Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Hot Dogs, Baseball Cupcakes, and a Strong Green Drink

Ed. note: This post originally appeared in my 2008 food blog Fork It Over on the website of the Rochester Insider magazine, which is now Metromix Rochester. Since the old blog is no longer available online, I'm re-posting some of those posts here and backdating them to their original posting dates. Although in most cases they are specific to Rochester, hopefully you'll still find them somewhat interesting!  ~Rachel, 6/28/10

Along with spring comes the start of baseball season, and along with baseball season comes an increase in hot dog consumption. Every tradition has some significant foods, and baseball is no different. From hot dogs to pretzels to beer, fans can find plenty of tasty foods to munch on while cheering on their favorite teams. In honor of baseball season, today I bring you some information on hot dogs in Rochester, a baseball cupcake recipe, and for my fellow Red Sox fans, a Green Monster drink recipe.

Hots in Rochester
First, a quick lesson for my out-of-town readers. Hot dogs are referred to simply as "hots" by most people in Rochester, and they come in red and white varieties. White hots are typically made of pork (and sometimes some beef and/or veal), and red hots are typically a pork/beef mixture.

Zweigle's, the official hot dog of the Amerks and Rhinos, has been serving sausages in Rochester since 1880. In 1925, the white hot was introduced, a unique hot dog that is unheard of in other areas. (If you try to order one in Boston, for example, you'll just get a blank stare.) Since then, Zweigle's has expanded to include a wider variety of sausages, hot dogs, deli products, and condiments.

Hartmann's Old World Sausage is another well-known sausage seller specializing in German products. With an extensive list of sausage, bratwurst, liverwurst, cold cuts, and more, a simple hot dog seems almost boring, but they're available too. I've never been to Hartmann's, but I'd like to go there sometime. I'm especially intrigued by their "nuclear smoked sausage."

When you're looking for a place to eat at 2AM, you're likely to come across one or more late-night eateries specializing in hots. With names like Empire Hots, Henrietta Hots, Fairport Hots, etc., they're pretty easy to spot. I'm partial to Dogtown Hots on Monroe Ave, a quaint little shop with dog-themed specialty hot dogs. This one isn't open as late as the others, but it's worth the daytime trip. For purists like me, you can get the Purebred, a "red or white Zweigle resting on a grilled bun." For those that like their hot dogs to be a bit more exciting, you could try the Rhodesian Ridgeback, "a dog sleeping on a bed of coleslaw with grilled tomatoes and melted Monterey Jack" or the Pit Bull with "sauteed peppers and onions, barbecue sauce, and DogTown sauce."

Baseball Cupcakes
For your next baseball-themed party or a nice spring picnic, throw together some baseball cupcakes. Just use your favorite cupcake mix (or make them from scratch if you're really ambitious). I used Pillsbury's Classic Yellow cake mix, and it was very tasty. Use vanilla frosting, and then decorate using red licorice (the long ropey kind, not the twisty kind) for the baseball stitches.

I haven't baked in awhile. Pouring batter was harder than I remembered.

But that total disaster on the left was my boyfriend's attempt, not mine.

Everything came out of the oven looking pretty decent, aside from the aforementioned mutant and the mini one on the upper right.
Cupcakes in progress

Tada! Baseball cupcake!
Baseball Cupcake!

Green Monster
Warning: This is strong. I've been slowly sipping mine as I write this, and my head's already spinning even though the glass is still half full. (Or half empty.) Mix half a pint of any kind of lager, half a pint of cider, a shot of Blue Curacao, and a shot of a melon liqueur. I used Mr. Boston for both liqueurs. At $6/bottle, they were better buys than the fancy stuff. I got them at Clubhouse Liquor on Monroe Ave near Pittsford Wegmans, and I found the storekeepers to be remarkably friendly and good-natured. I look about 16 years old, so I'm used to getting stared at suspiciously as I browse through liquor stores, but I actually felt welcome in this one. (Ed. note: This store apparently closed in 2008. Too bad. ~Rachel, 6/28/10)
Green Monster

Even if you're not a Red Sox fan, you can still enjoy this drink...just pretend that the "green monster" refers to Frontier Field, which is also green :)

Now go out there and watch a game or two! Frontier Field is sadly rarely crowded. The tickets and food are ridiculously cheap, so it's silly not to go there once in awhile. I had a great time watching the game last Friday, although I watched from my roof, not the park.
Frontier Field

Best of all, there were fireworks at the end :)
Fireworks at Frontier Field

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Spring is Here - Time for a BBQ!

