Showing posts with label oysters. Show all posts
Showing posts with label oysters. Show all posts

Monday, December 31, 2012

Gala Parfait: Feast of the Seven Fishes


You know what they say, Italians do it better.
Christmas is no exception. I had heard of the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a coursed Christmas Eve tradition to count down the hours to Christ's midnight birth, but never have I experienced it. Until this year.
On the Table Set's holiday episode this year we decided to shake up tradition and go intimate dinner party instead of all-out Xmas bonanza like last year. Add my co-host Greg's recent collaborators Alaska Seafood graciously sharing some of their top-of-the-line sustainable seafood and our Buone Feste was heartily underway.



AND the table is set (no pun intended). In fact, Greg is such a pro I believe it was set a full day in advance.


As per usual, we had too many cooks in the kitchen — That's because some of our most talented friends were in attendance. Seven courses for seven wonderful cooks. And for extra credit, seven beverage pairings. No lazy bloggers 'round here!


To serve as guests arrived, I thought Philadelphia Fish House punch seemed a fitting choice.


Course #1: The Cuisinerd and her main squeeze are no amateurs when it comes to sea bugs, and they knocked us flat with their Grilled Alaskan Oysters and Mignonette Trio: Spicy Chipotle, Cilantro Lime, and Classic Cocktail Sauce. (Seriously, these sauces should be sold in jars.)


Their offbeat pairing choice of Cantine Elvio Tintero Grangia frizzante (90% Favorita and 10% Moscato) created a wonderfully dry and fizzy bridge to the next course.


Course #2: I volunteered for the amuse bouche. Starting with salmon roe, I got inspired by dishes from LA's Son of a Gun restaurant and in the sexy NOMA cookbook. For added depth I first cured the roe in a beer brine. I used Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel's sweet and spicy Route Des Épices rye beer brewed with black and green peppercorns.


The finished amuse comprised of a Rye Crisp with Maple Cream, Beer-cured Salmon Roe, Green Chile Sugar and Fennel Top.


Course #3: Jackie the Beeroness (also behind Domestic Fits) wowed us all with her comforting Seared Alaskan Scallops wtih Smoked Sweet Corn Puree and Stout Balsamic Reduction. A sparkling wine cocktail with fresh basil and elderflower liqueur was an elegant brace.


Course #4: Chef, artist, and former Table Set guest Brian wove a tapestry of a "soup course" with his Seared Halibut over Forbidden Rice with Miso Pork Broth. For a cleansing respite, fresh lavender-infused spa water was paired.


Course #5: It wouldn't be a Table Set supper without something showy from Andy. His "Surf 'n' Turf" entree was no exception. Here, oceany Uni Capellini with Scallop, Bonito and Nori Crumble met earthy Rye Toast with Pine Nut Porcini Butter for a unique twist on the concept.
It was paired with Kabaj Rebula, a full-bodied Slavic white wine (100% Ribolla) capable of standing up to the intense flavors of the dish.


Course #6: Salad after entree? Why not?! Salad with crab? Hit me! Joy the Baker made magic with her crisp and refreshing Alaska Crab, Apple and Pomegranate Salad — a new Insalata di Mare classic. Get her recipe here.


Six courses in, I can hardly recall what we were drinking anymore... but my blurry photo shows that it was bubbly, and that we were having fun!


Course #7: And boy, the fun wasn't over yet. Greg built a mountain of it with his festive Caffè e Frittelle Dolci (Coffee & Donuts) — Glorious rosemary glazed donuts studded with gummy Swedish Fish, a highbrow/lowbrow win. I think I had seven.

In all, a beautiful night of subtlety, skill, festivity, and togetherness. Thank you to Alaska Seafood and all of our lovely guests!


Video and additional photography courtesy of Ted Houser

Friday, March 11, 2011

Croquer: Son Of A Gun


It's no secret that I sort of worship Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook.
Their gut-busting ode to tasty carnage Animal is basically ChocoMeat's Shangri-la. So despite my slow growing love for devouring sea critters, I was still enthusiastically biased going into their new joint Son of a Gun. Hand me a bib and shell-cracker or whatever, I'll eat anything these guys can throw in a pot.


The 3rd street storefront (formerly Restaurant 3, and Cynthia's before that) has been gussied up the likes that Animal has never seen. Marine and boating gear fills most of the wall space whilst plaid-shirted servers circle a monolithic communal table (always open for walk-ins), and bartenders stir cocktails under a print of a monkey about to kill a parrot. The scene is set for beautiful food consumption.


