Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Restaurant Review: Dining in Newport, R.I.



The Newport, Rhode Island Food Scene (at least in August, 2005)
The Black Pearl (1-99 Bannisters Wharf)
Pop! (160 Broadway)
Flo's Clam Shack (4 Wave Ave., Middletown, RI)
Rhumbline (62-64 Bridge Street)

Bannister's Wharf's The Black Pearl, located directly on the waterfront amidst sailing excursion shops and moored boats, has a wonderful location, and is even more atmospheric inside. The low-ceilinged dining room is covered with nautical prints and acoutrements of the sea, and generally bustling with a mixed crowd of well-heeled locals and sporty vacationers. The menu is fairly basic, and the main attraction here is the clam chowder ($3.50 per cup), so reknown the restaurant ships quarts around the world via their website. Salty and overly watery, the chowder failed to live up to its reputation on my lunch visit. Not terrible, but honestly, rather ordinary. A Syrian burger to follow, encased in a warm pita with a mint and tomato salad on top, was again, ordinary and without distinction. It seems the best reason to visit the Black Pearl is to soak some local coastal flavor, and may be better suited to a quick bar visit in the afternoon or before dinner.
You can get your drink and dinner on however at Pop, situated on a restaurant row section of Broadway a few blocks from the water. Monday night is the time to go, with all food being 50% off the menu prices. Susan (seen above) and I sampled two salads (essentially the same but with slightly different garnishes) to start. Both had slices of cold grilled chicken resting on either baby greens or spinach leaves, and an assortment of nuts, seeds and vegetables. The salads were over-seasoned in my opinion, and swamped in dressings too tart. A main course of steamed clams in garlic butter was more successful, and a meatball calzone ina pool of tomato sauce was satisfying in the manner of all things indulgently fatty. The cocktails are the star attraction here though, and upon being seated, we were presented with a 6-page drinks menu. Go for the house special, the POPsicle ($7), a plesantly refreshing concoction of berry-infused vodka and raspberry liqueur.
Every seaside town has the waterfront fried food shack, and Easton's Beach (just down the road a mile in Middletown) boasts a legend since 1936, Flo's Clam Shack. If your arteries and stomach can handle it, dive into a greasy platter of fried clams or oysters ($7.95 & $8.95 ). Place your order at the outside window and be prepared within 5 minutes to pick up a heaping plate of perfectly fried seafood and sides. The clam strips were among the tenderest I've ever tasted, the fries crunchy and the coleslaw tangy. Spice it up with a few drops of the homemade hot sauce and you've got a tasty lunch that demands to be eaten on the windswept second-story deck. When in Newport it seems a shame to pass on the opportunity to have a regional speciality, but Flo's stuffed quohouge was the only disappointment. The gargantuan bivalve was overstuffed with a poorly seasoned breadcrumb mixture that tasted of little else than soggy carbs.
Rhumbline is the restaurant currently getting the most attention from the foodies in the area, and its location on a residential quiet street in the historical Point neighborhood earns it points from the beginning. We began the meal with expertly mixed Manhattans and Sidecars and warm sourdough bread. A first course salad of romaine, shaved fennel and pecorino ($8) was lacklustre however; the flavors were too subtle and the presentation was non-existent. Entrees were far better: Susan enjoyed a melting tender osso bucco ($24) served with creamy soft polenta, while I had a nightly special of scallops ($25). Each scallop was seared to bring out the sweet flavor of the tender flesh, and the centerpiece sweet potato cake melded beautifully with the shellfish. A five-minute stroll after the lovely meal will take you to Farewell Street and the oldest tavern in America - The White Horse. Pricey to be sure, but don't forgo a digestif in the candlelit saloon, certainly the oldest and one of the loveliest spots for a nightcap you can imagine.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Hitchcock Icy Blonde Dinner Party


[Dream Guest List: Eva Marie Saint, Grace Kelly, Tippi Hendren]
First, all guests must be platinum-haired and defiantly aloof. Since bubbly conversation and warm friendship obviously aren't on the menu, food and ambiance will be the focal points.
A simple table is best: navy flannel tablecloth, gray or tan linen placemats, white or ivory napkins. Flowers should be kept to neutral shades - pale yellow, cream or white. Roses or tulips are best, in a silver vase perhaps. Mercury glass would also be a nice touch. Candlelight is too soft; instead, light your table from below, with uplights strategically placed to lend severity to the guests' fierce countenances.
Cocktails are to be served upon arrival. Martinis of course. Cold trimmed radishes in Alvar Alto glass bowls might be placed around the room. Endive spears tipped with crab remoulade could be passed.
Oysters on the half shell, a half-dozen per guest, on individual plates of rock salt make a wonderful first course.
Follow this with a tiny scoop of lemon sorbet to cleanse the palate.
Poached salmon with a sabayon sauce is the perfect entree. In the dead heat of summer the fish might be served cold, with a homemade mayonnaise and fresh dill.
Since the meal has been light, a creme brulee or floating island is an appropriate dessert, served with your finest champagne.
After dinner usher your guests into the cool living room for a chilled creme de menthe.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Creole Tomato-Peanut Soup



