Sunday, November 27, 2016

Cosme comes out top on with creative Mexican cuisine in NYC(11-25-16)

Cosme opened in NYC ( at  35 E. 21st St. about 2 years ago under the name of the  great Mexican chef Enrique Olvera. It's been virtually impossible to get a reservation there for quite some time but when we decided to spend our Thanksgiving Friday night at the nearby Edition Hotel on Madison Square I made it my business to get a reservation for the three of us on Friday night.

When we arrived at 6:30 the place was already leaving and we were not too fond of the sustained droning bass noise for what they seem to call  music. Over the evening the music did improve and I didn't feel like I needed to leave faster due to the unbearable drone.
While  the place is noisy the decor is simple and they have wooden tables with exposed floors making for even more noise. There  is some modern Mexican art on the wall that wouldn't be worth taking home but what they did have surrounding the entire room were  small humidifiers really making a very nice difference on an extremely dry cold New York night.
Server Victor could not have been more courteous giving us as much time to peruse the trysting drink menu as well as the fairly small food menu which consisted of no more than 20 items. Will ordered a plain Margarita while I ordered a Striptease which was Vida Mezcal with Dolan vermouth Blanc guanabana and lime as well as the most awesome absinthe salt surrounding half of the glass. It was quite strong but really delicious.
I chose the Huarache which was a large tortilla fairly thick filled with surf clams and marcona almonds as well as a lime kosho salsa verde on the side..superb.
Will started with the Burrata which was made with epazote garlic mojo and Market greens.
Samuel chose to go right to the main course of short ribs scallions Cipollini onions and avocado and of course all of the main courses that were meant to be wrapped in tortillas had the most delicious freshly baked tortillas brought right to the table from the kitchen.
Will and I decided to split the main course of their signature dish called duck carnitas with onions radishes and cilantro. The dish is cooked for over 8 hours and the duck is deconstructed and then reassembled to bring to the table so that it looks like a duck but has no bones in it with all the crispy skin layered on the top. You must see my Facebook page to totally understand this. These came with fresh limes which made the dish so much better as well of course as the tortillas and two sauces one was a tomatillo chili and a spicier Serrano and Chile de Arbol. 
At $72 it is a huge dish and Samuel help us finish it off luckily because it really is meant for 3 or 4 people at minimum, but we were truly glad we decided to order it.
We have always enjoyed our Mexican wines each time we go South of the border and sadly there are virtually none imported into the United States. The  chef has chosen here to import his own wine called Tinto de la Casa which comes from Vina Cava in Guadalupe of the Baja Peninsula and  it is a chocolate intense 2012 blend of Tempranillo, Syrah, Mourvedre and Grenache that makes you proud of any Mexican wine with a huge burst of flavor in every sip. 
Will ordered a delicious warm apple crumble tart with ginger cacti and mezcal vanilla ice cream that was out of this world and then some delicious fruit gelees arrived at the table which were made from Tamarind and dusted with a Chile de Arbol sugar.
So maybe it's a bit noisy and maybe it took us a while to get used to the music but the food experience here was definitely worth it.

Friday, November 25, 2016

NYC's Ai Fiori comes out in front forever (11-23-16)

 It has become somewhat of a tradition for us to head to New York early Wednesday morning the day before Thanksgiving catch a matinee on Broadway and then head to the quiet and serene Ain
 Fiori in the Langham Hotel where Chef Michael White, one of the great chefs in New York has one of his wonderful Italian dining palaces.
 We always arrive early and the place was deserted as we sat down, but the place with filled up to about half capacity by the time we left 3 hours later. It tends to be a very quiet night for dining in New York and we really love the quiet relaxed and very high end feeling of refinement with beautiful linens and crystal and excellent service from top to bottom.

