Archive for the ‘Restaurants’Category

Red Arrow big burger grabs headlines

Red Arrow - Newton Burger Old-fashioned diners certainly love their giant burgers. We wrote about the Miss Washington Diner in New Britain a few weeks back, marveling at the monstrous burger called The Monument. In a piece in today’s Boston Globe about the 24-hour Red Arrow Diner (61 Lowell Street, Manchester, N.H. 603-626-1118, www.redarrowdiner.com), we came face to face with the Newton Burger, presented above by general manager Herb Hartwell.

Red Arrow in Manchester N.H. In all fairness, the Red Arrow does serve salads, Jell-O, and other low-fat options, but the main clientele seems to gravitate to some of the heavier entrées. The place is known for its mugs of chili and its baked mac and cheese.

And its burgers. A burger on toast was on the menu when the Red Arrow opened in 1922, and there are some truly giant burgers on the menu today. The Newton Burger might be the ultimate cheeseburger, since instead of placing the ground beef patty on a bun, the kitchen stuffs it between two complete grilled cheese sandwiches — but not before dressing it with a scoop of deep-fried mac and cheese. The lettuce, tomato, and onion are window dressing. Didn’t you mother tell you to eat your vegetables?

Given its location in New Hampshire’s biggest city, the Red Arrow gets more than its share of campaigning politicians, especially during the quadrennial presidential season. The Red Arrow could save the country a lot of grief, trouble, and expense if they invited the candidates to a Newton Burger challenge.

May the best eater win.

Chocolate around the clock in Madrid

late-night chocolate in Madrid
Chocolate seems to have its “day” several times a year, with October 28 being named as National Chocolate Day, courtesy of the National Confectioners Association (“Making Life Sweeter Since 1884”).

Pouring chocolate in MadridTruthfully, we think chocolate is worthy of international celebration. Our favorite place for hot chocolate, especially during what Spaniards call the “madrugada” (between midnight and dawn) is Madrid’s Chocolatería San Ginés (Pasadizo San Ginés 5; tel 91-365-6546; www.chocolateriasangines.com). Here’s what we have to say about it in our new edition of Frommer’s Spain:

“At some point, all of Madrid comes into Chocolatería San Ginés for a cup of the almost fudgy hot chocolate and the fried dough sticks known as churros. When the music stops in the wee hours of the morning, disco queens from Joy Eslava next door pop in for a cup [see above], and later on, before they head to the office, bankers in three-piece suits order breakfast. There’s sugar spilled everywhere on the tables, yet the marble counters are an impeccable tableau of cups lined up with the handles all facing at the same angle and a tiny spoon on each saucer. Dipping the sugar-dusted churros into the hot chocolate is de rigeur, and, yes, it’s OK to have the snack in the afternoon.”

FYI, Chocolatería San Ginés closes briefly in the early morning for cleaning. Cash only.

28

10 2014

What to Eat at the Airport: More LAX

LAX Terminal 5 Operating at the corner of Third and Fairfax since 1934, the Original Farmers Market is a Los Angeles landmark that celebrates great California fruits and vegetables as well as good cooking from around the world. Now a little piece of this city treasure has been transplanted to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Opened in June, Farmers Market at Terminal 5 includes such market stalwarts as Bennett’s Ice Cream (look for the chocolate-covered frozen banana), Magee’s House of Nuts (perfect for munching on the plane), and the Dog Bakery (in case you need a treat for Fido waiting at home).

Loteria! at LAX Two spots are stand-outs for a satisfying meal before a flight. At Monsieur Marcel Pain Vin et Fromage (www.mrmarcel.com), you can select some great cheese and bread for a quick snack or order a bowl of French onion soup or a wedge of quiche Lorraine. Much more in tune with southern California’s Mexican heritage, Lotería! Grill (loteriagrill.com) serves lightened versions of regional Mexican cuisine. The green tomatillo enchiladas and shredded beef tacos are among the most popular with airport diners. But for my money, nothing beats a bowl of chef Jimmy Shaw’s purée of tortilla soup. The creamy, slightly spicy soup is topped with corn tortilla strips, sliced avocado, queso fresco, and toasted ancho chile. It’s the ultimate comfort food before a long flight back to the East Coast.

