Friday, March 29, 2013

Annoying Food Things #1 (Week of 3/25/13)

What has annoyed me the most in the world of food this week?

#1 - The Guy Fieri Squirt Bottles, 3-Piece Set for $9.99.  I mean, we already know he's a douche and a whore - this just proves it.

#2 - Reading about the recently opened Carbone, from the Torrisi boys.  See above.  If you're charging $12 for a Campari, $50 for veal parm (yes, I know it's good veal) and $12 for a side of escarole, it just makes it that much easier for me to go across the street to Lupa...where I know the food is good.

#3 - Ozersky's piece, in the fucking Wall St. Journal, about bourbon. Just 'cause.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Cherry Poppin' and Taxes

Cherries used to be my favorite fruit.  When I lived in San Jose, Bing cherry season was a time for excess - I'd eat them by the pound, often heading out from work at lunchtime (yes, a real Silicon Valley job) to a place called C. J. Olson - yes, a real live cherry stand (it's still there!) where the best cherries you've ever tasted were sold right from their own orchard...they were literally the size of small plums - crisp, sweet & tart - everything you'd want from a perfect fruit.  Sadly, I can't eat 'em as piggishly as before (for allergic reasons), but I still sneak a few dozen in every now and then, especially during Bing season.

What does all this have to do with cherries now?  To be honest, not a damn thing, but this coming weekend Significant Eater and I are spending our time in D.C. with some friends and some family so that we can go see, yes - cherry trees.

Well, to be a bit more specific, cherry blossoms. You all know (don't you?) that in our nation's capital, your tax dollars support not only the great (free) Smithsonian Museums and (free) National Zoo, they also support the National cherry trees located all around the National Mall...
The first trees were a gift from Japan, planted in the early 1900s - during the administration of William Taft (those Republicans and their spending) - and now there are well over 3,000 trees - not offering fruit, but instead showing themselves off via their beautiful blossoms...

All well and good...providing the damn trees have blossoms. You see, every year the Park Service guesstimates when the cherry trees will bloom.  It's called the Bloom Watch...
YearGreen Color in BudsFlorets VisibleExtension of
Peduncle ElongationPuffy WhitePeak Bloom
20122/29 3/83/123/143/153/20

A month ago, they were predicting peak bloom to be March 26th - 30th.  Now - well, let's just say not this weekend.  I mean, I'm hoping for the peduncles to be elongated, but that's just me. Extension of florets? That would be nice.  Puffy white? A coup.

And what if there are no puffy whites?  Well - there's always this...
After all, it's your tax dollars at work.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Coleslaw. It's Cabbage, But...

Cabbage - might it be the next "hot" vegetable?  Of course, I'm not talking hot as in, you know, heat; rather - I'm wondering what vegetable is about to appear on every fucking restaurant menu in the world? The next kale...oh, excuse me, Tuscan kale. The next brussels sprout. That vegetable.  People are guessing rutabaga, but that just makes me laugh (so do turnips).  And what's that other one...kohlrabi?  These days you can't walk through Chinatown without seeing someone selling kohlrabi out of the back of their car or from a carton on the street - which is funny since its other name is German turnip.

Actually, my guess for the next hot veg is cauliflower - but that's just me, and in any event this blog post is gonna be about cabbage - even though it's already past St. Patrick's Day and everyone who's anyone has already written everything there is to write about cabbage. 

So let's talk coleslaw. Coleslaw made from cabbage. Not fennel. Not apples. Not, ummm, kohlrabi - though I'm sure that would be good. No - let's talk classic old-school coleslaw; the stuff they used to put on every table in every Jewish deli in the world - though in that case it was a sweet & sour version. Nevertheless...
This past Sunday,  like everyone else in the world, Mark Bittman wrote about cabbage in the NY Times' Magazine section. You know, one of those articles he writes about a dozen different ways to eat this, a million ways to cook that, yada, yada, yada.  And one of the ways he suggests to eat cabbage is raw.  Now, I'm telling you folks - and with all due respect to Bitty - raw cabbage really sucks. There is nothing good about it.  At all. Rabbits run from it. But there's a little trick I learned about 20 years ago, from a very good source, and that's to cook your slaw cabbage - with salt. Or in other words, pickle that cabbage.  Here's that same cabbage pictured above (with a little shredded carrot thrown in) about 3 hours after salting...
See - it's about half the amount. All the watery stuff that you usually see in the bottom of a container of coleslaw has been drawn know, the stuff that's called water. The cabbage is still plenty crisp; it's just not raw and it's so much better.  Also, and this is key, the cabbage now will absorb a lot of whatever dressing you decide to use. Don't ask me how - that's a whole science project, and I get enough agita just trying to read through Modernist Cuisine.

