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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Happy Birthday becomes the Shitake Show

Take Away - Chilled Beet and Goat Cheese Shooters

After a long week of work, it was nice to have a "laid back" night planned with a few friends.  Our  buddy, Gary Solomon, Jr., invited a small group to a "quiet" birthday dinner at his parents' house. . . I think you know where I am going with this . . .

Gary Solomon, Jr. and Mollie
Let me first set the stage.  The Solomon home is built for entertaining.  Gary's dad (Gary Sr.) told me that, very early on, he observed that his entire family was always gathered in the kitchen no matter what event (or lack thereof) was happening.  So, when the Solomon house was renovated after Hurricane Katrina, they designed a kitchen island that could be extended to seat approximately seventeen people. . . that's right 17 people.

Kitchen Island
For Gary Jr.'s birthday, they decided to road test the island to ensure both functionality and continued crowd drawing capability.  How well it would work, they had no idea.  Enter Chris Lynch.  Chris was the chef de cuisine at Emeril's restaurant for a number of years before helping to launch the restaurant Mason 923.  These days, Lynch is working on a number of projects while also serving as a food stylist for the HBO series, Treme.
Martha and Gary Solomon, Sr.

With this experienced resume, Chris managed to cobble together a couple of ingredients to feed us.

And, as if the menu was not ridiculous enough, Lynch also threw in a few additional pass arounds to greet everyone as we arrived.  The pass arounds included: bbq quail encased in won tons, oysters on the half shell and chilled beet soup shooters with goat cheese.

In addition to the food, we were greeted with a bar setup in the living room.  Drinks were being poured generously, and Mollie commented how glad she was that St. Germain was being added to the champagne before service.  I thought that comment odd and figured she had ordered an extra bit of pick-me-up in her drink, but then realized that all the girls were drinking this concoction. Danger.

However, as we continued having cocktails and eating, I was fully confident that all would remain nice, calm and chillaxed . . . right???

We all capped off our beverages and headed to the kitchen to sit down for dinner.  The first course was served, and (being a huge fan of tuna, mango and avocado) I thought that Mollie was going to pass out when we were served a dish in which the three became one.

Yellowfin tuna tartar with creole tomato, avocado and mango vinaigrette

The chefs were busy preparing the second course, and everyone seemed to be enjoying round one, so I did not think it a big deal when the music came on over the sound system in the kitchen.  The first wine pairing was being enjoyed by all, and folks started visiting a little louder simply because there was "background music."

Round two:  As the melon, prosciutto and mozzarella salad was being served, an additional wine pairing made its way to the scene.  This was welcomed, but I could not help but noticing that folks started to get  up from their seats to socialize with each other.  Also, out of nowhere, there appeared glow stick-esque necklaces that my fellow guests began to wear around their neck as part of their party gear.  I turned to Mollie to comment on this before realizing that she was demonstrating to others that a glow stick necklace could actually be used as a crown . . .

As conversation levels across the island rose, I observed that the music in the kitchen was not as loud as Rock-N-Sake, but it sure was trying . . . I also noticed that order started descending into chaos. 

And then, it happened . . . Big Gary decided that the island's durability truly required testing.  In a move that I am sure the kitchen designers did not have in mind, he decided to take the dinner party to a higher level.

I thought this would be only a passing moment of hilariousness, especially when Gary started to try to convince Melissa, the mildest mannered of the group, that she should also test the island's durability.  I knew that was not going to happen. . .right?

Perhaps not . . .

Surely, this chaos that had overcome our quiet evening would end soon.  I looked to my still grounded colleagues for guidance, only to find that the entire room was succumbing to the joyous dance. 

Was this the rapture?  Was the preacher right??  What was to become of the next course if everyone in the kitchen was planning on trying out for the sequel Midnight at the Roxbury??

And then, mercifully, Chef Chris called the house to order, albeit briefly, by announcing the arrival of the Halibut.

People sat for a few moments and enjoyed the wonderful dish, while catching a breath or two.  The party had peaked and people were now going to simply wind down.  This was especially true because I did not imagine that Martha appreciated people on her island counter top . . . right Martha??

Wrong!!  The island adventure continued, with more and more individuals taking part in the dance.  

At one point I turned to make a comment to Mollie, only to find that she had been seduced by the mob coupled with the sweet sounds of Ke$ha.

