Monday, January 14, 2008

Winter Menu Now Serving

We have updated our Lunch & Dinner menus for winter.

At dinner my favorite new dish has to be the roasted Shellfish Cioppino.

The shellfish includes Alaskan king crab, rock shrimp, manila clams, mussels & black tiger prawns,all roasted in a hot oven until the shells burst open adding their briny essences—to the mildly spicy tomato broth, redolent of fennel. A large rustic grilled bread crouton is added to soak up all the delicious juices, and a judicious drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil completes the dish.

Another comfort food favorite is the Red Wine Chicken. First we take two chicken thighs and sauté them crisply, then surround them with winter root vegetables, and a nice red wine sauce. Pop it into the oven until the chicken and vegetables are incredibly tender, then serve it atop a pile of lumpy mashed potatoes at lunch—or a soul satisfying risotto with fresh herbs at dinner. The French would call this “coq au vin” if there was bacon in it—I just call it delicious!

By the way--I don’t know about you but I don’t trust mashed potatoes that aren’t a bit lumpy.

We peel Washington russet potatoes and add an equal amount of red jacket potatoes (unpeeled). Then we steam the potatoes until tender, add cream & butter, and mash them up with roasted garlic cloves, fresh thyme & Italian parsley, salt & pepper. Leaving the skins on the red potatoes gives the mash a nice texture.

Speaking of mashed potatoes—we are now serving a really delicious side of Feta mashed potatoes with our Saddle of Lamb. The mildly tart cheese makes a wonderful foil for the rich tenderness of the grilled lamb loin, and is delicious with a hearty red wine, matched against the rich Cabernet cassis sauce we serve over the lamb.

We have had many requests to bring back the Ahi Tuna as an entrée option at dinner. We are serving the tuna grilled, with a modern interpretation of the classic tuna Niçoises-style with roasted potatoes, skinny haricots verts, spunky wild arugula, olives & blistered cherry tomatoes. The sauce is a house-made tapenade of olives, with black olive oil finishing the dish.

Did I forget to mention the shiitake sticky rice on the salmon?

Hope to see you soon at Pacific Grill. And please introduce yourself. You can usually find me sitting at the last seat in the bar after 9pm having a "snack" and a libation.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

RAMEN

One of my favorite comfort foods, and one of my favorite lazy late night snacks to “cook” at home while watching Late Night TV is Ramen. I started thinking about ramen over the last few days…

The kind folks at United Airlines have started “retiring” Mileage Plus miles, so I had to book a flight somewhere-- or have my miles disappear by New Year’s Eve, so I booked a flight to Hawaii to visit friends on Oahu, and unwind and relax a bit now that the frantic holiday season is over.

Oahu & Kauai are my 2 favorite islands. The Big Island is fun (for a day) to see the Volcanoes National Park, but the island is too young and desolate to hold much interest for me.

Maui has always reminded me of Newport Beach & Orange County--a little too manicured and ‘nice’ for my taste. I mean don’t get me wrong—I love laying by the pool and having the attendants at the Four Seasons Wailea offer to mist you with Evian water, but the three times I have been to Maui I could never go down to the beach and lay in the sand as the trade-winds blow so strongly the palm trees are practically kissing the sand. No wonder the wind-surfers love Maui so much!

I like my tropical beach vacations to be a bit more rustic-- like the beaches on the North Shore of Oahu— Mokuleia (where LOST is filmed) or Lanikai that consistently ranks as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world…All of Kauai is gorgeous and jungly, and I like seeing the wild chickens and fowl scurrying underfoot like I was back in the jungles of Thailand, or hearing the bleating of the wild goats in Waimea Canyon.

As soon as I booked my flight I began to salivate thinking about the delicious noodle shops that await in Honolulu. I will report back after my trip to let you know the name of my favorite…but a line snakes out through its curtained front door onto Kalakaua Blvd.

Ramen is often derided as nerd food or considered cheap dinner for poor college students, but I will admit I even like the cheap brands you can buy at Costco for 10 cents a pkg.

There is something so comforting and delicious about all those luxurious noodles floating in that salty broth. And the fact that it is ready in 5 minutes or less, and is so satisfying is also part of its allure. I eat it right out of the pot I cook it in making it also a good bachelor dish.

Ramen is basic and simplicity itself: Broth, noodles, and garnishes.

At a noodle restaurant you choose what type of broth you want—usually either chicken or pork, but sometimes beef, or Miso, and then what type noodle, and what meat or vegetable garnishes (mushrooms, chasu barbecued pork, greens, pickled vegetables and cabbage) you want to add. The whole meal comes to like $6. Wash it down with a cold beer, and I am in heaven.

Whatever brand of ramen you have hiding in your cupboard can be turned into a delicious meal in a matter of minutes. I prefer the brand “TUNG-I”. But any brand of basic ramen will do in a pinch.

Here is my guilty pleasure “recipe” for my favorite way to prepare Ramen:

I keep a knob of gingerroot in my freezer for easy grating (no need to peel it) then put the leftovers right back in the freezer wrapped in plastic for next time. I also like to add some fresh chopped green onion and chopped cilantro. I also keep a bag of frozen Asian-style vegetables on hand, throw them all together into the pot. Choose vegetables that will add some contrasting crunch--one that contains snow peas, broccoli and water chestnuts. Put a lid on it, and in 5 minutes you have a cheap and filling delicious meal.

Sometimes for variety, I'll toast a teaspoon or so of curry powder in the dry pot until the curry powder becomes fragrant and starts to turn a shade darker in color before adding the water, then add the dried soup broth, and frozen vegetables. This will make a delicious spicy curried broth. When I make the curried version I also add a tablespoon or so of crunchy peanut butter, which gives the broth a bit more body, exotic flavor & “authenticity”!

Taste and correct the seasonings. If you want it even spicier add some fresh or dried chilies, or a squeeze of Sriracha hot sauce.

But be careful since broths will always be spicier than cream-based soups!