Monday, September 21, 2009

Yountville Restaurant Crawl- Part 1

When my best friend came to visit me from Chicago, I had a difficult time deciding where to take her for dinner for our only night in Napa. Then, I thought back on a great date I had 6 years ago in NYC where we restaurant hopped all over the meatpacking district. At that time, the meatpacking district was the spot to be and we managed to hit about 5 places before we called it a night. The system was simple: sit at the bar to avoid a wait and order a drink and dish at each. This is exactly the strategy I used when Carrie and I went to Yountville.

Before we drove into Yountville, we made a drink stop at Auberge de Soleil. I get tons and tons of emails from friends and colleagues asking for tips when they visit Napa and a drink at this place always makes the list. Auberge is a fantastic resort nestled up in the hills outside of Yountville with amazing views and great people watching. If you go in the late afternoon, you can get a table with little to no wait and enjoy a crisp glass of wine before heading to an early dinner. We both ordered a 2007 Foxen Chenin Blanc and soaked in the view before heading on our way.
Next stop was Bouchon for Salt Aire oysters and a glass of Domain Chandon. Bouchon is owned by world-renown chef, Thomas Keller (he also own 3 other spots within a 3 block radius). It celebrates his love for classic bistro fare and is very, very consistant. After pounding a dozen oysters or so, Carrie and I ventured off to our next stop, Redd.

Yountville Restaurant Crawl- Part 2

It was here, at Redd, that Carrie had a culinary epiphany. For the first time in her life, Carrie had burrata cheese. After her first bite, her world started spinning and she looked at me and said with great disappointment and frustration, "how am I almost thirty and just discovering this now?"

I remember the first time I had this fresh mozzarella cheese that's injected with cream. It was at my Uncle's restaurant in Chicago and I looked at him and said "what is this and where can I buy it?" So, to me, Carrie's reaction was much like mine. Folks in Chicago don't have much access to burrata because of its short shelf life but if you dig you can find it. Chicago, check out Frankie's Fifth Floor for a taste! We paired the cheese with a Horse & Plow Pinot Gris from Anderson Valley.

Next up was Bistro Jeanty. Chef Jeanty is a James Beard award winner and a man that loves to cook the classics from his homeland. At Jeanty, you can get your fix of escargots, duck foie gras pate and many other favorites. We saw a couple enjoying the pork belly with lentil and foie gras ragout and decided to go for it. I have to say that following burrata is a tough act to beat but the pork belly may have been the winner of the night. Carrie and I fought over bites and moaned between them. It was so freaking good you must go try it now. We paired this dish with a Domaines des Romains Pinot Noir.
Last but not least was a stop at Michael Chiarello's new place, Bottega. I've had the pleasure of dining here before so I knew the best seat in the house was the outdoor patio with the fireplace. We quickly found a seat and ordered a glass of Foley Pinot Noir. I am a big fan of Bob Foley and this pinot was my favorite wine of the night. We ordered the Parmesan puffs with peaches and prosciutto. This was the dish we enjoyed the least but Chef Chiarello came to the patio to chat with us and it made Carrie's night.

For those of you wondering, we left our car in the parking lot and walked from spot to spot. Never drink and drive in Napa!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Devils on Horseback

Saturday night was spent at Spotted Pig in West Village. I've written about Spotted Pig before as it was one of my go-to spots when I lived in NYC. Several years ago, there was a gastropub revolution and Spotted Pig and Chef April Bloomfield were at the forefront.

One of their most popular dishes is the English classic, Devils on Horseback. These make for a great snack, hors d'oeuvre or accompaniment to a cheese plate.

Devils on Horseback

Yields 4 servings


12 whole pitted dried prunes

1½ cup warm dark tea (soak prunes in tea for 4 hrs)

12 3 mm-thick flat smoked bacon

1 pickled pear (sliced into pieces)

1 teaspoon ground chili powder


Drain prunes into a bowl and reserve juice. Push pear through center, then wrap stuffed prunes in bacon. Place on an oven tray big enough to hold prunes and drizzle a little of the juice over the top. Sprinkle with chili powder, place under broiler and baste until golden brown and slightly crisp.


