Friday, April 11, 2014

Fez + High Atlas Mountains

The High Atlas mountains and Fez were my two favorite places in Morocco. The High Atlas mountains were a short day trip away from Marrakech, so we hired a local driver who took us up the winding road of the mountains and through some serious hairpin turns, stopping along the way at a traditional Berber household for a Moroccan mint tea service, an organic argan oil farm (don't even get me started on how obsessed I am with this stuff), and finally, to Richard Branson's Kasbah Tamadot, where the views were stunning, and the lunch on the terrace by the infinity pool even better. It was an incredibly perfect, peaceful afternoon.

We then took a 7 hour high-speed train through the country and arrived in Fez, which was a riotous blur of colors, animals, amazing food, one very special riad, and amazing craftsmanship (check out the last picture--that little old man makes beautiful hair combs by hand out of cow horns). We were so enthralled by all the handmade wares in the souk, that we ended up hauling home two teapots, a silver carved tray, three(!) Moroccan rugs/blankets, several bottles of argan oil, an antique vase, shells, etc, etc, etc. And I would definitely go back for even more (and I plan to!). Morocco's got a special magic, and I'm determined to visit again and again through the years. xo

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Casablanca + Essaouira + Marrakech

Just a few snapshots from the first leg of our trip to enchanting, lovely Morocco. We had about a million pictures on my little camera by the time we got home, so editing them down was a feat to say the least. They'll have to be split up into two posts, so I'll be showing you the High Atlas mountains and Fez tomorrow.

Some highlights from the below shots: all the fishermen in Essaouira set up shop by the docks around lunchtime with their catch of the day. You can pick out what you want to eat, and they'll grill it for you right there on the street! The craftsmanship of the carved wooden pieces was incredible in Essaouira. We loved the restaurant La Licorne's sign, shaped like a unicorn. The Four Seasons Marrakech was stunning and home to two perfect little parakeets. And the blue that covered the Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech was amazing.

I miss Morocco! xo

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Ruined Garden + Riad Idrissy

I recently had the good fortune to spend ten sun-soaked, wandering days in Morocco traversing that gorgeous, golden country by rail, car, and foot. We landed in Casablanca, then took a leisurely 6-hour drive up the coast to Essaouira, with a pitstop for lunch in Oualidia (a miniature seaside town known for their fresh oysters). After a few windy, lazy days by the ocean, we hopped on a bus to Marrakech, which is a whole other post of its own. And then we ended the journey with three nights in Fez, a very old, very traditional city with a fascinating medina, in which lies one very special riad and restaurant called Riad Idrissy (riad) and The Ruined Garden (restaurant). The place quite honestly knocked my socks off, and so I felt the need to give it it's own little post.

Riad Idrissy was nothing but a rather large pile of rubbish when it was bought in 2006 by an enterprising man called John Twomey, and then designed by Robert Johnstone (a friend of Twomey's from London) in 2010. Robert has since also built up the most enchanting, rambling garden in the front of the riad where a delicious breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served. It was one of the best hospitality experiences I've had in my life, and I believe that was due to a combination of factors: the beauty of the riad itself, the big, airy rooms with incredible details on the ceilings and doors, the peaceful little library that was just off our room, the fantastic staff that we felt like we were friends with by the time we left, Najia's (the housekeeper) out-of-control cooking, the little fires inside and out to keep you warm on the chillier nights, the wine served casually in thermos's instead of bottles, the nights we sat by the fire for hours on end playing Gin Rummy and sipping said wine, the Chicken Volubilis concoction on the menu that we could smell cooking all afternoon, Robert himself always up for a lovely chat, the list goes on. To put it simply, I felt as though I were staying in a really dope house that happened to have the best food ever. Can't really ask for more than that, can you. xo

P.S. Apparently, I was so busy devouring all the food there that I neglected to take a single picture of anything edible or the amazing garden it was served in. For that, click on over to Robert's blog, Ruined Garden.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Homemade Sriracha

