Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Cookie Time: Mexican Wedding Cakes



This is, hands down, my favorite christmas cookie. I remember when I was little, my grandma (who lived in New York) would send our family (in California) a tin of her cookies, and this cookie was always in it. I can remember rummaging around in the tin looking for one of these little guys. The insides are sandy and crumbly, but, because they are rolled in powdered sugar while still hot, there is a smooth, almost cooling sweetness to the coating on the outside. Made from butter, nuts, sugar and flour, they are pretty simple to make en masse.

Cookie baker's tip: let the hot cookies cool a tiny bit before tossing in the powdered sugar. If they're too hot, they'll fall apart and you'll have to eat the busted ones yourself.

Mexican Wedding Cakes (From Joy of Cooking)

1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

1/2 lb butter, softened

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 c powdered sugar

2 tsp vanilla

2 c all purpose flour

1/3 cup powdered sugar, for rolling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven.

Toast Nuts: Place nuts on a baking sheet and bake for about 8 minutes, or until lightly brown and fragrant. Cool. Once the nuts have cooled completely place them, along with 2 tablespoons (25 grams) of the flour from the recipe, into your food processor, fitted with a metal blade, and process until they are finely ground (but not a paste).

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter and 1/2 c sugar until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the remaining flour and salt and beat until combined. Stir in the nuts. Cover and refrigerate the dough for about one hour or until firm.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Form the chilled dough into 1 inch (2.5 cm) balls and place them 2 inches (5 cm) apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for about 12 - 15 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies start to brown. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about 5 minutes.

Roll the cookies in powdered sugar until coated.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Cookie Time: Calginetti

Everyone's heard of pizzelle and biscotti, but I'm betting that these intriguing little fried pastries are new to even some die-hard Italian cookie aficionados. As a kid, I remember them popping up at my grandmom's house around the Christmas season, and I can't say they were always my favorite – the combination of cinnamon and citrus zest flavors with chocolate, along with the somewhat unusual texture of the filling (and the fact that there were chick peas - in a cookie?), was a bit of a challenge to my young palate. But as time went on, I gained an appreciation for these crunchy morsels, not just because they tasted good, but because they represented a who-knows-how-old tradition.

Calginetti ready to be fried

So it was a little bit heartwarming, a little bit fun, and a fair amount of work when my mom showed up to join Lauren and me in making these Christmas treats, pronounced cahl-jin-EETS (or at least that's how we say it in the South Philly Italian-American dialect). For a sense of historical perspective, here's the original recipe card upon which my grandmother passed down the instructions for making these. Like a lot of old recipes, this one doesn't tell the whole story, because when we followed it we ended up with WAY more filling than dough to wrap it in, so you may want to either half the filling portion or double the dough recipe to start out with. I'm also going to attempt to streamline the process versus what you'll find in the above-linked original recipe.

Calginetti (Mrs. Curcio)
Filling
1 (small) can chick peas/garbanzos/ceci
Zest of one tangerine, grated
1 8 oz. semisweet chocolate bar, chopped
1-1 1/2 C chopped walnuts or almonds
3/4 C cocoa
2 tbs cinnamon
Honey (about 3/4 of a bear's worth)

Rinse and drain the chick peas. Skin them by squeezing or rubbing with a towel. Place in the bowl of a food processor along with all of the ingredients aside from the honey. Process until mixture is finely chopped, then add honey until it has a firm consistency. Place in refrigerator while preparing the dough.

Dough
1/2 C rosé wine
1/2 C water
1/2 C vegetable oil
Flour (about 2-3 C)

Combine wine, water and oil, then mix in enough flour to make a dough that is thick enough to be rolled out. Divide dough into manageable portions and roll out to about 1/8" thick. Cut circles out of the dough with a three-inch diameter glass, biscuit cutter or ring mold. Place about a scant teaspoon of filling in each dough circle, then moisten the edges with water, fold over, press to seal and crimp with a fork (similar to making ravioli).


Deep-fry in hot vegetable oil (a deep fryer at 375° is best) in small batches, turning once, until golden brown all around. Drain and remove to a rack to complete draining and cooling. When cool, sprinkle with confectioner's sugar. Store in an air-tight container once totally cool and sprinkle with more confectioner's sugar before serving.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Cookie Time: Chocolate Espresso Snowcaps

Paul loves these crackley cookies, so I make sure to make them every year. They have a dark cake-y center and sweet crunchy outside that makes for a delicious combination. These have the added depth of espresso powder, but we have made them without coffee, and they are just as delicious. The dough freezes well, which helps those of us who bake in quantity and have to plan ahead.

Cookie Baker's Tip: These would be delicious with other flavorings that complement chocolate. I'm thinking orange? raspberry? rum?

Chocolate Espresso Snowcaps

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 teaspoons instant espresso
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg
4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 tablespoon milk
Confectioners' sugar, for coating

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, espresso, baking powder, and salt. With an electric mixer, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg until well combined; mix in cooled chocolate. With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture; beat in milk until just combined.

Flatten dough into a disk; wrap in plastic. Freeze until firm, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Pour confectioners' sugar (about 1/2 cup) into a medium bowl; working in batches, roll balls in sugar two times, letting them sit in sugar between coatings.

Place on prepared baking sheets, 2 inches apart. Bake until cookies have spread and coating is cracked, 12 to 14 minutes; cookies will still be soft to the touch. Cool cookies on a wire rack.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Cookie Time: Pecan Tassies


This recipe is from Paul's family, from his father's side. Apparently, tassies are popular cookies that can feature a variety of fillings, but I had never had them before moving to Pennsylvania. These are like mini pecan pies. What is not to love about mini pecan pies?? really, people.

Pecan Tassies (with thanks to Grace Cozzubbo)

Preheat oven to 350

Crust:
cream together:
6 ox cream cheese
1/2 lb bitter
2 c flour

Roll dough into 48 balls and press in the bottom of small tins (I have a "tassie pan" which is essentially a mini muffin pan), making an indentation into each- they should be like small cups of dough.

