Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Q&A | Lisa

I noticed that I've neglected the "Q&A" posts that I said I would try to do with some relative frequency -- they somehow vanished with 2010. To make up for that, I'm going to post a monthly Q&A (I think 12 for 2012 is pretty manageable :P) with some of the important individuals in my life that share the same enthusiasm I have for food and with whom I go on all these gastronomic adventures.

That being said, I'm going to start off 2012's Q&As with a brief run-through of questions with my best friend, Lisa, whom you probably recall from all of the Table Conviviale supper club posts as well as some random dinner outings as well. Besides all of that, Lisa was one of the first people who really helped me discover my interest in food, culinary delights, and all of those wonderful things. For example, the restaurant that was my all-time favorite before I had visited Eleven Madison Park was at Tribeca's fresh (now shuttered), which also happened to be Lisa's favorite at the time as well (in fact, she was the one who introduced me to it in the first place!). Plus, She's always been knowledgeable in that field -- studying hotel management and some culinary arts (at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration) have certainly solidified that even further. I always feel comfortable and excited to dine out with her because it's always a pleasant experience -- stress-free with a total emphasis on the dining experience and the food at hand. She is a true gourmet at heart, and I absolutely love her for it. Thanks for always being there for me, Lisa :) I'm glad we've been friends for so long -- I'm so lucky to have you in my life. Here to many more meals to share together and over which to drool plenty :D!

Lisa (right) and me in the kitchen of our all-time favorite restaurant, Eleven Madison Park, for chef-made deconstructed cocktails!


New York, NY

Eleven Madison Park! Stefie and I discovered this years before it was New York magazine's #1 restaurant of 2011. We clearly saw the potential and kept dining there to show our support. Did I mention that the general manager is a Cornell Hotelie? =)

Sushi Yasuda (I love uni!); in Chinatown, New Green Bo Restaurant for xiao long bao and Jin Fong for dim sum

It really depends on my mood -- I can never say no to a lovely cold glass of Moscato d'Asti. Riesling from upstate New York always has a place in my heart because it reminds me of the fun wine-tasting times I had at Cornell. I like Saint Julien wine from Bordeaux in the evening to enjoy and relax. I enjoy bellinis for Sunday brunch. And lastly, my kick-ass sangria that I make during the summer with the help of William & Sonoma (and I load it up with lots of fruit)!

currently, fresh air-popped popcorn drizzled with my newly bought California Olive Ranch Limited Reserve Olive Oil and sprinkled with white truffle salt (see our olive oil tasting on Stefie's blog here)

Although it’s super hectic, I love planning Thanksgiving dinner weeks before, shopping for the ingredients, and finally brining the turkey and cooking it. The kitchen is the heart of my house and where we gather around for some quality family bonding and lots of laughter provided by my ridiculous brother! =)

my nanny’s stir-fried tomato and egg, stir- fried lima beans with bacon, and oxtail soup (with a bowl of white rice, of course)

Italy -- everything from drinking in Tuscany and Piedmont to truffle hunting in Alba!

Anthony Bourdain is just soo f@#$ing hilarious! Considering the sh#% that comes out of his mouth, you just gotta say to yourself, “Did he really say that on TV?!”

Chef Thomas Keller's "Oyster and Pearls" -- it's not that I cannot because I haven't tried, but I have a feeling that the first attempt will be disastrous!

anything overcooked -- end of story!

banana mille feuille cake from Lady M -- OMG, to die for!

The Eleven Madison Park Cookbook that Stefie got me, and it's even signed by its chef, Daniel Humm, and its general manager, Will Guidara!

いただきます (itadakimasu, which means "Let's eat!" in Japanese)

The Hungry Hedonist, a fellow classmate's blog that got me hooked on food blogs, and that obviously carried over to Four Tines and a Napkin! But seriously, Stefie, do you need to ask or are you just trying to toot your own horn? LOL

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Food for Thought | Audrey Hepburn as Sabrina Fairchild

“A woman happily in love, she burns the souffle. A woman unhappily in love, she forgets to turn on the oven. ”
--Audrey Hepburn as "Sabrina Fairchild"

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

In the Kitchen | Bone Marrow

To kick off the third Table Conviviale dinner (the first for 2012 -- introduction about it here), Lisa and I decided on our featured ingredient for this dinner would be bone marrow. Before I get into the delicious details behind our dinner, I wanted to preface this post with some back history -- marrow is the soft, gelatinous tissue found in the cavities of bones that is rich in fat, protein, and other elements. Incidentally, the origin (or first known appearance) of bone marrow in "civilized" cuisine (as "the original primal brain food") began quite early in the human species. Marrow was probably "the first reliable source of large, fatty animal products" that our predecessors were able to procure, before hunting became a common practice for early man. Accordingly, "feasting on bones of fallen prey" seemed to be the Darwinian solution in a "man-eat-man" world (or should I say animal-eat-man world, haha) -- much more fitting for survival. As such, the high protein and fat content "improved the quality of man's diet" by allowing digestion to be less enervating, as say with greens, vegetables, and other foraged goods.

My first memory of tasting that mysterious surprise found at the center of these bones was with my parents. We were eating osso buco at a dinner party or something like that, and my mom had a small spoon stuck right into a center of the shank's bone. I found it peculiar that my parents would do that -- I didn't think bones were for eating. I gave my mom a puzzled, doubtful look, and she knew exactly what I was thinking. Explaining to me that it was bone marrow (the best part of osso buco, she emphasized), I was highly skeptical about whether or not I would find it appetizing. Boy, did that first taste change my perspective on trying new things, not only for bone marrow but venturing into the mysterious realm of offal and the rich (yet guilt-inducing) things it has to offer.

So after some foraging through the interwebs for recipes, I found two that was fitting for our scrupulous "study" of bone marrow. The first is a starter course (i.e., roasted bone marrows with parsley salad) that I found via The New York Times recipe archive -- adapted from London chef, Fergus Henderson, and his original recipe. This very recipe was also one that was a recurring find in my recipe search, proving it is a very "classic" and timeless way to prepare and serve marrow bones.

I was hoping that the meat department would be able to cut the bones for me in a specific manner. It is recommended for roasted bone marrow that you request for a femur bone to be sliced into pieces -- either horizontally (one long bone sliced in half) or diagonally (in three-inch cylindrical pieces).

{1} I didn't strike gold, but I did find frozen marrow bones at Whole Foods Market in Tribeca, packaged away at the bottom of the self-serving freezers by the meat department. It was almost as if they were sent into a shaming exile, almost nowhere to be found, until I had asked one of the butchers about whether or not Whole Foods had any that day. When I asked, it almost felt like I was shopping for unmentionables in a you-know-what shop. When the butcher asked me how much I needed, I recited both recipes -- the first needing 3-4 pounds and the other needing 6 whole bones (I wasn't even sure what that meant -- so vague!). Wide-eyed, the butcher simply said, "Whoaaa that's A LOT of bone marrow! Not sure if you need that much -- each package here is about one whole bone or so. I figure you'll probably only need a few or so packages." Mostly embarrassed and feeling awkward, I quickly got myself six packages (averaging 1.5 to 1.75 pounds each) at a surprising $3.99 per pound -- hoping it would be enough for our first course of roasted bone marrow and our main course (more details on this shortly). {2} I unpacked the bloody, frozen blocks from their packages a little over 24 hours before our dinner into large bowls (I could fit them into three) -- this is part of the preparation process as well as ensuring that the bones have sufficient time to defrost.

