Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Yesterday I made an oxtail dish for Mel. We were at Byron Meats, a butcher shop in Byron Center, MI, where she spotted some oxtails and wanted to get some. So I prepared them last night. I got a large pot out and heated it over high heat. I added some olive oil to the pot, seasoned all sides of the oxtail with salt and pepper, and browned all sides of the oxtail. Some beef broth was added so it covered about 1/2 way up the oxtails, the lid put on, and the oxtails braised for about 3 hours. With 15 min. to go I chopped up some onion, garlic, and grated a carrot. I saute'd them over medium high heat in olive oil until the onions started getting some color. I added about 2/3 cup of cream and a couple ladles of the braising liquid to the skillet to make a sauce and let it reduce for about 10 min. In the mean time I took the oxtails out to cool and shred the meat off the bone, and added fettuccine to salted boiling water and cooked it for one minute less than what was on the box because it will finish cooking in the sauce. To put it all together I put the meat in the sauce followed by the pasta and tossed everything together well. If the sauce is a little too thick at this point you can add a little more braising liquid or pasta water to the pan. Serve as is. It is time consuming in the fact it takes so long for the oxtail to cook, but you can basically set it over low heat and forget about it for a few hours. It is also an incredibly easy dish with tons of flavor and it makes a wonderful winter meal.
Finally, I would like to thank all my readers for taking time to read my blog. I really appreciate that you take time out of your day to read what I write.
Saturday, November 30, 2013
First of all, sorry about the lack of updates recently. It has been a busy time around the house with Thanksgiving, working more, holiday shopping, etc. As such there hasn't been much time to try new places and review them. Or to return to past ones for a second bite review. However we were able to go out to eat last week. We decided to try XO Asian Cuisine located downtown on Monroe. Mel is very cautious about trying new Asian restaurants, but had tried some food from XO because it was catered in for a lunch. She wanted to try the actual restaurant and so we headed downtown. (Pictures will be coming later.)
The restaurant is attractive, albeit a little comical in the use of Asian decor. It is also located right in the heart of downtown. The prices are good, especially for the amount of food brought out.
We started with some dumplings that were steamed and fried. They were filled with pork, green onion, and ginger. The dipping sauce was a soy sauce with a little green onion, ginger, and maybe sesame oil. The dumpling was good. It was cooked nicely and the had a nice consistency to it. There were actual pieces of pork and veggies in it as apposed to a over minced mush. The flavors were good and melded nicely. The only thing I didn't care for was the little salad under it. It was not needed.
For the mains Mel got sesame chicken and I got sambal chicken. Both, in my opinion, were fairly mundane and could be found at any number of Asian buffets. The sesame chicken was slathered in that unnatural orange colored sauce that you see at 99% of Chinese restaurants. The sambal chicken was also underwhelming. I may be wrong, but from what I know, sambal is Thai chili paste. There didn't seem to be much in there. The shrimp paste was the prominent flavor. The chicken was a little mealy. The veggies were cooked well though. The rice was also pretty good. It was nice and sticky and worked well with the dishes.
Despite these quibbles, I have to admit that the dishes are attractively priced. Our meal, of starter and two mains, came in under $30. Also the service was good. The waitress was attentive without being hovering, and the food came out fast. I have to say I was disappointed by the food. I was hoping for a more authentic Asian meal, not the mainstream, made for American tastes stuff found everywhere. I like to think I cook a little bit more authentic food at home. And that was the real shame. My expectations for Asian food were let down and my search for a tastier, more authentic Asian restaurant continues. However, I can say that if you are downtown and want a decent, well priced Asian inspired meal XO is a good place to start.
Sunday, October 13, 2013
We started with my patatas bravas with garlic aioli. I won't go into too much detail about them because I have already covered them in an earlier post or two. Basically they are fried potatoes tossed in a spice mixture and served with the garlic aioli which really compliments the potatoes. This was our starter.
