Posts Tagged ‘Meat’

Restaurant Daniel without My Daniel

September 16, 2019 I set off on my yearly pilgrimage of culinary pleasure and pain since the loss of my dear Daniel in 2016. I revisit the Michelin-starred restaurants where we celebrated our wedding anniversaries, and I do it alone. In 2013, it was Daniel, which you can read about here. I’m not sure why I do it; it just feels right for my soul at this time. I admit, though, it also feels right for my palette.

As I approached, I recalled the steps of yesteryear, not sure exactly where it was until I saw the name glowing on the marquee. I was looking to recreate that approach, but the marquee was obstructed by a construction awning. Upon swinging through those goIMG_6760lden revolving doors, it felt like an eerie dream state where I had to walk this long corridor alone where four hosts stood behind a desk waiting and watching ever step. I was led into a mostly empty dining room at 5:15 p.m. It appeared the same as I recalled from our last visit.

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Similar to the dating scene, it is only fair to IMG_6771give my top three guys an equal number of dates for proper comparison. Eric (Ripert) and David (Bouley) each took me on three dining dates; whereas I only had given Daniel (Boulud) one chance at 65th Street. So now was the moment for him to be able to pull out all the stops to win me over as his culinary lover. I am convinced that with a concerted effort, it’ always the one freshest in your mind that will seem the best.

Electing for the four-course menu, I begged for recommendations because there were too many choices, working backwards from my third-course immediate choice of Suckling Pig. Since it was brand new on the menu, I decided on the CRABE ROYAL – King Crab

Salad, Honeycrisp Apple, Kohlrabi, Sesame Tuile, Poppy Seed Gelee. But of course first comes the amuse bouche. The server listed too many ingredients in these mini works of art, but I know one involved eggplant and the other beets. I was immediately spared any thoughts of selection regret when out came another first course – complements of tIMG_6765he chef – (oh, he’s trying hard to impress). THE FLAGEOLET was enhanced with tableside pouring of the “soup”. I should have captured the deconstructed pieces before they were covered in the sauce. It was another masterpiece. The Flageolet Beans, Black Garlic, Confit Carrots and Maine Lobster at center with the Lemon-Thyme Cream were standing orderly in the bowl before the Artichoke Veloute was gently poured in.

Bread service came along to complicate matters. The three-seed roll was enough to sample, although I could have tried each kind but spared the space in my stomach.

The second course was grilled swordfish, which looked like a dollhouse of twin beds. The ESPADON was accompanied by summer squash, shallot marmalade, Thai basil with Le Cirque’s “Sauce Sottha Kuhnn” drizzled by the server.

And finally, the base of my other meal selections – the COCHON DE LAIT: Gaspor Farm Suckling Pig with Melilot, Ginger-Carrot Croquettes, Daylilly Buds and Sauce Robert. There was only one cringe moment; the server asked, “Are you enjoying the pig?” There was a drifting moment of guilt. And when the plate, as all the others were, was returned to its dishwasher-clean state, except for the bone, I flashed to a “Curb Your Enthusiasm” episode and hesitated to ask for a “doggy bag” for my dog. She deserved a remnant of that crispy, smoky/sweet tenderness.IMG_6774

Then came the moment that everyone unadmittedly waits for – the fourth and final dessert course. I asked my server to verbally walk me through the desserts and expand upon the written words. His personal favorite was the cashew something something, which turned out to be the NOIX DE CAJOU (now you see why I wanted interpretations). I wanted to defy him and get the FIGUE because simply any dessert with fig has to be the best. He was pretty emphatic about the cashew concoction, so out came this sculpture of Cashew Infused Opalys Chocolate, Salted Caramel and Praline, with Champaka Flower Ice Cream…..why can’t I find this in the supermarket?? And magically, “The Chef must have heard you and sent the Sil-timur Berry Scented Fig Compotee, Mascarpone and Coffee, a recreated version of creme brulee.”

