Tag Archives: Appetizers

{ Bowman’s Tavern } ****

bar

1600 River Road
New Hope, PA 18938
215-862-2972
 

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I am definitely NOT a creature of habit; I am the antithesis of anything routine, especially when it comes to my food! I like exotic meats, unusual vegetables, and all kinds of different ethnic cuisines. But provided that I live in a small town with limited dining options –only 114 according to Trip Advisor–I have inevitably become a regular at some of my more preferred restaurants. There’s Domani Star for Sunday brunch, El Tule for my Latin American cravings, and Ooka for my sushi fix.

Lately though, my parents have been frequenting a restaurant that I’ve never visited. They go at least once a week on their “date night” or bring friends for a casual dinner and drinks. I wanted to find out for myself what all the hype was about, so tonight I begged them to change their reservation for two into a both for three! They agreed and thus I had my first–of what will become many–meals at Bowman’s Tavern in New Hope.

The food earns 5 stars and the value for what you pay deserves 6 stars. Factor in the cozy atmosphere and the pleasant service, and you’re looking at a fabulous dining experience. To top it all off, there is a very active owner circulating the dining room to ensure that all of his guests are tended to and happy with their food.

To start I ordered this weekend’s special Salad with Pickled Maitake, Goat Cheese, Roasted Beets, Pumpkin Seeds, Garlic Vinaigrette, and White Truffle Oil ($10). The portion was a bit smaller than the other salads I saw leaving the kitchen, but it was very tasty. The goat cheese and the roasted beets were plentiful, and the pumpkin seeds added a beautiful bit of crunch to the dish. The only thing I found slightly disappointing was the lack of truffle flavor in the salad. I did not taste this ingredient at all, but the salad certainly did not taste bland without it.

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We also ordered a plate of the Semolina Crusted Calamari topped with Garlic Aioli, and Spicy Cherry Pepper Relish, with a side of House Marinara ($9). These were hands down THE BEST fried calamari that I have ever had because of the spicy cherry pepper relish. It really brought a new spin to the traditional fried appetizer, and the semolina breading was delicious. These are reason enough to return to the tavern!

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For my entree I ordered the Steamed P.E.I. Mussels in Garlic White Sauce ($10). The mussels themselves were meaty and plump, but I thought that the sauce was a little bland. It needed some more garlic, lemon, or shallots, or parsley. My parents have had the mussels in red sauce and said that they were much better, so I would recommend the tomato herb broth to those of you ordering the bivalves! I will restate though that quality of the mussels were beautiful though, and not a single one in the heaping bowl was closed!

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My mom ordered the winning dish of the night, which was the Seared Scallops over Creamed Corn, with Roasted Mushrooms, White Truffle Oil, and Micro Salad ($23). The truffle oil was added in just the right quantity without overpowering the dish, and the scallops were just unreal. They had a lovely, golden, caramelized exterior with a tender and creamy inside and the sweet corn underneath made for a perfect compliment to the protein. The mushrooms were used sparingly but they were packed with flavor and so each forkful that contained one was treasured.

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My dad ordered one of the specials, which was a Grilled Mako Shark, Spaghetti Squash, Braised Beans, Broccoli Rabe, Pesto, and Romesco Sauce ($23). The shark was tender and well-seasoned, especially when combined with the pesto and Romesco sauces drizzled on the plate.

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The place is great during winter months because it is warm and cozy inside, and they have live music performers that effectively draw in the crowd, inviting guests to come up, sing, and dance. It is just an all around homey place with friendly service and top notch food at a great value!

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{ 7 Layer Mexican Dip }

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I am notorious for double-dipping.

I like a high dip-to-chip ratio that can only be achieved with multiple dips, and so I double dip shamelessly for my own snacking pleasure. I just can’t help myself.

However, as you can imagine, my off-putting habit has caused a great deal of tension on several dates and social gatherings, and so I have decided to solve the problem once and for all by making individualized 7 layer Mexican dip cups.  This way I can go in for any number of dips without being ostracized. It’s a win-win for all persons involved.

I first made these appetizers for my Cinco de Mayo party last spring, but I have continued to make them on a regular basis since then. I find that they are a great item to have in the fridge for a quick meal (very high in protein with the beans and avocado) and they help enforce portion control when snacking late at night! They are also more visually appealing to serve at parties than your average 7 layer dip, which starts to look like shit after a few short minutes (especially if I’m there double dipping!!).

