Vetri in Philadelphia

Vetri
1312 Spruce Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107

ambiance

I was excited over the moon to be able to eat here tonight. For the four years I lived in Philly, I had never been able to get a reservation before 9 PM at Vetri and so I’ve never eaten here before. I called 3 months in advance and out of the 3 Saturdays I was going to be in Philadelphia, only one of them had an availability before 10 PM. This is definitely the most exclusive restaurant in Philadelphia with seats only for 36 patrons. When I made the reservation, the hostess said that Friday and Saturday is Grand Chef Tasting menu only which means Chef Vetri will give you a hand-painted menu from which you can say what you love or something you don’t eat and then from there, he will decided what to send to your table.

ambiance

We were the first ones there and so we got a nice cozy table in the corner. I loved the decor inside, it was peacefully rustic. As soon as we sat down, the hostess asked us if we would like to start with some complimentary Prosecco and hor d’ouerves while we looked over the menu. I think that is  a genius idea, bring out some nibbles to munch on while we read over the menu.

Prosecco

We started off with a half bottle of Classico Chianti. I don’t know why in my head I imagined them bringing out a full bottle of wine and pouring only half. Made sense that they brought out this cute little bottle. I think we got about 5 glasses out of it which was the perfect amount for dinner for two.

classico chianti

Our first course which was appetizers was a huge plate with 5 little “appe-teasers” on them. Each about the size of 1/4 of my palm. This is definitely a quality over quantity type of place which was fine by me. Joe gave me a bite of his squid dish which was pretty good (that’s a huge compliment from a non-seafood person).

foie gras over brioche

 

vegetable torta

 

salami

salami

baby carrot medley

squid galette

veal tartare w parmesan

quail egg over kale

tuna and swordfish carpaccio

radicchio over kale

veal tongue

Then our second course came out which was the duck and raddichio crepe for Joe and the sweet onion crepe for me. Being a good couple, we each ate half and then traded plates (almost every table there was doing this). The sweet onion crepe was by far my favorite, combining my three favorite flavors in the world: cheese, truffle and caramelized onions. With my first bite, it was like a church choir group was singing “Hallelujah” on my tongue!

duck crepe

sweet onion crepe

Our third course we each got a serving of the spinach gnocchi with ricotta salata. Joe said it was too rich for him but I was in love with it and gladly finished his. I am a huge fan gnocchi and therefore am pretty critical of it. The spinach gnocchi was amazing! So soft, it just melts in your mouth, and perfectly complimented by the brown butter. I cut one in half easily with my fork so that I could admire the grounded spinach by candle-light but Joe told me to hurry up and finish so he could see what would come out next.

spinach gnocchi

Our fourth course, we each received a serving of mint pappardelle with lamb ragu. The infused mint gave it a very interesting flavor, making the dish more complex on the palate. The lamb was so tender that the only way I could pick it up was if I scooped it up with my fork. We both loved it! You could really appreciate the texture cuz it was hand-made pasta.

mint pappardelle

Our next course, Joe was brought the whole roasted baby goat and I received the Creekstone aged ribeye with bean medley. The ribeye was medium-rare and practically melting in your mouth. But the clear winner of the two was the roasted baby goat (I had some serious reservations about this dish but I got over it with my first crispy bite).

whole roast baby goat

 

aged rib

I was amazed by how spot on Chef  Vetri’s selections for our table were, when I looked at the table next to us I noticed that their dishes were entirely different from ours. I had 2 thoughts come to my head: 1. thank God he sent the vegetarian main entrees to the other table and 2. is our table bugged? i felt underneath the table and didn’t feel any wires and then figured that with these tasting menu prices, he could probably afford wireless microphones.

goat cheese

Next we were asked if we would like to go straight into the dessert portion of the evening or would like a cheese platter. Without skipping a beat, I said cheese! We had 3 different types of cheeses, but I’ll only show my favorite, the Spanish goat cheese which had a strong flavor (my motto for cheese: the stinkier, the better).  They served it with toasted bread and this house-made honey and orange marmalade which Joe was using the bread to dunk and then scrub the plate clean with.  It was wonderfully sweet but not too sweet.

