Monday, July 29, 2013

Day 1035: The Elm

Paul Liebrandt walks the most excellent fine line between artist and chef -- spinning tales of wonder and crafting decadent taste sensations on your plate. The meal I had a few years back at Corton was by far one of my favorite dining experiences here in New York City. Each morsel was delightfully decadent and wonderfully creative -- it was the sort of cuisine that the French do so well -- modernist yet without being overly self conscious highlighting a love of seasonal ingredients. So when I heard that Liebrandt was opening a new restaurant in Brooklyn, I knew I needed to try it.

Located within the King & Grove Hotel in Williamsburg is the Elm. A sleek wood adorned two story room that is simple yet elegant. An open kitchen that allows diners to see into the Liebrandt's magic.

The menu itself is quite paired down with four categories - Raw, Sea, Land, and Share.
We started with an appetizer under the raw section -- Kanpachi "Jamon." A ring of cured hamachi, watermelon, heirloom tomatoes, micro basil, and a sprinkling of Vadovan spices - delicate and flavorful, a dance on your palate. Simple, seasonal, and elegant.

Next up from the Sea section the Atlantic Skate paired with a romanesco puree, roasted cauliflower, Marcona Almonds and drizzled with a golden raisin vinaigrette. Rustic yet decadent, flavorful. Bold yet fantastic.

The meal was delicious, the room wonderful, Liebrandt doesn't disappoint at the Elm. The service could be slightly improved but after only being open a week, there is definitely room for improvement.

The Elm
King & Grove Hotel
160 North 12th Street

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Day 1034 : Burrata in Vermont?

Yes my friends it exists and is absolutely wonderful!!

Where does it exist?

Bennington, Vermont to be precise, at Maplebrook Farms. Started by Johann Englert who had an aha moment in 2003 when she tasted a fresh mozzarella made in Machester, Vermont and suddenly was transported back to the childhood memories of the burratas and mozzarellas from Italy that melted in her mouth. She knew that she had to ask Mike Scheps, the owner's son and third generation cheesemaker to spearhead her new operation. The rest is history.

Maplebrook produces some of the best local burrata and mozzarella around. Apart from those two melt in your mouth cheeses, they also craft a ricotta, a feta, scarmoza (basically dried and aged mozarella), and cheddar bites.

There is something fantastically decadent and inherently summery about burrata especially when served drizzled with olive oil and topped with basil, sliced fresh strawberries and fresh tomatoes. There truly is little better!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Day 1033 - Greek Yogurt plus Cream Cheese

Welcome to Green Mountain Farms newest product - Greek Cream Cheese. The obvious next step in the world of spreadable creamy options. Lighter and more nutritious than regular cream cheese with that fantastic Greek yogurt tang, this is an awesomely versatile product - great for breakfast utilized on toast with a Marsh Hollow Blueberry almond jam or as a base for an hors d'oeuvres mixed with herbs and topped with the season's freshest tomatoes. It's a great substitute to a spreadable goat cheese or even a nicely developed creme fraiche,

A great discovery at yesterday's Vermont Cheesemakers Festival - one of many to come!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Day 1032 : Fromagical's picks from the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival

Held annually at Coach Barn at Shelburne Farms is the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival. A true summertime celebration of Vermont cheese, wines, beers, liquors, chocolates, preserves, breads, crackers, and much much more - a treat for the senses. 

Trust me there will be plenty of in depth blogs on some newly discovered producers but for today, fromagical wanted to provide you with her hit list of the best of the best:

Consider Bardwell's Danby - New to the market place, this firm, tangy and crisp aged goat's milk cheese is full of fantastic Vermont terroir -- rustic and earthy yet refined, sleek, and dynamic. An all around pleasure. What a nice addition to their cheese lineup. 

Sage Goat Farm's Worcester Tomme - Hello Vermont aged goat's milk cheese! What a treat! This alpine style goat's milk Tomme is nutty and warming yet rustic and flavorful with the classic goat cheese crispness and a nice layered finish. Currently their only raw milk offering, this cheese surely allows you to fall in love with Vermont cheesemaking

Twig Farm's Old Goat - We surely weren't the only ones to fall in love here, in fact so many folks fell in love that by the time we went back by to bring some home, it was all gone. Not a bad problem for Twig Farm, but definitely for us. Aged for approximately a year this is their Goat Tomme aged and what an amazing flavor profile develops from this aging – it is elegance and refinement but simple and delightful. The perfect cheese for your amateur cheese friends and seasoned cheese lovers alike.

Mt Mansfield's Cocoa Rubbed Sunrise - 8 month aged cow's milk Romano style cheese that has been rubbed with Lake Champlain's organic cocoa and olive oil during its aging process. Buttery, round, decadent and rustic with a nice nutty chocolately bent -- delicate and discrete, this does not scream chocolate rubbed. 

Marsh Hollow's artisanal jams and jellies were by far my favorite pairing partner. This one year old company is all about love and locavorism and boy can you taste it. From Carrot to Pumpkin to blueberry almond, their preserves were truly unique and wonderful. 

Stay tuned tomorrow for a longer and more in depth update of other favorites. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Day 1031 : Vermont Creamery's Coupole

Today was the beginning of my annual weekend in Vermont for the Cheesemakers festival. A yearly event showcasing the most fantastic cheeses, wines, beers, and more. Sure, it's a long drive up to Burlington but boy is it worth it!

