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Dinner at Jean-Robert at Pigall's, Wednesday July 11, 2007

On Wednesday, July 11th, 2007 Wendy & I were joined by Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler of the Cincinnati-based band Over The Rhine for a landmark dinner at Jean-Robert at Pigall’s. Karin & Linford have not dined at the restaurant before, and are rather new to fine dining in general. Jean-Robert is a fan of their music, so he pulled out all the stops for us.

We arrived at the restaurant for our 7:00 reservation, were warmly welcomed by Richard Brown, maitre’d, and enjoyed Pigall’s Martinis in the cozy bar area before heading to our table, a four-top in a corner near the front of the restaurant.

Before settling in, we all went back to the kitchen to say hi to Chef and staff. Wendy, Karin, and Linford hung out and talked with Chef while I went and said hello to the kitchen staff — my co-workers when I am there (welcome back, Luke — I hope California was fun!).

Karin & Linford presented Chef with a collection of their CDs in Karin’s “pre-iPod” music storage case — a lovingly-used case in which she used to store her CDs, headphones, and personal CD player (before iPods came along) when they were on the road. They added an Over The Rhine t-shirt and stickers. Chef was incredibly pleased with the gift, and was rendered speechless (a rare feat!).

We went back to the table, and the incredible feast began under the watchful eye of Angie, our server, with outstanding paired wines from sommelier Jason Price.

Our amuse bouche was a Salutation Cove Oyster with Tomato and Basil finished tableside with tomato nage and paired with Andre Tissot “Pigall’s Label” Cremant du Jura, N/V. The richness of the oyster and the acidity of the heirloom tomatoes were nicely countered by the sparkling wine.

Next, we enjoyed a lovely Tuna Tartare with Summer Slaw, Avocado, and Hibiscus Sorbet. The summer slaw had fennel in it, which is one of Karin’s favorite flavors. The pairing with the Alain Normand Macon La Roche Vineuse, 2005 was gentle and lovely. The hibiscus sorbet was light and elusive, sweet and bright.

A wholly gorgeous dish, Lobster with Cucumber, Trio of Melon and Quail Egg followed. The beautiful little melon balls added bright colors and sweet flavors to the perfectly prepared and thinly sliced lobster and cucumber. During this course, we encountered one of our favorite wines of the evening, the Robert Weil Keidrich Graffenberg Reisling Spatlese, Rheingau 2003. Oh, did we love this wine!

During our meal, Karin & Linford kindly played the role of our students as we jokingly ‘tutored’ them on the ins-and-outs of fine dining, including when to go to the restroom (“Ask your server first”), how to walk to the restroom without wobbling once you’ve been extensively served (“Walk fast and with conviction”), how to kiss the Chef (“Aim for his right cheek first!”), and more (“Drop your fork? Leave it!”).

Piling delight upon delight, the next course was Zucchini Blossom with Pea Puree and Summer Truffle. I have stuffed tons of these fragile zucchini blossoms, so I doubly appreciate them for their delicate flavor. These were stuffed with delicious peas. Each dish was topped with two perfect (giant!) slices of gentle summer truffle, and finished with a hot truffle juice poured tableside. As generally happens when truffles appear at a table, all four of us leaned over the dishes, heads down, inhaling the wonderful aroma. Wendy & Karin are considering developing and selling truffle perfume. Our pairing for this course was a refreshing Joseph Viollot Bourgogne Vieilles Vignes, 2004

Somewhere near this point, Linford said, “I think we’ve found our new favorite restaurant”.

One of our favorites is always the foie gras course. Chef knows this well about us, and did not disappoint with Seared Foie Gras with White Peach, White Grits, Arugula and Bleu Cheese. The generous serving of foie gras was seasoned and seared beautifully, topping a tower based with white grits, and white peach, surrounded by a brick dough ring. An amazing combination. Perfectly counterpointing the dish was the Robert Weil Keidrich Graffenberg Reisling Spatlese, Rheingau 2003

We had an energetic and enlightening conversation about the responsibility — real or perceived — of artists (like Bono and others) to use their fame/access to further their causes.

Following was Scallop with Chanterelle, Corn, Creamy Leeks, and Bordelaise — perfectly cooked scallops with a sort of puree of corn around creamy leeks, topped with a couple large pieces of Chanterelles. The pairing, actually a double-pairing, with Chateau Cotes de Lacoste Cotes du Castillon, 1998 and Verget Arbois “En Chante Merle”, 2004 were both very good.

