I’m starting this post the way all meals should be started: with DESSERT. This place doesn’t actually have a dessert menu–it’s mostly whatever the chef decides to make. This particular night, he had made chocolate chip pound cake and topped it with marshmallow ice cream (um yes, that’s right. Marshmallow ice cream mmmmm).
Let’s face it. Life is busy, and some Thursday nights you’re going to get home at 9 with nothing to cook. Before you dig through your drawer of takeout menus (the typical 45 minute wait was literally the only thing that stopped me today), take a look in your fridge. There’s a chance you might have enough random vegetables and fruits to put together a halfway decent dinner. Enter the art of the Garbage Salad (or as I like to put it, dump anything you can find into a bowl and mix). However, my version is a totally different than an actual garbage salad and is my own interpretation. (Hey, when you’re scraping your fridge for food, options are limited).
It’s no surprise I like sugar. And The Food Network. So when The Best Thing I Ever Ate had an episode titled “Sugar Rush,” I was all over that. Sandra Lee’s favorite sugar rush, do-it-yourself s’mores at Luna Park just happens to be a stone’s throw from my house. Welcome to Birthday Celebrations That Revolve Around Food Post #2.
Much like my birthday lunch, my birthday dinner revolved around a dessert I just had to try. But I also had to order food too, since this was dinner, after all.
The interior is swanky bordering bizarre, and uber dark (almost as dark as BLD at dinner). There are a few tables along the back of the restaurant that are enclosed in draperies. Romantic…or creepy?
Once your eyes adjust and you settle into your seat at the Park, you get to pick a few dishes from a pretty yummy sounding menu. I went with 2 friends, and we ordered 2 entrees, 2 appetizers and a dessert to share (I’m always in favor of sharing. I get food ADD and get bored with my dish pretty quickly. I like a little bit of everything!).
The first entree was a Breaded Pork Cutlet Stuffed with Mushrooms and Gruyere Cheese, Topped with an Apple Cranberry Sauce and Served with Mashed Potatoes and String Beans:
Apple cranberry sauce…on top of a piece of pork sounds a little…weird. But it was a good weird. Definitely a good weird. Loved the sweet/savory combo. The sauce was more like a grown up applesauce and somehow, someway, worked with the pork. Although, I was a little bummed that I couldn’t find the mushrooms or gruyere cheese stuffed in the cutlet
The other entree was a Pan seared Mahi Mahi with Moroccan Cous Cous Salad, Hazelnuts and Grilled Bok Choy:
The mahi mahi wasn’t anything particularly exciting, but the Moroccan cous cous salad…wow. I’m still drooling over this one. There were pieces of (I think) arugula, spinach and possibly other greens, mixed with some tasty and buttery cous cous, dried cranberries and a surprising but DELICIOUS surprise: hazelnuts!!! Salads with an added crunchy texture are good. Salads with hazelnuts=my new favorite thing.
We had heard some amazing things about their mac and cheese, so we ordered a side of it:
To be quite honest, it was just…eh. And the broccoli in it didn’t quite “go” with the rest of it. It wasn’t as cheesy as I’d hope. In fact, I really couldn’t taste any real cheese in there. It was like eating plain pasta with breadcrumbs and broccoli. But at least the breadcrumbs on top were good.
The other appetizer/side we ordered was a Warm Goat Cheese Fondue with Grilled Bread and Sliced Apples:
Since all of our food came out at once, I thought it would be a brilliant idea to eat this last, since there was a little candle below it that I thought would keep it warm. Not so much. The itty bitty tealight under the cheese pretty much did nothing. The cheese, while still melted, cooled to just above room temperature. Oops! But the grilled bread and apples were still very tasty, and probably would have been a little more tasty if the cheese was warmer
Instead of sticking a candle into the s’mores, Luna Park celebrates birthdays by sticking candles into a gigantic plastic cake with an equally giant sparkler (although it had already burned through by the time we got this picture):
And for the real reason for this trip: do-it-yourself s’mores! We didn’t even ask for a dessert menu (would you really need to, knowing that these were an option?)
