Monday, April 19, 2010

Pea soup for the soul... girlfriend can cook!

As the designated control freak foodie of my group of friends, sometimes other people don't get the chance to show off their culinary prowess when I am around. Well, I may just have to turn over the reigns more often. With the leftover ham bones from Easter, Liz made the most incredible split pea soup. Loaded with ham and served with freshly made croutons and buttered biscuits with honey...this was a meal that spoke directly to my soul.

The Pepsi egg....

I haven't dyed Easter eggs since I was a little kid. This year I spent an afternoon with my girlfriend and her sister dying eggs and cooking the side dishes for Easter Sunday. This was a total accident. Apparently, I have a hidden talent. And I don't even like Pepsi.

Stuff yer face...

Former Scarlet Knights Ray Rice, James Gandolfini and Calista Flockhart will know what I am talking about. Well...maybe not Calista Flockhart. Mario Batali Knows about it for sure...this place was his start in the restaurant business. Stuff Yer Face is an iconic eatery in New Brunswick, second only to the Grease Trucks in the pantheon of Rutgers gastronomy. Known primarily for the stromboli, a calzone-like dish named after a volcano in Italy, Stuff Yer Face was a regular haunt of mine during my abbreviated collegiate career. A great selection of beers to wash down the cardiac inducing 'boli doesn't hurt either.

However...on a recent trip...a new discovery was made.

A creation of such diabolical genius...such decadent ingenuity...even I had to look twice.

"like nachos,but...we use potato chips covered with cheddar, bacon, tomatoes, onions, ketchup and chives with sour cream."

Suddenly, I felt like Neo when he saw the Matrix for the first time. Have I been missing the world all this time? I thought I had tried, or at least thought of all the craziest most gut busting combinations possible. have shown me a new way...

Monday, March 22, 2010

The last hurrah...

So, my week without meat is over. As you may guess...I found very little blog inspiration during a week of salads, cheese and PB&J.
However...I've been saving this one for your reading enjoyment. My last a sense. I decided to go out with a bang.

Burgers stuffed with foie gras and black truffle mousse.

Yeah...they are as good as they sound. 

A few bites in and suddenly, a molten center of foie gras bursts into your mouth and down your chin. A truly decadent last meal before entering the purgatory of a world with out meat.

Easy enough to make with some D'Artagnan Foie Gras and Black Truffle Mousse.

A healthy disk of mousse between two smaller patties...ok...not that much smaller. Make sure you form a tight seal so that you don't lose any of the molten center as they cook.
Top with some really good cheese, I used a mix of Gruyere and a sharp alpine style cheese. I like to grate and mix the cheese for even melting.

 I prefer to cook these burgers inside. I like the seal and control you get from a pan over a grill. Get a good crust and finish them in the oven.

I served these with some freshly made sweet potato chips.

The final touches were some butter lettuce,  a roasted tomato & garlic mayo and a lemony cole slaw to help cut through the richness of the burgers.

I know you want one.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

You've got to know when to hold em'...

So...I lost a bet.

A stupid bet.

I am a fool.

And now, for five long and agonizing days...

I will be a vegetarian.

No juicy steaks. No greasy burgers. No crispy fried chicken or overflowing pastrami sandwiches. No stuffed trotters or pork belly. No foie gras, chicken livers or duck confit. No pulled pork sandwiches, ribs or buffalo wings.
Not even sushi.

I have chosen poorly. And the timing...St. Patty's Day. Corned beef and cabbage. Not for me.

Thanks, Liz.

Stupid bet.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

On quiet nights...

On a slower evening at the restaurant, some friends came to dinner. This is the story of that night.

The amuse bouche.
A wonton filled with brandade, a puree of salted cod and potato. 
Topped with lobster oil and a chiffonade of basil.
 Roasted candycane beets with goats cheese, olive oil, balsamic & honey reduction.
 This next course was extra fun as it literally came together on the fly. Rod was about to make a sea urchin and lobster roe mousse. So he took some of the lobster roe and quickly made a pasta. Note the change in color as it cooked.
He finished the dish with a bit more lobster roe and a lobster & turbot stock reduced with a bit of the sea urchin.
Finally, the dishes they actually ordered.
 Roasted shrimp, dusted in black pepper.
Served on a bed of shaved fennel and apples tossed with juniper vinaigrette
Seared diver scallops over cepe mashed potatoes with truffle vinaigrette.

Roasted half chicken with haricots verts and a garlic, lemon and thyme jus.

Basically, my point is...stop by on a slow night and let's see what happens.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Alain Ducasse rates NYC french fries...

Gotta love it...

My wish list...

 I thought I would put out a wish list of the places I want to eat at in the next few months. The weather is starting to get nice and I am getting antsy.