Our next course was Poussin with Morels, French Wild Asparagus and Consomme paired with Verget Arbois “En Chante Merle”, 2004 (though Jason had originally intended to pair it with Domaine de Barroubio Muscat Sec, Langeudoc-Rousillon, 2005 until Chef added the Wild Asparagus. Jason gave us tastes of both wines for comparison.). The tiny birds (generally weighing approximately 1 pound each) were delicate and delicious, and the morels and asparagus made this a very fresh seasonal dish. The tiny poussin leg garnish made us appreciate just how tiny the birds are.

A brilliant Lamb Shank Ravioli with Sugar Snap Peas and Pommery Mustard was presented next. The lamb shank was delicious and incredibly balanced with the green crunch of the sugar snap peas and the warmth of the mustard cream. Lake Chalice Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand, 2005.

King Salmon with Ratatouille and Balsamic Reduction — a generous square of King Salmon graced half the rectangular plate and a roll of ratatouille counterbalanced it on the other half. The balsamic reduction tied both halves together in a seamless fashion. The flavors of the ratatouille were distinct and bright, and the knife work on the vegetables was tight and clean. Paired with the Lake Chalice Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand, 2005, this was a very nice fish course.

One of the stand-out courses for the evening was the Porcelet, Potato Galette stuffed with Goat Cheese, Duo of Haricot Verts, and Rosemary Jus. The porcelet (very young pig) was simply the most tender pork I have ever had, and it was seasoned and prepared to perfection. The potato galette stuffed with goat cheese was a delightful contrast in textures — the crispy potato yielding to the smooth, soft goat cheese… This was a dish I’d never seen at the restaurant before, and it shows that with great ingredients and great skill, amazing things happen. It should go without saying that the Les Closiers Chateauneuf-du-Pape, 2004 was both an exceptional wine and pairing.

Owing to previous experiences at Jean-Robert at Pigall’s, Wendy & I have come to love cheese courses, so we were delighted when an Assortment of Imported and Domestic Cheeses appeared, with instructions to enjoy them from mildest to strongest along with the Domaine de Rancy Rivesaltes Ambre, 1990.

Chef came out to say hi to Karin and Linford and spent a few minutes chatting with them about their meal. They indicated that they’ve eaten all over the world and had not encountered food as good as this, and declared that Chef is a treasure to the city of Cincinnati.

I went back to say hi to the kitchen staff to find that most of them had left for the evening (since we closed the place, this wasn’t a huge surprise). Only pastry chef Karen was in the kitchen, putting the finishing touches on our desserts when I walked in. Karen yelled at me (in a friendly way) to “Get out of here! Go back to your table so I can serve these!”. So I went back out to enjoy our Variation of Sweets with La Spinetta Moscato d’Asti.

As dessert was ending, Chef came back looking a little shy. He approached the table, complimenting Karin & Linford on their great music, and then asked if they would sign the case that they’d given him. Of course, they were thrilled to comply. I happened to notice that the Sharpie he had for them to use is the one used in the kitchen for marking orders as they move through the stations — interesting the things one notices.

Finally, Chef heard directly from Karin & Linford what I’d been conveying to him to a long time: They want him to attend one of their shows! Chef works incredible hours and is devoted to his family and restaurant, but I hope that sometime, he’ll be able to enjoy a live show from Over The Rhine.

RECIPE 29: Yellowfin Tuna Tartare

Yellowfin Tuna Tartare

                      -= Exported from BigOven =-

                        Yellowfin Tuna Tartare

Spiced up with chile and ginger this is a great introduction to Sashimi.

Recipe By:
Serving Size: 24
Cuisine: Asian
Main Ingredient: Tuna
Categories: Easy, Snacks, Hors dOeuvres, Appetizers

-= Ingredients =-
1 cup cilantro ; minced
3/4 cup green onions ; fine sliced
1/2 cup red onion ; minced
1/2 cup fresh ginger ; peeled, minced
1/4 teaspoon chili oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2/3 pound sushi grade yellowfin tuna ; diced
24 ea Wonton wrappers
1 Tablespoon sesame seeds
1 cup radish sprouts
2 tablespoons tobiko caviar ; optional
1/4 cup Carrot ; finely diced

-= Instructions =-
Toss the cilantro through soy sauce together. Fold in the tuna. Chill.

Cut the wrapper in half on the diagonal. Spread on a baking sheet. Spray lightly with pan spray. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake at 350 degrees until crisp and golden. Cool.

