Categories
Ad Hoc beef seafood Thomas Keller

Know Your Ribeye, a.k.a. New Year’s Eve at Ad Hoc

I know we were just at Ad Hoc 11 days before, but I made our New Year’s Eve reservations way before they put grilled short ribs on the menu the same day we were going to The French Laundry. And I certainly wasn’t going to turn down a special end-of-2009 dinner of Prime Ribeye and Maine Lobster with Truffle Butter.

Steak and LobsterPrime Ribeye and Maine Lobster with Truffle Butter

I’ve had ribeyes at Ad Hoc before, but this was the first time Ad Hoc was allowed to serve the calotte (ribeye cap) alongside the ribeye. Normally, the calotte is trimmed from the rib roasts and sent up the road to The French Laundry where they serve it like this:

Calotte de Beouf GrilléeThe French Laundry’s Calotte de Beouf Grillée (12.08.08)

You know how prime rib has that ring of meat on the outside that tastes way better than the middle? That’s the calotte. If you’re a real fan of beef, you already know that the calotte is considered the best part of the cow because it’s tender and loaded with flavor, and chefs have been known to save the calotte for themselves.

Ad Hoc Blowtorch Prime RibAd Hoc Blowtorch Prime Rib

Here’s the ribeye broken into separate components.

ribeye-partsAnatomy of a ribeye, from left: rib bone, the eye, and the calotte.
Picture from Ideasinfood.com.

Everything at Ad Hoc is served family style, but they portioned each platter so that everyone at the table got two pieces of calotte, two pieces of ribeye, a whole lobster tail and a whole lobster claw. It was served with steamed broccolini and Carolina red rice with black eyed peas. I don’t mean to besmirch the meltingly tender lobster—the whole claw fell out of its shell when it was picked up—the perfect medium-rare ribeye, or the accompaniments, but really…this meal was all about the calotte. It was especially gratifying to find out that the calotte and lobster tail were separate courses on The French Laundry tasting menu that evening, as well.

A full plateA full plate of food to close out 2009.

Normally, you can ask for seconds at Ad Hoc and they’ll oblige, but not on this night. It wasn’t a problem because my wife gave me some of her calotte because she was getting full and saving herself for dessert. The Chocolate Bombe was a dark chocolate hazelnut mousse served with caramel sauce and hazelnut brittle, a lovely way to end 2009.

Chocolate BombeThe Chocolate Bombe was the bo— nevermind… ;)

Here’s pics of the rest of the meal:

[pictobrowser type=”flickr” userID=”arndog” albumID=”72157623011038355″]

And here’s Cibo Matto’s – Know Your Chicken on YouTube to ring in 2010!

Categories
Ad Hoc The French Laundry Thomas Keller

The French Laundry (with an Ad Hoc chaser)

We went to The French Laundry last year around this time and didn’t think we would be back so soon. But when our friend Simone said she had a reservation for four to celebrate her boyfriend Seb’s birthday on December 20 and asked us to join them, the only real answer was, “Hell, yes!”

The Clothespin

Seb and Simone (S&S) are a great couple to know because aside from being two of the most generous people we know, when it comes to food, they’re hardcore, balls-to-the-wall omnivores and cooks. This was their second trip to The French Laundry, as well, and while we both knew what to expect when we walked in the blue door, none of us had any idea how awesome this day was going to be.

What's behind the blue door?The blue door beckons…

Since it was right before Christmas, the restaurant and grounds were decked out with holiday flair, including a Christmas tree in the garden with clothespin ornaments.

Clothespin Ornaments

We were seated upstairs by a corner window with a view of The French Laundry garden across the street. This location was great because there was lots of natural light for pictures. (It’s also right by the restroom, which is helpful when you’re going to be sitting for a few hours.)

S&S and I got the Chef’s Tasting Menu and my wife opted for the Tasting of Vegetables, which isn’t vegetarian but gives prominence to vegetables. S&S both opted for the wine pairings and the truffle course, while I did a non-alcoholic pairing featuring a selection of by GuS and DRY Sodas and my wife stuck to the complimentary NORDAQ-filtered water.

I don’t want to go into every dish of this meal, but here are some of the highlights. You can also view a slideshow of the full picture set below.

The Vol au Vent de Legumes D’Automne was the second course of the Tasting of Vegetables and it was one of the most beautiful dishes of the afternoon.

Vol au Vent de Legumes D'AutomneVol au Vent de Legumes D’Automne
Romaine Lettuce, Sugar Snap Peas, Fennel Bulb, Radishes and Port Wine Reduction

My third course was the Grilled Pavé of Japanese Toro, and they showed us the slab of fatty tuna they were using before they brought out the dish. It looks just like my favorite luncheon meat in a can! :)

ToroToro or SPAM? Either way, it’s all good.

