27 Feb 2009 06:04 pm

Although much of the country is still bundled up in its warmest winter coat, make no mistake about it: Spring is almost here. How can you tell, when there’s still bitter wind in the Midwest and more than two feet of snow in parts of New England? Easy. The shad, they are a-swimmin’.

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They do it every year. Like salmon and striped bass, they spend their entire adult lives living at sea. Then, come spring, they swim upstream from the Atlantic Ocean towards the freshwater streams and rivers where they were born, inland on the Atlantic coast. There, they reproduce. Like strawberries in summer and squash in the winter, the result is a seasonal treat — shad roe — that’s worth looking forward to every year.

It’s hard to go wrong with roe. Sturgeon eggs make delicious black caviar. Salmon eggs, meanwhile, make sumptuous red caviar. Cod roe is the stuff of excellent taramosalata and tuna roe of fantastic botarga.

Shad roe, however, is especially savory — if for no other reason than because it’s so rare. While one can usually enjoy caviar or cod roe year-round, the shad roe season is short. Really short, in fact, as it typically lasts just a few months, from March until May, while the shad are making their run as far south as the Chesapeake Bay and as far north as southern New England.

The time is now, therefore, to steal a taste of this fleeting American delicacy. Be on the lookout for it on your favorite fine-dining menus. When you see it this spring, order it … while you still can, that is. You won’t regret it. Although it probably won’t look especially delicious to the shad roe newbie — inside the large, double roe sacs are millions of tiny fish eggs that are held together inside a thin and gooey-looking membrane — the taste is pure perfection. Fresh, like the sea.

Even shad’s Latin name — sapidissima — is delicious, meaning “most savory.”

Most savory, indeed. If you see us out to dinner this spring, don’t be surprised if you see us crooning the words of Ella Fitzgerald, who sang in her famous standard, Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love), “Waiter, bring me shad roe!”


25 Feb 2009 05:09 pm

I was first introduced to the delicious taste of artichokes while living in California during my college years, and I have loved them ever since.  One thing that makes artichokes so interesting  is how they often improve the flavor of the foods they are paired with.  Artichokes have a pleasant, slightly bitter taste, but they contain a food chemical called cynarin, which stimulates the taste buds and can make other foods taste sweeter. 

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Recently some friends returned from Lima with a package of large fresh cut Peruvian artichoke hearts for me to try at home.  Grown in the mountains of Peru, they have that familiar delicious flavor and are cut into a unique saucer shape about three inches across.  This makes them an ideal base for a distinctive amuse bouche.  My friends suggest cutting them into small triangles and topping them with cream cheese for an interesting contrast of flavors and textures.  They are also very good in a salad, with fresh mayonnaise and grilled chicken. 

 

The grower is just now beginning to introduce these unique Peruvian artichoke hearts to the United States through AE Imports LLC, for sale to fine restaurants and caterers.  They are not marinated or preserved in any way, but are simply sold fresh and natural.  For now at least you will not find them at your local grocery store, but if you are planning an event and you would like them incorporated into your menu, your caterer can contact AE Imports at apkruger@bellsouth.net

 

Bon appetite!

 

Rob Lubin


21 Feb 2009 07:46 am

Fine dining is full of highfalutin French words. You’ll see them at just about every French restaurant in the country. Prix fixe for a price-fixed menu. Une degustation for a tasting menu. Apertif for a pre-dinner cocktail. Amuse-bouche for a bite-sized snack. If they don’t trip off your tongue, the words will definitely trip it up.

 We’ve been speaking a lot of French lately because there’s a new French word that’s traveling the tongues of American chefs these days. It’s sous vide, and it’s one of the most delicious words we’ve ever tasted.

