Thursday, July 31, 2008

Giris Cooking Night: Seafood

For our last girls cooking night we decided on seafood as a theme. It ended up being a great summer meal, with mostly cold dishes. We thought that we should probably try the theme again during a winter month and see how different it turned out.

I had these great lobster mango skewers at a wedding I went to at the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay, so I recreated them. Such a simple yet great combination. I made a dipping sauce -- creme fraiche with basil and dill. They were good with the sauce, but I don't even think they needed it.

Brownie made a crab margarita served elegantly in martini glasses. Really refreshing with lime, cilantro, jalapenos, tomato, and her secret ingredient a hint of sriracha sauce!

Marian made fish tacos with orange roughy just sauteed on the grill pan, accompanied by guac, a fiery red sauce, and a killer mango salsa.

Kim got us eating our veggies with a caesar salad, falling into the seafood criteria with the anchovies in the dressing (and enough garlic to kill all vampires trying to crash the party).

Monday, July 28, 2008

Ferry Building Marketplace, San Francisco

Last time I was out in San Fran, I tried to go to the famous Ferry Building Market but it was closing - at 6 pm on a Saturday! This time we head there in the morning to make sure. The Ferry Building Market calls itself a "people's marketplace," but it sure isn't like most of the city markets I've been to, Reading Terminal Market (Philadelphia) or Lexington Market (Baltimore) or the Marche Jean Talon (Montreal). Don't expect to do your daily shopping here - the Ferry Building is gourmet, gourmet, gourmet.

We did a turn through the market surveying the culinary delights - mushrooms at Far West Fungi, meats at Boccalone salumeria, the happy dungeness crabs at Ferry Plaza Seafood, and the lovely pastries at Miette. I had wanted to grab breakfast at Boulette's Larder, but we just missed the 10:30 am cutoff.

At Lulu Petite we got a Baked Egg and Sausage sandwich with Fontina Cheese, and Lulu's Twice Baked Brioche with Meyer Lemon Marmalade, Mascarpone Cheese and Lavender Honey.

At I Preferiti di Boriana, we got this Italian version of redneckhunter's beloved malasada.

Then to take with us for later, we bought bread at Acme Bread Company and a sampler of cheeses from Cowgirl Creamery. I can't remember what all 3 were, but the creamy Mt. Tam was divine!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Dinosaur BBQ, NYC

The other week I went to Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Harlem, a branch of a Syracuse NY bbq joint that opened in NYC 2004. It was a mini-trip down memory lane as I walked up to lower Harlem where I used to live way back in 1996. A French bakery near 120th Street made me worry that NYC's gentrification had made it all the way up to my old neighborhood. But I was happy to see that my block between LaSalle and Tiemann Place hadn't changed with the exception of one new restaurant where the hostess stood outside on the sidewalk trying to encourage Columbia University-types to stop in for dinner. The Chinese take-out, the African restaurant, and most importantly the Bubbles laundromat above which I used to live were all still there.

Dinosaur on 131st Street, though, is a sign of the encroachment. Despite it's street address, it's clientele, like that of the Fairway supermarket across the street, was almost 100% white.

The place was packed on a Sunday night. My friend and I shared the pull pork platter and a side of 6 hot wings. It was solid BBQ, but I'd probably choose other places in the city like Hill Country or Blue Smoke, unless I happened to be back up in the Columbia area.

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que
646 W 131st St.
New York, NY 10027

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

BrookLEn in Paris: Le Comptoir du Relais

This is no summer for Paris. The dollar scraped at it lowest value next to the Euro in July, killing the usual American summer European trekking, and coining a new, tacky line- "the American Peso." For myself and Mrs. LBT, the pull to Paris was two-fold, as we were visiting family, and taking advantage of our lighter summer schedule (the school calendar does have its advantages).

My last full trip to Paris was at the beginning of the birth of the Euro, where you could still pay with Francs, and the dollar reigned like the Roman-like dot-com era, ready to burst and deflate. Choosing restaurants was no hard feat, as long as you could get in. This visit, nearly a decade later, we chose to pass on the still-transcendent shopping, and focus our peso on some gastronomy.

In Paris, true home of the trend, the gastro-bistro has been on the rise for the past couple years. Small, modest pub-like atmospheres feature foams and terrines as if they were mayonnaise with your steak frites and fries, and priced to continue this illusion. Another feature of the gastro-bistro is extremely limited seating; on our weekday visit to Le Comptoir du Relais, the food patrons waited patiently with copies of Le Monde or the Herald-Tribune until the host nodded everyone in at the stroke of noon. Sure enough, even the few outdoor tables filled up on the rainy afternoon within minutes.