orange marmalade

Then we were brought our first dessert, a milk gelato with hot espresso poured over it at the table. This was perfect because I was considering ordering coffee with my dessert. It was so delicious! The sweetness of the gelato complimented the bitter espresso flavor, making it similar to coffee ice cream (it was still cold as we ate it). This was another example of when I thought our table might be tapped, because it was only a few seconds before when I told Joe I’ll probably need to  get some coffee after this meal and what is the first dessert that the waittress brings to our table? espresso!

milk gelato

Our second dessert, Joe was brought the lemon poppy seed cake with beet sorbet (unfortunately, neither of us were a fan of the strong poppy seed flavor), and I was brought a chocolate polenta souffle served with vanilla bean ice cream (even though this was super rich, we couldn’t get enough!) We were fighting over the last morsels of the chocolate-y goodness on my plate.

lemon poppy seed cake

 

chocolate polenta cake

 

vanilla bean cake

At this point we were getting extremely full and I think both of our jaws dropped when we saw the waittress bring out another plate(the waiters rotate all night so that you get a different person serving you each course).  This plate showcased a bunch of different desserts: marshmallow covered in powder sugar, tiramisu, peanut butter fudge, peanut brittle and lemon gumdrops. All of which, of course, were delicious.

dessert!

Being a good food blogger, I tried to write down everything we ate as they came out onto my iphone. Since I had never dined here before I didn’t realize that at the end of the night you get a goodie bag with a copy of the hand painted menu which made writing this blog entry so much easier. I love the bag! I’ll treasure it forever!

my goody bag

Now i’ve had some expensive meals in my life, (I’ve eaten at the 3 most expensive restaurants in Boston), but none of them compared to the $$/person for this meal. The tip alone for this meal cost more than any meal I’ve had at some of the more expensive restaurants in New Orleans. This was definitely a once in a life time meal that I’ll never forget. Best Italian restaurant in America, how could I not go? This chef is renown for his creativity and skill and rightly so, this had to be one of the best, if not THE best meal I’ve had in my life.

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Maps for Diners, DriveIns and Dives, Man v. Food and more

RECIPE: Truffle Mac and Cheese

Truffle Mac and Cheese, courtesy of Ina Garden

truffle mac and cheese

I’ve recently become obsessed with watching Ina Garden (aka Barefoot Contessa) on Hulu. I tried to watch Giada, but she was just way too perky for me (what’s up with her ginormous head?!?) Anywho, Ina is a bit more down to earth and laid back which I like. Also her food is classier and more gourmet whereas Giada’s food is California fun. Also, Ina Garden used to work for the White House (as a nuclear energy consultant) before leaving to follow her true passions and starting a specialty food store based off of Julia Child recipes!
One main tiff that I have with Ina though, and a lot of other food bloggers have also noticed this, is that she’s not that relatable though to her main audience. Not all of us have humongous kitchens that a family of 6 could live in, in the East Hamptons, with 2 refrigerators (not including freezers, those are separate), 2 dish washing machines, and 6 stove top oven! I was doing fine with this recipe, boiling 1 lb of pasta (my local grocery store didn’t have her fancy cavatappi so I had to use regular old elbow macaroni), chopping up the shiitake and cremini mushrooms. One of the first ingredients is truffle butter, and none of the local stores (including Whole Foods) in New Orleans carry this specialty item, the only online company I found was D’artagnan, and it would have cost $25 for the butter and $28 for shipping. I ended up using regular butter and regular truffle oil (which I had ordered online months ago and luckily kept in my pantry).  Once I had melted the butter and truffle oil, I added in the chopped up mushrooms and then add some cream sherry (whatever you do, don’t drink this with dinner. It is super sweet and 17% alcohol content. Definitely the wrong choice for dinner).  Once the pasta and mushrooms are done, set them aside.
Then she says to use a food grinder for the 12 ox of Gruyere cheese and 8 ox of extra sharp cheddar. I don’t  have one, so I thought ok, my mandolin slicer will suffice. WRONG! the cheeses crumbled under the pressure and so I spent about half an hour dicing up all the blocks of cheeses. And then she says to pulse fresh white bread until they’re minced. Also difficult to do without a food grinder……..I had to hunch over with a knife and cutting board and manually mince my bread into breadcrumbs. As you can probably tell from my tone, I was not pleased while making this and so there are no pictures of the process.  It’s cooking experiences like these that make me wish that my dream kitchen will become a reality sooner rather than later. At this point my mushrooms and pasta were cold and I had to reheat everything in a large bowl, mixing the cheeses with the mushrooms and pasta and whisked milk (which became super frothy. I recommend throwing this in a sink full of water to make washing later easier). Then set it in the oven for 35-45 minutes to allow the cheeses to melt and the bread crumbs to become golden brown.

