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2007-03-31

>kung pao frog

There are plenty of Chinese items on the menu at "Nyonya" Malaysian restaurant in New York, since Nonya is a mix of Chinese and Malay cuisines. According to MalaysianFood.net, "These early Chinese settlers wed local Malay brides and gave rise to the first generation of mixed Chinese-Malays known as Peranakan, the male being known as Baba and the female as Nyonya, pronounced nyoh-nyah and sometimes spelt Nonya."

I thought about ordering something like the following, but I ended up having other dishes. I will mention these some other time.

>Sauteed frog with kung pao sauce

Next to this item were four Chinese characters.

Kung - palace,
Pao - support, guarantee, guard, maintain
Tian - field
Ji - chicken

"Palace guard field chicken", in other words, kung pao frog. I love whimsical Chinese food names.

<-- picture by disneymike shows kung pao chicken (not frog!) at Earthen in Hacienda Heights, California

>kinmedai the Golden Eye

One more tai...
You can't leave out a favorite of sashimi lovers everywhere.

kin (gold) + me (eye) +
tai = kinmedai

The golden eye snapper, latin name Beryx splendens.
Notice the glassy eye appearance of kinmedai which is normal, unlike this guy <--

Actually, "golden eye snapper" makes a pretty appealing English name, so "kinmedai" may not catch on. Many Japanese restaurants in this country do serve kinmedai, including Morimoto in New York.

>juniper marshmallow

Tasting menu at WD-50, course #11

>Coffee cake, ricotta, maraschino, chicory ice cream

To think chicory is (used to be?) poor man's coffee.
C
hicory ice cream can be absolutely yummy, as was here.

Cherry was done multiple ways on this plate. A tiny dollop of colorless transparent maraschino cherry gel, a small disc of red dried cherry, a bit of red cherry jam, and cherry sprinkles.

A dollop of ricotta, and coffee cake hiding in a dark coffee jelly cube.

Wine pairing
Commanderia St. John NV (Lemesos, Cyprus)

Mignardises

>Juniper marshmallow, lime sugar
photo by nanaenay

***
Valiant effort this evening by
Chef Wylie Dufresne
Pastry chef Alex Stupak
Sous chef Kevin Heston




2007-03-30

>baked decaf espresso almond chocolate soil

Tasting menu at WD-50, course #10

>Soft chocolate, avocado, licorice, lime

A quenelle of lime sorbet was the tastiest thing on this busy plate.

Soft brown chocolate "stem" of this writhing beanstalk-y creature had obviously been cut from a bigger chocolate block, then twisted. It had soft Nutella consistency, so it could have been squeezed through a square tube like pasta?

The cream colored shards of "leaves" were made with white chocolate, and had strong yuzu-y accent. Avocado and mint gelee droplets decorated the plate, and a licorice comet-like streak divided the plate neatly in half. I have no idea what that was about.

Of course every writhing chocolate stalk needs a bit of soil to grow on, and there it was, looking like discarded coffee grounds. Decaf espresso coffee, powdered chocolate, almond flour and brown sugar were baked together, crumbled and piled into a little mound.

Rich dirt indeed.

Wine pairing

Albana Passito 'Frutto Proibito' Fattoria Paradiso 2003 (Romagna, Italy)

>elderflower

Tasting menu at WD-50, course #9

>Black currant parfait, green tea, elderflower

Elderflower's elegant perfume was showcased as a big dollop of ethereal foam. But its muted flavor didn't have a chance against the dark bold punches of green tea powder and black currant. The parfait was smooth, creamy, custardy. Nice. Instead of added lychees though, I might have liked to see elderberries, too, which can be poisonous when uncooked, but wonderful made into jelly or wine.

***photo by wit

From the touch of this new power
Nothing was safe: the elder-tree that grew
Beside the well-known charnel-house had then
A dismal look, the yew-tree had its ghost
That took its station there for ornament.

--William Wordsworth

2007-03-29

>coconut meringue balls

Tasting menu at WD-50, course #8

>Squab breast, beets, sorrel, coconut pebbles

Cute little white meringue balls, dense and brittle, flavored with coconut.
Tasty tart sorrel leaves.


