February 23, 2014

New Orleans Eats: La Petite Grocery & More

We took our now-annual trip down to New Orleans last week. Had some great food and drinks, per usual. Some really outstanding food at Le Petite Grocery on Magazine Street in uptown.
LPG has garnered some national attention in recent years with executive chef and owner Justin Devillier being named a James Beard award finalist for the past two years, as well as having a good showing on the recent season of Top Chef. The food at LPG was outstanding; not a single misstep on any of the six dishes we tried, and several were truly memorable.

Ricotta dumplings with lobster and edamame. Impossibly creamy and pillowy dumplings in a rich and creamy broth. What's not to like? Still thinking about this dish.
 Another standout: Grilled octopus, warm potato salad, pickled celery, and Florida bottarga.
Sheep cheese pirog with pork cheek, shitake, choucroute.
Beef short rib, spicy-pickled cucumber, fried peanuts.
Daily pickle jar. Pickled vegetables done right. Nearly the star of the meal.
Nice bar program at LPG, too. A quick pic of the Enchanter: Death’s Door gin, Gran Classico bitter, fresh blood orange & Meyer lemon, and star anise. A decent cocktail, perhaps overshadowed by the Bee's Hive with High West double rye, grapefruit, lemon, bitters, and raw jalapeno syrup.

Some other hits from the trip: Went back to Domilese's for the best damn po' boys on the planet. There's something magical about this place; it is a worth a trip to seek out if you are ever in town.
The obligatory stop at Cafe Du Monde in the Quarter for beignets and cafe au lait.
The best Bloody Mary's in the quarter at Molly's where the mix includes Worcestershire, Tobasco, lemon, lime, a splash of Guinness, and a pickled green bean. A few of these for lunch makes walking the Quarter even more interesting.
Late-winter morning in the Quarter. Already looking forward to the next trip.

February 13, 2014

Home Cooking: Edward Lee's 'Smoke & Pickles'

I've spent some time recently making some of the recipes from Edward Lee's great new cook book, Smoke & Pickles. Lee, a Brooklyn native, now calls Kentucky home. If he wasn't already garnering national attention, Lee's good showing on Top Chef a few years back, as well as being named a finalist for the 2013 James Beard award for the southeast has certainly made that a reality now. His main restaurant is 610 Magnolia in Louisville.
Smoke & Pickles is Lee's first cookbook and it is an homage to his Korean roots and the southern culture hes has since adopted over the past ten years. I made several recipes from the book last weekend. Pictured above is definitely one of the highlights: a rice bowl (there are numerous rice bowl ideas in the book) with tuna, jalapeno remoulade, hearts of palm, avocado, lettuce, and crunchy pork rinds. Lee's recipe for cooking rice involves browning the cooked rice which brings a nice crispy texture to the rice and this dish. This one is a winner. Cool sushi grade tuna against the warm, crunchy rice and Lee's nod to the south in the spicy remoulade.
Edamame and boiled peanuts in tahini sauce. A fun, addictive snack for your favorite cocktail.
Beef Kalbi with edamame hummus. This dish. Wow. Sure, I've slow braised short ribs all day before, but the sauce here of ginger, soy sauce, and sesame oil brought a depth and richness that I look for in this type of dish. Rich and satisfying as slow braised beef can be, but the added Asian flavors brings a new depth. Served with a side of tahini and edamame puree.

Kabocha squash mac and cheese topped with pork rinds and black sesame seed. Pretty decadent rendition of macaroni and cheese. Though, the sweetness of the squash tempers the gooey/salty cheese a good bit. The pork rind topping is an interesting touch and another example of Lee's connection to down-home southern gastronomy.
There's also a quick version of fried rice, which Lee calls southern fried rice due to the inclusion of black eyed peas and the use of a ham stock in cooking of the eggs. An easy and tasty fried rice. Everything I have made from the book thus far has been tasty, including the not-pictured fried trout sandwiches with cilantro-pear vinaigrette. This may sound hokey, but there is a homey-soul satisfying quality that comes through in Lee's recipes. I look forward to cooking from this book again soon. Count me as a fan.

February 5, 2014

Recent Eats Around and At Home

Some random stuff of eats over the past couple of weeks. The picture above is from another excellent meal at Bocca Lupo last week. The new off-the-menu-special of black pepper spaghetti, wild boar and togarashi meatballs is ridiculously good.
Also at Bocca Lupo: An app special the night we were there: tuna tartare with manchego-stuffed, fried green olives. Excellent contrast in temperature and texture. We also had the bruschetta banh mi with pulled pork and chicken liver, which was a tasty bite. Bocca Lupo has been excellent at each of my four or five visits and it seems to be getting better. Need to eat here more often!
Found ourselves on the west side last weekend, something that doesn't happen nearly enough. Had a tasty lunch at Miller Union, a place I often forget about when thinking of places to go to for lunch or dinner. A kale & chicory salad with grapefruit, pecans,  and shallot vinaigrette felt like spring, in a good way. Clean flavors here, as I've come to expect at MU. Also tasty was the chicken liver pate, and a roast beef and horseradish melt. Good stuff as always. And the place was packed. For lunch. On a random Saturday. Good for them.
Had a rather disappointing introduction to Smoke Ring, the new bbq place that opened in the Castleberry Hill community near downtown. We tried a number of dishes. The pulled pork sandwich pictured above was decent, though somewhat dry. The brisket was actually pretty good, but the ribs were dry, the cornbread was regrettably cardboard-ish and some other sides were equally forgettable. Far too many other, better bbq joints around town to draw me back here. Maybe they'll get some things worked out in time.
Home cooking: while snowed in during snowmaggedon 2014 last week I was able to whip up a 90 minute, Ivan-ramen style noodle bowl thanks to having dried fish and dashi in the house. Amazing the amount of flavor you quickly coax out of dried fish and seaweed. I through in some leftover meatballs, mushrooms, and quick-soft boiled eggs. A tasty hot soup on an icy day. And don't worry, you're not high, that picture is really blurry. I need to talk to my photographer.