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Welcome to tastingmenu.com. My repository for thoughts and notes on my eating experiences. Hopefully you'll find something enjoyable, entertaining, or informative. Click here to see where I'm coming from.

 

Monday, June 23, 2003, 10:00 PM


02-dahlialounge.jpgThere used to be a restaurant in Seattle called Avenue One. It was higher end food served in a comfortable spot on 1st Avenue. The entry way was through a bar that felt very accessible even though the food was a bit fancier and Avenue One was our safety place. We could always go there and count on a good meal. Easy. Since Avenue One was replaced by a Thai restaurant (which I have still not tried), Tom Douglas' Dahlia Lounge has become our new comfort favorite. If I were to describe a restaurant that had regional cuisine with an Asian flair you might flinch worried about the cliché of dishes coming out of the kitchen. Somehow Dahlia Lounge breaks free of those bonds and delivers an authentic and original experience. It's easy, familiar, fun, high quality, and consistent, and I would say has even more character and authenticity than Avenue One did. We went there recently for dinner. As part of that character, Dahlia's menu opens with Little Tastes from the Sea Bar. It really sets the tone for the entire meal with wonderful seafood bites to get you salivating while the portion size takes nothing away from your ability to try a bunch of things from the menu. You know the portions are right when they offer these items individually or by the half dozen. We had a selection that included Smoked Salmon with Hot Mustard - even though the mustard was hot, the salmon flavor shone right through, and a delicious Ahi Poke with Jalapeno and Radish - Dahlia's take on spicy tuna tartare. We also tried the Snapper Escabeche with red onion and muscat grapes. There wasn't anything we didn't get off of the appetizers menu. (And frankly, with a couple more people in our party, we would have tried every single item on the menu. That's one of the advantages of eating with a large group - you get to try everything.) The Spicy Pig's Head Cheese with Shrimp Congee and Tea Oil gave us pause but ended up being a delicious and creamy risotto. The Sunleaf Farms Squab with Spring Onion Nettle Tart, Watermelon Radish, and Pistachio was tender and the pistachio was super complementary to the squab. The Curried Vegetable Samosas with Tamarind and Coriander Dipping Sauces were delicious, smoky, and special with fresh vegetables and chickpeas. Lauren loved them. We had the Shrimp Scallion Potstickers with Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce. It's hard to be special when serving potstickers (everyone does it) but not only were these not at all soggy but their flavor really was unique. The Sea Scallops with Kung Pao Sace, Water Chestnuts, Cashew Vinaigrette and Satsumas were excellent, tender, and flavorful. We also had the Crispy Fried Sweetbreads, Gribiche, Pressed Tuna Roe and Homquist Farms Hazelnuts which was yummy. I'm not one to complain about simple foods, but the mixed baby greens salad with parmesan, lemon, and olive oil was a little underwhelming. Chris and Debbie thought it had too much lemon. They're wrong. :) The Fennel Chowder with Bacalao  and Olive Oil Crouton was the star of the meal at this point. Not a huge anise flavor. I loved it. We also had the Tuscan Grilled Bread Salad with Pesto, Olives, Mozzarella and Spicy Coppacola and the Point Reue's Blue Cheese, Roasted Beets, Endive and  Pumpkin Seeds. Entrees included Rotisserie Roasted Five Spice Duck, Sweet and Sour Rubarb, Pea Tendrils and Turnip Cake. The Duck  was "outrageous" according to Peyman. It was perfectly cooked, with crispy crispy skin. If I had to nitpick it could have used a touch more flavor. The Oregon Country Beef Rib Steak with Blue Cheese Fritter and Rapini was great. The steak was super juicy, and the fritters had great flavor without being overwhelming. The Wood Grilled Lamb Saddle with Green Garlic-Anchovy Confit, Savoy Spinach and Semolina Grits was really really good and not gamey. The polenta was softer, different than usual and extra flavorful. We had Dungeness Crab Cakes, Indonesian Wok Seared Vegetables, Young Coconut-Green Papaya Salad, with Spicy Ginger Aioli and Peanuts which was super fresh. Crab Cakes can be heavy. These were definitely not heavy. We also had Suckling Pig Slow Roasted Ten Hours, Sweet Potatoes, Citrus Jus and Fennel Salt which was ok. The Basmati Rice Crepes with Curried Carrot Confit, White Raisins, and Saag Paneer were so wonderful that Lauren thinks Tom Douglas should open an entire Indian restaurant. On the side we had the Rapini (Broccoli Raab) and the Creamed Spinach. To drink, Alex brought 1986 Chateaux Montelena which was great and multi-textured with plenty of tannins which were well integrated. I love trying new things, but there is only one dessert I order at Dahlia Lounge - the Made to Order Doughnuts with Rhubarb Jam and Vanilla Mascarpone. The donuts come in the bag ready for shaking so they can acquire their cinnamon-sugar coating. Nothing beats this. We also had Rice Ice Cream and Mango Sorbet with Black Sesame Tuile which was super creamy, and Chocolate Toffee Cake with Butterscotch Sauce and Espresso Cream. 

