Showing posts with label creme brulee. Show all posts
Showing posts with label creme brulee. Show all posts

Friday, June 18, 2010

Voyager Bien: Moto

I'm missing New York this week. Over the past few years a few Brooklyn joints have proven to be mainstays in my heart. One in particular is on my mind this blustery morning. Every visit, whether it's the first night in town or a quiet respite before heading back to the airport, Moto in Brooklyn is always on the agenda.
Nestled under the tracks of the JMZ train Hews stop, a hanging bicycle is nearly the only signage outside the narrow wedge-block corner café Moto. Entering through the curtain is like stepping into a Parisian-inspired 1930s speakeasy, a compacted jazz band often playing to one side, church pews and small marble tables lining the walls up to the tiny round bar. Candlelit crowds sip wine out of tumblers, snack on simple heartwarming plates like warm lentil salad, mussels, and pork ribs. But the real reason I continually return to Moto is for the last course. Armed with an espresso, glass of port, or a Black Velvet (Guinness and sparkling wine), I always order the famed date cake.
Visually akin to a giant cube of fresh gingerbread, the moist earthy cake is served warm anchored in a sticky pool of toffee caramel, topped with fresh whipped cream and a spring of mint. Even beside Moto's high scoring crème brulée (on record as my favorite dessert varietal) the date cake sparkles.
Don't be scared off by the occasional setback of a wait (and note: Moto is cash only), because once you get nestled into your seat and take your first bit of cake the pleasure of your night will be just beginning...

394 Broadway (between Hooper St & Keap St) South Williamsburg, NY; 718.599.6895
Moto on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 8, 2009

Voyager Bien: Artisan of Paso Robles

After a long day vineyard hopping, there is nothing more essential than a leisurely supper sampling the bounty of the surrounding farms and popping open that first bottle from your new collection. And as quickly as Mattei's Tavern secured the default dinner spot for the Santa Ynez Valley, in one meal the [upper] Central Coast positioned Artisan as my go-to after a day in the sun-drenched hills surrounding Paso Robles and Cambria.
By day, my parents, sister and I sampled rich old vine Zinfandels at Turley, the infamous ISOSCELES (Bordeaux style blend of Cab Sauv, Merlot and Cab Franc) at Justin, the playful Moscato Allegro at Martin & Weyrich, "Liquid Love" Late Harvest Zin at Tobin James, and explored the Viognier and Cab-housing wine caves under Eberle. As dusk approached, we were ready for a well-deserved a rest.
I had read about "American bistro" Artisan in Paso Robles where we decided to catch an early dinner, hoping it wasn't too stuffy for our casual attire and my [utterly charming!] 2-year-old niece.
The contemporary, elegantly minimal dining room was mostly empty when we arrived, and luckily we were able to get in before the reservation-stacked dinner hour.
The bluehour light filtered lazily through large shade-drawn windows onto clothed tables and the dark-wood floors, drawing an end to a perfect day. We were happy.
Wine was opened (I'll be honest, I can't recall which we decided on - But corkage is a mere $10) and ordered a couple of appetizers. The toothsome Smoked Gouda and Porter Fondue with garlic toast, andouille sausage, and broccolini was devoured almost immediately. Its perfect foil was the Windrose Farms baby greens, stone fruit, La Quercia prosciutto, burrata, and smoked almonds. Perfectly ripe peach, crisp greens and buttery prosciutto.. a lovely palate cleanser after the smokey-rich fondue. Deciding on entrées was near impossible. My sister and I ended up picking two, and arranged to share. She ordered the Wild Boar Tenderloin, with house made orecchiette, english peas, porcini, and guanciale sauce.I caught our servers' smitten sway describing one of the specials, so went with that - a Hanger Steak with tempura fried shitake mushrooms, field greens, kentucky wonder beans, caramelized onions, and [I think] a shitake-balsamic reduction. The hanger steak was one of the most marvelous dishes I've ever had. Nothing is better than a perfectly cooked steak (crispy char, pink center), but piled with crusted shitakes and farm-fresh veggies.. Love! The boar tenderloin was actually less gamey than I expected, and expertly matched with the rich porcini and english peas. The chewy-thick hand-made orecchiette was lovely texture compliment. I actually don't remember if I got around to the side of Jalapeño Cornbread with lavendar honey butter (there was already so much going on - and keep in mind I'd been drinking since 11am)... but BOY doesn't that sound lovely??
My whole life it's been rare for my family to stay for dessert when dining out, but Artisan was winning this battle, and the dessert menu somehow found a part of our brains not yet completely satiated by the wonderful meal.Because I am obsessed with Lillet Blanc AND crème brûlée, I didn't leave much room for anyone else's opinion. We ordered two desserts to share: the Lillet Blanc Cheesecake, summer berries, [on] lavendar shortbread -and- Trio of Crème Brûlée (butterscotch, chocolate, espresso) with cocoa nib sticks. Wow! The variety of the crème brûlée trio was "fun", but relatively unmemorable, paling next to the beautiful (Oh, presentation!) cloud-light cheesecake.
Artisan overall is a restaurant I will not only return to, but a dining experience I would actually relive if I could. But I suppose that could be the wine talking...

