Showing posts from January, 2010

CSA Week 9 + Catching Up

What's in the box this week? Clockwise from lower left: French breakfast radishes, broccoli raab, lettuce, spring onions, broccoli, parsley, grapefruit, "Ponkan" tangerine, avocado.

You'll notice you only see one Ponkan there. There were two in the box, but one didn't even make it home because Little Miss F devoured it within about five minutes. Glad I got a picture quickly because No. 2 is now gone too. They were sweet with nice texture, though not terribly juicy. It's apparently an Asian varietal, also known as the Chinese honey orange or Chinese honey tangerine, and it's grown extensively in Florida. Some more information here or here if you desire further reading.

The radishes have also been good for snacking, this time sliced thin and scattered over buttered toast, and sprinkled with some coarse sea salt (a minor variation on the radishes/butter/salt theme). The lettuce loooks hale and hearty, as does the parsley. I see salsa verde in my future, tho…

Stella! - New Orleans

It is impossible for me to talk about Stella! without talking about its ebullient chef and owner, Scott Boswell. His life story sounds like something out of the Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. He came to professional cooking as a third career, yet in a short time since then has done stints with Iron Chefs Masahiko Kobe, Hiroyuki Sakai, Chin Kenichi and Masaharu Morimoto (and stages with other luminaries such as Grant Achatz, Charlie Trotter and Eric Ziebold as well). He was one of the first chefs to start the return to normal life in New Orleans after Katrina wreaked devastation, slinging burgers hot off the grill at his not-yet-opened Stanley restaurant for folks in need of sustenance, even as his flagship, Stella, in the middle of a renovation, was demolished. If you told me that he performed a heart transplant in between courses during our meal, I wouldn't have been surprised.

I also can't avoid talking about Chef Boswell because I likely wouldn'…

CSA Week 6 - Canistel Flan

The more I did my homework on the canistels that came with the Week 6 CSA drop-off,[*] the more convinced I became that a flan was the direction to go. The fruit is also known as the egg fruit because when ripe it has a vivid yellow-orange color, and the flesh is supposed to have a texture similar to hard-boiled egg yolk. It is of the same family as the mamey sapote and bears similarities both in shape and in flavor. When I tasted a bit, I picked up some of the "egg-y" flavor (reminiscent of a Chinese custard bun), plus sweet potato or pumpkin and almond notes similar to those in mamey.

Like the black sapotes we've gotten in other weeks, canistels must go very soft to be fully ripe, and the fruit bowl of late has been looking like something out of a Peter Greenaway movie (I should have taken a picture). Of course, they rarely cooperate by ripening simultaneously, so I harvested the flesh of these as they ripened and froze it until they were all ready. Fortunately, Little…

CSA Week 7 - Sardine & Avocado Sandwich

I've made clear before my unkind feelings about Florida avocados. Another arrived with the Week 7 CSA delivery, and when it ripened this weekend, I decided to pair it with something that many other people have equally strong feelings about: sardines. The inspiration was Alton Brown's sardine and avocado sandwich recipe featured on a recent episode of "Good Eats" (though on the Food Network website it goes by the more demure "Sherried Sardine Toasts"), which you can see more of here. Of course, I actually have Oswald Cobblepot 's fondness for silvery fish, so I had no particular aversion to the sardines, though I've always eaten them fresh rather than the ones from the tin.

The mise en place: brisling sardines packed in olive oil; a couple slices of good bread; one Florida avocado (a "Brooks Late Avocado," per the newsletter), some dill (substituting for the parsley called for in the recipe), and a lemon; off stage are sherry vinegar, pepper…

CSA Week 8

What do we have here? Working clockwise from top left, a bunch of cilantro, celery, a bunch of white chard, a few more canistels, a couple tomatoes, some oyster mushrooms, and in the middle, a green pepper and some mizuna. While the pickings may be a little slim as the farms recover from the freeze, the quality actually looks quite good. The greens in particular are looking very happy. On a related note, now that I have started immediately putting my greens and the like in plastic bags, I've found the shelf life has improved dramatically, and most things are remaining hearty and hale for most of a week, sometimes more if they stick around that long, before getting droopy. Coming next: a positive Florida avocado experience, and an eminently successful canistel experiment with the Week 6 fruit.

