Archive for the ‘dessert’Category

Lincoln Inn emerges as Vermont’s gourmet destination

Lincoln Inn in Woodstock, Vermont
The Lincoln Inn in Woodstock is among the most European of the little inns in Vermont, and not just because chef Jevgenija Saromova hails from Latvia. She and innkeeper partner Mara Mehlman describe the property as a “restaurant with rooms.” That’s a model common in the European countryside, and often signals great dining. Think, for example, of Maison Troisgros, one of the pioneers of modern French cuisine.

Woodstock isn’t Roanne, of course, and Jevgenija Saromova (or Chef Saromova, as she prefers) isn’t Jean or Pierre Troisgros. Not yet, anyway. But she has impressive classical culinary credentials and a personal style unique in northern New England. She worked in top restaurants in Italy, France, and England before joining Mehlman in Vermont. The two women have applied the model of the French “auberge” to an 1875 farmhouse with six charming, carefully decorated rooms and green lawns that roll down to the Ottauquechee River.

Innkeeper Mara Mehlman of the Lincoln Inn in Woodstock, Vermont A native Californian, Mara first dreamed of living in Vermont when she took a Vermont foliage bicycle tour. Years later, she purchased the property, thoroughly renovated the building, and re-opened the inn rooms in July 2014. It became a gastronomic destination when Chef Saromova arrived from England a few months later. The women clearly love Vermont—skiing in the winter, kayaking in the summer—but they have no intention of replicating traditional New England fare.

“We’re not about maple syrup and cheddar cheese,” says Mara. “This is fine dining.”

Chef Saromova explains. “I don’t like boring food plates,” she says. “I like to combine textures and flavors.”

Refined Dining


Chef Jevgenija Saromova of the Lincoln Inn in Woodstock, VermontChef Saromova spent nearly two decades as a member or leader of a kitchen brigade, but she works alone in the Lincoln Inn kitchen. Every dish is created to her taste and executed precisely as she envisions it. In effect, every diner gets the personal attention of the master chef. During most of the year, the restaurant serves a four-course prix fixe dinner Thursday through Sunday, with a more casual tavern night on Wednesdays. During foliage season, nights for dinner increase and tavern night goes on hiatus. The four-course meals—$55 per person—are gourmet pleasures. The menu changes daily. True to Chef Saromova’s word, it’s anything but boring. The Inn at Woodstock and other area lodgings send their foodie guests here for the full-blown fine-dining experience—complete with an excellent and surprising wine list.

Paul Newman Dining Room at the Lincoln Inn in Woodstock, Vermont In addition to the main dining room tables, one party per evening can book the Chef’s Table for a seven- or twelve-course tasting menu. Some of the plates are variations of those on the four-course menu, while others include specialized or especially precious ingredients. The Chef’s Table is served in the Paul Newman dining room (left). Newman and his family used to vacation here and a previous owner enclosed a side porch as their private dining room. One diner at the table faces a photograph of Newman in his prime, and some ladies have been known to fantasize that they were having dinner with the actor. We enjoyed a seven-course meal that ranks as one of the most memorable we’ve eaten stateside in a long time. Each course demonstrated another aspect of the chef’s ability to exploit taste and texture combinations for yet another striking composition.

Gazpacho served at the Lincoln Inn in Woodstock, Vermont

Chilled Gazpacho and Olive Tapenade Crostini


Chef Saromova grows her own kitchen garden in the river bottom land behind the inn. Despite this year’s drought, she had good crops of tomatoes. Her take on chilled gazpacho is especially sweet from both the tomatoes and the roasted red peppers. It also has just a hint of red onion. The saltiness of methodically hand-pitted ripe olives (Kalamata and Niçoise by the taste) in the tapenade brings out the fresh vegetable flavors, while the paper-thin crostini give visual interest to the composition of the dish and a satisfying crunch. The dish was reveille for the taste buds: Fall in and stand at attention.

