Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Tonight's Dinner: October 20, 2014

Today is the actual day of our anniversary.  Nick stayed home from the shooting range and we hung out with a friend to watch Sunday football.  I cleaned and crafted most of the day, which is my way of relaxing on a Sunday.  For dinner, I made a quick chili pasta and butter lettuce salad.  Nothing super special since we had such an extravagant meal the night before.  I used leftover chili to put over noodles.  I had baked some cornbread that morning so we had that along side.  Carbs on top of carbs.

Tonight's Dinner: October 19, 2014

We contemplated going away for our one-year anniversary, but couldn't think of anywhere that we wanted to go where we could bring Emmy.  We fell back to our go-to.  Fine dining.  Boy, this sure was fine.  Atelier Crenn was our first two Michelin star restaurant.  Talk about posh.  As much as we enjoy eating out at nice places, this was a little bit much for us.  It was like eating at Top Chef competition.  It was that high-brow French gastronomic style where the dishes are the size of your thumb or made with liquid nitrogen...or both.   It was a very cool experience, but I don't think we'll do that again.  We would still like to try a three star restaurant just to see what the hype is about.  Not any time soon though.  Our bank account needs time to recover.  It cost a pretty penny.  I would recommend Atelier Crenn to anyone who has an adventurous palette and not afraid to spend a lot of money on a meal.

It was kind of funny because the couple sitting next to us was trying to pick out the flavors and saying stuff like, "mmm, it's very earthy."  While Nick and I were saying, "ohh, this tastes good. I like this one."  I used to try to do this when we went to nice places, but I found that I just didn't enjoy the experience as much when I was trying to pick it apart or figure out how they made it.  Here's an example of how the conversation went at our table:

Nick: Mmm there's a nut.
Me: In what?
Nick: This little dirt thing.  (I'm pretty sure he was referring to a bon bon.)

Classy.  To tell you the truth, my stomach was upset in the middle of the night because my system wasn't used to that kind of adventurous food.  I'll let the pictures do the guiding for me. We had a 20-course meal with an added cheese course.  Each small dish was considered a course even if it came out with different items.

The menus came in a little envelope and was pre-fixed. The chef wrote a poem that explained the dishes.  We had to try to follow along, but it did jump around a little bit. It's a cool concept. I used them to write down all of the dishes after the waiters explained.  It was still hard to keep up...especially after some wine.

Creme de Cassis in a hollowed out ball of coco butter. They told us to eat it right off the little pedestal because they break easily. When you put it in your mouth it almost immediately bursts.  I can't say I was a fan of that feeling, but the flavor was pretty good.

Left: Uni gelee with caviar
Middle: Oyster with melon in a coffee-tobacco stock
Right: We don't remember what they called this thing, but it was like a french fry in a creamy savory sauce. It might be a yuka, but I'm really not sure.  

Close up of the uni gelee. This was one of my favorite dishes.

Buck wheat crackers

Squid with squid ink and truffle sprinkles in an Imberico ham broth.  This was one of my other favorite dishes. I could have eaten a normal sized bowl of this.

This one is fun. Under the pickled white beets and fried turnip greens are slices of smoked fish.  They placed the plates down and poured liquid nitrogen "snow" over the top.  It's all about the presentation and spectacle. 

The snow is melting.

Left: Basil pate palette cleanser with a small leaf that was quite spicy.  To me the leaf looks like a mini lily pad.
Right: King crab with a yuzu panna cotta (half dome thing under the beads of red and green) in a tomato butter sauce.

The waiter described this as the chef's interpretation of a French Onion Soup. On top is a an onion gel an underneath is a ball of cheese (probably mixed with something fancy that I can't remember or spell). The waiter poured a truffle broth on top.  It was pretty good and tasted like a French Onion soup.

This is carrot jerky with a cayenne pepper and orange glaze. When it first came out I wasn't sure what part of the "dish" we were supposed to be eating.  It kind of looks like a slug. It was pretty much a candied carrot to me.

White sturgeon balls (they made it into a paste and then used liquid nitrogen) with salmon roe rubbed in eucalyptus over grains that reminded me of toasted quinoa.

Brioche with sweet cream butter.

They gave us little wooden butter knives that are pretty much worthless, but fun to play with.

Lobster bisque with sweet breads and sea grapes.

Since Nick is allergic to lobster they substituted a coconut soup with the sweet breads and sea grapes.

Mushroom over meringue with turnip greens and sunchokes.

Since I'm allergic to mushrooms my dish had miniature turnips instead of mushrooms.

Wagyu rubbed with cherry blossom and tomato gelee.

Micro salad in a hollow cup of meringue with extra virgin olive oil jelly and vinegar.

The mouth feel was like how I imagine it is eating Styrofoam. Tasty Styrofoam at least.

There was a cheese plate option that was an additional charge. As soon as the waiter offered it to the couple next to us who was a few courses ahead, Nick looked at me and knew that I'd be getting something. I wouldn't be able to even repeat the names of these cheeses. 

Each slice was a whopping $12.50 so I was going to finish it whether they were good or not.  Thankfully, they were really good. The grayish top left was a sheep's milk, bottom was a cheese cured in hay stack, and the top right is a cow's milk.

I'm not normally a honey person, but I love raw honey with cheese. I ate this whole container.

I made sure to eat as much as I could and really scraped it off the rinds.

Pineapple juice with green algae and fennel seeds. Green algae is supposed to be really good for your digestive system so I think this is what had me running for the bathroom at 3am.

Sweet gelatin with macha and seaweed powder.

