Sunday, September 14, 2014

My Restaurant Bucket List

This week was very stressful for many reasons. Because of this I had to find ways to calm myself and get my mind thinking about happy things. Of course good food is an instant mood booster for me, not only in the consumption end but on the inspiration end. I wound up turning to Mind of a Chef which is now available on Netflix. The first Season follows chef David Chang (of Momofuku fame) around. I have had the distinct pleasure of dinning at Momofuku's Saam for a birthday celebration that involved the consumption of that wonderful  BO SSÄM dish they are so famous for. Watching this show and the type of people whom David Chang associates with and who his friends are got me thinking about what my restaurant bucket list would be. I consider myself lucky because I live in the New York metro area which is not lacking for tremendous restaurants most of which would have made my bucket list regardless. I have had the pleasure of dinning at wonderful five star restaurants as well as some very unassuming but wonderfully delicious hole in the wall type of establishments that I consider better than some of their more expensive counterparts.

So the question now is, what would a restaurant have to tempt me with in order to make me want to put it on my bucket list? I am still not quite sure yet but I do know that I have started my list and I am planning on making good on eating at these places before either, they decide to close or I myself expire. I have just started it off with a few restaurants (places where I have not eaten yet) but I am sure the list will grow as I learn more about what makes my favorite chefs tick and if what the places are doing peaks my interest. Here is my short but very tasty bucket list.

Arzak - San Sebastian
Noma - Copenhagen
Bird Land - Tokyo
69 n' Roll One - Tokyo (for those who are serious about their Ramen)
Sushi Sawada - Tokyo 
Mugaritz - San Sebastian

I should mention that there are many places that are on my list of favorites where I have already eaten including the above mentioned Momofuku Saam Bar. These are my top ones.

Baohaus - NYC
Bar Americain- NYC
Brasserie Les Halles - NYC
Le Padock - Brooklyn
Woodbury Kitchen - Baltimore
Pok Pok - Brooklyn
Seersucker - Brooklyn

Monday, August 25, 2014

Miso Paste - The Sequel

OK, OK I have slacked a bit and then went off on my Parts Unknown tangent, but as promised here is the second recipe that came out of my experimentation with red miso paste. On the side of the miso paste container I got, there was a recipe for miso barbeque sauce. As you might have noticed by now, I only stick to a recipe when there is actual chemistry involved that needs to be heeded in order to prevent culinary disasters. Otherwise, I pretty much try to challenge the norm. I was not particularly happy with what the ingredients in the recipe noted on the container yielded (to me it came out a little too acidy), so I adapted it and made it a little more me. Noted below you will find the ingredients list broken down into what the recipe called for and then what I chose to add to it. Hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed making it.

Miso Barbeque Sauce
Base Ingredients:
2 Cloves of garlic - minced
1/2 Cup of onion -  minced (vidalia will probably work best if you want your sauce to be sweet)
2 TBSP Sesame oil
1/4 Cup of mushrooms - sliced (the thinner the better)
6 oz tomato paste
1/4 Cup red miso paste
3 TBSP Vinegar
3/4 Cup of Water
Extra ingredients:
1/2 Cup Packed brown sugar
1/4 Cup dry white wine
1/4 Cup maple syrup (in honor of Nadia G, one of my favorite Canadians)

In a nice, deep pan, saute your garlic and onions in the sesame oil on medium heat. Let them get nice tender and fragrant. Add the mushrooms and saute until those are nice and soft too. Add in the remainder of the ingredients and mix with a whisk, making sure to break down the lumps from the miso paste and brown sugar. Once everything is nicely incorporated, cover and allow to simmer for five to ten minutes. Uncover and let simmer on low to reduce and thicken to your desired consistency (some people like their sauce a little runny. I prefer mine a little thicker because I like it to grab on to whatever I am putting it on). Voila! You now have barbeque sauce with a little twist. Now what to do with it?

I chose to use my sauce to coat a beautiful NY Strip I had been trying to figure out what to do with. I first coated the steak in olive oil, sea salt and garlic and let it rest in that mixture for abut 5 minutes. I placed the steak on a rack and put it in the broiler for 5 minutes on each side, then I took the steak out and coated it in the barbecue sauce and broiled it again for 4 minutes on each side. It was delicious. The picture below might not do it justice but I can assure you it was wonderful (and no, I did not eat that humungus piece of meat in one sitting. I still have some self control left).

