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Archive for June, 2011

I’ve lived within a 2 hour drive to NYC for most of my life and while all the amazing foodie destinations that the city has to offer have been calling me for years, it’s only recently that I’ve been lucky enough to have an easeful way to make a day trip New York, avoiding the exorbitant hotel costs of an overnight as well as the traffic and parking hassles inherent in any attempt to drive a car in for the day. With a dear friend offering me his unused apartment in Stamford on the weekends, I can easily drive there and take the train into the city, crashing at the apartment on either end of the trip allowing me a truly relaxed, affordable full day in fabulous New York City!

Last weekend, Paul and I took full advantage of this privilege and had a wonderful day visiting various pastry shops, seeing a number of excellent exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and finishing our day with a knock-out dinner at The Modern a fine dining restaurant located inside the Modern Museum of Art where Alsatian born chef Gabriel Kreuther is turning out some of the most gorgeous and delicious food around. I certainly found  its Michelin star and 3 stars from the NY Times, well deserved!

The view of the sculture garden from our table

We arrived a few minutes early for our 7:00 PM reservation and were at first seated at a horseshoe shaped banquette easily large enough for a party of 4. We liked the fact that we could sit right beside each other and both face out to the whole dining room but quickly discovered that in order to use the back of the built in leather seat, we would both have needed to be quite a bit stouter than we are to comfortably reach the table. Knowing that I would need to have some back support to really enjoy a long meal, we asked to be moved to one of the empty 2 tops on the other side of the room. The staff quite graciously honored our request and we were soon happily ensconced in extremely comfortable leather chairs that we could pull up as close or as far away from the table as we desired at any given moment, right beside a wall of windows that looked out onto the lovely MoMa sculpture garden.

The Modern dining room offers only a choice of a 4 course prix fixe, 3 savories and one sweet for $98 or the chef’s tasting menu for the whole table that offers 7 savory courses as well as a trio of desserts for $155. Wine pairings are offered for and additional $135. There is also a fine looking cheese cart available to add to either menu.

While everything on the tasting menu looked divine, each course from the 4 course option offers the diner 7 or 8 different choices so we decided that rather than both eat the exact same dinner, we’d each order what appealed most to us individually and share bites, a strategy that frequently employ and seems to work well for us. And this was no exception. What followed was one of the most delectable and enjoyable meals of my fine dining career and that’s saying a lot!

We began with an amuse of nettle panna cotta with a nasturtium and Riesling sauce, the peppery sauce a perfect accompaniment to the fresh spring green taste of the creamy panna cotta. Off to a fantastic start we eagerly awaited the rest of the meal, barely bothering with the bread, French and a whole grain rolls served with perfectly spreadable but slightly funky tasting butter. I was saving my stomach space for the meal and I was glad I did.

For my first course, I ordered Wagu Beef and Foie Gras “Damier” Passion Fruit Gastrique, a gorgeous presentation of a checkerboard of small squares of raw beef and smooth foie, each enhancing the rich flavor of the other and both brought to heavenly heights by the tart passion fruit sauce.

Paul’s Foie Gras Terrine with Roasted Artichokes, Green Peppercorn and Baby Turnip was also sublime, served with buttery, crisp toast points and topped with a drizzle of pure maple syrup. Smooth and rich, that little bit of maple sweetness really made the flavors pop!

For my next course, I selected the Potato Gateau, a crisp packet of thinly sliced potato filled with Benton’s country ham, pearl onions and comte cheese, topped with a few drops of pumpkin seed oil and toasted pumpkin seeds. A wonderful combination of flavors and textures, this dish brought the idea of a “hot pocket” to new heights.

Paul went with Hamachi, Sea Urchin, and Fennel Tart, an incredible taste of pure ocean floating on a mellow flavored fennel puree atop a crisp pastry round. A truly spectacular dish.

For our final savory course, I went for Organic Veal Tenderloin, Black Truffle, Asian Pear and Spinach and Fine Herbs Puree. The veal was fork tender and the flavors earthy and rich. I especially enjoyed the taste of the spinach puree with the veal.

Paul’s Long Island Duck Breast was brought out whole and sliced tableside, a production that was fun to watch but I’m not sure necessary. But the duck was tender and delicious, topped with a crust of black trumpet “marmalade” and served with a sauce made from Banyuls wine. It was all delcious but my favorite thing on the plate was a “Fleischschneke” of duck confit: a spiral of the confit rolled in a thin crepe. Yum!

After polishing off the plates, we placed our orders for dessert and eagerly awaited the treats to come. I had seen the sweets trolley making its way around the dining room and knew that some great chocolates would be enjoyed with our after dessert coffees and found myself appreciating how perfect The Modern’s portion sizes were. Each serving was enough to really enjoy and feel satisfied with all of the flavors, even sharing bites with my dining partner, but not so much that I felt stuffed before dessert was served. What a pleasure it was to be anticipating dessert without feeling as if I would bust before tasting more than a few bites!

The Top Layer of the Sweets Trolley

Desserts did not disappoint, and I happily polished off the Chocolate and Hazelnut Dacquiose, crisp and chewy, encased in a layer of buttery caramel and served with a fresh raspberry sorbet.

A decadent daquiose!

Paul’s Lemon Napolean was not quite as rich, but scrumptious as well with smooth, tart lemon curd layered between thin crisp rounds of caramelized crepes and served with finely chopped exotic fruits and a truly spectacular fromage blanc sorbet. My only complaint is my usual pet peeve of how tiny the scoops of sorbet were. I admit I could have happily polished off a pint of the fromage blanc sorbet but I’m not exaggerating to say there was less than a teaspoon on the plate with the Napolean. I never can understand why so many fine dining establishments are so stingy with the frozen accompaniments to their desserts!

