Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Gas Station snack in France

I just landed in EWR and I'm immediately suffering from Butter Withdrawal. The lack of Butter perfuming the ambient air is unacceptable.

This picture attached is of a Quiche Lorraine I picked up on my way to Caen. "Paul" seems to be a French equivalent to "au bon pain" but 10x better. No question about it.

This Pitstop for the car and for my tummy was at a gas station off the highway. Soooo damn good over in France. It's just not fare.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Pop Burger - Review

Pop Burger - Recommended
58-60 9th Ave, New York NY 10011
Btwn 14th & 15th St
Phone: (212) 414-8686

Met up some friends at Pop Burger and although I've been there a couple of times, I don't ever remember going sober so I figured it's a perfect time to post up a review. Concept is this is a burger joint that's masquerading as a lounge. Burgers are tasty and the vibe is not bad, so it's a decent place to start the night with some grub and drinks.

Our Menu
Pop Burgers *
Three little sliders that's pretty tasty. Good meat flavor and nice texture. The bun is a tad too large, but the flavor is nice and complements the meat. The sauce was the best part of the burger - creamy, slightly sour and sweet.

Half and Half (Fries
and Onion Rings) **
Uber crispy fries with great potato flavor. Onion rings were solid - crisp and not greasy like most onion rings.

Rating System
--- What the F - in a bad way | (no stars - poor to average) | * Good | ** Great | *** What the F – in a good way

Overall Restaurant Experience
  • Food (7.8/10) – Tasty burger and fries. Nowhere near a contender for best burger, but it definitely works.
  • Service (7.0/10) – The service was pretty damn slow there and it was empty in the lounge area. It took maybe 15-20 minutes to get a drink and the lounge area was basically empty except for our group.
  • Atmosphere (7.8/10) – Pop burger is split up into two sections - the front fast food section and the back lounge area. We ate at the back lounge which was alright. They have wall projectors showing concerts from the 60's (Stones, Who, etc.) which I digged. However, the place is pretty dark so it was hard to see the menu. There are a bunch of couches, tables, and chairs along the wall with a good amount of space between each table. When we left (around 10), the crowd consisted of groups of 4-6 with ages between 20-24 and what seemed to be the upper 30s.
  • Price (5.0) - Burger was tasty, but it was $15 which didn't come with fries. Add in the additional $5 and you're looking at $20 for burger/fries which makes no sense for the quality.
Closing Comments
I prefer Stoned Crow's burger ($12) if you're looking for a place to get your drink on and eat a delicious burger. However, if I were hanging out in the meatpacking (I never do), starting here for a burger makes sense.

Friday, November 26, 2010

3 full days of this

Just wrapped up 3 full days of sales calls and pretty much am now the Sushi Roll King of the East Coast. I can match and pair whatever your heart desires with of course, lovely Japanese libation.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Yasuda: The Next Generation

NY Times has reported what the food world knew a long time ago (us dudes blogged it already!) - Yasuda is leaving to Japan by the end of January and he's anointed his new chef, Mitsuru Tamura. I sat at the sushi counter in front of Mitsuru (I mispelled his name in the previous post) and was a little disappointed 3 years ago. Again, although the sushi was very good, it didn't have the ethereal quality of each fish having a really distinct taste/texture and also Yasuda's trademark phenomenal rice texture. Here's hoping things change, since some QB's don't fully start maturing until their third or even fourth year.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Prime Meats vs Minetta Tavern : Best Burger Challenge

The age old argument, who has the best burger in town comes up quite often.
This time, we were looking for the best "premium blended burger" (meat focused) in the city.
To the untrained ear, one would think we were talking about Scotch, with all the chatter about the blends (of meat) that go into every batch.
Well we think we found the very best.
**Places like JG Melon and Shake Shack were exempt from this competition. We are comparing apples to apples folks.

With a ton of press this past year, Minetta Tavern's Black Label is considered the big bad boy to beat. It's pedigree upbringing by the men who brought you Balthazar is behind this monster and I gotta say it's pretty effin' good.