Here’s the final plated dish:

Grilled Pave of Japanese ToroGrilled Pavé of Japanese Toro
Satsuma Mandarins, Eggplant, Fennel, Nicoise Olives, Arugula, and Pimenton

I’m so happy that Seb & Simone ordered the truffle course because I’m wouldn’t normally break down and get the truffles. These were white truffles from Alba grated over a bowl of risotto, and as you can see, it was a generous helping. (photo by Simone)

Risotto with White Truffles from AlbaRisotto with White Truffles from Alba
Brown Butter

In lieu of a big bowl risotto and truffles, we were presented with a White Truffle-infused Custard with Black Truffle Ragout and Chive Potato Chip, served beautifully in a hollowed at egg.

White Truffle-infused CustardWhite Truffle-infused Custard
Black Truffle Ragout and Chive Potato Chip.

Coffee and Doughnuts are a French Laundry classic. This isn’t on the menu, so make sure you request this when you make your reservation or ask the server when you arrive to see if it’s available.

Coffee and DoughnutsCoffee and Doughnuts
Cinnamon Doughnuts and Coffee Semifreddo.

After the Coffee and Doughnuts, we took a short break to visit the kitchen before the dessert courses started. When we first sat down at around 11:15am, we asked if Thomas Keller was around, and our server Mischa said she hadn’t seen him. It was around 4:30pm when we got to the kitchen, and the first thing we saw when the kitchen door swung open was Keller expediting dishes. It had been two weeks since the four of us first met Chef Keller at the Ad Hoc at Home book signing (S&S were our guests). S&S met him again the next day at Omnivore Books in San Francisco because Seb wanted to buy a signed copy of Under Pressure and get the Keller-authored pamphlet included with his new Polyscience Immersion Circulator signed by chef, too. Ahhh…stalk— I mean fanboys. :)

Hangin' with Mr. KellerReunited and it feels so good…

We reintroduced ourselves to Keller, and he said he remembered us from the book signing(s), which made three out of the four us giddy. Keller gave us a brief overview of the kitchen as Seb and I drooled over the half-size hotel pans fitted with immersion circulators and filled with butter—this is where lobsters spend their final moments.

The KitchenSee those pans filled with butter on the left? That’s where the best lobsters go to die.

There are many cool things in kitchen, but one of the best is the live video feed with the Per Se kitchen in NY. This allows Keller to keep an eye on things at his restaurants, and I read somewhere that a video feed from the Bouchon Beverly Hills kitchen is in the works.

Chef Thomas KellerThe Eye of Keller is on Keller Earth (i.e. the TFL and Per Se kitchens).

I received the daily Ad Hoc menu email during the first part of our meal, and we started joking about going there for a “dessert” of grilled short ribs. We were going there anyway because I had to pick up a couple prizes for Menu for Hope, and when I mentioned this to Keller he seemed surprised yet fascinated by this plan, but I don’t think he thought we would follow through.

We returned to our table jazzed at meeting Keller again and ready to polish off dessert so we could head down to Ad Hoc. We were celebrating both Seb and my wife’s birthdays, so their desserts got an little extra flourish. Here’s Seb’s:

Gateau Saint Nizier Au ManjariGateau Saint Nizier Au Manjari
Mango Chili Relish, Valrhona Cocoa Nibs, Lime Foam, and Coconut Milk Sorbet

And here’s my wy wife’s birthday opera cake:

C's Birthday Opera Cake
Opera Cake
Praline Namelaka, Milk Granité and Coffee Ice Cream

The mignardises included a pecan pie with creme chantilly, a selection of chocolate truffles, and some amazing toasted macadamia nuts that were rolled in chocolate and caramel and dusted with confectioner’s sugar.

Pecan Tart with Creme Fraiche ChantillyMignardises

As we left the restaurant we were presented with menus signed by Keller, some French Laundry shortbread cookies, and the birthday kids got a package of French Laundry chocolate bars—think Nestle Crunch but 1000x better.

Birthday Chocolate Bars and TFL ShortbreadParting gifts…

While our first trip to The French Laundry was an amazing experience, I think I got caught up in the mystique of the restaurant and was really nervous and uptight the whole time. This time I went in with a really laid-back attitude, and it made the experience a lot more enjoyable and relaxing.