This was a delicious dish. I am saying that first because you will have to excuse me.

Sweet tubes of red beet and juicy squab breast happened to look like... like... (help)

They looked like pieces of doggie poop. (Sorry. Now I'll go and hide for a few minutes.)

Honestly, it was the first thing that came to mind. I hope I haven't ruined the appetite of future diners. Wunderkind Wylie Dufresne will have no trouble modifying this dish if he wants to. He knows what he's doing.

Here's a beautiful shot of the same dish by ranae heuer -->

Wine pairing
Shiraz "Billi Billi" Mount Langi Ghiran 2003 (Victoria, Australia)

2007-03-27

>hibiscus flower chips

Tasting menu at WD-50, course #7

>Langoustine, popcorn, hibiscus, endive

I like every element in this dish. Together?
I suppose I've seen worse.

Hibiscus, of course, is dear to my heart. I drew quite a few of them in Singapore, at least one for a biology class. I know all the intimate details of this flower.


Or so I thought. I had no idea I could eat -or drink- it. And what do you know, made into thin fragile chips resembling stained glass, it's tart, it's delicious.

The popcorn was no popcorn at all - rather, a large smear of polenta. Unless the "polenta" was made from crushed popcorn and not raw cornmeal? (Note to self: experiment with popcorn + Cuisinart)

Juicy langoustine tail was tasty all by itself. Endive? I guess the dish needed a vegetable, and it did the job.

>a tube of noodle paste

Tasting menu at WD-50, course #6

A bowl of hot soup garnished with green onions arrived at the table with a small tube of soft white sesame-flavored paste. Okay, gee whiz tabletop cooking time.

I squeezed it out exactly the way I do tooth paste. It cooked upon contact with soup and became instant noodle strands.

They had marshmallowy texture. They were savory. Quite good, in fact.


How did they do that?

I think the key is protein. Some proteins become solid at temperatures as low as 65 degrees C/150 F, whereas starches thicken at much higher temperatures. So, my guess is that the paste was primarily protein-based. Like soy. Faster cooking parts of the egg white (all right, ovotransferrin). Salt and acid in the soup would have helped the soft paste coagulate.

Wine pairing
Poulsard Stephane Tissot 2004 (Arbois, France)

2007-03-26

>deconstructed Reuben

Let's see what you'd do with the following.

Corned beef

Rye
Mustard
Horseradish

A mean sandwich, yes? You wouldn't think to spread these out on a plate with crazy smeared sauces?

Tasting menu at WD-50, course #5

>Corned duck, rye crisp, purple mustard, horseradish cream

This was essentially a simple dish. I liked it. Corned duck was perfect. It also came with little pickled garlic slices.

The server said the garnish was young celery shoots. I wonder if he meant young parsley shoots?

<-- NOT

Sorry the picture is blurry, but you get the idea...

>water chestnut chips

Tasting menu at WD-50, course #4

>Sweetbreads, cabbage-kaffir, water chestnuts

The plate came dusted with shredded chamomile flower peta
ls, Firm and delicious sweetbreads and a nice thick paste of cabbage and kaffir.

Water chestnuts make wonderfully crunchy chips. I can imagine chef Wylie Dufresne trying lotus root chips, yam bean (jicama) chips, bamboo shoot chips (if he hasn't already).

At least I am going to try it myself.


Wine pairing
Santorini Domaine Sigalas 2005 (Santorini, Greece)

2007-03-25

>foie gras "cereal"

Tasting Menu at WD-50, course #3

>Foie gras in the round

Ah, this novelty "cereal" dish failed to measure up. Clever, all right - a generous bed o
f foie gras shaped into cream-colored "rice". When foie gras and gelatin mixture is introduced into a bath of calcified water, chemical reaction results in these waxy pellets.

The foie gras looked like barley grains. Nice. The problem is, they TASTED like cold slippery barley grains, if that's possible.

Real rice also made a cameo appearance as tiny yellow crispy bits, which tasted good.

Now onto the problem ingredients - mint watercress gelee and chocolate. Now, I know the idea of chocolate in cereal is irresistible, and why not mint while we are at it? They go together so well.

