Sunday, January 06, 2013

Station 1

Since our going out requires a bit more advanced planning nowadays, a second visit to the same restaurant within the space of 2 months is high praise indeed. Mihai and I returned to Station 1 for an early New Year's celebration last week, based on a delightful meal and warm service we enjoyed there in November. Station 1 is just down the street from what seems like a more well-known Woodside restaurant; having not yet been able to score a reservation to the latter (despite the aforementioned advance planning), I cannot speak to whether its fame is well-deserved. However, I cannot say enough good things about Station 1, and am actually somewhat glad it seems to hide in the shadow of its more famous neighbor, as I only have so much patience for tracking down hard-to-get reservations.

Station 1 serves a 3-course prix-fixe menu for a reasonable price. Here's a brief run-through our most recent meal (please forgive the quality of the iPhone pictures):

Drinks: Woodpecker (left), Scofflaw (right).

The Scofflaw was one of the reasons I was eager to return to Station 1 - what a delicious combination of rye, vermouth, lemon, and grenadine. And I love the oversized cube of ice that melts slowly but effectively to make the drink a bit less strong over time. Mihai got the Woodpecker, which had the grenadine in common with my drink - a magic ingredient to make all drinks better? I would highly recommend both choices, except apparently the drinks menu was due to change in the new month (though our very kind waitress confided that the bartender could probably be persuaded to make off-menu drinks in the future as well, as long as we remembered what we wanted).

Appetizers: Celery root soup with pickled apple (left), Garganelli with Manila clams (right).

The pictures don't really do these appetizers (or the main course below) justice. Both appetizers were perfect wintry dishes, without being too heavy. The celery root soup was super smooth, and the pasta was swimming in a light creamy sauce, with the tiny clams adding some interesting bites to the dish.

Main Course: Cauliflower risotto with a chard chip (left), Wagyu bavette steak with rutabaga, arugula, and oyster mushrooms (right).

After we placed our orders, the waitress asked Mihai if he was vegetarian; we had coordinated our choices without realizing that he was ordering all of the (seemingly) meatless dishes, whereas both of mine contained obvious proteins. My guess is she was asking because the risotto used a non-vegetable broth, but that's just speculation. In any case, given the location of the restaurant and the quality of the service, I have no doubt that they are happy to accommodate true vegetarians. I was glad I wasn't really one that evening, however, as that steak was amazing. Mihai's risotto was good as well, but I was really happy with my choice - I don't eat meat all that much (because many cuts/preparations disappoint me), so it's always nice to get a steak that's as good as it should be.

Extras: Sesame Parker House rolls with an amuse-bouche of marble potato and gouda blue cheese foam (left), White chocolate lemon cream with pistachio crumble (right).

We had to ask the waitress to stop bringing out the Parker House rolls after we ate the second plate of them before the appetizers even arrived, and this is only meant as a comment on the rolls' taste, not on the length of time it took for us to get the appetizers (entirely reasonable). Serving an amuse-bouche in the beginning of the meal is always such a nice touch, because who doesn't like getting something "extra" and unexpected? Of course it helps when the amuse-bouche is as tasty as this one, since it heightens the anticipation of a good meal. And I am definitely a chocolate snob and don't appreciate white chocolate normally, but the palate cleanser cream served after our main course was also very well done.

Dessert: Almond cake with pear, quince sauce, and honey ice cream (left), Chocolate mousse (right).

Mihai was rewarded for his more daring choice, because while my chocolate mousse was very, very good, I'd say his almond cake (and everything it came with) was even better. That's what I get for my mixed feelings about almond desserts (for my taste they can hit both very high highs and very low lows).

Coffee and Tea (with almond mignardises).

We went all out and got coffee (French press, not shown) and Earl Grey tea. Just like the amuse-bouche, the mignardises are a great "extra" addition to the meal because they are a surprise (even though we'd been to the restaurant before). Chances are they don't cost the restaurant much, but they do add to the special-ness factor.

All in all, a wonderful dinner with great drinks and service (and company!) at a pleasant, non-stuffy restaurant. I hope to be back soon.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Grandma Irene's Pancakes

Mihai is guest blogging this so that he has a digital copy of the recipe, instead of always having to dig up the piece of paper that it's on.

Wet Ingredients
½ cup milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted in the microwave
1 egg
1 tablespoon extra-light olive oil

Dry Ingredients
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt

1. Put the milk, butter, and egg into a large bowl and beat lightly. Set aside.

2. Mix all of the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl.

3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredient bowl all at once and mix slightly.

4. Add the olive oil to the batter and mix a bit more.

5. Add more milk (about ¼ cup) to the batter until it gets to the consistency of heavy cream. It shouldn't be perfectly smooth, small lumps are OK.

6. Heat up oil in a frying pan on low-medium heat.

7. Drop dollops of the batter using a small ladle and cook until bubbles stop popping (usually a couple of minutes).

8. Flip over with a spatula and cook the other side (usually for another minute).

9. Instead of maple syrup, accompany with sour cream and jam: mix a tablespoon of each on your plate, and top each pancake with a thin layer.

Serves two.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tart Tuesday

Ricotta and Plum Tart from (where else?) Food52

Substitutions made:
2 teaspoons sugar instead of honey,
turbinado sugar instead of dark brown sugar (per Jenny),
40 minutes of baking instead of 20 (due to using a 9-inch round tart pan since, like Jenny, I do not own 3.5 inch ring molds).

