Sunday, July 17, 2011

Restaurant Review: Bouchon

I really ate well for my birthday this year. It has been really amazing, since food has become our hobby, how much my tastes in birthday restaurants have changed. The first time I took the husband out to dinner for his birthday, we went to the Outback (that was his 30th birthday, so while we were at the restaurant, our roommate was getting the house ready for his surprise party, since I was too young to buy the beer!). I recently went through all our gift cards and found that we have 3 different Outback gift cards that we haven't used because we just aren't interested in that kind of food anymore. So this year, for my birthday, I enjoyed a small birthday lunch (stupid sales conference means that 2/3 of my office is always out on my birthday) at Olio Pizzeria, a fairly new and very authentic Italian pizzeria. All 4 girls at our table finished our entire meals, which is very unusual for our group, it was just so tasty! But the highlight of the day was definitely Bouchon. After much deliberation, I chose Bouchon for my dinner date with my husband the night of my birthday. We were pleased to find out that Bouchon was owned by the same team that runs Wine Cask, another of our favorite uber-fancy restaurants. Bouchon has many of the same aspects that we love about Wine Cask - fantastic wine list, unique menu items, knowledgable servers, and especially, their locally sourced ingredients. We started with the local crab cakes (no picture, but the menu describes them as being served with: "charred corn and microgreens salad, red bell pepper coulis, basil aioli and local avocado." These were delicious and fresh, with lovely completary tastes with the fresh items on the plate.

Now to the fun stuff with pictures:

My husband enjoyed a sea bass with carrot risotto and a fresh pea sauce. This dish was so intriguing. If you were to take a bite of the fish by itself, it would have been too salty to enjoy. But enjoying a bite with the risotto or the pea sauce, it was perfectly balanced. The texture of the fish was great, too - nice and crispy crust, but a soft velvety texture inside.

I had the grilled rack of lamb, which is lately all I have eyes for when I'm out at a nice restaurant. I believe that this was served over braised kale and a lentil pilaf with house made bacon, but the menu has changed, so I'm not sure of the exact details. This was just delicious. I love the rich earthy flavor of lamb - it is like beef has been kicked up with twice as much flavor. The only trouble with ordering lamb at fancy restaurants is that I have to avoid picking up the bones and picking every last little bit of meat off them like I do ribs at a barbeque - finger foods tend to be frowned upon a bit at these sorts of restaurants. Thankfully, I'm pretty skilled at using a knife & fork to get every last scrap! I also enjoyed the lentil pilaf and I'm going to start using lentils at home a bit.

Since we had cupcakes waiting for us at home, we didn't order dessert here. The restaurant instead comped both of my glasses of wine in honor of my birthday. We were really impressed with the service here and both of us agree that we like the ambiance even better than Wine Cask. We will be back for more special occassions, I'm sure!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Broiled Barbeque Tofu

This was definitely the winner of my vegetarian week (although the sushi takeout was pretty yummy, too!). I'm always amazed when I enjoy tofu dishes, because it is definitely one of those things that this picky eater would have sworn was gross before I became more daring with food. Honestly, tofu is nothing to be afraid of, since it has no real flavor of its own. It is more a texture thing, and this dish did a great job at adding delicious flavor and crispy texture all at once. I picked up a chipotle barbeque sauce because I knew I wanted more spicy flavor than sweet for this. I then checked out a couple recipes/techniques and found this one on allrecipes. I liked the idea of crisping the tofu in a pan first before coating in barbeque sauce and carmelizing in the broiler. I decided to coat in panko bread crumbs that had been run through the food processor briefly because I love the crispiness that panko gives. And instead of frying the tofu, I just crisped it up in a pan lightly coated with cooking spray. I also used a whole egg instead of egg whites because I just didn't want to deal with the egg whites. These changes resulted in a deliciously crispy and carmelized product. I absolutely could have eaten the entire block of tofu by myself, but I held off (and the leftovers, while not as crispy, were still pretty tasty). I will definitely make this one again for the husband to enjoy with me.

Broiled Barbeque Tofu

1 block extra firm tofu, drained

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs, run through the food processor

1 egg

1 cup barbeque sauce

cooking spray

Slice tofu into 8 slices. Press between two cutting boards lined with paper towels, weighing down the top board with a couple canned items or other heavy things. Preheat oven to 375. Place tofu slices into a pan and cook, unseasoned for 10-15 minutes to dry further. Allow to cool while you get the egg and bread crumbs into shallow dishes for coating. Turn broiler on to preheat. When tofu is cool enough to handle, dip into egg and then bread crumbs, shaking to remove excess. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add coated tofu pieces and cook, stirring once, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Dip each tofu piece into barbeque sauce and place on a broiler pan. Broil until sauce starts to carmelize - this will depend on your barbeque sauce, it took mine about 4 minutes. Keep an eye on this, don't let it burn! Remove and enjoy. Makes 2 servings of 4 slices each.

Black Bean Burrito Bowls

I have just finished a week of vegetarian eating. This week, my husband was away at Specialized bike camp (a week long dealer event where Specialized Bicycles debuts new products, fun times for my husband). While he was away, I decided that this was going to be the week to try out new vegetarian entrees. I have wanted to do a week of vegetarian for a while now, and since I'm going to the midwest for vacation next week, I thought the detox before I left for what is sure to be some unhealthier eating would be in order. I also thought this would be a good way to stay motivated to cook at home without eating anything too unhealthy (I've been known to indulge in rib-eye steaks and hamburger helper while the husband is away, and that just isn't good for my tummy!). This meal was actually one of the ones I cooked while the husband was still in town, so I knew it would have to be substantial and over the top good for him to be satisfied. This was really yummy, we both enjoyed the peppery flavor, but both agreed it needed a little more spice. Next time, I'll probably add some spices to the rice as it cooks as well as switching out some of the milder peppers for jalapenos. This makes a LOT of pepper mix, so you can probably double the rice and make 8 entrees with the same number of peppers.

Black Bean Burrito Bowls (my own recipe)

1 Cup brown rice

2.5 cups vegetable broth

2 Fresno chiles

2 Anaheim chiles

1 Poblano pepper

1 Red bell pepper

1 small onion

1 Tbs olive oil

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 can black beans - drained and rinsed

Cook brown rice in rice cooker with broth (Or cook on the stovetop, but I'm awful at cooking brown rice on the stovetop!). Meanwhile, chop anaheims, poblano, bell pepper and onion into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces. Dice fresno chiles finely. Heat oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Saute onion and peppers until very soft and starting to char - about 10 minutes. Heat black beans in a small saucepan until heated through. To prepare bowls, serve about a 1/2 cup cooked rice, top with a large spoonful of pepper mixture, top with black beans, then top with cheese. Serve with tortillas or chips. Makes about 4 servings with leftover chiles, or double rice & cheese for 8 servings.