Archive for August, 2007

BarBersQ – Napa

Friday, August 31st, 2007
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Pulled Pork Sandwich

I’ve been back in LA for quite a few days now, and despite having great intentions of blogging about every wonderful minute of being in Napa, something has held me back. I think I’ve been trying to come up with an interesting way of talking about BarBersQ, and it’s not happening. I may as well just get on with it, and offer the best that I can come up with: IT WAS AMAZING. GO THERE AND EAT ALL YOU CAN MANAGE.

Just look at the picture above.

That pile of pulled pork… coleslaw… and barbecue sauce… in a soft bun… sums it all up. BarbersQ offers traditional BBQ with a bit of flourish and a whole lot of flavor. The space is warm and inviting. I get similar feelings at Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen and Ad Hoc. It’s less fancy than those two (and cheaper, esp than the latter), but it has that same clean sort of hospitality that makes me feel good just sitting at one of their tables, awaiting delicious dishes. BarBersQ is relatively new, but if I still lived in Napa, something tells me that I would know the menu very well by now. I used to live down the street from it. I probably would have walked there and back to feel good about burning off some of the calories and saving gas money that could go to, say, a side of cheese-strong macaroni and cheese instead.

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Or the Texas Toast Open-Faced Brisket Sandwich (a special), which was so much more fabulous than it looks here. And Chad, ever anti-coleslaw, was even pleased with their creamy/crispy version, with just a bit of tang — the way it should be.

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And meats and mayo aside, I’d also like to call attention to the butter lettuce and pear salad that came with my sandwich. I believe it was the only time that I’ve taken a bite of a piece of lettuce — albeit, a perfectly dressed one — and blurted out, “you have to try this” to Chad. It was just so crisp and well-seasoned, and the sort of refreshment that should be shared.

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So, there it is, my decidedly un-nuanced impression of BarBersQ. It’s been added to our pantheon of craveworthy Napa destinations. It’s relatively casual — more of a lunch spot for most, I’m guessing, and located in a plaza across from Target and Trader Joe’s, but the food is so good that I’d recommend it over most other places in the valley for dinner anyway. I hope that it’s as good next time we go.

Off to Napa

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007
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I’ll be in Napa for a long weekend… I apologize if comments aren’t approved promptly.

Pound Cake Pancakes

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007
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Because I had leftover batter, a skillet, and a whim.

The Orange-Cardamom Morir Soñando

Sunday, August 19th, 2007
You can now purchase my handmade candy bars and marshmallows a

http://www.bonbonbar.com/

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In The Last Course, Claudia Fleming says that her Orange Cardamom Shake was adapted from a drink made by Dominican Republican prep cooks in the Gramercy Tavern kitchen. It looked a bit thin to be a shake to me, so a little googling revealed that it was based on the Morir Soñando, a Dominican Republican drink made with juice, milk, sugar, and ice. “Morir Soñando” translates as “to die dreaming.” Since that’s so much more poetic than “shake,” I am re-christening my version with that name. Incidentally, I also came across a Mexican drink made from fresh fruit and milk, called a Licuado… another lovely name.

Anyway, my first adaptation of the shake was delicious — popping with orange and cardamom — but the ensuing sugar buzz almost cancelled out the benefits of the taste (to be fair, I used ice cream where she called for creme fraiche, so that degree of sweetness wasn’t her intention). So, in between cherry tomato peeling sessions this week, I’ve been making milky syrups, juicing oranges, and drinking many morir soñandos with Chad.

They’re fantastic on a hot summer afternoon. They are somewhat filling, but less so than a bowl of ice cream or an American-style shake. And it’s a good time to use Valencia Oranges, often referred to as “juice oranges.” They’re in season during the summer, so it’s okay to give stone fruit a break or two. It’s also okay if they have patches of green peel; I almost prefer it b/c it means that they haven’t been artificially colored.
Basically, the drink is a combination of sweetened, flavored milk (rather like a milk-based simple syrup) and orange juice. Ice and ice cream are blended in for added coolness, thickness, and flavor. Its texture is thinner than heavy cream, and it has a delightfully frothy head.

  • I’ve been lucky enough to use my homemade Philadelphia-style noyaux ice cream, made from the almond-like nuggets in the middle of stone fruit pits; it has an Amaretto-like flavor that suits this drink very well.
  • I once used yogurt instead of ice cream, but I didn’t like the tang or the texture. It was too smoothie-like — not much fun in a spiked drink…
  • Dark rum is a great addition. I never measure it. Just pour in however much you like, or none at all.
  • I’ve prescribed a relatively small amount of sugar. You may want a little more; the sweetness of your ice cream can affect this, too.
  • This recipe is easily customizable. The spice, ice cream, and alcohol can be changed to make different flavors. Cinnamon, allspice, clove, lemon, vanilla, chocolate, peach, Amaretto, Brandy, Vodka, Grand Marnier…
  • Organic where possible is best, esp since the orange peel is used. I also like Organic Valley Milk.
  • If you make a big batch of milky syrup, you can use it up drink by drink over the course of a few days.
  • I suspect that you could do away with the infusing part (and omit the orange peel), and you’d still have a nice drink. I’ve never tried it, though.

