What defines the simplicity of the recipe? For me, it is the limited number of ingredients, and ease of the cooking process. For instance, I would never designate my beloved traditional cassoulet as a simple recipe – it takes about 24 hours to make and the list of ingredients is a page long.
The recipe I would like to share today fit the simplicity bill quite well. It has only 3 ingredients (or four, if you would consider garlic as a separate ingredient), and the cooking process is quite simple (but you do spend a bit of the time prepping). As this is a beef stew, you can even reduce the list of ingredients down to two – the beef stew for me must have beef (huh, really?) and onions – everything else is a bonus.
Today’s dish is a beer braised beef stew, which includes onions, garlic and Sicilian eggplant. There is no any particular reason whatsoever to include the Sicilian eggplant into this dish, except that I was in the store, the eggplant looked very good and wanted to buy it, and then I had to actually do something with it.
Below is the recipe, and then I will give you step by step guide with pictures – for no other reason that I like to take food pictures. Here we go.
Beer Braised Beef Stew Recipe
Total time – about 3 hours. Prep time: 40-50 minutes, Cooking time: 2 hours
5 lb of beef – you can use any cut. If you will use a very lean cut, you might have to increase the cooking time until meat is tender
4 medium onions
half a cup of garlic (adjust to your liking)
1 Sicilian eggplant (replace with any other eggplant or skip altogether)
1 can/bottle of beer, 330 oz – you can use any beer, but I would suggest that it should have some intensity to it – lager is good, porter is good too.
Olive oil (any oil you use for frying)
1 teaspoon of Smoked Paprika
Salt, Pepper to taste
1 teaspoon of the Kosher Salt or any other large grain salt
You initial step includes a bit of slicing and dicing. You will need to peel and slice the onions:
Slice it into the small cubes, put into a bowl, add the kosher salt, mix together and let it stand for 15-20 minutes. The salt will make the eggplant to lose some of the water, so it will be a bit faster at cooking.
Prepare the garlic – you can use the whole cloves, only break them slightly with the knife:
Add olive oil to the pan, put it up at the medium heat, and start sauteing the onions with garlic, turning them periodically, for about 15-20 minutes, or until the onion gains color and becomes soft and translucent:
In parallel, you should start searing the meat. I’m using here a beef stew cut from the store – of course you can cut the piece of beef on your own. We need to sear the meat to get rid of all the unnecessary liquid and to gain the nice color. From here on, I’m using my favorite cooking vessel, the enameled cast iron casserole. To sear the meat, you will need to add oil and then put on the high heat – how high the heat should be depends on your stove. I have an electric stove, and if I will heat up the cast iron on the highest setting, the food will burn before it will sear, so I have to adjust it accordingly – but you do need high heat for searing.
At this point ( we are at about 20 minutes into our cooking process), the onions should be ready the meat is seared, so you can first pour the beer into the casserole dish, and use it as a deglazing agent. Add onions to the meat, reduce heat to medium, cover casserole with the lid and let it be.
Add olive oil to the pan which is now freed up, put the eggplant and saute for about 15-20 minutes, or until it softens up and gains color:
And you are done! Your dish should look similar to this:
That concludes our picture presentation of the recipe. I hope you will find this dish easy enough to make, and if you will end up making it or have done something similar before – let me know. Until the next time – cheers!
Before you get to this post, just a little word of caution – if you are hungry, can I ask you to go eat first? Please?
Let me ask you a question: when it comes to the restaurants, how often can you recall the exact decor of the restaurant? Well, let me be careful with this – of course this question is intended for the foodies and not for the interior design majors. We typically remember great food and wine experiences (yes, extremely bad experiences get stuck in the head too – I still remember the worst spaghetti in my life in the little restaurant by the Lake George). Sometimes the exceptional service is also staying with you. But I would bet that decor for the most cases would be the last thing you would remember, especially if you visit the restaurant only once. But then there are exceptions. I still remember old Tavern on the Green, with all its imperial embellishments, or the wonderful Belgium restaurant we visited on Aruba, called Le Dome, which had 4 different dining rooms, each decorated in its own unique style. Why am I asking all the questions about remembering the decor? Please read on, you will see in a second.
Okay, so the goal of this post is not to take you on the memory lane, but to share our recent dining experience at the new restaurant in Greenwich, Connecticut called Rouge Brasserie & Oyster Bar. We happened to come in a bit before our dining companions, so I had a little bit of time to walk around. The unique decor and variety of styles within somewhat of a limited space were strikingly different from most of the places I’d been to. The way the different sections were appointed were going from country French to cozy corner to the Royal French – all tastefully decorated and oh so different. Yes, as usual, I plan to inundate you with pictures, so take a look:
As it almost became customary, we started our evening at the bar. While the list of cocktails at Rouge is not too long, everything we had was very well made and very refreshing. Brigitte Bardot (cognac, fresh Lemon, sugar, raspberries and champagne) and Broken Heart Margarita (tequila, elderflower liquor, fresh sour, cointreau, raspberry grape & pink peppercorn) were both done just right, not too sweet (I’m really not a big fun of the sweet cocktails), withgood amount of alcohol, but very balanced at the same time. And it was just fun sitting by the shiny, well lit bar and watch Kelly compose the tasty concoctions.