delicious!

The truffle macaroni and cheese was delicious. The crispiness of the bread crumbs perfectly complemently the pasta texture (not too mushy!). I especially loved how the truffle oil accentuated each of the cheese’s natural flavors. It was amazing! I shared this dish with a few friends who also gave it rave reviews! I definitely recommend this

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/mac-and-cheese-recipe/index.html

Review from a fellow diner who had the pleasure of dining some of this terrific dish: “Just needed to send you a quick note to say how AMAZING your mac and cheese was… super decadent, loved the truffle oil, the cheese was great, and I also really liked the crunchy top to break up the texture. Thank you sooo much!!!”

RECIPE: Boeuf Bourguignon

Courtesy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (2 Volume Set)

After watching Julie and Julia, I had to know what was so amazing about this boeuf bourguignon. I started off by going to Whole Foods, at 4, I figured be home by 4:30 and cook for 2.5 hrs (like they stressed in the movie) and then dinner at 7 PM. Perfect! First of all, I didn’t get home until little after 5……..

handy dandy bookstand

Have you read Julia Child’s cookbook? No wonder Julie Powell hallucinated conversations with the woman while cooking alone in her kitchen, the way it is written is that you practically hear Julia Child speaking to you through the pages. As per her instructions, I first simmered the 6 oz chunk of bacon in 1.5 quarts of water for 10 minutes. She specifically says to cut them 1/4 inch thick and 1.5 inches long. While this was going on, I set the oven at 450 degrees. After drying it, I sauteed the bacon in oil to brown them.

rump pot roast cubed

It took forever forever to dry the beef in  paper towels (“it will not brown if it is damp”).  Using the oil from the bacon (mmmmmm), I browned the beef in about 4 batches. She specifically instructs to use a slotted spoon, clearly she hasn’t mastered the art of chopsticks! (harhar)

chopsticks for life!

At this point it was closer to 6:30…. Ok this is not a book for the servantless American housewife. This is a book for a whole staff of servants! One to cube the beef, one to pat them dry with paper towels, one to brown them, one to sautee the mushrooms, one to brown the onions………

Beaujolais wine

Once the beef is browned, you can add it to a huge “casserole” (or in my case,  a dutch oven). In goes the sliced carrot and sliced onion (I actually had to turn on the movie and fast forward to the part where Julie Powell is making this dish to see how to slice the carrot and onion). Then in goes the 3 cups of Beaujolais wine (took me forever to find this bottle at Whole Foods cuz all the labels were in French…….I took Spanish in high school). And 3 cups of beef stock (can’t believe Julia Child had to wake up every morning and make stock that her various dishes would need. Today we can just buy it in a box!)

button onions

So I figured 2.5 hours to kill! I’ll get a ton of work done! But then I read about the next step and it refers me to 2 more recipes! One for brown-braised onions, which is 18-24 1-inch in diameter white onions in butter and oil. Then braised in beef stock for 50 minutes.

