begin by preparing the dough. You'll want to start this ~2 hours to a day before you want to bake them so the dough firms up. Blend the butter in a mixer until smooth + fluffy. Add the cheddar cheese + continue to combine.
  2. Stir together the flour, salt + white pepper in a separate bowl. Add the flour mixture into the mixing bowl until incorporated. Finally add the milk while mixing. You'll want to make sure the dough comes together, not too wet, but not too dry either. 
  3. Here's the fun part. Tear a large sheet of plastic wrap + lay it out on top of your counter. Scoop the dough on top of the plastic wrap. Shape the dough into a log. Wrap up the dough + place the dough the fridge up to a day to firm up.
  4. When you are ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. 
  5. Remove the dough from the oven + slice each of the crackers into thin circular discs. Place each disc on a baking sheet, these won't spread too much but make sure there is enough room between each cracker.
  6. Before baking, sprinkle white sesame seeds on one half of the unbaked cracker. Sprinkle black sesame seeds on the other half. YO, you made a black + white cracker but you have to bake them.
  7. Bake for 13-15 minutes, until golden. Enjoy these!

Cucumber peanut noodles

cucumber peanut noodles // a little gathering

In college I had a few goals, one of my top five goals was to perfect my cold peanut noodle recipe. I think that's a totally normal + reasonable goal for college.

But yes, I was going to graduate with a degree in media studies + a killer peanut noodle recipe that would send people to their knees.

Unfortunately I made many, many horrible peanut butter noodles. There was the time I boiled rice noodles for as long as you would spaghetti. I don't know much about rice noodles, but that's definitely not what you are meant to do to those delicate guys. There was also the time I didn't have regular peanut butter, so I thought that using the white chocolate peanut butter I had gotten as a freebie would make sense. I wouldn't recommend it.

So long story short, I graduated without figuring out a killer peanut noodle recipe. They handed me my diploma, but something didn't feel right. So I spent some time rethinking this + a recipe came via a family friend in my inbox.

The recipe looked good, but called for a bit more sugar and too little texture for my taste, so I gave an adaptation a go. Here's the result!

You can do these noodles straight up with the sauce, but I think what makes it perfect is the crunch from salty peanuts, bite from tons of fresh mint + coolness from shaved cucumber. 

Cucumber peanut noodles

  • 1 package spaghetti
  • 4 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 cucumber, seeded, peeled + shaved
  • 4 tablespoons peanuts, chopped
  • 1 small bunch of fresh mint, finely chopped
  1. Prepare the spaghetti according to the directions on the box, but make sure to salt the water!
  2. Meanwhile whisk up the peanut sauce. Combine peanut butter, olive oil, soy sauce, sugar, rice wine vinegar + sesame oil in a large bowl. Set aside until the spaghetti is finished.
  3. Drain the spaghetti then add it straight into the sauce. Stir to combine.
  4. Now here's the best part! Toss the cucumber, peanuts + mint into that bowl + mix it all around. Have a taste + feel free to add salt + pepper to taste. This is great right away or chilled.

Fruit bowls to gift this holiday season

fruit bowl round up

We're heading in prime eating season people because #thedietstartsnever, but also it's the holidays. To counteract all of the sweet + fatty food that will be on the menu in the coming weeks, let's work on building up our fruit bowls.

A few fruits I can't stop snacking on this time of year includes juicy clementines, crisp apples + soft pears. We're keeping the fruit bowl stacked with them. But what would all that beautiful produce be without a dreamy bowl for them to sit in?

My sneaky, sneaky reason for loving fruit bowls as a holiday gift is that it serves as the perfect vessel for a modern gift basket. Not that wicker doesn't have it's place, but I think a handcrafted ceramic bowl filled with local produce or packaged goods is money. Going home to your lova's home for the holidays? Bring something like this + you'll be everyone's hero.

Shop my favorites below:

moon bowl (find similiar) // ceramic fruit bowl // large harvest bowl // ivory fruit bowl

Grilled cheese w/ roasted garlic bean spread

grilled cheese // a little gathering

So, here I am watching the new episode of Keeping up with the Kardashian (SO EFFING GUILTY, #KUWTK for life) while wishing I could rewind to Thanksgiving dinner again. 

Guys, my mom knows how to throw together a feast. There were two types of potatoes, three types of cranberries + copious pies. Btw sweet potatoes roasted in coconut oil is a recipe that will make it's way to the blog. She made them + I am officially in awe of coconut oil.

With all of this eating you think I would be watching what I eat, but my diet starts never. I thought it would be fitting to start this week off with a grilled cheese. This is not any grilled cheese, it's one with roasted garlic bean spread. Roasted garlic does not get as much love as it should because, well, it takes some time.

Not surprisingly it takes around the time it takes to watch an episode of #KUWTK (without commercials) as it does to get the garlic soft + luscious in the oven. Whizzed together with white beans, you have a killer dip or you can do what I did + add it to grilled cheese. In college one of our dining halls offered provolone grilled cheeses + it totally works here with the garlicky bean spread. The arugula is there for color, but I think the peppery bite adds something extra too.

The key to a grilled cheese is having the guts to butter the shiz out of your bread. Just do it + like I write in the recipe, don't share this one.

grilled cheese // a little gathering
grilled cheese // a little gathering
grilled cheese // a little gathering

Grilled cheese w/ roasted garlic bean spread

for the garlic bean spread //

  • 6-7 whole garlic cloves
  • 2-3 sprigs thyme
  • dash of olive oil and salt
  • 1 15.5 oz. can of white beans, rinsed

for assembling (per grilled cheese) // 

  • 2 slices of white bread
  • 1/2 cup of arugula
  • 2 slices of provolone
  1. First preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Now you get to roast the garlic. Create a foil pocket, wrapping up the garlic cloves + thyme in the foil. You'll want to add some olive oil + salt to this packet before popping it in the oven for ~40 minutes until soft.
  3. Once roasted, remove the thyme sprigs from the foil. Whiz up everything in the packet with the white beans in a food processor. Hey, you made garlic bean spread! Taste for seasoning, you might want to add some Sriracha sauce if you like spicy spreads.
  4. To assemble the grilled cheese, coat the outside of each piece of bread with butter. Slather one of the other sides with the garlic bean spread. Layer on the arugula + the slices of provolone.
  5. Now it's the fun part, toasting + melting the grilled cheese. You may want to add additional butter to a frying pan, then toast each side of the grilled cheese until it's golden brown + the cheese is melted. Enjoy this one! Don't share.