Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Revolution and a Black Dog

After picking up two suits for The Husband last night, we decided to grab a bite to eat at Revolution Brewery. Revolution is literally a block from our home, and for some reason we go only a few times a year. Typically if The Husband and I are dining out, we generally have various friends with us and Revolutions is either jammed, or not on our list of places to go. When we go out on date nights, we typically don’t stay close to home, so we rarely make it over there. We were reminded last night that we make stupid choices some times.

While Revolution is a brewery, I honestly think it’s their food that sets them apart. We started the night with an order of Wild Boar Meatballs.  After spending two weeks in Italy and really learning how amazing Wild Boar is, The Husband and I will typically gravitate towards it; we were not wrong. Four small delicate juicy meatballs with a little spice surrounded by a light pesto and some fried polenta triangles.  Really spot on and it paired well with The Husband’s Riot Pilsner, a super clean Czech style Pils. I ordered the Rosa, a hibiscus ale that was super clean, smelled delicious and had an ever so slight sweet finish. Sometimes fruit beers can be too much fruit, this was perfect.

The Husband and I went back and forth for our entrée. They had a Chicken and Waffle dish that The Husband wanted to try, after spending some time in Austin, he’s a little obsessed.  However, his fall back at Revolution is their Fish and Chips; perfectly battered, light and crispy fish with a malt vinegar side and crispy, salty French fries.  I was deciding between my fall back, the Hombre Burger, a spicy burger (I love a good spicy burger) covered with smoked poblano pepper, avocado, Chihuahua cheese, red pepper crema & tortilla strips.  Or their Beer Mussels, PEI Mussels in a beer broth infused with Tthyme, shallots, potatoes, house cured bacon, garlic and bay leaf. Both The Husband and I decided to break the mold and go with the Chicken and Waffles and the Mussels. Our waitress informed us we made an excellent decision.

The Husbands Chicken and Waffles came, a HUGE piece of buttermilk fried chicken, surrounded by roasted corn off the cob, tomatillo salsa, stewed tomatoes, okra and two smaller split pea and brown-butter waffle halves. The Husband has his trepidations regarding the southwestern style of the dish, but he was thrilled. His only comment was that he wished there were more waffles. He spent time cutting up the chicken, marrying the okra, corn, tomatoes and salsa along with the crispy chicken. I practically had to beg him for a bite. When I got one, I could tell why he was bogarting the dish. It was delicious.

I was thrilled with my mussels as well, so it wasn’t like I was willing to share either. A huge bowl of mussels came, along with four thin, crispy slices of a baguette. The mussels were delicious and the broth was spectacular. I spent my dinner alternating between soaking bread in the broth and trying to get the perfect bite of mussel, shallot, potato and broth. The bottom of the broth has a fair amount of black pepper in it, so there was a tiny kick. It was so good, that after I finished the mussels, then the bread , I just began eating the broth with a spoon like soup. The Husband joined in.

After dinner, The Husband decided that he wanted to make a trip to Black Dog Gelato. We decided to hit up the one on Belmont, where the Old Bleeding Heart Bakery used to be. The shop was brightly lite, the flavors were posted on what was made to look like a clothes line. Two strings held up colored clothes pins that had each of the flavors written on brightly colored paper.  We walked in as the Goat Cheese Cashew Carmel (sounds odd, but everyone raved about it) was getting moved to the “Sorry we’re out tonight” clothes line. I made an off-hand comment to The Husband akin to “Oh maaaaaaaan!” and the wonderful man behind the counter proceeded to scrape out the tiny bit of the remaining gelato (enough for a few good spoonful’s) and gave it to me. I was ecstatic. And It.Was.Fantastic! Seriously. The carmel was wonderful and I worried that the goat cheese would be too rich, it paired so well. I’m drooling as I write.

