Sunday, December 9, 2007

Bounty of the Season

Though the local farm production has just about come to a halt, this time of year brings a few treats on its own. The cold waters to our Northeast produce some of the most decadent, delicious morsels of the year. The tiny pink sweat shrimp from Maine and the plump little perfect Nantucket bay scallops. We are getting these beauties less than 24 hours out of the water-they are so awesome that when they first arrive I just get a little soy sauce and snack for a minute-how could I not?
Pristine bay scallops, can you still see them twitching?
Pan seared with Jerusalem artichoke puree, sauteed beet greens
and a bacon mustard vinaigrette

Raw Maine Sweet Shrimp

Crispy deep fried-tossed with Urfa Bibier, Smoked Paprika & other goodness.
Squeeze the lime and eat them whole! Unbelievably great

Friday, December 7, 2007

A 31 Year Old Beauty

Nina & I had the pleasure of sharing a bottle of 76' Giscours the other night. Nina had bought it for me as a gift a few months back, and we finally had the right night to relax and enjoy it.
For a 31 year old 3rd growth, with a messed up label-looking like hell, it sure drank great. When we first opened it the nose was young, tight almost, full of leather, wet earth and ripe fruit. The palate was rich and lush, drinking beautifully, long finish of tobacco, chocolate & licorice. Over the hour or so that we drank it, the fruit softened, deepened and the finish became more focused, great minerality.

We ate Osso Bucco with baby brussels sprouts, onions, tomato & pasta. An awesome 1 pot meal.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Highlights from the past week

My fish monger Dan, in Portland Maine, sent me these beautiful wild oyster mushrooms. They were foraged just outside of Portland and were huge & meaty. They smelled like Maine also, a hint of pine and a sea water freshness. We simply roasted them whole and deglazed the pan with a little mushroom stock afterward for the sauce-a real treat.

A new addition to our pate roster is the duck neck terrine. Jamie came up w/ this one and it's great. We confit the duck necks, then pull the meat and press it w/ brandied raisins & wrap it all in the neck skin. Served with pickled beet greens, and a raisin chutney.

The charcuterie plate has been chock full lately as well. Seen here with house cured coppa, lomo, duck prosciutto, as well as our country pate, and a lamb/hog head cheese.
Perfect Maine day boat cod, served with baby fennel, fingerlings, escargot and a herb fumet.

Nina newest addition to the dessert menu. Polenta quince cake, pomegranate granita & creme fraiche with fennel pollen.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Taste of the Hudson Valley

We had a table at the taste of the Hudson Valley this past Sunday. It was at the Grandview in Poughtown this year instead of at the CIA where is has always been before.

We were paired with Chateau & Estates, and were pouring Trimbach Fredrick Emile Riesling 2000 & 2001. I love these wines! Nobody makes dry Riesling the way Trimbach does such austere minerality, bright acidity & lush mouth feel. The 2000 was drinking pretty close to perfect, the 01 was still a little tight but will no doubt be great in a year or two.

We whipped up some pates for the occasion. A classic pairing in my mind.

Country pate made from ground pork shoulder & duck liver as well as a duck & chicken liver mousse pate. Delicious and low maintenance on site.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Roumier-The master of elegance

Nina & I drank an 04 Roumier Bourgogne Rouge last night. It was incredible. If you have ever seen my wine list at Swoon you know I am a HUGE Roumier fan. I think he is making some of the purest, most elegant & beautiful Burgundies of any winemaker today-Period! The 04 Bourgogne Rouge is a baby Chambolle Musigny-where Roumier is based and his heart is centered. The nose-dirt, wet stones, cherries & plums(fresh plums not stewed plums like some over ripe pretentious Carneros pinot). Fabulous in the mouth as well, starts w/ spicy earth & fruit, rounds out mid palate w/ decent weight for a Bourgogne Rouge, and finishes long w/ great minerality.

This wine is not easy to find, but worth seeking out, like any Roumier. I could get only one case, we now have 11 Bottles left.

