melon salad with mint and basil

Melon means summer. So does fresh herbs. This Giada De Laurentiis recipe combines melon and mint to produce a summer fresh fruit salad that stands above the rest.Our garden is full of mint. It grows wild, and is a perennial that spreads, so each year our abundance increases. I used to fight it, but it turns out, most animals, especially deer, don’t like it’s fragrance and since I can use all the help I can get keeping the wildlife away from my plants, I just let it grow. I also found that it was much easier to find new recipes and ways to use the mint, than to try and fight its invasive ways. One of those recipes I found was this melon salad with mint.This recipe is delicious, can be made in advance, and sure beats any fruit salad from a store! It is perfect for a Sunday brunch or as a light, refreshing, summer dessert.

Melon Salad with Mint & Amaretto
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
5 mins
Total Time
35 mins
 
Course: brunch, Dessert
Cuisine: American, Italian
Keyword: fruit, fruit salad
Author: Giada De Laurentiis
Ingredients
  • 1 bunch fresh mint chopped
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice from about 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup simple syrup recipe follows
  • 1/8 teaspoon amaretto
  • 2 cups watermelon balls from about half a watermelon
  • 2 cups cantaloupe balls from about 1 cantaloupe
Simple Syrup:
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
Instructions
  1. In a blender, combine mint, lemon juice, simple syrup, and amaretto. Blend until smooth.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the watermelon and the cantaloupe. Add the vinaigrette and toss. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve.
Simple Syrup:
  1. In a saucepan, combine water and sugar over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, until the sugar has dissolved. Take pan off heat and cool the syrup. Any extra cooled syrup can be saved in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

About

Located in Armonk, NY, Modern Barn is spacious, elegant and rustic. The beautiful glass light fixtures bring your eyes up to the curved wooden ceiling and immediately you are transported to quite literally, a modern barn.

The brunch menu is appealing and the food portions are very large.

The Bloody Mary

The Bloody Mary at Modern Barn was surprisingly briney. We suspect the brine to be olive juice, but cannot confirm or deny this. It is thin in viscosity and loaded with Horseradish. It is light in heat, but enough to keep you hooked. The garnish seemed inconsistent as we saw some Bloody Marys make it to tables with olives adorning them, while ours didn’t seem to make the cut.

The Brunch Scene

Modern Barn is large enough that brunchers of all kinds can gather here. The upstairs area seemed to be the place for families with younger children to dine, while the lower level had families with older children and couples. The bar area was full of singles and groups of friends. Looking around, despite the wide range of people and party size, no one seemed to feel rushed. Everyone looked relaxed and was taking their time, which is really important for brunch.

Local Tasters tip to Modern Barn: turn up the music ever so slightly.

Good to Know

Circular Booth at Modern BarnBunch is served on Sundays from 11am-2:30pm. Big rounded booths make this place suitable for families & celebrations.

If you are in a rush, we don’t recommend the bar for dining as the service was slow despite Local Tasters being the only patrons at the bar when we arrived. For example, we were brought warm bread and butter, but no culinary set ups and thus could not enjoy the warm bread. We worked to get someone’s attention for over 5 minutes, which was frustrating. When our food arrived, it was once again, quite some time before we were checked on to see if we needed anything. While not the end of the world, it was slow enough that we felt it should be mentioned.

All about the Eats

Modern Barn Armonk NY-34Local Tasters found the brunch menu to be enticing and had fun deciding what to order. Let’s tackle the final decisions one by one.

The “Morning After Pie” Pizza was a must order menu item for us. How could we resist a pizza with breakfast sausage, house-cured bacon, shirred eggs, thin sliced potatoes, peppers, onions, tomato sauce, mozzarella & parmesan cheeses? We couldn’t.

When it was placed down in front of us , we were extremely excited to dig in to this beast!

