I Had One Of The Best Meals Of My Life At Barnaby’s In New Paltz

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Hudson Valley Restaurant Week is a wonderful event held in and around the area I live in in New York where all participating restaurants offer a set menu for lunch and/or dinner with three or four options for a three course meal. While looking around for things to do last weekend while my parents visited and coming up with zero events, I stumbled upon the fact that we were right in the middle of Restaurant Week again. I did some looking around and saw that  a place in New Paltz called Barnaby’s Steakhouse was on the list and happened to be offering a pretty impressive line-up of appetizers, entrees and desserts for the $20.95 price tag. I scoped out a few other places, but decided on Barnaby’s not only because we’d never been there before, but also because it seemed like the most bang for the bucks. We headed up there on Saturday for a late lunch and man, was it a wonderful experience.

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I started off with the the Lobster Bisque partially because it sounded like the most intriguing of the appetizers on the list, but also because I figured it was the best value. The bisque itself had that wonderful richness that you get from the best bisques, but it also had a cream swirled throughout as a sweet corn and tarragon relish that really added a depth of flavor that made me want to dive into a vat of this and eat my way out.

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We all wound up going for the Grilled Petit Filet Mignon Steak for our entrees that came topped with “a crust of Gorgonzola cheese & herbed horseradish” that also came with mashed potatoes and creamed spinach. The steak came perfectly cooked to medium and I probably could have cut through it with a fork. The gorgonzola and horseradish topping was a nice touch that didn’t overwhelm the solid flavors of the steak. The potatoes were good, clearly made in house and creamy, though I always compare these things with the ones my mom makes and they don’t hold up. I wasn’t into the creamed spinach, but that’s okay, I was already pretty full at this point. Of course, it wasn’t over yet. 

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I went with the Creme Brulee for desert and kind of regret it, not because it wasn’t good, but because I wound up being uncomfortably full the rest of the day. Also, even though I figured I wouldn’t worry about calories after eating such rich food, I did add everything up as best I could and was shocked at how many calories this dish added to the meal. If my rough calculations are correct it’s actually more calories than the steak! Anyway, the caramelized sugar was perfectly done and the creme was super nice and creamy.

I’m not that best at comparing meals in my head. If I like one, I remember liking it, but it doesn’t enter a ranking system or anything like that. But, I can tell when a meal really rockets past all the other ones and this was definitely one of those experiences. Aside from the one time I went to Peter Luger’s, I think this might be the best steak I’ve ever had in New York. It’s probably up there with the best steak experiences ever. Plus, it was all the better because I was with my family AND it was my mom’s first time eating a steak after years and years of being a vegetarian. There’s a lot of reasons she’s moving away from that, but I think the high quality of the food at Barnaby’s helped kickstart the process even more!

Cooking Nigella Lawson’s South Indian Vegetable Curry

I think it’s good to drop in a vegetarian meal about once a week or so. I have noticed, though, that those dishes tend not to go as fast as some of the other leftovers. I’m not sure what it is, but those kinds of meals — or at least the ones I’ve made — tend to be pretty good on the first day but don’t look so appealing after that. That was the case with Nigella Lawson’s South Indian Vegetable Curry (also seen on page 154 of Nigella Kitchen).

The idea behind this dish, which I didn’t really realize until after I bought all the ingredients and then decided to read the intro, is to use up a bunch of vegetables that you might have in your fridge that are getting close to heading south. I guess it doesn’t really matter, but I bought everything new and tossed it into the pot which might have made for more of the dish than we needed.

Anyway, the meal came out well enough. I must admit, I’m not overly familiar with curry. My wife bought some light and dark curry powder when she was over in Sri Lanka, so I know we’ve got some of the good stuff, but I’m a little nervous when it comes to messing around with that particular spice both because I don’t know it very well and partly because I don’t want to waste it. Like I said, it was good the first time around, but that yellow and green bowl of mush didn’t look super appealing sitting in the fridge. I probably didn’t give it enough of a shot, but I don’t know if I’ll be returning to this one…unless I have a bunch of veggies I need to cook before they go bad.

Cooking Sausage & Mushroom Pasta

Sausage is quickly becoming one of the top three types of protein I’m frequenting of late. You’ve got chicken breasts, sirloin (usually for grinding) and then the sweet Italian sausage sold at my grocery store (I’ve got to look for a way to make this stuff at home). I really love how sausage works with pasta and have been trying lots of recipes that include both ingredients. When I was flipping through my Blue Binder of recipes torn out of magazines or printed out from the days of old, I came across one from Good Housekeeping called Sausage & Mushroom Penne. I decided to go with a different kind of pasta, but otherwise I followed it as written, going with arugala instead of kale for what it’s worth.

