We’re very partial to La Morra on Beacon Street in Brookline but we need a special incentive to go because it’s so far away. Their wine dinners are just that so we were there for this menu:
Sorry to say, as usual when the first course came, I was so hungry and anxious to eat it that I forgot to take the picture! But it was a delight and Josh explained how it was done: quite the same as curing gravlax except with the addition of spices and fennel ground in the food processor. The tuna was very light and we thought it was probably hamachi.
I managed to photograph everything else, so here’s the octopus on cous cous, unbelievably tender. Josh said he decided that the dates were a mistake and he left them out!
The fusilli was very al dente but with distinct heat and was accompanied by the best wine of the night. ($31 less 10% for a case) Love those bread crumbs on pasta!
I had foolishly not had high hopes for the boar but it was terrific and we decided that it was definitely time to cook that polenta we’ve had in the pantry forever. Note how small this particular “boar” must have been!
We had a wonderful conversation with Debbie M. who had done a month in Sicily solo including two weeks of Italian lessons!
For those who aren’t familiar with the reference, it’s to the neon sign I’ve had in my living room window for the past 35 years. You’ll see the same design on some of our plates, made in Paris for us some fifteen years ago.
For our joint birthday celebration in early February, we needed a good vegetarian lunch dish. Once we remembered the quiche shop in Saint Jean de Luz that everybody loved, it was a no-brainer. But, believe it or not, we’d never made a quiche so we had to practice up for the grand occasion, one short and one tall:
We decided we couldn’t be without Joanne Chang’s latest book from her bakery “Flour” and I went ahead with the brioche-based sticky buns. Deb thought they were awful because they had too much goo. I’m still puzzling over what it could possibly mean to say “too much goo.”
We were enraptured many years ago when the Babbo cookbook came out to discover the recipe for lamb tartare which I’d raved about at the restaurant. Of course, Mario had to add a mint pesto to go along with the tartare itself.
Finally, we’ve been focussed on dumplings as the result of a cookbook I got out of the library. It took two tries but we had the best pork and chive dumplings in memory. So good, that when we finished our ample portions we went into the kitchen again and made some more! This particular batch was made with store-bought skins which were too thick so we slimmed them down with the pasta machine; worked perfectly!
At the risk of leaving the impression that we often dine at three-star restaurants, I want to recap our meal at Guy Savoy in Paris during our trip in January. It was the first time in a long while that we’d left a high-end restaurant with the feeling that we’d really experienced something extraordinary.
Although we actually didn’t order beyond making it clear that we wanted the famous artichoke soup and the oysters in snow, here’s the prix fixe menu:
The amuse bouche was a tiny serving of a wonderful pea soup; I don’t remember what the garnish was. Perhaps a radish on some pesto-topped toast.
It was immediately clear upon seeing and tasting the artichoke soup why this had become a signature dish of Guy Savoy. The truffles were certainly a significant part of it!
I think I’m right when I identify the next two photos as the “tourteau et toutes les couleurs de betterrave.” A tourteau is an oil cake (the white ball).
We were really looking forward to the oysters and weren’t disappointed.
As you would expect, the rolls were magnificent and made even better by the truffled butter (you have to do something with the crumbs of truffle left over from slicing!).
Our main course was the supreme de volaille de Bresse, another of Savoy’s signature dishes.
We are not big dessert fans (at least in fancy restaurants—pastry chefs seem to need to go over-the-top in order to be recognized, and we just want something tasty). So I’ll pare down the four desserts to just this one.
I think it’s important to relate that Savoy himself was very much in evidence: he came out to greet us shortly after we were seated and then, to our amazement, again near the end of the meal. Of course, our French was not up to having a real conversation but we let him know how pleased we were with our meal.
When we left the restaurant, located in a very fancy part of the 16th arrondissement just east of the Arc de Triumphe, we were delighted to find that Savoy had opened a little hole-in-the-wall oyster bar directly across the street.
I’m standing beside the window through which passers-by can obtain oysters to go. Because we were equipped back at the apartment with oyster knife and glove, we went home with eight premium oysters at a price that won’t be exceeded in my lifetime ($6 each) and a box that beats anything I’ve ever seen (but then I don’t shop in places where the whole point is walking out with a posh shopping bag).
