Sunday, November 1, 2015

Kat and Theo Flatiron NYC

Chef Shah of Kat and Theos
Every time we go to NYC we try a new restaurant for this trip I picked as new restaurant in the Flatiron District called Kat and Theo.  Kat and Theo is a Mediterranean inspired restaurant under the direction and influence of Executive Chef Paras Shah, Besides Chef Shah there is a strong team including Mixologist Stephen An and Pastry Chef menu Serena Chow.  The restaurant is contemporary with the bar, kitchen, and dining up front with additional dining in the back.  The walls of the restaurant are the original brick of the building and the design invites both warmth and intimacy.  Like many of my restaurant reviews the kitchen is open and provides visual stimulation and culinary skill envy as the busy chefs prepare great food.

We started our evening with a couple of drinks Metal and Dust and the Mexican Firing Squad.  The Metal and Dust is a Lager based drink with a Oaxaca and Mulato Chile infused Tequila with lime and Mole bitters, the Mexican Firing Squad includes Tequila, Grenadine too much to describe for two really tasty drinks.

Delicious Octopus
Our server Eduard was passionate about the menu and provided some guidance on what he would recommend to try.  We started with Charred Octopus, the Octopus was prepared perfectly and were as tender as a well  cooked Scallop.  It was accompanied with White Bean puree with several flash fried White Beans that added texture.  The Octopus had a slight Citrus touch and was finished with Oregano, it was a beautiful plate.
Lamb Shank
We had decided to share the Braised Lamb Shank entree this dish was perfectly done, moist and tender steeped in Mediterranean spices, sitting on a bed of Wheat Berries, Crispy Smoked Lamb Belly, Carrots, and Fig.  The Lamb was perfect in that it did not have the strong lamb taste, the Wheat Berry and Lamb Belly provided some good texture to have something to chew on.  The Fig provided a sweetness that accompanied the Lamb perfectly.  Along with the Lamb we had Fried Artichokes which were sprinkled with Reggiano Cheese Walnut and Lemon Zest, a tasty accompaniment.
Fried Artichoke

Carrot Cake Yum!!
Before the desert Chef Shah came over and we talked about his time he spent in Spain interning at the famous El Bulli and that many of the taste influences came from his time working in Spain.   The restaurant was in it's first year and it had been a great experience during the initial build and ensuing year of servicre.   We told him that the meal was perfect and asked which desert we should try, he suggested the Carrot Cake.
Two nights before we celebrated my Birthday and bought some take out deserts, Carrot Cake and Cheese Cake from Juniors on 42nd.  Juniors is no known for its small portions.  Point is that I was concerned that this Carrot Cake would be another large eating endeavor.  Fortunately for us it was a perfect desert with Espresso and White Chocolate Ice Cream with a dusting of Pistachio.
The entire meal was very enjoyable and I would recommend that you enjoy a meal at Kat and Theos.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Ramen Master Class with Chef Ivan Orkin


Me and Ivan
Last week we went to NYC to get some weekend R&R and some great food.  We attended NYCWFF for our second time, the highlight event was the the Ramen Masters Class with Chef Ivan Orkin.  I have always loved Ramen since I was a kid, but what I soon found out I had always eaten Ramen lite. We lived in Hawaii and we ate a noodle creation very similar by the name of Saimin.   But  at our class we were about to learn from a master how to make a real Ramen.
Ivan's Book
My Creation
 Ivan studied Japanese Literature at University of Colorado and moved to Tokyo after graduation.  Ivan had always had a fascination with food and all things Japanese specifically Ramen.  After several years he moved back to the states with his wife, unsatisfied with his career choices he decided to chase his passion for food and enrolled at the Culinary Institute in NYC.  During school and after graduation Ivan had the opportunity to work in great kitchens and learn from some of the best chefs the secrets of the trade. He realized that a line cook's life was for a younger man, one without a family so he chose to become a 8 to 5 Executive Chef for the corporate world.  Shortly later his world collapsed, his wife passed away leaving him as a widower and a father.  Ivan spent several years going back and forth to Japan to reunite his sons grandparents with their grandson, on one trip he met his current wife.  Ivan stayed in Japan became more fascinated with Ramen and defied all odds and opened his first Ramen Shop.  If you want to learn more about his fascinating story you will have to buy his book Ivan Ramen.  Ivan now has 2 Ramen shops in Tokyo and 1 in NYC