Truck Party! (Part II) - gastroPod

I told you, Starbury, it's not that kind of truck party. Go back to China. Anyway, as I drove south on Biscayne Boulevard, it gleamed like a shining beacon from a block east: the gastroPod! The gastroPod is Chef Jeremiah Bullfrog's mobile foodmobile, a converted 1962 Airstream trailer retrofitted with a high-tech kitchen to crank out some gourmet street eats. I got a preview sampling of some of the gastroPod menu at a Cobaya event we did a couple months ago, but this was my first chance to actually pay a visit to the Silver Submarine.

Though the gastroPod was set up near Biscayne Boulevard and 18th Street for the day, the vintage Airstream trailer would fit right in along the more northerly stretch of Biscayne whose "Miami Modern" architecture earned it the designation as the Biscayne Boulevard Historic District. The guts of the gastroPod, though are completely 21st century.

Along one side is a station rigged for an immersion circulator for sous vide cooking (he's…

Truck Party! (Part I) Latin Burger & Taco

Sorry for the confusion, Mr. Marbury - not that kind of truck party. No, we're talking mobile food trucks, which of late have been establishing a foothold in Miami. This Friday a couple of the new additions - gastroPod, from Chef Jeremiah Bullfrog, and Latin Burger & Taco Truck, from Food Network personality Ingrid Hoffman, set up shop in close proximity to each other, and a food truck tour was in order.

My first visit was to Latin Burger, which was camped out off Miami Avenue and 34th Street near Midtown. I managed to drive by twice before spotting the truck in the back of a parking lot behind a furniture store between 34th & 35th Streets, and I felt a bit like Tommy Vercetti trying to hunt down a target in Grand Theft Auto Vice City.

With truck found, I took a look at the menu, which is short and to the point:

You can get a "Latin Macho" burger, or a selection of tacos - chicken tomatillo, chicken mole or pulled pork. You can also add "Plain Jane" fri…

In case you just won the lottery ...

The Grill at the Setai (not to be confused with the Restaurant at the Setai), which had briefly closed down over the summer and then recently reopened with a new menu (which, I will note, looks mighty tempting), is offering a seven course "Black Truffle Tasting Menu" for the jaw-dropping price of $360 (edited to add: per couple). What you'll get for that sum:

Seven Course Tasting Menu

Truffled Scrambled Eggs
Toasted Brioche
Truffle Foie Gras
Confit Duck, Haricot Vert, Mache
Truffle Vinaigrette
Maine Scallops, Black Truffle
Iberico Ham, Baked in Puff Pastry
Truffle Butter
Serrano Ham Consommé Tagliatelle
Slow Cooked Hen Egg
Shaved Alba Truffle
Black Truffle Risotto, Parmesan Foam
White Truffle Ice Cream
Surf & Turf
2 oz. Kobe Tenderloin, Seared Langoustine, Cauliflower
Black Truffle, White Truffle
Apple Tart Tatin, Green Apple Sorbet
Black Truffle Crème Fraîche

If you're not quite rolling in that kind of cash, but still have a…

CSA - Catching Up

As a result of travel and other distractions I've sort of fallen off the wagon with my CSA updates. There's not been anything revolutionary going on in the kitchen anyway, so you're not missing out on much.

Possibly my favorite item from the Week 6 delivery were adorable French breakfast radishes, pointy little guys with a pinkish-red blush on one end and white on the other end. They needed nothing more than some good butter, good salt, and good bread. The betel leaves were used in a successful repeat preparation of the bò lá lốt, with bok choy leaves serving as an effective substitute wrapper when the betel leaves were used up. The canistels from Week 6 finally ripened (like the black sapotes, they need to be really soft - seemingly ready to be thrown out - before they're ripe enough to eat) and I've harvested the flesh on these which is in the freezer, potentially turning into a flan this weekend. A word of warning - I wouldn't use your best knife with these,…

Obsessed With the Food-Obsessed

In the past year I have written about more than eighty restaurants. Not once have I felt compelled to use the word "foodie," nor any of the hyphenated euphemisms for it that the New York Times' editorial policy appears to require (as I've previously noted).[*]

Meanwhile, in nearly half of the sixteen restaurant reviews he has published since taking over the helm last October, Sam Sifton has given us some variation on the "foodie" theme (never, though, actually uttering the word, which apparently has the same effect as saying "Beetlejuice!" three times). His first three reviews brought us "food-obsessed mouths," followed the next week by the converse, a wine list that "may run unfamiliar to nonobsessives," returning the following week to the "food-obsessed in New York."

