Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
I had some good Thai food at Spice, where the drunk man noodles were so delectable and spicy that I ate them twice that weekend. I also discovered that in Manhattan, brunch is king. Sure DC has good brunch places and yes, I have had the best eggs benedict here. But New Yorkers are friggin' serious about brunch. They come out in packs; they down those mimosas and bloody marys. Brunch is not some willy-nilly endeavor that you decide upon when you wake up hungry on Sunday morning at 11 am and expect to waltz into a place and grab a table easily at noon. These people make reservations in advance for brunch. And these are my kinda people.
So I headed down to the Cookshop in Chelsea with Eshawn. I had passed the place while I was on my way to another (not as good) brunch location on Saturday morning. The eggs in a skillet with their orangey glow beckoned to me, and so I too succumbed to making a brunch reservation for Sunday morning.
We started out with the beignets with a blueberry compote. They were slightly crunchy and hot and soft on the inside. The consistency wasn't really that of a traditional beignet. While I'm dying to try a New Orleans Beignet, the others I've had in the past were much lighter than the ones at cookshop. Still, fried dough--you can't go wrong with that. I also had a spicy bloody mary made with Absolut Peppar, as well as a really good coffee that they served with warmed and slightly foamed milk (bonus points on the milk).
For breakfast itself, I had the egg sandwich with two fried eggs, housemade sausage and aged cheddar cheese on a homemade English muffin. If only I could start every morning with this delicious breakfast sandwich (albeit, I'd be 10 lbs. heavier). The eggs were perfectly cooked with runny orange yolks that were sopped up with the thick (and not undertoasted!) English muffin. The housemade sausage was good and spicy, and slightly reminiscent of pepperoni. I would have liked it to be browned/cooked a little more, you know, the kind with crispy edges. The mixed green salad on the side was very fresh and had a simple touch of olive oil, pleasantly sharp red wine vinegar and what I presumed to be sea or kosher salt.
All in all, a great and delicious start to a morning on my brief vacation in Manhattan. The mainly hipster waitress/waiter crowd was incredibly friendly and pleasant. The service was on point even though the place was packed by the time we left. Cookshop's brunch is pretty straightforward and nothing too fancy. The presentation (unfortunately not represented all that well in the picture above since I was still dragging around my defunct iPhone with the broken backlight at the time) is eyecatching, but simple. It's breakfast food, so it's not complicated. But it all just looks so good. And looks here are not deceiving because it also tastes good. So next time you happen to be walking around Chelsea and see three gorgeous over easy eggs in a mini cast-iron skillet, whip out your OpenTable app and sit down to brunch at Cookshop.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
I chose to take my best friend from elementary school who I hadn't seen in years to Kushi. We both enjoy sushi and Kushi came highly recommended by fellow bloggers and even a local/full-time food writer. But walking away from this meal, I was...shall I say, underwhelmed. I can only speak to the sushi and not the other dishes, but I just was not all that impressed. I've had better sushi from a Wegmans (dude, Wegmans sushi is king of supermarket sushi and I would say rivals some restaurant sushi). And while I had heard all the hoopla over Kushi touting it as an inventive and unique sushi place...I was not that wowed by the menu. Okay there are some funky uni (sea urchin) options and soft shell crab specials, but the basic, everyday menu looked pretty standard to me.
Upon walking into Kushi, there was a sign that threw me. Something that was slightly unsettling and for a flash of an instant made me fear that I could end up repeating the terrible food poisoning episode of 2005. That sign was the smell of fish. Oh, what's that you say? It's a sushi restaurant? They serve fish so a fishy smell is okay? WRONG. I have stuck my face into the carcass of a 50 lb. halibut before and no, it did not smell fishy--because it was fresh. If you're serving raw seafood, it had better not smell.
Setting the looming fishy smell aside, the sushi we got was quite fresh. Sorry about the lack of pictures! To start, we both had the miso soup. While I liked the mushrooms that practically melted in my mouth, the soup as a whole was kind of bland and it came out lukewarm. I prefer the variety of miso soup with seaweed in it, but sometimes it's nice to see the stalky mushrooms for a change. There was a nice amount of fresh scallions, but I would have liked to see some more tofu (c'mon restaurants, don't give me two cubes of tofu in my bowl of miso).
For the sushi, we ordered pretty classic, standard fare. I didn't see a special that jumped out at me and I decided to stick with what I knew and liked best. I feel there are two ways sushi usually goes: 1) inventive and daring, usually with interesting uses of tempura, sauces and other "fixins" that if overdone make you question the quality of the sushi you're being served (ie: why are you doing all this stuff to my sushi? What are you trying to hide?); and 2) Traditional maki and nigiri options that are the familiar standby we all enjoy. I like both of these sushi preparations. For me, I found Kushi aligned itself with the more traditional maki and nigiri options--no rainbow rolls, tempura rolls or other crazy americanized concoctions here. Maybe I was just in the mood for that, but I was a little disappointed not to see any particularly creative maki on the menu.