Before we talk about food, I need to say a few words about the wine. I didn’t get a chance to see the wine list, so obviously I can’t comment on it – but during the evening, we were drinking two wines which were both, shall I say it, surprisingly outstanding. Our white wine was 2012 Domaine Saint-Lannes Côtes de Gascogne IGP (80% French Colombard, 20% Gros Manseng) – perfect nose of the bright white fruit, very inviting, light and round on the palate, with white apples, touch of lemon, dry and refreshingly crisp, excellent balance (Drinkability: 8). May be the fact that the white wine was good was not all that surprising, but for the red… Our red wine was 2010 Chateau Gobert Bordeaux AOC. Can you point to the “surprising” part just based on the name? I remember when I was just starting with wine, which was a bit more than 10 years ago, the year 2000 was declared the “Vintage of the Century” in Bordeaux, and I decided to try those best wines, buying Bordeaux AOC wines for $7 in the discount supermarket in New Jersey. When I tried to drink those wines, which were green, branch-chewy and plain harsh, for the life of me I couldn’t understand how that can be a great wine (of course I would never admit it in public). As I was learning about the wines, and especially listening to the Kevin Zraly’s explanations about circles of quality, I realized that basic Bordeaux, sourced from the grapes from the whole region, in general is something to avoid. Now, at the dinner, the red wine was poured (I didn’t see the label), and my first impression was “wow, this is very nice” – soft dark fruit on the nose, quite fruit forward on the palate, but without much exuberance or going over the top – some plums, ripe raspberries, touch of green bell pepper in the back, soft tannins, nice acidity, overall very balanced (Drinkability: 8-). When I saw the label, my first reaction was “Really?” – for a few seconds, I couldn’t believe this was actually a basic Bordeaux red wine. I will have to start paying attention to the Bordeaux AOC wines again, as this was one eye opening experience. And I want to complement whomever selected these wines for the restaurant – great choice!
Okay, time to talk about the food! In a word, we were treated royally at the Rouge – it was literally no holds barred type of dinner – everything you can think of was on the table – the caviar, the oysters, the lobster, and lots more.
First, our bread arrived in the form of tiny, but ohh so tasty baguettes, accompanies by the butter, fresh young radishes and cornichons:
From our appetizer course, the very first dish was Fish Eggs and Chips (house made potato chips, Crème fraîche) – as you can see from the name, it was a play on “Fish and Chips”, only instead of the actual fish we had something which could’ve become a fish – both black and red caviar was sprinkled over the house made potato chips:
I understand the word play here, and the dish overall was interesting – but I would probably use something more neutral as a medium instead of potato chips – some kind of white bread crackers or even crispy water crackers would play better with the saltiness of the caviar. But again, I can’t complain about the caviar as a starter – not at all.
When you start with the caviar, what is the next thing you should expect? The best selection of the fresh seafood, of course. And the best it was! Plateux De Fruits De Mer had fresh oysters, fresh clams, lobster tails and claws, and prawns, accompanies by the trio of sauces (shrimp cocktails, mayo with herbs and onion/vinegar for the oysters). Fresh and immaculate, one of the best seafood platters I ever had. I’m generally not a big fun of fresh clams – and these were delicious.
Seafood platters can be served in different types of restaurants, but nobody would argue that with Escargots Bourguignon (shallot parsley butter) we are getting into the real French traditional cooking. The escargot were excellent, succulent and satisfying. My only complaint was that I would serve the escargot separately from the toast, as the toast was completely soaked in butter in and out, but then I heard a number of people praising that exact butter-soaked toast. Anyway, this was definitely a delicious appetizer.
From French Classic to the French Classic – our next dish was Classic Steak Tartare (hand cut prime filet with charred country toast) – I tried steak tartare in Paris for the first time, and while I was scared with the plate put in front of me (raw ground beef was glaring at me, asking “will you dare put me in your mouth”), once that raw ground beef was mixed with all the condiments, it became one of my favorite dishes of the French cuisine. In our case, the steak was already premixed, so all we had to do was to put it on the toast and enjoy – which is exactly what we did! It was very tasty.
Our last appetizer was Warm Onion Tart (tomato confit & nicoise olives) – if you look at the size of that thing, it was literally the whole pizza! It turns out that the restaurant inherited a real pizza oven from one of the restaurants located before in the same space, so they definitely took a full advantage of that. That tart was delicious, withcrispy crust, and mild bitterness of arugula perfectly complementing sweetness of the onion. Great dish!