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Food and Politics - Why Anthony Bourdain is More Than Just a Chef

If you have read my blog for long enough, you may have realized by now that I have a tremendous amount of respect if not affection toward Anthony Bourdain. Maverick, rebel, non-conformist, etc.. probably some of his most endearing qualities and the fact that the man can cook doesn't hurt my image of him as an Adonis of sorts. However, the quality that I have come to appreciate most about him is the fact that he is not affraid to discuss and present difficult political issues in his shows. This has perhaps put him in the unique position of being able to humanize issues that the news shows talking heads merely dissect and skew with their constant nonsensical jabber. There is so much of a difference in showing a political situation from disected facts and then seeing it presented from the point of view of people who are sharing good food and showing a side seldom seen. The side of people inside the conflict sharing their fears and hopes over the food that represents their daily living.

The particular reason for this post is regarding the very unsettling situation taking place in Jerusalem and the fact that is was not until a few days ago that I got to see the episode of Parts Unknown that was filmed in this region. It is, in my point of view perhaps one of the best he has done and one that I feel anyone who wants to see the human side of the conflict should be required to watch. Here is part of it that I managed to get from You Tube. Thank you so much Mr. Bourdain for doing this show and for presenting both sides so eloquently. No one could have done a better job. You are more than just a fantastic chef. You are perhaps the best journalist out there right now.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

My Week With Red Miso Paste

I have been in a culinary rut for a bit. I decided that the rut had to end and decided to get myself out of it by challenging myself to use an ingredient that I had not used before. As you might have guessed by now that ingredient was red miso paste. What is is? Well in essence it is fermented soybeans with some rice or barley thrown into the mix. Red miso is usually fermented for over a year and has a very robust and salty taste. If you want a little more in-depth information about miso check out this Wikipedia link that really gets into the knitty gritty of this awesome and very versatile Japanese staple.

I will start off with the first of two dishes I made with my challenge ingredient. I call it Tilapia in Red Miso Maple Glaze. Since I am flying mostly solo these days I made this recipe that is supposed to be for one but really could feed two.

1 Tilapia Fillet (usually about 3/4 lb)
1 TBSP Red Miso Paste
2 TBSP Maple Syrup
1 TBSP Olive Oil/Sesame Oil
1 Garlic clove - Minced
Optional Ingredient - Black figs

Preheat Oven to 380 degrees Fahrenheit. mix your miso paste and maple syrup together. Take your tilapia filet and spinkle the oil and garlic over it and massage them on the fillet. Add the miso maple syrup mixture and coat the fillet with it. Let the fillet rest in this nice mix for about 10 minutes. As an option I got some black figs and sliced them thinly and placed the slices on top of the fillet.

On a baking dish place a piece of foil large enough to wrap around the Tilapia fillet. Place your fillet right in the middle and fold the foil over it to contain the heat and allow the fish to sort of poach in all the wonderful liquid it was marinating in. Bake for about 20 minutes. As an added step, since I like a little crispiness, I placed the fillet under the Broiler for about 4 minutes which caramelized those figs nicely.

To serve you can either accompany your fillet with some rice and a steamed vegetable or like me you can place it on top of a nice massaged kale salad garnished with some dried cranberries.


I will give you the other recipe on the next post. I am tired and need my beauty sleep.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Colombian Food Finally Celebrated

I saw something today that made me entirely too happy among the many things that have happened to Colombia lately. If you watched the world cup you must have seen how much Colombians love futbol (AKA soccer) and how overjoyed we all were at how well the team performed as well as what a great spirit of good sportsmanship they displayed. The joy we feel about this and many other things in life does not just come out of nowhere. We Colombians have it ingrained in our DNA to enjoy everything in the world and that includes food. Our country is known for being one of the most fertile and varied in the type of flora and fauna it possesses. This in turn has given us a wide range of vegetables and fruits, some of which do not exist anywhere else in the world. As you may be able to tell I am incredibly proud of the country where I was born and even more so with this wonderful article published by the Huffington Post celebrating 23 reason why Colombians know what is good. I have to admit I had a napkin in hand because the images just made me drool and long for the days I spent there last year with my munchkin. Anywhoo, I hope you enjoy the link and the wonderful images of the food they put up. I am still drooling and now I am off to get some food albeit not Colombian today but maybe this weekend. I leave you with some pictures I took of a wonderful meal my family and I enjoyed in Cartagena at a place called Mila Pasteleria located in the historic walled city.

 Sinfonia de Coco - Coconut Symphony
(music to my taste buds)
 Case full of many sweets I wanted to consume.
 Bariloche - Shrimp in a cream curry sauce over coconut rice
Posta Cartagenera - Beef medallions in a plum sauce over coconut rice

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Boqueria - A Little Bit of Spain in NYC

OK OK I have not gotten around to doing the ginger beer yet. I am going to get going on that between tonight and tomorrow night. What I have for you today is a little tapas food porn. As the title of this post notes this is about what has become one of my favorite places to eat in NYC which is saying a lot because there are a lot of incredible eateries and restaurants in this darn city.