 

Sunday, June 22, 2003, 3:33 PM


15-barkingfrog-lamb.jpgEach April, the Washington Wine Commission puts on the Taste of Washington is an annual event here in Seattle. Basically for $75 (or $125 if you want advanced access ahead of the riff-raff) you get unlimited access to dozens of pairings of Washington's wineries with some of the best of Seattle's restaurants. The amount of food and wine is unbelievable. At first you're worried about getting enough. Then quickly you realize that it's basically impossible to not get enough, and that if you don't pace yourself you won't be able to try everything. We had to skip stuff cause there was simply no way to do it all (can you imagine thinking "oh no, not more steak"). There were several highlights including restaurant/food pairings such as: Dahlia Lounge - Lamb Sirloin with Merlot Onion Jam; Andaluca - Green Gazpacho; Barking Frog - Grilled Prawn Club Sandwich and Petite Lamb Burger; Marjorie - Peking-style Duck Pancakes with Spring Onions and Hoisin; Fandango - Grilled Flatiron Steak with Red Chile Sauce (why haven't I gone to dinner at Fandango yet?); and Harvest Vine - Dry Cured Spanish Ham. Often you also get to meet the chef serving out their signature food. Probably to the dismay of the Washington Wine Commission, though I tried probably 10-15 wines, I still haven't found a single Washington state wine that I like. Here's a small tour of many of the restaurants and foods we got to try at the event. Garage - Garlic Polenta Dominoes on Chive Goat Cheese with Shiitakes and Arugula topped with Sweet Tomato Jam; Frontier Room - Short Rib Texas Chili; Elliott's Oyster House - House-smoked Scallops sliced and served in Singing Scallop Shell, finished with Creme Fraiche, Tobiko, Caviar, and Chives; Earth and Ocean - Duck Prosciutto with Old Chatham Ewe's Blue and Medjool Date wrapped around an Olive Oil Breadstick; Dragonfish Asian Cafe - Thai Crab Cakes with Cilantro and Thai Basil Aioli; Cutter's Bayhouse - Bronzed Pacific Ahi, Cajun-spiced, Pan-seared Sashimi grade Pacific Ahi with Daikon and Wasabi-infused Tobiko; Anthony's Pier 66 - Seafood Risotto; Assaggio - Insalata Arugula Prosciutto; Axis - Baron of American Kobe Beef; Balleen - Szechuan seared Ahi Tuna on Crispy Plantain Mushroom, and Seaweed Salad, Honey Wasabi; Barrel House - Blackberried Angus Crostini; Brasa - Housemade Chorizo with Cabrales Cheese; Campagne - Pork Cheek Daube; Brasserie Margaux - Barquette of Sweetbreads and Morels; Cinnamon Grill - Lamb Chaat, Lamb Marinated in a Mustard-Merlot Vinaigrette and Grilled; Chateau Ste. Michelle - Washington Beef Tenderloin on a Potato Galette with Sun-dried Tomato White Bean Puree and Black Olive Tapenade; Cascadia - Morel Mushroom Flan with Black Cherries, and Veal Demi Glace; Christina's - Salmon Seaweed Ceviche; Golf Club at Newcastle - Kobe Beef "Slider", Crispy Sweet Onion Strings, Zatarains Aioli, House Baked Bun; Il Fornaio - Proscuiotto e Grissini, Olive Misti, Parmesana Grana and Crostini con Gorgonzola e Miele Tartuffo; a catering company (whose name escapes me) - Saffron Cured Sturgeon on three seed Lavash with Citrus Creme Fresh with Paddle Fish Caviar and Emu Sausage on Peppercorn Favelle with Black Currant Red Onion Relish; Library Bistro - Coriander Braised Short Rib; Lyle Restaurant - Wild Mushroom Strudel with Cougar Gold Cheddar Cheese (I love Cougar Gold but the Strudel was just ok); Metropolitan Grill - Filet Mignon Crostini with Wild Mushroom Relish and Stone Ground Aioli; Seattle Chocolates - Chocolate Truffles; Choc Elan - Orange Caramel; Salish Lodge and Spa - Sesame Cornets with Beef Carpaccio and Cabernet Marmalade and Grappa-cured Salmon with Cucumber Relish Sorbet; Palisade - Sesame Crust Ahi Tuna on Pickled Ginger Wonton with Wasabi Aioli and Flying Fish Caviar.

