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Posts Tagged ‘purple potato’

We attended a Hawaiian-themed pot-luck party this weekend. I decided to make something really simple, but tasty. I came up with this hors d’oeuvres using typical Hawaiian ingredients; purple potato,  ham, pineapple, macadamia nuts, and cilantro.

I lightly oiled my baking sheet and then laid down slices of purple potato about 1/4 inch thick. I drizzled a little olive oil on top then seasoned lightly with salt and pepper. I threw that into a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Then, I took it out and put some thin-sliced ham (regular lunch meat ham) on top and then a slice of pineapple. I put that back into the oven for about 10 minutes. I poured a handful of macadamia nuts into a plastic bag and bashed it up with a bottle. I took the baking sheet back out of the oven and sprinkled the macadamia nuts all over and then put it back into the oven for another 5 minutes. I took it out, turned off the oven, and sprinkled some chopped up cilantro all over and let it cool. That’s it, about as simple as it gets.

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The first thing you’ll notice about this post is the lack of pictures. Yuki took me out last night for my 34th birthday (damn I’m gettin old!) and my recent experience, I’m sure you’ll agree, has not been good using my cell phone’s camera in dim restaurant lighting. While I have no problem using my regular camera when traveling, I feel weird pulling it out here at home, like a tourist in my own city. That said, here is how our night at the highly acclaimed Naha Restaurant went last night.

We had a 7:30 reservation and showed up right on the dot. The hostess informed us that they were running a little behind and it’d be about 15 minutes before our table would be ready. No worries, we understand that sometimes this happens. So, we sat at these extremely uncomfortable built-in benches along the wall and waited…and waited…and waited. 15 minutes goes by and nothing. Once 8:00 rolled by I went up to inquire how much longer it’d be. I was told that 3 tables had already paid and they were just waiting for them to leave. Ok, however, the assistant hostess rolled her eyes at me for asking. Sorry, but that’s about as rude as it gets when it’s way past our reservation time and we still have not gotten our table. Fortunately for her our table was ready about 2 minutes later; I didn’t have to get the manager.

We get to our table and the interior was quite nice. Very simple and elegant with windows covering all of the exterior walls. Yuki sat on the cushioned bench, so I don’t know how comfortable that was, but the wooden chair I sat in was extremely uncomfortable. There was an ill-placed wooden bar that dug into my spine causing me to hunch over the entire time. On top of that it was way too cold in that restaurant. They could have turned the air conditioner down a good 10 degrees. I noticed most of the women around us were all kind of clenching due to the temperature. I’m pretty hairy, and even I was cold, my natural fur coat wasn’t enough insulation.

Here we are sitting at our cold, uncomfortable table waiting…waiting…waiting. It took more than 10 minutes for the busser to come over and offer us our choice of water. It took another 10 minutes for our server, Albert, to come over and greet us. 20 minutes before an appearance from our server! He even made a dumb comment, “Sorry, I know you’ve been sitting here for 2 or 3 minutes.” Try 20, buddy! I put in the order for some Cava and that came out alright.

After sipping on the Cava for a few minutes Albert came back over once he had taken the order from the table on my left as they were seated shortly before us. He asked if we had ever been there before. When I said no he proceeded to explain just about every dish on the menu. Go to Naha’s website and read the menu, every single dish is well articulated, we don’t need a recap. Not to mention, it was already an hour past our reservation time and we were damn hungry, just take our order! Before we could get our order in he disappeared again. Dude, we’ve been sitting for over a half and hour looking at the menu, our minds were made up over 20 minutes ago!

Finally, we got our orders placed. Then, we waited…and waited…and waited. We’re sitting there waiting; meanwhile, the table to my left who had ordered just 5 minutes before we did was chomping away at their appetizers. I commented to Yuki that they’ll get their entrées before we get our apps. I was right. During the wait Albert avoided us so I couldn’t even inquire. I was getting pissed!

When our appetizers finally came our stomachs were rumbling. Yuki got the Risotto with Blue Crab, Oyster Mushrooms, and Lobster Bisque. The crab was pretty good, nice and moist, but the risotto and bisque were way too salty. She cleared her plate out of sheer hunger more than anything. I got the Gnocchi with Braised Oxtails, Spanish Chorizo, Rapini, Montelerriana Cheese, and Basil. I do have to say that this was a great dish. The gnocchi were nice and soft, the chorizo added a nice compliment to the mild oxtail, the rapini a nice bitterness, the cheese the right amount of salt, and basil a refreshing note.