People managed to continue partying while periodically taking sporadic breaks to eat the rest of the courses.  The food continued to be fantastic, but the chef was no longer of any assistance in bringing order to the group.  At one point, I believe he and his crew also caught the fever.

This truly was like no other dinner (or birthday) party I had attended.  I think I speak for all of us when I say that we are looking forward to the next time Gary, Jr. decides to have another quiet gathering. . .

Will be posting the featured recipe in the next day or two.  .  .   

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Como se dice Breakfast?

Take Away - Grit Cake

I love waking up and going to breakfast in New Orleans, but there is one does everyone else.  Couple this with the unspoken rule that all residents and tourists are required to frequent the same 8 establishments, and you got yourself one hell of a line.  The irony here is that most self respecting New Orleanians would never frequent a bar with a velvet rope policy, but they will wait until noon to eat eggs.

Well, I am throwing another option into the breakfast mix.  It is newer than some of the old standbys and the line is slowly starting to form, but it is still possible to get breakfast before the lunch bell rings.

Huevos is located in mid-city right next to its sister restaurant, Crescent Pie and Sausage Company.  Mollie discovered it and took me this morning because she knows I am loco for Mexican breakfast.  Below is a picture of a portion of the breakfast menu, which is conveniently painted on the wall.  I chose "the blue jay special," composed of eggs, cheese, chorizo sausage and charred salsa all rolled into a tortilla.  It was only five dollars and delicious.  Lucky for my waistline (too late), I resisted the urge to order another one, mostly because I turned my attention to helping Mollie finish with her selection (more on that in a minute). . . 

The first morning special was Chorizo Gravy and Biscuits.  Since I blacked out and sampled one of the biscuits, I can only assume that adding gravy to these mountainous homemade concoctions is bueno.

The second special took the prize.  Mollie heard the words "grit cakes" and immediately ordered.  They came with a variety of other ingredients, but the dish did not really have a specific name.  So, I'll utilized the following equation to further explain:

   Grit cakes
+ Chisesi ham
+ poached eggs
+ poblano jalapeno cream sauce
= Holy Shitake That's Delicious.

I'm no mathmatician, but that is a solid equation.

The final special was Angel Food Pain Perdu with Balsamic Peppered Strawberry Sauce. To the non-foodie or unadventurous breakfast eater, Pain Perdu is a form of French toast. It is called "lost bread" because the preparation method involves a way to reclaim stale or "lost" bread. The bread is softened by dipping it in a mixture of milk and eggs, and then frying it. Yes and yes.

Huevos Rancheros with Charred Tomato Salsa and Black Beans
The manager of the place, Blair, told me that the strawberries came fresh from a local farm and arrived shortly before we did. I wanted to stay and get lost with the strawberries and the bread, but Mollie advised that it would be too much. I reluctantly agreed.

We bid "adios" to Blair and Huevos, but promised to return another day.  
I don't have the recipe for this morning's concoction, but I found a pretty good recipe for grit cakes with shrimp on top . . .  This one has not yet been tested, but looks really good.

Shrimp Cakes covered with Cheesy Shrimp

•3 (14-ounce) cans chicken broth
•1 1/3 cups quick-cooking grits
•1/2 cup grated Parmesan
•1/2 teaspoon salt
•2 tablespoons butter, melted
•8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
•1 tablespoon half-and-half
•1/2 cup grated Italian cheese blend
•1 teaspoon chopped parsley leaves
•1/2 pound cooked, peeled, and deveined shrimp, chopped
•1/2 cup grated Cheddar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Bring broth to a boil in a large saucepan. Stir in grits, and return to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes, or until grits are thickened, stirring occasionally. Stir in cheese and salt. Remove from heat. Spoon grits into a greased 9 by 13-inch baking pan. Cover, and chill at least 2 hours, or until firm. Un-mold grits onto a large cutting board. Cut out 48 (1 1/2-inch) circles using a round or fluted cookie cutter.

Brush a large jellyroll pan with melted butter. Place grit rounds on pan. Bake for 15 minutes. Turn grits, and bake 45 minutes more. Set aside. (Up to this point, the recipe can be prepared ahead. If preparing early, cover and refrigerate grit rounds until you are ready to top with shrimp mixture).

In a large bowl, combine cream cheese and half-and-half, stirring until combined. Stir in cheese, parsley, and shrimp. Top each grits round evenly with shrimp mixture. Top mixture with grated Cheddar. Broil 5 minutes, or until lightly browned and heated through.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year's Resolution?....Brie with you in a minute.

