Wednesday, May 29, 2013

May 29, 2013 Lunch - La Salita and Dinner - Artichoke, red pepper, green pea and ham tapa

May 29, 2013 Lunch - La Salita and Dinner - Artichoke, red pepper, green pea and ham tapa

I met Mike for lunch at La Salita and ordered my favorite dish; a lite bite order (one) Swiss cheese stuffed chili relleno ($7.15) with double beans and extra garnish and onions served on a pool of stewed turkey meat.  Mike is leaving next week for a long vacation to Minnesota and France until August 15, 2013, so this will be the last time for La Salta for a while.  I loved my chili relleno and soppapilla after being away from real New Mexican food for 2 weeks.  Like the lady at the Street Food Asia said, “Fried food is always better away from the home, because cooking it is so messy.”
After a ten mile bike ride, Suzette was not home from Santa Rosa, so we could not discuss dinner plans before I went to meditate.  When I returned home around 8:30 p.m. I was pleasantly surprised to find Suzette cooking one of our favorite tapas; canned artichoke hearts packed in water, sautéed in Spanish olive oil with chopped ham, red bell pepper, frozen green peas and Spanish saffron we bought in Spain two years ago.  She toasted slices of whole grain bread and I opened a bottle of 2007 Eguia Reserva for the complete tapa experience.  The Eguia Reserva is 100% Tempranillo aged 24 months in European and American oak barrels, produced in Elciego, Spain; the same village where Riscal is located, and prime Rioja territory ($7.99 with the $2.00 discount at Costco).
After dinner we finished the last of the bottle of Eguia Reserva with the last of the Brie cheese from Normandy (Costco) on a slice of buttered bread and then for the final chocolate course, I ate a piece of homemade fudge with cognac and Cointreau.
Aah, the joy of being home again among all our wonderful comestibles.
Bon Appétit
May 25, 2013 The Great PA Flavorfest and Cooking Kettle Corn  

                After a traditional Pennsylvania breakfast of sautéed ham loaf and a fried egg sunny side up we left for the Great PA Flavorfest at around 11:00 a.m.
It was about a 30 minute drive along back roads to the Mount Hope Estate and Winery in Manheim, PA. There was no admission charge for the event, which included fifteen to twenty wineries pouring free tastes of their wines and selling their wines.  It is much like the Vine and Wine Society tastings in New Mexico.  When we arrived at around 11:30 the place was already very crowded with long lines waiting at each winery’s booth.  The Mount Hope venue was a pretty Rennaisance Village built next to the Mount Hope Winery to attract people to the winery, with buildings built by or for food vendors and some shops that sold candles and other souvenirs that apparently lease the spaces year round.   There were six of us, Don and Bev, Mr. and Mrs. Lindemuth and Suzette and me.  We went sampled wines at at least 10 or 12 of the booths by 2:30 p.m.  Most wines were the northern sweeter varieties and many were mixed with fruit flavorings.  There were lots of elderberry, blueberry, strawberry, black berry and other berry wines.   There were also lots of Gewurtztraminer, etc. and not many dry reds of note.  We bought a bottle of Spring Fling produced by Peace Winery located  at Chalfone, PA that was a semi-sweet white wined flavored with the herb, Sweet Woodruff, that was a delicious May Wine, especially when served in a pitcher of strawberries.
The other wine we bought was a Vignoles produced by Red Shale Ridge Vineyards in Hegins, PA.  Red Shale Ridge’s Vignoles had a light crisp flavor and was clearly made by a competent winemaker without any additives or sugar.   Their Pink Catawba, a famous grape native to the Eastern U.S., was also very good.  Don bought two bottles of it.
After about 10 wineries we came to the Crab cake stand and bought crab cakes and Suzette and I split a ginger beer.  The crab cakes were made with lots of egg and were very soufflé like.  Pretty delicious.
After another five or six wineries at around 3:30 we wandered homeward.   
At around 6:30 we put together a salad and went down the two blocks to Don and Bev’s house, because Don had promised to show us how to make kettle corn.
After a leisurely dinner of salad at around 8:30 or 9:00 p.m. Don began setting up his corn popping equipment.  He cooked three batches of corn until around 10:00 and we helped bag and label it.  Here are some pictures of various stages of the process.

His business name is Derby Don’s Kettle Corn and he sells his small bags with one large scoop for $2.00, medium bags with three scoops for $5.00 and large bags for $8.00.
By 10:30 p.m. when we departed his house we were veteran kettle corn baggers.
The kettle corn cooking process is amazing to watch.  Don uses a corn kernel called mushroom corn that pops into a round spherical shape.

