New York, NY
Well, the year of the Dragon did not waste any time fulfilling its promises of change. A lot of old things in my life finally broke, ended, or just plain died this year. It started promptly on January 1st with my ex (a dragon himself) moving out, marking the death of a relationship that had been broken for a long time. The next thing I lost was any sense of routine. Regular blog posting was definitely not a priority, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t keeping a visual journal of the year on my phone. Conveniently, my first generation iPhone died a couple weeks later, so I promptly upgraded to the 4S. What was a clean slate is now filled with photos from this year. And what a year it has been.
I spent the better part of January mourning my old life. Fifteen years is a long time to spend with someone to just forget one another. We were trying to figure out if we could still have a place, or play a different role in each others’ lives, but any contact at all just created confusion and unease. So I tried to distract myself by keeping occupied with things that I was sure made sense. I took long walks with my dog. I continued my obsession with testing recipes for home made pantry items such as bacon and granola. I also made an effort to reconnect with old friends, and amazingly enough, several of them invited me to get out of town and stay with them for a while.
The upheaval of my home already had me reflecting on how much of my personal life I had sacrificed to my work, and how much more I was actually willing to sacrifice in the future. At the time I was working my ass off as a sous chef in Brooklyn. I had been working 12-hour days, 60-72 hour weeks, and hadn’t taken a vacation in years. This was one of the things in my new routine that didn’t seem to make sense anymore. I came to realize that your work should serve your life, not the other way around. A leave of absence was just what I needed, to travel and get some perspective. I planned trips to visit friends in New Zealand and Portland, Oregon for February. I wasn’t even sure if I was going to return to my current job after my leave, but my chef and executive chef agreed to hold the position for me if I decided to return.
While I was preparing for my trips, I still struggled with the ghosts of my past and finding a new routine here at home. I was waking up every night at 4AM with anxiety, unable to fall back to sleep. I was unable to focus at work, and found myself going through the day like a zombie, just going through the motions. I couldn’t let myself feel anything or I would fall apart and not be able to accomplish any work at all. So I started seeing a therapist new Union Square to help me cope. Every Monday morning I would stroll through the Union Square Greenmarket, then I would go to Hill Country Chicken for breakfast and coffee before my appointment. What I didn’t realize until later, was that this became the anchor for my new routine. I started looking forward to seeing what was new at the market that week, then spending fifteen or twenty minutes sipping coffee, nibbling on my Eggs Armadillo, and writing down my thoughts and the things I wanted to talk to my therapist about that day.
So for about an hour each week, under the watchful eye of a clinical psychologist, I just let everything spill. Sure, I was surrounded by supportive friends and family, but being connected to me and my life, they could not be expected to be completely objective. It was necessary to have that unbiased person to listen to what I was going through, let me go through it and not judge or try to fix things for me. What I needed was the space to fully experience all the thoughts, issues, and emotions, rational and irrational and just get through them all. Just having that one hour to clear some of the cobwebs from my head helped to keep me focused and present the rest of the week.
One big issue was letting go of what I thought my future would look like now that my relationship had ended. I realized how imbalanced my life had become. I had felt so trapped by my work, my relationship, that when I started reconnecting with friends and loved ones, and other parts of my life again it felt great, but uncertain at the same time. I didn’t know this side of me and was afraid of charging into my new life only screw it up by repeating the same mistakes all over again. This was exactly why I chose to get away for a while. I needed an adventure, I needed to learn to trust myself again, hoping I would see things a little differently, a little more clearly when I returned. I flew out on January 31st and landed outside of Auckland, NZ on February 2nd. I didn’t know it then, but this trip would turn out to be just the first leg of a journey through even more unexpected and uncharted territory I would encounter in 2012.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
So the cat’s out of the bag. There’s a new fella in my life. You know, the one with the serious ice cream habit? Among the uncanny number of things we have in common is a shared opinion that appetizers and dessert are probably the best parts of any meal. I don’t think that in our months of dating we ever actually sat at a table at a restaurant. Instead we always seem to end up sitting at the bar and sharing a few appetizers, one entree if it really jumps out at us, and a few different desserts. So the first time I cooked for us instead of going out, it seemed natural to make a few different small plates to share.