I didn’t want to wait until my next trip to Los Angeles to enjoy another bowl, so I developed this recipe to try to approximate the version served at Lotería! It’s inspired by the chicken tortilla soup I’ve been making for years from a Consumer Reports cookbook—crossed with Dean Fearing’s famed puréed tortilla soup that he reveals in his Texas Food Bible that came out last April. I have lightened up the recipe by baking the tortilla strips rather than frying them.

By the way, if you’re going to be in Terminal 7 at LAX, see this post on where to eat.

tortilla soup at Loteria!
PURÉED TORTILLA SOUP

Serves 6

Ingredients

12 corn tortillas (6-inch), halved and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch strips
1 tablespoon light, neutral-flavored oil (sunflower, peanut, or canola)
2 medium onions, puréed in the blender or a food processor
6 whole large garlic cloves
1 tablespoon ground ancho chile
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
6 cups chicken stock
juice of a small lime
8-oz. can tomato sauce
1 tsp. sugar (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

For garnish:
fresh avocado, peeled and thinly sliced
queso fresco, crumbled (cow’s milk feta cheese makes a fine substitute)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Arrange tortilla strips in single layer on cooling racks and place in oven to bake until lightly browned and crisp (about 5 minutes). Reserve.

In large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic cloves and cook until onion turns a golden brown. Stir in chile, cumin, oregano, and bay leaf. Add chicken stock, lime, tomato sauce, and sugar. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook 20 minutes.

Taste soup and add salt and/or pepper, if needed. Add about one-third of toasted tortilla strips and cook at a simmer for 10 minutes. Remove bay leaf and purée soup in batches in a blender or by using an immersion blender. It should be the texture of light cream. If it is too thin, add more tortilla strips, cook, and purée again. If too thick, add a little chicken stock.

To serve, ladle into bowls and top with queso fresco, chopped avocado, and tortilla chips.

French chefs, Spanish ham & summer fruits

ile de re
During a recent visit to Île de Ré and Île d’Aix, the unspoiled islands off the west coast of France not far from Cognac, I also enjoyed a taste of Spain. In early September, swimmers and bicyclists were making the most of the warm, summer weather and chefs were looking for ways to highlight the last of the ripe tomatoes and melons. Several turned to Spain’s jamón serrano, an air-dried mountain ham, to add salt and umami to balance the sweetness of the luscious, ripe fruit.

jamon dishAt Le Grenier à Sel (www.grenierasel.fr/) in the town Ars en Ré on Île de Ré, a perfect starter consisted of a tartare of tomato mixed with the chopped ham. The next day, I encountered a slightly different version at Chez Joséphine (www.hotel-ile-aix.com/restaurant-josephine/) on the lovely, but much smaller Île d’ Aix, where Napoleon spent his last days in France. For a starter, the chefs paired a tartare of melon with crisp lettuce and even crisper jamón serrano for a lovely contrast of taste and texture. The dishes are simple and relaxed, yet they capture the elegance of the French table that even vacationers expect.

They also offer some good ideas about what we can do at home with the last bounty of summer.

19

09 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

Green tomatoes inspire tequila cocktail

Acqua Fresco at RialtoTwo years ago we passed along Gerry Jobe’s recipe for the Killer Tomato Cocktail, and this harvest season we discovered another way to drink tomatoes, courtesy of the Bar at Rialto, Jody Adams’ terrific restaurant in the Charles Hotel in our hometown of Cambridge, Massachusetts. The smooth and elegant tequila drink with lots of layers of flavor — created by Rialto beverage director Young Won — seemed especially timely since it uses green tomatoes. By the looks of our garden, we’ll still be gathering them right up until frost. Like many craft cocktails, you have to make many of the components well in advance, so plan accordingly.

ACQUA FRESCO… GREEN TOMATO, THAI BASIL, GINGER, MINT OIL

To make the acqua fresco:
4 green tomatoes, chopped to 2-inch pieces
large bunch of Thai basil leaves and stalk, torn into pieces
scant teaspoon sea salt

Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor. Puree until well blended. Strain though a conical sieve (chinois) lined with coffee filter. Allow three hours for liquid to strain out. Chill strained liquid.

To make the ginger syrup:
Combine 3 parts freshly pressed ginger juice with 1 part sugar and shake into solution.

To make the mint oil:
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
large bunch of mint

Blanch the mint and squeeze out excess water. Warm the olive oil in a stainless steel saucepan. Add the blanched mint and cook for a few minutes over low to medium heat. Set aside and let cool. Strain the oil through a very fine mesh.

To assemble the cocktail:

2 ounces green tomato and Thai basil acqua fresco
1 ounce 123 Reposado tequila
1/4 ounce ginger syrup
Glassware: coupe glass
Garnish: three drops of mint oil or an edible flower

Add first three ingredients to a shaker tin. Add ice and shake vigorously. Double strain into a chilled coupe. Dress with three drops of mint oil or an edible flower.

29

08 2014

Traditional Norteño barbacoa at Casa Hernán

JohnnyGrill
As we suggested in the La Gloria post that started this San Antonio series back in June, chef Johnny Hernandez has been helping San Antonio reclaim the Mexican side of its culinary heritage. Easy-going venues like La Gloria and The Frutería focus on the simplest of Mexican food — street food, really — but at his special events venue Casa Hernán, Johnny gets into some of the more complex traditions.

Brunch at  Casa Hernán

Brunch at Casa Hernán

Hernandez does a grand Sunday brunch about once a month at Casa Hernán, sometimes featuring barbacoa in the South Texas/northern Mexican tradition. In some parts of interior Mexico, cooks will roast an entire animal in a pit, usually a lamb. In northern Mexico, barbacoa usually signifies a pit-roasted cow’s head (and nothing more). Hernandez had an outdoor kitchen built to order in his back yard. Not only does the tiled work area include a large grill with the machinery for splaying lambs and kids over the heat, it also includes round holes into which Hernandez can use a chain and pulley system to lower chain baskets into the coals of an underground fire pit. The holes are sized to accommodate baskets large enough to contain an entire cow’s head.

CasaHernancowhead To prepare the head for cooking, Hernandez sets it on banana leaves, seasons it liberally with salt, pepper, epazote, onion, thyme, oregano, and avocado leaves, then wraps the whole concoction in the banana leaves. He then lowers it in a chain-link basket into the fire. It takes about 12 hours to cook a cow’s head before he hoists it up with a chain and pulley and pulls the meat off the bones. Now that’s barbacoa!

The beef cheeks provide the juiciest, tastiest meat and form the centerpiece of the brunch buffet, displayed next to the cooked head. For the rest of the brunch, Hernandez will likely grill a few entire lambs, cook up huge piles of sausages directly over hardwood coals, and make a big selection of vegetable dishes and (of course) fresh tortillas. Dessert always depends on the fresh fruit of the season.

Given the necessary gear to make this dish correctly, it’s one we won’t be trying at home.

18

08 2014

Sustenio’s escabeche puts zing on the plate

Sustenio charcuterie
The San Antonio outpost of super chef Stephan Pyles, Sustenio at the Eilan Hotel (18603 La Cantera Terrace, San Antonio, 210-598-2950, www.eilanhotel.com), veers more toward Mediterranean cuisine than his Dallas restaurants, which range from the made-in-Texas cookery of Stampede 66 to the global fusion of his eponymous dining room. Sustenio Mike Collins With executive chef Mike Collins (right) in the kitchen, Sustenio presents a light and bright Mediterranean option to San Antonio diners who are often otherwise forced to pick between Mexican cooking and a steakhouse. The menu is especially strong on charcuterie (top), much of it made in house. Those plates are great for munching at the bar with craft cocktails before sitting down to a table and tucking into tandoori-style roast salmon (below).

Sustenio salmonWhen we ate at Sustenio in May during Culinaria, Collins was kind enough to share a number of recipes with us, though many of them were pretty daunting. One of our favorites, though, was his version of escabeche. Collins often serves mussels in escabeche. They’re steamed first, then marinated for at least two hours in the tangy sauce. The bright orange flavor is a nice complement to the meaty, briny shellfish. We also thought Collins’ version would work well with chicken, which we first tried on skewers at Tragatapas in Ronda, Spain (C/ Nueva 4, Ronda, 011-34-952-877-209, www.tragatapas.com). When we went to the market and found grape tomatoes and colored carrots, the following dish was born.

Skewers
ESCABECHE CHICKEN AND CARROT SKEWERS

You have to plan ahead for this dish, as the chicken and carrots should marinate overnight in the escabeche. We serve the skewers cold with a variation on Caprese salad: chopped fresh tomato and tiny balls of fresh mozzarella tossed with couscous and sprinkled with chopped basil.

Serves 6

Ingredients

For escabeche
juice and grated zest of 2 Valencia oranges
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup sherry vinegar
3 whole allspice berries
1 stick cinnamon
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon salt

For skewers
8 ounces wood-roasted chicken breast
1 1/2 cups carrot rounds, steamed al dente (about 3 minutes)
1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes
bamboo skewers

Directions

1. Combine all the ingredients for the escabeche and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer for five minutes and cool.

2. Once the liquid is cool, cut the chicken in half-inch cubes and add to escabeche with carrot rounds. Refrigerate overnight.

3. Before assembly, dip the tomatoes in boiling water for 10 seconds and slip off skins.

4. Make skewers, alternating chicken with carrot rounds and tomatoes.

29

07 2014

Tuk Tuk Taproom weds Asian street food & craft beer

Thai papaya - Tuk Tuk sign
San Antonio certainly has its native spice (thanks to Mexican chile peppers), but David Gilbert has given the city an injection of southeast Asian flavors that pair perfectly with hoppy, malty craft beers at Tuk Tuk Taproom. Raised in Dallas, chef Gilbert has traipsed all over the world to cook — and to dive. Recipient of a StarChefs Rising Chef award for work in Los Angeles and a multiple nominee for James Beard awards for work in San Antonio, he came to the Alamo City in 2011 at the behest of Texas cuisine master Stephen Pyles, who was opening a new restaurant in the Eilan Hotel and wanted Gilbert to run the show for him. Ever restless (see his book Kitchen Vagabond: A Journey Cooking and Eating Beyond the Kitchen), his travels in southeast Asia sealed his culinary fate.

Thai papaya - David Gilbert headshot On a extended journey that began as a SCUBA-diving vacation, Gilbert fell in love with the street food of Asia, especially the street food of southeast Asia, and most especially the street food of northern Thailand. “I was tired of placing microgreens with tweezers,” he says breezily of the decision to turn his back on a successful fine-dining career to do something funkier — much funkier. In September 2013, he and beer meister Steve Newman opened Tuk Tuk Taproom (1702 Broadway, San Antonio; 210-222-TAPS; tuktuktaproom.com) in a small building that had been both a repair garage and a Mexican fast food joint (not, presumably, at the same time).

Thai papaya - David Gilbert The food, Gilbert insists, is authentic Asian cuisine made the way it’s prepared in the streets of Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, and other parts of Asia. During San Antonio’s Culinaria food festival in May, he demonstrated three different versions of green papaya salad. Our favorite — and the one almost always on the menu (along with 60 craft beers on tap) — is the Thai salad. He insists that the granite mortar and pestle are essential because they break down the food differently than any other technique. He also cautions against putting peanuts in at the beginning, because the result will be too creamy.

Thai papaya salad
GREEN PAPAYA SALAD, THAI STYLE

You will need a Thai salad mortar & pestle — a deep-bowled mortar usually made of dense granite — to make this salad. Most Asian grocers stock the tool, or David Gilbert advises purchasing it from www.importfood.com.

