Chez Madeleine

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Pura Vida

I know I've been kind of MIA lately...I've been devoting all time/energy to my upcoming trip to Costa Rica. The time has finally come--I leave tomorrow morning. Last night, Madeleine meowed "let me come in your suitcase".

Wish me luck! I'll be back after Labor Day with lots of stories and photos of rice and beans and fish!

madeleine in suitcase

Monday, August 14, 2006

Party Dress


On Saturday, I threw a party. A casual Soiree to celebrate the end of summer with my friends from school. I shopped, kneaded pizza dough, chopped ingredients, arranged wine and fruit. I did the thing that I enjoy doing most in the world. Preparing to entertain. Creating a feast. Lee came over to keep me company while I set up the Mise for the night, and I told him that he was seeing me in my truest, realest, happiest state. Zen zucchini.

I love a row of glasses--shiny and perfectly lined up before a party.


mise en place 3

having the ingredients ready to go, ready to come together in combinations

mise en place 2



oily olives stuffed together, ready for fingers to grab


summer appetizers on their way to greatness

peach prep


cute boys who take out the trash and open wine for you


chicken sausage on pizza, fresh and steamy out of the oven


a towering dessert, heavy with deep, dark chocolate, sinful in its decadence


and good friends, bonded by wine and tables of food...

kathleen, clay, beth


ep08 girls

I'm a tapas dictator


On Friday night, I nibbled a lot. I had worked through lunch to get a big project done, so when I picked up a friend who was in town for the night, I took her directly to whole foods to pick up some snacks. We gorged on an apple--which Debbie had safely traveled with to Atlanta--feta and roasted garlic dip, and black bean hummus on everything flat breads.

Then we moved our feast to Kathleen's--where she dazzled us with incredible cheese, champagne truffles, buttery bread rounds, and chocolate covered almonds (which she tried to hide from us unsuccessfully).

Eventually, us 5 chicks walked over to Pura Vida.

Now-here's where the night got dramatic. It has been a while since I had eaten tapas, but I had been saving up some thoughts for a while. I've been trying to figure out why I don't really like tapas, and I had finally gotten to the root of the problem. What I determined is that I like to taste food--more than once. I like to have consistent bites of one item to allow that item's flavors to develop in my mouth...marinate, and machinate, and roll over the tongue, teeth, tummy. I don't like to get one bite of something--if I wanted one bite I would go to Costco or Whole Foods on the weekend and eat with a tiny taster spoon.

So--promptly after sitting down with my companions I apprised them of the fact that I was not indeed open to splitting our tapas. I told them, of course, that I was more than happy to watch them quibble over a tiny square of tuna, but I was going to order my dishes, feast on them happily, take multiple bites, and be completely content. I wasn't going to long after their small plates, ask for bites, or have difficulty deciding.

Debbie, always a conflict-solver (she has had quite the career in res life and student services), suggested a plan. Each person could have a tapas buddy. A person with which they could share several tapas in less miniscule quantities. Eileen and Liz jumped at the opportunity to buddy up and they were seen here poring over choices.


I chose chilean salmon ceviche-lemon cured salmon, tobiko caviar, dill espuma and yuca chips. It was divine. The lemony salmon and the crunch caviar.


I also had duck layered with carmelized sweet plantains that was my best dish of the evening, but it didn't photograph well.

The tapas buddies split an empanada that I can't find in my notes:


Kathleen ordered the hangar steak skewers with a chimmichuri. They were unbelievably tender:


and the tilapia ceviche with lime juice, aji, onions nad cream topped with cilantro. It was lighter than my salmon ceviche.


Debbie, our local vegetarian, had the tortilla espanol withh pearl onionn confit, gold potatos, peppers and goat cheese:


and the yuca croquettes with avocado aioli


the buddies also had a special-exploding potatos that I didn't write down the exact name of:


and a burrito that came last along with a squirter of green sauce


Last, Kathleen ordered the piece de resistance--golden window panes of tuna ceviche with an ahi amarillo foam.


