Show Me Your Mussels

For my 20th birthday, I had a few friends over for a sophisticated party. Nothing too wild, the party was an afternoon affair. I had a few friends over for a light meal and opening presents. My mom made mussels, one of my all-time favorite meals.As my mom was cooking the mussels in the kitchen, my friend, filled with curiosity, wandered in to observe. He had an important date coming up and really wanted to woo this woman. He thought making her mussels might do the trick, but he was afraid they’d be too complicated to cook. My mom assured him that there was nothing to it and walked him through the simple steps of how to cook mussels. His date ended up being a success and the two of them dated for many months until graduation inevitably sent them in separate directions.
This birthday anecdote exemplifies why I love mussels. They seem so fancy, yet they’re affordable and easy to make, and they always wow the crowd.
When I’m cooking in the summertime, I want a meal that takes minimum effort to prepare while giving me maximum taste and satisfaction. Lately, I’ve been making meals for dinner that I could make with my eyes closed–grilled salmon, salad, corn on the cob, and mussels. That always comes as a shock to my friends when I tell them I had mussels for dinner in the comfort in my own home. These scrumptious mollusks are easy to make! Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Go to your local fish market and pick up the freshest mussels you can find! (1 lb. for 2) When I’m in Milwaukee (which I usually am in the summer), I go to St. Paul’s Fish Market for the freshest fish around.
  2. Pick up a dry white wine in which to cook your mussels. When it comes to cooking with wine, I look for cheap, but also something I would drink (thanks mom and Julia Child for teaching me this important lesson). Obviously you’re going to have a glass while you’re cooking (another important tip from both my mom and Julia Child), so you want something that tastes good and doesn’t break the bank. My mom always cooked with Frontera, so that’s become my go-to wine for cooking. I usually use a Sauvignon Blanc or a Chardonnay.
  3. Chop up a bunch of scallions and a clove (or 2) of garlic. You’ll be adding these to sauce.
  4. Wash off mussels. Put them in a pot. Add wine (enough to cover mussels but not too much so you can’t properly cook off the alcohol), garlic and scallions.
  5. Cover pot. Bring to a boil. Once all mussels have opened, turn off the stove, and there you have it (as Julia used to say)!
  • Serve over pasta or with a side of crusty bread.
  • Fun fact: the shells make great dipping spoons.
  • If you’re still feeling extremely unmotivated to cook, here are some places (that I like) where you can go to get your mussels fix:
  • Whether you decide to cook your mussels at home or enjoy someone else’s cooking, I hope you throughly enjoy your meal. Bon appetit!
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    The Perfect Table, or How to Dine Out

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    The perfect table.

    I follow a few simple rules when dining out. First, only dine in places serving cuisine and dishes that I couldn’t make myself. Second, as my good friend puts it, if your meal is under three hours or courses, you’re doing it wrong. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, be the perfect table.

    When I worked in the restaurant industry, we referred to “the perfect table” as one that coursed out their meal and ordered a bottle of wine with every course. There are several variations on this theme, but generally the perfect table starts out with a round of cocktails before looking at the menu. Then, they share a bottle of wine with their appetizers. Following appetizers is the main course and another bottle of wine or two. Lastly, dessert arrives along with a round of after-dinner drinks.

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    The Champagne and oyster course.

    I love starting off the meal by sharing a half-bottle of champagne with my dining companion and a dozen oysters. If I’m dining Italian, then the meat and cheese board is a must. From here, depending on my appetite, I could go into a soup or salad course, or I might dive into the entrée. Whatever the choice, there will always be a new bottle of wine to pair with the meal– a substantial red if I’m eating a meatier fish, steak, or hearty pasta; white if it’s lobster or a lighter fish. I’m partial to an unoaked Chardonnay or an Albarino. Depending on the number of guests I’m dining with or how quickly we sip our wine, a second bottle will be ordered for the table.

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    Pass the Courvoisier.

    Finally, after several hours of libations and good cheer, time for what is perhaps my favorite part of the meal: the after-dinner drink. Nothing complements a delightful evening of food and friends quite like a snifter of Courvoisier. Some reach for the port, others a Brandy Alexander, but me—I love cognac.

    With there being thousands of dining options in New York, I want my dining experience to be just that—an experience. I want the restaurant where I dine to grant me access to food and wine that might otherwise be out of my reach. If not, there’s no point in eating out. While I don’t dine in this manner every weekend, I do strive to be the “perfect table” at least once or twice a month. Of course, being the sensible New Yorker that I [almost] am, I always budget for such meals.