NY Times

Pete Wells and Restaurant Reviews

by Anne Maxfield on December 12, 2016

  1. Accidental Locavore Restaurant Reviewer

The Accidental Locavore was reading about the restaurant reviewer for The NY Times, Pete Wells, in The New Yorker (check it out if you haven’t seen it).

According to the piece, before he writes a review he goes to a restaurant at least three times.

While it makes sense to give you a broader overview of the restaurant, does it work that way in real life?

No.

Maybe.

It depends.

Here’s why:

Pete Wells or his counterparts can be recognized.

And a chef friend told me that it’s pretty common for a restaurant that gets a good write-up from a prestigious paper to fire the chef and the team that got them the four stars since they think they can now live off that review.

“You only get one shot to make a first impression.”

Accidental Locavore Bad WaitersIf you like a place, you’ll go back even if it’s far away or a big splurge.

You’ll always tell your friends.

In glowing dish-by-dish descriptions.

You might post it on Instagram.

If the restaurant isn’t up to expectations, you’ll go once and cross it off your list forever.

You’ll always tell your friends. You’ll tell anyone who will listen.

In glowering dish-by-dish descriptions.

You won’t post it on Instagram. You might post it on Yelp.

Do any regular diners go back another two times?

Don’t think so.

Hey, our dinners aren’t being paid for by the NY Times, so we’re going to be pickier about how we spend our money.

Even when we’ve spoken to management (or they’ve seen the Yelp review) and been invited back so they can “make it up to us” we have never taken them up on the offer.

Prime example: Frank and I went to celebrate our anniversary. Friends had raved about the Red Onion in Saugerties and we decided to forgo our favorite, Les Baux.

Mistake.

Big mistake.

It started when I got out of the car and stepped in a mud puddle.

The rack of lamb (a house specialty we were told) was overcooked and under seasoned (unlike mine in the photo).

Accidental Locavore Rack of LambPeas straight out of a big plastic bag.

A mountain of mashed potatoes that could have come from a box.

Two hockey pucks that were reputed to be onions.

Even if it wasn’t a 45-minute drive (in each direction), we won’t be back.

Sometimes it’s nice to have a blog where you can vent.

What’s been your most disappointing meal?

And no, that’s not a photo of Pete Wells, but who knows?

 

 

{ 0 comments }

Plum Cake Recipe

by Anne Maxfield on September 29, 2016

accidental-locavore-plum-tartWhat to do with a plethora of plums?

And a plethora of plums that won’t stop coming.

Most of the time it’s zucchini or eggplant people complain about when they have a CSA.

We thought a fruit share sounded like a good idea, but knew eight pounds of fruit a week would be too much so decided to share it with friends.

It’s still too much, and we’re not eating enough of it so the Accidental Locavore is trying to figure out what to do with it all (and in ways that don’t necessarily involve desserts).

But this one does.

Billed as the most requested recipe from the NY Times, they refer to it as a Plum Torte, but it’s more like a cake (IMHO).

Plum Cake Recipe

Serves 8.

  • ¾ to 1 cup sugar (depending on your sweetness tolerance and the sweetness of your plums)
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup unbleached flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt (optional)
  • 2 eggs
  • 24 halves pitted purple plums
  • Sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon, for topping

Heat oven to 350°.

In a mixer, cream the sugar and butter.

Add the flour, baking powder, salt and eggs and beat well.

Spoon the batter into a 9” spring-form pan. Place the plum halves skin side up on top of the batter.

Sprinkle lightly with sugar and lemon juice, depending on the sweetness of the fruit.

Sprinkle with about 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, depending on how much you like cinnamon.

Bake 1 hour, approximately. Remove and cool; refrigerate or freeze if desired. Or cool to lukewarm and serve plain or with whipped cream. Serve and enjoy!

accidental-locavore-plums-halvedMy verdict: Moist and buttery – well there was a stick of butter…

Make sure to add the sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon to top it off. Just go easy on the cinnamon unless you’re a big fan (I’ve learned the hard way that a little cinnamon goes a long way!).

The plums give a nice tartness to what is a rich treat, but as the Times says, you can use almost anything; I’m going to do it with peaches and then maybe apples.

While it’s a great dessert, it’s also a pretty fine breakfast!

My only issue was that my (cheap)spring-form pan leaked and I ended up putting a parchment-lined baking sheet under it to catch the drips. Not sure you need a spring-form, just butter any sort of cake pan (or buy a better spring-form).

The paper of record says you can freeze it, and to serve a torte that was frozen, defrost and reheat it briefly at 300°.

{ 0 comments }

The Best Gazpacho Ever!

by Anne Maxfield on August 29, 2016

Accidental Locavore Drinking GazpachoIf you’re in an area where it’s peak tomato season, you need to try this gazpacho recipe.

It’s become our go-to gazpacho, it’s so good!

