Dessert before dinner? Why not, right? No worries, we saved the cupcakes for dessert, just like mom would tell you to do.
I'm lucky enough to have at least a dozen good friends who call New York City home. So for me, going down to "The City" (and let's be clear here, there's only one, "The City". Although I've been guilty of referring to Boston this way from time to time.) is an easy and relatively cheap affair. The trusty Prius doesn't take much gas to get there, and there's always a couch to sleep on.
I'm sure it doesn't shock any of my readers that my favorite activity in "The City" is eating (well, drinking to go along with that.) So in going down to visit my two best friends for the weekend, my only request was that we eat and drink well.
Ah, the Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden in Astoria, Queens, NY. It's been a favorite among my friends since our early 20's when they all descended upon NYC looking for for jobs and what was next in life. The Beer Garden is the oldest in NYC and spans a good city block. From the street, it looks like you're entering a VFW Hall, then you're in a small bar, then you go out the back door which opens to the huge backyard. It's filled with singles, couples, families, all ages on Saturday afternoon. Belly up to the bar for pitchers of different brews. Take a trip over to the grill for kielbasa and sauerkraut, sausages, burgers, or order off the menu and get potato pancakes or pierogies.
When I travel to New York, we usually end up eating in little neighborhood favorites. Once and while we hit the big name joints, but in our quest for good and reasonable priced foods. We usually end up in a smaller, fun, local spot. After the beer garden we headed to Fatty's Cafe in Astoria on Ditmars Boulevard. The spot has a great little patio out back that makes you feel like you're in the islands, not in the middle of Queens. It was allegedly opened by a couple who felt the neighborhood needed a good mojito, and thus Fatty's was born. The guacamole was fresh and addicting. I ordered the enchiladas. They come with one in verde sauce, the other in rojas. Both sauces a little different, and both were absolutely outstanding. The girls got chorizo tacos and a hanger steak and fries. Everyone went away full and happy for the night.
Brunch in NYC is an absolute must. Everyone offers it, and almost everyone goes out for it. It's something I really wish cities and towns in Massachusetts would embrace, it's truly therapeutic. We picked another neighborhood spot a few blocks from where I was staying. Cafe D'Alsace was a venture by a chef from Brittany to bring Alsatian cuisine to Manhattan. The coffee is strong, and the meal begins with some piping hot, crusty bread served with fresh butter and jam.
I ordered the frittata d'lyon. To be perfectly honest, I wasn't sure what Rosette D'Lyon was when I ordered it. I believe I have started a minor obsession with this move. Rosette D'Lyon is a cured sausage with a sharp, distinct flavor, and it's delicious. It's paired in this brunch dish with sweet caramelized onions and served over roasted potatoes.
Now, it's time for dessert! I have read about Crumbs in articles, blogs and heard about it from friends. I did not, however, realize that there was one about a block from my friend's apartment on the Upper East Side. The first Crumbs was opened on the Upper West Side in 2003. They now have several locations in the tri-state area and a few in California. We stopped on the way home from brunch so I could bring treats home to the husband.
If you like cupcakes, this place is a dangerous mecca. These cupcakes are massive and ridiculously rich. Needless to say, they're meant for sharing. I chose a Baba Booey (chocolate cake filled with peanut butter frosting), a Chocolate Malted (covered in whoppers), a S'mores (chocolate cake with marshmallow cream cheese frosting) and a Peach Cobbler.
So armed with cupcakes and good times, it was time to hit the road and head for home. My darling husband had been busying himself picking tomatoes from the backyard patch and I was dying for some fresh tomato sauce to pair with the homemade gnocchi I made and froze about a week or so ago. Now, I missed my usual market day today, but the backyard patch is offering up so much this week, I can probably make due. For those readers looking for a market trip, I'll be hitting the Dedham Market this Wednesday instead! However, it doesn't get more local than your own backyard.
Fresh tomato sauce is something for which every backyard gardener has a formula. When the tomatoes start coming in and ripening on the vine, they come in large amounts. Fresh sauce is a perfect way to enjoy them. It's not like your grandfather's marinara. It's meant to bring out the fresh flavors of each tomato. I use all kinds in this sauce. I had a few heirlooms in this sauce, one or two being a black variety and a beefsteak. It's not a detailed recipe, have fun with it and add in what you think will work!
Fresh Tomato Sauce
5-6 fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
1.5 tablespoons tomato paste
pinch red pepper flakes
1/4 cup mixed fresh basil and oregano
Heat olive oil in a dutch oven or saucepan, cook onion until soft, add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add tomato paste and fresh tomatoes, salt, pepper and punch of red pepper flakes. Cook 45 minutes to an hour, until sauce gets thick and "saucey". Add chopped fresh herbs and cook for an extra few minutes.
Serve hot over pasta.
This was happily enjoyed over the gnocchi in the comfort of my lovely home and quickly followed by half of a heavenly S'mores cupcake. A very happy Sunday night.