Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Posh Paris: Cocktails at George V

As we're entering the height of the holiday season, lavish cocktails in outrageous settings are in order. In Paris, there are many options for this. The Four Seasons' Hotel George V is one such place.

The bar at George V is opulent but comfortable with a warm cozy fireplace and plush intimate seating. There are a number of specialty cocktails on the menu -- and the table-side martini-shaking is a fierce ritual of pouring precision.

Luckily, they offer equally chic cocktails sans alcool, for the pregnant or non-partaking crowd. Pictured above, the Lucky Star -- cranberry juice, soda water, fresh mint, strawberries and raspberries and a Pinot Noir from Burgundy.


Royal Couscous

Tonight we were Moroccan princes -- or at least feasted like ones.

On the recommendation of the kind folk at George V, we venture a short distance from the Arc de Triomphe (Charles de Gaulle Etoile) into the 17th arrondissement to the restaurant Timgad. We enter into an ornate interior with stark white lattice-work walls, a fountain surrounded by a profusion of plants and flowers, and regal red carpets. The tuxedoed staff are charged with a sense of occasion and urgency.

We begin with an arrangement of spicy and pickled Moroccan mezze -- carrots scented with cumin, lemon, coriander; piquante green olives; oil-cured black olives; pickled cauliflower, carrots, peppers; and toasted hazelnuts. This was served with a round load of whole wheat bread.

The menu consists of a variety of couscous, tagines and grilled meats. We opt for Couscous Merguez and Tagine de poulet fermier aux olives et citrons confits.

Timgad's presentation of couscous is something of a spectacle. First the couscous is served from a large decorative platter into individual serving bowls. The server takes the backside of the oversized serving spoon to form a deep depression in the couscous mound. Then they arrive with a large terracotta pot of stewed zucchini, carrots, turnips and scoop them into the well, making sure to provide ample sauce. Next come the garnishes: chickpeas in a sauce, plump golden raisins and Harissa sauce. The couscous itself is incredibly light, fluffy and perfectly salted; the vegetables cut in large portions are plumped with flavor from the broth.

The merguez is served on the side. We realize up until this point, we have only eaten charred, overcooked merguez. Timgad's is a completely different -- cooked with dry heat in a wood-burning oven, it remains tender and juicy, bringing life the lamb sausage's delicate spices and mint. The food is simple, but a revelation.

Our tagine took on an intense yellow color from the spices -- matching the vivid level of flavor. A dreamy succulent chicken topped with onions, black olives and half of a preserved lemon.

We should note, this is an enormous amount of food for two people, so dessert was out of the question. Though we couldn't refuse a service of famous Moroccan mint tea.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Eat a Crepe (or Two)

In Paris, crepes are a staple. We found our first crepe destination, Des Crepes et des Cailles, on a charming small street in the La Butte Aux Cailles area (13eme). Translated as "hill of the quails," La Butte Aux Cailles is like a little village unto itself and offers an authentic experience of an older Parisian neighborhood.

The restaurant is small and sweet with little flourish except a maritime theme. Best to keep it simple. We chose:

Complet: Ham, cheese, egg

La Raclette: Raclette cheese, potatoes

Nutella: The delicious hazelnut spread (and nothing else)

Watch the pros compose a crepe:

Monday, November 26, 2007

Vive La Froth


For our first dining experience in Paris, we decide to seek out a local restaurant in the 13th. L'Ourcine comes recommended by Conde Nast Traveler, Time Out and Zagat alike for its “Basque and Bernais classics.”

The sober interior with an open view of the kitchen tells us the focus is on the food. The menu (à 30 Euros) offers a choice of three courses, ranging from veloutés, ravioli, composed salads to classic entrées and updated desserts.

To start, we are offered a canapé of Mousse aux poireaux (Leek Mousse) -- a highly aerated, savory verdant cloud topped with well-oiled croutons. This leaves our lips smacking with salty goodness, ready for more.

Next arrives the appetizer course. I choose something completely foreign to me -- bulots in a curry rémoulade with granny smith apples, chestnuts, topped with microgreens (Rémoulade de bulots au curry, pommes granny smith, marrons). I continue to ask myself, what the hell is a boulot, guessing it is something between a mussel and an escargot. The gentle creamy curry and tart apples envelop the meaty little boulots with subtle piquante flavor.

Later, I spot boulots at an open-air market and learn they are whelk (which doesn't do much to clear things up) -- an ambiguous mollusk.

With Brett’s ravioli appetizer, we begin to detect a theme: foamy froth. The Raviolés d’araignée de mer, émulsion crémeuse à citronelle come bathed in a fine foam emulsion. Brothy and buttery, the fresh seafood ravioli may have suffered from the foam, as it left a watery feel in the mouth.

For the mains, I go straight to la tradition: Blanquette de Veau. The chef offers a version from his native village of Painblanc in Burgundy (Traditionelle Blanquette de Veau, trompettes de la mort “comme à la Painblanc”). The dish’s highlights are a tie between the powerful triumverate of succulent stewed veal, aromatic vegetables (carrots, leeks, crosnes, parsnips) and insanely flavorful mushrooms (champignons de Paris and trompettes de la mort). Again, the stew sits in a light broth enhanced with foam, which works quite well this time, distinguishing it from the heavier cream-based blanquettes I’ve had in the past. Trompettes de la mort qualify as some of the most exotic mushrooms I’ve ever tasted - when cooked they are dark like hijiki with a deep earthy, salty flavor.