In this dish, though? Just imagine a bitter mint chocolate chip cookie slathered with cold liver bits. The dissonance created here was decidedly loud, and I actually didn't finish this dish.

Wine pairing
Riesling Kabinett 'Saarburger Rausch' Zilliken 1994 (Mosel, Germany)

2007-03-24

>shrimpy herby macaroons

Tasting menu at WD-50, course #2

>Shrimp and tarragon macaroons

These little ba
lls promptly collapsed in my mouth. The flavor was subtle, but it reminded me of a krupuk, except the texture was that of a very light fluffy macaroon. (How do the 2 macaroon balls -the ones not sitting in a groove- stay on the plate? Glued on with tarragon sauce.)

From Larousse Gastronomique:

The origin of (macaroon) goes back a long way. The recipe originally came from Italy, particularly Venice, during the Renaissance: the name is derived from the Italian maccherone and the Venetian macarone (meaning fine paste), from which macaroni is also derived. Some authorities claim that the recipe for the macaroons of Cormery is the oldest. Macaroons have been made in the monastery there since 791 and legend has it that they used to be made in the shape of monks' navels.

>kokotxa with anise hyssop, WD-50

Dinner this week at restaurant WD-50 on the Lower East Side.

The streets here still look like the 70's grimy New York. Lovely. I almost tripped over a hubcap on a sidewalk. A short while later, I actually witnessed another hubcap being flung into the air like a dangerous frisbee as the wheel hit a particularly deep pothole. It landed in the middle of the road and was repeatedly flattened by oncoming traffic.

WD-50's entrance does not feel updated. You can pretend you are stepping into a dark secret pleasure dungeon, the anti-Per Se the airy champagne palace. You certainly enter with a different frame of mind, as WD-50's tasting menu costs "only" half as much as the lofty fare at Per Se.

First course on the Tasting Menu was

>Kokotxas, smoked cashews, celery, risotto broth

Kokotxa (hake or cod cheek in Basque, cococha in Spanish) was firm, resembling monkfish. The broth was wonderfully rich with clean, refined fish flavor. Garnished with tiny greens - anise hyssop.

Wine pairing
Cava Avinyo Brut NV Reserva (Penedes, Spain)

2007-03-23

>Mirabelle and Southern Beauty

Per Se restaurant Tasting of Vegetables menu course #9

>TASTE OF MIRABELLE

"Southern Beauty" Sake Sponge Cake, Yogurt-Scented Puffed Rice,
C
ompressed Plums, Phyllo Shreds and Toasted Almond Ice Cream

Or per Per Se

>"SAVEUR MIRABELLE" Nanbu Bijin Sake Genoise, Yogurt-Scented Puffed Rice, Compressed Plums, Kataifi Tuile and Toasted Almond Ice Cream

Lovely plating with red plum reduction sauce, a tiny sprig of micro shiso in plum gelee to show off these beauties.

Mirabelle (from Larousse Gastronomique):
A small yellow plum with a firm sweet-tasting flesh; it is grown mainly in Alsace and Lorraine - the Metz mirabelle is regarded as one of the best varieties. Mirabelle plums are stewed, made into jam, preserved in syrup, and used to make a white brandy. They are also used in flans and tarts. In Lorraine, mirabelle brandy is protected by an appellation.

Genoise/Genoese sponge
A light sponge cake which takes its name from the city Genoa. Genoese sponge is made of eggs and sugar whisked over heat until thick, then flour and melted butter are added to the cooled mixture. It can be enriched with ground almonds or crystalized (candied) fruits and flavored with liqueur, the zest of citrus fruits, vanilla, etc. Genoese cake (which should not be confused with Genoa cake) differs from ordinary sponge cake in that the eggs are beaten whole, whereas in the latter the yolks and whites are usually beaten separately. Genoese cake is the basis of many filled cakes. Cut into two or more layers, which are covered with jam, cream, fruit purees, etc., it is coated, iced, and decorated as required.

