Thursday, February 11, 2016

The New Café Boulud at The Four Seasons Yorkville

Michelin-star chef Daniel Boulud’s newly renovated French Brasserie located in Toronto's Four Seasons Hotel in Yorkville, Café Boulud, serves a seasonally changing menu rooted in French tradition, highlighting both bistro classics and contemporary dishes inspired by Chef Daniel’s family meals in Lyon, executed with finesse by chef de cuisine and longtime Boulud protegé Sylvain Assié. The newly redesigned dining room by London-based designer Martin Brudnizki — acclaimed as one of the world’s top restaurant designers known for bringing a lived-in luxury to his projects — is comfortable and sophisticated with luxurious yet understated details like Hermès wallpaper, Ralph Lauren sconces, retro walnut panelling, mod Jaguar green and tan leather banquets and rich oxblood red 1950s-style chairs, which evoke a playfulness as well as elegance to the space, inviting guests to sit back and surrender to Daniel and Sylvain's rustic yet meticulously executed bistro classics.

Chef de Cuisine Sylvain Assié

The heart of the menu is traditionally French, offering dishes that both Chef Boulud and Chef Assié grew up with in the countryside of France, such as Quenelle de Brochet, northern pike with a cognac Nova Scotia lobster sauce; Boudin Blanc, truffled white sausage, caramelized onions, apple and mashed potatoes; Crispy skinned Confit de Canard, slow-cooked périgord style with sautéed potato and parsley salad; Frisée Lyonnaise with chicken livers, poached egg, lardons and sourdough croutons; and a selection of handsome Hand-Cut Tartares. Seafood, including a Plateau de Fruits de Mer featuring oysters, shrimp, clams, mussels and tuna tartare, is sourced from Canada's two coasts whenever possible and will rotate on the menu according to the season. Rotisserie is a star of the menu with slow-roasted chicken, lobster and potatoes cooked over the open flames of the restaurants prized Rotisol, made by the oldest rotisserie factory in France. Equally impressive is Café Boulud's emphasis on charcuterie with a program led by master charcutier Gilles Verot, with a selection of housemade terrines and pâtés. Desserts, such as the show-stopping Soufflé Grand Marnier with orange crème anglaise and the equally indulgent Dark Chocolate Profiteroles, are a sweet finalé to a delightful evening. “This menu is without a doubt very French in its that I like to eat and...that people will want to come back to enjoy again and again.”

Rotisserie cooked Poulet à la Broche served with potatoes and watercress salad

Roasted Chicken being basted with a bound brush of fresh rosemary, which makes it "à la broch"

Poulet à la Broche served table side in an attractive copper roasting pan with roasted potatoes and garnished with fresh peppery watercress

Sautéed Mushrooms and Supergreens Spinach are served in small copper pans,
as side dishes to the Poulet à la Broche

Plateau de Fruits de Mer comes with oysters, shrimp, clams, mussels and tuna tartare

A dozen PEI oysters served with fresh lemon and mignonette sauce

Charcuterie Board with house-made pickles and toasted sourdough

Creamy Soupe de Champignon garnished with croûtons and chives, one of three appetizers offered on the 2016 Winterlicious menu

Gigot d'Agneau with eggplant, grains, parsley salad and spiced yogurt, 
an entrée on the Winterlicious menu

Berries Sundae with vanilla crumble, berry compote, raspberry sorbet and yoghurt ice cream honey tile, a lovely light and fruity dessert on the Winterlicious menu

Grapefruit Givre with sesame halva, rose loukoum and grapefruit sorbet

Sylvain Assié pours warm dark chocolate sauce tableside, 
melting the chocolate dome to unveil the profiteroles hiding beneath