One of the challenges was that he has bunch of food intolerances. Gluten, bad. Cow’s milk, bad. Corn, bad. Shellfish also bad news. Now that’s not to say that he doesn’t love all those foods. After all, I have yet to see him consume a pint of ice cream not made from cow’s milk. But in the beginning, I didn’t really know how much or little he could tolerate, so thought it better to try and steer clear of the forbidden foods altogether. So I came up a four course sharing menu that looked something like this:
Roasted Asparagus with wilted Bitter Greens & Sherry Vinaigrette
Tuna Tartare with Jalapeño, Shallot, Avocado, Wasabi Yuzu Vinaigrette with Sesame Rice Crackers
Pan Seared Quail with Farro, Hen of the Woods Mushrooms & Chocolate Balsamic
Blueberry Crumble with Vanilla Ice Cream
Yes, the dessert would have gluten and cow’s milk, but I had seen him cheat with dessert before to I wasn’t worried. So, armed with my menu and shopping list, I hit the stores out in my neighborhood in Queens. I was really craving quail, and always saw them in packs of four at my local Asian market. Of course on this day they only had them in giant frozen bulk packages. That’s when plan B went into the works. Instead I bought a frozen duckling. I would use the breasts and save the legs for making confit. They also didn’t have sushi grade tuna that day, but they did have salmon. I knew some people are put off by salmon, so I texted him. ”Do you eat salmon?” He did. So with those two changes in place, I headed home to start preparing my mise en place. Not knowing what if any cooking equipment he had, I figured I would chop and prep everything at my place, then just assemble everything once I got to his apartment (hmm, not very different than we do at the restaurant). I arrived with plastic containers of blanched asparagus, cooked farro, meticulously diced shallots and jalapeño, thinly sliced cucumber, sea salt, freshly butchered duck breasts, cubed salmon, streusel topping, and a shopping bag full of limes, mushrooms, blueberries, greens, and vinegars. He was still at work so I let myself in and got to work.
The only time consuming thing I had left to do was prepare the filling for the blueberry crumble. I noticed he had frozen peaches in the freezer, and I love them with blueberries so I added them to the filling. I also like a hint of cinnamon with my blueberries, and star anise with my peaches so I added a cinnamon stick and a pod of star anise to the filling while it was cooking. I was happily chugging along with the Civil Wars playing in the background when my sister called. When I shared the menu with her, she asked “Are you sure you want to set the bar that high?” Seriously? This fella knew I cooked for a living, so you know I had to bring it. When all was said and done, we enjoyed the following four plates to share:
Grilled Asparagus with wilted Bitter Greens & Sherry Vinaigrette
Salmon Tartare with Jalapeño, Shallot, Avocado, Cucumber & Lime Vinaigrette, with Rice Crackers
Pan Seared Duck Breast with Warm Farro Salad, Hen of the Woods Mushrooms & Chocolate Balsamic
Spiced Blueberry Peach Crumble with Vanilla Ice Cream
When I told my fella we would be having salmon and duck, he stopped in to see his friend at Pasanella and Sons to select an appropriate pairing. They were the perfect complement to the meal. When we got to dessert, he took a bite, then with a look of bewilderment demanded of me, “What did you put in here?”
“Um, blueberries, peaches, and sugar?” I slurred, a little tipsy and slightly puzzled by the question.
He was not convinced.
I thought a minute, then remembered, “Well, I cooked the filling with cinnamon and star anise.”
“Yes!” he said excitedly. ”Star anise! There was just a hint of something, but I wasn’t sure what it was.”