Monday, November 5, 2007

What Happened to the Martini as a Cocktail/Aperitif???

Tonight I start a new "Label" that will allow me to express my opinions on drink, which are at least as strong as those on food. A Martini has long been a great aperitif, but in recent years it has become not an aperitif or even a cocktail, it's straight chilled alcohol, be it gin or vodka. If you order just a "Martini" in a restaurant these days there is no vermouth it's just booze shaken or stirred w/ ice. This is not a cocktail or an aperitif , it's a chilled shot in a martini glass & usually way too big, the supersize me, Sams Club mentality has even taken over the cocktail. What's the point of a 14oz Martini if its warm by the time you are half way through?? & at $13-$14 a pop? why not a traditional portion at a more reasonable price, that is still cold on your last sip? I enjoy a proper Martini as an aperitif before dinner. My Vermouth of choice is Vya, it is made by Andrew Quady, a California winemaker best known for his sweet wines. This Vermouth BLOWS AWAY Martini & Rossi or any other high production-mass market vermouth out there. Vya's floral & herbal notes bring the martini back to the aperitif it was meant to be! Don't worry it's not sweet, it's not cloying, it has FLAVOR-Depth & Finesse. Try a Proper Martini I think you will enjoy it as much as I do!

It doesn't hurt to have a little Neal's Yard Stilton & crusty bread to go with it!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

A Few Highlights From The Weekend

Here are a few of the plates I got a chance to shoot over the weekend.

Our version of a Green Tomato "BLT"

Tuna Tartare, Seasoned w/Harissa & Tangerine, Local Celery Broth

I know tuna tartare is totally over done, but this is fuckin delicious & sells great.

House Cured Gravlax, Pickeld local baby beets, cucumbers & creme fraiche

Nothing innovative, a nod to the Eastern Europeans.

My Favorite Entree of the weekend

Pan roasted Monkfish, w/ squid, chickpeas, merguez & celery leaves

Monday, October 1, 2007

Rhone Wine Dinner

Wine Tasting Dinner with Jean-Paul Autard & Dominique Courbis
Reservations Required$75/PersonSunday, Oct. 14 5 p.m. ~ Sharp
Swoon Kitchenbar340 Warren StreetHudson, New York
Call for reservations:518-822-8938

We are truely honored these great winemakers are joining us in Hudson to share their wines and wisdom.
Winemakers Jean-Paul Autard (Domaine Paul Autard) and Dominique Courbis (Domaine de Courbis) are two of the most celebrated wine makers of the Rhone Valley. Meet them as they showcase their stunning 2005 vintage at our October 14 winetasting dinner.Please join us for an unforgettable 5 course meal, paired with 9 exquisite Rhone Valley wines.

Don't miss this opportunity to taste the fantastic 2005 Rhone Valley releases of Domaine Paul Autard and Domaine de Courbis, as well as a selection of older vintages from Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Saint Joseph, and Cornas.

Hope to see you there

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Street & Company

We were in Portland Maine last week for a couple of days. Portland is one of our favorite eating destinations on the east coast, lots of good restaurants-tons of fresh seafood.
Street & Company is the smaller sister restaurant to Fore Street-a Portland institution.
The bar is the place to be, beautifully designed with polished concrete and an ice trough built in to house the oysters and tended by friendly knowledgeable bartenders. Our new friend Blue pictured above.
We drank Chateau La Roque, a Kermit Lynch wine, from the Languedoc, w/ our oysters and other seafood. It was perfect, great acidity & enough body & funk to make it interesting.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Summer's here, I'm for that

Summer is here, in full glory, which means the farm van is full of natures goodness.

The farm stands are chockfull of all the summer bounty we've been waiting for.
Sweet corn from Holmquest Farm has flovored our risotto, been pair with bacon & onion rings in a salad, and cook with chanterelles as a ragout with duck.

Sweet corn risotto w/ olive oil poached shrimp & cherry tomato sauce.

Montgomery Place is the source for the greatest variety of heirloom tomatoes!
They, like the corn are everywhere on the menu right now.