The new kid on the block, Prime Meats in Brooklyn, is the late night "chef's choice" hang out and also neighborhood German influenced joint. Not only are their other dishes killer, their Private Label "House Pilsner" (brewed by Six Points) is by far the best Pilsner I've ever had in my life.

Alright, let's get down to business... After trying both burgers within a one week span, my buddy D'Artagnan and I are 100% sure who's Burger reigns supreme.
We both unanimously vote for Prime Meats as being the best burger tasted.
(on multiple points)

(left : Prime Meats Burger, right : Minetta Tavern Black Label Burger)

*Prime Meats : 1/2 # of Creekstone CBA Beef (Prime) (Ribeye, Sirloin, Skirt, Aged Fat Cap from Debragga, +Secret Cut, )
Minetta Tavern : 1/3# of Creekstone Prime Grade (Ribeye, Sirloin, Skirt, Brisket, +Secret Cut)
Prime Meats burger patty was clearly more flavorful. It had just the right amount of funk. Kudos to the dry aging program. Both were cooked perfectly, nice crust and extremely juicy in the center, but the moment when you bite into the burger, PM was clearly the better burger.
Every bite from PM, just had a tremendous amount of great beef flavor.
Exemplary marks.

The Bun
PM : Homemade Sesame Roll
*MT : the softest Brioche known to man
Minetta's Brioche is unbelievably soft and perfect. It complimented the onions and burger well, and mechanically superior because when biting into, it will not push things out.

Beef Flavor
*PM takes it. We think the extra fat from the Debragga aging room gave it just enough funk that made all the difference.
MT has a pretty special burger folks. No doubt about it.
But they serve their burger with a hefty amount of caramelized onions. Which is great, don't get me wrong. But unfortunately its really having too much of a good thing. It isn't necessary. The onions in our opinion took away from the meat being the center of attention. Nothing should interfere with the burger patty. Nothing.

PM : Tomato, Lettuce, Red Onions and Cheese right on the top bun. Very basic and basic is good.
*MT : Caramelized Onions tossed in a ton of butter, then spooned on top of the burger patty. Tomato, Lettuce on the side.
Strictly from a toppings' perspective, MT has the edge. Those caramelized onions are insanely sweet and juicy. It would make any ordinary burger pop.

Price $$$
*PM : $16
MT : $26
At $16 a burger, Prime Meats wins this competition by a landslide. A better tasting burger at almost half the cost?! Hands down folks, Prime Meats has it.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Panda Express

Getting my Chinese on!
(Well, you know what I mean)
And the mystical Kobari Sauce. Bwaaahahaha.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Creme Fraiche

South Park is hands down the best cartoon of all time. I'm sorry you Simpsons and Family Guy fans, but they are so on top of their game mocking the latest trends, news stories, etc. Simpsons and Family Guy can't compare. In this year's season finale, they jump on the food craze and it's friggin' ridiculous...soooo eff'n funny.

Randy Marsh ends up taking the term food porn to a whole 'nother level with the episode perfectly mocking the shows and celebrities on food network.

All foodies should 100% watch this ASAP...full episode at South Park's website!

Never too early...

Had a craving for Chinese food this morning so I whipped up a few of my go-to dishes that I've been tinkering with these past few months.

Chinese Long Beans (needs serious work still)
Shrimp in Lobster Sauce with Mushrooms (pretty solid)
And my Pork and Chives with Thai Basil (perfected)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Butternut Squash Soup

Looks like the cold is here to stay for a bit, so let’s get to some comfort cooking for warmth this season.

