Tuesday, August 26, 2014

How to Win a Dinner Party

Last names have been removed from this post to protect the innocent. Not that anyone there was innocent.
It all started with an event called Shooting with Chefs. It was a fund-raiser for Make-a-wish. Some friends of mine bid on one of the silent auction items and lost, but then the chefs who donated the prize offered another one...dinner for 10 at the winner's house. Luckily, I'm friends with a couple of them and they invited me and my wife to join them. Here's how we rolled:
 Crispy things filled with mushrooms and chicken gravy. Light and tasty. 
 Followed by fois gras with raspberry...my fav!
 Lamb heart panzanella, which were like little gyros. There was a touch of harissa to bring some heat.
Was that the third bottle of champagne? Christina, Scott, Cheryl and me.
 Hey, it's Mike Isabella cookin' up a storm in the kitchen!
 Bryan Voltaggio was there as well, explaining one of his dishes. The other half of our hosts for the evening, Mike, is on the right.
 Smoked beets with yellowfin tuna, cured egg yolks, and tonnato. This was good. The smoked beets were accented beautifully by the tonnato.
 We were still civilized at this point, but permagrins were beginning to appear. Chrissy and Marc pictured.
 From there, the conversation went straight into the gutter.  From left to right Marc, Mandy and Scott. I think we were talking about vasectomies at that point.
 Our hostess for the evening, Meredith with our guest chefs.
 Bryan, me and Mike.
 Bucatini with maitake ash, uni, tomato and purslane.
 This was the winner of the entrees. Lamb neck with charred yogurt, meyer lemon and fava bean. Perfectly cooked to roasty perfection.
Cheryl and Mike finishing off the Chateau d'Yquem.
If you're interested in bidding on an event like this for you and your friends, keep your eyes peeled for the next Shooting with Chefs event. It's a great fund-raiser and the auction items are off the charts!
Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for more adventures.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Mercado Central - If you can't find it here, you likely don't need it.

Mercado Central
Bordered by Avdas. Central and 1 and Cs. 6 and 8 | Barrio La Merced, San Jose, Costa Rica
Mercado Central is like Union Market in DC, but on a much larger scale and a much lower budget. It's hard to find though, as there are no street signs and no addresses. Everything in Costa Rica is found by it's location relative to other landmarks. This makes it difficult for tourists. Eventually you begin to get your bearings based on landmarks on your tourist map. When asking directions it seems that everything is three blocks "that" way. That instruction became one of the jokes of our trip. Below is a map showing it's relative location.
We walked from our hotel. The walk was very interesting as some of the streets around the market are pedestrian-only and are filled with vendors of everything....and I mean everything. 
At no time did we feel unsafe when walking the streets, though we only went exploring during the day.

As soon as you walk in your hit with sounds and smells. Some good, some not so good. Wherever you have this much fresh product you're going to have some rot.
 Nothing goes to waste here. They use/sell everything.
 The boys were waiting for us to buy some freshly roasted coffee and someone ran up to them with coconuts for sale...easy marks I guess. 1000 Colones for two if I remember correctly. That's a far cry from the $8.00 we paid in Hawaii. 
 More than 1/2 the time I didn't know what the items were I was looking at. It was overwhelming.
 Octopus is big here. We ate a lot of it.
 Colorful veggies. 
 Herbs of every variety.
 Lots of peppers.
 Elihu, would you loofah my stretch-marks?
Had to throw Mrs. Smails in there for you.
 Aloe and garlic. 
 I certainly couldn't name everything without the signs. They did have a lime that we used frequently down that is known as the Rangpur Lime. It's a hybrid of lime with another type of citrus fruit. It was used in cocktails and cooking. 
In the market there are a lot of places to get cooked food as well. We had breakfast in a Soda. We went all Tico and had what's known as Tipico. Just a plate of rice and beans with your choice of meat and/or eggs. It was a staple of our diet while we were there. Inexpensive, tasty and filling.
You can get smokes here too, though they're very expensive. Notice that Big Tobacco doesn't have much influence on the warning labels here. Health care is very inexpensive in Costa Rica. One of the reasons for that is the relatively healthy lifestyle.