Maine "Peeky Toe" Crab Salad
with heirloom panzanella & tomato water

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

New Zealand Wine and Local Food

There is nothing like a cold glass of Sauvignon Blanc on a hot afternoon in the dog days of summer. As I watch the condensation roll down the outside of my glass, it takes me back to our trip last January to the wine country in New Zealand. I thought I would depart from our usual topic of local food from farm to plate, to talk about my favorite wine to have with these great meals.

Now, the basic and only rule of wine is that if it tastes good, it is good. Which wine goes with what dish can be a great source of fun experimentation. However, if you are not into experimenting the staff at Swoon Kitchenbar takes great pride in helping you find a wine that will complement the food you want to eat. Some pairings can astonish you, which is why Swoon holds regular wine tasting dinners. Wine tasting dinners give you the chance to learn and experience food and wine together in a relaxed atmosphere, and they give Swoon a chance to extend its culinary artistry in ways you might not otherwise see.

Last January, Kathy and I went to Australia and New Zealand on a three week vacation. We have been wanting to go to the down under wine country since an experience we had at a wine tasting event held before the annual Tanglewood Wine and Food Festival (this year on Saturday, August 11). A distributor of wines from New Zealand partnered with Old Chatham Shepherding for a joint wine and cheese tasting, pairing different wines and cheeses. We had our first taste of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and we were hooked after many years of drinking Italian Pinot Grigio. What we saw and tasted after we arrived in Australia and later in New Zealand was far beyond our wildest dreams.

We toured the Hunter Valley just outside Sydney with our mate Haley who taught us the words and music to the theme for the TV show "Skippy the Bush Kangaroo" and tried to get us to have some Vegemite. (By the way, they are as repulsed by peanut butter and jelly as we are by Vegemite) Haley also clued us into the local slang created by just saying enough of a word to get the meaning. So Sauvignon Blanc became a Savi and the cooler for the beers is an Eski (from the brand name Eskimo Cooler). We spent more time in New Zealand than in Australia, so we have more work to do on Australian wines.

After a brief stop in Auckland, NZ, we spent several days in Marlborough, NZ, which is at the North end of the Southern Island. We took advantage of another tour, and we enjoyed the local knowledge provided by the guide. We also enjoyed being able to let someone else drive among the wineries and then get us back to our hotel!

Marlborough is renowned for its white wines, most notably in the U.S. its Sauvignon Blancs, which have a characteristically citrusy flavor. The wineries we visited were the smaller artisanal wineries that do not bottle enough wine to be viable as exporters. Most of them wanted us to try their Pinot Gris and other wines so that we would have a broader view of them as wine producers. The tastes of the people in Australia and New Zealand for sweets is dramatically less than the tastes of the people in the U. S. and their wines showed the difference. The desert wines in New Zealand were quite different from desert wines from other regions. Marlborough is also starting to grow Sangiovese grapes and might soon challenge Italy as they now do France with their Pinot Noir.

If Marlborough is for white wine then the Otego Valley outside Queenstown, NZ, is for reds. The Pinot Noirs and other reds we tasted the the Otego Valley were outstanding. This area is on the Southern part of the Southern Island and is the mecca for skiers in June, and other extreme sports all year round. Keep in mind that in this part of the world, the further South you are the colder it gets.

Again, we toured the smaller wineries that take great care and pride in producing their wines, but don't produce enough to make shipping to the U.S. a viable option. So wines from Chard Farm or Gibbston Valley that we loved while we were there might only be found rarely in the U.S. There is one other issue that comes up often with wines from New Zealand and Australia, and that is the screw cap closure. Some people have an emotional attachment to cork. A distributor for New Zealand wineries told me that he regularly lost 20% of the wine he imported from New Zealand due to TCA cork rot. Screw caps have come a long way from the 1960s gallon jug of Gallo wine. They seal the bottle better preventing oxidation and taint, and reseal better after opening without the need for a vacuum stopper.