 

Saturday, June 21, 2003, 5:28 PM


08-perfect.jpgI like Seattle a lot. Though in order to live here I do have to forgive it a few egregious transgressions - one of the few remaining ones is the utter lack of Dunkin Donuts. There are almost two Dunkin Donuts in the Seattle area. One in North Seattle that once was a Dunkin Donuts and appears to have made a break from the mothership. They've covered up all the DD branding and have renamed themselves to Aurora Donuts or some such thing. The other still bears the DD moniker but seems to have been out of contact with corporate headquarters for some time carrying none of the specials and promotions that the ads on TV talk about. Nothing worse than seeing ads on TV for a national food chain that isn't available in your area. To this day I'm not entirely convinced Red Lobster or Little Ceasar's are anything more than elaborate ad campaigns designed to mess with my head. Being from Boston you can't sneeze without knocking into a Dunkin Donuts - and I love Dunkin Donuts. Here there's no donuts to speak of (and, no, the diabetic stroke inducing Krispy Kreme donuts are not for me). But tucked away in a corner of Pike Place Market in Seattle is the Daily Dozen Doughnut Company - a (roughly) 8x8 foot patch of real estate in the busy market generating fresh tiny donuts. The formula is simple, and effective. Little donuts (I like little) made fresh, with a few simple coatings - cinnamon and sugar is the best by far though they offer chocolate with jimmies (if you call them sprinkles don't bother talking to me) and powdered as well. Eat them fresh and hot right there in the market while you watch people throw fish for tourists' amusement.

 

Friday, June 20, 2003, 9:02 PM


01-kosherdelight.jpgThe Jewish people are not famous for their food. This is not to say that Jewish cuisine doesn't have its high points, but it's still not a world-renowned culinary experience. Jews living in Israel have had the opportunity to meld the cuisines they've integrated with from all over the diaspora as well as borrow liberally from their neighboring Arab countries. Falafel is an example of this borrowing. And despite the fact that I am in love with almost all Arab food, the Jewish/Israeli incarnation of these deep-fried chickpea balls I find much better than the Arab counterparts. The Israeli falafel balls are smaller and less green. Somehow this affects their taste as well. Strangely enough Seattle has a top notch representative example of Israeli falafel in a tiny restaurant  in the Pike Place Market called Kosher Delight. Run by a sweetheart of a guy, Moroccan native Michel Chriqui, Kosher Delight is authentic and delicious. It's not just falafel either. He's got wonderful schnitzel (breaded chicken) as well. The falafel is deep fried fresh right in front of you and the selection of salads is authentic and homemade. Chriqui says he'll also be serving up Shwarma (another borrowed delicacy) soon. You can even get him to cater lunch for big groups if you want. Sometimes we call our orders in in advance, drive 20 minutes from the eastside in the middle of the day, and pull up to next to the sidewalk in front of Kosher Delight just to have our sandwiches run out to us on the curb so we can eat them on the drive back to work. That's love. That's great falafel. (Postscript: a Lebanese friend from work are going to try a Lebanese falafel place and then Kosher Delight on successive days and decide which one is better. I'll fill everyone in on the details when it happens.)