sauteed mushrooms

I was getting tired from all the cooking and hypoglycemia at this point that when I read the next recipe for sauteed mushrooms, I added the oil and butter and then dumped in 1 lb of sliced fresh mushrooms. Then  read the part where it says to sautee them in batches for fried mushrooms, if you throw them all in at once (How did she know that I threw them all in at once?!?) then the mushrooms will come out steamed instead of fried. Oh well, anything in butter still tastes good. They even stressed this point in the movie! gah!

korean rice

So the recipe says it can be served with boiled potatoes or egg noodles, but I’m asian, so it’s stick rice! I know all asians know to rinse rice grains until the water runs clear (or at least I hope they do). What is the secret to perfect Korean sticky rice? Soak the rice grains in water for a few hours.  Then once the rice cooker is done, this is of absolute importance, mix the rice rapidly! And try to push as much towards the center as possible (anything left against the rice cooker will brown faster).

finally!!

After 2.5 hours, dump the stew through a sieve over a sauce pot. Then pick out all the beef cubes and put them back into the dutch oven. Meanwhile, let the sauce thicken over medium heat. Took forever to pick out all the beef with chopsticks but oh well.  Once you have all the beef, add the browned onions (which smelled divine) and the sauteed mushrooms.

final product

Finally add the sauce over the meat and let it soak in the sauce which has thickened.

doesn't that look good?

I got a little beef, onion and mushroom all on one spoon. it was DELICIOUS! No wonder Julia Child is the queen of French cooking. Something I wonder about is how do we really know Julie Powell made every dish in that cookbook? If you look at her Julie/Julia blog, she never has any pictures. It’s just her word….

Dinner at 10 PM

This was so worth the wait! My significant other told me to FedEx his portion to him over night. Even though we spent Valentine’s day apart, I’m glad he sent me something for dessert cuz there’s no way I could’ve made dessert and eat dinner before midnight.

Godiva chocolate tower

 Some other beef recipes:
Beef Stew
Beef Wellington
The Perfect Burger
The Ultimate meatball

RECIPE: Beef Chow Fun

This recipe is the best because in a short 2 minutes of waiting, you can have a warm “brown bag” lunch. Of course the initial preparations take a bit longer, but the rewards are worth it. While everyone else in the lounge is pulling out their ham and cheese wrap or peanut butter and jelly sandwich, you get this heavenly aroma coming from the microwave and strangers are coming up to your table asking what’s in it (or are you will to trade lunches).

  • 10 ea Chow Fun Noodles (can be found in refrigerated section of chinese food market, ask for thick rice noodles)
  • 1 lb Beef flank steak sliced -   thin across the grain
    —————MARINADE:
  • 1 tb Dark soy sauce (has to be dark)
  • 1 tb Cornstarch
  • 1 ea Egg white
  • 1 tb Peanut oil (i use regular vegetable oil, peanut oil gives it a bit more flavor)
    ————-ADDITIONAL:
  • 7 tb Peanut oil for pan-frying
  • 2 ea Cloves garlic chopped fine
  • 1 ea Slice ginger cut julienne (minced ginger is fine too)
  • 1 tb Fermented black beans (dow -see) rinsed (i usually buy a jar of black bean paste at the grocery store)
  • 1 tb Dry sherry (any cooking wine)
  • 1/2 md Yellow onion peeled and -sliced
  • 1/2 ea Green sweet bell pepper -cored & cut julienne ——————————SAUCE————
  • 1 tb Dark soy sauce
  • 1/4 ts Sugar
  • 1 tb Dry sherry
  • 1 pn White pepper
  • 1 tb Oyster sauce
    —————————–FINAL———————-
  • 1 c Fresh bean sprouts

Instructions:

Slice the chow fun into noodles about 1/2 inch wide.

Slice the meat and mix the marinade. Marinate the meat for 15 minutes.

Heat the wok and add 2 T of the peanut oil.

Toss the noodles about in the oil until they are very hot and begin to color just a bit on the edges. Remove to the serving platter and set aside.

Heat the wok again and add 3 T of the peanut oil along with the garlic and ginger. Fry for a moment and add the rinsed black beans and the sherry. In this add the onion and green pepper just until very hot. Remove to the serving platter.

