They're finally here - Regans
So, did all of you readers make a heaping pot full of his Crawfish Etouffee last night? Fabulous stuff, isn't it? Well, here are Ken's other recipes from that evening:
Ken's Potato Salad
5 lbs peeled (mostly) red potatoes
3 tablespoons mayo
3 tablespoons French's nuclear-grade yellow mustard
salt and pepper
Boil eggs. Boil potatoes until tender. Drain. Chuck potatoes and chopped up egg whites into a bowl. (I do use about half the yolks). You might not want to put the mayo in while potatoes are still extemely hot. Hey, some people get nervous about food poisoning. But you should start mixing this up while potatoes are still warm enough so that when you stir all these ingredients together you get a nice cream, yellow texture. Almost like mashed potatoes. If you're the sort who likes your potato salad chunky ... GO FIND ANOTHER RECIPE. I kid. Let the potatoes cool all the way. And don't stir so hard. Also, if you're the sort who likes to put vegetables in your potato salad, chopped vegetables work better with the chunky consistency, you sick vegetable-eating freak.
At any rate, stir all your ingredients together. Want a little more bite, use more mustard. Like it creamier, use more mayo. This recipe serves about "a lot of" people.
Ken's Black-eye Peas
Recently met up with a real honest-to-goodness (actually not completely sure about the goodness thing) Cajun boy by the name of Ken. We'd had a "phone acquaintance" of sorts over the years for work, but finally met a couple of weeks ago at a work-related shindig. There, we started to discuss food-related issues - most importantly how the majority of Southern food sucks in NYC. Ken let me know that the only authentic Cajun food to be found in the Big Apple was to actually be found in his kitchen.
So - When can I come over? Happily, Ken was planning a dinner party this Saturday and graciously invited me along.
So - Was Ken on the up and up - at least where his culinary skills were in question?
ABSO-FREAKIN-LOOTLEY! Dang, if that Crawfish Etouffee wasn't the bomb. And, compliments of the "Cajun Chef" - Mr. Ken himself - from his recipe collection to yours, here is the how-to:
Ken's Crawfish Etouffee
1 pound of cleaned and cooked crawfish tails
1 stick of butter
1 big yellow onion
1 medium sized green pepper
1 bunch of green onions
1 bay leaf
2 pods of garlic (or more if you can stand it) Couple of stalks of celery Can of Campbell's Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup
Optional: three or four Roma tomatoes
Salt and black pepper to taste. Cayenne pepper if you want to spice it up
Chop onions, peppers, celery and garlic. Saut
I'm sure you're expecting me to post about some wonderfully comforting restaurant in the West Village with a fireplace and a stellar mixologist. That scenario sounds delightful, but considering I had the whole day off, due to Good Friday, I was up for something even more decadent - the spa - Oasis Day Spa to be specific.
Over the last few months I've been up to my eyeballs in stress, stress and more stress. (Note how I haven't been posting to this blog as often as I used to...) My shoulders have lately been residing somewhere above my ears. Not attractive to say the least. Something had to be done - and Friday offered up a welcome opportunity.
Ended up that my pal Christine had been in similarly stressful straits as of late, had the day off as well - and bizarrely enough for an urbane gal-about-town, had never enjoyed the pleasures of a day spa. I insisted she join. She accepted on the proviso that we don't stop at just the spa - glam cocktails and dinner and more glam cocktails would be in order after our relaxation retreat.
Christine is a brilliant woman.
We both arrived at Oasis early enough before our appointments to shake off some of the outside world in advance of our treatments. After a long hot shower and sit in the sauna, I was beginning to feel like a new woman already.
And then there was mud. Lots of it - painted all over my body to detoxify, tone and soften my skin. Wrapped up tight, mummy-like, in metallic cellophane and warm towels, one would have thought I would be screaming for my life. But the magic of the natural clay from the Dead Sea took hold. I could feel the anxiety draining from my pores. I drifted off into blissful sleep, only to be awoken by the gentle technician, who unwrapped me, so I could appreciate the refreshing six-head Vichy shower that followed.
I was a wet noodle. Two more treatments to go.
A mini-facial was surprisingly calming as well - Thank goodness for none of that nasty "extraction" business.
And, landing the afternoon most definitely in "heavenly" territory, was the grand finale of a 90-minute aromatherapy message.
Why don't I do this more often?
With my shoulders squarely below my ears (Yay!) and a big smile on my face, Christine and I hailed a cab. The gourmet part of the evening was about to get underway...
