Tag Archives: Lunch

2018 Cookery Project — Hanger Steak with Red Onion Toast

Hanger Steak with Red Onion Toast

Hanger Steak with Red Onion Toast

I got this recipe from Jonathan Waxman’s modestly named book, A Great American Chef, where it appears under the title “Skirt or Hanger Steak Marinated in Soy, Ginger, and Lime with Red Onion Toasts”.

I always marinate overnight, even when the recipe says you can get away with just doing it for a couple of hours. Grating the ginger was a chore, and in addition to the lime juice and soy sauce, I crushed some garlic cloves for the marinade. The sauce for the steak was made with chopped shallots in a red wine reduction.

After removing the steak from the marinade the next day, I broiled everything. I started with the onion rings, which I first doused with the reserved marinade, sans the ginger and garlic. After 10 minutes, I removed them from the broiler and set them aside. Then came the steak, broiled for about five minutes on each side. The last step was toasting both sides of four slices of sourdough bread.

The onions went on the toast, the re-heated wine sauce went on the steak, and the meal was ready to serve.

It was brilliant.


Rating

★ Disaster. Inedible. Poisoned the cat.
★★ OK, but once is enough.
★★★ Mixed results. Something went wrong, but might try this again.
★★★★ Good, but lacks that special something.
★★★★★ Excellent. Goes into my “This is a winner” file.

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2018 Cookery Project — Cottage Pie

Cottage Pie

Cottage Pie

The difference between Cottage Pie and Shepherd’s Pie is that Cottage Pie is made with ground beef and Shepherd’s Pie is made with ground lamb.*

I used a recipe from a hugely likable food blog called RecipeTin Eats, which was created by a well-traveled young woman named Nagi, who was born in Japan and raised in Australia. She says her “…blog reflects my philosophy on food and cooking – fast, creative, clever and fresh.

The Cottage Pie recipe is uncomplicated, but it did require a lot of peeling and slicing and dicing and mashing. In addition to writing easy-to-follow directions for making the dish, Nagi included this short video.

The RecipeTin Eats site is loaded with good stuff like this. I’ll be using it a lot in the months to come.

Cottage Pie Slice

Cottage Pie Slice

Here’s a slice of the finished project. My potatoes-to-beef ratio was a little high, but not bad for a first effort.


*Unless the Shepherd’s Pie was prepared in Mrs Lovett’s Pie Shop on Fleet Street. The shop, once known for the worst pies in London. was recently renovated, and introduced a new, very locally sourced menu featuring an impressive selection of custom-made meat pies.

And avocado toast, of course, To bring in the Millenials.

Once the Millenials discovered it, its Yelp ratings went through the roof, and Mrs Lovett is scheduled to compete on next season’s Top Chef.

MRS LOVETT:
“It’s fop.
Finest in the shop.
And we have some shepherd’s pie peppered
With actual shepherd on top!”

 


Rating

★ Disaster. Inedible. Poisoned the cat.
★★ OK, but once is enough.
★★★ Mixed results. Something went wrong, but might try this again.
★★★★ Good, but lacks that special something.
★★★★★ Excellent. Goes into my “This is a winner” file.

Royal Thai — Lunch on 24 April 2018

No, that date is not a typo. I’ve got a lot of catching up to do, since I’ve spent so much time posting about Belgium. Meanwhile, back here in Washington, life went on. I’ve had some good days since I returned, some good meals, some good media. And I’ve watched a lot of interesting movie and teasers, which I’ll be posting soon.

But first, a quick restaurant note about my first meal back in the states:

Royal Thai

Royal Thai

After a couple of weeks dining on European cuisine, it was nice to be back in the USA, and good old-fashioned American cooking. So for my first lunch, I headed to Chinatown and had Chicken with Eggplant at the Royal Thai.

There’s no place like home.

Chicken with Eggplant

Chicken with Eggplant

Lunch at Le Marmiton

Le Marmiton

Le Marmiton

I had my big aspirational “Living Well Is the Best Revenge” lunch at Le Marmiton, one of the restaurants in Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert. The name can be translated as “The Kitchen Boy” or “The Kitchen Hand”.

When I started to write this entry, I could not for the life of me remember the term “amuse-bouche”, the name for the small, complimentary appetizers that chefs sometimes send to diners at the beginning of a meal. I got stuck on “lagniappe”, the New Orleans word for a little something extra, but I knew that wasn’t it.* Freebie? No. No way.

Internet searches for “food words” and “restaurant terminology” and “freebie [sic] at start of meal” turned up some interesting information, but not the kind I needed.

I didn’t get the answer until after I’d stopped looking for it, which is a perfect affirmation of Zen, I suppose. It popped into my head out of nowhere, I did a (metaphorical) face-palm, and, once again, all was right with the world.

Anyhow, this little bowl of olives complemented my welcoming glass of Kir.

Timbale of Seafood

Timbale of Seafood

Mussels, of course, since it was Belgium, and the uniquely Flemish grey shrimp, along with scallops and traditional pink shrimp.

Duck Confit

Duck Confit

My main: Duck Confit with oyster mushrooms in a rich sauce, and a serving of Gratin Dauphinois, which is the name that upscale restaurants give to scalloped potatoes with cheese. The duck was particularly good, although the skin was a bit less crisp than I’m used to, because of the heavy sauce.

(“Gratin Dauphinois”, “amuse-bouche”, “lagniappe”—Lots of new vocabulary words in this entry, aren’t there? Stick with me and you’ll sail through that SAT Verbal next fall.)

"Vie en Rose"

“Vie en Rose”

A perfect ending. Dessert was composed of mixed-flavour sorbets with red fruit purée and a splash of crème de cassis. Since Kir, the apéritif I drank at the start of the meal, is made with crème de cassis and white wine, it was a clever bookend for the meal.


