Saturday, August 30, 2008

BBQ at Porkey Pete's Place

Ahhhh, memories of last summer. It is now fall, and I am just getting to post this now. Ridicuous, considerint I had some of the best bbq in my life just a couple months ago at Pete's place. One Saturday afternoon, I headed over to Porkey Pete's place for what was told to be a day of good bbq and "awesome appetizers." Being somewhat of a bbq fanatic myself, I wasn't expecting to be overly impressed. Not that I had doubts in Pete (how could I? the man is a trained chef), but I've eaten plenty of good bbq in my time - so I just wasn't expecting to be "blown away."

I guess what I wasn't prepared for was this tremendous feast that ensued. Corn bread baked with smoked bacon chunks, a molasses bbq sauce, great cole slaw, and peach pie (leaf lard, the fat from around the pig's kidney, I am told is the key) all made their way to the table.
I'm not going to say too much here, since this wasn't a TNC night, and I'd feel bad teasing all the boys that didn't make it. But it was one of the most memorable slabs of smoked rib I have ever had. Good one Pete - bravo.

Dan and Porkey. Look how happy they are?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Gold medal meals at Grant's

Poor little Yang Peiyi. Who'd have thought the Chinese would be so concerned about straight teeth in her 7 year-old mouth while she blasted out China's 'Ode to the Motherland', perhaps the country's most patriotic song for the benefit of the World and the Olympic opening ceremony. She did brilliantly. And they didn't think she'd measure up to international standards of cutedom, so they got some other girl, with a nice smile, to lip synch. Can you imagine Yang Peiyi's pain?
"Mummy. Mummy, did I not sing very well?"
"Oh yes, Darling, you did very well, but your teeth look like the rake we use to clean up after Fido."

It seems the famous American quest for multiple golds in the beauty stakes has inspired countless other nations to subscribe to its twisted ideal of beauty: Fake tan, fake tits, chiseled abs, straight white teeth, Procede, ExTenze, Relacor, Vis-Align...Does everybody think that straight teeth in a mouth is more important than the words that come out of it? Am I the only one that doesn't?

A struggling cook who desperately wants to win awards, rosettes, pats on the back and Burgundy stars, whose cooking is confident and faultless, might think about beautifying his plates to wow critics and pull lasagna over the eyes of the 'inspecteurs', but they'll see straight through his cheap attempt to up the stakes. It's as big a giveaway as linear scars under a perfectly formed, evenly tanned breast, or a bestubbled Adam's apple on a Bangkok hooker.

Overgarnishing is a sin. If it's on the plate, it should have purpose: For the mouth, not for the eyes. Grant doesn't overgarnish. His food speaks for itself. That's not to say that it wasn't beautifully presented. It was, and frankly a joy to eat.

A slice of heirloom tomato was baked with a manchego and bacon crust, varnished with a few drops of truffle oil. The acidity of the fruit battled bravely with the sweetness of the cheese and the salty kick of the bacon.
His Pan-Asian inspired shellfish laksa with squid, seared masala-dusted scallops and big bulbous prawns sat atop a jungle curry sauce thickened with coconut cream. This was a dish celebrating the virtues of of sweet caramelisation and gentle pungent heat, and is one of the best dishes I've eaten all year. A breast of duck marinated in orange juice, garlic, balsamic and spring onion was treated to a hot sear in a glowing pan, the skin transformed from brackish blubber into crackling savoury brilliance in nearly seconds, left the meat underneath moist, pink and deliciously gamey. Duck always needs some sweetness to accompany it, and while the beets underneath didn't achieve the required sugary glory, they were roasted well and mined with grains of smashed walnut and freckled with parsley, yielding a playful congregation of textures. A classic succotash containing edamame, bacon, sriracha and corn exalted a beautifully cooked fillet of perch flanked by toothsome squid and again, the Big Man managed to balance heat, sweet and salt with ease and demonstrated that he has a deft hand when it comes to cooking fish. Wine, a long deep breath and some Olympics in wide screen for the guests quickly followed the fish and while the majority jeered Phelps and scoffed at the tumbling floor action of Chinese and American gymnasts, we could hear Grant in the kitchen muttering, opening more wine and making dessert. A slop of Basmati rice pudding ringed by finely poached peaches had ungainly nuggets of European chocolate (of origin unknown) strewn on the top, and we watched the chunks melt silently into creamy white abysses. It was indeed ambrosial and I said so, but nobody in the room got the joke despite the fact that half of us hold British passports.Where does a culinary athlete position himself on the podium when he's taken gold, silver and bronze? Well, I worked it out. He doesn't. He should sit at the bar, graciously accept the bouquets and back slapping and let everybody buy him a well deserved drink.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Brasserie Bofinger - Pied de Porc

