The Grand Tour, NYC, Three Letters

Second night in New York we made a trip out to Brooklyn to eat at the restaurant of my nephew Conor’s oldest and best friend, Pip. It’s called Three Letters and is charming and lovely just the way I like a restaurant. Nothing slick or artificial, it was small, intimate and inviting.

I didn’t ask Pip if all the food was of his own inspiration but if it is, and I assume it is because he is the chef, it was awesome and it was certainly inspired. The appetizer selection was too intriguing to not try a bunch of them. We started with cauliflower fritters, pickled onion rings and crepettes, chick pea flour crepes filled with spinach and goat cheese. All three of these were excellent, different, and well thought out. The sauces that accompanied them were outstanding. The gazpacho sauce that came with the cauliflower fritters was particularly brilliant in both its concept and execution.

I really liked how he (as I said, I assume it’s Pip but I’m really not sure) made up French sounding names for things, like crepette and crudisson, a play on crudités the French word for raw vegetables and sauce, crudisson included a raw oyster. I don’t think the French like people playing with their language (They’re French after all) but they would certainly have approved of his spin on their food.

I had the evening special, beef bourguignon which was also great, a kind of deconstructed bourguignon with falling-apart-tender meat and lovely potatoes. I didn’t have or even taste the french fries because I was too full with my own meal but they looked Belgian-perfect.

I also regret not having eaten dessert. Even if I don’t generally like dessert, everything here was so good and well conceived that I should have found room.

The letter I’d give it is A with three plusses. So very much better than Prune.

Chopped Master Babies

I really like the competitive food show Chopped and I was excited to see that they had developed Chopped Masters a show that features, among other famous chefs, the judges from the show itself. I have often wondered if the judges realize how hard it is to do what the contestants do. And what they do is receive a box of “mystery” ingredients and then have 20 or 30 minutes to make something.

Some of these judges and celebrity chefs have competed on Iron Chef, but that is a formula, they have advance knowledge of the ingredients, they have huge kitchens and assistants. On Chopped they share kitchens and equipment. They have no knowledge of the ingredients and indeed, the ingredients have included such things as goats heads, complete with skull and teeth, gummy worms. Oddball stuff that bears no relationship to each other much less cooking reality.

The “Masters” were completely thrown softballs. TOTALLY unfair. Totally. They got a mystery basket in which the “difficult” ingredient was pizza sauce. Come the fuck on!!! Where were the goat’s heads?? The peanut butter blossom cookies? Twinkies? (OK, there aren’t Twinkies anymore, but still). Personally, I think these insane ingredients weaken the show. Nonetheless, every other show I’ve seen, every single one, even ones where the contestants are housewives or school teachers have impossible ingredients. the basket also included a capon, a luscious large chicken, buratta, and maybe arugula. To make it worse their website crows:

<< The judges take on the same exact mystery basket ingredients as the show’s contestants  >>

Same exact? Who writes this? “Same exact” is not grammatically correct nor is it true. While I liked the competition a lot more since no one was having to include unpleasant ingredients (Really? giant gummy worms? I don’t want to eat them no matter how they are hidden in my food) in the mix. It was far better to watch real food being made than silly ingredients being hidden.

But more than anything. What babies those judges are.

Not ratatouille

Nearly everything I cook for myself tastes the same. Or at least looks the same. I made a . . . I hate the expression stir fry, I don’t know why, I want to call it something like gai kwak jinn . . . but I made a stir fry using basically the same ingredients I used last night for ratatouille but the mushrooms were larger and I added cabbage.

Cabbage is amazing. I bought this cabbage last year. Seriously. And not on December 31st. Like in September. I used chicken (this was a getting-rid-of-crap-in-my-refrigerator meal), celery, red pepper and green onions.

The gai kwak jinn was passable. It looked better than it was, in fact it looked just like ratatouille. But there was too much soy sauce and I neglected to add fermented black beans. I also neglected to make rice or noodles. I was too busy watching Chopped. So I ate it just plain. I’m not sure if that’s allowed in Chinese circles. It seems not right. But then there were no cellophane wrapped fortune cookies at the end either.