Wednesday, May 22, 2013
No you have not entered an alternate reality....a food truck...I'm raving about a food truck. And please forgive me if I might be a little nonsensical, I'm still on a little bit of food euphoria at the moment.
So this is how it went down. Steve Barnes posted on his Table Hopping blog this morning that the Wandering Dago food truck was now offering milkshakes. The Reese's Chocolate Peanut Butter one spoke to me...I mean for real, it was like a voice from the sky that said, "Michelle....get in the car now and find this milkshake."...So not one to argue with the voice in the sky, I promptly called Chef Rachel and off we went in search of the truck.
Now let me back up for a minute. I met Brandon Snooks the owner/operator of the Wandering Dago about 2 months ago when he volunteered to help me out on a charity event. Well long story short, Brandon got stuck in the car with his now two favorite yentas (Donna Purnomo & I) for a solid hour. We later roped him into some letter writing duties and finally sent him home in dire need of a stiff martini. But I digress...
Anyway, the Wandering Dago was parked in front of Vicarious Visions in Menands. It kind of moves around so you have to follow them on twitter, @wanderingdago , or check their website schedule to know where to find them each day. So we stepped up to the happy little food truck and placed our order, mind you having never been to a food truck before I kind of peeked inside and took note that everything was super shiny and clean....yes I know I sound like a snob, but hey I lived in Manhattan for a decade and if you ever saw what a foodcart (not truck, there's a difference) in the City looked like, you would check too.
Let's get down to business though shall we. I had the Triple B, a truck made black bean burger with guacamole, tomato, red onion, greens and red wine BBQ sauce on a super-fabulous Villia Italia Ciabatta roll. Holy schnickeys, this was good stuff. It was moist and dynamic, just really delicious. You know how most veggie burgers taste like some variation of cardboard, well this was not that. It had nice flavor balance with a little kick, great texture, loved the addition of guac to it and served on a really good roll. Then we add into play, the Reese's Milkshake. Folks I don't know what they did to this milkshake but honest to god, it was mind-blowingly amazing. Simply said peanut-buttery chocolatey deliciousness.
Rachel had the American Idiot, an applewood smoked pulled pork sandwich topped with fennel and cabbage slaw and red wine BBQ sauce on a Villa Italia Ciabatta roll, along with a classic vanilla milkshake. She reports that it was, "tangy & sweet with lots of meat" and that the shake and sandwich were "yummy & delicious."
So Brandon asked what the verdict was...well my new friend, it was FABULOUS. I know that I write a lot about the high end places, but I think I say one thing pretty consistently that transcends restaurant type. In fact I don't care if it's a white table cloth , fine dining restaurant or a food truck in this case, simple food done well is the best food you'll ever eat. When food is prepared with love, using quality ingredients and good technique you just can't go wrong. This was spot on delicious, a highlight of my week in food.
Thursday, May 2, 2013
Let's set the scene shall we....The night was November 12, 2012 at Yono's. Dominick Purnomo had assembled a star studded cast of chefs, guest sommeliers and maitre d' Javier Rodriguez for a benefit for those in NYC affected by Superstorm Sandy. The first time I noticed Javier was just about 3rd course when as he was zipping through the dining room, he saw out of the corner of his eye that I hadn't been served, and did a 180 with the speed of Balanchine ballerina. Now in all fairness to the staff, I did have a special and no one dropped the ball, mine just hadn't arrived yet. But I thought to myself how remarkable it was that he noticed...huh...who was this guy in a full-on tux, that knew proper service. I was curious, I may have even raised an eyebrow. I wouldn't be left to wonder long though because shortly after that he was on the microphone talking about his experience with Sandy. Now that was November and this is May; the one thing I distinctly remember him saying was how good it felt to put his tux back on, after all the weeks they had been closed. Javier talked with a love of the business, of his restaurant and his craft.....there is a reason this guy is Maitre d' of the Year, his passion for hospitality is unparalleled.
That night Javier and I got to talking, and he told me that he was thinking about opening a restaurant locally. It sounded like a fantastic idea to me, but where would it be, who would be the chef. Well I guess we were all supposed to meet that night. I was surprised to see Brian Bowden who had just left Creo, at the dinner as Chef sightings at events are pretty rare, though not unheard of. The match was made though, Javier had his Chef.