Ed. note: This post originally appeared in my 2008 food blog Fork It Over on the website of the Rochester Insider magazine, which is now Metromix Rochester. Since the old blog is no longer available online, I'm re-posting some of those posts here and backdating them to their original posting dates. Although in most cases they are specific to Rochester, hopefully you'll still find them somewhat interesting!  ~Rachel, 6/27/10

With temperatures finally climbing into the 70s, what better way to celebrate spring than with a BBQ? Sure, it may snow again in a week or so, but let's enjoy this weather while it lasts! There are plenty of great parks in Rochester with nice picnic areas and grills. Some friends and I headed out to Durand-Eastman Park last Wednesday evening, threw some steak and chicken on the grill, and had a great time. It was a little bit chilly, but it was a great time nonetheless. BBQs are great because you can make them as simple or as complicated as you want. Either way, there are some essentials that you should make sure you have before setting out.

BBQ Essentials
  • Food and beverages - These are obvious, but they're worth mentioning. Don't get so caught up in picking out the perfect Frisbee that you forget the food :) Also, don't forget the condiments--ketchup, mustard, relish, etc. If you're planning on bringing beer, keep in mind that glass containers are generally prohibited.
  • Charcoal and matches or a lighter - Also, make sure the park you have in mind actually has grills. You can check out the Monroe County parks website to find info on each park.
  • Napkins, plates, cups, and utensils - Don't forget grilling utensils as well as eating utensils.
  • Hand sanitizer - Unless you're having a vegetarian BBQ, you'll probably be handling some raw meat. Salmonella is an unwelcome guest at any meal. Wash your hands!
  • Dog (if you have one) - Most (if not all) parks require that you keep your dog on a leash and clean up after him or her. Don't leave a mess for the next group!
  • Frisbee, soccer ball, etc. - Take a break from devouring all the food and get some exercise!
  • Tablecloth - Sometimes park picnic tables aren't exactly the cleanest. A plastic tablecloth might be a useful addition to your BBQ.
  • Dessert, side dishes, etc. - Add a little variety. Chips, salad, and cookies go nicely with with burgers, hot dogs, or whatever meat you're grilling.
Some Locations
  • Durand-Eastman Park is located on the shore of Lake Ontario near Irondequoit. There are several shelters, lots of picnic tables and grills, a golf course, a playground, and some short hiking trails.
  • Genesee Valley Park is located near UR and features many shelters, large grills, jogging paths, sports fields, and more. On a nice day, you can sit on the shore of the Genesee and watch the crew boats and kayaks go by. (Actually, you can see the crew team rowing in bad weather as well. I rowed on the UR team during my freshman year, and we were out there in any weather, as long as the river wasn't frozen.)
  • Ontario Beach Park is in Charlotte and features several shelters, grills, a playground, and even a carousel. If you're still hungry after the BBQ, there are a few restaurants in the Port of Rochester building located next to the park, such as Cheeburger Cheeburger and California Rollin'.
My friends and I found a nice table with a grill in the piece of Durand-Eastman that's located within the golf course. Just look for this sign:
Durand Eastman Park

There are some parking spaces, a shelter, and a good amount of tables and grills in that part of the park.

There are lots of trees and a small swingset there, too.
Swinging in the Park

We decided to grill some chicken and steak instead of burgers and hot dogs. We also had peppers, chips, and cookies.
Ben grills

Ben is an expert griller. The tongs came in handy--don't forget your cooking utensils!

We seasoned the steak with Montreal seasoning--you can't go wrong with that stuff. It'll make any steak extra-delicious. For the chicken, we used a tasty BBQ sauce I had picked up in Boston recently.
Montreal Steak Seasoning

As we arrived at the park, Ben and I realized that we forgot hand sanitizer, but Ryan and Jacquie came prepared.
Don't forget the hand sanitizer.

Their dog, Lindy, joined us.

Lindy is a shepherd/lab mix.

She was pretty curious about what was cooking.
Lindy is curious about the food.

Really curious.
Lindy is even more curious.

She also likes to play Frisbee.

There was a beautiful sunset as we were finishing up dinner.
Sunset at Durand Eastman Park

And then the moon showed up.
Moon Over Durand Eastman Park

Since our BBQ, the temperatures have climbed even higher. Get out there and enjoy the weather!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Lento: Fine Dining with a Side of Social Conscience

Ed. note: This post originally appeared in my 2008 food blog Fork It Over on the website of the Rochester Insider magazine, which is now Metromix Rochester. Since the old blog is no longer available online, I'm re-posting some of those posts here and backdating them to their original posting dates. Although in most cases they are specific to Rochester, hopefully you'll still find them somewhat interesting!  ~Rachel, 6/27/10

I've been meaning to try out Lento since it opened at Village Gate over the summer, and I finally made it there for the first time last week. The menu, which changes daily (an ambitious undertaking!), features a wide range of meat, fish, and vegetarian options. Everything is made with local, seasonal ingredients. That evening's menu included a couple of gourmet versions of old standbys that caught my attention immediately: French onion soup and spaghetti and meatballs. The names were a bit more elegant on the menu, of course, but I was too busy stuffing my face to remember to write down the details.