Heat the wok a third time and add 2 T of the peanut oil and the meat. Fry on one side only until it begins to brown.

Return the vegetables the noodles and the sauce to the wok and toss with the meat until hot. Add the bean sprouts toss just a minute or so and serve. Garnish with Chinese parsley.

Boucherie in New Orleans

Boucherie
8115 Jeanette St.
New Orleans, LA 70118

http://www.boucherie-nola.com/

OK so actually Boucherie has been on my list ever since I moved here and heard great things about. And this place definitely delivered! It’s high quality food at a very affordable price! My fellow foodie had the brilliant idea to order a ton of small plates so that we could try a bit of everything! We spent about $15 each on food and we helped ourselves to 4 small plates (pretty sizeable) and 1 dessert platter. We both ordered the caipirinha mixed drink because when I was abroad, I was told that it is the Brazilian mojito but sweet. Unforunately, it ended up being lemonade for adults.

The food, however, blew my mind!The complimentary soup was an interesting blend of flavors, especially the curry that kinda snuck up on you at the end:

The Boudin balls and mussels were delicious and don’t get me started on the garlicky parmesan french fries (heavenly!)

The Boudin balls were perfect with the garlic aioli:

The mussels were good but the garlicky parmesan french fries were to die for! Perfect amount of saltiness:

The roasted eggplant and goat cheese terrine surprised me because I was expecting mostly roasted eggplant, not mostly goat cheese. It was interesting but I was not a fan:

I was really looking forward to the bacon brownie. I think the texture of the brownie was a bit dryer (probably from the bacon pieces), and it tasted saltier than a normal brownie but the bacon flavor didn’t really hit me until I had a big piece of bacon in my mouth. I wasn’t a huge fan of mixing two of my many favorite things. The Thai chili chocolate pie was very surprising because the spiciness was a huge kick at the end when you think, ok sweet stuff and then your tongue screams hell no! burnt spicy stuff! The star of the night was the Krispy Kreme bread pudding, they even had this warm honey sugar glaze over it so it really did taste like a Krispy Kreme donut! It was the perfect amount of fluffy and crispy with lots of sweets! mmmmmmmmmmm

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Domenica Restaurant

Domenica Restaurant
123 Baronne St.
New Orleans, LA 70112

A John Besh restaurant! This was a delicious meal! A little more expensive than I usually spend on food, but the food was amazing! The lunch waiter service wasn’t that great but that didn’t deter from the wonderful food.

When I first tried the chili olive oil, it was amazing! I couldn’t get enough:

Started off with the $18 Salumi and Formaggi (house cured meats and cheese):

From the cured meats, I would say the prosciutto was my favorite.

The texture of the other cured meat was a little too much for me, but I thought it was interesting.

We sampled three cheeses: my favorite was the blue cheese

It also came with this awesome torte, a deep fried yet filling dough. It had a sweet taste, reminiscient of corn flavor.

My friend ordered the Octopus carpaccio with fennel and citrus. The carpaccio was very well prepared and the orange slices added a fresh twist to this dish.

I had the fried squash blossom appetizer with  goat cheese, tomatoes and aged balsamic. It was crispy and the goat cheese combination with balsamic was tangy and wonderful.

We ordered an assortment of pasta dishes:
1. Cavatelli with mangalitsa pork ragu, Tuscan kale, currants and truffle butter. I think the kale gave this dish a very strong flavor, it packed quite a punch when you first taste it:

2. Tagliatelle with rabbit ragu, and porcini mushrooms. I really loved the simplicity of the pasta in this dish, but just because it was simple does not mean that it wasn’t delicious. I was a little hesitant about rabbit ragu, but it didn’t taste odd at all:

3. This was my favorite of all the pastas! Gnocchi (potato dumplings) with wild mushrooms, thyme and smoked pancetta. The gnocchi was soft and just dissolves on your tongue. The mushroom sauce was delicious and tasty with the pancetta:

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