The homemade graham crackers are amazing. Totally blows the boxed stuff out of the water. The chocolate was yummy and dark (totally prefer dark to milk when it comes to s’mores). The marshmallows, while still hot and melted, were the epitome of gooey goodness. Unfortunately, much like with the goat cheese fondue, the little tealights didn’t do their job, and the marshmallows stiffened up fairly quickly, and the do-it-yourself aspect turned into me scraping the sides of hardened marshmallow from the cup with a spoon. There’s no neat way to eat this dessert. You get chocolate all over the table, marshmallow stuck on your fingers and s’mores smeared all over your face. Which, aside from the marshmallow situation, makes for the perfect sugar rush dessert.
A mouthful of a name for such a simple pizza. Since it’s already a given I’m obsessed with the pre-made dough at Trader Joe’s and Fresh & Easy, my next pizza concoction was just around the corner. My inspiration this time around…a jar of black olive tapenade…mmm…
I stripped off a few sprigs of rosemary and mixed it into 8oz of goat cheese I had on hand:
After rolling out the dough and spreading the tapenade, I proceeded to add the goat cheese. One problem–the goat cheese I had wasn’t nearly enough to cover the pizza:
Not to worry though. I had some ricotta left over from my stuffed portobello mushrooms, so I mixed in some rosemary and covered the rest of the pizza and topped it off with pine nuts:
I have yet to find a better way of transferring the pizza onto the heated pizza stone. Any suggestions welcome. I was so close:
15 minutes at 450-475ish degrees, and I had myself a fancy (although a little too olive-y) pizza:
The verdict: a little on the dry side (the goat cheese doesn’t have enough moisture to withstand the high baking temperature pizza requires). I made this on a weeknight, so I didn’t have enough time to carefully chop up the rosemary. I’ll be trying that next time. As with every pizza, the most time consuming part of the process is waiting for the dough to settle and rolling it out.
Next time? I’ll be trying a more moisture-y cheese (using all ricotta, or maybe some mozzarella) and less tapenade (will mix it with some other topping yet to be determined). And I seriously need to figure out a safer transfer to the pizza stone:)
I stopped by Fresh & Easy with the sole intent of picking up plain pizza dough to make a standard cheese pizza. But what I found next to the plain dough changed my entire dinner plans. Enter the pre-made rosemary focaccia dough.
Rosemary. It was love at first smell. So it’sonly fitting that I picked up the rosemary dough over the plain dough. I decided to go with goat cheese, but wasn’t quite sure what else to add. While standing wide-eyed in front of the cheese section, I caught a glimpse of something bright red in the corner of my eye. They had a small tub of roasted tomatoes, soaking in oil and spices. Genius.
My previous attempt at pizza left me with a soggier-than-I-would-have-liked pizza. An obvious change this time around was not to over soak the dough with sauce. I also love a thin and crispy crust, so I ventured to Target and picked up a basic pizza stone. Greatest 10 bucks I’ve ever spent.
I kneaded and stretched the dough out into a decent sized attempt at a circle over a cookie sheet while the pizza stone was heating up in the oven. I then drizzled olive oil over the dough, and spread a small stick of goat cheese over the dough. Finally, I topped it all off with the tomato slices.
I was too hungry and excited to eat this, I didn’t quite think it all the way through. Transferring the very thin pizza from the cookie sheet to the hot pizza stone proved a little difficult. Note to self: put the tomatoes on after the dough has made it to the stone. Notice the extra ball of dough on the cookie sheet. I threw this onto the pizza stone after making the pizza and out came a delicious piece of focaccia. It went great with a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar:)
Without too many tomatoes falling off the pizza, I successfully made the transfer. I let it bake in the oven at 475° for about 12 minutes. I had picked up some fresh basil at the farmer’s market this Sunday, and threw on a few leaves after the pizza was done. What we have here is essentially a slight twist on a margherita pizza (sans tomato sauce):
The verdict? The dough is to die for. The tomatoes are bursting with flavor. Fresh basil is always refreshing. But going completely sauce free makes for a slightly dry pizza. Drizzling more olive oil onto the cooked slices helped this ever so slightly, but next time I’m definitely adding just a little bit of sauce.
And an added bonus to tonight’s dinner – mint lemonade! Along with the fresh basil, I also picked up a bunch of incredibly fragrant mint at the farmer’s market. I muddled a few leaves in the bottom of a glass and poured in some lemonade. Refreshing and delicious. Perfection.