Thursday, May 28, 2009

Heritage Porterhouse Pork Chop & Gonon 2007 VdP de l'Ardeche Les Iles Feray

I am still working my way through the Heritage Farms porterhouse pork chops I bought a while back and the Gonon I picked up at Chambers Street Wines was screaming for a nice piece of meat. Just simply prepared with salt, pepper, olive oil, and cooked on a grill pan, the pork chop was juicy, meaty, rich. A lovely pairing with the Gonon 2007 Vin de Pays Les Iles Feray. Syrah from young vines in St-Joseph and older vines on the plateau in Ardeche. The wine is smoky, has dark fruits, soft and lush, but with the right amount of acidity. It's even a touch animalistic. I really dig Gonon's wines and I need to try the 2007 St-Joseph soon.

Memorial Day - BBQ

The weather cooperated, friends gathered, food was prepared. Monday was a great afternoon and evening for a barbeque and a friend obliged by having a few friends over. In addition to the classic burgers and hot dogs, I prepared (with the input of a friend) a couple of side dishes: guacamole and a tomato and mozzeralla salad.

- 3 avocados
- 2 limes (juice)
- 1 tomato (fine dice)
- 1 jalapeno (de-seeded and veined)
- handful of cilantro (chopped)
- dashes of hot sauce (to taste)
- salt and pepper (to taste)

Mash the avocados with the lime to the desired consistency (I like some chunks remaining) and then mix in the remaining ingredients in the order listed above) The jalapeno de-seeded provides flavor more than heat, but if you want some heat, then leave in some seeds. Note: the avocados need to be soft (not mushy) to the touch.

Tomato & Mozzarella Salad
- 4 tomatoes (heirloom, vine ripened, a variety - large chopped)
- mozzarella ball (large cubed)
- fresh basil (julienned)
- salt and pepper (to taste)

Toss all ingredients together. We left the salad for an hour or so and a lot of the juice from the tomatoes had been extracted - I actually drained about half of it off.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Baby Fennel & Lamb's Quarters

I have been exploring the Union Square Farmer's Market more recently and this past weekend found baby fennel and lamb's quarters. I just chopped up the baby fennel, whose bulbs are very small indeed, chopped up a little of the fronds. For the lamb's quarters I removed the ends and just rough chopped the leaves. I sauteed them in separate pans in extra virgin olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. For the lamb's quarters I also added some garlic to the pan.

The person who sold the lamb's quarters said they were related to spinach. I understand from a little research that they are also referred to goosefoot (based on the shape of its leaves) and for the most part is mistaken for a common weed.

Both were delicious. The fennel has a typical anise flavor and after sauteing is soft and mellow. The lamb's quarters are a little similar to spinach with a rich, mineral taste. They are both a wonderful change of pace from the usual boring green vegetables and together they were a delicious pair - although the plate looked a little too green and healthy!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Bad Shrimp? Which one did I throw out?

I am making grilled quick-brined jumbo shrimp and of the six I purchased from Chelsea Market, one wasn't looking so good. Guess which one?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Cooking from the Thai Grilling Temple Article in Food & Wine

The Thai Grilling Temple article in this month's Food & Wine magazine (June 2009) caught my eye and I decided to prepare some of the recipes. The salt crusted Tilapia with lemongrass looked really easy and tasty. I ended up buying Branzini and Dorade because those were the whole fish that looked the best at the Chelsea Market. The recipe turned out to be fairly easily, but a little time consuming. Frankly, stuffing a whole fish with lemon and herbs and simply roasting it in the oven is less annoying and tastes much better. The pasting of the cornstarch slurry and waiting just was not worth the hassle. I grilled the fish on a grill pan indoors, so maybe that's the big difference, but I doubt it. I have to admit though, it was fun pulling off the salt crusted skin in one piece.

As a pairing to the fish, I made the spicy citrus dipping sauce which as named is pretty spicy. Next time, I might lower the heat a little and reduce the liquid a little. But it was an excellent pairing for grilled fish. Tomorrow I plan on trying the grilled quick-brined jumbo shrimp, which I expect to be lovely with the dipping sauce.

I also tried the picked cucumber relish which I found preferable the night it was made than the second night. This was very easy to make and really refreshing, spicy, sweet, and tangy. A wonderful simple side dish to fish, meat, etc. I'll use this again as a fantastic side dish at a barbecue. I did not enjoy this the second day because the freshness of the cucumber was transformed to a more pickled flavor and the shallot flavor dominated. I love cucumbers and to me losing the freshness is sad.

I have more recently been cooking based on my own ideas and approaches, so following three to four recipes from one article in a magazine is a little unusual. I guess the magazine was successful - at least for the Thai Grilling Temple article anyway.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

You Should Enjoy What You Drink From

"... our life, insofar as it can be taken seriously, obtains dignity through simplicity, honesty, and purity..." Josef Hoffman, 1901.

