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Archive for April, 2008

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We went to BLT Steak for Sandeep’s birthday dinner. Steakhouse dinner invitations come my way infrequently (hmmm), so I thought I should scope out the scene.

Tanned people with nary a golden lock out o’ place milled around the bar, where we waited for 20 minutes despite being on time for our 8:45 reservation. We eventually got seated at a round table (always a plus) in the enormous dining room where the walls, ridged with angular siding, created an atmosphere reminiscent of a furniture showroom.

My friends all ordered steaks (1 medium, 3 medium rare) while I had the much more interesting and varied task of selecting the sides. I choose:

Stuffed Mushrooms: The breadcrumbs were deep-fried and their oiliness distracted from what could have been a meaty (ha!) dish that better complimented the juicy and absorbent qualities of mushrooms.

Parmesan Gnocchi: Delicious. I wish I had gotten a sharper picture of this snowy pile of Parmesan and the lovely clouds of gnocchi bathing in a cream sauce underneath. A little rich? Certainly… :)

Onion Rings: I realize that onion rings are very much a matter of personal preference. BLT’s looked funny, a congealed fried tower. I liked my first bite a lot but these onion rings did not stand up to the test of time- the tempura-esque batter became rapidly soggy from the weight of the oil.

Creamed Spinach: I was curious, never having eaten “creamed spinach.” Yummy! It tasted just like saag paneer from an Indian restaurant, minus all the spices.

My question, which I posed to my dinner companions and to the waiter, was, why are these steak sides so rich? People always talk about how filling steak is; my friends couldn’t manage more than two bites of the sides because they were stuffed from their entrees. I imagined that tomatoes and onions, or asparagus dressed in a light lemony butter would be more appropriate steak sides both for the contrast in taste and weight. But the waiter and my friends and Wikipedia told me that steak is traditionally served with starchy sides.

For dessert we ordered the chestnut chocolate sundae (see previous post for a full-length picture), beautifully presented in a tall skinny glass with whipped cream and a cherry on top, in which fleshy, sweet chestnuts and crunchy candied ones were hidden between scoops of chocolate ice cream and thick chocolate fudge. Delightful Decadence!

And finally, we ordered the peanut-butter chocolate mousse with banana ice cream but Sandeep ate most of it himself, not realizing it was one of the desserts we’d ordered to share. He had been silently working on his cake for so long that finally one of the other boys turned to him and said, Sandy, you’ve been quiet. How’s that cake? “Oh man, guys, this is the most incredible chocolate cake I’ve ever had- I was just thinking- you guys should really try some.” Waq, tasting his first bite, was like, “Sandy this is the mousse we ordered!…and you ate the whole thing.” And so we each got a lick of what remained.

Onion rings, spinach: $9; mushrooms: $10; gnocchi: $10; dessert: $10
Bistro Laurent Tourondel Steak is at 106 East 57th street, New York, NY.

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A couple weekends ago, we threw a Gnome party to celebrate the coming of spring. Anthony and I did extensive gnomic research and learned that gnomes 1. live in forests 2. are happy-go-lucky vegetarians and 3. like melancholy tales. We thought they sounded just like us.


[Art by Elana Snow.]

We slipped some spring sweetness into beer by adding a dash of lemonade to make radler, a German drink of wheat beer and lemonade. Alongside, we served some forest morsels. First was a bowl of Garlicky Sesame-Cured Broccoli Salad with a box of toothpicks nearby for people to pick their little tree of choice.

It’s a simple recipe that calls for marinating raw broccoli in a toasty dressing of sesame oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and cumin for at least 2 hours and up to 48 hours. The results of all that time soften the broccoli until it’s popping with warm, juicy flavors. It’s surprising how good- and popular- this salad was.

We also made Cinnamon Cupcakes with Chile-Chocolate Buttercream Frosting. Above is a picture of the cinnamon, ancho chile powder, cayenne, and vanilla extract splattered onto the butter and sugar batter.

They were awesome. The cinnamon cake base was only slightly sweet, just as I like it, and worked perfectly with the spicy and totally intriguing chocolate buttercream. These might be my favorite cupcakes ever.

So, Elana is our artist-in-residence and one of the most wonderful people ever. We met freshman year of college when we were both assigned to the Gildersleeve (…just like Gryffondor) house in AMR II. Elana lived with Malka and I lived downstairs with a vegan girl.