But… I can’t lie to you folks. It looked better than it tasted. Local Tasters agreed that consistency was the real issue here. The crust was not crispy or strong enough to hold up to the heavy toppings. Second to that complaint, despite its many ingredients, it severely lacked flavor, which is still perplexing. We thought that a little heat would go a long way to enhance the flavor profile and bring it all together. Ultimately, this dish got a collective thumbs down.

The Cape Cod Cakes were served with poached eggs, lobster remoulade and local mixed greens. By no means perfect, this dish was the star of our experience. The eggs were poached perfectly and this is the single most important element. Additionally, the fish cakes were very flavorful and well crafted. The sauce however was disappointing- it tasted like thousand island dressing. Although thousand island dressing could work here, there was too much of it and it overpowered the eggs. The side salad was very good, but could use more evenly dressed leaves. However, this dish was the clear winner, gets a Local Taste thumbs up and we would recommend it.

Modern Barn Armonk NY-26The Biscuits & “Ribs” are described as prime rib ragu, buttermilk biscuits, spinach, poached eggs and béarnaise sauce. This dish, while quite tasty, missed the mark for us. It was very heavy and similarly to the pizza, didn’t come together for us and felt disconnected. For example, if the egg was served with just the spinach it would be very good. Likewise, if the egg was with just the beef, it would be extremely tasty. However,  the spinach and the meat really didn’t work together. Meanwhile, under it all, is the the bread component that was very soggy underneath this heap of food that confused local tasters into thinking it was polenta, when it was really a biscuit!

The Final Say

Bread & Butter at Modern BarnLocal Tasters love the open space and rustic feel of Modern Barn. We are slightly obsessed with the beautiful, round booths that foster conversation and merriment, which always makes for a more enjoyable meal.

The food is really where Modern Barn lost us. The potential for each of the meals that we ordered is certainly there, but the execution lacked refinement. The portions were simply too big and the components somewhat disconnected. By the time we threw in our forks, we all felt overstuffed and yet unsatisfied at the same time. For the price, it is unlikely that we will return to Modern Barn for brunch.

Alvin & Friends Bloody Mary

About

Alvin & Friends is located in the heart of downtown New Rochelle, NY. It is known for it’s live jazz music scene and lively atmosphere. The main entrance leads you into the bar area where a beautiful baby grand welcomes you. The bar is a large open space that leads into the spacious dining room, and then eventually into the hidden back room. This back room is where we had the pleasure of brunching and yet, we had no idea it was even there! Alvin & Friends specializes in Southern and Caribbean inspired food.

The Bloody Mary

Alvin & Friends Bloody MaryAt first glance, The Bloody Mary at Alvin & Friends appeared to be thin, which is usually a bad sign. However, its thin viscosity was not a problem and the Bloody Mary turned out to be very, very good. It was well seasoned, slightly briny, with a low to medium heat level. Local Tasters found the Bloody Mary extremely enjoyable. It is well priced at $8.00 each.

 

The Brunch Scene

Alvin & FriendsAmbiance does’t happen by itself. It must be created and Alvin & Friends is one of the only restaurants that seems to understand this. It is clear that owner, Alvin Clayton, cares about his guests and works hard to create an ambiance for them. The ambiance is created by the colorful artwork that lines the walls, all or most painted by Alvin himself, combined with the live jazz during brunch, and the personal touch of Alvin coming by each table to say hello. His warm and welcoming personality makes you want to become Alvin’s best friend! Brunch is suited for most groups of people including couples, families and friends. It is not suited for children who can’t sit still, as most guests are there to relax and enjoy cocktails and brunch. Alvin & Friends gets a big, shiny, gold star for brunch ambiance.

Good to Know

Bunch is served on Saturday from 11:30am to 2:00pm and Sunday 11:30am to 3:30pm. Outside of Brunch, there is always something fun going on at Alvin & Friends including a wide variety of talented musical guests and Trivia Night! Be sure to check out their calendar.