We finished off the night with three chocolate desserts: Polvorones de chocolate fragrante-chocolate cookie nibs with candied ginger, orange zest, and toasted sesame and s spiced white chocolate fois gras ganache:


Churros al coco con leche-churros with chula de coco espuma and a chocolate cappucino for dipping:


and chocolate and ancho chili flan brulee with liquid kahlua caramel:


And then I let my tapas compatriots go back to their lives of sharing and harmony. I released them from my harsh no-sharing rule. I'm curious to know if they will take my deep-tapas thoughts with them on future journeys. I will have to ask them and find out....

Friday, August 11, 2006

Going back in time


About a month ago, I got an email from Lee, enthusiastically announcing that a glorious place called Medieval Times was coming to the ATL. A Medieval style dinner show, it was sure to be the most popular place in town. Now, I grew up in Southern California where we've had a MT for a while, so I had been several times, but I still wanted to ensure that Lee had the chance to experience the fight for valor, the joust til the death, the burning fingers from eating with no utensils, that I was able to experience so many times as a young girl.

medieval times

So, to commemorate an anniversary, I suprised him with tickets for last night. When we arrived, we were corraled into a photo op with the King, and handed a green laminated card and a green crown. We quickly bolted to the bar to get some medieval libations before the show began.

Being in the green section means that you bleed green for two hours. You are encouraged to cheer relentlessly for your green knight, and heckle and mock the knights from the other side of the arena. You are given a green flag to wave during the match. Our serf even told us that we could throw chicken at the opposing knights.

This is a food blog, so I need to concentrate on the culinary attributes of Medieval Times. The first and most important thing to note about MT is that you must eat with your fingers. Apparantly, during the real Medieval Times, there were no utensils, and honored guests picked at their chicken like vultures. At Medieval Times, you have no choice, you are required to eat as such. I washed my hands twice in the bathroom before dinner.

When you first sit down, you are greeted by your serf or wench--our serf was "Sean" and he had the middle times accent down to a tee. Sean introduced us to our napkins, where within was our "Bill of Fare"...

bill of fare]

To indicate our drink of choice, we were instructed to turn the handle on our mug a certain direction. Shortly thereafter, Sean circled with his crock of soup. He ladled a cup of soup in each diner's silver crock.

sean the serf

The problem with the soup, and the whole crock idea, was that the soup was 1000 degrees, and it heated up the metal crock along with it. It was well into the show before I was able to handle mine to drink it.

Lee posed for this action shot:

lee drinking soup

Shortly after, Sean, who was a combination bartender, server, MC, and bus boy, came by with our half-chicken and one singular spare rib along with a potato. At this point, we were being regaled with a Spanish horse doing tricks.

Here's my plate:
chicken dinner

It was pretty strange eating with my hands. Food is hot and filled with dangerous steam pockets. This is why utensils were created.

For dessert, we finished with the Pastry of the Castle--akin to a McDonald's Apple Pie.

pastry of the castle

We cheered valiently for our green knight, but in the end he perished at the hand of the White and Black knight. He put up a good fight. Almost as good as the fight we put up against our hot vegetable soup.

All in all, Medieval Times was a perfect place to spend a Thursday night. The memories of chivalry, burnt fingers, paper crowns, and horse dancing will stay with us forever.

Swan Song for the Burgh

burnt almond cake

There were a few more meals in Pittsburgh that I forgot to tell you about until now, so I'm telling about them now.

First, there was the feast that Aimee prepared for me when I arrived late on Thursday night. Pesto bread from a bakery on the Strip. A mini terrine of goat cheese, olive tapenade, and roasted red peppers.

pesto bread

goat cheese

And dessert---oh dessert. A famous burnt almond cake that she got from a special bakery. The almonds on the outside are so tasty, that I ate an entire quarter of them off of the cake before I even had my piece.

almond cake

And last, there was a memorable Pittsburgh sandwich before I left town. In the burgh-they eat coleslaw and fries on their sandwich so Aimee took me to the famous, Primanti Brothers.