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed my trip to the market.  Stay tuned for more Costa Rican adventures on Pleasures of the Table.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

La Esquina de Buenos Aires...Argentine Comidas in the Heart of San Jose

 La Esquina de Beunos Aires
Calle 11 esquina Av. 4
Detrás de la Iglesia de La Soledad
San José, Costa Rica
Tel. (506) 2223 1909 / 2257 9741

 This year my culinary vacation took me to Costa Rica. The next several posts will be about the restaurants I was able to visit while I was there. Unfortunately, I didn't bring a notebook to every meal. In some places the light was lacking, and a lot of the restaurants don't have websites, so things aren't going to be as detailed as they normally would be. I hope you enjoy the ride.
We rolled into CR at about 3:00pm on a rainy Friday We had plenty of time to socialize with the staff at a lovely little hotel we stayed in. I made friends with Paula, who was a life-long resident of San Jose. I explained that I was on a vacation to relax, and to eat at the best restaurants I could find. She recommended La Esquina as a restaurant she goes to with her family for special occasions. I mentioned this to our server and she assured me that we'd made the right choice by visiting her restaurant. It was very welcoming and they made us feel right at home. To begin she brought out some crusty bread with various tapenades and bruschetta toppings to nosh on while we looked at the menu.
They had a very nice wine selection, with this Norton Malbec being featured...we tried a few bottles. Not too bad!
Nicely done calamari. Apparently squid is pretty popular down here, as is octopus. We'll get to more of that later.
I couldn't decide between the hanger and the rib eye. I asked our server to choose for me and she said, "Si."
She asked me how I liked my steak cooked and walked away. She came back with a plate with a smaller portion of each. Got to love that. both were well-seasoned, grilled over wood, and cooked to perfection.
My wife got the rib eye. It was big enough for two and very tasty.
The linguine with salmon in a white wine/shrimp sauce. It was a little heavy on the fish flavor for the kids, but I liked it.
My son had the salmon with spinach. It was a very large portion. Cooked a bit more than we're used to, but still ok.
The Spaghetti Frutti di Mare was a hit. Nicely done mussels, shrimp, octopus and clams in a light tomato sauce with herbs.
On to the postres! We were all pretty full by this point so we figured we'd share a few desserts. The Nutella mousse was laced with coffee and very tasty, but the winner of the night, and the trip, were the crepes filled with caramel. Unreal. 
I've had these at a churrascaria before, but these were freshly made with perfect crepes and the texture of the caramel was perfect. Just stiff enough that it didn't squirt out when you cut it with your fork. The best thing about it was the burnt sugar on top. They were divine!

Thanks for reading. Hope I didn't make you too hungry there. Stay tuned for more dining adventures in Costa Rica from Pleasures of the Table.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Breezy Point Inn - Dive-y, With a Bonus!

The Breezy Point Inn
620 Jersey Ave.
Greenwood Lake, NY 10925

There's a story behind this one. 
I had to pick up my son who was staying with my stepfather in NY. So, rather than drive up and back from DC the same day I decided to go up the day before and check out this inn on Greenwood Lake, spend the night, and come back the next day with my son. He was visiting with his cousins and I didn't want to intrude on their cousin/grandparent time, so I booked a room at Breezy Point, which is just down the road.
I figured I'd have a nice dinner, a few drinks, take in the local culture, and maybe get some pix for a blog post. It worked out.
 I got to the restaurant around 2:00pm on Wednesday. I hadn't eaten, so I thought I'd grab a cocktail and an app. The Vorspeise Platte caught my eye. It consisted of  carrot‐celery root salad, beet‐red onion salad, cucumber‐dill salad, marinated mushrooms, plockwurst, liverwurst, kielbasa, brie cheese, blue cheese, and cheddar cheese. Interesting choices for the meats, but then again, this guy has all the schnitzels you could want on his menu. I haven't had liverwurst since I was a kid. It certainly brought back memories.
 I went to hang out with my family for a while, then when they went back to their place with all the kids I began my journey. It started with a bottle of Louis Jadot Chardonnay and some clams baked with breadcrumbs, garlic, herbs and bacon. Not the best, but far from the worst.
 I moved on to the clams in white wine/garlic sauce. Once again, not the best, not the worst. Middle of the road as far as I was concerned.
 Just to mix things up I moved to the land. One of the specials of the evening was a Beef Stroganoff. It was prepared using hunter's gravy. Interesting preparation, but not something I'd try to reproduce at home.
Then I figured it out. You really don't come here for the food. You come for the view.
Every cloud has a silver lining aye?
Thanks for reading.