Archive | February, 2013

Kate and Jon’s Supper Club: “If You Can Make This, You Can Make That”

14 Feb

We met Kate and her husband Jon at a blogger event a few years back and struck up a friendship. We’ve spent some great times with them and really enjoy having a foodie couple friend to pal around with. While we dined out together a few times, we had yet to try her home cooking.  And if you read her blog, you will quickly learn that not only is Kate a clever writer (and her husband a great artist), but she also knows her way around the kitchen! Kate writes the awesome cooking blog If You Can Make This, You Can Make That.

So when they mentioned that they were going to host their first Supper Club at their home, we couldn’t possibly say no!

We started with lovely lovely apps.

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And an awesome cocktail.

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Here was the menu for the night.

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And we each sat down to this surprise bag at our place setting.

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Now I love corn soup…

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But corn soup with homemade popcorn (the contents of the surprise bag) was like a miracle in my mouth. (How have I never put popcorn in soup before???)

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And then out came the goat cheese souffle.  Wow! Souffles always impress me.

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Most souffles look pretty but taste bland. This most certainly did not.  It was filled with flavor.

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And then the scallops… ooooo caramelization! Delish (and with my favorite: squash puree)

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The roast pork was great. Very moist and great flavors.

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And then out came the bowl of schlag (homemade whipped cream). I could have just eaten this for dessert.

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But there was a plum crumble in my future.  Since I love both plum and crumble, this was right up my alley.

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And then there were some soft, warm chocolate cookies that were mind-blowingly awesome.  Kate keeps saying she doesn’t make cookies. I think she is a bloody liar.

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We had such a great time at this Supper Club and met some fun other people. The food was delicious and I’m so glad to have such delicious friends! I also think Kate may have read this entire blog cover to cover to find all my favorite foods to put on one menu! How else would she have known to put together such a perfect meal of NYCNomNom’s favoritist favorites?

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Michael White’s Marea

12 Feb

We like to start the new year right by eating at a restaurant we want to check off the list on January 1st each year.  This year it was Marea on Central Park South. We chose Marea because we really enjoyed our last Michael White meal at Ai Fiori (pasta focused) so we decided to try this seafood focused location.

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It’s a very nice, very white room with dark floors and dark chairs.

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We started with a amuse bouche that was not overly memorable.

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And we decided to try a Cristom Pinot Noir to ring in the new year (it was excellent).

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We started with the 4 course prix fixe menu (for $97 each) which came with Crudo, Ostriche or Antipasto / Pasta / Pesce or Carne / Dolce.

And of course, we started with the Ostriche, which are oysters. (Very good)

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I started with a seafood sausage and egg dish.  I really loved the seafood sausage and it all blended well with the dish (I think there were lentils on the bottom)

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Mike then had the Caramelle, which were short rib ravioli with red wine sugo, celery root, and foie gras emulsion.  I really enjoyed this dish. The short ribs were absolutely yummy in the ravioli.

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I chose the fusilli with red wine braised octopus and bone marrow.  I thought this was very good, but I think the taste of bone marrow is so good on its own that it gets a bit lost when it’s in a tomato based sauce. 

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Mike’s entree was the spada, which was grilled Hawaiian swordfish.  The current menu describes it with eggplant, radicchio, watercress, marcona almonds, and apricot, but I actually think it was a different version with chick peas in it.  The swordfish was perfectly cooked and it all went well together. But I didn’t love it.

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I decided to go out on a limb and I ordered the Seppia.  Seppia is grilled mediterranean cuttlefish with escarole, taggia olives, livornese, and wild oregano. Cuttlefish is one of those things I’ve always meant to try, and I figured there are few places better to take a risk on a strange seafood than Michael White’s Marea.  SO I went for it.

And then there was an alien on my plate.

I am the last one to stick up my nose at “gross” food but the way this thing looked at me… it gave me the heebie-jeebies.  It was quite delicious, and I feel like if I liked cuttlefish I would have loved this version. But sadly… I didn’t.  Well… It’s not that I didn’t like it, I just wouldn’t go out of my way to order it again.  I would much rather eat about a million other things.

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We added a side of brussels sprouts with pancetta, and they were cooked perfectly.

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Mike chose the Torta di Olio, which was an olive oil cake with roasted pineapple, green apple, and olive oil gelato. This was fresh and beautifully plated. 

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I went with the Strati Di Cioccolato, which came with dark chocolate crema, salted caramel mousse, cookie crumble, and gelato. YUM! This was great. I loved all the different textures and flavors. They came together perfectly.

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The crumbles on top really made the dessert.

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We ended with some petit fours.

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Which looked beautiful from every angle.

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And then they did my favorite thing that nice restaurants do… they gave us a muffin for the next morning.

