The Austrian Food of Edi & The Wolf

Monday, March 19th, 2012 | Posted under Food Events, Manhattan

I’d like to think that I’m a pretty adventurous eater. I like trying lots of different types of cuisines, but even I have to draw the line somewhere. Confession: I usually don’t like German/Austrian food. Sausages? Sauerkraut? Wiener schnitzel? Meh….it was worse when I didn’t eat meat. I had to go to German beer gardens and survive on overly buttery spatzle.

When New Friend M invited me to a tasting dinner with Chefs Eduard Frauneder and Wolfgang Ban from the hip Austrian restaurant and bar, Edi & the Wolf (pronounced “Eddie”), and its higher end cousin, Seasonal, I was curious. I really wanted to like Austrian food. I wondered if I could finally learn to like it.
If you ever want to get me to like your food or cuisine, start off with smoked salmon.
Smoked Wild Salmon
Mustard Creme Fraiche, Leek Water & Crispy Brown Bread


That ranks as some of the softest, “melt in your mouth” salmon that I’ve ever tasted. The salmon is brined and becomes like a tartare, which is an inventive and smart touch. Cool. This appetizer was more like a deconstructed smoked salmon on dark bread with better sauces and attention to detail. This meal was already starting of well.
Like the other chef event I attended with New Friend M, the chefs demonstrated how to cook their dishes in between courses. Edi and Wolfgang definitely have a good schtick going on. They play off of each other well.

Edi & Wolfgang

Edi

The next course was butternut squash soup, but it came out a little bare at first.

Beer-Cheese Crouton & Speck (a type of ham)


Each of our soups was poured tableside.

Looks lovely, right?
It was lovely. Unlike many butternutsquash soups, this soup was had no cream and was sweet with the salty contrasting flavors of crouton and speck. I doubt there can be anything bad that contains both cheese and beer. Just sayin’.

The next course was going to be a big test for me. A big one.

Wiener Schnitzel
with Potato Salad, Cucumber & Ligonberry

I usually hate wiener schnitzel. It’s usually fried beyond recognition and greasy, and I can barely tell that it’s some form of meat. Well, I am now a schnitzel convert. This thinly sliced piece of veal tasted like veal and and wasn’t overly fried and had very subtle spice. So this is what GOOD schnitzel tastes like? Got it. The potato salad was tangy and not overly dressesd. No cloying mayonaisse. Also there’s cucumber salad with a perfect amount of dill underneath all of that beautiful schnitzel.


It was finally time to end the meal with Austrian sweetness. Woo hoo!

Kaiserschmarren
with Apple Compote

Honestly, this is really just flour, eggs, sugar, salt and milk baked in a pancake form topped with some cinnamon and powdered sugar, a typical and total homey Austrian dessert. I’m going to try to get an invite to an Austrian home just for this.

Edi & Wolfgang did it. They changed how I view Austrian food. It can be more than just horrible fried patties of meat or sausage slopped together at a biergarten. It can actually be just as good as any other gourmet cuisine when it’s done right. I guess that it’s just about taking the time to just make food in a way that highlights all of its goodness. Lesson learned.
Is there any type of food that you disliked in the past and now you really enjoy? Mine is Austrian. ๐Ÿ™‚

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An Evening with George Mendes of Aldea

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011 | Posted under Food Events, Manhattan

Hey there! I’m still here!

I made a new friend this fall, and it turns out that we went to college together. New Friend M invited me to a food-focused alumni event for our college. I didn’t even know that our college sponsored these types of events. Essentially, a well-known chef personally provides a four course meal along with a presentation. Most recently it was the grandfather of French cooking in America, Mr. Jacques Pepin. For the evening I attended, it was George Mendes of Aldea, a highly acclaimed New York City restaurant that specializes in Portuguese cuisine.
New Friend M actually knows George Mendes, and I got to say hi before the dinner started. He’s a nice guy and very funny. In between courses, George would do a quick demonstration and explanation of each dish.
George Mendes

We got to watch the demonstration on a screen to get a closer look at the cooking. I was pretty impressed that they installed cameras, so we could see what George was doing from above.

Of course, George came over to our table to talk about the first course. He said something to me specifically, and what happens? I freeze! I’m totally tongue-tied! **FACE PALM** I was soo embarassed. If I’m going to do this food blogging thing, I better get used to meeting chefs, huh?

I’ve never to been to Aldea nor really had Portuguese food before, so I was looking forward to this meal quite a bit. George did say that his food is based on Portuguese cuisine, but he takes it to a new level by adding a modern spin and borrowing techniques from other cooking styles.

Here’s what we had for our meal.

Foie Gras Royale
Smooth, and rich while being surprisingly light. It was like having foie gras mousse.


