Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Song 7.2 (117 2nd Avenue @ 7th St.)

Every time I pass this place, it seems to be closed, so I was glad that it was open a few days ago. My buddy Dan & I sat at a booth & flicked through the menu. The decor is very 'Student Union'; it looks like the type of place college or highschool kids would go to meet up after school & gossip of whatever. There are photos of customers everywhere, graffiti on the tables & atrocious Korean pop music blaring.

The place was pretty empty & the staff were all sitting around a huge pot stuffing their faces while we looked at the menu. Honestly, I expected a lot more. The menu is mainly comprised of 'tapas-style' small dishes & large pots to be shared, none of which looked very appetizing. I decided on the fried meat dumplings & a small plate of eel. Dan got a seaweed salad & spicy mackerel.

Looking absolutely nothing like the items on the menu, our dishes arrived. My eel had some sort of funky, tracing-paper looking oddity on top of it & Dan's mackerel, well, um. I'll admit that the eel tasted very good, minus the 'paper', but I really didn't care for the dumplings. Dan was still really hungover from the night before, so after poking around a bit, he decided to take the food home.

The place is generally pretty busy at night, so maybe we were just expecting something different. The meal ended up being insanely expensive considering the portion sizes. I'm guessing that the thing to do would be to eat there in a large group & get those massive hot pots. I can check song 7.2 off of my list, but I won't be going back there.

Chocolate Bar (127 E. 7th St.)

[Updated; now closed!]
Hidden among the boutiques & boarded up stores on 7th street between Ave. A & 1st Ave. is Chocolate Bar, essentially a candy store for grown-ups. I was walking down the street yesterday in the freezing cold & decided to stop in for a much needed hot chocolate.

As soon as you enter the small store, the delicious smell of chocolate hits you right in the face; Yum! I ordered my hot chocolate & looked at some of their wares.

Candies in awesome Anime-style & graffiti wrappers, cakes & other morsels of goodness. There's a small seating area in the front, but I got my drink to go. As someone who grew up on Nesquik & Swiss Miss, I can honestly say that this is the best hot chocolate I've ever had (I'll admit that I haven't been to Max Brenner's yet, but that place has a totally Starbucks vibe). It was incredibly rich & the texture was amazing. You could immediately tell that this was made with real chocolate & not granulated, freeze dried crap. I didn't have much time to check out the rest of the menu, but bet your ass I'll be going back there again.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Naural Harvest!?!

While trolling the 'internets' aimlessly (which is what I do all damn day anyway), I came across this true gem; Natural Harvest: A collection of semen-based recipes. Yes fellow readers, a jizz-cookbook. I was disgusted yet slightly intrigued, so I read on, making sure I had a bucket nearby.

"Semen is not only nutritious, but it also has a wonderful texture and amazing cooking properties. Like fine wine and cheeses, the taste of semen is complex and dynamic. Semen is inexpensive to produce and is commonly available in many, if not most, homes and restaurants. Despite all of these positive qualities, semen remains neglected as a food. This book hopes to change that. Once you overcome any initial hesitation, you will be surprised to learn how wonderful semen is in the kitchen. Semen is an exciting ingredient that can give every dish you make an interesting twist. If you are a passionate cook and are not afraid to experiment with new ingredients - you will love this cook book!"

So, for 25 bucks, you can own this 61 page cookbook, but if you ever see this on the bookshelf of someone's house you're eating at, I'd run for the hills. Then again, if you've got nothing in the fridge, this book could put a whole new spin on 'eating locally'.

I'm pretty sure Andrew Zimmern has one of these in his house & maybe a paperback for the car. If you saw last week's Bizzare Foods, he took his dad out to dinner in Maine for some chowder laced with the 'culinary money-shot'; fish splooge! Huzzah!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Ishikura Sushi (67 1st Avenue @ 4th St.)

Bracing the cold last night & refusing to wait on line at Takhachi, my brother & I walked a few extra blocks to Ishikura Sushi (formerly Kura Sushi) as a friend had recommended the place. Luckily the place wasn't very busy & we were seated at a spacious booth right away. With hands warming on delicious green tea, we took a look at the menu.

