Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Return of the Mike...

So it was Big Mike’s return to Thursday Club duty last week after an absence that he officially attributes to a post-wedding weight loss program. Doesn’t he understand that marriage signifies the time in a man’s life to cancel the Crunch subscription and to only ever eat food-stuffs with a higher fat content than Britney’s ass? He must love his wife or something…weirdo.

The Italian influenced, flesh heavy script for the night was…

Serrano Ham and Taleggio Cheese crepes
Roman Style Onion Soup
Oxtail Ragu over Tagliatelle
Braised Pork in “the black” with Gorgonzola Polenta
Chocolate Macadamia and Hazelnut Tart with Dulce de Leche ice cream

The night’s assault on the belly started with a fantastic amuse bouche of the Serrano Ham and Taleggio Cheese crepes served al fresco (standing up with the window open). Light, fluffy, home made savoury crepes filled with nice salty piggy and fatty Italian semi-soft cheese that served the dual purpose of taking the edge off my perennially hungry state and getting the drinking juices flowing (like they need encouragement).

The soup course was an Italian version of the classic French dish, onion soup. Rich brown in colour and laced with juicy plump onions accompanied by a veritable cruise-liner of a bread floater that I felt I was fighting in a battle of who could soak up the liquid faster. For the record, I won…and then ate my opponent. In your face carb chump. Top soup but I think most sane people call that a full meal.

Not Thursday Club members though so on we moved to the pasta course. Mike’s Oxtail Ragu was super-rich (spot the recurring theme here?) and uber-tender with enough sauce to coat the meat without bathing the pasta. Served on a mound of perfectly al-dente tagliatelle, this was another hearty course that had the table blowing and a few plates may have gone back with food on but that was more a reflection on the sheer volume of food rather than the quality which was, as always, top.

Continuing the meat and carb theme (don’t Italians do veg?), next up was the braised pork with the cheesy polenta. Mike was a bit worried about the pork in the run up to service but he needn’t have been as it was everything you want from a braising…fall-off-the-fork tender and juicier than velour track-suit. Polenta isn’t really my bag but the subtle addition of some pungent gorgonzola really made it work for me and I happily snarfed the lot.

Now this stage of the night is always tough as participants are full of rich food and fine vino yet low on energy but, fortified by a few smokes in the sub-zero temperature, we moved onto dessert. My memory of these events may not be the most reliable memoir but I remember a mound of chocoately goodness laced with golf-ball size macadamias accompanied by a blob of Haagen Dazs’ finest (did you know that Haagen Dazs was founded in the Bronx?).

Things get blurrier after this and I remember a bottle of unidentified Czech herbal booze being magically produced from the freezer and subsequently nailed. Magic Mike then produced a platter of fantastically salty Wisconsin blue cheese with slices of apple from behind someone’s ear and he finished his routine by putting his missus into a trance that nearly cost the life of a big-eared rat.
All-in-all a fantastic return to the fold from the Italian stallion. Cheers Mike…just need to convince you to come over to Manhattan for a night out now.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A Thursday, with Friday Style

So, I should have known I was in for an evening of delight when I got the missive "Gentleman, Start Your engines." I was running late, that fateful night (new job), and truth be told, I needed a drink. When I arrived the gang had been merciful: waiting to unleash the tasty bits until my big fat ass pushed through the door. Little did I know that my taste buds were about to be...ahem...serviced. Johnson delivered my medicine in the form of a sparkling red- yes, you read that correctly, a sparkling red, and we were off...

The first course was Pea, Ham, and Garlic Soup. The soup was very flavorful- both creamy in texture and complex in flavor. The 
roasted garlic gave up a much subtler flavor than I would have imagined: delicious. And who can stay mad at smoky hunks of ham? Anyhow, a great first course. 

The second course I was particularly looking forward to: Smoked Eel with celeriac, beet root, and horseradish remoulade. It is easy to overlook how regal beets look for presentation; Jon had pretty impressively (and uniformly) julienned the raw beets by hand, and created a tasty remoulade under the smoked eel. Again, great choice pairing that truly earthy root with the smoky goodness of the eel. All good. By the time we were winding down on the second course, we naturally sped up and completed our first series of wines. It is at this point that I realize how grateful I am that THIS Thursday Club is celebrated on a Friday. 

We uncorked a series of reds for the unveiling of the main course: Slow Roasted Lamb with minted mashed potatoes and Aubergine Caviar. Oh man. It was obvious that Jon took his time with this one--each tender bite just relented its former relationship to its bone, and fell right on to the fork. Just delicious. The minted mash was creative: mint is the perfect companion to lamb, but I don't think I've ever had the two combined.  I think the potatoes were boiled with mint and removed, then fresh leaves were later added, for a deeper mint flavor. The minced aubergine caviar was a good complement, as well- one would normally expect a standard "green" vegetable next to the meat and potato. The caviar was a great, light addition and departure to complete the plate. 

