Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Friends with Class! Karen's Birthday Party

Our good friend Karen celebrated her 70th birthday in incredible style last week due to the efforts of her awesome husband Rick - and we were among the lucky 50 folks who got to enjoy it. It was a totally classy event from beginning to end. First, Rick was able to cajole super chef, one of Food and Wine Magazines Best 10 Chefs nationally, 2010 James Beard Best Chef Northwest semifinalist, and amazingly nice guy Matt Dillon of Sitka and Spruce
and The Corson Building
to cater an incredible dinner at The Quartermaster Inn on Vashon.

Then, he talked Jennifer and Andy Krikawa , founders and amazing talents of the Vashon Opera into putting on an hour of up close and personal opera performances throughout the evening. I am not an opera fan but I was entertained, amazed, and in awe of the talent and the music when enjoyed in this close up personal atmosphere.

The food and wine: Bar Ferd'inand supplied the wines for the evening. The white wine was a Vin de Pays L'heurault from Moulin de Gassac 2009; a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Clairette, and Grenache Blanc.
The red was a Cotes du Rhone Villages 2008 form Mas de Boislauzon; a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre.
The Cremant was from Hubert de Verdereau and is a Blanc de Noirs (White wine made from Pinot Noir grapes). This sparkling wine accompanied the passed apps which included wonderful, salty, fresh Oysters, gougeres, and a crostini with pork rillettes.

Chef Dillon's dinner was served family style from large platters in the courses followed by a wonderful dessert.

The first course included a salt water brined King Salmon Lox with honey, huckleberries and pickled chantrelles. WOW!

Another platter was thin sliced Persimmon salad with dry cured Duck Breast and Hazelnuts. Double WOW!!

The final platter of this first course was a Smoked Trout brandade with Pickled Peppers, crackers and radish. YUM.

The second course also included three passed platters:

One platter included plump Penn Cove Mussels cooked in Cider & Bay with apples, fennel, and Brown Bread. Best Mussel dish I have ever had!

Another platter included large pieces Steamed Halibut with sorrell sauce and Japanese pumpkin that was just fabulous.

The third platter was a Vegetable Bagna Cauda which immediately on returning home sent me to Epicurious.com to figure out how to recreate it. I was drinking the oil bath!

The Third course consisted of a whole lamb, selected and slaughtered by Chef Dillon served two different ways with Chestnuts and Pears. this lamb did not die in vain.

The lamb was supported by a separate platter of Yellow Finn Potatoes cooked in cream. WOW again!

the final platter of this course was a perfect Salad of lettuces and chicories

The dessert consisted of huge fry pans of Apple Clafoutis served with a big passed bowl of whipped cream.

It really is great to have friends, both for birthday parties , and everyday who have the class of Karen and Rick. Happy Birthday and thank you!.

Sitka & Spruce on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

ShopHouse - Pop-Up Thai on Capital Hill

Super talented Lark Chef Wiley Frank is running a pop-up restaurant in Licorous 928 12th ave. location on Monday nights from 5pm to midnight. Six friends made the trek from Vashon Island last night to try it out. Word has already obviously spread because when we arrived at about 6:15 the place was almost full. Wiley has spent a couple of years cooking and eating in Thailand , most recently most of this last year.

The menu at Shophouse changes somewhat each week as Wiley presents the many gems of flavor delights he has discovered in Thailand. Last night we literally had everything on the menu - over a dozen items, some of them so good we ordered 2 or 3 times - the short ribs and the fish cakes most memorably.

We had a couple of folks who were a little worried about it being too highly spiced but that did not turn out to be a problem at all. The higher layers of spice for most dish's were achieved, if you wanted, by the condiments and side sauces presented with each dish. Most of the items are small plates with a few larger portioned items. Therefore it is easy to try many different items without breaking the bank. The drinks and beer are great as well.

This is really a great restaurant - nothing like the typical Thai restaurants that abound in the Seattle area. don't miss out = set your sites on a Monday night in the near future and visit Shophouse on Capital Hill

Licorous on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 8, 2010

Brunch: Adventures in Hollandaise

Eggs Benedict, that most iconic of brunch dishes. But, without the rich, creamy Hollandaise poured atop the quivering egg, what would it be but eggs and toast with a bit of meat? Not much, if you ask me.

I've always loved Eggs Benedict but have been too intimidated to take on the task of preparing Hollandaise sauce. I mean, you hear these horror stories about broken, curdled messes sending chefs into fits of weeping and days of ennui. Who wants the heartache?

But, I also figured if I was really going to lay claim to the title of Kick Ass Home Cook, I'd better learn how to make Hollandaise. It was easy! I recount my experience here as a how-to guide for the equally trepidatious.

First off, I'd always thought of Hollandaise as an egg sauce. But, as I learned this morning, it is actually better described as a butter sauce. There is a truly sick amount of butter in Hollandaise, all of which is meant to absorb into the egg yolks. Julia Child recommends no more than 3 oz of butter per egg yolk, and sometimes less is more.

Each tablespoon of butter is equivalent to about 1/2 an ounce, so you want no more than 6 tablespoons of butter per egg yolk (and that is a maximum).

To serve about 4 people generously, I started with 3 egg yolks and 14 tablespoons of butter (well shy of of the maximum - and it still came out plenty rich).

You'll also need about 1 Tbs lemon juice (fresh squeezed), 1 Tbs of cold water, and salt to taste.

Here's what you do:

Melt 12 Tbs of unsalted butter over low heat. Then set it aside. Cut 2 Tbs of cold butter and have at the ready.

