NYC the preview

One of my long time goal restaurants to visit has been Le Bernardin in NYC. It is going to happen on June 13. Hubby will be there as well as his cousin R and my best friend A.

Why this place? Well, I like Anthony Bourdain and he and the chef of LeB are good friends and I really like seafood prepared by someone who cares about the seafood being presented in the best way to showcase the flavor of that seafood item.

I look at then menus, the tasting vs the regular and I still have no idea what I would prefer to try.  There are many items I have had and some I have not yet tried. Since A is a vegetarian I checked the reviews on Yelp and being in the business myself I did verify that they will give her some proper vegetarian food.  I am delighted by the prospect of the wine choices. But I am no wino and I wonder if the cousin R will suggest another bottle than what is suggested.  It is cool, three of my favorite people in the world sharing a meal at a place I have been wanting to visit for years.  A fitting reward for gaining my life back a bit more since my stroke.

I also watched Eric RIpert’s tv show on Hulu since we do not have cable but you can catch it on the cooking channel.  It is just a nice exploration of the food world around us and he shows a recipe.  Chef Ripert is very charming and easy to watch.

This weekend is a homemade pizza, all of it from scratch for the dinner I invited my In-laws to on Saturday.

Breaking it up. AKA random food pictures

Over the last 5 years, hell over my entire career I have taken food pictures of stuff I have made or experienced and I want to share some of them.
Refreshment This was a cherry limeade. Not just any cherry limeade but one made with sour cherry syrup that was bought from the S&D Polish Store in the strip district. With a little seltzer and fresh squeezed lime and ice it is a perfectly refreshing drink.

Dorothy
Me presenting Dave a seared tuna morsel.
Appetizer Tray
The platter of seared tuna on a rice cracker with wasabi mayo.

Deli Tray
A nice platter of sliced cured meats, I learned from a old chef boss of mine (Matthew Wayland) to shave hard cheese.. Parmesan and drizzle with a really good olive oil. This one had a *gasp* Truffle oil, something which I have noticed being vilified by some chefs recently. Honestly, if you can’t afford truffle but love the aroma there is no shame in this indulgence.

Fruit Tray
My favorite part of these types of treats is the fruit platter. Pick ripe fruit. There is always someone at a party who knows and the others will follow. Nothing worse than a tray of unripe fruit.

Forgotten Cookies
Dave makes cookies for Christmas every year. These are his Meringues.

We tried our hands at making pickles…
Simmering Peaches
Spicy Peach.
Our Entries
These were our entries into a pickle competition.

Lastly, I made southern fried chicken.
Southern Fried Chicken
NO cream gravy, sorry. I was tempted to make red eye gravy. Watching carbs and I took them in the form of the grilled corn and the red beet mashed red skin potatoes.

Brennan’s

On a trip I made to NO (New Orleans) with my now ex husband we stopped at what was the most expensive breakfast ever. I only recall images of rooms, many waitstaff, delicious smells and humidity. It was glorious.

We made our way to the restaurant, be aware of parking signs. That is what cost us so much later. We were seated in a medium sized room on a two top table and I spied on the other tables to see what they were ordering. It all looked good. I knew of this place more from my ex-chef in the Grand Canyon, Esteban Colon. He Loved NO! He also copied some of these menu items to be on the menu there. The eggs Sardou being his favorite. I had only been to NO a few times and never for long or had been able to enjoy it as an adult. You know I dragged my e to Cafe du Monde the first day. A delightful cafe latte and a plate of beignet. Heaven if you can have the carbs.

I forget what was ordered. It was yummy. Here is the menu which I have kept all these years,




I collect menus from places I like.

So what made this expensive besides the food?

I parked in a bad location. The signs are confusing and can be a little misleading. If you drive there, pick a parking lot, it might save you the headache. We ended up needing a taxi to take us to the impound lot, this was a Sunday morning. They were busy, very.

I am still glad we went and I would do so again.

Bob’s Diner


Saturday Dave and I had a bunch of errands to run. I wanted to try Bakn, unfortunately it is not open yet so we knew Bob’s was a block or so away and had not been there yet so we cruised the nifty little town of Carnegie.

