Saturday, April 21, 2007

Peppered Salmon with Ponzu

I had the good fortune of receiving an unexpected gift of fresh salmon. Normally, I like to just throw it on the grill with a bit of kosher salt, pepper, olive oil, and dill. However, as fate would have it, spring has arrived, but summer is not quite here yet. I couldn't rely on it not pouring on me when I was out with the grill, so I wimped out and went with an indoor method which is a variation on a Cooking Light recipe from this month or last.

2 T mixed peppercorns, ground
1 T sesame seeds
1/2 tsp kosher salt
4 salmon servings with skin
1 tsp. canola oil
5-6 drops orange oil (zest would work here, but I had none)
2 tsp ponzu
1/2 tsp agave nectar or honey

Heat oven to 400F. Mix the first three ingredients in a shallow dish. dredge the cut side of the salmon in the pepper mixture. Heat oven-safe frying pan over medium heat. Add canola and orange oil. Fry the salmon for approximately 2 minutes on each side. Bake in the oven for 5-6 minutes until flaky or whatever you like. Plate and pour 1/4 of ponzu mixture over each piece.

I served this with broccoli raab that had been blanched for 2 minutes and then put in cold water. Then I sauteed a garlic clove in olive oil and added the raab and tossed until the raab was fully reheated and tender. Simple and delicious.

Chicken soup for the sick girl's sanity

So, you might think I've been remiss in posting. However, the day after I wrote the wine tasting post, I went to Le Happy with four friends at the request of one Miss Hello Kitty (MHK). When we arrived, we were informed that there was no heat in the building, but we decided to stick it out by keeping our jackets on and ordering alcoholic beverages. The mixed drinks were tasty and not terribly expensive. I actually opted for a hot coffee and liquor drink in order to further distract from the cold. The crepes were pretty good, though not the best I've had. They were heavy on the cheese and light on other ingredients. The dessert crepe with pear and chocolate was over the top, but shared amongst several would not stop your heart immediately. Were I to do it again, I'd opt for the simpler sugar and lemon version. MHK did, and it worked for her. I'd go again if I were already in the area, but I'm not sure I'd head to that part of town just for a hipster crepe.

Le Happy
RATINGS (Keep reading to decide how big a grain of salt...):
Food: 7
Drinks: 8
Scene: 7 (might have been higher with heat)
Service: 8, friendly, but damn slow
Illness: Just starting.

But I digress. On my way home from the restaurant, I noticed just a hint of scratchiness in my throat which I attributed to too much alcohol and gabbing with the girls. Boy, was I wrong. I woke up the next morning, I was sick, sick, sick! Now, I'm the kind of person that gets sick and tries to pretend like it's allergies for the first week or so. I didn't even try this time. I just sat on the couch with my tea and chicken soup. Just in case you're wondering, the chicken soup was Trader Joes. Green Tea and chicken soup. Crackers an chicken soup. Black Tea and chicken soup. You might be asking yourself why I only had chicken soup. I have no answer. But it was already here. It was soupy. It made my nose run and temporarily stopped my cough. I did not argue. This went on for the next 10 or 12-ish days. Blech.

By the 15th, I was ready for something with no chicken, no soup, no tea. Luckily, MHK was having a birthday party at Masu West. She and 20 of her closest friends descended upon the lounge and consumed $400+ in sushi and beverages. Now the sushi was a touch expensive, the the drinks were actually quite reasonably priced. I had a Tokyo Drop (grape, lychee, vodka) and an Asterix Gimlet (gin, lime, kiwi). Both were mmm mmm good. There were some bizarre sushi combinations as well as a few more mundane. The St. Helens was way overkill. They spider roll was also too much, but the unagi, salmon, california rolls were all quite good. The squeel was a fascinating tempura sushi. Fried sushi. Is that legal?

I came, I saw, I ate too much sushi.

