Thursday, March 31, 2011

Dinner Party: Steakhouse Dinner

Once in awhile I have the urge to throw a dinner party. It's really an excuse for me to try a recipe that serves several people. When I saw a roast prime rib recipe that I loved, I had it on my mind for a really long time. So, I invited a few people to my home and fed them. They helped with a few munchies with drinks. But I like to be in charge of the main dinner which includes appetizer, salad, entree, and sides. Desserts are delegated to others if I know a good baker. And on this night, I certainly knew a couple of good bakers. It certainly saved me a lot of time and effort. Most of all, I enjoyed their baking skills.

To start, someone brought some sliced meats. Below are spicy soppresatta, and salami. It was really nice. The marbling of fat within the meat was noticeable and appreciated. We slowly but surely ate all of this.

Along with the meat, they also brought over some cheeses. Oh darn! I have forgotten to write down information about the cheeses again. I know that one of them is brie which is the soft, mild cheese at the bottom of the picture. I believe the one of the right may be emmantaler which is a swiss cheese. It's creamy and very mild in flavor as well but not as much as the brie. The third cheese I think was parmagiano or pecorino. It was a harder more grainy type of cheese. As a result of more aging, it was more pungent which I loved! Give me any pungent cheese and I eat it up happily.
Another guest decided to make a lovely bruschetta type appetizer. She definitely went all out which I expected as much from her. You see, she has taken some classed from Le Cordon Blue in France. She has some major skills that I'm majorly jealous of. So I'm always happy when she volunteers to make something. It's always a nice treat.
So here's a closer look at what she made: a crostini with goat cheese, honey, fig jam, and prosciutto. To say it was really good is an understatement. The crostini was lightly toasted which added a lot of crunch. The creamy goat cheese was strong in flavor but toned down with the sweetness from the fig jam. And lastly the salty prosiutto added the nice savoriness. We popped these into our mouths joyfully. I could eat this as a fully dinner. In fact, I'm going to steal the recipe from her when I get the chance.
With a little extra time on my hands, I decided to make a dip. This is my homemade French onion dip. I saw the recipe on Serious Eats and really wanted to try it. I was in a dip mood. Shall we have a year of dips? Maybe. Anyway, I really liked how the dip came out. I caramelized tons of onions until they developed so much flavor and sweetness. Then the usual glops of dressings and chives on top. I'll post the recipe in an upcoming post.
And now the dinner part of the party. I bought some bread to serve. It was really nice and soft. It sopped up the juices from the meat.
But before the meat, I needed to serve some veggies. A salad was in order. You know how I like balance. So this is just some spring mix with walnuts, cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions with a honey mustard vinaigrette.
And a side of potato and portabello au gratin. Cheese, potatoes, and mushrooms with a cream sauce. Um yeah!
And the main course: roast prime rib cooked to medium rare. The more inner pieces were a little more underdone for those craving the less cooked beef. Although the roast had cooled off too much to truly enjoy, I liked the flavors that developed during the cooking process. And the roasted veggies on the the side just soaked up the juices and flavors. Next time, I need to keep this sucked in a warming oven until ready to serve.
After we stuffed ourselves with dinner, we enjoyed a lovely chocolate cake topped with homemade vanilla marshmallows.
Look at that slice! Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and a vanilla marshmallow having some fun on top. So rich and moist. So good! We were happy to keep the leftovers!
The dinner party was quite a success and I was happy with what I made. My timing is still off but that's what these parties are for. They're tests for myself. I mentally took a few notes on how to improve my dishes. Next time, it'll be even better!
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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Barbuto

Over the years, I've found myself following different chefs. Some purely for their delicious foods, others for their food philosophy, and some for their cooking philosophy. Most recently, I've been really like Jonathon Waxman. I like his attitude about simple foods and preparation. He's more about the enjoyment of the experience than the hard labor over every single detail. So, I thought it was about time I went to eat at his restaurant in NYC, Barbuto.