I was just playing around with the crumble and wasn’t entirely sure how it would turn out, but was pleasantly surprised by both the dessert, and his reaction. It was love at first bite. For obvious reasons, I never got photos of that first meal, but here are some of other meals we’ve made together since:
Foreground: Pan Roasted Quail, Quinoa Risotto, Braised Swiss Chard with Homemade Bacon. Rear: Grilled Swiss Chard Stems, Micro Greens with Sherry Vinaigrette & Crushed Red Pepper.
Pan Roasted Pekin Duck Breast with Wild Rice Risotto, Wild Mushrooms, and Market Vegetables.
We haven’t tackled another four course tasting menu at home, unless you count the time we made his Wild Boar Carnitas. It certainly took as much work as a four course meal. This time I had been working all day and arrived at his place to find him elbow deep in masa harina, braised pork, and about a bottle deep into the rosé. I got right in there and helped to cook tortillas as he pressed them, whip up some guacamole, blend the tomatillo salsa, and form graham cracker crusts for key lime pie – from graham crackers he made himself! It was an awesome feast, and the leftovers made terrific chilaquiles the next night. I think we just might be the perfect partners in crime. Cramped New York City kitchen be damned!
Revised August 29th, 2012Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 3 so far )
“OK. I went a little crazy at the market today. Four pints ice cream, sweet potatoes, garlic scapes, radishes, mushrooms, strawberries and rhubarb…”
I think I may have swooned out loud at receiving this text message, and that does not happen every day. C’mon! Garlic scapes, farm fresh radishes, and local, handmade ice cream? My mind immediately went to the 2 pound cowboy ribeye steak we had thawing in his fridge. What? You say? We? We who? Whose fridge? Well kids, sometimes inspiration finds you when you least expect it. In my case he’s about 6′-1″ tall with goregeous blue eyes and a serious ice cream habit. He also has a love of farmers’ markets, playing in the kitchen, and all things absurd. Funny. Me too. On this particular Sunday morning, while I was running brunch at the restaurant, he took a stroll through the New Amsterdam Market and picked up a few things for us to play with for Sunday dinner.
Earlier that week, I received the heads up that beef prices were going up (again) so I quickly ordered us a beautiful sustainably raised ribeye from Painted Hills Ranch* in Wheeler County, Oregon. I brought it over only to find that my new friend did not have a cutting board big enough for me to butcher a 20 pound ribeye into steaks. Turns out his local is a New Zealand style pub, where he is friendly with the owner, who was more than happy to lend us a cutting board. After all was said and done, we were left holding a 2-rib standing roast and 5 cowboy steaks, each weighing in at about 2 pounds. I returned the cutting board, accompanied by one of the steaks, and added one happy Kiwi to my circle of friends. We vacuum sealed and popped the rest of the steaks in the freezer until we had an evening to enjoy one.
All week we looked forward to sharing one of those cowboys for Sunday dinner. I cooked it in a cast iron grill pan with nothing more than a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and even by itself the flavor of the steak was amazing. I couldn’t believe how good the little bits of fat on the edges of the steak tasted. Although the steak alone was delicious, the garlic scapes my new friend picked up at the farmers’ market inspired me to try a play on Argentine style chimichurri sauce. Substituting garlic scapes for regular garlic, gave the sauce a fresher, brighter flavor, which was the perfect complement to this fatty, lovingly raised piece of meat. Lovely peppery radishes did not get ignored either. They were the perfect addition to a steakhouse style chopped salad with toasted walnuts and home made blue cheese dressing!
Garlic Scape Chimichurri
It is important that the sauce stand for at least an hour in order for the flavors to develop before you serve it. When I first made the sauce it tasted really muted and watery. I set it aside while I prepared the rest of the meal and by the time I served it, the flavor of the sauce was completely different. Now we could taste all the herbs, the flavor of the garlic scapes, and the fruit of the olive oil. I added a little lemon and lime juice to brighten it up, but these should be added to taste, and you might find you may not even need it. The sauce will keep refrigerated for up to 3 days.
