31 May 2009 10:42 am

Read about Mario Batali’s One Day Only Farmer’s Market at the Palazzo 6/3/09!

waterfall

Click Here to read more!


30 May 2009 09:40 am

Check out our exclusive interview with Chef Sammy DeMarco about how First Food & Bar is progressing toward its opening at the Palazzo Las Vegas!

 

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Click here for all the details!


28 May 2009 05:37 am

Along with onion rings, fried cheese and nachos, spinach-artichoke dip is among Americans’ favorite appetizers. And why not? It’s creamy, it’s cheesy and it tastes like pure perfection on top of a pita chip.

 artichoke

As tasty as it is, however, if your only experience with artichokes is in dip, you’re missing out, as there’s so much more than “appetizer” to this sun-kissed vegetable.

 

Native to the Mediterranean, artichokes are now grown year-round in California, which provides nearly 100 percent of the United States’ artichoke supply. One California county, in particular — Monterey County, in central California — is known as artichoke country, as it’s responsible for approximately 75 percent of California’s total artichoke acreage, yielding nearly 4 million cartons of artichokes every year.

 

If you’re not familiar with artichokes, the folks in Monterey County are good people to ask about them. They’ll probably be able to tell you about the history of the artichoke, which according to Elizabethan folklore was created by the gods when they turned a beautiful woman who had angered them into a thistle. They’ll probably be able to tell you about the nutritional benefits of the artichoke, too, as it’s a natural diuretic and digestive aid that’s chock-full of fiber, potassium and magnesium, not to mention vitamins A and C.

 

More than anything, though, Monterey County farmers are likely to tell you not to be afraid of artichokes. Although they look peculiar — like the pointed end of a lance, or a tough, leafy thistle — inside their armored exterior is a tender treat.

 

To harvest that treat is admittedly tricky, as an artichoke plant is actually the bud of a large flower. Picked before the flower blooms, the edible part of an artichoke is located at the base of each leaf petal, of which there are dozens on a single bud. To get at it therefore requires cooking the entire bud, then picking off each petal — one by one — and scraping off the tender pulp, usually with your teeth.

 

It’s a labor-intensive process, but it’s worth it thanks to the artichoke’s unique, nutty flavor. Perfect with spinach, mayonnaise and parmesan in America’s favorite dip, that flavor’s also ideal on its own, whether baked, steamed or boiled. For pure artichoke flavor, try roasting an artichoke with garlic and olive oil, then dipping the leaves in clarified butter or lemon juice.

 

However you prepare it, you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you discover the artichoke’s hidden gem: its heart. After peeling away all the leaves from an artichoke bud, you’ll be left with a fuzzy core — known as the choke — that is actually the artichoke’s undeveloped flower. When you remove and discard the choke, what’s left is the edible artichoke heart, considered by many to be the best part of the vegetable.

 

Speaking of hearts, artichokes were considered an aphrodisiac in Renaissance-era Europe, where they were reserved only for men, who believed artichokes would make their wives and daughters promiscuous.

 

We can’t say whether they’ll improve your love life, but we can guarantee that artichokes will improve your next meal — as both an appetizer and an entrée.


24 May 2009 06:42 pm

Last Monday Banq, the fabulous Boston restaurant in the former Penny Savings Bank Building, celebrated being named “Best New Restaurant” at the Wallpaper* Design Award 2009.    I had barely enough time in Boston last week for brunch and a stroll around town, but my local fashionista friends insisted that I had to check it out. 

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This restaurant is gorgeous (and the food is pretty good too).  The Penny Savings Bank building is a 1917 Classical Revival design, the type of edifice that Banks used to build before the days of subprime lending and collateralized debt obligations.  Nowadays, with bankers having to account for their operating expenses in front of congressional committees, we may see a lot more fancy Bank buildings converted to fine restaurants.  Maybe that’s not so bad.