Masu West
Drinks: 9
Scene: 9
Service: 10

I'll be going back for drinks and snacks. I'd be cool with taking a group here again. the service was quite capable even with our large group.

Clearly I was back on the wagon. By the 18th I was ready for a trip to Savoy on 26th and Clinton with a couple of friends. I love this place. I mean, don't get me wrong. The service is always, and I mean always, bad. They're not rude, just absent even when they're standing at your table. The food is just good old standards. The drinks are interesting and super potent and cheap. I had a burger with blue cheese. It came with thin crispy fries and pickled onions. I love pickled onions. Love. My Three Sisters cocktail claimed to have been Bombay Sapphire, Chartreuse, and lime. I can vouch for the gin and chartreuse, but I'm not convinced on the lime. It had a hint of lime, once I squeezed the garnish into it. :) However once I just considered it a martini on ice, all was well.

Savoy Tavern & Bistro
Drinks: 8
Scene: 9
Service: 6

After Savoy, we headed to Pix on Division for dessert. I had the Amelie and a Cocoa Chanel. The hot chocolate at Pix is really good. What I love is that it's chocolaty and not insanely sweet. The Amelie is one of my all time favorite Pix desserts, though it is closely tied with the Pear Rosemary Tart. I always come back, even with the strange music.

Pix Patisserie (Division)
Drinks: 8 cocoa chanel is super tasty
Scene: 8, what's with the music?
Service: 9

Whew! That's a lot of cursory discussion of the past 3 weeks. Let's hope for more in depth coverage in the future.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Wine Tasting March 2007: Hola Priorat!

So what happens when you put twelve adults, a five-year old boy, three dogs, and an ailing cat in a house on the beach for the weekend with a case of wine a a dozen lamb shanks? Well, I know what happens with the people I know...

Wine Tasting March 2007: Hola Priorat!
Warm-up wine: Erath Willamette Valley Pinot Blanc $11
Here's how it works: rank the wines from 1 to however many (generally 5 to 6 bottles) after tasting both with and without food. Go around the room and talk a little about the wine and share your rankings. Total the score. Tada. Lowest score is the winner.

In the order they were ranked by our intrepid tasters:
  1. 1995 Gran Clos de J.M. Fuentes $45 (24 pts)
  2. 2001 Clos De L'Obac Costers del Siurana $??? - the wine guy gave us a deal (32 pts)
  3. 2001 Cartoixa Reserva d'Scala Dei $34.50 (33 pts)
  4. 2001 Pasanau Le Morera de Montstant $32 (43 pts)
  5. 1999 Crianca Morlanda $44 (48 pts)
For the record, I ranked # 5 as #1, and the rest in the same order listed above. I liked the two oldest wines the best. Rumor has it the production has changed in the last 10 years in the region and that steel is becoming more common than oaking the wines. Coincidence? You be the judge.

#1 was a resounding #1 with the group, which rarely happens. They were all well liked, but in the end we found no real price performer. #1 was certainly a crowd pleaser. #4 had one characteristic I should not fail to mention. The crowd generally described it's smell and taste as composty. The others were more mineral and spice.

Friday evening:
meat lasagna, salad, wine

Saturday breakfast:
coffee, coffee, coffee! cowboy's breakfast, oatmeal brulee

saturday lunch:
cold cuts (count them, 3 kinds of salami!), bread, beets, coffee cake

saturday wine tasting dinner:
3 varieties of cheese from Spain, potato and arugula soup, merlot and rose water braised lamb shanks, couscous, celeriac and kumquat salad, cherries jubilee

sunday breakfast:
blueberry pancakes, sausage, bacon, orange juice and champagne, pineapple, leftover cakes from the day before

I'm sure I've left something out, but suffice it to say that's a lot of food! Also of note: a delightful champagne of all chardonnay from champagne, etc, and I quote, " very expensive" was brought by the wine nerd. There was nary a naysayer in the bunch. The five-year old stuck to juice.

Oh yes, let us not forget the making of the peeps!
more peeps