Monday, December 8, 2008

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Frank & Meg get cider at B.F. Clydes Mill


Eat & Run with Frank & Meg: Fall Foliage in New England from FrankenMeg on Vimeo.

Meg:

In Manhattan, the beauty of fall can pass by completely unnoticed if you're not careful. We decided to make sure that didn't happen this year. We jumped on a train and headed to Connecticut, where we traded skyscrapers and subways for pumpkins and peak fall foliage.

When I think of fall in the Northeast, I think of apples. And when I think of apples, I think of cider. Frank and I decided to make a trip to B.F. Clyde's Cider Mill, the oldest steam powered cider mill in the United States. It's located on a charming wooded road in Old Mystic, CT. We pulled up on a busy Saturday, right before the 1pm apple pressing. There was a live band in the front yard, entertaining guests who lounged on the front porch of the gift chop, sipping hot cider and snacking on apples and donuts. Pumpkins were scattered around, completing the cheery fall scene.

We followed the scent of apples to the mill, which was already filled with other guests waiting in anticipation for the main event - the cider pressing. Right on schedule, the wooden mill lurched to life - belts started whirring, wheels began to turn, and suddenly, the sound of scores of apples being emptied into a pulping machine overhead. Very soon, apple pulp began pouring from a cylander suspended above a wooded rack that was covered with mesh cloth. Two workers set up a wooden frame around the rack and began to spread the pulp evenly (using garden hoes!). When one rack was filled with pulp, they covered it with mesh cloth and a slatted lid, and began another layer on top. When the workers had completed perhaps four layers, they stepped back and let the pressing machine do its work. (You can watch the whole process here.) Fresh juice ran off the layers of pulp, and the room filled with the aroma of apples. We were suddenly thirsty for some cider.

We headed to the gift shop, where we perused Clyde's impressive selection of wine. We were perplexed by the inclusion of donuts on their apple-themed menu, but shrugged it off as we left, content with our bottle of apple wine and my (delicious) cup of hot mulled cider.

Frank:

Later that day we met up with my sister for my niece's sixth birthday party and we told of our experience at the mill (my sister was the one who suggested we go in the first place). My brother-in-law, Steve, asked me, "So, what did you think of the donuts?"

"Yeah, um... we didn't get any."

"What?! how could you not get any donuts? that's the best part."

We thought serving donuts at a cider mill was kind of strange and just shrugged it off as just another snack people might like to eat with their cider. What we didn't know is that's where a lot of the apple pulp from the cider press ends up - in the freshly made donuts.

According to Steve, we had to go back. I'm glad we did. It was worth the second trip.

Meg:

So, the next day, we once again found ourselves waiting in line at Clyde's. This time, when we reached the counter, we placed our order for some cider donuts (in addition to another cup of cider, of course). They make and fry the donuts right in the shop, and due to the overwhelming demand for them, we had to wait a bit to get our donuts.

When the woman behind the counter called Frank's name and gave him a bag of piping hot donuts, we knew right away we were going to be in for a treat. There are two varieties of cider donuts - sugared and non-sugared (which one is better is a topic of hot debate at Clyde's). To be fair, we got a couple of each. Which was better? Really, I couldn't say. I was so overwhelmed by the sheer...yumminess (is that a word? I don't even know if that's a word) of biting into a warm, fluffy donut that the presence or lack of a sugar coating was the farthest thing from my mind. It was simply heaven.

We washed our donuts down with cider and took another deep breath of the fresh fall air before we had to board the train back to New York. It may have been brief but we managed to squeeze a lot of autumn into into our brief trip to New England. And next fall, when the leaves start to turn and people start carving pumpkins, you can be sure Frank and I will be back at Clyde's, with a donut in one hand, a cider in the other and a smile on our faces.

Frank:

Cheesy as it sounds, it is all pretty much true.



Taking advice from one of our reader's comments we changed to wordpress.com and were able to use the new and improved web address which is simply:

http://frankandmeg.com/

I hope you all enjoy the new look and name of our blog. More improvements to follow, stay tuned.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Food Adventures with FrankenMeg: The Miracle Fruit


Frank and Meg discover The Magic Berry from FrankenMeg on Vimeo.

