Monday, December 26, 2011

CHERRY-BLUEBERRY ALMOND CRUMB PIE


Perhaps if I lived in Michigan, where sour cherries are grown, I would be more enthused about cherry pie.  
But truthfully, I'm so in love with apple, pumpkin, coconut cream, key lime, lemon and berry pies, I just never think about cherry pie.  

Cherry pie can be served all year long, but it's especially nice at Christmas time.  This one accompanied us to Christmas dinner with our friends, where the host, Tom, (who hails from Pittsburgh, PA, not Michigan) says it's his favorite.  Cherry flavor dominates this pie, even though it contains a pint of blueberries.  

Since I'm really not much of a cherry fan, I found this hard to rate.  Tom loved the pie.  I liked it, but didn't love it, because I found it too sweet for my taste.  Mickey, Tom's wife, liked it and said it would be perfect with chocolate drizzled over it.  My intent was to serve it with chocolate ice cream, but I left the ice cream home.  If you like cherry pie, you might want to give this a try.  If you've never tried cherry pie, here's your chance.

Cherry-Blueberry Almond Crumb Pie
Rating:  8 out of 10
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INGREDIENTS:  
Crisco Single Pie Crust:
1-1/2 cups low-protein flour (such as White Lily all-purpose)
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 cup Crisco shortening, placed in freezer 15 minutes
4-6 Tbsp. ice water

In small resealable sandwich baggie, combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar; place bag in freezer for 15 minutes.  Pour flour mixture into work bowl of food processor.  Pulse briefly to combine.  Add shortening, cut into 5-6 pieces.  Pulse several times, till mixture is like coarse sand.  Pour into medium-large bowl and drizzle water over the flour as you toss with a fork or with your hands.  Use as little water as possible.  (I used 5 Tbsp., but the amount will depend on the humidity and your altitude.)  The dough will be soft and pliable and easy to press into a flattish disc.  Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for at least 1/2 hour. This makes a sturdy but flaky, tender crust with nice flavor.

Almond Crumb Topping:
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour (or whole wheat, or all-purpose, if preferred)
1/3 cup almond meal or finely ground almonds
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. sea salt
6 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/4 cup sliced almonds

In medium bowl, whisk together flour, almond meal, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder and salt.  Stir in butter with fork and mix till moistened.  (You can also put the ingredients in the work bowl of a food processor and pulse till combined and mixture looks like wet sand.)  Set aside.

Cherry-Blueberry Pie Filling:
1 (14.5 oz.) can pitted Montmorency red tart cherries, drained, juice reserved
1 (15 oz.) can pitted dark sweet cherries, drained, juice reserved
1 pint fresh or frozen blueberries, rinsed, drained
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. finely grated orange zest
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup Michigan red tart cherry preserves

  In large bowl, combine cherries, blueberries, almond extract, lemon juice, and orange zest; set aside.  In small cup, combine 2 Tbsp. reserved juice with cornstarch; set aside.  In 2-quart heavy saucepan, combine remaining reserved juice with sugar; bring to boil over high heat and boil about 20-25 minutes, or till mixture is reduced by half and slightly syrupy.  Stir about 3 Tbsp. of the hot syrup into the cornstarch mixture, then stir the cornstarch mixture into the syrup.  Bring back to boil and boil for 5 minutes, or till mixture thickens.  Stir in the preserves.  Remove from heat and cool slightly.  Pour slightly cooled syrup over fruit, tossing to combine.  

Assembly:.  
1.  Fit 9" pie plate (or 8" deep dish pie plate) with your favorite pie dough.
2.  Refrigerate pie dough.   
3.  Make crumb topping.
4.  Heat oven to 400F.  Adjust oven rack to lower position.
5.  Make pie filling.  Fill pie dough with filling.  Bake 30 minutes.
6.  Spoon crumb topping over partially baked pie.  Use pie shield to protect pie edges.  Bake additional 20
     minutes. 
7.  Sprinkle almonds over top of pie, fluffing topping with fork if needed.  Bake additional 10 minutes, or till
     pie is bubbling.  

