MCL Squared

Hey! What are you doing here? Go check out the new blog at

http://mclsquared.wordpress.com

(soon to be mclsquared.com)

Goodbye! (Kinda)

Well, this is it: the last time I’ll ever post on Cooking in Western New York.

It’s been a fun run. In the just over two years (I think) that I’ve been posting, I’ve learned so much about food, reviewing, critiquing, cooking, baking, photography, blogging, tweeting, etc. And I’ve “met” some really great people from around Buffalo and the world over the last two years – both foodies and not.

What happened, really, is that I lost my purpose. The title of my blog was always self-explanatory, but when I was not cooking and not living in Buffalo, I felt like my blog didn’t have a reason to exist; I couldn’t really blog about what I was supposed to. And it was always that idea of boundedness that restrained me too. I am a perfectionist, and I’d refuse to post anything that I didn’t feel was of the upmost quality. I have literally hundreds of food photos for posts that I felt weren’t impressive or perfect enough, and I hated reviewing restaurants, frankly.  Blogging – especially after last summer, as I was enjoying myself (and studying) in London – became something that I had to do, not wanted to do.

But I had a change of heart recently. As anyone who’s followed me at all over the last few years knows, I’m incredibly close with my cousin Megan – the one from the NYC area. And as I leave Buffalo more and more, she’s actually just arriving here (for college). And we have so much in common: we both love food, fashion, self-care, music (aka Regina Spektor)… and so it just seems natural that if I were to blog again, it would be in a joint venture (hi business 101) with her.

And so that’s how it’ll be! Megan and I are in the process of starting a new brand, online persona – whatever – called MCL Squared. For a while now, we’ve self-labeled ourselves as that when posting random shit on YouTube or Facebook (usually an interpretive dance or something). Why? We have the same initials. It sounds cool. And now, it’s going to be cemented in stone. We’re working on a new blog, new YouTube channel, new Facebook page, and more. And along with bringing together all of the things that we enjoy and love, we’re bringing a unique perspective to the Buffalo scene in particular. It’s quite the juxtaposition, actually (and I fucking hate that word): on the one hand, we have myself – Matthew, the cynical kid from Buffalo who’s leaving the area more and more – and my cousin, Megan – the girl who’s coming from a major metropolitan region to the relatively tame city of Buffalo. Together, I feel that we possess an interesting mix of thoughts and views in regard to not only culture, but – more importantly – Buffalo. After all, the #1 qualm Buffalo seems to have is that “its young people are leaving… never to return; there’s a lack of young professionals”. In a few years, we’ll be those young professionals, but for now we’re just two emerging adults: one who’s leaving, and one’s who’s coming back. And we hope you’ll join us for our journey.

Eats Around Europe: Copenhagen

Okay. So I’ve had literally no ambition or motivation to blog during November. No excuses, I just haven’t felt like it. But a few things I’ve eaten around Europe just need to be seen and talked about!

By the far the most amazing dining experience I’ve had in my life happened on the first night of my trip to Copenhagen. Four of my friends and I had booked a reservation at Kødbyens Fiskebar, an acclaimed seafood restaurant in the old meatpacking district of the city. After getting lost a few times on the way from the center to that area, we finally settled in to our seats and took in the impressively modern and cool atmosphere of the restaurant (which included a beautiful stainless steel square bar, a large aquarium, and concrete bathrooms that had ocean noises playing under the murmur of the restaurant’s patrons traveling through the heating ducts – cool stuff).

A long day of traveling, settling into our hostel, and napping in way-too-comfortable beds had almost ruined our appetites; we kind of just wanted to sleep through the night. But we definitely made the right decision by heading out. We started off with champagne and a shrimp-salad-esque appetizer. Small shrimp were tossed with hazelnuts and a tarragon-mayo-pesto and then topped with micro-greens and a crispy potato chip. It was absolutely phenomenal, and our petite bites tried to savor its flavor.

Hannah ordered the mussels (picture one, top right), which were steamed in apple cider and lots of herbs. I tired one, and they were absolutely delicious. The great bread that came out right after the appetizers was a great companion to the leftover broth. The rest of us ordered Kødbyens’ version of fish and chips – something crispy and straight-up delicious after a long day. I know, I know – it seems ludicrous that five people traveling from the UK (of all places) would order fish and chips at a foreign restaurant. But the truth is that, of the three or four times I’ve had fish and chips in London, I was never impressed. The quality is just never good; it’s passé. In Copenhagen, though, I was prepared to trust the quality of the fresh caught-that-day fish and its careful preparation.

