Archive for November, 2007

Bouchon Bakery, Part Une

Posted in Destinations, Restaurants, Reviews with tags , on November 30, 2007 by Susannah

My recent New York visit allowed for a stop at Keller’s Bouchon Bakery in the Time Warner Center. Situated in the middle of the mixed-development supercenter and across from the Samsung store, it’s a fitting place for a cafe but an odd location choice for discerning restaurateur Thomas Keller. The most unusual part of it is not its placement in the shopping center but the glaring “SAMSUNG” sign that hangs above the seating area.

Time Warner Center’s Bouchon Bakery

After a short wait (in which I learned more about Samsung’s offerings), we took the first available seating, which was at the bar. We were almost immediately served bread with butter. The butter was salted and at the ideal temperature for spreading, and the bread, which was slightly warm, was soft in the middle and crispy on the outside, and made that unmistakably airy crackling noise when I pressed it into the palm of my hand.

Bread and Butter

My first course, chicken soup with herb dumplings, elevated chicken soup to a new level. This wasn’t the cloudy, oversalted, canned Campbell’s soup of Warhol’s fame; it was completely transparent and, if anything, it was underseasoned. I reached for salt and pepper only to realize that it wasn’t in plain sight. Fortunately, the poached dumplings were full of of chicken flavor, and seasoned to boot. The chicken wasn’t greasy (although the soup itself was); the vegetables were tender but not overcooked.

Chicken Soup with Herb Dumplings

My Bibb lettuce salad arrived, layered on the plate like petals on a rose. It was sprinkled with shallots, garden herbs, Roquefort cheese and red wine vinaigrette – delicate but delicious. Eating through the lettuce leaves was not unlike unwrapping a present.

Bibb Lettuce Salad

Andy had a ham and cheese baguette with madrange ham and emmenthaler cheese. When he previously ordered this at the Bouchon Bakery at the Venetian in Las Vegas, he recalled it being simple yet refined. Somehow, it didn’t translate this time around: the bread was hard and cold. We had the option of having it warmed in the panini press, but our server informed us that this made the bread about ten times harder. My feeling is that this dish could have been much better — I will have to try it when we revisit Las Vegas this December.

Ham and Cheese on Baguette

For a casual eatery, the service was excellent. Despite overhearing our server say she had a terrible headache, she was friendly and attentive. We received multiple coffee, water and bread and butter refills. This may have been due to the fact that we were sitting at the bar.

All in all, a positive experience. As possibly the country’s most upscale bakery chain, I look forward to visiting its Vegas counterpart next month in search for clues about the restaurant’s consistency. Stay tuned!

Bouchon Bakery, 10 Columbus Circle, 3rd fl., New York, New York. 212.823.9366

Cool restaurant interior.

Posted in Restaurants with tags on November 30, 2007 by Susannah

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Bobo, West Village, NYC.

I simply stumbled upon this and found it beautiful. Has anyone had a chance to visit?

My Favorite Thanksgiving

Posted in Holidays, Recipes, Susannah's Home on November 29, 2007 by Susannah

On Thanksgiving Day I was traveling and didn’t arrive at my parents’ home in Houston until evening, so therefore (in my newfound enthusiasm for all things food) I offered to make a traditional Thanksgiving feast on Friday. On my own. As if that idea weren’t stupendous enough for someone who’s never made Thanksgiving dinner, I found out my mother  had also invited friends over for dinner. Suffice it to say that I was in the kitchen toiling for the entire day.

Turkey

Very predictably, the menu was almost entirely filled with recipes taken from the Food Network:

Oven-roasted turkey with sage butter, stuffed with caramelized onion and cornbread stuffing

Turkey gravy

Orange cranberry sauce

Brussels sprouts with bacon

Wolfgang Puck’s garlic mashed potatoes

Baked apples

Sweet potato balls with marshmallows and coconut

Warning to anyone who tries to make Thanksgiving dinner a day late: Stores will be out of many things, and items missing in stock are reflective of what America cooks on this holiday. One would have been hard-pressed to find sage, rosemary and ground nutmeg: Apparently, these are the most popular items. My family visited at least five stores before successfully finding ONE packet of sage. Unlike the Bay Area, fresh herbs in Houston aren’t even sold by the bunch, with the exception of cilantro and parsley. I managed to find brussels sprouts (some still on the stalk, amazingly) but noted that they came from Castroville, California: These brussels sprouts had traveled as far as I had for Thanksgiving.

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Throughout the day, I chopped, grated and simmered, enjoying the soon-to-be fruits of my labor. That is, until our guests arrived.

With the turkey still in the oven and the gravy and the sweet potato balls not yet made, I became an adult Tazmanian Devil of sorts, my demeanor characterized by serious expressions of self-doubt and questions of worth rather than the fun spazziness that makes the cartoon counterpart so likable. My father even pulled me aside to give me a brief talking-to. “Your negative attitude is affecting the kitchen,” he told me. “It’s not necessary to keep talking about how dry your turkey is going to be.” Between his lectures and the sheer number of people running around in the kitchen, I was near panic mode. Thankfully our guests were mellow and gracious, and two of them helped me to get the dinner onto the table (one made the gravy, and the other put together the sweet potato balls). I’m not sure they really came to our house expecting to hone their Thanksgiving skills. Talk about springing into action!