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I don’t remember what it was, but it was really really delicious. I absolutely love that final touch. It wins me over every time.

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All the food that we had was very good. Frankly, I don’t think we ordered well. The cuttlefish was just not my thing, so it’s really hard to judge. Overall, I think the meal was very good and I’m glad we tried it.  I want to try the rest of Michael White’s places, but I would run back to Ai Fiori in a heartbeat. Not sure I would say the same about Marea.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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Resto

7 Feb

On a Friday night during Restaurant Week, we were without a reservation. A quick check of participating RW restaurants in the area with an open reservation led us to Resto, a place we had been meaning to try.  I had been to their sister restaurant, Cannibal, in the past where I enjoyed an incredible pig’s head. 

Their Restaurant Week menu looked good with 3 options in each section.  But due to my allergy, I was left with many fewer choices, so while we were in for the Restaurant Week menu, we wound up ordering entirely off the regular menu.

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I was a bit confused as to why we had a Sotheby’s catalog on our table.

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But soon found out that they put their drink menus in other books (we saw a children’s book on the table next to us). Cute idea.

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The space has a really good vibe, with old-looking metal ceilings and an industrial style.  

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Mike started with the deviled eggs which came on pork toast with charred scallion.  I couldn’t try the egg due to peppers in the filling, but I took a few bites of the pork toast and it was really fantastic.  Crunchy outside around soft and flavorful pork.  Mike enjoyed the egg but thought the egg to pork toast ratio was off and he wanted more egg.

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I started with the grilled halloumi with pistachio puree, grilled pear, grapes, and watercress. Everything on this dish came together perfectly. The sweetness of the pear and grape, the richness of the grilled halloumi cheese, the salty earthiness of the pistachios, the freshness of the watercress.  Very good.

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Mike chose the hamburger, which wasn’t on the menu and he had to request it specially.  When it came out, I couldn’t help but notice that it came on a regular ol’ hamburger bun. The kind of the grocery store.

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But it turned out it was a really great, nostalgic taste for this delicious burger. The burger was made with pork back fat and beef cheeks and a few other meats. It has a distinctively meaty and almost gamy flavor.  I really liked it, but there was one big problem… it was a TINY piece of meat.  

The fries were perfectly pillowy outside and crispy inside, so it’s not like Mike walked away hungry. But I think he was a bit disappointed that the burger wasn’t heftier.

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I chose the striped bass with roasted cauliflower, beluga lentils, and cauliflower cream. This dish was perfect. The fish was cooked perfectly and with a slight sweetness that made the meat really flavorful. The roasted cauliflower and cauliflower puree went very well with it, and I really enjoyed the flavorful beluga lentils.  

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We also got a side of brussels sprouts, which had a lovely crisp to them.

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Overall, we really enjoyed our meal at Resto. I think my 2 dishes were better than Mike’s 2 dishes, but everything was very good.  It was a hearty meal in a hearty space, with everything cooked very well.  I would just stick to the recommended items on the menu, and maybe skip the burger.

Overall Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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Dexter Themed Cupcakes: A Gig

5 Feb

Friends come to me with various food questions quite regularly. This project started in much the same way. One friend wanted Dexter themed cupcakes for a friend of hers that is a huge Dexter fan.  Her inspiration was from a picture of cupcakes that were made for Magnolia Bakery for the show’s premier.   I gave her some names of local bakeries I knew of that did custom and theme cupcakes, but as she called around, it became obvious that no bakeries would make it. One offered to make it without the “glass,” but that just took the drama out of it.

I looked at the picture, looked around for sugar glass recipes, and concluded that I could absolutely make these cupcakes.

And so my first “paid gig” for baking began.

Since this was my first “professional” assignment, I decided it was absolutely necessary to make a test batch first.  The cupcake recipient actually was not a fan of chocolate, so my red velvet idea went quickly out the window.

First, I found a Martha Stewart recipe for the sugar glass, but I long ago realized that Martha’s kitchen staff makes everything look a whole lot better than I could ever get out of my kitchen. So I went on a quest for a “normal person” recipes and once again, AllRecipes.com came to the rescue.

I combined them both (and the use of 2 different thermometers to check on the temperature) and made my attempt at sugar glass.

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I was really excited when it actually worked! It was ever so slightly yellow tinged, which was disappointing, but I deemed it good enough to work.

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And made a few batches of varying thickness.

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And just for fun, I dyed some blue and made some Breaking Bad Blue Sky (and put it all chopped up into a baggy for the friend who made the order, knowing she is a huge Breaking Bad fan.)

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It was a bit rippled when I made the thick one.

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But the thinner one was very clear and shattered just like glass.

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And cut like it!

