Excuse me Sir, is that a beef shank you’re holding?

November 9, 2010 · Posted in Restaurants · 1 Comment 

On Wednesday, October 20th, several Green City Market “cheerleaders” as we were called were invited to Mado by Rob Levitt to eat an entire beef shank.  Unbeknownst to us at the time, it would be one of the last feasts held at this location by these chefs.  Rob and Allie have since left Mado to open their own butcher shop, and we eagerly await their new project.  What follows is, to the best of the author’s memory, a retelling of what was served at this banquet that would have made a Roman aristocrat blush.

Every year, the Green City Market hosts a Harvest Celebration to promote the market, showcase top chefs, and raise money.  Rob was one of the featured chefs, and was talking about ribeyes that he had gotten in and subsequently sold out of it almost immediately.  Some of the aforementioned GCM (Green City Market) “cheerleaders” were upset that these ribeyes were no longer available, so Rob proposed an entire beef shank.  From what I could tell though, these pieces were actually cut from two different animals.  During our feast, one of the ribeyes was brought out to another table, and I would not be surprised to learn Rob had located an ancient herd of mastodons, and was actually sourcing his steaks from there.  It was easily 60, maybe 70 pounds.

But that’s neither here nor there.  After inviting myself along to round out the group, Lauren Golanty, Kyle Schott, Dave & Sarah Rand, Abby Csanda, Brad Boman and Sara Gasbarra seated ourselves right in the middle of the restaurant and waited for Rob & Allie to wow us with their culinary prowess and maybe clog our arteries a bit too.

It started as expected, with their homemade charcuterie plate, which consists of chicken liver pate, smoked sausage, and pork rillettes.  The pictures are a bit dark, because it’s rude to use your flash in a restaurant, in case that hasn’t been brought up before.

Charcuterie Plate

Next came an assortment of antipasti, which includes one of my Mado favorites, the grilled cornbread with smoked paprika butter and fried farm egg.  Paprika butter!  So simple, yet they thought of it and I didn’t.  That’s why they cook and I eat.

There's paprika butter under there somewhere!

They rounded out our antipasti with:

– Roasted carrots with ras el hanout goat cheese, pistachios, and cumin honey

– Citrus cured lake perch with fingerling potatoes and pepperonata

– Sunchokes with preserved lemon and parsley

The carrots and sunchokes were amazing, both in separate ways.  The carrots, while sourced fresh and local, were an incredible melange of flavors, the spicy and nutty pairing nicely with the sweet in the honey and goat cheese.  The sunchokes, on the other hand, relied almost strictly on their freshness for the pop of flavor as you crunched down.  For those paying attention, you’ll ask how something can rely on freshness for its flavor when it uses preserved lemon.  Quite right, I’d respond, and say “well except for that part.”  The preserved lemon helped add a light airiness to the bite, and the dish contrasted quite nicely with the richer, deeper flavors in the carrots.

I'll take one of everything, please!

Next up was a three course shot that included a challenge for Rob and Allie.  You see, Sara and my’s friendship relies primarily on the fact that we are crazy Italians who spend the majority of our time at the Green City market discussing Rome and spaghetti carbonara.  And they were going to bring out penne with ragu bianco.  A bold move, I might say!

I should have known better than to doubt.  It was incredible.  The ragu was so flavorful, I almost forgot there was pasta.  I’m pretty sure I tried to drink the remains of the broth.

They also brought out a salad, mainly because I think their lawyer advised them to for liability sake, should anyone need resuscitation, they could say they offered greens at the least!

They finished off the…I guess this was the primi, if we’re going with the Italian theme…with pan-fried morcilla with braised greens and migas.  Blood sausage, in other words.  Topped with bread crumbs that had been…wait for it…deep fried.  Yes please.

Mado was BYOB, and we had definitely brought.  However we also drank, and right around this time figured out we were going to run out very quickly.  What happened next was both awesome and frightening, depending on how you look at it.  Brad makes one phone call, and ten minutes later four bottles of wine get delivered to the front door of the restaurant.  Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a wine delivery service willing to bring wine to whatever BYOB I happen to be at.  I’m not sure who this Brad character is, but in my opinion best not to cross his path!  He’s obviously got people.

After our thirst was satiated it was time for the main course.  The beef shank, in all its glory.  The restaurant literally stopped and watched in awe as Rob carried this massive steaming hunk of meat out to our table.  After David Hasselhoff was seated…

When pressed, Rob said that he had just done a “normal braise” to the beef, which means a mire poix and a red-wine based sauce more or less.  However, he must have braised it for more than 8 hours at a really low temperature (200-225?). I’ve made legs of lamb that are about 7 or 8 pounds, and they braise for at least 8 hours.  This was much much bigger.  Alongside he served it with toasted bread, and a marrow reduction.  I’m pretty sure I saw Lauren try and put the leftover reduction in her purse, until she realized there were no leftovers, and the little drops were liquid.  If you stared at the meat too long, it slipped off the bone without even the assistance of a fork.  The outside was perfectly crispy and browned, while the inside was incredibly tender.  There are almost no words to describe – so here’s the one picture we took with flash that night.

Yes, that IS a beef shank you're holding!

