Tuesday, 19 May 2009

New York eaty me uppy!

Ive had a few friends enquiring about blogging my NYC trip with he the mans , so I thought Id do my best and finally finish it, (well part one anyway) , seeing as it was back in April! Its been sitting in my edits section for some time now! We , will I, planned long and hard for our eatery itinerary and even sparked off some very lengthy heated debates on Chowhound , (a very useful foodie forum), about several places in NY.

Most people ask you what you've bought when you go to NYC , but they know with he the mans and I , its all about the food!! So here over the next few paragraphs is a sort of restaurant diary of our 4 days of gluttony , wonderful feasting!

Our first night was spent at the very stylish , star spotting Mercer Kitchen. I had hankered after a very classical NY evening by returning to Keens Steak house , but my Brother & Sister in Law happened to be in NY at the same time staying at The Mercer Hotel & being only round the corner from our Hotel 60 Thompson, we thought it nice to meet up there. Its like bees to honey for the stylish set this place, but it could do with a little bit of a polish on the service front; some food came out cold and the wait for a a new dish was decidely long! The saving grace was the lovely flavours and a few free drinks thrown in.

We didn't go for all out decadent blow out meal here thought, as quite frankly after a whole day of travelling you just want something either light or homely, well I do anyway!

I know Carpaccio is a bit passe now , but this I couldn't miss, as it combined my faves in fish ; raw & citrus . I love a bit of Ceviche Sea bass Carpaccio!!!

After said day, I really wanted some major comforting familiar food and for me a Friday night is all about a Roast chicken meal! So Roast Chicken in butter with mash it was . For those of the Kosher hearted think away now! ( I don't know why , but I have no picture, but how different can a roast chicken breast look!). I have to say, the fact it was roasted with butter made for the most moist flavourful chicken I had ever eaten out. I never ever normally eat chicken out for the very reason of it being bland and tasteless. This was far from it.

Now I know I talk a lot about healthy eating and being mindful over edibles, but sometimes when in Rome , well when in USA , I just have to start the day with a BIG American Breakfast! So Big Daddy's at Union Square it was 1st thing Saturday morning. Nothing exceptional and not even really a traditional NYC experience , but it was fun , in a sort of old fashioned Disney themed diner sort of way!

We had planned to do it the civilised and stylish way and partake of room service breakfast on our balcony , but sadly we were rained out of our Penthouse suite, (surprisingly given as an upgrade for us on the 1st night of this 10th Wedding Anniversary trip).

Just take a look at this beautiful space.

After this we wandered over to the Union Square farmers market. Walking away from Big Daddy's and on to Union Sq , we stumbled upon a piece of our past, namely City Crab, (visited on our 1st trip together over 12 yrs previously), on the very same corner. Ive written in more depth about all the serendipitous events around this trip on my other blog Gifted Hand if you would like to know the crazy number of synchronistic happenings that took place in our packed 4days! Most particular on this day was the juxtaposition of City Crab, Wholefoods market and the Union Sq farmers market that struck me, having such a rich interest in all things foodie and our past and present all combining.

Its not so much the uniqueness of places like Unions Square Farmers market , as we have Borough market, which is equally bustling and vibrant. This was more about enjoying submerging ourselves in New York food culture & a lovely way to spend a couple of hours.

These ramps seemed very abundant that day, if we' had a kitchen to cook them in we would have bought some.

I loved the way the greens were displayed here ,rough wood trays , but it worked so well.

This stand of macro herbs and shoots was very popular a hive of activity and so beautiful too.

It was at the end of the meander that we saw across the road the famed Wholefoods market and would you believe I have not ever set foot in a whole foods market , this coming from a so called foodie! Everything is layed out so perfectly, almost to perfect, but it is a feast for the eyes. All those wet dripping bright shiny vegetables and lettuces, makes you want to buy the lot!

Ok thats part 1 put out there. Watch this space for the next installment were I natter on about more food and more restaurants, like this lot;

A continuation of our Saturday scoffing with Lunch at Bistro Les Amis, Dinner at Eleven Madison Park, Sunday Breakfast at The Grey Dog, another lunch at a dodgy TGI Friday type place off Time sq with not so great buffalo wings ( so not memorable , we cant even remember what it was!), dinner at Kittichai in 60 Thompson, Monday Breakfast at Southstreet Seaport (nothing fab, just the place next to Abercrombie), and finally Lunch at restaurant Landmarc in the Time Warner Center.

Friday, 8 May 2009

The marvels of tomatoes and other yummies!

We well and truly christened our new kitchen the other night with a 4 course feast for some friends. For 2 weeks he the mans and I sat with our cherished books compiling our 4 course menu. I fell in love with a dish from our French Laundry book and just had to try it. The rest was from Gordon Ramsey's 3 star Chef.