I decided to go with the Oreo Mint and asked the lovely man behind the counter what he thought paired well. He gave me a list and then said “Or…you could let me pair for you” SOLD! He gave me the Baked Apple. HOLY COW PEOPLE! It was like a perfectly baked Apple Pie in gelato form.  It was superb. I felt like Thanksgiving in the middle of summer.  The Oreo Mint was delicious, but if you’re not a super mint fan, I would avoid. I love mint, The Husband does not. He said it reminded him of toothpaste. I wildly disagreed.

Since I was given the Baked Apple, The Husband’s idea (that he didn’t share with me until AFTER I received the Baked Apple) of Banana Bread and Baked Apple was no good. According to The Husband and His Family, no two people can ever have the same dish when eating out. Everyone MUST have something new, it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been to the restaurant. I’ve tried a few times to trick him, and I’ve failed every time. We’ll be out to dinner and want the same thing, being a good man; he’ll always let me get it. And I always feel bad, I mean, why can’t we both enjoy a dish that we both want? So more than a few times I’ve told him I won’t be getting that dish, that I want something else and he should have it, he’ll order it, then I’ll order it, then he’ll change his order. He’s grown accustomed to my game and always makes me order first now.

So, this evening he decided to go with the Malted Vanilla and the Allspice. Again, another winning combination!  Seriously, I’m not a huge Vanilla fan, but WOW. We sat on the car, eating our gelato, swapping tastes and were totally, blissfully happy. Thank goodness this place isn’t in walking distance, or I’d have some serious gelato addiction issues.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Portal to Another World

Last weekend Martin Kastner, the genius designer behind Crucial Detail (the service wear that graces the tables at Alinea, Next and The Aviary) released a Kickstarter Campaign for The Portal.

The Chai Tea Portal
For those of you who have not been to The Aviary, The Portal is one of their signature drinks. Part of what makes it so amazing (other than the simple beauty of showcasing the ingredients of the drink) is that The Portal is The Aviary in a single drink. It is a drink that is designed to change into something else over time. You pour a little into a small cup, have a conversation with your friends, then go back five to ten minutes later and pour some more, and voila! The drink has transformed. It gets darker, the alcohol is able to steep in the teas and fruits and herbs that are around it, so your first drink is totally different from your second, and your third and your fourth.  By the time you've finished The Portal drink, you've had the ability to both see and taste the changes that have occurred in front of you.

People spent a lot of time trying to steal Portal's from The Aviary. It's incredibly unique (Kasnter made them JUST for The Aviary) and one of those things that everyone wants to have at a party.

So finally Kasnter, Achatz and Kokonas decided it was time to try and "mass" produce these beautiful vessels. They decided to do this via a Kickstar Campaign .  Within the first 10 days of the 30 day campaign, Kastner has received over $186,000 from over 1,000 contributors.

They had initially only requested $28,000 in start up capital, however that goal was blown within hours.  To thank the people who have made this project explode, Kastner set a few goals. At $175,00 everyone would get a Rare Tea sample that The Aviary uses in their Portal drinks, and at $300,000 everyone received a pair of specially designed cups for their Portal.

The Husband and I purchased our Portal within a few days of it going live. At $95 a Portal, it's worth it. I am also crossing my fingers, as I want to get some custom cups!

And of course, after watching the video, I also want to be BFF's with Nick Kokonas. I mean, who wouldn't want to have dinner at his house and see a Portal as their centerpiece?

Since it's obvious that no matter how much money we spend at their restaurants, we're not going to be BFF's with Grant and Nick, I can use their ideas to make my tablescapes more unique. I love the idea of having The Portal sitting over dinner and then pouring it at the end as a digestif.

And I can tell all of my friends I learned it from Grant and Nick as I serve it in my custom cups.

If you missed the link embedded earlier in my post, make sure you watch the Kickstarter video for The Portal Here!

Update: As of August 20th, the $300,00 goal was hit. Mama gets some Custom Cups!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Morels and Scruples

Last weekend I ran into the Whole Foods to pick up some lunch stuff and came across mushroom gold: Fresh Morels.  I didn’t think, I just grabbed a package and walked directly over to the butcher counter to pick up some Strip Steak.