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It instantly dawned on me: This was a murder conspiracy. Death by Desserts! It became especially evident when one employee walking by offered the suggestion of breaking through all the layers at once rather than tasting the fig dessert from the top. This way I would need to consume more of it! If that didn’t do the trick, send over the guyIMG_6782 with a napkin basket of warm madeleines, and after she takes one, leave the whole basket for her on the table to be tempted.

But wait, she’s still sitting strong with her coffee. How about the box trick? It’s like the Russian Tea Dolls with one inside another. And to seal the deal of Dessert Overkill, send her home with a “gift” that she can ingest “later tonight or tomorrow”.

Truth be told, I would have sampled every dessert on that menu if that were humanly possible, but I didn’t want to leave uncomfortable. And in fact, half of each of them did come home with me. I was onto their little murderous plan, and I figured a way out!

Well Daniel Boulud, you’ve done it. You knocked out David and Eric with a single evening’s punch and are now my Chef Guy, and I am your Patron Girl. What really became a deciding factor was the keepsake at the end – a printed personal menu of all that I had personally eaten. Wow! So until my next visit to the other guys, you’re the man Daniel.

It’s not so offal when you add fruits and vegetables

In summer of 2015, I noticed a “farmer’s market” open up in Bergenfield where a large clothing store had been. I put the term in quotes because there seems to be a trend of these predominantly fruit-and-vegetable stores opening up in Bergen County.  To me, they are mini supermarkets focusing on produce. I envision a farmer’s market to be outdoors, such as the ones that pop up temporarily in the summer in Dumont, Fort Lee, Englewood, Paramus, Teaneck, Ramsey and many more.

I paid a visit quickly for fear it would disappear again. In addition to rows of fruits and vegetables, this new market has a deli counter and a butcher. From a distance, the meat looked fresh and appealing. As I came closer to the case, the appealing part turned to intriguing and a bit squeamish. But that’s just me because I’m not an offal person. Feel free to deduct points off of my foodie score card. I’m okay with it. Maybe I just can’t comprehend what a human would do with a cow’s tongue. It seems illegal. It feels dirty, but I don’t want to insult any cultures that revere it to be a delicacy. It must be tasty. I may have even had it once, sliced, at a Korean bbq restaurant in Palisades Park. I’m not telling. And in the case alongside the tongue are the other parts of the cow, neatly separated – the large heart, the feet, the intestines. This is an unusual place. Yes, you can get some of this at your local ShopRite, especially in Hispanic-populated neighborhoods, where I’m guessing a lot of nicely flavored broths are made with these components. I chose to move along to the fruits.

I was drawn to the inexpensive price of the avocados – Hass only 99 cents each. A package of red striated beans sat there, leaving me in wonder again.  This is the store you go to when you have that recipe with some nontraditional ingredients such as these beans, sour oranges,

prickly pears, dragon fruit and some unidentifiable tubers. Even the Red Delicious apples looked different..like they were on steroids for 79 cents/lb. It’s fresh food for the adventurous; it’s a delight for many Europeans, Asians and Africans wanting to cook dishes from “home”. Let’s see if offals become a new food craze in America as sushi did. Maybe we’re missing out.  I’m not ready to sing: “Something tells me I’m into something good.” Please explore the market for yourself though. If nothing else, you might find a less-expensive-than-anywhere can of wonderful Lavazza coffee or ….wait for

it….ten different flavors of SPAM! I choose to remain a SPAM virgin but will grab some Lavazza or Fair Trade Melitta coffee and a sampling of fruits and veggies.

You’re a Shining Star, Batard

Every year, for the past five years, I select a Michelin two- or three-star NYC restaurant for my husband and me to celebrate our anniversary. It’s always a surprise to him, and I come off looking magnanimous and benefitting just the same. Having just returned from a California vacation, we needed to trim the expense this time, so I sought out a fine-dining establishment where we could experience high-quality, impressive dishes for maybe half of the cost.