He heats oil in the pot and, when it is hot, adds the corn and sugar and then stirs it like crazy to distribute the heat evenly and keep the corn from sticking.  The corn begins to pop in ones and twos, but within another fifteen seconds the whole pot erupts into a cloud of white as the rest of the kernals pop. Here is a video to give you an idea of the process.   

Bon Appétit

May 28, 2013 Lunch –Salad, Dinner – Stir fried Pork with Broccoli, and Snow Peas

May 28, 2013 Lunch –Salad, Dinner – Stir fried Pork with Broccoli, and Snow and Sugar Snap peas

We have been eating much more from the garden lately.  For lunch I typically pick five types of lettuce and greens: Romaine, leaf lettuce, mburna, mustard greens and radicchio.  Today I added palm hearts, tomatoes, green onion and cheese to the salad mix and dressed it with my constantly reconstituted Cesar Salad dressing. 
We went to Costco after work so Suzette could shop for Santa Rosa and we bought olive oil, lamb chops, green castelverano olives, a box of baby portabella mushrooms, a case of beer and a bottle of Gruet Blanc de Noir champagne for ourselves.

When we came home around 7:00 we started dinner.  We went to the garden and I picked some of kale tops that had bolted in our absence, a handful of snow peas and sugar snap peas and six or seven garlic scapes.   Then I started two cups of water cooking with a bit of Knorr dehydrated chicken stock and a few sprigs of Senche sea weed and when it came to a boil I added 1 cup of basmati rice and reduced the heat to its lowest setting and simmered the rice for thirty minutes.
I then chopped 1/3 of an Anaheim chili pepper, five of the garlic scapes, 1 Tbsp. of ginger root, one head of broccoli into halved flowerets and the leaves of kale I had picked, one shallot, and three mushrooms, while Suzette de-stemmed the peas.  I separated the ingredients based upon cooking time: in one bowl the shallots, chili and scapes, in another the broccoli and snow peas and in a third the kale and mushrooms.  While the rice cooked for thirty minutes and I was chopping, we watched the amazing Carol King Gershwin Music Award ceremony concert from the White House on PBS.   I was blown away with Billy Joel came to the piano and played and sang “Loco-Motion” and more blown away when a wonderful black woman named “Saba?” sang and played “Natural Woman”).  I never knew Carol King wrote “Loco-Motion” or “Natural Woman”   
When the Carol King concert ended at 8:00 and the rice was cooked, I removed the rice from the heat and heated the small wok with 2 Tbsp. of peanut oil and a few dashes of sesame oil and then added the chopped garlic scapes, ginger and chili and shallot.  After a couple of minutes I added ½ lb. of ground pork and sautéed that for a minute and then added the broccoli and peas and some Chinese Rice cooking wine and mushroom soy sauce.  After a few more minutes, Suzette said the dish needed liquid and needed to be covered to steam the broccoli, so I added oyster sauce and hoisin sauce and more cooking wine and a dash of soy and Suzette added water and I added the kale and mushrooms and covered the wok.  We let this cook for about ten minutes, while I made a thickening sauce with 3 Tbsp. of water, 1 Tbsp. oyster sauce, 1½ Tbsp. soy, a dash of sesame oil and about 1 Tbsp. of rice cooking wine.   After the ten minutes the ingredients looked softened and we added the thickening agent and I immediately realized that it was too thick, so we started adding water at the rate of about 1/8 of a cup at a time several times until the sauce thinned into a smooth sauce from the congealed mass that it was.  It was dark brown and coated all of the ingredients. 

We opened two beers and scooped rice into pasta bowls and ladled spoonsful of the stir fry dish onto the rice and ate a delicious dinner on our patio, mostly from our garden.  The dish was a little dark and tasted of soy, so I knew had over soyed the dish, but I loved the consistency of the thick sauce and how it coated the food.  My goal was to imitate the dark thick sauce one usually finds in on Beef and Broccoli in a Chinese restaurant and I achieved that.  The dish had a wonderful umami taste and we did not crave any dessert.  
Bon Appétit       

Monday, May 27, 2013

May 27, 2013 Dinner- Vietnamese Noodles with Stir fried ground pork, turnips, radishes and shallot on salad

May 27, 2013 Dinner- Vietnamese Broad Noodles with Stir fried ground pork, turnips, radishes and shallot on salad