INGREDIENTS: Yields about 1-1/2 to 2 cups
2 tsp. dried oregano, steeped in 1/4 c. hot water
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 garlic scape, minced
1 c. packed parsley leaves
1 c. packed cilantro leaves
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper (more or less, to taste)
1/4 c. red wine vinegar
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1 lime
1/2 c. good extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. of lemon juice
juice of 1 lime
1. In a food processor, combine garlic scape, parsley, and cilantro. Pulse until the herbs are evenly and finely chopped. You may also chop it all by hand if you don’t have a food processor.
2. Add oregano and water, salt, crushed red pepper, vinegar, and lemon and lime zest to the herb mixture. With the food processor running, pour the olive oil in through the feed tube. Alternatively you can whisk the oil into the mixture in a large mixing bowl. It is key that you use good olive oil here because the flavor will be apparent. Incorporate the oil quickly without whisking or processing too much or the oil will take on a bitter flavor.
3. Let the mixture stand for at least one hour. Before serving, add lemon and lime juice if needed, to taste.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to represent the restaurant at Chelsea Market’s NY Chilifest 2011. I along with representatives from our other two restaurants in our group, spent several hours ladling out some damn good chili and schmoozing away a Sunday afternoon. It was the first public cooking event I participated in and I had no idea what to expect. All the meat for the chili cookoff was provided by Dickson’s Farmstand Meats, and ticket proceeds were being used to support Food Systems NYC - both supporters of local and sustainable food production. Restrictions allowed three people from each restaurant to attend and serve their (hopefully) award-winning chili to 1200 people, and promote their restaurant. One of the tricky things was how to transport 50 gallons of hot chili to the event and keep it warm on only two small hot plates. The solutions were as varied as the chilis. One of our neighbors even brought their own electric steam tables and trays, only to find that there was no access to power – only butane.
The event started at 4pm and for the first couple of hours there was just a sea of people stopping from table to table, chili mug in one hand and a beer in the other. There were television people there, filming, and asking each team to describe their chili. There were also a host of photographers, one of whom stopped me at one point, saying “that’s perfect, don’t move.” At another moment, I turned around to find a mic in my face and a video camera pointed at me. My cohorts had thrown me to the wolves. Here I was, having had nothing to do with preparing our chili, yet now being asked by a reporter to describe it. I am sure during the course of this event, I did or said something dumb that is somehow going to end up in print with my real name attached to it. Oh well.
By the time two hours had elapsed, even the most hearty looking chili-eater was passing our table by, putting a hand over his stomach and gesturing that he could eat no more. And at 6:30 the judges had made their decision and announced the winner of the competition. Unfortunately the judges did not award us the Golden Chili Mug, but we got a good response from the public, and our chili was pretty much gone, so we took the chance to sample some of our competition. There was everything from Texas style “bowl of red,” sans beans, to very traditional Mexican style chili, to more unexpected and modern “chef” interpretations. Of course, Fette Sau, a barbecue joint located in Williamsburg added some pork to their chili, and Telepan presented a green chili that contained kernels of hominy. Even the Food Network test kitchen had a table. The aroma of beef, chiles, and spices from the various tables lingered throughout the concourse at Chelsea market. I could only imagine the aroma that could very well follow as 1200 people digested the 20-30 ounces of chili served to them by all the restaurants, and all the beer provided by Brooklyn Brewery. Once our chili-pot was empty, we certainly didn’t stick around long enough to find out.
