Champagne and what?

When a monk named Dom Perignon was making wine in 1693 and couldn’t get rid of the bubbles he reportedly tasted it and exclaimed “Come Quickly, I am drinking the stars!” he probably wouldn’t have imagined that 300 years later on a continent that hadn’t been discovered yet it would be poured as a pairing to fried chicken.

Yep, that’s not a typo.  Champagne and fried chicken.  An odd but yet delicious pairing with the chicken crust matched with bubbles.  Delicious.  So this has become a favorite indulgence and thanks to the addition of a Sous Vide stick from Sansaire and our growing collection of fantastic grower champagnes from Somm Select (they offer some amazing wines, new every day and well worth checking out) it’s become even easier to make an amazing feast.

Why Sous Vide?  Well I’m lazy, ok not really but I do like cooking off all the chicken in advance and Sous Vide is a great method for that.  Just season and bag up the chicken, drop it in a water bath for a few hours and go about your day.  Then when it comes time to fry all you’re really doing is re-heating the chicken and setting the crust.  This makes it easy to cook off a large batch of chicken quickly and consistently without having to worry about undercooking.

There are no shortage of recipes available for Sous Vide chicken or fried chicken but not as many that deal with Sous Vide Fried Chicken so I did some hunting around through the internet and our collection of cookbooks and came up with a method combining a few different recipes.

I really like Thomas Kellers Ad Hoc cookbook and many of the meat recipes involve brining in advance of cooking.  His fried chicken recipe is no different BUT I was in a hurry in this instance and didn’t have time to brine the chicken in advance so I tried to infuse some of the flavors from his chicken brine into the chicken during the sous vide cooking.  In this case I added sage, rosemary, lemon and some thyme into each bag of 3-4 pieces of chicken.  I seasoned fairly heavily, and in the end, result it worked pretty well, not as good as the brine but the chicken had some nice citrus and herbal undertones.

For the breading, I used a combination of flour with some onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne pepper and baking soda.  The chicken was already cooked so it was just a matter of dredging the chicken in the flour, then a dunk in buttermilk, then flour again before a quick fry of around 2.5 to 3 minutes at around 350 degrees.

Served warm with some great champagne and there you have it.  A delicious meal and fantastic yet unexpected wine pairing.

IMG_1695

Settling in

Coming up on two months now since we moved into our new place, boxes are steadily being unpacked and we’re getting back to normal.  We got new windows installed last week and I put the hours of HGTV viewing to good use and started installing the new window trim which has been quite popular with the four legged residents of our house.

The other day I was moving some boxes around in the basement and found a cat perch that mounts to the window sill that I had bought a couple years ago but never mounted in our old place since there just wasn’t the right spot to put it.  So I decided to put it up on the office window to give them a place to plop down and watch the squirrels and birds that run around in the backyard.

Marion found it right away and decided it was his, Seamus wasn’t so sure about that and there was a minor standoff and discussion about this newly discovered territory.

WP_20140813_14_34_18_Pro  WP_20140813_14_36_10_Pro

In the end, age and experience won out and the victor celebrated in the customary fashion.

WP_20140813_16_51_33_Pro

Who hates popcorn?

I sure do, but maybe not the type you’re thinking of. The type I hate was a popular ceiling decoration starting in the 60’s which we’ve been scraping down for the past couple days but the end is nearing and soon a nice painted ceiling will have replaced the ugly, sparkly, 1965 popcorn in the living areas.

The trick seems to be using water, lots of it. Soak the area, then go away for 10 minutes and come back to spray it some more. When you start scraping it should just come right off and make a huge mess.

Speaking of that, make sure that if you have floors that you care about (and we do) that you protect them well. We spent an hour or so tarping and taping off everything before we really got started and that’s been a huge time saver allowing us to move pretty rapidly and rid the house of the popcorn.

WP_20140609_19_28_04_Pro

EK413: An unexpected Upgrade

Months and months ago when we were searching non-stop looking for all of our flights in and around Australia and New Zealand I came across a great deal to get us between Auckland and Sydney for the last leg of our vacation.  I thought it was a typo when I secured us two tickets for around $150 but went for it and was even more surprised when I saw the flight was on an Emirates A-380.  A plane that holds upwards of 500 people for a 1500 mile flight?  Makes no sense but whatever and we bought the tickets and moved on.

