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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Bar Boulud Revisited

I have previously been to Bar Boulud and had a delicious meal, so I was very excited to come back. This time around I went with some of my friends to try to show them that charcuterie, like headcheese, actually tastes good. 

Following a visit to Williams & Sonoma to watch James Tracey, the Chef at Craft, make a beautiful Roast Chicken we arrived at Bar Boulud anticipating fantastic food, and all in all it delivered.

Chocolate Croissant

For the first course we were presented with a stunning selection of hand-made artisanal pastries, which ranged from decadent, buttery croissants to comforting cinnamon rolls reminiscing of your childhood. Yes, I know I am still a kid, but the sweet smell of cinnamon and butter is already implanted in my memories.

The chocolate croissant was great - the light flaky croissant and rich, dark pieces of chocolate complemented each other wonderfully.

Pate Grand-Mere

Pate Grand-Mere is a fine country pate of chicken liver, pork, cognac, and spices, which is made by grinding up all of the meat and cooking it slowly in a terrine mold (This is what the American Meatloaf was derived from).

The texture of the pate was incredibly smooth and unctuous, which was balanced out by the acidic and bitter garnishes (frisse, cornichons, pickled pearl onions, whole grain mustard).

Taste-wise the pate was a joy to eat and it won over 1/2 of my friends.

Croque Madame

The Croque Madame is Chef Daniel Boulud's interpretation of the simple ham and cheese sandwich - his version is by far the best I ever had. The exterior of the sandwich was nice and crispy, and when you cut through it the gruyere cheese oozed out beautifully. The ham itself was of a great quality and would have been enjoyed on it's own, yet it was enhanced by it's accompaniments. This sandwich, garnished with a perfectly fried egg was the climax of the meal. It was incredible.

Fromage de Tete

Head cheese is the meat of the head (cheek, ear, brain, etc.) that is cooked and layered in a terrine with aspic. Some people would consider this dish gross, but I think it is awesome. For people that are squeamish towards cheek, ear, brain, etc. don't be! First off if you are going to kill an animal, in respect you have to use every single part of the animal to honor it's life. Also, what is the difference between eating breasts or cheeks? They are just different parts of the body. But most importantly Offal tastes so good. When cooked properly it completely outshines the "accepted cuts" of meat.

Now back to the head cheese. It was served with whole grain mustard, whole grain bread, cornichons (baby pickles), pickled baby pearl onions, and frisse. The mustard added a much needed acid to cut the richness of the luscious head meat. I thought the bread was cut a little too thick and it overpowered the headcheese's texture and flavor. If they sprinkled some fleur de sel on top of the terrine I believe it would have elevated the dish to a whole new level. Overall I loved the dish, but I think it could have been slightly better with a little more salt and thinner bread.

2 Scoops of Ice Cream, Almond Sable

Because of my delicious dessert the last time I was at Bar Boulud I was expecting great things, however this dessert was a failure. The chocolate vanilla swirl was not appealing, I have had much better from a carton in my freezer. The almond sable cookies were bland, and were not even served on one of my friend's plate. How can you forget a main component of a dish? The only part of the dish that was pleasant was the pear and licorice ice cream, which I did enjoy a lot.

Service was very, very good. When you are asking yourself when did my water get refilled, and when did they replenish our bread you know the servers are professionals.

Over two meals at Bar Boulud I have come to the assumption that main courses at Bar Boulud are better than the charcuterie (Considering only the dishes I have eaten personally). The boudin blanc from my last meal and the croque madame of this meal were both excellent dishes that out shined any of the charcuterie I ordered. I still have not tried the blood sausage, why is it not on the brunch menu!!!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Roasted 1/2 Chicken with Beets, Parsnip, Vanilla, Blood Orange

Organic Free Range Chicken

Removed the Backbone and reserved the giblet, heart, and liver

Cut in half and removed and reserved the wing

Salt, Pepper, Thyme, Shallot, Meyer Lemon Zest, Garlic

Diced Beets for a salad mixed with roasted parsnips, blood orange juice, salt, evoo

