August 2009

Last night, the JohnnyCakes and I went to Stephan Pyles…Again!   It’s currently Restaurant Week (actually Restaurant MONTH for some places), which is always a good time to check out some really great restaurants for Cheap. 

Here is the menu at SP for RW:

Go ahead and look over it.  I’ll wait…


…And now that you’ve looked over the menu, let’s get on with the show…

(Note:  We got the wine pairings.  Because you just have to.  You do.)


First Course

Local Heirloom Tomato Salad with Paula’s Bocconcini, Fried Avocado and Balsamic Gelée*


 Wine pairing:
Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch 2008

This was my choice for the 1st course.  It was amazing.  The tomatoes were perfectly ripe (Do they have a huge window that they set the tomatoes on to ripen every day?  Wouldn’t it be cool if they did?), and the panko-encrusted avocado provided a crunchy, sweet foil to the flavors of the tomatoes and the balsamic gelee cubelets.    The bocconcini was like a bonus layer of creaminess to the dish.  (Note to self: make panko-encrusted avocado. )


Scallop and Pork Belly Carnitas with Sweet Potato Hash, Smoked Onion Confit and Plum Purée

Scallop and carnitas

Scallop and carnitas

Wine pairing:
Catena Chardonnay, Tupungato, Mendoza 2007

This was Johnny’s first course.  But I tried it, of course…

The waiter had detailed the entire 57-step process of getting the pork belly just right, from the roasting, to the peeling off of fat and forming the pork into a Jimmy Dean Sausage-shaped Tube.  But whatever.  All that really mattered was whether all of that was worth it.  And it was…

I’m not normally a fan of cooked scallops (Although I LOVE scallop sushi!), but this was really tasty.  It had a perfectly bacony flavor, the scallop was not rubbery at all, and for me, sweet potatoes in general can do no wrong.  So no complaints on this one at all…


Extra Course – Central Market Coupon

Red Snapper in Thai-Red Curry Masa with Veracruzana Sauce and Caramelized Fingerling Banana

The snapper 4th course

The snapper 4th course

Wine pairing:
Van Duzer Estate Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley 2006

We had to get this.  Even though we didn’t have the Central Market coupon. 

Holy crap it was good.

This was a slab of snapper, on top of coconut rice, with sort of a curry tamale on top.   On top of that was a Veracruzana (think sweet, oniony stewed tomato) sauce.  On the side was half of a carmelized fingerling banana, and then the whole shebang was drizzled with creme fraiche.

(Note to self:  Make bass or some other kind of meaty white fish with  carmelized banana.  And avocado.)

This was like another dessert.  And probably my favorite course of the evening!


Second Course

48-Hour Braised Beef Cheek with Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Baby Squash


Wine pairing:
Hook and Ladder “The Tillerman” Red Blend, Russian River Valley 2006

 This was the most yummy cowface I’d ever had.  It was like a carmelized pot roast. Sweet, fork-tender, and slightly crispy.  OMG I’m drooling just thinking about it…

Some people are afraid of eating Animal Face, but really, it’s usually the most tender and sweet meat on a critter.  Try this with fish (hamachi kama) the next time you eat sushi.  You will thank me.  Trust.


Pan-Seared Salmon with Hoja Santa Pesto, Corn Griddle Cakes and Clay Pot Black Beans


Wine pairing:
Latour “Domaine Valmoissine” Pinot Noir, Coteaux du Verdon 2007

 Meh.  Mine was better.  (Johnny got this, and it tasted pretty much like it looks.)

I could make this.  It’s like they didn’t even try.  And the streak of pesto just makes the salmon look, well,  diseased


Third Course

Mexican Chocolate Fondant with Fleur de Sel Caramel and Kahlúa Crema


Wine pairing:
Marenco Brachetto D’ Acqui “Pineto” Piedmonte DOCG 2008

 For our dessert orders, I had asked the waiter to just randomly give us the chocolate dessert and the cheesecake.  So at first, this was my dessert.  Again, I can’t say I’m a fan of cake.

So we traded.

This tasted like a brownie.  (And that’s probably why Johnny LOVED it!)

The wine that was served along side the brownie was a Piedmont, which was sort of a fizzy Pinot Noir.  This wine might have done better with a ganache or something smooth like that.  Because again, I am not a fan of cake…


Unless it’s CHEESECAKE…

Deep Ellum Goat’s Cheesecake with Thyme-Infused Cherries Jubilee


Wine pairing:
Lillypilly Noble Blend, New South Wales (Riverina) Australia 2006

 Who but Stephan Pyles would think to make a cheesecake with goat cheese (and not screw it up)?  And then make it look like a cherry cobbler with ice cream?

To be honest, I was expecting the standard baked, triangular slice of cheesecake, maybe with some cherries baked into it.  Maybe a little browning or crustiness on top…  But certainly not this!

(I totally got the best dessert.  After I traded with Johnny, anyway…  Yay, me!)

