Monday, March 28, 2011

SPQR Still Has It

SPQR continues to rank in my top five, not just for its amazing handmade pastas (hello cocoa linguine in pork cheek ragu and cappelacci black kale and goat cheese-filled pasta with meyer lemon, walnut and saba). The other stuff is equally inspired. See for yourself ...

I could eat this crostino every day; it's like Christmas on a plate. Spread with the creamiest burrata and popping with the flavors of chili, honey, fried sage and rosemary, not to mention toasted hazelnuts, this plate got us started on our merry way. And how.

MC2's 14-year-old daughter voted for the fried pickles and anchovies, and who was I to disappoint my cousin's kid? In fact, the salty crisped-up lil fish coupled with the sweet dill—along with dabs of spicy aioli—were an awesome pairing.

We loved SPQR's luscious asparagus custard made with creamy fonduta and dressed with foraged mushrooms and California asparagus ...

And made quick work of the perfectly poached farm egg sitting on top of a subtly sweet spring garlic soubise (read: bechamel-based sauce), crowned with a tangle of fried onion rings, bacon crisps, radish and carrot slivers.

Before the final dish came out, I thought I'd hit my limit. After all, among the 3 of us, we'd plowed through 7 dishes already. But when I caught sight—and a whiff—of the gorgeous venison (done 3 ways—on the grill, in a braise and made into sausages) joined with a tangy-sweet huckleberry sauce, I got my second wind. Needless to say, we scraped the plate clean.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

In Season: Strawberries

Just a little something I whipped up ...

a strawberry cheesecake with chocolate crust ... mmmmm.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Oh la la Oola

I'll be honest. It's Oola's awesome spicy cilantro, ginger and soy-glazed ribs that got me thinking it was time to get over there for a Dine About Town prix fixe lunch. Coupled with a piquant red cabbage-apple slaw, the meaty main was just as good as I'd remembered it. Meanwhile, the massive croque monsieur made with airy brioche bread, black forest ham, Swiss cheese and tons of creamy béchamel brought oohs and ahhs all around the table. The cheese was perfectly crisped on the outside, sealing in a wonderfully moist interior. Mmmm.

Oola really goes all out for DAT. Most restos just put out 2 courses for lunch, while Oola does 3. The finale comprised a really fresh raspberry and frangelico bread pudding sitting in a lovely pool of crème anglaise, crowned with a scoop of whipped crème fraiche. Absolutely delightful.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Quelle Fromage

I had a bit of a scare last month: I thought I might be developing lactose intolerance. The horror. Several hours after I'd plowed through half of the cheese plate you see above (comprising a lovely and luscious assortment of unpasteurized French and other European cheeses), I was doubled over in pain. Could it be? After all these years of getting off scott-free, eating tons of dairy while my mother and sister suffered from this awful condition, it seemed I might be stricken.

But it appears I'm in the clear (and the gut pain and bloat was likely due to a simple case of gluttony). This past week, I've been eating copious amounts of queso fresco and sour cream with no problems at all. Phew. All's well in the world.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Crab Boil in the Creek

A couple of months back, lil cousin YJ and I drove up to the Creek (aka the WC) for a big ol' crab boil at cousin MCC and fam's fab abode. Here you see the loverly Dungeness crabs resting in the backyard, waiting for their impending doom.

We discussed the 2 humane options for killing the crustaceans—either stab them through the brain with a chef's knife or stick 'em in the fridge for 20 minutes so they go to sleep (an Alton Brown "Good Eats" tip). I voted for the latter method, but big D took a quick peek in the fridge and said to me, "Nope, no room. You're killing them."

Sigh. Of course, it'd been years since I'd killed crabs this way—I hadn't done it since cooking school. But I was up for the challenge. And in fact, 3 of the 4 crabs surrendered to the grim reaper with nary a protest.

But then we got to the 4th and last mother of all crabs. And it fought back. And then some. Holy crap. There were screams ... and laughter (of a hysterical nature). The dang thing was bucking like a crazed bronco on the counter, so much so that it fell to the floor. Big D scooped it up in one motion and held it down while I shoved with all my might and finally plunged the knife through its nobby noggin.

Ah, sweet success. We threw the mofo into the roiling pot of spiced water after the rest of its docile brethren.

It's said among certain Asians that a violent death will produce a bitter-tasting flesh. Not so. These succulent crabs were incredibly sweet and subtly tasting of the sea.

We worked our way through every corner and crevice ... mmmmmmm.

Love crab.