Sunday, September 23, 2007

Fresh sushi

Redneckhunter has a friend who's a real redneck hunter and fisher. Last weekend he caught a big one, and we got to reap the benefits.

Nothing beats freshly caught tuna. We ate it as sashimi and I made a couple rolls too. This happened to be the night after brownie's shower - man, what an amazing food day!

Foodie bridal shower

Brownie had her foodie bachelorette party, so naturally, her bridal shower had to be equally food-centric. It was absolutely lovely! The four hostesses really outdid themselves. Hostess #1 made homemade scones served with clotted cream and strawberry jam.

Her talented husband smoked his own salmon. There were also wonderful little lobster tails, so sweet.

Hostess #2 made the moistest, prettiest lemon cake. Hostess #3 provided prosecco and prosciutto with melon. Hostess #4 made tea sandwiches (I think the lobster tails were hers too).

But I know that brownie's favorite was the cupcakes. Hostess #1 who made them is also set to bake the wedding cake - I can't wait!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Top Chef: French Culinary Shakedown

One of the thrills of Top Chef (a favorite of the TIGBG crew) is witnessing a hotly- debated cooking question get played out amongst the contestants: which works better- talent or technique, home-spun cookin' or classic preparations? This week's episode gave us that match-up on the silver plate of the classic-contemporary French kitchen.

A few years back I was fortunate enough to take a beginner's class at the French Culinary Institute. While the program did a great job exposing me to the authentic preparation techniques, my teachers made no bones that they were actually babysitters to us armchair cooks. I can only imagine that the real students (like TC Season 1's Lee Anne) got worked for every roux. The training is militaristic and impeccable; a true French kitchen heeds no shorthand or laziness. When Anthony Bourdain writes that Andre Soltner "[speaks] from the mountain top", you better listen up.

So it came as no surprise that Hung exceeded in this contest, and the more 'bottoms-up' chefs like Dale and Brian scuttled about like nervous freshman. However, Casey astutely read the situation and dipped into her French heritage enough to impress the panel. For these judges, the technique won over tradition, but it was a surly race. Hung was is his comfort zone, but the home-spun cook might have leverage in the less sanitized conditions (beach bonfire anyone?).

Finally, did Bourdain unwittingly give us props? Check out the last line of his Top Chef blog... see ya at the screen next week.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Cafe Zeus, Rehoboth Beach, DE

We were looking for a nice place for dinner in Rehoboth and my friend told me about Cafe Zeus. Like many restaurants in Rehoboth, Cafe Zeus resides in a cute Victorian house. The space is great -- cozy rooms and a large terrace where we sat and were serenaded by Nikki Lee, soul singer, while lesbian couples slow danced. It was all very Rehoboth.

I thought Duncan and I ordered the best thing on the menu that night, New Zealand lamb chops (above), encrusted with cumin and cooked a perfect medium rare.

Both redneckhunter and 1000yregg had ordered veal. 1000yregg had his made "Oscar" style, with crabmeat on top. Unfortunately we had just been to the Crabcake Factory the night before and you just can't beat the lump crab from there...

I loved my lamb - it was so good, I wanted to reach over and gnaw on the bones from Duncan's plate!!

Everything else there was just ok though. We had a baked brie appetizer, and for dessert, 1000yregg got profiteroles (which always make me think of testicles - there's a story behind that), and redneckhunter and I got truffles that were just a bit too rich...

Cafe Zeus
37 Wilmington Ave
Rehoboth Beach, De 19971
(302) 226-0400

Sake Bar Hagi, NYC

Sake Bar Hagi is a basement izakaya on West 49th. You really have to keep an eye out or you'll never find the entrance. Apart from not having "Ir-ra-se-ma-se!" shouted at you when you walk down the stairs, you feel like you've just stepped into Japan. The warm, cozy room has bar seats and tiny tables and a wall with shelves of sake bottles with names on them, the bar holding on to personal bottles for the regulars.

We were starving, but in typical leisurely drinking style, it took a while for the dishes to start coming. We started with black edamame which had a sweeter marinade. Wasabi octopus sashimi with shredded mountain yam was cold and gooey and slimey -- these are good things, mind you....

Our other cold dish was cod roe with shredded daikon.

We ordered just one yakitori skewer: the special on the board -- alligator. It was alright - you know, tastes like chicken. I think we probably shouldn't have been swayed by the exotic and stuck with a more standard yakitori like chicken gizzards and skin.

