Monday, August 22, 2011

Biscuit Sandwiches from Blacksauce Kitchen, Baltimore

One of my favorite things to do on Saturday mornings in Baltimore is to go to the year round Waverly farmer's market, and have breakfast at the Blacksauce Kitchen stand.
Their specialty is making wonderful buttermilk biscuit sandwiches that change week to week. Their handmade biscuits are great, fluffy, delicate, and buttery.
My favorite sandwich so far has been the fried chicken with blackberry honey. They fry the chicken to order for this one.

I've also enjoyed their beef short rib biscuit, the merguez sausage and fried egg biscuit, and the "BLT" with bacon, microgreens, & tomato jam.
They also make an appearance at the Highlandtown market on Thursday afternoons, but I fear having their biscuits more than once a week will be hard on the waistline.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Epicerie Boulud, NYC

We were up in New York to see a show at Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors, so we grabbed a quick bite at Epicerie Boulud, the take-out offering in Daniel Boulud's row of establishments on the block which includes the fine dining restaurant Boulud Sud and Bar Boulud.

We shared the banh mi with Thai sausage, country pate, jambon de Paris, radish and carrot slaw, and jalapeno mayonnaise. Non-traditional, but very very tasty.

After that it was time for a sweet - we got a slice of the Galette Bresanne - basically like a cream tart. The cream was ok - not too sweet, but the "crust" was more bready than pastry, and rather dry. It was sort of like a fancified cheese danish, but not a good one.

So unsatisfied with that treat, we decided to go back to the case and try again. The woman working the pastry case told us this brioche was filled with pastry cream and candied fruit, but when we cut it open there was neither inside -- instead there was something the texture of almond paste, though without any flavor. Again, the brioche was dry and not fresh.

Later that evening, we stopped back in to pick up some food for sitting out on the lawn at Summerstage -- a nice seared tuna sandwich, cheese and pate plates. Basically the lesson was, stick to the food, skip the sweets.

Epicerie Boulud
1900 Broadway at 64th Street, NYC

Monday, August 15, 2011

Frank Pepe's Pizza Napoletano, New Haven, CT

We only had a brief time in New Haven this weekend while attending a wedding, so we wanted to hit some landmarks. Louis' Lunch (birthplace of the hamburger) sadly was closed on Saturday afternoon, so instead we went to the famous Pepe's Pizzeria.

We were lucky enough to arrive right at 2 pm, when they opened up The Spot (the small annex next door, which is the original location from 1925), so we jumped in there rather than into the long line.

We ordered 2 smalls of their signature pies: white clam and fresh tomato (only offered in the summer). Both pies arrived on a single long rectangular tray and we dug in, forgoing plates to just eat off the tray which took up our entire tabletop. The white clam was super garlicky and loaded with big breaded clams. The tomato pie was a nice contrast - fresh and more subtle. I think the biggest difference of Pepe's with other thin crust pizzas I've had is that the crust is much chewier - perhaps it's the Connecticut water.

And in keeping with eating local, I washed it all down with a lemon soda from Foxon Park, an East Haven beverage company who have been making soda since 1922. By the time we finished, there was already a line at both The Spot and the main location.

Frank Pepe's Pizzeria Napoletano
157 Wooster Street
New Haven, CT

Friday, August 12, 2011

Foodie day in Williamsburg

Petitesoeur and I had a lovely summer day snacking our way around Williamsburg. We started off at Blue Bottle Coffee, the Brooklyn outpost of the Bay Area roaster, for some cold brew to kick-start our day.

I got the New Orleans with chicory, milk, and sugar, along with an olive oil semolina buckle with Brooklyn Winery Riesling poached peaches and almond lavender streusel on top. Petitesoeur, much more the coffee purist, went with the Kyoto black, along with a buckwheat buttermilk biscuit sandwich with Tasso ham from Marlow & Daughters, housemade strawberry jam, and raw milk cheddar from Smith's Farmstead.

They had a very impressive cold-brew-drip set-up -- "perhaps the longest and most theatrical drip bar on the eastern seaboard" according to their website. We also got to watch the barista masterfully hand-pull espressos on their restored 1958 Faema Urania lever espresso machine.

Properly caffeinated (perhaps a little too caffeinated in the case of petitesoeur), we head off to explore some more, hitting our next string of foodie destinations on Bedford Avenue.

The first was Radish, where we admired the wonderful and fresh prepared foods we weren't yet hungry enough for, but ended up getting a homemade blueberry basil soda.

Further on down the block, we hit the Bedford Cheese Shop. The smell that hits you upon opening the door is just heavenly! We spent a good deal of time in there, taking in the overwhelming selection. Incidentally, if there were a prize for cheese writing, it should go to the Bedford owner for his hilariously colorful descriptions.

