Monday, March 25, 2013

Fast Food on the way to Skiing... and Waffle Cabin!

Fast food might be cheap, full of preservatives, and commercialized (I mean it's a hundred billion dollar business), but sometimes it's savory and keeps you alive during long car trips. There's also something to be said for the ability to create the same taste over and over again and have the food to be tasty enough that people keep going back.

Since I didn't grow up with fast food, I don't crave it very often, though sometimes curiosity gets the best of me. Here are my favorites:

Arby's: I visited my first Arby's at the age of 23 or something. It was a bit of a revelation. Mass produced deliciously seasoned curly fries!

Sauce dispensing machines... with horseradish? really?!

You need quite a bit of sauce to make the sandwich work, but then again so do most restaurants. Who the heck cares that you had to pump it out of a plastic bag hidden in a tin box.

Roast beef with cheese on onion bread. Not bad, and it costs less than the taxes at a lot of dinners!

Hmm ice cream. It tastes the same as a lot of overpriced ice cream in expensive restaurants... but with Hershey's fudge.

Dunkin Donuts: Apparently a lot of Americans wake up to this. I found out that they have this vanilla chai tea that's absolutely delicious. I don't really drink caffeine, but I'm willing to drink something that tastes like sugary milk with some cinnamon spice!

Nice view eh?

And then I had these absurdly awesome hash browns!! They're so good!

And then I got this disgusting sandwich. WTF is that inside?! did someone paint a yellow circle on my egg white? It makes me so sad that people eat this. I'd rather pay up and get Finagle Bagel with real bagels and real eggs. (but I'd still get the tea and hash browns!!)

It wasn't all fun and expedient billion dollar franchises. A lot of Vermont ski resorts have the Waffle Cabin, which deserves a cult following of its own. They have perfected the sugar waffle... and we had to wait at least 15 minutes for the dude to finish his tinkle break.

But I got my perfect waffle. The batter is somewhere between donut and cake. A patina of crunchy sugar is cooked into every nook and cranny. My teeth hurt and my stomach longs for it as I type. I paid them a lofty 75c to drizzle that baby with chocolate syrup that usually ends up on my face and clothes.

It was a great experience and all, but it's not for the health conscious. Then again, most fine dining isn't for the health conscious either. Great restaurants cook the food in butter and oil too, friends; they're just clever enough emulsify/foam/otherwise hide it marbled or soaked into meat and fungi.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

mMMm...Hand Meat Pie at home

Apparently this is also called a Pasty Pie, but I prefer the name "Meat Pie."

It involves a crust (I like store bought puff pastry), and a delicious meat filling, which can be whatever you want.

I was in the mood for a beef and potato filling because no store I know of sells shredded duck. Potatoes are a great addition to the meat pie, because the soft starchiness makes the inside of the pie taste fluffier.

Step 1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Step 2. Cut veggies. The key is to dice everything finely so that you get nice even bites.

I used onion, shallots, carrots, and potatoes.

Step 3: Add beef and season! We added tomato paste, worchester sauce, paprika, a dash of cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste.

Let it all cool!! and make sure that it's not too liquid, or the dough will be soggy. You can dump out the excess liquid or just tilt the pan and let it drain to one side.

In the meantime...
Step 4: Roll out pastry dough

Step 5: Stuff it.

Step 6: Seal it. I sealed it with little egg.

Step 7: Poke holes on top with a fork or knife so that the dough doesn't split open while cooking. If you want, you can brush the top with some egg and sprinkle some chunky flavored salt on top.... whatever you like.

Step 8: Throw it into the oven at 400 degrees and cook for 10-15 minute until browned.

Step 9: Eat!! Don't burn yourself. These come out smokin hot.

Someone told me that he could eat 4, so I made 4, but here we are after 2... completely stuffed!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Brooklyn Fare's coveted menu

Cesar Ramirez does not allow photos or note taking in his acclaimed 3 Michelin star restaurant, Brooklyn Fare. Even after being named the best restaurant in NYC by many, only a single Danish blogger has posted the full menu (so my lazy google searching tells me).

I'm morally opposed to this strict and secretive practice, especially when so many restaurants that are on par with (if not better than) Brooklyn Fare allow note taking. I will only take this post down if someone gives me a good reason to.

Here's the 23 course meal that I had at Brooklyn Fare. By a conservative estimate, I'm missing at most 2 courses... and that just means that the courses were not memorable.

First, a crash course on the fish dishes that I did not bother to paint over and over again:

At least 4 dishes were a thin slice of fish paired with an even thinner circular pickled crunchy "vegetable", usually a tuber, in a pool of citrus sauce and a beautiful little flower on top. Everything but the sauce was put together with tweezers (and a lot of sweat and concentration).