Saturday, December 17, 2011

WHERE TO SHOP FOR ORGANICS AND UPSCALE GROCERIES

Organic and upscale foods can be hard to find at competitive prices in New Bern.  I'm listing some of my favorite foods and where I buy them.

Plugra butter, salted and unsalted:  Wal-Mart, at around $2.24/half pound; Food Lion, at around $2.29/half pound.  Since these two stores started carrying Plugra, I noticed that Harris Teeter seems to be out of it.  Their price of $5.99/half pound could be why they're not reordering.

Bel Gioso Mascarpone:  Wal-Mart, at around $3.49/8 oz. compared to Harris Teeter, at around $6.99/8 oz. Wal-Mart doesn't always have mascarpone in stock.  Harris Teeter does run specials occasionally.

Prosciutto:  Harris Teeter runs specials on Citterio @ $3.99/3 oz..  Wal-Mart's price for a 3-oz. pkg. of Del Duca prosciutto is always $3.99, but you have to inspect the packages carefully.  Sometimes the ends of the prosciutto are discolored, meaning it will be dried out.

Good-quality chocolate:  You can find this in just about any store, but best prices are going to be at Wal-Mart, unless another store is running a good special.  Harris Teeter sometimes runs clearance prices on some of their good chocolate bars.  I like to occasionally shop at Fresh Market in Greenville where you can find high-quality Callebaut chocolate (about 60% cacao) in bulk bins for cheap, cheap, cheap.  It's fresh and doesn't sit around.  I always buy my white chocolate here, and once you taste it, you'll never buy it elsewhere.

Chicken:  I'm all about organics, but I've been turned off with big chickens that tend to be tough.  It used to be normal to find 2-lb. chickens in the grocery store that were tender and juicy.  Then farmers learned how to use growth hormones and antibiotics to grow their chickens super fast and keep them from getting sick.  So now the chickens grow fast, in fact too fast.  Their meat is just not tender and juicy any more.  Even the Smart Balance organic chickens found at Harris Teeter are disappointingly large.  So I'm now buying my chickens at the Bridgeton Poultry Market.  No, they're not organic.  But they're extremely fresh, tender and juicy.  You can ask them for a specific size chicken -- e.g., 2-lb. or 3-lb. or whatever -- and you will get it.

Seafood:  B&J's on Route 70 has the best seafood in New Bern.  It's not cheap but you can pretty much depend on them for good seafood.  Most of it is local, but not all.  Bridgeton Poultry Market also carries some local Pamlico Country shrimp that they freeze in 1-lb. bags.

Organic Foods:  Wal-Mart has some, but selections are limited.  You can usually find some organic veggies (green onions, green peppers, broccoli, zucchini, lemons, to name some), eggs and flours.

Harris Teeter has a good selection of organic veggies, fruits, herbs, dairy, eggs, flours, canned, bagged and boxed foods, but prices are high.  Harris Teeter also carries a good assortment of frozen organics.  Their own brand of frozen veggies in poly bags are especially good.  You'll have to search out their organic items though,  because they're mixed in with nonorganics throughout the store, except for the produce section where they have a dedicated space.

Food Lion has a surprisingly diverse section dedicated to organics in boxes, bags and cans as well as a good assortment of frozen organics, making for easy shopping.  I love that the organics are all together in one place.  You can find Arrowhead Mills here, as well as Bob's Red Mill and a host of other brand names.  Organic oatmeal is available at a good price, and it's where I buy mine.  They even have organic spices.  What you won't find is a lot of organic veggies and fruits.  In fact, be careful.  The section in produce that is dedicated to organics is misleading.  It used to house all organics, but evidently sales were slow.  Now half of that section (on the left side) is nonorganic.  They may be phasing out of organic produce.

New Bern Farmer's Market:  Scott Farms is the only true organic vendor here, but their prices are really high.  R Garden is not organic certified but they don't spray their vegetables with pesticides and they are trying to slowly phase into using organic fertilizers.  Their prices are more affordable and the quality of their vegetables is high.  Putnam Family Farms also doesn't use pesticides but they do use chemical fertilizer.  Moore's sprays with pesticides only if they have to, but try not to.  Our farmer's market is a true bargain if you want veggies that are not oversprayed with pesticides, but you have to get there early -- about 8AM -- for best selection.  Fresh and local is always your best bargain.  This morning I bought free-range eggs, green onions, baby carrots, green beans, white sweet potatoes, radishes and Swiss chard.