There was a brief respite, but it seems to have returned with a vengeance. A few weeks ago the "food-obsessed" came back to discuss the decli…

Cochon - New Orleans

There are few restaurants I can think of that are so simultaneously in the moment and rooted in tradition as Cochon. With nose-to-tail dining and in-house charcuterie all the rage, Cochon's menu appears to be all over the latest trends: pig ears, rabbit livers, boudin, pork cheeks and ham hocks abound. Yet for Chef Donald Link, who also runs the more upscale Herbsaint, all of this is really nothing new: for him, this kind of whole hog dining descends in a not-too-crooked line from his family's Cajun, and ultimately Germanic, traditions.[*] We stopped into Cochon for a late lunch during our New Orleans visit and got some prime seating - the "Chef's Counter" in the back of the long, wood-paneled space, just to the side of the pass and the open kitchen - where we got to drool over every dish as it went out.

This made it all the more difficult to decide, yet we ultimately went with the oyster and meat pie, grilled shrimp with chow-chow, an arugula salad with pumpkin c…

Dante's Kitchen - New Orleans

The single most unexpected and intriguing bite I experienced in New Orleans may have been the first one I had at Dante's Kitchen. It was an amuse bouche: a cube of a beet and chocolate cake, resting in a puddle of a creamy buttermilk dressing, topped with translucent cubes of an onion jam and a little sliver of chive. It seemed an unlikely, almost perverse, combination. Not that nobody has ever done a beet and chocolate cake before; but unlike many of these, which are premised on the notion of "sneaking" vegetables into other foods (as if they are so loathsome that they must be disguised), in this one both the beet and chocolate flavors were vivid and almost synergistic. This started with the roundly earthy flavor of beetroot, but with an almost fruity note to it brought out by the chocolate; the chocolately notes were also somehow made more earthy and deep from the combination. And buttermilk dressing? Onion jam? It made no sense at all, yet it worked perfectly. I loved…

Buena Vista Bistro - Miami Upper East Side

I am clearly very late to the Buena Vista Bistro party. This pocket-sized little restaurant, just north of the Design District on N.E. 2nd Avenue, is closing in on celebrating its second anniversary. But somehow, despite having heard many raves for its thoughtfully priced, homey French bistro fare, other destinations in the Design District (Michael's Genuine, Sra. Martinez, Pacific Time) called to me with much louder voices whenever I was headed in this direction. We finally ignored those voices and gave BVB a try this week.

It's a charming little place in its own way, with dark, moody lighting, 50's style black-and-white vinyl chairs, the entire menu written on a blackboard behind the bar in back, and one long side wall entirely covered in mirrors, upon which is scrawled the wine list. It's got the bohemian vibe down pat: everyone eating here isn't French, but they look and act as if they wish they were. There are no big surprises on the menu. Apps are mostly bist…

CSA Week 5 - Black Sapote Ice Cream

Ice cream machine! Ice cream machine! Yes, as warned, I decided it was time to break out the ice cream maker to deal with the black sapotes in last week's CSA bag. The basic recipe: flesh of two ripe black sapotes; 1 cup heavy cream; 1 cup milk; about 1/3 cup sugar (I happened to have sitting around some extra sugar which had been used to coat some candied orange peels, which was imbued with the scent of the oranges' oil, and used that); zest of one clementine. (I was aiming roughly for the flavor profile of the long-gone Baskin-Robbins mandarin chocolate sherbet, the odes of which I've previously sung). Mixed well to incorporate the sapote into the cream, chilled, and then into the ice cream maker.

I'm actually pretty pleased with the results. The flavor of the sapote is perhaps somewhat indistinct, possibly because I'm not accustomed enough to it to recognize it. But there are some dark chocolatey notes, as well as some dark fruit notes like date or dried fig. Th…

CSA Week 6

What do we have here? Green peppers, an eggplant, canistels (on the left; a fruit related to the mamey, also known as eggfruit since the color and texture supposedly resembles a hard-cooked egg yolk), bok choy, some adorable French breakfast radishes, green beans, komatsuna, and more betel leaves. Some of the green beans have already found their way into a pasta, along with last week's tomatoes and some fresh mozzarella. The radishes will be perfectly pleasant just with some good butter and salt. That's a lot of green peppers for someone who prefers red ones. Though I'd like to try something different with the betel leaves, the fridge already has all the fixings for bò lá lốt, so we may see a repeat performance (with either the bok choy or komatsuna serving as extra wrappers). And I'm doing my homework on canistels. Meanwhile, last week's black sapotes are looking ready to explode, which means they're ripe, and notwithstanding the chilly temperatures, I'm t…

Hakkasan Dim Sum Brunch - Miami Beach

I have written earlier about the Miami Beach branch of Hakkasan, a spinoff of the London original which we visited several years ago. I noted then that it was a "serious bummer" that the lunchtime dim sum menu available in London was not being offered here in Miami. Happily, that oversight has now been remedied, and the dim sum menu is now available Saturdays and Sundays. I tried it this weekend with my usual dim sum companions, Frod Jr. and Little Miss F.

