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Danube, New York, NY, tasted on February 18, 2004 — I really do love New York. For years I was raised to hate it as I grew up in Boston. But eventually my love for food and world class cities overcame any prejudice I had acquired from the sports world. And a few months ago we took a fantastic trip to New York City where we ate, and ate, and ate. Sixteen eating experiences in 6 days (including travel). Not bad. What better place to start than with Danube.

The menu at Danube is divided into two columns, one labeled Austrian, and the other Modern Eclectic. OK. Sounds good to me.

Through the cozy foyer we entered an absolutely gorgeous triangular room. It had a Paul Klee-ish (I don't know who painted this) feel (if that means anything). There were beautiful mosaic paintings on the walls, and unfortunately not much light. It was fine to eat by, but the pictures came out a little weird (apologies in advance). Luckily the food came out just right (no apologies for that).

Things started off with a variety of warm breads in baskets including pretzels and little mini-challahs coated in poppy seeds that were light, airy, and delicious. An amuse of North Atlantic Salmon with Grainy Mustard, Creme fraiche and Cucumber arrived. It had a totally surprising flavor, sweet, mixing with mustard, and fruit undertones. I was expecting a cliché. This wasn't it.

Next up was Chilled West Coast Kumamoto Oyster, Diver Sea Scallop Carpaccio with Apple-Mint Gelée and Frozen Riesling all served in a martini glass. This dish had bright, simple, flavors. The scallop was super complementary. And while there were lots of ingredients. The effect was simple and powerful. It reinforces my theory how some of the best dishes I've ever had have clear flavor triangles. This one was: briney, fruity, minty. Nice!

Following the oyster was Freshly Harpooned Sashimi Quality Bluefin and Hamachi Tuna, Key Lime Pickled Onion, Pumpkin Seed Oil, and Sesame Mustard Dressing. Other than the pumpkin seed, this was a pretty typical flavor combination. That said, it was beautifully executed and definitely refined. The veggies among us got an incredible combination of Roasted Sweet Organic Beets, Horseradish Fromage Blanc, and Toasted Pumpkin Seed Dressing. It had an awesome beet essence and flavor.

Then we got Diver Sea Scallop and New England Crabmeat with Paradeiser Coriander and a tomato based sauce. Alex' brother Nick said "I would supersize this if I could." He was right. It had beautiful simple clean flavors. The tomato was like a blanket on the perfectly prepared scallop.

Not to worry if you're still hungry, more dishes to come. Including this one from the Austrian side of the menu: Seared Wild Sturgeon (from the Columbia River) with Austrian Crescent Potato Leaf Spinach, Belvedere Vodka and Oscetra Caviar. The sturgeon was nicely cooked, but a bit overwhelmed by the spinach. And unfortunately there was not quite enough caviar to give a spike the flavor. Luckily this was followed by Nantucket Wild Striped Black Bass with Cremini Mushrooms, Tortellini and Tomato Herb Broth. The ravioli had an intense mushroom flavor. The fish itself was amazing. The light savory broth coated, melded with, and brought out the flavor of the fish which was covered with veggie scales. The flavor was indescribable. The sides were little flavor spikes. Peyman called it a "concerto". If he always spoke this way I'd wonder if it was an affectation. But I think the dish genuinely moved him.

Next up was Maine Day Boat Lobster with Roasted Sweet Organic Beet Fettuccine, Baby Turnips Cooked in Tahitian Vanilla, and Horseradish Foam.  This dish smelled like maple syrup (in a good way). It was sweet, light, and delicious. The beet pasta had a bright, fresh flavor.

We also got to eat Carinthia "Schlutzkrapfen" High Altitude Austrian Cheese Ravioli with Harvest Corn Sauce and Smoked Wild Mushrooms. This dish smelled heavenly. This seemed strongly attributable to the nutty, cheesey. carinthian cheese in the ravioli. The cheese flavor really was incredibly fulfilling. This was a gorgeous dish from the Austrian side of the menu.

As was the Veal Weiner Schnitzel with Austrian Crescent Potatoes, Cucumber Salad, Mixed Greens, and Lingonberries. The meat was tangy, perfect, and had a delicious fried smell. This veal was amazing! It was so perfectly fried. The cucumber salad underneath was very traditional. The dish that followed it couldn't compete: Roasted Rack of Colorado Lamb with Vegetable Barley, Glazed Cippolini Onion, and Sweet Potato Puree. It was kind of boring.

Dessert was an extravaganza including eight (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8) desserts compliments of the pastry chef. I think this was because we were closing down the place. There was a huge variety. We also each got a serving of Elderflower Soup with Mandarin Elderflower Sorbet and Campari Sugar. This dish was quite sweet and had a buttery quality as well. The texture from the sugar crystals was interesting and unique. This was not a random sorbet. Yummy.

Danube was fantastic. And as good as the "modern eclectic" side of the menu was, I think I most enjoyed the Austrian dishes. Any ethnic cuisine refined is good by me. Danube was no exception. I think I'm going to need to try Bouley's eponymous restaurant on the other side of the block to get the full picture.










Tastingmenu is focused on superlative restaurant experiences from two perspectives: behind the plate and behind the stove. Tastingmenu is written by Hillel (professional eater) and Dana (up-and-coming professional chef) in Seattle, Washington.

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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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