pamplemousse fodder

Friday, November 27, 2009

My first outting

So here it is. My first Gastronauts experience. May 5th, 2009. La Fusta (The Whip), an Argentinian restaurant in Elmhurst, Queens. On the menu is calf's tongue, grilled calf's liver and calf's liver 3 ways including sweetbreads (Don't know what sweetbreads are? click on the link).

I get there early, have a glass of wine and introduce myself to Ben and Curtiss, the two organizers. More and more people came and pretty soon we sat down to what wound up being a meat lover's dream meal.

First, out came the sangria and wine. So far so good. The wine, a Malbec was very drinkable and wound up going very well with the meal. The sangria was as a sangria should be, fruity and smooth with a punch that knocks you on your ass.

Out came the first couple of dishes. The calf's tongue was amazing. Flavored nicely by grilling and the herbs on top, nicely textured and not chewy (tongue shouldn't be) and still beef-y. I grew up having tongue constantly in the fridge, in the bottle and mostly pickled. This was nothing like that. This is how tongue should be.

Then out came the main meal. Calf's liver done 3 ways with sweetbreads. How can you make liver 3 ways you ask? Well, they were grilled, sauteed and made in to a sausage. The fries also accompanied the livers as a way to break up the taste and get a little carbs to help the stomach handle all of the meat. I have never been a big fan of liver. The sauteed was my least favorite and the grilled was only a little more palatable. But the sausage (essentially a black sausage) was very tasty and didn't have much of that "iron-y", metallic taste to it.

The sweetbreads though were the star. Grilled until slightly charred, the sweetbreads
were braids of goodness. They had a crispy, slightly chewy exterior and a soft center. Almost like a nice piece of bread, but meat of course.

The wine poured, the meat slowly disappeared (there was a LOT of it) but the conversation continued. The one thing I realized quickly was that the Gastronauts wasn't really about the food, it was about socializing and camaraderie. The exotic food brought everyone together but it was the conversation that was the highlight.

I think I'm going to like the Gastronauts. I already can't wait for next month.

Monday, May 11, 2009

I always wanted to go to space camp..well becoming a Gastronaut is just as good.

It all started about 5-6 years ago when a friend and I went to Babbo in NYC. Mario Batali's restaurant was a prime destination as we both were on our way to become "gourmands".

She is a vegetarian and I grew up with pigs feet and cow tongue. So after getting recommendations from the waiter and sommelier (which were both excellent) I did a little menu exploring. On the appetizer list was a Warm Tripe "Alla Parmigiana". I've never had tripe before and was really curious. The texture was kinda like linguine and didn't have much of a taste besides the sauce. I thought to myself, this isn't too bad. I could probably do something even weirder.

My new obsession was born. Not just food (I've been obsessed with that for years) but weird and different foods. Starting then I would be "that one" who would try the weirdest thing on the menu, at any restaurant. But something was still missing. As i was to find out, I was just going to the wrong places.

A street hockey friend of mine and I were talking about food, probably one drunk evening. She said she belonged to this group called the Gastronauts. They are a foodie group that meets once a month at a restaurant around the 5 boroughs and eats weird food. It was free to join, you just needed to explain why you think you should be a part of it.

Easy enough, so I went to the website and explained that I grew up on pigs feet, cow tongue and every kind of game you can think of (my family were/are hunters). They gladly accepted me with open mouths and I went to my first "meeting" at La Fusta in Elmhurst on May 5th. (follow up post on that)

My life hasn't been the same since. It's something I look forward to all month and do get upset when i can't make one. It has since encouraged me to consider setting up a brooklyn foodie club.

We'll see.

For more about the Gastronauts, go to

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Joining the Phaal of Fame

If you haven't seen it, watch this first so you can get an idea of what I'm about to talk about.

Ok, so I've been wanting to do this for years. I first went to Brick Lane Curry House about 6 years ago with a friend and enjoyed some good curry. The service was horrendous but I didn't care. I then went back 2 times after that on dates.

The last time I went there, over 2 years ago, I tried the vindaloo. I figured if I can handle the spiciness of the vindaloo I should go for the phaal the next time I was there. For me, the vindaloo was the perfect blend of spiciness and flavor. It definitely had heat, as I felt a couple of beads of sweat, but nothing I couldn't handle an actually rather enjoyed.

Unfortunately it took me 2 years to get back to do the Phaal challenge. I found a woman who enjoys her curry and after talking about it with a friend we decided to make it a night. My friend and his girlfriend met us there. It turns out its a place they frequent but haven't been able to enjoy for a while due to the popularity caused by the Man v. Food episode.

That night was a normal night there, about 75% full. I already knew that I was having the Phaal. Lisa, my friend's girlfriend, decided she was going to join me in this adventure. My friend and girlfriend went the stomach friendly route and had the madras which is basically your grandma's curry.

