Showing posts with label pancakes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pancakes. Show all posts

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

Monday, April 26, 2010

Croquer: Mercantile

A perfect brunch is the quickest way to my heart. Despite my intense love for Los Angeles, there has always been a fallow pocket in said heart awaiting its unrequited. Many have come close, but after living in Portland where brunch is quite literally sanctified, I will be the first to admit how high my standards are. Enter the modest and saintly Mercantile. Quietly it entered the scene some months ago tucked in an offbeat stretch of Sunset not used to the weekend brunch crowd. Which immediately made me like it. Still rarely overcrowded, Mercantile offers an extremely level-headed, approachable, and knowledgeable staff, a casual no-frills setting, yet incredibly high end food. It is something this city has been begging for, and I'm praying it continues to deliver.
Serving double as a marketplace, Mercantile has a stocked cheese case, shelves of condiments, affordable hard-to-find house-packed spices, Dolin Vermouth (the best), imported oils and vinegars, and a sinful display of daily homemade doughnuts, 'oreos', canneles, other breakfast goodies and gorgeous desserts.
Once seated in the main market space, lofted dining room, patio or bar, a clipboard displays their brunch menu and all its country comfort glory. If it's a hair of the dog morning, Mercantile makes a mean housemade bloody mary served in a frosty mason jar. Of course there's always a mimosa, but for a twist try their French 75, gin blended with lemon, lime, and orange zest, a splash of juice from each, and topped with sparkling wine.
My first bite at Mercantile was the Chilaquiles (always a defining breakfast dish), theirs made with a pumpkin seed chile sauce, topped with cotija and a sunny side up eggs. A robust, crispy take on the dish, perfectly cooked eggs bolstering a thumbs up.
To share at the table, the Ginger Snap Pancakes with vanilla soaked prunes, mascarpone & almonds. What sounds saccharine is actually quite spicy and refined, a trace of syrup on the plate the only truly sweet component. Recommended for those tempted by breakfast's sweet side, but easily overwhelmed by sugar.
The winner of the first visit was the genius Southern Benedict, poached eggs atop corn meal cakes, a hearty crab-tasso ham ragout, mustard greens, and a purely evil Tabasco hollandaise! Spicy, crabby and decadent.. a veritable Louisiana hangover helper.

Other winners I've had since (oh yes, I've been back) include the Duck Confit Hash with sunny-side up egg, sweet potato, wild arugula, candied black walnut, caramelized onion and mustard. But my favorite dish to date is the Maple Glazed Pork Belly. Quite the "it" dish lately, this pork belly stands apart as probably the best I've ever had, tender and smoky with a kiss of woody sweetness, served over white grits, topped with scallions, and sunny side up egg, and drizzled with a fine maple reduction. Magnifique!

Do yourself a favor this weekend and enter Mercantile's warm embrace.

6600 West Sunset Blvd. Hollywood; 323.962.8202
The Mercantile on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Recettes Secrètes: Ricotta Hotcakes with Strawberry Coulis

These velvety hotcakes could work well as side to a savory supper, as well as a sweet brunch entrée.

Ricotta Hotcakes
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
2/3 cup milk
juice and grated peel of one meyer lemon
splash of Tuaca
Combine dry ingredients and set aside. Beat eggs in a batter bowl, add remaining wet ingredients, then mix with the dry ingredients. Pour approximately 1/4 cup batter onto a hot, oiled grill and cook until golden brown, flipping once. Arrange on a warm platter; dust with powered sugar. Serve with strawberry coulis. Serves about 6.

Strawberry Coulis
1 cup fresh strawberries
1 to 2 Tablespoons agave nectar or sugar
a few drops fresh meyer lemon juice
Place in blender or food processor and purée. Sweeten to taste. Strain through a fine sieve and discard seeds. Keeps up to a week in the fridge.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Recettes Secrètes: Cottage Cheese Pancakes

Weekend morning experimentation has lead me to many of my favorite recipes. Last Saturday's hangover lead me to this enjoyable rich brunch treat. I have yet to find a cottage cheese pancake recipe that beats my old roommates', but this is probably the closest I've come.

1 c. flour
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 beaten egg
1 c. milk
2 tbsp. oil (safflower)
1 c. cottage cheese
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
Splash of orange juice

3 ripe plums, sliced
1 lemon, sliced into wheels
Pinch of nutmeg
3 tbsp. Apricot preserves
Powdered sugar

Start off making a batter like any other.. In a batter bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
In a med mixing bowl combine the egg, milk, oj and cooking oil. Add egg mixture to dry mixture, stir just til moistened. Fold in the cottage cheese.
For standard size pancakes, pour about 1/4 cup batter onto a hot greased griddle or cast iron skillet. Flip when the edges bubble and dry.
In a seperate skillet, heat a tbsp of butter and add the sliced plums and lemon. Sprinkle liberally with sugar, add the nutmeg and let simmer. After a minute or two stir in the apricot preserves. Once warm and carmelized, spoon onto the pancakes and sift powdered sugar to finish.