Peeled sheets of parsnips

Fried, Salt and Pepper. INCREDIBLE!!! Blows away potato chips

Fresh Beet Juice

Reduced Beet Juice

Mixed with Vanilla Yogurt

Garnishes on Plate Before Chicken

Looks pretty Good

Tastes Even Better Than it Looks

The Chicken was perfectly cooked - extremely moist and had a very crispy skin. The roasted beets were great and the beet salad was nice and fresh. However the star of this plate was the crispy parsnip. It was salty, sweet, spicy, and crisp; these were miles better than any potato chip I have ever had. Because of the great success of the parsnip chip I am lead to believe that celery root, rutabaga, carrots, turnip, beets, and any other root vegetables would make incredible chips. I am excited to test them all out, and will post back on it soon.

Monday, January 24, 2011

100 Parts Flour, 60 Parts water, 3 Parts Salt, 2 Parts Yeast

So what is the ratio posted above? Could it be the ratio for a simple bread dough? Of Course!! This was my first go with it and the resultls were pretty good.

After the dough was made by measuring everything with a digital scale by weight and mixing it together I let it proof for a couple hours over my heated toaster oven. (You must have a digital scale if you want to become a serious cook, without it you cannot get exact measurements, which are a necessity in baking.)

So after my dough was fully proofed I let it "rest" in the fridge. Once chilled I stretched out some dough and layered some butter, brown sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, and a little salt. I let this proof again overnight in the fridge. Then I rolled the dough up and baked it in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes.

Once I took the bread out of the oven I let it rest for a good 15 minutes. One of the things alot of people do wrong when making bread is eating it right when it comes out of the oven. Just like when you remove a roast from the oven it still cooks out of the oven with the residual heat. It has to rest, don't be tempted!!

Ooey gooey goodness. If I had put some chocolate chips in the mix it would have been even better, but I did not have any :( Never the less it was still tasty.

I again streched out the dough, but this time seasoned it with salt, pepper, and rosemary. I got my grill pan blaizing hot and added some canola oil, and threw on the seasoned dough. I used a rosemary twig to baste the bread in butter, rosemary, and garlic. This was incredible, it had tons of flavor and was crispy and moist at the same time. I loved this preparation of the dough and will 100% sure be making it again.

For the pretzel I rolled the dough out into logs and twisted them together to form the pretzel shape. I seasoned the dough with salt, pepper, garlic, and thyme. Now, I was not expecting a great pretzel because this is not a pretzel dough and I did not pre blanch it in a baking soda and water mixture. The crust on the dough I did not care for, it was too hard, but the flavors were nice.

For my "mini-loaf" I seasoned the bread with salt, pepper, and sage. I baked it at 350 degress until golden brown, and then let it rest. The bread was very good, besides the bottom crust which again was too hard.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Cafe Boulud (1/16)

Ever since I met Gavin Kaysen at bocuse d'or I have always wanted to try his food at Cafe Boulud - one of Daniel Boulud's many restaurants. I have been to Bar Boulud and had a great time so I was expecting great things from this NY Times 3 Star Restaurant, but overall the experience did not meet my expectations.

I had to make a late change to the reservation, changing it from 2 to 4 people because my aunt and grandma were going to join me. I was nervous about this because they are not used to eating in this type of a restaurant. I really did not want them to be asking for ketchup with there meal and embarrassing me.

After having to visit the Whitney Museum (I can't stand art, I think it is so boring), I was eager to get to Cafe Boulud and enjoy some great food. We got to Cafe Boulud a few minutes before the reservation time, but we were still seated immediately.

Our waiter asked what we would like to drink and we all got water, but my mom got a coffee, which she enjoyed.

