Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Quickfire Challenge: Chocolate Donut Holes

On the way back from dinner we decided to pick up a few donut holes and have ourselves a little quickfire challenge. If you're not familiar with the concept, participants are given a culinary challenge to complete in a relatively short amount of time. We gave ourselves 30 minutes to create a unique dish using the chocolate donut holes.

After checking the contents of our kitchen, we were each allowed 10 minutes to come up with a menu. Once the challenge commenced, the atmosphere made us feel like we were in the Top Chef kitchen - pots banged into one another, we scrambled back and forth checking cabinets, and pans started heating on the stove. Time was up before we knew it, but we were both able to finish plating our chocolate donut hole dishes.

I felt like our choices were somewhat limited to only creating sweet dishes, being that our main ingredient was a donut, but we both created some pretty creative plates. My concept was to make chocolate munchkin lollipops 3 ways. I started by making my own chocolate sauce as a base, and then created different flavors for each donut hole to be dipped in. I had a chocolate peanut butter pop, which was pretty tasty, followed by a chocolate mint coffee dipped pop, which was then rolled in a little raw sugar to sweeten it. As if the whole thing wasn't sweet enough already. My favorite of the pops was dipped in the plain chocolate sauce and was coated in cinnamon sugar pecans that I toasted on the stove. I arranged them all on a circle of the sauce on a small white plate and had just enough time to create a hazelnut drink to wash it all down with...with a little bit of the chocolate sauce drizzled in of course. -E

I'm a sucker for three-way presentations, so I decided to do chocolate donut holes three different ways. First, I cut the donut holes in half and placed three of them on the plate, all lined up. I drizzled them with a little maple syrup and topped that all off with some freshly roasted almonds to add a little earthy, nutty flavor to all that sweetness. The second portion of my dish was filet of donut hole, served over a blueberry-ginger preserve for a bit of tartness. And finally, I served the halved donut holes along side some halved peanut butter cups. I melted down some chocolate and peanut butter and drizzled the sauce over top, which ended up looking pretty cool. -B

Bill definitely took the cake, or donut, for plating. He used a lot of creative ingredients to create 3 separate donut creations all on one plate. My favorite plating of his was the peanut-butter cups that were drizzled in a peanut butter chocolate sauce. The best tasting part was definitely his toasted almonds that accompanied the donut hole halves. The drizzling of the maple syrup overtop was a really nice touch as well, although I think it would have done better had it been warmer. I also really liked his choice of using blueberry-ginger jelly alongside his donut hole filets, as he called them. A surprisingly good flavor with chocolate. -E

I really liked Elizabeth's concept - simple, yet cute and creative at the same time. Her presentation was definitely a bit more focused than mine, although I would have liked a splash of color or something else interesting. The lollypops were tasty - especially the one with the toasted pecans. Apparently toasting nuts is our speciality. It had a nice balance of textures with the soft donut and the crunchy pecans. The peanut butter pop was really good too...I mean, can you really go wrong with chocolate and peanut butter? I ended up hitting a coffee-heavy spot in her mint coffee and raw sugar pop, and it was a little bit too strong, but the idea was definitely something neat and I think the flavors could work really well together if they were a bit more balanced. The drink was yummy too and it was certainly a clever way to tie everything together. -B

Really fun idea, great date night if you like to cook and compete...definitely going to go with something savory next time. I had quite a sugar rush when we were done. Oh and allow for plenty of cleanup time! -E

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Antipasto & updates!

So we're not exactly Italian (with names like Lynch and Shaughnessy who would have guessed?), but every so often we find it fun to have antipasto as a meal. The main attraction for us is usually the fresh roasted garlic, which we apply lavishly to whatever bread we've purchased for the evening. This time it was a nice, fresh loaf of Italian bread.

Most of the other items we picked up during our recent trip to Trader Joe's. The peppered salami was really delicious with a great kick from the black pepper rub. For the most part the meal turned into miniature sandwiches consisting of one of the meats, one of the cheeses, and fresh garlic. Mix around the ingredients and repeat. And of course some of the bread gets soaked in extra virgin olive oil and herbs de provence. (Elizabeth was kind enough to separate her anchovies from the rest of the plate. Blech. -B)

We're both going to be extremely busy for the next few weeks dealing with graduate school stuff, but we promise we've got a TON of cool places coming up in the early parts of 2010. Bryan Voltaggio's VOLT in Maryland is already a definite, and we're thinking about a few other neat culinary journeys to take. One option is a burger tour, stopping at places like White Manna, Elevation Burger, and Smashburger. Hoboken might also be on our list so we can stop at Miami Rice Pudding on our way to the Taco Truck.

