Thursday, January 31, 2008

Suddenly Soup

Since Sunday, I have had soup three times - Thai soup with glass noodles and chicken from Ghang (too salty), Japanese soba from Taro (my favorite sushi place, and I only ordered soup!), and last night lentil from Zaytoons (amazing.) This is unremarkable except for the fact that until recently, I was sort of terrified of soup. Not in the same way that bananas disgust and repel me, but rather a resonating fear that I would eat soup for a meal and not feel satisfied (stew is of course a different story.) But ever since I discovered the Zaytoons lentil pot of joy, my eyes have been opened, and I am a soup lover. I've been making the red lentil soup that was in the Times a few weeks ago. I made a chipotle black bean pumpkin in Denver over the holidays. All I want is soup. That's all I have to say about that.

Monday, January 28, 2008

I love Daniel (Boulud)

Oh my lord. Daniel and I went to Daniel on Saturday night. Leading up to the big night, I was that we’d built the place up so much in our heads that we would be sorely disappointed. There was also a little pre-dinner stress because I had a clothing emergency. You know, the kind where nothing looks good, you want to wear a skirt, but it’s so cold out and you don’t want to be uncomfortable walking to and from the subway. So we were a couple of minutes late for our reservation, which makes Daniel very tense.

As soon as we entered the restaurant though, our stress, tension, and nerves melted away. We were seated side-by-side at a table for two, overlooking the restaurant (I learned as a child from Babysitters' Club that eating side-by-side is far more romantic than across the table). Our waiter was funny (but not overly so) and attentive (but not overly so). He asked us if this was our first time at Daniel. Yes. He asked where we were from. The City. Well, then, why is this your first time here, he wondered. Because we’re po, buddy. But instead we just smiled.

We looked over the tome that was the wine list, chose one of the cheapest (but never THE cheapest) bottles on the menu – a Sancerre. I seemed to have recalled that was a wine my mom drinks occasionally, so I figured I’d like it too. And I did. An added bonus – unlike at Bouley (where we also ordered one of the cheapest bottles on the menu) the wine opened with a cork not a screw cap. Victory.

Daniel had the vegetarian tasting menu for kosher reasons, and I ever the lover of traif, went for the seasonal tasting menu. Here’s the deliciousness that ensued:

Complimentary amuse: sweet potato puree, cauliflower puree, goat cheese something or other, and a kind of mushroom gelee.

The verdict: we both loved the purees, Daniel loved the goat cheese; the gelee was just so-so

1st Course: Daniel had a mache salad with a gingery dressing; I had the duck foie gras terrine with quince chutney sauternes gelee, frisee, hazelnuts

The verdict: Daniel, never much of a salad eater, gobbled the salad right up. Now I know that it’s inhumane, and I promise not to eat it again for a very long time, but I’d never had foie gras, and both of the first course choices had it in it, so I decided to really go for it and order it straight up. It was literally one of the best things I have ever tasted in my life. Creamy, rich, salty, fatty, smooth. I spread it on toast with a bit of the quince chutney. I almost cried. I contemplated sticking some in my purse or on my bread plate, so that Daniel could try some after his dessert and still be following the laws of kashrut. We’re going to be in France in a few months, and now that I’ve had it, I don’t know how I’m going to keep to my promise to be a one time only foie gras taster.

2nd Course: Daniel had a creamy lentil soup with a side of lentils; I had the Buddha’s Hand Lemon Marinated Tai Snapper, black radishes, mizuna, sesame tuile (please note our kind waiter gave me a copy of the seasonal tasting menu at the end of the night, and I’m just going off memory for Daniel’s)

The verdict: I make a pretty mean red lentil soup based on the one recently featured in the NYT. I really love this soup. The creamy lentil number at Daniel put mine in the toilet and flushed it away. This was the yummiest soup I’ve ever gotten to take a tiny spoonful of. Daniel (the man not the restaurant) was in heaven. Daniel (the man not the restaurant) also enjoyed my snapper, one of the few dishes on my tasting that he could taste. So did I. It was a kind of snapper tartare situation – moist, flavorful, really cool and refreshing after the richness of the foie gras. And I have to note that both the foie gras and the snapper were served with pretty large portions. I was surprised…

Oh the bread: Daniel had two garlic rolls and a piece of multi-grain. I had some bites of a walnut raisin and the olive bread.