In our attempts to buy Sicilian and taste as much as we can before we go next summer we ordered a bottle of 2014 Tenuta di Fessina Etna Bianco "Erse" which had an apple and earthiness flavor that we loved.
Slim crisp grissini arrived in a glass filled with extra virgin olive oil and basil leaves and we spent some time perusing the menu.
The four course 99 dollar menu which is in a la carte choice from each category really gives you a lot of leeway and we each chose our dishes and sat back for a ride as an amuse of parsnip puree with pistachio crumble and oranges gelee arrived. The puree was excellent but  the crumble was a bit soggy and perhaps should have been put on only at the last minute before the amuse was served.
The first courses were as varied as they come with Sam ordering a Zuppa di Porri or leek and Yukon Gold potatoes soup with creme fraiche  and crispy prosciutto.   Will  opted for the Polipo alla Piastra which was octopus with sweet potato caponata, brown butter and pine nuts. My Riccio de Mare was a decadent sea urchin  panna cotta with lemon gel, creme fraiche  and caviar that absolutely was gorgeous with its tiny radishes and cucumbers curled up on top and decorating the beautiful plate. Be sure to look on Facebook for a lot of photos.
I do have to add that when I put the photo on Facebook and tried to read in the name of the dish on my phone it understood me as "search in Punta Cana" instead of sea urchin panna cotta!!
The pasta courses are probably the highlights of the meal here, and this meal was no less than any other normal one.  Samuel chose the Risotto Acquarello with brown squash, cranberry beans and Tallegio cheese. Will managed to hit the richest dish in this course with Marubin or Duck  Ravioli with foie gras butter and cherry gastrique. 
I find the pastas that have a little spice here to be the best and the Trofie Nero was amazing squid ink pasta with Ligurean crustacean ragu with seppia, scallops and spiced  Mollica or bread crumbs on top. 
We moved on to a different bottle of white wine which was very different in an earthy oaky way as it came from the Liguria it was called  Riviera Ligurie di Ponente Pigato 2013 by Laura Aschero.
 I forgot to mention that everything comes with olive oil and salted butter and I'm talking about the amazing breads such as olive baguette, rye,  pecan raisin roll, and whole wheat.  We tried  to refrain but it is virtually impossible.
Needless to say Sam had the Tagliata or prime dry aged strip loin which came with endive, potato terrine style "cacio e pepe" and bordelaise sauce.
Will  chose the Spada or extra virgin olive oil poached swordfish which came with artichokes, basil pesto and prosciutto. He declared the the dish tasty but that the fish itself was a bit on the soft side.
 I was thrilled with my Astice or butter poached Nova Scotia Lobster with delicata squash some petite onions and black trumpet mushrooms.
Sam went light for desert with Pear, Berry and Mango Passion sorbets.  Will had  the toTorta di nociole or milk chocolate mousse with hazelnut sponge, caramel and hazelnut gelato which disappeared fast, well I chose a plate of three cheeses and they were all top notch excellent:
Valencay, a soft ash rind French goat
Pleasant Ridge Reserve,  superb from raw cow from  Dodgeville Wisconsin
And Rouquefort d'Argental a raw sheep blue from Midi-Pytenees that was stinky and heavenly.
Speaking of heavenly we rolled out the door and headed home after an amazing first day of our Thanksgiving trip to New York.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Celebrating at CENTROLINA is always amazing! (11-13-16)

Last night, ten of us headed to the private dining room at CENTROLINA ( at DC's CityPlace for a celebration of our recent anniversary as well as our dear friends' Mel & Juan (they have been together an amazing 41 years!).
Chef Amy Brandwien and her team headed by server, Vidal and sommelieuse Kristen, made every bite a memorable experience for the close to four hours we enjoyed there.
Many of the dishes can be viewed on my FB page as always, although I must apologize that we all gobbled up the dessert before I thought to take a photo!
Our evening began with a toast using Ca' del Bosco Sparkling Rose and our "line" for the evening became, "Every one deserves a break this week...." not even considering a hint towards the fast food chain!
We became truly amused and intrigued by our Amuse of a Grilled Virginia Oyster with Nduja Sausage ragu that tickled our palates and make us beg for more. This was followed by Tonnino or cubes of top sushi grade yellowfin tuna, with lemon crema, roasted beets, fried sunchoke crisps and micro greens. We never did discover if the small soft onion-like ingredient was pickled shallot or ?? The larger tuna pieces mimicked the smaller beet pieces and you had to guess which was which.

