Thursday, October 16, 2014

Zahav Kitchen Counter

View from the bar
So, last Tuesday afternoon I was browsing my Twitter feed and what should pop up but a notice that two spots were available for Wednesday night's Zahav Kitchen Counter. After about a 3 second discussion with Beth I snagged the seats (there are only four each week).

For any of my 5 or so readers who don't know Zahav, it's Michael Solomonov's flagship restaurant here in Philadelphia. He serves what is usually described as "modern Israeli cuisine". You can be the judge.

The meal is 10 courses (and a bit more) with an optional beverage pairing. We decided to go with the booze. Let this be a warning! If you show up much before the 7:00 PM seating you'll be tempted to have a happy hour drink at the bar. Do not do it! You've got what amounts to 7 or 8 full drinks coming. So let's get started...

Course 1: Chicken Liver Mousse, Concord Grape and Nigella Toast. The Concord grape droplets were incredibly concentrated - like that grape jelly everybody had as a kid times 1,000. This course was served with a "Cortado" Sherry - a very unusual choice for a first course but it paired well with the mousse. That was a full pour of the sherry and a hint at what was to come.

Course 2: This being a Solomonov restaurant, hummus should surprise no one. It's topped with a little crumbled merguez sausage and pine nuts. There was also a delightful fluffy fresh baked pita rather than Zahav's classic laffa. It was accompanied by Uinta's Hop Nosh IPA. That's one strong IPA that cut through the unctuous hummus wonderfully. (Half a bottle each)

Course 3: Pomegranate and Walnut Tabbouleh with marinated anchovies. Oh man, this was great. Served with Wyndridge Cranberry Cider (again, half a bottle each).

Course 4: Crispy Lamb's Tongue, Roasted Turnips, Sumac - sounds scary but was delicious. I'm not sure what was in the green tehina but the whole thing was great. This was served with the first full sized cocktail - a "Smashing Pumpkin"  made with rum infused with baharat.

Course 5: Royal Trumpet Mushrooms, Cous-Cous, Herb Tehina. We love mushrooms. This was very good. Until we tasted Misfits Wine Co.'s The Golem Adelaide Hills Riesling. F*ck Me. Absolutely the best match of the night. Full pour, BTW as are all the wines.

Course 6: Kabocha Squash Soup, Brussel Kraut, Pepitas, Reggiano. Beth's #1 of the night. Served with a Manzanilla Sherry "Salty Dog" cocktail. Shaky picture courtesy C2H6O.

Course 7: My Favorite of the night. Simple crudo of Bronzino, tzatziki, apple granita and a little apple salad. Served with a Sicilian Cataratto - Grecanica blend. Delicious, but since I've had my head up elBulli 2005-2011 the last few months such a "simple" dish might need snazzier plating. The pieces of fish looked a little random and Morimoto might have something to say about the slicing.

Course 8: Beef: carpaccio, tartare, and a deep fried beef tongue stuffed olive. I loved it. Beth ran into a texture issue with the tartare. By now we're pretty much toasted. This came with a delicious, jammy Loire red from Domaine du Chapitre.

Course 9: Oh god, when will it end... Halibut Chaiwadge, Romanesco, Zhoug. Thank god I haven't passed out. This was wonderful. Another Loire wine,  the sparkling Monmousseau JM Blanc.

Course 10: Lamb Neck Tagine, Fig Jam, Pistachio Rice, Lam Jus. This dish alone would make a reputation. Perfect in every way. Served with an Israeli Bordeaux blend with some added Shiraz from a winery named something like Yato - my notes are very hard to read at this point...

But wait, there's more!

Pre Dessert in elBulli speak. That's pear sorbet, Sesame praline, and chestnuts (or maybe Turkish Hazelnuts). Served with a cocktail made with Arak, grenadine, grapefruit juice and whatever else I wrote down and can not read this evening.

Dessert. Served with mint tea thank God. Carrot Basboosa, Orange Blossom. Sachleb Labne, Hazelnut Praline. Basboosa is a semolina cake flavored with almost anything. The red things are poached cranberries and the white schmeer is whipped cream cheese with some sort of flavoring which I could probably make if I could remember it...

Bottom Line: Expensive. $90 per person plus $50 P/P for the drink pairing. Total $360.40 with tax and tip. Absolutely, 100% worth it. Probably the best value chef's tasting menu in Philadelphia.

Those of you who are already familiar with Zahav have probably noticed that none of the courses are offered on the regular menu. In a conversation after the meal we learned that the Kitchen Counter is used not only as a creative outlet for Chef Solomonov and the staff but as a test bed to perfect dishes that will appear on the regular menu in the future.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Cats Laughing, a Real Thing?

It seems plans are in progress for a Minicon 50  reunion show. Just how this will be organized has yet to be determined but all the original members are up for it. Meanwhile, here's another blast from the past.

This was a fun gig. We got to watch some of the Twin Cities "names" do their thing with the Cats sandwiched in between. As you can see from the date on the set list we'd just released the "basement tape" a few weeks earlier. For some reason we decided to do all original material (I think - you'll have to ask Adam about Cream Pie Blues).

Some of that material didn't last, but my recollection is that we performed well. Fran Courteau, Beth's dad, was there and took some pictures.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Kennett Square Mushroom Festival

Every year in early September Kennett Square, PA puts on their Mushroom Festival. It always seems to fall on Beth's work weekend so we normally skip it. This year though I decided to head out anyway, eat some mushroom filled goodies and buy a bunch of fresh 'shrooms for immediate eating and dehydrating. In the past we've gone on Sunday when they have a mushroom soup competition but that wouldn't have been all that much fun without Beth and besides the Eagles were on at 1:00 so I headed out on the 45 minute drive a little after 9:00.

Mushroom Fest is always fun. There's plenty to eat in addition to mushrooms, goofy stuff including a National Fried Mushroom Eating Contest, several cooking competitions, and great people watching, especially the little kids suspiciously eye-balling some of the unfamiliar items.

Many Kennett Square Restaurants Were Serving
Want To Grow Your Own?
They're Healthy!
Mushrooms To Sit On

Mushrooms On Display in the Education Tent

Mushrooms to Buy
You bet I bought some. Three pounds each of Shiitake and Oyster.

After I got back on Saturday afternoon, I started in on the first of the fresh mushroom dishes:

First up, mushroom risotto. I sliced up some crimini mushrooms I already had along with a big bunch of my fresh Shiitake and broke apart the Oyster mushrooms. I sauteed each mushroom separately since each one takes a different length of time to cook. The risotto itself was just regular saffron risotto, though I omitted the usual enrichment of grated parmigiano because I felt it would overpower the mushrooms. I folded the mushrooms in off heat, dished it up and topped each serving with a few sauteed Chanterelles I'd snagged at Iovine Brothers on the way home Friday.

Sunday was mushroom pizza. That's half a batch of Bonci Dough, sliced Scipio Ibrido tomatoes from the garden, lightly sauteed Oyster and Shiitake mushrooms, and mozz topped with the rest of the Chanterelles.

Monday night I started dehydrating the remaining fresh mushrooms. First were the Oyster mushrooms...

I sliced off the fused stems holding together the individual mushrooms and broke them apart into separate pieces. There was no need to rinse then since they don't grow in compost.

They dried overnight at 110° F. I got up a little early, packed them into a quart canning jar and started another batch. I now understand why everyone says you'll want extra trays for your dehydrator.

The Shiitake's were almost as easy. Slice off the tough stems, rinse the caps (they always seem a little dusty to me) and cut them into quarter inch slices. Overnight again and there we have it:

There's abut a half pint more of dried Shiitake's hiding to the right.


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