Friday, September 30, 2011

Food Photo Friday: Sept. 30

This week, I am featuring a picture from the food blog of Chef Julie Yoon, who states simply that "life is de-li-cious."  Julie's site is dedicated to an idea I fully support which is that gourmet cooking can be easy, affordable, and approachable. As part of her website, she includes sharp video demonstrations that have very sassy cinematography.  Julie shared with me that the theme of these videos is "using fresh ingredients for simple cooking, with a hint of gourmet, and a relaxed attitude."  I think that reads clearly in the presentation, editing, and feel of the videos and I recommend checking a couple out.   

I chose the picture below from a post, "Good Cooks Have Good Friends." On Tastespotting and FoodGawker, I see a lot of really great food pictures that are well-scaped and arranged.  I liked that this picture has qualities you usually see in scaped food photography, but it also embraces being an "action" moment that reminds us of food being part of a shared moment with others.  Food photography is often about food, but rarely about eating.  To say that sentiment in another way, food photography shows off the food, highlights its tastiness and appeal, but isn't about the moment of eating and enjoying.  The pictures I featured from Spoon Fork Bacon and A Cozy Kitchen also had a wonderful quality of being part of a meal, but I liked how well this picture embraced food as part of a dinner party, part of a shared experience. 

It also doesn't hurt that this meal look amazing and not to be missed.  I am little envious of not being there. 
ChefJulieYoon
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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Day Off in Omaha


After spending a couple of days unpacking, I wanted a day off to explore.  Because I had to be back in Virginia to teach, I only got a couple weeks to visit. So, Dennis and I put boxes and arranging and setting up the apartment on hold and headed to Omaha for the day. 

The first adventure was to the Omaha Zoo.  Omaha Zoo is probably the best zoo I’ve ever been to.  I’ve never really seen a zoo that so embraced exhibits that allowed you to feel like you were getting up close to the animals.  In the Bio Dome, roadrunners darted around my feet.  Then,while in the Lied Jungle exhibit, Dennis noticed a bat flying around loose.  I squealed (yes, squealed) and rushed out of the cave.  Thinking one had gotten loose, we then noticed several flying around.  Come to find out, fruit bats are allowed to fly around unencumbered by a cage, but tend to congregate near a hanging basket of cut up melon and other fruits.  You can walk by the area and duck as the fly right over your head. 
video
Besides watching the fruit bats grazing, another moment of watching the animals enjoying their food was in the Big Cat exhibit.  As we got to the Leopard cage, I noticed it gnawing on something meaty.  It took half a beat to discover a jawline and about two more beats for the leopard to paw it over to reveal a set of eyes.   Yes, the Omaha Zoo gets you up close with the nitty-gritty of the animal kingdom.  

Since we had so much fun at the zoo and it was getting so close to dinner, Dennis and I decided to check out Downtown Omaha.  It was hard to choose a place to eat because there were several good candidates.  After getting the gist and trying to debate, I mentioned to Dennis how I had just done a whole series of posts about finding a place to eat and one of them was “go with the microbrewery.” Since there was one we had just walked by, Upstream Brewing Co., it seemed like I should put my assertion to the test and give it a shot.

I hadn’t planned at all to do a post about eating out in Omaha.  I was so behind in my blogging and wasn’t in much need of another post.  But, the meal was so fantastic and so perfect for the evening, that I had to mention it. 
For beers, I had the Raspberry Lager and the Dundee Export Scotch Ale.  I was leery of the Raspberry, but my reserve was unwarranted because it was bright and refreshing and just what I wanted after a day of walking around in the sun.  The Scotch Ale (have I mentioned lately how much I love scotch ales) was also a fantastic beer to sip; it has all the body of a dark beer and none of the heaviness. They also have seasonal beers that I hope I can catch at some point: "Tree of Life: Toasted Coconut Porter," a Chocolate Stout with guajillo chilies, and a "Lemon Blueberry Haze Wit."  
Both main dishes came with an options of sides, so I had the "Tomato Basil Parmesan" soup and Dennis has the soup of the day, a spicy sausage and pepper combination.  The tomato soup was so rich and creamy and deeply satisfying.  It tasted more like a delicious cheesy marinara and was so much fun to heap on bread: kind of like deconstructed pizza. 

