Archive for February, 2010

Colorful Flair, a Recipe to Share, and Brooklyn Fare

Posted in Dinners, Food, Pairings, Wine on February 28th, 2010 by nita – 1 Comment

It’s been a few weeks, so I’ll condense all of my recent “tastes” into one post. We enjoyed some healthy fare, some colorful flair, some spicy bites, and some “out of this world” delights. Ok, ok, no more hokey Nita… Been reading a few too many of my daughter’s sing-songy books!

I recently fell in love with the flavors of a very healthy, simple, and colorful salad. Nothing more than some fresh baby spinach leaves and some slivers of thinly sliced red onion made for the base of this plate. I used Cara Cara oranges interchangeably with Blood Oranges. I preferred the color and flavor of the latter. After segmenting the orange into little “supremes,” I juiced a few tablespoons of the remaining pulp into a bowl, and combined it with some whole grain mustard, white wine vinegar, and extra virgin olive oil. The resulting vinaigrette was the perfect balance of sweet, tangy, and savory. Atop each plated salad, I placed a warmed round of chevre which was rolled in chopped nuts before going into the oven. I used pecans once, walnuts another time, but the preferred choice was the smoked almond. It not only added the obvious crunchy texture to the dish, but a depth of flavor that complimented the other ingredients. The wine that stood out for me when paired with this dish was the 2008 Maison Andre Quancard Viognier/Muscat Vin de Pays Cotes Catalanes. A steal at $12.50/bottle at 56 Degree Wine!

Color played a similar role in another inspired dish. I was challenged by the thought of creating “potato scales” (similar to a dish I experienced at Elements in Princeton) for my incredibly fresh sea bass that the guys over at Metropolitan Seafood had suggested I try. So, I went to the market and purchased some colorful baby fingerlings. I sliced these as thinly as one could without a mandoline (I know, I can’t believe that I don’t own one yet!) and thought that most of them were uniform in shape and size. I then created little “galettes” of overlapping potato slices on a silpat, and then brushed them with butter. The starchy slices were already sticking together. Here is where many recipes start to crumble. Some say to overlap the “scales” right onto the fish. Others say to cook the potato crisp first and then place on top of the cooked fish. I par-cooked the slices on the silpat, and then transferred them onto the filets (still malleable.) Right before serving, I seared the fish “potato-scale side down” first. What a mess. My scales were all over the place. I definitely did NOT master this technique, but the resulting dish was still tasty and kind of pretty. This was served atop a sunchoke puree and on the side was sauteed rainbow chard (incredibly fresh and straight from the market) and purple fingerling “boats” filled with sunchoke puree and boar bacon. Please comment if you have ever created those gorgeous potato scales, or can suggest a fool-proof technique for me. Perhaps my slices need to be thinner? Oh yes, and we enjoyed the lovely 2006 Bruno Colin Chassagne Montrachet La Boudriotte to go with this.

This next dish is an incredibly flavorful take on a Vietnamese sandwich (Banh Mi.) Spicy pork meatballs, sriracha spiced mayo, and a sweet and tangy Asian slaw. Yum! Thanks Piyush & Jigna for introducing us to it, and Chirag & Priti for allowing us to re-visit it! :)

Another flavorful dish loaded with spice but low in heat, and perfect for this time of year… Chili Braised Short Ribs. I love braised meats. I especially love braised short ribs. My favorite preparation is braised in a dry red wine, a little stock, and just a touch of honey and a splash of port for pronounced flavor. Well, that WAS my favorite preparation. Until a couple weeks ago, when I experimented with some bolder flavors. Ancho chilies and a blend of exotic spices were the base for the braising liquid that I used for these short ribs. I used a little stock, and no wine. The resulting dish was bursting with flavor and the sauce was rich and velvety. I’ll be sharing this recipe with you in a few weeks (I am working on a blog-site for just recipes and comments – coming soon!)