Kataifi, finely shredded threads made with phyllo/fillo dough -->

Tuile

A crisp thin petit four, in the shape of a curved tile. The basic dough (sugar, shredded (slivered) or ground almonds, eggs, and flour), sometimes with added butter and flavoured with vanilla and orange, is spread onto a baking sheet. The tuile acquired its characteristic shape by being bent over a rolling pin while still hot, then left to harden. Flat round tuiles (called mignons) are stuck together in pairs with meringue, then dried in the oven.

>white chocolate granita

Per Se restaurant Tasting of Vegetables menu course #8

>VANILLA SOY SORBET
Per Se Granola, White Chocolate Granite
and Chai Tea Emulsion

The granita was like eating fluffy velvety snow. A lovely combination with rich sorbet and crunchy granola.

Granita/Granite (Larousse Gastronomique):
A type of Italian sorbet popularized by Tortoni in Paris in the 19th century. It is a half-frozen preparation with a granular texture (hence its name), made of a lightly sweetened syrup or of a syrup flavored with coffee or liqueur. Unlike sorbet, granita does not contain any Italian meringue.

Recipe:
Make a light syrup with fruit juice (such as lemon, orange, tangerine, passion fruit, or mango) or very strong coffee. Cool the syrup, then pour it into an ice tray and freeze for 3-4 hours without stirring. The granita will then have a granular texture.

2007-03-22

>prunes from Agen, France

Per Se restaurant Tasting of Vegetables menu course #7:

Given a choice between

>CRAVE BROTHERS' "LES FRERES"
"Envelope d'une Crepe de Noisette," Frisee Salad, Piedmont Hazelnuts
and “Puree de Pruneaux d’Agen”

and

>“PERSILLE DU BEAUJOLAIS"
Barlett Pear Marmalade, “Pain d’Epices” Shortbread
and Young Lettuces with Mulled Wine Reduction

I chose the former.

>CRAVE BROTHERS’ “LES FRERES" CHEESE
Wrapped in Hazelnut Crepe, Frisee Endive Salad, Piedmont Hazelnuts
and Agen Prune Puree

Les Freres cheese was young and mild. This dish showed off a good balance of sweet and savory. Toasted hazelnuts were darkly caramelized and crunchy.

According to Larousse Gastronomique:

Several varieties of plums are processed into prunes (pruneaux are prunes, and prunes are plums...), the finest being the Ente (or Agen) plum, the large damson of Tours, and the Catherine.


>agnolotti

Per Se restaurant Tasting of Vegetables menu course #6:

(There is no “deconstructed menu” for this quotation-mark-free dish.)

>DANCING EWE FARM’S FRESH RICOTTA AGNOLOTTI
Olive Oil Poached Sunchokes, Oregano Breadcrumbs
and Roquette Leaves with Sunchoke Cream

Agnolotti according to Larousse Gastronomique:

"A variety of ravioli in which the pasta is cut into small round pieces. These are filled with a stuffing, usually of chopped meat and vegetables, and the agnolotti are folded in half like small turnovers. They are particularly popular in Piedmont, where they are either poached in stock and served with melted butter and grated cheese or browned with cheese and breadcrumbs.”

As you can see in the picture, the rocket leaves were wilted. I am not sure if this was intentional – who would mar perky fresh rocket, a.k.a. arugula? In any case, the rich-tasting - but not fatty - agnolotti tasted wonderful.

2007-03-21

>Italian parsley shoots

Per Se restaurant Tasting of Vegetables menu #5

>FOREST MUSHROOMS
Herb Roasted Cake, Sweet Garlic, Preserved Tomato
and Tuscan Chickpea Sauce with Italian Parsley Shoots

Or per Per Se
>FRICASSEE OF FOREST MUSHROOMS
Herb Roasted Panisse, Sweet Garlic, Tomato Confit
and Tuscan Chickpea Coulis with Italian Parsley Shoots

Larousse Gastronomique’s definition of fricassee:
“...Formerly in France, the term denoted various kinds of ragout of chicken meat, fish, or vegetables in white or brown stock. The meat is cut into pieces, an aromatic garnish is added, and it is then sautéed over a low h
eat, without browning. The meat is then coated with flour, some white stock is added, and the meat is cooked in the thickened liquid. A fricassee is usually cooked with cream and garnished with small glazed onions and lightly cooked mushrooms… Subsequently, the word became distorted to fricot, which in popular parlance, designates any simple but popular tasty dish.”

