Archive for December, 2011

Tru (American new)

Tru competes in a league of extraordinary restaurants and I felt lucky to be enjoying their world-class service. The menu provides pre-fixed menus of 3-8 courses as well as a vegetarian menu option that was not a second thought to the meat centerpieces. The wine pairings were thoughtful and the sommelier was extremely knowledgeable. To leave room for my future experience at Alinea and because of a few minor execution issues, I’m going to give Tru 4.5 stars.

white sturgeon “caviar”, avocado, hazelnut – I loved the frivolity of this innovative dish. They pureed sturgeon and mixed it into cream. Then with a dropper, they submerged the cream droplets into highly chilled grapeseed oil so that they formed perfect round balls. They served the crème fish balls as ‘caviar’ on top of avocado puree in a caviar dish. For the vegetarian menu they kept the same concept but used cilantro essence instead of fish in the cream balls. Great start to the meal.

white sturgeon "caviar", avocado, hazelnut

chilled kohlrabi contained within itself, curry oil – A play on chilled potato soup, vichyssoise, but exchange potato with kohlrabi. Kohlrabi tastes like the stem of broccoli and can be found at many summer farmers markets. The soup was refreshing but a little over salted. The presentation was impressive with the carved out kohlrabi sitting on a bed of dry ice.

chilled kohlrabi contained within itself, curry oil

duroc pork belly, yellow sweet corn, black truffle – This may have been one of my least favorite dishes. The pork belly was dried out and in pounded into the shape of a flat lollipop with its meat and fat layers mimicking flavor swirls. Some of the accompanying sauces were tasty but I missed the juicy flavor that makes pork belly so amazing, as well as acidity on the plate. Also, the black truffle was good but could have been substituted with a flavorful funghi.

roasted wild striped bass, banyuls brown butter emulsion, daikon – The plate had a minimalist appeal to it. Unfortunately the fish was overcooked and so lacked the tender flake that you expect with a morsel of fish fillet.

roasted wild striped bass, banyuls brown butter emulsion, daikon

jidori chicken, foie gras, wild mushroom, salsify – A beautiful dish with the tender chicken breast slice likely cooked in a sous vide method. The chicken rolled around a foie gras mousse which cannot help but be delicious. This was a lovely dish.

jidori chicken, foie gras, wild mushroom, salsify

poached quince, wildflower honey, cassis – Again, beautiful presentation. I have never eaten a quince fruit whole but rather only in its quince paste form. I could have this dessert multiple times and maybe will attempt it at home.

poached quince, wildflower honey, cassis

Thanks chef!

Christmas dinner Italian style

On Christmas day my mom relinquished her kitchen to me and allowed for me to make an experimental four course holiday dinner.

Course 1: Poached egg over polenta with hollandaise sauce and kale
Our favorite dish is probably between this and the steamed whole rainbow trout. This dish was decadent but worth the fat. And there was kale, so healthy! Also, poaching eggs isn’t too tricky. I added a little white vinegar to the boiling water and slowly broke a few eggs into the pot. They boiled for approx 4-5 minutes and I pulled them out with a strainer. Here’s the hollandaise sauce recipe thanks to my friend, Carolyn.
Hollandaise sauce
-melt one stick of butter and drizzle into blender that contains 3 egg yolks, 2.5 T lemon juice, pinch of cayenne and 1/4 tsp salt. whip it good and spoon over anything and everything. An improvement to this dish would be the addition of smoked salmon and a dizzle of lemon juice over the top.

Smooth and creamy!

Course II: Fresh pasta with homemade tomato sauce
Wanted to keep the pasta course simple. I made the tomato sauce in advance using liquified canned tomatoes (courtesy of my mom) and assorted spices. The pasta was not my best work and I will not use this ratio again: 2 C. flour, salt, 2 eggs, some water and oil. I think it needed more egg yolk and water as well as an hour in the fridge to rest. Next time!

Still pretty!

Course III: Steamed rainbow trout with dill, lemon and garlic
I LOVE steaming whole fish and usually do so in my bamboo steamer. This time around I wrapped it in foil and baked it in the oven for 20 mins at 400F. Both work very well and the fish was super moist and flavorful. I stuffed the inside of the fish where the guts were removed with dill, lemon slices, garlic and salt. I also prepped it in a bath of cold water, salt and lemon to remove bacteria and general grossness. (this last step was necessary) I also made some brussel sprout finished in some bacon fat…ah bacon. I felt bad that I didn’t make a stock with the leftover fish parts, but maybe next time.

Don't be afraid of whole fish!