French Baguette

The bread is served in parchment paper and you have to rip it apart to get pieces. I am OK with the idea of serving bread in parchment paper, it is very rustic, but the bread should have at least been partially sliced so it would not been as messy when you break it apart with your hands. Taste wise the baguette was a delight, the crusty exterior and the doughy interior were perfect contrasting textures.

Fresh Butter with Fleur de Sel

One of my favorite things about going to high end restaurants is the quality of the butter. The butter at Cafe Boulud is molded into a cylinder and plated on a black slate, which is very aesthetic. Garnished with some Fleur de Del it is incredible. The butter is so rich and smooth it makes you wish you could have this quality of butter at every restaurant you go to.

Fried Risotto Balls

It took awhile for the amuse bouche to arrive to our table, about 30 minutes to be exact, but they were worth the wait. The amuse bouche for brunch on Sunday were fried risotto balls. These were great and tasty. The rice itself was still al dente and the cheese inside was tangy enough to cut the richness from the fat. Also, you were able to taste the sea salt that was sprinkled on top. Everyone at my table loved these and could have eaten 20 of them. This was a great start to the meal, so far I was really happy.

Famada Soup with Chorizo and Paprika Oil

About another 30 minutes later my 1st course arrived. (Service was really, really slow - food was taking way too long to get to the table and my water was empty for a good five minutes. Maybe this was because Gavin was not in house because he was in Lyon coaching James Kent and Tom Allen for the bocuse d'or). To my surprise this soup was extremely bland, maybe if there had been more chorizo it would have added the needed salt and heat, but there was only four little slivers of it. If I got this dish from anywhere it would have been a definite disappointment, and especcialy since I got it from Cafe Boulud I was shocked.

Ricotta Cheese Blintz with Roasted Apples and Whipped Sour Cream

This was the dish that my mom got and I got to taste. The apples themselve were extremely tasty - even though they were roasted they still had texture and tasted fresh. The ricotta Cheese Blintz was OK, it did not blow me away, but it tasted fine. Altogether I liked this dish, but was left wanting more.

Daniel Boulud !!!

After the first courses were cleared, you will never believe what happened. Daniel Boulud and his daughter walked into Cafe Boulud, my mouth dropped when this happened. I did not know what to do, should I call him over and try to talk to him or should I just let him enjoy his lunch with his daughter? I was able to hear my heart pounding. When he walked by my table my grandma called him over and told him how I was an aspiring culinarian. Daniel Boulud's advice was to keep on cooking and read all of the books that you can to learn as much as possible; he also said that he started cooking at the age of 14, which I knew from reading most of his books. I wanted to ask him about the bocuse d'or, but he had to go because he was very busy. I wish I got a picture of Daniel and I. He sat at the table next to me, but the front of the house station was between us, so the picture I took of him is from the reflection off a mirror. After the meal when I was walking to the car we walked passed a sun glass store and guess who was inside? Daniel Boulud!! He saw us and probably thought that we were stalking him, but maybe he will remember me if I see him again because of it.

Hanger Steak and Egg with Tomato Provencial, Pomme Puree, Spinach

After the the shock of seeing Daniel Boulud (The staff was shocked as well. The front of the house manager said that they never know when Daniel comes in, so it always puts them on edge.) my main course arrived. The beef was cooked to perfection, the pomme puree was beautifully smooth, the spinach was blanched properly, and the tomato provencial was executed with masterful precision, but everything lacked salt. The only thing on the plate that had a lot of flavor was the tomato provencial. This made me angry because you could tell everything was made perfectly, but it just needed salt.

Main Peekytoe Crab Benedict, wilted Arrow leaf Spinach, Sauce Choron

My mom's main course echoed the previous courses - properly cooked, but lacking salt. How could the cooks be forgetting salt? Was the kitchen not executing to it's fullest because Gavin was not in house? I don't know, but I was not that happy. 

