Friday, June 27, 2008

Southern style in Southern Slope

Like a muggy night in a colonial house in a steamy Louisiana swamp surrounded by the omnipresent threat of hungry, thrashing crocodiles, anointed with occasional wafts of frying peppers, the pungent whiff of hot sauce, and the sweet fresh notes of a freshly cut watermelon, Grizzly toiled over the hot stove, trying desperately to save the corn fritter mixture, while we, the hungry crocodiles, looked on, willing him to perfect the dropping of the mixture into hot oil. Perhaps the climate in the kitchen was responsible for the nonconformity of the mixture - Brooklyn was 90F, and the air almost suffocatingly thick with moisture. Thanks to Pistol Pete, who arrived in the knick and confidently whipped up a mixture of cornflour and milk, Grizzly was able to save the batter and we all felt relieved, knowing that we would eat soon.The first course then, a stunning plate of corn fritters with cooling dip, was delicious. With a crisp jacket and foamy interior, they'd formed golden nuggets of knobbly goodness with a deep roasted corn flavour and satisfying crunch. Paired with the dip, a gooey mixture of sour cream, onion flakes and chives, they were divine. I'm sure I speak for everybody else at the table when I say I could've eaten them all night. Sensible chaps are we though and with much willpower, we were keen to save some digestive juices for the forthcoming dishes.

To refresh us after the first course, we were served a bowl each of watermelon soup, spiked with red onion & sriracha. The green flashes of mint like a Dunlop sneaker and the almost effervescent sweetness of the melon in the soup helped balance the heat nicely. Marvellous second course.
While his cheap knife slashed at the rear end of a lump of pink protein, Grizzly took great joy in chiding Grant about deveining shrimp, a process which removes the bitter shitter from the wee beasty, and a process which Grant had not undertaken at a previous meal. Despite rigorous 'quality control' from Chef Grizzly, my shrimp still had dark, worrying flecks in them. As I looked down to my plate, my shrimp waved their unwashed arses at me. The 'Jambalaya Tower' (not to be confused with Jeremiah Tower), a dollop of creamy rice replete with red pepper and green onion with homemade fennel and paprika sausage, was bloody tasty despite the fecal matter.

Of course, no meal of Grizzly's would be complete without a pork dish of some kind. Tonight's was a spiced tenderloin, with a 'sangria topping' and ‘crisp potatoes.’ Honestly, there was not enough pork to feed a small child, let alone 6 pissed up blokes braying for meat, and I only got the somewhat drier ends of the tenderloin. My dining companions reckoned the bit in the middle, the stuff I missed out on, was marvelous and ‘cooked to perfection’ as one of our friends said once. The ‘crisp’ potatoes instantly turned into a sludge the moment the ‘sangria topping’ of cooked fruit hit the pork, it’s juices trickling down and rendering all the work Grant had done to crisp them up useless.

I didn’t get to find out how many empty bottles Adam had disposed of the night before, so I can’t really say with any conviction how many bottles of Baileys he’d put in the dessert in addition to the Viennoise fingers and a heap of chocolate ganache. Rich, creamy, decadent, delicious, and a great cocktail idea. If one were to take the fingers out, and shake the remainder over ice with three good jiggers of Stoli, that might be the ideal after-dinner drink.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Bowery Kitchen Supplies (460 West 16th St.)

I've spoken before about my long walks along Bowery looking in the stores for random gadgets & other stuff that I'll probably only use once. I've recently discovered another kitchen supply store that I will be going to till the day I die (or they close, whichever comes first). Bowery Kitchen Supplies located in the Chelsea Market. This is a bit out of my normal stomping grounds, but well worth the extra traveling time.

The store has pretty much everything you could ever want & while it is hard to find certain things sometimes, the prices are out of this world. So, if you're in the area, or just need some supplies. Check this place out!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Hungry Guests, Sweating Chef

Upon arrival, we threw the apartment door open to witness Boogie, spinning like a top from counter top to stove top, stirring one pot, adding seasoning to another, setting timers, stopping to swig from a slowly vanishing wine glass. It looked like a scene from a reality cooking show, the kind where a disgruntled chef is hovering over and cursing at the short-handed and flustered contestant. After a few quick greetings and a slew of kind-hearted profanities, we were whisked away to mingle in the living room. Things were clearly behind schedule, and with a conga line of sous chefs sauntering in and out of the kitchen, the heat was on to finish prep and feed the hungry masses.

Everyone seemed to forget about the behind-the-scenes chaos when the first course appeared. The fresh guacamole didn't even make it out of the bowl it was mixed in, and it hardly stood a chance to our quick hands.

With some chilled imported beers and sweet plantain chips to dip, this was an excellent way to shut us up and stop the collective stomach grumbling. Another way? A homemade cocktail of course. Multiple pitchers of Sangria, surprisingly brandy-free (perhaps for our protection?), yet again proved that fruit is always best when soaked in booze.

When the snacking subsided and the lengthy banquet table of guests and Club members found their seats, the courses came out in rapid fire succession.

First up, scallop ceviche. It had all of the traits that good ceviches should have, fresh sweet seafood, a tangy acidic base and a crisp, vegetable crunch.

I wasn't too familiar with Calo Verde, to the point that I had to look it up before hand to see what the hell was being served to us. It ended up a nice, light soup and had a wonderful halo-like orange ring of flavored oil around outer edge from the long-cooked Chorizo and Kielbasa slices. The sausage pieces fell apart and lent an excellent savory spike to the broth.

Much like the marshmallows in a bowl of Lucky Charms, I tried to quarantine all of the sausage to the side until the greens and broth was done to save the stack of meaty goodness until last. Maybe that was just me though.........

