Monday, April 26, 2010

Spotlight: Nick's on Broadway


Nick's On Broadway
500 Broadway
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 421-0286

There are few restaurants that are really so good they surprise me.  Usually, if you dine at a popular restaurant, you know exactly what to expect, the experience lives up to the expectations and all is well in the world.  On occasion, you leave a meal utterly disappointed, let down based on all the hype you had heard (this happens a lot with movies too, which is why I never like to read reviews... they usually result in a let down.  I'd rather decide for myself how I feel instead of seeing what others think).  These are sad occurrences.  Yet other times, people can harass you to try a restaurant, sing its praises, and yet when you arrive it is somehow so much better than what you could have possibly expected.  This can be said for Nick's on Broadway.  Little by little, good word of mouth had trickled into my ears suggesting I try this place out.  Early last fall I finally did and quickly fell in love with this hip and crowded eatery, open kitchen and all.  I mean, come on!  It's been named "one of the world's best restaurants" by Fodor's, and “one of the best places for breakfast in America” by Esquire Magazine.

I remember my first impressions as I sat at the bright red counter, adorned with orange gerber daisies, my absolute favorite flower.  You know that great fuzzy feeling you have inside when you meet a great guy, or see a beautiful pair of shoes you just HAVE to have? Well that's the feeling I got as I heard one of the day's specials... sausage and buttermilk biscuit bread pudding (pause for a moment and imagine this lusty combination...), topped with fresh basil and two eggs cooked however you'd like them (I went with poached. Take another moment. Think about it), and draped with luscious Hollandaise. Riiiiight. It was impossible to pass up the future heart blockage that this rich breakfast would cause. I'll take it!

Pudd'n & Eggs - Sausage and Buttermilk Biscuit Bread Pudding Topped with Poached Eggs and Hollandaise Sauce $9.95

As I waited and watched as plates of Pudd'n & Eggs emerged and were placed in front of other diners, I sat there and drooled, my heart aflutter. Soon. Soon I would have my heart's desire (and my cholesterol would, in turn, sky rocket). When it was finally placed in front of me, I felt like crying. Tears of joy that is. It was all just so beautiful! And delicious. As a bonafide Eggs Benedict lover, this concept of putting the meat and the bread component together and merging them with eggy custard blows my socks off! In addition to my wonderful choice, every other plate of food I saw come out of that kitchen looked incredibly appetizing and I nearly lunged across the counter several times to try and steal some for myself. I'm pretty sure they would have asked me to leave, so I refrained myself with hopeful anticipation. My breakfast that day was a thorough mix of love and lust, and I would come back another time and follow up with another version of their Pudd'n & Eggs, this one highlighting spinach, fennel and cheese.

 Pudd'n and Eggs - Spinach, Fennel, and Cheese Bread Pudding with Baby Spinach, Poached Eggs, and Hollandaise $9.95

More recently I tried one of their daily special omelets, filled with fall-apart chicken confit (I had never even considered confiting chicken, but why not?!), goat cheese, Vidalia onions (my only comment would be that I would have preferred if they had caramelized these first as opposed to adding them raw, but they still had a nice flavor), and parsley.  Meanwhile, their home fries are bomb (a mix of red bliss, Yukon Gold, and sweet potato, with an addition of red onion and herbs)!  They also offer several varieties of toast, my favorite thus far being their "rustic" sourdough, which is brushed with a pesto oil before being grilled.  You just can't beat it!

 Special Omelet - Confit Chicken, Goat Cheese, Vidalia Onions, and Parsley, Served with Rustic Pesto Grilled Sourdough and Home Fries $9.95

I've never tried dinner at Nick's so I can't comment, but I do fully intend to return for some lunch fare, since the menu has been teasing me with a pulled pork sandwich that sounds simply divine since as long as I can remember.  Someday soon, it will happen.  Stay tuned... but for now enjoy some more photos of food my companions enjoyed :)

Eggs Benedict with Ham

Steak + Eggs - Grilled Hereford Beef with Two Eggs, Home Fries, Toast and Choice of Sauce (Chipotle--pictured--or Horseradish) $14.95

Egg, Cheese, Tomato and Spinach Breakfast Sandwich $4.95

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Almost Done with Classical French