{3} Aussie expert Jennifer McLagan urges that marrow bones must be soaked in ice water for 12-24 hours beforehand in order to extract any blood from the bones. I did this by placing the bones in large bowls and filling the bowls to cover with ice water, followed by 2 tablespoons of coarse sea salt. I then refrigerated the bowls, changing the water 4-6 times, adding 2 tablespoons of salt after each change. {4} Twenty-four hours later, I drained one bowl's worth of bones from the water one last time, patting them dry with paper towels and placing them on a foiled baking sheet. Lisa and I then generously salted the marrow bones on the sheet, at the same time preheating the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit before placing the sheet in the oven. Once the oven is ready, you can place the marrow bones in the oven, cooking for approximately 15 minutes for bones that are three inches thick (you can calibrate the cooking time, depending on the thickness of the bones).

We also threw in 2 loaves of bread, horizontally sliced, in the oven to cook for a minute or so to thaw and toast (they had originally been frozen) for serving.

{1} While the oven was cooking, Lisa and I put together the parsley salad using 2 shallots, 2 teaspoons of lemon juice, two teaspoons of capers, and two cups of loosely chopped Italian parsley. {2} In a small bowl, we combined the parsley, shallots (thinly sliced), and capers. Whisking together 1.5 tablespoons of olive oil and lemon juice in a separate bowl, we drizzled the resulting dressing over the parsley mixture until the leaves are just coated.

After the initial 15 minutes in the oven, the marrow in the bones were not quite bubbling at the top, so Lisa and I decided to leave them in for another 5 minutes. This lead to another 5 minutes, when the bone marrow seemed to finally be ready to serve. Be sure to have a well-ventilated kitchen when you're roasting the bone marrow in the oven. The apartment's alarm went off a couple times because I failed to open a window for the smoke and warm air to waft out of the kitchen to avoid setting off the smoke detector.

Look at those gorgeous bones filled with hot and creamy marrow! The slightly scorched tops give them some more flavor.

With the bone marrow ready to be scooped out, the parsley salad all dressed, and the loaves of bread all toasted, we had our first taste of the roasted bone marrow spread topped with parsley salad over toasted baguette.

Lisa brought over a lovely 2007 Bordeaux La Réserve produced by Château Haut-Brisson in Libournais, France -- a blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and cabernet franc. She found this wine at the famous Wine Library in North Jersey. A solid choice for bordeaux, as it especially makes for a nice pairing with steak and marrow! We decanted it for a little so the one could breathe and release its intense flavors.

After finishing up the roasted bone marrows, Lisa and I continued on with our second (and last) course for the night. It was a recipe for grilled steak with red wine sauce and bone marrow that I found via Serious Eats from its Cook the Book section. The recipe is actually an excerpt from Jennifer McLagan's cookbook, Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes. Before we started, we preheated the over broiler on high.

The recipe called for {1} dry red wine (we had a Merlot from Long Island on hand), concentrated veal stock (we used a beef/veal demi-glace), {2} four chopped shallots, one carrot thinly sliced, 3 sprigs of thyme, 1 fresh bay leaf, and 1.2 teaspoon crushed peppercorns. {3} We first diluted the demi-glace into a cup or so of veal stock -- the recipe calls for two concentrated, but since I only had demi-glace only enough for 1 cup of veal stock, we had to make do. {4} While we kept the diluted veal stock warm over heat, Lisa and I combined the vegetables, herbs, and wine in a Dutch oven, bringing it to a boil. Once it started boiling, we reduced the heat, boiling gently until liquid reduced to 2/3, which took about 15-20 minutes.

{1} After the wine-vegetable-herb mixture finally reduced, we added in the veal stock, continuing to boil until it was reduced by half. The recipe calls for "poaching" the bone marrow in half-inch slices. This was a problem for us, however, mainly because the marrow bones I had bought had been previously frozen and had not thawed complete enough for us to push out the marrow from the bones. To compensate for this, {2} Lisa and I decided to throw in the marrow bones right into the sauce so that the marrow can loosen up from the heat and cook at the same time. Plus, the sauce will be even tastier from all of the flavorful juices from the bone marrow! We let this boil on medium heat for about 20 minutes, {3} until the sauce reduced and the marrow was loose and thoroughly cooked. {4} We emptied out the marrow bones (while the steak was resting -- see below), one by one, with the back end of a spoon, {5} amalgamating to a stockpile of marrow ready to dress the seared rib steak!

We had two bone-in rib steaks sitting out an hour before we started cooking. One thing to note is that we deviated a bit from the recipe, by using 2-inch steaks instead of 3-inch (it was all FreshDirect had available at the time). {1} With the sauce mixture reducing on the stove, we seasoned the steaks generously with Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper and placed them on a foiled and lightly oiled baking sheet {2} At that point, the broiler was ready for us to sear the steaks with an oven rack placed as close to the top of the stove as possible, {3} 1 minute per side. Once the steaks were seared, we moved the rack farther away from the heat (to the lowest notch in the oven), continuing to cook the steaks, turning once, about 10-14 minutes. Since we had an inch less than what the recipe called for, we cooked on the lower end of the timing spectrum, about 8-10 minutes. {4} After 10 minutes, we took the steaks out of the oven, cutting them open to see if they had been cooked all the way through. Looked like they were on the slightly overcooked side (Lisa and I like our steaks medium rare), but it looked like a pretty pink medium. We let the steaks sit for another 5 minutes before plating and dressing them. Noted for next time: always better to underestimate the time -- that way you can gauge how much longer to leave it back in the oven.

{1} The remaining sauce in which the bone marrow was cooking in was kind of oily -- a tiny drawback from our alternative approach to poaching the marrow. So what to do in response to our original improvisation of "making do"? Improvise some more! Lisa came up with the brilliant idea to pour the sauce into a food processor so that it could be a more cohesive sauce -- both in texture and consistency. A few seconds in the food processor, and we had our red wine sauce thick and bursting with warm flavor. {2,3} With Lisa topping the sliced bone-in rib steaks with some chunks of bone marrow, I drizzled and dressed it up with the puréed red wine sauce for a hearty presentation!

Findings: And just like the sensation I had upon my initials bites of our featured courses during our last Table Conviviale dinner featuring foie gras -- the rich and the buttery accompanied by the tender and the hearty. It was certainly one of the densely luscious meals I've had in a while, rivaling the aforementioned foie gras dinner.