Locanda Verde...because who isn't going
The Breslin...again...this time for the pig
The Spotted Pig...because I need to write about those Bloody Marys
Blue Hill at Stone Barns...waiting for the spring
Ratz...also in the spring
Prune...I keep hearing great thing
Sushi Yasuda...because I can't afford Masa
Ward visit Adela
The Bar Room at the Modern...going in 2 weeks
Roberta's...went to event there a few months ago...dying to go back
Commerce...also, been hearing good things
Momfuku...all of one day...sounds fun, right?
Prime Meats...gotta get to Brooklyn
The Grease Trucks...because I owe it to Rod
Les Halles...I know he doesn't cook there anymore...but I still want to go

So...who's coming with me?

Nothing can kill The Grimace...

This is kind of randomly food related...but I love it and it fits in my search for the perfect burger...and I just love it. From Clerks: The Animated Series

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Tasting parties gaining momentum...

So it looks like our monthly tasting parties are really starting to take off. This past week was restaurant week in Maplewood so we hosted a full week of our soon to be famous tasting parties. That's also why I've been too busy to post...these things take a lot of work.

For those that don't know, we set the room as one long communal table and serve a set seven course menu. Folks are encouraged to interact and meet new people. It tends to be quite a bit of  least this writer for the NY Times seems to think so.

We topped this slice of Japanese Suzuki with lime, raisins and late harvest Gewurztraminer to create a type of ceviche or emince. we started each night with this dish and it set the tone. Simple, clean flavors. Bright and exciting. I could eat this all day.

Leek and potato soup with a mottled truffle cream. I love serving this dish because no one ever expects it to be quite as good as it actually is. From the color, you can see that the ratio of leek to potato is heavy on the leek side. This soup really tends to catch people off guard.

Roasted eggplant with Morrocan spices topped with a barely poached quail egg. Several people said that they don't like eggplant...and proceeded to clean their plates. Nuf said?

Oh yeah...can't forget desserts...

It's always tough for me to write about the dishes, since I don't get to sit and eat them.

How about this...leave a comment on this post about why you should be the guest commentator at the next tasting and I will pick my favorite to have a guest post.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Lunch for one...

During my trip to the market for dinner today I happened upon these amazing double cut pork chops. Unfortunately, there were not enough available for my whole dinner party, so....a very special lunch, just for me. I scrounged around the house for something to pair with it.

Yukon golds on their last legs and a couple of mushrooms from tonight's menu went into the pan with some olive oil, rosemary, thyme and garlic. Seared the chop in the same pan and into a hot oven. At the end, I hit the pan with some white wine, cream and just a touch of tomato paste and reduced. I have to say, that sauce was right where I wanted it. Simple, luxurious and delicious. Not a bad lunch, just for me...

Friday, February 26, 2010

The truth about Charlie's...

Anybody here been to Kenilworth, NJ?
Anybody been to Charlie's?
Let's fix that...

Charlie's is sells the most amazing sandwiches. Half a loaf of pizza bread stuffed with cheesesteak, hot dogs or sausages. Peppers and onions. All topped with fried potatoes. 

My mother loved it.
My girlfriend loved it.
Even my friends from Philly loved it.
And you will love it.

Just knock some of the potatoes off and eat them like chips.  Shove the rest in the sandwich and go to town. I highly recommend a cherry soda for your beverage.

The place itself used to be cooler when it was stuck in the 50's...but who cares. 

The sandwich is where it's at.

I got a crush on this sandwich.

I got a crush on this sandwich.
I made this video from some pics taken last year in the Dominican Republic. I felt remiss if I didn't share it with the rest of the world.
I am so sorry Eric, but you will soon become an international sensation. Prepare for the bombardment by paparazzi.
Just click the link above.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Almost perfect...

Start with some beautiful ingredients...

cook them with care...

and then...

blow the final picture with poor lighting...

Oh well, it was almost perfect.

The Breslin...decadence refined...


Why would they put me here?

I mean...right here?

So close to the kitchen...and more close to the table reserved for large groups being served a whole roasted pig.

Did they really think I would be able to maintain my composure? With the smells of crackling pork wafting in my direction? With a man, mere feet away, yanking off the ear to snack on? With a menu that seems designed specifically with me in mind.

The Breslin has just lept into the pantheon of greats for me. Built around some of the most decadent dishes imaginable, The Breslin feels more like The Spotted Pig's big brother than the baby in the family. The spacious bar was already crowded when we arrived a bit before six on a Wednesday. Luckily, we beat most of the dinner crowd. We sat right next to the large table overlooking the kitchen. The table that has a limited menu. Whole pig and sides. Apparently, the pig's name was Owen, according to our server. Well, Owen...I am sorry we did not get to meet tonight...but soon I shall return.

The dining room is bigger than the Pig's, but you can see the family resemblance. Half the staff wore the Spotted Pig's iconic t-shirts. The decor was also eclectic and comfortable, though a bit cramped. On my next trip I would request one of the private booths with curtains and a dimmer to let you control the light. Or a table upstairs, which I hear is a bit less cramped...

