Archive for March, 2009

Eating My Way Through the Southeast

March 10, 2009

Took a whirlwind market trip through Atlanta, Orlando, and Miami last week and had a chance to sample a lot of great food and drink with my partners in crime.

First stop: Atlanta and the Mansion on Peachtree, an amazing hotel in Buckhead. Dinner with M. and M. at NEO in the hotel: pancetta-wrapped rabbit loin with fig port sauce (!!); mediterranean oysters with tomatoes and capers; veal, sage, and artichoke raviolini; porcini risotto; and shortrib brasato with fontina gnocchi. Somehow we managed to fit in a few bites of lemon ricotta cheesecake, flourless chocolate torte, and “Chocolate soup” as well before stumbling off to our opulent rooms upstairs at the Mansion. I kid you not, the bathroom was roughly the size of my first apartment back in Boston.

Day Two: Atlanta. Lunch with the team at McKendrick’s.  I had a good idea of how many steakhouses we might be hitting during the week so opted for a wedge salad and lobster bisque, but had to also share the table’s appetizers including crab cakes and . . .wait for it . . . tempura lobster tails. Amazing!

Dinner – Two Urban Licks, a funky New American place in an old warehouse with a retractable roof on which the rain and hail drummed like the sky was about to fall in (my first tornado warning!) Special menu of poached salmon with clementine dressing; carolina quail with braised pork belly and creamed collard greens; lamb chops with a beet and goat cheese hash; and for dessert a “kick ass cheese plate” featuring my favorite Humboldt Fog. Beets + goat cheese = a good thing, in my book.

Day Three: Up before dawn for the flight to Orlando. Met L. for some work and then to lunch at the Capitol Grille (outstanding mashed potatoes), more work, and then dinner at Luma in Winter Park with the gang.  We ate in the bar which had a great, casual atmosphere befitting the balmy (to this Northwesterner) Florida evening. Ginger-lemongrass fried calamari and shrimp; margarita and heirloom tomato pesto pizzas with perfect thin crusts; duck breast with black rice and kumquat marmalade; seafood risotto. All delicious but were overshadowed by the star of the evening: truffled popcorn with shaved parmesan, free at the bar.

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popcorn, truffle oil, cheese. . . so simple, yet so perfect. It was gone in about a minute.

Day Four: Up before dawn again after a late night for the flight down to Miami, luckily we are staying in the Airport Hyatt which is literally in the terminal and so can roll downstairs and right to the gate. Land in Miami and share a car with M, M, and JM to South Beach. Breakfast at a Cuban deli two blocks from the ocean: cafe au lait and scrambled eggs.

Afternoon chef event at Smith and Wollensky’s on the water – a perfect sunny South Florida day. JO and I retired to the deck to watch the celebrity chef festivities and share apps including this beautiful crab and asparagus salad:

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Then it was off to the Fountainbleu Hotel for another event and more amazing food and wine, including this delectable grass-fed beef meatloaf from chef Michel Nischan at The Dressing Room in Westport, CT (which was amazing with a fantastic Washington State Merlot) and an awe-inspiring dessert buffet put together by the team at the Fountainbleu:

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Day Five: breakfast with Stephanie and Lauren at the News Cafe, a sidewalk  joint right across from the beach where, apparently, Gianni Versace used to hang out when he lived down the block. I was underwhelmed by my bacon and eggs, although the potatoes were crispy and tasty, and the people watching was first rate.

After breakfast, up to the Convention Center to work for a few hours, then a grand finale dinner with the entire team at Quattro on the Lincoln Road pedestrian mall. There was much merriment in our group of 22 as we sat outside in the warm air under the stars and enjoyed Italian fare including cured meats and cheeses, braised beef agnoleti, lasagna, tiramisu, and crepes. We couldn’t have asked for a nicer evening to end our Southern journey: good company, great wines, and wonderful food.

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My braised beef agnoleti in beef stew sauce. Mmm. Beefy.

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M’s nutella crepes.

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Mardi Gras

March 3, 2009

I realize that, to those reading this blog, I mention the Liangs so much it may seem as though they are my only friends. I swear this is not true, although if I had to choose only three friends to have I could hardly get better than Ku, Adrian, and Mia, particularly given our shared enthusiasm for all things edible. Anyway, after our delicious goat dinner on Saturday, I thought I’d never eat again, but had to rally for Sunday afternoon’s festivities at House of Liang: Mardi Gras.

This year,  perhaps in anticipation of our trip to New Orleans next week to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, Ku really outdid himself with roasted garlic dip, crab bisque, jambalaya, and gumbo.  Leya made a pear-feta-sage tart, Don made delectable pralines, and I tried my hand at the bread pudding from the Gumbo Shop cookbook. It turned out great – I took the liberty of soaking the raisins in bourbon overnight which added just the right touch of boozy richness to the not-austere pudding.  Hey, it’s Mardi Gras!

I also brought some beads from my collection so that everyone could get into the spirit of laissez le bon temps rouler-ing. Which they certainly did.

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Crab bisque, filled with huge chunks of delicious crab.

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Don’s delectable pralines, moments before Leya and I ate them all.

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Miss New Orleans.

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Gumbo Shop Bread Pudding

From the Gumbo Shop Cook Book

Ingredients:

1/4 cup butter

3 cups milk

1 large loaf day-old French bread, cut into cubes

1/2 cup raisins (I soaked mine in Knob Creek bourbon overnight)

Pinch of salt

1/2 cup sugar (I used Sugar in the Raw for added texture)

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. vanilla

3 large eggs, beaten

Method:

1. Combine milk and butter in a saucepan and heat until butter is melted.

2. In a large mixing bowl combine the bread and raisins, then add the milk mixture, mix it all up, and let it stand for a few minutes until the bread absorbs the liquid.

3. Mix the sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add teh vanilla to the beaten eggs, then mix in the sugar and spices. Pour all of this over the bread and milk mixture and mix well.

4. Pour the pudding into a reased baking pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes or until browned.

5. Serve warm with whipped cream (I put a bit of bourbon in mine for good measure) or hard sauce.

Eating Goat with the Liangs

March 1, 2009

Headed over to the House of Liang last night with C. for a delicious dinner of Ku’s goat curry, roasted vegetables, and rice. 

I had just received a package of homemade bacon from Merf in Walla Walla and was eager to try some with my bacon-loving friends, so for an appetizer I cribbed from Dave G’s recipe and made gorgonzola-stuffed dates topped with a pecan and wrapped in slices of the bacon. Baked for about 15 minutes at 400 degrees and they were crispy, sweet, salty goodness.

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Famous Liang Goat Curry: U-District Farmer’s Market goat meat, potatoes, Singaporean curry sauce: out of this world.

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Roasted Jerusalem artichokes, carrots, and crispy kale.

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Mia ate a couple of bacon dates and promptly passed out, missing the goat. More for us!