To serve put a small mounds of tuna on triangles. Top with a few sprouts and a sprinkle of tobiko or carrot for color.
** This recipe can be pasted into BigOven without retyping. BigOven.com ID= 158463 **
** Easy recipe software.  Try it free at: http://www.bigoven.com    **
 

RECIPE 28: Asparagus, Cream Cheese, Puff Pastry

                      -= Exported from BigOven =-

                 Asparagus, Cream Cheese, Puff Pastry

Recipe By: Drew Vogel, www.drewvogel.com
Serving Size: 32
Cuisine: French
Main Ingredient: Asparagus
Categories: Bake, Advance, Vegetables, Appetizers

-= Ingredients =-
1 sheet Puff Pastry Dough ; thawed if frozen
8 ounces Cream cheese ; softened
12 Asparagus spears ; similarly sized
to taste Salt and pepper
1 ea Egg

-= Instructions =-
Steam the asparagus spears until tender. Season with salt & pepper. Store in refrigerator if not using immediately.

Cut some of the cream cheese and mold with hands into a log shape, just a bit larger in diameter than the size of a spear of asparagus.

Whisk the egg with a bit of water (1 tablespoon or so) to make an egg wash.

On the thawed puff pastry, place the log of cream cheese. Put a spear of asparagus on each side of the cream cheese and one on top, forming a triangle of asparagus with the cream cheese in the middle. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Cut the puff pastry to an appropriate size, and carefully roll the puff pastry maintaining the triangle as much as possible. Seal the seam with egg wash. Place seam-side-down on a baking sheet.

Repeat with remaining spears and cream cheese.

DO AHEAD: Can be made to this point 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Allow to come to room temperature before baking.

Preheat oven to 400.

Paint the puff pastry rolls with the egg wash. Bake puff pastry rolls in preheated oven for 12-14 minutes, or until golden brown.

Slice about 3/4-inch thick and serve warm.
** This recipe can be pasted into BigOven without retyping. BigOven.com ID= 162287 **
** Easy recipe software.  Try it free at: http://www.bigoven.com    **
 

HAPPY MOUTH — July 2007

Tonight was Ted’s HAPPY MOUTH selection, and he chose RED in Hyde Park. RED is a new-ish restaurant in a traditionally difficult space. The long, dark, shotgun-style room feels intimate, but diners don’t feel like they’re sitting on top of each other. Our long table was near the back of the restaurant in the center.

Wendy tried their Lobster Bisque (which was velvety smooth and lovely) and I had a Seared Foie Gras appetizer, which was excellent. For my main, I had their Roasted Duck Breast with Lo Mein, Hoisin Butter, and Green Mango Relish and Wendy had a Gnocchi special. Her Gnocchi were light and flavorful and she made reasonably quick work of them. My duck was mostly well-prepared, but the fat had not been rendered out of the skin, leaving it flabby and inedible, plus the seasoning on it was very heavy and masked the rich flavor of the duck.

For dessert, Wendy & I split a lemon tart with fresh berries and a glass of Moscato d’Asti — a perfect pairing.

A very good pick, Ted!

Dinner at Jean-Robert at Pigall's, Saturday June 23, 2007

On Saturday, June 23, 2007, Wendy & I dined at Jean-Robert at Pigall’s. It had been a while since we’d eaten there (once in February with the HAPPY MOUTH SUPPER CLUB; before that, the last time Wendy & I dined there alone was September 2006), so we were very excited to get back. We arrived just in time for our 8:00 reservation and were immediately shown to a private booth near the center of the restaurant by Richard Brown. “This is a very romantic booth; very private,” we were told as we sat down.

Soon, Renee (the sommelier for the evening since Jason was away at “Pinot Camp”) came back with two glasses of bubbling Andre’ et Mireille Tissot “Pigall’s Label” Cremant du Jura, N/V, a nice welcome from the Chef. Angie (our new server since Tammy left) told us that Chef wanted to select our meal that night. We agreed that it was a fabulous idea (always accept this if you’re offered!) and settled in for an epic meal.

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RECIPE 27: Chestnut And Chocolate Cake

                      -= Exported from BigOven =-

                     Chestnut And Chocolate Cake

This classic unbaked “cake” is for people who like dense, assertive chocolate desserts. It’s super-easy — requiring only moments to combine the ingredients — and extremely rich. Cans of pureed chestnuts flavored with vanilla and sugar come from the South of France and are available in specialty and gourmet markets. This puree is also wonderful served on its own or over ice cream.

Recipe By: FAST FOOD MY WAY by Jacques Pepin, page 193
Serving Size: 10
Cuisine: French
Main Ingredient: Chocolate
Categories: Desserts

-= Ingredients =-
1/4 teaspoon Vegetable Oil ; for Oiling The Pan
1 ea 1 pound c Chestnut Puree ; or Spread With Sugar
2 tablespoon Dark Rum
1/2 tablespoon Unsalted Butter ; At Room Temperature
8 ounces Bittersweet Chocolate ; Melted
1 cup Creme Fraiche ; or Sour Cream

-= Instructions =-
Oil a rectangular loaf pan with a capacity of 3 to 4 cups. Cut a thin strip of parchment paper (wide enough to cover the bottom of the loaf pan and long enough so that the ends extend out of the loaf pan). This will make it easier to unmold the dessert at serving time. Alternatively, if you don’t want to unmold the dessert, you can using a serving bowl or terrine.