Its a fun, new spin on an old classic recipe but I highly recommend using my flavorful recipe for the black bean puree!

{ Ingredients }

  • 2 cans refried black beans (I love the Trader Joes’ brand)
  • 1 Tbsp minced jalapeños
  • 1 Tbsp Taco seasoning (I used Old El Paso)
  • Dash of cumin, to taste
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • Sour cream
  • Salsa (I use Herdez or Spikes’)
  • Cubed avocado or guacamole
  • Monterey Jack cheese
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Black olives, sliced
  • Scallions, sliced for garnish

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{ Directions }

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the refried beans, minced jalapeño, salt, taco seasoning, and cumin. Blend until well combined, adding a few drops of water if necessary to thin out the mixture. You don’t want the mixture to be runny, but you want it soft enough to transfer onto the chip.

Spread the bean mixture in the bottom of the cup, about 1″ thick.

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Top the beans with a 1/4″ layer of sour cream, followed by a 1/2″ layer of salsa.

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Add the chopped avocado pieces, or a layer of guacamole and then sprinkle the shredded lettuce and cheese. Garnish with the black olives and some freshly chopped scallions, and watch them get gobbled up by your guests with out any double-dipping anxieties.

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The Black Horse Tavern ****

215.579.6152
101 South State Street
Newtown, PA 18940

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Happy Hour--a time, usually between the hours of 6-8, when drinks are offered at reduced prices, encouraging co-workers to mingle outside of the office setting.

This is what Happy Hour used to be–back in the 1990′s when people had jobs and could afford to keeping purchasing cocktails long after the drink specials had ended. But with the unemployment rate ticking ever higher, the definition of Happy Hour is changing: it is no longer only a place for the over-worked to release steam, it is also a valuable networking tool for the unemployed to try to find work. And bar/restaurant owners are recognizing this paradigm shift caused by the economic recession, offering better drink prices, extending discounts to include menu items, and even beginning their Happy Hours earlier in the day (before the 9-5er’s are released from their cubicles).

As an unemployed college graduate (or stay-at-home-daughter, as I prefer to say), I recognize the valuable opportunity that Happy Hours provide for networking (and budgeting) and I try to make it out to one each week. Of course, I also need to vent my frustrations of failed interviews and wasted cover letters!

Right now my favorite Happy Hour hands-down is The Black Horse Tavern in Newtown. They do it all right:

  • Starts at 5 pm, ends at 7 pm (Mon-Sat)
  • $3 drafts, $4 wines, and $6 martinis
  • 1/2 price menu items
  • Trivia on Friday nights (for free drink prizes–I won one last week!)
  • Free bar food available during Happy Hour (usually their delicious flatbreads!)

In my opinion, it’s the best deal in town and like all good things, it draws a consistent crowd. Aka: If you get there after 5 pm expect to sip your delicious martini while standing! They have an extensive speciality martini list, but I recommend the Grapefruit Bubbling Cosmo with Ruby Red Vodka, Cointreau, Lime Juice, Cranberry Juice, all topped off with a splash of Champagne. It has a perfect blend of citrus without tasting artificial.

As far as bar food goes, YOU MUST GET THE TRUFFLE FRIES!!! They come topped with Parmesan Cheese and Belgian Aioli and they are to die for!

I also really like the flatbreads at this place. The Margarita is very simple but delicious made with fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, oregano, olive oil, and spicy marinara sauce. It’s tasty finger food that is easy to share, and I’ve got to admit that it is better than some of the pizza places I’ve tried in these neck of the woods.

Last but not least, I also tried the Caesar Salad with crisp hearts of romaine and a garlicky brioche crostini, dressed to perfection with a Caesar drizzle. It was a great portion for like $4, which is definitely recession-approved pricing!

Although I have only been to the Black Horse Tavern for Happy Hour, I hear from my neighbors that the kitchen also makes fabulous burgers and steaks for dinner. In fact, one of my neighbors said it was one of the best steaks that he has had in years (and this guy is a credible foodie in my book!).

Bottom line: if you are looking to avoid the rather pretentious cougar scene at La Stalla, and you want better bar grub than Isaac Newtons can offer, head to The Black Horse Tavern! You won’t be disappointed.

