Archive for December, 2011
Early in 2011 I made my second trip to Daniel in as many years. As in 2010, this year’s dinner was an experience and that experience was total perfection. Exactly what you expect from a restaurant with three Michelin stars.
Of all culinary experiences this year that I’ve failed to document, Daniels also takes the number one spot. The interior is elegant but simultaneously comforting. The visit was an epicurean adventure through a six course tasting menu with the wine pairing where we were guide by a dedicated team that cared to our every need and answered every question. Though, the details of this journey are lost and all that remains is a warm memory of the experience, it remains the highlight not only of 2011 but also a top culinary experiences of my life.
This year I had my first bite of a Filet Oscar over dinner at the Post House which inspired a return lunch trip to the same establishment. If you are a meat eater, the Filet Oscar needs to be on your culinary bucket list. This dish is pure unadulterated decadence: filet minion, crab meat, Bearnaise sauce, and asparagus. I can just feel my arteries clogging with deliciousness.
In 2012 my plan is to make this bad boy myself.
Once you try this vinaigrette recipe you may never spend another dollar on supermarket salad dressings. This is another recipe from America’s Test Kitchen, whose endless testing of seemingly infinite variations of recipes will usually produce a complete gem – this one is no different. The real beauty of this recipe is that the basic structure allows you to vary the outcome to make a wide variety of vinaigrettes to compliment any number of other flavors in the meal you are serving. Because you people are so special to me, I’m going to share the master recipe and the three suggested variations from ATK.
- ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons minced shallot or red onion
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (optional, but not really)
- 1.5 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon, dill, basil, or oregano, or ½ teaspoon dried
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
Shake all of the ingredients together in a jar with a tight fitting lid. This will last up to one week in the fridge, but bring it back to room temp before you re-mix it. Now, the recipe says you can substitute dried herbs, and to be fair I have never tried this, but I don’t think it would be nearly as good without the fresh herbs. Substitute at your own peril.
The last time I made this was on Christmas day when I had the pleasure of cooking for my brother Allen, his wonderful wife Heather, my mother, my aunt Pat and our family friend Annette. I went with white wine vinegar, 2 teaspoons of fresh tarragon, and 2 cloves of garlic and it was fantastic. Don’t shy away from the Dijon mustard either. I don’t like it on almost anything, but I love it in vinaigrettes. There is always a bottle of it in my fridge, and it never gets used unless I’m making one of these recipes. Now the 3 variations:
Subsitute balsamic vinegar for the wine vinegar, and use oregano as the herb of choice. Reduce the amount of garlic to 1/2 clove. Note: Because of my respect for the testing methods of ATK’s recipes, I included that bit about the garlic. Obviously, I disregard all steps which require actually reducing the amount of garlic.
Substitute raspberry vinegar for the wine vinegar. Increase the amount of minced shallots to 1 tablespoon and the fresh tarragon to 2 teaspoons. Omit the Mustard.
Substitute vegetable oil for the extra virgin olive oil and cider vinegar for the wine vinegar. Increase the mustard to two tablspoons. Omit the shallot and herbs, add 2 tablespoons honey and one tablespoon poppy seeds.
It’s rare, very rare, that a restaurant can change my whole understanding about a class of food. Fonda is one of those rare restaurants. Fonda has made me believe that Mexican food can be sophisticated. I’ve always loved Mexican food; both the massive Americanized platters of corn tortillas flooded with sauce, cheese, sour cream, and guacamole and the more authentic corn tortillas or rice and bean dishes. But I’ve never thought of Mexican food as fancy or high end. Both of the usual varieties are satisfying but can hardly be called elegant. Even the nicer Mexican spots seem to put out food that still approximates Don Pablo’s, just with better ambiance and a long tequila list. So my elevation of Fonda deservers a thorough justification.
However, a thorough justification is going to have to wait. I want to return a few more times before making my full report. For now I’ll keep it short. I’ve dined at Fonda a few times and sampled their happy hour menu and, while I did have one major service failure here, the food has always impressed. Good enough that I don’t feel cheated for paying $16 for the enchiladas.
It’s now officially a new year’s resolution to get back to Fonda a few more times and pound out a proper post.
Unlike most of the rest of the 2011 top ten, I didn’t get around to posting on these bad boys. Because I neglected to make a post (my way to remember delicious things) the details of my meals at these fine establishment are lost to my faded memory. But both are amazing sushi spots that deserve a place in the top ten.
When dining on high end sushi, I usually pass-up the rolls for the nigiri or sashimi. It just seems that the great flavor of fresh high quality fish gets lost in whatever else is in the roll. But Kiku Sushi manages to use their high quality ingredients to throw out rolls that offer up amazing flavor and texture combinations. Good enough that I’d advise treading lightly on the usual usual soy sauce wasabi mixture.
Whereas at Kiku I was impressed with the sushi rolls, Blue Ribbon threw down fantastic nigiri and sashimi. (I’m sure they make great rolls as well, I just haven’t had the chance to sample them.) What stands out in my memory is that sea scallop. The thin cuts were artfully served in the scallop shell with a sauce I made from the liver. Both the servers and sushi chefs at the sushi bar were friendly, talkative, and informative. The only draw back of Blue Ribbon is that I can’t afford to be a regular.
My first go at sea food gumbo was back around 2006 as a night of culinary excess with Mike and Fayaz. In 2011, as the hurricane threatened New York, I broke out the BIG pot, grabed several pounds of ingredient, and made up some gumbo for the apartment turned storm shelter. Before the water, I started with over 8 pounds of chicken, sausage okra, seafood, mushrooms, and whatever else I found around the house. After hours of cooking it was ready to be served over rice with a generous amount of hot sauce. Thinking about this mix of savory and seafood has me almost drooling onto my key board.
Fortunately there are a couple servings of the gumbo left in the freezer for the New Year. All I need to do is make up another batch of extra moist cornbread.
Toby’s takes its spot at number 6 because it’s my favorite pizza spot in New York. Great pizza supported by a good staff and a good beer selection. Just thinking about it is making my stomach rumble in anticipation.
Wuzzup y’all! Arthur saying there’s a party all up in here and you need to get with the flow… Oh yeah!!! Ardbeg Supernova’s got the heavy weight power when you got tha eods to rip it up to some fat bootie beast… or just chill with the honies… so get on the rocket and see the stars… Ardbeg Supernova… DAMN!!!
I thought about giving the number eight spot to Sake Bar Hagi. But, while the post describing this amazingly fun dining spot appeared 2011, my actual first trip was in 2010.
I’m shocked myself to see a brunch spot in the top 10, but after mulling it over for a few days I couldn’t pull Perch Cafe out. The brunch fills me with all the joy and comfort I would expect from this early afternoon meal. On several trips since my first visit, I’ve sampled more and more of the menu and have yet to be disappointed (except maybe by the wrap, which is just too healthy for me). But more than the food, the great servers have me developing an irrational attachment. The servers are the prefect blend of surly and friendly–willing to stop and chat (or give me shit for not taking down the last bit of cheesy grits). I always leave satiated and with a brightened day. As long as I’m in Park Slope, Perch Cafe has a solid spot in my brunch rotation.
Perch also offers up a dinner menu that I’m excited to sample in the New Year courtesy of a living social deal.
In celebration of passing the bar, I finally made it to this venerable New York establishment. (Thank you Fayaz for picking up the tab.) In addition to being any red blooded carnivore’s dream, it’s hard to walk through these doors and not feel like you’re trapping into a little piece of history. The ambiance of the bar and the perfectly made Gibsons alone are enough of a reason to try this place.