Filling:
3 eggs
2cups light brown sugar
pinch of salt
3 Tbs melted butter
1 tsp vanilla
crushed nuts (I use pecans)

Beat eggs, add other ingredients except nuts. Pour this mixture into the indentations in the dough. Sprinkle with crushed nuts. Bake 12-15 minutes.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Cookie Time: Linzer Cookies


These cookies, an addition from Tuesdays with Dorie, found a comfortable home in my holiday repertoire due to my love of nut-based cookies and any excuse to use jam. They're only a teensy bit more complicated than a sugar cookie, and the finished product has a great sandy, crumbly texture. These cookies look elegant, too, thanks to the snow-like dusting of confectioner's sugar at the finish.

Cookie Baker's Tip: using a small star, christmas tree, or candy cane cutter for the center cut out would make these cookies super-festive.

You can find the recipe here, straight from Dorie's book, Baking, From My Home to Yours.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas Cookie Time: Almond Spice Wafers


I tried these cookies, from Martha Stewart, last year because their picture looked irresistible. They have a delicate, almost melt in your mouth flavor, and remind me of the incredibly thin, crispy ginger cookies you can buy at ikea, but jazzed up with nuts (call me lame but I am a sucker for all things ikea).

Again, I only have pictures of the rejects (when baking 13 types of christmas cookies one forgets about the important things, like saving some for your "beauty shots").

Cookie Baker's Tip: slicing the dough while still somewhat frozen helps you get ultra thin slices.

Almond Spice Wafers
from Martha Stewart's Cookies

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups packed dark-brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup sliced blanched almonds

Line 2 mini loaf pans with plastic wrap.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Beat butter and sugar with a mixer on medium speed for 4 minutes. Reduce speed to low. Add eggs and spices. Beat in flour mixture in 3 additions.

Press cookie dough into pans, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Freeze for 1 1/2 hours (or up to 1 month).Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove dough from 1 pan. Let soften slightly. Cut eight 1/8-inch-thick slices with a sharp knife. Cover remaining dough, and freeze in pan until ready to slice and bake.

Place slices 1 1/2 inches apart on a cookie sheet lined with a nonstick baking mat. Top each with 2 to 3 almond slices. Freeze until firm, 5 minutes. Bake until dark golden brown, 10 minutes. Let cool on sheet on a wire rack. Repeat.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Harry Potter Birthday Cake

This weekend Paul threw me a wonderful surprise party for my 30th birthday. My family was there, my friends were there, but do you want to know what the best part was? My cake. A Harry Potter themed cake featuring the Hogwarts seal, a fondant me flying on a broom and a 3 headed dog that resembled our own pups, Clementine and Oliver. Underneath the fondant fun was a vanilla cake with raspberry filling and butterbeer buttercream. Butterbeer. Check out the awesomeness:

Don't you wish it was your birthday cake?

The cake was made by Brittany at Splendora Cake and Tea- check her out if you have a local cake need. She's working towards her own storefront and does lovely work.



Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas Cookie Time: Seven-Layer Cookies

I saw these cookies last year on Smitten Kitchen and it brought up instant memories of boxes full of italian bakery cookies.

The recipe is a bit more complicated and labor intensive then your usual christmas cookie, but it's well worth the extra effort. They were by far the crowd favorite amongst the many cookies I baked and distributed last year. This pic is of one of the rejects, so I apologize in advance for it's super wonkiness.

Cookie baker's tip: Change up the color of the layers as you wish to suit the occasion - I'm thinking red and green stripes for this year's batch.

Seven-Layer Cookies
Gourmet, December 2005

Makes about 5 dozen cookies (or more, if you cut them as small as I did)

4 large eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1 (8-oz) can almond paste
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
25 drops red food coloring
25 drops green food coloring
1 (12-oz) jar apricot preserves, heated and strained
7 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped

Special equipment: a small offset spatula, a heavy-duty stand mixer if you have one; a hand-mixer should work as well

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 13- by 9-inch baking pan and line bottom with wax paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on 2 ends, then butter paper.

Beat whites in mixer fitted with whisk attachment at medium-high speed until they just hold stiff peaks. Add 1/4 cup sugar a little at a time, beating at high speed until whites hold stiff, slightly glossy peaks. Transfer to another bowl.

Switch to paddle attachment, then beat together almond paste and remaining 3/4 cup sugar until well blended, about 3 minutes. Add butter and beat until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add yolks and almond extract and beat until combined well, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low, then add flour and salt and mix until just combined.

Fold half of egg white mixture into almond mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.

Divide batter among 3 bowls. Stir red food coloring into one and green food coloring into another, leaving the third batch plain. Set white batter aside. Chill green batter, covered. Pour red batter into prepared pan and spread evenly with offset spatula (layer will be about 1/4 inch thick).

Bake red layer 8 to 10 minutes, until just set. (It is important to undercook. They’ll look like they’re not done, but a tester does come out clean.)

Using paper overhang, transfer layer to a rack to cool, about 15 minutes. Clean pan, then line with parchment or wax paper and butter paper in same manner as above. Bake white layer in prepared pan until just set. As white layer bakes, bring green batter to room temperature. Transfer white layer to a rack. Prepare pan as above, then bake green layer in same manner as before. Transfer to a rack to cool.

When all layers are cool, invert green onto a parchment or wax-paper-lined large baking sheet. Discard paper from layer and spread with half of preserves. Invert white on top of green layer, discarding paper. Spread with remaining preserves. Invert red layer on top of white layer and discard wax or parchment paper.

Cover with plastic wrap and weight with a large baking pan. Chill at least 8 hours.

Remove weight and plastic wrap. Bring layers to room temperature. Melt chocolate in a double boiler or a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat. Keep chocolate over water.