I've said this before, and I'll say it again. I don't like foam. It makes me think of insects.  When I was a child I would play in the backyard while my Dad was doing yard work. I would see these little foamy bubbles on leaves and squish them. One day my Dad told me that the foam was made by insects as a protective barrier. I never popped them again.

Needless to say, when I see this kind of foam, I think of bugs living inside.  The other components of this dish consisted of a jelly mussel (it was actually a piece of gelatin shaped and colored like a mussel) on top of green tea ice cream.  I did not like the mouth feel or the flavors. This was not my favorite dish. 

Dessert came out in two parts.  This first part has a passion fruit marshmallow, nougat, and fruit chew.

The second part has bon bons, coffee macaroons, mint chocolate with black sesame seeds, and white and dark chocolate.

We were tickled that they served macaroons since we had them at our wedding.  It's a pretty common French pastry though so not really out of the ordinary.

I was really intrigued by the box. The letter was written by Crenn's daughter and branded onto the box that the desserts were served in.


One year down and a lifetime of food adventures to go.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tonight's Dinner: October 16, 2014

Tonight we asked our friend over for dinner so that I could practice some of the dishes that I'm planning to make for Thanksgiving.  We make the same things every year, but I don't make those dishes all of the time so I'm a little rusty. I'm especially bad at mushrooms now.  I used to make mushrooms all the time when I ignored the fact that I'm allergic to them.  Now that I'm older, even eating something that was cooked with mushrooms makes my lips peel and scalp itchy.  Nick likes mushrooms so I'll buy them and he will cook them in the pan after I'm done making dinner and will add them to his dish.  It's been working out pretty well for us.

So tonight since I had cooked the mushrooms, they were botched.  We've decided that for Thanksgiving Nick will be in charge of making them.  I did successfully make sage-butter chicken thighs, garlic green beans, garlic mashed potatoes, and bacon brussel sprouts. Our friend doesn't like brussel sprouts but he was a good a sport and tried them out.  He actually liked them and had a second helping.  With enough bacon, anything can be good.  When people tell me that they don't like brussel sprouts I tell them that they need to try them the way I make them.  The bacon usually wins people over.

Bacon brussel sprouts

Garlic green beans

Soy sauce and cream mushrooms.  I don't know what I was thinking...

Garlic mashed potatoes

Tonight's Dinner: October 14, 2014

I think I'm just perpetually behind nowadays.  There's no excuse except that I don't want to use my brain once I get home from work.  Even our dinners are pretty simple.  Lately, Emmy and I have been doing a lot of hiking in the hills behind our house in preparation for my last Spartan race.  We get back to the house around 6:30-6:45pm and then I have to get something on the table.  I don't know how people can have dinner on the table by 6:30pm.  We don't usually eat until around 8:00pm just because I can't get it ready in time.  It's even later if I'm feeling drained and need a break between our walk and preparing dinner.  Tonight was pretty easy.  I had frozen a tub of chorizo-tomato sauce from a few weeks ago.  I let had let that thaw and made it into a soup with some chicken stock.  I added zucchini, cheddar cheese, and avocado, which made it taste very similar to a tortilla soup.  It was quite delicious and done quickly with minimal amounts of effort.  I'm beginning to see why people like to do takeout so much.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Tonight's Dinner: October 12, 2014

The last few weeks I haven't had the best luck with keeping our grocery bill low so this week I tapped into our frozen meats to make sure that they got used and keep our cost down.  We have quite a few packets of chain meat left from when we did the Chateaubriand for our Spanish-style meals. We packaged them individually and put them in the freezer for safe keeping.  I took out the larger of the packets to thaw for chili.  It was a pretty warm day, but I don't have time on weeknights to make such a time consuming meal.  The preparation of the chili isn't difficult, but it takes a long time for it to cook down and taste like a slow-cooked chili.  It's the perfect dish for a Sunday dinner.  Since this was going to be the star of our meal, I simply made a couple of baked potatoes as a vehicle for the chili and cheese. Nick and I actually shared the potato in the picture below.  When we eat full salads before the main meal it really cuts down on our entree intake.

Tonight's Dinner: October 9, 2014

Tonight we had an oldy but goody.  This is one of those meals that takes forever to make because you want the meat to get really tender.  I had been marinating pork short ribs in black bean sauce all week waiting for a night where I didn’t feel like cooking.  Today was the day.  All I had to do was boil the ribs to oblivion and make some rice.  While that cooked I did a rough chop on some green bell peppers and then plopped on the sofa to zone out.  

Tonight's Dinner: October 7, 2014

“Turkey  for me/turkey for you/let’s eat the turkey/in my brown shoe”  - Adam Sandler

You’d think Thanksgiving was coming or something.  Tonight I wanted to make a turkey meatloaf. Originally, I was going to make turkey burger patties, but ended up having a burger for lunch so I wasn’t in the mood for that anymore.   I had gotten lean ground turkey from Sprouts so I wanted to add some moisture to the loaf.  I used a box grater and grated a whole zucchini onto a tea towel.  Twisting up the tea towel, I squeezed as much liquid out of the zucchini as I could.  You would really be surprised how much liquid comes out of it.  I then mixed the shredded zucchini with my turkey, egg, ketchup, onion powder, garlic powder and salt and pepper.  I didn’t have any bread crumbs to add in to make it hold, which resulted in a crumbly loaf in the end.  Once the loaf cooled down it stayed in loaf form, but Nick was too impatient and ate it as a pile of ground turkey chunks.   While the turkey was in the oven baking, I also put in cauliflower and whole Brussel sprouts to roast.  I don’t have a finished product picture because the crumbled loaf was too ugly.