April 26, 2007

post-flood evening with friends & wine

we had dinner the other evening at the house of a friend in Concord, and unfortunately for him the basement had flooded due to the excessive amounts of rain we'd been having. However, that caused him to open up several rather lovely bottles of wine, just to see if they were undamaged, of course.

He's supposed to email me a list of what we drank, because - duh - i can't for the life of me remember. But here's what we ate.

First course was a terrific salad that I first had at a dinner party in Chicago. It was so awesome i demanded the recipe, and ran out and bought the book they told me it came from (Second Helpings, from the Union Sq Bistro). It's a crazy mixup of beet & carrot matchsticks, peppery greens (i used some arugula to stretch the watercress), and a honey-mustard-thyme dressing studded with pecans. I wasn't multitasking too well -- life is still a little insane-o -- so i burned the pecans in my attempt to toast them, but i tried again and got it right the second time.

Main course was a skirt steak with a Cuban-style sauce of peppers, tomato paste, raisins, almonds & a little cinnamon & clove. Simple as can be, really, and tasty. Simple is good, too, because i was barely on the ball enough to get everything done and timed right -- happily our host followed around after me doing all the things that needed to be done. :-)

That may have to be his moniker for this website, The Host. He is the host with the most, it is true, what with the fabulous wine cellar and all.

Anyway. The steak was served with a bit of rice with lemon and parsley, and some green beans. By then we were probably into our 3rd or 4th kind of wine, and one of our party, not even drinking but very pregnant, hit the wall and needed to go home to bed. So we took that interlude as the opportunity to fix the entirely unnecessary but delightfully excessive third savory course, a bizarre hybrid of frico and homefries that I got out of the Gourmet magazine from a couple of months ago. Lydia Bastianich puts grated montasio cheese in a nonstick skillet, tops it with cooked potatoes and onions, and puts on more cheese. When it gets crusty on the bottom, you flip it and crust up the other side. Totally rocking -- crunchy, cheesy, AND starchy. mmmmm.

Dessert was pineapple granita, made to use up the huge can of pineapple juice that has been lurking in my kitchen, taunting me. I sprinkled on some of the magic cinnamon that our friend K brought back from Vietnam, which is so magical that i can smell it whenever i walk through the kitchen, without even opening the spice drawer. It was just the perfect thing after the meaty, cheesy heft of dinner. I am not writing particularly well today, my apologies... still quite distracted... but don't want to neglect all you people who are kind enough to read my ramblings. And this really was a delightful evening of collaborative cooking and wine nerding and good conversation with friends. It would be a shame to have left it undocumented for the interwebs.

Posted by foodnerd at 05:54 PM | Comments (1)

April 17, 2007

american chop suey

I'd heard that Sal's, a sandwich shop/diner on Main St in Waltham, was kind of not so good, but they've got a sign in the window that says their American Chop Suey is the best. And as it happens, Sal's is right next to the bus stop, and so spleen & littlelee were loitering in the area and became intrigued by this sign, spleen more than most because as an individual of German birth, she'd not actually ever had any such dish and wasn't entirely clear on its contents.

So we had some for lunch.

And they're not kidding -- it's delicious. Five bucks gets you a big plate of thoroughly cooked elbow macaroni in a generous amount of well-flavored tomato meat sauce, and a basket of scali bread & butter. You can make two servings out of it if you're not a glutton, or walk out of there stuffed to the ears with a hot plate of lunch. Can't speak for the rest of the menu, but the American Chop Suey's worth the trip.

Sal's the Family Restaurant
470 Main St
Waltham, MA 02452
(781) 893-8993

Posted by foodnerd at 02:06 PM | Comments (0)

April 13, 2007

another winner from WuChon House

trying to hit a deadline at work, so can't write much, and didn't even take a picture of it, but last night's dinner at WuChon yielded a new favorite: Kim Chee Man Du Jun Gol, which is a gas-fired hot pot for two full of daikon, kimchi, wood ears, pork, floppy meat-filled mandu dumplings, scallions, carrot, zucchini, glass noodles and tofu bubbling away in the most gorgeous spicy savory red broth you could ever want on a sleety rainy April night.

It will never take the place in our heart occupied by the even more wonderful tofu kimchi bokum, but it will be ordered again and again and again, because it was deeee-licious.

