Sunday, September 11, 2016

Anniversary Dinner at Cafe Provencal

After 42 years of marriage, trying to find a way to celebrate that hasn't been done can be a challenge,however a nice meal in great surroundings is always a good option. This year we decided to use a gift card our daughter had given us to a hidden treasure Cafe Provencal in Williamsburg, VA.  When I say it is hidden, I mean that even people I work with who live in Williamsburg do not even know about this jewel.  Maybe because it is inside a country hotel (Wedmore Place), inside a winery (Williamsburg Winery), but believe me, it is worth the winding drive and elevator ride down from the hotel lobby- kind of like Harry Potter running toward Platform 9 3/4- like entering a different world!  The location, service and food are just amazing, the perfect choice for a leisurely "occasion" meal, and the staff treats you like you are the only guests there.

Gorgeous oysters were perfect!
While we chose wine and the bartender made my Cosmo, a small basket of warm cornbread and rye bread slices were brought to the table, which only whetted our appetite.  We decided since it was a special occasion, we
decided to have appetizers first.  My husband was quick to choose the oysters on the half shell, a half-dozen that came on a bed of ice and with fresh grated horseradish and champagne mignonette sauce.  I selected a Scallop Ceviche, that truly looked more like a work of art than something to eat.
 This was my first time having scallop ceviche and the taste and texture were just amazing.  Served with cantaloupe and green papaya salad and a fermented pepper sauce that added just the right amount of heat, and a crisp with sesame seeds that I think was for garnish, but added a crisp texture an sweetness to the dish- it was a perfectly composed dish with a variety of complementary textures and flavors.

After the successful appetizer course, I wondered how our entrees could stack up.  My husband decided to go with the duck breast that was served with smoked duck pastrami, a wine-poached peach and a carrot-cardamom jus and he was not disappointed.  The duck skin was crisp, and the breast meat was pink and succulent.  The artistry of jus and other complements are usually lost on my husband, but suffice it to say he cleaned his plate!  I decided to go with the market fish, which that night was black sea bass (after I determined that
Duck breast entree with pea shoots
"whole" fish meant without the head)! The plate again was pure artistry, but beyond how it looked, every single component was absolutely delicious.  They brought me a bowl so I could remove the bones which was very convenient. The fish was just delicious, flaky and flavorful with a crispy skin accompanied by a watercress nasturtium sauce that perfectly complemented the fish. The spotlight for me was shared with the cashew butter that was an accompaniment- creamy with a distinct cashew flavor.  I ate it with the lion's mane mushrooms until I ran out -  I honestly wanted to lick the plate, but I didn't think I would make it to my 43rd anniversary if I did.  The potato croquette also on the plate was not up the the standards of the
Delicious black sea bass and see those little mounds of cashew butter?
rest of the plate in my opinion- it was good, but not really complementary to the rest of the plate.  But no worries, my meat and potato-loving spouse scarfed it up and declared it delicious.

I wish I could share pictures of our desserts- mine was a chocolate terrine plate with a flame broiled marshmallow that was amazingly rich, and my husband opted for the dessert cheese board- but alas, my phone battery died.  You will have to take my word that it was incredible, and the server brought a a glass of sparkling Gamay to toast our anniversary. All in all a wonderful meal to celebrate yet another year of marriage, and an experience that I would definitely recommend.
Chef's amuse bouche-oyster with pumpkin pesto

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Behind the Scenes on Below Deck: An Interview with Chef Ben

One of our favorite shows to watch  as a family is Below Deck, the adventures of "yachtees" who
This season's Eros -playground of the wealthy!
cater to the rich and famous who charter yachts and island hop.  Let me tell you, it takes a lot to get my husband to watch anything on Bravo (no offense Andy Cohen), but he will not miss an episode of Below Deck.  It is reality TV that is actually fun to watch and you actually get to know the different stews and deck hands who work to make these fantasy jaunts possible.  One of our favorite staff members from the previous two seasons was Chef Ben Robinson, a cheeky, fun, but immensely creative and talented chef who can whip something out of nothing in a galley that is about the size of a walk-in closet.