I'd love to hear your questions and/or comments.  Do you know of other places to shop for favorite foods?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

MY HOLIDAY COOKIE ENTRY


I won't be entering the New Bern holiday recipe contest because there are no judges, just online voters.  For the Nestle holiday cookie contest, where the winner is picked by judges, I entered Chocolate-Almond Snowballs.  These are fudgy treats covered in white chocolate ganache and coconut.  Two bites of deliciousness.  The dough is made in a food processor, so easy.  The recipe is now on the Nestle Facebook Ap.  You can get it by clicking here.  Once you are at the site, click on "view entries."  Scroll down till you see the above photo.  Unless, of course, you get sidetracked by some of the other great recipes.  I don't expect to win, but it was fun coming up with an original, easy recipe.  The extra bonus here is that I have a new Christmas cookie and, surprise -- it's one of my top faves.

BAREFOOT CONTESSA'S PECAN SHORTBREAD


This year was a bad one for New Bern area pecans, thanks to the unwelcome visit of one blustery Irene.  All the unripe nuts were blown off the trees before they could be harvested.  Fortunately, I found pecans at Sam's Club and I still have some in my freezer from last year.  I love the buttery flavor of pecans, especially in shortbread cookies where they can be the star.  Like this recipe from Ina Garten.  These are simple cookies, but oh, so very good, with a nice flavor from almond and vanilla extracts.  They would love to have a place on your holiday cookie tray.

Pecan Shortbread
Source:  The Barefoot Contessa
Rating:  9 out of 10
Click for PRINTABLE PAGE


3/4 lb. (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract (I used my homemade vanilla.)
1 tsp. pure almond extract
3-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. kosher or fine sea salt
1-1/2 cups small diced pecans

Heat oven to 350F.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, using low speed, mix together the butter and sugar until they are just combined.  Add flavorings.  In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter/sugar mixture.  Add pecans and mix on low speed until dough starts to come together.  Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk.  Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

Roll  dough 1/2" thick and cut into 2-1/2" squares with a plain or fluted cutter, or cut into any shape you like.  Place cookies on ungreased baking sheet.  Bake 20-25 minutes, util edges begin to brown.  Cool on wire racks.  Yield:  about 20-24 cookies, depending on size.

Monday, November 28, 2011

SPRUCE UP YOUR ARTIFICIAL CHRISTMAS WREATH


Artificial wreaths can be boring.  They have no aroma and the plastic needles and leaves can look so, well, plastic.  But if your yard is like mine, there are plenty of live greens that can be added to kick up the look, and give fragrance.  Rosemary, nandina and weeping youpon provided me the opportunity to do just that.  (They are all evergreens, and the nandina and youpon produce berries as well as bright green and red leaves.  Rosemary is also delightfully fragrant.)  


It's easy to do.  Just slip some cuttings through openings in the wreath -- no need to attach with wires or tape.  Here I am, attaching rosemary to a wreath that hangs on our welcome dog.  The red/green leaves are nandina.

Doesn't he look cute with his festive greens?  A sprig of youpon with berries is clenched in his mouth.

The greens were free, and add fresh notes to otherwise old and stodgy wreaths.  Give it a try.  It'll only cost you some time.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

LE BISTRO


The ad in the newspaper read, "Opening Saturday!  Le Bistro fine dining with Executive Chef Christopher Maravelas."  How excited was I to try out our city's newest eating place.  Maybe this would be the one.  After all, when an executive chef is mentioned, one would expect superior food.

Le Bistro is housed in the same place that Stacia's Lieu Secret was.  I wondered if Stacia's went out of business.  As the three of us walked inside, we saw that the inside had not been redone.  It looked just like Stacia's.  In fact, Stacia was there!  It turns out that the restaurant took on a new name, but everything else remained the same.  Stacia's outdated decor didn't seem to fit a bistro theme.


Fussy linen tablecloths don't seem to fit with paper napkins, but that's what you get.  And what are all those Victorian accents on the walls?  This looks more like a Victorian tea room than a bistro.  But I'm being picky again.  Well, Stacia's was always known as a place for ladies to lunch.