The cheesecake was perfectly smooth and creamy, and the cherries were perfectly cooked and seasoned with thyme.  Accompanying the cheesecake/cherries was a liberal sprinkling of (graham cracker crumbs?) on the side.  It was basically a deconstructed cherry cheesecake.  And I need to remember to add more herbs to my cobblers…

And as for the wine, the Lillypilly rocked it.


All in all, the JohnnyCakes and I were once again very, very impressed by Stephan Pyles.   I’m pretty sure this is our new favorite restaurant. 


*All photos were taken by my iPhone, because although I was prepared to look sort of geeky taking photos of my food, I didn’t want to look Japanese Tourist geeky with my honkin’  big DSLR slung around my neck. 


Last night, I made the ultimate in comfort food, and the ultimate in Polishness….The lowly Pierogi…

Behold the yummy goodness!

Behold the yummy goodness!

My Polish/Ukrainian grandmother used to make these from scratch and send us piles of them.  But since I no longer have this grandmother, and because I’m both busy AND lazy, I prefer to just get the pierogies frozen.  (You can also make these sort-of from scratch, using wonton/gyoza wrappers.  I might do that when I’m craving some sort of crazy, off-the-wall filling, but for now, plain old frozen potato/cheese pierogies will do…)

Come to think of it, you can make ravioli with wonton wrappers as well…But that’s for another time…

The ingredients:

  • Box of frozen pierogies
  • 1 or 2 onions, diced
  • butter
  • 8 or 16 oz container of sour cream (I used the 16-ouncer, since sour cream is pretty much a food group for us Polocks.  Feel free to use the lowfat stuff, since you won’t be cooking with it, and there is therefore no danger of it falling apart and turning to a pathetic, watery mess.)

The pierogies:

  1. Grab a huge saucepan/soup pot and fill it 3/4 of the way with water.  Enough so that the pierogies have room to float when they are done.
  2. Boil the water.
  3. Throw in the pierogies and boil for 5-7 minutes (or whatever the box says to do).  They should float when they are done.
  4. When the pierogies are done, fry them in a big skillet, in butter.  They should be just browned on both sides.

The Sour Cream:

  1. Saute the onions in a skillet with butter until they are at least clear, and you can even go all the way and carmelize them if you want.  Feel free to also add salt and pepper. 
  2. Throw the cooked onions into a bowl with the sour cream and mix them together.
  3. Serve over pierogies.  YUM!

Sorry, but this will be a short entry.  I just had to brag…

Last night, I made the BEST salad for dinner!

Fancy-Shmancy, eh?

Fancy-Shmancy, eh?

Here are the ingredients for 2 servings:

  • leftover crab from random cajun restaurant, removed from shells (or anywhere you want to get crab from.  But don’t use the fake stuff.  Just don’t.)  I think I had about 1/2 lb. of crab, including the shells, but this would probably be better with more.
  • a bit of mayo, plain yogurt or olive oil
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 cucumber, sliced thinly on a mandolin, or diced finely
  • 1/2 mango, diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 Tbsp cilantro
  • zest and juice from 1 lime
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • OPTIONAL:  1 jalapeno pepper, minced
  • Bag-O-Salad, whatever kind you like. 
  • Non-creamy dressing for salad.  (I used the white balsamic vinaigrette that came with the salad bag.)

To assemble:

  1. Dump the salad bag ingredients into a large bowl and mix to your little heart’s content.  Set aside.
  2. If necessary, remove crab meat from shells.  Discard shells, unless you want to save them and get all gourmet and make a stock with them later, but whatever. 
  3. Add mayo/yogurt/olive oil (I used 1-2 Tbsp of mayo) to crab and mix well.  (This is to bind the crab together.  You can skip this step if you like.  But it just adds to the Yummy.)
  4. Mix  lime juice/zest, mango, bell pepper, onion, cilantro (and jalapeno).
  5. Get a bowl. (A small salad/soup bowl is fine.)  Line the bowl with plastic wrap (leave enough on the edges to overlap later) and spray with non-stick spray.
  6. Add avocado, in whatever decorative pattern you choose, to each bowl.
  7. Add 1/4 crab mixture to each bowl.
  8. Add enough of mango relish to cover the crab.  Maybe even a little more. Whatevs.
  9. Split remaining crab mixture between the bowls, making another layer.
  10. Add a layer of cucumber particles to each bowl.
  11. Now this is where the extra plastic wrap comes in…  Take the extra flap of plastic wrap from each side, fold it over the stuff that you placed in each bowl, and smoosh the salad down, compacting everything.
  12. Divide the (lettuce) salad among 2 plates.
  13. Unfold the plastic wrap flaps from the top of each bowl, then carefully/quickly flip each bowl over on top of its respective plate of lettuce, and take off the bowl.
  14. Remove plastic wrap.
  15. Marvel at your general awesomeness. 
  16. YAY!!!!