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All-Inclusives that don't suck...

My boyfriend and I have been gifted with a vacation and he wants to go somewhere in Mexico. Because he'd like to get everything possible paid for on the front end, he'd like to do an AI resort. This makes sense, but as eating and drinking are my favorite things to do while traveling, it makes me a little nervous.

We are open to all ocean areas (nothing inland) except Tulum (which we've been to already--and highly recommend!). Even at the nicest looking resorts, the food can sometimes look like a dressed up cruise buffet. Any recommendations welcome!! Let's just assume price isn't an issue :-)

May 10, 2012
karianne in Mexico

Counter-depth fridges, having trouble researching...(and, Ikea?)

No, we are not installing a wine fridge. We eat a lot of produce. No, I would not consider buying a larger fridge to accommodate more food we don't need, but I also don't know if I want to buy smaller when we're already stretched for space occasionally (not all the time). I didn't know CD fridges were that much smaller.

May 12, 2010
karianne in Cookware

Counter-depth fridges, having trouble researching...(and, Ikea?)

This is good information, and I will be looking more closely at the fridge capacities as we begin looking at models in stores. We also get a CSA delivery on top of farmer's market/produce stand purchases, so fresh produce takes up a lot of room in our fridge (second behind beer, wine and Pelligrino!). We can't do a back-up fridge so we will have to look into whether this will be an issue.

May 12, 2010
karianne in Cookware

Counter-depth fridges, having trouble researching...(and, Ikea?)

Thanks for your input, masha. The area where we are planning to put the fridge is somewhat limited, but I have suggested that we consider moving it to another spot in the kitchen where the wall is recessed. We'll see if I get my way ;-)

May 12, 2010
karianne in Cookware

Counter-depth fridges, having trouble researching...(and, Ikea?)

It's interesting, ferret, because I've learned to live without the little conveniences since we moved into our craftsman 4 years ago. I have no disposal, dishwasher or ice maker. While all fabulous, I seriously think I could live without them all (I am most excited about the disposal), especially if it meant getting a better range, because I love to cook.

In any case, we will be getting the disposal and dishwasher, but I am honestly cool with continuing to use my ice cube trays if necessary :-)

May 12, 2010
karianne in Cookware

Counter-depth fridges, having trouble researching...(and, Ikea?)

Thanks, JK. I do not care about the counter-depth fridge, but seeing as how my boyfriend is paying for this remodel...if he wants to spend more, so be it! It is amazing how much more expensive they are. I also could do without an ice maker, inside or out. We're getting a reverse-osmosis system and I really don't see any need for an outside ice/water dispenser. I am hoping to avoid this as I have read the same thing about breakage. And interior ice maker might be nice, however...

May 12, 2010
karianne in Cookware

Counter-depth fridges, having trouble researching...(and, Ikea?)

We're remodeling the kitchen and my boyfriend is adamant about getting a CD fridge. I am doing all the appliance research and am having trouble finding reliable feedback on these models. For example, when looking to Consumer Reports, all of their top-ranked models are not CD. I have been looking to AJ Madison use reviews instead, but I'd like more thorough/professional feedback.

Do any fridge models come in CD models? What I mean is, if I'm looking at a Whirlpool model that gets great reviews, is it possible that the very same model is made in a CD dimension?

I'm also considering the Ikea CD Nutid, does anyone have experience with this model?

May 12, 2010
karianne in Cookware

Time for some new ideas about broccoli....

My absolute favorite way to prepare broccoli (second to eating it steamed, which I actually really like) is adapted from a pasta recipe from the Zuni cookbook. It's good with just broccoli or broccoli and cauliflower.

Cut broccoli pieces lengthwise in thin "strips" (as thin as you can manage). Allow the tiny florets to break apart, don't worry too much about uniformity.

Heat a large sauté pan over medium/high heat and add about 2 tbsp olive oil. After a few minutes, throw in about 3/4 of the broccoli (allow the smaller bits to remain on the cutting board or they will burn). Shake out to cover the pan and let them SIT. This is important--don't stir them around or they will steam. When you begin to see the broccoli browning a bit around the rim of the pan, give it a toss, add about 2 cloves minced garlic and 1 more tablespoon olive oil. Add the remaining broccoli. Allow it to sit again and brown. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes and toss with about 2 tablespoons chopped parsley.