About a month ago, I had the lovely, lovely girls from bonberi over for dinner, which called for something decidedly on the healthier side of the spectrum. After perusing through my mental folder of options, I settled on something tried and true (foil-baked salmon made approximately 184304 times in the history of me cooking), and something new and exciting (homemade sriracha!). I combined the two by rather sloppily slathering the latter onto the former, sticking it into the oven, and praying for the new recipe gods to be kind. Well, the whole thing came out perfectly, and my tired old salmon recipe got a swift kick in the behind (in the best way possible) due to a potent, but simple, mixture of peppers and a few other natural ingredients whizzed in a blender.

Now, you may be thinking to yourself, No way in hell am I taking the time to make a hot sauce from scratch when there are zillions of perfectly great bottles of sriracha sitting in the grocery store two blocks away from me. And to that I've got a point. However! I do have to insist that this homemade version is much better. It's got that something extra that comes from being made from your own two hands, it's got lots of fresh heat, and it has the added benefit of not being full of chemicals and s*^% you can't pronounce. Also, just do it once, and you've got a jar of liquid....copper(?) sitting in your fridge for at least six months. Totally worth it. xo

Homemade Sriracha
Adapted from It's All Good, by Gwyneth Paltrow
1 1/4 cups garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 lb red jalapenos (you can sub green if you can't find red), stemmed and sliced into thin rings*
1/2 lb mixture of other red peppers such as serranos, cayenne peppers, cherry, anaheim, fresno, and scotch bonnet
2 1/4 cups rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon brown rice syrup or agave nectar
2 tablespoons coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
2 tablespoons fish sauce

*Red jalapeno peppers are most common during the fall, so it is likely that you will only be able to find green during other times of the year. If that is the case, make sure the other 1/2 pound of peppers you use are all red in order to maintain the bright red color of the final product.

In a small saucepan, cover the garlic with cold water. Bring to a boil and immediately drain. Cool the garlic under running water. Repeat one time. Slice the garlic thinly, and combine it with the peppers and vinegar in a large pot. Bring the mixture to a boil for about 3 minutes, then remove from heat. Add the brown rice syrup and salt, and stir to combine. Let the mixture sit undisturbed for an hour to steep and cool.

Transfer the mixture to a powerful blender and blend until smooth (it's fine if all the seeds don't blend in). Return pureed mixture to pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the sauce is slightly reduced and has some body. 

In a small bowl, dissolve the arrowroot with 1 tablespoon lukewarm water. Whisk into the simmering sauce, and cook for two more minutes, or until the sauce is nicely thickened to your liking. Remove from heat, let cool a bit, and stir in fish sauce. Store in a screw-top jar or bottle in the fridge for up to six months.

Thursday, March 20, 2014


The lovely ladies of bonberi, Nicole Berrie and Vanessa Packer, came over to my apartment, photographer Libby Gray in tow, a few weeks ago for dinner and a little chat about everything from my borderline abnormal love for homemade popcorn, to what I cook for my boyfriend, to why I refuse to deprive myself for vanity. It was such a fun evening, and HERE are the results. xo

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

(Leftover) Roast Chicken and Avocado Sandwich

One of the best reasons to roast a bird, in my opinion, is for the sake of the heavenly leftovers you'll have hanging out in your fridge for the better part of a week. Oh, the things you can do. There's a chicken and potato hash topped with a runny/crisp fried egg for Sunday brunch, a classic chicken salad to bring on a picnic during the warmer days ahead, a healthy chicken and quinoa stir fry, the list goes on, my friends. But my latest favorite way to pick a chicken clean, vulture-style, is with this deceptively simple chicken and avocado sandwich.

