Friday, December 25, 2009

Recipe: Egg nog

I love egg nog every Christmas, partly because its seasonal, partly because it lets me have brandy for breakfast. The price of alcohol in the US has allowed me to make egg nog with VSOP Courvoisier (mwahahahaha).

Egg Nog

4 eggs
3/4 sugar
1.5 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 tspn nutmeg

For each cup:

1/2 shot spiced rum
1/2 shot brandy (or cognac)

  • Crack the eggs into a blender and blend for 1 minute
  • Slowly add the sugar and blend for a further minute
  • Add the cream, milk and nutmeg and blend briefly until mixed
  • Makes around 4 mugs
  • Pour into glasses/mugs and add alcohol to taste, 1/2 shot each of brandy and spiced rum is warming and perfect
  • Hot - Easiest is to warm in a microwave for 2 mins, if using a stove then stir regularly to avoid curdling
  • Cold - Leave the mixture in the fridge until chilled, serve in a sherry glass or punch cup

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Review: The Russian Tea Room, New York City, USA

Things have been a little quiet because I've been busy at work leading up to Christmas and now am on holiday in the USA. Expect a number of posts on the good, bad and the ugly.

Now we went to a concert at Carnegie Hall and so I just *had* to take a picture of the menu at the Russian Tea Room, however on approach the prices were not as ridiculous as I had originally expected. Obviously then it was time for a post theatre seating!

Word has it that since the Tea Room reopened in 2002 that the quality is lesser and the clientele more touristy but fie on them I had a good time (and besides I'm a tourist!) and the overly opulent interior is definitely worth a peek.

There was a post theatre prix frix menu at a very reasonable $55USD for 3 courses however it was missing many of the items I wanted to try so we went for a la carte.

Pol Roger NV Brut $55USD for a half bottle

A half bottle is enough for 2 to have a couple of hefty glasses of sparkling and a good size for a meal such as this.

The champagne is a soft bready sparkling Pinot/Chardonnay/Meunier classic of the region, what I love about Pol Roger is the soft fine mousse, far finer than many champagne houses.

There is a choice of breads included with the meal, this is a dark pumpernickel, done so much better in the US than at home.

Goat Cheese and Wild Mushroom Blinchik $18USD

Caramelised onion, mild goat cheese, wild mushrooms and rich duck ribbons in a classic wholegrain crepe. Melt in your mouth and just delightful in the cold.

Caviar Tasting Plate $28USD

I could hardly come to the Russian Tea Room and not have caviar! Done in a very classic style with blini, creme fraiche, chopped egg and red onion. I am a little disappointed that they are all red caviar types (trout, salmon and white fish) which are quite common at home but nonetheless this is a very solid example of the classic Russian appetiser.

Somehow I forgot to take a picture of the red, given the meats we were looking for a softer red and the Pinots and such were uninspiring so we went for a solid but not excellent Argentinian Malbec at $18USD a glass.

Duck $38USD

Well the naming of the dish was a bit uninspiring but the dish itself wasn't. Perfect cooked moist duck breast served in an orange anise reduction with plump raisins, enoki mushrooms and a 'beluga' lentil salad. Rich and sweet the sides were a perfect marriage with the rich fatty duck, offset by the lightness of the lentils.

Kobe Tasting Perigord $48USD

Now I don't understand how they can have "American Kobe" but perhaps the term Wagyu is tainted in the US. The beef was done 2 ways and both served with a light sauce "perigeux" a primarily truffle based sauce with an earthy tang that accompanies this extravagant ingredient. The tempura style onion rings were light and not at all oily, other sides included cauliflower gratin and baby carrots. A very solid dish but potentially a little rich at $48USD when you consider the beef we get at home.

Cherry and Cheese Blintz $18USD

Now if there's one thing I like about Eastern European cuisine over... well just about anything really (though the dumplings certainly are worth a mention) it's cherry and cheese desserts, whether they're Hungarian cottage cheese dumplings, Czech cherry strudels or these Russian blintzes.

Soft crepes are filled with heady fillings of sour cherry in one and a soft whipped cream cheese in the other, milder than a neufchatel and reminiscent of a marscapone but I was unable to determine the cheese used. Individually these crepes are beautiful, with a small amount from each they are table thumping, eye rolling, mouth porn. After a 3 course meal however one serve shared between two was more than enough.

Espresso $8USD

Definitely better than the ubiquitous Starbucks (I mean honestly I have not been able to stand on a street in NYC without at least one Starbucks being visible) this espresso was nice, but $8 for a demitasse cup is pushing it, no matter how nice the silverware is.

If I wanted Russian souvenirs I'd be planning to buy them in Russia but nonetheless the case of Faberge eggs and Russian crystal vodka sets is worth a peak.