Molten Chocolate Cake with Coffee Ice Cream

For dessert I really wanted to get the chocolate mousse with passion fruit, but it had pistachios so I could not order it so I got the Molten Chocolate Cake with Coffee Ice Cream. The coffee ice cream was insanely good, it had a pure flavor of coffee, but I wish there was more on the plate to balance out the chocolate. The combination of the hot cake and cold ice cream is a match made in heaven, simplicity at its best. This was a good dessert, but it was not pushing any boundaries (Chocolate and Coffee is classic flavor combination).

Lemon Fritters

These were very tasty, the lemon flavor was up front and vibrant. Everyone enjoyed eating these gifts from the kitchen.

After my meal I got a quick tour of the kitchen. It was a big kitchen, but not as big as Del Posto's kitchen, which was gigantiic. The kitchen was very busy, but still very organized.

The service was very friendly, but also very slow. My water was empty for awhile and the wait between courses was way too long - about 30 minutes. Maybe since Daniel Boulud showed up the servers forgot about their other customers and put all of their attention to Daniel, which makes sense because you have to make sure you impress your boss.

The experience at Cafe Boulud will always be remembered because I got to meet Chef Daniel Boulud, but the food will be forgotten. I would like to come back to Cafe Boulud for lunch or dinner when Gavin is actually there to give the food another chance. I am sure if I come back I will be blown away by the food, the kitchen probably just had an off day.

Monday, January 17, 2011


Kefi is owned by Michael Psilakis and Donatella Arpaia, two very successful and passionate restaurateurs. The food at Kefi is the food that Chef Michael Psilakis loves to cook - the Greek food of his childhood and he serves this food at extremely reasonable prices. All of the starters are under $10 and the most expensive dish on his menu is $17. Kefi is the perfect neighborhood restaurant - affordable and very approachable it will bring you back again and again.

The bread at Kefi is not as interesting as you would hope, but it still is enjoyable. The bread itself is very rustic and it is served with a delicious Greek Olive Oil. However without the addition of the salt and pepper shaker the bread is quite bland. Kefi should serve pita and tzatziki sauce instead of their current bread - the warm pita and cold tzatziki go great together. That would go over really, really well.

Left: House-made Cypriot Sausage, Cucumber, Radish, Olives, Tzatziki
Right: Grilled Octopus, Bean Salad

Lets start out with the sausage, which was super moist and had TONS of flavor. You were able to taste all of the ingredients put into the sausage - oregano, lemon zest, spices, etc. The sausage on it's own would have been delicious, but there was more.  The sausage was served with a cool tzatziki sauce that contrasted beautifully with the hot sausage. Warm pita was served with the dish to slop up all of the left over tzatziki. This dish was simply tasty and had a great balance of salt, heat, and acid.

The octopus was a huge hit as well. It was so fresh and sweet - it tasted like the essence of the ocean and was melt in your mouth tender. Again there was tons of flavor in this dish - oregano, lemon, tomato, etc. were all clearly tasted. The charcoal grilled octopus was served with a cold bean salad which was the perfect accompaniment. The beans (chickpea and pinto) were cooked perfectly and seasoned with great precision. There was great acidic notes in the bean salad that worked great with the rich, meaty octopus. I loved this dish and could have ordered seconds and thirds of it.

Shrimp, Orzo, Spinach, Tomato, Feta

After having those great appetizers I was so excited for my main course, but worried that it would not live up to my previous dishes. I was so wrong about that! The shrimp was butterflied and cooked flawlessly, and served along with a tomato sauce that was so light and fresh, it was sublime. The addition of the salty, acidic feta cheese added great depth to the dish. The orzo was cooked to a perfect al dente and soaked up all of the heavenly sauce. I adored this plate of food, it was great.

Galaktobouriko, Orange Spoon Fruit

I have heard many people rave of how good galaktobouriko is - the flaky filo dough contrasting with the smooth, rich custard, so I was very excited to have my first galaktobouriko at Kefi. But to be honest the galaktobouriko at Kefi was not good. The filo dough was soggy and their was way too much candied orange zest. Also, the custard was very bland and was not smooth, it had the texture of ricotta cheese. This was the first time I ever had galaktobouriko so maybe that was a good galaktobouriko, but I just do not enjoy it. I don't know, but I do know that this was the only disappointment of the night. 