While we waited for our table, Michael, Andy and I sipped on a round of dry Sazeracs. Upon moving to our table we were alerted that the kitchen was out of Alligator Schnitzel! I almost walked out right then! Considering the options we picked pretty easily, well prepped for the menu thanks to some previews we had read. But regardless, starting is always a given - Oysters.


S.O.A.G.'s Malpeque Oysters on the Half Shell with classic condiments were sweet, fresh and supple, nary a lick of grit.


Our second plate out was new to the menu, a Smoked Steelhead Roe with Maple Cream and Pumpernickel. After one smoky-salty-sweet-creamy-crunchy bite, an audible sound resonated in each of us. Very impressive and sophisticated dish. Highly recommended.


We couldn't finish these two items without some proper bubbly, and S.O.A.G. is stocked for just that. Michael picked out the Saint-Chamant a Epernay Blanc de Blanc Brut, one of the most bone-dry, delicate and handsome Champagnes I've ever tasted. A stunning compliment to the entire meal.


A modest Squid Salad with Garbanzo, Mirepoix, and Radicchio surprised our palates with complexity, character, and the perfect amount of spice. A silent warrior.


The Lobster Roll with Celery and Lemon Aioli is dinner roll size, topped with the tiniest potato chips ever made. Tasty, but fell under the radar with only a single bite. Dare I say too small to share?


The Mussels with Tarragon, Pernod, Fennel, Toast arrived in a deep bowl sans-shell - to get right to the point. The soupy pastis-kissed cream sauce was pure elegance. One of my favorite mussel preparations to date.


This is where the meal began showcasing some really unexpected surprises. An elevated classic, the Shrimp Toast Sandwich with Herbs and Sriracha Mayo was incredibly toothsome, and a collective highlight. Crispy, buttery, herby, spicy, and satisfying, we seriously considered ordering another...


Luckily the Fried Chicken Sandwich with Spicy B&B Pickle Slaw and Rooster Aioli appeared just in time to distract us, a large mound of non-oceanic awesomeness begging to be taken quickly. I have to say our entire table may agree with KevinEats that this is possibly the best chicken sandwich. Ever. Tender, juicy, piquant... perfection.


Now, as a blogger I am always embarrassed to admit that I am not a huge fan of fresh water fish. Maybe it was all those trips to the mountains as a kid, watching the trout we fished getting their guts removed by my uncles, occasionally dangled in my direction. I am happy to report that I'm recovering from these issues however and beginning to really enjoy a well prepared fish. The Idaho Trout, Carrot, Potato, Caper Dill Butter made me a believer. The flaky sweet flesh eased off the skin effortlessly and blended nicely with the roasted root vegetables. Somehow this seemingly straight forward dish was one of my palate's favorites.


By now we were pleasantly pickled but ready for one more drink to take us into dessert. We giggled at the "Temperance" (non-alcoholic) section heading of the drink menu, and found the bubbly cocktails. Andy and I opted for the Air Mail while Michael perused the digestifs. A twist on the classic Air Mail (rum, lime, honey, bubbly), S.O.A.G. spikes the bubbly with Chartreuse Green VEP and just a kiss of lime. Went well with our first dessert...


Incredibly simple, the Frozen Lime Yogurt, Graham Crumble, Toasted Meringue didn't need frills, it was balanced and refreshing.


Skeptical of the Flourless Chocolate Cake, Banana, Peanut, Coconut Ice Cream description, I actually quite enjoyed the deconstruction. The banana was brûléed, the peanuts glazed in a heavy caramel beside sprinkles of coarse sea salt. Sometimes deconstruction works, and a swipe of a spoon across this plate did it for me.


Speaking of skepticism, after asking what the Hoboken Special was, the table shared a guffaw over the answer - frozen chocolate custard and... Pineapple Fanta. But who am I to turn down a challenge? Bring it on, we said. And son of a gun, we actually enjoyed it quite a bit. All of it.

