August 2010


Last Friday, Johnny and I made our annual trek to Stephan Pyles to sample the offerings for Restaurant Week.  We had been to another restaurant the week before and were not impressed, so I KNEW that Stephan Pyles would be better.  And they did not disappoint!

We arrived at the restaurant a little early, so we decided to wait at the bar…

I had a cucumber martini, and Johnny had an Acai Berry martini.

The cucumber martini had gin, vodka, and some other stuff, and it contained a floating slice of cucumber.  It was cucumbery and yummy!

I have no idea what Johnny’s martini had, but it was a lot sweeter than mine, and it had blueberries.  So both of our drinks had their own special Flair…

Course 1:

My first course was a corn soup.  Or to be more exact…

Roasted Texas Corn Soup with Laughing Bird Shrimp and Huitlacoche
Acrobat, Pinot Gris, Oregon 2008

(Seeing this photo reminds me that I need the new iPhone.  I really, really need the new iPhone.  *sigh*…)

So anyway, the soup tasted like creamed corn that had been put into a blender.  But not in a bad way!  Oh no!  It was sweet and a tad smoky, and it had a few particles of huitlacoche swimming around in it. The shrimp accented the sweetness, and the cream smoothed everything over.  This was really, really tasty.

Johnny got this:

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Mozzarella-Stuffed Squash Blossom,
Basil and Balsamic Gelée
Pazo San Mauro, Albarino, Rias Baixas 2009

(And yes, I tasted everything.  How am I supposed to write an information-filled blog if I don’t know what everything tastes like???)

The salad consisted of field greens, several differnt types of heirloom tomatoes, and a deep-fried squash blossom that had been stuffed with mozzerella.  You know, like the description says…

I had gotten a similar salad last year at SP, so I knew how good it was.  I don’t know how they got these tomatoes to taste so perfect, but they were delicious!  They must not keep them in a refrigerator or something…  you know that kills the flavor, right?  Right???

Course 2:

For my entree, I got this:

Grilled Coulotte of Beef with Charred Red Pepper Purée,
Tempura Hen of the Woods and Fresh Bay Demi
J. Vidal-Fleury, Cotes du Rhone 2006

I know you need a translation, so here it is:

Basically, these were grilled, absolutely perfectly tender hunks of beef, sitting on a sauce made of charred red bell peppers.

No, actually, they were grilled, absolutely perfectly tender hunks of beef, leaning on a dollop of mashed potatoes that had been placed on a shmear of red pepper puree.

Accompanying these were two HUGE hunks of tempura-fried wild mushrooms.

And they were delicious!

The beef was amazingly rich, but it was lightened up by the sweet tartness of the puree.  The mushrooms were a bit heavy, but the flavors played off each other very well, overall.

Johnny’s entree:

Barbecued Juha Ranch Chicken with Grilled Watermelon,
Pickled Rind and Heirloom Potato Salad
Pedroncelli, “Mother Clone”, Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley 2008

Throughout our meal, I was insanely jealous of Johnny, because everything that he got was SO much better than mine!

The chicken was amazingly tender, juicy, and full of flavor.

It was accompanied by the most delicious potato salad I had ever tried.  The potatoes were purple, and the flavor of the potato salad was almost orangey.  I asked the waiter what they put in the salad, and he replied that it was just “standard potato salad dressing.”  Yeah, right.

Leaning on the chicken was a slice of grilled watermelon.  The watermelon was perfectly ripe, very, very sweet, and the sweetness was further brought out by the grilleration…

Like I said…  Totally jealous of this one…

Course 3:

But I got even MORE envious when I saw his dessert, which was…

Mexican Chocolate Tamales with Roasted Cherry-Vanilla Ice Cream Sambuca
-Milk Chocolate Sauce
Warre’s, “Otima 10”, 10-Year Tawny Port

Oh.  My.  Gawd.

This chocolate tamale tasted like straight brownie batter.  But not as sweet.  It was like a perfectly moist, soggy, wet, undercooked slab of cake batter.  It was divine.

I didn’t notice the ice cream.  Or the drizzle.

This dessert…Must learn how to make…. yum…

For my dessert, I got:

Mascarpone-Black Mission Fig Empanada with Balsamic Sabayon
and Jamon Serrano Ice Cream
Albala, “Gran Reserva”, Don PX, Sherry 1982

Okay…

This was a tiny empanada filled with figgy, creamy goodness.

The thing I like best about Stephan Pyles is that he takes what is basically white trash/comfort food and makes it upscale.  So with this dessert, he took the concept of a chocolate fried pie and made it all gourmet-like and stuff…

The filling in the empanada was a fig/mascarpone mixture.  And in texture, it was a lot like a stringier chocolate fried pie.  I only wish there had been more filling.

The schmear was a balsamic sabayon, and it picked up the flavor with a tart sweetness that paired very well with the sweet creaminess of the empanada filling.

Jamon Serrano = Serrano ham.  To tell the truth, I couldn’t really taste any hammy flavor in the ice cream.  it might have been there, but all I tasted was vanilla ice cream with maybe a bit of  a twang.

Truffles:

The neat thing about fancypants restaurants like Stephan Pyles and Nobu is, they often give you truffles instead of the standard hard candy/peppermint/Andes mints that you get at other places.  And that is awesome.