 

 

All about the Eats

The menu at Alvin & Friends is rooted in southern cuisine, making it difficult to choose because everything looks tempting on the menu! Some of the items that caught our hungry eyes were fried green tomatoes with rum-cured salmon gravlax served with soft baked eggs, open face grilled chicken apple sausage sandwich with brie, Creole mustard aioli and of course, classic chicken & waffles.

Ultimately, we decided on the Caribbean style eggs benedict which came with jerk hollandaise and includes a choice of side salad or home fries and the Mo’ bay omelet with jerk shrimp sweet plantain, peppers and onions. For a little extra indulgence, we ordered sides of grits and sausage for the table to share.

We were three Local Tasters on this particular occasion and shared everything. Although the eggs benedict were cooked well, we missed having either a meat, fish or vegetable layer in-between the bread base and the egg. The egg itself lacked a little flavor and an organic, farm fresh egg would elevate this dish.

The Mo’ bay omelet was cooked very well, but also lacked seasoning and had an overwhelming amount of somewhat raw peppers while an underwhelming about of shrimp. It was also unfortunately, a very watery omelette from the vegetables. This is any easy fix. I would recommend sautéing the vegetables in advance with some added seasoning, draining, and then adding to the omelette for cooking.

The home fries were THE BEST home fries ever! The unexpected sweet potato version of classic home fries were sweet, savory and cooked to perfection. You rarely see sweet potatoes mixed with peppers and onions and the combination is delectable and craveable.

Also great, were the sides of sausage and cheesy grits. They were cooked perfectly and we couldn’t get enough.

The Final Say

Local Tasters really enjoyed Alvin & Friends. The Bloody Mary, the friendly staff, and welcoming atmosphere all contribute to a great Brunch experience. What takes Alvin & Friends over the top is the live music (be sure to call ahead and confirm music) and the personal greeting from Alvin himself. While we saw some room for improvement in the main dishes, we also would certainly not call the food disappointing. It was very good with some elements best described as outstanding. All and all, the final say from Local Taste is a solid Thumbs Up, and we look forward to returning to Alvin & Friends, and not just for brunch.

Old Greenwich Social Club Southern Benedict

About

Old Greenwich Social Club BarOld Greenwich Social Club is more commonly known around town as O.G. Social. It’s located right across from the Old Greenwich Train station which makes it extremely convenient for local commuters to pop in for a pint, meet family or friends for dinner or even grab some take out. After all, location, location, location. OG Social certainly gets points for location.  The restaurant is split between a bar section and dining room. The bar itself is spacious and has big televisions which is great for sports fans, while the dining room is more family friendly.  OG Social is on the causal side and offers something for everyone.

The Bloody Mary

Old Greenwich Social Club Bloody MaryThe Bloody Mary at OG Social was average- nothing special. The Bloody itself was a thin mix and relied on Tabasco for flavor and spice. I think it could be better with a little heartier consistency, replace the Tabasco with hot sauce and add a dash of pickle juice to amp up the flavor a bit. That said, it was not horrible. It was just bla.  However, they are well priced for brunch at $8.00 each, or you can choose the bottomless option of  unlimited Bloodys for $14.95 (2 hour limit.) Either way, we were very pleased to finally see a reasonably priced Bloody!

The Brunch Scene

Old Greenwich Social Club Brunch MenuWith a big brunch menu and bottomless brunch cocktails for $14.95, OG Social is all about bringing people together for a good time, and not just at brunch. They also have Trivia Night, Wine Down Wednesdays, Karaoke and Happy Hour! However, when Local Tasters showed up, it was certainly on the quiet side, but we still get what they are going for and we dig it. We were excited to see cornhole boards set up outside which immediately implies they are welcoming folks to come in, make friends, and stay a while. Unfortunately, the Cornhole boards were both broken so I don’t know why they were still sitting there. (Insert another Local Taste eyeroll.)  OG Social is yet another prime candidate for Live Music at Brunch and I even overheard someone else ask about music so maybe there is hope this might actually happen. Then, I could see this place really being a Brunch Party.

