Lobster Risotto

Dining date: 2/26/12

lobster risotto5

When I first started to cook sous vide at home, one of the things I wanted to make was lobster. Like most seafood, it can be a bit challenging for me to prepare since it’s so easy to overcook. With sous vide, I could ensure it would be cooked perfectly each time. I really like seafood risotto, so I decided to pair the lobster with the rice dish. It would be an ideal way to use the whole lobster too, since the body/shell could be turned into a stock for the basis of the dish.

To start with, I purchased a 3+ pound live lobster. As far as I can remember, I’ve never handled a live lobster. In fact, I think this is the first time I’ve had to dispatch anything live for consumption. I’ve read and seen that the quickest, most humane way to kill a lobster is with a knife through the middle of the head; when contemplating that, I felt it was too…direct. So I decided to go with the boiling water method, blanching the lobster for just a minute or two. In short, it had a slow-ish death; I immediately regretted it and was completely disturbed. I hate to say it, but I like to stay removed from the whole process of killing one’s own food.

live lobster

Once blanched, I regained my composure and took apart the lobster by twisting the tail off and pulling off the claws and legs. I removed all of the still-raw meat and cut up the shells in order to make a lobster stock. The sight of the whole tail was something else – conjuring up some willpower, I abstained from turning the tail into a lobster sashimi on the spot.

lobster

raw lobster tail

The shells were sauteed, adding celery, onions, carrots, tomato paste, white wine, thyme, fennel fronds and a bay leaf. Finally, I added water to cover and simmered for about an hour and a half. I didn’t add any salt, figuring I would salt to taste in the final stages of the actual risotto. While simmering the aroma of the stock was incredible, making my apartment smell something like a seafood shack. I half expected the neighbors to come knocking for some fresh lobster rolls and chowder.

shellfish stock

shellfish stock2

At this point, preparing the lobster meat was probably the easiest part of the entire process. I cut the tail into two portions and combined each portion with one claw’s meat and a generous amount of butter in a vacuum-sealed bag. It would then sit in a 59.5C water bath for about 45 minutes.

Before:

lobster tail

After:

cooked lobster tail

While the lobster was cooking, I prepared the risotto. I followed a recipe from the America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook:

Saffron Risotto

Ingredients:
3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 cups water
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 onion, minced
Salt
2 cups Arborio rice
1/4 teaspoon lightly crumbled saffron threads
1 cup dry white wine
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (1 cup)
Pepper

1. Bring the broth and water to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cover and keep the broth warm over the lowest possible heat.
2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until lightly browned, about 9 minutes.
3. Stir in the rice and saffron threads and cook until the edges begin to turn translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring frequently, until it is completely absorbed, about 2 minutes. Add 3 cups of the warm broth mixture and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is absorbed, about 11 minutes.
4. Continue to cook, stirring in roughly 1/2 cup of the broth every few minutes, until the rice is cooked through but is still somewhat firm in the center, about 11 minutes.
5. Stir in the Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

I followed the steps pretty closely with a few exceptions. First, I used carnaroli rice instead of arborio. Second, I used my homemade lobster stock (duh!) instead of chicken broth, as well as a much higher ratio of stock:water than what’s stated in the recipe. Third, I omitted the cheese.

onions

carnaroli rice

rice

rice and stock

Finally, I plated the risotto, topping it with my lobster, chopped parsley, and some lemon zest. Voila!

risotto

lobster risotto

lobster risotto4

I was pretty happy with how everything turned out. As expected, the lobster was perfectly cooked – delightfully spongy and sweet. I think the risotto could’ve been a touch soupier, but I was still happy about it. Both the saffron and lobster stock brought a ton of flavor that really made the risotto, and I liked the lemon zest for the fresh citrus flavor without the tart acidity.

Looking back, it was a lot of work for one dish but it was pretty damn satisfying and I’d do it again. I would experiment with some shortcuts, including using just lobster tails, as well as playing with store-bought chicken/shellfish stock for a dish that would hopefully be close, but much quicker to prepare.

