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Showing posts from August, 2015

best thing i ate last week: new england clam chowder at Mignonette

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I'm still working on getting caught up from our vacation, but in the interest of not falling too far behind, let's talk about this past week. Actually, it mostly consisted of lots of home cooking, which is not a bad thing; but not as good as this New England clam chowder, Sunday's "CBGB" (Chowder, Bisque or GumBo) at Mignonette.

First things first. It's the right kind of clam chowder: New England style, lashed with cream, not that perverse red abomination that some tasteless troglodytes prefer. James Beard had it right, describing "that rather horrendous soup called Manhattan clam chowder" as resembling "a vegetable soup that accidentally had some clams dumped into it."

But even better: it's not so dense with cream that you can't taste anything else. The creamy broth is cut with vinegar and cayenne (I always dash my chowder with hot sauce, but Mignonette chef Bobby Frank saves me the trouble), brightening and lightening it so you …

best thing i ate last week (8/2-8/9): celtuce, just dug potatoes, comté, burnt hay, tarragon at Coi

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A vacation has taken me off the regular posting cycle, but after two weeks tooling around the Bay Area (including moving Frod Jr. into U.C. Berkeley), I'm home in Miami and ready to get caught up. That means circling back to the first day of our trip: a visit to Coi, which I squeezed into the schedule on account of Chef Daniel Patterson's announcement that he will be stepping down as executive chef in January. (Patterson simultaneously announced that Matthew Kirkley, last at L2O in Chicago, will be taking over the kitchen. In a curious coincidence, I caught Kirkley at L2O only a couple months before it closed last year. That was an excellent meal, and while it's disappointing to see Patterson step away from cooking at Coi, I expect good things are in store.)

(You can see all my pictures from the dinner in this Coi - San Francisco flickr set).

The primary ingredient in this dish is celtuce, featured both in thickly sliced discs and thin ribbons of its stalk. It has the hea…

Alter - Miami (Wynwood)

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About four years ago I came across a blog called "The Power of a Passion." It was the product of a young chef who had recently moved to Miami after working in Chicago – first a brief tour of duty at Alinea, then a year and a half at L2O during chef Laurent Gras' tenure, followed by a stint as pastry sous chef at Boka, then a move to executive sous chef at Epic. He'd come here to take a position as sous chef at Azul restaurant, where Chef Joel Huff had recently been put in place as executive chef.

The author was Bradley Kilgore. And it may have been those blog posts as much as anything that prompted our interest in doing a Cobaya dinner at Azul – one which ended up being filmed by Andrew Zimmern and featured in an episode of Bizarre Foods. Anyone who was at that dinner – which included at least one course that was Brad's creation – could sense that Kilgore had some real talent.[1]

Several months later we made a return visit to Azul; Huff was gone and the kitchen …

best thing i ate last week: cape canaveral prawns at Alter

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I found another favorite dish on my most recent visit to Alter this weekend: the tajin-crusted Cape Canaveral prawns, strewn over a bed of creamy corn grits lashed with stripes of mole verde, lime crema, and huitlacoche. It's a beautiful combination – like a next-generation Mexican shrimp 'n' grits – but what really elevates it is the quality of those prawns, tender and juicy underneath their chile and citrus coating, their heads bursting with oceanic goodness when chewed or squeezed. I hope to be posting a more thorough review of Alter soon. In the meantime, you can see pictures from a few meals in this Alter - Miami (Wynwood) flickr set.

Runner-up: the "Amazon's Tree of Life" at Juan Manuel Barrientos' Miami branch of El Cielo, a really stunning presentation (so much so I had to include a picture below) and also a delicious, warm, nubby, cheesy bread, reminiscent of Colombian pan de bono, with a dipping sauce of roasted vegetables and squid ink. (You c…