I have a couple days worth of class updates to share today.  First off, I hurt my back this morning and was less than thrilled that in my fairly immobile state I had to do my practical exam, but I ended up doing really well!  I had about 1 1/2 hours to put together a full plate on my own, one portion of protein, starch, and veg.  I made a pork chop Normandy (which is basically braised with apples in a sauce of demi-glace, apple cider, shallots, and Dijon mustard, haricot verts with almonds, and mashed potatoes.  My practical exam plate is pictured above.  It's not super fancy, but I think it looks nice.  We weren't really being graded on our plating, but we all still made an effort to put together something nice to look at :) I didn't want to pipe out my mashed potatoes with a piping bag like most other students did because I personally can't imagine eating mashed potatoes in a fancy restaurant that happened to serve them, and seeing them piped with a star tip.  I think my dish looked kind of rustic and refined at the same time... all the components were piping hot, and most importantly it tasted good!

Here are the photos from yesterday... I made this first soup :)

Crème Argenteuil (Cream of Asparagus Soup)

Consommé aux Diablotins (Consomme with Cheese Croutons)

Noques  de Semoule sur Épinard (Fried Dumplings with Spinach) 

Caneton Rôti aux Pêches (Roasted Duck with Peaches) 

Darne de Saumon à la Choron (Salmon Steak with Choron) 

Filet de Boeuf Wellington (Beef Wellington)

Ris de Veau à la Veronique (Veal Sweetbreads with Seedless Grapes) 

Show Plates from yesterday

And here are the photos from today's class, minus the one at the very top of my practical plate :)

Petite Marmite

Velouté Chartreuse (Veloute with Mushrooms, Tomatoes, and Foie Gras)

Champignons Farcis à la Duxelle (Mushrooms Stuffed with Duxelles)

Caille en Nids de Pommes de Terre aux Cerises (Quail with a Potato Basket and Cherries)

Côte de Veau Prince Orloff (Veal Chop with Soubise Sauce)

Côtes de Porc à la Normande (Pork Chop Normandy)

Sole de Douvres à la Meunière (Dover Sole Meuniere)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

I Wish Brian Boitano Was My BFF!


Once upon a time, I was a young figure skater.  I had aspirations of winning Olympic gold, as did every other little girl or boy who ever strapped on a pair of skates.  I was never that good, no where near the caliber required to contest with other Olympic-bound skaters, but I was a girl with a dream.

I remember my very first competition.  I was about 10 years old, and each group of skaters competed with two other skaters, so that even if you got last place, you would still get a medal.  I watched the other two girls skate, confident that I was better than them.  As I stepped forward to demonstrate my skills for the judges, I tripped on my toepick and went flying face-first onto the ice (the photo above was taken moments before this happened).  They gave me a second chance, but more than my knees were bruised.  I ended up with the bronze medal (last place) and was so ashamed that I practically refused to let my mother photograph me wearing it after the competition.

 I look pissed!  That bronze medal hung very heavy around my neck.  It took a lot of coaxing to wear it in front of the camera... (side note: check out my scrawny little legs, haha!)

I learned a very difficult lesson that day.  I learned that after you fall, you have to get back up, regardless of your embarrassment or frustration.  I learned that you should never be too cocky or take life too seriously, because people do fall, and sometimes you have to laugh at yourself and pick yourself back up.  I learned that there's always someone in last place, and once in a while, I will be that person, and I need to learn to live with not being perfect.  Maybe most importantly, I learned that even a bronze medal was an accomplishment, even though I felt like a loser, and I wanted to win, sometimes you have to lose before you can take home the gold.  In later competitions, I won many gold and silver medals, and I was never ungrateful even if I didn't come out on top.  That bronze was my first and last, but I will never forget how horrible I acted after I got it.  I hope someday when I have kids they will be able to live with occasional failure and learn from their mistakes, get back up and do better the next time.  Sometimes I make mistakes in the kitchen (or in life) and get very angry with myself for doing something "stupid," or think that I should know better.  But I'm only human, and I don't live in a perfect world.  I need to remember this.  Maybe I should hang up my bronze medal in my kitchen, a constant reminder of imperfection.  After all, a bronze medal is better than a severed finger.

