Archive for the ‘Restaurants’Category

What to eat at the airport in Málaga (AGP)

Bull burger
Until last year, international travelers at Terminal 3 in Málaga’s airport servicing the Costa del Sol were pretty much stuck with international fast food like Starbucks, Burger King, and England’s Soho Coffee. So we were delighted to see that Michelin-starred local superchef Dani García had opened Dani García DeliBar. Much of the menu overlaps offerings in García’s Manzanilla tapas bar in downtown Málaga, which is one of our favorite spots in a city that has belatedly but enthusiastically embraced contemporary Spanish cuisine. One of García’s strengths has been the reinvention of some classic sandwiches by giving them a distinctly Andalucían twist. His bacalao (salt cod) sandwich with tomato sauce and chipotle mayo is heads above the best filet-o-fish. His Burguer Bull (pictured above) has brought him a lot of attention from other chefs as well as fast food aficionados. Created in 2008, the burger is a patty of slow-braised oxtail, aka rabo de toro. It’s served on a bun spread with mayonnaise made with beef juices instead of oil, then topped with some arugula and a melted slice of Havarti cheese. It has all the taste depth of the classic dish of rabo de toro with the form and flourish of a great cheeseburger. If you’re staying over in Málaga, be sure to eat at Manzanilla at Calle Fresca, 12 (tel: 95-222-6851; www.manzanillamalaga.com). If you’re staying on the Costa del Sol, take a train into the real city. It’s only 23 minutes from Torremolinos to the Alameda stop in Málaga on the C-1 line. That’s just down the street from Manzanilla.

11

04 2014

What a great thing to do with an egg!

pisto manchego with cod a pil pil
We’ve been lucky enough to visit Sevilla’s Taberna del Alabardero every few years over the last few decades, but it’s possible that our most recent meal was the best yet—even though it was off the modest bistrot menu instead of from the haute cuisine fine-dining menu. Now with sites in Madrid and in Washington, D.C., Taberna del Alabardero began as a social-work program launched by a priest to teach marketable skills to boys from the streets. It’s evolved into one of the top hospitality schools in Spain. The original location in Sevilla near the bullring is the laboratory where all that hospitality training is put into practice. The townhouse mansion has fine dining rooms upstairs with a menu that would have made Escoffier smile. (The third level has elegant bedrooms for the small hotel.)

Taberna del Alabardero

Frankly, we’re just as happy to eat off the bistro menu in the tile-encrusted dining room downstairs that adjoins the central atrium café. The dishes are simpler and everything is prepared—and served—by the faculty and students of the hospitality school. (Note the students standing by, waiting to serve.) Dishes tend to be Spanish rib-stickers: the hearty potato and sausage stew known as Riojanas, or cod a pil pil served with pisto manchego (Spanish ratatouille) topped with a poached egg (above). Here the pisto and poached egg constituted a side dish, paying second fiddle to the cod. But we think it will make a great light lunch this summer when we’re swimming in tomatoes, squash, and eggplant.

The three-course bistrot menu at Taberna del Alabardero is a steal, costing 12.50 euros on weekdays, 17.50 euros weekends. Here’s the contact information: Calle Zaragoza, 20. The phone is (+34) 95-450-27-21, and the web site is www.tabernadelalabardero.es. The restaurant is closed in August.

13

03 2014

Tapa to try at home – stuffed peppers

pimientos rellenos de melva We’re in Sevilla at the moment, researching what’s great and new for the new Frommer’s Spain. Part of what’s new is the completely re-done public market in Triana, just across the river from Sevilla proper. This tapa of sweet red peppers stuffed with king mackerel (melva, to the Spanish) was a bargain at 2.80 euros at La Casa Fundida (stall #46A). It’s topped with mayonnaise and grated cheese and baked in a hot oven. It tasted as good as it looks. It’s one in a list of tasty bites we hope to replicate when we get home. This was made with canned fish, which makes it even easier. It doesn’t hurt that the Spanish make the best canned fish and shellfish in the world….

14

02 2014

Pimento Cheese for holiday South in your mouth

Pimento cheese
Chef Matthew Bell hails from Montana, but after about a decade in the South, he felt confident to head the kitchen at South on Main restaurant in Little Rock, Arkansas. It’s a collaboration with the Oxford American, the magazine that chronicles the literary and cultural life of the South and is often called the ”New Yorker of the South.”