The Beginning
My boyfriend and I were greeted cheerfully and seated immediately even though we showed up without a reservation. I was immediately struck by the ambiance, which was both elegant and relaxing. The fine white tablecloths, hardwood floor, and numerous candles emphasized the fine-dining feel of the place, but the earthy tones and jazz standards kept the atmosphere from feeling pretentious and overbearing. After we were seated, we were offered three choices of water. For some reason, I always want to giggle when offered multiple types of water. I'm fine with tap. Even so, it's nice to be asked. I also ordered a mango ginger bellini, which was light and delicious. My boyfriend ordered a glass of a dry white wine, which was marked as "recommended" on the menu. The focaccia bread and dipping oil were a delicious start to the meal, and it was hard not to overstuff myself before the real food came out!

The Appetizers
I'm addicted to French onion soup. I don't like cheese in many other contexts, but when it's melted on top of a crock of onion soup, I can't resist. I wish I could remember the exact wording on the menu, but in any case, Lento's version of this classic sounded delicious on paper and definitely lived up to its description. My boyfriend started his meal with a salad that included deliciously crunchy candied walnuts, apple slices, and a touch of gorgonzola dressing. He described his salad as "rustic" and "well-balanced." He cleaned the plate, so it must have been good. Gorgonzola doesn't do much for me, though, so I didn't taste it.

The Main Course
After filling up on bread and soup, my heaping portion of spaghetti and meatballs was quite intimidating. The meatballs were made with organic pork, and the sauce was thickened with a touch of parmigiano reggiano cheese. It's tricky to make spaghetti and meatballs into a unique and exciting dish, but Lento did a good job with it. My boyfriend's choice was a bit more daring. He decided to try the paneer beet fritters, which were served with Himalayan red rice and sauteed spinach. The crispy fritters had a spicy taste that satisfied his craving for Indian food, but it was a unique taste that he hadn't really experienced before. He enjoyed it nonetheless. The red rice, which was literally red and had nuts mixed in, had an interesting earthy flavor.

The Dessert
We didn't have much room for dessert, but for the sake of this blog, we stuffed ourselves. (Ok, I admit it. We just couldn't resist checking out the dessert menu. Besides, there's always room for dessert.) Anyway, I enjoyed every part of the meal, but dessert was the clear winner. We were intrigued by the cardamom ice cream, which was served with a couple of homemade sugar cookies. The ice cream itself was also made in house. Cardamom seems like a strange ice cream flavor, but now that I've had it, I don't think I can ever enjoy plain vanilla again. It tasted like a strongly spiced version of vanilla ice cream with hints of cinnamon, ginger, and mint. It was absolutely amazing. We complemented our ice cream with Serindipitea tea. The tea selection was presented beautifully with small portions of each type of tea leaf in tiny bowls along with name tags for each. I chose Buccaneer (mainly for the piratey name, but also because it smelled good). My boyfriend chose Zzz, a relaxing blend of chamomile and organic lavender. I love tea, but it's rare that a cup of tea actually amazes me. This one did. It was a delicious blend of coconut, chocolate, vanilla, and rooibos.

Additional Notes
As the name suggests, the pace is relaxed. (Lento is Italian for "slow.") The dining room began to fill up towards the end of our meal, but we never felt crowded or rushed. The layout and decor of the restaurant give it the feel of a spa. Our server Liz was friendly and knowledgeable. One of the great things about Lento is the focus on using organic, local ingredients to create unique dishes. The website even has a section where local farmers are featured. I was initially a little intimidated by the menu--I can be somewhat of a picky eater, and there were lots of ingredients I wasn't sure I'd like--but everything turned out to be wonderful, and I definitely plan to return.

Just the Facts
Website: http://www.lentorestaurant.com
Address: 274 N. Goodman St (in Village Gate)
Phone: 585-271-3470 (reservations accepted)

Also, check out http://www.serendipitea.com for information about the tea. I'm ordering a tin of Buccaneer!

Update 6/27/10:
I finally got around to ordering the Buccaneer tea about a year after this meal, and it was as wonderful as I'd remembered. I recently noticed some Serendipitea teas at Cardullo's in Harvard Square. 