Now I love a good diner, broken-in vinyl seats, friendly staff. The glorious smells of coffee and quasi burnt toast with bacon mixed in. We settled into our booth and The smells transported me back to growing up and when we moved we drove across country we also stopped in many a diner. It also smelled like the first job I had out of culinary school, a now closed large resort in the Pocono’s. Being the first in the kitchen, turning everything on, getting the bacon cooked, the water on for eggs (poached and boiled) cooking the potatoes and sausage. Sitting in that booth took me back.


We had coffee, crazy I know. I like the menu, simple breakfast stuff. They serve lunch and we are going to go back for lunch sometime for I saw they have chili cheese fries and sweet potato fries.. Dave wondered if they would do the chili cheese on them. For breakfast I had My Dad’s Favorite which consisted of two eggs any style (I got basted) with 1 piece of bacon, 1 sausage link, some home fries, toast and a pancake. I asked and was given a piece of their French toast instead.


The french toast was on another plate.It was Mancini’s bread, a local bakery used by many places here in Pittsburgh and is a local staple.

Dave had the corned beef with eggs. He chose poached, and he picked rye toast, I have to say, it tasted great.

The poached eggs were perfection and I must say my basted eggs were too. What are basted eggs you are thinking? Well, you start to make an over egg but do not flip. At the point you flip put a little water in the pan and cover it with a top to let it steam. I hate crispy bits on fried eggs they taste rubbery. Basted eggs do not unless the cook is new to egg cookery.
So in the end we will go back there or to the newer one closer to us for there are a few locations in town.

Smoke, Pittsburgh

Dave and I discovered Smoke about two weeks or so after it opened.  I am a huge fan of smoked meats and well, Dave would eat tacos for every meal if he could talk me into that.

 Smoke is now in a new location, go check it out. These photos are from when they were in Hometead.


My favorite taco is the Migas.

Breakfast tacos.

Egg and potato base, with (l (left to right) chorizo, pork and cheese, and breakfast sausage. So yummy.

As Dave would say, So damn delicious.

What I love is the depth of flavor Jeff, the chef. Infuses in his food. His mac and cheese, well I think I need to go get some soon, like this weekend. I have not been ther since they moved due to the stroke blah blah blah, but Oh man, Nelda and her Horchata, a cinnamon rice beverage and her Agua Frescas are divine.


Nelda and Jeff. One of the best imports to Pittsburgh in years!

Big Mac Museum, Irwin PA

I used to live in Irwin.  A small little town off of route 30 and the PA turnpike.  I liked living there for it was near my folks, lots of good grocery stores, shopping in general, the folks are nice and it was an easy hop on the turnpike or drive down rt 30 to get downtown for work.  There are also a bunch of farms in the area so roadside stands were a bonus.

I like Mcd’s.  The french fries are yum. The Mcd’s in Irwin is also home to the Big Mac Museum. Now the Big Mac was not created there but elsewhere in western PA.  Before I moved closer to Pittsburgh proper, Dave and I stepped in.



Many folks have problems with fast food and on the whole I totally agree, there are so many unhealthy choices yet there are unhealthy choices in food everywhere. The key for me is to indulge but keep it simple. I like the fries, so I get a small. The breakfast choices are actually pretty good. Egg sandwiches are a fairly complete meal. I really like the egg white delights, although I add a packet of their hot picante salsa to my sandwich. This one time I wanted the pancake platter.

Scattered throughout the restaurant is memorabilia and if you like to feel nostalgic about such things it is pretty cool to visit. I do recommend a visit if you are on that side of town and grab a bite and check it all out.






secret recipe not included.


Yeah, I would feel bad if I did not feel the same way about Roy Rodger’s BBQ sauce.

Meals from my Past: America Eats,

I was lucky enough to be able to visit my friend Johanna who was living in the Frederick MD area a few years ago when Jose Andreas  opened America Eats in the National Archives in McLean Virgina.  It was basically his take on dishes throughout the history of America.  From drinks to desserts.  There was a book that was published and it gave a bit of American food history and some, lets say, interesting recipes.

I heard about this via my mom. She saw an article in the paper and when she heard I was going to DC she told me about it. Reservations were made.

Located near the National archives then it has since been remade in Tyson’s corner.

 


Johanna and I at the front.

The Southern and New Yorker.

The food:
I started with a peanut soup.