The Ramen Master
Our day began at Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) which is across the street from the World Trade Center.  The school is in a beautiful building overlooking the Hudson River. The building is new and spacious and definitely a great place to learn about the food world. After registering we went into a cooking class room and was greeted by Ivan and his team.  There were 15 people at our class which was perfect size, which provided us all an opportunity to get hands on experience to learn how to make Ramen Chef Ivan.

Dried Fish for the Dashi
Ramen is a complicated food, when done well it takes many hours of preparation and attention to the best ingredients.  There are several components, the noodle, the fat, the Sofrito, Katsuobushi Salt, Double Soup (Chicken Soup and Dashi), the protein, the sliced scallion and the egg.  The instruction started out with a video highlighting the process for finding and preparing all the ingredients.  Ivan then went through how we could prepare these ingredients at home and then allowed us to make our first Ramen creation with personal help from Chef.  I would like to say this is a simple task but it requires a visit to your local Japanese Grocery store to get all the proper ingredients.  But I have to say the end result was delicious, I came to the conclusion that other Ramen I had eaten did not pay attention to the details that Chef Ivan had.  I have started his book so when eating Ramen next I will be on even footing with the chef to ask them how they make their Ramen.  I believe that Ivan would say there is no wrong way to make Ramen unless it is in the Microwave.
Hudson River


In years to come we will avoid the larger convention type events at NYCWFF the smaller hands on classes are a great experience and you have a chance to learn something new.  You meet great people and you get one on one assistance from a great chef.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Big Jones, Chicago

The Whiskey Bar
I go to Chicago frequently for business but I always stay in the suburbs which makes it very difficult to get downtown to go to some of the best restaurants in the US.  But this evening I found a restaurant that was a James Beard semi-finalist just north of Chicago, Big Jones.  Big Jones serves southern comfort food with it's roots from Louisiana, the Gulf Coast and Appalachia.  The restaurant is on Clark Street north of downtown among food establishments both old and new.  I was very surprised to walk in at 7pm and not see it bustling but it is the summer and it was a Wednesday but I could see it on a Friday night, filled with both families and single hipsters alike.
Fried Green Tomates
Big Jones is all about the food experience they stick with their theme from the alcohol all the way to the desserts.  The cocktails are unique and many are built around their featured liquor Whiskey but not just limited to.  I am not a big drinker but do like a citrus cocktail from time to time so after some convincing that my Hurricane would not be the same as Pat O'Briens sugary concoction I went with it.  Good way to start the dinner not a featured Whiskey drink but a great drink all the same.
Pickled Vegetables and Fruit
Benne Crusted Crab Cakes
We started out with several Appetizers including Fried Green Tomatoes, Benne Crusted Crab Cakes  and Pickled Vegetables and Fruit.  The Pickled dish included some really unique vegetables and fruit, including Sally Lunn Bread and Sweet Butter. Yep I said Fruit, in fact a Green Strawberry, the veggies included Fiddlehead Ferns, Yellow Beans, Pea Stems, Hearts of Palm and Cucumber (I thought that was called a Pickle).  This dish even though it sounds simple it is very different and from the reception at the table it was a big favorite.  The Fried Green Tomatoes were great and were topped spicy Remoulade and pickled Shrimp,  Very tasty, crunchy coating and well cooked. The Crab Cakes were coated in Benne sitting on an Acorn Squash Puree topped with a light Curry Sauce.  The Crab Cakes were loaded with Crab and the unique Benne coating was crunchy and light the Curry Sauce created a great unexpected taste.