Dan Moody @ Batch (Culver City, CA)

Dan Moody Pop-Up
Batch Restaurant & Bar
8631 Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
Dining date: 3/1/12

batch exterior

Dan Moody is probably best known in the food world for being sous chef to Ludovic Lefebvre through LudoBites 6.0. Since then, he’s been doing his own thing, showing up here and there with his own iteration of a pop-up. I missed Moody’s Relate stints in San Diego and Arizona, but I did catch him at a dessert night at Scoops Westside last July. His latest venture was this pop-up at Batch in Culver City for just a 5-day period. I gathered up some of my coworkers and dropped in right in the middle of the run.

The menu was fairly concise and very well-priced; 13 dishes were available, all within $15. We ordered one of everything and doubled up on some of the ones that sounded most interesting.

Although Batch’s regular beer/wine/cocktail list was available, one of my coworkers brought in this bottle for us to enjoy. Thanks Yury!

wine

SWEETBREADS VOL AU VENT Blood Sausage, Creamy Veal Jus

sweetbreads

The light and flaky puff pastry was a highlight, as was the crispy, tender sweetbreads. Blood sausage and veal jus really added some heartier savory flavors as well. I enjoyed this one quite a bit.

BEEF TARTARE WITH MUSTARD ICE CREAM NY Strip, Pickled Red Onion, Chopped Parsley, Mustard Ice Cream, Guinness Gastrique

steak tartare

This was one of the highlights of the meal. The beef was tender with just a slight chew, showing off good texture. The mustard ice cream made the dish, adding a cool heat to the plate that really rounded out each bite.

FOIE AND EGG, BREAKFAST STYLE 63C Egg, ‘Foiellandaise’, Sauteed Mushrooms, Foie Powdered Donut, Coffee, Mushroom Ash

foie beignet

Now this was pretty interesting. The perfectly cooked egg was rich and runny, while some chanterelles and a mushroom ash added an earthy depth of flavor. I do like the mushroom-egg combination; the foie hollandaise and coffee beignet brought some added complementary flavors. If only my breakfasts could be so decadent!

ROASTED BABY BEET SALAD Golden Beet Vinaigrette

beets

Cool, refreshing and ultimately a very simple salad featuring the root vegetable.

COLLARD GREEN VEGAN TACOS

vegan taco

This one didn’t work as well for me, though vegan tacos typically aren’t my thing.  Strong earthy flavors came through, but I was looking for something a bit more dynamic. 

CEVICHE AND A COLD BEER Spicy Ceviche, Cilantro, Jalapeno, Beer Carbonated Grapes, Citrus

ceviche

There was something spicy in here…almost too spicy for me. Luckily, it was tempered by some cool grapes, and I was able to hone in on the fish and citrus flavors in the dish. I’m not sure I got the beer part of the concept though.

SAUTEED LOCAL ROCK COD Vadouvan Beets, Coconut Curry Hollandaise, Fried Spinach Salad

rock cod

The rock cod was cooked well leaving a rather moist and flaky fish. A little bit of a curry in the sauce added some extra flavor, also accented by the vadouvan. Fried spinach was a nice touch.

SAUTEED CHICKEN WITH SPINACH GREMOLATA Sous Vide Pasteurized Chicken Breast, Mediterranean Quinoa Salad, Spinach Gremolata, Caramelized Feta Cheese

chicken

Although the chicken was cooked sous vide, I found it a touch on the dry side. Spinach gremolata added much of the flavor and color, while quinoa added some extra earthy notes.

SEARED ALBACORE Sushi Rice Crème Anglaise, Nori & Shiso Leaf Pesto, Wasabi, Pickled Ginger

albacore seared

I enjoyed the nice pieces of albacore with the Japanese accents; sushi rice in a creme anglaise was a fun interpretation. Something had a very floral essence (I couldn’t pinpoint it) that was a bit odd to me.