This recipe is actually intended to be a pasta and the original includes capers and anchovies (which I don't like so I cut out).

Super good.

Feb 13, 2010
karianne in Home Cooking

Traditional Macarons - Best Recipe

I've been to Paris and lived 30 years while managing to never taste a traditional French macaron. But, while in Yountville today I picked up a few at Bouchon Bakery and...god, they're GOOD.

I am hell-bent on making them and after a good deal of Googling, this tutorial seems to be the best:

http://www.alacuisine.org/alacuisine/...

I am curious if anyone has any other recommendations or tips? I want to make sure they turn out perfectly and from what I have read they can be tough.

Feb 13, 2010
karianne in Home Cooking

Need Chicken Recipes

This is embarrassing, but a few of my favorite chicken dishes are pretty cheesy. Not sure how snobby your friends are about their food :-)

The first is a foil wrapped dinner (thanks mom). Basically cut up chicken breast and pieces of broccoli, carrots and potatoes. You place them on a piece of foil and dump some Cream of Mushroom soup on top, wrap up the foil, and bake.

The other is oven baked chicken strips. I use chicken breast cut into strips and dip them in a mixture of spicy mustard and oil (with a splash of wine if it needs to be thinned) and then coat with bread crumbs--whatever you like, panko, fresh. I then put them on a baking sheet and spray with olive oil. They are great sliced on top of salads.

For something more sophisticated...I always turn to Biba's Northern Italian Cooking for nice chicken recipes. Her pan roasted chicken is delicious. I love stuffed and baked chicken breasts (mushrooms are a good stuffing option) as they present pretty well. Also, soup. You can roast your own chicken then pull the meat and reserve, make a stock and then make a great soup using the chicken.

Pan-grilled chicken is nice with polenta and wilted greens.

Jan 10, 2010
karianne in Home Cooking

Your favourite recipe for eggplant

Baba Ganoush, hands down.

Jan 10, 2010
karianne in Home Cooking

What is one tip that you learned about cooking that was simple but made a huge difference? [old]

- Seasoning/tasting. By far the most simple thing that makes the biggest impact.
- Letting thing sit when sauteing so they brown. Patience.
- Flexibility in choosing ingredients. For example, not fixating on the fact that I want to make a recipe with asparagus when the asparagus at the store looks like crap or is overpriced.

Speaking of mashed potatoes, I am a total make-ahead convert now (after research on Chow). A few years ago I hosted 20 for Thanksgiving and wanted to make as much ahead of time as possible. I did the potatoes ahead, mashed (adding warm milk and butter) and then put into a dutch oven and stored in the fridge until the turkey came out. I think add some cream to the top and put in the oven to rewarm. They are just as good and there's none of that crazy (and messy) last minute preparation.

Jan 10, 2010
karianne in Home Cooking

When you buy a cookbook...

It really, really depends on the cookbook. When it comes to books like Gourmet Today (i.e. large, no photos or "personality") I tend to read the intro and check out the menus that are generally found in the back. Some are simply reference (Gastronimique, Julia Child, JOC). The books that are beautifully art directed and have photos tend to get the most attention from me straight away. I will sit down and post-it recipes I am interested in (recently I've done this with Ad Hoc). Some are just totally out of my reach, like The Fat Duck Cookbook, and I generally page through the entire thing and tell myself I will read it in its entirety later :-)

If I have something in mind, I will hit up the index (I choose JOC for the basics). If I am having a dinner, sometimes I will choose a trusted book that is arranged by menus, like Sunday Suppers. If I feel like Italian I might choose an Italian cookbook and page through until something jumps out at me.

Interestingly, Gourmet Today has inspired me to try every recipe through the next few years. I guess like a Julie/Julia kind of thing. Perhaps because I am mourning the loss of the magazine, but I'd like to be forced into making things I otherwise would not, and I love that there's a nice variation.

In that case, I will start with menus, just because it's so overwhelming, and then work from there.

Jan 10, 2010
karianne in Home Cooking

Any truth to not buying fish on Sundays?

Our fish guy at a local store told us this, and I am curious if this is the case? Are there "prime" times to purchase fish or does it depend on location?

