Tag Archives: Le Bernardin

Tastes of the Week and Valentine’s Day

14 Feb

Feb. 6 through Feb. 13, 2012

Happy Valentine’s Day! If you’re not going out for a candlelight dinner tonight, why not make one at home? You might enjoy a radically elegant Filet of Beef with Wasabi Cream (recipe below from Radically Simple) or my heart-shaped meatloaf from Little Meals. Share the love.  A St. Amour beaujolais would be a nice wine to drink.  And of course, serve something chocolate for dessert. Perhaps a “Little Black Dress Chocolate Cake” accessorized with fresh raspberries and powdered sugar (or gold leaf!)

Tastes of the week:  In a nutshell, two terrific meals last week at Le Bernardin and at abckitchen. I haven’t been to Le Bernardin in years and was eager to see the new design. While I am still partial to the original “look” created by uber-architect Phil George (with the wonderful paintings by Abelard Favela — a revered artist from Mexico), the new Le Bernardin is arresting in its cool, warm look and remarkable 24-foot painting (I swore it was a photo) of a stormy sea by Brooklyn artist, Ran Ortner. In celebrating my cousin’s special birthday, we had the three-course prix fixe lunch with an additional “middle course” of ethereal fettuccine with a truffle bolognese. Sublime. But the most stunning dish was a first course of barely cooked shrimp and foie gras. The most “French” tasting dish I’ve had in a long while. The rest of the menu — octopus, red snapper, lobster, were all first-rate as were the desserts — not too crazy (as so many have become) but intelligently crafted and beautifully executed.

At abckitchen, I had my favorite starter, the kabocha squash and ricotta bruschetta, the famous roasted carrot salad, a wondrous sashimi, and a pizza to share, laden with spinach, herbs and goat cheese.  Chef Dan Kluger has perfect “flavor” pitch.

And then there was the very good guacamole at Rosa Mexicano on East 18th Street. The size of a small neighborhood, the place felt very democratic and alive. The signature dish is the table-side guacamole, made from perfectly-ripe avocados, mashed and tossed with tomato, jalapeno, lime juice and more. I loved that it was served at room temperature (those avocados never saw the inside of a refrigerator.) And while I rarely drink margaritas, no less a pomegranate one, and no less a frozen one, Rosa Mexicano’s version rocks. Almost ordered a second. It is interesting that Jonathan Waxman decided to become the executive chef of this upscale chain and no doubt will bring his formidable expertise to the kitchen. I always think of the amazing woman who started it all — Josefina Howard — who was among the first to bring sophisticated Mexican food to New York — in stylish surroundings, with a sexy vibe, excellent food, and those…wonderful pomegranate margaritas. She is greatly missed and one of  New York’s great women-in-food.

Happy Valentine’s day. Food is love.

Filet of Beef with Wasabi-Garlic Cream (from Radically Simple)
serves 6

2 tablespoons olive oil
1-3/4-pound filet of beef, tied
1 tablespoon sugar
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
2 very large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 tablespoon prepared wasabi

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Drizzle the oil on a rimmed baking sheet; roll the filet in the oil. Combine the sugar and 1 tablespoon kosher salt.  Rub into the top and sides of the filet, but not the bottom or it will burn. Roast the beef 25 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer registers 125 degrees for rare. Meanwhile, bring the cream and garlic to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce the heat and cook, stirring, until reduced to 1 cup, about 15 minutes. Push the softened garlic through a press; whisk back into the sauce. Add the wasabi, cook 1 minute and remove from the heat. Add salt. Transfer the beef to a cutting board. Let rest 10 minutes. Gently reheat the sauce. Remove the strings from the beef and thickly slice. Serve with the sauce.

French Meal as National Treasure

16 Sep

Something’s in the air. Perhaps a whiff of French cooking. This month’s issue of Food & Wine magazine is devoted to the new French Classics and the New York Times‘ food section featured the cookbook “La Cuisine de la Republique” with recipes from members of the French National Assembly. The book, authored by deputy Francoise Branget from the center-right of Sarkozy’s party, was the finishing touch, or celebration really, of her campaign to unite the Left and Right in a national cause:  the promotion of French gastronomy.  And I quote (from the article by Elaine Sciolino), “Food is so much a part of France’s identity that the government led a successful campaign last year to win United Nations recognition of the French meal as a national treasure.”  Can Italy be far behind?

That said, many years ago I wrote an article called “So What’s a French Restaurant, Anyway” for the Daily News.  I will try to locate it but I remember how the semaphores of French cuisine were slowly vaporizing like the molecules of a slowly simmering stock. And yet today, there is a trickle of French-i-ness afoot. The prototypical La Mangeoire, under the direction of 4-star cooking maestro Christian Delouvrier has just received a face lift, as has the four-star Le Bernardin, now designed by Bentel & Bentel. The original look by uber-designer Phil George, certainly stood the test of time and helped create the ambiance that became part of the restaurant’s gestalt. I understand Mr. George just dined at Le Bernardin and gave a nod of approval to the new surroundings. He also said the food was very, very good, indeed.

Not long ago, we had the pleasure of dining at La Mangeoire and were greeted by a gentler, happier chef who no longer had to live up the exalted expectations of four-star dining.  We were so pleased to eat mussels, great frites, and calves liver and be enchanted by chocolate mousse. Nowadays, I see the “comeback crepe,” and on a bus, just today, passed by the ancient Les Sans Culottes from New York’s theatre district, now on the East side. I never imagined the simple French concept could sustain itself all these years.

Although the “La Cuisine de la Republique” features some pretty remote recipes from little-known regions and lesser-known food stuffs (hare, pork head, and potatoes on a slice of pig skin), the sentiment that should unite our countries is sound.  “It is our national responsibility to cook and to eat well.”  Viva la France.

To that end, I suggest you try my Almost-Confit Chicken from Radically Simple, or this radically simple cake “Gateau Creusois” from the New York Times.  I will be making it this weekend.  Might be nice with a pile of fresh raspberries or thinly sliced plums or peaches from the farmer’s market. Not bad with a glass of cassis. Bon chance and bon appetit.

Gateau Creusois (adapted from Jean Auclais’ in “La Cusine de la Republique and from the New York Times, 9/14/11)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for flouring pan
1/2 cup confectioners sugar, plus more as needed
pinch of salt
1/3 cup finely ground hazelnuts
3 large egg whites
3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
oil for greasing pan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Oil an 8-inch cake pan and dust with flour.  In a medium bowl, sift together 1/4 cup flour, 1/2 cup confectioners sugar and salt. Add hazelnuts and mix well. Using a mixer, whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks; do not overbeat. Pour the sifted mixture evenly over the egg whites. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold together once or twice.  Add the butter and continue to fold until just blended.  Scrape into the cake pan and smooth the surface. Bake until light golden, about 18 to 20 minutes.  Remove from heat and cool 10 minutes, then transfer cake from pan to a rack to finish cooling.  Before serving, sift confectioners sugar on top.  Serves 6

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 15,488 other followers

%d bloggers like this: