Archive for the ‘Thai’Category

Oceania’s ‘Marina’ features fine dining five ways

Grand dining room on Oceania's Marina
Experienced cruisers expect a Grand Dining Room—and that’s exactly what Oceania Cruises (oceaniacruises.com) calls its spacious and glittering Continental dining venue. It has the requisite fine linens and crystal chandeliers. A full armada of water and wine glasses gleam on the tables. The menu borrows a little from Italy and a lot from France. It includes a few Jacques Pepin signature bistro dishes (steak-frites, roast chicken, poached salmon). Or diners can go fancier with lobster bisque and venison medallions. The menu even proffers spa-inspired “healthy living choices,” such as steamed artichokes, chicken consommé, and simple roasted fish. In short, there’s a little something for everyone in a very pleasant and lively room with excellent service. Although the GDR is larger than most other restaurants on board the Marina, it is only one of many fine dining choices.

Jacques aboard Oceania Marina

Dinner with a French accent at Jacques

Although he consults to the entire Oceania dining program, Jacques Pepin’s personal stamp is most pronounced in the restaurant that bears his name. Jacques serves what might be called the greatest hits of French cuisine, from baked escargots with garlic butter or foie gras terrine with candied black cherries to bouillabaisse or baked onion soup topped with stringy Gruyère. The classic preparation of Dover sole makes superb dinner theater—the waiter fillets it tableside before serving. The dessert menu is a delectable class in French pronunciation: baba au rhum, pot de crème, mousse au chocolat, tarte au pommes, and—of course—crème brûlée a la lavande.

Photographing the lobster at Toscana on Oceania Marina

Mangiare come un italiano at Toscana

The menu at Toscana is nominally Tuscan, but the kitchen balances the Tuscan grill with a choice of no less than ten pastas. They are all beautifully executed in generous portions, making them suitable as secondi instead of primi. The risottos (asparagus or lobster) arrive with the rice slightly soupy and al dente. (Bravo!) The grilled veal chop with wild mushrooms is a quintessential representation of the Tuscan countryside. One of the most popular dishes at Toscana (besides the incredible breads) is the lobster fra diavolo served over fresh tagliolini. Presentation is so striking that even in the romantically low light, it’s hard to resist taking a photo (above).

Polo Grill on Oceania Marina

Polo Grill celebrates American steakhouse

The steakhouse is possibly North America’s greatest contribution to the worldwide constellation of restaurant types. Polo Grill is arguably better than many steakhouses found back on land. It serves generously cut and perfectly cooked beef, veal, and lamb. (Three people at our table one night ordered filet mignon—one medium rare, one medium, and one medium well. They arrived at the table exactly cooked, which is no mean feat since meat keeps cooking between kitchen and table.) Polo also has the full range of rich salads—Caesar prepared at the table among them.

Beet appetizer at Polo Grill on Oceania Marina

But Polo truly excels in the attention paid to sides and appetizers. The napoleon of roasted beet layered with garlic goat cheese and dressed with a Champagne and truffle vinaigrette (above) was a work of art that tasted as good as it looked. Side dishes even included lobster mac and cheese. Huge porterhouse steaks are a big hit at Polo, but it seemed like every table had at least one person wearing a bib and a satisfied smile while tucking into an entire steamed Maine lobster.

Red Ginger dining room on Oceania Marina

Red Ginger conjures flavors of East Asia

All the specialty restaurants can be booked by advance reservation, and some passengers make those reservations when they buy their cruise tickets. As a result, Red Ginger is one of the hardest reservations to score aboard the Marina. With glittering gold walls, a proliferation of shiny lacquer, and the dramatic spot lighting, it is also perhaps the most glam of the shipboard dining rooms. The sharing plate of appetizers called “Skewers, Sushi, and Tempura” sets the pan-Asian tone for the menu. It’s easy to mix a Southeast Asian spicy duck and watermelon salad with a second starter of Japanese tuna tataki, as shown below.

Red Ginger plates on Oceania Marina

The main courses at Red Ginger are similarly international. They range from rib-eye beef prepared as Korean bulgogi to a roasted rack of lamb rubbed with seven spices. The lobster that’s such a big hit in Polo, Toscana, and even Jacques, makes a cameo at Red Ginger as lobster pad Thai. The tamarind and lime make it sweet and tart at the same time—an excellent way to treat the rich flavor of lobster. One of the culinary classes focuses on Red Ginger favorites. The lobster pad Thai recipe below is exactly as it’s taught.

Lobster pad Thai at Red Ginger on Oceania Marina

LOBSTER PAD THAI


Serves 2

Ingredients

For sauce

1/4 cup tamarind juice
2 tablespoons each palm sugar, fish sauce, nam prik pao (Thai chili-garlic paste), and creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon ginger juice

For pad Thai

2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons ginger juice
1/4 cup scallions, thinly sliced on diagonal
1/4 cup leeks, thinly sliced on diagonal
1 cup lobster pieces
2 eggs, beaten
4 cups rice noodles, softened
1/2 cup bean sprouts
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
4 lime wedges
1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts

Directions

Whisk together all the sauce ingredients until smooth. If needed, thin with warm water. Reserve.

Line up the ingredients in order, with 1/2 cup of the prepared sauce between the eggs and the noodles.

In a wok over high, heat the peanut oil. When the oil is hot, begin adding the garlic, ginger, scallions and leeks to the wok in sequence. Use two spatulas and continuously toss to cook evenly and keep ingredients from burning at high heat. Slide the vegetables up the sides of the wok and sear the lobster. Slide the lobster up the sides of the wok and add the egg to scramble.

When the egg is just cooked, bring back the vegetables and lobster and add the ½ cup of the sauce, noodles and bean sprouts. Using the spatulas, gently toss the ingredients to cover them with sauce, adding more if needed, being careful not to break the noodles. When heated through, divide among two serving dishes. Finish with the sesame oil, lime wedges and peanuts.

24

03 2017

Healthy poutine is not an oxymoron

Chef Gérôme Paquette and an appreciative diner at Montreal Poutinefest
“Eating vegetarian is a culture that grows every day,” acknowledges Gérôme Paquette, chef at L’Gros Luxe (www.lgrosluxe.com), a small chain of restaurants committed to a healthy lifestyle. “People are more cautious about what they are eating.”

But that doesn’t mean that diners want to give up flavor—or comfort food favorites such poutine. And Paquette (above left) is happy to oblige. “Creating a vegetarian version of poutine is not that complicated,” he says. He points out that it’s all about balancing flavors and textures of the sauce and topping ingredients.

In place of the typically rich meat gravy, Paquette creates a vegetable stock that he seasons as if it were a meat stock. For his Poutine Thai, he ladles the thickened veggie stock over the frites and adds the requisite cheese curds. He then and tops the basket with a substantive salad of bean sprouts, green onions, and cilantro. He drizzles a little hoisin sauce over it all, sprinkles on a few dashes of sriracha, and adds wedges of lime for the diners to squeeze over the dish to taste.

Thai vegetarian poutine at Montreal Poutinefest The result is a surprisingly elegant presentation. The gravy does not obscure the brightly colored vegetables and crisp frites. The sriracha adds a bit of heat and the bean sprouts and peanuts add a good crunch to contrast with the soft frites. It’s a dish that looks good, tastes good and is fun to eat. In truth, a serving of poutine can seem a little monotonous by the end. But the variations in texture and pops of flavor keep this version interesting down to the last bite. It is, in fact, the best seller at the L’Gros Luxe outpost. The woman above was thrilled to find a vegetarian option at the Poutinefest.

Paquette is humble about the success of the dish. “It’s good to create something with elements that you don’t think will go together – but they do,” he says.

21

08 2016

Lonely Planet captures taste of place

From the Source Thailand and Italy from Lonely Planet
We’ve always believed that one of the best ways to get to know people is to eat at their table. Lonely Planet, the erstwhile backpacker guidebook series that has been heading steadily upmarket since it changed ownership in 2013, must agree.

Last month Lonely Planet (under NC2 Media) launched the first of a projected large line of books about different cuisines. Called “From the Source,” they pair a writer and a photographer to chronicle the flavors of a country through heavily illustrated recipes for regional dishes.

The first two volumes tackle the cuisines of Thailand and Italy, which is a pretty tall order. The recipes are given in both metric and U.S. measure, and they are intricately detailed. In the Thai book, this means delineating every spice that goes into a particular curry. In the Italy book, it often means detailed descriptions of technique, complete with explanatory photographs. (The primer on making gnocchi is reason enough to buy the book.)

Each recipe is introduced with a one-page description of the dish, how it fits into the national cuisine, and who supplied the recipe (everyone from home cooks to esteemed chefs). These books are the next best thing to being there—letting you preview a place before you go or attempt to bring the taste of travel back home.

From the Source – Thailand: Thailand’s Most Authentic Recipes from the People That Know Them Best and From the Source – Italy: Italy’s Most Authentic Recipes from the People That Know Them Best are both available at the Lonely Planet online bookstore (shop.lonelyplanet.com), or from Amazon or Barnes & Noble. They list for $24.99.

Better yet, buy it at your local independent bookstore. Ours is Harvard Book Store (harvard.com), and it has both titles. What’s yours?

09

10 2015

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