Since I didn’t actually participate in the chili-making for the event (credit goes to my executive chef and his team at my former restaurant), I have been meaning to put up a big pot of red chili for me and the old boyfriend. After some hectic days at the restaurant following the departure of the Hulk, and gearing up for Valentine’s Day, I finally had a day off. So last night I thawed out 2 lbs. of Manx Station Farms grass fed steak I had knocking about my freezer (from Basis Foods, of course) and made a pot of slow cooked steak chili. I often make a chili with spicy chorizo, chipotle peppers, and mole style spices. But this time I decided to keep it simple and go with a basic American style chili: red and black beans, tomatoes, onions, red bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, and cayenne. Okay, so I did add a little cocoa powder at the end for some richness, but just a little. We enjoyed it in front of the tube, watching one of our more recently discovered favorite movies: Jeff Daniels’ Escanoba in da Moonlight. In case you haven’t seen it, think The Hangover, meets Parenthood but better.
Grassfed Steak Chili
2 lbs. grass fed (or whatever) steak, diced
1 large onion, diced
2 red bell peppers
1/4 c. chili powder
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
14 oz. cooked black beans
14 oz. cooked red kidney beans
28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
1 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
salt and black pepper to taste
1. Coat the bottom of a large dutch oven with oil and cook the onions and red pepper with the spices over medium low heat until soft. Add the tomato paste and garlic and cook for a few seconds until the garlic is fragrant.
2. Add the meat and cook until it is no longer pink. Add the beans and tomatoes, and enough water to cover all the ingredients. Simmer gently, covered for 45 minutes, then uncovered for another 45 minutes. until the meat is very tender. Stir in the cocoa powder and add salt and pepper to taste.
3. Serve garnished with sour cream or grated monterey jack cheese and sliced green onions.
TIP: Chili, like stew always tastes better the next day, after all the flavors have had a chance to mingle.
Try this with : Maple Glazed CornbreadRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
Oh a busy busy busy bee is me! I know it’s been months since my last post, but between having a new puppy, caring for old cats, resolving yet another car accident (not my fault, I wasn’t even in the car), my novice attempts at gardening, and the demands of the restaurant, I don’t know where all that time went. A girl can get pretty jaded, living in such a whirlwind. Thank goodness I recently had a birthday, which always makes me restless to shake up my routine, and reflect on what my goals are for the next year to come. Some people make new year’s resolutions. Instead I make birthday resolutions.
Resolution number one is to actively stay inspired. Sure, a strong routine can be very valuable for a line cook. It helps you set up your station on time, multi-task during service, and strive toward machine-like precision and consistency. But it can be very easy to let the machine take over and to forget why you’re working so hard in the first place. So I’m trying to take better advantage of the city, and see what other chefs are doing from my ever-growing list of restaurants to check out. On a line cook’s pay, that’s certainly not easy, but at least on my birthday, Boyfriend was picking up the tab!
So for my birthday dinner I chose Degustation, one of the top restaurants on my list. Serving a menu of small plates from an open kitchen surrounded by only 19 seats, it’s definitely a restaurant designed with industry folks and food & wine enthusiasts in mind. A friend who recently left the kitchen at Prune to follow her med student fiance to Grenada (winter in the caribbean? me? jealous?) raved about Degustation after having their anniversary dinner there a few months back. Then one of our cooks who recently relocated from the west coast touted his meal at Degustation as among the best he’s had. Then when I told one of our bartenders I was considering going there for my birthday he said it was the best meal he’d ever had, and if I had any trouble getting reservations he knew someone who knew someone… So I figured it was time to go and see what all the fuss was about. My day off that week fell on a Tuesday, so I called Degustation that afternoon to make reservations for two. They could only fit us in either really early at 6pm, or later at 9pm because they were expecting a large party at 8pm. 6pm was too early so we took the 9pm reservation.
Degustation‘s entrance, located on E 5th street off 1st avenue, is simple and unassuming. We almost walked right past the restaurant and probably would not have even noticed it if we weren’t looking for it. In the dark, the name was barely visible on the solid front door, and the only light was a warm glow that emanated from two square, porthole like windows. We entered through the heavy door into a space that was contemporary and chic, yet warm and comfortable. The host greeted us and immediately showed us to our seats. I was delighted to find that we were seated right in front of the chef ‘s station, where executive chef Wesley Genovart was artfully plating all the food.