1401 Park St (at 14th Street) Paso Robles, CA 93448 (805) 237-8084

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Recettes Secrètes: Ginger Crème Brûlée

For my friend Ashley's lightly Asian-themed dinner party last week I decided (surprise, surprise) to make a dessert. Passion fruit crème brûlée immediately came to mind, but after 5 markets (from high-end grocery to Mexican produce marts to the dregs of Thai Town) and still no fresh passion fruit, I grabbed a big knob of ginger and called it a night. Arriving at Ashley's the following evening, she was a hummingbird above a stove top filled with sizzling woks while a rice cooker peufed steam from the full counter nearby. On top of that, she said she had various Japanese jellies she found at her neighborhood Asian market chilling in the fridge. A visual treat as much as palatable, the creamy-sweet grey and dark graphite layered black sesame jelly was the clear exotic winner. In the end, all of our Eastern-inspired dishes and desserts tasted wonderful together, especially paired with Nicolette's delicious Kobai Plum Martinis (one part Kobai plum wine, one part vodka, shaken with ice and strained - floated with an orchid blossom!)

Ginger Crème Brûlée

3 cups whipping cream
2 tablespoons (packed) coarsely grated peeled fresh ginger
10 large egg yolks
1 cup plus 4 teaspoons sugar

Preheat oven to 325°F. Combine cream and ginger in heavy medium saucepan. Bring to simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat; let stand 20 minutes. Strain cream into small bowl, pressing on ginger solids in sieve. Seperate eggs. Whisk yolks and 1 cup sugar in medium bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in warm cream. Divide custard among eight 3/4-cup ramekins or custard cups. Place ramekins in large roasting pan. Pour enough warm water into pan to come halfway up sides of ramekins.Bake custards just until set in center when pan is gently shaken, about 45 minutes. Remove custards from water bath; chill uncovered until cold, at least 3 hours. Cover and chill overnight.Sprinkle each custard with 1/2 teaspoon of remaining sugar. If you have a butane kitchen torch, use per manufacturer's instructions. Use a flame-retardant glove or oven mitt to hold the ramekin (or else set on a fire/heat proof surface). Caramelize sugar working tip of the flame from the outside in towards the middle keeping the torch in constant circular motion. Sugar should be golden brown. If burnt, let the sugar layer cool a few minutes than peel it away with a paring knife and begin again. May take a bit of practice, but WARNING: Torch is addictive! Torchless? No matter. Preheat broiler and place custards on baking sheet. Broil until sugar melts and caramelizes, turning sheet for even browning. Serve immediately, or refrigerate custards until topping is cold and brittle, about 1 hour and up to 2 hours. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Voyager Bien DAY TRIP: Foxen Canyon Wine Trail

