Happy Hour Grows Up

If you’ve followed our blog for some time, you might recall that Kristina called East Harlem home for a number of years. Recently, one of her former colleagues was in town, which provided the perfect opportunity to visit the neighborhood and an old favorite hangout. Ricardo Steak House has a little more bling than we remembered, but the same great bar and atmosphere. As teachers, it was the perfect happy hour spot. It has an energetic atmosphere, and they serve a drink called the Crash Boat– who doesn’t need something like that after a day of teaching middle school? Well, the Crash Boat was never my thing, but the sangria and margaritas were always worth it.

This time around, we stayed for dinner, but had to start with drinks. The bartenders make a mean Pomegranate Margarita, which was just as delicious as I remembered. The table shared an order of empanadas, which had just the right amount of spice. For dinner, I went all in with a medium rare filet mignon. While I don’t have steak often, this one really hit the spot.

If you could return to a former favorite spot, what would it be and why? Please share on Twitter (@foodiepleasure) or in the comments below!

Ricardo Steak House
2145 2nd Ave.
New York, NY 10029

 

Eating to Win

If you’re anything like us, you probably celebrated the 4th of July with a delicious meal. Competitive eater Miki Sudo spent her holiday morning downing hot dogs and winning the World Famous Nathan’s International Hot Dog Eating Contest. We recently caught up with Miki to learn about how she got started as a competitive eater as well as some of her favorite food scenes.
Champion Miki Sudo (Photo Credit: NY Post)

Champion Miki Sudo (Photo Credit: NY Post)

FP: Tell us about your experience and emotion after winning the contest on the 4th of July. What was the most difficult part about it?

MS: The Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest is the “super bowl” of the competitive eating circuit. Some competitors are just happy to participate, but for a few of us, it’s very serious business. To answer your question, the most difficult part was coping with the pressure (to win) that I put on myself. Losing is not an option.

Emotion after winning: Just relief. I’m not particularly happy for myself or shocked because I prepare myself to win. I guess I’m just glad that I didn’t let the fans down.

FP: You were impressive for sure! How did you get your start as a competitive eater? What’s the most unusual item you’ve eaten during a contest?

MS: I started on a dare.

There’s a restaurant in Las Vegas Chinatown that was offering $1500 to eat a 12 pound bowl of pho within an hour. I was the first person to finish it, and it my competitive eating career spiraled from there.

Most unusual item: Oysters. I have a phobia, but I also refuse to disappoint. I tied for second place at the Hillsborough Ouster Festival last year.

FP: Half of FP says he’d love to do an oyster eating contest! How do you train for competitive eating contests?

MS: I can naturally eat up to 20 pounds. Capacity is never an issue. I only practice for speed.

FP: When you’re not training, what are some of your favorite meals to eat?

I love rare steak and sashimi, but I usually just eat kale and grilled chicken.

FP: Where are some of your favorite places to eat around the country or in other cities you’ve visited?

MS: I love Tokyo, Osaka, Kumamoto, and Fukuoka in Japan. I love Chiangmai and Phuket  in Thailand. I love Seoul in South Korea. I love Belfast and Hillsborough in Ireland. In America, I love New York, The Bay (NorCal), and The 808 (Hawaii).

FP: We loved the food in Hawaii and hope to return. Besides hot dogs, what are some of your guilty pleasures? We call them foodie pleasures, hence the name ;).

MS: O-toro (super fatty tuna) sashimi, which can get pretty exorbitant at market price.

FP: What are some of your non-competitive eating hobbies or interests?

MS: I love hiking, kayaking, surfing, jet skiing, and skydiving. I’ve also ridden elephants, petted tiger cubs, and swum with sharks. Most of all, I love traveling and spending time with my family.

FP: That’s an adventurous list!  If you could get on a plane tomorrow and visit any place just for its food, where would it be?

MS: I have not yet been to Machu Picchu or sailed down the Amazon, so I’d love to tour that area of South America.

FP: Great places to think about visiting indeed! Thanks for your time, Miki. We can’t wait to hear about your upcoming eating adventures.

Greenwich Wine & Food Festival 2015

While it is only July and we surely don’t want the summer to end anytime soon, we must say we’re already looking ahead in September for the fifth annual Greenwich Wine & Food Festival, presented by Serendipity magazine. This year’s event, taking place September 24-26, will feature a Dinner Under the Stars, (Thursday) the Most Innovative Chefs Gala (Friday) and the Culinary Village (Saturday) featuring a special performance from Little Big Town.

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The official weekend kickoff on Thursday evening brings the first Dinner Under the Stars to the festival. This intimate event will accommodate 60 guests to enjoy a five-course dinner, accompanied by awarded select wines.

The Most Innovative Chefs Gala on Friday evening will feature the 2015 Most Innovative Chef winners from restaurants across Fairfield and Westchester Counties serving an incredible tasting menu. The evening will also include elite wines, premium liquor, an exclusive silent auction and a live musical performance by the Wailers (the legendary reggae band formed by the late Bob Marley in 1969). Proceeds from the auction will also benefit Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang Camp and The Greenwich Department of Parks and Recreation.

