Monthly Archives: January 2015

Hey Northeasters, Here’s a Recipe to Keep You Warm during the Storm… Brisket Chili!


Brisket Chili. Need I say more? I don’t think so, but I will! Today there are a lot of people snowed in – in the northeast. What better time to stay home all nice and warm and cook all day? When I spoke to each of my sisters in New York, they were both very busy cooking! One sister spent the day making soups; she made chicken and lentil. The other sister made meatloaf, turkey chili and meatballs. Wish I was there to enjoy their bounty of deliciousness with them! Recently, I had my own freezing cold day where I stayed in and cooked all day. One of the things I prepared was brisket chili. I usually make turkey but this is where the Barefoot Contessa comes in. I was watching television and her show came on. It was the episode with her friend Devon’s award winning brisket chili recipe.

Ina Garten, aka the Barefoot Contessa, really knows how to live it up. She’s always having friends over to cook, bake, BBQ, decorate with and let’s not forget how much she likes surprising her husband Jeffrey with something (usually chicken)! In this episode, her friend Devon joined her to teach her how to cook her Award-Winning Chili and of course, to surprise Jeffrey! When Ina asked Devon why brisket, she simply said because it’s New York Chili – that’s why! I guess that’s as good a reason as any!

When seeing the show, I remember the first thing that popped into my head was – wow! that is a lot of spice! Then when Ina tasted it, she confirmed what I was thinking! The second thing was… brisket that’s extravagant cut of meat for chili. I had never thought of using brisket. For one reason, we don’t eat very much red meat in my house. Second, we keep kosher and kosher brisket is a very expensive cut of meat to turn into chili. As I watched her make it, I knew I had to try it. Even though I knew there was no way I was adding as much cayenne and chili pepper to it as she did! They added 2 tablespoons of chili powder, 1 tablespoon of red pepper flakes, and 1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper! Talk about hot! It was enough spice to melt all the snow in the northeast!


Anyway, as luck would have it, I was at my butcher last week and all they had was chicken. Yes, I said chicken – hang in there with me I’m getting to it! David, the nice man that works at the butcher shop, walked out from the back with a tray of brisket, but before seeing what it was, I made a joke and said “where’s the beef!” Then he showed me what he was about to put in the showcase. It was beautiful brisket, but the price – not so beautiful to use for chili! That’s when he leaned over, nudged me in the elbow and asked me if I like stew meat? I said yes, when I make stew. He said this is very special stew meat, you’ll never see it here again and he whispered, it’s the leftover brisket scraps at stew meat prices! I put every package in my cart and headed to the register before someone stopped me.  Brisket chili here I come!

This is a very loosely adapted version of Devon’s Chili recipe. I want to give credit where credit was due but please note, I did change it quite a bit. The first time I made it last year, I made it close to the recipe but altered the spice to our liking (especially since Ina said it was so hot). This time around, I made it my own and added celery and more peppers plus, I like using canned tomatoes for chili. If interested, her original can be found on the Food Network website. Enjoy!

5 pounds beef brisket, cut in 1-inch cubes
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped sweet onions
1 cup celery diced
3 peppers of any color seeded and diced (I used one of each, yellow, orange and red)
6 large garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
2 (28 ounce) cans of diced tomatoes with their liquid
1 (14.5 ounce) can tomatoes with mild chili’s
1/2 cup strong coffee (I used decaf)
1 can white cannellini beans rinsed and drained
1 can red kidney beans rinsed and drained
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon chili powder (or to taste, more if you like it spicy!)
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste, same as the chili powder)
2 tablespoons chopped basil leaves

Serve with: Diced tomato, Shredded Lettuce, Brown Rice, Corn, Tortilla chips, Guacamole or other condiment you like with your chili.


This recipe makes 8 to 10 servings

Pat the brisket cubes dry with paper towels. Heat the oil in a very large heavy-bottomed pot and quickly brown the meat, in batches, on all sides. Transfer the brisket to a separate bowl and set aside. Saute the onion and garlic in the same oil over medium heat until limp, but not brown, about 5 to 8 minutes and then add the celery and saute another 5 minutes until translucent.

Add the tomatoes with their juice, the reserved meat, chili powder, cayenne pepper, and bay leaf and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and simmer for 2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. At this point it should be perking gently not bubbling rapidly. Taste and season with salt and pepper to your liking. Add the coffee and the diced peppers and cover the pot allow to simmer for 1 more hour or until the brisket is very tender.