Lobster served at the Lincoln Inn in Woodstock, Vermont

Lobster and Mascarpone-Enriched Orzo


Butter-poached lobster tail is a classic of French haute cuisine. The technique demands a low temperature to keep the butter from browning. Lobster cooked this way is more tender than boiled or steamed. Orzo and chopped mild greens mixed with a judicious bit of mascarpone form a presentation base for the lobster meat. The sweetness of the cheese calls the lobster’s sweetness to the fore.

Sea bass and scallop served at the Lincoln Inn in Woodstock, Vermont

Sea Bass and Seared Scallops


Neither sea bass nor scallops strike any diner as unusual, but Chef Saromova’s approach to serving them together as a fish course speaks volumes about her classical training and her command of technique. The sea bass—striped bass, in this case, rather than more conventional farmed sea bass—is roasted in a persillade. Traditionally, persillade is a chopped parsley and garlic preparation that most chefs use throughout a meal. This version was light on the garlic and included enough mustard and breadcrumbs that it sealed in juices of this sometimes dry fish. The scallop was perfectly seared—just barely cooked through. For contrast, the sea bass came with stewed black-eyed peas. The legumes emphasize the meatiness of the fish. The scallop sat on a pasta-like salad of thin strips of cucumber and white radish lightly dressed with champagne vinegar—sharp flavors that highlight the scallop’s delicacy.

beet and goat cheese salad served at the Lincoln Inn in Woodstock, Vermont

Beet, Goat Cheese, Granita Salad


The photo above doesn’t really do justice to this inventive salad where so many things were happening on the plate. The slices of red and yellow beet (left side) were sweet and delicious. They paired nicely with fresh lettuce leaves and a slice of soft goat cheese. The pomegranate-orange granita, however, elevated everything with a tart punch. The pickled cherry was, well, the cherry on top. The “dust” on the plate was dehydrated beet that had been pulverized in a blender. It was a pretty touch. The salad completely refreshed our palates before the meat courses began.

Filet and escargot served at the Lincoln Inn in Woodstock, Vermont

Filet Mignon, Ravioli, and Escargot/Oyster Fricasee


This dish is an embarrassment of riches. Fortunately, each of the premium ingredients was restricted to a small portion. The raviolo atop the small piece of perfectly cooked, perfectly salted filet mignon was filled with an explosive mix of truffle and foie gras—pretty much an orgy of umami. Surprisingly, the oyster shell filled with a fricassee of escargot and oyster was equally dark, savory, and garlicky. Even more surprising, the snails were juicy and tender. (Face it—snails are usually rubbery.) The sweet potato purée provided a contrast of smooth and sweet to chewy and meaty. It was a brilliant dish.

Lamb two ways served at the Lincoln Inn in Woodstock, Vermont

Lamb Chop and Smoked Lamb Breast


Lamb two ways is another Escoffier classic, but Chef Saromova’s variant is pure Vermont country. The lamb chop here is cut from a roasted rack. It was perfect. The second lamb dish was the breast—or brisket. She boned, rolled, and tied it up with string. After brining it for 20 hours, she cold-smoked with cherry chips for two hours, and braised it six hours until it was falling apart. As if the meats weren’t unctuous enough, Chef Saromova served them with figs poached in port wine. The little “berries” are actually balsamic glaze mixed with agar-agar and olive oil, then frozen so that they form little beads of explosive flavor. It’s just proof that such touches predate so-called molecular cuisine.

Chocolate delice served at the Lincoln Inn in Woodstock, Vermont

Chocolate and Fruit


Chef Saromova clearly favors creamy desserts. The chocolate delice—essentially a chocolate terrine with cookie crumb base and chocolate icing—is the ostensible star of this plate. The “bars” are a champagne and strawberry terrine. The flavor favors the wine over the fruit. By contrast, the strawberry sorbet tastes more intensely of strawberry than most fresh strawberries do. Capping it all off, the sweetened vanilla yogurt has a skin that makes it explode in the mouth.

Coffee, anyone?

Lincoln Inn & Restaurant at the Covered Bridge, 2709 W. Woodstock Rd., Woodstock, VT 05091; 802-457-7052; www.lincolninn.com.