As has been the theme with many of the recipes I’ve written about lately, this one also happens to be pretty simple. You get the water going for the pasta and then get to work on the other stuff. First the sausage goes in, then the onion followed by the mushrooms. Once all that’s cooked and the pasta’s done, you combine the two, stir in the arugala, some pasta water and you’ve got yourself a nice dinner. You could mix up the greens or go with different kinds of sausage to suit this recipe to your specific tastes which is always fun.

By the way, sorry about some of the fuzzier pictures above. I’ve been having a few problems with the Kitchen Camera, but think I’ve got it figure out. Hopefully they’ll look better moving forwards.

Bonus Food Pic: The Cool Ranch Dorito Taco From Taco Bell

cool ranch dorito taco For all the writing I do about grinding my own meat, trying to find more local sources for produce and protein and keeping an eye on my caloric intake with the Lose It! app, I’m still the kind of guy who dreams about heading to Taco Bell, throwing down a few bucks and scarfing down a small mountain of faux Mexican food. I like to think I come by it honestly. You see, Toledo, the town that I’m from actually has three T-Bells on one of the city’s major thoroughfares with the two furthest ones only about 20 minutes from each other. As a kid and young adult, we’d head there and get food and I kept that tradition alive into my adulthood our here in New York. Heck, I even stopped there the day I heard about a rash of Bell-based food poisoning outbreaks about five years back. After hearing the news on the radio I thought, “Mmm, Taco Bell. I’m sure I won’t get food poisoning (and I didn’t, at least that time).

There was even a part of me that was ashamed that it took me so long to actually taste a Dorito-flavored taco shell at the restaurant. It’s the same part of my brain that misses seeing big-time superhero movies in the theater on opening night. It’s just something the old me would have done in a heartbeat that older me can’t without lots of scheduling and worries of health and whatnot.

Anyway, last weekend my wife and I both checked our points and decided to get some dinner at T-Bell while we were out running some errands. Of course, we both had to try the Cool Ranch version of the taco, something we were both excited about. Heck, much like the above commercial, I was one of the people who immediately said, “They should do Cool Ranch” as soon as I heard about the regular Dorito taco shell. As it happens, Cool Ranch is my favorite Dorito flavor, though much like Taco Bell, they’re not really a regular part of my life anymore because I will eat a ton of them in a single sitting and that’s not good for someone who counts going to the grocery store as exercise.

So, I should get to the main event. I tried the taco and it was pretty good, but definitely salty. My wife read some account that said the flavor of the heavily spiced meat tends to wash out the Cool Ranch flavor, so I went in making the conscious decision to put my tongue directly on the shell every time I bit. That way, I definitely got the flavor every single time. And it definitely worked. I’m still not one hundred perfect sure if this fits in with the “two great tastes that taste great together” category as one definitely seems to outdo the other, but I’d say it’s a fun experiment with pretty good results.

Cooking Michael Ruhlman’s Rip’s Marinated London Broil & Warm Arugula Salad With Bacon & Poached Eggs

A while back I found myself wanting to try some London Broil along with a nice salad, so I took to my copy of Ruhlman’s Twenty, looked around and came out with a pair of recipes to try. First off, I found Rip’s Own Marinade For London Broil (or Flank Steak) on page 294. This recipe combines the meat with soy sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, ginger and onion powder and lets it all get to know each other in a bag or dish for several hours. I also came across his Warm Arugala Salad With Back & Poached Eggs on page 283 which, just from title alone, sounded delightful.

While the marinade wound up being not exactly what we were looking for — it’s been a while, but I think it turned out a little sweeter than my wife or I tend to like — I’m a big fan of this salad and think it could work either on its own or as a side dish to a less protein heavy main course. Plus, the salad is super-simple to put together. The only real work involves making the making, cooking a few eggs over easy and making a really simple vinegar-based dressing. It wound up being kind of like a breakfast salad with the combination of bacon and eggs, but the slightly bitter arugala also got in on the action, making this easy side stand out even more.