Here’s the complete set of French Laundry pictures:

[pictobrowser type=”flickr” userID=”arndog” albumID=”72157623041520340″]

The Ad Hoc Chaser

We left The French Laundry happy and sated, but we weren’t that full so we headed down to Ad Hoc. After being welcomed by Ad Hoc General Manager Nick Dedier and the rest of the Ad Hoc crew, we took our places at the bar and ordered two a la carte orders of grilled short ribs (one for each couple) and four ice cream sandwiches, you know, just to finish off the day with something sweet.

Grilled Short RibsAd Hoc’s Grilled Short Ribs
TFL garden tokyo turnips, French round carrots, red radishes, baby leeks, Colorado rose potatoes

As we were waiting for our food, Keller showed up to drop off a bottle of wine for another party that was dining there. Keller saw us sitting at the bar and said, “Oh, you’re here!” and bid us good eating. Ad Hoc Chef de Cuisine Dave Cruz came out a little later and said, “Not bad. Twice in one day.” (Simone is now convinced that Keller stalked us!)

As I was finishing some of the best short ribs I’ve ever eaten, Nick came over and said something to the effect of “I’m so proud right now.”

Ice Cream SandwichesIce Cream Sandwiches
Chocolate Chip Cookies and Vanilla Ice Cream

Seven hours later, we finally left Yountville a little “food drunk” but blissful and elated at how an unassuming December day unfolded into truly memorable one.

Happy New Year and all the best for 2010!

Categories
Ad Hoc beef recipes Thomas Keller

Cook the Book: Ad Hoc at Home – Blowtorch Prime Rib

When I first saw the Blowtorch Prime Rib recipe in the Ad Hoc at Home cookbook, I knew I was going to make it for Christmas dinner. But this technique is so easy, there is no reason to save it for special occasions.

Blowtorching Prime RibBlowtorching meat is fun!

Of course, the first step is actually buying a blowtorch, and there are several options available. My first choice was the Iwatani Professional Torch Burner because it’s compact and just plain looks cool. The butane cartridges are proprietary, but with all the Asian markets near me, they’re not hard to find. Being the chronic procrastinator that I am, I had to settle for what was available down the street at Lowes. The BernzOmatic TS3000 was cheap (~$26), came with a big can of propane called the “Fat Boy,” and I love the name BernzOmatic. :)

The BernzOmatic TS3000The lovely blue flame produced by the BernzOmatic TS3000.

Roasting the prime rib can be broken down to three steps. I used a 2-bone, 4½-pound standing rib roast that easily fed 6 adults, but you could use this technique with any size roast.

  1. Place the rib roast on a rack in a roasting pan and sear the meat with the blowtorch until it starts turning gray and the fat starts rendering.
  2. Season the rib roast with generous amounts of kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper.
  3. Roast in 275F oven until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 128F. For our 4½-pound roast, this took about two hours. I use a digital probe thermometer so that I can monitor the temperature of the meat without opening the oven.
Out of the Oven, Bones RemovedThe blowtorch jumpstarts the development of the crust
that’s characteristic of good prime rib.

Roasting the meat at a low temperature ensures a beautiful shade of pink all the way through the meat. Rest the meat for at least 30 minutes before cutting into it.

Perfect Medium RarePerfect medium rare after resting for 40 minutes.

Since everything at Ad Hoc is served family style, the prime rib is cut into thick chunks instead of more traditional individual slices. I think this allows a smaller rib roast to serve more people and cuts down on wasted meat, especially if there are light eaters at the table who can’t finish a whole slice of regular prime rib.

To serve the meat, cut the roast in half down the center and put the meat cut side down on the cutting board. Then cut each half into ½-inch slices. I think serving the meat this way is great because each piece is thick and has a lot of crust. Before bringing the meat to the table drizzle it with a little fleur de sel or kosher salt and some coarsely ground pepper.

Blowtorched Prime Rib with Horseradish Cream Blowtorched prime rib with horseradish cream

The low cooking temperature means that there’s hardly any drippings in the bottom of the pan to make jus, but you don’t need it. The meat’s beefiness comes through loud and clear, and it goes beautifully with this horseradish cream.

Horseradish Cream (adapted from Ad Hoc at Home)
½ cup very cold heavy cream
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
¼ cup drained, prepared horseradish
½ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

Put the heavy cream and vinegar in a bowl in a medium bowl and whisk until the cream and holds a soft shape (just before soft peaks). Whisk in horseradish, salt, and pepper until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for up to a week.