Shrimp and Grits
Famous Fried Chicken
Chicken and Dumplings
The main course was as Southern Home Cooking as possible.  Fried Chicken, Shrimp and Grits annd Chicken and Dumplings.  I picked the Fried Chicken because it is their specialty, the dish comes with Butter Beans and Voodoo Greens (Whatever they are they are good).  the Fried Chicken is dredged in Cornmeal and Fried in Leaf Lard, Ham Drippings and Clarified Butter.  Talk about a Fried Chicken with a great tasty crunchy crust and moist inside, this chicken was great.  By the way the half chicken is a very large serving so you can share.  The veggies that accompanied it were savory and dripping with all things fat and tasty.  My Colleagues had Shrimp and Grits and Chicken and Dumplings.  When I grew up one of my favorite dishes I would make with my mom was Chicken and Dumplings, I would take Campbell's Cream of Chicken Soup lots of white meat from a boiled chicken and dumplings made with Bisquick.  Big Jones does not use my recipe, theirs is really home made, their stock is not as creamy, their egg dumplings were not like the baseball size I used to make and the Chicken was accompanied with Butter Beans and Carrots.  Overall lighter than expected and worth trying.  Last but not least the Shrimp and Grits (which was my second choice looked great and my colleagues said it tasted great.  they said the shrimp was perfect and just a slight amount of heat to give it that Gulf Coast experience.
Sinful Dessert
If you feel full do not look at the dessert menu because you will definitely break down and partake, like we did.  We picked the home made butter pecan with donuts which was slathered with a whiskey syrup.  I try to avoid desserts but this one was fantastic just a lot of good flavors.
Next time you are in Chicago I would recommend if you want to try great Southern home cooking come to Big Jones

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Paper Dosa Santa Fe New Mexico

Chef Karuppasamy
Sunset In Santa Fe
Every now and then you need a change of scenery.  We decided to pack up the dogs and move to Santa Fe for 2 weeks.  Santa Fe is the oldest capital city in the US over 400 years old when it weas the capital of Northern Mexico.  It is at 7000 feet and has clean air and great weather patterns that change very quickly and create some awesome colors in the sky and against the hills.  On this trip we decided to do away with the more high end restaurants and go to the latest newer openings of highly regarded restaurants.  On one evening we went to Paper Dosa which features South India Cuisine.   Paper Dosa is outside the main Historic Santa Fe and sits in a small center off of Cordova Avenue.  The interior is larger and was light and open, you could see the kitchen from every table.

Dosa with Potato filling Sambar and Chutneys
Delicious Lamb Curry
Dosa is a fermented crepe made of rice batter and black lentils.  The Dosa is served with Sambar (Lentil Based Stew), coconut chutney and tomato chutney.  If you are a vegetarian or Vegan Paper Dosa has great dishes for you.  But along with the great choice of Dosa's you can also order Lamb, Prawn or Chicken Curry.  
We love Indian food so we took a sampling of the entire menu we got two Dosa's and Lamb curry.
A Dosa is served with a potato filling that has different flavor choices like Masala, White Truffle or Spinach and Fennel.
The Dosa is kind of a do it yourself burrito where you spoon out the flavored potato filling and add the Chutney's.  I broke pieces off of the Dosa and made it more of a Taco than a Burrito.  The Masala Potato stuffing had great heat and the chutneys provided a great cooling effect.  The Truffle filling was less hot but was filled with great flavor.  The Lamb Curry was tender and was packed with flavor and heat.  We definitely ordered too much for 3 people but I have to admit it gave us a great opportunity to sample this Southern Indian cuisine that was new to all of us.  Next time you are in Santa Fe make sure to stop by Paper Dosa.  

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Mamnoon Seattle

Baking Khubz

Mamnoon Means Thankful

We went to another great restaurant this week in Seattle's Capital Hill area Mamnoon.  This area has undergone a transformation with many new restaurants and stores, there was the largest Starbucks I had ever seen where they roast the coffee, have entertainment, serve sandwiches, almost half a block in size.
When we walked in the hostess had read my blog and talked to me about some of posts in NYC.  It was a great way to start the evening.