All in all a very solid meal, and more affordable than expected at $140USD a head including wines. The experience was worth the price tag, the surroundings are definitely worth the cost and the food was world class though possibly not mind blowing.

The service was what you would expect of a meal in this price range, though the bus boys were as useless as the waiters were excellent, but I think the same can be said of most US restaurants. I will put this down to the minimum wage laws uninspiring workers.

I would recommend if you are in New York trying the post theatre menu at an affordable ticket entry to an extravagant location, whether you spend more than this is really down to your tastes.

The Russian Tea Room
150 West 57th Street
New York, NY 10019
Phone: +1 (212) 581-7100

Formal dining atmosphere (dress appropriately)
Reservations recommended
Late dining options available including post theatre seating

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Review: Danks Street Depot Christmas Bar Food Night

Danks Street Depot is a restaurant with a slow food and sustainable eating twist that leaves the hippies for dust and instead just turns out delicious, heartful and elegant food. Most of the food is locally sourced and there's almost always a story if you can coax one out of the staff.

Danks Street have taken to doing bar food nights which are essentially a tapas style dinner with sharing plates on a theme. Given the time of year it was definitely time for a seasonal twist on this event and a modern take on traditional Christmas foods was on display.

had organised a kind of "foodie blind date" with a few other gourmande types and so we tottered in, ordered the lot and dove in on multiple kinds of meat. The fun of eating with other foodies is watching everyone pose their food and take pictures. I was a little surprised later when someone took exception to my photographing when so much of the table was, but never mind I'm not for everyone really, and I make no apologies for my endless blogging and internet addiction.

2008 Josef Chromy Pepik $11 by the glass

The other girls were drinking sangria but ... well I can't bring myself to do it. Kitty had to laugh when I said that "in my mind sangria is something you drink when you're poor," but for me this was one of those student specials that you put together when you know that the wine you can afford isn't the wine you want to drink.

Given my taste for aperatifs it was sparkling for me! There were only a couple of choices on the menu but I do rather like Tasmanian cuvee and this is a solid example, light and citrussy with a soft toast flavour to the length. I prefer a finer mousse, but you can't have everything for $11 a glass.

Half dozen Foster Rock oysters, 3 natural and 3 kilpatrick $36

Being friends with restauranteurs has its advantages, we were sent this plate of oysters compliments of the chef. I am not generally a shellfish person but could hardly say no to such an offering.

Chicken Liver Parfait $16

You know I can never resist liver, so this was a must have. I'd have been tempted to order a second plate actually. The liver was smooth and delicious, though I'd have preferred less butter, the vinegared raisins were a wonderful pungeant tang to set off the neutrality of the liver and I intend to recreate at home.

Roasted apricots and peaches $16

Stone fruit are a big part of the festive season in Australia. My grandmother particularly goes crazy for cherries at Christmas because she always dreamed of cherries in winter in Spain and is delighted to live where here dream can come true.

This was the dish that didn't strike a real chord with me; I'm not fond of the texture of roasted stone fruit and I found the sweetness too strong for the pancetta.

Prawn Cocktail $19

This is such a funny dish, the height of 70s chic, the foam of a past generation. Served classically with a lettuce leaf (but thankfully sans the scallop shell!) and the "not so classic" Danks Street prawn cocktail sauce. A great rendition and a dish I wouldn't normally order so very interesting to try.

Whole BBQ Snapper $35

I do so love an excuse to order a whole fish; juicy and fresh and always drawing the jealous eye of other diners. The plump white snapper was glorious under crisp skin and a smooth herb sauce. The joy of this dish is in the quality of the produce; simple, elegant, excellent.

2007 Cigale Grenache Mouvedre $44 per bottle

This blend of 63% Grenache, 21% Mourvedre and 16% Shiraz from the Spinifex vineyard has a full body from the strong Australian shiraz but smoothed down by the Grenache making it a soft drinking wine for such a recent year. If you can't bear the sight of another Australian Shiraz or Cabernet this comes recommended.

Roasted Pork Belly $20

Crunchy roasted crackling gave way delightfully to rich pork belly and creamy sweet fat. The crackling was I'll admit quiet difficult to cut but worthwhile when I had. Others found the fennel in the grape salad overwhelming but I cannot get enough of the licorice smoothness and combined with the roasted fat had me in eye rolling wonder.

Glazed Christmas Ham $20

Multiple kinds of pig, we couldn't resist! This free range ham was smokey with a strong tang, just perfect with the strong seeded mustard, but the real winner here was the spiced pickled cherries, causing moans and surprised eyes from the entire table.

Panzenella Salad $16

I do so love Panzenella, it's like a deconstructed caprese sandwich. Bread, basil, good olive oil, flavoursome organic tomatoes set off by sharp capers and anchovies. It may seem like a waste to order salad in light of such a meal but I press on you that it is not, particularly in the heat of the Australian festive season.