Shrimp “Alhinho”
with pickled beets and a hint of vanilla

This dish is “shrimpy” for lack of a better word. The dish requires cooking the shrimp shells and creating something akin to a stock or shrimp “essence” (I like that word). If you don’t like the taste of shrimp, then I’d stay clear of this dish. As a counterpoint to the salty shrimp, there’s fresh vanilla bean snuck in there somewhere. Plus, I got a kick out of the paprika filament topping (they’re crispy!).


Arroz de Pato (Literal Translation: Duck Rice)
with chorizo, black olives, and duck cracklins

This is a riff on a traditional Portuguese dish. I think this totally works in cold weather when we want something warm and comforting. It tasted like something you would eat at someone’s home. This is one of Aldea’s most popular dishes. Also who doesn’t like duck cracklins?
Chocolate Cinnamon Tart
pear, gingersnap ice cream, orange caramel

All the perfect flavors for the beginning of the holiday season: pear, ginger, and chocolate. Oh my! ๐Ÿ™‚ I was a big fan of the ice cream, even if it was already a little melted. The chocolate tart was what you expected, something similar to a brownie with added cinnamon for a spicy finish. Overall, it was a perfectly seasonal end to the meal.
It’s been fun getting to know New Friend M, and I’m hoping to feature her on the blog next year. I really enjoyed George Mendes’ food, and now I’ll need to go to Aldea. Maybe this time I’ll see George Mendes and be able to talk to him. ๐Ÿ™‚
If your interest is piqued, here’s Aldea’s address:
Aldea
31 West 17th Street
New York, NY

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Bertolli, Fabio Viviani, Meal Soups & Me

Friday, September 30th, 2011 | Posted under Cooking, Food Culture, Food Events, Video

If you follow me on Twitter (and I hope you do, if not, click the little birdie on the right. I am a prolific tweeter for better or worse), you’ll know that earlier this week I had the opportunity to attend a really wonderful event sponsored by Bertolli to promote their new Meal Soups with special guest, chef and two-time Top Chef contestant, Fabio Viviani. This was my first invitation to attend a food related event by a major company, so I kinda felt a little special. Cue the “Jeffersons” theme song (Movin’ on Up….).

I thought I was going to be in a large room full of lots of press and wall-to-wall people where I could retreat into a corner and shove food into my face. Instead, I walk into this small, intimate wonderfully lit room full of bread, antipasto and friendly people. You guys, I met such wonderful bloggers at this event (more on them later), and I was just a feet away from Fabio Viviani, who is probably one of my top ten favorite Top Chefs ever (I think my favorite of all time is Carla Hall, who is probably the long lost sister of my friend, Big Mitts).
Of course, there was plenty of great antipasto for noshing and meeting people.

Amazing bread and wine….
Focaccia & Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio

After a speech from a rep from Bertolli/Unilever, we saw a little introductory video about the Meal Soups. Chef Michael Christiansen, who essentially develops many of Bertolli’s products from the chef’s perspective, takes us through how they created the soups. He graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and is actually a really nice, down-to-earth guy from New Jersey. We had a great conversation that evening.
Essentially, these soups are the frozen componets of what you would make homemade except now you just add some water, bring to a boil, then let it simmer until all of the components are hot. Pretty quick and easy.
After the video, we proceeded into this lovely kitchen and had a demonstration of how the hearty soups really work and learned a little more about the production process. Fabio & Chef Mike tried to do a cook off to see who could make an actual soup in the time allotted. Of course, Chef Mike’s Bertolli version won.


Chef Mike showing us the frozen version of the soup. It’s essentially all cubed at first.

Here’s an actual video of both Fabio & Chef Mike speaking about the soups. I will say that Fabio does give a decent explanation for why people skeptical of frozen anything should try the Meal Soups. Fabio is a VERY good salesman. BTW, excuse my camera angles! This was taken with my Iphone.


After the short talk, we were able to try some of the soups with wine pairings.

Chicken Rotini (roasted white meat, pasta, zucchini, yellow squash, carrots and celery in chicken broth)

Tomato Florentine (Cheese filled tortellini, white meat chicken, spinach and tomatoes in a tomato bisque) I think this one was a big hit. I was too busy scarfing to take a pic earlier.

So, I’m sure you all want to know my opinion, right? I will start by saying that you all know that I don’t shill for anyone, so this is really my opinion. You guys, this stuff is actually good! Like I cleaned my bowl good. I wouldn’t have been able to tell that it came from anything frozen. I know sometimes in the winter, especially, I am scrambling to find something to make on a weeknight, or I’ve run out of groceries. I could totally see me having one of these soups for a quick meal. While I am a proponent of eating things that are made from fresh veggies, etc., I don’t mind taking short cuts when I need to. I also read the ingredient label, and I could pronounce everything. That’s a good sign.
There was even someone serenading us with Italian opera favorites.