The oysters were HUGE (and delicious)!
To wrap up: we arrived in Paris on the day of the Charlie Hebdo shootings and the whole city was clothed in “Je suis Charlie” signs. Here’s a scene outside the Centre Pompidou:
And here’s the cover of Charlie Hebdo which came out just after the incident. Parisians were standing in long lines to purchase it and, although it was said that the print run was two million, we were unable to buy one.
We’d been hearing about Eleven Madison Park for over a decade and we even went in about five years ago for a cocktail. But a few years ago they changed their format: no more a la carte but rather a single tasting menu for the upscale price of $195 per person (today: $225). An article at the time in the NYTimes wondered whether that format would fly, even in Manhattan. But it did, with the Times’ highest four-star rating and three Michelin stars. Prompted by Pete Wells’s review, we finally decided we’d give it a try. Bottom line: pass it up. Nonetheless, we enjoyed much of it and here is our report.
We made a reservation for the opening hour (noon) and arrived a few minutes past the hour. The staff was still gathered for the daily briefing so we were asked to sit at the bar until it was concluded. We were seated after about ten minutes at a lovely table against the rear wall with no one around us (arrow).
The menu (which we were given only after the meal was concluded) doesn’t reproduce well so click on the link!
The first course was a savory black and white cookie containing cheddar cheese; they were in a white box tied with string which was on the table when we sat down. I didn’t take a picture but, except for the yellowish filling, it looked just like the dessert cookies which I did photograph:
The second course was morel custard with trout roe and borage flowers. The custard was delicious and a wonderful start to the meal. I certainly couldn’t distinguish the trout roe from the ikura we have on a weekly basis.
As the third course we were served fresh “english peas” (probably actually flown in from England) sitting in a buffalo yogurt sauce. I doubt that I could have identified the source of the yogurt.
Course four: smoked daikon with lettuce and radishes. This one was a real puzzle: my first impression was apple!
The overall theme of the meal was “riffing on classic New York cuisine” and this was the first dish which seemed solidly in that category. It was called “Eggs Benedict” with the tiny english muffin, ham and caviar. The white blob was a stand-in for hollandaise, of course — I’m afraid I can’t remember what it tasted like.
We were told that the radish with pike and rose was something that had been devised in that past day or two to take advantage of the arrival of spring; it seems that the only fresh vegetable available from local farms was radishes! An awfully nice presentation, though.
Next came the foie gras course. We were asked whether we wanted seared foie gras or the more french terrine and we initially both said the seared, which is the way we always prepare it at home. But then the error was quickly caught: we weren’t here for what we already know but for new presentations, so we quickly changed the order to one of each.
The seared foie gras was certainly not the presentation we do at home (usually warmed sour cherry preserves) but it was a generous portion (for a tasting menu) and perfectly seared.
The marinated foie gras terrine (underneath the tuile) was tasty but in no way exceptional.
Accompanying the foie gras we were served some rolls and butter. The rolls were a dream: puff pastry (as in a croissant) but in a round roll shape. The butter on the left was 80% duck fat and, when I asked what spices were incorporated, it turned out that the duck fat was from the roasting of the duck course (to come) and the spices used in roasting has permeated the fat.
The next course, called “Carrot Tartare with Rye Bread and Condiments”, was the first bit of theater associated with the meal. A line cook appeared, attached the meat grinder to the table, and explained that this carrot tartare was a riff on the popularity of steak tartare in NY restaurants of the turn of the twentieth century. The three very-bright-orange (and peeled) carrots were inserted in the grinder with expected result. All in all, much more theater than food.
And then back again to theater! This time a pig’s bladder in which a single asparagus spear was being poached. The line cook carefully basted the bladder with the juice in the pan. Thanks!
Of course, we could understand the connection of asparagus to spring and even imagine that early asparagus must fetch a considerable premium at the local greenmarket, but this is taking cost-of-goods-sold to an extreme!
The only other choice on the menu (beyond the preparation of the foie gras course) was between duck and veal and we were not allowed to select our usual one-of-each. Since duck is a serious favorite (we eat much more duck than chicken) and we’re pretty stuck on veal rib chops, we opted for the duck which was brought to the table for inspection. Very pretty, especially with the lavender sticking out of the cavity.