Set a pot with an opening large enough to accommodate your metal mixing bowl to a low simmer with 2-3 inches of water.

In a large, metal bowl, whisk 3 egg yolks until creamy and well-incorporated (about 1 minute). Then add 1 Tbs lemon juice, 1 Tbs water, and a pinch of salt. Whisk again, about 1 minute.

Place 1 Tbs of the cold butter in the egg mixture and then place the metal bowl over the lightly simmering water. Gently whisk the eggs until the butter melts and is incorporated. The idea here is to thicken the eggs very gently. If they seem to thicken too quickly or to start to curdle, you must take them off the heat immediately and plunge the bottom of the bowl in cold water. Once you can see the bottom of the bowl each time your whisk scrapes over it, the eggs are sufficiently thickened (this will take only 1-2 minutes). Take the bowl off the heat.

Set the bowl on a dishtowel to brace it and whisk in the remaining 1 cold Tbs of butter to temper the eggs and cool them slightly.

Then, whisking constantly, add a few drops of the melted butter. At this early stage, you must add only a very little butter and whisk vigorously. You are trying to force the thickened egg yolks to absorb the butter. You can graduate to drizzling in 1 Tbs of melted butter at a time, whisking and drizzling. If the butter seems to slow in its incorporation, stop drizzling and whisk vigorously. This process takes about 3-5 minutes and requires a strong whisking arm, but it's well-worth the effort. You can stop short of whisking in the pale milk solids that will have settled to the bottom of the butter pan.

Your Hollandise should now be thick and fabulous:

Once all the butter is incorporated, season with salt to taste. The Hollandaise can be set aside in a warm spot (near the stove) and will hold for at least 30 minutes. Don't try to reheat it; it's meant to be served only just warm.

Meanwhile, prepare the desired quantity of poached eggs. I like to cheat and cook mine in those little silicone cups. I season them with salt, olive oil, and hot sauce and poach them in a covered pan of simmering water for 4 minutes. You'll also want to have some nice English muffins toasted up to serve as a base. For the meat, you can use what you like - Canadian bacon is a classic, but I recommend a spicy chorizo or Cajun sausage to add kick and cut the richness of the sauce and poached eggs.

All that remains is to assemble the Eggs Benedict - muffin on the bottom, then the meat, eggs perched on top. And, at last, pour over that glorious yellow Hollandaise sauce. Believe me, one serving will earn you back all the calories you burned whipping the sauce...and then some!

Bon Appetit!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Maialino: Dishing on The Whole Hog

Restaurant Name: Maialino
Restaurant Location: 2 Lexington Avenue, New York

Located in a quiet and idyllic spot just off Gramercy Park (actually off the lobby of the Gramercy Park Hotel), Maialino is Danny Meyer's latest gift to New York City. For this outing, Meyer has chosen to focus his Italian restaurant around that most humble-yet-glorious of beasts: the pig.

For regular readers of this blog, it will come as little surprise that I'm yet again extolling the virtues of a meat-centric, pork-heavy eatery. Vegetarian I am not, and Maialino would indeed be a tough sell for a vegetarian. There is very little on the menu to serve the herbivorous among us (even the side vegetables have bacon, guanciale, and the like in them).

Like many of Meyer's restaurants, Maialino offers diners two approaches to their meal. If you've made a reservation (about 2 weeks in advance), you can eat in the dining room. If you want to walk in and take your chances, then there is a bar area in the front with smaller, more casual tables. The service seems equally friendly-yet-distracted in both parts of the restaurant, and the menus are also roughly the same...BUT with slightly different specials.

There's the rub. The special dish at Maialino is the whole roasted suckling pig (serves 3-4). You can order this any day of the week in the dining room, but only on occasion in the bar. So, if you want to ensure you can have the pig, you gotta make a reservation. It's well worth doing this once. The suckling pig is truly awesome.

The meat is roasted to a melty, tender sigh-inducing perfection. Every bite of meat remains moist while the skin (oh, the skin!!) is crispy and toothsome and so very flavorful. It is, quite literally, the most perfect pig skin I have ever eaten.

The whole roasted pig is, as you'd expect, a gigantic portion. Our waiter claimed that 2 people could wrestle it down, but we gorged ourselves and still had about half of the meat left over. This actually turned out to be a good problem to have. Maialino's pig makes for great sandwiches later in the week. Though, a tip to the wise, the skin does not reheat very well - so be sure to gobble as much of that down at the restaurant as possible.

Oh, and the pig comes with roasted rosemary potatoes...you know, just to make it look a bit less like you are ordered and are eating nothing but a whole pig.

The other offerings at Maialino are also excellent. The first time we ate there we dined in the bar and shared a bunch of delicious pastas, cheeses, cured meats, and wine.

The super-awesome Malfati pasta came with a ragu of (you guessed it) suckling pig and fresh arugula. It was gone before I even realized I'd eaten it, though we found the Carbonara pasta to be overwhelmingly peppery. They've got an impressive selection of cheeses and house-cured meats to munch on. If you feel compelled to eat a vegetable here, I recommend the Kale with Chickpeas and Pancetta.

We were so full by the time dessert rolled around that nothing really sound good, so we let our waiter chose the bread pudding for us. It came out looking a little unglamorous, but DAMN, it was good. It was a classic brioche pudding plated via a ring mold. Inside was a warm, melted reservoir of chocolate. Yes, please.

Overall, Maialino was a big win in my books. If you go, though, please be sure to save me some roast suckling pig.

Bon Appetit!

Maialino on Urbanspoon