Sunday, November 15, 2020

Playing with Quail Eggs

Gail found quail eggs from young, local, quail-raising entrepreneur. We are never ones to pass up a cool new thing. This morning, we turned them into three separate dishes. You see, with quail eggs, you can have three breakfasts without guilt.

First up was Scotch eggs. The quail eggs were the perfect size for a Scotch egg. A regular sized Scotch egg is frankly daunting, not that I wouldn't eat two if you sat them in front of me, but these dainty things were much more sane. We started by par-boiling the eggs for 3 minutes. Peeling the little things was a pain. While the half-hard eggs were firm enough to handle--regular eggs would be a mess after just 3 minutes--the shells were harder and broke into tiny bits that were difficult to remove. We covered them in a maple breakfast sausage, which, while delicious, overpowered the flavor of the eggs, so we couldn't reasonably tell the taste. The presentation was dramatic enough, but I can't imagine peeling enough of the little guys to make a reasonable meal.

Next up, we made two fried eggs. We did them in olive oil thinking that butter might overwhelm the flavor of the eggs. We served them over a single piece of toast cut up to fit them. Boy, these were good; richer and more flavorful than a chicken egg. They were easily worth the effort of this simple preparation. Oh, and so cute.

Finally, we made shredded potato bird nests. You can see in the picture that we used mini-cupcake tins for the quail egg nests and regular cupcake tins for a chicken egg comparison. (So, you might say we had four breakfasts this morning, but who's counting.) What you probably can't tell from the picture is that we shredded the quail egg nests using the fine shredder. We wouldn't bother with this in the future, it made no difference to the final texture or taste. These were also quite good, and indeed, tasted better than the chicken egg versions.

Next stop, the emu egg.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Shout out to Zero Waste Blogger

This is a nod to sometimes-contributor to this blog, Noele Flowers' new blog. Slow & Steadman focuses on a zero waste lifestyle. I'm biased, but I think her new blog is great.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Advent Beer 2017 - First Half

I got another Craft Beer Cellar Advent beer calendar this year. I think we've got the sharing right so that I'm not inundating the girls with beer. They got 4 each. That's left me with a few more than I can keep up with, but not too bad.

The calendar this year was in a beautiful box with cut-outs on the top that were meant to be broken open on each day. Because I wanted to share, I opened the whole box ahead of time. I think that took away some of the surprise (and fun), but it did mean I was able to hand pick beer that I thought each of my daughters would like best. Seems like a good trade.

Here's what I've opened so far:

December 1: New Holland Brewing, Dragon's Milk Reserve (Mocha Mint Bourbon Barrel Stout). This was an excellent start. It was a perfect dessert beer, rich, creamy and everything the label said it would be.

December 2: Fuller's ESB. This was a favorite of mine from a time before craft beer was a thing, so it was fun to try it again. Taste memories reminded me why it was a favorite. Clean, rich, malty flavors abound, with that classic British flavor I associate with Burton salts.

December 3: C&A Veltins Grevensteiner. I've never had this before. It was a delicious German lager which I would have called a Belgian single in a blind taste. It had a slight taste of Brett. Very good.

December 5: Firestone Mocha Merlin (Oatmeal Stout). This was another excellent dessert stout, but not quite as good as the Dragon's Milk.

December 7: Stranger than Fiction Porter. A really excellent porter with good clean flavors. Much cleaner than the two stouts without all the adjunct flavors. Very pleasant, and the can had great artwork on it.

December 8: North Coast Brother Thelonius (Belgian Style Abbey Ale). Firstly, nice pun. This was as good an Abbey style ale as you could want. It certainly competes nicely with many I've had from Belgium. This was a real treat, and Abbey beers taste so good this time of year.

December 9: Weihenstephaner Vitus. Look at the head on this thing. I always love Weihenstephaner, and didn't know what to expect with this one. This was another German beer masquerading as a Belgian beer, again with flavors of Brett to my taste. This was truly outstanding.

December 11: Von Trapp Dunkel Lager. I've never had a Von Trapp beer that I've been thrilled with. This reminded me of the pre-craft beer dark beers put out by by AB such as Michelob Classic Dark. There is nothing wrong with it, but there is just nothing special going on with it for me. I have no idea why I took the picture with a pineapple in the background.