This was the end of our appetizer round, and while we were quite well fed already, the best was yet to come.
Our entrees included:
Skate Meuniere (parsley new potatoes, lemon brown butter) – outstanding, perfectly cooked fish, very meaty, nice lemony bite, without any fish aftertaste (you know, like the one you get sometimes from tilapia or catfish). This dish made many of us wonder why we don’t eat skate more often.
Moules Frites (white wine, garlic & fine herbs) – may be the best mussels ever. The sauce was soooo tasty, we had to request [lots of] additional bread. Simply delicious. Mussles were also served with very tasty french fries.
Short Rib Bourguignon (red wine sauce with pearl onions & truffled potatoes) – is there any other food in this world which spells “comfort” better than the slow cooked meat? Probably not. We were really full at this point, but nobody could resist that voluptuous (interesting word to describe the cooked meat, huh?), succulent meat. Sauce was exceptional, just perfectly savory without any unnecessary sweetness. Great finish to our wonderful meal.
Well, of course there was a dessert – luckily a small one, but super tasty! Chocolate French Custard was just perfect, not too sweet, with the very light and fluffy texture. And by the way, while we were at dessert, I learned something new! It appears that when you eat dessert (at least the one like this custard), you are supposed to turn the spoon upside down in your mouth, so the tongue with all its tastebuds will get in contact with the food, and not with the back of the spoon. I had no idea!
Last, but not least at all, we had a chance to talk to and express our heartfelt Thanks to the Executive Chef Josh Moulton, the mastermind behind this exceptional experience, Diego, our Maître D’, and Fabiana, the designer who created all that exceptional style I described at the beginning of this post.
If you will have an opportunity, I definitely recommend that you will ignore all my writing and go experience Rouge on your own. For those who are too far away, sorry, but you will have to take my word for it – this was definitely an outstanding meal, with great style and substance. Cheers!
Disclaimer: I attended the restaurant as a guest of management. All opinions are my own.
As soon as we finished our drinks at the Barnum Publick House, it was the time to walk for the whole 20 seconds to our dining destination – Bistro B in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
The restaurant inside is definitely done in the modern, simple style – leather, woods, clean colors, clean lines, solid high chairs. If interested, you can even take a pick into the kitchen from outside, to admire all the stainless steel marvels and busy people.
As we already had cocktails, it was the time to chose the wine. Bistro B features quite an interesting wine list. It is somewhat short, but the important fact is that it is extremely reasonably priced. Absolute majority of wines are priced within $24 to $30 range, with few occasional splurges to $36, and one, the most expensive wine at $40 – you don’t see this type of wine prices in the restaurants all that often ( no, it doesn’t sport Yellow Tale, Sutter Home or Crane Lake, if you are wondering). At the same time, majority of the wines were either quite safe or completely unknown to me, so as a self-admitted wine snob I had some challenges deciding what to drink.
We started with 2011 Pieropan Soave from Italy – the wine had hint of white stone fruit on the nose, simple and dry on the palate, with good acidity, but somewhat single-dimensional. Probably the issue was with my expectations which were rather based on my prior experience with Pieropan wines during Vinitaly tastings earlier this year (the two wines we had there were outstanding). Drinkability: 7
From Pieropan we switched to 2012 Mohua Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough New Zealand – typical New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, but pleasantly restraint – there is enough grapefruit and lemon notes both on the nose and the palate, but not overpowering, not smash-in-your-face-grapefruit type of wine. Vibrant acidity, good balance. Drinkability: 7+
It was hard for me to chose the red wine (I’m a snob, remember?) – most of the choices didn’t pique my interest. I settled for 2010 Carmen Petite Sirah Gran Reserva Maipo Valley, Chile – dark garnet color in theglass,good amount of dark fruit on the nose, ripe raspberries and dark chocolate on the palate, acidity in check, overall very balanced. Drinkability: 7+
And then there was food. We started with the selection of Small Plates (appetizers).
First up was House Cured Salmon (Star Anise Pickes, Horseradish Mustard Cream, Brown Bread) – the salmon itself was impeccable, perfect texture and flavor (I cure my own salmon myself, so I’m very particular about it). The horseradish cream had some unusual perfumy component (not my favorite), but overall this was quite a successful dish.
Next up were BLT Sliders (Braised Pork Belly, Roma Tomatoes, Iceberg, Maple Aioli) – the sliders were not bad, and you really have to like pork belly to order this type of dish – but definitely this dish has a point for the interesting twist on BLT concept.
Chicken “Lollipops” (House Made BBQ Glaze, Best Blue Cheese Dressing) definitely gets thumbs up for originality and creativity (just caught myself feeling that I’m watching way too much of the Iron Chef, and take it way too seriously – I promise to get over it) – I like the concept, understand the idea and never saw it done before – unfortunately, the “lollipops” were a bit dry, I think this dish can be improved a bit in terms of texture. At the same time, overall flavor profile was excellent.
