Monday, March 29, 2010

A grocery store that has everything

Being Russian, I occasionally go to Net Cost Market @ 8671 18th Avenue, Brooklyn. People refer to it as "the Baza" (base) because it contains absolutely everything. They have another location at 608 Sheepshead Bay Rd.

Here is a sample of disturbing things you can find in the meat section.

"Pig Baby by pc $65.39"

"Pork Pig Feets $3.24"

"Beef Tongue $9.45"

"Beef Liver $2.46"

"Beef Cow Feet Frozen $2.24"

"Turkey Neck $3.30"

"Turkey Gizzards $4.40"

"Veal Brain $3.67"

"Veal Heart $4.82"

"Veal Kidneys $1.91"

"Veal Tail $5.69"

Interestingly, the veal tail and the baby pig are the most expensive items per pound ($4.99 per pound).

Disclaimer: I did not purchase any of these items.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Wild Game Festival @ Henry's End Part 2

We went back to Henry’s End to try other items on the Wild Game Festival menu: turtle soup and ostrich. We tried to pry out of the waiter what kind of turtle meat they use for the soup, but it turns out the turtle meat already comes in ready-to-cook form, most likely from 1-800-ExoticMeats, Exotic Meats and More, Gourmet Wild Game or from any number of other online wild game and unusual meat dealers.

Turtle Soup: 5/10
WFC member Jaclynn said that “the turtle soup tasted like Chef Boyardee” -- a spot-on assessment! The turtle chunks were small and barely noticeable, and the soup itself was quite saucy. There was nothing special about this soup and it was tepid in temperature, so it gets a relatively low score.

Ostrich: 2/10
Whenever I try something that tastes bad, I have the urge to give it a 1/10 score. But then all I have to do is remember natto and huitlacoche to realize ostrich that tastes like rotten meat is relatively palatable. I’ve had ostrich burger before and it was fine (although on the dry side), but there was something seriously off with these ostrich filets. They were like the BeanBoozled jelly beans with rotten egg and vomit flavors that taste good for a few seconds, but then the actual flavor hits. The ostrich seemed tasty the instant you put it in your mouth, however, a few seconds later turned into something only a bear would eat (bears like slightly rotten meat). It was truly bizarre. Logically, most of the dish was left uneaten. We're not sure if all ostrich meat tastes like this or if we just got a bad batch. Anyone care to weigh in on this?

Wild Menu Plate: 7/10
This was a sample plate containing elk, quail, and boar belly. I second our earlier review of the elk chops – these are delicious. Boar Belly and Quail seem like an odd couple. One is very fat and wild, and the other is skinny and timid. Elk was just a third wheel in this dish but clearly the attention whore.

We knocked down a few points off the rating for this and other dishes for being served barely warm and for no signs of any thought behind presentation. Continue...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Wild Game Festival @ Henry’s End Part 1

Whatever you do, get to Henry’s End (44 Henry Street, Brooklyn) before the end of the month for the annual Wild Game Festival. Not only will you get to eat some unique dishes but you’ll get to do so in an elegant, yet comfortable atmosphere with above average service. Four star restaurant it is not, but it is definitely worth the trip.

We decided to pair our wild game with one of several Belgian beers available, which is recommended if you prefer a substantive beverage with your substantive entrée. Otherwise, make it a full bodied red.

Manuel ordered the bison, Merillat and Jessica the Elk Chops, and Antelope for myself. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to try any of the bison since Manual had a “no sharing” policy. It’s important to note that Manuel and Merillat came to Henry’s End on their first date, they are now married, and make the pilgrimage back once a month. It’s that good!

The Elk Chops were AMAZING! Tender. Juicy. Flavorful. Jessica claimed it was the best dish she’s ever had and that is some statement considering we have dined at many of the city’s top restaurants and her brother is a chef.

Elk Chops: "best dish ever!"

My antelope was very good, although just a tad shy of excellent. Is antelope, by its very nature, more gamey than elk? That got me wondering, what exactly is antelope? Sort of like reindeer? Will it taste like venison? So I did what I always do when I’m curious about something, I opened my Google homepage:

Antelope is a term referring to many even-toed ungulate species found in the family Bovidae. The term refers to a “miscellaneous” group within the family encompassing the species which are not cattle, buffalo, bison, or goats.

Thanks, Wikipedia!

Mmmm....Antelope, a "miscellaneous" animal

Very tasty!

In any event, the miscellaneous meat was terrific. However, don’t forget the Elk was better and the bison might win out. Continue...

Sunday, March 7, 2010

"Ooh! This ice cream's on fire!"

I was in Minneapolis, MN last week for work, and coincidentally it was Minneapolis Restaurant Week. I went down to Oceanaire Seafood Room (1300 Nicollet Avenue), which is considered one of the best restaurants in Minneapolis to try their $30 prix fixe.