Film Row gives a new twist on OKC fun

Film Exchange on Film Row in Oklahoma City
Hollywood met the High Plains in Oklahoma City as early as 1907. By the 1960s, literally hundreds of film exchanges operated in OKC as distribution points for almost every film studio in the U.S. Films fanned out to 37 cities from Film Row, until changes in movie technology changed the means of distribution. The heart of the current Film Row (www.filmrowokc.com) is the corner of Sheridan and Lee Avenues. Many old buildings remain, complete with ghost paintings of their studio names. The neighborhood has begun to emerge as a center for arts, entertainment, and dining.

A concert venue/dance club is rising behind the 21c Museum Hotel. Meanwhile, there’s plenty to entice, ranging from the main gallery of Individual Artists of Oklahoma (www.iaogallery.org) to the quirky coffee bar/art gallery/potting shed known as The Plant Shoppe (www.plantshoppe.com). Paramount Arts & Entertainment (www.theparamountokc.com) contains the bar and bistro Noir as well as a black-box theater used by contemporary drama companies. Its cinema shows movies on weekends in one of the original Paramount Studios screening rooms.

That Pie Truck on Film Row in Oklahoma City Only stretching about four blocks on Sheridan Avenue, Film Row is blocked off on the third Friday of the month for an event called Premiere. The main feature is a gathering of food trucks selling everything from barbecued brisket, pulled pork, and giant plates of nachos to bowls of vegan mac and cheese (made with cashew cheese) and green chile pork tacos. One truck serves only variations of s’mores and shaved ice with fresh fruit. No matter how enticing, save room for dessert from That Pie Truck (@thatpieplaceOK), the mobile variant of the brick-and-mortar bakery That Pie Place. We were so taken with the tequila key lime pie that we figured out how to make it at home.

TEQUILA LIME PIE


This variant of the time-honored condensed milk key lime pie comes out higher and a little lighter, thanks to the incorporation of some meringue into the custard. And because it is fully set by baking, it’s less likely than the original to weep or make the crust soggy. If you’re not a tequila drinker, you don’t have to buy a whole bottle to make the recipe. A standard nip provides just the right amount.

Tequila lime pieIngredients
14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
4 large egg yolks
zest of 2 limes
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup (50ml) gold tequila
2 large egg whites
1 tablespoon sugar
1 prepared graham cracker crust
sweetened whipped cream

Directions
Set oven at 325°F.

Place condensed milk in large bowl. Stir in egg yolks, lime zest, lime juice, and tequila.

In separate bowl, place egg whites and sugar. Whip with egg beater or electric mixer until soft peaks form.

Stir about a quarter of the meringue into the milk-egg-lime mix. Then fold in remaining meringue.

Pour mixture into prepared graham cracker crust. Place pie into preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes. When jostled, it should seem mostly set but jiggle a little in the middle. Top will be slightly dry and perhaps just beginning to brown.

Cool on rack, then chill for at least 2 hours. Serve with sweetened whipped cream.

08

09 2016

Say cheesecake in Kaimuki

cheesecake
With its bright red and yellow exterior, Otto Cake (1127 12th Ave., Honolulu; 808-834-6886; ottocake.com) is one of the most colorful storefronts in Kaimuki—and proprietor Otto is easily one of the neighborhood’s more colorful characters. Otto, who uses only one name (“like Sting,” he says), plays bass in the band 86 List and is a cheesecake maker extraordinaire. He opened his shop in Kaimuki in 2013 and tempts customers with nine different flavors per day from a total of 270 that he has developed.

cheesecake with otto On any given day he might draw from the flavors of the island for haupia (coconut milk) or lilikoi (passionfruit) cheesecakes or for a combination such as macadamia-pineapple-coconut. Less subtle choices might include chocolate peanut butter, orange chocolate chip or Chinese almond cookie. He also delights in finding just the right crust to complement the flavors of the filling. He uses an orange cookie crust for the lilikoi cheesecake and pairs a cinnamon crust with a Mexican chocolate filling.

