Friday, December 30, 2005

Beauty of Egg and Bacon

The yolk of an egg is probably the best, and easiest, "sauce" there is (which probably explains why I love Hollandaise and Bearnaise sauces so much). And bacon? I become Homer Simpson at the mere thought of smoky, crisp bacon. Here are some of my favorite non-breakfast meals using this dynamic food duo. They are everything except low calorie.

Cheater Pasta Carbonara:
Boil single serving of dry spaghetti (or capellini or linguine or fettucine) until al dente. Time these next steps so that they can be combined while the pasta is hot.

Cut three or four slices of bacon into small pieces (not too small as they will shrink) and pan-fry to desired crispness (I have a tendency to overcook, which turns them into bacon bits, which also is not bad but the dish is better if you can leave a little chewiness in the bacon pieces). Remove cooked bacon but leave the residual bacon fat in the pan (about 2-3 tablespoons). Add a generous pad of butter on low heat and fry an egg sunny side up.

Combine bacon and egg, including all of the butter and fat left in the pan, with the cooked, drained pasta. Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste. Zest a bit of lemon rind on top and shards of parmesan cheese (the real stuff please). A bit of chopped chives are good too. Break the yolk, mix, and eat!

Salad as an Entree:
Same steps as above for cooking egg* and bacon. In lieu of spaghetti, place them on bed of frisee lettuce. Drizzle balsamic vinaigrette. I also like to add chopped chives and/or cubed fresh tomato. A slice of toasted La Brea French Bread (see below) with butter and a glass of sauvignon blanc completes the meal.

*If you want to be more elegant, instead of frying the egg, poach it (3 inches of boiling water in a pan with white vinegar added; break egg into low bubbling water next to side of pan; cook for 3 minutes). Or if you don't want to bother with frying or poaching an egg, you can also boil it and chop it up.

Chef Thomas Keller's Sandwich:
If you rent the DVD of the Adam Sandler/Tea Leoni movie, Spanglish, the directions on how to make this sandwich are one of the special features. The movie was okay, but this sandwich is spectacular. It's basically a BLT with a fried egg but until you taste it, using the busted egg yolk as the sauce to dip the sandwich in as you eat, you won't fully understand how good it really is. I like to use La Brea Bakery French Bread (available, often hot, from Whole Foods, Molly Stone's, and other gourmet grocery stores) sliced into large sandwich size slices. Again fry the egg in the bacon fat leftover in the pan from cooking the bacon. Grill the bread and brush with melted butter if you want extra luxury (but if you use La Brea bread, the bread alone is so chewy and flavorful that just toasting is fine). Assemble sandwich with mayonnaise, cold iceberg lettuce, tomato slices, bacon slices, and slide egg in last. Cut in half and watch the egg yolk drizzle down the side of the sandwich halves. With a handful of Cape Cod potato chips* and a glass of champagne (in the movie, Adam Sandler who is playing a chef, has a beer with this sandwich), this is indeed the "World's Greatest Sandwich."

*This brand was recently discontinued from distribution in San Francisco. So I ordered No Kai Oi brand Maui style potato chips online.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Charlie Trotter's: A Diner's Dream

816 West Armitage
Chicago, IL 60614
(773)248-6228
Closed Sunday and Monday

Charlie Trotter's on Urbanspoon

Last tried: August 2007

Charlie Trotter's is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Its consistency in quality and standards over such a prolonged period of time is just as impressive as its always perfectly executed tasting menu that is constantly adapting and updating, incorporating new flavors and techniques, without ever veering too far from its classic French base. How reassuring and magnificent...

Previously tried: January 2007

The first time I dined at Charlie Trotter's was over ten years ago. As I contemplated returning this year, I must admit I was worried that Charlie Trotter's might have become like some other fine dining establishments where the reputation of the chef continues to lure diners but the quality is intermittent, if not a distant memory. My recent meal proved that my concerns were unfounded, despite the fact that Chef Trotter was not personally at the helm that evening (notwithstanding this deviation, I continue in my firm belief that the chef's presence in the kitchen makes a difference-- I have been disappointed too many times with the quality of the food when the chef is absent, which has occurred even during the course of a single meal. Once the chef has left the building, the finesse also retires for the evening, and the quality of subsequent courses drastically diminishes). The fact that my meal was so magnificent made me wonder exactly how much of a perfectionist Chef Trotter must be that his kitchen functions at this level even in his absence.

The restaurant was as elegantly appointed as I remembered, with comfortably sized tables that were strategically spaced to create spacious yet romantic dining areas (I was seated in the upstairs mezzanine on this visit), resulting in a quietly animated atmosphere. I felt all of the stress of the day melting away as I reclined into the cushiony upholstered seat and perused the menu and the thick binder of wines.