For our Garden Plates we had Lambs Lettuce (Crispy Artichokes, Roasted Garlic Hummus) – crispy artichokes were particularly tasty, but so was the salad as a whole – and I liked very much the colorful presentation.
Then the Large Plates came. Potato and Onion Encrusted Halibut (Forest Mushroom Ragout, Asparagus Tips, Truffle) was first – perfectly seasoned and cooked, delicious, flaky fish worked very well with mushrooms (spectacular flavor profile by itself) and asparagus. Definitely an excellent dish.
Next was Pork Schnitzel (Cucumber Salad, Mustard Honey Pan Roast) – this was my least favorite dish – the meat was too dry and too lemony for my taste. The side of cucumber salad was quite tasty.
Then the Roasted Hangar Steak (Pomme Frittes, Roasted Pears), which was served next, was, in a word, outstanding! Meat was perfectly done (medium-rare), and together with the sauce and that Carmen Petite Sirah it simply created a heavenly combination.
And when I thought nothing can beat that steak, the “Chicken Fried Chicken” (Crispy Amish Chicken Breast, Black Pepper Gravy, Cinnamon Spiced Baby Carrots) arrived, and the whole table had gone silent, and then very loud again – inexcitement. The chicken was spectacular –moist, flavorful, perfect crust on outside – and was absolutely delicious with the sauce. This dish definitely finished our main portion of the dinner on the high note.
Do you think we left restaurant without having the dessert? Think again – of course this is not possible. First, we had absolutely delicious coffee, maid in French Press right at the table – yay! Our dessert consisted of Butterscotch Pudding and Flourless Chocolate Cake – both were very tasty, but this is about all I can tell you at this point – hopefully the pictures give you an idea.
That concludes our great experience with the Creative American Cuisine, and as usual, I would like to finish this post by thanking Chef and Owner Jason Milanese and Chef Joe Italiano for the wonderful meal. Until the next time – cheers!
Disclaimer: I attended the restaurant as a guest of management. All opinions are my own.
1006 Broad Street
Bridgeport, CT 06604
I’m the wine guy, as you know. Well, with a lot of affinity towards Scotch, Whiskey, Tequila… Beer too. Okay, you got the point – and it seems that I’m drifting away from what I’m trying actually to say here. Okay, let me try to get back on track. The point I’m trying to make is that cocktail is not generally something I’m going for. Part of the reason is that I’m actually (shh, it’s a secret, don’t tell anyone) intimidated by the cocktails. I don’t know the names, have only a weigh idea of the ingredients, and have a hard time making anything decent myself, even following the recipe precisely.
But the point of the matter is that this is changing lately. After tasting all the wonderful concoctions during our recent restaurant visits (Nola Oyster’s Bar, Mama’s Boy, Bailey’s Backyard) I’m very much inclined to start the evening with the cocktail, as it is quite amazing what the passionate bartender can create for you.
The place I want to talk about in this post is the Barnum Publick House in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Our dinner destination was Bistro B (the subject of next post), located within the same block as the Barnum Publick House, but before going to the dinner we had an opportunity to get some cocktails at Barnum Publick House – and I’m glad we did.
Once you walk in, you are greeted by the sophisticated decor, and the bar, which is definitely a centerpiece.
I had The Bridgeporter (Willett Pot Still Reserve Bourbon,Vermouth, IPA Foam) – was definitely sold at the “IPA Foam”. Here it is in the making:
And here is the final result – very restrained, somewhat bitter, perfect to start the evening:
Here are few other cocktails ordered by the people in our group:
So the bar requires bar food, right? And the bar food we got! Three different dishes, all perfectly executed.
Stonington Calamari (Spicy Flour, Sweet Chili Sauce) had just right amount of breading, served with tangy, somewhat sweet and spicy sauce:
Lump Crab Cakes (Warm Corn Relish, Lemon Tartar Sauce) – perfect texture, big lumps of crab meat, nicely seared on outside, very tasty:
Last but no least was Nachos. Hmm, I’m sure you got picture in your mind right? Corn chips, yellow cheese (I always wonder if that is really a cheese), droplets of ground beef and sprinkles of salsa. Well, get that picture out of your head – and take a look below, this is how Nachos should always look like – Short Rib Nachos (Jalapeno, Tomato, Cheese Sauce, Sour Cream, House Potato Chips) – potato chips, slow cooked short rib meat, perfectly layered and outright delicious in every bite.
That concludes our quick visit to Barnum Publick House – it was definitely fun. If you are up for the great time at the bar, with good cocktails and good food, the place is definitely recommended. Cheers!
Disclaimer: I visited Barnum Publick House as a guest of the management. All opinions are my own.