Stay tuned!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

We hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving! We had a great time visiting with family, relaxing, and eating way too much. Dinner started off at my Dad's with some delicious pumpkin soup, followed by the usual cornucopia of turkey, potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, green beans, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and so on. After chatting with everyone and letting our stomachs settle, we headed to Elizabeth's parents' house for some dessert.

Elizabeth's contributions to the pie-topped table were pecan pie and harvest pie. The pecan pie was the hit of the night - I mean, look at that arrangement of nuts! She cut the sweetness of the usual diabetes-inducing pecan pie and everyone agreed it was the perfect blend of earthy pecans and sweet dessert goodness.

If you've never had a harvest pie, you don't know what you're missing. Elizabeth's version didn't contain nuts thanks to a lot of family allergies, but the fruits were enough. Tart granny smith apples and fresh cranberries were balanced with sweet blueberries and raspberries. Add a forkful of that to a flaky crust and you've got the perfect bite of pie.

Like most holidays, Thanksgiving always seems to come and go too quickly, but at least Christmas is right around the corner! There's nothing like spending time with family and friends and sharing great food.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Trader Joe's Trip

Neither of us had ever been to Trader Joe's before, but we decided to take a short trip down to the Princeton area store to do some shopping. The store itself isn't that large, so it was at times a bit cramped trying to squeeze through other people and their carts. I have to say, though, that everything was very reasonably priced. I was expected trendy, hiked-up foodie prices, but most items were comparable to other grocery stores we've shopped at.

We ended up getting a few weekly staples (orange juice, apple juice, etc), and then had some fun. Some peppered salami, prosciutto, sharp cheddar, and fresh mozzarella were to become our antipasto dinner one evening (stay tuned for that post). Picked up a few sides, including the delicious lentils pictured below. We polished off the bag of popcorn in two sittings - it was really, really good. The trail mix bars will also be purchased again - super tasty and loaded with nuts and berries.

For a future breakfast we also picked up some blintzes and a box of potato pancakes. Mmm. Can't wait for that morning.

I have to say the orange juice was a big dissappointment. I like OJ with a lot of pulp and a rich, orange-y flavor. This was watered down with no pulp and tasted like the convenience store brand you pick up in a pinch. The apple juice, however, is pretty damn good, walking a fine line between juice and cider. I also really enjoyed the cranberry-hibiscus. I love cranberry juice but sometimes it's a little too bitter by itself, so I like when it's mixed with something else a bit sweeter. The hibiscus extract was the pefect compliment.

This certainly won't be our weekly shopping trip as it's a little out of the way, but it defintely made for a fun mini-date and we ended up finding some neat products that aren't available everywhere else.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Chicken & Waffles

After passing it countless times over the last year or so, we finally decided to try Last Legg’s chicken and waffles. Neither of us had ever had chicken and waffles before, so we were pretty excited to experience this soul food staple.

I ordered the Hungry Delight, a duo of chicken breast and Belgian Waffle. I’m a lover of crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside waffles, and this one was a little more on the chewy side. It was nothing offensive, mind you, and I ate the whole thing with relative ease. Besides, it did its job as an accompaniment to the fried chicken. Oh, the fried chicken. This was certainly the star of the culinary show. I started with the still very much attached wing (A wing that comes with an order of chicken breast? Somebody pinch me.) and didn’t look back. It was lightly breaded, which was a nice break from the completely over-breaded fried chicken I’ve become accustomed to. The meat was tender and juicy with just the right amount of grease, and the seasoning was absolutely spectacular. I don’t know the exact blend of spices used, but it was the perfect blend. I can undeniably say I have never had fried chicken with a flavor as delectable as this. I’m a breast man when it comes to poultry, but I have to admit I think the wings were really the perfect combination of everything previously mentioned. They really captured that soul food essence. Along with the chicken and waffles I ordered a side of grits and a sweet tea. I’d order the grits again even if they were a little thick (they made this batch because of our order so I suspect it may have been a little rushed). The sweet tea was a fun novelty but it was definitely REALLY sweet. Needless to say we’ll be heading back here in the near future, and I’ve already decided the mac & cheese and cornbread will definitely be included in my order. –B.