I was nervous about making a reservation at The Biltmore Room (pictured above), after reporting on some dreadful and moderately upsetting hospitality issues at the hot spot. But, I'd long heard about Chef Gary Robbins amazing food - and I'm a sucker for amazing food.
Arriving a little early for our reservation, we grabbed a couple of stools at the restaurant bar and were quickly put at ease, jabbering away with cutie-pie bartender Scott and other sundry staff members.
But, how were the cocktails? Fantastic. Christine started off with a Way of the Dragon - Hangar One Mandarin, Kalamansi Lime Juice, Honey and Mint, finished off with some chili heat. I was immediately enamored with the simpler Gin Blossom, comprised of Basil Infused Gin, Elderflower and Tonic.
They slid down quickly. Did we have time for another round before our table was ready? Of course!
This time, I took Scott's advice and enjoyed a whisper light Tokyo Blonde, oddly concocted with Lillet Blonde, the Japanese liquor Soju, and chamomile tea. And, Christine swooned after one sip of the Melon Musei which also included a bizarre assortment of ingredients - in this case, Kaori Sake, Fresh Cucumber, a splash of Midori, and a fresh cream float.
We were both floating on air (and maybe a wee bit of alcohol) by the time we sat at our table. We took stock of the menu. Everything sounded divine. Divine and inordinately expensive.
But, it was our day to relax and indulge. And, lemme just say that indulging in Robbin's Crisp Squash Blossom stuffed with Maryland crab, served with a mango chili dipping sauce and sweet corn avocado salad is one glorious gourmet indulgence. Same can be said for my entree of Algerian Spiced Roast Rack of Lamb with dried fig cous-cous, ginger glazed carrots, braised butter beans, and tomato eggplant chutney.
Why don't I do this more often?
I will say in terms of hospitality that our waitress seemed like she was having "issues" being a waitress that night. (Christine has worked in the restaurant industry for years, waitressing herself at times, and could spot it from across the room.) Still, the service was fine - and the busboy who kept refilling my water with a shy smile was kind of endearing.
We took a pass on desert and hailed another cab - This time to Battery Park City, where a magnificent view of New York Harbor and Lady Liberty awaited at the Rise Bar at the Ritz-Carlton. The wine and Chocolate Fondue wasn't half bad either.
Why don't I do this more often?
The next morning, I woke up on cloud nine with all the energy in the world. I immediately took to straightening my apartment, organizing my closet, fixing those earrings I've been meaning to repair...and promptly spilled Crazy Glue all over my fingers. It took about two hours to get the stuff off.
Where was that Vichy Shower now?!? Where was the Tokyo Blonde that I needed so sorely?!?
Maybe this is why I don't do this more often. A day visiting an oasis makes it all that much harder to come home to the real world. (But at least my shoulders are still below my ears.)
You'll see that her recipe is very different from mine. And, the results are different too. GG's take on the classic - is well, classic - gooey, rich and very, very cheddary. Yum! And, if you're going to try your hand at this recipe, do keep to her brand suggestions. The Gal went all out in terms of testing different pasta brands, cheeses, etc. The results are worth the extra effort:
Gourmet Gal's Macaroni & Cheese
4 TBSP. Butter Unsalted
Not my b-day mind you - my pal Maureen's. Mo invited about 30 - 40 of her closest friends, not to mention her parental units that flew in from Houston, to what has to been one of NYC's smallest bar's: Big Bar.
Oh, the irony. And, needless to say, it was a jam-packed affair. Surprisingly enough though, our sole bartender kept things hoppin' with a smile on her face the entire time. (What is she on? I want some!) The drinks weren't anything to write home about, but she had a solid pour going.
The occassion brought about an opportunity to mingle and discuss the nature of hospitality and fine cocktailing.
Arguments were made for and against the barkeep in terms of service. As you can tell from my earlier comments, I was decidedly "for." You might not be getting your drink as fast as the bar down the street, but the lady was playing to a seriously full house and kept it pleasant at the same time.
But, there were no arguments about the cocktails - They lacked. The Margaritas were way sweet and fairly wimpy, and the "special cocktail" of blood orange and cherry juice with champagne and fresh berries just didn't work. The berries were yummy though. It was quickly determined that simpler drinks like a Gin & Tonic were the way to go.
Yet, considering it was Mo's birthday, and Mo is nothing if not a Texan gal who likes her Margs, I was disappointed that Big Bar couldn't deliver on that score. Just guess I'm gonna hafta ply her with the "real" deal sometime next week. It just won't be Mo's b-day celebration without quality Margs.