For the main, Dennis had a blackened "Half-Pound Brewer's Burger" with guacamole and pepper jack and I had the "Omaha Steak Cold Roast Beef Sandwich."  Both the meat on mine and his hamburger was flavorful and moist and mouthwatering.  The avocado and cheese gave the hamburger creaminess and the tangy horseradish cream for the roast beef sandwich gave bite and pizzazz. 
Sitting in the outdoor seating area, enjoying the great food and beer, and taking in the casual and communal feeling of Omaha, made for a much needed night out.  

Upstream Brewing Co on Urbanspoon
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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ribfest 2011


The last of my summer adventures involved one last trip to Lincoln, NE, to get my boyfriend settled in a new apartment.  Although most of the trip entailed long drives in a Budget truck, setting up apartment viewings, getting an apartment, and moving in, I was able to sneak in two great food adventures: Lincoln’s annual Ribfest and a night out at Upstream Brewing Company in Omaha

Ribfest
After spending the morning moving everything from the rental truck into the apartment, Dennis and I took a break to grab some soda at the neighborhood convenient store.  While there, the clerk mentioned that we should reward ourselves by going to Ribfest.  Although those words seemed puzzling to me, further research disclosed that Lincoln has an annual rib/BBQ festival near the Capitol Building.  Have I mentioned what great food karma I have?  
Ribfest invites BBQ craftsman from Australia, Ohio, Memphis, Texas, and Florida, making deciding where to eat challenging.  Add on that each vendor has trophies piled high and tons of posters bragging about awards and the choice becomes almost impossible.  Luckily, I have a partner in crime.  
I followed pink stickers to Desperado’s BBQ & Rib, a rib joint that boasts “1st Place Winner for Best Ribs and Best Sauce” and  poses the hypothetical, “Millions of Bones Sold: Can all those people be wrong?”  Although there were lots of tempting rib options, I went with my favorite, pulled pork.  I’m a pulled pork girl because at the end of the day, I love BBQ sauce.  Great BBQ places don’t put a lot of sauce on their sandwiches because the meat is so great that it shouldn’t be hidden.  I approve of that, but then I do love when they also have sauce options that I can pile on myself.  I had the option of coleslaw ontop or on the side, and, as the woman at the counter pointed out, my choice to get it on the sandwich gave my Virginia roots away.  Desperado’s pork was super tender, although a little greasy.  I tried both their “Hotter than Hot” sauce and the “Original.”  Both were great.  So great.  Spicy, smoky, tangy, and the “Hotter than Hot” had the right amount of kick. 
Dennis tried the Boneless Rib sandwich from Porky-n-Beans, the “Pride of Port Saint Lucie, Florida.”  They also had a finger-licking good sauce.  It was spicy and got progressively hotter as you ate while not over-powering.  The meat was tender but not too flavorful.  Luckily, though, a great sauce gives that extra punch the meat needed. 
I found out later that the 2011 Lincoln Journal Star Ground Zero "Best of Show" winner was a tie between Desperado's and Porky-n-Beans.  I'm telling you, it's good to have food karma like mine.  

After sampling the meats and trying two such a great sauces, I kinda wanted to know what the other stands had to offer.  Eating a sandwich from each was not feasible, from a belly and a wallet stance.  But, since each stand had sauces out in large dispensers, I took my fork (I couldn’t find a spoon) and went around and sampled each. . .
  • Aussom Aussie’s "Raspberry BBQ Sauce" and "Blue Flame:" The Raspberry was intriguing, but starts raspberry and ends with bbq flavor and I’m not sure my brain reconciled the two.  The Blue Flame was hot and then too hot to be born.  I am used to spices that builds to hot.  I am used to hot that takes a minute and kicks in.  But, the Blue Flame was a hot that had one hit and then a minute or so later, in the middle of nowhere, I felt an explosion of pain. 
  • Bowling Coyote: Interesting, but bordered on glorified sweet and sour
  • Memphis BBQ: Good smoke, full and complex, but slightly too heavy tomato
  • Texas Rib Rangers: Definitely too much like ketchup

The best was the first I tried which was  the sauce from Desperado’s.  They get my taste award. 
After I sampled all the sauces and let my stomach digest my sandwich, my eye wandered to the next important Ribfest fare, fried dough.  