 

Thursday, June 19, 2003, 11:59 PM


While I was in college, my parents moved from Boston to Maryland – specifically the culinary wasteland of Potomac/Rockville Maryland near the DC beltway. I recently went to visit. I hesitate to waste electrons on it, but I might as well document the bad as well as the good. In the sea of strip malls, I tried to find something half decent. I failed. Tara Asia had Thai food. Not really good, but not really bad. Indifferent? (Me? The food? Both?) I suppose it was better than average for the suburbs but nothing to write home about. WRT, Hiro’s Sushi in White Flint, two words: "yucky" and "lame." I got depressed eating there. I used to think bad (not spoiled) sushi was better than no sushi. I think no sushi would have been better.

 

Wednesday, June 18, 2003, 10:21 PM


Want to save money by not going out to dinner? The Boston Globe has a review of the new book: Safe Food. By the end of it you won't be hungry to go out anymore.

Ninety-nine points from Wine Spectator, and heralded as the best vintage in a long time, has made the 1998 Penfolds Grange something I will likely not get my hands on according to the Los Angeles Times (free registration required).

We're going to go to Europe. The increase in listings of potential places to eat on our London and Paris pages is indicative of that. The New York Times (free registration required) is helping out a bit too with their Paris dining guide. This guide is focused on enjoying one ingredient in many French forms - the egg.

Need a dose of umame - British style? Try Marmite (the Australian version is Vegemite). The San Francisco Chronicle writes about Marmite here. It even includes a recipe for Marmite Crostini.

 

Tuesday, June 17, 2003, 11:59 PM


Two new sushi places in town. Long ago I made a decision to stop trying new sushi places. When you can go to Nishino, why bother going anywhere else? Well, sometimes you can't make it over from the eastside, and sometimes you're in a hurry, and Nishino is not open for lunch. So, that's how I ended up trying these two new places. First up - Rice N Roll. Rice N Roll gives off the impression of being a quick stop for sushi. Fast food sushi is typically not something you want to try, but the design of these places is clean and projects being hip to how sushi should taste. So why not give it a try. I'd rather have sushi than all the other food at the Bellevue Square Mall. In Japan there are little corner joints serving up "just-in-time" sushi to hungry commuters. The sushi comes wrapped in clever little packages that merge the nori and the rice at the last moment for freshness. The Soy sauce comes in little plastic fish with red caps. Frankly, it's surprisingly fantastic. In Japan sushi as snack can be as great as sushi as meal. This was the mental image I had going into Rice N Roll. Unfortunately, what I got was just mediocre sushi with a lot of rice. Not much more to say unfortunately. Advice to the Rice N Roll folks - if you can bring the concept of Japanese fast food sushi to your restaurants you might just have something. Next up is Rolls and Rolls Plus Sushi. Who knew what to expect from the wacky name. Buried in an odd corner of "downtown" Bellevue (don't blink you might miss the entire downtown) is this relatively small sushi joint with a lunchtime feel. Unlike Rice N Roll, these guys at least are trying to differentiate. Their shtick? Rolls. Lots and lots of rolls. 100 to be exact. There are 101 on the menu but the last one is "Create Your Own Roll" so it doesn't count in my opinion. But you get the idea. Some interesting choices: Beef BiBimBab Spicy Roll; Geisha Roll - salmon, shrimp, masago, avocado, cucmber, scallion, topped with eel and avocado; Red Dragon - spicy california, topped with spicy tuna; Good Heart - tofu, mushroom, lettuce, Korean hot sauce, etc. You get the idea. This is the kind of place that 5-10 years ago would have quickly become a favorite of mine. In fact some of the rolls we tried we're not half bad. And although the food was not super refined, they get points for creativity. The Red Dragon was good as was the Krispy Shrimp Roll - bay shrimp, cucumber, masago, topped with (you guessed it) shrimp.