Finally at the top of the medal stand, I was at last a gold medalist (just like Brian Boitano... but not quite, haha) 

After skating for about 10 years, I decided to hang up my skates for good.  I've skated occasionally since then, but never to the level that I used to.  I can still land some of my jumps, do spins, etc, but I know my body has changed a lot since then, and I'm not as resilient on the ice as I once was.  I quit skating right before I started learning my axel.  I can honestly say, a big part of it was fear.  I could land every other jump (single rotations only), but the axel instills fear in all skaters, and it was pretty scary to me.  I was almost done with high school, and really did have a lot on my plate, so it seemed like a good idea to focus my energy completely on school.  I've never regretted that decision.  Skating taught me a lot about life, obviously.  I remember all the falls and the tears.  At first, I would cry every time I fell, because falling on ice really hurts.  After a while I saw the older girls would fall and get right back up and skate, full speed ahead.  I started suppressing my tears, and even though the pain would sometimes be excruciating, I learned to fight through it.  I'm a pretty emotional person, but similarly to skating, I feel that sometimes I have to suppress the urge to cry or lash out when things aren't going my way.  Life is hard, and when we fall, we need to suck it up and get on with our lives.

What's the point of my rant?  Well, not only has skating taught me a lot about life, and really helped me grow up and learn to be grateful and really proud of my accomplishments, even when they're small, it has come back into my life through food.  I don't know how many of you have tuned into the Food Network lately, and noticed that my favorite skater of all time Brian Boitano has his own cooking show!  Not only is he quite possibly the greatest figure skater of all time (in my humble opinion), but he has a really fun, entertaining cooking show!  I honestly have really enjoyed his great ideas and recipes, although I haven't actually attempted any of them yet.  He loves hosting parties (who doesn't) and there is so much humor thrown in along with honest to goodness cooking and entertaining.  If you haven't watched this show before, I think you should check it out!  Not only might it give you some great party-planning ideas, but it is so entertaining!  If you love Brian as much as I do (and secretly wish he was your BFF--best friend for life), you will get a huge kick out of his funny sketches.  It's not just straight (nothing straight about this show, haha) cooking, it's so much more.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Caviar Egg


You may recall my slight love affair with a Mr. Jean-Georges Vongerichten.  His restaurants are well known throughout the world as having some of the best and most refined cuisine around.  His namesake restaurant, Jean-Georges, boasts a special "caviar egg" dish that is included in his $148 dinner tasting menu, or can also be enjoyed from the regular dinner prix fixe menu ($98) for a supplemental fee of $25.  Let's just say, enjoying his caviar egg dish does not come cheap.  I can also guarantee that they don't use Beluga caviar as the garnish.  They use Ossetra, which is a great caviar, but certainly not the queen of caviars as her older sister Beluga is.  Luckily for all of us, Jean-Georges shares the recipe for this dish in his book Simple to Spectacular (page 53).  I slightly adapted the recipe, and also cut it down to make one egg (although I still had leftover vodka cream).  Mine looks more rustic than his, the egg looks slightly jagged, but alas, I am not a pro at cracking eggs in perfect straight lines.  I only had one fancy egg cup, and there's only one of me, so I didn't think it was necessary to go overboard and use up all the rest of my amazing Beluga caviar in one shot by following the recipe exact and making four servings.  I also cooked the egg a bit differently than he does, by adding cream and not using a whisk (I had a nonstick pan, and a whisk would have ruined it).  Once again, a huge thanks to Black Star Gourmet for sending me this lovely caviar giveaway.  Without your generosity I wouldn't be dining in style this morning.  My breakfast would most likely be frosted shredded mini wheats, which I love, but hey, it's no caviar egg!

Caviar Egg
Serves 1
(adapted from Jean-George's Simple to Spectacular)

3 T. heavy cream, divided
Salt and cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. vodka
1 egg
1 tsp. unsalted butter
Beluga caviar for garnish

Whip 2 T. of heavy cream to hold stiff peaks.  Add the salt, cayenne pepper, lemon juice, and vodka, and whip again to combine.  Set aside.

Remove the top of the egg by carefully cracking it at one end, then peeling away enough of the shell to pour out the egg into a bowl.  Then just try and even out the edges as best you can.  A rustic look is not always a bad look.  Rinse out the egg shell and set aside.