There was fried candy bars, which I have always wanted to try.  Then, fried peanut butter and jelly--a naughtier version of a childhood lunch staple.  Deep fried ho-ho’s which break the rules of what is decent and delve into the world of sin.  But, fried cookie dough?  Really?  Could I walk away from something like that? 

So, Dennis and I got a fried Snickers and a fried cookie dough.  I was giggling and jumping with glee and the people running the truck laughed at me a little.  As I sampled each, so gooey and melty inside, crunchy and caking outside, I kept going back and forth about which was better.  The snickers has soft luscious bites of chocolate and caramel with punctuations of peanuts.  The cookie dough was like pulling cookies out of the oven before their time and throwing conventions about “done” and “undercooked” out the window.   How's a girl to decide?  

With a belly full of meaty, saucy, fried, and sweet goodness, I waddled back to the car. 

Lincoln sure knows how to show a gal a good time.   

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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Pierogi Quiche Recipe on Honest Cooking

On Thursday, Honest Cooking posted a recipe I did for Pierogi Quiche.  The idea came about a very long time ago when a friend and I were talking about recipes that were meant to be gratuitous.  I joked at the time that the most over-the-top dish that I could think to make would be a casserole that featured pierogies.  At the time, I let the idea marinade but never really had a moment to give it a shot. 

When Dennis and I were in Lincoln, NE, this August, he had to go to a potluck.  We were talking about things to bring and I mentioned how I always wanted to try a pierogi casserole/quiche.  He said that sounded like a great idea and I started brainstorming combinations.  I pitched one with kielbasa, sauerkraut, and mustard and one with sausage, spinach, and cheddar cheese.  He liked the latter and so a recipe was born.  

If you want the full recipe, check out the recipe at Honest Cooking: http://honestcooking.com/2011/09/21/pierogi-quiche/

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Food Photo Friday: Sept. 23


For this week's Food Photo Friday, I asked my last guest photographer, Teri from Spoon Fork Bacon, to nominate a picture.  She nominated Adrianna whose blog, A Cozy Kitchen, has a beautiful collection of photographs of food she refers to as "cozy type comfort food," or adult versions of her favorite foods from her childhood. 

The picture that Teri picked comes from a post on "Homemade Almond Butter."  I really liked that this a well-composed photograph that is casual at the same time.  The appearance of crumbs, the inclusion of the tea still seeping, and the smear of almond butter on the paper and knife give the photo a great feel of comfort and casualness.  Yet, to balance its simplicity, are still very careful thoughts about tonality, texture, line, and color, which make it quite elegant, too. 
Photobucket
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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Visit to Ox-Eye's Tasting Room


Over the summer, a local Augusta County vineyard, Ox-Eye, opened their tasting room in the Wharf Area of Downtown Staunton.  Besides being a great location, the building itself is great rejuvenation of a old space, taking a carriage house and making it into a pleasant, open tasting room with outside seating area. 

Although Ox-Eye has been settled in Staunton for months, I finally got around to checking it out myself when a friend decided to celebrate his birthday there.  Since it was my first time, I decided to give the tasting a go before I settled on a glass to toast my friend. 

Ox-Eye has four whites and three reds, although one of the whites was sold out on the day I was there.  Often when I go to tastings, I usually have a couple that I really like, some I am lukewarm about, and others that I’m not a fan of.  Except for Pollak, where I really enjoyed all the wines, and Hilltop, where I loved just tasting the different creations, not many wineries provide a tasting in which I would be happy getting a glass of any of them.  After doing the tasting with Ox-Eye, I would place them in wineries where I enjoyed all the wines I tasted.  Each one had something different to offer and I liked the range of noses, nuances, and notes. 

The three whites were a Chardonnay, a Riesling, and “White Ox.”  The “White Ox” is a blend of the 
Chardonnay and Riesling and is described as a great “all around sipping wine.”  It does get a little sweet for me, but the floral notes helped to balance that out.  The Riesling had a remarkable nose of peaches and honey and had an overall tart and tangy dynamic.  The Chardonnay, which although normally I’m not a fan of, is steel fermented, which keeps it from being oaky and buttery, the two Chardonnay flavors I don’t like.  It is stronger and fuller but with subtle front notes of apple, lemon, and citrus. 