Barnum Publick House
1020 Broad Street
Bridgeport, CT 06604
Located in the River North District of downtown Chicago, Gene & Georgetti Steakhouse opened its doors in 1941. The restaurant had been open for 72 years – in such a dynamic culinary environment as Chicago, I think it really means something – very few restaurants survive for 6 month after they open, never mind the 72 years.
It is now became customary for me to check the reviews and opinions of the people prior to visiting the restaurant. All three sources I’m generally using (Yelp, TripAdvisor and Urbanspoon) had a consensus of 3.5 to 4 stars out of 5, based on 250+ reviews – this is solid enough in my book. Interestingly enough, recent reviews on Yelp were ranging from “Best steakhouse in the World” to “dated” and “How dare these people are to bring A-1 Steak sauce to my table”. Of course I had no choice but to find out by myself (ahh, it is such a hard work – eating in the restaurant, right? )
As you walk through the door, you can see right away – this restaurant has a character. It is not trendy metal/leather/glass/wood type of place. Dark wooden paneling, classic red chairs, soft lighting.
We were escorted to our table, and presented with the simple menu (two pages) and, of course, the wine list. As you know, wine is important to me, thus the content of the wine list is definitely of the high interest – both selection and prices. Gene & Georgetti’s wine list is mostly focused on California with some minor international presence – the selection is decent, and the prices are mostly okay. Yes, the selection can be a bit more diverse, and some of the prices can be also improved, but nevertheless, we were able to find a good bottle to drink with the dinner – 2010 Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley. At $64, this is about 2.5 times retail, which is definitely a reasonable price for that wine in rather an upscale restaurant.
This 2010 Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (13.5% ABV) had dark garnet color, inviting nose of red fruit. The wine needed a little bit of time to breathe in the glass, then it showed the typical cassis, a bit of chocolate and some plums on the palate, medium to full body, soft tannins, nice acidity and overall good balance – definitely worked well with our dinner.
The bread basket appeared first – a nice piece of baguette and the variety of bread sticks – all fresh, with very tasty crust, just “hard enough”.
We started with the Fried Ravioli appetizer, which was served with the meat sauce:
Simple, perfectly fried, very tasty and comfortable – making you literally feel like you are having a home-made meal, just at your family dinner table.
Next was the salad – fresh, crunchy iceberg lettuce with the Beefsteak tomato. I don’t know where the restaurant gets their tomatoes from – but this was probably single best piece of tomato I had in many years – absolutely perfect, fleshy, juicy and outright delicious.
For the dinner, which is served somewhat of a “family style” – with the sides to share – I ordered bone-in filet mignon (you don’t see those on every menu), and my dining companion went for the T-bone. We had sides of fries and grilled asparagus. I asked my steak to be made medium-rare plus – and so it was, with reddish center, perfect crust on outside, good till the last bite. I like also the way this beautiful hulk of meat was served – by itself on the plate, no sauce, no sides, no nothing – just a perfection, a grand simplicity of the great piece of meat. The potatoes looked and tasted as the real home fries – this is how I remember my dad would make home fried potatoes, many many years ago. This was definitely one great meal.
Try to guess – did we have dessert or not? Yes, good guess – you saw the size of that piece of meat – dessert was completely out of consideration.
The important thing to mention – service. The service was one of the best – very attentive but not overly intrusive. The dirty plates were picked up as soon as they were available, clean utensils showed up just in time – it was the work of many people, perfectly orchestrated.
There you have it – our experience at Gene & Georgetti. This is definitely a restaurant which is unique and different – the ambiance, the food, the service. If Chicago is in your plans, and you like good piece of meat – the address is below, measure it up for yourself. Cheers!
Gene & Georgetti Restaurant
500 N Franklin St
Chicago, IL 60610
Phone: (312) 527-3718
Do you know what is curry? Well, may be you do, but it appears that I didn’t. To be more precise, I thought I knew – and I didn’t. Anyway, the explanation is coming down below – keep reading and looking at the pictures.
Aladin Indian Bistro located at the busy intersection in Norwalk, CT, literally around the corner from one of the best food stores in the area, Stew Leonard’s. Despite the busy intersection part, there is plenty parking in the back, which definitely helps. I don’t know about you, but when I’m thinking about going to the restaurant, parking is probably one of my very first concerns – I need to know if I will be circling around the busy street for half an hour or not, so again, I’m talking about important stuff here.
The Aladin’s interior is nicely appointed, with wood and leather, with enough space between the tables, and comfortable and inviting lighting.
As we got situated at our table, the neverending array of food started to appear. First, it was Papadum, the thin crisp flatbreads, made out of yellow lentil flour right at the restaurant – very tasty on its own and with the sauces. By the way, as I consider this visit more of a personal learning of the Indian cuisine, I will include here the links to the relevant articles on Wikipedia – here is the one for Papadum. We were also served a trio of accompanying sauces – Mint sauce, Braun Tamarind sauce and Onion Vinegar relish – all worked very well with papadum.
