Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Confession Wednesday- (un)Solicited Advice

I feel a serious compulsion to share my finds and favorites for food. I am noticing this to be almost out-of-body experience every time the opportunity to talk about it arises. If you tell me you are going to Portland, I will tell you not to miss Le Pigeon and coffee at Stumptown in the Ace Hotel. If you tell me you are going to San Francisco, I will immediately spew out Tartine and A16 (they rhyme too!). If it's D.C. (hello José Andrés paradise!), I will plead that you try Jaleo and urge you to bite the bullet (or bill) and try out MiniBar. Likely, the list will be actually longer in each place. I cannot help it.

And God forbid you are visiting Denver or not even visiting but hint at needing any sort of dining/food-related advice here. I will explain all of my likes and dislikes, share the basis of my knowledge, inquire into your preferences, lifestyle, and food quirks to recommend what I think will be a perfect dinner for you in Denver, a market you will love, a food specialty store that will change your life, a brunch or dessert that will blow your mind.

In the last two days, I shared my favorite spots in L.A. with my best friend who is currently there, my all time faves in San Francisco with my former boss, and I sent a couple from London, complete strangers, to Boulder's Cafe Aion and Frasca after merely sharing a table over a bite to eat at the Denver Civic Center open air market. Granted, all of these were solicited, well, maybe except for the couple from London. All they did was be friendly and seemingly interested in my obsession with food.

Now, I have received my fair share of less-than-solicited advice having been through law school, a pregnancy, and having a two year old. I realize that my compulsion might be at times annoying. So, I try to tone it down and contain my excitement with your travels and potential food adventures. Sometimes, my efforts fail.

I say now it's your turn! I am about to embark on a summer of amazing travels - starting this weekend with New York City and Brooklyn, continuing in August with Seattle and Vancouver, and ending with Chicago in September (I know, my definition of summer is loose). These are all amazing food cities. Amazing. And this is not my first visit to any of them. My only issue is too many places, too little time. I can tell you this- I am set on sampling Prune in New York, Delancey's in Seattle, Vij's in Vancouver, and Alinea in Chicago. Of course I have a whole list of others that I have been dying to try, that friends or favorite foodies have recommended - I go to some lengths with food research- but I want to hear from you- what is one place I should absolutely not miss ... and maybe tell me why.

In my quest to prepare for some of the trips coming my way, I tried out a recipe from Lumière, a (formerly Rob Feenie, now) Daniel Boulud restaurant in Vancouver, that I have not never experienced (yet!). I’ve had this beautiful cookbook for several years and I am sad to report that this is really the first recipe coming out of it. The recipes are beautiful but intricate and more appropriate for a dinner party where you want to impress your guests than for a week (or weekend) dinner at home with Mr. Pasta-maker -- not that I don’t like to impress him.

This recipe is mostly easy, particularly if you happen to have a cup of veal reduction or reduced mushroom stock. I did, and it did make a beautiful tasty difference.

Duo des Pommes de Terre [or ...Potatoes Two Ways], a Lumière-inspired recipe

Glazed New Potatoes

Ingredients: 12 oz assorted small new potatoes, skins on; 1 1/2 cups vegetable (or chicken) stock; 4 tablespoons unsalted butter; 1 clove garlic; 1 sprig thyme; 12 green onions, white and light green parts only, blanched; 3/4 cup veal reduction (or reduced mushroom stock); salt to taste.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Blanch the green onions in hot water for about a minute. Drain and set aside.

Place the potatoes (skins on), stock, 2 tablespoons of butter, garlic, and thyme in a casserole. Season with salt. Cover it and place in the oven, baking it until tender- probably 30-45 minutes. Check with a fork for doneness and return to the oven if needed.

Remove the potatoes from the casserole and set aside, keeping them warm. Place the liquid into a non-stick pan over medium-high heat and reduce until syrupy. Add the potatoes to the pan and shake often until the potatoes are well coated with the glaze. Add the green onions and heat for another minute to warm and glaze.

Bring the veal reduction to a boil and reduce it by half. Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter.

Potatoes Purée

Ingredients: 1 1/4 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, skins on; 1/2 cup heavy cream and 1/2 cup milk, lukewarm; 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed; 3 tablespoons Mascarpone cheese; salt to taste.