So I think I covered healthy, colorful, and spicy. Now for the “out of this world….” Manish and I finally made it over to The Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare, thanks to JB and his reservation that he made a couple months ago. I must admit that before dining there, I perused numerous blog-sites that posted pictures and experiences of culinary adventures with Chef Cesar Ramirez and his 12 person seating inside his kitchen of Brooklyn Fare. I thought that I “knew” what to expect. And although I was very excited about being there in person, I didn’t think that the experience would veer too far off of what I was already so impressed by through my web searches. Boy was I WRONG.

The first words that I read when I sat down at the impeccably spotless stainless steel extension of Chef Ramirez’s kitchen were the ones written on the huge window of the open kitchen. “Our kitchen is bigger than yours.” Those words set the stage for the casual ambiance that was the background of our experience throughout the evening. That and the menu – simple words stating the main ingredient of each course… “Scallop; Monkfish; Rouget; Porcelet; etc etc” Casual, yes. But we dined like royalty. Course after course, Chef Ramirez out-did himself, creating masterpieces of flavor, texture, and color while using the freshest ingredients – all organic, much that is available at their market/grocery store just next door.

We hid the camera and put away our cell phones, as this was the request (also written in the menu.) A couple dining companions and I did take notes, just to remember everything that was being served. It was a 6 course tasting menu, with some amuse bouche (or canapes, as Chef Ramirez called them) to start. During the meal, Chef explained that he created these dishes and flavor combinations through research and not through copying or emulating any other chef or recipe that he has encountered. His passion for his work is what drives him. He is an artist, a genius. I felt privileged and honored to be sitting there in front of him, reaping (and consuming) the benefits of his passion.

Forgive the descriptions sans photo… for as I mentioned before, we did not want to offend the Chef. But here is our account of the evening, written with the utmost respect and admiration for Chef Cesar Ramirez. Thank you Chris and Len for filling in the blanks… :)

Wines (Oh yeah, and I forgot to mention, it is BYO with no corkage… I know!)
Rodez Cuvee Crayeres Brut Champane
Demeric Catherine de Medici Brut Champagne
2001 Bzikot Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Les Folatieres
1999 Bouchard Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru
2008 Sinskey Pinot Blanc
1999 Levet Chavaroche Cote Rotie
1986 Raymond Lafond Sauterne

Canapes
Warm beet soup with Hudson Valley yogurt (perfect starter – the yogurt was so creamy)
Fresh Sardine tucked into a potato chip (very creative)
Crab with shredded phyllo and dilled yogurt
Bluefin toro with mustard and crispy leeks
Kumomoto oyster with grapefruit, creme fraiche, and oyster juice gelee (one of my favorites)
New Zealand langoustine with a unique herb in a saffron sauce (would have definitely ordered this in a restaurant – always say yes to langoustines!)
Hamachi, celery root, trout roe, lemon puree
Japanese baby shrimp, jalapeno, caviar (not spicy at all!)
King crab, vanilla oil, pineapple, caviar (YUM – another favorite)
Duck “fries” with smoked paprika (Robin and Sapana, if you are reading this, THIS is the most exotic thing I’ve ever hadlol – I can explain later)
Fried “smoked” foie gras (perfect little spheres of some sort of cornmeal? breading around a molten center of foie gras)
Bacalao (sp?) Mousse with shaved black truffle (Chef said that the amount of black truffle that was shaved on top of this canape was worth more than the dinner itself – wow. of course, another favorite)

Courses
Seared Scallop with a squash puree, pork belly, pea shoots, black trumpet mushroom, white truffle foam (I would be happy with every ingredient in this dish served on its own… but the combo – absolutely fabulous!)
Monkfish and Foie Gras wrapped in wilted cabbage, parsely root puree and chanterelle cream (so decadent!)
Rouget, salsify, razor clams, snails, Iranian saffron sauce
Porcelet with mustard sauce and kumquats (so tender and so delicious!)
Banana Parfait with milk chocolate foam, chocolate cake, coconut, rum
Creme Caramel with passion fruit puree

Words and pictures are beautiful, but the experience is ethereal.

