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...

Monday, February 8, 2010

Tasting dinners...

This week we hosted two tasting dinners at Luke's Kitchen.

Serving seven courses to thirty people with only two people in the kitchen and one in the front is a challenge to say the least. It is also a lot of fun.
We have committed ourselves to holding these dinners every if you haven't been will get a chance soon.

The Tuesday night dinner was dubbed the "advanced" menu by Rod. Our guest list was filled with friends and family...all diners who know and trust us. We felt comfortable taking some more chances and challenging their pallettes. Sea urchin, frog's legs, sweetbreads and tripe were all featured. Many of these were first time experiences for our guests. I just wish I could have sat down to join them. Some of the highlights...
Sea Urchin and Lobster Custard

Just a small bite that started off the dinner. Bright clean flavors and a silken texture. This dish reminded me of my Oyster and Pearls course at Per Se.
Roasted Byaldi over Fennel and Onion Marmalade

I love this dish...amazing colors and great flavor. We served this with lamb chops and a honey and spice gastrique.

Frogs Legs

So many people have never had frog's legs. Their mild flavor makes them a safe gateway into trying new things. As the saying goes...they taste like chicken...almost. We served these with lobster and sweetbreads with lobster broth, garlic and basil.

Roasted Veal Breast

Melt in your mouth tender. Stuffed with prosciutto and bread stuffing. Wrapped in caul fat. This was absolutely decadent and delicious.