Tag Archives: tastes

Tastes of the Week

22 May

May 14 thru May 21, 2012

Okay, it’s really true that I had one of the best meals ever, in a casual, non-fussy way, last week at Il Buco Alimentari on Great Jones Street. Despite my skepticism over the hypnotic-glowing review in the NY Times, I came away with similar feelings. I was seduced by the food and by the very essence of the room and its intention. I don’t know anything about the chef but he has a lot to be proud of. It felt as though I was in Italy, in some magical place with a cuisine of its very own. Grilled succulent octopus with fresh green almonds, candied kumquats, and farro with a drizzle of some yogurty sauce. Who cooks, or thinks, or executes like that? A triumph. As were the hip “fish sticks” (I just made myself lol) of salt cod, re-moistened to perfection, batter-fried and served with a lemony aioli. Note:  I just found out that the “salt cod” is actually “house salted cod” which made the texture so remarkable and alluring. (It’s important to do your homework.) Having lunch with Shelley Boris, who owns a sleek catering company in Garrison, New York, and who also is chef of the Garrison Institute, and who has cooked for the Dalai Lama, and was the exec. chef at Dean & Deluca in its heyday, made lunch especially fun. We both thought the tiny crispy artichokes with preserved lemons & parsley looked like a small bouquet of antique flowers; and that the homemade ricotta with sugar snaps, pine nut granola (!), and mint was pristine and “lactate” and the essence of spring. A few drops of acidity would have helped. The spaghetti with bottarga was unctuous in a good way and everything washed down very nicely with a large carafe of rose from Channing Daughters Winery from Bridgehampton. A very pleasant surprise and it went extremely well with the dish that everyone is talking about! A sublime sandwich on crusty homemade bread filled with roast porchetta, arugula and salsa verde. Its herbal, porky juices drip down (or up) your arm. Wonderful sorbetti and gelati, but an exquisite panna cotta with 10-year aged balsamico really stole the show. Years ago I had a version as good — but not since — and I wrote about it for the New York Times.  It was made by Meredith Kurtzman who was the pastry chef at Esca at the time. She has been at Otto for some time now. And what about the chef?  Justin Smillie. Definitely a guy to watch. He worked at Barbuto and the Standard Grill which explains some of his cooking majesty — simple, sophisticated, sensational — but there is definitely a style to call his own.

I like to eat lunch with friends. And so there were two more this week to enjoy. One was at Jeanne & Gaston on 14th street between 7th and 8th avenues. Created by the chef who owns Madison Bistro, this new boîte is really attractive, as are the Europeans who go for lunch. I hear it’s really hopping at night when the big garden is illuminated and beautiful. The place had a real French vibe although the undefinable pastry of the Alsatian Tarte Flambée turned out to be a tortilla. But who cares? Spread with good creme fraiche, slivers of sweet onion and blanched bacon, it tasted delicious after a good crisping in a hot oven.  It made for an ample lunch and was only $12 — lovely with a glass of wine. My friend’s camembert omelet, served with mixed greens and great french fries was only $15. There is a lovely story, and photos, about the chef’s (Claude Godard’s) grandfather who was a respected chef himself in France. A nice find.

And, as always, a lovely spinach, beet and bucheron salad at Marseille.

Lunch makes dinner improbable some days. Enjoy your tastes of the week.

Tastes of the Week

7 May

April 30 through May 7, 2012

Embedded in this week of extraordinary tastes was a “gourmet safari” conceived by my friend and colleague, Rashmi Uday Singh from India. Rashmi writes for The Times of India and the Robb Report and was intent on discovering the newest, coolest, trendiest restaurants in the city to write about. It began one beautiful night when Rashmi met me for the 100th birthday celebration dinner at Benoit NYC (more about that later).  We hightailed it to Salinas to experience the imaginatively delicious food of Chef Luis Bollo, who hails from San Sebastian, Spain, considered by many to be a gastronomic mecca. We drank the essence of spring from the end of our spoons with the chef’s Gazpacho de Temporada, silken from green tomatoes, cucumber and spring onions.  Then on to a signature offering of Rossejat Rapida , crisped noodles cooked like rice, and studded with chicken, fava bans, chorizo, cockles & saffron aioli.  Deep intoxicating flavors and a compelling texture from this unique method of cooking pasta. Dessert was a mesmerizing portrait of white and dark chocolates topped with manchego foam. I want to go back just to eat this!  From there we went to RedFarm to sample most of the menu, including an awesome sampling of the city’s best dumplings — including the first-rate Pan-fried Lamb Dumplings – from chef Joe Ng, and what has to be the world’s most beautiful salad!  Take a look at the RedFarm website!

