Archive for April, 2009

Maine Lobster

Besides fried clams, I also love Maine lobster. I am a purest about lobster, don’t overcook them plus just steam them. I have a huge clam/lobster pot that I bought 35 years ago and it works perfectly.



I am not a huge fan of chicken lobsters (about a pound) and usually ask for a 2 pound female. The operative word here it must be a female. 


The two pound girl



Just out of the steamer



Unlike most people, I am not a big claw person. My favorite parts of a lobster are the green stuff  or tomalley (the lobster’s liver or more accurately, its digestive system) , the red stuff  (the roe or the unfertilized eggs of the female), the legs (makes for great sucking), the small chunks of meat inside the carapace or body of the lobster and last but not least the tail meat. Usually, by the time I get to the tail, I am quite full and usually eat half the tail meat and save the claw meat, knuckles and some tail meat for leftovers. Let’s just say that there is absolutely no waste when I eat a lobster.



Gorgeous roe and tomalley



Working on destroying a lobster



Leftovers on a toasted onion roll


Fresh Eggs

I am extremely lucky to have good friends and neighbors who have hens who lay the most beautiful eggs. They also have an incredible custom-designed coop and their hens live what only could be called the “the life of Riley.”


Just laid egg



Uncooked egg – look at the color of that yolk



Fried Egg – gives new meaning to fresh eggs


Thank you Marianne and Stuart.

Sonny McClean’s – Santa Monica

I just don’t understand why Los Angeles doesn’t have a clue about how to make fried clams. I can buy clams with the bellies from the East Coast and somehow manage to make decent clams – not perfect but OK.

Clams at home


Please notice plump bellies – just a light coating of batter


Mary’s Fish Camp in New York also succeeds – at least there are clams


Neptune Oyster in Boston wins a huge prize

Now we get to Sonny McClean’s in Santa Monica. An absolute disgrace as all you are eating is batter. At first glance, they look OK.


But then I deconstructed the clam and deep-sixed the batter. To the right is THE clam. To the left is just batter. I am not kidding – this was just batter.




More fried clam porno from Road Food:



Don’t bother going to Sonny McLean’s.

Vin Bar – Santa Monica

First of all a huge congratulations to Piero and Anna on the birth of their daughter Sasha on Easter morning. It was very important to us to wish our best to Piero in person so Saturday night at Vin bar was a must.


Proud Papa and champagne (not pictured) to celebrate Sasha’s arrival.

As usual, we didn’t look at a menu and just said to Piero to keep it light.

One important note: Valentino is introducing regional cuisine month. April is devoted to Sicily, next month is Campagna. I would definitely check with the restaurant and take advantage of this very special treat.

The amuse was served together but photographed separately. I will let the photos speak for themselves – each dish was executed perfectly and in a word delicious. 


Duck breast on Bruschetta with celery root puree 



Deep fried zucchini flower stuffed with Gorgonzola cheese with marinara sauce



Wine with amuse



La Caponatina di Melanzana – Sicilian style appetizer of grilled eggplant with caponata – roasted red pepper, pine nuts, tomato, olives, goat cheese, basil and olive oil



Second wine



Frittura di Paranza con Polipetto, Calamari, e Pescciolini – Paranza style refers to small fish fried in olive oil – the fish: baby octopus, squid and a “baby fish” that resembled  smelts



Third Wine



Caciocavallo cheese Timbale – the sauce was the Sicilian cheese – Caciocavallo. The timbale was a layered affair of zucchini, abalone mushrooms and green kale.



Farmer’s Market Rissoto with zucchini, fava beans and Cresenza Cheese – this looks luscious and it was.


Two different pastas for each of us – we shared


 Calamaratta Pasta with sweet onions, fresh tomatoes, dried proscuitto



 Pasta with Broccoli and ricotta (my notes on this are atrocious – (please excuse my lack of exactness, but we did have a lot of wine)


Last wine



Cheese – Sotto Chennere, Caprino (goat cheese) Fig Salami

What an absolutely wonderful meal with the delightful and generous host Piero. I absolutely recommend Valentino and/or Vin Bar without hesitation. Go for a casual evening, go for the chef’s tasting menu, go for the special regional dinners – just go.

