Mac and cheese. It's a dish that inspires snark from many of us chefs. But honestly, I love it. From it's creation myth - in which Thomas Jefferson brought macaroni and parmigiano cheese back from Europe to create it - up to recent times, where the dish has morphed into multiple variations; the additions including bacon, truffles, alternative cheese to the classic cheddar, mustard, cream and even onions. Not long ago, I had a good batch at SFBI, while taking a course on baguettes. It reminded me that this is comfort food, simple, yet subtle, quite delicious. Here is my latest effort!
Recently I had the good fortune to meet Ruth Alegria, a former restaurant owner who now leads culinary tours to Mexico. When she posted a Facebook message recently about an event City Grit was hosting (to support chef Fanny Gerson who lost her Red Hook shop during Hurricane Sandy) I bought tickets. Fanny was cooking at City Grit, "a culinary salon" tucked away in a classic looking building that had once been a school, across from St. Patrick "Old" cathedral in Nolita.
Chef Gerson, petit and truly attached to Mexico, recounted a story about her Mexican nanny's shawl and the way it was held against her heart. It was this relationship, she believes, that first inspired her love for Mexican food and culture.
This Valentine's Day weekend I tried The John Dory Oyster Bar, a bustling restaurant run by English Chef April Bloomfields. I've been to April's other venue, The Spotted Pig, which she partnered with Ken Friedman. It was New York's first "Gastropub," which I've frequented a few times, but often find rather overcrowded, due to cramped seating. I wanted to see what else April could offer.
John Dory was a bit more spacious and a lot more interesting so far as choice. The focus is, of course, on fish. Its menu gives nods to other renknownedkitchens in England, and there's good service. There were a few slight kitchen gafs; octopus served with a touch too much salt and vinegar, lobster that was a bit overcooked. But overall it was good, and I hope to go back again soon. Here is what I had and saw.
Confectioner Gregoire Michaud is a godsend, his creations so deliciously gorgeous they inspire me to thoughts of layering my stomach with them. They also inspire me to want to make them at home! Which is what I did, after ordering his book. And that came after spending a cold winter day at home looking into my empty pantry and wishing for something chocolate and naughty.
Gregoire's remake of Nutella was exactly what I wanted on my newly baked challah. My adaption was based on what was available. Having no hazelnut praline paste, I opted for its American cousin, our honorable staple known as peanut butter. The recipe called for 70-percent chocolate. I admit for going with inexpensive Hershey chips, trying to cream them via my tiny Cuisinart, which sadly died, but not before I finally got the consistency that was needed. For punching up the taste, I added Espelette chilies, cinnamon, and a pinch of sea salt balanced it all out for me!