Archive for June, 2008

Bistro Don Giovanni

Bistro don Giovanni is another favorite of ours for lunch. It is comfort food, casual dining and just tasty. I find that when I am doing heavy hitter dining at the FL, I need this type of contrast.

The room is very large and although, many people prefer the patio, my husband has a thing about bugs – not that I have seen any.

The menu:

We started with one of our favorite dishes the carpaccio – thinly sliced filet of beef, arugula, capers, parmesan and a bistro breadstick laid across the top.

We didn’t like any of the pizzas listed and asked if they could make one of our favorites – no problem. It was not exactly as we remembered it, but delicious. In the center of the pizza was an over-easy egg – the yolk deep orange and runny with a firm white. Remembering the suggestion from a previous visit, we ate the pizza up to the crust and then  dipped the crust into the runny yolk. The pancetta added a smoky bacon taste and the truffled pecorina was not at all overwhelming.. For my husband a major bacon and egg freak, he was in heaven.

Sorry for the blurry photo.

Pasta with Sonoma Duck Bolognese – Don Giovanni excels at this bolognese sauce and it was spicy without being too assertive. The pasta was al dente and again the dish gets high marks for deliciousness.

Expresso and a cookie

 

Service is efficient  and although this is not fine dining, it is a nice respite from other experiences.

 

Roast Beef Dinner

Roast Beef Plated

For some reason this popover pan stuck this year and I had to resort to this popover pan

popover pan

Second Popover pan

ROAST BEEF

The timetable for roasting is approximately 5 to 5 1/2 minutes per pound of trimmed, ready to cook meat.

Bring the roast to room temperature. (At least one hour before cooking)  Preheat the oven to 500.  Place the roast in a shallow roasting pan. Sprinkle with a little flour and rub the flour lightly into the fat.  Season generously with salt (Lawrey’s if you wish) and coarsely cracked black pepper.

Roast according to the above timetable, following the minutes exactly!!!

When the cooking time ends, turn off the oven heat, BUT DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR EVEN FOR A SECOND. Allow the roast to remain in the oven for 1 hour.

The roast will be beautifully rare inside and retain a crunchy outside.

YORKSHIRE PUDDING

You need to get extra fat from the butcher to use for the Yorkshire pudding.  Render the fat in a small saucepan.

To make the Yorkshire Pudding Popovers, you need a second oven as you can’t open up the oven door where the roast beef is.

Yorkshire Pudding recipe (ACTUALLY POPOVER RECIPE)

3 eggs

1 1/4 cups flour

1 1/4 cups milk – room temp

Dash salt

Preheat oven to 450.

Beat eggs with hand mixer until lemon colored and foamy.  Add milk and stir until well blended. Do not overbeat. Add flour all at once. Hand beat until foamy and smooth on top. Grease popover tins with the rendered roast beef fat. Place popover pan in the oven for 2 minutes to warm. Fill cups with batter poured from pitcher, filling almost full. Bake at 450 for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and bake 30 minutes longer.

POTATO BRIOCHE
GOURMET 1985

Makes 16

3 1/4 pounds boiling potatoes, peeled and quartered

3 teaspoons salt

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature

4 large egg yolks

white pepper to taste

2 teaspoons milk

16 well-buttered miniature brioche molds measuring 2 1/2 inches across the top, chilled. I buttered with unsalted butter.

In a kettle cover the potatoes with cold water and bring the water to a boil. Add 2 teaspoons of the salt and simmer the potatoes for 12 to 15 minutes, or until they are tender. Drain the potatoes and force them through a ricer into a bowl.  Using a wooden spoon, stir in the butter, 3 of the egg yolks, the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and the white pepper and let the mixture cool for at lest 20 minutes and up to 2 hours.