Butternut squash soup
Delicata squash
Chicken broth

- Pour butternut squash soup into a pot over high heat just to boil. As soon as you see it bubble, lower heat to low, and let it simmer the whole time you’re doing everything else. (The longer it simmers, the better.)
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- Mince about 7 leaves of sage, and stir it into the pot of soup.
- Wash squash, and then peel ¾ of it. You want some skin for looks. (My pix don't show it peeled, but I took one for the team and realize it's better peeled.)
- Cube the squash into ½” chunks, and discard the “guts.”
- Pour about some chicken broth in a separate pan over medium heat.
- Transfer cubed squash to the pan over stir fry for 5 minutes. If it gets too dry, add some more broth.
- While the squash is in the pan, mince 7 more sage leaves.
- After the squash has been in the pan for 5 minutes, transfer squash to a cookie sheet.
- Add chicken broth to the cookie sheet, just enough so the squash won’t stick/burn.
- Sprinkle minced sage over squash.
- Put into oven,and roast for 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes, remove from oven, and transfer squash, broth, etc. to the pot.
- Stir everything together, sample, add salt & pepper to taste.
- Serve.

Done. Your house has a beautiful aroma, tongue will be pleased, and the belly will smile.

Christmastime at the Bucks

I'm pretty much anti-Starbucks, and it's mainly because people use them as a status symbol many times. And I hate trendiness. Anyway, hate them or not, you have to admit that they do have some tasty things there. My friend told me a lot about their lemon loaf, so I gave in, and had a piece. It turned into 2 pieces. But while I was there, "e-g-g n-o-g" called my attention. Those lattes are delish. (Hello, ex-girlfriend Rachael Ray!) I wasn't in the mood for a hot drink, and they offered an egg nog frap for me. It was okay. It tasted a lot more nutmeg-ey, actually. Not that great. But at least I got my egg nog fix! It's been about a year, and I wait a year for egg nog-iness.

Brace yourself NYC

We're about to experience a Culinary Lehman and there's no Government Bailout for this one. 

I've been on the horn all morning putting out fires at work, while juggling even more important issues like booking seats at Yasuda's counter. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Yasuda is gone!

This in from the pages of Eater...the dudes favorite sushi joint of all time, Sushi Yasuda, has just lost it's master. This is like finding out Santa Claus isn't real - a complete blow to the system and a huuuge downer.

The last comment below in the Eater article is ridiculous and this person obviously has no idea what they're talking about. Sitting in front of Yasuda is like watching Joe Montana lead a playoff game wining touchdown drive...his other chefs although good are like watching a decent big ten quarterback - NOT THE SAME AT ALL! Trust me I've had sushi from 3 of his other chefs and I decided no more...it 100% is not the same as sitting in front of Yasuda-san. The texture and flavor of the rice/fish are ethereal in Yasuda's hands, but merely good to very good in his other chefs hands.

"According to a couple of message board threads today, Chef Naomichi Yasuda, founder, owner, and sushi chef behind the revered Sushi Yasuda is leaving New York to move back to Japan. A call to the restaurant confirms.

The chef is reportedly leaving to open up an eight seat sushi bar. He'll be around for a few weeks before heading to Japan, and then he'll be back in New York in at the beginning of next year before leaving for good, a restaurant worker says, in either late January or early February.

It's hard to say whether or not the move will drastically affect the quality of Sushi Yasuda, since what they do there is very straightforward with a focus on ingredients. That said, Yasuda is staying on as a partner but won't be involved in the day to day anymore, and oceans away, it's hard to keep an eye on everything. Additionally he is known for obsessing over every piece of fish and studying diners' mouths to determine the right portion size. Regardless of what could change, super fans better get there in the next couple of weeks."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Advantage 3

Lunch time. Raining. But I still don't want to stay in. Quick drive, and I find myself at a Japanese spot having a bento box. Ah yes, the luxuries of living in a diverse city. How those people who live where it's the same thing over & over, I cannot understand. How those people live having the same things over & over when there is diversity? That, is just plain closed-minded. Many times the office will order out from a Corner Bakery or a Panera. But what I don't get is when people go out to lunch they STILL go to Corner Bakery and Panera. Gotta take advantage of these things! Like I do. And then show off here. :-D

Sous Vide to-go

I was just going through some old food pics from excursions with the "dudes" and this sous vide take home bag came up and triggered a happy memory.
It was Aramis's bachelor party and we had all gone for a memorable meal at Montreal's most famous restaurant "Au Pied du Cochon".
After what can only be described as a hit parade of country style Gascony French food that could easily feed 10 normal men, the 5 of us met our limit and had to surrender to the doggie bag.