My luncheon choice, chicken salad on a croissant with potato salad, looked appetizing.  I asked for the potato salad to be wrapped to go so I could take it home for hubby to eat.  The croissant that I was salivating over was disappointingly cold and tough instead of warm, flaky and tender.  When I mentioned this to the server, her reply was, "I'll tell the chef."  Tell the chef?  How about a warm croissant for me?  It didn't happen.  My disappointment didn't stop at the croissant, though:  the chicken salad was totally bland and tasteless.  (Later, at home, hubby took one bite of the potato salad and dumped it, saying it had no flavor.)


Carole ordered Vegetable Rice salad with her chicken salad sandwich.  In Carole's own words, "...the veggies were invisible and the rice a scoop of mush. The chicken salad was average but the side was not tasty at all."  


Rita's Portabella sandwich had Cremini mushrooms (baby bellas) instead of the large Portabellas.  Worse yet, the baby bellas were few and far between.  The fruit salad side was just okay.


The prices at Le Bistro are too high for their inferior food.  Your lunch will cost you about $9 plus drink and tip at Le Bistro, but you can go downtown to Captain Ratty's or Morgan's for a consistently decent lunch that will cost about $7 plus drink and tip.  Just down the road from Le Bistro, Bella Cucina offers an array of tasty salads and entrees for lunch that range from $6.50 - $8.49.  Stacia's may have a new name, but what is really needed here is a complete makeover of the menu and decor.  Robert Irvine, please come quickly.

Monday, October 3, 2011

SUPER-EASY MUSSELS DINNER


Here's an idea for a super quick, easy and delicious dinner.  Pier 33 Gourmet fully cooked frozen mussels are available at Harris Teeter in two flavors.  We like the tomato and garlic sauce version.

When they go on sale, I always buy a few and stash them in the freezer for when I don't want to cook.  Directions are on the box.  I usually just put the unwrapped frozen mussels in a skillet and heat them up.  Serve with some crusty bread and dipping oil.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

FISH TACOS AT CAPTAIN RATTY'S


We recently went back to Captain Ratty's so that I could try their fish tacos.  I've been spoiled, after having tasted some of the absolute best at Noisy Oyster in Charleston, SC, and The O'Bistro Cafe in Ocean Beach, San Diego, CA.  It's been a tortuous wait since then, hoping that local restaurants would catch on (no pun intended) to this craze.  With an abundance of fresh fish in Eastern Carolina, it would seem like a no brainer.

Captain Ratty's makes their fish tacos with their "fresh catch" of the day.  It happened to be salmon the day we were there.  We all know there is no salmon in our local waters, and I particularly like to avoid Atlantic salmon since it is always farm raised and loaded with antibiotics, hormones and other yuk stuff.  But I wanted to try the fish tacos, so that's what I ordered.

What can I say?  These were not the best fish tacos I've had, but they were okay.  The salmon was grilled, not fried, which is my preference, but the seasonings were one dimensional.

Guy's not fond of salmon, regardless of the source, so he ordered the shrimp wrap thinking it would be a shrimp taco.  (The fish taco I had at Noisy Oyster was wrapped and it was unbelievably good.)  But Guy was served a cold sandwich wrap, not what he expected.  He didn't finish it, but I didn't think it looked that bad.


Captain Ratty's has good prices, great service and their food is okay, so it's a good choice for a quick and decent meal.  But I'll eat my fish tacos at home.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

TAVERNA MYTHOS GREEK RESTAURANT & BAR, MOREHEAD CITY


We had been wanting to try the fairly new Greek restaurant in Morehead City, Taverna Mythos, but they're only open for dinner.  Guy's birthday was last week and he decided it was worth a 40-minute ride to check it out.  The restaurant opens at 5PM, so we made reservations for 5:15.  The rush-hour traffic was heavy in spots, but we still got there in under an hour.  Mythos is directly across the street from the waterfront and has some decent views from two of its dining areas.

Inside, the restaurant is dark but cozy.  One dining room is completely enclosed with no views; the other faces  the parking lot but has views of the water.  The bar has the best views, but only two tables.