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 That’s because sous vide, French for “under vacuum,” describes a unique “Cryovacked” cooking technique whereby chefs place ingredients inside a vacuum-sealed plastic bag that’s cooked at a super low temperature-usually around 140 degrees Fahrenheit-for a super long time-sometimes for as long as 24 hours-while submerged in liquid. You can cook meat, chicken, fish, vegetables and even fruit sous vide. And when you do? The result is fantastic food. It’s juicier (sous vide naturally tenderizes food by slowly breaking down its fibers), prettier (sous vide prevents food from breaking down, thereby preserving its texture and color), more flavorful (sous vide produces more concentrated flavors, highlighting natural tastes) and-supposedly-more nutritious (sous vide, because it is so gentle and requires very little oil, butter or stock, is said to preserve the nutritional qualities of many foods) than your typical rich French fare.

We know, because we’ve tasted sous vide preparations firsthand-twice! First, we sampled sous vide swordfish in Las Vegas at Andre’s, courtesy of Chef Andre Rochat, who told us in a special interview all about his Cryovac cooking technique. Then, we tasted Chef Daniel Angerer’s Cryovacked Shrimp Carpaccio at Klee Brasserie in New York. Both were amazing, and turned us into true sous vide converts.

We’re not the only ones, though. Top chefs around the country, including Thomas Keller, Joel Robuchon, Charlie Trotter and Wylie Dufresne, are falling in love with sous vide.

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Although their fascination is new, the technique itself isn’t. According to The New York Times, sous vide has been around since the late 1960s and was first popularized in 1974 by Chef George Pralus, who eventually opened his own Cryovac school.

Apparently, you can try Cryovac cooking at home with your own vacuum packer. Measuring and maintaining the low temperatures required by sous vide can be tough in your home kitchen, though, and makes food safety a big issue. In fact, professional chefs use special hypodermic needle thermometers to take the temperature of their Cryovac dishes. It’s that precise. Our solution? Skip the homemade sous vide and leave the science and succulence of this up-and-coming cooking technique to the professionals. More and more chefs are doing it, so it can’t be long before your favorite restaurant breaks out the Cryovac!


17 Feb 2009 04:32 pm

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Mom was right about a lot of things.  Eat all your vegetables, say please and thank you, sit up straight at the table.  But there is one rule of etiquette that Mom had all wrong.  It is in fact okay to pick up your soup and drink it right out of the bowl.  At least that’s the case at top New York City restaurant Nobu 57, where last week I was presented with one of the most delicious cups of  Miso soup I have ever tasted, sans spoon.  Hearing Mom’s voice in my head I of course immediately asked for a spoon, only to be told by my server that the chef  recommends that his guests skip the spoon and pick up their cup of soup like a mug.  And yes, it did taste better that way.

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I had no such confusion about how to drink my  Red Berry Harvest, a smoothie-like martini which was not only tasty and refreshing  but, just in case Mom is reading this, also contains powerful anti-oxidants that promote health and longevity (at least that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!).  Nobu 57’s Red Berry Harvest, served at this midtown restaurant’s elegant street level lounge, is made with fresh blueberries, and Vincent Van Gogh Acai-Blueberry Vodka.  Blueberries are loaded with antioxidants that promote health and wellness, and the South American acai berry boasts ten times the antioxidant  benefits of grapes and twice that of blueberries.  Of course the vodka also had its own positive  effect on my well being, but Mom doesn’t need to know about that.

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 Rob Lubin


10 Feb 2009 08:31 pm

First and foremost, there was Andre’s. Way before Las Vegas became the dining oasis that it is today, Chef Andre Rochat was there, serving fine French fare to locals and tourists alike. In 1978, Chef Rochat bought the quaint white house at 401 S. Sixth St., which had been there since the 1930s and is one of Las Vegas’ oldest homes. He proceeded to spend the next year and a half remodeling and ultimately transforming it into a quaint French chateau, which opened as Andre’s in June 1980. Chef Rochat did most of the remodeling himself, including the digging and the chopping by hand of beams. He arrived every morning with his tool belt at 5 a.m., worked all day, ran home, took a shower and then worked as a Sous Chef at the Sands until 11:30 every night. This was a true labor of love, and it shows.