Take Away
Fried Oysters with Brie

Resolutions for this New Year have now been established.  One of mine is to become more vigilant about posting on the theKingfish.  How that will gel with the resolution to lose weight remains to be seen.  In the meantime, the New Year's Eve dining, celebrating and friends that led to this post were inspirational.

Scallops with Foie Gras and Port Reduction

Lobster and Mushroom Risotto

Filet Mignon with Bernaise

Our first of three stops happened to be the location where we engaged in the majority of our consumption (of food).  Clancy's is very much a restaurant that does not often hit the tourist radar.  This is likely because it is situated so far Uptown and obscured by the sizable mortgages in the neighborhood that surrounds it.  The building itself is very cozy and feels as if you are walking into someone's home.  I recommend sitting downstairs because it puts you in the most mix of people and near the entrance and the bar.  For a quieter dining experience, upstairs is the way to go. 

Mollie and I joined a group that were very well versed in the menu, and we all immediately commenced to the business of ordering drinks and appetizers.  It was very impressive that the restaurant was serving a full menu on New Year's Eve.  However, the waiter looked like he was going to have a serious talk with management about reconsidering next year (his behavior resembled how I can only imagine a Pomeranian would act if administered large quantities of amphetamines).     

We all enjoyed our food, but I think that Beau Haynes won with his order of the fried oysters with brie (recipe below). Also, the icebox pie is really one of the few desserts that I will order at a restaurant.  Some of the other menu highlights included: the Grilled Lamb Chops Webster; Lobster Risotto with Mushrooms; Clancy's Crabmeat Salad; Seared Sea Scallops with Foie Gras and Port Reduction; Filet (any way they serve it) and the Roast Duck.  Additionally, Clancy's also usually offers very delicious specials that are recommendable.  This night was no different.  However, it is now cloudy as to what the specials were. . . Honestly, the overwhelming food and drink are responsible for the following photos that went somewhat Pink Floyd. 

Jen Labourdette and Christian Burck
Katie and Richard Voorhies

Leigh and JG

Jessie and Beau Haynes

Fueled by good food and drink, Mollie and I headed to the French Quarter for our friend Danielle Doiron's birthday party at Somethin' Else Cafe.  Venturing into the Quarter on New Year's Eve is considered by some to be borderline insane.  However, this party was well worth it and allowed us to take celebration to the next level. 

Birthday Girl, Danielle Doiron

Danielle, Mollie and Melissa Gebbia

Mollie and Me

Danielle and Walt Leger

Me and Walt

We arrived much after the initial crowd had whipped itself into a frenzy.  People were dancing together (and by themselves in some cases) in every corner of the place.  Two bartenders were surrounded by people putting in orders.  One of the bartenders worked diligently while the other seemed to be sticking to the "one for you, two for me" motto.  Either way, it was entertaining to watch.  We rang in the new year with our friends at stop number two and then were on our way...

We next arrived at Alton and Allison Ashey's for stop number three.  Their place is located on top of Restaurant August and gave a great (and thankfully removed) view of the mass exodus leaving the Quarter.  Since we had just braved the same battle on foot, Mollie put the kibosh on any further photography (citing humidity).  Considering the lateness of the hour, I agreed.  We instead focused on closing out 2010 (photo free) while enjoying some wine with good friends.

Looking forward to more food, friends and posts in 2011.

Danielle wishing us good luck in the New Year.

Recipe for Fried Oysters with Brie

1 dozen shucked Louisiana Oysters
Paul Prudhomme's Seafood Magic
1 cup flour
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4-ounce wheel of Brie, cut into 12 equal slices
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 pound fresh spinach, washed and stemmed

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Pat the oysters dry.  Season the oysters with the seafood magic.  Season the flour with the seafood magic or Tony's Chachere's seasoning.  In a large cast-iron skillet, heat the oil.  Dredge the oysters in the flour, shaking off the excess. Pan-fry the oysters for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.  Drain on paper towels. Place the oysters on a baking sheet.  Lay a slice of the brie on top of each oyster.  Bake for approximatel 2 to 3 minutes or until the brie melts.

In a saute pan, over medium heat, add the olive oil. When the olive oil is hot, add the shallots and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Saute for 1 minute. Add the spinach and saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. To serve, mound the spinach in the center of each plate. Arrange 3 oysters around each mound of spinach and serve warm.