Mamnoon Story

Mamnoon is a recent James Beard Semi Finalist in the Northwest and features food from the Middle East.  What is unusual about this restaurant is that the owners are restaurant rookies, Wassef and Racha Haroun.  Wassef worked for Microsoft as a project manager before leaving and starting the restaurant with his wife.  The food reflects his childhood when he and his mother spent time in the kitchen preparing traditiona Syrian dishes. During the creation of the restaurant the Harouns bought in their family members to help their new chef Garrett Melkonian recreate the tastes and techniques they enjoyed growing up. The Harouns have been able to create an open vibrant venue with great food and an impressive following. The restaurant space is what I would call industrial warm with a large area for baking on your immediate right and tables interspersed all the way back to the kitchen pass area.  The bakery is an entertainment venue with the baker kneading, baking and checking the final product before it is brought out straight to the tables.

Our Meal To be Thankful For

The food centers around breads which includes Khubz, Labneh, vegetables and exotic spices which create great marinades and sauces.  Mamnoon drink selection  is a lot more fun than other restaurants.  Each of the drinks incorporates a middle eastern spice or fruit to differentiate from any other drink you would ever buy, there was even a drink with curry.
Shish Taouk
Mamnoon is the perfect restaurant to enjoy small sharing plates, that way no one misses out.   We started the meal with Breads and spreads both creamy Hummus and Bateresh.  The Bateresh was made from charred Eggplant, Labneh, Lamb Ragu and Pine Nuts a very hardy and savory spread for the Khubz.  What a great way to start the meal!  We then were treated to two different types of dumplings one more like an Empenada, the Sambusek which tasted savory from the Feta and sweet from the fig Marmalade and Pomegranate, yummy.  The other Kibbeh which was more of a fried torpedo looking cracked wheat dumpling filled with Beef served with Tarrator for dipping (most likely wher Tartar Sauce came from).

Some of our Favorites

The last four main course dishes were all excellent but very different.
Dolmeh which is prevalent in many countries in the Middle East and is a vine leaf wrap stuffed with aromatic rice and sauteed vegetables with a hint of mint presented in a sweet and sour sauce.  The Shish Taouk is a Chicken Shish Kebab.  Mamnoon's preparation was with large chunks of chicken breast that had substance while stil being moist full of flavorful spices and  lemon very delicious.  Turlu is a vegetarian dish which is a flaky Phyllo pie crust stuffed with Tomato, braised vegetables, Armenian rice, Coriander and Urfa Beiber for heat and a lemon and cilantro pesto which had a bitter tart bite.  This was my stand out dish of our evening it had so many complex tastes and each bite was a little crunch from the crust and the perfect combination of filling and spices. .
Black Cod
Colorful and Delicious Turlu
Our last entree was a perfect prepared dish, Samkeh Harra, Roasted Black Cod seasoned with Aleppo Chili and Garlic served with some crushed pine nuts to add texture with delicate blanched pieces of Napa Cabbage with Mint leaves.  The Black Cod which is my favorite fish was perfectly seasoned and cooked and the simple cabbage with the mint leaf was unique, simple and tasty.
We were treated to Mazaher which was served in a large white bowl it is a concert orange blossom snow (finer Snow Cone Ice), whipped Labneh, Citus Syrup and Honey.  You take your spoon to mix it together till is becomes more of a Gelato texture that is colored light orange by the honey and citrus syrup.  Everyone then dives in to eat it communally with a spoon.  It is a Middle Eastern version of the snow cone but sweeter.

Definite Must Go In Seattle

I would highly recommend a meal at Mamnoon, great unique food, good service and lots of fun.  Seattle has many great restaurants Mamnoon is definitely a great choice.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Il Buco Alimentari e Veneria

Beautiful Cured Meats
Il Buco is a Restaurant, Wine Bar and Market specializing in old world Italian food and drink.  David and I had a reservation and as luck would have it we got the two seater at the kitchen counter.  I do not think it was originally designed as a counter to eat at but we certainly enjoyed the location.  The team of chefs that is at Il Buco are definitely some of the best at their craft.  One area that Il Buco has focused on is their cured meat program.  I am a huge fan of cured meats so even though a little bit of a meal spoiler I could not resist the meat and cheese plate combined with their awesome bread and olive oil.  The problem with ordering this is that it tends to fill you up and in this case there were a lot more tastes to come.