Fast forward almost seven months and four days before said flight I get an email from Emirates offering us an upgrade oppurtunity on the flight to Sydney.  Normally I wouldn’t bother on a short flight but it was a good deal, we’d paid next to nothing for the tickets in the first place and it’s business class on an A380 which is not something either of us were likely to experience any time soon let alone on Emirates.  After some further conversation where we figured out that this upgrade would give us dinner at the airport, dinner on board, hours of free internet access that we’d been lacking and whatever..it didn’t take much convincing to go ahead with it.

On the day of the flight we showed up at the airport probably four hours early wanting to take full advantage of the lounge facilities for happy hour and getting some much needed blogging and photo uploading complete before our flight.  We settled into the lounge and celebrated with some vintage Veuve Clicout and snacks while we worked.  In the meantime the lounge quickly filled as we learned there were not one but four large flights departing for Australia and then on to Dubai that afternoon.

Boarding was called and we wandered our way down to the terminal, along the way we saw this Air New Zealand plane with some cool Hobbit artwork:

Image

Another few minutes and we arrived at our gate which was predictably at the end of the terminal and got a first glimpse of our ride to Sydney waiting at the gate.  We walked through the gate and found two separate boarding ramps for coach (lower level of the plane) and first/business on the upper level.

Image

Image

 

 We were welcomed on board by one of the most pleasant flight crews I’ve ever run across, I think there were about 14 crew working in the business cabin for about 30 people.  We found our seats about halfway down the cabin nicely appointed with wood, these great storage compartments under the windows and even a mini-bar at each seat stocked with fancy water, juice, soda’s and glassware.  Each seat has a huge video screen you control by touching the screen, using the wired remote or if you can’t manage that there’s also a touch screen wireless remote for controlling the seat, lights, AC and the massive library of movies, TV, music etc..

Image 

ImageImage

After a second pre-flight happy hour we were under way and it was a weird take off, the plane rolled for a long time but the acceleration wasn’t as pronounced as you would feel in at 747, 767 or smaller Airbus plane it was like one second we were rolling on the ground and the next we were floating upwards under the massive wings attached to this plane.  It was a strange realization that we were in a huge plane and that there was essentially another huge plane right down the stairs with another 300 people on it.  Crazy.  Also worth mentioning that this plane is QUIET, the usual noise you get on planes seemed to be about 40% less than usual.

Service began with a nice Bordeaux and then some nice smoked salmon and lamb cutlets for dinner, these were easily as good or better than the lamb I’d ordered in a couple of restaurants during out time in NZ.  For dessert a delicious chocolate cake and fruit.

ImageImage

Once dinner was over we decided to head back to the bar for an after dinner drink, yes, I said back to the bar ON THE PLANE!  The rear of the business cabin is setup as a lounge/bar area complete with with top end liquor and wines, little canape’s and other snacks available throughout the flight.  The bartender was a nice guy from Brazil originally and we chatted with him while the other attendant who was also super nice and very used to people looking amazed that there was a bar on the plane, took a picture for us.

Image

Champagne and martini’s seemed to be most appropriate for this lifestyles of the rich and famous/international super spy 007 moment so we did just that and enjoyed our little club flying along at 38,000 feet.  Just since they had it, I grabbed a scotch before we headed back to our seats to relax for the remainder of the flight wishing for the first time ever that the flight could be longer.

ImageImage

All to soon we landed in Sydney after what seemed like the longest low level approach to the runway ever, a nice smooth landing and we breezed through customs and very quickly found ourselves downtown at the Westin and ready to enjoy the last few days of vacation exploring Sydney.

 

Happy New Years!

It’s early morning in the US but here in Melbourne we’re only 4 short hours away from 2014!  We’re relaxing in our little studio apartment rental with some cheese and beer while we upload photos from the last couple days up in Cairns.  You can see our pictures so far over on our photo site http://thebriankdotnet.smugmug.com/BPKphoto/Travel/Land-down-under and we’ll be adding more to that gallery as we go along.

