Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Foodiness

Archive for the tag “duck”

What have I gotten myself into?

So, between the time I announced my 31-recipe challenge and now, I’ve started actually reading the recipes in full (probably something I should have done BEFORE taking this on), and all I can think right now is, “What have I gotten myself into?

You see, just looking over the list and the pretty, seductive, inviting pictures, I was lulled into a false sense of security–if they can make that, I can make that. What I don’t take into account is “they” probably have a full size kitchen stocked with all the right tools, a huge island, double ovens, six burners and some blue birds to pull the cookies out the oven. I have an apartment kitchen with a tiny counter, tiny oven, drawers filled with an assortment of maybe-the-right-tool and a dog running around. I’m like Julie Powell without the gimlets or the book deal.

Not to mention, while I realize there will be a great time investment involved, I hadn’t fully taken into account the monetary investment–short ribs, whole duck, FIVE POUNDS of duck fat??? (I’m looking at you, duck confit) Those are not exactly budget ingredients. Thankfully I can pretty much subside on Greek yogurt and apples otherwise, because, as you may or may not know, I don’t exactly rake it in.

My only real solace right now is that my experiment starts promptly on February 1, which is promptly two days before Super Bowl, for which Kevin is having a party. For which I more or less demanded that I make at least two things off my list. So hopefully that can help get the ball rolling. (And no, I’m not making duck confit for Super Bowl Sunday. I know you’re all wondering.) And Kevin. Kevin loves to cook too, and he’s great at prep, so knowing I have an extra set of hands in all this is a  relief. Plus, I have a month of opportunities to wear my cute new apron.

I still have about a week to peel myself off the ceiling and bring my heart rate back down to semi-human levels before I dive head-first into what may either be one of the coolest or one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done (or both.) In the meantime, I have to refocus, avert my attention to the play I’m in this weekend (closing weekend), and BREATHE. Breathe…breathe…again…

I’m getting there. If nothing else, keep checking back in to watch my month-long journey toward mental breakdown. It should be fun, and definitely tasty!

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Restaurant Week Chronicles: (the very belated) Part 2

I realize it’s been more than a week since my first Restaurant Week post. And, no, it is no longer Jersey Shore Restaurant Week–I’m belated. But, I capped off my week by going off-the-menu for Restaurant Week at Monticello’s in Red Bank.

Technically, Monticello’s did not participate in Restaurant Week.  However, it was a new restaurant during the course of that week, so I’m going to count it. Also, I needed something to make Part 1 feel complete. (This was supposed to be a three-party series, but we really wanted to go to Tre Amici in Long Branch, but it never worked out–problem after problem! Someone really didn’t want us to go there! Alas, there will be no “Mockingjay” to my “Hunger Games,” and you will have to settle for a duology.)

Anyway, I apologize now because there are no pictures from Monticello’s. Kevin and I went with a big group of friends we did theater with, so between all the catching up there was no time to stop and take photos (well, not of the food anyway.)

Monticello’s is BYOB, which is great and easy on the wallet, considering the menu’s a bit on the pricey side. The best part, though, is that if you bring in a bottle Cabernet, Rioja, Merlot, Zinfandel or Shiraz, they will make it into sangria using their special house recipe. And it is YUMMY! (We brought Shiraz for ours.)

Unfortunately, from a culinary perspective, that was the best part of the meal (aside from the bread, maybe–piping hot and soft!) Otherwise, I’d say the food was okay at best. I’ll be honest, though, I was quite jealous, because while I didn’t enjoy my food much, everyone around me seemed to love theirs. I even sampled a bit of Kevin’s Duck Breast over Papardelle with a rosemary Merlot sauce, and it was superior to mine.

To start, my friend and I split fried calamari. Now, I will preface this with the fact that I am very, very picky about fried calamari. I only recently even started eating it, and I only like it when it is cooked perfectly. Any rubberiness and I’m out. That being said, I found Monticello’s calamari to be tough to chew and a bit rubbery, though the breading and sauce were tasty. (I finished chewing off the breading before I finished the calamari itself though, which was sort of a weird sensation.) My friend, on the other hand, loved it. So, maybe I’m just picky. (Not maybe, I am picky.)

I still had faith in my entrée, though. I was in a simple mood and went for a very basic dish: gnocchi with pesto. I love both of these things, especially a good, bright, herbal pesto.  This pesto wasn’t that. It was creamy (what?) and very garlicky, but had almost none of the fresh bright crispness that I love from pesto. It felt heavy and hot, not cool and light like a pesto should, especially over something as dense as gnocchi. The gnocchi themselves weren’t great, either, and started to feel to mushy as I ate. I couldn’t finish the dish despite the fact that I was still hungry. Not at all what I was expecting.

However, the evening for me (thankfully) was not about the food, but the company. Good friends, good wine and good conversation can make up for even the worst of meals. (Still, a good meal certainly ups the ante!)

I would give Monticello’s another chance, as long as I stay far away from their pesto sauce and fried calamari. Everyone around me raved about their dishes, and they all had larger, heartier entrées. Maybe that’s the secret to Monticello’s–the Chicken Saltimboca over the pasta with sauce. I’d give it another shot, but I’d go in skeptical.

No time for pictures of food, but always time for pictures of friends--our group at Monticello's

 

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