From my previous posting on Hen of the Woods mushrooms, you learned that I’m not a lover of the cheap and ubiquitous Button Mushroom.  Rather (unfortunately for the pocket, fortunately for the taste buds) I’ve developed a love of more expensive, harder to come by fungi. Did you enjoy that rhyme right there?

A little over four years ago I can across the Morel (pronounced more-ELLE, not like the thing people without scruples lack, which is pronounced MORE-el ) mushroom and was intrigued by it’s odd  spaceship like shape and the fact that The Husband was raving about them.  As The Husband and I had similar views on the Button and Portobello mushroom, and it was his birthday, I thought I would indulge him.

So I went searching The Net to find recipes that involved Morel Mushrooms. There are tons of fried Morel Mushroom recipes out there and while I have learned to appreciate fried food, I am not the type of person to make it in my house. Also, I’m a mess-maker and large quantities of boiling hot oil would not only end up all over my walls and stove, but would invariably make it to my arms and legs.

I came across a few  recipes for a Morel Mushroom and Cabernet Sauce, and thought that it would be perfect to put on top of a perfectly grilled New York Strip. So I decided to try it and it was perfection.  The earthiness of the mushrooms, paired really well with the cabernet sauce and the thyme added the perfect pick me up flavor. And of course, when it was poured over a medium rare Strip, BOOM! Heaven.

There have been very few times that I’ve found Morels fresh, I generally find them dried and even then, not that often; they are typically a late spring mushroom.  You should be aware, the fresh Morels I picked up, about 6 oz., were roughly $20. I also have 6 oz. of dried Morels sitting in my apartment, those were $15. The fresh really really REALLY do taste that much better though.

The other key to this, make sure the wine you’re using is good wine. People always go cheap on cooking wines, and I can tell you from experience, don't. The quality of your ingredients ALWAYS makes a difference. Open a bottle of wine that you wouldn’t mind drinking alongside the mushrooms.  If you don’t want to go crazy expensive, Beringer makes a Founders Estate Cabernet that I’ve found for between $6-$10 a bottle.  It’s a solid drinking wine and works well in this sauce.  We went a little more upscale for this batch and changed the varietal up, we had a Londer Pinot Noir. But for the sake of this recipe and integrity, I'm giving you the Cab recipe. When you've done it a few times and have the hang of the flavor profiles, I invite you to change up the wines you use. It really does change the flavors. 

I generally make my Morel Cabernet sauce and pair it with either a Beef Strip or a Buffalo Stip, both have great flavor and honestly it just depends on what I'm feeling like at the time. Last weekend, it was dry aged Strip, next time it could be grass fed Buffalo.  And I generally make it with Roasted Asparagus and a Purple Potato Smash, I mean, if I’m making a steak dinner, I’m not half-assing it.

Honestly though, you could throw this sauce over some regular old mashed potatoes and just eat it that way. The Morels are meaty enough. Do not prepare this sauce a head of time!

1 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 package of Morel Mushrooms (generally come in 4 or 6 oz.), washed.
3 cloves of garlic, minced
½  cup of GOOD (you want to drink this stuff) Cabernet Sauvignon
½ cup of Beef Broth
2 TBS Butter
2 TSP fresh Thyme, washed and leaves removed from the stalks
Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté the mushrooms in the olive oil over high heat until they are tender, this should be about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and brown lightly. Toss in the Cabernet and deglaze the pan (this means get all of the little pieces of garlic and mushroom up off the bottom and stir it in with the wine). Add the beef stock and reduce the heat the medium.  Let the sauce cook for about 5 minutes, this should reduce the amount of liquid you have in the pan, that is what we’re looking for. Add the butter and thyme and stir until the butter is melted. Cook for an additional 2 minutes. If you think it needs salt and pepper, add it now.  If I do add it (which isn’t always) I’ll generally add a tiny punch of salt (because the broth makes it salty enough), but I always do add a bit of fresh ground black pepper.

Take the sauce and pour it directly over whatever you are serving it on. Don’t put this one in a gravy boat, just toss it on top and go to town!