It was a greasy spoon place with a big menu and an assembly line of fries, bread, coleslaw and meat. I had the corned beef and it was excellent. The fries on the sandwich are kind of strange, but the coleslaw is delicious. Its not mayo-based, but vinegar-based so its very pleasing to the palate. The coolness compliments the heat of the meat and bread.

all sandwiches served


So, that does it for Pittsburgh. I think I've probably boosted tourism by at least 1% with my reviews of Pittsburgh's excellent food. Do you think you'll visit anytime?

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Day 3 of Eating Pittsburgh

short rib ravioli

So, I cheated on you. I deprived you of one whole day of eating Pittsburgh. I ran out of the city, turned left at Fleming's Christmas tree lot, ended up on a horse farm, and forgot about you waiting for me here. I devoured baked Doritos and burnt burgers cooked on a tiny Coleman that was left to heat up during a rousing soccer game until the piles of soot underneath looked like little pyramids. I drank beer from a keg, munched on home baked peanut-chocolate bars, and played frisbee until I was red in the face. I came home tired and freckled. Curled up on the couch with a glass of wine and my friends, and fell asleep dreaming of more open fields and pastures.

Then I awoke today, well-rested, and groggy from my well rest, and started a new day. Munched on goat cheese and triple cream brie. Grapes and bananas. Put on shoes and walked the resevoir in Pittsburgh, worked up a sweat and an appetite. Then, Aimee and I embarked on our big dinner. Casbah. The menu I'd been fantasizing about.

Casbah sign

We were seated on the quiet patio at Casbah along with another couple on a date. He, underdressed. She dressed to the nines in a super short dress (not pictured). I started with a wonderful glass of Blue Moon Oregon Pinot Noir. Soon after my wine arrived, so did a gift from the kitchen-an amuse bouche of summer salad over roasted red pepper puree. The salad was colorful and bright on the palate--summer corn, roasted asparagus, fresh diced tomato, all floating on the roasted red pepper puree-rich and thick.

amuse bouche

We started with the falafel crusted shrimp with lemon-yogurt sauce. We were so famished that I forgot to snap the photo until we had dug in. The falafel was pronounced and rich, and the shrimp were giant and tender.

falafel crusted shrimp

We continued by splitting an arugula salad with sweet tangy goat cheese, sauteed mushrooms, house-made pancetta and pancetta dressing. The salad was portioned beautifully-the thick salty pancetta pairing with the tanginess of the goat cheese and the lemon-y dressing. Arugula, which I often find bitter, was the perfect accompaniment to its partners on the plate.

pancetta salad

Aimee picked the seared ahi tuna with calimari, tagliolini, capers, anchovies and tomato caponati. It was fresh off of the mediterranean--a melange of italian flavors topped with the fork-tender tuna.


I chose the beef short rib ravioli with greens, mushrooms and roasted shallots. The ravioli was incredible---the braised rib meat the perfect filling for the large ravioli. The bitter greens paired perfectly with the sweet meat.

beef ravioli

Still saving room for dessert we chose two: the bread pudding of the day- a white chocolate base baked with blueberries and topped with a blueberry-lemon ice cream. Also, a chocolate tower--flourless chocolate cake topped with hazelnut cream, a chocolate tuile and served with a caramel-sea salt iced cream. We both attacked the warm bread pudding when it arrived, but quickly moved to the chocolate majesty. We never really went back to the bread pudding (nor did we snap a photo of the chocolate until it was almost demolished). The flavor explosion produced by the salt-caramel iced cream and the chocolaty tuile and cake was incredible. The ice cream was completely salty, but so enriched by the caramel. It was incredible.

bread pudding


We ended the night with another gift from the kitchen, almond shortbreads. The evening was wonderful-- a perfect feast to end my time in Pittsburgh.

almond shortbreads