The three reds—a Pinot Noir, a Cabernet Franc, and Lemberger—are also strong wines.  The Pinot Noir starts with strawberries on the nose but is more spicy with red currants on the palate.  The combinations makes is spicy, musky, and floral.  The Cabernet Franc is also spicy but more from black pepper than currant.  The tasting notes suggest violet, leather, and raspberry aromas with a fruity and leathery finish.   I’m not sure I got that, but thought it was an intriguing description.  Finally, the Lemberger was the wine I ended up ordering a full glass of.  When I first sipped it, I wasn’t sure it was for me.  The more I drank it, though, the more I liked it and after a couple of sips was completely won over.  I got a lot of black pepper on the nose, and the taste has black pepper and cherries, making it a little spicy and a little sweet. 

With Staunton being near Nelson County and Afton Mountain, it is well-situated for wine tasting and I do love going for excursions to the different wineries.  But, there is something really pleasant and exciting about having access to the perks of a winery, tastings and unique local wines, right in town.  So, next time you are in Staunton on a Saturday, plan a great day of exploring the Farmer’s Market, doing a tasting and enjoying bread and cheese at Ox-Eye, attending a matinee at Blackfriars Playhouse, and dinning at any number of great restaurants (like Staunton Grocery).  And, it will all be within a couple blocks.    
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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

IHOP Calories Take the Hop out of My Step


Normally, going to IHOP is a rather happy experience. I take either a pile of papers to grade or something to read and indulge in creamy coffee, crispy hash browns, and syrupy pancakes. I know they are not healthy, but that is kind of the point, isn’t.

Saturday when I went, a new menu item took the hop out of my IHOP. Calories.

Pancake combos--880, 980, and 1030. The biggest pancake option, the “Ultimate Bacon and Sausage Combo,” weighs in at a hefty 1260. Then, if you go with the never-ending stack, add 490 calories extra per triple stack. Does that include syrup? If not, add an extra 100 for good measure.

I’m not someone who is overly conscious about calorie counting. There is a number I like to keep my weight at to stay healthy. If I go below, great, if above. . . well, it will balance out eventually.

Yet, seeing those calories written down made it hard to get the breakfast option I wanted, thought about in the car ride over, and inspired me to come to IHOP in the first place. Suddenly I found myself scanning to find the “Simple and Fit” options. In a nutrition driven focus, I looked over the things I wanted—caramel apple pancakes, chocolate chip pancakes, hash browns— and started thinking about “Healthy Grain” and “Granola” and, the most un-IHOP of all, “eggs substitute” and “turkey bacon.” I love turkey hot dogs and sausages, but bacon is sacred. What was this calorie awareness doing to me!

So, I got the “Simple and Fit 2x2x2:” two pancakes, two pieces of turkey bacon, and scrambled egg substitute. 400 calories.

It was good, fine even. But, it was missing the fantastic bliss of indulgence, knowing you are being bad and not worrying about how bad. Sure, I still got pancakes and bacon and eggs. I had coffee and graded my papers. It was just that the delicious tawdriness and naughtiness of the experience was gone.

I know America has gotten obese. When I heard about places posting calories, I was all for it. Yes, make people think twice about super-sizing their Big Mac combo. Yet, when faced with giving up a longed for moment of sheer gastronomical excess, I’d say ignorance is bliss.

When I go to Panera’s and Einstein, I like calorie perspective. In Subway, the knowledge that I’m not breaking the calorie bank gives me pride. I can give up a tall mocha for a skinny sugar-free vanilla latte; I don’t feel like I’m missing out. I can give up my fries for a side of vegetables; I could use the vitamins. But please, let me have IHOP pancakes with a generous drizzling of oblivious contentment. In giving up as much as I do for nutrition, please leave me this.