So happy new years!

Where in the world are BK and KMJ?

The short answer?  We’re headed to the deep south for a few weeks in Australia and New Zealand!  Looking forward to some extended time to explore and enjoy another round of summer weather.  We’ll be blogging of course and check back here for more info starting next weekend when we arrive in sunny Cairns, Australia for a few days of exploring the Great Barrier Reef.  Where else are we going?  Here’s a good overview and check back for updates, we can’t wait to get going!

Image

BarMini MiniBar BarMini

Usually this B&K Eat but in this case it’s B eats and B is very thankful that K let me do this without her 🙂

A few months back I knew I would be in Washington D.C.  this week for a conference and working from the office here so I had started to do research one weekend on places to eat while in DC.  I was starting to keep a list of sorts which got longer the more I talked to people who live in the area and then one day it occurred to me that MiniBar, which was closed the last time KMJ and I were here in 2011 might be open so I figured what the heck I’ll see if they’re open.  Much to my surprise I got a reservation.

What is MiniBar, well I think their website describes it well: “minibar by José Andrés is a study in avant-garde cooking and one of the nation’s most exciting dining experiences. An imaginative menu offered in an intimate setting, the creations combine art and science as well as tradition and technique. Here you will be taken on a culinary journey. Each bite is designed to thrill the senses by pushing the limits of what we have come to expect, and what is possible from food”.

It’s worth noting that MiniBar is a somewhat unique place, many courses, some just a bite, some more substantial but all of them have some sense of whimsy and like to play with your palette and mind by changing textures and temperatures and through artistic styling.  They also only seat 18-24 people a night in groups of six, so reservations are tough to come by.

Anyhow, I arrived a bit early for dinner and walking into the building you find yourself in a cream colored room with no apparent doors then the hostess just appears from one side which is BarMini and found me a stool.  Getting settled in I asked for a suggestion based on bourbon and found myself with a “Old Pal” of Rye, Campari and another liquor that I can’t remember, along with an amuse of chamomile, chai and vodka (excellent).  A bar that serves an amuse drink?  Cool.  The bar area is really modern looking, lots of stark white and for the size of the place a pretty large bar and service staff, this I was about to learn would be a trend for the night.

ImageWP_20130731_003WP_20130731_004

A short time later I was escorted back through the mysterious entrance room through another door you wouldn’t have knowing was there into the waiting area just outside MiniBar.  I met my dining companions there, a trio from Virginia and North Carolina and we sat there finishing off drinks and they delivered a quick snack to start things off.  Puffed rice crackers with a freeze dried Nori powder.  Salty, slightly chewy and pretty good, we all agreed that a bag full of them would have been nice.  The room was a bit crazy, I was sitting in this chair meant to look like it was made of marble with a big clock on the wall behind me and large golden egg shaped lamp over my shoulder.

WP_20130731_005 WP_20130731_006WP_20130731_008

Now for the main event, we were ushered into the dining room which has two big bar style tables with a kitchen between them.  The chefs introduced themselves and let us this would be as interactive as we wanted it to be; encouraged all questions and let us know that most of the dishes would be prepared on the table in front of us.  I counted 9 chefs (that I could see, I think there was at least one more in a back kitchen) plus several wine stewards in the room to serve 12 people.  The six people at the other table had started their dinner about 30-40 minutes prior to our seating.

Dinner started with a series of snacks:

WP_20130731_007WP_20130731_009 WP_20130731_010 WP_20130731_011 WP_20130731_012

Starting from the left with Oaxacan Marshmallow “cocktail”, pretty much what it says; some lime, cilantro and mezcal in marshmallow form finished off in liquid nitrogen, cool, gummy and yum.  Next up was the Asian “Coca de Vidrio” kind of a rice cracker with some sesame and other seasonings meant to sound like glass breaking when you eat it, that wasn’t the case IMO but still very good.  Parmesan Leaf with some lemon curd and cream followed next.  These you cold eat by the pound, salty and some acid and citrus. This was followed by a Popcorn Empanada. Finally When Pigs Fly little meringue pigs with some coffee and cool bacon ice cream in the center.   Everyone agreed that we would have preferred all of these snacks to be served in bulk, one just wasn’t enough.