I spent a couple of hours yesterday at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair at the Jacob Javitt's Convention Center and one of the exhibitors in the Austrian section was Lobmeyr. Their glassware is beautifully crafted and it looks so elegant, delicate, graceful. It almost transports you to a different age. Unfortunately, to be transported to this age of elegance and grace, it is going to cost you a few dollars, but I think it might be worth it. For a more detailed slide show of their elegant glassware, check out the article on Find. Eat. Drink.

(Trinkservice Hoffman Serie "B")
The Hoffman Serie "B" service is clear, mouth-blown crystal with hand-painted enamel decoration (called "Bronzitdekor" and developed by Hugo Max). This was originally designed in 1914 by Josef Hoffman.

(Trinkservice Patrician)

(Trinkservice Loos)
The Loos service is less delicate, but no less refined. In fact, this was my favorite design. It is clear mouth-blown and hand-cut crystal. It was originally designed for the Loos Bar in Vienna, and has been part of the Lobmeyr production since 1929.

Tampa's Ybor City - Where's the Authenticity?

What happens to historic parts of towns that become run down and are then redeveloped? In the case of Ybor city in Tampa, it becomes nightclub and entertainment cheesiness completely lacking in authenticity. Similar to the meat packing district in New York, it has become the Disney World version of itself. There are some great old buildings and what look like authentic cigar makers, but the exodus out of Ybor city took place after World War II. It was originally founded in the 1880s by cigar makers and supported immigrants from Spain, Cuba, and Italy.

Maybe I missed something, but after a stroll up and down the main street, I longed for some authentic cuban food.

Frenchy's Salt Water Cafe: Does It Live Up To The Hype?

A friend of mine from Clearwater, FL has been raving about Frenchy's Salt Water Cafe for ages. They source their fish locally - even better, they do their own fishing - just walk across the street to their boat. Whether it is for the stone crabs, famous smoked fish spread, or the grilled grouper sandwich - it is all supposed to be the bees knees. I finally made my first visit this past weekend. Did it live up to the hype?

First of all, I missed stone crab season by two days, but that is not their fault. I will just have to visit again between October 15th and May 15th. I ordered the Cajun Fried Gator Tail, the Famous Smoked Fish Spread, and the Grilled Grouper Sandwich with coleslaw.

(Pacifico, the monthly beer special and cajun fried gator tail)

The Cajun Fried Gator Tail is served in small bite sized, deep fried pieces and comes with a spicy dipping sauce. Although my first bite was chewy, the rest were tender, juicy, succulent, and delicious. Richer and more interesting than chicken, but a similar mild taste to both chicken and pork. The Famous Smoked Fish Spread comes with basic crackers and if you enjoy fish spread, this is worth a try. Slightly smokey, not too creamy, just a lovely balance. The Grilled Grouper Sandwich was perfectly grilled and juicy. Served on a soft onion roll, it's worth the visit. The coleslaw that came on the side with the sandwich was not my favorite. I don't always enjoy the sweet and savory combination and this version included pineapple. It was quite refreshing, but it just was not my thing.

(Famous Smoked Fish Spread)

Yes, my friend was definitely right, it is worth the hype. I would love to go back to try the octopus, the cracked conch, and of course the stone crab claws.

Grocery Shopping in New Towns

Whether I'm visiting a new country, city, or town, I always find it fun and interesting visit grocery stores to see the variety of what's available. This past weekend, I was in Tampa visiting family and found some fun finds at the Sweetbay in North Tampa.

1) Goat meat: I purchased two goat chops for $2.50. Since I was also cooking steak, I cooked the goat chops the same way: on a roasting pan in an electric oven set to broil. The flavor was deep, rich, almost gamey, but they were as chewy as old boots. The meat would have been much better served to be slow braised in some cooking liquid for a number of hours.

2) Pig Ears and Trotters: I did not buy any pig ears or trotters, but excited by the fact that all parts of the animal were being sold in a grocery store. I made Fergus Henderson's trotter gear a while back and loved the texture of the trotters when they are cooked - really gelatinous.

3) Goya Guanabana: also known as soursop or custard apple. This juice is a combination sweet, tart, citrusy, creamy. I mixed it with tonic and it was a tasty, refreshing drink.

Dinner: Key West Yellowtail Snapper

I was in Tampa over the weekend visiting family and found some "local" fish to cook. Local meaning that it was actually from Florida, in this case, Key West. The Yellowtail Snapper looked fresh and glistening in the store and tasted delicious when cooked. I just kept it simple: olive oil, salt, pepper, fresh dill, fresh parsley, lemon slices.

Cooked in the oven at 425 degrees on a roasting pan for about 30 minutes, the skin crisps up and the flesh is moist and tasty. It is such a beautiful fish, both raw and cooked.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Lunch @ Aburiya Kinnosuke - A New Find

I was on Yakitori Totto's website and realized they have a few restaurants in the city. I happened to be on the east side on 45th Street and realized Aburiya Kinnosuke was located there. What a find! They have great lunch specials:

I had the Fish Lunch for $16 which, as you can see from the photo, was grilled mackerel, sauteed shrimp with aona greens. Lunch was also served with miso soup, rice, and a little side dish of pickled vegetable. The food was fantastic, fresh, and tasty. My friend had the Nishoku-don (ground chicken and egg over rice, yellow-fin tuna over seaweed and rice) which was equally as delicious.