The Miami dim sum menu is, perhaps unsurprisingly, more abbreviated than the one you will find in London. While the London menu offers nearly 40 different smaller items, exclusive of roasted meats, soups, vegetables, noodle and rice dishes and more entrée-style dishes, the Miami menu offers only about half that many - more of a "best hits" compilation, with a few twists here and there.

These turnip cakes were possibly the best I've ever had - wonderfully crispy on the outside, creamy and tender inside, and gen…

CSA Week 5 - catching up

What with holidays and travel I have sort of been falling behind, both in blogging and actually consuming some of my CSA share. For better or worse, a lot of this stuff is very easy to deal with though the results are not particularly notable. Greens get cooked down with some onions and pork products. Lettuces and tomatoes go into salads or on top of flatbreads. Those harukei turnips from last week (actually week before last now) are very nice as is; sliced thin they have a nice wet crunch like a daikon and a bit of a peppery bite like a radish. Week 5, pictured above, brought a head of cabbage, a head of lettuce, some beets, plum tomatoes (Little Miss F got excited for these and immediately started eating one like an apple), dill, oyster mushrooms (I think Mrs. F put these in a frittata) and more black sapote. Fortunately some of these items like the beets and cabbage are pretty hearty and seem to be coping well in the fridge despite my neglect of them.

On an unrelated note, if you a…

What's in a Name?

For several months now, Miami has played host to the ongoing brouhaha between Michael Chow, founder of the Mr. Chow restaurants (including a new one in South Beach), and Philippe Chow (supposedly a/k/a Chak Yam Chau), who started the Philippe restaurants (including a new one in South Beach), which Mr. Chow #1 says are improperly trying to capitalize on his good name. (Though after this review, perhaps they both should change their names). The lawsuit has been quite entertaining, including allegations that Mr. Chow #2 was a mere "chopping assistant" in a Mr. Chow restaurant before going out on his own, and that Mr. Chow #1 invented such dishes as chicken satay with secret sauce (look out, next he will be claiming to have invented the question mark).

Is it possible there's another naming kerfuffle on the horizon for Miami?  Recently opening up in Coconut Grove is "The Ivy at the Grove" (in the former Christabelle's Quarter space). There is a long-standing Lon…

Lüke - New Orleans

Even a successful restaurant has certain inherent limitations on its profitability. You can only squeeze so many butts into so many seats. You can only increase your prices by so much before you wander beyond whatever particular niche of the dining market you've captured. So for many - particularly in this era of celebrity chefdom - at some point there comes the urge to grow, which means adding additional venues.

There are at least a couple different approaches to such growth. Some restaurants take what I call the "clone and colonize" approach, bringing the same package to different regional or even international markets. Nobu has restaurants in nearly twenty different cities in a dozen different countries. Joel Robuchon (after basically retiring from cooking) has restaurants in Paris, London, Monaco, Hong Kong, Macao, Tokyo, New York and Las Vegas. A plethora of chefs have set up satellite offices in Vegas, and over the past couple years the influx of "invasive exo…

A List For the New Year

First, a resolution: next year, I will do my "year in review" list before the actual expiration of the year. And next, a confession: I am terrible at "best" lists. I can tell you the high and low points of fifty different restaurants or dishes, but if you ask me to pick a favorite I am usually flummoxed. It's not just food. Favorite movie, song, author? I struggle with the superlatives. In fact, I'm so bad at it that when asked the simple question of what was my favorite meal of the year, I gave two differentanswers! If you ask me again, I might give still a different answer, particularly if I were to think back on our dinner at Arzak at the beginning of the year, or include our meal last week at Stella in New Orleans.

So, in no particular order, here are eleven (because these go to 11) thoughts on food over the past year:

1. Best Defense Against Foreign Invasion: 2009 started as the year of the invasive exotic species in Miami. Scarpetta from Scott Conant …