WP_20130731_013WP_20130731_014

Onto the “appetizers”  we started off with what the chef described as a time sensitive dish called the Foie Bomb which was a warm Foie Gras foam encapsulated in a slightly sweet gelatin, the whole thing was shaped like a small pear and had all the richness and fatty taste of foie gras without the heavy feeling that comes from eating it.  This was followed with a Churro Tendon and like you would expect from a churro it was warm and crispy with some cinnamon and sugar but instead of a doughy center there was some warm, delicious veal tendon that must have been cooked down for hours.

WP_20130731_018 WP_20130731_019

Next up was the Almond Tart with Blue Cheese in this case the tart was a formed with a flourless dough in an egg mold then dipped in nitrogen and filled with a blue cheese mouse.  Just, wow.  The Waldorf Salad was served in a “baguette” made of dehydrated apple meringue,  with some walnut puree, maybe a little peanut along with the chicken, grapes and what not you would expect.

WP_20130731_021 WP_20130731_024

The next two courses began the transition in the main courses starting with Chicken Shawarma made with a spring roll wrapper, some lettuce and herbs with crispy chicken skin and a yogurt sauce that was so light and airy I almost thought it was a whip cream.  This was followed by Thai Soup with some micro herbs served on the side to blend in before eating.  The soup was a classic broth with some coconut cream and the “noodle” was a vegetable of some sort that had been cooked down then set back into a noodle like form with some kitchen chemistry.  Both were great, it was like the perfect little bowl of soup and as usual, seconds would have been rapidly consumed.

WP_20130731_027 WP_20130731_034

Baby Carrots with Coconut and Curry came up next, these were in reality pureed carrot spheres in the style of the Olive Spheres made famous at El Bulli and were dressed with the coconut cream, harissa and shaved beet, or was it radish.  Really good combination either way with the beet/radish adding the crunch that would have been in the carrot.  A smokey dome covering a bowl was next to arrive and upon removing the dome it revealed Smoked Oysters with Ecabeche which was topped with some brown butter foam, this is now my 2nd favorite oyster dish after the sage/tequila grilled oysters at Williows Inn.  The oysters and mushrooms were lightly smoked with applewood and had so much flavor.

WP_20130731_028 WP_20130731_031

This mysterious bag was delivered and as they chefs came around to cut open the bag and shave black truffle over the top they announced it as a Beech Mushroom Risotto but with a small twist; there was no rice.  This was just the caps of some very small mushrooms that had been cooked with stock, broth, wine; all the usual ingredients within this bag to intensify the flavor and they succeeded.  So much flavor and the truffle was just the right amount to accentuate the mushroom without overpowering the dish.

WP_20130731_036

Rounding off this portion of the meal was a a traditional dish from the north of Spain where Chef Jose Andres is from but of course it’s not that simple Fabes con Almejas is a soup with white beans and clams but in this version the beans were pureed and in the same spherical form that the carrots took earlier in the night.  This one was good but not my favorite, I thought the clams were maybe a bit bitter and flavor of the beans was really pushed up a notch in this preparation which made them almost to strong.  Still a solid dish though.

WP_20130731_037 WP_20130731_040 WP_20130731_042

Moving along the next dish was Spot Prawn with some Peanut butter and Honey sounds a bit weird, but it totally worked and was gone all to soon.  Now for something totally unexpected Espardenyes with Bone Marrow, so you’re saying “what is espardenyes”?  It’s more commonly known as Sea Cucumber and this dish, again with some brown butter foam was pretty amazing. The Sea Cucumber has a similar texture to the marrow but without the richness so the two really play well on each other and the sauce was superb.  Next up a Roasted Squab with Oysters and Seaweed this was served with some raspberry sauce and just perfectly cooked, deep red meat with a nice carmelized outer layer and the cool seaweed to top it off.

WP_20130731_047

The final dinner course was a throwback, one that was on the original MiniBar tasting menu that was brought back to celebrate their tenth year.  Normally once a dish is retired that’s it but I’m so glad they brought back this rif on the Philly Cheesesteak.  What you have here is  some thin sliced kobe style beef over a “shell” of french bread (think baguette crust with a hollow center) and the middle is filled with a warm aged cheddar and cream foam.  It’s messy, cheesy, meaty and you want about 10 of them but sadly there was only one.