Or THAT table...

The big one with the pig on it.

But I digress, back to the meal I actually had. The menu has a section labeled "Snacks", I suggest you start there. There was a nice selection of slightly obscure dishes to choose from, fom scotch egg to scrumpets. I think I could make a great meal just from this under$10 section of the menu.

We started with Fanny Bay oysters and dill pickle juice. Fanny Bays are my favorite and as good as the pickle juice was, I like my oysters straight not a dish I would do again, but it was delicious.

Then we moved into my territory. Fried headcheese and scrumpets with mint vinegar. The headcheese was just what I was looking for when we picked The Breslin. The wonderful feeling of gelatin coating your mouth, the inherant pork flavor all surrounded by crispy, fried goodness. To quote the Hawaiian Punch guy, "Oh Yeah!"

The scrumpets were a first to me. Our server descibed them as looking like mozzarella sticks, but filled with braised lamb. Perfect. The lamb flavor was prevalent and the texture was great. It came with red wine vinegar loaded with fresh mint. Why do they serve that nasty mint jelly with lamb, the don't know that they should do it this way, I guess

Are we seeing a trend yet? Delicious, decadent food...fried? So what could be next?

Let's take a pig trotter, a whole foreshank really, and braise it. Then let's pull out all the meat and grind it with some braised shoulder. Then, let's stuff it back into to the skin and...deep fry it.

No, really.

First of all, this thing was huge, at least 12 inches. The outermost layer was crispy breadcumbs, followed by skin and a lyer of fat. Inside, the most delicate, most refined Scrapple on the planet. That is the only way to describe it. The dish was served with vinegary brussles sprouts and sweet braised shallots. We added on roasted fennel and thrice-cooked chips.

The service was charming and informed. David, our server, was helpful with suggestions and had a lot of fun with us.Several people came by for different reasons, and all seemed to be honestly excited to be serving this food. I personally can't wait to go back. I suggest you bring a larger group and sample as many dishes as possible. The one draw back of the pig's foot was that it was so much of the same thing. Bring some friends and try some things. I am looking foward to the charcuterie plate and scotch egg next time around.

Unless, of course, that next time is my inevitable visit to THAT table...the one with the pig on it...the one calling out to me....

Friday, February 19, 2010

A view from the grill...

I am really glad I got that birthday dinner in when I did...that's our grill in the foreground.

Sad news...

Well, folks, I am sure that most of you have received the sad news that El Bulli is closing.

I must admit, that it wasn't on my list of places to visit before I die, however, I now regret the fact that I will now never get the chance. It's like not seeing Avatar on an IMAX screen in 3D. It may not be exactly your cup of tea, but you are truly missing something if you don't have the experience. It is unique...unlike any other thing of the same nature. I have never been a fan of foams and airs, but that isn't all that El Bulli was about. Ferran Adria challenged long standing notions about what IS food/cooking. He stretched boundaries and inspired a generation of cooks to look beyond the box. While I may never get to El Bulli...perhaps a visit to Wylie is in the name of science...

On a much more personal note...

Shake Shack is not coming to Lower Manhattan.

Apparently the residents of Nolita have no interest in easy access to the most delicious burgers around. What is wrong with these people? Has the garlic gone to their brains? There are few things as satisfying as a Shack Burger. And few things as frustrating as the journey uptown that must accompany it. I know Danny Meyer plans on expanding the Shake Shack empire.

Put one on my block.

As if I wasn't on a hamburger kick already...I am now inspired to seek out the greatest burgers I can. I will share them with you my friends.

We begin our journey with Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Get yourself a Double Patty Bacon Cheeseburger all the way. Skip the cajun seasoning on the fries. Wash it all down with a Mr. Pibb. Get some extra napkins. You will need them. Not a bad way to tide myself over until I get to the Shack.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Just a link...

There is a great article in the NY Times about one of my favorite varietals.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A look back...

 The invention of cooking is considered to be the single greatest step  in the evolution of man.

Hardwired into our genetic makeup through centuries of evolution is an intense love of meat and fire. It may have allowed us to evolve, but few things get men  grunting like the guy from Home Improvement faster than firing up the grill and throwing on a big piece of meat. 

However, man has always had a respect for the process. The history of animal sacrifice is first documented in Crete in 2000 BC. The Minoans discovered guilt for killing a living thing and sacrificed part of the animal back to the gods.

So, for my birthday dinner, in thanks of the years on this Earth that I have been graced with, I boned out two legs of lamb and marinated them in garlic, thyme and rosemary. The meal was both reverent and primal.
However, I doubt that even the ancient Greek gods got these fantastic confit potatoes cooked in duck fat for 2 hours.

Thanks to all those in attendance for helping me ring in another year. And to all of you who couldn't make it...we look forward...