it’s a secret

Do you regularly eat at a restaurant with a secret menu?  I mean, everyone knows you can get a butterbeer latte at Starbucks and a double double animal style at In and Out, right?   I bet when it comes down to it every restaurant has an item(s) that were on the menu once or dreamed up on a slow day by an enterprising team member that has now gained a (cult) following. We had plans to head out for my birthday dinner a few weeks before the ‘big’ day.  A couple of days before that event I got an email from The Ravenous Pig.  It said, we have a secret menu for three days a week this summer-from Tuesday to Thursday with 48 hours notice you too can get the super secret Summer Bistro menu.  I figured why not and booked a table there.  So, now, in a grand tradition, I have begun to stretch out my celebrations of yet another birthday to multiple days and events.  We went to the restaurant expecting only a 48 hour preparation of short ribs.  I mean, honestly.  We were quickly seated at a nice window table where we had a view of the room and the rain slatting down outside.secretmenu

A gin & jam was quickly deposited for me that had a fresh preparation of nectarine jam & basil.  It was so fresh and clean tasting.  Not a bit too sweet and just right.  They brought a slip of paper folded up with a pig stamped on the front that had the ‘secret’ menu on the insides.  A frisee salad-briny with salt and lard. I’m sure there was no dressing at all-just this briny weedy salad with a swirl of pomegranate vinaigrette, huge lardons of bacon and pistachio nuts folded into the mound.  It was confusingly delicious.  If I could duplicate that secret I would.  It was followed up by the entree.  A small slab of perfectly glazed short rib perched on a swooshy mousselline potatoes, trumpet mushrooms (kinda chewy) and lightly sweet bright onion marmalade. I’m not sure marmalade shouldn’t be reserved for citrus but it was sweet against the rich potatoes and beef.  The finish was a nectarine-blueberry crisp which felt too rustic against the refined meal but tasted homey with it’s small scoop of toffee ice cream.  I was actually happier with the tiny shortbread cookies filled with dulce de leche that they finished our meal with and could have been perfectly happy with just that.  So, it was all a ‘secret’ – only available to those who knew to ask in advance.  Do I feel better for it?  I’m not sure.  That’s why I’m sharing it with you.   The secret menu isn’t posted anyplace and costs about $36 per person.  Give them a call and I’m sure they’ll oblige you.  What about you?  Do you know of a secret at a restaurant that is just begging to be shared?

this is not my summer bucket list

I’ve been listening to a podcast lately by Joy the Baker and Tracy from Shutterbean.com and on a recent cast they talked about their summer bucket lists.  In fact at Shutterbean right now it is list mania.  I love lists and am also terrible at bucket lists.  There is something about grouping disparate things together in such a way that they make sense and/or the satisfaction of checking the things off once they are a.  procured b. completed or c. dismissed for their sheer ridiculousness.  It can be anything–a grocery list, a to do list, a wish list.  I even write things on after the fact if I completed them with the rest of said this just for the sheer joy of checking them off.  Oh the humanity!  All that said, I haven’t even done a great job at my new years cookbook and fill me up lists although I’ve made a whole lot of new things and been busy at doing all sorts of things.  I’m working on one cooking project that should be wrapping up soon and that I CAN”T TALK ABOUT which is both so wrong and so right all at the same time and has taken a lot more time and work than I had expected. corncakes

On another totally unrelated note.  We have been eating a summer (could be on a bucket list but isn’t) staple for the last month or so in various forms–corn.  In Florida the season is earlier than say, Iowa, and we start into corn  mid-May and finish before we wolf down much more (at least at the 12 ears for $2 price point.) We have eaten quite a few really delicious dishes.  We had summer corn chowder from Food 52.  We scarfed Grilled Corn Chipotle soup from the Blue Corn Cafe cookbook and we also ate something totally new from pinterest – corn and bacon pancakes with sorghum butter.  Wow!  I was totally scared that they would be terrible and wouldn’t turn out but they were awesome.  I followed the recipe pretty closely except for swapping the chives with scallions (I had a huge package from the farm stand.) and probably doubling the bacon.  We also made sorghum butter instead of regular butter because I had a couple of jars in the pantry I was itching to break into.  They turned out perfectly and are a wonderful vehicle for my favorite bottle of bourbon barrel aged maple syrup from Blis that I got for Christmas.  Crunchy corn, salty bacon, sweet syrup, and tangy sorghum with a bit of spice and the best brinner a girl could ask for.  Do you have a summer bucket list?  What’s on it?

YOLO

52cookbooksYOLO is what Z kept calling this burger.  I suppose because of two things.

1.  The burger is called the Lola, after Mike Symon’s eponymous restaurant in Ohio and he kept thinking YOLO instead of Lola.

