Monday, April 21, 2008

Peter Luger's

Being a studious and thorough diner, I made sure I did my share of research before showing up to my 10:45 pm Saturday reservation at Peter Luger's. I knew before, of course, that it was established in 1887, had been voted New York's best steak house for 24 years running, and took only Peter Luger's Official Credit Cards, cash, and gift certificate. I knew also not to ask for a menu, to order the porterhouse with the potato and spinach sides, and that brining in your own wine was strictly prohibited. I also knew that thousands of past diners consider the Peter Luger porterhouse to be one of the best steaks in the entire world.

What I didn't know was:


I'm going to make this short and sweet, since I've been prolonging posting this for decades now. It's a real good thing that my company was so good because the steak just wasn't. Porterhouse is pretty tough to begin with because it has so many different density/textures of meat on the same cut. Unless someone is being very careful to hold the tenderloin off the grill while the strip keeps cooking, I find the tenderloin gets the hell cooked out of it before the strip loin gets cooked enough for the fat to render. Our steak was all sorts of chewy, well-done in some places and too bloody in others, and kinda bland. That's that.

Moving on, people fucking rave about these side dishes. Here's what they taste like:

Hospital food.

The spinach was overcooked, mushy and tasted acidic, which in spinach world means rotten. The potatoes were underseasoned, diner home fries at best. And their famous sauce brought high-fructose corn syrup and ketchup to mind.

I was happy to hear that my date and I were on the same page re: tastiness. We agreed that a good ol' fashion ice cream sundae would at least leave a good taste in our mouths before we took off. Alas, our waiter was pretty angry we were keeping him at work, and his tossing our sundae onto our table with a snarl and growl (what Peter Luger's calls "character) made the ice cream less sweet and more tummy-ache inducing.

Oh well.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Cooking with Vermin

Hi Friends,

Being a good, progressive and earth-minded eater (and being stuck in this hell-hole on a sunny morning) requires actively questioning the categorization of the animal kingdom into animals to be eaten (chickens, cows, pigs etc), animals to put rhinestone collars on (dogs, cats, ferrets), and animals to reference when making crude and insensitive jokes about the diets of Appalachian Mountain People (woodchucks, beavers, kangaroo rats, squirrels) etc, etc.

This week, the folks at Gourmet gave a nod to Americana and embraced, kitsch-ily, the small game-o-centric recipes that they once loved:

But, what's with this? They admit to not re-testing the recipes before presenting them in this article? I know what a beaver looks like, dudes...But what does "Roast Beaver Michigan" looks like! Shame on them.

My favorite is the creamed woodchuck. This time of year, I like to substitute the roasted yams for parsnips- to add an unexpected layer of bite that contrasts the sweetness of the cream and the stank of the 'chuck.
Gourmet reminds us: be careful to remove the kernels under the forelegs and in the small of the back. What Gourmet doesn't tell you is that those kernels under the forelegs are scent glands that if cooked with the rest of the animal will leave the whole thing tasting like mayo, egg-yolk, and lobster-gut soup leftover from a hot Phoenix picnic.

But if you're really wondering what to do with the raccoon carcasses falling from your trees into your kiddie pool (Kyra- this might only apply to you) then Ruth Reichel and her staff of tongue-in-cheek phonies can't help you much. Go to the professionals:

The woodchuck patties in tomato sauce is a year-round favorite. Can't find decent tomatoes in March? You don't need to! The "tomato" flavor of the recipe comes from catsup and Worcestershire, American kitchen staples that transcend seasons.

Really, my Trio of Rabbit (Loin, Rack and Braised Leg) with Baby Vegetables,
Roasted Garlic, Natural Jus at La Folie (dry and bland, last time I had it) makes it onto a $90 Passot tasting menu but men won't make-out with me at bars when I admit to having once eaten squirrel that I killed and roasted myself! Come on Keller, Boulud! If ya'll are gonna buy into this whole seasonal and local thing: we're in America- where's the woodchuck?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Oh, and FYI re: SnAKS

The restaurant at Saks Fifth Ave. is the like a new, 20th century version of HELL!