Brett follows with another traditional dish: Noix de Saint Jacques rotiés en coquille au beurre persille, endives meunières (roasted scallops in a parsley butter with endives meunières. This dish is straight-up good. The chef achieves an exceptional texture with the sweet scallops that is reminiscent of lobster. A kiss of foam and oily croutons top this dish.

Finally, dessert: Bouchon de chocolat guanaja, coeur coulant, sorbet à l’amande. Our hearts melt away in this oversized timbale of bittersweet chocolate cake. A beautiful quenelle of homemade almond sorbet cools our jets.

This is a fine start to our séjour à Paris.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Surprising Pizza Topping Success Story


Free pizza lunches at work are always a boon. Fun prizes make it even better. But being introduced to new flavors that I would never think of combining -- and love -- that's just unheard of.

Today's inspired combo:


The result is something of a spicy Creole influence with a sweet Southern kick.'s Craig Hibbard is the brainchild of the winning combo and Tomato Pie in Los Angeles crafted the pie.

I can feel my NYC street cred diminishing as I type. Although, one could easily envision this pizza at Two Boots. We'll call it: The Tennesee Williams.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Nuts and Fate

The open roads of California beckon those with a love for road tripping. Long, empty stretches still exist where you can cruise at top speed for miles, seeing nothing but the lay of the land to the horizon.

One particularly dusty and flat portion through the San Joaquin Valley on CA Route 46 happens to be home to the almond and pistachio producing capital of the world. About 90 miles inland from Cambria (the bottom of the Big Sur coastline) heading eastward, you approach what looks like an abandoned service station near the town of Lost Hills, CA. This ramshackle gem is Blackwell's Corner, a small shop with a large variety of local nuts in a range of custom flavors. Blackwell's is the only retail outlet in the area where more than a million pounds of nuts are distributed worldwide daily.

Blackwell's Corner's other claim to fame places it squarely in America's pop-culture firmament: The is the site where James Dean made his last stop before his ill-fated Porsche crash in 1955.

High winds, dust devils, tumbleweeds and a large free-standing painted mural of James Dean greet you as you step out of the car. Inside, Blackwell's has a general store vibe selling nuts, sauces, salsas, olives, James Dean memorabilia and tchotchkes galore. The almonds and pistachios are the highlights, though, available raw, roasted and specially seasoned in chili lime, garlic onion, cinnamon honey, cappucino, raspberry honey, butter toffee, hot & spicy, and orange honey flavors to name a few. Their prices are pretty good at $6.89/pound for almonds.

If you wish to taste Blackwell's nuts yourself, but don't have a California road trip planned, visit their website to have them shipped to your door.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

New Fish Taco on the Block

Fish tacos top the list of my favorite local SoCal eats. Cheap, filling, and super-tasty, what's not to love? So when a new addition to the Hillhurst Avenue food corridor in Los Feliz popped up claiming the name "The Best Fish Taco in Ensenada" -- I was so there.

For years, my go-to has been 7 Seas (7 Mares) on Sunset Boulevard in Silverlake, but lately their holy trinity of fish, batter and slaw struggles for the right balance. It's high time to try a new rendition.

Set back from the street on a corner lot, BFTIE isn't easy to spot. The signage and location is further obscured by swaying palapa fronds and random junkers in the parking lot they share with the body shop next door.

Upon entrance, the joint feels like a startup trying to work out the kinks in its spacious configuration. The menu above the counter offers three basic options: Fish Taco $1.50, Shrimp Taco $2.00, Drinks $1.00.

With such simplicity, you'd think this would be the quickest, easiest meal, this side of the golden arches. But not so! The Best Fish Taco in Ensenada has rules, thanks to Joseph, the owner/guru.

First off, to ensure the highest quality of your fish or shrimp taco, ordering multiple tacos is discouraged.

"We do 'em one at a time here... Have a seat. It'll be the best fish taco you've ever had," Joseph tells us.

The idea: you're served up freshly cooked fish or shrimp plucked from the batter bowl, into the frying oil, and onto the white corn tortilla warming on the griddle. You walk over to the fixins bar for finely julienned cabbage slaw, cool crema, avocado sauce and your choice of salsas from mild pico de gallo, medium salsa roja to hot mango salsa. The radish relish is their secret weapon -- its tart, tangy zing brings new taco dimension.

It works. This way the integrity of each taco is in tact -- its crisp lightly battered seafood, firm tortilla, slaw and sauces meld into a winning combination. We learn BFTIE's fish of choice is Basa, a farm-raised freshwater whitefish that has a rich texture comparable to Chilean sea bass. Joseph, who worked in the commercial fish industry for years, clearly did his research.

Next, we witness two firemen walk in and order a slew of tacos to go.

"To go?" Joseph questioned, having none of it, "Fish tacos don't travel, man."

The firemen fall into line, having one taco at a time seated, and then returning to the counter to order the next one. Talk about an indicator of Joseph's level of fish taco seriousness -- not many have the nerve to deny the local firemen food to go. Hence, The Best Fish Taco in Ensenada lives up to its name.

