Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Bar Dining and Good New Friends

I've never expounded on my love of bar dining here, have I? Now, I'm not a huge fan of eating alone at a restaurant, but if I've got no one to go with me, I'm heading out alone if there's a place I want to go. But if that place serves up the full menu at the bar, I am one happy camper, and I am very much happily dining alone. Very much.

First off, it's not at all unusual to sit alone at a bar (well, not for me, at any rate). I typically find the bartenders friendly, your next door neighbors friendly enough--they will either welcome chat or not, but they are never unfriendly.

Friday night, I felt like I had it all--good seat at the bar, great bartender, friendly bar mates. I felt as though I'd met new friends, although I may well never hear from any of them again (although I do hope they stop in to check out the blog, which we did talk about at length)--I talked technology and business and food with one other diner. Then dished about fabulous Apalachicola and Apalachicola oysters (and tupelo honey and St. George Island) with another couple.

Where was I? Wow, how could I get this far and not say: Blue Hill NYC at 75 Washington Place, where the motto is Know Thy Farmer™.

Oh, Blue Hill knows thy farmer, all right. Straight from the restaurant's website:

Blue Hill's menu showcases local food and a wine list with producers who respect artisanal techniques. Ingredients come from nearby farms, including Blue Hill Farm in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, a forty-five minute drive from New York City. Guests can choose from the regular menu or opt for the "Farmer's Feast," a five-course tasting inspired by the week's harvest.

Do you want to guess what I had? That's right, the Farmer's Feast. I couldn't say what I loved best, but the simple palate cleanser of fresh cheese sorbet with a rhubarb thyme "soup" (a clear broth/sauce) was so full of clean flavor. Then the poached egg with pork belly

(or was it lamb belly?I regret not asking for the menu then and there) with a bit of salad made me so happy--some of my favorite ingredients. There was fish, there were fiddlehead ferns, there was guinea hen...for me, there wasn't an off note.

Start to finish, the meal was superb--foodie friends had been there the night before and the restaurant found out one of them was also a food writer (they Googled her resie!!) and cooked off the menu. While I could say I regret not having been at that dinner, that would have meant missing out on one of the most memorable dining out experiences I've had in a long time had I not taken myself out to the bar last Friday night.

So to the friends I made at Blue Hill bar last Friday night, cheers--you made my night! And to my readers who haven't sometime just taken themselves out, alone or not, for a dinner at the bar? Go on, try it. And may your evening be as wonderful as mine was.

My final treat? Walking back to my midtown hotel--I got this fabulous shot on one of the most beautiful buildings in the world, the Empire State Building.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Great Mocha Almond Angel Food Cake Off/ December 3, 2007


I am hosting an out-of-town rerun post for the next few days...Here's a post I love that went up long before I had any readers at all.
So, one of my very favorite sites is WineLoversPage.com, (the Forum Kitchen, to be precise)hosted by good friend, great wine guy and wonderful cook and creative mind, Robin Garr. Recently, forum moderator Jenise asked about Williams-Sonoma’s Mocha Almond Angel food cake with almond buttercream and toasted almonds on the outside.

For $59.

Now, we all agree that plenty of people cannot bake and would buy that in a heartbeat. Because really? It looks great.

But the Forum Kitchen is, of course, loaded with people who cook. And who love a challenge. So a few of us have taken up the challenge and determined that we could recreate the cake. I took on the challenge, although I’m no baker.

I liked Rose Levy Birnbaum’s Cake Bible recipes. Someone steered us to the chocolate angel food cake in her book...Then I looked up her Neoclassic Buttercream, too, which she claimed was forgiving, especially when adding flavors.

So I used her recipes combined with techniques from Cook’s Illustrated, which has you not whip the whites to quite a stiff peak.

I added my own espresso and a bit of almond extract to the buttercream. And for not really liking buttercream? I LOVED this.

Then the cake was easy enough...I added half the recommended vanilla and then some almond extract again.

Fold, fold, fold. Bake bake bake. Frost...decorate with toasted almonds.

Mmmm. See the pictures. Taste the cake. Visit WineLoversPage.com Great Mocha Bake Off Thread, too, to see how everyone ELSE’S cakes turned out!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Green Onions

Sometimes simple is simply lovely.