Good to Know

Old Greenwich Social Club Games ShelfBrunch is served on Saturday and Sunday from 11am-3pm. For 14.95 you can indulge in The Bottomless Brunch Drinks and choose from Mimosas, Bellinis, Bloody Marys, Screwdrivers or Grayhounds. Beware- there is  two hour limit. The menu itself is a solid brunch menu- you’ll recognize a lot of the basics, but with a few twists. For example, you’ll see the classic Eggs Benedict, but you’ll see a few other Benedict combinations as well. If you aren’t feeling Brunch, the full lunch menu is also available during brunch. Be sure to pass some time with a game or two! OG Social has shelves full of adult and children games. How fun is that?

All about the Eats

Old Greenwich Social Club Southern Eggs BenedictIf you are looking for serious hangover food, the OG Breakfast Sandwich is it. It is anything but your typical egg sandwich, It is loaded with Pulled Pork, French Fries and smothered in melted Cheddar Cheese. The egg was too well done and was completely lost amongst the other ingredients. This sandwich would have benefitted from less meat and a runny egg rather than one so well done. Overall, it was a little over the top and took some deconstructing just to be able to take a bite, but the concept is fun and the pulled pork was really tasty. Local Tasters decided we probably would not order this sandwich again.

Sometimes you have a dish and immediately you know you’ll be back just to have it again. This happened with The Southern Eggs Benedict. It was was a home run! The egg was perfectly poached and served over a buttermilk biscuit and pulled pork, then topped with a wonderful Bearnaise sauce. Local Tasters have nothing other to say about this dish except YUM.

We did sneak a peek at some bar bites that were being served to other customers- notably the wings and nachos and can’t say they looked impressive.

The Final Say

Old Greenwich Social Club Breakfast SandwichLocal Tasters totally get what Old Greenwich Social Club is trying to achieve and we dig it- 100%. However, the execution doesn’t seem to be quite there. We will be keeping a close eye on OG Social because we believe it has enormous potential and we are excited to see what transpires. First thing we would recommend is that they replace or remove the broken Cornhole boards from out front and perhaps invest in some improved signage. Secondly, I think they need to move the menu ever so slightly away from the oversized pub grub influence and more towards gastropub influence. Finally, an improved vibe with perhaps the help of some live music at Brunch would be awesome here- preferably acoustic rock and roll. So, with a few changes, OG Greenwich Club could easily become the permanent home for us boozy, fun, brunchers who are very much seeking a weekend home.

The Cookery Restaurant in Dobbs Ferry, NY is one of the more popular restaurants amongst the thirty something foodies crowd in Westchester. It’s food is rustic, flavorful and pushes the envelope just enough to make it a truly unique culinary experience, without going over the top.The Cookery Bloody MaryNow, we all know Brunch wouldn’t be Brunch without a Bloody Mary. Especially when I’m working hard to populate the Bloody Mary App I created. Like everything else at The Cookery, the Bloody Mary was unique. It was spicy while also oddly acidic. After a few sips, I am fairly confident the extra acidity was coming from Apple Cider Vinegar. While I appreciated the unique twist on the Bloody Mary, fellow feasters agreed we did not enjoy the pungency that was coming from the vinegar. The garnish was also non existent and this surprised me a bit given the creative nature of the restaurant. I think with some tweaks here, their Bloody Mary could be something of note, but not as it is now. Not for me anyway.