The Best Fish Taco in Ensenada
1650 N Hillhurst Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90189

More Reviews

Best Fish Taco in Ensenada

Friday, July 13, 2007

Opening Day at Osteria Mozza

It's no secret that I'm a pilgrim to chef Mario Batali's mecca. But even I was surprised to be the first patron to cross Osteria Mozza's threshold on opening day.

Upon entering, the excitement and anticipation is palpable, as if everyone snapped into place moments before. All eyes are on the "walk-ins" as we approach the dazzling white marble Mozzarella bar at 5:45 pm. The dapperly appointed servers at attention, eager chefs at the bar, a smiling chef Nancy Silverton, and a flushed pony-tailed chef Mario Batali (sporting a pink shirt and orange crocs) all track our first reactions.

The space feels sophisticated and welcoming, with an expanse of silvery sage blue walls up to vast airy ceilings. Mario recalls the feeling you get in Grand Central Station, amidst all the hustle-and-bustle -- which this restaurant is sure to see -- when you look up and sense the grandiosity of the space as it absorbs the noise around you.

Immediately, we're greeted with a Mozzarella rollatini with capers, pesto, tomatoes and olives, and we celebrate our good fortune with a glass of Prosecco. The late afternoon sun ambiently enhances the crystal glasses, baroque wine decanters, gleaming silver, and clean white linens that dot the setting.

The menu offers a range of Antipasti, specialties from the Mozzarella bar, Primi, Secondi and Contorni inspired by the Bologna region in Italy. To start, we select Prosciutto di Parma and melon with extra virgin olive oil. The Antipasti is composed before our eyes. The melon is snatched from one of the many eclectic still-life-esque bowls on top of the counter. On the back counter of the mozzarella bar sits the Osteria's "prestige piece" -- a glorious fire engine red antique Berkel deli meat slicer, loaded with a gorgeous leg of prosciutto and primed for thin slicing.

The meltaway proscuitto and drippingly succulent sweet melon combination is a dream. We learn the melons were sourced on Wednesday at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market and are of the Charentais variety.

Our next two dishes are specialties from the Mozzarella bar and both champion Burrata cheese. With renowned chef Nancy Silverton in command of her celebrated station, we know we're in store for some incredible compositions.

The Burricotti, braised artichokes, pine nuts, currants and mint pesto on grilled bread is stunning in terms of its flowery presentation and multidimensional taste.

Oozing with richness, the Burrata with asparagus, hazelnuts, brown butter and guanciale on grilled bread sends waves of creamy nutty troughs and crisp salty crests.

For the Primi course, our party-of-three splits two classic pastas from Mario's arsenal: Orechiette with sausage and Swiss chard, and Agnolotti, burro e salvia. Both are sublime fresh pastas. The perfect flavor balance and texture of the Orechiette -- finished with a trail of breadcrumbs -- trips us all out to the moon and back. This may be the best rendition of this pasta we've ever tasted.

The Agnolotti defines decadence with its silken filling of chicken, pancetta, and mortadella spiked with nutmeg in a substantial saged-scented butter sauce. (Note: the pasta portions seen in our photos have been split three ways -- they are normally much larger.)

Local Santa Barbara Spot Prawns are standouts on the Secondi menu. They arrive whole in an outrageous "al diovolo" sauce that we attempt to break down, crowned with shaved scallions. Turns out it's an amazingly fresh and piquant combination of garlic, white wine, red Fresno chiles, passato di pomodoro, and basil.

After stammering over braised or grilled beef, we opt for the Grilled Beef Tagliatta, rucola and Parmigiano with aceto balsamic. Such high quality ingredients shine here, especially the incredibly tender and flavorful beef.

Dinner at the Mozzarella bar is an engaging and exciting scene. If you are enthralled by the glory of food preparation, then I highly recommend sitting here in the center of the action.

We're happy that Mario imported Babbo's signature rockin' mix for the Osteria soundtrack, with the likes of Elvis Costello, Astrid & Bebel Gilberto, REM, Coldplay, and Neil Young. The music matches the buzzy upbeat vibe.

Honestly, what more could you ask for in a Los Angeles Osteria? And by partnering with chef Nancy Silverton, team Batali and Bastianich ensure authenticity with the best of LA's local purveyors and ingredients.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Green Garlic Scapes: Culinary Calligraphy


Today while having lunch at Lucques in LA, EQ asked Chef Suzanne Goin:

Is there a seasonal ingredient from a certain purveyor that you are particularly excited about right now?

Her answer: Green garlic scapes.

If you are unfamiliar with this allium species offshoot, green garlic looks like a leek with a bulb shape at the root end. Just above the premature bulb, a single long curly shoot spikes out with the intention to flower: this is the scape.

The scapes' elegant looping green tendrils tell us they are young and tender -- as they mature, they straighten out and become tougher. Chef Goin compares the texture of the garlic scape to a Chinese long bean. Raw, the garlic flavor is quite pungent; when cooked, the taste is milder, but still distinct.

At yesterday’s farmers market in Santa Monica, CA, Chef Goin was surprised to spot the scapes at the Windrose Farms stand – a purveyor near Paso Robles, CA, that she orders from weekly. At first sight, she exclaimed, “You didn’t tell me that you had these!” In fact, this is the first year Chef Goin has found green garlic scapes in the Los Angeles area farmers markets.