I tried the shrimp nigiri, tuna and avocado maki, spicy tuna maki, yellowtail and scallion maki. The shrimp was meaty and chewy in a good way. The spicy tuna maki had a hot kick to it and the tuna was definitely fresh and thick. The yellowtail had a slightly odd salty taste, something I have never tasted in yellowtail before. As I said earlier, the sushi was fresh and simply prepared, but wasn't mindblowingly awesome.
The service was pretty good. We had an attentive waiter and the staff does a decent job of not butting in between you and your dinner partner when you're seated at the sushi bar. Aside from Kushi being in the outskirts of Chinatown/in Mt. Vernon Square where you are likely to wonder, "Is it safe to leave my car here?", the decor of the restaurant itself is nice and sleek.
Would I recommend Kushi? Well, maybe. I feel this restaurant might deserve a second look; however, I'm sure you can find better or just as good sushi elsewhere and potentially a more inventive menu. Without sounding too harsh, Kushi might be one of those restaurants that is riding the new kid on the block wave in which it gets a lot of hype not because it's really that different from other places, but because it's fresh and new in town. Check it out if you've got the time, but perhaps go with their other Japanese gastropub fare rather than the sushi.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
There's a reason 1789 has been around for so long. The food is consistently outstanding, and the service is impeccable. I can honestly say there are few restaurants that have service at the level that 1789 does. The attention to detail is outstanding (ie: the folks there knew I was celebrating the one year anniversary of my blog without my saying a word and congratulated me!). And for the record, I don't believe any of the food was a "carbon copy of a carbon copy." The dishes I had were all innovative, fresh and delicious.
Having gone the entire summer without tasting the delicate softshell crab, I started dinner out with the crispy soft shell crab with corn chow chow and a chilled heirloom tomato soup. The crab had a lightly fried coating, crispy around the tender crab meat. The corn was sweet and the chilled tomato soup was like a thinner gazpacho with a great, fresh flavor. The presentation on this dish was great--the crispy golden half of the crab standing upright in the bright red tomato soup with the yellow flecks of corn kernels. Next up, I tried the salmon belly rillettes with radishes and creme fraiche. The salmon had a slightly smoky flavor, and served cold it was a refreshing dish on a summer evening. If I could smear this on crackers for breakfast every morning, I would.
Following the first round of appetizers, I tried two other outstanding dishes: the burgundy snails and the oyster gratin. Let's be clear here, I've never eaten a snail in my life. I've seen them roaming my mother's vegetable garden when I was a kid, and these little goobers in their shells never struck me as something I'd want to cook in butter and garlic and eat. I would be more apt to use them in a prank to scare a relative or friend. However, I could have devoured the entire plate of snails and morel mushrooms that I split with my mom. Morels are my f-a-v-o-r-i-t-e, and with the buttery sauce and fresh garlic, this dish was truly outstanding. The oyster gratin, however, was probably the best dish of the night. Piping hot on the shell, the oysters were topped with serena cheese, candy onions, basil, zucchini and zucchini blossom. The light sauce from the gratin was so tasty and pleasantly salty and creamy that if Maude from Georgetown's high society wasn't sitting behind me, I would have picked up the shell and slurped the rest of the sauce.
For the main course, I tried the beef tenderloin with young chard, more of those buttery morels and bordelaise. Cooked juuuust to medium with the nicely browned edges, there wasn't a morsel of this steak I didn't eat. It probably goes without saying that the bordelaise is a great pairing with the steak. I also tried the day boat scallops that were thick, meaty and had the slightest, crunchy browned edges with sweet candied cherry tomatoes. The slab of housemade bacon was a really nice combination with the scallops.
Having seen 1789's pastry chef, Travis Olson, make dessert right before my eyes in the kitchen before, I knew I couldn't pass it up. The peach ice cream with plums and a cardamom funnel cake (pictured left) was so good that I actually closed my eyes to completely savor it at the dinner table. I kid you not. The ice cream was so smooth, light with just a smidge of tartness. Plums, which are in season right now, were fresh, thick and melted in my mouth with the delightfully sweet sauce. The funnel cake was crunchy, not the slightest bit greasy, and was smothered in a dusting of sugar. The only complaint (if you can even call it that) is that I would have preferred a stronger cardamom flavor. I only got to try a smidge of the espresso mascarpone bar (pictured left), but it was, in the words of Campbell's Soup, "mmm mmm good."
For those of you that reserve 1789 for the most special occasions or think of it as the place where stuffy Georgetowners go, think again. If you want a great meal and not another ubiquitous tuna tartare dish, go to 1789. The food is interesting. It's fresh and local. And since I first went there on a family vacation when I was 12, 1789 remains one of the most pleasant dining experiences I have had in this city.