Was this achievable? I was going to find out after securing a reservation at Batard in Tribeca. I had hope in that the restaurant received one Michelin star within its first year of business (opened May 2014). Additionally, Co-owner/Restaurateur Drew Nieporent has quite the resume in his Myriad Restaurant Group, including all the Nobus and Tribeca Grill. Chef and Partner Markus Glocker, of Austria, was most recently in the kitchen at Gordon Ramsay, which earned two Michelin stars during his time there. After doing my homework, I had comfortable expectations of the level of food we were going to consume. It was a different expectation than when we went to Jean Georges and Le Bernardin for example. With three stars, you walk in with one shining on you as the diner, who demands to get the best treatment, one on the server and one on the chef.

The menu at Batard posed some real first-world problems. We had to put a game plan in motion. First, there was the pre-fixe choices of two- ($55), three- ($69) or four-courses ($79)…now you see I’ve accomplished the price-cut challenge. We agreed to both do three courses, but now we had to decide which course..yes, you have a choice! After some algebraic equations, we figured the best combination would be if I ordered an appetizer, first course and entree and he ordered an appetizer and dessert. With this solution, we could share the first course and the dessert. After about 15 minutes – now you see why – we could rest our minds as two different warm, mini rolls were placed on our plates.image

I was torn between the pork belly and quail for an appetizer. When our waitress (is that a sign of a non-3 star?) answered, “No the pork is not crispy,” I was about to say “quail” until she said it was served cold. The pork belly was delectable! I would not have even known what I was eating. It was sliced like a paper-thin prosciutto with the center having a pressed cornbread and bits of blood sausage, happily draped over baby lentils. His OCTOPUS “PASTRAMI” had the appearance of head cheese without the gelatin. It was accompanied by bits of braised ham hock, pommery mustard and new potatoes.image

imageOur shared first course (are you keeping up with the plan?) was the scallops with leak confit, crispy potato strings, in a puddle of red wine sauce. During my first bite I felt both elated and guilty. I have always said my friend Rob Russo made the most tender and delicious scallops at the former Red Hen Bistro in NJ, but in that split second I felt bad to think these could even be a hair better. I absolved myself by believing it was imagejust because this was the more recent one. The “shared” course became 80% me, 20% him.

At a nice pace, and after a little time to process what we had, our entrees came. I was already completely convinced that this food was worth at least two Michelin stars in my book.

BRANDT BEEF SHORT RIB with grilled wagyu beef tongue, lovage polenta, pickled root vegetables. I had tongue only once before and in a Korean bbq style. I was a little nervous about rekindling that feeling of French-kissing a cow, but no; this tasted like a thin grilled steak. The short ribs barely required a knife.image

IMG_2059BRANZINO with roasted cauliflower, buerre noisette, and cannellini beans.

The fourth course rolled in with our shared dessert: DUCK EGG CRÈME BRÛLÉE spiced pineapple, verjus, yogurt sorbet. I’mIMG_2060 an extremely tough critic of desserts. It was good but not exquisite like every other dish. It wouldn’t have been my choice for dessert. I thank Batard for making a decent cup of coffee though…Your one star shines as bright as two!

Korean BBQ in New Jersey

Even though summer slowly slides into its home stretch, it is always the season for some kind of barbecued food in New Jersey. Most of us in the Northeast start to strap on the covers to our grills in the fall, but there are some hardcore grill masters who brave the winter cold and step on their snowy decks all for the love of that smoky-flavored meat.

In the cooler months, for those of you who prefer to stay warm while the food is being prepared, try a different kind of barbecue – one you may not have been exposed to yet: Korean barbecue or Gogigui. In this style, diners are seated at a table with a grill (either gas or charcoal) built into it.