Tarte Fine aux Pommes with honey and Tahitian vanilla ice cream

Soufflé Grand Marnier with orange crème anglaise

Daniel Boulud's Gargantuan Gougères
Makes about 30
Recipe courtesy of Bar Boulud

1 cup milk
1 cup water
6 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups plus 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp Piment d’Espelette
4 large eggs
2 cups shredded Gruyère cheese
Fleur de sel and cracked black pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large saucepan, combine the milk with the water, butter and salt; bring to a boil over moderately high heat. Add the flour all at once with the Piment d'Espelette and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until the flour is thoroughly incorporated. Reduce the heat to low, return the saucepan to the burner and cook the gougère dough, stirring constantly, until the dough pulls away from the side of the pan, about 3 minutes.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and let stand at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until the dough cools slightly, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring briskly between additions to thoroughly incorporate each egg.
Drop 3-tablespoon mounds of dough onto the baking sheets, 2 inches apart. Top each round with 1 tablespoon of cheese; sprinkle with fleur de sel and pepper.

Bake the gougères for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350° and bake for 30 minutes longer, switching the baking sheets halfway through, until the gougères are puffed and browned. Turn off the oven, propping the door ajar with a wooden spoon. Let the gougères rest in the oven for about 30 minutes longer, until crisp on the outside but still steamy within. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Poulet à la Crème
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of Daniel Boulud

1 4-lb chicken, split in 4 or 8 pieces, with bones in
4 tbsp butter
2 medium onions, cut into 8 wedges each
25 button mushrooms, cleaned
2 tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups white wine
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/4 bunch chives
Salt and ground white pepper to taste

2 cloves garlic
5 peppercorns, crushed
3 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
3 stems each of parsley, chervil, and tarragon, leaves reserved

Generously season chicken pieces on all sides with salt and pepper, then tie sachet ingredients into a cheesecloth square and set aside. Heat a large pot or Dutch oven on medium-high and add 2 tablespoons of butter. Once the butter is melted, add the chicken and lightly brown on all sides. Add onion with another 2 tablespoons of butter to the pot and cook on medium-low heat for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms and cook for 3 more minutes, stirring. Sprinkle flour evenly over chicken, mushrooms, and onions, and cook, stirring until flour is dissolved and lightly colored, about 4 minutes.

Add wine to the pot, stir well, and simmer until liquid reduces by half. Add chicken stock and sachet, stir well, cover, and simmer lightly for 15 minutes. Remove and reserve the breasts in a warm spot and let the legs and thighs cook for another 15 to 20 minutes. Remove sachet and remaining chicken, and check sauce’s consistency — it should lightly coat the back of a spoon; reduce if necessary. Add cream, bring to a boil, then strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean pot, reserving the onions and mushrooms. Return mushrooms, onion, and all of chicken to the sauce to heat all ingredients through. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with chopped parsley, chervil, tarragon, and chives. Check seasoning, and serve with a warm rice pilau.

Daniel Boulud's Creamed Spinach
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of Daniel Boulud

6 tightly packed cups fresh spinach, about 6 ounces
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp unsalted butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the spinach and blanch until bright green, 30 seconds. Transfer the spinach to a bowl of ice water to cool. Drain, squeezing out the excess water. In a medium saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a simmer. Pour the cream into a food processor and add one-third of the spinach. Process to a smooth purée, then scrape into the saucepan. Add the remaining spinach and bring to a simmer, stirring. Stir in the butter, season with salt and pepper and serve.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Zuppa di Pesce: Italian Fish & Seafood Stew

Zuppa di Pesce is the ultimate expression of the bounty of the sea, said to have been invented by fishermen who in the days before refrigeration, needed a convenient way to prepare all the unsold bits and pieces of their daily catch. So why not throw them all together in a pot to simmer with some aromatics and water or, if you could afford, white wine? When the tomato became a central part of Italian cooking, especially in the south, many local variations of fish soup turned various shades of red. Of course, being a a country where the sea is rarely too far away, the products of the sea play a major role in its cuisine, so it's not surprising that zuppa di pesce, or fish soup, shares its origin with other regional Italian variations of seafood stews including Cacciucco from Tuscany, Brodetto di Pesce from Abruzzo, and other similar dishes found in coastal regions throughout the Mediterranean, from Portugal to Greece including the hearty Catalan Suquet de Peix, Bouillabaisse from Provence and San Francisco's Cioppino, born of Italian immigrant fisherman, many from Liguria, who settled in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood in the late 1800s. 