After the Accidental Locavore read the description of this gazpacho in the NY Times and remembered how good it was when Chef Jose Garces made it at his house a couple of years ago,  I needed to give it a try.Use the best tomatoes and olive oil you can.Accidental Locavore Gazpacho IngredientsBest Gazpacho recipe:

  • 2 pounds of red tomatoes, cored and cut into chunks
  • 1 Italian or Anaheim pepper, seeded and cut into chunks
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 small onion, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled
  • Part of a Serrano chile, seeded and thinly sliced (optional, if you like a little heat)
  • 2 teaspoons Sherry vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons salt, more to taste
  • ¼ cup good olive oil, plus more for drizzling

Accidental Locavore Straining GazpachoCombine the tomatoes, pepper, cucumber, onion and garlic in a blender.

Blend at high speed until very smooth, about 2 minutes.

With the motor running, add the vinegar and 2 teaspoons of salt, taste and add the Serrano chile if you’re using.

The next part you might want to do in batches unless you have a big blender.

Very slowly pour in the olive oil, so the gazpacho can emulsify. It will thicken and change color, becoming more orange.

If it seems thin, keep slowly pouring in the olive oil and it will thicken up. Taste and adjust the vinegar, salt and oil as needed.

Strain and discard the solids.

Pour into a pitcher and chill for at least 6 hours or overnight. Serve in glasses with a drizzle of olive oil on the top and enjoy!

Accidental Locavore Gazpacho Close UpMy verdict: Fabulous! It took a few minutes, but the color did change and the texture and taste was perfect. You really need a blender for this – sadly, a food processor won’t give you a fine enough puree.

I didn’t have the right kind of peppers, so I seeded and chopped a couple of pepperoncini, and they worked fine.

My friend Jean is working for a local olive oil importer and for the oil I used their Delavignes Extra Virgin Olive Oil, which has a lovely buttery flavor. Since you really taste the oil, be sure to use something delicious. If you wanted, a shot of vodka might be interesting.

The original recipe suggests pouring the gazpacho over ice, which I think is a good idea; even though ours had chilled all afternoon, it never tasted really cold.

And forget Christmas in July, I’m thinking about making a batch and freezing it, so it can be August in the middle of January!Accidental Locavore Gazpacho Gone

 

 

{ 5 comments }

Lamb Burgers

by Anne Maxfield on September 17, 2015

Accidental Locavore Grilled Lamb BurgersThere’s often a pound of ground lamb lurking somewhere in the Accidental Locavore’s freezer. It’s handy to have if you get the urge to stuff something – grape leaves, summer squash, tomatoes – and sometimes it’s great just to make burgers. Since I’m on a mission of sorts to make room in the freezer for my lamb share from Four Legs Farm (and fantasizing about a pork share), and the NY Times kept running this recipe, it recently became dinner for 3:

  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns, toasted and crushed (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon red chile flakes
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon neutral oil, like canola
  • 1 small red onion, halved, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 jalapeño, halved, seeded and thinly sliced
  • Potato buns, for serving
  • Cilantro leaves, for serving

Accidental Locavore Onions and JalapenosCreate a flat-top cooking surface on a gas grill by using a couple of large cast-iron skillets, cast iron grill/griddle, or a thick metal sheet like a Baking Steel. Light the grill, and set the burners to medium. Lower top of grill, and allow it to heat.

If you’re using the Sichuan peppercorns, toast them in a small skillet over medium heat until just fragrant, about 2 minutes. Then crush them with the flat part of a knife or a mortar and pestle.

Gently combine the lamb, cumin, Sichuan peppercorns, chile flakes and salt in a large bowl, then form into four equal-size balls.

Raise the lid of your grill, add the oil to the cooking surface and use a spatula to coat it, then place the onions and jalapeños on the surface, and fry them until lightly browned but still crunchy, approximately 3 to 5 minutes.

Accidental Locavore Piles of OnionsSeparate the vegetables into four piles with a good amount of space between them. (If using two pans, each pan should contain two piles.) Top each pile with one of the balls of meat. Use the spatula to smash the balls into flat patties, approximately 1/2 inch thick. Cook until the bottom of each patty is well browned and the meat is opaque about halfway to the top, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Flip each patty, and cook through, approximately 3 minutes for medium.

Place patties on buns, and top each one with cilantro leaves, serve and enjoy!

My verdict: This recipe is for four people, but ended up for three because we had less than a pound of lamb. These burgers were good, but spicy enough that you really didn’t get a sense of the lamb—it could have been any ground meat and might even be better with ground beef. Next time: more onion and less jalapeno. I liked the idea of grilling the vegetables and then embedding them into the meat; you could do it with a lot of other traditional burger toppings like mushrooms, you just have to be careful when flipping them to catch all the goodies. I used my le Creuset grill/griddle pan and it worked beautifully on the grill, and in inclement weather we could have easily done it on the stovetop. Think of this as a technique for playing around with your next batch of burgers and let me know what you come up with.

 

 

{ 0 comments }