It all started at a little cafe called Caprices by Sophie in my Williamsburg neighborhood. Caprices was opened by a French woman with a lilting accent and a serious propensity for baking. From what I hear, she's done a lot of things in her life including law and finance, before picking up and moving to Brooklyn from Paris to open a cafe/bakery/lunch spot on North 6th Street. Huh? I know. But lucky us, because the woman can turn out a home-cooked meal like no other. She bakes a display case worth of sweets herself every single morning, along with the daily breads (including the divine little baguette pictured here, which, as far as I can tell, could give Balthazar a run for its money), one big pot of soup, and one quiche. When her goods run out (as they usually do by day's end), that's all she wrote. I've gotten into the dangerous, gluten-laden habit of stopping in on my way home from work and casually picking up one of everything that's left.

One night, she had thrown together a sandwich made of some leftover chicken breast she had laying around and half an avocado, drizzled with a vinaigrette of some sort. Doesn't sound exactly thrilling, I know, but the quality of the four simple ingredients (including the aforementioned excellent baguette) made it a knock-out. I changed it up slightly when I made my version, by substituting the vinaigrette for a thin swipe of Vegenaise. I also roasted my chicken with little nuggets of white truffle butter nestled securely between the skin and the flesh, so the whole affair turned out a bit fancier than it would normally be, but it would be just as good with the standard olive oil/lemon/thyme/coarse salt combo.

So there you have it--sandwich nirvana. xo

P.S. If you're in the market for a new roast chicken recipe, THIS is one of my go-tos, just in time for spring (i.e. ramps!).

Monday, March 10, 2014

Mexico City and Cuernavaca

Just got back from the most amazing trip to Mexico City and Cuernavaca where a couple of dear friends were getting married. We spent our first six days in Mexico City where we ran rampant eating every street taco/flauta/gordita we could get our hands on (don't listen to the people who tell you to avoid the street food--it's crazy good). We then made our way to a resort town called Cuernavaca for the wedding where everyone stayed in a gorgeous, sprawling hacienda from the 1500s. Here are some of my favorite moments (besides the actual wedding, wherein I apparently forgot how to focus a camera), and a short list of must-go places. xo

1. Mercado San Juan: big outdoor street market open on the weekends where the food options are seemingly endless. So, so good.
2. Quintonil: really good higher-end Mexican restaurant by a chef who did time at Pujol and NOMA
3. Azul Condesa: had the best chilaquiles here
4. San Angel Inn: in the neighborhood of San Angel in a very beautiful, old hacienda with great food
5. El Bajio: Yummy traditional Mexican breakfasts. The owner is famous for being one of Mexico's most-loved female chefs.
6. Contramar: The best shrimp tacos I've ever had.
7. Dulce Patria: Delicious, sophisticated Mexican food by award-winning chef Martha Ortiz
8. Museo Soumaya: A stunning modern masterpiece of a museum built just two years ago. Home to a fabulous Impressionist collection as well as one of the largest Rodin collections in the world.
9. Museo de Arte Popular: Comprehensive look at Mexican art and craft housed in a pretty building with an indoor courtyard. Also, a really great gift shop where you can pick up some cool Mexican day of the dead skulls, dolls, and Talavera ceramics.
10. Museo Nacional de Antropología: One of the best anthropology museums in the world, and it's all open-air. This is a must.
11. Las Luchas: Totally campy and ridiculous and hysterically funny. It's like a theatrical, more limber version of WWE.
12. Common People: Called Mexico City's answer to Colette, this special boutique is housed in a 4-story 1940s colonial mansion, which is reason enough to pass through. Lots of Comme de Garcon and Vivienne Westwood, along with wares by local designers. Cool little antiques loft upstairs.
13. Fonart: Authentic Mexican arts and crafts pieces handmade by artisans across Mexico. Many beautiful things to see here.
14. Teotihuacan pyramids: Worth the hour-long day trip outside of DF. You can climb the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon. Very cool.
15. All the beautiful parks around Condesa, Roma, and Polanco

Side note: I would make it a point to check out Pujol as well, which is supposed to be one of the best restaurants in the area, and one of the first to put Mexico City on the map when it comes to food.