The marrow from the roasted femur bones was creamy with a subtle nuttiness that you don't experience in many foods -- the rich, buttery texture makes it ideal for spreading over bread. The parsley salad is well-balanced as the acidity from the lemon juice and the leafy greens counters and cuts through the fattiness of the marrow. The baguette was a good neutralizer, too, keeping the richness of the spread and salad out by intake. I also found that the bigger bones don't necessarily have the highest marrow content -- the medium-sized and smaller ones tend to be the keepers of the savory treasure. With that being said, Lisa had better luck picking the bones that had the most marrow than I did. Now I know better for next time! Additionally, prior to this, Lisa had never had marrow straight from the bone like this. I can safely and happily say that she is now a bone marrow enthusiast! All in all, much success here!

As for the seared steak with red wine sauce and bone marrow, we once again surprised my expectations by executing an incredible main course, especially one with a pretty vague recipe (e.g., unclear cooking times, lacking in directions as to how to remove marrow from bones prior to poaching, etc.). Saved by our clever wit (or I'd like to think so, haha) and my beloved food processor, the red wine sauce and bone marrow complemented the succulently tender ribs of steak. The intense flavors from the braised marrow in the sauce, as well as the other ingredients, blended well to dress the lone beef meat. The marrow itself was heavenly -- melting in your mouth as you slipped each morsel for each bite. Buttery, pleasantly oozing, creamy, and a tinge bit nutty, it was everything I had hoped for and more. Lisa and Marcus were happily content with the results, too.

Now, I have some reflections on the recipes. We lowballed the amount of bones needed for the recipe. We thought the two of us only needed two pounds of marrow (a package and a half), but the larger sized bones yielded less than we had anticipated. As it turns out, it's the smaller bones that carry more chunks (and they're larger in size!) at its center -- noted for the next time I'm cooking with bone marrow! As for the Serious Eats recipe, the portions resulting from two 2-inch bone-in rib steaks was more than enough for Lisa, Marcus, and me -- with half a steak leftover for the next day. So I recommend following the recipe's portions of 3-inch steaks if you have more than 4 people. If not, 2-inch cuts are plenty! Also, I would love to properly poach the bone marrow for my next attempt at this dish, which would mean to buy the bone marrow at least 36 hours in advance so there is enough time elapsed to thoroughly defrost the frozen bones.

Overall, Lisa and I proved to be a great team in the kitchen once again, where I feel confident enough to say that there shouldn't be anything we can't attempt to tackle recipe-wise now! We're going to step it up for our next Table Conviviale dinner. We are in talks about cooking with fresh sea urchin -- details to come!

Price point: 6 packages of bone marrow (approximately 1.5-1.75 pounds each) at $3.99 per pound from Whole Foods Market, two 2-inch bone-in rib steaks (approximately 3.75 pounds total) at $12.99 per pound via FreshDirect, $29.99 for a bottle of Château Haut-Brisson 2007 Bordeaux from Wine Library.

--January 20, 2012

The New York Times
"Roasted Bone Marrows" recipe from The New York Times: October 31, 2007
adapted from Chef Fergus Henderson

Serious Eats
"Grilled Steak with Red Wine Sauce and Bone Marrow" recipe from Cook the Book section
adapted from Jennifer McLagan's cookbook, Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes (found here on Amazon)

Whole Foods Market
321 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10013

Wine Library
586 Morris Avenue
Springfield, New Jersey 07081

Monday, January 23, 2012

Toasts | Happy Year of the Dragon

Happy Chinese New Year from Four Tines and a Napkin!

May the Year of the Dragon bring you lots of luck, prosperity, happiness, and many good eats!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Tastings | California Olive Ranch

After reading this article in The New York Times about how olive oils in California are now rivaling and challenging ones produced in Europe, Lisa thought it would be fun for the two of us to have a tasting of olive oils (similarly to a wine tasting). One of the California olive oil producers cited in the article was California Olive Ranch, located north of Sacremento with 13,000 acres under cultivation, making it the largest producer of extra-virgin olive oil in the country.

So Lisa ordered three different kinds of olive oil directly from California Olive Ranch's online shop for our informal "tasting" of oils -- Arbequina extra virgin olive oil, Limited Reserve (first oil of harvest) extra virgin olive oil, and Arbosana extra virgin olive oil. Arbequina and Arbosana are different types of olive trees while the Limited Reserve is the first oil of harvest season , i.e., first cold press. This means that the fruit of the olive was crushed/pressed exactly once (thus, first press). Cold refers to the temperature range of the fruit at the time it is crushed -- basically that it is not heated over a certain temperature during processing, so that the extraction retains more nutrients and undergoes less degradation, ensuring high purity and concentration. First cold press is very similar the wine-making term, free-run juice (i.e., the juice that falls from the grape just from the weight of all the grapes on each other).

Before we began our tasting, Lisa found a handy guide from California Olive Ranch, suggesting we use the "four S's" for tasting olive oil (again, very similar to wine tasting): swirl, smell, slurp, and swallow. First each tasting, we poured the olive oil into a wine glass. A colorless glass is best because, surprisingly, color identification is not part of the tasting process. It is a perpetuated myth that color influences the quality of an olive oil. Using a colorless glass helps to avoid a "color bias." Since all I had were transparent ones, we just use those. Next, we cupped the bottom of the glass in one hand to "warm" the oil, covering the top with the other hand and swirl gently to release aromas.

Once thoroughly swirled, we brought the glasses to our nose and smelled, taking note of aromas. We decided it would be best to cover the glass partially to isolate the smells for a better olfactory experience. After thoroughly noting the aromas, we took a slurp, touching our tongues to the back of our teeth, inhaling. This allows for the oil to spread around in your mouth, helping to release the inherent flavors of the olive oil. Finally, after taking in the gustatory experience in our mouths, we swallowed the oil, slowly, taking note again of any flavors experienced.

We also made sure to note that different factors affect the aroma, taste, and consistency of the oil per the tasting guide. Just like different grapes make different wine, different kinds of olives make distinct types of olive oil. As olives are grown on trees, they are also impacted by terroir, i.e., its climate, soil, and environment. Harvest timing has a profound impact as well. Earlier harvests tend to have "grassier" flavors, while later harvests yield more "buttery" notes. The lead time between harvest and milling is a part of this as well -- the shorter the lead time, the more likely the oil will have a fresher flavor. Another parallel to wine is storage conditions -- any exposure to heat, light, or oxygen will negatively impact the taste of said olive oil.

{1} We began our tasting with the Limited Reserve EVOO (center). Upon swirling and smelling, we got a surprising solid whiff reminiscent of Play-Doh, followed by a strong scent of an olive pit. Our first slurp gave way to a thick consistency with a grassy finish as the oil glided like lightly softened butter over our palates followed by a burst of intensity. This wasn't much of a surprise as an earlier harvest tends to yield such results. Lisa swallowed too big of a gulp, resulting in a pungent biting sensation in her throat, so when tasting a first cold press olive oil like the Limited Reserve, slow and small sips are the way to go. Anyway, if you want a true, almost pure olive oil, any first cold press is the way to go. For me, it was a little bit too intense just by itself. It would have definitely been more to my liking if it was paired with something besides standalone in a wine glass.

