This week, it’s all about Mardi Gras, Super Bowl Sunday, and heart-shaped cheese.
(Easy Tiger King Cake)
IN WASHINGTON, D.C.:
New Orleans native chef David Guas once again plays host to the annual Bayou Gras Block Party at Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery at Hill Center on Mardi Gras, February 9. Bringing a tasteful bit of the Big Easy to Capitol Hill, the event promises a live band, party tents, food specials, cocktails, and more. And feel free to bring the kids, because there won’t be any topless debauchery here; in fact, kids 12 and under eat free. From 6:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m., attendees can enjoy their choice of three different dishes for $30, with options including jambalaya, crawfish Monica, gumbo, and “muff-a-lottas.” Additionally, everyone can enjoy complimentary pralines and king cake slices. To drink, adults can enjoy three cocktails for $25 (leave the car at home, maybe) from a pop-up bar, or three Abita draft beers for $15. Snag tickets here: BayouBakeryDC.com
IN NEW ORLEANS:
In other New Orleans news, the city itself has much to celebrate these days from historic restaurants and chefs. For one, the venerable Brennan’s restaurant is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year with a miscellany of specials ALL. YEAR. LONG. Terry White, chef Slade Rushing (we’ll leave the fact that his name sounds like a superhero alter ego for another day), and third-generation restaurateur Ralph Brennan are doling out reinvented renditions of Brennan’s classics from early menus. One dish is to be featured each month, along with an original cocktail creation, both of which will be available at breakfast. This month, it’s crabmeat Lundi Gras, appropriately, made with green asparagus, jumbo lump crab meat, cherry tomato, radish, and French dressing. The cocktail of the month, meanwhile, is the absinthe-based “Ojen” Frappe. Next month, the series continues with Veal 417, a dish of paneed veal cutlet, crab meat hollandaise, and fresh parsley, followed by hearts of palm salad in April.
Elsewhere in New Orleans, The Southern Food & Beverage Museum is the proud new owner of late chef Paul Prudhomme’s impressive collection of approximately 600 cookbooks. This guy was basically the Cajun male version of Julia Child in terms of legacy and industry impact, so this is kind of a huge deal. For a taste of history, hit up the John and Bonnie Boyd Hospitality and Culinary Library at the museum.
Nothing like a little kitchen camaraderie to whet the foodie appetite. Culinary celeb and all-around jovial character Kevin Gillespie has brought back his “Hired Guns” chef series for the year. Along with comrade Joey Ward, the duo at Gunshow are welcoming different esteemed chefs from all over the country to take over their kitchen for two nights (Sunday and Monday, nights when Gunshow is normally closed) and cook whatever their heart desires. Fellow culinary god Bryan Voltaggio kicked off this year’s series January 31 and February 1, with five more events to come. On March 13 and 14, it’s Vishwesh Bhatt of Snackbar in Oxford, Mississippi; Brian Baxter from HUSK in Nashville takes the reins May 22 and 23; Kenny Gilbert of Gilbert’s Underground Kitchen in Fernandina Beach, Florida, is on hand June 12 and 13; and Vivian Howard of Chef & the Farmer in Kinston, North Carolina, commands the kitchen on October. There’s also one more surprise chef to be announced. There’s only seating for 100 guests each night, to keep things intimate, so be sure and make reservations ASAP.
After the holidays, I’m pretty much done with cranberries and I don’t want to see them anywhere near me for the next 10 months. But then again, I might make an exception for the delicious-sounding cranberry stout courtesy of Cincinnati’s Orchids at Palm Court, which just released its fourth collaboration beer with Blank Slate Brewing Company. Now available for a limited time at the restaurant, at The Bar at Palm Court, and at the Blank Slate Brewing Company PourHouse, the beer is called Orchids Repose, and it’s a dry English stout with a lot of quenching promise. Drink up!