The salmon fillets were huge portions, considering they came off of a 14 lbs. beast of a fish, I guess we got off light. It was a beautiful bit of fish though, bright in color and perfectly firm. Boogie simply broiled them all in the oven to a nice medium rare. It barely needed a fork's slight twist to flake off mammoth size bites. Extremely juicy for a cut of meat that never roamed the earth on four legs, which I am usually quite partial to, it was a great combination with the heaps of sweet ripe mango and punchy jalapeño relish.

More avocados (this time with tomatoes and a citrus dressing) made sure that we got our daily intake of vitamins......and fat. Good fat of course.

Although not everyone had room to finish the whole thing, the coconut flan dessert might have been the best of all the dishes. It was a great consistency, not too sweet, until a liquid pool of caramel unearthed on the bottom layer tying the whole individual cup together.

Nice work keeping it together under pressure and feeding the mob. Clearly, we would burned your apartment to the ground otherwise.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

A Walk on the Lighter Side… Sort of!

Sorry for the late entry gents.

Teddy did it again. He blew this foodie away. I will always hold a special place in my heart for Thursdays at Teddy’s as it was at his house that I broke my cherry. After a string of some spectacularly heavy on the saturates Thursdays, Teddy did us all a favor by focusing on the lighter side of the cuisine of the major nation of the Iberian Peninsula. That’s right; we took a trip to Spain last Thursday, and had some unique and really exciting flavors along the way.

As we started to pour in, Teddy initially expressed shock that I would dare bring a French wine to a Spanish Thursday. My explanation that everyone else would bring Spanish wines vindicated me when 3 people showed up carrying the same Spanish wine, no doubt purchased from the same Park Slope liquor store.

Teddy kicked off the gastronomic gala with a lovely Cream of Some-Young-Guy AKA Red Tube Special, AKA White Gazpacho garnished with the surprisingly traditional green grapes. This luscious cold soup tasted like a crusty country loaf of bread dipped in the greenest first pressing of Extra Virgin Olive Oil with garlic and almonds. It definitely reminded me of Horchata - that gloriously refreshing Mexican rice and almond summer drink.

This was followed by a family style (perfect for this ‘family’ of food fanatics) Ensalada de Pulpo or Octopus Salad. I normally do not have much of a taste for the flesh of this 8-legged cephalopod. Teddy’s version will stand as the exception to the rule. It was as tender as silken tofu. (Perhaps not the best analogy for a readership as disdainful of vegetarian health food as ours, but you get the picture). Its delicate flavor was as fresh and beautiful as the cleanest hoo-hah I a have ever had the good fortune to eat. It’s soft and creamy texture was exquisitely contrasted by the crunch of celery and the saltiness and umaminess of olives. It glistened with a light coating of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

The next course was a surprise, as it did not appear on the menu Mr. Hunter sent to us the previous day. It was a shooter of Conch salad laced with fresh mint from Teddy’s front yard. Teddy was upfront about it really being scungili or Whelk from a can, but he really did not have to be so honest. I never would have known the difference. It was absolutely delicious with crunchy hints of pepper and bright flavor of sherry vinegar really shining through.

A Spanish feast would, of course, be French if it were not for the Tapas course. In this case, Teddy put together one of the most balanced plate of bites I have ever enjoyed. It was more substantial than the previous courses, but by no means did it make one feel like a Cadillac Escalade overflowing with Saudi Arabia’s finest black gold. In other words, I did not feel uncomfortably full in the least, and that is a Thursday first! The trio of tapas included Toast topped with Toro tossed gently with walnut oil topped with a generous dusting of terrifically yellow egg snow – hard cooked egg yolk passed through a fine sieve. The 2nd tapas bite was my personal favorite because it was a deep fried Bacalau or Salt Cod Quenelle (or maybe I should say quenellito!) Teddy advised us to dip it into or top it with the Jalapeno sauce. The 3rd part of the plate was Spain’s answer to a Russian egg salad called, can you guess? That’s right, Ensaladilla Rusa. It was topped with a beyond generous spreading of salmon roe! I love the taste of salty ball exploding in my mouth!

The final savory course I expected to bring us back to the richness of old with a name like Pork Belly with chorizo, breadcrumbs, oranges (MIGAS)” I was thrilled to be in the kitchen with Teddy to smell the smells as he sautéed the Chorizo and then fried the pre-cooked porcine belly in the pimenton (AKA Spanish Smoked Paprika) laden oil left from the chorizo sautéing. Grant and I aided Teddy in the supreming of Oranges for this dish, a touch that really complimented the fat and starch harmoniously. I would like to give a nod to Grant, who for someone in his first month of culinary school has impressively advance knife skills. As we all sat around the table as Teddy served this final savory course we found it to be a glistening mountain of flavored pork fat and bread crumbs. When Teddy told us we might just be better served by eating with our hands as opposed to a fork, the animal in me came out. It was finger-lickin’ good, a recipe I will surely replicate at home and deconstruct for my business. Perhaps I will call it Panzanella Salad Alla Teddy.

This left us with only the dessert course, an almond tart, known as a Torta Santiago. This is reminiscent of my Grandma Yetta’s bitter almond cake. The flavor brought me back to my childhood, and that my friends, is the goal of every cook, and an accomplishment of which to be truly proud. Good food brings back fond memories, and Teddy outdid himself.

As a vodka enthusiast, ok fanatic, I did not get full experience of tasting the digestives that Teddy brought to the table, but judging from everyone else’s reactions to both, the Sherry (you fucking Brits love the Sherry) and that other oddly banana/vanilla flavored syrupy liquor, they were a smash hit – fit to close out a truly wonderful culinary odyssey!

Bravo Teddy!

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