Otto declined to share a recipe. But he did offer a few tips to help home bakers avoid some of the most common mistakes in making cheesecake. To begin with, he says, all ingredients should be mixed by hand to avoid over-emulsified, pasty results. And neither the crust nor the filling should be overly sweet. If you are using ingredients that have a lot of natural sugar, he says, cut down on the amount of added sugar.

“Timing in the oven is the most important thing,” he says, noting that most people overcook their cheesecake. If your cakes tend to be crumbly, that’s probably why. Finally, he says, “do not use a water bath.” That might be fine for a pudding, but not for a cake.

And, it almost goes without saying: Have fun!

25

02 2016

And the winning Champagne is…

Barons de Rothschild blanc de blancs with raspberry tart

What was our best bubbly of 2015? We’ve been fortunate this year to enjoy some spectacular sparkling wines, from a range of proseccos to an elegant pink Franciacorta to several cavas and crémants that we simply drank without taking notes or photographs. (Even wine and food writers are entitled to a day off.)

Barons de Rothschild brut But the champagnes of Barons de Rothschild (www.champagne-bdr.com) really took us through the seasons. We started off in warm weather with the non-vintage brut, which is the company’s anchor champagne. It’s blended with 60 percent chardonnay (mainly grand crus in the Côte des Blancs) and 40 percent pinot noir (principally from the villages of Verzenay, Ay, Mareuil-sur-Ay, and Bouzy). It has a Rumpelstiltskin straw-gold color, a faintly yeasty aroma, and fine and persistent bubbles, The full mouth feel and abundant acidity make it an excellent food wine, even with something as complex and spicy as mole amarillo. (Mexico did have a French emperor for a while, after all.) The BDR brut retails around $80.

BDR rose Come fall, we moved along to the non-vintage rosé, which might be our favorite sipping champagne of BDR’s non-vintage portfolio. It is produced from 85 percent chardonnay (again, mainly grand crus in the Côte des Blancs) and 15 percent pinot noir from the Montagne de Reims. Some of that pinot noir juice goes in with the chardonnay at first fermentation, and some is fermented as a red wine before being blended together. The blend marries in the cellar for at least three years before dosage, then another six to nine months after disgorgement. The result is a wine with strong fruit and floral characteristics, with undertones of raspberry, rose petals, and sweet-tart wild strawberries. The color is a salmon pink, which accentuates the spiral of bubbles from the bottom of the glass to the top. We like watching the dance of the bubbles. How long do they last? They’re still prickling the tongue when we empty the last glass. The BDR rosé retails for around $105.

For our money (about $115), the blanc de blancs is the most elegant of BDR’s non-vintage champagnes and the perfect wine for the winter holidays. It is crafted entirely from chardonnay grown in the signature Champagne crus of Avize, Cramant, Mesnil-sur-Oger, Oger, and Vertus. It is a little paler than the brut, slightly more acidic, and infinitely more sophisticated. Although it has a citrus-like freshness, some of the flavor notes include raw almonds and white peaches. The bubble profile can only be called creamy. It’s great by itself, but we think it’s the perfect pairing with a fresh raspberry tart (as shown above), since the bubbles cut through the unctuousness of the butter crust and pastry cream, while the acidity and mineral notes accentuate the flavor of the raspberries.

31

12 2015

Whimsical cake beets all

Culinary students at Hawaii Food & Wine Festival
Of all the culinary students assisting guest chefs at the Chopstix & Cocktails event of the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival, those assigned to Bill Corbett certainly seemed to be having the most fun sampling dishes from the different tables (above).

The whimsy wasn’t lost on guest chef Corbett himself. Named one of the Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America by Dessert Professional Magazine in 2013, Corbett is currently executive pastry chef for the Absinthe Group of restaurants in San Francisco. He turned a savory dish into a sweet by creating a Beet Cake with Fromage Blanc Frosting.

“It’s kind of a joke,” he told me. “At one time everyone in the Bay Area had the same beet salad on the menu: beets, goat cheese, walnuts, maybe fennel or citrus. So I figured why shouldn’t the same thing be on the dessert menu.”