Orange-Cardamom Morir Soñando
Yield: about 3 Servings

1 cup Whole Milk
1/4 cup Sugar
Strips of Orange Peel from 1/2 an Orange
Large Pinch of Ground Cardamom
1 cup Orange Juice, from about 3-4 oranges
1 scoop of Ice Cream, such as Noyaux or Vanilla
1/2 cup Ice Cubes
Alcohol to taste, such as Mount Gay Rum Eclipse

Over medium heat, bring the milk, sugar, orange peel, and cardamom to a simmer, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat, cover, and infuse for 20 minutes. Strain, and chill until cold.

In a blender, combine the chilled milk mixture, orange juice, ice cream, and ice. Blend until smooth. If desired, add alcohol, and pulse to combine.

Serve immediately.

Santa Barbara Spot Prawns at Osteria Mozza – Los Angeles

Saturday, August 18th, 2007
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I’m giving Santa Barbara Spot Prawns co-billing b/c they deserve at least as much attention as Osteria Mozza, and I consider this post something of a PSA — I have to spread the word about Santa Barbara Spot Prawns. I hadn’t known about them before yesterday afternoon, when I happened upon them in Suzanne Goin’s cookbook. Happily, two hours laters, I found them offered “al diavolo” during an impromptu first trip to Osteria Mozza. In short, they’re wildly delicious. Very sweet with a strikingly soft texture. The flavor has notes of lobster, but I’m inclined to claim that, in terms of pungency, they out-lobster lobster. Look out for them. And read more about them here.

Combined with a spicy tomato sauce and fresh cranberry beans (I believe), it was the dish to beat last night. And that’s saying a lot. Chad’s Beef Brasato with Polenta and Horseradish Gremolata was a wonderful rendition of braised beef short ribs. It may be more of a winter dish, but who would be foolish enough to turn down meltingly soft meat just because it’s a little warm outside? Once my fork sank into the meat, I could tell it was in a league of its own. And sure, braised short ribs seem to be everywhere in restaurants these days, but this dish was full of life, bolstered by a richly flavored sauce and sprightly garnishing vegetables, such as porcini mushrooms and caperberries. And the polenta was creamy without being bland or gloppy.

Chad thought that the Burrata with Escarole, Bacon, and Caramelized Shallots from the cheese bar was “amazing,” but I thought that flavors aside, the greens and bread were too oily. I still ate it all.

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I was smitten by the Bombolini with Lemon Mascarpone and “Fruit of the Woods” Sorbet (mixed berry). Well-orchestrated classic flavors. The sorbet was silky.  I liked that you could dip bits of fried dough into the mascarpone at will, so that every bite was like a custom-made stuffed donut. And there was a ricotta fritter amidst the bombolini, which was a clever touch.

As for the restaurant itself, it’s a bit fancier than Pizzeria Mozza, but nowhere near the operatic pretensions of Del Posto. It’s comfortable and stylish, with a rock ‘n roll soundtrack. We showed up at 7pm last night (Friday) and had a 10 minute wait for two seats at the marble cheese bar, manned by Nancy Silverton. I couldn’t imagine a better seat in the house. In fact, I’m sure that a satisfying meal could be cobbled together by the cheese-focused small plates. I ordered the burrata b/c I’d first had it served to me by Silverton herself at a Mozzarella Monday at Jar a couple years ago and I was feeling sentimental, but there were many cheeses that I was unfamiliar with that I would have loved to try. I would also be tempted by the starters, such as crispy pig’s trotter and testa (head cheese). Frankly, the main courses are a little staid in comparison, but as our’s showed, they do deliver nicely.

My main criticism of Osteria Mozza would be the profusion of Italian words on the menu. I can understand using the original Italian words for un-translatable proper nouns, but too many dishes had at least one wild-card word. And since it was so busy, no matter how friendly and helpful our waiter was, it took a long time before we could order — he suddenly stepped away halfway through our first  round of simple questions to tend to get grappa for other guests. Then we waited… and waited… for him to come back. And then we had to quickly make our decision based on what we learned during the second round so that we wouldn’t have to wait yet again to order. We’re reasonably well-informed and low-maintenance diners, so I think it’s an unnecessary flourish on their part. They could keep the phrases if they also print a description in the menu. Perhaps they want to encourage a dialogue btw the diners and the wait staff, but administering pop quiz is hardly my idea of a meaningful relationship or a perfect night out.

Anyway, I’d go back to Osteria Mozza, but the real question is, would I rather go to Pizzeria Mozza or Osteria Mozza? A craving for pizza aside, it would be a hard choice, since their sensibility is so similar. I guess I’ll have to visit them more — much more — to decide that. 🙂