After a stop at the Brattleboro Farmers Market, Bayley Hazen Blue Dark Chocolate Truffles from Laughing Moon chocolates, the Trapp Family Lodge, and more en route, we arrived at our first major stop for the weekend - Vermont Creamery's Summertime kickoff cocktail party.

Plenty  of Vermont Creamery cheeses were on offer but probably the best was a new experimental cheese strictly for the evening - smoked Coupole! Unique in that aged goat's milk rarely is rarely smoked and boy was it fantastic! Perfect with a glass of Pinot noir. 

What a great beginning to the weekend

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Day 1030 : What to enjoy in the Summertime heat

We sure have gotten a wave of high temperatures and humidity here in New York City and in honor of mid July's heatwave, I thought I would suggest a positively perfect picnic basket pairing to enjoy nestled into the grass while soaking up some sunshine.

How about Vermont Creamery's Bijou? Vermont's answer to Crottin -- the small aged goat cheese roundelle hailing from the Loire Valley. Bijou, meaning jewel in French, is just that! Decadent and creamy yet elegant and refined with notes of citrus and grass but with a crisp milky finish. This cheese holds up well in the heat and is light yet flavorful - the key mixture for a summertime picnic cheese.

And what of the wine?

How about the North Fork's Croteaux Vineyard's 181 Merlot Rose?

Crisp and light, this rose is summertime in a glass. Full of grapefruit and grassy notes with a watermelony berry finish, this is crisp and light yet fanciful and flavorful, just want you want for a wine on a warm summertime night.

The perfect summertime pairing in Fromagical's mind.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Day 1029: Fromagical's summertime salad

It is sure is Summer in New York folks!

And to celebrate summer, why not make a Summertime salad to pair with a glass of rosé wine? Sounds pretty great to me!

What's in Fromagical's summertime salad?

Mesclun Greens
Cherry tomatoes
Persian Cucumber
Gorgonzola Dolce - young, creamy, sweet meets spicy biting piquance in this young blue cheese.
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
Drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar
Sel Gris 

Simple, fresh and full of flavor. A quick easy yet elegant salad for a summertime evening.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Day 1027: L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon

Yes there are outposts all over the world, but of the ones I have been to, there is no comparison - Paris' is the best. Period end of sentence.

Discreet from this street, upon entrance the small restaurant and bar area is mostly black with warm highlights and produce center pieces -- lettuces and peppers as sculptures. Well maybe not that simple but you get the point.

I had the pleasure of dining there on Monday for lunch - what a treat!

The menu is laid out where you can enjoy small French tapas but really they are French small plates or entrees or well both  or should you be feeling decadent, why not do the tasting menu?

So what did I have?

I started with the Aubergine Millefeuille. No this was not a layers of phylo dough here, this was a beautiful stack of eggplant, zucchini, oven roasted tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, basil, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Sure this is a simple melange of ingredients that is not uncommonly found together but here it had the most elegant melt in your mouth quality - rustic and vegetal yet decadent and indulgent.

I then had their anchovies preparation served with roasted red peppers and onions on top of a bed of a melange of roasted yellow peppers and sautéed onions. This packed a fantastic punch! The fishy briney quality of the anchovies found its perfect complement in the round rustic sweetness of the pepper and onions.

Overall what a treat! It is always such a pleasure to dine here and I truly appreciate how the chef really takes simple everyday ingredients and combinations and truly elevates them to a new level of dining elegance.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Day 1027 : Getting a little lost

Sunday was spent viewing as much as I could of the Venice Biennale -- in the Arsenale, Giardini, surrounding national pavilions, concurrent projects and more. Thankfully to access the Biennale from my hotel on the other side of Venice, I was able to follow the signs to Piazza San Marco and make my way from there, sure I could have taken a vaperetto but what fun would that had been? I needed to experience the maze of streets and see Venice on foot and navigating between spaces was easy - just follow the big red columns indicating the Biennale.

Ok, but getting back towards my hotel and having some cheese and wine at a wine bar recommended to me was a whole different ball game. Cell service was not surprisingly quite spotty in this centuries old city of winding alleys and canals. Even if cell service had functioned, forget my best navigational traveling friend, Google maps, it pretty much told you to turn left once in a while, no street names here, without a real sense as to where you were versus where you were going. It was a return to the feeling of an era of less technology where requesting directions and paper maps were the way of getting around. However after having to stop a series of different people who each pointed me in a different direction, it was no surprise I got somewhat lost but I think that is some of the magic of Venice. Feeling surrounded by a sense of history and a return to simpler times, you just have to give yourself over to the beauty of this city on the water.

Finally I found the wine bar recommended to me and sat down to a seat in the sun to watch the people go by. There is something inherently peaceful about sitting and watching passersby, taking a momentary pause from the hussle and bustle of daily life. Glass of local red wine on hand, I ordered some aged Parmesan that was served with local aged balsamic vinegar. Perfection. Salty, tangy and nutty yet robust, rustic and sweet. Such a simple pairing but one that I will have to enjoy more of at home. I also had to try the local Gorgonzola - this sure wasn't the same cheese you had in the US or even France. You really could taste the difference in the lessening of the commute from production to plate and boy what a change!

Moving on from my little stop, I manged to make it back to my hotel and off I went back to Paris, like a twenty-four hour dream of Venice.

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