Meg:

Frank came home a few weeks ago raving about these strange berries a guy he works with brought in to share. They were small berries - about the size of a grape - indigenous to West Africa. They were expensive little suckers at $3 a pop, but they have an incredibly unique property that makes them worth their hefty price tag - these Miracle Fruits, as they are called, can turn sour into sweet.

"That's impossible!" I initially scoffed. But Frank's unwavering enthusiasm soon chipped away my skepticism. Well, that and a stop at Wikipedia, where I learned: "The berry contains an active glycoprotein molecule, with some trailing carbohydrate chains, called miraculin. When the fleshy part of the fruit is eaten, this molecule binds to the tongue's taste buds, causing bitter and sour foods to taste sweet.
" Hm, can't argue with science!

Of course, my next thought was - I HAVE to try these things! Frank raved about Guinness beer tasting like a chocolate milkshake, and grapefruit tasting like candy.

Circumstances prevented me from trying the berry for quite a while. They are difficult to come by, arriving in small shipments twice a week to a small chain of gourmet grocery stores here in NYC (Garden of Eden). They sell out immediately. Also there's apparently some guy you can buy them from, but the exchange is...well, rather shady-looking (you meet him on the street, give him cash, he gives you a small brown bag...). If you do manage to procure the actual berry, it is of course perishable so it must be eaten within a couple days.

Frank found a brilliant alternative to the actual berry - Mirac
le Fruit tablet! Affordable, small, and non-perishable, they are a great way to experience the effects of the Miracle Fruit without the expense and fuss. When they arrived in the mail, Frank and I raced to the store and filled our cart with sour foods - a lemon, a lime, a grapefruit, some raspberries, and - of course - a Guinness! We went home and began our experiment.

Did it work? Watch our video to find out!

If you'd like to try the Miracle Fruit for yourself, here's some foods that we didn't try: Goat cheese (apparently tastes like cheesecake), vinegar, cheap tequila, mustard, rhubarb, pickles, brussel sprouts, raw aloe, oysters, and Tabasco sauce. Go easy, though. While it is completely possible to eat a whole lemon, remember - it's still a lemon and you WILL wake up with acid sores (yuk!) if you're not careful. Not to mention that chasing grapefruit with goat cheese, an oyster and a pickle and washing it all down with some cheap tequila and vinegar could leave you feeling...well, exactly how you'd expect to feel.

Indigestion aside, if you do try it, please leave us a comment and let us know how your experiment went! Happy "flavor-tripping"!

To leave a comment just click below where is says comments. If it you don't have an account with blogger, don't worry, just click Name/URL, Type in the word verification, then your name, and then click publish.


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

O Canada! Part 2: Toronto


Food Adventures with FrankenMeg in Toronto from FrankenMeg on Vimeo.

Meg:

We asked the young people working at the Embassy Suites in Niagara Falls how long it would take to get to Toronto.

"Oh," said one girl, wrinkling her nose, "that could take, what, 3 hours with traffic?"  Another teen nodded his head.  

"Oh ya," he agreed, "three hours, easy." 

"Three hours?" Frank repeated, his face lighting up.  I grimaced at this exchanged, realizing that "three hours" was nothing to Frank but a challenge - an invitation to break speed limits, unspoken traffic etiquette laws, and possibly the space-time continuum.  

A little over an hour later, we were in Toronto.  Frank was beaming and scoffing, "Huh, three hours?".  I was attempting to pry my white-knuckled fingers from the dash and unfreeze the look of terror on my face.

We got to our hotel - the Super 8 downtown, located in the heart of Toronto's bustling Chinatown - and checked into our room.  It was shockingly spacious - we had lucked into the only 2 bedroom in the whole place.  We didn't have much time to linger (our much-delayed flight had put us way behind schedule).  Daylight was waning and we had reservations.

Several months prior, Frank had the idea to eat dinner in the CN Tower's revolving restaurant, cleverly named "360".  He had gone so far as to find out what time the sun was supposed to set, and arrange our reservation around it (good one, Frank!).

