Monday, October 31, 2011

Mile End, Brooklyn

After wandering Boerum Hill for a while, we had worked up enough appetite to eat at Mile End, the Jewish-Canadian delicatessen (named after Montreal's traditionally Jewish newly hip neighborhood).

We had a big group so 6 of decided to order a bunch of dishes and share. We started out with chopped liver, served with onion relish, egg, and a "pletzel."  Even those unsure of whether they'd like liver thought it was delicious.  The onion and egg went nicely with the liver.  The "pletzel" was like an everything foccacia (not pretzel-like was we were expecting). 

Next up we had the Deli Meat Board - that day's selection was turkey rillette, duck proscuitto, and salami served with toast and apricot preserves.  All the house-cured meats were excellent.

Then came the lamb's tongue with onion raisin marmalade, served on pumpernickel toast with horseradish.  I didn't really taste the horseradish, which was fine with me. The pumpernickel had lots of great rye flavor which went well with the sweetness of the marmalade.  I think they really have a knack for not only preparing the meats well, but pairing them with great flavor combinations.

Our next dish was Veal Sweetbreads with pecan butter, concord grape jelly, apple and chili.  Of course deep-fried sweetbreads are always delicious, but again, it was the sauces and toppings that made the dish stand out.  Concord jelly with pecan butter - like schpanky PB&J -- with crisp spicy apples on top - who would think of such combinations?!  Somehow it worked!

Our last small plate was warm chanterelle salad with radicchio, chevre noir, and maple walnut vinaigrette - the mushrooms were perfect and worked well with the crunch of the radicchio - another great dish.

Then came our mains.  My friend Tricia ordered her own main which was the Hoyt Dog (named for the restaurant's address on Hoyt Street).  It was a house made beef frankfurter with smoked meat baked beans, and sauerkraut.  The beans were excellent - the meat to bean ratio was heavily meaty - and very satisfying.

Brian chose the Trout served on top of smoked trout bisque, with pickled mustard, horseradish.  I only got a small taste of this, but it was nice.

We all dug into the Smoked Meat Deluxe.  By this point, after so much food, we just dispensed of the bread and dug into the meat in the sandwich (pictured above).  Poutine came with it on the side.  Not as good as Montreal (the cheese curds got a bit too melty in my opinion, so there wasn't that nice texture contrast of chewy cheese, creamy gravy, and crisp fries), but I can't complain too much - it was still delicious.

Mile End
97a Hoyt Street
Brooklyn, NY

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Bien Cuit: The Smith Street Bakery, Brooklyn

The squash and quince puree dessert at the "gastronomic picnic" just was not satisfying as a dessert, so we all decided to get some coffee and check out the sweets at Bien Cuit on Smith Street.

My cousins, however, ordered more savory food -- I was impressed! My family are basically hobbits - second breakfasts and second lunches are second nature.  After trying their choices though -- open-faced quail egg, heirloom tomato, feta, and truffle salt on pugliese; and Tuscan-style salami, coppa, Tomme de Savoie, mustard and cornichon on baguette, I understood why - the bread was amazing!  Sitting there, I had wanted to grab a loaf for home, but somehow in the shuffle on moving on to our next destination, I forgot.  Sad - well, for next time I'm in the neighborhood.
The rest of us got sweets - I went with classic pain au chocolat, Redneckhunter got a hazelnut tarte - so moist! 
And Tricia got a cardamom apple danish.
While writing this post, I just noticed that they sell their bread online from the website!  Oh, so tempting...

Bien Cuit
120 Smith Street
Brooklyn NY 11211

(718) 852-0200 

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Tale of Two Chefs Gastronomic Picnic at The Invisible Dog, Brooklyn

My friend Tricia read about a "gastronomic picnic" at an art space in Brooklyn called The Invisible Dog.  My cousins (who are always up for good food) lived in the neighborhood, so I invited them along.  No one was quite sure what to expect, but costing only $20, it seemed worth checking it.

The event was part of an art exhibit and day of events celebrating French-American collaboration, so we were served a 5-course box lunch created by two chefs - French Chef Mathieu Rostaing Tayard from Le 126 in Lyon, France; and American Chef Brian Leth from Vinegar Hill House in Brooklyn.  The Invisible Dog had a garden in back, and it was a great fall day, so we were able to eat in an urban picnic setting.

First course: Fennel Salad with saved fennel, currants, corignola olive oil, sherry, green peppercorns, dill and parmesan.

Second course: Braised squid with walnuts, cauliflower, Munamarra (red pepper) sauce, and peanuts.

Third course: Bacon and sea urchin with sauerkraut and hedgehog mushrooms.

