ideas and inspiration

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.

Dinner:  January 11, 2008

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.

Dinner:  January 13, 2008

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.

Dinner:  January 14, 2008

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.

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