Bonus Food Pic: The Parker’s Special From Parker’s Maple Barn

parker's breakfast Last weekend we took a trip to New Hampshire to visit my wife’s parents. On Saturday morning, a day I usually get to sleep in, we all got up early and headed to a place called Parker’s Maple Barn in Mason, NH. It was early, kind of a far drive and we waited mostly outside for about a half hour before getting seated. Sounds like a recipe for disaster right? No way man, this was one of the best traditional breakfasts I’ve had in a long time.

Parker’s is a sugar house which means they make maple syrup and other maple-flavored products. As I was informed on the way there, we’re in the middle of sugaring season, which means we actually got to see a little of the process, though we didn’t take the tour. Anyway, I perused the menu and after realizing I was pretty darn hungry, I went with the Parker’s Special which featured two eggs (over easy), a piece of ham steak, two pieces of sausage, two pieces of bacon, wheat toast, home fries and  piece of deep fried French toast.

Man, that was a great plate of food. I love getting crazy stuff at places like Fiddlestix on a regular basis, but sometimes you just want one big plate filled with well-made versions of all the classic breakfast foods and this was that. Plus, that deep fried French toast is a real thing of beauty, especially when devoured with a healthy dose of legit maple syrup. This was all so good and filling that I didn’t wind up eating anything else until my wife and I went out for a date and got some appetizers that night.

Calorie Counting With The Lose It! App

lose_itLike just about anyone who sits around for most of their day and also happens to enjoy food, I could use to lose a few pounds. About a month or so back, my wife found a pretty handy little app to help with just that called Lose It! After downloading the app from the iTunes store (it’s free), you do some basic input like what you currently weight, what your weight loss goals are (how many pounds you want to lose a week) and then it gives you a calorie allotment for the day. Every time you eat something, you input the food into the app and it tallies up how many calories you’ve put in your face throughout the day.

There’s a few handy aspects of this app that I really like. For one thing, you can scan a food’s barcode instead of having to look everything up in the search engine. I’ve only found a few items not in the database. You can also add recipes to your personal settings by inputting all the ingredients and figuring out how many servings it makes. After inputting everything, I then share the information with my wife who’s also using the app. If you’re the exercise type (I’m not), you can also input that information which gives you more calories to play with that day.

This isn’t my first experience with this kind of thing, though. In college I started using the Weight Watchers program which worked out really well. It’s basically the same principal of figuring out where you want to be at and then adjusting your caloric intake so that that can happen. Both programs involve you sticking to the program, though, which can be the fatale flaw in the design for some.

I’m lucky in that, if I can stay focused and cook most of my own meals, I can stick to something like this pretty well. After having a really good first week and a half using the app and losing a good amount of weight, though, we went to visit my wife’s parents, ate out several times and since I didn’t choose the healthiest options, I put some of the weight back on which was a bummer. But instead of getting too discouraged, I’m refocused and figuring out menus with an eye towards healthier choices.

For the most part, I’m a big fan of the Lost It! app, though I do think some of the menu stuff could be improved. I’m not a fan of having to remember a four tap sequence to add a recipe or the fact that I have to hit about four buttons to get back to the main menu, but it’s definitely the kind of thing you eventually get used to, even if its a little inefficient. Plus, there’s definitely something psychologically pleasing about looking at a piece of technology on your phone or online and seeing the progress you’ve made. It almost seems better or more official when a graph shows you you’ve been losing weight. You want to keep seeing those weight inputs on the graph slope down instead of up, so it becomes a little easier to maybe skip a beer or frozen treat in favor.

One thing I will add about this program is that, like any weight loss method that focuses only on calories, it’s not necessarily the best way to go. Just because a food has fewer calories doesn’t mean it’s better for you in the long run because of the crazy chemicals you’re ingesting in the process. It’s also important to remember to get a good mix of fruits and vegetables, carbs and protein in. Technically, I could eat nothing and just drink beer all day and still be within my caloric limit, but that’s not a healthy way to go.

So, while Lose It! is definitely a good tool to have in your weight loss utility belt, it’s also important to have a good sense of what you’re eating, where it came from, what’s in it and how healthy it really is.

Cooking Ballpark & Sweet Thai Wings

I’ve mentioned a few times here on MATK that I have a mysterious subscription to Good Housekeeping. The magazine just started appearing in our mailbox one month and keeps on coming. I’ve asked a few people if they hooked me up with it and everyone said no, so either someone’s playing a not-particularly-inspired prank on me or there was some kind of mix-up somewhere. Whenever it comes, I glance at the TOC which usually doesn’t have much in the way of interest for me, and then move on to the food section, tearing out any interesting looking recipes and putting them in my Big Blue Binder. One such page that I saw and immediately got excited about was a piece called Wings of Desire which showcases six different recipes for wing sauces: Sweet ‘N’ Sticky Thai, Bourbon BBQ, Hot Caribbean, Fiery Buffalo, Ballpark and Sesame Teriyaki.