The first course brought to the table was Tasmanian ocean trout poached in olive oil, sitting atop a yin-yang design of hijiki (seaweed) puree and parsnip puree. The fish looked and tasted like the freshest salmon sashimi, except softer and somewhat saltier, and the flavors imparted by the two purees were delicate and delicious. With it, I enjoyed an Alsatian Riesling, 2001 Rosenbourg Domain Paul Blanck, from the restaurant's extensive list of wines by the glass.

Next came a rectangular platter composed of slices of bright red tuna sashimi, bright yellow uni, and opaque succulent sweet mussels, interwoven with white strands of raw coconut in the shape and texture of freshly made spaghetti. Vibrantly green and white blanched tender bok choy and drizzles of mustard-colored curry sauce were placed across the platter, with a sesame tuile perched in the center, on top of a quenelle of beige-pink shellfish puree. The dish looked like a Jackson Pollack painting, with all of these different colors, flavors, and textures slashed and draped across the plate. Yet each element complemented and highlighted all of the various flavors, unifying the dish into a satisfying and thoroughly modern taste. I had heard that Charlie Trotter had recently gotten into the raw food movement. Instead of the bland flavors I had previously experienced in raw food offerings, Chef Trotter's kitchen skillfully blended the clean elements of raw food with sashimi quality seafood and flawlessly cooked vegetables, utilizing French and Asian techniques. This is what fusion cooking aspires to be.

The next course still retained the lightness of seafood in the form of cooked hamachi but with added dimensions of richness. By virtue of cooking the fish, the hamachi had become meatier in taste and texture, similar to swordfish, which complemented the crisp yet chewy pieces of shredded pork on top and the sweet potato ravioli and leek puree underneath. The surrounding valencia orange foam tied everything together masterfully. The sommelier's recommendation, the 2000 Domaine Jean Grivot Vosne-Romanee, matched perfectly with this dish, as well as with the remaining savory courses.

Elevating the intensity of flavors, the next dish was rabbit with chewy wheatberries, braised escarole, and pickled dried chanterelle mushrooms, all bathed in thyme consomme. The rabbit was as supple and tender as poached chicken, and having absorbed the thyme consomme, it was resplendent. I had also noticed that on every dish, there were tiny piquant greens perched on top. Upon inquiring as to what they were, I was informed that they were different micro-herbs that Chef Trotter had specially grown for him.

The next course was squab with beets and mushrooms presented three ways. The beets and mushrooms were sliced, pureed (garlic, cumin, and rosemary), and fried like potato chips. The squab was tender and flavorful, and mixing and matching with the different mushrooms and beets was fun as well as tasty.

The last savory course, bison with blood sausage sauce, surrounded by sweetbread, white beans, trumpet mushrooms, brussel sprouts, and huckleberries, was the only composition that I felt was not quite as finely tuned as the previous dishes. Although still a lovely preparation, this one plateaued from the lofty expectations that the rest of the menu kept raising with each course. The brussel sprouts and huckleberries blurred together without distinction, and the sweetbread was lost among the white beans, mushrooms, and blood sausage sauce. Nonetheless, each of the elements separately were perfectly prepared, especially the bison which almost did not require the use of a knife.

With the desserts, the excellence returned, particularly the panna cotta topped with wild grape jelly. The thin layer of tart jelly was an excellent contrast to the eggy, sweet custard. I finished the entire bowl in less than thirty seconds. (I raved about it so much that one of the servers brought me an extra one-- unfortunately I was too full by this point and had to turn it down.) I was also quite impressed by the transition dish, served after the savory courses and before desserts. It was a unique take on the traditional prosciutto with melon-- balls of melon sorbet sprinkled with tiny bits of fried lardons and garnished with tiny mint leaves from Chef Trotter's miniature herb garden. The last dessert was roasted fig glazed with a merlot reduction, on top of a spicy chocolate cream mixed with bits of crushed toffee and garnished with mini-rosemary. As full as I was, I could not resist from polishing off every bite. There is a reason that every trip I make to Chicago, I make a point to free up an evening to get up to Lincoln Park.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Campton Place: Farewell to Chef Daniel Humm

340 Stockton Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
Current Chef Peter Rudolph (formerly Navio)
(415)781-5555

Last tried: December 2005

As soon as I heard that Daniel Humm was leaving Campton Place to head up a restaurant* in Manhattan, my first thought was, "Wait! You were just getting interesting. You can't leave now!" I had tried Campton Place twice previously during his tenure, and each time I thought that his cuisine, although rough in some spots, held the promise of something great. Which led directly to my second thought-- to get a reservation one more time before he leaves, anticipating that I will have to pay even more to taste his cooking in New York. I was able to squeeze into Campton Place the week before Christmas and had the chef's tasting menu with wine pairing:

The meal started with an amuse consisting of an array of single bite tastes: Raw oyster with sweet mignonette sauce, Grilled monterey sardine, Goat cheese Neapolitan, Savory puff pastry with cream, Layered salmon terrine square, Big eye tuna and halibut sashimi sandwich with dill, and a tempura fried green vegetable (unidentified). Of these, I had the savory puff and the big eye tuna. The fish was not quite fresh enough and the dill was overpowering, but the savory puff was sublime in both flavor and texture.

