This Mac & Cheese is Not Exciting

A Stroke of Genius

by on May.27, 2012, under New York Restaurants

FoodieWife decided to take me to my kaiseki meal. For those who don’t know what kaiseki is, click the link! That’s what it is there for. Seriously, it is a tasting menu prepared in certain styles, organized in a specific order with small artful dishes. It is an eating experience, so you’re going to be there for a while. I find Brushstroke to be an interesting idea for a restaurant as the owner, David Bouley, is known for fine French cuisine. To go to his restaurant for a traditional Japanese meal threw me off a little, but I have an adventurous soul. We sat at the kitchen window, so we got to watch the meals being prepared in front of us; it was easiest to see the sashimi and rice dishes.

 

We were started with a green tea with sesame seeds in it, which was a nice cleanse to start the meal. The first actually course was a mixture of early summer vegetables and some uni in a light broth. The uni was and in my opinion the best uni we had all night. The dish was light an simple to ease your way into the this very long meal.

 

For course two, we were presented with a black cod in clam broth. There was no overpowering fish flavor to this; it was again, clean, refreshing with deep. The proper way to eat it was to eat the cod with chopsticks, then slurp the broth to aerate it and show your appreciation to the chef.

 

The following was a simple sashimi course. Fresh fluke and tuna served with scallion, soy, and wasabi. It was a quick bite with fresh ocean flavors and the bite of wasabi. The fourth course was one of my top two of the night (I can’t choose, they were so different.) At the bottom of the bowl is an egg custard, covered with vegetables and a truffled dashi sauce. The first bite, had me thinking of August, back in New Orleans. A simple, yet flavorful egg with a truffle treatment with a few complimentary mushrooms and soy beans the flavors blend together smoothly in each savory bite.

 

The next course is the first course where FoodieWife and I got different courses and split them. I am going to stick to the best of every split menu item, not than any of them were bad. A very lightly tempura and sesame battered soft shell crab with ginger sauce and uni was delivered to me. The crunch was perfect, the crab was clean and fresh. The uni was savory and the ginge added the perfect bite. This dish, was the other of my favorite dishes. I could have eaten either dish all night and been completely blissful.

 

Another palate cleanse was next. A chilled watermelon soup with a fennel sorbet, with a sprig of dill; the dish was delicious and the fennel was not overpowering. The only complaint I had was when you had the sprig of dill, it set off every other flavor of the dish, but you only got one spoon of it. The soup should have been infused with the dill to have it permeate every slurp.

 

The meat course consisted of pork belly in a sancho pepper sauce with a side of green leaves in a mustard dressing. The pork melted in your mouth with a little kick from the pepper sauce. I didn’t think it an excellent pairing with the greenery, but by itself, it was a collection of flavorful delicate bites.

 

For the rice course, I am going to describe both of the rice because of the huge difference in the two dishes. We had a stewed beef over rice, which was savory and sweet. It was delicious and felt very traditional to me. The other was a lobster, uni, salmon roe, eel and crab served in a do-nabe pot. When they bring it to you table, the pot is too large and they show it to you before bringing you a much smaller bowl of rice, which they will refill for you until you empty the pot. I’m almost unsure if they were not just bringing us rice from the back the last few times. For me, this was the most disappointing dish, again not to say anything was bad, I ate five bowls of rice. The uni and lobster seemed a little overcooked and the eel added a fishy flavor that overpowered the bowl. I always think you need to undercook a dish a slight bit when it is placed in a serving vessel that will trap all of the heat inside.

 

There is also a dessert, the waiter will tell you how the soy sauce ice cream is the most popular desert. Order the mochi with green tea for the perfect finisher unless you plan to have both. I can’t stress enough that you should visit this restaurant if given the opportunity.

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Like shooting fish in a barrel

by on May.20, 2012, under Home Cooking

As our illustrious webmaster has pointed out while designing the site, Todd’s Dirt is good stuff. This dish relies heavily on it. While Mr. Creosote prefers the original dirt, and that’s not to say I don’t use it as well. Todd’s Crabby Dirt is my favorite of the varieties. Old Bay is the classic seafood seasoning, but it doesn’t pack the flavorful punch that Dirt has waiting for you.

 

 

First things first, you have to pick up some fish. I prefer to get some nice mako steaks. They have a similar consistantsy and taste to swordfish at a fraction of the cost with only a small, edible bloodline running through the meat. If you have a preferred white fish, I say go for it, just make sure to adjust cooking times to thickness. After that I pick up some fresh brussell sprouts from the market, the difference to not fresh brussel sprouts is huge.