DBGB Kitchen & Bar

I know I have fallen off the grid, Dear Reader, and for that I am very sorry. The truth is that between Labor Day guests (wait until I tell you about my Yountville restaurant crawl!) and a business trip to New York City, I've just had no time to write down my culinary journeys. Please bare with me while I play catch up!

Last night, a foodie friend that works for Food Network invited me to an industry party at a new restaurant, SD26. However, before that and countless celebrity chef sightings, we went to check out Daniel Boulud's new restaurant, DBGB. Now, I've had the pleasure of eating at several of Chef Boulud's restaurants so going into our evening I knew it would be great experience. The space was vibrant and packed, especially for a Monday night. I love the foodie quotes written on the mirrors and the signed copper pots from other notable chefs.

What I found most interesting about DBGB was its focus on sausages and unique ones at that. While the menu included some french staples, the true innovation was in the sausages. So, of course, my friend and I ordered a couple to check out.

The first one was a lamb & mint merguez with harissa, lemon braised spinach & chickpeas. The harissa had a great amount of heat, which is what I love about the spice mixture to begin with and the sausage in it's own right was delicious. The second sausage was a Thai mixture made with lemongrass, chilies and more. Unfortunately, this sausage was unbalanced and its accompanying rice mixture was just as disappointing. There was an overwhelming amount of lemongrass flavor but I will say that my citron vodka cocktail paired well!

In my opinion, nothing beats New York City's restaurant scene. Restaurants here are well beyond a sensory experience and most of San Francisco's eateries just can't compare. If you haven't had the luxury of experiencing a night of dining in NYC, I suggest you start saving your pennies. It's worth it, trust me.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Corn Fritters with Salsa

Before my best friend lands in San Francisco for a nice long Labor Day weekend in Napa, I thought I'd post a recipe that should appeal to any appetite this holiday. To make this a breakfast dish, fry an egg and serve on the side or on top.

Have a great holiday!

Corn Fritters with Salsa
For salsa
  • 2 plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup chopped white onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped pickled jalapeƱo chiles
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
For fritters
  • 2 ears corn, shucked
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Make salsa:
Stir together all salsa ingredients and season with salt.

Make fritters:
Cut corn kernels from ears and scrape cobs to extract juice, then discard cobs. Whisk together egg and milk until smooth and stir in cornmeal, flour, and salt. Stir in corn, including juice.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then drop in 2 tablespoons batter each for 4 fritters. Fry until lightly browned, about 2 minutes per side, and drain on paper towels. Make more fritters in same manner, adding oil as necessary.

Serve fritters with salsa.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Beer Steamed Crab

Labor day is right around the corner so what better way to celebrate than with this recipe for beer steamed crabs from Saveur Magazine? Look for blue crab at your local seafood store. Calling ahead is always a good idea especially around a holiday where demand may be higher.

Beer Steamed Crab

4 tbsp. fish sauce
2 small red or green Thai chiles,
stemmed and sliced into thin rings
Juice of 2 limes

12 live blue crabs (about 4 lbs.)
4 12-oz. bottles of lager beer
2 tsp. kosher salt
10 garlic cloves, smashed
3 Thai chiles, stemmed and split
1 bunch cilantro
2 limes, halved

1. First, make the dipping sauce: Whisk together fish sauce, chiles, and lime juice. Set aside.

2. Rinse crabs under running water. Pour beer into a 6-quart pot; bring to a boil over high heat. Add salt, garlic, chiles, and cilantro. Squeeze in juice from halved limes; add limes.

3. Add crabs to pot; cook, covered, until they turn a vibrant reddish-orange, about 8 minutes. Using tongs, transfer crabs to a platter. Serve with sauce. SERVES 2 – 4