Course IV: Tiramisu
My mom offered her dessert making skills for the last course, Tiramisu. It was delicious and we ate it all weekend.

Fancy.

Silver Spoon Thai (near north Chicago)

This small thai joint is not appealing to the eye or the taste buds. It is decent for the inexpensive prices but leaves much to be desired. I had the tempura appetizer which took awhile and tasted pretty good. I also ordered the thai noodle soup and again, ok. There are many thai spots that I’d choose over this one.

Friends Sushi (near north Chicago)

This cool sushi lounge has a sleek design with accessible prices and tasty sushi. The spicy scallop roll and veggie rolls were both good. This is a great weeknight sushi spot for the locals.

FMIOTW: Asian Pear

So, for many years I thought that an Asian pear was a genetic cross between an apple and a pear. I was wrong. It is its own special pear and I was gifted an enormous one today. The pear was crispy and juicy with a slight acidity. I wish they were as cheap and available as bananas.

I should have put my hand next to it for size perspective.

Mussels in a white wine sauce with potatoes and tomatoes

I’ve been meaning to cook mussels for years and tonight the stars aligned to make it so. I recommend mussels to any level of cook as they are fast and easy to make. Apparently they need to be kept cold and have an air supply and should be completely shut before cooking. They are relatively inexpensive as 15 mussels were $3.50 from Whole Foods. I let them soak in cold water for 10 minutes to wash them gently before cooking. In a pan I sauteed garlic and shallots in olive oil until shallots were translucent. I then added the mussels to the pan and flipped to coat in the oil. Added 1/4 C. of white wine and mixed herbs and then covered with a lid. I let it cook for 5 minutes according to a recipe I found online. All the mussels opened and I hoped for the best in terms of doneness. I removed the mussels and added heavy whipping cream to the white wine and shallots. I let it simmer for a few minutes and seasoned with salt/sugar/pepper.

I fried some slices of bread in olive oil, roasted sungold cherry tomatoes and boiled several small potatoes to join the mussels in a dish. It all turned out well and I look forward to making them more often.

A pile of yum.

Kuma’s Corner (rock n roll burgers)

One of the best burger joints in the city. I eat approx one burger per year and so I want that one burger to be f#$% delicious. I happily devoured the Neurosis burger which has mushrooms, cheese, horseradish mayo and tomato/lettuce/onion. The accompanying fries were perfectly salted and I left as one happy customer. Looking forward to next year!

FMIOTW: brussel sprouts

I love love love brussel sprouts and hate the way they’re butchered by many casual eateries. I remove the dirty outer layer of leaves off the brussel sprouts while I bring a pot of salt water to boil. At the same time I render the fat from a thinly sliced piece of bacon in my cast iron skillet. I drop the whole brussel sprouts into the boiling water for 10 minutes. I quickly remove the brussel sprouts and put them in cold water. I cut them in half and add them to the cast iron skillet for a minute or two. I season with salt/pepper and serve with parmesan cheese and squeeze of lemon.

slightly overcooked but still good 🙂

tree of sprouts

Another preparation that I learned of while dining at Eataly in NYC, is a raw, shredded brussel sprout and grated parm or pecorino romano cheese salad, drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice. I made some at home and it was good but not as good as the restaurant’s…perhaps my olive oil is not up to par.

Fresh and healthy in moderation 🙂

Dim sum part IV: Dessert pan fried buns

As a departure from our monthly savory dim sum gatherings, my friends and I decided to make dessert pan fried buns today. We had two fillings, one with dates/nuts/honey which tasted like turkish delight and the other with nutella/melted chocolate/banana. The dough was made with milk rather than water. The result was super sweet buns with a spongy dough and crispy bottom. I’m glad we went sweet but I do prefer savory.

Date and nutella buns with honey whipped cream

dates, nuts and honey!

Tomato sauce rounds: Pizza

If you are lucky enough to have a Trader Joe’s grocery store near you, I highly recommend their ready-to-bake pizza dough. They offer both wheat and white flour doughs for only $1.09. I have historically made my own pizza dough but waiting 3 hrs for the dough to rise is annoying…so, as of today TJ’s will be the source of my dough.

I rolled out the dough, added a light coating of tomato sauce that I made this past week, slices of low-moisture mozzarella and salt/pepper. Put it in the oven at 475F for 5 minutes, then took it out to add oregano, fresh spinach and a drizzle of olive oil. I returned it to the oven for 5 more minutes. Before serving, I squeezed a little lemon over the top, shredded some parmesan cheese and dug in. …so much better than most pizza joints, much better quality of ingredients.

Who doesn't like pizza?

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