$12 Challenge Here I Come!

So the vote has been cast and soon enough I will be a contestant on Food 2’s $12 Challenge. With wit, sarcasm, and creativity I will surely trump whatever my contender dishes out. Unfortunately I won’t have much time to mentally prepare before the shoot, as our direction is given by our potential love interest, I have now been told I can bring a secret ingredient along with me!

It is pretty tough to just bring ONE ingredient with me. But the “secret ingredient” can be anything I want from a good luck charm to a zester. This ingredient is key for the camera because if picked correctly it will compliment my dish perfectly and ultimately lead me to victory!

As of course I have NO idea what to bring with me, so I’ll put it out there for suggestions from my fans. You are fans, right? Well, in any case, I hope someone out there will inspire me with a killer ingredient that will wow both my potential love and the audience!

Be creative!


Summer Restaurant Week ’09 Recommendations


After a tough year Summer Restaurant Week is here and has officially extended its offerings from the get-go. New York City Restaurant Week is now three weeks long which gives us a better opportunity of actually scoring reservations at some of the better restaurants out there, or so I thought.

The two restaurants I had initially planned on trying out were 10 Downing and Daniel Boulud’s new East Village gastropub, DBGB. I’ve confirmed that these hotspots are the most desirable restaurants on Restaurant Week as I was unable to get a reservation at either of them before 6pm any day of the week. Honestly, I’m not too crushed over 10 Downing as I’ve heard they still have some kinks to work out but was sincerely disappointed about DBGB. And I was trying to make dinner reservations which doesn’t even offer a Restaurant Week menu. I guess I’ll try back next month.

In any case, all is not lost. Today my lovely grandmother treated me to lunch at Brasserie and will be trying out Opia this evening. Friday I’ll be at Amma and I hope to make it to Elettaria AND Centro Vinoteca before the end of the month. We shall see.

But for those looking to get a taste of the good life without spending a small fortune I recommend trying out some of these fine New York City establishments:



Oldies but Goodies

New AND Notable

Remember, often times the more expensive the restaurant, the better value you’ll receive. That is unless your meal is the size of a penny.

Midtown Lunch: Sushi A-No-Go

Tensan 002In lieu of my appearance on Midtown Lunch yesterday afternoon, I felt it was appropriate to talk about well, lunch in Midtown. Though I’ve officially only been a member of the Midtown Lunch scene for about five weeks, I’m slowly making my rounds about midtown. But as  someone who proudly brings a homemade lunch to work at least three out of the five workdays, I find myself in need of some consultation on where to go in my new hood.

Usually I ask my personal NYC Midtown Guide Erica for all things midtown but I decided to switch it up and go with a suggestion from my friend Justin who LIVES in midtown. Figuring Justin’s lunch suggestion would be a sure thing, I headed over to Tenzan expecting a fine sushi lunch special. And upon entering the restaurant I remained quite confident and pleased with Justin’s selection that was until we ordered.

Though Tenzan appears to be a well-respected chain sushi restaurant around Manhattan, it is anything but. Don’t let the sleek decor deceive you. Sure, two rolls along with a soup or salad is a great deal for $8.95 but that’s what it costs at most places these days. Inspire me, please! After being hounded to order my dish I suddenly became skeptical of how well-respected this chain really was.

Tensan Mixed Greens

I started off my meal with a mixed greens salad that was just pathetic looking. The leaves were slightly wilted and tomato and cucumber were more of a garnish than a part of the salad. The sushi quickly followed and I mean real quickly.

Tensan Sushi

We’d barely finished our salad and soup when our sushi had been served. And though the sushi might look alright at best, it certainly didn’t reflect its appearance. Sloppily made, the sushi rice was holding onto its blanket of seaweed for dear life with the spicy tuna bits not falling far behind. I was optimistic about the salmon avocado roll with its shiny bright complexion but after one bite, my mood had quickly changed. The salmon was suprisingly chewy, though the avocado was luckily a nice smooth addition.

