Saturday, September 26, 2009

Restaurant week at Vidalia

Boy am I behind on my's not that I haven't been eating, I promise you. It's that I've been way buys at work. People keep opening restaurants, people are re-opening closed restaurants, and my competition is responding by cutting staff and reducing service personnel...Bad for them. Good for me.
Anyhow, enough about work. Let's talk about passion. Let's talk about Jeff Buben and R.J. Cooper. The owner and Exec Chef, respectively, of Vidalia. One of my favorite places in DC. My friend Matt and I went to Vidalia last year and had a Truffle Extravaganza

This year, we were not so fortunate, but what we did get was restaurant week pricing. Jeff has the distinction of being one of the few owners that actually let you choose from their regular menu. There is surcharge, natch, for the lobster or the steak entree, but it's still one of the best values in town. Reservations go QUICK. As soon as I saw the advertisement for Restaurant Week in my inbox I booked a table. I was blessed with the preceding Gumbo, shown above, and the following items, below, all for a very reasonable price.
It's been so long, I'm not sure if this was the pork loin or not.
I believe this was Matt's Monkfish.
I thought this dish was the winner. Lobster Tail with Lobster Foam with Braised Pork Belly. This was done perfectly and tasty as you could want.
Frog Legs. Never had them before, but I figured if I was going to try them I might as well have R.J. Cooper cooking them for me.

A favorite of mine: Country Pate. Yum.

This one you'd have to fight me for. Peanut Butter and Chocolate. Kind of like Michel Richard's Kit-kat. In any event, it sounded good enough to make me stray from my usual Lemon Chess Pie here, which is one of the best desserts on the planet. This was pretty good too. Jeff, whenever you're ready to give me the REAL recipe for the Chess Pie I'll take it... This was the Bourbon Pecan Pie. Matt seemed to like his better than mine, so I'd say we did well.

Until next time....thanks for reading.

Please feel free to hit me with comments, suggestions, and rude remarks.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Home Cookin'....6 Pound Butts

So, my friends ganged up on me and said, "Hey, when are you going to smoke some butt again?".
Well, how could I refuse? So, here's the secret. Buy a smoker. They're no expensive, but it sure makes smoking meat easy if you've got a digital thermostat and a timer on it.
First off, you find a couple of Boston Butts. You score the skin just down to the meat so the rub and smoke can get in. Then you rub your meat...with mustard, then your favorite dry rub. I used a Dr. Smelly's Southern Succor rub.

Wrap them up and let them sit overnight. The next morning, bright and early, take them out of the fridge and let them sit on the counter while you prepare the smoker. HAACP rules don't apply here.

Get your smoker up to 225 and put the meat in. Leave it on for 2 hours, then start spraying with apple juice every hour. Bring it up to 145 (I use an electronic thermometer with a remote so I can monitor it from the comfort of my couch). Once that happens, you can do one of two things: either put it in a pan and wrap tightly with foil, or put it in your oven in a pan, wrapped in foil. Either way you get the same effect as you're not going to be adding any more smoke.

From here on it's all waiting and watching until you hit 205. Plan on 1.5 hours per pound for the whole shooting match.

So, think you're done? Not quite. Once it's at 205 turn off the heat, leave it in the oven, don't open the door, but turn it off. Let it sit for about 2 hours. Then tear a small hole in the foil and let it sit for another 1/2 hour.
I know you'll have a hard time not peeking as it's going to smell great just sitting there, but try and resist. The end product will be worth it and it will look like this:
12 Pounds of smokey, steamy meat!
And you get to hang out with your friends, drink beer, and pull your pork.
Kids dig it too!

Steamy pork goodness. Smoked to perfection and falling apart.
Thanks for reading folks.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Two meals, one post......

Sometimes I have to take a step back and realize how much fun I get to have for a living. Doing my job (regardless of what my boss says) requires me to be in close proximity to very talented people. As is the case with most talented people, some of them are a little wacky. Out of the wackness comes a few sublime moments. Below you'll see 1.5 sublime moments. Sorry about the 1/2, but I was in a rush and couldn't enjoy both experiences to the fullest.
Roasted duck legs and rice at Blue Duck Tavern Elegant presentation
Poached chicken breast salad at Blue Duck Tavern.
The first (the .5) was lunch at Blue Duck Tavern in the Park Hyatt, DC.

I took my friend Mike there for lunch for his birthday. He took me to Westend Bistro for mine, so I had to one-up him.

The first thing that strikes you is the building. Wow. Contemporary with lots of wood and glass. Slightly remeniscent of Founding Farmers. They actually walk you through the kitchen to get just about anywhere in the restaurant. Kind of neat. We sat on the patio outside. It was sunny and 75. We couldn't have asked for better weather. The fountain was burbling and the birds were singing. Very nice.

On to the meal. As I said, I was in a hurry so I didn't go whole-hog. Just an entree and the check please. I had the roasted duck legs in rice, and Mike got the poached chicken breast salad.

Both were done to perfection. Looking at the pictures, I can see details that make the difference. There is not a single piece of salad (in extreme macro close-up) that is anything other than uniform green. No brown. No mushiness. Just perfection on a plate. The fries, though big, were perfectly crisped and seasoned. The sucotash tasted like it came straight from the farm that day. Just goodness. It's all I can say.

As for the second meal, Ray's Hell Burger was the scene of the crime.

Mike Landrum is known for being the Soup Nazi of the DC restaurant scene (he holds the title now that Carol Greenwood is out of town). He tells you where to sit, how to sit, how long to sit, how to order, how to pay, and how to eat. If you don't like it, you can pound salt up your bum.
What he lacks in finesse he makes up for in food.
I went to meet an associate in Arlington and he suggested we get lunch at Ray's. We got there at 11:30 and the place was already packed. You'll recognize this building as the former home of Ray's the Steaks. Nothing on the wall other than Michael's rules. Crappy tables packed too close together. No credit cards, cash only. Don't take a table until you've ordered. No laptops.

Once I got my food delivered to the table though, it was bliss. I got the Fat Joe, which is a big burger topped with seared fois gras and fried shallots. Holy shit that's good! I got the mac and cheese as a side. Spicy, smokey, with either pancetta or tasso, I'm not sure. But nice.

The Fat Joe

I can honestly say that that was the best burger I've ever had, and I've had my share. So, if you can get in the door, put up with the crapola, and get a burger here, you are sure to not be disappointed.

Keep the letters and post cards coming folks.

I welcome your comments. Blue Duck Tavern on Urbanspoon