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Archive for July, 2009

Husband brought me to Heidi’s for my birthday this past weekend. We went there in March just before daughter was born, and we realized it was also the last time we had been out to dinner, together, without daughter. Huh. Needless to say, we loved it in March and loved it even more now that it’s July.
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The menu is small, with about 6 appetizers and 6 entrees, but we were both unsure what to order. The server had mentioned a tasting menu was available, so after hearing which dishes were on it, we jumped in and decided to go for it. The first course (above) was the Beet Sorbet with Sauateed Dandelion Greens, Wasabi Sauce and puffed rice. There was also a swipe of their homemade BBQ sauce and Beet Powder. Yes, Beet Powder. Unique, Yes. Delicious, Yes.

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The second course was a Foie Gras Brulle served over a Garam Masala Yogurt Cake with Squash Puree… (!!!)

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Next up, a plate of Papparedelle with Black Truffles. Enough said.

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Then onto the first entree. This was the Crab Stuffed Salmon with Sage Foam, Purple Mashed Potatoes and Passion Fruit sauce. I had this last time and now that I’ve had it again, I’ve realized what’s been haunting me for 4 months.

The second entree was an Anise Lamb Chop with Wild Rice and Cabbage Salad. I don’t usually eat Lamb (they’re cute!) but this was fall off the bone tender with a delightful flavor. I might be converted someday…

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Finally, dessert. A trio of desserts, in fact. There was chocolate sorbet with chocolate cake and chocolate sauce (perfect!), Bananas Neopolitan (not quite working) and Tapioca with Fresh Mint (fresh and minty!).

Then, as if we weren’t done, was a cheese plate. We would have been happy to leave after the desserts (we did have a babysitter waiting) but the cheeses had to be done. They served them table-side, an English cheddar, Something from Spain and a Gorgonzola from France. (Nothing from Wisconsin, hear that Favre?) But they did serve a little palate cleanser salad of endive, Pineapple, Chives and a dressing which was also mixed up table-side.

Needless to say, Heidi’s is fabulous. Both times we’ve been there we’ve had early reservations (they’re tough to get) and both times the service has been very attentive and professional until about 715 when the place fills up. Either the kitchen or the servers are overwhelmed at that point and it makes for a long meal (especially when you’ve got a babysitter waiting).

But go. Eat as much as you can, because everything we tried was innovative and well-prepared and, well, beyond good. I can’t wait to go back….

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I have to tell you about a friend of mine. We’ll call her Kim.

I worked with Kim a long, long time ago at an agency that no longer exists. I liked her immediately. Mostly because she spent a lot of time talking about the fabulous meals that she and her then fiancé made. I wanted to be just like her. We started hanging out together at work, and then after work, and we both eventually left that agency and stayed in touch. Now she lives just up the road.

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Years ago I started to call her, and her husband (we’ll call him Chris) with my cooking questions. They were more than happy to answer them and they were always helpful. From cooking times, to basic identification (what is Ras El Hanout?) they always had an answer.¬† (On a side note, Kim has actually called me a couple times with questions. Each time I’m flattered and flabbergasted. But I try to help.)

The other day I was planning to make a Spinach, Tarragon and Feta Frittata for dinner primarily because I had a bumper crop of Tarragon busting out in the backyard. As I pulled out all my ingredients, I realized I only had five ounces of Spinach and the recipe called for 10 ounces. I immediately picked up the phone and called Kim.

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Of course she had the answer. Potatoes. They were staring at me from their bowl on the counter and I hadn’t even thought of them. “Slice them thin and steam them for a few minutes before adding them.” I should have thought of that. Potatoes are so universal. I knew I had tomatoes and a red pepper, but she pointed out that both of those would conflict with the tarragon. I could have used Basil (also in abundance out back) but the purpose of the meal was to use the Tarragon. I realized the potatoes would also make the Frittata more substantial, which is a good thing when Husband is used to meat at every meal.