*The traditional example of a lagniappe is the 13th doughnut in a “baker’s dozen”.

Lunch at Bia Mara, and a Confusion of Chips

Bia Mara

Bia Mara

I noticed this little fish and chips shop almost directly across the street from my hotel and decided to check it out online. Did I get a surprise!

Tripadvisor’s idiosyncratic algorithm ranked Bia Mara—the Irish term for “seafood”—as the best “Cheap Eats” place in Brussels, and the 20th best of the city’s 3,221 restaurants.* Yelp was full of high praise.**

Bia Mara started life as an attempt to “evolve” fish and chips at a farmers’ market in Dublin, by using sustainable, non-traditional fish. In short order, the founders opened a shop in London, and two in Belgium. Success. Lines out the doors at all locations.

Baby Octopus

Baby Octopus

My starter was Baby Octopus with Sriracha Mayonnaise. Wonderful stuff.

I noticed later that Bia Mara offered a combination of three appetizers—this, Sesame Panko Prawns, and Mussel Popcorn—for €20. I wish I’d had time to return and taste it later.

Fish and Chips

Fish and Chips

The fish was cooked with a Lemon-Basil Tempura, and came with a Homemade Garlic Truffle Sauce. The seaweed-salted chips were thick potato wedges rather than what the British (and the Irish) call “chips”, and the Americans call “French fries”.***

They seemed a little uncertain about exactly what kind of “chips” they were.

Everything at Bia Mara was fine, and I’d love to try more of the menu. I liked the “evolved” dish, but the classic version is still the one I love.


*Tripadvisor’s rankings are not to be taken too seriously. The site is designed to provide recommendations for a variety of prices and cuisines. If you search Tripadvisor for a list of the “Best” restaurants in your home city, you’ll be surprised at what shows up. The places at the top of the list will be a mix of high-end restaurants, pizza joints, and neighbourhood favourites.  It’s not unusual to find a sandwich shop ranked higher than a Michelin-starred destination restaurant.

In general, places ranked in the top 10% – 20% are safe bets.

**Yelp is even less authoritative, unless you’re a drunk college girl looking for a place to have brunch.

***Even though “French fries” aren’t French, they’re Belgian. And, just to confuse things even more, the Belgians call them “frites”.****

****So do the French.

Fin de Siècle — My Favourite Restaurant in Brussels

Fin de Siècle

Fin de Siècle. There’s often a line out the door.

Very early on, I Found My Restaurant—a rustic, no-frills place that gave me the authentic Belgian cuisine I was looking for.

When I’m traveling, I rarely dine at the same place more than once, because there are hundreds of thousands of great places to eat in the world, and my goal is to try as many of them as possible. Reach should exceed grasp, and all that.

I went back to Fin de Siècle a second time, and then a third.

Let’s start with some of the things Fin de Siècle doesn’t have:

  • A phone number
  • A website
  • Reservations
  • An English-language menu
  • Any printed menu at all

Oh, and they don’t accept credit cards.


The menu, in French, is posted on the wall.  “Are you looking for something authentic?’ asked my charming server, in English. She directed me to the six items on the second panel, told me that they were a mix of traditional and modern Belgium standards, and described what each of them was. Service at  Fin de Siècle was unrushed, friendly, and always helpful—everyone I dealt with seemed happy to be working there.

Lapin à la Kriek

Lapin à la Kriek

My first meal at Fin de Siècle was Lapin à la Kriek, rabbit in Kriek beer sauce. And just like that, I was hooked. Even by American standards, the serving size was large, and I don’t think I’ve ever had a tastier rabbit dish. The side vegetables, too, were perfectly cooked.

Jambonneau Moutarde à l’Ancienne

A few days later, I was back again.  “Jambonneau Moutarde à l’Ancienne” sounds more impressive than “Ham Hock with Mustard Sauce, the Old Fashioned Way’ doesn’t it? Whether in French or in English, it was another exceptional meal.

Fin de Siècle is very popular, and during peak dining times the wait for a table can take quite a while. It’s worth the wait.

Carbonnades a la Chimay

Another classic. Carbonnades a la Chimay is a beef stew made with Chimay Grande Réserve, a Belgian dark ale. This was my final meal, for now, in my favourite Brussels restaurant. I haven’t been able to decide whether I liked the Lapin à la Kriek or the Carbonnades a la Chimay more, so further research is definitely required. If only Fin de Siècle were here in Washington, I’d be able to visit once a week.

For science.

Lunch at Chez Léon

Chez Léon

Chez Léon

After a good night’s sleep, I was ready for my first full day in Brussels. I headed to Chez Léon, a restaurant that had been recommended by a friend in Washington. It was only a few minutes walk from my hotel. In fact, during my sodden trek through yesterday’s rain, I’d already walked past it. Three times, from three different directions.

Mussels

Mussels

My friend had said the restaurant might have become somewhat touristy.* That proved to be the case. I arrived shortly after Chez Léon opened for lunch, and the restaurant filled up fast, with a predominantly East Asian clientele, guidebooks in hand. This was not a neighbourhood hangout known only to long-time residents.

But all those people were there for a reason. The food really was first rate. I ordered what the menu called “Mussels Gratinated”, and was served a rich and memorable plate of mussels topped with butter, nutmeg, and melted cheese. It was the best mussels dish I’ve eaten since the Moules Frites with creme and Auvergne bleu cheese that I had at Café Bruant in Paris a couple of years ago.


*I, of course, am not a tourist, but a traveler. You can easily tell the difference:  Tourists want the same food they’d order back home at Applebees and don’t know how to tip, while travelers describe meals by making pretentious references to earlier meals in another country, usually France.