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(Just kidding! Sort of…) It was definitely sharp, but it made for some great gag glass with just a bit of red food coloring.

For the cupcake itself, I decided to go with a very basic cupcake that I added some spices to (ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg) and then used the Bailey’s frosting that everyone loves.

Then it came time to figure out how to fill these bad boys. I wanted them to be filled with a blood colored jam of some kind that when cut into, would look like it was oozing blood.

First I tried a cherry pie filling (without the solids) in a squirt bottle.

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And while it looked a bit like it, the narrow amount just didn’t have the impact I wanted and it absorbed into the cake in a few minutes, so it didn’t really ooze all that well.

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So next I tried the “cone” method where you cut a cone out of the cupcake…

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… then remove the section…

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… fill the hollow with the filling…

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… then replace the very top of the circle to fill the hole. This proved to be a pretty good method and I declared the trial a success. (The hole also let me drop a cherry into each, which I hoped would add to the flavor a bit).

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And then it came time to assemble.  I used a pastry bag to pipe the frosting on, stuck the sugar glass on it, then splattered the top with red food coloring.  And then… we had a Dexter cupcake.

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We tried a few different “splatters.”  Red food coloring, red gel icing, cherry filling, jam… But the good ol’ red food coloring was really the best.

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And cutting into the inside wasn’t as oozy as I wanted, but the cherry inside was a really nice addition.

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And since I had a few extras from the trial, I filled a few with jam and topped them with peanut butter instead of frosting.

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Have I mentioned that I am a sucker for all things peanut butter and jelly?

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So then came the day of the actual party.  I had ordered some specialty accessories including blood spatter cupcake liners, bone sprinkles, and bloody cleaver toothpicks.  (More on those later)

While the cone cutting was working, I decided to look through my stock of random kitchen accessories to see if I had something better. Sure enough, an old fashioned apple corer was perfect.

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It pulled out a good well to add the cherry and cherry pie filling.

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And left the top circle intact for replacing on the top.

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All ready for frosting!

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We decided to go with a spread frosting instead of a piped frosting, and then put the shards of sugar glass in them.

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Then set up an elaborate blood spatter lab where we coated everything in saran warp, dropped the cap into the sink, and used pastry brushes to splatter the food coloring blood.

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Then put them into the cupcake holder (which is never stable enough… why don’t they make the sides of those things just a bit higher?)

Ready for delivery!

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But I figured I could get even more creative.  So I took a piece of sugar glass that looked like a knife, molded a chocolate handle, inserted a birthday candle and made an edible knife/candle holder.

Then I took a “naked” cupcake, strapped it down under plastic wrap, and stabbed it with the knife.  I hope Dexter fans will appreciate.

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I also wanted to create some different kinda of decoration, so I decided to use the meat cleavers and bones in red topped cupcakes.

This is where I caution you… it is just about impossible to make RED frosting. I wound up with a whole lot of very pink frosting.  I then proceeded to dump every red colored thing in my cabinet into this (which included just about every fruit jam in history) and yet… it was still pink.  So Mike popped out to the store and got an industrial sized bottle of red food coloring and I dumped it in. I was concerned that the high concentration of red food coloring would change the flavor, but as it turns out there was so much fruit in there from all the jams that you couldn’t taste it (though no promises it wouldn’t dye your teeth red!)

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The bar where they set up was dark, but I was told that they were the hit of the party.

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And I’m very glad to have done such a fun project and make a Dexter fan happy.

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Guest Blog: Mas (Farmhouse)

1 Feb

I work in a field where I get to meet a lot of really great people. It isn’t rare that I find someone who loves food as much as I do, but to find a kindred spirit who thinks about it night and day and loves nothing more than talking about it is unique.  When I sat down next to Alexis at a lunch, we were excitedly chatting about her recent meal at Mas (Farmhouse) almost immediately, with her showing me pictures on her phone.  Kindred spirit… check!

It has come to my attention that, disappointingly, I cannot visit every great restaurant in the world, let alone in NYC on my own.  So I am thrilled that Alexis agreed to guest blog about her Mas (Farmhouse) dining experience.

