Cupcake Cannon

April 30, 2010

Just watch this in high density and full screen.  I want to get shot with cupcakes.


Strawberry Dreams

April 30, 2010

This is a picture of the dessert I made last weekend.  I had some chocolate waffles in the freezer that were left over from a dinner party several months ago that I popped in the toaster oven (Leggo my chocolate Eggo!).  I had bought 8 quarts of strawberries on Saturday  to make jam, and with the extras I made some strawberry ice cream.  Some chopped strawberries with a touch of Cointreau added a nice touch, finished with whipped cream.   It was a fantastic dish, very appealing to the eye, and totally captured the essence of the strawberries.

It might make a comeback tomorrow.


Beurre Fondue — The Medium for Spring

April 27, 2010

When spring rolls around, I think of asparagus and ramps and morels.  But I also think of butter.  Lots and lots of wonderful butter, but not in the way you might suspect.  I think of beurre fondue, the butter and water emulsion that I prefer to use to cook these wonderful spring goodies.

You may not have heard of beurre fondue unless you’re a culinary school grad or a food geek, but you know about it if you’ve ever heard the term “butter poached.”  This is what Thomas Keller uses to butter poach his lobster, although I think he uses a slightly more concentrated form of emulsion.  He calls it beurre monte’, but I really can’t figure out if there’s any difference between these butter sauces.

Regardless, I first learned about beurre fondue 10 years ago when Tom Colicchio’s first book, Think Like a Chef, came out.  This is one of my all-time favorite cooking books, as so much of it focuses on technique, flavor profiles, and other culinary basics.  Beurre fondue is just butter that has been emulsified into boiling water.  The technique is simple: Get about half to 3/4 of an inch of water boiling in a small saucepan. Whisk in unsalted butter about a tablespoon at a time. Continue adding the butter until you’ve added anywhere from 12 to 16 tablespoons. If droplets begin to form, add a bit more water, as that’s a sign you’ve evaporated too much water.

Now, take some asparagus, peas, fish, mushrooms, whatever and poach it at a very gentle simmer in this ultra-rich sauce (transfer it to a wider skillet). You’ll end up with the most delicious, decadent (but seemingly light) dish you can imagine.

Some folks par-cook their food first and finish it in the beurre fondue, but I love to cook it from beginning to end.   I particularly like to cook morels in this sauce, as the final flavor is heavenly.  I recently made a dish of mahi-mahi with morels, shallots and local asparagus, with all the vegetables cooked in the beurre fondue.  I served the dish in shallow bowls, making sure there was plenty of the butter sauce to go around.  It was spring on a plate and one of the best tasting things I’ve ever made.


Restaurant Review Roulette: The Diner

April 21, 2010

This week’s restaurant review by Greg Cox of the N&O looks at The Diner, the retro-styled burger and shake place on Raleigh’s Glenwood South. I ate at The Diner a few weeks ago, and it will be the last time I go there. Burgers are average at best. Milkshakes are fairly small for the price. But the kiss of death came from the onion rings, which were, without any doubt, the greasiest things I have ever sampled. When I bit into one, at least a teaspoon of oil rushed out. My kids started having fun with them, putting them on a plate and pressing them with a fork to see how big of an oil slick they could create. It may have been an anomaly, but combined with the ultra slow service, I think not.

Anyhow, I suspect Greg Cox’s experience was similar, as the teaser in today’s N&O refers to “hits and misses.” That’s why my guess is for 2 stars. A place with this price point, with mediocre food and service typically gets 2 stars.

Here are this week’s odds:

5 stars — one google to 1

4.5 stars – one bazillion to 1

4 stars — one million to 1

3.5 stars — 20 to 1

3 stars — 5 to 1

2.5 stars — 25 or 6 to 4

2 stars — 1 to 1

1 to 1.5 stars — 4 to 1

Have you been to The Diner? How many stars does it deserve?

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(Edit April 23, 2010) Ouch.  A 1.5 star review for The Diner in today’s N&O.  The review itself doesn’t sound like a 1.5 star one, but I think Greg Cox was trying to be nice and focus on the positives.  I wonder if he’d ever write a review as acerbic as the one Sam Sifton of the NY Times wrote last week on Nello.  Now that was harsh.


Looking for Strawberry Shortcake?

April 21, 2010


My friend Andrea Weigl, the food writer at the News & Observer, wrote about strawberries today and included my recipe for a ginormous strawberry shortcake that I discussed a couple of years ago.  Click here if you want to go to that old story.