Luckily, dessert was not left out. Woo hoo!
I LOVE a good cannolli


You know that I was too happy to see some tiramisu.
As I mentioned before, all the bloggers there were sooo nice. It was really great to connect to food bloggers, especially those that cook since I am not a cooking blogger. Bloggers are really cool people (If I do say so myself). ๐Ÿ™‚
from left to right: Rachel of Laptops & Stovetops, Dana of Dana’s Food for Thought & me
Finally, the honored guest, Fabio and I actually had a few conversations during the night. I asked him about the whole Domino’s thing. He mentioned that they wanted him as a consultant and that his role was to teach them about sourcing ingredients and how to make pizzas in a more authentic way. Hey, I’m not mad at Fabio for working for the big guys like Bertolli and Domino’s. Do you, buddy! I can actually say that Fabio is exactly like he is on Top Chef: very genuine, charming, funny and the accent is totally real. Just kidding, Fabio. ๐Ÿ˜‰

What a night! I’m waiting for New York City to finally cool down, so I can make the soup I got to take home.
Happy Weekend!

Disclosure: As usual, I didn’t get paid for this post or links in any way, but a stomach full of good soup, meeting nice people, and hobnobbing with Fabio was payment enough.

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Smorgasburg

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011 | Posted under Brooklyn, Food Events

A few weekends ago, I had a chance to attend a few food events that are going to be happening relatively frequently in Brooklyn over the course of the summer. The first is Smorgasburg, the new weekly Saturday food market in Williamsburg from the creators of the Brooklyn Flea. While I love the Brooklyn Flea, I really am not a big shopper. I usually end up going to there to eat pupusas or get cupcakes from one of my favorites bakers, Kumquat Cupcakery. I feel like they made Smorgasburg for people like me. All food, all the time.

Smorgasburg is right on the Williamsburg waterfront at North 6th Street. I like the view.

Available for sale is a mix of prepared foods from new vendors and some already affiliated with the Brooklyn Flea.
Fresh oysters from Brooklyn Oyster Club

Cold sesame noodles from Shorty Tang & Sons
They were out of noodles by the time I got there, and it was only 1pm! The market starts at 11. I’ll cut them some slack since it was the opening day. ๐Ÿ™‚


Nanas – Frozen Bananas in chocolate with various toppings
I totally want to try these!!


Coconut on bananas. Yes! Sea salt? Hmmm…


Don’t worry. I didn’t eat all of this food. I mostly just took pictures, but I did finally get a chance to eat Momofoku Milk Bar‘s (in)famous Crack Pie. Yes, that is in fact the name.

It’s deceptively uncomplicated ingredients (heavy cream, brown sugar, flour, butter, and some corn flour), and subtly sweetness taste like sweet cream custard in pie form. I’ll be back for this (even if it is $6 per slice).

The market isn’t all prepared food though. There were condiments, drinks, cheese and even cooking supplies for sale.
The very nice people at City ‘Lasses let me sample some of their drinks made from a traditional recipe called switzel that is sweetened with molasses. There are options with or without black tea. I got a sample with black tea and was still able to sleep later.



I want to eventually buy and cook the pastas from Flour City Pasta. They use traditional methods and organic ingredients to produce their dried pasta.

Italian Flag Malfadine. Apparently you can make a nice pasta salad with this.
Unfortunately, I’ve only been able to get to Smorgasburg once so far this summer. Even though it’s a pain to get from my part of Brooklyn to Williamsburg by public transportation (which is absolutely annoying, since it’s not that far away), I’d like to try as many of the vendors here as possible.
Are there any fun new food markets where you are?

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Food Porn Friday- Tasting Brooklyn 2011

Friday, April 8th, 2011 | Posted under Brooklyn, Food Events

I was really excited to get an invite to the First Annual (well, I hope it will be annual) Tasting Brooklyn event that occurred this past Tuesday, April 5. It was sponsored by Brooklyn Exposed, a Brooklyn lifestyle website, to celebrate the culmination of its first year. I’ve started to write for the site recently, and I’ve got a link to my most recent article on my Facebook wall.

What was most fun about Tasting Brooklyn was that it highlighted such a range of restaurants and food vendors that sometimes don’t make it to the major food blogs or news outlets on a regular basis.
Here’s a sampling of what I saw and ate (actually I shouldn’t have eaten much of anything since I was only two days out from my juice cleanse. More on that another time).
Tasting Brooklyn was packed when I arrived at Dumbo Loft.


Braised Beef Cheek ravioli from Fornino in Park Slope


Fornino also brought a cocktail called The Park Slope


Duck & Okra Gumbo from Tchoup Shop. They sell their Cajun Creole inspired food at the bar dba in Williamsburg during the summer months.




The Breucklen cupcake from Robicellis – Dutch inspired Apple cake, Cinnamon Caramel Buttercream topped with Stroopwafel. Robiccellis was voted one of the best cupcakes in NYC by Serious Eats NY.


I also got to see some old friends like Jessica Pichardo (on the right), the owner of Linger Cafe. I wrote about Linger last year. She brought her light and lovely kale salad.

It was a really great event and turnout for Brooklyn Exposed, and I wish the site all the best in its second year.
Happy Weekend!

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