At 5:00 I went to the store to pick up some items to replenish the larder including milk, tofu, green onions, tofu, limes, cilantro, spumoni ice cream, and tomatoes.  I bought ground pork so I could do a stir fried noodle dish with Vietnamese noodles.  We have two kinds of Vietnamese rice noodles, one broad and the other thin.  I decided to cook the broad noodles.
After I rode at around 7:00 we went to the garden and picked lettuces, Oriental greens, garlic scapes and turnips.  I then chopped up a bunch of small turnips, their greens and other greens and five garlic scapes and several radishes and some ginger and a shallot, Suzette washed the noodles, which we then sectioned and she heated  pot of water to boil them in a  submersible basket, so they would not disintegrate due to the forceful boiling action of boiling water.
I then heated the wok and added peanut oil and some sesame oil and oil infused with red chili.   I then added the shallots, scapes, ginger and ground pork to the wok and cooked them.  Then I added 1 ½ tsp. of sugar and some rice cooking wine, 1 Tbsp. of Thai fish sauce and 2 Tbsp. of sweet chili sauce to make a Vietnamese type of fish sauce and cooked the turnips and radishes some.  Then I added 1 ½ tsp. more sugar and more sweet chili sauce, fish sauce, rice cooking wine and the greens and cooked all of that while we cooked the noodles.  The noodles fell apart like they always do but not as badly as if they were cooked in boiling water because Suzette had used the submersible basket in the boiling pot.  Suzette filled a bowl with the lettuce and some fresh cilantro.  We laid noodles on the lettuce and then covered that with the stir fried pork and vegetables and greens and Suzette garnished the dish with sprigs of arugula and radish flowers from the garden, just like the Gramercy tavern did on one of the dishes we ate there.  Beautiful and delicious. 

Suzette declared the dish delicious and I liked it also.  We drank a beer with it and had a scoop of spumoni ice cream for dessert after dinner.  It is great to be back in Albuquerque and have access to the food growing in our garden.
Bon Appétit  

May 24, 2013 Elizabethtown, PA Lunch – Ham Loaf Dinner

May 24, 2013 Elizabethtown, PA Lunch – Ham Loaf Dinner

We wokeup and ate some baked Oatmeal with blueberries.hen around 12:00 Suzette’s Mom and Dad prepared a great dinner of ham loaf, candied sweet potatoes, creamed corn, asparagus with crumbled bread, pickles, and chow chow.
The Ham loaf is made from ground ham that is produced locally and then Mrs. Lindemuth makes a glaze with vinegar, water, brown sugar, and American style yellow mustard that she pours over the loaf after she had suck her hand into the loaf to create ridges and gullies to catch the glaze.

For dessert Mrs. Lindemuth made a rhubarb and strawberry crisp.
I need to say something about American culture as seen through its dining.  The standard dining experience of a family making and then gathering around the table for a large midday meal such as we experienced at the Lindemuth’s house today is mostly a thing of the past, mainly because, I think, the pattern of our work and work day has changed.   The big midday meal was probably based upon the men working on family farms from sun up to lunch time, while the women cooked and cleaned all morning and then the family gathered to eat a large meal and perhaps rest during the hottest part of the day and then returned to their work until sun down, when a light meal was eaten.  Now, since we live in the suburbs and both parents work in the center of towns and the children are fed at school, our pattern has shifted to eating at night when the family is re-united at home.  Unfortunately, because both parents work all day and there is little time to shop for food and cook it properly and because we no longer have the place or time to raise fresh ingredients, we are forced to let others fulfill the traditional functions of creating, preparing, cooking and serving our food.  This segmentation of the food function has led to the creation of the modern global food industry that we saw in Chicago.  On one end of the spectrum are the high end elegant five course tasting menus such as those we ate at Topolobampo and Gramercy Tavern.  At the other end is the fast food chain restaurant like Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen producing American and regional favorite dishes in large quantities at cheap prices.  Both elevate the importance of the individual over the group.  Perhaps this fact can be seen most clearly in the mutation of our politics and our culture from the American revolutionary battle cry of “All for one and one for all” into the rise of the “me” generation and the increasingly common new advertising and political slogan and unstated innuendo of “Us against them” mentality in politics. The world of food advertising often emphasizes, “I want it now and I want it hot and tasty”, which seems to be the new mantra in fast food.  You are special and elevated to stardom as you are pampered during the three hours that it takes to eat that delicious $130.00 to $150.00 meal at Topo or Gramcery Tavern.  Or you can reconnect with your Southern culture at Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen with its fried chicken and gumbo delivered instantly to you.