MARKET VEGETABLES Created Daily

vegetables

This was a simple plate of roasted vegetables with a natural sweetness brought out by oven. I particularly liked the charred parts. Nothing special, but it wasn’t trying to be.

SLOW-ROASTED PORK Potato Gnocchi, Baby Carrots, Pork Jus

pork

The pork clearly displayed a welcome savory depth both from the meat and the jus. The couple of bites I had were sort of gristly and fatty, but I think that was more of a function of what the rest of my table left me (I had the last bites of this one). The potato gnocchi quite good.

“RED VELVET” Chocolate Cake, Beet Ice Cream, Cream Cheese Mousse

"red velvet"

I liked the presentation of this dessert with the layers of chocolate cake and sweet cream cheese mousse. Both of those layers were good on its own, but I thought the beet ice cream added some much-needed pizzazz to the dish, bringing both color and a strong beet flavor that went pretty well with the chocolate.

BANANA BREAD PUDDING A LA BOURBON PECAN PIE Caramelized Pecans, Bourbon Custard, Vanilla Cognac Crème Chantilly

banana bread pudding

I thought this was easily the best dish of the evening. The bread pudding was served warm (almost hot) with a balanced banana flavor, topped by a rich bourbon sauce and light Chantilly cream. I thought the flavors were spot on between the banana, bourbon and vanilla, while caramelized pecans added some texture and nuttiness. Not too sweet. So good.

I thought Moody’s food was pretty good.  The menu was approachable yet interesting, and execution was largely on point. Plus, the price was right; food was under $50pp. Highlights for me included the sweetbreads, beef tartare, rock cod and of course the bread pudding. I’ll be interested to see what Moody does next. I know I’m not the only one…one of my coworkers returned for both of the remaining nights after this meal.

UMAMIcatessen (Los Angeles, CA)

UMAMIcatessen
846 S Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Dining date: 3/3/12

Umamicatessen exterior signage

UMAMIcatessen is the latest concept from the ever-busy Adam Fleischman (Umami Burger, 800 Degrees Pizza), his interpretation of a deli featuring a number of mini restaurant concepts including Umami Burger. The setup kind of looks like a food court (although it’s currently all full service seating), with the restaurants on the outside and seating in the middle.

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interior1

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The Cure, with consulting chef Micah Wexler (Mezze) is a kosher deli with many of the usual suspects such as pastrami on rye, corned beef, and a matzo ball soup. P!GG, from Incanto and Boccalone’s Chris Cosentino, is a pork-centric concept with a ton of hams available, as well as a few sandwiches and snacks all featuring the pig. Umami Burger brings its notable burgers (and a few sides and salads) to the deli and “& a Donut” rounds out the food options with its fried-to-order menu of donuts. For libations, Spring for Coffee is the second outpost of the Arts District coffee shop and The Back Bar serves a slew of cocktails, wines and beers.

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UMAMIcatessen soft opened this past Saturday and, as expected, was pretty busy. Our party of 4 was able to get a table relatively quickly though (~15-20 minutes), and sat down to the menu’s dizzying array of options. The menu is somewhat daunting with its choices; we focused in on Umami Burger and P!GG for the savory items, ordering all of the fried snacks from P!GG (100% lard fried).

First, the drinks. Almost all of the beers (draft and bottle) had run out by the evening, so we went with a few cocktails.

Downtown Rise milagro tequila, orange marmalade, mango puree, fresh lemon juice, agave syrup
Velvet Mule beluga vodka, velvet falernum, fresh lime juice, ginger beer, angostura bitters
Citrus Tree bacardi superior rum, lychee liqueur, red and green grapes, fresh lime juice, sugar

cocktails

I went with the Downtown Rise – fruity and sweet, a stereotypical girly drink. I liked it though. I didn’t try the others, but did hear the Velvet Mule was on the watery side.

