Monday, October 4, 2010

"Epicure dishes out advice"

Last Thursday, an article that I wrote about food and cooking and restaurants in Northampton was published in the Smith College newspaper, The Sophian. Here it is!! 

On Wednesday, September 16th, 2009 I wearily drove to Boston and hopped on a plane to Florence, Italy, hugging my parents and bidding them a tearful goodbye. Within one month, after a slight encounter with a vicious army of bedbugs, I felt fully acclimated and ready to settle in to one of the world’s most enchanting and culinarily delightful cities – a city full of fresh fruit and vegetables, incredible (and enormous) home cooked meals and gelato aplenty. Although I have claimed to be both a food aficionado and critic since my first taste of Gerber mashed peas, I don’t think I truly understood the meaning of quality food until this particular cultural experience. {This may come as a surprise to many of you but I honestly can’t say that everything I ate in Italy was amazing. Take this salad for example: chilled rice tossed with a copious amount of mayonnaise, chunks of raw hotdog, hard-boiled eggs, and some vegetables. Now there is a meal that does NOT fit the Italian stereotype of incredible pasta, expertly prepared seafood and fresh sautéed vegetables.} What interested me most {about my culinary experience} in Italy was the broad range of cuisine that is actually considered very Italian (at least to the Italians themselves) –little baby pickled peppers stuffed with tuna, pizza topped with slices of hotdog and French fries, roast beef and potatoes, meatloaf, lentils. And because I tasted so many flavors I had never expected to be so delicious (that salad excluded), I started cooking up a storm the second I returned home to Vermont. Once I spent the entire day frying things: I invented my own recipe for Italian arrancini, using leftover tomato-basil rice salad and filling them with Vermont-made cheese curds (very delicious, I promise!), and then I made fried green tomatoes and Panko-encrusted eggplant and proceeded to make some incredible sandwiches starring these tasty fried veggies. Another day I spent hours making maple carrot cupcakes with a maple cinnamon cream cheese frosting. The biggest hit of the summer was my slow-cooker pulled pork which filled the house with the most incredible sweet and spicy smells you could ever imagine. After ten hours of cooking, this perfectly shredded pork was served atop a toasted bun with a tangy, homemade blue cheese dressing. So you see, I love cooking and I love food and the passion just keeps growing and growing. Hence this column! I hope you enjoy.
Much love from the kitchen,
Sera Jane

Sera Jane’s Top 5 in Noho
1. Amanouz Café, 44 Main St.
My suggestion: the Amanouz Royal Feast: an incredible (and very satisfying) assortment of hummus, falafel, tabbouleh salad, musaka and pita bread for only $5.95! Trust me, it’s worth it! 
2. Teapot, 116 Main St.
            Although it’s near impossible to choose a favorite meal at this Northampton staple, I have to suggest the Spicy Tuna Roll (if you’re into raw fish), the Ginger Beef and String Beans dish (for you meat lovers) and the Sautéed String Beans (for the vegetarians or veggie fans!). And yes, I do like string beans.
3. Green Bean, 241 Main St.
Here I suggest everything. Seriously. Grab a mug from the wall and fill it with coffee to your heart’s content and then order the Itty Bitty breakfast sandwich (goat cheese, tomato, and pesto with a fried egg) or the Zorba scramble (really tasty with tofu!!). Top it off with a flakey scone and homemade raspberry jam and you’re good to go!
4. The Northampton Brewery, 11 Brewster Court
            The Blackened Blue Burger is by far your best bet if you are craving a nice grilled treat. Topped with homemade blue cheese dressing and caramelized onions and cooked to perfection, you can’t really go wrong! Try their Caesar salad on the side for a healthy alternative to fries!
5. Viva Pasta, 249 Main St.
            The best thing about Viva is that you can create your own meal depending on what you’re in the mood for. Choose from their daily pasta and sauce selections and I guarantee you will leave happy. What’s my favorite? Probably the Sweet Potato Ravioli in a Maple Walnut Sauté!

SJ’s Little Recipe of the Week:
Need a quick snack? Getting tired of those Ritz crackers topped with cheddar cheese? How about Stoned-Wheat Thins with Goat Cheese and Fresh Noho Tomatoes? Top Stoned-Wheat Thins (or your favorite cracker!) with some fresh goat cheese (easily found at Cornucopia, Serio’s Market, Trader Joes or Whole Foods!!) and some sliced tomatoes found at the Northampton Farmer’s Market (Saturdays from 7am-12:30pm on Gothic Street near Urban Outfitters). Mmmm, a perfect break from studying! 

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