Later in the afternoon Bev came by with some of the amazingly good kettle corn they make.  After a chat and a few handfuls of kettle corn, Bev drove us to re-stock one of the locations they sell their corn in  and then to a Vineyard at Hershey to deliver corn for an upcoming event, where we tasted and bought three bottles of wine for this evening’s snack.  Most of its wines are not aged but given an oaky flavor by the addition of oak chips.  We liked and bought the Cabernet Franc, the Sweet Reisling (my favorite) and the Catawba.

At around 6:15 we loaded up the paté, two cheddar cheeses, the bread, crackers, pepper jam, cream cheese and an apple and a pear and some grapes and a bag of little carrots and went down to Don and Bev’s house to eat and drink and watch T.V. ad wait for the recently installed lights in their front yard to go on.  Finally at 8:00 when the lights had still not gone on Don got a flashlight and went to the control box and flipped the breaker and the lights went on.  There were five new lights beaming up through three trees and two capped lights lighting the pathway to the front door of their house.  We all declared the lights wonderful and a success.  When we left, Ken, the man who installed the lights came by to inspect them and started talking with Don. 

Bon Appétit

May 21, 2013 NYC, Metropolitan Museum, Colbert Report and Ouest Restaurant

May 21, 2013  NYC, Metropolitan Museum, Colbert Report and Ouest Restaurant
We awakened at 4:45 a.m., got dressed and took a taxi to Midway Airport with a driver who was listening to NPR, which was cool because he turned up the sound so we could listen also.

We arrived In NYC at 10:30 and took a taxi to the Marcel Hotel at 201 E. 24th.  We called Luke and he suggested we meet at the Met.  After dropping our bags and changing shirts we took the subway to the Metropolitan  Museum.   We had not eaten, so we started with salads at the Peabody cafeteria next to the New American Wing, which we walked through after lunch.  The newly installed monumental Emanuel Luetze's “Washington Crossing the Delaware” Washington Crossing the Delawarein its newly reconstructed frame was incredible.  I got to see some of my favorites and they were all there, several Winslow Homer paintings of waves crashing onto rocks where you can see light through the waves and his very famous water color of sharks circling a disabled boat "Gulf Stream", Bingham’s “Fur Traders floating on the Missouri”  Eakins’s Man in a Single Scull” and Bierstadt’s “Rocky Mountains”.  Then I wanted to go see the Hudson River School collection which was nearby. After a few George Kensett’s, Heade’s, and Fitz Hugh Lane’s, we were ready to move on.  Suzette wanted to see the installation in the roof garden so we walked back across the museum and went up to the fifth floor roof garden, which was nice.  The roof top installation was interesting but not great, mostly splattered red paint on which lotus flowers had been painted by the artist.  So we then walked down to the second floor to see the installation that Luke wanted to see,” Chaos to Couture, the Punk Movement”.   Based on the evidence provided in the show the Punk movement was very much about both music and clothes.  It started out in England as a fashion statement and seems to have been very much about fashion ever since.   In fact as we walked back to the hotel from the subway going home I saw a woman in torn cutoffs, a roughly sewn shirt, purple hair, with tattoos, so people still dress in the punk style.   PUNK: Chaos to Couture
After the Punk show, we all wanted to see the Paul Klee Exhibit “From Representation to Abstraction”, which was in the American Contemporary area.   After making our way through a room of Clifford Stills, past Chuck Closes and an Ellsworth Kelly and two rooms of Josef Albers’ Homages to the Square , we made it to a small room filled with one long row of watercolors by Paul Klee.  They were all small, no more than 8” by 11” but exquisite.  We started at the end around 1930 and went back to the beginning in 1914.  In the beginning he was painting landscape scenes in North Africa of mosques and markets, where you could see that the recognizable images were beginning to break apart into planes of color. Soon he was stacking planes of colors and forcing them to vibrate by juxtaposition, probably due to the influence of Kandinsky and others.  Wonderful stuff. Colorful Architecture
We went back to the Hotel and changed and then we taxied in the 5:00 rush traffic to the Colbert Report studio and arrived three minutes before we would have lost our VIP status and shut out of the show.  Melissa Salmons got us VIP tickets because she is a writer to “Days of Our Lives” and knows several writers for the Colbert Report (They all are in the Writers Union, among other ways).