Panisse:
“In Provence, a cake made from a thick porridge of chickpeas or cornmeal which is cut into rectangles when cold.The pieces may be rolled in grated cheese and fried in olive oil, or eaten without cheese and sweetened.”

Confit:
“A piece of pork, goose, duck, or turkey cooked in its own fat and stored in a pot, covered in the same fat to preserve it. The confit is one of the oldest forms of preserving food and is a specialty of southwestern France...”

Coulis:
“A liquid puree of cooked seasoned vegetables or shellfish (see bisque). It may be used to enhance the flavor of a sauce, it may itself be used as a sauce, or it may be used as an ingredient in soup... In the past, sauces of any kind were called coulis and were prepared in advance using type of funnel known as a couloir (hence the name).

The server of this dish wasn't sure about the types of mushrooms. He guessed alba (perhaps) and matsutake (I didn't find any). The bulk of it tasted similar to common oyster mushrooms. Nothing spectacular there.

The most refreshing herb garnish here - the parsley shoots. When parsley plant is young, it sprouts tiny leaves different from the eventual jagged adult leaves.

>Araucana hen's blue egg

Per Se restaurant Tasting of Vegetables menu course #4

>SQUIRE HILL FARM'S ARAUCANA HEN EGG, STEAMED
Ragout of Globe Artichokes, Split English Peas, Swiss Chard Ribs
and Black Winter Truffles with Grilled Country Bread
and Artichoke Vinaigrette

Or per Per Se
>SQUIRE HILL FARM’S ARAUCANA HEN EGG “CUIT A LA VAPEUR”

Ragout of Globe Artichokes, Split English Peas, Swiss Chard Ribs

and Black Winter Truffles with Grilled “Pain de Campagne”
and Artichoke Vinaigrette


According to DOM_BIRD, "The araucana breed has several distinct features that no other breed has. The most prominent features are its rumplessness, ear whiskers, and its ability to lay blue shelled eggs. The birds also have a pea comb and virtually no wattles. The araucana breed is from South America near northern Chile and was first successfully bred in this country in the 1930's."

The steamed egg arrived at the table simple and unadorned. Then a server spooned the perfectly seasoned mix into the bowl. I loved the firmness of the vegetables, especially the Swiss chard. “Pain de Campagne” is not pictured here. On a separate plate, daintily cut into thin slices, showing distinct grill marks.

2007-03-20

>winter truffle vs. summer truffle

It's going to be spring. Can you think of a better way to mark the passing of winter than with winter truffle? (Too early for spring truffle, I'd think.) Truffle is by no means my favorite fungus, but I certainly wouldn't mind marking every season with one. Spring truffle, summer truffle, autumn truffle and winter truffle.

According to an Amazon.com product description, "Black winter truffles are far superior to their summer cousins. There is a long pause between the time a truffle reaches full size and the time when it fully matures. Summer truffles are less flavorful since they are dug up before the full maturation period is reached in the winter months. You will always pay more for black winter truffles. Connoisseurs prize them."


This prized winter truffle made an appearance on Per Se's vegetable tasting menu, sprinkled on their 3rd course, elevating what appeared to be a decidedly home
y dish.

>SALAD OF HEARTS OF ROMAINE LETTUCE
Deep-fried Fingerling Potatoes, Black Winter Truffles,

Caramelized Romaine Lettuce, Potato Chips and Lettuce sauce


Or per Per Se:
>SALAD OF HEARTS OF ROMAINE LETTUCE
“Rissolee” of Fingerling Potatoes, Black Winter Truffles,

Caramelized Romaine Lettuce, “Pomme Maxim’s et Sauce Laitue"

According to my Larousse Gastronomique, Rissole is “a small sweet or savory pastry, usually in the form of a turnover, that contains any of various fillings and is usually deep-fried. Puff pastry is usually used, but rissoles can also be made with lining pastry or brioche dough.”

I didn’t see any turnovers in this dish, just your basic tasty deep-fried potatoes.
The lettuce was delicious, and the lettuce reduction made a nice green sauce. I didn’t like the presentation that much. What do you think?