First Published for Technorati on Sept. 13, 2011 . . . http://technorati.com/lifestyle/article/ihop-calories-take-the-hop-out/#ixzz1YQNHaP00
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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Viva Las Vegas: Dinner at Fleur


As mentioned in my post on Food Travel Tips, my biggest splurge was to go to Fleur, Hubert Keller's restaurant in the MGM Grand Casino.  As mentioned in other posts, I am a Top Chef: Masters fan and remembered the easy-going and talented Keller.  Normally, his restaurant would have been out of my price range, but a good deal on a gift certificate from Restaurant.com gave me a good excuse to splurge. 

Since the gift certificate specified that we had to spend $100, Kathy and I decided to order as much food as we could.  In hindsight, a better idea would have been to order a drink so as not to overly satiate ourselves as much as we did, but . . . coulda woulda shoulda. 

We ordered six small plates and two desserts.  Here is a photo journey through our food adventure.  Sorry that they aren't the greatest shots, but the low lighting in Fleur wasn't very conducive to food photography.  

Steak Tartar: I’ve never had steak tartar and decided to be brave.  The tartar itself was buttery and smooth; you would never now it was raw meat.   The tartar also had an added velvet quality from the egg yolk on top.  I also liked the flavors profile: bright citrus flavors, spiciness from the paprika used to spell “Fleur,” and a fennel aioli.  Served with a fresh salad and cheesy crisps, and Keller made me a tartar convert. 
Fig Flambe: Though this is a classic combination of thin, crunchy crust, figs, pancetta, and cheese, the effect is hardly ordinary: creamy, rich, slightly smoky, and slightly sweet.  I think there was even something that reminded me of red bean paste dolloped on top. 
P.E.I. Mussels: Another knockout and probably the best mussels I’ve ever had.  The mussels were salty and tender and made light with a bright basil Parmesan emulsion.  My favorite part was dunking the bread in the mussel liquid at the bottom of the bowl. 
Mac’n’cheese: Mac’n’cheese with lobster and a crunchy parsley and cheese topping.  It is rich and decadent and made more so by hints of lobster and sharp shallots.  
Pork Schnitzel: This was probably my least favorite; not because it was bad, it was just a little too down the line.  But, what I will say, is that it was some of tenderest pork schnitzel I’ve had and was highlighted by a very tasty sauce.  The light vinegar based potato salad on the side was also good, but my favorite part of the dish was the creamy dill cucumbers. 
Rock Shrimp: This was my favorite.  The tartar impressed me the most, but this was the one I just couldn’t stop eating.  The more I ate, the more I wanted to eat.  Homemade noodles were covered with a red dragon sauce--a sweet-n-sour sauce that is taken to the next level--and crunchy pickled green onions.   
Creme Brule Trio and "PB&J:" The desserts were a trio of creme brule (pistachio, vanilla, and raspberry) and chocolate macaroons with peanut butter buttercream, strawberry marmalade, and rum iced milk for dunking.  The creme brule was everything you want creme brule to be and the best of the three was the pistachio.  But, for me, the "PB&J" stole the show.  Words won't even do justice to how delicious that combination of sticky strawberry, salty/sweet peanut butter, chewy macaroons, and cool milk was. 
  
Overall, this will go down as one of my favorite all-around dining out experiences.  The waitress, Kathleen, seemed to be just as excited about Kathy and I’s food adventures as we were.  Upon noticing that I was taking pictures of all the food, she mentioned that she, too, takes pictures of her meals when she goes out to eat.   All the staff were attentive and helpful and seemed to share in a common joy of the food.  Given that sometimes restaurants of Fleur’s status can feel pretentious and snooty, the even-keeled and at-home vibe was very welcome and appreciated. 

What also made this an especially superb experience was the expertise of the food.  Each dish was completely unified, maintained a harmony of textures, flavors, and craft.  In other words, you could see the “theme” of each dish in every bite.  I also liked that while everyone seems to be going for bigger and better and finding the next best thing, Keller has specialized in reinventing the wheel.  He takes all those great childhood dishes, like macaroni and cheese, pork schnitzel, pb&j, that are filled with nostalgia and simplicity, and he modernizes them into adult classics, keeping the wistfulness while updating for mature palates.    