Long story short, I liked cheese and needed someone to eat it with, so our friendship bloomed. E and I lived together junior and senior year which was maybe the loveliest time ever. Anyway, Anthony and I spend way too much time discussing how much we appreciate Elana, and then he had the great idea to ask her to draw decorations for our party.

She was busy all week and had to be in NH the day before our party but brought a bag of markers on the train to make the posters. She said, “I was on the train and I started to draw gnomes. But plain and simple gnome drawings just bored me to tears. I kept looking at their cute little wise gnome faces and thought ‘I wonder which issues are important to gnomes. If a gnome were to run for president, what would his platform be?’ And then I became completely obsessed with the idea of a gnome election. It really took off from there.”

These posters have a permanent place on the wall above our couch. Thanks, Elana!

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I’ve been having a difficult time writing. I’ve started about 6 different posts but I can’t finish any of them. Blah. It’s frustrating. Oh, a sneak peak. One post is on the delicious mead at Sunset Tap and Grill, in Allston, MA. One’s about Gnomes, Cupcakes, and Marinated Broccoli! One’s on waffles in the LES. Then a review of a Sri Lankan restaurant. And some finds: a pretty platter of paneer tikka, and excellent biryani, both in the city. Now that I’ve admitted I’ve started all these posts, maybe I’ll actually finish them?

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Lately, all I’ve wanted to eat is South Indian food…and fruits, and daal. What’s happening to me?

I’ve mentioned Saravanaas a bunch on this blog. I first ate there with my parents a little over a year ago when I moved to the city, and then I took a friend there for his birthday because I liked it so much. After that I went back a few times but grew disillusioned after a series of cold dosas and started visiting other South Indian restaurants in the area. Then Sandhya told me that I should give Saravanaas another try, but she recommended I go before the lunchtime rush to ensure hot dosas. So last week I went for brunch on Saturday and then this Friday I went again for an early dinner, both off-peak times. Lo and Behold, my food was piping hot.

pillow iddlys

On Friday we started with these steaming idli, round, pillow-like patties of rice and lentil batter. Excellent. We marveled at their perfect softness that never dissolved into mush upon impact with saliva. These were served with a bowl of hearty sambar and three chutneys- a wet, garlicky tomato and onion chutney, a thicker, milder coconut chutney, and the grassy coconut-coriander chutney. Alongside the sambar was a small dollop of a fiery paste with a gritty texture. Called groundut paste, it tasted of sesame and the tiniest smear of it was enough to add a hot bite to the sambar soaked iddlys.

Next we ordered these suckers, the potato bonda. Despite a deceiving appearance, their skin was not as crispy as we had hoped, and the filling, though tasty, was the same turmeric-tinged potato masala that we would eat later in our dosas. Overall, they were a little boring.

These two scoops of rava kichidi tasted like the upma my mother often makes at home. While she uses ground cream of wheat instead of the longer grains, her method of preperation- roasting the grains and then sauteeing them with mustard, onions, green chiles, peas, and sometimes carrots- is the same as Sarvanaas’s. My mother’s upma and Sarvanaas’s rava kichidi are creamy, savory porridges with roasted, comforting flavors.

Mmmmm. My Mysore Masala Dosa with Onion. I ordered the same dosa for breakfast and dinner because I liked it so much. The cooks at Saravanaas spread a thin layer of the potato masala and and hot mysore spices all around the interior of the dosa as well as spooning a large portion of the potatoes in the middle of the dosa, so that each bite is coated. The raw red onions scattered over the masala are sharp and delicious.

We ordered beer as an afterthought, while waiting for our entrees, and then struggled to finish them, especially because our entrees arrived at the same time as the alcohol. I ordered the Kingfisher for old time’s sake- I celebrated my 21st birthday at the Pizza Hut in Jaipur with my study abroad friends and Kingfishers- but after tasting the two beers side by side, I definitely liked the Taj better.

So, I think I could eat South Indian food everyday while this phase lasts, but I need to find someone who has as high an appetite for the food as I do. I find it so much more palatable than Punjabi food, but a friend disagrees, saying that South Indian food contains too much dry heat for him. I prefer that crispy heat, folded over some potatoes and dunked into sambars bobbing with vegetables and smeared with messy, thick chutneys. Saravanaas for breakfast, anyone?

Idli: $3.95; Potato bonda: $3.95; rava kichidi: $4.95; Mysore masala dosa: $8.95; beer: $8!
Saravaanas is at the corner of 26th and Lexington. (212) 679-0204.

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At least April showers bring May flowers.

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