 

Saturday, June 14, 2003, 2:50 PM


This is pretty freaky. Some Russian website is using a picture from my site to illustrate a news story about parents that starved their daughter to death on some freaky diet. Can I sue?

 

Thursday, June 12, 2003, 11:59 PM


I've written many times about El Gaucho in the past. We went there a couple of months ago for dinner and ate downstairs in the Pampas room (same menu, but with a band, and they won't make the food at your table). You can always look at past reviews for more details but there are a couple of things to call out. First the wine. The 1999 Camaspelo from Washington state's Cayuse Vineyards a mostly cab blend with merlot (and maybe a bit of cab franc) was smooth and supple. Not huge flavor (which I miss when eating at El Gaucho) but nice. The atmosphere at El Gaucho is always fantastic and "hip". However, the side order of sautéed spinach is the best I've ever tasted with oil, garlic, and lemon. And the New York filet we had was super flavorful. In the archetype of the steakhouse, it's hard to beat El Gaucho. Almost no "shtick" and they get everything right.

 

Wednesday, June 11, 2003, 11:59 PM


The Los Angeles Times (free registration required) has a great article about Robert Mondavi. An icon of Napa Valley, he is approaching his 90th birthday.

Napa Valley is weird. All sorts of "intrigue" at the annual wine auction for charity about who is and isn't bidding anonymously.

Do men and women have different food cravings? The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel seems to think so. And furthermore, they are convinced that this is useful information in anticipation of father's day.

 

Monday, June 9, 2003, 11:57 PM


The Herb Farm and its celebrity chef Jerry Traunfeld are Seattle area establishments. For years the Herb Farm has been one of the pre-eminent high end eating experiences in the Pacific northwest. A few years ago it burned down, and found a temporary home at a local winery until they rebuilt. They are now in their new permanent home in Woodinville, WA attached to the really nice Willows Lodge hotel. The Herb Farm is not open every night. Reservations fill up months in advance. They have one seating a night. They only serve tasting menus with wine pairings. They grow their own herbs in back of the restaurant in a beautiful garden you can tour. Those same herbs find their way into almost every dish. And their dinners have themes like: "A Copper King", "Clam Coast Lamb Roast", and "A Mycologist's Dream". The question is, how could I not love a restaurant like the Herb Farm? While we'd been there a couple of years ago, I wanted to try it again. With a dinner called "Super Cattle in Seattle" - an entire meal dedicated to Kobe style beef, how could I go wrong? The restaurant itself is super decorated with a ton of attention to detail. Though I have to say that it's not my first choice to "enter a world rich in country charm". Just feels too cutesy to me. Dinner started with glasses of a 1997 Argyle Oregon Brut. The waiter offered us each a choice of a pinch of fresh Rose Geranium or Pineapple Sage freshly picked from the garden to drop into our champagne. I could tell the difference (with the Sage really smelling like pineapple). Dropping them into our glasses really affected the bouquet of the wine. Nice. As we settled into our wine the "show" began. A set of mechanical curtains close to hide the lovely and large open kitchen from view. The owners of The Herb Farm (and usually