 

Walk inside the door of Banq, and all semblance of a traditional bank building melts away.  Rich layers of curved white birch climb the walls and soar across the ceiling, forming a dense ‘tree’ canopy that makes this vast space feel intimate and inviting.  Designed by the Boston firm of Office da, which also won an interior architecture award for its effort, the dining room at Banq is an inspiring space to showcase an innovative cuisine.

 

Chef Ranveer Brar has created a menu that draws from his classical French training as well as his work and travels in Asia.  Put it all together and you get things like Eggs Benedict with wasabi hollandaise or crepes with anise spiced bananas and mango sauce.  My Eggs Benedict was superb, and the parmesan home fries were fantastic.  My dining companion fancies himself a breakfast potato connoisseur (he flies to Los Angeles for his favorite hash browns), and he loved them!

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And now a request.  I was in and out of Boston so fast last week that I did not get to dine at Banq for dinner.  If you have been to Banq in the evening please click on comments below and let me know how it is.  The menu is intriguing and I’m very curious.  They have a char grilled duck breast on the menu with Kaffir lime scented celery root au gratin and orange shiso  sauce that sounds like the most amazing take on a traditional duck a l’orange.  I’d love to hear from someone who has tried it. 

The Facts:

Banq is located at 1375 Washington Street in Boston’s very trendy South End neighborhood.  It is open for dinner Tuesdays through Sundays and for brunch on Sundays only.  The restaurant also has a semi private dining area that can accommodate up to 10 and an extensive list of wines from around the world.  If you’re nice to them they might even let you take a peek into their distinctive wine room. 

 

Bon Appétit

Rob Lubin


21 May 2009 04:44 am

It’s peak season for asparagus, and this delicious vegetable is very much in vogue at green markets all over Paris this month.  Super ripe, green and white asparagus are popping up everywhere in the French capital.  They are as ubiquitous as those tiny Smart cars everyone seems to be driving, and as chic as that impossible-to-describe taupe-like color draped over the shoulders of every fashionable woman on the Rue du Faubourg St. Honore.

 fruit-vegs

Since you’re reading this in English there is a pretty good chance you are not a native Parisian.  Even so, you should definitely stroll through a few of the City’s neighborhood marches whenever you find yourself in the City of Light.  I always stop by my favorite Parisian outdoor markets, even when I have no intention of cooking.  For one thing, I just enjoy looking at food, and I want to know what’s fresh and in season.  But beyond that, the city’s numerous markets offer a fascinating glimpse into the local culture and cuisine.  Just don’t look at the fresh chickens if you’re squeamish, because they will be glimpsing right back at you.

 

Marche Raspail

The Marche Raspail is one of my favorites.  Located on the Boulevard Raspail in the elegant 6th Arrondissement, it has a bigger assortment than most and a large selection of organic produce (look for signs that say biologique, or often just bio for short).  Right now the bins are overflowing with fresh seasonal produce, including of course lots of asparagus.  There is also a fabulous bread baker at the Marche Raspail that I love to visit for a morning snack.

 

 flowers

St. Germain Covered Market

Just a short walk from the Marche Raspail, the St. Germain covered market is a good choice on a rainy day.  Smaller than the Marche Raspail, it nevertheless has a wide selection of produce and there is an excellent cheese vendor along the south aisle. 

 

Place Baudoyer

The small market in the Place Baudoyer has a true neighborhood feeling.  Located in the hip and youthful Marais district near the Hotel de Ville, this market is where locals from the surrounding blocks stop by to pick up fresh bread and produce as they hurry home from the metro station for their evening meal.  The variety of seafood at this market can be surprising.  Landlocked in Paris, it’s easy to forget that France is a country with three long coastlines, until you see the fabulous seafood displayed at markets throughout the capital.  Squid are especially prevalent, and shellfish are everywhere, especially clams.    