How nice of them to vacuum pack the braised piggy leg with ample toppings of foie gras sauce and seared foie gras.
Throw this in a boiling pot of water, cover, cut the heat and you can unload this into a huge plate for round #2 in 10 minutes.

I got this huge smile as I'm writing this post. Must be a sign it's time to go back.

Dim Sum Jihadist

Its been almost a year since I've chowed on some Dim Sum. And believe you me, I went to town.
Over a 100 little snails met their demise as I, Porthos mauled through and devoured these yummy little suckers.

Monday, November 15, 2010

For the Beer-a-philes

No, not pedo-philes. You don't belong here. But for those who enjoy brewing your own beer, touring breweries, arguing with other beer-a-philes on amounts of hops to add, or heck, just kickin it and tossin back a few til you ralph it up later on the floor of a car that belongs to a chick you just met 2 hours before (I know nothing about that personally ), check out the new beer blog in town, Majestic Moose Brewing. The Rick knows his stuff, brews his own, has dropped knowledge on me plenty of times, and explained the drink menu to me, beer-by-beer, while in Colorado, where, umm… they’re known to have some beer there. Due to a late Friday night in Denver from eating, drinking, and more at such places like Appaloosa, Tilted Kilt, and so on, I didn’t have the honor of touring a brewery with him (early) the next Saturday morning. He still gave me good information on what I missed, like the clean mountain water that’s used to make beer, how it makes it better, etc. Anyway, the point is, he knows his beer. He just knows alcohol period as he also tours whiskey distilleries and is an ambassador for Maker’s Mark. Check out his blog from time to time. It’s brand new, so, like all blogs, the content is beginning to roll in.


&/or go to Facebook to "Like" it:


Brew Masters - New TV Show

Here's a new show for all you beer geeks. The brew master at Dogfish is doing a new show on beer and it looks like he'll be traveling around the world looking for ingredients and discovering techniques to produce some new brews. We dudes are big fans of Dogfish beers, so I'll definitely be watching.

Premieres Sunday, Nov. 21 at 10 p.m. E/P on the Discovery Channel

Friday, November 12, 2010

Fremont Diner

Fremont Diner - Highly Recommended
2660 Fremont Dr
Sonoma, CA 95476-9537
(707) 938-7370

I'm not really sure if I really have it in me to move to the west coast. But if I were to uproot to California, Napa and Sonoma wouldn't be a bad choice.

While on my mini weekend getaway to Napa, I rang up a food industry buddy of mine who just took the plunge and moved to Napa not too long ago from NYC.
Instead of meeting up at a big named touristy joints like Ad Hoc or Redd, he told me about this place called Fremont Diner right on the highway when heading back to SF from Napa.

This little shack is Amazing. They do everything from scratch and for the food geek at heart, I ate it all up.

I gotta tell ya, they are cooking with some serious integrity and love at this place. They've got only three 4 top tables, and probably 6 bar stools indoors in the whole place. Some benches and communal tables outside, next to their gravel parking lot.

While I was there, easily 40 people placed orders at the front cashier, grabbed their food and took off in their cars.

I had ordered their classic Mac and Cheese, Corn Fritters, Chicharonnes, Arancinis, Mesculin Salad and the BBQ Brisket. All really damn well made and most importantly, the bill was less than 50 bucks.

If you find yourself on Highway 121, high tailing it up to Napa from SF and you hear your tummy growl, you now know this dude's recommended stop.

The food here was better than La Toque (1 Star Michelin in Napa).

Thursday, November 11, 2010

La Toque - La Joke

Michelin means nothing to me now that I've eaten at La Toque.
It's awarded 1 Michelin Star and that puts it in the same group at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon NYC, Eleven Madison Park, and Casa Mono.