A friend first told me about these restaurants 10 years ago and said she went to one on Broad Avenue in Palisades Park. I remember trying to find the place she described and seeing BBQ after BBQ sign on nearly every restaurant façade on that street, and all were written in Korean. It should’ve been no surprise since 19 of the top 101 cities in the U.S. with the most residents born in Korea are in New Jersey: the top one being Palisades Park with 30.4%. I wound up at the “wrong” one but found it to be good anyhow. So I was encouraged by a number of Korean acquaintances to go to one of the better ones – So Moon Nan Jip – which I now guide people to by saying “the one with the red awning.”

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It can be a little discouraging to a non-Korean at first, as you wait for your table and almost everyone around you is speaking Korean. You know you’re thinking, “If Koreans are eating the Korean food, it must good.” I watched the busboys using large metal forceps to carry burning-hot metal trays filled with fiery wooden charcoal that create stray sparks. I cringed every time I saw them being placed in the table, hoping nobody would get burned or nothing would be dropped. This burning wood flavor, however, is what separates So Moon from some of the other places that use gas grills.

For the novices, open the menu to the “BBQ” page and select your meat of choice (Sol Moon also offers shrimp barbecue). The rest will just keep coming to the table. The waitresses generally know the basics of English and immediately guide you on how to eat: You are given heavier metal chopsticks, not the disposable wood ones; a basket of lettuce leaves are brought out and a number of small dishes, called banchan – kimchi, pickled radish, bean sprouts, spinach, potato salad, cucumber and more. I’ve learned anything with red color in it is hot, hot! But my favorite starter is the bowl of bubbling egg that is brought to the table. It resembles a scrambled egg soufflé and is eaten with a spoon. Get ready for some finger cramping if you’re used to eating with light wooden chop sticks!image

When the hot coals are dropped into the table, your meat selection is brought uncooked and cut into small pieces. I found it amusing to watch them cut food with scissors. It was also either funny or embarrassing to have the waitress turn our meat over for us, basically doing the cooking, while all the other tables of Korean diners were cooking the meat themselves. Every time I reached for the tongs, someone would come running to “rescue” me. The most popular dish to order for barbecue is Kalbi, which is marinated beef short ribs. Once cooked, put a few pieces in the lettuce leaf, throw some rice and grilled onions and spiced greens in there, wrap it like a burrito, pick it up and bite into it. I understand that in Korean culture, it is impolite to bite your food in pieces, so I was a bit taken aback watching some people shove their entire lettuce package in their mouths at once!

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In New Jersey, we are fortunate to be able to experience the foods of many cultures. So find a Korean bbq restaurant, especially in one of the highly populated areas listed above, and enjoy it in the winter particularly – it gets quite warm at the table.

*Photos by Joia Pisani

Taking a Bird to Dinner

Chickens, cornish hens, you know – the bland birds – you really need to dress them up if you’re going to bring them up a class and make them suitable for a fancy dinner.  When I see “chicken” on a menu, my eyes generally don’t pause long enough to absorb the description. I move ahead quickly to other, more interesting menu items.

Sadly, poultry has not quite transcended the economic classes. It just can’t seem to break the barriers around the upper class of meats, which are highly guarded by the cow (veal)  and lamb and sometimes a pig or two, noticeably creatures without feathers. But if you get the bird naked, you can dress it up to fit in with at least the high-middle class.

For instance, skip that  boring flour dredging and massage some Dijon mustard on the skin. Poultry seasoning has the right combination of salt and herbs such as thyme, sage, marjoram, made specifically for the bird’s enhancement. If you’re not a fan of the mustard flavor, mayonnaise works just as well to help crisp up that skin. (Why haven’t they developed crispy chicken skin as a snack? Yum.)

This chickenwas finished with baking a fresh sprig of rosemary on top. There’s something about rosemary and chicken that marries well together.

 

This cornish hen was coated and baked with a cranberry-pomegranate reduction to add a little bit of sweetness if you like mixing your savory and sweet together.