We started with a shared salad of artichoke, green beans and foie gras with a delicate mustard dressing. Not always versed on the varietal of words for meats, the Mrs and I both ordered chicken, but the contrast between the two only illuminated the great extension that a good French chef can confound the bird.

Mrs. LBT ordered a chicken terrine on a bed of risotto, complimented by a light, citrus foam. I went for the coquelet, which I fancied as some wild offal, but quickly discovered was merely a young chicken. However, this perfectly tender bird was complimented with a rich au jus to inspire a thousand blogs. The mode of wine in July is the rosé, and my glass helped break down all those food toxins only Americans worry about.

For dessert, we opted for a walk around Saint Germain, and then a visit to Crêpe du Jour, the latest addition to Le Comptoir's empire on the block, which also includes a hotel.

Le Comptoir du Relais
5, Carrefour de l'Odéon
75006 Paris
+33 (0)1 44 27 07 97

Friday, July 11, 2008

Caracas Arepa Bar, NYC

So after an afternoon of shopping, we made it back to Caracas Arepa bar for an early dinner. I ate here once years ago, but petiteseour saw them recently kick Bobby Flay's butt on Food Network Throwdown. We tried 2 arepas: above is La Surena - grilled chicken and chorizo, avocado slices with chimichurri (as Caracas describes it a "classic and always enigmatic oregano based sauce").

We also got an Arepa De Pabellon -- shredded beef, black beans, sweet plantains and aged cheese.

The arepas themselves were crispy and light - not doughy at all. Both fillings were great in their own way. I loved the slight tartness of the chimichurri with the saltiness of the chorizo. The beef, beans, and plantain all melded together in a delicious comfort-food mush of wonderful flavors.

Caracas Arepa Bar
93 1/2 East 7th Street, NYC

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Via Della Pace, NYC

Petiteseour and I went on one of our East Village shopping trips last week. We wanted to eat at Caracas Arepa Bar, but the lunchtime line was way too long, so since we were starving, we went down the block to a cute cafe petiteseour had spotted. Via Della Pace states on their website "Eat. Drink. Save Money." And they deliver on that. The food is simple but the prices were right. My bruschetta with seared tuna, avocado, and mustard was less than $6 for a substantial portion of tuna.

Petiteseour thought the coffee and toasted bread were great, but her omelette with shrimp and zucchini lacked seasoning. But nevertheless the omelette with salad and roasted potatoes, coffee, and toast all came to just $9.

Via Della Pace
48 East 7th Street
New York, NY 10003
(212) 253-5803

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Return to Grace Garden Chinese in Odenton, MD

After my first trip to Grace Garden Chinese, I knew I had to go back to try more of their extensive menu. Even Skilletdoux posted about them twice, and it was nice to see his great pictures framed and mounted all around the restaurant.
We started with the Sichuan Beef Treasures or "triple T" which was beef tongue, tripe and tendon served with a mala (spicy) sauce and peanuts. It was fantastic. My mother told me the original name for this dish was Fu Chi Fa Pi, or "husband & wife lung slices", but has been modified to not freak out non-Chinese.
We then got Fish Noodles, which consisted of actual noodles made with ground fish. The flavor was really nice and the noodles were incredibly tender.

We did pre-order one dish which actually is not yet officially on the menu, the Eight Treasure Duck. Our whole table was amazed at the skill involved in this dish. It was a whole duck, completely deboned with the skin intact stuffed with sticky rice chock full of Chinese sausage, lotus, and mushrooms.
It's cooked so well that the duck fat is completely absorbed by the rice- unbelievable. Chef Li noted that no soy sauce was necessary for this dish. The presentation is like a sticky rice cake with and icing of duck meat and skin. Hands down, one of the most amazing and unique dishes had by myself and even my parents.
It should be noted, this dish needs at least a 3 day pre-order, but completely worth the experience.
The rest of our meal was great. We ordered some Chinese Broccoli cooked impeccably well with garlic. No need for dipping sauce here- the vegetable flavor was all that was necessary.

I love Braised Sea Cucumber, so we tried Chef Li's version of this personal favorite. His sauce was really nice and light, and the cucumber was cooked well. Now, they noted that the sea cucumber used was not the highest quality, and if I called a week ahead next time, they would be happy to make the dish using the better item for me. I plan to take them up on that.

Our final dish was the Basil Chicken or "Three Cup Chicken". Again, this dish was delicious. Ol' ironstomach noted that there was not a single disappointing item in our menu.