We now skip two stunningly inappropriate dishes intended to be the “cheese course”: a crock of farmer’s cheese (with an elaborate pedigree) which was as bland as farmer’s cheese must be; and a small glass bottle of “whey” (the by-product from making the farmer’s cheese), equally bland.
Which brings us to the poached strawberry with vanilla sorbet and elderflower. Well, OK, but we seem to be running out of steam.
I’m also omitting here the chocolate-covered pretzel with sea salt which was not really up to the designation “course.” Rather an amuse bouche.
So, finally, the dessert course: a repeat of the black-and-white cookie theme with which we started, this time with a lemon verbena filling.
So, it’s a wrap after three and a half hours. We ordered (and consumed) one each of the recommended wine flights but were mostly disappointed at the thirty-or-so completely undistinguished wines we were served. The only memorable ones were a red from Austria and a mead from Tuscany.
We finished off the weekend with a tour of the Woolworth Building, a 1913 gem which was the tallest building in the world until the Empire State in 1932.
This was originally the blog of the HILR hard-core foodies so the older posts reflect that. We frown on the notion of food as medicine so you won’t find anything here about so-called “healthy food.” (All food is inherently healthy consumed in moderation.) Let’s take it away!
More ginger! If you’ve enjoyed the ginger cookies sold at Dean & Deluca in SoHo (update: as of May, they’re gone; replaced by some ginger-molasses cookie I couldn’t bear to try; sorry!), then you know how delighted I was to find a recipe which more-or-less duplicates them. They’ve got a really strong ginger molasses flavor and can be made either soft and chewy (my favorite) or crisp. The recipe is here.
The dough is soft and easy to work with:
Roll one-inch balls in raw sugar:
and bake until soft or until crisp:
I’ve been following up the recent visit to Jean-Georges’s Market restaurant in the W Hotel by duplicating his Ginger Margarita. This is not hard since the recipe is easily available online and here. I’m not a cocktail person with the exception of margaritas made with fresh lime juice (which means, in most cases, made at home). This variant is the best ever!
Sometimes you’re eating out and encounter a dish that’s just perfect: one that shows once again why chefs have a talent that the rest of us can only dream about. Jean-George Vongerichten is such a chef and Boston now enjoys his Market restaurant at the W Hotel (Tremont and Stuart Streets). I highly recommend dining there and suggest that, if you’re not more than two, you eat at the bar (first-come, first-served but seats are usually available).
The knock-out dish I’m referring to is the Rice-Cracker Crusted Tuna at $15.
If you’d like to give it a try, my experience suggests that you should: a) crush the crackers into smaller pieces than J-G’s; b) be certain that the tuna is as cold as possible when you fry it; take it out of the refrigerator only briefly to coat it and return it if not cooking it immediately; c) reduce the amount of oil in the mayo to make it a bit thicker; and d) cut the log into at least 6 pieces: more is better!
Here’s what mine looked like:
In Marion Cunningham’s classic The Breakfast Book, she passes on her “favorite” french toast recipe. She learned it from James Beard (she was one of his most famous students: she did the 80s revision of Joy of Cooking) who found it in the dining cars of the Santa Fe railroad, back in the good old days.
Using Iggy’s French Pullman loaf, dip three slices in: 2 eggs, 1/4 cup whole milk, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, and a big pinch of salt (I add a few drops of vanilla extract). Then press the coated bread (both sides) onto a plate of slightly-crumbled corn flakes. Fry in butter until brown and crisp. Serve with confectioner’s sugar and maple syrup. A wonderful treat for a weekday dinner!
On Tuesday (5th) and Wednesday (6th) of the coming week, we’ll hold our first (and only) gathering of the year at HILR in hopes of attracting some previously undiscovered hard-core Foodies among the membership. Because of building rules, we can’t do any cooking on-site (can’t even offer to sharpen your knives — whatever they may be in the kitchen, they’re considered weapons at 51 Brattle; on second thought, I guess perhaps they’re weapons in the kitchen from the chicken’s point-of-view) and thus we’ll be content to talk about the pleasures of food. Please come, if you can, ready to extoll your favorite cookbook or recipe. (If you can’t come and wish to be retained on our rolls, just email to that effect.)