 

 

Clean the sprouts and cut them in half, laying them in a large Pyrex dish. Sprinkle some of your Crabby Dirt over the brussel sprouts, add some garlic and olive oil and put in the over at 350 degrees. Pull out a cast iron skillet, slice some bacon up into very small pieces and brown it in the skillet on low heat for about 10 minutes. Then turn up the heat for a few minutes to crisp the bacon up and drain. Add the bacon to the brussell sprouts and stir it up before returning to the oven.

 

 

Season both sides of the fish with the Crabby Dirt. Put a little bit of olive oil in your cast iron skillet and bring to smoke, which should be lower than normal due to the bacon fat. Sear both sides of the fish for about a minute, and then put the skillet directly into the oven. Turn the oven up to broil and leave the fish in for about 5 minutes. Pull the fish out of the oven and immediately transfer the fish to a cool surface. Pull out your sprouts and serve with bread. The fish should be moist with a thin crust with a little bit of rare in the middle.

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To be whacked or to whack a cow

by on May.13, 2012, under New York Restaurants

This is another adventure sponsored by Groupon. This restaurant had some great reviews from friends before I ever saw the Groupon, so I was psyched. To be honest, I am almost always psyched to go to a steakhouse. I have a deep seeded belief that I could live off of steak and sushi if only I could afford to alternate only those two styles of food. Alas I can’t, so I am stuck reviewing these places only once in a while.

 

Bigger than your head

Why do they give you a tiny fork when it is already shelled?

 

When you enter Sparks you are greeted by two men in tuxedos and a well stocked bar. The place could be right out of a gangster movie, which is fitting due to its reputation. The walls are cherry wood and completely covered by “art” pieces. The ceiling is dull black foam with high hats with converted gasoliers every few feet. The waiters give you plenty of time with the menu and wine list, but are prompt and courteous when you need them.

 

 

It wants company

To begin I had the oysters, what can I say, I’m a slave to things I love. When they come out, they are enormous blue points, some of the largest I have ever seen. They serve them with the normal lemon, horseradish and cocktail sauce, as well asTabascosauce. I’ve never put Tabasco sauce on oysters before and now I want to do it again and again. The little bit of pepper and burn along with the sweet oysters and bitter lemon really play off each other well. FoodieWife had the lump crab cocktail, her personal favorite. The crab was good and light and she had to ask for drawn butter which they were happy to provide, but to me it was just crab. It didn’t strike the sweet notes I was hoping for, but I may be spoiled, I also tend to prefer it hot.

 

Somehow I doubt we got the whole filet

 

Now of course came the carnivorous portion of our meal. I ordered the sirloin, which on the menu is described as a boneless shell steak. It came out a perfect char on the outside, but just a touch above rare on the inside. The flavor of the meat was spectacular regardless. The perfect char mixed with the savory meat made me wish the portions were twice what they were (not to say they are small.) FoodieWife had the steak fromage, which is a chef’s selection of steak with blue cheese on the top. The waiter informed us it was usually filet minion when she ordered it, it came out looking like a London broil. That’s not to say that cheese on top of a steak isn’t a wonderful concoction. While the steak was missing a good char, the cheese gave the steak a whole new life on her plate. It is something I used to do more often and honestly forget why I haven’t done it in years. Blue cheese is great, but parmesan is great in a pinch as well. We also got two sides of spinach and hash, but they were nothing worth spending words on.

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Apologies

by on May.10, 2012, under Uncategorized

I was just hit by a massive spam attack. If you sent a real comment, please resubmit. It was near impossible to tell real posts from spam. This message will be deleted in 1 week.

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Ahh Sugar Sugar

by on May.06, 2012, under New York Restaurants

So, Honey was a Groupon adventure. Located across the street from the Darby and two blocks from Scarpetta and the Chelsea Market, FoodieWife and I thought we were in for a treat.

 

Overhead view

When you walk in, you see a Best ofNew Yorksign in their window, from 2007. Then you see the distressed wood and the torn fake leather benches and you begin to wonder. The hostess/waitress/bartender is very upbeat and welcoming.

