The Green Table

This review is more than a little overdue, but sometimes the pleasurable things in life, like blogging, take a back seat to the day to day grind.

This past summer while Joel, Wade and I were in New York City, we made the pilgrimage to that foodie mecca, Chelsea Market. While I was actually underwhelmed at what was there…it was nice, but in my opinion we have larger places with greater selections out here on the west coast…we did find this fabulous little restaurant right in the middle of the market called The Green Table. 

It’s a quaint little place tucked slightly awkwardly into a crooked corner of the main path through the market, but we were intrigued by the large family style table out front. We sat down and ended up sharing the table with other diners which was rather fun. It’s owned by The Cleaver Company and their daily menu enlists the freshest ingredients from local farms and greenmarkets. Their company is committed to sustainable agriculture and they try to use certified organic products whenever possible. 

To start the meal, I had an absolutely divine cup of Earl Grey tea from Arbor Tea and when I asked for some cream (I prefer my tea cambric style), the waiter brought me a small prechilled flagon of cream and a dish of sugar. It was a very simple and elegant touch. We shared a bowl of Crawfish Bisque which I found to be absolutely delicious…a nice balance of heat to cream and with easily recognizable chunks of crawfish. For our entrees, I ordered their Classic Chicken Pot Pie, Joel had their Vegetarian Mushroom Pot Pie, and Wade simply had to sample their New York Bánh Mì. 

The pot pie was really quite well done. A lot of the time, pot pies can have heavy pastry and have more sauce than anything for contents, but this pot pie was light and airy and full of delicious chicken and vegetables in a savory sauce that complimented theingredients instead of overpowering them. It was served along with a small salad of market  greens which for the most part was good, but there were a few pieces in it that were incredibly bitter, so much so that I decided to not finish it. 

I’ll let the guys talk about their dishes, but over all, I would definitely recommend stopping here for a meal if you’re in the area with some time to kill and a thing for people watching. Our server was very competent and did a fine job and we were full, but not uncomfortably so when we were done. I also appreciated that he didn’t try to rush us to vacate the table. That speaks volumes about what they find important in a dining experience.  

Happy eating!

Michael Mina’s SeaBlue Las Vegas

I’m back in Las Vegas this week for yet -another- conference and I thought I’d take some of my quiet down time (that I never seem to get at home) to let you know about one of the great dining spots we visited last month.

When we were in Las Vegas in October for Blog World Expo, we met up with some lovely twitter foodie people at the conference (Hi Chef Mark Tafoya & Jennifer Iannolo!) that in turn invited us out for a Chef’s Tasting at Michael Mina’s Seablue at the MGM Grand where the chef is Chef Stephen Hopcraft.

We started the meal with a lovely glass of Proseco Nunofranco Rustico and a delicious seafood appetizer of oysters, shrimp and the most succulent King Crab legs I believe I’ve ever tasted. I really appreciated that the shells on the crab legs were pre-scored so they were easy to remove and completely mess free.

This was followed by a glass of white wine and the most innovative salad presentation I’ve seen at a restaurant in awhile. They provide a list of salad ingredients and you select up to 10 and they craft your salad for you. It’s an elegant solution to the salad bar concept. Everyone was able to select their favorite items and felt satisfied with their salad. Rather than do the “create your own” salad course, I actually chose their Heirloom Tomato salad which was fantastic. It was a traditional combination of tomato slices, mozzarella, basil and a drizzle of balsamic dressing. The tomatoes had wonderful flavor and it was easy to tell that they were actually heirloom varities and not just an underripened yellow tomato and the mozzarella was so fresh, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was just a few hours old.

Our main course began with a beautiful red wine and I must give mad props to our sommelier, Charlie Townsend. He was very knowledgeable about the wines he selected for our meal and they paired so wonderfully and brought out the flavor accents of the food so well that they became a subject of discussion at the table. For the main course, we had several selections: Dayboat Scallops, John Dory (a fish) and a Bone-In New York Strip Steak. I saved my scallop for last, as it’s one of my favorite items and it was actually one of the most delicious things I tasted at Sea Blue. Unfortunately, because I saved it for last, it was just luke warm at that point, but honestly, it was still incredible. The strip was good, but not the best cut of beef I’ve had. That being said, the place is called “Sea Blue” and seafood is definitely a specialty here…and with family raising organic beef…well, let’s just say I’m very critical of beef dishes. Others at the table really enjoyed it. The John Dory was served whole, which I thoroughly enjoyed as it allowed us to sample the cheeks of the fish and Chef did an excellent job at it. My piece of it was unfortunately a little dry, but I had a piece near the tail on the topside of the fish. My husband had a piece nearer to the center on the bottom and his was perfect. The entrees were accompanied by several side dishes of olive oil smashed potatoes, a medley of mushrooms, chickpea and lentil rice and jumbo asparagus with citrus relish. They were all nice in their own fashion (although I didn’t really care for the potatoes much), but the asparagus held the most surprise for me. Topped with sectioned grapefruit, it honestly tasted like Christmas. If you’ve ever had pine needle tea or bitten into a pine needle, you know exactly what I mean. It was unexpected and completely delicious.

