I did not cook this weekend. Well, I cooked once but I'll give you that at the end of the post.
On Thursday night we took a couple of friends out to the newest place in town, Venus. Venus is partially owned and partially chef-ed by my friend Casey, and it is my new favorite restaurant. Absolutely amazing meal.
We started with a round of drinks and appetizers for the table. My Hendricks martini was perfect. My friend Sarah says that you can judge a place by the quality of their martini and I have found this to be true. The Escargot was out of the shell and done with mushrooms, a rich reduction, and butter foam. It was a perfect flavor balance and the snails were perfectly cooked, not at all rubbery. You really have to be careful not to overcook snails and they got it on the nose. The mussels were done simply in a tomato-garlic-wine broth, but did not suffer for the simplicity. The ricotta gnocchi was outstanding. Each bite literally melted once it hit the tongue. We actually asked for extra bread (grainy, chewy inside, crusty outside) to sop up the sauces.
After the first course we were treated to a sample of 'Deconstructed Corn Chowder'. It was basically a corn chowder, but instead of finishing it with cream, it's finished with a cream foam.
Say what you will about the showiness of molecular gastronomy, but it was so delicious.
For the main course, Jeffrey had the Cornish Game Hen, Bob had the Cassoulet, Sarah had the Filet Mignon and I had the duck special. It was a pan seared duck breast with cranberry compote, duck confit "latkes" (I can't think of the proper word right now), and a brussel sprout/fingerling potato/winter squash hash. I want this meal every day for a year. It was incredible, everyone was extremely happy with the food, the service and the atmosphere. If you're in the area and want to splurge - go to Venus. They have a very nice, reasonably priced wine list and craft beers on tap, and the Cellar Bar downstairs is cozy and warm. I look forward to dropping in there this winter and sitting by the fireplace in the corner.
Friday was Kid Free Friday, for the evening, and Lloyd Cole was playing at Apollo Grill. We were excited to see Lloyd live - he lives in our town and I've been saying hi to him for about four years now, but I hadn't actually seen him play. It was fantastic.
For the sake of full disclosure, I will tell you that I cooked at Apollo for a couple years. It's owned by the aforementioned Casey (of Venus). It's conveniently located downstairs from our office. None of these things effect what I'm about to say; Apollo has great food. When we're not rocking the lunchovers it's always our first choice for lunch at work, and Jeffrey and I like to go sit at the bar, grab a burger and a drink, and verbally process business. We eat here a lot, and I've never had a bad meal. On this night, Jeffrey went with the burger and I was thrilled to discover the Bratwurst back on the menu. Apollo changes the menu seasonally, and the bratwurst is a fall/winter dish. The links are split and grilled, then served with cider-braised red cabbage, a mushroom gravy, and whole grain mustard mashed potatoes. I had it with a pint of Rapscallion. It was a good night.
It was such a good night that I was completely useless the next day and spent most of it blobbing it out on the couch. The kids took off, and Jeffrey and I were left to our own devices. So we went out for tacos.
La Casita Azteca is the only taco place in town. (I say this to mean that if we drove four more miles we could get to Northampton where there are three taco places, but we were dirty and lazy and it was raining out.) We had tried it right after it opened (in 2008) and were hugely disappointed. The prices were high, the portions were small, nothing had flavor, and everything was soggy. We didn't bother going back.
Then, a couple months ago, I was going for lunch with a friend and she suggested La Casita Azteca. When I told her about my bad experience she looked at me like I was crazy, and then took me there anyway. (This lady actually briefly lived in Mexico, so I trust her opinion.) I have to tell you, it was great. Two weeks ago, different lunch date, she wants tacos, we go here, also great. Saturday night, go with Jeffrey - still great. He had a giant burrito, I had a giant torta. Definitely going back. It's a cute little place, brightly colored inside and out. They even have a pretty courtyard with picnic tables and fairy lights for when the weather is nice. Bonus - beer & wine license, so you can have a Tecate' with your meal.
Sunday I started feeling guilty that we had take-out three days in a row, so I made brunch. Pumpkin muffins (from a box, thanks Trader Joe), bacon, and Shirred Eggs. This was actually my first time making my own shirred eggs. I first had them a few years ago at Cafe Gitane in Manhattan, and I don't know why I don't make them all the time. Super easy, super yummy, and you can use whatever you have in the house!
(serves 2 or 3)
1 tomato, chopped
chopped garlic to taste
1/4 c of chopped onion
a couple handfuls of chopped spinach
1/2 cup cheese (I used cheddar & parm this time)
1/4 c olive oil
1 T butter
cream or milk (about 1/3 c)
How I did it:
Pre-heat oven to 350F.
Heat a medium-sized skillet over medium heat (does that make sense? maybe). Add the oil to the skillet, then the butter. Melt the butter in the olive oil, then add the onions and garlic. Cook until translucent (1-2 minutes). Saute' the tomato and spinach in with the onions and garlic, until the spinach is wilted and the tomatoes are heated through.
Remove from heat, and crack the eggs onto the vegetable mixture. Salt and pepper to taste. Pop it into the oven for about five minutes. Pull it out, sprinkle with cheese. Back into the oven for about five more minutes.
Those times are estimated. I actually "overcooked" ours, because we like our eggs runny and at a total of 15 minutes, ours were solid. I am guessing that 10 gives you runnier eggs, but I'm no scientist. Whatever, they were yummy and may become a weekend staple.
Yesterday I visited friends who live about an hour and a half away. I had a brisket waiting for us in the crock pot but we got too hungry during the trip, said eff it, and got Chinese. No regrets.
I'm re-heating the brisket as I type, and will report back tomorrow.
"Why are there still no photos?", you ask. Well, it's because children are horrible and my child deleted all of my food photos off the memory card and took pictures of THE CAT.