On the way back from…

October 16, 2011

…her secret hide-out north of Beirut, the Road Runner swerved and stopped infront of Deedee’s neighborhood grocer. Oh my Bob! Right there on the pavement was a box of burgundy red beetroots with the green leaves still on them. I remember having them sautéed with kale at The Spotted Pig in NYC. So I asked the guy to help me pick out the ones with the freshest and softest greens… naturally he looked at me perplexed and asked, “Lésh madame? Shoo baddik ta’mli fiyon??”

Deedee knew that Madame Mrad would be thrilled to toss the beetroot leaves with garlic in olive oil, then add some chopped chard, romaine lettuce, and even rocca and basil, a squeeze of lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper. Let’s call that Deedee’s Green Medley (inspired by the Naked Chef’s Italian Style Greens).

That Medley becomes the side dish for the lamb chops that Madame Mrad’s been marinating in olive oil, garlic, chopped dried chili, rosemary, a dash of balsamic vinegar and… are you ready for this? Black Mulberry syrup! Yep! That’s right, “Sharab el tout” (while in syrup mode) is the new red wine marinade, if you will. Let them marinate for at least a couple of hours, but much better overnight if you have the time.

Next to that are Madame Mrad’s famous potatoes. This time she drops the rosemary and goes for coriander instead. Yaani “batata bi kisbra” bas bil oven. Chop garlic and onions, toss in sliced (a la chips) potatoes, drizzle olive oil, season with salt ‘n pepper, then mix in the chopped coriander and roast in the oven for about half an hour. Always check on these babies and toss them every ten minutes so they dont stick to the pan and so they cook nicely on all sides… crunchy is good here.

All we need now is a bottle of red… “Shoo ra’yik bi Chateau Qanafar?”… “Shoo? Kind’a far? Far from where?” Well, actually Khirbit Qanafar is pretty far, yaani, you have to drive all the way to the West Bekaa, after Kefraya somewhere. George Naim and his son, Eddy, have revolutionized Lebo wine. Yes, Deedee’s actually fallen in love with a Lebanese… for a change 😉

This bottle of Chateau Qanafar 2008, a Cab/Merlot/Syrah blend, which I can only find in Bread Republic Hamra, has the most transformative character I’ve experienced in a Lebo wine. The nose is cinnamon and mulberry at first. The body starts off with a lighter consistency, then morphs into medium, and finally mutates into this smooth, full bodied, well rounded palate that leaves you lingering with a dark berries and chocolate finish.

Keep your eyes out for these guys, they’re on to something.

Advertisements

Deedee had a little lamb…

April 3, 2011

… actually it was a lamb shank, and it was all so unexpected! You see, Deedee and A were supposed to have dinner at Madame Mrad’s, who was planning to cook lamb shank, but by total coincidence Peter calls and says he’s already cooked dinner… and when Peter invites you to dinner, you don’t decline!

So we grabbed a cab, stopped at Enoteca for a couple of Deedee’s recent favorite discoveries: L’Avenir Stellenbosch Classic 2005 by the French Laroche wineries but from their vineyards in South African, and the Crianza 2006 from Bodega Marqués de Velilla , then headed to Peter’s place for a binging session.

For starters, he’d prepared a Mixed Greens and Peach Salad garnished with walnuts tossed in a White Balsamic Vinaigrette – white balsamic vinegar is made with white wine, as opposed to the regular balsamic which is made with red wine. Absolutely refreshing and deedelightful!

After that Peter snuck out his latest creation: Homemade Butter! Oh my Bob!! I can’t believe it’s not butter… well, it is but Peter makes it and gets totally wild with all sorts of flavors such as rosemary, peach, etc… oooh… I get deedelirious reminiscing about that butter melting in my mouth!

We had the L’Avenir Stellenbosch Classic 2005 with our starters. This silky South African deep dark purple blend is made mainly with Cabernet Sauvignon, then some Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The aroma is blackcurrent and chocolate, and the palate is raspberry, blackcurrent, licorice, with fine tannins and a smokey oakey finish.

While we were sipping our wine, Peter started plating his Spring Lamb Shank and Gratin Dauphinoise. He likes to salt his meats at least 2-3 days before he cooks them! This naturally adds flavor and cures the meat. Then he does all sorts of sacrilegiously wild things to it et voilà, out comes a mouth watering feast. To go along with that, we had opened that bottle of Marqués de Velilla’s Crianza 2006. This elegant thick Spanish deep red is made with 100% tinta del pais (an alias for tempranillo) grapes and has an oakey aroma, with velvety chocolate, blackcurrent and a smooth raspberry finish.

