Wednesday, December 1, 2010
The dining room itself is lovely, adorned with paintings on the walls and designed so that each diner can see all of the others. It reminded me more of a ballroom than a restaurant. The staff was so considerate, polite, and wonderful it felt like being in a dream. For dinner, you have three options to choose from: three courses, six courses, or eight courses. We chose the three course with wine pairings, and I was still so full by the end I couldn't finish the desserts (which is saying something).
Our first course was an artichoke velouté, perfectly complemented with roasted chanterelle mushrooms. This was followed by a single scallop with broccoli tempura and fava bean purée. I then had the duck terrine with pistachios and apple gelée, which was so creamy and delicious I immediately wanted more. Ari had a trio of Spanish mackerel, which was served warm with carrot purée, sashimi-style with caviar, and white-wine poached. My favorite was the sashimi, which was incredibly fresh and light. We then got our main courses, mine a perfect and flaky Black Sea Bass with Syrah sauce and leek-potato , and Ari had a leg of rabbit with bacon, truffles, and foie gras (if you can believe it). The bass may have been the best fish I have ever had, and the rabbit was very lovely as well, roasted until it fell off the bone.
The desserts that followed were just as impressive. I ordered a warm chocolate coulant (similar to a chocolate lava cake) with warm caramel and milk sorbet. Ari got a carmelized hazelnut sablé with dulce de leche and horchata ice cream, which was my favorite. Because it was my birthday, they also sent a gingerbread cae with poached pears, perfect for November. These were followed by warm madeleines (perfect) and tiny chocolate truffles.
The wine pairings were also wonderful and a good idea for a couple of novices. Restaurant Daniel's wine list looks more likea novel and boasts several bottles upwards of $1000, so this option allowed us each to try several wines without having to wade through the endless names of vineyards. My favorite was a 2008 Resiling from J.J. Prüm which accompanied the duck terrine. Ari also had a very nice dessert wine from Hungary's Château Pajzos called Tokaji Aszú.
For a girl from the midwest who eats rather more simply most of the time, Restaurant Daniel was like something out of a dream. I would highly reccommend it to anyone who is looking for a way to celebrate a very special occasion, and though it is certainly not cheap, I think that it was well worth the money for such an incredible evening. I feel so lucky to have been able to have experienced such an amazing restaurant, and I can only hope that there will be more Michelin stars in my future. Though I may have to wait another 23 years.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Peach Cake Tatin (adapted from The Barefoot Contessa)
Ingredientsnocoupons6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing the dish
3 mediu-sized peaches, pitted and quartered
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar, divided
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter a 9-inch glass pie dish or cast iron skillet and arrange the peaches in the dish, cut side down.
Combine 1 cup of the granulated sugar and 1/3 cup water in a small saucepan and cook over high heat until it turns a warm amber color, about 360 degrees F on a candy thermometer. Swirl the pan but don't stir. Pour evenly over the peaches.
Meanwhile, cream the 6 tablespoons of butter and the remaining 3/4 cup of granulated sugar in a large bowl with a whick or electric mixer, until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the sour cream, zest, and vanilla and mix until combined. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and, with the mixer slowly, add it to the butter mixture. Mix only until combined.
Pour the cake batter evenly over the peaches and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes, then invert the cake onto a flat plate. If a peach sticks, ease it out and replace it in the design on top of the cake. Serve warm or at room temperature, dusted with confectioners' sugar.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
A few nights ago, Ari and I ventured to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, home to the largest population of hipsters in the metro area, and thus, where many Wesleyan graduates live as well. (I actually wouldn't mind living there myself). We had both heard about this place called Pies 'n' Thighs, famous for their pies and of course, fried chicken. The menu is simple, with a few main dishes, including pulled pork, catfish, burgers, and of course, the ubiquitous fried chicken. When we arrived, around 8:30 on Wednesday night, it looked like there was going to be a long wait, as the place was packed and there were around 15 people waiting outside. However, a few minutes and a little smooth talking from Ari's friend Osama, we were soon seated in a covered outdoor space at the bar. Personally, I would always prefer to eat outside rather than inside, so this was a great option for me.