Overall the experience at Kefi was great. Chef Michael Psilakis does not care about putting dots on a plate, he cares about making sure everything is extremely delicious. Kefi is the place that you can go to every week and get delicious food at very affordable prices. I know that I will be back to Kefi soon and am looking forward to it.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Bouchon Bakery

Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery in Columbus Circle always has a huge line, and it rightfully does. The pastries are insanely good, the best I ever had. One of the many highlights are the macaroons which are light and crisp on the outside and rich and chewy in the interior (A macaroon at Bouchon Bakery is a pastry that consists of two meringue cookies filled with a pastry cream). My personal favorite flavor is caramel (pictured above), but you can not go wrong with any of the other choices like chocolate or peanut butter and jelly. Some of the other fun pastries are Thomas Keller's interpretations of oreos and nutter butter cookies. If you ever want to get your sugar fix on and don't want to go spend tons of money I highly recommend  Bouchon Bakery.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Cafe Boulud This Sunday!!!

Read the Book
I am going to Cafe Boulud this Sunday for brunch. Are there any dishes that are a must get?
Menu is here.

Pineapple Soda

I recently got the ISI Twist and Sparkle, but I have not used it much because I have been so busy. A couple weeks ago I made a Sparkling Lemonade with Rosemary and it was really, really good. It was just lemon juice and zest, sugar, rosemary, salt, and water all mixed together, then carbonated, and then strained. I have never seen pineapple juice carbonated so I wanted to try it out. The flavors of pineapple and dairy go very well together (dulce de leche cheesecake with pineapple, for instance). So I took the flavors from the dessert but modified the texture to turn it into a soda.

First I cut the core out of the pineapple and reserved it for juicing. The core usually goes to waste, but if you juice it you get more of a yield from your product.

Then I caramelized some sugar and added condensed milk, salt, lemon juice, and lemon zest.

I juiced the core of the pineapple and some scraps of the pineapple.

At this point if I was really going to make a refined drink I would have clarified the juice using agar clarification, where you gel your juice, freeze it, wrap it in cheese cloth, and let it thaw. Only the pure liquid will come out of the cheese cloth. Of course if you had a centrifuge you could just put your juice in their. A centrifuge spins at really fast speeds, and forces a a lot of pressure of the liquid separating the juice's parts by density.

Next I blended it all together with my hand immersion blender.

Lastly I put in my ISI Twist and Sparkle and charged it with a CO2 canister. I chilled the drink down before serving. If I had some fresh basil I would have added it to the drink.

Monday, January 3, 2011

CAP'N Crunch "Mousse" with Powdered Peanut Butter, Banana, Grape

Everyone has a few ideas that they did not invent, but wish they did. Mine is cereal milk soft serve ice cream (They serve this at Momofuku Milk Bar). For years I have loved gulping down the left over milk from my cereal and never realized that it could be used as a delicious custard base. 

I started off by "infusing" the CAP'N Crunch with cream and salt for 10 minutes and then strained the cereal out. I added the infused cream to the ISI Creative Whip and charged it once with nitrous oxide and gave it a good shake.

I let the mixture sit in the fridge for about two hours before extruding it.

Then to make the powdered peanut butter I blended 40% N-ZorbitB and 60% peanut butter (By Weight, Not Volume).

The powdered peanut butter to the eye looks dry, but when the saliva in your mouth reacts with the powdered peanut butter it breaks the bond and turns it back into normal peanut butter. (This can be done with any food product that is high in fat like oils, caramels, chocolate, pork fat, etc.)

Next, I sliced grapes and a banana and seasoned them with salt. I also crushed up some CAP'N Crunch and put that in the center of the plate to keep the quennele of whipped cream from moving around.

I loved the dish, it was very playful, but there should have been more whipped cream on the plate...