Categories
Ad Hoc cookbooks Thomas Keller

A Morning with Thomas Keller: Ad Hoc at Home Book Signing

Ad Hoc hosted a special book signing event called “A Morning with Thomas Keller” at the restaurant yesterday, and I was lucky enough to get an invitation. Chef Keller spent the morning signing Ad Hoc at Home cookbooks alongside Ad Hoc Chef de Cuisine Dave Cruz as the Ad Hoc staff served up hors d’oeuvres featuring selected recipes from the cookbook.

InvitationThe Invitation

It was an exciting day for me because I finally got to meet Thomas Keller and shake the hand of a man whose restaurants have changed my life. As I’ve written before, my first meal at Ad Hoc in June 2007 was a major culinary epiphany for me. It changed the way I thought about how food was prepared and sourced, and it made me appreciate a level of dining that I normally would’ve avoided based solely on cost.

Plowing through booksAd Hoc Chef de Cuisine Dave Cruz (left) and Chef Thomas Keller

When I approached the table, Chef Cruz leaned over and told Chef Keller about my blog and the Ad Hoc Menu Archive. I told Chef Keller about our dinner at the brand-new Bouchon Beverly Hills last weekend (took my mom for her birthday), and he was glad to know we had a great dinner. I also let him know that the entire city of Los Angeles is anxiously awaiting the arrival of Bouchon Bakery. He didn’t really respond to that, but I think he knows that LA wants that bakery. :)

Meeting Thomas Keller...Is he really interested in what I’m saying or does he think I’m a crazy fanboy?

In the end, Chef Keller shook my hand, thanked me for all the support and graciously posed for a picture. Thanks, Simone for snapping this pic. :)

I think this moment could only be topped if I ever met Magic Johnson. :)

Now that that’s out of the way…on to the food! The first thing we were offered were the Albondigas, a veal meatball atop a tomato compote. Unfortunately, I was too busy devouring these to take a picture. Here’s the rest of the spread…

Toast with Fig JamToast with Fig Jam

It’s not really an Ad Hoc party without some fried chicken.

Fried Chicken LollipopsFried Chicken Lollipops
Beef StroganoffA bit of beef stroganoff.

The ratatouille was a simple and brilliant spoonful of soffrito topped with tomato confit, eggplant confit, and zucchini confit.

RatatouilleRatatouille as you’ve never seen it before.

The lemon bars were like mini lemon meringue pies but also reminded me one of my favorite desserts, Bouchon’s Tarte au Citron.

Lemon BarsPerfect Little Lemon Bars

What more do you need when there’s chocolate cupcakes?

Chocolate CupcakesChocolate Cupcakes

Overall, it was a really fun event, and I was honored to have been invited. Thanks to everyone at Ad Hoc for always making me feel at home. Here’s the full set of pictures:


[pictobrowser type=”flickr” userID=”arndog” albumID=”72157622820333911″]

Categories
Ad Hoc cookbooks reviews steak The French Laundry Thomas Keller

Cook the Book: Ad Hoc at Home – Asparagus and Steak

Ad Hoc at HomeI’ve never been genuinely excited about a new cookbook release, but Ad Hoc at Home marks the first time I’ve had a real personal connection to the recipes in a single cookbook. Inuyaki readers know that I’m a fan and regular diner at Thomas Keller’s casual dining restaurant, and the Ad Hoc Menu Archive is one of the most popular features of this site. My wife and I have been to Ad Hoc 30 times in the last 2½ years (it’s our favorite restaurant) and have always come away wishing we knew how to make some of our favorite dishes, desserts, and condiments at home. I’m very happy to report that Ad Hoc at Home delivers the goods.

The cookbook’s arrival coincided with my birthday, and to celebrate, I invited some friends over for dinner last weekend so that my wife and I could cook for them. From the book, we chose the grilled asparagus and marinated skirt steak and supplemented the meal with polenta topped with a mushroom ragout and SavorySweetLife’s chocolate chip cookies for dessert.

The grilled asparagus, which includes prosciutto, fried bread, poached egg, and aged balsamic vinegar, is pretty easy to put together. After removing the woody bottoms and peeling the asparagus stalks, simply season a couple bunches of asparagus with kosher salt, freshly ground pepper and canola oil and then grill them for a couple minutes per side until tender.

AsparagusGratuitous Asparagus Porn

I had some issues poaching the eggs. I know this sounds silly, but they weren’t coming out as pretty as we wanted, so those eggs became snacks. Inspired by our meal at Commis in Oakland a couple nights before, I decided to have some fun and make 63-degree eggs. How is a 63-degree egg different than a regular poached egg or over-easy egg? The answer: texture.