Thanks again to Chefs Dan and Travis, Bartholomew and all the 1789 staff for all their hospitality! It was a pleasure celebrating the 1 year anniversary of bonappetitfoodie.com with you guys.
Friday, August 13, 2010
In celebrating a year of having this blog, I've got some people to thank. Thanks to everyone who's been reading on Facebook, Twitter and of course, here. I really appreciate all my friends and family who've followed, read and commented. And thanks to those of you who I don't "know" but who read this blog. Thanks to my friends who've gone out to new restaurants with me, have been the guinea pigs for my recipes, and have endured me photographing food in public places when we go out. And thanks to all the various people who I've met because of this blog and may have given me a free meal or two.
And now for a little sentimental, self-indulgent reflection...
I have two real reasons for this blog existing in the first place. One: my family and two: my boyfriend, Eshawn.
When I reached the age where I could fully and accurately recite the alphabet, my mom put me to work in the kitchen. Here begins my resume as a cook. For years of my youth, I served as the resident "salad washer," before graduating onto more difficult tasks. By eight I had successfully mastered the art of cutting carrots with a butter knife. And thus my love for food was born. I am fortunate to have a lot of food memories with my family--from my grandfather's invention of mustard slathered grilled steak (sounds gross because it is), to the much tastier memory of perfecting his potato pancake recipe. Baking cakes that looked like dolls in dresses with my grandmother, eating bits of the raw meatball mixture she made (calm down e. coli freaks, think of it as beef carpaccio) and learning the secret recipe for her Italian meat sauce, even though no one who is related to me by blood is even remotely Italian. There's also my stepdad's chili and the memories of gorging on baba ghanouj with my aunt and uncle. And most of all the memories of cooking with my mom. Thanks Mom for making the family try a new and adventurous soup at every holiday dinner, no matter what grandpa said ("How's the soup?" "It's interesting...apple butternut squash, you said? What is this stuff?" "Happy Thanksgiving!"). All of these family memories are really what got me thinking about food in the first place. I can't tell you how excited I get when my mom calls me in the middle of the work day to tell me she liked one of my blog posts (yep, I am a softy).
So flash forward from all those memories and cooking experiences to a year ago today. My boyfriend Eshawn loves politics and politiblogging. I prefer less controversial topics. Food has the power to bring people together. It can make people who might ordinarily not like each other break bread with one another and converse over a well-prepared meal, whether it's kids stuck together in the cafeteria in middle school, awkward in-laws at a wedding rehearsal dinner or politicians from different parties at an inaugural luncheon. We all have to eat, and so food and enjoying good food is something I believe we all have in common.
But I digress. So after Eshawn started his blog, I essentially wanted to copy him and get a blog of my own. I thought hard about what got me going, what subjects I could talk about and never tire of and what subjects I knew something about. And so, I landed on the topic of food. I am so grateful to Eshawn for encouraging this idea when I called him, all excited and energized, and first told him about it. He was the first follower, reader and commenter and has been a big help in promoting my blog to friends (and strangers). Thanks for helping me get this idea off the ground, Eshawn--I love you to pieces!
Happy reading and happy eating for the future, foodies. Thanks again to everyone for coming along for the ride.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
I met Anthony Bourdain about two months ago at a book signing and had wanted to squeal with delight as I took back my signed Les Halles cookbook in my slightly sweaty palms. So when his newest book, Medium Raw, came out this summer, I had to buy and immediately read it.
Like Kitchen Confidential, Medium Raw is a fast and engaging read. Bourdain makes you think about food. He makes you laugh continuously throughout the book, so much so that I had to awkwardly stifle laughter at the airport so that people didn't think I was crazy (you never want to be the weirdo laughing to yourself at the gate, even if you are reading a book or listening to something hilarious on your iPod. Fellow passengers will be hoping against all odds that they're not in the middle seat between you and the guy who just got greasy Five Guys).
Bourdain previously opened people's eyes up to many of the grim realities of restaurants (like that whole no fish on Sundays business or no seafood frittatas). In Medium Raw, Bourdain exposes some disgusting truths about the meat industry. Ammonia-soaked burgers with bits of the cow that were previously deemed unsafe for human consumption? Coming to a burger near you! I'm glad that someone is making this public service announcement. And I truly hope that people get up in arms about it and petition for the FDA to not allow slaughterhouses to throw everything into the ground meat mix that becomes your burger. Bourdain's take on why we're all so crazy about burgers all of a sudden is also interesting. Aside from the burger being quintessentially American, Bourdain talks about how the Starbucks phenomenon is happening to burgers--we're stupid and we want to pay $24 for a tasty, healthy, designer burger so we can feel a) safe about the meat we're eating and b) cooler.