Add the beans and basil, and warm through for about 15 minutes. Adjust the spice according to your taste. Transfer the chili to a large serving bowl and serve with whatever you like on the top.

Going to the NHL All-Star Weekend in Columbus? Plan to take a Snack Break at the 400!

Columbus will be Hoppin’ this weekend with the NHL All-Star Weekend of festivities. And I will be Poppin’ at the Farmer’s Market at 400 W. Rich!

If you’re planning on joining the All-Star Weekend activities, take a break from all the testosterone and come to the 400 for a visit’! Four new flavors of caramel popcorn are coming with me! Banana Split Caramel Popcorn anyone?

Hope to see you there! We’re only 5 minutes away from all the festivities!

Did my Husband and I Invent the Food Crawl in the 80’s? I Think we did!

If you search for the term “food crawl” on the internet you won’t find too much information. However, on the Food Network, Cooking Channel and in many culinary magazines you hear and read about it quite frequently.

I would define a food crawl as follows: where one goes on a culinary tour to different restaurants to sample food. For example, you can do one in search of the best restaurant, or specific food such as coffee crawl, or taco crawl. There is also a progressive food crawl where you might have drinks and appetizers at one restaurant, dinner at another, then dessert and coffee at different location. Living in NYC, food crawls are a part of daily life. Any big city will afford you this opportunity. My husband and I were doing food crawls since we met without even knowing it – we’re such trend setters! More often than not, we had dinner one place and dessert at another. Recently we were in NYC and while waiting to be seated at Lombardi’s Pizza (just had to get in another pizza plug!), my husband showed up with a tray of Melissa’s Cupcakes for us to nosh on while we waited 45 minutes for our table! After dinner, we went to Rice to Riches for rice pudding for dessert. That was a food crawl too.

When my husband and I first met, I remember one time we decided to walk to dinner from  his apartment on West 53rd and 8th down to the East Village (around 10th street) where we would end up at a place called PizzaPizza. It was about an hour walk to get there. We were starving so we decided to stop in at Luigi’s Pizza across the street and share a slice before we headed downtown – just the fuel we needed! On our way, we passed so many pizza places it seemed there was one on at least every other block! Somewhere along the way we stopped in at one of the Ray’s* Pizza places just for fun. We each took a bite but didn’t really like it. It was very cheese heavy so we tossed it and kept walking. Then we came across Lazarra’s Pizza on 38th street By the time we got to PizzaPizza, we were very happy to sit down, and very ready to order a pizza! In the end, Luigi’s was the best of the night and we had invented the food crawl!

So why am I telling you all of this? Saturday my family did a local pizza crawl in honor of National Pizza Week and so that I could share it with you. We chose 3 places that are in the top 25 here in Columbus. It was my son’s last day of winter break so we chose pizza places near the bus station that would get him back to college. Ironically, they are in the top 4 of that list! First stop, Harvest Pizzeria in German Village. We have been there before and absolutely love their pizza. We thought just like with Luigi’s we should start out with something tried and true – just in case! We ordered two pies – one with mushrooms and the other vegetable. The pizzas are baked in a wood burning oven and the crust was light and delicious with just the right chew and char on the crust. It’s not NY pizza, but that’s more than okay, it doesn’t have to be. It’s unique and stands on its own. I always get the almond pesto on the side, just to drizzle on top – so good, I started making it at home! We’re Harvest Pizza lovers in my house as you can tell!


Harvest Pizzeria in German Village

An hour later we headed over to Yellow Brick Pizza in Old Town East. We have heard so much about it, we wanted to give it a try. We ordered a regular cheese pie so that toppings didn’t get in the way of taste. This was my husband’s favorite place of the day. It was a good solid pie. The pizza had a nice crispy crust, just the right amount of cheese, and a great tasting sauce. What more can you ask for? Tater tots apparently because they’re on the menu with a variety of toppings! Of course we got those too! They were good, probably better with toppings and a drink but we were there for the pizza.


Yellow Brick Pizza in Olde Town East

Last but not least was Bono Pizza. Bono Pizza was my white whale (you know as in Moby Dick – the one that got away)! About 6 years ago we passed a small little place in the Short North that had a sign in the window – Bono Pizza to go. They were closed but I wrote down their number so I could get their hours and pick up a pie to try another time. I went there again a couple months later and the sign on the window said sorry, ovens are out. 3rd time will be a charm – right? A few weeks later I went back and they were closed; they had moved to a new location. I forgot about them for a while, then one day I was driving my son to baseball and saw a sign for Bono Pizza. I quickly pulled into the parking lot. They were located in a convenience store and had pies to go after 5pm. We missed them again!