My favorite dish of the night was takoyaki (fried squid balls). In fact, I think I ate them so quickly I forgot to take a picture!

The onigiri (rice ball) was the least interesting - pretty standard, and not enough bonito inside...

Pictured on top is hamachi kama (broiled yellowtail collar). It wasn't the best I've had, but it was good - hard to go wrong with the collar, such a tender part of the fish.

We finished the meal with a yakisoba with chicken and kimchee. My dinner companions loved this dish. To me, it was kind of like stuff I throw together at home from leftovers. But then again, as the NY Times reviewer said about the spaghetti with ketchup bacon dish, maybe it's for nostalgia...

To me, food-wise this place didn't live up the rave reviews I've heard, but then again, I've had a lot of good Japanese food in my day.

What I like about this place is the atmosphere - I can see why Japanese ex-pats living in NYC would come here to hang out and drink and snack. I still stand by my favorite New York izakaya when it comes to food -- that's Mugi on W. 58th St -- but often we've been the only people in the dining room. I love Mugi, but I can see why people would rather drink at Sake Bar Hagi.

Sake Bar Hagi
152 West 49th Street, NYC
(212) 764-8549.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Girls Cooking Night: Tapas

We've reached the point where in girls cooking night, a lot of us are starting to bring 2 dishes -- we thought this would be fine for Tapas Night, but well, no one really made tapas-sized small plate portions... Still even with all this food, we managed to devour most of it!

Melissa, as host, actually felt compelled to make 3 dishes: a spicy potato and chorizo; a salad with apples, cheese, and walnuts; and a classic Andalusian gazpacho with wonderful homemade croutons.

Brownie made a baked mushroom, potato, onion dish. Debbie brought a green salad dressed with peaches and a tasty dressing, and sauteed spinach with pine nuts.

Kim supplied us with virgin and regular sangria, and two kinds of marinated olives.

I brought a crab and roasted pepper dip, and for dessert, toasted bread with chocolate drizzled with olive oil and sea salt.

And Marian brought the other dessert, a reprise of her delicious flan. She even went out and bought ramekins especially for the occasion!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Iggie's Pizza in Baltimore

Last week, went with bigfatlar, kwan, and 2 members of Chicago band Mass Shivers to local Baltimore pizza place Iggie's in Mount Vernon. Honestly, they now have topped my list as favorite pizza in Baltimore.
The place is BYOB and you also bus your own table, but their Neapolitan style pizza was delicious and worth any hassle.
We started with a great Caesar salad with anchovies and Iggie's arugula salad. We also ordered a side of macaroni and cheese with 4 cheeses and herbes de provence.

Their pizza has a fantastic thin crust the way I prefer. We got the Funghi with mushroom ragu, leeks and goat cheese.
The Salsiccia had sausage, fennel and tomato ragu.

We also got the Alice with garlic spinach, fresh tomato, goat cheese and pesto.

For dessert, we finished off with a blood orange sorbetto- a little tart mixed with sweet was a perfect end to the meal.

818 N. Calvert Street
Mount Vernon
Baltimore, MD 21202
(410) 528-0818

Monday, September 03, 2007

Queens Food Safari Part 2

Stop #3 was my favorite on the safari. Unidentified Flying Chickens is one of several Korean fried chicken places that have opened up in the city. The Korean style of frying chicken involves frying once, pulling the chicken out and letting it cool slightly, then frying a second time. What this does is render the fat of the skin, making it thin and crispy. Then your choice of sauce is put on the chicken. We went with soy-ginger and spicy hot sauce. They were both phenomenal, and the crispy skin was amazing.

I'm also hoping that they'll sell t-shirts online one day with their cute logo chickens.

Our final stop for dinner was the Holy Grail of Thai food in NYC, which brownie had been wanting to go to for years now: Sripraphai.

We started with a variety of salads: the crispy watercress salad which I love, a shredded green mango salad that was also wonderful, and a dried mushroom salad.

The "dried mushrooms" were actually ying-er, or silver wood ear, a tree fungus.

It's amazing how even though the salads had similar ingredients -- squid, red onion, lime -- the flavors of each salad were so different.

We also got drunken noodles (above), green curry with fish cake and thai eggplants, and sa-tor beans with spicy sauce and shrimp. Brownie was the only one who liked the bitter beans, but the other two dishes were wonderful as always.

Unidentified Flying Chickens

71-22 Roosevelt Avenue
Jackson Heights, NY

64-13 39th Ave., between 64th and 65th Sts.