On Saturday, the Culinary Village will offer tastings and demonstrations from more than two hundred food, wine, spirits and product vendors. Culinary demonstration tents and stages will house cooking presentations by celebrity chefs and local talent. Guests will also enjoy sommelier presentations, celebrity chef book signings, the fourth annual Burger Battle, the second annual Top Bartender’s Showdown, Barbecue & Bluegrass, and a live musical performance by Little Big Town.

A special ticketed event, Saturday on Stage Dinner, will give 100 guests the chance to enjoy the headliner performance on an elevated stage while enjoying a special dinner, premium liquor, wine and beer.  In addition, VIP ticket holders will enjoy a VIP Big Easy Dinner, celebrating the culinary, musical and festive atmosphere of New Orleans.  This tented event will feature a traditional Louisiana jazz marching band, the Festival’s Ambassador Chefs serving up signature small plates with a New Orleans Twist, premium liquor, wines and beer, and a private, early-evening concert with the world-renowned band Funky Meters, comprised of Art Neville, Ian Neville, George Porter Jr. and Russell Batiste Jr.  VIP ticketholders will also enjoy a premium viewing area for Little Big Town’s performance.

Visit the Greenwich Wine & Food Festival website for more information and updates about the event schedule, participating celebrity and local chefs, musical talent and more. Ticket sales are now open (with the exception of the Thursday evening event) and are available through the website or by calling (203) 588-1363. Make sure to check out the event’s Facebook page, to learn about restaurant participants and schedule updates, as they are announced.

We’ve attend the event the last two years (read our recaps from 2014 & 2013) and always have a great and delicious time. We hope to see you there!

Good 2 Go

After a long work day, we’re sure the thought of preparing meals for dinner is a daunting task at times. With Allen starting a new job in CT, we’re glad to learn about Good 2 Gourmet, a new take-out food business that serves delicious prepared meals.

Located in New Canaan, CT, Good 2 Gourmet offers fully cooked meals, which are refrigerated to stay fully fresh and served in oven-safe containers for easy heating at home. Recently, we had the opportunity to take home some meals.

Chicken Marsala 

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Allen: The chicken was cooked perfect with the meat tender while the mushrooms and sauce added another flavor to the meal. Side dishes include rice and green beans provided the right combination. With my big appetite, it’s good to know the meals are portioned for two. Even I wasn’t able to eat the entire meal in one setting.

Chimichurri Steak 

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Kristina: Meat was cooked medium rare, just the way I like it. The meat was good on it’s own, nice and juicy. However, for the perfect bite add the piquant sauce and you won’t be disappointed!

Halibut with lemon risotto cakes and asparagus 

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Allen: Kristina and I don’t eat fish often as we’d like. However after tasting the halibut, we might just start preparing meals centered around fish. We’d be lucky if we can come remotely close to creating the same flavor the chef created though. The fish was tasty and light and the lemon risotto complimented the halibut with a sweet taste.

Sweet Potato Hash 

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Kristina: Chef, can we get the recipe to this?! With bits of bacon sprinkled in, this is the ideal meal if you’re looking to satisfy both the savory and sweet taste buds.

The concept for Good2Gourmet was born out of necessity by busy mom Lisa Strupp. Lisa is a mother of four: two under the age of six and two stepchildren in their teens. We can only imagine how she finds the time to deal with different mealtimes and various food demands.

In-house Executive Chef, Eric Ulbrich, is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and has been voted “Best Chef America” by his peers in 2015. The menu provides maximum flavors with minimum sodium and no additives. Chef Ulbrich ensures that finest and freshest local ingredients are used in all Good2Gourmet products and dishes.

Stop by and pick up a meal. If you live in New Canaan and Darien, Good 2 Gourmet will deliver right to your door…how convenient. Don’t take our word for it. If you’re too busy to prepare lunch or dinner, let Good 2 Gourmet take care of it for you!

Good 2 Gourmet
31 Vitti Street
New Canaan, CT 06840

Summer Night Out

Now that summer is in full swing, we’re crossing things off our “must do” list. One place we try to visit at least once each summer is the The Beer Garden at Bohemian Hall in Astoria, Queens. (Check out a few pictures from a previous trip here!) It’s the perfect spot for relaxed outdoor drinks– as the name suggests, it has a great selection of taps as well as a variety of Czech favorites and bar food off the grill. Given her Czech heritage, Kristina is especially partial to the spot and stopped by with a friend for happy hour last week. Alongside a Sam’s Summer Ale, she couldn’t help but nosh on sauerkraut and a pretzel.

Perfect summer spread!

Perfect summer spread!