There was a warm up comedian, Paul Mancuso who was funny. He got to know the audience and took and read Luke’s card to the audience and made jokes and got the audience to laugh and scream and turned us into the Colbert Nation, so we would respond to Colbert’s jokes.  The show was live and took about an hour to produce.   The book guest was Jason? Feldman, who teaches at Harvard and wrote “The Cool War” which analyzes the competitive, yet co-dependent relationship of the U.S. to China.      
After the show, we taxied to Ouest at 84th and Broadway after we had ordered drinks Melissa arrived and we were seated in the large room with a view of the cooking line.  We ordered two appetizers, an escargot torte and Oysters sautéed with oyster mushrooms.  I loved the escargot which turned out to be a little like a deep dish pizza and a lot like a torte holding its own broth and chives with the escargot.   The oysters were not as successful because I did not care for its darker oyster flavored broth that conflicted with the lighter flavors of the oysters but it was garnished chives and salmon caviar, which was nice. 
I was happy to see my favorite dish that I ordered last time was still on the menu, roasted pigeon, which I ordered.  Melissa ordered the Halibut encrusted in porcini mushrooms, Suzette ordered the Fish stew with Monkfish, oysters, clams and lobster, which turned out to not be very good, because it was in a mils sauce that was over salted.   In fact Suzette said that Ouest’s food and service was not as good as it had been three or four years ago.  The bartender opened a bottle of 2012 French rosé and it was bad, which should have been a tip off, but what could compare to Topolobampo,  I agree with her. 
Luke and Rebecca ordered the trout, which was served in in a pile of sautéed planks which I thought was a very clever idea.  My roasted pigeon was perfect as usual and I enjoyed the chive risotto on which it was served, which I shared with Luke.  As Anthony Bourdain said during his lecture at the NRA, “There is only one way to fix risotto and it either is right or it is not.”  That way appears to me to be soft but with a slight al dente crunch and that was the way Ouest prepared their risotto.  The pigeon was roasted to medium rare, grey on the outside ad red in the center which made it very tender.  Since we had all ordered fish I ordered a bottle of Slipshift Oregon Willamette Valley Pinot Gris, which was light and fruity.

We had waited a long time to order and the waiter sensed that, so when he came by after dinner and we told him we were finished, he said, “May I offer you dessert, we chose four. I don’t know if it was to make him feel better or to make ourselves feel better but they were mostly delicious.  A small dark chocolate cake with a thick chocolate sauce topped with a scoop of fresh made vanilla bean ice cream, a bombe cake made with chocolate cake on bottom, then a round topping of peanut pastry cream and covered with that same lovely thick chocolate sauce.  Rebecca ordered a gelatin panne cotta in a parfait glass with a layer of light yellow translucent passion fruit sauce floating on it.  I ordered the apple tart, which turned out to be a small apple tart with a scoop of cinnamon ice cream and a drizzle of reduced apple hard cider, which caused the cider to stiffen and made it sweeter; a very clever idea.

Generally the dinner was okay but not great.  Thankfully we were not charged for our initial drinks or for the desserts and that relief made me feel better about the meal and willing to return to the restaurant, although it will probably need to be without Suzette.
Bon Appétit    

May 22, 2013 NYC –Brooklyn Museum, La Morada, Matilda and Stage Door Deli

May 22, 2013 NYC –Brooklyn Museum, La Morada, Matilda and Stage Door Deli

We got up and went to the Brooklyn Museum because Suzette had been wanting to see Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party installation for several years.   When we arrived I saw one of the iconic paintings of early American art over the ticket counter, Edward Hicks’ Peaceable Kingdom and asked the Ticket salesperson, if that picture was in the collection.  When she said yes, I became excited to see it and the other pieces in the collection.   We were told to go to the fifth floor and then come down.   American paintings were on the fourth floor.  We saw the Peaceable Kingdom and many other great American works, such as a couple of good Eakins, and a wonderful portrait of Washington by Gilbert Stuart.   I have since discovered at Wikipedia that there are several versions of the Peaceable Kingdom by Hicks, there is another version that is probably more famous at the National Gallery, but in this one the animals look right at you and are more primitive, which I love.

 Then we went to the Feminist wing and saw the Dinner Party.  After two hours we went to the subway and went all the way to Queens on the express No. 2 train and guessed that the second Third Ave. stop would be the correct one for the restaurant   When we walked out of the subway we asked a man in wheelchair which way to Willits and he pointed across the street.