P!GG Style Fries pickled peppers, ham puree, brainaise

pigg style fries

I first noticed that the fries alone were quite good – very crispy, well-salted and fluffy on the inside. It was topped with an aioli made with pig brain (“brainaise”), pureed ham and pickled peppers. I liked the porky flavors which added much of the depth of flavor. The perfectly executed fries were what made the dish for me, though.

Crispy Pig Ears parsley, lemon, brainaise

pig ears

The “brainaise” made another appearance with these delightfully crispy and crunchy pig ears.

Pork Corn popcorn, juniper, rosemary

pork corn

Of the snacks, this was the least exciting. It was pretty much popcorn with a porky essence, but rather monotone in flavor.

Cone O’ Cracklins sherry vinegar, sage

cracklins

The fried pig skin was light, airy and crunchy without feeling greasy. I thought this was a good example of cracklings especially with the herb essence and what I think was paprika.

French Fries ham puree

fries

This was a simpler version of the P!GG style fries – here the same french fries were topped with just the ham puree. It still achieved a rich, porky flavor at half the price of the signature dish ($10 vs. $5).

Truffle Beet Salad truffled ricotta, smoked almonds, wild baby arugula, truffle dressing

beet salad

I opted to pass on the salad as I was stuffing my face with fried goodness. Each of us ordered a sandwich to eat alongside the snacks.

Pork Liver Pate caramelized onions, arugula

pork liver pate

The distinct liver flavor came through on the sandwich, complemented by the peppery arugula and sweet caramelized onions. A decent sandwich, just not the most interesting.

Hoof & Mouth pickled carrots, onions

hoof & mouth

hoof mouth

This was a more interesting sounding sandwich with a jaw & hoof terrine sandwiched in between toasted bread with pickled carrots and onions (definitely resembled a banh mi!). Maybe it was just the section I had, but I thought the thin slice of terrine got lost in the other ingredients. The bread was a little bit hard to chew too.

Earth Burger mushroom and edamame patty, white soy aioli, truffled ricotta cheese, cipollini onions, butter lettuce, slow roasted tomato

earth burger

earth burger2

We didn’t have any vegetarians at the table, but this burger came highly recommended. The vegetarian burger didn’t disappoint and may have been the surprise of the evening. The mushroom and edamame patty had a sort of a meaty texture to it, while full of savory flavor from the mushrooms, truffled cheese, soy aioli, onions and tomato. I wouldn’t say I’d order this instead of say…the truffle burger, but this was probably one of the best vegetarian burgers I’ve had.

Truffle Burger house made truffle cheese, truffle glaze

truffle burger

truffle burger2

I’ve had this in a previous visit to Umami Burger and it was a favorite. It was just as good as I remembered it with the soft brioche bun, medium-rare beef and white truffle-scented cheese and glaze. Simple but pretty delish (and a relative bargain at $10)!

For dessert six donuts were available, fried to order. Strauss Dairy soft serve will be a regular accompaniment, but it wasn’t available yet.

carrot cake rum raisin, cream cheese (cake)

carrot cake2

The cake was rather dense – not too moist but not dry, with sweet raisins and a cream cheese frosting. The carrot flavor in the donut was definitely evident.

tres leches cajeta, ceylon cinnamon (cake)

tres leches

This cake was more moist with a bit of a vanilla flavor, though I was expecting it to have been dipped in something (the menu said to allow 5 minutes for soaking). A light whipped cream topped the donut.

FG&J foie gras mousse, forest berry jam, peanut (yeast)

foie PB&J donut

At $8, this was probably the most expensive donut I’ve ever had. It was filled with a foie gras mousse; the flavor was subtle but evident, complemented by a sweet jam and a crunchy peanut topping. Very interesting flavors with the peanut butter & jelly and the foie gras & fruit combinations both working in tandem. Of all three we tried, I think this was the most successful…though I wanted a bit more foie flavor in the mousse.

