Showing posts with label duck. Show all posts
Showing posts with label duck. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Croquer: Bar Tartine

San Francisco's Mission neighborhood has a need for new restaurants and bars about as much as I need second dessert. Yet amongst the hullabaloo, a constant star has always been Tartine Bakery. Though I'd peeked into the windows of their younger sister restaurant Bar Tartine, I had not had the pleasure to dine there.
Lucky for me, that is where Catherine decided we would dine for her 30th birthday. And did we!

As three of the four of us went to college in the Willamette Valley, the Adelsheim Pinot Gris seemed fitting for the celebration. The crisp, clean pinot gris provided a wonderful companion to the vegetable-forward Eastern European-influenced menu.

To start, we grazed on duck pate, rye bread, gooseberry jam, elderberry and coriander mustards. And chewy Tartine Bakery bread, of course.

A jar of green cherry tomato pickles added a bright accompaniment to the board.

Our succession of veggie-heavy small plates started with the smoked eggplant, cranberry beans, and garlic sausage. Rich and smoky, yet somehow (albeit sharing) I did not get a bite of eggplant!

Probably my favorite of the lot, the romano beans, potatoes, basil, and corn sauce was a stunner. So simple, yet we all silently fought over the last beans, and even scraped the tangy corn sauce from the dish...

Halászlé is a Hungarian fisherman's soup, here comprised of mussels, sturgeon, tomato, green chili, purslane, and fennel. The paprika broth is a bold and delicious base for mussels. A runner up for my favorite, though selfishly I wished for a couple more mussels!

The butter boletes mushrooms, yoghurt, turnip sauce, carrot, and radish was an earthy side in the disguise of a stand-aone dish. Not terribly memorable on the shadow of the Halászlé.

The side of summer squash, squash blossoms, and curried squash sauce was brought out last. We consumed it vacantly (read: on the side of ubiquitous), possibly due to the coursing order. Might have fit more nicely at the beginning of the meal.

The dessert left a little to be desired as well. Layers of sour cream custard, lemon curd, poppyseed, and a cherry/oat/walnut crumble suggested disparate flavors and sensations, but lacked a certain pride that any one of the contents of the Tartine Bakery case exudes.

After dinner we walked around the corner to spend the rest of Catherine's birthday sipping drinks upstairs in The Hideout, the back room bar at Dalva (3121 16th St.) The cocktails here are serious, such was the "Whisky In Church": Smokehead Scotch, Oloroso Sherry, and a splash of maple and pear syrup. Holy! Bittersweet amaro cocktails quickly lulled us into pleasant propensity.
The night was good.

Bar Tartine
561 Valencia St. San Francisco, CA 94110; 415.487.1600
Bar Tartine on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Croquer: Salt's Cure

I'm still pretty iffy when it comes to Twitter.
I mean, I tweet... it's just not my forté as far as communication goes. I guess I'm getting the hang of it. "Meeting" some folks and networking a bit. I've definitely never been asked out on Twitter - or have I?
Following Foodbuzz Fest the little bird did deliver one proposition... a tweet from the baking blog goddess Joy the Baker herself:
@windattack @chocomeat i think the three of us should get dinner. there... i said it.
Naturally the Wind Attack and I were down for food fun. But where would our trifecta of particular tastefulness agree on meeting?
Salt's Cure, of course.
It was a happenin' night at the restaurant, a spare, open-kitchen West Hollywood storefront seemingly operating on word of mouth (no signage then). The bar around the exhibition kitchen was lined with pickle jars and twenty-somethings, the high ceiling collecting the room's jabber and sending it back down in garbled echoes. Joy the Baker was fashionably late and looked smashing. Met by candlelight, the three of us smiled cordially (not unlike a good first date), reviewed the bottle list and got acquainted.
Our server helped us select the 2005 Benjamin Silver Syrah. Round, sexy, bold fruit makes this a lovely food wine, but also just a great WINE wine.
Salt's Cure is a glorified butcher shop, so of course charcuterie is the way to go. We started with the pickle plate and built up a board from there. The house-pickled selection included cabbage, cucumber, watermelon, tomato, and jalapeño.
The three cheeses braced by almonds, dates, and honey were the always winning Red Hawk (cow), Camellia (goat), and Stout Cow (raw cow).
We couldn't resist the sultry duck ham. Who knew prosciutto could get more luxe?!
An order of cured lamb shoulder followed the cheeseboard, resting on thinly sliced apples. Delicious.
We split two entrees, snagging the last Lemon Snapper per our server's strong suggestion. What a sublime dish! The fish was juicy and tender, bites melting like creamy lemon-zested butter pats. Atop a mound of wilted kale, fried lemon peel and crisp potato sheers, the dish was a triumph of simplicity. It was unaminous - we were in love.
How long could we ignore the other, more fragrant plate on the table? One taste of the Chili Braised Pork-N-Grits and I was smiling. Akin to a REALLY GOOD tamale, the marriage of steamy corn meal product and luscious fork-hugging pork was -as always- simply trouble. We tried to be polite, but crossed utensils more than once over this dish.
Dessert. First out was a Dulce de Leche Semifreddo, or, an experiment in monochromy. Maybe it was the wine, or the lingering pleasure of the entrees, but I don't recall this one blowing me away (yet I do remember the fresh boiled peanuts on top, which were salty good times).
The other dessert, a Sticky Walnut Heirloom Pumpkin Cake was more favorable, if not suffering from an identity crisis. Pumpkin pie? Sticky toffee woohoo? Cake?? Whatever the genetic makeup, it was a toothsome end to an impressive display from Salt's Cure - A very welcome LA addition, especially in a neighborhood known for... Well, I think there's an Astro Burger close-by?
7494 Santa Monica Blvd. West Hollywood, CA 90046; 323.850.SALT
Salt's Cure in Los Angeles on Fooddigger
Salt's Cure on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Croquer: Lark