Another amazing dessert, the lemon Napolean

After licking the plates clean finishing the desserts, we ordered double decafe espressos and tried to exhibit a little restraint while choosing treats from the sweet trolley. Fortunately, we were beginning to feel full by this point so while I definitely wanted 1 of everything, I limited my choices to a couple truffles, a chunk of chocolate ganache cake, and a caramel and pinapple chocolate covered “lollipop.” Paul tried the candied nuts, a chocolate chip cookie, and some nut filled truffles. A veritable feast of fudgy fantasies, perfect with the steaming hot espressos.

The second layer of the sweets trolley!

Fully satisfied, we were ready for the check but before they brought the bill, they delivered 2 miniature ice cream cones, a mix of rich vanilla bean ice cream and raspberry sorbet. A playfully sweet end to a truly spectacular meal.

Our selection of sweets

A note about the service at The Modern: They use a team approach so we didn’t have one person who was our primary waiter and we interacted equally with at least 5 different staff people over the evening. Everyone was prompt, courteous and knowledgeable but some were warmer than others. Personally, I prefer to develop a bit of a relationship with my wait person over the course of a long dinner but I still thoroughly enjoyed the evening and would go back in a heartbeat. For this kind of dining at this price point, I believe it’s one of the best to be found anywhere.

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Here in New England, most of April and May felt like March; perpetually cold and rainy with an occasional snow squall and an even less occasional day of sunshine. But finally, heading into Memorial Day weekend, the weather shifted and the sun came out with a vengeance and suddenly it felt like summer. The timing couldn’t be better as far as the Daring Cooks challenge because Jami Sorrento was our June Daring Cooks hostess and she chose to challenge us to celebrate the humble spud by making a delicious and healthy potato salad. The Daring Cooks Potato Salad Challenge was sponsored by the nice people at the United States Potato Board, who awarded prizes to the top 3 most creative and healthy potato salads. A medium-size (5.3 ounce) potato has 110 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, no sodium and includes nearly half your daily value of vitamin C and has more potassium than a banana!

Potato salad is the perfect summer food, particularly good to take to a potluck or have as part of an outdoor barbeque. Fortunately, I had both on the calendar so I made two different potato salads (recipes at the end of this post) but I’m not sure I’ll be considered for the competition because my recipes aren’t particularly healthy or low fat. Sadly, I’m a firm believer that the creamier and fuller of fat something is, the better it will taste! Thus, I suppose, my constant battle with the bulge.

For a Memorial Weekend potluck, I made a creamy curried potato salad and it was a fantastic addition to a truly delicious and gorgeous meal where each dish was prepared with love and care and shared with some of my favorite people on the planet.

Curried potato salad and my sesame roasted  veggies 

It was a gorgeous potluck with yummy food and yummy people!

Awesome potluck (from left to right) black beans w/ basmati rice, sesame roasted veggies, curried potato salad, baked chicken, massaged kale salad, fresh baked bread!

The following weekend I decided to do a bacon and egg potato salad as one of the sides to go along with a whole barbequed rack of baby back ribs. What a perfect accompaniment to compliment the smoky, long cooked flavor of all that porky goodness! Asian slaw, grilled Tuscan bread and coconut chocolate mousse cake rounded out this special birthday meal for our good friend Bob.

Bacon and egg potato salad

Check out these ribs:

Dry rub on the raw ribs of paprika, ancho chili, brown sugar, salt and black pepper

They smelled amazing cooking on the grill!

Nice rack!!!

Barbequed baby back ribs ready to eat!

Dessert was great too!

Chocolate coconut mousse cake with chocolate dipped strawberries

Yum!

With summer off to a roaring good start, I’ve officially fallen off the diet band wagon and not sure I’ll be ready to climb back on any time soon. Given the choice between all the succulent tastes of summer or looking lean in my bathing suit,  it’s shaping up (or not shaping up!) to be not much of a choice. A good rich potato salad is just too good to resist and next it’s strawberry shortcake time, soon followed by native corn on the cob (of course slathered with butter) and then corn and native tomato pie and then…

Maybe I’ll skip the beach this year.

CURRIED POTATO SALAD

5 lbs red new potatoes
1 C diced celery
½ C diced red bell pepper (drain on paper towels to absorb extra moisture)
1 C chopped dried cranberries
1 ½  C mayo (I like Miracle Whip but that’s a debate for another day. Use what you like. You can use lite mayo or Miracle whip as well)
¾ C non-fat plain yogurt
½ C regular or lite (not fat free) sour cream
Juice of 1 lemon
1 C cilantro
4 scallions
2 TBSP curry powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh ground pepper

Cut potatoes (with skin on) into small bite sized chunks and boil in salted water until just tender, 5-8 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water to stop cooking. When cool and well drained, place in a large bowl with the celery, red pepper and cranberries. Puree remaining ingredients in a food processor or blender, scraping down sides, until a smooth dressing forms. Pour over the potatoes and gently stir until all the potatoes are well coated. Let rest in the refrigerator for an hour or so to let the flavors meld.

BACON AND EGG POTATO SALAD

3 lbs red new potatoes
1 C diced celery
½ C diced red bell pepper (drain on paper towels to absorb extra moisture)
½ C chopped flat leaf parsley
4 slices well cooked bacon, drained and crumbled
4 chopped hard cooked eggs
1-1 ½  C lite or regular mayo (I use Miracle whip)
Scant ¼ C bacon drippings
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
fresh ground pepper, to taste

Cut potatoes (with skin on) into small bite sized chunks and boil in salted water until just tender, 5-8 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water to stop cooking. When cool and well drained, place in a large bowl with the celery, red pepper, parsley, and most of the bacon and eggs (save some for garnish.) Gently stir in mayo and bacon drippings. Garnish with extra bacon and eggs.

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