My Zuppa di Pesce is a "fishy" hybrid but starts with a spicy broth of fennel, leeks, spices, wine and tomatoes before layering in the clams, mussels, cod, squid, and shrimp. The seafood is quickly poached until just cooked then big bowls are served with plenty of garlic rubbed grilled baguette to sop up the broth. The key to this stew is to use “the day’s catch” so you make this your own using an assortment of your favorite types of seafood: I used plump Salt Spring Island Mussels, Savoury Clams and Ling Cod from BC, fresh Digby scallops and lobster claws from Nova Scotia, and jumbo shrimp and squid from Florida.

Zuppa di Pesce
Servs 6-8

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 leeks, washed and finely sliced
1/2 small fennel bulb, finely sliced
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 28-oz cans whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand, juices reserved
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup red wine
1/4 cup Pernod
1 8 oz bottle clam juice

1/2 lb firm flesh fish such as halibut, ling cod or salmon, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 lb mussels, scrubbed and bearded
1/2 lb manila clams, scrubbed
1/2 lb scallops
1 lb large large shrimp, peeled and deveined — but save the shells
1 lb cleaned squid, cut into 1/2' rings, tentacles halved

Grilled Bread:
1 French baguette
1 cup olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and cut in half

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the shrimp shells and tails until lightly browned and fragrant, about 7-8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the fried shells and heads and discard. 

Heat some oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, leeks, fennel, garlic, bay leaves, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper, then cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion and fennel are soft, about 12 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes with their juice, tomato paste, wine, clam juice, Pernod and 1 cup of water. Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring often, until the flavours meld, about 15 minutes. Stir in fish, mussels, clams, scallops and shrimp and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 2 minutes. Finally add the squid, cover, and cook until the mussels and clams open and the seafood is cooked through, about 5 minutes, discarding any mussels that don't open.

Meanwhile, cut the baguette into diagonal slices about 3/8-inch thick and place on a baking sheet. Bake in the oven at 475°F until just golden, about 5-8 minutes — watch carefully to make sure they don't get too brown. Remove the toasted bread from the oven, and using the fresh cloves of raw garlic, rub one side of each of the toasts. Next brush with a little olive oil and serve with the Zuppa di Pesce — delizioso!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Lima Bean & Tomato Stew with Squash & Tuscan Kale

A medley of antioxidant and nutrient rich ingredients makes this hearty vegetarian stew a healthy and comforting wintertime feast. Lima beans, also known as butter beans or chad beans, are very low in fat and contain no cholesterol, which is why they — and most other vegetables — play a key role in a heart-healthy diet. Named for the capital of Peru where they've been cultivated for more than 6,000 years, a serving of lima beans contains about 4% of the recommended daily value for protein and can be a big plus in a vegetarian diet when many protein sources are derived from animals. Enormously nutritious, Tuscan kale, also called cavolo nero, is more delicate and less bitter than other varieties, with a rounded, almost nutty flavour. A robust red wine and vegetable stock infused tomato broth anchors the stew with a soffrito of sautéed onion, garlic and fresh ginger browned in olive oil and then simmered with diced butternut squash, sliced mushrooms, lima beans and chopped kale for about 30 minutes until the flavours come together to a warm and inviting potage. Sprinkled with a little fresh grated pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano, this hearty stew is guaranteed to warm the 'cockles' of your heart — wherever they are!

