Monday, February 25, 2008

Rolling Out the Red Carpet

I've noticed some furious blogging on the site recently. Especially a number of inspired and unconventional recipes from a certain home kitchen in Park Slope. With some extra time on his hands, Teddy has seemingly chained himself to the stove for days at a time (allowing small breaks for Martini construction and destruction) tweaking age old English recipes and whipping up some of his own......which is perfect for me, being within reasonable walking distance and a man of constant hunger.

Flashback to a recent Sunday night………
"Hello. I just happened to be strolling through your neighborhood with a chilled bottle of wine......oh, sorry dude, am I interrupting some cooking? Sweetbread croquettes huh? I don't want to impose.....sure, I guess I'll give them a spin. *Peering in Fridge* What else do we have in here?".

This special Tuesday edition of the Club came with a few extra surprises. Mona and Melissa (both of EATS magazine fame) joined us for their first Thursday Club and Teddy's better half Serena made it in time to enjoy the majority of the courses (instead of her usual late-night entrance consisting of leftover food, listening to alcohol-fueled babbling, and the periodical checking of J Boogie's vital signs).

This week's menu showcased flavor combinations running the gamut from bold to subtle and threw a few unlikely pairings at us.

* Crispy pork belly, smoked eel, beetroot and horseradish cream

* Chilled avocado soup with crab meat

* Halibut with butter beans, chorizo and smoked bacon, sherry sauce

* Goat cheese, cranberry and walnut tarts

* Poached pears with strawberry coulis and buttered shortbread

The first course couldn't come quick enough. After a few soothing, explicit words from the chef, I calmed, sat down (at knife point) and eagerly awaited the night-long onslaught. The first course was a progressive East meets West surf and turf. Sweet, tender eel and with pork belly that just melted away in your mouth. As strange as all the ingredients sounded, they worked so well together. Harmonious one might say.......yes, harmonious.

I’m slowly realizing how underrated pork belly is. Inexpensive, easy to prepare, and just damn tasty. It’s rocketing up my “Favorite Meat” list (I refuse to accept or deny the existence of said list) nestled amongst duck, lamb, bacons, pulled pork, brisket, pastrami....ok, it's a long cluttered list, but you catch my drift. Try pork belly, you'll like it.

The wines continued to flow, the chatter continued and with little warning or fanfare, the next course materialized in green streak. An island of tender crab meat surrounded by a vast lagoon of velvety avocado soup. The soup acted as a nice, creamy sauce and vibrant punches of cilantro accented each bite of moist crab. It was a nice, delicate setup to what was to be, a complex mammoth main course.

It's a shame to ruin a surprise, but the smell from the not-to-distant kitchen was impossible to ignore. Peeking around the corner into Teddy's work space, you could almost see the amazing smoky aroma hang gliding behind every plate. Each plate looked as good as it smelled, and hit the table with an approving applause. Grinning and salivating like mental patients at a buffet, we took a few shallow breaths, a nod to the Gods.....then everyone tore in. The smoky bacon, rich beans and flaky fish were quite the combination. The reduced sherry sauce was bold, silky and savory - a great compliment to a restaurant quality dish.

If ending on a high note was a standard dinner practice, I'm sure we could have stopped there and exited quietly and content staggering into the night. But clean plates all around meant we were moving on to the next course.

The mini tarts had some of the aspects of a fruit pie with the tart cranberries, but also were very savory because of the sharp, creamy cheese and buttery crust. Small enough to eat with your hands and gobble up. And that's just what we did.

The dessert was very light and a great cap to the meal. The pears were slow cooked to absorb all of sweet and spicy autumnal flavors, but held up surprisingly well and didn’t turn to mush. Although the color of the fluorescent colored coulis looked like the strawberries were picked off of a string of Christmas lights, the flavor tasted right off of the vine. A scoop of amaretto ice cream proved be the last bite of the night, good thing too as I couldn’t fit another. On the other hand, I saved plenty of room in my spare hollow leg for wine.

Never a dull meal at the Hunter lodge, and this one was no different. This is the kind of meal that watching countless hours of cooking shows, reading cookbooks and studying food porn (oh yeah?) will contribute, and ultimately lead to.

Bravo......nice skills T.

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