Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Restaurant Review: Eleven

     Sorry, I am reviewing a restaurant and I do not have any pictures.  I contemplated just not writing about my experiences.  I contemplated going back again just to take pictures but then realized that diners might think I was just a bit loco if I was walking around taking pictures of their food.  I will eventually make it back and will remember to take pictures.  For now...just read!

     You know by now that I am a bit crazy when it comes to Sunday lunch.  Lunch...not brunch.  I am not a big fan of the brunch concept.  I want lunch...a leisurely lunch...prix fixe with a limited amount of choices...no eggs.  Now that I think about it, I am just a big fan of the prix fixe menu.  Two to three tasty courses at a set price...yes, that is what I like.

     So, we have been searching for our Sunday lunch spot that met our criteria.  We wanted something in downtown Pittsburgh.  We wanted a more upscale restaurant.  We wanted good value.  We wanted a place that we would want to return to again and again...our go-to Sunday lunch spot.

     Readers, I am here to say that we have found it!  Eleven on the edge of the Strip District has a fantastic Sunday brunch.  Yes, yes, they call it a brunch...yes, yes, they have eggs on the menu.  I will call it lunch and I will have the eggs.  There are plenty of choices - but not an overwhelming amount.  The service is great, the food is creative and good and the space is relaxing.  It makes for the start of great week.

     "Should we get the same thing or should we try something new," questions Dear Daughter as we are heading into town.  My response was to try something new.  "Mom, we can't.  The chef is leaving soon and the new chef might change the menu.  This might be the last time we can have the smoked salmon!"  No joke, this was her reasoning.  I think I have a budding lawyer in the family.

      By the time we ordered, we had changed our minds and settled on a new first course and a favorite second course.  On previous visits, DD chose the smoked salmon.  It was a dainty presentation complete with a miniature everything bagel, scallion cream cheese, and the standard onions and capers.  Not overly creative but the quality wass exceptional.  Dear Husband and I usually shared a plate of oysters and enjoyed their brininess and excellent mignonette.

     This past time, DD opted for the Beignets, which came with two sauces, Meyer Lemon and Pomegranate.  She declared them as good as what she ate in France.  She managed to give us minuscule bites as she finished 3.8 of the 4.  Dear Husband and I shared the Duck Tasso Hash, which has to be the best appetizer on the menu.  Horseradish and mustard give the dish a bit of zing and the poached egg on top adds to its silkiness.

     Main courses range from Eggs Benedict and two different omelets to Smoked Lamb Huevos Rancheros or even a Salmon Salad.  DD once ordered the Vanilla Bean Waffles, which came with bacon and candied pecans.  While she enjoyed them, it was a bit too sweet... even for her.  Who would have thought anything could be too sweet for her.

     Now she orders the Steak and Egg, which I have to admit is a family favorite.  Perfectly grilled and sliced Hanger Steak is served atop a spoonful of creamy cheddar cheese grits and lightly dressed with a delicate Bearnaise sauce.  But the Scotch Egg is the star.  In theory, I know how they do it but I doubt I could ever pull it off.  One day prior to serving, they poach eggs.  On the day of service, they roll the poached egg in breadcrumbs and then quickly fry them.  What is delivered is a warm crunchy egg with an unset yolk, which acts as another sauce to the dish.  Heavenly!

     Another family favorite is the Eleven burger.  Topped with braised veal, pepper bacon, crispy onions and a choice of cheese, it is incredibly decadent.  And those fries...best in town!

     The price of this meal is also a highlight.  The menu is $29 per person and that includes juice or a brunch (lunch) cocktail.  What I really appreciate is then I ask for a Mimosa, without the OJ - meaning that I just want a glass of Cava, I am not upcharged.  

     At the end of each Sunday lunch, we vow to come back sooner the next time.  Maybe this time, we will.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Tarte Flambee or Flammkuchen

     This isn't a new subject.  I have written about it before but I wanted to share another recipe for what is probably the easiest pizza-like delicacy.  It was a favorite of ours when we lived in Europe because it was so easy to make.  You can be as creative as you wish with the toppings.  In Berlin, we had one that had shavings of squash, prosciutto and arugula.  The one I have here is the most traditional of versions. Give it a try...

     Whether in French (Tarte Flambee) or German (Flammkuchen), the English translation means "flaming cake".  Legend has it that when bakers were testing their ovens to see if they were hot enough for breadmaking, they would roll out a very thin piece of dough and put it in the oven.  If the oven was too hot,  the dough would catch fire.  So it was an easy way to determine if the oven was ready.

     The key to Flammkuchen is that the dough must be very, very thin.  Lately, I have lost my pizza mojo.  I have tried making my own dough, rolling out premade dough and finally buying a premade crust.  Nothing has really worked.  Then I came across a package of very thin, premade crust.  The packaging even said that it was perfect for grilling and would come out being almost cracker like.  So, I forged ahead and bought the crust and made Flammkuchen.

     I should have made two.  Dear Daughter ate most of it leaving two small pieces for the rest of us.  I will take that as a compliment.

Tarte Flambee/Flammkuchen

Monday, January 11, 2016

Osso Buco


     On a cold Sunday evening, there is nothing better than to sit down at the dinner table with a nice glass of red wine and a steaming plate of Osso Buco - especially when it is made by Dear Husband.  One of our favorite dishes, he had not made it in almost five years.  One bite told us that we would not be waiting another that long again.

