Archive for the 'Food and Drink' Category

The Gastronomique Tour: Week 2 – Switzerland

The second and final week of my tour lands me in Switzerland to sample some of its delicacies (food and drink), and more importantly, visit w/ my cousins, some of whom I haven’t seen since 2004. My home base was Delemont, the town where my mom grew up and where most of my cousins still live. It’s close to the Alsace region of France so we visited a couple of beautiful towns just across the border – Kaysersberg and Colmar. Other stops were Lucerne (famous for its covered bridge), Vercorin and Grimentz (two alpine villages in the Valais region). Grimentz is one of the best preserved Swiss alpine villages in that region. 

One of my cousins introduced me to Damassine, a delicious eau de vie made from damson plums. It quickly became one of my favorite after dinner drinks, having a great aroma and flavor in addition to aiding in the digestion of wonderful meals. One evening we sautéed 2 types of local fresh trout purchased at the Delemont farmers market and of course we finished the meal w/ a bit of cheese and Damassine!

While in Vercorin, my cousin prepared a tradition meal called Assiette Valaisanne, which typically is a platter loaded w/ local cured meats, local cheeses, butter, thin slices of a dense rye bread called seigle, sliced fruit, nuts, cornichons and tomato wedges. This is served w/ wines produced regionally. It makes a delicious meal. Click here for an example.

It was hunting season while I was in Switzerland, so most restaurants offered seasonal dishes made w/ fresh game meat. I was fortunate to sample some venison and chamois prepare a couple of different ways during some of our meals out. One chef slowly braised chamois for 18 hours and served it w/ local mushrooms, spaetzle, seasonal vegetables and fruit. Another preparation was a roulade of venison breast stuffed w/ ground venison and served w/ red cabbage and spaetzle. Both were delicious!

When in Switzerland, I always hope to eat Raclette (a Swiss specialty). It’s one of my favorite ways to eat cheese. A picture is worth a thousand words as you will see in the photos of the Raclette lunch we ate at a cousin’s home one day.

I hope you enjoy these choice photos as much as I enjoyed my short time in Switzerland!

P1010958 Kaysersberg

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P1010985 Vineyards in Alsace

P1010986 Colmar (aka – “Little Venice”)

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P1020031 Very slow braised chamois at L’Etoile in Moutier

P1020038 After dinner at L’Etoile

P1020051 Lucerne

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P1020095 Delemont (my mom grew up in the building on the right – her dad’s bakery was on the bottom level)

P1020101 One of the many colorful fountains in Delemont

P1020148 Delemont farmers market

P1020130 Our trouts for the evening are the filets on the right

P1020143 Mushrooms galore

P1020209 Downtown Delemont

P1020213 Waiting for the Raclette

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P1020214 Yum!

P1020281 Vercorin

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P1020250 Grimentz

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P1020269 Our lunch spot in Grimentz

P1020276 On the menu…

P1020271 Veggie lasagna

P1020272 Braised venison

P1020273 Venison roulade

Au revior et a bientot j’espere!

Bruno

The Gastronomique Tour: Part 1, Week 1- Southwestern France

How do I edit a fantastic 2 week vacation during which I snapped 670 photos?… Not easily!

To sum it up, seeing family I hadn’t visited since 2004 was so enjoyable I wish I had more time to be w/ them. I definitely won’t let so much time pass before my next visit.

My first stop was Southwestern France. I landed in Bordeaux and spent the first week exploring the region surrounding Agen, the city where my brother and his wife live. This region is filled w/ great food and beautiful countryside which encompasses many well preserved medieval villages.

This post and the ones to follow will provide a visual taste of my experiences…

P1010639 Agen’s organic farmers market

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P1010661 Gavaudun

P1010683 Biron

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P1010712 Monpazier

P1010732 Bonaguil

P1010739 Rocamadour

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P1010839 Foie gras museum

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P1010873 Josephine Baker’s old house (Chateau des Milandes)

P1010881 Beynac

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P1010919 Our picnic spot (Roque – Gageac)

P1010920 Decadent picnic food

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A bientot!

Bruno

 

Missouri Grass Fed Beef Brisket Dinner

Here are a few photos from the brisket dinner I talked about in my previous fennel gelato post.

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A votre sante’!

