Tonight I make a crazy tour of Washington DC’s Embassy Row. Amongst other things, I finally taste something made with durian that I like. I also visit the residence of the Moroccan Ambassador and I get to taste many of my favorite foods, but not the grilled sardines listed below. So that’s what I am making tonight while I watch the show. I adore this dish and you can make it with small mackerel, lake fish, just about anything. I even made it with a whole salmon.
We shot tonight’s show over a few trips last year to DC and I think it provides a great reminder about why our food world is so amazing. Just check out the hospitality we experience everywhere we go, especially from smallest country we feature. And yes, the French Embassy is indeed as amazing as it looks, and we didn’t even show you the best parts. Privacy issues are rampant in Washington, sorry about that.
Grilled Sardines with Almond Chermoula
12 fresh sardines, cleaned, heads on…if sardines are not available, try small red mullet, mackerel or trout.
3 cups fresh cilantro leaves
1 large handful or mint leaves
1/2 cup toasted almonds
3 plump garlic cloves
pinch or two red pepper flakes
1 1/4 cups olive oil
Lime juice to taste
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 teaspoon saffron mixed into 2T water
1 small minced onion
Place the onion, raisins, saffron and half the almonds into a large bowl and set aside.
Pulse the remaining ingredients in a food processor and cut 3 lateral slashes into both sides of the fish making sure to avoid cutting through the spine.
Take a third of the pureed mixture and rub into the fish slashes.
Take the remaining puree and combine with the onion mixture.
Grill (or broil) the fish for several minutes on each side and serve with the rest of the chermoula.
So Andrew’s new season of Bizarre Foods kicked off on Tuesday in his old stomping grounds– the kitchens of NYC. Andrew says it’s one of his favorite episodes to date. I loved watching him get worked in the Marea kitchen, and the Ron Jeremy porn ‘stache was hysterical.
But I gotta be honest. I’m not sure the new show was the Food Works HQs highlight of the week. For the past year and a half, we’ve been unsuccessfully jamming leftovers and water bottles into a crappy mini fridge. This thing only holds a few sodas, freezes all produce, and melts all frozen things. We finally bucked up and brought a big person fridge. This was a big deal around here. I caught Andrew standing in front of this appliance, marveling at it’s beauty, 2-3 times this week. It’s now stuffed with leftover Szechuan food, condiments o’plenty, and lots of ice cold beverages. Have perishable food product you’d like AZ to try? Send away as we finally have a place to put it!
Ahhh… It’s the little things. What’s in your fridge?
I’m fully aware that this is the “Bizarre Foods Blog” and all of you are a lot more interested in what AZ– not me– is up to, but I just got back from the best trip to Vegas and had to share. I was with a few girlfriends for a bachelorette party. As per usual, we burned the candle at both ends, which means I have lots of places to tell you about.
If you haven’t been since The Cosmopolitan opened in December, all I can say is wowza. I kept referring to it as our own personal cruise ship in the middle of the desert. Seriously, in three days, we left one time! You’ll see why– easily the best room I’ve ever had in Vegas, plus great pools, shopping and food.
We stayed in a terrace one bedroom pseudo-suite, complete with over-sized couch, dressing area (loved the wallpapered closet… I am doing that at my next house!), kitchenette, loads of coffee table books, a gigantic Japanese soaking tub with views of the Strip.
A slick pocket door divides the living room and bedroom if need be. I’m a dum-dum and didn’t get a photo of the room before our suitcases exploded, so here’s a shot from later in the weekend of Kelly, Corinne (who you may recognize from the NBC series The Event), bachelorette Bethany, and I in a “I swear we didn’t know this photo was being taken” pose.
The private terrace was the cherry on top! Have you ever had a balcony in Vegas? How ’bout one that looks over the Belagio fountains? Yeah, I hadn’t either. Here’s the bachelorette taking in the sights (the photo at the top is the view at night).
We spent our first day lounging at the Boulevard Pool– one of the hotel’s three options. Here’s the deal: The Bamboo Pool on the 14th floor is fairly quiet– a great place to relax, or maybe quietly nurse back to health after late night shenanigans. The Boulevard Pool is a little livelier– there’s a low-key DJ, lots of day beds (see ours below… it rocked), a couple hot tubs, and guys and gals in swimsuits looking to have a good time.
The third pool is the Marquis Day Club, aka a night club without the added bonus of a soft, dim glow that makes everyone look extra attractive. Let’s just say if you’re into the GTL lifestyle, you can’t miss this party. If you’re not down with GTL or don’t know what GTL means, go to another pool. It’s this photo x 1 million:
A day at a Vegas pool often lends itself to a serious need for food. Specifically, pizza. The Cosmopolitan has a top secret pizza party on the 3rd floor. No name, no sign, just a long hall wedged between Blue Ribbon Sushi and Jaleo that leads to pizza Shangri-La.