So you know how I mentioned before that the service is horrendous? Well it still is. They really aren't that busy but it still takes 15-20 min to get a waiter to do anything. Drinks, food, whatever. It's annoying, especially when you keep psyching yourself out about eating this 10 alarm curry. We finally wind up ordering (yes they make you say that you are willing to be in pain for the next hour). First the appetizers (samosas and pakoras) which are decent enough. Not as much flavor a I would think these food items would have. Not the best you can find but I wouldn't pass them up.

Finally, the curry gets to the table. One last kiss to our significant others and we dig in. It's hot. The more you have the hotter it gets. It tastes like shit. Like burnt chiles. We keep going. We have to finish ALL of it..even the nasty semi-liquid stuff that you wouldn't normally eat elsewhere.

About 45 minutes later we have a couple of forkfulls left. We find that eating it with rice actually prolongs the heat in your mouth. Nan (garlic nan especially) relieves some of the heat if you eat it plain. Soda helps the burn (it's the sugar) but the carbonation fills you up. Lisa was happy with the white wine cooling her mouth. By the end, there was no heat left (at least none we can feel) and it was the worst tasting food I have ever had. I almost didnt finish it on taste alone. But I did and we got our free beer (well, wine), our certificate and we sent our pics in to the restaurant (there is NO fanfare like on MvF which made us very upset. You actually send in a pic). Eventually, you'll be able to go to "", click on the "Phaal of Fame" and see my picture. Was it worth it? Yes.

Overall I'm glad I did it. I can now cross it off of my list of things to do. Although if I go back, I'm sticking with the vindaloo.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Come fly away...with Buffalo!

Before you read this, I know. I NEED to start taking more pictures. I will. I promise. This is still new to me! So here's my first recipe. So easy but soooo good.

As much as I love pizza, buffalo wings are my favorite food. I have been to the birthplace (Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY), I have had the best (Duffs in Toronto, Canada and Amherst, NY) and have been around NYC to find the best (I haven't found anything that beats Down the Hatch in the Village). My obsession with wings began in college, along with many other obsessions (beer for one). 25¢ wing night was a staple with my friends. Every Monday night, at Mcgillicuddys in New Paltz, NY, we would down a hundred wings, many pitchers of beer, watch some football, get some more drinks across the street then some how get to class the next day.

After school we wanted to keep up with wings. For the Stuperbowl, we would order from the Anchor Bar who would overnight the wings. All you need to do is heat them up. They were a great treat but at $1 per wing (after shipping) it was expensive. I decided there has to be a way to make your own.

It turns out it's one of the easiest recipes to make and out amazing wings. I first started off with just deep frying and coating them. They were good but the meat never really seemed done properly. They were cooked but still stringy. Then came my revelation, baking them first.

Super Easy and Delicious Buffalo Style Wings
Serves 7-10

10Lbs (apprx 35) Chicken Wings (drummette and wing)
1 Bottle (12 Oz) Franks Original Red Hot
1 Cup (2 Sticks) Unsalted Butter
2 Quarts Canola or Peanut Oil
Frank's Xtra Red Hot to taste
Salt and Pepper

1. Preheat your oven to 375 deg.
2. Wash then separate the wing and drummette, and remove the wing tip (there is no edible meat there)
3. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper and a spray lubricated rack. Place the wings, skin side up, on the rack.
4. Lightly salt and pepper the chicken.
5. Place in the oven for about 40-45 minutes or until just starting to brown.
6. Put the oil in a large heavy pot or deep fryer and heat to 375 deg.
7. While the chicken is cooking, in a medium pot melt the butter and mix in the Frank's Red Hot. Add the Xtra Red hot to desired spiciness (really spicy, add 1/2 cup of the xtra red hot).
8. Take the wings out of the oven and let cool to room temperature.
9. 4-5 at a time, place the wings in the hot oil until a nice, dark golden brown (about 4-5 min). Make sure to keep the temperature up, not letting it fall below 350. If the temperature falls too much turn up the burner and reduce the amount of wings you put in the oil.
10. Remove the wings and briefly drain.
11. Add one batch of wings and 1/4 cup of the sauce in mixing bowl, cover and shake for 30 seconds.

Serve hot.

Do NOT put them in a gas oven to keep hot. When natural gas burns it emits water vapor which makes foods soggy. An electric oven is fine.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

PIZZA!!! And tests. Yes, I'm a geek.

Man, I love pizza. My obsession with it goes back years. I remember the first pizza I tried to make from scratch. It was hard as a rock and had no taste. The thing is, through the years and different recipes, that didn't change. All of this was pre-Food Network.