For dessert, Jon served up some Chocolate Pots : ramekins of deep, rich chocolate, served with cream. I was delighted to find that the dessert was not traditionally "sweet", but instead a true chocolate-lovers experience. After the chocolate pots, Jon served up a glorious Stilton cheese, and we cracked open a few bottles of Sauternes. That friggin' cheese was ruthlessly good. 

To polish of the evening Jon opened a special wine, courtesy of his father, and we toasted a fine-ass meal. All in all, a damn good showing. 

Saturday, March 08, 2008

The night that Adam died...

It is with a heavy heart that I announce the passing of Adam Johnson; meat connoisseur, glutton & founding member of TCNYC. Towards the end of Grant's 6 course flesh-a-thon, Adam finally succumbed to a lethal overdose of meat. He will be missed.

Ok, jokes aside, Adam was seriously hurting by the end of course #5 & was flailing around on the floor like a beached whale screaming; "No More! No More!" Great stuff! Now onto the grub;

1. Crispy Olives Stuffed With Sausage
Adam, Teddy & myself arrived on time for a change & we were glad to see that Grant had everything pretty much lined up & ready to go. The olives were stuffed, breaded & waiting for a quick dip in the oil. A porky, olivey scent wafted in the air as we tucked into our first bottle of wine. The taste of the sausage was far more subtle than I had expected, but I particularly liked the 3rd degree burns I got on my tongue when I bit into these tiny little morsels. A perfect amuse bouche to keep us occupied as Daryll arrived & Teddy spun up some Gin & Tonics

2. Moules a la Poulette (Mussels with cream, spinach and shallots)
Steamed in white wine, shucked, served on a roasted half-shell & drizzled with the heavily reduced wine, cream & vegetable mixture, these were a real treat. I forget the name of the mussels that Grant used, but they were MASSIVE! Roasting the shells was a nice touch, but made them somewhat brittle, so we had to slurp & be careful where we bit down. The flavors were delicious & we moved onto the next course unscathed.

3. Roasted Tomato with Gruyère Toast
Course 3 was up next & I was pretty convinced that I would make it all the way to the end without internal damage. The soup was an incredibly thick & intoxicating when the Gruyère toast was dipped into it. Delicious!

4. Chicken Liver Salad
This is the course when I realized that I might not make it out of Grant's Apt. on my own steam. Chicken livers have a texture all their own which might be why I love them so much. Cooked till they were just pink inside & served on top of a salad, I was really enjoying myself. The portions were massive & I was forced to leave a few stray livers in my plate for fear of rupturing some unmentionable & most likely vital organ.

5. Asian Style Braised Short Rib with a side of Braised Cabbage & Smoked Duck Bacon
This was the nail on all of our coffins (Adam in particular). Even though we had a much needed 20 minute break after the last course, I was starting to get a bit dizzy. Grant's mass email with the menu on Wednesday had promised smoked bacon, but when I discovered that the cabbage was fried with a stick of butter & smoked duck bacon, I knew that I had to take one for the team & scarf the lot down! the short ribs were extremely tender (you gotta love braising), sweet & my personal favorite; fatty. Even though I felt that I was dying a little with every bite, I couldn't stop eating!

6. Home Made Éclairs
Bravo to Grant for pulling this one off! They were really sweet, incredibly tasty & the filling was to die for. The best part was Grant's 'Everton Topping' (no doubt to 'celebrate' their loss against Fiorentina).

All in all, a culinary tour de force. Nice one buddy.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Dear Food Network

Please, with immediate effect, take "Cooking with Sandra Lee" off the air.

Whatever possessed you to air such a disgraceful programme anyway? It's not even cooking is it? Just slopping together a few bits from the pantry, opening some packets and tins of stuff, slurrying things up a bit. Where's the love? The passion? I have nearly as much contempt for Lee as I do for the miserable cow who knocks out pap like this.

I checked out Lee's profile on Food Network's web page and I found some very interesting facts. She's the eldest of 5 children. She "offers savvy shortcuts and down-to-earth secrets for creating a beautiful, affordable and most of all, doable life." Fucking hell, who comes up with this drivel? She turned her home into the "American Dream". What? She turned a perfectly good building into cheap burgers and hot dogs and converted the back garden into a Nascar track?

Her biography is called 'Made from Scratch'. It should be called 'Made from Scrap'. After all, that's her idea of food. According to a review on, "Made From Scratch will make you laugh, cry, think, and embrace the grace and glory in every day." I know they mean. I laugh, cry, think, and embrace the grace and glory every time I drink a martini or let rip with a satisfying fart.

Quite possibly, her only endearing trait is that she's a raging wino, just like me, but I am sick and tired of her whining and cheating and seeing her minging blonde mug all over my TV. Why can't you use the silly bitch's slot for something else? Something GOOD? Something interesting?
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