Showing posts with label beets. Show all posts
Showing posts with label beets. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Croquer: Grüner


As soon as I moved away from Portland, something seemingly magical happened (coincidentally, I'm sure).
Everyone was raving. Long before the Alpine craze spread like wildfire, downtown Portland's Grüner was winning diners over with their "greener" (which grüner means in German) approach to goulash and spätzle. Perhaps it was my visit to Bavaria and the Austrian Alps in my formative years, but old-world Middle Europe is my soft spot. Upon my visit back to Portland, Grüner was at the very top of my list.


Brooke and I met up with Portland(-by-way-of-LA) transplant Anna of Banana Wonder for happy hour on Grüner's sidewalk patio, rumored to be one of the best happy hours in town. After one glance at the exceptionally reasonably-priced menu I understood why.


I couldn't deny the allure of the Aquabeet cocktail, with Krogstad aquavit, beet gastrique, and lemon juice. It was bright, earthy and refreshing. And strong!


The Dangerous Summer was a fitting choice for the day, which Brooke and Anna enjoyed, comprised of Appleton Jamaican White Rum, Maraska maraschino, raspberry syrup, lime, and flamed lemon. A little too easy to tipple...


Essentially, we ordered one of everything... Starting with the signature beet pickled hard-boiled eggs.


The duck liver mousse was forceful and pungent. We all sampled it silently, politely admitting later that we favored it least of the bunch.


On the other hand, the house-made liptauer cheese with radishes, celery and pretzel croutons could have come in a much larger crock, as we devoured it in seconds.


I insisted on the rabbit frankfurter, brioche bun & dill pickle relish, which was buttery and tasty. I wanted to order a second to get a larger bite, but wisely waited for everything else to come out first.


Anna is a bit of a pretzel freak, and I am right there with her. We were both disappointed not to see Grüner's on the happy hour offerings. Our server apologized as it only appears as a side on the dinner menu, but after some begging agreed to oblige our request. A curious braid, this pretzel was almost a baguette hybrid, but with good flavor and chewy crust/flesh ratio. Anna seemed to give it a thumbs up.


Gosh, we were still hungry. Time to call in the charcuterie — salami, spicy coppa, cornichons & mustard tided us over until the big sausage came.


It wouldn't be Alpine cuisine with bratwurst, and Grüner's is plump and delicious, covered in sauerkraut alongside sweet mustard. This is truly all I need, and a wise way to finish our Germanic snackage fest. We called for our check, which arrived in a gorgeous piece of literature on Weimar Culture. Had only they dropped that sooner, we may have left sated and smarter.



527 SW 12th Ave. Portland, OR 97205; 503.241.7163
grunerpdx.com
Grüner on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Recettes Secrètes: Ensalada de Noche Buena


Though I first experienced this salad a decade or so ago in Tucson when my mother prepared it for Christmas Eve (as she does now every year), its origins are in Santa Fe. Throughout the festivities on Christmas Eve ―Noche Buena, the “Good Night,” as it’s known there― New Mexico's lively and vibrant cuisine is paramount. This colorful and refreshing side dish proudly represents Santa Fe's unique blend of cultures and traditions.

Ensalada de Noche Buena
adapted from Rick Bayless and Homesick Texan

4 large beets, roasted and cut into sticks
3 seedless oranges, supremed
4 Granny Smith apples, cored and cut into sticks
5 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium (about 1 pound) jícama, peeled and cut into sticks
1 head of romaine lettuce
1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts
Seeds from 1 pomegranate
1 tablespoon colored candy cake decorations (grajeas in Mexico), for garnish

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Clean the beets and remove any leafy stems. Place the beets on a sheet of foil and toss with the olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and then wrap the beets in the foil. Place foil-wrapped beets on a baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes or until you can easily stick a fork into the beets. Once cool, rub the beets with a paper towel to remove the skin. Slice the beets into sticks and place in a large bowl with the Granny Smith apples.