Herons to Host Special Chefs’ Dinner to Support Lucy Daniels Center

April 19, 2010

Want to experience a very special dinner, at a special restaurant, prepared by some special chefs, all for a most special cause??  Well, then book your seat for the May 17th dinner at Herons, where Chef Scott Crawford will welcome into his kitchen a handful of fantastic North Carolina chefs for a dinner that will help raise money for the Lucy Daniels Center for Early Childhood.  Who will be cooking that night in addition to Chef Crawford?  Ashley Christensen of Poole’s Diner in Raleigh.  Jim Anile of Revolution in Durham.  Vivian Howard of Kinston’s Chef & the Farmer.

I’ve sung the praises of Ashley Christensen enough on this blog, so I don’t need to do any more for her, and I’ve not met Mr. Anile yet, but I want to tell you about Chef Howard.  I had the pleasure of eating dinner with her a week ago, and this woman knows her shit.  I’m astonished that such a talented and passionate chef has been so successful in a place like Kinston, but then I realized that a lot of her customers come from the Triangle.  Chef & the Farmer has become a destination restaurant as well as a place to stop on the way to or from the beaches of North Carolina.  And we’re lucky to have her cooking here in the Triangle on the 17th.

This dinner is for a great cause: The Lucy Daniels Center for Early Childhood, the Triangle’s largest non-profit provider of mental health services to children.  I’m the Vice Chair of the Center’s Board, and when I asked Chef Crawford could turn this event that was already on his schedule into a fundraiser, he said, “Why not?”  Rather than bumping up the price of this dinner, which had been set for weeks at $110 per person (plus tax and tip), Herons has decided to donate a substantial portion of the proceeds to the Lucy Daniels Center.  The Center is located just a mile or so from the Umstead Hotel & Spa (home of Herons), so this could be the beginning of a fantastic relationship.  This dinner will represent the unofficial kickoff event of the Lucy Daniels Center’s “Bookmarked!” fundraising event — please be sure to click on the link for more details!

As you may know, Herons was named the Restaurant of Year by the News & Observer’s restaurant critic, Greg Cox.  It’s now one of the best restaurants in the Southeast, in my opinion.  Sure, I’m tainted because I’ve worked in that kitchen for a couple of days, but Chef Crawford and his Chef d’Cuisine, Steven Devereaux Greene, make an incredibly talented culinary partnership.  The quality of the food, combined with the sophistication of the service and the comfort of the dining room, supports my position.

The five course dinner (maybe they’ll let me do the amuse) includes wine pairings selected by Herons’ sommelier Justin Tilley, and expect to be surprised by his choices.  He won’t hesitate to come up with pairings that are a bit out of the ordinary, but they invariably work well.

So please make your reservations today by calling Herons at 919-447-4200 or by sending an email request to guestservices@theumstead.com.  Cocktails will begin on the outside terrace at 6:30, with dinner inside Herons at 7:00 PM.  See you there!


Restaurant Review Roulette: Giorgio

April 14, 2010

This week’s review in the News & Observer will focus on Giorgio, the Cary-based creation of local uber-restaurateur, Georgios Bakatsias.  Bakatsias has opened over 35 restaurants over the years, and I believe Giorgio is his first venture into Cary since Cafe Georgios back in the 80s and early 90s.  He hired Chef Ricky Moore from Chapel Hill’s noted small plate restaurant, Glasshalfull.  The restaurant sticks to Bakatsias’ roots with a Mediterranean focus, not unlike his Durham outpost, Parizade.  In fact, I sense that Giorgio could be called Parizade of Cary.

I’ve not eaten at Giorgio, but I know Greg Cox has not been a big fan of Parizade, giving it only 2.5 stars (he originally gave it 2 out of 4 stars, which has subsequently been adjusted to 2.5 out of the current 5 star system).  The discussions on Chowhound and Yelp are mixed, so I’m thinking that this place wouldn’t dazzle Mr. Cox.  This tells me that Giorgio is going to get right around 3 stars — yet another middling restaurant in the eyes of Greg Cox (with whom I’m almost always in agreement in that regard).

Here are this week’s odds:

5 stars — 2,048 to 1

4.5 stars –128 to 1

4 stars — 16 to 1

3.5 stars — 4 to 1

3 stars — 3 to 2

2.5 stars — 5 to 1

2 stars — 12 to 1

1 to 1.5 stars — 50 to 1

Have you made it Giorgio yet?  If so, how many stars do you give it?  And what’s your guess for the Greg Cox review?

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Edit (4/16/10):  Wow, was I ever wrong, as Greg Cox gave Giorgio 4 stars in today’s review.  This prognostication thing is a dangerous game to play, particularly when you know nothing about the restaurant.  I’m glad I’m not running an actually betting parlor on this, as I’d be out of business.


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