Trim edges of assembled layers with a long serrated knife. Quickly spread half of chocolate in a thin layer on top of cake. Chill, uncovered, until chocolate is firm, about 15 minutes. Cover with another sheet of wax paper and place another baking sheet on top, then invert cake onto sheet and remove paper. Quickly spread with remaining chocolate. Chill until firm, about 30 minutes.

Cut lengthwise into 4 strips (I cut them into more, because I wanted them 1 to 1 1/2 inches wide, as I remember them). Cut strips crosswise into 3/4-inch-wide cookies.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Christmas Cookie Time: World Peace Cookies


The instant I saw the recipe for these cookies in Dorie Greenspan's book Baking, from my home to yours, I knew they were a must try: crunchy, crumbly thins with a deep cocoa flavor flecked with salt. The perfect match for my sweet/salty obsession. Their name, world peace cookies, make them the perfect gift this time of year, (or really any, since we really could do with a little world peace.)

Cookie baker's tip: Making the dough ahead of time and freezing it in empty paper towel tubes makes for a perfectly round cookie when you are ready to bake.


World Peace Cookies (adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan)

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 stick plus 3 tablespoons (11 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips, or a generous 3/4 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips

Directions:

1. Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add both sugars, the salt and vanilla extract and beat for 2 minutes more.

2. Turn off the mixer. Pour in the dry ingredients, drape a kitchen towel over the stand mixer to protect yourself and your kitchen from flying flour and pulse the mixer at low speed about 5 times, a second or two each time. If there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple of times more; if not, remove the towel. Continuing at low speed, mix for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour disappears into the dough. For the best texture, work the dough as little as possible once the flour is added, and don’t be concerned if the dough looks a little crumbly. Toss in the chocolate pieces and mix only to incorporate.

3. Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it together and divide it in half. Working with one half at a time, shape the dough into logs that are 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. If you’ve frozen the dough, you needn’t defrost it before baking — just slice the logs into cookies and bake the cookies 1 minute longer.)

4. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

5. Using a sharp thin knife, slice the logs into rounds that are 1/2 inch thick. (The rounds are likely to crack as you’re cutting them — don’t be concerned, just squeeze the bits back onto each cookie.) Arrange the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between them.

6. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12 minutes — they won’t look done, nor will they be firm, but that’s just the way they should be. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest until they are only just warm, at which point you can serve them or let them reach room temperature.



Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Turkey and pumpkin "neck" soup


I hate letting food go to waste, so when presented with the opportunity to give a good home to the turkey carcass offered by my mom on our way out the door following a delightful Thanksgiving dinner, I couldn't say no. So while a large portion of America was standing in line for low-priced LCD TVs this Black Friday morning, I was standing over my dearly departed poultry friend, slowly simmering away into a sumptuous broth. Broth is great to have around and all, but I wanted to put some of it to good use right away – so with the help of a crazy-looking long neck pumpkin we got from our CSA, I whipped up this soup.

I wanted to avoid the cliched cinnamon-nutmeg-clove "pumpkiny" spices in this soup, so I instead opted to take it in a more piquant direction with the addition of some cumin and a dried red chile. Some chopped cilantro added at the last minute brought some freshness to the bowl, and the addition of some frozen corn made for a good textural contrast.

One turkey carcass
1 medium onion, diced
1 "neck" of a long neck pumpkin, or half a butternut or acorn squash, diced
1/2 green bell pepper
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme, or about 1/4 tsp dried
1 tsp cumin
1 dried red chile (optional)
1/2 cup corn (frozen is fine)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Do what you have to do to fit the turkey carcass into a large stockpot, cover with water, and slowly bring to a simmer. Cook for about 2 hours until the broth develops a rich golden color, skimming off fat, foam and bubbles as they rise to the surface. Remove bones, drain, and let cool. Pick the remaining meat from the bones and reserve. When broth has cooled, skim fat from the surface.

Cook the onion and bell pepper over medium heat in a little oil until translucent. Add the diced pumpkin (or squash), bay leaves, cumin and thyme, and season with salt and pepper. Let cook for a minute or so, then add reserved turkey broth to cover, plus a little more to get it to the desired soupy consistency. Bring to a simmer for 15 minutes or so, then add shredded turkey meat and the chile pepper, if using. Cook until pumpkin/squash is tender, then add corn and cook until corn is heated through. Remove bay leaves, thyme (if fresh) and pepper, then add cilantro just before serving.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Winter Citrus Salad


Well, technically it's not winter yet, but we were surprised by some random snow flurries falling outside while we prepared this tasty and refreshing fruit salad to bring to Thanksgiving. It's pretty simple, but the interplay of flavors, all tied together by some spearmint, gave it a real sophisticated taste, and the layered presentation in a trifle bowl sure was elegant. Here's how we did it:

3 oranges
4 tangerines
Pineapple (we cheated and got some pre-cut pineapple; probably around a pound?)
1 pomegranate
Spearmint leaves

Supreme the oranges and tangerines, and combine in a bowl. Extract all the seeds from the pomegranate and reserve. (A good trick for doing this, as seen on Good Eats, is to break the fruit apart in a bowl underwater. This keeps juice from flying everywhere, and the pith/membrane all float to the top, making it easy to skim off when you're through.) Cut the pineapple into tiny planks about one inch by a quarter inch by an eighth-inch thick. Chiffonade a good handful of washed spearmint leaves.

Drain all the excess juice from the oranges/tangerines and pineapple (save this for drinking later, it's pretty tasty). Add half of the mint to the citrus and half to the pineapple, tossing each fruit with the mint to distribute.

To assemble, in a clear-sided bowl, make a layer of the orange-tangerine mixture. Sprinkle about half of the pomegranate pips in a ring around the inside edge of the bowl. Add the pineapple on top, then top with the remainder of the pomegranate. Chill in the fridge for a few hours before serving to allow flavors to mingle. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Review: Fish

The first time we went to Fish was on a whim. It's only a few blocks from where we live, so we took a walk over without a reservation and sat at the bar, where they serve the full menu. On the strength of that first experience, we've been back twice, and never been disappointed.

