Friday, April 16, 2010

Blue Dahlia Bistro

Blue Dahlia Bistro

The last time I had super delicious open-faced sandwiches was in Vienna.  Ever since I heard about Blue Dahlia last year, I've been wanting to check out their yummy-sounding tartines. 

The ambiance is a mixture of Austin and Paris, which makes the experience quite charming.  Blue Dahlia bakes their own bread and makes the tartines from homemade whole wheat bread.

Mint Lemonade

I ordered the shrimp avocado tartine and had high hopes for it, but the taste fell flat.  If it weren't for the mango salsa, the tartine would be thoroughly bland.  The bread was too dense for the sparse amount of solid ingredients on the tartine.  I felt like I was eating 5 heavy chunks of wheat bread for lunch rather than dainty tartines or open faced Viennese sandwiches. 

I love nori and eat it all the time at home.  However, the nori does not work with the tartines.  The liquid from the salsa and salad leaked from the tartines and onto the nori before I touched anything so the nori was no longer crunchy.  This makes it very difficult and awkward to eat.  I tried tearing off pieces and putting on top of the tartine, but they didn't taste good together.  I tried eating the nori separately, but I gagged on a piece of nori triangle that I tore off because it was wet and clung to the roof of my mouth and slid to the back. 

Shrimp, avocado, roasted nori and tomato tartines with mango salsa

The bright side is that the ingredients are all very fresh and Blue Dahlia tries to use organic ingredients when available.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Prime Rib Roast

My family loves prime rib, but the amount of meat had always been too daunting to cook at home.  My parents wanted to see if we could finally overcome the fear of failure last weekend.  It turns out that roasting a prime rib is super easy!

5 lbs Prime Rib (5-6 servings)
Several Cloves of Garlic (sliced)
Red Wine (about a cup)

A day before cooking the prime rib, season the meat with salt, pepper, and thyme and refrigerate.  Take the prime rib out of the fridge 30 minutes before baking.  Pour red wine into a bowl with the prime rib, and use a knife to make slits to insert slices of garlic all over the meat.  Preheat the oven at 350 degrees Farenheit and let the ribs soak in the red wine until the oven is ready.  Set the meat bones side down on a rack with a pan underneath to catch the drippings, and bake for about 2 hours for medium well to medium rare.

5 lbs Prime Rib

Medium Well-Medium Rare Prime Rib

I made mashed red potatoes with mushroom brie and bacon and a simple mushrooms, onions, and bacon side simmered in red wine.  I also heated a can of Albert Menes Sauce Perigueux aux Truffes to ladle onto the sliced prime rib.

Sauce Perigueux aux Truffes; Simmered Mushrooms

Pre-Easter Pot Luck Dinner

Three's Co. (Jamie, Marc, and Shu) hosted another holiday pot-luck for pre-Easter.  We followed Food Network's "Best-Ever Easter Dinner" menu loosely and came out with another smashing meal.

I volunteered to bring a version of Sunny Anderson's Red, White and Blue Mashed Potatoes.  Instead of gorgonzola, I used mushroom brie and added quite a few more cloves of garlic.

Boiling Red Potatoes and garlic; Mushroom Brie

Mashed Red Potatoes with mushroom brie and bacon

Easter Dinner

Shu made Mario Batali's Strawberry Bellini.

Strawberry Bellini

Jamie used her own deviled eggs recipe, which were delicious!  I was very sad that I only ate one that evening.

Deviled Eggs by Jamie

I made a salad adapted from Anne Burrell's Mixed Green Salad with Parmigiano Chips.  I tossed the greens in Annie's Pomegranate Vinaigrette with tomatoes and sprinkled sliced almonds and topped each plate of salad with Parmigiano chips.

Mixed Greens with Parmigiano Chip

Bread Maiden (Hadyn) made a delicious loaf of honey bread.

Hadyn's Honey Bread

Kevin cooked Central Market Ham in pineapple juice.

Ham Cooked in Pineapple Juice

Grilled Garlic Mushrooms and Asparagus

My Plate

Marc made a devilishly tart key lime pie from scratch. 

Key Lime Pie

Friday, April 2, 2010

Z'Tejas Spring Menu Tasting

Z'Tejas is bringing out their Spring menu, and I was more than happy to sample the dishes.  My parents have lived in Texas for 16 years already, and it's sad to say that they aren't really acquainted with Tex-Mex or Southwestern cuisine.  My parents have sharp tongues so I can't wait them to try Z'Tejas.  I find the dishes pretty fail-proof especially to the palates of beginners to Southwestern food. 