Danke schön Peter, es hat sehr gut geschmeckte!


Aaah, I totally felt it…

March 20, 2011

…thought Deedee as she looked up at the moon. She knew something was up: it was a full moon. It turns out this is the closest full moon to the earth that we’ve had since 1993. No wonder it’s looking so cosmically glamorous!

The Road Runner drove Deedee into the old city of Byblos (Jbeil) late that afternoon as the sun was preparing itself for a magnificent departure. This old city is so enchanting and the architecture is better preserved than in other nearby villages. After a little snooping around she felt hungry and so headed to é Cafe for a bite. Luckily it was empty and too early for dinner time, so she grabbed a small quaint table inside and ordered her meal. Straight to the point: Filet Mignon, medium rare akeed, comes with Rocca salad and potatoes, complimented by a bottle of Epicure 2005 (a red bordeaux from Enoteca – see previous blog entry for description), and topped with a special touch of good service to go with that meal. Turns out the staff is actually trained! When Deedee asked,  she found out it was her friend A who was behind it all… not surprised, since she was one of the initial creators of this place.

Deedee enjoys the choices on their menu, but she doesn’t understand why they give you two menus to choose from? Personally, I wouldn’t go for the Italian… menu, that is. There’s another é Cafe in Sursock, Ashrafieh, but this one has a different kind of charm.

Psst, don’t flatter yourself… it’s purely business. For reservations: 09-542224.


Round two… ping!!

December 7, 2010

You guessed it, Deedee was back in the Big Apple for round two of her food orgy, and get ready cuz I’ve got a couple of new hot tips for you!

I have to admit, I get giddy with the flawless service at restaurants and bars in NYC. Yaani, pretty much everywhere in the US was impressive, bas NYC has an alternative take… a new dimension of professionalism, sophistication, and refinement in dining and service.

Spitzer’s Corner, located on the Lower East Side, serves around 40 beers on tap!! So I had to drag my beer drinking buddy, RLM, along. Not much of an adventurer, RLM had the Weihenstephan Hefe-weissen and stayed there. A South German wheat ale that tasted and smelled of tropical fruit, citrus and cloves. Deedee on the other hand, had to try as many different beers as she could handle. To start with, she had the Coney Island Mermaid Pilsner from NY. A light beer with earthy hoppiness, hints of herbs and honey. Next was the Lagunitas A Little Sumpin Wild from CA (if you say it fast enough it sounds like a little something wild… get it?), a pale ale with notes of pineapple, mango and melon. By that time, we’d ordered their Pork Fat Edamame to nibble on while we waited for our Kobe Burgers (made with 100% Kobe beef and medium rare, akeed) and the Hand Cut French Fries. After that, Deedee had to try that Allagash White from Maine cuz she couldn’t believe the description of that witbier: Banana, grassy wheat, creamy, and balanced… they were right! Last, but not least was the Pretty Things Baby Tree from MA: big plum, red wine, cinnamon raisin bread, and brown sugar. Thanks for the tip Cha, it was a hop-pennin’  experience!

Later Deedee miraculously found herself at The Spotted Pig… it’s a must, after all. M & M joined her. Hog Island Oysters, I couldn’t help myself, from northern California, these babies are sweet, tender with a briny finish. Sheep’s Milk Ricotta Gnudi with Basil Pestooh my Bob! The way these melt in your mouth is so sensual, they should be forbidden from consumption in public! Whatever you’re eating, you can’t not order the Shoestring Fries with rosemary. This time Deedee tried the Grilled Skirt Steak with Roasted Beets & Horseradish Cream, the slices of meat are cooked medium-rare and so tender you barely need your knife. The beets are roasted with kale, and drizzled with Horseradish cream… life is good.  (btw, for those of you who read The New Yorker, there’s an article about the chef in the November 22nd, 2010 Food Issue. Read Burger Queen. She really makes the best burger in the world… amongst others. A Deedee must-have.)