Cut into small squares, Corbett’s cake was better suited to fingers than chopsticks. With its rich red color, it would be a good addition to a holiday dinner. Note that the cake can be made ahead and frozen, which will help cut down on last-minute party preparations. Instead of fromage blanc, Corbett used a local goat cheese produced by Big Island Goat Dairy.

BEET CAKE WITH FROMAGE BLANC FROSTING


Makes 4 dozen squares beet cake at Hawaii Food & Wine Festival

Chef Corbett notes that soft goat cheese works well as a substitute for fromage blanc, which can be harder to find.

For the cake
2 large eggs
2 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups olive oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1/2 tablespoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups beets, grated and squeezed of excess liquid

Preheat oven to 325°F. In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip eggs and sugar on medium speed to full volume. Drizzle in oil and vanilla while continuing to whisk.

Sift all of the dry ingredients, then add in three stages to the egg mixture. Once emulsified, fold in the beets. Split cake batter between two 12×18 (half sheet) pans lined with parchment paper.

Bake until cake springs back to the touch and slightly pulls away from the sides (about 1 hour). When almost fully cooled, wrap and freeze.

For the frosting

1 cup cream cheese, room temperature
2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 cup butter, soft
1 cup fromage blanc or goat cheese, room temperature
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped as garnish

In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, slowly mix cream cheese and half of the sugar until completely smooth. Add the butter and remaining sugar and continue mixing until smooth again. Pass fromage blanc through a wire strainer. (Goat cheese does not need straining.) Add fromage blanc or goat cheese to cream cheese/butter mixture and incorporate until smooth.

To assemble
Remove parchment from cakes while frozen. Cut each cake into two equally sized squares and place back in freezer.

Spread 1 1/2 cups of frosting evenly on each layer of cake, stacking as you go. Use an offset spatula dipped in hot water to smooth out each layer.

Spread a very thin layer of frosting on the cake to hold in crumbs and refrigerate until firm. Then frost the cake more thickly to finish and garnish with toasted walnuts. Cut cake into small squares with a clean knife dipped in hot water.

19

12 2015

Coles keeps faith by reinventing the classics

Bourbon ball cake at Coles in Lexington Lexingtonians have been heading to the brick building at the corner of East Main Street and South Ashland to dine for decades. The spot opened in 1938 as The Stirrup Cup, adding the iconic murals of English hunt scenes—complete with a blessing of the hounds—in 1949. A succession of restaurants have occupied the space, but none more felicitously than current occupant, Coles 735 Main (735 East Main St., Lexington; 859-266-9000; coles735main.com).

More than six decades after they were painted, those murals still lend a sense of occasion to the pretty dining room. And, as you might expect, executive chef Cole Arimes concocts a sophisticated mix of local and global tastes just right for a big night out. He might add truffle-infused lobster cream to a bowl of shrimp and grits (made, of course, with grits from Weisenberger Mill) or coat Scottish salmon with a bourbon-maple glaze and slowly smoke it to perfection.

Bourbon also features in the dessert that’s perfect for a candle in the middle and a round of “Happy Birthday.” In a witty play on the local popular bourbon ball candies, Arimes elevates the now-familiar flourless chocolate torte with bourbon-soaked pecans and then serves each slice with Woodford Reserve gelato and housemade caramel. Here is his recipe for the torte—as he reeled it off the top of his head. (We tested and tweaked it a little.)

BOURBON BALL FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE TORTE


Makes one 9-inch torte

Ingredients

1 cup bourbon
2 cups pecans, coarsely chopped
12 oz. semisweet chocolate
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 lb. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
6 eggs

Directions

Pour bourbon over pecans and let soak at least 1 hour. Place in a small saucepan, and cook off bourbon from pecans until dry. Transfer to mixing bowl.

Chop chocolate in 10-cup or larger food processor.