I was eating alone and had great oysters, Australian barramunda, and a panna cotta. All were stellar. While I was finishing my panna cotta, I struck up a conversation with a neighboring table, and somehow ended up migrating there permanently.

Our server was extremely friendly the entire night, and he said that since he rarely sees strangers start up conversations, he gave us a bottle of white wine and told us to prepare for another special surprise on the house.

The surprise was a Bombe Alaska, a.k.a. Baked Alaska Flambé. A Baked Alaska is a dessert made of ice cream (ours was chocolate) on top of a slice of sponge cake (chocolate again), covered in meringue. The entire dessert is then briefly placed in the oven to harden the meringue without melting the chocolate.

A Bombe Alaska is a Baked Alaska that is then lit on fire via alcohol (e.g. rum or cognac) that is poured over the dessert. He referred to our dessert as simply "Flambé" (French for "flamed"), which is a cooking technique in which alcohol is added to create a burst of flames (lots of things can be flambéed). I had to figure out the exact name of this dessert so I could recommend a place in NYC. You can get it at Sardi's Restaurant @ 234 W 44th Street in New York. They have a Baked Alaska (on fire) every day, $22.

The anatomy of a Baked Alaska

The dessert is absolutely stunning visually, and it is incredible that the ice cream remains cold after being lit on fire. The meringue acts as an insulator and protects the ice cream from the heat.

Our flambé was not only a show-stopper visually, it was also incredibly delicious. I am a huge fan of meringue in general (I tried to make it at home, so far without success) and the ice cream was yummy. I managed to eat a good portion of the flambé even after finishing my panna cotta. Actually, I couldn't stop eating it - it was that good. The Baked Alaska Flambé was one of the best desserts I've ever had: (10 out of 10).

Lesson learned at Oceanaire: talk to strangers - you might get a flaming surprise (although it might not always be the good kind) Continue...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Cocks and Quails at Casa Mono

Casa Mono is a small and fashionable restaurant @ 125 East 17th Street, occasionally graced by celebrities. Casa Mono makes the most of its tiny size by squeezing many small tables in, even in most unusual spots, but they don’t take reservations for large groups. If you end up waiting for a table, Bar Jamon around the corner is a good place to get a drink in the meantime. I went with two of my good friends, together we sampled cock’s comb, quail, a tagine special, rack of lamb, and razor clams.

Cock’s Comb with Cepes ($13)
This dish sounds more dirty than it really is – cock’s comb is the skin on a rooster’s head (the kind that has eyes and a beak). I’ve had almost every part of a chicken (except chicken assholes, a Korean comfort food, that I am looking to discover in New York) and I’ve never had comb before, so this was an exciting find for me. The comb is a rarely used ingredient, and I found out why – skin is difficult to make exciting. Casa Mono’s parboiled appetizer combs are heavily seasoned with salt and garnished with some greens. The presentation is beautiful and Casa Mono scores points just for experimenting. I was able to feel the texture of the comb (soft, chewy) and but the taste was obfuscated by the salt. I am normally against the cop out of deep frying, but cock’s comb would definitely have been better off dipped in batter and dunked in bubbling oil, but then it would taste like anything else deep fried and would lose all of its uniqueness. Overall, cock’s comb is worth a try, but it’s not a very appetizing dish (3 out of 10).

Quail with Gingered Cranberries ($16)
Quail is a small and delicate bird and tastes very much like pigeon. A whole quail is probably the same size as the whole frog I tried a few weeks ago, and has about the same amount of meat on its legs. Quail was a bit too timid, proper and delicate for WFC, but it is much loved in Mediterranean cuisine. I might have loved the quail too if it had been less salty. Actually, I might have loved every dish at Casa Mono more if they were less salty. Call Dr. House – we should check if the Chef has an unusual salt deficiency! (5 out of 10)

Tagine Special, Razor Clams a la Plancha ($15), Rack of Lamb (6 out of 10)
Tagine is a method of cooking food in a clay pot. A medley of vegetables or meat with couscous or rice is cooked over several hours, enabling all the juices and flavors to penetrate all parts of the meal. Casa Mono’s tagine was flavorful but not very substantial, the clams were unusual in shape but not in taste, and the rack of lamb was easily the most delicious of the four entrees but too small to be completely satisfying.

Like the restaurant itself, the portions of all the dishes at Casa Mono are notably small. Each of us ordered an entrée, but we all left hungry and thirsty (from the salt). Sad but true – we ended up going to Whole Foods to continue our dinner. Maybe only celebrities can survive on 2 grams of food for dinner.

Other items of interest on the menu include: Duck Egg with Mojama ($16), Sweetbreads with Fennel al Mono ($19), Tripe with Chickpeas ($13), Confit Goat with Rainbow Chard ($19), but we’re not going back there to try them. Tell us if we’re mistaken about Casa Mono (I really hope we are)!

Lessons Learned:
1. Casa Mono raises blood pressure
2. Cocks have skin
3. We are too fat to be celebrities