Shrimp Remoulande with fried green tomatoes

Smoked oysters

Bison Tomahawk steak with mashed potatoes

the ‘ketchups’

Chesapeake crab cake with pickled watermelon

The fruit and cheese plate

Abalone with butter; pepper air

Vermont snow. This dessert was shaved ice served with maple syrup.

NY cheesecake redone

Coffee

Tea

You may wonder why the abalone was in an odd place. The waitress was so very helpful and chatted with us. I was very upfront about my foodie nature and at the tail end of the meal apparently the chef had a miss fire and offered this dish to anyone that might like it, she snagged it for us.

 

The menu we had was different, soon to be scanned.

If you get a chance to get down there give it a try.

The menu we had.

Meals from my memory – Jaques-Imo’s 2004

I like to go out to eat. I always have. I look for an interesting location, a unique take on a dish or the menu.  I have gone to some places for a chef. Those are the most rare of restaurants I like to visit.

there was a time when I was married to another chef and we both watched Anthony Bourdain when he hosted No Reservations. One of those was his trip to New Orleans.  My dad happened to be in New Orleans for work and since I was living in Austin, Texas at the time, I dragged the then hubby to The Big Easy for a road trip/ visit with my Dad. My dad is always game for good food and we have a long standing mutual understanding of visits wherever we might be if near enough for a visit.  I mentioned this episode of NR and this Jaques-Imo’s.  He was game and set up a reservation for the three of us.

The truck with a table was in front of the place.  You walk in and you see the bar, red walls and so much art. It is glorious in how busy/noisy it was, but a happy vibe. The hostess took us on a roundabout tour of the establishment to get to our table and with different dining areas with eclectic lights, colors and happy folks throughout.  We even did a pass through the kitchen with all the delicious sights and smells.

I am not sure of more than what I ordered, and images of what my dad did, but this is it to the best of my recollection.  I know I had the paneed duck with sweet potato shrimp sauce. I probably had the mashed sweet potato and the shoestring fries.  But first it was the house salad. A small spinach salad with a (I am guessing) plum vinaigrette and topped with a fried oyster. That was a perfect salad. My entree was sweet and savory, crunchy and creamy.. I have copied the sauce but the duck has proven harder to match. That is ok for I must go back.

My dad loves salmon and he ordered this salmon special.  It was layers of a creamy spinach, black beans, grilled salmon, some sort of sauce and something crisp like the shoestring fries on top or maybe onions.  He declared it one of the best meals he had ever had.  We did have dessert and it was delicious of that I am sure.   I do not recall what the ex ordered. Maybe a sign of the future. I was just glad to be seeing my dad after a year since our last visit.  This was also the year or two before two of my cousins would move to my part of Texas.  A year or less before Katrina.

With the time that has passed, my recent stroke and my father’s memory losses due to age I felt I needed to write about some of these great places I have been. This one is a treasured memory. Time spent on the drive to and fro, relaxing and chatting with my dad, him giving us a tour or New Orleans proper and the Garden District. I had only been there twice before; once as a child the other 3 years before on the way home to Austin from Pittsburgh.

I hope I never forget the colors, the smells, the folks and the music. A memorable place.

This is one place I recommend.. Jaques-Imos .

 

The Menu has been found.

strawberry shortcake

Ah, strawberries — my favorite berry. Versatile and colorful, they are a delightful addition to any meal. Strawberries are common all over the world and, in fact, the Native Americans crushed strawberries into a mortar, mixed them with meal and made strawberry bread. After trying this bread, colonists developed their own version, and Strawberry Shortcake was born.

The flavor of strawberries is influenced by growing conditions, the stage of ripeness when harvested, and the variety. Look for a deep ruby color or even darker for the best tasting ones. Size is not a factor in determining the flavor of a berry. A fun fact: there are about 200 seeds on each strawberry.

Traditionally, strawberry shortcake is made with a shortcake or biscuit but, instead of the usual biscuits, I am going to use pre-made puff pastry that you can find in most grocery stores in the freezer section. It is easy to use, consistent in quality. I must admit that I am taking a shortcut, but most restaurants and bakeries these days buy some of their basic components already made to offset the high labor involved in items like puff pastry, which takes two days to properly prepare.