It's a bit shocking the first time you go in if you'd ever been to Astral Plane, the stuck-in-the-70s bar and restaurant that used to occupy the space on Lombard Street. Gone are the tapestries hanging from the ceiling and the pictures of Barbra Streisand in the bathroom; in its place is an understated and thoroughly modern, yet comfortable, space with no extraneous elements to distract from the star of the show: some of the best seafood in the city.

There's a list of thoughtfully composed cocktails to start things off, from lighter fare like a Pimm's cup (made with homemade ginger ale) or grapefruit martini, to heavy-hitters like the Old Fashioned and a Manhattan (whose sweetness and alcohol-soaked cherries proved a little controversial). On our most recent visit I had my first Sidecar, which here is made with Armagnac rather than the usual Cognac – refreshing and nicely balanced. A nice selection of wines from the glass and select (mostly craft) beers rounds out the drinks list.

Though I haven't had oysters at Fish yet, there's always a nice selection, and this time for $3.50 a pop we could have tried Belons, a variety of which only 5,000 are produced each year. Even if you're not into raw mollusks, the first courses at Fish allow a variety of shellfish and other sea critters to shine. I had tender rock shrimp, tossed with small gnudi in a sauce with crushed almonds. The huge, fresh-as-can-be mussels come in a coconut milk and panang curry broth that will have you asking for more bread to sop up all the juice. The tender octopus, served on a bed of artichoke, pulled lamb shank and chick pea, was a little too charred for one of our guests, but I personally liked its aggressive caramelization.

Please note that if you go to Fish, someone at your table must get the skate entree. This is not optional. The skate itself is cooked perfectly, and it rests atop a magical amalgam of melted-down leeks and spaetzle, which is further embellished tableside with a deeply savory Parmesan broth. Oh yes, and there are also some shaved truffles on top, which on our most recent visit made the dish attain nearly over-the-top levels of luxuriousness. This is simply one of the best seafood dishes you'll ever have (and it's almost enough to make one reconsider the taboo against cheese on fish).

Our waiter informed us that the "pastrami crust" on the mahi mahi was not made of the meat itself, but just the usual blend of spices that goes on that deli classic. It worked surprisingly well, adding spice and crunch to the fish, under which you'll find a pile of irresistibly sweet and sour braised red cabbage. The menu changes frequently, but aside from these two dishes you'll find another three or four mains that are doubtlessly just as well-executed.

Desserts, made by the chef's mother, were a little more hit-and-miss. My pumpkin tart was really tasty in the middle, but the dark spiced-wafer crust was just too thick along the sides. The chocolate truffle torte (with pretzel crust!) was super-dense but tasty. There's always a great selection of homemade ice creams and sorbets as well.

Service is always perfectly fine and professional. Prices are a little on the high side (entrees all hover around $30), but given the quality of the ingredients and the level of execution, it's well worth it. If you like seafood, Fish is a must-visit, and even if you're not, the sheer deliciousness of Fish's dishes may awaken the seafood lover in you.


Fish on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Free Meal Report: Amuse

Unlike the majority of our restaurant reviews, the following reflects a tasting that was provided free of charge (to myself and number of other Philly food bloggers). Grateful as I was for the opportunity, I will attempt to prevent the special nature of this meal from coloring my critique.

Amuse is located in the lobby of the recently opened Le Méridien Hotel, located just north of City Hall on Arch Street. Formerly a YMCA, the Starwood hotel chain has refashioned the space into a pseudo-Euro boutique hotel, and Amuse is given the place of honor just beyond the front doors. Hotel restaurants tend not to have a sparkling reputation for quality, with a few exceptions, so I was curious to see if Amuse would distinguish itself when I was presented with the opportunity to sample some of their "Fall menu". Unfortunately, though there were a few standout dishes, I found the food ambitious, but mostly unremarkable.

Our amuse-bouche was a champagne-infused grape, served on a spoon with tiny basil flowers. The fizzy grape sensation was interesting, but the tannins in the grape skin and the size of the grape itself made for a somewhat unbalanced bite. I thought a Caprese salad was an interesting choice for a fall menu; while the "house-pulled" buffalo mozzarella was creamy and delicious, the tomatoes didn't have much flavor, as you might expect given that it's the middle of November. A crown of scallop shells atop a seafood medley with chorizo and sweet peas made for a nice presentation, but under the crown of shells, tough bay scallops and stuck-together pappardelle put a damper on the undersea festivities. Probably the best appetizer we sampled was the pork shank ravioli served with a crispy spiral of decent homemade pancetta, black trumpet mushrooms and a Port syrup, even if the ravioli dough was a little tough.

Luckily, some of the mains were more satisfying. The top dish of the night for me was the giant bone-in veal chop, cooked perfectly to a juicy light pink all the way through, embellished with garlic confit and copious black pepper that complemented the veal's flavor nicely. The honey-roasted chicken was flavorful and boasted a nicely crisp skin, even if the meat was slightly on the tough side.

The vaunted steak frites, proclaimed as the specialty of the house on Amuse's menu, disappointed me somewhat. Perhaps it was a consequence of the steak sitting a little too long while it endured photo sessions from my fellow diners, but despite having a rich color, the steak's exterior lacked the excitingly crackly, salty crust that can provide such a nice contrast to the meat inside (which, in this case, was slightly spongey). The frites were also a tad limp, and no one seemed to care for the intensely green and overly tarragon-y pesto that was served on the side.

The broth for the bouillabaisse was flat and lacking in the richness that makes for a really good bowl, and the vegetarian (actually vegan) dish we sampled, a cylindrical ratatouille that seemed to be attempting to mimic confit byaldi, instead came out looking and tasting more like the vegetarian dish at a wedding. (The "tomato fondue" served on the side of this one was very rich and flavorful, but was uncomfortably reminiscent of tomato paste.)