June 21, 2005 Dinner at Cafe Drake

Sloe Gin Fizzes

Creole Tomato & Peanut Soup

Onion Tart with Japanese Greens

Coffee & Ouzo

David Sellers (as seen above relaxing in the warm glow of Cafe Drake) is a marvelous cook and host, impressing guests with ambitious and complex meals. A memorable dinner at his apartment in Williamsburg began with icy Martinis and hot bruschetta, followed by an appetizer of seared foie gras and morel mushrooms with a (freshly squeezed!) pomegranate glaze. Hard act to follow, but the stuffed Cornish hens and roasted acorn squash held their own in this gourmet feast.

The menu above is far simpler, but once again, perfectly suited to a post-work, mid-week dinner. Make the soup (recipe below) the night ahead to allow flavors to mingle and mature. Wash and saute the greens as a first step; you can reheat later or serve at room temperature. I used a mixture of baby mustard greens and mizuna, which lend an appreciated bite to the creamy mildness of the tart (basically, onion quiche. Frozen pie crust? Natch). The cooking time for these tender greens is less than 5 minutes.

CREOLE TOMATO AND PEANUT SOUP

2 T. oil / 1 cup chopped onion / 1/3 cup chopped green bell pepper / 1 t. cayenne / 1 T. whole wheat flour / 1 cup milk / 1/2 cup chunky peanut butter / 1 cup chopped tomato / 2 cups tomato juice

  1. Heat oil in large pot and cook onion and pepper until softened. Add cayenne and cook 1 more minute.
  2. Stir in flour and milk, and when smooth add peanut butter. Cook for 2 minutes then add juice and chopped tomatoes.
  3. Stir frequently for about 10 minutes until soup has thickened nicely. Season as desired with salt.

Rabbit with Prunes and Mustard Sauce

Outside of Italian butcher shops, French bistros and the Appalachian hinterlands, rabbit is rarely found as a fresh meat in this country. Of the possible reasons for America's gastronomical shunning are: this nation's desire to proudly detach from the Old World, disassociation with our hill-dwelling (and meth cooking) countrymen, and the hare's adaptability to cultural icon status and domestication. We don't smile politely in other words on the idea of slaughtering the Easter Bunny or eating Bugs.

None of these delusional notions should prevent us from welcoming this extraordinarily tasty creature into our kitchens, as rabbit is delicious and more packed with more nutritional value (and less cholesterol) than skinless chicken breast. Two local restaurants have excelled in hare preparation - Williamsburg's DuMont pan fries the meat with a light crust and serves warm atop dressed salad greens, while Prune, in the East Village, cooks the rabbit in a sweet brown sauce laced with that restaurant's eponymous dried fruit.

The recipe below takes a cue from this sweet and savoury mix, while adding a mustard cream sauce typical to French cuisine. Although below we recommend sides of polenta and greens, rabbit is also very nice with a vegetable protein such as a white bean salad or stewed fava beans. Drink a non-oak aged Chardonnay with this dish, or a crisp and grassy Sancerre.

RABBIT WITH PRUNES AND MUSTARD SAUCE

1 1/2 lbs. rabbit, cut into pieces / 1 T. flour / 1 T. each olive oil & softened butter / 1 onion, finely chopped / 6 oz. pitted prunes, roughly chopped / 4 oz. fromage frais / 1 1/2 T. Dijon mustard / seasoning to taste (thyme and rosemary or parsley work well)

  1. Place rabbit pieces in a paper bag with the flour and shake to coat evenly.
  2. Heat oil and butter in a large pan and fry rabbit until golden brown all over.
  3. Add onions and prunes to pan and pour over just enough water to cover. Season generously and simmer for 45 minutes until rabbit is tender.
  4. Remove the rabbit with a slotted spoon and keep warm. Stir fromage frais and mustard into the pan and simmer until reduced slightly. Spoon the sauce over the rabbit and serve with creamy polenta and sauteed greens.

Spaghetti with Red Wine Sauce


SPAGHETTI WITH RED WINE SAUCE


What makes this pasta unusual is the cooking method; the spaghetti is simmered for the majority of the time in the red wine. My first taste of this preparation was at the legendary Da Silvano on 6th Avenue in New York. I attempted the dish soon after trying it, and over time have fairly near perfected it (if I do say so myself). Personal modesty be damned: this pasta won rave reviews from my friend Angela Zorzi, for whom I served it to many years ago in my little apartment on East 11th Street. Ms. Zorzi, by the way, is a native of Roma, Italia! An entire bottle of wine may seem slightly extravagant to some, but Chiantis can be found quite cheap and you don’t need a superlative quality for this recipe.