Transfer 1/4 cup of the potato mixture to a lightly floured surface, with lightly floured hands pinch off a piece about the size of a marble, and reserve it. With lightly floured hands roll the larger portion into a smooth ball and drop it gently into one of the chilled molds. Make a shallow indentation gently in the top of the ball, form the reserved marble-sized portion into a smooth ball, and fit it gently into the indentation. Make 15 more “brioches” in the same manner.  In a small bowl combine the egg yolk with the milk and brush the egg wash gently over the brioches, being careful not to let it drip down into the molds. Bake the brioches on a baking sheet in a preheated 425 oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until they are golden brown. Let the brioches cool on a rack in the molds for 20 minutes. Loosen the edges with a metal skewer if necessary and invert the brioches carefully to remove them from the molds.

The potato brioches may be made 1 day in advance, kept covered and chilled, and reheated on a baking sheet in a 400 oven for 15 minutes or until they are heated through.

Creamed Spinach – the key to good creamed spinach, whether you use fresh spinach ot frozen leaf spinach, is to wring every drop of water out of the spinach. If you don’t you will have watery spinach. Also you have to finely chop the spinach – I put it in the cuisinart, then hand chop so there are no stringy bits at all.

Heath Bar Brownie

I am very lucky to be able to call Michel Richard my friend. He has been my mentor and basically taught me how to do pastries. (I was clueless before meeting Michel). One of his favorites is an adaptation of a Bon Appetit recipe, the Heath Bar Brownie. 

 

At the Chef’s table at Citronelle 

 

Michel signs the photo and declares it superbe!

 

Heath Bar Brownie

Bon Appetit  June 1993

8 servings

 

Ice Cream

1 quart vanilla ice cream

1 cup chopped heath bars ( about 6 ounces)

 

Caramel Sauce

1 1/3 cups whipping cream

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

 

Brownies

1 cup ( 2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

3 large eggs

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3/4 cup all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped Heath bars ( I process Heath Bars in food processor – some end up fine crumbs – some a bit crunchier)

For ice cream: Place ice cream in medium bowl and soften slightly at room temperature. Stir in chopped Heath Bars. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and freeze. (Can be prepared 3 days ahead)

For Caramel sauce:

Bring whipping cream to simmer in small heavy saucepan.  Set aside.  Combine sugar and 3 tablespoons water in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high and boil without stirring until caramel is deep amber color, brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush if sugar crystals form and occasionally swirling pan, about 8 minutes.  Remove from heat and slowly add warm whipping cream (mixture will bubble vigorously) Return sauce to low heat and stir until smooth. Remove from heat and mix in butter. (Can be prepared 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate)

All comments in italics are not in the orginal recipe.

For Brownies:

Preheat oven to 350. Butter 9 inch square baking pan with 2 inch high sides. Flour lightly. Combine butter and both chocolates in top of double boiler set over simmering water; stir until melted. Remove from over water and cool mixture slightly.

Using electric mixer, beat eggs, sugar and vanilla in large bowl until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. ( I beat the eggs until broken up, then add the sugar in a stream and beat until quite thick – I then add the vanilla and beat to incorporate)

Beat in chocolate mixture. Add flour, baking powder and salt and mix until combined. (I sift flour, baking powder together and then add to egg and chocolate mixture. Do not overbeat – just stir on lowest speed until flour mixture is incorporated)

Stir in 1 cup chopped Heath Bars. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons Heath Bar. (I add enough Heath Bar crumbs to cover the entire surface – not too heavy – moderate amount.)  Bake for 27 minutes for fudgy consistency, tester inserted into center comes out with moist batter, for cake like texture bake until tester inserted into center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. About 35 minutes. (I bake for 30 minutes, then check – normally around 31 to 34 minutes) Cool. Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and store at room temperature. (I let sit overnight at room temperature before cutting. When cut, it can be frozen with ease.)

Rewarm sauce over low heat. Cut brownie into 9 pieces. Spoon warm caramel sauce onto 8 plates. Place 1 brownie in center of each. Surround each with 3 small scoops of ice cream.

 

AOC

A.O.C.

Critic’s rating: 3 stars

How this restaurant deserves 3 stars is beyond me. This was not dining.

There were 5 of us – 2 chefs, one FOH guy and my husband and me. At first we were shown to an upstairs table right across from the service station – we would have been sitting in an “afterthought.” We rejected that table and were shown to a table at the bottom of the stairs in the second dining room. 