Fast forward to April...I had seen the renovation in progress, had attended a few small private events, had watched it evolve; it was evident that each element was thought about, selected with care and was finally ready to be revealed. I think what's remarkable in the transformation is that the restaurant is now infused with Javier's style, warmth of personality and understated elegance. The energy has changed as much as the decor; it is welcoming yet sophisticated, and the formality is not an overdone pretense...it's simply a natural way of being.
Chef Brian Bowden could not have been a better pick. Chef Brian is all about quality, he is a all about super fresh..and yes I'm going to make some sweeping assumptions...but it seems to me like he's about pushing the envelope, not for the sake of being cutting edge but for the love of the craft. Chef Brian was foraging before it was a buzz word and using ingredients that no one except a select few were using in this area. He's a pretty stellar guy in his own right too. So you know I was beyond excited to see what this pair would create. Then add the research trips to NYC, Maimi and Costa Rica into the mix and well did they ever deliver.
I had been waiting for the ceviche, knew it was going to be on the menu. I love ceviche but I'm spoiled because I grew up eating it in the Caribbean, which has it's own distinct style similar to Costa Rican. Chef Brian's was spot on, exactly the memory I had on my palate. It was fresh & vibrant, bright clear flavors of lime, cilantro and cucumber each standing on their own. Served with the crispy tortilla chip with just the right amount of salt, can I just give a nod to the balance of this dish. It was literally perfect.
Then it was time for one of my other favorites....the fish taco. It was definitely as it should be, the tempura cod has a crisp exterior, the salsa verde contrasted nicely with the creaminess of the chipotle ranch. It was very nice done and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
My companions had the heirloom tomato salad and both had the turkey burger. Interestingly the turkey burger was served with strawberries on the side and topped with avocado. Both of my friends (gentlemen mind you) raved about it, they said it was a fantastic pairing of the fruit with the burger.
We finished off with a bite of tres leches cake drizzled in salted caramel. The sweetness against the salted caramel was just right. Such a nice end to wonderful lunch...and of course no detail overlooked, s tiny plate of chocolate covered Costa Rican espresso beans landed on our table.
I'm making a prediction, and you
heard it here first, Javier's is going to become a Saratoga institution. Best of luck to Javier Rodriguez & Chef Brian Bowden!
Javier's Nuevo Latino Cuisine is located at 17 Maple Street in Saratoga Springs
If going to Le Cirque was the temple of culinary excellence, then Eataly would most aptly be described as heaven. It is an overwhelmingly brilliant culinary abbodanza of epicurean delights. If you love food the way I do, it kind of makes your brain explode a little when you first walk in....and then it keeps going and going. It is ridiculously amazing; the breadth of selection, the quality of just simply everything and the minutia is not forgotten. Eataly has the feel of European marketplace but at the same time has the distinct intensity that is uniquely New York.
In my two trips to Eataly I've managed to visit Il Verdure, Il Pesce, La Pizza & La Pasta, Manzo for cocktails and Caffe Verganano....yes I know, it's awesome...then there is the cheese section which is just out of control. So this is game plan, and kind of an insiders tip that I was was given by my companion who holds bragging rights as regular, you take a little tour before you choose a restaurant. Take a look at the market place, see what speaks to you, check out the fish counter, the produce, the pasta...and then go look at the boards at each of the restaurants. For example, when shisito peppers are at Il Verdure, well that's where we are going to start first, it's just the way it is. Or when razor clams are at Il Pesce or I have a hankering for crudo, well that's where we have to go, but not necessarily first. You don't have to commit to just one either, you can hop from restaurant to restaurant. That' s what we do, ordering a few things from each menu and drinking great wine.
I think the beauty of the whole concept is in it's simplicity. It's simple food done well...wait let me correct that...done, really, really well. What I love about Eataly, and the restaurants within, is that the whole place oozes love of food. It is so akin to the way I think and the way I cook, not that I cook anywhere close to these folks, but the theory is the same. Make it simple. If it's a pepper, it should taste like the best pepper you ever ate. It should be beautiful, fresh, perfect, simply prepared. It's like they recognize that the Earth gave us the best, most dynamic, flavorful ingredients we have; that those ingredients prepared with proper technique are vibrant, sometimes bursting forth, somethings subtly enticing, yet always unique and powerful in their own right. Far more then the over contrived plates and sauces of some restaurants. As I think about it, I'd say it takes a certain amount of confidence, of knowing who you are as and the quality that you have, to do what they do.