An evening at the beer garden is almost like being transported across the pond and enjoying a night in one of the European spots it is meant to mirror. Is there a beer garden in your neighborhood? What summer spots are on your “must visit” list? Be sure to share on Twitter (@foodiepleasure) or in the comments below!

The Beer Garden at Bohemian Hall
29-19 24th Avenue
Astoria, NY 11102

Cooking 101

Not sure about you, but we don’t remember the food in our college cafeterias being particularly memorable. After a recent episode of Chopped, it’s clear that students at the College of Charleston are much luckier than we were. Just check out their dining services Instagram page. Recently the college’s Executive Chef, Tonya Mitchell, traded in the college dining hall for the Chopped kitchen. Read on to learn about her and her experience on the show.

Executive Chef Tonya Mitchell. Picture courtesy of College of Charleston

Executive Chef Tonya Mitchell. Picture courtesy of College of Charleston.

FP: Tell us about your experience on Chopped. What was the most difficult part about it?

TM: My experience on Chopped was incredible!! I am truly humbled by the opportunity that I was given to be a part of the show. The most difficult part about the competition was not the cooking. It was difficult because I actually liked all of my competitors. Chef Jason French, Chef Ben Bettinger and Chef Tim Witcher are a trio of talented chefs and regardless of comments that were made or emotions that ran high, I was grateful to have shared this experience with them. I often wished that they were so arrogant that I would dislike them, but that was not the case!

FP: Would you compete on Chopped again?

TM: Although, I made mistakes, I still believe in my talent as a chef and I would do it all over again if given the opportunity.

FP: We hope Food Network calls you back for Chopped Redemption!

How did you get your start as a chef? 

TM: My interest in cooking began with my mother. I have always been interested in how my mother would create meals for her kids out of nothing. We did not always grow up with a lot and so my mother would find items in our refrigerator and create a meal for our family. My mother asked her manager to give me a chance to work with her in the kitchen and she would show me what I needed to know. I hated it!!

However, I began to take an interest in cooking when I saw how much respect the chefs received and how beautiful my mother would make her food and the pride that she took in everything that she did. Once, I saw her work and the respect that the chefs in the kitchen commanded, I knew that I wanted to be one.

FP: If you could cook with any three chefs in the kitchen, who would they be and why?

TM: I would love to cook with Alex Guarnaschelli, Elizabeth Faulkner and Masaharu Morimoto. I simply just want to LEARN from all of them! I believe that each one of them captures all aspects of what I want to be as a chef; passionate, creative and driven.

FP: Great chefs indeed!

When you’re at home, what are some of your favorite meals to cook for yourself and your family?

TM: I am a “Southern” girl at heart and I love to cook soul food at home! My girls don’t like “fancy foods” (as they call it). They love simple cooking.

FP: We’re always up for some southern food!

We hear Charleston is a great foodie town; it’s definitely on our list of places to visit. Where are some of your favorite places to eat in the area? 

TM: I am a huge fan of Martha Lou’s Kitchen, Macintosh, Basil and O-Ku. All four of these restaurants are located in Charleston. Martha Lou’s has the best home-made fried chicken. Macintosh has a menu that changes daily and utilizes locally sourced foods not to mention Chef Jeremiah Bacon has the coolest last name! Basil has some of the best Thai food in Charleston and O-Ku has the best ambiance and sushi.

FP: Sounds like a delicious list…we’d eat at all four!

What are some of your non-cooking hobbies or interests?

TM: I am a movie buff! I enjoy science fiction, crime dramas and action movies the most. Not to mention, that under all of the chef’s clothes, I am a “girly-girl” and I love SHOPPING!!!!

FP: Cooking and shopping… what’s better than that combination?

If you could get on a plane tomorrow and visit any place just for its food, where would it be?

TM: I would love to visit Thailand. I am “goo-goo ga-ga” over Thai food! I love the elegance, the freshness of the ingredients and the intense flavors that Thai food has to offer.

FP: If you ever go, make sure to invite us!

Thank you again for your time. If we visit Charleston, we’ll make sure to give you a ring. We wish you continued success at the College!

Taste Asia 2015 Recap

Thanks to an invite from Channaly Phillip of Epoch Times, we were excited to attend Taste Asia 2015 last Saturday. It took place in Times Square and the on and off rain certainly didn’t deter the crowd from enjoying the vendors and demonstrations. We were grateful to spend most of the day in the VIP Tent, where we enjoyed conversation with other attendees, watched the Chef Competition on TV (as it was taking place outside) and tried samples from the competition dishes.

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Outside the VIP tent, there were also plenty of vendors to enjoy. From Chicken Banh Mi from Obao to Spicy Cumin Lamb from The Handpulled Noodle and a delicious dosa from Dosa Royale, there was plenty to indulge in throughout the day.

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Did you attend Taste Asia 2015? If so, what did you enjoy most? Let us know in the comments below or reach out to us on Twitter (@foodiepleasure) or email at foodiepleasure@gmail.com. Hope to see you at the event in 2016!