Monday, November 12, 2012

My Culinary Weekend - Most of Them Are

This was a diverse and fun-filled weekend. It all started on Friday night with a meal at Maggiano's. It has been several years since my last visit to this "fine" establishment and it will be several more until I return. 

The hostess seemed absolutely absentminded, but in a very weird way. You really couldn't tell what, if anything, she was thinking. You definitely couldn't tell what she was saying as she did not really communicate. She was ready to seat us, but then didn't. Asked us to wait, but then sat us immediately. Anyway. I was confused. Hack, maybe it's me, not her? 

So we were seated in a very busy dinning room. Initially smack down in the middle of the walk path, but I just couldn't let that happen. So we got a quieter table to the side. Our waiter, Alonzo was very nice. He tried to take care of us in every way he could and that effort was very much appreciated. He even comped my Orzo Soup, since after the first spoon full of this thick, liquid-less, beyond salty concoction I threw up my hands and exclaimed  "Done!" No one heard me. Let's move on, shall we?

I won't go into too much detail, but here is what you need to know. The term al dente has never been heard by this restaurant.  The lobster was so overcooked I don't even know enough synonyms for the word rubbery to describe it. The sauces were runny and the meal was sub par even by Maggiano's standards. Couple of silver linings was yet again our waiter and the roast pear bruschetta. Delish!

Don't ask me how, but I ended up at the Colonial Wine Bar for a glass of 2010 Clos Du Tue Boeuf “La Butte” with a couple of friends. One of whom is an avid dessert lover. So of course he ordered a flour-less chocolate cake, which was described to be served with macerated raspberries and alike coolie. Everything took forever, but that's not the interesting part. We got our, or rather, his dessert. Not as advertised! From the first glance I could tell that it was so overdone it was going to taste like a brownie, but I was wrong! It tasted like a burnt brownie and so, we sent it back. I will say that the waitress, who seemed a tad lost for most of the service, was quite nice. She even called the manger, or perhaps it was the owner, who apologized as well. At the time were going to leave, we were brought out another dessert, but we simply could not indulge in it. Our sights were set on something greater! 

You see, my dessert driven friend, who may have been pregnant if it wasn't for the fact the he is male, wanted a Green Tea Crème brûlée at Kura Sushi. 

We arrived quite late, just as they were winding down and closing, but they still gladly served us the dessert. In the spirit of continuing the evening's debauchery we also ordered a hot sake and a green tea ice cream. Oh my god!!!! What is wrong with me?..

Anyway, the Crème brûlée was delightful. Perfectly creamy and not too sweet. It had just the right amount of sugar on top and sweetness inside. I am not sure why, but there was also a delightful smokey flavor to it. I am definitely a fan and will return. Thankfully, this concluded my Friday night. 

On Saturday, just after a short workout, I proceeded with my day. Without going into too much details I ended up at the Artisan in Downtown for a cappuccino. Alas my luck preceded me. First, the order was forgotten, then they were out of milk, then something else happened. Or not. I forget. The point is that it has been forever since I was able to just go to place and not have something go wrong. 

This is why for dinner I decided to cook my own meal. Nothing fancy, pan seared pork loin medallions, creamy polenta infused with thyme, asparagus and a butter garlic sauce with an apple chutney.  Ahh... Satisfaction. The trick is to cook the pork just right. More about that in a later post. 

That evening I ended up on Third Street Promenade. Not hungry, but accompanying a couple friends to Hillstone to satisfy their steak craving. I didn't get a steak, but a few sushi pieces, a bowl of chili and a couple of spoons of dessert later I was definitely full. One thing that's great about this place is consistency. Good food, good service and quite enjoyable atmosphere. Yes, you do have to wait for almost an hour if you come during rush hour, but after a quick walk on the promenade and a few frivolous purchases later it's okay. This just makes you hungrier. So speaking of hunger, get the pressed sushi. Absolutely delightful. Another delight is the chili, most likely would have been better with a cheese toast instead of tortilla chips, but my calorie count was already way up there. The chili had some nice pieces of beef, not ground, but actual pieces as well as being forward with the spice. Maybe a three alarm? Personally, I like spicy food. 

