Sunday, December 30, 2007

Congee Village, NYC

It had been a while since petiteseour and I had done a downtown lunch/shopping day. This time I chose Congee Village. Congee is one of my favorite things to eat, it's comfort food. It's also a treat whenever I have it, because I don't make it at home. I guess I could make it, but when you do it, you'd want to make a huge pot of it. I could probably eat it for days and not get sick of it, but redneckhunter is not really one for eating the same meal day after day...

If you don't like congee (like petiteseour), don't worry, there are plenty of other choices -- everything from fried dough for $1 to bird's nest soup for $50 a bowl. We really would have needed to come here with a huge group, like the multigenerational family at the round table next to us.

We ended up getting rice with chicken and black mushrooms baked in a bamboo pot (above). Other choices of this type of rice included frog, eel, salted fish, preserved duck or chinese sausage.

I had to get congee of course -- my favorite: pork with thousand year old egg. It's came in a sha guo (casserole dish) but I managed to eat it all myself.

We also got lotus root stir-fried with spacial black bean sauce. I don't know what made the sauce "special" but it was delicious. Sweet, with a hint of cinnamon, and the lotus was crunchy and perfect.

I would love to come back with a big group - there was just so much on the menu I wanted to try! And so much of "non-American" taste: Roasted young pigeon, steamed chicken and frog with mushrooms, bitter melon with dried scallops, baked fish intestine, goose intestine with bean sprouts, cold jelly fish, snail and frog congee, liver and sliced fish congee, fried fish head casserole, simmered turtle soup with wolfberry seeds. And so inexpensive - our bill came to $15 before tip, and we even had leftovers to bring home!

Congee Village
100 Allen Street
New York, NY
(212) 941-1818

Monday, December 17, 2007

Wagyu Beef Tasting at Vidalia

Tonight, I went to a DonRockwell event at DC restaurant Vidalia. It was for a dual tasting of Wagyu sirloin prepared by chef RJ Cooper.
We started with an appetizer of Poussin Rillettes, basically young chickens slow cooked in fat then cooled into a pate- it was delicious.
We had the Wagyu prepared in 2 ways- first up was a carpaccio with arugula salad. "Oh baby I like it raw!" The marbling was spectacular, and the beef was so rich. The chef had a choice of special salts to eat with the meat. My favorite was a Himalayan which was freshly ground from a salt rock with shark skin. It had a slight sulfur flavor to it. It was paired with a nice white wine, Villard Viognier.
The second preparation was seared accompanied by a side of the garlic fried rice from Cityzen courtesy of chef Eric Ziebold. The cooking of the beef added new levels of flavor and texture. I love how this quality of beef just melts in the mouth. One guest's wife who was a vegetarian for the last 15 years ended up eating a piece of the seared Wagyu- not a bad way to lose her vegetarianity. This was paired with a nice red wine, a Mustiguillo Bobal Blend.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Monk's Cafe, Philadelphia

I took Gallup to Monk's Cafe one Saturday night before a concert. I had forgotten how packed this place got on the weekends - the poor waiters are barely able to maneuver past people while carrying plates of food and steins of beer overhead. Luckily, a couple seats opened up at the bar, so we jumped on them and decided to eat at the bar.

We got a rabbit terrine appetizer with great wheaty bread and a yummy sauce, and a "small" pot of Provence mussels, one of 7 varieties (the large pot could feed a family!) with the requisite Belgian frites with bourbon mayonnaise. And of course a roll to sop up all the mussel broth.

We sat next to a guy from Wisconsin who was in Philly for work and happily eating rack of lamb and loving it.

I love Monk's for the food, but what you really go there for is the beer - over 200 varieties! You have to look at the beer bible to fully appreciate it. But Gallup's Kasteel Rouge was one of the best beers he's had in years.

Monk's Cafe
16th and Spruce Street
Philadlphia, PA
(215) 545-7005

Girls Cooking Night: Rainbow Meal

For our last cooking night in November, we decided to try something a little different thematically. We assigned each lady a color of the rainbow and cooked colorful food accordingly (and came appropriately dressed as well):

Brownie was assigned red and made red snapper with roasted red pepper sauce.

Debbie dressed in orange and made curried butternut squash.

Kim had lemon-hued Crocs and made lemon chicken.

Green queen Marian made a yummy spinach salad with bacon dressing.

Melissa was all blue with her blueberry cheesecake.