Lento on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 14, 2008

Meat and Potatoes, Passover-Style

Ed. note: This post originally appeared in my 2008 food blog Fork It Over on the website of the Rochester Insider magazine, which is now Metromix Rochester. Since the old blog is no longer available online, I'm re-posting some of those posts here and backdating them to their original posting dates. Although in most cases they are specific to Rochester, hopefully you'll still find them somewhat interesting!  ~Rachel, 6/27/10

The Jewish holiday of Passover is less than a week away, so today I'd like to share a traditional (and delicious!) holiday recipe with you. This version comes from Sue Shulman, a friend of my mother's, and it has been passed around the Mah Jongg-playing Jewish women of my hometown of Sharon, Massachusetts for years. For those of you who don't celebrate Passover (and those of you who do, but dread Kosher-for-Passover food), don't stop reading just yet. Brisket is for everyone who likes a good meat and potatoes dish. If you're familiar with Texas-style brisket, this is nothing like that. Jewish-style brisket is a melt-in-your mouth meal of slow-cooked beef in a sweet, brown, gravy-like sauce. It is often garnished with potatoes, carrots, and onions. Turn on the oven and find some hungry friends. It's time for a feast.

Why brisket?
A quick survey of my parents and some friends revealed that no one really knows why brisket is eaten at many Passover Seders.* If I had to guess, I'd say it's because it pleases the pickiest eaters, you can easily make enough to serve to your entire extended family, and it can be made Kosher for Passover without using strange ingredients. Or, in the words of Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof, "Tradition!"

Brisket can be made the same day that you will serve it, but the beauty of brisket is that it gets better the more you cook it. I like to start making it a few days or even a week ahead of time, then freeze or refrigerate it depending on how many days will pass, and then cook it for a few more hours right before serving it.

Beef brisket (3-4 lbs) - This size generally serves 4-8 people. Get more than you think you'll need, because you'll want to eat these leftovers for days.
Onion Soup Mix (1 package)
Ketchup (1 cup)
Ginger Ale (1.5 cup) - Some people use beer instead. I've tried it both ways, and they're pretty similar, but I like using ginger ale a little bit better because it's sweeter.
Cranberry Sauce (1 can)
Small, whole canned potatoes (1 or 2 cans)
Carrots and onions (optional) - I'm boring; I like plain meat and potatoes. Many people include carrots and onions, though. Just chop them up and throw them in with everything else.

Note: If you follow Passover dietary laws, some of the ingredients listed above are typically not Kosher for Passover, but it's easy to find appropriate replacements. For example, replace ginger ale with diet ginger ale, which does not have corn syrup. Ketchup and cranberry sauce that do not contain corn syrup can be found in the Passover section of most supermarkets. I like to do my Passover shopping at Pittsford Wegmans--there's a very large selection there--and I've heard that Tops also has a large Passover section.

What to do:
Line a 13'' x 9'' baking dish with heavy foil. Place the brisket in the dish. Mix all the other ingredients (except for the potatoes) together and pour over the brisket. Remove the potatoes from the can, discard the liquid, and arrange the potatoes around the brisket. Cover the baking dish tightly and completely with foil. Resist the temptation to open it while it's cooking!

Bake at 350 degrees for 3-4 hours. Enjoy the smell.

Remove the brisket from the oven and slice it (about 1/4'' thick.) Be careful when you unwrap the foil; extremely hot steam is going to come rushing out. Don't discard anything from the baking dish. Put the slices back into the dish and redistribute the sauce to make sure it gets in between all the slices and on top of all the potatoes. Wrap everything back up in heavy foil. Now, you can either freeze it if you're serving it several days later, refrigerate if you're serving it the next day, or put it right back in the oven if you're serving it the same day. When you put it back in the oven, either the same day or at a later date, you should cook it for at least 2-3 more hours. You'll know it's done when the meat is dark brown and so tender that you don't need a knife to cut it. Also, your house will smell unbearably delicious. If you live in an apartment building, your neighbors may show up at your door looking hungry.

This part is self-explanatory.

Brisket gets better the more you re-heat it. I absolutely hate leftovers. You will never find me eating cold pizza for breakfast or reheating last night's delicious meal that i just couldn't finish at the restaurant and really intended to have for lunch the next day. But brisket miraculously tastes amazing as leftovers. Don't get your heart set on it, though. You probably won't have leftovers.

An added bonus for hesitant cooks is that you really can't mess brisket up. The more you cook it, the better it gets, so you can't accidentally overcook it.

Happy Passover to those who celebrate it, and happy eating to everyone else!

I'm actually heading to NYC to celebrate Passover with my boyfriend's family this year, so I'm not making my own brisket, but here's an ugly snapshot from last year to give you a rough idea of what brisket looks like.
Last Year's Passover Brisket

It's kind of ugly, but don't let that discourage you. Some of the ugliest foods in the world are also the most delicious :)

*A Seder is a special dinner that occurs on the first and second nights of Passover. The Hagaddah, a special book that includes the Passover story, prayers, and songs, is used to retell the story of the Jewish exodus from Egypt. Seders are an interesting mix of storytelling, drinking, singing, and eating. As this blog is supposed to be about food, I won't go into further detail, but if you'd like to learn more about Passover Seders, Wikipedia has a pretty informative page on them here.
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