Speaking of drinking, here’s a holiday I can get behind: February 6 is National Pisco Sour Day, which is basically Christmas for ardent fans of South American brandy. There are lots of good places to get your fill, but one I’d recommend is the sesame-infused version courtesy of SUSHISAMBA in Miami. The pan-Latin hot spot was even gracious enough to share the goods and provide a recipe for their Sesame Sour made with Japanese whiskey, sugar, egg white, and toasted sesame:
1.5 oz. Hibiki 12-year whisky
.75 oz. lemon juice
.75 oz. sugar syrup
1 tsp. toasted black sesame oil
black sesame seeds
Place all ingredients in a shaker and dry shake (no ice) for approximately 10 seconds or until the oil and egg white have emulsified completely.
Add a large scoop of ice and re-shake.
Double-strain into rock glass with cubed ice.
Garnish with a light dusting of black sesame seeds.
Right in step with Mardi Gras and all the decadent, traditional dishes therein, Easy Tiger is here with their famed king cakes. People wait all year for these traditional cakes, and rightfully so. They’re more colorful than Esmerelda in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (not sure why that’s my point of reference for garishly colored items, but it is) and more buttery than a croissant. Made with pain au lait dough and a generous amount of cinnamon sugar, these are cakes like no other. Whoever finds the plastic baby tiger inside the cake has to throw the next party, per Easy Tiger, and that's legally binding. Do with that what you will, just bite carefully. Cakes are available via special order through February 9 with 48 hours notice. They’re $18 per cake and orders can be placed by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 512-614-4972.
With National Commercial Day (aka the Super Bowl) coming up this weekend, everyone’s got chicken wings on the mind. But if you’re gonna impress your house guests, you gotta step up your game. Take a cue from Kirstyn Brewer, chef of Dallas’ Victor Tangos, who’s provided a recipe for her Japanese-style chicken wings. These should do the trick:
12 whole chicken wings
1 cup potato starch
1 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 diced jalapeño
½ tbsp. furikake seasoning
½ cup dark soy (tamari)
¼ cup mirin
¼ cup fish sauce
1 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp powdered chicken base
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
Add all sauce ingredients to a pot and simmer until sugar is dissolved and sauce is reduced to a syrupy consistency. Set aside.
Season wings with salt and let sit for about 30 minutes. Dust them with potato starch, making sure to knock off any extra.
Fry the wings at about 300 degrees for 8-10 minutes. They should be just about cooked through but not very dark on the outside.
Chill wings. Bring temperature up to 375-400 degrees. Fry wings again for about 4-5 minutes or until they are hot and crispy.
Quickly toss the hot wings in the sauce until they are well coated. Add jalapeño, cilantro, and furikake and toss to coat.
Serve right away with lime wedges for garnish.
IN SAN FRANCISCO:
Valentine’s Day is more delicious when paella is involved. And the restaurant serving it doesn’t care about Valentine’s Day really. The Commissary in San Francisco is a breath of fresh air this year, what with it’s “Not” Valentine’s Day menu available February 13. The menu consists of a three-course chef’s tasting menu for $110 per couple, plus an additional $35 per person for optional wine pairings. Guests choose from three paellas for their meal: the Commissary Paella with rabbit, chorizo, and Burgundy snails; the Valentine Paella with lobster, artichoke heart, haricots verts, and black truffle; and the Early Spring Vegetable Paella with green garlic, fennel, and wild mushrooms. For reservations, call 415-561-3600.
In other offbeat Valentine’s news, Cowgirl Creamery has a very special cheese lined up as part of their Valentine’s Day Collection. It’s called the Heart’s Desire cheese, and it’s a precious heart-shaped triple cream cow’s milk cheese. It’s joined by Shepherdista from Bleating Heart Creamery, Piper’s Pyramid goat’s cheese dusted with paprika, and chocolate cacao nib shortbread cookies courtesy of Rustic Bakery. That heart-shaped cheese is the only heart-shaped thing worth eating this year. Order the collection online or snag it at Cowgirl’s Ferry Building store.