{2} We followed the Limited Reserve with the Arbosana extra virgin olive oil. Typically, the Arbosana olive tree is small (like the Arbequina, which we tasted next) and tends to yield a more “robust” oil, which produces a “delicate” EVOO, leading to a more peppery, or pungent, taste. Noting that, we found this one was much milder in smell (just olives here) and in taste -- it was a lot softer on the palate and not as harsh as the Limited Reserve. The texture was also not as viscous either, and the taste reminded us of vegetables -- for me, it was specifically the ingredients for a caprese salad (probably because it is usually drizzled in olive oil).

{3} Our tasting ended with the Arbequina extra virgin olive oil. The Arbequina olive tree produces a dark brown fruit that is highly aromatic, small, and symmetrical. This variety of olive is very productive and enters early into production (beginning of November); however, the fruit does not ripen simultaneously, and its crop is costly due to its small fruiting size. As such, it is not very well suited to mechanical harvesting due to low weight of oil and branch-heaviness, making it a high performer in manual harvesting. Lastly, the Arbequina variety also has one of the highest concentrations of oil (in fact, these olives are mostly used for olive oil production) and has a short shelf-life. With that in mind, the Arbequina had a distinct aroma of tomatoes, making it more pleasurable on the nose. Its taste was less harsh as the first two, as it had a fresh and fruity taste with a tinge of bitterness on its finish. This was our favorite out of the three, mainly because it was much more palatable, standalone, than the others.

After understanding the general science behind olive oil tasting, Lisa and I overlooked a couple details -- it is recommended that the more robust oils should be tasted last (oops, we did it backwards), similar to wine tasting where it is recommended you start with whites, later moving onto reds. Also, to "cleanse your palate" between oil tastings, eating a slice of green apple is recommended.

To conclude our tasting with some munchies, we found some fun popcorn recipes via St. Helena Olive Oil Co.'s blog that calls for Arbequina extra virgin olive oil -- perfect for a party table dish. We decided to try the truffle salt popcorn recipe.

We started with some kettlecorn from Popcorn Indiana and California Olive Ranch's Arbequina extra virgin olive oil. We were a little concerned that kettlecorn may be too sweet for the recipe. Plain popcorn might work better, we argued -- or so we thought!

The surprise kick was the black truffle salt that I picked up in San Francisco last year from St. Helena Olive Oil Co. Although the recipe recommends white truffle salt (after all, it is more fragrant in aroma and taste), all I had was the black truffle salt so we made do!

We used two relatively narrow opened containers (I used my French fry serving cones from CB2), filling one entirely with popcorn. Next, we drizzled a reasonable amount of the Arbequina extra virgin olive oil over the popcorn followed by a dash or two of the black truffle salt (to your own taste and liking). Finally, we improvised by using a bartender cocktail-making technique: tossing the popcorn back and forth in the containers until the olive oil and salt were thoroughly mixed and combined.

And voilà! A quick and easy bar snack to serve at any party! Surprisingly, the sweetness from the kettle corn meshed very well with the savory olive oil and the salty, umamic (yes, I made that word up) from the truffle salt! So our improvisation with what we had wasn't too shabby! :P

Later, Lisa and I experimented a little, first using no olive oil -- just salt -- followed by using the Limited Reserve olive oil with the salt. Our conclusion? The olive oil is definitely a must -- it allows for the salt to adhere its flavor well to the fluffy kernels, so no skimping out on that. We also felt that the Limited Reserve olive oil worked incredibly well because it was more fragrant than the Arbequina, almost battling intensities on the palate with the truffle salt. A pleasant war of flavors, that's for sure!

Findings: Our California Olive Ranch olive oil tasting certainly taught me a lot of things I had no idea about olives oils and how it is tremendously similar to wine -- all the way from harvest (e.g., free-run vs. first cold press, terroir for both) through to tasting them (e.g., the four S's in tasting). I also now know better on what to look for when it comes to olive oils and what I tend to favor over others. The Arbequina is definitely something I want to keep constant in my kitchen, making me curious to try others. Also, our little snack of truffle salt popcorn proved to be a very easy success, with our tinkering and calibrating to find the best combination (Limited Reserve extra virgin olive oil, if it's available, paired with truffle salt, white preferably).

In the next year, I'd love to try out the other olive oil popcorn recipes from St. Helena Olive Oil Co. (that jalapeño-lime popcorn makes me super curious) as well as olive oils from other producers (St. Helena Olive Oil Co., Oliviers & Co., etc.) so I have a benchmark to compare quality. Hopefully I'll have more to report to you soon!

Price point: $13.99-17.97 for each 500-mL bottle of California Olive Ranch extra virgin olive oil, $3.99 for a bag of Popcorn Indiana kettlecorn, $24 for 3 ounces of St. Helena Olive Oil Co. black truffle salt.

--January 20, 2012

California Olive Ranch
2675 Lone Tree Road
Oroville, CA 95965

St. Helena Olive Oil Co.
1351 Main Street
St. Helena, CA 94574

Popcorn Indiana

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Dinner | L'Artusi

To start off 2012, I had dinner at L'Artusi of the West Village with a former bean-counting colleague, Christine. We were both looking to go somewhere that both of us have not tried before. When on the search for a nice place to go, I stumbled upon L'Artusi on Immaculate Infatuation, which reviewed and granted the restaurant 9.0 on a 10-point scale, gaining the title of one of their "favorite restaurants in this town." Figured it was worth checking out if these guys over at II spoke so highly of L'Artusi.

The restaurant's name, I believe, is an homage to the famed Italian cookbook author of La scienza in cucina e l'arte di mangiare bene (i.e., Italian for "The Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well"). In fact, the restaurant's tagline is the latter part of the cookbook's title -- l'arte di mangiare bene.

We had an earlier reservation at 5:45 on a Sunday night -- the latest reservation I could make via OpenTable that night. So I was a little taken aback when I saw that the restaurant was mostly empty when we arrived, minus a few individuals chatting up at the bar. My initial apprehension was dissuaded away once more dinner guests arrived for their later reservations. By 6:30, the restaurant was booming, where the silence was now replaced with soft chatter, clinking glasses, and plates being whisked in and out of the kitchen.

The space at L'Artusi was designed by Brooke Maples. There are two floors of banquette seating, an extended traditional bar, cheese bar, and a chef's counter overlooking the open kitchen. The restaurant also proudly houses a 2,500 bottle walk-in wine cellar.

