10:49 am... Our boss is out of the office and we're talking about food. I looooove food. God, I love it. I prostrate myself at the altar of FOOD. I love restaurants. Wine lists. Amuse bouche. Bottled water for six bucks. Bread baskets. Sigh. I've been all around the world and had some tremendous meals. In palaces. On the street. Five-star restaurants. Crab shacks. I know my food.
With that in mind, I now commence a gourmand's blog entry!
Marguerite's Favorite Restaurants (no particular order)
Le Bistro, Jupiter, FL
Barton G, Miami Beach, FL
The Settlers Inn, Hawley, PA
Excelsior, Boston, MA
Le Pressoir, Grand Case, St. Maarten
Stage Deli, New York, NY
Felidia, New York, NY
The No-Name Restaurant, Boston, MA
Bartley's Burger Cottage, Cambridge, MA
Giordano's, Chicago, IL
Le Dome, Paris, France
The Hermitage, Nevis
Sunshine's Bar and Grill, Nevis (get a Killer Bee)
Ben Benson's Steakhouse, New York, NY
Pete's Tavern, New York, NY
I'm not much for salads, but I will take a Carprese salad any day of the week. Fresh tomato, sliced-up mozzarella, some big basil leaves, drizzle some olive oil on there, maybe just a splash of balsamic... OMFG. Delicious, fresh, and so very good for you. Great lunch dish and appetizer dish.
On steaming vegetables... they should be crisp, not limp. Too much heat sucks the vitamins out. An easy way to do it is pour a bit of water into a pot, add uncooked veggies, add lid, and heat on medium flame. Watch carefully for oversteaming.
Olives... throw out those nasty dry black things you see on crap pizza. Or on American antipasto. You know the ones. The pimento olive? Yuck. A real olive... is purple. Or like a muted lime green. It's oily and tart and a little lumpy and oblong-shaped. With an elliptical pit. In Italy and Spain, they serve olives like bread baskets. That being said... get yourself to Spain. ASAP. They don't put preservatives in bread to make it soft, so it's crunchy all day and get stale easily, but at least it's fresh all day long. Some of that bread, the olives with the oil, some paella or some fish and prawns... eek. I swoon.
(In Spain... let me preface by saying that when I am old, and the cold doesn't love me anymore, and I have no hair and no teeth, I will move to Spain and walk to the market and eat fish every day. And olives. And drink wine. What a nice place to fade away in! They serve this amazing fish... sea bass cooked in a block of rock salt. It is the tenderest most wonderfulest fish. You must get it.)
Fondue. Get your bum to a Melting Pot stat. DO NOT ORDER freakin American cheese fondue. Get the Swiss Emmenthal, with beer and nutmeg and garlic. True fondue will always have beer and Swiss cheese. While we're on the subject, baby Swiss is stellar. Cheeses I recommend... Havarti on crackers, Swiss and meats, San Andreas cream brie. One of my favorite-est memories is when my mum heated up a block of brie and added oregano and thyme. Amazing. Some fruit chutney on the side, rip up some rye and pumpernickel... feast.
(Fondue tip... the cheese separates easily at high temps. To get the best, give a good swirl and dip way deep in the bottom of the crock. That's where the money is.)
Goat cheese is stellar. What a gift from a goat! Mind yourself... it is strong. Served warm with greens, or with pita and olives (just like how feta should be served). I once had a layer of tomato and cold goat cheese slices. Amazing. But best work yourself up to eating it. I used to eat goat cheese Margherita pizza when I was little, so I am used to it's taste.
Gorgonzola needs to be cut with other tastes (it is a mother of a cheese). I've seen it served best with pasta and mushrooms (I loathe mushrooms, but it's a great pairing that even I could not refuse). I don't eat them separately, but together they are dynamite.
Put Parmesean reggiano cheese in soup. It is such a flavor enhancer. So good.
My comfort snack is pretzels and cream cheese. A very low-maintenance snack, but it hits the spot every time.
Meat... I cannot sing its praises enough. I gave it up for a few months in high school, but it could never last. The best steak in the world is filet mignon. PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, never order steak well-done. NEVER. You are killing the taste, the texture, the pairing with other foods and/or wine... you are killing me when you do this. Rule for all meat prep, hamburgers to prime rib. At the most, order medium well. You can cook it til it's rubber, but what a disservice. You can't forget you're eating carcass, no matter how much you char it. The only thing worth burning is a hot dog. I don't need to explain why.
A little pink goes a loooong way when you're eating meat. it just tastes better. The flavor needs to be there. Do you know how you "digest" meat? It rots its way out of you. Yes, that is gross. So you might as well enjoy it while it's going in.
So, order filet mignon. Medium. Burgers, medium well. I once heard someone older than me say that the older a person gets, the rarer they like their steak and the drier they like their wine. A lot of truth there.
Lamb... best served and eaten hot. What a unique taste. Greek lamb, get it. Rack of lamb, get it. Easy way to make it at home is broiling it after you dress it with some dijon mustard. Broiling is a time thing. You need to time your broiling food because it will burn easily. Whatever you cook on one side, do the same on the other.
Sausage with breakfast or with peppers. Turkey sausage is a great, low-fat substitute. So is chicken sausage.
