Archive for the Food for thought Category

The Lost Prawns: A Fable

Posted in Destinations, Food for thought, Restaurants, Susannah's Home with tags , on June 11, 2008 by Susannah

In March 2007, Andy and I took a weekend trip to Portland, Oregon. Neither of us had ever been before and we were both pleasantly surprised by the caliber of dining there. My most memorable course was an appetizer of jumbo prawns stuffed with jalapeño cream cheese at a downtown restaurant called the Veritable Quandary. Since then, I’ve not had a chance to return to Portland (yet), but I have craved the shrimp on multiple occasions. Whenever I think of the dish — not quite shrimp cocktail, not quite jalapeño popper, and the perfect blend of seafood, creole spices, decadent cream cheese and crispy breading — my mouth would water. Unfortunately, I was never able to locate a version of it in the Bay Area, nor could I ever find a recipe online: I went to the restaurant website, where the menu no longer listed the dish. I even went so far as to write Bon Appétit, but to no avail.

Finally, a last resort: I emailed the restaurant, asking them about the recipe. Had I made the whole thing up, or had there once been a menu item that was truly that divine?

It turns out I wasn’t imagining things after all; I got an email shortly following my inquiry. “We focus on farm-fresh local ingredients which means we end up changing our menu rather frequently. Unfortunately, we no longer have that particular item on our menu, so the recipe isn’t readily available,” explained the restaurant’s manager, Jason Gerlt. However, he was kind enough to dig up the old recipe and send it to me.

Moral of the story: If you ask for something, you might just get it!

Prawns stuffed with jalapeño cream cheese

Ingredients:

Large prawns (half a dozen to a dozen or so)

Flour, for dipping

Panko crumbs, for breading

Filling:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 jalapeno, diced small
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
Salt and Pepper to taste

Sauce:
Pinch of garlic
3 scallions, diced
1/4 cup tomato, diced
2 cups heavy cream

Instructions:

1. Combine all of the filling ingredients until blended.

2. For sauce, briefly sauté the garlic, scallions and tomato. Add the cream and Creole seasoning, simmering until thickened.

3. Devein and butterfly shrimp. Stuff with cream cheese filling. Coat, first with flour, then egg wash, then panko crumbs seasoned with creole seasoning.

4. Deep fry until golden, and serve plated with sauce.

Persistent Question: Is Dine About Town a good value?

Posted in Food for thought, News, Restaurants with tags , on December 29, 2007 by Susannah

dineat.jpg

Dine About Town is one of the few things that Bay Area residents look forward to in January. After all, what is there to do in this rainy, cold winter month other than eat?

The first two out of the past three years that I’ve lived in the Bay Area, I partook in Dine About Town with a certain level of enthusiasm. It began to occur to me, however, that my meals had never amounted to anything above average. In fact, my track record seemed to demonstrate that the Dine About Town meals are unimaginative, generic and, quite frankly, not that great of a value. While I concluded that these average prix fixes were typical, I hoped that the subpar experiences at the restaurants I’d visited were atypical. Last year I decided that I would rather save my money and spend it on a standard meal at any of the participating restaurants.

I suppose the empirical action to take would be to visit all the restaurants I’ve gone to in the past for Dine About Town and have standard meals at all of them, to validate my suspicions. I’ve not had the time nor the budget to do that. However, given my renewed enthusiasm this year for exploring new restaurants, I’m finding that Dine About Town is tempting me again…

(For a complete list of restaurants participating in this year’s program, click here.)

Welcome home, honey…dinner’s ready!

Posted in Food for thought, Susannah's Home with tags on December 10, 2007 by Susannah

Disclaimer: I don’t in any way profile myself as a domestic housewife. This disclaimer prefaces the question that I am about to ask:

What should I make Andy for dinner?

He’s in NYC for a yearlong master’s program but will be coming home to our place for the holidays. What courses mark a good “welcome home” dinner? His favorite things in the world are fries and strawberry shortcake, but he pretty much likes anything except oysters.

Read this Post: Manresa

Posted in Food for thought on December 7, 2007 by Susannah

Jon F. of The Gourmet Pig just posted a titillating review of  Los Gatos restaurant Manresa. While it’s sparked my interest in the restaurant (and reminded me of how much I’ve yet to learn about food), I particularly appreciate the discourse on the balance between tradition and creativity in haute cuisine.

Where to go if you want to be what you eat

Posted in Food for thought, News, Restaurants with tags on December 4, 2007 by Susannah

New to the West Village is eatery Hakata TonTon. According to New York (can you tell I love this magazine?), this is the first American outpost for chef Himi Okajima, the Japanese chef behind “collagen cuisine.” His kitchen will serve foods rich in collagen, the protein responsible for skin and muscle tone, including spring rolls and pasta made with pig’s feet, and a hot pot made with chiles that are meant to cleanse the intestines. Pamela Anderson, eat your heart out.

Seasonal restaurants: What a concept

Posted in Food for thought, News, Restaurants with tags , on December 3, 2007 by Susannah

Local, seasonal ingredients have always been at the forefront of California cuisine, and have recently become the focus for many top-notch restaurants across the country. Now Park Avenue Winter, a restaurant in Manhattan, has taken this concept to a new level, by introducing itself each season with a new name, a new look, and a completely different food and beverage menu to reflect time of year. Just two weeks ago the restaurant was named Park Avenue Autumn (far below photo), and several months before that it was Park Avenue Summer.

Park Avenue Winter

I first learned of this restaurant through New York magazine’s review. Interestingly enough, the venture is owned by the Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group — at first guess I would not have supposed a chain restaurant company would invest more than $1.5 million in such a fluid venture. Recently, the restaurant closed its doors to make the switch from autumn to winter. Over a period of 48 hours, the restaurant updated its menu to include classics such as coq au vin and walnut gingerbread with pureed apple, switched its uniforms to be white suits with white ties, and changed its backdrop setting to be entirely white, in contrast to its fall setup of copper and auburn hues.

Park Avenue Autumn

Is this a smart idea? I’m not sure. From a business point of view, it wouldn’t seem to be that way, given the costs of renovating four times a year. However, it will almost certainly ensure that patrons will return regularly to scope out the new digs, so it’s a way to bring diners back on a semi-regular basis. What are your thoughts on this concept? Do you think it’s a fleeting idea, or here to stay? Do you think the concept will catch on in other parts of the country?

Either way, one thing’s for sure: This new experiment keeps the New York restaurant scene fun and exciting.

Photos: Park Avenue Winter (top); Park Avenue Autumn (bottom).

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?