Without further delay:

1. Kabocha squash with orange and yogurt foam 9.5/10: The squash and orange puree could have been a little smoother and less hot. Otherwise an amazing start!

2. Japanese butterfish 9/10: I was really amused by the orange theme with a mini marigold-like flower here. The serving dish was kind of pretty with little circular holes. Circles were another theme. A third theme was also started with dish - citrus-ness.

3. Knifejaw with cucumber and cucumber blossom 9/10: Each fish was slightly different, but honestly with a few glasses of wine, it all started meshing together. This dish was still early enough that I enjoyed it immensely.

4. King salmon with trout roe 10/10: For both taste and presentation, this is the first dish that truly stood out. A dollop of creme fraiche was hidden between the thin pastry cup and fish.

5. Grouper with pickled turnip 7/10: Similar looking to previous fish courses, and the taste was completely overpowered by the lemony sauce. There was a green sauce on the bottom that I could only taste briefly before the citrus took over.

6. Black river Russian osetra caviar 7/10: Eh. There are many other places where I can get osetra caviar. The dish lacked creativity... although it looked like there were only 3 ingredients: caviar, creme fraiche, and a pastry shell... but I could have sworn I tasted something sour and sweet like a pickled onion on the bottom.

7. Red trumpet fish with pickled daikon 7/10: Another similar fish course. It was starting to get a little repetitive. I remember the pickled daikon having a red ring and tasted closer to raw radish.

8. Golden eyed snapper with burdock root and shiso 8/10: Tasted more or less the same with a little more herbal flavor from the burdock root. The thinly shredded (and fried?) pieces on top added a new and exciting crunch.

I remember the last time I was at BK fare, there was crunchy stuff on half the dishes and nearly cut my mouth. This time, the inclusion of crunch was much appreciated and used on fewer courses.

9. Red sea perch with gelee of sake 10/10: I knew this was going to be a great dish the moment the bowl was set down. The bowl was a soft dimple, like a thick round piece of white dough with a soft depression in the middle. The red trumpet fish was raw, but the skin looked as if it had been charred on a grill, and tasted distinctly smoked. I. Love. Sea Perch. It's so soft and insanely good. The sake gelee were thin clear circles - as light as plastic wrap. They were carefully draped over the fish with tweezers.

This was my favorite dish, and the start of my favorite 3 course sequence.

10. Hokkaido sea urchin with truffle and brioche 10/10: Another favorite of mine. You'd think that piling truffle on sea urchin would be overkill. It kind of was, but in a roll-your-eyes-back great way.

11. Snails with garlic sabayon and crispy shallots 10/10: The advantage of sketching instead of taking photos is that I can pretend to cut the dish in half and show you the inside of an otherwise boring picture of foam and little dots of red crispy shallots. The dish was very french with a green pesto-like sauce on the bottom. The sabayon really helped wrap the flavors together and let the flavor last on the tongue without leaving a heavy film of butter.

12. Young snapper 4/10: The token fried dish. I remember distinctly a fried dish burning my mouth during my last visit, so I was careful to give the fish extra time to cool. Once again, it was under seasoned and kind of boring looking.

13. Sea urchin and caviar 7/10: I vaguely remember the sea urchin being cut up, and the dish tasted a little smokey. Not a good sign that I can't remember much else.

14. Japanese red snapper with scallion 7/10: This was the first cooked course. It was a bite of very tender fish, but nothing really stood out as particularly innovative. The skin was blow torched to extreme crispiness, but it was almost too hard. The sauce was sweet and tangy.

15. Fluke with crispy kelp 7/10: I liked the cooked fluke more than I like most raw fluke... but I don't really like fluke in the first place. I find the fish pretty boring, maybe I'm missing some taste sensors oh well.

16. Shiitake mushroom and mackerel with crispy ginger 6/10: I have no earthly clue what this course tasted like. All I know is that it was the last canapé.

17. Turbot with peas 10/10: As great of a turbot as I've ever had. The young pea shoots/vines/flowers were tender and delicious. The baby peas were perfectly cooked and sweet.

18. Duck with mushroom puree and baby carrot 8/10: I do love duck. This was nothing special. the carrot didn't add much, but was delightfully miniature. It almost looked like a small pepper with its bright red to orange gradient.

19. Prime rib 8/10: Once again not very special. It was well cooked and seasoned, but I've had better. There were small orange balls in the sauce that were delicious like tiny sweet and sour flavor-packed berries.

20. Cheese course 7/10: Better than last time! But still kind of boring. I think it was from California this time, and there was something light and crusty like a super thin crouton on top. It came with a light vinegary salad.