the chef though he wasn't there that night) come out and give you a homey introduction to The Herb Farm as well as a tour of the evening's menu. At the end the storytelling the kitchen staff comes out in front of the curtain and are introduced. While the showiness was a little "cutesy" (there's that word again) it's certainly nice for the people preparing the meal to have their moment. Debbie's response: "hey I like eating food, not talking about it." First up was Beginnings in Sea - Spot Prawns with Sea Urchin Sabayon, Kushi Oyster with Sorrel Sauce, and Paddlefish Caviar on Salmon Skin. Everything was quite good with the oysters being surprisingly flavorful. and yummy. Next up was Oregon Black Truffle and Potato Ravioli in Parsley Soup served with a 2001 L'Ecole No. 41 Semillon, Fries Vineyard. The parsley came through wonderfully in the soup  but the stock could have used more depth (and more truffles). The Semillon however had the taste of rubbing alcohol to me. Then again I'm not a big white wine guy. Throughout the evening we got Rosemary Sourdough Loaves and Multi-Grain Rolls with Chervil-Chive Butter Coins. Yummy. Next was Herb-Smoked Wild King Salmon with Beets, Pea Sprouts, and Oregon Wasabi served with 2001 McCrea Cellars Viognier. I have to say that the salmon was truly awesome. This was the case last time we went as well. It was smoked but looked raw. Just an incredible light texture and amazing flavor. I've never seen salmon prepared this well anywhere else. Leslie's comment was that the salmon is the "first dazzler of the night". While I thought the beef should have been featured earlier, I certainly couldn't complain about the salmon dish. It was at this point that the star of the evening (the "super cattle") made its first appearance - Wagyu Beef Carpaccio with Sally Jackson Sheep Cheese, Arugula, Shallot Marmalade and Nasturtium Capers served with 2000 Domaine Coteau Pinot Noir. It's difficult not to enjoy carpaccio and this one was no exception. That said, it could have been more flavorful. To cleanse the palate they served Carrot and Lemon Geranium Sorbet. The sorbet was too flowery. Then it was time for round two of the beef - Herb-Rubbed Tenderloin of Wagyu Beef with Green Garlic Fratin, Morel Mushrooms, and Bloomsdale Spinach served with 1999 DeLille Cellars 'D2'. Quite nice. Afterwards we got a salad in the form of Celery Root, Hazelnut, and Asian Pears with (more of the) Sally Jackson Sheep Cheese in Chestnut Leaves. Desserts - labeled the "Ides of March" - included Sweet Potato, Pine Nut, and Rosemary Tart; Prune, Chartreuse and Thyme Ice Cream Cone; Date-and-Orange-Thyme Crepe with Chocolate Sauce and Coffee Ice Cream. I hate to say it but all I could think about was: "did they need to put herbs in my dessert?" And that really is the crux of the issue. If I had to sum up The Herb Farm in one word it would be "overdone". The decor, the shtick, the herbs. In moderation they would be much more enjoyable. And while the salmon was absolutely unreal, the rest of the food (while certainly very good) was not a moving experience. Frankly the meal itself is just too long. It can be exhausting. That's why we went on a Sunday night as they start earlier. And while I typically don't talk about pricing, with prices ranging from $159 to $179 per person on average, the math just doesn't add up. The bigger they are, the harder they fall. While the Herb Farm is definitely an "experience", it's not one that I'll be repeating any time soon.