And I finished us off with indigo/violet by serving purple sticky rice with coconut milk.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Au Pied Du Cochon, Montreal 2.0

This year after Thanksgiving, we made our second annual trek to Montreal to eat at Martin Picard's great Au Pied Du Cochon.
Of course, we had to get, again the famous foie gras poutine. We devoured this like a pack of dogs, and Gallup and Fougoo used up the bread to mop up the rest of the amazing gravy.
We also got foie gras cromesquis appetizers. Each cube was deep fried and inside was a small molten mouthful of foie gras. I read that this dish was inspired by the Chinese soup dumpling.

For our main courses, we ate everything family style. First, we got the boudin noir, pork blood sausage served on top of potatoes. The skin was so delicate and the inside was, unlike a lot of blood sausage I've had, light and fluffy.

A repeat from last year was our favorite dish, the duck in a can. Amazing yet again- another plate licker. Fougoo wanted to know if you could buy these to take home (despite border laws), but we found out these only had a shelf life of a couple days.

Inspired by the amazing cassoulet at P'tit Plateau the night before, we ordered the PDC Cassoulet to try it out. It was different- they had cooked it so there was a crust on the surface of the dish. The white beans were different, they used chicken, and had a couple different sausages inside it.

We also got the tripe with chorizo sausage. The tripe was cooked impeccably and the slightly sweet sauce in it was delicious.

For dessert, we got several items. We tried the creme caramel which was nice an thick. Fougoo wanted to try the dark chocolate pot de creme which was really nice and rich as well. I got the maple churros because they are essentially doughnuts.

Another great meal at Au Pied Du Cochon.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Le P'tit Plateau, Montreal

While researching for our Montreal trip, I came across a recommendation for an interesting sounding locals restaurant on the Don Rockwell board. It was for Le P'tit Plateau, a bring your own wine restaurant serving southern French style cuisine. Needless to say, it was an incredible meal.
We started with appetizers that were house specialties. First, we had the foie gras maison cuit au torchon- poached foie gras served chilled with toast, raisins, and onion. The taste was decadent.
We also had a small plate of their smoked salmon smoked on the premises.
It was great having a party of four adventurous eaters because we got to try several main courses. Gallup got got the medallion of red deer venison with red wine sauce. The texture of the venison was a so tender, and the sauce was rich in flavor.

Fougoo got the Alberta lamb confit- cooked slowly for 15 hours. The meat just fell off the bone- amazing.

Redneckhunter's dish was simply spectacular and the house specialty, the cassoulet. It was clearly slow cooked for a long time as the white beans were soft. It included sausage, pheasant, and pork.

I got the grilled duck magret in porto and orange sauce. It was impeccably cooked. I also liked my side of potatoes au gratin.

Dessert was also spectacular. We shared the black chocolate mousse on praline crust. The crust made it all worth it.

We also got a dessert called floating islands, vanilla & caramel which consisted of poached meringues in creme anglaise.

330 Rue Marie-Anne Est
(514) 282-6342

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Restaurant La Banquise, Montreal

Over the weekend after Thanksgiving, we made our second annual trek to Montreal. One morning we went to La Banquise, a 24 hour place known for 23 varieties of Quebecois french fry dish, poutine.
We had the classic poutine with gravy and cheese curds- it was pretty darn tasty.
We also ordered one variety called the Matty- with bacon, pepper, onions, and mushrooms. It, too, was pretty good, but a little too healthy.

994 Rue Rachel Est
Montreal, QC, Canada
(514) 525-2415

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Pupatella Neapolitan Food Cart, Arlington, VA

This week, before the Bourdain talk, since I had part of my day off, I grabbed lunch at the Pupatella Neapolitan food cart located outside the Ballston Metro station in Arlington, VA. I had heard about them through Don Rockwell and had been planning to try it out for some time.
I started with the stuffed rice balls- they are stuffed with faux beef, veggies and smoked mozarella and then deep fried. Very tasty.
I followed it with a deep fried calzone- this is they way they make it in Naples- not baked. It was filled with ham, ricotta, mozarella, and tomato sauce. I think I would actually prefer calzones if they were deep fried like this all the time.
For dessert, I had a Nutella pizza topped with pears- also delicious.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Anthony Bourdain at Lisner Auditorium

So last night, Anthony Bourdain, the inspiration for our food blog, gave a talk at Lisner Auditorium in DC. He's out promoting a new book, No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach a compilation of pictures and notes from his Travel Channel program of the same name.
His talk was funny, crass, and opinionated- all I come to expect of the man. He showed a few clips from his show: the one when he goes with his office manager to make Kim Chee, when he goes to Brazil to eat and drink all day at a lady's home, and the segment with the bamboo pole noodle maker in Hong Kong.
A few interesting points- he's quit smoking! Probably because he's just had a daughter. He noted his wife, from northern Italy, imports Italian baby food with flavors like prosciutto and parmesan.