On the flip side, the cocktail that came with our Brunch, referred to as the ‘Brunch Punch’ was delicious! The cocktail changes, although I don’t know how frequently. On this day it was a cocktail with Gin, triple sec, orange juice and thyme. It was dangerously good.The Cookery Dining Room Upon entering, we experienced a positive and fun vibe that was coming from the dining room, while the bar area was quiet and empty. Typically, we saddle up to the bar and settle in, but we went where the crowd was. The crowd was predominantly young professionals enjoying friends and cocktails on a Saturday afternoon. It reminded me of weekends in New York City where this scene is the norm. But here in suburban Westchester, this vibe can be hard to come by. Immediately, we’re hooked.The Cookery The Cookery’s brunch is really unique for a multitude of reasons. First, it is one price for everyone. You can not order a la carte. For $35.00 you are offered a choice of an appetizer, an entree, a dessert, a small plate of passed Hors d’oeuvres, and the cocktail of the day. At first, $35.00 for brunch seems a little high, but think about it. An average brunch dish, say Eggs Benedict, ranges from $14-$18 at comparable restaurants and a Bloody Mary averages $12.00. So $30.00 is your average minimum brunch investment and all you get is a traditional breakfast dish and a drink. Here at The Cookery you get a full sized 3 course meal, a fantastic cocktail, and a tasting plate from the kitchen. It’s unconventional to not offer a la carte, but I can also quickly see why this makes it ideal to dine here with friends. One price, lots of options, no issues with the bill- I’m a fan. Brunch is served on Saturdays & Sundays.The Cookery Egg and MeatballNow onto the menu. There is nothing ‘typical’ about this brunch menu. Not a single thing looks ‘average.’ You will not find ‘blueberry pancakes’ or ‘two eggs any style with your choice of bacon or sausage.’ No- not here. Here they combine ingredients that you never thought to do. The Meatball topped with  Egg, for example. This I had to try, and I am very glad I did. Here is another unique combo for you- Waffles & Bone Marrow. Certainly not something you see everyday. But for those less adventurous, there are many approachable classics like the bucket of fried chicken or the griddle burger.

I did have some trouble deciding what to get- I wanted to try everything! But in the end, I choose to start with  the Meatball and an Egg, followed by Eggs in Purgatory and Warm Chocolate Polenta for dessert. My dining companion went with Egg in a Jar, French Toast with Smoked Scramoza Poached Egg and Stickabutta Pie. Here’s what we thought.

The Meatball and Egg was awesome. The meatball itself was probably one of the best I have every had. (I love meatballs.) The egg was cooked perfectly and the combination really worked. It was a sizable appetizer- a meal in itself. The Egg in a Jar was a perfectly poached egg over polenta with crispy pork and it was really, really good. This was a also a fairly filling appetizer. There was no clear winner here and I would recommend both without delay.

In the entree category we had a very clear winner. The Eggs in Purgatory were awesome! This dish was packed with flavor, and while savory and rich, also bright and clean. However, we thought the French toast with Housemade Sausage and a Poached Egg was just okay. We agreed that the dish was slightly disconnected and needed something to bring it all together, or at the least, the french toast needed to be a little sweeter. Overall, neither of us would order this dish again.The Cookery DessertDessert soon arrived. Although both desserts were good, they were both outrageously sweet.  Like crazy, insanely, diabetic coma sweet! This is of course is the intention and both were good in their own right, but for us, it was just too much. This was not unique to only the two desserts we choose, as all the dessert options were very sweet and this was a little disappointing. We agreed we would like to see something like mixed berries or a cheese plate as an option for those who can’t handle the sugar.The Cookery Polenta with Poached EggAll and all, I really do like most everything about The Cookery. In fact, I wish it was located a little closer to me. I applaud them for stepping out of the box and creating something unique. Certainly I didn’t love everything, but I think that’s the point- you have to try new things to find out what you like and what you don’t like. It turns out, I don’t like apple cider vinegar in my Bloody Mary, but I do like an egg on a meatball, and I wouldn’t have known that if not for The Cookery.  I am eager to try the other menu items and look forward to going back soon.

bloody-marys-in-mason-jars

Idrink a lot of Bloody Marys. I blog about Bloody Marys. I taste test Bloody Mary mixes and review them. I co-founded a Bloody Mary app to help match users to great Bloody Marys. (Did you download it yet? Its free!) So it’s not surprising that I often get put in charge of “Bringing the Bloodys” to just about every occasion amongst our friends and family. We’re talking birthday parties, brunches, game day parties, Sundays because…Sundays. You get the point, right?