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To read some interesting stories about the house, which we collected over our meal with Chef Rochat, click here and visit our “Dining With Chefs” section. Once inside the house, you’ll feel as if you’re inside a beautiful French home, and once you taste the food you’ll never want to leave it. Andre’s was in its 28th year and was the only freestanding restaurant — a restaurant that’s not anchored by a hotel — with a Michelin star in Las Vegas. Now, that’s staying power. Although Andre’s is now gone, Chef Rochat’s Chef de Cuisine Greg Engelhardt, who shares his passion and is a student of his exquisite technique, will now oversee Andre’s at the Monte Carlo. As Chef Rochat says, “He breathes, dreams and lives for food. Period.” With Chef Rochat as his mentor, not to mention such an overwhelming passion, Chef Engelhardt is ready and able to wow. And because he’s received the highest recommendation from the father of Las Vegas cuisine, you know you’re in for the meal of your life. For more on Andre’s click here or you can read more about one of his other restaurants Alize.


10 Feb 2009 04:20 am

 

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It doesn’t just taste good, but sounds good, too, thanks to the unmistakable “pop” and “fizz” that always precede the pour. It tickles your tongue on the way down. It’s easily the most festive drink there is. And you know what? It’s probably the whole reason that a word like “effervescence” was invented for our collective lexicon. It wasn’t to describe soda pop, that’s for sure.

 

These are just a few of the reasons that we’re raising our glass to Champagne today. Perhaps the biggest reason, however, is this: This inaugural post marks the launch of the official TravlesinTaste.com blog, where we plan to indulge our appetite-and hopefully, yours-for not only fine dining, but also fine ingredients, fun facts and whatever else we can dig up on our favorite foods, as well as the people and places who keep us full with them.

 

Of course, it also helps that Saturday is Valentine’s Day. Whether you love a special someone-or a special something to eat-it’s the perfect day to toast the people and things that you’re passionate about.

 

And at TravelsinTaste.com, there are few things that we’re more passionate about than good bubbly. With that in mind, we decided to do a little homework.

 

Did you know that:

 

  • Legally, champagne can only be called “Champagne” if it comes from the Champagne region of France? If it’s from Napa, it’s just plain ol’ sparkling wine.
  • Dom Perignon-yes, the Dom Perignon-is credited with inventing Champagne? A Benedictine monk, he was the first winemaker in the 17th century to use corks, which keep carbon dioxide that’s in the wine from escaping, therefore creating bubbles when the cork’s popped and the gas finally gets out.
  • Champagne was the favorite drink of France’s King Louis XIV, and of Napoleon Bonaparte? Napoleon famously said of Champagne, “In victory you deserve it, in defeat you need it.”
  • In Champagne, France, winemakers are strictly regulated? By law, Champagne grapes must be grown on vines that are properly pruned and spaced, harvested by hand and naturally fermented according to strict standards.
  • Champagne is sensitive to light and temperature, just like other wines? That’s why it usually comes in bottles made of light-resistant, dark green glass.
  • You shouldn’t “pop” the cork? Doing so, it’s said, ruins the wine’s integrity.

 

Now that we’ve got the research out of the way, it’s time to finally do some fieldwork … Cheers!


08 Feb 2009 08:03 pm

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Welcome to TravelsinTaste.com’s new blog! We’re thrilled to introduce this newest aspect of our site. Here is the place where we intend to describe those special touches that we’ve seen from our recent restaurant visits in addition to providing timely information on produce, restaurants, dining and travel tips. We hope you enjoy this new addition to TravelsinTaste and look forward to your feedback.

All the best,
Your friends at TravelsinTaste.com


08 Feb 2009 07:29 pm

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Valentine’s Day why not surprise that special someone with a romantic getaway? The forecast for South Florida is 76 degrees and sunny, so pack the dog off to grandma’s, head to the airport, and jet on down to Fort Lauderdale. I’ve planned the perfect weekend for you, with plenty of choices for fine dining, sumptuous spas, and that gorgeous Fort Lauderdale beach, all just waiting for the two of you to enjoy.