I went with the Two Bite, which is described as “four hot mini bite size buttermilk waffles served with four delicious chicken wings.” And they were. I have to agree with Bill that these were probably the best wings I have ever had. I normally go for the chicken breast as well, but next time, I’ll go with the wing. They weren’t small and fatty like most. They had a great flavor and plenty of meat on them. They had the perfect amount of “salty” to go along with the “sweet” of the waffles with butter and syrup. I know, if you’ve never tried it, it sounds really weird. The first time I heard of chicken and waffles, I thought, “how extremely unnecessary.” But I am now a firm believer that they are. I actually thought my waffles were perfect. I think because I ordered mini ones, they weren’t quite as chewy as Bill’s. I’m a big fan of the grits as well. I thought they had a really great flavor, and they were happy to make them even though they had clearly cleaned up all of that stuff before we walked in. They make a really great bread pudding too, which is one of our favorites. We enjoyed it two days later, because after all of those waffles, honestly, we just couldn’t. They warned us when we walked in that we would get addicted, and I think they were right. I think next time, I am going to try Aignee’s Shrimp Special, which has a buttermilk waffle and hand battered shrimp, with two sides. I will probably go with the mac and cheese as one of them, and see if they will let me sub a chicken wing as my other side. Yummmm. All in all, it was a great meal, and really wonderful service and friendly staff. Definitely makes me want to go back. -E

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Eat Slow Winter Farmers Markets

The slow food movement, for those unfamiliar with it, is in many ways the antithesis of the fast food movement. Slow food fights back against the industrialization and homogenization that has been taking over the worlds food cultures. It emphasizes sustainability, biodiversity, and the support of local food. To visit their international site head on over to Slow Food.

On Tuesday, November 24th, Slow Foods New Jersey will team up with the Rutgers Gardens Farmers Market. The winter farmers market will take place from 4pm to 8pm at the New Jersey Museum of Agriculture and will feature the following vendors:

Cherry Grove Farm
Ducky Life Tea
ER & Sons
Simply Nics Shortbread
Stefan & Sons
Stony Brook Orchids
Valley Shepherd Creamery
Village Bakery
Woodland Produce
Woods Edge Wool Farm

These winter markets continue all the way through the season, so check back with central Jersey's Slow Food site for dates and locations. If you're elsewhere in the state or country, search for your own winter markets! There is still delicious, locally grown produce available during the colder months, not to mention baked goods and other sustainable products.

There will also be winter markets the last two weekends of November in Stockton, NJ. To view a larger version of the flyer for these two locations, click on the picture below:

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

And then there were 5...

Well, we all finally got our wish. Robin has been ousted. I'm sure she made some good homestyle food along the way, but being on the bottom that much and surviving is going to garner a lot of hostility from other contestants and from fans. And honestly, she was way out of her league. A poorly made panna cotta with broken glass on it? Oof. Take your cheetah shoes up to the kitchen and go pack your knives.

I appreciated Eli's playfulness and it seemed like he was on the way to making a fun dish, but there was no way those elements were going to work together. If you're going to fool around that much with flavors and textures, you better nail it. Pulverized popcorn on a peanut soup? I don't think so, Eli. I think he's probably at the bottom of the totem pole heading into next week, unless Jennifer messes up again (which is a distinct possibility considering she has for a few weeks straight).

It looked like Kevin was going to win yet another elimination challenge, but my boy Mike V. prevailed! I always enjoy "inspiration" challenges because it shows who can really create things with food, not just cook what they know. For him to win with what was, in essence, a buffalo wing with some bleu cheese showcases all of his talents as a chef. He put his contemporary spin on things with the bleu cheese disc and the cooking style but still made a good ol' fashioned piece of chicken that I'm sure was just as tender as it was crispy.

Jennifer really better get her head in the game if she doesn't want the finals to be all-male. Right now it looks like the Voltaggio brothers and Kevin are going to be duking it out for the Top Chef title. I really thought Jennifer was going to be a force to be reckoned with earlier on, but she just seems to be falling apart bit by bit. Half the time it doesn't even seem like she wants to be there anymore.

The previews for next week already have me anxious.


Monday, November 9, 2009


Hello everyone! Welcome to Party of Two, our new food blog. Here we'll share with you our restaurant reviews, our favorite recipes, plenty of beer suggestions, photos, Top Chef rants, and some other fun stuff as we think of it. We know there are already an overwhelming amount of blogs based on food, but we think our little spin on things should be interesting and hopefully entertaining.

For those readers who are not friends and family, we were married last summer (July 18th, 2008) after spending most of our high school and college years together. We're always looking for fun new things to try together, and this blog is one of them. Hopefully we can bring our unique blend of creativity, honesty, and total goofiness to the blogosphere.

On tap for the blog we have some fun stories and photos to start things off. Beer and restaurant reviews are sure to follow closely behind. We also plan on visiting Bryan Voltaggio's VOLT sometime in the early months of 2010, so stay tuned for that review. [I'm already eyeing up the pork tenderloin with corn polenta, crispy onions, orange braised fennel, and arugala -B.]

Thanks for reading - please feel free to send us suggestions for restaurants, recipes, beers, etc. If you know us or are in the area, let's dine/drink/cook together!

-Bill & Elizabeth