The 100th Anniversary dinner at Benoit Here is the beautiful menu, linking the past with the present. Duck foie gras terrine with toasted Parisienne brioche (prepared by Alain Ducasse and Philippe Bertineau); Spring vegetable “pot-au-feu” in duck consomme with fleur de sel (by Chef Michael Anthony); Olive-oil poached east coast halibut in brodetto di crostacei (by Chef Michael White); Larded filet of beef with crispy bone marrow (by Chef April Bloomfield), and an amazing Nougat glace of pistachio ice cream and passion fruit (prepared by Alain Ducasse and Jerome Husson.) I will be writing more about this — my past memories at Benoit in Paris and the meaning of the new “French restaurant” today — on the Huffington Post.

A wonderful inexpensive lunch at Aldea:  How do they do it?  A beautiful three-course menu for $24.07. Rustic pork & duck terrine with muscat wine gelee and market greens, skate wing “a la plancha” with slow-roasted cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and caper-butter emulsion, and walnut date cake with mint-infused citrus, vanilla sauce, and lemon sherbet (loved seeing the word sherbet on a menu…so recherche!)

Another beautiful lunch, also reasonably priced at Ciano:  My lunch market menu consisted of a crisp, ultra-fresh Shaved Vegetable Salad with mixed greens, fennel, peppers and ricotta salata, penne with ragu of braised veal, prosciutto and smoked pecorino, and a sorbet of Bosc pear with biscotti.  Perfect.

Lunch today? At my house…with wine expert Carol Berman. We’re having a fanciful salad of ten-spiced yogurt chicken, moroccan carrots, blue cheese, charred red peppers and a garam masala vinaigrette. Homemade wine cake (made with lemon, red wine and rosemary.)   Wonder what we’ll be drinking?  Maybe fresh mint tea with mint pulled from my window box.  (Although I do have a nice bottle of gewurztraminer chilling right now.)

Enjoy your own tastes of the week.  Be mindful and enjoy!

Tastes of the Week

30 Apr

April 23 through April 30, 2012

It’s been a week of excess and pleasure. I often feel that way when we just eat well at home — trying new ingredients, adapting wonderful recipes to fit our needs, developing ideas for magazine articles, or simply opening that rare “convenience” food like the Butter Chicken we bought at Costco! But this week’s tastes came from outside my home and into the kitchens of some of New York’s best chefs and into a neighbor’s home for a bona fide “Afternoon Tea.”  There was lunch at North End Grill (you can read more about it in my blog post “A Chef Among Chefs“), a contemporary new restaurant created by restaurant impresario Danny Meyer and chef Floyd Cardoz. Details of the meal are included there. The restaurant is located on a hidden street where you can peer onto the river across a sweeping grassy knoll — which is a memorial to Irish immigrants. It will be a wonderful area to explore once the weather is sunny and beckoning.

I am still thinking about an impromptu lunch with Max Falkowitz — the new New York editor of Serious Eats.  We “dined” at Taboonette (the downtown offspring of the popular restaurant Taboon) and immensely enjoyed the Kruveet (taboon roasted cauliflower, grilled eggplant, hummus, tahini and cilantro), superb pulled pork with fennel-jicama-apple slaw, spicy cilantro mayo and chicharones, and lemon-cured baked salmon with za’atar oil, yogurt sauce, sumac and arugula. Wonderful coffee.

Dinner at RedFarm, Eddie Schoenfeld’s new wildly imaginative Chinese-esque restaurant in the West Village. We were delighted to take the food editor and publisher of Israel’s most important food magazine, Al Hashulchan, Janna and Ilan Gur. They were enamored by the array of extraordinary dumplings, the Kowloon filet mignon tarts, and Green Thai Curry. 