Fleur (Mandalay Bay) on Urbanspoon
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Friday, September 16, 2011

Food Photo Friday: Sept. 16

This week I am using one of my own pictures.  I had nominations ready, but I took a picture this weekend that I really liked.  Unfortunately, I have no reason to use it for anything, which is why it ended up the "Food Photo Friday" pic.  

I was trying to take pictures of ginger ale in a measuring cup and ended up playing around with some dramatic angles.  The one I ended up using was this one. . 
However, I had taken another that I thought was more interesting, except that it didn't really read clearly as being ginger ale in a measuring class.
I liked it because it reminded me of a Vegas picture I took of a light installment: 
It probably is not really considered a success when you take a picture of food and you end up making food look not like food.  Yet, it is still a little intriguing anyway. 
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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Viva Las Vegas: Dessert at The Cupcakery



The Cupcakery
After walking around the MGM Grand, New York New York Casino, and a couple other casinos, Kathy and I had a lapse in time between the sightseeing we had done and our evening plans.  While looking at the guidebook to find a snack, I noticed that there was a cupcake place in Monte Carlo casino.  And, one of my rules to live by is never pass up the opportunity to go to have a cupcake. 

When I saw The Cupcakery, I immediately liked it.  Mainly, I love using the word “cupcakery” and I hadn’t ever really heard someone else use that phrase.  I immediately felt that here was a kindred spirit.
 
Kathy got the "Peanut Butter Twist" and I had the "Kir Royal."  The peanut butter in the cake batter was so terrifically sweet, salty, and nutty; but, the cupcake probably could have used a slightly more exciting frosting the vanilla and chocolate swirled butter cream that topped it.   The Kir Royal kicked cupcake ass.  A raspberry cake, topped with a light and fluffy icing that let the kir peak through, combined to make for a not too sweet and just the right amount of sass.  It is one of the rare cupcakes that doesn’t make you feel “blah” and overly sugared after eating it.  You feel happy, content, and giddy.  It was so good, I did contemplate buying a $.50 shot of frosting which The Cupcakery offers . . . but didn’t want to push my luck. 

Overall, I’d agree with The Cupcakery being named a Las Vegas Review-Journal Poll 2011 “Best of Las Vegas” Winner.  Delightful cupcakery chicanery.  


The Cupcakery on Urbanspoon
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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Viva Las Vegas: Dessert at Bouchon Bakery

Bouchon Bakery
My brother is a great fan of Thomas Keller.  Kevin is a proud owner of Keller's cookbooks and has found them both helpful and beautiful.  He has also been to both the Bouchon in Vegas and California, but he considers one of his greatest regrets to be not getting to French Laundry before he moved from California to Virginia.  Although I would have loved to have gone to Bouchon, Keller’s Vegas restaurant located in The Venetian Hotel and Casino, I instead settled for the more cost effective alternative, Bouchon Bakery

Kathy and I split a couple of different desserts: a madeliene, an ├ęclair with chocolate, and a carrot cake cookie.  The madeliene, surprisingly, was probably the least tasty: soft, lightly sweet, nice almond taste, but too dry.  The ├ęclair was fantastic.  There was a sweet, chocolate, fluffy center surrounded by soft pastry and decked with rich dark chocolate.  My favorite, though, was the carrot cake cookie.  Slivers of orange zest brought a lot of lightness to the carrot cake and cream cheese filling and made the dessert a fresher version of carrot cake.  

Although hard to find, it is worth the effort and fun of wondering around the Venetian to get there.  
Bouchon Bakery (Venetian) on Urbanspoon
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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Viva Las Vegas: Dessert at Vosges


In order to get to try as many different types of food venues, dessert became an afternoon snack instead of at the restaurant were Kathy and I had the main meal.  I got to try a little chocolate at Vosges, a little cake at The Cupcakery, and a little pastry at Bouchon Bakery.
Vosges

