Monday, September 27, 2010

More Perecca's: A Guest Contributor's Take on Brunch

Good friend, writer, blogger, real world "Mad Man" and food lover, Frank Visco generously shares his recent trip to More Perecca's in Schenectady.. yum.. I see a trip there in my future...Read on for his own review:

Ed & I went to More Perreca's for a noontime breakfast this past Sunday before heading to Proctors for the 2 pm showing of the restored "Metropolis" with live organ accompaniment.
Service at More Perreca's was friendly and fast, the place was buzzing, and the staff was keeping up, cleaning the tables and booths as fast as people left them. They keep pitchers of ice water with generous sized glasses on all the tables.

I had French Toast with a sausage patty and a do-it-myself blend of decaf and Costa Rican coffee, chosen from about 5 varieties. I had seconds of the coffee.

Three thick slices of soft-crusted bread, perfectly battered and toasted, served with those little cups of butter and terrible, light, flavorless syrup, although I admit I'm used to grade b genuine maple.

Sausage was not presented with toast, had to ask for it. It was a flavorful, sweet sausage patty. I don't know if it came from the great little Italian meat market around the corner, Garafalo's, but that shop is worth a visit if you ever want to cook some genuine Italian sausage at home.

Ed had eggs and toast and he scarfed it all down -- you should get his reaction to that.

Last week I had lunch there, and ordered the bracciole special. Fabulous! Prices are very reasonable.

More Perecca's is now serving breakfast and lunch 7 days a week in their newly renovated cafe just next door to their landmark bakery. They are located at 31 N. Jay Street (corner of Warren & N. Jay) in Schenectady, NY, 12305.  Phone:518-377-9800.

Hours: Mon - Tues:7:00 am - 3:00 pm Wed - Sun:7:00 am - 8:00 pm

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Learning to Love Eggplant

So.. I admit it.. this blog post title is really a function of my day job as a marketer.. I wanted something "catchy" to hook readers ... because the truth is, that actually there are very few foods I don't like..

And I've never actually disliked eggplant, it's just that now as a vegetarian I find myself looking for more ways to use it, just I do with all veggies. And it turns out, that similar to Portabello mushrooms, eggplant can be prepared in a variety of very satisfying ways.

My favorite way to prepare eggplant is my own take on a classic Ratatouille - not only is it a flavor explosion (Thanks Peter, I'm going to keep using that phrase whenever I get the chance!) it's a great way to avoid using a lot cheese and breading and additional oils that many traditional eggplant dishes feature - especially Italian recipes.

The recipe is not only healthy and delicious - it's a piece of cake to make - and its extremely easy to customize to what you have on hand, and the flavors that you prefer. Here's the recipe - try it with any combination of late summer vegetables all over the place right now..  You can also omit the cumin and coriander and go more authentic by using the traditional Herbs de Provence that traditional Ratatouille is made with.

My Slightly Middle Eastern Influenced Ratatouille (Eggplant and Tomato Stew)
Total time needed: 30 mins

Makes: 4 servings


1 large eggplant ( I usually don't peel it, but that's your call)
canola oil spray
½ cup finely diced onion
½ cup finely diced red bell pepper
½ cup finely chopped zucchini or spinach
1/4 cup sherry vinegar or Vermouth
1 ½ cups peeled and diced tomatoes
½ cup chickpeas or white beans
1 tablespoon cumin
½ tsp curry powder
½ tbs sugar
½ tablespoon whole coriander seed, toasted and ground
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro or parsley


1. Wash the eggplant and cut it in half lengthwise. Then simply dice it into 1" cubes.
2.Spray a large saute pan with oil spray (like Pam) and set the burner to medium-high heat. Cook a third of the eggplant in the oil until golden brown. Repeat with the remaining eggplant in two more batches, using more oil for each batch.
3. After all the eggplant is cooked, place it on a plate and set aside. Add the onion and red pepper to the pan, and cook over medium heat until soft and caramelized, about 5 minutes.
4. Add the zucchini (or spinach, any green veggie you like, etc.) and cook until just turning soft about 5 minutes or less.
5. Add the sherry vinegar or Vermouth to the pan, scraping up any of the browned bits that have adhered to the bottom.
6. Cook until the vinegar/Vermouth has evaporated, then add the tomatoes and the chickpeas or white beans.
7. Cook mixture over low heat until it is thick and saucy. Add the cumin, coriander, curry powder and sugar then return the eggplant to the pan and continue cooking on low heat for about 10 minutes. Season with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper, and stir in the cilantro or parsley.

Serve this as is, or over rice (basmati would be perfect) ...wouldn't this be great on a Sunday afternoon while watching some sports?

Have any good fall inspired recipes of your own? Share!! I'm hungry and always looking for new dishes to try..

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Wine, Pizza and Friends = Perfection

Last night I hit the town (Troy, that is) after work with my two favorite accomplices. Looking for some good wine and a little comfort food we found ourselves at Bacchus, in downtown, on Second Street, downstairs from Daisy Baker's. (With a name like "Bacchus" how could we go wrong??)