63 Degree EggA 63-degree Egg

At 63-degrees Celsius, egg whites are just barely set and the yolks have a pudding-like consistency. To achieve this goal, eggs are cooked in a 63C waterbath for about an hour. The precision is important because at 65C, according Harold McGee, the egg whites become “tender solid” as opposed just barely set at 63C. It’s possible to maintain a consistent temperature using a pot on the stovetop, but I have an immersion circulator, which makes things a lot easier. :)

63-degree Eggs
The immersion circulator in action.

The eggs went on the plate last, so my friends got to see these beautiful eggs emerge from a freshly cracked shell. My wife gets credit for the plating of this dish, which is loosely based on the picture in the book.

Grilled Asparagus, Prosciutto, 63-degree Egg and Torn CroutonsThe fried bread croutons are awesome, too.

The marinated skirt steak isn’t a difficult preparation either. I substituted the skirt for flap steak, which is similar to skirt steak and a cut of meat I’ve used before in my Bistek Tagalog. It’s marinated for at least four hours in a mixture of olive oil, thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, peppercorns, and garlic. The meat is seared in a thin layer of oil for about 90 seconds total, adding thyme and butter to the pan and basting the meat after flipping it halfway through. After searing, the meat is placed in a 350 oven on a roasting rack and cooked for 8-10 minutes until the internal temp of the meat is 125F. Rest the meat and slice it vertically against the grain before serving.

Marinated Skirt Steak

That meat looks perfect doesn’t it? There was just one problem. I forgot to season the meat with salt and pepper before I seared it, so it was underseasoned. There was still flavor from the marinade, but the meat was definitely lacking flavor. I was crestfallen. My wife saved the dish by making an impromptu beef/mushroom gravy, but I was so disappointed with myself.

We paired this with some Fra’Mani polenta (sold exclusively at Costco) topped with a trumpet and baby shiitake mushroom ragout. I know polenta is pretty easy to make, but as fans of Paul Bertolli’s Fra’Mani sausages, we had to give his polenta a try and it’s really good. My wife added some strong English cheddar to the polenta for some extra flavor and topped it with the mushrooms.

Fra'Mani Polenta and Mushroom "Ragout"

Aside from the underseasoned steak, which was totally my fault, this meal was a huge success and a testament to Ad Hoc at Home’s accessibility for home cooks. It’s a tribute to Keller and his love for good, homey food, as well as chef de cuisine Dave Cruz, whose influence is present in every meal in the Ad Hoc kitchen. According to Ad Hoc general manager Nick Dedier, Ad Hoc at Home is projected to surpass the 10-year-old French Laundry cookbook’s total sales in just three years. With food like this, it should surprise no one when it actually happens.

Categories
cookies reviews

The Twitter Chocolate Chip Cookie Smackdown 09

I went on a baking spree last weekend because two of my favorite bloggers, Alice of Savory Sweet Life and Ashley of Not Without Salt, started talking smack on Twitter about who had the best chocolate chip cookies. Since they both live in Seattle, there was no way I was going to be able to try their cookies and make up my own mind unless I made them myself.

Cookies!

Lorna Yee from The Cookbook Chronicles also threw her hat into the ring, but she hasn’t posted her recipe yet, so I haven’t had the chance to make them. But Lorna did show off her cookies last week, as well as provide a thorough breakdown of Alice and Ashley’s recipes. Inspired by Lorna’s analysis, I decided to compare their recipes to my favorite recipe, Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc Chocolate Chip Cookies (courtesy of Food Gal Carolyn Jung), and the Original Nestle Toll House recipe.

Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home Chocolate Chip CookiesMy attempt at Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc Chocolate Chip Cookies

With a few exceptions, the ingredients and techniques are basically the same, so it’s interesting to see how the proportions vary from cookie to cookie.

ingredient
Ashley
Thomas Keller
Alice
Toll House
butter
8 oz., softened
8 oz., unsalted,
cold, cubed
8 oz., salted,
softened
8 oz., softened
sugar
2 oz.
(1/4 cup)
3/4 cup
1/2 cup
3/4 cup
turbinado sugar
2 oz.
(1/4 cup)
brown sugar
12 oz.
(1 3/4 cup)
1 cup, packed
(molasses preferred)
1 1/2 cup
3/4 cup, packed
eggs
2
2
2
2
vanilla extract
1/4 oz.
(2 tsp.)
2 tsp.
1 tsp.
all-purpose flour
3 1/2 cups
(1 lb.)
2 1/3 cups
plus 1 Tbsp
3 cups
(12 oz.)
2 1/4 cups
baking soda
1 1/2 tsp.
3/4 tsp.
1 1/2 tsp.
1 tsp.
baking powder
1 tsp.
salt
3/4 tsp.
1 tsp. kosher
1 tsp. sea salt,
small/medium coarse grind
1 tsp.
chocolate
16 oz. chopped
10 oz. chopped
16 oz. chips
12 oz. chips