A beautiful lunch at SD26. It has a very different feel at lunch — lighter and more whimsical — and I look forward to the outdoor seating which should appear shortly. The four of us were thrilled with a first course of freshly-flown in burrata surrounded by excellent San Daniele prosciutto. That, and an espresso, might have been enough for us: It was perfection. But we moved onto the house specialty “Uovo” — soft egg yolk-filled raviolo with truffle butter, homemade fettuccine with coriander-scented lamb ragu, fava beans and fresh mint, and shared a portion of succulent swordfish served with zucchini scapece, eggplant caviar, and fried tomatoes. Great tiramisu with espresso sauce.  And would you believe that a two-course lunch is $28.

Lunch the next day at the Rubin Museum. It is not as good as it used to be but it is still an extraordinary institution (with very exciting programming) and a good place to “hang” if you want to hear your dining companion and sip good “white Earl Grey” tea.

And speaking of tea, it was a lovely surprise to attend a real tea party at the home of a neighbor to hear about the goings-on at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music. Tea was poured at 4:00 p.m. and “catered” by Angela who specializes in tea parties! Tiny scones with delicious “raisin butter,” cucumber and mint sandwiches, tiny croutes with curried chicken salad, fig pound cake, chocolate-dipped strawberries, and gorgeous truffles that looked like Christmas ornaments! 

I also cooked dinner for friends, but more about that another time.

New: Beginning Wednesdays and Fridays, I will be sharing recipes from my archives! Stay tuned. Enjoy your week.

Tastes of the Week

23 Apr

April 16 to April 22

There were many tastes this week as we got ready for our daughter’s Sweet 16 party held at a very cool nightclub called La Pomme: located on West 26th Street between Broadway and 6th Avenue. Many tastes were sweet indeed: There were large cupcakes made by the Cake Boss at Carlo’s — his bakery in Hoboken, New Jersey. Then there were 250 mini-cupcakes from Baked by Melissa.” Recommended by my sister-in-law, she served them at a party for my brother who is considerably older than my daughter. They are small and sophisticated and great for any age! In each large pizza box, come 100 tiny cupcakes, in a variety of colorful flavors that exhibits like an optical illusion. Wonderful. Eighty teens munched on very credible sliders, sesame chicken skewers, pigs-in-blankets, potato pancakes, chocolate shots, brownies with cream and real raspberries…like that. And even though the chocolate cake we bought was merely to hold up the huge sparklers — it was nonetheless delicious! What was it? The huge, American All-Chocolate Cake from Costco. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Honestly, I don’t know how they can afford to sell some of the things they do at the prices they are. The filet mignon we bought there was also very good: My husband whipped up a birthday dinner for our daughter with an impromptu Bordelaise sauce, a spicy carrot puree and broccoli. We’ve been celebrating for a week.

While walking around the city on one of the beautifully sunny days last week (in search of heels to go with my daughter’s dress), I opted for chunks of freshly-cut mango sold on 14th street (instead of my more usual chocolate-dipped ice cream cone).”A specialty of Mexico,” the woman from Ecuador said, the ripe fruit was doused with hot sauce, salt and lemon juice. For $3, it was a great, and very healthy, snack. The bottled lemon juice, however, detracted from the overall freshness of the experience and so next time, I’ll bring my own fresh lime to squirt on top.

Scrambled eggs and sushi: That’s what we ate early the next morning after the sweet 16 shindig. It was a really cool merger of textures and tastes.

And I’m still dreaming about the butter-free and cheese-less asparagus risotto I had at SD26 last week. Will go again soon…just for that.

Upcoming tastes? Lunch at Danny Meyer and Floyd Cardoz’s new North End Grill and dinner at Red Farm this week.