I am not going to make a heavy pastry cream to fill these treats but, instead, will use a white chocolate puff pastry, cocoa whipped cream and fresh strawberries that have been tossed in reduced balsamic vinegar

Strawberry Shortcake Recipe

Ingredients you will need:

  • Frozen puff pastry
  • White chocolate (about 4 ounces)
  • Heavy cream (whipping cream)
  • White crème de cacao
  • Confectioners sugar
  • Strawberries
  • Reduced balsamic vinegar (recipe follows)

I would first take one of the puff pastry sections from the package (they usually come in two’s), and let it thaw at room temperature covered by a damp, but not wet, cloth or towel or some plastic wrap. While it is thawing, which can take about an hour or more, I start to prep my other ingredients. If you do not have any round cookie cutters, find a cup or glass and set it aside. You will also need two non-stick baking pans of an equal size. Spray with non-stick cooking spray the inside of one and the outside bottom of the other, and preheat your the oven to 400F degrees.

Further advance preparations include cleaning the strawberries and slicing them into a bowl, chilling the bowl and whip you will use to make the Cocoa cream (recipe follows) and, finally, preparing some white chocolate shavings.

Once the puff pastry is thawed, place it flat on the dry counter top. If the pastry is wet, sprinkle a little flour on the counter top before placing it there. When the pastry is flat, take the round cutter (or any shape you like) and cut into the pastry like you would cookie dough. Gently remove the cutout shapes (you need about three per person) and place on the greased baking pan. The shapes can touch, but not overlap. When they are all on the pan, place the other pan (the one that you greased on the outside bottom) on top of the cutout shapes and place in the oven. The second pan helps prevent the puff pastry from rising, keeps it flat and makes it crisper. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until golden. You can take the top pan off and check them — just be sure to put it back.

When the pastries are golden, remove them from the pan, place on a cooling rack and layer lightly some of the white chocolate shavings. You could also use regular chocolate. The warmth of the pastry will melt the chocolate enough so that when it cools it becomes a layer of chocolate that is melted on the pastry without making it soggy.

While the pastry cools, I toss the sliced strawberries with about 3 tablespoons of reduced balsamic vinegar (see below) and let it sit while I make the whipped cream.

I pull my mixing bowl and whip out of the fridge and mix 1 cup of heavy whipping cream with 1/4 cup confectioners sugar and 2 tablespoons clear creme de cacao, and whip it until stiff peaks form.

Putting it all together

On a dessert plate, place a piece of the puff pastry, then some of the balsamic strawberries, then a dollop of the whipped cream, then another piece of puff pastry, some more balsamic strawberries, another dollop of whipped cream, and one last piece of puff pastry to be topped with a nice dollop of whipped cream and garnished with some strawberries or other fruit (I often use golden raspberries).

Reduced Balsamic Vinegar
Pour one whole bottle of balsamic vinegar into a saucepan and let it boil down to thickened syrup. This sweetens and intensifies the flavor. I do have one caution, however. Do this on a day you can open the windows because it is really strong smelling. This reduction will keep for several months in the fridge. It can be used in sauces, salad dressings and on top of ice cream.

Cocoa Cream

  • 1-1/2 cup Heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup Confectioners sugar
  • 3 tablespoons White crme de cacao

Whip in a chilled mixing bowl until stiff peaks are formed.

Balsamic Strawberries

  • 1 pint Strawberries, cleaned and sliced
  • 3 tablespoons Balsamic reduction

In a bowl, mix the strawberries with the vinegar. The longer it sits the more watery it becomes, so prepare this right before service.

This marvelous dessert will be enough for four persons, and can easily be doubled or halved.

Month of February Goals

It seems that I get food smell memories since the stroke.  The one most recent is of a good Sauerbraten with braised red cabbage.  So a little shopping tomorrow after I go to PT then I shall start the process.  I am going to use Alton Brown’s recipe from the food network, I recall my ex used it as a base to make it and it was quite delicious.

I also really want to make soup dumplings.  I figure I can use part of the liquid and meat from the sauerbraten to make a sort of a mix for the filling.  I have never tried one, I read about them 4 years ago when first dating my now hubby in a book he had. Since it has gain popularity in the last few years I figure why not try it.  The nearest place to get any is in DC.  So, to try I shall.  Pictures and recipes to follow.