Ashley’s cookies could easily be called “pound cookies” since they contain a pound of flour, a pound of sugar and a pound of chocolate. They’re crispy on the bottom and dense and chewy in the middle and reminded me of the Ad Hoc cookies. Her use of chopped chocolate instead of chips allows the chocolate to pool inside the cookie so that you get huge bursts of chocolate in every bite. As Ashley says in her “last chocolate chip cookie” post, the dough is really only there “to hold the chunks of chocolate in place.” The addition of turbinado sugar gives the cookies a nice crunch and texture, as well. I didn’t have 16 oz. of chocolate to make the cookies since I had sort of eaten away at the Scharffen Berger stash I got at BlogHer Food 09, but 12 oz. was still plenty of chocolate.

Not Without Salt's Chocolate Chip CookiesAshley’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

I was a little worried when I made Alice’s cookie because the dough was much lighter and airier than Ashley’s, and it showed in the final product. I couldn’t find my usual Guittard chips at Whole Foods, but Ghirardelli’s semi-sweet chocolate chips were a nice substitute. The cookies came out thin and fluffy with crispy bottoms and reminded me of the classic Toll House recipe. When paired with milk from Straus Dairy, possibly the best-tasting milk I’ve ever had, I was transported straight back to elementary school.

Savory Sweet Life's Chocolate Chip CookiesAlice’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

I know you’re probably wondering which cookie I liked better, and my extremely political answer is this: I think Ashley’s cookie is a grown-up, sophisticated cookie, while Alice’s is capable of illiciting an Anton-Ego-in-Ratatouille kind of revelation, so it really depends on what you really want out of your cookie. I’m eagerly awaiting Lorna’s entry into this smackdown, but after this experiment, I may be off cookies for a while. :)

Categories
Ad Hoc Foodbuzz fried chicken reviews Thomas Keller waffles

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Fried Chicken and Waffles

When the prospect of participating in Foodbuzz’s monthly 24, 24, 24 arose again a couple weeks ago, the first thing that popped into my head was throwing a chicken and waffles party. Fried chicken and waffles is one of my favorite meals in the whole world, and being from Southern California, I was first introduced to this combination at the world-famous Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles in Hollywood. Personally, I think Roscoe’s waffles are much better than their chicken, and the real secret to Roscoe’s greatness is in their amazing syrup.

thigh and waffleRoscoe’s Chicken and Waffles

When I moved up to the San Francisco Bay Area 10 years ago, it was hard to find a decent substitute, and the Roscoe’s that was in Oakland at the time was a substandard knock off of the L.A. original. Over the last few years, chicken and waffle options in the Bay Area have improved, especially when the Home of Chicken and Waffles, which was originally slated to be an official Roscoe’s franchise before the owners decided to do their own thing, opened a few years ago in Oakland’s Jack London Square. It still isn’t Roscoe’s, but it satisfies the craving.

A classic combinationHome of Chicken and Waffles

The most decadent versions of chicken and waffles I’ve had have been at Sunday brunches at Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc in Yountville. Ad Hoc’s fried chicken is so popular that it has developed a cult following and is the featured entree at the restaurant on alternating Mondays. The recipe was first published in Food and Wine magazine a couple years ago and my post about making the fried chicken is one of the most visited pages on this site.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken and WafflesAd Hoc Fried Chicken and Waffles

On a recent trip to Williams Sonoma, I stumbled upon a display featuring the Ad Hoc Fried Chicken Kit, a recent expansion of Thomas Keller’s exclusive line of products for the retail chain…

Ad Hoc Fried Chicken Kit

…that also includes the Bouchon Bakery line of products.

Bouchon Waffles

When I saw the Bouchon Bakery Yeasted Waffle mix, I decided that this 24, 24, 24 event was going to turn into a throwdown: the Ad Hoc Fried Chicken Kit v. Ad Hoc fried chicken from scratch and the Bouchon Bakery Yeasted Waffles mix v. the Best (and Easiest) Yeasted Waffle by Sheryl at Crispy Waffle.

I met Sheryl on Twitter after she started following me, and her blog immediately got my attention because I had been looking for a good waffle recipe since inheriting a Krups Belgian Waffle Maker last year from a friend. Her “Easiest, Crispiest, Yeasted Waffle” recipe really lived up to its name and it’s the recipe I always turn to when I get a waffle craving. (See my Crispy Waffle post from March.)