Beat the egg with 1 T. heavy cream and some salt.  Heat up a small frying pan with the butter on medium heat, add the egg, and using a wooden spoon stir the egg constantly until you have a nice soft scramble, a couple minutes at the most.  Remove from the heat, and carefully fill the scrambled egg into the empty egg shell.  Pipe the vodka cream onto the top (you may have extra) and then top with a spoonful of caviar and serve.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Adventures of Cletus the Trout


I was very excited to make Trout Amandine with another classmate today.  I love seafood and enjoy cooking and eating it very much.  Growing up I was never a huge fan of trout because my family would bake them whole and I generally just thought it was annoying to eat and never really tasted that special.  I also never saw trout sold in fillets at any fish markets that I visited, so I never really bothered to make it on my own, because until recently I didn't know how to properly fillet a fish.  Now I'm a lot more confident taking my fillet knife to a dead sea creature.  It's actually pretty easy.  You start just past the gills, cut straight down until you hit the backbone, and then with a sawing motion carefully scrape against the bones and cut all the way to the tail. We filleted six whole trouts (we named each and every one of them), trimmed them, removed the pin bones, cut each fillet in half at an angle for more appealing presentation (two halves were served per plate = one whole fillet), seasoned and then dredged each piece in flour, pan-fried them in hot butter, getting the skin nice and crisp, topped them with butter-toasted slivered almonds, and sauce made with lemon juice, white wine, and butter.  Viola!  As long as you get the skin crisp, serve the fish "a la minute" (don't let it sit in a steam table until service), and make sure not to completely drown it in sauce, it actually tastes surprisingly light and was very very delicious!  I definitely can see myself buying trout in the future, filleting it myself, and making more interesting and flavorful presentations, as opposed to my parents' boring baked trout!

Cletus the Trout 

These are Cletus's insides... 

The flesh was cut nice and clean off the bone

Here I've trimmed Cletus's fillet and removed the pin bones

Our mise en place for cooking and plating the fish: salt and pepper, flour, butter, trout fillets, butter-toasted almonds, and finely chopped parsley (the sauce was in a bain marie staying warm on the stove)

Truite aux Amande (Trout Amandine) 

Bouillon Milanaise (Chicken Soup with Ham, Mushrooms, and Pasta)

Crème DuBarry (Cream of Cauliflower Soup)

Escargots aux Cèpes (Escargots with Porcini Mushrooms)

Contrefilet Rôti (Roasted Strip Loin)

Escalope de Veau "Chimay" (Veal Cutlets with Duxelles and Hollandaise)

Pheasant Braisé aux Pruneaux Farcis (Braised Pheasant Stuffed with Prunes)

Salade Mimosa (Bibb Lettuce Salad with Hard Boiled Egg)

The Show Plates

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Eat Your Greens


I have never really been much of a salad person.  Just ask my mom.  The only salads I really enjoy are salads that have lots of "stuff" in them.  Dressed lettuce has never really done it for me.  When I was assigned to make the salad today for our menu, I was less than thrilled.  I looked over the recipe and then started to realize that it might not suck after all.  I would be making a watercress salad (I like watercress) topped with halved cherry tomatoes, chopped radishes, chopped boiled potatoes, grated (through a chinois gros) hard-boiled eggs and a yummy yogurt-based dressing with a bit of a spicy kick.  This wasn't a boring salad.  The components were a bit time consuming to prepare.  Even just picking and cleaning the watercress took time, as I had a massive amount to do.  In the end, I polished off an entire plate of my salad, but not before one of the other teachers came by and saw my show plate and asked if we could save her a plate of salad.  Yes ma'am!

My mise en place (I later put the dressing in a squeeze bottle) 

Salade à la Cressonnière (Watercress Salad)

Consommé Royale (Consomme with Custard)

Crème Bretonne (Pureed Navy Bean Soup)

Huîtres Florentine (Oysters Florentine)

Selle d'Agneau Richelieu (Roast Saddle of Lamb)

Filet de Sole Dugléré (Fillet of Sole Dugléré) 

Suprême de Volaille Henri IV (Chicken Breast Henri IV) 


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