We were around 7 for dinner at Public, another one of Deedee’s regular do’s, so it was the perfect opportunity to try many items on their menu. As we waited for the gang to assemble, we had an aperitif at the bar. Deedee was curious to try The Chook NV, a sparkling Shiraz from SE Australia. The bubbles on this dark ruby red were subtle and light, the nose and palate are cherry, ripe berry and herbal spice ending with a tangy kick. We were then seated and the feast began. For starters: Grilled scallops with sweet chili sauce, crème fraiche and green plantain crisps; Pan-seared foie gras on spiced french toast with mango chutney, maple glaze and crispy bacon; Fried green lip mussels with shiso, sansho pepper, and wasabi-yuzu dipping sauce; Lavender cured ham with a salad of frisee, mirin glazed pecans, pear, pomegranate, and truffle dressing; Beet gnudi with whipped lemon ricotta and a smoked almond and celery leaf pesto. We ordered two different pinot noirs to go with our appetizers: Four Graces 2008 from Willamette Valley, OR a light/medium bodied ruby red, with vanilla, flowers, and light oak aroma, rounded palate flaunting red berries, fruit and light tannins. The other Pinot Noir was the Neudorf “Tom’s Block” 2008, Nelson, New Zealand, a lively bright red with hints of lavender and licorice, this wine is svelt with a mineral palate and fine tannins. With our main courses, we had the Craggy Range “Te Kahu”, Gimblett Gravels, 2007 a Bordeaux blend from Hawkes Bay, NZ. Deep crimson red and has complex aromas that hint at cinnamon, ripe fruit, and pine forrest. The body is full and layered in the mouth. Well rounded and tannic. A good transition. We culminated with Lang and Reed, Cabernet Franc 2008 from North Coast, CA, with aromas of ripe plum and sage, this Cab Franc is dry and tannic but well balanced with dark cherries. Altogether a selection of robust wines that were exquisite with our gamy main course choices. Deedee went for the New Zealand Venison loin, Cabrales dumplings, oyster mushrooms and salsa verde. Oh Bambi, you taste so fine!

Stay tuned… the NYC dining extravaganza isn’t over yet!


The City of Angels totally brings out…

December 5, 2010

… the carnivore in me!

Deedee rolled into Los Angeles, CA – actually Long Beach Airport which, if you’re traveling in the US, I highly recommend: small, quaint, and not much hassle.

The first night, Booboo and I hit Ribs USA. You can’t get clearer than that… baby back ribs, beef ribs, and… Bob’s ribs? Things to keep in mind: go casual and be prepared to get down and dirty… yaani, you WILL eat with your hands! No other way to do it, honey.

First thing on your table are the peanuts – throw the shells on the floor. Then comes the cornbread – nice and warm with butter and honey on the side. Next are the fries and Bob’s World – a hodgepodge of barbecued meat! Once you’re done, wash your hands in the sink that’s smack in the middle of the dining area. Ghassil idék mneeh, éh habibi?!

In the morning, after going for a long run to burn off Bob, Booboo drove Deedee to Patrick’s Roadhouse, a diner located on the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) heading north from Santa Monica. A small hut with an extension, this place is cute, kitchy, and serves typical Americana food, yaani, eggs (cooked any way), pancakes, waffles & sides for breakfast; salads, burgers, et al for lunch/dinner. Deedee concocted her own: poached eggs on an english muffin with smoked salmon, capers and hashed potatoes. The only thing I didn’t enjoy was their coffee, which wasn’t robust enough. Before leaving, we met the cute Portuguese/German manager. If only I’d kept room for Nachspeise!

The next day, after a couple of meetings, Deedee needed to connect with mother earth, so she drove to Pacific Palisades and went for a 2 1/2 hour hike in the Temescal Canyon Gateway Park. How fabulous to be able to take a break like that in the middle of the city. Relax, get your nature fix, re-energize, then head back to the city and kick-ass in your next meeting!

The last night we graced La Grande Orange. For starters the Tuna Tartar & Guacamoli got lucky – made with chunky bits of Ahi tuna marinated in Yuzu vinaigrette layered over a juicy guacamole, served with homemade corn tortillas. When in the Sunshine State, you gotta try the local product, so Deedee started with a glass of Selby Merlot from Sonoma County. Dark fruit and blackberries, this thick velvety red gave hints of chocolate and coffee. Later Deedee moved on to Ridge Vineyard‘s Zinfandel, from Sonoma Valley (it was a Sonoma kind’a night). Silky smooth and tannic, this Zin embraces your palate with dark cherries, ripe plum, and mocha. It was just the right fit with the Asian Style Short Rib that came with chimichurri-coconut rice. I’m bashful and embarrassed to describe the emotions that dish gave me… so how about I leave that up to your imagination?

Booboooo… thanks for making Deedee’s trip a canni-ballistically meatatarian experience!