Well, I was really frustrated by transporting my Bloody Mary Mix in pitchers that always spilled, had a limited capacity, (which didn’t always cut it) and then to make it worse, I had to either serve them in plastic cups or use what ever the host had for me to work with. Presentation means a lot to me so the cup thing was the final straw. Something had to change if I was going to continue to “Bring the Bloodys.”Then it hit me. The most obvious, simple answer of all time. The classic, the modest, the amazing… The Mason Jar. And lots of them. Serving them this way allows me to make them ahead of time, in individually portioned sizes, ready for drinking. It’s perfect.

Here is what I do: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I use mason jars for everything including our everyday drinking glasses, storage of leftovers, precut veggies, prepped ingredients, pantry storage and even crafting and tool supply organization. Understanding and embrasing the versatility of the mason jar has made me more organized, as well as creative, in the kitchen and beyond.Buy 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Because I love mason jars and use them for so many thing, I invested in screw on tops and it was one of the best investments I’ve ever made. They are fantastic for everyday use. I purchased 2 sets over 3 years ago, they work super well I don’t need to fumble around with the 2 part sealing lids and bands. (Note- these lids are not intended for canning.)Buy Now

  1. In a large pitcher, make your favorite Bloody Mary recipe. (Don’t have a recipe? Try mine.)  Be sure not to include the vodka. The vodka gets to come to the party later.
  2. Pour the Bloody Mary mix into the mason jars until just about half way. Screw on the lids, clean up your mess and put the jars in the fridge. (I put them right back into the box I bought my Mason jars in, which makes storage and/or transportation super easy.) They can stay like this for at least 3 days, probably more.

Ok, lets fast forward. It’s time to serve some Bloody Marys.

First, set up your prep station, or create a build your own Bloody Mary Bar. For either you will need:

  • The pre-filled jars
  • vodka, tequila,or both
  • Ice
  • Straws
  • Garnish(es) of your choice.

Next, put it all together.

  1. Unscrew the lid of a prepared jar, add an ounce of vodka (or two, if you’re feeling spunky.)
  2. Fill the jar with ice.
  3. Screw the top back on and shake! (Sing the song ‘Shake it Baby’ while shaking to encourage laughter at your expense.)
  4. Finally, unscrew the lid, add garnish, insert a straw and serve. Or, don’t do anything and let guests do it themselves.

You are now the hit of the party. And you are welcome.

Mashed Potatoes
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
25 mins
Total Time
45 mins
 

The secret to great, fluffy mashed potatoes is using a potato ricer and warming your butter and cream before adding them to the potatoes

Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: potato
Ingredients
  • 4-5 lbs russet potatoes
  • 1.5 cups half & half (organic if possible)
  • 6 tbs unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp white pepper Black pepper is fine, but white is preferred for appearance.
Instructions
  1. Peel the potatoes, slice in half, and place into a large pot and cover completely with water. Bring to a boil. 

  2. Lower the heat and simmer for about 25 minutes or until easily pierced with a knife. (Check at 15 minutes and then at 5 minute intervals.) 

  3. Drain and mash the potatoes using a potato ricer. 

  4. While mashing, heat the half-and-half and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until the butter melts.

  5. Slowly mix in the cream sauce, salt and pepper until well incorporated and creamy. Taste for seasoning. 

Recipe Notes

Try adding in parsley, chives or parmesan cheese to bring it up a notch. 