The first course was a cold nage of wellfleet oysters in cream sauce with tapioca, sprinkled with red pepper powder. The cream was a little overwhelming but the oysters were fresh and succulent.

  • Krug brut 1990 (unfortunately oxidized)

Next came Foie gras creme brulee. I could not decide whether this dish was too salty or too sweet. In any event, it gets the "Most Interesting Dish" award.

The rich and intense flavors of the foie gras brulee were cleansed by the next dish, Osetra caviar two ways: (1) on top of scallops in sea urchin foam, served in a scallop shell; (2) on top of scallops surrounded by cucumber. I love sea urchin. I love scallops. And I can never get enough caviar. But here, it seemed the specialness of each ingredient was somehow subordinated in the combinations. Nonetheless, this was a nicely executed presentation.

  • Dewazakura, Dewasansan Nama Genshu Junmai Ginjo Sake, Yamagata Prefecture (delicate and fragrant but got lost in the pairing)

The next course was a ceviche of lobster, scallops, and clam with blood orange and fennel. The blood orange was a bit too sweet, and the citrus juices fought with the seafood a bit. This was still a clean and refreshing dish.

  • Livio Felluga, Terre alte, Colli Orientali del Friuli 2002 (crisp and fruity)

Then the menu veered back to richness with a stick of foie gras terrine underneath a buttery gaufrette, accompanied by butternut squash butter and cranberry compote, and a large slice of toasted brioche.

  • Chateau Raymond-Lafon Sauternes 1986 (also oxidized)

Next came a steamed tube of dover sole with a caramelized strip of parmesan cheese on top, accompanied by a leek and cream "salad" and a quenelle of truffle potato mousse. The sole was a bit rubbery but the leeks were tender and melted in my mouth. The truffled potato was what you'd expect-- two perfectly yummy things mashed together to create a tasty treat.

  • Chenin Blanc, Huet, Le Mont, Moelleux, Vouvray 2002 (pretty wine)

The next course was DIVINE: Herbed pasta layered with lobster, in a sauce that tasted like heavenly lobster bisque, with shaved white truffles. The white truffles worked their magic on the tender morsels of lobster in the velvety sauce, which complemented the herbed ribbons of pasta as though they were soul mates.

  • Aloxe Corton, Corton-Charlemagne, Grand Cru 2002 (this was my favorite wine of the evening)

The last savory course was Chartreuse of Berkshire pork with black truffles. The pork was steamed, wrapped in spinach, and topped with crisp pieces of Berkshire bacon-- those were yummy bits of salty crunchiness. The black truffle sauce tied the dish together quite well.

  • Les Vins de Vienne, Saint Joseph, Northern Rhone 2001 (best wine pairing of the evening; perfect complement to the pork and the truffles)

I did not try the andante dairy goat cheese that came next because I have not yet acquired a taste for goat cheese, but others seemed to enjoy it.

  • Manzanilla Sherry, Emilio Lustau, Papirusa Sanlucar de Barrameda (personal preference-- not crazy about sherry, particularly those as high alcohol as this one)

Next came a palate cleanser-- a cold foamy jasmine orange granita/tea cappucino. The cool sweetness definitely served to cleanse the palate but I found the jasmine orange to be kind of soapy in taste.

The desserts included a pear fondant with rooibos sorbet, valrhona chocolate pastilla topped with orange guajillo confit (tasted like sweet chocolate egg rolls-- yes, they were that good), and fried beignets the size of small donut holes, dusted with granulated sugar. The beignets were my favorite sweet of the evening.

  • Kiralyudvar, Cuvee Hona, 5 Puttonyos, Aszu, Tokaj 1999 (did not taste as sweet as I would have expected for 5; the orange flavors were balanced and pretty)

At times I found the wine pairing to be a bit on the weak side, both in terms of the wines individually and in matching. While the pacing dragged somewhat, the overall cadence of the menu was delightful. The courses were elegant and presented a pleasant array of different tastes. As I was leaving with my complementary box of homemade candy and nuts, I was glad that I had gotten to try Campton Place one more time. I believe Chef Humm will do great things in his career and wish him well in New York.