This was probably the star of the night. I call it a deconstructed paella. I started by making the broth. I put chicken stock in a sauce pan with a lot of garlic, onion, tomato, a half of an anaheim chili pepper, and saffron and let it reduce a long time. Basically what came out may be one of the single best components to a dish I have ever created. And the only word that Tay or myself could come up with to describe it was "sexy." I cooked some arborio rice so that it was al dente and somewhat stiff, as opposed to a risotto which is creamier. This was cooked in chicken stock. I then browned chorizo in a pan so that it became crispy and then added chicken to the same pan to help give the chicken some more flavor. I also fried up some chicken skin until it was crispy and delicious for a textural contrast to the rest of the dish. It was finished with some finely sliced green onion. All the flavors of a chicken and chorizo paella present, without cooking it in the traditional way. I am definitely doing this again so I can refine it and make it better. But for just pulling it out of my head and putting it on a plate for the first time it came out great.
To finish it all off, Tay made this apple chutney and brie on a baguette. He diced up some granny smith apples, red onion, and some anaheim chili peppers and cooked them down with some butter and added red wine vinegar to it. He also spiced it with some cinnamon and added some brown sugar to it as well. He buttered and toasted the baguette, added a slice of brie and threw it under the broiler for a minute to melt the brie. He then topped it with the chutney and garnished with a thin slice of apple. We had the first bite and it was good. The chutney was a little on the sweet side, but all in all it was a good finish to the meal. However, I tried my second with the slice and apple, and it completely changed the dish for the better. The freshness of the apple, which was tart and slightly bitter, mellowed the sweetness of the chutney, highlighted the taste of the brie, and punctuated the baguette. It was like listening to a song with one of the instruments missing. It might sound ok. But then the missing piece is added and it is a new, better experience. We all agreed the apple slice made the dish that much better. It went from a good ending to a great ending for the meal.
Friday, October 11, 2013
Last week Mel and I went to the farmers market. Of course being the prime season for chili peppers, I was on a mission to find some new and/or exotic super hot peppers. We came across a stand calling itself "the furnace." They had at least 6 different peppers as hot or hotter than habenero peppers. I asked about a little tiny pepper called a Peruvian White Lightning pepper. The guy asked if I wanted to try it. He said "I am warning you, it's hotter than a standard habenero." So of course I said OK. I took a bite. It was hot but had a good flavor. The guy just stood there looking at me. He finally said, "You didn't really eat that and chew it up, did you?" I showed him the pepper and and took another bite. He looked amazed and called some other guys over. He was saying stuff like you aren't crying or anything. I just looked at him and said that it was hot but that I was actually there for some of the ghost chili's they had toward the back. He had a quizzical look on his face, which was about the point Mel says "He eats them raw." I think about that point all the guys' jaws dropped. He hands me one and wanted to see it. At this point there are about 6 people watching me eat another ghost chili. I got barraged with a bunch of questions after: How can you eat that? Is that even hot for you? Etc, etc, etc. So then I was offered a chocolate habenero, which had a deeper flavor to it in contrast to the bright, almost floral character of regular habeneros. Then a lemon habenero which does have a lemony taste to it. They were trying to find a red savina habenero which is the hottest habenero but couldn't find it. So I bought the little white lightning peppers and some ghost chilis. I only wanted 3 but they threw in a handful for the same price because I had eaten the one raw without falling over in pain. It was a fun little experience which even Mel admitted she enjoyed.
Saturday, September 7, 2013
We started with a dozen raw, fresh shucked oysters. The oyster's were good and of good quality. The thing about oysters is that their flavor can change from day to day, and even hour to hour, depending on the water they are located in. Sometimes they can be salty. Sometimes they are sweeter. These were a little bit on the sweet side and were perfect as is or with a little hot sauce or horseradish. I was so happy to have some fresh oysters, as I can't get them of this quality in Michigan.
On of my favorite dishes of all time is the Gulf Coast specialty seafood gumbo. Once again it was nice to have a real, good, seafood gumbo. The shrimp were perfectly cooked as was the crab. The base was super flavorful and the rice was perfectly cooked. The veggies were also well done. I couldn't have been much happier diving into that cup.