In a second saucepan, combine sugar and water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Once boiling, count to 90 and then drizzle into chocolate as food processor is running. Add butter, small portions at a time, until fully incorporated. Add all 6 eggs at once. Once incorporated, scrape sides and run for another 20 seconds.

Combine chocolate mixture with pecans in mixing bowl. Scrape into a 9-inch buttered springform baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes, rotating every 15 minutes or so. (Cake should spring back when touched in the center and not stick to a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the middle.)

Let cake cool to room temperature before releasing from pan. Then chill before serving.

13

09 2015

Truffles, cheese, and honey for dessert

Manchego cheese with honey and truffle
One of our favorite breakfast dishes in Spain is a plate of sliced Manchego cheese drizzled with honey and served with a bit of membrillo (quince jelly). For dessert, the ewe’s milk tang and saltiness of Manchego pairs exceptionally well with black truffle.

MANCHEGO CHEESE, HONEY & BLACK TRUFFLES


Serves 2

6 oz. wedge of Manchego semi-curado (aged at least 6 months)
2 tablespoons of chestnut or acacia honey
10 grams black truffle
crackers for serving

Remove rind from Manchego. Lay wedge on its side and slice into 7-8 triangles of cheese. Arrange on a plate and drizzle with honey. (The easy way is to dip a butter knife in the honey and “paint” it on the cheese.) Shave black truffle over the top. Add crackers to the plate and serve with a glass of late-harvest muscat, Hungarian Tokaji, or Pedro Ximenez.

26

07 2015

Spanish orange & almond tart for Christmas

Holiday tart of almond, saffron, and Seville orange
Last year for the holiday season we made saffron shortbread cookies, and we were feeling bad that we didn’t have a new holiday cookie this year. We got to thinking about winter sweets and some of our all-time favorite flavors, and the two sort of came together.

Some of the quintessential tastes of Spain are almonds, saffron, and bitter oranges. Why not adapt our standard linzer tart recipe to reflect that different range of flavors? Instead of hazelnuts in the dough, we could use almonds. Instead of vanilla, we could use saffron. And in place of raspberry jam, we could use Seville orange marmalade. (OK, we know that the marmalade is more a Scottish than Spanish flavor, but it does use the bitter oranges of Andalucía.)

Our first thought was to make almond meal using toasted Marcona almonds since they are the classic snack almond of southern Spain. We did that, but by losing the skin of the almond, we also lost a lot of the taste. Moreover, toasted blanched almonds ground up into too fine a flour. The result was a perfectly edible tart, but one with a more crumbly crust and less pronounced flavor than we were looking for.

Back to the drawing board. In the end, it turned out that the much less expensive California almonds gave the best flavor and were the easiest to work with. We toasted them in a dry pan in the oven at 400°F for about 10 minutes, then ground them into fine meal in a food processor after they had cooled. This technique gives a good toasted almond flavor, and also makes the saffron flavor more pronounced. The strength of saffron will depend on what kind you are using. It’s not very Spanish, but we got the best results with “Baby Saffron” from Kashmir, using four blisters of the single-serving packs.

Slices of the finished tart go well with espresso or a flute of cava.

ANDALUCÍAN CHRISTMAS TART slice of holiday tart

Makes one 7 1/2-inch (19 cm) fluted tart (serves 6-8)

Ingredients

1/3 cup (66 grams) granulated sugar
1 generous pinch saffron (0.2 gram)
1/4 teaspoon (1.5 grams) salt
1/2 cup (1 stick, 114 grams) butter, softened
1 egg
2/3 cup (96 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) baking powder
1 cup raw almonds (150 grams), lightly toasted
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon (200 grams) Seville orange marmalade

Directions

In coffee or spice grinder, mix sugar, saffron, and salt. Grind briefly. Empty into medium bowl. Add butter and beat until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat to mix well.