I'm guessing Amuse doesn't have a dedicated pastry chef, because the desserts all seemed to come out of the "Sweet Cooking for Savory Chefs" file. And in what is apparently a corporate policy, they are served with a spork, which you'd think might be fun, but turns out to be incredibly awkward. The chocolate pot au crème was tasty, though very thick and served a bit too cold and with the distracting crunch of mini chocolate chips on top. The tarte tatin had a crust that was almost impossible to spork my way through to try a bite, and an almost lemony tartness replaced the rich caramelly flavor I was expecting. There was also some sort of berry phyllo Napoleon contraption which I feel bad to even comment on. Bottom line: if you do eat here, skip dessert.

Service was quite friendly, though our servers repeatedly neglected to bring us any sort of serving utensils for the dishes (granted the situation was a little unusual since we were dining family-style).

Although nothing we were served was really outright bad, there is plenty of room for improvement at Amuse. I hate to sound like Gordon Ramsey on Kitchen Nightmares (UK, at least), but some benefit could be gained by simplifying some of the overwrought dishes and really refining the execution of the elements that remain. Things like tomatoes and blueberries in mid-November have to go overboard if you are making any pretense of seasonal cooking. I don't think that out-of-town hotel guests will necessarily be disappointed if they come down to the lobby for dinner, as long as they're unaware of what they're missing at some superior French spots in town. For us natives, certainly not worth a special trip.

Amuse on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 15, 2010

PIZZA

So lately it's been Pizza Fridays around Casa I'll Eat You. And why get delivery when you can make your own?

I used to have a very good response to that. The homemade pizzas I remember from my youth were frankly a little disappointing (but this was before we really knew what we were doing). Besides, any decent pizza place has equipment and expertise beyond what is probably available to you at home. Ovens that get hotter, dough that stretches farther, shredded cheese that's even shreddier - how can you compete?

You compete by not competing. You embrace the pizza that you can make, because you can make it however you like, and without having to fight over toppings or tip the delivery man. And with a little practice, you will enjoy it just as much as that hot round disc that comes to your house in the cardboard box, or maybe even a bit more.

You start with the dough, and you start the night before. The recipe I use is adapted from the Silver Spoon, and it's easy to remember. This will make enough for two pizzas of a "personal" size, so dinner for two:

1 1/4 C flour
pinch salt
1/4 tsp yeast
1/2 C water

For the flour, I like to use maybe 2/3 bread flour, 1/3 all-purpose, and 1/3 whole wheat. Mix the dry stuff, add the water and then let it rock out on the dough hook for five minutes or so. You'll probably have to adjust the amounts of flour and water as you go in order to get a dough that holds together but isn't too wet and sticky. Form into two balls, put in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and pop it in the fridge. Go to bed.

The next evening, take the dough out to get up to temperature. If your dough balls are not perfectly round, here's your chance to make things right - uneven dough balls mean uneven pizza crusts and the potential for heartbreaking catastrophic dough tears.

Get your oven real hot. Five hundred degrees is great; you can push it to 550 if your oven allows. And make sure you get a pizza stone ... it makes a big difference.

Forming the crust is the fun part. Relax and be gentle with the dough. Work on a well-floured surface, and spin the dough as you push out towards the edges to get it started. Then, do whatever you have to do to stretch it into the size and shape you want. Here it is on the peel all ready to be topped.


Now think about toppings. On this particular night, we did one white and one red. The white pizza features mozzarella, some grated Parmigiano Regianno, a touch of diced-up sopressata, arugula, and an egg. First the cheeses go on, and into the oven it goes. Here's a sneak peek complete with dramatic oven lighting.


After five minutes or so, I threw on the arugula, and then after a few more minutes, cracked the egg on top. Once the egg was set, out the pizza came.


This was tasty, but to be honest it was cooked a little too long, and the crust became a little crackery. Not having the wet sauce on the pizza contributes to its drying out as well. The egg is a great touch on this one, though as we know most things are better with an egg on them.


A more traditional peppers and onion pizza was the second. I don't sweat it too much about the sauce; it's something you can make batches of and freeze, or just whip out some tomato paste and water in a pinch. During the summer we made sauce from fresh tomatoes cooked down and run through a food mill.


A word about cheese, too: fresh mozzarella is great, but on pizza it can have its drawbacks. You may find yourself stuck with a pizza dotted with "islands" of cheese that has melted in place if you don't cut it up enough. For everyday pizzamaking, shredded mozzarella or whatever is fine.

Enjoy and experiment! We like making pizza when we have people over ... the only dilemma that comes up is how to hang out with your guests in the dining room while you're back and forth to the kitchen trying to stretch out the next crust. We already have two stones so we can do two at once, but any other suggestions? I may look into having a pizza oven built in the dining room ...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Review: Bomb Bomb

Growing up in South Philly, I was always intrigued by the neon sign for the Bomb Bomb Bar-B-Q Grill on Wolf Street. For those who haven't seen it, well, it's two bombs, of the Wile E. Coyote/it's-1989-and-your-Mac-has-crashed variety, stacked on top of each other, with the word "BOMB" inside each one. Not until recently did I learn that the name derives from actual explosive events in the restaurant's (distant) past, which makes the place all the more enticing. But despite all of these alluring qualities, I'd never been to the place until this weekend.

There used to be more places like Bomb Bomb in South Philly – there was the South Philly Grille at 12th & Mercy Streets (near Snyder), Sam's Cobblestone, the Royal Villa – corner bars in the front with dining rooms in the back, serving up red-gravy Italian like mussels (red or white) and whatever parmagiana. Though a lot of these places have disappeared, from the looks of the Saturday night crowd absolutely packing the small place, the Bomb is still thriving. Part of the appeal might be that Bomb Bomb puts a twist on the gravy bar institution by offering BBQ ribs along with the Italian fare.