Honestly, everything looked good, but I don't know why the menu is so extensive. There seemed to be a lot of dishes duplicated in different sections, which made ordering somewhat difficult. Stefan opted for the Blue Crab Miso, while I just got a regular Miso soup to start. Stefan was thoroughly unimpressed with his soup, which he said had way too much vegetables in it.

The sushi that we got was extremely fresh & beautifully prepared. The salmon & tuna were both amazing. The service was good (our tea & water glasses were never empty for more than a minute or so) & I liked the decor. Ishikura is definetely a place that I'll be checking out again.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Monday Mayhem!

Last Monday was a day of firsts for me; the 1st time I cooked on a Thursday Club scale for a non-club meal, the 1st time I made Osso Bucco & the 1st time I cooked for my parents. Trust me, that last 1st was a major hurdle that I've finally overcome, but based on how the meal turned out, I think that Momma & Poppa Boogie feel that it was well worth the wait.

1) Spinach Soup

The first course was prepared by my brother, Sous Chef Stef. It was particularly good with an excellent texture, topped with a bit of cream & chives. We wolfed it down with lots & lots of deliciously warm, butter-drowned bread. A great start to the night.

2) Bone Marrow w/Parsley Salad

My feeble attempt to duplicate Fergus Henderson's signature St. John's dish. I think that the marrow itself came out very well, it's pretty hard to screw them up, mind you. Just a bit of salt & pepper & some olive oil. Brilliant! Unfortunately, I screwed up & bought the wrong type of parsley for the salad, I really didn't like the texture. I'll have to try this again.

3) Tomato, Avocado & Mozzarella Salad

A simple dish to clear the palate before the main, I think this came out very well. I added a little basil to the plate & topped it with olive oil & some excellent Balsamic vinegar that I found lurking in my pantry. Simple yet effective.

4) Osso Bucco w/Rice

This was my first attempt at Osso Bucco, so I wanted to make damn sure that I didn't screw it up. I'm pretty sure that I braised it for way too long, so that the meat literally fell off of the bone. It made presentation somewhat difficult, but the flavors were great. I really enjoyed this dish, particularly scoffing down the leftovers 2 days later!

5) Saath Padar Pastry

I found this wacky dessert recipe from the Ny Times dining section & decided to try it out. What a mistake... I think that this is the only truly unedible dish I've ever served since I joined the Thursday Club. I'm not much of a dessert guy, but this dish bordered on the ridiculous. It's basically puff pastry stuffed with coconut, pistachios, almonds, sugar & cardamon. It ended up tasting like cardboard & was as hard as Wolverine's adamantium skeleton (comic book nerds rise up!). Thoroughly dissappointing.

A good meal all in all. My parents finally got to see what Thursday Club is all about & hopefully we'll be able to get Andre-Pascal to cook for us one of these days.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Cherry Poppin' Danny

The time had finally come for Dan's first meal. With his hectic work schedule, he picked Saturday to play host at Pete's apartment. With Pete, Boogie and myself in attendance (and Pete and Dan's respective ladies rolling in later on in the evening), this is what the menu looked like.

Freshly-baked focaccia with chicken liver pate

Crispy chicken, romaine lettuce and gorgonzola in a caesar dressing

Fresh Linguine with homemade meatballs

Braised rabbit with red and green peppers and puree of potato with truffle

Frozen lemon mousse with English cream sauce

This was a bit altered from the original emailed menu, but as history shows, your first meal rarely goes as planned. It started with a slight delay of our arrival, 8:00 instead of 7:00. No problem, he just needed a bit more time to finish things up. When we strolled in, onions were in the pan, bread was in the oven and Dan was hovered over multiple cookbooks plotting and planning his next move. Things got off to a rocky start when the focaccia failed to rise and turned out a bit on the crispy side. The extra cooking time waiting for the little bastards to rise had turned them into a WWF-style prop......the kind that Hulk Hogan would hit a masked opponent over the head with. Needless to say, after trying to crunch through a few bites, they ended up next to vegetable peelings and egg shells in the trash (with a resounding thud). Good thing a back-up loaf of crusty bread was there to scoop up the warm, rustic chicken livers that were mixed with butter, aromatics and a touch of red wine.