 

Locations

The Marche Raspail is located on Boulevard Raspail between Rue du Cherche Midi and Rue de Rennes.  It is open Tuesdays and Fridays from 7:00 AM to 2:30 PM (although most vendors seem to close up shop much earlier).  The St. Germain Covered Market is at 4/8 Rue Lobineau and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 8:30 AM to 1:00 PM and 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM and on Sundays from 8:30 AM to 1:00 PM.  The Baudoyer Market is in the Place Baudoyer in the 4th Arrondissement and takes place on Wednesdays from 3:00 PM to 8:30 PM and Saturdays from 7:00 AM to 3:00 PM.

 

Reader Request

If you have a favorite green market that you like to visit, please click on comments below and let me know.  I’ll be sharing readers’ favorites in a future post in Travels in Taste.

 

Bon Appétit

Rob Lubin


18 May 2009 10:08 am

Although it’s a vegetable, asparagus looks a bit like a weapon on first glance. Like a medieval spear, it’s long and slender — fat at the bottom, narrowed into a point at the top — and is riddled with sharp looking barbs that would no doubt slice you if they were made of metal. Luckily, they’re not. Instead, they’re made of delicious, woody stalks and natural sugars, making these spears ideal for eating instead of throwing.

 asparagus

Even ancient warriors agree, as asparagus was grown in ancient Egypt and in ancient Rome, by the subjects of Julius Caesar himself. In fact, an old Roman saying — “As quick as cooking asparagus” — was a popular way to say you’d accomplished something quickly.

 

As early as 200 B.C. people were leaving written instructions for growing asparagus. The English word — which comes from the Greek word asparagos, meaning sprout or shoot — didn’t appear in print, however, until 1000 A.D. A few hundred years later, during the 15th and 16th centuries in Renaissance-era Italy, asparagus was especially popular, as it was a sign of elegance and wealth. In fact, it became known in Europe as “the food of kings” because King Louis XIV of France enjoyed it so much that he had special greenhouses built to produce a year-round supply of it.

 

It’s no wonder Louis liked it so much, as asparagus — a member of the Lily family — is among the world’s most nutritious vegetables. At less than four calories per spear, it’s loaded with folic acid, potassium, fiber, thiamin, vitamin C and vitamin B6, not to mention rutin, a compound that strengthens capillary walls. It’s so nutritious, in fact, that ancient Chinese herbalists used asparagus root to treat everything from arthritis to infertility.

 

Because asparagus is so nutritious, we’re lucky that we can get it year-round. Although spring is the best season for fresh asparagus — crops in the United States are typically harvested from late February to June, April being the peak — it’s grown year-round all over the world. That’s because an asparagus plant is among the heartiest plants out there, capable of producing asparagus for up to 15 years. In fact, under ideal conditions a single asparagus crown can produce a 10-inch asparagus spear in just 24 hours, which means that some asparagus fields must be harvested every day. In the United States, where nearly 95 percent of the country’s fresh asparagus is grown in California, that harvest adds up to 200 million pounds every year.

 

That’s a lot of asparagus to eat. Luckily, it’s hard to get bored eating it, as there are several varieties of asparagus — green, purple and the ever-elegant white, which is asparagus that’s been deprived of light and is therefore milder in flavor and more tender than the green variety — and many ways to prepare it. Try blanching it, for instance, for five to eight minutes in boiling water. Or, better yet, roasting it with olive oil in a high-temperature oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Bored with that? You can stir fry it, steam it or even grill it.

 

However you prepare it, you’ll get the best results when you choose asparagus spears that are firm and closed at the tip. You can choose thick stalks or slender ones — both are delicious — but be sure to trim an inch or two off the ends before cooking. If they’re especially thick, it’s a good idea to peel them, too, with a vegetable peeler. After that, the spears are ready to throw — straight onto your dinner menu!


15 May 2009 06:36 am

This week Travels in Taste has fanned out across the globe to bring you the best in airport fine dining.  Or at least the best we could find.  Yes, that’s right, the Travels in Taste team has jetted off to New York, Miami, Las Vegas, and Paris, to keep you, the gate-side gourmet, up to date on today’s best selection of concourse cuisine.