So after 45 minutes or so waiting in the tiny bar area, we were seated in the small dining room, which has maybe 7 or 8 tables. The atmosphere is cozy and homey, with guys like Frank, Perry and Dean playing from the speakers, and a statue of Groucho Marx perched on the toilet tank in the restroom. The menu is right on target for this kind of place: there's ravioli, gnocchi, mussels, the parmagianas of all kinds, and various configurations of seafood with spaghetti. And then, the ribs. Our dining companions both got half-racks of ribs, I got the ribs and chicken combo, and Lauren had the eggplant parmagiana.

The eggplant was prepared in a way that showed admirable restraint. Cut thin and lengthwise, it wasn't oversauced and cheesed into submission like a casserole, but rather breaded, fried till crisp (but not greasy), and topped with just enough sauce and mozzarella to make it satisfying but not overwhelming. The side of spaghetti was cooked nicely al dente and made me consider a pasta dish for my next visit.

Now, the ribs ... I'm not an expert on the subject, but I think that barbecue purists might want to order something else, or at least suspend their uppityness for the night. These are not your smoked-all-day, dry-rubbed style ribs. They're remarkably tender baby backs, copiously sauced with a sweet and spicy concoction, then finished on the grill, where the sugars in the sauce char and blacken in spots. Cliched as it may be to say, the meat really does fall off the bone, and we were hungry enough that they disappeared pretty fast (along with the salt-and-pepper fries served alongside them). If you're coming with a group, someone ought to order them so you can at least give them a try. The chicken, by comparison, was a little disappointing; a tad overcooked and dry. Stick to the ribs if it's BBQ you're after.

Service was extremely friendly and our waitress certainly was a character. Overall the atmosphere is very laid-back, friendly and welcoming. It's easy to see why the Bomb Bomb is still going strong when some of its comrades have fizzled out. Here's hoping business keeps booming. Sorry.

Bomb Bomb Bar-B-Q Grill on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 8, 2010

I'll Drink You (Eventually): Brown Ale


Long-time fans may already know that we here at I'll Eat You engage in the production of adult beverages from time to time. Lately, with the aid of a beermaking kit from our good friend J (who was behind Project Manhattan), I've been trying to make a habit of brewing my own beer.

For those who don't know much about the practice, making beer at home is really quite easy if you have good directions and access to good supplies. There are a ton of places online where you kind find recipes for homebrews of every variety under the sun, and in Philly, we're lucky enough to have a few spots to buy homebrew supplies. For the sakes of proximity and cost-effectiveness, I got my ingredients at Barry's Homebrew Outlet, home of the always knowledgeable and affable Barry.

Back in June I made a batch of Saison, which came out pretty well. The flavor wasn't terribly strong, but it did have some of the desirable "funky" characteristics of a Saison, owing partly to the unique strain of yeast used in its production. It took longer than expected to carbonate, but Barry advises me that this may have been because I left too much empty space in the bottles.

So I will know better this time, when I bottle my brown ale in a few weeks. My hope is to have it ready in time for Christmas so I can give some away as gifts. I started with this recipe I found on beertools.com.

The color and richness in this beer will (hopefully) come from the dark crystal and chocolate malts that were steeped in the water as it came to a boil. Six pounds of light powdered malt extract provide the rest of the beer's backbone and the delicious sugars that my battalions of yeast will feed upon, creating glorious alcohol in their wake. The hops are of the Styrian Goldings, Willamette and Tettnanger varieties. In a departure from the recipe and in an effort to make it a little more holiday-ish, I did add a small amount of spices at the end of the boil. (If the beer turns out well, I'll let you know what they were.)

So check back in a few weeks for an update ... in the meantime, I'll be on the lookout for bubbling and the mildly intoxicating aroma of yeast doing their thing!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Talula's Table "Pop-Up" at Washington Square

Thanks to some quick action on Lauren's part, we were able to score an opening-night reservation for the three night only Talula's Table "pop-up" event. Orchestrated by restaurant behemoth Stephen Starr, this is the first in a proposed series of events that would bring experimental and new-to-Philly chefs into the underutilized space that was once Washington Square. The lure of being able to experience the wildly acclaimed cooking of Talula's Table without a year-long wait for reservations (and an hour's drive out to Kennett Square) made this a no-brainer, and we were suitably impressed with the experience.

Aimee Olexy is the brains behind Talula's. I give her enormous respect for being a part of the original Django on Fourth Street, which was perhaps the first BYO in Philly to really hit the sweet spot of innovation, really fine execution, and a moderate price point. From what I gather, at Talula's, the focus is shifted a bit more to the farm-to-table idea, which is a natural given its location in mushroom capital Kennett Square. There were reminders of this pastoral setting in the antique farm implements scattered about the high-ceilinged Washington Square space, and in the small potted vegetables placed on each table (a tiny brussels sprout plant for us; we resisted sampling a leaf).

Rather than the multi-course, prix-fixe model of Talula's, this menu was set up with five courses, each with three or four selections, all priced and served a la carte. To start, I had the eggplant soup. It was somewhat reminiscent of a thinned-out baba ghanouj (without the tahini and garlic), though with an additional celery flavor. It was garnished with tiny "frites" of eggplant and some crumbles of Purple Haze goat cheese, which added a lovely creamy component to the experience. Lauren had the mushroom soup, which was rich without being overtly creamy, like "cream of mushroom soup without the cream". This was garnished with a bone marrow fritter. (Little breaded and fried garnishes were a recurring theme.)

Then ... we waited. There was quite a long delay between our first and second courses, but hey, it was the first night in a new kitchen, so we understood. Our very knowledgable and enthusiastic waitress offered us another gougere while we waited and worked on our drinks (a glass of Grenache for Lauren; a "pickled martini" for me; this was simply a chilled glass of Belvedere garnished with a skewer of two homemade pickles). We also got a visit from the sommelier, who recommended a glass of an Austrian red (St. Laurent) to go with Lauren's main course.