*Eleven Madison Park

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Places I've Eaten in Southern California

Places I would go back to eat
*Closed

Amandine
Animal
Arterra
Bann
Bastide*
Bay Cities
Beverly Glen Deli
BLD
Bob's Big Boy
Cafe Pinot
California Pizza Kitchen
Carnegie Deli*
Carney's
Chasen's*
Checker's
Cheesecake Factory
China Grill Bistro
Chin Chin
El Cholo
Chosun Galbi
Cut
Daikokuya
Daily Grill
The Dragon
Engine Co. No. 28
Encounter Restaurant
Fab's
Father's Office
Freddy Small's (Parker)
Il Fornaio
Gladstone's
Hatfield's
Houston's
Humphrey Yogart
Island's
The Ivy
Jacopo's*
Jer-ne
Jerry's Deli
Jon & Vinny's
Kate Mantilini*
Koi Restaurant
Langer's Deli
Larry Parker's Diner*
Lawry's Prime Rib
Louise's
Maple Drive*
Melisse
Miceli's
Nate'n Al's Delicatessen
Nibbler's*
Nick's
Nick & Stef's
Noshi Sushi
Nozawa Bar
Numero Uno
Pacific Dining Car
Pinkberry
Pink's
Pizzeria Mozza
Providence
Red Mango
RJ's Rib Joint
Rustic Canyon
Ruth's Chris Steak House
Shik Do Rak
Spago
Stan's Doughnuts
Stepps*
Trader Vic's
Urasawa
Vivace
Water Grill
Woo Lae Oak*

Places I've Eaten in the Washington D.C. Area

Places I would go back to eat
*Closed

2941 (Bryan)
2 Amys
Au bon pain
Ben's Chili Bowl
Brasserie Les Halles*
Breadline
Capital City Brewing
Capital Grille
Central
Chef Geoff's
Chopt
CityZen* (Ziebold)
Citronelle*
Clyde's
Corduroy
District Chophouse
Ella's Wood Fired Pizza
Estadio
Etto
Fiola
Galileo*
Haad Thai
Hill Country
Jaleo
Johnny's Half Shell
KOMI
Kushi Izakaya*
Laboratorio del Galileo*
Lima
Little Serow
Mandu
Minibar
Momofuku CCDC
Old Ebbitt Grill
Osteria Bibiana
Pho 75
Proof
Rasika
Restaurant Eve
Rose's Luxury
Shake Shack
Sushiko
Sushi Taro
Source
Teaism
TenPenh
Toki Underground
Vidalia