When I saw this funky pretty little cone of cheese -- called Crocodile Tears -- I knew I had to come back to get it. I decided on that along with a Farmer's aged gouda that was wonderfully sharp, nutty and caramelly, and also picked up some Anarchy in a Jar strawberry balsamic jam. Next stop on the block was kitchen supply store Whisk where I stocked up on more of my beloved Bacon Marmalade.

Finally we started getting peckish, so we head down to Nha Toi for bahn mi. It was a tiny little joint with just a couple 2-tops with low Asian-street-stall stools, a window counter with a handful of high stools, and a few benches on the sidewalk - perfect! We ordered the summer roll with pickled vegetables -- so pretty! -- accompanied by 2 delicious sauces (so good I brought them home with me).

We also split a banh mi with bì heo (shredded pork and skin with roasted rice powder). It was so big we only ate half of it between the 2 of us (with the other half packed up to bring home to Redneckhunter). And now that petitesoeur's coffee buzz had finally calmed down a bit, she left with a Vietnamese iced coffee for the road.

Our final destination was Maison Premiere for their $1 oyster happy hour. Now a lot of places in the city do $1 bluepoints, or one type of oyster, but at Maison Premiere, every oyster from their extensive menu is just $1 -- all the better to serve up absinthe, Pimm's and other cocktails. I let petiteseour choose a sampling: 2 each of Madaline, Caraquet, Quilcene, Triton Cove, Gigamoto, Elkhorn, Oakland Bay and Skookum.

Before:And after:It was lovely sitting in their back garden slowly slurping oysters and amusing ourselves by people watching. Petitesoeur finished off with a palate-cleansing cocktail -- an Old Hickory: Dolin Blanc vermouth, Carpano Antica, Peychauds and orange bitters.

Finally, it was back to the cheese shop to pick up our cheese, now that we were heading home and out of the summer heat. Petitesoeur got a slice of ricotta cake, imported from Sicily. We were going to go back to Blue Bottle to eat it (I guess she needed even more caffeine!), but since they were closed, we just had it on a sidewalk bench. It was divine - definitely the best ricotta cheese cake I've ever had. Smooth, lemony - I'm still craving more... The perfect ending to a great day!

Blue Bottle Coffee
160 Berry Street

158 Bedford Avenue
(718) 782-2744

Bedford Cheese Shop
229 Bedford Avenue

231 Bedford Avenue
(718) 218-7230

Nha Toi
160 Havemeyer St.
(718) 599-1820

Maison Premiere
298 Bedford Avenue

Monday, August 01, 2011

Rogue 24- The Journey, DC

I've been a fan of chef RJ Cooper for several years, and when he ran his original 24 course tasting menu at Vidalia, I had a reservation to go. However, a week before the date, he left Vidalia, and the experience never happened.
Now, over a year later, he's opened his own restaurant, Rogue 24, offering the 24 course tasting menu. Luckily, I was able to book a seat in the opening week. The layout of the restaurant is unique. The main kitchen and prep area is placed at the center of the restaurant under bright lights, allowing diners to watch everything going to make each of the courses. The staff also welcomed questions and interaction with them during the whole course of the meal.
Because I had to drive, I opted for the non-alcoholic drink pairings created by mixologist Derek Brown. When first seated, I was given a starter of watermelon water with fresh basil.
Courses 1/2
The 24 courses were broken down into groups of 3, with a paired drink to each group. For the first group, "snacks", I was served a simple, refreshing tonic with elderflower.
I first had a small cube of compressed watermelon topped with manchego cheese, bits of almond, a nib of cocoa, and a small piece of dried Jamón Ibérico.
The second course was an oyster shooter. They took a Stingray oyster (VA) and spherified it with a soft shell of mignonette sauce and Old Bay seasoning. It was then topped with a Snapperhead I.P.A. foam. This bite captured the tastes of eating raw oysters in the summer in the Midatlantic region.
Course 3
This was chef's take on Cig Kofte, a Turkish style tartare, using rose veal, housemade pickles, wheat germ, and sumac. The veal was very tender and had a wonderful flavor.
Course 4
The next set of courses were paired with a housemade ginger lemonade that had a strong ginger kick.
The 4th item on the menu was called the "Sea Floor". It was served in a very deep bowl, so the utensil for eating it was a set of forceps. It's components included sea urchin, seaweed, and sea water air. There also were edible "lava rocks".
Course 5
The next set of courses were tributes to chefs that inspired chef Cooper. The first was called an "Ode to O'connell" in recognition of chef Patrick O’Connell from The Inn at Little Washington and his "Tin of Sin". Served in a caviar tin, I had Osstra caviar with egg & crème fraiche served along with a baby cucumber with flower attached and cucumber air.
Course 6
This sixth course, a tribute to Chef Jeffrey Buben of Vidalia, was shrimp 'n' grits, bent & twisted. First, the shrimp was made into a slice of chorizo. Then, the grits, the part inspired by Chef Buben, was a corn milk pannacotta coated with a fried grit shell.