Finally, the second course arrived. Lauren was thrilled to see fried squash blossoms on the menu. ("Picked yesterday!", fawned our waitress.) Unlike the typical preparation, these were not stuffed with cheese or anything else, for that matter: simply small, crisp blossoms, very lightly fried and served with green tomato ketchup. I had the chicken sausage with "oozy cheese", mustard and assorted pickles. The sausage was gloriously aromatic with smoke, but overall, I would say the course was pleasant enough, though a bit inessential for both of us.

For the mains: creamy risotto made with aged cheddar, topped with braised beef cheeks and gremolata. The beef was amazingly beefy-tasting, if a little salty for me, but the combination of that with the creamy risotto and fresh-tasting gremolata was awesome. We switched midway though, so I had the second half of Lauren's sous vide duck breast, served with a fresh cherry sauce and a duck confit "tater tot". The duck, being cooked the way it was, retained a lot more of its fat than if it had been traditionally seared or roasted, but it was tender and delicious, with little specks of salt on the surface that made for tiny explosions of flavor in the mouth. The cherry sauce was nice and not too sweet, and the tater tot tasted uncannily like the "real deal" in a way that was almost too authentic. Overall we were very pleased with the entrees.

Next up was "Cheese 301", a course that we shared. This was two-bite portions of seven or so cheeses served with sparse accompaniments (candied nuts, a fruit paste) that cascaded like a spectrum down the side of the plate. Some outstanding cheeses in here with really big flavors, like the Truffle Tremor, the Cabot Clothbound and a very sweet and creamy gorgonzola, all served at the perfect temperature. The course came with a card asking us about our "desert island" cheese, how we like to eat our cheese and what our favorite milk is.

We shared a dessert as well, the salted chocolate-caramel shortbread bar. If you go, GET THIS. Unbelievably creamy caramel and rich chocolate, set off by just the right amount of salt, and some bitterness from the cacao nibs sprinkled on the caramel whipped cream that was served alongside. Absolutely magical.

With tip this all came out to just over $100 each, but it was worth it. It was a great idea, apparently a huge success (booked solid in two days), and hopefully a harbinger of more to come. Mr. Starr himself was floating around tables, and I overheard something about a Greek-themed "pop-up" next on the agenda. Unless he lands Zeus himself, it might be hard to top the Talula's experience.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Mother's Day 2010

OK, so we haven't posted in a while, and it's now closer to Father's Day than it is to Mother's Day. In any event, here's the belated report on what we made for our annual culinary extravaganza.

Gravlax with whole-wheat blini

Not too much new here; it's the same simple gravlax recipe from last year, plus some tasty little whole-wheat blini to serve them on.


Torte d'omelette

This idea came from watching an old black-and-white episode of Julia Child where she discussed the proper way to make an omelette. As part of a show, she made this seldom-seen dish, which is nothing more than a stack of plain egg omelets with some piperade between the layers. The piperade was made with roasted tomatoes, bell peppers, and leeks. We added some goat cheese between some of the layers as well. Making that many omelets and stacking them without ripping them was a little nerve-racking, but we got the job done.


Smoked potato and duck confit hash

For some reason I had this crazy idea that I should smoke some potatoes. So I got a bunch of the baby Yukon Golds, rigged up a makeshift stovetop smoker out of two aluminum pans, covered the whole thing with foil and let them smoke up for an hour or so. Ultimately, not too much smoke flavor was imparted into the dish, but the duck sure was tasty, and rendering the duck fat for the confit means duck cracklins for the cook.


Spring vegetables in prosecco beurre blanc

This ended up a bit disappointing. After blanching asparagus, peas, and carrots so that they achieved Technicolor brilliance, once they were reheated in the sauce, everything went a little gray. It still tasted OK but was a little lacking in punch.

What was for dessert? I will let Lauren tell you all about that ...

Friday, March 12, 2010

Walk Against Hunger with I'll Eat You

Time out for a little PSA: sad to say, while we're here sharing recipes or nitpicking a new fancy restaurant to death, a staggering number of people face the prospect of simply not having enough food at all. In a place as rich as ours, it's a crime that anyone should have to go hungry, so please join us in supporting the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger with their Walk Against Hunger event on Saturday, April 10.

If you're interested in walking, why not join us in Team I'll Eat You? Just click the link to register. Or, make a donation – every little bit helps. Participants and donors will have our hearty and eternal thanks, not to mention the knowledge that they will be helping a few more people pull up a seat at our region's communal dinner table.

(as a side note, apologies for active.com; it really is a pretty terrible and hard-to-figure-out site, and the registration doesn't seem to work properly in Safari. Boo-urns.)

Friday, March 5, 2010

Jambalaya


Emeril. It seems as though the man has come under a good deal of ridicule over the years – the catch phrases, the live show with the fawning audience who responded in Pavlovian fashion at the very mention of "pork fat" and "gaaaaaaaaaaalic", and of course the very, very ill-advised NBC sitcom. But I'm not ashamed to admit that I learned a hell of a lot about cooking from the man.

Back in the early days of Food Network, before its invasion by the nightmarish likes of Sandra Lee and Guy "Fee-eDRD-i", the show was The Essence of Emeril, and it was just the man himself, a simple white tile background, an occasionally misbehaving electric range, and the food. Far from the manic caricature he became, indiscriminately dumping bowl after bowl of pre-prepped ingredients into saucepans between exchanging banter with Elmo, the Emeril of the Essence days was a very informative host, entertaining yet mostly sedate, and he got a lot of important concepts across. Like seasoning both sides of whatever you're cooking so "both sides taste good". Getting your pans hot and not moving things once you put them in. Building layers of flavor with the use of things like the "trinity" of onion, bell pepper and celery. Making a roux from blonde to chocolate brown. It all really clicked.

So just as Emeril was something of a TV-watching staple in my formative years, so too were his recipes part of our family's dinner rotation. We had a few of his cookbooks, and always had a batch of his "essence" seasoning blend on hand, ready to sprinkle on anything and everything. Once in a while, it was crawfish étoufée on a Saturday night, but usually it was Emeril's jambalaya. And I'll be damned if it hadn't been at least seven years since I made it, so I threw a batch together the other day.