Places I've Eaten in the San Francisco Bay Area

Places I would go back to eat
(places in wine country listed separately)
*Closed

1550 Hyde*
1601 Bar & Kitchen
1760 Polk
231 Ellsworth*
(415)*
42 Degrees*
4505 Burgers & BBQ
A16 (Hille; Appleman; Manescalchi)
Absinthe (Lauren)
Ace of Sandwiches
Ace Wasabi
Acme Chophouse*
Acquerello
Agave
Ajisen
Alexander's Steakhouse
Alfred's (Parker)
Alta
Alta Plaza*
Amber India
Ame* (Dunmore)
Amici's
L'Amie Donia*
Andalu*
Antica Trattoria*
A.P. Stump's*
Aqua* (Mina; Manrique)
Arguello Market
Asia de Cuba*
Asian Box
Aster (Cooper)
Asuka Ramen*
Aziza*
Azie*
Babu Ji
Bacar*
Balboa Cafe
Baker Street Bistro
Bakesale Betty
Bar Agricole (Jew)
Bar Crudo
Basil
Baume
Bella Luna*
Beauty's Bagel Shop
Benu
Betelnut*
BFD
Bi-Rite
Birk's
Bissap Baobab
Bistro Elan
Bistro Vida
Bistro Yoffi*
Bix
Bizou*
Blue Chalk*
Boboquivari's
Bob's Steak and Chop House
Boca
Bocadillos*
Bocce Cafe
Bodega Bistro
La Bodeguita del Medio
Bon Marche
Bong Su*
Boulevard
Bourbon Steak*
Boriana
Box and Bells*
B. Patisserie
b on the go
Brandy Ho's
Brazen Head
Brenda's
Brenda's Meat and Three
Brick*
Brother's
Buca di Beppo
Buckeye Roadhouse
Bourbon Steak*
Burgermeister
Burrito Real
Bushi-Tei* (Wakabayashi)
Bywater
Cafe de la Presse (Manrique)
Cafe des Amis*
Cafe Kati*
Cafe Majestic*
Cafe Niebaum-Coppola*
Cafe Rigolo
Caffe Delle Stelle
Caffe Riace
Caffe Sport
Cala
California Cafe
California Pizza Kitchen
California Street Deli*
Californios (Cantu)
Campton Place (Humm)
Candybar* (Portnoy)
Canteen*
CAV Wine Bar* (Mullen)
Celia's
Cha Cha Cha
Chantilly*
Charles Nob Hill* (Siegel)
Le Charm
Chaya Brasserie
Cheesecake Factory
Chef Chu's
Chevy's*
Cheung Hing
Chez Nous*
Chez Panisse Cafe
Chez Papa
Chez TJ (Skenes; Kostow)
Citizen Cake*
Citizen Thai and the Monkey*
City Tavern*
Clown Alley*
C and L Steakhouse*
Coco500*
Coi (Patterson)
Colibri
Commis
Commonwealth
Compadres*
Contigo
The Cookbook*
Cortez* (Hatfields; Maldonado; Puccio)
Cotogna
The Counter
Cozmo's*
Crepes A-Go-Go*
Crepes Factory*
Crescent Park Grill*
Crossroads Cafe
Curbside Cafe
Cypress Room*
Dad's Luncheonette
Daily Grill
Dashi
Delfina
Delica rf-1
Dino's
Doidge's*
Donato's
Dosa
Dottie's True Blue Cafe
Dutch Goose
E'Angelo*
East Coast West Deli
Eastside West*
Ebisu
Elisabeth Daniel*
Elite Cafe
Eliza's
Empire Tap Room*
Emporio Rulli Caffe
Enrico's*
Epic Roasthouse
E and O Trading Company
Evvia
Extreme Pizza
Farallon
Farmer Brown
Fifth Floor* (Morrone; Gras; Perello; Lorenzo)
Fillmore Grill*
Fior d'Italia
Firefly
First Crush*
Fish and Farm (Morrone)
Five
The Fish Market
Fleming's
Fleur de Lys*
Florio
Flour + Water
Flying Pan Bistro*
Fog City Diner (Hill)
Fogon*
La Folie
Foreign Cinema
Il Fornaio
Frances
Fresh Taste
Fringale (Hirigoyen)
Frisson* (Patterson; Schafer)
Front Porch
The Front Room
Fuki Sushi
Fuzio
Galette*
Gambardella's*
Garibaldi's
Gary Danko
The Gatehouse*
Golden Gate Bakery
Golden Horse
Golden Star
Gordon Biersch
Gourmet Carousel
Green's
Guayma's
Halal Guys
Halu Izakaya
Harry's
Hawker Fare
Hawthorne Lane*
Heaven's Dog*
Hayes Street Grill
Higashi West*
Himawari
Hime*
Hobee's
Hog Island Oyster Company
Hong Kong Flower Lounge*
Hopscotch
House
House of Prime Rib
Howie's Pizza
Hyde Street Bistro*
Hunan
i Fratelli*
Ichi Sushi + Ni Bar
Incanto*
Indigo
Ino Sushi*
In Situ
Iroha*
Ippuku
Isa
Izayaka Rintaro
Izzy's
Jackson Fillmore
Jai Yun*
Janta
Jardiniere
Jeffrey's Hamburgers
Jing Jing
Jitlada
Jocco's*
John Bentley's
John Frank*
Joya
Julie's Supper Club*
Ju-Ni
Junnoon*
Kabuto Sushi
Kappa
Kasa
Katana-ya
Kaygetsu*
Keiko a Nob Hill
Kelly's Mission Rock
Ken Ken Ramen
Kinjo
Kin Khao (Gaines)
Kirk's*
Kiss
Kitchenette*
Koi Palace
Kokkari
Kuleto's
Kusakabe
Kyo-ya
Laiola* (Denham)