Tuscan kale, also called lacinato or black kale, is more delicate than other varieties

Lima beans

Diced onion slivered garlic and missed ginger are sautéed in olive oil for 6-8 minutes

The onions are soft and translucent and the garlic sweet and fragrant

8-ounces of sliced button mushrooms are added and cooked until soft, about 4 minutes

The mushrooms are have softened and are just cooked through

The canned tomatoes, butternut squash, beans, red wine, bay leaves, hot chili sauce, and vegetable stock are added and brought to a boil then simmered for 20 minutes

The sliced Tuscan kale is then added and cooked another 10 minutes

The stew is now ready to be served

Lima Bean Stew with Tomatoes, Butternut Squash & Tuscan Kale

Serves 6-8

2 19 oz can cooked lima beans, drained and rinsed

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
1 cup diced onion 
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tsp grated ginger
8 ounces shiitake, cremini or button mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 bay leaves
4 cups vegetable stock
1 28 oz can San Marzano tomatoes
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 tsp Sambal Oelek hot chili sauce, or to taste
Freshly ground white pepper and kosher salt to taste
4 oz Tuscan kale, stems removed and leaves coarsely chopped
Fresh grated Parmigiana, for garnish

Set a large pot over medium heat and cook the onions, garlic and ginger in the olive oil and cook about 6 to 8 minutes. Turn the heat to medium high and add the mushrooms, cooking until golden brown. Add the squash, beans, bay leaves, canned tomatoes, red wine, Sambal Oelek, vegetable stock and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 20 minutes. Add the kale and cook another 10 minutes until the squash is cooked though but not mushy. Add a little more water or vegetable stock for a more liquid stew and season with additional salt and pepper if desired. Discard the bay leaves and serve the stew hot with some grated parmesan.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Year of the Monkey: Lettuce Wraps of Prosperity

Chinese New Year, which is based on the lunar calendar and marks the arrival of Spring, is an occasion steeped in rich traditions and meaningful celebrations. However, the Chinese don’t turn to resolutions to change their futures, they turn to food and an array of auspicious dishes known to ensure a fortunate beginning to the Lunar New Year. 2016 is the Year of the Monkey, and is celebrated with foods that symbolize luck, longevity and prosperity: dumplings symbolize prosperity as they are stuffed and folded, sealing in wealth, while long, unbroken noodles represent longevity, and lettuce wraps are commonly served because the Chinese word for lettuce - 'sang choi' - sounds like ‘rising fortune.’

These Asian-Style chicken lettuce wraps, known as Lettuce Wraps of Prosperity, are a delicious low-carb and gluten-free dish full of fabulous flavours and fresh Asian-inspired ingredients. Also called Chopped Rainbow in Crystal Fold, it was one of the house specialties at the 'Pink Pearl' on Avenue Road, before it closed its doors a number of years ago — crystal fold is the poetic Chinese term for lettuce, and chopped rainbow is the term for a colourful meat mixture. Designed to be enjoyed taco-style, minced chicken, pork or beef are stir-fried with diced water chestnuts, mushrooms, onions and garlic, then cooked in a fragrant soy, brown sugar and rice wine vinegar sauce. Served on a large platter with crisp iceberg lettuce leaves and an aromatic Asian pouring sauce on the side, these delicious Lettuce Wraps of Prosperity make a healthy and auspicious start to the Chinese New Year — Kung Hei Fat Choi!

Lettuce Wraps of Prosperity
Serves 4

Asian pouring sauce:
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup warm water
2 tbsp tamari or regular soy sauce
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp hot water
1 tbsp dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced

Stir-fry sauce:
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp rice wine vinegar

Chicken stir-fry:
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 lb ground chicken, turkey, beef, pork or Peking Duck
1 8 oz can sliced water chestnuts, minced to the size of corn kernals
1/2 cup cremini mushrooms, minced to the size of corn kernals
1/2 onion, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, minced fine
2 scallions, cleaned and chopped finely for garnish
6 large leaves of iceberg lettuce
1 handful Maifun rice sticks

For the rice sticks, place one to two inches of oil in a small sauce pot and heat over medium for several minutes. Break off a handful of rice noodles and drop into the pot, then immediately removing them to a paper towel lined plate when they puff up; set aside.