To be brutally honest, there is no way in hell this place comes close to those restaurants named. I don't think I'm that hard to please... But for the sake of my sanity, I gotta let this one loose. "This place really sucks!"
Extremely poor execution. It would be one thing if I just thought the priced didn't fit the meal. But this was so bad, you would be pretty pissed even if you were served this at your local diner.
Gonna say it again; Really poor execution.

La Toque - Highly Not Recommended
1314 McKinstry Street
Napa, CA 94558

Amuse Bouche - Porcini Shooter with Shaved Burgundy Truffle
Probably the only decent thing I had here. This I'll admit took some skill to make.

Appetizer - Seared Foie Gras
This was completely burnt. I have never seen any chef "blacken" a piece of Foie Gras. It was bitter and gross. Terrible!

1st Course - Braised Veal Cheeks on Garden Greens
Veal had very little flavor, and Garden Greens were pretty much the worst vegetable dish I've ever had. I challenge anyone to try to make a worse tasting dish than this.

2nd Course - Rabbit Ballotine with Burgundy Truffles
This would have passed for a quality dish, except for the fact that it was salty as hell. Chef, don't you taste each dish before you send it out? Come on!

3rd Course - Squab
Over cooked and again, overly salty.

4th Course - Antelope
It's amazingly tough, and disappointingly bland. This time, there wasn't any salt, or any flavor from the antelope meat either.
Huge disappointment.

As you can see from my comments, the meal got progressively worse and worse as the night went along.
Chef! Please get back in the kitchen and taste your dishes. You can't tell me you are happy with what's being plated.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Advantage 2

Just want to show off again at how lucky I am to have such diversity around me. A full sized pickup decided to run into me, so I was getting the ($1,800) estimate at a body shop. While there I noticed, all around me, in Rockville, MD, I was surrounded by ethnic food: Middle Eastern, Indian, Japanese, Taiwanese, Chinese, Dirty Knees, BBQ, Peruvian, Thai, McD's (Irish :-D ), and so on. I saw the bubble tea sign and went in. And what's this? Fried chicken??? Sign me up!

Sidenote - I was in Manhattan with Porthos whose "thing" is fried chicken. He opened my eyes to fried chicken at Asian places. He was sooooo right. In fact, the best fried chicken I ever had was in Thailand at a Khantoke dinner theatre watching gorgeous wimmins dancing in their fitted silk clothing doing fingernail dancing. (Maybe that's why the food tasted better? :-) )

Anyway, spicy fried chicken nuggets with steamed rice and an egg roll accompanied my chocolate bubble tea at this Taiwanese place is nice. As I told the lady there: "Wo hen xi huan. Hao chi ye hao he!" (I really like the food. Delicious food and drink!) She enjoyed that the "lao wai" (foreigner) could kick a little Mandarin.

Desktop Snapshot

Yah, slummin' it in the hood.

Kenzo Estate

A lot of times, wine is lost on the average American. And I mean that with the utmost sincerity and humility, for I too am a neophyte in the world of wine.
Our ignorance is regrettable, because we (us Americans) certainly make some of the best juice in the world.

A week or so ago, I had the pleasure of touring Kenzo Estates in Napa. This beautiful winery is one of the greatest places I've ever visited. The staff is so approachable and friendly and what's most important is they are happy to teach you about wine.
I've been to plenty of wine tastings and generally, you hear the same things over and over again. But never in layman's terms because there is and has always been a certain air of arrogance in wine. Well if you are like me, new to wine and hungry for knowledge, Kenzo Estates is probably the best place to get your geek on.
I couldn't recommend a finer winery to take you on a tour, and sit with you through your tasting of their estate wines.

They approach the grape, the harvest, the fermenting, the aging, all in easy to follow language. You never feel out of place or out of touch with the experience.
It's truly great wine by great people.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Buku's Bodacious Batter Fried Chicken

Due to popular demand, here's Buku's fried chicken recipe from our previous UFC event. This was hella delicious and a batter unlike any other fried chix I've seen before. The big winner for me is the frankenchicken pieces at the end which ends up turning into a fried chicken nugget.