Ari and I both ordered the fried chicken box, which came with a biscuit and a side. Osama, who had been there before, ordered the chicken biscuit, which just consisted of a biscuit with barbecue chicken inside. For sides, I got the special summer salad, with corn, pickled green beans, and red peppers. Ari decided on the grits, and we all split some collard greens. The chicken itself was perfection, crispy and perfectly seasoned without being greasy. The biscuits were also excellent, light and buttery and firm. I would have liked some honey to go along with them, but they were great plain nonetheless. My salad was also good, it was nice to have something fresh to go along with the heaviness of the chicken and biscuits. However, the grits were wonderful, and I don't even like grits. They were topped with a little cheese and hot sauce, and they tasted creamy and salty and wonderful.
Even though we were all quite full, we decided we couldn't leave without trying some pie. We decided on the lemon blackberry, which was actually more like a tart. The lemon curd filling was tart and strong, and complemented the sweet blackberries and buttery crust wonderfully. It was an excellent end to a great meal, and I will certainly be returning. On second thought, that potential move to Williamsburg could be dangerous.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Pad Thai (adapted from the New York Times)
4 ounces fettucine-width rice noodles, or 8 ounces udon noodles (I tried regular fettucine as well, and it is not as good)
1/3-1/2 cup peanut oil
2 tablespoons tamarind paste or hoisin sauce
1/4 cup fish sauce (nam pla)
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1 garlic clove, minced
1 small head napa cabbage, shredded (about 4 cups)
1 cup mung bean sprouts
1/2 pound peeled shrimp, pressed tofu, or a combination
1/2 cup roasted peanuts, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 limes, quartered
If using rice noodles, put them in a large bowl and add boiling water to cover. Let sit until just tender, check every 5 minutes or so to make sure they don't get too soft. If using udon noodles: cook in a large pot of boiling water for 8-10 minutes until tender. Drain, drizzle with one tablespoon oil to keep from sticking and set aside. Meanwhile, put tamarind paste or hoisin sauce, fish sauce, honey, and vinegar in a small saucepan over medium low heat and bring just to a simmer. Stir in red pepper flakes and set aside.
Put remaining 3 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. When oil shimmers add scallions and garlic and cook for one minute. Add eggs to pan, once they begin to set; scramble until just done. Add cabbage, bean sprouts, and tofu or shrimp and continue to cook until the cabbage begins to wilt and tofu or shrimp begins to brown. Add drained noodles and sauce to pan, and toss everything together to coat with sauce. When noodles are warmed trhough, serve, sprinkling with peanuts, cilantro, and lime.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Peach, Ricotta, and Gingersnap Tart (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
1 8-ounce container ricotta cheese (or mascarpone cheese)
6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup greek yogurt
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon grated lime peel (or lemon)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon finely chopped crystallized ginger (optional)
4 to 5 small peaches, halved, pitted, cut into thin slices
1/4 cup peach jam, warmed
2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger (optional)
For crust: Preheat oven to 350°F. Finely grind gingersnaps in processor. Add butter and blend until crumbs are evenly moistened. Press mixture over bottom and up sides of 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Bake crust until color darkens, pressing sides with back of spoon if beginning to slide, about 8 minutes. Cool completely.
For filling: Beat first 6 ingredients in medium bowl until smooth. Add crystallized ginger and mix well. Spread filling in prepared crust. Cover loosely and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
But most importantly, the food. Apparently Ari and his mom, Roberta, always get the same things when they go so we stuck to their old favorites. The calamari was perfect crispy and well seasoned without being greasy, and served with fried chiles and a sweet chile sauce. The chicken and lettuce wraps were good as well, though I would have liked them a little spicier. Last, the short ribs were wonderful, finished with a spicy-sweet glaze and basil leaves. Messy, but so delicious. I would love to go back and try more dishes -- they had some noodle dishes that looked particularly good. However, Betelnut was a great place to go for appetizers and watch the city go by.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
I will be the first to say that cooking is no simple thing. Many people like to do it casually, but not as many realize that cooking in a restaurant is an entirely different prospect. I used to be one of these innocent people. When I was 18, I interned at a restaurant near my home in Minnesota for a school project, thinking that since I had cooked recreationally it would be “fun”. How wrong I was. Even though I was only working for a few hours a day, starting in the prep kitchen, I quickly learned that everything I thought I knew about cooking was wrong. At first, I was put to work chopping what seemed like endless vegetables and herbs, but eventually I was allowed to help out on the line at lunch, the slowest time of day. My first few attempts at throwing pizza doughs were miserable failures, but I still remember the first time I sent out a plate of food that actually looked presentable and tasted good.
All seemed to be going well until one day a cook didn’t show up for dinner service and the sous chef asked me to stay and help. Dinner often meant $3,000 in sales in one night, and there was only room in the kitchen for three cooks, sending out hundreds of plates in a complicated and frenzied dance. I was terrified. For the most part, I tried to stay out of the way as much as possible, and eventually we got through the night. That was the first time I made a successful beurre blanc, and the first time I realized I could do this – I could cook professionally. After that, I got hired for the summer and have returned every summer since. The food and the people change, and it is not always an easy job, but there is nothing quite like it. The feeling at the end of the night when you know you have done a good job and have given people a memorable experience is like nothing else. I have come a long way since that first night when I had no idea what I was doing, and have earned the respect of the all male kitchen and proved my own. I have learned how to make order out of chaos, maintain calm under pressure, organization, and most importantly, passion. While cooking is difficult, stress-filled, and exhausting, it is also the most rewarding job I have ever had.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
But most importantly, the food. We had a hard time deciding on an appetizer, but ended up choosing the crispy pork belly with szechuan pepper, thin slices of apple, and a maple reduction ($9). The first bite was heaven. Think of the best bacon you have ever eaten, but then in addition to the crispiness, it also melts in your mouth with just a hint of sweetness and pepper. This set the tone for the whole meal, and we were both a little worried that the entrees wouldn't live up to the same deliciousness. Luckily, we were wrong and both were excellent. I had the scallops with farro risotto, cucumber, and blood orange ($28), and Ari had the Arroz de Pato ($24), a paella-like dish with duck and sausage. My scallops were perfectly seared, and the cucumber farro set them off nicely. A little yogurt provided a tangy contrast to the sweetness of the blood orange on top. Ari's Arroz de Pato was excellent as well, the sausage spicy and aged, the duck perfectly cooked and topped with duck cracklings for crispiness. Our waitress said that they snack on it all night long. We each had a glass of Aragonês & Syrah, Chaminé, Alentejo, from Portugal ($10), which was excellent. I haven't had a lot of Portuguese wine, and as expected, it was a perfect accompaniment.We finished the meal with a carmelized brioche, served with blood orange gel and creme fraiche pink-peppercorn ice cream ($10) and the sonhos ($10), or "little dreams". Which they were. The brioche tasted like extremely light French toast, its sweetness offset by the spice of the peppercorns and the sourness of the blood orange and creme fraiche. The sonhos were like the best donuts I have ever eaten, covered in sugar and served with three different sauces: chocolate, orange-mandarin compote, and apple cider caramel. However, somehow it all managed to not be overpoweringly sweet. Our waitress gave us each a glass of muscat from Greece to go with the desserts, which was really lovely and light without being cloying.
This is definitely a place for a special occasion (at least on my budget), but it was well worth every cent. They do have a three course lunch special for $20.09, which I will absolutely be returning for...and maybe someday when I have a real job I can try the fois gras terrine.
A look of complete satisfaction after the first bite of arroz de pato -- what more do I need?
Monday, February 22, 2010
Elki Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (Elqui Valley, Chile): I'm not usually a big fan of whites, but this Sauvignon was very light and quite pleasant. The color was almost translucent, the taste quite acidic which I like, with an almost sparkling feel and lots of citrus flavors.
Francine & Olivier Savaray Chardonnay, 2006 (Chablis, France): This is one of the largest wine producing regions in the world, reknowned for their chardonnay. You could almost taste the chalkiness of the limestone earth, and there were definite mineral flavors, in addition to some peach and dried apricot.
Shelter Pinot Noir, 2006 (Napa Valley, California): I know there is a lot of talk about pinot noirs, especially after the movie Sideways, and I didn't really understand it until now. I guess I just haven't had good ones. This particular vintage, however, was wonderful. The color was a light garnet, and I immediately smelled raspberries and chocolate. The taste was even better, slightly acidic with a hint of floral notes, but even more chocolate taste and lots of fruit. Somehow, it escaped being too sweet, and the texture was really lovely and velvety. This was definitely the standout of the group for Ari and I, but at $30 a bottle it is also the most expensive. Worth it for a special occasion, however. (Or if you are not on a college student's budget)
Michel Torino Estate "Don David" Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (Cafayete Valley, Argentina): Cabernet is not necessarily my first choice on a wine list; but this was a good choice to show a typical one. The color was lovely, very dark and opaque, and the smell was quite earthy and I thought I detected a hint of tomato. The taste was also rather earthy with a hint of oak and smoke, with just a little sweetness at the end. Since this is aged in oak barrels, it makes sense. It would be a great accompaniment to a steak with some chimichurri.