 

Sunday, June 8, 2003, 3:45 PM


People have been telling me about Harvest Vine for awhile now. Located in Seattle it's a Spanish restaurant with a Tapas menu. How could I not try it? A few weeks ago I went with Lauren and Alex to try it out. Harvest Vine is located on a small corner in a nice neighborhood. There's a bar right at the front where people sit to have dinner and a few small tables that spill out onto a patio when the weather is nice. Behind the bar the chefs are cooking up fresh dishes throughout the evening in a mostly open (and compact) kitchen. Downstairs is a warm room with some small tables, wine racks lining a wall, and a long table down the middle for large groups or bunches of small ones. All in all the restaurant feels very very comfy and Spanish. The Spanish waitstaff helps make the environment authentic as well. Bread came out for starters. No oil or butter came with it. The bread was nice but not warm. Next up was Ensalada de Remolachas. Going out to dinner a bunch with Lauren who loves beets has started to make me enjoy them. This dish of yellow beets with parsley, chives, garlic, sherry vinegar, olive oil, and incredible salt crystals sprinkled on top sealed the deal. It was absolutely incredible. The salt was among the most unique flavors I've ever tasted... sharp, tangy, the sea, special, bright flavor. We asked later and bought some at Spanish Table in Seattle - Bevia. And that salt brought out the flavors in the beet dish beautifully. We liked it so much we ordered a second one. Great! Alex was impressed with the wine list especially given how small a restaurant it was the wine list had a lot of old wine as well as depth in Spanish Rioja. Next up was the Plato de Jamon. Reminded me of my time in Barcelona with a new "jambonerie" on every corner with hundreds of dried cured pig torsos hanging in rows and rows from the celings. The ham kicked ass. So sweet and salty and tender with a great texture. Afterward came Caldo de Cordero con Cevolla y Tomate - Lamb broth with onions and tomato. The soup was hearty and tasty. Next up was Vieiras - pan seared sea scallops over oyster mushrooms and caramelized onions. One word: yum. We tried the Etorki cheese - a semi-soft french basque cheese made from sheep's milk. It was uninteresting. The trigeros a La Parrilla - grilled green asparagus finished simply with lemon - was really good. The charred asparagus tips added tons of flavor. It was at this point we noticed we were in the restaurant of a chef(/owner)who likes things just so - Joseph Jiménez de Jiménez. It was apparent in the quality of the meal (which was excellent) as well as his laser focus on the food. The couple next to us asked for their fish to be cooked more... the chef came out and warned them that it would be dry. Due to Lauren's compulsive vegetarianism we bargained to get the rabbit and potato dish sans rabbit. Our waiter had to summon the chef who was none too pleased with our request. He eventually caved (with a mischievous smile) but warned us not to expect to get the solo potato dish again. The Foie de Pato con Arrope - pan seared duck liver with caramelized pumpkin was  excellent. The liver had a fantastic texture. Ventreska a La Vainilla - pan seared tuna belly with vanilla bean infused oil (the dish the couple next to us wanted overcooked) was nice. But I thought on this evening it's main flavor came from the fantastic salt which got a touch repetitive. Other dishes we had included the Revuelto de Txitxas y Puerros - hedgehog mushrooms and confit of leeks scrambled with organic duck egg; Conejo al Horno - roasted confit of rabbit with panadera potatoes. Both were quite good. I will definitely go back to Harvest Vine. I'm not 100% sure yet, but it could become a regular destination. The small portions, basque perspective, warm environment, and (most importantly) excellent food, make for a compelling combination.

 

Saturday, June 7, 2003, 11:23 PM


Here's an idea of I've been thinking about. If you've read the tastingmenu.com philosophy page then you get the direction I think restaurants (and meals in general) should be heading in. I also lament the fact that so many restaurants do well in appetizers and fall down with terrible entrees. But sometimes restaurants don't have the selection you might want in appetizers alone to constitute an entire meal. With a bunch of planning and flexibility from the wait staff and kitchen you can fashion your own tasting menu (as we did most successfully at Delmonico in Las Vegas) but that can require a bunch of planning, and some people are embarrassed to be a bit of a pain. No reason you can't be part of the DIY movement. So here's the solution: why not go to two restaurants in the same night. The Double! Pick two complementary restaurants (imagine choosing from pairings that typically end up in fusion restaurants like Cuban/Chinese or Italian/French) and book one reservation for 6:30pm and a second for 8:30pm (or sooner if they're close enough). Head to the first. Have drinks and appetizers. Then before a good evening can be ruined by some huge overdone entrees head over to restaurant #2 for another round of appetizers. The pairings can be super interesting. Restaurant #2 could also be strong in desserts to make it a stronger candidate to close the meal. Or you could always get extreme with this idea and go to restaurant #3 for dessert as that may be their specialty. (I think a four location evening might be a bit excessive simply because of time.) A restaurant that on it's own may have had only a couple of star dishes but overall been mediocre could be revived as part of a culinary twosome. It involves a little bit of travel, but frankly what's a short cab ride, walk, or drive to have a great meal. (Geography and logistics will probably play a role in which pairings you come up with.) And the time between sittings will probably lead you to digest your food better and eat less than you might have. If you try it, let me know how it worked out. I'm going to try it at some point soon.

 

Friday, June 6, 2003, 11:59 PM


Worst restaurant name ever.

 

Thursday, June 5, 2003, 11:17 PM


We're having a party where we're going to serve all small bites/appetizers. While we're having it catered, I've been scouring cookbooks for ideas. Here's some that are perfect for this kind of thing: Appetizer Atlas: A World of Small Bites, Amuse Bouche, Martha Stewart's Hors D'Oeuvres Handbook, Cooking For Friends, and Finger Food: Bite-Size Food for Cocktail Parties. We're having sushi as well so i'm trying to pick things that are complementary. That's harder than it seems. 