I decided that, feeling French, and in the absence of any work to do (I was on holiday) I'd enjoy a drink and a scoff at one of the oldest brasseries in Paris: Bofinger. I was told that they serve one of the best pig's feet dishes in all of France. Pistol Pete that it was not to be missed. Nor the decor, the service, the amazing wine list, and the general ambiance.

Although Bofinger wasn't around during the revolution of 1799 when the Bastille was razed, it sits right next to that monument in the Marais/Faubourg and would have been packed to the rafters for the almighty piss-up that ensued. This fine institution also introduced 'draught beer' to Paris during the phylloxera infestation that destroyed much of France's grape harvest in the late 1800s. Brasserie Bofinger and its environs, it seems, are famous for more than one kind of revolution.

I kicked lunch off with a superbly constructed martini, and took a long lingering look at the wine list. I also had my eye on a dozen Belon oysters before the famous pied de porc. Our waiter, an elderly chap who'd been around during the revolution, wanted to know if I'd eaten pied de porc before. "Oh yes, Matos, we eat all kinds of shit in England you know!" He looked at me as if I'd made an unexpected confession, which of course I had. We both knew though, that I was about to amazed.

I thought the poor bugger's knees might snap as he staggered over with my big pile of glistening burnished meat, with chips of course, and he was visibly relieved to set it down on the table. "Bon appetit!".
Trotters are not easy things to eat. The best bet, I thought, might be to pick it up and eat it like corn on the cob, but with all these fussy French sods loafing around and eyeing the Brit suspiciously, I thought I'd be good and make the first incisions with knife and fork. The first incision punctured the crisp orange mantle of pork skin with a thud and the point of the knife went effortlessly through the whole trotter stopping only when it hit fine old porcelain on the other side. I put my greasy thumbs either side of the first incision and applied a gentle pressure. A rivulet of shiny golden fat and gelatin came oozing out and made a smart puddle on my plate. I spent a few minutes glueing a few of my chips together while I though about the elusive ruby red pearls of meat inside the foot, and how good all that crisp skin will taste when I finally get in on board. There is not a lot of meat on a foot (check your own and you'll see) but what it lacks in protein, it makes up for in gelatinous gloopiness and downright satisfaction. A messy 30 minutes later and my foot had been reduced to a pile of bleached white toe bones, a few bits of hairy skin, and a somewhat plumper, happier Teddy.

Le mystère a résolu

The French have always fascinated their European counterparts. For decades, they have viewed as the most stylish, the best smelling, and the most ferociously committed gourmands on the planet. How can they afford so much time to eat? To cook? But how do they do it? It was on a recent visit to Paris that I worked it all out. The answer lies in the country's insistence on a 35-hour week, no more, no less. While the rest of the World works relentlessly at dead-end jobs they hate to buy shit they don't need, the French put in as few hours as possible so they can loaf about in smart cafes and temples of gastronomy scoffing incredible food with real 'terroir' , drinking champoo, smoking thin cigarettes and discussing the merits of the new Gucci camel-skin driving shoe.

That's it: I'm cutting fucking right back on my hours. That should do the trick.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

I'm Hatin' It!

I performed culinary seppuku last night & ate McDonald's... Don't ask me why, but I was really craving some processed mystery meat. I ordered from the shithole on 1st Avenue between 6th & 7th. It only took a few bites for me to remember why I haven't eaten from them in 3 years. Instead of just going with my usual 'Chicken' McNuggets, I decided to prolong my agony & ordered a Fillet 'o Fish, Big Mac & an Apple Pie as well. The Nuggets I could tolerate, but the Fish sandwich was by far the most disgusting thing I've eaten in a while.

Why the hell is their food so hideous (better yet, why the hell did I attempt to eat this stuff)? I can imagine some fat cat in their corporate office devising more & more ways to poison McDonald's customers while driving stock prices up.

