Friday, March 29, 2013

blue by eric ripert

Eric Ripert needs no introduction, with an extremely impressive resume and number of accolades, there really was no hesitation to put Blue as the front-runner of my go-to Grand Cayman restaurant list. Located in the Ritz Carlton, Blue is Eric Ripert's only other restaurant (other than the famed Le Bernadin in New York City). Blue focuses on the seafood that surrounds the island, featuring locally-caught and responsibly-fished seafood in an elegant and soothing environment.


In we headed, with high expectations and excited stomachs. For the next three-plus hours I actually had a constant smile and twinkling eyes, giddy as could be, hearing & learning of all new ingredients, and experiencing some unbelievably layered complimentary flavors, I was in restaurant heaven.  We were seated at a beautiful round table in front of floor-to-ceiling french doors. Although the restaurant became almost-full by the time we left, the ambiance was absolutely perfect, with spread out private tables, it was never too loud, and never too quiet. Our incredibly friendly & knowledgeable server (from Transylvania) helped to guide our experience, answering any question we even thought to ask.  

We started with these cute little gruyere puffs, which felt just like a cream puff, but with a surprisingly smooth delicious cheesy center.

Next were the champagne cocktails, with my love of grapefruit juice, I naturally chose the grapefruit cocktail which was nice, chilly, and refreshing. It also looked as though the slice of grapefruit floating was grilled, which was an interesting concept.

The amuse bouches arrived on a pretty little platter that looks as if it was made just for these tasty little treats. Two preparations of scallops, the middle served with a slice of kumquat, and the overshadowingly outstanding mini clam chowder. Somehow the flavor of bacon and the essence of potato was packed into this heavenly mini chowder. Everyone agreed the chowder was the best they'd ever had, and it kept us excited for our meals to come.

My uncle started with the tuna-foie gras: thinly pounded local tuna, foie gras, a toated baguette on the bottom, and chives. Although I'm not a big fan of raw fish, the presentation was much too beautiful to pass on a picture. I was also told the taste matched the presentation.

T went with the wahoo: flash marinated, sweet and sour grapes, extra virgin olive oil with a yuzu vinaigrette. He reports it was crisp & cool with delicate flavors. I tried it and enjoyed it but in my mind my appetizer blew it away...

I can actually whole-heartedly say that the crab dish I started with was the best thing I have ever eaten.'s true. I only wish to be able to have this prepared for me every single day. A king crab salad with fresh herbs, avocado, and a green apple-lemongrass dressing, I was pretty close to licking my plate or asking for another serving. Perfectly balanced with layers upon layers of surprisingly complimentary flavors, I was in love. It's also just so pretty!

To continue the shellfish path that I love so much, I sprung for the lobster dish with sauteed lobster, truffle, hon shimeji, and an aged balsamic vinaigrette. Although tasty and a nice textural change from the remainder of my meal, the umami flavor really hit me in the face. At first I wasn't a big fan, especially after the love-of-my-life dish I had just experienced, but the dish grew on me and by the end I enjoyed it (but not as much as my crab).

T went with the seafood ravioli with celery root, tomato chutney, and a soy butter sauce. He reports it was " dish I've ever had". With the soft buttery pillow of a ravioli encasing the delicately rich seafood present inside, T wouldn't stop with the blissful eyerolls. Luckily, I was able to snag one bite, and I had food envy, it really was a beautifully created piece.

Pleasantly full and satiated at this point, I had almost forgot about our main courses. T went with the local snapper served with sweet potato logs, a beautiful slice of avocado, and a Puerto Rican sancocho broth. Perfectly cooked and completely fresh, T was quite pleased with his choice. He also enjoyed spearing the sweet potato logs...because he's mature.

I went with the striped bass with a bread crust and a parsnip puree in a rum hibiscus sauce with little slices of beets. To be honest, I was already full at this point, and was shocked at the massive portion of fish that was presented to me. Although full, I was able to scarf down most of this impressive dish. With a perfectly crisped bread crust, the bass beneath remained the shining star, not overpowered by the light crust and remaining moist & delicious. I didn't taste much of the hibiscus in the sauce, but it was a nice light compliment that completed the whole dish.

Next was the dessert....and Blue really knows the way to my heart. My goodness look at how long that dessert list is, especially for a prix-fixe menu! I was giddy with all of the choices, but finally settled on one after coordinating with others at the table. To make room for the dessert to come, I chose their mint tea. Also of note is their extensive tea list with many many more choices of tea than coffee, including a handful of reserved cave aged teas....this really couldn't have been more up my alley.


My uncle went with the praline dessert with a gianduja mousse, torta caprese, and a praline citrus sorbet...along with a candle and a happy birthday note!

I had to go with the popcorn, because when is the last time you saw popcorn on a dessert menu? Served with a caramel mousse, caramelised gilded popcorn, a fluffy praline creme and popcorn sorbet, it was as tasty as it looks. I quickly popped the popcorn bits in my mouth, though that's probably not how they're meant to be enjoyed, and couldn't get enough of the popcorn sorbet. The sorbet was unreal, light but packed with so much popcorn flavor.

T went with the chocolate: a warm tart, hazelnut, and roasted banana ice cream. Perfectly balanced, the roasted banana was a surprisingly tasty treat.

As we were preparing to roll ourselves home, the petit fours arrived, with all different flavors and all different textures, they were impossible to say no to. Finally, after finishing everything that was presented to us, with happy faces & even happier stomachs, we were about to collect ourselves...when a gift arrived for the ladies of the table. A mini to-go pouch filled with 2 of the most originally-flavored macarons for our future enjoyment. To this day, I can honestly say I have no idea what flavor these were, but really...who doesn't like macarons?