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Eataly in New York *****

200 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10010
(212) 229.2560

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Have you ever had the privilege of witnessing a child enter Disney World for the first time? You watch their face light up with joy, their little legs propelling them forward as quickly as possible, their eyes wide with excitement. Well add some intense hand gurning, and thats what I look like each time I enter Eataly Italian market. It is a Mecca for foodies–a specialty food market on steroids, with restaurants and cafes scattered throughout.

You can stand around high tables in the salumeria, enjoying a glass of wine expertly paired to compliment an assortment of specialty cheeses, or you can enjoy nibbling on  a freshly baked focaccia as you wait for your table at La Pizza & Pasta. And Lord knows you’ll have plenty of time to wash down several espressos at Cafe Vergnano, if you’re trying to get a table at the new rooftop birreria–the line to go up is longer than airport security at JFK. No, I’m not joking.

Sure, the market is expensive (and indeed touristy, as several other bloggers have observed), but it is undoubtedly worth the visit. Take it for what it is: an expensive dining experience in an avant-garde food theater. And on that note, I shall walk you through my Eataly experience this past weekend, beginning in the Salumeria with a nice glass of red wine (Italian, of course!).

After adapting to the circus like environment of Eataly, my friends and I gathered around a hightop table in the salumeria and ordered a platter sampling the selection of cured meats and cheeses. The cheese assortment included: a creamy ricotta, a strong parmigiano regiano, a pungent taleggio, a sweet gorgonzola, and a cacio de Roma. My personal favorites were the taleggio and the ricotta, which paired beautifully with the fresh fig and orange segments accompanying the plate. The meats we tried included: delicious mortadella cubes, 14-month aged prosciutto de Parma, and sweet & spicy coppa and sopressata. The prosciutto de parma was hands down the highlight of the plate–delicate and salty.

Next we headed over to La Pizza, where Neapolitan natives are firing up the kind of pizza that God would make if he were having dinner guests. And the gold-tiled ovens certainly add to the ethereal effect:

Photo taken by Adam Kuban from Serious Eats

I decided to go all out and order the most expensive pizza on the menu, which would be the Fru Fru Pizza coming in at a total cost of $22 (a price that you can somehow justify after the first bite!). For indecisive people, like myself, who can’t chose just one pizza on the menu, the Fru Fru offers a small sampling of three different topping combinations: (1) dollops of sweet ricotta cheese with cooked ham (no sauce); (2) aged mozzarella cheese with tomato sauce; and (3) delicious Parma ham with arugula and parmigiano reggiano shavings. It looks like this:

My favorite of the three, you ask? Probably the ricotta and ham because of the contrasting salty and sweet flavors (but the pizza crust is really the star of this dish!).

Two of my friends ordered the Quattro Formaggi with a mixture of gorgonzola, pecorino romano, mozzarella, and parmigiano reggiano cheeses. This is supposed to be served as a white pizza, but one of my friends also ordered it with tomato sauce and it was none-the-less delicious. You can feast your eyes on the white one:

And then of course someone at the table had to be a plain Jane and order the classic Margarita Pizza with tomato sauce, slices of fresh mozzarella, basil, and a drizzling of extra virgin olive oil. I know there is something to be appreciated about the flavor of a few quality ingredients, but I like to live a little with my pizza toppings!! Like everything else at Le Pizza and Pasta though, it was amazing!

Most people would be throwing in the napkin by now, but not me! Sufficiently pregammed with my pizza appetizer, I decided to order a plate of Tagliatelli al Ragu di Manzo, which is a hearty (and rich) braised short rib ragu over homemade pasta. The pasta is cooked to perfection–just tough enough to stick to your tooth a little (the definition of Al dente). And the braised meat is so tender that it falls apart at the mere prodding of your fork. The dish is quite heavy given the nature of the sauce and the weight of the pasta, but it is every bit savory and delicious. I would highly recommend this pasta (as long as  you have already tried the pizza!).

So until next time, Eataly, Arrivederci!!!

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{ Brushetta with Prosciutto, Ricotta, Apples, & Olives }

Before almost every meal at my house, I find that there are a few moments where everyone gathers around the kitchen center island, anxiously waiting for dinner to finish cooking. The table has already been set, but the meat may need to rest another minute before carving, or the sauce may have to reduce a bit more before serving. It is during this time that I like to “pre-game” for dinner (confessions of a fat girl) with an appetizer–and bruschetta is always at the top of my list! I steal a few slices of baguette from the bread basket, toast ‘em in the oven or on the grill, and then top them off with any and every thing that I can find in the fridge.

