Archive for April, 2009

Ratios and Photo Competitions

Posted in Books and gear, Food in the news, Food on TV with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 30, 2009 by restaurantouring

I’m excited. I just got my copy of Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking in the mail. As I told him in New York, at the book signing event for Thomas Keller’s Under Pressure, a few months ago, I can’t stop reading his books.

For those who know me, yes, I know I wasn’t a big Ruhlman fan at first (I was just holding a grudge against him for seeming a bit harder on John Besh than on Michael Symon on the Next Iron Chef competition on Food Network a couple years ago), but the man can write. I can’t wait to dive in.

I’ll let you know what I think once I’m done. In the meantime, any food photography enthusiasts should check out the national skill contest hosted by Honda CR-V. You can submit pictures of sweet or savory comfort foods, and the best entry wins $2,500. Other prizes go to 2nd and 3rd places, too. If you’re interested, hurry up! The deadline is this Monday, May 4th, 2009. Check out the official rules here. Good luck!

CulinAriane, part III

Posted in Food on TV, New Jersey Restaurants with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 25, 2009 by restaurantouring

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I love eating at CulinAriane. The food keeps getting markedly better and better every time I go back to eat there. And that’s exciting for me, especially since I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to keep somewhat up-to-speed with the food that Ariane produces since after the show ended. In a recession, it’d be easy for a restaurant to start cutting back on food quantity and quality, yet somehow, CulinAriane has only been on the rise. She may be a self-proclaimed “old lady,” but don’t let that fool you — the woman can COOK. And with an expansion to the restaurant happening as early as this summer, things are looking really bright for the CulinAriane crew.

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My meal kicked off with a small bite of something Ariane loves to start off with — a small slice of seared tuna loin. This amuse bouche was paired with a creamy guacamole.

The cool, refreshing, al dente white asparagus that you see at the top of this post were topped with a fantastic warm goat cheese bearnaise sauce and morel mushrooms — one of my favorite mushrooms. I ordered the dish mainly because I thought it would look great in a photograph (and because it was in season and I figured I needed more fresh veggies in my meatatarian diet), and I’d like to think that I was right. The dish was plated exactly as I hoped it would be plated, which made lugging some extra photo gear to dinner and enduring the funny looks from the [probably] annoyed patrons worth it [for me]. (I deeply apologize to the people I may have annoyed during dinner. I tried to make the reservation as late as possible to avoid this).

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Next came the pirogi I ordered. Here, you’re looking at a couple delectable bites’ worth of caramelized onion, potato, white cheddar cheese, braised rabbit, carrot ribbons, and carrot juice reduction. The pirogies I had at Sava Polish Diner (an earlier post) do not compare (Sorry, Sava!).

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Croissant in lieu of bread. Even this has gotten better than I remember. Softer, fluffier, richer, better.

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Hawaiian striped marlin. Dusted with fennel pollen. Fingerling potatoes, spring garlic, artichoke hearts, and a grilled ramps vinaigrette. If Ariane keeps cooking marlin this way, I swear I’m going to eat every damn marlin in the sea. I had to hold myself back from licking the plate clean.

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The chocolate truffle cake with chocolate twizzle was perfection. It was light, moist, not too sweet, and perfectly matched with that mascarpone cream on top and the raspberry coulis around it. I’m usually not a fan of sweets, but I could eat ten of these desserts if my meager budget would allow it. Sigh.

CulinAriane restaurant is located at 33 Walnut Street, Montclair, NJ 07042
Phone: 973-744-0533
Fax: 973-744-0733
Hours: Wed – Sat, 5:30 – 10:00
Reservations are highly suggested.

Bobby Flay book signing

Posted in Books and gear, Food in the news with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 23, 2009 by restaurantouring

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That’s me and Bobby Flay at the Williams-Sonoma store inside the Mall at Short Hills in New Jersey. I met him last night. Nice guy. Busy, too. And way thinner in real life than he appears on TV. Maybe he’s been working out?

Anyway, he was there to sign copies of his new book, Bobby Flay’s Burgers, Fries & Shakes. I’m reading it now, and I’ll do a little review of it once I’m done. I’ll flesh out some of the details of the night then, as well.

Finally, because I’m young and immature, I want to give a shout out to Will, one of the coolest, smartest, 9-year-old, soon-to-be-tae-kwon-do-black-belt, future-chef-in-trainings I’ve met yet. Rock on! Cooks rule!

Who am I kidding? No one ever reads these posts of mine 😛

Cooking the Easter Bunny

Posted in Home cooking and more with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 21, 2009 by restaurantouring

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A couple years ago, I was driving a friend’s car (she was too tipsy to drive) when I accidentally ran over a rabbit that was running across route 10, in East Hanover.

Damn thing came outta nowhere.

I felt pretty bad about the whole crushing-a-skull-under-the-driver’s-side-wheel thing, and the fact that it was Good Friday only made things worse. It was like I just killed the Easter Bunny.

So, this year, I decided to kill a bunny rabbit on purpose.

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After severing the forequarters and cutting off the hindquarters, I trimmed the loin from the ribs and left the belly meat attached. I stuffed the loin with some caramelized onions that had been sauteed with some garlic and fresh sage leaves. I wrapped it all in some duck bacon that my good friend, Jose, bought me, seared it off, and finished it in the oven. It ain’t too pretty, mainly cuz the duck bacon was too thick and not nearly long enough, so the whole package unraveled by the time the food hit the plate. I will probably stick with good ol’ pork bacon next time.

I should note that the rabbit did not come with the liver, kidneys, or heart for some reason. I generally like offal, and I try to make an effort to eat it whenever it is available, if only so that it does not go to waste. For this dish, I was actually counting on some rabbit liver, so I was pretty upset when I discovered that this thing came with no offal whatsoever. Bummer.

While the rabbit finished cooking, I sauteed some potatoes in the rendered duck fat from the bacon, and seared some oyster mushrooms to go along with it. I deglazed with some chardonnay that I had laying around and added some fairly concentrated, gelatinous, deeply caramelized duck stock that I also had lying around. I reduced it to nappe consistency and lightly sauced the loin with that. A la minute.

Voila: dinner.

I hope everyone had a happy Easter!

P.S. I’m a big fan of total utilization. As I write this, the remaining bones and carcass from the rabbit is slowly simmering in a pot of water for stock. I threw in some chicken bones I’ve been saving up for the past couple weeks, too. I just threw the bones into a zip top bag in the freezer and took them out to make a batch of rabbit/chicken stock.

check my Flickr account for higher-quality and larger-sized pictures, especially since WordPress does this annoying thing where the right side of all my pictures gets cropped out of the frame (I’ll figure out how to fix it one of these days, I swear): http://www.flickr.com/photos/epicnomz

to learn more about breaking down bunnies into marketable consumer cuts, search for Michael Pardus, longtime instructor at the Culinary Institute of America, on YouTube. His user name is MPardus, I believe. Or, just click here.

Congratulations, Cat Cora!

Posted in Food in the news with tags , , , , , , , on April 7, 2009 by restaurantouring
Cat Cora and her wife, Jennifer

Cat Cora and her wife, Jennifer

For those of you who haven’t heard yet, Cat Cora and her wife, Jennifer, welcomed a third child into their family over the weekend. For more information on the newborn Thatcher Julius Cora, please read here.