 So we walked across the street and were on Willits.  After walking eight blocks we came to La Morada restaurant at 308 Willits.  I ordered Mole Poblano with pork and Suzette ordered chicken tamales with green mole sauce.  Both dishes were served with rice and black beans.   There were two other friends of Rebecca and the parents of one of them and Charlie and Sarah, Rebecca’s uncle and aunt from New Jersey.    The mole was good but not as good as Topo, but it was much cheaper, only $12.00 for the whole dish with its three pork ribs in a rich chocolate mole sauce.  The tamales were good but with lots of masa, which Suzette did not eat, so I ate the cooked masa with my mole and it was just like the dish the other night at Topo in construction.  In fact, La Morada’s mole may have been more complex in its conception than Topos because it appeared to have used BBQ’d pork ribs (costillas de puerco) that were a little dry but tasty.  My guess is that the matron did not like me trying to speak Spanish and gave me the day old ribs.  But the mole sauce was definitely homemade.
After lunch we went with the Manhattan group to the No. 6 train and returned to Manhattan.  As we entered Manhattan from the north Suzette said we could stop three blocks from the Frick Museum.   So we stopped at 68th and walked north the three blocks to the Frick at 71st and Fifth Ave.  The Frick is terrific.  It has three Vermeers and an incredible Giovanni Bellini of Saint Francis in the Wilderness and four Rembrandts including his self portrait as an old man and an incredible Hans Memling portrait of a young Man and a Duccio and a Cimabue that date from the beginning of the Renaissance in the 1300’s.   All in all, a fabulous Museum.

After the Frick we returned to the hotel and got our tickets for Matilda and went to the Schubert Theatre.  Our seats were under the balcony and I think that because of the sound system, our hearing suffered because of the back wash of sound from too many speakers.  Also, the performers’ speaking in English English made understanding them more difficult.

After the theater we went to the Stage Door Deli at 7th Ave and 33rd St. which appears to have changed hands, since all the waiters and cooks are now Mexicans, although the potato pancakes, blintzes, a bowl of matzo ball soup and a bowl of cream of asparagus soup were all very delicious.


A long and wonderful day.  Incredible if you count two major museums.
Bon Appétit

May 18, 2013 NRA Convention and Iberico Restaurant

May 18, 2013 NRA Convention and Iberico Restaurant

Suzette, and Anne Sesler and her daughter, Elizabeth, and I took off for Chicago and arrived at around noon.  I took us a while to work out the ground transportation.  We finally took a CTA train to the center of town and switched to a subway that took us directly to the McCormack Center.  We arrived around 1:30 and checked our bags in the coat check room.  We arrived at the Rick Bayless panel on recycling about ten minutes before it ended and heard him say, “It may seem like a complicated job to recycle but you just start and go from easy to complex sequentially as the opportunities present themselves.”

I then went to a franchising seminar and a lecture by Homaro Cantu on the Miracle Berry diet and bought his book.
Then I met Suzette at around 5:00 and went to the first floor where the International Wine and Spirits Association had their sampling booths.  In about an hour we sampled about fifty wines.   Particularly interesting was Picaurd Rose Pineau and several French Fronton grape wines from near Carcassone.

Then we visited the Bulgarian wine booth and the Macadonian wine booth and Valdemar German wines such as Joseph Prüm and ended our visit to the area at the Quady booth were we tried all three of their Vya Vermouths and realized that we had only visited two of six aisles.   I promised myself I would return tomorrow.

After returning to the Felix Hotel the front desk taff recommended the Café Iberico for tapas , so we walked the two blocks to it and found that it was packed with folks.  We were shown to a table upstairs near the open windows so there was a breeze.  We ordered several tapas, including an Iberico ham plate.    As it turned out the ham was not iberico ham, just regular Spanish ham, but still good.
The best tapa was a boiled and grilled octopus and fresh spinach tapa, as was the pitcher of sangria for $17.50. 
We also ordered a tapa of roasted red and yellow bell peppers and eggplant, but the eggplants were the small green kind, not the larger rosa or aubergine ones, as you can see above on the right.  
We ordered a paella but the waiter forgot to place the order so he felt terrible and brought us two desserts to compensate for the wait.  The flan with blood orange caramel sauce  in the foreground was quite nice. 
Finally after a lovely evening of eating tapas, we retired for the night.