Bono Pizza in Grandview

This past summer, while in the area, I saw a sign that said we’ve moved. For some reason I felt compelled to follow the signs to their new location – I didn’t want pizza but wasn’t giving up. I found them located in an apartment complex and yes they were closed for lunch but now I knew where they were. It’s an odd location, very small, and less than fancy but there’s something warm about the place. Saturday, I finally caught the white whale! We dropped Jarred off at the bus, did a few errands and headed over for dinner (of course I called them on the way to make sure they were open!). I couldn’t believe after 6 years we finally did it. Was it worth it? Read on to find out!

The restaurant is located in an apartment complex which is a little unusual but seems to work. One thing we loved was the red and white checkered tablecloths. It reminded us of NYC pizza places. We ordered three 10 inch pies and loved the Margherita pizza with extra garlic they call The Caroline. It really was delicious. The dough was crisp and tender and had a nice wood charred flavor, add in the fresh mozzarella – it was a winner! As for the other two, we just ordered the wrong pies. So we are going to judge solely based on the Margherita pie which was amazing.

End of day results… You can see why all three are among the top 25 best pies in Columbus. All different, all very good in their own right. Ethan and I selected Harvest Pizza as our favorite. My husband’s favorite was Yellow Brick Pizza. Bono was a top contender but I think at a disadvantage, it was the last pie of the day, we were a little full, and I guess after 6 years, my expectations were just too high. Jarred’s favorite was Zen Cha Tea (no pizza), but that’s another story! All in all it was a really fun day. I finally caught the white whale, we had some great food, and so many laughs along the way and I would go back to any of them in a heartbeat! Can’t wait until next year’s National Pizza Week! I have so much more to share, more recipes, more stories, I may not be able to wait! In the meantime, check out the places I’ve mentioned plus these I have been to (also in the top 25) … Mikey’s Late Night Slice, Natalie’s Coal Fired Pizza, and Borgata Pizza Cafe. Only 19 more to try!

*There are dozens of pizza places with the name Ray in it all claiming to be the first and one and only original. There are often debates as to whether they are related in some way. Off the top of my head, there is Ray Bari, Original Ray’s, Famous Original Ray’s, Ray’s, I think there is even a World Famous Ray’s Pizza. Check out this blog to find out more about Ray’s pizza and for a funny clip on Seinfeld about Ray’s

Grandma Pizza, We don’t have that in Columbus!


When my husband was scouting out the Columbus area for our move 12 years ago, he would call me and tell me what he found that was familiar to us. While he was busy researching the best school districts, I asked things like, do they have a Lord & Taylor there. Is there a  Bloomingdales? And, oh, make sure you try the pizza I can’t move anywhere that doesn’t have good pizza! I have to be honest, the reports weren’t so promising.* That was coming from my husband who can eat almost anything. The best he came up with was California Pizza Kitchen. While I do enjoy their pizza, and sometimes crave their tricolore** salad pizza, it’s not New York Pizza!

How could this happen? A Brooklyn girl living someplace without good pizza, unheard of, unthinkable! Then I thought, if I learned to make it myself, I wouldn’t have to go without. So this began my journey on learning how to make the best tasting pizza I could! Pizza that would rival some of the best I’ve had in NY.

While still living in NY I purchased dough from my local pizza place just to get the hang of it. I bought a pizza stone and pizza wheel to cut the pizza. I was ready! From there, I researched cookbooks, cooking shows and asked an Italian neighbor of mine who made pizza regularly to help me. While this isn’t the first pizza I learned how to make, I wanted to share it first because it’s the easiest, absolutely delicious, and is made in a standard sheet pan. The ingredients are very simple and rustic. Most people are familiar with the round pizza, and square Sicilian, but the grandma pie is a whole different ballgame. Some people think it’s a thin Sicilian pie, but it’s not. The crust is almost like a thin focaccia and crispy on the bottom.  It’s not so easy to find outside of Long Island where it originated. That is unless you go to Italy where someone’s grandmother makes it for you, hence the title Grandma Pizza.


So what exactly is a grandma pie? According to a Newsday article (Long Island newspaper) written by Erica Marcus…

“Variations abound, but the basic outlines are as follows: a thin layer of dough is stretched into an oiled, square “Sicilian” pan, topped sparingly with shredded mozzarella, crushed uncooked canned tomatoes, chopped garlic and olive oil, and baked until the top bubbles and the bottom is crisp.