Lark Creek Steak*
Lavanda*
Lazy Bear (pop-up)
Left at Albuquerque*
Left Bank
Lers Ros
Les Clos* (Gawle)
Let's Be Frank
Lettus*
Liholiho Yacht Club
Limon
Little Gem
Little Skillet (Ciscle)
Locanda
The Lucky Penny
Luella*
Lulu's*
Lux*
MacArthur Park
Madera
Mamacita
Mandalay
Mandarin Gourmet*
Mangosteen
Manresa
Mantra
Marche*
Marla Bakery
Marlowe
MaruIchi
Maruya
Masa's* (Short)
Max's Opera Cafe
Maya*
Mayfield Bakery
mc2*
Mecca*
La Mar Cebicheria Peruana
La Mediterranee
Meetinghouse*
Mel's
Memphis Minnie's
Mensho Tokyo Ramen
Mercedes
Michael Mina* (Lloyd; L'Hommedieu)
Michael Mina 2.0 (MinaSiegel)
Mijita
Mike's
Mina Test Kitchen (Bhasin)
Ming's
Mission Chinese Food
Mister Jiu's
Mitsunoubu
Mixt Greens
Miyake*
MoMo's
Monsieur Benjamin
Moose's*
The Morris
Moss Beach Distillery
Mosu* (Anh)
Mourad
Mozzarella di Bufala*
Myth* (O'Brien)
Naked Lunch
Nami Nami
Namu Gaji
Naomi Sushi
Nation's
Nectar Wine Lounge (Moniz)
Nick's Crispy Tacos
Nico
Nightbird
Nojo*
Nola
Nombe*
Nopa
El Norteno
North Beach Pizza
Oak & Rye
Oasis
Oaxaca*
Oaxacan Kitchen*
Octavia
O Izakaya
Okina Sushi
Old Chelsea
Old Port Lobster Shack
Old Pro's
Oliveto
Omakase
One Market (Morrone; Abu SbaitanDommen)
Oola
Oritalia*
Orson*
Osaka*
Osteria
Ozumo
Palace
Pabu
Pabu Ramen Bar
Palio d'Asti
Palomino
Pampas
Pane e Vino
Paragon
Parcel 104
Park Tavern
Pasand*
El Paseo*
Pasta?*
Pasta Pomodoro
Pastis*
Pauli's*
Pearl's Phatburgers
Peninsula Creamery
Perbacco
Perry's
Le Petit Robert
P.F. Chang's
Pho Vi Hoa
Piatti
Piccadilly Fish and Chips
Piccino
Picco
Piperade
Pisces*
Pizza Chicago
Pizzaiolo
Pizza My Heart
Pizzeria Delfina
Pizzeria Picco
Pizzetta 211
Plouf
Plow
Plum* (Alter)
PlumpJack Cafe* (Syhabout)
Poisson Japonais*
Popson's
Postrio*
Prego
Primavera
The Progress
Prospect (Kapur)
Pyzano's* (Gemignani)
Quattro
Quince
El Raigon*
Ramen Club
Ramen Halu
Ramen House Ryowa
Ramen Shop
Ramen Yamadaya
Ramona's*
Rangoon
Red Mango*
Redwood Park*
The Refuge
Regalito Rosticeria
Rich Table
Ristorante Bonta*
Ritz Carlton Dining Room* (Siegel)
R and G Lounge
Roam
Robin
RoliRoti
Rosamunde Sausage Grill
Rose Pistola*
Roxanne's*
RN74 (Berthold)
Rubicon*
Rutherford Grill
Ruth's Chris
RTB Fillmore
Saigon Sandwiches
Saison
Sakae Sushi
Salt House
Sam's Anchor Cafe
Sam Wo
San Tung
Santa Ramen
San Wang
Sawa Sushi
Scoma's
Scott Howard*
Scott's Seafood*
Seasons*
Sebo*
Sentinel
Seven Hills
Shan Dong
Shanghai 1930*
Shanghai House
Shiok
Silk's* (Huff)
Shirohige Ramen*
Shorty Goldstein's
Skipjack*
Slanted Door
Smitten
Sociale
Soif
Sons and Daughters
Sorrel
Spago Palo Alto*
Spalti's
SPQR (Appleman; Accarrino)
Spruce
Star's*
State Bird Provisions
Station 1 (Freitas)
Stella Pastry Caffe
St. Michael's Alley
St. Vincent*
La Strada
Straits Cafe
Sundance
Sunday Bird
Super Duper
Suraj
Sushi Groove
Sushi House
Sushi Ran
Sushi Sam's Edomata
Sushi Tomi
Sutro's (Morrone)
Swan Oyster Depot
La Table*
La Tacqueria
Tadich Grill
Tai Pan
Tamarine
Tandoori Mahal
Tarragon
Tartare*
Taxi's*
Taylor's Refresher
Ten-Ichi
Terrone
Terzo
Thai Stick
Thepthai Thai*
Thirsty Bear
Three Brothers
Three Seasons
Ti Couz*
Tommy's
Tommy Toy's*
El Tonayense Taco Truck
Tonga Room
Ton Kiang
Tony's Pizza Napoletana
La Toscana
Town Hall (Morales)
Trader Vic's
Trellis
Tres Agaves
Turtle Tower
Two*
Tzar Nicoulai*
Umami
Umami Burger
Una Pizza Napoletana
Universal Cafe
Venticello
Via Veneto
Village Pub
Viognier
Vivande Porta Via*
Wakuriya
Waraku
Washington Square Bar and Grill*
Watami
Waterfront (Hill)
Wayfare Tavern
What's Up Dog
Wild Hare*
Wing Wings*
Winterland*
Wise Sons
Woodhouse Fish Company
Woodward's Garden*
Yank Sing
Yee's
Yoshida Ya*
Yuzu*
Yuzuki
Za Pizza
Zao's
Zare
Zazang
Zero Zero
Zibibbo*
Le Zinc
Zinnia*
Zott's
Zuni Cafe
Z&Y