In another medium bowl, place flour and baking powder. Whisk to blend. Grind almonds to fine meal in food processor. Whisk nuts into flour mixture. Add nut-flour mixture to butter mixture. Mix on low speed until all ingredients are incorporated.

piping lattice onto tart Pat 2/3 cup of the dough into bottom of 7 1/2 inch (19 cm) fluted tart pan with removable bottom. Place remainder of dough into cookie press or pastry bag fitted with a 3/8-inch fluted tip. Pipe around the edges to make side crust. Place orange marmalade into shell and smooth out until even. Pipe a lattice over top of tart.

Refrigerate tart for 30 minutes while preheating oven to 350°F. Bake tart until preserves just begin to bubble – about 35 minutes. Transfer to rack on counter to cool. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream to balance the bitterness of the orange.

12

12 2014

TWL: Getting to know Prosecco DOC in Treviso

a-psan marco
Wine is one of the easiest and best ways to bring the taste of travel back home, so this post initiates what we’re calling The Wine List — travels in wine country with a focus on the wines themselves. And we launch TWL with a journey through the beautiful towns and delicious wines of the Prosecco DOC region of the Veneto and adjacent Friuli–all within driving distance of Venice.

a-Zonin prosecco Prosecco is one of those wines that’s almost too good for its own good. The light sparkling wine made from the Glera grape is the signature sipping wine of Venice, and it is synonymous with laughter and indolent afternoons at an outdoor cafe (see above, on Piazza San Marco). The wine is made in a tightly limited area of the Veneto and parts of nearby Friuli, and there’s a lot of good Prosecco DOC to go around. Although many of the members of the Prosecco DOC Consortium are small operations, some (like Zonin) are big enough to slake the insatiable thirst of Trader Joe’s customers. Even these mass-produced Proseccos are very good.

a-Treviso sculture little Venice My Prosecco fact-finding trip began at the Prosecco DOC headquarters in Treviso, a beautiful little city north of the Venice airport. Treviso is sometimes called the “little Venice” because four rivers flow through it and some of them were channeled to power mills. Despite being heavily bombarded by the Allies in World War II, traces of its old mill wheels and mill architecture remain. Dante immortalized the town in a line in the Paradiso dutifully reproduced on the 1865 bridge over the convergence of the Sile and Bottiniga rivers. The charming city makes a good base for exploring Prosecco country. My lodging, the Carlton Hotel (Largo Porta Altinia 15, + 39-0422-411-611, www.hotelcarlton.it) was modestly priced and conveniently located near the outskirts of the city. The center of the city was a five-minute stroll away, yet it was easy to get onto the circumferential highway to drive to the countryside. Future posts will visit specific producers, the wine-making school and vinoteca of Prosecco, and hit on on some of the scenic highlights of the region.

a-making tiramisu at Al FogherOne evening in Treviso, I dined at Al Foghèr Ristorante (Viale della Repubblica 10, +39-0422-432-950, www.hotelalfogher.it), which figures in the origin story of the now-ubiquitous dessert, tiramisù. The grandmother of the current owners, who had a more modest restaurant in the 1950s when the queen of Greece visited Treviso, concocted what she called an Imperial Cup. This link to gastronomic fame (or infamy) serves as a lure to the restaurant, which serves excellent Trevisano food. I caught just the tail end of the local radicchio season and enjoyed a couple of light dishes (including an excellent squid ink pasta with fresh vegetables) with a bottle of Bosco del Merlo Prosecco DOC (about $12 in the U.S.).

Periodically, the restaurant gives demonstrations of making tiramisù and I took furious notes. Here’s my translation into American measure based on a rapid-fire presentation in Italian. It goes very well with an extra-dry Prosecco DOC (which is sweeter than a brut).

TIRAMISÙ AL FOGHÈR

Serves 8

Ingredients

2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brandy
4 large egg yolks
12 ounces mascarpone cheese
1 cup espresso
package of ladyfingers or champagne biscuits
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, grated

Directions

Whisk together sugar, brandy, and egg yolks in heatproof bowl. Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water and whisk until well dissolved and mixture reaches 170F (77C) on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat and beat in the mascarpone. Reserve mixture.