Suzanne’s first brush with a scape was when she worked in Boston. An early seasonal item on the East Coast, she remembers one bleak spring farmers market scene with scant produce save for some freshly dug new potatoes (which were amazing) and these odd green scapes. She immediately experimented with them, and has been cooking with them since when available.

The window for green garlic scapes is only a few weeks, sometime between March and June, depending on what region you live in.

For preparation, Chef Goin recommends snapping the bottoms off where they naturally break -- like you do with asparagus -- and then cutting the shoot on the bias. Sautée the scape slices in butter with water, salt and pepper.

So, exactly what is Chef Goin planning to do with these newly found scapes this week at Lucques? They're appearing on the dinner menu in a dish of Pancetta-Wrapped Salmon on Black Rice with a Sautée of Green Garlic Scapes and Rhubarb. Sounds like a delectable outcome.

As for my plans, I've found the most appetizing and interesting stir-fry shrimp and green garlic recipe, "Goong Pong Gari," on Chez Pim.

Lunch at Lucques
Here are our delicious lunch menu selections:

+ Rutiz farm carrot soup with yogurt, mint and ginger sofrito
+ Clams steamed with white wine and vermouth with fennel, green garlic, spring onions and herbs. Served with toasted bread with a green garlic aioli

+ Rutiz farm carrot soup with yogurt, mint and ginger sofrito
+ Slow-cooked albacore salad with white beans, shaved fennel and meyer lemon

+ Grilled radicchio and endive salad with anchovy, garlic and fried farm egg
+ Grilled Alaskan halibut with farro, green garlic, black olives and kumquat salsa

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Memorial Day Menus

We topped off this Memorial Day Weekend with no less than 5 cookouts. None of them hosted by yours truly, so I got to reconnect with friends in LA and enjoy their delicious cooking.

Each Memorial Day menu varied in cuisine and theme. The most popular ingredient of the weekend being chicken (in 4 tasty ways!). Nary a hot dog to be had this time around.

The outdoor tableware highlight was Jed & Jess's eco-friendly biodegradable plates made of cornstarch, potatoes and limestone from Earthshell. Eggshell in color and sheen, the rough-hewn plates looked beautiful on the table, with each plate weighted by a single river rock from the yard. An elegant and elemental design concept.

Here are the featured menus of the weekend.

Dinner, Monday, May 24th
Elegant Poolside Potluck at Jed & Jess's
Silverlake, CA


+ Pea Salad with Radishes and Feta Cheese
+ Whole Wheat Penne Pasta Salad with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Oil-cured Black Olives and Arugula
+ Potato Salad with Tarragon and Dijon Vinaigrette
+ Grilled Portabella Mushroom Steaks, Eggplant Steaks, Big Asparagus, Zucchini Spears
+ Grilled Chicken Breasts with Cumin
+ Chiogga and Golden Beet Salad
+ Corn on the Cob with Ghee
+ Fresh Blackberries and Blueberries with Soy Vanilla Ice Cream and Mango Sorbet and Berry Coulis

Lunch, Monday, May 24th
Taqueria Cart Party at Lonnie and Eva's
Pasadena, CA

+ Carving Station with Carnitas, Carne Asada, Pollo and White Corn Tortillas
+ Taco Fixings: Salsas, Onions, Guacamole, Cilantro, Limes, Cucumbers
+ Spanish Rice
+ Pinto Beans
+ Frozen Margarita Machine

Sunday, May 23rd
Alfresco Sunday Dinner at Jim and Kristina's
Silverlake, CA


+ Cheese Plate with Manchego and Aged Gouda
+ Chips & Salsa
+ Barbecued Chicken
+ Grilled Salmon
+ Zucchini Sauteed with Onions and Cheese
+ Roasted Sweet Potato Fries
+ Corn Relish
+ Fresh Strawberries and Ginger Snaps

Saturday, May 22nd
Fish Tacos at Abbie and Nicole's
Los Feliz, CA


+ Grilled Black Cod & Shrimp Tacos
+ Frijoles con Queso
+ Avocado
+ Cabbage Slaw Salad
+ Homemade Salsa Picante Especial
+ Rias Baixas from Northern Spain
+ Steve's Merlot Pick of the Week

Friday, May 21st
Cajun cookout at the home of Shirley Morales and Kevin McSpadden
Hollywood Hills, CA


+ Guacamole & Tortilla Chips
+ Spinach Salad with Tomatoes, Feta, Black Olives, Peppers
+ Cajun Red Beans and Rice with Andouille
+ Barbecued Chicken (thighs and drumsticks)
+ Hot Condiments (banana peppers, etc)
+ S'mores
+ Margaritas
+ Beer

Big thanks to the great cooks and to our awesome, generous, and hospitable friends for inviting us. What a treat!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Untitled Thai Food

A Saturday afternoon of shuffling through the outdoor mall of art galleries that is Chelsea, NYC, can leave you hungry for many things. If you happen to be on 19th Street and your craving is Thai food, then you’re in luck.

Artist Rirkrit Tiravanija recreates his 1992 piece, Untitled 1992 (Free), which is a temporary plywood environment where he serves up a daily Thai meal within. The experience is free and open to the public with modest seating, paper bowls and plastic utensils.