We decided to sit in the bar area.

Service is friendly and attentive, and the menu is limited and easy to read.  Greek specialties (spanokopita, hummus, tzatziki, dolmadakia, melitzanosalata, bougiourdi) are available as appetizers.  You can also order a "sharing" platter with calamari, dolmadakia, hummus, tzatziki, cheese and spinach pie.  Gyros made with lamb and beef, chicken or shrimp are available, as is souvlaki.  All are served as sandwiches on toasted pita.  There's also an assortment of pastas, including Greek pastitsio and mousaka, and specialty pizzas.  If you have children, 12 and under, you can order from the children's menu.  What's not available:  choices for smaller eaters, such as hubby and me.

We were served warm crusty bread and rosemary olive oil as we waited for our entrees.

The bread was good, but the oil was disappointingly bland.  Some salt improved the flavor somewhat.
The birthday boy ordered "Greek Grill," a 14-oz. ribeye steak topped with shrimp sauteed in butter and wine, with spinach and feta cheese.  All grill entrees are served with lemon potatoes and veggies.

This was a gastronomic feast -- the steak was done to perfection, served with a nice sauce.  The lemon potatoes were cooked perfectly, as was the spinach, and everything was seasoned nicely.  The only problem was the steak was too large!  More  than half of it, plus half the shrimp and most of the potatoes came home for another meal.

I ordered the lamb chops, charbroiled and topped with olive oil and lemon sauce.  Three lamb chops arrived and each was cooked perfectly.  I ate all three chops, Guy's zucchini, my spinach and some of the potatoes.  The zucchini was especially good. 

Prices at Mythos are fair for the quality of the food.  Guy's entree was $26, mine was $23.  Wine is $6/glass. The chef/owner is 100% Greek and definitely knows how to cook.  Chef Pia's in little Washington is still my favorite Greek restaurant, but I would gladly return to Mythos any time.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

PORK TONKATSU


The South has the corner on pork, and New Bern is in the heart of pig country.  But the new pork that's being marketed is leaner and meaner.  This means you must take care when preparing it, or you will have tough meat.  Brining the meat overnight in a salt-sugar-water solution all but guarantees moist, flavorful meat.

Don't be put off by the title of this recipe.  Pork Tonkatsu is just breaded, fried pork chops using those flaky, crispy Japanese panko crumbs that you can buy just about anywhere nowadays.  Harris Teeter even sells whole wheat panko, if you're inclined that way.

Once the brining is done, this is actually a quick entree to put together, and one that I'm sure you'll enjoy as we did.

Pork Tonkatsu  
Adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine
Rating:  8 out of 10


INGREDIENTS:
1/4 cup coarse kosher salt
2 Tbsp. sugar
4 cups water
2 (4-oz.) boneless center cut loin pork chops, pounded to 1/8" thickness
1 egg
1-1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1 to 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
lemon wedges, if desired

Stir kosher salt, sugar and water in a bowl or pot till salt and sugar are completely dissolved.  Add chops.  Cover and refrigerate overnight, turning chops occasionally.

Remove chops from brine; pat dry. Whisk egg and mustard in medium bowl.  Combine panko, 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. pepper on a large plate.  Dip chops in egg mixture, then in panko, pressing to adhere.  Heat up to 1 Tbsp. oil in a large nonstick (or cast iron) skillet over medium heat and cook pork until golden brown and cooked through, about 2 minutes per side, adding up to an additional 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil after turning.  Drain on paper towels.  Serve with lemon wedges, if desired.

Monday, September 5, 2011

TWO CRAB PARTIES AND LOIS SEAGRAVES’ LOW-COUNTRY STEW


We went to two crab parties in August.  At the first, we were given T-shirts made by a neighbor.  My hub, Guy is the photo on the left.  At the second party,  we came away with an heirloom recipe for Low-Country Stew.  Read about it....