While we were in the middle of our apps a new table was sat to my right. They ordered right away and got their apps before we finished ours. Did the hostess have a vendetta against us for asking how much longer it’d be to get our table? Then, even though we did finish our apps before them they got their entrées before us, way before us. Shoot, they almost finished their entrees before we got ours.

During our wait between apps and entrées I was finally able to flag down Albert after the wait hit a half hour. He just kept apologizing and saying that kitchen is backed up. Sorry Albert, but that’s no excuse. My little quail should take no longer than 5-8 minutes to roast while Yuki’s brisket was either braised the day before or that morning. It should never take that long between coarses. I told him how I noticed that the tables on either side of us were getting their dishes in a timely fashion and his response was childish and defensive, “Sir, it’s not a competition.” Albert, man up and admit your service sucked. I was merely using the other tables as a reference point, not for some competition you may have going on in your feeble little head.

We just about lost our appetite because so much time had passed. Right when I was about to tell Albert to forget it, we’re leaving, the entrées showed up, more than 45 minutes from the time they cleared our apps.  

Yuki had the Braised Brisket with Hen of the Woods Mushrooms and, honestly, I forget what else was on that dish. We couldn’t get past how salty the braising liquid and mushrooms were as well as how tough the brisket was. They should have called it brisket jerky. I kept watching Yuki try to saw away at that thing just to get a bite. I think it was sitting under the heat lamps for about 20 minutes back in the kitchen. At least that’s how it tasted. I got the Roasted Quail with Kurobuta Pork Belly, Duck Egg baked in La Quercia Prosciutto, and Purple Potatoes. The quail was alright, a little dry, but not terrible. The pork belly was way too sweet, and I do mean sweet. The egg and prosciutto was so damn salty! Doesn’t Chef Nahabedian know that when you cook prosciutto you’re concentrating the salt by removing the moisture? She did nothing to control the salt level. The fact that the yolk of my duck egg was solid and not runny tells me that my dish probably sat under the heat lamps for too long as well. On top of that the three main components had absolutely nothing to tie them together. I was intrigued by the combination on paper and quite honestly, it just didn’t work on all fronts. I kept imagining what Chef Tom Colicchio would say on Top Chef about editing a dish and pulling back on ingredients. Also, there was nothing on either of our plates that justified the price. Brisket is a cheap cut of beef and quail, pork belly (literally three bites worth), and duck egg don’t cost that much either. We clearly didn’t pay for execution as nothing was balanced or cooked properly.

When we finished the entrées it was already 10:00 and we were ready to go home. Albert came by and asked if we were up for dessert and I told him, “We don’t want to be here for another hour, we’re ready to go.” He tried to joke around and said the dessert was on him. We really didn’t care for his nonchalant attitude. We’re two very pissed off diners, not friends.

Another comment on Albert’s service, not once did he come over to see how our food was. He ignored us during our apps and he ignored us during our entrées.

He left to get us the bill and the manager, Terry, came by to apologize. I told him my exact thoughts. If the service had run at regular restaurant speed we wouldn’t have waited the initial half hour to get our table not to mention the snails pace of everything else. It should never take more than a half hour to get apps, and it should never take more than 45 minutes to get an entrée from the time apps are cleared. He also blamed it on the kitchen which is a terrible cop-out. Whether deliberate or shear incompetence, our entrées clearly seemed to have been sitting in the kitchen under heat lamps for a long period of time.

When Albert brought the check he also brought a dessert, Vanilla Ice Cream Parfait with Drunken Fruit and Brioche Pain Perdu, with the obligatory “Happy Birthday” written in chocolate. It was comped, but we clearly told him we did not want dessert and just wanted to leave. The correct move would have been to just take care of some of our wine and not force us to stay there any longer. A free dessert was not enough to get the usual 20% tip we tend to leave.

I do have to say that Yuki had her doubts about Naha months ago when I mentioned that this is where I wanted to go for my birthday dinner. She thought the menu looked pretentious and unappetizing. Once again, she was right. I should have known better. Most chefs worth their grain of salt, especially those who claim to be farm-to-table chefs, are trending towards simplicity, fewer ingredients to showcase the quality of the food. Chef Nahabedian is stuck in the trends of a decade ago. Besides that, the service was clearly lacking. If you want to go out for a nice dinner with fantastic food, trust me, there are hundreds of better options than Naha where you’ll be paying their rent instead of buying a good dinner experience.