21. Milk chocolate with cocoa powder dessert 8/10: It looked like a tiny loaf of bread, but I think it was actually foam that was flash frozen, so the spoon cut through it like fluffy ice cream or the softest cake ever, and it tasted like air. Super creative, but just not strong enough in flavor.

22. Chocolate ganache cake with maple ice cream 9/10: Delicious. tasted and looked exactly like its description.

23. Chocolate mousse with yuzu 8.5/10: I would have given this a higher score, but there were way too many pieces of yuzu rind on the bottom, and the extra bit of sourness doesn't fit my palate.

Petit fours weren't great, but at this point, I was satiated, happy, and not bloated. That's all I could ask for.

This meal was much better than the previous one I had at BK Fare, and that's a great thing. Is this the best restaurant in NYC? Maybe. It would definitely be between Brooklyn Fare and Le Bernardin, and with the new innovations to this lengthy menu, I might agree with all the magazines this time.

My only request is that they bring back the egg course!! Forget the 2nd uni course, and let's have some perfectly scrambled eggs with caviar, and perfect scrambled eggs are *not* easy to make.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Soto... and the final verdict on the best sushi restaurant in NYC

Soto was the final contender. It's a favorite of many of the people I talked to.

As usual, the entrance was nondescript and I blew right by it.

The staff had trouble understanding our questions, so we thought maybe it was safest to order instead of going with the omakase.

Chawanmushi 6.5/10: I decided to find out how other places make chawanmushi when Brushstroke's was so good, and Yasuda's was so inedible. This was right in between. It was rustic and a little smokey with sliced mushrooms, shrimp, and chicken. The egg was too mild, and the liquid base was a chicken broth, which wasn't as good as Brushstroke's dashi broth.

Sea urchin tempura with sea urchin powder 5/10: It wasn't the best way to make sea urchin. I was overly encouraged by the cooked sea urchin I had at Ichimura. My friend said that it tasted like a really soft funnel cake... and I agree.

Why was there a piece to the side teetering on the edge of the plate? How uncharacteristic of a top sushi restaurant...

Uni with ponzu 9/10: Much more traditional. Very fresh urchin.

Sea trout carpaccio with chives, caviar, and truffle oil. 10/10: This dish was completely over the top and delicious. The greens were salty, vinegary, and slightly bitter. The fish was creamy and soft.

Soft shell crab 10/10: I thought that they would not be in season at all! Maybe that's why it's so meaty? But the shell was as soft as ever! Maybe there's a crab aquarium in the back.

Salmon on top, Sea trout on the bottom. Totally delicious. I was a little confused why the salmon was cut in 2 different ways... one was cross grain, and the other was along the grain, but I'm sure that it did not change the flavor.

Jack fish on top and seared salmon on the bottom. The jackfish was mild and very well done, but it wasn't quite as interesting as jackfish at other restaurants. Perhaps it's a different part of the fish? The seared salmon was good.

O-toro 10/10 as usual, but was it the best during my sushi tour? Not quite.

I didn't end up ordering too many pieces of sushi, because the sushi list was honestly a little short.

Best roll of my sushi tour. Tuna tartare with sesame, pine nuts, avocado, possibly some jalapenos, all wrapped in a lightly flavored and slightly salted kelp. 10/10: It's jammed packed with flavor but it all worked and was very exciting to eat!

We were pretty much told that we're having mochi ice cream for dessert, which is fine and all, but where are the other halves?

Mango, red bean, green tea, vanilla, and strawberry. We wanted to share so we asked for a knife.

They kindly gave us this tiny dull spatula. Between that and the tiny fork, I was able to get the job done.

Overall, Soto was delicious. I would absolutely go back with friends, but I felt that everything was too safe. None of the dishes really wow'ed me.


I must declare a winner in this search for the best sushi restaurant, and it's...


Judging from sushi ALONE. They had the best sushi - perfect in cut, flavor, temperature, and rice. Everything was insanely fresh, and did not need any extra condiments. Yasuda's sushi is minimalist, subtle, and elegant.

One note though - do NOT order anything else. The other dishes were pretty bad.

The other contenders were not without their merits. Every one of the sushi restaurants: Neta, Sasabune, Ichimura, and Soto were good. Neta and Soto had more creative (and edible) entrees. Ichimura had the most interesting fish selection. Sasabune had great shellfish (I can't quite say that it's the best because I did not have shellfish at Soto).

Now I know a lot of you readers like other restaurants better, but this is my opinion, and if your favorite restaurant had an off day when I visited, then it's their fault. If you want to prove me wrong, I'm open to dining invitations.

Onto the next challenge!