In true Thursday Club style, Dan's salad course had meat in it. The chicken was marinated in a lemon herb mixture which drew comparisons to a Chinese lemon chicken (combo meal L5 anyone?). That comparison ended when I got hold of a forkful of rich melted gorgonzola, crisp lettuce and a punchy caesar dressing. As light as our salads get around here I guess.

Up next was the soup that wasn't. Seeing Dan meticulously peeling a monstrous butternut squash could only mean one thing, squash soup right? Well.....apparently he made a wrong turn in Albuquerque and ended up with a soup less fit for a king and more fit for the sink. Again we had a chuckle, but immediately Dan shouted from the kitchen, "I swear I will make something edible tonight", and another course was in the works.

The pasta course that followed was one of my favorite moments of the meal. Fresh linguine with a bare-bones red sauce (Sunday gravy to some Italian Americans), racquetball-sized meatballs and a bright handful of basil leaves. Straight forward, but an awesome course.

The meatballs were especially good. A great crust on the outside, and moist and flavorful on the inside. Not the easiest move to pull off. Also, toasted pine nuts in the meatballs......can't wait to try that little trick.

Definitely starting to get full by this point, but Dan kept on plugging away in the kitchen while we slowly shoveled more and more into our mouths. The rabbit course was again a simple preparation. Baked bunny bits with sweet green and red peppers and mash. But this was no ordinary mash, it had an aggressive dousing of truffle oil to go along with the commonplace butter and cream. Some at the table thought it might have been a bit too much truffle, but in my mind you can't really have too much of that taste.

Now fully redeemed from the nights' previous gaffs, Dan stepped on the gas and blew us all away with his dessert. A quick peer in the freezer to make sure that the semi-freddo didn't turn completely-freddo and we were in business. It was a top dish that even a full stomach couldn't stop me from finshing. The English cream sauce was so frothy and rich, it played perfectly with the tart lemon base. It almost had a sweet hollandaise feel to it.

Contently stuffed we pushed away from the table and Dan's maiden meal was in the books. Despite all the kind-hearted ribbing, everything turned out just fine in the end. But, I'll have to wait until next time he cooks for that soup I guess.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Game On!

So the gang regrouped in Park Slope a few days ago for Houman's second foray into this gluttonous little club of ours. I missed his first, gut-busting, meat-inspired meal, so I was eager to see what our boy could do. I'll admit, that when I got the menu via email last Sunday that I began to salivate; Pavlov's dog style. Continue reading & you'll see why. With enough beer & bottles of wine to sink a ship, we eagerly sat down and waited for the onslaught.

1) Asheh-Anar w/deer meatballs.

Translation in Farsi is literally "Soup of Pomegranate", but I think it should have been 'Fucking Awesome'. The flavors were sweet & sour with a subtle dill taste. The meatballs were incredibly lean (this is my first time eating deer) & were a perfect match. This is exactly the type of soup you'd like to come home to after a walk in the cold. Thank goodness for the end of summer!

2) Walnut wrapped in date and smoked bacon.

Now, who doesn't love pork? The double smoked bacon has crispy, slightly burnt edges & provided the 'savory' to the dates 'sweet'. The walnut added a satisfying crunch to the trio. We didn't bother with utensils; this is finger food at it's best!

3)Duck leg on a bed of brussel sprouts w/mustard & garlic confit.

Every time that I make a similar dish, I cheat & buy my duck already confit'ed' (is that a word?). The fact that Houman went through the effort of doing this in house speaks volumes. Meat literally fell off of the bone with super-crispy skin & a delicious outer layer of fat. I'll admit that I am NOT a fan of brussel sprouts, but these were amazing!

4) Braised Oregon Elk w/haricots verte with garlic, anchovy, shallot sauce.

I was really looking forward to the main course & it didn't disappoint. Firstly, the portions were massive. I'm not sure how big this beast was, but put it this way, there was a whole lot of meat on the plate. Braised in veal stock with bacon & veggies, the sauce was amazing. I found the meat to be a little on the tough side, but hey, I'm a pansy. I particularly liked the vegetables; the beans & capers were a marriage made in heaven.

5) Baklava.

An instant classic. Houman made his Persian style, with ground lemon-salted pistachios, walnuts and almonds. They were sweet, crunchy, crispy & delicious. Served warm with a tooth-decayingly amazing honey. Yum!

We left the meal full, drunk & happy. Nice work dude... Game On!
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