GIVEAWAY: 2 Tickets to Murder Mystery Whiskey Dinner

On Saturday, November 18, Albany Distilling Co. is partnering with Chef Wheeler del Torro to put on a night full of mystery and whiskey paired with a truffle-filled delicious dinner. It’s a pop up murder mystery supper club featuring courses like truffle pizza and truffle pasta matched expertly with ADC’s Ironweed Whiskey, ALB Vodka, and Death Wish Vodka.

There are a limited amount of tickets for sale for this to-die-for event, but you’re in luck! No dying necessary. You can win 2 tickets for you and a friend to attend!

All you have to do is enter your information here– don’t worry, I won’t share your email or collect it for any other reason than this contest. If you want another entry, follow me on Instagram and enter your handle in the form. The winner* will be announced Thursday, November 16!

Good luck!

 

*Winner must be 21 or older to attend.

Pesto and Gin Pasta

We all know what to do with liquors we like. It’s not very difficult to figure out what to do with something good. Well, if you do need help figuring out what to do with good liquors, I’m always available with a million ideas. But what do you do when you have a whole bottle of liquor that isn’t good, isn’t bad, but is just mediocre?

I came into this situation with a bottle of dry gin we bought recently. It was good in the first drink. It was alright in the second drink. But after the 3rd or 4th try, it was just like any other gin. There was no way I was going to throw it away.

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Fast forward through my brainstorming session to my bright idea to make pesto pasta with gin. I’m going to walk you through the steps of making this surprisingly good recipe. This serves 2 people, but can be doubled or tripled or quadrupled or… I think you get the picture. Also, the way I made it was completely vegan, but you can add meat or cheese as desired. As always with pasta dishes, get your pot of water heating up while you prepare other things.


First, I prepared the pesto. Not including shopping time, this portion of the recipe takes literally 2 minutes.

What you need:

1 cup of fresh washed basil leaves– when you’re filling your measuring cup, pack the leaves tightly to get the most flavorful pesto.

1/4 cup pine nuts– did y’all know how expensive pine nuts were?? It’s insane. Substitute with walnuts if you don’t feel like spending $8 on one handful of nuts.

1/4 cup olive oil– olive oil works best, but can be substituted for other oils.

1.5 oz. gin– If you’re making extra pesto to save for later, skip the gin.

1 pinch of salt– this is especially helpful in bringing out all the flavors in the basil, but if you’re going to use parmesan, you can skip this because parmesan is pretty salty.

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Take all these ingredients and pour them into the blender. Puree until it’s all in little bits. Don’t worry about it being perfectly and evenly blended; that will give a little texture to the food. Save this pesto mixture for a little later on in the recipe.


At this point, I diced some onions to add a little extra flavor to the dish. I like onions, so I did 3 ring-slices worth.

This is also probably the point you should drop your pasta in the boiling water. I used De Cecco Farfalline because the only thing better than bowtie shaped pasta is tiny bowtie shaped pasta.  Set a timer for half the recommended cooking time.

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Pro tip: if you cook your pasta at a rolling boil at all times, it’s less likely to get stuck together.

In a frying pan, put just a dime sized drop of oil (there will plenty in the pesto, remember?) and turn the temp to medium low. When the pan is warm and the oil is a little less viscous and rolls around in the pan like water, drop in the onions and 1.5 oz of gin. You can season with a little garlic, salt and pepper if you like. The goal here is to brown the onions slightly– not so much that they get mushy… unless that’s how you like them, whatever. Turn the pan down to the lowest setting.

 

Now’s a good time to put your pesto in the pan, but don’t worry about stirring it yet.

When the timer for your pasta is up, taste it. I know, it’s not done yet, that’s the point! When the pasta is still slightly too chewy for your liking, drain it. Pour the pasta into the frying pan with the onions and the pesto. Pour another 1.5 oz of gin in with everything and stir thoroughly.

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Aaaaaaand you’re done. Dish it up or eat it straight out of the pan! You’re the chef, you can do what you want!

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Now you’ve successfully made a delicious pasta and managed to improve a significant amount of gin. Happy eating!

 

 

Whole Foods Mac and Cheese Showdown

If you follow me on Instagram, you know how often I talk about Mac and Cheese. I eat it even more than I talk about it– which is probably already too much. Even recent studies didn’t do anything to deter me from my cheesy pasta. Morning, noon, or night, I’m eating the stuff. I definitely have my go-to brands, but I got thinking… which brand is actually the best?

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the question we are here to answer today. I picked 5 boxes of mac and cheese from Whole Foods and taste tested them– just for you. Who are we kidding? I wanted to eat 5 boxes of mac and cheese, and this was a prime excuse.