Not a bad way to go out, Rob and Allie.  Not a bad way at all.  I’ll be in line when The Butcher and Larder opens.


Bears Tailgate Part 2

October 25, 2010 · Posted in Recipes · Comments Off on Bears Tailgate Part 2 

What do you get when you piece together a fried duck egg, applewood smoked bacon, Dietzler Farms ground beef, home-grown arugula and River Valley Kitchens five cheese garlic spread?

One of the most amazing tailgate burgers in existence.

Eat your heart out Sarah Spain.


Ca Phe Sua Da

December 18, 2009 · Posted in Travel · 1 Comment 

Sorry this first update took me a few days to get out – I’ve been out in Saigon, too scared to cross the street to get back to Alex & Brandy’s apartment.

Rush hour in Saigon

After sleeping most of the first day, it was time to get out of bed and actually, you know, do something.  Breakfast was at Pho 24 after which my first stop was the tailor, to get two custom suits fitted.  I have my priorities.  Next up was the Ben Thanh Market – a permanent bazaar of every type of good, foodstuff, and knickknack imaginable.  Picked up a few presents for the siblings then moved on…

Quan An Ngnon, which basically means “stall restaurant” is a collection of street food vendors all under one roof.  We snacked before heading onto our next tourist attraction, the War Remnants Museum.  I chose a sticky rice and shredded pork dish, topped with deep fried shallots, called Xoi Man.  A&B tell me the ingredient under the green onion is another type of pork, but I’m not convinced.  Either way it  was delicious, and the dish itself provided a nice combination of textures and different flavors.  A perfect mid-day snack.

Sticky rice and shredded pork

No one was prepared for the War Remnants Museum.  As you enter you see the old planes, tanks, and guns and begin to think it’s going to be like any war museum you might see in the US.  Mostly heroic and not designed to shock you at all.  About halfway through the exhibit on Tiger Cages all three of us had to sit down and collect ourselves.  It was an extremely graphic depiction of actions taken by the South Vietnamese and United States soldiers during the war.  Granted this was a museum built by the North Vietnamese government so it had its intended purpose.  But while propaganda can and does lie, pictures don’t.

At night, in full “starving student/tourist” mode, we snuck into the opening of the new Hard Rock Cafe and proceeded to drink and eat for free for about an hour and a half.  I am not usually a dessert person, but they were handing out these little chocolate coconut cakes that were the closest thing to heaven in a paper cup I’ve ever seen.  I must have eaten about 15 of those before we left for our actual dinner.  We did, of course, make sure to stop by the new Paris Hilton boutique on our way out…

According to Facebook, today was supposed to be the day we left for Cambodia.  However, the travel agent who was supposed to renew A&B’s visas decided to leave this particular job until the last possible minute, and then inform Alex he cannot process the request.  So we’re leaving tomorrow (Saturday) instead, and they have to actually get their visas in Cambodia.  So we may or may not actually make it back…

Breakfast today was at a place called Pho Ta, where Brandy and I both ordered a dish called Crispy Pho.  Crispy Pho is essentially pho noodles deep fried (noticing a trend, anyone?) topped with all the ingredients of regular pho.  It is, quite simply, a dish that if done right, is worthy of a marriage proposal right then and there.

Since yesterday was such a long, exhausting day, we decided to get foot massages to heal our feet.  Before you get any crazy ideas, we ONLY got foot massages.  They sit us down all in the same room on these lay-z-boy-esque chairs and in walks a girl who can’t be more than 80 pounds.  No way is she going be able to apply the kind of pressure my feet need.  Well…either the laws of physics don’t apply here, or the engineers at Ford and GM ought to be embarrassed by the measly power to weight ratios they generate on their trucks.  This little Vietnamese lady had such a death grip on the tendons in my heel, I wasn’t sure I was going to walk again.  Thankfully I am fine – but I’m still in shock how much fight that 80 pounder had in her.

Continuing with the foodie part of this trip, we stopped at Thai Bin market.  Thai Bin makes Ben Thanh look like a US shopping mall.  The stalls were closer together, the fish were all still flopping around, the excess water from the stalls was running through the street, and the unmistakable stench of life in the city wafted from every square inch of the place.  Sides of pork, sitting out in the 90 degree heat.  Whole octopus.  15 different sizes of shrimp and prawn.  Clams.  Mussels.  Fish still swimming around in makeshift ponds.  Vegetables so freshly picked, the vendors are cleaning them off as we walk by, making sure to splash you with at least some of the muddy water.  BBQ pork, whole chickens, spring and summer rolls, Bahn Mi, fresh flan, Chinese sausages, and some pickled things in jars that honestly belonged in my sister’s anatomy lab.  Now this was a real market.  Green City, I love you and all, but only when you disregard any and all thought of hygiene will you compare with the Thai Bin market in Saigon.

Fish @ the Thai Bin Market

We leave for Cambodia at 6:30 a.m. tomorrow and I probably won’t write until we return on the 23rd.

I have been in Vietnam for a few days now and it’s interesting to be in a place where I have absolutely no clue what the language means.  I do, however, know how to say one thing very well.

Ca Phe Sua Da.

Iced coffee with milk…