Salt and freshly ground black pepper / ½ cup extra virgin olive oil / 1 T. minced garlic / 1 t. red pepper flakes / 1 lb. Spaghetti / 1 bottle red wine (such as Chianti) / 1 T. butter
  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil and salt it.
  2. Place the oil and garlic and red pepper in a deep skillet. When the water boils add the pasta and turn the skillet to a high heat. In a couple of minutes add salt and pepper to skillet and ¾ of the bottle of wine. Bring to a boil and maintain it there.
  3. When the pasta begins to soften (about 5 minutes) drain it and add to skillet. Cook, adding a little wine at a time, until the mixture is almost completely dry. You will need to stir the pasta and sauce fairly often. When the noodles are done (soft but with a tiny bite), turn off the heat and stir in the butter. As soon as the butter glazes the pasta, serve immediately.

I prefer this as a pasta course before the entrée, but it also makes a marvelous side dish. Try a swirled mound of the spaghetti beside a thin breast of Chicken Fricasse or a meaty fish such as a roasted cod. If serving as a starter, garnish with just a sprinkle of fresh grated parmesan, chopped parsley and few red pepper flakes.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Restaurant Review: The Queen's Hideaway

The Queen's Hideaway
222 Franklin Street (Green Street), Greenpoint, Brooklyn; (718)383-2355

This aptly named restaurant is tucked away on a quiet, largely residential block of west Greenpoint's Franklin Avenue. Any qualms regarding the obscure location are dismissed once you enter the charmingly rustic dining room (or walk through the slender space to a beautiful back garden). Upon being seated a bowl of boiled peanuts are placed on the table for snacking while perusing the single page menu (which changes daily and is dependent on the freshest ingredients available that morning). The nuts are slightly wet, in-shell and a wee bit tangy, cooked as they are in a vinegary spiced broth. While the selection of entrees is small, there so far have been no mistakes from the kitchen. A larger appetizer menu would be welcome, but you can't go wrong with the cheese plate ($5) (often accompanied by exotic meats smoked on the premises and seasonal fruits) or the piping hot zucchini fritters ($4). Not at all greasy, and lighter than expected, they are served with a homemade hot sauce, which while not fiery enough for my taste is loaded with flavor and a surprising sweetness.

Of the entrees sampled, all have been delicious and added to the wish list for future kitchen appearances. A plate of perfectly cooked scallops ($12), atop a melange of tiny yellow and red cherry tomatoes, saided with just-fried tortilla strips is a great choice for a light dinner. The pan-fried trout ($12), topped with a remoulade sauce, is more substantial and also cooked to retain moisture and natural flavor. Those with large appetites (i.e. moi) should go for the witty pulled pork sandwich($13), again, smoked in-house and piled atop Wonder bread slices with various vegetable sides.

Okay, now that we've strongly urged you to make a trek to The Queen's Hideaway, it's time for the lone bitchy comment (which really is meant more as a good-natured suggestion). The restaurant charges a $5 corkage fee for those bringing wine - the only option given there is currently no liquor license. This is offputting enough for diners already inconvenienced by the lack of a bar, but insult is added to injury when the waitstaff hands the opener to patrons and forces them to fend for themselves. THEN, on two visits, there were no proper wine glasses in sight and guests were sipping Cab from coffee mugs.

Hard to complain (well not that difficult obviously) given the rock-bottom food prices, and considering the carefully composed and well executed menu, but a liquor license would be appreciated. If not, then at least courteous treatment of those having gone to the bother to BYOB. Perhaps, somehow, somewhere, this review will not fall on deaf (and highly talented) ears.

Ginisang Munggo

My friend and upstairs neighbor, Jorge Manahan, is the undisputed King of Chicken Adobo. I always begin salivating if I get a call inviting me to join him for a meal of the Filipino national dish! Since I'm not quite willing to attempt it myself (and why bother when you have an adobo master living in the building), I've experimented with a few other Filipino foods recently. The recipe below is one of my favorites, and like all the dishes on this site, is a cinch to prepare. You can easily double the portions for a larger crowd (or more leftovers). Jorge's spirited chihuahua Ocho loves Filipino food, and Mexican, and Italian, and French et al. See Jorge and his pooch (with your web host) above.