Tastes of the Week

16 Apr

April 8 to April 16, 2012

Several years ago, the revered restaurant San Domenico located on Central Park South moved to East 26th Street across from Madison Park. Owned by father-daughter team, Tony and Marisa May the place was a bit of an enigma — modernistically designed by Massimo Vignelli, cavernous, and re-named SD26.  My husband had gone for lunch several times, and enjoyed it, but it wasn’t until last Friday that I decided to check it out. I had a splendid time, and the risotto was one of the best I’ve ever had. It certainly was one of the healthiest! Made without the requisite butter and cheese, Mr. May’s “new-style” risotto is instead “mounted” with extra-virgin olive oil and stirred until every grain of rice is perfectly cooked, toothsome, and voluptuous. Prepared with fish fumet and white wine, with a touch of garlic, scallion, and herbs, we tried one version with periwinkles (tiny sea snails) and another topped with pencil thin asparagus; the epitome of Spring. It’s easy to be skeptical, but easier to be wowed by the pristine quality of the result. We began our meal with paper thin slices of bottarga (a southern Italian delicacy of dried tuna roe) sprinkled with lemon zest and droplets of Sardinian olive oil; and followed our risotto with olive-oil poached cod with polenta taragna, baby calamari & squid ink, accompanied by a few glasses of very good Arneis (a white grape variety from the north of Italy.)  Bomboloni (custard-filled doughnuts), panna cotta with balsamic reduction and strawberries, and zabaione millefoglie with wild berries and caramel sauce, finished our “girl’s night out” with great satisfaction. Tony’s chef was a fabulous woman, Odette Fada, who for many years was the only three-star female chef in New York. Together we invented olive oil ice cream before anyone did (sometime in the 1980’s) for a press event sponsored by the International Olive Oil Council. Today the chefs at SD26 are a trio of very handsome young men; the culinary equivalent of the “three tenors” all hailing from interesting places in Italy. Their food speaks for itself.  I look forward to many more meals at SD26, especially when the outdoor seating opens up and I can pretend I am, once again, dining al fresco en Italia.

We ate lots of delicious things during the two nights of Passover. But perhaps the most delicious, and unusual offering, was a two-ingredient haroses, which got everyone’s attention.  It is a Persian version of the symbolic recipe served, with matzoh, to represent the mortar used in Egypt.  Generally is it an amalgam of chopped apples, walnuts, cinnamon, bound together with sweet wine. But this new (or very old) haroses is made with only date honey (or date syrup or date molasses) and lots of finely chopped walnuts.  It is sticky and tar-ry and wonderful to drizzle on almost anything. My approximate recipe is 2 cups date molasses (or date honey) stirred with 3 cups of very finely chopped walnuts. Date honey is the honey mentioned in the Bible (not honey from bees) and can be found in any Middle Eastern market. I will now make it is staple in my pantry. We also enjoyed Arthur Schwartz’s wonderful potato kugel and a long-simmering tzimmes made with sour prunes, carrots, sweet potatoes and a generous, succulent chunk of flanken.

Cultural nourishment included the simulcast of Manon Lescaut at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (starring Anna Netrebko); and a movie about the artist Gerhard Richter at the Film Forum — one of my favorite places in the city. They pop their popcorn in peanut oil.

We also ate our first “frozen dinner” in decades:  “Butter Chicken” which we bought at Costco. Butter chicken is a very famous dish in India. This was a great version and we served it alongside a mound of basmati rice and drank tea. Not bad for a weeknight dinner.

May your coming week be filled with great tastes and nourishing experiences.

Tastes of the Week/Tastes of the Future

20 Feb

Feb. 12 thru Feb. 19th, 2012

As I blabbered about being excited to go to RedFarm for dinner, the “happening” new restaurant owned by Chinese food maven, Ed Schoenfeld, I can tell you that the excitement turned into happy eating delirium. The tiny 40-seat restaurant located at 529 Hudson Street (bet. W. 10th and Charles) is darling — a kind of farm-to-table environment with long communal tables and cozy booths-for-two. Eddie says they turn down at least 500 diners a night (they don’t take reservations) but have found a way of “farming” people out to local bars and then texting them when a seat is available. I think the system is working! I fell into the arms of fellow-diner chef Todd English (we’ve been friends for years) and hung out at the tiny bar, drinking a yuzu caipirinha, until our table was ready.  The chef, Joe Ng, is an urban dumpling legend and we ate a few that were other-worldly — especially the Black Truffle & Chicken Soup Dumplings that squirt into your bowl, and totally cool green vegetable-chive dumplings. Apparently Chef Eric Ripert and the adorable Bobby Flay also like them since they are frequent RedFarm-ers! Ditto Gael Greene and the rest of NY’s food cognoscenti. But there are lots of nice, normal people, too — including a couple who came all the way from Boston just to eat there. And while the kabocha squash & ricotta bruschetta at abckitchen is one of my favorite “tapas” in all of New York, I have found another favorite in Eddie’s smoked salmon & eggplant “bruschetta.” Truly fabulous. As was the crisp-skin chicken with garlic sauce, the okra & Thai eggplant yellow curry with flatbread for dunking, and the wok-sauteed conch with scallops and jumbo shrimp which was a special that night. The fresh fruit plate was a work of art (how do they do this in such a small kitchen?) and would you believe the chocolate pudding was first-rate! The food is “new Chinese” with so much style and grace that you may never order in again.