The amount of ingredients is something that is not a perfect science. Much depends on the type of potatoes you are using, how creamy you like your potatoes, how salty, etc. You need to add ingredients in slowly and taste several time to get it just how YOU like it! Remember, you can always put the salt (and butter) in but you can't take it out! So be mindful. 

blueberry crumb cake

This is the BEST crumb cake recipe in the whole entire world! The first time I made this cake it exceeded my wildest expectations and I’m certain it will exceed yours too. It not only tastes delicious, but the smell while it bakes is absolutely fabulous!This is yet another outstanding Ina Garten recipe. The only thing that I changed from the original recipe is that I use a 9” springform pan rather than the cake pan that the original recipe calls for, and it worked out brilliantly. I highly, highly recommend you do the same if you have one. The springform pan guarantees an easy exit from your pan to your serving dish ensuring your cake doesn’t crumble before you are ready to serve it.

This cake is perfect for so many occasions, but I think serving it for brunch or with afternoon tea is about as perfect as it gets. I also can’t imagine a better house warming gift for a new neighbor or friend.For storage, cover the cake loosely and leave it out at room temperature. It will stay for up to 3 days, if you can keep away from it for that long.

Blueberry Crumb Cake
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
40 mins
Total Time
1 hr
 
Course: brunch
Servings: 8 people
Author: Ina Garten
Ingredients
For the streusel:
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar lightly packed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 pound 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
For the cake:
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature (3/4 stick)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 extra-large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • Confectioners' sugar for sprinkling
Instructions
For the streusel:
  1. Combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl. Stir in the melted butter and then the flour. Mix well and set aside.
For the cake:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9-inch spring form pan.

  2. Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed for 4 to 5 minutes, until light. Reduce the speed to low and add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla, lemon zest, and sour cream. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Fold in the blueberries and stir with a spatula to be sure the batter is completely mixed.
  3. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and spread it out with a knife. With your fingers,
  4. Crumble the topping evenly over the batter. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool completely and serve sprinkled with confectioners' sugar.

Breakfast Casserole

Breakfast casseroles are all the rage, and why not? They are incredibly easy to make, delicious, can be made in advance and a great way to use up leftover ingredients that you have on hand.  It’s always a hit for breakfast lovers of all ages.

Similar to a frittata, but not exactly, this egg dish has become popular for KETO dieters, meal preppers, commuters, parents, and your basic brunch host. (I’m sure I am leaving someone out!)  Just about everyone, of all ages, can find a variation of this breakfast casserole that they like.Breakfast casserole is so easy, fun and completely customizable. Personally, I like to add in a layer of tater tots or hash browns because potatoes make me happy. However, they are optional. When I make this for my nieces or a group of friends, including the tater tots always earns me a few extra bonus points 🙂

The combinations of ingredients are endless- only your creativity will limit you! Here are some variations that I have made to hopefully inspire you to make your own!

    • Sausage, mushroom, onion and fontina cheese
    • Ham, mushroom and swiss cheese
    • Spinach, mushroom, onion and cheddar cheese
    • Broccoli, cheddar and onion
    • Bacon, peppers and scallions
    • Crab, Bacon & Cheddar

Feaster’s Tip

To cut clean portions, cook completely and cool completely  Remove casserole from dish and cut into squares and replace into casserole dish. This makes it easy to reheat whole or as individual slices. You can also wrap and refrigerate or freeze individual portions for breakfast on the go. 

Tater Tot Casserole
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
40 mins
 
Course: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Servings: 6
Ingredients
  • 3 cups cooked tater tots
  • 1/2 -3/4 cup shredded cheese of choice
  • 5 breakfast sausage links- cooked and sliced or diced.
  • Half of a large white onion sliced and sautéed.
  • 8-9 large eggs- beaten
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream optional, but it helps it fluff.
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley optional
  • salt & pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8x8 pyrex dish.
  2. Toss the cooked tater tots with a pinch of salt & pepper for seasoning. Spread them out in a single uniform layer out on the bottom of the dish and lightly press them with the back of a spatula.