Fourth course: Snail tempura with herb jus, green apple, daikon, ricotta salata

Dessert: Butternut squash and quince puree with vanilla meringue, roasted chestnut powder and lemon zest.
The general consensus was that everyone's favorite dish was the bacon and sea urchin.  The sauerkraut was delicious, and the "hedgehog mushrooms" were intriguing - no one had had mushrooms like that before (they almost seemed like tiny tomatoes).

Redneckhunter was probably the smart one eating his hot dishes first.  The rest of us tried to follow the courses as listed, so by the time we got to Snail Tempura the fried snails were no longer hot.  I like the dish anyway - that was my second favorite.  My only complaint was that if I was a judge on Top Chef, I would have said something about how it was difficult to eat the large pieces of apple radish in a picnic setting - needing to cut it while balancing a little cup on my lap.  Once I did cut everything up, I really liked how all the flavors worked together.  Perhaps my cousins didn't do the same as they didn't like the dish as much as I did.

After lunch, the chefs had a Q&A session, in which we found out that they didn't come up with the menu until Chef Tayard arrived in New York on Thursday (3 days prior).  They had no preconceived ideas, other than Chef Tayard wanted to try to use snails (or maybe it was the urchin, I can't quite remember).  The two shopped together for ingredients at the Union Square Greenmarket.  Chef Leth made the fennel salad and squid.  Chef Tayard made the snails and dessert, and they collaborated together to come up with the bacon sea urchin dish.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Beacon Restaurant, NYC

My aunt and uncle had a 40th birthday dinner for my cousin at the Beacon Restaurant in midtown Manhattan, known for cuisine cooked over its wood-fired grill.  My cousin, apparently, is a regular, and we were very well-treated by all the staff.  The waiter held his own, trading jokes with my aunt;  and we were paid visits by the manager and chef.

My aunt could not stop raving about the wood roasted bone marrow appetizer, from the second we arrived, so I ordered it.  It was indeed as large as she said - too much in fact!  I've had marrow before with parsley vinaigrette salad, and I really think having a little bit of acid and greens help cut the richness.  This bone was served with horseradish toast (which had been brushed with olive oil), so it just added to the richness. You might not think you can have too much bone marrow, but I did, passing on my 2nd half to the birthday boy. 

For my main dish, I ordered the roasted leg of rabbit with tomato coulis, bacon, and polenta.  I loved it - the lean rabbit was not dry in the slightest. 

Pictured left and right are my aunt and uncle's entrees -- the Delmonico ribeye with onion herb relish (left), and the Venison paillard with red currant and black pepper vinaigrette.

For dessert a number of people at the table ordered souffles.  Above is the chocolate-chocolate chip.  They also had a pecan bourbon souffle that night.

Because the souffles took 15 minutes to be baked fresh, we were offered the chance to go into the kitchen and see the restaurant's very own cotton candy machine.  They even let us make our own balls of cotton candy.  Yep, mine is the one that's bigger than my own head.

Monday, October 24, 2011

El Grullo Taqueria, Oakland, CA

We were determined to eat good Mexican food while in California, so on our last day there before we flew out of Oakland Airport, we found El Grullo Taqueria. 

The reviews on Yelp sounded delicious and were pretty funny (i.e. "ignore the crackheads in the neighborhood") and the place sounded exactly like the kind of hole-in-the-wall joint we were looking for.

I got the posole -- with huge chunks of pork falling off the bone, wonderfully red in color (though not overly spicy), it was just what I needed on a rainy Bay Area day. Redneckhunter got carne asada, served with hot corn tortillas.  

El Grullo Taqueria
2630 Foothill Blvd Oakland, CA 94601
(510) 261-6091

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Savor the Central Coast, San Luis Obispo, CA

The day after we attended a wedding in Monterey, our friends from Santa Barbara proposed to meet us halfway in San Luis Obispo.  They came up with the wonderful plan to check out Savor the Central Coast, a huge food and wine festival celebrating that region.

The event took place at the 15,000 acre Santa Margarita Ranch. The weather was gorgeous and with a half price Groupon, I felt like it was a great deal even though I and our pregnant friend didn't partake of any of the wine tasting.  Just tent after tent of free food!  Here's a sampling of what we ate:

I think the absolute best thing we had was the maple bacon donut from SLO Donut.
Their donut holes with whipped cream and fresh berries were yummy as well!

Lamb tagine with loads of local olive oil.

Mozzarella tomato and pesto on focaccia by ByScotti.

Whiskey marinated beef from Harris Ranch.

Lamb tacos from Central City Market

Homemade cavatelli with wild boar ragu from Artisan Restaurant

Cured meat from Allesina

Fresh oysters and abalone ceviche

And teeny tiny cones of merlot raspberry truffle ice cream