This was made a little easier because someone at Emeril Inc. had sent a little care package to I'll Eat You some time back. It included some Emeril-brand chicken stock and a few bottles of the vaunted Essence, all pre-mixed and ready to sprinkle. Once you have the Essence, the rest is easy, and here's how it goes:

Jambalaya
A smallish batch, recreated from memory from one of Emeril's cookbooks

1/2 lb. chicken (preferably thigh meat, I was stuck with breasts)
1 or 2 links andouille sausage (kielbasa works in a pinch)
1/2 lb. shrimp, shells off
1 1/2 C. rice (long grain white is best)
1 green pepper
1 medium onion
2 stalks celery (omitted from this batch because Lauren doesn't like it)
1 large clove gaaaaaaalic
The Essence - if you don't have this, here's a recipe
A few bay leaves
2-3 plum tomatoes, or small can of diced tomatoes
Worcestershire sauce
Hot sauce
Chicken stock

Cut the chicken into chunks and sprinkle liberally with Essence (shout "Bam!" as you do this). Get a large, deep pan hot and add a tablespoon or two of olive oil. While you're browning the chicken thoroughly, dice the onions, peppers and celery, and cut the sausage into small chunks. Once chicken is browned, add vegetables and andouille; reduce heat to medium and cook until vegetables soften.

Add the garlic and rice, then stir around for a minute or two. Add bay leaves, tomatoes, a few dashes each of Worcestershire and hot sauce, and add enough chicken stock to completely cover the rice. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Read through script of proposed sitcom pilot; reject it.

Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. If it's getting too dry in there and the rice is sticking to the bottom, add a little more stock. When the rice is almost cooked, add the shrimp and re-cover. Cook for another 5-7 minutes or until the shrimp is pink and opaque. Serve with a Turbo Dog or the beverage of your choice.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Review: Amis

So after the much-lauded Vetri and Osteria, here's Marc Vetri's third restaurant in town, Amis, located a little off the beaten path on 13th Street near Pine. The concept this time is Roman small plates, served in an atmosphere that is rather more raucous and industrial than Vetri's other two joints. It's a welcome idea, and Vetri is just the guy to pull it off, but we left just a bit disappointed with the execution.

Though the setting is intentionally rougher around the edges, it's still comfortable and inviting. Touches of wood like the attractive multi-toned tables brighten up the dark concrete and metal vibe. I've heard some complaints about the noise level, but for us, it was not so loud that conversation was a struggle.

As is typical in a small plates restaurant, we were a little unsure of the ordering strategy. Our waitress validated our hypothesis that we should order two or three things from each side of the menu. The left side is smaller stuff: bruschette, salumi, cheeses, and other antipasti. The right is pastas and more traditionally "main dish" items.

It was hard not to be intrigued by the mortadella mousse, so that was the bruschetta we ordered. It delivered on its promise: it tasted just like the big round deli meat, but in a creamy, whipped-up form, a bowl of fluffy pink topped with a pretty superfluous drizzle of olive oil. I would have preferred more, thinner toasts alongside it rather than the two thick slabs we got – thinner toast would provide more surface area for topping with the mousse, not to mention making it easier to bite through.

Next, the artichokes. They are fried, small; the entire thing is edible. The browned outer leaves taste almost like potato chips and are just as addictive and delectable. The inner portion of the artichoke is tasty, if a little greasy.

Our third "left side" dish was the sweetbreads. These are small nuggets, breaded with crushed almond, fried, and served with a fennel marmalade. The sweetbreads had great flavor, and the marmalade worked wonderfully as a counterpoint to the, again, somewhat greasy fried items.

On to the right side – we got two pastas, the tonnarelli “cacio e pepe” and the gnocchi with oxtail ragu, and the mixed seafood grill. First, the gnocchi, which were not the typical small potato-based dumplings: they were large, semolina-based, and very, very light, which is just as well because the oxtail ragu on top of them was quite rich. There was a welcome black-peppery zing to the tonnarelli, but they seemed over-sauced to me, leaving a puddle of greasy cheese residue at the bottom of the plate. The mixed seafood grill of swordfish, skate, shrimp, scallops, and squid (brought to you by the letter S, incidentally) was pleasant enough, served with a few small slices of grilled polenta and fresh lemon.

Perhaps you have noted a theme. I have no aversion to fat as an ingredient, or to fried foods, or to nature's fattier fish or meats. In isolation, or possibly as part of a meal that included fresher counterpoints, most of what we had was very good. But the cumulative effect of eating one oil-sodden dish after another was unpleasant. I thought we maybe just happened to order things that tended towards the slippery side, but reviewing the menu again, it doesn't seem like we had a lot of latitude for escaping the lipid onslaught. Even the seafood grill could have used a lighter hand from the oil can. I know that something called mortadella mousse is going to be fatty, but how about, say, a little arugula salad on the side? Or more use of things like the fennel marmalade with the sweetbreads, which woke up the palette a bit and cut through the fried flavor?

Desserts looked pretty good, but with our mouths still somewhat slicked, we took a pass for this visit. Service was decent, though a different pacing of the dishes would have been nice: our first three dishes came out at the same time, and then the second three dishes came out at the same time. Since the second three were all hot, this meant that the last dish we ate was cold by the time we got around to eating it. A more fluid pacing like Amada's would have been nice here, as would have been an option for a tasting menu to make ordering a little simpler.

I would love to give Amis another chance. It could have been what we ordered, or perhaps it was an off night. Maybe with the coming of the spring, some brighter flavors will make their way onto the menu. What I am hoping is that the over-larding of the food is not deliberate, a cynical ploy to appeal to our baser culinary instincts. Fat is an invaluable and irreplaceable tool – to carry flavors, to provide texture, to impart its own flavor – but too much of a good thing becomes unpleasant pretty quickly.