Last year just after New Years, before returning to the grind, three friends and I set out on an impromptu adventure, heading forty miles North of Santa Barbara to the wine region made popular by tourist Danish village Solvang, a little flick called Sideways, and some damn good wines - The Santa Ynez wine country. After a delightful romp through the tasting rooms of several roadside vineyards off Highway 246 and the Solvang streets, we settled more comfortably in the quaint, more mature (and tasteful) town to the North, Los Olivos. We each even enthusiastically [read: intoxicatedly] joined the wine club at our last stop, in the humble main drag tasting room of Daniel Gehrs. After an incredible leisurely dinner at Brother's Restaurant at Mattei's Tavern, we returned to our hotel satiated from the bounty of this rich valley. But there was one region we barely touched on that I knew would prove much more fulfilling upon revisit. Just North of Los Olivos and Mattei's is a windy two lane country road leading to the source of many of the tasting room's wares, the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail. All along the picturesque anicent oak studded hills are nestled modest vineyards (OK, and Firestone) producing some of the region's best Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Viognier, Syrah and Cab Franc.I appreciate that for my Daniel Gehrs wine membership (technically I am in their Port Club - STELLAR ports) whenever my quarterly shipments are available, I get a postcard for pickup. Sure they could be shipped for an additional fee, but there's something about "having" to drive up to Los Olivos several times a year that quite appeals to me. So I pretend that's my only option and plan accordingly. A couple of weekends ago, I decided Saturday was the day to pick up my wine. One of my friends from the previous trip had club wine ready as well, so we hit the road nice and early, coasting into Los Olivos by 11am.
After filling nearly a case with our club shipments (my friend hadn't picked up any of his wine the whole year) and enjoying our complimentary member tasting, we hit the Qupé tasting room just up Grand Ave for some earthy Rhônes, and then the Los Olivos Grocery to finish packing our perfect wine country picnic lunch (that we never got around to enjoying). And off into the Canyon we went!
We bypassed the first several vineyards, those which we hit last year, including the popular Fess Parker, trendy Andrew Murray and rustic Koehler Winery. Koehler's elegant Viognier was one of my favorite tastings and purchases from the previous trip out, well worth a stop. We pulled over alongside a weathered picket fence to try one of the vineyards a local woman at Daniel Gehrs had suggested, the aptly named Foxen Vineyard.Immediately charmed by its provincial shed-like tasting room and tastefully rudimentary logo/design, the roars of content laughter and conversation coming from inside were even a better indicator. Our sunny, good-natured (and tie-dyed) wine pourer made us feel immediately part of the pack here, and one after another poured impressive wines. A rather enthusiastic [read: intoxicated] woman insisted on taking our photos with my camera and was quite the chatty cathy. She suggested Riverbench and Rancho Sisquoc further up the road for "our tastes" (detecting snobbery), so once I wrangled my camera back and evaded her (and her eye-rolling husband) in the crowd, we headed to the car with a semblance of a plan. The clouds had thickened and a definite chill was settling into the valleys. Riverbench just up the road is a sprawling estate with gorgeous panoramic views and a contemporary farmhouse tasting room. They specialize in estate-grown Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, so I opted for the Pinot flight (love Pinot, not a huge Chard fan). Interrupting our relaxed tasting was the woman from Foxen, obvious even more tipsy (and LOUDER) than when we last met. We hurried through our flight as the woman behind the bar widened her eyes and whispered through clenched teeth to my friend that she would pay us to leave and take "our friend". We ducked out with a wink and hurried back into the darkening day to continue the tour.Rancho Sisquoc was next, and sits off the main road a short ways down a one lane dirt road, past brambly foliage, a decrepit church and a shuttered home covered in cow skulls and PRIVATE KEEP OUT signs.. all of which in the shadowy calm before the storm was rather.. foreboding. We pulled up to the barn-like tasting room and were greeted with- well, in fact we weren't greeted. A few unfriendly couples tasted quietly, echoing the creepiness outside. Once we finally got the wine pourer's attention, she seemed rather irritated to help us. The wines we tasted were decent, but nothing stood out terribly until the final pour, which was a limited library wine club exclusive blend, available to us on special. It was actually quite round and palatable; a perfect table wine (which I took to a dinner party a week later, garnering unanimous praise). We also enjoyed Sisquoc's toothsome little wine biscuits, which were slightly sweet and a perfect foil between tastes (much better than the cardboard water crackers elsewhere). But we left without a thank you or a goodbye, all they wanted were our CC receipts; a rather drab end to our tour... So we didn't end there! We called around and Tres Hermanas Winery was tasting until 6:00pm, and on our way back toward town. Voilà! To be honest I can't recall most of what we tasted here, but did end up buying a bottle of the 2006 Rosé of Syrah, the only thing that really stood out to me. Meanwhile my friend couldn't let go of how WHITE our wine pourer's teeth were, which made everyone laugh. "But you drink WINE all day..?!?" He insisted.
It had begun to rain outside and was getting dark fast. We certainly needed a fulfilling meal and a rest before anyone would be driving home, especially in rain. We retired to our beloved Mattei's Tavern at the base of the Trail for a bite in the bar (reservations generally required to get a table in the restaurant). The crackling fire and warming scent of wood-fire-cooked food brought my tired tastebuds instantly back to life. We settled into a table in the dark bar and opened a bottle of Daniel Gehr's Cabernet to have with our giant Kobe burgers.
This is happiness, I thought.
After an espresso and near perfect creme brulée (I am a connoisseur!), we were ready to head back LA. And by that I mean only that we could no longer afford our adopted lifestyle. Lazy Sunday beckoned. But it always helps leaving knowing that in another 2 months a cream-colored postcard will arrive in the mailbox inviting me back for a friendly and carefree day in the hills, relishing in the sights, smells and tastes of the rich Santa Ynez Valley countryside.Disclaimer: Please drive responsibly! The country roads are narrow and windy. Also, it is not rude to spit out your wine tastes, consider especially if you're the driver. If you do drink too much, get a hotel room for the night and take a cab if you go out for dinner (the best cabbie I've ever had was in Buellton last year). The Days Inn Buellton-Solvang (the windmill hotel just off the 101) is an inexpensive alternative to the boutique "winery suites"-type rip-offs in Solvang, and just a short drive from everything). If you do stay the night there, hit up Ellen's Danish Pancake House in Buellton for a robust homecooked breakfast before the drive home!

Get there: From LA take the 101-N just past Santa Barbara to Highway 154, a scenic pass that will take you through Los Padres National Forest and alonside tranquil Lake Cachuma. Once you reach Highway 246, turn left to head into Santa Ynez and Solvang, or keep straight on the 154 and you'll hit Los Olivos and the Foxen Canyon Trail.
If you're staying in Buellton, take the 101 all the way up along the coast until you hit Highway 246 and you're there.