8370 W. 3rd St. Los Angeles, CA 90048; 323.782.9033
sonofagunrestaurant.com
Son Of A Gun in Los Angeles on Fooddigger
Son of a Gun Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 20, 2010

Croquer: Cochon

Once night fell over the French Quarter, the bayou heat took on a downright sultry character. Storm clouds broiled above as we approached Cochon Restaurant's glowing marquee on a dark corner of the warehouse district, the red hot sign seemingly scorching the thick air.
I had great expectations for Cochon... Following my last visit , I had heard nothing but raves about James Beard Award-winning chef Donald Link (Best Chef: South, 2007), the Cajun comfort of Cochon, and his first restaurant Herbsaint. I greatly regretted missing it, and thus it rose to the top of my to-do list for this trip.
The single-room concrete-floored warehouse was bursting at its bricks with a roar that translated a strong sense of community and much jubilant feasting. Diners filled every table and lined the open kitchen bar, a wood-fire oven blazing behind a roasted suckling pig, which was slowly being carved and served as the night's special.
Though the menu is only one page (same for both lunch and dinner), I found it difficult to focus at all on what to get, from the small plates to the boucherie to the wood-fired offerings... Everything sounded divine. Luckily our group of four decided to start with a handful of starters which eased my anxiety. As did the brisk Sazerac...
The fried Boudin balls arrived first, served with pickled peppers and Abita beer mustard. This Cajun variation on a Boudin Blanc, instead of using sausage casings, rolls the white pork and rice mixture into balls, batters and fries 'em up. Scrumptious!
The Crawfish Pie was only slightly underwhelming to me, but perhaps because I was inappropriately expecting a dish along the lines of Jacques-Imo's intense Shrimp and Alligator Sausage Cheesecake (one of the tastiest things I've ever eaten). This was a personal-sized hot pocket-type pie, to its credit housing a nicely savory crawfish goulash.
My favorite dish of the night (dare I say, possibly the trip?) was Cochon's Wood-fired Oyster Roast. I don't know WHAT they slather on these bad boys, but sell me a bottle, we're talking serious umami. Spicy, creamy, and a touch sweet, the fat oysters are roasted until practically bursting, with a fresh clean flavor that says "aren't you GLAD you weren't foolishly afraid to eat me??" YES.
For my entrée I found myself (as tends to be the case in NOLA) attracted to the bunny dish. The Smoked Rabbit & Greens with Cornbread Dumplings came served in a cast iron pan, the "dumpling" dough (more akin to cornbread biscuits) spooned right on top and cooked in as the dish simmered. The flavors were deep, smoky and warming, my only reservation was over the water that was collecting from the greens, quickly consuming my dumplings and rendering them into liquid grits. I found I had to eat the dish quickly, which I suppose wasn't a terrible thing.
While the rabbit dish is classic Link, the Corn Flour Crusted Ham Hock with Maque Choux & Black Eyed Peas that Bruce ordered was the Big Guns. The rich intensity of the meat here proved to me that Link not only respects his meat, but that he's a true master at preparing it.
The restaurant's namesake Louisiana Cochon with Turnips, Cabbage & Cracklins was winning, as expected. Larry found his pork a tad on the dry side, but Michael seemed pleased with his plate. Like the other proteins, the pork's depth of flavor played center stage here, a monochromatic dish that didn't need any green to feel balanced.
Throughout the meal, mischievous heat lightning occasionally lit the warehouse window panes and by the time our entrée plates were cleared had broken into a torrential summer storm. The idea of battling the elements in our summer clothes (and with my case-less camera in tow) was  less than appealing, so as stuffed as we were two desserts were selected to "pass the time." The Lemon-Buttermilk Pie with vanilla whipped cream was classic and tasteful, but a little lackluster after such an incredible meal.
The Pineapple Upside-Down Cake however surprised us all. Suggested by our server, the cornmeal cake with coconut-lime sorbet & dulce de leche was elegant and tantalizing.
Once the rain subsided (and after I purchased a bottle of Cochon's house-made hot sauce and Link's 2010 James Beard Award-winning cookbook Real Cajun - check out some recipes here) we ducked out into the even more humid night, quickly checking out Cochon Butcher next door before heading back to the Quarter.
Butcher specializes in house-cured artisan meats and sausages - all made on site. The store also offers Cajun specialties like Boudin, Andouille, Tasso, and Cochon's line of condiments.
In addition to the sandwich menu (Muffuletta, Pastrami, Cuban) Butcher offers small plates and salami tastings paired with an eclectic list of wines selected by wine buyer Joe Brian, and seems like a relaxed overflow option for when the restaurant is packed... Which is often, and now I know why.

930 Tchoupitoulas Street
New Orleans, LA 70130-3820
(504) 588-2123
cochonrestaurant.com
Cochon Restaurant on Urbanspoon