I have not done much cooking at all lately! December just got so busy with things going on after work, seeing a few shows, and seeing friends. But, we did do some good eating over the holidays, both at some great restaurants and some great home-cooked meals with family and friends.
|tablier de sapeur - or crispy tripe|
We went to DBGB, Daniel Boulud's more casual beer and sausage place, and loved it. It's a more casual and lively place. We started with some really great oysters and the Lyonnais-style crispy tripe, pictured here. It was basically a square of tripe, breaded and fried and then served with a tomato and tripe salad and a really great mustard. I don't know that we were expecting breaded and fried tripe, but together it all worked. The fried part of it could've been almost anything, but the tomato and tripe salad was lovely. We then had the country pork and chicken liver pate, ordered two of the sausages, the boudin basque, a blood and pigs head sausage over scallion mashed potatoes, and the beaujolais, a pork sausage with bacon, mushrooms and red wine and served over lentils. they were both terrific. Definitely check it out when you are in the mood for some sausage!
We went to Marea for our annual big splurge holiday dinner (we go to a nice dinner rather than buying each other gifts for the holidays) on the recommendation of friends who really raved about the crudos and pastas - they were really good. We decided to go ahead and do the prix fixe, four-course meal - we're not huge dessert people so opted to switch out one of the desserts for the ricci - crostini topped with sea urchin and lardo. It was really rich and terrific, though I think I prefer sea urchin cold served in sushi. We then each did a taste of 3 crudo - razor clams, a deep water snapper and the horse mackerel. The pasta dishes were good - we opted for the heavier options - fusilli with octopus and bone marrow and the agnolotti stuffed with veal and served with sweetbreads. The entree fish dishes were fine but overall a bit boring and forgettable - I had the John Dory with roasted sunchokes and blood sausage, and Rick got the scallops with chestnuts and porcini mushrooms. They were done well but overall were not all that memorable. And then we ended the meal with a dessert that was also fairly forgettable - it was some kind of tart with bits of grapefruit and a grapefruit sorbet that was ultimately a bit too bitter. We did like the little chocolates they brought out at the end of the meal. Overall, the wines were good, the room is a bit sterile and the crowd a bit stuffy, the crudo and pastas were good while the other dishes were a bit forgettable. It's a big splurge restaurant and overall, it was fine but we probably won't go back.
The night we got back to New York after the holidays, we trudged through the snow and slush to go to Ma Peche, David Chang's newer place in Midtown in the Chambers hotel that is billed as more of a French Vietnamese place, before stopping by Rick's office so he could pick up his computer. The food was great, though we probably boozed it up more than necessary and ended up blowing half the bill on drinks. We love starting meals with cocktails, but in New York, sometimes the prices for cocktails are kind of ridiculous and sure adds up quickly on the bill! But, it's still a fun way to start the meal :) We started with some oysters, the Burgundy snails and sausage and the crispy pigs head - both really great dishes, though I have to say, it reminded me a bit of eating at DBGB just a few weeks earlier. The snails were big and meaty, the sausage was really tasty and that bit of mustard on the dish was fantastic. The crispy pigs head was basically some fatty pork, formed into a patty, coated with sesame seeds and fried up, served over lentils and bits of apple. The pork wss really fatty but delicious! And then we split the cod in a coconut mussel broth, which was also really good, and the veggie sampler - a bit of the days three veggie sides - cabbage with slices of beef tongue, brussel sprouts in what is basically a strong on the fish sauce version of Vietnamese nuoc cham, the typical dipping sauce, and carrots with bone marrow - they were all really good. We ended with a bit of cheese and a glass of port and trudged back out into the snow with full bellies and a bit of a buzz feeling kinda great about living in New York!
Over the holidays, my momma really outdid herself cooking all my faves - pork stuffed bitter melon, thit kho or pork simmered in caramel sauce with hard boiled eggs, banh canh, a soup with thick noodles, bits of pork feet, pork, squid and shrimp, ca ri ga or Vietnamese curry (check out my recipe here), and of course pho with all the fixings! We also did a lau, or hot pot, night and my family gathered around the table and dipped slices of uncooked squid and beef and shrimp, and different veggies into a hot pot in the middle of the table, and then dipped the cooked foods into a sauce of fish sauce, pineapple and some shrimp paste, or mam tom. And then at the end, you have some of the now very rich and sweet broth with all the goodness of the food cooked in it with a little bit of noodle - so good and satisfying. I also made a bit of chocolate tofu pudding since my mom was curious about what it tasted like - you can see the recipe here.
My big, extended family gets together for Christmas Eve - there was a turkey and a ham, salad, sweet potatoes, Vietnamese blood sausage (my uncle makes it and it's fantastic!), there were some snacky things like cheese, my sister made a chicken liver pate, some mini quiches, dumplings, and then a pot of bo kho, a Vietnamese stew often referred to as a Vietnamese version of pot roast flavored with lemongrass, fish sauce, chunks of beef, carrots, onions, and then the not so pot roasty ingredient - chunks of slow-braised beef tendon, my fave part of the dish! And it's eaten with some baguette or french bread. My family gatherings typically include basically two meals - the main spread of food earlier on, and then there is always a pot of some kind of soup for your second meal before everyone goes home :)
Also, the day before the big Christmas Eve feast, my siblings and a few cousins went out to the new Hmong Village in St. Paul, an indoor market with shops and food stalls, to get lunch and try out a few versions of papaya salad and some Hmong sausage, and a few versions of laab/laarb, one with ground chicken, the other with beef and beef tripe. We also got some stuffed chicken wings, fried chicken feet, some chicken meatballs, and some fried taro and banana. We definitely tried some new flavors and it was fun to have a big group to try so many different things.
Christmas day we flew to Wisconsin to see my husband's family and sat down to a nice hearty dinner of ham, beets, mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes, and asparagus. We also did what has become our annual pizza night after Christmas with Rick's family (I think this is the third year now) - his hometown has some great crispy thin crust pizza places - there's just something about those super thin and crispy pizzas, cut into little squares, that you just can't get in New York. Then we spent a night with our friends John and Amy and their girls and were treated to a lovely dinner of red pepper soup, braised beef short ribs, mashed potatoes and green beans.
We definitely did some hearty eating while in the Midwest for the holidays!
I'll post about all the great food we made at home on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day in a bit - and now, it is back to the gym and eating a little lighter again! :)
Hope 2011 is filled with all kinds of great things for you and yours!