Hibiscus 'Rita

I just had Pappadeaux's crab and spinach dip the day before the tasting, so I wasn't very enthusiastic about having crab and spinach dip for my very next meal.  However, I found that Z'Tejas's crab and spinach dip is much more generous with the lump crab, and they're not afraid to show the amount of it piled on the dip.  The dip itself also has a zing to it (probably the spices and bacon) that makes the dip addictive.  The fry bread actually goes really well with the dip!

Chips and Fry Bread

Crab Spinach Skillet with red and green peppers and toasted bacon gratin

Next, came the flat iron steak, which the general manager said was the most tender part of beef second to the tenderloin.  I'm not sure if the steak should be paired with the nopalitos salad as the steak cooled quickly on the salad.  I prefer good steak to be whole rather than sliced into thin strips and warm instead of cold.

Iron Steak Nopalitos Salad with red tomatoes, cilantro, roasted peppers, onions, cotija cheese, and jicama in shallot vinaigrette

My family has an aversion to chicken breast.  Mom and dad compare chicken breast to wood.  I read a Melissa Clark article in the New York Times about finding ways of cooking chicken breast without drying out the meat and how almost every chef prefaced their remedies with "I hate chicken breast" or "Why would you want to eat chicken breast?"  I don 't quite dislike chicken breast as much as my parents, but I don't adore it because it's rarely prepared well.  When I saw the the tequila chicken pasta on the menu, I thought that it would rank at the bottom of the Spring menu, but it turned out to be quite delicious.  The chicken wasn't too dry, and it worked well with the lightly creamy pasta. 

1800 Silver Tequila Chicken on angel hair pasta with tomato sauce, roasted poblano peppers, onions, corn, and cotija cheese

The seared scallop with cantelope salad is the highlight of the Spring menu.  The sweetness of the scallops is enhanced by the refreshing cantelope, corn and avocado salad.  The scallops aren't very well browned on the top and bottom.  That could really bring this dish up a notch.  I noted how fresh the scallops tasted and learned that Z'Tejas flies in fresh seafood.  I also learned that everything is made from scratch except ketchup and mayo, which the general manager says sets Z'Tejas apart from other chains.  I wonder if they make their own tortillas.  My friend, Greg, is big on made-from-scratch tortillas.

Seared Scallops with basil pesto, roasted corn polenta, sweet cantelope, corn and avocado salad

The pan seared tilapia was well-seared, but it could use more spice or flavor.  It was a bit on the bland side.  But the fish was very fresh.

Pan Seared Tilapia with grilled shrimp, spinach, zucchini and chipotle sauce

I wasn't sure if I would like the Navajo taco because it looked like just a bunch of stuff piled onto a plate, but this was a surprising hit.  The fried spinach was fun to eat and the chicken was sweet and flavorful.  The ingredients came together well.

Z' Classic Navajo Taco with mole verde chicken on a Navajo fry bread with crunch fried spinach, green chile rice, black beans, roasted peppers, salsa fresca, chipotle and sour cream

To my fellow graduate students, I propose that we hit their happy hour soon!  I can't wait to try the catfish beignets and I'm curious about the cast-iron skillet dumplings!

Pappadeaux: Crawfish Season!


My mom heard from her co-worker about Pappadeaux's $3.95 per pound crawfish special on Mondays and Tuesdays starting at 5 PM from now until April 27th.  It didn't take us long to plan an evening of crawfish eatin'!

Watermelon Lemonade

We decided that eating a couple pounds of crawfish wouldn't be filling for dinner, so we ordered the crab and spinach dip and a dozen oysters with two stone crab claws. a couple of pounds of crawfish probably isn't filling, but 10 pounds for 3 people definitely is!  We were bursting from the seams after dinner.

Crab and Spinach Dip with Garlic Bread

Oysters and Stone Crab Claws

The only bad thing I have to say about the crawfish is that we had to throw out a lot of the dead-before cooked crawfish.  You can tell by the color of the shell and the meat--blackish, thin shelled, tough meat.  You don't want to try and eat that lest it ruins your appetite.  The fresh ones are sweet and plump. 

2 lbs of Boiled Crawfish

Dad with 10 lbs of Crawfish at the Table

Dessert Trio: Bread Pudding, Sweet Potato Pecan Pie a la mode, and Creme Brulee