For the pouring sauce, dissolve sugar in 1/2 cup warm water in a small bowl, then add soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, ketchup, lemon juice and sesame oil. Mix well and chill in the fridge until you’re ready to eat. Just before serving, combine 1 teaspoons hot water with dijon mustard and garlic and mix in a small bowl. Add to the pouring sauce, 1/2 a teaspoon at time to taste.

Prep the stir fry sauce by mixing soy sauce, brown sugar, and rice vinegar in a small bowl. Then begin the stir-fry by combining the oils in a wok or large frying pan over high heat until it glistens, about one minute. Add the ground meat and sauté until it's mostly cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Turn the heat down to medium-high. Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan, wait one minute, and then add garlic, onions, water chestnuts, mushrooms, and the stir-fry sauce that was prepared earlier. Stir-fry everything until the mushrooms are cooked through, about 4 minutes, and then place in a serving dish. Add the crisp rice noodles at the end and toss well to incorporate. Garnish the dish with chopped scallions and serve with iceberg lettuce leaf wraps and bowl of pouring sauce on the side. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Guy's Super Bowl Sunday 5-Alarm Chili

Every year around Super Bowl Sunday, we make our annual batch of Five-Alarm Chili. It's a culinary tradition. A one pot wonder, this recipe makes enough for twelve hungry football fans, and any leftovers freeze wonderfully well for easy meals during the cold winter months. My husband is the one who actually takes charge of making this robust, full flavoured Five-Alarm Chili, although it can be tweaked for the faint of heart to a three or four-alarm blaze, if necessary. Spanish for 'chilis with meat,' this hearty and delicious recipe is made with both ground beef and mild Italian sausages, which are sautéed with garlic, cumin, chili powder, mustard, and herbs then simmered with tomato paste, wine, lemon juice, dill, parsley, kidney beans and black olives for about half an hour. Topped with a good dollop of sour cream, grated cheddar cheese, sliced spring onions and finished with fresh cilantro, this is comfort food with a kick. Go for a final touchdown with my friend Charles Kirby's famous Jalapeno Cheese Cornbread and a jug of your favourite Bloody Mary's. Go Panthers!

Guy's Super Bowl Five-Alarm Chili Con Carne
Serves 12

1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 lb yellow onions coarsely chopped
1 pound mild Italian sausages, removed from casings
4 lb ground beef
1 12 oz can tomato paste
2 tbsp minced garlic
1/3 cup ground cumin
4 tbsp chili powder
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 tbsp dried basil
2 tbsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tbsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
3 28 oz cans Italian plum tomatoes, drained
1/4 cup dry red wine
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
4 tbsp chopped fresh dill
4 tbsp chopped parsley
2 16 oz cans red kidney beans, drained
2 5 oz cans pitted black olives, drained

sour cream
cheddar cheese, grated
spring onion, chopped
red onion, finely sliced
avocado - optional

Heat the olive oil in a very large pot. Add the onions and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 15 minutes. Add the sausage meat and ground beef, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring until it's well browned. Spoon off as much excess fat as you can and discard. 

Stir in the tomato paste, garlic, cumin, chili powder, mustard, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes, wine, lemon juice, dill, parsley and kidney beans. Stir well and simmer, uncovered, for another 15-20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. Just before serving, add the olives and simmer for about 5 minutes more to heat through. 

Serve immediately with a dollop of sour cream, a sprinkle of grated cheddar and spring onions and garnish with fresh cilantro. Warm garlic bread or my friend Charles' fabulous Jalapeno Cheese Corn Bread also goes really well with the chili!

Charles Kirby's Jalapeno Cheese Cornbread
Makes 1 large pan or 12 single serving cornbreads

1 cup cornmeal
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup creamed corn
2 large eggs, beaten
2/3 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup shortening
1 cup sharp cheddar, grated
1/2 cup canned jalapeno peppers, chopped

Preheat oven to 350°F. Put shortening in a skillet and place in the oven until melted. Alternatively, you could use a muffin pan for single servings. Stir the dry ingredients in a bowl. Then stir the wet ingredients together in another bowl, except the jalapenos. Combine the wet and dry ingredients together, adding the jalapenos at the end. Pour the combined mixture into the heated skillet, or muffin pan, and bake 30-40 minutes, until puffed and golden. This is outrageously good and completely addictive. Cheers Charles!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Crow's Nest: A Venice Waterfront Landmark