2 to 3 lb. Broiler Fryer Chicken, cut up Crisco shortening

½ cup of All purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon celery salt
½ teaspoon pepper

Chicken Batter:
1 cup of All purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup of milk
¼ cup salad oil (I use Wesson Corn Oil)

Wash chicken, put in saucepan, put enough water in saucepan to cover chicken, boil,
and then reduce heat to simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from broth, drain and dry. You
know the chicken is cooked because the meat should be falling away from the bone. I
usually run chicken under cool water and remove all the bones.

In another saucepan heat fat or oil (I use Crisco shortening). You need about 3-4 inches
of melted oil. You want the oil to get to about 360 degrees.

Prepare Coating and Chicken Batter in two separate containers.
For coating simply combine all ingredients.
For Batter: add egg to the milk, beat the egg while in the milk, then add salad oil,
combine dry ingredients separately, then combine liquid to dry and beat. If the batter is
too thick add more milk.

When chicken is ready, coat each piece of chicken in the coating. You could put the
coating in a bag and shake each piece till well coated. Then dip each side of the chicken
in batter, drain slightly and add to the hot oil. Cook on one side till medium brown, then
flip to the other side. This should take approx. 5 min. Then place chicken on rack to
drain and serve. I usually put the in oven on low to keep all the pieces warm until all
chicken is cooked.

If you get some small bite size pieces of chicken don't throw out. As I remove the bones,
any small pieces that I get, I put into a bowl. After all the large pieces of chicken are
cooked, I take the small pieces of chicken, add coating to help bind pieces into a ball.
Add more coating to the outside when the ball is formed, then cover in batter, drain, and
cook in the oil.

Sunday night curry with the parents

Sunday night curry with the parents that came out phenomenal. Pretty happy with the way everything turned out and my little fusion take using scallion pancakes instead of the naan bread actually worked out really well.

Our Menu
Lamb Shoulder Curry
Fall off the bone tender/flavorful lamb cooked in a powerful and creamy curry (similar recipe here) - slightly spicy with just enough sweet to balance it without making it taste overly sweet. The lamb bones definitely amped up the curry a ton. This was phenomenal with the sparkling moscato.

Accompaniments - Tamarind and Date Chutney, Mint Chutney, and Yogurt with Cucumber
Tamarind/Date Chutney and the Yogurt dressing was great with the curry. I need to work on the mint chutney though since it was way too thin.

Braised Collards with Sweet Italian Sausage
One of the best collard green dishes I've ever had. Incredibly tender (not mushy) and full of flavor, but for some reason it was oddly sweet (no sugar/honey added). Using the basic braise with sausage method for 2 hours - sausage came out phenomenal also and definitely a go to method to cook sausage.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Avec Eric - All-Star Episode

For the second season of Avec Eric, Ripert is off to Grand Cayman with a whole mess load of chefs at some Food Festival on the beach. Ripert ends up interviewing some of the following chefs himself to understand what they are looking to learn from these food festivals and also understand what makes them tick. Pretty entertaining episode, although After Hours with Daniel's all star episode was done much better.

Some of the notable chefs in the episode:
Jose Andreas (Jaleo - DC)
Dean Fearing (Fearing's - Dallas)
David Chang (Momofuku - NY)
Grant Achatz (Alinea - Chicago)
Anthony Bourdain

Sunday, November 7, 2010

We need more of these... In NYC

Halal meat vendors and hot dogs are great. Don't get me wrong. But I'm sometimes looking for a solid taco bro.
NYC could use a few more taco trucks like this one I visited in Napa.

Always a Classic

I say skip the nachos and just make it a cheese dog.
It's what you really want so why be bashful?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Brain Food

My distributor buddy hooked me up with some awesome blue cheese yesterday.
Friday morning sales meetings always run better with a little blue.


Boy, I'd love to have this on my wall in the kitchen. Just to be able to play around with all these flavors.