It would be a bit intimidating or confusing to stumble upon this scene if you are not in the know – it looks like an odd and very minimal dining facility with no signage to clue you in. To me, this reads “private,” but, in fact, anyone is welcome.

We arrive to a yummy and fragrant green curry with eggplant, green beans, cauliflower, broccoli, onions and bamboo shoots. Patrons and passersby can serve themselves a helping of steamed jasmine rice from the giant rice cooker and then man the ladel in the large vat of curry.

The set-up is about as “provisional” and barebones as it gets. My fellow art crawlers (Paul, Brett, Teddy,) and I serve ourselves and plop down on folding stools to eat our curry at the folding table. Naturally, everybody’s glancing askance, checking each other out for people’s reactions to being here and to gauge where they themselves reside on the socially awkward-to-cool barometer. (Or, at least I did.)

We learn the original piece was staged in 1992 at 303 Gallery in Soho. The exhibit’s press release explains further:

“…taking his historical cues not only from distinctly non-Western Thai traditions, but also from Alan Kaprow, Michael Asher, and Gordon Matta-Clark, Tiravanija’s seminal exhibition helped create a pivotal moment of rupture from the wealth and abundance of the previous decade…[Today’s kitchen includes] the same stools, tables, cookers, pots, pans, and refrigerator, along with the same 15-year old food waste.”

There are 3-4 people at work, using bulk-size cans of coconut milk, rice and very fresh-looking produce. The makeshift cooks are preparing a Thai beef curry for the gallery staff to eat later in the day. All the while a thirty-something guy documents the goings-on with a 16 mm film camera.

I’ve never been part of a performance art piece that tastes so good – the velvety curry bites at medium heat, but does not overpower, giving nuance to each vegetable.

The only thing missing is a Singha beer to wash it all down. Especially as there’s 6 more blocks of great tasting art (though far less filling) including: Yutaka Sone at David Zwirner, Paul Thek at Alexander and Bonin, Andreas Gursky at Matthew Marks, Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige at CRG, Eva Rothschild at 303 Gallery, Sterling Ruby at Metro Pictures, Dana Schutz at Zach Feuer Gallery, Tim Hawkinson at Pace Wildenstein, Glenn Brown at Gagosian, Jonathan Lasker at Cheim & Reid, assume vivid astro focus at John Connelly Presents, and Sterling Ruby at Foxy Productions.

Gordon Matta-Clark and Rikrit Tiravanija
David Zwirner
March 21 through May 19, 2007, open Tuesday - Saturday
519 West 19th St. NYC

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Twenty Wings and a Prayer

While passing through Buffalo, NY, we embark upon a hunt for the best buffalo wings the city has to offer. Many local eateries fight to bear this claim to the famous style of deep-fried chicken wings slathered in cayenne pepper hot sauce. The main contenders boil down to Anchor Bar -- the originators of the spicy preparation -- and Duff's Sheridan Patio.

After surveying the reviews and recommendations, we settle on Duff's.

Upon entering Duff's you are confronted with a warning -- "Medium is Hot, Hot is Very Hot, Very Hot is Extremely Hot." In other words, Duff's sauce is pushing limits of the Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) scale. Their wing sauces range from Mild, to three variations of Medium, to Hot and, finally, Suicidal.

The bargain $7.99 lunch special offers 10 wings and your choice of two sides -- a bowl of chili, soup, salad, or fries. We order two lunch specials -- one with Medium sauce and the other with Medium Hot (aka "Very Hot").

Our plate of wings arrive and the experience is physical. My Medium Hot wings bathe in a glowing fiery red pool of sauce while Brett's Mediums vibrate a near neon orange-red. Immediately a pungent whiff of vinegar and capsaicin assaults the nostrils.
As you raise the wing to your mouth, the hot aroma rushes into your throat and nose at once, choking you in anticipation of the heat.

One bite into the meaty drumette and your lips pucker in stimulation, your tongue goes numb and you taste the electric combination of sour, salt and spice. It's so addictive. Your fingers and thumbs quickly get sticky with the sauce. But you can't stop until your body begs for mercy (and it does). Luckily they're served with celery and carrots sticks to extinguish the fire in a cool, crisp bite drenched with creamy blue cheese sauce. The combination is sublime.

Duff's wins on a few levels: these are by far the meatiest, most succulent wings and drumettes I've ever had -- five of them will fill you up. Also, from the get-go Duff's has been frying their wings in pure trans fat free vegetable oil, which gives an indication of quality. Their hot sauce is made simply from vinegar, cayenne red pepper, salt and garlic, but they've devised an ingredient ratio that reaches the divine.

Duff's Sheridan Patio
3651 Sheridan Dr
Buffalo, NY 14226
(716) 834-6234
Google Map

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

MENU: Easter Dinner 2007

This year's Easter spread was pretty by-the-book, as I followed recipes from chefs Suzanne Goin and Thomas Keller. The seasonal show-stopper was a fava bean hummus, which is by far my favorite fava bean recipe to date. Concentrating the fava beans in a puree and spiking it with complimentary flavors really makes the high-maintenance legume worthwhile -- as opposed to it going undetectable in a dish.

I improvised on a salad of asparagus, grated hard-boiled eggs and mache inspired by the bistro classic Asparagus Vinaigrette with Eggs Mimosa in Keller's Bouchon cookbook.

Here's the menu with select recipes to follow.