December 14: Foundation Ember (Red IPA). This was a delight to try with everything the name implies. It was a combination of good IPA flavors and the Belgian flavors of a Flanders red ale. It's not a style that's likely to take over the world, but quite enjoyable to drink.

December 16: Wachusett Wally (New England Style IPA). I've been disappointed with Wachusett in the past, so I was not looking forward to this one. I found myself pleasantly surprised. It is a stretch to call it New England Style, but so goes marketing. As an IPA, though, it was a good showing characteristic of the other larger producers in the area. In the past, I might have just had water if this was the only thing on tap. I've changed my mind.

I probably will have one more article just after Christmas with the rest of the box.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Urban Hearth in Cambridge

Gail and I went for a celebratory dinner this weekend at Urban Hearth on Mass. Ave. in Cambridge. What a delight. They do a supper club on Thursday, Friday and Saturday each week. That's their way of turning the traditional sit down meal into something closer to a visit to the chef's home.

It's a little more traditional than described on the web site. We were seated right away at a private table. I wonder if the communal dining concept was difficult to implement with each party arriving at a different time.

After greeting us, our host went off to create a welcome cocktail for us. She brought back a Cava and rosewater cocktail with dried rose petals. It was lovely and elegant. What followed was dish after dish of wonderful flavors and textures, punctuated by pleasant descriptive interludes by the team of four in this intimate, storefront setting. The team included our host, the chef-owner Erin Miller, the sous-chef, and a helper/dishwasher.

The menu is prix fixe with either three or five courses. For the two of us, the five course menu let us have one of everything, and gave us an opportunity to honestly say, "We'll 'ave the lot." Our host got it.

I added the wine pairing, which was equally delightful. The owner seems to search out special and small batch wine selections. Each was nicely paired with our dishes. Since we were sharing each dish, we made the per-course pairing more difficult, but we watched the host and owner consulting over each course to find a match that worked with each pair of dishes on the table at each course. I was never disappointed, and particularly enjoyed the white vermouth pairing with dessert. That would have never occurred to me, and it was excellent.

Our first course was the duck and the halibut. The halibut was clearly not Gail's thing with both raw-ish fish and roe, but it was outstanding for me. It set a tone that we would be enjoying not just good flavors, but excellent textures with each tiny egg bursting with light saltiness. The duck was also quite tasty and topped with a treat of small cracklins of duck skin.

Next was the delicata squash and the stewed eggplant. The squash was excellent and also included perfect greens and dabs of goat cheese, cranberry, and a humous-like mixture, which went best when mixed together. The eggplant dish had dollops of parsley crema, but really starred the katailfi egg. There is a certain mastery in getting the egg cooked so perfectly while not burning the coating and delivering it to the table still perfect. Again, the texture contrasts enhanced the joy.

Between the courses, the sous-chef brought over some roasted peppers. He warned us that they were usually mild, but once in a while one would have a little heat. We didn't notice any heat. Look how perfectly seared they were.

The next course was beautiful bass and shrimp dish coupled with an equally beautiful ramen dish. Each was perfectly cooked to bring out different tastes and textures with each bite. We were starting to get full at this point, and some of the ramen came home with us for later.

The final savory course included "the best vegan dish we have ever had" and a wonderful pork and Brussel sprouts dish. The peanut butter-like smear was cashew and miso butter, and it was amazing. It  was specked by a crispy quinoa that played up the flavor and texture theme more than anything that preceded it. It was simply amazing. It made it hard to appreciate the wonderful pork sitting next to it. Of course, roasted sprouts are always delicious, but Brussel sprouts coleslaw was a surprising and delicious addition.

Before dessert, the chef brought over a small snack plate with a young manchego cheese, roasted pecans and some unusual grapes and offered us some coffee. Gail thought even the decaf coffee was remarkably good. The standouts with dessert were the fresh figs and the apple mille feuille, which tasted like the yummy goo along the edges of an apple pie.