Bruno

Eating Santa Fe and Exploring the Land of Enchantment…

… or what I did on my summer vacation. A few weeks ago I went to New Mexico for 5 days w/ my best friends, Bob and Kristin. We stayed in Santa Fe and took day trips to explore the beautiful places that surround that enchanting city. We also found some great places to eat and drink. I took many, many pictures but I won’t bore you w/ all of them… just some of my favorites!

Day 1: Drove up from Albuquerque, checked into the hotel and got settled. Walked along Canyon Road to look at the galleries and visit the leather shop, Desert Son, to have a belt made for a silver belt buckle I bought 4 years ago. We then had dinner at Bert’s La Taqueria which was recommended to us by the owner of  Desert Son. The food there was not your typical Mexican fare and the chef/owner, Fernando Olea, took time away from the kitchen to explain the cuisine he was preparing that evening. We sampled pork w/ a  traditional red mole from the Puebla region of Mexico; beef tongue w/ a spinach based green mole from the Quintana Roo region; and some unique desserts that we promised not to share the main ingredients so other customers can guess as we did. The food was so good we went back the next day for lunch!

Bert’s sign, front door and patio

Beef tongue w/ green mole; pork w/ red mole; desserts

Day 2: Started the day w/ a cup of coffee from Holy Spirit Espresso, which uses delicious beans from Caffe D’arte (their northern Italian roast called Firenze), then went to Desert Son to pick up my belt. In the afternoon we drove to Chimayo and Taos. We visited the Santuario de Chimayo where miracles have occurred, then headed up to Taos to see the famous multi-level pueblo there. Unfortunately the pueblo was closed for the day so I don’t have any pics. Got back to the hotel late in the day, starving, looked at the menus at a few restuarants, then settled on a great Japanese place that had a fantastic price for bento box dinners. Kohnami Japanese Restaurant – another great find! Didn’t take any pics but click the link for their menu.

Outside of Holy Spirit Espresso; window shopping; picturesque window

Santuario de Chimayo

Day 3: In the morning we drove up to San Ildefonso Pueblo to look around and check out the famous black pottery made there. Had lunch in at La Casa Sena which has a beautiful courtyard and a great wine shop next door. Spent the rest of the afternoon walking around Santa Fe. then stopped in at a new restaurant that had just opened that weekend, Milagro 139, for appetizers and a glass of wine.

San Ildefonso Pueblo

…more pics from San Ildefonso

La Casa Sena courtyard and wine shop

Walking around town

Day 4: Drove up to Bandelier National Monument to hike around the cliff dwellings of the Pueblo Indians that date back to the 11th century. A very interesting and beautiful area! After hiking the dwellings and having a picnic lunch there, we drove back to Santa Fe for our last dinner of the vacation. We decided to eat at a restaurant that we looked at earlier that had a great menu w/ great prices – Dinner for Two. We chose their Monday dinner special which is a three course meal for $19 – the food and service was excellent!   What a perfect way to cap off our last evening in Santa Fe!!

Bandelier National Monument…

…more Bandelier

…and more

… and more

Dinner for Two

Salad; grilled dry aged New York Strip; stuffed chicken breast & tornado of beef

Day 5: Said goodbye to Santa Fe and drove back to Albuquerque. Before heading to the airport we stopped at a winery – Casa Rondena – to sample some New Mexican wines. The estate is beautiful and the wines are very good!

Casa Rondena Winery; tasting room…

…and the estate

That’s all folks! Until next time…

Bruno

Pi for Pizza in St. Louis

I’m crazy about pizza! When my best friends, Bob and Kristin asked me where I wanted to go for my belated birthday dinner I suggested the new pizza place just east of the U. City loop, Pi. I was curious to taste their pizza, which was being described as San Francisco style. During the 2 1/2 years I lived in San Francisco I had never heard of this style of pizza.

One of the owners, Chris Sommers, stopped by our table to say hello, so I took the opportunity to ask him about San Francisco style pizza. He explained that there is a pizza restaurant there called Little Star which opened about 3 years ago. They make a unique deep dish pizza using corn meal in the crust. Chris said the corn meal not only gives the crust a great flavor but also makes it sturdy enough to support the weight of the extra ingredients of deep dish pizza. Pi purchased the rights to the dough recipe and introduced it to the St. Louis pizza repertoire.