I found UMAMIcatessen to be an interesting concept (surely a hip interpretation of a deli), though not as eye-opening as 800 Degrees Pizzeria. I think the main draw will be Umami Burger’s burgers since they’re just more interesting than the simpler, more traditional sandwiches from The Cure and P!GG. Still, The Cure and P!GG present much more variety and the ability to mix things up particularly with the sides and snacks. The donuts were a fun way to end the meal, though I didn’t think the execution was quite there yet. Still, with so much to offer and the Umami brand behind it, I can tell this will be a popular place.

Gold Standard 2012 (Los Angeles, CA)

Gold Standard 2012
Petersen Auto Museum
6060 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Dining date: 3/4/12

This was the fourth Gold Standard event, Jonathan Gold and LA Weekly’s annual food festival. Given Gold’s impending move to the LA Times, this is presumably the last one. It’s a little sad since the Gold Standard has been one of the better food events in the city in my opinion. The lineup of restaurants has consistently been pretty good; the venue is pretty large and the lines have typically been reasonable.

venue2

venue1

In previous years, General Admission tickets were $60 – a great value for the all-you-can-eat and all-you-can-drink event. The price was hiked up this year to $75, no longer a steal but still one of the better food festivals in terms of bang for the buck, given these events tend to easily reach into the triple-digits. This year though, I obtained a media pass for entrance.

This year’s venue was the same as the previous two years at the Petersen Auto Museum. It was a pretty hot day and a large tent provided a lot of shade, but the sheer crowds made for a rather muggy atmosphere – like a New York subway in the summer. Anything cold seemed to have a long line whether it be beer, gelato or cocktails.

Approximately 50 restaurants set up a booth for the afternoon, along with a few coffee roasters and plenty of beer and wine. This seemed to be the biggest Gold Standard yet, and there was no way I could try it all. However, I think I was able to try just about everything I wanted to.

Animal foie gras mousse, satsuma marmalade, toast

animal

A-Frame charred octopus ceviche

aframe

Baco Mercat braised pork shoulder baco

baco

Bludso’s BBQ bbq brisket and chicken

bludso2

bludso

Bulgarini Gelato assorted flavors

bulgarini

Campanile 28-day aged prime rib, horseradish on crostini

campanile

Chego house kimchi

chego

Drago Centro mushroom agnolotti with shaved black truffle

drago centro2

drago centro

Huckleberry assorted cakes/sweets

huckleberry

ink. beef tongue and tendon taco, horseradish snow

ink

LaOn short rib, kimchi pancake

laon

Le Comptoir quail egg and herb flowers, lemon pound cake with lemon confit

le comptoir

le comptoir2

Little Dom’s bbq oyster

little doms

Lukshon cured hawaiian butterfish (nahm jim, rau ram, watermelon radish), rib eye bao (spicy cucumber pickle, black bean ghee)

lukshon

lukshon2

MB Post pomegranate cous cous, feta, almonds

mb post

Mezze beef brisket shawarma

mezze

Mozza butterscotch budino

mozza

Night + Market startled pig (grilled pork, basil, lemongrass, fish sauce, lime, garlic, bird eye chili), catfish tamale (catfish baked in banana leaf with chili and herbs)

night market

night market2

Picca/Mo-Chica pork belly with sundried potato, grilled black tiger shrimp

picca2

picca

Playa yellowtail ceviche

playa

Providence pistachio, white chocolate, rose water, meyer lemon

providence

Ramen Jinya ramen

jinya

Short Cake assorted cakes/sweets

short cake

Short Order sausage

short order

Smoke City Market bbq brisket, pastrami, potatoes

smoke city

Sotto porchetto, mustard greens

sotto2

sotto

Spice Table pig tail, mint, red perilla, gem lettuce, fish sauce

spice table

Starry Kitchen salted plum chicken wings, lychee panna cotta

starry2

starry

Street mung bean pancake, miso mustard, dark soy

street

Tsujita nigiri

tsujita

A few beers (Singha, Stella Artois, Hoegaarden) were available and dozens of wineries were represented. The beer lines were rather lengthy throughout the afternoon; for me, the wines were more interesting and I repeatedly came back to the Silver Oak table. I think I had about 8 pours of the Alexander Valley Cab. Literally.