 

Wednesday, June 4, 2003, 11:59 PM


Ever wondered what it was like to be a real restaurant critic? Here's a few insights. Nobody's paying me for this, so I suppose I don't count. Though does reviewing restaurants for the Arizona Republic count? Would I rather get paid to review restaurants or be free to eat at restaurants outside the state of Arizona? Interesting tradeoff. That said, I like that he admits that he has no qualifications other than eating lots of food all over the world.

SARS has curtailed travel to Asia. According to the Boston Globe it hasn't curtailed people's taste for the food of Shanghai. Makes me hungry. Maybe we'll try New Shanghai next time we go to Boston. And here's a super quick overview of what Shanghai Cuisine is (such as it is).

The Los Angeles Times (free registration required) writes about a recent trade industry publication of a list of the top 50 restaurants in the world. It's irritating that they didn't include the actual list. That said, it's cool that I've been to #1 - French Laundry. I'm dying to go to #2 - El Bulli.

 

Monday, June 2, 2003, 11:59 PM


Cool website by someone going through cooking school.

 


 

     
     
     
     
     
     

 

 

 

 

 

   

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  Garlic has long been credited with providing and prolonging physical strength and was fed to Egyptian slaves building the giant pyramids. Throughout the centuries, its medicinal claims have included cures for toothaches, consumption, open wounds and evil demons. A member of the lily family, garlic is a cousin to leeks, chives, onions and shallots. The edible bulb or "head" grows beneath the ground. This bulb is made up of sections called cloves, each encased in its own parchmentlike membrane. Today's major garlic suppliers include the United States (mainly California, Texas and Louisiana), France, Spain, Italy and Mexico. There are three major types of garlic available in the United States: the white-skinned, strongly flavored American garlic; the Mexican and Italian garlic, both of which have mauve-colored skins and a somewhat milder flavor; and the Paul Bunyanesque, white-skinned elephant garlic (which is not a true garlic, but a relative of the leek), the most mildly flavored of the three. Depending on the variety, cloves of American, Mexican and Italian garlic can range from 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches in length. Elephant garlic (grown mainly in California) has bulbs the size of a small grapefruit, with huge cloves averaging 1 ounce each. It can be purchased through mail order and in some gourmet markets. Green garlic, available occasionally in specialty produce markets, is young garlic before it begins to form cloves. It resembles a baby leek, with a long green top and white bulb, sometimes tinged with pink. The flavor of a baby plant is much softer than that of mature garlic. Fresh garlic is available year-round. Purchase firm, plump bulbs with dry skins. Avoid heads with soft or shriveled cloves, and those stored in the refrigerated section of the produce department. Store fresh garlic in an open container (away from other foods) in a cool, dark place. Properly stored, unbroken bulbs can be kept up to 8 weeks, though they will begin to dry out toward the end of that time. Once broken from the bulb, individual cloves will keep from 3 to 10 days. Garlic is usually peeled before use in recipes. Among the exceptions are roasted garlic bulbs and the famous dish, "chicken with 40 cloves of garlic," in which unpeeled garlic cloves are baked with chicken in a broth until they become sweet and butter-soft. Crushing, chopping, pressing or pureeing garlic releases more of its essential oils and provides a sharper, more assertive flavor than slicing or leaving it whole. Garlic is readily available in forms other than fresh. Dehydrated garlic flakes (sometimes referred to as instant garlic) are slices or bits of garlic that must be reconstituted before using (unless added to a liquid-based dish, such as soup or stew). When dehydrated garlic flakes are ground, the result is garlic powder. Garlic salt is garlic powder blended with salt and a moisture-absorbing agent. Garlic extract and garlic juice are derived from pressed garlic cloves. Though all of these products are convenient, they're a poor flavor substitute for the less expensive, readily available and easy-to-store fresh garlic. One unfortunate side effect of garlic is that, because its essential oils permeate the lung tissue, it remains with the body long after it's been consumed, affecting breath and even skin odor. Chewing chlorophyll tablets or fresh parsley is helpful but, unfortunately, modern-day science has yet to find the perfect antidote for residual garlic odor.  

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