For the complete album of photos my visits, check out my Facebook Photos
For my chefs out there looking to make a career move. I have an opportunity for a someone that is looking to grow. This is an Executive Chef position for someone that has strong leadership & administration skills, culinary talent and the vision to take this restaurant to the next level. The client is willing to consider a candidate that would be a first time Exec Chef. If you are are interested, send me your resume and cover letter to email@example.com. All submissions will be confidential.
Monday, April 22, 2013
It was a Saturday morning miracle....the sun was shining, the birds were chirping and I was able to sleep in. Well the fact that I slept at all is a miracle in and of itself, but I digress. I realized that I had absolutely nothing on the schedule for the day other than my son's first baseball game of the season. There were no galas to attend, no fundraisers, social engagements, restaurants to visit, family or work obligations....I could simply putter in my garden, go to the ballgame and relax....it was heaven. But then I got to thinking, what in the world was I going to do with my evening (considering I had already fulfilled my monthly sleep quota). My first thought was going to Cap Rep, which by the way major coup by Cap Rep that they have gotten into my psyche enough to become my first thought, but I didn't think that the new show had started yet. Well, wouldn't you know I just happened to see Rich Lovrich post something about the new show having a preview on facebook. So I reached out and sure enough, there were tickets to be had!
So after freezing on the bleachers, I rallied and got myself ready to go to Cap Rep. I was going to see good show and perhaps have a cocktail at dp an American Brasserie after which is de rigueur. Well, I had no idea how good of a show I was going to see. It was BRILLIANT. So well written, so intelligent and so well done, it was absolutely thrilling. I'm going back to see it again and I don't think I've ever gone to a play more than once. Both Kevin McGuire & David Kenner were sensational, they just transported you into Rothko's studio, brought you into their world and let you pause for a moment in time.
I know I'm off topic for my food blog, but I had to share this experience. It was truly something special and we are so fortunate to have a theatre the caliber of Cap Rep right here in our backyard. Looking around after the show though confuses me. Why are there not more younger professionals there? I don't understand, you all are my friends...you're all smart, witty, educated, you thrive on intelligent conversation...Perhaps you didn't know about Cap Rep, or how ridiculously awesome it is...Well come on then....do something different.... feed your brain...I promise you we can get cocktails after!
Monday, April 15, 2013
It was early evening, the sun was glowing soft and glittering thorough the greenery of the famed New York Palace courtyard. Walking through the iron gates, transported to another time where elegance and beauty were intrinsic elements to living, a lifestyle I had thought was long lost to our culture. It was like the universe had decided on this night, that it was going to restore my faith in all the things that I hold dear.
Entering the Madison Room took my breath away, the vaulted ceilings and marble reliefs in the gently lit room gave an air of sophistication unmatched by any room in New York. I spotted my companion halfway down the bar, Hendricks’s martini in hand when he caught site of me. Champagne was ordered and arrived, while conversation danced between us. The cocktail hour: as it should be.
A taxi whisked us away, pulling up to the grand glass entrance to Le Cirque or as Joe would say, the temple of the culinary world. Through the revolving door and into one of New York’s most iconic institutions we knew that this night was to be special, but I don’t think either of us realized what it meant to have a romantic evening at Le Cirque.
We sat side by side in a banquette looking out into the dining room with its softly draped ceiling reminiscent of the big top, catching glimpses of the kitchen in the center mirror. The monkeys looked down on us from their perch high above and whimsical sketches of circus animals were interspersed between the mirrors that circled the room. Sipping our cocktails we took in the scene but slowly the room faded away and it seemed like it was just us in this perfect moment.
An asparagus amuse bouche arrived, just a bite to tantalize the palate the portended of greatness to come. We had both ordered the Le Cirque Classics tasting menu with wine pairings that started with the Craig Hopson created Wild Burgundy Escargot with Gruyere Gnocchi and Bottarga. The gnocchi were so perfect, just delicate little puffs of air and the escargot wonderful paired with a bright beautiful sancerre. I love when a first course starts this way, simple, enticing…not too much of statement but a statement in and of itself in its’ delicacy and refinement.
The flavors got bolder and more pronounced with our second courses, me with the Daniel Boulud Lobster Risotto with vialone nano rice and he with the Christophe Bellanca Foie Gras Ravioli cabbage marmalade. I have to say that I couldn’t resist trying his and I’m so glad that I did; the earthiness was close to heaven. It was just ridiculously well done.