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A very strong lineup of coffees were available. I’m not sure how popular hot coffees were this afternoon, but Single Origin was pouring a wonderfully refreshing Verve cold brew. Battle food coma while cooling off? Two birds, one stone.

LAMILL

la mill

Single Origin

single origin

single origin2

Handsome Coffee

handsome

handsome2

This event was a ton of fun; I left full and satisfied. The food overall was fairly strong, and I found myself coming back to a few favorites. My favorite dish had to be Drago Centro’s mushroom agnolotti with shaved black truffle (I came back three times!). Just like at the restaurant, the execution of the pasta was spot on – a creamy filling, chewy pasta and tender mushrooms were topped by a generous shaving of black truffle. Other highlights for me included Sotto’s porchetto, the basis of their popular porchetto sandwich. The pork flavor was expectantly upfront, and the textures were wonderful between the crispy skin, tender meat and soft, gelatinous fat. The sweet mostarda and bitter, acidic mustard greens were nice accompaniments. Picca had two solid dishes; I found the jumbo grilled tiger prawns to be perfectly cooked with a smoky perfume from the grill. Lukshon’s cured Hawaiian butterfish was light and refreshing (perfect for the hot day) with nice textures and Asian accents. I also liked the Spice Table’s pig tail taco, with the greens balancing out the richness of the tail nicely. For dessert, Mozza’s always-reliable butterscotch budino was a highlight, as well as Starry Kitchen’s lychee panna cotta which provided a light and cool treat that worked well in the heat.

I’m sad to see the Gold Standard go. I hope Gold and the LA Times come up with something else to fill the void.

Previous Gold Standards: 2010 & 2011

Note: This event was sponsored.

Mezze (Los Angeles, CA)

Mezze
401 N La Cienega Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Dining date: 2/18/12

mezze signage

Mezze opened last March and was commonly featured on “Best New Restaurant” lists in LA. The food is something a little different than what I’m typically accustomed to, being focused on Mediterranean (particularly Eastern Mediterranean) flavors from the likes of Syria, Egypt and Tunisia. It’s been on my “interested to try” list for some time – a BlackboardEats deal was the impetus that brought me in the door for this visit.

The menu is largely based on small plates, with a selection of larger mains and flatbreads as well. We focused in on the small plates, ordering one of the mains and one of the flatbreads as well.

Braised Tripe falafel

Braised Tripe falafel

The spongy tripe was braised in a strong tomato-based sauce. It was pretty tender; crispy fried falafel provided much of the texture. I thought the deep tomato flavor may have overpowered the dish slightly, though.

Hashweh Risotto lamb, burnt onion, lemon

Hashweh Risotto lamb, burnt onion, lemon

This was a good risotto, creamy and somewhat rich with the small chunks of lamb. I thought this added a welcome depth of flavor, nicely complemented by a little bit of lemon. The almonds added some texture, but I’m not sure they were necessary – I enjoyed the delicate mouthfeel of the rice.

Egyptian Rebel Fries heirloom beans, brisket, syrian cheese

Egyptian Rebel Fries heirloom beans, brisket, syrian cheese

This was a pretty well-executed poutine – the key was the extra crispy fries. They soaked up the meaty bean-filled gravy and still kept some of their texture. Ooey gooey deliciousness.

Blue Prawn saffron, radish, aleppo

Blue Prawn saffron, radish, aleppo

The plump prawns were tasty, sitting in a shellfish bisque-type broth with saffron accents. Fresh, crispy radish added some texture, as well as what I think was puffed rice.

Tunisian Fish Stew sweet potato, leek

Tunisian Fish Stew sweet potato, leek

I didn’t realize these would essentially be fish balls – very tender, almost creamy. Onions and potatoes added some extra flavor and substance to the dish, brought together by a warm, homey broth.