We started off our evening with a couple of beers as we looked over the menu and tried to decide whether or not to try a tasting menu. Boyfriend stuck with his usual Amstel light, while I sipped an Alhambra Negra, a dark Spanish lager with a soft caramel like flavor. The small plates menu featured a crudo of seasonal fish, coca mallorquina, carabinero, and other items also inspired by the chef’s Spanish up-bringing. In addition to the a la carte small plates, the restaurant offers a five course tasting menu for $50 per person, and a 10 course tasting for $75 per person. When asked, our server kindly explained that both tasting menus were pre-determined for the evening and that the five course tasting featured only menu items, while the 10 course tasting also featured special items that changed daily, such as sweetbreads and some other things that I didn’t hear after she mentioned sweetbreads. So we chose the 10 course tasting. Our server asked us if we had any allergies, which they would be happy to accommodate. No, we didn’t, but Boyfriend was really excited to see oxtail among the small plates, so we asked if that might be included as one of our courses. “I’m sure we can make that happen,” she replied.
The meal started with an amuse-bouche of two bite size menu items: a pork croqueta and Spanish “tortilla” filled with quail egg and shallot confit. The croqueta was crispy and flavorful, and paired nicely with its bed of paprika spiced aioli. The tortilla was much more delicate in texture and subtle in flavor. While I could appreciate the contrast, it seemed strange to pair the two on the same plate. It did a slight disservice to the tortilla, which I think was good, but whose subtlety was somewhat overpowered by the more assertive croqueta next to it.
The first course was a delicious chilled marcona almond soup, simply garnished with chives, pea flower, and a marcona almond. It was milky and smooth, and perhaps there was just the slightest suggestion of roasted garlic which pleasantly enhanced the salty sweetness of the almonds.
Our second course was a crudo of spanish mackerel served over tomato granita and topped with crispy slivered garlic and serrano chiles. The fish was fresh and firm, and I thought the tomato granita added nice chill and acidity to an otherwise oily fish, but Boyfriend did find the garlic too overpowering.
Next, we were served the Puerro Salda, a warm pureed potato leek soup garnished with octopus, a Barron Point oyster, and padron pepper (which I believe was in the form of a green infused oil). Boyfriend did not like this soup. He found it overwhelmingly “fishy.” I could see where he got that, since it had a familiar flavor that was reminiscent of braised abalone I’d eaten at Chinese wedding banquets as a child.
Boyfriend and I shared much discussion about the next dish, which was a trio of sardines. One was simply pan seared and served over roasted red pepper. The second, our favorite preparation, was the chef’s play on a sardine sandwich, and featured a sardine seemingly dusted with rice flour, then fried and served over pickled onion and topped again with serrano chiles. The sardine was pleasantly crispy and the onions were tart and I thought I detected a hint of fish sauce in the brine. The third and least favorite was a sardine fillet rolled and served over sauce gribiche, whose flavor Boyfriend likened to the smell Tester’s modeling glue. Humbly I must admit that I don’t know what sauce gribiche is supposed to taste like, but I had to agree with Boyfriend on this one.
Next the servers brought us bowls of seared durade with matsutake mushrooms, and eggplant. At the table, they finished the dishes with a matsutake mushroom broth. This was our fifth course, (sixth, if you include the amuse) and to be truthful, by now I was beginning to feel the food equivalent of “Museum Fatigue,” a term from my art school days used to describe the kind of sensory overload and subsequent shut-down caused by viewing too much artwork in one visit to the museum. So I have to say that outside of enjoying the broth and the texture of the eggplant and the fish, I can’t recall much about the dish’s flavors.