Places I've Eaten in New York

Places I would go back to eat
*Closed

15 East (Shimizu)
57*
99-Cent Pizza
Alain Ducasse Essex House*
Alto
Apiary (Bryan)
L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon*
Atera (Lightner)
Bar Americain
Babbo
Bar Boulud
Bar Masa
Beard Papa
Le Bernardin
Blanca
Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken
Boathouse
Bouley*
Brooklyn Fare
BXL Cafe
Cafe Boulud
Cafe Gray*
Cafe Un Deux Trois
Calvisius Lounge*
Carnegie Deli*
Caviar Russe
China Grill
Contra
Corcoran Soba
Cosme
La Cote Basque*
Cucina*
Craft
Danji
db Bistro Moderne
Degustation
Del Posto (LadnerHeadley)
Eleven Madison Park (Humm)
Eli's Deli
Elm*
Ess-a Bagels*
Gabriel Kreuther
Gordon Ramsay at the London*
Grand Central Oyster Bar
Gray's Papaya
Hakata Tonton
Hallo Berlin Sausage Cart
H and H Bagels*
Hearth
Hole in One
Honmura An*
Ippudo
Ichimura (Ichimura)
Judson's Grill*
Kati Roll
Katz's
Kuruma Zushi
Kwik Meal
Le Turtle
Lincoln (Benno)
Lowlife*
Marea
Masa
Megu
MIMI (Johnson)
Minetta Tavern
Mr. Taka
The Modern (Kreuther)
Momofuku (Noodle and Ssam)
Momofuku Ko (Grey)
Morimoto
Nobu
Noreetuh
Norma's
Oiji
Ouest
Peacock Alley
Perry Street
Per Se (Benno)
Petrossian
Porchetta*
Prune
El Quinto Pino
Ray's
Restaurant Daniel
Restaurant Jean Georges
Roberta's
Sadelle's
Sakagura
Sasabune
Satsuki
Shake Shack
Sorella (Hearst)
Soto
Sugiyama*
Superiority Burger
Sushi of Gari
Sushi Yasuda (Yasuda)
Sushi Zen*
Tempura Matsui (Matsui)
Ushiwakamaru
Vong*
V Steakhouse*
WD-50*
Yakitori Tori Shin
Yakitori Totto
Yopparai

Places I've Eaten in Chicago

Places I would go back to eat
*Closed

Alinea
Al's Italian Beef
Ambria*
Ann Sather
Avanzare*
Ben Pao*
Berghoff*
Billy Goat Tavern
Bice*
Bistro 110*
Blackhawk Lodge*
Blackbird
Blue Mesa*
Brasserie Jo*
Charlie Trotter's*
Cheesecake Factory
Chicago Chop House
Coast Sushi
Coco Pazzo
Le Colonial
Dick's Last Resort
Eli's
Frontera Grill/Topolobampo
Geja's
Gene & Georgetti
Gino's East
Giordano's
Gordon*
Green Dolphin Street
Hatsuhana*
Hot Doug's*
Hubbard Street Grill*
Kiki's Bistro
Kinzie Chophouse
Lawry's Prime Rib
L2O (Gras)
Lou Mitchell's
Maggiano's*
Marche*
Matsuya
Mia Francesca*
Morton's
Moto* (Cantu)
Mrs. Park's Tavern
Nookie's
Pane Caldo
Papagus*
Pizzeria Uno
Printer's Row
Rosebud
Sai Cafe
Scoozi*
Shaw's Crab House
Spago*
Spiaggia
Spruce*
Starfish*
Sweets & Savories*
Szechwan Restaurant*
Toast*
Topo Gigio
Tru (Tramonto)
Tucci Benucch*
Tucci Milan*
West Egg
Wildfire
Yoshi's Cafe

Monday, December 19, 2005

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies Improved by Stubbornness

In law school, I lived off ice cream, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and takeout pizza. The only thing I knew how to make were chocolate chip cookies, so I made them over and over and over. (Actually back in college when I was trying to bake them, a friend groaned, "oh no, you're not making chocolate chip cookies again, are you?" as he walked into the kitchen. Those were fighting words, and I learned how to make chocolate chip cookies just to spite him even though back then I couldn't even make a bowl of toast.)

Whisk together 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 2 teaspoons salt.