The basic rules I adhered to when picking and making the mac and cheese are as follows: a) must be cheddar or cheddar flavored and b) must be cooked to the minimum time specified on the box.

Let’s get to the eating part, shall we?


Daiya, deliciously dairy-free, deluxe cheddar style, Cheezy Mac was the first box. It’s gluten-free, dairy-free, lactose-free and soy-free if you have any allergies and need to know that kind of stuff. It has 5 grams of protein per serving and plenty of calcium (and sodium, too). All of the packaging is recyclable, so a big plus there.

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The noodles: classic-with-a-twist pasta shape cooked to the minimum time of 7 minutes, they were pleasantly chewy, though they did get a little more gummy toward the end of the bowl.

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The cheese: out of all the mac and cheeses I tried for this test, this one was the only one that came with already-liquid cheese sauce. Normally, this would be a negative for me, but the cheese sauce covered all the noodles evenly, and there was plenty of it to go around. Aside from being a little salty, the cheese was delicious, as the box promised! If you had a hybrid of nacho cheese and sharp cheddar, this was what it would taste like.

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Alrighty guys, now comes Road’s End Organic, Dairy-Free, Shells and Chreese…. yes. Chreese. That’s not a typo. Normally I try not to *ahem* shit on things that I don’t like. There’s enough mean people on the Internet, and I don’t need to add to the furious masses. Ordinarily, if something sucks, I would just not write about it at all. However, this is a showdown of mac and cheese, and I must express my extreme confusion and rage at this product. I ate about 5 bites trying to give Road’s End a chance, but I came to the end of my rope.

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The noodles: I cooked them to the minimum time of 6 minutes and they were already like hot, soggy, cereal. If you try this mac and cheese, don’t even think about cooking the shells for the full 10 minutes. The box also says to “strain and thoroughly rinse pasta with cold water.” Noooooooooooooooooooooooo! I would add more “o”s to that “No” but I would honestly run out of space. Don’t! Rinse! Your! Pasta!!! That’s like rule #1 of cooking pasta. Nonononono. I don’t know who wrote this recipe, but they have certainly never watched an episode of Chopped. 

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The cheese: frankly, this cannot be called cheddar style. It’s more like the factory consists only of a giant machine just built to crush Parmesan flavored Goldfish crackers into powder, which is then mixed 50/50 with garlic powder, and put into packets. I guess there are people who might like that flavor, but in no way is it remotely cheddar flavored.

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I do appreciate that this product is vegan, organic, soy-free, nut-free, lactose-free, egg-free, and cholesterol free. I really do. But why does the packaging need to tell me it’s Candida Albicans-free? In case you are too lazy to click on the link I put there, Candida Albicans is a type of bacteria found in the human intestinal system and mouth. Since this is a food post, I won’t describe what happens when this bacteria becomes pathogenic. But really, should a food company have to tell me that a particular kind of bacteria is not present in my food? Shouldn’t it just be a given that there’s no potentially infectious pathogens in my food? I digress.


Heading off the dairy mac and cheeses is 365 Everyday Value Organic Macaroni and Cheese, aka Whole Foods generic brand. This one is the closest you’ll get to classic Mac and Cheese out of all the ones I tried. Tastes just like the stuff that my mom used to make me, but it’s certified organic and vegetarian, and has 9 grams of protein per serving. Score!

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The noodles: another case of classic macaroni shape, this pasta tastes just unhealthy enough to make it a comfort food, but like I said, it sneaks in some protein to my carb-craving mouth. I’m not going to say this is the healthiest dinner choice you could make, but it’s better than just eating Krispy Kremes and Vienna Sausages.

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The cheese: two words– more, please! Seriously, it has a nice sharp cheddar flavor. Probably my favorite cheese of all the powdered kinds, except there wasn’t enough for all the noodles and it was kinda clumpy 😦

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Now we’ve arrived at Banza, Chickpea Pasta, Classic Cheddar, Shells and Cheese. Overall, this one is a winner in the healthy-but-still-tasty department. Its gluten-free, rBST-free, lower-carb, high in protein (18 grams!), and high in fiber(8 grams!).

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The noodles: chickpea pasta cooks quickly and even after only 3 minutes of boiling, it was already a little bit more soft than I usually prefer. It also definitely tastes different from regular pasta, so if that’s an important factor to you… sorry. I still prefer regular pasta, but chickpea pasta is so high in protein in fiber, it’s worth it.

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The cheese: uhhhhh, average. It tastes nearly as good as the 365 brand cheese. It helps you forget for a minute that you aren’t eating real, carb-heavy, pasta– sorry, I’m still stuck on the fact it’s not normal pasta! It’s good, but it’s different.