Our first dish was Spiced Sea Bass Pakoda (Sea Bass Fritters. Chili Yogurt sauce) – tender pieces of fish, deep fried in a special batter. This dish was quite successful in texture and had very mild spicy profile. I also really liked the presentation. By the way, continuing our education here, Pakoda ( often spelled as Pakora) is the common name for the deep fried snack in India and other Asian countries – here is your link to Wikipedia to learn more.
Next dish was Artichoke-Scallion Pakoda (Roasted eggplant Tamarind aioli). Unfortunately, it was really dry and chewy – it looks pretty, though.
Ahh, almost forgot – of course we were drinking wine. The wine list at Aladin is small, but I found it to be quite appropriate for the type of cuisine the restaurant is serving. There is a good selection of the both light whites and reds, also the prices look quite reasonable. Overall we had 3 different wines during the course of a dinner. For the white, we had 2011 Chateau Ste. Michelle Saint M Riesling, Pfalz, Germany – very nice, simple, some honeydew notes on the palate, with a good amount of acidity and touch of sweetness, very refreshing – and most importantly, working quite well with practically all the dishes. Our first red was 2012 Gougenheim Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina – simple red, with some good acidity and light raspberries profile. Later on we switched to the 2012 900 Grapes Pinot Noir Marlborough, New Zealand – nice Pinot Noir profile, with some plump cherries both on the nose and the palate, may be a touch too sweet, but working well with the dishes.
Our dinner continued with the trio of Chicken Kebabs – done in three different styles, all pieces perfectly tender, moist and juicy. When I cook myself, I generally avoid chicken kebab, as I typically have a hard time trying not to dry it out. The kebab which we were served, was probably one of the very best I ever had.
The next dish was probably one of the most favorite in the group – it is probably enough to say that we asked for the refill a couple of times. The dish was Karari Bhindi (Crispy okra with red onion, cilantro and green chili), as we called it a “crispy okra salad” – a perfect combination of spices and crunchy texture, very tasty.
Appearing next were a few dishes. Bagar Dal (yellow lentil flavored with cumin, curry leaves, fresh garlic and dry chili) was very tasty, and so was Rogan Josh Traditional (Goat with tomato curry with a hint of Yogurt):
Just to go on with our overall theme of learning, here is the link for Dal (a thick stew made out of dried legumes) and Rogan Josh – an aromatic lamb or goat-based stew. I don’t get to eat goat all that often, so it was an interesting experience and overall a very tasty dish.
Next up – Signature Lamb Dampak (tender Lamb cubes cooked in a sealed copper vessel) – this was a bit more familiar than the previous dish, very flavorful and aromatic, perfectly going over the jasmine rice, an excellent dish overall:
And then we had bread! Well, if you are familiar with the Indian cuisine, you know that I’m talking about Naan. It is generally served hot, and it is one of my very favorite types of bread you can get in the restaurant. It perfectly accompanies all of the stew-like dishes, and it literally melts in your mouth. We went through quite a few baskets of Naan, as you can never get enough of it.
Remember I asked you if you know what curry is? This was the question which Chef Roy, the Executive Chef and Owner of Aladin, asked us during one of his appearances:
I felt that the question is probably not as straight-forward as it seemed, but nevertheless, my answer was “of course! it is a spice!”. Well, this is exactly where I was wrong. Curry is a way of cooking with multitude of spices, but not the spice on its own! There all sorts of curry spices, all widely used in the cooking throughout the Asia, and they often share some common ingredients, like coriander and cumin, but overall, all those curries are different depending on the country and the dish which they will be used for. Apparntly “curry spice” as a nomenclature, was created a few hundred years ago, to sell a common blend of spices to the Westerners, as Asian-style cooking was becoming popular in Europe. And again, I have to refer you to the Wikipedia if you want to learn more.
Just to share my personal learning with you, I also learned that coriander is a seed of… cilantro! I love cilantro in everything, and I use coriander quite often, especially when it comes to the Fall cooking (roasted butternut squash soup is one example) – but I had no idea they are related! Live and learn…
Anyway, there are still a few dishes worth mentioning. We had Tawa “Surf n Turf” (combination Tandoori kebab platter of meat and seafood), very tasty:
There were more dishes, but I honestly lost track at that point of what was what, so here are the pictures (but I remember that everything was tasty!):
And, of course, the desert! Traditional Rice Pudding, nice, creamy, may be a touch too sweet for my taste, but still very refreshing after such an extensive meal:
All in all, this was an excellent “deep dive” into the world of the Indian cuisine, very unique and different. And as usual, the last thing left to do is to thank Chef Roy and his staff for the excellent meal and great education. Cheers!
Disclaimer: I attended the dinner as a guest of management. All opinions are my own.