On several occasions while traveling on business I have been chosen to pick the wine for the group at dinner. I almost always pick a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, and get rave reviews. In fact last night we opened the last bottle of NZ Pinot Noir we had left over from our wedding a year ago. Come on, unscrew a cap and give it a try.

David Jackson

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Hudson Valley Country Ham

After 13 months of patience, allowing the magic of salt & air to do its work we finally sliced into our first country ham. It seemed like the right time as Jamie just finished curing a new ham & hung it to dry.

It really was a thing of beauty!
Properly dried, smelling just funky & meaty enough, but not too much.

We decided to serve it rather simply.
Sliced thin with a salad of watercress & some watermelon pickle.
We're proud.

Come & try some while it lasts.
The next one will not be ready for another year.

Monday, July 23, 2007

What's Hangin

In the cavernous depths far below Swoon Kitchenbar & Warren Street lies a secret cave. A cave so secret outsiders must be anesthetized in order to enter, very similarly to Batman's. It is in this cave that we hang various cuts of meat to cure.

The process actually begins in the kitchen. The meat is first rubbed in a spice mix & placed in the refrigerator for 2-4 days depending on size. Then it is packed in salt for another 2-12 days.
After the salt cure has worked its magic it is then hung in the cave to dry.

The House Made Charcuterie plate, a menu staple, always includes cured duck breast"Prosciutto"as well as country pate & whatever other treats may be done Hangin

Culatello served with local baby escarole
in a green olive & caramelized onion vinaigrette

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Thirteen Things we're cooking this weekend

1. Soft Shell Crabs
2. North Wind Farm Cornish Game Hens
3. Holmquest Farms Bi Color Corn
4. Montgomery Place Orchards Plums & Apricots
5. Migliorelli Farm Thumbellina Carrots
6. House Made Linguine & Littelneck Clams
7. Braised Veal Ribs
8. Local Rabbit Rittettes
9. Cherry Tomatoes, every kind
10. Maine "Peeky Toe" Crab Salad
11. Maine "Day Boat" Cod
12. Stone Church Farm Duck Confit
13. Black Raspberry Martinis
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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Backyard Garden Goodness

We pulled all the Swiss Chard out of our garden this morning
to give the tomato plants more room to grow.

This evening it became a Swiss Chard & Ricotta Tart.
Topped with micro herbs & the pickled stems.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

The Simple Way to Good Fruit

Nina was making ice cream from red raspberries, and Jeff was doing prep work for lunch. The week at Swoon was starting, and the kitchen was busier than usual. It's not a good place to stand and talk because you feel like, or you actually are, in the way. Jeff suggested I go down to Montgomery Place Orchards, just south of Tivoli and Bard College on 9G. "That's where Nina gets all her fruit, and we should do something with them," Jeff said while wrapping a block of cheese he had just sliced. I headed south out of Hudson on Third Street, a quick jog on 23 and a left turn put me on 9G.

At the intersection of 9G and Route 199 is the Montgomery Place Orchards Farm Market, where there has been a farm stand since the turn of the last century. I found Telea Fincke in the back sorting fruit while her daughter, Caroline, was taking the seeds from red raspberries to make jam. Telea and Doug tend the orchards with heart, and people say their fruit tastes better than what they can get down the road. "If we could just teach our trees to have the fruit ready on the weekends," Telea explained, people who visit would be happier. We started to talk about the seasonal nature of local fruit and produce, and that people are accustomed to having seasonal items at non-seasonal times. "We could grown more, but the heart would go out of it. Doug likes to touch every tree."

Our conversation turned to the economics of growing and farming, and the relationship with the way people want to buy food. Telea is as passionate about educating people as she is about being involved in the whole process of growing fruit and veggies: selecting the right piece of land, the right variety of trees, planting, tending, harvesting, and finally selling at the stand. We talked about the economic bind farmers are in, having to constantly produce more to keep their cash flow going at a rate that will sustain their business, only to have the increased production drive down the prices making it harder the next year to stay in business. "But, how do you change it?" she asked.