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From Alexis:

I recently started working closer with Sara and when we recently dined together at Millesime, we quickly realized we shared two major passions in life; food and Words with Friends.  I actually mentioned to my husband that these are the only two things I needed in life, he was a bit taken back that I didn’t include him in my list, but hey, I thought that was a given.  My passion for food has transpired over the last few years and I am known to be eating lunch while reading menus for dinner, tomorrow’s dinner, next week’s dinner, you get the point!  I have a self proclaimed eating disorder, where I go to sleep dreaming of food and wake up the same way.  Harnessing this issue has been a problem, so when I was given the opportunity to guest blog, I realized that this may be the perfect outlet for my infatuation. Here goes it…

Mas (Farmhouse)

This past weekend my husband and I went for dinner with another couple.  Of course I read the menu in advance, but I must say the menu doesn’t read as well as the food looks and tastes. Also, despite the waiter’s best effort to showcase the culinary offerings as “custom”, we were a bit overwhelmed by the variations in which you can order; 4 course tasting; 7 course tasting; create your own tasting; a la carte.  We decided to order a la carte but collaborated and shared so we could taste more dishes.  This is always the way I (try to) order despite some people not always in agreement. There’s always that stinker who “doesn’t like to share”… Hate those kinds of people….

Diving right into it…. We were greeted with an amuse-bouche – I didn’t get the exact description, my first blogging error, but don’t hold it against me! – Goat cheese tartlet with caramelized onion and some kind of gelee and micro greens?!

It was truly fantastic and a perfect bite to get our palates going.  I could have easily eaten at least three more of these little tastes of heaven …

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For our Appetizer course, I rallied up the troops to each get something different… I love duck, especially confit style, so I was excited about my selection: Duck Confit Tart with Espresso Gastrique; Apple Butter, Sliced Pears & Mâche Lettuce. The portion size was really nice for one, and actually just enough to give everyone at the table a taste, albeit a small taste as I realized quickly how delicious this sucker was after my first bite ;). The blend of flavors and ingredients in this dish were incredible, and again I would’ve loved to supersize it into an entrée!

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My husband ordered the Yellowfin Tuna l’Occidental; Flashed with Beurre Noisette & Crispy Shallots. Despite him not knowing what half of the ingredients were or knowing what the “flashed” methodology of cooking is, he’s a sure thing when it comes to Tuna with any semblance of tartare-y style. The crispy shallots were a really nice addition, adding texture to the dish and breaking up the typical tuna tartare flavors you usually see.  Very refreshing dish…

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My girlfriend ordered the Shrimp Crusted with Spaghetti Squash; Salad of Frisée & Marcona Almonds with a Horseradish Dressing which was actually on the special tasting menu, but they were flexible to allow her to order it as her app. Although it was certainly a unique presentation, I felt the frisée salad overwhelmed the plate and drowned out the beautiful look of a dish as unique as this one.  Despite the amass of greens, this was another superb dish with unique flavors and texture. I would have gone in for seconds if I wasn’t so wrapped up in hoarding my Duck confit.

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Lastly, my friend’s husband ordered the Brussels Sprouts Roasted with House- Cured Lamb Bacon; Deviled Quail Egg, Butternut Squash Confit & Shaved Pecorino. This is the only dish I did not try. Brussels Sprouts aren’t really my thing, but the rest of the table seemed to enjoy it.

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New blogger mistake #2  = missing a photo-op of our pseudo third course.  The Ricotta- Lemon Tortellini; Wild Mushroom Stew, Sunchoke Purée & Parmesan Foam was actually an entrée, but we concurrently decided that we all would like to try it and share it as a table.  This pasta was amazing.  I would have licked the plate and scarfed this dish down if it was just mine, but I tried my hardest to be polite and somewhat refined. This stacks up with the Duck Confit as my favorite dishes of the night. Also, I am a self proclaimed pasta addict, so I may be a tad biased.  I also love mushrooms, ricotta, and I mean you can’t go wrong with parmesan foam, can you? I wish I had a picture to share of this dish… sorry!

For my entrée, I actually sprang for the chicken. For me, I almost never order chicken in a restaurant, but since I tend to put more emphasis on the ingredients and preparation than I do on the actual protein – I just had to try this.  The chicken was good, but I wasn’t overly impressed.  I found myself forking under the chicken for the escargot and the butternut squash risotto, which were two major elements that elevated this dish.

Chicken Breast Roasted with a Black Trumpet Mousse; Hen of the Woods Stewed with Escargots, Butternut Squash Risotto & Fennel

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I also found myself wishing I ordered my husband’s entrée – Butter Poached Lobster with Hon Shimeji Mushrooms; Huitlacoche Purée & Ricotta Spaetzle with Baby Arugula- The ricotta spatezle were so interesting and different, they tasted like a mini ricotta gnocchi and were super light and airy. These morsels mixed with lobster and a mushroom like puree created for literally the perfect bite….

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We were too full for dessert, but the restaurant provided us with Lemon Marshmallow’s that hit the spot.

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Overall, I would rate mas (Farmhouse) very high – a solid 9.  I definitely recommend this place to anyone that is looking for a unique meal with a French flair. This spot is pretty pricy so it may be best suited for a special occasion, dinner with rents or if you have the luxury of a business expense account, snag some foodie client’s and enjoy!