Overall, this was an excellent meal in a lovely place, prepared and served by people who made us feel very welcome and cared for. We will be back.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Amazing Cambodian Food at Elephant Walk in Boston's South End

My wife and I have been working on a project with our niece to have a meal from each country alphabetically. You can check out our progress on Instagram with the hashtag #a2zdinners. We usually cook the meals ourselves. Cambodian meals are characterized by having a variety of contrasting textures, flavors and temperatures. We decided that if we wanted the authentic experience we would do better to eat out for a change,so we went to lunch at Elephant Walk in Boston's South End. It was a highlight of the project so far, which is saying a lot, since we have made some outstanding meals.

Our niece is gluten free. You would think that would make the project difficult. For most countries it hasn't been a burden at all. In most countries their starch is based on rice, not wheat. This is also true for Cambodia. Elephant Walk was notably careful to label the menu with the items that were gluten free or could be made gluten free. There was good range of choice with more choices on the dinner menu.

The staff was very friendly. If you are a beer fan, they have an outstanding beer menu. We were surprised to see that there was only one other group in the whole place. We can't see why this place wouldn't be packed.

We started out with an appetizer called Nataing. It was ground pork simmered in a thin sauce of coconut milk, garlic, peanuts and probably fish sauce. The gluten free version was served with rice cakes for dipping. The flavor pallet was like a savory Thai iced tea.

There were three soups on the menu that all looked good, so we ordered one of each. Each was excellent, and we all preferred one of the three. There was B'baw Mouan, listed as "the essential Cambodian rice soup." It had a thick rice base, like a potato soup and had chicken, fried garlic, and lime. It also came with cilantro, so if you don't like that, ask them to leave it off. The second soup was Somlah Machou with big shrimp and tomato slices. It was like a Thai Tom Yum soup, but tangier. It was delicious, but even better with a dollop of the red hot sauce our waiter recommended. Finally was the Soupe Phnom-Penh "Kuy Tieu." Our waiter called it the healthiest of soups. It had a slice of pork cutlet, rice noodles and bean sprouts.


That might have been enough for lunch, but we had came for variety, so we got two entrees: A chicken dish with a lemon curry sauce called Poulet À La Citronnelle, and a beef dish called Loc Lac. The chicken was served with sautéed vegetables and the beef with a bed of greens. Both were amazing with meat that was melt-in-your-mouth tender. It's hard to imagine better dishes, but our waiter said the non-gluten free version of the Loc Lac was even better.

Since everything was so good, we splurged on dessert. We got a traditional coconut custard and a flourless chocolate cake. Both were rich and tasty. The chocolate tasted like fudge and we tore through it. The custard was notably not overpowered by coconut flavor like we prefer and also had the right silky texture that is so hard to get in restaurant custard.

Overall, Elephant Walk gets five stars from us for both the food and the friendly attentiveness they showed to our gluten free needs. It is a place that deserves to be busier.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Cod Liver with and Open Mind

I wasn't so sure I wanted to try this. A colleague from Russia, who knows I am an adventurous eater, gave it to me. Cod liver oil has a reputation as the medicine a mean parent gives to their kids because its "good for them." It was difficult to try this with an open mind.

I steeled myself as I opened the can. I anticipated a strong iron flavor of calf's liver mingled with the over-ripe flavor of Thai fish oil. Instead I was delighted with a delicate tuna fish flavor with the silky texture of a perfectly seared foie gras.

Experiences like this are why I am an adventurous eater. This is simply delicious. If you get a chance, and can get over your fear, I highly recommend trying this.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Discovered Pig Rock Sausages

We went to Wilson Farm today where Art Welch, the owner of Pig Rock Sausages was grilling up samples with help from his son. We liked them so much we took home three packages; chicken & maple, chicken & apple, and chicken & spinach. Pig Rock does have pork sausages with a bratwurst, chorizo and both hot and sweet Italian sausage, strange that I just tasted the chicken.

The chicken was not the typically dry, healthy tasting sausages we are used to. They had the same richness and naughty flavor of any good pork sausage. My favorite was the chicken & spinach, which tasted like you might hope a mixture of good sausage and creamed spinach would taste. Yum.

Pig Rock Sausages are made in Boston, and it's always nice to find a new local product to support. These are going to taste delicious from our grill.