The verdict: Although the garlic rolls were very yummy, I would say the bread at Daniel was in no way as good as the bread at Bouley. It’s the one department that Bouley came out with a considerable lead…

3rd Course: Daniel: a beautiful beet and rutabaga extravaganza; Me: roasted sea scallops with savoy cabbage embeuree, sautéed chanterelles, young turnips, navette oil

The verdict: Daniel was so proud of his beet and rutabaga extravaganza and rightly so; the beets were served three ways and were incredibly flavorful and moist and really fantastic; the rutabega was layered with parsnips and had additional very thin layers of cheese in between; really exceptional. My sea scallops was really just one scallop, but it was buttery and chewy in just the right way. I love eating this way with small plates because you really savor each bite – each one is kind of a priceless jewel. Even though you know something else great is coming along, you want to really have your way with what is in front of you in that moment. Which brings me to the cabbage embeuree. Who knew you could do such things with cabbage? It might have been one of my favorite parts of the meal. Although that one little chanterelle on the plate was probably the best mushroom I’ve ever tasted.

4th Course: Daniel had a big old (comparatively) plate of gnocchi with a parmesan foam and carrots and Brussels sprouts; I had a slow baked black grouper with truffle veloute, potato mosseline, celery, and tender leeks

The verdict: It was so exciting to see Daniel get so excited about vegetables. He couldn’t get over how sweet the carrots were or how delicate the Brussels sprouts. He was also a fan of the gnocchi, although he kept saying that I would find it too creamy. Probably true. The snapper for me was probably my least favorite course, which isn’t to say it was bad. It was just much more subtle than some of the other dishes. I did like, however, when the waiter poured the truffle veloute over the fish at the table. I just adore those kinds of presentations.

5th Course: (I know, can you believe we’re still eating?) Daniel: fennel ravioli with broccoli rabe; Me: Duo of Dry Aged Beef: Red wine braised short ribs with beets, horseradish; seared rib eye w/ parsnip-rutabaga gratin, bordelaise

The verdict: honestly I don’t remember anything about Daniel’s ravioli. He seemed very happy with it. I don’t remember because I was so focused on my freaking short ribs. Oh my lord. This is what beef should be. So sweet. A little smokey, that red wine braising was miraculous. Plus I had Daniel’s delicious parsnip-rutebaga thing from before. Plus I had a glorious, medium rare piece of seared rib eye, perfectly cooked – tender and juicy and salty and wonderful. Plus they poured the most fragrant, rich bordelaise on top of it. AT THE TABLE. And I am ashamed to say, it was this course where satiety began to kick in. Ladies and gentlemen, I didn’t finish the rib eye. I’m so sorry I let you down.

6th Course: Dessert. Daniel, with my permission because of my intense hatred of bananas, had the caramelized banana with peanut butter dacquoise and malted milk ice cream. I had the bittersweet chocolate-praline cremeux and amer cocoa biscuit with caraibe ice cream.

The verdict: Daniel really seemed to love his. I wouldn’t know. I had a tentative bananaphobe’s bite of the malted milk ice cream, and it was tasty. For me this was another area where Bouley outperformed Daniel (the restaurant, never the man). I would not have chosen the chocolate-praline situation if I’d had more choices like you do at Bouley. The caraibe ice cream was really very good, and the dessert looked very beautiful with a hardened slide of chocolate going over the cremeux. I would have been disappointed had there not been the :

Bonus dessert: plate of petits-fours including a passion fruit gelee, a marshmallow and a chocolate filled meringue. And then the best part of bag of freshly baked madeleines.

The verdict: I love petits-fours. I love madeleines. Especially these soft, eggy, fresh, warm ones. Especially these soft, eggy, fresh, warm ones dipped in my caraibe ice cream.

The aftermath: We left at around 1:20 AM, thinking we’d walk to the subway. After realizing how difficult it was in our bloated states to stand up, we took a cab, all the way back to Brooklyn, but not before snagging a handful of the high quality paper towels from the restrooms that say “Daniel” on them. So that Daniel (the man not the restaurant) can remember his time at Daniel (the restaurant not the man).

Saturday, January 26, 2008


Tonight Daniel and I are going to Restaurant Daniel. We were supposed to go last week but Daniel was sick, so we called Daniel and they said that we could come tonight at 10:15. I have spent a lot of time on Chowhound trying to decide what to get. Daniel is going to do the vegetarian tasting menu. I may join him in that or do the regular one with lots of MEAT. We'll see. Full report tomorrow. Oh my gosh. I just can't wait!