1690 Annapolis Rd
Odenton, MD 21113
(410) 672-3581

Monday, July 07, 2008

Fryday!- All Kinds of Wrong

With a deepfryer at their house, Fougoo and Redneckhunter hosted "Fryday" this Independence Day weekend. We were all prepared for all kinds of wrong, cholesterol raising goodness with the fryer. After starting with some healthier dishes like salad and fruit, the gluttony started.
It was simple at first- beer battered onion rings. These were pretty great fresh out of the the fryer.
We followed it with a nice fish fry using tilapia. The filets were thin and cooked well.

Fougoo's friend from Brooklyn was nice enough to bring a large slab of duck foie gras as well as some black truffles. Inspired by Au Pied Du Cochon, the group prepared a foie gras poutine, using foie gras in the gravy as well. In place of cheese curds, they added mozzarella. All in all, the flavor was pretty amazing- especially with the rich delicious gravy.

With some shaved black truffle in the batter, we then had delicious deep fried mushrooms.

We made some country fried steak. This came out pretty amazing since unlike places that use cheap pieces of beef, we used some of the good stuff. It really packed in serious juiciness and flavor, and somehow, Redneckhunter-oops- Fougoo cooked it a perfect medium rare.

Redneckhunter had the idea to deep fry some bacon. This was the epitome of the wrong and right of Fryday. It tasted great.

Inspired by New Jersey's "rippers", we then proceeded to deep fry hot dogs. When the skin "ripped", they were pulled out and ready to eat. The flavor is much richer when prepared this way, and they were incredibly juicy.

With some of the leftover foie gras, we seared a few pieces for an cleansing of the palate, if you will, before dessert.

For dessert, Fougoo, inspired by her trip to Hawaii this year, made some malasadas, the Portuguese style of doughnut. Her first batch were a bit large so they didn't cook in the center, but when she made them smaller, they were amazing. After the frying, she coated it with a little sugar, and that was all.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Breakfast at Miss Shirley's, Baltimore

Kelly and I grabbed brunch at Miss Shirley's in Roland Park in Baltimore. We were lucky to get a table right away with the weekend crowd.
I ordered the Savory Grits with marscapone, bacon, cream, tomato and chives. It was fantastic. We also got a side of sweet potato fries. Kelly liked mixing the two sauces.

Kelly ordered the Caprese Croissant sandwich- red and yellow tomato, mozzarella, egg white, and mango served in a hot croissant. It was a good combination of flavors.
I ordered the Crab & Fried Green Tomatoes Eggs Benedict. Instead of bread, the dish was served on top of there really nice fried green tomatoes. It came with a hash of white corn and red peppers, and the crab was lump- a nice twist on the usual eggs Benedict.

513 W Cold Spring Lane,
Baltimore, MD 21210
(410) 889-5272

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Sticky Rice, DC

We tried out dinner at Sticky Rice in the H St. Atlas District in DC. They are a small chain in the DC Metro area serving sushi/pan-asian food with some interesting American items as well.
Their special was the bucket of tater tots served with a special sauce. The bucket was huge.
We got the Chili Roll which consisted of tuna, cilantro, cucumber, jalapeno & grilled pineapple. An interesting taste combination.

We got the Jolly Green Wontons, which were deep fried wontons filled with soybeans and wasabi.

Finally, we got the Dirty Vegan, a noodle dish with veggies served with a nice peanut/coconut sauce.
Sticky Rice had the feel of a trendy place- it was really crowded and they have DJ nights, but if they stick with their fun, interesting menu, I would love to go back.

1224 H Street NE
Washington, DC 20002
(202) 397-7655

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Pazo, Baltimore

I went with Kelly to try Baltimore's Pazo restaurant, a Spanish tapas place that's been a hit in town for the last 3 years.
Kelly really liked the sunflower seed crackers they gave us once we sat down- they were a little sweet and were really fresh tasting.
We started with some small plates. I had to try the white anchovies with first press virgin olive oil. They were yummy.

This was the romaine lettuce hearts with sweet peppers and reggiano- simple, but good.

We tried the bruschetta with a shallow confit and goat cheese. It was nice and sweet.

Our last small plate was probably the best, the croquetas made with mashed potato and manchego cheese.

For our entrees, we shared two items. First we got the pizza bianca with squash, ricotta and pine nuts. The crust was thin and had a really great flavor.
We also shared a plate of Maloreddus Pasta Alla Norma, saffron gnocchi with tomato and roasted eggplant. The gnocchi was ribbed- reminding me some of pupa, but there was a clear distinct saffron flavor.
We finished with a drunken cake with vanilla ice cream and blueberries.

1425 Aliceanna St.
Baltimore, MD 21231
(410) 534-7296