Saturday, December 31, 2016

Restaurant: Trüffelschwein in Hamburg

Another recommendation from a friend for our Hamburg trip. Instead of doing a "normal" meal at the Trüffelschwein we booked a table for their New Years Eve event. The menu was nominally 8 courses (instead of their normal 9), started with a glass of champagne, and, as a special-occasion thing, included a higher percentage of courses with truffels. It was also considerably more expensive than their normal menu.

We didn't think this was great, but I could imagine eating here again on a normal night. The food was good, but definitely suffered in comparison to the meal at the 7 Seas. The unusual nature of the evening (at least I think it was unusual) where all of the tables were served at the same time distorted the experience and had a negative impact on the quality of the service. The restaurant was also quite loud (this may be normal since there seem to be people who like that) which didn't help things on the service front: the (overly quick and not particularly practiced) descriptions of the food and wine were often difficult to hear.

So mixed feelings. Under normal circumstances we might have quite liked the restaurant, but on this particular evening it was less than we were hoping for.


Thursday, December 29, 2016

Restaurant Seven Seas, Hamburg

Another "let's do a fancy restaurant on greg's birthday" thing; I think this is becoming a tradition for us; a very nice tradition. This year we went to the Michelin two-star "Seven Seas" in Hamburg.

We actually had to make a decision this time: which of the three menus to select. We had made up our mind for the six-course empfehlungsmenu, but after the amazing amuse bouche demonstrated what the kitchen could do with vegetables, greg *almost* switched to the vegetable menu. In the end, the two fish courses on the empfehlungsmenu won the argument. We also punted on wine decisions and, after the champagne aperitif, went with the restaurant-suggested pairings.

Given that this was a classic luxury setting like Cheval Blanc, it was (and is) difficult not to compare the two experiences, but we did our best. Still: the food and wines were really good, perhaps not as over-the-top fantastic as last year, but really very happy making.

We both certainly had smiles on our faces as we walked back to the train station from the restaurant/hotel.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

This year's Christmas cookies

Here's what we did this year:

  • Zimtsterne (from Kaltenbach)
  • Totenbeinli (recipe here:
  • Honig Lebkuchen (from Kaltenbach)
  • Pains d'Amande (A food52 genius recipe:
  • Pepper and Cumin cookies (from the NYT cookbook, but here's the online version:

The last two are new for us. The almond cookies turned out ok, but the pepper and cumin cookies are really exceptional.

Some notes for next year:
  • Putting a pinch or two of salt in the Lebkuchen would probably be good.
  • More cinnamon in the Zimtsterne!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

A dinner party

I had a craving to cook for a group, and a couple things that I really wanted to make, so we had some friends over for dinner on Saturday.

The menu:

  • Starter: pimiento cheese with slices of pagnol fried in olive oil. I made mayo for this using the Serious Eats two-minute mayo recipe.
  • Starter: parsnip chips (from the recipe in "Chez Panisse Vegetables"
  • Starter: pulled pork wraps with killed onions and chipotle mayo (the pulled pork, using the Serious Eats recipe, is from earlier this year, the onions were killed with red wine and cider vinegars, some bourbon, and chipotle powder) I sliced the wraps and served them with the mayo on the side
  • Salad: a slaw from spitzkohl, grated carrot, mint, and cilantro with a creamy lime dressing, topped with peanuts
  • Main: a boned out chicken (following Jacques Pepin's technique) stuffed with a filling made from ground pork, diced shitake, microplaned ginger and garlic, minced lemon grass, salt, and Shaoxing wine. I served this with a caramel-lime-fish sauce-butter sauce and sticky rice.
  • Dessert(!): Nigella Lawson's Aztec hot chocolate pudding. I served this with creme fraiche

Friday, January 01, 2016

Cinnamon rolls

This is an unusual one for me, but I saw this recipe on food52 and it gave me a powerful craving for cinnamon buns. It seemed like a good thing to have on New Years morning.

I followed the recipe pretty closely aside from making a half recipe, but I did deviate by adding finely diced apple (Pinova) to the filling. We had beautiful apples and it just seemed right.

These were awesome and need to be made again.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Years Eve Dumplings

To help us make it to midnight, we decided to make a bunch of Asian dumplings. That stretched out over a good 4-5 hours and helped us power through.

What we made.
From "Land of Plenty":

  • "Zhong" crescent dumplings
  • Pot-sticker dumplings with chicken stock
  • Leaf-wrapped glutinous rice dumplings (except the Asian shop was out of banana leaves, so we did these in parchment paper.
  • Two dipping sauces based on the sweet, aromatic soy sauce recipe: one from the crescent dumplings recipe, one just kind of random (the soy sauce, some black vinegar, chili oil, scallions)
From "Japanese Soul Food":
  • The base gyoza recipe
  • Miso dipping sauce
  • Rayu 
So that's three different cooking techniques: steaming, boiling, and pan steaming/frying; four different dumplings; and three different dipping sauces.