Potato Salad $8

And what would a Summer party be without potato salad eh? Certainly a more seasonal approach than fries or mash! Crunchy celery mayonnaise and soft baby potatoes, a real comfort food for the warmer months.

2007 Josef Chromy Botrytis Semillon $8 by the glass

Dessert wine has really grown on me recently and Australia does some lovely botrytis Semillons. This wasn't anything particularly special but still a nice way to round out a good meal with a sweet.

Mulled Wine Sorbet $12.50

I loved mulled wine in winter, and this sorbet was spiced and sweet and has the mouth feel of a warming fireside drink but with the cold sweetness perfect for the warm weather. Highly recommended!

Blood Orange Sorbet $12.50

I am a real sucker for Blood Orange sorbet, this is more like a sherbet though, with a sort of dry sweetness to the end.

Chocolate Fondant $12.50

Look at it ooze, that's real food porn!

Cherry clafouti $12.50

I love the presentation in the blini pan but I admit I did not have an opportunity to try this dessert :o(

2008 Monomeith Pinot Noir

I had never herad of Monomeith but was impressed by this cheeky Australian pinot, enough to drink far far too much of it. Woops. Luff the handmade paper label as well, though I'm loathe to judge wine by its label.

Dank Street's delightful proprietor, Chef and owner Jared Ingersoll

The bar night concept is one that I really like, little nibbles and a range of tastes appeal greatly to me more than a heavy a la carte meal and without the need for the added formality of a degustation. Family style and descending upon the best tid bits really added to the sort of competitive eating feel of foodies in the wild. Danks Street is a real Sydney gem and well worth a visit, at $80 a head including tip and drinks it's also in the affordable range of good food and doesn't make me feel as if I'm being judged for wearing too much eyeliner in the restaurant. Definitely on the list of restaurants to try for your next special date or dinner, or even just a lazy Sunday brunch.

Take note also foodies that Danks Street Depot are opening an eatery at the Sydney international airport (just in time for me to take vacation!), so if you can't stand the idea of airline food, McDonald's or Starbucks, stop in for a bite before you board.

Danks Street Depot
1/2 Danks Street
Waterloo NSW 2017
Phone: 02 9698 2201

Monday - Wednesday 7:30am - 4:00pm
Thursday - Friday 7:30am - 11:00pm
Saturday 8:00am - 11:00pm
Sunday & public holidays 9:00am - 4:00pm

Fully licenced
Bookings advised for dinner

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Review: Yumei, Haymarket

Surprisingly given I am a tragic otaku and computer nerd I had never been into the Capitol Square building. It's a dangerous place filled with components stores, purikura machines and Japanese nail booths.

It also contains a Passionflower Asian ice cream bar and a number of Asian restaurants. I was of course immediately drawn to the Japanese restaurant, Yumei.

I don't think coming at lunchtime was the smartest of ideas, this place obviously runs off business crowds and local international students running errands. Like many Asian eateries in inner city Sydney there was a bell on the table for attracting attention but the rather large eatery was completely full and it took some time to get attention. When I do get attention the servers are very polite and bring water, menus and offers of Western cutlery without blinking.

Gyoza $6.50

I bought a quick lunch meal of gyoza and a bento; a fairly quick and easy way to judge a local Japanese eatery. I suspect quickly that they have a Korean chef since this gyoza are more like kyoza; fried and filled with rice noodle. They're good, because well all dumplings are good but they weren't what I was expecting and are a little heavy given the katsu dish I have ordered.

Pork katsu bento $12.80

I choose one of the smaller bento and I'm glad I do, this meal is huge, the deluxe versions are the size of a large cafeteria tray and contain many compartments. This one is a slightly sensible serving of rice, breaded pork, salad and miso soup.

I begin to suspect I'm correct about the chef when I notice that the katsu isn't breaded in panko crumb but standard bread crumb. On the other hand it is perfectly cooked and the tonkatsu sauce is tangy and sweet and highly recommended, much lighter than similar sauces I have eaten. The salad is a nice offset to the fried food and I was a bit nuts about their dressing.

Shiro miso - included with bento

The miso soup is a bit generic but it is good quality, I just would have preferred some more interesting garnishes in it; a Japanese meal without tofu makes me sad :o(

All in all it's obviously Korean influenced but Yumei is a generic but certainly attendable Sydney lunch venue, nothing fancy, still tasty and reasonably priced. I would go early or late to avoid the rush, and sit somewhere you can people watch the locals snapping shots in the photo boths.

Yumei Japanese Restaurant
Capitol Square Shopping Centre
69/730-742 George St
Haymarket NSW 2000
(02) 9212 6665

Casual atmosphere
No reservation required