A Venice waterfront landmark since 1976 with views overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, The Crow's Nest Marina Restaurant is one of the area restaurants that has been attracting a steady clientele since it opened 40 years ago. Originally a small seafood spot on the second floor of the Tarpon Centre Marina, The Crow's Nest serves a casual menu of local seafood and traditional Florida favourites, such as Seafood Bisque, Jumbo Crab Meat Cakes, Sesame Seared Ahi Tuna, fresh Florida Stone Crab, Seafood Pot Pie and the ever popular Florida Grouper Sandwich plus a selection of salads, burgers, cheese and charcuterie, with a relaxed casual Floriddean atmosphere and reasonable prices that's hard to beat.

The Crow's Nest has been attracting a steady clientele since it opened 40 years ago

The woody interior of the Crow's Nest with view over the intercostal

Originally known as "Horse & Chaise," homesteaders settled into the region in the 1860s and renamed it Venice in due to the number of canals that meander through its town centre

Iced Tea

Thick and creamy New England Clam Chowder

Fresh Florida Red Grouper Sandwich with frites

Seafood Pot Pie with wild Florida shrimp, fresh fish, salmon, and sea scallops with peas, onions, parsley and potatoes in a béchamel sauce, topped with puff pastry

Crow's Nest Roasted Squash, Apple & Onion Soup
Serves 8-10
Recipe courtesy of The Crow’s Nest 

2 medium Spanish onions
2 butternut squash
4 Granny Smith apples 
8 tbsp cold butter 
1/2 cup brandy
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock 
1 1/2 tbsp kosher salt
2 tsp white pepper
1/2 cup Gorgonzola cheese
1/2 cup Half & Half cream
Fresh chives, minced for garnish

Wrap the onions, skin and all, in aluminum foil and roast at 400°F for 1 hour. Cut the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and lay flat side down on oiled parchment paper. Roast at 400°F for about 45 minutes or until soft. Peel, core, and dice the apples. Sauté in 2 tablespoons of butter in large pot until soft, then add the brandy and cook for 1 minute. Scoop out the flesh of the squash and add it to the pot. Peel the onions, chop coarsely, and add to the pot. Add enough stock to cover by about 1-inch and simmer for 30 minutes.

Purée the soup with a hand-held immersion blender, and while the soup is blending, cube the remaining 6 tablespoons of cold butter and add them piece by piece until incorporated. Add salt and pepper to taste. Combine the gorgonzola and cream by blending in a food processor until smooth. Drizzle this Gorgonzola Crema over the soup and garnish with fresh minced chives.

The Crow’s Nest Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of The Crow’s Nest

3 lbs jumbo lump crabmeat
1 fl oz Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp ground Coleman’s mustard
2 tbsp minced Italian parsley
1 shallot, minced
1/4 cup mayonnaise
10 oz cracker meal
1/2 fl oz lemon juice

Mustard Crème Fraiche:
1 cup crème fraiche
1/2 cups Creole mustard
1/2 tbsp Old Bay seasoning

For the sauce, mix everything together, season with salt and pepper, and set aside. For the crab cakes, mix everything except crab and cracker meal in a large bowl. Gently fold in the crab, being careful not to break up the lumps, then mix in the cracker meal until the mixture is combined and just holds together. Using your hands, form the crab mixture into 4-ounce cakes, and sauté in heavy pan over medium heat with some olive oil and butter until they are nicely browned, about 4-5 minutes per side. Serve warm with bowl of mustard crème fraiche on the side.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Tommy Bahama Island Cuisine on St Armands Circle

