Friday, January 19, 2007

Thursday Club 01/18/07

Round 9 & Teddy's first of 2007 was awesome...

- Cauliflower and Stilton soup with chive oil.

- Trio of Oysters (Casino, with Pernod, ‘Normande’)

- Braised veal shank with potato mousseline.

- Classic British bread and butter pudding with cream.

We began with an excellent soup topped with chive oil. I've really grown to love Stilton & the soup hit the spot.

Teddy busted out his knife for the next course. A trio of oysters with various toppings; a: bacon, tomato & parsley. b: baked breadcrumbs & cheese. c: Pernod sauce. An interesting take on oysters & they were delicious.

The Veal stole the show in my opinion - there's something about braised meats that gets me all excited. The meat was falling off the bone & you didn't even need to use your knife.

By the time the bread pudding came around, I was ready to burst... A great meal all around...

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Buenos Aires!

I had a chance to check out the 'Meat Emporium' that is Buenos Aires (513 E 6th St) this weekend with some family members that were visiting from out of town. It was a Saturday night & the East Village was busy as hell, but luckily we snuck into the joint right before the rush.

The space is somewhat cramped as it's generally busy & they've tried to maximize the amount of seats. We were a group of 7 & had a great seat considering how busy it was. I started with the meat empenadas which were excellent. A few others got the chorizo - which stole the show as far as appetizers went.

I got the breaded chicken for my main course as I wasn't in the mood for steak (a fatal error). I really did not enjoy it at all as it was very overcooked. The steaks, on the other hand, were excellent & cooked to perfection (trust me, my roving fork left no plate untouched). We drank Sangria that night which was also very good.

Despite my chicken-fiasco, I recommend Buenos Aires for your inner carnivore. Get any one of their excellent steaks, or the veal sweetbread.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Party Like It's 2007

Our first Thursday Club of the New Year was one to remember.......through pictures......the next morning (see: Jason prepared an awesome menu for us four (with Wax being the 4th man in) and we brought the wine, to a tune of 6 bottles. So much for sobriety being my New Year's resolution.


- Crab Salad served in an Avocado

- Escargo Provencal

- Duck Cassoulet (de Casséus)

Paired with the creamy flesh of the avocado, the crab salad had a ton of crunchy diced vegetables folded within and a nice curry spice to it. A nice, light way to start off.

Clearly, what makes a good plate of escargo is the amount of butter, garlic and parsley piled on top. As you can see from the pictures below, there was plenty to go around. Once it was done broiling, each moist little snail had it's own personal pool of fragrent melted butter to swim (one might say drown) in. This left plenty of golden goodness to mop up with a warm baguette.

The main course was gasp/groan/curse-worthy. Once the duck confit nestled in a thick and spicy cassoulet was spooned liberally onto our plates, conversation ceased with the exception of a few subtle ooohs and aaahs. The smoky andouille sausage and al dente white beans added a perfectly balanced flavor and texture to the entire dish.

After this feast rendered us unbelievable full (and unable to operate heavy machinery or drive), a hidden bottle of single malt scotch found it's way to the table. It looked a bit like this.....

I'm sure some of you photo-types out there would claim that this image looks blurry because of the lack of light on the object being photographed, therefore effecting the speed of the shutter and blah, blah, blah. Forget all of that. This is a first hand account of how that very bottle looked that night. The blurryness can be attributed to the amount of fun I was having.....after all, that's what Thursdays are for, right?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Papatzul - 55 Grand Street

For a friend's birthday we headed for some authentic Mexican food at Papatzul. The dining area was adequately sized for the table of 8 we had. The atmosphere wasn't anything shocking or revolutionary, but if you're analyzing the ceiling fans and window treatments for the majority of the meal, chances are you need new company......or your Ritalin is wearing off.

The margaritas were nice and sour and seemed to have the correct amount of booze in them. They really didn't cut you a deal on the pitchers though (yielded 4 glasses for $36 when glasses were $9 a piece.......this led to some unecessary confusion on our part). Although I didn't have any, the tequilla menu was really impressive too.

The menu was packed with alot of Mexican classics (quesadillas, tortilla soup), but had a few nice fusion twists also. This was mostly featured in the starters, which I feel really carried the meal. Chile rellenos were stuffed with goat cheese and lump crab meat (definitely a dish i'd like to re-create , aka steal). Everyone got a good size appetizer and fought, across the table when necessary, to stab at others' plates. The octopus with sweet chipote-tomato sauce was extremely tender and flavorful. This and the spicy ceviche were the main plates that I eyed.

By the time the main course came, I already had a good base of food and drink in me. I had the Budin al Pasilla, a sort of a Mexican lasagna. It layered flour tortillas with shredded chicken, black beans, cheese and heavy cream. Truthfully, it was a bit bland and under seasoned, but a little hot sauce perked it up the next day in the form of leftovers.....the sign of a true good dish.

Overall, the meal and service was satisfactory, but not mind-blowing. Definitely good to check out once.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Mighty Balthazar

It was my Mom's birthday last night, so my brother & I took her to Balthazar (80 Spring Street). We had tried to go to Blue Ribbon (97 Sullivan St.), but the Maitre D' informed us that it would be an hour or more for a table. It was freakishly hot yesterday as well as being a Saturday, so we knew it would be busy, but not that busy. So, we decided to go to Balthazar & didn't fare much better.