Thanks for a horrible birthday Naha!

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What many people don’t know is that the Spanish were using pasta way before Marco Polo brought it over to Italy. I’m referring to fideos, short pasta that’s very similar to broken angel hair. In fact, if you can’t find fideos you can easily use angel hair pasta. Just break it down into 2-3 inch pieces. Another difference is that the Spanish like to toast the dried pasta before using it. This does two things. First, it adds an extra nuttiness to the flavor. Second, this causes the pasta to get even drier allowing it to soak up more of the sauce. Cooking fideos with clams is a classic Spanish dish, although I added more vegetables than the Spanish typically do to clams. I’m Jewish (I know I know, clams aren’t Kosher, but I’m not a religious man, I’m a foodie!), not Spanish, so I can get away with that.

The first thing I did was toast the fideos. I spread about 4-5 oz’s on some foil and toasted them until they became nice and dark golden in color. Then I let them sit and cool while I prepared the rest of the dish.

My ingredient list is two chopped celery ribs, half an onion diced, 1 purple potato diced, two plum tomatoes chopped and seeded, three garlic cloves minced, some broccoli florets broken down into smaller pieces, handful of basil leaves from my back porch, and a half cup of white wine. I also quartered an eggplant lengthwise, but that was used as a side and not in the main dish.

Of course, the stars of the show were the clams. I used little neck clams and got 12 of them for two portions. I only needed 5 per person, but got the extras in case some didn’t open. Sometimes my brain works perfectly as two of them didn’t open during cooking.

I started by sautéing the garlic and onion in some olive oil for about 6 minutes, just until the onion started to get translucent. Then I added the celery and let that go for another 3 minutes before added the potato. The potato was cut small enough that it didn’t need too much time to cook through, only about 5 or six minutes before adding the broccoli. Again, the broccoli was cut pretty small, it only needed about 3 minutes or so, then I added the tomato and seasoned with salt, pepper, and a few dashes of paprika. I mixed it all together and then added the toasted fideos. Once the fideos were well incorporated I poured in the white wine and let that come to a quick boil. Once boiling, in went the clams. I covered the pot and shook it around every minute until the clams opened up, anywhere from 3-6 minutes. Any clams that don’t open need to get tossed in the garbage immediately.

I kept the eggplant extremely simple. I heated up some olive oil to its smoking point and pan-fried the eggplant on all sides until it got a nice toasty color. If the oil isn’t hot enough the eggplant will absorb it all, so you need to make sure it’s hot.

To serve, I took the clams out off the pot and stirred in the basil leaves. That also allowed all of the clam juices to be evenly mixed into the dish. Then, I just put the clams on top of the fideos and vegetables in the bowl and drank everything down with the white wine I used in the dish. I sliced up some crusty bread to mop up the juices.

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So, I had a lot of pesto left from Meatless Monday. Whole Foods had local, organic chicken legs on sale for $1.49 a lb. The idea was to marinade them in the pesto for an hour and then grill them up. The spurts of rain we got last night put the kibosh on that. So, I roasted them instead.

Before marinating the chicken, I slashed the skin a couple of times about halfway into the meat. I wanted the pesto flavor to permeate the leg and not just coat it. I put the legs in one of my large pans and threw it into the oven at 425 degrees for about 35 minutes. While I didn’t get the smoky grill flavor I wanted, this allows the chicken to almost confit. All of the chicken fat helps keep the meat moist and juicy.

While the chicken was roasting I sautéed up some onion, purple potato, and carrot in butter. Once the vegetables were almost completely cooked, about 10-15 minutes for the potatoes, I drizzled in the last bit of pesto I had left. I let that cook for a minute or two.

Then I threw in the rest of the rapini I had in my fridge. The rapini only needs a few a minutes. Once the leaves started to wilt I turned off the heat.

I prepared the soup earlier in the day so that, come dinner time, all I had to do was heat it up. I took 7 roma tomatoes and halved them. I laid them in a baking dish cut side up and topped each with a slice of garlic. Then I drizzled some olive oil on top and roasted them in a 400 degree oven for an hour. When I took them out I let them cool for about 15 minutes and then tossed it all in my blender until nice and smooth. I thought about straining it, but I decided that I wanted the texture of the pulp.

Right before I reheated the soup I threw in a large handful of chopped basil and seasoned with salt and pepper. I garnished the soup with a pinch of parmesan.

Even though potatoes are a starch, I treated them more as a regular vegetable. I served some white rice alongside for the starch.

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