Onward to the palette cleansers…

WP_20130731_049 WP_20130731_050 WP_20130731_053

First up, Dragons Breath kettle corn which is a little cube of kettle corn doused in liquid nitrogen so when you eat it the nitrogen “smoke” comes right out your nose.  I wish I had video, it was delicious and hilarious at the same time and there were just smiles all around the table.  There’s a video here that someone shot a few years ago at the old MiniBar location.  The Dragons Breath was followed with a Hot Toddy shot of corn liquor and black tea which heated us right back up.  Now it’s time for Christmas in July, a granita of green apple and I *think* maybe some cucumber and some other green vegetable topped with a buttermilk snow.  Last but certainly not least was Coconut Sticky Rice with Mango and no, those aren’t sliced mangos, just some nicely formed “slices” of mango sorbet that were sprayed with some different colored cocoa butter to give the illusion of the fruit skin.  This was one of my favorites, it’s super refreshing and a great way to close out this portion of the meal

Coming full circle on the night we were all escorted back over to Bar Mini where I was given the same stool at the bar where I had started out three hours prior and a selection of dessert bites began to appear.

WP_20130731_054 WP_20130731_055

The first two were a mostly frozen Pina’ Colada Tablet that seemed to be a pineapple gel surrounded by a frozen coconut cream, it was of course delicious.  Then came the Sable’ Bon Bon that reminded me of a rich butter cookie with a fresh apricot filling.

WP_20130731_058 WP_20130731_056WP_20130731_061

Now a quick dose of chocolate starting with the TerraMisu which is as you might guess a play on Tiramisu that looked more like a clod of dirt but tasted like a perfect Tiramisu.  Then came the Jurassic Park a coffee and dark chocolate concoction that was great but to me not over the top.  Now something new that was debuting this month the Matcha Mochi that resembled a traditional Mochi rice cake but it was just a thin shell almost like a Macron that was filled with lychee.

WP_20130731_062

All good things must come to an end and so I came to the final bite of the evening Chicharron that was covered in white chocolate, a sweet, salty, crispy, creamy bite of goodness to round off the night.

Lest I forget to mention it, there was a beverage pairing with this and I had opted for the “Experience” which is the lower priced of the two options although I am really curious what you get with the more expensive “Jose’s Selections”.  Here’s the list, all of these were good and couple were REALLY good, notably the Hexamer and the Poma Austea.  So in order of appearance:

Hidalgo Sherry Amontillado “Napoleón” Jerez, Spain

2011 Hexamer Meddersheimer Rheingrafenberg Riesling Quarzit Nahe, Germany

2012 Bodegas Muga Rosado Rioja, Spain

Thai Basil “Iced Tea”

2010 François Mikulski Chardonnay Bourgogne, France

2011 Alphonse Mellot  Sauvignon Blanc “La Moussière ” Sancerre, France

2010 Monasterio de Corias “Seis Octavos” Cangas, Spain

Poma Áustea Sida de Asturias, Spain

2010 Cristom Pinot Noir Mt. Jefferson Cuvée Willamette Valley, OR

Straffe Hendrick Belgian Triple Ale

Corn Whiskey Hot Toddy

2006 Linden Late Harvest Vidal Linden, VA

Lustau Pedro Ximénez “San Emilio” Sherry Jerez, Spain

The maître d’ was nice enough to email out the list after noticing that I was furiously trying to type some notes, yet another great touch to the exceptional service at Mini Bar.

Overall I was pretty thrilled the experience at MiniBar, the dishes were first and foremost delicious but also creative and playful; just a pleasure to eat.  Being able to sit right in the kitchen and watch the talented team of artists at work creating the endless parade of art on a plate right in front of us and interact, ask questions and see the delighted reactions all around made this a dinner I won’t forget.  The best part?  Should I we 🙂 be lucky enough to come back sometime the menu will be different.  After this week they close for their annual sabbatical in the style of El Bulli to develop a whole new menu for the next season.