With a glaze of contentment still lingering from pre-dinner drinks, we entered Chef John Sundstrom's Lark already with love in our hearts. And from its accolades, a bubbling anticipation for what was to come.
The interior has an intimate, homey ambiance. One part dated Northwest contemporary and one part dinner party at the neighbors'. The service was warm and quick to arrive. I felt the precedence of care.
We selected a 2009 Zolo Malbec (Argentina, Mendoza), vibrant black fruit and velvety texture making this a lovely versatile wine for our smorgasbord of menu selections.
The pork rillettes with ficelle toast and spiced watermelon pickle was a perfect starter. Melt in your mouth pig beauty! But not an easy act to follow.
The simple sounding corn soup with truffle butter and Summer chantrelles was bright and clean, the nuance from its accoutrement creating a memorable balance.
While burrata is always a welcomed delight on the table, Lark's burrata with Billy's tomatoes, shiso, pickled eggplant and olive oil croutons was slightly eclipsed by the other dishes. That said every juicy tomato slice and morsel of creamy burrata was devoured within minutes.
The manila clams with guanciale, oregano, garlic and pickled habanero was so tasty I obviously couldn't be bothered to make sure I got a focused photograph. The lush, soft tones do however express the sapid and gorgeous notes in this dish. The fragrant meaty broth at the bottom of the cast iron pot could have been served alone with clam shells as spoons and I'd have been overjoyed.
We split two mains, one of which was a special - a lamb sugo ravioli with goat cheese, olives and petronne peppers. I enjoyed the pasta, substantial and supple, however the lamb sugo was light on flavor, saved by torn bits of piquant green olives.
The crispy Liberty Farm duck leg with piperade and duck cracklings on the other hand was toothsome tender goodness through and through. A fine way to finish the meal!
Though I think we all could have done without dessert, we shared a black fig tarte tatin with grappa caramel and goat cheese sorbet and an appropos Theo dark chocolate pave with salted toffee ice cream and cashews. Both had clout, but the latter was something special. As we finished our wine, a certain chef in a hat was seated in the booth beside us, another mark that we were definitely in the right place. And boy were we.

926 12th Ave. Seattle, WA 98122; 206.323.5275
Lark on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Croquer: Commander's Palace