Good thing I did: the fish and chips was – by far – the best I’ve had in my life. Two small filets of pollock (a more sustainable and under farmed version of cod or haddock, used especially in the UK and Northern Europe) were covered in panko and delicately fried; it was great. The fries, too, were expertly fried and tossed with a good amount of green herbs. They were crunchy outside, fluffy inside, and dusted with a ton of flavor. Finally, there was a side of raw remoulade – something that was almost a middle-point between cole slaw and tartar sauce. Whether eaten alone or with the fish, its raw, crunch, and fresh flavor added a lot of the dish.

Nearing the point of being stuffed, we decided to split one dessert. What was described on the menu – peanut butter mousse and chocolate gelato with raspberries in a cocoa pod – did nothing to describe how phenomenal the dish would be. When it arrived, our jaws dropped. Sitting in front of us was, indeed, a giant cocoa pod on top of a bed of coffee beans. But when opened up, the two haves had equally jaw-droppingly good desserts. The top was filled with this peanut butter mousse, which was caramelized like creme brûlée on top. And the bottom half was filled with liquid-nitrogen frozen raspberries, topped with a scoop of silky bittersweet chocolate gelato and a few more fresh raspberries. To sum it up: we wished we would had ordered another one, and would’ve had the kitchen not closed ten minutes before we ate it. Through its impressive presentation, flavor combinations, textures, and technique, it was a world-class dessert to end such a world-class meal.

Continue reading ‘Eats Around Europe: Copenhagen’

Autumn Moroccan Stew

For the past two weeks, I’ve been swamped with papers, midterms, and a week out of London to Copenhagen and Berlin. I have a bunch of posts waiting in my queue to be finished, and a few guest posts from other students who travelled to other cities in Europe over the last week! But for right now, I’ll leave you with a great, make-ahead, easy, delicious, and healthy recipe for autumn: Carrot & Squash Moroccan Stew.

stewone

With the way my schedule is set up at university, I’m placed in the same position as many adults are in a typical work day: we aren’t home all day, and the last thing we want to do at 8 PM is cook a lengthy homemade dinner – even if we love to cook. There’s always times, though, where I have an hour or two to cook (either the day before or much earlier in the day). Make-ahead meals like stews are always such a great option, but they’re usually ignored due to their traditionally boring flavors. But sometimes, certain recipes can change preconceptions about a dish – like this one from Epicurious. It’s ridiculously healthy, beautifully seasonal, and feels fresh even though it’s been cooked hours or days in advance. And, served over couscous, it makes for a wholesome dish that’s impossible not to enjoy.

Continue reading ‘Autumn Moroccan Stew’

A Weekend in Paris

This past weekend, I travelled over to Paris to spend some time with my cousin and her family, who were staying just south of Montmartre. After the most stressful hour of my life (from 19:00 – 20:00 on Thursday, September 29th, which included sprinting around Holborn carrying a 30 pound non-rolling duffle bag, busting into my about-to-close school building to print out a missing boarding pass, making it to the check-in-point at St. Pancras with 47 seconds to spare, and rushing through security and border control in order to make my 20:02 train), I settled in on the Eurostar and prepared for the great weekend ahead of me.

Waking up on Friday morning was difficult. The previous night, after the hour from hell and its subsequent train ride, I had to wait in a taxi queue for over 45 minutes and then use my limited French skills to explain to a non-English-speaking taxi driver where the relatively unknown, boutique hotel was in a non-central part of town. But once I was up, any tiredness in me was quickly vanquished by an unbelievably delicious apricot croissant from Midoré, the spacious and bright café around the corner from our hotel. Throughout the weekend, Midoré became our go-to breakfast/brunch place; everything we tried (apple-filled pastry, butter-caramel eclair, cappuccino, hot chocolate, strawberry tart) was just so good, and so cheap.

From Midoré, Megan and I walked over to the Eiffel Tower while the rest of her family went to Disneyland Paris (fulfilling the request of my younger cousin Garrett). For the rest of the day, we utilized our hop-on hop-off boat pass and visited different sites along the Seine. Over the course of the day, we saw the Louvre, Notre Dame, le Jardin de Plants, and – at the place where we spent most our day, getting lost deep into the neighborhood’s streets – St. Germain.

While there were countless places we could’ve eaten, we ended up at Paul Maison de Qualité, an international chain that offers freshly-baked breads, pastries, and other lunch goods. Our sandwiches were just fine; mine consisted of ham, lettuce, and hard-boiled egg on a baguette — something light and cheap enough for lunch. The place we spent the most time and money was actually at Un Dimanche à Paris, a sleek and modern dessert shop in the winding alleyways of the left bank. After perusing about the entire store, we ordered a selection of macarons and white chocolate ice cream and sat outside.