AOC does one thing well – cramped seating. We were sitting at a table that seats 4 relatively comfortably, but is a nightmare for 5. The table across from us also seats 4 with comfort, but was packed with 6. That is the operative word – pack them in and AOC was packed – 2 deep at the bar and tables in the front dining room so close together you were forced to make friends with your neighbors.

The menu is broken down into charcuterie, salads, fish, meats, items from the wood burning oven and sides. This is a small plate experience so you order 3 or 4 dishes from each section.

Charcuterie:

house-made terrine with frisée and mostarda

lomo and two chorizo

speck with apples and arugula

pork rillettes with pickled onions

 

 Trying to share these meager portions became a joke. Later on, we ordered 2 of one dish to try to off-set this, but even then “serving” them was more hassle than fun. As to the food itself, the lomo (cured pork loin) and chorizo were OK, but no better than I could get at my market. The small tub of butter was a nice addition, but again trying to pass that around the cramped table was a pain. The speck was again just OK and portion size very small. We were learning that if you wanted to really taste a dish, you needed to order two portions. The terrine was the best of the group and the jelly that accompanied it was delicious. However, try sharing that amount of jelly between 5 people. The pork rillettes were decent and the pickled onion a nice touch.

 

Next up:

clams and sherry with garlic toast

brioche with prosciutto, gruyère and egg (2 orders)

bass with meyer lemon and lucques olives (2 orders)

arroz negro with squid and saffron aïoli

 

The kitchen determines the order of what comes out first without regard to what makes sense in terms of taste. We were told the kitchen couldn’t handle a predetermined order; our 2 chefs offered to go in the kitchen and help out.

Again to the food, the brioche was horrible, over-cooked and over-fermented. The bass was also over-cooked and tasteless. The arroz negro – rice stained blue-black with squid ink was mushy – this kitchen does one thing well – overcooking the life out of an ingredient. The clams were decent, but the broth had absolutely no flavor.

roasted dates, parmesan and bacon

Finally something that tasted good – the best “dish” of the night.

 

Meats:

veal saltimbocca with madeira brown butter

coq au vin, bacon and black trumpets

grilled quail, foie gras and porcini sauce

pork confit, black-eyed peas and mustard butter

How they were able to make coq au vin and veal saltimboca taste like fried chicken is beyond me. The quail was in true AOC tradition overcooked. I didn’t taste the pork confit.

 

Side:

duck fat potatoes and apples – greasy

We ended up with a cheese plate – skimpy slices. No photo. 

A real disappointment, given the reputation of AOC.

 

Bistro Jeanty

Bistro Jeanty is a safe bet for good, classical bistro food. There are no bells and whistles.  We also tend to stay with our tried and true favorites for the couple of times we have strayed i.e. cassoulet, we have been disappointed.

The menu remains virtually unchanged since they opened, although there are a couple of blackboard specials changed daily.

Menu here:

http://www.bistrojeanty.com/menu.html#MAIN%20COURSES

We split all orders – one for two.

 

Duck Foie Gras Pate on Croutons

 

 Smelts – these are still the best – crunchy, just fried, not greasy with a spicy aioli on the side.

 

 Homemade Rabbit Pate with a celery Root Applke salad and Mustard Dressing

 

 

“Steak Tartare, ground to order, with Pommes Frites. The Tartare is made the traditional way with capers, parsley, onions and cornichons. It is served with a raw egg on top to be mixed in by the diner.

 

 The frites were superb arriving lightly sprinkled with salt and parsley.

Bistro Jeanty is a safe, classical bistro with delicious food and excellent service.

Neptune Oyster

Never let it be said that I don’t travel on my stomach. We scheduled our plane reservation based on the fact that we would arrive in Boston to catch an early lunch at Neptune Oyster. Exactly at 11:30, just as they were unlocking the doors, we were seated, ready and waiting.

The place is cute, somewhat of a hole in the wall with a huge long bar area for those who want to eat there.

My husband started with clam chowder. He happens to like a thicker version, but I thought the chowder was much more authentic as served – not gummy, gluey with too many potatoes and too much cream.

