My sister Peggy came in from LA (it was 80 when she left and 8 when she arrived) last week and we had a family get together. I made Mexican food. Lots of salsas to start with. I used Peggy’s recipe for guacamole. It’s really simple and really good. 3 or 4 avocados mashed, quarter cup mild green salsa, 2 tsp cumin. It was delicious. We made roasted tomatillo salsa; avocado cilantro salsa, and I doctored up some purchased bean salsa that I discovered too late to do anything about, was really really sweet.
This awesome tomato came from my sister Patty’s garden. I nearly fainted when I saw it, it was so beautiful. Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and in this case stomach. Besides its lovely exterior, which I could tell was perfectly ripe, it felt perfectly ripe as well. Sure it needed some cosmetic surgery but it was cosmically delicious in my cottage cheese for breakfast. More on that later.
The name is way too complicated but I totally love this place. It is glorious inside and out. Very Belle Epoch. The people who work here are completely and totally nice and so is the food, well maybe not as nice as the people but good anyway. I ate here with my sisters, Patty and Ann, two years ago and at that time we just walked in (and everyone was wonderful in every way) but mostly you need to have reservations. Ashish made them well in advance and thank god he did. It was packed, turning-away-people-at-the-door packed. When it appeared we were going to be seated downstairs Ashish begged the maitre d’ (same one we’d had 2 years ago) to sit upstairs.
I’m not sure if his whimpering oh please helped but the host made a-just-a-minute face (in a nice way, not like I might do), looked at his book and then took us up the stairs into the glorious and grand upstairs dining salon. But before we had a chance to even sit down, a flood of twenty-three (and I heard the server say vingt-trois) American teenagers came bounding loudly up the stairs about to be sat . . . guess where. And not just at one table. At many, all around us. LOL!
Our friendly maitre d’ who, at this point, had begun walking down the stairs against the rush of pandemonium coming up, turned and looked balefully up at us amid many shrieking variations of This is so, like, ADORABLE!! Granted it is adorable, but it was going to be considerably less so with a morass of American teendom surrounding us. Ashish then changed his mind about his seating preference.
Like I said, they are the nicest people, and the maitre d’ took us downstairs before you could say Justin Bieber.
Our meal was great. As a starter Ashish had foie gras, for the umpteenth time. And I had bouillon. After all that’s what it’s famous for. The place is named after it. Seriously. But it turns out bouillon is just bouillon. It wasn’t bad. It was just, well, bouillon. With sliced green onions and cilantro crowding the surface of it. Ashish had tournedos accompanied by some sort of potato thing that I’d have been happy to eat all day (and fully plan to recreate, make your reservations now). I had the Belgian specialty carbonnade. With sauerkraut, no potato anything. Ashish ordered an additional plate of french fries, I’m not even sure why since he already had the potato thing, he lives in the land of the french fry and the entire time I was in Belgium I didn’t have even one (count ’em, 1) french fry and he was quite unconcerned by that, taking me to one Italian restaurant after another.
As I’ve said, the place was packed and they were turning people away. But we knew there was a vacant 2-top upstairs and so when another gay couple wandered in looking for a table, we watched them mount the stairs and clinked our glass at our good fortune.
At about the end of our main course the whole upstairs erupted in a rafter-shaking round of Happy Birthday, the entire downstairs fell silent for it. I really have no idea what the French might think of that but I thought it was really charming. Though I was relieved not to be sitting near it.
Now officially called Reubenfest, it is an annual celebration/operation at Ray and LeeAnn’s. I’m not at all sure that my grandmother would have approved of the re-naming but I am all for it when the results are reubens like LeeAnn’s. These are hands-down the best reubens I have ever eaten. I’m have no idea what makes them as good as they are because from what I observe they aren’t much different, ingredient-wise, from any other reuben I’ve eaten. Maybe it’s that they are cut so you can gain purchase of the thing easily, that pointy end can get right straight into my mouth. Maybe it’s LeeAnn’s karma, whatever it is, it’s worth the extra belt hole.
My sister Pat brought me the St Patrick medal from St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. I wore it with a bit of green ribbon. My grandmother would have approved of that.
Monday night I was making a kind of Thai, Indian curry thing. It’s the kind of thing I usually call slop.
Slop is the stuff I generally make for dinner that has no formal basis in recipe-reality and is usually eaten with a spoon. So Mexican slop can be a bunch of stuff in tomato sauce with chili powder. Italian slop is essentially just Italian pasta sauce I eat without pasta (Lifetime Diet Plan, carbs, my sworn enemy). Indian slop is, well, most any Indian thing I make that Ashish always thinks is inauthentic.
On our way into Door County a few weeks ago my sister Patty was feeling a little peckish and she bought a couple packs of peanuts. I found one under the seat of my car on the way home Monday. And, as it turns out, in Door County two nights later, I was introduced to bang-bang chicken a coincidentally Thai curry dish that was really good and seriously spicy-hot dish with peanuts. Anyway, there I was making Thai curry slop with cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, peppers, onions, mushrooms, you know, whatever. So I smacked that bag of peanuts with a mallet, tossed it into the pan and voila. Bang-bang slop. It was seriously awesome, if also seriously hot.