Our five desserts were accompanied by a really lovely Auschleze Riesling that wasn’t too sweet and went exceptionally well with the apple tarte tatin. We also had a traditional root beer float with homemade rootbeer and warm chocolate cookies, a fresh creme brulee, some delicious chocolate filled cream puffs, and a selection of seasonal sorbets. I am a total sucker for a good root beer and I have to admit, this one ranks high with me. It tastes like root beer should…not that sickeningly sweet soda that is out on the market, but a traditional bitter taste with a crisp, clean finish. Delicious end to a delicious meal.

If you ever find yourself in Las Vegas and you’re looking for a lovely restaurant, I would definitely recommend checking them out.

(I have some great photos that I’ll upload upon my return home. Also, in the interest of full disclosure, this was a complementary meal.)

Cool Hand Luke’s – First Visit

Cool Hand Luke's Restaurant and SaloonIt’s not often that I actually go to a restaurant within the first month of their opening and even more seldom do I bother to review it if I do. This is for several reasons…normally a new restaurant is just getting its culinary legs under it. The wait staff is still working on remembering the menu let alone procedures and are stressed out and harried, the kitchen has yet to perfect its processes and sauces are usually either bland or taste like someone had an accident with the spice jars and the place is usually mobbed by folks that get crankier by the second every minute they have to wait in the sweltering lobby crammed with too many people. Not my idea of a great dining experience.

Tonight was a little different.

On the way home from dropping the van off at the mechanics again (darn air conditioner), we decided to go out to eat. But where? Our little town is not known for being a culinary adventureland full of tasty treats and hidden gems. Instead we have one fancy restaurant that is WAY overpriced for it’s quality, a bunch of chain places like Chili’s, a couple of mom and pop spots, and a dearth of fast food. Boring doesn’t even begin to describe it. So there we are, crammed into our little truck, driving around considering and rejecting every restaurant we passed or could think of when Joel reminded me that the new Cool Hand Luke’s had just opened. I wasn’t really sure we should go (see above) but we decided to chance it.

First impression? Cozy and clean. Cool Hand Luke’s is a chain restaurant and it is themed, but they do it without beating you about the head and shoulders with it. The hostesses were friendly, neatly put together (thank goodness not in some horrible tasseled cowboy getup), and efficent. The lobby was a little crowded but not horribly so, there was still seating left on the super plush couches and it was COOL! Not freezing cold but perfectly chilled.

We were sat fairly quickly and placed our orders. Joel had their Santa Maria Tri-Tip and I ordered a bacon wrapped filet mignon. We also ordered an onion blossom (I’ve been missing these since Chili’s took them off their menu locally). The kids were incredibly excited to be able to choose from more adult fare including cheeseburger sliders, spaghetti and a kid sized steak dinner. They actually had quite a difficult time choosing!

Neither of us particularly enjoyed our soup and salad…they were a little blase, but honestly there’s only so much you can do with iceburg sometimes. It was decent though. The kids loved the sourdough rolls and really enjoyed checking out the decor while we waited for our entrees. Joel’s tri-tip was perfectly tender and flavorful and loaded with sauteed mushrooms and a fantastic side of garlic mashed potatoes. The kids entrees were all gargantuan (I mean, they all have hollow legs sometimes, but this was teenage football player sized portions! Great price on them though!!) and they enjoyed them and I’m sure they’ll enjoy their leftovers tomorrow. It was rather funny to see our oldest daughter try to figure out the bottle of ketchup…I never realized that she’s never used a glass bottle of Heinz until she started shaking it like mad over her plate trying to get the ketchup out. Too funny!

Unfortunately, the only damper to my evening was my entree. The bacon wrapped filet mignon arrived only half wrapped in bacon and with a side of “fancy greenbeans”. The beans rocked! They were still slightly crisp and had this great teriyaki sauce on them that wasn’t overwhelming, just a perfect compliment. The filet was absolutely awful. It was a little over medium, but not by much, so it was cooked passibly, but the meat quality was just downright bad…grainy and gritty. By the third bite of the thing, I was finished. If Joel’s had been the same quality, I must admit I would have just chalked them up as a place to skip, but his dinner was so incredibly succulent and everything else was so good that when our eagerly competent waitress Shellene returned, I actually did tell her that there was something wrong. She immediately got the manager and he was very apologetic, took it off our bill and offered to replace it with a different entree, but since we were basically done, I declined. No sense in making the kids wait.

So I got a bum steer (ha!) but occassionally that happens. Will we go back to Cool Hand Luke’s? Absolutely. But next time, I think I’ll try the prime rib…

Flourless Chocolate Cake at Mon Ami Gabi in Las Vegas

While we were in Las Vegas for BlogWorld, Karen, Michael Buechele and I had the chance to get out for an awesome dinner at Paris Las Vegas.   We chose French Bistro Mon Ami Gabi for appies, wine, an awesome steak dinner and dessert.  Here is Karen’s reaction to the (amazing) Flourless Chocolate Cake that she had for dessert.