We arrived just in time, and after dodging some corny tourist traps and surviving a harrowing elevator ride, made it to the maitre d'.  We were luckily seated at a window table (there are only three rows of seating - the middle row has it the worst) so we got to view the sunset over the Toronto skyline.  The restaurant does about a full revolution per hour, so in our time there, we were able to take in the full panorama.  The food was okay - not the quality you would expect for the prices they charge, but most upscale restaurants aren't perched close to the top of one of the world's tallest freestanding structures (181 stories tall!  that's over 1800 feet!).  Obviously, you are paying for the spectacular view.  And for that, it's worth every penny.

After our meal, in lieu of dessert, we treated ourselves to some paralyzing fear by way of the glass floor in the lookout level of the tower (two floors below the restaurant).  According to the website, load tests are performed annually to ensure its safety, but for some reason, that fails to provide much comfort when you're standing on glass 1100 feet in the sky.  Not for the feint of heart... or those wearing a skirt (at least that was my excuse).  

Later that night, safely back on the ground - more specifically, safely in a bar stool with a drink in hand, we struck up a conversation with the bartender.  She was a Toronto native who had a very strong suggestion for how we spend our upcoming full day in the city.  

"The Ex," she said without hesitation.  "I go every year, never miss it."  The Ex, it turns out, refers to the Canadian National Exhibition - a huge event that lasts for about two weeks every August.  As it turned out, the following day was the last day of the Ex, so we were in luck.

Lured by the promise of an authentic Canadian experience, the next day we hopped on a trolley and headed to the CNE.  We still weren't totally sure what the CNE actually was, but we were soon eagerly waiting in line to buy our entry tickets.  When we got in, we accosted a nice fellow who was distributing programs and asked for clarification.  

"Well," he began patiently, "there's a bunch of games, there's a big food hall, there's some rides, and there's going to be rodeo shortly over there," he pointed vaguely towards a large building in the distance.  Frank and I thanked the guy and surveyed our surroundings - a midway teeming with people playing games, a packed open-air food hall, children running around clutching cheap toy prizes - and it slowly dawned on us that we had forgone a day of touring the city in favor of a county fair.  A really, really big county fair.  

To clarify, neither one of us is big on large, sweaty crowds.  We avoid Times Square and other densely populated areas in our own town.  As the smell of hay mingled with the aroma of fried dough, the gravity of our mistake suddenly weighed on us like a full meal of fair food.  We had chosen poorly.

We decided to make the best of it, though.  We had some bison burgers and poutine, which is a distinctly Canadian concoction of gross deliciousness - french fries topped with cheese curds and smothered with brown gravy at a Canadian food stall.  It probably aged our arteries by 10 years, so we decided to burn it off by playing some games.  Frank won a prize at the ring toss, which ended up being a good stopping point for our experience at the Ex.  

We went back into the city and ended up having a really great night out on the town.  The locals were so nice - very welcoming and incredibly friendly.  We will always look back with fondness on our trip across the border and eagerly await our next adventure...


For our review and more info on the hotel we stayed at click here to go to our tripadvisor.com

Friday, September 26, 2008

O Canada! Part 1: Niagara Falls


Food Adventures with FrankenMeg in Niagara from FrankenMeg on Vimeo.

Meg:

Frank and I took a trip to Canada over Labor Day. Frank had never been to Canada before, and I hadn't been since I was a little girl, so we dusted off our passports and headed over the border.

We had planned to spend just one day in Niagara Falls and then move on to the much more cosmopolitan Toronto, but within hours of our arrival, we got sucked in to the carnival atmosphere of the town. We didn't want to leave.

Frank:

Lets back things up a step or two.

We planned to fly from LGA in New York City to Buffalo, rent a car and drive over the border. Our short 1 hour flight, however, turned into a five hour delay due to a malfunction with the auto-pilot. And yes Meg, I am still complaining.

Flying to buffalo instead of Toronto saved us almost $200 on the flight, and by renting a Toyota Prius we only spent $20 in gas over the 320 km we drove (that's close to 200 miles for those who don't understand the metric system and that includes Meg and I).

Meg:

When we first arrived, we were a little put off by the chaotic atmostphere of the main drag. A long day of traveling had worn us down. We pushed through the crowd until we reached the falls. Since we got there so late, we could hear them roaring but couldn't really see them very well, so we gave up and traipsed back up the hill.