Fava Bean Purée with Oil-Cured Olives, Feta, and Garlic Toasts, SUZANNE GOIN

Curried English Pea Soup with Creme Fraiche, SUZANNE GOIN
Asparagus and Eggs Mimosa with Mache Salad in a Walnut Vinaigrette, inspired by THOMAS KELLER
Cauliflower Gratin, THOMAS KELLER
Sautéed Baby Artichokes with Tarragon (in a white wine, veggie stock reduction), overheard on NPR's "Good Food"
Glazed Ham with Apricot Mustard Sauce, EVERYDAY FOOD

Fava Bean Purée with Oil-Cured Olives, Feta, and Garlic Toasts
from Sunday Suppers at Lucques, by Suzanne Goin

1 Baguette
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic
2-1/2 pounds fava beans in the pod (or 2-1/2 cups shucked)
1 small sprig rosemary
1 chile de arbol, crumbled
1/2 lemon, for juicing
1/2 cup pitted oil-cured black olives sliced in half
1/4 cup sliced flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/4 pound feta
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat overn to 375 degrees F.

Cut baguette on the diagonal into twelve 1/4-inch-thick slices. (You may have leftover bread.) Brush both sides of each slice generously with olive oil (about 1/4 cup in all). Arrange the slices on a baking sheet and toast them in the over 10 to 12 minutes, until golden crispy, but still tender in the center. While the toasts are warm, rub them with one of the garlic cloves.

Mince the remaining garlic clove.

Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.
Meanwhile, remove the beans from their pods.
Blanch the beans for about 2 minutes in the boiling water. Drain the beans in a colander, cool them in the ice water, and them slip them out of their pale green shells with your fingers.

Heat a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the remaining 3/4 cup olive oil, the rosemary sprig, and the chile. Let them sizzle in the oil a minute or two, then stir in the minced garlic. Let them sizzle in the oil a minute or two, then stir in the minced garlic. Let it sizzle for a minute and stir in the fava beans, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and some freshly ground pepper. Simmer the beans 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they're tender (the exact time will depend on the starchiness of the favas). Strain the beans, reserving the oil. Discard the rosemary and chile.

Transfer the beans into a food processor and purée them. With the motor running, pour in half the reserved oil to taste. Squeeze in some lemon juice, and taste for seasoning. (The amount of oil you will need depends on the starchiness of the beans.)

In a small bowl, toss the olives and parsley with a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. Crumble in the feta, tossing gently to combine.

Spoon the warm fava bean purée onto a platter. Place the grilled toasts off to one side, and scatter the feta-olive salad over the purée.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Restaurant Review HAIKU
Hollywood, CA

Strip mall on outside,
design oasis inside,
gastronomes welcome

724 N Vine St.
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 962-6369
Google Map

More Reviews:
+ Daily Candy review


Sunday, February 25, 2007

Elevated Alpine Cuisine

My experience at the Cloud Nine Bistro qualifies as a true epicurean quest. At 10,740-feet elevation in the Aspen Highlands Mountain and Ski Resort, you can only access the aptly named restaurant by chairlift or snowcat. If that's not enough, they also require a reservation.

After multiple runs of ripping moguls or cruising wide lanes, you take a mid-mountain chairlift and ski down to a little green wooden shack. A former ski patrol lodge retrofitted for fine dining, it couldn't be more cozy and authentic.

Hungry diners burst through the door out-of-breath rosy-faced and windburned, squinting, sweating beneath bulky layers. Inside, steam rises from the kitchen fogging up the windows. The fireplace crackles and fine meats sizzle. Crystal wine glasses chime.

The decor is charming and decidedly alpine, full of ski signage, plaques, and paraphernalia. French blue checked curtains adorn windows looking out onto partial snowdrifts, icicles, and snow blowing horizontal. Wrought iron Raclette ovens sit in wait atop the tables for large parties. As you begin to feel the warmth and your sense of smell detects the aromas, you realize heaven resides at Cloud Nine.

At this point, there is only one thing on my mind: Fondue.

Oozing molten gold.

Cloud Nine has two traditional European-style fondues on the menu: cheese fondue and Raclette -- Swiss raclette cheese served with cornichons, air-dried beef, and potatoes, all cooked on the table-top ovens.

The best thing about fondue is the transformation it undergoes while you're eating it, from bubbling liquefied cheese, to a rich thickening gluey goo, and, finally, to the crusty carmelized bits on the bottom.

The second best thing is the wine paring for digestion's sake. We opt for a 2004 Gruner Veltliner (Wachau Gruner Veltliner Federspiel), which is lovely.

Other options on the menu are equally mouth-watering. Cloud Nine offers high quality organic ingredients from local producers, as well as world renown purveyors. Our second course is the daily special: Gruyere stuffed pheasant sausages wrapped in pancetta with savoy cabbage and yukon gold mashed potatoes. In a word, it's "to die for."

Meanwhile at the eight-top table next to us, a crowd of Patagonian ski instructors fire up their Raclette ovens. The process goes like this: First melt a hulking knob of butter on the top grill, then add 25-30 whole cloves of garlic. Let that go a bit, then add large potato wedges to cook in the buttery, garlicky goodness. Next comes the air-dried beef and raclette cheese. There are triangular-shaped iron skillets that fit into the middle section of the oven. Place a piece of beef in the skillet, top it with a slice of raclette and insert it into the oven until the cheese melts. Eat the beef and cheese with the potatoes and cornichons.