[Michele] Scicolone [Manhattan resident, Italian food expert, and co-author of Pizza: Any Way You Slice It] observed that grandma pie sounded a lot like “pizza alla casalinga” (housewife-style pizza), “the kind of pizzas you’d get in Italy if you were invited to someone’s home.”

New Yorkers take their pizza seriously. If you would like to read the whole story, you can find it at this link:

So here it is, my version of Grandma Pizza adapted from Cooks Country…


1   1/2 cups bread flour (plus more for kneading)
3/4 cup warm water (105 to 110 degrees)
2  1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons of olive oil

Recipe for the topping follows at the end.


For the dough:  Coat a rimmed baking sheet (half sheet pan 18 x 13) with 2 tablespoons of good olive oil and set aside.

In a measuring cup add the warm water, sugar and yeast. Allow it to proof for about 5 minutes or until the yeast has activated and is foamy on top.

In a large bowl add the flour and salt. When the yeast is proofed, add the tablespoon of olive and stir into the flour mixture. If the dough feels too sticky, add a little more flour. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until soft, smooth and elastic about 5 to 7 minutes.

Transfer the dough to greased sheet pan and turn it to coat. Stretch dough to about a 12 by 8 inch rectangle. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 45 minutes to one hour. While the dough is rising, put the topping together.


1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves of garlic minced fine (or more if you like garlic as much as I do!)
8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese (use a good quality mozzarella)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons fresh basil

Place tomatoes in a colander and drain well. I leave it draining about 30 minutes. Then combine tomatoes, oil and garlic in a bowl and stir well. That’s it for the sauce!


After it has doubled in size, stretch dough to the corners of the pan and let it rest for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, adjust your oven rack to the lowest position and the heat oven to 500 degrees. Now it’s time to assemble the pizza. Sprinkle the cheese over the dough leaving 1/2 inch border around the edges. Top with tomato mixture and then place in the oven. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and when you lift a corner of the crust you see it’s well browned underneath. Transfer to a wire rack to yield a crispy crust.  Enjoy!




* 11 years later we have several really good pizza places here. Tomorrow I’m planning on doing a food crawl at a couple of them. One we love, the other we can’t wait to try. I’ve been told it’s the best pizza in Columbus. I’ll be the judge of that!

**tricolore is the name and spelling of the salad at CPK, this is not a misspelling on my behalf.  It’s a caramelized Parmesan pizza crust (I get whole wheat) topped with spring salad mix, diced tomatoes and shaved Parmesan cheese with their homemade Dijon balsamic vinaigrette dressing. I highly recommend it, salad and a pizza all in one! Yum!



Today is my Sister’s Birthday!!!!!!!!!!

This is MY SISTER and today is her birthday! My family is crazy about birthdays! Well maybe not the whole family – just my sisters and I! The photo was taken April 2014 in front of our old house where it all began… 38 east 89th street, Brooklyn, New York! Even though it was so many years ago, it doesn’t feel like that long ago. We were so happy taking pictures, reminiscing about my mother’s rose garden (which no longer exists), and trying to remember which neighbor lived in which house.

While we were busy showing our children the house and taking pictures, a man called to us from the upstairs window and asked what we were doing. At first we were a little nervous – after all, here we were in front of his house taking pictures. As it turned out, the people that own the house were so nice they invited us inside. We were thrilled! Of course our children being taught by us never to go into a stranger’s house had a different take on this – but that’s another story! The inside looked much smaller then we remember, but I think everyone says that about their childhood home. It was such a fun day that brought back a lot of great memories.

frannie and me in rose garden ps'

Here we are in the rose garden all those years ago. Nothing better than having a sister!

After riding around the old neighborhood for a while, we all got hungry so we stopped for pizza – what else? Click on the link to read about our pizza adventure here

I think my sister and I love pizza more than most people. Let’s be honest, what’s not to love? And, as it turns out, this week is National Pizza Week! So in honor of her birthday, and to kick off National Pizza Week, I picked up a couple of pies for dinner! Here is a photo of the Mediterranean vegetable pie I picked up from Borgata Pizza Cafe – it was so good! They were voted one of the top 25 pies in Columbus and once you try it, you’ll know why!

Follow me this week as I share photos, stories and recipes all about pizza – enjoy!