 

side view

We sat down on our torn benches and ordered the swiss cheese fondue for 4-6 people, I would have tried something more exotic, but FoodieWife is very picky about her cheeses, she promised me that if it was good we could come back and try one of the others. As part of the Groupon, we also got a bottle of wine, when we ordered from their extensive selection of 4 wines, we got the Cabernet. We were informed that they accidentally got the large bottles of wine, so we would get 4 glasses of wine as that is how many glasses come in a bottle. I really hope they have deep pours.

So the cheese comes with asparagus, broccoli, carrots, apples and bread. The way the fruit and vegetables are spread under the fondue makes it awkward to pick them up if you are on the wrong side of the fondue. The cheese was tasty, if not inconsistent in texture. There were very runny bits and thick, chunky bits. My favorite was the apples, FoodieWife preferred the bread. Then we ran out of cheese, on the fondue for 4-6 people, with half the accoutrement still left. We asked for more cheese and were told it would be $8, faced with having to go eat somewhere else or paying $8 for more cheese, we got more cheese.

 

The second round of cheese was all runny. It also didn’t taste nearly as good as the first batch. For some reason, when put on a plate and left, it didn’t solidify either. I wonder if it was even cheese really. We finished off our vegetables because we want to be big and strong when we grow up, and we were still hungry. This restaurant has portion size all out of whack.

 

We were offered a chocolate fondue for desert. Considering the price and the size and the fact that they didn’t offer a single dark chocolate, we passed very quickly. I have no idea how a fondue restaurant that has been here a minimum of 5 years doesn’t have a single dark chocolate on the menu. We were told the milk chocolate was bitter like dark chocolate, I chose to disbelieve.

 

So if you want fondue in NYC, well, I’ll let you know when I find one worth the price of admission.

 

 

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Pasta better than your mother’s

by on Apr.29, 2012, under New York Restaurants

Scarpetta is a place that is both famous for its food, yet easy to miss. People will tell you how good the pasta is, but you think, “How good can pasta really be?” While everything I’ve had here in a few visits has been great, get the pasta the first time……or every time. I either order it as an appetizer or in between appetizer and dinner, it’s worth it.

 

 

Like I said before, it’s very easy to miss. When you walk up, the name plate of the restaurant is small and unobtrusive. I’ve been there half a dozen times or more and still walked by. When you walk in, the restaurant is neat, clean, but nothing visually stunning except for the throng of people waiting to sit down. The bar makes good drinks, so try to enjoy your wait.

 

This is the stuff you will dream about

 

Much of their menu is seasonal, so be prepared to have a difference experience than me. Today I started with a plate of diver scallops. They were perfectly cooked and served with a smoky sauce and greens to highlight the flavors of the dish. It was a nice light start to the meal. One thing I never understand about scallops in a nice restaurant, you only get 1 or 2. I love big portions and I love scallops, no one ever gives you a full plate of scallops anymore unless you order the fried scallop platter at your local seafood joint.

 

Just to drive home the point

This was of course followed by the pasta. Pasta, simple, delicate, anyone can make it. Not like Scott Conant can make pasta. It is simple spaghetti with tomato and basil, that’s it, a few seasonings and aromatics and that is it. It comes in a bowl served in a circle in the middle of the plate. Seriously, look at the picture, that’s it. The pasta alone is worth the trip here.

There was a nice faro below it too

For a main course, I had the ash covered venison. I like venison almost as much as I like lamb; it has the same gaminess, but a little less pungent. The picture doesn’t convey how rare it is when it comes out, which is how it should be. I enjoyed the lamb, but I thought the ash was overpowering, I kept wishing there was more sauce to bring down the flavor of the ash.  It was a rare miss, but still a good dish.

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Better Than Restaurant Mussels

by on Apr.21, 2012, under Home Cooking

I need to forward this post with a few things. First, I want to dedicate this post to Paula Deen, not because she inspired it, just because of how much butter I used. Second, I apologize for not keeping exact measurements, as I have said before, I rarely actually measure, I cook by sight. Third, this post has no pictures as I had not intended to blog about it, but FoodieWife requested it while sitting in near post Thanksgiving Day itis. Without further adieu, this is what happens when I tell FoodieWife anything she wants me to prepare the next night I will do so.

 

The ingredient list is as follows; 3 lbs of mussels, fresh thyme, fresh parsley, fresh fennel, olive oil, butter, salt, pepper, paprika, red potatoes, white wine, garlic, shallots, saffron, a loaf of french bread, and Todd’s Dirt. First, put the mussels in a pot of cold water and put them aside. Clean the potatoes and cut them into quarters or eights. Put them into a plastic bag with some Todd’s Dirt, pepper, salt, paprika and a bit of olive oil. Shake the bag, then put the potatoes into an oiled pan and throw them in the oven at 350.