Aladin Indian Bistro
36 Westport Ave
Norwalk, CT 06851
Phone: (203) 939-9040
Looking for the Southern hospitality, great food, great cocktails and a great time? Shhhh… I got a place for you. Read on, but…may be you should eat something first, as there will be pictures. An aspiring food porn pictures. Yes, consider yourself warned.
And the Connecticut bloggers got together again! This time we visited a restaurant in Norwalk, Connecticut, called Mama’s Boy. The restaurant defines itself as “southern table and refuge”. On outside, the restaurant is located on the first floor of the ultra-modern glass-and-metal building. Inside, it is rustic, simple and inviting. You know you will be comfortable from the moment you walk through the door and set your foot on the dark wooden floor.
The first thing not to miss in Mama’s Boy is the bar. The bar is well stocked, showing the top shelf full of great southern favorites – bourbons and whiskeys. When you get the cocktail from the list, you know exactly what you are getting – it will not be just some vodka of questionable pedigree – depending on the cocktail you know that you are getting Ciroc, or Three Olives, or Fire Fly.
We had a few cocktails to start. The Dirty South (Homemade Sweet Tea, Fire Fly Vodka, Lemon) was outstanding and super dangerous – you have a full impression of drinking just a nicely sweetened iced tea with the slice of lemon, delicious and refreshing. You think you can have many of those. Until you realize that you talk slower. And need more time to move around.
Then I had the Blood Orange Jalapeno Margarita (Chinaco Blanco, Blood orange puree, Jalapeno). First of all, I was very impressed with the fact that they actually used Chinaco – this is very rare and one of the absolutely best tequilas you can find. And the taste was purely spectacular – a perfect balance of spicy and refreshing, with just enough sweetness. This was definitely my best cocktail I ever had. Until Chris, the maestro behind the bar counter, offered something which was not even on the menu – gin-based, barrel aged cocktail which didn’t have the official name, so it was called The Drink.
The Drink was based on gin, but then there were cucumbers of a different kind, as well as many other ingredients – it was a pleasure watching Chris really engaged in the process of creation of this masterpiece, tasting, adding, tasting again – until he reached the point of perfection. Once I tasted it, I realized that while previous cocktail was spectacular, The Drink was simply amazing – it got my “best ever” title, with the refreshing and uplifting combination of all the ingredients.
And then, there was food. The bread was presented in the form of a basket of warm cornbread muffins, accompanied by butter and a tangy “jelly”. The first dish which already was on the table was Redneck Edamame (Georgia peanuts boiled in house spice blend) – believe it or not, but these peanuts had practically complete textural identity with edamame! Definitely this was a very interesting dish to start with.
Next up – Deviled Eggs (house-smoked Tasso, okra pickles). I’m very particular about devilled eggs, as this was one of the dishes I grew up with, and we make it quite often at home. The Mama’s Boy devilled eggs were outright delicious, very generous, with bacony goodness of Tasso perfectly coming through in the creamy filling.
Fried Chicken Skins (pickled beets, jalapeno-garlic honey) were perfectly resembling fired calamari – I actual think it should be renamed on the menu into Redneck Calamari – but then they already have one Redneck dish listed : ) Light, crunchy, delicious – if you don’t read the name “chicken skin”, you would never guess what this dish was made out of. The sauce was delicious, tangy with a spicy twist.
Charleston Crab Cake (creamed corn, house smoked bacon, red pepper, green onion) came up next. As we tasted it, Valerie, who was sitting next to me, commented that she spent many years in Maryland, and she knows real crab cakes – and this one was probably one of the best she ever had (I fully concur). Big lumps of crab meat, perfectly seasoned, nice creamy corn goodness surrounding it – that was one delicious crabcake.
Once we were done with the crab cake, we were given small bowls, and then the big pot showed up in a middle of every table – Low-country Bouillabaisse (Grouper, white shrimp, mussels, house-smoked andouille, baby corn, potato, shrimp broth). I’m big fun of bouillabaisse dishes – if there is one on the menu, there is a high probability that it would be my choice. I know I’m abusing the word “perfect” throughout this post – but it is very difficult to fully represent the food and try to stay within the precise culinary terms – so let me continue abusing “perfect” and “delicious”, as there is not much else I have to say. This dish was Delicious! Touch of heat from andouille sausage, sweetness of mussels and baby corn, all perfectly wrapped around together. I’m glad we had bread, as it would be a crime to waste a single drop of that broth…
So at this point I was practically full (okay, not yet) – but I didn’t expect anything to topple our experience so far. And then the BLT Salad (fried green tomato, candied bacon, artisan lettuce, buttermilk-herb dressing) arrived… What can be so special about BLT, right? Well, everything, if B stands for lightly candied bacon, L stands for super-fresh and crunchy lettuce, and T stands for fried green tomatoes – every bite was ahh so good!