Posted by foodnerd at 10:18 AM | Comments (0)

April 08, 2007

upstairs on the square

Spleen really wanted to go to Upstairs on the Square for restaurant week, so we made reservations for the four of us: spleen, littlelee, tallasiandude and me. It is the foofiest damn restaurant space i have EVER seen, all pink patchwork and gold frippery and mirrors and swoopy couches, but I have to concede, the food is very good.

We did a 7-course tasting menu, one with wine pairing, and tallasiandude did some a la carte ordering which was awesome because then we could try even more dishes. Heh heh.

The raw oysters were very very good; i don't have the menu for those in front of me, but i seem to recall an asian pear garnish and yuzu mignonette. Yum.

The tasting menu started with roasted beets & arugula salad with horseradish panna cotta and passionfruit. This was the dish i most wanted to try, because it was going to either be insanely awesome or a horrific trainwreck. Happily it was even more awesome than I dared hope, and the sweetness of the passionfruit was perfect with the beets and against the sharp creamy-soft horseradish. Hubba hubba. (I believe I may have used those exact words to the waiter when he asked how things were.) For the wine nerds out there (hi, C!) I can actually report on the wines, since they are written down right here on the menu. 2005 Sauvignon Blanc, Hall (Napa); we liked it.

Then there was a ravioli of sweet english pea, with a few scraps of smithfield ham, pecorino romano & mint, which was delicious, but the peas decorating it were distinctly starchy. This is why I usually don't eat peas unless I have grown them, which makes me sad, because I absolutely love fresh peas. 2004 Dafni, Lyrarakis (Crete); this was awesome, and rather unusual -- i don't remember exactly how, but it would be cool to find this wine in a shop.

Somewhere in there tallasiandude had a bowl of wild mushroom tea, which was really a soup, but did I mention? FOOFY. The broth was just a hair salty, which di'nt bother me none, and really intriguing with lots of thyme and a solid punch of hot chile pepper.

Then we got a seared giant Nantucket sea scallop, with marinated grapefruit, crispy fried rounds of fingerling potato, and tarragon. The pictures all came out terrible because of the flattering (ie, barely-there) lighting, but this one i have to post, because it just barely almost conveys the insane electric-green hue of the sauce this dish arrived in.

This neon pool was dotted with electric orange droplets, and the whole thing was completely bizarre and wonderful. The grapefruit and the tarragon and the rich buttery potato and the clean scallop flesh all worked together in a deranged harmony. 2005 Trebbiano, Masciarelli (Abruzzo); this was also extremely tasty.

Then there was a pomegranate lacquered duck breast, with a high-concept schmear of potato puree spiked with nutmeg, and a black truffle jus, which was as lovely as you might expect it to be. 2004 Merlot, Alexander Valley Vineyards. This was when we really started to notice the one main flaw with service: wine accompaniments were arriving well after the dishes, and though I couldn't give two shits, spleen really wanted to try the wines with the foods, go figure, and so things would be starting to get cold before she could really go to town. Does it not seem like the wine should always show up BEFORE, or at least with, a dish, and never after? Once is just shit happening, but this was every course, and therefore irksome.

Tallasiandude had a deconstructed beef wellington, which was really sliced steak with a bit of pastry and some duxelles paste underneath. Very tasty but mildly silly.

Then there was a foie gras brulé on toast with a cranberry compote and a fantastic fresh-mint soda. I could have happily drank a whole glass of that minty soda, and it was swell with the ridiculous fattiness of the foie gras. 2000 Semillon, Chateau Coutet (Barsac) -- this may not have been the wine we had; one of them was swapped out and i can't remember which one.

There was a selection of artisanal cheeses, several of them Greek -- someone in that kitchen has a Greek fetish at the moment -- served with a 2000 Kotsifali, Mandilari, Lidakis Archanes (Crete).

And then for dessert there was a rhubarb compote (*swoon*) with a side ramekin of brown butter foam (bizarre but tasty variant on whipped cream) and a soft floury sweet shortbread. I prefer crispy shortbread, but whatever. This came with the longest-named wine ever, i get tired just reading it: 2004 Grenache blend with Carignan, Cinsaut & Syrah, Madeloc Banyuls (Roussillon, France)

Posted by foodnerd at 07:21 PM | Comments (0)