March 26, 2014

First Bites at Ration & Dram

I stopped by the long-awaited Ration & Dram over in Kirkwood the other night. R&D has been open for a little more than one week and are still working out some kinks in their space and the kitchen. They were still waiting on a liquor license (any day now) when we visited, so people will have to wait a little longer for the anticipated cocktail program from Andy Minchow. For now, some pics of smaller plates we tried.
Chicken-fried duck livers with house pickles and hot sauce. Decent dish, if a bit too heavy on the rather under-seasoned cornmeal coating. The chewy pickled chard (I think it was chard?) stems are a bit of a stretch to serve as pickles.
I am sorry to say it, but this patty melt was kind of sad. Dry, over cooked, and lacking flavor (salt is a wonderful thing). The brioche toast makes for a strange vehicle for your burger. I don't know, perhaps not the best idea. The menu said "rye," but there was nothing rye about that bread.
Roast beef sandwich with house mayo, mustard and spring lettuce. The slices of roast beef were ice cold, which is a bit of personal nit for me. Too cold is as bad as too hot. The beef lacked flavor (someone find some salt, please!), and was on the dry side. I lost the mayo and mustard in the brioche, which seemed to soak up all the flavor.
 Bacon bread and salted house butter. The bacon bread was fun. We also tried the kale salad (no pic) which was tasty and seasonal.
It has been a bit difficult tracking down a menu online; here's the offerings from our visit earlier this week. While the food was mostly a miss on this visit, it was only a week into their opening, so take that for what it's worth. It is still a great space, with ample outdoor seating, which will undoubtedly be rocking when spring finally arrives. I'm looking forward to my next visit when the cocktails are flowing.

Ration & Dram on Urbanspoon

March 23, 2014

What do You Mean You Don't Make Your Own Butter?

Making butter is easy. I knew this from shaking a carton of heavy cream until it solidified as a science project back in elementary school. Still, I'd never made homemade butter seriously until last weekend. No more buying butter for me, it's too easy to make it yourself.
That's a bowl of good quality heavy cream from Whole Foods. That's a pretty simple start.
After 7 minutes of whipping with a hand mixer it begins to solidify.
After about 15 minutes of total whipping time, the cream will begin to yellow and fully solidify to a putty-like consistent. It then needs to be strained to remove the excess liquid cream (this can be saved and used like a less-potent buttermilk).
After straining, you can begin to mold the solids into a ball, all the while continuing to squeeze out the excess liquid. In the end, you are left with a nice ball of silky, creamy butter. You can add salt to taste, if desired, or leave as is. Wrapped in plastic, the butter will keep in the fridge for two weeks. No more buying butter for me.

March 14, 2014

Recent Eats Around Decatur

Some recent eats at old favorites and new stops around Decatur as spring finally tries to make its way here. The smoked trout salad with dressed farro, pickled beets, and squash at Cakes & Ale was one of the best things I've eaten for lunch in a while. It was a very Sweeney-esque dish that hit all the right notes on a warm March afternoon. I love Cakes & Ale and just don't seem to be able to visit often enough.
I also stopped by the new La Calavera Bakery on East College. The good folks at La Calavera have been popular mainstays at farmer's markets in the area the past two years and recently opened their bricks and mortar shop to the public. The menu isn't huge right now, but it's all mostly made by hand with organic and local ingredients. The bacon and gruyere stuffed croissant above was a tasty mid-afternoon snack. I look forward to frequent visits.
Oysters at Kimball House. Not sure what else needs to be said.
The cocktail program is as strong as ever. The Sleep Walk was a highlight with its Scarlet Ibis Trinidad Rum, Carpano Antica, Chichicapa Mezcal, bitter cherry, and cola bitters. Excellent.

Agnolotti with peanuts and pancetta at No. 246. Eh..I want No. 246 to be better. So often, for me, it's just okay. The same night we also shared an overly salted artichoke pizza that also suffered from a bit too much garlic. I will probably continue to find occasions to visit 246, I just wish I was compelled to do so more often. That's it, for now.

March 6, 2014

More Ed Lee Cookery

Can't remember the last time I plunged full-on into a cookbook the way I have with Ed Lee's Smoke & Pickles. Maybe my initial obsession with The French Laundry cookbook was similar, albeit for different reasons. The thing about Ed Lee's book is that it is full of food I want to eat. Quite simply, the recipes are challenging enough to be interesting without being intimidating, and the food tastes great.

Another variation on a rice bowl. This one with beef, collards, and a fried egg, topped with Lee's tasty corn-chili remoulade.
Honey-glazed roast duck with hoison and hot sauces. Bathing the whole duck with boiling salted water before roasting releases some of the fat and leaves you with a nice crisp skin. This was awesome.
Kimchi poutine. Yep. Cheese fries with kimchi. Decadent. The addition of kimchi was a head- scratch at first, but it brings an interesting tang to the dish, similar to what malt vinegar brings to fish and chips.
The red cabbage and bacon kimchi on day one. Lee has four variations of kimchi in the book, this one features green apple, carrots, and bacon along with the red cabbage.
Spoon bread with kale and bacon. I threw in some leftover duck from the roast pictured above.
A quick wine recommendation: This Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon blend from Agnes & Rene Mosse, a husband and wife team that produces natural wines from vineyards in Anjou, near the Loire Valley in France. A nice everyday wine that you can find around town for $20.