P.S. I blame the Olympics for the lack of a proper post here.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Apricot Crumb Bars

If you are fan of not-too-sweet-but-delicious fruit desserts, you should make these crumb bars as soon as possible, while apricots are still in season. As you can see in the ingredient list, you'll need quite a few apricots - it was actually my goal to use a bunch, since we sometimes buy more fruit from Costco than we have time to eat - but the large quantity is absolutely worth it. The recipe is really easy and non-fussy, at least the way I made it (Deb had a few additional steps in order to incorporate browned butter, but I simply skipped all that). And while both Mihai and I like the sweetness level as is (the apricots get to shine), you could probably sprinkle a couple tablespoons of sugar on top of the fruit layer before scattering the crumb topping if you prefer your dessert on the sweeter side.

Apricot Crumb Bars
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 cup white sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1 large egg
10 apricots, pitted and thinly sliced

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F degrees. Butter and flour a 9x13 inch baking pan.

2. In a large bowl, sift together the sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg using a whisk.

3. Using a box grater, grate in the cold butter, mixing with the dry mixture along the way so the small butter pieces are interspersed throughout the bowl (rather than clumped together).

4. Crack the egg into a small bowl, beat lightly with a fork, and then stir into the flour and butter mixture. After incorporating the egg using a fork, finish mixing the dough with your hands - it should be crumbly.

5. Spread approximately ¾ of the mixture in the pan. Pat down firmly.

6. Arrange the slices of apricots on top of the crumbs, and scatter the remaining crumbs on top of the apricots.

7. Bake for 40 minutes, until the top is golden. Cool completely in pan before cutting into slices (squares or rectangles are easiest).

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Roasted Rhubarb

For me, one of the many wonderful things about this time of year is the availability of rhubarb in the produce section. The pretty pink stalks can become wonderful dessert quite easily - this roasted rhubarb is a prime example. With 10 minutes (or even less) of prep and 15-20 minutes in the oven, you have something that can be a tart topping for a sweet ice cream (creme fraiche gelato, not pictured) or a (somewhat) more healthy oatmeal with sliced almonds, as shown below.

(Note: for reasons I don't fully understand, not everyone loves rhubarb as much as I do. I think it's because it is not very common and not everyone is familiar with it. Due to my enthusiasm for it, I tried serving rhubarb at more than one dinner party, more or less successfully depending on the attendees. Just throwing this out there as a warning - if you want a universally crowd-pleasing dessert, this might not be it. Save it for yourself instead.)

Roasted Rhubarb
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan

1 pound rhubarb
½ cup sugar
Grated zest of 1 lemon or ½ orange (I've used one in one batch, the other in the second - both are great)

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F.

2. Cut the rhubarb into pieces about 1 inch long and toss them into a baking dish that will hold them comfortably. (I used a 9-inch round baking pan.) Sprinkle over the sugar and zest and stir everything around until the rhubarb is covered with sugar. (It will seem like you have too much sugar. You do not - rhubarb is very tart and the ½ cup sugar is just right.) Set aside for about 5 minutes.

3. Cover the baking dish with foil and roast the rhubarb for 15 minutes. Take a peek and if the sugar isn't almost completely melted, stir the rhubarb, re-cover the pan with the foil and roast a few minutes more. Then remove the foil and let the rhubarb roast for another 5 minutes or so, until the syrup is bubbling.

4. Remove the pan from the oven and let the rhubarb cool to just warm or to room temperature; chill, if you'd like.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tartine Tuesday

Avocado Asparagus Tartine from 101 Cookbooks
(with pine nuts instead of caraway seeds)

Who says eating at home during during the first weeks of a baby's life has to consist solely of takeout and frozen meals?

P.S. For full disclosure, lunch on all the other days has consisted of toast, cold cuts, cheese and (store-bought) egg salad. Also, Mihai made (and is writing) this.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Cheesecake Brownies

This week our office held a bake sale for a very good cause. Though I am not taking part in the athletic events and training given to the big life change Mihai and I are about to experience, I was happy to at least help out by making something for the bake sale. From everything I've seen of bake sales, they are not the place to whip out anything too exotic, so I decided to go with a classic American staple: the brownie. But, in order to satisfy my need to try out new things, I finally attempted this cheesecake brownie recipe I've had starred in Reader since 2007.

The results of this experiment were mixed, I would say. On the one hand, these brownies sold out, so they must have looked appealing. On the other hand, I would make one or both of the following changes next time around: 1) mix the cheesecake batter with the brownie batter more thoroughly, and 2) try out a different brownie batter. Mihai and I both agreed (we had a small piece each before giving the rest of the pan to the sale) that the brownie batter was a bit dry. However, the cheesecake portion of the brownie was deliciously moist - so perhaps mixing the two together more would be sufficient. But it's also possible that the brownie batter really needs some chocolate chips/chunks in it (not just cocoa) to make it be as rich as I personally like my brownies to be.

All this said, this recipe is still good enough to be posted here - it just might need some tweaking to be a truly successful one.

Cheesecake Brownies
Adapted from La Tartine Gourmande

For the brownie batter:
⅔ cups cocoa
1 stick unsalted butter, diced
¾ cups sugar
2 large eggs
Pinch of salt
⅔ cups all-purpose flour

For the cheesecake batter:
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 large egg yolk
⅓ cups sugar
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Mix all the cheesecake batter ingredients together to obtain a smooth creamy texture. Set aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8 x 8 inch pan with parchment paper.

3. To prepare the chocolate batter, start by melting the cocoa and butter in the microwave. Let cool slightly.

4. Beat together the eggs and sugar with a pinch of salt until light and pale in color.

5. Fold in the chocolate mixture into the egg and sugar mixture first, then the flour. Do not overmix.

6. Pour the chocolate batter into the pan. Add the cheesecake batter on top and make a swirly design in it using a fork or knife. (See notes above - don't be afraid to intermix the batters more than in my pictures.)

7. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Let cool in the pan completely before cutting into squares.