Duck Gallantine israeli pickles, medjool dates

Duck Gallantine israeli pickles, medjool dates

I liked the duck on its own and also liked the warm flatbread on its own. However, when combined, the bread overshadowed the duck – I think it was too much bread for the thin slivers of meat.

Lamb Shoulder sumac, onion, black rice

Lamb Shoulder sumac, onion, black rice

This was very tender and quite gamey. Lots of lamb flavor, smothered in a rather rich sauce.  The black rice, which had a barley-like brown color, added some starch to round out the bites.

Merguez Sausage Flatbread tomato jam, aleppo pepper

Merguez Sausage tomato jam, aleppo pepper

The sauce was quite tangy and actually pretty strong in flavor. I thought it was the main flavor profile in this flatbread, overpowering the sausage itself.

Date & Amaretti Parfait mascarpone, turkish coffee

Date & Amaretti Parfait mascarpone, turkish coffee

Lastly, we shared one dessert. There were layers of sweetness between the honey, date and mascarpone offset by some of the bitterness in the coffee. A crunchy cookie provided the texture in the parfait.

Our meal at Mezze was a good one, but not great. I thought the balance of flavors were off in a few dishes, and no single dish was particularly memorable. Still, the menu and cuisine was different – a little bit of a change of pace – definitely a plus. I wouldn’t be opposed to returning, but I probably wouldn’t suggest it either.

Macarons

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Macarons are always some of the most attractive confections in the display case of a bakery or sweets shop. The brightly colored small cookie “sandwiches” are often some of the most expensive treats per bite too, often being at least a couple of bucks for something that’s just a couple of bites. Why are they so expensive? They’re relatively labor-intensive and require a bit of specialized technique – something I definitely have not considered experimenting with at home.

So when Hong & Kim of The Ravenous Couple invited me and a few friends over for a macaron party/class of sorts, I jumped at the chance. I mean, when else was I going to get the opportunity to learn how to make macarons? Plus, it would be the perfect opportunity to break in my new KitchenAid mixer.

When we arrived, we were greeted with a properly organized set-up. Various stations around the kitchen were put together for each stage of the macaron-making process from the weighing station to mixing to sifting to macronage to piping, and finally to the feet station.

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Kim started by demonstrating with the first batch, then we split up to make our own. We utilized a recipe from BraveTart, a huge resource on macarons (and everything else sweet).

We spun the dry ingredients in a food processor then sifted them; egg whites and sugar were mixed in a few stages (for a total of 10 minutes) to get the consistency we wanted. This is where the food coloring and flavor extracts would be applied as well, the step which would make each of our macaron batches unique.

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Dry ingredients were folded into the meringue, a step called macronage.

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Finally, the mixed ingredients were piped onto a silpat baking mat, very carefully. A template was key for us beginners!

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Once they rested and settled, they were ready for the oven and the feet station. I had no idea what this was coming in, but the feet are the distinct ruffled edges around the circumference of the cookie, the part with a very light and airy texture. Apparently, good feet are hard to consistently develop but I’m happy to say each of our batches developed them!

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Once cooked, the cookies were ready to be sandwiched with the filling of our choice.

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Here’s a tally of some of the ones we made that day:

Coffee with chocolate ganache.

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Pistachio with nutella.

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Meyer lemon with fresh meyer lemon curd.

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Ube with ube jam.

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Rose with chocolate ganache, orange with fresh blood orange curd, and durian (not my favorite!) completed the full lineup.

These were pretty tasty if I do say so myself. To be honest, I was kind of surprised how they turned out given that all of us were complete newbies to the process. I thought we achieved a nice, light cakey shell with a soft but yielding texture.  While I would like to say that making these was easier than I expected it to be, most of that was attributable to the careful step-by-step guidance we received. I’m pretty sure these would’ve been terrible had I tried to make them by myself. Thank you to Hong & Kim for hosting this party and showing us the ropes!

The Ravenous Couple: Macaron Class in Session