The Austrian chef and owner, Andreas, is happy to share stories with us. He insists on a complimentary sip of dark walnut liqueur before heading back out on the mountain. "It gives you a little spring on the slopes," he tells me. And we're all about good food and good form.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Apres-Ski Sampling

Fondue and Kirsch are hallmarks of apres-ski in the Alps. In Aspen, CO, we found some flavors and tasty bites that are new to the menu.

(Clockwise from top left)
Warm Goat Cheese Fondue with Sweet Potato Chips - $12
39 Degrees at Sky Hotel

Devils on Horseback
Bacon-wrapped dates and parmesan - $9
39 Degrees at Sky Hotel

Kobe Sliders
3 mini-burgers with carmelized onions and Herkimer white cheddar - $18
ZG Grill, Aspen Highlands

Lamb Cigars
Filo-Wrapped marinated lamb, pine nuts, currants, harissa, preserved lemon - $9
39 Degrees at the Sky Hotel

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

2.21.07: Wednesday Round-Up

Cherry-picked articles in this week's Food & Dining sections across the nation, by yours truly:

New York Times
Tracking the origins of a spaghetti sauce recipe and finding much more, by Kim Severson
+ RECIPE: Italian Meatballs
+ SLIDE SHOW: Making Italian Meatballs
+ RECIPE: Zappa Family Spaghetti Sauce

Tasting 2004 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, by Eric Asimov
"Some Sunny French Accents for a Cold-Weather Braise," by Florence Fabricant
+ RECIPE: Short Ribs Provencal

Gordon Matta-Clark's Food utopia, included in the late-artist's retrospective at the Whitney Museum. By Randy Kennedy

Los Angeles Times
Pork dishes fit for the Year of the Pig. By Russ Parsons.
+ RECIPE: Ragù with pork ribs, sausage and pancetta
+ RECIPE: Cider-brined pork chops with wild rice
+ RECIPE: Five-spice roast pork belly

Much Ado About Chinese greens, by Amy Scattergood.
+ RECIPE: Scrambled eggs with garlic chives
+ RECIPE: Fu yu ong choy (stir-fried water spinach with spicy fermented tofu)
+ RECIPE: Stir-fried baby bok choy
+ RECIPE: Ru yi cai ('As you wish' vegetables)

SF Chronicle
Yet another take on long-cooked Italian sauces: "Seduced by Sugo," by Tara Duggan.
+ RECIPE: Nopa's 9-Hour Bolognese
+ RECIPE: Veal & Green Olive Ragu with Strozzapreti Pasta
+ RECIPE: Sugo D'Anatra (Duck Sauce)

A carnivore in love with vegetarian cooking. By Amanda Berne
+ RECIPE: Farro Risotto with Roasted Mushrooms & Chard
+ RECIPE: Shirred Eggs with Greens & Gruyere
+ RECIPE: Triple Citrus Salad

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Restaurant Review HAIKU
Carbondale, CO

haute local lamb, trout
worldly Keller-esque menu
gem outside Aspen

689 Main Street
Carbondale, CO
(970) 963-6890
Google Map

More Reviews:
Nation, Restaurant Review

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Found: A Delicious Winter Caprese

Attention Mozzarella-Tomato-Basil Lovers: No need to lament the state of tomatoes during these dark winter months when Mario teaches you can always resort to roasting. The slow-roasting method reveals the flavor in these seemingly pallid duds.

Of course, you do want to go for the best tomato your market has to offer. To me, this means some kind of hothouse cherry tomato variety.

Picky purveyors Ricky and Lesley served up a pre-Lost viewing meal with Mario's Winter Caprese recipe as the powerful prelude. The dish achieves something similar to that of its summertime predecessor -- with warm, slow-roasted tomatoes, oozy mozzarella, dark pesto dollop and toasty pinenuts -- it is appropriately of the season.

Mozza's variation includes burrata instead of mozzarella di bufala bocconcini. A delicious modification, especially if using Gioia's burrata, the local California favorite.

If you decide to go burrata, be sure to go easy on it (this is difficult). The key to this dish's success is the balance of its ingredients. On our last visit to Mozza, Nancy Silverton was not manning the mozzarella output and we received a lavish amount of burrata in our caprese. True to the law of diminishing returns, I realized there can be such a thing as too much burrata.

Winter Caprese Salad

(from Molto Italiano by Mario Batali (HarperCollins, 2005), page 30)

6 Plum tomatoes, cut lengthwise in half (or large cherry tomatoes)
3/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parigiano-Reggiano
3 cups fresh Basil Leaves, plus a few more for garnish
2 tablespoons Pine Nuts
4 large Bocconcini from buffalo mozzarella cut into quarters (or Burrata)

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. In a medium bowl, toss the tomatoes with 1/4 cup of the olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Place cut side down on a small baking sheet and bake for about 2 hours or until the tomatoes are softened. Remove the tomatoes from the oven and let cool.

Transfer the cooled tomatoes to a colander and set aside to drain while you make the pesto.

Combine the garlic and Parmigiano in a blender and pulse until the garlic is roughly chopped. Add the basil and pulse 7 or 8 times, or until the leaves are shredded. With the blender running, slowly add the remaining 1/2 cup of the olive oil, blending until smooth.