We ate at the bar and while we were eating lunch one of the cooks was filleting a whole fish (possibly fluke). The fish looked amazing. Aburiya Kinnosuke is on my list of places to return to and I have to try dinner there soon.

Sunset Cocktails

Having developed cocktails for Belvedere for the SOS Event at the Park Avenue Club in New Jersey last week, I thought it appropriate to enjoy one of my cocktails (or at least a variation) on a perfect spring evening.

Earl Grey tea infused gin, St-Germain, tonic, splash of lemon, lemon slice - just a perfect balance of tart, tannin, sweet - and the sunset wasn't bad either.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A Farmer's Market Dinner & Montevertine 1996 Pian del Ciampolo

A quick trip to the Union Square Green Market resulted in: pheasant sausages, ramps, parsnips. The combination of the three along with a bottle of Montevertine 1996 Pian Del Ciampolo Toscana (Sangiovese, Canaiolo grapes) was a simple and yet magnificent combination.

The pheasant sausages were spicy and the rich, but balanced really well with the sweetness of the parsnip puree (parsnips and carrots cooked in boiling water and pureed with butter, truffle oil, salt, pepper). The ramps provided yet another foil that made a lovely trio.

The wine was marvelous and a great value at $24. I love wines with some age and we should have decanted this for the sediment. It was elegant, bright, tertiary flavors, mushrooms, tobacco, roses, cedar.

Leftovers for Lunch: Are They Better Than The Original?

The second fish that I picked up at The Lobster Place on Friday afternoon was Kingfish (also known as King Mackerel). This was cooked for dinner very simply in the oven over slices of lemon, coated with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Fortunately for my lunch the next day, there were leftovers. A simple open faced sandwich with dill mayonnaise, cucumber, flaked Kingfish, fresh dill on whole wheat bread from the farmer's market. The side was cold leftover lentils with baby spinach and herbs (parsley, dill, mint). The side dish was based on a Jamie Oliver recipe that I have used many times.

The obvious leftovers are stews, curries, pies, etc. that are always better the next day because they have had time for the ingredients to settle in together. But I love cold meats, sausages, side dishes, fish - lunch is always so much more exciting when there are leftovers. It's so much more tasty than a boring old turkey sandwich.

Appetizer: Tuna Belly Tartar & Pinon Brut

Another visit to The Lobster Place in Chelsea Market resulted in the purchase of a small portion of perfectly glistening tuna belly. I love buying fish just because it looks great. Is there a better way to shop? How to prepare it? Pan-seared? Raw? I love tartar, but had never tried making it at home before. It could not be that hard.

Tuna Tartar
- tuna belly (chopped into small cubes)
- mayonnaise (heaped teaspoon)
- toasted sesame seeds (toasted in skillet over medium heat)
- jalapeno (diced)
- sriracha (dash to taste)
- truffle oil (dash)
- hawaiian red sea salt

Basically stir all the ingredients together in medium bowl and serve with hot whole wheat toast points. A really simple and fresh tasting appetizer.

I paired this with a dry sparkling Vouvray (Pinon NV Vouvray Brut) and it was a magic combination. Pinon's wine are an amazing value and always excellent. The bottle had been open for three days, but it was still fantastic: biscuity, appley, bright. This wine is from grapes from a plot of very old vines. For $21 this should be everyone's house sparkler.

Lunch: Guacamole & Baked "Homemade" Tortilla Chips

Guacamole and baked "homemade" chips (from flour tortillas): a fantastic Friday lunch.

(Ready to eat)

(Ten minutes later)

- ripe avocados (2)
- lime juice (1 lime)
- diced tomato (about 1/3)
- chopped fresh cilantro (small handful)
- diced red onion (small amount)
- diced jalapeno (1/2)
- dashes of hot sauce (Tabasco)
- salt & pepper

This is really a "feel" dish, rather than an exact science - which is why there are not any exact measurements above. Smash up the avocado in the lime juice (prevents browning) into whatever size chunks or however blended you like it. Then add the remaining ingredients, taste, and adjust as needed.

Baked "Homemade" Tortilla Chips:
- flour tortillas
- olive oil
- salt

Pre-heat over to 425 degrees. Cut the flour tortillas into eighths and brush both sides with olive oil Spread out the tortillas on a baking sheet and cook in the oven until browned on both sides (about 10 minutes). When they are hot out of the oven, sprinkle with sea salt.

The warm chips turn out crispy, slightly sweet and savory, and act as the perfect foil to the fresh and cool guacamole. The only challenge? I had to hold off on drinking a Negro Modelo beer because it was too early in the afternoon.