”We are taking our cue from the magazine and keying in on the cuisine from all regions,” Bell told a gathering of writers who previewed the restaurant and performance place while it was still under construction. ”Arkansas cuisine is a microcosm of the whole South with influence from the Ozarks and the Smokies,” he said. ”We have a long growing season and close access to the Gulf for seafood.”

Now open for business, Bell is offering updated versions of classic dishes, such as a starter of pork cheeks with gnocchi, parmesan, and a fried egg, or a main course of catfish with fried brussels sprouts, hushpuppies, and rémoulade. But for my small group he proved his chops with a masterful version of the Southern staple Pimento Cheese. I like to serve the colorful dip during the holidays — all you need are some celery sticks and a few crackers.

PIMENTO CHEESE

To add heat, chef Matthew Bell favors Frank’s Red Hot Sauce or Crystal Louisiana’s Pure Hot Sauce. Since I had neither on hand, I used traditional red Tabasco from Louisiana’s McIlhenny Company.

Ingredients

1/2 roasted red pepper, peeled and seeded and finely chopped
1/2 pound grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon finely grated garlic
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 1/2 teaspoons pickle brine from your favorite dill pickles
3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
pinch of salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

Using a strong wooden spoon and a bowl, combine all ingredients in order, stirring well after each addition. Pack into small bowl or ramekin and serve with celery sticks or crackers.

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

22

10 2013

Enjoying a great meal in Charlottetown at Lot 30

Halibut You would not have thought I’d still be hungry, but between rounds of judging I found time to have dinner at Lot 30 (151 Kent St., Charlottetown, PEI, 902-629-3030, lot30restaurant.ca). Charlottetown is not a big place (fewer than 35,000 people), but Lot 30 and chef Gordon Bailey could hold their own in Montreal, Boston, or Toronto. The restaurant is a spacious room with hardwood floors, wooden tables and chairs, and several pieces of Op Art on the walls. Since I was dining alone, co-owner Traci Bailey (Gordon’s wife) placed me at the bar in front of a video screen showing the kitchen’s plating station. Watching disembodied hands assembling each plate before it came out was as hypnotic as staring into an aquarium.

Lot30 dining roomThe décor is low key because chef Gordon Bailey’s cuisine is the star, and those plates coming out of the kitchen are full of drama. I opted for the five-course tasting menu ($65) and let Bailey call the shots. My meal included pan-seared scallops in carrot butter with a browned bearnaise with toasted pistachio nuts; seared halibut with roasted beets, butternut squash purée, and an olive-orange “vinaigrette”; lobster fricasee with field greens and foraged lobster mushrooms; a meat pairing of grilled ribeye with champagne grapes and maple-glazed pork belly with potato pierogi on crème fraiche; and a dessert plate with a sliver of nut-crusted flourless chocolate cake, burnt almond ice cream, and blackcurrant cassis sorbet.

GordonBailey wasn’t doing anything special for the visiting judge. Each of these dishes was on the menu that night. Lot 30 also has a remarkably good wine list, especially given all the tax and import challenges of the maritime provinces. It so happened that several of the chefs I was judging also went to Lot 30 the same night I did, and Bailey made a dining room appearance to greet them. He looked very much as shown here with an oyster knife (he was about to compete in an oyster-shucking contest). I think he maybe scared a few of them….

LOT 30 HALIBUT WITH ROASTED BEETS, BUTTERNUT
SQUASH PUREE, AND ORANGE-OLIVE VINAIGRETTE

Every dish on my tasting menu was a hit, but this one had some simple tricks of technique that will actually change how I cook from now on. Roasting the beets whole in foil makes them especially sweet, and the skins just slip off. Moreover, Bailey’s technique with the fish produces a moister fillet than cooking on both sides, then removing to a plate and holding it in a warm oven. I intend to sear all my fish this way from now on.

Serves 2

Ingredients

4 baby beets
canola oil
2 4-ounce halibut fillets, about 1 inch thick
juice from 4 Valencia oranges
2 teaspoons sugar
puréed butternut squash (warm)
12 kalamata black olives pitted and chopped
scallion greens sliced on diagonal for garnish

Technique

1. Wrap beets in aluminum foil and roast in 425F oven for 20 minutes. Let cool in foil. Unwrap and peel.

2. Grease heavy skillet or griddle with canola oil. Heat over high flame. Meantime, salt both sides of halibut fillets. Place on hot pan and sear until top is beginning to lose translucency. Remove pan from heat and set aside while finishing dish.