Stephane Derbord – Dijon

From a meal in 2006.

Stephane Derbord (Michelin 1-star) Dijon:     

I had read about Derbord on a food blog and owe thanks to Chocolate and Zucchini for “discovering” this restaurant. One stars can be iffy experiences – some are good and some are horrid. This one is definitely good. 

The room is charming – well spaced tables, beautiful flower arrangements, contemporary without being stark.





1. Croque Monsieur-a miniaturized version of the classical ham and cheese sandwich.
2. Smoked trout mousse with a sesame seed coated baton
3. Parmesan tuile with jambon (ham) 
4. Cromesqui of tomato

Excellent, inventive, not avant-garde, but well conceived and well made.



Amuse # 2:
1. In a wide shot glass, beef tartar done the traditional way with capers and onions and topped with horseradish cream.

2. Warm cream of asparagus soup topped by a triangle of crisp filo.

3. Feuillete (flaky pastry) stuffed with some type of fish mixture and frise with black sesame seeds on the side. There was some type of foam, but my notes are no help.

Again each dish was quite good with the nod going to the beef tartar.



1st Course:
Cannelloni de Farce Fine de Grenouilles, Veloute de chou-Fleur, Emulsion au Cresson.
The veloute of cauliflower was at the top and bottom of the plate, the watercress emulsion was at the center and a frog’s leg sat on top of both. The cannelloni was horizontally placed and stuffed with chopped frog’s legs and a traditional parsley “sauce”. The cannelloni was a bit tough, but the “stuffing” was excellent. 



2nd Course:
Me – Les queses de Langoustines en carcasse, chapelure du Polenta au lard fume, puree de petits pois, mousse au saffron.

4 langoustines were presented in the shell on a beautiful blue glass rectangular plate. The langoustines sat on polenta “batons” that were studded with smoked bacon. A line of pea puree was placed across the top and bright yellow saffron foam (mousse) draped each langoustine. The langoustines were delicious, but the polenta overwhelmed the dish. I ended up deconstructing the dish to highlight the langoustines not the polenta. All in all, though, a good dish.



John -2nd course- Filet d”Agneu deu Bourbonnais Roti a l’Ail, compote de tomatoes et courgettes confites, salad d’ herbes a l’Huile d” Argan. Lamb filet roasted with garlic accompanied by thinly sliced eggplant rolled around tomato confit, baby carrot slices, a roasted cherry tomato and a smaller “salad” with argan oil. 

Delicious subtle flavors. A good hit for John.



3rd Course Cheese cart:
Can’t go wrong – great selection and nice service.




4th Course: Dessert:

Me – Strawberries
1. Strawberry gratin
2. In a glass of strawberry juice a lollipop much like an Eskimo pie filled with strawberry mousse
3. A millefeuille of puff pastry and strawberry cream.
4. Fresh tiny strawberries in a syrup of violets.



John – vanilla in 3 flavors.
1. Millefeuille of the puff pastry with vanilla cream
2. Cold soufflé with caramel
3. An ice-cream cone with vanilla ice cream



1. A bon bon filled with vanilla cream.
2. Macaroons
3. type of yogurt
4. some type of cookie



Citron de Crème Legere. A digestif very reminiscent of lemonade.

Stephane Derbord was a pleasant surprise-a solid 1-star with a charming chef’s wife leading and managing the competent front-of-the-house team. This plus a very committed chef and staff who demonstrate the chef’s passion on the plate made for a delicious lunch.







Duck Fat Popcorn

1/3 cup popcorn

2 tablespoons duck fat

Heat duck fat in saucepan (add one kernel of popcorn). As soon as its pops, the fat is ready. Add the rest of the popcorn, cover pan and shake pan until popping sound stops.