Toast the pine-nuts in an 8-inch saute pan over medium heat, tossing frequently, until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.

To serve, arrange 3 tomato slices cut side down on each plate. Place a ball of mozzarella (or scoop of burrata) in the center, and spoon 2 tablespoons of the pesto onto each ball of mozzarella. Sprinkle with the pine nuts and garnish with the basil leaves.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

2.07.07: Wednesday Roundup

The cream of the crop in this week's Food & Dining sections:

New York Times
The exceptional qualities of unlaid eggs, by Marian Burros
+ RECIPE: Buttery Polenta With Parmesan and Olive Oil Fried Eggs

Evening Wear for Eggs: An American breakfast tradition gets dressed up for dinner
+ RECIPE: Garlicky Swiss Chard

The Minimalist Argues for Mackerel
+ RECIPE: Mackerel Fillets Simmered in Soy Sauce

The Scoop on Surinam Cherries

Los Angeles Times
Net Net on Nettles
+ RECIPE: Nettle Polenta
+ RECIPE: Nettle Frittata With Green Garlic and Ricotta
+ RECIPE: Nettle Tapenade With Anchovies and Crostini

High Time for Crepes: History, Tradition and Method
+ RECIPE: Sweet Crepes.
+ RECIPE: Galettes (Buckwheat Crepes)
+ RECIPE: Galettes Filled With Shrimp and Scallops
+ RECIPE: Apple and Calvados Crepes
+ METHOD: How to Cook Crepes, plus a step-by-step slideshow.

Los Angeles: Kimchi Capital of America

San Francisco Chronicle
Maple Syrup Makes a Move
Maple-Roasted Squash Soup
Apple, Cranberry & Maple Crisp
Caramelized Maple Brussels Sprouts
Maple Almond Souffle Pancake
Pecan-Crusted Chicken Breasts with Maple-Dijon Sauce
Pear Salad with Blue Cheese, Hazelnuts & Maple Vinaigrette

Year of the Fickle Fungi
Chef Rob Hunter's quest for local wild mushrooms
+ RECIPE: Black Chanterelle-Duck Confit Spring Rolls with Blood Orange-Truffle Dipping Sauce

Mexican Cowboy Comfort Food
Gabriel Fregoso, chef and owner of Las Camelias restaurant in San Rafael, CA, recreates a traditional northern Mexican lamb stew
+ RECIPE: Charro's Chamarro ("Cowboy" Lamb Shanks)

Make-Ahead Black Bean Sauce
A time-saver with many tastey options, by Tara Duggan
Chinese Black Bean Sauce (Adapted from Simply Ming by Ming Tsai)
Clams With Chinese Black Bean Sauce
Chicken & Broccolini with Chinese Black Bean Sauce

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Choice Chocolate

 "chocolate" recommendations at ThisNext

The tastemakers over at curate their favorites in the world of chocolate. Some yummy and unique options for Valentine's Day.

Personally, I reside in the 70% cacao and higher camp.

So does chocolatier Kathy Moskal of Vere -- as featured in this week's New York Times' Dining section article "Pure or Molten, Chocolate Prepares for Its Day" -- who details the benefits of her confections.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Lucky Legumes

Determined to start the new year off on the right foot, we indulged in foodie folklore and served up Hoppin' John. Years ago, my dear friend (and cosmopolitan southern belle) Enslow introduced me to this southern tradition that ensures good luck and prosperity in the new year. The jauntily named dish is a stew of black-eyed peas and ham hocks. I doctored my own rendition and served it with brown rice and a generous splash of Texas Pete's hot sauce to finish.

Our next-door neighbor Tracey shared the Italian equivalent of fortuitous food with us -- a delicious stew of lentils with a fresh twist of mint.

Here's your choice of two legume recipes to bring you the best of luck in 2007.

Hoppin' John

6 pieces of bacon
1 onion chopped
2 stalks celery chopped
1 green bell pepper
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
2 cans of black eyed peas
1 teaspoon dried thyme
bay leaf
2 cups chicken broth
salt & pepper to taste

cooked brown rice

Texas Pete's hot sauce

Cook the bacon in a deep skillet or dutch oven until cripsy. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Pour off excess bacon fat from pan. Cook onion, celery, green pepper, red pepper flakes over medium heat until tender and translucent. Add black-eyed peas, crumbled bacon & chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer for 30-40 minutes, until broth has reduced and thickened a bit.

Serve the Hoppin' John over cooked brown rice & spice it up to your liking with Texas Pete's hot sauce.

Lentil Stew

(from Memories of a Lost Egypt: A Memoir with Recipes by Colette Rossant )

1 onion (whole)
1 lb. small black lentils
1 bay leaf
8 cups chicken stock
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
2 tsp butter
2 tsp fresh mint, finely chopped
salt & pepper to taste

Peel a large onion, stick it with a whole clove, and plac it in a saucepan with lentils, bay leaf, chicken stock, and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer, skimming occasionally, until the lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.

Discard the onion and bay leaf and stir in 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 teaspon finely chopped fresh thyme, and butter. Reduce the heat to how and simmer slowly for 10 minutes. Ladle into bowls and garnish with 2 tsp chopped fresh mint.