And, if you'd like to know what a "real" Margarita is in my book, here's the recipe from one of the masters, David "Drinkboy" Wondrich:
2 ounces tequila
1 1/3 ounce Cointreau
2/3 ounce lime juice
Shake with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass. Optional: You can prepare the cocktail glass by moistening the rim with lime juice, and then dipping it into coarse salt.
I have touched upon the health benefits of the pomegranate on this blog before. But, today, according to a story up on Forbes.com, it looks like the juice of said Middle Eastern fruit has an added plus - It's good for the heart:
A large glass of pomegranate juice a day may help keep the heart doctor away.
Italian and American scientists report that pomegranate juice helped keep fatty deposits from collecting on artery walls in mice, and kept human heart cells healthier.
"Mice that drank pomegranate juice were able to significantly reduce the progression of atherosclerosis, [by] at least 30 percent," said study co-author Dr. Claudio Napoli, a professor of medicine and clinical pathology at the University of Naples School of Medicine in Italy.
I think I'm going to start being "heart healthy" right away. Anybody want to join me for a couple of Pomegranate Champagne cocktails?
I'm a Jewess. Hence, I know and love pork. This is fact.
I'm a New York foodie. Hence, I know and love Lupa. This is fact.
I'm not independently wealthy. Hence, I will be working on Tuesday, April 5th, when Lupa will be playing host to a "Whole Pig Lunch." Darn that fact!
Gotta say, this event sounds like it might be worthy of a personal day though:
THE WHOLE PIG
EVERYTHING BUT THE OINK
THERE IS NO ANIMAL WHO FURNISHES MORE VARIETY TO THE TONGUE:
ITS MEAT PROVIDES NEARLY FIFTY FLAVORS, BUT THAT OF THE OTHER ANIMALS ONLY ONE.(PLINY THE ELDER, NATURALIS HISTORIA 8, 209)
Chef Mark Ladner and Wine Director Zach Shapiro
Invite you to
Join us for lunch as we explore the wonders of the Pig beyond the Pork Chop
TUESDAY, APRIL 5TH
$75.00 PER PERSON
(EXCLUSIVE OF TAX AND GRATUITY)
Space is strictly limited to twenty persons
For Reservations Please call: 212-982-5089
Braised Pig Belly Bruschetta
Prosecco Di Conegliano Valdobbiandene Montesel 2003, Veneto
Selection of House Cured Meats
Albana Di Romagna "Montedi Cambro", Pollino 2002, Emilia-Romagna
Pigs Heart Frittata with Sugo Finto
Vespa Bianco, Bastianich 2001 , Friuli
Crispy Pig's Ear Salad
ValleeD'Aoste Torrette "Les Toules", Les Crete 2002, Vallee D'Aostie
Pig's Liver Tortellini in Brodo
Lambrusco, Medici NV, Emilia-Romagna
Whole Roasted Pig with Traditional Condiments
Valpolicella Sup. "La Traversagna", Monte Faustino 1999, Veneto
Buffalo Ricotta Tart with Meyer Lemon Curd
Passito Di Pantelleria, Pellegrino, Sicilia
Question: Why no piggie in the dolci?
Last year at at this time, I was still flying high (okay - mildly buzzed) off of the 2004 Tre Bicchieri event at the Puck Building. And so, I looked forward to this year's vino extravaganza with great anticipation. Once again, I brought my amiable side kick Kristin, the archaeologically-inclined beauty, who's love for Amarone holds no bounds. I've been known to down some mighty fine wine with Ms. Kristin and I had no doubt that we'd hold our own as we weaved our way through the throng of thirsty Slow Food members, trade and press.
The wine was delightful. A Bastianich Tocai was particularly memorable with its floral notes. A Tenuta J. Hofstatter A.A. Gerwurztraminer Kolbenhof and Pieropan Soave Classico were other notable whites.
Aah. The clinking of glasses. The murmer of over-ripe, over-stuffed oenephile discussion. Laughter. And, most importantly - gorgeous Italian accents belonging to gorgeous Italian men.
Kristin and I took a pit stop by a huge wheel of Grana Padano cheese and nibbled, while we flirted with a gent named Aldo from Verona. He gave us his card and insisted we visit and look him up.
We thought better of it and decided to look up some of the red offerings instead. A Tenuta Sant'Antonio Amarone della Valplicella Campo dei Gigli had Kristin swooning. Frankly, it was difficult for me to resist its charms too. And then there were Chiantis to taste, Brunellos, Barolos and even Cabernets.
Aah. Vino. Glorious vino. (And, heck the men weren't too bad either. Where did I put Aldo's number?)