Waterside Inn

From a meal in 2006

Waterside Inn is truly a beautiful restaurant.  Sipping champagne on the terrace while watching ducks, swans and assorted yachts pass by on the Thames is magical.  The dining room glistens with gleaming silver, sparkling crystal and starched white linens.

We started the evening on the terrace with amuses — a baguette with Serrano ham topped with a dab of parsley puree, a large oval olive bread crisp and smoked salmon with crème fraiche and caviar.

After a lengthy discussion with the ebullient manager, Diego Masciaga, we decided to skip the “Menu Exceptionnel” and order a la carte.

We were shown to our table.  The view and positioning was lovely. There is a row of 4 tops right out at the window edge, then a row of deuces positioned in the space between the 4 tops.  The scene is always in view.

Amuse at the table –chilled gazpacho with lobster. This was way too weak, flat and completely under seasoned.

I was surprised that the bread was not served and that you were instructed to use your hands to take what you want.

First Course

John – Poached eggs served in a pastry crust with asparagus tips and a light mousseline sauce. This was very reminiscent of the Julia Child dish of poached eggs and mushrooms, with béarnaise sauce.   The flaky pastry shell was filled with a duxelle of mushrooms and topped with the poached egg.  Summer truffles, shaved over the top, were tasteless, but over-all the dish was excellent–excellent saucing, light and flaky pastry…and perfect poached eggs…nice…

Me -Crisp battered snails with fine cut vegetables and watercress mayonnaise. The snails were excellent and reminded me of fried clams. The vegetables were shredded and had the appearance of coleslaw, but with no taste.  The watercress mayonnaise was presented in a waffle potato cup –a nice touch.  Except  for the shredded vegetables, an excellent, well-executed dish.

Second course-

Unfortunately the next course came within a few minutes of the previous course. We felt rushed and asked them to slow it down.

We both had the Pan fried lobster medallions with a white port sauce and ginger flavored vegetable julienne. This was an absolutely “signature” dish. It deserves the raves. The lobster was sensational.  You are immediately aware of how fresh it is.  It was just removed from Waterside’s own lobster tank.  The texture of the lobster was tender with that “sweet” lobster taste. The port sauce was rich, but not cloying with a bit of heat from the ginger.  John, is not a lobster lover, but he actually ate every bite and gave it the thumbs up.

Third Course –

Grilled and roasted Challandais duck with sides of carrot puree, lemon confit in puff pastry and peas.

This was a very disappointing dish. The duck is brought to the table whole to be carved.  Our server turned the duck upside down to let the juices run and a few drops emerged. This was a surprise given the luscious duck juices from Boyer’s duck. The duck meat was rare,  but it had none of the flavor of the wild duck at Boyer or Troisgros’ wonderful signature duck that we remembered from ’03.

The saucing was a natural jus and it did say as much on the menu. But I did expect a 3 star restaurant to at least strain the jus, reduce it or do more than just serve it as pan juices. The rest of the dish certainly did not qualify for the status of 3 Star as the peas were over the hill, the puff pastry soggy and the lemon confit added nothing.

We decided to skip the cheese and dessert to have coffee and mignardises in the lounge. 


1994 Reisling “Kappelweg” Rolly Gassman–perfect with the early dishes…clean, fresh and yet aged to a mellowness seldom found in Reislings.

1999 Cornas, Noel Verset, this is an example of trying not to break the bank.  All wines are very expensive.  This is a small type of wine, big flavor when it is very good and this was very nice, but 59 pounds =$ 108.00– a lot of money for this wine.


I think our impressions of Waterside Inn were colored by our fantastic experience at the Fat Duck.   This is Classical French food done, for the most part, very well. But there is not the minute attention to detail, the preciseness of a true 3 Star Restaurant.  It lacks the intense care given to every aspect of the food as at L’Ambrosie or Pierre Gagnaire.