Chicken Showdown
I deviated from both recipes instructions by cooking the chicken sous vide before dredging and frying. I do this because I’m paranoid about undercooking chicken, and cooking it sous vide for an hour at around 140F/60C ensures that the chicken is cooked and helps keep it juicy. This allows me to focus solely on the color of the fried chicken when it’s frying in the oil.

Water bathVacuum sealed chicken taking an hour-long, 141F/61C(ish) “bath”
Post-Sous Vide chickenIt doesn’t look that appetizing fresh out of the water bath, but after dredging and frying, it’s heaven.

On the surface, both batches of fried chicken I made looked identical, but on flavor, the scratch recipe beat the kit by a mile. The main difference between the scratch recipe and the kit is in the brine. The scratch recipe’s brine calls for fresh herbs and spices, honey and lemons, and these flavors really come through in the final product.

Fried ChickenThe “scratch” batch of fried chicken.

The fried chicken kit relies on a brine packet of dried spices and seasonings instead of fresh, but the most glaring omission was the lack of lemons. As a result, everyone who tried the kit’s fried chicken said it had a strong pepper flavor. I wonder if lemon powder could have made a significant difference, but I think the inclusion of fresh lemon zest and juice into the brining liquid would have been a pretty simple step for most home cooks.

Waffle Throwdown
Although we were dealing with two yeasted waffle recipes, there were a couple differences in how they’re put together. Sheryl’s recipe uses dry instant yeast and calls for a refrigerated overnight rise, while the Bouchon mix uses active dry yeast that is proofed for 10 minutes before mixing the batter and has a rising time of 90 minutes. Sheryl also adds a couple teaspoons of vanilla extract to her batter.

The Bouchon Bakery mix produces waffles that are incredibly light and more delicate than Sheryl’s waffle, which can be good or bad depending on your preferences. Personally, I found them to be a little too airy, but I was still astonished at how light and crispy they were.

Bouchon WaffleBouchon Bakery Waffle

That doesn’t mean Sheryl’s waffle was heavy by an means. It was still light and crispy but had just a little more weight and texture (dare I say gravitas?) than the Bouchon Bakery waffle, as well as a creaminess in the middle that every good Belgian waffle should have.

IMG_0677Sheryl’s Crispy Waffle

I’ve never been the biggest fan of Belgian waffles, preferring the thinner traditional waffles like the ones they serve at Roscoe’s. I even picked up a traditional waffle iron to test out some buttermilk and cornmeal waffle recipes to serve along side the yeasted waffles, but I couldn’t find one that I liked enough to feature alongside the fried chicken. Sourdough waffles are generally served at Ad Hoc, but I didn’t have a sourdough starter on hand (or the time to start one), so I tabled that for another time.

If there’s one thing I learned during my research, it’s that I really like Belgian waffles now, especially the yeasted variety, and I am now in the market for a better Belgian waffle iron, preferably one that flips. I think I’ll save the traditional waffle iron for moffles.

Thanks to Foodbuzz for helping to make this event possible. I had a lot of fun researching and cooking one of my favorite meals for my friends. Plus, we generally have a hard time getting this group of friends to come up to Ad Hoc with us, so this was a way that I could bring a small piece of our favorite restaurant home for them to experience. But most of all, I hope it inspires you to seek out fried chicken and waffles wherever you live, or better yet, make it yourself! :)

Categories
Ad Hoc reviews The French Laundry

Memorial Day Maine Lobster Rolls at Ad Hoc

Yeah, yeah…another Ad Hoc post. I know. I’ve been meaning to write about some of the cooking I’ve been doing, including baking my first brioche or my thoughts on liking traditional waffles more than Belgian waffles, but when Ad Hoc’s daily menu email update arrived in my inbox yesterday morning, the words “Maine Lobster Rolls” jumped out at me.

Maine Lobster RollsThis was the full portion for two people.

Ad Hoc recently started doing barbecue nights on non-fried chicken Mondays, but for Memorial Day, they decided to offer the Maine Lobster Rolls to give dinner more of a picnic vibe. Now, I’ve never had an authentic New England lobster roll, but I think I may have spoiled myself by having this one, which features lobster from the same purveyor that supplies The French Laundry, a custom sweet roll from Bouchon Bakery, shaved celery, red onions and garlic aioli.

Maine Lobster RollsThe sweet, housemade pickles were excellent, too.

The meal started off with fried French Laundry chickpeas that were like fried, salty edamame—an amuse bouche of sorts, but they don’t use words like that at Ad Hoc. :)

French Laundry Fried Chickpeas

The leek salad featured more French Laundry vegetables and some crispy Jamon Iberico, what Bac-O’s aspires to be when it grows up.