 

Airports these days have been updating their dining options, but even now, believe it or not, there are airports in the world where you are about as likely to find a pan seared tuna with mango salsa chutney as you are an empty overhead bin on a Friday afternoon flight to Miami.  And let’s face it; you can only survive so long on giant cinnamon buns and auntie what’s-her-name pretzels before you go running for the door.  So, ladies and gentlemen, please place your seat backs and tray tables in the upright and locked positions and get ready for our airport adventure in fine dining.

 

JFK - John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York

The new Jet Blue terminal at JFK has us thinking about airport food in a whole new way.  This is not your father’s concourse food court.  The food hall in the new terminal offers everything from sushi to tapas.  Definitely check out Deep Blue Sushi, with an Asian menu created by Buddakan’s Michael Schulson.  For dessert there’s a branch of Aunt Butchie’s Bakery and Café, the well known Brooklyn bakery with its famous chocolate mousse cake.    Aunt Butchie’s delivers its spectacular cakes to a number of New York’s restaurants, but you can swing by for a slice on the run at JFK.  At 5ive Steak (no, that is not a typo), you can order fabulous steaks, Sesame Crusted Big Eye Tuna and even mashed potato with truffle.  And, as unlikely as it sounds, you can get a better French dinner at JFK than at Paris Charles de Gaulle.  La Vie, also in the Jet Blue terminal, serves Salad Nicoise, Escargot and even Coquille St. Jacques.

 sushi

But the most amazing innovation of all is Revive, which operates “dining clusters” at about half the Jet Blue terminal’s gates.  Each cluster has electric outlets for cell phones and laptops, and touch screen monitors where travelers can order food delivered right to the gate.  The screen indicates approximate delivery time and asks if it is acceptable, and the food arrives either on a plate with silverware, or boxed up for your flight. 

 revive

The Jet Blue Terminal at JFK left us totally spoiled.  Perhaps someday all airport restaurants will offer free range chicken and sesame crusted tuna.  For now we can only hope.

 

LAS - Las Vegas McCarran Airport

Pizza and white wine at 7 AM?  Only in Vegas, baby.  We got to LAS early in the morning, and the Wolfgang Puck Express was already open and serving.   Hey come on, nobody comes to Vegas to behave themselves.  Skip the English muffin and pour yourself a nice cool glass of breakfast!

 

MIA - Miami International Aiport

We gave Miami International Airport high marks for offering authentic Cuban home cooking that’s convenient and quick.  Tucked in between the ubiquitous assembly line sub shops and flash frozen pizza joints are outposts of two of Miami’s most iconic Cuban restaurants, La Carreta and Café Versailles.  La Carreta and Café Versailles are not Cuban fusion, or pan Carribean, or even Cubaridian.  You won’t find any truffle oil in your empanadas, and don’t look for mango pineapple chutney on your roasted yucca either.  At the airport locations, you won’t even find tables to sit at.  What you will find is real Cuban home cooking, just like abuela used to make.  You can swirl an authentic café Cubano at the counter while you wait for your flight, or grab a Cuban sandwich and a tres leches to take to the gate.  It isn’t quite the same as sitting down at their original Little Havana locations, but if you want one last quick taste of Miami before you board your flight, or you just can’t wait until you get into town for that first guava pastelito, the counters at La Carreta and Café Versailles are good choices at MIA.

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CDG - Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport

Not that I need to tell you this, but definitely skip the McDonald’s at the entrance to Terminal 1.  Food choices at Paris’s main international airport are limited.  No doubt the airport functionnaires assumed that no one comes to Paris to eat at the airport.  Pass through security and you’ll find Les Marches de Paris, a very airport-like cafeteria near gate 46.  They sell a workmanlike croissant at their buffet line, and you can make yourself a passable cup of coffee at their push button espresso machine.  If you’re groggy and just need a jolt while you wait for the 7 AM to JFK that’s probably good enough.  But for something a little more Parisian go for the gourmet offerings at the duty free stores.  There’s grab and go pate de foie gras, fine chocolates, and all manner of tasty morsels ‘pour emporter’ (to go) for the long flight home.  Come on, it’s the airport - were you expecting Taillevent?