2.  Because it annoyed me and it gives him joy when I ‘fight’ back.

Either way, this burger could totally be YOLO or Lola because of the sheer amount of stuff on there.  Crazytown city.  It is bunned up on an English muffin.  If you haven’t used an English muffin in place of a hamburger bun-you should!  It was the suggested thing on here and I thought it was a nice change.  I put on a bit of butter and toasted them in the oven.  The burger is so loaded with stuff that it needed the sturdy bun to even attempt at being eaten.  In looking into this restaurant I see he now has taken the burger and moved it to his new burger joint, B-Spot.  Lola has gone upscale from what he says in the cookbook, Mike Symon’s Live To Cook.  He actually has done a couple of cookbooks after this one that I don’t have and am not so interested in but I do really like this one.  I’ve cooked a number of things from it’s pages including pan roasted ricotta gnocchi and his spicy Sriracha Tomato soup.  The recipes are easy to follow and I’d call them All-American in their mix of flavors and ingredients.  This is stuff made of the melting pot that is the midwest.  I’d like to east at his restaurants but haven’t, as a rule, made Cleveland or Detroit a destination.  But, if I had a reason to go, I’d check them out.yolo

Back to the burger, it is topped with spicy ketchup, cheddar, bacon, pickled onion, dill pickle and a fried egg.  You do only live once to eat that kind of mess.  It was stacked up to tipping and made me nervous as I plated it all up and got dinner on the table.  It tasted good-hitting all the burger notes.  Fatty. Spicy. Savory. Delicious.  YOLO!

 

Epcot Flower & Garden

Last weekend we hit the 2014 Epcot Flower & Garden Festival and also a long held goal of making it to Le Cellier.  Le Cellier is located in ‘the cellar’ of the chateau in the Canada pavilion at Epcot.  We had wanted to go there since eating at the Canada stop at the Annual Food & Wine Festival but had never made the effort to get the hard to get reservation until we were encouraged to go by our friend Karin’s dad.  He said, “You gotta go.  They bring that beef in from Canada!”  Based on his encouragement I sat on the Disney website and (patiently) clicked through dates until I could get a reservation.  It turned out to fall during the Flower & Garden Festival so a day trip was born.fairygarden

The festival is a fun yearly event at Epcot showcasing all things backyard.  There are extra playgrounds for kids based around Cars and Monsters Inc themes, a butterfly house filled with tiny handmade fairy houses and flickering butterflies and a TON of flowers,  topiaries of favorite Disney characters, displays on water conservation, vegetable gardening and in the last two years fresh food kiosks based on these garden grown specialties.  This is definitely not as elaborate as the Food & Wine Festival and the portions are somewhat larger-well sometimes.  We didn’t want to eat much because we knew we were in for a giant steak dinner but we did stop and pick up some cheesy stuffed pasta in Italy.  It wasn’t really anything too special although it tasted good.  We also stopped for our lunch in the American Experience at the Smokehouse for some bbq and a cupcake.  Z had some brisket with collards and cornbread.  He didn’t really comment on the beef but he did comment on the collards.  Up to now they were one of two foods I’ve heard him say he doesn’t like and wouldn’t eat.  Kraut being the other.   I don’t know why he went for this dish in light of that–but he did.  At some point while eating he said the collards were good.  So, chalk one up for Disney.  I can’t believe it.  I didn’t try them and am not all that convinced myself.  I had a Pulled Pork & Slaw Slider.  It was really big enough to be called a full size sandwich.  The pork was smokey and salty and tasty with the slaw being pretty standard but providing sweet crunch.  Random side note.  I tried to get some of the squirt-on sauce from the napkin/sauce stand and it was so slippery from millions of hands that it fell in my sandwich.  The staff gracefully traded me for a new sandwich and I skipped the sauce.  That said, it wasn’t dry or unflavorful although I didn’t dare to try the sauce again.  Sandwich trade-ins going only so far.  Anyhow, all that said and I still say I’d eat it again.  I also ordered a ‘Piggylicious’ (for Miss Piggy and the new movie) Maple Bacon Cupcake.  They weren’t joking.  A yellow cake (yum) cupcake filled with lardons of sliced cooked smoked applewood bacon.  Kind of intense.  I don’t love that baconcandonowronginallthings although I always want to.  The maple frosting was delicious and covered with a fresh (read that as crunchy) pile of pretzel chunks.   The cupcake was large enough to share and feel like you got a fair amount.piggylicious

We had fastpass+  the ride ‘Living with the Land’ in the Land Pavilion.  Seems funny but we really like this ‘ride’ where you sail through some fantastic experimental gardens where they encourage me to grow things at home.  They are growing all manner of things in a giant greenhouse and in really creative ways.  They’ve got everything from Brussels Sprouts (see the photo-they are amazing!) to 9 pound lemons to enormous suspended tomato, pumpkin and other vines.  I really want to grow more food. It’s not easy though and I need to figure out where to gain some help with that.  We have a whole empty backyard beckoning.  I think stand up beds may be in my future.theland

We took an afternoon break by riding Ellen’s Energy Adventure.  Seriously, have you ever been on this ride?  45 minutes in a giant car driving around a soundstage with dinosaurs interspersed with Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Nye teaching about energy.  Soo random and funny.  Somehow we never heard of this ride before.  It had kind of a fantastic dinosaur thing in the middle with fire, animatronics, water, etc.  You should ride this ride although timing is key here because it is 45 minutes and we walked in with no wait which was ideal.  Using the park daily guide would help with this.snowwhite