His description of this Starbucks phenomenon is funny because it's true: "Starbucks' truly beautiful idea was the simple realization that Americans wanted to spend more money for a cup of coffee, that they'd feel much better about themselves if they spent five dollars for a cup of joe rather than buy that cheap drip stuff that shows such as Friends suggested only fat white trash in housecoats (or people who actually worked for a living) drank anymore--in their trailer parks or meth labs or wherever such people huddled for comfort." Try not to think that the next time you stroll into the ubiquitous Starbucks. Yes, Bourdain, you're right again, Starbucks is the locale where yuppies go to exchange intellectual musings over cranberry muffins where they play "a faint soundtrack featuring the nonthreatening musical stylings of Natalie Merchant." And if you weren't such a witty man, I might feel offended for you insulting the coffee place I frequent when I need to wake up.
It was also nice to read Bourdain talk about his daughter and talk a little bit about how he's changed since becoming a dad. Don't worry, you're not gonna cry or get all sappy over these parts (as if that would be Bourdain's style). But it's heartwarming, and some of it's funny. For example, read the parts about his thoughts on McDonald's and how he will try to prevent his daughter from eating such food. Anyone who saw him on tour probably heard some of these lines in his talks with Eric Ripert.
There are people who will say that Bourdain still has an "angry streak" or that he's still "pissed off at everything." I don't consider Bourdain to be all that angry. I consider him to be a man who's witty and snarky. He says what a lot of other people think but don't have the guts to say most of the time. And there is something I can respect about a person that isn't really afraid to openly criticize other chefs. I respect someone else that has the philosophy akin to my own of, "If you're my friend and I like you, you know it. And if I don't like you, well, you probably know that too."
Bourdain writes about which food people fall into his "heroes" and "villains" categories. Again, if you saw him on tour some of this is a repeat, but still just as funny. There are a few instances where Bourdain doesn't name the person he's trashing, but pretty much tells you exactly who it is. I'm not sure why he did that for certain characters and not others.
One of the people in the food world that Bourdain shows no mercy for is Alan Richman, who gets an entire chapter devoted to him in Medium Raw. In the beginning of the chapter, Bourdain talks about how it's quite easy to get journos and bloggers on the side of a restaurant by essentially feeding them for free but not violating any real ethics. And I can see how that happens. It's hard to trash places when people are nice to you, even if the food or the service completely sucks. Anyway, read that chapter and if by the end of it you don't hate Alan Richman, then you may not have a soul. What kind of food writer trashes New Orleans and tears apart a restaurant just getting back on its feet after Hurricane Katrina? What food writer has a long list obnoxious "commandments" about everything diners and chefs should be doing? Alan Richman, that's who.
So if you're looking to add that one last book to your summer reading list before Labor Day comes along, I suggest picking up a copy of Medium Raw. You'll laugh and you'll learn a thing or two about food and the food world. And maybe you'll have an understanding for why I think Bourdain is just so freaking cool.
*Stay tuned for another Bourdain-related post next week. I'll be asking for YOUR help, foodies...
Saturday, August 7, 2010
Ingredients (serves 2 people, or 1 very hungry person):
- 2 bunches of basil (about 3 1/2 cups of packed basil)
- 3/4 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup of walnuts
- 2-3 medium/small cloves of garlic
- 5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste (a couple of shakes will do)
Look at all that fresh summer basil!
1) Thoroughly wash the basil and remove the leaves from the stalks. Discard the stalks and dry the basil off before you add it to the food processor.
2) After you add all the basil to the food processor, add the peeled garlic cloves. It's a good idea to chop the garlic cloves up just a bit so that they are distributed more evenly throughout the pesto in the food processor.
3) Add the 1/2 cup of walnuts, 3/4 cup of cheese and 5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4) Pulse the basil mixture in the food processor until it is finely chopped and well mixed (but not pureed). Add more cheese or olive oil accordingly.
5) Stir well and serve immediately on pasta or sandwiches.
A few things to keep in mind: 1) I like to cook on the fly, meaning I don't really measure everything out to the exact amount because that's boring and I cook a lot from memory (and use basic intuition - ie: that garlic clove that's practically the size of your fist...yeah, that does not qualify as "one large clove"). So this recipe is a guideline; a pretty accurate guideline, but a guideline nonetheless. 2) Make this according to your taste. For instance, if you like a lot of garlic, then go ahead and add more to this recipe. If you like pesto with pine nuts, then substitute them for walnuts, or use a mixture of the two. 3) I don't like an oily pesto--at the end of the meal, I feel like my face is covered in olive oil and I need a shower. So when you serve this pesto over pasta, you might want to add a little more olive oil when you mix it and if you want to stretch the pesto a little more. Remember: you can always add more olive oil, but you can't take it out. 4) Can you use the parmesan dust in a can for pesto? In a pinch, yes. But we'd all prefer you buy a fresh hunk of cheese and grate it because it will taste better!