Vosges, known for their out of the ordinary chocolate bar combinations (Bacon + Chocolate; Lemon + Pink Peppercorns + White Chocolate; Ginger + Wasabi + Black Sesame Seeds + Dark Chocolate), has a store in Caesar’s Palace Forum Shops.    Featuring a big sign that says, “Bacon Caramel Toffee,” it is a shop that defies walking by and not going in. 
Since I can get Vosges candy bars lots of places, I went for the truffles.  I tried the Siam Citron and the Absinthe.  The Absinthe is a nod to the liquor it is named after and features anise, fennel, pastis, and dark chocolate.  It was creamy and smooth in the center and a big bright bite of licorice flavor.  I’m not sure if I would seek out licorice in my chocolate in the future, but the combination works surprisingly well.  The Siam Citron, though, was my favorite: jasmine tea, lemongrass, coconut, wildflower, marigold petal, and white chocolate.  It is a lovely floral and with somewhat honey like hints brightened with citrust and tempered with smooth mellow white chocolate. 
 Oh, Vosges, thank you for challenging my ideas of what chocolate can and cannot do!

Vosges Haut-Chocolat on Urbanspoon
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Friday, September 9, 2011

Food Photo Friday: Sept 9

For this Food Photo Friday I have two pictures.  Ta, whose picture was featured on my first Food Photo Friday, brought this link to my attention.  The picture is from a blog called Spoon Fork Bacon and is done by Teri Lyn Fisher (the photographer) and Jenny Park (the food stylist).  The blog not only has really intriguing recipes (a recent one on "boozy bacon jam" sounds particularly worth trying), but each recipe has really well-done pictures.  In talking to Teri over email, she said that the goal is to use pretty pictures to compel people to make good food, and that certainly worked on me.  

The picture Ta had me look at is one from a post on roasting baby artichokes.  
Spoonforkbacon
My favorite is one featuring corn and jalapenos, two of my favorite foods.  I like the playfulness of the pictures, which is something that is missing at times from food photography.  I also thought the color palette was striking; the play of blue and yellow would have made Vincent van Gogh quite pleased.
Spoonforkbacon
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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Viva Las Vegas: Happy Hour at Sea Blue


Sea Blue
Sea Blue, located in the MGM Grand, is just one of Micheal Mina’s restaurants.  It has a fantastic atmosphere.  The booths are next to waterfall-like cascading fountains that are attractively lit with blue lights and fall into smooth river rocks.  The decorations contrast blues and reds and nice geometric patterns highlight seaforms while adding modern flair. 

I was intrigued by the menu, but scared away by the prices.  However, for us poorer foodies, Sea Blue does offer a nice Happy Hour, giving you a chance to try fancy haute-cuisine for less. 

For drinks, $5 gets you either the daily cocktail (whiskey sours on my visit), a limited selection of red or white wine, or sangria in red or white.  I got a red sangria and Kathy got the white version.  Both had great hints of fruit and had citrus to brighten the wine.  They were good except for an absence of fruit to eat when you finished the drink—that is my favorite part of sangria and I really was looking forward to a nice hunk of apples or oranges dripping with red wine. 
  
For food, Kathy and I split Stuffed Chincoteague Clams, Falafel Fritters, and Octopops.  The Stuffed Clams were by far the star: they were full-flavored from the wood roasted chorizo that was spicy and smoky.  The saltiness and liquidity of the clams did a great job cutting the oiliness and meatiness of the chorizo which gave the dish a nice balance.  The Falafel Fritters were also quite good.  Served with tahini and tomota confit, the dish wasn’t too heavy.  The tahini, which was more towards hummusie than sesame, was creamy and warm from hints of garlic.  The tomato confit was a little miserly and felt more like a garnish than a component.  The Octopops, well,  were what they claim to be . . . pieces of octopus tentacles on a stick.  They were chewy and smoky from the chargrill cooking.  Plus, dipped in the coriander aioli, they were quite tasty.  But, I can’t seem to figure out what flavor is inherent in octopus.  It doesn’t have the fun saltiness of clams, mussels, and oysters; it lacks the subtle sweetness of shrimp, crab, and lobster.  It even is missing in the subtle nuances of squid.  It is what it is.  
Unlike Level 107, it was harder to turn this Happy Hour into a full meal.  They’re offerings are lacking in a nice substantial carb element like the Sliders or Crostini.  So, I’d recommend Sea Blue’s appetizer as a good preshow snack that gives you a good sense of what Sea Blue can cook.  But, for those with more grand appetites, you will probably still need something else a little latter.     
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