The entire experience lasted over three hours, and I left with an extremely full stomach, a plethora of new knowledge, and a mouth sore of smiling so much. I am now able to answer the question when someone asks, where is the best restaurant you have ever been? Now I will just have to make plans to visit Le Bernadin, which is much closer to home than the Grand Cayman!
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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

welcome to grand cayman

Last week we headed out for the week to the Florida Keys and Grand Cayman for the weekend to relax in the warm weather. We left a snowy northeast for the white sand beaches.

The morning after we landed in Florida we jetted out to Grand Cayman. After a quick one-hour flight over Cuba and the prettiest blue water we landed and immediately set up shop on the beach.

After a day of beaching, we cleaned up for a nice first meal at Luca. An Italian restaurant located in the Caribbean Club, serving massive portions of fresh seafood along with well-prepared meats and homemade pastas, it was a nice choice for the first night. You can find more information on Luca here. The only drawback ambiance-wise was the close proximity of the tables, with loads of full tables, the buzz of the restaurant was more of a roar at times.

T started with the spicy yellow fin tuna tartare and avocado, fennel salad, and a soured tomato coulis. A perfect start to the island weekend.


I started with the largest salad I have ever been served, an arugula salad with poached beets, local tomatoes, goat cheese, spicy pecans, lemon and olive oil dressing.

T went with the special duck with roasted cabbage, mashed potatoes, bacon wrapped asparagus and a spattering of jus. All I kept hearing was "you have to try this...and this...and this and this".

On the other hand I decided to get the most seafood-y dish offered, taking advantage of the location, and went with the whole wheat linguine, crab meat, rock shrimps, calamari and scallops, in a garlic white wine sauce. Served as a massive hill I was super excited when it arrived, and let so far down when I tasted it. 

With little sauce, and small seafood bits scattered everywhere overpowering any taste the pasta may have had on its own, I was a bit sad. I may have been somewhat settled with it if I hadn't tasted all of the other amazing dishes that were served at my table that night. Of note, the lobster ravioli served with a creamy lobster bisque, arugula, and a touch of cherry tomato was outstandingly rich and delicious...and I had a bad case of food envy. 

To make up for dinner we just had to order dessert. We played it safe and went with the warm chocolate molten with marinated oranges. Fluffy and decadent, the warm chocolate molten washed away my recent memories of my underwhelming entree. 

We enjoyed a small glass of limencello-vodka slushy and petit fours before waving goodbye and heading back to our hotel along the beach by moonlight, dipping our toes in the warm Caribbean sea.
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Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Off to the keys & Grand Cayman for the week...fingers crossed to return to the snow-burdened northeast with a mild tan!
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Sunday, March 17, 2013

sloppy joes

Sloppy Joe's were the first meal ever created...well that's a lie, but it's been around for a while now. I know there are bunches of recipes out there for these little sloppy gems, but this one is my go-to favorite, because "I got it from my mama".

Ingredients (for 4 chock-full sloppy joes):
1 lb lean ground beef (10% fat)
1 onion, diced
1 tbs mustard
1 1/2 tbs worcestershire sauce
1 small bottle of ketchup (about 24oz)
1 small bottles-worth of water (about 24oz)
3 tbs vinegar
2 tbs sugar

1. Brown meat and onions with a pinch of salt & pepper over medium heat in a large pot.   


2. Mix in the mustard, vinegar, sugar, ketchup, and water. Stir to mix.

3. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, partially cover & simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Uncover, stir, and serve on hamburger buns. Load up and enjoy, the sloppier the tastier!
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Saturday, March 16, 2013

caramelized chicken wrap

I like to put honey, rock salt, and garlic all over my whole roasted chickens to make a supa crispy blackened outside. Not having a whole chicken on hand (shucks), but craving this combo, I decided I would settle for a whipped up caramelized chicken wrap. Turns out I didn't settle and this was aaaamazing.

Ingredients (for 5 tortillas-worth inspired by this recipe):
1 lb organic chicken breast, sliced
1/4 cup honey
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tbs olive oil  
rock salt & pepper
1 cup water, divided
1 handful of cherry tomatoes
1.5 cups rice pilaf
5 tortillas
Creme fraiche for topping

Directions:1. Cut chicken into slices and place in a bowl or a ziploc bag directly. Add honey, garlic, red pepper flakes, olive oil, and rock salt & pepper. Mix and stir to coat. Transfer to a ziploc bag or cover with clingwrap and place in fridge for 20 minutes.

2. Heat a pan (or this nifty pan that lets liquid pool in the cracks) over medium-high heat.

3. Add chicken and marinade to the pan, squeezing every bit of marinade out onto the pan. Let cook over medium-high heat while marinade bubbles underneath and browns the chicken until dark (shown in last picture of this instruction).


4. Add 4 tbs water to the pan to sizzle and stick the sauce to the chicken.  Cook until water is gone. Transfer chicken to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm, but let breathe to not overcook while sitting.

5. Add tomatoes to the pan over medium-high/high heat. Add remainder of water to the pan and shake to coat. Cook until tomatoes begin to squish and split, about 10 minutes.

6. Add squished tomatoes to the chicken plate, arrange wraps in the order of tortilla, rice pilaf, chicken, tomatoes & a dollop of creme fraiche.

*Of note for leftovers: chicken and rice saves well in the fridge, 
tomatoes & creme fraiche do not*
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