The ice cream was fine, but a little too plain. The macarons, though, were amazing – especially the butter-caramel ones. Each bite was spectacular – a heavenly combination of airy macaron and the most intensely-flavored butter caramel filling. The other macarons had this impossibly-good flavor too – the coffee, hazelnut, and pistachio flavors so deeply intense. We walked back to the boat content.

Continue reading ‘A Weekend in Paris’

Chelsea Chow Part I: My Old Dutch & Ca’puccino

Every city has its preconceived images – things you think of without really knowing a city. With London, the average thought is that it is incredibly posh, pretentious, wealthy, and historic. Obviously, these images shatter quickly upon actually living somewhere. As I’ve found out over the last month, London is actually a ridiculously diverse and integrated city, made up of eons of different neighborhoods. Ironically, I’m located in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, arguably the most stereotype-fitting neighborhood of London; everything is more expensive and our high streets are filled with stores like Gucci, Louis Vitton, Fendi, Prada (think Kreayshawn ;)), Armani, Chanel, Tiffany’s, Chloé, etc. The restaurants too are expensive, but not necessarily good (or the best). Clearly, we students try to spend as much time as possible outside of K&C, but due to convenience we often end up going to the restaurants and grocery stores around here. Throughout this mini series, I’m going to briefly review each of the restaurants I go to; so far, they’ve ranged from good to great, but – as expected – can be relatively poor on value.

The most convenient place for us to grab dinner when we get back home at night is probably My Old Dutch, a pancake house located within a few meters of our building. Expectedly, the pancakes they serve are more like crêpes than American pancakes – it’s simply a regional (well, international) difference. Aside from a small appetizers, sides, drinks, and desserts menu with both Dutch and typical offerings, the menu revolves around the savory and sweet pancakes. Along with the standard pancake menus, My Old Dutch offers a “create-your-own” option which, although usually more expensive, allows for all sorts of different combinations to be made. Another important fact: on Mondays, all pancakes – regardless of menu price – are offered for £5 at a basically-half-off price.

Naturally, a huge group of us end up there for dinner on Monday nights, unabashedly taking advantage of the discount. Even with the restaurant full, the service is always at least acceptable. And the atmosphere is great: it’s open, bright, clean, and spacious. Based on these factors, plus the quality of the food, My Old Dutch is best seen as a classy, upscale diner. And as for the food? It’s very, very good. Thin, giant-plate-sized pancakes are studded with your ingredients of choice and served with various toppings. While others in the group had bananas, caramel, Nutella, and other sweets in theirs, I opted for a “savory” pancake: the Amsterdammer. Mine was served with sautéed apples, maple syrup, and thick-cut bacon. The salty sweet combo was incredible; each bite was heavenly. And with the portions so huge, no one has ever left the restaurant unsatisfied.

Further down King’s Road, there’s a small quasi-chain cafe and gelateria named Ca’puccino. What initially caught my eye about this cafe – just one of many on our street – was its almost-sprawling outdoor seating and prominent gelato display in the front window. So, a few friends and I walked down one night after dinner and were immediately seated in the small but cozy cafe.

Continue reading ‘Chelsea Chow Part I: My Old Dutch & Ca’puccino’

Fish & Chips in Bath

This past weekend, our group travelled to Bath to do touristy things like sightsee, tour the Roman baths, view Bath Abbey, etc. Even though it seemed like we spent more time on our coach traveling back and forth from London than actually in Somerset, one really great thing came out of the trip: I ate the best fish and chips I’ve had – ever.

Toward the end of our day, a few of us grabbed lunch at a place we’d passed by on our walking tour: Garrick’s Head Pub. On a sign near the outdoor patio, they claimed to have the “best fish and chips in Bath” – a claim we didn’t verify on Urbanspoon, or Yelp, or anywhere – but it was a good thing we took them up on their word. Because it was an overcast day (see: pictures) and was threatening to downpour, we chose to sit inside. The interior of this pub was beautiful and cozy, with dark woods and dim but not-too-dark lighting. After a brief stint at the bar, our group of eight was seated in the main dining room of the pub.

Six of us ordered the fish and chips; the other two selections were simple bread and butter (obviously Ally wasn’t very hungry) and a savory cheese tart with a honey-glazed beet salad. While the bread and butter looked simple, it was impressive on quality: fresh sourdough bread was coupled with good butter and Maldon sea salt. And the tart was equally impressive (albeit in a more grandiose way). Filled with cheddar, mushrooms, caramelized onions, and spinach, it got rave reviews.

Continue reading ‘Fish & Chips in Bath’


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