WP_20130731_064

2012 Tour wraps up in Montana

Though poorly covered in the media primarily due to the media having one to many Moscow Mules at the nearby Glacier Distillery the final round of the 2012 tour was contested at the challenging links of the Amazing Fun Center in West Glacier, Montana.

IMG_3303

BK, continued to play in what was a signature style for the 2012 season allowing KMJ to build a lead on the front nine only to come charging back to seal victory with the masterful use of in-play water features on the 14th and 16th holes.

The 2013 tour will get underway this August with potential events in Astoria, Monterrey and Fairfield.

IMG_3304

Venice for a day

After a few days in Florence we headed up to Bologna and on the way realized that since Bologna isn’t really a tourist destination that things would likely be mostly closed up on Sunday.  At this point Mark had the idea that “hey, we could go to Venice” and what the heck, it’s only an hour or so away on the high speed train, so we bought the tickets for Sunday morning and the next thing you know there we were.

WP_20130317_007

Trying to avoid the massive line at the queue for ferry tickets we walked across the nearest bridge and found a less crowded ferry dock, bought our tickets and headed out for St. Marks Square.  Rather than taking the more traditional route on the Grand Canal we went around the outside island over by the cruise ship docks which took awhile and was more than a little cold but the view was nice as we rolled along so to speak.

ven01Arriving at St. Marks square we needed a warm up and in a fruitless attempt to entice the sun to come out we sat down at one of the outdoor cafe’s for a cappuccino.  You would have thought of the €25 price tag for three coffee’s it would be the best coffee ever, but sadly it was inferior to the same product that we paid €1 for at the market in Florence.  The views not bad though.

WP_20130317_010WP_20130317_012

Leaving St. Marks we headed off down the waterfront along the canal in search of a place Mark had found for lunch thanks to No Reservations.  We found Al Covo on a little side street a few canals past the main drag.  In retrospect it would have been easy to miss it and end up a cookie cutter type place, so glad we didn’t this was by far the best meal of the trip up until today (more on that in a future post) *Credit to Mark for the photo below*

al covo

We didn’t have a reservation for their one and only lunch seating so we were camped out and waiting when they opened the doors at 12:45 for lunch and as luck would have it found a table.  They offer a couple variations on a pre-fixe menu for lunch time; one gives you the full run of the menu and the lesser expensive one is more limited.  Mark and I went big while Dad ordered the smaller menu and had an excellent pea soup and a hamburger, which was good and completely random for a place so well known for seafood.

The amuse course came out first, a simple preparation of warm creamy polenta topped with their first crush olive oil, Parmigianino and a little pepper.  Creamy, salty, warm and so simple — a great example of how simple ingredients can shine.

WP_20130317_013

For my starter I had the Adriatic Shrimp Scampi “Crudo” AKA raw shrimp which were super fresh and very simply dressed with their house made olive oil, a little bit of chive, salt and pepper.  Simple and delicious, that plate vanished rapidly as I tore the tails off the shrimp and ate them on the provided crostini which provided some nice contrasting flavors and textures.

WP_20130317_015

Mark started off with a pretty amazing plate of Fruits de mare; shrimp, razor clams, cockles, lobster, calamari, prawns all super fresh, sweet and delicious.

al covo2

For the main course I had a braised lamb and Mark had Soft Shell Crabs that were just coming into season.  Though we were totally stuffed the pre-fixe did include dessert so I had a 100% Cacao cake with spicy chocolate sauce.  Just as good as it looks.

WP_20130317_016WP_20130317_017

 

Now we really needed to walk it off so we left the restaurant took a few random turns and “got lost” wandering around the city for the next couple hours.

ven03

Eventually we made our way back to the train station, it was really weird walking through that part of town between the grand canal and the train, almost like the city was abandoned.  I came across this bridge being guarded by guess what:

ven04

That’s about it for Venice and I really enjoyed our day there, not sure I’d feel the same way if I stayed there especially during the high season but to each there own.  We caught the train back to Bologna and arrived home around 8:30 having spent a really long day out in the cold and immediately passed out since we had an early wake up the next day.

Before I go, I think it’s probably obligatory to post a picture of a gondola and a canal so here it is.

 

ven02