The kitchen at L'Artusi is led by none other than Chef Gabriel Thompson. In his early 20s, Chef Thompson enrolled in Le Chef Culinary School in Austin while working at Granite Cafe (also in Austin), and upon graduation, he traveled through Europe to "experience different cultures" and found that "in Italy, unlike other countries he had visited, he enjoyed every meal -- whether it came from a cart on the street or a fine-dining establishment" -- which he "attributed this to the Italian's use of fresh and local ingredients and simplicity." After his travels, he returned to work in restaurants across the United States (including Portland, Aspen, and Austin) "to learn more about the seasonal and local movement." Three years later, he found himself working in the kitchens of Chef Eric Ripert's Le Bernardin as well as Chef Mario Batali's Del Posto. His time in these established kitchens allowed for him to become the executive chef for the first time at dell'anima, which opened in October of 2007, where he was able to work on a "much more intimate scale." A little over a year later, Chef Thompson went on to open L'Artusi with an open kitchen and a crudo bar.

I love the format of the menu. Perhaps its the inner Excel nerd in me that particularly enjoys well-organized columns and grid-style layouts. In any case, the menu is divvied up into Italian "ingredient" categories, regardless of serving/portion size, like crudo for "raw" things, verdura for "green" things, pasta for bowls of shaped starch, pesce for "fish" or sea fare, and carne for "meat" -- all nicely organized.

Per a strong, nearly insistent, recommendation on part of our waiter, Christine and I started off with the roasted mushrooms with pancetta, fried egg, and ricotta salata. Arguably my favorite course that night, the runny yolk from the fried egg over the well-seasoned (very peppery) mushrooms had us at first bite. They reeled us in, wanting more after every taste, and the roasted mushrooms were wistfully gone in a matter of seconds. The saltiness of the pancetta added a balanced meaty and savory context, almost as if it was a breakfast-eqsue course served in the hours of the evening topped with a light and snowy cheesiness. Definitely wanting some more now that I'm reliving it in writing :P!

We also shared the charred octopus with potatoes, chilies, olives, and pancetta as a starter. The chilies certainly added a popping kick to this course. The starch from the miniature potato cubes countered the octopus's overall spiciness, providing some relieve for those (like me) who are not equipped to brave the weathering elements of the Scoville scale (no matter how mild the circumstances may be). The pancetta gave a complementing crunchiness to the charred exterior of the octopus, and the roasted lemon added a smokey-flavored lemon juice to top it off. My only complaint here was that the dish came served to us on the cooler side. Warmer octopus could have made this course even more delicious.

As for main course, we were immediately enticed by one of the specials offered that night -- the squid-ink fettuccini with squid, shrimp, and chorizo. While the squid ink did provide a deep haunting color for the fettuccini, I didn't perceive much of a taste differential against plain fettuccini. Nevertheless, Christine and I still really enjoyed this pasta dish very much, especially with the medley of tender and flavorful seafood swimming in tangled strands of darkened fettuccini. Each morsel of shrimp and squid were soft on the palate -- buttery with some savory and salty mixed in from the chorizo bits. I could eat this pasta dish for days -- it was definitely sad to see the bottom of the bowl. Again with this course as with the charred octopus, it would have been more optimal if it was served hot (it was a bit tepid once it reached us).

Also another recommendation from our waiter was the cappellacci with autumn squash, sage brown butter, and pecorino cheese -- a classic dish from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. Though this was a vegetable-focused pasta, my usual craving for a heavier protein did not surface at all. The butternut squash purée inside these generously sized pillows of cappellacci (Italian for "small hats" due to its resembling shape) were rich, buttery, and savory -- enough to compensate for any absence of meat. The thinly shaved strands of pecorino gracefully rested on top of the warm cappellacci, as it changed from a barely solid state to a delicate melted coating over the pasta. The sage brown butter brought it all together nicely with an evenly earthy creaminess. The packets of squash were nice and warm, but I felt the circumference/edges of the cappellaci were a bit undercooked -- almost al dente. If they were cooked for a few more seconds, they would have been perfect. Luckily, everything else was so lovely that the issue was almost an afterthought.

For our last course, our dessert was the dark chococolate truffle cake with pistachios, oranges, and gelato of sabayon (i.e., a frothy sweet sauce of egg yolks, sugar, wine, and flavorings, whipped while being cooked in a water bath). What do I always look for in a dessert, you might wonder. Chocolate? Check. Nuts (pistachios, hazelnuts, and/or almonds will do!)? Check. Churned happiness (gelato, ice cream, crème fraîche, and sorbet all apply!)? Check. It was between this dessert and the hazelnut chocolate torta with praline crunch and salted caramel gelato. The former won, mainly because Christine and I were very curious about the sabayon gelato -- the latter would've been perfect if the other choices appeared to be on the more mediocre side. The truffle cake and all of its scrumptious trimmings was ultimately a deconstructed Pepperidge Farm orange Milano cookie. I couldn't have asked for a better dessert! The dark chocolate was richly bittersweet -- very dense, I must say. Pistachios, always a great addition to any dessert, were well toasted and crunchy, while the orange and candied orange bits gave an overlay of tangy and citrus flavors to complement the bittersweetness of the dark chocolate. The gelato also balanced out the richness of the aforementioned ingredients with the creamy and delicately sweet sabayon base in the gelato.

Findings: All in all, Christine and I really had a terrific dinner at L'Artusi, even on a Sunday night! The service was welcoming and helpful without interrupting the course of the meal and our conversation -- very important when you're meeting up for dinner to catch up with each other! The food was surprisingly impressive, leaving you wanting just a few bites more once the dishes are wiped clean from our inner hungry diner. One thing to note is that Chef Thompson is a bit "pancetta-happy" on L'Artusi's menu -- nothing to complain about on my end because to me, bacon makes anything and everything better, and pancetta is ultimately Italian bacon for me! If I could say two things the restaurant could improve upon to become the best of the best would be, firstly, somehow ensure the dishes get expedited more quickly to the diners who ordered the said dishes, and secondly, to make sure any pastas (specifically the cappellacci) is indeed cooked al dente (and not under cooked).

Nonetheless, what I like most about L'Artusi is the atmosphere is pretty calm and relaxed, but the crowd is still dressed to the nines without appearing to be pretentious nor snobby. The portions are very practical in size, either to be shared or for just an individual orderer, and the price point is reasonable as well. I also like that the restaurant also offered daily specials (yay for the squid ink fettuccini) in conjunction with the regular offerings on its menu -- make recurring visits more likely in the same season so that you can try more things without becoming bored of the menu too quickly. Additionally, the ambiance of the restaurant's interior is minimalist and modern with a romantic glow from the tea lights on each table and the glowing backlighting from the open kitchen in the back -- which makes for the ideal spot for any celebration or any normal night out. As such, I'm already not just thinking about my next visit (very, very soon I'm gathering :P) to L'Artusi, but eyeing what I want to order (the crispy sweetbreads, the hamachi tartare, the roasted cod, and an encore of the roasted mushrooms, please!). Anyone care to join me? :)

Price point: $17-18 for each first course, $16-25 for each pasta, $10 for dessert.

--January 15, 2012

228 West 10th Street
New York, NY 10014

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Etcetera | belated new year's resolutions

This might be a little late in the game, but HAPPY 2012 to my fellow readers and followers out there! I didn't want to start anything 2012 -related until I wrapped up the remaining loose ends of 2011 (i.e., my series of Best Ofs, the last year defined in meals, and The Blog-Shy of 2011). Now that all of it is squared away, I can finally begin embracing the upcoming adventures -- culinary, gastronomic, and the like -- with more focus and drive than I had last year. I'm always looking to improve what's happening here at Four Tines and a Napkin, and I hope I can grow a little more in the coming year.