And my husband took me on a date to Patroon — the beautifully, clubby restaurant in midtown (160 East 46th Street), owned by another of New York’s great restaurateurs, Ken Aretsky who used to run the “21 Club.” We hadn’t been in years and heard that Patroon was recently spruced up! It’s fabulous looking (an impressive photography collection graces the walls) and the service is the most professional and affable that we’ve had in a long time. Not a snooty moment, but it was precision-perfect. The very nice chef, Bill Peet, worked at Lutece for years and remains a close friend of chef/legend André Soltner. It’s “the” place to go for Dover sole (filleted tableside) and steak au poivre, and the oyster pan roast was luscious. The “Simply Grilled Fish of the Day” was perfectly-cooked cod over a tangle of the most delicious “roasted” broccoli rabe we’ve ever had. The place is all-class and feels like the “new 21.” Good mango sorbet. Be sure to visit their roof-top bar as soon as the weather gets nice. We hear it’s the place to be.

Tastes of the future: Every so often I peruse the events booklet published by the James Beard Foundation as to the “goings-on” at the Beard House (located on West 12th street in NYC) and locations around the county. It provides a snapshot into current “chef thinking” — re: new flavors, tastes, combinations, and techniques —  a “look-see” into what my peers are cooking these days! Here’s a glimpse of hot new ingredients in the March/April issue:  rutabaga sauerkraut, bok choy kimchi, squash butter, tongues, black cod, pork cheeks, hake cheeks, toasted cherry leaves, almond milk, pressed palm seeds, goat milk cream cheese, “beet” steak, tomato “chicharrones,” bellies (pork and lamb), freekeh, rabbits, pigs ears, vadouvan spice, and fresh curry leaves. Coming soon to your plate.

Enjoy your own tastes of the week.

Dinner at Diva at the Met

7 Feb

As promised, here is the menu from the “world class” meal I had at Diva at the Met located in the Metropolitan Hotel in Vancouver. It was magnificently cooked by Chef Hamid Salimian and orchestrated by sommelier Corey Bauldry. It was a wonderful experience!

amuse bouche

olive oil marshmallow, black olive salt, olive butter
diva bacon, parsnip, maple
dehydrated brioche, sturgeon caviar
nitro gravlax
mini pork puffs, tabasco powder, tabasco mayo
beef tartare, crispy tendon
puffed foie gras, quince, melba toast
baked potato, winter truffles, chives
frozen cucumber soda

blue mountain brut, okanagan, british columbia nv
grapefruit elderflower fizz

1st course

 sunshine coast sturgeon b.c. side striped prawn, dill ash cured scallop, salmon roe, champagne jelly
william fevre petit chablis, burgundy, france 2009

2nd course

albacore tuna & dungeness crab yuzu crisp, oyster leaf, cucumber, avocado, soy vinaigrette
blasted church, hatfield’s fuse
, (gewurztraminer, pinot gris, pinot blanc, ehrenfelser), okanagan valley, british columbia 2010

3rd course

 pickled winter vegetables blood pudding, bone marrow croquette, trumpets
la stella, la stellina,
merlot rosato, okanagan valley, british columbia 2009

 4th course

 sweetbreads salsify, pressed onion sherry jus
chateau ste. michelle riesling, columbia valley washington 2009

 5th course

 perigord truffle truffle pappardelle, 63º egg, pork belly crouton
del fin del mundo, reserva pinot noir, patagonia, argentina 2009

6th course

 sablefish tomato eggplant stew, fennel
rocca della macie, sasyr, sangiovese & syrah, igt, toscana, italy 2008

 dessert

 stilton cheesecake rhubarb, port
ganton & larsen prospect winery “the lost bars” vidal icewine,
okanagan valley, british columbia, 2009

Diva at the Met Restaurant, 645 Howe Street, Vancouver, BC Y6C 2Y9

Photos of the Week:

   

Lior Lev Sercarz, the spice man at La Boite. Photo Credit: Steve North

Boureka with tahina and hot sauce at Azuri Cafe. Photo Credit: Steve North

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