Marquis Phillips Merlot 2008 (South Eastern Australia): This wine was quite a bit sweeter, with definite floral and strawberry notes. The taste also had some apricot and peach tones, and was quite fruit forward. There was lots of body and it was very smooth.
Von Buhl Reisling Medium-Dry 2006 (Pfalz, Germany): This was my second favorite, a lovely pale gold and translucent reisling. It was not overly sweet, like some can be, but had just a hingt of lemon and citrus fruit, with apricot and a bit of a minerally taste. Perfect acidity.
Overall, this was a wonderful experience and I hope to go back soon. The staff is clearly very knowledgable and passionate about wine, and I thought they had a great selection. They have a really great space, with the section for classes set up around long tables in the back, surrounded by wine and books on wine. For more information go to: brooklynwineexchange.com.
This weekend was very productive, as far as blogging goes. I was lucky enough to get to see my friend Liz from high school who goes to the New School in New York, and works at Mario Batali's Casa Mono. We met at the wine bar next door, Bar Jamón, which serves tapas and has a very extensive wine list. This was my second time at a Mario Batali restaurant (Otto was the first, which I regrettably never wrote about. Perhaps that will be a future post when I go back), and I must say that both have been very excellent experiences. Bar Jamón is a little more casual and cheaper than its sit-down counterpart, and the menu is pretty simple. The space inside has a great atmosphere, but is very small so you will probably have to wait for a table or a space at the bar. (The above picture is at a rarity -- perhaps when it was closed) We left our fates in the hands of the waiters, who Liz knew, and they served us some very excellent red wine (semi dry, medium body) and we decided to get the pan con tomate (crispy baguette topped a tomato and garlic mixture) and a plate of jamón (fitting), served with more baguette. Even though I had already eaten dinner, it was a great midnight snack. I will definitely be returning, hopefully next time for more food and to try some different wines.
Tapas range from $3-$30, and wine ranges anywhere from $7 for a glass to upwards of $1000 for a bottle (maybe someday...). Located at 125 17th Street, Manhatten.
Picture from http://newyork.metromix.com/content_image/full/896998/560/370
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Zucchini Bread (from smittenkitchen.com)
Adapted from several sources
Yield: 2 loaves or approximately 24 muffins
1 cup olive or vegetable oil
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 cups grated zucchini (if you have a BEAUTIFUL new food processor like Zoe does, this takes 10 seconds
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
1 cup dried cranberries, raisins or chocolate chips or a combination thereof (optional)
(Personally, I like the traditional bread with no additions)
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Grease and flour two 8×4 inch loaf pans, liberally. Alternately, line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk. Mix in oil and sugar, then zucchini and vanilla.
Combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder and salt, as well as nuts, chocolate chips and/or dried fruit, if using.As someone without a dishwasher and an inherent dislike for doing dishes, I only used one bowl and added all this after -- just make sure you mix very thoroughly.
Stir this into the egg mixture. Divide the batter into prepared pans.
Bake loaves for 60 minutes, plus or minus ten, or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Muffins will bake far more quickly, approximately 20 to 25 minutes.
This only improves over time, so it will be even better the next day!
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
I look forward to the Dining In section of the New York Times every week. There are inevitably delicious sounding recipes (usually saved and of which most are sitting in a notebook, waiting for their turn to be made) wine reviews, and news about restaurants around the world. So imagine my delight today when the feature article is about Vancouver, and not only that, but about one of my favorite restaurants that I have ever visited! Vij's is a small family owned place, with new takes on traditional Indian cuisine. When I visited Vancouver with my family a few years ago, it was recommended to us by the owners of the bed and breakfast we stayed at, who went there all the time. The restaurant has two parts: a lounge and take out area and the actual restaurant. I don't remember exactly what I had, but it was some kind of portabello mushroom curry that was unbelievable. In addition, I particularly remember the mango lassi and the naan as being especially good, and my sister got a chai that makes one from Starbucks seem like watered down cinnamon tea. This was no ordinary chai -- you could taste all of the spices individually, while none of them overwhelmed the others. It was spicy and sweet and mysterious, exactly what chai should be and what I imagine it would have tasted like 200 years ago to the explorers who ventured to India. Of course, I had to get the cookbook. Regrettably, I have only made a few of the recipes as many of them call for hard to find spices and ingredients, but Vij's Family Chicken Curry is delicious. If you are anywhere near Vancouver, I would highly recommend this place.