On Wednesday evening in Nashville Erin and I ate at Etch. I can’t say I like the name as it calls to mind the acid etching of plates for engraving. But perhaps most people don’t have that frame of reference.
The testicles were really good. Actually they’re not testicles, they’re buns. Rosemary buns. They were nice, if small. But larger than most testicles I’ve seen.
We started with grilled cauliflower. There was a dollop of smoked pea puree on one side (my sister Patty and my friend Annette would have avoided the area but I had no choice) and the feta, pepper puree with olives were on the other side closer to Erin, unfortunately for me. The pea stuff was nice but it seriously tasted like hot dogs. After that we had an arugula salad and while I like arugula, for me, the relentless taste of arugula alone is just too much, like eating a salad of basil leaves. Plus it was overdressed.
Erin had the north african spiced cobia, a kind of whitefish, dusted with honey and drizzled with something. It was excellent but there was a little too much of dusting, drizzling and various butters going on. They had duck butter, whatever in the world that might be. I didn’t have it. I had the actual duck. It was great. Although it came with truffled potato puree. I’m not so keen on the taste of truffles.
Last Friday night in Door County we ate at Mr Helsinki, a very chic restaurant in the heart of bustling downtown Fish Creek. It’s up a flight of stairs and not the warmest spot on the face of the earth. But the food was really good. Patty had cod sliders and root vegetable neapolitans. I’m not sure what neapolitan means but it was a stack of various root vegetables. I didn’t taste the neapolitan, Patty liked ’em, but the sliders were really good. I had a salad and bang-bang chicken, a schezuan chicken and (mostly) vegetable dish that was really good, peanutty and very spicy hot.
We skipped dessert for a trip next door. We had watched Bayside Coffee being made earlier and since we hadn’t already had nearly enough to drink decided that a nice warming coffee would just do the job. And it did.
We ate at Mr Helsinki and Whistling Swan on Thursday and Friday, respectively, and thought for Saturday night we’d return to whichever one we like the most. The Whistling Swan. I’d have eaten at Mr Helsinki’s too. It was very good but the biscuits at WS tipped the scale for me. (And it was very cold at Mr H’s)
While the host did not rush into our open and adoring arms as I had imagined, in fact, I’m not sure he even recognized us right away, he did manage to seat us although the place was full. Much to my distress they ran out of cabernet, and I had to suffer with merlot. I’m trying right now to remember the sour look I had on my face when I got that news.
Be that as it may, the meal was great, the broccolini salad was a little overdressed with some asian sorta dressing but considering I would happily have drunk a glass of whatever it was I wasn’t too concerned about that. It was very good. Patty had something with vegetables, I forget what and I (this is, after all, the stuff I eat blog) had the decidedly non-vegetarian short ribs (All meat locally sourced. They even have the names of the suppliers on the menu.) and parsnip puree. I could live a full and happy life without parsnip puree but the short ribs were right straight out of this world. Even Patty liked ’em.
We finished up with those lovely little spoons of caramel covered with popped amaranth.
Actually, we finished up next door with another Bayside Coffee. Fortunately we don’t often go to Door County so those are not available to us on a regular basis, otherwise we’d be finishing up with rehab.
I am at a three day painting workshop with my sister Patty. We arrived Thursday night around 7 and, both starving, went out to the Whistling Swan. It was excellent. They served an amuse bouche (why does this expression annoy me so much). It was a shot of cold squash ginger soup. It was amazing. That was followed with a charred brussels sprouts and parmesan something, appetizer? Side dish?
They served us the most exquisite buttermilk biscuits, light and flaky. And after 2.5 weeks of no carbs I nearly wept. (the wine was also weep-worthy) That was followed with pasta bolognese. I’ve been to Bologna. I make bolognese. I order it often. This was good but it was not bolognese sauce. It was cream and pork. The pappardelle was nice. And the sauce itself was good just not bolognicious.
We did not order dessert but they brought us little spoons of caramel with popped amaranth on it. Popped amaranth? Seriously? It was a great idea, although virtually tasteless the amaranth was like little teeny popcorn, crunchy and texture-ish. It was perfect with the caramel.
My sister Patty’s birthday was last Saturday and I had the opportunity to buy one of the pretty cakes I see at Pick N Save (Actually Metro Market the small but more expensive version of a
Roundy’s super market). It was actually a giant cupcake-shaped little cake. When I cut it (after an abbreviated version of Happy Birthday to You without candles since there were no matches in my mom’s new apartment [note to self]) I was horrified to discover that the huge top of the cake was all frosting. In fact, the thing was mostly frosting (only the yellow and dark brown parts were cake) and in my experience people will run screaming from too much frosting.
As it happens the frosting was really sort of good. I hesitate to admit that after complaining about the sweet ravioli. Nonetheless, no one would eat much of it. My father would have been horrified.