Fortunately we ordered several small dishes that could be shared.  Our first dish was t\mushrooms that were sauteed in olive oil and garlic and served with Reggiano and alfalfa sprouts.  There were an assortment of mushrooms with different textures combined with the sharpness of the cheese and the tiny crunch of the sprouts the dish overall was very satisfying and unique.  Next compliments of the chef we had braised Quail quarters, cooked to perfection, moist savory and seasoned perfectly, a very nice holiday gift.

Now a little bit stuffed with two more small plates on the way it was time to buckle down and get the pallet ready for Bucatini Cacio e Pepe which is a thick spaghetti like noodle with a hole in the middle with Pecorino Romana and Black Pepper.  The pasta was cooked perfectly there was  heat from the black pepper and creaminess from the Sheep's Milk Cheese which made this a tasty dish.  Our last dish was a Veal Ragu with cherry tomatoes the Veal Sugo was cooked to perfection and left that nice rich coating on your tongue that lasted for hours.
Il Buco produces well made high quality Italian food, combined with helpfulness and passion from our Server Eric the evening was memorable and a good recommendation for great Italian Food!!

Tertulia the Gathering Place in NYC

Christmas Spirit at Tertulia
My buddy Tariq and I both love Spanish food especially Tapas. So when researching where the best tapas were served in NYC I kept on coming up with Chef Seamus Mullen's restaurant Tertulia. Located in the West Village Tertulia's look and feel is very
similar to many of the restaurants in that area.  When walking in, the bar is on the left near the front of the door and as you get by the folks either drinking or waiting for a table the restaurant opens up to 20 tables.  The kitchen open in the back so you get to see the food being prepared.  The best word to describe Tertulia is cozy.  I spent two weeks in Spain last year and got to really understand some of the great Spanish dishes that are served Tapas style.  At Tertulia there are a few menu items that have been taken from Southern Spain and transformed to more articulate dishes with flavor refinements, featuring ingredients and spices from Morocco.
Potata Bravas
Great Ale Cocktail
Tertulia has some great drink items one that I liked was ale cocktail with some bitters, lime and sharp sweet spices.  We started off with their version of Potatoes Brava, Nuestras Potatas which were more crisply deep fried potatoes and covered with a Pimenton Garlic Aioli.  We both liked the crispiness of the Potatoes and the Aioli provided some heat with bite from the garlic.  We also ordered the Coles de Bruselas, fried Brussels Sprouts with Sobrassada and Pork Belly bits with sheep's milk yogurt.  Over the last 2 years I have had many Brussels Sprout dishes the big differentiator was the fat from pork belly and the spice from the Sobrassada with a cooling effect from the yogurt.  One dish that can never be overdone because they consitently provide a good taste are the Pimentos de Padron.  Padron or Shishito peppers with just the right amount of sea salt.  These were cooked perfectly and seasoned with flaked sea salt that added a great salty crunch.
Moving on our final 2 dishes were both amazing, the Cordero al la Brasa, Grilled Lamb Belly with with marinated Eggplant and Garlic Labne.  I love any meat belly and the lamb belly was delicious with great fat to meat ratio that is savory, the eggplant provided a bite and was so good we wished we had more.
Simple Perfection
Lamb Belly
Finally one of the most simple but tasty dishes was the Broccoli.  Many of us growing up hated 3 things Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower and Broccoli.  Tonight we had 2 out of the 3 and the Broccoli dish although very simple looked fantastic.  It is simply a large Broccoli Floret with Lamb Bacon bits covered in a egg white that has been poached in olive oil to make it fluffy like a donut and savory like a fried egg.  It was topped off with some Manchego Cheese to give it a little bit of a creamy bite.
Tertulia is definitely on my list for great tapas in a cozy environment.  They provide a different style of food that is enhanced by Chef Mullen.