Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bussaco: Premature Review

A new restaurant has moved in across the street from the Park Slope Food Coop (an organization of which I am a member, and yes, I know, they should have a hyphen: co-op =hippy sharing organization, coop=chickens). Previously in its space was The Black Pearl, a sort of vaguely Irish (maybe?) vaguely bistro-y place where I had bad mimosas once. Anyway, it's great to have something else there, and it was getting a little press, so I decided to make the SEVEN BLOCK trip to Union and check it out.

I read somewhere that they changed chefs about two weeks in and are going to "gradually transition the menu," or some such rhetoric. The point is, because the restaurant is new and in the middle of a shake up, I'm going to wager that experiences in the next few weeks will vary widely.

First things first, the cocktails are fab, AND the wine list/cocktail menu has a helpful graph in place of a table of contents. Everyone loves a graph. I had a Marconi (kind of like a Negroni but with prosecco and a Campari cousin) v. good; one of my friends had a cider martini which was good as far as girly drinks go, and another friend had a Rye Manhattan that I REALLY recommend.

This place takes drinking seriously, as evidenced by a picture of their bar.

The chef change became readily apparent when we heard the specials from our lovely waiter. He described something called "Testa" that was a pork puree--now anyone with Italian 101 knows "testa" means "head." When I called him out on trying to cover up the fact that he was describing "head cheese" (I'm a bitch, I know), he came back with the spiel that it's respectful to eat the whole animal or some coop/foodie bull. Anyway, I ordered it, and it was wonderful--a little crispy, healthily salted, and the lightly poached egg on top was just the right simple accompaniment. Other, more "normal" firsts came from the regular (old?) menu, but all were equally delicious, if less "adventurous."

The entrees, all from the menu, were generally simple affairs: thinly sliced duck with spaetzel and brussels sprouts (which google just told me there's an "s" on), steak with mustard greens and scallops in a white pepper--pear "gastrique" (ok, that's kinda fancy). All of these dishes were really very nice and well executed, but seemed a little too simple after the fireworks show that the appetizers put on. One friend, a vegetarian-ish person, was disappointed with her pappardelle and beets. I think it needed lemon...or something. Anyway, it was obviously a throwaway, obligatory vegetarian dish, and I'm not sure you can get away with that in the Slope, guys.

Desserts were rather lackluster, but maybe new chefie hasn't got around to it yet. For the time being, I recommend you let the sommelier guide you to an after-dinner scotch or one of their good selection of dessert wines.

As an added bonus, the restaurant was baby-free when I went (yess!), but the squishy booths could be seen as kid friendly...maybe...kids like that shit right?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Gadgets: Immersion Blender

I think Mario Batali said that any chef worth his or her weight in flour could make any dish with a basic stove, pan and spoon--or something to that effect. Well, sure, Mario, if I had all freakin' day and someone was paying me millions to endorse their pan, I probably could cook pretty much anything with those things. But really, why would I? And, more philosophically, why is it somehow more "pure" or "worthy" or impressive if I spend an hour and all of my energy hand-whisking egg whites? Mario, this is the future: we don't have to work so hard anymore! People in the future are busy! There are blogs to read, reality tv to watch, segues to ride. We do not have time for your grandmother's methods.

I love kitchen gadgets. And, as you can tell, I've got their back in this fight. I collect them like precious moments dolls collect dust. One of my favorites is the Immersion Blender. This guy is especially useful for making soups. Lots of recipes tell you to smooth out your soup by pouring it into the regular blender in batches. Um, guys, that is messy! And soup is hot! Bad idea. When pureeing soup, this guy is your friend:

Right there I am making "Azteca Butternut Squash Soup" which is basically butternut squash soup with black beans and red pepper in it. The base of the soup is the squash and tons of onion and celery. After that softens up, those three ingredients get blended. Now, I don't think the Aztecs had blenders, immersion or otherwise, but they were pretty smart, so they probably just programmed a sundial to do it or whatever. Or else, the name of the soup is just something made up by Bon Appetit to make it sound better. Shocking. Anyway, here's the soup post-blend:

Looks awesome, right? It was. And I didn't even have to spray soup all over my counter tops and myself to get it that way. Or squash it with my feet, like Mr. Batali would apparently have me do. Jerk.

Oh and here's a tip: My mom got one of these and immediately decided she hated it because it sprayed tomato sauce all over her sweater. It's called an IMMERSION blender. You have to IMMERSE it in the soup/sauce if you want it to work. K?