Finely mince the zest of one orange and mix with the lime juice, orange juice, salt, sugar and olive oil. Drizzle over the beets and apples, stir to incorporate, and let stand 1 hour.

Cut away the rind and all white pith on the oranges. Cut between each white membrane and remove the segments. Reserve.

To serve, lay outer leaves of the romaine on a serving platter. Tear the heart to create a bed of lettuce. Scatter with the jicama sticks. Scoop the beet mixture into the center, then sprinkle with the reserved orange segments, pomegranate seeds, and peanuts. Garnish with orange zest and candies.

Serves 8


I was reminded by my friend Katie (a New Mexico native) at the Table Set holiday party, where I served this, how absolutely delicious Gruet Brut NV (also from New Mexico) is, and how well it pairs with this crisp salad. Trust me, it will make for a noche buena!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Foodbuzz Blogger Fest: Day 2

Nothing wakes you up early on a Saturday morning like the word PORN emblazoned across a giant hotel conference room screen. Day 2 of the Foodbuzz Blogger Festival and off to a sniggling start. My first breakout session of the day explored lighting, composition, and tips for photographing food, lead by [No Recipes] and The Cooking Photographer.
Following the workshop, Border Grill's Mary Sue Milliken demoed variations on the fish taco using fresh Alaska Seafood. A charming interlude to... lunch? Unfortunately not yet. 
The Food Blogging Guide to Success (Whatever That Is!) panel was an interesting one. Featuring the bloggers Lick My Spoon, Kitchen Corners, and Carrots 'N' Cake, discussion topics spanned recipe ethics to personal safety. In the end, Lick My Spoon made me smile commiserating about her massive, shelved French Laundry post... (the beast we ALL have as bloggers that we can never seem to finish and get out there!)
A short walk downtown followed, leading to the Tasting Pavilion at the Metreon's top floor.
479 Popcorn was my first stop, with a wooing Chipotle Caramel & Almond corn.
Next door were some poached gulf shrimp and chile-gazpacho from Miss Pearl's Jam House
Three Twins sampled their smooth mint confetti and strawberry ice creams.
Prather Ranch Meat was popular, grilling sausages in their cheeky t-shirts.
I enjoyed Tyler Florence's roasted butternut squash & apple soup with parmesan herb savory shortbread.
Other highlights included Annie the Baker's peanut butter cookie, Ledgenear Farm's literally drinkable maple syrup, INNA jam's raspberry preserves and jalapeño jelly, a wistful Macadamia nut blossom honey from Royal Hawaiian Honey, and spicy pickled vegetables from Pick-A-Peck.
And let's not forget the booze. It may have been midday, but I was sure tasting the many varietals dressed to the nines in JAQK Cellars' clever designs. An example of gambling gone right.
The Watermelon Wheat Beer and Fireside Chat Winter Spiced Ale from the people over at 21st Amendment came giftwrapped in 6 pack boxes - a novel idea! I was also impressed by the distinguished Bison Brewing Organic Chocolate Stout , but most (surprisingly) of all by the wines from Far Niente
in Napa. The overdressed gilt labels on their Estate Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon bottles deemed them missable, but both wines were so down to earth, nuanced and drinkable I had to retract my judgemental claws. Their Dolce late harvest Napa dessert wine was a proverbial cherry on top. 
But it was the ladies at the Jacob's Creek tasting booth that saved me from the poker face of the pavillion. Tall pours -and always a mischevious smile- made me return to their booth again, and again.. and again.
After a small wine nap break, dinner was served at the incredible church de gourmand - the Ferry Building.
Like something out of a dream, the thorough way of the closed complex was transformed into a sprawling dining room, light arches overhead bracing the length of our hungry mob.
Most of all it was the company at our table is what made this such a fabulous experience. I had the pleasure of dining (and drinking copious amounts of wine before dinner) with the sassy j e t s e t WISDOM, Culinary Herbalist and wonderful conversationalist Pat Crocker, my buddy the Wind Attack, the charming Tomato Tart next door, our team captain Casey Angelova, and the très hip Warm Kitchenette.
The meal we were about to enjoy was presented by the Cooking Channel and featured wine pairings by Bonny Doon Vineyard.
Dinner started with a Roasted Golden Beet Tart with crimson beets, feta, currants, wild arugula, and basil puree. A 2009 Bonny Doon Vineyard Albarino (very familiar to me by this point in the weekend) was poured alongside.
The second course may have been my favorite - Seared Scallops with Bonny Doon Vineyard Verjus Beurre Blanc served over braised fennel and garnished with fried fennel fonds. A lovely 2007 Bonny Doon Vineyard Le Cigare Blanc made the near perfect dish sing.
I was impressed that the entrees were dropped around the room at once, hundreds of Rosemary and Garlic Infused Racks of Lamb with local wild mushrooms, pinot noir sauce, and butternut squash puree, all cooked to a sultry medium rare. The components all worked wonderfully together, a warming toast to the season, paired with the 2006 Bonny Doon Vineyard Le Cigare Volant.
(I have never seen a group of diners so uniformly and ferociously tear meat from bone like us hungry bloggers. It was a carnal and beautiful site!)
Dessert was a Tarta de Almendras - A buttery almond cake with oranges, figs, Spanish sherry sabayon and parmesan crisp. The pairing was a delicious 2008 Bonny Doon Vineyard Vinferno fortified dessert wine.
Following the satisfying meal, Angelova championed our group in the after dinner Foodbuzz Twitter scavenger hunt. Several blocks away after her third capture, a cab was flagged. Deja vu, there was not enough room for everyone in our group - All but one could fit. I looked up at the clear autumn night sky between high rises, considered my full belly, wine buzz and put my trust again in fate.
"It's alright," I told them, a sudden chill curling my lips into a smile. "I think I'm going to walk."