The hill is packed with carnival-like attractions. Haunted houses, games and rides are practically piled on top on each other. After we had some food, we were much more receptive to the party-like atmosphere.

Frank:

That night we hit the casino or should I say the casino hit us... right in the wallet. After taking a beating on the roulette wheel we found a small bar that was a little more our speed. It had a local band of teens playing our favorite grunge songs from the late 90's. After chatting it up with some Canadian we learned of the best drunk food ever... poutine (more on that in part 2 of this post).

The next morning we got our first glimpse of the falls, and I must say that they were more impressive the closer I got. Not one for doing touristy things, I bit my tongue and we bought tickets for the Maid of the Mist, which I think was a good decision. A bad decision was all the tourists around us who put on their plastic blue ponchos the minute they got them. They all stood baking in the sun waiting for about a half hour to get on the boat. There really is no need to put on the poncho until the boat gets right up to the falls. But then, make sure to get it on quick, or you will get drenched.

Meg:

The Maid of the Mist was such an unexpected highlight of our time in Niagara Falls, we were actually upset when we realized we didn't have time to partake in more "touristy" experiences - particularly the Behind the Falls attraction.

This time, winding our way back up the hill, still drenched from the mist, we allowed ourselves to be swept up by the carnival kitsch. Frank took some whacks at a "Test Your Strength" attraction, and I couldn't resist a few games of Skeeball. We poked our heads into a haunted house, goofed off in front of the Ripley's Believe It Or Not Museum, and laughed as fellow tourists posed with replicas of celebrities in front of the wax museum. By the time we reached the top, we had worked up an appetite. Luckily, we weren't far from the Embassy Suites - and the Keg Restaurant, which is located on the 9th floor. We enjoyed a Canadian beer and a leisurely lunch before heading to the falls for one last look before we had to leave.

As we grudgingly packed up and climbed into our Prius, we actually contemplated staying another night - how great could Toronto be, right? Niagara Falls had surprised us when the corny, over-the-top circus facade gave way to a truly fun town with nice people. In the end, we had to move on. Toronto was waiting...


Check out our review of the hotel we stayed at while in Niagara here at Tripadvisor.com

Monday, August 4, 2008

It's Lobstah time! Making lobster rolls in Rhode Island


Lobster Roll: cook, clean and eat this New England favorite from FrankenMeg on Vimeo.

Meg:

After a stressful week in the city, we went up to Rhode Island this past weekend in the hopes of spending a couple of relaxing days at the beach. Saturday we woke up to an overcast sky, which quickly developed into thunderstorms. We were disheartened, until Frank suggested we partake in one of New England's other summer offerings - fresh seafood!

As much as I love the sweet taste of a fresh lobster, I have to admit the sight of the creepy buggers scares the crap out of me. I don't know if it's their arachnid-like legs, or their overall resemblance to the aliens in, well, Alien, but they never fail to give me the willies. This isn't enough of a deterrent to stop me from enjoying a fresh lobster roll, though (clearly).

While Frank grew up in and around the ocean (and had an extra three years as a sushi chef to pad his already impressive knowledge of seafood), the closest I came to seafood for much of my life was an occasional tuna salad sandwich or a fish stick during Lent (my mom and my brother are not fans of anything that swims). So for me, being faced with opening a fresh lobster is a daunting task. I now cringe with embarrassment as I think about the messes I've made as I hacked ignorantly through a lobster tail on the two occasions I've attempted to order one in a restaurant.

So, if you are like me and need a few lessons in lobster cooking and cracking, watch the video and take some notes.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Day in Tibet - The Dalai Lama and Tibetan food

Meg:

Last week, His Holiness the Dalai Lama came to New York to give a talk on the Four Noble Truths, a basic tenet of Buddhism. Frank and I went to see him speak at Radio City Music Hall. I'd seen him speak several years ago when he did a free talk in Central Park - it was an amazing and inspiring experience, so I was excited when Frank managed to get tickets for this event.