Battle STREET

Posted in Food Battles on February 10th, 2010 by nita – Be the first to comment

Last Saturday marked the date of yet another incredibly delicious food battle. Battle “Street Foods.” The challenge was to create a dish based on a common street food – could be from any region of the nation, or the world. Sounds easy, but I think when you have SO much to choose from, the decision becomes extremely difficult. The four courses were all so unique, and showcased flavors from all over the world.

Course 1The hors d’oeuvres and and drink course was created by Piyush an Jigna. They decided to do a scrumptious trio tasting of eastern flavors. A traditional Chinese pork bun was steamed to perfection while the sweet and savory filling was making me want more. Lucky for me, there were two more items to consume! Bombay Chaat was cleverly stuffed inside a curled Banana Leaf. Such delicate flavors and just the right amount of spice. The third part of the dish was a Vietnamese pork “Slider.” Perfectly spiced (with a little extra Sriracha “shmear” on the plate for those of us that needed more,) these sliders were accompanied by a sweet and tangy slaw and a smoky mayonnaise. They paired a dark aged ale to drink with, and it was perfect. And that was just course ONE!Empanadas

Chirag and Priti’s dish was fresh off the “street” with the packaging perfectly depicting where the food was from! Mouth watering Empanadas filled our plates for this course. Two flavors at that! The Beef and Vegetable Empanadas were beautifully prepared, with delicious and authentic Puerto Rican flavors. The Spicy Shrimp Empanadas were also incredibly flavorful, the heat exploding in our mouths, and allowing us to chase it down with some Tecate… :) A fresh salsa accompanied, and the entire package was adorably presented in disposable street food containers. We had to take a break at this point – we were all stuffed and extremely satisfied!

New England MoviesManish and I were in charge of the entree this time. We wanted to come up with some sort of creative take on hot dogs and fries. But we only thought up some ridiculous options, and finally became exhausted with those ideas. We still wanted to stick to an American theme, and ultimately decided upon the idea of “New England goes to the Movies.” Yes, quite the corny theme. Here’s what we did… Our take on the Maine Lobster Roll – We made a Lobster Salad which was folded together with some tarragon aioli. We topped the salad with a toasted brioche disk. We served this alongside our version of a classic New England style chowder. Instead of clams, we used Nantucket Bay Scallops. The “popcorn shmear” was the “movies” part of the dish. Manish and I once tasted Wylie Dufresne’s popcorn puree at WD-50. This inspired us to create something similar, and the shmear is our version of it. Quite time consuming but it actually tasted like buttered popcorn in the end! If we do it again though, we will heed to the “best when served warm” theory, as once it cooled down, it lost a bit of its savory quality. We served this dish with a the 2005 Peter Michael Point Rouge Chardonnay. I wanted to serve White Burgundy (you know ME,) but decided to stick with the American theme :) Churros

For the 3rd time in a row, Dessert took home the prize! Rick and Sejal stole our hearts with their gorgeous interpretations of the classic Mexican Street Dessert…. Churros con Chocolate. Pumpkin Churros were accompanied by a Mexican Hot Chocolate, Cinnamon ice cream, and a spiced chocolate custard. First of all, I could have eaten everyone’s plate of churros. Not only is that one of my favorite desserts, but accompanied with decadent chocolate!? Fried to perfection, these “crispy on the outside, tender on the inside” pastry strips were dusted with sugar, cinnamon, and salt. The pumpkin flavor complimented the spices in the rich, luscious custard and the creamy and subtle ice cream. And to think – we still had something to pair with it… The 2002 Elk Cove Vineyards ULTIMA Viognier from the Willamette Valley. Congratulations to the Jains!

Once again, thank you to my fellow foodies – for you bring such 5 star quality to our monthly dining Battles! Here’s to all of you… Cheers!

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