Momofuku Ssam Bar December 14, 2007

Friday night we went to David Chang’s Momofuku Ssam Bar.

While we enjoyed the food, we couldn’t wait to leave. The place was loud and not very comfortable. We sat at the bar on “stools” which are nothing more than big wooden boxes and do not give you that “let’s have another beer” kind of feeling. Despite the packed space, which seems to have been designed by the Tokyo subway authority, we did enjoy the food. We had Steamed Buns; Four Story Hill Farm Chicken Ballotine (a terrine with porcini mushrooms and walnuts); Satur Farms Fried Brussels Sprouts with chilies, mint and fish sauce (badly pictured here) and Marinated Hanger Steak Ssäm served with ginger callion, kimchi and bibb lettuce. We were also impressed by speed in which the servers describe the dishes (think Federal Express commercials from 1992).

Turkish Kitchen, New York Dec 2, 2007

On Sunday we went to Turkish Kitchen on Third Avenue in Manhattan.

We sat upstairs in the spacious, dimly lit room that warmed up considerably after we arrived. We started with a cold, mixed appetizer plate. It included stuffed grape leaves, Cacik (chick pea & tahini paste, seasoned with garlic and olive oil), humus and Yalanci Dolma (red kidney beans.) We requested a change but our waiter informed us that the “no substitution” rule was in effect and would not be waived. Despite our doubts, the beans were enjoyed by all. We also shared a Kofte, a patty stuffed with ground lamb and spices.

For the main courses, lamb was the star. We had it as pirzola (baby chops), donner kebab (vertically grilled over rice); Yogurtlu Karisik (combination of lamb and chicken. chargrilled, served with garlic yogurt and tomato sauces on pita bread) and another kebab dish served over eggplant. We also had a chicken kebab dish served with potatoes. All this was washed down with a few Efes beer, a Turkish Lager.

We finished the meal with two desserts- Baklava (very thin layers of dough with walnuts in between layers) and Kunefe (shredded wheat with pistachio and cheese soaked in syrup and baked in oven).

Las Vegas, Nevada October 2007

I spent 3 days in Las Vegas at the end of October. Like everything in Vegas, eating is BIG. There are so many “celebrity” restaurants there now, it would be impossible to try them all, not that anyone would want to. From what I could tell, most of them are big, loud, impersonal and very expensive.

I ended up trying two “local” restaurants, one for dinner and one for breakfast.

“Lotus of Siam”, was named by Gourmet Magazine as one of the best Thai restaurants in North America. From its location you would never know it. It is a few miles off the Vegas strip, in strip mall, wedged between a “massage” parlor and a wig shop. The food was excellent, inexpensive and the service was good, except for the “hot” rating, which ranged from 1 to 10, with 10 being the hottest. What the waiter didn’t tell was that dishes containing fresh chili peppers are 5 degrees hotter than those with dried peppers. So, a 5 fresh dish was about a 10 with dried spices. I started with TOD MUN PLAR – One of Bangkok most favorite appetizers; deep fried fish-cake mixed with curry paste, served with cucumber salad with chopped peanut. Next, I had SQUID SPICY SALAD with onion and lettuce mixed with lime juice served on bed of green. This was great dish with lots of lime and cilantro. Take a look at the green,red and orange peppers. I ordered mine #5 spicy. My friend Jose ordered his #7 so the chili peppers were crushed and scattered throughout his dish- that way he could enjoy the heat with each bite. I finished the meal with PAD THAI. According to the menu, this “Could have been the most popular stir fried classic Thai small rice noodle of all time. This dish stir fried with chicken, egg, green onion, bean sprouts. (Chopped peanut upon request.)”. I requested the peanuts. One note, Karl, Jose’s colleague, ordered some kind of seafood, cabbage dish steamed in foil. It sounded interesting but it was over cooked and had a “burnt” taste.

I also tried the Peppermill Fireside Lounge on the Vegas strip for breakfast. Open 24 hours a day, this is a Las Vegas institution. Like every thing here, breakfast is big – as you can see from the eggs and turkey sausage I ordered. Even the coffee cup was big.

Sandy & Joe’s wedding – Ravello, Italy September 23, 2007

About ten years ago, we went to an incredible wedding in Tuscany, between Florence and Sienna. We had such a great time that we promised ourselves we would jump at the opportunity to go to another wedding in Italy. Well, we did. This time it was in Ravello, the hill-top village along the Amalfi Coast, just above the town of Minori, where are our friends Sandy and Joe were married. After the ceremony inside the beautiful Ravello Duomo, constructed about 1200 in white marble, the party moved outside to the square for a sparkling toast, prosecco of course! We then walked up the hill to Villa Eva for the reception. The villa provides a spectacular view of the water. We started with champagne punch and bellinis (sparkling wine and peach puree) outdoors. Then we moved indoors for the six course dinner. We were treated to “Curled octopus in green sauce”; “Risotto with seafood”; “Fusilli pasta with mozzarella cheese, aubergines, cherry tomatoes and basil”; “Homemade crepes stuffed with cheese and ham”, “Sea bass in a pastry crust”served with grilled vegetables from
Villa Maria (nearby hotel) vegetable garden and finally seasonal fruit. Cake and more proesecco were served downstairs. Needless to say it was quite an evening! AUGURI, Sandy and Joe, Grazie mille!

Ristorante Caruso, Sorrento, Italy September 25, 2007

We had dinner tonight at Ristorante Caruso, named for the great tenor Erinco Caruso. The restaurant is filled with records and documents about Caruso.

We were greeted with a complimentary glass of prosecco. We ordered a bottle of Biancolella, Casa D’Ambra 2006, a white wine from the island of Ischia. We started with a warm seafood salad and octopus with cherry tomatoes and lentils. For our second course, we had black tagliatelle with octopus and cannelloni stuffed with smoked mozzarella and shrimp on a bed of white beans and cherry tomatoes.