I think I audibly gasped when my next course arrived. I had been talking about this dish that I had long ago, that I knew had come of the menu but sometimes it was served, but I couldn’t remember what it was called. I just knew that it was the most beautiful fish wrapped in paper-thin potatoes that were crisp and brown to perfection…why it didn’t occur to me that the dish I had ordered could be the very one, I don’t know perhaps I was lost in the moment and not thinking entirely about food that evening. But there it was landing ever so gently in front of me, the Daniel Boulud Paupiette of Black Bass leeks, potatoes and rocca di frassinello sauce. It was masterfully sublime. I have no other words. The Alain Sialhac Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb with pommes dauphin was equally magnificent, and the St.Emilion that it was paired with was just sensational…in fact I kind of coveted it a little, which of course led to my ordering it with the cheese course
Yes, we added a cheese course….because well shouldn’t cheese be a part of great dinner like this. It’s just the right way to live. So out came our cheese, a lovely selection of five from soft & oozy to bold, firm and blue. Then it happened, I had a food moment right there in Le Cirque, you know the ones that happen for me every so often where I encounter something that will stay with me on my palate for the rest of my life...yes, I had a full on eyes rolling back in the head food moment. It was the truffled honey to drizzle atop the blue. Oh my word, the truffle was so clear and strong against the sweetness of the honey and the pungency of the blue. It was spectacular.
We thought to finish with Dieter Schorner‘s crème brulee, that was again nothing short of perfection. It arrived with beautiful petits four and caramels that simply made me smile. There really is nothing like French patisserie; when it is as well done as it is here it one of the highest arts. As well sipped our dessert wine, our night was coming to an end, but the wonderful staff surprised us with another dessert, a refreshing plate of strawberries, glaces and meringues with just a hint of basil somewhere on the plate. It was so different, so fresh and bright on the palate. One final surprise though, a little gift for me a little red box with 2 little drawers; in each drawer a hand crafted truffle.
Our night was so full of romance, elegance and opulence. I have to give Le Cirque a nod because they knew that this night was special for us, and they gave us the most extraordinary evening. I talk a lot about creating a culture of excellence and elevating hospitality to an art form, well I will forever cite this as the benchmark of that standard. My sincerest thanks, gratitude and appreciation to them for creating a magical moment in time for us.
Returning to the Palace we capped off the night with a Macallan at the Madison Bar. Quiet elegance had taken over the room and we were basking in the glow of a most perfect evening. I guess good things really do come to those that wait and the universe, that fickle mistress of mine, has decided it was due time give me this most beautiful gift… a life richly lived, surrounded in love..
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
There was something in the air that night, something special, magical if you will. March 14th at Angelo's Prime Bar + Grill in Clifton Park was the official kick off to my "Eat, Drink, Be Merry and Do Good" Campaign. If you haven't heard already, I have been nominated for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Woman of the Year, which is such an honor for me. So this was the first of a series of events. It was an all star line up of chefs, Teddy Folkman of Dr. Granville Moore's in D.C and the National Culinary Ambassador to Brewery Ommegang, Rachel Mabb of Bitches Kitchen, Ric Orlando of New World Home Cooking & New World Bistro Bar, Brady Duhame of Angelo's Prime Bar + Grill and myself (while I'm hardly a star it was super fun to be able to cook with these incredible chefs). The food was incredible...ridiculously incredible, some of the best that I've seen at a culinary dinner in a long time. The beer was amazing...you all know how I love Brewery Ommegang and they just really outdid themselves. Beyond that we had Erik Budrakey, of DeCrescente, leading the beer talk and Bobby Mac stepping up with Miss Rachel Murrary, our Girl of the Year, to lead an impromptu auction.
It was just fun on so many levels, for me to be able to hang with the chefs; to be a part of that camaraderie was pretty special. But then to be able to also share my food for the first time was also pretty awesome for me. Then to go out in to the room, to talk to my friends....and everyone in the room was someone special to me....it was just amazing. I think what touched me the most though was standing in front of the room, while I was talking about my connection to LLS and why I support this incredible organziation, I looked around the room and I saw my friends,smiling, happy, supporting me, supporting LLS...the warmth, the love in that room ...the only word I have is magical.
Thank you all so much!