Friday, May 29, 2009

Croquer: Barbrix

"It's.. across from Baller Hardware.. somewhere.." I squinted for a sign whilst scanning the street for parking. I felt pretty silly, I know this stretch of riverwinding Hyperion like the ceiling above my bed, yet could not visualize which structure must house newest Silver Lake hot spot Barbrix. We parked easily on this quiet curve before the final congested drag down toward Trader Joe's, and after passing a tall hedge found ourselves smack dab in the middle of a packed parking lot neither of us could recall existing, leading to a set-back cottage, a bustling front patio strewn with strings of white bulbs.
This was a scene. Or rather a strange amalgamation of one. Admittedly not exactly the Silver Lake I am used to, but also very much what Silver Lake is becoming. Neither good or bad, just different. We were led past the packed bar and back outside to a tiny two-top at the corner of the small patio, beside a table of sunglass-wearing (at 8:30pm) angular-hair-styled rocker types downing glasses of red wine. On the other side of the patio, a pair of elder couples laughed over dessert. In between these tables, two suited men sat with bulbous over-sized Bordeaux glasses, staring intently into the beyond, wine lists twitching in their hands.
Claudio Blotta just upped the anty, and as wonky as Silver Lake's sea legs looked tonight, the undying crowd and waiting list were also proving to be game. A managing partner at Campanile for 11 years, previous Vice President of La Brea Bakery, and co-founder (and wine director) of La Terza, Blotta is no stranger to the 'scenes' of Los Angeles. With chef Don Dickman (formerly of Rocca) writing the ever-changing menu of Mediterranean-inspired small plates and hefty cheese/charcuterie list, Barbrix enters the race way ahead of the game.So it comes as little surprise that the wine list is just short of jaw-dropping. "Brix" after all refers to sugar measurements in wine, so goes without saying Blotta means business. The initial impressive aspect is the entire first page of glass-pours. My date was stuck on the cool beer list of small-batch American, Belgian and English ales (even carrying an ale from my favorite Canadian brewery Unibroue) complete with tasting notes - So I knew wine by the glass was my road tonight, and a welcomed one with this list. Feeling the spirit of Barbrix start to sink in, now officially entering my [dangerous] mode bon vivant, I ordered the '06 Feraud-Brunel Châteauneuf du Pape (a steal at $10 - which is also the most expensive pour on the list). Generally of my favorite Rhône wines, this Châteauneuf du Pape -though chock full of berry fruit and subtle spice- was less structured than I had anticipated. Keep in mind while tasting this my eyes were skimming the robust and luscious sounding meat entrees. I knew I would need a glass of something bigger a little later, especially once I read about the duck confit and prime skirt steak tagliata. My date opted for the Abita Andygator helles doppelbock from Louisiana, a fragrant and rich malty lager which was very tasty.
Now there is something up front that needs to be said about this menu - It can be extremely affordable for such fare - A winning detail that Blotta earns high marks for. Everything is served in small portions, but at $5-12 and pop for most, it becomes up to the diner to decide whether to splurge or simply enjoy a light inexpensive meal. Well, this particular Friday night after a long week, my date and decided to pull out the stops and enjoy it right.We ordered three cheeses ($12) from the interesting list, settling on the Gorroxta (Catalonia, Spain) natural rind goat's milk, the Piave (Veneto, Italy) hard cow's milk, and the Epoisses (Bourgogne, France) marc-washed cow's milk, served with sliced baguette, dried figs, quince paste, and marcona almonds. Gorroxta is semi-firm and was the mildest in flavor - smooth with a hint of nuttiness. The Piave is a hard cheese with a little more full-bodied flavor, reminiscent of Parmigiano Reggiano - delicious with the sweet quince. The Epoisses won the medal though. A soft and incredibly pungent tart 'stinky cheese' that puckered our mouths into smiles. We ordered the Rosette de Lyon from the charcuterie list, a French dry sausage flavored with spices and wine, but we didn't realize until days later that it never came! Sadly even worse, looking back at the receipt, we were charged for it.