Balthazar can be somewhat imposing & upon opening the front door, our senses were barraged. The smell of the various foods, the sight of the sheer size of the place with it's staff doing what looks like a choreographed dance, the sounds of hundreds of people eating & chatting & the feel of 75 or so people waiting for tables & brushing up on you. We didn't get to the taste part until an hour later, & that was with preferential treatment as my brother knows the Maitre D', Kevin.

We were finally seated in an area away from the door, with far less foot traffic which made for a far more pleasant/comfortable dining experience than those who were sitting by the door or bar. I was still recovering from the night before, so I drank San Pellegrino all night, but my brother did order an excellent '05 Sancere which I had a few sips of. The wine list simply blew my mind. I thought it was only the front & back of a large sheet of paper, but it actually opened up to reveal 2 inner pages - over 400 wines; amazing!

We started with a dish known simply as 'Le Grand'. A towering, two-tiered monster of selections from the raw bar along with a seafood salad, crab & gigantic shrimp. We also ordered half a dozen Fanny Bay oysters for good measure.

Stefan ordered the Sat. special; Braised short ribs, which fell off the bone at the slightest touch. He also got a glass of Syrah-Grenache blend which he seemed to enjoy. I got the duck shepherds pie which I thought was so-so (that having been said, my taste buds were still recovering from the whiskey beating they had taken from the night before). We ended the night with coffee & a chocolate cake for my Mom.

All in all, an excellent experience. Don't let my horror story of the wait deter you from checking Balthazar out. The food is excellent & the service is among the best I've ever had (our waiter, Provost was awesome) despite the huge number of people dining. You can thank me later...

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Hangover 101

Another hangover? Yes? No problem - Try my my magic recovery butty. It has everything you need to come round. Steak, avocado, mushrooms, mayo, ketchup. Grill the meat, slice mushrooms and fry in a bit of butter, mash the avocado. Spread ketchum on a slice if crusty bread, cover with mashed avocado, a sprinkle of salt, mushrooms and steak on top, liberally coat the other slice with mayo, press together. Find a bib, a comfy chair, eat.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Dok Suni

I had a chance to check out Dok Suni (119 1st Avenue) with my buddy Todd for some excellent Korean food. Dok Suni means 'strong woman', which is quite fitting seeing as they've been open for more than a decade.

We started with a small plate of shrimp which was fried in a white cornmeal batter & served alongside a particularly tasty crab/seafood salad. They were good, but really not that filling.

I used to go to Dok Suni a lot back in 2000 or so. I would make the trip all the way from the upper east side just to get their mackerel, so I was delighted when I saw that it was still on the menu. It was marinated in sea salt, lightly fried & served with a fried red pepper sauce. The recipe had changed somewhat (if my memory serves me correctly), but it was still very good (& very spicy). The dish was served with white rice & mid-ban-chan (a selection of marinated vegetables & tofu).

Todd got the Bibimbop which looked excellent. We ordered a large bottle of 'OB', a Korean beer. It wasn't very impressive (think watered down Bud Light), but I'm glad that we gave it a whirl.

All in all, it was an excellent meal & reasonably priced. The decor is great (old Korean book pages cover the walls), the service was top notch (it was somewhat empty when we arrived but began to fill up while we were leaving) & they played some really good hip hop all night. In short, I recommend Dok Suni.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Holiday Doubleheader

After traveling back to Buffalo, the stage was set for a Christmas Eve/Day cook-a-thon. I would provide the first days dinner and the family would colaborate in the kitchen for day two. Both of the days in question were fueled by day long snacking and white wine. Here are the menus:

-X-mas Eve-

Creamy Potato Soup w/ Bleu Cheese Fritters

Applewood Smoked Porkchops
Tomato Gratin

The soup and fritter combo (mentioned in a previous post) blended that whole creamy and crunchy thing well and was a good start for meal.

A stovetop smoker was used for the pork chops. Handle little kitchen gadget that smoker. Definitely worth a peek. It cooked the thick chops almost all the way then they were tossed in a hot pan to finish off the crust. You could definitely the taste of the smoking wood chips throughout the meat. I bet that would be awesome with bacon.......not that any means of cooking bacon has proved to be less than awesome. Tartare? Why Not??

-X-Mas Day-

Caesar Salad

Yorkshire Pudding with Glazed Brussel Sprouts and Baby Carrots

Mashed Yams

Cajun Rubbed Prime Rib Roast

In true Johnson Family form, meat was a featured member of both main dishes. And damn was it good.

The Christmas Dinner was an absolute gutbuster. The plate crammed with sides and a juicy steak definitely made it tough to stop eating....even after I hit the point of 'full'. The roast was crusty on the outside from the dry rub. Right under that was the thinnest layer of fat that made the meat really moist (taste over health in this case). A tasty drop of red tied the meal together well.

I think there's a tiny bit of space in the middle
where you can fit some more beef.

I didn't leave the house for 2 days, i'd say it was worth it. I'm sure 2007 will yield some further culinary excellence.....i'm hungry.

Happy New Year.
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