Dip a ladyfinger briefly in espresso, turning to coat, and place in clear glass serving bowl. Repeat until entire bowl is lined with espresso-saturated ladyfingers. Pour half of mascarpone mixture over them. Then make another layer of espresso-saturated ladyfingers, and top with remaining mascarpone. Grate chocolate over the top and refrigerate overnight.

14

09 2014

King’s Hawaiian: White bread with taste and soul

Bread puddingCourtney Tiara’s late grandfather founded King’s Hawaiian bakery in Hilo on the island of Hawaii in 1950. She brought a taste of the islands to Boston recently when she celebrated the introduction of the products to the area with a luncheon at Catalyst Restaurant in Cambridge.

According to Courtney, her grandfather was inspired by his Portuguese neighbors to create a soft and fluffy round bread similar to Portuguese sweet bread, but with a longer shelf life. The family-run company (Courtney’s 94-year-old great-uncle is the master baker) has expanded its product line to include dinner rolls, hamburger buns, and more. It relocated first to Honolulu and later to California. “My grandfather never imagined making it to California and then all the way out here,” she said.

lobster rollCatalyst chef William Kovel gave the bread a workout. He toasted the Original Hawaiian Sweet Round and topped it with seared foie gras, braised cherry, and orange. He served chicken liver mousse on a King’s Hawaiian crostini. He stuffed a hot dog bun with lobster salad. And he used the Original Sweet Round to make a bread salad to accompany a lamb tenderloin.

CourtneyThe dessert of white chocolate bread pudding with caramel sauce, Courtney’s personal favorite, is a King’s Hawaiian classic. “I make it all the time. You just have to be patient and let the bread dry out for a day so it will soak up the milk and eggs,” she said. “I under-bake mine a little because I like it wet.”

She may be partial to this combination, but Courtney encourages creativity. “Hawaiian style is real easy,” she said. “Just take whatever you have in your pantry and mix it up.”

WHITE CHOCOLATE CHIP BREAD PUDDING WITH CARAMEL SAUCE

Serves 9

Ingredients
King’s Hawaiian Original Hawaiian Sweet Round
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/4 cups white chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups milk
2 eggs, beaten
3 egg yolks, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups toasted pecans, chopped

Directions
1. Cut the bread into cubes the night before and leave out to become a tad stale.

2. In a medium saucepan, heat the cream over medium heat. Meanwhile, place the white chocolate chips in a large mixing bowl. When the cream comes to a simmer, remove the pan from the heat and slowly pour the cream over the chips, whisking until the chips melt. Whisk the sugar into the mixture; add the milk, eggs, egg yolks, and vanilla.

3. Add the bread to the bowl, gently stirring to coat the cubes. Set the mixture aside to allow the bread to soak, tossing periodically (about 30-40 minutes).

4. Toss the pecans into the soaked bread mixture, then pour into a baking dish (individual dishes can be used for single servings).

5. Place in 350F oven for about 45 minutes. Test the bread pudding to make sure the top is golden brown and the inside is cooked (but not too dry).

6. Remove from oven and serve with caramel sauce and an optional scoop of vanilla ice cream.

CARAMEL SAUCE

Ingredients
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon corn syrup
1 3/4 cups heavy cream
6 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

1. In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, water, and corn syrup. Place over high heat and cook until the sugar dissolves and begins to boil. Note: Do not stir the sugar as this could cause it to seize.

2. While the sugar is cooking, combine the cream, butter, and salt in a saucepan over medium heat. Keep an eye on the sugar while heating the cream to keep it from scorching. Cook until the butter melts, stirring it into the cream. When the mixture comes to a simmer, remove from heat.

3. Continue to cook the sugar until it darkens to a rich caramel color, 9 to 15 minutes. Swirl the pan as the sugar darkens. Watch carefully as it can burn easily at this stage.

4. When the sugar is rich caramel in color, immediately remove the pan from the heat and add the cream mixture in a slow, steady stream. The sugar will bubble and steam as the cream is added. Stir in the vanilla.

5. Drizzle over individual servings of bread pudding.

Recipes adapted from King’s Hawaiian

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10 2013