So here are my token list of resolutions (more goals, really) that I hope to achieve (at least a little bit, if not entirely) for Four Tines in 2012:
  • . . . journey to the other boroughs of New York City with a little more frequency, particularly Brooklyn.
  • . . . write/blog/document more about cooking in the kitchen, especially with Table Convivale, the supper club that Lisa and I started -- just the two of us.
  • . . . (related to above resolution/goal) use my beloved cookbooks more (aka, DON'T LET THEM COLLECT DUST)!
  • . . . venture to more BYOBs (the wine pairing aspect can help with learning more about wine)!
  • . . . take better photographs -- using resources like Plate to Pixel and Food Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots (and, use Photoshop more effectively, LOL).
  • . . . stay on top of blogging -- don't fall behind too much!
  • . . . explore the restaurant/food scenes in Philadelphia, Boston, and DC with a visit or two!
  • . . . check out more bars and speakeasies (despite the trend, I still love the idea of them)!
  • . . . use Tumblr (the abridged Four Tines) as another way to share food-related things that interest me with you, friends, family, and other food enthusiasts!
And before I commence blogging for the year, I want to wish you once again . . . HAPPY 2012!

List | The Blog-Shy of 2011

Just like I did for 2010, I wanted to create a post detailing some of the dishes I had during 2011 but failed to blog about it in Four Tines and a Napkin. These were the most memorable to mind, as there were times I felt I was definitely eating faster than I could write (though I must say that I did much better of managing this in 2011 than I had in 2010 -- 102 posts versus 81 posts, respectively)! As I know I will say this every year, one of my resolutions for 2012 is to make sure I don't fall too far behind on blogging and updating Four Tines. Busy season in the bean counting world has already commenced, so I will do my best to keep up! In the mean time, here are the ones that "got away" --- the ones that were shy (I call it "blog-shy" -- kinda like "camera-shy") of making the cut.

{1} crepes from Viva La Crepe -- typically ham, mushroom, and Gruyère cheese or sugar and butter / {2} Eat Drink Art Design exhibit at the Museum of Arts and Design / {3} Park Avenue Winter seared scallop "sandwich" -- an open-faced sandwich consisting of toasted bread topped with slices of seared scallops, crispy hash of potatoes and bacon, and cream sauce / {4} flash-fried mushrooms with truffle oil at Il Tre Merli Bistro / {5} honey-rhum glazed pot roast of pork with sautéed shanghai bok choy, fried plantains, and enoki mushrooms at Asia de Cuba during Restaurant Week: Summer 2011 / {6} souvlaki pita -- charcoal grilled chicken wrapped in a warm pita with fresh tomato, red onion, two french fries, and tzatziki sauce -- from Soulvaki GR at the 2011 Vendy Awards on Governors Island (winner of People's Taste category) / {7} Rib of the Tiger taco -- bulgogi with Korilla sauce, shredded Monterey Jack cheese, tomato salsa, and lettuce -- from Korilla BBQ at the 2011 Vendy Awards on Govenors Island (Rookie of the Year category winner) / {8} Asian pear gelato from Capo Giro in Philadelphia / {9} Philly cheesesteak wit' onions, mushrooms, and American cheese from Pat's King of Steaks / {10} duck confit pasta with cranberries and pine nuts at SD26 / {11} The Frenchie burger at DBGB Kitchen & Bar -- 6-ounce beef patty with confit pork belly, arugula, tomato-onion compote, and Morbier cheese on a peppered brioche bun, served with cornichon, mustard, and fries / {12} truffle egg toast with shaved bottarga / {13} three-course prix fixe lunch at JoJo -- for the main course, slow-baked salmon with truffled mashed potatoes, brussel sprouts, and a truffle vinaigrette / {14} shot taken from Mia Chef Gelateria gelato-making class (aka, "Mia Academy"), while making Snickers gelato / {15} classica pizza with marinara sauce, fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and fresh basil, topped with truffle oil from Posto

{1} Nova Scotia lox and cream cheese on a pumpernickel bagel at Zucker's / {2} bacon-wrapped dates and olives stuffed with almonds from Alta / {3} book signing with food writer, David Lebovitz, at BabyCakes / {4} miniature ice cream cones from Burger & Barrel / {5} Creekstone Farms filet mignon with asparagus, butter-whipped potatoes, and crispy fried onions at Emeril's Chop House / {6} speakeasy-style cocktails at Milk & Honey

--circa 2011

Viva La Crepe (Nolita)
51 Spring Street
New York, NY 10012
Museum of Arts & Design
Eat Drink Art Design
2 Columbus Circle
New York, NY 10019
on exhibit from September 21, 2010 thru February 13, 2011

Park Avenue (Winter)
100 East 63rd Street
New York, NY 10021

Il Tre Merli Bistro
183 West 10th Street
New York, NY 10014

Asia de Cuba (now closed)
Morgans Hotel
237 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016

Soulvaki GR
116 Stanton Street
New York, NY 10002
for daily locations of food truck, follow Soulvaki GR on Twitter

Korilla BBQ
for daily locations, check website and follow Korilla on Twitter

Vendy Awards
check Facebook page for updates

Capo Giro (13th Street)
119 South 13th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Pat's King of Steaks
1237 East Passyunk Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19147

19 East 26th Street
New York, NY 10010

DBGB Kitchen & Bar
299 Bowery
New York, NY 10003

'inoteca liquori
323 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10010

160 East 64th Street
New York, NY 10065

Mia Academy
Mia Chef Gelateria
379 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10016

310 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10003

146 Chambers Street
New York, NY 10007

64 West 10th Street
New York, NY 10011

The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World's Most Glorious - and Perplexing City
David Lebovitz
available here on Amazon

248 Broome Street
New York, NY 10002

Burger & Barrel
25 West Houston Street
New York, NY 10012

Emeril's Chop House
Sands Casino Resort
77 Sands Boulevard
Bethlehem, PA 18015

Milk & Honey New York
134 Eldridge Street
New York, NY 10002

Monday, January 16, 2012

List | 2011, in summary

What I have learned from my nearing 2-years of blogging experience is that there are few (but not entirely scarce by any means) dishes/meals/culinary experiences about which I am able, and almost effortlessly, to wax poetic. The past year has been quite generous (a serious understatement, haha) to me, allowing my palate to experience so many enriching things running the gamut of the five tastes, particularly the realm of umami, where things can get euphoric very quickly.

That being said, I wanted to recapitulate the culinary and gastronomic highlights of 2011 -- the things that made my mouth water, the dishes that nearly sent me into an intoxicating state, and the courses that took me by surprise.

I started off 2011 with two amazing birthday dinners -- one with my best friend, Lisa, at Sushi of Gari, and another with Marcus at The Four Seasons.