Ronald McDonald you SUCK! Oh no, not you Hamburglar & Grimace, you guys are ok in my books...

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

A Return To The Kitchen

As you may have noticed, there's been a real decline both in posts on the blog & Club Meals recently, but it looks as if we're back on track. The gang got together last night 'round Teddy's house for one hell of a meal.

The festivities started with a Watermelon & Basil martini. Normally not my cup of tea, I was too buy necking the stuff down to take a picture! Sorry :)

While we were all standing around the kitchen, Teddy served up Bacon wrapped Prunes w/Yancey's Horseradish Cheddar & Chili. An excellent amuse gueule with it's mix of sweet, savory & spicy. Trust me, these bad boys had a nice little kick to them & didn't last long!

We moved to the table (& onto the next bottle of wine) for the next course; Brandied Chicken Liver Parfait, Tarragon Butter, Parsley & Roasted Peach Salad. Honestly, I don't know how Teddy does it. I've tried to make this parfait several times & I just can't get anywhere near as good as his... Flavorful & creamy, it was awesome with the light salad.

We had a little time to ponder just how badass the meal was while Teddy was searing the next course; Roast Wild Sea Bass w/Tomatoes & Montpellier Butter. Having seared the bass before putting it into the oven, the skin was a deliciously crispy. I've never had (or heard of) Montpellier Butter, but wow, it went very well with the fish & the sweetness of the tomatoes. Another great course.

Next up was Peppered Beef Filet, Fennel & Lemon Salad, Sweet potato & Blueberry/Balsamic Sauce. The house looked like a smokehouse as Teddy seared this lovely piece of meat. It was served rare as hell, just how us ravenous carnivores like it, atop delicious sweet potato mash. I tried to get a bit of each element in every bite & I was in heaven.

We ended the night with dessert; Classic British Treacle Tart, Lemon Balm Syrup, Clotted Cream. Now, I'm not really into sweets, but the dessert was quite possibly one of the best I've had in quite some time. Believe me when I say that the crust was to die for! We tucked into this while drinking an awesome sparkling wine; Scrapona Moscato D'asti. Lovely!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Kafana (116 Avenue C)

Honestly, I didn't know quite what to expect from a Serbian restaurant, but some friends took me there for a pre-birthday dinner last Thursday & I had such a great time that I took my parents to eat there last night.

Located on Avenue C between 7th & 8th streets, the restaurant is right by my house, which means that I'll probably be going there an awful lot. The decor is simple, yet effective, I particularly love the brick walls covered in old B&W pictures & the vaulted ceiling. The space is small, so when it gets busy, it can get a bit 'cozy' particularly if you're sitting near the bar. Trust me though, it's well worth it.

The menu is, well, 'meat-laden', particularly pork which features heavily. The first time I went there, I had the peasant sausage with beans. They were good, but a bit spicy (my fault for being such a wuss!). I tried the prunes wrapped in bacon with chicken livers that a friend had ordered & those were excellent. I was told by a friend that the mixed grill for 2 which is basically everything from the grill is meant to be a meat-lover's wet dream...

The second time I went, we tried the meat & cheese plates (I really recommend the cheese plate, it comes with this amazing cheese spread). I opted for the quail this time & it came with a delicious side; rice mixed with vegetables & a tomato base. An interesting mixture which I really enjoyed. My Mom got the special fish; a whole grilled Branzini (sometimes referred to as Mediterranean or European Bass) served simply with a lemon sauce on the side. I'm going to guess that it was good as I didn't get a chance to try it. Someone at another table ordered a massive pork chop, which I think will be my next dish when I go there.

Currently they serve wine & beer. The wine list is extensive, with wines from around the globe. We tried a Czech beer that was on the menu (the name eludes me), which was unimpressive. However, they did have a new beer in from Montenegro, which was awesome! For my birthday, the owner, Vladimir, gave us shots of apple brandy that his dad made. I was sure if we were meant to shoot or sip them, but put it this way, after downing it, my throat was on fire for like 15 minutes! Excellent!

If you've never tried Serbian cuisine, or are just plain hungry for some good food. Go to Kafana! They have a website ( which is currently under construction & here's the menu that I pinched from MenuPages (Note; the menu has changed somewhat from this version, but you can get the general idea):

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