The dessert duo was an Apple Cobbler and a Hot Fudge. Both perfect. Just perfect. I have nothing to complain about. Hack, I'll take it a step further and tell you the the coffee, which is brewed per person per order, was so great that I did not have a drop of alcohol. Wow! Right? 

So now, it's Sunday afternoon and I am not sure what the evening will bring, but I am open to some new adventures. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Welcome to the Elite!

On November 9, 2012 at 4:08 pm PDT Alex Dukhovny, me, became an Elite member of Yelp! for 2012. From here on in I feel that there is a standard I must maintain. I have to Yelp! more and in greater detail. Like other people's comments, or rather find them cool, useful, or funny. Checking into places should now be done solely through Yelp! instead of Facebook. This, I am sure, will take a bit of getting used to. No place will be too small or too big to review or write a tip for. From this day forth I vow to change - nothing!

I have already been doing all these things, for the most part, and the reason I was approved will remain a mystery forever. Truth be told I should have nominated my self a long time ago, but kept putting it off. Now I will enjoy a few Yelp! only events and an extra email or two in my mail box. Nonetheless, it's nice to look at that little red badge, "Elite '12."

P.S. I promise this won't change me. I promise.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Top Chef Season 10 - Seattle

The new season of Top Chef just started yesterday and I just want to say that from all the food competition shows out there Top Chef is my favorite. I am, however, questioning as to why that is. Padma? Maybe, but that's not it. Especially considering that she wasn't even in the first episode. I was rattling my brain about this since I watched the premier last night, DVRed of course. No commercials for me.

What I came up with is that it is not just one thing, but rather a combination of many. New challenges, interesting locations, different personalities, the way that it's shot and cut just makes for good television. Comparatively there is Hell's Kitchen. Similar format, but oh so different. One thing I noticed in Gordon Ramsey's Hell's Kitchen is that season to season you have the exact same cast of characters. The people change, but the characters are the same. There's the quiet guy, the fat guy, the bitchy chick, and so one. You can almost predict the winner from the first 15 minutes. On the flip side you can also predict who is going to be the first to go based solely on the entertainment value of their personality. Type F personalities which make you want to spork yourself after the first episode. This is what I do not see, at least for now, in Top Chef. Chefs on Top Chef are of a different caliber. Truly talented. Of course only time will tell what the Seattle season will bring.

There are many other similar "reality" food shows out there, but the top three for me would have to be Top Chef, Next Iron Chef (new season started last week) and well, that's about it. These are in my humble opinion the cream of the crop.I guess that would actually make it top 2. I hope you watch and comment.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Book of Mormon

Today I went to watch The Book of Mormon at the Pantages Theater. I was very excited about seeing this musical. After so many reviews and such hype my expectations were pretty high. Unfortunately, they were never met.

Here's the thing, it is not like the actors did not do the writer's justice. As a matter of fact, I personally thought the acting was great! The problem was that I expected hilarity with deep meaning and an aha moment which I never got. I mean the worst episode of South Park, which of course is from the same creators, is better than Book of Mormon. Some of the jokes were quite good and had a nice delivery, but they were overplayed so badly that one forgets why they were funny in the first place.

I am not an acting expert nor do I know what the Tony Awards judges look for, but I do know that if The Book of Mormon can win 9 awards and Wicked only 3 then there is definitely something wrong with this picture. But like I said, I am not an expert.

Anyway, who cares about the musical, let's talk about what I ate. Ready for this? Here comes disappointment number two; by the time we got out of the theater everything was closed. The only choice in the proximity, a proximity made a lot smaller due to a few bad destination decisions and closed restaurants at 11 pm, such as Le Petit Four, Mirabelle, Cravings, Evelaigh, Boa and pretty much everything on Sunset Plaza left us with only one solution, Coney Dogs. Coney is not bad, it is actually a pretty cool place considering the free parking, the prices and a great beer selection. Speaking of beer, I found out something new about my self today. I am Spiderman. Yes, you read this correctly. Allow me to elaborate.