When a very good client of mine bought me the book French Laundry, (client is subsequently now a very good friend), looking through its hallowed pages, I never thought Id ever be able to make anything from it. But 2 yrs on and many a meal been made and experimented with, he the mans and I felt brave enough to give it a go. We have never previously made these dishes until the day of the dinner party! Mad I know, but we managed to pull it off to our complete surprise. Although it didn't come easily , the kitchen was a mass of equipment and non stop processes on every surface. It was true organised chaos! We tried our best to stay calm and in control all day preparing, mixing and sieving to our hearts contents! The girls loved seeing this commotion in the kitchen and little cupcake was especially proud of her contribution to the mixing!

Now I know many people would say we weren't being very creative as we didn't come up with something ourselves, but I feel we were really stretched technically and having mastered - will ok may be not quite mastered !! , but having tried , we're are now in a place to start combining our own things, eventually!

Our very own gourmet tasting menu was as follows :

Scallop with sweetcorn puree and truffles - Gordon Ramsay 3 star Chef page 134 Image page 20

Vine ripe tomato sorbet with tomato tartare and chive oil , served with garlic tuiles - French Laundry page 55-56

Navarine of lamb with buttered vegetables with celeriac puree (we substituted with salsify) & Thyme jus - Gordon Ramsay 3 star Chef page 190

Lemon meringue with marinated strawberries - Gordon Ramsay 3 star Chef page 216 Image page 100

Now with the corn puree I really wasn't sold. I thought sweet, creamy & corny = well ick! But Oh my gawwsh , he the mans has become my puree super hero. It came out so moreish and savoury sweet , I couldn't stop eating it the rest of the weekend!

Now onto the Intermezzo or Amuse Bouche. First you start with some tomato's and wow they were some tomato's! They tasted how tomato's you imagine should taste. He the mans made some time the day before at Borough Market to get them, as that seems to be the best place for real produce. There's then roughly 30+ processes that go into the tomato sorbet dish!


then become this

Then I had to boil and re boil this 3 times, that's orange zest by the way

Then I made one of these

The recipe asked for the use of a Tamis - basically a very wide and extremely fine sieve- to finely sieve the tomato puree. The Tamis retails for around £87 , now I know equipment is important , but at this stage of our cooking lives , I'm not quite in need of such a luxury - YET!!! I did however find this cheaper substitute on Amazon , but alas it wasn't available in time and doesn't seem to be available at all now! So I came up with the next best thing ,very fine muslin tied really tight across a bowl!

So it didn't move when I was pushing the tomato puree through twice , I laid it into another bowl.

This was my invention to allow the puree chive and oil mix to drip through to create the fine chive oil for plating up with the tomato's.

He the mans was amazed I managed to do these tuiles , as was I. It involved spreading a fine paste into circles onto greaseproof paper and baking to create crisp savoury nmm nmmmess !!!

and finally its all plated!!! Quick wheres my wine before the next bit!

I'll have to apologise for this image , we just started eating when I remembered I hadn't taken a shot of it. Again there were reams and reams of processes , but he the mans just pottered around the place bringing it all together! He makes it look so easy! I was too busy with my part of the meal to manage to get shots of his work in progress!

and finally dessert. This was a shared effort , again with some more tuiles , this time with pepper, sugar and sesame seeds. We got in a tizz with the meringue as it really wasn't working. Having tried it several times we had to give in due to time. The flavours were right just not the texture. Meringue is such a fine art and this creation called for a soft chewy slab of it, instead we had a crunchy , chewy, foamy, blob of lemony sweet and sour stuff! The sorbet however came out wonderfully, all zingy sweet smooth.

Ive just asked he the mans if he'd do it all again , he said yes , but not for a while!!!

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

A quick word on Agave Nectar or the evils of sugar!

Image from Allposters.com

I must admit Im a bit of sugar fiend and even though I know its not great for me or anyone in high quantities I still like the sweet stuff; sugar in tea, honey in cooking, sweeties, ice cream and so much more! Although strangely as I age, Im finding many confectioneries far to sweet for my palate! I thought with Agave Nectar Id found the product of my dreams , sweet and healthy! What an Oxymoron that's turned out to be!

A paper has been published recently, and you can read it here , the crux of which is ; STAY AWAY FROM AGAVE. Its evils are being compared to the likes of High Fructose corn syrup! The worrying part is the chemical secreted in a reaction to the extraction and heating of the centre of the agave heart. Ive recently found this Volcanic Nectar version , but I still want to look into how different this product is from the others on the market. It sure does make some amazing claims in comparison to other Agave products.

I believe totally in moderation and my diet is testament to the myriad of foods from healthy, raw to gourmet and all the way through to fried junk (Ok so I have a bad thang for bufallo wings shhhhhhhh!!!). So to this end I think I will still use a slug of Agave here & there, but will make sure I try and find other substitutions for sweetness in cooking. I tried a whole papaya in a one pot dish and it did wonders. I just find adding that little sweetness can make some of the flavours really intensify. So if anyone has tried anything natural for sweetening , let me know.