Place the potatoes (skins on) in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer until tender, 20-25 minutes. Try it with a fork for tenderness.

Drain the water, allow to slightly cool (to avoid really scorching your fingers) and peel. Process it incorporating the butter and as well as the milk and cream through a ricer or food mill over a slightly heated pot- very low heat. This creates a smooth, silky, and consistent texture. Season with salt to taste.

Cover it and keep it warm without burning the bottom of the pot. Before serving, thin the mascarpone with a tablespoon (or more if needed) of milk, and fold into the mixture.

To assemble: place a spoon of the whipped potatoes on the plate and part of the glazed potatoes on the side. Drizzle some of the veal reduction around all of the potatoes. Serve by itself or as I did, with this lamb chop!

Make the potatoes ...and share your favorite places, especially in New York- my trip is just around the corner.

Photography by Jennifer Olson.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Confession Wednesday- Aspen Blues

I am going though a bit of Food and Wine Classic withdrawal. The high of being there was, well, very high and, like all good things, it ended and left me hungry for more. Flashbacks to moments of intensity come to mind ranging from returning from a fantastic trip to Paris to taking the bar exam -- and the low that followed them is exactly what I feel now. Thrilling or nerve-wrecking, adrenaline brings you to a state of elation that is hard to mimic, much less to maintain.

The weekend was extraordinary, inspiring, stimulating, and in many ways full of contradictions. It put me on sensory overload and whirled my mind and body much faster than its normal pace. It made me crave more- more cooking, more writing, more sipping, tasting, and learning, and certainly more traveling.

And while I nurture my melancholy -- or better yet find a way to fulfill my craving, just to play on my last 3 x post , here are 30 Food and Wine Classic moments, quotes, and characters of a high-adrenaline, blues-inducing weekend.

Look for ten best cooking tips and ten recipes from the Classic coming soon! There is no order to my madness in lists here, just listing as thoughts came to mind.

Ten Most Entertaining Chef Quotes

1. Jose Andres: Garlic loves to dance. Garlic is the biggest dancer in the history of all vegetables [on putting cloves of garlic in the mortar to make a paste].

2. Mario Batali: I hate chervil but I love parsley, so I am jumping right into the parsley boat.

3. Morimoto: I wasn’t exactly born like this [pointing out his body size] but I was 4.2 kilos [9lbs 4 oz] at birth- sorry mom!

3. Jacques Pepin [on cutting onions]: The sharper the knife, the less you cry (also the title of a book favorite of mine!) unless you cut your finger of course.

4. Tom Colicchio [on making lamb sausages]: This is not actually lamb, the ground lamb got messed up; it is ground pork. We’re gonna pretend it’s lamb.

5. Morimoto- Mario [Batali- teaching a seminar next door] is speaking too much! [our class on the other hand, Morimoto and 2 sous chefs was a tad on the silent if not boring side, but was Morimoto so one couldn't complain- his creation below]

6. Jacques Pepin: Colorado lamb is the best vegetable I’ve ever had- cooked by Michael Voltaggio at the Quick Fire classic on Sunday morning.

7. Thomas Keller: we have all tasted bland food. Who hasn’t tasted bland food? Why is it bland? No seasoning! And what seasoning we are looking for? Salt!

8. Mario Batali: Liguria has to its East the F country. (referring to France, of course).

9. Sissy Biggers to Michael Votaggio: I heard you are on a no-fly list because you travel with liquid nitrogen. [on Voltaggio’s affinity for molecular gastronomy]- he proceeded to make a frozen sangria with liquid nitrogen as a brunch cocktail during the Quick Fire Challenge, which is impressive because the texture was creamy thick and remember sangria has a high alcohol content which could get to an almost frozen granite consistency, not a creamy frozen one.

10. Jose Andres: America is the land of opportunity even for pronunciation- you get to pronounce things the way you want- on butchering up ‘surround sound’ beyond recognition over the accent.