 

On Board the Flight

As a general rule I don’t recommend food that comes shrink wrapped.  Hopefully you ate in the concourse.

 airline-meal

A Request to Readers

The Travels in Taste team would appreciate our readers’ airport food suggestions as we get into the summer travel season.  Over the next few months we will be flying through Los Angeles, Boston, New York, Providence, Atlanta, Islip and Amsterdam.  Click on “Comments” below if you know anything about the food options at any of these airports.  And of course we are always looking for new places to eat in town too, so don’t hold back if you have a favorite!

 

Bon Voyage and Bon Appétit

Rob Lubin


11 May 2009 07:36 am

Although it sounds like a terrifying horror movie monster, an edible wolf peach isn’t scary at all. In fact, it’s delicious. That’s because an edible wolf peach is neither a wolf nor a peach. It’s the literal translation for the Latin botanical name lycopersicon esculentum — or simply put, tomato.

 tomato

Call it a wolf peach, a tomata or even a love apple. But don’t underestimate the ubiquitous tomato. Brought to Europe from the New World in the 15th century, tomatoes took some time to catch on with Italian, French and Spanish palates. As a member of the nightshade family – along with potatoes, peppers and eggplant — the tomato was at first considered too poisonous to eat. Eventually, however, the tomato made its way onto pasta and into sauces, at which point the juicy red fruit became a staple in the vegetable garden.

 

Which leads to the age-old question: Are tomatoes fruits or vegetables? Technically, they’re fruits — berries, in fact, thanks to their pulpy centers, which are full of edible seeds like raspberries are. We often call them vegetables, however, because that’s how we prepare them, in savory dishes — along with things like squash, peppers, cucumbers and green beans — instead of the sweet dishes in which we tend to use fruit. Really, it depends who you ask. Scientists will tell you tomatoes are fruit. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, will tell you they’re vegetables, as it classified them as such in 1893 so that the United States could charge a vegetable import tax on them.

 

Just as interesting as its classification is the tomato’s name. The Oxford English Dictionary traces the origin of the name tomato to the indigenous Mexican word tomatl, which it suggests might have been changed to tomato to echo the other popular New World food, the potato. In its early days, the tomato was considered not only poisonous, but also powerful, as it was believed to have powerful aphrodisiac qualities; hence the nickname love apple.

 

In his fine food science reference On Food and Cooking, Harold McGee writes that despite “a period of European suspicion that lasted into the 19th century” tomatoes are now eaten “all over the world in a great variety of sizes, shapes and carotenoid-painted colors.” In fact, he observes in the United States “they’re second in vegetable popularity only to the potato.”

 

Because they’re so popular, it’s lucky that tomatoes are so easy to grow. They can be grown from seed or from stem cuttings, and there are dozens of varieties available designed to grow indoors, in colder climates and through hydroponics. There are red tomatoes, green tomatoes and yellow tomatoes, not to mention round Beefsteak tomatoes, pear-shaped Roma tomatoes and small cherry or grape tomatoes. All, however, are delicious and — because they’re rich in vitamins A and C, with only 35 calories apiece — nutritious.

 

Just as diverse as varieties and growing methods are recipes. Tomatoes do wonders for meats and sauces, and one of the best ways to load up on the antioxidant lycopene — believed to aid in the prevention of some types of cancer, especially prostate cancer — is by cooking tomatoes with a bit of your favorite red wine.

 

However you prepare them, make sure you choose only the freshest tomatoes for your recipes. While the canned variety work just fine, nothing beats the vine-ripened kind — especially in summer, when they’re in season. At the market, look for tomatoes with taught skin that smell like the garden at the stem end. And when you get them home, keep them away from the refrigerator. Cold temperatures make tomatoes’ flesh pulpy, mushy and flavorless, and you want your edible wolf peaches to be fierce, not flat.