You can get ‘za by the slice, or entire pies to bring back to your room. For eight bucks, I got a slice of sausage/mushroom and a Solo party cup of Coke Zero. That ain’t bad for Vegas.
Incognito pizza joint doesn’t have much for seating, so grab a seat in the game room just outside. There’s a pool table if you’re so inclined.
We had a few other dining experiences– take home points: Skip everything at Holstein’s except the protein shake and maybe an order of steak fries. Kinda sad when a burger joint’s best thing is a berry protein shake, but that’s just my opinion. We ate some poolside ceviche and shrimp cocktail (pretty good… but what we REALLY wanted was chips and guac), breakfast at the Henry (slow service. Wish they had breakfast sandwiches at Va Bene, but alas it’s just coffee and pastries). Our shining culinary experience was definitely Scarpetta on Sunday night. There were only three of us left, and it was the perfect atmosphere for unwinding after a fun-filled weekend.
Cozy, well-designed (loved the exposed bulbs everywhere), with lighting that makes everyone and everything look a little sexier. I don’t remember what the music was specifically, but I know I liked it AND it was at the perfect level–loud enough for it to play an actual role in the restaurant’s personality, but not so loud that you couldn’t carry on a conversation. I loved how the seats near the window faced outside toward the spectacular view of the Bellagio fountain. Bravo to the brains at the Cosmo who managed to turn the Bellagio’s huge selling point into a free focal point throughout their own casino/hotel. Smart.
We kicked off dinner with a bottle of pinot noir that sommelier Mike recommended. It was a mouthful– Jermann Red Angel on the Moonlight, but it freaking awesome. Wine’s not my forte, so I’ll sum it up as more full bodied than what you’d expect from a pinot. We needed oomph. It had oomph.
We ordered the roasted sea scallops and our server Garvin steered us toward the raw yellowtail with oliodize nzero & pickled red onion. I’m glad he did. It was my favorite of the night. The menu neglected to mention it’s inclusion of large grains of salt (unless that’s what “oliodize nzero” means, but I doubt it), which added a burst of flavor and crunch.
Next came pasta, and to be honest, I think we were a little over-sold on the plain spaghetti. Based on our servers explanation, we expected to be wowed, but in fact it was kind of just like noodles. With a light tomato sauce.
We also ate this, which I cannot recall what it was for the life of me. Let’s put it this way– creamy, comfy pasta that makes you want to crawl into bed after eating it. This is exactly what we did after dinner.
We tried the pancetta-wrapped veal loin with sweetbreads and winter vegetable ragu. The veal was perfectly cooked, and the sweetbreads were subtle enough to not freak any of my tablemates out– a rarity.
As if we’d pass up dessert. We all opted for sweet and tart over chocolatey, so this take on strawberry shortcake (with rhubarb and balsamic) won.
Garvin also brought us dessert from Jaleo– Jose Andres Spanish restaurant next door. It was some sort of salty caramel and chocolate pudding paired with English toffee (my favorite!). Very smooth, Garvin. This pretty much ensures Jaleo is on my to do list for the next Sin City trip.
So that’s the Cosmopolitan in a nutshell. Good for food lovers, sunbathers, and late sleeper-inners, which means I’ll definitely be back.
My pal Ralph Bousfield runs Unchartered Africa and they are the best in the business. You will see him in tosday nights’ Kalahari Bizarre World/Bizarre Foods show that offers some of the best and most amazing work we have done to date. Each night we settled down to eat dinner after sunset, when the Ju/’hoansi would go to bed. We’d sit under the Botswanan skies as the moon rose and stars came out and we would eat like pigs, often it was our only big meal of the day. These are INSANE. Make ‘em, and eat ‘em in front of the TV while you watch the episode.
Tune in tonight, Tuesday, May 3 2 9pm E/P on Travel Channel.
English Bittersweet Lemon Puddings
One night in the Aha Hills our safari camp cook from Unchartered Africa made these impressive puddings. They were demolished in short order, and you will love them.
Makes 6 desserts
1T unsalted butter
3 eggs, separated
1/2 cup super-fine sugar
2 1/2T flour
1T lemon zest (Meyer lemons work great in spring)
1/4 cup fresh conventional (or Meyer lemon) lemon juice
1 cup milk
Pinch of salt
Powdered sugar for garnish
Butter 6 custard cups and place in a baking dish lined with a dish towel.
Whisk egg yolks with the sugar until nice and light, add the flour, zest and juice, then add the milk.
Whips the whites stiff with an electric beater or mixer, fold into milk mixture along with the salt.
Fill cups with batter, pour hot water into baking pan to reach half way up the sides of the cups.
Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes until lightly browned.
Cool and serve in the cups, dusted with powdered sugar.