I like a dressing that's sort of sweet, sort of tart and a little creamy.  So in this case, I used a mayo based dressing with celery seed thrown in for good measure. Oh, and a good handful or two of chopped parsley, since it makes it look that much more professional...
By the way, there are plenty of other delicious things to make with cabbage - steam it, boil it, roast it (why not?), braise it, saute it...whatever. Just don't eat it raw - even if the NY Times say to.

"Cooked" Coleslaw

2 lbs. cabbage, shredded (red and green are nice together)
1 large carrot, shredded
1 T. kosher salt

Toss cabbage(s)/carrots with salt.  Work that salt in there and then cover the colander with a plate and put a heavy can on top of that plate.  You're trying to press the liquid out of the cabbage. Let it sit for a good 3 - 4 hours, then squeeze dry.

Here's A Dressing

1/2 - 3/4 cup mayo
1/4 cup vinegar (rice wine, white wine, etc. Don't use crap vinegar)
2 T. sugar
1/2 tsp. celery seed
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
2 T. chopped parsley

After squeezing cabbage dry, toss with dressing. Any dressing you decide but this one will give you an almost classic deli-style coleslaw. Only better.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Montmartre - Tien Ho Returns

A week ago, a few friends and I had dinner at the brand new Chelsea restaurant, Montmartre.  It's taken me a week to write about it, because basically it took me that long to digest all the food we ordered.  That's a bit of a joke; but seriously, we probably ate our way through 70% of the menu, ordering "the whole top half," per one of the attendees, as well as 3 (or was it 4?) of the main courses, all the sides, all the desserts - or, in our lingo, the bottom half of the menu...
Now trust me, I don't normally order (or eat) like this, but when I'm with a bunch of people who are a good deal younger than me (like 90% of the population), going with the flow is easy, even if my digestive juices and taste buds don't think so. It's also why my standing rule is that dinner out with more than 4 people sucks, unless it's for pizza or at a bustling Chinese/Thai place, where tasting everything is part of the fun (I'm looking at you, Congee Village and SriPraPhai) and you'll have trouble spending more than $25 a person.

All that said, the chef and one of the partners at Montmartre is Tien Ho; Well known to food-crazed locals, Tien "made his bones" at Momofuku Ssam Bar, during what some consider its finest hours - in my opinion, Ssam is still damn good, though perhaps not as exciting as it was 4 or 5 or 6 years ago when Tien was at the stove and you were lucky to get in.  Oh by the way, we used to eat the same damn way at Ssam Bar, ordering literally the whole menu and fighting for the last scraps of kimchi laced Fuji apples with fluke, or whatever happened to be on the menu at the time.

Here at Montmartre, Tien has moved toward a more French bistro vein, which is OK in my book as its one of my favorite cuisines (and his too, from reading about him). So there's an excellent brandade and a fine beef tartare with mustardy gaufrettes to liven things up; radishes (a classic bistro snack) get an update, served both raw and cooked along with trout roe and olive smears...
(Oh, the pictures.  It's a new camera and this was my first time using it under weird lighting conditions, so they suck).  We loved the frisee au lardon, a salad loaded with duck confit and topped with a runny duck egg.  And the cassava chips. And the potatoes Gascognaise, because if you don't love fried potatoes over caramelized onions and foies gras, you're nuts. The blanquette de veau was a personal favorite of mine, and the lamb served two ways with lots of Mediterranean flavors - yes.

Were there misses?  Well, sure...there are bound to be when a restaurant is only a few days old; the desserts didn't move me (there's no dedicated pastry chef - yet). I'm not a big fan of snails, and the cavolo nero tarte was fishy with anchovies even by my anchovy loving standards.  And I don't like my $12 glass of white, while waiting at the bar, to be served in a tiny Picardie glass - this isn't Schiller's, I don't think.  Be that as it may, when there's this much food on the table during round two, there was plenty to like...
And when I get to go back with Significant Eater in tow and order just what we want, I'm pretty sure we'll be happy Tien's in the kitchen again.

158 Eighth Avenue, New York City
(646) 596-8838