Amazingly enough, the next course was just the thing to bring my senses back to life: a warm duck egg mouse with tiny brioche croutons, smoked maple syrup and a strip of lamb bacon all served in the eggshell. It was perfect. The mousse was light, airy, and was just the right temperature to evoke the warmth of a freshly laid egg. The croutons and the bacon were nice and crunchy, and the syrup underneath the mousse added a great sweet smoky finish. I asked Boyfriend, who normally does not like the flavor of lamb, what he thought of the lamb bacon, and he replied, “C’mon, it’s bacon, of course it’s good.”
After having my senses re-awakened, and hearing the server describe it, I was really excited about the next dish: coca Mallorquina with sobresada, wild mushrooms and a red wine reduction. It was good, but after experiencing the perfection of the duck egg mousse, I have to say the coca Mallorquina was a little disappointing. Inspired by a Spanish style pizza or flatbread typical of the Mallorca region, the crust was crispy, but the sobresada seemed a little dry and chewy, and the flavors, though good, were kind of lackluster.
Finally, grilled sweetbreads! I have to admit I had only had sweetbreads either dusted with flour and pan-fried, or poached and glazed with a veal reduction like they did in culinary school. The first being light and crispy on the outside, and rich and creamy inside, the second is just gross. Here however, chef Genovart presented us with grilled veal sweetbreads served over a of succotash-like mixture of fresh corn, green beans, crispy okra and chanterelle mushrooms dressed with tomatillo salsa and cilantro. This was a texture and flavor I had not experienced with sweetbreads before. The char from the grill changed the flavor of the sweetbreads by adding what I can only describe as a kind of bite. Grilling also gave it a supple yet meaty texture that was pleasing to eat, and the acidity of the tomatillo salsa in the corn mixture was just the right foil to the richness of the sweetbreads. Boyfriend and I both really enjoyed this dish.
Then came the dish Boyfriend was waiting for: potato “Cannelloni” filled with oxtail and grilled on the plancha, served with crispy shallot, a fresh herb salad and radishes. This was a delicious and enjoyable dish. The cannelloni was actually thinly sliced potato wrapped around a tender filling of braised oxtail. The potato had a crisp sear from the plancha, the radishes were a peppery accompaniment, and the herbs added a nice freshness to the dish. This was the last savory course and was a good way to move onto dessert.
But wait! Before dessert we were presented with a lovely cheese plate, with birthday wishes from my bartender friend. What a nice surprise. It featured cheeses from Spain and Switzerland accompanied by a marcona almond puree, fresh honey on the comb, black currant preserves, and a poached pear.
Last, but not least, dessert was a simple yet delicious bread pudding of brioche soaked in cream, then caramelized on top, and served with fresh berries. Our server said it was a dessert very typical of the Basque region. As we enjoyed our dessert, we chatted a little with chef Genovart as he and his crew packed up their stations (by now the restaurant had been closed for almost a half hour) and dutifully scrubbed everything clean. I thought of how this crew was expected to perform every evening, with all their actions totally exposed to their patrons, and from the eater’s point of view, how our reactions and comments about the food were visible and audible to those preparing it. I pondered on how different this was from the closed kitchen, where among the din of servers coming in and out of the swinging door, the clang of the dish machine hatch opening and closing, the scrambling of dishwashers rushing to restock clean pans and collect dirty ones from the line, and the voice of the chef calling out orders, our only connection to the dining room is through the waitstaff.
Overall I would have to say that our meal at Degustation was a really good one. At $75 per person, it was well worth it for a 10 course tasting, and at the end of the meal I was satisfied without being full. The servers described each dish as it was served, and patiently answered any questions I had about particular components. The dishes were generally well executed and good, although some were definitely more memorable than others. We’ll definitely go back, but now that we’ve had the tasting menu, there are some other items on the small plates menu we would like to try, and some dishes from our tasting that we would order a la carte. As for my birthday resolution, it was a great success. I definitely left feeling re-freshed, and inspired with ideas for new ingredients, techiniques, and combinations I’ll be trying myself.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 3 so far )