My personal 10 most interesting, mind-boggling, and entertaining moments

1. Witnessing this lady, two rows up from us, right before the much anticipated Quick Fire competition between Top Chef Masters Champion Rick Bayless and Top Chef Season Six (Las Vegas) Champion Michael Voltaggio, wolf down some serious Micky Ds.

2. Posing for this shot with Thomas Keller, Friday morning after his seminar- very Iron Chef-esk for a guy who is certainly not a poser or a TV chef!

3. Being called ‘sweetie’ by a snarky rent-a-cop young security guy while keeping me from going to the public bathroom because Giada DeLaurentis was there. Twice- he called me sweetie twice just to get a piece of Mr. Pasta-maker’s mind the second time around. [let me explain, we are not sensitive people, but this guy was a real tool]

4. Asking Mario Batali, during his presentation on Ligurian cooking, how he feels about new modern twists on traditional Genovese pesto [I blurted out ramps, cilantro, asparagus, rosemary, and mint- no, not all at once]. He was visibly shaken, if just for the show of it, by such blasphemous thoughts.

5. Listening to Morimoto sing at the end of his Japanese knife skills seminar. That was a highlight-and being able to record part of it (camera battery died) - youtube upload here!

6. Discovering that there is a foodie theme-park, a sort of culinary Disney World- the Blackberry Farm in Tennessee- their Lexus-sponsored stand at the Grand Tastings was incredible.

7. Watching the three young and funny daughters of Jose Andres - Ines, Carlotta, and Lucia - ‘help’ him cook during his Secrets of Salt presentation.

8. Having brunch (and dinner) at Montagna at the Little Nell. Outstanding food, with or without the Food and Wine Classic- lemon ricotta pancakes with a fresh raspberry syrup were memorable. [Montagna always being there gives me some comfort!]

9. Being asked who Thomas Keller is while waiting for Tom Colicchio’s seminar by a lady who could list the entire cast of Top Chef for the past 6 seasons. The TV is an amazing thing.

10. Drinking this margarita, topped with soy-lecithin made salt foam, made by Jose Andres himself during his seminar. I was lucky!

Ten Characters we met at Aspen Food and Wine (no stereotyping here- simply reporting the facts)

1. An irritated lady who lives part-time in Aspen and part time in Florida with a blinding rock on her left ring finger, who scolded us with a ‘pffff, first timers!’ because we didn’t have sun block on our arms while waiting to get into the first Grand Tasting.

2. The older unassuming gentleman who sat next to us in Jacques Pepin’s seminar who came to the Classic as a guest of Bombardier because he just bought a jet airplane from them.

3. The vastly overweight doctor foodie man who bid and won 30 minutes of assisting Rick Bayless in the Quick Fire Challenge for a mere $10,000- to be donated to good cause- Cook for the Cure by KitchenAid. The same man paid 15,000 last year at the same event to sit at the judges table.

4. The hedge fund Turkish guy who lives in Cincinatti and came alone to ‘unwind’ during this event.

5. The three daughter and a mom from Chicago who don’t have a clue what Alinea is, nor Blackbird, Avec or Frontera. [I'm not even saying these places are good- they simply have not heard of them. My only assumption is that their entire 'dining out' budget for the year or for the past few years was spent on this event.]

6. The wine distributor lady from Wisconsin who very rarely takes a day or two off drinking, dates a car racer guy, and instantly sends off any picture she takes with a chef to her friends.

7. The California real estate middle-aged lady (read- flawless hair, fake tan, breast implants, blinding white teeth) who is Italian, extremely easy to talk to, and is 'best friends' with Marcus Samuelson (who, btw, led South Africa's booth at the Grand Tasting pavilion).

8. The New York stock broker guy, husband of a Patron representative, who skipped all of the day seminars to golf and promised to be partying till 4 in the morning.

9. A Minessota couple who stopped in Black Hawk o

n their way to Aspen and won $380 and felt the need to leave the Classic early to hit the casinos on the way back too.

10. One of the very few Colorado residents we met, a woman who lives in Lafayette (very close to Boulder) who goes to the Boulder Farmers Market to eat the potstickers not to get the produce, and who thinks that Frasca’s food is simply not all that. She said that right as she finished recommending the potstickers.

That is the dish from the Food and Wine Classic...for now. Any favorites? More coming soon!