Monday, May 20, 2013

May 20, 2013 Another fabulous day at NRA, Dinner – Topolobampo

May 20, 2013 Another fabulous day at NRA, Dinner – Topolobampo

We started at 10:00 am by going to a fabulous speech by Anthony Bourdain.  He was funny and insightful.  I asked a question “What do you think is the proper etiquette for a poorly cooked meal or poor service.   To make a long answer short, h said, “You give the kitchen the opportunity to fix the problem and if they can not you vote with your dollars and not go back and if it was really bad you tell others that it was a really bad restaurant.
After the lecture I went to an education session of menu development that turned out to be boring because it was from the perspective of large chain restaurant s like Popeye’s Fried Chicken, Fried Chicken, which has changed its name to Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchens n which they talked about the chain of actions required to develop new menu dishes.  It made me feel that the process was driven by produce access and marketing and made me realize that food ingredient sourcing and availability takes on a whole new meaning when you have 1000 restaurants in your chain and how that is so like working at Pier 1., where it took the concurrence of 30 to 50 people to make a decision and 100s to execute the decision, except for companies like Starbucks it takes over 11,000 managers to execute the strategy.

The other thing it taught me was that the process of developing a menu for a chain of restaurants is a whole different animal than a home or one small restaurant like the Greenhouse Bistro and Bakery or our house, where the menu is decided in a moment based upon availability of ingredients.
Talking about ingredients, after the lecture at 12:30 we went downstairs to the food booths with Anne and Elizabeth to forage.  I wanted to try the Japanese Pavilion’s products.  There was everything from grilled Satsuma beef on a dab of dry mancha and salt, to lots of types of green to freeze dried mushroom, daikon and burdock to an amazing fresh frozen wasabi, which is a mustard plant.  They even made dashi flavored spaghetti and had a cooking demonstration showing the proper method for making ramen noodles: start by heating a flavored oil to 80˚C., then combine the oil with soy and dashi and chicken stock to make the soup. And throw in the noodles.
Finally, after trying all the Japanese foods we went to the organic section and tried a few mussels at a Prince Edward Island mussel company and a few other teas and snacks.  At around 2:30 made our way to the basement to try more spirits and ciders and wines.  I must have tried at least five different ciders, Dobra chocolate liquor, a wonderful Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao that used the rind of the bitter orange to give an intense orange flavor to the cognac that had won the spirit of the year for 2013 in Berlin and several Italian wines, including a lovey Franciacorta.
At around 3:30 p.m. Suzette ran out of gas and we left for the hotel for a nap.
We got rolling at around 7:30 p.m.  We walked south on Clarke past several Irish Pubs toward Rick Bayless’ restaurants, Topolabampo and Frontera Grille.  We arrived at around 8:15 and were told that our table would not be ready until approximately 8:45 p.m. so we walked south and then east five blocks enjoying the amazing architecture of Chicago.

When we returned to Topolabampo and were initially seated in the bar until our table was cleared.  Suzette ordered a house made gin with a house made tonic that was very delicious.
Here is a picture of her seated in the Topolobampo dining room after we were shown to our table and given a menu and wine list. 

We immediately decided that the Topo Classics Tasting Menu for $105.00 looked great. and that we could split it, although Suzette was another entrée she wanted to try.

We discussed the wine choices with the sommelier and she described how each dish was carefully paired with each dish, so we decided to split one tasting menu and we ordered the 5 perfectly paired wines for both of us, except that Suzette also wanted to order the Guasmole de Borrego, a lamb dish with a guasmole (a mole sauce made with guajillo chile, tomatillo and fresh guaje seeds) with a Spanish Tempranillo with her lamb dish, which the sommelier agreed with and said she would make that change to Suzette's pairing. 