With my curiosity satisfied, my friends and I proceeded to place our order. We decided to create our own deep dish pizza w/ roasted garlic, mushrooms, campari tomatoes, basil and mozzarella. We also ordered one of the signature thin crust pizzas – The East Loop – which is topped w/ mozzarella, pesto, roasted chicken, mushrooms and onions. 

The pizzas were both delicious! I preferred the thin crust, but Bob and Kristin loved the deep dish so much there was a battle over the last piece!! We ordered a bottle of the Renwood Syrah to go with our pies. A great match! To finish off our meal Chris brought out a complimentary  piece of apple pie which is also baked w/ the deep dish corn meal crust. The apple pie was exquisito!

The service at Pi was excellent and the atmosphere is laid back and fun!

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Deep dish; thin crust; apple pie

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Shots of the interior

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The side room; the patio out front; Bob and the birthday boy

Thanks Bob and Kristin for treating me to a delicious birthday meal!!

Ciao,

Bruno

The Birthday Tour

Unfortunately I had to go on the road during the week of my birthday this year. But, as luck would have it, we overnighted in Monterey, California on the eve of my day. I wanted to eat a special meal on my birthday so we went to a place I tried last year where I ate some great seafood and drank some great California wine – Monterey’s Fish House!

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Fish House exterior and interior

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more interior shots; the menu

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Hama Hama oysters; scallops, scampi style

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close-up of scallops; wine of the evening; Sal, our bartender

If you enlarge the picture of the exterior you may notice the police tape on the hand rail in front. I’m assuming someone overdosed on the delicious seafood and wine, then crashed through the railing on their way out (ha, ha)! If I lived in Monterey or in the vicinity, this would soon become one of my restaurant hangouts. Nothing fancy, just damn fine food and wine at a reasonable price; friendly, knowledgeable staff and a laid back atmosphere – definitely my kind of place! They serve some of the biggest oysters I’ve ever seen – Hama Hama oysters from the deep water pacific caught off the shores of Lilliwaup, Washington. For dinner I had the scallops, scampi style which consisted of about a dozen sea scallops perfectly seared then served over fettucini w/ a sauce of fresh garlic, white wine, butter, green onions, tomatoes and mushrooms. Divine!! I broke the rules by having w/ the scallops one of my favorite red grape varietals, Zinfandel. California produces some of the best, so I chose the Boeger 2006 Walker Vineyard Zinfandel from El Dorado, California. Usually I have room for dessert, but not tonight!

 If you happen to find yourself in Monterey, I highly recommend you give Monterey’s Fish House a try!! If Sal’s tending to the bar, tell him Bruno sent you :-)

A votre sante’!

Bruno

Bastille Day 2007

It was a great day to celebrate the storming of the Bastille. This is the second annual Bastille Day party chez Paula’s maison. She really outdid herself this year! The menu was magnifique and she even had a French music ensemble playing some Edith Piaf, among other tunes, to set the mood!  There were many more people attending, however my friend and former co-blogger, Duane, was not present this year to chronicle the event as he did last year. Unfortunately he recently found out his cancer has returned and he is once again battling this horrible disease. My thoughts and prayers are w/ him. I wish him the best and hope he will be present next year and able to announce his cancer is once again in remission. Duane, since you were unable to be there, here are some photos for your vicarious enjoyment. I tip my glass to you my friend, may you be back in action soon…

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Le menu; amuse bouche

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Le dinner

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Paula avec ami; Herve'; la music

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Mon tutti fruitti; autre dessert

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Les party people

Salut…

Bruno

A Week in the Life – The Culinary Tour (i.e., Pigging Out!)

We had a great week flying around the US and sampling the food of the region whenever we had the opportunity! We started our eating tour in Denver, where we had dinner at Las Brisas, a great little Mexican restaurant near our hotel. I don’t have any photos but you can click the link for their menu. Next stop Jackson Hole, where we had lunch at Sweetwater Restaurant. They serve great elk burgers and elk sausage sandwiches! The next evening we found ourselves in Des Moines, Iowa. We had dinner at Centro (sorry, no photos, but check out the link), then strolled around the Des Moines Art Festival which was in progress. As luck had it, later in the week we landed in New York City. We stopped in the Shark Bar at Spring and Mulberry Street for a couple of Belgian beers (Hoegaarden wheat), then headed over 1 block on Spring to Lombardi’s to sample some of their famous coal fired oven pizzas. The ovens heat up to 850 degrees F, creating a beautifully crispy, chewy and blistered crust. I tried to get the dough recipe, but apparently it’s top secret! After the pizza we headed over to Little Italy for dessert at Ferrara Cafe. They serve great gelato and cannoli among other things!