Ingredients

2 cloves of garlic (peeled)
2 Thai chilis, whole
3 ounces long beans (or substitute green beans)
14 ounces Asian green papaya
1 plum tomato (cut lengthwise)
5 dried shrimp (medium size)
1 ounce fresh squeezed key lime juice
1/2 to 1 ounce fish sauce
1 tablespoon Thai palm sugar
2 ounces roasted peanuts, crushed

Directions

1. Pound the garlic and Thai chili with pestle in the mortar until mashed.

2. Add the long beans and green papaya. Pound again, bruising and breaking down the papaya.

3. Add tomato and shrimp. Lightly pound and mix the salad with a spoon inside the mortar.

4. Add the liquids and adjust the balance between sweet (palm sugar), salty (fish sauce), and sour (lime juice).

5. Add peanuts and mix all together.

6. Remove the salad from mortar and serve with raw cucumber slices and generous hunks of green cabbage.

15

07 2014

San Antonio’s Cured is good for whatever ails you

Cured building
Long known as the cradle of Tex-Mex cuisine, San Antonio has definitely upped its game in the last few years. Until recently, a smattering of upscale, fine-dining restaurants like John Besh’s Lüke on the Riverwalk and a plethora of steak houses formed the city’s gastronomic constellation. That’s changing quickly and a lot of action is taking place in the suddenly trendy Pearl District. San Antonio’s spring-fed eponymous river made it an important beer-brewing town in the 19th century. The predecessor to Pearl Brewing opened in 1883, and the factory didn’t close until 2001. The subsequent redevelopment of the 22-acre former Pearl complex is still underway, but it’s already ground zero for serious foodies. Not only does the complex contain the San Antonio campus of the Culinary Institute of America, it has several terrific restaurants. Steve McHugh’s superb gastropub Cured (306 Pearl Parkway, Suite 101, 210-314-3929, www.curedatpearl.com) joined the neighborhood at the end of 2013.

Cured chef owner Steve McHughMcHugh came to San Antonio from John Besh’s flagship New Orleans restaurant August to open the old-fashioned German-style brasserie Lüke. Diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in January 2010, he fought back. Once his doctor pronounced him in remission, he fulfilled his dream of opening his own restaurant. Since his specialty is charcuterie — he buys whole hogs and cures the parts in a glass-walled meat locker prominently featured in the dining room — he named his restaurant “Cured,” a name with dual meanings. In addition to making his own hams and sausages, he crafts a whole range of charcuterie. A dollar from each charcuterie plate goes to a different charity each quarter.

Cured charcuterieThe food is terrific, and the lively ambience is infectious. The dishes are simple — a gumbo using his own smoked pork and andouille sausage, for example, or seared redfish with asparagus, citrus, and shrimp — yet they’re always thoughtful combinations of flavors.

The Cured Burger is the talk of San Antonio and would make a big hit at any July 4 cookout. Here’s a slightly simplified version of the recipe.

Cured burger
CURED BURGER

Three things make chef Steve McHugh’s burgers so delicious and juicy. The meat is part beef, part cured bacon. McHugh is liberal with his application of salt and pepper. And he tops the burgers with an amazing smoked onion jam before putting cheese on top to melt. When we’re in a hurry, we ask our butcher to grind the meat for us and we use the very good Roasted Garlic Onion Jam from Stonewall Kitchen.

Makes 6 burgers

For the Burgers
Ingredients
1 1/2 pounds top round, cut into large pieces
1/2 pound good quality bacon
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions
Grind the top round and bacon alternately through a large die (3/8”) so that there is a good beef-to-bacon ratio. Switch to the smaller die (3/16”) on your grinder and regrind the meat to a smooth consistency. Divide the burgers into six patties. Season your burgers with salt and twice as much pepper than you think. Pepper is the key to a great burger. Grill to medium well-done.

For the Onion Jam
Ingredients
4 yellow onions, top and bottom removed, peels left on
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar

Directions
Using your smoker, hot smoke your onions for 4 hours until completely soft. Peel the onions and place into a food processor and blend with vinegar and water. Place them in a pot along with the sugar and cook for 2 hours until a jam-like consistency has been reached. Reserve for later.

Assembly
Top the burgers with a spoonful of the onion jam and top with your choice of cheese. While Cheese is melting, place the rolls on the griddle to brown. Assemble and destroy!

27

06 2014