A while back, I decided to give a few of these a try. Sweet ‘N’ Sticky Thai and Ballpark sounded particularly interesting, so I gave them a shot. As you can see by clicking through those links and looking, neither of these sauce recipes are particularly complicated. The Thai one just involves lime, sweet Thai chili sauce (which I’d never had before) and fish sauce (I skipped the french-fried onions because I thought I had some in the pantry, but didn’t) while the Ballpark sauce is just Dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, honey (I skipped the cayenne) and some chopped up roasted peanuts as a topping.

For the wings themselves, I did not follow the method in the given recipe, but instead broiled them on high in two batches. Basically I got all the wings spread out on foil-covered baking sheets, then put one in the oven to broil for five minutes or so. When they started getting cooked, I took that tray out, put the other one in and flipped over the partially cooked ones. I just repeated that until they were cooked on all sides. Once the wings are cooked, you just toss them in the sauce, plate and serve. I was actually pretty surprised at how easy wings were to put together when I first made them years ago. It’s so easy and you can really customize your sauces to your liking.

One other little thing I want to add that’s kind of cool is that my wife and I actually have perfectly complimentary wing preferences. While we might differ on what kind of sauce we like, we each like the opposite kind of wing. I’m a fan of the ones that look like tiny drumsticks while she’s more into the other kind. It winds up working out perfectly because wings almost always come in pairs. What I’m saying is that we’re made for each other.

Cooking Giada De Laurentiis’ Parmesan-Crusted Pork Chops

I’m not really sure why, but pork is second only to fish when it comes to proteins I have the least experience with. I try to keep my weekly menus well balanced, going with one beef dish, one vegetarian and not too much chicken, so I’m always looking for new ways to cook pig, which usually leads me to pork chop recipes. I can’t say exactly why, but that isn’t always the most thrilling prospect to me. However, when I came across Giada de Laurentiis’ recipe for Giada De Laurentiis’ Parmesan-Crusted Pork Chops, I was pretty excited. Not only have I had really great luck with Laurentiis’ recipes lately, but I think it’s also hard to go wrong with parmesan-encrusted anything. It also helps that this is a really easy recipe to put together, especially if you already have bread crumbs on hand like I did.

Instead of the cup of Italian breadcrumbs mentioned in the recipe, I actually used the last of the rye ones I had leftover from making Ruben Mac & Cheese a while back. From there, it was just a matter of whipping a few eggs, grating 3/4 of a cup or so of Parmesan cheese and getting the pork chops out of the fridge. As these things tend to go, you dip the chop in the eggs, then the cheese and finally the bread crumbs before putting them in a pan with hot olive oil. Cook, flip, let cool and eat. I also steamed some green beans to go along with this dish.

I’ve got to say, I was really impressed with how good and flavorful these chops were. The parmesan really worked well with the rye breadcrumbs and made for a really simple dish that I can mostly make from items in my pantry. For all those reasons, this recipe gets the double thumbs-up.

Bonus Food Pic: The VIP From The Stage Door Deli NYC

stage deli A few weeks back I found myself down in New York City covering an event called Toy Fair. After hitting all my meetings and checking out everything I intended to, I made my way back to Penn Station with almost two hours to kill. I thought about taking the connecting train over to Secaucus and just hanging out in that station maybe getting something from the Dunkin Donuts, but then I remembered eating at a place right across from the station called the Stage Door Deli that my dad and I went to a year ago before seeing Van Halen. This place has gigantic sandwiches and I hadn’t eaten anything that day since breakfast (the food at the convention center looked dubious) so I decided to go for it.

After perusing the menu and remembering that whatever I got the first time was a little dry, I decided to try The VIP which comes stacked with “Turkey, Baked Virginia Ham, Swiss Cheese, Coleslaw and Russian Dressing.” They also automatically bring out some cole slaw and a few pickles, but I decided to go for a few beers (Stellas) and had a nice little meal for myself. And by little, I mean stomach-bursting. Just look how big that sandwich is!

Is this the greatest sandwich I’ve ever head? Nah, man, not even close. But, it’s a cool NYC experience to have every now and then when you haven’t eaten all day and want to stuff what looks like at least a pound of lunchmeat in your face. Good times.