From the New York Times:
"First is Vij’s, an extraordinary Indian restaurant that Vikram Vij opened in 1994. Vij’s is notable for its intricate regional interpretations of Indian food — grilled sablefish in a fiery mango reduction curry, for example — and for its all-female kitchen staff, as well as for its curiously non-maddening policy of taking no reservations (beer and free snacks in a pleasant lounge help) and its graceful, deeply efficient service. For food, try a plate of chickpeas stewed in star anise and date curry, served over grilled kale, and see if your universe doesn’t expand. Eat lamb popsicles in fenugreek cream curry and color yourself groovy. More naan to scoop that all up, another I.P.A. to wash it down? These come in a flash, accompanied by a smile." (Sam Sifton, "If Meals Won Medals", 3 February 2010)
and their website: http://www.vijs.ca/index_in.htm
images from http://www.scallywagme.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/Vijs.jpg and http://www.dmpibooks.com/get/img/book_image/XL-eh9zm8fp.jpg
Monday, February 1, 2010
Mushroom, Shallot, and Bacon Quiche (adapted from epicurious.com)
1 refrigerated pie crust (half of 15-ounce package) (you can of course also make your own but this is fine if you are in rush)
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
2/3 cup chopped shallots (about 3 medium)
5 cups sliced assorted mushrooms (such as chanterelle, stemmed shiitake, oyster, crimini, and button; 12 to 14 ounces) (we used portabella and shiitake)
4 slices turkey bacon or bacon
4 large eggs
2/3 cup half and half
1/3 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated or ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups (packed) coarsely grated Fontina cheese (about 7 ounces), divided (we used Gouda, and you can also use gruyère)
Preheat oven to 450°F. Unroll crust completely. Press firmly onto bottom and up sides of 9-inch-diameter deep-dish glass pie dish. Bake until light golden brown, pressing on sides of crust with back of spoon if crust begins to slide down sides of dish, about 17 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.
Meanwhile, melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots; sauté until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes. Add mushrooms; sprinkle with salt and pepper and sauté until mushrooms are tender and beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Transfer to plate; spread out to cool slightly.
Cook bacon in microwave or oven until crispy (about 15 minutes).
Whisk eggs, half and half, milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and nutmeg in large bowl to blend. Stir in 1 cup cheese, sautéed mushrooms, and bacon. Pour filling into crust. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup cheese over quiche.
Bake quiche until puffed, golden brown, and just set in center, about 45 minutes. Cool 30 minutes. Cut into wedges.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Mushroom and Roasted Garlic Risotto (adapted from Bon Appétit)
5 cups chicken broth
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms,* rinsed (optional, but adds great flavor)
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups finely chopped onions
12 ounces baby bella or other wild mushrooms, sliced
5 garlic cloves, roasted
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
1 tablespoon minced fresh marjoram
1 1/2 cups arborio rice or medium-grain white rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Additional grated Parmesan cheese
To roast garlic: preheat oven to 375. Cut off the top of an entire head of garlic and put in a small roasting pan. Drizzle a little bit of olive oil on top, then cover with foil. Bake for about 50 minutes, or until golden and a knife easily goes into one of the cloves. Alternately, if you are like me and only want to roast a few cloves at a time, you can just pull them apart, drizzle with oil, and bake for about 25 minutes instead.
For risotto: Bring broth to simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Add porcini and simmer until just tender, about 2 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer mushrooms to plate. Cool mushrooms and chop finely. Cover broth and keep warm over very low heat.
Melt butter with oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions; sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Add mushrooms; sauté until tender, about 8 minutes. Add porcini, garlic and both herbs; sauté 4 minutes. Add rice; stir 2 minutes. Add wine; cook until liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup hot broth; simmer until liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Continue to cook until rice is just tender and mixture is creamy, adding more broth by half cupfuls and stirring often, about 30 minutes. Mix in 1/2 cup cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Serve, passing additional cheese separately.
*Porcini are available at Italian markets and many supermarkets.