Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Quick Drink: Old Fashioned

Just because Matt Weiner has taken his Don Draper ball and gone home for the summer, doesn't mean you need to give up drinking like Duck Phillips. The Old Fashioned is a simple cocktail combining a base spirit with bitters, sugar, and usually some type of fruit or zest. Rumor has it it got its name from a salty patron who had grown tired of fancy cocktails and demanded something "old fashioned". More importantly, this anecdote confirms that animosity towards newfangled drinking ways is nothing new.

What I've done here is taken out the simple syrup and/or muddled oranges. Instead, imagine a maitre'd standing in front of a gueridon with your order of crepes suzette. What he might do (and they were all men when this went on so I am only slightly sexist) is take a sugar cube and rub it across the skin of orange. The white cube turning a pale orange as the intense citrus oils latched onto the sugar. Do the same thing here and you will get the effect of orange without all the cloying sweetness of orange juice. I like a high proof bourbon or rye, but don't get too fancy with your booze or some salty barfly might call you an insufferable whippersnapper.

An Old Fashioned

2 oz of bourbon or rye
1 demerara sugar cube
1 orange
2-3 dashes of bitters (your choice, Peychaud's, Angostura, or Orange)

Rub the sugar cube on all six sides across the flesh of the orange. You really want to scratch the hell out of it. Place sugar cube in mixing glass, add bitters, and muddle briefly. Add bourbon or rye and ice and stir about 63 rotations. Stain into a rocks glass with a few cubes of ice. Garnish with an orange peel.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Bayona: Is It Worth It?

A collection of cocktails at Bayona

Susan Spicer has been a culinary bad ass for about thirty years longer than the cronut will be popular. Bayona, which she opened with Regina Keever almost a quarter century ago, has been welding cuisines together long before the term fusion. A look around at the chefs of the city's newest darlings reveals that many of them made a stop on Dauphine at one time or another. Spicer's cookbook is solid gold and Mondo is a worldly enough neighborhood restaurant that stock in it could one day be traded on the NYSE. Hagiography done.

But eating at Bayona? Does anyone do that enough?

The answer is probably not. 

It is easy to draw parallels between the interior of Bayona and the much missed Bistro at the Maison de Ville. This would make sense as Spicer was the opening chef of that vaunted establishment. Dark, rich fabrics, sturdy furnishings, paintings, and tablecloths cloak the successive rooms in what would give a modern restaurant designer a heart attack. Service is considerate, young, and punctual enough for you to offer them a job babysitting. They'll even track down a cocktail recipe, should you ask. 

The food at Bayona has always begged to be defined but rarely captured with a simple phrase. Creole seems too generic, world cuisine too self-important, eclectic too dismissive. The food is fantastic. Let's just define it like that.

Spicer's best work is in the early stages of a meal. Her sweetbreads know no peer. Plump and crisp their creaminess plays foil to crisp potatoes and earthy beets. Italian arancini get a Provence, Yall twist with tart goat cheese and Alabama peaches filling in for mozzarella and red gravy. Simplicity as the rule applies on her crouton plastered with goat cheese and adorned with mushrooms in a Madeira cream. A roasted garlic soup is just that: roasted garlic, onions, stock, thickened with bread. 

The smoked duck PB&J is too rich by half and I always regret ordering it. In theory, it sounds like a winner. Smoked duck, cashew butter, and pepper jelly piled onto toasted bread; but the sandwich's flavors come across as muddled and confused. Better is a bowl of barbecue shrimp, pimento cheese grits, and greens which is like putting together an awesome plate of food at a heavenly church picnic.

You likely haven't been to Bayona in some time. Remedy that. And one more thing, get the watermelon jalapeno cocktail. After you do, email me for the recipe.

Bayona: Is It Worth It? Yes.
430 Dauphine St.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

A Quick Drink: Rose

"I f%&#ing love rose!"

One of us over here at Blackened Out Delinquent Bloggers, et al. is very fond of saying the above quote. But to allow both of us to tell our mothers the other one is the foulmouthed brat, we will keep his identity a mystery. What is rose? Well besides the single best overall food wine? Rose is a fantastic summertime wine. Rose is also perfect in the wintertime when infected with secondary fermentation and turned into Rose Champagne. Rose is the perfect funeral wine. One thing is for certain, The Biebs isn't putting on a leather shirt, sipping rose, and sitting courtside at a petanque match anytime soon.