Here is my basket of fried shrimp. The shrimp were perfectly fried and avoided being over cooked. I squirted a little cocktail sauce of ketchup and horseradish on to the basket to dip the shrimp in. Once again I was incredibly happy to have fresh fried shrimp along the Gulf Coast. There is simply nothing like it in the world. The batter coated the shrimp nicely and was very flavorful. Close to a perfect basket of fried shrimp. The hush puppies were good as well, but seemed like there were left in the fryer just a touch too long. The fries were cooked well, but were plain, salted, fries. The coleslaw was good, standard slaw in the tater sauce was pretty good too.
My brother, Brent, chose the shrimp po' boy. It was a bun loaded with fried shrimp, some pickle, tomato, onion, and cheese. Once again the shrimp was fried well with a good batter. The bun was buttered and grilled so it held everything without breaking down as well as adding flavor. It was a really good po' boy.
It was a fairly simple meal of good, quality seafood. And that is the key, the seafood. It was also a great meal because I got to spend it with my brother, who I won't be seeing for a while. I do have to note that there are now many Wentzell's as they have been franchising out, but from what I have heard the first two, downtown and Airport, are still the best ones. If you are ever in Mobile, AL I highly recommend eating at Wentzell's Oyster House.
Tuesday, September 3, 2013
I ordered the vanilla bean creme brulee. This was perhaps the best creme brulee I have ever had. The sugar was brulee'd nicely. The berries added a nice lightness and freshness that went with the vanilla and the slightly bitterness of the sugar. On top were some shortbread cookies that were also very good. They were buttery and crumbly and soft. It was a nice touch. The custard was perfectly cooked and the vanilla was prominent. It had little vanilla specks visible in the custard. This was the best dish of the night for me. Everything went together and was balanced and was cooked well.
Despite the good starters and dessert, I have a hard time recommending Cygnus 27. In fact, at this point, I cannot. The errors committed on the entree's were too great; especially when paying the amount of money each dish costs. The value is not there. Like I said before, for the price, the food needs to be of a higher than standard quality. This is more so at a fine dining restaurant. It just was not the case. The small plates were good and priced reasonably. I think the best value would be to order a couple small plates and dessert. I just can't recommend Cygnus though for a night out. I would gladly recommend SixOneSix, Ruth's Chris, or Bistro Bella Vita over Cygnus 27 in a heart beat.
Saturday, August 24, 2013
This is our lunch. Mel got the Havarti Dill soup and I got the brisket chili. Our sandwich was the Lunchbox sandwich. Mel's soup was really good. The cheese and dill pairing was good and the soup was the perfect temperature to start eating right away. It was cheesy without being too thick and the dill was front and center without being overbearing. She got the pretzel roll to go with her soup. It was great choice. It had a great pretzel flavor and was soft and "moist", as opposed to hard and dry. It soaked up the soup nicely, yet held its integrity.
The chili was scorching hot. As in a temperature high enough to turn solid rock to liquid, not chili pepper hot. The flavor was good though, with little pieces of brisket through out. It wasn't the best chili ever but it was good. It was just a shame it was so hot. I mean, we were eating for like 45 minutes and the little bit left in the bottom was still steaming hot when I finished. I got the challah bread. It was also just ok. It was kind of dry and didn't really have a ton of flavor to it.
The sandwich was loaded with pulled pork. It was bookended by cheese bread and then pressed in a panini. inside, along with the pork, was cheddar, onions, and pickles. Everything was classic pairings that work. The bread was a little greasy from the press, but the fact it was overflowing with meat is what sets this apart from many other similar sandwiches. Was it the best sandwich ever? No. But it has great value for what you pay.
Was this the best eatery I have ever been to? No not really. It probably isn't close either. But what it does it does well. And that would be soup and sandwiches. For a quick-stop, soup and sandwich spot in East Town it is really good. I recommend it for quick stops or lunch, but I don't know if I would make plans for dinner there.