Monday, February 21, 2011

La Grenouille

Watching Mitchel Roux's service was a nice lead up to our dinner at La Grenouille. It was like stepping back in time to another era - classical French cooking presented the classical way with great attention to detail. Nice to be back in the world of silver service.

The food was authentic and delicious and the evening perfect. Good food, wine and friends create an excellent relaxing atmosphere which is only reinforced by the service. The duck magret was near perfect, the foi gras good, the veal better than any other and even the vegetarian courses were aromatic and appetizing. Brussels sprouts never tasted as good as they did in that ravioli with truffle cream.

The highlight of the evening were the desserts. Especially the soufle - Grand Marnier and caramel. Ethereally light and delightful. The chocolate gateau was sinfully chocolaty without being overwhelming and the tarte pomme perfect.

Le Petit France

It is indeed nice to be within minutes from a good boulongerie and cafe.
Le Petit France in West Hartford does some of the best breads, sandwiches in
the area. Their tour de force are the chocolate croissants. Perfectly flaky and
melt in your mouth buttery.
Last Sunday they even had a special treat of galetes and crepes for brunch.
The ambiance is warm and friendly - dressed like an old fashioned tea room.
It is a great place for a Sunday brunch.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Dinners at the Farm

We had dinner at the Barberry Hill Farm in Madison, CT last night as part of the "dinners at the farm" movement. It was a very enjoyable experience and to me the ultimate proof of the value of the farm to table movement. Eating at the farm where the produce has been grown and freshly picked hours before adds infinitely to the taste of food. It also brings city dwellers in contact with farm animals and farm life. Most importantly this movement helps local farmers.

The evening began with aperitifs as we wandered around the farm. Local berries contributed to one of the most refreshing Sangria's I have tasted state side. This was followed by a tour of the farm and a chance to interact with the live stock and understand sustainable agricultural practices. The farm hands collect the left overs from farmers markets and use them to feed the animals. Nothing is ever wasted. They keep sheep and jersey cows as each of them grazes on a different type of grass and that keeps the pasture nicely trimmed. Mini eco-systems of bio diversity exist within the farm.

Left overs being re-cycled as feed for the Sheep.

Dinner was served under a large and beautiful canopy. The community tables made for easy conversation with one's neighbors and led to many interesting discussions. The diners had a common interest in sustainable agriculture and supporting the local farms and an interest in food. Some of them had driven two hours from Massachusetts or NYC. Good local wines, simple honest food with the freshest of ingredients and interesting conversation. It made a recipe for a perfect evening.

Dinner tent
Some of the sheep at the farm

The dinner was cooked in the open air on a converted fire truck with a prep kitchen in a tent beside it. The chef took care to create interesting pairings and do little to disguise the actual taste of the ingredients.

The make shift kitchen

They even made provisions for vegetarians and provided delicious alternatives. I never knew that haricot verts could be so crunchy and taste so good.

The butter milk panacota with local fruit was a divine and a perfect end to a magical evening. It would have been an additional bonus to have had access to some farm stalls and the great produce.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

High Tea at Fitzbilly

The other gastronomic highlight of our trip was a proper tea service at Fitzbilly, Another Cambridge institution.
After a walk down the collective memory lane with family and visits to the ancient and hallowed dinning halls of Peter house, where they read and an afternoon of punting in the river Cam, we were ready for a good tea. So headed to Fitzbilly as the generations before us did. I loved the "Chelsea buns" and the melt in your mouth scones and real not out of a bottle "clotted cream". What an end to a magical afternoon of visiting Cambridge's oldest college.
I will soon write another post on the tea rooms in Connecticut, USA.

The Eagle - Lunch and the discovery of DNA

Our trip to Cambridge began with lunch at the Eagle. A historic pub in the heart of the university town and most famous for being the place where Francis Crick announced t
hat they had discovered the "secret of life".
"The Eagle" was originally opened in 1667 and is the largest pub in Cambridge. The atmosphere was invigorating and like many university pubs the conversation ranged across a variety of topics. Lunch was typical publican fare with beer on tap and some very good cider.
We sat in the "RAF Bar" During World War II, American and British fighter pilots had made The Eagle their hangout and spent whilst waiting for the call-up to fly on a mission. The whole ceiling is covered with initials and squadron numbers of the pilots from the two "air forces" - the United States 8th air force and the RAF by candle, lighter and lipstick. The graffiti remains restored to this day and makes for another interesting step back into our recent history captured and preserved in this 600 year old watering hole.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Antwerp's food street

On a recent trip to Antwerp I was pleasantly surprised by how cosmopolitan the city is and how many cuisines are represented there. For such a small city with a well preserved and beautiful medieval city center, there are a great many international restaurants located close together. On Statiestraat to be specific. A two minute walk from the gorgeous Antwerpen Centraal Station brings one to what can be termed as "Antwerp's own food street" with a potpourri of world cuisine. Mexican, Chinese, Argentinian, Lebanese and Italian food to choose from, all within a minute from each other and lining a cobbled that also housed traditional Belgian fare.
We were warned about the neighborhood but found it absolutely safe and buzzing with activity. An impressive collection of restaurants right on the edge of the border between the old inhabitants of diamond center and the newer middle eastern immigrants.

Can you match the beer and the glass?

While in Belgium be careful to use the appropriate glass for each beer. They take it seriously and picking the wrong glass is a big mistake. Belgium produces a lot of variety of beer for such a small country - over 8000 varieties. Every beer has its own branded glass. The brewery usually selects a glass form to accentuate certain qualities of their beer. A goblet, for example, lets the drinker's nose inhale the beer's aroma at the same time the mouth is drinking in the liquid. A tulip glass, for example, is very good for foam retention. A wider glass is required for top fermented beers so that the taste and aroma is enjoyed to the fullest. A facet glass is best for white beer so that its cloudiness and freshness are highlighted.

As one walks along the street side cafe's in Antwerp one can see four people at a table, each with a different type of glass. I found that fascinating.