Doc Nut and I arrive at this far West Village eatery and was happily greeted by some staff. They quickly sat us at our reserved table and presented the menu. The waiter went over a couple of things then left us to chat over the choices. I was glad to see a small menu. It's really difficult to make a lot of things really good. It's better to perfect one thing than to do several mediocre things.

We looked around and saw that portions were pretty large. But we ventured forward anyway. An appetizer each and an entree each. Leftovers are always welcome. Doc Nut went with the two cheeses to start ($10) choosing Grana Padano and Brunet. Both were really good. They came with some grissini and focaccia bread. She enjoyed them very much and savored every creamy bit.

I went out of the norm for myself and chose the bruschetta ($9) which came with sweet potatoes, chestnuts, and gorgonzola. The charred pieces of bread played really nicely with the naturally sweet and creamy potatoes. The chestnuts gave it a lot of texture and richness while the gorgonzola cheese brought in more creaminess but also some bitterness. All together, the dish was fantastic. I normally don't salivate over vegetables but this was really good. The pairing of sweet to bitter was perfect. The portion was huge too. Easily shared between 3-4 people. Each bruschetta was about the size of my palm.
After the appetizers were happily devoured, they presented our entrees. I chose the roast chicken with salsa verde ($19) which actually turned out to be a half chicken. Yes, I had a whole drum, thigh, breast, and back piece. I was shocked at how large the serving was. But then I was really happy about the leftovers I was going to have. The chicken itself was really well cooked. The meat was juicy (even the white meat) but the skin was rendered into crispy goodness. The salsa verde added nice flavor but the dish didn't really need it. The chicken was the star. I happy ate through about a third of this before giving up.
Doc Nut ordered the tuna steak ($25) which came with some arugula salad and shaved fennel. She oohed and aahed over the perfect doneness of the fish: nice and raw in the middle. She was definitely happy and polished off her plate easily.
But that's not it folks. We also had a couple of sides to complement everything. She chose the crispy potatoes with pecorino and rosemary ($8) which were really good. The nicely fried crispy potatoes melted the nutty cheese on top. The rosemary have everything a nice hint of woodiness. It was a really nice earthy dish that was perfect for the winter.
I, of course, picked the brussel sprouts ($8) which came nicely charred. We popped each halved piece into our mouths like candy. The little cabbage nuggets really developed a sweetness from the charring which we loved.
Surprisingly, we had room for dessert. She picked some kind of cake pie. I am completely blanking on it but I know she ate the hell out of it. Hahahah!
However, I certainly do remember my cinnamon and hazelnut ice cream. The cinnamon wasn't like any ice cream I've had before. The flavor was really pronounced. So much so that I couldn't finish it. I'm not sure what kind of cinnamon that they used but it was really strong. I definitely appreciated that devotion to flavor to even the most simple of dishes like ice cream.
Barbuto was really great and I loved everything about it. The service, the food, and the atmosphere was just divine. The location is a little out of the way but I think it's worth the trek. Prices can be a little steep but remember that the portions are very large. So they are easily shared or left to take home. Give it a try, you won't regret it. Just solid food.

Barbuto
775 Washington Street
New York, NY 10014
(212) 924-9700
barbutonyc.com
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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Schnipper's

Walking around our neighborhood one day and Mr. M&P and Ie were hungry, as usual. I suggested Shcnipper's since he's never been there but I've been praising about it constantly. It's definitely his kind of place. I mean, he is Mr. Meat & Potatoes, right?

He went for a burger because he loves them in general. He went for the bacon cheeseburger ($7.50) with a side of fries ($2.50).