So I started sauteeing spinach and steaming potatoes and picking tarragon and sprinkling feta. The dish came together quickly. And it was bubbling and beautiful when I pulled it out from under the broiler. I cut it into quarters and served it with some leftover bread from the Bikery (where else) and a salad with Tomatoes and Red Peppers (still got to use them).

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Needless to say I had high expectations. I don’t have a whole lot of free time to cook anymore and there’s nothing better than sinking your teeth into a delicious dish that you’ve poured your soul (and you’re friends soul) into. As much as I wanted to love, love, love this frittata, it fell short. Yes, the potatoes were a great addition, maybe the best part, in fact. But I missed the tarragon. Where was it? I knew I had added it but I didn’t taste it. Anywhere. That was a bummer. The whole meal was designed to feature the beautiful tarragon plant that’s taking over the herb pot out back, and I couldn’t even taste it. Pooey.

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But then I realized that even though the tarragon frittata didn’t wow me, that wasn’t what was important. The tarragon frittata (and my poor planning at the grocery store) led me to call my friend Kim. We rarely see each other even though we live just a couple miles apart. It’s reassuring to know that I can call her with a silly question about spinach and get an answer. We also use those few minutes to catch up on each others lives, even just briefly.

So thanks Kim (and Chris) for being the role models you are. I still want to be just like you.

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Cauliflower

It was nearly three years ago that I had the idea to start a food blog. I was eating a cup of Roasted Cauliflower with Poblano Peppers from the Birchwood Cafe. It was truly amazing. The flavors were deep and subtle. Ask yourself, just what does Cauliflower taste like? I’d never thought about it before and now that I do, I relied on the white bulbous shape to carry other flavors, whether its the dill dip it’s been dunked in or the curry powder that’s been sauteed in. This soup actually tasted like Cauliflower. It was then that I decided I had to recreate it.

Instead of kindly asking the Birchwood for the recipe, I went to the grocery store and bought lots of Cauliflower and Poblanos. I was going to figure out this recipe by myself. I didn’t even allow myself to pull “The Joy of Cooking” off the shelf for some guidelines. Nope, this time I was going to make a dish instinctively. And then I’d write about it. Success or Failure. That was the plan.

I roasted the Cauliflower and the Poblanos in the Oven. The Poblanos roasted beautifully and I pulled their thin skins from their bodies after they sweat it out in a paper bag. The Cauliflower was more difficult. How long should I roast it? When is it done? Does it need to turn a little bit brown? I had sprinkled the pieces with olive oil and they were beginning to turn a light brown like a marshmellow over the gentle part of a campfire. I decided they were done. Into the blender they went with a bit of chicken stock and the poblanos. But at what ratio?

I still had high hopes when I turned the blender on. The whirr of the machine called the dog into the kitchen. The chunks of vegetables quickly disintegrated into a fine slurry. I poured the mixture into a bowl, added a pinch of salt and a twist of pepper, stirred and reached in with a spoon. Wow. Really, truly, wow. It was horrible. What happened? Husband came into the kitchen at the sound of my angst and I handed him a spoon. Not a chance.

I looked into the bowl again and saw what Husband saw. A bowl of paper mache gunk. But actually, that might have tasted better. This “soup” had the sharpness of the peppers with just a hint of olive oil. And that was it. No other flavors to speak of. None of the depth and subtlety that the Birchwood had achieved. Not even close. I was so far off, that even failure couldn’t be written about. I poured the contents of the bowl down the disposal and quickly washed out the blender. Better to just put this behind me. The Cauliflower, the Soup and the Blog. The blog was put on hold. I needed time to regroup.

When the kitchen was cleaned up I turned to see Husband’s rejected spoon on the counter. It was still coated in the “soup.” The dog had remained underfoot and was staring up at me with his big brown eyes. I leaned down with the spoon and sure enough, he licked it clean. Huh.

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