3. Combine orange juice and sugar and stir to dissolve. Place over high heat and reduce to one-quarter volume.

4. Paint hot plate with broad swash of butternut squash. Place a fillet on each plate, flipping it over so seared side is up. Place a beet at each end of fillet. Sprinkle chopped olives on top and pour reduced orange juice over the fish and beets. Garnish with scallion greens and serve.

29

09 2013

Trying to judge the best shellfish chefs in Canada

judge101I was honored to be asked to judge the Garland Canada International Chef Challenge, one of the highlights of the PEI International Shellfish Festival. Ten world-class chefs compete for a grand prize of $10,000, sponsored by Canada’s lead producer of professional kitchen equipment. I joined chefs Alain Bossé from Nova Scotia (aka the Kilted Chef) and Dominic Serio, the vice president of the Atlantic division of the Canadian Culinary Federation. The challenge for the chefs was to cook a plate incorporating at least three of the following PEI shellfish: lobster, jonah crab meat, mussels, and soft-shell clams. The challenge for the judges was to choose the best dishes from a field of highly talented competitors.

I don’t know what what goes on back stage on Top Chef and the other televised culinary competitions, but the three of us used a version of the international culinary competition form that spelled out the criteria for judging. We gave each contestant up to 15 points for presentation and general appeal; up to 30 points for taste, texture, and technique; and up to 5 points for menu description (including spelling).

judge102The competition was fierce, and included last year’s winner, Marc Lepine of Atelier in Ottawa, who was also 2012 Canadian Culinary Champion. Some Americans crept in — Jamie Parsons of Legal Sea Foods in Burlington, Mass., and Michael Reidt, recently of Area 31 and now about to open open his own restaurant in Miami. Danny Smiles, who just took over at Le Bremner in Montreal, was first runner-up in last year’s Top Chef Canada. Others included Shawn Jackson of the Mill Street Brew Pub in Ottawa, Kyle Panton of Sims Corner Steakhouse & Oyster Bar in PEI, and Michael Blackie of Nextfood in Ottawa. Some of my personal favorites (after the judging was done, of course) were Ryan Campbell, who will be opening his own farm and restaurant near Niagara Falls in the spring, Ryan Morrison of the Glowbalgroup in Vancouver (including Granville Island’s Fish Shack), and the one woman in this group, the kickass talented Charlotte Langley of Catch in Toronto. (That’s her at the stove in the photo at the top of this post.)

Chefs competed in two heats of five chefs each, and they had one hour to prepare and plate their dishes while the judges paced back and forth, checking on their progress. In previous years, the chefs had cooked behind closed doors at the culinary school far from the festival. This year they commandeered one of the side tents and allowing the general public to watch was one of the biggest draws of the festival.

judge103Both heats were so close that none of us knew who had won until an official from the Culinary School of Canada tallied our results and announced the two highest scores of the first day of competition. The dishes are here. The smaller one at left is by Ryan Morrison, and was a play on “green eggs and ham.” Each plate had an egg yolk half-cured in salt that made a creamy sauce when the diner stirred the dish. The larger one below was Marc Lepine’s beautiful masterpiece that included a lobster-crab timbale, where shaved lobster tail makes a wrap for crabmeat. The two of them represented extremes in contemporary cooking: Morrison’s gutsy and assertive dish, and Lepine’s model of finesse and technique. When their names were announced an hour later, we couldn’t wait to see what they would do for the finals the next day.
judge104

24

09 2013

Watermelon gazpacho around the world

Miradoro viewIt’s finally watermelon season in our part of the world, which gives us an excuse to resurrect a recipe we received too late to try last fall. It was for a fantastic watermelon gazpacho we ate at Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek Vineyards in the Okanagan Valley wine region of British Columbia.

During this summer’s research for the Frommer’s Easy Guide to Madrid & Barcelona, we were surprised to find watermelon gazpacho on almost all the best menus in both cities. So now that we’re home writing and local icebox watermelons are at the farmers’ markets, we tried the Miradoro recipe from executive chef Jeff Van Geest. It is terrific. Here it is, tweaked for our small watermelons. (It tastes just as good without the incredible vineyard view.) For other recipes from Van Geest, click here.