He said the most disgusting dish he ever had was in Iceland- it was a shark fermented in it's own urine, then fermented again in lactic acid for a few months. This was worse than the uncleaned warthog intestine he had in Africa.
He said the best pork he had was in Bali. Puerto Rico was in second place
He said he has not yet crossed the food line of dogs and cats, and wasn't sure if he could take that step.
When asked where he would stop and stay forever, he mentioned his love for Vietnam and it's food and lifestyle.
He confirmed that he had Ben's Chili Bowl the night before and loved it.

He did not hesitate to deride vegetarians, the Food Channel, and Rachael Ray.
If asked who he would battle on Iron Chef. he said, "Who's Cat Cora? She has a SAG card. What chef has a SAG card?" He figured they would give him something he hated like Tofu or Veggie burgers as the challenge.
He mentioned that Hung was indeed hands down the best one on Top Chef this season. He expressed a fondness for Nigella Lawson after she described to him a night in Spain where they aborted a pig and roasted the fetus for her to eat.

He said his favorite food movie moment was the revelatory scene in Ratatouille. He also liked Eat Drink Man Woman.
His dream meal is the sushi by Masa Takayama, his fav Ramones song: "Beat on a Brat". He confessed to liking KFC's mac & cheese.

Towards to end of the talk, he discouraged an audience member who wanted to change his career and become a chef. He said it was for the young- too much humiliation and too little reward. He recalled his days in the kitchen watching the spirit of aspiring culinary school grads die. He said that the reason Mexicans are good in the kitchen is that they expect life to suck, so the hardship of the restaurant business is not so bad.

Chaps Pit Beef

We in Baltimore love a good pit beef sandwich. I headed over the Chaps Pit Beef, touted as Baltimore's best in the City Paper for a pit beef sandwich. The place is located next to a gentleman's club.
The options for the beef are medium and medium well- I got a medium on a nice sized kaiser roll. I added some horseradish and onion. It was a nice sandwich- good sized, nice flavor.
In the end, I still prefer Canopy because you can get the meat cooked rare- nothing like a pink bloody bun, but since Canopy is in Ellicott City, I would agree Chaps is Baltimore's best.

Chaps Pit Beef
5801 Pulaski Highway
Baltimore, MD 21205

The Canopy
9319 Baltimore National Pike
Ellicott City, MD 21042

Monday, November 05, 2007

Ravioli & Meatballs from St. Leo Church Benefit

After reading an article in the Sun paper, Bigfatlar, kwan and I went to the St. Leo Roman Catholic Church biannual benefit dinner in Baltimore's Little Italy for a meal of homemade meatballs and ravioli. While not quite worth the 2 hour wait, the slightly spicy apricot sized meatballs were delicious as was the tangy sauce. I was a little mixed about the homemade ravioli- some of the edges were a little tough.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Girls Cooking Night: Pumpkin

For our most recent girls cooking night, we went seasonal with an all-pumpkin feast. The most interesting thing was that given pumpkin's squashy-absorbent nature, all five dishes had very distinctive flavors.

I steamed sticky rice in the pumpkin. I made the sticky rice first, then mixed it with stir-fried diced shitake mushrooms, dried shrimp, green onions, shallots, and since I don't like Chinese sausage, sweet Lebanon bologna, mixed with sesame oil and a little soy sauce. I stuffed the rice mixture in the pumpkin and steamed the whole thing for about an hour. I think it could have gone quite a bit longer to soften the pumpkin flesh even more, but well we had plenty of pumpkin to eat that night.

We started with Debbie's pumpkin lentil soup. The yellow lentils were still a little crunchy -- toothsome, as brownie likes to say. The yogurt added a nice tang.

Melissa made a wonderful rich pumpkin beef curry -- great flavor, lots of kick.

Kim made a pumpkin risotto, yet another totally distinct flavor. With lots of butter and rosemary and thyme or tarragon, someone said it reminded them of Thanksgiving.

Brownie finished us off with a delicious pumpkin cheesecake. I don't even like cheesecake, but this one was really tasty, especially with its gingersnap crust.

Finally, Marian couldn't make it that night, but on a previous occasion, she had wowed us with a nice, creamy, and fluffy pumpkin souffle.