Alright, Alright

So I get that I'm not very good at doing this whole blog thing cuz I start telling stories and then get really distracted and end up not really finishing them at all and instead just kinda trailing off...but right now my excuse is totally legit as there is a thunderstorm outside that just BLEW MY SCREEN WINDOW OUT OF THE FRAME AND INTO MY ROOM! So I had to avert a crisis and once it was averted didn't really feel like crafting a pretty conclusion about my stomach full of sea scallops and yada yada yada. And it's 2:47 am! How do people do this? I hope no one reads this. Are you reading this? If you're my mom or Kyra I think it's okay...

Monday, April 7, 2008

Los Angeles, I'm Yours: The Little Door

On the way to Burbank last Thursday I was sick and tired and achey in a dirty, white, long-sleeved gym shirt and dirty underwear. On the plane I had drooled on the older woman next to me but when I finally woke up, after almost 4 1/2 hours of uninterrupted mile high slumber, she hardly seemed to mind. Not at all. Instead she thought it was just the cutest thing how I managed to sleep so soundly and made sure to recreate the honkish noise I had apparently given the stewardess when she wouldn't stop shoving the snack tray into my shoulder. She didn't even care that during my snooze I had flailed my arm and knocked her Diet Coke onto both of our laps. I could have been embarrassed when I woke up but when I looked out the window and down onto the backside of a smoggy, electric skyline, I turned to my fly partner and instead of sorries, smiled sleepily and said "We've made it".

Taking my grandma to the grocery store and getting bean dip at Los Toros with Bridget would have been plenty to erase the memory of my Thursday morning appointment at the oral surgeon's, but apparently I lead a blessed life. Soaking the backs of my milky white calves in sand and sun after a bike ride on the beach with Mom I got a text message from a far away friend who had been jonesing so seriously for some top-notch Los Angeles glitz, glam, and fine dining that he bought a ticket on a whim and would touch down by 6pm.

10 minutes later I was high-tailing my cut-off and bikini top clad self South on the Venice Boardwalk. By 5:30 I had scored a sexy, steel grey number at TJ Maxx for $15 bucks (!!). By 6:15 I was gliding Grandma's Buick Le Sabre into Terminal 1's passenger loading zone.

By 9pm we were standing in front of the castle style entrance of The Little Door, busy 3rd St making beautiful machine noises behind us. Seconds later we were taking small steps into an atrium dripping with pink roses, ivy, thousands of sulky candles, and a sea of tan, happy, and attractive LA diners.

Our hostess was very sloshed and not so much paying attention to her job, but because she was also very French and had a cute little gap between her two front top teeth, and because having a glass of Champagne at the bar didn't sound all that miserable we didn't complain much. Instead we toasted with Louis de Sacy Grand Cru Brut and eyed the room flirtatiously, knowing that we looked at least 12x more attractive than usual with the aide of pale candlelight and a marine layer of angel's portion painting the air.

The table we were lead to by our beaming, balding (prematurely), and bow-tied waiter was cramped but cozy in the corner of the "Winter Garden" room. We started the meal with a goat cheese tart which was tasty but quickly forgotten when my seared foie gras in a maple demi-glaze served with a thick cut brioche French toast was served. The foie was seared perfectly- the edges crispy and still very hot, salted with quality sea salt. The intense maple flavor of the sauce sunk into the liver just softly enough that the first sweet taste of syrup slowly gave way to the subtler, gamey sweetness of the duck. Even my vegetarian dining partner couldn't help himself.

I didn't try the vegetarian's massive pile of four cheese, homemade pasta (which seemed painfully uninspired and collegiate, though undoubtedly delicious...) but my seared day boat scallops with saffron sauce were good enough. I don't remember seeing or eating the braised leeks the menu told me about but the little, pastry-bag squeezed dollops of beet puree were a surprising compliment to the scallop, both rendered unexpected creaminess with distinct, pleasant tastes of earth and ocean.

We drank our very soft, very round, very enjoyable 2004 Trefethen Merlot (Napa) too quickly and by the time we left the restaurant we were happily buzzed, in love with Los Angeles, and ready for the perfect margarita and El Carmen, next-door.