I learned a lot, and I knew there was more to learn. I bought two pints of the black raspberries. I could tell there was more to them than just fruit from a roadside stand. As I headed north to Hudson, I realized that the only thing simple about this fruit was finding Montgomery Place Orchards Farm Market on 9G.

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Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Two Ways to Dine in the Hudson Valley

There is a hummingbird feeder outside my window. I put it up after a hummingbird came to the window in late May and looked inside as if to say "There used to be a feeder here". Now I can watch the different hummingbirds come to the feeder and they all seem to eat in different ways. This sparked me to think about the different ways we eat.

1. Inflight refueling (Some hummingbirds come to the feeder and never perch.)

This reminds me of the industrial eating we do while carrying on our busy schedule. These meals usually comprise cheap fast food, eaten without attention to the food or how it tastes. If the food can be handled with one hand while driving with the other, so much the better. I use the term industrial eating because production of this food comes from U.S. Government subsidized agribusiness, based largely on corn and consumption of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are used in the machinery to plant and harvest the corn, to create the liquid nitrogen used to fertilize, and herbicides to keep weeds out of the field. Some of the corn goes to the feedlot by truck where it meets a steer that also arrived by truck. Some of the corn goes to wet milling and becomes high fructose corm syrup and other byproducts used in creating a fast food meal from food science. The fast food calorie wastes most of the calories that are directly available from the corn itself before all this processing takes place. The food industry burns nearly a fifth of all the petroleum consumed in the United States. It takes between seven and ten calories of fossil fuels energy to deliver one calorie of food energy to your plate.

Think globally, eat regionally.

In our first article "Proximity to the plate", we talked about the carbon footprint of your plate, and other reasons we get our supplies from local farms. You might wonder why we emphasize bioregional food and not "Organic" food. Some bioregional food is organically grown, but not all Organic food you can buy locally is regional. Dutchess and Columbia Counties have many Organic farms and orchards which deliver fine products. "Organic" food has become an $11 Billion industry with major corporations involved. The USDA, heeding the influence of "corporate Organic", has defined what "Organic" means, that is, what is acceptable in processed food while still able to be labeled "Organic". Organic food production is still industrialized, and distributed via regular large scale shipping. The big Organic suppliers are in California, and other states in the West. Organic beef can still be readied for slaughter in massive feedlots. The largest Organic dairy is in Idaho, and milks a heard of thousands around the clock, milking each cow three times a day. "Organic" has more to do with the way the land is treated rather than the way the food is processed. While organic farmers use about a third less fossil fuels than conventional operations, they can catch up quickly if their compost is not produced onsite or nearby. Organic growers don't use petroleum derived fertilizers and pesticides, but industrial organic growing operations can use more diesel fuel than conventional farming hauling compost and cultivating fields for weeds.

2. Sit, Relax, Enjoy (Some hummingbirds sit on the perch and drink long from the feeder.)

At Swoon Kitchenbar we think we are pretty skilled at this kind of dining. This is the other side of dining that is equally important, your experience and how the plate gets from the kitchen to you. We take great care in understanding what gets into your food before it gets to us, and then to you. We want to make sure you can come to Swoon Kitchenbar to sit, relax, and enjoy.

Resource: Information for this article came from The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan, published by The Penguin Press. Try your local bookstore first before ordering it online and having it shipped across the country.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Au Pied de Cochon ROAD TRIP

We took a road trip to Montreal in order to eat at chef Martin Picard's temple of gluttony

We had a 6:30 reservation. By 7: the place was packed

We started with the Plateau des plateaux, a 2 tier extravaganza of goodness

The appetizer special that evening
Toast soaked in roasted meat jus, topped with morels, Parmesan & a poached egg
One of the best things I've ever eaten!

Poutine, the Canadian national comfort food of fries, gravy & cheese curd.
Picard's version with foie gravy, awesome!

Pickled venison tongues.

Rib of bison. Tender, meaty and delicious.

And the Piece de Resistance
Whole fried pig's foot stuffed with foie gras

Montreal is a fun little city, Au Pied de Cochon is a great restaurant.
Take a road trip!