Pork... an amazing meat. A good pork roast can be amazing, and is a nice alternative to beef. Do yourself a favor and get yourself to a German restaurant. No one cooks pork like Germans. Schweinhaxen. A big pork hind with a crispy, fatty, cut-away crust on it to seal the flavor. OMFG. Drink Spaaten beer, I prefer light or amber lager. The Germans drink beer like water, never get hammered. It makes you flow. Order spaetzle. If your stomach can tolerate it, eat the pork with sauerkraut. A good German place will have ham bits in the kraut and the noodles will be slightly toasted and buttery tasting. Also, get the cucumber salad. Germans looove cucumber salad. Fresh and light and crunchy.
Bacon... I am not a mad fan. I prefer a roast or sausage. I'm a freak like the Brits who prefer to eat bacon while it's soft. I got yelled at so many times in England for eating it that way. Americans like bacon crunchy. I am not a fan.
Coffee... fresh ground, with half and half. Or cream. This milk-in-coffee business is disgusting. Tastes like ass. Like rubber. I know some people need to drink it that way, but if you don't, and you are, you're an idiot. Try it my way. If you're not changed, you're still an idiot, but I appreciate your effort.
Tea... now you drink that with milk. Earl Grey takes lemon only to cut the acrid attertaste. Obviously, no milk in berry herbals. There's a tea bar in Boston called Tealuxe... order the Kashmiri chai or the coocnut. Add milk. Pass out from taste amazingness.
Champagne is the nectar of the gods for me. Should be dry, plenty of bubbles, tickles the nose. Enhances almost any flavor (except chocolate, but great with strawberries). What a mad good buzz.
Beer. I tend to drink Mexican/Caribbean imports because my first beer was a Red Stripe with my stepfather in St. Maarten. I stick to Corona with lime. But, Dos Equis, El Presidente, Red Stripe, Amstel Light, etc... are just as good. Spaaten is a fab German brew. And I am originally from Pennsylvania, so I love me some Yuengling.
Wine. There are so many other more qualified people than me. I'm young, so sweet wines don't bother me. I loathe Cabernet. Too heady and ashtray-ish. I stick to Red Zinfindel for everything, Merlot if I'm eating meat, Pinot Grigio if I'm at a party being social. Champagne trumps wine trumps beer.
Fish deserves its own section. You must eat fish. You must. What a tasty, wonderful brain food. It is so good, and so good for you, it ought to be illegal. There's a reason why the best is so expensive. I am a fan of all fish. I eat sashimi, I eat tartar, I eat oysters, shrimp, prawns, mussels, clams, lobster, tuna, halibut, monkfish, calamari, salmon. HATE LOX. Very small doses when I do eat it.
The best way to prepare fish... BUY FRESH. Use the sniff test. If you can smell it, it is not fresh. Do not eat. You'll stink up your place and you might get sick. Fresh fish has no smell, and if it does, it is a trace smell. Ask to smell before you buy. There's no shame in it.
Once you get your fresh fish, put some olive oil, white wine, garlic, and a snib of butter in a pan and saute. Both sides, I'd say 5-6 minutes. There's nothing better.
When eating shellfish (shrimp, cioppino, mussels, etc...) a good restaurant and a good cook will take pride in their broth. The broth should be so tasty, you want to dip bread in it. The shellfish cooks in the broth. It ought to be terrific. Not always clams. Some places serve clams in the sea water and salt broth, and it might have dirt in it. That's another thing... no dirt on your shells. There's no worse thing than chewing dirt. I'd rather go hungry. If you're making them, scrub the fuck out of them. Make em shine. A good fish restaurant should have squeaky clean shellfish.
Another thing ... the shells need to be open after they're steamed. If it ain't open, do NOT eat it. It's not cooked, in a bad bad way.
DO NOT eat tilapia. "Farm-raised" tilapia is raised in sewers, feeding on crap. Literally. Stay away. There's no easier way to get a poo bacteria infection (i.e. E. coli) than by eating tilapia.
Go to Legal Sea Foods for great fish dishes. The best seafood anywhere in the U.S. is Boston. The best place is a dive on the wharf near Anthony's Pier 4, called the No-Name Restaurant. Run by Greeks/Armenians, paper tablecloths, paper cups for water. Freshest seafood there is. Cheap too. The shellfish was so fresh it was crunchy and thick and meaty.
And to wrap up... desserts.
Chocolate... I apologize if you're allergic. You're missing out big time. I grew up two hours from Hershey, PA, and I drink the Hershey's Kool-Aid. I am a huuuuge fan, but it's not real chocolate. Too much sugar, too many preservatives. The best chocolate is from Godiva. Sorry, it is. It's just a higher quality chocolate. But it shouldn't be eaten in large quantities. Small pieces. Dark chocolate. If you can, with fruit. Berries are best, but chocolate works with bananas, berries, even orange rind. Not the actual orange, but the rind. Give it a good rinse and try it. You will never see me near chocolate and not try it. I love it. But the best chocolate is eaten best in a pairing. Fruit. Graham crackers. Smores. With ice cream. With coffee. With peanut butter. I looooove chocolate peanut butter. Stellar combo. I'd put it on meat if allowed.
A really good non-dairy cocoa is made with melted bittersweet chocolate and coconut milk, which is dairy-free. One of my favorites.
You'll never go wrong with fruit for a dessert. Some mixed berries and homemade whipped cream (blend confectioners sugar with heavy whipping cream until fluffy) is a great dessert. Not heavy, and healthy.
However, some of my favorite desserts are not fruity at all. In no particular oder....
flourless chocolate cake
cheesecake (the best is from the Stage Deli, in the Theater District in NYC. 8 lbs. of cream cheese in one cheesecake!)