WATERMELON GAZPACHO

Make about 6 cups
watermelon gazpacho
Ingredients
1 small or 1/2 large watermelon, seeds removed
1 small to medium red onion
3 cloves garlic
1 bunch mint (a fistful)
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley (also a fistful)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
salt
pepper

Directions
1. Roughly chop the watermelon, and finely chop garlic, onion, mint, and parsley.
2. Add olive oil and vinegar and toss. Refrigerate overnight for flavors to meld.
3. Pulse in a food processor or with immersion blender until gazpacho is desired texture. (Van Geest makes his version very smooth.)
4. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

29

08 2013

Where to eat in Barcelona: Mercat Princesa

Slicing ham in BarcelonaTucked into an out-of-the-way corner of El Born in Barcelona, Mercat Princesa {www.mercatprincesa.com) is the food court to end all food courts. Sixteen small vendors have transformed a nondescript medieval building into a welcoming space with great food at bargain prices. The building dates from the 14th century, and its courtyard has been glassed over to create a central dining space. Just 16 seats ring the area, though plans are afoot to expand into the basement for another 40.

We’d been looking at and eating in restaurants all over Barcelona as we researched Frommer’s Easy Guide to Madrid & Barcelona, due out in November. And apart from the city food markets like La Boqueria and Mercat Santa Caterina, we hadn’t found anything like this little venture.

The offerings are a microcosm of casual Barcelona food. The Bravas Mercat stall sells fried potatoes with eight sauce variants (bravas, aioli, wasabi, etc.). A Nespresso coffee bar also prepares hot chocolate and churros. An oyster bar also cooks mussels and prawns. The charcuterie specialist (pictured above) serves plates of cheese or plates of Iberian ham. Right next to him a sushi chef prepares sashimi to order. A noodle bar has everything from Vietnamese soups to Catalan fideùs — a paella-like dish made with noodles. One bar just does different rice dishes. Pepe Fritz specializes in deep-fried Andalucían fish dishes. The Vins & Cocktails stall sells beer and wine. There’s even a pastry and ice cream case in case you find room for dessert.

The Mercat Princesa is at Carrer Flassaders, 21 (tel: 93-268-15-18, www.mercatprincesa.com). It’s open every day from 9 a.m. until midnight (until 1 a.m. Thursday-Saturday). Nearest Metro stop is Jaume I.

15

08 2013

Making crawfish étouffée

Spoonful of etouffeeThere are as many recipes for crawfish étouffée as there are cooks in Louisiana, but that’s probably because the basic recipe is so simple that everyone wants to add something to give it a personal touch.

As part of my instruction at Crawfish College in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, I had the good fortune of meeting chef Dustie Latiolais of the hugely popular restaurant Crawfish Town USA (2815 Grand Point Highway, Breaux Bridge, LA 70517, 337-667-6148, www.crawfishtownusa.com). Crawfish dustie He showed my class how to prepare a classic crawfish étouffée at home. The key elements are the so-called “Cajun Trinity” of chopped onion, celery, and green pepper, and (of course) the crawfish. Latiolais thickens his with a red roux, which includes paprika as well as flour kneaded into the butter. The idea is to make a strongly flavored stock which is thickened with a roux so that it envelops the crawfish tails nicely.

CRAWFISH ÉTOUFFÉE

Ingredients

6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) butter
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
3 tablespoons chopped celery
1 tablespoon chopped green pepper
1 1/2 cups seafood stock (can be saved from boiling shrimp or lobster)
2 tablespoons soft butter
2 tablespoons white flour
1 tablespoon paprika
6 ounces crawfish tails

Directions

1. In heavy-bottomed saucepan melt 6 ounces butter over medium heat. Add onion, celery, and green pepper and cook until onion softens and begins to become translucent. Be careful not to brown butter.

2. Add seafood stock and bring to a simmer.

3. In small bowl combine soft butter, flour, and paprika. Knead together until uniform. This is your red roux.

4. Whisk roux into simmering stock, stirring vigorously to keep from lumping. Continue stirring until mixture begins to thicken (about 5 minutes).

5. Reduce heat and stir in crawfish tails. Heat until tails are hot. Serve over rice.