So please, if you’re looking for a well priced sushi lunch, be sure to steer clear of Tenzan. Next time I’ll try Tanaka.

Can Food Lead to Love?

$12 Challenge

I have been in love with food for as long as I can remember. But maybe its time that food led me to a real life love?

Although food is a HUGE part of my life, its never led to any dates or romantic interests for that matter and not for lack of trying! Of course wining and dining have been key factors in winning MY affections but my mission to become the next food socialite hasn’t quite led me to love.  Which begs the question, will it ever?

I never really paired food and falling in love together until I interviewed for the $12 Challenge. This new webisode series hosted by the Food Network’s blog, Food 2, has caught my attention and apparently others that adore food and are also looking for love. Sounds right up my alley!

The premise of the $12 Challenge is simple.  Two contestants use their finest culinary talents to compete for a date with a so-called Foodie. The kicker is that the contestants only receive $12 and are given two hours to cook a winning meal on the streets of New York City. No kitchen, no knives, no nothing really. Creativity and wit are the only two things that will get you through this quirky competition. And being the author of Hartley Confections, I figured I was up for the challenge.

So yesterday afternoon I made my first appearance on camera and revealed my most public secrets on food and dating. And after being grilled (no pun intended) on both my food and love lives I came to the conclusion that maybe I can find love through food and even in a setting as obscure as the $12 Challenge (if I’m selected). After all, the way into a man’s heart is through is stomach!

Stay tuned for more on food and love AND if you’ll be feasting your eyes on ME in the next $12 Challenge.

July Fourth Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Salad

July Fourth Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Salad

Amanda Agati created this tasty sophisticated pasta salad just in time for the fourth of July. This pasta is best served room temperature which makes it perfect for an outdoor barbeque and July fourth. Amanda recommends choosing a pasta that will absorb the sauce nicely, such as Cavatappi- which is a thick, curly pasta.

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Salad Recipe


2 lbs Pasta, preferably Cavatappi

1 large eggplant- chopped in small cubes with skin on

5 large roasted peppers

½ cup Pignoli nuts

2 bunches of arugala, washed, drained and de-stemmed and torn

1 Large Pepperoni Stick

½ lb pitted large Moroccan olives, coarsely chopped

Two small jars of Artichoke hearts, drained

½ tsp of Crushed Hot pepper flakes

8 cloves of garlic- minced

1 Small can of tomato paste

½ lb Ricotta Salata- sliced into cubes


1) Pre-heat the oven to 350 F. Boil the pasta until al dente. While the pasta is boiling, place the eggplant on a tray and drizzle generously with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast eggplant in the oven until lightly roasted. Let eggplant cool to room temperature once roasted.

2) Cover the bottom of a small sauce pan with olive oil. When the oil is hot, place minced garlic and crushed hot pepper flakes in the sauce pan. Add ½ teaspoon of salt and 1/2 a teaspoon of pepper.

3) While the garlic cooks, puree the roasted peppers in a blender and add to the sauce pan when the garlic is lightly browned. Mix can of tomato paste with 3 tablespoons of water to thin out the paste and) add to the sauce pan. Let the sauce cook for about 15 minutes on low heat. Then let cool.

3) When pasta is ready, place in a colander and rise with cold water to prevent further cooking. Let pasta drain.

4) Once the sauce has reached room temperature, mix in slowly to the pasta little by little, just enough so the pasta is lightly coated in the sauce. There should be no excess sauce.

5) Toast pignoli nuts in the oven, on 325 F until lightly brown. Watch the pignoli nuts carefully, as they burn easily.

6) Add pignoli nuts, olives, artichoke hearts, ricotta salata, and eggplant to pasta salad.

7) Slice pepperoni into thin strips about one inch long. Add to pasta salad.

8) Mix pasta salad well. Season to taste with additional salt if necessary.

9) Sprinkle pasta salad with arugala just before serving.