Sushi of Gari: {1} broiled squid with sea urchin sauce / {2} kinmedai (golden eye snapper) with crispy seaweed / {3} yellowtail with jalapeño sauce / {4} torched uni / {5} salmon with sautéed tomatoes / {6} tuna with tofu sauce
The Four Seasons: {1} The Four Seasons of Hope, Robert Diana / {2} sirloin steak with bone marrow tempura in an onion-beef broth / {3} Four Seasons chocolate soufflé served with freshly whipped cream and chocolate sauce / {4} grilled octopus with white beans and Meyer lemon vinaigrette / {5} tuna-sea urchin ravioli with a diver scallop tartare, caviar, and chervil crème fraîche / {6} The Pool Room at The Four Seasons.

2011 also permitted me to diversify my NYC brunch repertoire (still a long ways to go!) to narrow down to my top five spots.

Clinton Street Baking Co.: {1} classic pancakes with wild Maine blueberries and warm maple butter / {2} fresh hot apple cider / {3} sugar-cured bacon
Essex: {1} "unlimited" mimosas / {2} grilled ribeye and eggs / {3} Manchego macaroni and cheese with chicken apple sausage
Calle Ocho: {1} "house rules" at Calle Ocho about brunch sangria / {2} unlimited sangria bar of 6-7 varieties / {3} vaca frita -- Cuban skirt steak with Latin fried rice, tomato escabeche, avocado, and fried eggs
Tea & Sympathy: {1} Full Monty Breakfast with Heinz baked beans -- scrambled eggs with English bacon, a banger (i.e., a sausage), and grilled tomato and includes a glass of fresh orange juice, choice of coffee or a pot of tea as well as choice of white or 7-grain toast / {2} teapot full of tea! / {3} traditional scones served with strawberry jam and clotted cream.

Moving in together with Marcus this year allowed for me to explore more things in the kitchen (during the latter part of the year, at least) as I finally had my own personal space tailored to my tastes, filled with my very own tools. I even started an ad hoc supper club, Table Conviviale, with Lisa so we could together learn to make some of our favorite courses that we like to have in restaurants all over in my modestly-sized city kitchen.

tako (octopus): {1} one tentacle of octopus / {2} plated shiso leaves / {3} tako with sesame dressing
white truffles: {1} Buitoni wild mushroom agnolotti with mushroom gravy topped with shaved white truffles / {2} porcini mushroom risotto topped with shaved white truffles / {3} about 12 grams worth of a whole white truffle
foie gras: {1} truffle-flecked foie gras mousse spread over a thick slice of brioche bread / {2} roasted Gascogne quail with grapes, foie gras, and Armagnac / {3} seared lobes of foie gras with caramelized fruits and a Port reduction
macarons & soufflés: {1} DessertTruck Works macaron-baking workshop / {2} DessertTruck Works chocolate soufflé-making workshop / {3} Classic French Macaron class at the Institute of Culinary Education

Marcus and I also took our first vacation together in 2011 -- all the way to the San Francisco Bay Area and the Napa Valley. Here are some highlights of our amazing trip!

San Francisco and the Napa Valley: {1} view of the Golden Gate Bridge / {2} morning bun with orange cinnamon sugar
from Tartine Bakery + Café / {3} happy hour oysters with hogwash from Penn Cove, Washington at Hog Island Oyster Bar / {4} maitake fritters with truffle salt from Izakaya Sozai / {5} The Ferry Building clock tower / {6} local Marcona almonds seasoned with homemade Vadouvan spice and sweet herbs at Ubuntu / {7} fresh extruded Seville orange fregola with Hakurei and Scarlet Damsel turnips, green garlic, and Parmesan broth at Ubuntu / {8} croque monsieur -- an open-faced sandwich of ham and swiss with Béchamel sauce on toasted pain de mie -- at La Boulange Bakery (de Cole) / {9} arcobaleno ice cream at Marco Polo Italian Ice Cream / {10} Omnivore Books on Food / {11} St. Helena Olive Oil Co. in St. Helena

While we were in the Napa Valley, we had the lucky opportunity to dine at The French Laundry, our first visit to a three-starred Michelin restaurant, both solo and together, and had a Chef Thomas Keller sighting (he signed our menus)! Then we went a little tristar-happy nearing the end of the year, celebrating Marcus's birthday at Le Bernardin (discovering that its head sommelier, Aldo Sohm, is a master sorceror with the art of the wine pairing) and my new bean counting role at another firm with Eleven Madison Park (still remains my favorite restaurant of all time).

The French Laundry: {1} Marcus and me at the entrance to The French Laundry / {2} the classic sesame tuile "cornets" of salmon tartare with red onion and crème fraîche / {3} the signature clothespin napkin holder at The French Laundry
Le Bernardin: {1} inside the newly renovated Le Bernardin / {2} charred octopus with purple basil, fermented black bean, peach sauce vierge and ink-miso vinaigrette -- paired with a 2010 Sauvignon Blanc produced by Nautilus from Marlborough, New Zealand / {3} Yellowfin tuna, thinly pounded with foie gras atop a toasted baguette covered with shaved chives and extra virgin olive oil -- paired with a 2010 Moscatel Seco produced by Botani from Málaga, Spain
Eleven Madison Park: {1} warm gougères filled with cheese / {2} variations of carrots roasted in duck fat with dates and wheatberries / {3} duck, roasted with lavender honey and accompanied by turnips (baby turnips, roasted turnips, and a turnip purée) and roasted figs

Along with the extraordinary pairings I had at Le Bernardin, 2011 marked an enlightening year in terms of learning more about oenology -- which for me, was dipping my toes in general knowledge of wine nomenclature -- mainly focused on geography and grape varietals -- as well as slightly more complex rules of thumb for pairings. I've definitely come a long way, from just knowing how to pronounce popular wines, where I feel a little more at ease being in a wine shop and somewhat knowing what to look for aligned with what I know I like. During the course of the year, I took four or five 2-hour wine classes at New York Vintners (my review on the shop and its classes will be posted in a month or so!), which generally got me interested in truly understanding a wine bottle's label as well as a wine menu in a restaurant. It was at JBF LTD where I had experienced a food-and-wine pairing that had the intense persuasion (i.e., really awoke something inside of me that rendered me speechless) to have me enduringly convinced that the two things can indeed have a syngergistic relationship -- given you know what will work with each other. The course pairings at Le Bernardin solidified my beliefs even further, so much that I attempted my own pairings in the kitchen.

JAQK Cellars / Tartine: {1} wine tasting at the now-shuttered Bacchus Wines with design-savvy JAQK Cellars and its entire collection of wines / {2} its flagship wine, the High Roller -- a 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Napa Valley / {3} pan-roasted duck with a resulting confit sauce, peppercorns, assorted herbs, apples, and a variation of au gratin hash at Tartine -- paired, BYOB-style, with the High Roller
JBF LTD: {1} JBF LTD's glass window countdown of its life in days as a pop-up restaurant at Chelsea Market / {2,3} Chef Laurent Gras' butter poached Jonah crab with red togarashi bouillon and celery -- paired with a 2008 Montagny Blanc (100% chardonnay) produced by Albert Bichot from Burgundy, France
pairings in the kitchen: truffle-flecked foie gras mousse spread and brioche (not pictured) and {1} seared lobes of foie gras paired with {2} a brut crémant produced by Cave L'Aurance from the Bourgogne region of Burgundy, France and with {3} a 2007 Girasole red blend of sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot grapes, respectively.