The burger was juicy and cooked to his order. I know he definitely enjoyed this as he took giants bites out of it. The fries were good too. They were McDonald's like which is thin, fried well, and well salted. I just wish they were slightly more browned than golden.
I wanted something different this time and ordered the Mac & Joe ($7) which is sloppy joe and mac & cheese. What a glorious combination, no? If that wasn't enough, I also needed a side of onion rings ($4)
The sloppy joe was pretty good but it reminded me more of chili because it had beans in it. Otherwise, I think t he taste is nice. The mac and cheese was creamy and super cheesy. However, it was a good balance of pasta and creamy cheese. I really liked this but the order was quite big. Meaning, I wasn't able to finish it myself. Mr. M&P gladly took the leftovers and polished it off. I picked on the onions rings (which were really good) and the fries.
Schnipper's is solid fast food for me. I think they have good service and are pretty quick with getting the food to you. I'll definitely go back again and again.

Schnipper's
620 8th Avenue
New York, NY 10018
(212) 921-2400
schnippers.com
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Monday, March 28, 2011

Cooking: Ramen & Meatballs

Sometimes my cooking is so haphazard that I'm embarrassed. However, when it actually turns out to be good, I'm all smiles.

It all started when I was digging in my freezer and found some ramen noodles I had purchased a while ago from Mitsuwa. They've been sitting in there unnoticed...until now. I took them out to slightly defrost from the cold.
I also fished out (haha) some fuzhou meatballs (pork stuffed fish meatballs), fish meatballs, and beef tendon meatballs (not pictured).
Along with the noodles and meat, I cleaned up some bok choy from my local market.
One a pot of water is boiling rapidly, I add a little salt then the meatballs all at once. They're frozen through so they'll take the longest.
In about 10 minutes, I'll throw in the noodles and cook for 3 minutes. Lastly the vegetables and sauce packs (shoyu from the ramen pack) and cook until the vegetables turn bright green but still retain a crunch. I hate mushy vegetables.
Turn off the stove, then scoop all the noodles into a bowl. Then slowly layer in the veggies and the meatballs. Last, ladle in that delicious salty broth. A squirt of srirarcha is your choice but I opted out of it this time. But my belly was happy just the same.
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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Pommes Frites

On a random walkabout home, a few FBM friends and I stopped by the Pommes Frites store. We wanted something to eat right after eating some pretty lame dim sum (to come in another post). If you don't know about Pommes Frites, it's a Belgian fries storefront that offers perfectly fried potatoes with a plethora of dipping sauces.

I always get the regular ($4.50) to share because it's really a lot of fries. On this day, I didn't buy any but munched on just one or two. Why so little? Well we just ate. And I was walking home from Chinatown to Hell's Kitchen to burn off calories and digest.

But I mainly ate the two fries in order to try the dipping sauces ($1 each): Vietnamese Pineapple Mayo and Roasted Garlic Mayo. I really wanted to try the pineapple so I took a fry. However, it didn't do it for me. It really tasted like pineapple but I don't think I enjoy the combination of pineapple and fries together. Now roasted garlic? Yes, please.
Pommes Frites is the hole in the wall type place that is great for a snack (or meal is ordering by yourself) or a late night after drinking meal. Either way, I'm glad it's become a staple in the East Village.

Pommes Frites
123 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10003
(212) 674-1234
pommesfrites.ws
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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Shanghai Cafe

Although Grand Harmony was a bust, there's plenty of good places to eat that's just around the corner. Lucky for me, my staples are always good. Hello, Shanghai Cafe!

How could we go to Shanghai Cafe and not get soup dumplings? Oh yeah, we ate those up like no one's business! The wrapper was slightly thin and just a little but chewy. The meat and juices inside were flavorful and delicious. We ate them happily on a cold winter day.

And to serve with the dumplings was black vinegar with ginger. It's supposed to help cut the fattiness of the pork dumplings. I like to alternate dumplings with the vinegar. Too much and all I'm tasting in sour!
And to change it up a little bit, we had rice cakes with minced pork and pickled mustard greens. This carb heavy dish was really good. The rice cakes though bland in nature had a nice chewiness to them. But the minced pork and greens really added a lot of flavor and texture. I would definitely order this again.
Another successful meal had at Shanghai Cafe!