08 May 2009 08:01 am

Although the White Cliffs of Dover have inspired scores of poems and songs, make no mistake: It’s the delicate Dover sole found in the waters below the cliffs that have inspired the palates of fish-gourmands worldwide.

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 Dover sole are prolific fish. Bottom-feeders that swim along the ocean floor and can grow to over 2 feet long, they often live as long as 58 years. Just as delicious as they are long lasting, Dover sole are among foodies’ most sought after fish.

 

In fact, because they’ve become so popular, there are fewer sole being fished out of the waters near the English Channel these days, and more from fish farms in the Netherlands, as well as from other European waters, including the eastern Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. The tasty flounder, however, still bears the name of the English port where the most sole were caught during the 1800s.

 

Here in the United States, you’ll often find Pacific sole — from the waters off the West Coast — being marketed as Dover sole. Don’t let the name fool you, though. It’s a different fish entirely, and a more inferior one thanks to its thinner fillets, which sell for considerably less than European sole.

 

No. If you want the good stuff, you’ve got to look for fish from across the pond — and for authentic Dover sole from the English Channel, if you can find it. While it’s more expensive than the American variety, it’s also meatier and more delicate, making it well worth the extra money.

 

Think of the Dover sole as the porterhouse of fish. An excellent source of low-fat protein and calcium, it doesn’t need a lot of extras to make it delicious. In fact, it tastes wonderful with very little seasoning, and just dazzles when prepared with the bones in.

 

One of the most popular — and mouthwatering — ways to prepare Dover sole is to keep it simple and make it meuniere style. That is, in the manner of the miller’s wife. A quick online search will reveal dozens of sole meuniere recipes to choose from; no matter which recipe you choose, a few things are just about always the same:

 

  • Don’t bone the fish, as doing so will dry it out.
  • Gently herb both sides of the fish gently; parsley is a popular choice.
  • Finally, flour the fish generously before cooking it in oil or butter — or both — in a sauté pan or skillet.

 

However, you prepare your Dover sole, you’ll be glad to know it’s available fresh as well as frozen all year long. What’s more, says Harold McGee, author of On Food and Cooking, unlike many common fish that should be frozen or eaten right away, true Dover sole “has a fine-textured, succulent flesh said to be best two or three days after harvest.” So Dover sole isn’t just delicious. It’s also convenient!


05 May 2009 10:11 am

Paul Bartolotta, chef of Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare at Wynn Las Vegas, received the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef Southwest on May 4 during a gala ceremony at Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center in New York. Bartolotta previously won the 1994 Best Chef, Midwest James Beard Award when he helmed the kitchen of Chicago’s Spiaggia, which received four-star ratings from both the Chicago Tribune and Chicago magazine.

 bartolotta_300x250web

Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare, which received a 2006 James Beard nomination for Best New Restaurant, offers a simple, yet refined Italian menu that redefines traditional American notions of Italian dining. The restaurant provides exquisitely prepared regional specialties emphasizing the freshest seafood and homemade pastas in a bright and vibrant setting that evokes life by the sea. Each week, the restaurant imports 1.5 tons of seafood from cities that lie along the Mediterranean coast. In 2007 and 2008, BARTOLOTTA Ristorante di Mare received the AAA Four Diamond Award. The restaurant was also named one of the Best New Restaurants in America by Esquire magazine in 2005, and received Restaurant and Institutions’ Ivy Award in 2008, which was Chef Bartolotta’s second Ivy Award.

Established in 1990, The James Beard Foundation Awards recognize excellence and achievement in the culinary profession. Renowned chefs Cat Cora and Emeril Lagasse with actor Stanley Tucci served as host to the 2009 James Beard Foundation Awards ceremony. This year’s event celebrated “Women in Food.”


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