Dinner.  We headed over to Canada a bit early to catch the Oh Canada 360 show featuring Canadian funny guy Martin Short.  You enter the sort of mine shaft by walking through a high walled Rocky Mountain experience of high walls and a rush of water and exit by walking out through an exhibit of more flowers similar to how they look at Butchart Gardens in BC.  I’ve been there (BC) many times and this really does have that feeling which for me is like home.  We walked into Le Cellier which is in the bottom or cellar of some French looking hotel style building.    We were shown to our table after a short wait and took some time to read over the menu.  Our Canadian (super friendly I must say) server asked if we needed help with the menu but for your average foodie it is fairly standard steakhouse/cheffy type food-the only thing I questioned was ‘poutine’, which was in quotes.  So, ‘poutine’ in quotes at Disney is fries with stuff on top.  Since I pretty much always want fries with stuff I ordered those to go with our meal and they arrived smothered with super-sharp Canadian Cheddar, shaved black truffles and a small pitcher of red wine reduction.  I actually don’t love truffles and could have done without them – but that cheese and wine sauce-delicious!!!poutine

We started out with their bread basket and butter.   The butter was super fresh and sprinkled with maple sugar.  Love that.  The basket included amazing pretzel sticks-big, soft and salt flecked-so great I wanted more! There was also a nice sourdough roll that was really sour and a multigrain roll that we skipped-I mean really. You have the draw the line somewhere.  We ordered a super porky pork belly starter.  I am getting over my …hatred of fatty textures but this one pushed me.  Super fatty.  How do you get past that chew?  Only by super taste.  My main course was short ribs and this was as good as any I’ve had, super tender and a huge portion really.  Some pearls of carrots and an unidentifiable (really) spherified whitish/yellow ball along with garlic chips and pickled veg on top.  This is one of the dishes I long to make at home but is just never as good as fine dining no matter how much work I put into it.  So good.  Z had a filet with mushroom sauce that was super rich and almost, he said, ‘too truffly.’  That’s saying something because black truffles are a flavor he likes a lot.  We were so stuffed we passed on dessert.   This was a really solid meal.  It had a pretty hefty Disney tax but they also worked it really hard.  We weren’t rushed and the service was friendly and good.   If you can get a reservation and have a couple of spare Disney Dining Plan meals (the way to go for this one!) or just want to go all out it is definitely worth while.   I suppose you could also hang a left at that great big Epcot ball and head north too but this is worth the shorter trip.  If you are local and have a chance to hit the Flower & Garden show, it runs through May 18th.shortrib

Throwdown!

52cookbooksSo, you know Bobby Flay doesn’t really fail us often but one of the things that I really truly like about him is that he ‘competes’ with the small local big guy and often loses.  I think he loses by design.  The premise of the show is this.  Small local guy doing one dish really great that they are known for.  Bobby challenges them to a ‘throwdown’ to see who does it better.  Bobby creates something that is that thing in essence but in a modern or tweaked out kinda way.  They are both judged.  Depending on the judge, but most often, the classical presentation (the Local folks) win!  A few weeks ago Z picked out a recipe from the Throwdown Cookbook for our 52 Cookbooks dinner and it turned out to be out of Throwdown.  A recipe for green chile queso burgers.  So, in essence, we were going to use his recipe to beat someone making a Hatch green chile burger.  I seriously love me some spicy Hatch chiles.

True story and side note.  My final year of college and I decided to go home for Spring Break.  My parents decided we should road trip down to Santa Fe for some good eats.  Not our first rodeo to this destination.  We hit the road and about six hours later (from Denver) we were there in the freezing cold spring slurry rain of Santa Fe.  We were there to eat breakfast burritos smothered at Tia Sophias, Chile chowder at the Blue Corn  and not less than one sopapilla (think beignet with honey instead of powdered sugar) at Thomasitas.  Oh, and see art galleries on Canyon Road.  It was pouring down rain and I had to buy a hat because I was cold-still have the hat and the memories of a really nice visit.   I hope that I can someday take Z there because he would enjoy every minute (except probably for the art galleries.)throwdown

Anyhow, back to the burger.  He chose this burger and I have to say, it’s solid.   First I pickled some red onions using Bobby’s recipe and only letting them steep as I made the dinner-they were perfect and tart crunchy.  I made a pepper jack queso-easy, thick and a little spicy.  I made beefy patties and toasted the buns  For good measure I crisped a couple of slices of bacon and made some tots.   So, here’s where I went sideways and made my own life easier.  He gave a great recipe for roasting the chiles and steaming them to remove the skins.  Honestly, my grocery store doesn’t have great produce.  So, I used canned green chiles.  Dumped them on there and Bob’s your uncle (and mine coincidentally) dinner is served.

This cookbook is fun and self deprecating and modest which is usually how I find Bobby Flay to be.  He is good but he doesn’t say, hey, I’m good.  I like that about him.  He may not be real but he definitely feels like it.  We use this book as a jumping off place to create and mod our own things, just like this burger.  Our muffaletta comes from here initially but we’ve made it our own.  That is a good place to be.