 

Next you will prepare the herbs and vegetables for the mussels and bread as they both cook quickly. Dice the shallots, bottom of the fennel, garlic, and parsley. You should also pluck the thyme and pull the tops off the fennel. Pull the beards off the mussels and drain the water. In a small pan, melt a stick of butter with 2 heaping teaspoons of garlic. Let the butter infuse for about three minutes then add some fresh parsley and paprika and infuse for another minute. Spread the melted butter over split french bread and put the bread in the oven with the potatoes.

 

Onto the main course, mussels are very tricky as they cook extremely quickly and you have to use strong flavors in a short burst to really make them stand out. I put a little olive oil, a stick of butter and some salt and pepper in a non stick wok. Once the butter is melted, put in the fennel root and let it simmer a few minutes. Then add the shallots and a spoon full of garlic for a few minutes. After that, add 2/3rds of a bottle of white wine to the mix and bring to a boil. Add the parsley, thyme, fennel tops, and a small pinch of saffron and cook it down for a minute or two. This is a perfect time to check your bread and potatoes, both should be nearing a perfect light brown right about now. Once you’re done with the sides, be sure to have your full attention on the mussels. Put the mussels in the white wine sauce as fast as you can and cover them. Watch them closely, the minute you see the first mussel open, give them at most one more minute, then turn off the heat and pull the mussels from the pot. Pour the sauce over the mussels and put the rest in a bowl.

 

The sauce is great for dipping the mussels and the bread in. You and anyone else you share this with will love it. Bon appétit.

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The best burger

by on Apr.15, 2012, under New York Restaurants

The Breslin is a pub in NYC, which from looking from the outside, you wouldn’t think it would be any better than the 15 other upscale pubs in the neighborhood. That is if you don’t know that badass chef April Bloomfield owner of the Spotted Pig roosts here. She is an adventurous and seemingly spontaneous chef with a lot of imagination on her plates.

 

FoodieWife and I came here for the first time to try her lamb burger that we had seen on Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate. We’ve been here a few times since then, this was the first time I have ever ordered anything other, and really I just ordered an appetizer so I would have more than a burger to blog about.

 

We would all eat our greens as kids if there was bacon involved

So I started with the roasted brussel sprouts with bacon, two great things that I had hoped would go better together. That is in no way to say it was bad, but there was too much sweetness in the combination. I would have much preferred a heavier, smoky flavor to compliment to flavor of the sprouts.

 

Onto the burger! What they bring you is fresh ground lamb, cooked to medium rare and looking huge on your plate. It is served on a chibatta roll with cumin mayonnaise. There is a slice of raw red onion and feta cheese to compliment the dish. Not that it is served on a dish, it is served on a chopping block with a side of fried chips. The combination of flavors as the burger dips down your hand is a masterpiece. It is a simple food done right and served by wisecracking waiters.

 

Beeeeef......I mean lamb

Don’t come for the service, don’t come for the ambiance, come for the burger. Just a heads up, someone told me about a better lamb burger in Brooklyn. It was great, this is better.

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Master of the Top Chefs

by on Apr.01, 2012, under New York Restaurants

Cucumber and roe, cucumber and roe

There are always croutons in these things

Tonight I had the honor of going to Colicchio & Sons with FoodieWife. Right across the street from Morimoto’s and Del Posto, this restaurant has some serious competition all around it. When you come in, the first thing you notice is the large fire oven as you come in where 4 chefs are preparing various appetizers and breads. It gives you a very nice show. The restaurant is open, very spacious between tables with a modern home look. The maitre de recognized FoodieWife as she had been here 2 other times in the past week. She has a rough life folks. They have two menus here, one for the main dining room and one for the bar. We sat in the main dining room this evening.

 

As a nice surprise, there were three separate amuse bouches from the chef. First we had a cucumber mousse topped with salmon roe. The cool, fresh cucumber offset with a little pepper and the pop of the roe in your mouth made this dish not just pleasant to the tongue, but also the feel of the mouth. The second amuse was a parsnip soup with tiny croutons. It was a very smooth savory concoction that had a nice seasoning offset by the croutons. For the final amuse there was a simple puff pastry filled with liver mousse; nothing extravagant or different, but a nice cap and gesture.