Put the chestnut puree in a large bowl and add the rum, butter, and melted chocolate. Mix thoroughly to combine and pour the mixture into the pan or bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (or up to a couple of days).

At serving time, unmold the cake onto a serving platter and cut it into 6 or 8 slices (or spoon it out of the bowl). Spoon some creme fraiche (or sour cream) over each slice and serve.

** This recipe can be pasted into BigOven without retyping. BigOven.com ID= 161360 **
** Easy recipe software.  Try it free at: http://www.bigoven.com    **

RECIPE 26: Braised Lamb Shanks

                      -= Exported from BigOven =-

                         Braised Lamb Shanks

This is without a doubt the most requested recipe I’ve ever created. Lamb shanks are one of the cuts of meat that benefit most from long, slow braising. Don’t omit the step of turning the shanks every half hour; it causes them to caramelize even as they braise. If the braising liquid seems too reduced at the end of the cooking process, stir 1 cup of water into the liquid before straining. Demi-glace is veal stock that has been reduced by half. High-quality prepared versions are available at gourmet shops. Serve this with any full-bodied red wine.

Serve this with Soft Polenta, Tomato-Thyme Risotto, Potato Puree, or Roasted Garlic and White Bean Puree.

Recipe By: GlobalGourmet.com
Serving Size: 6
Cuisine: French
Main Ingredient: Lamb
Categories: Lamb, Main Dish

-= Ingredients =-
6 ea Lamb Foreshanks
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
to taste Coarse Salt
to taste Freshly-Ground Black Pepper
1/2 tablespoon Olive Oil
2 ea ribs Celery ; Roughly Chopped
1 ea Carrot ; Roughly Chopped
1 ea large Spanish Onion ; Roughly Chopped
1/2 cup Tomato Paste
5 ea sprigs Fresh Thyme
1 ea Bay Leaf
1 tablespoon Black Peppercorns
1 ea whole Garlic ; Cut In Half
1 bottle Red Wine ; Shiraz Is Nice
1/3 cup White Vinegar
1 teaspoon Sugar
1 cup Demi-Glace ; or 2 Cups Veal Stock
2 cups Chicken Stock
~~ GARNISH ~~
8 ounces Pearl Onions ; Peeled and stem end removed
3 ounces Sugar
3/4 cup Water
8 ounces Button Mushrooms
3 ounces Bacon Lardons

-= Instructions =-
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Season the lamb shanks liberally with salt and pepper. With a sharp knife, cut about 1 inch from the bottom (narrow end) of the shank bones down to the bone and all the way around; this will help expose the bone while cooking. Set aside.

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Add the celery, carrot, and onion to the pot. Cook until very soft, 8-10 minutes.

Add the tomato paste. Cook 1-2 minutes until nicely browned.

Add the thyme, bay leaf, peppercorns, and garlic. Cook another 2-3 minutes.

Add the red and white wine, vinegar, and sugar, raise the heat to high. Bring to a boil.

Lower the heat to medium and add the demi-glace (or veal stock) and chicken stock. Leave over medium heat while you brown the shanks.

Dredge the shanks in flour, shaking off excess. In a sauté pan over medium-high heat, brown the shanks well in the remaining 1/2 cup oil on both sides, about I minute for each of 3 sides. Use tongs to flip them over.

Transfer the shanks to a roasting pan and pour the stock mixture on top. Cover with aluminum foil or a lid and cook in the preheated oven for 1 hour. Remove the foil and cook for another 3 hours, TURNING THE SHANKS OVER EVERY HALF HOUR until the meat is very soft. (Can be prepared to this point up to one day in advance. If preparing ahead, skim fat from sauce, bring meat to room temperature, and reheat in a medium oven.)

While the shanks are cooking, prepare the GARNISH.

Remove the shanks from the braising liquid and strain the liquid. Skim any fat that rises to the surface and use the liquid as a sauce.

GARNISH:Put the peeled and trimmed pearl onions into a medium pan. Mix sugar into water and add this mixture to the onions. Cover with a round of parchment paper. Put onions over medium-high heat and cook down, shaking the pan occasionally, until the onions are a rich, roasted color and are soft.

In a seperate pan, render the lardons and cook the button mushrooms in the bacon fat over medium heat until cooked through and tender.

Dress the plate with a few pearl onions and mushrooms.
** This recipe can be pasted into BigOven without retyping.     **
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