Blend 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1 cup packed light brown sugar, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, 2 eggs until smooth

Mix dry and wet mixtures together. Add about 2 cups (12-ounce package) chocolate chips (semi-sweet, milk, swirl, peanut butter, whatever) then refrigerate dough for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees for at least 30 minutes. Drop spoonfuls of dough about 2 inches apart on cookie sheet, and bake for 10-12 minutes. Do NOT let them brown at all. Take them out when they still look somewhat raw but have taken cookie shape (i.e., does not look like melting dough). Try not to eat them for at least 2 hours (they are actually the best the next day).

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Easy Homemade Chicken Soup

I make this soup when it's cold, when I have a cold, or when I'm feeling too lazy to go out or cook (yes, technically this involves cooking but really is not much more complicated than heating a can of soup and tastes so much better).

1 chicken breast (frozen or fresh)
3 carrots
1 russet potato
1 small white onion
3-4 stalks celery
1/4 cup white wine
1/8 tsp. basil
1/8 tsp. thyme
1 bay leaf
about 3 or 4 cans of chicken stock (enough to cover ingredients)

Chop everything (except chicken breast) into bite size pieces (not too small as they shrink after cooking). Dump in chicken breast (add another chicken breast if you like more meat in your soup), add white wine, cover with chicken stock (I use Swanson's, which is available at Costco in cases), drop in bay leaf, and bring to boil then simmer until all of the vegetables are soft (about 45 minutes). Pull out chicken breast and shred meat with forks then return to soup. Add herbs and salt and pepper to taste. You can add noodles at the end, although I find that they get soggy if you are making this quantity (enough for leftovers to reheat on the stove or in the microwave). You can also add whatever vegetables you like. The ones listed here are just the ones I like. Same with herbs. Sprinkle in whatever you like or whatever smells good. Since dried herbs are not anywhere near as pungent as fresh ones, they are really convenient for this soup (and you can get rid of some of those herbs that have been sitting around in your cupboard longer than you would ever admit to anyone else). Smell, add, taste, change, repeat (or not). You can also omit the chicken breast, add some broccoli, a little cream (or not), and then puree with a hand blender, and get a richer, creamy version (don't add noodles if you do this).

Cortez Take 2

550 Geary Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415)292-6360
Dinner nightly

Last tried: June 2007

Cortez had closed for a few weeks to be remodeled. Although I did not notice anything new in the decor, I saw that the menu had been restyled to turn half-- the half with the more interesting proteins-- into full size plates. With my short attention span, I missed the greater variety of small plates from the previous menu. I also found that the individual components of the dishes did not come together as cohesively as before. For example, the sweetbreads and Monterey squid were each beautifully prepared, but the combination was odd, and the romesco sauce was a jarring addition.

I miss the original incarnation.


Previously tried: December 2005

Apparently Chefs Quinn and Karen Hatfield have gone back to Los Angeles. The new executive chef is the former sous chef, Louis Moldinado. Has this change affected the quality of the innovative small plate cuisine of Cortez? I can't decide...

The cream of cauliflower soup shots were sweet, rich, and delicious. The featured crudo was hamachi with sweet pink grapefruit wedges and a citrus vinaigrette. The fish was fresh and creamy in texture and matched quite well with the citrus.

Next we had the warm octopus salad, which still had the yummy hearts of palm that added a slightly vinegary and crunchy accent, but this time it was resting on a bed of red wine olive fennel puree instead of wild salad greens with garlic foam. This version was richer and more filling but not as refined or flavorful as the previous version.

My favorite dish, the Cortez BLT, was absent from the menu this time. We ordered the pork tortellini with mushrooms instead. The pasta was cooked precisely al dente, and the mushrooms were large, tender, and flavorful, matching well with the brown butter sauce. The pork element of the dish, however, was missing in action. The last savory dish we had, the duck breast with Michigan cherries on a bed of pureed salsify, was cooked perfectly with crispy skin and the meat a moist medium rare. To close, we had the greek yogurt panna cotta, with grapefruit wedges and a candied lemon slice.

We also received complimentary two sticks of chocolate hazelnut homemade "Kit Kats." I tried to convince the restaurant to sell me a box of them. Our server said those homemade Kit Kats were the reason why he worked there. I believe him. Wonder if they'll give me a job.

This was our fourth visit to Cortez, and the first time without the Chefs Hatfield. I thought the flavors in the dishes were not as well-articulated as on previous visits, just richer with more liberal use of cream and butter. But was it just this visit or is it a sign of things to come? Will need to go back again to investigate further.

Ambivalent About Momofuku

First, am I the only person who thinks "Momofuku" does not mean Lucky Peach or refer to the name of some obscure ramen person from...