 

 

I had 3 types of Oysters-

From MA. – Cummaquid – medium size, medium salt, plump, buttery leeks and chive hints (They provide you with a cheat sheet that describes the oysters.)

From WA – Kumamoto – small size, plump, sweet, hints of cucumber, creamy

From AK – Windy Bay – large size, low salt, sweet, buttery, briny, melon finish

Now we ordered fried clams. They didn’t realize that we each wanted an order, but as it turned out this worked out in our favor. We ate the first order piping hot and then got a second batch, equally piping hot. I had clams three other places on this trip and I must say that these were the best by far.

 

First order with some eaten, as I just couldn’t wait:

 

 Second order:

Wonderful place and I would give anything to have this restaurant transplanted to Los Angeles.

Lameloise

We had not been back to Lameloise since they lost their 3rd star. We were anxious to see what had changed. Our room was as pretty as ever with a huge bathroom and large sitting area.

We were greeted like “old friends” by one of the Maitre D’s who seem to recognize us.

Champagne in the lounge area with two amuses.

a. Marinated mackerel in a Chinese spoon.

b. On brioche, a slice of hard-boiled egg with chopped up “something”…our server was a mumbler, not exactly helpful.

At the table 5 amuses.

a. Hard boiled egg with tomato coulis and morel cream.

b. Chantilly cream with potato mousse.

c. Tomato covered in sesame seeds—chewy almost caramelized.

d. Almond cream in a cone

e. Ham fritter.

1st course: Oysters from Gillardeau, gelee d’eau de mer, caviar, agrumes acidules — 4 oysters in the shell – one with citrus; tiny (almost 1/16”) diced citrus fruit, one oyster sat in a gelee of “sea-water” and 2 oysters were presented with small (1/8” diced potato) mixed with caviar. An excellent beginning.

2nd course: Pommes de terre ratte grilles aux escargots de Bourgogne suc de vin rouge, et crème persillee. 

We have had this dish before. It is a favorite. The ratte potato is slightly hollowed out and the snails sit in the potato. There is a touch of red wine at the top of the plate with parsley cream sauce to the right. The potato adds the “butter feel” without the butter. Another very good dish, though not quite as perfectly executed as in the past.

3rd course: Grenouille simplement meuniere a la ciboulette rosace de pomme de terre doree—this dish was a disgrace. The frog’s legs were shriveled, tiny and so dry and over-cooked they should have never left the kitchen—letting them stay in the pond would have saved them for some one who knew how to cook them…awful!

4th course: Thanks to the recommendation of a friend we ordered the Pigeonneau en Vessie et ses pates fraiche au foie gras poele.

This is a Lameloise signature dish. If it is on the menu, order it! The pigeonneau is cooked in a pig’s bladder to seal in all the flavors. On the side is fresh pasta with small pieces of pan-fried foie gras. This is a decadent, over-the-top dish. I ended up calling it “one for the memory book—an important dish that should be in everyone’s dining repertoire”. To be honest, I put my analytical mind on hold, as I wanted a completely visceral experience.

5th course: Cheese Cart…

6th course: We were supposed to have a dessert –hot apple tart with granny smith apple sorbet, but 10 minutes became 20 minutes became 40…we decided to skip dessert and have coffee, mignardises and a cigar (for John) in the lounge.

Summary:

Lameloise has lost a star. The question is, “Has it made a difference?” Good or bad? There is a definite sense of frustration and depression. The service is definitely not 3-star. A lot of “chiefs” are wandering around with no one in charge. There are no “eyes” watching the room or supervising. When we think about “eyes” we always think of Pascal in the early years of TFL—he seemed to see everything. Nothing slipped by. Pierre at L’Ambroisie is another great “eye” along with Jean Pierre at Taillevent.

There was a definite miss re the food – the frog’s legs. But then, I start thinking about that Pigeonneau en Vessie and all is forgiven. I just like this restaurant with all its faults. I wish they would stick with the traditional and not try to re-invent the wheel. They do need someone to be the major domo of the dining room – the eye.


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