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

PLANKED WHOLE FLOUNDER


Fresh flounder is mild and light-tasting, and in Eastern North Carolina, it's plentiful.  B&J's Seafood on Route 70 in James City is my go-to fish monger when hubby isn't catching.  They'll scale, clean and dress the flounder so it's ready to cook.  Harris Teeter sometimes has dressed whole flounder, too.  Planks can be purchased at Lowe's and at Harris Teeter.  Look for special sales.  For instance, at Harris Teeter, the planks go on special for $4.99 for a pack of two planks.  Sound pricey?  It's not too bad when you consider that you can use the planks several times.  After grilling, scrub the plank the way you would a pot, with dish detergent and water.  Dry and reuse until you can't.  Each of my planks last through about 4 uses.  The trick to this is to soak them longer than the recommended 1 hour.  Hubby starts soaking our plank in the morning for an evening use.


Don't be afraid to try this method of cooking fish.  It's very forgiving.  Even if you cook it a little too long, the fish will still be moist and tender.

Planked Whole Flounder
Click for PRINTABLE PAGE

INGREDIENTS:
1 grilling plank
1 whole dressed flounder with head and tail, about 1-1/2 lbs.
1-1/2 tsp. kosher or sea salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 medium sweet onion, peeled, thinly sliced
1 lemon, thinly sliced
3-4 sprigs fresh parsley

Soak plank in a clean sink with warm water for at least 5 hours.  Weigh down with a gallon jug of water or a brick wrapped in tinfoil.

Heat gas grill to 400-425F.  Turn one burner off and maintain grill temperature at 400 - 425F.  Remove plank from water, drain.  Rinse fish under cold running water; pat dry with clean paper towels.  Approximating where fish will be on the plank, place onion and lemon slices and sprigs of parsley.  Sprinkle fish inside and out with salt and pepper.

Stuff fish cavity with onion and lemon slices and sprigs of parsley.  Place fish on plank over lemon and onion slices.  Tuck any stray lemon and onions slices under fish.  Use remaining onion and lemon slices for top of fish.

Place planked fish on turned-off burner; cover grill; cook about 40-45 minutes,or till fish skin is dry and papery and fish is cooked through.  You can check that the fish is cooked through by inserted a fork through the skin into the flesh.  The plank should not catch fire when used on a turned-off burner.  In the rare event that the plank should catch fire, just wet edges with a Tbsp. or two of water.  Transfer plank using grill mitts and tongs.  Let rest 5-10 minutes.


To serve:  Peel back skin; remove.


With fork, gently push fish away from the center of the bone towards the outside, exposing the bone.


Lift the bone and remove, exposing the bottom section of the fish.


A 1-1/2 lb. whole fish will serve 2-3 people.  Leftovers are delicious the next day, cold or heated.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Christoph's on the Water


I've voted Christoph's as the best breakfast place in New Bern, based on my criteria (level of service, ambiance, prices, and quality of food).  Four of us decided to try it for dinner.

The updating of their dining room is now complete, and the end result is lovely.  There is a sophisticated, yet homey feel in the quiet space, enhanced by a row of windows that looks out over the pool and dock area.

The china closet and sideboard add to the homey feel of the dining space.

Surprisingly, for a Thursday evening, the place was almost empty.  Christoph's is one of New Bern's best-kept secrets.  I asked the staff if they were aware that their phone number is not easily accessible.  They have no listing in the yellow pages under the restaurant heading.  Oddly, they were all unaware.

After we placed our orders, we were served salads with warm rolls and butter.  The rolls and butter were wonderful.

The salad was just a tad disappointing, with several wilted pieces of lettuce.  I found enough fresh, crispy lettuce to eat, though, as it was a good-sized salad.

Guy and I both ordered the daily special:  A tenderloin of beef with a lump crab cake, braised asparagus and Bearnaise sauce, for $22 each, including salad and rolls and butter.

The filet was cooked perfectly, the sauce was divine and the crab cake had wonderful flavor, though it did have more filler than I like.  The rich sauce permeated the meal, in a good way, without detracting from the meat, seafood or veggie.  I would definitely order this again.

Rita ordered the Parmesan & Herb Dusted Salmon with Portobello & Bliss Potato Hash, Wilted Greens and Charred Tomato Crema for $19.  Salad was not included, but rolls and butter were.  She ate every drop and said she enjoyed it.