Neither of us had planned on this early summer evening in LA to get cold, but a crisp breeze was weaving through the hills and right past our corner table. A gas heater was even on behind my date, but so low it didn't seem to be emanating heat. A server (though not our own) came next with our vegetable course. When he set the plates down we asked if there was any way he could maybe just turn the knob up a tidbit. The server looked irritated with the request(!) and said no(!), scurrying quickly away. I looked at my date, smiling in awe "Well, I guess he's the food runner then!" Within minutes however a busser came to turn up the heat. Attention was turned immediately to the dishes in front of us.The first was the Farmers Plate ($6), a small sampling of simple roasted beets sweetened with saba (a syrupy grape must), roasted carrots with honey & mint, eggplant moussaka and pickled ramps. Each small and tender bite was loaded with bursting sweet flavors, the complexity of the moussaka and delightful ramp perhaps my favorites. The crispy grilled polenta with oyster & shitake mushrooms and creamy gorgonzola fonduta ($5) was another "crowd"-pleaser. Creamy smooth, with delicate mushrooms and that gorgonzola tang, I could have eaten five!The next dish to arrive (at this point everything started coming out as the kitchen produced them, not formal courses) was the Roasted Niman Ranch Pork Belly ($11) stuffed alla 'porchetta' and topped with salsa verde. I was looking forward to this dish perhaps most of all, but it was the disappointment of the evening. The thick slice was largely inedible, with a blubbery core and a rock hard skin (literally - we couldn't cut through it with our knives). We dissected out the soft flesh which was tender and flavor-rich, but with a gamey funk that we simultaneously admitted turned both of us off.
As I could see our final two plates coming toward us, I looked around unable to locate our server, the near-empty wine glass in front of me on my mind. The one thing about the continuous courses that I found - well, really more difficult for the servers than anything, who often weren't running the food - was the lack of regular contact with their customers. Sure, we constantly had food in front of us so were more or less "set", and she would check in occassionally at random to see if we were enjoying everything (which we were), but 90% of the time, if a diner needs something, they will realize it just after a course is dropped. Another drink, a condiment, a missing utensil. And we learned pretty quickly how helpful the food runners were... For myself, when a waiter, the 30 second rule was always in full effect - Checking in no more than 30 seconds after a course is dropped. To our obviously overwhelmed server this Friday night, I understand constant courses makes that near-impossible, but I did notice that whenever we did need the love, she wasn't available. Call me particular about service (I am), and I'm not one of those diners that let's little things like this ruin and experience (for it did not), and I am always gracious, but boy, looking down at the several bites of succulent prime steak and an empty wine glass.. Oy!
