Sitting down with this stack of books and magazines, flipping through them, sketching out a menu for the week and beyond, well, it’s about all that has kept me sane over the last few days. A health scare for a beloved family member and an extremely busy period at work have had me frazzled, the end result being that I haven’t spent much time actually cooking. On the upside, we had a great time hanging out with old friends and new over the weekend, and we ate more meals out over the course of 3 or 4 days than we probably had in the entire month prior. I’m itching to cook more, but I must say this break has definitely provided me with some culinary inspiration.
I promised you guys a rundown of my lunch at Le Bernardin, and as expected it was a fantastic experience. The meal began with a starter of lightly smoked salmon rilletes for the table. My first course was a plate of six perfect raw oysters, ranging from teeny tiny and briny to big and plump and sweet, followed by a gorgeous main course of Florida grouper with shiso and maitake mushrooms in a lemon-miso broth. My boss likes to make sure I get the “full experience” when we go out to these lunches, so I was able to sample his selections as well – his first course of super-sweet peekytoe crab and entrée of red snapper in a ginger and scallion broth were also just wonderful. To go along with our lunch, we had a bottle of 2005 Shafer Red Shoulder Chardonnay, a really lovely and complex wine. The food and drink were amazing, the service was top-notch, and it was really a special experience I am grateful to have had. I came away with some fun ideas for future seafood dinners.
As for the rest of our weekend, Mike did the heavy lifting where dinners were concerned. On Friday night, he put together a delicious rendition of Fergus Henderson’s braised duck and carrots from “The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating,” then on Sunday he seared a couple of grass-fed ribeyes and made a batch of fries to go alongside. My contribution to the meal was inspired both by the dish I had at Sweetwater Tavern on Thursday night, as well as by a recent Blue Kitchen post – a bright and tasty chimichurri sauce which was a perfect foil for our rich steaks.
I decided to put together a big batch of Bolognese sauce on Sunday and let it cook all afternoon while Mike and I did other things around the house, and as it turned out, it was a good thing I did. My workweek has been extremely busy, so while I wasn’t able to prepare the meal I had planned for Monday night, we didn’t have to scramble for a plan B – I just reheated some of the sauce (to which I added a healthy dollop of ricotta and the rest of a batch of pesto I made last week), cooked up some pasta and had dinner on the table in no time.
Not the prettiest dish in the world, but curling up with a glass of Barbera d’Alba and a rich and meaty dish of pasta at the end of a 13+ hour day was just what I needed.
It’s entirely possible that I’ll be eating takeout at my desk tonight as we finish up this big project, but once we’ve finished I look forward to going through my cookbooks and magazines and my little red notebook and getting back in the kitchen to take some of these recipes and ideas for a spin.