Hope you enjoy the photos….

 Ciao,

Bruno

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Jackson Hole, Wyoming

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Jim, Jeff and me in front of Sweetwater

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Up, up and away!!

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Me in the Shark Bar…  Little Italy and Grand Central Station 

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Lombardi’s, yum!

The First Supper – Pizza and Sweet Potato Gelato w/ Candied Pecans

Hello everyone and welcome to my new blog! It’s good to be back after being in blogging exile for way too long!!

My new kitchen is now finished (I just need to do some touch-up painting) and I love it!! What an improvement over the old one! Here are a few photos…

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To celebrate, I had a few friends over for one of my favorite dinners… PIZZA!! For dessert we had sweet potato gelato w/ candied pecans. After sampling some of the gelato I decided this is one of the best flavors I’ve created. I will definitely make it again!! With the gelato I served some El Dorado 15 Year Special Reserve Rum from Guyana. Awesome stuff… if you like cognac, you will love this rum! It has a beautiful nose of caramel and a long, smooth finish.

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Pizza

Ingredients for dough:

4 cups all purpose flour

1/4 cup olive oil

1 rounded tablespoon yeast

1/4 cup plus 1 1/4 cups warm water

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon honey

Procedure for dough:

1) Mix yeast, 1/4 cup warm water and honey in a large mixing bowl, let stand for 2 minutes or until foamy

2) Then add to bowl: 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 1/4 cups warm water, 2 teaspoons salt

3) Then mix in 3 1/2 cups flour (mix in up to 1/2 cup more flour if dough is too moist)

4) Kneed dough, form it into a ball and return it to the bowl, dust w/ flour, cover and let rise for 1 hour (in a warm spot in your kitchen)

** recipe yields three 14 inch pizza crusts if rolled out thin

Ingredients for pizza:

Crimini mushrooms (sauteed w/ garlic, red pepper flakes,, oregano and salt)

Tomatoes – thinly sliced

Mozzarella cheese – thinly sliced

Oregano

Minced garlic

Olive oil

Parmesan cheese – grated

Salt + pepper

Corn meal for dusting pizza peel

Procedure for pizza:

1) Place pizza stone on middle rack of oven, then preheat to 500 degrees

2) Cut dough into 3 equal pieces

3) Roll out dough to desired thickness

4) Transfer dough to pizza peel (the wooden thing I call a palette) that has been generously dusted w/ corn meal so pizza slides into oven easily

5) Top w/ mozzarella, tomatoes, oregano, salt and pepper, minced garlic, mushrooms, grated parmesan, and drizzle w/ olive oil

6) Bake at 500 degrees on a pizza stone for 8 minutes; check if bottom of crust is nicely browned… it may need to be rotated {back to front} using a metal spatula and baked for another minute or 2 for a perfect pizza

Sweet Potato Gelato w/ Candied Pecans

Ingredients:

1 cup brown sugar

2 cups sweet potato puree (I roasted the potatoes in the oven at 425 degrees for 50 minutes until soft, then let cool before scooping out and pureeing in food processor)

6  large egg yolks

1 quart half and half

1 cup candied pecans – roughly chopped (**see previous pumpkin gelato post for pecan procedure)

Procedure:

1) In medium saucepan heat half + half gently to a simmer, then turn off heat

2) In medium size mixing bowl combine egg yolks and sugar and beat together until pale yellow

3) Beat 2 tablespoons of the warm half + half into the egg mixture (do this slowly to avoid curdling the eggs), then beat in the remaining half + half little by little

4) Place bowl over a pot of simmering water and cook over a gentle heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture coats the back of a spoon (do not let temperature exceed 170 degrees F or mixture will start to curdle)

5) Cool in an ice bath

6) Blend in 1 1/2 cups gelato mixture to sweet potato to thin puree, then stir puree into the remaining gelato mixture, blending well, and chill for at least 4 hours in fridge

7) Churn in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions, adding the chopped pecans halfway through the churning process

8) Transfer gelato to a 2 quart plastic container, cover top w/ parchment paper cut to size (this will reduce air exposure and prevent ice crystals from forming on the surface of gelato), and freeze until firm

Yield: Approx. 1 ½ quarts

It’s my birthday today so I’m treating myself to a long weekend in San Francisco! I leave tomorrow and still have a ton of things to do today. I need to end this post and continue my chores.