It was about halfway through our entrées when our server did come by (slightly out of breath it even seemed), and for a larger wine to enjoy with my steak she suggested the '05 Raices de Aza Tempranillo ($7), to which I thanked her. I normally may have been slightly more grumpy at that point in the situation, but I began to notice our very sweet server was dealing with an extremely needy [read: rude] table of diners who I overheard were very late being seated (and by the glinting of all those jewels the type you know doesn't often have to wait). Hopelessly empathetic (GOD have I been there), the wine ceased to matter. Plus our spectacular entrées were a lovely distraction.The prime skirt steak "tagliata" ($12) was seared and sliced, served over wild arugula with parmegiano-reggiano and balsamico. We ordered medium-rare and boy did we get it, juicy and red, only the very outside seared dark and crispy. This was good steak, people. But my favorite of the whole night may actually be the duck leg confit with pommes sardalaise and fig vin cotto ($10). Wow. This was when Blotta came by, delivering the wine. I shook his hand, thanking him for the incredible meal. He saw we had the duck and whispered that the secret is the potatoes, "they're cooked in the duck fat!" he glanced over both shoulders to make sure no one had eavesdropped. I have had duck confit before, small legs of somewhat greasy meat that have never exceeded expectations. Until now, I suppose. The duck leg at Barbrix was actually quite large, incredibly moist but nowhere near greasy, lightly savory and clean, the earthy sweet fig glaze a perfect foil... And Blotta wasn't wrong, the buttery, garlicky crisp potatoes with succulent sweet onions were like comfort food of the gods. When the busser came by to remove some plates, my date's hand shot protectively over the duck "oh we will pick at this one for a while, thank you!"
Feeling incredibly stuffed, and more than anything happy, I doubted dessert was in the plan. But I am the type who is easily convinced. So when our server stole a moment to come by (the gripey table just received a round of prosecco and appetizers on the house), I was surprised to hear my date's "so what's good for dessert here?" Our server smiled, as if in on a secret. What I liked about her was that throughout the entire evening, she was very honest. Meaning, if we were debating between a couple of items, her disposition subtly guided us what to choose. By dessert though we had developed a trust, and she told us exactly what to get! (Note: I will always respect a server who is honest and wants you to actually ENJOY what you order).Two glasses of '08 Oddero Moscato D'Asti were delivered (though I love moscato, it is the only dessert wine offered by the glass, a strong revision suggestion I have for a conscious enoteca like Barbrix). The moscato was crisp and elegant, a perfect match for what came next, Adria’s Favorite Ginger Shortcakes ($6). The lightly crunchy shortcakes are baked with both fresh and candied ginger (pow! zing!) and come loaded with fresh whipped cream and tart-sweet berry compote. We loved this! Our server also brought a red velvet item new to the menu that night, which was actually local bakeshop Cakemonkey's Raspberry Red Velvet Cakewich ($6) served with a drizzle of creme anglaise. Initially slightly disappointed it wasn't house-made, the layered red velvet cake filled with a raspberry vanilla creme layer and coated in Bittersweet Chocolate was pretty darn tasty. Like a super fancy red velvet Ding Dong.
I left Barbrix beyond satisfied. Sure there were a few loose bricks in the road, but only weeks out from opening things could go much worse. The tweaks I see needed are MINOR, the foundation of this little schoolhouse-turned-bistro pretty solid. Plus I can't recall the last time I enjoyed a three hour meal this much! The bar is officially raised for this sleepy little neighborhood, but most importantly, the price is right.

2442 Hyperion Ave, Silver Lake; 323.662.2442
barbrix.com