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Bread Project - multi-grain with flax, sesame and poppy seeds and Pear Bran

So I've taken on a little self-education project - I'm teaching myself to make bread. The curriculum involves baking two loaves a week. A traditional yeast bread on the weekends and a quick bread during the week. (okay I'll admit the second part is really just an excuse to bake some sort of cake-like product once a week, but I am using a lot of whole grains...) Before this blog began my experiments included whole grain loaf, Mark Bittman's no-knead, Irish brown bread, cranberry nut bread, and oatmeal applesauce breakfast bread.

This last weekend, I tried a recipe I found on Epicurious - a multi-grain with flax, sesame, and poppy seeds. Daniel wanted a good bread for sandwiches, so this is what I came up with. It was meant to have 7 grains, but I could only find five. I like the bread okay, although it's not as flavorful as I'd hoped. But toasted with a little jam or hummus, it's pretty darn good.

Just made the sweet bread last night - a pear and bran bread from the King Arthur flour website, which I've discovered recently and is my new best friend. I was skeptical of the pear bran after tasting the batter before baking - very molassesy. But I cut a little slice this morning as a kind of a pre-breakfast, and it's quite nice. Very healthy tasting.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Happy Days - or one piece of gum at 10:30 AM

I went to go see Fiona Shaw in Happy Days at BAM last week. I love Fiona Shaw, in fact she is the only person of whom I can do relatively accurate impression (well to be completely honest, I can only successfully recreate her performance in Three Men and a Little Lady, but I think even Tom Selleck would be impressed.) Anyway, I've seen the play before, but this time I was really struck (read depressed) by the first act. She spends all of her time passing time. Each of her activities - holding open an umbrella, taking the gun out of her bag, combing her hair, must be performed at a specific time and not too early, for fear that she'll be left with nothing to do and hours still before sleep.

Watching this, I realized that this is not dissimilar from the way I pass my day at work, only for me each milestone in the day is marked by food, drink, or sometimes gum. On weekends and evenings I love to be adventurous in my eating, but for weekday breakfasts, lunches, and snacks, I am very regimented. How else will I know it's 2:30 if I'm not eating a turkey sandwich?

Here's the day:

9:30 - 9:45 AM arrive at work; log onto computer, try to while away 15 minutes so that at precisely
10:00 AM breakfast -large cup 0f decaf coffee with skim milk (yes I'm a bad ass); piece of fruit (this week clementines); and toasted Thomas' whole grain light English muffin, with Laughing Cow spreadable cheese and some sort of jam or other fruit spread (right now I'm enjoying a blood orange marmalade; other recent choices include apricot jam, mango chutney, and fig paste)
10:30 AM chew one piece of gum (today strawberry lime - I hate that I've become a gum chewer, but I read it was good for acid reflux, and now I'm addicted)
11:00 AM make a cup of tea with soy milk (have recently been enjoying green tea with mango)
12:00 PM a couple of pieces of dried fruit - apples usually
12:30 PM sometimes (it's a bad day when this is necessary) another cup of tea with soy milk
1:30 PM carrots, celery, or bell peppers
1:45 PM another piece of gum
2:30 PM LUNCH! best part of the day; always some riff on a turkey sandwich and a salad; the sandwich is on either whole wheat toast or cranberry nut toast and in addition to the turkey features either more Laughing Cow cheese and a sweet or savory spread (chili lime chutney is great here) or hummus and some kind of relish; the salad varies, but is some combination of arugula, spinach, red cabbage, radishes, tomato, broccoli, peppers, pickled okra, and cucumber
3:00 PM last piece of gum
4:00 PM more tea and soy or coffee and skim
5:00 PM an apple or pear in winter peach or nectarine in summer
6:00 - 7:00 PM return to the world not measured by sticks of gum and warm beverages

Some initial thoughts

So although I don't believe I've had a stroke (I feel compelled to knock on wood), I spend the majority of each day thinking about food - cooking it; baking it; eating it at restaurants, at home, on the road; shopping for it; reading recipes about how to make it. It's a lot of energy - really makes one work up an appetite.

My intention is to document a lot of my meals here. We'll see how it goes. I'd also like to talk a bit about a couple of projects I've got cooking (sorry) - bread baking, outer boroughs eating club, an upcoming stint on an organic farm, but we'll leave those for later.