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Finally, let’s talk about Annie’s Homegrown, Organic, Bernie’s Farm Fun Pasta Shapes with Yummy Cheddar, Macaroni and Cheese. That is a really long name, but it’s really important. Did you read the “Fun Pasta Shapes” part? and the “Yummy Cheddar” part??? I may be in my twenties, but pasta shaped like bunnies and cows is still much more appealing to me than normal shaped pasta. I purposefully ate this one last because otherwise I would have gotten hung up on the shapes and automatically declared this one the winner. Aside from these obvious benefits, there are no artificial flavors, preservatives, or synthetic colors. It has 10 grams of protein– not as much as Banza, but not bad for a carb-centered meal. It’s USDA certified organic, and made without antibiotics, synthetic hormones, or pesticides. The box is also made of 100% recycled cardboard. Kudos to Annie’s for the environmentally friendly effort!

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The noodles: did I mention the fun pasta shapes already? Aside from this, they came out nicely al dente when cooked to the minimum time of 10 minutes. One downside is that your boyfriend will definitely make fun of you for enjoying kid’s food… at least that happened to me.

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The cheese: the cheese certainly is not as potently-flavored and prominent as previous cheeses, but it is easily the creamiest powdered cheese out of the bunch. Again, I definitely would want more cheesiness– it is mac and cheese, after all– however, it evenly coated all the noodles. In all honesty, I was so excited to eat the “yummy cheese” and “fun pasta shapes” that I forgot to take a picture first…… whoops. Self-control level: -1


Time for the Whole Foods Mac and Cheese Showdown awards ceremony.

Award for the Leftovers Most Likely to Sit in My Fridge and Never Get Eaten goes to Road’s End Organic Shells and Chreese! Congrats!

Award for Most Balanced Mac and Cheese goes to Banza Chickpea Shells and Cheese for being both good and good for you!

The Award for Most Environmentally Conscious Mac and Cheese goes to Annie’s Homegrown for caring about the environment and the people (and animals) who live in it.

Most Classic Mac and Cheese Award goes to 365 Organic Macaroni and Cheese! This one will transport you back to your childhood with strong nostalgic elements.

And the highest award in this showdown– Best Overall Mac and Cheese— goes to Daiya Cheezy Mac. Excellently creamy, generous cheese, and classic noodles won this dinner the grand prize.

Thank you all for attending the Whole Foods Mac and Cheese Showdown! Stay tuned for more carbs and booze– coming soon!

Review: Pasta Dal Cuore & Salcheto Chianti

An Italian dinner calls for Italian wine, right? Obviously.

Our visit to Pasta Dal Cuore began as any trip to a B.Y.O.B. restaurant does– with a stop at Cool Vines, our favorite local liquor store.

Continue reading “Review: Pasta Dal Cuore & Salcheto Chianti”

Spicy Sweet Sausage Spaghetti Sauce Recipe

I love carbs. Potatoes, pasta, rice. You name a carb, I love it.

I also love finding new ways to eat carbs. I get that sauce isn’t a new way to eat pasta, but inventing new sauces is like a hobby for me. Ultra-specific, I know.

Usually, the sauces I make are savory and spicy. But when I got an adorable jar of honey from Catskill Provisions, (along with some honey infused whiskey) I thought, “Why shouldn’t pasta sauce be sweet?” Then I was reminded of the movie Elf when Will Ferrell pours maple syrup over the family’s spaghetti. Okay, so a totally sweet sauce is probably not the best idea. But maybe spicy and sweet?

And so my Spicy Sweet Sausage Spaghetti Sauce recipe was born.

Continue reading “Spicy Sweet Sausage Spaghetti Sauce Recipe”

Jersey City Project: EATS Review

Jersey City’s Project: EATS is back this weekend for it’s fourth year! This is my first time attending, but I’m already hoping that it comes back again for a fifth round.

First up was a taste test of Slow & Low Rock and Rye. There will be a separate post about this liquor at a later date, but I will tell you that it is delicious— no need for mixers or additions. Something you can truly drink straight or neat.

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Next, we made the rounds of the vendors deciding which we wanted to eat at, and which we would have to skip. There were plenty of really interesting booths, but there’s only so much food I can eat … or make Alex eat so I can have a taste and write about it.

Continue reading “Jersey City Project: EATS Review”

A Night Out in Jersey City

A friend had a guest visiting from London, so of course we had to show the guy the staples of Jersey City. We crammed 3 different locations into one night: Taphaus, Archer and Golden Cicada. Each one represents a different kind of scene or crowds in Jersey City.

Continue reading “A Night Out in Jersey City”