After securing a nice table in the corner, all three of us started with a glass of the Murphy Goode Sauvignon Blanc - nice! This was a California Savvy B, so it had none of the overly "herbaceous" notes of a New Zealand version. It did have a nice, light citrus quality without being overly acidic. In a word: yum!
Now onto food - after a tough day at work we were all famished. We deserved something comforting - how about the Roasted Garlic Bulb appetizer to share? Why not... sounded amazing, and it was. We were brought a plate of 2 giant Garlic Bulbs, that were wood fire roasted with olive oil and.served with grilled Foccacia bread. Ahhhhh.... I felt better instantly.. my wine in one hand and a piece of bread smeared with roasted garlic in the other - I was set. Did I have a stressful day? Suddenly I couldn't remember.
But, we needed something green, so we all ordred the house salad (at a mere $2.50 you can't afford not to order this) and it was fresh, and lightly dressed with a tangy vinaigrette.
Now it was time for pizza. With the brick oven right there in plain view we knew that whatever we decided on would be satisfying. We chose the Special pizza which featured roasted vegetables and a little mozzarella cheese. Now apart from a few appetizers, Bacchus' menus only offers pizza and pasta - but they do both well - so there's no need to complicate things. The pizza hit the spot - satisfying both my veggie craving (with roasted peppers, eggplant and mushrooms) and my not so healthy craving for a nice salty cheese and a fantastic crust - a little chewy a little crispy.. totally sublime..
A slice of this pizza, with another glass of wine, and good friends made this night out pure perfection.
So today I'll be working off that decadant meal - but it was so worth it.. I'm thinking of starting off today with a few Italian pastries or maybe some sugar dusted zeppole at the Italian Festival in Schenectady... why not keep the Italian theme going another day?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Read My Latest Review: The Jonesville Store

The last thing I thought I'd experience at a 150-year-old farmhouse in Jonesville, a tiny, historic hamlet near Clifton Park, is one of the most innovative, refined and thoughtful meals I've had in the Capital Region. The first thing that occurred to me was how on earth have I not come across this place sooner? The second thing was how soon can I come back? It's nice to know that no matter how many places you go out to eat or for how long you've been dining out, there are still great new discoveries to be made. This was one such unexpected discovery.
Before I continue, let me properly set the stage for this culinary revelation. The Jonesville Store has been owned and run since 2006 by two families, the Travis' and the Unger's. Not only is it a restaurant in a beautiful historic building, it also houses a gourmet deli, gift shop, features live music on Friday and Saturday nights, and is even home to an art gallery upstairs. So far, there's nothing not to like.
When trying to find a parking spot in the Jonesville Store lot on a recent Saturday night, dining companion Peter and I knew immediately that not making reservations was a mistake. On the other hand, the packed lot was clearly a good sign and we were excited to find out what all these people apparently already knew.
Read more here...

Monday, September 6, 2010

New Season, New Look

Hello foodie fans and faithful blog readers.. if this past weekend's cool temps are any indication, fall is here - no matter what the calendar may say.
With this new season I thought it was time to debut a new look - for fall.

So I hope you enjoy the new design, the new content (like polls and other blogs I follow), and there will be new posts coming soon - I promise!

In the meantime I'll leave you with what I ate last night at a "Comfort Food" themed Labor Day Celebration:

  • Garlic mashed potatoes, skins on, thank you very much, is there any other way to eat them?? Luckily Frank says: "No!"
  • Chicken Salad with walnuts and apples and tarragon - Frank says it was inspired by the salad at Allen's on 33rd and 2nd - a place I actually passed every day on the M15 bus on my way to Stuyvesant H.S. (btw: read Frank's blog,  Ad Mission, some great stories).
  • Feta & Artichoke Dip - a well worth it heart attack on a cracker - this is addictive and decadent.. thanks Tina!
  • Bruschetta - (also thanks to Tina) with so much garlic I couldn't help but smile every time I took a bite
  • Homemade Challah Bread French Toast Napoleons - Chip strikes again - these heavenly slices were grilled and topped with maple syrup, pecans and homemade ice cream or fresh fruit sorbet (take your pick)
  • Me? I made an orzo salad with cannellini bean, tomatoes, fresh basil and mozzarella tossed in a homemade vinaigrette of lemon, red wine vinegarr, olive oil and dried herbs. (see the super-easy recipe in my post below) I also made brownies, but after the Napoleons, it just seemed like overkill!
  • There was also plenty-o-wine to go around, including a lovely Sauvignon Blanc that Renee brought.. yum.
  • Special shout out to resident photographer (and No - it isn't as easy as it looks..) Jeff.. who took some great photos of some challenging subjects..thanks Jeff! Check out Jeff's beautiful Photography site here.
Ok - this is my cue to get off my butt and exercise.. till next time, eat well and tell me all about it..

Orzo and Cannellini Bean Salad

Here's a super simple (uh-oh, I sound like Sandra Lee from the Food Network - sorry 'bout that...) recipe for a pasta salad using cherry tomatoes and orzo pasta with fresh mozzarella and basil. The beauty of it is you can tweak it as much as you like - skip the beans, or replace with another variety, try diced provolone instead of mozzarella, or no cheese at all. The vinaigrette is equally flexible - try Balsamic vinegar for a stronger flavor, you get the idea...

  • 3/4 box Orzo pasta
  • 1 14oz. can cannellini (white) beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced into halves
  • 1 8 oz. container of Fresh Mozzarella "Pearls" (small ball-shaped pieces)
  • 1/2 cup of fresh basil chiffonade (basil chopped into small shreds)

 Vinaigrette: combine all ingredients, combine thoroughly with whisk
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • juice of one lemon
  • zest of one lemon
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 tbsp. Italian Seasoning (oregano, basil, garlic powder)
To Make:
  1. Cook pasta, drain, rinse with cool water, drain again, set aside
  2. In large bowl combine beans, tomatoes, and mozzarella
  3. Add orzo, toss gently
  4. Add vinaigrette, making sure salad is well coated
  5. Toss in the fresh basil chiffonade, chill.
Makes 8 servings.