We moved on to a Soave-Bertani 2012 and I can't recall when I last had this wine I was weaned on in my teenage years. It's a fascinating wine where 1/2 of the grapes are left on the vine to dry and then belended for a wonderful dry white loaded with so many flavors. Gorgeous sea scallops arrived on top of a disc of lentils and beet greens surrounded by carrot puree, lemon jus and micro greens. The scallops were seared to perfection and not salty at all, the lentil mix was a superb foil and made me want to try this at home as we saute beet greens a lot, but I never though of the lentil mix!

Our next wine was yet another revelation from Giulia Negri, 2013 Langhe Chardonnay "La Tartufaia" and even moreso I was intrigued as one never hears about women winemakers in Italy! She grows the grapes near truffle fields, hence the name, but this chardonnay is loaded with not only truffle essence but tons of minerality and earthiness. It was paired with what may be the most imaginative vegetarian dish I have ever had: Corn polenta topped with miniature Shitake Faux "Meatballs" laced with basil oil, micro greens and parmesan. Vidal explained that the "meatballs" are created from oven-roasted veggies and shitakes and then lightly fried. What a treat!

Giovanni Rosso 2008 La Serra is still a young Barolo, but was indeed smooth and beautiful to drink, but while the wine shone, the 5th course was perhaps everyone's top choice for the night: Potato Gnocchi with Truffle Butter Sauce & Parmesan that was so rich we were all squirming with delight in our seats, even from just the amazing white truffle aroma as the dish was placed before us! It made me want to make a reservation for a white truffle dinner soon; if I only had the time!

G.D. Vajra 2012 'Bricco delle Viole" Barolo is even younger, but an interestingly light Barolo but was superb with out Spinach Pappardelle with Veal Ragu, Peas, Genovese White Sauce and parmesan, another divine dish for vegetarians of which there are indeed so many at Centrolina.

Gorgeous pieces are seared very rare tuna arrived with an Eggplant Involtini stuffed with Fennel Sausage and served over a dash of Greek yogurt with intense Calabrese chilis that I can't recall ever being so spicy. Chef Amy has indeed used spice over the years and to great benefit as many of reminisced about her SPAGHETTI alla CHITARA from her previous home Casa Nonna which was superbly loaded with cauliflower and chilis! Franchetti 2011 from the slopes of Mt Etna in Sicily was an amazing treat and I would never have believed it was a majority of Petit Verdot  which was huge in the mouth with an herby berry taste that had us raving. This is a winery we shall surely visit next July when in Sicily!

Next came a superb Shenandoah Dry Age Ribeye with Broccoli-Rabe and Cannelini Beans, simply grilled and full of flavor. When Kristen dared me to guess the wine (hinting it was American), I said right of the bat, "I hope its not RdV," and of course, it was the 2011 Lost Mountain from RdV in Virginia, which she had decanted for three hours and was drinking magnificently; so now I know the secret to enjoying this wine I have poo-pooed a lot because of its huge price tag and need for long aging. Lesson learned.

When attending the James Bared dinner in DC last month Centrolina's brilliant Pastry Chef Amanda Cook-Pilkerton I had her brilliant Baba Cake and begged her then and again a week prior at March of Dimes to do a riff on this brilliant pastry, The Baba was poached with Hard Cider and served with Raspberry Puree, Apples & Whipped Cream. We all gobbled it up so fast, despite being so full! The piece de resistance was the accompanying Foggy Ridge Virginia Fortified Cider made from Pippin Black Apples that won me at the first sip. I have never been a hard cider fan, but this was truly delicious, sweet and full of flavor and an insane pairing that made so much sense!

Needless to say, we were all satisfied, full and thrilled at what many declared the best meal ever. Bravi to the entire Centrolina team, and especially Chef Amy Brandwien who generously donated this awesome dinner to March of Dimes Signature Chefs last year!