Rose is a good wine to drink while swimming laps or lounging on the beach. Rose's color makes it a perfect match for front porch sitting or intensive games of Trivial Pursuit. We recently returned from a beach vacation where we succeeded in setting a new land speed record for rose consumption. Rose is best consumed in pairs of two; our record is about a half a case over a long afternoon. Good luck trying to top it. But if you attempt it, invite us over.

Basically rose denotes a wine in which the grape juice is allowed a very brief period of contact with the skins. The skins give the wine color and a distinctive dryness. Rose is a staple in the South of France, typically Provence, where the immense heat of summer and temperamental mistral of winter tends to make producing affordable wines of either white or red character difficult. So Provence's offering to inventions's mother is rose. If you've been to Provence, you likely believe in heaven. This is God's juice.

The wine pictured above however, those of you with a rudimentary understanding of Basque language will understand, is not Provencal rose. Instead, I've shown you what is one of the least talked about fantastic wines in the world. A txakolina rose from Ameztoi produced just outside of San Sebastien, which has a slight effervescence. In fact, I think it is the best wine in the world under $20 a bottle.

But you want to know my favorite part of rose wine? No one ever pays attention to or bothers to develop lengthy, boring, erudite tasting nights about rose. Rose is a fun, uncomplicated wine.  Seek it out and drink it up. You will thank me later this summer.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Vieux L'Ecole

Steak au poivre with glazed carrots

Fifty years ago French gastronomy was the end all be all of the American food world. With champions such as Jackie Kennedy and Julia Child, French cuisine represented both high culture and home cooking. But then American food tastes began to shift. Regional Italian became a starlet for a while and still commands a hefty performance fee. Now Asian and South American cooking garners our attention more than trout meuniere ever did. Watch for regional Mexican to explode in the next few years. Sadly, "French cooking" has by and large become the mom jeans of the culinary world.

Of course, this is an imperfect analogy, as things like charcuterie have been reborn in restaurants across America and the food of the bistro will never disappear. Ask yourself this, when was the last time a new restaurant opened that had a pure French bend and was not a bistro? When did you last get a craving for homard l'americaine or bernaise? Luckily there may be no finer cuisine suited to your home cooking explorations as that of the French. Most of the ingredients you already have and it requires very little in the way of intricate tools or burdensome techniques. So pull out those mom jeans and bring them back in style while you Prancercise about the house.

Steak au Poivre

Steak au poivre is a dish that no one will be debuting on a tasting menu any time soon. To make it, use any cut of beef you like, but I prefer the chuck eye roast which is like a faux filet. Most recipes call for veal stock or demi-glace, but you can omit them. The star of this dish is the pepper and the cream. The only key technique is basting this mother continuously as it cooks with hot butter.

Cut of beef, your choice
Peppercorns, a good amount, whole, crushed lightly but not ground
Brandy or Cognac, 2 tablespoons
1/2 cup cream

Crack your pepper corns in a mortar and pestle or however else you accomplish such things. Generously coat your beef with the peppercorns and let sit for thirty minutes. Heat a cast iron skillet till wisps of smoke rise from its surface. Season steak with kosher salt and place on the skillet.

After 3 minutes, flip steak over. Toss in a golf ball sized lump of butter and begin basting the meat. Baste furiously. After another 3 minutes, turn the steak on its side and brown all sides evenly. Continue basting with what should now be delicious brown butter. Remove steak from pan and allow to rest when at preferred doneness. But since you are cooking French food, go rarer than normal. Re-salt when the steak comes off the heat. 

Pour out the butter. Add brandy or cognac to the skillet and return to the stove. Scrape up all those crusty bits on the pan. Add cream, bring to a simmer, taste, adjust seasoning, and serve immediately on top of the steak.

Serve this with lots of cheap Bordeaux. Two reasons to do so. One, no one else is drinking this stuff, so there is a glut of inventory, which translates to affordable wine. Secondly, many of it is actually pretty tasty and almost tastes like expensive, old Bordeaux is supposed to taste like. 

La vie en rose.