I shook the hangover from my half-mast eyes. No! I scolded myself, today is too important! I straightened my bow tie and breathed deeply. Our scheduled Jazz Brunch at Commander's Palace would not be optional.
I'd been looking forward to it since last October. Besides, I'd had the reservation for weeks, and I couldn't let the Commander down!
A bustling carnival of Haute Creole joie de vivre, I felt like Annie being welcomed into the Warbucks mansion, a staff of thousands smiling welcome as we were lead up stairs and through countless dining rooms to the Garden Room, a glass-walled space nestled among the ancient oaks.
As "Chef Tory's Jazz Brunch," what would it be without, well, the music?
Service is like clockwork at Commander's Palace. Very fine-tuned, meticulous, gracious clockwork. The brunch formalities were explained in detail by our server, his greased-back hair catching the morning light. "Coffee.. and Bloody Mary" is all Michael and I could manage at this stage, delving back into the menu, chock full of mix-and-match 3 course brunch options, all, we were told needing to be ordered up-front.
The Commander’s Palace Bloody Mary arrived looking a little skimpy, but then our server appeared with “ice block” vodka (a vodka bottle frozen into a hunk of solid ice), finishing the drink table-side. The spicy okra-topped bloody was just what the doctor ordered.
Michael chose the Turtle Soup for his first course, a Commander’s classic also finished table-side with a splash of Sherry. Succulent turtle meat brightens the silky decadent soup.
I couldn't resist the description of the Eggs Sardou² - Crab boiled hen’s egg, roasted artichokes, spinach & Pastis cream and Cajun caviar hollandaise with champagne... as I'm sure you understand. The egg sat atop an artichoke crown dressed in piquant hollandaise, all secondary however to the winsome spinach and pastis cream. The light anise nuance was a revelation, and something I've craved every day since.

Michael ordered the Eggs Couchon De Lait for his main, smoky braised pork with poached hen eggs, buttermilk biscuits, melted leeks & mushrooms and tawny port hollandaise. A quintessential NOLA breakfast, and probably the best cochon sampled so far.
The first bite of my dish was something I don't think I'll ever, ever forget. Fireworks, people. Behold the Chicory Duck & Sweet Potato Griddle Cakes - "Forever braised" duck with bourbon soaked Granny Smith apples, house made honey butter, and vanilla cane syrup. The fragile duck meat was textbook —no, scratch that— biblical perfection - pink, smoky and sweet with such glorious depth. The griddle cakes had an immaculate crispness, each layer sandwiching duck and bourbon apples. I could only eat about a third of the plate, but it was the most sublime dish I've tasted in many, many moons.
I wouldn't order dessert after a breakfast like this, but since we ordered all 3 courses at the beginning (and all are included in the brunch price tag) we had it coming. As you may have noticed by now, I tend to order house specialties always, so the Creole Bread Pudding Soufflé (“The Queen of Creole Desserts") is naturally what I got. Michael was treating this as an early birthday present apparently, and I blushed when dessert came out with a candle and a singing staff+jazz band, a paper hat appearing atop my head. Once the humiliation subsided, I could pay attention to the Whiskey Cream Sauce being poured over the air-light soufflé, breaking its surface and drizzling across the massive gable. Again, I could only manage a few bites, but boy were they luxurious! I would pour this whiskey sauce on anything, and the fluffy/sticky soufflé couldn't have been more expertly cooked.
Michael had the Sticky Peach & Pecan Up-Side-Down Cake, a more forgiving portion of warm peach and ginger spiced coffee cake with grilled pineapple compote and Grand mariner caramel. I couldn't tell you how this was, I'm not sure that my taste buds were working anymore.
I like that cocktails are celebrated at the breakfast table at Commander's Palace, and Co-Proprietors Ti Adelaide Martin and Lally Brennan, sometimes known as "The Cocktail Chicks," openly share their passion for good drinks in The Land of Cocktails, the bar adjacent to the Commander's kitchen, and on their blog and cocktail book of the same name.
As we stared silently at our desserts, Ti stopped by our table to introduce herself and see how we had enjoyed our meal. She could see we needed another drink however, and consulted on our choices. She was gracious, outgoing and lovely, a cherry on top of a perfect experience. What's more, our drinks arrived "on Ti," a very kind gesture following our chat.
Again, always going for classic, I couldn't pass up a proper Southern Milk Punch, made with Bourbon and finished with nutmeg. Michael was more wise and accepted Ti's suggestion of the crisp and (keyword:) light Basil & Blue - Muddled fresh blueberries & basil, Hendrick's Gin and St. Germain.
While we sipped our cocktails (and let our desserts get cold), the jazz band led some of the brunch guests on a promenade through the dining room, followed by a more somber, soulful blues standard in which a woman sitting at a table near the window just... began singing. There was a bewildered hush at first, the room trying to figure out where that sweet forlorn voice was coming from. But the awkward silence turned to enraptured audience, necks craning to catch a glimpse. A pillar obstructed my view, but I didn't mind because the voice was familiar, one I knew well. The early afternoon sun was rendered into lace-like twilight by the trees outside, a magical twinkling through the oak's branches. And in that moment I was once again in my youth listening to my dearly departed grandmother singing sweetly in her kitchen, preparing a Sunday breakfast.

1403 Washington Ave. New Orleans, LA; 504.899.8221
Commander's Palace Restaurant on Urbanspoon