Frank:

I was excited to see the Dalai Lama because I had been wanting to ever since I went to a Free Tibet rally in Washington DC almost ten years ago. I became interested in the philosophies of Buddhism after reading The Art of Living: Vipassana Meditation: As Taught by S. N. Goenka earlier that year. Which, by the way, is a great beginner book if anyone is interested in learning more about Buddhism or just wants a little more zen in their busy, hectic, over-crowded, noisy, cockroach-infested lives (apparently I need to dust my copy off).


Meg:

I have to say, we were both a little disappointed with the actual event. While it was cool to see him again, our seats were pretty far back and we found the lecture to be almost too textbook-y. Although he did intersperse his comments with funny anecdotes, it was difficult to hear him (a problem that was exacerbated by a woman who was seated very near to us using an automatic translator - a VERY LOUD automatic translator) and we quickly grew frustrated.


Even though the Dalai Lama's lecture itself didn't exactly inspire us, we were inspired by the throngs of Tibetan people that both attended the lecture and showed up at Radio City to try to catch a glimpse of His Holiness. There were hundreds of people there wearing traditional Tibetan clothing (layers of heavy silk) - in the 90 degree heat. To wax political for a moment, their dedication to holding on to their unique culture in the face of unchecked oppression by the Chinese government is nothing short of incredible.


Seeing the Tibetan people in their traditional clothing piqued our interest in Tibetan culture in a larger sense. We knew that Tibet is a mountainous country, but beyond that we had little experience with the culture. We decided to change that immediately.

Frank:

There are three Tibetan restaurants (that I know of) in New York City; Cafe Himalaya (on 1st St. btwn A & 1st Ave.), Tibetan Kitchen (on 3rd Ave. at 31st St.), and Tsampa (on 9th St. btwn 2nd & 3rd Ave.). That weekend we decided to go to Tsampa and learn a little more about the culture and food.

Meg:

We walked into Tsampa on a busy Saturday night. We were seated right away at small wooden table, lit by a single tea candle. Our wooden seats were cushioned by decorative woolen rugs. The overall effect was dim, warm and austere. Right off, Frank ordered bocha, which is Tibetan tea. Being from the South, when I think of tea, I think of a nice tall glass of sweet tea. So when Frank offered me a sip, the last flavor I was expecting was...butter. That's right - traditional tea in Tibet is served hot, and prepared with the usual black tea, but instead of a nice heap of sugar and maybe splash of cream, it's flavored with unsalted butter and salt. In my mind, that's a preparation for a baked potato, not tea, but Frank drank it down happily. He was even a little let down when he discovered the milk in the tea was cow's milk, and not the traditional yak's as he had hoped.

We began our meal with momo, a dumpling that is the most popular dish in Tibet, according to our waiter. They were fairly typical of Asian dumplings in shape and filling. Their shell was a little...earthier, almost whole wheat, or something. They were smaller than Chinese dumplings, but very filling.

We followed that up with our entrees - I got something called Ngo Ngopa, a vegetarian dish comprised of sauteed kale, collards greens, and shitake mushrooms. Frank got Shende Ngopa, which was a pan fried rice with basil and ginger. Both of our dishes were so flavorful that it prompted us to ask our waiter to explain the typical spices in Tibetan cooking. He was actually from Tibet, so we ended up talking to him for quite a while. He told us that the primary spice in Tibetan cooking is pepper. Since Tibet is so mountainous, the soil isn't the best for growing stuff. The main staples of their diet are meat and dairy (yak dairy!). He pointed out that, while no red meat is offered on their menu, it's rarely absent from meals in Tibet.

We noticed several things on our own. First of all, the food on the menu had a heavy curry influence. Tibet's geographic closeness to India is no doubt responsible for this. Also, the food had a delicate balance of key flavor, much like Thai cooking. The main characteristic of the food was its heartiness. Even my vegetarian dish was a MEAL meal. There was nothing dainty about this mountain fare.

Frank:

Although my Tibetan meal was tasty, I would recommend going in the winter months rather than the 90 degree day in July that we chose.

And not to get all philosophical on you but, when going to see the Dalai Lama my biggest mistake was seeking out some sort of enlightening experience. Most of the best discoveries in my life have been made when I least expected them.