Tired of the food pictures – here is the a little break for you – the back of the shirt of one of the waiters, and then Greer Fredericks, one of the owners of the Mama’s Boy, talking to Bonnie from The Home Place and her husband:
Next up – Shrimp and Grits (white shrimp, Fall’s Mill grits, house-smoked Tasso, spring onion, pimento cream gravy) – yes, I had no doubts that we will experience a southern favorite such as Shrimp and Grits. Beautifully presented, very delicious – creamy grits, perfectly cooked shrimp, nice complement of smoky bacon – all in all, an excellent ( and very filling) dish.
Next The Little Yardbird (marinated country fried game hen, corn bread waffle, braised collard greens, Brookside Farms maple syrup, habanero jelly) arrived – the cornbread waffle was perfectly supportive of the maple syrup, and the whole dish perfectly worked together, as you would expect of “chicken and waffles”.
Last but not least was Crispy Pork Shank (Sea Island red pea maque choux, herb infused braising liquid) – the peas and the borth were immaculate, and the shank was incredibly crispy and succulent at the same time. This was the only moment when people at the table regret having each other’s company – this shank required quiet, intimate one on one time with two hands on the bone…
We finished our southern food extravaganza with Trio of “Home Made” Cakes – that included Red Velvet Cake, Spice Cake and Carrot Cake. While I think consensus favorite was the spice cake, my personal winner was the carrot cake – I’m a carrot cake junkie, and I love when it is balanced in flavor so cinnamon and cloves and overall sugar are all together – so this cake was exactly like that.
You know how it is easy to understand that you just visited a great restaurant? If the next day you crave the food you had the day before, that is clearly the sign of greatness. While the group was torn between Bouillabaisse and BLT, we were all chatting next day how great it would be to experience that wonderful food again – this constitutes glowing endorsement in my book. All left to say here is thank you – Thank you, Chef Scott Ostrander, for the wonderful meal. We will be back…
Disclaimer: I attended the dinner as a guest of management. All opinions are my own.
19 North Water Street
South Norwalk, CT 06854
I’m sure that a concept of a “simple” recipe is largely individual. For me, it means that you have a few ingredients, and the actual prep time is rather short. Actual cooking can be short, long or very long, like the beef brisket I shared with you a while ago – but the actual cooking time doesn’t affect the difficulty level of making the dish.
The dish I’m talking about today perfectly fits the bill – very few ingredients, very simple to make. Why am I talking here about something as banal as roasted chicken breast? I love the ultimate flexibility of this dish. Without changing the complexity for a bit, you are limited only by your imagination in the way the dish will taste, and also in the ways you can use it.
It just happened to be that I’m mostly responsible for making the school lunch for my daughter (sometimes she would make it herself, but I was unable to solidify that tendency). One of the easiest and most convenient items to make is a wrap. And we were making the wraps for the long time with Costco’s pre-sliced roasted turkey breast. The Costco product tastes fine, but I always wondered, how much preservatives do you need to make something like pre-sliced turkey breast to last for at least two weeks after it is opened (try that with regular deli meat – but please don’t share the experience). At some point, we decided that we have to try something different. Almost a revelation, but we recalled that a few times we roasted chicken breast, and it would perfectly fit the purpose of the “sandwich meat”. From that moment on, this simple roasted chicken breast proven its versatility many times. Now, let me give you recipe first and then we can talk about a few possible uses.
Roasted Chicken Breast:
- Prep time – 5 minutes, cooking time – about 50 minutes
- 3 lb chicken breast (about 3 large pieces)
- Dry herbs or any rub spices
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- salt, pepper – according to the individual taste
- cooking time – about 50 minutes ( assume 15 minutes per pound) at 375F
Cooking instructions: Take chicken breast, put it the bowl, add herbs, spices, salt, pepper and olive oil. Mix together, cover with plastic, refrigerate for few hours if desired. Pre-heat oven at 375F. Arrange chicken breast on the roasting pan, put in the oven and cook uncovered for about 15 minutes per pound. When done – take out, let it cool down. Voila – your roasted chicken breast is ready to be used for many possible applications. Here is the same recipe in the form of pictures:
Again, my real point here is to give you an idea of the dish, which can be taken in many possible directions:
- you can substitute the spices with anything your heart desires – BBQ rub, chipotle, spicy paprika, cajun – anything you can think of
- instead of using dry spices and oil, you can use marinades – mayo with mustard, wine, yogurt and garlic, anything you like.
Once the chicken breast is cooked, you are looking at multiple uses as well:
- as cold cuts – we usually make a few flavors for the parties
- in sandwiches and wraps
- top the salad
- chop it into the tiny pieces and make filling/topping for tartlets, pies, etc.
The last (and almost unbeatable) important factor for me – where I live, it is still possible to buy boneless chicken breast for $1.99/lb – compare that with the price of deli meats…
Anyway, I’m done here. I wonder what you think about this simple dish, and if you have your “staple of simplicity” in your home cooking – comment away. And be assured (or scared) – I have more simple recipes to share with you. Until that time – cheers!