Tom ordered the Braised Pork Shank with Sweet Potto Mash, Sugar Snap Peas and Cherry Balsamic Glaze for $20.  Salad was not included, but rolls and butter were.  He also ate every drop and said it was delicious.

Christoph's has an easy-to-read one-page dinner menu of Steaks, Seafood and House Specialties.  Honestly, I wanted one of everything.  Next time I may try the Sonoran Shrimp & Pepper Jack Grits,and Guy said he'll try the Four Peppercorn Rib Eye Steak.  But I also want to try the Lobster Ravioli, the Pan Seared Grouper, the Chicken Farfalle and the Smothered Pork Chops.  Heck, I want to try every single menu item.  I like the fact that Christoph's has three heart-healthy menu items to pick from.  We're definitely going back.  Prices are in line, food is good, service is great and we love the water views.  And the best part?  They're open 7 days a week.

Christoph's on the Water, located in the Hilton Hotel, 100 Middle Street, 252-638-0305. 
Open 7 days a week.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

THE WILD CUPCAKE -- NEW KID ON THE BLOCK


Since my 1993 entry into New Bern, this Yankee has been watching a sleepy Southern town slowly -- ever so slowly -- rub its eyes and begin its timid entry into 21st century gastronomy.  Upscale grocers emerged and were followed by farm-to-table restaurants.  Grass-fed beef and lamb and free range poultry became available at our local Farmer's Market.  And now, the latest newcomer is The Wild Cupcake.

Nicole, the owner of The Wild Cupcake, sells via the Farmer's Market and her website, and her cupcakes are anything but dull.  Flavors like S'Mores, Blueberries and Cream, Rose Cakes, Fillin' Nutty, Aloha Coconut, PB&J and Cha Cha Cherry are just a small sampling of the many creative concoctions that leave her kitchen on a regular basis.  While most bakeries are just glorified versions of the Wal-Mart Bakery Department, The Wild Cupcake is truly different and unique.


Judging from the line of fans keeping Nicole busy nowadays, I am guessing that The Wild Cupcake will be a New Bern favorite for years to come.

You can visit The Wild Cupcake at the New Bern Farmer's Market, Saturdays, 8AM - 2 PM, or at The Wild Cupcake website.

October, 2012 update:   Nicole has won Food Network's Cupcake Wars with rave reviews from the judges.  Way to go, Nicole!  New Bern is proud of you.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

CRISPY WHOLE-GRAIN FRIED GREEN TOMATOES


Fried green tomatoes, a Southern staple, taste good whether they're hot from the pan, room temperature or cold.  Served hot with a drizzle of spicy mayo, they could just be the star of your dinner.  Room temperature or cold from the fridge, they're wonderful added to a meat or cheese sandwich or just munched as is.


I've taken a great recipe up a notch to bring some whole grains into the picture.  We have to sneak them in where we can, especially where they will go unnoticed.  If your family is averse to whole grains, please believe me when I say they will never know unless you tell them.  These tomatoes have a crispy, flavorful crust that's sure to please all fried green tomato enthusiasts.

Whole-Grain Fried Green Tomatoes
Rating:  9.5 out of 10
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INGREDIENTS:
1 large firm, green tomato
1 egg
2 Tbsp. milk
1 tsp. Tabasco
1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1/4 cup whole-grain cornmeal
1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
1 tsp. coarse kosher salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
2 big pinches cayenne pepper
1 cup vegetable oil for frying

Slice tomato 1/2" thick; discard ends.  You should have about 6 large slices.  In shallow bowl, whisk together egg, milk and Tabasco.  On a sheet of wax paper, measure flour.  On another sheet of wax paper, combine cornmeal, Panko and seasonings.  Dredge tomato slices into flour to coat; shake off excess.  Then dip coated slices into into egg/milk mixture.  Finally, dredge slices in Panko mixture to completely coat.  As you coat the slices, lay them on a wire rack.  Pour vegetable oil in a heavy skillet (cast iron works well).  You should have 1/2" of oil in the pan.  Heat oil over medium heat.  When oil is hot, fry slices in batches of 3 or 4, leaving plenty of room for them to fry.  They should not be touching each other in the pan.  Fry till browned, then flip them and fry them on the other side.  Drain on paper towels and enjoy.