This week, my little sister Ella, turned me onto a new layering of ingredients and flavors, which included; sliced granny smith apples, creamy ricotta cheese, chopped kalamata olives, and thinly sliced prosciutto.  Not going to lie, I had some reservations about these particular food combinations at first, but I was very pleasantly surprised by the sweet and salty contrast of the prosciutto and ricotta. The slightly tart bite of apple also added another unexpected dimension to the plate, and was a refreshing palate cleanser in-between toasts.

If I were to serve this at a party (which I certainly will in the future!), I would allow the guests to create their own toasts by serving the ingredients separately, this way everyone can have exactly the toppings they want. The dish is so simple and relatively inexpensive (cost of ingredients averaging $10 for 6 servings), but it very important that you use quality ingredients–high grade (or homemade) ricotta is a  MUST! (I suggest Wegman’s brand for $3.00). I also suggest that you season the ricotta with a nice drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper before serving it…it adds more umph–and looks pretty!

{ Ingredients }

  • 1 baguette, sliced on diagonal, 1″ thickness
  • 2 cups high quality (or homemade) ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
  • 2 granny smith apples, thinly sliced
  • 4-6 ounces of thinly sliced prosciutto

{ To Make the Bruschetta Toasts } Use a silicon brush to coat the sliced baguettes with extra virgin olive oil. Place them on the grill, turning until well toasted on each side (about 3 minutes per side). NOTE: You can also toast the bread in an oven pre-heated to 350 degrees, which takes about 5 minutes.

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{ Truffle-Infused Deviled Eggs }

Deviled eggs at a potluck are as predictable as the sun rising in the East–someone is bringing them! And the the rest of the dinner party will inevitably pass some sort of judgement on that person (along with the person that brings box-made brownies for dessert, of course). One guest will remark how outdated deviled eggs are (like shag carpets and green bean casseroles), another will comment on the lack of creativity and/or effort. But wouldn’t you know that at the end of the night, not one of those bad boys is left on the buffet table. People can hate on the notion of deviled eggs all they want, but everyone’s got a secret soft spot for that fluffy, mayo-whipped, goodness. And what else are you supposed to do with all those hard boiled eggs after Easter!?!

Anyways, with the holiday seasons now in full swing, I thought it would be an appropriate time to give my readers a more “modern” and “contemporary” deviled egg recipe that they can surprise guests with at their impending potluck dinner parties. Owning a cool deviled egg tray from the 1970′s gets you a bonus point, pipping the yolk into the eggs earns you a little more, but putting truffle oil into your egg mixture will really wow your guests.

I like to dust the tops of my eggs with a little paprika, minced truffles, parsley, and capers (not all on one course, but in alternation!)

{ Ingredients }

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon truffle oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped black truffle peelings
  • Chopped parsley, capers, and paprika for garnish

{ To Make Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs } Place the eggs in a large pot and cover with room temperature water. Bring the pot of water to a boil, and then remove from heat. Cover the pot with lid and allow to sit for 12-13 minutes.

Remove the eggs from the pot and place into a prepared ice bath with cold water (this prevents them from cooking further!).

{ To Make the Deviled Eggs } Peel the eggs under cold running water (this helps to remove the shells easier), and cut in half lengthwise.

Remove the yolks with a spoon, placing them into a large mixing bowl.

Add the mayonnaise, truffle oil, dijon mustard, cayenne pepper, and truffle peelings, and combine with an electric mixer on medium speed.

Continue whipping until the mixture is light and fluffy. Taste the mixture and add more truffle oil if desired.

Put the egg yolk mixture into a plastic pipping bag and pipe the filling into the egg white halves. Top with the garnish of your choice and serve!

If you really want to impress your guests and challenge your culinary skills, then try making these heart shaped deviled eggs (click here for full instructions). I haven’t yet attempted it myself, but I plan to this Easter!