FoodieWife and I have an ongoing competition as to who orders our favorite dishes at restaurants when we try new things. She cleaned my clock tonight, taking both courses with relative ease. That’s not to say anything I ordered was bad, but her dishes were on another level than the ones I ordered. I started with the river trout crusted in sesame served over a warm bean salad. The trout was a much more refined salmon in its flavor, fork tender with a little bit of the flavor of salmon without being overpowering. I think the dish really needed a nice sauce to balance it out. My better half ordered the snails. The dish is served with cocoa nibs, a parsley root puree all surrounding a six minute egg. It sounds like a very strange combination, and yes it is; but the savory notes on this dish are divine. It was the best preparation of snails I have had to date, the semisolid egg, breading from the egg, combined with the yolk snails and cocoa gave a perfect bite. I had to stop myself from taking more from her plate.

 

The Scotch know how to make an egg less healthy

The main course of choice was the pork with bacon marmalade.  The pork was served two ways, some pork belly and loin, side by side, competing to be topped with the bacon marmalade. The pork by itself was good, but nothing all that special. The bacon marmalade added a smoky richness to the pork which it desperately needed. I did enjoy the dish, but I truly did expect more from the combination that was on the plate. My wife ordered the rack of venison with pea cake. The venison was rich, gamey, and succulent. It was crusted with pepper and rosemary and still a beautiful red, almost purple color on the plate. The pea cake was good, but felt out of place on the plate. I picked up the actual rack, broke it apart and sucked the bones dry of meat and flavor.

 

You know you want it too

If you go to Colicchio and Sons, ask the waiter what the best thing on the menu is, especially if you get Ed. He won’t steer you wrong.

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Italian Classics without all the quality you’re used to

by on Mar.18, 2012, under New York Restaurants

Hummus Bruchetta amuse bouche

Rossini’s is another of those really pretty restaurants. Everything looks immaculate when you come in; the barely busy bartender ignores you. You are pretty much forced to check your coat, even if you don’t want to. There are flowers everywhere that perfectly match the décor and the maître de is wearing a tuxedo. There is a live piano playing, that’s good right? I should just know I’m not going to be happy and get a sandwich from the local bodega and save a fortune. That and I’m getting sick of writing bad reviews, I really want to be surprised by a restaurant again.  Either that or I need to go back to a place I love that I haven’t reviewed yet.

Please finish this for me

Mmmmmm.......salt

 

This is yet another restaurant that has no idea what a Pimm’s Cup is. I think I almost got a Gin Fizz, which my wife would have enjoyed. Thank you Oban for being available in every single bar worth its salt in Manhattan. For appetizers, I ordered the stuffed artichoke special and my wife ordered the Caesar salad. I’m not a huge fan of ordering a Caesar salad as who can really screw up a Caesar salad, next time I ask myself that I’m going to remember Rossini’s and Adam’s Rib House (I did a review of this on Yelp before I started my blog, just trust me and never go there. My taste buds were so offended they singlehandedly started my food blogging career).  The Caesar salad was a salt bomb, pure and simple. I couldn’t really taste anything else; it was all masked by the abundance of salt on my plate. I was looking forward to the artichoke as I hadn’t had one in a long time. It was completely undercooked, the meat didn’t come off the leaves at all and the stuffing was a watered down oregano mix. At least the heart dipped in the butter/stuffing mixture left after clearing off the artichoke leaves was palatable. It was nice to actually ingest some artichoke after biting all the leaves in hope for some meat.

 

Seriously, that's an egg

For the main course, I ordered one of my Italian favorites, veal saltimbocca. The first thing I noticed was the burnt to a crisp prosciutto that was laid over the veal. I wanted to cry at the waste of such a beautiful meat, and then I took a bite and did cry. There was no cheese, the sauce was cooked off and the spinach wasn’t even reduced in garlic. Oh, I forgot to mention, there was a hardboiled egg sliced in two served on top of the veal. Seriously, look at the picture, a hardboiled egg. It did absolutely nothing for the dish aesthetically or in terms of flavor. I feel the need to also touch on my wife’s dish.  She ordered the veal francese. I had a few bites; I couldn’t taste anything but lemon. There was no balance at all, it could have been any piece of white meat served with lemon and there would no way to tell what else was on the plate before you.

Can you please do something right?

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