GINISANG MUNGGO

1lb Large shrimp / 2 cups Dry mung beans / 1 Yellow onion, peeled and sliced / 2 tbsps Peanut oil / 2 cloves Sliced garlic / 4 1/2 cups Chicken stock / 1 Thin slice of fresh ginger / 1 tsp Salt / 1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper

  1. Soak beans overnight, then hull them by rubbing them in your hands, scoop out the hulls from the container, then rinse the beans.
  2. Add peanut oil into a large preheated saucepan, and stir fry your yellow onion and garlic, then add your chicken soup stock and your slice of ginger.
  3. Bring the lot to a boil, reduce heat, cover, simmer for 20 minutes, remove your ginger, then continue cooking for about 10 minutes.
  4. Add shrimp, salt and pepper, and cook for another 6 or 7 minutes, allowing the shrimp to absorb the flavor.

I like to serve Ginisang Mungoo with plain brown rice, a watercress salad and sliced, vinegared cucumbers. A dry Riesling, well chilled, is a perfect partner for the meal.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Scallops in Sweet Pea Puree



My dear friend Jenifer Ruske, seen above sampling caviar potatoes during Cocktail Hour at Cafe Drake, is a marvelous cook and generous hostess. Stopping by her backyard in Ft. Greene earlier this summer, I was delightfully surprised to find a casual bbq yielding many types of cheeses, dips, chilled sake and from the grill - perfectly charred chicken, salmon and tuna steaks and sea scallops no less! The recipe here is in honor of Jen, who almost never passes up the opportunity for scallops when offered.

SCALLOPS WITH SWEET PEA PUREE

The following entree's grand taste and appearance both belie its ease of preparation,and with its verdant color and clean, simple flavors you're sure to impress even the most discerning guests. Pair prudently with an excellent wine. Let us suggest the absurdly well-priced Sauvignon Blanc from Washington state's Snoqualmie Vineyards. Very modern tasting, this crisp white compliments seafood while allowing gentler flavors to stand on their own.

2 t. olive oil / 12 sea scallops / 1/2 t. sea salt / black pepper / 1 cup chicken stock / 1 clove garlic, minced / 1 10-oz. package frozen petite green peas / 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves / 2 T. butter / 2 t. white wine vinegar

  1. Heat oil in a large skillet. Sprinkle scallops with salt and pepper and add to hot pan. Cook for 4 minutes, turning once and remove.
  2. Add broth, garlic and peas to pan and simmer for 3 minutes. Place pea mixture in blender with more salt, mint and butter and process until silky smooth. Add vinegar and blend again for 5 seconds.
  3. Spoon a small portion of pea mixture onto center of each plate and spread into a circle.
  4. Top each serving with 4 scallops.

Hot garlic bread makes a wonderful side. Since dinner is light here, follow with a rich Maytag Blue cheese and sliced pears and bread.

August 5, 2005 Dinner at Cafe Drake




Dinner at Cafe Drake
August 5, 2005
Gimlets & Pistachio Nuts
Beer-braised Pork Chops with Dried Anaheim & Colorado Chiles
Pozole with Italian Peppers & Tomatoes
Sauteed Summer Vegetables
Chocolate Cookies & Coffee
Grappa
This is such an easy menu, perfect for a weeknight dinner party. The main course is all that requires cooking, and the pork chops, once floured, seasoned and browned, can simmer slowly in the beer and chiles for an hour or more. Pre-saute your vegetables and re-heat just before serving. Using canned pozole makes that side dish a snap to prepare. All one can ask for is a guest as lovely as my friend Jennifer seen above. (Note: these photos were taken AFTER dinner . . .and a few drinks)

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Chinese Tea Ice Cream


CHINESE TEA ICE CREAM
Black teas are rich in anti-oxidants, and especially delicious when configured into surprising sweet or savory dishes. The weather is sultry now, so jumpstart your summer menus with the following homemade ice cream. Improbable and quirky, this smoky tasting dessert almost reminds us of a vanilla milkshake spiked with Scotch. Yum! Best served after a rich, non-dairy entree such as roasted leg of lamb or braised short ribs. Skip the hot coffee and finish with a chilled digestif.

1 cup milk / 6 Lapsang Souchong teabags / 3/4 cup of sugar / 6 egg yolks / 2 t. flour / 1/4 t. salt / 1 cup half-and-half / 1 cup heavy cream

  1. Bring the milk to a boil in large saucepan and remove from heat. Add teabags.
  2. In a mixing bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar until thick and yellow. Beat in flour and salt. Step away.
  3. Remove teabags from milk (after 15 minutes or so) and add half-and-half to milk. Bring to a simmer and slowly beat in egg and sugar mixture.
  4. Pour entire mixture back into saucepan and heat gently, stirring often, until thickening occurs. DO NOT overheat as will eggs will scramble (rather gruesomely we might add).
  5. remove from heat and pour through a strainer into a large bowl. Cool slightly, stir in the cream and refrigerate for several hours (overnight is best). When ready, freeze in ice cream maker following manufacturer's instructions.

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