Nevertheless, everyone seemed to enjoy the meal well enough. Dinner was followed by ice cream, coffee and lots of laughter. I walked away amazed that I didn’t undercook, burn or blow up anything. It was, in truth, well worth all the blood, sweat and anxiety that went into it. Spending it with family and friends who appreciated my cooking made it indeed my very favorite Thanksgiving so far.

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The only caveat? “We’re expecting you to do all the Thanksgiving meals in the years to come,” my mom said.

I’ve included links to my favorite recipes, as those are the ones I will definitely make again — next year, of course, when I tackle another Thanksgiving.

Coming Soon: My Thanksgiving

Posted in Uncategorized on November 27, 2007 by Susannah

My Thanksgiving post will be coming shortly.  Stay tuned!

In the meantime, whet your appetite with this amuse-bouche.

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Food Network to Emeril: We’re taking you down a notch

Posted in News with tags , on November 27, 2007 by Susannah

BAM

Like his short-lived network TV series, Emeril’s most popular TV show will be coming to an end. From Slashfood: The Mediabistro blog Fishbowl NY reports that Emeril Live won’t be renewed.

I guess all the fuss over pork fat and garlic is over!

Persistent Question: What is the ‘right’ way to eat sushi?

Posted in Food for thought with tags on November 18, 2007 by Susannah

Eating Sushi

My friend Lisa and I stopped by Ace Wasabi’s for dinner last night. We ordered quite a few large rolls — like the vegetarian futomaki, stuffed with asparagus, shiitake mushrooms, cucumber, gobo and kanpya — that were definitely too large to fit into the mouth in one bite. This turned out to be quite a challenge for Lisa, and we wound up with enough rice and vegetables on our plates and in our soy sauce trays to comprise an entire piece of maki!

“The seaweed is too chewy [for me to bite off a clean bite],” my friend complained.  She was right.

But given that sushi is eaten on so many first dates, I’ve got to assume there is a strategic way to eat large pieces of sushi without looking like a fool.

Any thoughts?

Unexpectedly Addictive: Momofuku Noodle Bar

Posted in Destinations, Restaurants, Reviews with tags , , , , on November 14, 2007 by Susannah

Whenever I make trips out to Manhattan (which isn’t very often), I always have a laundry list of new restaurants I’d like to try as well as old favorites that I must revisit. Momofuku was one of the new ones: Restaurateur/chef David Chang and his two restaurants Momofuku and Momofuku Ssam Bar have been at the top of Manhattan’s hyped-up list over the past year.

Pork buns

We were seated immediately, an unexpected surprise for a Saturday night in the East Village. Our server recommended the small plates which included pork buns, fried sweetbreads (“the best in the city,” she said) and seasonal pickles. The deep-fried, breaded veal sweetbreads — a first for me — were crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. While the sweet-and-spicy chili sauce that accompanied them was well-balanced, I just couldn’t get past the fact that they were thymus glands of a baby cow. Something about them had just the faintest, slightest offal taste reminiscent of insufficiently cleaned innards.

The pork buns weren’t the traditional char shui Chinese barbeque pork buns. Rather, they were a twist on the peking duck that is served in Chinese restaurants around the U.S., slick with hoisin sauce, generous slabs of pork belly and flat, steamed buns. (This is in the case of America only, as peking duck in China is served wrapped in a crepelike pancake.) When I glanced to my left, the girl next to me had cut the fat off of her pork bun. For a second I felt pity for that pig who’d given up his life only to have his succulent, aromatic belly fat cut away and left on a plate. What a shame, I thought, as mine melted away in my mouth. By the time I’d finished, I was certain that this dish was as good as, or almost as good as peking duck. (That would be a strong statement: I once put on 15 pounds eating peking duck three times a week for eight weeks in China.)

Pork ramen

For the entree, our energetic waitress recommended the restaurant’s namesake Momofuku ramen. It arrived in an oversized bowl, a generous (but not overflowing) amount of noodles swimming in caramel broth, surrounded by two kinds of pork (belly and shredded pork neck meat), chili-pickled bamboo shoots, mustard greens, dried seaweed sheets and a barely-poached egg. The broth had such a delicious pork flavor that I didn’t really even need to add Sriracha-style sauce, something that I do on a routine basis to “spice up” my ramen noodle broth. My only complaint (which my friend Steph echoed in her review) was that the noodles weren’t chewy enough. They were limp and lacked that “QQ,” or bounciness, that Asian people so love in their noodle soups. This was probably intentional, but I’d been hoping for squiggly al dente noodles more along the style of udon than soba. Nonetheless, the poached egg completely made up for this. The egg white’s delicate gelatinous texture and the yolk’s creaminess were a great match for the subtle broth.

The cravings kicked in upon my return to the apartment. When I found the following pictures online, I was tempted to go back there the next day just to try the following:
Rice Cakes

Roasted Rice Cakes with Onions and Spicy Chili Pepper Sauce

Seasonal Pickles

Seasonal Pickles

It’s time to book another trip to New York.

Momofuku, 171 1st Ave, New York, New York. 212.475.7899