 I am not sure if it is my recent trip to Barcelona or just a bit of my heritage calling back to me, but lately I just cannot get enough of this type of stuff. I love the jamon and the cheeses but overall I just like the little portions that tapas are all about. I stopped at Boqueria over the weekend and had myself a nice little treat. Some nice Vermouth (Dark Perucci, because that is my favorite one now) and The Croquetas Cremosas which come in a group of 6. Three of them are mushroom with a nice hint of truffle in them and the other three have Jamon in them. Lets just say that this is an experience much like that of Baohaus which just means I am going to start an indecent sort of affair with this place and its delicious tapas as well. With two locations in lower Manhattan this little chain has it all going on right for them. If you are in NYC and craving tapas I definitely recommend you go to be transported to Spain via taste buds.

Anywhoo, enough of my yapping here are some images of the restaurant and of my decadent treats.

Friday, July 11, 2014

DIY Challenge: Make Your Own Ginger Beer

I got really excited today for a few reasons. One was that I finally moved into my new place and everything on that front is finally starting to come together nicely. I also had a really good week at work and that is always a good thing, but the best reason of all has been a post by Food Republic on how to make your own ginger beer.

I happen to love ginger beer because it is a spicy sweet blend that titillates my taste buds and makes me do the cha cha. It also happens to be the main ingredient for some of my favorite cocktails. So far I have been at the mercy of the supermarket chains in my area which carry it erratically and expensively so you will have to forgive me if my excitement seems a bit overrated. To me this one little thing is ripe with possibilities.

Anywhoo here is the link to their recipe, which I am going to be getting going soon as I move the heavy stuff tomorrow. Just in case you need a little inspiration to make this, think that it is not only good for Dark and Stormy concoctions. My favorite is to make it sparkly with seltzer and add St. Germain to it. It is sweet and tangy and all sorts of wonderful.  If any one out there is trying this I would love to hear how it turned out for you. I will certainly post my results when I am done with it.

Ferment a batch of your own homemade ginger beer and OWN that Dark 'n Stormy.

*Photo credit Food Republic Website

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Continental Martini Bar - Great Philly Eats

Because of my job I have the distinct pleasure of traveling between Washington D.C. and Boston  at least once a month. This gives me the chance to check out some of the local places and in some instances find some new favorites. My last visit to Philadelphia, city of brotherly love led me to The Continental Martini Bar in the downton area. The decor here is best described as Jetsons meet James Bond. The food is innovative and tasty. A fusion of Asian influenced dishes with French, Latin and US cuisine.

During this visit, with it being my first time I asked the bartender for recommendations. He did not lead me wrong and told me to go with two of their most popular appetizers. I had the Korean Pork Tacos and the French Onion Dumplings. The tacos had a nice spicy kick that was not overwhelming. The pork was tender and succulent. The French onion Dumplings are best described as a deconstructed French onion soup. Both dishes were more than enough to leave me satisfied and wanting to come back to this place to continue sampling their very tempting menu. If you visit Philadelphia and are looking for more than just their cheesesteaks I definitely recommend this place.

 Korean Pork Tacos

 French Onion Soup Dumplings

Hallway leading  to the Rooftop Bar Lounge

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Sugar Shop - Brooklyn Sweetness

Last week during Memorial Day weekend here in the US, my daughter and I took a nice walk in Cobble Hill in Brooklyn. We walked on Court Street on our way to one of the local playgrounds, and on our way saw a cute sign pointing us toward a sweets shop on Baltic Street. Since we are both doomed with a very powerful sweet tooth we had to check it out. That is how she and I discovered our newest favorite candy store, Sugar Shop. This place much like Deweys in Dumbo, features some old time favorites like salt water taffy and other items like Big League Chew, Pop rocks and other candy bars. There is a little bit of everything for everyone so if you have a sweet tooth and love the feel of those old time sweet shops this is the place for you. I also have to comment on the lovely employee who helped my daughter and I, Candace. Not only was she friendly and helpful, but she also has awesome taste in vintage t-shirts. Check her out below sporting a great Voltron one.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

What Do Star Wars and Doughnuts Have In Common?


OK so I am a total sci-fi geek but Star Wars is an undeniable blockbuster of this genre. However to my shame I had not idea that there was an actual Star Wars day. May 4th for whatever reasons (maybe a pre Cinco de Mayo deal) has been denominated as such. 

Today I woke up to a lovely post from Gothamist with a picture of a doughnut semblance of none other than that Jedi master we all love, Yoda. Needless to say I had to find out what this was about. To make a long story short, Dun-Well Doughnuts in Brooklyn is getting the Star War Celebration on with a bunch of doughnuts themed after the movie characters. The Yoda Doughnut is just the tip of the ice berg baby! 

My daughter has already commanded we go, so I will be there bright and early with my little one to make sure we get some of these yummy treats. May the force be with you.