We were first brought a small glass cup filled with a layer of ramps flan garnished on top with a maché of toasted almonds, ramps and ancho chili topped with a sprig of baby lovage.  The picture is a side view exposing the mache on the right and the ramps custard below it on the left.
The Classic Tasting menu started with “Esquites on the Edge of Spring”, a preserved Nichols Farm Field corn molded into a column with a layer of pickled trumpet mushrooms on the bottom of the corn column and garnished with a layer of grated shaved cincho cheese and micro greens  and a young sprig of lovage and dusted with powdered guajillo chili.  The dish was served and then a waiter poured a corn and nettle broth into the bowl.  I first tried to deconstruct the dish by eating each ingredient and got a sharp hit of guajillo chili, so I decided to mix everything up into a stew and that worked much better.  The blending of the flavors worked better.  I especially liked the nettle and corn broth.
The wine pairing with the corn dish was 2008 Domaine Des Baumand “Clos de Papillon from Savenniéres form the Loire Valley in France.  We had visited the Baumand Winery and drunk the wine last summer and did not like it because it was very light and lacked the mineral complexity of some of the other Savenniéres wines , but it made a nice match for the sweet corn and slightly bitter nettle and salty cheese.  But, since  I find Savenniéres so infrequently on wine menus that I can not criticize the presence of any Savenniéres wine.
The second course was titled “Three Bites of Oaxaca” that included three small cut out circles of fresh corn tortilla with three different meats, one Oaxacan chorizo coupled with a poached quail egg, the second held a small pile of pork loin coated with a cecina sauce of avocado-tomatillo salsa and most interestingly a pickled tomatillo and the third, a carne asada made with beef tenderloin laid on a clump of refried black beans with a slice of pickled white onion. each presentation was garnished with a small red kale leaf and the three were served on a banana leaf.  The second wine poured was a 2009 Leopardi Brut Rosé from Penedés, Spain served chilled.  The dark rose color belied the fact that the wine was incredibly light and yet had a slight red wine flavor.  Since I love rosé, it was my favorite wine and a new one.
The third course was the fish course, “Halibut and lobster, Green Sesame Pipián”, two small pieces of pan roasted halibut and a Maine lobster torchon or roll of lobster that had been pressed into a roll and cut into a ½ inch round and laid on pan roasted white sweet potatoes and a mound of Snug Haven spinach; all the major food groups.  As in the first course, after the plate was uncovered at the table, the wait staff poured the Green pipián sauce onto one-half of the plate that completed the dish because the combination of cilantro, epazote and hoja santa colored the sauce a lovely light green provided a lovely complement to the sautéed fish and sweet potatoes and lobster.  Although the sauce was a light green it still had small specks of black and white from the ground up sesame seeds.  Amazingly, the sauce was velvety smooth.

The fish dish was served with a chilled light red 2010 Petalos from the Bierzo region in Spain.
 I now need to mention that we became friendly with the two couples seated at the table next to ours. The man sitting next to me was a tall blond haired gentleman named Richard D. Debler, who was President and splits his time between Mexico City where he owns the San Angel Inn restaurant outside of Mexico and another restaurant at Epcot Center in Florida.  He said he loves Rick’s food.  It seems that he and his son or the younger man with him and their two female companions were very familiar with, not only the food served in Topo, but also the bakery next door and it appeared that he was also attending the NRA Convention.
Richard had ordered the same tasting menu as we did, so we could gauge his reactions to the same dishes we had eaten after we ate them.  He loved the simple elegance of the corn and nettle soup appetizer and the tacos.  When the Fish dish came Richard said he loved the care with which the sauces were prepared.  We agreed that the sauce on the fish dish was exquisitely smooth for what is usually in Mexico a sauce that is chunky with bits of sunflower seed.
The Fourth dish “Wood Grilled Ribeye and Foie Gras in Negro Mole” was an interesting cross cultural combination of a very traditional European combination of wood grilled 28 day aged prime beef ribeye and a small rectangle of grilled foie gras with a traditional Oaxacan Mole Negro.   The mole contained 29 ingredients and had a very rich deep chili and chocolate flavor that was perfect with the ribeye but overpowered the delicate foie gras.  I ate every speck of the sauce and Richard at the next table ate every speck of his sauce, which in my mind was an even better indicator of its superb reparation.  We both agreed that the sauces were superb in every respect.

My grilled steak and foie gras was served with a piece of corn husked chipil tamal, black beans and smoky green beans.  The glass of 2006 Benegas Lynch Meritage Libertad Vineyards located in Mendoza, Argentina went well with the bright chocolate sauce and steak’s flavor.  

I tasted Suzette’s Guasmole sauce on her lamb tenderloin and thought it was the better sauce, brightly flavored with guajillo chilis and a multitude of other ingredients.  
The lamb dish was served with a potato au gratin that was lovely and the 2008 Mauro Cosecho was light and delicious with Suzette's brightly flavored lamb dish.  Richard’s son, ordered the goat with the same guasmole sauce and he really liked the guacsmole sauce also. 
Finally, dessert arrived; two warm chocolate mesquite cakes with densely rich, liquefied molten centers, served in a row with a scoop of Mexican Vanilla ice cream (infused with Rosita de cacao and two cubes of sweet masa pudding (nicuatole), sprinkled with toasted almonds, cacao nibs and masa crisps and a fresh mint leaves. The dessert was paired with a glass of rather light 2010 Susana Balbo late harvest Torrontés that was overwhelmed by the rich chocolate dessert.  It was great to taste a late harvest torrontés, but it should have been paired with a flan or something lighter that it could have complemented it better.  
All in all, it was a great dinner.  The tasting menu was $105.00 and the wine pairings were $60.00 each and Suzette's dish was around $35.00.
Bon Appétit