  3. Mix the heavy cream into the beaten eggs. Season well with Salt & pepper. Mix in half of the shredded cheese, the sausage & onions and pour mixture over the tater tots.
  4. Top with the remaining cheese and parsley. Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until cooked through.

steak and eggs crostini

I’ve been working on sassing up Sunday breakfasts for when we aren’t out for brunch. So although this post won’t give you an exact recipe to follow, the point is just to share some of my experiments in the kitchen to get that creative culinary mind thinking of new ways to serve up eggs.

I have learned that all good things start with hash. Anytime you make a good hash as a bed for your eggs, the result is both rustic and impressive.

I haven’t written down the exact measurements, but the basic steps I followed for my favorite breakfast hash are listed here.

Combine grated potato and grated zucchini (skins only) with sautéed onion and diced red pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, salt, pepper and a touch of basil pesto. Prepare the hash using good olive oil and stainless steel or cast iron pan and cook until crispy and cooked through. Top with a pan friend egg and a dollop of pesto sauce.

I’ve also learned that breakfast crostini’s are an awesome addition to any Sunday morning!

Bloody Mary at Lilly's White Plains NY

Lilly’s is one of the newest additions in White Plains, NY and we welcomed them with open arms! In a long line of pretty terrible bars along Mamaroneck Avenue geared towards the Westchester college crowd, Lilly’s finally gave those of us pretending to act like grown ups and seeking a proper cocktail, a place to escape at the end of the work day.

Not long after our first visit to Lilly’s, Westchester magazine featured Lilly’s as a “must try” for brunch, so we knew we had to try it and were happy to head back there and order another Bloody.

This is where we have some good news and some bad news.

The good news is the Breakfast Pizza featured in Westchester Magazine did not disappoint. Aren’t you just drooling looking at this picture?

Brunch at Lilly's in White Plains, NY
The Morning Lilly Pizza features Mozzarella, Fontina, Creme Fraiche, Corned Beef Hash, Truffle Oil and a Fried Egg

The bad news is that their Bloody Marys are inconsistent. Usually this indicates they do not have a solid recipe in place, but this caliber of a restaurant should- especially when offering Brunch on both Saturday and Sundays including a complimentary Bloody Mary or Mimosa with each Brunch entree- making it a soon to be Brunch hot spot. My hope is that Lilly’s focuses on developing a solid and consistent recipe for their Bloody Mary.

Lilly’s delivered a fantastic Bloody Mary the first time we tried it which was in late June 2015. It was savory- flavored for certain with Worcestershire and we felt the recipe reflected the ambiance of Lilly’s. It was a sophisticated Bloody Mary and echoed the exposed brick and dark red leather featured in the decor. We gave that Bloody Mary a thumbs up.

Brunch at Rye House Port Chester NY

Bloody Mary at Rye House Port Chester NYOur neighborhood has had new joints pop up everywhere over the past few years and trust me when I say- they are all welcome! One of the newer additions in the chain of restaurant openings is Rye House, located on Main Street in downtown Port Chester. They sum it up best in a description found on their website– “Rye House is a place for all times that draws its inspirations from old American commitments to hospitality and ingenuity.”

Rye House is fortunate enough to have Sarah, a very talented mixologist, behind the bar. Sarah’s background in the culinary arts certainly shines through when she is busy making infusions and picklings of all kinds and fresh, unique cocktails. When it comes to Sarah’s Bloody Mary, no two days deliver you the same garnish twice and I absolutely love that. Other bartenders should take note (or take a lesson) from Sarah!

The brunch scene isn’t generating the Sunday Funday crowds just yet, but I have hope.  The bar staff here truly care about making great, fresh cocktails and I have had some really good ones. Plus, I can walk here (if I really needed to!)  I enjoy the music they play and their brunch menu is pretty darn solid, especially the ‘Southern Benediction’ featured below…. it is as good at it looks- I promise! Word on the street is that live music is on its way too and I can’t wait! We have all the components here required for a top notch brunch experience!

SOUTHERN BENEDICTION Poached Eggs, BBQ Brisket & Creole Hollandaise
Poached Eggs, BBQ Brisket & Creole Hollandaise