Chef Ben was not part of the new season but when Chef Leon did not work out, Captain Lee called Ben and he is now back tonight for his first full episode on Eros!  Chef Ben's return was a reason for excitement in our house so I was particularly thrilled to have the opportunity to pick his brain and share some of his insights with you.  This post is for the Below Deck fans- but I will be posting separately on Chef Ben's latest post-Eros project that focuses of healthy eating in a balanced and holistic way.

I was torn between wanting the inside scoop on this season's drama on the crew, but this is, after all, a food blog, so I tried to ask questions that I wanted to know about. Here are my questions and some of the info Ben shared:


Were you surprised to be called by Captain Lee to come to Eros?
 
Ben: I was happily surprised to hear from Captain Lee, its always great to work with him.. And he provides the colorful charter seasons..

What is the greatest challenge in working in a yacht galley?
 
Ben: Space is always challenging, and when the boat is moving it makes your job much harder
The Eros galley- where food and drama are served in equal portions!

What is one piece of equipment you can’t live without in the kitchen?
 
Ben: I love having an ice-cream machine, it makes great dessert pairings.

What is the most-requested meal ingredient?
 
It really depends on where you are, and what season it is.. For instance, the Mediterranean in the summer, will be demanding of truffles, the Caribbean in the winter will demand for conch and spiny lobsters..

What was the most unusual request you got from a charter guest?
 

Your favorite dish to cook? To eat?
 
Ben: I love Asian fusion.. Its clean, healthy and can be incredibly flavorful...

Have you been watching this season and what are your impressions about the Eros crew?
 
Ben: I’ve actually been abroad in Greece,  on a yacht… I’ve heard rumors of it being very
A young Chef Ben with his catch!
chaotic..

Who would you want to switch jobs with on the yacht?
 
Ben: Sometimes when I'm absolutely inundated in work and desperately scrounging for creative insight, I think, wouldn’t it be nice to be polishing a window on deck right now. But then I realize I’d bored in about 10 minutes and run back to the action...

What is Captain Lee really like (this question was submitted by a reader when he heard I was interviewing you.)
 
Ben: Captain Lee is a very kind, loving, family man. People take him the wrong way sometimes, he is in charge of a very serious operation, sometimes you have to be stern and lay down the law..

Want to see Ben in action? He will be on Below Deck tonight and every Tuesday night until the Eros docks for the season!  And come back to hear about his latest venture-integrative nutrition!

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Preparing for Joaquin

Since I am, like many on the East Coast, preparing for Joaquin and its possible effects over the next several days,  I wanted to repost so tips I have on preparing for any kind of storm. While preparation is the best way to make sure you minimize damage and inconvenience, if you are told to evacuate,please do so. Make sure that your preparations are n line with the warnings for your area, and stay informed- these kinds of storms are very unpredictable and can change for good or ill in a very small time. 
http://play-with-food.blogspot.com/2011/09/hurricane-prep-old-hands-advice.html

Friday, July 10, 2015

Friday FotoPost: BBQ at Border Station

I really love complex dishes and exotic ingredients, but sometimes, simple food done well can be the most delicious.  On a trip to North Carolina to grab some fireworks for July 4th my husband and I hit the jackpot-  BBQ special night.  Take a look at all the food we got (+ refillable drinks) and then look at the receipt!


Friday, March 06, 2015

FridayFoto Post - Breaking Borders brings Adversaries to the Table

I had a great opportunity to interview Michael Voltaggio, Top Chef winner about his new show Breaking Borders on the Travel Channel.  This photo is from the first episode airing March 15 where he beings Palestinians and Jewish settlers together for a dinner on the West Bank. It is really eye-opening.

Friday, February 27, 2015

FridayFoto Post - Hasselbeck Potatoes without the Hassle

I only learned about these potatoes in the last year , and was so fortunate to see a video of how to make the thin slices without cutting through- place the potatoes on a wooden spoon and cut down.  The rim of the spoon will stop you and you can have hassle-free Hasselbeck potatoes- crisp and yummy!