I also made a batch of quick cucumber pickles to go along with this giant mass of delight.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Cheval Blanc, Basel

The Cheval Blanc got its third Michelin star this year. The restaurant also has 19 points from Gault Millau. We were fortunate enough to be able to get a reservation on greg's birthday (we made that reservation more than a month in advance), so off we went. We'd never done either a three star or something with such a classical luxury setting (the closest would probably be Lampart's in Haegendorf, which I somehow didn't blog), so this was a real experience.

I'm not close to eloquent enough to describe a meal like this, so here are some impressions. We were there for more than four hours, had some really exceptional food and wine, and enjoyed great service. There were a couple dishes that brought me close to tears. There were a few surprises in there (microplaned fois gras!). The sommelier picked interesting wines, including a couple types that we'd never heard of (Muscadet-Sèvre-et-Maine and Godello) and an excellent champagne and Swiss pinot. The service was great and not overly stiff.

Two very happy faces for this one.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Tanja Grandits, Basel

Another trip to the restaurant formerly known as Stucki. In my usual "there's no way for me to describe it" way, I'll leave this at: "wow. Amazing and creative food, great service and wine"

Two very happy faces.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

It's late spring!

We picked up some sweet peas, white asparagus, and the first strawberries of the season at the market on Saturday.

Dinner was simple: peas, steamed white asparagus with hollandaise (Ruhlman's Ratio version, but with extra vinegar at the beginning instead of adding lemon juice at the end since we didn't have lemons) and Serrano ham, and a big salad.

Dessert was macerated strawberries with cream whipped with armagnac (should have had a bit of sugar in the cream too!).

Saturday, May 16, 2015


After having some good cevapcici at a local place, we decided that they would be something good to add to the repertoire. So I tracked down a likely sounding recipe at serious eats and away we went.

Aside from quantity, I followed the recipe pretty closely: 300g lamb, 300g beef, grated onion, garlic, baking soda, etc. After forming the cevapcici (38-40g each seemed the right size) I let them sit for a few hours before cooking.

Instead of firing up the grill, I cooked the sausages in the grill pan. I'm sure the grill would have been better, but these turned out excellently as is. Will certainly need to add these to the regular list.

Next logical step: making ajvar ourselves too, but that's for another time. :-)

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

After a multi-year break, we did Thanksgiving again this year.

Here's what we had:

  • Roasted Turkey: salted and buttered, started breast down at 250C for 30 minutes, flipped and finished at 180C; roasted on a rack over carrots, potato, celery root, onion and a bit of water
  • Gravy from heavily reduced roasting pan drippings + chicken stock. Thickened with potato starch
  • Mashed potatoes made in advance and then held at 65C in a ziploc bag in a water bath
  • Mashed sweet potatoes: potatoes started for 3 hours at 65C in the sous vide, then roasted for an hour, then peeled and cut into chunks. Finished in a pot with butter and salt. This prep worked well, and the sous vide step definitely makes a difference (we tested that) but the potatoes should have been roasted longer so that they cooked further at that stage; it took way to long to finish the potatoes in the pot.
  • Stuffing: ruchbrot, leek, mushroom, veggie stock, thyme, sage.
  • Roasted green beans
  • Apple-celery-quinoa salad (from "Plenty More")
  • Green salad
  • Roasted apple sauce: I've been making this lately starting with boskops and then adding chunks of pinova later. The boskops make a nice tart sauce while the pinovas remain somewhat firm and add a nice aromatic sweetness
  • Snacks:
    • Mixed olives with chili-garlic oil
    • Mixed olives with preserved lemons
    • Roasted almonds with salt and cumin
    • Honey-roasted pecans with salt and chipotle (these are one of my new favorites)
    • Dates with bacon
  • Desserts (our friends brought these):
    • Chocolate-pecan pie
    • Apple hand pies
    • Pumpkin pie
    • Chocolate mousse
Needless to say, no one went hungry. ;-)

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

kitchen follies: mayonnaise

Last night I made aioli. For whatever reason I decided to use the whisk attachment on the hand blender instead of using the minichop. I guess I didn't while have my brain fully engaged, because when it didn't seem like the emulsion was coming together I turned the motor speed up.

The result is probably best described as "aioli foam": it tastes fine but the texture is certainly odd.

Next time I will go back to the minichop. 

Saturday, May 03, 2014

The granola experiment

They changed the recipe of our normal breakfast cereal, so we decided to look for something new. For the heck of it, I gave making our own a shot. This is attempt one.

The basic idea and recipe and from Bittman, but I adapted it heavily, of course.

500g mixed rolled grains (the stuff we get is wheat, oats, barley, millet, and rye)
200g slivered almonds
75g sesame seeds
50g flax seeds
100g toasted soy flakes
Cinnamon, ginger, salt
150g honey

Mix the dry ingredients well. Heat the honey in the microwave a bit to lower its viscosity. Mix the honey into the the dry ingredients.
Spread on a baking sheet and bake at around 160C, stirring occasionally, until nicely toasted.

Let cool and then store in an airtight container.

This batch turned out really nicely and isn't all that much work. It'll probably become a regular thing.

First local strawberries of the year


Just in time too, this week we thawed the last of the frozen berries from last year.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Apple Fennel Salad

Something really simple and very good:

Dice (~1/2 cm) tart apples (I used Cox Orange) and fennel. Toss with greek yogurt and a bit of salt.