TFL Leek Salad with Jamon Iberico

The cheese course featured Rogue Creamery’s aged and creamy Caveman Blue, raspberry-vanilla jam and beer flatbread.

Rogue Creamery's Caveman Blue with raspberry-vanilla jam beer flatbread

The toasted lemon pound cake with chantilly cream and macerated blueberries ended the meal on a surprisingly light note.

Toasted Lemon Pound Cake

I was content to spend Memorial Day chillin’ at home and watching Game 4 of the Lakers/Nuggets Western Conference Finals battle, but since the Lakers ended up playing poorly and losing, I’m glad I spent my time up in Yountville enjoying the sublime comforts of a great meal instead of stressing out at home yelling at the TV.

Categories
Ad Hoc bakeries breakfast Thomas Keller

Options, Affordability Highlight ‘New’ Ad Hoc Breakfast

If you’re averse to Ad Hoc’s rigid set menus, you might want to give their new Sunday breakfasts a try. I detailed the changes in my previous post, so I’ll just jump straight into the meal.

Shortly after being seated, a basket of Bouchon Bakery pastries arrived at the table…

Bouchon Bakery PastriesBouchon Bakery Pastries

The banana nut muffin was simple and great, and I think Bouchon Bakery’s croissants are as close to perfect as you’ll find. The pastries were accompanied by a spread of blood orange vanilla Jam, blueberry marmalade, honey butter.

Blood Orange Vanilla Jam, Blueberry Marmalade, Honey ButterBlood Orange Vanilla Jam, Blueberry Marmalade, Honey Butter

The first course was a choice of a seasonal fruit salad…

Seasonal Fruit SaladSeasonal Fruit Salad

or pineapple yogurt parfait.

Pineapple Yogurt ParfaitPineapple Yogurt Parfait

The four main course options included stone-cut oatmeal and sourdough waffles, but we opted for the other two. I had the “Classic American,” which was two eggs, any style, Fatted Calf sausage, scallion pancakes, and a couple slices of palladin bread.

Classic American BreakfastClassic American Breakfast

I joked with Ad Hoc general manager Nick Dedier that this could easily evolve into a Thomas Keller “Grand Slam,” and he said Keller would probably love that idea. Keller has said in the past that he’s a fan of In-N-Out burger and Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles, so an appreciation of Denny’s signature breakfast isn’t too surprising.

My wife had the corned beef hash, which was similar to the hash served at Easter last week except the potatoes were soft and fluffy chunks instead of thin crispy strings. The only thing I would change about this dish would be to crisp up the potatoes before serving since I like them a little crunchy.

Corned Beef Hash and Poached EggsCorned Beef Hash and Poached Eggs

This dish was the “savory” option of the week and is the menu slot that will change the most every week, i.e. don’t expect a hash next Sunday.

The meal ended with some Valrhona Chocolate and Shortbread Cookies that were delivered with the check.

Valhrona Chocolate and Shortbread CookiesValhrona Chocolate and Shortbread Cookies”

The cookies were good, but they were soft and chewy, and my wife and I both prefer cookies that have a little more bite to them.

In addition to Ad Hoc’s standard beverage offerings, a selection of fresh juices was available, as well as a sangria cocktail and mimosas. I think Ad Hoc has found the right price point at $24 (sans drinks), down from the previous price of $39. If you’re looking for a good simple breakfast in Yountville, Ad Hoc is pretty hard to beat.

Categories
Ad Hoc breakfast Thomas Keller waffles

Ad Hoc Debuts New Brunch Format Sunday

Ad Hoc is changing things up for Sunday brunch, offering several options over two courses instead of the previous three-course set menu. It’s also going to be cheaper; the new brunch price is $24, down from $39.

The first course will feature pastries from Bouchon Bakery, as well as a choice of fresh fruit or a yogurt parfait. Next is a choice of an egg dish, sourdough waffles, stone-ground oatmeal, and a special for the day. The oatmeal will be served with a number of jams, syrups, granolas and sugars. There will be no dessert course, but cookies for the table will be delivered with the check.

The impetus for the brunch changes occurred when Thomas Keller came into Ad Hoc one Sunday for brunch with a pancake craving, but that morning’s menu didn’t really feel like breakfast. Keller felt simpler and more traditional breakfast options should be available for brunch and worked with the Ad Hoc team to make it happen.

We’ll be there Sunday to check it out and will report back. The sacrifices I make for my readers…I tell ya! :)