Shanghai Cafe
100 Mott St
New York, NY 10013
(212) 966-3988
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Friday, March 25, 2011

Grand Harmony

A bunch of us have clamored on about dim sum lately. I'm not too familiar with places in Chinatown NYC so I was a little cautious to volunteer. However, someone else spoke up and mentioned Grand Harmony. Everyone saw it on Top Chef recently and it was all the rage for a short while. So why not give it a try?
We arrived early at 9:30am on a weekend morning and it was empty. Hmm, aren't most dim sum places packed on the weekends? Oh well, we proceeded to order lots of food.

First up, a fried mochi type dumpling with red bean inside. As you can see the paste was way too thick. It's supposed be much creamier. The fried part was okay though.

And my all time favorite dim sum dish: fried cruller wrapped in rice skin noodle. This was not good. The cruller was softened meaning it was sitting somewhere for awhile. The rice skin noodle was just passable. I was very sad.
The pepper veal short ribs were chewy and contained tons of gristle. Not appetizing at all.
The fried spring rolls were okay. Some people enjoyed this dish.
And as tradition goes, people always enjoy some steamed char siu (roast pork) buns. I didn't try one but the bread looked kind of dry to me.
This is the lotus leaf wrapped sticky rice with meat and seafood. I think people actually enjoyed this one because the rice and meat were pretty delicious. A couple of people hogged it all so I didn't get to try any. Haha!
Another fried item of the day were sesame balls with lotus paste. Again, not that great. Pass.
One of the better items that I ordered was shrimp stuffed eggplant. This is usually pretty flavorful from the sauce. And the fried shrimp patty is always a crowd pleaser. The eggplant was soft and absorbed all that flavor from the savory sauce.
Another mochi fried dumpling but this time it was filled with pork.
Not much pork, I'm afraid. Yeah, totally skimpy. This is a definite pass.
The shrimp and chive dumplings were okay. I think the main draw was that they were made to order. There was a small table at the front of the restaurant with a electric fry work. I think the woman behind the table was pan frying things to order.
Some pork and shrimp dumplings. Eh, totally unmemorable.
And some famous phoenix feet or chicken feet. These were hack jobs. Sharp edges of bones were exposed and the flavor and sauce was gloppy. This dish was a complete disappointment.
And for the daredevils of the morning, a bowl of star anise flavored tripe. This was mostly honeycomb tripe. It was actually tender but the texture definitely skeeved some people out. It was okay for me.
And some shrimp dumplings that weren't very good. Too much pastiness from the filling.
Same goes for the pork shumai. The filling was too pastelike. Too much filler. It's a sign of a cheap restaurant/chef.
The pork spare ribs were just okay. Not bad. But it could use a lot more flavor.
The shrimp rice skin noodles were better. There were two large whole shrimp per noodle. The noodle itself wasn't anything special though.
And at the end, I heard a woman cry out, "pai gwat cheurng fun" in Cantonese. I grabbed a plate and was presented with this dish. Lots of noodles topped with nuggets of pork spare ribs. I quickly took a piece of the noodle and was greatly disappointed. You see, this is supposed to be really good. They're supposed to take the sliced noodles, top it with the raw pork, then steam until cooked. The noodles eventually absorbed all the flavor from the pork. However, from the taste of things, it seemed like they just took cooked pork and dumped it on top of the noodles. No flavor combination/development. So sad.
Lastly, we ordered a plate of fried whole shrimp which wasn't very good. It's supposed to be salt and pepper shrimp. But the seafood was so overly fried that the shell was peeling off, the meat was mealy, and the taste subpar. We left this plate pretty full when we left.
Sigh, we really wanted to like this place, we did. But the service wasn't very good. The table they offered us was too small even though when the first few arrived, the place was empty. And most of all, the food was not good. I would not suggest you going here because I certainly would not return. I don't know what Top Chef was thinking.

Grand Harmony
98 Mott St
New York, NY 10013
(212) 226-6603
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