2011 was also a year filled with many vineyard/winery visits, learning more about American winemaking, both on the East (Finger Lakes and white wines) and the West Coast (Napa Valley and reds).

the Finger Lakes: {1} minimal intervention wine-making at Fox Run Vineyards of Torrey Ridge / {2} new wines produced from classic European grape varieties at Goose Watch Winery of Cayuga Lake / {3} famed rieslings (from full dry to sweet ice) at Wagner Vineyards in Lodi / {4} Glenora Wine Cellars, the first winery of Seneca Lake
the Napa Valley: {1} Del Dotto Vineyards' St. Helena Estate Winery location, housed over a man-made cave in which its aging oak barrels of free-run grape juice are stored / {2} Duckhorn Vineyards' estate house, where tastings are hosted / {3} tasting at the Swanson Salon -- Swanson Vineyards and its 2006 Crepuscule dessert wine (whose name has a special meaning for Marcus and me)

2011 was a year of finding some lovely hidden gems as well -- here in NYC and elsewhere.

{1} niku-uni --
chuck flap served on leaves of seaweed and shiso topped with raw sea urchin and fresh wasabi from Takashi / {2} scallop special with homemade penne pasta, leeks, and cherry tomatoes in a light cream sauce at Cellar 58 / {3} tripe in tomato sauce with pancetta, white wine, and fresh pecorino from 54 Mint in San Francisco / {4} oxtail-stuffed squid with with squid ink steel-cut oatmeal risotto and garlic aioli from Degustation / {5} slice of the bittersweet chocolate cake, à la mode with vanilla gelato at ChocoBolo (fka, The Best Chocolate Cake in the World) / {6} crispy chicken tacos from Dos Toros Taqueria

Besides San Francisco, I did some traveling to nearby cities outside the Tri-State area.

Philadelphia: {1} grilled truffle flatbread topped with arugula and fontina cheese, served with shaved Parmesan at R2L / {2} inside R2L, the restaurant on the 37th floor of Two Liberty Place
Washington D.C.: {1} Tessita cupcake -- vanilla cupcake with dulce de leche filling and chocolate hazelnut satin frosting -- at baked & wired / {2} chai cupcake from baked & wired

2011 gave me the chance to meet three world-renowned chefs (and to add some more signed cookbooked/memoirs to my shelves).

Grant Achatz: {1} Chef Grant Achatz at his Life, on the Line lecture at the New York Public Library Mid-Manhattan, signing copies of his memoir / {2} Life, on the Line: A Chef's Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eat / {3} my signed copy of Life, on the Line by Chef Grant Achatz
Ferran Adrià: {1} The Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adrià / {2} my signed copy of The Family Meal by Chef Ferran Adrià / {3} me with Chef Ferran Adrià at his cookbook signing at Williams-Sonoma Columbus Circle
Jacques Pépin: {1} me with Chef Jacques Pépin at his cookbook signing at Williams-Sonoma Columbus Circle / {2} my signed copy of Essential Pépin / {3} Essential Pépin: More than 700 All-Time Favorites from My Life in Food

During 2011, I ventured to some of the notable "new" spots in the city.

Ciano: {1} gnudi "tre-colore" -- a "nude" ravioli (just filling, no pasta) comprising of three "colored" flavors: parmigiano (white), chevril (green), and black truffle ("red") / {2} rotolo di pasta -- a pasta roll that contains broccoli rabe, sweet sausage, and tomato ragù / {3} ravioli con carbonara -- a combination of pecorino, smoked guanciale, hen egg, fried parsley, and black pepper
The Dutch: {1} 2007 Furmint Sec from Tokaji, Hungary produced by Királyudvar / {2} little oyster sandwiches / {3} black cod with smoked mushrooms and yuzu-chili broth
David Burke Kitchen / Ai Fiori: {1} duck meatball lasagna with herbed striped pasta, ricotta, and quail egg / {2} gnocchetti -- semolina saffron gnocchi with blue crab, sea urchin, tomato, and fresh herbs
La Promenade des Anglais / Veritas: {1} farrotto with braised veal cheeks and spinach / {2} short rib raviolo served with oyster mushrooms and pickled red onions

Outstanding in the Field returned once again to New York City, though this time to Brooklyn Grange over in Queens, to host another farm dinner, making it my second OITF event.

Outstanding in the Field 2011: {1} the rooftop of Brooklyn Grange at sunset / {2} long tables set up through Brooklyn Grange's rooftop farm / {3} arugula salad with strawberries from Mountain Sweet Berry Farm, Lynnhaven Farm goat cheese, mint, and lime / {4} steamed halibut with Maxwell's Farm goldbar zucchini and nasturtium vinaigrette, topped with toasted pumpernickel chili bread crumbs / {5} Katy Oursler, the Director of OITF's Private Events, and Jim Denevan, the founder of OITF, saying a few words to the farm dinner guests / {6} grilled housemade chicken and pork pistachio sausage served over Brooklyn Grange warm field greens, crispy prosciutto, sherry vinaigrette , chives, and cheddar-style cheese / {7} the chefs of ABC Kitchen hard at work on the rooftop of Brooklyn Grange preparing the farm dinner

Marcus and I celebrated Macaron Day NYC and also tried genuine Parisian macarons, both for the first time in 2011.

{1} Macaron Day NYC 2011 promo in a participating shop's window / {2} assortment of uniquely flavored macarons from pop-up shop Cours La Reine -- two complimentary on Macaron Day NYC / {3} free salted caramel and praline macarons from DessertTruck Works on Macaron Day NYC/ {4} the entire assortment of macaron flavors (as of September 2011) at Ladurée, that are flown in directly from Paris

And always last, but not least, 2011 had a lot of things in store for my inner sweet tooth.

{1} Beard Papa's eclair puff with classic vanilla custard / {2} Pistachio Premium -- a gelato poposicle covered with freshly chopped pistachios and half-dipped with signature dark chocolate -- from popbar / {3} crème brûlée doughnut from Doughnut Plant / {4} The Salted Pimp -- a combination of vanilla soft-serve with dulce de leche, sea salt, and chocolate dip -- from The Big Gay Ice Cream Shop
Sprinkles Cupcakes: {1} red velvet cupcake -- Southern-style light chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting / {2} dark chocolate cupcake -- Belgian dark chocolate cake with bittersweet chocolate frosting and dark chocolate sprinkles / {3} chai cupcake -- a spiced chai tea cake with chai-vanilla frosting

...and that, ladies and gents, is 2011, in summary!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...