Course 7
For the next trio of items, my drink was a cherry phosphate soda.
The seventh course was called "Fowl Play". It arrived covered with a glass dome filled with smoke. I was instructed to lift up the dome, inhale the smoke, and then eat the item inside. Inside was a nest of "hay" with a cured partridge egg, chicken gizzard and skin.
Apologies to chef for the lousy pic of the egg & nest, but I was holding my breath in and only gave myself one shot before I ate it as I wanted to experience the smoke and the food at the same moment.
Course 8
I liked this course because it was a little down and dirty. I was handed a glass bowl which contained a fresh radish in what appeared to be "dirt". It was actually a combination of coffee, butter, and had a hazelnut in it as well. The server instructed me to grab the stalk by hand and rub it around on the inside and eat up.
It was fun seeing some fellow diners who were in suits get a little touchy about making a bit of a mess when eating this course.
Course 9
I was a fan of RJ's Pig & Pinot Fridays at Vidalia, and the ninth course reminded me of those dishes. He made a smoked hog jowl on top of caramel ice cream and pain perdu. I wished this was more than just a small bite.
Course 10
My next drink was a coriander carrot soda topped with crema.
The 10th course was a lavender meringue topped with a foie gras torchon that was frozen and then shaved on top. Under the meringue was a wild berry sauce.
Course 11
As an homage to the chef's Midwestern roots, the next dish highlighted corn in various forms. It had bits of grilled baby corn, popcorn, and a small tamale of vanilla corn custard served inside a husk of corn.
Course 12
Next up was a "salad" course that was Green Goddess dressing ice cream served with vegetable chips.
Course 13
One of my favorite drinks of the evening followed, a strawberry rhubarb drink with vinegar. It reminded me of drinking vinegar from Japan.
The start of the second half of the meal was an item called "liquid chicken" which reminded me of the foie gras cromesquis from Au Pied De Cochon. It was a chicken broth cooked into a shell with sheep's cheese and truffle, topped with a cepe mushroom. I was instructed to take the whole item into my mouth and bite down. The chicken broth bathed the inside of my mouth with all it's accompanying flavors.
Course 14
This was a representative dish of the season with the flavors of a Caprese salad. It was a beautiful green tiger heirloom tomato gently carved served with olive oil, balsamic vinegar spheres, ricotta cheese, apple and basil blossoms.
Course 15
This was another one of my favorite courses in how simple it was. This was a beet granita topped with char roe. There was a wonderful contrast of the the sweetness from the beet with the salinity of the roe.
Course 16
My next drink was a smoked cola with lime slice.
They called number 16 "What's up, Doc?" It had a piece of rabbit with baby carrots on a bed of edible "soil".
Course 17
This course was a take on vichyssoise. The soup was almond milk with truffle, and on the small skewer was violet potato, leeks.

Course 18
There was more playfulness with the 18th course. It was called "Not the Cheese" course. Using red aspic, headcheese was made to look like a small gouda wheel. It came with pretzel paper, pickled mustard seeds, and mayonnaise.

Course 19
Up next was a small bottle charged with CO2 of a garden vegetable summer consommé.
I then got another drink pairing. This time it was a delightful peach fizz.
Course 20
Chef Cooper brought course 20 to my table himself and described the preparation of the Border Springs lamb neck. He said it was braised for 18 hours, and topped with eggplant. It also came with a side of black garlic.
The lamb meat was so good, and smeared with a little of the black garlic, it was perfect.
Course 21
21 was the real cheese course. Pipe Dreams Fromage fresh goat cheese was presented on a piece of wood with olive paper, olive chunks, and a spherical olive.
Course 22
At this point, pastry chef Chris Ford took over for the last 3 dessert courses.
My final drink was an African tea, Rooibos Masala Chai, which was a first try for me. I loved it- it was a little spicy, and had a smooth flavor, with a little milk and honey, was great.
The first dessert item was seasonally inspired, using peaches from Toigo Orchards. There was a doughnut peach, and a bourbon gelee, topped with a sweet tea marshmallow noodle, basil blossoms and cream snow.
Course 23
The second dessert item was called Tennessee as the ingredients all came from there. The chocolate came from Olive & Sinclair Co. of Nashville, and it was fashioned into bark and dirt with liquid nitrogen. There was a dark chocolate cremeux and a quenelle of maplewood ice cream.
Course 24
The final course was 3 small bites: a lavender nitro chocolate truffle, a pecan crisp, and a cola gelee.

I waited over a year to try this tasting menu, and it surpassed my expectations especially with the participation of the mixologist and pastry chef. Next time, I plan to get the alcoholic beverage pairings.

922 N St NW (Rear/Blagden Alley)
Washington DC