You’ll need to pack a bathing suit, your silk pajamas and a scented candle. A little lavender bath oil wouldn’t hurt either. Just remember that it has to be 3 ounces or less, in a one quart zip lock bag, otherwise the TSA inspectors will be having their own romantic weekend at your expense.

So back to your romantic weekend. Check into the room and put on that sexy bathing suit you packed. No, it’s not time for the scented candle yet. You need to set the mood first.

If you are staying at the Ritz Carlton, Fort Lauderdale, spend the afternoon at a private cabana for two overlooking the sea. The Marriot Harbor Beach also offers private beachfront cabanas, or you can canoodle away the afternoon in one of the soft couples lounge chairs scattered around their pool. Once you have relaxed, and warmed your skin in the sun, you and your honey can move on to the spa for a sensual massage.

The spa at the Marriott Harbor Beach is presenting a sensual couples Swedish massage with chocolate covered strawberries and champagne on Valentine’s Day. Up the beach at the Ritz Carlton spa, you can check in for their Two by the Sea Couples Massage, or perhaps their Divine Chocolate and Champagne Jubilee. It includes a chocolate truffle wrap that sounds delicious. Or throw the top down for a romantic drive to Palm Beach, where the spa at the Breakers hotel offers something truly unique, an Oceanfront Sanctuary, where you can enjoy a blissful massage under the stars while you listen to the gentle sounds of the ocean.

After the massage you’ll want to head back to your room. No, it’s still not time for that candle. You need to change clothes and get ready for the romantic dinner you planned. If you chose the Ritz Carlton’s Romance by the Sea package, you will be serenaded by a strolling musician while your private butler serves a four course dinner at your oceanside cabana. If you decided on Johnny V, your sumptuous meal will be followed by a romantic stroll down Las Olas Boulevard. And if dinner finds you in the elegant dining room of Trina, you will no doubt be gazing lovingly at your Valentine over a dish of their oysters on the half shell, a dish guaranteed to brace you for the evening ahead. Just the two of you two, a bottle of fine wine, and a perfect dinner. Ahhh, l’amour.

So there you have it, the perfect Valentine’s Day. Lounging by a sun drenched pool, a blissful massage, and dinner in a top South Florida restaurant. Romance by the sea. Okay, now it’s time for the scented candle.

Happy Valentine’s Day,

Rob Lubin

P.S.  Be sure to share your Valentine’s Day memories with your friends at Travels in Taste.  Don’t keep that fabulous new restaurant find to yourself!  I’ll share your comments and recommendations in a future posting.


05 Feb 2009 07:27 pm

Dos Caminos Las Vegas adds the “Viva” to “Viva Las Vegas.” Located off the casino floor in the luxurious Palazzo Hotel Resort Casino, it’s just steps away from the casino’s nearly 1,400 slot machines and more than 120 table games. Of course, if gambling doesn’t heighten your appetite for traditional or modern Mexican fare, perhaps shopping will. In fact, freshly made guacamole and chips are the perfect snack after an afternoon of shopping at the Palazzo’s luxury retail shops, or after a massage at the Canyon Ranch SpaClub in the expansive resort.

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Otherwise, there’s always the Sala Lounge, where one can grab a margarita amidst a hopping crowd. In any event, Dos Caminos provides the ultimate in Mexican dining thanks to the culinary creations of Executive Chef Scott Linquist, which are served in fanciful dining areas that were designed by the Rockwell Group to deliver all the energy of traditional Mexican markets. The only thing more authentic than the market-like atmosphere, in fact, is the extensive tequila menu.  For more on Dos Caminos click here


 
Travels In Taste is a website devoted to gourmet food. We want to provide you, the diner, with the most comprehensive and objective information on the Web about the world's most talked-about dining experiences so that you can make your informed decisions.
Rob Lubin
Matt Alderton

Susannah Kopecky

Jarrett Melendez
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