When I ordered my Sam Adams Oktoberfest beer and was told it was the only bottle remaining, I did not for a second think the I was really ordering an adrenaline pumping adventure. As the bartender brought over a frosty bottle of the brew and was about to set it down on the table in front of me, it had slipped out of his hand, fell over and began to spill on to a bench seat right next to me. With cat-like reflexes I found my self climbing the wall to the left while avoid the ever-growing puddle forming next to my suit pants. The security footage of this would have had an easy 1 million YouTube viewers by the night's end. Alas, I never got the video.

So one free beer, one chili hot dog and a few pieces of fries later my evening came to a close. Let me just say that the bartender was totally cool and this could happen to anyone, so no harm no foul.

What I learned was, maybe Tuesday is better spent home watching reruns of South Park and drinking scotch? Only time will tell.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Salt. It's what's exciting!

Salt Mill (Wikipedia Image)
I've recently noticed that I use more and more salt in my food, not the food I prepare, but rather food I go out for. I am not going to mention any specific restaurants, but even some really respected places which are managed by palettes I look up to have let me down in the salt department. So the question I have is whether my taste buds dulled, or chefs simply started to cut down on the basic of flavor enhancers?

Everywhere we look there is all this talk about cutting down on sodium and lowering your salt intake. Ads for sea salt and other gimmicks. By the way, what kind of salt is not sea salt? This of course is a trick question, since all salt comes from the sea. There would be no salt where there was no sea. Anyway, I digress.

Being healthy, is important to me too, but I don't want to - no, I refuse to sacrifice flavor. I think that we can all strike a balance between salt and health. I found that one the easiest ways is to use finishing salts. In another words, let's say you are making a hamburger and want to put a couple of teaspoons of salt into the chopped meat, well, add just half of the salt you were going to add anyway and after the meat is done cooking be sure to sprinkle just a dash of flake salt on top of the patty. This will make a huge difference! Your taste buds will excite and you are going to love, love, love your burger. Also, sometimes adding salt into places we don't think of will do the same. Case in point, empanadas. Well, call it empanads, pirojki, samosa, or a plain ole hand held meat pie, you still need flavor. Most of the time the filling for these items is pretty high in salt, because the dough itself is pretty bland. So what do you do? Simple, after forming the dough around the filling into whatever shape you desire and using egg wash or just plain olive oil to coat the top for color, sprinkle just a little coarse salt right a top of the pastry before baking. Trust me, when you take a bite of out this baked goodness you are going to want to spork yourself at how amazing it will taste. Every flavor from sweet, bitter, acidic, umami and salty will dance on your palette. This way you're using the salt in a smart way and staying health conscious in the process.

So to you chefs of some of my favorite restaurants I say that your biggest mistake is probably not tasting the food before you send it out. Taste everything! As for me, I'll keep a close eye on my supposedly dulling taste buds, but will definitely use my own advice and cut down on the sodium chloride (NaCl) altogether.

in the beginning...

Greetings! I've been tinkering with the idea of starting my own food blog for quite some time and today, Sunday, October 28, 2012 at 12:06 am I finally created one. So right off the bat, I want to make you, the reader, a promise: I will not make any promises. Now what do I mean by that, you may ask? Basically blogs take a lot of commitment, research, pictures, posts, social media involvement and so on. So my only promise is that I will not make any which are related to how often I post or exactly what I will post about.

You see, I have a Yelp! page, but I am afraid it is not enough. I also post food porn shots of my personal creations on Facebook, but no one seems to care about the recipes. The issue with both is that I feel limited. Hence the blog. I am my own boss. If I want to write a review, I will; post a photo, I will; give you a comprehensive recipe, sure! Oh, and if I want to just rant about a random thing that happened, most likely in a restaurant, I also will.

So sit back, relax and enjoy my blog. Of course if this is not your idea of a good read, then you can certainly go spork yourself!