Jan 10, 2010
karianne in General Topics

Restaurant Recommendations - Edinburgh & London

I am traveling to the UK with my parents in September and would love to get some great restaurant recommendations (favorites, best new, must-tries). I lived in London in 2002 but I wasn't as much of a food person back then.

I am especially interested in restaurants in Edinburgh and the Kensington area of London. This is where I lived and where we will be staying and I only remember Da Mario's and a pub called Angels Arms (I think). And...the Pizza Hut on high street.

I'd love to hear about...

- Best pubs (both with traditional and non traditional fare).
- Best Indian.
- Best desserts.
- Best COFFEE, especially in the Kensington area.
- Best bars for an afternoon drink.
- Favorite new restaurants.
- Must-visit restaurants.
- Restaurants that do fish really, really well (including sushi).
- Spanish (tapas).
- Traditional English.

Also, any super popular places that should be avoided either because they are over-hyped, not worth the money or tourist traps (basically the equivalent of Magnolia in NYC).

I do know of the River Cafe and would be curious to hear of people's experiences. I begged my parents to try The Fat Duck (we're traveling down from Scotland to London) but it's quite a ways out of their budget (and mine, really).

I am really open to any cuisine, although I am far more of a food person than my parents, both in terms of experimentation and cost. On that note, recommendations for grocery stores and food shops would also be appreciated as we're renting an apartment and will have a kitchen.

Thanks!

Jan 10, 2010
karianne in U.K./Ireland

Thanksgiving: What do you make ahead?

Last year I hosted dinner for 20, so I was very interested in making things ahead.

Mashed potatoes. I did a TON of research on this prior to making ahead, because I wanted them to be perfect. I have heard great things about using a crock pot. But I ended up making the night before and putting into a large dutch oven. After the turkey came out to rest, I poured some cream and dumped some butter on top of the potatoes and warmed in the oven. They were perfect.

I cooked all of my ingredients (aromatics, mushrooms, etc) for my stuffing the night before.

This year I will be serving baked brie with mushrooms as an appetizer, and I plan on making this ahead.

Obviously desserts and breads are good to prepare ahead as well.

Some things I just refuse to make ahead, such as salads and some vegetables.

Roast all of the nuts you might be using beforehand.

Nov 15, 2009
karianne in Home Cooking

Best Gratin or Scalloped Potato Dish For Thanksgiving?

Everything I've found on Epicurious seems....blah. I always do an alternative to mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving, usually opting for roasted potatoes, but a gratin has been requested for this year.

What I am after....

- It can incorporate something other than potatoes (certainly sweeter potato types) with the exception of fennel (the BF hates it).
- I know it's generally a rich dish but I don't want it to be incredibly greasy or overly-heavy.
- I'd love it to have some kind of kick, either using herbs or some kind of heat. Nothing overpowering, just enough to cut the blandness.

Any favorite recipes?

Nov 15, 2009
karianne in Home Cooking

West Village Lunch Spot

AWESOME, thanks!

Oct 21, 2009
karianne in Manhattan

West Village Lunch Spot

I have a friend meeting me in the city on Saturday and our plan is to shop around the WV. I'm open to anything but she has some requirements--not too expensive (I would say $10-15 a plate), a decent wine list and she can't eat dairy. I usually go to Pearl Oyster Bar, but I am curious if anyone has any great recommendations.

Oct 21, 2009
karianne in Manhattan

First time to NYC - 30th Birthday!

How fun, I am heading there this weekend to celebrate my 30th :-) I am also stuck on a birthday spot, but I can tell you my favorite lunch spot, Pearl Oyster Bar. I also love Otto for a casual Italian meal. Have a great time!

Oct 21, 2009
karianne in Manhattan

30th Birthday Dinner

Thank you for your recommendations! Not sure if my BF packed a jacket, now that I think of it.. :-) I tried EMP on OpenTable but they are booked, I might try to call in. I checked out Apizz and it looks nice, I will have a look at your other suggestions.

Many thanks.

Oct 21, 2009
karianne in Manhattan

30th Birthday Dinner

No budget, really. I don't want to go into Per Se territory, but we're fine up to $400.

