Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Last Night's Dessert

Blueberry Cobbler with Lavender Scone Topping
Marscapone Ice Cream with Blueberry Coulis

Got this recipe from the Michael Mina Cookbook. I'm pleased with how the cobbler came out. I'm not usually the biggest fan of lavender in my food (as it reminds me of the hand soap Stephanie buys) but this was really tasty. The marscapone ice cream needs to be made wiht light instead of dark brown sugar next time, but all in all, it was still good.

However, my quenelle-making technique for the ice cream obviously needs improvement. Mine came out like a mushy oval, nothing like the way it should look. However, like I've mentioned before, my plating technique needs work (but is steadily improving!).

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Places I've Eaten: SeaBlue

My parents recently took a trip to Las Vegas, where they ate at Michael Mina at the Bellagio. They had the cookbook tasting menu, and thoughtfully brought me back an autographed cookbook. Nice, right? Well, after hearing their rave reviews, Steph and I decided to hit up SeaBlue at the Borgata. Doing some previewing, nothing was really grabbing me off the tasting menu, but I figured that we couldn't go wrong with it, seeing that it was the same one my parents ate.

However, after a late lunch at Continental, and after looking at the tasting menu, Steph and I decided that we would pass and order from the regular menu.

Initial Impressions: Wide open, no intimacy whatsoever. Also, for a restaurant called SeaBlue, I didn't expect the decor to be in reds, oranges and browns. Our server was probably the most scarily perky and happy person I may have ever met. She asked us about drinks, we replied we wanted to figure out what we were ordering first . Her exact response: "I love food, and I love wine, and I love drinking and pairing food and wine!". Yowza.

Appetizers: I had the fried sampler trio, which consisted of lobster corndogs, soft shell crab with papaya salad and rock shrimp lettuce cups, paired with a 2007 Belle Vallee Pinot Gris that was surprisingly fruity. Steph had oysters, of course, 3 each of Kumamotos and Wallfleets, paired with a very tart and grapefruit-y 2007 Manifesto! Sauvignon Blanc. My app was pretty good, with the lobster corndogs being the highlight. It makes me want to go make some lobster sausage. I'll assume Steph's oysters were tasty, as she didn't offer me any (but, in full disclosure, I didn't offer her any of mine either).

Entrees: Steph got the medallions of ahi tuna with foie gras, shallot-potato cake and pinot noir sauce which was paired, unsprisingly, with a Ramsay Pinot Noir that Steph thought very highly of. As for me, I had the trio of steak, which consisted of filet mignon with foie gras and pinot noir sauce, strip steak with bearnaise, and a rib-eye with a lemon-butter sauce. Everything was cooked to perfection, and it was matched up with a 2005 Simi Cabernet that was a little more assertive than I prefer, but it was still tasty.

Dessert: Steph had the chocolate trio of chocolate mousse, flourless chocolate cake with bing cherries and molten chocolate cake with chocolate cookie crumbles. I tried the mousse, it was mellow and subtle, not very sweet. I had blueberry clafoutis, apricot ice cream and caramelized sponge cake. Not bad, the clafoutis was a bit runny, tasty though.

The verdict: Normally, when Steph and I look at menus, we drive ourselves crazy deciding what to order. Not so much at SeaBlue, unfortunately. The food was phenomenal, the wine was fantastic, and the service was great. I'd recommend it, but I don't think I'd dine there again.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Oysters, or How I've Created a Monster

The highlight of Atlantic City to us is making sure that we get a table at Dock's Oyster House. The first time we went there was almost 4 years ago during the NJEA Teacher Convention, after a good session at the craps table (where we won a combined $1000). I had ordered oysters, but Steph was a bit leery. I'd ordered them a few times since then, and had always offered for Steph to try them, to no avail. I had tried to explain the way the brininess was perfectly complemented by a squeeze of lemon or a hit of mignonette sauce. I had tried to describe the velvety texture as you slurped them out of their shell. All for naught.

Fast forward to our first wedding anniversary at the Fromagerie in Rumson. Seeing them on the menu, I ordered them as an app and finally succeeded in getting Stephanie to try one. It was truly a revelatory experience for her, the single oyster that she sampled. She had taken her first step into a larger world, and she began ordering them whenever she saw them on menus (at restaurants where I would not have issues ordering raw oysters, mind you).

So, we were in AC the past few days, celebrating our anniversary, and of course we went to Dock's. My goal was to eat as many different types of sea creatures as possible, while Steph's was to just eat oysters. So, we started off with a dozen Cape May Salts (which are prized as being environmentally sustainable and have created a resurgence in New Jersey oyster production) and a dozen Wiannos (which were recommended to us by the guy prepping all the oysters behind the raw bar). While I was savoring my oysters and making friends with our neighbors (who had been drunkenly singing by the piano bar while waiting for their table), I look over to find a giant pile of shells on Steph's plate...she had greedily eaten 10 already to my 5, and was not looking like she was going to put the brakes on.

Her response to my protest, completely serious..."Well, keep up then!". I'd created a mollusk-devouring monster.

Anyway, the oysters were absolutely delicious, as well as everything else we'd ordered (tuna tartare, a 1 lb. lobster cocktail, a sampler of oysters Rockefeller, clams casino & grilled shrimp and sauteed jumbo lump crabmeat in herbs and butter).

However, all paled in comparison to the deliciousness of the oysters. Next time we head down to AC, we're ordering THREE dozen and going from there.

Who's coming with us?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Dessert Oneplay

Salt Butter Shortbread
Slow Roasted Apricots, Almond Cream

A few months ago, I picked up Dessert Fourplay by Johnny Iuzzini, who is the executive pastry chef at Jean-Georges, and pretty much one of the top pastry chefs in the country. The book rules, with some recipes I'm going to inflict on my friends (rum and coke ice cream? FTW!). In truth, each dessert is supposed to be a tasting of 4 small desserts that all fit into a theme. Hence, "fourplay"...clever, right? Anyway, I made one from the "Apricot & Raspberry Fourplay".

Shortbread underneath (I cheated and used some Lu Shortbreads). Honey gets infused with lemon thyme. The apricots get roasted with some honey and lemon thyme (courtesy of my good friend Kurt). They get filled with an almond cream (almond flour, butter, sugar, egg) then roasted again. Everything gets stacked and served.

My plating needs work, but I'm not a 4-star pastry chef ;)

Monday, July 6, 2009

Steak - Adorned vs. Unadorned

Had a couple of Wegman's strip steaks laying around. Tried out a new technique I read about in this month's Cook's Country to get a good crust on my steaks. Rather easy - 1/4 tsp each salt and cornstarch rubbed on each steak, then freeze for 30 minutes. This creates a dry exterior on the steak, which is very conducive for creating that awesome crust. Season with salt and pepper, grill over high heat 4-6 minutes per side, rest 5 and serve.

Verdict: Would definitely do this again, the steak came out nice and crusty on the outside and delicious and medium-rare on the inside.

Here's where I failed for the evening: tried out a recipe for blue cheese butter found in Cooks Illustrated. It's got everything I like in it: butter, blue cheese, shallots, parsley. However, in the end, the flavor was WAY to overpowering for my tastes, even with the little bit I used. Alas, not to be repeated.

It begs the question to be asked: what do you put on your steak? Discuss.