 

Thanks for visiting the new site.

 

Bon Appetit!!

 

Bruno

 

 

 

The Last Supper – Lamb Stew w/ Spinach Noodles

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My apologies for the scarcity of posts lately. I have been a bit preoccupied since January w/ a major and very important project… remodeling my kitchen!! I didn’t realize how involved this process can be. Meeting w/ the contractor, lining up the financing, picking out fixtures, emptying the cabinets, and dealing w/ the little surprises that inevitably pop up! Getting all these things accomplished during my time off left very little time for blogging.

To say goodbye to my old kitchen I decided to have some friends over for “the last supper”. Lamb stew served over spinach noodles sounded like a good choice for a cold winter evening, so that’s what I prepared.

Lamb Stew w/ Spinach Noodles

Ingredients:

10 cloves garlic  – peeled and crushed (for marinade)

1 ounce dried morel mushrooms

4 tomatoes – 1 inch dice

1 bunch Swiss chard (1/2 pound) – chopped crosswise into 1 inch pieces

10 crimini mushrooms – sliced

3 pounds lamb stew meat (1 inch cubes)

2 mulato chiles – crumbled (for marinade)

1 butternut squash (1 1/2 pounds) – 1/2 inch dice

4 celery stalks (cut into 1/2 inch pieces)

5 carrots (peeled, halved and cut into 1/2 inch pieces)

1 leek (white part only) – 1/2 inch slices

1 bag red pearl onions – peeled (10 ounces)

1 tablespoon cumin (for marinade)

1 bouquet garni (2 sprigs of thyme, 10 black peppercorns, 2 cloves, 2 bay leaves all wrapped in a leek leaf tied w/ twine)

1 cup red wine (I used a nice red from Portugal)

1 tablespoon flour

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

2 pounds spinach noodles

salt and pepper to taste

Procedure:

1) Place lamb into 13 x 9 inch glass baking dish w/ garlic, chiles and 2 tablespoons olive oil; sprinkle w/ cumin, mix well then cover w/ plastic wrap and place in fridge for 1 to 2 hours

2) For veggie stock: In an 10 quart pot, pour in 1 tablespoon olive oil then over low heat sweat the carrots, celery, butternut squash, pearl onions, leek and crimini mushrooms for 5 to 7 minutes; add 6 quarts water and bouquet garni then simmer for 45 minutes; skim off foam periodically

3) Rehydrate morels in 1 1/2 cups warm water for half an hour

4) When veggie stock is ready, add tomatoes and morels w/ liquid; continue simmering

5) Remove lamb from fridge, heat a large pan, add the marinated lamb; when lamb is browned use a slotted spoon to place the lamb (w/ the garlic and chiles) into simmering stock

6) Deglaze the lamb pan w/ the red wine and cook until reduced to 1/3 cup; make “red roux” by adding flour to the pan, stirring frequently while roux is cooking (be careful not to burn the roux)

7) Add the roux to the stew pot and continue simmering the stew for 1 hour; add the chard during last 1/2 hour of cooking; salt and pepper to taste

8) Let stew cool, cover and place in fridge

9) The next day, remove stew from fridge 1 hour prior to service and reheat over gentle heat

10) For noodles: Fill a very large pot w/ enough water to cook pasta; bring water to a boil; salt the water well then add the noodles and cook until “al dente”

11) Strain noodles in colander, place in a large serving bowl and melt butter into noodles

12) Place a nice portion of noodles in each plate and ladle stew over the noodles

13) Savor your “last supper” w/ a delicious full bodied red wine (we popped open a bottle of 2003 K Vineyards Cabernet/Syrah blend, The Creator, Walla Walla Valley, Washington, as well as several other bottles of nice wines!!)

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Farewell old kitchen….

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Kitchen3 Kitchen4

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To the future… and my new kitchen!!!

Until then,

Bruno

** dinner photos courtesy of Michelle