Paris on the Hudson

August 31, 2018

You come out of the subway at Canal Street on a hot afternoon, into the blinding sun and squalor of the city.  You cross Canal and look up Lafayette, and there, improbably, is a swath of lush green leaves, beckoning like an oasis in the dessert. It is the most inviting sight.

Inside Le Coucou is every bit as enticing; with its high ceilings, widely spaced tables and romantic murals it might be the loveliest restaurant in New York.

And the food Daniel Rose is cooking is… pure delight.

This was a simple zucchini soup – just the squash, a bit of creme fraiche, a hint of mint.  And well, a dollop of caviar.

The quenelle floating on its puddle of champagne beurre blanc, is light and airy.  Even if it didn’t have that little crown of caviar, it would be what gefilte dreams of being when it closes its eyes at night.

The lettuce, forming that pig face, is a little joke. But the tete de cochon – a deconstructed pig’s head – is no joke. It might be the most delicious dish in New York right now, a dance of soft textures and rich flavors, the decadence tamed by a stern hit of vinegar.

Tile fish, cooked so that the scales form a crisp crust, in a warm tomato vinaigrette.

Duck with cherries served in two flights. That lovely dish at the top is the leg with chanterelles; here the breast with cherries.

Paris Brest.  Even if you don’t like sweet, crisp, creamy deserts, you might love this. The flavor of the hazelnuts is so delightfully intense.


A Peach of a Recipe

August 27, 2018

I’ve always loved pickled peaches; my mother kept jars of them in the pantry, to serve with baked ham.  For some reason, they were a standard supermarket item in the fifties.

But the commercial kind were nothing compared to the homemade pickled peaches I made last week.  If I were a canner, I’d be putting up a few pecks of them today.  But since I’m not, I’ll be making them for the next couple of weeks, and eating them while they’re in season.  They’re so easy!

Peel a dozen or so fairly ripe but not soft peaches by immersing them in boiling water for about half a minute.  Run them under cold water and the skins should slip right off. Cut off any brown spots.

Put 3½ cups of sugar and a cup and a half of plain white vinegar into a heavy-bottomed pot.  Add a cup and a half of water and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Gently slide the peaches into the brine (you will probably need to do this in a couple of batches) and allow them to cook for about 4 minutes, turning them from time to time; you don’t want them to get too cooked. Put the cooked peaches into a large bowl.

When all the peaches are cooked the brine should have turned a lovely light pink. Bring it back to a boil and pour it over the peaches. Add 10 whole cloves, a couple sticks of cinnamon and a small knob of ginger that you’ve peeled and sliced.

Allow the liquid to cool to room temperature, then cover and put the bowl into the refrigerator for a day or two to cure.  Turn the peaches from time to time, or weight them down to keep them submerged.

Serve the whole peaches with any roasted meat.


A Little Lamb

August 20, 2018

At the Great Barrington farmers market the other day, I stopped to talk to the people from Mayflower Farm.  Then I noticed they had lamb riblets for sale, and I was intrigued.  I’ve been seeing them on menus quite a lot lately (probably because they’re an inexpensive cut), so I thought I’d take a chance.

But what to do with them?  I decided, for a first outing, to try an Asian-inspired recipe.  The results were so delicious I wished I’d made twice as many; we devoured them in a matter of seconds.

Asian Lamb Riblets

Mix 2 tablespoons of coconut or brown sugar with 2 tablespoons of fish sauce, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and a tablespoon of neutral vegetable oil.  Stir in a tablespoon of Gochujang or Sriracha (any kind of hot Chile sauce will do). Add the juice of half a lime, some freshly grated ginger, and a couple of teaspoons of ground coriander seed.  Mince a clove of garlic and a couple of small shallots, and add those as well.   

Pour the marinade into a large ziplock bag and add a pound of lamb riblets. Massage the bag so the lamb is well covered with the marinade. Allow them to soak up all this flavor, in the refrigerator, for at least 8 hours.  (24 would be better.)

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil.  Put the ribs, well separated, onto the baking sheet and roast them for an hour and a half,  until most of the fat has cooked away. Baste with leftover marinade every half hour or so.

Remove from the oven, crank the heat up to broil and broil the ribs, 6 inches from the heat, for a minute on each side, until they’re lightly charred.

Serve with this dipping sauce.

Mix a tablespoon each of fish sauce, lime juice and rice vinegar with 2 teaspoons of sugar.  Add a couple teaspoons of soy sauce, and a small clove of minced garlic.  Add a tablespoon or so of chopped cilantro.

This makes an irresistible appetizer for four people.

I suspect that lamb riblets – so inexpensive at the moment – will catch on and the price will soar.  So get them now while you can still afford them.


The Four Seasons Plays On

August 18, 2018

It’s going to be interesting watching them duke it out.  The new Four Seasons just opened a few blocks from the old one (now part of Major Food Group and named The Pool and The Grill).  Will the faithful return to the tender ministrations of Alex Von Bidder and Julian Niccolini? There are no better front of house people than these two, who know exactly how to seat a room.  The question, however, is going to be this: does it matter any more?  And in this #metoo era, are people going to give Julian, who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault for groping a woman, a pass?

The new place designed by Brazilian architect Isay Weinfeld, is splendid, but there’s no way it could possibly equal the grandeur of the soaring space designed by Philip Johnson. A contemporary interpretation of mid-century modern this one’s comfortable (the seats are upholstered in suede), and almost cozy but it’s not the grande dame that the old place is.  The Bar, on the other hand, is really swell. At the original Four Seasons sitting at the bar ale ways had a wistful feeling, as if you had your nose pressed up against the window, looking at the chosen people dining in the restaurant.  Here you drink in a separate room dominated by a glowing sunken rectangle of a bar (which is meant to remind you of the pool you left behind).  It feels both powerful and sexy.

And how’s the food?  It’s no secret I’m a fan of the chef, Diego Garcia.  This is what I wrote about what he was serfing at his last post, Gloria. Here, however,  he’s really in his element.  Consider the skate, which he makes entirely his own, pairing it with a celery sabayon and almost translucent sheets of kohlrabi.  Skate has never looked or tasted so delicious.

And that raw fluke at the top, with its little cucumber and caviar hats, is just what you want to eat in the heat of summer. I loved the giant carabinero shrimp too, simply grilled with lardo.  (The point, incidentally, is to suck all the juices out of the head.  And yet I felt a kind of shock run through the dining room when I picked the first one up in my fingers. Someone at the next table gasped as those seductive juices came spurting out. This is a very polite place.)

There are all the old favorites too – the duck, of course, the steak tartare, the ubiquitous Dover sole, steaks, salmon…  If you’ve read up on the old Four Seasons, you know the drill.

Desserts – at least the ones I tried – were fantastic.  The great Bill Yosses (he worked in the Obama White House) is making a creamy peach tart that is just about perfect…

And a deep, dark, very grown up chocolate confection

And the prices?  If you have to ask, this place is not for you. They are as astonishingly high as they were at the old place – or as they are in the restaurant now occupying that space.  This has never been our Manhattan; it’s the one that belongs to the very, very rich.


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