Eclectic with a tropical twist, Tommy Bahama offers a warm and relaxed island ambience with a menu featuring fresh seafood and "Floribbean" classics from Caribbean Rubbed Mahi Mahi and Blackened Fish Tacos to Coconut Crusted Crab Cakes, Ahi Poke Napoleon to one of their decadent tropical desserts. Located St Armands Circle just south of Longboat Key, the best way to launch any visit to Tommy Bahama is to indulge in one of their mouth-watering tropical cocktails such as their Key Lime Martini, Pineapple Zuzu Mojito, Bahia Sangria or Rum Babalu. Legend has it that the founders sketched out the idea for Tommy Bahama on a cocktail napkin while sipping Pina Coladas on the beach, fashioning a philosophy of a relaxed and leisurely island lifestyle. True to their vision, Tommy's decor is rich and sophisticated — a fun 1940's faux-tropical island theme with rich warm wood furniture, cane and rattan finishes and wonderful tropical fabrics, complete with oversized wooden ceiling fans revolving gently overhead. 

A plump and perfect orchid

Tommy's menu of island favourites

A loaf of fluffy warm bread straight out of the oven

A big scoop of sweet butter melts into the warm bread

Garnished with fresh fruit, straw and maybe a paper umbrella, there's nothing better than a tall fruity cocktail at Tommy Bahama on St Armands Circle

The Tommy Bahama Mai Tai with Flor de Caña 4-year old rum, orgeat, orange curaçao, lemon, lime and pineapple juice with a dark rum float

The Classic Painkiller made with Pusser’s rum, cream of coconut, pineapple and orange juice 
garnished with grated nutmeg 

Blackened Fish Tacos with Island slaw, tomato relish, chipotle aïoli and lime sour cream

Seared Ahi Tuna with chili and brown sugar crust, vegetable succotash and wasabi-avocado purée

Tommy's decadent selection of homemade desserts

Brown Butter Blondie with toasted Macadamia nuts, white chocolate mousse, Hawaiian sea salt caramel and vanilla bean ice cream

Rum Babalu
Recipe courtesy of Tommy Bahama Restaurant

2 parts Kirk and Sweeney® 12 Year Rum
3/4 part fresh lime juice
1/2 part maple syrup
1 part ginger beer
1 dash of Angostura® bitters
1 orange, peeled for garnish

Add all of the ingredients in a shaker except the ginger beer. Add ice and shake well until chilled. Strain over fresh ice in an old fashioned glass, top with ginger beer and garnish with orange peel.

Ahi Poke Napoleon
Serves 8
Recipe courtesy of Tommy Bahama Restaurant

1/2 lb ahi tuna steak, cut into 1/4" x 1/4" cubes
8 tbsp baby microgreens, for garnish

Tuna Poke Dressing:
1/3 cup sesame oil
1/3 cup soy sauce
3/4 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
3/4 tbsp chipotle pepper paste
1 lime, halved and juiced
1 tbsp shallot, minced
4 tsp cilantro, washed and finely chopped
4 tsp parsley, washed and finely chopped
4 tbsp capers   

2 avocados, pitted, skinned and diced to 1/4"
1/2 cup yellow onions, finely diced
1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded and minced
1 cup ripe tomato, diced small
2 limes, halved and juiced
1/4 cup cilantro, washed and chopped
1/2 cup green onions, bias cut in 1/4" pieces
1 pinch cayenne pepper
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp coarse ground black pepper   

Whisk all of the tuna poke dressing ingredients together in a medium bowl then set aside, ensuring that it's stirred again before blending with the tuna. 

Gently fold together the guacamole ingredients in a medium bowl then place in a storage container, placing a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the mixture so that no air gets in until it's ready to serve.

In a large mixing bowl, gently mix the tuna and 8-ounces of the dressing and toss well to coat. To build the Ahi Poke Napoleons, place a 2-inch ring mold on a serving plate and spoon in about 1 1/2 oz of the guacamole, followed by 1 1/2 oz of the tuna, then 1 1/2 oz more of the guacamole, finishing with 1 1/2 oz of the tuna. Gently remove the ring, and repeat with the other plates. Garnish with  a few baby microgreens and crisp tortilla chips to taste.