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{ Tomato Basil Bruschetta }

Today was a fabulous day that ended with a fabulous dinner–as all truly fabulous days must! (I am certain that the quality and quantity of food that I consume in a day and my respective mood are positively correlated). Anyways, tonight my friend, Brooks, hosted a family-style Italian dinner. No, Brooks is not Italian (he is Brazilian) but yes, he is one of the best damn cooks I have encountered and therefore he can cook anything well–including meatballs and gravy! My little home-maker instincts kicked in earlier this afternoon, and I decided I would make bruschetta to bring as an appetizer…plus, my mom always said, “never go to a dinner party empty handed!” So I ran out to the store and bought bruschetta supplies….12 Roma Plum tomatoes, a package of cherry tomatoes, a bulb of garlic, and some basil. Then I came back home and set about making my mouth-watering creation. I did not follow a recipe to make this but I am going to give the approximate portions of everything that I used, so that you can make it and so I can replicate it again!
It was a huge hit and sadly there was none left totake home, but I’m glad everyone enjoyed it. I served it on diagonally sliced tuscan bread, which I first toasted in the oven on 350 degrees with a little drizzle of olive oil and oregano. I then generously topped each piece with the tomato mixture and garnished with basil leaves! For anyone who loves the tomatoes at Vilaggio (and who doesn’t?), these come out tasting practically the same!

{ Ingredients }

  • 12 roma plum tomatoes
  • 1 package of grape tomatoes
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic
  • 2 green onions
  • 10-15 basil leaves
  • 1-2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
{ To Make BrushettaHalve all of the grape tomatoes and place in large mixing bowl. Cut an X into the top of each plum tomato and then bring a medium sauce pan of water to a boil. Add the tomatoes 2-3 at a time for one minute each and then remove from water and peel back the skins. Cut off the tops and remove seeds, chopping into small pieces.
Add these pieces to the mixing bowl of grape tomatoes. Repeat until all of the plum tomatoes have been done. Chop the green onions and basil, and mince the garlic gloves, adding all ingredients to mixing bowl. Then add the olive oil and vinegar and a few generous sprinkles of Kosher salt. Mix well to coat all tomatoes. Allow to sit and then serve on toasted bread!
But let me also mention the delicious main course that took place tonight. Brooks was head chef (as he should be in his own kitchen) and I enjoyed playing sous chef for a change! The menu included a Baked Brie Bread Bowla Mixed Green Salad with Petit Tomatoes and Red Onion tossed in Homemade Dijon Vinaigrette, Spaghetti with Gravy, and Homemade Meatballs! Ohhh, and i forgot about the Brownie Sundaes for dessert. Talk about a feast….
The meatballs were unreal. I am Italian and I think my mom makes the best meatballs ever, but these were a close rival and they were incredible. Plus, Brooks made them in a cupcake pan, and I tend to love anything that comes out of a cupcake pan so I was instantly happy. Here is a photo of the meatballs, just after coming out of the oven….

Meatballs Post Oven

You can see the fat drippings in the bottom of the pan, which is abundant considering that Brooks uses a combination of Veal, Beef, and Italian sausage to make his meatballs….plenty of fat there. After he spoons out each little masterpiece from the pan he pours the drippings into his pot of gravy, which instantly thickens the tomato sauce. He then places each of the meatballs into the pot of gravy and allows them to finish slow cooking amid the tomatoes for another 20 or 30 minutes. The sauce absorbs the flavor of the meat, and the meat absorbs the moisture and acidity of the sauce….it’s a beautiful marriage a meatball and gravy!
The salad was simple but the homemade dijon dressing really took it to another level. It was very similar to the much coveted secret sauce from La Sandwicherie!! (see post) and the bite of the dijon mustard with the greens was great. Here is a look at my beautiful plate of food…

Spaghetti with Meatball topped with Ricotta and Parmesan Cheeses

As you can see, we finished off the meatball with a scoop of ricotta cheese and parmesan cheese shavings!!! WOW! Even “Big Nick”–clearly fully Italian–approved of Brooks creation, despite his former doubts. So delicious.
Now for my little confession….and I’m praying that no one from the dinner party reads this (although I secretly hope that some of them follow my blog!). As sous chef, I was in charge of cooking out the pasta. And believe me, I can cook out a perfectly salted and al dente pasta in my sleep. I know how to cook pasta like people know how to spell their name….it is just a part of me…second nature. Anyways, I salt the water with the large salt container, add the pasta, and start to cook. But, when I taste the pasta it isn’t salty! So naturally, I add more salt. A few minutes later I taste the pasta and it almost tastes sweet. I can’t believe it, so I reach for the salt one last time and realize that it is actually a container of sugar. His sugar container looks just like my salt container at home. So instead of salting the pasta, I have been coating it in sugar water. Before I start to panic, I reach for the morton’s and begin a generous pour just hoping that the salt will mask the sugar. Thankfully, it did and no one noticed. I couldn’t even taste the problem myself! Anyways, funny little secret that no one knows…..yet, at least!

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