Pretty quickly Good Eats became my favorite show and Alton Brown was the man. He had this way of making pizza crust like I've never seen before. Cold rising. So I try it. It's better but I still can't seem to get it right, at least not as fluffy and chewy like he has it. Although he does turn me on to instant yeast instead of Rapid Rise Yeast which happens to be a big eye opener. The search continues.

Somewhat recently and rather deflated with the choice of pizza crusts I have found I try that there interweb. A Google search for "The best pizza crust recipe" turns up a TON of hits. One catches my eye though, "Mitch's Basic Pizza Dough". After reading it I find it's a little different than the rest. It uses honey instead of sugar and, what surprised me more, uses All Purpose flour instead of Bread flour. It surprised me because everything I have read about pizza crust is that bread flour gives that chewiness that is so prized in crusts. So I give it a shot. It's actually really good. Has a nice rise, it's tasty, and crisps well. I do have to make some adjustments to the recipe since I use a stand mixer and in the recipe he uses a food processor and his hands.

I want to do some tests. Instead of AP flour I want to try it with bread flour. I make two identical doughs the same way, nothing different, except one is with AP and one with bread flour. The AP came out better than the last time I made it. It was fluffy and thin. The bread flour crust was interesting. It had a better taste and a better crisp when you bite in to it..the AP one had a little staleness in the bite. So in general I like qualities of both with the AP one being a bit better.

The next test? Mixing one cup bread flour with 2 cups AP (I only use 3 cups of flour as opposed to 3.5 in the recipe). After that sifting...will that make a difference?

When all is said and done I'll post my recipe..or what will probably be an altered Mitch's recipe

I'll let you know how it turns out.

PS - while creating this post I found out that Mitch has given props to his business partner's pizza crust who basically did what I am doing, except hundreds of times. She uses Semolina flour which IS the way you are supposed to do it. I will try that but I want to make a dough that most people can make with degrediants that they will most likely have.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Jean-Talon Market, The Fresh Produce Bonanza

There are two major, fresh produce, "open air" markets in Montreal; Atwater and Jean-Talon. To me, Jean-Talon is bigger and has more variety that Atwater. It also has a creperie and an amazing Meat/Cheese store. Everything a gastronomic is looking for.

Jean-Talon Marche' is 3 blocks from the Jean-Talon stop on the orange line of the Metro. It's right near Parc Jarry and Blvd Saint-Laurent. Basically, ultra-convenient.

Montreal is known for these markets. They have every kind of fresh produce you can think of (vegetable, fruits, meats, cheeses, flowers, coffee, cookies, etc...and of course, pamplemousse!). Jean-Talon has an amazing variety of everything above, as the pictures show. It incorporates about 2x3 blocks. During the summer it takes over the outdoor parking lot surrounding it and becomes even bigger.

In the main area there is Creperie du Marche. This is where I go for my crepes in Montreal. Think about it. It's surrounded by the freshest produce, there are always people there so there is constant turn-over, and the guy making the crepes (at least as of recent) is French! You get a choice of Savory and Sweet crepes and BOTH kinds are amazing. My favs are the smoked salmon and the asparagus crepes. Although you can't leave without having one with the ham and cheese. Just think of a crepe, with the most luxurious ham and cheese you can think of with a mild smokey flavor. Averaging $8CD a crepe, you just can't go wrong!

Surrounding the main area are small shops. Bakeries, more produce shops, liquor stores and The Hamel Fromagerie. As soon as you walk in to Hamel your olfactory glands are bombarded by stinky cheese and meats. My g/f and I get the peppered sausage with a mild brie. Grab a baguet on the way out and you have the most rustic, delicious sandwich. Don't like brie or peppered sausage, no problem. They have a huge selection of meats and cheeses. Just don't forget to take a number or you'll never be served!

I make sure I visit Jean-Talon Marche' every time I'm in Montreal. I suggest you make a priority as well.

Thanks to Sven Patrick Larsen for the Pics.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

What the fodder is all about

I'm not much of a blogger, I'm not much of a writer but gosh darn-it I love gastronomy.

I've been wanting to do some kind of food blog for a while now. First, I wanted to do a recipe sharing blog but realized I should probably do my own site for that. Then, while raving about the food and drink in my favorite city, Montreal, with the woman we realized I should be doing a sort of travel food blog, with some recipe sharing mixed in.

I travel a bit, sometimes for work, sometimes for pleasure, sometimes for hockey. Everywhere I go I try the local fare. As I mentioned, Montreal is my favorite city. Not only are they hockey nuts (like me) but they have some of the best food and drink in the world. I travel to Montreal many times a year so a lot of posts will be about this wonderful city as it does have a lot to talk about when it comes to the local cuisine. Of course I'll write about any other place I do go.

BTW, Pamplemousse is french for grapefruit...a fruit I am NOT a fan of. But that is not why its the name of my blog. Let's just say it's le nom de l'amour.

Bon Apetite!