Oct 21, 2009
karianne in Manhattan

Magnoila Bakery

I don't think so. I find their cupcakes to be far too heavy and buttery. I do love their coconut cake, though.

Oct 21, 2009
karianne in Manhattan

30th Birthday Dinner

Boyfriend and I are traveling to NYC for a long weekend and I still have not decided on a place for Sunday night (my 30th birthday). We already have plans with friends at Otto, Boqueria and The Mermaid Inn. I tried to make a Sunday rez at The Little Owl but they are completely booked. I am looking for something similar in ambiance, on the smaller side, intimate, romantic, great food--totally open to any cuisine. Any suggestions?

Oct 21, 2009
karianne in Manhattan

Midtown East Recommendations

My boyfriend and I are traveling to the city for a long weekend and we're staying in Midtown East, E 48th between Park and Lex. I visit a few times a year, but always stay with friends, and I am totally unfamiliar with this area. We have a few reservations, but I would like to have a few places in my pocket within walking distance.

I'm specifically interested in...

- Really great coffee. I always have trouble finding good coffee in NYC, no idea why...
- A decent wine shop.
- A good place for a loooong lunches.
- Sushi Yasuda, any opinions?
- Casual Italian or Med.

And, anything else you might recommend in the area!

Cheers,
Kari

Oct 15, 2009
karianne in Manhattan

Update wanted for CSUS area!

As with everyone, I am unsure what "near CSUS" means (i.e. within walking distance).

Ettore is DELISH for pastries. If you're going to go to that area, there some other decent places to check out. Also not sure of your budget.

I second the recommendation for Opa Opa. Sweetwater has been disappointing the last few times I've gone. I would skip it.

For Mexican, I would go to Three Sisters. I actually love Dos Coyotes - I became addicted to their burritos when I was at UCD. It's not what I would call "authentic" Mexican, though. More Tex Mex.

Feb 11, 2008
karianne in California

Trip report: Ft. Bragg & Mendocino (long)

Thanks for sharing your experiences!

I grew up in Fort Bragg (moved to Davis at 12) and am always eager to hear about people's experience when they visit.

I was especially surprised to heard you had stayed at The Atrium. My boyfriend and I spent a couple nights there during our last visit and really enjoyed it. The innkeepers are very sweet and we felt it was a great value.

Our first night in we sat with one of the owners (a bay area export) and drank a bottle of wine while chatting. I didn't really pay much attention to the wine, as it was complimentary and we only paid around $100 a night for the room.

Thanks again!

Jan 23, 2008
karianne in California

Valentines Dinner near Mendocino?

If you're going to be south of Mendocino, try the Albion River Inn for dinner. It’s likely to be right within your price-range. Another good restaurant in Albion is the Ledford House. They’re not always open so you’d need to check beforehand.

In Mendocino, Café Beaujolais and The Moosse Café are both good.

If you’re going up to Fort Bragg, the best restaurant I can recommend is The Restaurant, which is on North Main St. Skip The Cliff House (no offense to the other person who replied). I grew up in FB, and the last time I was there, a few months ago, TCH had gone very downhill. It’s a shame because the view is, indeed, very nice.

It looks like the Farmer’s Market is closed down for now (winter). In Mendo, go to Mendosa’s to stock up on food. I visited recently and they’ve done quite a bit of work with the store. It feels more upscale and they have a great selection and a decent prepared food section.

Have fun :-)

Jan 21, 2008
karianne in California

SF This Weekend - St. Regis

Hello!

My boyfriend and are spending our anniversary in SF this weekend, staying at the St. Regis.

I'd love some restaurant recommendations, and I am open to anything.

The only choices I've made so far are Zuni Café. I went a few years ago and really enjoyed it, and I have the cookbook so I'd love to go back.

Some other recommendations I've gotten are Delfina, Perbacco, Chez Spencer and Quince. All in SOMA, I believe.

Any other suggestions? Favorites? Fancy or not, any cuisine.....

Thanks!

Last Minute NYE Dinner Recommendations?

Just for the two of us - I tried to book at Zuni Cafe but they were already full. I suspect it will be the same story elsewhere.

We're coming in from Sacramento for the night and I am completely blanking on a place.

Any recommendations? Old or new favorites?