From left to right:

  • Peanut butter-filled milk chocolate truffle: I didn’t taste this one, but Johnny seemed to enjoy it.
  • “The chef’s play on an Oreo cookie”:  Hmmm….I don’t think I tasted this one either.  From what I recall, Johnny just picked this one up and popped it into his mouth.  The little weasel.  >:-(
  • Dark chocolate heart, filled with lavender cream:  Wow.  This was amazing.  I had half of it and gave Johnny the other half.
  • Johnny owes me some chocolate.
  • I’ll send him the bill from Neiman’s.

So there you have it.  My review of Stephan Pyles is finally here.

And on September 24, I will be going to the State Fair of Texas for my annual Fried Food Report!  YAAAAAAAYYYYY!!!!!!

And remember: 

STAY AWAY FROM 560 BY WOLFGANG PUCK.

Bleah.

When I was much younger, and I used to visit my grandpa every Sunday for dinner, he used to sometimes make cornflake chicken.  This week I was feeling nostalgic, and I decided to try making it for myself.  So I consulted my good friend Mr. Google, and I got the closest recipe I could find for his recipe…

So without further ado, here it is….

Cornflake chicken

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. cornflake crumbs
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper
  • 4-6 chicken breast halves, skinned
  • 1/4 c. buttermilk, or 2 beaten eggs
  • butter

Directions:

  1. Rinse and dry chicken pieces.
  2. Put chicken into a zip-top bag, and pour buttermilk into bag.  Swirl it around to coat chicken.
  3. Let chicken sit for a while to brine in the buttermilk.  (At least an hour.)
  4. (Skip those last two steps if you are using eggs instead of buttermilk.)
  5. Combine first 5 ingredients in another plastic bag. Shake to mix well.
  6. Place chicken in bag of crumbs and shake to coat.
  7. Place chicken on broiler pan which has been sprayed with vegetable spray.
  8. Dot chicken with butter.  Or melt butter in microwave and drizzle over chicken.
  9. Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes or until done.
  10. Bask in the glorious glow of being worshiped by anyone who eats this.

On August 20, Johnny and I went to 560 by Wolfgang Puck for Restaurant Week. Never again.

The last time I had been to Reunion Tower, it was for my high school prom.  Back then, the restaurant was called Antares, and from what I remember, it was pretty good.  There were some complaints about it in its later years, but I’m sure that it was DEFINITELY never as bad as when we visited last Friday.

I will preface this entry by saying that I have never been impressed by fusion food.  It tends to water down the flavor of whatever food it is trying to emulate, and pandering to Whitey by losing the flavor that defines each nationality’s cuisine is a sad, sad thing.

But since this was a Puck restaurant, and since it was in Reunion Tower, I decided to give it a chance.  Despite my reservations, and despite the awful reviews that I had read.  I mean, at the very least, Johnny and I could go there and enjoy the view.  I should have paid attention to those reviews…

First of all, here is the view.  That is, when I wasn’t being blinded by the setting sun…

We didn’t even get to sit by the window.  They pretty much had us stuck in the interior of the seating area.  So the evening didn’t start off well AT ALL.

To start our meal, we both ordered the Sake shooter trio.  As in, each of us ordered a sampler.  We got ONE.

But we were getting the wine pairings with our meal anyway, and we didn’t want to get TOO schnockered, so we shared.  No biggie…

The sake trio consisted of a ginjo, a daiginjo, and a nigori sake.  The way the waiter–AND the accompanying info card– explained each type of sake was positively insulting.  Come on. If I’m in your restaurant, and I’m brave enough to try sushi, I’ve probably had a sip or two of sake in my lifetime.  Jeez…

I stole the nigori, and it was AMAZING. Ricey and smooth and sweet and yummy.  The daiginjo tasted a lot like gasoline.  The ginjo was pretty good  with floral, fruity notes, but the nigori was much, much better.

For his appetizer, Johnny had the maki roll.  I had previously asked the waiter what the roll of the evening was, and I got the response that it was the dreaded California roll.  How ordinary.

So I opted for the samosa trio.  But when Johnny got his roll, it was a TEMPURA SHRIMP roll.  Which was just as blah.  So whatevs.

My samosas were the size of Jeno’s pizza rolls.  and just as soggy…

The samosas were placed upon a blob of mint, tamarind, and coconut chutney, respectively.  They were filled with avocado.  Bland, tasteless avocado.  WTF???

My faith in fusion food was further destroyed with each passing bite…Ugh…

For my entree, I chose the lamb.  It was placed upon a tiny blob of lentils and drizzled with a mint/chimichurri sauce.  No flavor whatsoever.  Not even a gamey lamb taste.  Not even an herby or minty taste.  Nothing.  Which made me feel even more sorry for the cute little fuzzy animal that gave its life for my plate.  Its poor, wasted life.

Johnny got the salmon.  His entree was a teensy bit better than mine.  It was steamed, and I believe it had a soy glaze or something, and some leeks and other greenery on top.  *sigh*…

(Of course, in the photo, it looks like the salmon was on its Moon Cycle.)

(You’re welcome.)

For dessert, we each got the “chocolate” torte.

It was tiny (about 2 fingers wide) and sloppy.

Does this look like a chocolate torte to you????

(To me, it looked — and tasted — like something that they got frozen at Sam’s and thawed and sliced up.  Or maybe they got it from some random Chinese buffet’s dessert table? )

Soooo disappointing….

Ah well.  Hasta la vista 560.  And you might want to replace some of those lightbulbs…

Stephan Pyles, you had better be AMAZING….

(It’s a good thing that Stephan Pyles never disappoints!)