Osso Buco
Adapted from the Culinary Institute of America, Cooking at Home

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Veal, Carrot and Chestnut Ragout

     A few weeks ago, Dear Husband was at Penn Mac and stumbled upon some fresh chestnuts.  A bag of them managed to come home with him and that meant Veal and Chestnut Ragu.  This recipe was published in Bon Appetit in 1997 and we have made this once every few years ever since then.  The dish hails from the Alba region of Italy and works wonderfully with a bottle of Dolcetto d'Alba, the wine of the region.  It is a light stew that lets the simple ingredients shine.  We normally roast our chestnuts for this but you could also buy chestnuts that have already been roasted.  

Veal, Carrot and Chestnut Ragout
from Bon Appetit, October 1997

Monday, January 4, 2016

Touring Sevilla, Spain through Tapas


     My favorite city in Spain is definitely Sevilla.  It has a very unique vibe and while there are many sites to tour, truly the only way to experience Sevilla is to go on a Tapeo; hopping from tapas bar to tapas bar enjoying the food and the socializing.  However, with nearly 4,000 tapas joints in the city, the prospect can be a bit intimidating.  Don’t worry, here is a tour that will not only allow you to have the experience but will take you through some of city’s unique neighborhoods.

Café Bar Las Teresas
                  The Barrio Santa Cruz, Sevilla’s old Jewish Quarter, is a picturesque collection of narrow winding streets and alleys and while quite touristy, it is fun to navigate the labyrinth and feel the historic vibe.  The narrowness of the streets was intentional; designed to provide protection from the blazing summer sun.  Today, they open to small peaceful courtyards containing ceramic benches and orange trees.  In the heart of the neighborhood is a very traditional tapas bar, the Café Bar Las Teresas.   While the outside tables may seem enticing, venture inside and soak-in all of the nostalgia.  Find a seat at one of the small tables, order a ración (plate) of Jamon Iberico de Bellota, Spain’s famous cured pork and a glass of cold fino (Sherry).  It makes for an excellent start to a tapas tour.

Café Bar Las Teresas
Calle Santa Teresa 2
Open:  12:00 – 0.00          Kitchen open 13.00-16.00/20.00 – 0.00

Casa Morales
     A short walk past the Cathedral will take you into the neighborhood between the Avenue de la Constitución and Guadalquivir River, known as El Arenal.  While Sevilla’s bullfighting ring, the impressive La Real Maestranza is located here, many outstanding tapas restaurants also call El Arenal home. Pass by the front room of Casa Morales, round the corner and enter into the back bar.  The rustic room is surrounded by large clay wine vats (8 ft tall!) called tinajas, which adds to the location’s ambience.  Grab a table or stand at the bar and soak in the surroundings.  You might notice a local sipping on a caňa (small beer) but Casa Morales also has an impressive list of wine or sherry, as well.  The tapas list is written on a board behind the bar.  Paper thin salt cod (Bacalao) on toast with Salmorejo and the Pulpo Gallego (octopus served with boiled potatoes, olive oil and sweet Spanish paprika) are favorites.

Casa Morales
Calle Garcia de Vinuesa 11
Open:  12:00-16:00/20:00-0.00 Closed Sunday.

Bogeguita Romero
     Further into El Arenal neighborhood is the homey, personable and delicious Bodeguita Romero.  In its third generation, it is truly a family operation.    Without a doubt, the Pringa Montaditos, a crispy roll stuffed with slow cooked pork and black pudding, is the best in town.   If you are lucky, the owner will be behind the counter and then you will know that his famous house marinated potatoes are on the menu.  He is the only one that makes the dish.  If you have room, opt for one more tapa.  The Carrilladas, braised pork cheeks, will melt in your mouth and have a wonderful depth of flavor.

Braised Pork Cheeks

The secret potatoes and a pringa!

Slightly fried salt cod - delicious

Bogeguita Romero
Calle Harinas 10
Open:  12:00-17:00/20:00-0.00  Closed Sunday evening and all day Monday

Stuffed baby squid over midges
La Brunilda
Round out the neighborhood with a visit to the upscale gastropub, La Brunilda.  This 18th century house has been transformed into a beautiful space with some of the best tapas in all of Sevilla.  You cannot go wrong with anything on the menu but highlights are the grilled baby squid (Chiperones) with migas, the iconic tapas dish Papas Bravas or one of the tapa-sized salads.

La Brunilda
Galera 5
Open:  13:00-16:00/20:30-23:30 Closed Sunday evening and all day Monday

Rice paper triangles stuffed with shrimp

A very creative tomato mozzarella salad with basil dummies

La Azotea
     Saving the best for last, no tapas tour would be complete with a visit to La Azotea and luckily, there are three locations.  No joke, Dear Daughter and I once ate at all three locations within a 36 hour time period!  It is that good.   Run by a husband (Spanish) and wife (American) team, the tapas at La Azotea are creative and absolutely superb.  The Chef’s Croquetas are always a great initial choice: inventive and delicious.  Rice paper triangles filled with shrimp, leeks and cheese are heavenly.  Carrillada Iberica (stewed pig’s cheek) is served in a rich red wine sauce and topped with melted goat cheese.  A traditional tomato and mozzarella salad is transformed with basil gummies and a spoonful of lemon sorbet. The service is attentive and friendly and the food is amazing.  This is a place you will want to return to, time and time again.

La Azotea
Jesus del Gran Poder 31
13:30-16:30/20:30-0.00                Closed Sunday and Monday

La Azotea
Calle Zaragoza 5

Azotea Santa Cruz
Calle Mateos Gago 8

                  Enjoying tapas is enjoying Sevilla and all that it has to offer.  Get out there and explore!